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7 The Engine of Repression The Transitional Generation, 1540-1551
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The Chambre Ardente

Nathanaël Weiss, who made a full study of the "engine of repression," believed that the Chambre Ardente was set up in Paris sometime between December 11, 1547, and May 2, 1548, on which date it began to function


officially, ceasing in January 1550.[17] There are some gaps in the records, for instance the trials of the victims of the autos-da-fé that marked the triumphal entrée of Henri II into his capital in July 1549 are missing. Twenty-three parlementaires served at one time or another in the Chambre Ardente; the usual bench comprised twelve. The presidency was alternately in the hands of Pierre Lizet and François de Saint-André, both veterans of the Parlement, Saint-André since 1514, Lizet (as avocat du roi) between 1519 and 1529, when he became premier président. Weiss has very pronounced opinions about their respective performances in office, noting the conspicuously smaller number of capital sentences when Saint-André was in the chair; his efforts went rather into "obtaining retractions, with punishments confined to amende honorable and procedures designed to intimidate the prisoners." Lizet, on the other hand, is described as "all the more ferociously conservative in religion because he prided himself on [his knowledge of] theology, of which he understood nothing." The founding of the special court is generally attributed to Lizet, and Weiss adds, "the arrêts signed by him certainly contributed to its nickname, Chambre Ardente. He distinguished himself not only by implacable severity but also by the care he took with numerous details designed to terrorize the victims and those tempted to imitate them."[18]

Saint-André had a reputation for intellectual cultivation—he purchased the bulk of Budé's library, as Weiss points out—but Lizet was recognized as a man of prodigious learning in the legal field and was much more highly respected by contemporaries. His integrity impressed them, and one finds frequent reference to the fact that he died poor, which is pointedly contrasted to the financial situation of his two (notoriously venal) successors, Jean Bertrand and Gilles Le Maistre. His strict orthodoxy and collaboration with the Sorbonne cannot be doubted, but he was not subject to pressures from outside the court, as was Saint-André, especially in the 1560s (see chapter 9). Furthermore, we have noted that in at least two crucial situations he intervened to reduce tensions and bring about accommodation, as avocat du roi in 1523 with regard to Berquin, and in the 1540s when he urged the fanatical preachers to cool their oratory in order to prevent the populace


from taking the law into its own hands, leaving control of heresy to those whose legal responsibility it was. Some sixteenth-century writers also credited Lizet with resisting the poursuites of Béda in the early 1520s, but I have not found any firsthand evidence of this claim. He was, in any case, unbending in his loyalty to the law and to his duty as he saw it.[19]

A comparison of Saint-André's 1548 presidency (May 2-July 19) with that of Lizet (July 19-October 30) bears out Weiss's contention in that death sentences and the use of violence were more frequent in the latter period: there were only two martyrdoms under Saint-André compared to twelve under Lizet. Torture also figured routinely in the Lizet period. The difference in length of term (three months, ten days, as compared to two-and-a-half months) is not significant in view of the nearly equal number of cases in the two periods, ninety under Saint-André and eighty-six under Lizet. At the other extreme, there is also a marked contrast in the incidence of leniency: under Lizet, only two of the accused were élargis with no punishment at all, a mere admonition vivre en bon catholique , as compared to a dozen under Saint-André. Between the extremes there is little difference except that there were somewhat fewer public whippings under Lizet (eight as against fourteen under Saint-André). Banishments were about equally frequent, though the sentences of Saint-André show a greater flexibility, two are for one year only, while under Lizet all but one were for life and that one was for five years.[20]

While there is no denying the harshness of the most severe sentences and the horror they inspire even on the printed page, it should be noted that in both periods the majority of the accused was punished by public humiliation and admonition. The usual sentence called for confession of one's errors—specified, as was the place(s) of the recantation, followed by attendance at a special church service at which an official spokesman of the faith would preach on the particular "errors" involved; followed by amende


honorable , that is, walking a prescribed route in the town(s) where the sins had been committed, barefoot and all but naked, carrying a lighted candle of prescribed size and weight. The sinner was admonished to live henceforth as a good Catholic, avoiding association with heretics or fugitives, sometimes on pain of banishment or the fire. We have noted Alfred Soman's revisionist analysis of criminal justice with regard to sorcery. The Parlement of Paris showed similar leniency with regard to heresy in appellate cases under the moderate Tournelle judges in the late 1550s (see chapters 4 and 8).

In cases involving a group, the leader(s) would be more severely dealt with than the followers, condemned to the fire with no leeway, having first been tortured to extract other names. Those guilty of any form of preaching or proselytizing, or of harboring these activities in their houses, received the harshest sentences. It is often not clear what the precise content of the crime was; blasphemy against the "sacrament of the altar" was one of the most frequently cited, attendance at illicit assemblies was another. The occupational categories of the accused were consistent throughout the two periods and featured clergy, mostly regulars, artisans and women (the latter often wives of accused artisans). There was a sprinkling of lawyers and notaries. In one case the local officers of Cognac, as a group, were accused of sympathy with heretics and refusal to prosecute them, but since individuals were not named, strictly speaking there was no immediate case. They were suspended from their functions pending further inquiry.[21] Regions of greatest incidence of heresy cases in this period include the upper parts of Burgundy (Sens, Auxerre), Poitiers, Picardy (Amiens), as well as the Orléanais, and the Loire valley.

Only two nobles figured in the 176 cases judged in the six months analyzed; they were brothers, Guillaume du Monceau, seigneur de la Brosse, prior of Sermoises, and Lancelot du Monceau, seigneur de Tignonville. Each was cited before the Chambre Ardente half a dozen times, the last three times together. On April 8, 1549, one Louis Jolippon of Étampes was taken from the Conciergerie to the Place Maubert and tortured for names of his accomplices before being executed. The court's order decreed that if he named either of the Monceaux, he should confront them. Five days later Lancelot was convicted of "stubborn persistence in heresy" and condemned to amende honorable in front of the main portal of the church in Tignonville before perpetual banishment and confiscation of all his prop-


erty. We do not know the fate of Guillaume. Members of the Tignonville and de la Brosse families were still active in the Huguenot party a generation later. The commander of the defense of Niort, a heroic episode of July 1569, who was honored in a special ceremony by Jeanne d'Albret, was a seigneur de la Brosse; the governess of her daughter Catherine de Bourbon, was a Madame de Tignonville (born into the family of Jean de Selve) known for her puritan zeal.[22]

The personnel of the Chambre Ardente was quite stable. In the lists published by Weiss (from the Parlement's registers) there were always at least ten and sometimes as many as fourteen serving in a given session, but both these figures were exceptional. A nucleus of eleven sat almost every day and usually there were twelve. When neither of the présidents was in attendance, a veteran conseiller presided, either Jean Tronson, Guillaume Bourgoing, Franéois Tavel, or Louis Gayant. Other regulars were Jean Barjot, Nicolas Chevalier, Antoine Le Coq, and Pierre Hotman. Occasional participants, in descending order, were Jean Florette (twelve times), Nicolas Martineau, Nicole Du Val, Guillaume Luillier, Pierre Grassin, Martin Le Camus, and Oger Pinterel (each three times); Étienne de Montmirail, Jacques Le Roux, and Claude Anjorrant each sat once. Not all of these should be reckoned as equally hard-core acharnés ; some stood at times (during the civil wars) with the moderates. In general, however, the membership of the Chambre coincided with the ultra wing of the transitional generation. The gens du roi were not consistently aligned with this group—as Lizet had been as avocat du roi—except for Le Maistre (avocat civil , 1541-50), who was much less effective in each of the offices formerly held by Lizet. Avocat criminel Gabriel Marillac (1543-51) was a moderate; and Noël Brulart, procureur général 1541-57, although often associated with the ultras, also showed a balance and sense of the public interest as in his attempts to control the violent rhetoric of Parisian sermons. Brulart also spoke boldly to the king in opposition to the admission of the Jesuits in 1551, joining forces with his fellow gens du roi , Marillac and Pierre Séguier, both known moderates.[23]

For an inkling of the identities of the suppressed liberal (or even heretical) minority, we must have recourse to other sources, such as the police report of suspects in 1562, which, as we shall see (chapter 8) also raises questions,


by inclusion of some unexpected names and omission of some that seem more likely from what we otherwise know of them.

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7 The Engine of Repression The Transitional Generation, 1540-1551
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