Talk:Lettres de cachet

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Can the king of France still throw people in the Chateau d'If without trial? This article which I semi-ruthlessly edited, stops in 1814. Ortolan88

It's hard to say, as there hasn't been a king of France since 1870. (Or were you trolling?) zadcat 20:16 Aug 29, 2002 (PDT)

A serious question posed in what I hoped was an amusing manner. I wasn't trolling (a pretty serious accusation in my book), just acting on the assumption that people could read between the lines.

I guess not, so here are my observations and questions.

The legal status of the lettre de cachet is left hanging in this article. The article is incomplete without explaining when these things came to an end. I'm pretty sure Charles de Gaulle didn't have the power, or he might have used it.

Charles de Gaulle did not have this power, nor do I think any president of the Republic (unless you perhaps count is as a possible component of the emergency powers of the President). Furthermore, de Gaulle was not a dictator. On the other hand, he tried, in a move ironically similar to that of George W. Bush 40 years later, to establish special tribunals to try terrorists and conspirators, through an ordinance if I remember well. The creations of the tribunal was declared illegal by the Conseil d'État (which greatly annoyed de Gaulle). David.Monniaux 15:45, 24 Jul 2004 (UTC)

So, when and how did it end? Did it end with the last king in 1870 (who wasn't a king, by the way, but an an emperor, Napoleon's nephew)? What brought it to an end? After all, Nixon thought something the same, "If the President does it it can't be wrong."

The Chateau d'If is where the Count of Monte Christo served time and then escaped. He was a fictional character. Ortolan88

Didn't mean to accuse you of serious trolling, more or less "trolling for giggles" - sorry. I'll use it sparingly in future. zadcat 10:45 Aug 30, 2002 (PDT)
Okay, thanks, I thought it was that. It's just that when we're not face to face, we don't always see the wink. I'll have to remember that. I wonder if anyone is going to fix the article. Ortolan88
There's only one sure way to find out... --Brion

I fixed it a quite a bit already and I might do some more, but someone who knows more about the evolution of the law, how this fits with bills of attainder, secret indictments and stuff, might be able to bring it forward in a way I couldn't. If you think about it, the lettres de cachet have a certain modern sound to them.

If I salt a talk page with some ideas about what an article needs, that doesn't mean I'm sloughing off my obligations. Maybe I'm fulfilling my obligations by making the best contribution I know how. It's not as if I weren't working on other articles. Ortolan88

Coming back to the original question "Can the king of France still throw people in the Chateau d'If without trial?". Yes, and no. The question is not well-formulated. First the no: the French kings did not throw people in jail like that, without reason. That is a Black Legend (see Claude Quetel, Les lettres de cachet - une légende noire). I have no recollection of political or philosophical prisoners - have you?. The Lettres de Cachet were a legal instrument, considered normal by the customs of the time (regular justice wasn't any better, and costly), mainly applied by the Lieutenant de Police, after due diligence, but with limited rights for the victim. In spite of many abuses and errors (only today's Justice is 100% flawless), a Lettre de Cachet was rather a way of expedient justice than an arbitrary imprisonment. Arbitrary imprisonment only became widespread after the Revolution, not before.
But the answer is yes too: there are, in France, expedient procedures to put someone in jail, with very limited rights, they are called Comparution immédiate (loi du 10 juin 1983). Insane people (on request by their family, just like with the Lettres) are now locked up under the term "admission en soins sans consentement". Riyadi (talk) 12:47, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Michel Foucault[edit]

As far as I can tell there is nothing relevant in our Michel Foucault article, so I dropped that article from "See also". If Foucault wrote on the topic (maybe in Discipline and Punish? I don't remember it particularly, but I read that 20 years ago) it probably belongs in the 'pedia somewhere, maybe here, but just a "see also" to his name isn't much use to a reader. - Jmabel | Talk 17:33, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

How widespread?[edit]

I guess it is in the nature of these things, that there are no statistics available, but would it be possible to give a clearer idea as to how often they were used? Amirada (talk) 18:24, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

  • they have been counted: 20000 between 1741 and 1775. Riyadi (talk) 23:56, 21 September 2014 (UTC)


"In the case of organized bodies lettres de cachet were issued for the purpose of preventing assembly or to accomplish some other definite act. The provincial estates were convoked in this manner, and it was by a lettre de cachet (in this case, a lettre de jussipri), or by showing in person in a lit de justice, that the king ordered a parlement to register a law in the teeth of its own refusal to pass it." cOULS SOMEOME TRANSLATE THIS INTO eNGLISH PLEASE? aT VERY LEATS, PUT THE EXPLAINATION OF THESE TERMS ("convoked", "lit de justice" AND "the king ordered a parlement to register a law in the teeth of its own refusal to pass it" MOST IGINIFICATLY) IN PARENTHISIS BEHIND IT. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:37, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

A silent weapon against political adversaries or dangerous writers[edit]

The text qualifies the Lettres de Cachet as "a silent weapon against political adversaries or dangerous writers." Though I read similar statements many times, they seem quite void of substance (I only know the XVIIIth century), parroting unsubstantial rumours created after the Revolution - most rumours go back to XIXth century texts, not written by historians. Actually, have there been cases, or is it part of the Black Legend of the Ancien Régime? I took the liberty to add the reasons for the Lettre de Cachet to the list of victims in the lemma - they are just ordinary criminals or people having caused serious disorder. Dangerous writers ? Voltaire was considered dangerous, as he had proferred death menaces against de prince de Rohan. He was never jailed for his ideas. I could find no writer jailed for his ideas or philosophical convictions (I only know the XVIIIth century, it is true that some Jansenists under Louis XIV have been jailed). Can you ?
Ok, I do not consider gross slander (e.g. Voltaire claiming the regent to be a poisoner and incestuous with his daughter; or Marmontel slandering against the duke d'Aumont, who filed a complaint) as a ideology or philosophy; nor can pornography be considered as such.
Between 1659 and 1789 a 1000 people were jailed for "faits de lettres" (8 per year, slanderers, pornographers, vies privées (that is pornographical biographies of existing people), or insulting writings and pamphlets all confounded. You can still get in jail for some of those. Tell me, how many people were really jailed for politics or philosophy, and who? Riyadi (talk) 11:53, 22 September 2014 (UTC) Actually, I found that Diderot has been locked up for 3 months for his "Lettre sur les aveugles". That makes one. Riyadi (talk) 19:11, 23 October 2014 (UTC)