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6 Challenge and Response of the Early Generation Mid-1520s to Mid-1530s
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Challenge and Response of the Early Generation
Mid-1520s to Mid-1530s

Early Manifestations of Unorthodoxy

For historians of the French Reformation, the early 1520s are notable for Guillaume Briçonnet's reform of his diocese of Meaux, where he became co-leader of reform-minded Frenchmen with the humanist scholar Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples, whose vernacular translations of the Bible were just being published. Both enjoyed the patronage of Marguerite d'Angoulême, later queen of Navarre, the king's sister, and their three names have continued to be identified with what the French call the pré-réforme . Translations of Luther's pamphlets of 1520, condemning the sacramental system and celibacy, and calling on the German princes to reform the churches of their respective states, were circulating throughout Europe. Not far behind was news of his excommunication, his defiance of the emperor (1521), and the changes in liturgy he introduced in Wittenberg after his rescue by Elector Frederick "the Wise" of Saxony, in 1522. For Parisian parlementaires, however, events in Germany were material rather for amazed gossip than for serious concern. Even the new ideas of Marguerite and her protégés did not loom large by comparison with events close to Parlement's interests, such as the king's creation of new judicial offices and establishment of a system of municipal bonds (rentes de l'Hôtel de Ville ) as ways of augmenting the royal revenues. To be sure, the Sorbonne had condemned Luther's works as heretical, together with Lefèvre's translations, and Parlement prohibited the publication of any religious books lacking the imprimatur of the faculty of theology. The "menace of Lutheranism" began to be mentioned in Parisian diaries.[1]


But the court as a whole was not yet aroused on the subject of heresy, and between the representatives of unorthodoxy and those who attacked it stood the royal family's sponsorship of the new learning. Yet the royal family's position was not monolithic. Marguerite's stand was clearly with the humanist reformers but that of her mother was ambiguous. Louise de Savoie had always exerted the greatest influence over her son, understandably in view of his debt to her ambition and political ability. Louise visited Meaux in the early fall of 1521 and a letter of Marguerite's to Briçonnet shortly thereafter says that her mother and brother were ready to defend the "évangéliques contre les calomnies des hypocrites."[2] A year later, however, Briçonnet wrote, "Le bois que vous vouliez faire bruler est encore trop vert. . . . Le roi et Madame ne sont pas mûrs pour la réforme évangélique."[3]

Those who believe that the queen mother was, like her daughter, a true believer in and sponsor of the reform, base their opinion on an entry in her so-called Journal for December 1522, expressing antagonism to the ultraconservatives: "Mon fils et moi . . . commencens à cognoistre les hypocrites blancs, noirs, gris . . . et de toutes couleurs." At the time of this entry Louise was angered by attacks on Michel d'Arande, a member of her household who was "reading scripture" with her, a circumstance that might account for the tone rather than personal sympathy with the reform; Louise was not one to take any kind of opposition in stride.[4] If the argument of a recent article is correct, one aspect of the mystery can be cleared up, namely, the explicitly Protestant tone of the Journal text. Myra Orth's hypothesis is that the Journal was actually ghostwritten by François Du Moulin, one of Louise's Franciscan advisers who had been a tutor of young François in Angoulême, before his accession. Orth claims, in fact, that Du Moulin was the link between the royal family and the humanist reformers, Budé and Erasmus as well as Lefèvre. Du Moulin seems to have lost favor with Louise about this time, the turn of 1522-23, and Orth asks, "Was the Journal his swansong?" If so, she does not feel able to elucidate the matter.[5] Orth's attribution would explain the text of the Journal as Du Moulin's unorthodox views are well known, but it leaves the question of Louise's own true


belief unresolved. While Marguerite, in the Heptaméron , presents the Louise-character, Oisille, as évangélique , I incline to the opinion expressed by V. L. Saulnier that the queen mother was not on the conservatives' side "nor resolutely on that of Briçonnet . . . never allowing herself to be sidetracked from political and practical considerations."[6]

The same might be said of François I himself. He cultivated the image of Maecenas, a patron on the model of the Italian princes, treating representatives of the new learning as ornaments of his court. The establishment of lecteurs royaux for classical, oriental, and scientific scholars, in 1530, was the crowning manifestation of that policy. This sponsorship earned him the flattering title, père des lettres . The fact that he also protected representatives of the new religious learning (notably Briçonnet, Lefèvre, Clément Marot, and especially Louis de Berquin) from the secular and ecclesiastical authorities produced the impression that he shared the opinions of his sister. Historians prior to the midtwentieth century tended to contrast a pre-reform period of considerable leniency toward dissent on the king's part, with a "crackdown" in the late 1520s and especially after l'affaire des placards (1534). A careful examination of the record does not support the view that François I was seriously interested either in the innovative intellectual currents (Renaissance) or in religious reform. In the former he was a dilettante, and he always opposed "heresy"—or anything else—that undermined royal authority. N.M. Sutherland attributes the conventional misreading to historians' failure to trace out the links between François's religious and political policies, especially in foreign affairs, and to their exaggeration of the significance of his repeated interventions for Berquin. I believe that she is right on the first point but underestimates the importance of the second in contemporary opinion. The parlementaires, at least, were convinced that the crown favored the alleged heretics, with the result that tension between king and court steadily increased.

New scholarship of the 1990s has drawn fresh attention to the problems of interpreting attitudes toward the reformers of both the king and the Parlement. On the one hand, James Farge maintains that the influence of the reformers has been greatly exaggerated, that the title Très Chrétien was much more important than père des lettres , and indeed that the sponsorship of letters was inseparable from the concept of king-priest as sacerdoce royal . Likewise Guillaume Budé, organizer of the lecteurs royaux , believed that the classics gave Christian scholarship greater depth. For "Christian humanists," following Erasmus, true religion had nothing to fear and every-


thing to gain in partnership with study of the classics. Indeed the liaison étroite of church and state in opposition to heresy was conspicuous in the very years of the lecteurs royaux .[7] Farge is certainly right that the Parlement consistently supported the Roman tradition against dissent; even the most open-minded of our magistrates never rejected core Catholic doctrine although conceding "peripheral" changes, such as use of the vernacular.

C.A. Mayer, on the other hand, takes a boldly revisionist view and maintains that the king, and others of the royal family, not only favored the reformers but developed a strategy of elaborate deceit to protect them from exposure, persecution, and prosecution by an argument as follows: only persons who claimed to be followers of Luther were condemned by the pope's bull Exsurge domine (June 1520), and thus Frenchmen who denounced Luther—even while embracing some of his ideas—could escape prosecution by the Sorbonne. According to Mayer, the term évangéliste (or évangélique ) was invented to describe them (and indeed the practice of historians down to the present has been to apply it), a "cover-up" term (faux-fuyant ) Mayer calls parfaitement erroné . Mayer says that they are equivalent terms and that rationalization for évangélisme was based on the correspondence of Marguerite and (especially) Briçonnet, with the false assumption that the Roman church was on the threshold of reforming itself, and that only those who acknowledged Luther were really heretics or Protestants. There are no known French dissenters claiming Luther as their model. In fact, they usually replied to such allegations, "I was not baptized in the name of Martin Luther, but in that of Jesus Christ!"

The correspondence of Marguerite with Briçonnet, in 1521-22, is the only primary source known to the present writer that might support a policy of deliberate deception, and that attributable exclusively to Marguerite. It assumes a commitment to the reform inconsistent with the pragmatic political position of both the king and his mother, abundantly documented; it also conflicts with the humanist Erasmian position of Catholics who were opposed to persecution of dissenters but who also felt a need to differentiate themselves from the ultramontanes of the Sorbonne.

Even less convincing is Mayer's revisionist contention that the Parlement of Paris in the 1520s was antiroyalist, even anti-French, cooperating with Spaniards and others allied with Charles V to delay François's release and


return to France. Conceivably, this might be true for Jean Bouchard, an obscure figure, whose identity has never been clearly established, but he was anything but representative of the court. The loyalty of ranking magistrates to the monarchy—as distinct from particular sovereigns—is unmistakable throughout the century.[8]

The relative scholarly neglect of the pré-réforme is partly to be explained by its scattered and amorphous character. Some personalities and events stand out: Noël Béda, syndic of the faculty of theology, made a virulent attack on the reformers, some of whom fled the country (Guillaume Farel, Marot) while others, like Briçonnet, drew back, and the first rash of martyrdoms occurred. Mayer does not understand how the mistaken theory that rationalized évangélisme could survive the "magisterial" exposure of Jean Delumeau.[9]

From Switzerland Guillaume Farel undertook to give shape to the reform as a national movement in France. In the eyes of later generations, his contribution was often masked by that of John Calvin, understandably since most of their doctrines coincided, and it was Farel who first invited Calvin to Geneva. The armature of Calvinism, after its establishment in the 1550s, tended to reduce the phase of Farel's leadership to "background" in historians' accounts. Farel was promoting the Zwinglian or sacramentarian doctrine of the Eucharist—denial of the Real Presence (except in a spiritual sense)—that served as a core to the concept of heresy in France. In the mid-1520s attacks on the mass were matched by increasing references in Catholic circles to the necessity of defending "the sacrament of the altar" at all costs. Agreement on this priority eventually caused king and Parlement to join forces, but for about ten years neither recognized how much greater was the strength of this bond than the various, less central, issues that divided them.

The heresy of Louis de Berquin became the principal bone of contention between the crown and the court, whose offensive was directed by avocat du roi Pierre Lizet. The polarization of later decades was foreshadowed in


the first period of tension over religious dissent, which rose in sharp jumps, from 1523 to 1529.[10]

In the first phase of the case, Berquin was caught in the Sorbonne-Parlement net that included clandestine searches for forbidden books. A collection of books and manuscripts found on Berquin's premises on May 1, 1523, and turned over to the faculty of theology to be judged, included translations of works by Luther and Melanchthon and original works of Berquin's, defending Luther. Not surprisingly, the faculty found them "manifestly Lutheran and derogatory to the Catholic Church" and recommended that they be burned. This judgment was handed down in late June, simultaneously with a letter from the king to the Parlement ordering the court to drop the case. Ignoring this command, Parlement summoned Berquin to explain his opinions to representatives of the faculty and two magistrates, André Verjus and Jean Le Verrier, who appeared often in this and similar capacities. Lizet attempted to act as mediator, hoping to persuade Berquin to modify his views sufficiently to bring about an accommodation, but nothing came of it when François I definitively evoked the case to the Grand Conseil on July 11. Still ignoring the king's wishes, Parlement had Berquin arrested the first week in August and ordered him to stand trial before the bishop of Paris. Rescue by royal officers "in the bishop's very presence" spared him this fate, but his books were burned in front of the cathedral of Notre-Dame on August 8.[11]

Thus in less than one hundred days, between May and August 1523, latent fears of innovation and Parlement's resentment of special privileges granted by the king to a "carrier of contagion"—heresy was regularly referred to as disease or poison—had produced a mind-set of intolerance in Parlement, which then took the first steps in the formation of a policy of repression.[12] Already certain members of the court were becoming known as "specialists" in heresy cases; their names recur in each episode. Pierre Lizet as avocat du roi became a leader of the acharnés . Twenty years later, as premier président, the pinnacle of a parlementaire career, he organized and directed the infamous special chamber for heresy cases, the Chambre Ardente. In the early generation with which we are presently concerned,


although Lizet was influential, the court's leadership was in the hands of the moderate traditionalist présidents Thibault Baillet and Charles Guillart. Premier président Jean de Selve was also a moderate, but he became suspect when he accepted dedications from Lefèvre (of the Psalter , 1524) and from Erasmus (of his Apologia , 1525). De Selve was a member of the small group of liberal parlementaires whose most distinguished representative was Guillaume Budé, and whose future offered a choice only between flight and silence.[13]

If any humanist reformer could be assumed to rank so high that he would be immune to parlementaire inquisition, it was Erasmus of Rotterdam, the model Christian scholar whose wit and pen faithfully served the Roman church in essential matters, like the sacraments and the papacy, while turning against only the abuses and human encrustations. The drift of parlementaire opinion to the conservative side is shown by the court's defiance of the king's wishes in 1524, when it insisted that Erasmus's works be reviewed and judged by the faculty of theology.[14]

Parlement's increasing agitation over heresy is a compelling drama, but it would be a mistake to assume that it had become the dominant concern. In the 1520s constitutional issues were more central and more keenly felt, though religious issues were inextricably entangled with them because of Parlement's traditional role as guardian of the Gallican liberties. Specifically, the bitterness of the Concordat fight was far from forgotten by either the king or the court. Parlementaires were not reconciled to the abandonment of the Pragmatic Sanction, nor could they forgive the man chiefly responsible, Chancellor Antoine Duprat.

The Confrontation with Louise De Savoie, 1525-1526

The crown's nomination of Duprat to two major benefices, the archbishopric of Sens and the abbey of St-Benoît, flatly denying the election of another man by the canons and the monks—operating under the old rules of the Pragmatic Sanction—was a concrete basis for reviving the Concordat battle. The twin facts of the king's absence from the country, initially at war and then as a prisoner in Madrid, and the resulting regency of his mother, made the moment opportune for a Gallican counterattack.

There were two prongs to the Parlement's offensive against Louise de Savoie in 1525: on the one hand, the direct attack on Duprat, which was at


the same time an indirect attack on the Concordat and a new affirmation of the court's adherence to the Pragmatic Sanction, and on the other, an attempt to take over control of royal policy toward heresy. In both they hoped, in the contemporary phrase, mettre en tutelle the queen regent, so that the returning king would be faced with a fait accompli. He would need Parlement's cooperation in order to secure arrangements favorable to France in negotiations for peace with Spain, and the court hoped to use this dependence as a quid pro quo to guarantee continuation of the gains made at the expense of the regent during the war. Although this strategy ultimately failed, it is important to our story because it reveals the spectrum of religious opinion shaping up in the early generation.

On the heels of François I's defeat at Pavia (February 1525) Ulrich Zwingli, the pioneer reformer of the Swiss Reformation, dedicated his Traité de la Vraye Religion to the French king. This had the effect of further alarming French Catholics already disturbed by the crown's religious policy. During March Parlement laid the foundations of a fortress to defend orthodoxy, whose battlements would not be completed until the 1540s. Premier président Jean de Selve's speech of March 20 began by stressing the importance of keeping in force the ordinances against blasphemy, the earliest being those of Louis IX, and the most recent those of Louis XII, and went on to say,

We must keep God's commandments . . . because His majesty is greater than that of kings. . . . Heresy is already great and is spreading rapidly in this kingdom [here de Selve refers to some of the instances of "Lutheran" doctrine brought to the court's attention;] some of the greatest persons in the realm have blocked the proper punishment for these offenses . . . and there are also highly placed persons who are not heretics, but who have shown disrespect toward God. . . . It is said that there are lawyers who eat meat on fast days, but [a search] has not turned up a single reliable witness.[15]

A commission set up to deal with future instances of blasphemy was composed of président des enquêtes Philippe Pot, conseiller André Verjus, and two theologians, Guillaume du Chesne and Nicolas Leclerc.[16]

An arrêt of March 28 ordained not only that those found to be blasphemers would be brought to trial but that "any judges found to be negligent in the pursuit and punishment of said blasphemers" would also face


trial. This was the first tolling of the bell proclaiming the intent to purge the Parlement itself, if necessary.[17] But in 1525 it was rather the royal court and circles patronized by the royal family that were producing the "poison." Parlement therefore decided to address remonstrances to the queen regent. They were drawn up on April 10 by a committee, on which served présidents Le Viste and Guillart, maître des requêtes Adam Fumée, président des enquêtes Jacques de La Barde, and conseillers Louis Séguier, Jean Tavel, and Claude Viole. The delegation that took the document to Louise, then in Lyon, was headed by premier président de Selve and included also Verjus, conseiller Jean Prévost, and président des enquêtes Pierre Clutin.

The points relating to our subject are these:

As faith is the true foundation of Christian law . . . [above all of the kingdom of France] . . . whose ancient kings . . . by their devout and meritorious deeds have earned the title Most Christian by purging the kingdom of heresies and errors up until this unhappy and unfortunate time, when some [persons] have adopted the pernicious doctrines of Luther, to which they have added their own particular errors . . . and, not content with their own perdition, have deceived many simple people into following them . . . with perilous consequences. . . . It is greatly to be feared . . . that they will draw still others to their ruin.

For these reasons, this court, which is charged with conserving the holy decrees, under the authority of the king . . . and which has always had the principal responsibility of cleansing the areas of its jurisdiction of such monstrous and pestilent errors, has previously ruled against the guilty ones, but the provisions enacted have not been carried out because their supporters found ways [to block their execution] sometimes by evocations to the Grand Conseil, sometimes by using illegal and absolute powers to release [the culprits] from prison, which has given others the audacity to adopt their evil doctrines. . . .

The court has deliberated further and begs Madame to request our Holy Father, the pope, to appoint some good and notable persons to [act] against archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other prelates [exempt from secular law] who might be found guilty . . . and [the court further requests the regent] to prohibit and forbid all evocations and exceptions to the law hereafter, declaring null and void those that have already taken place . . . and thus to show that she is a virtuous princess, worthy mother of the Most Christian King [by enforcing the law even in her own household].[18]

The spread of heresy was thus attributed to the decadence and deficiencies of the clergy, the subversion of justice—through evocations and weakening


of Parlement's control—and the encouragement of those in high places. The queen's response, as later reported to the court, after a conventional endorsement of the necessity of reform, rode roughshod over the more substantial points and threatened the magistrates by reminding them that they owed their offices to the king, who could easily take them away.[19]

In the late spring the pope buttressed Parlement's commission with his authority and Philippe Pot was replaced by Jacques de La Barde as the partner of Verjus. Linkage between heresy and the fight against the Concordat and the basic constitutional issue of Parlement's own jurisdiction—specifically in the never-ending resistance to evocations—comes out clearly in the regent's evocation to the Grand Conseil of the quarrel over Sens and St-Benoît, and also in Lizet's speech of June 9, in which he combined a strong claim for Parlement as against the Grand Conseil with an ardent plea to Louise to supervise (veiller sur ) the religious state of the kingdom by enacting necessary reforms while guarding against the penetration of new ideas.[20]

Throughout the summer and fall attacks on the groupe de Meaux intensified. At different times they were interrogated by Nicolas Brachet, Jean Mesnager, André Verjus, Nicole Dorigny, Louis Séguier, and Jacques de La Barde, acting in pairs. Séguier and Mesnager also gained a reputation as effective interrogators of prisoners arrested on suspicion of heresy in the capital.[21] The leading reformers recognized that the cooperation of Parlement and the Sorbonne increased their danger and reacted to it. In October Lefèvre fled to Strasbourg; in November the court initiated a trial for him, Farel, and others in absentia, only to have the cases speedily evoked by Louise. This provoked a formal protest by the court, composed by Le Viste and La Barde, delivered to the queen by the latter and Verjus.[22] In early December the court again requested the queen and the pope to take action, saying that "the investigations of our brother M. J. Mesnager [had found] that the seeds of evil, pestiferous and contagious, had been widely sown . . . [that] the situation was much worse than it had formerly seemed . . . [such that] great and execrable blasphemies threaten to overcome God's


honor, that of the king, and even the Truth to which our consciences are responsible."[23]

Since early summer Louise de Savoie had been actively negotiating her son's release. Jean de Selve had been sent to Spain in June, and in August Marguerite began her celebrated mission to Madrid, which would end in triumph just before Christmas. The result, formalized in January 1526, was the Treaty of Madrid, by which the king was released in exchange for his two eldest sons, as hostages, pending payment of a large ransom. France was also committed to surrendering Burgundy to the emperor.[24] Parlement exploited the situation by renewing the charges against Berquin and sending him to the Conciergerie. In February, it defied a royal command to release him and he was interrogated by président Guillart.

After Berquin had declared that he was appealing certain judgments against him as sans raison , président Guillart said that Berquin

had sent . . . in writing . . . some causes of recusancy against the judges delegated by the court, but that they were not acceptable and served only to delay his trial, [adding] that he appeared to be very contumacious. To this Berquin replied . . . that there were other . . . more sufficient causes than those he had put in writing. . . . [When Guillart asked how much more time he would need,] the said Berquin replied that he was making as much haste as he could, and that he could not [produce the evidence required] without recounting the wrongs done him in his first trial. . . . When asked if he was making the appeal comme d'abus . . . he repeated that [this fact] was already on the record . . . and after the aforesaid sentence of the deputed judges was read aloud, the said Berquin stated that by protesting that he had said nothing against God, the pope, the Catholic Church, or the king, or their several powers and authorities, he wished the court to realize that he was not contumacious, and intended only to show that the powers of the said deputed judges were insufficient in regard to his case . . . [and asked] that he be tried by the vicar of the bishop of Paris and other appropriate judges . . . or that he be sent to Rome, at his own expense . . . and that if . . . there were other witnesses to appear against him, that he be allowed to confront them. . . . Whereupon préesident Guillart said . . . that if he was appealing comme d'abus , he should state what the abuses of the deputed judges were. . . . Berquin than asked to be provided with counsel. After the said Berquin was taken away, the matter was declared open for deliberation by the court.

Parlement granted a delay until the next day, at which time Berquin was required to appear and explain the alleged abuses before the court proceeded


to make its decision. Parlement then tightened its own policy toward heresy. Preaching and teaching against the Eucharist were to be punished by banishment for clerics and imprisonment and confiscation for laymen within eight days of sentencing, on pain of loss of office for those responsible for executing the sentence .[25] Penalties for possession of condemned books were also stepped up.

In March 1526 François I returned to his kingdom, followed shortly thereafter by Farel and Gerard Roussel. Parlementaires must have felt that all the efforts and protests of recent months had been written in water. In early April they nevertheless tried again to explain their position to the king—through premier président Jean de Selve, who told the court that François wanted full details on Berquin's "alleged errors." Between April and October there was a continuing struggle between king and Parlement over Berquin, in which the magistrates were obliged to give way a little at a time. In July they relaxed their original order against permitting him to exercise in the prison courtyard, but only for two hours and only by himself. In October they allowed him to have books. By November they were on the defensive, excusing their treatment on grounds that Berquin had broken his word, before finally releasing him—to Marguerite—a few days later. Protests against royal protection of Berquin, which were issued following each concession, involved most of the ultras we have seen in action against heresy, but also mainstream moderates like Charles Guillart and René du Bellay, bishop of Paris.[26] The king's irresistible force was wearing down the Parlement's immovable body.

In December 1526 the king drove the point home by decisive resolution of the Sens and St-Benoît issue in favor of Duprat and by the suspension of three parlementaires to make examples of them: conseillers Nicolas Hennequin, François Disques, and Nicolas Le Coq, as well as procureur général François Roger, were barred from the exercise of their offices because they had been particularly hostile to the chancellor; they were not reinstated for many months.[27] This episode could be called Duprat's revenge, but Parlement did not give up the fight. As noted (in chapter 2) Guillart's speech of


July 27 was an expanded, elaborately documented expression of the court's protests of the previous two years, an example of offense being the best defense. In the opinion of a leading scholar, it contains "the statement of every preoccupation in the head of a parlementaire at the time." Of special interest is the phrase "kingdoms, empires, and monarchies cannot exist without the right religion."[28]

The new year had begun with another blow for Parlement: the pope revoked his support of the parlementaire commission and established in its place an episcopal commission, but the pontiff's own authority suffered an even greater loss and all Christendom a shock when Clement VII was captured by the victorious troops of Charles V, commanded by Charles de Bourbon, formerly constable of France, during the Sack of Rome, May 6, 1527.

French religious policy continued to lack coherence. Repeated shifts in the balance of ecclesiastical and lay shares in the control of heresy was a major obstacle, though Parlement's own position was consistent: the court had a constitutional right, and duty, to judge all nontheological aspects of the offense. As early as the 1520s members tended to equate heresy and sedition, although many royal edicts and parlementaire remonstrances attempting to define the precise demarcation line still lay in the future.[29] The extirpation of heresy was coupled with the liberation of the pope in an appeal of the clergy to the king at the end of the year, which also called for a council to deal with the threat of heresy to be held in every diocese in the kingdom.

Heresy as Clear and Present Danger

The Parisian diocesan council, presided over by Duprat, met in February 1528 and drew up a list of sixteen articles defining Catholic orthodoxy and another list of thirty-one "errors." The distinctions between the humanist reformers and the "sacramentaires" who denied the Real Presence were becoming evident, although the former were blamed for paving the way for the latter. The works of Zwingli were widely known in France, especially in the southern provinces, and Farel's efforts to recruit lieutenants to man the national reform were meeting with considerable success. Like the pro-


verbial match in a powder keg, the first outbreak of iconoclasm in Paris set off an explosion. On June 2 a much venerated statue of the Virgin Mary (in a niche in the wall of Louis de Harlay's house) was mutilated. The king was very angry and for the first time took a dramatic public stand by leading the procession to expiate la profanation de la Vierge and by ordering a silver statue to replace the old one. The "bourgeois de Paris" features it in his journal .[30]

Within a few days the Parlement was expressing its indignation and calling for strong measures. Pierre Lizet's speech was addressed to Duprat, urging the chancellor to influence the king's policy toward the "hard line."

This poisonous, contagious sect . . . is undoubtedly the source and root of all these scandals and evils. . . . For the Lutherans, as one can see in their writings, have not only despised the images in our churches, but also prayers to the saints, saying . . . that they have no power to help us, as Saint Augustine and Gratian said . . . [we must] try to cut off all the branches and toxic fruit . . . there is no other way than to exterminate and uproot [the evil] from this kingdom, otherwise . . . it will be beyond control. . . . [We must] make a thorough search for those of this unfortunate sect . . . by publicizing in all the major towns . . . where there is a royal court . . . and commanding the bishops to keep it under control and do their duty . . . so that this great and dangerous evil may be entirely removed from the state (chose publique ) as [the king] has always wished . . . and [now wishes] to achieve by sound advice to remove from his whole kingdom with the greatest diligence possible this unhappy sect that he has always hated. . . . Lizet then very humbly begged the said cardinal chancellor, as chief of French justice and principal prelate of the Gallican church [to carry out the policy stated].[31]

Louis de Berquin's release in November 1526 had not invalidated his sentence. He was determined to force the issue by claiming that those who had condemned him had exceeded their authority (appel comme d'abus ). For months (1527-28) he sought and obtained interventions by Erasmus, Marguerite, and the king himself, which finally resulted in the creation by the pope of a special commission to review the case (1529). Meanwhile Berquin was importuned by both Jean de Selve and Charles Guillart to drop the appeal. The sources make it clear that the court's leadership was anxious to find some face-saving formula and to avoid another confrontation with


the king—which they fully expected unless some accommodation could be found. Contemporary observers thought Berquin was himself responsible for his predicament, and for the third—and final—round of the case, through his unwillingness to let well enough alone. The bourgeois begins his very full account with the phrase, "God, wishing to punish him, puffed up his heart with pride." And Versoris remarks, "he absolutely insisted on abusing his knowledge."[32]

The papal commission decided that Berquin had clearly fallen into Lutheran heresy but that because of his declared willingness to submit to church discipline, his sentence would be limited. Although his books were to be burned and his doctoral degree revoked, and he was required to make public abjuration of his errors before being imprisoned for life, that life itself was spared. But when he then refused to withdraw his appeal, it was interpreted as disobedience to the Church and "hardness of heart." As a lapsed heretic he was turned over to the "secular arm," that is, the Parlement of Paris, which deputed a special panel to sentence him: premier président Jean de Selve presided; Denis Poillot was the only other président, but maître des requêtes Guillaume Budé served, as did Étienne Leger, vicar-general of the bishop of Paris (by invitation), along with conseillers Jean Prévost, Guillaume Bourgeois, Louis Roillart, René Gentils, and Pierre Brulart. Striking swiftly, they condemned Berquin to death and executed the sentence on April 17, 1529; in the words of the bourgeois, "expedited the same day with great diligence, so that he could not again have recourse to the king."

Although "the excessive impieties committed by heretics so angered the king" that he abandoned Berquin "to the ordinary course of justice," as Félibien says, the Parlement had no reason to expect that the king would thus reverse his course. Berquin having been twice snatched from parlementaire justice, it was logical to anticipate a third "rescue."[33] In addition, the return of Lefèvre, Roussel, and Farel under the shelter of the throne and their enjoyment of Marguerite's continued favor (shared by many lesser "innovators") supported parlementaire expectations, as well as their fears.[34]

In the first years of the new decade, the Reformation was expanding


throughout Europe in a variety of forms. Three of these were "magisterial," that is, under a centralized ecclesiastical direction, in contrast to the radical movements.[35]

In England the Reformation Parliament was passing a series of acts, climaxed by the Act of Supremacy (1534), which established a national church under the crown instead of the pope, but still Catholic in doctrine. On the continent, a clear-cut break between Lutherans and Zwinglians over the interpretation of the Eucharist had occurred at the Colloquy of Marburg (1529), an outcome diametrically opposed to the intentions of the organizers, who hoped to unify the continental reform. Within a year the basic doctrines of the Lutheran Church were formulated (Confession of Augsburg, 1530); the major Swiss cities, following the model of Zurich in 1523, held "disputations" between a reformer and a representative of the Roman church that resulted in the establishment of a reformed church in Bern, Basel, and—most important for us—Geneva and Neuchâtel. The exiled French reformers made Geneva their headquarters and when Calvin joined Farel there in 1536, that city was launched on its destiny as the "Protestant Rome"—although it would not be fulfilled for another twenty years.

In France meanwhile Louise de Savoie died, and François I grew apart from his sister and the humanists as he elaborated the policy of repression. In 1533 he launched a systematic drive to extirpate heresy in Languedoc, ordering Parlement to appoint commissioners who would proceed rapidement, par main forte to the task. Even so, parlementaires were not convinced that the king really agreed with them, but his reaction in l'affaire des placards would help them believe it. The appearance of handbills attacking the mass in Paris (and even on the door of the king's private apartments in the château of Amboise) in the night of October 4-5, 1534, and a heretical sermon by the rector of the university, Nicolas Cop, shortly thereafter, caused the extension of edicts against heretics to those who harbored or in any way helped them. Tighter censorship of printing was also instituted. But what impressed public opinion most was the king's personal participation in the public acts of expiation on the one hand and reprisals enacted against heretics on the other, in the early months of 1535.[36]


François I was no less preoccupied with foreign policy in the 1530s than earlier. Following a short break in hostilities (Treaty of Cambrai, 1529), he was preparing a new offensive against the emperor, this time by diplomacy. The first move was a new rapprochement with the papacy to secure papal acceptance of his proposed alliance with German princes against Charles V. The quid pro quo for the ambitious Pope Clement VII was the marriage of his niece, Catherine de Médicis, to the king's second son, Henri, in 1533, a marriage thought at the time to be inconsequential, which in fact turned out to be historically important when fate brought Henri (II) to the throne in 1547, after the dauphin's death. According to the bourgeois de Paris, it was the suggestion of the next pope, Paul III, that the French king reduce the discrepancy between his treatment of Protestants in France and those in Germany, "to employ mercy rather than justice . . . begging the king to calm his rage and exercise pardon. . . . Thus the king moderated his policy and ordered the court of Parlement not to proceed with the same rigor, . . . which resulted in the release of prisoners." This explains the tone of the preamble of the Edict of Coucy, January 1535, which is often cited as a sign of greater leniency on the part of the French crown.[37]

Sutherland is correct in seeing this as window-dressing, and in pointing out that it did not apply to those who most needed clemency, sacramentaires and recidivists, but it was nonetheless perceived by contemporaries as a softening of royal policy, a shift in the direction of toleration. At the same time the repressive measures remained in force, and Parlement was not deceived into renewed opposition to the king. The death of Duprat, which occurred about the same time, also contributed to the lessening of tension.

Decompression, 1535-1539

The period of détente lasted about four years. This does not signify a change in attitude toward heresy on the part of either the crown or Parlement. On the contrary, it means that their policies were in agreement. No new issues of contention, analogous to the Berquin case, surfaced in these years. The leading reformers were now in exile and Marguerite (de Navarre, since 1527) herself had been obliged to withdraw into silence. The pré-réforme was over. The lull coincided with the brief "liberal" period of the Roman Catholic reform, when the small group of cardinals who sought to heal the


breach with the Lutherans—under the leadership of Gasparo Contarini—drew up a proposal to reform the Church, at the request of Paul III.[38]

A brief pause in the relentless development of repressive machinery in France was noticeable, especially in Paris. Languedoc continued to be riddled with heresy. The Parlement of Toulouse, which had the reputation of being the most intolerant of the sovereign courts, obtained a royal edict that authorized it to initiate repressive measures against heretics without waiting for royal leadership. In 1539 another edict extended this option to all royal courts and officers above a certain rank.[39]


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