The Council of Ancients or Council of Elders (French: Conseil des Anciens) was the upper house of the French legislature under the Constitution of the Year III, during the period commonly known as the Directory (French: Directoire), from 22 August 1795 until 9 November 1799, roughly the second half of the period generally referred to as the French Revolution.

Council of Ancients

Conseil des Anciens
French First Republic
Coat of arms or logo
Emblem of the Council of Ancients
Established2 November 1795
Disbanded10 November 1799
Preceded byNational Convention (unicameral)
Succeeded bySénat conservateur
Meeting place
Salle du Manège, Paris

Role and function

Thomas Bouquerot de Voligny (1755–1841) in his uniform as a member of the Council of Ancients (Musée de la Révolution française)
The Council of Ancients in session

The Council of Ancients was the senior of the two-halves of the republican legislative system. The Ancients were 250 members who could accept or reject laws put forward by the lower house of the Directory, the Council of Five Hundred (Conseil des Cinq-Cents). Each member had to be at least forty years of age, and a third of them would be replaced annually. They had no authority to draft laws, but any bills that they renounced could not be reintroduced for at least a year.[1]

Besides functioning as a legislative body, the Ancients chose five Directors, who jointly held executive power, from the list of names put forward by the Council of Five Hundred. The Council of Ancients had their own distinctive official uniform, with robes, cape and hat, just as did the Council of Five Hundred and the Directors.[2][3] Under the Thermidorean constitution, as Boissy d'Anglas put it, the Council of Five Hundred was to be the imagination of the Republic, and the Council of Ancients its reason.[4][5]

The name adopted for the body was based on the French translation/adaptation of the term Senate.[6]

Presidents of the Council of Ancients


See also



  1. ^ Paul R. Hanson, Contesting the French Revolution, John Wiley & Sons 2009 p.131.
  2. ^ "Grand costumes des membres du conseil et : Conseil des Cinq Cent Conseil des Anciens Haute Cour de justice tribunal de cassation : [estampe] / [non identifié]". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  3. ^ Waquet, Dominique (2015). "Costumes et vêtements sous le Directoire : Signes politiques ou effets de mode ?". Cahiers d'Histoire. Revue d'Histoire Critique (129): 19–54. doi:10.4000/chrhc.4768. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Modernity and archaism of the first French republican Constitutions (1792-1799)". Retrieved 30 April 2017.[title missing]
  5. ^ "Les nouveautés constitutionnelles de l'an III". 1795, pour une République sans Révolution. Histoire. Presses universitaires de Rennes. 9 July 2015. pp. 167–177. ISBN 9782753525962. Retrieved 30 April 2017. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  6. ^ senate (n.) c. 1200, "legal and administrative body of ancient Rome," from Old French senat or Latin senatus "highest council of the state in ancient Rome," literally "council of elders," from senex (genitive senis) "old man, old" (from PIE root *sen- "old"). Attested from late 14c. in reference to governing bodies of free cities in Europe; of national governing bodies from 1550s; specific sense of upper house of U.S. legislature is recorded from 1775. Online Etymology Dictionary accessed 1/11/2017.