Entre les mains de ceux qu’il préposera: Establishing Courtly Governance of Eighteenth‐Century French Wigmakers
This paper examines the everyday processes of social interaction that took place between court administrators, the King’s First Surgeon, his lieutenants and clerks, the Lieutenant General of Police, and Paris wigmaker guild officers as the monarchy attempted to enhance its jurisdictional oversight of the Paris wigmaker guild between 1705‐1740.
In Paris, the lieutenant general of police was traditionally responsible for oversight of the corporate activities of master craftsmen. At the end of the seventeenth century, however, the First Surgeon was awarded oversight of the newly created wigmaker guild. An edict of 23 March 1673 prescribed the construction of a kingdom‐wide network of wigmaker guilds structured on the basis of royal titles, or charges. The First Surgeon’s oversight of the charges, which wigmakers were required to purchase before presenting themselves for guild reception assured their payment of the honorary revenue. The First Surgeon’s privilege of collecting the fee from each aspiring master served as a simple continuance of the rights and privileges attached to the First Surgeon’s oversight of the barbersurgeon guild prior to the separation of barbers‐surgeons and barbers‐wigmakers. Until 1705, the First Surgeon served in an advisory role to the wigmakers and did not attempt to assert other conditions of oversight. Significantly, however, whether he exercised his authority or not, the granting of oversight had served to displace the jurisdictional authority that would have otherwise been retained by the lieutenant general of police.
It was not, however, as if the master wigmakers, as a collective group, had not created their own systems of hierarchal oversight. In the 1690s, the monarchy rendered an edict creating six additional charges that affirmed a pre‐existing inner guild hierarchy. The guild purchased the officers’ charges which legally granted them the privilege of overseeing master’s activities. The guild collectively controlled the officers’ charges and masters developed coherent systems of rotation so as to share the responsibilities of guild governance. The monarchy’s legal construction of a guild hierarchy allowed the guild to leverage the masters’ charges as collateral and to begin accumulating guild debt.
In the first decade of the eighteenth‐century concrete evidence of guild officers’ corruption vis‐à‐vis the distribution of charges forced ministers at court, in consultation with the First Surgeon and the Parisian Lieutenant General of Police to investigate the problem of fiscal and moral accountability within the guild. From 1706‐1718, the state confronted these issues as a series of legal contestations that played out between guild officers and the First Surgeon. In 1719, the monarchy issued a new set of statutes for the guild which provided the First Surgeon with the legal leverage needed to assert jurisdictional control over the collective activities of the guildsmen.
Likewise, the issuing of uniform statutes for the provincial wigmaker guilds in 1725 permitted the First Surgeon to begin asserting jurisdictional authority across the kingdom. By the 1730s, the monarchy had effectively installed a decision‐making chain that extended downward from the First Surgeon, through his lieutenants and clerks, to guild officers. The first surgeon appeared to be well‐positioned to assure the moral and fiscal accountability of the kingdom’s wigmaker guilds in the decades to come.