Campaign of the Month: August 2011
Le Ballet de l'Acier
The Six Guilds of Paris
Paris is home to scores of centuries-old mercantile and manufacturing guilds, but the most powerful by far are the Six Guilds. Composed of the goldsmiths, hatters, mercers, furriers, drapers, and fine grocers – the purveyors of luxury goods consumed by the inhabitants of the royal capital – they are the most prestigious of the city’s merchants and craftspeople. From their ranks comes the provost of the merchants (prévôt des marchands), the chief magistrate for the municipality of Paris, responsible for navigation along the Seine and its tributaries, for the condition of the quays and streets of the city, and for sanitation.
The Six Guilds include a number of smaller artisans, but the most influential of their members are wealthy bourgeoisie of national and international reputation. It is their privilege to congratulate the king personally upon his ascension to the throne, and to bear his canopy during the frequent processions through the city, as well as that of other dignitaries. They are quick to defend their privileges against other guilds, such as their ongoing battle with the wine merchants’ guild over precession in the king’s triumphs.