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The Mainstream Parlementaires
Who They Were and How They Got There

The Historical Takeoff

Although the history of the Parlement of Paris as an institution goes back to the fourteenth century, the parlementaire mentalité with which we are concerned originated in a particular set of historical circumstances in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In chronological sequence, the first of these was the revival of royal power and national unity in the 1460s after the long disintegration of the Hundred Years War. The task was complicated by the struggle between two noble factions, led by the houses of Orléans and Burgundy. Paris having been dominated for some time by the Burgundian rebels, Louis XI was obliged to regain the allegiance of magistrates, among others, of that party, as well as to reward the faithful. In a series of skillful negotiations, he reconstituted the court and staffed it with able men. Office in the court offered considerably more scope for their ambition than had been the case in the medieval parlements. Notably an ordonnance (ordinance, or general law) of 1467 declared that royal officers could not be deprived of their offices without due process, and the old election procedures of 1446—by which three names were presented to the king to choose from—were reinstated.[1] These concessions to the Parlement


of Paris were later extended to those of Toulouse and Bordeaux as well. From this time on, in their dealings with the crown, the magistrates showed a degree of boldness and independence unheard of in earlier generations; we shall see them challenging every king from François I to Henri IV.

Already at the start of the reign of Charles VIII, in 1483, the members of Parlement asserted their right to determine its composition by presenting to the new king a roll, not of the court as constituted at the death of Louis XI, but as they wished it to be constituted; for instance, the sitting premier président was placed at the bottom of the list. Kings continued to violate the procedures in order to place men they favored for some reason (usually financial advantage to the crown), yet the court also continually strengthened its autonomy, especially through the exercise of the resignatio in favorem . While prominent families like the Briçonnet obtained their foothold through royal favor, as many as thirty-five out of sixty magistrates (in the middle years of the reign of Charles VIII) were admitted by resignation, that is, by co-option.[2] Moreover, the privilege was extended so that relatives of colleagues and members of the Paris bar could be favored when no immediate family member was available.[3] One result of this latter concession was the growing predominance of Paris lawyers in the Parlement at the end of the fifteenth century. Of the forty-nine conseillers listed in the reign of Charles VIII whose backgrounds are known, thirty-seven were previously practitioners of law in the capital and two others were professors of law there.[4] This influx of Parisians marked parlementaire mentalité in a number of ways, of which the most important was the overlap of membership in the Parlement with that in the city councils of the Hôtel de Ville, and the consequent harmony of the values of the two groups.[5]

Louis XII, who would emerge in the later sixteenth century as the parlementaire model of the good king—though not for this reason—felt that this trend toward monopoly must be checked. An ordinance of 1499 decreed that only one-third of the members of Parlement could be Parisians and that no father and son or pair of brothers could hold office at the same time.


This was never enforced, however, and "private venality" continued apace; the Hennequin and Le Coq dynasties were among those that originated in this way. But the king, the queen (Anne de Bretagne), and Louis's chief advisers, Georges, cardinal d'Amboise and Florimond Robertet, secrétaire de finances , also frequently intervened in appointments to the high court, a precedent for patron-client relationships between les grands and members of Parlement that would be fateful when the royal court and the kingdom fell prey to two rival noble factions in 1559.[6]

Of all the new tendencies, by far the most revolutionary was the practice of venality by the crown itself. In the financial squeeze that followed the loss of Milan in 1512, Louis XII sought a remedy in the creation of a number of judicial offices. Families of later prominence, such as the Tronson, the Hurault, and the Le Viste, were among the beneficiaries, as were members of the former Senate of Milan, like Jean de Selve (later premier président, 1519-29). As Denis Richet points out, the crown had been drawing on the prosperous bourgeoisie for aid ever since the "king of Bourges" began to reconquer his kingdom, in the middle third of the fifteenth century, with the result that they had obtained a dominant role in the reborn state et se firent grassement payer ce rôle .[7]

Compared to the explosion of offices and the regularization of venality in the reign of François I, however, all prior developments fade into insignificance and are seen as mere foreshadowings. The king ignored all the election procedures and established "royalized" venality once and for all, as a means of attracting needed cash quickly. The power of Robertet became ever greater; even Louise de Savoie and Marguerite d'Angoulême, the king's mother and sister, resorted to his intervention, as in the case of the nephew of Jean de Selve for whom the premier président sought an office.[8] Simultaneously, the chancellor, Antoine Duprat, was exploiting the situation to build a "party" or faction, loyal to himself in Parlement, by bringing forward suitable candidates, that is, men with money, ability, and ambition. By this ladder many of his fellow Auvergnats climbed up to the Parlement,


including Pierre Lizet, who would have an important impact on the court and the kingdom, as avocat du roi , président, and finally, premier président, 1529-49, when he became the leader of the ultra-Catholic faction opposed to the crown's more moderate religious policy.[9]

Parlement did not easily cave in to demands by the crown or les grands . The court repeatedly delayed action on François I's plan in 1521 to create a new Chambre des Enquêtes, the lowest of the chambers, with twenty members. Louise de Savoie, attempting without success to act as intermediary, let it be known that she might persuade the king to drop the plan if the members of the court would come forward with 120,000 livres tournois , but the court rejected both alternatives.[10] After a prolonged standoff, twenty new offices were created by an edict of January 1522. Those "provided" in violation of the rules included some to individuals who will figure in our study. The inflation of Parlement in return for "loans" was only one instrument of royal policy to raise money by any means. The creation of rentes on the Hôtel de Ville and François's attack on the financial oligarchy, culminating in the trial of Jacques de Beaune, sieur de Semblançay, were other means to the same end.[11] In order to appease the magistrates' fury, the king promised in 1524 that he would create no more new judicial offices, and in order to flatter the magistrates' sense of importance, he "requested" the court to depute three or four of its members to investigate the professional and personal qualifications (suffisance ) of all candidates.[12]

In these years (1520s), Parlement regularly resorted to the negative tactics of protest and delay, biding its time until circumstances should enable it to seize the initiative. The opportunity came in 1525, when François I was defeated by Charles V, taken captive, and held prisoner in Madrid for months, while his mother ruled France as regent. Details of her confrontation with the court will be included in our discussion of the Concordat of Bologna, the original bone of contention.

As tension between the crown and the court increased, the magistrates' self-confidence and professional esprit de corps also increased, and an elite nucleus emerged in the court, creating an inner hierarchy. This loosely defined group included most of the présidents, a few conseillers, and some representatives of the gens du roi , held together by family ties and mutual


interests, personal, professional, and intellectual. Most of its leading members recorded their ideas on major issues, sometimes orally, sometimes in writing, and as their views generally carried the day, I call them "spokesmen of the mainstream." There were, of course, exceptions who did not follow their lead, notably those who, on the one hand, were attracted to new and unorthodox religious doctrines, or who, on the other, joined the ultra-Catholic or Counter-Reformation faction.[13] In addition to family and professional ties, the elite had in common an avid interest in acquiring property, both real and movable, and active participation in municipal affairs.

In the strongly hierarchical society of sixteenth-century France, no sector was more status-conscious or elite-dominated than the milieux of the sovereign courts, and especially the Parlement of Paris, which crowned the pyramid. In general, the lesser courts aped the Parlement and the lower echelons of the legal profession aped the présidents—while simultaneously indulging in frequent and severe criticism of their superiors on some issues. The small number of defectors (on record) is striking, although there must have been more than the record reveals. Self-interest and prudence probably explain the consensus of mainstream mentalité now to be analyzed. This chapter presents a biographical and socioprofessional profile of selected spokesmen. The next two will outline and summarize their political-historical values (chapter 2) and their cultural and personal values (chapter 3).

Spokesmen of the Mainstream

Representative parlementaires of every "generation" in our period expressed the ongoing mainstream values—in their correspondence, in the course of their official activities and sometimes in formal speeches and in writings that ranged from literary through philosophical to polemical. A "generation" I define as a group of parlementaires who served on the court together—regardless of age—in a chronological period of particular pressure as regards the Parlement's reaction to and handling of religious policy. The chronology and methodology are explained in detail in chapter 5 (part 2), and the distinctive characteristics of each time-segment are analyzed in chapters 6-10, rather than in the present section (part 1) devoted to the


similarity and continuity of views on basic matters such as French institutions and history held throughout the century. According to this schema the generations are, first, the early generation , in office from the mid-1520s to the mid-1530s, which faced the initial challenge of the reform movement; second, the transitional generation , in office from the early 1540s to the mid-1550s, when the crown and Parlement agreed on a repressive policy but disagreed on its content and implementation; then the crisis generation , from the mid-1550s to the early 1580s, when divisions in the court crystallized into factions aligned with forces outside the Palais de Justice—notably the rival noble factions—in open civil war (the Huguenot party and the ultra-Catholic, Guise party); and finally (part 3), the later generations of the League and post-League periods (1584-1605) starting with the death of François, duc d'Alençon, the youngest son of Henri II, leaving Henri de Navarre, head of the Huguenot party, as heir presumptive after Henri III, who had no sons.

Two spokesmen of our earliest generation, Thibault Baillet and Charles Guillart, were already established as leaders in the Parlement in the early 1520s, and they were cited as models both by their contemporaries and by succeeding generations. A third, Claude de Seyssel, was never an active practitioner and he died in 1519, but his formulation, in La Monarchie de France , of Parlement's views on such matters as crown, Parlement, and constitutional tradition is generally regarded as the classic statement of prevailing thought in the higher reaches of the judiciary in the sixteenth century, especially the first half. All three were actively involved in the controversy over the Concordat—the point of departure for parlementaire thought on religious matters in the period. Their views embody the traditional consensus that would be challenged by the innovating forces of the 1520s: increased royal control, venality and the proliferation of offices in the professional sphere, and the growth of reform sentiment in the religious sphere. In other respects also these men exemplify dominant and persistent characteristics of the parlementaire mainstream in their backgrounds, in their assets to be exploited, in their careers, and in the interests and activities that brought them distinction beyond the narrowly professional sphere.

Thibault Baillet's acknowledged position was based on his probity in office and on his many years of outstanding service. When he died in 1525 at the age of eighty, he had been président for forty-three years and was called le bon président . He was a native Parisian and honored for many activities that benefited the city, such as presiding over a commission responsible for the first codification of Parisian customary law in 1508. His grandfather and father had preceded him in the office of maître de l'hôtel


du roi ; François Blanchard describes the family as one of the best connected in the court. Christopher Stocker shows that it was well established by the end of the fourteenth century, having risen through the royal financial administration under Philip VI and having acquired the seigneurie of Sceaux in the reign of Louis XI. The Baillet were allied by marriage to other leading families such as the Le Viste and the Du Drac. Thibault's first wife was Jeanne Le Viste; by his second, Jeanne de Ganay, he had a son, René, later président, and a daughter whose husband became premier président of the Chambre des Comptes, just below the Parlement itself in the hierarchy of the sovereign courts.

Baillet was entrusted with two diplomatic missions by the crown, to England and to Savoy, but these were not his main contributions. In contrast to many colleagues, Seyssel or de Selve, for instance, Baillet's distinction stemmed from his role in crucial cases like that of the maréchal de Gié (Pierre de Rohan), accused of malfeasance, and from his discharge of special assignments such as supervising the boycott against the papacy in 1523. In these cases he was the spokesman of the crown. François I is said by Blanchard to have respected him so much that "he was inspired to stand in Baillet's presence." On other occasions, however, including the crisis over the Concordat, Baillet was chosen by the Parlement to voice opposition to the king. In the touchy circumstances of the defection of the constable de Bourbon, he was charged with the task of assuring François of the court's loyalty to the crown.[14]

Typical in his background and general attitude, Baillet was outstanding in the minds of his contemporaries and immediate successors for his steadfast defense of tradition and fearless opposition to innovations that violated the rules, such as appointment of laymen to clerical seats in the court. A lawyer of the midcentury would say that of all the judges of his time he most deserved to be held in highest esteem. The inscription on his tomb, in his native parish of St-Merry, reads "homme sur tous justiciers du royaume . . . prisé et estimé lequel de son temps a pu etre nomé le plus honoré . . . de Paris . . . à l'interement duquel se trouverent tousles plus notables."


Blanchard's epitaph concludes, "suffisance de sagesse et integrité de vie . . . le bon président."[15]

Charles Guillart , another spokesman of the early generation, was also much admired, earning the description bon citoyen from Blanchard. While Baillet was a lay officer, Guillart was conseiller clerc , as early as 1482 (but the seat was laicized in 1496) and became président in 1508. From then until his resignation in 1534—as a protest against venality—he played a prominent role in national and municipal affairs, including the Concordat and the negotiations between the Parlement and the regent, Louise de Savoie, when François I was a prisoner in Madrid, 1525. He was a leader in Parlement's resistance to royal attempts to reduce its power, voicing some of the court's counterclaims, as it tried to take advantage of the regency to increase its own power. Guillart held office in the Bureau of the Hôtel de Ville, also, from 1534 on, and was succeeded as conseiller de ville by his son, André.[16]

The Guillarts had originated in Poitou. Charles's grandfather served the comte du Maine, moved to Paris in the 1480s, and laid the foundation of the family estates. The secretarial route by which they rose, carrying out special royal missions, is considered by Stocker to be the most advantageous of all the ladders. Charles was never ordained and was married twice: both wives came from prominent robe families (Tulleu and Luillier). Among his special royal assignments were the discipline of rioting students and the publication of the Concordat (to which, however, he was opposed); his standing with his colleagues is shown by the fact that he was chosen by the court to represent its opinions in the 1526 phase of the case of Louis de Berquin. Guillart's name appears frequently in the sources as a participant in processions, at entries of foreign dignitaries, and on other ceremonial occasions. He was one of the most visible members of the court, highly respected beyond the walls of the Palais and even abroad. So high was his standing that he was appointed to serve on the delegation attempting to negotiate the election of François I as Holy Roman Emperor, in 1519. All the other members were nobles and high administrative officials. Guillart's speeches on constitutional matters and high policy demonstrate what Blanchard calls his connaissance des choses du monde .

Claude de Seyssel also exemplifies most of the mainstream characteristics, even though his was not a robe family. On the contrary, he was an


illegitimate offspring of the ducal family of Savoy. The assets of this position easily outweighed any liabilities because he had immediate access to the highest level of patronage without having to work up to it, as was the usual case of robins . While in the service of the duke, he attracted the attention of Georges, cardinal d'Amboise, minister of Louis XII, and married one of the cardinal's nieces. Another advantage was a good education and access to the academic career that laid the foundation for his activity as a diplomat, first for the duke and then for the king of France.

Seyssel took degrees in law at the University of Turin and then at Pavia, where he succeeded his teacher as a member of the faculty and later became rector. He studied Greek with the great scholar John Lascaris, who began to translate the Anabasis for him in 1506. Seyssel subsequently continued the Xenophon himself and undertook also to translate Thucydides and the Greek fathers of the church. Louis XII made him a member of his grand conseil in 1498; the following year, after the conquest of Milan, Seyssel became a member of the Senate and chief administrator of the city. His diplomatic missions for Louis XII took him to most of the Italian cities and to the court of Henry VII in England. Services to Savoy were not neglected; he carried out a difficult assignment for the duke in 1508 by negotiating successfully with the Swiss who were always fearful of falling again under the rule of Savoy. His most important diplomatic assignment was the negotiation with Pope Leo X that prepared the way for the Concordat of 1516, though Seyssel himself shared traditional Gallican views. His reputation as a pacifier, which earned him the respect of opposing factions, is based on his moderation and his diplomatic skills at that time.

Traditionally, half the members of Parlement were clerics, and Seyssel's career is typical of many Renaissance prelates. He was named bishop of Marseille in 1510 but never performed his functions there (at one point the cathedral chapter elected another bishop, believing that Seyssel had died). Yet in the last years of his life, as archbishop of Turin, he reformed many abuses in his diocese, wrote a manual for the guidance of priests, and made the church an active force in the community through the founding of welfare institutions. In these respects, and in the austerity of his life-style, he is an early example of the reforming bishops associated with the Catholic Reformation. He showed considerable independence in his religious views, combining a strong stand against heresy with approval of a vernacular Bible. This last reflects his humanist orientation, which he demonstrated by translating the Gospel of Luke. His friends and correspondents included men like Lefèvre d'Étaples, Johannes Reuchlin, and Guillaume Petit, so it is not


surprising that in Paris he spent more time in the Bibliothèque du Roi than at the Palais de Justice.[17]

The careers of these three parlementaires fall wholly in the period before l'affaire des placards (1534), which marks the definitive shift in the policy of François I toward the reformers, from ambivalent indulgence to consistent repression. By the 1540s, when the repressive policy was systematized, a majority of the 1520s parlementaires had passed from the scene. Pierre Lizet's succession to Jean de Selve as premier président (1529) signaled the coming change. While Lizet and his colleagues shared some basic parlementaire views, such as Gallicanism, their preoccupation with religious dissent caused them to deviate markedly from their predecessors.

Men of traditional background nevertheless continued to hold and express traditional opinions; the difference is that they were not currently also the dominant personalities on the court. This fact differentiates the court of the 1540s not only from the earlier period but also, significantly, from the Parlements of the second half-century. I have therefore called it the transitional generation. The traditionalists or moderates of this period are well represented by the sons of two of our earlier spokesmen, René Baillet and André Guillart, and by François Olivier. Some of the most prominent of the crisis generation, including Pierre (I) Séguier and Christophe de Thou, were already on the scene, but they did not assume the lead until after they achieved the office of président—in the mid-1550s.

René Baillet became a lay conseiller in 1538 and within three years he had been appointed both premier président of the Parlement of Brittany and a member of the itinerant Paris court (grands jours ) in Poitiers. In 1550 he became maître des requêtes , prior to his nomination as président in Parlement in 1554. For a few months he held both presidencies, but as this was a flagrant violation of the rules, he resigned the Breton post. Baillet figured prominently in the trials of Anne du Bourg (1559) and Louis, prince de Condé (1560), and his respected position brought him other special assignments, where he represented the elite of the court in sensitive situations, sometimes by choice of the crown. His role as Catherine de Médicis's emissary to the court, explaining her decision to remove the king from the capital (1562), is an example. His colleagues on this occasion were Christophe de Harlay, Pierre (I) Séguier, and Christophe de Thou, who had recently become the most prestigious members of the court. The Parlement, in turn, also charged him with special responsibilities. Blanchard places him


in the parlementaire Pantheon for the pureté de ses moeurs, probité, et prudence .[18]

André Guillart , son of Charles, followed in his father's footsteps not only in his career but in his concern to build up the family property and raise its status. Arlette Jouanna's valuable article shows how his changing titles underline each upward step in the social hierarchy. In 1540 he styled himself only noble homme but by 1544, noble et puissant seigneur ; the climax came a few years later, where he refers to membership in the Parlement, the conseil privé , and the Bureau de Ville.[19] In the meanwhile he was marrying his daughters to sons of the Du Drac and Baillet families. As a result of the matrimonial policy of Charles and André combined, by the end of the century the Guillart were allied to the Hacqueville, Briçonnet, and Le Viste dynasties as well, but they did not found one in their own name. Instead, in the later generations, they became important ecclesiastics and figured prominently in the politics of the wars of religion.

André was entrusted with a major diplomatic mission in 1546, when François I sent him to persuade Pope Paul III to repudiate overtures from the Emperor Charles V, and to ally the papacy with France instead. He was successful only in the first part of this task. His letters to the king from Rome provide valuable insights into his mentalité , which was consistently mainstream. As Jouanna remarks, his very lack of originality makes him interesting. He was extremely conscientious and thorough, examining carefully the sources of his information. He had exceptional powers of analysis. Above all he was farsighted and prudent, remarking often on the necessity to préparer les événements and pointing the moral in examples of those who had not done so.

Jouanna believes that André Guillart was familiar with the work of Machiavelli because of his emphasis on ulterior motives and frequent assertions that everybody dissimulates, of necessity. His analysis of the mind and policy of Paul III, by noting slips of the tongue and repetition of certain phrases, shows both intellectual sophistication and opportunism that are worthy of the Florentine. Certain episodes in his own career are interesting in this light. After his return from Rome he was alleged to be a protégé of the Guises and to owe to them his advancement to the Conseil Privé. In


1562, on the contrary, the Spanish ambassador reported that his house was a repère des Huguenots and that he was miraculously "converted" from having been a "favorite of the Admiral" to return to the Catholic Church. It seems at least possible that André's alleged shifting allegiances, first to the Guise and then to the Châtillon and back to the crown, may have been tactical postures, assumed to fit changing royal policy and to increase his value to Catherine, yet it is a fact that various members of his family were suspect or declared Huguenots during the later wars.

The assessment by Pierre de Bourdeille, sieur de Brantôme, is of particular interest for our purposes: he blames Guillart's failure in the Roman mission on the fact that he was a mere homme de plume , rather than quelque gallant ambassadeur d'épée . Jouanna's concluding remark sums it up: "incarnation de la prudence robine, contrastant avec l'héroïsme aventureux des nobles d'épée." If, as Montaigne was later to say, "rien de noble ne se fait sans hasard," Guillart might have replied, "rien de grand ne se fait sans ménage."[20]

François Olivier was the son of premier président Jacques Olivier (1517-19) and Madeleine Luillier, daughter of one of the great robe families of Paris. François's own training had been in the chanceries of members of the royal family rather than in the Parlement itself, but he was given a presidency in the court in 1543 and made chancellor of France in 1545. He was forced out three years later through the enmity of Diane de Poitiers but was revered and often consulted by Henri II in later years. François II recalled him to service in 1559, upon the death of his father. All historians of the Parlement pay tribute to his legal skill and experience and especially to his integrity, in contrast to the qualities of Jean Bertrand, Diane's "creature" who succeeded him. Blanchard says of Olivier, "luy ne pensait à autre chose qu'à ce qui concernait la dignité du royaume et l'utilité public." Blanchard claims that Olivier's death was hastened by his distress at the exploitation of the young king (François II) par certains grands , meaning the Guise faction. Olivier died within a few days of the Conspiracy of Amboise, a revolt against Guise domination. As he refused to knuckle under to either of the court factions (Diane's or Guise's), so did Olivier refuse to be pressured into either extreme position in the religious dispute, standing firm on the law and tradition in all matters. In the increasingly polarized atmosphere of the time this made him a target for attack by both sides. We


shall see him daring to challenge Pierre Lizet on the one hand and suffering accusations from the Huguenots on the other. His speech as chancellor, in the first séance royale of the reign of Henri II, was often quoted by later generations.[21] Édouard Maugis regards Olivier as one of the greatest representatives of parlementaire values at their best.[22]

Although the pressure of events was certainly no less in the late 1550s and 1560s—France was plunged into a civil war that would last more than thirty years—the leadership of the crisis generation had been recaptured by the traditionalists, under the direction of Christophe de Thou, premier président, during the two fateful decades, 1562-82, flanked by other outstanding mainstream representatives. The midcentury crisis was brought about by royal moves threatening to the institutional integrity of the Parlement and to some of its most central concerns, where politics became entangled with religion.

In 1548 Henri II established a special court for heresy cases, ominously nicknamed la chambre ardente , and staffed it with ultra-Catholics. For the traditionalist center group its existence was the source of contradictory feelings: although they were increasingly opposed to and fearful of heresy, they resented a special jurisdiction that violated their autonomy and diminished their traditional role as guardians of the church. The Chambre Ardente itself ceased to function after 1550, and the treatment of heresy in the Tournelle (a chamber that was charged with criminal cases) was conspicuously less severe than in the Grand' Chambre. Thus divergences of opinion among parlementaires, formerly mere tendances that surfaced occasionally, were brought into the open and hardened into factions and eventually into civil war.[23] Henri II leaned so far in the ultra direction that he proposed the establishment of "inquisitors of the faith" similar to those in Italy and Spain, to facilitate the repression of heresy and make it more efficient.

Parlement blocked the realization of this plan, which would have violated


not only the "liberties of the Gallican church" but also the crown's own judicial powers.[24] The situation was doubly ironic for the ardently royalist parlementaires: they were obliged to oppose the crown's religious policy in order to defend the crown's judicial integrity, and to oppose the most zealous defenders of their own faith (the ultras)—and expose themselves to accusations of favoring a faith they greatly feared—in order to defend the national religious tradition, that is, Gallicanism.[25]

The opposition of the moderates to the ultra advances of the 1550s was first and most explicitly expressed by Pierre (I) Séguier , président in the Tournelle. He led the Parlement's resistance to the violation of lay jurisdiction in 1555 and to the Inquisition in 1557. An episode during March 1559 precipitated open schism in the court: the decision of the Tournelle in the case of three heretics that converted a death sentence of the Grand' Chambre to mere banishment. The ensuing uproar demonstrated the need for a clarification of policy, in a special type of session (called a mercuriale because it always occurred on Wednesday) that dealt with Parlement's internal discipline. The purpose of the mercuriale of June 10, 1559, the most infamous in French history, was to eliminate the conflict between the chambers.[26]

The Séguier dynasty was among the most prolific and most prestigious in the ancien régime. The six sons of Pierre I were all magistrates, and by the 1780s there had been no less than sixty-eight Séguiers in ten generations in the Parlement, not to mention innumerable cousins and in-laws with other surnames.[27] Pierre I, the son of a minor officeholder, began to practice at the Paris bar when he was very young. By the time he was appointed to a presidency, in 1554, he had been pleading before the court for thirty years, during which time he held the influential office of avocat du roi, first in the Cour des Aides and then in the Parlement itself. He was repeatedly named to special commissions and became deeply involved in the affairs of some


of the powerful families at the top of the social hierarchy, including the house of Montmorency. Richet shows that the large fortunes of leading robe families were accumulated through such client relationships and were subsequently invested in offices, lands, tax farms, and rents . Richet estimates, for example, that between 1550 and 1580, Pierre I monopolized the collection of taxes in ten parishes of the Paris region, at a profit of 18 to 20 percent. The family estate was built up in small lots over time, by methods similar to those of a petit bourgeois. In Richet's opinion, this micro-conquête has not been sufficiently recognized by historians. Nor did Séguier's near-contemporaries emphasize it: Blanchard reports that he earned his high reputation by "singular virtues, testifying to his integrity, diligence, and piety." His colleagues at the bar regretted his departure in 1554 but were proud that the king had chosen to honor him with high office. The municipal government had already expressed special confidence in him by retaining Séguier to represent the interests of the city in Parlement as early as 1532, when he was only twenty-eight years old. In humanist circles outside the court, Séguier was thought to be the leader of the liberals, opposing both the ultra faction of the cardinal of Lorraine and the opportunist manipulators who were the protégés of Diane de Poitiers. Scévole de Sainte-Marthe pays tribute to his probity, his adherence to tradition and discipline, and his incorruptibility as a judge.[28]

In his early public stands against the ultras and the Inquisition, Séguier was seconded by Adrien (II) Du Drac , a well known and consistent member of the moderate-traditionalist group. The Du Drac had risen with the Burgundian party by the ladder of financial administration. Adrien I had become a conseiller in 1513. His son, Séguier's associate, Adrien II, was a secrétaire du roi in the chancellory and held a royal secretarial post before being named conseiller in the Parlement in 1535. Both were active in the Bureau de Ville, as were their in-laws. Du Drac was called upon by the crown, for instance, to serve on important commissions, including one responsible for maintaining law and order in the city, another to sit on the jury to judge the life-or-death fate of the prince de Condé, and, most pressing, to formulate (and criticize) the Edicts of Pacification punctuating the early civil wars.[29]

Christophe de Harlay was even more intimately associated with Séguier,


holding the other presidency in the Tournelle. He undertook to justify the moderate parlementaire attitude toward heresy in 1559 and served among the judges of the "suspect" members in the same year. He was a member of many parlementaire delegations to the crown and, like Séguier, was accused (by the ultras) of being in the pocket of Montmorency. The constable's loss of influence after the death of Henri II exposes accusations of this kind in the 1560s as propaganda tactics of the Guise faction. Harlay was admitted to the court as a lay conseiller following a special examination in 1531 and granted a presidency in 1556. Although Christophe was the first of the family to enter the robe, the Harlay were an old Parisian family and had held municipal offices for several generations. The dynasty he founded rose rapidly to the top of the pyramid. His son, Achille, in whose favor he resigned his presidency in 1572, married the daughter of Christophe de Thou and succeeded his father-in-law as premier président ten years later. He would preside over the court all through the later civil wars and the reign of Henri IV. Of Christophe de Harlay Blanchard says that he was "equitable dans ses jugemens, sage, prudent, ses discours pleins de douceur et de courtoisie." These qualities were ably displayed by his sharing the moderate views toward the Huguenots with Séguier throughout his career, and his eloquent defense of them to Catherine and the royal court at St-Germain, and to the pope in the examination of Paul de Foix's record at the 1559 mercuriale .[30]

The indisputable leader of the mainstream and of its elite core, and its most authoritative spokesman, was Christophe de Thou himself. Like many robe families from the bourgeoisie of the Orléanais, the de Thou were introduced to the milieu of Parlement through a relative by marriage, in this case, Jacques Viole. Augustin de Thou, Christophe's father, was a man of ability and became a président in 1544. His wife, Claude de Marie, belonged to prestigious robe families on both sides. Christophe's spectacular career began at the Paris bar when he was eighteen, as a protégé of Pierre Lizet, avocat du roi (shortly to become premier président), according to de Thou's biographer, though he produces no proof of the assertion. If true, it testifies impressively to Christophe's independence, since his views on key matters—like Roman law versus customary and religious policy—contrasted sharply with those of Lizet, as did his even-handed leadership of the


court contrast with Lizet's partisan stand with the ultra faction.[31] In the case of an infinitely more powerful patron, the cardinal de Lorraine, the obligation is acknowledged in de Thou's own words: "I can never adequately repay what I owe to your house," he wrote to the duc de Guise in the 1550s.[32] He probably did owe his nomination as président in 1554 to the cardinal, to whom he dedicated his first scholarly work, La Coutume du Vermandois . Other powerful patrons were members of the rival noble faction, even the constable himself, in whose service de Thou acquired his impressive fortune. In later years he would gain even more powerful patronage as chancellor of the dukes of Orléans and Alençon.[33]

Séguier and de Thou obtained their presidencies in the same year, 1554, and there was some rivalry between them at first, as was natural under the circumstances for the two rising stars of the court. In the crisis precipitated by the mercuriale of 1559, however, they closed ranks and stood together as supporters of the moderate, traditional position against the pressures of either extreme party.

Blanchard says that de Thou took over the premier présidence "à la prière de Catherine de Médicis." His moderation and steadiness made him an ideal chief for the court in the difficult years ahead, when he was fired on by both sides. Even though he could not support Catherine's policy of religious toleration, he was never intimidated, even during the early years of the League, a decade later. It was then that he earned his virtually unrivaled reputation as parlementaire model, but the same qualities were already evident in the 1560s. If he could resist pressure from the factions, he could also stand up to the crown, while working for an accommodation between Catherine and Parlement. In the encounters and disagreements between de Thou and Chancellor Michel de L'Hôpital the differences between the mainstream of magistrates and an original thinker can be measured, as can the contrasting attitudes of the Parlement and the crown.[34]


De Thou's capacity for work was legendary, and his intellectual attainments scarcely less so. His passion for history is evident in all his utterances and briefs. No run-of-the-mill humanist, he had assimilated Ciceronian thought and not merely the style; his deathbed statement of faith has been called "the charter of neo-Stoicism." These pursuits were important, but they were essentially amateur activities. De Thou's scholarly reputation stems from his unparalleled knowledge of the law. La Croix du Maine speaks of his extraordinary memory and comprehensive legal learning; while historians of law down to our own time pay tribute to his contributions. These relate chiefly to the "reform," that is, the study, codification, application, and promulgation of customary law, especially la coutume de Paris , as opposed to Roman law. Earlier in the century the authority of Roman law had been increasing; Lizet had used his term in the ranking office "to reduce everything to the written [Roman] law," but after de Thou took up the task of reform, the trend was in the other direction: elements of Roman law were retained only if they "accorded with reason" and did not contradict customary law. The premier président and his associates were capitalizing on a general reaction against Rome and all its works.[35] This was not merely a negative movement, however, nor was it isolated. Rather, it was one more expression of rising French national consciousness in the latter part of the sixteenth century, parallel to the glorification of the French language: Du Bellay's Deffense et Illustration de la langue françoise was published in 1549, the redaction of the coutume began in 1555. So dominant was the ressort of the Parlement of Paris, and so successful the labors of de Thou and his associates, that their synthesis, that is, the "reformed" custom of Paris, became the common law of France. A leading authority on French law, François Olivier-Martin, describes it as "the hyphen between Roman law and modern legislation."[36]

De Thou's commitment to Paris was more than professional. He served on the Bureau de Ville as early as 1537, and was repeatedly entrusted with major responsibilities such as the supervision of public works in time of peace and the defenses of the city when war threatened. His influence in


the city surpassed that of any other nonroyal personage, with the exception of the duc de Guise in 1588—and that was a partisan and fleeting phenomenon, as de Thou's popularity was not.[37] Henri III is supposed to have said of that dramatic period, that if de Thou had been alive, the Day of the Barricades would never have occurred. This statement is plausible (even though our source is de Thou's son, the royalist historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou) because it is quite in character for Henri III.

The premier président was the acknowledged leader of the Parlement as a whole, and not merely of the elite. Gossip, fed by the envy of the excluded and the malice of the disaffected, insinuated that many of those who appeared to follow him were merely hangers-on, flattering the premier présiclent from ulterior motives. We assume that this was so, but de Thou was a shrewd judge of men. In all his major undertakings he relied on two colleagues (who were also bound to him by marriage and friendship), Bartholomé Faye and Jacques (I) Viole .

These brothers-in-law (Faye's wife was Viole's sister) were closely associated with de Thou during the twenty-five years of the work on the coutume as well as in all the crucial negotiations concerning war, peace, and religion. They had become conseillers at about the same time, Faye in 1542 and Viole in 1543. Faye had a doctorate in law from the University of Padua and a reputation as an outstanding legal scholar. He was especially influential in exposing the confusions and encrustations attached to Roman law by the commentators and glossators of several centuries, which he compared to mountains of earth and base metals that were supposed to contain gold but were often found to contain nothing when miners had wasted their efforts removing them.

Faye was the most important witness in a hearing held in 1574, at the request of Paul de Foix, as candidate for the archbishopric of Toulouse, to clear his name of the suspicion of heresy that had led to his arrest in 1559.[38] Faye was rapporteur of the testimony given by surviving participants of the 1559 debate over religious policy that had precipitated the crisis between the crown and the court. The report is notable for its comprehensiveness, its objectivity, and the quality of its analysis—for instance, it distinguishes between Lutheran and Calvinist positions, which was very unusual, even among the highly educated.


Bartholomé Faye died in 1581, not long before the premier président. His son Jacques played a determining role as a leading spokesman of the royalist-Gallican-parlementaire cause in the crucial decade of the 1580s, as we shall see. Jacques (I) Viole , member of a family distinguished in the royal service and in the sovereign courts since the reign of Charles VI, in the fourteenth century, was a member of key commissions and delegations of the crisis generation, a close associate of de Thou, Séguier, and Christophe de Harlay, the core spokesmen of the mainstream in these years.[39]

The succeeding generations of de Thou continued to hold high office and to extend their network of alliances with other great robin families. Christophe's sons were members of the sovereign courts (although historian Jacques-Auguste preferred his study to the courtroom); a daughter married Achille de Harlay, as noted, and their descendants figured in the robe aristocracy, as did other grandchildren of Christophe, as long as there was a Parlement of Paris.[40]

With the exception of specialists in legal history, students of sixteenth-century France are probably more familiar with Étienne Pasquier and through him with the magisterial mentalité than with any other spokesman of the mainstream. This is because he wrote many lively letters that have been edited and published in our own time, and it is not inappropriate, because he was the central figure of the group of learned jurists—friends and colleagues—that Donald R. Kelley describes as a "scholarly Pléiade."[41]

Details of Pasquier's family background are lacking. We know that there was a property in Brie, where Étienne spent some time, especially after his retirement in 1604, and that he was comfortably provided with worldy goods. "My father, who put all his hopes in me, heaped up gold, goods, money, and estates," thus does George Huppert translate one of the rare personal references in Pasquier's works, noting two significant facts: the Pasquier were probably an old Parisian family, and Étienne never dropped the name to substitute that of a fief, in contrast to the common habit of immigrant families as they rose in robe circles. We cannot know whether this was a personal statement about "living nobly," but we shall see that it


is consistent with his low opinion of certain attitudes and activities of those who did so. At age twenty-eight, he married Françoise de Belon, who had been among his clients; they had five sons, only one of whom followed in his father's footsteps, a pattern that reflects a trend in the period at the end of the civil wars.[42]

Nobody could have had a better preparation for a career in which leadership in the legal profession and in intellectual circles were blended. Pasquier's early education at the Collège de Presles in Paris and then at the university, brought him under the influence of Adrien Turnèbe and Pierre Ramus, and in his late teens he studied law under François Baudouin in Bourges, Jacques Cujas in Toulouse, and Andrea Alciato in Padua, making him one of the best-equipped twenty-year-olds to become a member of the Paris bar.

As sometimes happens, this quintessential representative of magistrate mentalité never held regular office in the Parlement itself, although he served three times on the circuit courts (grands jours ) deployed to bring Parisian justice to the provinces, twice in Poitiers (1567 and 1579) and once in Troyes (1583). In spite of an illness that forced him to suspend professional activity in his late twenties, he had attained prominence both as a scholar and as a courtroom lawyer by his midthirties. The first volume of the Recherches de la France appeared in 1560; his first major case, in which he represented the University of Paris against the Jesuits, took place in 1564. The verdict is usually described as a draw, because while the society retained the teaching privileges granted by Henri II in 1552, it did not obtain the incorporation into the university that it sought. This remained a burning question, entangled with the crucial issues of the later civil wars, and every major figure on the national scene was obliged to take a position on it. The case also struck the keynote of Pasquier's career—as a passionate Gallican, constitutionalist, and defender of tradition against nouveautés of all sorts.

For nearly forty years Pasquier successfully pursued his several related lines of activity. He was regarded as one of the great praticiens of the capital, a reputation he shared with his lifelong friend Antoine Loisel. His patrons included both Montmorency and the Guises. Twenty years of distinguished activity, including the grands jours , were rewarded by Henri III in 1585 by Pasquier's appointment as avocat général in the Chambre des Comptes. Throughout all these years he was also reading, studying, publishing, and becoming an important historian of medieval France.


Conversations and letters exchanged with fellow jurists, scholars, men of letters, and statesmen, which kept pace with his professional activity, made Pasquier an undisputed leader and model for contemporaries and contributed to posterity a rich source of insight into his milieu and its linkages to others. Praticien , bibliophile, scholar, historian, sparker of intellectual exchange, Étienne Pasquier was also an active "citizen of the republic," an ardent royalist and an early and consistent politique . He left the capital with Henri III when the Day of the Barricades forced the last Valois king to flee (and paid the price of his loyalty through ligueur reprisals on his family and damage to his property in his absence) and returned with the victorious Henri IV in 1594. Beginning in 1570, almost every major event in the turmoil of the later wars evoked a remonstrance , or advis , or speeches from Pasquier (sometimes anonymous) to add to the flood of polemical literature. In these the salient characteristics of his mentalité are revealed.[43]

Other members of the "scholarly Pléiade" were Claude Fauchet, Antoine Loisel, Pierre Pithou, and Louis Le Caron (Charondas). Claude Fauchet started with assets valuable for a career in the Paris robe, a grandmother who belonged to the de Thou family and a rich, successful father, Nicole, procureur général (public prosecutor) at the Châtelet, who enjoyed walks with his son through le vieux Paris , in the midst of which, on the Place Maubert, were located his considerable properties—three groups of substantial residences. Claude benefited from an apprenticeship in diplomacy when he traveled extensively in Italy and the Near East as an aid to Françrot, whose unorthodox associations, including some close relatives who were open Calvinists, broadened Fauchet's horizons. He acquired the office of conseiller at the Châtelet at the age of twenty-seven; it was thirteen years before he became second président of the Chambre des Monnaies and eleven more before he reached the summit—premier président. Problems concerning the supply and value of money were endemic in ancien-régime France because of the lack of uniformity among the regions. Civil war and the erratic policies of the crown in the late sixteenth century made the situation acute. Fauchet was the chief royal troubleshooter in these matters, in which he was not always successful, despite a talent for them.

Fauchet's heart lay with literature, however. He contributed to a volume of verse honoring Michel de L'Hôpital in 1564 and regularly frequented the library of Henri de Mesmes, the rendezvous of learned jurists; he exchanged letters and scholarly references with érudits like J.-C. Scaliger


and Bernard Du Haillan as well as his colleagues on the sovereign courts. With these he often collaborated, for instance in the field of etymology—a subject of special interest to robin historians whose methods were adapted from philology.[44]

As Kelley points out, the parallels of their research make comparisons with Pasquier inevitable. Pasquier's was the more original mind and the livelier style, but their values were the same, with Gallican liberties at the core. In the crisis of 1585, precipitated by the Bull of Sixtus V barring Henri de Navarre from the throne, Fauchet took a prominent part in a conference of Gallican leaders at Chartres. His Traité des Privileges et Libertez de l'Eglise gallicane denies the pope any authority in France, because "he is not our bishop."[45] Janet Espiner-Scott, who has made a thorough study of Fauchet's life and works, calls his career typical of the scholar-magistrate of the sixteenth century. Certainly he lacked the individuality of mind and style found in both Pasquier and Loisel. Fauchet's wealth was not typical, however, according to an inventory of his impressive Hôtel d'Assy, now part of the Archives Nationales. In addition to abundant supplies of necessities like wine and wood were luxury furniture and objects such as tapestries, paintings, books, silver, and jewelry.[46]

Antoine Loisel was a native of Beauvais and maintained an active interest in both the past history and the current condition of the city all his life. Like others of the group, he had attended the Collège de Presles in Paris prior to five years of training in the law under Cujas, starting in Toulouse and ending in Valence. Among the important bonds uniting this nucleus of scholarly jurists was their common experience of the influence of Turnèbe and even more significantly of Ramus, in their early years. Loisel must have been especially close to the philosopher, who named him—along with another former student and Parisian lawyer, Nicolas Bergeron—as an executor of his estate. Loisel also enjoyed the favor of the Du Faur family of Toulouse and the sponsorship of Baptiste Du Mesnil, the influential avocat du roi whose niece, Marie Goulas, Loisel married in 1563.

Loisel was a practicing lawyer in Parlement for nearly twenty years (1560-79). In the 1570s he simultaneously served on the legal staff of François duc d'Alençon, in company with Simon Marion and Guillaume Du Vair, Alençon's chancellor. In 1579 he was assigned to the grands jours


in Poitiers along with Pasquier. They had a very agreeable sojourn there, collaborating on a mock epic, La Puce , and enjoying the pleasures, social and intellectual, of the salon of the dames des Roches, a lively and learned mother and daughter who made Poitiers a provincial center of humanistic activity.[47]

Loisel was not a member of the committee that undertook the reform of the Paris coutume under the leadership of de Thou, but he was involved in the process as lawyer for some of those affected, including Catherine de Médicis, as dame of certain fiefs. In 1582 he was appointed to a special Chambre de Justice in Guyenne, charged with "settling problems resulting from the troubles," that is, those caused by divisions in religion, very marked in the region. The Edict of Toleration of 1577 (Poitiers) was controversial both in substance and procedurally, as the Parlement of Bordeaux resented intrusion of the new court in its jurisdiction. A supplementary edict of 1581 (Fleix) only compounded the problem.

It took the Chambre nearly two years to complete its work, following a circuit of five to seven months each in Bordeaux, Agen, Périgueux, and Saintes. Loisel's colleagues were all members of the Paris Parlement, "modéle et miroir of all French courts," including Pierre (II) Séguier, Jacques-Auguste de Thou, and Michel Hurault de L'Hôpital.[48] Loisel was then forty-six years old, and through this assignment he formed associations with younger men. Loisel's ability to function as a link between the leaders of the crisis generation and their sons and successors was unique. Without it he could never have written the "Dialogue des avocats du Parlement de Paris," a unique and precious catalog-cum-appraisal of members of the Paris bar from medieval days to the turn of the seventeenth century. Posterity also benefits from the harangues de Guyenne , which summarize "at least two thousand pleas for the king" made by Loisel during the twenty-eight months in Guyenne, and from Pasquier's letters, which kept Loisel informed of events in the capital.

Loisel's importance as a figure in the history of French law stems from his Institutes coutumières (1607). In it he applies the method learned from Cujas ("the historical school of Roman law") to the several customs of France, "bringing out the common principles so as to provide a solid base for the interpretation of what on the surface appears so confused and di-


verse." According to Michel Reulos, Loisel's style combines "abundant erudition" with clarity and "the eloquence that is essentially French."[49] A more obvious characteristic is Loisel's practical sense.

After his return to Paris in 1584, Loisel faced ten difficult years. Alençon had died, so he was obliged to find replacements for his major patron, and in the years of the League's domination he endured enforced leisure, as did other prominent royalists. As for others, the reversal came with the "reduction of Paris to its obedience," in March 1594. Henri IV appointed Loisel avocat du roi and his close friend Pierre Pithou , procureur général. Each enjoyed ten years of professional success and intellectual companionship before dying in the same year, 1604. Kelley credits Pithou with introducing philology to medieval studies, out of which grew the historical school of French law. Member of a prominent family in Troyes, Pierre inherited from his father, also Pierre, a magnificent library and the pattern of his career, combining classical and legal study. Pierre was three years younger than Loisel and they may have met under the tutelage of Ramus in earlier days. In any case, Loisel introduced Pithou to Cujas in 1555. Pierre's conversion to Protestantism in the late sixties prevented him from enjoying a normal career, and he spent some years in Basel. Nevertheless, he was in Paris on August 24, 1572 (the date of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew), when his life was saved by Loisel. Pithou subsequently abjured Calvinism—for reasons of particular interest to this study because Pithou's actions shed light on the adherence to the Roman church by many whose private spiritual views were quite unorthodox. The two friends then determined to work for national unity. While everyone in this group wrote on Gallican themes, Pithou's Libertés de l'Église gallicane is the most comprehensive and is regarded by posterity as a major statement of (parlementaire) Gallicanism, later synthesized by Guy Coquille. As one of the collaborators in the Satyre Ménippée , Pithou also contributed to the triumph of Henri IV over the League, on which the long-range fate of Gallican liberties depended.[50]

In the 1580s, however, the Gallican troops were most effectively mobilized by Jacques Faye's repeated blasts of the trumpet. In the crisis of the Day of the Barricades, he followed Henri III when the king fled Paris and subsequently served both Henri III and Henri IV as président in the royalist Parlement of Tours, while loyalist Parisian parlementaires, captives of the League, were obliged to keep silent. Like Moses, Jacques Faye did not live to enter the promised land, dying during the siege of 1590, in Senlis.


Louis Le Caron's father's family, Greeks who came to France in the fifteenth century, had made a successful adaptation. Louis's father was a royal herald and possessed a fief in the Paris region. His mother, née Valton, belonged to a robe family though not among the best known. Louis studied law in Bourges and was admitted to the Paris bar at the age of sixteen. Born the same year as Loisel, he shared the latter's devotion to Pasquier, characterizing him in a youthful poem as "Pasquier, qui à Platon fait honte!" His literary efforts lacked distinction, as he may have realized, for they ceased at the age of nineteen, with his appointment as lieutenant général of the baillage of Clermont-en-Beauvaisis, through the influence of Renaud de Beaune with Catherine de Médicis. His active career of more than thirty years was divided between the practice of law and the composition of legal treatises. Only late in life did he return to philosophy, under special tragic circumstances—mourning for a dead son.[51]

Le Caron was proud of his Greek heritage; he proclaimed it by including the name Charondas on all his works, but he was very much a Frenchman and followed his model, Pasquier, in urging scholars to mine the national past to meet present needs: "Frenchmen, you have enough . . . in your own history, without searching that of the Greeks and Romans."[52] His own most important contribution to the collective enterprise of "juridical nationalism" was the Commentaire de la Coutume de Paris which followed the publication of the Coutume itself by two years (1582) and helped to "solidify the still fluid coutume ." Romanists of later generations so admired his comparisons with Roman law that they called him "le divin Charondas."[53]

Le Caron lived until 1613, but his career as a practicing lawyer had begun in the mid-1550s. This gave him a quarter of a century overlap with the leaders of the crisis generation, who spanned the last years of Henri II and the early civil wars, including edicts of pacification under Charles IX and Henri III.[54] Le Caron's values were formed under those leaders, and they never changed. He attacked the prevalence of venality and was offended by the spectacular increase of legal business and the concomitant decline in


personal standards in the profession: "Où est le temps où il y avait si peu de procès en France qu'en la cour du Palais l'herbe reverdissait . . . où est le temps où les magistrats se recommandaient par leur vertu?" Like his models, Le Caron was an ardent royalist and suffered with other politiques under the League, when his house and library in Beauvais were looted, and was compensated by Henri IV. His respect for authority was profound and his religious opinions stood at the extreme end of the conservative mainstream; he declared himself enemi des nouveautés et des novateurs and would not hear of any accommodation with heresy.[55]

Pasquier's extensive correspondence enables us to trace the web of relationships that constituted his network of friends and associates. In the center circles of the scholarly Pléiade there were clusters of légistes like Pierre Ayrault, René Choppin, and Simon Marion, literary figures like the Marillac and the Sainte-Marthe families, scholar-diplomats like Paul de Foix and Arnauld Du Ferrier in the crisis generation and Harlay de Sancy and Pomponne de Bellièvre at the end of the century. Significantly, Protestant friends also figured, especially Christophe de Fonsomme and Claude de Kerquefinen, to whom he sent his interpretation of the whole period of the wars of religion in an important series of letters. Robins naturally predominated; parlementaire spokesmen like Faye, Monthelon, Loisel, the de Thou, Harlay . . . but also praticiens in other courts, and in the provinces. Two outstanding, a typical magistrates also were friends and correspondents of Pasquier's—Michel de L'Hôpital and Michel de Montaigne.[56]

Pomponne de Bellièvre's career belongs mainly to the reign of Henri IV, beginning in the last years of the League. His accomplishments as a diplomat and negotiator, for instance in the Peace of Vervins with Spain (1598), and then as royal administrator in the Lyonnais, eclipse his role as a président in Parlement by far. He acquired the office of chancellor in 1599. In the eyes of history he figures as one of the able men who helped to restore royal power and national unity. While sharing many of their values, he does not really represent the last generation of the parlementaire mainstream in this era of transition, when the attempt to reconstitute or resurrect pre-1559 France had not yet given way to the construction of the more centralized bureaucratic France of the seventeenth century. His contem-


porary Charles Loyseau looks back and often echoes Seyssel, but Bellièvre was a pioneer intendant .[57]

The lack of correlation between chronological age and mentalité in turn-of-the-century parlementaires is dramatized by the very dates. Bellièvre, exemplar of the future, had been born in 1529, the same year as Étienne Pasquier, while Charles Loyseau, the codifier of tradition, was born in 1564, the year that Pasquier made his reputation in the Jesuit case, at the age of thirty-five.[58] In a perceptive (and, unfortunately, never published) article, Mark Cummings illustrates the comparisons between sixteenth-century parlementaires and their successors. His principal interest is in discontinuities between the earlier and the later generations and in the differences (socioeconomic) within the court—unlike part 1 of the present study, which deals with the ongoing, consistent values in the seventy-five years between the 1520s and the early seventeenth century and focuses on the mainstream, and the (often silent) majority that followed it. Cummings's research covers a sixty-year span, 1590-1650; the course of change is most clearly shown in the years that overlap the present study, 1580-1605.[59]

Borrowing a favorite metaphor of early modern writers, Cummings calls the Parlement the "neck" of the royal administration.

Under it stood the main trunk of officialdom composed of high and lowly officers of limited status and importance. Above it were the eyes, ears, and mouthpiece of the king, the royal braintrust appointed by the sovereign to properly control the actions and responses of the rest of the body. In its position of a conduit, the Parlement accepted and mixed fresh blood from below and also operated as a staging area for those destined to go to the top. There existed only a few direct passages from the body to the head of the royal administration and the Parlement of Paris was the primary means of access (12).

Summarizing the effects on Parlement as an institution of the two revolutionary factors of the sixteenth century—venality and the drastic increase in numbers (from forty-three to over two hundred), Cummings notes that the court gradually changed "from a small close-knit body of serious jurists into an unwieldy institution . . . [that had] lost its intimacy and some


of its effectiveness through dilution, as the newer magistrates differed in values, social status, and attitudes toward the king and the law." Cummings's statistical tables show that in the seventeenth century the entering magistrates were younger, less experienced professionally and recruited from newer robe families than their predecessors. Even more significant, a sizable proportion of the most enterprising among them resigned after a period of five to eight years in order to assume high office in the royal administration. Justices of the sovereign courts had a virtual monopoly of access to the office of maître des requêtes and (subsequently) intendant; more than 50 percent were drawn from the Parlement of Paris itself. Among the results of this new view of Parlement as a stepping-stone were a weaker commitment to the court and its traditions and a greater compliance toward the crown's "violations" of Parlement's sphere—kings naturally favored supporters over opponents in distributing high offices—and a widening gap between the court and the administration, especially on political issues.

These restless temporary magistrates who kept moving up the administrative ladder and attaining the highest positions Cummings calls "Group A." It included more than a third of the members. His "Group C," by contrast, was composed of "lifers" whose careers were entirely spent in Parlement, like their sixteenth-century predecessors. "They shaped the mentality of Parlement and directed its course . . . [for them] justice and politics were indistinguishable." They constituted slightly more than half of the membership and they were able to dominate through their control over the presidencies and the Grand' Chambre. The presumption was that they were men of the Parlement, rather than men of the king. Clerical conseillers and magistrates from old families were conspicuous in this group. A middle group that is less clear-cut Cummings calls "Group B," in which there were those who would have preferred to move up but did not succeed, as well as less committed "lifers." "At a time when French sovereigns were . . . reorganizing the government to suit their purposes, Group C magistrates stood out . . . by advocating a return to a time when tradition, custom and legal precedent were faithfully observed."

Antoine Arnauld , father of the leading Jansenist family in the seventeenth century, avocat in the Parlement, well represents this category. His unqualified partisanship and eloquent expressions of loyalty to the Parlement were matched by hostility to those whom he saw as undermining—even destroying—the old values: the Spaniards, the Jesuits, and worst of all the commissaires , or royal bureaucrats. These others were "sucking pure French blood," in contrast to Parlement's magistrates "who more concerned with the public good than with their own glory . . . did not hesitate to accept


(royal) decisions even when they were diminished and wounded by them." His statements come from La Justice aux pieds du Roy , 1608. In the early 1590s Arnauld had composed two philippics against Spain and the League yet pitied les pauvres ligueurs , who were deceived by the Jesuits and bribed by the Spaniards. The magistrates, officers of the crown rather than of its temporary possessor (the king), "should be men of great virtue, great probity, and long experience. In short, they should be the exact opposite of the commissaires ." For Arnauld, the ambitious officers of Cummings's Group A were commissaires who had managed to entrench themselves in royal favor and in power.

Arnauld was animé par un sentiment national intense , driven by the desire for a reunified France to resume a leading role in Europe. Amnesty for the crown's recent enemies, if French, and rapprochement of the old nobility and the robe were conditions required for unification. The parlements alone could serve as the link between the king and the people; indeed, they had been created for that function; they alone could reunite elements of the national community that belonged together but had been tragically divided.[60]

In the "lifers" of Group C the reader will recognize the true heirs of the sixteenth-century mainstream, but whereas the earlier generations were perceived as "defenders of the ancient constitution," the later ones, in an era increasingly dominated by the crown, appeared obstructionist, antiquarian, or reactionary—and Parlement itself a backwater missed by the tide of history. Cummings's article performs the service of clarifying the confusions and contradictions of the magistrates of the reign of Henri IV and enables us to understand how Bellièvre, despite his presidency and his inclusion among the correspondents of Pasquier, is not a true spokesman of the mainstream; on the contrary, he is a good example of Group A.

If Bellièvre represented the "king's men" for whom Parlement was only a stepping-stone, the self-conscious antiquarianism of Loyseau differentiates him equally—but for the opposite reason—from the mainstream spokesmen of our latest generation, that is from those active in the defeat of the ligueur -Spanish-Tridentine offensive of the 1590s. These politique -parlementaires were divided among themselves. Some of the divisions can be related to external circumstances, notably whether they had remained


in Paris or had openly supported the crown (before 1594) from Tours or Châlons. Other, more subtle divisions require individual fine-tuned analysis, for instance of the degree of compromise with the League by those who remained in Paris.

Among those who never left the capital without totally compromising their royalist-politique -Gallican-constitutionalist position, were two exceptionally articulate men, Guillaume Du Vair, a major actor in the unfolding drama, and Pierre de L'Estoile, its astute observer and most voluminous chronicler. L'Estoile was Du Vair's senior by ten years and died ten years earlier (1546-1611 as against 1556-1621). From the 1570s on, the drama of the League dominated the lives and thoughts of both men. For both, Christophe de Thou and his associates were the model "citizens of the republic" and both upheld the tradition, sometimes by prudent silence, sometimes risking their reputation, property and—in the crises of 1591-94—their lives to do so, although Du Vair's risk was much greater because he was in the public eye. While L'Estoile's opinions were well known to the opposition, he was essentially a private person and deliberately lay as low as possible. Side by side, their two testimonies constitute an effective expression of mainstream parlementaire mentalité in the 1590s because they complement each other. In L'Estoile's Mémoires-Journaux one can follow Du Vair's actions and speeches, together with reactions to them along the entire spectrum of Parisian opinion, from the bitterest foes, the faction of the Sixteen, to the staunchest politiques , like L'Estoile himself.

Du Vair's father was a lawyer in Clermont, who had made his reputation in a case against the Jesuits and then spent some time in the service of Catherine de Médicis before he was obliged to resign, allegedly because of unorthodox religious ideas (the available sources shed no light on this allegation). Although there is no record of Guillaume's formal education, works written in his maturity show a thorough familiarity with antiquity. He may have been educated at home by tutors because his health was delicate. As a very young man he spent two or three years in the household of Alençon but found it uncongenial and returned to Paris, where he entered the circles of Turnèbe and premier président de Thou. At the age of twenty-seven he suffered the loss of his mother and his sister in close succession and began to write in a Stoic vein. In 1584 he became a clerical conseiller in Parlement and his major works—La Sainte Philosophie , a Christian interpretation of Stoicism, and La Philosophie morale des Stoïques —were written in the years immediately preceding the League rebellion. Reacting strongly to the attacks on the king and the constitution, Du Vair turned his energies and his pen to the cause of conciliation, whose most articulate


advocate he became. Predictably, Du Vair was high on the list of magistrates to be proscribed in 1591, along with premier président Brisson, but he escaped League vengeance (owing to fortunate timing) and later played a determining role in the triumph of the traditional loyalist cause. In no other contemporary source are the influence of events and the interaction between them and theory clearer than in Du Vair's various speeches. Careful analysis enables us to perceive an evolution in the politique position, from the traditional constitutional equilibrium to one in which the crown weighed more heavily and the other elements faded into the background.[61]

By comparison with the writings of Du Vair, the Mémoires-Journaux contain L'Estoile's ideas in very diffuse form. The early volumes constitute a detailed history of the League rebellion in Paris, from the politique point of view; in the later ones, the style is very different, loose and full of digressions on the weather, his books, his health, his family, his financial affairs, the gossip of Paris, and much other miscellaneous trivia, priceless for purposes of social history—and, for penetrating the mentalité of a parlementaire so representative as to be stereotypical. In relation to public events and the traditional values of the court, Du Vair in the 1590s and L'Estoile speak with the same voice.

Pierre de L'Estoile's parlementaire credentials were impeccable. In addition to a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who were présidents des enquêtes , and a mother, née Monthelon, cousin of the de Thou, who increased her prestige in the milieu of the Palais with each of three successive marriages, Pierre's godfather was the celebrated Matthieu Chattier, a revered model of Pasquier and Loisel; his godmother was the wife of Pierre (I) Séguier. He spent his late teens in Orléans, where he was educated by Matthieu Béroald (or Bérauld), member of a family of distinguished scholars, who later became a Calvinist minister in Geneva. Pierre remained in close touch with the Béroald family all his life, and it is logical to assume that his desire to see the Roman church reformed but not broken up was influenced by Béroald in Pierre's youth, because he quotes his father as having instructed Béroald: "M. Matthieu, my friend, I leave my son in your hands, one of the most precious loans God has conferred on me, I beg you, above all, to instruct [him] in piety and in the fear of God, . . . [but] I do not wish you to remove him from this church, in fact, I forbid it. But at the same time, I do not wish you to bring him up in its abuses and supersti-


tions."[62] L'Estoile followed this injunction all his life, and his religious posture is of prime interest to us.

After legal training in Bourges, Pierre returned to Paris in 1569, at the age of twenty-three. He married Anne de Baillon, of another well known robe family, and purchased the office of audiencier in the Paris chancellory, which he exercised for more than thirty-five years. His first wife died in 1580, having borne him seven children, and the second, whom he married in 1582, added ten more. Only five were sons and none of them left posterity. Louis, the eldest, dealt his father a bitter blow when he joined the League. He was killed in battle. Most of the daughters died very young; two others defied him by becoming nuns. Of those who married, three espoused members of the Paris bar. The descendants of Anne and her husband, Jean de Poussemothe, inherited the greater part of Pierre's worldly goods, including the manuscripts of the Mémoires-Journaux . We find the Poussemothes down to the eighteenth century, but they abandoned the Parlement in favor of administrative careers, many of them ecclesiastical.

If he had known about this deviation from tradition, L'Estoile would probably have felt gloomily justified—as so often in his later years—in his pessimism and anticipation of betrayal, especially by offspring. In the years of the League rebellion, however, and until his retirement in 1601, his attention seems to have been almost entirely devoted to public affairs. Personal items are rarely to be found in the Journal d'Henri III , or in that of Henri IV until after the turn of the century. L'Estoile saw the League rebellion against the crown as the supreme manifestation of the sin of presumption, which was the root evil of the century; he believed its successive triumphs to be a certain sign of God's wrath. God permitted the seeming triumph of evil for twenty years, from the accession of Henri III (1574) to the "reduction of Paris to its obedience" in March 1594 and demonstrated His ultimate power when the just cause—of the Bourbon monarchy under the Salic law—prevailed in the end through the very agency of those who had conspired and fought to ruin it forever.

Achille de Harlay (1583-1616) appropriately stands as the climactic and


most authentic spokesman of the parlementaire mainstream in the entire period of this study. Not only was he its last premier président, holding the office for the longest time, twenty-eight years (1583-1611), a term that embraced the whole period of the second League (1584-98) with its threat to the entire system, including the monarchy and the independent existence of France itself, and also the reversal of this situation, the triumph of Henri IV and its aftermath, but, most important, Harlay's comportment, official and personal, exemplifies the model parfait magistrat , the idealized response evoked by the attacks on the court and the public's disillusionment. His activity as a praticien , his landmark judgments, his strict adherence to the rules and austere discipline, made him the awe-inspiring, incorruptible, indispensable chief, respected but also feared. His inflexibility was often resented, his occasional vituperative style even more so, but even his enemies admired his consistent fearlessness.[63]

Self-preservation necessitated his submission to arrest and imprisonment in the Bastille (by Bussy-le-Clerc, in January 1589 the first physical attack on the court) but he denounced the act even during the humiliation, and likewise during the many indignities and dangers of the next five years. In certain respects his unbending opposition to the newly restored, strong king—on such basic issues as the Trent decrees (1605)—was an even more striking exhibition of courage and his unwillingness to compromise his principles.

Bernard de La Roche-Flavin (1582-1621), more légiste than praticien , most of whose life was spent in Toulouse (while holding the office of conseiller in Paris also) is legitimately a spokesman of the mainstream through the historical importance of his very influential Treize Livres des Parlements de France (1617), the definitive codification of parlementaire values and behavior, with the greatest influence on succeeding generations of any of the many manuals.

Provenance, Avenues of Access, and Career Variations

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Nobility, Property, and Family: the Parlementaire Dynasties

In order to appreciate the extraordinary thirst for office that is the hallmark of the robins , one should realize that royal offices, valuable as they were in


themselves, had an even greater value as the surest means of achieving three basic goals: nobility, of a sort, property, and the security and advancement of the family in both the short and the long run. Precisely which offices conferred annoblissement , and how, in theory, was carefully explained by Charles Loyseau at the opening of the seventeenth century. Historians have labored to interpret his abstractions (among others') so as to fit the facts of the ancien régime as revealed in their research. Concerning the relation of ennobled robins to the landed nobility of the sword, some (like George Huppert) emphasize the gap that was never closed, while others (like Franklin Ford) see the differences as mere nuances compared to their common privileges and the greater distinctions between both groups and everybody else. One (Davis Bitton) is impressed by the "crisis" in self-confidence of the nobility of the sword, which derived at least in part from the increase in ennobled officers.[80]

In my opinion, it is essential to realize what "nobility" signified to the officer class: it was a code word for status. The premise was a generally held belief, very strong in the robe, that there was a natural social order, ordained by God and by custom, and that nobility was the most honorable (secular) estate in that order. They sought for themselves (and their posterity) as honorable a place as possible. In the idiom and mentalité of the time, there was no other way to achieve the desired status except in terms of nobility. Theoretical and literary discussion by parlementaires, and especially their professional words and deeds, show that they were not at all confused or deceived about the differences between themselves and the noblesse d'épée , as has been recently, and wittily, noted by Huppert. He concludes a discussion of the contempt of magistrates for the rural nobles (whom they saw as


"ridiculously poor, ignorant, and inept . . . clinging to empty honors, really quite weak"). "The nobility in this perspective is good for one thing only; its elegant fleeces will serve to disguise the wolflife rapacity of the gentry as it takes over the land, the church, and the government."[81]

The robins sought three specific advantages: material rewards, privileges, and exemptions. The package that combined these conferred status, and the special mark of the highest attainable levels of status was annoblissement .

Money and land were the principal material rewards, obviously. Although it has been difficult to arrive at precise salary scales because of the ad hoc and ad hominem arrangements involved, and the fact that some of the most important emoluments were not part of the regular salary, we do know something about the value of offices and its sensational rise in our period, especially at the end of the civil wars, with the return of a strong monarchy with which the court was firmly associated. In 1597, the last year of the wars, one could obtain the office of conseiller for 10,000 livres; only three years later the going rate was 21,000; in 1606 it was 36,000 livres and continued to climb throughout the seventeenth century. As an investment, the financial yield was not impressive; in 1597 the annual return from the office of lay conseillers was fixed at 500 livres and represented only about 4.5 percent of the value of the office. It often cost more to maintain the necessary life-style than one could extract from the office, which, of course was heavily supplemented by income from lands, loans, and rentes . A successful magistrate made his money by exploiting the contacts and opportunities open to him through possession of the office, as Richet demonstrates in the case of the Séguier and others, notably in handling of legal business for les grands .[82]

The process was the same for officers of lesser status all the way down to the lowest rungs of the robe ladder. Simultaneously they would be acquiring land, by micro-conquête , in proportion to their power and their means. The operative characteristics of their mentalité here are emphasized by both Richet and Ralph Giesey: the habit of long-range planning, willingness to set goals that could be realized only in terms of generations, self-discipline to postpone gratification. Quelle perséverence chez nos robins! exclaims Richet.[83]


Robe privileges ranged from the basically professional, such as personal immunity from authority other than that of the king for actions committed and words spoken in the course of their judicial duties, to the ceremonial, such as rights of costume, ritual, and precedence for coronations, royal entries, and funerals. The most innovative and fruitful research of recent years has demonstrated that the significance of these ceremonies should not be underestimated. Sophisticated analysis has greatly enriched our understanding of ancien-regime mentalité . Aspects related to the political and historical values of the parlementaires will be discussed in chapter 3.

We have already seen that a privilege particularly exploited by the robin gratin was their access to benefices. These were claimed on the basis of an indult , that is, the right to ecclesiastical office granted by the church to Parlement as a collectivity, because of the court's role as guardian of the church in France. This claim was central to the image of the court as a corps mixte , that is, composed of both laymen and clerics, which figures significantly in their self-image, and in some of the key disputes with the crown.[84]

Exemptions can be regarded as a subcategory of privilege, especially exemptions from taxation. Some ancien-régime historians brush aside all other categories of class and order to maintain that the only real division between the privileged and the unprivileged concerned taxation. It is possible that the favorable tax status of officers as compared with merchants accounts for the loyalty of the former to the crown and the defection of the latter, in large part, to the League in the 1580s and 1590s, as argued by some historians. Parlementaires were exempt from the taille , the gabelle , and the aides . They also escaped the obligation of military service to which rural landowners were subject, and the obligation of billeting soldiers and foreign dignitaries to which the urban bourgeoisie was subject.[85]

Royal offices not only provided opportunity to acquire property, they became a form of property themselves, in the category called propres , that belonged to the lineage and had to be kept in the family of origin. Individuals of a particular generation had a lifetime use of them but not the right to dispose of them except to the legal heirs. In the coutume of Paris, where it was mandatory to set aside the propres for equal division among the heirs, a means by which too great fragmentation could be avoided was by the


lifetime advantaging of one of the heirs. At the parent's death, such an heir was obliged to report it back to be measured against what an equal share would have been. He or she then renounced the other rights of inheritance and kept the lineage propres . Because such a gift was irrevocable, parents sometimes postponed it until old age. Adult children thus kept dependent on (and often dominated by) their parents sometimes resented the practice.[86]

From the point of view of long-range planning and conservation of the estate, however, it was a useful strategy, as Giesey, to whom we owe the recognition of the legal and historical significance of propres , points out:

Successful compounding of a family heritage required that each generation sacrifice something of its own well-being for the sake of future generations. While resembling lawful entail in some ways propres differs in others. Entail guarantees the integrity of the family heritage by placing it beyond the control of any one generation, whereas propres reckons that each generation will play an active role in the family's rise to wealth. Many generations, therefore, had to live lives of delayed gratification in order to assure the lasting felicity of descendants far in the future.

In the same article the author goes on to show that, contrary to our modern assumptions, neither venality nor heredity resulted in "corruption" in the French magistracy; rather, the combination produced a felicitous arrangement that "served the nation in terms of public law," as "heritability attenuated venality's inclination to avarice by replacing it with family honor, while venality modified heritability's potential for incompetence by allowing a kind of capacitat to replace the usual majorat ." The resulting legal structure enabled those who were most astute at manipulating the system to establish dynasties in the sovereign courts, and rare was the successful family that did not have various offices among its propres , to be passed along through the generations.[87]

Considerations of office have led us to property and inheritance and thus to the family, the central social institution of ancien-régime France. Witnesses to marriage contracts, wills, baptisms, and other major transactions were drawn from both sides of the family in roughly equal numbers—as were godparents. The propres of the wife's family were protected against dissipation or usurpation by the husband and reverted to her own relatives according to the established formulae, if the marriage lacked issue. Wives


were of capital importance in the serious business of strengthening the family, and not merely as mothers. According to Richet, wives and matrimonial relations were triply important in the upward mobility of robe families: in bringing them to the capital; in introducing them into desirable and well placed Parisian milieux; and in helping them to reach seigneuries.[88]

Mésalliance was regarded as a social evil, because of its threat to the family, so the arrangement of good marriages, for daughters and for sons, figured in long-range family planning. Parental concern for the effects of marriage on the future of lineage and patrimony is reflected in the clamor for royal legislation requiring parental consent. In 1556, Henri II responded with an edict, the first such royal action, one of whose provisions was the threat of disinheritance for clandestine marriage, as marriage without parental consent was called. Diefendorf finds that the average age of marriage for young women in the families of the Bureau de Ville was eighteen years, whereas that for men was thirty-two years. Marriage and motherhood were the usual "career" of daughters, for which the twenties are the optimum years, while young men waited to establish themselves professionally—often attaining office in their late twenties. Demographic studies of Italian cities in the fifteenth century show similar patterns, for similar reasons, and their authors hypothesize that the restlessness or violence associated with male Italian Renaissance youth may well be a result. In Paris, these phenomena are especially to be found among the young lawyers, the basoche . This is interesting for the analysis of parlementaire mentalité in several respects; it may explain the notorious conservatism of the Parlement, in politics, in religion, and in their tendency to seek the ideal in the past (matters to be investigated in chapters 2 and 4). Yet one is less inclined to apply this to the elite—to their having already "sown their wild oats" and "gotten it out of their system"—because unlike the Italians, privileged parlementaires achieved office at a young age.[89]

Diefendorf documents the rise of the dynasties by citing many marriages that allied influential robe families, among the conseillers de ville, who were also in the Parlement. Indeed all the ranking families were allied by marriage to others in the same group. Although this is a common characteristic of elites in a given locality, and especially if there are professional bonds as well, the pool of suitable mates in this particular endogamous network, however small in absolute terms, comprised enough new blood and variety


of stock to maintain the vigor of the group. The highest level of the French nobility at the same period, for instance, is decidedly more inbred.

In both the Bureau de Ville and the Parlement, a nucleus of allied families at the center of the mainstream dominated the leadership. It was they who founded the dynasties. Diefendorf finds that sixteen (related) families provided 42 percent of the membership in the Bureau between 1535 and 1575, and with few variations, the same ones emerged in the Parlement. Nevertheless, neither body was reduced to a closed patriciate. Diefendorf has determined that 46 percent of the individuals who served were the only members of their family to hold municipal office during the period of her study. Furthermore, a majority (twenty-three out of twenty-eight) of the members of the sixteen leading families were "freely elected"—which of course does not preclude the exertion of influence in their behalf—and only fifteen obtained their office through resignation of a father, brother, or brother-in-law. The complexity of the network goes far beyond the family in the narrow sense. In the Bureau, a man like Louis Huault, who was among the eight individuals whose father, father-in-law, or grandfather did not come from one of the dominant families, could still have useful connections to the municipal notability: he was the stepson of a Sanguin, the brother-in-law of a Hacqueville, and the great-grandson of a Luillier; his daughter married a Bragelonge and his only son a Du Drac daughter.[90] In the Parlement, likewise, although "the court never became a wholly closed caste," and even in the eighteenth century more than two hundred individuals were the first of their families to serve, according to Shennan, it would be surprising if there were not some Ariadne thread into the parlementaire maze somewhere in the connaissances or parentage of any "new" individual or family.

Marriage strategies constituted one method to replenish and reinforce the elite nexus; another was the custom for fathers to plan the careers of their sons. Men attained their majority at twenty-five, which was also—in theory—the minimum age for an office in Parlement. The usual pattern in these families was for a son to begin practice at the Paris bar in his early twenties, before being provided with an office, usually of conseiller, about five to ten years later. The mechanics of the provision were usually handled by the father (in some cases father-in-law or uncle), and it was a generally accepted parental and family right. Occasionally there would be rival ambitions, even feuds, between branches of a dynasty, where two powerful


individuals each had his eye on the same family office for a different member of a younger generation, each looking out for the interests of his own branch. A classic case was the rivalry of Philippe Hurault de Cheverny and Christophe de Thou over the disposition of the bishopric of Chartres, succeeding Nicolas de Thou. Cheverny, the husband of a daughter of de Thou's (he was also chancellor of France), desired the bishopric for a son (a great-nephew of the incumbent through the maternal line). The premier président had other plans for his uncle's see, however. The dénouement of this story is interesting, because neither of the young men wished to follow an ecclesiastical career. The younger Cheverny eventually left the clergy, and Jacques-Auguste de Thou preferred the scholar's life to the administrative responsibilities of an important diocese. Yet Cheverny tried in turn to impose clerical careers on some of his sons and on both of his daughters.[91]

The independence eventually shown—though not asserted in youth—of these two representatives of the robe elite accords better with humanist theories about the individual's right to self-expression and autonomy than with the convention of family control. Among the highly educated, self-consciously humanist members of the robe, the right of the individual to choose his own career is explicitly stated, for instance by Budé and Ronsard. It is probably significant that the convention should usually triumph in a family like the de Thou, however, where the weight of tradition and of family authority would be much greater than in those less highly placed.

It is possible that paternal control came to seem excessive, even counterproductive. Diefendorf speculates that repeated humanist insistence on the autonomy of children may be a form of "social criticism" of the traditional practice, but Richard Douglas inclines to attribute such attitudes to special pleading.[92] Some of the most respected representatives of the robe mentalité worked out a kind of reconciliation or compromise between these two approaches. Pasquier counseled parents to make an effort to discover the natural talents and aptitudes of children in the course of their education. "Above all, one should not do violence to the natural character."[93]

We will never know what proportion of sons in parlementaire families resented their lack of autonomy, since few have left records of their sentiments, but we do know that 71 percent of sons of the Bureau de Ville fathers studied by Diefendorf entered the legal and liberal professions, with 45


percent of these holding office in the courts, excluding the chancellory, which would add another 10 percent. In both their professional activities and in their commitment to the city, they continued their fathers' pattern. Stocker and others have found this to be true in robe circles of some provincial cities as well as in Paris; it is the foundation element in the continuity of the robe tradition through the ancien régime.[94]

There were nevertheless modifications in the succeeding generations. Whereas 19 percent of the Bureau de Ville fathers had styled themselves merchants, only 5 percent of the sons did so, and whereas only 1 percent of the fathers was known to have a military career, or a military phase in the career, 16 percent of the sons did so. Both of these are, of course, indications of upward mobility, away from commercial origins and toward noble activities. The increase in benefices possessed by the sons over the Bureau de Ville fathers is also significant: none of the 90 conseillers de ville in Diefendorf's study were clerics, but 14 of their 145 sons, or 10 percent, were clerics. These were members of Parlement also, and they rose in the hierarchy to the rank of bishop (some, in the regular clergy, to abbot) and were able to turn the ecclesiastical office into family property. A significant revision of an old stereotype emerges from Diefendorf's detailed tables: younger sons of the city councillors in sixteenth-century Paris were not at a disadvantage compared to their older brothers. On the contrary, the younger siblings often achieved higher status. She speculates that the status of the family may have improved since the time of planning the career of the elder, an improvement that could be measured in financial terms and in prestigious contacts acquired. Not unrelated is Diefendorf's discovery that in-laws played crucial roles in the career patterns of the councillors, and not merely in family alliances and the acquisition of property.[95]

From this biographical-professional-sociological survey drawn from the standard sources and enriched by recent scholarship, a synthetic overview of the sixteenth-century parlementaires emerges, showing who they were and the general patterns of their careers, municipal activities, and family strategies. A sort of balance or reciprocal accommodation between contrasting tendencies seems to have been achieved: individuals and families of the robe were very ambitious and the situation allowed them plenty of scope—more, in fact, than would ever again exist. While new individuals and families continued to enter and to rise within the parlementaire leadership, the elite could also maintain itself and even increase in numerical strength


through strategic alliances; in material wealth through venality and long-term investments; and in professional and political leadership through exploitation of patronage and positions previously gained. Much social mobility can be discerned, although those who started further up the ladder had a better chance of arriving at the highest levels than those less fortunate at the outset—a condition not confined to sixteenth-century France. Yet there was also much continuity. Ambition and innovation did not displace tradition and continuity because the values and the goals of the mainstream parlementaires formed a coherent system that was passed from one generation to the next with some internal flexibility and variations, but fundamentally unchanged.

It is usual to view the Parlement chiefly as the main obstacle to the reforms proposed by the enlightened ministers of the crown in the eighteenth century, and rarely is a constructive role attributed to the magistrates except in their rally to Henri IV in the 1590s. Giesey, however, has a different perspective. For him, this group of families, with their "family possessiveness," was "essentially a stabilizing element in the civil order of the nation," a "socially integrative force over the centuries . . . that deserves to be put alongside the vaunted state-building of the Bourbon kings."[96]


A Nexus of Political-Historical and Professional Values

The twin temptations to oversimplify and to interpret history from the point of view of the survivors have produced in English-speaking countries a history of France bifurcated by the Revolution; in this view the main feature of the centuries preceding the eighteenth was the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV, contrasted to the constitutional monarchy in England that triumphed just in time to rescue Europe from domination by the Sun King. In the neglected centuries before the seventeenth, French monarchs are seen as trying with varying success to centralize and to get the upper hand over feudal lords, but their efforts resembled those of Sisyphus, and their reforms were always eventually swallowed up in chaos. Except for specialists in prerevolutionary French history, of course, this distortion has yet to be fully replaced with the considerably more complex reality. The impression lingers that, lacking documents such as Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights, French constitutionalism was either a propagandistic disguise for feudal reaction or a vain dream by champions of lost causes like the Huguenot pamphleteers. Frenchmen of the sixteenth century, however, believed that in fact law was supreme in France and that there were real limitations on the king's power. The actual workings of the "Renaissance monarchy" have been analyzed most fully by J. Russell Major, who coined the phrase, with emphasis on the role of representative institutions as a check on arbitrary taxation.[1]

Theoretical formulations of French constitutionalism have drawn more attention from modern scholars, sometimes as an aspect of general European


political theory, and there have been many studies of particular thinkers such as Claude de Seyssel, François Hotman, and Jean Bodin. The most comprehensive single work is still William F. Church's study of constitutional thought, which treats all the significant figures (even the lesser ones) in relation to one another and in the context of French history, showing how the consensus of the early years—that France was governed by a complex structure of laws and institutions of which the crown was only the most important—was gradually replaced by a configuration in which the other elements were overshadowed by and subordinated to the crown, although they did not disappear.[2] The great majority of those who wrote on the subject, whether on the more conservative (constitutional) side, or tending toward absolutism, were members of the parlementaire class. To say that the Parlement of Paris was incontestably the bastion of French constitutionalism is almost a tautology, since that body was considered the guarantor and guardian of the fundamental laws and of the harmony between the crown and the bodies limiting it by their own rights and privileges, enshrined in customary law and sanctioned by long usage (history). Thus an interpretation of French history and a theoretical statement of their own professional role are both embedded in parlementaire constitutional theory.

Until the latter part of the century a delicate equilibrium between the various elements of the constitution was seen as the norm. The disruption of prolonged civil war and especially the threat of foreign invasion eroded the traditional equilibrium by discrediting the pluralistic elements. Instead of appearing as supports of the law and guardians of tradition, the distributive structures came to be seen as points of weakness to be eliminated, as is demonstrated in Bodin's argument for the indivisibility of sovereignty and the drastic reduction of limitations on the crown. The only national institution that retained public confidence at the end of the wars was the Parlement of Paris. This was because, on the one hand, few magistrates had deserted the royalist-national cause, and on the other, the strong majority that rallied to Henri IV enabled the court to become the crown's most important ally in restoring national unity, defending the Gallican church and strengthening royal power. The scars of civil war could not be eliminated and the "innocence" of earlier constitutionalism could not be recaptured, but an attempt was made to restore as much as possible, to the point—at times—of ignoring the break that had occurred.


In no respect is the coherence and consistency of parlementaire thought more striking than in its commitment to the constitutional view. As Church points out, despite differing views of Huguenots (and later, ligueurs ), which "caused the jurists to exercise greater precision," the legists, Gallican and politique virtually without exception, represented a central party and "arrived at their conclusions essentially by developing concepts long accepted by members of their own ranks."[3] Claude de Seyssel's Monarchie de France (1519) owes its influence as a statement of constitutional theory to this extraordinary continuity. In the reign of Henri IV, theorists like Guillaume Du Vair and apologists for the Parlement like Pierre de L'Estoile and Bernard de La Roche-Flavin echo Seyssel's ideas of eighty years earlier, albeit with an insistence that this was the way things ought to be and a wistfulness for Paradise lost quite different from the confident tone of Seyssel. The salient points of mainstream parlementaire constitutional thought can be summed up in a series of adjectives, each of which corresponds to a facet of the constitution: légiste, royaliste, corporatiste, parlementaire, gallican, nationaliste , and conservateur . Law determines the relation of the parts to one another and creates a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts, such that no element is outside its bonds. Church says, "throughout the century . . . legists maintained unbroken the great scale of legal values, from the eternal to earthly custom, inherited from medieval thought." The hierarchy of laws is anchored at the top in divine law, while earthly kingdoms are subordinate parts of God's universal kingdom. France has a special place of honor, and her king bears the title "Most Christian."[4]

Of the various kinds of earthly law, two were considered unique to France: the "fundamental laws" of the realm, and French customary law. Although particular thinkers argued for the inclusion of others, the traditional consensus recognized only two "fundamental" laws, the Salic law, barring succession to the crown by or through a woman, and the inalienability of the royal domain.[5]


Harro Hôpfl's recent work has pinpointed the first use of the term, "fundamental law" to Bèze's Droit des magistrats (1573). According to his interpretation, the term "gradually acquired accretions of meaning in the course of both practical political arguments and theoretical inquiry [and eventually] associations with specific constitutional theories that historians have mistakenly believed were present all along." Rather, Hôpfl believes that "these earlier references should be understood as rhetorical devices designed to identify specific rights, privileges, laws and habits." He attributes the term's widespread appeal to "the prior popularity of 'foundation-edifice metaphors' that constitute the rhetorical context of common usage out of which the term 'fundamental law' emerged." Martyn P. Thompson adds a second metaphor, "law-contract," which became an element essential to the distinction of fundamental law from nonfundamental.[6]

The circumstances of the 1570s and 1580s favored widespread acceptance of a clear, stable formulation of the fundamental laws: Huguenots after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew needed a conceptual structure of the state that imposed limits and obligations on the king, including both laws he could not violate and duties that bound him to respect the rights of the people in his actions. Subsequently, ultra-Catholics, after 1584, when the indisputable heir presumptive according to the law of succession (usually referred to as the Salic law) was a heretic, asserted the "law of Catholicity" as a fundamental law. This, in turn, evoked stronger and more elaborate justifications of the Salic law from royalist-politiques who supported Henri de Navarre. It also raised a more theoretical issue, renovation versus innova-


tion; that is, could fundamental laws be "made," and had the original ones indeed been made by past kings?[7]

Thompson admits that given "the conceptual looseness of the earlier references, it is hardly surprising that this novel term [fundamental law] was often understood as merely a matter of new words for older and more familiar concepts, and this has been the conventional wisdom of modern historians."[8]

Between Alençon's death and Navarre's conversion (1584-93) the critical political situation (the "second," Paris League) overshadowed the matter of historical origins, which was relegated to the category, "the memory of man runneth not to the contrary." Important speeches, such as those of Achille de Harlay and Guillaume Du Vair, postulated not only the existence and antiquity but also the inviolability of both the Salic and inalienability laws.

Thompson notes that still further meanings were developed in the political theory and jurisprudence of succeeding generations down to the end of the ancien régime and that "the broad linguistic and rhetorical context of earlier common usage . . . continued to color future meanings."[9] However, neither he nor Hôpfl appears to recognize the abundant evidence of constitutionalism, including explicit statement of the two fundamental laws, prior to Bèze's Droit des magistrats and throughout the sixteenth century. Parisian parlementaires believed in the existence of "mixed government"—in the Aristotelian sense, that is, the king, though absolute within his prerogatives, was limited by both fundamental and customary law, a belief closely related to the increasingly sharp distinction between the kingdom, or ongoing kingship, and any particular king, indicated by many signs and rituals, such as the wearing or not wearing of red robes by the Parlement, and specific actions and emblems in the royal entries and funerals. The laws of the former were considered unalterable; any actual king was "checked," notably by the three "bridles" or "reins" described by Claude de Seyssel in La Monarchie de France .

The first bridle was religion, but in the context of 1519 this meant merely that the king should be a "good Christian." The situation changed drasti-


cally, of course, with the threat of Protestantism, especially in the second half of the century. The other two bridles were essential to the constitution, and had been so traditionally, according to Seyssel and in parlementaire mentalité . Chapter 10 of La Monarchie de France begins,

The second bridle is justice, which beyond any doubt is in greater authority in France than in any other country of the world that we know of, especially on account of the Parlements, which were instituted chiefly to bridle the absolute power that the kings might want to use. From the very outset they were staffed with such great persons . . . and of such power that the kings have always been subject to them with respect to distributive justice. So one can have justice and right against kings as well as against subjects. . . .

This justice is the more authoritative because the officers deputed to administer it are permanent; and it is not in the power of the king to depose them except for malfeasance, of which the cognizance is reserved to the sovereign courts. . . . Truly, as has been said, this rein and bridle is greater and more praiseworthy in France than in any other land, and has been maintained for so long that it scarcely can be broken, although it may be bent.

Chapter 11 deals with the third bridle, police , which designates "the many ordinances, made by the kings of France and . . . confirmed from time to time, which tend to the conservation of the realm. . . . The princes never undertake to derogate from them; and if they wanted to do so, their commands would not be obeyed, especially as to their domain and royal patrimony, which they cannot alienate except in case of necessity. Such alienation must come under the cognizance of and be approved by the sovereign courts of parlement and by the chambers of accounts."

Chapter 12 explains "How this Moderation and Bridling of the Absolute Power of Kings Is to Their Own Great Honor and Profit," namely that it makes their authority "greater and more perfect and also more firm and lasting."[10] The willingness of French kings to obey the law is frequently cited as their most praiseworthy trait and was strongly emphasized by the constitutionalist politiques of the later sixteenth century in reaction to the growing absolutist tendencies.

Both Church and Quentin Skinner show that absolutist tendencies characterize the thought and writings of the latter part of François I's reign (by Chasseneuz, Grassaille, Rebuffi) and that there was a resurgence of constitutionalism, elaborated in response to the circumstances, starting with Pas-


quier's first edition of his Recherches de la France (1560) of which book II, issued in 1565, constitutes an extensive structural analysis of the constitution, reasserting its "normative character." "The main legal check on the monarchy is said to be constituted by the authority of the courts, and in particular by the Parlement of Paris, the highest court in the land. All these [later] writers insist that the duty of the king to take counsel from the Parlement is not an optional but an essential feature of the existing constitution of France"; it is "the chosen alembic for reducing the king's will to justice." These words of Skinner's effectively summarize the belief in a constitutional "structure," with limits on the king that include some aspects of "consent," or "contract," that cannot be dismissed as "metaphorical."[11]

Customary law contrasted with Roman law by its diversity and fluid character, as compared to the more coherently organized codes of Justinian. There were many regions of coutume and some were quite small, for instance in the Beauvaisis: there was a coutume for Amiens, another for Péronne, Mondidier, and Roye, and still another for Senlis. In earlier generations, when praticiens were faced with cases that fell between or involved conflicts between particular customs, they were obliged to choose, to attempt to reconcile, or to refer to the only preexisting standard, Roman law. In the sixteenth century, however, a succession of innovative and influential Parisian jurists who were also practitioners, developed a new system. Decisions of principle based on comparison and detailed analysis led to the establishment of the coutume of Paris as another standard of reference.

Michel Reulos, a specialist in these matters, explains the preeminence of the Parisian coutume "because it was particularly well-formulated and because it reflects the arrêts of the Parlement of Paris."[12] As previously


noted, the Paris court was not only the oldest and most prestigious court in France; its ressort was much the largest, encompassing the greater part of northern France. Leading mainstream spokesmen like Christophe de Thou and Antoine Loisel were among the major figures in the redaction and consequent domination of the Parisian custom.

Parlementaires regularly compared the court to the Roman senate, which shared authority with the emperor under the constitution of 27 B.C.E. established by Augustus. Like the senate, Parlement exercised a double capacity, judicial and administrative. Reulos goes even further:

These magistrates who compared themselves to Roman senators . . . were making law like [Roman senators] and they constituted in themselves the living law . . . reminding us that "justice in French juridical language designates not only decisions between litigants, but also preventive justice . . . measures taken to avoid litigation. . . . A true legislative activity is involved . . . the link between the two aspects is contained in the regulatory arrêts as well as those rendered in red robes.

It is especially significant that Reulos applies the phrase "living law" to Parlement; it regularly describes the king in the speeches of sixteenth-century royal spokesmen. But the king was expected to respect the coutume , which contained the rights and privileges of individuals and all important intermediary institutions. Indeed, "the domain of the coutume entirely escaped the power of the king, who could not modify [a customary law] except in exceptional cases where the public interest was at stake."[13]

A large body of law that had originated with the crown over time, including general laws called ordinances, tended to merge with the coutume , as the crown pushed aside the limiting bonds and encroached on other elements of the constitution, as Church points out, and the king was increasingly acting as (and being perceived as) the legislator. Seyssel, while conceding that such laws had originated in particular acts of former kings, distinguished sharply between "the king's two bodies" and stressed the overriding obligation on the monarch to obey the law. What Church calls "exaggerated paternalism" opened the way for the belief that the king could alter or dispense with the law, with few exceptions. This was one of the most important ways in which the constitutional "equilibrium" of Seyssel


and the parlementaires broke down. Nevertheless, however understanding of the content changed, for jurists, "the supremacy of law," as a principle, was never abandoned or even doubted.[14]

Of all the constituent institutions, held together by law, the crown was indisputably the most important. Even for constitutionalists, the king was "emperor in his empire." The king's obligation to God, and to his people, was to supervise (veiller ) all aspects of the kingdom—this is what is meant by "paternal"—and to provide redress (trouver remède ) for its ills.

France, in constitutionalist eyes, was a congeries of separate corps , each with its own vested privileges, protected by law from violation by others, including the crown. The Parlement of Paris was the chief embodiment of the nation's corporatist character and the sole reliable defender of all the other corps . By the same token, the administrative autonomy of the French church—the Gallican liberties—was also the Parlement's special charge, to defend even, or perhaps especially, against the king, as attested in the fight over the Concordat of 1516, with which our study of religious opinion begins (chapter 5). The vulnerability of the French church to "verbal aggression" from Rome constituted, in time of peace, the greatest threat to France. The Gallican liberties therefore became the touchstone of French national autonomy, to be defended at the least suggestion of danger. At the same time, Gallicanism was a vehicle of French cultural nationalism on the offensive. The Gallican liberties were both the shield of the French nation and the sign of its superiority. Law, crown, Parlement, Gallican church, French independence and superiority—all these elements of constitutional thought, separately and together, were thought to have originated many centuries earlier, some as early as Charlemagne's time, and all at least by the fourteenth century. Analysis of the special relation of Parlement to each should enable us to enter into the political and professional mentalité of the parlementaires.

Law, Crown, and Parlement

The relationship of Parlement to the law(s) cannot be separated from its relationship to the crown, since royal action usually provoked Parlement's invocation of the law. The interrelations of the three constitute the essence of constitutionalism, and their joint product is justice. To dispense justice according to law is the most important function of the king and of the court.


In the words of Étienne Pasquier, the king is the fountain of justice that "usually flows to the people through the sovereign courts." The law prescribes the functions, rights, and duties of each component part of the constitution, starting with the crown; it establishes the proper relations amongst them. When this condition prevails, there is justice. A particular king is only a mortal individual; "the crown" is the king's second, permanent body. If a particular king violates the law, his acts are not legal as he has violated his trust.[15]

From this series of postulates stems the role of Parlement as both a partner of the king and a check on his power. In the eyes of Parlement, the court is, in essence, identical with the crown, pars corporis principis .[16] When Parlement speaks, it speaks for the true king; when it claims to limit a particular king, it does so by virtue of its position as the alter ego of the ongoing body. The "independence" of Parlement derives from this function, not from any independent source of authority. The insistence of constitutionalists like Seyssel on the independence of Parlement, therefore, is not a matter of checks and balances. It is "simply a declaration by the court of the rights of a given party according to law. The law provides limits on the king and the people respectively and the court merely applies the law."[17] This is the frein [rein or check] de justice in the scheme of Seyssel.

In order for Parlement to fulfill the functions of judicial check and preserver of the fundamental laws, its members had to be irremovable and possess the powers of registration and remonstrance.[18] The royal domain, which could not be alienated, was defined so as to include royal prerogatives as well as lands and revenues. Any attempt to transfer these to other persons could be blocked by the court's refusal to register, accompanied by remonstrances. For example, letters of nationalization could be issued by the king without verification because to issue them was an undoubted royal prerogative, but if the authority to issue such letters were transferred by a particular king to somebody else, this would constitute alienation of the royal domain; Parlement's defense of fundamental law would require its refusal. Étienne Pasquier, Bernard Du Haillan, René Choppin, and Charles Loyseau were among the theorists who emphasized the legal distinction between acts committed by a king in the exercise of his personal lifetime authority—whose validity ended with his death—and those that conformed to law and


were sanctioned by custom. Pasquier went so far as to claim that Parlement's right to censure the king was itself a fundamental law.[19] Without going that far, leading practitioners like premier président Christophe de Thou followed the same basic reasoning: royal edicts and ordinances required Parlement's registration if they were to carry the force of law.

As is well known, repeated refusals to register accompanied by remonstrances frequently marred relations of the court with the crown in the early modern period. Attempts by successive monarchs to eliminate the right of remonstrance were repudiated by Parlement. The result was that confrontation was a main theme of every reign from that of François I to that of Henri IV. Clashes involving religious policy are analyzed in parts 2 and 3. Letters ordering registration (lettres de jussion ) usually accompanied the king's response to repeated refusals. If the disagreement escalated to the point of deadlock the king would appear in person in Parlement and command registration in his presence. This last resort, traditionally called the lit de justice , has come to symbolize the ultimate power of the crown to dominate the court and even the law. An important recent study of this ceremony in our period interprets the lit de justice in a new way. Through extensive archival research and iconographic analysis, Sarah Hanley has revised the traditional account of both the origins and the nature of this peculiar French institution, claiming that in the medieval period the phrase lit de justice signified merely a set of ceremonial paraphernalia (scaffold, canopy, and pillows of blue velvet embroidered with gold fleurs de lis) rather than the occasion on which they were used, which she therefore designates a lit de justice assembly . This latter she believes originated in the reign of François I in "a peculiar mode of constitutional discourse," in the context of the rivalry between France and the emperor Charles V. Subsequently, antiquarian-historians projected the origins back into the Middle Ages and attributed to the occasions a special character that differentiated them from ordinary royal séances when the king visited the court. Thus was born "the legend of the lit de justice assembly in the ancient French constitution."[20]

Our concern here is with the "peculiar mode of constitutional discourse"


and what it reveals of the mentalité of the legend-makers with regard to the relations of the crown and Parlement. Not surprisingly, the parlementaires' conceptual vocabulary presents these in a way most favorable to Parlement in the actual historical situation in the sixteenth century, even if they thought they were reviving medieval tradition.

During most of the fifteenth century, with its many upheavals and royal displacements, the prerogatives and preeminence of the Paris court were in eclipse. But renovation of the Grand' Chambre of the Palais de Justice by Louis XII did much to revive attention. The Grand' Chambre had become "a stunning gilded chamber with finely carved oak ceilings, and featured walls and benches covered with blue velvet and golden fleurs de lis," thus shifting the visual focus from the thronal apparatus itself to the larger spatial complex containing it. In this setting "the combined pressures of Renaissance ceremonial splendor, Franco-Imperial rivalry and antiquarian historical visions brought into being the extraordinary, new lit de justice assembly ," which was soon invested with constitutional credentials.[21]

Hanley believes that the first ever lit de justice assembly constituted a posthumous trial of Charles, constable de Bourbon, for lèse-majesté committed by his defection to the Hapsburgs. His high rank and wide possessions endowed the proceedings with exceptional importance, encroaching on the power of the crown itself. The trial was spread over three days in July 1527 and the condemnation did not come until the third day. The setting was impressive, as described in the registers, with the king enthroned on a dais, under a canopy, atop a set of seven steps strewn with pillows to match the canopy, and surrounded by a great entourage of peers, lay and ecclesiastical, and the chancellor, as well as members of the court. François had granted Parlement's request to address the assembly at the outset and the fourth président, Charles Guillart, was an appropriate spokesman.

He hailed the king as "living and animate law," whose principal duty was to render justice, and took the opportunity to assert Parlement's prerogatives and to attack evocations to the Grand Conseil. Drawing on the history of Parlement to support his argument, he located its origins as a separate body in the decision of Philip IV, the Fair (1285-1314), to replace ad hoc itinerant judges, functioning irregularly, by a single court, stationary in the capital and staffed with appointed, professional members. It then developed its own procedures, which prevailed until the reign of Louis XI,


who violated them, in contrast to Louis XII, who scrupulously observed them. The heart of the speech was a strong attack on the two most offensive current violations, evocations and the sale of judicial offices by the crown, which violated the autonomy of Parlement with regard to its own composition.[22]

François I stormed out of the Grand' Chambre at the conclusion of Guillart's speech and issued an edict later in the day (in a different chamber) prohibiting Parlement from "interfering in matters of state" and commanding its immediate registration. Historians before Hanley interpreted the event as a radical assertion of Parlement's independent power on the one hand, and retaliatory humiliation of the court by the king, on the other. Dissenting, Hanley concludes that while he was ostensibly talking about general practices, Guillart was in fact attacking the procedural legitimacy of the present assembly. "It is Guillart's stony silence, not his rhetoric, which accounts for the precipitate action of the king in proroguing the Lit de justice," a silence implying that "a type of assembly called 'lit de justice ' was unknown in the annals of parlementary history." Only the royal séance was proper for a Grand' Chambre session attended by the king. While the court refused to recognize the lit de justice assembly—to the point of refusal to pronounce the words—Hanley postulates that the king determined to assert a distinction from other royal sessions and to establish the lit de justice assembly as a special tool to be used when the highest matters of state were in question. Because the disciplinary edict was registered outside the Grand' Chambre, and because the king departed before registration, Hanley believes that he was deliberately dissociating it from the lit de justice assembly. She thus denies both the identification of forced registration with the lit and its interpretation as a humiliation of Parlement. Rather, "one should envisage the first lit de justice assembly . . . as a magnificent ceremonial event . . . in the wake of Franco-Imperial rivalry and constitutional antiquarianism." Guillart was reacting against the unauthorized additions of personnel and the new ostentatious apparatus designed for the first time as a "royal throne," which isolated the king from all others.[23] It was a dramatic contrast to traditional references to Parlement as "the true tribunal and throne of the king," a metaphorical conception we will meet in the works of mainstream parlementaires throughout the century. An added sore point was the elevation of the hated chancellor, Antoine Duprat, seated


at the foot of the royal dais in a chair decorated to match the thronal paraphernalia, so that he appeared to be the chief representative of royal justice rather than the red-robed présidents of the Parlement, seated below.

Other scholars concerned with constitutional controversy in the 1520s are troubled by elements of Hanley's thesis: most important is the assertion that the July 1526 séance was an innovation by François I for the purpose of differentiating constitutional from routine cases, and the corollary that all previous sessions described as lits lacked such theoretical, political significance, the phrase merely designating the ceremonial paraphernalia. In the opinion of R. J. Knecht, she thus transforms her hypothesis into historical fact. He then elaborates what seems the most serious reservation—at least for the question of parlementaire argument—on the thrust of Guillart's speech: "She overlooks completely the sequence of events—political, constitutional and religious—which immediately preceded the lit de justice under discussion." What happened in the Grand' Chambre on July 24, 1527, only makes sense if all the contemporary circumstances are taken into account. "Guillart's speech, the King's anger and the contents of the edict are immediately intelligible if they are seen as the culmination of a serious jurisdictional conflict between the crown and the Parlement ."

Knecht's analysis of the court's conflicts of 1525-26 with Louise de Savoie, regent for her son in prison in Spain, matches that in chapter 6 of the present work. Opposition to the Concordat, leniency toward heresy, and the use of evocations to the Grand Conseil to cut down Parlement's prerogatives were all involved. As the court had exploited the king's absence to assert its grievances, so after his return, François was taking the opportunity to put it in its place, according to royal theory, that is, confined to application of the law among subjects, ex cluding "matters of state."[24]

Hanley continues the development of her thesis in her analysis of the sessions of December 1527 and January 1537, which she considers the second and third "lit de justice assemblies," and cites speeches of premier président Jean de Selve and avocat général Jacques Cappel.[25] In my opinion she is correct in interpreting the strategy of the Parisians: to assert their superiority and uniqueness in order to claim a unique constitutional role. Their maneuvers, both inside and outside the Grand' Chambre, were aimed at attaining official recognition as coguardian with the king of the French


constitution. She notes the "resonance" of the royal and parlementaire positions; both are constitutional, recognizing the distinction between the king's "two bodies" and the role of consent—quod omnes angit —but the procedural aspects diverge. In her view, the crown was the innovating force and the lit de justice assembly was its new instrument. The parlementaires were of necessity conservative; the only way to maintain the position of their court as the "true throne" of the king, pars corporis principis , was to ignore royal innovations and insist on undeviating observance of past procedure.

The apprehension of the magistrates is evident in a move made at the start of the reign of Henri II; they engaged a clerk to keep a record of the court's proceedings separate from that of Jean Du Tiller, the official clerk who took his orders from the crown. In 1548, Henri II asked Du Tillet to research the history of the special assemblies convened by his predecessors. Du Tillet's orders read, in part,

you are to copy faithfully from those registers extracts of sources which verify [all great and solemn assemblies], especially those which mention specifically the quality of the assembly and whether or not it was solemn, [that is] in the form of Estates or Entrées of previous kings into their cities, or convocations of the lit de justice [assembly] or other solemn assemblies where rank and order was observed and assigned to each.

The clerk was to turn over the results of his research to Chancellor François Olivier. Du Tiller concluded that, starting in the fourteenth century, there existed two traditional types of parlementaire assemblies attended by the king, royal séances, which were "honorary," and lit de justice assemblies. There had been twelve of the latter, all held in the Grand' Chambre of the Paris court, and with one exception they dealt with constitutional issues, either the trial of a peer (as in 1527) or, for the purpose of obtaining advice on matters of state (as in 1537). Thus Hanley adduces the establishment of the concept of two categories of royal-parlementaire assemblies as well as "the legend of the lit de justice assembly in the ancient French constitution," which would persist throughout the ancien régime, with considerable influence.[26]


Henri II first attended a session of the Paris Parlement on July 2, 1549. Drawing on materials provided by Du Tillet, Chancellor Olivier outlined a view of the history of Parlement that featured a "separation of powers" in the fourteenth century:

[King Jean II (1350-64)] decided to limit the cognizance and jurisdiction of Parlement. He ordained that it would rule thenceforth only on cases of the peers of France . . . and of persons [whose cases fell in the sphere of the royal domain]. . . . From that time on there were no affairs of state treated in the court except by special commission .

The lit de justice assembly in the Grand' Chambre was the formalization of the special commission.[27]

Premier président Pierre Lizet took direct issue with the chancellor, refusing to accept the Du Tillet-Olivier version of Parlement's history. He broke the former silence of Parlement's spokesmen by uttering the phrase lit de justice , but in a special—and quite different—way. After congratulating the king on his decision to follow his predecessors in visiting the court—he welcomed him

to this sovereign consistory, which is your humble and obedient court of Parlement, in order to sit in your true royal throne. When great assemblies or convocations of the peers of France were held, your predecessors called it [the court of Parlement] the lit de justice , indicating by that reference the presence of both the royal Majesty and their subjects.

Otherwise put, the lit de justice was a metaphor for the Parlement, with the king and the princes joined with the court in the Grand' Chambre.[28] Thus, Hanley states, after refusing for two decades to recognize the institution, Parlement accepted it as a mere figure of speech describing their own most solemn of traditional royal séances.

While it was entirely in character for mainstream leaders like Charles Guillart and Jean de Selve to hold very traditional views, the eloquent expression of these by Pierre Lizet and Jacques Cappel is striking testimony to the strength of constitutionalism in the Parlement. Lizet was a Romanist, and as we shall see, an ultra on the religious spectrum; Cappel was a literary


man in a family with a strong unorthodox streak, and some members of his family became Protestants; but both rallied wholeheartedly to the defense of Parlement's preeminence and prerogatives.

The significance of relations between the crown and the court, and of changes in those relations is strikingly revealed in the role played by Parlement in processions marking royal funerals and entries into the capital. Ralph Giesey's distinguished work on the funeral ceremony initiated recent scholarly attention to this kind of ritual as an indication of values and social thought. Lawrence Bryant has since produced another relevant study showing how the royal entry, formerly a municipal occasion wherein the guilds and city officials obtained a renewal of their privileges, was transformed into a national occasion, in which Parisians came to represent all the king's subjects in declaring their loyalty and obedience.[29] The shift came while Paris was under the domination of the English after the devastating Treaty of Troyes (1420). In 1431, at the entry of the English king, Henry VI, Parlement, and the Paris clergy as a corps , joined the procession of urban corps that met the king outside the city for the first time. (In 1422, at the funeral of Charles VI, the four présidents of Parlement had carried the pall, in their red robes—showing that their authority did not depend on the particular king, now dead, but on the immortal king—marching between the king and the citizens.) In earlier reigns the clergy had waited at Notre-Dame and the Parlement at the Palais de Justice to greet the king; the procession was confined to the officers and guilds of the municipality. The new practice became the norm, however, and it symbolized the eclipse of the business community and the ascendancy of the Parlement as the major authority in the capital.[30]

Bryant believes that Parlement was prompted to undertake this new initiative because the English king and his council had responded unsatisfactorily to earlier requests by the magistrates for payment of back salaries and confirmation in office, promising to remedy the situation when Henry


VI came to Paris. The Parlement thus adapted for its own purposes the age-old practice of the municipality. In so doing it arrogated to itself the ordering of the procession, giving magistrates the most prominent position, emphasized by their red costume, and by having the fur hat of the premier président carried in a place of honor. Bryant says, "The English quid bound the top echelon of the French administration to the English succession, while the Parlement's quo gained for the court judicial power over the corps of Paris and an acknowledged special position in the French government."[31]

In refusing to participate in the entry of Anne de Beaujeu as regent for the dauphin, later Charles VIII, in 1483, Parlement stated boldly its claim, mentioned above, to represent the very person of the king. The same is true of the remonstrance of 1489, in which the court is described as "the sovereign justice of the realm, the true throne, authority, magnificence, and majesty of the king himself." The key function of justice in the French constitution was further underlined by the position of the chancellor and the seal, which had come to preempt the ceremonial place formerly occupied by the sword in the royal part of the procession. Beginning with 1484, "the juridical basis of [royal] authority was given major billing: the parlementaires asserting their superiority in the urban cortège and their administrative head performing the same function in the royal one." In the 1571 entry of Charles IX, the chancellor, Michel de L'Hôpital, was out of favor, and in his absence Parlement sought to have the seal carried before the court, "in which no one speaks but you alone." The king refused, however. What might seem a minor matter of ceremony, Bryant says, was in fact "a maneuver whose success would have had considerable constitutional importance," in that agreement to Parlement's assertion to substitute itself for the chancellor would for all practical purposes have acknowledged it as the legislative body of the kingdom.[32]

The parlementaires of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had manifested in their order of march "a metaphysics of government favorable to the parlementaires," in Bryant's felicitous phrase. Though they were blocked from carrying it further in 1571, one last manifestation occurred at the start of the reign of Louis XIII. His 1610 entry, after the coronation, was attended only by the municipality; not until after he was declared of age in 1614, with the Parlement participating, was he greeted as truly king.


The realities of power as between the court and the crown would soon change dramatically, of course, with the advent of Richelieu, and the Fronde was unable to reverse the trend. Nevertheless, as late as the 1780s, Parlement was still claiming to represent liberty and the people's rights against an encroaching crown, although by then in fact it represented primarily its own privileges.[33]

One result of the double relationship of Parlement to the crown, as partner but also as frein , was that the most ardent defenders and eloquent spokesmen of the monarchy as well as its harshest critics were both to be found amongst the parlementaires; frequently they were the same parlementaires, fulfilling opposing functions. We have seen this seeming paradox in the writings of Seyssel. Premier président Jean de Selve was a passionate royalist who vigorously protested royal evocations and who spoke for the court in its conflict with Louise de Savoie during her regency; Thibault Baillet spoke for the crown against the constable de Bourbon, and François I was said to have stood in his presence, but he opposed the same king on the Concordat and on the appointment of laymen to clerical seats on the court; Charles Guillart resigned his presidency in protest against venality, after rendering signal service to the crown and earning the reputation of bon président . The outstanding spokesmen of our last generation, Jacques-Auguste de Thou and Achille de Harlay, were at once Henri IV's strongest supporters and the leaders of resistance to registration of the Trent decrees, which he was pressing to the utmost of his powers.

These are but a few outstanding examples. Analysis shows that the paradox is only apparent; the castigations and reproaches were of particular mortal kings; Parlement's loyalty was to the immortal body. When the two bodies were united, légiste was inevitably also royaliste .

A Corporatist Society

French constitutionalists of the sixteenth century, beginning with Claude de Seyssel, saw the nation as a hierarchical complex of mutually dependent structures, corporations, estates, traditional groups, each of which had its own place established by custom, with concomitant rights and privileges sanctioned by customary law. Taken all together they constituted "the people"; the people plus the crown formed a mystical unity, usually conceived metaphorically as a body, with a special place under God, the kingdom of France. The aggregate of rights of the people were included in la police ,


one of Seyssel's three freins on royal power. The well-being of the kingdom and of every component part depended on each functioning in its own sphere and none encroaching on others. We have already seen how the monarch fits into this scheme, "emperor in his empire," and limited by law, divine, fundamental, and customary, to his legal functions. It was an axiom of constitutional thought that any violation of the traditional equilibrium risked the disintegration of the entire system.[34]

The overall configuration of such a society, basically medieval, contrasts sharply with modern societies, in which masses of individuals stand in the same relation to the sovereign power ("subjects" in the absolute monarchies of the seventeenth century, "citizens" in centralized nation-states of our own time) regardless of socioeconomic, educational, or other distinctions between them. Since its triumph in the seventeenth century, much has been written about the modern state, and an atypical robin , Jean Bodin, was influential among the formulators of its definition.[35] The chaos of the civil war made recourse to increased royal power seem the obvious remedy to Frenchmen. The appearance of Bodin's République (1576) coincided with the dawning, but reluctant, recognition of the failure of the constitutional system to assure an ordered society. In 1576, the latest in a series of truces found Henri III, last of the Valois kings, helpless to control not only a rebellious faction (the Holy League) but even his own brother, heir-presumptive to the throne, François, duc d'Alençon, and his eventual successor, Henri de Navarre, who was as yet only second in line. In the spring of 1576 Navarre escaped from court (where he had been under a kind of house arrest since the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, four years earlier) and reassembled the Huguenot armies. The king was obliged to make concessions both to the League and to Alençon. Twenty-two years would elapse before a French king, Henri IV, would again be really "emperor in his empire," nine of them after his formal accession to the throne.

Yet the mainstream parlementaires clung to the earlier view of society as the norm and insisted that the unraveling of the system, since the outbreak of civil war in 1562, was both exceptional and temporary, to be blamed on the violations of the natural order by the constituent parts: nobles


taking arms against the king; cities rebelling against and manipulating the crown; clerics exploiting national troubles to further their own ambition or, in other cases, to exalt the papacy at the expense of the Gallican church; the "people" abandoning their obedience and seeking to overthrow authority—even the king, in the case of Henri III who, defaulting in his duty and exhibiting "excesses" beyond the moral and legal limits, appeared a tyrant, notably in the assassination of the Guise brothers.

The persistence of diehard constitutionalism is partly attributable to the hold of the fundamental laws in légiste mentalité . Rather than fade into antiquarianism, a scenario one might imagine in the day of emerging "divine right," insistence on both the Salic law and the inalienability of the domain grew ever more shrill in the 1590s, as the armies of Spain and the League threatened to dismember France. Simultaneously, the prospect loomed that the infanta of Spain—daughter of Philip II and granddaughter of Henri II of France through her mother, Élisabeth de Valois—would be imposed as sovereign by an illegal body, calling itself an Estates General, which had already set aside the Salic law.

If the fundamental laws were at stake in the most dramatic events, involving foreign policy, the coutume was no less important in maintaining the constitutional equilibrium in the domestic sphere, for the concrete substance of la police was embedded in customary law. The magistrates were responsible for the maintenance of customary law as le droit commun , as against Roman law (which tended to exalt the ruler). The supremacy claimed for customary law was an expression of the belief that law reflects social values and behavior, and that its own native law is best for each nation.[36] Légistes also distinguished sharply between royal ordinances and the coutume , characterizing the former as mere regulatory power like that possessed by every baron in his own jurisdiction. Even as the lines between ordinance and coutume became blurred, with the former tending to dominate in proportion to the enlarged sphere of the crown, important jurists such as Du Haillan and Le Caron continued to maintain the separation.[37]

Corporatist principles were firmly embedded in the Paris coutume . To Parlement's magistrates, the vast complex that made up the French nation was a pluralistic network of personal, feudal, ecclesiastical, and professional relations. Donald Kelley points out that all facets of the complex were of interest to Pithou, Pasquier, and others in the "historical school of law,"


even if their motivation was to reduce the rich variety to uniformity under the crown.[38] These writers were important, but it was Christophe de Thou, premier président of Parlement in the crucial years, 1562-82, who made the greatest single contribution to the development of le droit commun coutumier , in his leadership of the redaction, completed in 1580. In contrast to theorists, writing in the study, de Thou was active on the bench, obliged first to learn and then to choose among the multiplicity of precedents and practices, often mutually contradictory and always encrusted with the cake of custom. The task was one of synthesis and reconciliation: "un travail . . . aboutissant à une généralisation par voie de synthèse, n'ayant rien de commun avec une unification de droit par voie d'autorité."[39] To create out of the many a one that would hold together without violating the integrity of the component parts, this was the achievement of a légiste mentalité that was corporatiste rather than monolithic.

The Parlementaire View of Parlement

According to président de Lavie, whose treatise Des corps politiques et leurs gouvernements (Lyon, 1766) Olivier-Martin cites as the best expression of the corporatist conception of France, the defining characteristic of a true corps is that it combines private interests with public, the latter being primary: "'Par leur moyen, la religion prospère, la justice s'administre, la police se règle, les finances se perçoivent, l'enfance est éduquée.' Most important are the corps of magistrates because their jurisdiction is general whereas all others are limited to particular matters."[40]

For the parlementaires, the corporate institution par excellence was the Parlement itself. Guardian of the laws, Parlement alone could apply the check of justice to the crown and maintain the constitutional equilibrium: Parlement alone could carry the tradition from the past into the future in spite of disruptive circumstances that threatened repeatedly to turn everything upside down during the civil wars, and especially in the decade between the mid-1580s and the mid-1590s. It alone defended the Gallican church at the height of the League and blocked the loss of French autonomy in 1593. The Parlement's view of the court was at the heart of parlementaire mentalité , both political and professional.

At the outset of François I's reign, parlementaire concern was directed chiefly to its composition as a corps mixte , that is, half lay and half clerical.


Le roi chevalier more than lived up to his soubriquet in the insouciance, even flippancy, with which he broke the rules, tossed out promises to reform, failed to carry them out, and violated the same procedures again, at the very moment of promising to reform—again. Remonstrances on the provision of laymen to ecclesiastical seats and on royal dispensation from celibacy and clerical duties for clerical conseillers already in office outnumber all others. By 1521, Parlement's remonstrances noted that there were only eight clerics among the conseillers of the Chambre des Enquêtes instead of the twenty-four decreed by precedent, and in 1544, there were only nine clerics in all the Chambres des Enquêtes combined. Demands for favors by persons who had some claim on the king, ranging from members of his immediate family to personal servants, was one cause. But Parlement itself also compounded the abuse, by obliging its members in consideration of their services. By the 1540s, Parlement was becoming for many a steppingstone either to a bishopric or to a more lucrative lay office, and there was a constant turnover as a result, as Mark Cummings notes. François de Saint-André was among the best-known parlementaires who played this game. The scandal in presidencies was particularly flagrant, the imbalance between lay and clerical being especially conspicuous among their small numbers; at times there were no genuine ecclesiastical présidents whatever in some chambers.[41]

In the long struggle with François I, Parlement was often in the humiliating position of having to register violations and issue remonstrances on this subject in the same hour. Such was the case on April 8, 1546, with the submission of the oft-promised judicial reform edict—thirty-one years late—along with dispensations for existing clerical conseillers to marry, "ce qui résume la moralité du règne . . . avec une singulière éloquence," remarks Édouard Maugis.[42]

Security in office was a continuing concern, involving methods of acquisition and tenure alike. Here too the reign of François I was a time of special tension because the king's bon plaisir and his financial needs affected the membership and procedures of the court in a number of ways. The Parlement naturally preferred the election process but had long accepted a compromise by which the king selected from names it put before him. We have noted the restoration of election in the late fifteenth century as a


means of winning the court's support for the restored royal power. The new partnership with the crown enjoyed by Parlement as a result increased the desirability of judicial office, with the consequence that Parlement sought ways to foster an individual's control over his office and enable him to pass it on to a successor of his own choosing. The device of resignatio in favorem served the purpose and introduced the principle of heredity into the system. By the third quarter of the sixteenth century it had triumphed to the point that the third generation of certain parlementaire dynasties was already exercising particular offices in the sovereign courts, with the confidence of passing them on. Another factor was, of course, venality. Offices were valuable; those who possessed them wished to profit as much as possible from the transaction of passing them on, while the purchaser looked upon the office at least in part as an investment. Thus private venality took hold.[43]

However, Parlement was one of the major instruments of government, and no king could afford to lose control of such valuable assets. The sale of offices rapidly became the most successful means of raising revenue in the reign of François I. Royal venality became established alongside private venality and came to be the most usual form of acquisition. The office belonged to the king; a kind of rent to be paid with each transfer was finally regularized (la paulette ) in 1604. Until then, the new possessor was not secure in the office until forty days had passed during which the (former) possessor was still alive.

Although venality was not without some redeeming features when combined with heredity, as Giesey shows, there were nevertheless some unfortunate effects on the nature of the court and the mentalité of its members. One was the multiplication of subtle maneuvers and evasive formulae masking the ulterior motives of private interest, which seemed to champions of the old morality evidence of hypocrisy, chicanerie, and general moral corruption, a shameful contrast to the public-spirited service of "the good old days." Another was a widening gap between the upper levels of the robe, where the most successful families had established their dynasties, and those who were less successful (though some of their members held comparable offices). The gap between le gratin and the rest was not new, but it was greatly exacerbated and would have historically fateful effects late in the century.[44]


A more positive effect was Parlement's increased sensitivity to the matter of personal, intellectual, and professional qualifications for office. Fearing that royal sales of office would swamp their ranks with moneyed men useful to the crown but without suffisance for their judicial responsibility, Parlement began holding oral examinations to determine the suitability of all would-be purchasers. The first such interrogation took place in 1523, as an immediate response to the quantum jump in creation of new venal offices in 1522. Nicolas Hurault, a layman, named by the king as a clerical conseiller, was summoned to a plenary session and presented with "an old Digest," from which he read and interpreted parts of ten laws, arguing the fine points with members of the court. The gens du roi , the legal staff of the crown, were particularly apprehensive and demanded that candidates pass a written examination as well and that they be of suitable age, as well as having "grant savoir et vertu, et que ceux qui sont reçus sans être expérimentés prennent la peine d'apprendre."[45] In many cases however, these rules were modified in consideration of services rendered by other members of their families. The examinations were often perfunctory, or rushed through at the end of a séance. In the case of really prominent families, both the professional and the age requirements were overlooked entirely. These acts of hypocrisy and complaisance , occasionally accompanied by fulsome tributes to the suffisance of a young man by mere osmosis, called forth the scorn of self-appointed parlementaire critics like Pierre de L'Estoile, in the last of our generations. Paradoxically, some of Parlement's greatest representatives were beneficiaries of such indulgence.[46] (Students of English history will remember that William Pitt was elected to Parliament from a rotten borough.)

Qualifications, acquisition, tenure, these conditions of membership were natural parlementaire concerns. Scarcely less vital was the defense of Parlement's various kinds of jurisdiction from erosion or usurpation by other courts. Everybody recognized the king's right to create courts. Parlement's case, therefore, was necessarily based on the argument that the king lessened his own power every time he substituted any other jurisdiction for that of the Parlement, his alter ego. Much of the argument depended on precedent—the antiquity, continuity, and intimate relationship between Parlement and the crown, which no other court could match. In a society that


idealized the past with an almost religious awe, no stronger case could be made.

As we have seen in Guillart's speech of July 1527 the principal threat to Parlement's judicial supremacy arose from the king's "evocation" of important cases to the Grand Conseil, a much smaller and less independent body. A king had no trouble imposing his will on its members, who were his creatures. Though powerful, this conseil lacked a corporate identity. François I transferred some important ecclesiastical establishments (including the archbishopric of Sens and the abbey of St-Benoît-sur-Loire) from the traditional jurisdiction of Parlement to that of the Grand Conseil, in the 1520s, in order to facilitate appointments that he knew Parlement would not accept. This was a corollary to the quarrel over the Concordat. The Parlement adroitly chose the period of Louise de Savoie's regency (during the king's imprisonment in Spain in 1525) as the opportune moment to push the case against evocation. Pierre Lizet, then avocat du roi, declared the Parlement to be

the first, principal and preeminent [court] in this kingdom, in which the kings have established their seat and solemn sceptre. It is the court of the princes of the blood . . . and represents . . . the res publica under command . . . of the king our sovereign lord, who thus established and ordained it by a great and mature counsel to be the principal refuge of the justice of this kingdom.

This anticipation of his 1549 reply to Olivier shows that Lizet's view of the court did not originate on that later occasion. He also invoked the authority of Plutarch to claim for Parlement the representation of the few, to supplement the one (the monarch), and the many (the people), essential to a perfectly balanced constitution.

By midcentury the constitutional debate was focused on the problem delineated in the exchange between Olivier and Lizet: was Parlement restricted to judicial functions and excluded from "matters of state"—unless the king called on it in an advisory and ad hoc capacity only—or, was Parlement the crown's essential partner, without whose active cooperation no royal act was constitutionally valid?

In the crisis generation, the struggle was complicated by some new factors. Charles IX was a minor, and the regent, his mother Catherine de Médicis, was beset by two rival factions, each willing to resort to force and risk destruction of the national fabric in order to prevail. Furthermore, the weakened crown's spokesman was an unusually able chancellor, Michel de


L'Hôpital, who had spent seventeen unhappy years in Parlement. His former colleagues fully reciprocated his lack of sympathy and his dislike.[47]

The chancellor's task was to strengthen the royal government in any way possible, and he needed to exploit any device that would damage its opponents. If he could co-opt one of their weapons, all the better. One of his first decisions was to carry out the proposal to convoke the Estates General. This entailed considerable risk. To be sure, those who had been foremost in demanding it, in the reign of François II, dominated by the Guises, were partisans of the Bourbons, the leaders mostly Protestant, who could be expected to welcome the policies of the crown, but in the changed circumstances of a minor king with a foreign regent whose ideas were considered "un-French," a meeting of the Estates appealed to the Catholic faction as a possible means of obstruction. Like other institutions (and theories), the Estates General were able to serve the purposes of one faction at one time, and of its enemies at another, in different phases of the religious wars.

With a struggle against Parlement a certainty, L'Hôpital sought to counter the court by reinforcing the institutional prestige of the Estates. He argued that whereas the name Parlement had originally applied to representatives of all the king's subjects, convoked by him to seek advice (as it still did in the British Isles), in France private matters had been detached from general, public matters, and the former delegated to the Parlement, a permanent court composed of professional judges. Since which time subjects summoned for "matters of state reserved for the king's cognizance" have been called representatives of "the Estates." We recognize the elaboration of an argument advanced by earlier royal spokesmen.

Gerald Denault demonstrates that no single position on the relations between the Parlement and the Estates General prevailed during the sixteenth century. Owing to the presumption of a common origin in the Frankish assemblies, some individuals cited Parlement's continuous operation to hold that the court represented the Estates between sessions; others claimed that the court had replaced the Estates entirely. Within parlementaire circles, it was generally believed that their court was the sole true descendant of the original assemblies, whose unbroken continuity and sedentary nature guaranteed it as the central locus of justice and law in France.[48]


Étienne Pasquier was working on the second book of his Recherches de la France in the early 1560s, the very years that hostility between the chancellor and the Parlement was most acute. In Pasquier's opinion, Parlement had really enabled the kings of France to acquire mastery of the kingdom and subsequently to rule it well through continuity of institutions and counsel. The "assembly" of the Parlement, an accretion of Gallic, Merovingian, and Carolingian institutions, was the "bearer of justice" and to it were submitted disputes between the king and his subjects.

It is a truly great thing, and worthy of the majesty of a prince, that our Kings (to whom God has given all absolute power) have from the time of their ancient institution wanted to subject their wills to the forms prescribed by law; . . . and it is again a thing of wonder, that as soon as any ordinance is published and verified in the Parlement, the French people all at once obey it without a murmur as if such a body were the link that connected the obedience of the subjects to the commands of their prince.[49]

Parlement was the successor of the original assembly and only if the king ruled through it could his acts be legal, according to Pasquier, who placed the origin of the Estates General in the fourteenth century only and that of the Grand Conseil in the fifteenth. This interpretation was opposed by those, like the Huguenot apologists, who exalted the Estates General and regarded the Parlement as a mere special creation. Le Caron, an effective mainstream spokesman for the latest of our generations, denied Parlement's authority as the continuous representative of the (intermittent) Estates General, to modify royal ordinances, while conceding that it sometimes did so in particular circumstances.[50]

In the grave crisis of 1588, with Paris leading a national revolt against the crown and the last Valois king, Henri III, trying—in vain—to rally the country, a session of the Estates General was held, and parlementaires were obliged to recognize some kind of structural constitutional relationship between the Estates and the court. Guillaume Du Vair (whom we shall meet at length in the latest generation) took the position that Parlement repre-


sented the Estates when they were not in session, referring to the court as "an abridgement," which had evolved because of the difficulties—of time and expense—in convoking the Estates. Nicolas Quélain took the stronger line: in the course of time Parlement had become a replacement for the Estates, partly owing to those difficulties, but mostly because of continuity and professional competence. Denault points out that these newer ideas developed in the reigns of weak kings. The basic, ongoing view remained that of Pasquier, that Parlement was the heir of the original Frankish assemblies, product of "no history but its own," in the words of Guillaume Budé in the earliest generation, echoed by Bernard de la Roche-Flavin a century later.[51]

In the euphoric period after the restoration of royal power, when premier président Achille de Harlay remarked to Henri IV that God had given justice to the Parlement, for which it was responsible to Him, the king retorted that God had given justice to the king, who deputed it, within limits set by himself, to the magistrates. The royal claim prevailed, of course, and grew ever stronger in the seventeenth century. The Estates General were fading into historical obscurity, as the record of their last meeting in 1614 makes very clear. In desperate circumstances an attempt to revive the institution 175 years later failed utterly. Under the leadership of the delegates of the Third Estate, a National Constituent Assembly emerged instead as the first fruit of the Revolution.[52]

Inevitably, convoking the Estates in the middle of civil war presented even more than the usual problems. Michel de L'Hôpital did not risk doing so in the 1560s. When a different method was needed to bypass the hostile Parlement of Paris, controversial royal edicts were sent to other courts to be registered. Recourse to lesser courts as a way of evading Parlement's jurisdiction was not a new royal tactic, but the Rouen lit de justice assembly of August 1563, in which Charles IX was declared of age, set off a major crisis between king and Parlement. Conflicting views of the constitution were entangled with topical political conflicts in such a way that it seems best to discuss them in the immediate historical context.


The Liberties of the Gallican Church

With the exception of the defense of the Salic law in the 1590s prior to the conversion of Henri de Navarre, no issue could compete with the Gallican liberties in arousing parlementaire passions. Despite differences between "episcopal" and "royal" variations of Gallican theory, there had been a consensus for generations that only doctrinal matters lay in papal jurisdiction, while administrative control of the church of France lay in France. Moreover, both the distinction between the two aspects and the autonomy of the national church were assumed to have existed from the earliest times. Indeed, in apostolic times, the church was believed to have been a collection of discrete autonomous institutions, and the pope (bishop of Rome) merely primus inter pares. In the course of the centuries, the imperial papacy had gradually succeeded in dominating others, the French church alone having been "restored," starting in the reign of Louis IX and culminating in the Pragmatic Sanction of 1438. As a result, it was a model for the "restoration" of the rest. The Gallican liberties were parallel to the fundamental laws as uniquely French institutions, and the Parlement was the guardian of both.[53]

The basic tenets were, first, that popes could not command anything whatever concerning temporal matters in the realm of the Most Christian King—if they did, no subjects of the king, even members of the clergy, should obey them; second, that although the pope is recognized as sovereign in spiritual matters, nevertheless, "in France this power is limited by the canons and rules of the ancient councils of the church that have been accepted in this kingdom. " This formulation, featured in many treatises in the latter decades of the century, is found earlier in the works of the royal archivist, Jean Du Tillet, whose large staff compiled a formidable collection of royal and institutional records, that could provide knowledge of precedent and "represent the past as in a mirror . . . in order to make use of a thousand years of experience." The end result was the impressive collection of Recueils des Roys de France .[54]


A reinterpretation of the European past was required to support this position. The Romanist view of the pope's powers as transferred from the Roman emperor was demolished by Charles Du Moulin in his Conseil sur le faict du Concile de Trente (1564). In its stead he postulated a "translation of empire," in a chain of which Charlemagne was the most important link, from the Roman emperor to the king of France, who thus had supervisory power over the church in his kingdom. At this point disagreement arose among Frenchmen: was the church directly under royal control—as royalist Gallicans held—or, was the crown confined to a "supervisory" role, with the real administration in the hands of French bishops? The latter view was held by churchmen prior to the Concordat (and by some later as well) and by the mainstream parlementaires. This episcopal-parlementaire version of Gallican theory was reasserted and strengthened in the battle over the Concordat of Bologna.[55] Parlement's relation to the church, its position on ecclesiastical appointments, and its claim that no general law was valid without its registration were all involved. The king (François I) was able to impose his will but not to persuade the Parlement to his view. A backlog of mutual recriminations over these issues, built up in the 1520s, vitally affected relations between the crown and Parlement in the decades ahead, over a new central issue, religious dissent and heresy. Until the mid-1520s, however, François I was the protector and patron of the "new learning" whose leaders were intent on reform of the church from within. It is important for our purposes to understand that within the Catholic fold there arose crucial differences between the crown and the court, which later became (temporarily) obscured by the challenges of reformers who could not be contained within the church. The belief that religion was a necessary reinforcement of national unity, a sort of cement of the state—un roi, une loi, une foi —was a fundamental conviction that proved a stumbling block to any movement that would lead to a pluralistic religious settlement. We shall see that the struggle over the Concordat was a prologue to the reaction of the Parlement at the first appearance of serious religious dissent.

The Gallican issue was never long out of sight during the period of this study, the better part of a century. Like a powerful river that runs for considerable stretches underground, invisible, it was easily ignored, only to surface in periods of tension with varying degrees of force. If the tension involved conflict between the crown and the papacy, or among the French


prelates, it could explode violently, to disrupt or even destroy apparently stable policies and institutions, as a rampaging river tears up the landscape. Guardian and defender of the Gallican liberties, Parlement was always affected. In quiet periods the court was sensitive even to the shadow of ecclesiastical encroachment on secular jurisdiction. The weapon on which royal, parlementaire, and national jurisdiction chiefly depended was l'appel comme d'abus , which allowed any Frenchman to appeal to appropriate national (secular) authority against a judgment of ecclesiastical authorities, be it the local church court, the bishop, a Church council or decree not "received in this kingdom," or the pope himself. One of the root causes of French resistance to the Trent decrees was that they would have eliminated this valuable recourse.[56]

Authorization and official reception in the kingdom of papal legates, nuncios, and other agents had to be registered by the Parlement of Paris, which often caused an uproar and sometimes outright rejection, especially during an aggressive pontificate. When the crown pursued policies that involved papal cooperation, as in the crisis over the Concordat (1517-19; chapter 5) and over the appointment of Chancellor Duprat as abbot of St-Benoit in violation of the rights of the monks who had made another choice (1525-26; chapter 6), Parlement would sound the Gallican alarm, much in the way of the 1790s revolutionary cry, La patrie en danger! In 1551, there was an aborted Gallican crisis, when Henri II threatened to call a "national [church] council" in protest against Julius III's convocation of the second session of the Council of Trent—counter to French interests. The flow of money from France to Rome was arrested and the ultimate step—"the withdrawal of obedience"—was threatened, though not carried out.

Beginning in 1563, the Counter-Reformation went into high gear. The papacy took the offensive by condemning eight French bishops and the Calvinist queen of Navarre for heresy and summoning them before the Inquisition, thus greatly encouraging the ultramontane party in France. In this situation king and Parlement stood together and the ultras were defeated. In that same year, however, Parlement lost an important battle (the issue was the proclamation of his majority by Charles IX, who was about to be fourteen years old) when it was definitively forbidden to "interfere in matters of state." This, of course, included foreign policy, with which the Gallican liberties were inevitably connected (chapter 10).

Papal audacity reached its height when Sixtus V presumed to declare


Henri de Navarre ineligible for the crown (1585; chapter 11). During the final phase of the wars of religion—more precisely, the civil war between the Catholic League and the supporters of Navarre (1588-94; chapters 11-14)—Parlement, like the country, was sharply divided and conflict was endemic, though not always at fever pitch. As early as 1564 the core issue was the refusal of both crown and Parlement to accept (register and publish) the decrees of the Council of Trent, and this was the Gordian knot that even Henri IV could not cut. He could end the war, bribe or conciliate the leaders of the League, make peace with Spain, and free France of foreign troops, even force the parlements to register the Edict of Nantes (all in 1598), but he could only ignore, delay, evade, or prevaricate in the face of intensive and increasing pressures by several popes to force French acceptance of the decrees. The papacy lost in the long run, and the crown and Parlement both had a hand in the victory, but never were "allies" less united; indeed, their explicit positions were diametrically opposed, the king pushing compromise, because he needed papal cooperation in other areas, and the court adamant in opposition. The courageous speech of président Jacques-Auguste de Thou, defiant to the king's face, as he explicitly reiterated the court's adherence to the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, is the ultimate expression of Parlement's stubborn defense of the Gallican liberties (see epilogue, 1600-1605).

"Juridical Nationalism"

Parlement's role as standard-bearer of Gallicanism dates from the Pragmatic Sanction (1438) and it was never lowered. For the French kings, however, as Strayer's seminal essay demonstrates, the roots of Gallicanism as an expression of French "nationalism"—in the premodern sense—lie deep in the Middle Ages, even before the dramatic conflict between Boniface VIII and Philip IV (the Fair) at the turn of the fourteenth century.

The most Christian King ruled a chosen people, who lived in a kingdom which was the principal support and eternal defender of the faith. Loyalty to France was bound to be loyalty to the Church, even if the Church occasionally doubted it. . . .

In France the religion of nationalism grew early and easily out of the religion of monarchy, and although neither the degree of French unity nor the depth of French nationalism should be exaggerated, both were strong enough to give France a clear advantage over her neighbors for many centuries.[57]


Myriam Yardeni uses the felicitous phrase conscience nationale to describe this protonationalism, which manifested itself in other, non-Gallican, contexts, among which threats of (or actual) foreign invasion, naturally figured.[58] When François I was defeated at Pavia, there was considerable fear in Paris that imperial troops would follow up that victory by an attack from the northeast, via the classic invasion route, because the Low Countries were under the rule of Charles V. Even before the regent's appeal to Parlement to help her organize the national defense, leading magistrates were rushing to do so. Président Antoine Le Viste is described as "un des premiers qui offrirent non seulement leurs biens, mais aussi leurs propres personnes pour la conservation du sol et de l'autorité royale . . . [il] offrit de garder en personne la porte St-Antoine, ce qu'il exécuta le 7 mars 1524."

Le Viste became one of the most influential members of a municipal council established for the national defense that raised troops, set up new fortifications, borrowed money, and in general took charge of the nation—thus ironically fulfilling the political role that François I had strenuously denied Parisian magistrates during the struggle over the Concordat.[59] This action was quite in character for mainstream parlementaires. They did not press their advantage in the king's absence to the point of endangering the country, even at the moment they were exploiting it in the matter of St-Benoît. It was consistent with parlementaire values: opposition to the crown's violation of the Gallican liberties was a matter of national defense, on the highest level. Leaders of the court throughout the century figured as patriotic activists on the political scene, from Jean de Selve's repudiation of the Treaty of Madrid in 1526 to Guillaume Du Vair's defense of the Salic law in 1593.[60]

The role of the magistrates is repeatedly underlined by Yardeni: "Aside from the clergy, education (culture ) became essentially the patrimony of the conquering robins ; they formed the intellectual elite of the nation. History and historiography were a part of this patrimony and consequently these [disciplines] were connected to a strongly juridical conception of the world."[61]

This facet of parlementaire mentalité was christened "juridical nation-


alism" by Vittorio de Caprariis and has been fully analyzed by him and by Donald Kelley. Starting with Seyssel's Monarchie , where France is described as le coeur du monde, légiste writers exalted the French constitution above all others, for uniqueness, antiquity, and continuity (sometimes straining this last to make a case). Coincident with the civil wars and certainly not by chance, fresh works on French history and politics poured from the presses. Du Moulin was a major contributor to the argument that the legal independence and individuality of the French monarchy was expressed not only in the Gallican liberties but also in the customary law, the fundamental laws, the Estates General, and the Parlement. Anything that diminished French unity or infringed upon its integrity—cultural or institutional—was interpreted as a violation of history and of the nation. The needs of a nation torn by civil war for something to bolster national pride were met by recourse to history—sometimes "edited" to make a point. The French monarchy was held to be "bound by no past but its own . . . the product of a unique historical experience," as Kelley puts it. Commenting on the contribution of feudal law to the development of historiography, he notes that the insistence of the "school of French historical law" (mos gallicus ) on French legal independence was both a manifestation of Renaissance scholarship and an anticipation of sociology, by placing political institutions in the context of geographical and economic conditions—a fresh approach often attributed to Jean Bodin. Handbooks on French institutions, usually comparing them to Roman, constituted a new genre of historical writing in the second half of the century. Kelley considers Du Haillan's Histoire de France (1576) the best example because it summarizes the state of scholarship and draws on Du Tillet as well as the legists.[62]

The climax of juridical nationalism was reached by the scholarly Pléiade, whose members showed greater intellectual sophistication and whose examination of the national heritage was more critical—but they more than ever spoke for the Parlement. Antoine Loisel's "Dialogue des Avocats du Parlement de Paris," the most self-conscious expression of parlementaire mentalité (to be discussed in chapter 4), honors Pasquier with the role of Plato's Socrates. Loisel glorifies the "historical school of the Parlement of Paris," tracing its traditions from the great parlementaires of the late medieval period. Pasquier himself regarded the Parlement as the meeting place of king and people, "the basis of all the grandeur of France."[63]

This group had much in common with the better-known Pléiade; both


were champions of the vernacular and partners in the first of many waves of French cultural nationalism. Du Bellay's Deffense et Illustration de la langue françoise was published in 1549, the early edition of Pasquier's Recherches de la France about a dozen years later. Yardeni devotes a chapter to the role of language in the inclusive scope of national and patriotic sentiment in the sixteenth century. "La langue est le patrimoine de tous . . . l'élément de base de toute propagande."[64]

A Conservative Mind-Set

Much that was new would emerge from these writings, but their authors were all institutionally oriented to past ideals. Reverence for precedent is to be expected in legal minds, and antiquity and continuity were among the highest values. Immortality was even more revered, and the more closely a human being's works were modeled on God's the better. Church notes that "the law upon which [the social structure] rested was considered permanent." Change usually signified decay and innovation was always dangerous. Yet the Paris practitioners were realistic, even pragmatic in many respects, and tradition allowed leeway for variations. The ablest thinkers reevaluated accepted law and drew conclusions that could receive wide recognition, "but which nevertheless constituted specific innovation." Lesser thinkers often made important contributions by isolating particular points from the whole and giving them a somewhat new meaning. Thus the great majority of the legal profession—those I call the mainstream—from the leaders to the obscure, subscribed to "legal concepts . . . believed to form the permanent foundations of the state . . . the essentials of sixteenth-century constitutional thought." The parlementaire mentalité , essentially conservative, had yet to become aware that the ancient constitution was not always adequate to the demands of new conditions.[65] The new conditions that most upset the parlementaires, that violated the "ancient constitution" most threateningly, were the increasing power of the crown with its concomitant assaults on the privileges and prerogatives of the court.


Cultural Values

Education of Parlementaires

There is no doubt that the "new learning" of the sixteenth century, that is, the revival of the classics with a new, humanistic spirit, was especially strong in the French magistracy. The evidence is abundant in the content of their libraries, in citations adorning their speeches and writings, in their patronage of humanistic scholarship as reflected in dedications. George Huppert, who has written extensively on robin intellectual pursuits, goes so far as to say, "The celebration of letters must be understood not merely as an intellectual fashion, but also as a profound cultural revolution. . . . The Renaissance in France was the creation of this class and its passport to honors."[1] With a few notable exceptions, the old aristocracy of the sword in France came late to humanist activity, and in small numbers. The powerful prelates, like Guillaume Briçonnet, who played a prominent role, were often unusually successful members of great robe families.[2]

Yet the humanist program as such was neutral in class terms and in confessional terms, as Eugene Rice points out: "Like the several varieties of Protestantism, humanism appealed to men of diverse social origins and for reasons dependent on local and temporal circumstances." While recognizing the professional relevance of training in rhetoric for young men destined to be royal counselors, administrators, and diplomats, Rice suggests that the motivating force is to be found in the need of bureaucrats—who were


"new" men, rivals of the old nobility for the seats of power—for cultural ideals distinct from those of the latter. "Legitimate preeminence in the republic of letters helped legitimize an earned preeminence in the wider republic. . . . A humanist education inculcated a self-confident dignity independent of both office and birth and helped bridge the gap between legal nobility, the reward of service, and acceptance as a gentleman."[3]

In addition to the general prevalence of humanist tastes as manifested in libraries and speeches, some royal officers at the highest level experienced a humanist education similar to the Italian, that is, instruction in Latin language and literature by a private tutor whose métier was scholarship. This was the case of the sons of Pierre Briçonnet, who were taught Latin and history by Paulo Emilio and moral philosophy by Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples in the 1520s.[4] Nevertheless, this was not common outside the endogamous circle at the top of the robe hierarchy, consisting of the Briçonnet, the Beaune, the Ganay, the Hurault, the Ruzé, and the Poncher who, as we have seen, came from the same regions of the country and had risen together in the service of the late fifteenth-century kings. In her analysis of the background and formation of the French légistes in the second half of the sixteenth century, Mical H. Schneider finds that about one-fourth of them had a humanist education in the legal sense, eleven being students of Jacques Cujas, and three of François Baudouin. But this was professional training and not "liberal education."[5]

A much larger proportion of parlementaires and members of the other sovereign courts probably attended the humanist schools that were springing up in French cities and towns because "more than the notary's skill and the savoir-faire of the local bourgeoisie" was required to prepare their careers and their "life-style founded on books and learning."[6] Freelance teachers of Latin and primary schools also existed, even in some villages, but the most important new educational institution was the municipal collège , of which lawyers were the moving spirits and organizers. On this account they were frequently in conflict with the local bishop and cathedral chapter, who suffered from the loss of their long-established monopoly of


education and looked with suspicion on the new learning as the seedbed of heresy. There were enough examples of this linkage to make the fear realistic.[7]

Huppert points out that a "radical re-orientation of habits" was involved for boys who were "sequestered" in the collèges until about seventeen years of age and then sent to law school (and who were not considered adult until they were provided with office and possibly married as well), by contrast with the older pattern, in which boys participated in adult life as early as somewhere between their seventh and their eleventh year.[8] At the collège they were conditioned to a life where everything was regimented: early rising, long hours of study, supervised religious exercises, and meals. In class they were disciplined by hours of drill, in oral recitation and written exercises, based on a series of Latin texts of graduated difficulty, and Greek was added in the fifth form. Huppert believes that reading in French was in practical terms their most important instruction because of the impressive results obtained. Boys entering illiterate would emerge ten years later "able to express themselves in elegant French, capable of writing both French and Latin with facility, with some knowledge of Greek and mathematics, and always a great deal of history and philosophy." In contrast to the study of law with a humanistic legal master, this kind of education had no direct professional bearing on the careers of the future officers, but it provided them with the general culture and manners that expressed the "new mentality" of the age.[9]

It is probably true that humanist study, especially Greek, was valued chiefly as an ornament by members of the judicial elite, although there would be exceptions, those who became—or wished they could become—true classical scholars. Elements of both approaches are to be discerned in Michel de L'Hôpital's remark, "Greek is like lace; any man gets as much of it as he can," and in the opinion of a twentieth-century authority on early modern lawyers, "The importance of Greek studies to the jurists can hardly be overestimated."[10]


For the great majority of the officer class, however, their education was pre-professional. The law schools taught Roman law, and a proficiency in the legal Latin of the glossators was an absolute prerequisite. Significantly, our spokesmen of the latter part of the century who expressed the distilled parlementaire conventional wisdom on their own profession—for example, Loisel, Loyseau, La Roche-Flavin—agree that the best education is at the Palais de Justice and that too much time spent on study of other than legal subjects is at best a waste of time and at worst a dangerous distraction. Study for its own sake, or for pleasure, is specifically frowned upon, they say; Latin orators and historians are approved, but the poets are suspect because they encourage voluptés (as Plato had maintained before La Roche-Flavin!). The same utilitarian criteria apply to travel, which should always have a useful objective. The approved places to visit are Padua and Bologna, sites of the two great Italian law schools. Even scripture should be read for devotional purposes only and not too frequently. (Apparently the study of Greek is not mentioned.) The law schools themselves do not escape criticism: their curriculum is "too theoretical" and overloaded with frills like Latin rhetoric. Instead, there should be a continuing education in customary law, from youth right on to the end of one's career.[11]

A frequent observation on an admired colleague was, "He grew up in the Palais," or "He drank in the coutume with his mother's milk," or his suffisance from mere association with older members of his parlementaire family was such that he was "admitted without the usual examination." The advanced classical education of the Briçonnet group seems to have been truly exceptional, and while they did not draw disapproval for it (at least in recorded opinions) because they were so successful professionally—and politically—they were not held up as models at the Palais, where a much more severe and strictly professional view prevailed.

Parlementaire Learning: Libraries

Among the valuable kinds of information available in the inventaires après décès in the Minutier des Notaires at the Archives Nationales, none are more precious for our purposes than the inventories of private libraries. One hundred ninety-four of these have been studied by Roger Doucet.[12]


The earliest date from the last decade of the fifteenth century and the last few were notarized in 1560. (The explosive vogue for collecting began in the 1520s.) More than half, 109, belonged to lawyers and royal officers, including twenty présidents and conseillers and thirty-five practicing lawyers at the Palais or the Châtelet. If clerics from robe families are added, the proportion becomes even greater. Only ten were libraries of grands seigneurs ; the sixteen Paris merchants among the collectors include a grocer, an innkeeper, and several in the wholesale cloth trades, as well as a bookseller affiliated with the university of Paris.

Hommes de loi who figure elsewhere in our study include Philippe Pot (309 books), Adrien Du Drac (358 books), Guillaume Bourgoing (280 books), and président Pierre Lizet (513 books and 25 manuscripts). Lizet's library is typical in that three-fourths of the contents are law books, almost equally divided between civil and customary law, but unusual in its lack of contemporary authors and in the presence of a number of texts by scientific authors such as Galen and Hippocrates, some books on alchemy, and the Cosmographie of Anneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Plus II).

In every case, the predominance of law books reinforces the overwhelmingly professional bent of parlementaire mentalité ; in some cases there is little else: 42 of the 55 books belonging to the lawyer Cousinet, 55 of the 58 books belonging to the lawyer Berruyer. About two-thirds of even the unusually comprehensive collection of 783 books belonging to Jean Le Feron were legal books of one kind or another: textbooks, collection of parlementaire arrêts and royal ordinances, regional coutumes ; the standard works of Roman and canon law together with the most influential commentaries and glosses (Le Feron's library contained about 50 of these), and the works of major "modern" jurists like Andrea Alciato, Barthélemy Chasseneuz, Guy Pape, and especially Budé. We are not surprised to find Jean Gerson and copies of the Pragmatic Sanction at hand for these ardent Gallicans, and only occasional copies of the Concordat of Bologna (we look at the rest of his collection later in the chapter).

The nonprofessional categories regularly found, in approximately this (descending numerical) order, were religious books: Bibles and manuals of devotion; works by the ancients: Cicero, Vergil, Seneca, Plutarch, Aristotle in Latin, and a few Greeks appearing toward midcentury (usually Aesop, Thucydides, and Xenophon); popular fiction like the Amadis de Gaule (but fewer works by Rabelais than we might expect); fifteenth-century Italian works by Pico, Valla, Poliziano, Castiglione, Machiavelli; history and chronicles by Froissart, Monstrelet, and especially Commynes; utilitarian scientific or technical works of astronomy, navigation, mathematics, and descrip-


tions of the new world, and a few architectural books by Vitruvius or Alberti as well. Among contemporary authors, only Erasmus and Budé figure to any extent in the first half of the century. In general, the collections reflect parlementaire adherence to two conservative traditions—Roman law and piety. A century later Guy Patin's prescription would show a broader and more "modern" taste in two respects, that is, including more books by recent authors and ones more in conformity with our own tastes: Rabelais, Montaigne, Bodin, and Charron.[13]

Doucet notes that the robe collectors were not really bibliophiles and that their books were surpassed in monetary value by the plate, jewels, and wine in their estates. I cannot agree with his conclusion, however, that the parlementaires acquired their books only because they were désireux de manifester leur luxe , for the very reason that they were not very "valuable," only very useful.[14]

Two individual collections are worth some particular comment because each contained a number of items not regularly found in parlementaire circles. One was that of Jean Le Feron, containing 783 volumes inventoried in March 1548 at the time of his wife's death. His religious books included two copies of Saint Augustine's City of God , others by the Latin fathers, and works of Luther and Melanchthon. Among the ancient and medieval philosophical authors were Boethius, Cassiodorus, William of Occam, John of Salisbury, and Otto of Freising. Spanish and Italian texts also figured in the history section, along with more than 20 chroniques and louanges of the kings of France. Ulrich von Hutton and Sebastian Brandt added a German note to his foreign group, which was richer in Greek writers as well. Contemporaries like Du Bellay and Guillaume Postel were also listed.[15]

Pierre de L'Estoile's motley collection is distinguished by its extraordinary range, some would say lack of discrimination. His phenomenal curiosity led him to acquire items merely because they were scandalous or much discussed. He enjoyed documenting the evils of the times and expatiated at length in the Mémoires-Journaux on works of which he disapproved. From the historian's viewpoint, his collection of League pamphlets and other ephemera is priceless.

Volume 4 of the Brunet edition of the Mémoires-Journaux is a printed version of Pierre's scrapbook, "Les Belles Figures et Drolleries de la Ligue."


The original has marginal comments in Pierre's own hand. Many pages in the other ten volumes also contain what he called his vanités, fadèzes , or bagatelles . Topical ephemera were indeed the principal object of his curiosity and became a virtual obsession in his later years, which he often felt obliged to justify by drawing a moral. In volumes 8-10 (1602-10) human folly and/or the degenerate nature of the times in a wide range of miscellaneous works take the place of the follies and evils of the League, which had dominated earlier volumes. They serve the same didactic purpose and also seem to have given him a melancholy satisfaction:

[October 26, 1609] Today I bought the fourth part of the Chroniques des frères mineurs , in two volumes, newly published in 4º, by the widow of G. Chaudière. This book is not only stupid and superstitious but also impious in that it revives the memory of our furies and impieties that were passed off as religion, which the king has suppressed by his edicts of pacification. If it is as entertaining as the first part, which I have (as I understand from others, having just leafed through it myself), I'll copy out some extracts as soon as I have time to rid myself of melancholy, instead of an herb bouillon. The two volumes, bound in parchment, cost me 100 sous.[16]

The voluminous quantity of broadsides and pamphlets had caused him to create a personal cataloging system:

[July 19, 1608] Today I made two packages of bagatelles that I picked up between the first of this year through the last day of June. The first contained forty-five different items, that I labeled with four "As," beginning my fourth alphabet; the second contained forty-three, labeled BBBB.

[November 15, 1608] I have given Master Abraham [L'Estoile's binder] a package, labeled DDDD, of bagatelles picked up between the first of October and St. Martin's [November 12] of this year, most of them trash and lies printed at the last [Frankfurt] fair. There are forty-one of them. I gave Abraham a ten-sou piece for his work, which included stitching into my large Register a Latin poem . . . and a letter of Fra Paolo in Italian.[17]

An entry of two days later shows how the magpie collector, the scholar, and the moraliste -critic coexisted in this Parisian robin :

Today M. Dupuy showed me, in his study, theses printed in Rome by Brother Thomasso Caraffa, dedicated to the present pope [Paul V] with the magnificent (or rather, blasphemous) eulogies and titles bestowed on him that the pope himself has suppressed, whether from shame or from fear


that it would make the heretics laugh. Only M. Gillot [one of the authors of the Satyre Ménippée ; see chapter 14] owns one, which was sent to him from Rome (this is the one Dupuy showed me, according to a memorandum in Italian Dupuy brought me on July 30 of this year, as is noted for that day in this Register). The portrait of His Holiness enthroned is a frontispiece . . . surrounded by diadems, crowns, and many mottoes and titles [devises ] so boastful and arrogant that a president of the court [de Thou] asked, "What can one say of all this, except, 'It is Antichrist.'"[18]

Both his curiosities and the intellectual exchanges they inspired were extended to include almanacs, tombeaux (epitaphs), funeral orations, a few portraits, and a large number of coins. In one of his scrapbooks, a bound folio loaned to the friend of a friend in June 1608, among the items Pierre describes as "most interesting" are a play-by-play account of the famous duel between Jarnac and La Chastagneraye, the marriage negotiations of François d'Alençon and Queen Elizabeth, and Jacques Faye's remonstrances on the Trent decrees. This sort of mélange is duplicated hundreds of times. Whether we judge these to be expressions of a mindless mania or of a catholic taste, it is only fair to note that L'Estoile felt an obligation to document the follies of the time and that they provided constant exercise for his critical faculties:

[September 10, 1608] Today I finished reading Vignier's Histoire de l'Église , which I began last August 16. Having studied it and read it carefully from beginning to end, I'm confirmed in the opinion I've always held of the falsity of the pope's claim to primacy, as a frivolous tradition and abuse of the Roman Church. This is a good book, and very useful for bringing out the truth, [the author] makes no claims on his own, he does it by producing sound and irrefutable evidence from century to century.[19]

Predictably, L'Estoile kept close track of the Frankfurt fair every year. In 1608 he acquired the catalog on October 25, "very thin on good books but with abundant trash, invectives, and injuries (of all factions) even more than before. One can say, as of everything else in these times, toujours de pis en pis ." He did a good deal of buying and selling himself, sometimes with commercial booksellers, but often with individual acquaintances. In September 1608 he sold a bunch of duplicates—la plupart bagatelles —for 30 francs, which he put aside to invest in others. Understandably, he was


interested in visiting other libraries. In October 1607 with two friends he spent an afternoon visiting the royal library where, "among other notable and rare items," were a large Ptolemy and a Hebrew Bible (handwritten and illuminated), both excellent and "truly royal." There were also many Greek manuscripts, from the hand of a leading scribe, "with magnificent and exquisite bindings, which in many cases were worth more than the contents." In 1609 he visited an aged monk of St-Germain, who had a library "quite large and beautiful, for a monk," among whose treasures was a Bible edited by François Vatable (a leading Hebrew scholar) that the monk found the best of any, although the author was considered a heretic by "our masters," and a presentation copy of de Thou's Histoire universelle . In the course of these years Pierre became something of a curiosity himself. In September 1608 the English ambassador came to see his study and his books, "about which he claimed to be very curious, nevertheless, in my opinion, he had little knowledge of books," making some pretentious observations showing that he did not know which were rarest. One of the infrequent glimpses of Pierre's sensitivity, which is not at the same time an expression of bitterness, occurs at the end of this episode: "I gave a toy herring, so beautifully made one would think it alive, to his son, very little, but whose face promised great and good things."[20]

Although bagatelles take up more space in the Mémoires-Journaux , Pierre's library included a very respectable collection of serious books, especially "modern" ones, that is, published in the sixteenth century, from Erasmus and Budé in the early decades to Jacques-Auguste de Thou's history at the end, which L'Estoile acquired volume by volume as each came out. Many citations from his relatively few classics reflect close reading and thoughtful analysis.[21]

L'Estoile's serious specialty, intellectually and bibliographically, was the literature of religious controversy, from the church fathers (texts and scholarly studies) through the polemical literature on the differences between the Greek and Latin churches; from Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin to Crespin's martyrology and works of Mornay and La Noue on the Protestant side; and, on the other, from volumes on the claims of the papacy, the Trent decrees, and the weighty histories of Bellarmine and Mariana to scurrilous


pornographic broadsides (especially numerous). It also included the writings of James I and Buchanan in the early 1600s.

His collection of writings on the struggle then raging between Venice and the papacy might well be the most complete in existence. Rare are the pages in volumes 7-10 that do not contain some allusion to the quarrel, most often in the form of works read and/or purchased. He remarks on May 19, 1607, that he has just acquired four new tracts circulated at the Frankfurt fair "concerning the matter of the pope and the Venetians, which I pick up wherever I can find any." The following month he buys a recueil newly published in Italy, which contained nineteen tracts, "for and against, which is not even a tenth of what has been printed. I have more than twice as many already, that I pick up everywhere I can. To date, I have fifty-three in all, which I have put in order and turned over to M. Abraham, for binding." His admiration for Paolo Sarpi is unbounded:

A person of holy and blameless life, in addition to his doctrine, and moreover, very zealous for the glory of God and the restoration and reformation of the church, for which he daily works, gathering every possible thing written on the subject. I promised [the friend who showed him a request from Sarpi for help in locating two rare tracts] that I would help by listing and copying everything I could find in my study.[22]

Key items in this collection are the works of Leschassier, which make explicit the coincidence of the Venetian with the Gallican cause. Opposition between the papal-ligueur and the Venetian-Gallican positions is Pierre's most dominant interest in current events and the main focus of his collection. It also provides the chief linkage between his intellectual values and those that are personal.

Parlementaire Scholarship

In the last decade of the century and the early years of the seventeenth, there was a flourishing circle of parlementaire érudits in Paris. The intellectual leadership passed to président Henri de Mesmes from Christophe de Thou, along with his library, which became a kind of club. The parlementaire historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou kept the family name in the top rank, but as the years passed the brothers Dupuy became by far the most prominent scholars. Their cabinet was frequented by the cream of the Palais, amongst whom books circulated informally. Lively discussions took


place on political and scholarly themes, with ardent Gallican sentiments and hostility to the Jesuits among their main characteristics.[23] As in the case of humanism, however, the members were intelligent amateurs rather than creative scholars. "Les Du Vair, les de Thou, les de Mesmes, les Séguier, les Harlay . . . encouragent plus à travailler qu'ils ne travaillent eux-mêmes; parmi les érudits ils sont les mécènes, les collectioneurs, les amateurs éclairés." It follows that their principal role on the creative side of scholarship was patronage, as in earlier generations. Beyond the conspicuous network of families at the top level, the patronage of many lesser officers is reflected in the dedications of scholarly works and the correspondence of men of letters.[24] Sponsorship of scholars and of the new learning might be described as the "adornment" of the new mentalité , whose basic elements were the practice of law and preservation of the family and of the family's property.

There were, of course, serious legal scholars among the parlementaires, Loisel, the de Thou, Du Vair, Le Caron among them. In addition, notable légistes often held judicial office pour la forme , or as a reward. This was true of Du Moulin, and a good many others functioned as avocats in the parlements. These were no more active in the court than Petrarch, whose "minor orders" served him as a source of income, had been in the church. In general the practitioners practiced, while legal scholars wrote theoretical works to be collected, read, discussed, and applied by their practicing colleagues. The circle centering on Étienne Pasquier and Pierre Pithou was exceptional in that serious intellectual activities extended beyond professional, legal, and historical matters to the sphere of pure literature, including poetry.[25]

Intellectual Interests of Parlementaires

Antiquity, conceived as the whole complex of ancient civilization, with Roman law as its ubiquitous ongoing embodiment, figured in the general culture of parlementaires almost as much as in their professional concerns. We have seen that Roman law was replaced by the customary law of the Paris region as le droit commun , and that boasts of the Parlement's equivalence to the Roman senate were replaced by bolder boasts of its uniqueness.


Analogously, there was a change in the evaluation of ancient civilization by érudits of the judicial class and a considerable evolution in their view of its relation to their own contemporary French civilization.

With the realization that the language, law, and institutions of the ancient world reflected temporal and geographical conditions of particular historical situations and that each age and nation produced its own expressions, thoughtful Frenchmen gradually began to see ancient civilization as a collection of historical phenomena as well as the embodiment of an ideal. Like so many facets of Renaissance thought, the roots of the development lay in the work of Lorenzo Valla. In the field of French law, Guillaume Budé blazed the trail by noting parallels between ancient and French institutions, even though Kelley—who analyzes the development of the foundations of modern historical scholarship—feels that Budé could never "quite decide (as a modern) what his relation to antiquity was, or (as a Frenchman) what it ought to be."[26] On the whole, Budé was a spokesman for French culture and stood with the "moderns" in the quarrel with the "ancients" that was just shaping up and would draw increasing attention in coming generations. In this respect Budé was a pioneer of certain attitudes that would flower much later, such as the "idea of progress." Students of the Renaissance are sometimes led into futile disputes about its "modernity" and the scholarship of the midtwentieth century has tended to emphasize rather the elements of continuity with medieval themes at the expense of such attitudes as we have seen in Budé, where the discovery of antiquity is seen chiefly as a point of "takeoff" for something new.

If Budé and other thinkers of the pre-civil war generation were ambivalent about antiquity, later in the century French intellectuals began to equate Rome chiefly with the negative aspects of contemporary Italy, in contrast to a postulated "golden age of French law" preceding the introduction of Roman law, "when judgments were simple . . . and litigation was at a minimum. This was a myth similar in function to that of the 'primitive church.'"[27] Its most complete statement was François Hotman's Anti-Tribonian , composed at the request of Michel de L'Hôpital in 1567, which Kelley considers "the most radical of all works issuing from the historical school of law" and "one of the most remarkable examples of Renaissance historicism." Antiquity looms more as a competitor than as a model. Carried to its logical extreme, this view reduces Roman law to the "creation of a particular people at a particular time in particular circumstances," whose


study offers little other than antiquarian interest. Hotman rejected many of the values shared by our parlementaires—indeed, he was hostile to them—but his original views influenced the course of legal and institutional theory for all.[28]

If admiration of idealized antiquity may be called a thesis and the anti-Romanist view its antithesis, the attitude of the French jurists of the end of the century was a ripened synthesis. Pasquier, Pithou, Loisel, Le Caron, and La Roche-Flavin could extol the Pax Romana and the senate, choosing from the Roman treasure-house materials to enrich or adorn their arguments for the superiority and uniqueness of French institutions for France—especially Parlement. It was a synthesis that leaned heavily to the modernist side, however. "Juridical nationalism," the glorification of French law and institutions, was one among several elements of a developing cultural nationalism that embraced Gallicanism and the Pléiade as well. Its particular significance for the parlementaires is that through it, their interest in the ancient world became a subsidiary aspect of their interest in history.

The impact of antiquity was stronger on parlementaire literary activities, but these were usually conventional and derivative in content as well as in form. Only a small proportion of robe authors was actively engaged in creative writing, moreover. Étienne Pasquier was notable among them. His love of poetry was a ruling passion that bound him to others, who, "although led into another career . . . did not wish to dissociate themselves from the world of poetry as a superior form of pleasure, as an intellectual exercise, as a personal expression free of all external constraint, to which the other occupation was subordinated."[29] One of those special companions was François d'Amboise, also a lawyer and, more tellingly, a fellow contributor to a collection of verse in memory of Gilles Bourdin, procureur général of Parlement, who died in 1570. Bourdin's house had been the meeting-place of literary men such as Étienne Jodelle, Philippe Desportes, François de Belleforest, Jean-Antoine de Baïf, and cultivated parlementaires. Another such friend was Claude Rebours, a physician. Pasquier dedicated to him an epigram praising his use of two gifts from Apollo, that of curing bodies with bitter medicine and souls with sweet poetry.

Pasquier's Latin verse resembles that of the lesser humanists, full of classical references in convoluted puns, where the medium constitutes most


of the message.[30] In contrast to their legal and historical works (in Pasquier's case Recherches de la France ), and to the Pléiade surrounding Ronsard and Du Bellay, the significance of the scholarly Pléiade's poetry lay chiefly in its reflection of the ancient models.

A third channel through which antiquity affected parlementaire mentalité was philosophy. There is little evidence of any serious interest or study of Plato's thought, even in the neo-Platonic form found in the fifteenth-century Italians whose works graced the shelves of parlementaire libraries. Admiration for Socrates as an upright man who died for his beliefs—and the occasional citation from Plato or Aristotle—figure rather superficially as discrete nuggets of "the wisdom of the ancients." Stoicism, on the other hand, was a serious interest of a small but influential minority, especially from the floruit of Christophe de Thou, in the 1560s, to that of Pybrac du Faur in the reign of Henri IV, and including Michel de L'Hôpital and, especially, Guillaume Du Vair.

A natural affinity existed between certain Stoic doctrines and the sagesse laïque of the highly educated parlementaire of the later generations at the end of the civil wars, states Léontine Zanta. She believes that even a reformed Catholicism was no longer a viable philosophy for liberal Catholics and politiques in an era of violent extremes, dogmatic Calvinism on the one hand and ultramontane Counter-Reformation Catholicism on the other.[31] The Stoic beliefs that especially appealed were, first, that nature and utility should be the good man's guide and, second, that "practical reason" (in contrast to "speculative" reason) enables a wise man to live according to nature, to fulfill his needs, and to avoid the worst pains and misfortunes that are often brought on by faulty attitudes. Self-control and moderation are the key virtues; since passion is at the root of vulnerability, mastery of passion is the first essential step. One can then go on to cultivate the other virtues: patience, courage, liberality (sometimes called magnanimity), and justice. Wisdom is the supreme virtue, which embraces all the rest. There are vices corresponding to the virtues. Regulating one's life in this way, policer la vie , is what Paul Mesnard ascribes to Du Vair, taking him as an exemplar of the stage of full development and Christophe de Thou's deathbed declaration as "the charter of the movement."[32]


An essential element in achieving mastery is acceptance of disagreeable realities that one cannot change; one learns to ceder à la force , rather than offer courage inutile . Applications include Christophe de Thou's handling of the conflict between the policy of the crown and that of the Parlement in the crisis years, 1561-63, and Du Vair's yielding to the League (and subsequent self-justification) in the period when opposition by an individual who had chosen to remain in Paris was suicidal. At the same time, one should "play one's expected part well (tirer la meilleure partie ), extracting as much good as possible" from the situation and keeping always in mind the inspiration of those who have dealt successfully with the adverse situation, with minimal damage. Note that this is a negative, if not pessimistic view, reminding us of Thomas More's refutation of Raphael Hythlodaye's absolutist-idealist position in the Utopia (bk. 1). It is also necessary to set priorities rationally, so that the ends to be served will not conflict with the smooth execution of the overall plan. Patrie is the highest of these ends external to the self. De Thou's rally to the Edict of January over the opposition of Parlement in the hope of avoiding civil war and Du Vair's emergence as a politique in 1593-94 are examples. In the latter case the changed circumstances, Henri IV's conversion on the one hand, and the threatened takeover of the French crown by Spain, on the other, make the risks to be taken no longer inutile .[33]

A more positive stance draws on the belief that "hope and faith should crown the edifice of virtues," in this philosophy, called le stoïcisme chrétien , or néo-stoïcisme . Inclusion of the Christian element was mandatory for individuals who were first of all Gallican Frenchmen. The linkage between philosophy and religion emerges from the conviction that "nature" and "God's plan" are confluent, in fact, identical. Description in the language of philosophy as distinct from that of religion does not involve conflict, only "translation." The initial translation leads the believer from passive acceptance to activité créatrice , the opportunity to become a collaborateur de Dieu (an interesting parallel to the contemporary Calvinist precept of "doing God's work").[34]

This synthesis of Christian and Stoic thought, especially from the 1590s into the new century, represents a shift in the relative influence of major


classical thinkers on educated French minds, specifically from the predominance of Cicero to that of Tacitus. J. H. M. Salmon traces its development:

In early sixteenth-century France Cicero seemed a perfect model to humanists. . . . Admiration for Ciceronian style was accompanied by a moralizing civic humanism and a respect for Cicero, the philosopher, as the purveyor of Greek wisdom. At the end of the century Tacitus had become a more important linguistic influence, while the ideal of the active citizen and virtuous orator had been replaced by one of Stoic fortitude and withdrawal.[35]

Budé's Institution du Prince , his advice to François I, reflected Cicero's association of rhetoric and history as the means through which to cultivate judgment and prudence. "Prudence in rhetoric was the ability to take account of the particular, and prudence in history was to understand the particularity of events and to apply to them general rules of human behavior in the interest of the public weal." Thus, says Salmon, "Budé represented the type of early French humanism that accepted authority in the prince and preached virtue in the citizen." By midcentury a number of thinkers had contributed to modifications in this view but the most influential was Ramus, who made "dialectical logic the queen of the sciences and rhetoric was reduced to a matter of technique. . . . In so doing, he changed the entire concept of the union of citizen and orator."[36]

In the turmoil of the religious wars, "the age of Tacitean scholarship was inaugurated by Justus Lipsius and Marc-Antoine Muret," and while Huguenots continued to cite Cicero and tried to adapt him to theories of resistance, scholars like Pasquier, Du Tiller, and Fauchet drew on the Germania "for the light [Tacitus] might shed on the political practices of their ancestors, the Franks, and such relevance as they might have for the sixteenth-century constitution." In Hotman's Franco-Gallia Cicero and Tacitus were "invoked in tandem." As the wars intensified, Ciceronian civic humanism was eroded by the sense of "helplessness of the individual in face of forces he could not control." As a result, perplexed citizens turned to the "tenets of Senecan neo-Stoicism . . . for the moral fortitude [that would enable them] to preserve dignity and integrity" while adopting the posture of resignation and pragmatic realism, exemplified by Du Vair, in 1593-94, the years of his anti-League activity. Thus began a revival of the


Ciceronian ideal within the Stoic ideal.[37] Prudence, "the least of the virtues," came to replace wisdom as a result of disillusionment, reciprocal exhaustion of Protestant and Catholic ideologues, and the triumph of appropriately politique compromise. Tacitus, the disillusioned critic of imperial Rome, took the place of Cicero, the republican champion of the vita activa .[38]

Yet the leading neo-Stoics were serious about politics, in practice as well as in theory. Gerhard Oestreich offers a brilliant analysis of the thought and influence of its chief exponent, Julius Lipsius. At a critical period in the religious wars in France and the Low Countries, Lipsius worked out a theory for a strong state, supported by the army but also limited by religious, moral, and legal principles. Oestreich calls this "political humanism" and contrasts it with "the arid philological erudition of contemporaries, whose links with the broad educated class became progressively weaker." It was "only in the autumn of humanism, as it were, that the fruits of the whole movement were gathered. Around 1600, especially in the France of Henri IV and the Netherlands, Stoicism became the ideology, almost the religion of educated men." (Ten editions of Lipsius' Politics were published in France between 1595 and 1613.)

Although Pierre Charron is the best known French disciple, Guillaume Du Vair, equally influenced by Lipsius, is naturally of special interest in this study. Du Vair's role in Parlement's rally to Henri IV and later in the surrender of Paris (see chapter 14) illustrates how, for Dutch thinkers and their followers, humanism adds an active ingredient to Stoicism: "Neo-Stoicism meant the moral and spiritual arming of the individual and the community." As a product of the Dutch struggle against Spain, the need of a strong, disciplined army was inevitably emphasized. Given this Netherlands context, the "constitutional" aspect was developed in a new direction in the next generation by Hugo Grotius, whom Oestreich considers the last great figure of Dutch humanism, balancing Lipsius, the first.

Another major theme of Lipsian thought, the transformation of the concept of "covenant" into that of "contract" was represented in France at the time only by Huguenots; it is easily recognized in the formulations of Bèze and the Vindiciae contra tyrannos . The neo-Stoic prudentia civiles , "a style of rule which aimed at a consolidation of state authority while employing the greatest moderation," characterized the policies of both


Henri IV and Richelieu, Oestreich believes, "especially in regard to the education of staff in all the institutions of the early modern state, through direct precepts for practical conduct."[39]

Through all the intellectual and stylistic changes of the century, the robins ' interest in history had not diminished. It influenced their political theory, as we have seen, and it surpassed all their other cultural concerns in popularity by a wide margin. Shared by the least learned and the genuine scholars, the parlementaires' view of "history" showed a considerable range of sophistication. The scholarly Pléiade constituted the highest level, of course. Thanks to Donald Kelley and George Huppert, twentieth-century readers begin to understand the contributions of Pasquier, Pithou, and their colleagues to the development of history as a discipline.[40] Beyond these historians, a much wider robe circle read history for pleasure and found it natural to make historical references and comparisons in their daily discourse and correspondence as well as in formal speeches or writing. Their level of familiarity with their own national past would probably compare well with that of twentieth-century (American) bachelors of liberal arts, except that there was then no active "debunking" movement to sharpen critical faculties toward the mythical and heroic elements.

At the outermost fringe of the wider circle, where the historical knowledge of nonintellectual robins merged with that of similar representatives of other professions, we find "popular" history. In contrast to our own times, where popular history is likely to be heavily contemporary in con-tent—often written by journalists, leaving to historical fiction the task of fueling popular interest in the past—robin popular history avoided their own times and emphasized the remote past. We can assume that certain topics were absent because they were controversial to the point that they might alienate potential readers and prove risky for the author as well. Pierre Droit de Gaillard's history, published in 1579, probably the most widely read of the popular histories, stopped with the reign of François I and included nothing later than the founding of the lecteurs royaux in 1530. Not only did it avoid mention of the civil wars "of religion," or of the troubled reign of Henri II out of which they erupted, the index had no entry for "civil war." If we read between the lines, we see that the author's frank disapproval of the tendency of les grands to disturb the status quo in the


fifteenth century was an indirect way of castigating the rival noble factions of his own time. But histoire was supposed to view the human scene sub specie aeternitatis and to elevate the reader's mind; God is known through history.

Droit de Gaillard, avocat à la cour , called history an "overflowing fountain," which was the source of all other disciplines. His title, La Vraye Methode qu'on doit tenir en la lecture de l'histoire , and even more the definitions of history in the index set the tone: "memory of the past, portrait of the virtues, messenger of antiquity, mistress of life, theater of the world, witness of the ages, true guide of bodies politic, guide to the knowledge of God, necessary even for princes, equalizer of old and young in wisdom, immortalizer of man, repudiator of vice, and mother of all virtues"—an emphatic statement indeed. Kelley considers Gaillard's view "rather naively exemplaristic," but he also credits him with digging more deeply into the medieval past than some others, including Jean Bodin.[41]

The authors cited by Gaillard include, from the ancient world, Pythagoras, Thales, Solon, Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch, Cicero, and Livy; there is also Moses, prince des historiographes . Saint Augustine, Gregory of Tours, Saint Bernard, and Vincent of Beauvais are cited, as are Johannes Reuchlin and Jean Sleidan. Commynes, who was much admired for his realism, appears along with Froissart, Gaguin, and Budé, but René Choppin and François de Belleforest are the only contemporaries.[42]

Gaillard's chapters feature heroes and villains. Socrates is most frequently encountered among the former. The author calls the Delphic utterance Know Thyself "the greatest of all truths" and goes on to explain that self-knowledge arises from consideration of the immortality of the soul and of its functions; this consideration in turn, depends on history. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Plutarch also appear frequently. Machiavelli, not surprisingly, is "the source of all false and damnable counsels," yet Gaillard admires Louis XI for combining "the strength of the lion with the craft of the fox." Aside from French history, which naturally takes up the most space, the Old Testament and Rome provide the most "lessons." Ambition


and avarice figure among the main evils; they characterize the tyrant in contrast to the true king and cause nobles to form conspiracies to overthrow the "natural order" and disturb the peace. When magistrates and priests are corrupt, they disturb the state too. Corruption explains the decline of Rome from its early greatness, and also that of the primitive church. The most dangerous of all signs of corruption is the prevalence of blasphemy, which leads to divisions in religion within a single state. Blasphemers are hypocrites, pretending to be true Christians, but they are actually atheists, agents of the Devil, aiming to destroy the unity of the state, which depends on unity in religion. The index calls religion the "seul moyen de régler un peuple, fondement des républiques." All the most desirable virtues depend on religion. The familiar list overlaps with the Stoic list and, significantly, offers Marcus Aurelius as the great exemplar of temperance, a leading virtue. The task of magnanimity is one we would not expect: "défendre la religion contre les infidelles, à l'imitation de Charles Martel, Charles le Grand, Godefroy de Bouillon, Philippe Auguste, et saint Louis."

The kings of France, like the kings of Israel, have three titles, corresponding to their three functions (ch. 9): king, judge, and priest; "king, to command as a father commands his children for their good; judge, in order to render unto each his due (there being no greater human virtue, as Plato said); and priest, pour le soing qu'il doit avoir à la religion . . . qu'elle soit bien et purement conservée . . . . Nothing else can assure the prosperity of the kingdom. . . . Likewise, there is nothing that can cause as many calamities as its neglect."[43]

As Gaillard outlines the history of France (chs. 6-9), the emphasis on the true religion and its defense is striking, beginning with the piety of the Gauls, "as noted by Caesar." "The Gallic and French people of all times are most devout" and they regularly choose men of the church as their leaders. Chapter 7 is entitled "Of the piety and religion of the kings of France, from which stems their title Most Christian." The chapter consists of a series of rhetorical questions: "Did not Clovis defend the one true church against the heretics? Did not Pepin protect the church when it would have been destroyed by barbarians? Did not Philip Augustus punish blasphemers? Did not Saint Louis travel to the Holy Land on two crusades and build the Ste-Chapelle to shelter the true cross? Did not Charles VII sign the Pragmatic Sanction and thus establish the liberties of the Gallican church by which our church was reformed and restored after it had fallen from its primitive state?" Philip the Fair is excused for not crusading (as he wished)


because of troubles with England and Flanders. Boniface VIII is understandably a villain ("he entered [the Holy See] like a fox, ruled like a lion, and died like a dog; in his vanity he made the false claim that France should be subject to the papacy, ignoring the warning of Saint Bernard, if you try to wield both swords you shall lose them both!"), but Gaillard specifies that these evils cannot be attributed to all popes.[44]

Justice also receives attention, though less than religion. Together, "they establish the throne." Magistrates are necessary to the prosperity of the state and they should be appointed on the basis of merit. Président La Place wrote truly to the king that all the disorders of our time stem from the violation of this principle; Gaillard adds, "Instead, the choice is influenced by money, favor, and ambition, which are the chief evils and enemies of the public welfare." Elsewhere he comes out frankly against the sale of offices and the violation of the rules, including the age requirement. He quotes Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch—the "wise ancients"—on the superiority of age over youth. In many different contexts, Gaillard associates the study of history with virtue and good government, as did Commynes.[45]

At the end of the century, Pasquier and his fellow defenders of the Gallican tradition, believing the attack from the Counter-Reformation to be more dangerous than the earlier Protestant threat, were consciously searching for a "usable past," so as to provide a historical foundation for the legitimacy and validity of French national institutions, as distinct from those of Rome.[46] They perceived the heads of the ultramontane hydra, though sometimes in disguise: publication by the Jesuits of Guise-Lorraine claims to the throne allegedly usurped by Hugh Capet, Trent decrees aimed at destroying the power of secular rulers over the church, inflammatory propaganda denouncing Henri III voiced by ligueur curés directed by the papal legate.[47] The papal bull of 1585, however, barring the crown to the legitimate heir, was a naked challenge, the first in an escalating series that reached its climax in 1593, with the attempt to annul the Salic law and set a foreign princess on the throne.

The politique historians' response was to proclaim ever more insistently the unique, independent "genius" of France, equal in antiquity to that of Rome and superior—for the French people. From the Gauls, as described by Julius Caesar, through the Franks—between whom there was no break—


to the present, French society, institutions and culture were declared to have had an unbroken development. In the ecclesiastical sphere, Rome's aggressive machinations and French institutional autonomy were equally ancient: the Crusades had been caused by papal greed, the corruption of the French church by the example of the Avignon popes: c'est de là que nous avons appris la chicane , said Loisel. On the other side of the coin, the Gallican liberties had existed from time immemorial. On the basis of historical research, the politique parlementaire-historians were able through Charlemagne and the "translation of empire" to establish the constitution, with its salient features held together in an indissoluble equilibrium, as ancient and ongoing.[48] They had become more aware of the force of change than were the earlier generations and recognized different kinds, but the disintegration of the equilibrium and the decline of civic virtue seemed to predominate, leading to the conclusions that change was usually bad and that their own were the worst of times.

The theme of "the past we have lost," which runs through Loisel's "Dialogue des Avocats du Parlement de Paris," is elaborated by detailed judgments of well-known lawyers from the fourteenth century to Loisel's contemporaries. Although there are heart-warming exceptions, in general the trend is downward. Whereas in the good old days the Paris bar was la pépinière des dignitez and lawyers followed a code of ethics that was both personally noble and the embodiment of civic virtue, now avarice, excessive—and selfish—ambition, and shady practices are the rule. Venality is the principal cause; Pasquier-Socrates makes the point forcefully and repeatedly. Moreover, the historical Pasquier attributed it to the dire influence of Machiavelli: "le malheur de nostre siècle [est que] pour acquerir réputation d'habile homme il faut machiavellizer."[49]

Huppert's analysis of the parlementaires' method makes a determining argument for characterizing them as true historians. It is not only that they


reexamine the medieval history of France with the tools of philology and law, but that their definitions and use of sources are very different from those of antiquarians and chroniclers. Pasquier follows official records closely, with "no dramatic embellishments. When [he] needs information he cannot find in the registers of the courts, he chooses his informants carefully, noting their bias and comparing their stories with conflicting accounts . . . relying, all other things being equal, on the source closest to the event." Of particular interest to historians of the late twentieth century is the breadth of Pasquier's conception of history and the consequent variety of his sources. Huppert considers this "perhaps the most remarkable feature of Pasquier's historical method. . . . Everything is grist to his mill: an act of Parlement, a papal bull, a poem, a coin, a statue, the record of a trial, a chronicle; all authentic remains, if possible contemporary with the event in question, can supply testimony." Another unusual feature is Pasquier's presentation of his selections for emphasis, "topical," rather than strictly narrative. He is not bound to "coverage" of every possible event; rather he analyzes around a point, focusing on the relevant aspects. Huppert illustrates this technique in his summary of Pasquier's treatment of the Hundred Years War, "in three long consecutive essays . . . [that] in cutting short the chroniclers, in extracting the marrow from the bone, as his favorite Rabelais would have said, in constructing a brisk and clear narrative out of the confusion of partisan accounts . . ., with minor corrections, could still serve as an excellent introduction to this period."

The analogy of the factional conflicts, personal feuds, and civil disturbances complicated by foreign intervention that led to the disintegration of the French state in the fifteenth century, to the troubles of his own time, makes the Hundred Years War, through in-depth analysis of the root causes of the tragedy and of its seemingly miraculous "happy ending," a logical choice for one who believes that practical lessons in political wisdom can be drawn from history.[50]

If "the notion of a vital connection between cultural phenomena and the political condition of a nation . . . accounts for the constancy of Pasquier's purpose and . . . the organic form of his Recherches . . . and also for the fact that he came closer than anyone to realizing La Popelinière's ideal, as Kelley believes, we should also recognize that the all-embracing conception of "the


genius of France"—institutions, arts, language, customs—was shared by all the parlementaire historians, as was the rejection of myth, superstition, and the supernatural.[51] Pasquier's conclusions about the outcome of the Hundred Years War and especially his handling of Joan of Arc are outstanding examples of historical analysis of the past. But for balanced handling of emotion-charged events in which they were personally involved, Pasquier, de Thou, Le Caron, and Loisel, to name the outstanding examples, are even more unusual.

Another kind of drawing on history for political wisdom is to be found in Loisel's Guyenne , a series of homilies and exhortations arising out of the decisions of the special court of which he was a member, sent in 1582-83 to the chief towns of Guyenne, where widespread heresy had provoked civil disturbances. The French crown was then experimenting with a new device, the establishment of chambres mi-parties , that is courts with membership of Catholic and Protestant judges in equal numbers, to adjudicate disputes under the Edicts of Pacification.[52] Loisel finds a precedent in Roman history:

[The emperor] Vespasian, after the Gothic invasions, sent through the provinces officers called comptes to dispense justice . . . if both parties [to a dispute] were Goths, they would be judged by a Gothic officer, if Romans, by a Roman; but in the case of mixture or diversity, the court would be mi-parties , half Roman judges, half Gothic, and both were charged to dispense equal justice to all so that both sides together would be responsible for the maintenance of peace and order.[53]

That Pierre de L'Estoile shared the royalist-politique -parlementaire interpretation of history is evident from his treatment of "current events" and the way he will use a historical personage or event to draw a moral, but he is not a historian. He is, rather, a remarkably perceptive reporter of matters he knows at first hand, the Paris League above all, with a high degree of objectivity even on matters about which he had strong feelings, notably the quarrel between Venice and the papacy.

Paul Geisendorf cites the ultra-Catholic Claude Haton as a successful propagandist, who also believed everything put out by his own side, and Agrippa d'Aubigné as one who did not succeed (in persuading non-Catholics to convert) but who had greater awareness than Haton of the distinctions


between fact and propaganda. Geisendorf uses L'Estoile as one who was not taken in by the propaganda of either side:

This good Parisian bourgeois, strolling through his great city with his nose to the wind, attentive to every daily event which then had to pass through the sieve of his sound common sense, was always able to keep from falling into either extreme; spectator more than actor, he succeeded in giving us . . . a lively, varied and sensitive account of the terrible years, 1574-1611, without taking any unrealistic and exaggerated emotional stand as did most of his contemporaries.

But this did not mean that his judgments were always trustworthy, adds Geisendorf. He cites as an example of objectivity L'Estoile's condemnation of "a [Catholic] book of devotion, or according to me, superstition, called Fleurs des exemples , full of lies, whose chief use is to give the heretics something to laugh at, and they are indeed Tales of Mother Goose," and another, "of the same grain but from the other mill," which was "a new volley against the pope, fired by cannons in the Arsenal of Geneva, no less offensive than those of Rome." L'Estoile's pains to avoid being taken in occasionally led him to condemn a book falsely, while his account of local events almost always agrees with the archival sources, except in minor details.[54]

Oddly enough, the Mémoires-Journaux do not contain entries on Pasquier and Loisel as historians, nor do their works seem to have been in Pierre's library. In view of his curiosity on the one hand, and the coincidence of his values and opinions with theirs on the other, we are puzzled by the omission, Pasquier's Recherches , of which there are many editions, was circulated in manuscript before publication, but Pierre was not a member of the scholarly Pléiade. Even so, there was an inclusive edition, the last to be supervised by the author, in 1607. Loisel's "Dialogue des Avocats" was published in 1602 and La Guyenne in 1605. All of these publications fell squarely into the period of L'Estoile's greatest activity as reader, critic, and collector. Of course the most interesting of Pasquier's historical "essays," contained in letters to friends, were not available in print until much later. I would speculate that if L'Estoile had been in a position to see them, the Mémoires-Journaux would have been many pages longer.


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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