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Traditional studies of the French Wars of Religion were usually narrative; more recent ones, applying the methods of social history, often become microanalyses of particular local episodes or situations. Little attention has been paid to the mentalités of educated Catholics who rejected any kind of religious change. In the hope of filling the gap, this study will analyze the attitudes toward religion of the most influential group, the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris.

The overwhelming majority held to the traditional Gallican—that is, uniquely French—form of Catholicism, which had evolved in the Middle Ages and become institutionalized by the mid-fifteenth century. This consistent loyalty conditioned their attitudes toward any and all deviations from it. The deviations lie along a spectrum of opinions from what most contemporaries deemed "heresy," the outright repudiation of any Catholic doctrine and/or practice, to an ultramontane, that is, propapal Counter-Reformation—eventually Tridentine—position. As is well known, the latter was much less open, more rigid, and tightly structured than medieval Catholicism. It can be called more conservative, in that there were fewer options, or more radical, in that it was more militant and ideological than traditional western Catholicism.

Both ends of the spectrum included degrees of deviation. Heresy, at its vaguest, could be alleged if neighborhood gossip had a housewife patronizing the butcher on a fast-day, or it could connote deliberate, reasoned departure, in words or behavior, from conventional practices of the sixteenth-century Roman church, such as sale of indulgences, veneration of saints, interpretation of the mass. At the height of the League rebellion (1588-94) when the extreme (Parisian) faction, the Sixteen, turned to


Philip II of Spain for material support, arms, and money, "ultramontane" meant beyond the Pyrenees as well as beyond the Alps.

The specific substance of the study is an analysis of the mentalité or mind-set of the dominant members of the court. It begins with general matters that provide the context for their religious views—notably the laws, government, and history of France and of the Parlement itself—and then analyzes parlementaires' religious attitudes as they changed and developed in relation to events during the Reformations, Protestant and Catholic. Those I call "mainstream" were centrist, conventional rather than militantly or ideologically Catholic, often outspokenly anticlerical. These characteristics did not change throughout the century despite many dramatic events affecting the court and all the French people. They were always in the majority, as far as can be determined, but it was often a silent one, especially in periods when the ultras held the leadership.

Compared to the religious views of heretics and ultras, those of the mainstream are hard to discern, and for the most part they are disappointingly general and paradoxical. Why did magistrates who never deviated from the traditional religious position yet shared the values and opinions of their equally humanist-educated peers who were converted to the reform stay within the old church? They had Huguenot friends; they stated publicly—often at considerable risk—their belief that the root cause of heresy and all its evil consequences, including civil war, was the delinquency of the clergy—in the higher echelons, pluralism of benefices, absenteeism (many bishops held their offices through simony or political considerations), and at the parish level, ignorance, even to the point of illiteracy, lack of spiritual vocation, and life-styles most conspicuous for drunkenness and greed. They repeatedly declared that the sole remedy for these abuses was reform of the contemporary church. What accounts for the adherence that representative parlementaires, guardians of the tradition, gave to an institution they regarded as "riddled with corruption" and weakened by elements such as the doctrine of Purgatory, indulgences, the cult of the Virgin? In addition, they were deeply committed to the Renaissance ideal, ad fontes , even more to the Christian than to the classical sources, and, like Protestants, held up what they believed to be the "primitive church" as the model. How can we explain the paradox?

My consultation with specialists explained the prior neglect of this key question: obstacles included limitations within the registers of the Parlement, many large handwritten volumes, difficult to decipher, never inventoried, with missing records for certain crucial periods such as the days before and after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. More important, lacking


the equivalent of U.S. Supreme Court opinions, one learns only who was sitting in a particular case and what the final judgment was. From the registers alone, therefore, one could not draw conclusions about the opinions, religious or other, of individual magistrates.

Thanks to two strokes of exceptional good luck, I was able to pursue the quest. Among the manuscripts in the Bibliothèque de la société de l'histoire du protestantisme français is a three-volume handwritten work, "Extraits des Registres Criminels du Parlement de Paris en ce qui se rapporte aux Protestants, 1499-1603." It was compiled by one Nicolas Dongois (d. 1717), a nephew of Boileau, who held the office of chief clerk in the Parlement for sixty years and was much respected.[1] From internal evidence I had previously concluded that Dongois was concerned with many of the same cases and individuals as I was, although his interest lay in the Protestant victims and mine in their Catholic judges. His full, careful, and dated transcriptions made it possible to locate his sources in the registers to see if his work could be trusted and used as an "Ariadne thread"; to pursue the comparison, however, required a first-class archiviste-paléographe . The second and determining stroke of luck was the generosity of Bernard Barbiche, a leading chartiste who had helped me extensively in previous archival research. He was interested in the problem and willing to give hours of his time and his incomparable skills to making the test. We were unable to find every case I had selected from Dongois (the organization of the registers is not consistent and some may have been included in other series), but every one we found my mentor pronounced reliable. To the extent that my findings are valuable in the solution of the problem, they can be added to his many contributions to the field. Deficiencies, of course, are entirely attributable to myself.

In order to gain as complete an understanding of the group mentalité as possible, I was obliged to supplement the registers with a wide variety of sources: correspondence, memoirs, tracts (legal, political, religious), diplomatic dispatches, collections of arrêts , manuals of parlementaire procedure and behavior. I began with the most prominent magistrates, on whom the sources are most abundant, and gradually added lesser members as they surfaced in my research. It soon became clear that my findings would not constitute a true prosopographical study—too much information was lacking—but rather conclusions and hypotheses concerning the range of opin-


ion on a variety of religious issues, especially relations of church and state, in a time frame of approximately seventy-five years, from the late 1520s to the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes (1598-99) and the court's final rejection of the Trent decrees (1607).

Description of Parlement as an institution, its structure and the differences among the several chambers, do not figure in this work because specialized studies are readily available. Nor are the genealogical data exhaustive. The focus is rather on the determining elements of the mind-set of the elite leadership of the gens de robe . The principal sources of its cohesion and persistence were the bonds of family and property; corporatist and professional bonds; heightened self-consciousness of tradition because of new threats to it; reinforcement of tradition for the sake of self-preservation. Significant variables were also operative within the mainstream: socioeconomic, ideological, and generational factors as well as patronage patterns.

The organization of the text is as follows.

In part 1, chapters 1-4 correlate and synthesize the work of scholars on particular aspects of the problem and aim to create an overview of parlementaire mentalités within which the religious attitudes can be located.

In part 2, chapter 5 sets forth the methodology and describes the Parlement's religious tradition. Chapters 6-10 analyze religious attitudes in chronological segments—established by events and Parlement's reactions—from the mid-1520s to the mid-1580s.

In part 3, chapters 11-14 describe and analyze Parlement's role in the rise and fall of the League and the triumph of Henri IV, 1584-94.

The epilogue treats Parlement's relation to the Edict of Nantes and its rejection of the Trent decrees, and the final chapter offers my hypotheses and conclusions.


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