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4 Social and Personal Values
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Social and Personal Values

When parlementaires thought about society in the abstract, from the outside, as it were, they visualized a schematized hierarchical order of corps , legal entities, each with its own statut defining the rights and duties allotted to it and sanctioned by customary law. Collectively they formed a pyramid, with the crown at the apex and the pays d'états , the sovereign courts, towns, guilds, and so on in descending order beneath it. From the inside, on the other hand, they reckoned from the broad base of the pyramid. On this level the unit was not the individual, as we might expect, but the family. Men and women seem to have identified themselves by membership, first in the family, then in the guild or other corps , the town, the pays , in ascending order of inclusiveness. Parlementaires identified themselves with the family first, Parlement second, and then the nation—for which read, the crown and the constitution.[1]

The strongest ties bound one family to other families through marriage, followed by those to other families in the same corps; longer and looser ties connected families to others in affiliated corps . For the Parisian parlementaires, the second of these concentric rings overlapped the first, owing to extensive intermarriage among them. The outer ring would consist of ties to families in other sovereign courts, especially the Chambre des Comptes. Beyond the sphere of the courts, relations could go "up" when parlemen-


taires were clients of les grands , to the king himself, and "down," through various levels of dependents, servants and tenants. Even in such relationships, however, they seem to have thought more as members of a family than as isolated atomistic individuals. The family was the lens through which they viewed the rest of society. Social relations were rarely strictly individual or strictly linear but tended rather to be either loose linkages between clusters or tighter bonds within clusters.

The French nation itself was conceptualized as a family with the king as father. "Paternalistic" figures regularly among its characterizing adjectives. One of Jean Bodin's principal arguments for the indivisibility of sovereignty was that there could be no sharing of the ultimate authority in a well-governed state, as in a well-governed family. The family was the state in miniature, and the authorities of the father and the king were different manifestations of the same thing. Otherwise put, families were the building blocks of the state.[2]

Internally, the family was a complex organism, socioeconomic and legal rather than sentimental in nature.[3] It offered little autonomy or privacy to the individual and his—or especially her—rights had a low priority by comparison with those of the family as such. This point of view is a natural complement to the long view, transcending the generations, toward family property, including offices, to which Giesey and Richet draw our attention, and it is reflected in the emphasis on "sociability" in the household, whose fluctuating population included not only relatives, servants, clients, but also often neighbors and visitors in a steady stream, many of whom were bent on business. "The latter apparently gave little thought to the hour and were never shown the door. . . . In short, visits . . . governed the life of the household and even dictated its mealtimes. These visits were not simply social: they were also professional, and little or no distinction was made


between these categories. A lawyer's clients were also his friends and both were his debtors."[4]

Philippe Ariès believes that a greater degree of intimacy and freer expression of affection, especially between parents and children, developed in the seventeenth century, along with greater equality among the siblings, as consciousness of childhood as a distinct stage of life emerged. Our evidence for the sixteenth-century robe, however, indicates such a wide diversity on affective relations that generalizations are risky.[5]

Personal values are naturally set forth less systematically than the intellectual ones; often they surface in a specific context that has evoked strong feelings—especially in relation to family. Pasquier's voluminous correspondence includes a range of attitudes toward children. He reproached the duchesse de Retz for being too severe with her son who had joined the League, suggesting perhaps that she had some responsibility for her misfortune: "God often strikes us [with such blows] to teach us to really love our children"; yet he sympathized fully with procureur général Pierre Ayrault when his son ran off to join the Jesuits and served as the father's legal counsel, citing Roman and Carolingian precedents for total parental authority over children. He also encouraged Ayrault to publish a manifesto on the subject, De la puissance paternelle: Contre Ceux qui sous couleur de religion vollent les enfants à leurs pères et mères (1593). To friends in Rome, asking them to keep an eye on Pasquier's son Pierre, who had run off to Italy against his father's wishes, Pasquier shows himself philosophical and realistic: "As often happens, the fathers propose and the children dispose against the opinion of their fathers"; "I think a man without children has less joy than one who has [them] but [also] less vexation of spirit." A remark in a letter to René Hennequin at the time of Théodore Pasquier's marriage reveals the strength of Pasquier's own paternal feeling that fathers suffered when their children left home "to set up their own households, as much as mothers in childbirth." And again—this to Pithou—"I can easily excuse what young people do, because I remember how I was then. I wish I could say that I was that way still, but my beard would give me the lie."[6]

L'Estoile's much less sanguine temperament colors his (very few) allusions to filial ingratitude or failure to meet expectations, or to sundry


difficulties in attempts to place his sons in favorable career situations. Characteristically, these occur at the end of Pierre's life, and he treats them as more, but particularly painful, additions to his increasing burdens. He records no incident in which he could take pleasure or pride, only grim satisfaction in having done his duty. The only profit he reports from a visit of an aunt from the provinces, for example, is that through her influence,

I hope to be able to extract my eldest son from preparation for a career at the Palais [de Justice], too long for him and too expensive for me, and [get him] into [a career] in finance, in which, God willing, he can manage better. I have always thought him better suited to it, and it will be no small easing of the expense of my household.[7]

But the success of this maneuver depended on a courtier, who managed the finances of the Montpensier family. "With his influence, he could place [my son] in a good situation, where he could meet important people, and possibly [Pierre's other sons] as well, if he does as he says he will. But to depend much on the conscience of a courtier is doubtful, I will do everything I can for my son's benefit and to ease the family, but the rest I leave to God." That was in June 1609. The following month he refers to an offer by a friend to get the same son a temporary job as agent for the cardinal de La Rochefoucauld during the latter's absence in Italy. He would have an opportunity to make himself known to les grands , "maybe even to their Majesties," when delivering letters addressed to or by the cardinal. L'Estoile is annoyed that the son is hesitant to take on this assignment, whereas "he should jump at the chance . . . consider the position in which he sees his father, and the misfortunes that beset this poor family, which means that he will never make any advance except by whatever means he can procure for himself."[8]

We have seen that a wife had an important part in the institutional aspect of the family, often providing the means of the husband's professional and social advancement, while legal limitations on the husband's control over the wife's property enabled her to have considerable influence on family strategies. Family structure was bilateral, with members of the wife's family acting as witnesses and godparents almost as often as those of the husband's family. Daughters also had equal rights to parental property with sons, except when special rights of the eldest son were involved.[9]


On the personal side of marital relations it is harder to draw general conclusions. Instances of tender affection and enduring devotion seem to have been less common than the many variations of the "battle of the sexes," although the disproportion may not have been as great as the satirical and antifeminist literature would have us believe. When Germain Le Picart, conseiller in Parlement, asked Pasquier's advice on whether he should marry, the response showed practical common sense. After saying that he would not sum up all the pros and cons of marriage versus celibacy, "known to all the world," Pasquier says, "personally I shall always favor marriage, not only because it is the means of perpetuating ourselves in human society but also because, on the private plane, when we have no more to do with women we have also no more to do, period. I mean that there is nobody to whom we dare entrust the weaknesses and ills of old age . . . as much as to our wives, to whom we have joined our lives individually. But . . . I do not favor marriage [arising from] little indiscreet and foolish love affairs; I leave these flowers without fruit to passing encounters that do not last until death." About twenty years later, he confides to his close friend Loisel that he has just turned down the possibility of a very advantageous marriage for his eldest son: "I replied that he was too young and that I wanted him to learn to love a woman before he learned to hate her, and there is no surer way to make a man hate his wife than to [let him] marry too young."

Pasquier's own wife, Françoise, after a two-year separation including a six-month imprisonment by the League in Paris, was able to escape to join her husband in Tours but fell ill and died a few days later. Responding to one of many letters of condolence, he writes,

At first I thought that our separation of two years would help me to bear the void, but I swear by the living God, I am so flattened by this blow that every time I think of my loss (and I do so all too often) my eyes become fountains, as they are at this moment. I would be ashamed to have anybody see me. As for expressions of consolation of friends, of which there is no lack, they not only do not help, they aggravate the pain. As for time, which everyone assures me is the great healer, I haven't yet tested it.[10]


Although Pierre de L'Estoile records the facts of his two marriages and the death of the first wife, in the manner of recording official documents, he has almost nothing to say about marriage as such. Perhaps an entry a few months before his death indicates that in his old age he gave the institution some thought:

Demosthenes said that nobody could really be considered unhappy unless he had been unhappy in marriage. That may apply to private persons, not to marriage of les grands , where the interests of the state are the main concern. I don't understand these matters and others who talk a lot about them understand just as little. One thing I know, that peace and war are often accomplished by means of this sacrament between princes, which mightily affects the state, but how it affects our own welfare—and I do not look for much benefit—is something that surpasses my understanding.[11]

Diefendorf notes the probable influence on the marital relationship of the age of a new parlementaire husband; he was usually around thirty and his bride was about ten years younger, having had little exposure to the world outside the home. How could he see her as his equal, his partner and his life's companion? Rather than expecting a maturity and intelligence that the tender age and shallow education of their brides made virtually impossible, many husbands assigned to themselves "a role of authority that denied even the possibility of partnership."[12]

Edward Benson, in a provocative article on Rabelais's treatment of marriage as a metaphor for society, suggests that the conflicting views of marriage expressed by Panurge and Pantagruel in the Tiers Livre reflect tensions typical of the period, in particular

the transition from a primarily agrarian economy to one based for the most part on commerce in and between cities, with the attendant rise of a class of holders of relatively fluid property to whom specific alliances were no longer necessary. Early modern marriages were no less important to the economic survival of the individual and the reproduction of society . . . but . . . because the number of partners with sufficient assets to make a viable contract had increased, the skills and personal qualities of the partner came to be important as well. The changing nature of the conjugal relationship was made possible by at the same time that it facilitated the centralization of economic and political life, regionally in the great cities and nationally in Paris.


The conflict Rabelais depicts is "between those who understood the depth of the change taking place and those who did not," in Benson's opinion. The general acceptance of the conjugal-centered marriage was still some time off.[13]

In the family-oriented society of the sixteenth century, qualities that would strengthen the family naturally became the "virtues" of a good wife. Emphasis on honor (purity, modesty) rests on realistic recognition that doubts of the wife's chastity could jeopardize the children's inheritance and hence the continuity of the lineage. Obedience to the husband assures domestic harmony, at least on the surface. The virtues of gentleness, charity, piety, and concern for others ease a wife's relations with all other members of the household. Pasquier notes that Jacqueline de Tulleu, wife of Christophe de Thou, understood her husband's wishes so well that "he never believed so much in anyone else as in her." Another set of virtues (prudence, thrift, efficiency) apply to the wife's tasks in managing the household, and often the estate as well. In these circumstances, judgments of wives naturally occur in terms of their value to others. In Ronsard's epitaph for Marie Brachet (wife of président Jean Prévost) more than half is devoted to the praise of her husband and two of her eight sons. He uses the cliché of the period that she was "an ornament to her sex."[14] The parlementaire attitude toward wives resembles that of Pericles toward the mothers of fallen soldiers in the funeral oration attributed to him by Thucydides, "if I must say something of those [who bore them], let it be this, hers is the greatest glory whose name is least bruited about on the lips of men."[15]

The role and status of widows in early modern Europe has recently received scholarly attention. In parlementaire circles they were numerous owing to the age gap between husbands and wives. Forty-eight of the ninety city councillors studied by Diefendorf left widows, whereas only about a dozen outlived a wife. Thus the management of the property, the direction of the children's education, marriages, careers, and other responsibilities were often in the hands of a widow. Uncertainty about how she might use her power and the fact that she largely escaped control often created anxiety. Moreover, there was a great disparity between the literature's dire predictions of misery and the reality of a widow's position.

At the apex of the social hierarchy, Catherine de Médicis's court was


thronged with widows, most of whom chose not to remarry. Rich, highborn, some reputed very attractive, they did not lack opportunities. The most astute observer of the scene, Brantôme, who knew them personally, explains, "They want friends and lovers, but no husband, out of love for the freedom that is so sweet . . . and no wonder. . . . Everything passes through their hands . . . they can pursue their pleasures and enjoy companions who will do as they wish. They remain widows in order to keep their grandeur , possessions, titles, and good treatment."[16] In the milieux of the Parlement and the Hôtel de Ville, the personal style of widows was more sober, but the substance of their power was also considerable. In a perceptive analysis on widowhood and remarriage in sixteenth-century Paris, Barbara Diefendorf demonstrates three important aspects: financial resources, management of family property, and rights even after remarriage. A high degree of control over the children was an important result. Diefendorf concludes,

The situation of the widow was ironic. On the one hand, she was portrayed in both literature and jurisprudence as frivolous and weak. On the other hand, she was trusted in both law and practice with important responsibilities for the raising of her children and the management of their properties—the very wealth on which the family's future depended. Indeed, the attempts that were made during the sixteenth century to limit the freedom of widows to dispose of their properties serve to underscore the very real and significant economic autonomy that widows possessed.[17]

Parlementaires' attitudes toward wives and widows were not peculiar to them but were commonly found in both the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. Nor is there anything distinguishable in robin views on women in general, although one has the impression that there were somewhat fewer misogynists among men with a humanist education than in the upper classes generally. Pasquier represents the most sensitive and liberal element in this as in other ways. In a letter to Loisel he refers respectfully to both Madame and Catherine des Roches, whose company all the Paris parlementaires who were sent to hold grands jours in Poitiers so much enjoyed. Of Catherine, whose "harmony of thought" with his own he mentions glowingly, he concludes, "I esteem and honor her among the beautiful, honorable, and


virtuous women of France." In a letter to a colleague in the Chambre des Comptes he comes to the defense of women by refuting the imputation of singeries (monkeyshines) as the dominant character of women's conversation and behavior and gives abundant and striking illustrations of similar—or worse—in men.[18]

Social Structure, Class, Ethics

The desire to defend and protect the family on all fronts explains the obsessive fear of mésalliance and the amount of energy spent maintaining the barriers, one could almost say fortifications, separating those within from those without. Diefendorf's study documents concern for the protection of the lineage, not only in parlementaire or municipal circles but in the Tiers Livre of Rabelais, where Gargantua sympathizes with parents who had expected to have descendants inheriting the character of their fathers and mothers no less than their belongings. She demonstrates the importance of the idea of inherited virtue to the justification of a hierarchical society. It could be modified to serve the aims of the upper nobility, the robe but, whatever the specific context, the argument showed both an awareness of the hierarchical nature of society and a desire to defend—if possible improve—one's own position in that society.[19]

Paradoxically perhaps, the barriers to membership, which applied to property and legal status, did not result in social isolation of the family as well. Parlementaires participated in networks that involved a wide variety of people, although there was bound to be less natural fraternizing between social strata in the city than in the household of a country gentleman like Gilles de Gouberville.[20] What George Huppert calls "the map of power in the pays " was not native ground to the essentially urban parlementaire, even when he was a seigneur .

Values concerning family are thus as much social as personal and involve assumptions about class. Few tangles are harder for the historian to unravel than the matter of robin nobility, beyond the formal and legal ascriptions of Loyseau and the manuals. Even those who, like Franklin Ford, consider that they eventually blended into the same privileged order with the old


nobility of the sword, cannot ignore the distinctions so brilliantly satirized by Molière in the seventeenth century. In our period, the self-conscious effort of the officers to acquire noble status was very conspicuous. I concur in Huppert's opinion that robins themselves were not at all confused about their separate identity nor were others often fooled, yet the frantic pursuit of nobility and manufacture of false genealogies proceeded apace. The difficulty lies in assigning them a class status understandable in twentieth-century terms.`

Whereas in sixteenth-century society race (class) was allegedly established by nature, it was easily identifiable through signes extérieurs that made the differences visible to all members of society. The signs allowed individuals to be seen in their appropriate place and to be treated according to their quality and merit. The result, Arlette Jouanna explains, is justice distributive —justice that is "proportional," that makes hierarchy recognizable and also more solid. This is bonne et vraie equality. Our modern sense of equality, in which human beings are regarded as interchangeable, is properly applied only to persons in the same category, according to Louis Le Roy, Claude Expilly, and David Rivault de Fleurance, among others Jouanna cites in her study of social order. She comments, "the words 'inequality' and 'equality' are used in a sense diametrically opposed to their use in our day." The idea of race , class, thus becomes a bond between society and nature, that fosters a sense of stability and security, rooted in the structure of the world.

In the course of the sixteenth-century upheavals, the nobility felt that its traditional place as the highest class was seriously threatened. Military service and skills, with the concomitant virtue, valor, were no longer supreme. Changes in the nature of warfare figured in this shift but the most significant factors were claims to nobility made by the robins and the ever-increasing dependence of the kings on them. Louis Le Caron, in the First Book of his Pandectes (1587) places "nobles of the sword" and "nobles of the law" on the same level. Claude Expilly describes both groups as "gentlemen." Jacques de La Guesle goes even further. In his famous Remonstrances (ceremonial speeches at the opening of Parlement) of 1611 he proclaimed that social status was hereditary, and that "Justice" should be accorded the first place in the hierarchy. The gentlemen of the sword reacted violently: for them it was inconceivable that skills acquired in schools, ones exercised seated indoors, could be compared to the courage and valor acquired and tested in battle. Occasionally sharp exchanges of insults erupted, even in the presence of the king. Henri IV tried to calm Villeroy and Sully


in such an episode by assuring them that he valued them equally as "good and useful servants."

The reciprocal méfiance , expressed in a spate of polemical pamphlets, spilled over into the historiographical controversy concerning the respective roles and contributions of the Gauls and the Franks to the French amalgam. According to one school of thought (la thèse germaniste ), the noblesse de l'épée had inherited the superiority that the free, warlike Franks held over the cultivated, peace-loving Gallo-Romans. The "myth of the [Frankish] conquest" became a useful weapon against the robins . In contrast, moderate jurist-historians like Pasquier and Du Haillan repudiated the notion of ancient ethnic rivalries persisting to their own time and insisted on the unity of the nation in which the barbarous aspects of the Frankish element had been softened, tamed by contact and intermarriage with the civilized Gauls. Jouanna comments, "To defend 'the civilization of the Gauls,' and assert that it had a beneficial influence on the Franks . . . was to recognize indirectly the worth of the culture of the robe or at least the limits of the warrior ideal."[21] Generally speaking, the more sophisticated spokesmen of the robe, while welcoming the perquisites and rewards of ennoblement, retained their own values and found those who abandoned them in the pursuit of noble titles ridiculous, as we see in opinions expressed by André Guillart, the de Thou, Pasquier, Loisel, and Harlay.[22]

If nobility was a complex, elusive matter, mobility was obvious and quite straightforward. Several excellent local studies have recently demonstrated the emergence of an urban elite in sixteenth-century French cities, small like Châteaudun, and larger, dominating a region, like Amiens or Dijon. Huppert summarizes their findings. From a prosperous bourgeois status to that of noble homme , the process in the sixteenth century usually took three generations, he points out, adding, "the entire life cycle of this social process is pretty much limited to a period beginning in the late fifteenth century and ending early in the seventeenth century. After that we are faced with a more rigid society." In Beauvais, Goubert draws attention to the fact that the merchant bourgeoisie of the city and the magistrates of the


baillage were so far from agreed on their grievances by 1614 that they presented two separate cahiers to the Estates General. In especially populous and prosperous areas, like Burgundy, the gentry of the leading city was recruited "not only from among the city's own bourgeoisie, but also from the leading families of the other Burgundian towns. The most successful merchant families of Châlons, Autun, Saulieu, Beaune, Mâcon—and even of small places like Nuits—have Dijon in sight as their long-range objective. One can follow their patient climb through local offices in presidial and baillage until they finally show up in the Parlement at Dijon."[23]

Wealth was plainly an essential ingredient in the formation of this urban elite of which the parlementaires constituted such an important part, but wealth only of desirable kinds, that is land, offices, and rentes . In sharp contrast, "Marchandise inspired horror. . . . The typical gentry family remains wealthy without touching commerce or industrial investment." Yet, though necessary, even the most "noble" kinds of wealth by themselves could not provide a sufficient basis for the desired status. Conversely, some men who remained poor because they chose to "devote themselves to higher things" were admired. Huppert cites L'Hôpital as an example, but he stood apart from the parlementaire mainstream and was generally atypical. Adherence to the traditions of the court was usually the sine qua non for inclusion on the parlementaire roster of honor.[24]

The conclusion of a letter of advice from Pasquier to his son is a dignified statement of this plain-living high-thinking ethic:

I wish you to be avaricious, but of a noble avarice, avaricious of your honor and not of money. The ancients placed the Temple of Honor adjacent to the Temple of Virtue, to teach us that the latter leads to the former. I wish to see you exercising your office in this way, and the rest of your fate I leave in the hand of God, to whom you should turn in the assurance that He will never desert those whose hearts are pure and devoted.[25]

L'Estoile's conviction that love of money was the root of evil is one of the dominant themes of the Mémoires-Journaux . Greed is found in all classes, but in the upper echelons it combines with presumption, causing them to overreach themselves: "they never have enough." This is his explanation of the triumph of venality in the sovereign courts. The financial policy of Henri III, manipulating religion—and superstition—in the masses so as to


soften them up for further financial exploitation was the ultimate manifestation of evil, comprising the degradation of the king and the omnipotence of greed. Expressions of bitterness proliferated in the financial squeeze at the end of Pierre's life.

When one of L'Estoile's sons lost out to a partisan , that is, a commercial manipulator of the royal financial administration, in the competition for an office in the administration of the gabelle , the father writes, "I was much annoyed . . . but when I hear on all sides that to get anywhere in this world one must be a crook, my regret is lessened, because I would prefer to see my son spend his life reading and writing belles lettres than robbing people." He rejoices that none of his children shows any inclination "toward this temptation of the times [to worship money] in which those are most admired who make a virtue of vice. There are no gods so great in this miserable century as Aurin and Argentin; everyone adores them, but especially partisans , officers of the gabelle , tax farmers . . . who resemble a man who was asked if he had seen God when he attended mass and replied, 'Yes, and the chalice too, which is worth more.'" In this passage, written a few months before he died, L'Estoile cites Saint Augustine, speaking of the worship of the pagans, "whose gods were Silver, who then begot Gold."[26]

The ambiguities and contradictions of parlementaire attitudes toward wealth—scorn of commerce, from which they had themselves emerged; la ruée vers les offices (although these became sources of added expense rather than sources of income); maintenance of uneconomic values and avoidance of bourgeois entrepreneurship—all are disconcerting for those who wish to fit early modern France into a Marxist schema, but for the understanding of parlementaire mentalité , and indeed of certain French attitudes down to our own time, their significance cannot be overlooked.

Attitudes toward poverty were also inconsistent and at times might appear hypocritical. The conception of honorable poverty, of some poor as "deserving" objects who imposed the duty of charity upon their fellow Christians, had been inherited from earlier generations. Institutional responsibility, historically vested in the church, began to be secularized and vested in local institutions in our period. In Paris, the institutionalization of municipal responsibility (as distinct from that of the Hôtel-Dieu) dates from the creation of the Bureau Général des Pauvres by François I in 1544. Predictably, among its directors magistrates who were also members of the Bureau de Ville figured prominently. As Howard Solomon reminds us, during the civil wars, two new and distinct attitudes began to be expressed


by affluent and educated Parisians, one of which undermined the effectiveness of the Bureau de Ville while the other made its task become more "disciplinary" and less "charitable." All members of society had assigned roles to play: "The individual ceased to be a private person when he was invested with his regalia of office or his corporate robes. He became instead monsieur le médecin or monsieur le parlementaire . . . . His exterior garments were . . . affirmation of his station. . . . The more visible the distinctions between various social groups, the greater the proof of society's viability." In early modern France, Christ's statement that "The poor always ye have with you" is "not only an observation, but an injunction," remarks Solomon in his study of the role of Théophraste Renaudot in the establishment of public welfare. An attempt to eliminate or "reform" poverty was to violate God's scheme and also to prevent the poor from fulfilling their destined role and was, finally, to usurp the individual's responsibility to exercise Christian charity toward his less fortunate brothers. "Instead of reform, one isolated and identified the poor, as one did the lawyer, the duke, the physician, so that they could better perform their appointed social role." Some Parisians who reasoned this way withheld their tax from the Bureau de Ville and incurred fines for violating the prohibition against private charity.[27]

In the same decades of increasing social unrest and urban turmoil, fear of the poor as a threat to law and order tended to outweigh concern for the "virtuous" poor. And if disaffection with the status quo led the poor to heresy as well as violence, they were thought to be sources of "contagion," both physically and spiritually. The result was a "hardening of prescribed patterns of behavior," which for the poor meant the multiplication of repressive measures; eviction of non-native beggars, imprisonment and forced labor as well as physical punishment in the case of Parisians. In certain conditions, like the plague of 1596, they could be hanged without due process.[28] Thus had unfortunate fellow Christians, deserving generosity, been transformed into the "dangerous classes."

As the century progressed, the robin upper crust left its bourgeois origins


further behind, which affected the relations of the parlementaire elite with the lower echelons of the robe. At the same time robin attitudes toward law and order hardened, straining their relation with the lower classes of society generally. Moreover, intrafamily relations seem to have been evolving in a more personal direction, so that family and foyer functioned more as a refuge than in earlier decades. These changes are understandable in the turbulent conditions of civil war and regicide. All the more striking, therefore, is the unchanged reiteration of the old moral values into the next century. At least in formal expressions of the "conventional wisdom," the admired virtues and condemned vices of the last sixteenth-century generation, that of Achille de Harlay and Guillaume Du Vair, were identical with those of Christophe de Thou, who consciously held those of Thibault Baillet and Claude de Seyssel. Of course, practice often deviated from theory and nobody's "old days" were as pure as nostalgia pictures them, rhetorical uniformity masking change. Nevertheless, affirmation of the old ideals in the seventeenth century, for instance in La Roche-Flavin's Treize Livres des Parlements de France (1617), an influential manual for generations, is impressive testimony of the vitality of the old values and their tenacity through a century of upheaval.

The grouping of virtues to be cultivated and corresponding vices to be avoided by parlementaires constituted a well-developed work ethic. Even more than the bankers and businessmen of fourteenth-century Italy who had pioneered capitalism, the French sixteenth-century parlementaires constituted an indisputable refutation of the argument that the so-called Protestant work ethic necessarily depends on Protestantism. Indeed, in contrast to Italy, a Protestant option actually existed in France, beginning with the 1550s. But the mainstream parlementaires explicitly rejected this option, while embracing so-called Protestant values. They aimed for self-esteem, and then the respect of others, and believed, Mical Schneider points out, that one's reputation had to be "earned."[29] The compulsion to prove oneself, if not virtuous at least as striving for virtue, is reminiscent of Leon-Battista Alberti and Benjamin Franklin, as is the obligation to set an example.

This didactic objective explains the forms in which the moral values were presented, either as a set of rules for behavior cast largely in negative terms, or as idealized portraits of the perfect magistrate, comparable to the better known "mirror of princes" literature. La Roche-Flavin's book VIII, where the aspiring parlementaire could find a full set of Thou Shalt Nots, is a good example of the former. The upright judge must not accept gifts, nor lend


himself to the influence of powerful people; must not fraternize with those who come before the bench, must not solicit legal business nor become a party to any commercial dealings. He must never reveal information obtained in the course of professional activity nor take advantage of it personally. He should always risk incivility or embarrassment for himself rather than sacrifice any principle (droiture ) and be faithful to the fraternity of the court and its traditions. By following these precepts the magistrate achieves professional probity, which he matches in his private life through sobriété et dignité , qualities he earns by avoiding idleness, excess of all kinds, and temptations, especially voluptés , and by never making exceptions for himself that involve disloyalty or irresponsibility.

The same values surface in positive form in an anonymous Essai sur l'idée du parfait magistrat: the good judge is entirely devoted to justice and to public service, is indefatigable, untainted by any form of corruption or scandal, lives simply, never wasting time or money, behaves with consistent prudence and propriety, like Roman senators of the idealized republican era. Roman too is the courage he will display in speaking up for truth and justice when it would be safer, easier, and more profitable to follow the crowd. His is the voice of reason, opposed to both emotion and force, that chooses peace over war—except when the nation's fate is at stake. Even his leisure is an inspiration to others; he does not gamble, hunts only in moderation, does not "indulge in lewd amusements like attendance at the theater," and his conversation always deals with "elevated subjects."[30]

More interesting than these wooden abstractions are the actual embodiments of parlementaire values as their contemporaries themselves describe them. In "Pasquier, ou le Dialogue des Avocats du Parlement de Paris," Antoine Loisel lists a large number of lawyers by name, judging them frankly by the ideal, starting with the historic models of previous centuries and encompassing his own predecessors (our early and transitional generations), his contemporaries (the crisis generation) and his youngest professional colleagues (last generation) through the reign of Henri IV. The dialogue takes place on three consecutive Sundays in 1602; the role of Socrates is assigned to Étienne Pasquier, Loisel's much admired colleague and close friend, center of the "scholarly Pléiade." Like the historical Pasquier, Loisel was among the ardently loyal parlementaires whose family and property suffered under the League.[31]


If Pasquier served as a model for succeeding generations, he had revered models of his own. One was Jean Jouvenal des Ursins, avocat du roi during the Burgundian crisis in the midfifteenth century. He skillfully maneuvered the Burgundians out of Auxerre, "without a single person being injured, captured or victimized by looters; he rescued the king from the clutches of the Duke of Burgundy . . . in short, all by himself, in one week, he accomplished more than 10,000 men of war." Huppert brings out the significance of Pasquier's comment on "the only robin who dared to champion the cause of peace":

The simple fact that Pasquier allows Master Juvenal several pages . . . while the battle of Agincourt does not quite take up a single sentence in the same essay, shows that Pasquier exercises a selectivity which is dictated not only by the availability of reliable sources—these were available in both cases—but also by a philosophical perspective in which battles are unimportant and virtuous magistrates are heroes.[32]

This point of view is familiar from the dispatches of André Guillart (though the Machiavellian turn of mind is lacking in Pasquier). Another fifteenth-century parlementaire frequently cited as a model—by Michel de L'Hôpital, according to Loisel—was premier président Pierre de La Vacquerie: his adherence to the highest standards of professional virtue and constitutional loyalty led him to oppose the crown. He died "full of honor but impoverished," in striking contrast to others whose compliance had earned them royal gratitude expressed in large monetary gifts.[33]

Not surprisingly, most of the admired models lived in the "good old days." Although the initial decline of the court's standards occurred during the Avignon papacy—as we have noted, ardent Gallicans like Pasquier and Loisel could never resist an opportunity to underline the evils of the papacy—the parlementaires of the Hundred Years War qeriod still exhibited a high degree of professional probity and esprit de corps. Not until the sixteenth century did the catastrophic fall in standards occur, through the practice of venality and the abandonment of the old ethic. Taking pride in the fact that in early generations no lawyer in the Paris Parlement had ever been known to be corrupt, Loisel-Pasquier enjoins the young members of the profession in 1602: "Remember and take pains to preserve and pass on to your successors the honor our ancients procured for you, of integrity in


handling [your cases], taking nothing away, holding nothing back [or doing anything] false in any respect."

Among the deplorable results of the decline in standards and the prevalence of greed was the fragmentation of the court into factions. The tendency was toward a split between younger members, who were also richer, and older members. The former scorned the latter, neglecting to observe the forms, such as wearing the prescribed costume—"especially those [parlementaires] who had not first been members of the bar—saying that the older and more conservative ones were beneath them." Loisel-Pasquier adds disapprovingly, "They also do not order their time properly."[34]

Yet despite the fading out of the old esprit de corps, there were some sixteenth-century robins who stood out as worthy of inclusion in the pantheon. Among these were parlementaires who had dared to speak boldly against the Concordat, in the case of avocat Jean Bouchard, "so virtuously that he was imprisoned in the Louvre"; François de Monthelon, le plus modéré de mon temps ; and even Brisson, who, though weak in character, was nevertheless the martyr of the profession. Loisel-Pasquier pays special tribute to the elder Matthieu Chartier, "when he was too old to go to the Palais, the Palais came to him . . . on account of his wisdom and long experience, and the virtue and integrity of his life. . . . They say he put 100 francs into the poor box every month."[35]

Several prominent gens du roi who have a significant place in our story earn Loisel's detailed praise. Noël Brulart, both as a "simple avocat," and especially as procureur général, "exercised his office with such integrity, caution, and authority and made so great a mark [in our memory] that he serves and will serve as an example and patron to all his successors, particularly in his habit of arriving early in the morning at the Palais, going to each chamber to make sure it was doing its duty. If he found some [who were not where they should have been] he gave them such a look that the mere sight of his grave face made them [return to their duty]."

And it seems that he was rewarded by God's blessing on his family, not that he left great property (for I've learned that his office consumed it all) but in that all his children . . . have advanced to the highest offices and benefices of this kingdom, the eldest a canon of Paris, abbot of three abbeys, conseiller in Parlement and then maître des requêtes; the second, premier président in the Parlement of Dijon; and the third, secretary of state.


We could hardly find a clearer statement of the kind of reward to be expected for faithful adherence to the old ethic. Loisel also praises Baptiste Du Mesnil, "whom I took for my patron and the mirror [to which I held up my own actions]. . . . He made such a mark [as avocat du roi] that he is always mentioned when the best qualities of that office are discussed." Pybrac figures in the admired circle, and, in the youngest group so does Jacques Faye, "a great statesman as he showed in Poland [where he was chief counselor to Henri d'Anjou (Henri III) in 1573], as président of the Parlement of Tours, and in all the missions he discharged [for Henri IV] in the last phase of the wars, during which he died, to the great regret of all that he did not live to see the happy outcome that he and all good Frenchmen desired."[36]

Loisel understandably has a good deal to say about Pierre (I) Séguier and Christophe de Thou, comparing their styles and careers and concluding, "In sum, both were very great personages, both as lawyers and as présidents, as is now clearly proven by the careers of their posterity," which Loisel again spells out. He does not overlook the fact that both had bypassed or skipped some of the steps that were technically required nor that they had "bent the rules" on some occasions but excuses these slips because of their ability, their experience at the bar, and their lifelong familiarity with the court. The reader is a bit uneasy about Loisel's justification when he is more severe with others and condemns them, for less. Intimacy with the Séguier and the de Thou may have inclined him to indulgence.[37]

L'Estoile, who had no personal contact with them but also admires both, especially de Thou, draws up a balance sheet. His epitaph of Séguier contains a considerable component of acid:

He used his influence to procure an office in the chancellory for one of his sons "although [the son] was notoriously swayed by the crowd and given to oppressing the people [if it was to his advantage], excusing himself by his love for his children. . . . He married four daughters very advantageously in terms of property—having no other thought in mind. Aside from these offices, he left an estate of 200,000 in money, income from rentes and movable possessions, a remarkable thing for a man who knew nothing but the tric trac of the Palais. . . . Although he was worldly and a


great hanger-on of the court if ever there was one, he was a good justice, not severe and extremely merciful, while catering to les grands and shifting with the times, to the point of apologizing for his own past acts [ego petrus peccator ] till they resounded from one end of the quartier to the other.

He is much more lenient with de Thou:

Regretted by all . . . eminently worthy of his charge . . . the first and last [occupant] of the Palais. Nevertheless some people accused him of ambition and frivolity (which were his nature), or of avarice and misuse of his office (which was pure calumny) but it is very difficult to please everyone in such a position.[38]

The fictional Pasquier of Loisel's dialogue separates the good lawyers from the bad, making a picture resembling the Last Judgment in the tympana of Burgundian churches, except that the rewards and punishments are not represented. Virtue is its own reward. Inclusion in the parlementaire Pantheon is presumably sufficient. Loisel concludes his advice to the youngest generation, "Cultivate virtue, even if it is often accompanied by misfortune (in the opinion of the vulgar) for the circumstances will be deemed honorable when your innocence and upright life are recognized by all, especially by God, who is the one true judge of our actions."[39]

Loisel's prescription for the model avocat du roi is interesting in its strong emphasis on the virtues of the praticien as opposed to the theoretical légiste , and in its illustration of the points made by Salmon concerning the evolution from rhetoric to legal science and pragmatism at the end of the century. Loisel wants the avocat du roi to have a thorough knowledge of all the various categories of "the rights of the crown," of the genealogies of all the ranking families in the kingdom as well as of the royal family, and of French history,

especially that of the last race of our kings much more than [that of] the Greeks and the Romans, and above all, that he should have spent years at the bar, managing ordinary civil cases, and that he be a good praticien .

And when he prepares public remonstrances, that he not spend time learning by heart long endless speeches, stuffed with Greek and Latin quotations (as little appropriate as in the pulpit, or the classroom) but rather that he take pains to spell out and remonstrate the errors made in the past Parlement by lawyers and procureurs ; and when he is pleading an ordinary case, that he summarize clearly what has been said by both sides, in order


to clear up the cloudy aspects and thus bring out truth and equity, which will ease the burden of the court and enable it to give a prompt decision. . . .

In sum, I desire of my avocat the contrary of what Cicero required of his orator, that is, eloquence above all, and secondarily some knowledge of the law. I say just the opposite, that he must first of all be knowledgeable in the law and in its practice, and then of mediocre eloquence, more dialectician than master of rhetoric, and more a man of business and of judgment than of great and long speeches .[40]

Despite differences in temperament, talent, and reputation between L'Estoile and Pasquier—the former suspicious, defensive, easily brouillé , secretive, keeping a "low profile" in public matters, obsessed with his miscellaneous collections; the latter, center of concentric circles of friends and admirers that included the leaders of literature and law on a national scale, active in the royalist cause at every turn—they nevertheless had common values and admired the same people. L'Estoile's Mémoires-Journaux provide striking and extensive illustration of the adherence of the robin mainstream to the opinions expressed in Loisel's dialogue. Though not a member of the privileged Pléiade nor a systematic historian, political theorist, or philosopher, L'Estoile expresses judgments identical with those of Pasquier and his colleagues, logically and coherently articulated, in virtually every entry. He clearly contrasts virtues—loyalty to the crown, the law, and especially to the traditions of the Parlement, the Gallican church, and civic duty; and on the personal level, piety, honor, courage (tempered with prudence), self-discipline, modesty, appropriateness of behavior to one's station, including a sense of noblesse oblige and compassion for those less fortunate—with their opposite vices. The latter are all rooted in the fundamental sins of presumption and avarice, from superficial vices, such as ostentation and extravagance, through dishonesty, corruption, and abuse of trust to the worst vices of betrayal of honor, of country, and of God. The Mémoires-Journaux are a collection of "sermons in stones," that is, observations drawn from the author's everyday experience. If there is any organizing principle in the potpourri, we might equate it with Cicero's O tempora! O mores! for the chief moral of L'Estoile's observations is that the times are "out of joint" and everything "upside down." The commonest manifestations are sensationalism, debauchery, financial corruption, aban-


donment of standards, and exploitation of popular credulity and superstition in the name of religion.

The extravagant and—to old-fashioned eyes—debauched behavior of the court, while much less offensive than under Henri III, was still a matter of reproach for L'Estoile in the reign of Henri IV. He describes the Mardi Gras season of 1605:

During the St-Germain fair, which the king visited regularly, an infinite number of murders and other excesses were committed. . . . Pages, lackeys, students, and soldiers . . . fighting, both indoors and out, in small organized battles, without anyone being able (or willing) to control it. One lackey cut both ears off a student at the fair and put them in his pocket, whereupon the students rioted, throwing themselves on the lackeys, wounding and killing many of them.

Satires on the evils of the times continued to be published, though here again, in reduced number. Les Hermaphrodites , described by L'Estoile as assez bien fait , was selling for two crowns at the Palais, though it was worth only about ten sous in his opinion:

This little libel, under the name of this imaginary isle, exposed the impious and vicious behavior of the [royal] court, proving clearly that France is now the home and refuge of every kind of vice, volupté , and disrespect, whereas she used to be an honorable school and seminary of virtue. The king wished to see it and had it read to him, and even though he found it a bit too free and bold, he was glad to know the name of the author, which was Artus Thomas, whom he did not wish to be prosecuted, because he said it would violate his conscience to harass a man for telling the truth.

An enormous number of executions took place in these years, many as punishment for bizarre crimes. The Parisian public flocked in great numbers to these as a form of entertainment, another sign of the times. In the month of May 1606, only two entries in the Mémoires-Journaux record anything else, and those two recount banishments, of the Irish from Paris ("experts in the arts of deception and robbery above all others . . . in that profession, which consists of doing nothing and sponging off others . . . and skilled at fathering children") and of the Jesuits from Venice.[41]

Generally skeptical about superstition, L'Estoile occasionally seems inclined to wonder whether there might not be something to it. When Charles de Gontaut, sieur de Biron, duke, peer, and marshal of France, was executed for treason in July 1602, a story circulated that a magician ("who was in


frequent communication with the Devil") had warned him sometime earlier to beware lest a man from Dijon kill him by a blow from behind. Biron mocked this advice and said he had many friends in Dijon. "Even so, they say that the executioner who struck off his head from behind was from Dijon." More characteristic is L'Estoile's reaction to an almanac printed in Lyon, called Le Grand Moisonneur , which was the sensation of Paris in June 1605—"there was no good mother's son who did not try to procure it because of the marvels it contained, having predicted the death of the pope, and others, at the time they took place in fact. . . . What a poor science that makes jokes out of the misfortunes of its betters![42]

No ambivalence whatever colors L'Estoile's attitude toward exploitation of religious sentiment for ulterior motives: the Mémoires-Journaux record a great many false miracles. Most leave a reader saddened because the victims are poor and naive, but some are really funny. One concerns a rich merchant "but feeble of wit and superstitious to the point of idolatry," who entered a church late in the day and lighted a candle in front of a statue of the Virgin. A priest asked him to leave because it was so late and at last "thought up a scheme to get rid of him, which was to cover his head with a white linen cloth and appear to the worshiper, who then cried in ecstasy, 'Ah sweet Virgin, Our Lady!' and rushed from the church to tell everybody that the Virgin had appeared to him. The poor people, who are very gullible in such matters, began to hail it as a miracle until the priest [told them the truth] thus turning the appearance of the Virgin into a joke."

The beloved Henri IV did not escape reproach, even after his conversion had been generally accepted: in 1608 as the king was returning from Fontainebleau to Paris, he encountered the religious procession habitual at Pentecost. He dismounted and knelt in the street to worship the Host, which produced murmurs of admiration from the crowd "and is of no small advantage to a king whose people, as regards the religion of their prince, judge more by outward show than by anything else."

Catholics and Protestants were equally guilty of ignoring the real Christian message in their preoccupation with blackening one another: in the Lenten sermons of 1609, "beaucoup de bruit et peu de fruit . The Jesuits are hot in pursuit of heresy . . . but cool in regard to the vices, corruptions and abominations that abound. . . . In Charenton [the Huguenots] do no better. Ignoring their own vices (as great as those hereabouts) they declaim against the abuses and superstitions of the Roman Church, make war on the pope, calling him Antichrist (as Catholics do Calvin) . . . tearing down rather than


edifying, in a manner unworthy of the modesty and seriousness suitable for a preacher in the pulpit. Thus both sides show more sectarian animosity than zeal for God's glory and peace in His house."[43]

Greed bred every kind of corruption, L'Estoile thought. It was particularly offensive in the administration of justice: "little crooks, the least guilty, are fined the most, while the great robbers get off for almost nothing." In 1607 premier président Achille de Harlay felt it necessary to devote a special mercuriale to the prevalence of corruption in the Parlement itself. He said that he was not presently naming the culprits, but if they continued he would do so and prosecute them to the full rigor of the ordinances (this would mean forfeiture of their offices). He said, "It was a cause of great shame for men who had spent all night handling cards and dice to have the effrontery to come in the morning and sit in judgment on men whose lives and property [they held] in the same hands. . . . He also spoke severely to conseillers who betrayed the dignity of their profession by running around the city sword in hand, meriting the name of street people rather than counselors. . . . He exhorted each one to carry out his duty, but in vain . . . because vice and corruption have long since gained the upper hand over virtue and integrity, even in [Parlement], where the greater number are dishonored by their vices." The price of office was escalating dramatically in these years, "so that one can see it rise not from year to year, or even from month to month, but from week to week and from day to day, in a vile and infamous prostitution the like of which has never been seen. In short, the world today is divided between those who consume and those who are consumed, and the result is (as they say) 'It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.' "[44]

Proverbs are always useful to moralists. L'Estoile's favorite is Telle vie, telle fin . It was appropriate when a procureur ("homme de bien, chose rare en un procureur") who would never accept fees from those whom he knew to be poor, made a good end, or when courtiers ("said to have died of gallantry, which means excess with women") died after taking an aphrodisiac instead of the Holy Eucharist. What a happy surprise when a bad man has a good death, and how gratifying to make a direct comparison between a dying man who regrets leaving the world and his possessions and pleasures, and one who abandons such concerns and dies craignant Dieu .[45]


If not in practice at least in theory, most parlementaire value judgments were clear-cut: work was good, idleness was bad; simplicity was good, ostentation was bad, but on some subjects one might have ambivalent, or even contradictory feelings. Parlementaires might seek the status and perquisites of nobility but scorn those who possessed it as "clinging to empty honors and ridiculous titles," "good only for their elegant fleeces"; they were highly skilled at building fortunes, at creating ingenious devices for passing them on to their heirs, but despised businessmen and financiers. Ambition was particularly slippery. It was admirable to rise in the hierarchy, if one's place was honestly earned, and it was natural to assume the external signs that went with high office. To advance the family position by advantageous marriages, to strive for a place near the king—these were laudable ambitions, and those who fulfilled them were rewarded by admiration in addition to their success. And yet the good parlementaire was required to exercise restraint. An "appropriate" life-style was reserved rather than attention-getting, with greater emphasis on the "higher" than on material things. Parlementaires cited with approval Socrates' metaphor of Silenus, the god who hid under a repulsive exterior. Any effort to impress others met with disapproval.

Crime and Punishment

The greater insecurity and consequent hardening of attitudes in the latter decades of the century understandably increased concern for law and order. Yet parlementaires exhibited what may seem surprising moderation in dealing with crime. Each Parlement was virtually autonomous in its own jurisdiction, with little restraint imposed by either royal edicts or rules of procedure.[46]

Consistent with concern for society, already noted, individual criminal acts often met with a considerable degree of tolerance. Jonathan Dewald's studies of Rouen show that even homicides were often pardoned; fewer than one-third of those accused in his sample were executed. If the family was victimized, however, the reaction of the court was often strikingly different. Infanticide especially, which was regarded as the archetypical crime, was severely punished (90 percent hanged). Sixteenth-century writers, including Henri d'Estienne and Jean Bodin, emphasized the "unnatural"


character of this crime, hard to prove much of the time but threatening to society in its implications. The association with parricide, and the extension of the latter to regicide in the League period, made the emotional "loading" of these crimes very great.[47]

It was less a particular crime in itself that provoked a severe sentence than the effect on the social fabric. Adultery, for example, might receive a simple admonition, but if the wife ran off with her lover, she might incur the death sentence, as did he. Dewald concludes that there was a "distinction in the magistrates' minds between private vice . . . and those acts of immorality which posed a danger to society at large: which threatened basic social relationships, such as those of the household, or which threatened to upset the ordered existence of the community."[48]

The incidence of perjury and fraud was great in the litigious society of sixteenth-century France, but these are hard crimes to prove. If convicted, however, one would expect a severe sentence for violation of the trust in the validity of contracts on which society depended. Brigandage, that is, violence against property, even though no homicide was involved, was very severely judged because it constituted an attack on ordered society by "outsiders," who must be kept at bay if they could not be contained. In Rouen Dewald finds an increase of crimes against the family and the community in the latter part of the century, with a concomitant increase in severity on the part of the court, both natural results of civil war, and domestic upheaval. He attributes the court's shift more to Parlement's increased control of the rural areas where such crimes were very numerous than to Counter-Reformation stiffening of standards, but since all these phenomena coincided in time, it is hard to ascertain the casual relations accurately.[49]

The Mémoires-Journaux record thousands of crimes, but except that all are signs of the evil times, there is no systematic treatment. What we would call today "white-collar crime" is evidence of the power of money and the prevalence of corruption among those who "should know better" and have betrayed their honor. Quite different are the bizarre crimes, usually committed by individuals in the menu peuple , which are treated in the same way as monstrous births or the appearance of comets and other extraordi-


nary phenomena in nature. These are visited on society to indicate God's wrath, as "signs" or warnings, but they are never seriously interpreted except by a few pious souls (like L'Estoile). For instance, in March 1607,

two of the greatest, most famous, notorious robbers of Europe were broken on the wheel in Tours. Just before they died they confessed having committed up to 120 murders. One . . . confessed all and died repentant with great expressions of contrition . . . the other, on the contrary, made an end that matched his life. M. de Graville, secrétaire du roi , has promised to show me the transcript of the proceedings, one of the fine writings of these times and worthy to be saved.

Blasphemous crimes, like sorcery, might call forth extreme measures. A group described as comprising "sorcerers and counterfeiters" was executed in Paris in September 1608. They were accused of holding secret meetings at night in the ditches near Montfaucon, where they allegedly recited the mass backwards, using the body of the Devil instead of that of Christ in their communion. L'Estoile comments,

These would seem to me nothing more than the tales of senile old women except that the iniquity of the times, the disappearance of charity, the trampling of the fear of God underfoot, lend a good deal of weight to tales of such abominations. When injustice, avarice, gambling, and blasphemy are permitted, as they are today, in Paris itself, where les grands set the example, they drag long tails of evil behind them.[50]

Sorcery is a crime of particular relevance because of its frequent linkage with heresy in sixteenth-century minds. Alfred Soman has worked directly on the handling of sorcery cases in the Parlement of Paris for many years. Through careful analysis of the difficult—and often hitherto unexplored—sources in the police archives, he corrects the impression of earlier scholars that Parlement "automatically confirmed the death sentences of the lower courts." On the contrary, Parlement showed "astounding clemency" in sorcery cases. Between 1564 and 1600 only 30 percent of the death sentences appealed were confirmed, and a majority of the accused was eventually released after a more moderate punishment. Criminal justice was much more rapid than civil justice: most judgments were issued within a month of the accused's imprisonment, and a stay of more than three months in the Conciergerie was exceptional. Soman adds that the vocabulary used sometimes conceals the real extent of parlementaire clemency, "corporal


punishment, for instance, might mean a lifetime in the galleys but it might also mean a 'short' beating." Ninety percent of all sentences (outside the confirmed death sentences) were softened, by comparison with those of the lower courts.[51]

By the early seventeenth century there was a dramatic decline in sorcery cases, accelerating after the assassination of Henri IV, such that Soman could discuss the decriminalization of sorcery in his 1985 article (the seventh on the subject). Between 1610 and 1620 executions fell to 4.1 percent of those accused (compared to 10.8 in the previous five years), applications of torture to 2 percent (compared to 5.6 percent), while the percentage released rose from 36 to 43 percent. Absolutions and declarations of innocence also increased. Historians customarily attribute the decriminalization of sorcery to a shift in mentalités from belief in supernatural causation to belief in scientific causation, but Soman points out that "the Parlement of Paris had already come most of the way [toward the modern view] at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, well before the great debates of the age of reason." He finds similar contemporary patterns in Spain and England and speculates that these three European nations "were differentiated from others not only by geographic unity and fiscal and administrative power, thus [also] military power, but also by the legitimacy of a ruling regime, especially sensitive in its relations to the people [ruled]." As early as the latter part of the reign of François I, medieval punishments were declining and appeals increasing. "Behind the severe . . . language of royal legislation was concealed a clear tendency toward clemency, at lower levels as well as at the top." This modification in criminal procedure was possible thanks to the consolidation (the increasing incidence) of direct appeal to the Parlement: "a guarantee against cheating, abuse, and false [unjustifiable] zeal [by the accusers]."[52] Suborning of witnesses and dishonesty of judges, the worst of the previous offenses, were thus drastically reduced.

What was intolerable to the Parlement, was the complicity of officers of justice in the name of justice . . . . During the wars of religion, the dignity of the magistracy seemed tarnished (rightly). The theme is constantly repeated in the presentation of cases.[53]


It is noteworthy that the examples of parlementaires' concern Soman cites come from members of the parquet who figure among the important spokesmen of our latest generation, Jacques de La Guesle, Louis Servin, Jacques Faye. This is doubly relevant to the present study of parlementaire mentalité : it shows a coincidence with the lesser severity than previously thought (as Soman shows), and it reveals that some leading praticiens , when dealing with real cases, resembled more le parfait magistrat than those so often castigated as self-serving and corrupt.

Another element in the pattern of lessening severity in parlementaire sentences has recently been highlighted by Natalie Zemon Davis. Her particular emphasis is on the "story" through which the circumstances and facts of the crime and the justification of an appeal for pardon are presented by the condemned person. She stresses also the part played by intermediaries through whom the appeals reach the king, "from whom all justice flows," as Pasquier reminded us, "usually through the sovereign courts." When the king sent letters of remission to the Parlement, ratification was predictable. For example, "Of all the people who were in [the Conciergerie] awaiting judicial review of their letters from 1564, when the register begins, to 1580, only 6.5 percent were deprived of the king's grace."[54] A few lines later Davis comments, "the success rate of remission letters goes beyond the strength of the story, as the supplicant was integrated into the larger build-up of monarchical power. . . . From the Ordinance of Blois . . . through the Republic of Jean Bodin, pardon was celebrated as one of 'the fairest marks of sovereignty."' And Claude Expilly, of whom we shall hear again, said, "Kings have always glorified themselves through their clemency."[55]

No sovereign was ever more skilled in the exercise of clemency than Henri IV. Davis shows that a significant factor in the success of the remission-pardon process was that the supplicant had to play "by the king's rules, . . . and not recount his adventures as though he were a hero in a folk-tale. . . . The habit of language insisted upon in the letters of remission and the roles in which supplicants were required to present themselves were among the civilizing mechanisms of the early modern French state, reminding people subjectively of the locus of power ."[56] Among those "reminded," not least were the members of the sovereign courts, who found themselves


increasingly caught in the conflict between representation or transmission of royal power and attrition of their own by the increase in that power.


By the midseventeenth century, officers of the sovereign courts could be found among the residents of all sections of Paris, but they predominated in two areas east of a north-south axis marked by the rue St-Martin and the rue St-Jacques, that is, the east end of the Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis, and the neighboring sections of the right bank, between St-Paul and the Temple. In our period, not even the Place Dauphine yet existed, and the Place des Vosges was some years off, but parlementaire residences were already concentrated in areas adjacent to the future beaux quartiers , the right-bank parishes of St-Paul, St-Eustache, and St-Merry, and St-Andrédes-Arts on the left bank, just opposite the Palais de Justice. All were within a few minutes walk of the Palais and the Hôtel de Ville.[57] The typical house of educated, affluent Parisians was built in two sections, one facing the street and the other to the rear, beyond a courtyard. The two might or might not be connected by galleries . There were usually two floors above the ground floor, on which the salle , or common room, and the kitchen were located. The ground floor of the rear building was often a stable, and there might be a second court, or garden, beyond it. Beneath the ground floor was a cellar, maybe two, for storage of wine and other perishables. Less affluent families lived in single-section houses, with smaller rooms and stairs in the middle instead of on the right-hand side. In the sampling of inventaires après décès from which these conclusions were drawn, Madeleine Jurgens and Pierre Couperie found twenty-one single-unit houses, twelve two-unit houses with connecting gallery and eight without. The latter was the new fashion of the sixteenth century. These houses were designed for single-family occupancy, and if parts were rented, they were more likely on the upper floors, with the owners keeping the ground floor for themselves.[58]


This logical arrangement allowed the householder to transact business during the family's daily activities in the same rooms. In fact, except for the kitchen, there was little differentiation among the rooms (although some of the smaller ones are called antechambers or wardrobes in the inventories) and life was lived in public, even in a private house.[59] Ariès emphasizes the "sociability": the rooms communicated with one another. "In the same rooms where they ate, people slept, danced, worked, and received visitors." Beds were collapsible in the earlier centuries and often moved around. When the bed came to have a permanent place, the transformation "undoubtedly marks an advance in domesticity. . . . But the room containing the bed was not a bedroom because of that. It remained a public place . . . and one rarely slept alone."[60]

There were, of course, country houses as well; in Diefendorf's study, four-fifths of the royal officers included owned at least one seigneurie . Yet these eagerly sought properties, the source of officers' prestige and of considerable wealth, did not change the fact that the robin gratin was an urban aristocracy, born and resident in the city.[61] It would be difficult to imagine Christophe de Thou or Pierre Séguier participating in all the activities of the village and the countryside as naturally as did Gilles de Gouberville.

The routine of agricultural work . . . called for constant surveillance and considerable knowledge. . . . Harvests were always supervised by Gouberville himself, . . . and dancing and cider provided. . . . If special efforts were made for the occasional visit of the great, there was no attempt made to exclude the small. Thomas Drouet, fermier at Mesnil, was not only a faithful retainer, but a great good friend, and the tenants dropped in, always at dinner-time. . . . Invariably the visitor was burdened with care. . . . Falling trees, misplaced millstones, enraged stags, bolting horses, mad dogs, lightning, wolves, colic, colds, gout, rash, poverty, overindulgence, premature death: the litany of disaster is endless. Faced with crises of illness, destitution and catastrophe, the neighbors repaired to Gouberville, who responded with advice, legal aid, medical care, and short term loans. He applied poultices, he examined urine . . . he sheltered the woman 'troubled in her understanding'; he interceded for tax relief for the blind widow; he sent [servants] to look in on the woman whose drunken husband had beaten her to a pulp. . . . He went to weddings and named babies. . . .

Seigneurial immersion in the neighborhood also made possible real contributions to public order. A good deal of potential litigation went no further than the kitchen table at Mesnil. . . .


Gouberville was also a conscientious public servant. . . . He had a guerrilla's knowledge of his territory . . . he organized the transport of timber for . . . fortifications . . . allocated responsibility for the provisioning of the garrison at Cherbourg . . . checked lodgings commandeered for the quartering of troops. . . . He also organized the community to avert disaster.[62]

It seems worthwhile to quote Elizabeth Teall's account of Gouberville's activities at some length precisely because Gilles was himself a lawyer, and very much at home in provincial legal circles. This is the side of him that Huppert emphasizes: "The courtroom in Valognes is the center of Gouberville's world. His best friends are lawyers, judges, procureurs, greffiers . On a typical day he rides off to Valognes early in the morning, spends the morning in court, and has lunch with the avocat du roy , the procureur du roy and other officiers. " This is only the first part of a busy three days of mixed business and socializing that involve Gouberville in "an invisible network of alliances," which runs "from the country estates to the various royal bureaux , from the clubby, small-town élection of Valognes to the grandeur of the Rouen Parlement."[63]

The Paris robin who has acquired an estate in the country can plug into the legal and financial aspects of this network, and he may contract some alliances with neighboring seigneurs, who may or may not be robins also. He will certainly exercise functions that are necessary to his gentry status, but country living itself is chiefly a symbol of that status. As Huppert says in the preceding chapter, "To show his open contempt for commerce the man who would live nobly . . . makes much of la vie des champs."[64]

In Pasquier's correspondence we find both romanticizing of country life (still a common feature of Parisian mentalité in the late twentieth century) and a realistic recognition of where his heart, and his treasure, really lie. He admits that he quickly becomes bored and restless in the country:

when I first arrive here, the fields arouse my spirits, but two or three days later I am back to normal. Trees don't talk. Therefore I find myself taking refuge in my books. . . . [He tells another friend that the pleasures of the country should be no more than a "parenthesis," and as for hunting, he claims to do] more in a quarter of an hour in my study than you in whole days out in the fields. [Moreover, the friendships and human exchanges] we acquire [in the city] daily . . . cannot be found in the country.[65]


Perhaps these two "voices" of Pasquier are expressions of the ambivalent, love-hate attitude of many parlementaires toward the nobility and the pros and cons of living nobly. For Pierre de L'Estoile, however, the quintessential Parisian, there are no such conflicts. He left the city only once—to attend to necessary business at his estate of Gland—in the thirty-six years of the Mémoires-Journaux . On Monday, September 18, 1606, having decided to spend some time and taking all the family, he chose some books "to pass the time there." The list is headed by the Bible, "the book of books, which should always march first," followed by the Beneficio Christi , several books of prayers, Du Plessis-Mornay's Discourse on Life and Death , and Savonarola's Meditations . For secular reading, he chose "un petit Horace," Du Bartas's La Semaine , and Charles Étienne's Maison rustique , "appropriate for the country." He also took two of his own handwritten volumes, one "a mixture of good and bad," the other entitled "'Drolleries de la Ligue,' marked A, which is blank, to transcribe some curious things from a book I'm taking along."[66]

The entries in the Mémoires-Journaux between his departure for Gland (September 22) and his return (November 7) deal with books bought and sold, the weather, new polemics between the Venetians and the papacy, the harassment of Parisian Huguenots, and the processions of the new Catholic reform groups, especially the Capucins and Capucines, "who call themselves daughters of the Passion and wear crowns of thorns; their rule is called the most stringent of all, which means the most exalted in the folly and emotional excess." All these events were taking place in the capital. The majority of the entries deal with deaths in Paris, including that of René de Beaune, archbishop of Sens, whom L'Estoile defends from the charge of heresy (because he allegedly questioned the doctrine of purgatory—but probably even more because he had rallied to Henri IV while the League still held the loyalty of a large part of the clergy in the 1590s). There is no glowing account of the tranquillity of spirit in the country, even as a "parenthesis," such as figures in Pasquier's letter to Loisel of October t, 1605, "I live with a spirit in repose, not burdened with business, controlled by nobody but myself, seeing no discontent in the faces of my companions, far from all the news, good or bad, that usually tyrannizes over our minds."[67]

The comfortable life-style of the upper-crust robin is revealed in the


inventory of Claude Fauchet's estate. Aside from stores of wine, food, wood, and all essential supplies there were paintings and tapestries, books, finely crafted furniture, a room designated as the master's study, another as the children's room, a gallery overlooking the courtyard equipped for outdoor dining. In the numerous chests were an abundance of linen, silver, and jewelry.[68]


Despite luxury and material evidence of success, it is noteworthy that the guardians of the parlementaire self-image like Loisel, La Roche-Flavin and Blanchard mention wealth and valuable possessions only to deprecate them. Loisel's listing of models, Blanchard's epitaphs, and La Roche-Flavin's prescriptions all speak of "prudence," "modesty," "austerity," "simplicity," while the attitude most emphasized and always praised is "subordination of private interest to public duty." Self-discipline, plain living, and attention to duty allow little time for recreation, which—in these exaggerated, eulogistic accounts—consists of elevated thought and conversation, or reading of the classics.

One aspect of robin pride was a strong belief in heredity. Loyalty to one's family emphasized loyalty to its values, and the heritage of parlementaires assigned a high place to the traditions of the court. Hence the ritualistic, even stereotypical character of parlementaire appraisals of one another in numerous anecdotes, and especially epitaphs, recurs in identical terms applied to different individuals throughout the generations. Mical Schneider's study of writers on the magistracy who were légistes discloses the same self-image, except that its formulation was inevitably more schematized. Légistes thought in terms of codes and rules classified in "chapters"; their works are treatises, or collections of arrêts , or codifications of pratique , with all the human elements left out. La Roche-Flavin's popularity (by comparison with other compilers of manuals) probably derives in no small part from his examples of real judges acting in real situations, putting flesh on the skeleton of the judicial ideal.

Most of the important légistes held nominal offices in the parlements , as a sign of honorary recognition by the crown, even though they may never have practiced. They were in a position to straddle two worlds, that of legal, philosophical abstraction on the one hand and of the Palais de Justice on the other. More at home in the study, they nevertheless under-


stood the salle des pas perdus , with its wrangling factions and ambitious families on every rung of the judicial ladder, those at the bottom struggling to rise and those at the top sparing nothing to maintain or enhance their position acquise . Between them, the légistes and the praticiens created a "national judiciary" for France, in Schneider's words. Articulation of their ideals and descriptions of their models were important elements in this achievement, to which both the légistes and the practitioners made a contribution.[69]

The unique double function of the praticiens , especially in the Parlement of Paris, emerges in Michel Reulos's analysis: "ils font la loi et sont même comme [les senateurs romains] la loi vivante. . . . La coutume comporte des lacunes, il faut les combler au moyen d'autres textes coutumiers, d'arrêts de la Cour dont on essaiera de dégager l'ésprit." This constitutes une véritable activité législative , complementing the work of the theorists. The synthesis of Guy Coquille, L'Institution du droit français , published in 1607, enriched by Loisel's appendix to the first edition, constitutes the crowning achievement of the sixteenth-century praticiens . The historian cannot help but regret the omission of "opinions" to explain the sentences, which makes it necessary to resort to extralegal sources such as diaries, letters, speeches, and manuals.[70] It is striking that the ideal presented even by the légistes is that of the judge on the bench. The perfect magistrate is not a closeted scholar but an active "citizen of the republic," like a Roman senator, as well as a loyal subject of his king. The persistent measurement of successive generations against the same unchanging ideal resulted in the glorification of civic virtue and the condemnation of all forms of egotism and self-serving action—tirelessly buffing the positive and excoriating the negative side of the parlementaire self-image.[71]

The views of others turned more to the negative and tended, unfairly, to exaggerate both the ideal and the lapses, as if every statement of the former were hypocritical and every dereliction a betrayal. The traditional (medieval) view showed lawyers as self-serving, "tricky," untrustworthy, avaricious in exploiting the difficulties of others, and given to a jargon that complicates those difficulties (it survives to the present day). Fifteenth-century satire emphasized the gap between haute and basse justice , making the former its special target and sympathizing with the "justifiable complaints of the little man against les grands. " Lawyers were often not needed


in basse justice , where small claims predominated and the judge was likely the local seigneur, known and trusted, noted in the case of Gouberville. As the most prestigious parlementaires acquired estates, lawyers came to be seen as parasites who oppressed the countryside, reflecting the fact that the villagers had a much greater exposure to Parisian lawyers than in earlier periods.

Some major French writers contributed to the negative reputation of the legal profession. Clément Marot's "Blason du bonnet carré" compares the world of the Châtelet to Hell,

Là sans argent povreté n'a raison,
Là, se destruit mainte bonne maison.

Étienne Dolet carries on the theme in "Le second enfer." Rabelais's Bridoye, perhaps the masterpiece of the genre, "caricatured judge," uses jargon that mixes pseudolegal learned Latin with vernacular nonsense. But the quintessential bourgeois is surely Panurge, according to an authority on anti-bourgeois satire: "sans Pantagruel, abandonné à lui-même, Panurge eût été légiste, avocat, ou greffier." "Prefiguring the bourgeois gentilhomme, [Panurge] is the link between the middle ages and the classical age . . . while simultaneously retaining his own individuality . . . in his own century." In his study from which these citations are drawn, J. V. Alter notes that lawyers were the only established professionals to be more frequently and more sharply satirized in the sixteenth century than earlier. Significantly, they shared this attention with the financiers, whose visibility was newer and even more conspicuous.[72]

In contrast with earlier works, Renaissance satire attacked the moral lapses of individuals, rather than the legal profession—except venality, an automatic target that made even some of its beneficiaries uncomfortable. The numerical increase of lawyers did not escape attention either. Both the number of chambers in Parlement and the numbers of présidents and conseillers doubled in the course of the century and that of maître des requêtes rose from eight to two hundred. The chronic void of the royal treasury was, of course, the main reason.[73]

Among the personal vices featured in sixteenth-century satire of lawyers, the most frequently mentioned is orgeuil , that is, usurpation of pow-


ers, rights, that one has no claim to, violating the natural order of things, displaying what the Greeks called hubris and considered the supreme sin. "Presumption" is probably the most accurate English rendering (used by the translators of Montaigne). Orgeuilleux is a word the parlementaires themselves often used disapprovingly for those who were overambitious, guilty of excess, and especially those who produced transparently false genealogies, making themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the populace as well as those of the old nobility. A sinister variation of orgeuil was the exploitation of the king's financial dependence on his wealthy creditors, whose privileges eroded his power, abusant de la confiance de la couronne , virtually tantamount to treason in extreme cases.[74]

Avarice was hardly a new vice to be attributed to lawyers, but in the sixteenth century there was a strong emphasis on the fact that avarice spawned dishonesty. Justice for the poor, as noted, was believed to be very different from justice for the rich. In Henri Baude's "Testament de la Merle Barbeau," which ridicules the Parlement from the clerk to the premier président, the climactic prediction in a satirical almanac is, "the Parlement will render honest justice this year, contrary to usual custom." Lawyers are perceived as avoiding honest, respected labor. They are unproductive and live off the substance of others. All they can do is talk, most of the time about nothing, and what they say causes confusion, trouble—and expense—for others. Indeed, only another lawyer can understand what one of them says. Fictional devils in Renaissance literature use legal jargon and are often described as wearing the robe longue .[75]

The accusation of idleness is ironic in view of the parlementaire obsession with work and their cherished ideal of public service. A chasm was opening up between the proliferating professionals, amongst whom lawyers were most numerous, and the rest of the working community. Heredity rather than skill came to be emphasized and the notion of a "fourth estate" began.[76]

A new vice attributed to lawyers in our period directly reflects the increased numbers of parlementaires-seigneurs , especially visible in the Paris region. This was lâcheté , lack of proper zeal in bearing arms. The attitude of André Guillart, repudiating the use of force during his embassy to the papacy, mentioned by Jouanna, is a good example of parlementaire mentalité in this respect, as is the accomplishment of Jean Jouvenal des Ursins in which Loisel exulted—"all by himself in one week, he achieved more


than ten thousand men of war."[77] So far from being signs of laziness or cowardice, in parlementaire eyes these were instances of the robin virtues, reason and love of peace. It is understandable, however, that others would interpret aversion to the chief noble occupations on the part of those who pursued noble status so assiduously, as cowardice, or, at least, as hypocrisy. A genuine difference in values existed here.

Parlementaires thought mock war as recreation a stupid waste of time; they scorned violence as an irrational method of settling disputes and feared it as a threat to social stability. But they did not equate either war-games or criminal violence with serious war, that is, French military action, commanded by the king, against a foreign enemy. Wars against the enemies of France were good—a nationalistic twist to the old notion of the "just war"; French victories were glorious and well deserved; French defeats stimulated patriotic support, with erstwhile domestic adversaries closing ranks for the duration. The rally of the parlementaires to Louise de Savoie in 1525, when François I was a prisoner in Madrid, is a striking instance; the guerrilla warfare against her stemming from the Concordat was simply suspended.

Philosophers discussed war in the abstract, and Christian humanists like Erasmus and More had denounced it as contrary to Christ's teachings, but to everyone else wars were specific, particular: the Hundred Years War, the War of Parma. Parlementaires, who believed that France was God's chosen land and that their court was the successor to the Roman senate, were the chief formulators of nationalist propaganda in the successive crises of the century. They could see no necessary connection between violence in other contexts and war in defense of France. Nor was this view restricted to the robe. J. R. Hale draws our attention to the fact that linkage of the ordinary forms of violence with war was new. "Person to person . . . person to property . . . and group violence were all too familiar. . . . What was new was a growing tendency to link them all to war and to see war as infecting society with them. . . . The sixteenth century learned to associate personal aggressiveness with war partly through the image of the mercenary, a sexual swashbuckler, killing for cash and indifferent to the justice of any cause." This in turn gave rise to "the fear that [the soldier] would become habituated to violence." Future generations would see war, rebellion, and criminality as variations of violence, but our parlementaires did not.[78]

Medieval satire had included lack of piety as a general bourgeois vice,


but it was not featured in sixteenth-century attacks on the legal profession. Alter suggests that a lukewarm, conventional approach to religion, derived from humanism, had come to be accepted in the educated classes, and we have noted the distaste of mainstream parlementaires for any display of religious zeal.[79]

In the era of the League, however, indifference became a subject of reproach, and even hostility. L'Estoile records examples of public humiliation of leading members of the court and their wives by their parish priests—from the pulpit—based on their reputation for lukewarm religious sentiment, assumed from the austere and undemonstrative nature of their faith. When extremes prevail, both sides condemn the middle way.


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