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14 The Resurrection of the Parlement, 1593-1594
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Parlement and the Estates of the League, January-August 1593

Significantly, four of the six topics of Parisian concern represent politique policies that the anti-League forces were promoting, and only the last was a ligueur goal. Election of a Catholic king (but not Mayenne and not a "converted" Henri IV) was the League's chief objective as the new year opened and a meeting of the Estates General was the means by which they hoped to achieve it. Since only a king of France could legitimately convoke an Estates General, the gathering of representatives of the three orders in Paris in January 1593, convoked by the duc de Mayenne and led by the papal legate and the Spanish ambassador, was called the Estates of the League. Long anticipated, the outcome was to be devastatingly anticlimactic and ironic: not only did they fail to substitute a prince of their own party for Navarre, but they contributed substantially to his ultimate triumph.

History has provided a veritable temperature chart of their ups and downs in Auguste Bernard's 1842 work. The League's numerous internal divisions and self-defeating policies were ideal nutrients for mushrooming royalist and nationalist sentiment. To the initial split between Mayennistes and the Sixteen and the schism of 1591 between the Espagnolisés and the main body had been added the defections of 1592 to a Third Party, itself torn between rival factions. The Parisians who would play the determining role in the Third Estate included some ligueurs (Neuilly, d'Orléans, Roland among them) elected in 1591 when the meeting was first planned, as well as recent additions: présidents Le Maistre and Bailly, maître des requêtes Pierre Masparault, conseiller Guillaume Du Vair, Jean Luillier, who was both a member of the Chambre des Comptes and prévôt des marchands, as


well as two secrétaires du roi. The new group was strongly politique , reflecting the current prevailing mood of the city, but the program it was expected to advocate had been drawn up in 1588. Thus, Barnavi points out, the politique Parisian deputies of 1593 were supposed to present a 1588 Seize agenda. Vis-à-vis the deputies of the provinces, it was an exact reversal of the situation that had prevailed at Blois in 1588; then, "the capital had been the front line of the League rebellion, its deputies the avant-garde of the movement, at the time of its greatest strength [having driven the king of France out of his capital] . . . sure of itself and of final victory. Now, faced with provinces that had remained ligueur and [even] influenced to a considerable extent by Spain . . . the Parisians were the voice of moderation and of a national conscience inevitably tainted by xenophobia."[1] As the League disintegrated, the first steps were taken toward the reunification—and then the political resurrection—of the Parlement of Paris.

The result of repeated purges and defections on the one hand and royalist departures on the other was that the court's 1593 membership was reduced to about half of its numbers at the time of the initial purge, in January 1589, that is, to between sixty and seventy men, according to Maugis, who has also reckoned that on the days of the crucial votes, there were fifty or fewer present. Only about a dozen were die-hard ligueurs , however.[2] The majority either had been (silently) royalist all along or had rallied in reaction to the threat of foreign domination and violation of the fundamental laws. It is useful to remember that there was not really a politique party in January 1593, but there were various groups definitely at odds with the League (all factions); some were ex-ligueurs , others had not made an open break, others were royalistes de toujours . There had been many individual politiques , active in one way or another, since the 1560s, and especially in the late 1580s, but specialists differ on determining dates. The recent study of Christopher Bettinson elucidates the question.[3] None of these subgroups could openly acknowledge its allegiance all at once. The process took place gradually between January and June 1593, as the issues of negotiation for truce, trade, and the king's conversion became more urgent.

Immediately upon the opening of the oft-postponed Estates, January 26, Henri IV made the initial move toward exploratory talks with "the opposite party," by inviting "the princes, prelates, and deputies gathered in Paris"


to enter into a process of conciliation, even while denying any shred of validity to their claim to constitute a meeting of the Estates General.[4] Mayenne characteristically followed an ambivalent course, relying on earlier declarations to prove his commitment to peace while exploiting every obstacle or argument that might hold up its realization.[5] Leadership of outright opposition was assumed by the papal legate, Filippo Sega, cardinal de Plaisance [Piacenza], who even dared to "woo" the Parlement by a personal visit to the court. The failure of the extreme faction in this first confrontation foreshadowed those to come, as did the fact that président Le Maistre played a leading part by rallying the Parisian deputies of the Third Estate to agree to a conference between representatives of the League and representatives of the king.[6]

After over a month of backing and filling and false starts, the conference was held in the village of Suresnes in the final days of April. L'Estoile reports,

Monday, April 26, placards were posted all over the city against those who went to the conference, or who thought it good . . . called them traitors, politiques , heretics . . . [and said] that good Catholics would never recognize the Béarnais, whether he were converted or not, because he was excommunicate and a relapser, that they wanted a real king and true Catholic.

[Notwithstanding, as the Parisian conferees left the city, on Thursday, April 29,] a great crowd . . . cried, "Peace! Blessed are those who ask for it and get it! To the devils with all the others!" In the villages they went through people knelt and asked for peace with folded hands. This same day Senault said that the placards were the work of politiques , who blamed them on the Sixteen to bring disgrace to good Catholics (Brunet 5:236-239; Roelker 228-229).

It is worth noting that the sermons of League preachers on the days during and immediately following the conference lacked the party-line solidarity that had characterized them since 1587. While Guillaume Rose, bishop of Senlis, and Aubry, curé of St-André des Arts, preached against the conference and held that it would be better to have a foreign king who was Catholic than a heretic, Commolet, on the contrary, praised the conference and said that


we should pray for those engaged in this good work. . . . The curés of St-Eustache, St-Sulpice, and St-Gervais said that we should pray for the king's conversion. . . . Among other things, the curé of St-Eustache said that only wicked men feared the conference . . . but he personally feared that we would get neither [peace nor the conversion] because of our sins. . . .

The others mostly condemned the conference and said that they would not have the king, Catholic or not, calling him wolf, relapser, and excommunicate.

A ten-day truce was announced on May 4, permitting Parisians to go as far as four leagues out of the city without a passport, "but the prévôt des marchands forbade the implementation because he claimed (not without reason) that there would not be a soul left in the city except the mob and the foreign garrisons, who would have an opportunity to start trouble" (Brunet 6:4; Roelker 230).

The League badly needed reinforcements, and Philip II dispatched a special ambassador, the duke of Feria, to increase both the prestige of Spain and cooperation with the papacy. On February 19, Mayenne had written letters to "the citizens of Paris," begging them to receive Feria and to honor him as if it were the duke himself. On March 8, the Spaniard arrived,

and though a whole crowd gathered, few saluted him, which was remarked upon. . . . [Three days later] the prévôt des marchands . . . complained of the insolence of his men, who were ravaging the suburbs . . . and 30,000 crowns of Spanish gold in doubloons arrived in Paris for the purpose of corrupting as many as possible . . . especially the captains and colonels, and others in authority. Several prominent persons, including the dean of the cathedral chapter, Antoine Séguier, refused to accept money offered . . . [but] the curé of St-André said he couldn't see why people made such a fuss . . . he would prefer a Spanish Catholic as king to the heretic Béarnais.

By May, Feria had been in Paris two months, wasting his time in what Maugis picturesquely describes as chinoiseries protocoiaires . The tide was running strong against the League and desperation made the leadership bold. On May 13 the Spanish ambassador first proposed that the Infanta Isabella (granddaughter of Henri II through her mother, Élisabeth de Valois, second wife of Philip II) be declared queen of France.[7] Procureur général Édouard Molé, who was present as a function of his office, spoke up to point out that this would violate the fundamental laws, adding that he could not assent to it. All the magistrates present expressed agreement, not only Le


Maistre and Du Vair—just emerging as chief spokesmen for the defense of the Salic law—but even président André de Hacqueville, well known and consistent ligueur , who said that the parlementaires should withdraw and "lay the matter upon the conscience of their company." They did so, and the next day Parlement passed an arrêt embodying opposition to the proposal. It was passed on to the gens du roi for submission to Mayenne. Molé's accompanying commentary is often quoted by chroniclers of these events. L'Estoile's version is that

M. Molé, among others, spoke virtuously to the duke, [saying] that his person and all his goods were at [the duke's] service . . . but that he was a true Frenchman, had been born and would die a Frenchman, and before becoming anything else he would die and sacrifice everything he possessed (Brunet 6:256; Roelker 231).[8]

Molé's courageous stand marked the start of the transformation, between mid-May and the end of June, of Parlement's posture from the fearful apathy and docile compliance that had characterized the court since the anti-Brisson conspiracy into championship of French constitutionalism, in the tradition of Thibault Baillet, Charles Guillart, and Christophe de Thou. Molé's was the first voice raised but Du Vair's was to prove the most effective. His pamphlet, the body of which was written in late 1592, L'Exhortation à la Paix , a major item of Semonneux propaganda, was circulating in Paris. An updated preamble reviews the increasingly desperate efforts of the Spanish faction "to destroy the fortunate results of the Suresnes conferences" by the election "of an imaginary king." To this end, they were "making extravagant promises to les grands , seductive overtures to the people, and threats against the magistrates." Du Vair then contrasts the former peace and prosperity of the kingdom with its present devastation and disorder, conceding that indeed a Catholic king is the only remedy—but who should it be? "Let us consider together, in a spirit of gentle charity," the candidates proposed.

With incisive logic, in the opinion of Maugis and Radouant, Du Vair demonstrates the weakness in the position of each, from Philip II himself to Mayenne, whose inability to dominate the situation is cleverly exposed.[9] There is therefore only one possible course: for the king of Navarre to become Catholic and then be acknowledged as king of France. It is his right


by inheritance and if he were Catholic no legitimate objection would remain. Du Vair touches only tangentially on the question of papal absolution, necessitated by the king's apostasy of the 1570s (which, as we shall see, would become the burning question after the conversion), merely remarking that the hearts of kings are in the hand of God. He predicts that Henri would be moved by "the necessity of the kingdom" and "the tearful prayers of his people." The exhortation concludes with an idyllic picture of a France governed by Henri IV with Mayenne as his most devoted lieutenant. "Through the generosity of one and the services of the other, a bond of conciliation will be forged between them and God in his mercy will be moved to put an end to France's misery."[10]

Under the influence of such arguments, the nobility and the Third Estate voted to support a truce, but the clergy clung to the ultra-League line. The Sixteen appealed again to Philip II and attempted to organize another uprising, as in 1588, 1589, 1591. Members of Parlement were no longer intimidated by their bluster (which was particularly shrill in these final months), however, and the court ordered the arrest of Lieutenant Civil La Bruyère, one of the diehards, known to have been a principal in the conspiracy against Brisson and a leader in the present agitation.

By the third week in June feverish activity was taking place on both sides, in secret. Although little was reliably known of detailed plans in either camp, many rumors circulated. One hour it was the politiques who were to be purged, in a new St. Bartholomew, and in the next they were about to open the gates to the king, whose troops would put all "good Catholics" to the sword. On the 27th, the radicals proposed—in the Estates—that a French prince be chosen and a delegation sent to Philip to request that he be given the Infanta in marriage, thus effecting a compromise between the Spanish faction and those who insisted on a native prince—but not Mayenne. On the other side, Du Vair and Pierre Pithou were the leaders of a group of politique magistrates determined that the Parlement should preempt the initiative and declare outright that the Salic law must not be violated. They were convinced that time was of the essence. At their instigation, some members of the Chambre des Enquêtes requested a plenary session of all the chambers of the court "to take in hand affairs of state."[11]

Convened on June 28, the session stands—in royalist-nationalist historiography—as the finest hour of the Parlement of Paris. The young enquêtistes at once excused themselves from speaking, on grounds of insufficient


familiarity with the situation in the Estates, and yielded the floor to Du Vair. His oration, "Suasion de l'arrêt pour la manutention de la loi salique," completed the transformation begun by Molé six weeks earlier and established the Parlement as the spokesman of Parisian politiques from that moment on. Incidentally, it also represents the height of French political oratory in the sixteenth century.

As in Cicero's orations against Catiline, the atmosphere of emergency and impending danger to the state and the speaker's use of direct address contributed to the emotional impact:

All those French hearts, resolved to save themselves . . . turn their eyes to you . . . to see whether your prudence will direct their courage . . . or, if your connivance and dissimulation will abandon them to shameful servitude, which will condemn you and your children . . . to eternal infamy. . . .

Réveillez-vous, donc, Messieurs , and use the authority of the laws of which you are the guardians! For if there is any remedy for this evil, you alone can supply it. It is your tolerance and dissimulation that have given those [who have done these evil things] the means and the courage to carry them out. . . .

What blame and opprobrium will not be ours if today we refuse to defend France, which has nourished us in sweet liberty, allowed us to enjoy the gracious rule of our kings, honored us with the highest offices in her gift, if we rob her of defense by her laws which she entrusted to our care. . . . For today it is the Salic law that is at stake, [the law] that has conserved this kingdom for twelve hundred years.

Du Vair asks rhetorically what would be the fate of French subjects under Spanish rule? After referring briefly to the "cruel fate" of the Indians, and the ruthless exploitation of Portugal, he says, "but why look so far afield? what about this city? Did we not hear, in the most extreme distress of the siege, Don Diego de Mendoza advise the dying to make bread out of the bones in the cemeteries? But why should we look outside this very Palais de Justice?" At this point Du Vair recites the story of the conspiracy against Brisson and the resulting murders. Warning of the dangers of further delay and urging immediate and uncompromising action, he boldly announces the course to be taken,

that remonstrances should be made this very day to M. de Mayenne that no treaty shall be made transferring the kingdom to a foreign prince or princess; that the fundamental laws of the state shall be observed, and carried out . . . promptly . . . and that any agreements made to the prejudice of


the Salic law shall be declared invalid . . . and that any who dissent shall be judged guilty of lèse-majesté.

The speech ends with a "nomination" of président Le Maistre to carry Parlement's remonstrances to Mayenne "because he will bring to the task everything we could desire of a truly noble, French soul." The "Arrêt du président Le Maistre," as it was ever after called, is described by L'Estoile, who here as elsewhere represents typical parlementaire opinion, as "a triumph for liberty over the Spanish tyranny that was being introduced." Antoine Loisel, in the dedication of his subsequent remonstrance on the restitution of Parlement, apostrophizes Le Maistre, referring to the obligation que tousles bons français vous en ont et auront à tout jamais . He adds that Le Maistre was "bravely seconded" by Du Vair and that the ligueurs were taken by surprise. Placards appeared, some attacking the legate and the Spaniards, others Parlement and the politiques ; the duke of Feria reinforced his guards; "Paris [was] full of rumors and sedition, and the curé of St-Jacques preached that there were twenty-two wicked politiques in Parlement who should be disposed of."[12]

Mayenne was also taken by surprise and was displeased by the turn of events, as every commentator remarked. He had been outsmarted by the royalists and this increased his already considerable disadvantage in relation to the Spanish faction. The king, on the contrary, had been privy to every move of the parlementaire politiques and moved swiftly to implement the policy from his side, allowing "leaks" of his approaching conversion by various members of his party and taking steps himself that confirmed the expectation. One characteristic move was to include in the clergy invited to participate in his instruction some well-known ligueurs , who were thought (or known?) to be "detachable":

Monday, July 5, Lincestre received a letter from the king to go to him for his conversion . . . when [Lincestre] showed it to the legate he was cursed—Maledicat! he said in great anger, Maledicat! Maledicat! Poor Lincestre replied to the contrary, Benedicat! Benedicat! . . . The king knew


that he was a Gascon, and though people objected that he was seditious, [the king] replied that no good Gascon could ever be a Spaniard.

There was no general defection among the prédicateurs , however. The curé of St-André told président Le Maistre

that he was surprised that he, who had always been a good Catholic, had had a part in the wicked declaration of Parlement. . . . Le Maistre replied that he had indeed had a hand in it, and that he didn't feel any less Catholic for it . . . and that, on the contrary, the decision was so good, just and holy . . . that only the wicked found it otherwise. "What is more, Monsieur, there are a whole lot of men in this city, of whom you are one, who are bloodthirsty . . . and who preach nothing but blood and sedition. . . . It is these sermons that keep the people stirred up. . . . You should be satisfied with having caused the death of one of the best men and Catholics in your parish [Tardif]" (Brunet 6:50-51; Roelker 235-236).

The issue of the king's abjuration-conversion, although it had loomed since the death of Alençon, had been debated with ever-increasing intensity since the Semonneux movement in the autumn of 1592 revealing the extent to which the League's hold over Parisian opinion had unraveled. There were several facets to the problem and multiple implications of each of the various options. Among the burning questions were the following: what criteria were appropriate in judging such a religious change? if spiritual sincerity was among them, how could it be tested? was papal absolution required before loyal Catholics could accept it? and if it were withheld how could they resolve their dilemma?

For the first time the tangled nexus of arguments and positions embodied in pamphlets, manifestos, and private correspondence has been thoroughly studied and analyzed, by Michael Wolfe, who shows how that situation posed particular problems for the various elements of society. The conversion crisis "acted as a sort of prism through which were refracted many of the cherished aims and interests of educated elites in late sixteenth-century France" and compelled them to reexamine their relationship with the monarchy and special place in French society. Because one's status was conditioned in large part by one's relation to the crown, the debate assumed a psychological dimension as the elites searched for a way to reconcile their loyalty to the crown with the dictates of their faith. What it meant to be a noble, a man of the cloth, a judge or a gentilhomme became increasingly


politicized and reached a crescendo in the struggle over Henri IV's conversion.[13]

The traditional function of the nobility was to serve the king, but did the obligation hold if the king was a heretic? Officers of the crown and the sovereign courts were bound to obedience by oaths according to the Roman Catholic Church; were these oaths still binding? if so, what about the Church's threat to excommunicate those who followed a heretic ruler? Wolfe examines the shifts in position of Louis de Gonzague, duc de Nevers, and of the duchy of Modena in Italy, as a significant test case. Nevers was a powerful and influential member of the highest rank of the nobility, with great wealth and extended clientage, about whose affairs there exists abundant source material. Both sides brought intense pressure to bear on Nevers from the day of Henri III's assassination and the accession of Navarre. After some months of supporting the League, he was persuaded to shift to the king. A number of prominent magistrates were among those who pressured him toward this course.[14]

Wolfe brings out the relevance of historical continuity and religious obligation to the strategies employed. While all subjects were enjoined to obey the constituted authorities and "render unto Caesar," the French had a more specific obligation because kings of France had been directly established by God, with powers that in many respects had bypassed the papacy since at least the fourteenth century.[15] There was thus a reinforced obligation to obey the king, even if he was condemned by Rome. Moreover, the Christian's direct duty to God required association with heretics, in order to show them the error of their ways and contribute to their salvation. And the king had the obligation of magnanimity—to permit the vindication of the rebellion that had been committed in the name of the faith, and to permit the restoration of the national "community," which loyalist Catholics thought had been destroyed by the "civil sedition" of the League, while ligueurs attributed the damage to the heresy of the king and the defection of those who supported him from the tradition of un roi, une foi.[16]

Thanks to the elements of reciprocity, continuity, and concern for com-


munity, therefore, the loyalist Catholics were able to present what became the winning argument, namely, that recognition of and obedience to the king was both a civil-patriotic and a religious duty. National reconciliation and the fresh outburst of Gallican sentiment stimulated by the next phase of the struggle—over absolution—are thus shown by Wolfe to involve underlying considerations, such as the meaning of "conversion," and the relation of God to the kingdom of France, far beyond the pragmatic and political factors conventionally cited. The latter were not overlooked by our leading spokesmen, however. Loyal Catholics all, they had long advocated the king's conversion and some had been active in promoting it, yet they had unhesitatingly rallied to the "heretic, relapsed usurper" as heir apparent even during the lifetime of Henri III. In the epilogue we shall see them move to center stage in the final phase—when the majority of Catholics still had to be persuaded that the pope could legitimately be defied while the ultramontane faction, and the pope himself, had to be led to accept the fait accompli under conditions that would nevertheless save face.

Henri IV's exchanges with the ligueur theologians sent to instruct him should be read by anyone who believes that he was indifferent or frivolous in matters of religion. After two days of intense pressure he balked (over belief in Purgatory) and appealed to the premier présidents of Paris and Rouen, "Pray you, call them off! tell them I've done enough and if they press me further, worse may ensue." It was finally decided that "His Majesty was not a Turk . . . that he should be led gently from error to truth. . . . [As a result] the oath of abjuration was softened and modified."

Henri took what he described in advance to Gabrielle d'Estrées as "the perilous leap" on Sunday, July 25, in the abbey of St-Denis, at High Mass. He wore a white satin robe embroidered in gold, with a black hat and coat.[17] When the news arrived in Paris the next day the Requiem was sung instead of the Te Deum, and excommunications were issued against all those known to have gone to St-Denis. It is hardly surprising that most of the League prédicateurs relentlessly continued to pour venom on the king and the "hypocritical conversion." They had long since passed the point of no return, and some were known to be in the pay of Spain. A popular theme was that the gospel for the day chosen was "that the wolves would come in lamb's clothing . . . that the fox had deliberately chosen the day so as to enter the sheepfold to devour those within . . . that he was really a wolf, whom all the world should pursue to the death . . . and that the ceremony


was nothing but a stinking farce" (Brunet 6:67; Roelker 238-239). De Thou, on the other hand, describes in moving terms how Parisians flocked to St-Denis, defying Mayenne's prohibition, where they were met at the gates by friends and relations of the royalist camp. "They congratulated each other and could not restrain their tears, in part for past suffering, in part for the joy of this moment beyond their greatest hopes. There was a long silence, interrupted only by sighs. And when they had to part, reluctantly, thoughts of the past and the future made them weep again." Pasquier marked the occasion with one of his periodic pamphlets, Advis aux français , urging Frenchmen of all factions to recognize the king and work for peace.[18]

The Estates of the League fell apart, almost unnoticed, but not before voting, on July 30, for the publication of the Trent decrees, a hollow victory for the legate since the vote evaporated with the Estates themselves. Indirectly, it was also a Gallican-politique landmark, since the entire Parisian delegation to the Third Estate voted against it. Even before the conversion, both the nobility and the Third Estate had resolved that they were not empowered to elect a king.[19]

If the second half of the year 1593 was a period of frenetic but futile rearguard action for the extremist ligueurs , it was one of frustration and anticlimax for the Parlement. To be sure, an extension of the truce (for three months) permitted movement and communication unknown since the Day of the Barricades, but institutionally the only thing really changed was that the threat of having a king "elected" by an illegitimate body was removed. The League still ruled the city; the king was not yet widely accepted save in a few towns held by royalist troops; the court was still a rump whose members waited with mixed feelings the "reduction" of the capital "to its obedience" and the return of the royalist Parlement, unsure of their fate at the hands of the king and of the attitude of their colleagues. Moreover, there was still danger for politique parlementaires in a Paris constantly incited to new violence against them by the Sixteen, backed by the foreign garrisons, the only armed force inside the walls. The League was always strongly conscious of its own anniversaries, and August 1 was the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Henri III. The sermons of Sunday, August 15, stressed the fact that "the month was only half over" and that "one could hope for a blow from the skies, like men who predict that robbers will come in the night, and are themselves the robbers," com-


ments L'Estoile (Brunet 6:81; Roelker 241).[20] Indeed, there was at least one assassination plot afoot, encouraged—so it is alleged by politique contemporaries—by the curé of St-André and the Jesuits. The would-be perpetrator was Pierre Barrière, a native of Orléans, executed for attempted assassination of the king in August 1593. Étienne Pasquier was commissioned by Henri IV himself to interrogate Barrière and to write up the case, no doubt because of his long-recognized and effective opposition to the Jesuits. The initial publication of 1593 is entitled Extrait du Procès criminel fait à Pierre Barrière dit La Barre, natif d'Orléans, accusé de l'horrible et exécrable parricide et assasinat par luy entrepris et attente contre la personne du Roy . It bears no name, but Pasquier acknowledged authorship in a letter, and a slightly different version became a chapter in his Catéchisme des jesuites , published in 1602.[21]

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