Prosocour, an interactive exploration of the court of Versailles

Jean-Baptiste Colbert was general administrator of finances under Louis XIV. from September 1661 to September 1683. But who was there before him? And after? Colbert was also custodian of the royal buildings and “captain of the hunts of the captain of the election of Tonnerre, Joigny and Saint-Florentin and the county of Auxerre”. He had only one successor for this last position.

This is the kind of information that the Research Center of the Palace of Versailles has collected in a database accessible online to anyone, whether a researcher or the average internet user interested in the royal offices of France. Or for anyone doing genealogical research.

Links from one name to another

This site called Prococour does not offer a number of encyclopedic pages. It invites the visitor to explore the topic through hyperlinks that allow them to go from the person’s name to their predecessors, but also to information about the office itself, before returning to those who held it at the time to highlight with an interactive graph, the various links that they associate the name with others. It is a so-called “prosographic” basis (hence its name), i.e. related to the science of the life of people, groups of people and their curriculum.

Procosour is essentially a gigantic tree spanning a century and a half, from the reign of Louis XIV. to the reign of Louis XVI., mentioning all the holders of all the offices of all the royal families. More than 26,000 names and more than 2,300 charges are currently listed with regular additions. “The heart of our research lies in the court society of the 17th and 18th centuriesE century and technology allows us to promote this work”, explains Mathieu da Vinha, Scientific Director of the Research Center at the Palace of Versailles.

Based on a research program started in 2017, Prosocour was the subject of a tender for the development of the current IT interface three years later. It was produced by MyScienceWork, a company specializing in creating tools for researchers.

Ministers and midwife

“We worked from the register of the royal secretariat to make an inventory of all the names and all the dates of entry into office by cross-checking the information with financial sources, almanacs, etc.,” continues Mathieu Da Vinha.

We thus find cardinals and ministers of state, but also a midwife stationed in the Bastille fortress, lancers of the royal stables or nurses of the king and the Duke of Orléans. Although unevenly filled, the sheets list all the available resources associated with the person mentioned: marriage contract, burial certificate, dowry, pension, marriage witnesses, family ties, etc. OpenStreetMap locates key events: places of office performance, wedding, birth and death.

The flagship of the system (but far from being available for all names), the graph used to visualize ties can reach up to 5 degrees of separation, with the ability to filter by type of relationship: family, professional, religious, political. Suffice it to say, the graph can quickly become abundant. “So far, we have focused on information about the explanation of the charges and the list of its holders. In the second step, we add more personal information.

Eventually it will even be possible to link this base to another one, Verspera. He has been working for ten years and ensures the digitization of the plans of the palace in Versailles. If the office holder had lodgings at court, this may be visible from the Prosocour.

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