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

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