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1 The Mainstream Parlementaires Who They Were and How They Got There
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Provenance, Avenues of Access, and Career Variations

How Parisian was the Paris robe in the sixteenth century? How Parisian was the Parlement of Paris? The answers to these two questions might differ since the former designates a loosely defined collectivity of several thousand men distributed among various branches and levels of the legal profession, while the latter is one small segment, albeit the most highly placed. Ac-


cording to medieval tradition, there were 100 members of Parlement properly speaking (not including clerks, ushers, etc.) divided equally between lay and clerical members. In fact, there were many more, and laymen increasingly predominated. François I added 2 new présidents and 12 conseillers to the Grand' Chambre, a new président and 2 conseillers to the Chambre des Requêtes, two new Chambres des Enquêes of 20 conseillers each, resulting in a net increase overall of about two-thirds. In other words, there were approximately 166 magistrates when he died in 1547. Henri II then added 22 présidents and 110 conseillers to the combined chambers. The great majority of those added were laymen.[64]

It is difficult to state with certainty the precise number of magistrates at any given moment, owing to the practices of the period. The kings would create new offices, promise to eliminate some, fail to keep the promise, and sometimes appoint more than one person to a given office. On their side, the magistrates often designated successors but failed to resign (at the time or, sometimes, never). In cases of overlap (resignatio in favorem ) or dispute—not infrequent—it was not unusual for both parties to use the title even if only one of them was actually exercising the office. Fortunately for the purposes of our study, this is not an insuperable obstacle, only an inconvenience, since attitudes were largely set by a relatively small number, who dominated the rest, le gratin (the upper crust).

What is essential to our purposes is to have as clear an idea as possible of factors that might affect their ideas or values substantively. The background, socioeconomic, educational or professional, as well as geographical, of a man raised in Paris might differ considerably from that of a man who came to the capital in his maturity. In view of the fact that in all centuries many families living in Paris retain strong ties to their pays in the provinces yet think of themselves as Parisian, I shall adopt a pragmatic working definition: any man who lived in the capital from childhood will be counted as Parisian, while those who came when they had already begun their adult careers elsewhere will be regarded as immigrants to the Paris robe.

Richet comments on "la faible place des ancêres parislens de ceux qui accédèrent au XVIe siècle aux plus hautes charges des cours souveraines de


Paris," excepting only the Harlay family. Stocker, on the contrary, finds that about half of the conseillers (whose background is known) in the period, 1461-1526, had been practicing law in Paris prior to their election, and three-fourths belonged to the resident robe milieux. There are two distinctions to be made here: the first is chronological, since Stocker treats the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth centuries whereas Richet treats the late sixteenth and early seventeenth; the second distinction, even more significant, is that Richet is talking about the top level only (présidents), whereas conseillers are "upper-middle," some being on a plane with the présidents (if they were highly connected or unusually distinguished) and others markedly lower, socially and politically. Moreover, immigrants were generally the ones who founded the great dynasties. It had been easier for a Parisian lawyer to get elected in the earlier period, when genuine election by members of the court was more frequent, than later, when high patronage had become the rule and wealth the most salient qualification. These two historians are concerned with two distinct categories, both nevertheless included in the umbrella category of Paris robe.[65]

A more functional criterion can be derived from the overlap of personnel between the Parlement and the Bureau de l'Hôtel de Ville. Many of the articulate mainstream parlementaires held office in the Bureau and participated actively in municipal affairs. From the other side of the equation, of ninety conseillers de ville, 1535-75, studied by Barbara Diefendorf forty, or 44 percent, were conseillers or présidents in the sovereign courts, and the proportion of high officers increased as the century progressed, from four in 1535 to eight in 1575, in fact. In the pragmatic sense, members of the Bureau were "Parisian," and the forebears of 60 percent had held office in the Bureau before 1500.[66]

Analysis of the provenance of immigrants reveals that certain regions of the country and certain career patterns predominate. The necessity for Louis XI to reconcile officers established in the Burgundian period has been mentioned, but his strategy did not begin with the death of Charles the Bold, nor was it limited to the retention of Burgundian clients in the courts of the capital. Even during the military struggle he had been casting wide his net, or spinning his web—to resort to the old metaphor of Louis XI as a spider—throughout the duke's lands east and northeast of the Île de France. In addition to Burgundy itself, the key regions were Champagne, with its


capital at Troyes, and the Somme towns of Picardy, of which Amiens is the chief. By skillful negotiations with local notables he kept the lands separated and prevented the formation of a Burgundian bloc against the crown. Moreover, by ingenious use of royal patronage, he lured important officials from the duke's service into his own, with no penalty for their former allegiance. (The best known single instance of this policy is, of course, his "pirating" of Philippe de Commynes). Among the families thus brought to Paris that would achieve prominence in the Parlement were the Hennequin and Dorigny from Troyes, the Arbalaste brothers from Beaune, the Bonvalet from Dijon, and the Ganay from Autun.[67]

There is no difficulty in identifying the regions of origin of the majority of the immigrants to the Paris robe after the death of Charles the Bold—central France in general, the Orléanais, the Loire valley, and Auvergne, in particular. This geographical orientation reflects successive waves of leadership in the revival and extension of the royal domain, started under the "king of Bourges," Charles VII, continued by Louis XI and the officers who served during the regency of Anne de Beaujeu for the young Charles VIII. With the accession of Louis d'Orléans as Louis XII, in 1498, still another group from the region rose to prominence, and no real break occurred in the early years of François I, when Robertet retained his influence, although the chancellor, Antoine Duprat, was also building up the Auvergnat faction, as previously mentioned. After the loss of Milan in 1512, the Lyonnais became important, thanks to the location of Lyon and the role of its Italian bankers in royal finance.

Lyonnais families drawn into the royal service who would figure among the parlementaire elite include the Le Viste, from the Rhône city itself, later an influential dynasty in Paris. The Tavel family of Mâcon owes its rise to Louis XII personally, the king having lodged in the house of François Tavel in 1510 en route to Italy. Tavel was subsequently appointed to the Senate of Milan and after the loss of that city he was given seats both in the Parlement and on the Grand Conseil.[68] The number of Frenchmen available for royal service in the Italian conquests was limited; initially, therefore, the French kings were obliged to employ some Italians as well. Eight such officers were eventually given office in the Parlement of Paris to compensate them when the Italian holdings were lost. In contrast to the Italian families that figured importantly in the service of Catherine de Médicis, however,


such as the Gondi, the Gonzaga, and the Birague, these transplanted Italians did not make great fortunes nor take much part in national politics.[69]

It was the habit of the Valois kings between the end of the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion to spend less time in the capital than either the medieval monarchs or the later Bourbon kings. The region chosen for their itinerant courts was the Loire valley. Louis XI, who eventually settled at Plessis, outside Tours, favored legists there and brought into the Parlement such families as the Fumée and the Ruzé. He also gave nine seats in Parlement to notables from Bourges, in the Berry, including the Anjorrant clan. From the duchy of Orléans, Louis XII brought the Marillac, and the Rogier, for instance.[70]

The high proportion of Loire immigrants is explained by their predominance in the financial administration, specifically, that of the rapidly expanding "extraordinary" royal finances. At least one of every four magistrates admitted in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, according to Stocker, had one or more ancestors in the financial administration of either the king or one of the princes of the blood, and one in seven had a close relative, that is, father, uncle, or brother. The upper levels of administration were virtually monopolized by a group of Loire families. "As they advanced in the administration toward its center they made contact with men from other communities of the region and eventually established marriage connections with them as well. And as they advanced they helped pull one another ahead . . . notably by resigning offices in each other's favor."[71]

Among at least the core members of this group there was a working relationship that had originated in the financial empire of the great Bourges banker Jacques Coeur, and in the royal mint directed by him. The Burdelot, Guillart, and Brachet families came into the Parlement's milieu in this way, as did two of the most outstanding families of the period, leaders in the movements we call "Renaissance" and "Reformation" as well as in administration: the Briçonnet and the Beaune. In the 1460s and 1470s, the Briçonnet were already holding the offices of généraux des finances . Thanks to patronage of the Beaujeus, by the end of the century Guillaume Briçonnet had passed through the Cour du Trésor and become bishop of Meaux, under which title he would become the first great practicing religious-reforming prelate in France. His son Jean took over the Trésor, his brother Pierre held the ranking office in the financial administration in Languedoc, and all the


nephews were also provided with offices. Jacques de Beaune, whose family had been in the service of Charles VIII, was Guillaume Briçonnet's brother-in-law. He took over the administration of Anne de Bretagne's finances after she became queen. Members of the Poncet, Hurault, and Bohier families, allied by marriage to the Briçonnet and the Beaune, were also to be found in top administrative and ecclesiastical posts. Antoine Duprat was a cousin of the Bohier, which provided a strong linkage between the Loire and Auvergnat contingents; indeed Antoine's first patron was Nicholas Bohier.[72] As has been noted by other students of the ancien régime, men tended to move up if they could and often out as well, because the financial administration was not only very vulnerable—as the fates of great financiers from Coeur to Fouquet attest—but it also stood much lower in public esteem than the judiciary. Attitudes toward money, on which so much depended for the magistrates of Parlement but toward which they had conflicting feelings, are among the touchstones of their mentalité and will be discussed in chapter 4.

From these avenues of advancement several conclusions may be drawn: prior administrative experience was the most important single factor in royal appointments, and those who climbed the financial ladder were most numerous. Outstanding performance in local affairs afforded opportunities, especially in those regions most frequented by the royal court. There were also the secretarial route, followed by some very influential families, such as the Brulart, and the ecclesiastical routes. One of these was used by younger sons of noble families (middle level rather than les grands ) who became members of Parlement and bishops or who became canons of Notre-Dame (or another cathedral) within a short period of time, like the Du Bellay. An alternate ecclesiastical route was open to the agents (with legal training) of great ecclesiastical bodies like the abbeys of St-Denis and St-Germain, who impressed the king or someone close to him by their oratory or by their success in winning important cases.

Until the middle of the century, the best chance for advancement from the ranks of run-of-the-mill Paris lawyers to a high judicial office was to be on the legal "staff" of some great noble. This judgment deserves to be taken seriously, since it comes from Antoine Loisel, a member of Parlement and one of the first and most astute students of parlementaire mentalité . Such families as the Le Maître and the Olivier came into the elite circles by this route, from the legal service of Louis d'Orléans when he was first prince of the blood. The fall of François Olivier as premier président and his replace-


ment by Jean Bertrand is a dramatic instance of how great was the power of les grands over the lives and careers even of men at the very apex of the robe hierarchy.[73]

Sometimes just plain luck, being in the right place at the right time to draw favorable attention from the king or a powerful member of the royal entourage, was enough to launch a successful career in the Parlement. This was the case of François de Saint-André , whose father's participation in the cause célèbre of the maréchal de Giè was rewarded in two steps: the father gained a presidency in the Parlement of Toulouse, the son a minor judgeship in the Midi. After the accession of François I, the son became conseiller in Paris, later président, and in the critical years of the 1560s he put his stamp on the court as a part-time presiding officer.[74]

For Stocker, the determining characteristic of all these avenues of access was their political nature: "greater political ability and ambition than others, a keener eye for political patronage . . . as distinct from strictly professional considerations, or even from wealth." To be sure, the ruée vers les offices and downgrading of business is a cliché in discussion of the robe, and Diefendorf's evidence strengthens the argument. The number of merchants in the leadership of the Bureau de Ville fell from five to one between 1535 and 1575, even as the number of high officers doubled. Even so, the unqualified designation "political" seems too narrow to encompass the full complexity of parlementaire motivation. I would propose "sociopolitical" instead.[75]

In the reign of François I, the race for offices, and the game of parlaying each one into a stepping-stone to a better one, became the characteristic method of acquisition. The records show few instances of money changing hands in this "private" or "barter" venality. Rather, it could be described as ringing the changes on resignation. For example, the beneficiary of a resignation might leave the salary to the man from whom he had obtained it, for a certain period of time, or for life, with the understanding that it would then pass to the new officeholder, or to someone designated by him. Or, a man (a) could acquire a lesser office and resign it to another (b), in order to oblige a third man (c), who is the patron of (b), in return for which


(c) would facilitate (a)'s advancement in any one of a number of ways. Many magistrates acquired their offices through such arrangements before the king took up the practice of venality, for his own reasons, that is, as a means to obtain funds quickly. Stocker points out, significantly, that the "royalization" of the system had little geographic, social, or political effect on the composition of the Parlement: the beneficiaries were members of the same groups, not infrequently of the same families as before, and the king was dependent on those already in office to find buyers. In essence, the king was asking the buyer to enter his service. When the Parlement was reluctant, the offices remained unsold, until some further incentive was offered.[76]

It will be recalled that half the members of Parlement were supposed to be clerics, but that the number of ordained and practicing priests had greatly declined because of the royal habit, especially that of François I, of dispensing with the clerical requirement (as in the case of Charles Guillart) to appoint laymen to traditionally clerical seats. But the desirability of benefices had not declined at all, quite the contrary. Under the Concordat, magistrates in Parlement could hold any ecclesiastical office below that of bishop without resigning their judicial office and plenty of exceptions were arranged on the episcopal level.

The 1535 roll of magistrates taxed on possession of benefices contains twenty-seven names, showing that more than half of the fifty allegedly clerical seats were held by laymen (in fact a greater proportion, since the overall numbers had been increased by laymen). The incidence of pluralism in the most distinguished families was striking. Étienne Poncher held four benefices in the Loire region, Louis Du Bellay held six, two of which were at Notre-Dame in Paris—canon of the cathedral and archdeacon—Louis Jouvenal des Ursins five, in different parts of the kingdom. These are merely samples, chosen because both the families and the individuals were important in the parlementaire elite. All these men eventually held major bishoprics as well, without resigning the earlier benefices.

Although the ecclesiastical holdings of Parlement were widely spread throughout the kingdom, the greatest concentration was naturally around Paris and especially in the cathedral church of Notre-Dame. In the period of Stocker's study at least forty-two officers in Parlement held the office of canon or some other ecclesiastical dignity attached to Notre-Dame, and many others had one or more relatives in the chapter. Stocker and Diefendorf both find that these benefices were used primarily to strengthen and raise the position of established families, rather than to attract new ones.


Roughly two-thirds attained benefices after they became members of Parlement, and similar proportions apply in other dioceses of the region.[77]

If possession of benefices defined a career pattern for a substantial minority, there were two other smaller minorities whose careers were marked by a distinctive kind of service to the crown: in the domestic sphere, membership on special commissions, and in foreign affairs, diplomatic missions to other European states. Professionally, the most significant commissions were those in the series (from the reign of Louis XII to that of Henri III) that codified, edited, and published the various coutumes of the Paris ressort , which, it should be remembered, encompassed most of northern and central France. Thibault Baillet in our earliest group, Pierre Lizet in the transitional group, Christophe de Thou and his associates in the third quarter of the century were among those who took an active part in the enterprise. The commissioners assigned to the coutume earned reputations as outstanding jurists in their own time and have retained them since. They were also among those chosen to staff grands jours in sizable provincial cities like Poitiers and Troyes. In addition to those already named, Antoine Le Viste from the earliest generation, Arnauld Du Ferrier and Étienne Pasquier from the later group were honored in this way.

Successive commissions were also created for the reform of the universities, two for the University of Paris, the first by François I in the 1530s, on which parlementaires Denis Poillot, Nicolas Dorigny, and Jean de La Barde served, and the second in the 1550s by Henri II, which included four parlementaires, Arnauld Du Ferrier, André Verjus, Nicolas Prévost, and René Lefebvre. A commission to reform the university at Orléans was established in 1558, with four prominent members of the judicial elite, présidents René Baillet and Christophe de Thou, avocat du roi Baptiste Du Mesnil, and a very prominent clerical conseiller, Claude Anjorrant. Other commissions of special importance were set up to review the procedures of censorship (J. de La Barde and Adam [I] Fumée served on it) and in 1568, a commission was appointed to review and advise on the thorny problem—especially at the height of civil wars "of religion"—of royal taxation of the church. Among the commissioners were familiar names de Thou, Du Drac, and Anjorrant; the latter was by then the senior conseiller in point of service on the court, and active in all aspects of judicial participation in and criticism of the religious policy of the crown.

As early as the 1520s some individual magistrates were so regularly assigned to heresy cases that they earned the reputation of specialists in


that sphere, but no commissions for heresy were set up until the 1540s. The Chambre Ardente of 1548 was an outgrowth of those temporary groups. Its central members had already worked out the procedures, as will be seen. In the civil-war period members of Parlement were increasingly employed by the crown for political assignments, such as the treason trial of Condé and negotiations of truce. They were always included in the groups charged with setting up and implementing the Edicts of Toleration.[78] One result was that routine judicial matters tended to be pushed into the background.

Understandably, the diplomatic activity of members of the court was most conspicuous in the early period and then faded out until a second wave at the end of the century. No king between Henri II and Henri IV could conduct foreign policy with a free hand, so from the 1560s to the 1590s men of the robe were less likely to be chosen as ambassadors to foreign governments involved with France in war and alliances. Early in the century two of our spokesmen, Thibault Baillet and Claude de Seyssel, performed diplomatic missions. In addition, Denis Poillot and Antoine Le Viste negotiated for François I with Henry VIII at crucial moments in Anglo-French relations, and Guillaume Budé accompanied François to the famous meeting of the Field of Cloth of Gold. Premier président Jean de Selve took an important part in the negotiations for the king's release and the Treaty of Madrid, which accompanied it (1526). Later, five of his sons would serve the crown in a diplomatic capacity, three of whom were also members of Parlement. Henri II gave fewer foreign assignments to judges, but two of the ablest, Paul de Foix and Arnauld Du Ferrier, served as ambassadors to Venice, with special assignments in Rome along the way. As spokesmen of the most reformist Catholic faction and men of considerable intellectual sophistication, they were well suited to reinforce the bonds of France with the Serenissima, and to resist the blandishments of the papal court. In later chapters we shall see the prominent part played by Henri IV's ambassadors .[79]

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1 The Mainstream Parlementaires Who They Were and How They Got There
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