Honor and the Military Formation of French Noblemen, 1870-1920

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Elizabeth C. Macknight

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Gender and class informed the attitudes of French noblemen toward military training and an army career in the France of the early Third Republic. Honor for the male aristocracy was considered to be “in the blood” and still very closely bound to ancient military virtues of duty, bravery, and sacrifice. Boys raised in noble families were conditioned to value martial honor—and to seek to embody it—well before entering prestigious military academies in adolescence. Ancestral tradition created pressure on noblemen to serve with distinction in the army and, by doing so, to conform to an ideal of military manhood. This strained some noblemen's relationships with male relatives and the cross-generational imperative to uphold the warrior ethos led many to their death on the battlefield.

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