chapter  7
THE POLITICS OF FACTION
Pages 21

Exercising close control over ministerial policies and over the activity of his ministers, Fleury governed France as much as one man could. But an eighteenthcentury statesman had not only to conduct affairs; he had also to remain master of the court if he were to survive in power. How did he do this? As Elias has argued, the kingship mechanism depended upon the King keeping a balance between rival groups at court, playing one off against another in order to remain the arbiter. As the King’s favourite, Fleury took on this role on Louis XV’s behalf. Access to the King was controlled as closely as possible, appointments subjected to the approval of Fleury himself, policy discussed only in his presence. This was the basis of his position. But his task was far from being simple, and much can be learnt about the nature of politics in a court society from a investigation of his strategies.