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10 The Crisis Generation in Civil War, 1562-1582.
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The Fragmentation of the Court, 1563

The ultras had lost no time in attacking the vulnerable aspects of the Edict of Amboise. On March 29, at the session immediately following registration, Parlement remonstrated against Catherine's toleration of non-Catholic courtiers, on grounds that they could not be trusted to be faithful, for "no certainty of good [performance in] office can be found with diversity of religion." Two weeks later they carried presumption even further, expressing resentment that violence in other parts of the kingdom (against the Huguenots) was ignored, "as if only Catholic Paris was to be held to the terms of the edict," and demanding that it be applied equally to both sides.[32] Taber summarizes the situation, "the functions of Parlement as the conservatives saw them emerge very clearly . . . in both the making of policy and the execution of justice, the Court was the king's mentor. The royal reply, read to the members on April 24, made it equally clear that such tutelage was felt to be inappropriate and offensive." As retaliation against the ultras, the crown took deadly aim at a sensitive spot. In an interview between de Thou and Chancellor L'Hôpital on May 9, despite the premier président's almost superhuman efforts to be tactful and conciliatory, the court was ordered to withdraw the requirement for a profession of faith, and to admit without coercion absentees who did not wish to make one.[33] The return of several controversial absentees heightened the drama and hardened the court's resistance, but the only result achieved by an impressive delegation of présidents, gens du roi , and senior conseillers who tried to explain their position (May 18) was that they were explicitly forbidden to deliberate the question at all.[34] At least by implication, this was an attack


on Parlement's most precious prerogative, the right of remonstrance. Inevitably, it provoked new remonstrances on May 22.

Noting that a profession of faith conformed both to the procedures of François I and to the requirement of the Edict of January that members of the court be of the same faith as the king, the main thrust of Parlement's argument was that law and order depended on the maintenance of the profession. To drop it would entail dire consequences, including public disrespect for Parlement and disunity within its ranks. Predictably, the king's reply was that reasons of state made it imperative that members of the court not be obliged to make profession, and that such was his will.[35] Taber speculates that Parlement had probably anticipated this outcome, since the remonstrances of May 22 are entered in the register of May 25 with yet another parlementaire initiative, drawing a distinction between Protestants who had borne arms during the war and officers who had absented themselves in order to avoid a profession of faith. In the court's opinion, the edict applied only to the former category; the profession of faith, on the contrary, was a rule of the court, to be obeyed by all members, as the king's justice was by definition in conformity with his religion.[36]

Taber has a convincing hypothesis concerning the probable membership of the commission that drew up the second, bolder set of remonstrances on May 25. She sees a division within "the conservative rump" that had made a profession of faith the previous June. Thirteen members whose ideological deviation had been revealed in the police report she calls "unreliables," ten of whom were present when the May 25 remonstrances were formulated, three belonged to the Grand' Chambre: Étienne Charlet, Matthieu Chattier, and Michel Quélain.[37]

Those who were "unreliable" from the point of view of ultra-conservative solidarity I place in the parlementaire mainstream, as moderates, who for the most part had been silent in recent months. These were sincere Catholics, for whom a profession of faith was a natural act in support of un roi, une foi , and while they could not accept the crown's moves toward accommodation of heretics, neither did they believe in either vindictive persecution or in the imposition of iron-bound uniformity in every detail of religious observance and belief. They were willing, therefore, to waive


the oath for returnees and let bygones be bygones as much for alienated colleagues as for those who had borne arms. These attitudes did indeed make them "unreliable" as followers of the ultra line, but the court's leadership was no longer hostage to the ultras. Of the five présidents only Saint-André stood for total unwillingness to compromise. Christophe de Thou was now in the driver's seat, and he had shown his independence by permitting deliberation on the question of the profession of faith in defiance of the king's command and by the same act had defied ultra parlementaire opinion by allowing the returnees the same privileges as others. De Thou could count on the support of Séguier and Harlay (who would probably have gone even further) and of Baillet, who was always compliant. Among the conseillers, de Thou's own allies and those of Séguier, notably Faye, Viole, and Du Drac, could act as "whips" of the Gallican party that would emerge when the patriotism of the ultras seemed compromised by the Counter-Reformation.

The balance of power between the mainstream and the ultras was beginning to shift. The French delegation to the Council of Trent, led by conseiller Arnauld Du Ferrier, opposed decrees that would eliminate the autonomy of the French church before withdrawing from Trent altogether. One result would be to make the ultra position appear more extreme and to accelerate defections from it toward the mainstream, in the center. The full implications of these changes were not yet evident, however.

There were also subdivisions among the dissidents, the thirty-one parlementaires who had absented themselves to avoid the profession of faith. Nearly two years earlier, in the summer of 1561, the Venetian ambassador Michele Suriano had already reported differences of opinion among parlementaires. The reason the pourparlers that finally produced the Edict of July were so long and drawn out, he said, was that "everyone insisted on giving his own opinion, not satisfied with what had been said by previous speakers." He adds provocative details on two prominent individuals:

Hitherto all members of Parlement had shown themselves most hostile to the new sects [sic ], with the exception of M. Viole, who spoke openly in their favor. He had consequently gained great credit with them, while M. du Ferrier had lost as much . . . [but since returning from Rome] from having been the most violent and implacable enemy of Catholics and especially of the authority of the Pope [he is now] more kind and friendly. . . . Those who are displeased by the change declare that he had been bought by presents and promises.[38]


These impressions reflect the opinions of Suriano's informant(s); he or they were clearly "reliable" conservatives; the slur on Du Ferrier's integrity conflicts with everything we know of him.

In another dispatch, written two weeks later (July 14), after the conclusion of deliberations but before the edict was officially issued, Suriano states that "more than 100" of the 140 persons who participated, that is, the Parlement and the Conseil du Roi

were firm and united in opinion in favour of the Catholic faith. The remainder were opposed to it; but divided into several parties. . . . Some of them openly advocated the cause of the Sacramentarians; amongst them the Admiral and M. du Mortier [seigneur de l'Isle], and some members of the Parliament. Some, who were doubtful, wished, under various pretexts, to delay the decision [of the Parliament]. Others, who thought that it was too severe, desired that more leniency should be shown. Amongst the latter was the Cardinal de Châtilion.

Antoine de Bourbon spoke in a low voice and said little, continues Suriano. The cardinal de Lorraine spoke with learning and eloquence and persuaded the assembly to publish the decree by authority of Parlement, because its supremacy in the kingdom "has all the force of a pragmatic sanction, against which neither the favour, nor the ability nor the rank nor the authority of anyone would avail."[39]

The father of André Guillart, sieur de l'Isle, was président Charles Guillart, who had died in 1524. Louis Guillart, André's uncle, bishop of Chartres, a member of the king's council, was one of the French bishops the papacy attempted to deprive of their sees, as heretics, in August 1563.[40] We are tantalized by the offhand reference to "some members of Parlement," probably those who later refused to make profession of faith in June 1562. Those who "sought pretexts for delay" would seem to indicate men like Du Faur and Paul de Foix, who urged waiting for a church council to decide the religious question. The "leniency" of cardinal de Châtillon might be an allusion to his willingness to allow the use of the vernacular in some church rituals, for instance. It is particularly interesting that Suriano expresses the


exalted parlementaire view of the court's authority and prestige—it could be Étienne Pasquier speaking—and intriguing that such a view should be put in the mouth of the cardinal de Lorraine. This is not plausible, however. I suspect the Venetian ambassador conflated a report that the assembly was persuaded to accept the edict—which nobody really favored—by the cardinal's eloquence, with some parlementaire's assertion of the court's influence.

Of the edict itself Suriano had said (July 27, 1561) that the published version was less severe on heresy than Parlement had intended because "it had been weakened by the Chancellor, whose orthodoxy was suspected," consequently, "that which was intended as remedy, would instead add to the evil." A secret dispatch the same day reports that the queen mother was suspected of collusion with the chancellor and others who favored the Huguenots.[41] Again we see that the ultras had the ambassador's ear.

Suriano's mission ended just after the Colloquy of Poissy, in October 1561. A year and a half later, in spite of an unbroken series of setbacks, the Protestant party still loomed as a dreadful menace in conservative parlementaire opinion. In April 1563 the succeeding Venetian ambassador, Marc'Antonio Barbaro, could report to the Senate, "the Catholic party is convinced that if the peace [Amboise] is continued, the whole kingdom would go over to the new religion , although the king has declared his intention to live and die in that of his fathers."[42]

In the interval between the earlier Venetian reports and the one just quoted, the clear-cut division between those who made profession of faith and the thirty-one who refused had surfaced, and the less clear subdivisions within both groups that Taber and I have analyzed became discernible. Her painstaking analysis of the time-table of absentee returns shows that four of the thirty-one had been lost through resignation or death, and three were abroad, serving as ambassadors. All but nine of the rest had reclaimed their seats by June 1563; only two had asked to be excused from the oath.[43] The last nine, who did not return until the fall or winter 1563-64, had all been accused of the most serious offenses on the police report, such as holding assemblies in their houses or serving in Condé's army.


The evidence suggests that these nine were real heretics, and to the extent that they retained dissident beliefs after their return, they were what Calvin called "Nicodemites," secret Protestants. The earliest returnees, of June and July 1562, on the contrary, who took the oath without apparent hesitation, were almost certainly conventional or indifferent Catholics. We recall that Eustache de la Porte, for instance, had complied easily and promptly when the judges at his 1559 trial had required him to recant his criticism of the Grand' Chambre's severity to heretics. Some of the dissenters I would characterize as "liberal" Catholics. In contrast to the indifferent or conventional group, they had reached their beliefs through sophisticated and subtle reasoning, but the substance was more spiritual and moral than theological, as we have seen with Paul de Foix, who represents the most radical end of the spectrum. The congruence of his views with those of Jean de Monluc and with the provisions of the Edict of January marks the difference between the "left of center" members and the moderate conservatives of the court. If about three-fourths of the Parisian parlementaires were conservatives, relatively few were ultras—and as time passed there were fewer. And if the remaining fourth consisted of dissidents, relatively few of them were heretics. The moderates of the mainstream and the liberal Catholics between them constituted a substantial majority.

As long as Charles IX was a minor, opposition to the policies of Catherine and L'Hôpital stimulated anticipations of the end of the regency.[44] The Parlement, hoping that the king's policies would be closer to its own when that moment came, exploited the situation by granting only "provisional" registration to the Edict of January and the Pacification of Amboise. Moreover, while Charles IX had been crowned in May 1561, it was not until two years later that he paid the court the honor of a visit. The occasion was the crown's need for new revenues in order to take advantage of the cessation of hostilities to unify the quarreling factions in a "national" military campaign to drive the English out of Normandy. The device so often resorted to in such circumstances, to "borrow" from the French church, made it necessary to launch an official royal appeal, in a royal séance of the Parlement of Paris on May 17, 1563.

In a personal statement opening the proceedings, the young king excused himself for not coming sooner "to do my duty, that is, to admonish you to administer justice well and honorably . . . because I became king at such a


young age and have been so preoccupied with other affairs." The chancellor elaborated the point and brought up the proposition of alienating church lands to meet the needs of national security. Premier président de Thou, speaking for the court, supported the request and thanked the king effusively for their "joy at seeing before them the image and power of God represented in their king . . . seated in the throne of his majesty. " This meant in the Grand' Chambre of the Parlement of Paris, and he was beseeched to do so often. The premier président underlined Parlement's opinion that it had a right to be consulted by inserting smoothly, "as pilot of a [vessel] which is tossed and torn by ill winds, the king as is customary requests counsel of those who are inside [the vessel]."[45]

The royal séance of May 17 has usually been interpreted as a humiliation of the court because it was obliged to drop the requirement of a confession of faith and to readmit those who had refused to take the oath—a matter that was uppermost in their current concerns. Hanley, however, carrying out her constitutional interpretation, believes that "contrary to common supposition . . . this Royal Séance . . . was specifically convoked to register a royal edict not under the iron hand of the monarch but at the willful insistence of a Parlement intent upon securing for itself during minority kingship a greater legislative role."[46]

The crown's announcement that a lit de justice would be held in the Parlement of Rouen (August 17, 1563) to proclaim the king's majority (and crown the national military victory in Normandy) precipitated a constitutional crisis that some scholars regard as the most serious of the century, prior to the 1590s.[47] The Parisian Parlement not only refused to comply with the request to send delegates but attempted to change the regent's mind—in vain. The argument advanced in de Thou's letter was that there was no need for a special assembly to proclaim the royal majority because

even if you [Charles IX] were only one day old, you would be as much a major in respect to justice as if you were thirty years old, since [justice] is administered in your name by the power God has given you. In addition, the attire [red robes] in which we [the Parlement of Paris] are vested during


Royal Funerals shows that since [kings] do not die in respect to justice, they can never be reputed as minors [in respect to justice].[48]

If such an ordinance, as special, is however, deemed necessary,

then the act must take place first in this Court . . . the first of the Courts of the kingdom, the Court of peers, and the seat of the king's sovereign justice. . . . [The Parlement of Paris is the true and only court in which] he customarily holds his Lit de Justice [assembly] . . . it [the court] represents the true and solid image of the majesty and dignity of his justice.[49]

Parlement had thus completely reversed the position it had held in earlier decades. From denying the legitimacy of a lit de justice assembly, the Parisians had turned to co-opting the institution, asserting that it could only take place in the Grand' Chambre of the Paris Palais de Justice.

Using the compilations of Du Tillet (see chapter 2), Chancellor L'Hôpital articulated a royal strategy designed to counter the Parlement's claim and to "eliminate the shadow of legislative incapacity hovering over the scene of royal minority," by asserting that the throne was never vacant (l'autorité royale ne meurt point ). Transfer of this maxim, borrowed from private law, provided a basis for "instantaneous succession" in public law, as a legitimate concept in the "ancient constitution."[50]

In Parlement's eyes, the villain of the majorité struggle was Chancellor L'Hôpital, who, as spokesman of the crown, expressed the more absolutist interpretation and challenged parlementaire constitutionalism by every available means, from straightforward pressure, applied through prestigious envoys who commanded registration and dismissed remonstrances in the king's name, to underhanded practices like suborning members of the court to break the confidentiality of its proceedings so that every move was known in advance by officers of the crown. A new royal tactic was to announce that the king would shortly come in person to the Paris Parlement, and then to change the rules and require that a parlementaire delegation bring the remonstrances to him in Normandy. The location of the meeting was changed three times before it took place, five days after the original date, in the presence—unexpected by the parlementaires—of the Conseil


du Roi. The king denied the validity of every point in the remonstrances and castigated the court for disobedience:

The kings who preceded me placed [the Parlement] in your present station only for the purpose of making justice for subjects. . . . You are not my tutors or guardians of the kingdom . . . you are always welcome to make remonstrances . . . but not as my governors. And after having made them and having heard my will, you must obey. . . . You are my servants and subjects who must obey me when I command.[51]

Forced to abandon direct resistance, the Parlement resorted to obstruction through procedural tactics, which prolonged the struggle for several weeks more. The height of the crisis occurred after a tie vote (partage ) in Parlement on whether to register the second Edict of Pacification (a confirmation of Amboise) without its being "witnessed" by two princes of the blood—as a warranty of good faith that it was not intended to legitimize the existence of two religions. The tie vote listed the individual parlementaires by name, in writing , contrary to the usual custom of taking votes orally and recording only the overall numbers, for and against. When the king demanded to see the original list, the situation became much worse. Several desperate maneuvers of the court failed, and members were finally compelled to concede that the partage was invalid because Parlement's "cognizance did not extend to affairs of state." But the court did not obey the command to record the original (now canceled) partage —the document instead was deleted from the registers until some days later, when they were brought to the king to prove that the order had been executed. In defeat, the factions had to close ranks. To be sure, the partage in itself reflected division in the court, but the agreement to take such a step in the first place and the resistance of all factions to cancellation and to expunging the record, show how members separated by disagreement over substantive policy, joined forces to defend the court's prerogatives.[52]

At the all-important lit de justice in Rouen, in August 1563, the majority of Charles IX was proclaimed and the royal theory of government was set forth by L'Hôpital: the king was sole legislator in matters of state (public or constitutional); Parlement's jurisdiction was restricted to the private sphere, the application of law among individuals. This stood in marked contrast to "les pretensions du Parlement de Paris à être colégislateur avec le roi et à s'imposer comme le principal Parlement en France." The ada-


mantine stand of the Paris court against the crown's tactic (on such vital issues as the Edicts of January, Amboise, majority, and later Nantes) of bypassing it and having them registered in provincial parlements first , makes clear the Parisian belief that the latter were "lesser" in some respect. Some of their discourse suggests a theory of "parlementaire unity," in which the others were subordinate to Paris in one "national" court. Hanley, however, points out that "Far from being official doctrine in the sixteenth century, the idea of parlementary unity under the Parisian court was vigorously contested." In speeches delivered in provincial parlements, L'Hôpital defined parlementary unity in a way that "leveled all the courts to one unit headed by the king."[53]

These rival assertions express two conflicting views of the constitution: Paris claimed both superiority over all other courts and a "partnership" with the king, as colegislator without whose consent (registration) no royal decree had the force of law. The crown ignored the Parisian arguments and the chancellor repeated the humiliating limitation to "private justice" in the parlements of Toulouse and Bordeaux. Hanley comments, "The Parlement of Paris was well aware that Charles IX's Majority Lit de Justice of Rouen had undermined its pretensions to supremacy among the Courts of France."[54]

This defeat of Parlement's claim to equal partnership with the crown set a pattern in 1563 that would be repeated each time the issue arose, with ever-increasing slippage of Parlement's position. Contemporaries did not realize how decisive it was, probably because each successive occurrence—always in crisis—was perceived as an opportunity to redress the balance of power to the true, constitutional equilibrium. The next major test was nine years off.

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