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10 The Crisis Generation in Civil War, 1562-1582.
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Parlement, the Edicts of Toleration, and the Massacre, 1568-1580

Although the Huguenots never won a single round in the Wars of Religion—and only the occasional military encounter—they were consistently strong enough to block a clear-cut Catholic victory and were never knocked out of the running. For this reason the terms of religious settlement dominated the successive truces, embodied in edicts of pacification that separated the wars. A model of parlementaire action on the edicts had been established by the court's docile acceptance of the Pacification of Amboise ending the First Civil War, in 1563. Without debate and without facing up to the actual substance of the edict, the court resorted to what Édouard Maugis calls "cowardly subterfuge . . . which allowed it to avoid responsibility and to leave loopholes for the future." He notes that the identical tactics employed in 1563 were applied again to the Edicts of Longjumeau (1568), St-Germain (1570), and La Rochelle (1573), terminating the second, third, and fourth wars, respectively. In addition to systematic delays and registration qualified "by express command of the king," and "without approving of the new religion," Parlement sometimes pretended that the king's orders and messages had not been received or that the court did not understand them. The usual tactic, and the most effective, was simple non-implementation.

Maugis's severest criticism is that the court did not take a stand on principle. In fact, however, the parlementaires were caught between two principles, both sincerely held, which in the current circumstances were in conflict. They believed in peace and reasoned discourse to settle disputes, to the point (as we have seen) of claiming moral superiority to nobles who always resorted to force—each of these treaties included some degree of toleration for a second religion in France, more accurately, for non-Roman Catholic worship—and thus with reasoned discourse they were in violation of un roi, une foi , the most sacred principle of all.[84]


Each edict reflected immediately preceding historical circumstances, and there was considerable variation in both the Huguenot demands and in the relative leniency or severity of the negotiated settlements. In general, the stronger the Huguenot military forces at the time of negotiation, and the greater the concomitant weakness of their opponents, the greater the concessions, resulting in increased anxiety and resistance in Parlement. The fragility of the Peace of Longjumeau, ending the second war in March 1568, was evident from the start. Nobody believed it would endure and indeed war broke out again only six months later.[85]

Longjumeau restored the terms of the Pacification of Amboise, removing the later modifications, and seemed initially to have the effect of lessening Huguenot power; Sir Henry Norris remarked ruefully that peace was "more dangerous than war," which accords with Pasquier's assessment, more wittily expressed. "It is no small feat for the king, after sparing the skins of an infinite number of his subjects, to gain back with one parchment skin all the towns they had taken from him."[86] If the application of peace and reason could diminish Huguenot power instead of increasing it, it seemed that—exceptionally—the two principles could be reconciled.

Altogether different was the context of the Peace of St-Germain. Huguenot strength at the end of the third war was the greatest it had ever been—and greater than it would be again until the leadership of Henri de Navarre in the late 1580s. Admiral Coligny and Jeanne d'Albret were a strong aggressive team, driving a hard bargain, exploiting the weaknesses of the crown—near-bankruptcy and in-fighting among the leaders—and prolonging the negotiations for eight months, to squeeze out every possible advantage. Odet, cardinal de Châtillon, was in England securing the support of the major Protestant power. Already the Huguenots had broadened their support by comparison with earlier phases of the wars. Pasquier notes, "they have given a new name to their enterprise, The Cause , a word that wormed its way into their minds through a sort of popular republic, to show that in this quarrel . . . the cause was the cause of all, in general and in particular. Each should contribute what he could and the little man had


an equal share with the greater." He continues, "I do not know what will be the outcome of this great tragedy."[87] One can understand that it seemed a tragedy to Pasquier, even as it produced a degree of optimism in the Protestant camp that would not be duplicated even under Henri IV, because his conversion was always feared—justifiably.

The Edict of St-Germain incorporated in its text some guarantees that had been "understood" in earlier edicts but never specified in the document and never implemented. It did not merely impose amnesty but detailed rights, such as access to educational institutions and the right to challenge the competence of judges; Protestants were allowed to worship in two towns per gouvernement and four places de sûreté , strategically selected, were ceded to them for two years. For the first time royal officials were required to swear to uphold the edict and the parlements to register it; severe penalties were provided for infraction, including whipping as well as fines for nonviolent action and the death penalty for obstruction by force. It was the first edict to have "teeth," as Sutherland points out. She calls it "seminal," and indeed it was the model in some respects for the Edict of Nantes. Even though it strengthened the Huguenots, Pasquier judged c'est finir où nous devions commencer , no doubt because the kingdom and especially the king's authority were deteriorating with each day of war. Better to arrest the disastrous decline and begin to heal the divisions by keeping the long-range vision of a united France in mind, at the price of some immediate concessions.[88]

Given the relative numbers and strength of those (on both sides) who worked to undo it compared to those who would preserve it, it is improbable that the Peace of St-Germain could have held for any length of time. Yet the effects might have lasted longer if the ranking Huguenots had not been removed from the scene within a few months. Odet de Châtillon died in the summer of 1571, just as he was embarking for France, having optimistically laid the foundations of a pan-European Protestant coalition. Jeanne d'Albret died in June 1572, her bad health exacerbated by exhaustion from a long struggle against the marriage of her son with Catherine's daughter Marguerite de Valois, an alliance intended by the queen mother as the instrument of national conciliation.


Admiral Coligny, of course, was assassinated six days after the wedding, in August 1572, and much of the second level of Huguenot leadership was eliminated, and the remainder scattered, in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Navarre's life was spared but he was only nineteen years old and was subjected to a kind of house arrest at court, from which he did not escape until 1576. The fundamental cause of the failure of the Peace of St-Germain, however, outweighing changes in personnel, was the involvement of the Huguenots with the parallel religio-political movement in the Netherlands, which had been escalating since 1566. Sutherland has disentangled the multiple threads of this involvement and provided a fresh, plausible rationale for their interrelations, which resulted in France becoming the crucible of the European conflict between the Counter-Reformation and the Protestant-nationalist camps for the rest of the century.[89]

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew, the single most shockingly dramatic event in thirty-six years of civil war, was an insurrection of fanatically Catholic Parisians against policies, actual and anticipated, of Charles IX, perceived as favorable to adherents of "the new religion." Accumulated economic, political, and religious grievances of the past decade and fear of a war in which French Protestants allied with foreign Protestant powers would overrun Paris and change the governance of (Catholic) France, exploded in looting, rioting, and murder, creating widespread devastation and leaving thousands of casualties, beginning on Sunday, August 24, and lasting for several days.

Until very recently accounts by contemporaries and historians alike, often polemical (on both sides), failed to extract a coherent analysis of the event from a mass of confusions, contradictions, and factual lacunae. Protestant accounts tended to treat it as a holocaust, with the crown and/or the Guises as the planners and instigators of a policy of extermination of heresy. Standard royalist accounts echoed the explanation of Charles IX when he accepted responsibility, declaring the use of force justified by the necessity to prevent a Huguenot uprising that would destroy the state. No traditional account hinted at any involvement of the Parlement of Paris; it is not even mentioned. The assumption that the court played no part rested on the fact


that it did not meet for about ten days—some before and some after the event—and especially on the absence of any mention of the event, or of parlementaire reaction, in the court's registers or in other primary sources for the period.

Fortunately, there is now a thorough, sophisticated study of the background, context, and repercussions of the massacre, to which all students of the question are greatly indebted.[90]

Another new, radically revisionist, interpretation is contained in a series of articles (1987-92) by Jean-Louis Bourgeon, in which the silence of the sources is considered proof, not merely of Parlement's involvement but of Parlement's responsibility . Indeed, Bourgeon speculates that its leaders, especially members of the de Thou clan and Pierre (I) Séguier, conspired to foment the insurrection and staged a strike (mensonge par omission ) to cover up their responsibility.[91] Their objective is alleged to have been the overthrow of the monarchy and takeover of the government. Elaborating his argument, Bourgeon links the parlementaire "conspirators" of 1572 with the leadership of all subsequent conflicts between Parlement and the crown down to the end of the ancien régime, referring to 1572 as a Fronde parlementaire . A number of students of the question are not persuaded—I among them.

Aside from the fact that he bases his case on a total lack of evidence, Bourgeon does not seem to recognize the long-established parlementaire view of the structure of the French government as a complex of powers in which the crown is subject to law, its power limited by the right of Parlement to debate, and if found constitutional, to register all royal edicts, without which they do not have the force of law.

The parlementaire leaders of 1572 certainly opposed the king's violation of their (most fundamental) right of remonstrance and used every weapon at their disposal to defend it, as well as to force Charles IX to modify or abandon his offensive policies. To extrapolate from this predictable stance the claim that Parlement's opposition represented a desire to destroy the


monarchy as such , however, flies in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary.

French government under the ancien régime functioned according to a constitutional process, in which the crown and the court bargained over royal policies, with Parlement always attempting to modify them in defense of its own prerogatives and rights. As in all bargaining situations, the outcome depended on the respective skill, and strength, of the negotiators. Faced with a strong king Parlement had to delay, stand on technicalities, make minor concessions, and dissimulate, leading to an outcome of ostensible acceptance of defeat (de expresso mandato regis ), as in the conflict over the Concordat with François I. When the crown was weak, skilled parlementaire leaders could force face-saving compromises or accept the policies conditionally. Concessions on religious policy under the last Valois kings fall in this category. They were always described in terms that denied finality, "pending the decision of a church council" or, "until such time as His Majesty deems otherwise." The Edict of January 1562 illustrates all these tactics in turn, and Parlement never really accepted it.[92]

An even stronger argument against Bourgeon's conspiracy theory lies in the lifelong, consistent parlementaire posture toward the monarchy in its traditional, constitutional form. Their public actions, speeches, and writings, identically matched in private correspondence and diaries, testify to their wholehearted, unreserved devotion to the French monarchy. Indeed, for the most articulate of the mainstream parlementaires it was their ruling passion, the chief expression of their patriotism.[93] With Pierre de L'Estoile, it became a veritable obsession; the perception of the monarchy as perverted was the ultimate proof that his were "the worst of times." Henri III "would have been a very good prince if he had met with a good century," and Henri IV was France's greatest hero because he was "the restorer of the monarchy."

Both Bourgeon and Diefendorf recognize what the latter describes as "building anger against the crown," initially targeted at Catherine, but with the edict creating new taxes on procureurs (to pay the subsidy the king had


promised the crown would supply for the German reiters who had fought with the Huguenots in the Third Civil War) increasingly aimed at Charles IX himself. I would add that Parlement's anger was reinforced because the constitutional issue was combined with the religious, evoking memories of the major defeat (by L'Hôpital in 1563) over the king's majority and readmission of those who had refused to make profession. The approaching marriage of a Valois princess to the Huguenot leader, heir to the throne, was an immediate menace. The leaders of the court were resolved to prevent another defeat. Diefendorf reminds us that after the failed attempt on Coligny's life (August 22) the threatening words and gestures of the Huguenot nobles, gathered for the ceremonies and bent on revenge, created great fear in the population, shared by parlementaires and fed by wild rumors. This threat provided the rationale for the king's decision to use force. Diefendorf's designation of the resulting massacre as "a preemptive strike" seems to be le mot juste; what was intended as a preventive measure, aimed at the armed Huguenot nobles, "got out of hand," partly because it was not certain what orders had been issued following the important meeting of the royal council in the night of August 23. Conceivably, many of the atrocities may have appeared to be sanctioned by the belief that the king himself had said something to the effect of "Kill them all." There is also evidence that ulterior motives, including private vengeance and the opportunity for extortion, explain some important crimes.[94]

In judging the action—or rather the inaction—of the civilian authorities responsible for public order, we must bear in mind the virtual paralysis that had been created by the ongoing conflicts over royal policy in the past decade. Diefendorf describes the division in the Hôtel de Ville between those who saw the main danger as heresy and those who saw it as anarchy . We have noted in each generation of parlementaires that this cleavage can also be described as ultras versus moderates in religion. In 1572, the moderate leaders, Christophe de Thou and Pierre (I) Séguier, were still in control; weaker leadership in the latter years of Henri III's reign would find Parlement too timid to prevent the excesses of the Sixteen. The rupture of the civic fabric increased dramatically under the League and reached its climax—as far as the Parlement was concerned—in the murder of premier président Brisson in November 1591.[95]


Examining anew the crucial sessions of mid-August 1572, the exchanges in the Parlement between Charles's spokesmen and the court's leaders, in which Bourgeon finds a conspiracy masked by deceptive rhetoric, I see a graphic example of the constitutional process, which, as Diefendorf says, "is easily mistaken for obstructionism." Citing earlier instances, she concludes, "when the full circumstances of each of these incidents are taken into account, it can be seen that the magistrates temporized because they were afraid to take actions whose success they could not guarantee, because any failure would only reveal more clearly the true weakness of civil authority." The ostensible victory was really another in the long series of defeats for Parlement, contrary to Bourgeon's conclusion, though the crown in turn also fell victim, during the reign of Henri III, to deepening crisis and renewed civil war. The magistrates' fate, which would further weaken their constitutional rights, came about because "[they] emerged as defenders of constituted authority. They were willing to enforce the king's edicts even when these edicts violated their Catholic beliefs, because they shared an even stronger belief in a legitimate and orderly state." Parlement's powers were thereby worn down by attrition without in the least changing their minds about une foi .[96]

The elimination of the first generation of Huguenot leaders was not the only major change in the French political configuration of the 1570s. Antagonism between Charles IX and his next brother, Henri d'Anjou, was disrupting the royal Catholic party, especially since Anjou's spectacular success as commander at the victory of Montcontour (October 1569). By 1573, Catherine de Médicis could no longer control the situation. Anjou's siege of the Huguenot port of La Rochelle, the main event of the Fourth Civil War, inflated his ambition still further, and Charles IX was visibly dying. An edict Sutherland describes as "crudely drafted and hastily concluded" so that Anjou could withdraw, ended the fighting, and the "victor" left for a brief reign as king of Poland—whence he would flee in a few months with his "subjects" in hot pursuit. This was a maneuver of the queen mother's to remove the heir apparent from the scene until he could return in triumph as king of France.[97] The Parlement of Paris registered the Edict of La Rochelle in silence, with the reservation "without approving of the new religion" written in.

Salmon describes the ten years from 1574 to 1584 as a drift to anarchy.


"One civil war followed another in an aimless procession that demonstrated the decline of royal authority. Famine and peasant revolt followed the path of marauding armies. . . . Social hostilities deepened." Reform was desperately needed and "there were times when the last and most intelligent of the Valois kings took a personal part. . . . Unfortunately, Henri III's intellectual ability was accompanied by an erratic and willful self-indulgence that alienated the loyalty of his subjects."[98] Salmon groups the signs of anarchy under three main headings: the weakness of the crown, the selfishness of the factions, the inner divisions tearing apart each party and social order. Illustrative detail springs out of the pages of Pierre de L'Estoile's Journal d'Henri III for these years.

Social fissures were opening up in every direction. In addition to the familiar contempt for the clergy, blamed for abuses that undermined faith and fed immorality and cynicism, nobles were castigated as frivolous and irresponsible and "the people" as a "stupid beast, stubborn and more inconstant than weather vanes, easily led against their own best interests." Within the robe, jealousy and antagonism between the parlementaires and administrative bureaucrats were increasingly bitter; they even occasionally came to blows in public.[99] Scapegoats for the unraveling of society were easily found, most frequently the Italians—especially the queen mother, "Sainte Katherine" as one widely disseminated libel called her, and the troupe of Italian comedians I Gelosi , the first modern-style theatrical company in French history.[100]

Given the crown's chronic financial crisis, it is understandable that public opinion was inflamed by the extravagance and waste of the king's favorites (mignons ), rising to new heights when they were given offices, estates, and lavish weddings. Money was also partly the cause of antipathy toward Henri III's increasing displays of piety, regarded as inappropriate and excessive—in which the mignons also participated. Under the heading Dévotions du


Roy; Dévotions d'argent mal agréables , in Lent 1575, L'Estoile reports, the king went every day to a different parish in the capital, "using every means ingenuity could invent to raise money." Toward the end of the year, he repeated the visits

to pray and give alms with great displays of piety. He abandoned at this time his embroidered shirts and wore his collar reversed, in the Italian style. He went in a coach, with his wife, the queen, to the convents in the vicinity, to add to his collection of little lap dogs. . . . He also took up the study of grammar, [he said,] "to learn to decline." This seemed to presage the decline of his authority.

There are pages on end of satirical and sometimes obscene verse attacking the Italians, the mignons , and the king himself.[101]

Scandal, vice, and extravagance were compounded by unrestrained violence. A total reversal of the old values appeared to be taking place. Nothing could be a more shocking proof to a traditionalist like L'Estoile than the extremes of disrespect for the king. Among the "titles" given him in the scurrilous pasquils circulating in Paris, were "Henry, by the grace of his mother, imaginary king of France and Poland, concierge of the Louvre, despoiler of the churches of Paris . . . merchant of justice, habitué of the sewers, protector of thugs."[102]

The first civil war under Henri III—number five, as specialists reckon—reflected the chaotic condition of the country, but it was precipitated by a new disruptive factor, the ambitions of François d'Alençon, now heir apparent.[103] He escaped from Paris in September 1575 and joined forces with the Huguenots. Their most militant faction had gained the upper hand, extending their politico-military organization, providing for an army as well as financial, judicial, and administrative institutions—the nucleus of what later would be called the Protestant "state within a state." They were demanding that the crown approve these actions—which no king of France could have done. They were also demanding a meeting of the Estates-General and places de sûreté . Alençon claimed as his objects "to undertake the people's cause" and "to oppose those who were devastating the king-


dom," by which he meant the Guise party. He also made exorbitant demands on the crown, including an enormous sum to pay off his mercenaries and dismantle his garrisons. The malcontents and the Huguenots formed an "incongruous coalition," Sutherland says, but "there was a real danger that it might have toppled the monarchy before its members disputed the spoils."[104] The crown had to capitulate. The resulting Edict of Pacification, appropriately called the Peace of Monsieur, granted important concessions to him and to the Huguenots. Most important of the latter were the right to unrestricted worship in temples of their own, and special chambers in the parlements called mi-parties , with equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants on the bench, to judge cases arising under the edict, or any case between litigants of opposing faiths. Eight towns were ceded as places de sûreté , some to be ruled by Alençon.

Resistance to the Peace of Monsieur was instantaneous and violent. Parisians boycotted the Te Deum and fireworks that the king was staging in celebration; the chambres mi-parties were odieuses à la cour . In L'Estoile's opinion, the edict would never have passed without the king's insistence, in person. That was in May 1576. Yet the magistrates came under attack later in the summer for "conniving in opening the door to heretics," an instance of effective propaganda against any advocates of peace. L'Estoile notes, "The truth is that these people would be willing for the whole world to be Huguenot provided that they could rule and make their League and conspiracy against the state successful."[105]

For it was not the Huguenots who posed the greatest threat to Henri III and traditional Gallicans, but rather the ultra-Catholics. The Peace of Monsieur had stimulated the formation of the Holy League—its first phase—designed to rally Catholics to defend the faith. The noble leadership was in the hands of the Guise-Lorraine family, who could include their own dynastic ambitions under that umbrella. The Parisian Third Estate was also drawn into the movement, as we shall see in the next phase of this study, as were many robins —but not the mainstream magistrates. Characteristically, L'Estoile's attitude is "A plague on both your houses." He remarks sardonically on the capture of the town of St-Esprit by Catholics and the town of La Charité by Huguenots in December 1576, "the former as little touched by the Holy Spirit as the latter by Charity."[106]


Opposition to any degree of toleration was expressed by each order at the Estates General of 1577, but the threat of heresy paled in comparison to the threat from Rome, which became acute when the heir presumptive to the title of Most Christian King was really a heretic.[107] Any hopes of arresting the national decline were brutally disappointed when François d'Alençon, last of the Valois brothers, died in 1584. The probability of Henri III having any offspring had diminished to the vanishing point, so with Alençon's removal Henri de Bourbon, king of Navarre, leader of the Protestant party, stood next in line for the throne. His claim under the regular laws of succession was indisputable, but his Protestant belief invalidated and overruled that claim in the eyes of the ultras, while creating a cruel dilemma for even the most moderate Catholics, as well as for Henri III, who was destroyed by it, first politically, and ultimately personally. For moderate Catholics, including mainstream parlementaires, the ordeal would grow in intensity for nearly ten years, until Henri de Navarre, become Henri IV, liberated them by his conversion.

In the interval, however, the leadership of the crisis generation came to an end, after more than twenty years at the helm. Pierre (I) Séguier died in 1580 and Christophe de Thou in 1582. The climate of opinion in the last generation, which fought the royalist-Gallican wars against the League even more than against heretics, was different in some important respects: autres temps, autres moeurs . The succeeding mainstream leaders—the politiques —constituted a coalition rather than an organized "party," having in common strong opposition to what they were against, while holding disparate, sometimes conflicting, views on what they were for.

The conventional designation politique for Catholic royalists, activist opponents of the League, and partisans of Henri IV in the 1590s, is legitimate and serviceable, but applications of the term in earlier phases of the Wars of Religion embrace a considerable range of political and religious positions. The nineteenth-century conception, which has prevailed, uncritically, to the present day, was formulated principally in the work of De Crue de Stoutz, followed most influentially by Michelet and Ranke. It embodied "the good sense of Erasmus, the probity of L'Hôpital . . . a program eventually espoused . . . by the gens de robe longue and érudits , respectable


Parisian bourgeois and finally even by moderate Leaguers," in the words of Charles Labitte.[108]

Recent scholarship has offered fresh examinations of several crucial questions: who, exactly, were the politiques and what were their defining characteristics? What elements, if any, linked L'Hôpital and the Montmorencys in the 1560s, Alençon and his associated malcontents in the 1570s, the fierce critics of Henri III in the 1580s with the parlementaire leaders who engineered the triumph of Henri IV in the 1590s? Was there at any time a politique "party" and, if so, what were its historical causes, its effects?

These questions are taken up by Christopher Bettinson in a 1989 article in which he challenges the notion of continuity that he finds characteristic of earlier histories, in particular Salmon's influential Society in Crisis . As Bettinson describes it, the "Politique party" that Salmon sees emerge from the fusion of loyalist Protestant and Catholic groups in the wake of Anjou's death derives its "identity" from the "flood of what he [Salmon] calls Politique political theory, . . . as a reaction to the resurgence of the League and the constitutional excesses of its pamphleteers." "Politique theory," Bettinson continues, "is defined as an amalgam of many elements of Renaissance political thought," from Seyssel to Machiavelli, constitutional, absolutist, Stoic, and Gallican.[109] In this view, moreover, the "attempts [of Catherine de Médicis] to counter the collapse of authority in the state and the policies she developed with Michel de L'Hospital in the early 1560s are seen . . . as the most significant element of continuity and the edicts of toleration or pacification themselves as a spinal cord running from the edicts of amnesty, granted at the end of the Conspiracy of Amboise, to the issue of the Edict of Nantes in 1598."[110]

For Bettinson, Salmon's "pattern of continuity" is too abstract and "systematizing at a level of generality not rooted in historical reality." He proceeds to give a more événementiel analysis. In response to the severe pressures of Philip II and the papacy, against the background of the final sessions of the Council of Trent (1562-63), when many leading French Catholics were "stiffening toward the religious concessions given to Huguenots, [the term politique was applied to] Catholics who refused to commit themselves fully to the eradication of heresy." Appeal was made to the "law of necessity" by the French crown, and the toleration policy was


rationalized as pur politique . By 1568, it was regularly applied to the circle of L'Hôpital, that is, those committed to a negotiated settlement with the Huguenots. From the ultra point of view they were virtually traitors—to the concept of state reflecting the rule of God. Bettinson points out that the effect of the massacre was to magnify the differences. Catherine, Charles, L'Hôpital—who had been driven from office—and all who would not follow the ultra line, were included as politiques , although some were primarily defenders of tradition, especially of the constitution and the Parlement itself, and some leaned markedly toward absolutism: some were Huguenot sympathizers, without becoming Nicodemites, and others merely wished to avoid any religious settlement until ecclesiastical authorities took modifying action, meanwhile separating the church-state-law questions from confessional ones.[111]

In conclusion Bettinson agrees with Salmon "that the issues and arguments struggling for dominance in the period of transition from Valois to Bourbon do bear a close similarity to those clustering around the pacification policy . . . of Catherine and L'Hôpital," but he retains doubts about the comparison of the historical circumstances and denies that these factors brought about "a major change in the nature of French society." Indeed, despite the secular and absolutist reactions against the excesses of the League, "the reality, as the development of royal absolutism in the seventeenth century shows, was a gradual return to the dominant notion of 'une foi, une loi, un roi.'"[112] This study maintains that the traditional view had never been abandoned by the mainstream.

Edmond Beame, in a thoughtful historiographical review of 1993, is struck by how rarely the word occurs in the primary sources, especially noticeable in the case of politiques , for example Jacques-Auguste de Thou, though he admits that L'Estoile is the outstanding exception. Only glimpses of them are to be found, "not a coherent picture but a series of snapshots, some sharp, others only hazy, each taken from a different angle." The result is a "legacy of ambiguity," "a modern historical vocabulary with meaning far more distinct than sixteenth-century usage would support." Beame's conclusion is that the word came to symbolize "a kind of attitudinal terrain, a land whose ideological boundaries . . . are delineated by a willingness to


sacrifice religious unity for peace. It was a territory across which various Frenchmen passed at one time or another . . . often for disparate reasons."[113]

Based on the actions, writings, and reputations of the mainstream parlementaires, the writer confidently asserts that one can discern defining elements in politiques thought: loyalty to the monarchy; opposition to the ultramontane position, including the Trent decrees, and unswerving defense of the Gallican liberties; abstention from specific statements of religious belief and refusal to condemn others who differed from them, together with the conviction that laymen were not qualified to judge religious matters other than where those impinged on the state, the community, the law, for which Parlement was directly responsible. In the circumstances of the civil wars, it was preferable to make temporary concessions on confessional uniformity rather than to suffer the destruction of the national community. Positive national feeling, xenophobia, and personal ulterior motives (self-preservation) were contributing ingredients, naturally in varying proportions among politiques as a group (if not really a "party" until 1593) and also within the mind of each member. This position is appropriately represented by our most astute spokesman, Étienne Pasquier, who differentiates earlier Catholic subgroups from the politiques . "Only in our most recent troubles was the Catholic party subdivided into the politique, considered worse than the Huguenot because he advocated peace, and the Ligueur, who was still divided into three or four groups."[114]


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