This book is a study of government at the centre in the important but neglected period of French history between the Regency and the 1750s. The age of the long political ascendancy of the cardinal de Fleury is of course fascinating in its own right, and richly deserves reassessment. My study has, however, three further aims. First, it explores the nature of the ancien régime in the eighteenth century, viewing it not as a set of institutional structures but as a functioning socio-political system. Second, there is a particular focus on the nature and characteristics of political crisis between the ministry and the parlement of Paris. Third, it suggests that the norms of the socio-political system and the nature of crisis as revealed in the second quarter of the eighteenth century continued to characterise politics in the 1780s. Thus it is suggested that the final crisis of the regime in the 1780s can best be understood as in many ways a typical crisis of the regime, rather than as a ‘revolutionary crisis’.1 The book is therefore a case study of the nature of the state. It seeks to define old regime politics; to consider its problems and characteristics at court; and to explore the relations of those in power at the centre with key institutions.