Surrogate Fathers, Suitable Sons

Manufacturing ‘Paternity’ and Honourable Inheritance
  • Ralph Kingston
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


In October 1779, Robert-Denis Gambier de Campy joined the office of his uncle, Nicolas Jean, premier commis in the Ministry of War. His older brothers, Jean Nicolas and Pierre François, already worked there. Nicolas Jean, in charge of the administration of provinces under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for War, had inherited his position from his own uncle. Dying a bachelor in 1782, he was succeeded by his own eldest nephew, Jean Nicholas.1 Therefore, in 1791, when his brother died, Robert-Denis was the fourth Gambier de Campy to become premier commis. He did so even though his office and its responsibilities had been transferred to the newly created Ministry of Interior. In 1791, with the royalist Terrier de Montciel in charge, the position of premier commis still ‘belonged’ to the Gambier de Campy family. This would not be the case after Revolutionary politicians took full control of the ministries in 1792. It would certainly not be the case during the Terror. Finally, in theory at least, no family dynasty could survive the Constitution of Year III. It declared that ‘direct family lines — brothers, uncles and nephews, or [any] family members linked by a single degree, cannot belong to the same administration, and cannot succeed one another until after an interval of two years’.2


Foreign Affair Secretary General Family Network Moral Order Good Father 
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  1. 6.
    Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Les bureaux du secrétariat d’état des affaires étrangères sous Louis XV (Paris, 1971), 212–213. Church, Revolution and Red Tape, 36, suggests that clerks in Versailles married ‘within the circle of the Ministry or into that of minor domestics in the Royal Household’. Although I would agree that most clerks did not marry above their rank, my evidence points to the existence of a large number of matches made across administrations.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of ‘women’s history’ and its relationship to the ‘history of feminism’, see Karen Offen, ‘The New Sexual Politics of French Revolutionary Historiography’, French Historical Studies, 16 (1990), 909–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 16.
    More has been done by historians of Britain, in particular by John Tosh in A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England (New Haven, 1999) and Manliness and Masculinities in Nineteenth-century Britain: Essays on Gender, Family and Empire (Harlow, 2005). See also Catherine Hall, White, Male and Middle Class (Manchester, 1992); Masculinities in Politics and War: Gendering Modern History, ed. Stefan Dudink, Karen Hagemann, John Tosh (Manchester, 2004); Mary Poovey, ‘Exploring Masculinities’, Victorian Studies, 36, No. 2 (1993); Karen Harvey and Alexandra Shepard, ‘What Have Historians Done with Masculinity? Reflections on Five Centuries of British History, circa 1500–1950’, Journal of British Studies, 44, No. 2 (2005).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ralph Kingston 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph Kingston
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryAuburn UniversityUSA

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