Michael Arin

Date of Award


Degree Type




Director of Thesis

Dr. Alexandre Bonafos

First Reader

Dr. Ashley Williard

Second Reader

Dr. Ashley Williard


Despite the wealth of information on the French Revolution, the courts of law remain an understudied subject matter, in particular the inconsistent application of criminal law in pursuit of suspects of lèse-nation by the Comité des recherches and Châtelet. This study bridges this gap using archival research of court documents and a holistic approach to historians of the time, of the crime, and of the cases in question. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the trials of the prince de Lambesc, baron de Besenval, and marquis de Favras paint a battleground of a multitude of conflicting justices—social, political, and judicial—resulting from the status of the individuals as noblemen. The aristocracy came under extreme scrutiny due to the infamous aristocratic conspiracy, which thus subjected those nobles to public excoriation, political manipulation, and premature judicial constraint. In defense, they turned to social appeals through the press or written word, political pleas for amnesty or acquittal, and judicial privileges and exemptions—tools of an educated, connected, noble upbringing. The analysis of these case studies nuances the understanding of revolutionary justice and opens the door for greater discussion of the role of the courts in the transfer of power and accountability of elites.

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© 2017, Michael Arin