Preferred Citation: Roelker, Nancy Lyman. One King, One Faith: The Parlement of Paris and the Religious Reformations of the Sixteenth Century. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996.




The Buildup, 1585 to May 1588

The rebellion of the Paris League against the crown was the climax of the thirty-six-year Wars of Religion in France. Beginning in 1585 as a secret conspiracy, it grew into a mass movement in 1588-89, became irreparably fragmented in 1590-93, and disintegrated in the first three months of 1594.[1] During these nine and one-fourth years the Parlement suffered its greatest ordeal. At the turn of 1591-92 it seemed on the brink of extinction as an organ of political power, yet by the summer of 1593 it had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and then achieved its greatest authority and prestige in its then three-hundred-year history.

Parlement's story is a play-within-a-play of the larger drama, and it generally draws the attention of historians only when it temporarily occupies center stage. For the student of parlementaire mentalité , of course, the perspective is reversed. The radical revolutionaries (the Sixteen), the Guise-Lorraine nobles who attempted to manipulate the situation for their own ends—overthrow the Valois line, prevent the succession of a heretic, and substitute one of their own faction—the monarchs, even Henri IV, and their ministers, appear as distant, symbolic figures, a sort of Grand Guignol in the background, while the important scene is the Palais de Justice, and the major actors, heroes and villains alike, are its occupants, members of the last of our generations.

The leadership was sharply divided, differently in each successive period; after the fairly straightforward ligueur -royalist split of the early years,

[1] . There are enough special and new features that differentiate the movement of the 1580s and 1590s for historians to designate it as "the second League," although some essentials, such as the Guise leadership, the fiscal policies and religious practices of Henri III, represent a reprise of the first League.


subdivisions proliferated as both the League and the royalist party broke into reciprocally antagonistic factions. The most consistent figure (despite several changes in his effective status) was premier président Achille de Harlay, who had succeeded his father-in-law, Christophe de Thou, in 1582.

There were four major phases (acts) to the concentric dramas of the Paris League's rebellion and the fate of the Parlement: the buildup from 1585 to May 1588 (act 1), when the Guises, the papacy, and the conspirators exploited the weaknesses of Henri III and undermined his authority; then the open rebellion against him, from May 1588 to August 1589 (act 2), when the League drove him from his capital and eventually assassinated him; followed by the reign of terror, from August 1589 to November 1591 (act 3), which focused on the elimination of the heretic Henri IV on the national level and of the politiques in the Parlement. The murder of premier président Brisson (the moderate ligueurs ' replacement for Harlay) by the extremists (in November 1591) marked the greatest audacity of the Sixteen and brought about a precipitous fall in their power; finally, the decline and collapse from 1592 to March 1594 (act 4), with the total defeat of the League, not with a bang but a whimper, and the concurrent triumph of the Parlement, as the politique vanguard and savior of the royalist cause and of the nation.

We shall follow selected events of the League rebellion through the eyes and the words of leading spokesmen of the mainstream, principally, Pierre de L'Estoile, Guillaume Du Vair, Étienne Pasquier, and Jacques-Auguste de Thou, because of their comprehensive and continuous coverage, with significant interpolations by others; notably Harlay and Jacques Faye. The grass-roots aspects of the story will be drawn primarily from the testimony of L'Estoile in his Mémoires-Journaux . His is the most detailed account, especially of reactions to the activities of the Sixteen and to the inflammatory sermons of the ligueur curés, to which others make only occasional, and usually brief, allusion. The opinions of Guillaume Du Vair, when they are available, are valuable because he too remained in the city, and his speeches were influential in the critical months of 1593, strengthening the moderate position by favoring negotiations with the royalists, encouraging the king's conversion, and strongly opposing the Spanish-papal maneuvers to set aside the Salic law and "elect" a monarch from their own camp. Étienne Pasquier and Jacques-Auguste de Thou, both eyewitnesses of the buildup, chose to leave the capital with Henri III and were known as leading and articulate supporters of Henri de Navarre. De Thou was an active royalist agent from the summer of 1588 through to the end of the crisis.[2]

[2] . On de Thou's activities as a royalist agent, see especially his memoirs (Mémoires depuis 1553 jusqu'en 1601 , ed. Joseph-François Michaud and Jean-Joseph-François Poujoulat [Paris, 1838]).


All four were politiques —or we could not use them as spokesmen of the mainstream—but they had significant differences on some issues, in their assessments of responsibility for the successive crises, and in their opinions of particular individuals. L'Estoile and Du Vair had in common the risks—and ultimately the rewards—of remaining on the ship after the mutineers had seized control, but unlike Du Vair, L'Estoile never became a public figure—though his views were well enough known to place him on the League's proscription list. Du Vair, however, seems to have been more accommodating than other politiques to certain ligueur actions, in the early stages. The evolution of his own position together with his standing as a philosopher give his views special interest.

Pasquier and de Thou bring a historian's perspective to their interpretations. Both were serious scholars, steeped in classical studies and in the ancient (medieval) history of France. We have seen that Pasquier was prominent among its sixteenth-century "revisionists." The breadth of de Thou's perspective has no parallel among our spokesmen, nor indeed in the entire range of his contemporaries. The Histoire universelle deals with some aspects of the history of Scandinavia, Poland, and the Ottoman empire in addition to that of France, the Netherlands, the British isles, Italy, and the Germanies. De Thou had traveled widely and had greater worldly sophistication, but Pasquier's mind was subtler and more original. Both survived the settlement of the wars long enough to develop a long-term overview;[3] both were unusually objective in their capacity to present contrary opinions fairly and to recognize mistakes and defects in their own party. Both men were obviously writing for the ages and for four hundred years posterity has respected the results, albeit with some reservations.

Origins of the Movement

L'Estoile, Pasquier, and de Thou each recognized not long after the death of François, duc d'Alençon, in June 1584 that a corollary to its momentous consequence—Henri de Navarre's becoming the immediate successor—was the origin of what historians call "the second League," and that it was a much greater and more direct threat to the established order than that of the earlier League of the mid-1570s. Given the virtual certainty that Henri III would have no heirs, Navarre's changed status provided an urgent incentive for several interested parties to join forces in order to block his

[3] . Pasquier died in 1615, de Thou in 1617.


eventual accession. The Guises, the Spanish and papal leaders, and the local clergy had long grasped every opportunity to prepare for the eventuality, and in the new situation they closed ranks in a firm coalition and encouraged the rise of a new ally—the Parisian radical organization known as the Sixteen.

Other components in the program of the second League were in fact carried over from the first one, religious and financial issues in a special mix: the persistence of a Protestant movement and successive edicts that could be construed as royal encouragement of heresy, joined with Henri III's highly visible religiosity, ever-escalating fiscal demands—allegedly to combat heresy—whose fruits were lavished on the mignons and an extravagant life-style. As long as there was another Valois king in the immediate future, however, it was difficult to mobilize popular opinion and whip up a frenzy over the dangers that would threaten the Holy Land and the Chosen People if the Most Christian King were a heretic. Faced with that prospect at any moment, the Paris League stepped up both organization and propaganda.

In March 1585, after a description of the king's pre-Lenten festivities, with overtones of disapproval but nothing like the indignation of later years, Pierre de L'Estoile heads a section of his Mémoires-Journaux "La Ligue à Cheval, qui est une autre espèce de masquerade, mais mal plaisante": "At this time the enterprise of the Holy League began to reveal itself, of which those [of the houses of Guise and Lorraine] were the chiefs, supported and assisted by the pope, the king of Spain and the duke of Savoy, his son-in-law." The diarist then lists a series of motives having to do with various titles and fiefs for the Guise-Lorrainers, that were at first thought to be their purpose,

But soon it was discovered that the undertaking was to be a Holy League . . . with the pretext that they were designated [by themselves] protectors and proclaimers of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Religion, against those who professed the Religion claimed to be reformed . . . introduced into this kingdom by those who are called Huguenots, who practice it with the king's permission. Holy League, I say, invented by the late Charles, cardinal de Lorraine, [who,] seeing the Valois line nearing its end, seized the occasion, under this fine mask and holy pretext of religion, to eliminate the members of the house of Bourbon and others close to the crown, because they openly professed the said RPR [religion prétendue réformée ], and by this means to take over the crown of France, that they say was usurped from Lothair, last king of France in the Carolingian line, and from


his successors (their ancestors) by Hugh Capet, who could claim no right to it except by violent usurpation.[4]

Three months later, L'Estoile records the first of Henri III's capitulations to the League, the Épernay Accord of June 20, 1585, by which the king promised to exterminate the reform, with the comment, "The worst of this is, that the king is on foot and the League on horseback, as the penitent's sack he wore and their armor clearly demonstrated" (Brunet 2:199).

In a letter to Scévole de Sainte-Marthe about the same time, Étienne Pasquier asserts that the death of Alençon had set off the present evils, "which, I feel certain, would not have dared to raise their heads if he had lived." "Suddenly, after [Alençon's] death, the king, thinking he had a favorable wind, and wishing to assure the general tranquillity of the kingdom, sent the duc d'Épernon to summon the king of Navarre to court, as first prince of the blood and the nearest claimant to succeed to the crown." The fact that the Guise-Lorraine nobles were not included in Épernon's suite and that they took offense at the omission is noted, as is Épernon's bad fall off his horse on his way to rejoin the king in Lyon, "a sure omen that this affair would be a fatal precipice for our France." Then follows Pasquier's analysis of the origins of the League:

At first appearance there was never wiser counsel than to recall the king of Navarre, who, as much with the expectation of the crown as in order to be near the king could easily have been reconciled to our church. . . . Nevertheless, contrary to the opinion of all the worldly wise, this advice produced two opposite effects. On the one hand, the Lorraine princes, considering themselves abused, left court, very discontent, and on the other, the king of Navarre, . . . thinking that he was being lured to another trap, refused to come [to court], . . . with the result that the two parties we have today took form, especially that of the League.

Pasquier started to say that no man "of understanding" could avoid seeing what was happening but yet none had. Then he corrected himself: "What am I saying, nobody saw it? On the contrary, everyone put a bandage over his eyes so as to avoid recognizing it."[5] He tells how all winter long there were balls and masquerades. "This debauch ended only on the first day of

[4] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 2:183-185.

[5] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 249-250. Scévole de Sainte-Marthe, conseiller du Roy, trésorier général de France en la généralité de Poitiers, was an intimate friend and colleague of Pasquier and a prominent member of the judicial-literary circle to which so many of the politiques belonged (see brief bio-bibliographical notice, 256).


Lent, . . . as the monks were intoning their early morning prayers. . . . God saw to it that two days later the king learned . . . that the duc de Guise had seized the town of Châlons in Champagne in the name of the League. . . . When God wishes to execute an admirable stroke of vengeance on us, he bandages our eyes, stops our ears and blocks all our senses so that his blow will be felt rather than foreseen."[6]

Pasquier succinctly outlines the three grievances of the Guises, the fiscal excesses of the crown, the advancement of private gentlemen to the disadvantage of the princes, and finally, toleration of the new religion, which they demand be banished from France. As a result a state of war prevails,

In short, we have all become warriors in Paris. By day we guard the gates, by night we make regular patrols. . . . The Spaniard supplies the provisions for this war . . . saying that we troubled the Low Countries, like foxes, and he will now not hesitate to pay us back like a lion. As the king is arming, so is the League . . . [one cannot] judge whether the state is the real target, or the new religion. Some think it is a mixture of the two. As for me, I don't believe it, although I can well see that each of the [Guise] propositions has an appeal: the menu peuple is very happy that someone is fighting for its liberty; the princes likewise for their privileges and titles, . . . and everybody in general is not displeased to have the new religion exterminated. In any case, the king considers himself infinitely offended and takes all sorts of advice [in the attempt] to get the upper hand.[7]

In his treatment of the first League, in 1576, Jacques-Auguste de Thou makes a point of denying the ligueur insinuation that his father, premier président Christophe, secretly favored the League, with the connivance of the king himself.

Some who did not believe this went to consult président de Thou, and informed him of what was happening in the secret assemblies, begging him to say whether he approved and if it were true that the Court authorized them and that he himself gave it support?

This news startled M. de Thou into extreme astonishment. He replied at once, with his natural directness, that he had not heard of these enterprises, that he doubted they had His Majesty's approval, that he thought [those who asked his opinion] would be wise to renounce any such association, as it could not help but be contrary to the king's service and the state's tranquillity.

[6] . Ibid., 251.

[7] . Ibid., 252-253.


Knowing that he could obstruct their designs, "those of the League" were careful to keep any further information from de Thou. After his death in 1582, they did everything possible to blacken his name and cast doubt on his high reputation.[8] Christophe de Thou is alleged to have said:

All faction in a state leads necessarily to its ruin. . . . The real danger was not foreseen by those who advised the king to declare himself head of the dissident party [League]; on the contrary, by that move he deprived himself of . . . the right that the throne bestows, to have no equal, and lowered himself to the level of the meanest of his subjects, and divested himself of that supreme authority bestowed by God and his birth. . . . What other result can there be . . . if not to teach the French by this funereal example that another authority may exist, quite distinct from the king's, powerful enough to raise troops, pay them, demand an oath of loyalty, make war, and with impunity create in the heart of the kingdom that monstrous thing, a new state. . . . For myself, consulted only when the evil is beyond remedy, I would add only that I foresee that these troops enlisted under the banner of religion will inevitably turn their arms against the very person of the monarch. . . . Once the people have arms without the authorization of their sovereign . . . [they] will no longer obey his orders to lay them down.

In a peroration, the premier président calls on the Almighty to avert the disaster and to falsify his fears. Coming down to earth again, he opines that the wisest course for the king under the present circumstances is to try to make peace, to issue a new edict, plus raisonnable (than the Peace of Monsieur, which was widely disregarded). He believes that Protestants would welcome a letup in the fighting. As for the League, the sovereign should "arrest some of the less powerful, and punish them with the utmost rigor, to make them an example . . . at the same time all assemblies and associations without royal authorization should be forbidden under pain of the severest penalties." Henri III is said to have expressed regret that he did not consult the premier président sooner, and to have resolved to follow his concluding advice, which was to be kept secret even from the queen mother.[9]

When historian de Thou comes to the second League in 1585, he announces to the reader that it is the beginning of a new, and dreadful epoch. "Ce fut alors qu'on vit allumer dans le coeur de l'état un nouvel incendie, qui, après avoir desolé un des plus florrisants royaumes, après avoir causé la perte du Prince infortuné qui le gouvernait, devint presque également fatal aux vainqueurs et aux vaincus, et qui ne put enfin être éteint que par un coup du Ciel." He sees the veil that had covered the conspiracy earlier,

[8] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 5:315-317.

[9] . Ibid., 5:365-367.


torn aside. "On les vit alors marcher la tête levée . . . et soutenir hautement leurs prétensions, surtout étant appuyés de l'autorité des papes." The initiative he attributes squarely to Henri, duc de Guise, who had inherited his father's valor and prestige and his uncle's "designs," and whose ambition and "naturally troublemaking spirit" inspired him to "thrust the kingdom into renewed turmoil."[10]

Origins of the Parisian League, as distinct from the Guisard League, de Thou attributes to Pierre Hennequin, président in the Parlement, and to Étienne de Neuilly, who then chose men "burdened with debts and crimes, who needed a civil war to reestablish themselves," the first of whom was Charles Hotman, sieur de la Rocheblond—who is generally acknowledged to be the real founder of the Sixteen. The mismanagement of the kingdom he cites as a cause, but especially the defense of the Catholic religion, which was endangered by the "indolence and indulgence" of the king, who was dominated by his favorites. Jean Prévost, celebrated theologian of the Sorbonne and high priest of St-Séverin, was said to have been the first to sign, followed by Jean Boucher, curé of St-Benoît, a man "of good birth and great learning, but seditious to the point of fury," and Matthieu de Launay, an apostate from Calvinism. The roll of the Sixteen is then given, factually matching League sources and the account of Nicolas Poulain, the double spy, but with unabashed politique characterizations.[11] Recent scholarship has added depth and awareness of complexity to our understanding of the radical Parisian group known as the Sixteen, especially with regard to its social composition, the motivations of its members, and its changes over time. The fundamental fact for our purposes—that members of Parlement were strikingly few—has not been modified, as the well known and reliable primary sources leave no doubt on the matter.[12] Of the forty-eight identified ligueurs in the early, clandestine phase, only six were members of the sovereign courts, two from the Parlement itself, an infinitesimal minority. Five were merchants, five middle-echelon officers, ten avocats and procureurs, five lower clergy, eleven minor functionaries, two artisans and shop-

[10] . Ibid., 6:438-439.

[11] . Ibid., 6:719-720.

[12] . Descimon, Qui étaient les Seize? ; Barnavi and Descimon, Sainte-Ligue ; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen." The notes to this important article cite all the sources and assess their relative value. Particularly important are Registres du bureau de ville , vols. 8-10; Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant ; L'Estoile's Mémoires-Journaux ; and V. Luzarche, ed., Journal historique de Pierre Fayet sur les troubles de la Ligue (Tours, 1852); and "Le Procez verbal d'un nommé Nicolas Poulain," cited in chapter 12 note 1.


keepers, the rest undetermined. The question is, what socioeconomic, political, and ideological factors brought about this situation?

In complementary studies, Élie Barnavi and Robert Descimon have recently established the following points.[13] First, there was a greater differentiation of levels within the Parisian bourgeoisie than previously recognized, and the bourgeoisie première , officers who constituted the upper crust of the urban oligarchy through their service to the crown, was more distant from the others both in their own eyes and those of others.[14] Second, the League had "social equilibrium," that is, every group (except the very lowest) was represented, de haut en bas , as Barnavi says. Third, the League ideal was urban unity, but the tensions and conflicts among and within the various component elements increasingly functioned as disintegrating forces as one crisis followed another. Fourth, the basic division in the League, as in the city itself, separated those whose prime loyalty lay with the state, the ever more powerful monarchy, from those whose loyalty or interest was attached to the city alone. This cleavage clearly cuts off the sovereign courts from the others. Their interests, institutionally and individually, were tied to the crown. A fifth conclusion is that as the unity of the state became the overriding concern, and unity in religion had proved to be unattainable, une foi was overshadowed by un roi, une loi , and the traditional harmony between religious and secular elements destroyed. The founders of the League then appropriated the—in their eyes abandoned—religious factor and declared it to be the essential cement of the nation. According to these authors, it follows that religion was not a cover or "mask" for political motives but rather the true motivating force of the League, with the corollary that the ultramontane position was a logical one, also sincere, and not deliberately antinational. Philip of Spain was not chosen, he volunteered, and he was the only available secular and armed ally. (Nothing in the new studies challenges the obvious and long-recognized fact that intervention in France served Spain's national purposes well.)

Furthermore, while certain traditional political ideas—such as the Ar-

[13] . Élie Barnavi, Le Patti de Dieu: étude sociale et politique des chefs de la Ligue parisienne, 1585-1594 (Louvain, 1980); exchange between Élie Barnavi and Robert Descimon in "Débats sur la Ligue de Paris," Annales—Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations 37 (1982): 72-128; Descimon, Qui étaient les Seize?

[14] . The bourgeoisie seconde is composed of lawyers, businessmen, municipal notables, of whom few could "rise" into the top category; the bourgeoisie tierce was composed of master artisans and shopkeepers, who wished to share in the decision making of the city and defend their own prospects.


istotelian contrast between the true king and the tyrant, and the claim of the Estates General to be the successor of the curia regis —were easily adaptable to League purposes, in down-to-earth terms the Sixteen extremists sought to turn the established criteria of leadership, that is, birth and royal service, upside down. Barnavi cites Bussy-Leclerc's career as the paradigm.[15]

A final important point is the gradual emergence of a class struggle, with the lower levels embracing more extreme positions and the upper levels feeling increasingly threatened. Ligueurs used the word peuple in a laudatory tone to mean Catholics united in the League, whereas the politique use became sharply pejorative. One of many examples from L'Estoile is a heading at the end of December 1585: "Le peuple, au lieu de murmurer contre la Ligue, murmure contre son Roy, tant il est sot" (Brunet 2:221). Members of the second bourgeoisie became uncomfortable and formed the backbone of the moderate or Mayenniste faction after the parlementaire murders. This antagonism toward the extremists, and toward social inferiors, contributed to forging a bond between moderate ligueurs and politiques that proved to be decisive in 1593, when despite many differences, both approved negotiations with the king, favored his conversion, and rallied to the defense of the Salic law and legal succession even of a heretic king. This differed sharply from opinion among the lower-level robins , the stronghold of jusqu'au-boutisme .[16] We have already remarked on the belief of Denis Richet that the elites, across confessional and political lines, were agreed on the necessity of promoting purer and more moral ideas in the lower orders and cooperated implicitly in attempting to impose them.

Descimon has a few reservations vis-à-vis Barnavi, who, he believes, tends to equate ligueur accomplishments with their desires. He finds the takeover on the municipal level less complete and slower than Barnavi would have it and believes that there were many neutrals, or undecideds, throughout the League years who served as a brake on the operations of the Sixteen. He does not agree that the evolution was from a secret conspiracy to a "party," but rather from uncoordinated intrigue to institution-alization.[17] In my opinion, Descimon's less clear-cut description is more

[15] . Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 143-144. Jean Leclerc was nicknamed Bussy-Leclerc because of his violent ways, imitative of the notorious favorite of Alençon, Bussy d'Amboise.

[16] . For discussion of class struggle in the League see Barnavi and Descimon, Sainte-Ligue ; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 567; Richet, "Aspects socio-culturels des conflits religieux."

[17] . See Descimon, "Débats," 92-94.


convincing, although (or perhaps because) it allows for nonideological factors.

The position of Parlement under the League as pictured in the cool analysis of these twentieth-century scholars is the same as in the indignant prose of the parlementaires themselves; purged, humiliated, helpless until 1593, "which testified even more to the desolation of the state than [to the desolation] of the influence of Parlement." This judgment by de Thou is cited by Barnavi as a pithy summary of the situation.[18]

In an astute analysis of the influence of their financial status on the political choices of the dukes of Nevers, Denis Crouzet has made another significant point. Louis de Gonzague, duc de Nevers, incurred crushing debts in the early League years and temporarily strayed from allegiance to the crown to collaborate with the Guises. The excessive fiscal demands of Henri III, his policy of concessions to the Huguenots, and the prominence of the mignons all played a part in this change. But he was "bailed out" by Catherine de Médicis—at considerable cost—and then "returned to his obedience." Later years found him supporting the "heretic king," even though Nevers was an activist in the cause some called "a Catholic reconquest" of France. The most important of Nevers's creditors were associated with the Parlement, from ranking présidents like the Séguiers, down to avocats de la cour . Crouzet poses a leading question: "Dans quelle mesure la modération du Parlement dans le Paris ligueur ne s'explique-t-elle pas par la structure d'une fortune placée dans les rentes?"[19]

La Fronde De La Justice

These new studies, which bring twentieth-century tools as well as hindsight to the problem, explicate robin attitudes toward the origins and motivations of the League. It is noteworthy also that unlike some historians for whom the Sixteen were either nineteenth-century liberal democrats or twentieth-century Marxists before their time, these scholars confirm the interpretation of our mainstream spokesmen, that the League was a rebellion, seeking to exploit the general discontent to the advantage of its members, and to raise their status at the expense of the première bourgeoisie . In short, it was a political rebellion and not a social revolution.

Between the autumn of 1585 and the spring of 1588 most events favored the League cause and prepared the way to the Day of the Barricades. The

[18] . Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 178.

[19] . Denis Crouzet, "Recherches sur la crise de l'aristocratie en France au XVIe siècle: les dettes de la maison de Nevers," Histoire, Économie, Société 1 (1982): 45, 47, 48.


negative image of the king and popular resentment of his fiscal policies were exacerbated by new edicts. In October 1585, L'Estoile reports on new edicts caused by the League. These were issued by the king because of the pressing need of money for war. Offices that had lapsed after the death of recent holders were revived—for a fee. "This shows that all war is a devouring monster, but especially civil war, which ever creates new expenses for kings and new burdens for the people" (Brunet 2:212-214). A few days later another edict against the Huguenots was issued, commanding them either to abjure or to leave the kingdom. It was a regular tactic of Henri III to accompany unpopular exactions with some gesture of appeasement. Six months later the bishop of Paris, Pierre de Gondi, was the subject of libelous attack for asking permission from the pope, at the king's behest, to raise twice as much money for the crown as had been authorized by the clergy by alienating church lands. In 1586, a bad year for Henri III, L'Estoile reports on dévotions du Roy, agréables à ceux de la Ligue: a sharp rise in the price of bread and an increase of beggars in the streets coincided with a three-month visit of Henri, duc de Guise. Pierre says of this last that the artisans and peddlers of the city benefited more in honor than in profit; the duke spent little but made himself popular by saluting and flattering them constantly (Brunet 2:327, 333).

The real crunch came with twenty-seven new fiscal edicts in mid-June. The Parlement was opposed to them—as to many previous ones,

because of the great misery, affliction and suffering of the people, who protested and demonstrated vigorously, and like the crow that screamed at Jupiter's eagle, blamed the king, tearing him apart with all sorts of calumny, whereas the truth was that ceux de la Ligue et de Lorraine were the inventors of these villainous edicts . . . which confuse justice, order and finance. The money raised passes into the hands of the Guisards, for their war (Brunet 2:339).[20]

Almost at once there was a strike by the procureurs of the Parlement and the Châtelet, which lasted from June 18 to July 12, precipitated by an edict requiring them to pay a (new) fee for the right to exercise the office. They took counsel and agreed not to resume their offices, in fact to resign from them entirely, unless the edict was revoked. The premier président promised that they would shortly be reimbursed if they would call off the strike, and it looked as if they would comply at the next meeting, after some

[20] . Note the parallels to the crisis of August 1572, also precipitated by a fiscal edit, but the money then was destined to pay off the military debts of Huguenots, while in 1585 it was destined for ultra-Catholics.


of the older procureurs advocated compromise, but the next day they changed their minds, at least the younger ones did, and used force to prevent three or four of the older ones from returning to the Palais. They held another meeting that afternoon and voted to continue the strike and to punish any dissenters who broke rank. The same occurred at the Châtelet, where the older procureurs were harassed and prevented from exercising their offices (Brunet 2:341-342). This is an interesting bit of evidence of generational conflict aligned with political opinion. But one cannot assume that the younger generation would consistently favor resistance to the royal will and their elders exemplify loyal obedience. In certain other situations, crown policy favored more rapid advancement and/or greater profit for newer—usually also younger—officers, at the expense of those with seniority.[21]

We are fortunate in having written reactions to these edicts from two eminent spokesmen, premier président Achille de Harlay and Étienne Pasquier, then avocat du roi in the Chambre des Comptes. By a curious circumstance, we possess also the opinion of Guillaume Du Vair, conseiller in the Parlement and maître des requêtes de l'Hôtel du Roi since 1584. Every case raises the constitutional issue, because the king was attempting to implement these edicts without the approval (registration) of the court. Members of Parlement were opposed to the fiscal policy in itself, but they were alarmed by the constitutional implications.

Harlay's discours (addressed to the king) makes four main points, of which the first is an assertion of the traditional idea that rendering justice is the king's main duty and unfailing obligation. C'est par la justice que regnent les rois rant en la paix qu'en la guerre . It follows that justice can only be administered by men chosen for their high integrity, whereas at present judicial offices are sold to the highest bidder. "The situation is already so far deteriorated that I almost dare say that only the shadow of justice remains. Although we [Parlement] are often blamed for the disorder, confusion, and threatened ruin that result," Harlay goes on, "it is you who will be accountable to God's inescapable judgment. We would be failing in our duty if we did not protest. " He then takes up the two kinds of law, those of the king and those of the kingdom. The latter are inviolable, and although God gave kings the right to exercise the former freely, à Dieu ne plaise . . . que vous soyez Roy par violence et par force . Such methods are those of barbarians and pirates—or of tyrannical kings, "but yours is a realm of loyalty and justice . . . your subjects give you more out of goodwill than

[21] . Baumgartner, Radical Reactionaries , 31-40.


those of the Turks through force." Finally, and most crucial, "the kings of France have very carefully refrained from publishing any law or ordinance that had not been deliberated on in this company . They considered that to violate this form would be to violate that which made them kings. . . . By upholding the authority of this company they confirmed their own . . . in saving us you save yourself." He closes by appealing to the king, as the image of God: "We raise our eyes and pray that He will inspire you to do what is good and just, and in the accustomed form, and to reject pernicious innovations which are often proposed."[22]

No procès-verbal of this session was recorded in the registers. We have Harlay's speech in his own words, in manuscript, and also as written down by Du Vair, who also wrote up speeches of the king, the chancellor (Cheverny), and Jacques Faye, avocat du roi, pronounced on the same day, and published them some years later, in the first edition of his works. Du Vair's biographer, René Radouant, makes a careful comparison of the two versions of Harlay's speech, in his pursuit of Du Vair's personal opinions. (It is well to remind ourselves that Du Vair's first appearance on the political stage was in his discours sur les barricades , two years later.) For the historian of parlementaire mentalité the comparison is important because Harlay himself took umbrage at Du Vair's version: "[he] has damaged me by bringing to the public under my name chose non seulement defectueuse, mais mal disposée, et conçue en forme que je n'approuve point. " It is true that it is not completely faithful to the original and that both the organization and the emphasis are somewhat different, but Harlay's four points are all there, anyway. As Radouant points out, it is the spirit and the tone that are different. Harlay's reflects l'esprit de corps of the court, Du Vair's version the fears of absolutism; Harlay alludes discreetly to the edicts that have precipitated the crisis, Du Vair attacks the subject head on, spells out what he believes to be the disastrous outcome, and places the blame very much more directly on the king. In Harlay's version, devotion to the king, the pain it causes him to have to reproach his sovereign, and his fear of providing the king's enemies with a further weapon set the tone, while Du Vair's is cold, unsympathetic, and strong in theoretical and abstract points. Radouant concludes, as anyone must who makes a line-by-line comparison, that Du Vair did indeed alter the overall effect of the speech, yet I feel that the biographer goes too far when he speaks of the transformation of a remon-

[22] . Harlay discours : BN 4397, 13-15. Radouant analyses contrast between the original and Du Vair's version (Radouant, Du Vair , 92-96; my italics).


strance paternelle et tremblante into a réquisitoire glacé, hautain, impitoyable .[23]

Some of Du Vair's points are close to those of some ligueur orators of this period, notably a demand for the Estates General to "reform" the crown's policies. This resemblance troubles Radouant, who then asks, do we have sufficient evidence to conclude that Du Vair was himself a member of the League, or as we might say today liguisant? This question comes up more dramatically in his funeral oration for Mary Stuart the following year, but Radouant's own conclusion is given in the chapter on the Harlay discours : Du Vair shared with ligueurs opposition to absolutist doctrine and methods, and he also agreed with some of the remedies they proposed. But it does not seem that he—like many others in the same situation—became an authentic member, and when he came to believe that the ligueurs , "sacrificing the public welfare to their own interests, passed from liberty to anarchy" and put the national independence in jeopardy, he became a militant politique . That was in 1593. In the interval, however, his position was somewhat equivocal, and certainly not that of a mainstream magistrate. It is probable that Du Vair was himself uncomfortable in his stance; his name did not appear on the several discours (of which Harlay's is one); they are presented as historic documents. Nor did the oraison funèbre of 1587 bear his name. Furthermore, Du Vair withdrew entirely from public view for more than two years after the assassination of Henri III.[24]

The cardinal de Bourbon was assigned to persuade the Chambre des Comptes to accept the ill-fated edicts on June 25, 1586. Pasquier was not persuaded. The sovereign courts, he argued, are to the kingdom what the "noble organs" (the brain and the heart) are to the human body—and should never be touched. The law is "the soul, without which the republic must die." And those laws that have their source in the royal prerogative must pass through the alambic of the sovereign courts. The grandeur of France in the past arose from this sharing of power between the king and the court. In his famous, informal style that was a major factor in his great popularity, Pasquier confided to the Chambre, and to the king through the cardinal, that in order to merit their designation of gens du roi they must sometimes tell the king the truth, "even if it is unpleasant."[25]

This "Fronde de la justice" ended with the king's capitulation. On July

[23] . Radouant, Du Vair , 96.

[24] . Ibid., 96-101.

[25] . Pasquier, Recherches , 66; Radouant, Du Vair , 103.


12, 1586, he withdrew the edict taxing the procureurs, saying that if they had come to him directly sooner, the course of justice would not have been interrupted. He bade them pray for him. This outcome appeared to confirm the widespread protests against royal policy—and, in L'Estoile's opinion, to encourage the ligueurs (Brunet 2:345).

Counter-Reformation Offensive and Gallican Response

In these same years, on the ideological level, a new Counter-Reformation offensive was even more effective in fueling the growth of the League. The recurring issue of the Trent decrees had arisen over registration of the Ordinances of Blois, in 1579, in which acceptance of some of the Trent decrees was slated—by Henri III—to be included. An assembly of the clergy at Melun, in June, had agreed to accept the Council ("with certain reservations"), but the Parlement, led by premier président de Thou and procureur général La Guesle, had passed an arrêt that added sans préjudice des droits du Roi, ni des arrêts de la Cour . This meant that to the requirement of royal approval was added the maintenance of l'appel comme d'abus and of the plurality of benefices. Defense of these two privileges was very important to the Parlement. Victor Martin believes that this was the chief motivation of the Gallican furor unleashed, which lasted for four years. He claims that Parlement was trying to revive the Pragmatic Sanction, et ils y arrivaient par un détour . The papal nuncio, Dandino, described the relevant text in the Ordinances of Blois as bel et bien un document schismatique . Gregory XIII felt that Dandino had bungled his assignment and replaced him by Giambattista Castelli, bishop of Rimini in 1581, with the specific task to procure the revocation of the Parlement's arrêt and the suppression of the offending section of the ordinances, or at least, its modification. The pope's own characterization of the text was "diabolical" and sufficient "to damn the king and the entire kingdom of France."[26]

Both the pope and the king appointed commissions to negotiate the matter, procureur général La Guesle and président Barnabé Brisson representing the crown. For about a year negotiations were carried on, sporadically, and at times it seemed as if some accommodation might be reached, but political factors, delays, and especially acrimonious feuding within each camp prevented it. Among the issues was a "schism" among the Paris Cordeliers. It began as a simple division over the election of a new prior,

[26] . V. Martin, Gallicanisme , 170-171, 178.


but the losing faction refused to accept defeat, and within a short time the royal court, the papal court, the ambassadors of Rome to Paris and Paris to Rome—and the leading parlementaires—were all actively involved. The affair dragged on for two years, and it is hard to say that anybody won, except that the papacy and the Trent decrees clearly lost, because the ordinances stood, despite threatened excommunications and the best efforts of a series of papal agents. The Gallican liberties were involved. La Guesle instigated procedures to cite an appel comme d'abus against the pope, and Christophe de Thou demanded that Castelli appear in person before the bar of Parlement.[27]

The extreme language and immoderate behavior of Christophe de Thou in this affair was quite out of character, and he so far abandoned his usual dignity as to lose his temper in a conversation with Catherine de Médicis (whose help as a mediator had been sought by the king), by indulging in a tirade against the Italians who had "invaded" France "in order to enrich themselves and overturn the customs and laws of the country." As Martin remarks, he undoubtedly had in mind such families as the Gondi, the Sardini, and the Birague, but the daughter of the grand dukes of Tuscany took it as a personal insult. Parenthetically, we may assume that this must have been a painful occasion for all concerned. We recall that the queen mother had been influential in de Thou's selection for the high office, and they had on many occasions joined forces against extremists who threatened the frail equilibrium of the past twenty years. We should probably also bear in mind that de Thou had less than six months to live at the time. It is surprising, perhaps, that historian de Thou does not refer to this quarrel of the Cordeliers at all, since he went to such pains to clear his father's name from the accusation that he had approved the massacre, for instance. Victor Martin, by the way, either did not know what Jacques-Auguste has to say about this or did not believe it, as he recalls to his reader Christophe's opposition to the edicts of toleration—and adds, "the Catholicism of this politique is not suspect; his excess should be attributed only to his Gallican passions."[28]

Meanwhile, Henri III's policy had taken an ultra turn. At one point he authorized the burning of the parlementaire arrêt in Castelli's presence, but this was never implemented. More importantly, he took as his confessor one of the cleverest of the "Jesuit politicians," Edmond Auger, and we recall

[27] . Ibid., 191; the episode of the Cordeliers is dealt with in detail, 188-195. Paul de Foix was among those who tried—in vain—to mediate this quarrel.

[28] . Ibid., 189, 193-194.


that this was the very time when his exaggerated religious practices became conspicuous.[29]

After the death of Christophe de Thou, the problem did not disappear. The Gallican torch was picked up by Jacques Faye, avocat du roi in the Parlement. Victor Martin shows some compassion for de Thou as an opponent of the papacy and the Council decrees; his attitude toward Faye is unreservedly hostile, though he reluctantly admires his effectiveness. "Fierce Gallican, jurist and historian of the second rank, but an able and eloquent orator, Jacques Faye d'Espesses seems to have gathered in his heart all the hatred that a small number of French political figures ever had against the papacy." His speech to the commissioners, an "adroit mixture of old objections, regularly trotted out since 1564 . . . and outrageous insults to the pope and his government, in all, the boldest, most brutal, most unjust, but also the most complete and most effective indictment of all those in the [more than thirty] years of this controversy."[30]

Faye's substantive points are indeed not new. Many of them go back to the lawyers of Philip the Fair, but they were fired like cannonballs at the advocates of the Trent decrees: the encroachments of the papacy in recent centuries on the secular powers in general and the Gallican liberties especially, and the resulting contrast to the former days when the king was obeyed in both temporal and spiritual matters and the kingdom was at peace, the people devout, and the bishops "learned and conscientious." Acceptance of the Trent decrees would make things even worse: "bit by bit we would become subjects of the pope." The specter of the Inquisition was again raised, with the prospect that not only the Huguenots but many good Catholics would burn. "If we search our consciences, how many of us would burn for Purgatory? for the intercession of saints? for communion in one kind? for images? . . . How much less for the primacy of the pope and his indulgences?"[31]

It is interesting that in the heat of his oratory, Faye should choose examples that hint at personal liberal religious views, in explicitly spiritual matters. Gallican orations generally stuck very closely to the rights of the king, the independence of French bishops, the role of Parlement, with scrupulous avoidance of anything that was not legal or administrative.

Faye's concluding point is a patriotic appeal. He dwells at length on the

[29] . See especially L. Martin, Henri III .

[30] . V. Martin, Gallicanisme , 202-203.

[31] . Ibid., 204-205.


collaboration between the papacy and Philip of Spain, accord machiavellique . . . pour abaisser la France en la divisant . Victor Martin comments, "The Gallican who slumbers in the heart of every parlementaire, even the most Catholic and the most favorably disposed [to the Council and the papacy] was aroused, listening to Faye, and the fear of the ancient enemy was reinforced."[32] Indeed, Faye's fusillade was fatal to Castelli's mission. He died, bitter and worn out, in Paris, after permission had been granted to return to Milan.

The partisan heat of these events had not cooled two years later, when a new pope entered the fray more directly. Sixtus V, who had made his reputation as the reformer of his Franciscan order, was also an astute politician. He wished to stamp out heresy in France and to promulgate the Trent decrees, like every other pontiff, but he did not wish credit for Catholic victories to be preempted by Spain. He specifically wished to strengthen France as a Catholic power in Europe , to offset Spanish predominance. By historical coincidence his reign began just when the new situation in France, with the death of Alençon and Navarre's becoming the immediate heir, opened a new era in the wars of religion, with the rise of the second League.[33]

On September 9, 1585, Sixtus V issued a Bill of Excommunication against Henri de Navarre and Henri de Condé, declaring them incapable of succeeding to the throne of France and threatening excommunication of any Catholics who recognized their claims. "Another expression of opposition . . . written by the author of the present memoirs [L'Estoile], was sent to Rome from the Palais in Paris, and was included in the recueils of our times printed in La Rochelle, so great is the vanity and curiosity of our times."[34]

If the pope and his ambassadors were the general staff of the clerical offensive, the privates of their army were the Parisian curés, who fought the battle in the front line. All the sources testify to their fanatical harassment of the king, royal favorites, those who supported him (politiques ), and anybody they could accuse of being lukewarm in defense of the faith, blackening them as fauteurs d'hérésie . The Parlement was a prime target. The fullest chronicle of this local-level clerical attack is L'Estoile's; his almost word-by-word record is valuable historically but often tiresomely repetitive

[32] . Ibid., 205.

[33] . Ibid., 211-252.

[34] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:53-54, 56; ed. Roelker, 114-15. Since L'Estoile often speaks of "copying" documents, his use of the verb faire here suggests composition.


to read. From it we learn not only the common features of the party line, but some of the individual variations on the theme. Two entries of July 1587 are significant of the gathering storm:

Thursday, July 9, a picture was removed from the cemetery of St-Séverin, which the politiques call "the tableau of Madame de Montpensier," because it was put there by M. Jean Prévost, curé, at her request, so they say . . . and at the urging . . . of some of the asses of the Sorbonne. . . . This picture depicted with graphic detail the cruel and inhuman tortures of the Catholics by the queen of England. . . . It had been put there for the purpose of stirring up the people more and more to make war on the Huguenots . . . and even against the king, who the people (led by the preachers) say favors them secretly. And, in fact, the stupid people of Paris went in great numbers every day to see this beautiful picture and were moved by it, crying out that all politiques and heretics must be exterminated. For this reason the king had commanded the Parlement to have it removed, but as quietly as possible . . . to avoid a disturbance. . . .

We are not provided with good religious leaders in Paris this season . . . with the exception of seven or eight . . . they are all in the pay of the League, to take advantage of the gullibility of the people and stir up rebellion. . . . Instead of the word of God they preach I don't know what bigotry and hypocrisy . . . following the catechism of the League, which has produced more atheists than Catholics, and instilled superstition and rebellion instead of religion.

In September occurred one of the days that presaged the Barricades, nicknamed "La Journée de St-Séverin."

Wednesday, September 2, at six in the evening, great rumors spread through the quarter of the rue St-Jacques, and men rushed into the streets shouting "To arms! To arms! It is time for all good Catholics to show that they know the Huguenots are planning to kill the preachers!" [the curés of St-Séverin and St-Benoît, whom the king thought too insolent in their sermons]. And in truth, these two and most of the preachers of Paris admitted themselves that they preached only what was in the bulletins sent them by Madame de Montpensier.[35]

De Thou's account has all the main facts, but, as usual, it lacks the color and personal opinion, predictable in the pages of a history as compared to

[35] . Ibid., ed. Brunet, 3:63; ed. Roelker, 131, 132, 133. See also Barbara B. Diefendorf, "Simon Vigor: A Radical Preacher in Sixteenth-Century Paris," Sixteenth Century Journal 18 (1987): 399-410.


a diary.[36] Pasquier gives an analysis of the phenomenon in a letter to Sainte-Marthe, written about two months before the explosion of the Barricades:

The preachers denounce from their pulpits [the king's conduct of affairs] and, because they see that he favors peace, they cry out against those who would restore public order as it was before the rise of the League, calling them sometimes politiques , sometimes machiavellians, that is, without any religion. Catholics thus are now divided into two camps; the ones that are called Leaguers are tightly embraced by the preachers, and the others politiques , whom they detest. . . . [They disagree as to whether the heretics should be exterminated, and both groups think the other's policy would be the ruin of the state.] In short, the politique shares the king's opinion, which is for peace, the ligueur that of M. de Guise, which is for war.[37]

Pasquier goes on to say that he disapproves of members of the clergy, especially monks, who overreach themselves in presuming to pronounce on matters of state and to judge princes, a theme that appears frequently in the entries of the Mémoires-Journaux . These accounts are obviously examples of royalist/politique propaganda, but they are also accurate expressions of parlementaire opinion.

Both the king and the duke went to war in the autumn of 1587, as did the king of Navarre, who won his first great victory at the battle of Coutras, in which one of the king's two chief mignons , Joyeuse, leading the royalist forces, was killed. Joyeuse had deserted to the League and was mourned accordingly. The duc de Guise and Henri III himself were fighting the German mercenaries engaged in the Protestant cause. They were victorious, but

all the honor and credit was given to the duc de Guise throughout France and especially in Paris, where it caused great rejoicing (and to tell the truth he deserved a large part of the glory).

The king was nevertheless much put out by this, and even more when he heard that the preachers in Paris were saying from the pulpits that Saul had killed his thousands and David his ten thousands. . . .

Thus the victory of Auneau was the theme song of the League, the joy of the clergy . . . and the cause of the king's jealousy. He knew that these laurels were heaped on Guise to diminish his own. A truly miserable thing, for a great king to be jealous of his vassal.[38]

[36] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:28-30.

[37] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 282-283.

[38] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:75; ed. Roelker, 135.


All the politique commentators agree that the combined effect of these two victories was to spur the League into the active phase of the rebellion. Navarre's victory was a warning of impending doom should he become king—echoing the Tableau of Madame de Montpensier; and Guise's victory put the last Valois king at the greatest possible disadvantage in his subjects' eyes. Within a few days of the arrival of the news of Auneau in the capital, it set off a new and even bolder clerical offensive.[39]

Exaltation of Guises: Denigration of King

The Counter-Reformation cause and the political claims of the house of Guise-Lorraine had, of course, been deliberately intertwined since the days of Charles, cardinal de Lorraine, and the first League. A continuing problem for royalist moderate Catholics was to find a way to separate the one true church from the grasp of the League and heal the breach between it and the crown. Unfortunately for the politique cause in the late 1580s, in addition to virtually every act of the unlucky Henri III, other events—which might in different circumstances have seemed unrelated—kept aggravating the problem. Some of these took place beyond the borders of the kingdom, such as the conflict between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stuart, culminating in the execution of the Scottish queen. Mary's mother, Marie de Guise, was the sister of François, duc de Guise, and the cardinal de Lorraine, so it was not mere anti-League paranoia for the politiques , in whose footsteps we are following, to see the death of Mary Stuart as one more blow to their cause, because it depicted her as a martyr to that of the League, their nemesis.

On Sunday, the first day of March of the present year, 1587, news came to Paris of the execution of the queen of Scots, whose head was cut off by the executioner on the 18th day of February, following the death sentence against the said queen by the Parliament of England several months before, for the crime of lèse-majesté, and for conspiracy against the state and queen of England. . . .

Her death was infinitely regretted and mourned by the Catholics, principally by the League, who cried aloud that she was a martyr to the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic religion, and that the queen had put her to death on this account . . . no matter what the pretext was. In this opinion they were carefully and cleverly supported by the preachers, who canonized her every day in their sermons.[40]

[39] . Ibid., ed. Brunet, 3:77-79; ed. Roelker, 135-136.

[40] . Ibid., ed. Brunet, 3:11-12, 14; ed. Roelker, 127-128.


Thus L'Estoile. De Thou's twenty-page account is factually complete and analytically astute.[41] The accounts of these two politiques are exactly what one would expect, both in the similarity of the substance and in the individual differences of style.

Pasquier did not make Mary Stuart the subject of one of his special letters. His habit was to concentrate on reporting events that had taken place in Paris, of which he had firsthand experience, which enabled him also to give the entire range of local opinion. Parisian information about this dramatic event across the channel was funneled exclusively through the propaganda of the League, though royalist Catholic robins rejected it.

The case of Du Vair's oration is altogether different. It is of considerable interest, not about Mary Stuart—in this respect his is just one more item of pro-Guise rhetoric—but about the attitude of Du Vair himself in 1587. He disavowed the authorship and attributed it to Renaud de Beaune, archbishop of Bourges.[42] The text is described by Radouant as tiresome: after a lengthy and exaggerated listing of the Scottish queen's virtues and tribulations, there are some high-flown rhetorical passages, embodying Stoic ideas in Ciceronian phrasing (allegedly pronounced by the heroine at dramatic intervals but, Radouant says, "pure Du Vair"), climaxed by an offensively graphic account of her last moments, with emphasis on the physical details. It is tailor-made for the Guise cause. The question is, why?

There are several versions of this oration, and one hypothesis is that one or more, but especially that of 1641, was "edited" by somebody in the employ of the Guise family. But as Radouant says, from internal evidence it is indubitably from the pen of Du Vair and it is a "party manifesto . . . breathing the spirit of vengeance. His words recall the tableau [of Montpensier] that Jean Prévost, curé of St-Séverin, exhibited in the cemetery next to the church, to provoke passersby to rage against the English and the Huguenots."[43]

Du Vair's biographer asks again, but more insistently than in the case of Harlay's speech, whether this was a sign of adherence to the League, or only "a step in the direction of the Lorraine princes"? Did Du Vair perhaps

[41] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 6:699-719.

[42] . Renaud de Beaune, archbishop of Bourges, the leading royalist prelate, had been conseiller clerc since 1508. He spoke out against the League at the Estates of Blois in 1588, immediately recognized Navarre in August 1589, announced Navarre's intention to be "instructed" in May 1593, and officiated at the conversion ceremony (see Frederic Baumgartner, Change and Continuity in the French Episcopate: The Bishops and the Wars of Religion, 1547-1610 [Durham, N.C., 1986], 162-163, 166-168, 179-181).

[43] . Radouant, Du Vair , 122; analysis of Du Vair's oraison funèbre for Mary Stuart (123-126).


harbor the ambition and the hope of being able to serve as mediator between the factions? Whatever the truth in this matter—and certainty is impossible—"even the most lenient view does not clear him of calculation, and perhaps dissimulation." It is indisputable that in 1593 Du Vair took an unequivocal stand (and considerable personal risk) for the politique cause, which canceled out for contemporaries any doubts that these earlier liguisant works might have raised. Radouant remarks philosophically, "He is one of those men whose character can only be judged at the end [of his life]." We are familiar with this point of view as that of the Greeks, seen in the exchange between the Athenian Solon and Croesus, according to Herodotus and constantly echoed by Pierre de L'Estoile.[44]

The counterpart of exalting the Guises was denigration of the last Valois king. Moving beyond the denunciation of his policies and his personal habits, which we have seen escalate steadily for a dozen years, in the months following the death of Joyeuse and Guise's triumph at Auneau, League spokesmen intensified their attacks on the duc d'Épernon, now the only strong person at the king's side. Typically, Henri III made it easier for his enemies. Even much earlier (April 1587), L'Estoile reported that the duke had "returned to Paris from Provence . . . in great magnificence, accompanied by 300 mounted men. The League took a dim view of his warm welcome from the king, saying that he was the only one who put courage in the monarch's heart." In truth, adds the diarist, "he was the only servant His Majesty could really trust." In August 1587 the king had given a very luxurious wedding feast for the duke and "seemed to enjoy himself hugely, although his death's head was hanging all the while from his belt. He gave the bride a necklace of too pearls, said to be worth 100,000 écus. " Significantly, within a few months the king gave in to League pressures and sent Épernon out of the city. He left on Tuesday, April 26, 1588, to take up the gouvernement of Normandy, which Henri III had recently bestowed upon him. "He was accompanied by four companies of armed men . . . to prevent the violence that seemed likely, because he was so hated by the lesser folk and envied by the greater, to whom nothing is given (they think), but all to him."[45]

Pasquier remarks that Épernon's departure and escort robbed the king of force, both personal and military. De Thou emphasizes the tactic of the

[44] . Ibid., 126; Herodotus' account of Solon's meeting with Croesus, bk. 1, ch. 33.

[45] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:42, 62, 134; ed. Roelker, 129, 133, 141. L'Estoile and other sources of the period comment on Henri III's habit of wearing a skull as an ornament on his belt.


League curés, who skillfully exploited the duke's departure in conjunction with repetition of the claim that except for the duc de Guise, the city—and the state—would have fallen to the heretics and their partisans, "profiting from the hatred of the people against Nogaret de la Valette, duc d'Épernon, whom Henri made all the more odious by heaping new honors on him each day."[46]

On Friday, April 29, 1588, Henri III retired to the château of Vincennes, announcing that he wished to spend seven entire days in penance and that no one was to disturb him for any reason.[47]

[46] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , to Sainte-Marthe 288-289; de Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:173.

[47] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:135; ed. Roelker, 141.


The Rebellion against the Crown in the Reign of Henri III, May 1588 to August 1, 1589

The arrival of the duc de Guise had been well prepared, and we know about it in detail thanks to the testimony of a participant. Nicolas Poulain's procèsverbal —a full and precise account of the personnel, objectives, and organization of the Sixteen in the clandestine phase—is the most comprehensive of our primary sources.[1] In addition, he recounts every move of the conspirators from the day of his recruitment by lieutenant procureur Jean Leclerc to Saturday, May 14, 1588, when he left Paris to join the king in Chartres. The plan unfolded was, at a signal from the duc de Guise, to take over the city by barricading the streets so that neither the king's guards nor the nobility could protect the Louvre; to cut the throats of "those of the Religion" and politiques ; to seize the person of the king and oblige him to dismiss his counselors and substitute members of their own party; to incite "all good Catholics" to take arms by sending criers through the streets shouting Vive la Messe! When the expected Spanish army arrived, it was to be sent against the king of Navarre and his forces, "to fight until they are wiped out." "In short, each [ligueur ] planned to murder and loot . . . at the expense of his neighbor. The chiefs promised themselves the highest offices and dignities of the Republic, through confiscations that would follow the massacre of the king's highest officers."

[1] . "LE PROCEZ VERBAL d'un nommé Nicolas Poulain, Lieutenant de la Prevosté de l'Isle de France, fort remarquable et veu de peu de personnes, sortant du Cabinet du Roy, qui contient toute la quintessence de la Ligue, depuis le 2 janvier, 1585 jusqus au Jour des Barricades, escheues le 12 mai, 1588. La quelle le feu Roy tiroit journellement de ceste homme, qui avoit une double intelligence dans Paris, sans que le pauvre Prince y peust ou voulust donner ordre, en estant empesché de plus hault, comme il est à supposer." This precious source is printed in several places; I refer to L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:345-371, and cite 3:354-355, 360, 361, 362, 367. See also Descimon, Qui étaient les Seize? ; Barnavi and Descimon, Sainte-Ligue .


Poulain's conscience began to trouble him when he realized that "it was a straight case of robbery, and that les grands were manipulating the little people to dispossess the king of his crown, and give it to ceux de la Ligue after massacring its true heirs and principal officers." He came to the conclusions that not only "would it be a good deed to prevent such a carnage of good men" but that "the great profits promised me by these thieves and rebels would do me little good if I were to die, and in that case I'd go straight to Hell (the true path of the League). I remembered that I was a born Frenchman, native of the greatest city of the realm . . . and had taken an oath of loyalty to . . . my sovereign . . . and was thus obliged to alert him to any danger to the state under pain of lèse-majesté." Poulain had leaked a plan of the Guises to seize Boulogne the previous year, and this was his only claim to access to the king and to have his story believed. Although he does not give the precise date, Poulain became a double agent before the Day of St-Séverin (September 2, 1587) of which he says that it was planned as part of the campaign to denigrate the king in the people's eyes by provoking him to make an arrest, in the name of defending the true faith against heresy,

which they accomplished through the seditious preacher of St-Séverin, whom they instructed to vomit from the pulpit such outrageous villainies against the king that His Majesty was obliged to send for him. . . . Whereupon, they started the rumor that all the good preachers would be seized . . . and murdered. Then Bussy and his troop took arms and set up an ambush near St-Séverin . . . to prevent his being escorted to the king.

Poulain states that his Parisian "followers" pressured the duc de Guise to come into the city against the king's orders, "whether or not he was ready, étants extrémement ennoyez de sa longueur. " In mid-April the organization of the conspiracy at the quartier level was virtually complete and Leclerc assured Poulain that the duke had already sent a number of experienced men of war and placed them in strategically located (and politically safe) houses throughout the city, that more were arriving, and that the king and his officials knew nothing.

Poulain's experiences in the final days before the uprising would seem exaggerated in a fictional twentieth-century spy story. Every hour threatened exposure, as the conspirators found their moves anticipated, and royal officials protected Poulain by stripping him of his office, confiscating some of his property, arresting him, and accusing him of treason. They made a point of treating him with contempt except in the king's private apartments.


His "cover" was preserved—just barely—and the rebellion exploded on Thursday, May 12, five days after the duke's arrival.

Henri III could not act decisively even when he knew the blow was about to fall. He ordered several regiments, including some of his special Swiss guards, into the city on the morning of the 12th, "but this plan did not succeed, because the people . . . began to be stirred up and feared the worst, saying that no one had ever seen a foreign garrison in Paris."

The Day of the Barricades

Immediately all took arms, went into the streets, took the chains and barricaded the corners and intersections. The artisan left his tools, the merchant his deals, the university its books, the procureurs their brief cases, the lawyers their hats, even présidents and conseillers putting their hand to the sword. Everywhere were frightful cries and seditious words to arouse the people to white heat. And as secrets, love, and wine are no good when they are aired, so the duc de Guise having discovered the king's secret (as conversely the king had discovered his), fearing to be taken, sent various of his partisans sub rosa to each quarter, to encourage the people who were rebellious but disorganized . . . to barricade and defend themselves well. The archbishop had assured the duke, on the part of the king, that the presence of the troops was not directed against him, if he would confine himself to his own sword.

On the contrary, the king, who up to noon was the stronger, having the means to interrupt the communications and break the barricades of Guise, turned the tables by instructing his men to pull their swords only halfway, on pain of death. He hoped that temporizing, gentleness, and kind words would lessen the fury of the mutineers, and that gradually the people might disarm. But the exact opposite happened. . . . [The people] . . . after dinner, assembled and barricaded even more than before, and feeling themselves strong, began to look at the Swiss and French soldiers threateningly and to bait them with words, and [said] that if they did not withdraw they would cut them in pieces. . . . [Guise] went himself to conduct them to safety. Without him they would all be dead . . . as they have since admitted, and claimed that they owe their lives to this prince who begged the people to spare them, which they did at once, the fury of the stupid populace being instantly calmed at the mere sound of Guise's voice, so poisoned were they with love of him.

All that night the people were in a state of alarm, and twice during the night Brissac went the rounds to encourage and further animate them, organizing the students . . . to march when it was necessary. Because all the gates except that of St-Honoré had been dosed the Day of the Barricades, the next day, Friday, the 13th of May, the gates of St-Jacques, St-Marceau, and St-Antoine were opened and guarded by the League . . . so that the poor king had only the false gate of the Louvre by which to escape his plight, as he did.


As the tumult grew, the queen mother, who had done nothing but cry all during her dinner, went to the Hôtel de Guise to try to pacify the excitement. She could barely get through the streets, so blocked by barricades, and those who guarded them made an opening just big enough for her litter to get through. When she got there she begged the duke to put out the fires, to go to the king, from whom he would have as much satisfaction as he could hope for, and to show him, at such a critical moment, that he cared rather to serve than to destroy the Crown. But the duke replied coldly that he was very much put out, and that the people was a bull which it was hard to hold back when it became excited. As for going to the king, he said that he did not trust the Louvre and that it would show weakness of spirit for him to go there, things being in too deplorable a state to throw himself on the mercy of his enemies. Then the queen, seeing the stubbornness and resolution of the duke's intentions, sent word to that effect to the king by Pinart.

The king, seeing the people grow more bold from hour to hour, and the Hôtel de Ville and the Arsenal taken by Guise partisans, and that they were even beginning to raise barricades near the Louvre . . . and further informed that at the university Brissac and the preachers were marching at the head of mutineers like colonels and talking of taking brother Henry in his Louvre (having armed 800 students and 300 monks), with those around him saying that he had better leave at once, or be lost . . . left on foot, a cane in his hand, as if to walk as usual in the Tuileries.

Having arrived at his stables . . . [and having] mounted, he turned toward the city and cursed it, reproaching it for perfidy and ingratitude for many favors received at his hands, and swore that he would not reenter except by the breach. He took the road to St-Cloud, accompanied by the duke of Montpensier, Marshal Biron, the seigneur D'O, the Chancellor Villeroy, and Brulart, secretaries of state, Bellièvre, the cardinal of Lenoncourt, Maistre Jacques Faye, his lawyer in the Parlement, and various others, with his 4,000 French and Swiss guards . . . who escorted him to St-Cloud. . . . He spent the night, still booted, at Trappes, and the next day-dined in Chartres, where he was well received by the inhabitants and where he stayed until the last day of May.

This Thursday, the 12th of May, called the Day of the Barricades, was the beginning of the great troubles we have seen since, praised and magnified greatly only by the League and the asses of Paris.

On this subject, a quidam spoke well who said that both Henrys made asses of themselves, one for not having courage to carry out what he had undertaken (having the leisure and means to do it until after eleven o'clock), and the other for letting the beast escape the next day when he had already caught him in the net. And the truth is that he who wants to drink the wine of the gods once should never admit he is a man again, for one must be Caesar or nothing at all, which the duc de Guise finally learned, but too late.

Saturday, the 14th of May, the fortress of the Bastille was surrendered to the duc de Guise, who removed the king's captain and put in Master Jean


Leclerc, procureur in the Parlement, captain of his dixaine in the rue des Juifs, who was thought to be a brave soldier for a procureur , and very zealous in the League cause . . . and established him governor with the consent of the Parisians, that is, the mutinous zelés of the League.[2]

De Thou's account in the Histoire universelle follows Poulain and cites him, adding a historian's analysis. He attributes the rumors that "all good Catholics would be massacred as soon as the king had control of the city, as vengeance for St. Bartholomew," to Madame de Montpensier, "who had an admirable talent for inventing false rumors." A good example of his treatment is the following criticism of failure to place royal forces in the Place Maubert, known as a hotbed of League activities:

It is certain that a grave mistake was made [when bringing troops into Paris]. Since the king had decided to seize all the main squares . . . the Place Maubert was certainly one of the most important—which must be controlled at no matter what price—because it was in a section where sedition was strong, far from the Louvre and inhabited only by ordinary people. Therefore, in abandoning this square thoughtlessly . . . [the royal authorities] allowed the rebels the advantage to fan out through the other parts of the city, encouraging by their successful example the bourgeois, who had already been thrown into consternation by the unaccustomed appearance of armed men, to meet force with force. And that was just what happened. . . . This quarter gave the signal for revolt, which then spread through all Paris. The king's troops found themselves obliged to retire in a disorganized way, because of the very orders they had received.

De Thou's historian's judgment on the significance of the Day of the Barricades, written some years later, is,

This was the final blow that brought down royal authority. Henri III later made futile efforts to regain the sovereign authority he had lost. After that day the majesty of the crown remained, so to speak forgotten and wrapped in a funeral shroud until the reign of Henri IV. Then by the victorious arms of this great prince, born to crush the revolt and wipe out all parties, the whole nation was reunited in the same obedience, and one saw royal authority resume its initial strength and ancient luster.[3]

The judgment in de Thou's Mémoires concerns the mistakes made at the time, as an introduction to his own observations:

[2] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:139-148; ed. Roelker, 147-151.

[3] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:188, 191, 192.


While the king was casually deliberating how to deal with the sedition, taking always the most timid and worst advice, he gave time to the rebels to take action. As they were bold . . . through repeated importuning they obliged the duc de Guise . . . to come to the city against the king's orders. Then, instead of punishing this act of disobedience, as he should have, and as he could have [with the military forces available], the prince committed a greater fault through his indecisiveness, which gave [Guise and his followers] time to take the initiative.

On the Day of the Barricades, de Thou went first to the Louvre and then to the Hôtel de Guise, through the tumultuous streets. He was struck by the contrast in the two residences; in the royal one "the silence was frightful, and the astonishment at what was happening penetrated into the king's private rooms, which made for constant changes of plan, with the result that none was effective," while the ducal one was "thronged with people applauding the duke enthusiastically and well guarded by two lines of soldiers." De Thou thought he detected some embarrassment in Guise's countenance, but "more confidence . . . in the expectation that this day would enable him to triumph." He expressed surprise at finding some of the most prominent Parisians mingling with the ligueur crowds (though he tactfully does not name them, to the regret of later historians). Two whom he does name, were known ligueurs: one of the Sixteen, La Rue, tailleur d'habits , says de Thou, snobbishly, and Barnabé Brisson, président in the Parlement, a controversial figure about whom almost everybody had mixed feelings. In his exchange with La Rue, the ligueur's retort to the news that the king had ordered the troops withdrawn was that they left from fear of being torn apart by the people and not from obedience to the king's commands. De Thou does not include the substance of his exchange with Brisson but comments with great restraint, "This magistrate's conversation showed that he shared the sentiments of the populace and was accommodating himself to the times, which was in the end to be a tragedy for him."

After "a night of fear and tumult," on Friday, May 13, Parlement offered to mediate, de Thou claims—but with no details and this is not mentioned elsewhere—but the League leaders would not cooperate and accused the king, and the court, of conniving with the Huguenots. They then "stirred up the students in the neighborhood of the university, and provided them with arms to attack the Louvre." In this desperate situation the king, "deprived of his faithful and trustworthy counselors (the duc d'Épernon being in Normandy) on the advice of those around him who secretly favored the rebellion , took the shameful course of leaving the city."[4]

[4] . De Thou, Mémoires , 325-326; my italics. A number of sources refer to "those around him secretly favoring the rebellion." To some observers and historians, this reference suggests the complicity of Catherine de Médicis, but I find the opposing factors overwhelming: not only had Catherine favored Anjou (now Henri III) all his life, but her genuine concerns for peace and the continued rule of the Valois family are indisputable. Moreover, his first real rejection of her advice did not occur until early September 1588.


In the second of two letters on the subject to Sainte-Marthe, Pasquier makes a similar judgment. In such matters it is better not to hesitate and keep changing course: Guise should not have had any time to maneuver and give orders. "If the sovereign courts and the military had acted decisively in the morning, the people would not have had time to take arms." Pasquier thinks Guise also made a serious error, in letting the king escape. He could have obliged the king to give him the authority he wished and there would have been no need for the people to rebel, in his opinion.[5]

The striking consensus of these three observers gives us a vivid sense of politique opinion; the variations reflect individual experiences and modes of expression. With Du Vair's discours des barricades we enter a different mental climate; although he too draws up a balance sheet, it is from a different point of view. L'Estoile, de Thou, and Pasquier stand clearly in one camp; Du Vair's position is between the two, "tilting" toward the League, in that he makes several "demands" on the king, in a list that resembles (or echoes?) that of the cardinal de Bourbon, one of the League leaders: dismissal of the favorites; an end to the imposition of new taxes, new offices, new edicts without Parlement's approval; acceptance of the control of royal finances by the Estates General; and, most important, total amnesty for everyone involved in the uprising. The only "demand" made on the League is that they "renounce all union apart from the king." Radouant believes that Du Vair wished to act as mediator. In May 1588 this was not possible for Du Vair—or anybody. He would try again a few months later, when he had the opportunity but not the luck, or the circumstances, to succeed. Not until 1593 could Guillaume Du Vair play a leading role at center stage, and by then he had become a politique .[6]

While speculating on Du Vair's motives, we must remember the 1586 speech of the man responsible for speaking in Parlement's name, premier président Achille de Harlay. He too was seriously opposed to the crown's

[5] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 292-293, 299-301; I believe that here, atypically, wishful thinking distorts Pasquier's judgment.

[6] . Radouant, Du Vair , 167-172; the discours was never delivered as a speech. Villeroy, one of Henri III's secretaries of state, took over as mediator in 1589; following dismissal, Du Vair became for a time a (moderate) ligueur . His efforts for Henri IV in the 1590s were, on the contrary, very effective.


recent policies, but he never made even the slightest accommodation to the League and would repeatedly pay the price of his uncompromising loyalty to the monarchy and to the Gallican church. Parlement's direct involvement in the rebellion was yet to come, however, and Harlay was not the man to hasten the day when he would be obliged to sharpen existing divisions, as any initiative of his would be sure to do. At the same time, he was not afraid to express his opinions when called upon. Historian de Thou reports that Guise made a point of calling on the premier président on the day the king left the city,

and gave him to understand without stating it in so many words, that he would do well to adapt himself to the times. But this magistrate, so well known for his firmness and upright character, said only that he would do his duty. When the duke pressed him further, hinting at danger to which he might thus expose himself . . . he said crisply that he would die rather than do anything unworthy of his office, that is, anything contrary to the attachment and obedience he owed to His Majesty.[7]

Predictably, the initial triumph of the League—driving the king from his capital—rapidly produced a series of lesser victories. On May 14, the Bastille was removed from the king's authority to that of the duc de Guise, who placed Bussy-Leclerc in charge. The next day began the takeover of the Bureau de Ville, with the arrest of the prévôt des marchands, Perreuse, followed two days later by the election of new officers, all prominent ligueurs . Perreuse had been accused of being a Huguenot-politique (for which read "good servant of the king," comments L'Estoile), and when Catherine de Médicis interceded for him with Guise, she was told, "If you want him out, I'll bring him to you myself, Madame, but he is better off where he is and safer [in the Bastille] than anywhere you could put him" (Brunet 3:149-150; Roelker 152).

The Fruits of Victory

Defiance of the king's officers and even of his personal commands became routine with the rebellious Parisians, who did not even reply to his protest of the changes in the Bureau de Ville and a "request" to send him a list of candidates from which to choose new municipal officers, delivered by a royal messenger the first week in June.[8]

[7] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:196.

[8] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 3:158; Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 309-310 to Sainte-Marthe.


The first week in July it was Parlement's turn to protest the removal of gens de bien, bons catholiques as captains in the city militia, and their replacement by new men, most of them drawn from la lie du peuple et plusieurs . . . mal famés . Harlay argued "at length, frankly and freely," for the retention of the old captains and was supported by many in the court, but cardinal de Bourbon and the duc de Guise replied that time should be given to the public to judge (for which read "for their own interests and ambition," according to L'Estoile), and they prevailed.

Under the heading "Insolence des ligueux à l'endroit de la Justice," L'Estoile reports that a number of bourgeois of the League, representing no authority, burst into the Palais de Justice at 6 A.M. on Saturday, July 9, bearing an ultimatum addressed to the premier président, demanding that "justice be done to" a Huguenot named de Belloy, who had been imprisoned for some time in the Conciergerie—"or else the people will do [him justice]." L'Estoile's comment on the failure of the court as a body to assert its authority and punish such behavior is revealing: "It was found that les grands were involved in the matter and it was wiser to let it drop." And a few days later, following another such episode, "seeing the forces arrayed against them, they were constrained to submit, for fear of worse" (Brunet 3:168-170). The fears of some and the hesitations of other members of Parlement in these early days were largely responsible for the erosion of the court's power and its precipitous fall in prestige. From admiration and respect, even awe, the attitude of the public turned to contempt.

But not all representatives of the sovereign courts took this cautious—or cowardly—approach. Pasquier, like Harlay, stood up to be counted. A special meeting was held at the Hôtel de Ville because of protests against the removal of the old captains, and members of the sovereign courts had been assigned to attend, to represent their quartier, "but none of them came, annoyed at what was happening but not daring to oppose it, so that I [Pasquier] was the only one." He continues his narration: "I lost patience, and raised my voice, in the midst of this rabble, at the risk of my life." He tells how, pleading to be heard on the basis of his thirty years' residence in the quartier and frequent attendance at meetings dealing with public affairs, he rehearsed the traditional procedures for choosing the captains and noted how these procedures were changed in 1585, when the king named new captains and lieutenants, designating whomever he wished, in disregard of custom. He acknowledges his listeners' feeling that in doing so the king had infringed on the ancient liberties of the citizens of this city. But he warns them, in trying to regain their liberties, not to give themselves up to new masters and make the election process a mere charade. "If you really desire


the welfare of the city," he concludes, "I beg you to reinstate the old officers, and to follow the old ways, by which every head of household followed his conscience.

Pasquier had the fleeting satisfaction of carrying the vote that was immediately taken and the next day was elaborately congratulated by Brisson. But he was not deceived or surprised when, that same day, the decision was reversed, and the League's line followed. He was not reconciled, and he asks, rhetorically, "We are supposed to be reestablishing unity [this was the announced objective of the League at this time] but how can we do so by thus offending His Majesty?" And he ends this missive, on a note unusual for him, of resigned defiance:

As for me, I'll tell you frankly, in the public calamity in which we are plunged, I have no more faith in documents that are not backed up by force than in the new rulers of our city, who know no law but their own temerity. For that reason I have decided to leave home and go wherever my king is, to follow his fortune wherever it may turn.[9]

The final humiliation of this first phase of the rebellion came with the registration of the Edict of Union in Parlement, July 21. This declared Henri de Navarre incapable of the succession and any religion except the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic unacceptable in France. Henri III wept when he signed it, says L'Estoile, "this good prince lamenting the unhappy fate which forced him to risk his state in order to save himself" (Brunet 3:172; Roelker 156).

If the summer of 1588 was the lowest point (so far) for the royalist cause, it was not an easy time for the few moderates who were trying to mediate and bring about some compromise. J.-A. de Thou had some success in his missions from the king to various powerful individuals in the provinces;[10] but he also met with a number of rebuffs, as did Villeroy. People in less exalted positions, who thought the true course contained some elements of each party's claims, like Du Vair, could not get a hearing. Even the papacy could not accomplish an accommodation of the two warring French Catholic parties.

Consistent with his desire to maintain France as a counterweight to Spain and as a Catholic power, in 1588 Pope Sixtus V hoped to heal the breach between Henri III and the League through the legatine mission of Francesco

[9] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , to Sainte-Marthe, 319-324; encounters with Brisson, 323.

[10] . De Thou, Mémoires , 326-327, gives considerable detail.


Morosini, an accomplished diplomat from a leading Venetian family. In the months following the Barricades, when all parties were maneuvering to improve their position while the situation remained fluid, and especially during the Estates General that met in Blois (October 1588-January 1589), Morosini was actively negotiating with both the king and leaders of the League, using now flattery, now pressure, to bring the two sides together as Catholics , specifically by working out a compromise formula for French acceptance of the Trent decrees. His reward was to be savagely attacked as pro-Gallican in Rome, and by the Sixteen; he failed—as usual with papal drives toward this goal. Significantly, his efforts were applauded, and he himself admired, by the most sophisticated politiques . De Thou, in his Mémoires , calls him

a fair-minded prelate, very well disposed toward the king . . . he left no stone unturned to arrange an accommodation. . . . Since he could not make any headway, he reluctantly withdrew . . . to Italy, leaving the kingdom [of France] in great disorder. . . .

It is certain that the tragic divisions that have devastated this formerly flourishing kingdom for ten years, reducing it to the greatest extremity, could have been ended by the course advised by this cardinal—because of his affection for France and the weight of his influence with both parties—if only they had been capable of recognizing their true interest . . . but God did not permit so easy a remedy for our ills. Opinion was so inflamed, both within and outside the kingdom, that when he returned to Rome he was blamed for not rather urging open warfare. Gentleness, prudence, moderation, good sense were then out of fashion and those who, because of these precious qualities, might have brought about unity and peace were thought worthy of public contempt and hatred.[11]

The pressures on the beleaguered king were greatest of all. Although he had never been decisive, the wild shifts of mood separated by intervals of total inability to act testified to the deterioration of the last Valois king under the strains of recent months. Then suddenly, just as he was coerced into naming Guise lieutenant-general of the kingdom ("in brief, he gives him the rays of his splendor, an arm of his power, a live reproduction of his majesty," says L'Estoile) something occurred to give this king, in exile in his own kingdom, hope that he might still prevail. L'Estoile's "headlines" illustrate royalist reaction to the Armada's defeat.


[11] . Ibid., 336; my italics.


This army was called the Invincible, the Pride of the World, and the Terror of the isles . . . which the Holy Father of Rome has blessed. But all these great and proud designs were only stuff for the glory of God, and the wind of their vain attempts . . . dissipated in three days by the God of sea and earth.


It is said that the Pope called this army his daughter . . . because he had a great hope of accomplishing by it his long-time desire to reestablish his dominion over England. . . . And in truth this army was magnificently outfitted, the result of seven years' preparation, which could well frighten a stronger country than England.

Also the displeasure of the Pope at this defeat was so great that a pasquil about it appeared in Rome:

If there is anyone who has news of the Spanish army, lost at sea about three weeks ago, who can tell anything about what has become of it, let him go to the Palace of St. Peter, where the Holy Father will give him some wine (Brunet 3:177-178).

Valois Revenge

The League had won the first round, but the long-range outcome was far from certain. Much depended on the alliance between the Guises and Spain. The League needed Spanish force if the gains of May and July were to endure, and Philip, in turn, chose a moment when France was paralyzed by internal troubles to strike at England. If he had won his great gamble, England would have been regained for the faith, and at the same time the only possible support for either the Dutch rebels or the anti-League party in France would be knocked out. The isolated Low Countries could then be subdued, and France controlled through Philip's clients in the house of Guise-Lorraine.[12] Henri III well understood that this alliance could seal his doom, so the Armada's failure seemed to offer a miraculous opportunity.

On September 1 Henri III dismissed his principal advisers, Cheverny, the chancellor, three secretaries of state, Villeroy, Brulart, and Pinart, and Pomponne de Bellièvre, all of whom were tainted with the failure of his policies and thus partially responsible for his current predicament.[13] He

[12] . Garrett Mattingly, The Armada (Boston, 1940), and Jensen, Diplomacy and Dogmatism , both place the relation of events in France to the Armada and Spanish policy generally in full international context.

[13] . A recent analysis of the so-called Confession of Henri III (E. Dickerman and A. Walker, paper presented to New England Historical Association conference, October 1993, Brown University) shows how the king rationalized shifting blame for the misfortunes of the reign in August 1584, proving that the dismissals of Blois in September 1588 were premeditated. The king used a semantic device, distinguishing between a "corporate we"—advisors and himself—and an "I" who was a blameless victim of the king alone. Some of these men were to reappear in the royal service under Henri IV, and to contribute substantially to healing the breach that nobody had healed in the previous reign—one major demonstration of the difference between a strong king and a weak one.


gave the seals, though only with the title garde des sceaux , to François de Monthelon, who had never held high office. L'Estoile calls him "a simple lawyer in the Parlement, but one of the oldest, most learned, most honest and wholehearted Catholics of the Palais, though little versed in affairs of state and still less in those of finance" (Brunet 3:186; Roelker 159). De Thou says that he was like his father (we noted that the elder Monthelon was strong in parlementaire virtues), who had been "used by François I after the disgrace of Poyet . . . an eventuality which was very lucky for him, enabling him to pass for a very honest man who had absolutely no talent for public affairs. . . . Similarly with the son, who accepted the office at the urging of his friends . . . and showed great docility in obeying the king's orders and mighty little aptitude for a task of such importance."[14]

Pasquier's opinion is identical. In the letter previously cited to Sainte-Marthe assessing Henri III at the Barricades, he includes a fairly lengthy passage about the duties of advisers to a prince. Warning against the temptations (and evils) of flattery, he says,

For my part, I shall never agree with the opinion . . . that he who would live with princes should never tell the truth. . . . I prefer that of Solon, that, on the contrary, . . . we owe everything to the prince, who is given us by God, but above all, the truth. . . . It avails little to be morally upright if this virtue is not accompanied by force . . . a good man will, in all modesty, maintain what he thinks is right and condemn the contrary. . . . I know that following this advice one might not last long, but which is better, to bow to the corruptions of the court, or to take the consequences [of speaking out] and take an honest retirement in your own home, as did Chancellor L'Hôpital?[15]

Henri III's speech at the opening of the Estates on October 16 displayed his unappeased anger at the humiliation suffered at the hands of the duc de Guise. L'Estoile, de Thou, and Pasquier all refer to his remark that "some nobles of my kingdom formed leagues and associations that prevented me from stamping out heresy in the kingdom." The duke changed color and his brother, the cardinal, "so menaced His Majesty, that he allowed him to change the speech and have it printed quite otherwise." "The cardinal was

[14] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:272-273.

[15] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 307-308.


even presumptuous enough to scold his brother, saying that he [himself] never did things by halves, and that if [the duke] had taken his advice he would not be in the present fix" (Brunet 3:189; Roelker 159).

As all three orders were dominated by the League, the speeches of their orators did not lessen the antagonism between the king and the duke. Then, the seizure of the marquisate of Saluces by the duke of Savoy, allied to the Guises, exacerbated it still more. "While delighting the Barricaders, it marvelously embittered the king against the duke, knowing well that his ambition was behind this enterprise too. . . . This was the final straw," says L'Estoile, "in determining him to get rid of the duke and the domination of all these mayors of the palace" (Brunet 3:192-193; Roelker 161). Henri III's response to each new thrust of League pressure was to yield in fact, while asserting his authority verbally, so it is not surprising that a new League thrust always followed. A clear example occurred in the first week in December, when he was coerced into dismissing several of his personal officers, including his personal physician, François de Miron, because "they were devoted to the king." The next day there was a public "reconciliation" between the two men, but each was planning the next move. There were rumors that the duke planned to force the king back to Paris, as a captive, and the duke began to receive warnings of impending assassination (Brunet 3:194; Roelker 161).

In the meanwhile, there were two matters of the highest importance that lay, like unsheathed knives, between them. One was the ongoing problem of the Trent decrees, which were on the agenda of the Estates, and the other, more recent but even more sensitive, the proposed condemnation of Navarre. Both were taken up at the insistence of Guise and his close collaborators, with the rationale that if they passed, they would add to his power and influence, and if they failed, the blame could be laid on the king. A special commission was established to consider the Trent decrees; it heard testimony from a large number of clergy—all favoring in one degree or another the incorporation of the Trent decrees in a royal edict. Only two people, both laymen and gens du roi appeared for the other side. They were two mainstream spokesmen, Jacques Faye d'Espesses, avocat du roi, and Jacques de La Guesle, procureur général du roi. Faye was the one who took the floor. He based his opposition to the proposal on a succinct and accurate summary of exactly what the Gallican liberties were and why they would be annulled by the Trent decrees. He was interrupted, rudely, by the cardinal-archbishop of Lyon, Pierre d'Épinac, a fanatical ligueur , who insinuated that Faye's own religious beliefs were of questionable orthodoxy. Faye, angry, proclaimed his consistent loyalty to the Roman faith and said


that nobody could accuse him of deserting to heresy and then changing his mind when he found he would lose out in material ways. The details he gave in this hypothetical case were unmistakable references to a youthful Huguenot period in the archbishop's career, when the reform movement was at its height. In de Thou's words, "this effectively shut the archbishop's mouth." Then Louis de Saint-Gelais, sieur de Lansac, who had been a member of the French delegation to the third session of the Council, testified in glowing terms to the virtues of the decrees (de Thou calls it un magnifique éloge , with evident pleasure in his mockery). Faye then asked him, in the best cross-examining style, whether his opinion of the Council was still what it was in 1563? Lansac having affirmed that it was, in a very positive manner, Faye then "closed his mouth" by reading aloud Lansac's own written report at the time, in which he mocked the pretensions of the prelates to be instructed by the Holy Ghost, remarking that the latter seemed to live in Rome. Once more the Trent issue was won by the Gallicans, and de Thou reports that the meeting "broke up in general confusion, some full of indignation and others joking and enjoying the discomfort of the League."[16]

The proposal to bar Navarre from the succession, which L'Estoile entitles "The Vain project of the condemnation of the King of Navarre and the true execution of the condemner instead, work of God, not man," was opposed by Henri III, who declared that Navarre should be given another chance to convert and sign the articles of union, and that "it was wrong to condemn him without a hearing. . . . But the League, which could not accomplish its aims unless the line of Saint Louis was first degraded, decided that the king of Navarre was incapable of all succession, crowns, and royal dignity, as the chief of heretics and personally apostate" (Brunet 3:194-195; Roelker 161-162).

De Thou, in his Mémoires , cites an opinion expressed at this time by Montaigne, that only the death of either Guise or Navarre would resolve the problem, that "neither the duke nor any of his house would feel safe as long as the king of Navarre lived; and that the latter, for his part, was convinced that he could not make good his claim to the throne while Guise lived. Personally," he told de Thou,

They both make a show of religion, it is a good way to hold the loyalty of their followers, but religion does not concern either of them seriously. Only the fear of losing Huguenot support keeps Navarre from reentering

[16] . Ibid., 337, letter to Harlay about events in Blois; de Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:329-322 on Faye's speech.


the church of his fathers, and the duke would not be averse to the Confession of Augsburg, which he tasted under the influence of his uncle, the cardinal of Lorraine, if he could do so without compromising his interests. [Montaigne] added that these were the sentiments of princes concerning religion, that he had observed whenever he had any dealings with them.[17]

There is food for thought in this comment, for those concerned with the Wars of Religion in France, and/or with the mentalité of Michel de Montaigne. One thing is certain: fear of and opposition to heresy was a bond strong enough to hold Catholics of very different views together against it—as had been evident since the 1520s—but sharing the "one true faith" was not a strong enough bond to bring about French Catholic unity or to prevail against Gallican national feeling. Afterwards, Pasquier wrote a long letter to Harlay—imprisoned in the Bastille—commenting at length on the Estates. He expresses satisfaction with Faye's performance ("he defended our rights virtuously"), sees through the stratagems of the League, is irritated at the lack of common sense and logic shown by the deputies, pushed around by the League leaders ("to demand the continuing prosecution of a war to the death against the Huguenots and at the same time a reduction of taxes—these things are simply incompatible"), and shows his despair of finding any solutions under Henri III, "if the kingdom has been stricken by the faults of the past, the future remedies bid fair to be worse," and he tells a bitter joke going the rounds in Blois, "the late King Charles was declared to have attained his majority at the age of ten and four, that is, 14; and some desire to make our present [king] a minor at four times ten, that is at the age of forty."[18]

L'Estoile summarizes the king's new resolve. "This prince, filled with a just wrath, determined to kill the duc de Guise, but the great God, lighted the king's heart (which he holds in His hand) with a new force, and armed him with a new courage, to attack Guise, believing that [the duke's] longer life would mean his own death" (Brunet 3:196; Roelker 162). The melodramatic, but absolutely true, story of the murder, first of the duc de Guise, and then of the cardinal, by the king's orders, and the subsequent arrest of other members of the house of Lorraine as well as leaders of the ligueur estates, including La Chapelle-Marteau, prévôt des marchands of Paris, and Compans and Cotteblanche, two other "founders" of the Sixteen who had been elected échevins after the Barricades, has been told many times. What

[17] . De Thou, Mémoires , 331.

[18] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 338-344.


concerns us here is the judgment that parlementaire spokesmen held of the two Henris.[19]

There is no doubt that the resort to murder by their king in order to execute "justice" posed a dilemma for our royalist parlementaires, who were also self-proclaimed believers in Christianity. They could not really approve it, yet there seemed to be "extenuating circumstances" and we find de Thou and Pasquier going to considerable lengths to formulate a kind of apologia, but not so far as to give clear-cut approval. De Thou's opinion does not occur in the chronological sequence; his narrative account of the events of December 1588 omits the actual murders and concentrates on the arrests, the comings and goings, placed in time by phrases such as, "on the day before the duke died." He includes the question, but only indirectly, in his overall assessment of Henri III after the king's assassination, eight months later. Apropos of the king's violent changes of mood, Chancellor Cheverny (de Thou's brother-in-law) told him:

In winter he was prey to a black bilious humor, perceived only by officers under the same roof. Although he was an easy master at other times, he then became impossible. One could not mention any amusements; he hardly slept . . . exhausted the chancellor and secretaries of state by driving them hard in overlong hours of work. In this mood he expressed a zeal for discipline and issued severe edicts. . . . Shortly before the death of the duc de Guise, [Cheverny] told me about these royal humors and predicted that if the duke continued to press him, he was capable of having him assassinated in his chamber with no fuss (sans bruit ), because it was the season when he was easily aroused and when his anger became fury.[20]

Pasquier's apologia is much more explicit. He follows a letter of December 27, to Pierre Ayrault (lieutenant criminel in Angers) merely giving him the news, with a second, much longer one, with his reflections and interpretations. There is a metaphor in the earlier letter suggesting that the king believed every outrage to his authority, from whatever apparent source, stemmed from the Guise princes, "and the more flexibly he responded, the more they stiffened in their attacks, so that [the League] was really a hydra, if one head was cut off, seven new ones were born." In the longer letter he lists and analyzes, in chronological order, all the actions of the duke from the Day of the Barricades to the days just before the end that explained the

[19] . The Guise murders are regarded by historians of the Wars of Religion as one episode in the "War of the Three Henris," 1585-89 (the third is, of course, Henri de Navarre).

[20] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:494.


king's decision to get rid of him, filling eight pages. Then he says, "Therefore, to sum up this long discourse, I do not doubt that the king had several major reasons for anger at the duke, and especially what has happened in Paris . . . otherwise he would not be human."

Pasquier then expresses the belief that notwithstanding, the king had no intention of having the duke executed as recently as the opening of the Estates, and that the duke's ambitions were also not so démesurées until the deputies kept urging him to "finish what he had begun." "There is nothing more worthy of a great soul than moderate ambition, nor more detestable than ambition that passes reasonable bounds. Thus it is these deputies that are responsible for the duke's death; he based his greatness on them and they were the unique cause of his misfortune. " Pasquier manages to exculpate the king and the duke, laying the blame on the "hydra" of the League as manifested in the Estates, whose leaders, of course, included the spokesmen of the Paris Sixteen.

The remaining six pages of this letter contain Pasquier's interesting historical observations on morts d'état . "I have never found that the success of such a coup advanced the solution of the troubles of the state."

There follows a list of important morts d'état , Caesar's, Florentine history, English history, and past events in French history, such as the assassination of Louis d'Orléans by the duke of Burgundy, with astute analysis of the causes and results of each. "As for the present case, the king had two or three days of happy relief, having removed the thorn from his foot, but we have had no news from Paris, which makes me fear that our [allies] there are the weaker side. . . . Some thought that with the beast dead the poison would drain away, but I fear that the tail will be long."[21]

Pierre de L'Estoile, while an astute observer and a serious man and citizen, was far from the equal of Étienne Pasquier in historical interpretation or philosophical vision. He is content to lay the responsibility on God, whose ways are not our ways:

The news of these murders and imprisonments arrived in Paris, Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve, and "disturbed the feast day," as it was said. The people were strangely moved; they seized arms at once and began to keep a stringent guard night and day. The Sixteen unfurled their flags and began to shout, "Murder! Fire! Blood! Vengeance!" as usually happens in revolts and seditions—the most wicked make the most of the mutiny. . . . Everyone said that for vengeance on the tyrant—for thus was Paris beginning to describe the king—the last bit of money and the last drop of blood

[21] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 351, 363, 366-367, 373-374, 376; my italics.


ought to be spent. Although many good men were of the opposite opinion . . . even including those of the courts, who still had force on their side if they had cared to use it, [but] they were seized with apprehension and fear, their hearts failing them in their need, as the saying goes, and they allowed themselves to be carried along with the mutinous and wicked . These latter, seeing that the others were afraid, jumped at their throats, having seized arms while the others were debating . . . took the advantage and so the victory, which in all revolts and seditions goes to those who act first (Brunet 3:202-203; Roelker 164-165 [my italics]).

At one point near the end of Pasquier's long letter cited above, he remarks, "I cannot conceive that the people of Paris, who idolized the deceased, would easily forget him." Indeed, the news of the Guise murders, especially that of the cardinal, raised the tempo of the rebellion and the oratory of the prédicateurs to new heights. The murder of the cardinal made it possible to declare Henri III a tyrant, who had attacked the sacred person of a ranking prelate and thus forfeited all claims to loyalty, to the title of the king, and, even, his right to live. Parisians would be preoccupied with revenge until it was accomplished, eight months later.

The king was out of reach, but the Parlement of Paris, which traditionally claimed to be pars corporis regis , was a vulnerable target. For the first time the rebels went beyond rhetorical attack to use physical force against the court, whose great ordeal began in January 1589.

The first day of the year 1589, at the end of his sermon at St-Barthélemy, Lincestre extracted from all of his listeners (making them raise their hand as a sign of consent) an oath that they would employ all means to avenge the two Catholic princes, even to the last sou in their purses and their last drop of blood. . . . And he extracted a particular oath from premier président de Harlay, seated right in front of him . . . interpolating at various times, "Raise your hand, M. le président, raise it good and high, still higher, if you please, so that the people can see it." [Harlay] was forced to do it, but not without some scandalized murmurs from the people, who had been given to understand that [he] had . . . given his consent to the death of the two Lorraine princes whom Paris adored like tutelary gods (Brunet 3:230-231; Roelker 167).

This episode presaged the planned attack to take prisoner the leaders, who were all known politiques , and substitute members of the court who were somewhat in sympathy with the League—or at least, not conspicuously opposed to it. It took place on the same day that the unlamented Estates of Blois came to an end.


Monday, the 16th of January, Master Jean Leclerc, formerly procureur , now captain of his quarter and governor of the Bastille, accompanied by twenty-five or thirty scoundrels like himself, armed with cuirasses and pistols in their hands . . . went to the Palais, and into the Grand' Chambre with a list, and said loudly (the chambers being assembled), "You, so and so" (he named them), "we have something to say to you." And to the question of the premier président . . . as to by what authority he was acting, he replied "that they should hurry up and follow him, and that if they forced him to use his authority it might be too bad for them." So the premier président and présidents Potier and de Thou got ready to follow him. After them went voluntarily fifty or sixty conseillers . . . many who were not on the list . . . saying that they could not do less than to follow their leaders. Walking ahead [Bussy] led them, at six in the morning, as if in triumph, to the Place de Grève via the Pont-au-Change . . . to the Bastille . . . with the streets full of people with drawn arms (their shops closed) to watch them pass and cover them with a thousand taunts and villainies (Brunet 3:235; Roelker 169).

De Thou's account is similar, but as a close relative of one of the victims his version has a special interest.

Monday, January 16, when all chambers were assembled, the Parlement was attacked by the ligueurs , who guarded all the doors, so that nobody could leave. Then Bussy-Leclerc, in armor, escorted by Jean-Baptiste Machault, Michel de Marillac, and de Baston, entered the Grand' Chambre [which] after deliberation of several days, was about to name deputies to be sent to the king. Addressing those present, Bussy, in an insulting, mocking manner, said that he was much mortified to be obliged to imprison so many respectable persons. Thereupon he began to read aloud the list of those he was ordered to arrest, starting with the premier président Achille de Harlay and président Augustin de Thou. Président Barnabé Brisson, who is believed to have been informed in advance, had not gone to the Palais that day, nor had président Nicolas Potier, while président Pierre Séguier, sensing what was afoot, had left Paris the day before, with his brother, avocat général with [the help of a tavernkeeper]. Leclerc was continuing to read the list when président de Thou rose and said that it was not necessary to continue because there was nobody in the company who was not ready to follow him. All the others cried out that they would follow their leaders, regardless of the consequences, and, rising in a body, they abandoned the sanctuary of Justice.

It was a spectacle truly deserving of pity, to see so many persons, respected for their authority, their knowledge and their honorable behavior, arrested like criminals by a man of no worth (homme de néant ), led past the tribunal where they had so often performed their rightful functions, and triumphantly conducted through the streets of the city. It was notable, however, that traditional behavior was not yet suppressed, when the major-


ity of townsmen, although already infected with the poison of rebellion, could not contain their tears at this sight.[22]

There follows in the Histoire universelle a summary of the League's charges against Parlement. The Sixteen claimed that members had "plotted with the enemies of God" to turn over the city to the troops of Navarre, who had resolved to put Paris "to fire and sword." De Thou comments, "in thus trampling on the magistracy itself and holding good men in captivity, they were declaring themselves above the law."[23]

The court continued to meet, "notwithstanding the absence of the best and sanest part," says L'Estoile, adding that Brisson was presiding in the Grand' Chambre, "by some ruse and promise of the Sixteen." On January 21, the gens du roi were replaced. Édouard Molé was obliged to accept the office of procureur général, which he had tried hard to refuse, "overcome by the excited cries of 'Molé! Molé!' and also because he feared death otherwise, or at least to be rearrested and sent to the Bastille, from which he had just emerged." Jean Le Maistre and Louis d'Orléans became avocats du roi. It is worth noting in passing that all these men, headed by Brisson, were later to be found among those condemned as politiques by the Sixteen, after the extremists gained the upper hand, in 1591. Brisson tried to prepare for the day when the entire movement would be over and discredited by composing a disavowal, which he had notarized, but as L'Estoile—and others-do not fail to point out, in the end this forethought did him no good (Brunet 3:239-241; Roelker 170).

The other matter needing immediate attention was how to persuade the king to release the prisoners in Blois, especially those of the Third Estate. A plan was suggested to offer in exchange the members of Parlement in the Bastille, because they were as important to the king as the ligueurs of the Bureau de Ville were to the Paris League. Nothing came of this at the time, and the actual release of Harlay and some of the others did not come about until mid-March, when the duc de Mayenne—brother of the murdered princes and heir to the League leadership—had arrived in the capital and achieved some degree of authority.

The plan was nevertheless pursued, by Guillaume Du Vair, who hoped that this occasion would enable him to play a prominent mediating role in contrast to his attempts after the Barricades and the flight of the king. Once

[22] . De Thou, Histoire universelie , 7:376. Note two discrepancies between these two accounts: while L'Estoile lists Potier among those arrested, de Thou says he was absent; reports of the crowds' reactions are in striking contrast.

[23] . Ibid., 377.


more we have a "speech" that was never delivered, but only written; once more we do not know the exact date of composition. The supplication au roi , moreover, enlarges the subject beyond the question of the prisoners; it is an appeal to the king to "crack down" on the illegal actions and assemblies, so that even if the kingdom is still torn by civil war, the capital can be safe and orderly. Radouant believes that it was composed after the arrival of Mayenne in mid-February and that it reflects an agreement between the duke and Du Vair. He feels compelled to admire the feat by which Du Vair manages to make an apology for the League in a declaration ostensibly on behalf of the king's officers, by suggesting that since the king had the greatest responsibilities, he had committed the greatest wrongs in the events of recent months, so he should be the first to pardon—and release—his prisoners. As the biographer notes, it is remarkable that Du Vair was still trying to hold a neutral stance, but the increasing polarization of opinion would soon make it untenable.[24]

The mystique of the Guises as martyrs was being carried to its greatest extremes in these weeks after the Blois murders.

In the following days and months, solemn and devout services . . . were held in all the churches and monasteries of Paris, with great lamentations of the people who attended. And it can be said that since France was France, no kings nor princes, however great and powerful they were, have ever been so honored, mourned and cried over after their death as these two Lorraine princes. The son of the murdered duke was baptized as the Dauphin.

He was held at the font by the governor of the city of Paris, who christened him François, for his grandfather. . . . There was magnificent ceremony in this baptism, most of the captains of the dixaines marching in pairs carrying white, lighted candles, followed by archers. . . . A great banquet was given in the Hôtel de Ville following the ceremony . . . and the artillery was fired as a sign of joy. The people of Paris gathered in great numbers in the streets, blessing the child and mourning the father with great sorrow and lamentations. . . .

On Mardi gras, all day long fine devout processions were held in Paris, in one about 600 scholars of all the colleges of the university (most of them ten to twelve years old) marched naked or in shirts, with bare feet, carrying lighted candles, and singing devoutly, though sometimes discordantly, in the streets as well as in the churches (Brunet 3:247; Roelker 172-174).

The duc de Mayenne, meanwhile, was attempting to gather the various elements of the League under his control. A General Council of the Union was established, and he took an oath as lieutenant général of the Royal State

[24] . Radouant, Du Vair , 187-203.


and Crown of France, a title on which L'Estoile pours scorn. "Monday, March 13, the duc de Mayenne took the oath, in court, as Lieutenant-General of the Royal State and Crown of France. This ambitious and ridiculous title was accorded him by fifteen or sixteen good-for-nothings, and confirmed by this imaginary Parlement, the real Parlement being miserable in the various prisons of the city" (Brunet 3:258; Roelker 175). The duke's power, even at this early date, was more apparent than real. The Sixteen often defied him; especially was this true of Pierre Senault, acknowledged by ligueurs themselves to be among the toughest of the "hard-liners" (Brunet 3:257; Roelker 174-175).[25]

Royalist Counteroffensive

The League held the initiative, indisputably, but a royalist counteroffensive was gradually gathering strength in the early months of 1589. Président Jean de La Guesle and ten conseillers had left to join the king immediately after learning of the Guise murders; in mid-February La Guesle proclaimed publicly that Navarre was the only true and legal heir to the crown of France.[26] In response to the king's call, a stream of officers left Paris and joined their master, who had moved from Blois to Tours, where he established a loyal, royalist Parlement, disowning the "rump," that is, the ligueur court in Paris.[27]

The goal of all these activities was reached in April. At the beginning of the month, Henri III announced that Navarre was his true and only successor, and a treaty was drawn up whereby they made an alliance, each declaring that the other's enemies were also his own. Navarre was very suspicious of a trap and hesitated for some weeks. Many influential politiques , including de Thou, were doing everything possible to overcome his hesitation. "Finally . . . deciding that the war [against the League] was really his own," Navarre agreed to go to the side of Henri III.

Having taken this resolution, he crossed the river [Loire] Sunday, the last day of April, and went to His Majesty at Plessis-les-Tours. It was incredible with what joy this interview was received. . . . The press was so great and the voices of the people resounding exultantly, Vive le Roi! Vive le Roi de Navarre! Vivent les Rois! Finally meeting, they embraced very

[25] . See, e.g., Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant .

[26] . Complete rosters of the parlements of this period are contained in Maugis, Parlement de Paris , vol. 3: ligueur , 275-283; Tours, 284-294; Châlons, 295-297; Paris under Henri IV, 298-325.

[27] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:65-67.


affectionately with tears, especially the king of Navarre, from whose eyes they fell as big as peas from the great joy he had in seeing the king. He said that evening, "I'll die content with today, whatever death I die, because God has granted me to see the face of my king" (Brunet 3:277-278).

L'Estoile drew the moral in one of his most eloquent passages.

It came about that the king, who had fought him for so long, and even furnished the League the means to do so, was the one who took him by the hand to install him, so that he would get his great heritage, promised him by God . . . so also it was the Pope, it was the Spaniard, it was the Lorrainer, it was the Savoyard, it was the League, it was the Sixteen—in brief it was by his greatest enemies that he was carried, on their shoulders, to the royal throne. Miracle of miracles in truth, which we have seen with our own eyes (Brunet 3:278; Roelker 176-177).

Pasquier shared the joyous relief with his friend Nicolas de Harlay, sieur de Sancy, and pointed out how different the atmosphere was from the artificial, insincere "reconciliations" of Henri de Valois with Henri de Guise: "[Navarre] came to greet the king with so open and frank an expression, that there was not one among us witnesses to this meeting whose soul was not filled with incredible joy. We looked upon him, and even though he does not share our religion, we forgot all the prejudice we formerly had against him."[28]

But the end of the struggle was still a long way off, and ligueur Paris greeted the news in a paroxysm of fury and invective.

The preachers of Madame de Montpensier preached that the mask was now off, the tyrant had lifted the veil of hypocrisy and openly declared himself the partisan of the heretic. . . . There was no doubt that by this war he hoped to exterminate and banish the Catholic religion from France. . . . No other gospel was preached in Paris at this time . . . and it was better received than the true Gospel of peace. . . . The preachers called the king a dog, tiger, heretic, tyrant . . . and wouldn't allow him to be spoken of otherwise. There was no little preacher who couldn't find a place in his sermon for a list of injuries against the king, no pedant so obscure that he didn't write a couple of sonnets on the subject, no minor printer who couldn't find a way to roll some new libelous and defamatory discourse off the press every day. . . . I was curious enough about these to acquire about 300 different ones, all published in Paris and peddled in the streets; they fill four large volumes . . . besides a great folio of pictures and placards . . . which I should have thrown in the fire, as they deserved, except that they may serve in some way to show and expose the abuses, impostures, vanities, and

[28] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 423.


furies of this great monster of the League (Brunet 3:177-180; Roelker 177).[29]

The League retained control of the city and would for nearly five more years, but on the fighting fronts the tide had turned. Senlis fell to royalist troops in mid-May, Pontoise in late July. A factor that was to become increasingly influential in the (eventual) shift of opinion was already evident. Navarre's negotiated treaty with Pontoise

left gentlemen mounted on their horses, soldiers with their swords, bourgeois houses not looted . . . and [people were saying] as much good of this Prince as formerly of bad, even the Sixteen of Paris and Boucher, who said aloud that if it were ever necessary to make a deal, he would always recommend treating with the king of Navarre, because he would do what he said he would do, unlike the tyrant (Brunet 3:301-302; Roelker 176-180).

These sentiments and the victories that inspired them had the effect of rendering the masters of Paris desperate. When the joint armies of the king and Navarre were camped near the capital, they feared a move by Parisian politiques that would prove the League's downfall. Under the heading "Politiques imprisoned as the wages of a Jacobin," L'Estoile describes the precautions taken even as preparations had been completed to remove the "tyrant" from the scene once and for all.

[July 31] The Sixteen had about 300 bourgeois locked up in the various prisons, including the most notable and prominent, whom they suspected of favoring the king in their hearts. They called them Huguenots and politiques . . . . They did this, they said, so that when the armies of the two kings tried to come into the city these alleged royalists would find themselves unable to move, (and so [the royalist party] would find itself blocked within and without) (Brunet 3:303; Roelker 180).

Henri III was assassinated the next day by Jacques Clement, a Dominican monk who had been incited or hired (or both) to do the deed. The event is graphically described by L'Estoile and in many politique tracts, in terms similar to those of the League about the Guise brothers. There was now a royal martyr as well as Catholic martyrs. But our politique spokesmen, while expressing pious regrets, have their eyes turned to the future, with hope and expectation.

De Thou received the news in Venice on August 14. When the courier

[29] . "Les Belles Figures et Drolleries de la Ligue" is L'Estoile's own title for this collection contained in vol. 4 of the Brunet edition.


reported that "the armies of France and all the nobility had recognized the king of Navarre, the general consternation was converted to unexpected joy," he says in his Mémoires . (The event was to show that this was a considerable exaggeration, however.) De Thou goes on to give a full account of the arguments for recognizing the new king of France presented to the Venetian Senate by Marc'Antonio Barbaro, whose family had produced distinguished politicians and diplomats, including ambassadors to the French court.[30]

Pasquier wrote another of his detailed analyses, this time in a letter to Jean Tamboneau, sieur de Bouchet, président in the Chambre des Comptes and conseiller d'état, a friend and colleague of many years. For fourteen pages he set forth the balance sheet of virtues and defects of the late king (in which the latter far outweigh the former) and then concludes,

I have witnessed all these events with my own eyes, and they forecast nothing pleasant to come, nevertheless, in spite of all, it has never entered my head to abandon the obedience I owed him, and to follow another party, because it pleased God to make him my king. Therefore I have resolved to live and die under the one who will now rule over us, without undertaking any examination of his conscience; for whatever God has given us, we must accept . God knows better what we need than we ourselves.[31]

No period in the century was more highly charged than this late summer of 1589, when the "heretic" had just actually become king. We hazard only speculation about the distribution of high-ranking robins along a spectrum of attitudes toward religious dissent comparable to those of earlier decades, because those who remained in Paris were keeping a very low profile if they were in the royalist-politique camp. L'Estoile is a paradigm of this group, and the evidence of 1592-94 would suggest that it was sizable, probably a plurality of the population, and almost certainly a majority in the sovereign courts. And yet a great many things occurred in the five years between the accession of Henri IV and the "reduction of Paris to its obedience," which changed many minds—Du Vair being a paradigm here—so we shall never really know. What we do know is significant, however, although it does not form a complete pattern. Magistrates who were frankly politiques , like de Thou, Pasquier, Harlay, La Guesle, and all those who obeyed the king's command to leave the city by April 15, were willing to give wholehearted support to Navarre in spite of his "heresy"; Pasquier's formulation is clear

[30] . De Thou, Mémoires , 342. The most important argument was his legal claim to the throne; his religion was not mentioned.

[31] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 448; my italics.


and convincing. But this did not imply that they had changed their lifelong opposition to division of religion in the state,[32] as we know from their unremitting efforts to bring about the king's abjuration and their constant emphasis on the expectation that he would convert when "recruiting" for the royalist cause, as they were obliged to do until July 1593, when they finally won the day. In addition to this expectation, we find two other motives for their making an exception for the king: the first is precisely because he was king. One could argue that the legal fact outweighed the religious factor—this is the essence of the politique position in 1589-91[33] —or, that since God had willed it, a good Christian should accept it (Pasquier), and/or that it was part of God's punishment for the sins of France, like the civil wars themselves (L'Estoile). The other motive is strictly pragmatic, Henri IV was better than the alternative, which meant the Lorraine princes nationally and the Sixteen in the capital. Religion, in other words, had truly been subordinated to political (eventually, also national) considerations. This position is at the extreme opposite pole to that of the League, whose leaders both moderate and radical had, on the contrary, declared that religion was the only cement of the state and that the defense of religious uniformity must have top priority. The work of Barnavi and Descimon has provided us with a deeper and more complete understanding of this than was previously the case. Between the two poles was a fluid, ill-defined, uncomfortable position, which we assume was that of members of the sovereign courts who stayed in Paris, unless they were secret politiques .

As usual (before 1593), Du Vair does not conform to the politique model. Another of his undelivered discours , but this one dated, was forthcoming upon the accession of Henri IV, known simply as le discours du 5 août . He was appalled at the violence that broke out in the city—even greater than after the Guise assassinations—and called upon the Parlement to intervene on behalf of order and security. He urged the court to declare a general amnesty, in order to cool the atmosphere and mitigate the hostility of the populace toward the court. (Radouant comments on how revealing this is of the court's vulnerability.)[34] He makes a strong plea for the maintenance of legal procedures and duly constituted officers—as in the supplication au

[32] . Witness their reluctance to endorse the Edict of Nantes, which they did de expresso mandato regis .

[33] . After Spanish troops arrived in 1591 and Philip's ambassador Mendoza and the papal agents assumed political leadership in the city, the continued existence of France as a nation and of the Gallican church took priority.

[34] . Radouant, Du Vair , 212-213.


roi , only more so. He also strongly disapproves of the admission of armed forces into the capital, even those of Mayenne, with whom he was still collaborating. It is noteworthy that religion is not mentioned.

Of particular relevance for our study are passages in some of Du Vair's writings, other than orations, in the next two years, when he was withdrawn from public view, among them La Constance and Anecdotes , where he presents forceful arguments for remaining in Paris when to do so was to disobey an explicit royal command and, to the extent that one collaborated with the League, could be considered lesè-majesté. In ascending order of importance, he mentions protection of one's property, a legitimate concern, and of elderly parents, even more justifiable, but puts forth what Radouant calls "la véritable raison" almost between the lines: "Celuy qui par necessité, ou par un honneste dessein de secourir son pays, se sera laissé enveloper dans un party illegitime, tout ce qu'il peut faire, c'est d'observer toutes les occasions qui se presentent de flechir doucement les volontez de ses concitoyens à recognoistre leur bien et à le desirer."[35]

Furthermore, in his philosophical works he emphasizes prudence, "le commencement de toutes les vertus." Heroism that proves futile is "maladroit et coupable," because no matter how low the condition of our country has fallen, she will always need good men, who will be respected and trusted. In politics, the wise man will use means appropriate to the desired end. And because one has more often to choose between two evils than between good and evil, the good citizen will not be "too scrupulous," and if "the conventional way" will not lead to the desired goal, one may take "the most useful." Most striking of all—in ligueur Paris—is the condemnation of the error of those who, "starting from a fixed principle, are determined to deduce from it a mode of action applicable in all circumstances ." Radouant thinks that here Du Vair has in mind "those who repeat at every instant, 'This serves the preservation of the faith, therefore one must do it.'" This is responsible for "the blind confidence of fanatics."[36] Politics is "the application of what is appropriate to the desired goal, and this depends upon the circumstances, the person exercising the means, and those with whom he must deal; it excludes all considerations except utility, immediate or distant; it is the domain of the relative, not the absolute; it has only one criterion, success."[37]

[35] . Ibid., 201 and 201 n.1, where Radouant cites de Thou's recognition of the legitimacy of this motive.

[36] . Ibid., 202; my italics.

[37] . Ibid., 203.


Even if some other members of the court reasoned in the same way, they neither knew of Du Vair's arguments (published long afterward) nor drew much comfort from them in 1589, or for nearly five years thereafter. Indeed, the ordeal endured in 1589 would be surpassed by the one that lay ahead, in 1591.


Terrorism and Reaction, August 1589 to December 1591; 1592

Although the antagonists in the new reign were the same—the Sixteen versus Parlement—the context in which it took place was different in several important ways. The most obvious change was the contrast between the new king and his predecessor, in the forces at his command, in his ability to act effectively and in his enthusiastic following, ever increasing, owing to his victories in the field.

By the end of the year he had gained the upper hand in such places as Vendôme and Anjou, strategic regions south of the Île de France, the classic base from which the Capetian kings had constructed the royal domain. In December 1589 L'Estoile reports that Villeroy, who had become one of Mayenne's chief advisers since his dismissal by Henri III, "advised the duke to deal with the king rather than with the Spaniards, provided the king became Catholic."[1] The greatest in the series of military successes was the Battle of Ivry, at the very gates of Paris, on March 14, 1590. Pasquier spoke for royalists and politiques everywhere in a letter to Sainte-Marthe, describing the event, blow by blow, which begins "Victoire! victoire! victoire! Why shouldn't I trumpet the king's miraculous victory throughout the entire universe?" Some historians have agreed with L'Estoile's opinion of the immediate result—though not with his explanation.

If he had followed this victory by coming at once to Paris, as he could have and should have, many think that the League, frightened and unprepared, would have opened the gates to him, and thus put an end to the miseries we have suffered since. But God's will was otherwise, because of our sins, which divide Him from us. There is no other explanation for this signal

[1] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:12-13; ed. Roelker, 184-185.


mistake. How little even the most powerful princes can avail when God wishes to chastise them, which is plainly seen in history.[2]

Henri IV prepared to lay siege to the rebellious capital, and as the noose grew tighter the masters of the city took countermeasures: The cardinal de Bourbon had been declared king, but the duc de Mayenne remained lieutenant général of the crown of France, and therefore in command of the League armies. The royalist military offensive kept him constantly on the move, so he was rarely in Paris and his grip on the capital was slipping. The radical element took advantage of his absence to increase the pressure. As early as August 1589 the Hôtel de Ville had been the scene of struggles for control of the municipal government between the duke and the moderate ligueurs who supported him, and the Sixteen. The alliance was at best un mariage de raison , as Barnavi says, and it is not surprising that the bitter siege (May 14 to August 30, 1590) paved the way for the "divorce" that would come in 1591.[3] Inevitably it also stepped up the tempo of the war between the League, as a movement including both factions, and the royalists, further embittered by economic hardship.

Wednesday, August 8, there was a tumult at the Palais, by a whole crowd of people whom hunger drove—as the wolf drives animals from the woods—armed, and demanding peace or bread. This was undertaken by a large number of bourgeois of the city, including some of the most prominent, who would have been glad to see the king in the city as they had nothing to cook in their houses, any more than the poorest have. So great is the poverty and misery to which they are reduced that they ask nothing but a change of masters and conditions.

Monday, August 20, when the extreme poverty and misery of the people of Paris had been explained to the king, and he learned that the streets began to be paved with dead, His Majesty, preferring to break the rules of war rather than those of humanity . . . broke the military custom and treated the people as his subjects. [He] granted safe conduct to all women, children, and scholars who wished to leave [Paris]. He finally extended [this right] to everyone, including his bitterest enemies. He even enjoined the towns to which they might go to receive them well. Further, he permitted, against the rules of war, that supplies he brought in to the princes and princesses in the city. This was ungratefully accepted. Such [humanity] was one of the principal causes why the siege did not have the success it might have had.

[2] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 452; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:13; ed. Roelker, 186-188.

[3] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 557-559 (who cites the Registres du bureau de ville for August 1589); Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 199-202.


After the lifting of the siege it was called the greatest of God's miracles since the Creation. It was said by others, "We are saved, although led by a blind man [Mendoza], governed by a child [Nemours], and advised by a priest [the Legate], none of whom knew a thing about war" (Brunet 5:43, 50-51, 49; Roelker 190-193).

In the aftermath of the siege the Sixteen took a step in the open toward their goal of purging the Parlement—again. Too many of those they had imposed on the court in January 1589 were Mayennistes, or "preferred their ties of interest and of family status to the necessity to suppress traitors among the gens de robe ." On September 18 the radicals sent a delegation to the duke with a list of demands; in addition to a more vigorous prosecution of the war and the dismissal of some of the duke's closest associates, they wished him to cooperate with them in establishing a committee to investigate the Parisian magistracy. Mayenne had to walk a fine line in his dealings with them; he needed their zeal to keep the antiroyalist flame burning, but he was apprehensive about their extreme ideas and especially anxious to divert their opposition away from the sovereign courts. His strategy was to delay responding as long as he could, to take no action whatever, and in the meanwhile, to wrest control of the Bureau de Ville from them. He accomplished the latter aim in a special election on October 17.[4] When the Sixteen realized that they could not achieve their objective through pressure on or manipulation of Mayenne, they sought a way to go over his head. This became possible because the papacy and the king of Spain had already begun to intervene in the French conflict directly—by entering into relations with the Sixteen.[5] On Saturday, January 20, 1590, Cardinal Cajetan, the papal legate, had arrived at the gates of Paris, and the next day, "after a solemn Te Deum at Notre-Dame, he was conducted to the Bishop's Palace, which had been magnificently prepared for him to live in during his stay." On February 10, the faculty of theology passed a resolution renewing its oath to the Holy Union, and also swore on the Gospel to exterminate heresy and to exclude from the throne the king of Navarre, whether or not he became a Catholic. A year later, February 12, 1591, Spanish and Neapolitan troops were brought into the city "and installed in the houses of the absent," putting "teeth" into radical policy from then on. The Sixteen thus acquired prestigious political leaders, with force to implement policy, who were independent of the Guises. For the duration

[4] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 559-560.

[5] . Until after the death of Henri III, the Counter-Reformation powers outside France had systematic relations only with the Lorrainers, or their accredited agents.


of the League—more than three years longer—the Spanish-papal intervention was a major factor, eventually it became determining, but in a way opposite to the intentions of Philip, Gregory XIV—and the Sixteen, namely by accelerating the nationalist reaction against the foreigners. Already in August 1590, at the height of the siege, months before their troops entered the city, L'Estoile reports manifestations of anti-Spanish sentiment: "These are the rewards of those who give their lives for Philip," read one sign over a butcher shop displaying "a few pieces of old asses and cats"; another proclaimed "Death to the Judaic Society [Jesuits] and the Iberian nation!"[6] Still another new element in the changed situation was the activity of the royalist Parlement in Tours. Although it had been set up by Henri III in the spring of 1589, it did not become a real force in the interplay of the factions until after his death—one more sign of the new king's vigor. What had been a trickle of officers leaving Paris (as commanded) became a flood. The royalist court was in constant turmoil because of changing numbers, changes in procedure, and contradictory orders, but it had begun to counter every action of the League, and Henri IV proclaimed it the only legal Parlement of the region. Reciprocal challenges and refutations were constantly exchanged. In January 1591 further confusion was introduced by the creation of a second royalist Parlement at Châlons, as well as the rise of a Third Party, which tried to bypass the League while maintaining a Catholic front against Henri IV. The Parlement of the League, meanwhile, had lost all its présidents except Barnabé Brisson by the opening of the fateful year, 1591.[7] Although terrorist attacks on the Parlement had began in the autumn of 1589, not until after the siege did they become the main object of attention.

Wednesday, March 13 [1591], our Master Boucher, who is preaching this Lenten season at St-Germain-l'Auxerrois, attacked the Béarnais and the politiques . . . . His sermons were even worse than the others, containing blood and murder, even against the court, whom he discounted as no good. He excited the people by his atrocious gestures and exhortations to get rid of them. One of the conseillers of the court, a friend of mine, told me the next day that if the crowd hadn't been so thick around him he would have left, for fear that in his rage [Boucher] would come down from the pulpit, jump on some politique and eat him raw with his teeth.

Sunday, March 24, the billets of the preachers instructed them to keep the people from accepting [the idea of] the king's conversion. . . . They said that an excommunicate and relapser couldn't be received no matter what

[6] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:39, 43; ed. Roelker, 186, 198-199.

[7] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:136-142.


face he put upon it. The result of this was a bunch of injuries and vomit against the king. The curé of St-André called him son of a prostitute and bastard, Boucher called him the red dragon of the Apocalypse, and [said] that his mother was an old wolf. . . . Commolet said that only heretics and politiques wanted to see him go to Mass. They called him dog, tyrant, heretic, wicked. . . . Our master Ceuilly called him a stinking goat and alleged ulterior motives for his [supposed] desire to attend Mass, the said curé not having enough brains in his head to fry an egg. These were the beautiful Lenten sermons preached in Paris (Brunet 5:75-78; Roelker 198-199).

Throughout March and most of April 1591, Henri IV's troops were laying siege to the town of Chartres and the political temperature in Paris rose in explosions of anger with each rumor of the king's success and in wild rejoicing with each denial.

Indeed it can be said that there is no sort of devotion . . . which wasn't used by the people of Paris for the deliverance of Chartres. . . . Nothing was omitted, including prayers, offerings, and vows to the Virgin to keep her in the party. But whether she was indifferent, or what, it was all to no avail, because Friday, April 19 . . . Chartres was reduced to the king's obedience. . . . The news came to Paris on April 20 (Brunet 5:89; Roelker 200).

L'affaire Brisson

The predicament of early recruits to the League who found themselves out on a limb about to be cut off can be illustrated by many individuals (the lawyer Louis d'Orléans is often cited as an example because he is well known to posterity) but the key case is that of Jean Brigard, which provoked the most daring and dramatic attack yet of the Sixteen on the Parlement—Barnavi calls it le détonateur .[8] The facts are quickly summarized. Brigard had been "the courier of the Union" in the period of the buildup and was a regular bearer of messages between the duc de Guise and his Parisian partisans. As a reward, he had been elected procureur du roi at the Hôtel de Ville in the initial reshuffle of the Bureau de Ville after the Barricades. Yet in April 1591 he was arrested by Bussy-Leclerc (his cousin, who had recruited him originally), on the charge of communicating with the enemy. Six months later he was still in the Bastille and Parlement showed no signs of intending to bring him to trial. During the late summer the extremist

[8] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 552, 560; Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 205.


curés had repeatedly demanded that he be "brought to justice," but in October he was acquitted.[9]

On the first day of November, after the Sixteen had tried in vain to regain control of the municipal government, one of their leaders, Morin de Cromé,[10] declared "that the judges of Brigard must die." Premier président Barnabé Brisson had been receiving warnings that his life was in danger for a month. The radical faction then set up a secret "Committee of Ten" to plan and carry out a purge of the court. They met every day for two weeks at a different place. Bussy produced a blank paper, allegedly destined to contain a new formulation of the oath of loyalty to the union, pressuring his co-conspirators to sign, which most did, though some complained at being obliged to do so when they could not see the contents, which were described as "of utmost importance for the conservation of the faith." There are several quite detailed contemporary accounts of these meetings and the roles of particular individuals on specific days, with some slight variations. L'Estoile's is, as usual, very colorful, and agrees to a remarkable extent with some of those written by participants, although his information was entirely secondhand, of course.[11]

On Friday, November 15 (1591), Bussy and an armed troop invaded the Palais de Justice in the morning, seized Brisson and two known politiques ,[12] dragged them off to prison, where, after a summary "kangaroo" trial, they strangled and hanged them in the afternoon. Their bodies were strung up in the Place de Grève in the night, and by morning a large crowd had gathered. Bussy and his followers,

when they saw the crowd . . . began to cry "Get the traitors! Get the politiques who have sold the city to the heretic . . ." He and his friends shouted these things to move the mob to blood and pillage. Bussy shouted that if they would follow him, by evening . . . Paris would be cleansed of traitors . . . [of whom] he had a list . . . "If not," he cried, seeing that no one was showing any interest, "I warn you they will cut your throats . . . we would have all been dead if we hadn't taken their chiefs, whom you see here, and hadn't prevented them [from acting] today."

[9] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:83, 113-116; ed. Roelker, 199, 204-205; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 562-563.

[10] . Probable author of the most important manifesto of the radicals, Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant .

[11] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 565; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:89-90 n.; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:116-118 (cite, 118); ed. Roelker, 205-208.

[12] . Claude Larcher, conseiller in the Grand' Chambre, and Jean Tardif, conseiller at the Châtelet.


To these words the populace, instead of being moved to arm, as Bussy intended . . . said no word . . . regarding the poor bodies with pity; they pressed close together, being more filled with mercy than with sedition (Brunet 5:126-127; Roelker 210-211).

But the moderates managed to keep the upper hand in the Bureau de Ville and the Spanish and Neapolitan commanders refused to intervene, although the Sixteen had written a special plea to Philip II on November 20. In fact, there was a rapid decline in the radical following at once, which was never to be arrested, though the pace was slowed somewhat. Parlement made its contribution by refusing to convene for two weeks. The lawyer Louis d'Orléans, often called by contemporaries the "best pen of the League," said that "he found the deed so wicked and reprehensible that it could be expiated only by the death of the perpetrators." Barnavi divides the defectors into three categories, the moderate ligueurs who had never been comfortable with the Sixteen, those who felt it was "bad for business," and disillusioned idealists.[13]

While deploring the crime, our politique spokesmen thought that Brisson's "irresolution and ambition" were factors in his tragic fate. "He tried to keep in the good graces of the Sixteen on the one hand, and at the same time to work for the royalists. But he fell between the two, as usually happens to those . . . who, in great civil troubles like ours, try to be neutral or to get advantage from each side for themselves." This is L'Estoile's opinion. Du Vair's, embodied in his most famous oration a year and a half later, was "he had nourished the tigers who drank his blood. . . . He feared too much and thus suffered what he feared . . . and the worst of it is, that he had been warned loud and often." Then Du Vair draws a moral for his audience—the Parlement of Paris itself—"Messieurs, may the Grace of God, which saved you that day also open your eyes to a thousand other evils which will surely befall you if you do not act now [to preserve the constitutional succession, of Henri IV].[14] Ten days later L'Estoile reports,

Monday, November 25, [1591], I was shown the list of the politiques of our quarter, called "the red paper," in which I was much interested because my name was on it, and most of those I know. This . . . was a roll which the Sixteen had prepared for each quarter . . . of all the politiques of Paris, as

[13] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:129-132; ed. Roelker, 213-214; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 566-567; Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 194.

[14] . This is in the famous speech Suasion de l'arrêt pour la manutention de la loi salique advocating retention of the Salic law, June 28, 1593, in which Du Vair rehearses all the ills of recent years.


they are called, of all those held to be for the king in their hearts, adherents of his party, or who do not approve of the robbery, brigandage, and cruelty which they call the zeal of God. . . . On this list they put all those (however devout Catholics they are) who, as true Frenchmen, refuse to submit to Spanish domination.

They had resolved to hang or stab some and exile others of these . . . and it was designated which fate was in store by the letters P.D.C. [by their names], meaning pendu, dagué , or chassé . I found myself under the letter D . . . Monsieur Cotton, my father-in-law, under P . . . Monsieur le président Le Maistre likewise . . . Monsieur Désiré, my neighbor, under C . . . and so forth (Brunet 5:131-132; Roelker 206).[15]

Many Parisians were crying out for the duc de Mayenne to return to the city and restore order. Having ascertained that the Spaniards would not oppose him, he did so on November 28, and within a few days made a series of changes: he hanged four of the murderers and banished two others (Bussy was one, after the duke forced him to yield the Bastille); he arrested half a dozen others (but did not prosecute the radical curés at all); he made four appointments to the court, Matthieu Chartier as (temporary) premier président, Étienne Neuilly, André de Hacqueville, and Jean Le Maistre, as présidents, prominent ligueurs from the outset but Mayennistes, and Antoine Hotman as second avocat général (replacing Le Maistre).[16] Barnavi sees in this Thermidor mayenniste the real turning point in the League movement and the "writing on the wall" for the radicals—which is also the judgment of the mainstream magistrates and most historians throughout the centuries.[17] While their former adherents were changing sides, many of the Sixteen fled the city, fearing reprisals, though some later returned to take part in the last gamble—at the Estates of 1593.

The dilemma of Mayenne is strikingly clear: how to retain as much control as possible in Paris for the League as such, while disciplining the radicals, in Barnavi's words, casser le parti mais garder la faction , so as not to be at the mercy of the politiques . Simultaneously on the national level,

[15] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:92 (for Du Vair's judgment).

[16] . Chartier was the dean of the court, having been in office fifty-four years. Mayenne had little choice, since all the ablest and most likely candidates were in the royalist parlements. There were some differences among these men. Neuilly and Hacqueville voted against the arrêt of June 28, 1593; d'Orléans voted for it (although he was propapal and anti-politique , he was also anti-Spanish) and also supported the Paris Parlement's condemnation of the Châlons court's arrêt . I am indebted to John Salmon for bringing my attention to these important distinctions in the work of his former student, Robert Gould.

[17] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:140; Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 212-214; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 565 esp. n.106.


he was waging a diplomatic struggle on two separate fronts. The Third Party, which consisted principally of high-ranking ecclesiastics, wished to back any other (Catholic) candidate for king except Mayenne. The duke tried hard to change the minds of some—they were not in agreement with each other—but he never succeeded. At the same time, he was in frequent contact with the important Catholics, laymen as well as prelates, among the supporters of Henri IV. In the end it was with the king that he compromised, partly out of pique but chiefly, it would seem, because it was the only course that would enable him to keep important titles, lands, and offices. Salmon echoes the Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant when he reminds us that "Mayenne's politics were those of a pragmatist."[18]

Social analysis by the most recent historians of the movement brings out the noticeable shift in composition that had occurred among the League activists since the original conspiracy of 1585-88.

Magistrates, merchants and senior officers of justice and finance are less important; avocats and procureurs dominate the movement [in 1591]. Whereas members of the upper three categories composed 34 percent of the leadership in 1588, they were a mere 11 percent in 1591 [whereas avocats and procureurs ] who had made up 21 percent of the revolutionary elite before the Barricades, comprised 37 percent of the group that executed the coup.

In view of these changes, Salmon concedes that "frustrations . . . of the ambitious, articulate, and well-educated" in the lower ranks of the legal profession were probably operative, as Henri Drouot has maintained for the ligueurs of Dijon, though this does not exclude an element of religious sincerity, nor the role played by minor functionaries, such as sergeants, ushers, clerks.[19]

The Parlement Versus the Papacy

L'Affaire Brisson was a melodramatic episode of in-fighting in which feuds and personalities played an important part, at a moment in the course of the local Parisian movement that can be described with equal accuracy as its apogee or the beginning of its decline. It overlapped with a drama of a very different kind, involving one of the fundamental issues of French history from the fourteenth century to the Revolution. The Gallican con-

[18] . Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 215-217; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 569.

[19] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 566-567; Barnavi, Le Patti de Dieu , 215-219.


troversy of 1591 was to the conspiracy and murders of the same year as a deep groundswell at sea is to a surface chop.

During a brief pontificate (1590-91) Pope Gregory XIV tried to exploit the schism in Catholic France by excommunicating all those (but especially ecclesiastics) who were supporting Henri IV. The Bull in question, issued in March 1591, also contained warnings (monitoires ) to all French Catholics to avoid the sin—and punishments—of associating with the "heretic and apostate" king in any way. This was a radical departure from the strategy of the late Pope Sixtus V, which, we recall, was rather to encourage a reconciliation of the parties. The reactions of the two royalist parlements, of the king, of the Parlement of Paris, and of the French clergy in official convocation constitute as striking a spectrum of opinion on this basic issue as ever occurred in French history, and they highlight for us the nuances of parlementaire attitudes toward heresy, and toward the various issues with which it had become entangled in the sixty-some years since the emergence of religious dissent on the French scene.

The Bull's text arrived in Paris (it was delivered to the cathedral chapter of Notre-Dame) at the very end of May 1591. The first public reaction was that of the clergy. The Bull was read aloud in the cathedral on June 3, and posted on all four doors. Guillaume Rose, bishop of Senlis, one of the radical curés, preached a sermon "exalting papal majesty even above the ninth Heaven, while lowering and abasing that of the king to the lowest levels of Hell," L'Estoile reports (Brunet 5:101). A week later, the first salvo on the Gallican side came from the small Parlement the king had recently established at Châlons,[20] of which Augustin de Thou was premier président; that ordered the Bull to be torn in shreds in the court and burned, a procedure later followed by all the courts loyal to the king.[21]

Henri IV had matched the conciliatory diplomacy of Sixtus V by a corresponding open-mindedness and had hopes of reaching some accommodation; and he reacted strongly in opposition to the onslaught of Gregory XIV. As de Thou says, he thought the Châlons actions (and condemnations) worthy of Parlement and of French liberties and wished to confirm and support them with his own authority. To this end he made two speeches on July 4, the first a "Declaration," addressed to Rome and Catholics in general,

[20] . Auxiliary to the main royalist parlement in Tours. Its history and personnel are well summarized by Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:136-178.

[21] . This Gallican crisis of 1591 is treated in the politique sources, L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:103-106; ed. Roelker, 201-203; de Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:790-802; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:73-80, has analysis and abundant references to archival sources.


which began with a repetition of his statement on the day of his accession, that he wished to receive instruction in the Catholic faith, calling for a General Council to adjudicate points of dispute, promising that in the meantime he would maintain it in France and would not attempt to introduce any changes. In de Thou's opinion, "This should have satisfied those who claim to have taken arms only to defend their religion, and would have if those who wished to dismember the kingdom and divide it up among them, that is, the Spaniards and the dukes of Savoy and Lorraine, had not given them arms, while masking their criminal ambitions under the pretext of religion."[22] Sixtus V had understood this, but the new pope, it seemed, did not. In Henri's words,

Blinded by our enemies, he sent a nuncio into our kingdom with rigorous orders to detach from our service princes, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, and leading magistrates who had remained faithful to us. This nuncio entered France without our consent and without notifying us and joined forces with our rebellious subjects. . . . These actions [on the part of the papacy] infringe on our royal authority, on the laws of the kingdom and on the liberties of the Gallican church.

He concludes by saying that he is asking all the parlements "in whose competence the matter lies . . . to consider and take action."[23]

Later in the day, the king addressed his council on the subject of the Protestants of France. In this second speech he takes the councillors to task for violating the edicts granting civil rights to his subjects who held dissident views because their action makes it necessary to issue a new edict, both to ensure the rights of the reformed and so that "finally you yourselves can render us the obedience you owe and live in peace with the Protestants." He reminds them of the early civil wars, in which the Châtillons felt obliged to take arms as the "protectors" of the reformed and warns that it could happen again. He also warns that outside Protestant powers, especially the England of Queen Elizabeth, may intervene, and states forcefully that he will not permit that to happen, nor will he tolerate "several kings, which is what happens when there are parties with armed leaders."

De Thou's restrained comment on this speaks volumes.

The Assembly showed by its silence its support for the prudence and equity of the king. Only the cardinal de Bourbon, who wished to provoke the Third Party to come into the open, rose from his place and started to leave

[22] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 7:791.

[23] . Ibid., my italics.


the chamber, after stuttering a few words. But when the king noted that [other ranking prelates, suspected of belonging to the cardinal's faction] made no move to follow, he ordered him to sit down again, in a commanding tone.

Henri IV then proceeded to issue a new edict in favor of the Protestants with a proviso: "it would not take effect until peace had been restored to the kingdom and all would have returned to their obedience," with "differences in religion settled with the consent of all the orders of the kingdom."[24] It would be another eight years before these conditions would prevail.

The Parlement of Paris took its (predictably contrary) stand within a few days. Denouncing the decision of the so-called Parlement in Châlons, the Paris court ordained that the Châlons arrêt be burned on the marble table, which was done on July 18, 1591. This action stimulated a new rash of clerical rhetoric from the pulpits:

Sunday, July 21, the preachers of Paris declared unanimously against the decision of the Châlons Parlement, praising and raising to the third Heaven the present pope, consigning his predecessor to the deepest Hell . . . falling on those of Châlons . . . avoiding no sort of injury which would make them odious. Boucher, most violent and injurious of all . . . called de Thou a mad bull, Agenous an old drunken Huguenot . . . giving each member of the Châlons Parlement a soubriquet, and declared that there were seventeen heresies in their declaration.

The curé of St-André vomited his rage against the king: one should no longer call him Henri de Bourbon, as the excommunication deprived him of that name; if it was necessary to speak of him he should be called "heretic, relapser, excommunicate, villain, son of a prostitute, devil" . . . and said that the Parlements of Tours and Châlons should be burned alive with their decisions.

Rose, Commolet, Ceuilly, Guarinus, Lincestre, Martin and all the others treated the same subject, in their well-known way (Brunet 5:107-108; Roelker 203-204).

Understandably, some Catholics prominent in the king's party were sufficiently troubled by the pope's censure to waver in their allegiance, and the League exploited the opportunity to claim gains at a time when their losses were becoming conspicuous. Moreover, even as Frenchmen tended to attack "evil advisers" of a monarch when condemning royal policies, so loyal French Catholics directed their strongest invective against the papal legates, specifically against the nuncio Landriano, whom Gregory had en-

[24] . Ibid., 792-793.


trusted with the mission of implementing the Bull. The Parlement of Tours, on August 5, denounced the Bull and monitoires as "abusive, seditious, full of impiety, contrary to the rights, immunities, and privileges of the Gallican church." An arrêt was passed, condemning all copies to be torn up and burned and enacting prohibitions to all bishops, curés, and other ecclesiastics to publish or read them; and to all persons of whatever estate and condition to possess them "or suffer the consequences of lèse-majesté ." The court further ordained that "Landriano, so-called nuncio and bearer of these seditious documents, be bodily seized, imprisoned, and interrogated by the court." It also declared "Gregory, so-called XIV pope of that name, enemy of public tranquility, of peace, of the unity of the Catholic Church, of the king and his state, fauteurs des rebelles, complice des Espagnols et du détestable parricide commis par trahison sur la personne du Roi Henri III. "[25]

When the ligueur Parlement in Paris received word of the Tours action, it held a session, on September 24, to condemn it in even more drastic terms than had been applied to the Châlons arrêt two months earlier, nullifying it as "execrable, abominable, drawn up by men with no authority, schismatics, heretics, men who had violated their oath of loyalty to God, whose cause they had betrayed and abandoned." The Paris court reaffirmed the duty of all to honor and respect the successor of Saint Peter, and to obey his Bulls, which were "inspired by piety and paternal solicitude." Public prayers and processions were ordered to be held every Thursday, "to appease God's anger" and members of the Parlement were to attend.[26]

The royalist bishops, assembled in Chartres about the same time, firmly reiterated the sentiments of the Tours and Châlons parlements and of Henri IV, appealing to "all Christians, true Catholics who care about the honor of Frenchmen, and especially the clergy, to join with us . . . to pray that divine Grace will inspire the king . . . and lead him to the bosom of the Catholic church, as he gave us to hope at his accession, promising to conserve the ecclesiastical hierarchy, with its rights, privileges, and liberties."[27] This hope was realized, as far as the official convocation of the French bishops held in November 1591 was concerned,[28] although peace, return of all to their obedience and reconciliation were, naturally, much longer in coming.

[25] . Ibid., 797-798; my italics.

[26] . Ibid., 799.

[27] . Ibid., 801.

[28] . Those who could not go along with the majority, that is, the ecclesiastics of the League who had already gone so far that they could not easily compromise, did not attend.


The historian of the Parlement of Paris, Édouard Maugis, gives us his opinion of these varying reactions to the papal initiative:

The Châlons judges spoke a pure legalistic language, full of subtleties, as in diplomacy; those of Paris followed the party line of Rome (doctrine stricte pontificale ) without sufficient reservations for the rights of the Crown; Henri IV [spoke] the supreme wisdom that stems from good sense and from legal justification. The Parlement of Tours takes us back to the excesses of a Pierre de Flotte and Philip the Fair. Fortunately, the clergy showed greater tact and political realism . . . as interpreter and guardian of the Gallican liberties.[29]

The Gallican crisis was not decisively settled until the summer of 1593, and it is probable that it would have dragged on longer had not Henri IV then felt obliged—finally—to fulfill his promise to "return to the bosom of the Church." Even so, he could not reenter the capital, his immediate objective, for another eight months, and it took him five more years to quell the rebellion completely.

The Tide Turns, 1592

Other items of unfinished business in 1592 include the problems of Mayenne, who continued his politique de bascule in several vain efforts to persuade the Third Party to advance him as their candidate, in attempts to manipulate the Bureau de Ville which were only partially successful, and in further disciplinary moves against the radicals. Some of these had come out of hiding in the year intervening between the duke's punishment of the November 1591 murders and the opening of the Estates of the League in January 1593.

The Sixteen's hopes of rekindling their cause were soon dashed, however, as the public response to every sign of such a revival was decidedly negative. On the contrary, factors strongly favoring the politiques had emerged. One of these was the economic plight of the city, cut off from trade with the provinces—or foreign markets—by encircling royal armies. Demands for trade were made almost daily, in manifestos and public meetings. By July, it had become the latest theme of the curés:

Friday, July 3, 1592, the people of Paris were forbidden to go to St-Denis, to trade or for any other reason, on pain of imprisonment. An injunction was also issued for all those of the opposite party to leave the city within twenty-four hours or be declared prisoners of war. All passports were re-

[29] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:80.


voked, which was a measure to raise money by the renewal of them, as was evident the next day, when one got a renewal by paying.

Sunday, July 5, the curé of St-André cried out loudly in his sermon against the peace that was being drawn up, supposedly. . . . He also said that those who were with the Béarnais were all damned, no matter how much they protested that they were Catholic; he also said that the politiques , of which Paris was full . . . were a hundred times worse than the Béarnais. . . .

The curé of St-Jacques . . . "excommunicated" all those who talked of peace, or thought trade should be resumed [with the royalist towns]. . . .

Rose, Ceuilly, Martin, Guarinus, Feuardant, and all the others preached in the same way, saying that they were of the opinion, if the Holy Father approved, of receiving the Béarnais in the Church as a Capuchin but not as a king. They attacked those who favored trade between Paris and St-Denis . . . claimed that there were more than 3,000 politiques who plotted under cover of trade. They complained that those who should have controlled these things did nothing about it. This caused M. de Belin [governor of Paris] to have a general check made at all the gates the next day . . . but no one was found who was not armed with a passport and safe-conduct, nor was anyone discovered who declared himself a politique (Brunet 5:172-174; Roelker 218-219).

Trade requires communications, and they depend on suspension of hostilities, so efforts to procure a truce proliferated and gathered support. Yet for trade to be continuous and businessmen to have confidence, a few days of truce do not suffice. Nevertheless many Parisians, even if disillusioned with the League, resisted making permanent peace with "the heretic"—denounced as sin in ever more lurid terms by the clergy—and the diehards would not hear of it. Economic hardship and the need for a resumption of commerce thus motivated Parisians increasingly to favor negotiations for peace, trade and a stepped-up campaign for the king's conversion; these were nicknamed Semonneux , the "inviters." The movement burgeoned in October 1592. After commenting on the phenomenon itself, L'Estoile recounts an experience of his own that dramatizes the situation of politiques who had remained in ligueur Paris as well as illustrating the economic motivations of the Semonneux :

Friday, the 23d, I returned . . . from St-Denis, where I did more business in one afternoon than I did on my last trip in seventeen days, because I was able, under the name of Bellemanière, to get hold of part of my revenues from Orléans. This was because M. du Four, governor of Gergeau, who can do anything, promised to back me against those who treat me as a ligueur there—as here I am treated as a politique —a fine way to get things done! (Brunet 5:182-183; Roelker 220).


Four days later, however, the Chambre des Comptes as a body strengthened the movement enormously:

Tuesday, October 27, in spite of the presence of the duke of Mayenne, the Chambre des Comptes voted unanimously for peace, and to send to the king the invitation to become Catholic. Président d'Ormesson . . . took news of this to the duke, and, as all but four had agreed [L'Huillier, Hotman, Dalesseau, and Acarie],[30] he begged him to consider it . . . in view of the necessity of the people . . . and the fact that peace was the only remedy. He spoke as the representative of the company (Brunet 5:183; Roelker 220).

The curés did not diminish their onslaught:

Sunday, November 1, our Master Boucher excommunicated the Semonneux of his parish and forbade them the Mass. . . .

The next day he said that there were asses who were of a mind to send to the Béarnais and accept him if he were a Catholic. . . . As for him, he thought that it would be all right for the Béarnais to conquer the Kingdom of Heaven, because he couldn't deceive anybody there, but the kingdom of France, no, he could deceive too many.

[When] the king . . . was told that some wanted to send from Paris to ask him to become a Catholic. "Catholic!" he said, "I'll be Catholic before the men of Paris are good men, tell them so for me in no uncertain terms" (Brunet 5:186-187; Roelker 221).

The radicals hoped to rouse the menu peuple against the Semonneux and revive the spirit of the Barricades, and just before Christmas there were rumors that the throats of the "inviters" of the heretic would be cut. Mayenne's feeble hold on the situation was eroding visibly from day to day; he had been obliged to drop his Fabian policy and set a date for the meeting of the Estates (for January 1593). At one point he said, at a session of the Bureau de Ville,

"You have asked for the resumption of trade, you shall have it, and for a session of the Estates, which will remedy your necessity and establish order," then, turning to La Chapelle-Marteau, he asked, "What more do the people want?" "Monsieur," [the latter] replied, "They want a king, and will have one" (Brunet 5:190; Roelker 222).

Henri IV, for his part, was preparing to meet them halfway. This involved sounding out leading Catholic prelates, who either had already defected

[30] . Prominent ligueurs , the only ones left in the Chambre des Comptes. The major guilds of the city had already joined the Semonneux .


from the League or were known to be wavering, to recruit them to help in two necessary steps: he must accept instruction before he could announce a conversion, and he must procure the cooperation—in the form of absolution—from the pope.

As the year ended, all these important matters hung in the balance, in L'Estoile's words. "In this year 1592, these things tried the patience of the poor people of Paris and concerned them, in hopes that some of them might cure their troubles: peace, commerce, the trip to Rome, the conversion of the king, the Estates, and the election of a Catholic king" (Brunet 5:200; Roelker 223).


The Resurrection of the Parlement, 1593-1594

Parlement and the Estates of the League, January-August 1593

Significantly, four of the six topics of Parisian concern represent politique policies that the anti-League forces were promoting, and only the last was a ligueur goal. Election of a Catholic king (but not Mayenne and not a "converted" Henri IV) was the League's chief objective as the new year opened and a meeting of the Estates General was the means by which they hoped to achieve it. Since only a king of France could legitimately convoke an Estates General, the gathering of representatives of the three orders in Paris in January 1593, convoked by the duc de Mayenne and led by the papal legate and the Spanish ambassador, was called the Estates of the League. Long anticipated, the outcome was to be devastatingly anticlimactic and ironic: not only did they fail to substitute a prince of their own party for Navarre, but they contributed substantially to his ultimate triumph.

History has provided a veritable temperature chart of their ups and downs in Auguste Bernard's 1842 work. The League's numerous internal divisions and self-defeating policies were ideal nutrients for mushrooming royalist and nationalist sentiment. To the initial split between Mayennistes and the Sixteen and the schism of 1591 between the Espagnolisés and the main body had been added the defections of 1592 to a Third Party, itself torn between rival factions. The Parisians who would play the determining role in the Third Estate included some ligueurs (Neuilly, d'Orléans, Roland among them) elected in 1591 when the meeting was first planned, as well as recent additions: présidents Le Maistre and Bailly, maître des requêtes Pierre Masparault, conseiller Guillaume Du Vair, Jean Luillier, who was both a member of the Chambre des Comptes and prévôt des marchands, as


well as two secrétaires du roi. The new group was strongly politique , reflecting the current prevailing mood of the city, but the program it was expected to advocate had been drawn up in 1588. Thus, Barnavi points out, the politique Parisian deputies of 1593 were supposed to present a 1588 Seize agenda. Vis-à-vis the deputies of the provinces, it was an exact reversal of the situation that had prevailed at Blois in 1588; then, "the capital had been the front line of the League rebellion, its deputies the avant-garde of the movement, at the time of its greatest strength [having driven the king of France out of his capital] . . . sure of itself and of final victory. Now, faced with provinces that had remained ligueur and [even] influenced to a considerable extent by Spain . . . the Parisians were the voice of moderation and of a national conscience inevitably tainted by xenophobia."[1] As the League disintegrated, the first steps were taken toward the reunification—and then the political resurrection—of the Parlement of Paris.

The result of repeated purges and defections on the one hand and royalist departures on the other was that the court's 1593 membership was reduced to about half of its numbers at the time of the initial purge, in January 1589, that is, to between sixty and seventy men, according to Maugis, who has also reckoned that on the days of the crucial votes, there were fifty or fewer present. Only about a dozen were die-hard ligueurs , however.[2] The majority either had been (silently) royalist all along or had rallied in reaction to the threat of foreign domination and violation of the fundamental laws. It is useful to remember that there was not really a politique party in January 1593, but there were various groups definitely at odds with the League (all factions); some were ex-ligueurs , others had not made an open break, others were royalistes de toujours . There had been many individual politiques , active in one way or another, since the 1560s, and especially in the late 1580s, but specialists differ on determining dates. The recent study of Christopher Bettinson elucidates the question.[3] None of these subgroups could openly acknowledge its allegiance all at once. The process took place gradually between January and June 1593, as the issues of negotiation for truce, trade, and the king's conversion became more urgent.

Immediately upon the opening of the oft-postponed Estates, January 26, Henri IV made the initial move toward exploratory talks with "the opposite party," by inviting "the princes, prelates, and deputies gathered in Paris"

[1] . Auguste Bernard, ed. Procès-verbaux des États Généraux de 1593 (Paris, 1842); Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 225-229.

[2] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:99.

[3] . Barnavi, Le Patti de Dieu , 22-23, 221; Bettinson, "The Politiques," 35-49.


to enter into a process of conciliation, even while denying any shred of validity to their claim to constitute a meeting of the Estates General.[4] Mayenne characteristically followed an ambivalent course, relying on earlier declarations to prove his commitment to peace while exploiting every obstacle or argument that might hold up its realization.[5] Leadership of outright opposition was assumed by the papal legate, Filippo Sega, cardinal de Plaisance [Piacenza], who even dared to "woo" the Parlement by a personal visit to the court. The failure of the extreme faction in this first confrontation foreshadowed those to come, as did the fact that président Le Maistre played a leading part by rallying the Parisian deputies of the Third Estate to agree to a conference between representatives of the League and representatives of the king.[6]

After over a month of backing and filling and false starts, the conference was held in the village of Suresnes in the final days of April. L'Estoile reports,

Monday, April 26, placards were posted all over the city against those who went to the conference, or who thought it good . . . called them traitors, politiques , heretics . . . [and said] that good Catholics would never recognize the Béarnais, whether he were converted or not, because he was excommunicate and a relapser, that they wanted a real king and true Catholic.

[Notwithstanding, as the Parisian conferees left the city, on Thursday, April 29,] a great crowd . . . cried, "Peace! Blessed are those who ask for it and get it! To the devils with all the others!" In the villages they went through people knelt and asked for peace with folded hands. This same day Senault said that the placards were the work of politiques , who blamed them on the Sixteen to bring disgrace to good Catholics (Brunet 5:236-239; Roelker 228-229).

It is worth noting that the sermons of League preachers on the days during and immediately following the conference lacked the party-line solidarity that had characterized them since 1587. While Guillaume Rose, bishop of Senlis, and Aubry, curé of St-André des Arts, preached against the conference and held that it would be better to have a foreign king who was Catholic than a heretic, Commolet, on the contrary, praised the conference and said that

[4] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:101.

[5] . Ibid., 93-96; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:208; ed. Roelker, 220-221.

[6] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:102; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 5:208-209; ed. Roelker, 226.


we should pray for those engaged in this good work. . . . The curés of St-Eustache, St-Sulpice, and St-Gervais said that we should pray for the king's conversion. . . . Among other things, the curé of St-Eustache said that only wicked men feared the conference . . . but he personally feared that we would get neither [peace nor the conversion] because of our sins. . . .

The others mostly condemned the conference and said that they would not have the king, Catholic or not, calling him wolf, relapser, and excommunicate.

A ten-day truce was announced on May 4, permitting Parisians to go as far as four leagues out of the city without a passport, "but the prévôt des marchands forbade the implementation because he claimed (not without reason) that there would not be a soul left in the city except the mob and the foreign garrisons, who would have an opportunity to start trouble" (Brunet 6:4; Roelker 230).

The League badly needed reinforcements, and Philip II dispatched a special ambassador, the duke of Feria, to increase both the prestige of Spain and cooperation with the papacy. On February 19, Mayenne had written letters to "the citizens of Paris," begging them to receive Feria and to honor him as if it were the duke himself. On March 8, the Spaniard arrived,

and though a whole crowd gathered, few saluted him, which was remarked upon. . . . [Three days later] the prévôt des marchands . . . complained of the insolence of his men, who were ravaging the suburbs . . . and 30,000 crowns of Spanish gold in doubloons arrived in Paris for the purpose of corrupting as many as possible . . . especially the captains and colonels, and others in authority. Several prominent persons, including the dean of the cathedral chapter, Antoine Séguier, refused to accept money offered . . . [but] the curé of St-André said he couldn't see why people made such a fuss . . . he would prefer a Spanish Catholic as king to the heretic Béarnais.

By May, Feria had been in Paris two months, wasting his time in what Maugis picturesquely describes as chinoiseries protocoiaires . The tide was running strong against the League and desperation made the leadership bold. On May 13 the Spanish ambassador first proposed that the Infanta Isabella (granddaughter of Henri II through her mother, Élisabeth de Valois, second wife of Philip II) be declared queen of France.[7] Procureur général Édouard Molé, who was present as a function of his office, spoke up to point out that this would violate the fundamental laws, adding that he could not assent to it. All the magistrates present expressed agreement, not only Le

[7] . According to the various sources, Feria made this proposal several times between May 13 and the final, official one, to the Estates, on June 27.


Maistre and Du Vair—just emerging as chief spokesmen for the defense of the Salic law—but even président André de Hacqueville, well known and consistent ligueur , who said that the parlementaires should withdraw and "lay the matter upon the conscience of their company." They did so, and the next day Parlement passed an arrêt embodying opposition to the proposal. It was passed on to the gens du roi for submission to Mayenne. Molé's accompanying commentary is often quoted by chroniclers of these events. L'Estoile's version is that

M. Molé, among others, spoke virtuously to the duke, [saying] that his person and all his goods were at [the duke's] service . . . but that he was a true Frenchman, had been born and would die a Frenchman, and before becoming anything else he would die and sacrifice everything he possessed (Brunet 6:256; Roelker 231).[8]

Molé's courageous stand marked the start of the transformation, between mid-May and the end of June, of Parlement's posture from the fearful apathy and docile compliance that had characterized the court since the anti-Brisson conspiracy into championship of French constitutionalism, in the tradition of Thibault Baillet, Charles Guillart, and Christophe de Thou. Molé's was the first voice raised but Du Vair's was to prove the most effective. His pamphlet, the body of which was written in late 1592, L'Exhortation à la Paix , a major item of Semonneux propaganda, was circulating in Paris. An updated preamble reviews the increasingly desperate efforts of the Spanish faction "to destroy the fortunate results of the Suresnes conferences" by the election "of an imaginary king." To this end, they were "making extravagant promises to les grands , seductive overtures to the people, and threats against the magistrates." Du Vair then contrasts the former peace and prosperity of the kingdom with its present devastation and disorder, conceding that indeed a Catholic king is the only remedy—but who should it be? "Let us consider together, in a spirit of gentle charity," the candidates proposed.

With incisive logic, in the opinion of Maugis and Radouant, Du Vair demonstrates the weakness in the position of each, from Philip II himself to Mayenne, whose inability to dominate the situation is cleverly exposed.[9] There is therefore only one possible course: for the king of Navarre to become Catholic and then be acknowledged as king of France. It is his right

[8] . Cf. Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:103.

[9] . "When every gouverneur is a king, how can he discipline them? and if he does not, what kind of king would he be? It would be folly to assume the title until he is clearly in command, as the precedents of Charles Martel and' Hugh Capet have shown."


by inheritance and if he were Catholic no legitimate objection would remain. Du Vair touches only tangentially on the question of papal absolution, necessitated by the king's apostasy of the 1570s (which, as we shall see, would become the burning question after the conversion), merely remarking that the hearts of kings are in the hand of God. He predicts that Henri would be moved by "the necessity of the kingdom" and "the tearful prayers of his people." The exhortation concludes with an idyllic picture of a France governed by Henri IV with Mayenne as his most devoted lieutenant. "Through the generosity of one and the services of the other, a bond of conciliation will be forged between them and God in his mercy will be moved to put an end to France's misery."[10]

Under the influence of such arguments, the nobility and the Third Estate voted to support a truce, but the clergy clung to the ultra-League line. The Sixteen appealed again to Philip II and attempted to organize another uprising, as in 1588, 1589, 1591. Members of Parlement were no longer intimidated by their bluster (which was particularly shrill in these final months), however, and the court ordered the arrest of Lieutenant Civil La Bruyère, one of the diehards, known to have been a principal in the conspiracy against Brisson and a leader in the present agitation.

By the third week in June feverish activity was taking place on both sides, in secret. Although little was reliably known of detailed plans in either camp, many rumors circulated. One hour it was the politiques who were to be purged, in a new St. Bartholomew, and in the next they were about to open the gates to the king, whose troops would put all "good Catholics" to the sword. On the 27th, the radicals proposed—in the Estates—that a French prince be chosen and a delegation sent to Philip to request that he be given the Infanta in marriage, thus effecting a compromise between the Spanish faction and those who insisted on a native prince—but not Mayenne. On the other side, Du Vair and Pierre Pithou were the leaders of a group of politique magistrates determined that the Parlement should preempt the initiative and declare outright that the Salic law must not be violated. They were convinced that time was of the essence. At their instigation, some members of the Chambre des Enquêtes requested a plenary session of all the chambers of the court "to take in hand affairs of state."[11]

Convened on June 28, the session stands—in royalist-nationalist historiography—as the finest hour of the Parlement of Paris. The young enquêtistes at once excused themselves from speaking, on grounds of insufficient

[10] . Radouant, Du Vair , 279-309; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:103-108.

[11] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:108-109.


familiarity with the situation in the Estates, and yielded the floor to Du Vair. His oration, "Suasion de l'arrêt pour la manutention de la loi salique," completed the transformation begun by Molé six weeks earlier and established the Parlement as the spokesman of Parisian politiques from that moment on. Incidentally, it also represents the height of French political oratory in the sixteenth century.

As in Cicero's orations against Catiline, the atmosphere of emergency and impending danger to the state and the speaker's use of direct address contributed to the emotional impact:

All those French hearts, resolved to save themselves . . . turn their eyes to you . . . to see whether your prudence will direct their courage . . . or, if your connivance and dissimulation will abandon them to shameful servitude, which will condemn you and your children . . . to eternal infamy. . . .

Réveillez-vous, donc, Messieurs , and use the authority of the laws of which you are the guardians! For if there is any remedy for this evil, you alone can supply it. It is your tolerance and dissimulation that have given those [who have done these evil things] the means and the courage to carry them out. . . .

What blame and opprobrium will not be ours if today we refuse to defend France, which has nourished us in sweet liberty, allowed us to enjoy the gracious rule of our kings, honored us with the highest offices in her gift, if we rob her of defense by her laws which she entrusted to our care. . . . For today it is the Salic law that is at stake, [the law] that has conserved this kingdom for twelve hundred years.

Du Vair asks rhetorically what would be the fate of French subjects under Spanish rule? After referring briefly to the "cruel fate" of the Indians, and the ruthless exploitation of Portugal, he says, "but why look so far afield? what about this city? Did we not hear, in the most extreme distress of the siege, Don Diego de Mendoza advise the dying to make bread out of the bones in the cemeteries? But why should we look outside this very Palais de Justice?" At this point Du Vair recites the story of the conspiracy against Brisson and the resulting murders. Warning of the dangers of further delay and urging immediate and uncompromising action, he boldly announces the course to be taken,

that remonstrances should be made this very day to M. de Mayenne that no treaty shall be made transferring the kingdom to a foreign prince or princess; that the fundamental laws of the state shall be observed, and carried out . . . promptly . . . and that any agreements made to the prejudice of


the Salic law shall be declared invalid . . . and that any who dissent shall be judged guilty of lèse-majesté.

The speech ends with a "nomination" of président Le Maistre to carry Parlement's remonstrances to Mayenne "because he will bring to the task everything we could desire of a truly noble, French soul." The "Arrêt du président Le Maistre," as it was ever after called, is described by L'Estoile, who here as elsewhere represents typical parlementaire opinion, as "a triumph for liberty over the Spanish tyranny that was being introduced." Antoine Loisel, in the dedication of his subsequent remonstrance on the restitution of Parlement, apostrophizes Le Maistre, referring to the obligation que tousles bons français vous en ont et auront à tout jamais . He adds that Le Maistre was "bravely seconded" by Du Vair and that the ligueurs were taken by surprise. Placards appeared, some attacking the legate and the Spaniards, others Parlement and the politiques ; the duke of Feria reinforced his guards; "Paris [was] full of rumors and sedition, and the curé of St-Jacques preached that there were twenty-two wicked politiques in Parlement who should be disposed of."[12]

Mayenne was also taken by surprise and was displeased by the turn of events, as every commentator remarked. He had been outsmarted by the royalists and this increased his already considerable disadvantage in relation to the Spanish faction. The king, on the contrary, had been privy to every move of the parlementaire politiques and moved swiftly to implement the policy from his side, allowing "leaks" of his approaching conversion by various members of his party and taking steps himself that confirmed the expectation. One characteristic move was to include in the clergy invited to participate in his instruction some well-known ligueurs , who were thought (or known?) to be "detachable":

Monday, July 5, Lincestre received a letter from the king to go to him for his conversion . . . when [Lincestre] showed it to the legate he was cursed—Maledicat! he said in great anger, Maledicat! Maledicat! Poor Lincestre replied to the contrary, Benedicat! Benedicat! . . . The king knew

[12] . Radouant, Du Vair , ch. 14, esp. 330-338; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:109-122; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:41-42; ed. Roelker, 234-235; de Thou, Histoire universelle , vol. 7; Loisel, La Guyenne de M. Antoine L'Oisel [cited earlier; its full title continues:], qui sont huict remonstrances faictes en la Chambre de justice de Guyenne sur le subject des Edicts de Pacification, plus une autre remonstrance sur la reddition de la ville et le retablissement du Parlement de Paris, avec l'extraict d'un Plaidoyé de l'Université (Paris, 1605), fol. 342v.


that he was a Gascon, and though people objected that he was seditious, [the king] replied that no good Gascon could ever be a Spaniard.

There was no general defection among the prédicateurs , however. The curé of St-André told président Le Maistre

that he was surprised that he, who had always been a good Catholic, had had a part in the wicked declaration of Parlement. . . . Le Maistre replied that he had indeed had a hand in it, and that he didn't feel any less Catholic for it . . . and that, on the contrary, the decision was so good, just and holy . . . that only the wicked found it otherwise. "What is more, Monsieur, there are a whole lot of men in this city, of whom you are one, who are bloodthirsty . . . and who preach nothing but blood and sedition. . . . It is these sermons that keep the people stirred up. . . . You should be satisfied with having caused the death of one of the best men and Catholics in your parish [Tardif]" (Brunet 6:50-51; Roelker 235-236).

The issue of the king's abjuration-conversion, although it had loomed since the death of Alençon, had been debated with ever-increasing intensity since the Semonneux movement in the autumn of 1592 revealing the extent to which the League's hold over Parisian opinion had unraveled. There were several facets to the problem and multiple implications of each of the various options. Among the burning questions were the following: what criteria were appropriate in judging such a religious change? if spiritual sincerity was among them, how could it be tested? was papal absolution required before loyal Catholics could accept it? and if it were withheld how could they resolve their dilemma?

For the first time the tangled nexus of arguments and positions embodied in pamphlets, manifestos, and private correspondence has been thoroughly studied and analyzed, by Michael Wolfe, who shows how that situation posed particular problems for the various elements of society. The conversion crisis "acted as a sort of prism through which were refracted many of the cherished aims and interests of educated elites in late sixteenth-century France" and compelled them to reexamine their relationship with the monarchy and special place in French society. Because one's status was conditioned in large part by one's relation to the crown, the debate assumed a psychological dimension as the elites searched for a way to reconcile their loyalty to the crown with the dictates of their faith. What it meant to be a noble, a man of the cloth, a judge or a gentilhomme became increasingly


politicized and reached a crescendo in the struggle over Henri IV's conversion.[13]

The traditional function of the nobility was to serve the king, but did the obligation hold if the king was a heretic? Officers of the crown and the sovereign courts were bound to obedience by oaths according to the Roman Catholic Church; were these oaths still binding? if so, what about the Church's threat to excommunicate those who followed a heretic ruler? Wolfe examines the shifts in position of Louis de Gonzague, duc de Nevers, and of the duchy of Modena in Italy, as a significant test case. Nevers was a powerful and influential member of the highest rank of the nobility, with great wealth and extended clientage, about whose affairs there exists abundant source material. Both sides brought intense pressure to bear on Nevers from the day of Henri III's assassination and the accession of Navarre. After some months of supporting the League, he was persuaded to shift to the king. A number of prominent magistrates were among those who pressured him toward this course.[14]

Wolfe brings out the relevance of historical continuity and religious obligation to the strategies employed. While all subjects were enjoined to obey the constituted authorities and "render unto Caesar," the French had a more specific obligation because kings of France had been directly established by God, with powers that in many respects had bypassed the papacy since at least the fourteenth century.[15] There was thus a reinforced obligation to obey the king, even if he was condemned by Rome. Moreover, the Christian's direct duty to God required association with heretics, in order to show them the error of their ways and contribute to their salvation. And the king had the obligation of magnanimity—to permit the vindication of the rebellion that had been committed in the name of the faith, and to permit the restoration of the national "community," which loyalist Catholics thought had been destroyed by the "civil sedition" of the League, while ligueurs attributed the damage to the heresy of the king and the defection of those who supported him from the tradition of un roi, une foi.[16]

Thanks to the elements of reciprocity, continuity, and concern for com-

[13] . Wolfe, Conversion , 44, 189; he finds the defining historical function of the conversion in frequent references to the concept bon catholique françois , the ideal of all 1590s factions, though they differed significantly on its meaning.

[14] . Wolfe, "Piety and Political Allegiance." Denis Crouzet brings out another factor in Nevers's change: the influence of his financial situation ("Recherches sur la crise de l'aristocratie").

[15] . See Strayer, "The Holy Land."

[16] . Wolfe, Conversion ; Michael Wolfe, "The Conversion of Henri IV, King of France (1584-1595)" (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1986), 253.


munity, therefore, the loyalist Catholics were able to present what became the winning argument, namely, that recognition of and obedience to the king was both a civil-patriotic and a religious duty. National reconciliation and the fresh outburst of Gallican sentiment stimulated by the next phase of the struggle—over absolution—are thus shown by Wolfe to involve underlying considerations, such as the meaning of "conversion," and the relation of God to the kingdom of France, far beyond the pragmatic and political factors conventionally cited. The latter were not overlooked by our leading spokesmen, however. Loyal Catholics all, they had long advocated the king's conversion and some had been active in promoting it, yet they had unhesitatingly rallied to the "heretic, relapsed usurper" as heir apparent even during the lifetime of Henri III. In the epilogue we shall see them move to center stage in the final phase—when the majority of Catholics still had to be persuaded that the pope could legitimately be defied while the ultramontane faction, and the pope himself, had to be led to accept the fait accompli under conditions that would nevertheless save face.

Henri IV's exchanges with the ligueur theologians sent to instruct him should be read by anyone who believes that he was indifferent or frivolous in matters of religion. After two days of intense pressure he balked (over belief in Purgatory) and appealed to the premier présidents of Paris and Rouen, "Pray you, call them off! tell them I've done enough and if they press me further, worse may ensue." It was finally decided that "His Majesty was not a Turk . . . that he should be led gently from error to truth. . . . [As a result] the oath of abjuration was softened and modified."

Henri took what he described in advance to Gabrielle d'Estrées as "the perilous leap" on Sunday, July 25, in the abbey of St-Denis, at High Mass. He wore a white satin robe embroidered in gold, with a black hat and coat.[17] When the news arrived in Paris the next day the Requiem was sung instead of the Te Deum, and excommunications were issued against all those known to have gone to St-Denis. It is hardly surprising that most of the League prédicateurs relentlessly continued to pour venom on the king and the "hypocritical conversion." They had long since passed the point of no return, and some were known to be in the pay of Spain. A popular theme was that the gospel for the day chosen was "that the wolves would come in lamb's clothing . . . that the fox had deliberately chosen the day so as to enter the sheepfold to devour those within . . . that he was really a wolf, whom all the world should pursue to the death . . . and that the ceremony

[17] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:67; ed. Roelker, 238, and full description, 146-155.


was nothing but a stinking farce" (Brunet 6:67; Roelker 238-239). De Thou, on the other hand, describes in moving terms how Parisians flocked to St-Denis, defying Mayenne's prohibition, where they were met at the gates by friends and relations of the royalist camp. "They congratulated each other and could not restrain their tears, in part for past suffering, in part for the joy of this moment beyond their greatest hopes. There was a long silence, interrupted only by sighs. And when they had to part, reluctantly, thoughts of the past and the future made them weep again." Pasquier marked the occasion with one of his periodic pamphlets, Advis aux français , urging Frenchmen of all factions to recognize the king and work for peace.[18]

The Estates of the League fell apart, almost unnoticed, but not before voting, on July 30, for the publication of the Trent decrees, a hollow victory for the legate since the vote evaporated with the Estates themselves. Indirectly, it was also a Gallican-politique landmark, since the entire Parisian delegation to the Third Estate voted against it. Even before the conversion, both the nobility and the Third Estate had resolved that they were not empowered to elect a king.[19]

If the second half of the year 1593 was a period of frenetic but futile rearguard action for the extremist ligueurs , it was one of frustration and anticlimax for the Parlement. To be sure, an extension of the truce (for three months) permitted movement and communication unknown since the Day of the Barricades, but institutionally the only thing really changed was that the threat of having a king "elected" by an illegitimate body was removed. The League still ruled the city; the king was not yet widely accepted save in a few towns held by royalist troops; the court was still a rump whose members waited with mixed feelings the "reduction" of the capital "to its obedience" and the return of the royalist Parlement, unsure of their fate at the hands of the king and of the attitude of their colleagues. Moreover, there was still danger for politique parlementaires in a Paris constantly incited to new violence against them by the Sixteen, backed by the foreign garrisons, the only armed force inside the walls. The League was always strongly conscious of its own anniversaries, and August 1 was the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Henri III. The sermons of Sunday, August 15, stressed the fact that "the month was only half over" and that "one could hope for a blow from the skies, like men who predict that robbers will come in the night, and are themselves the robbers," com-

[18] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:308; see Pasquier, Advis aux Français , in Écrits politiques .

[19] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:35, 72.


ments L'Estoile (Brunet 6:81; Roelker 241).[20] Indeed, there was at least one assassination plot afoot, encouraged—so it is alleged by politique contemporaries—by the curé of St-André and the Jesuits. The would-be perpetrator was Pierre Barrière, a native of Orléans, executed for attempted assassination of the king in August 1593. Étienne Pasquier was commissioned by Henri IV himself to interrogate Barrière and to write up the case, no doubt because of his long-recognized and effective opposition to the Jesuits. The initial publication of 1593 is entitled Extrait du Procès criminel fait à Pierre Barrière dit La Barre, natif d'Orléans, accusé de l'horrible et exécrable parricide et assasinat par luy entrepris et attente contre la personne du Roy . It bears no name, but Pasquier acknowledged authorship in a letter, and a slightly different version became a chapter in his Catéchisme des jesuites , published in 1602.[21]

The Collapse of the League as Parlement Strikes Back, Fall 1593 to March 1594

After the abjuration-conversion, the question of papal absolution for the converted king became the dominant issue for many Frenchmen. It was evident that the papacy must be reconciled before the highest-ranking prelates and nobles in the League party would accept the former chief of the Huguenots, apostate after his escape from the Louvre in 1576. It was not an abstract question that could be ignored even if one were not especially concerned with theoretical questions of church-state relations; as matters stood in the summer of 1593, Catholics who followed Henri IV in defiance of papal policy were officially excommunicate.

Henri sent the duc de Nevers to plead his case with the pope but the League succeeded in checkmating the duke, partly through the dispatch of the accomplished Jesuit polemicist Antonio Possevino, but primarily because the papal legate in France, Filippo Sega, cardinal de Plaisance, put all his energies into the matter. L'Estoile was amused at one episode, in which Madame de Nevers managed to substitute blank papers for letters the legate had dispatched to Rome denouncing both the king and Mayenne (when the courier stopped over during his journey from Paris in early September 1593). She told the king about it and "he laughed and praised [her] wit, subtlety, and ingenuity." A more serious instance was the legate's instruction to the Paris prédicateurs , in late November of the same year, to an-

[20] . Cf. Bernard, ed. Procès-verbaux des États Généraux de 1593 (Paris, 1842).

[21] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 469-473 to his eldest son, Theodore.


nounce that the duke was received in Rome only as a prince of the ruling family of Mantua, and not as ambassador of the Béarnais, which the pope would not even consider, "so far from preparing to receive him, as wicked politiques were saying." Some of the preachers had begun to change sides, as we know, and one surprised his congregation by reverting to the League line at this time. Feeling obliged to explain "speaking with two tongues, even in the pulpit," he produced a paper and read aloud the legatine commandment.

A war of attrition ensued while the pope hesitated, though heavily pressured by Henri's agents to grant absolution, and the League camp suffered new divisions between those who prepared to accept Henri if absolved—as a Christian duty—and consistent jusqu'au-boutistes who felt that even a pope could not absolve a heretic king who was also apostate.

November 19, one of the doctors of the Sorbonne told a friend of mine that he was leaving Paris, because it had been decided at the Sorbonne not to accept the king even if the pope accepted him, which he [the doctor] refused to sign, as being directly counter to God's commandment and his conscience (Brunet 6:103; Roelker 244-247).

The argument that neither the pope nor any other earthly power had authority over the crown of France was newly elaborated and restated by royalists and politique theorists. The spokesmen of our last generation virtually reinvented both Gallicanism and traditional constitutionalism in their concern to defend and preserve them. The resulting modifications are discussed in the epilogue.

Despite the frustrations of marking time, the royalist cause was not without some bright spots in the final weeks of 1593. One source was a spate of political pamphlets, some of which provided amusement even as they attacked the king and his adherents. Historians consider La Satyre Ménippée, ou vertu du Catholicon d'Espagne the jewel of the genre. It was being composed and sections of it circulated but the completed edition did not appear until late February 1594. Its major rival, Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant , hot off the press, was the real sensation of the season.[22] L'Estoile first mentions it on December 9, when a copy found on the doorstep of the échevin Langlois was turned over to the duc de Mayenne, who had been searching for it everywhere and had offered 1,000 écus to

[22] . Louis d'Orléans's Banquete du Conte [sic] d'Arete (1594) is among the other satires analyzed by J. H. M. Salmon in "French Satire in the Late Sixteenth Century," in Renaissance and Revolt (Cambridge, 1987), 89-92.


anyone who could identify the author. L'Estoile describes it as "a book of the Sixteen in which the principal men of Paris who are called politiques , and especially the duc de Mayenne, are torn apart." Within three days it had been condemned by order of Parlement, and the leading printers of the League (the obvious and logical suspects) were in prison. Despite a concerted attack by the prédicateurs , the papal legate, and the Spanish ambassador, Mayenne would not release them. Nor was he moved when the faculty of theology in a body held prayers for the printers—"martyrs"—just before Christmas. When the duke complained loudly, one of his council retorted, "You are yourself to blame, Monsieur. If you had hanged Cromé when he was in your hands, this book would never have seen the light of day."[23] Although it was written as a defense of the Sixteen and gives the most authoritative and complete account we possess of the faction in its final days, Henri IV and the politiques were to derive the greatest benefit from Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant .

Royalist Parisians received a welcome gift on Christmas Eve, when news came that the town of Meaux had been surrendered to the king by its governor, Louis de L'Hôpital, sieur de Vitry, a former ligueur . L'Estoile reports that Mayenne was so annoyed that "he tore the letters apart with his teeth" (Brunet 6:116; Roelker 247). This was the first of a string of royalist victories, the most tangible of the accumulating aids to the cause.

The best propagandist for the royalist cause was Henri IV himself; among his most effective instruments were his magnanimity and his powers of persuasion. Anecdotes surrounding the surrender of Meaux and preparing for that of Paris are typical. L'Estoile reports that the échevins and principal inhabitants of Meaux went to pay their respects to the king at Daummartin, "where something happened worthy of note . . . they were so overcome by his presence that words failed them . . . and [they] could do nothing but prostrate themselves. . . . The king could not keep from weeping . . . he raised them, embraced them . . . saying, "My friends, I receive you not as enemies but as subjects, and embrace you as a father his children." A day or two later he sent a message "to my good servants in Paris" through a masked bourgeoise , who must have been a courier for Parisian politiques .

[23] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:109; ed. Roelker, 249; Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," app., 373-376; see also P. Ascoli, "A Radical Pamphlet of Late Sixteenth-Century France: Le Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant," Sixteenth Century Journal 1 (1964): 3-22. Morin de Cromé, probable author of Le Manant , was one of the activists in the conspiracy responsible for the murder of Brisson. He fled the city to escape punishment in December 1591 and returned in secret.


After warning them not to trust Mayenne, he declared his resolution to make peace at whatever price,

I granted to the people of Meaux more than they asked, and I shall do the same for any towns that surrender and accept me. . . . I shall promise that for ten years they shall pay no tailles , I shall ennoble their municipal officers, give them a governor of their own choosing, and guarantee their privileges and the maintenance of their religion.

And he goes on to appeal specifically to the Parisians, and to reassure them:

I shall treat [Paris] no worse than the others, contrary to what one might think; my special concern is and will always be to satisfy my good servants there. I know there are many good men in the city and ask that they pray God for me (Brunet 6:116, 129-130; Roelker 248).

These episodes are characteristic of the serious and most important aspects of the legend of Henri IV, and while they are often romanticized in repeated telling, they are abundantly documented. Another type of anecdote relates instances of his appearing alone, unexpectedly, in private homes, or fields, or workshops, of the menu peuple and conversing with them tête-à-tête. For instance, in these same days at the turn of the year, in a small town near Paris, he arrived at two in the morning at the residence of a royal officer, whose female servant took him in and offered him food. He accepted only a little butter [sic ] and declined also the bed she offered, stretching out on the floor in front of the fire. In the morning he sent for a priest to say Mass for him and refused to eat until afterwards. Pierre de L'Estoile, passionate royalist but also conscientious chronicler and skeptic, comments, "when this story was circulated, it confirmed the opinion of those who believed in [the sincerity of] his new catholicity, and it is possible that it was done for this purpose" (Brunet 6:127-128).

Here L'Estoile is no doubt speaking for many loyalist Catholics who condoned suspected hypocrisy because the overriding importance of the end justified the means. But the real thrust of un roi, une foi underlies the argument. Citing some who worked hardest to bring about the conversion, Wolfe demonstrates that it was essential to the legitimacy of Henri's claim to the throne, and to the "myth of Henri IV" as the instrument of conciliation. André Maillard argued that the state and religion are indivisibly connected: "Religion is the cement that binds . . . all the memories of the monarchy into a perfect union, religion makes kings reign, makes servitude sweet to the people, and makes laws easy to follow." An irreligious king


slips easily into tyranny. Moreover, Maillard saw that it was futile to attempt to alter the traditional Catholic character of the association. Wolfe comments, "'Remove religion and you dissolve the bonds that hold civil society together,' [Maillard] warned Navarre. [Navarre's] conversion, however, transformed religion from an instrument of disorder into one of order." Even before the assassination of Henri III, the myth of the loyalist Catholics rested on Navarre's special duty to France as prince of the blood in line for the crown, and their allegiance depended on his legitimacy.

The inviolate traditions which had preserved the throne through the ages . . . reflected the wishes of God, for whom the French monarchy had always served as a prime instrument in His divine plan. By converting, Navarre would bend to the will of God and accede to the throne par voyes justes et pacifiques instituted by God; should he not, his accession would invariably be considered unjust and violent.

Appeals to French royal tradition and to the judgment of posterity were also invoked, so that "Navarre's life would have eternal significance before God and future generations."[24]

Wolfe draws attention to the fact that the League had its own "competing myth of Henri IV"—as also did the Huguenots, but theirs would be destroyed by abjuration, whereas conversion was essential to each of the Catholic factions; it was the main bridge over the chasm that had separated them since the death of the last Valois king. Henri IV's capitulation to Catholic demands—after four years of stubborn insistence that his claim to the throne under the Salic law was completely independent of his religion—confirmed their assertion that a king of France must be Catholic in order to be legitimate.[25] This was de facto proof of an argument Guillaume Du Vair would make effectively in words a few months later: the League's raison d'être was that a heretic king was unacceptable; with Henri's conversion the long-sought victory was won. Reconciliation was then the overriding need in order to secure unity and continuity. It was a reciprocal process. Simply put, the king's forgiveness of his recent enemies was the quid pro quo of their forgiveness for his heresy and apostasy.[26]

The king's conversion had greatly accelerated the disintegration of the League, so that the appellation ligueur-politique , which seemed an oxy-

[24] . Wolfe, "Conversion of Henri IV," 119-121.

[25] . Ibid., 123.

[26] . Wolfe's Conversion , ch. 8, elaborates the several factors in evolution of this reciprocal process with subtlety and skill.


moron at least until 1592, became an accurate designation as adherents of various moderate splinters of the League, steadfast royalists, and converts of recent weeks, converged into an undeclared coalition. Like all coalitions, it had fissures, sealed over by adherence to (Gallican) Catholicism and a strong desire to preserve the old order.

Citing Loisel's Homonoee ou l'Accord et union des subjets du Roy soubs son obéissance , Wolfe points out that the public oath of obedience required of former ligueurs "marked a realignment of society around the pillars of piety and justice that he represented as monarch. A public oath to the converted king appealed to Leaguer noblemen, prelates, and judges because it elevated them above their social inferiors. Pacification thus reaffirmed and indeed recreated the traditional social order in France after a generation of armed strife." The converted king was seen as the guarantor of social and political order, laying the basis for "Bourbon absolutism."[27]

The association of peace and the urgency of reconciliation with the restoration and preservation of the old order is a theme much more strongly emphasized in recent scholarship than in earlier works, for example, Richet's postulate of (unacknowledged) connivance of the elites of opposing confessions and Barnavi's demonstration of the rapid reabsorption of even jusqu'au-boutistes into the establishment, to the extent that most of those who had been exiled and their heirs suffered little or no stigma and disadvantage. Since 66 percent of the membership of the Parlement of Paris had taken the League oath in January 1589, Frederic Baumgartner concludes, the political division was not an aspect of "the social question" along class lines but rather reflected a variety of personal choices, in which the ruling factors were family, property, and especially, religion. In his comment, Michael Hayden concedes the point, observing that this is a case of the "predicament of paradox." If most of the parlementaires "played it safe," their conduct is understandable. "They faced a harrowing decision when playing safe required them . . . to believe two [contradictory] things at once."[28]

Yet the League was perceived as a social threat, as we know from many contemporary speeches, manifestos, and pamphlets, notably by the magistrates, who distanced themselves as much as possible, as we have seen, from le menu peuple . We must beware of jettisoning the factual evidence,

[27] . Wolfe, Conversion , 181, 190; Antoine Loisel, Homonoee ou l'Accord et union des subjets du Roy soubs son obéissance (Paris, 1595), 30-31.

[28] . Baumgartner, "Party Alignment in the Parlement of Paris"; Michael Hayden, commentary on Stocker's and Baumgartner's papers in Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 6 (1978): 44-45. The "social question" is discussed in epilogue.


so carefully presented by Drouot in relation to Burgundy, and by Salmon when he shows the shifts in membership and especially in leadership of the Paris League from the earlier years to the 1590s.[29]

Even though every day's events brought fresh strength to the royalist cause, the end of the tunnel was still quite far off. The air of Paris was full of rumors, "that the duc de Mayenne is leaving; that the duc de Guise will remain; that 400 leading politiques are about to be arrested and forced into exile; that the duc de Mayenne has an understanding with the king and agreed to the surrender of Meaux—all sorts of idle gossip worthy of the brain of the people," says L'Estoile, in disgust. The final entry of 1593 in the Mémoires-Journaux reads:

the League, seeing the affairs of the king prospering and their own ruin approaching, gathered all their forces for a last effort, through the Jesuits and the preachers, against the king's majesty, baiting him openly, secretly, by day and by night, calling him "the Serpent of the Pyrenees," inciting the people to repudiate him and receive in his place the great Catholic king [Philip of Spain], denouncing the conversion and calling Henri a fraud, papist, huguenot, huguenot, papist and [saying] he was really an atheist, with no religion at all (Brunet 6:133; Roelker 249).

The League's rearguard action might well have collapsed at this turn of the year had it not been for the frenetic activity of the papal legate—it would be another year before he gave up. In addition to intense antiroyalist pressure on the papacy and on the French prelates, he intervened ever more boldly on the municipal scene, which led to a direct confrontation with the Parlement of Paris. The events of January and February 1594 vividly illustrate the process by which the League's leakage flowed into the winning coalition.

Allied with the Parlement in the royalist thrust was the governor of Paris, François de Faudoas, comte de Belin, and most of the colonels of the municipal militia, especially Claude d'Aubray. These persons were easy targets for Plaisance, and he mounted direct attacks on them. In a letter of December 29 to d'Aubray, Mayenne says that he is obliged to dismiss the colonel from his office "at the insistent urging of the legate, who said that if d'Aubray did not leave the city [the legate himself] would." The duke's tone is both apologetic and friendly, saying that "it was against his desire and his will . . . [begging d'Aubray] to believe that the duke would always be his friend and that what he was being forced to do in no way expressed

[29] . Salmon, "The Paris Sixteen," 543; Henri Drouot, Mayenne et la Bourgogne: étude sur la Ligue, 1587-1596 (Paris, 1937).


ill will . . . like a man who punches another in the jaw while proclaiming he has no intention of injuring him," comments L'Estoile. D'Aubray replied "that no matter where he was, he would always cry Vive France! and would never become a Spaniard. This offended the legate very much, especially as he had given [d'Aubray] money from the Spaniards, which [the colonel] had given to the Hôtel-Dieu" (Brunet 6:137-150).

This conspicuously politique action by officers of the militia is striking evidence of the shift of Parisian opinion away from the League at this time. Barbara Diefendorf has shown that thirty years earlier, in the first civil wars, they were the spearhead of the most radical ligueur element, inciting riots against the Huguenots and sometimes attacking them in person, defying the crown's orders as well as those of the Parlement and the Bureau de Ville. She attributes the polarization to the clashing priorities, the captains believing that the extermination of heresy was the primary goal, while the magistrates' responsibility for keeping order obliged them to moderate their religious position.[30]

Significantly, rumors circulating in these final days of 1593 initiated themes that would be repeated with increasing insistence in the coming weeks: that the leading politiques were to be exiled—Le Maistre, Du Vair, and Damours were most often cited by name—that the Sixteen would be restored to power, that the exile of d'Aubray (and later Belin and prévôt des marchands Luillier) was necessitated in order to avoid bloodshed. On the same day as Mayenne's letter to d'Aubray, Belin had a long interview with Le Maistre, and it was instantly bruited about that the leading magistrate had received a billet .[31] The truth was quite the contrary, according to L'Estoile; the purpose was to persuade him not to leave, "because this good man had announced his intention to leave on his own initiative and not wait for an order" (Brunet 6:120).

What Myriam Yardeni calls "a new type of patriotism" emerges as a dominant theme in the late weeks of 1593. It includes a negative element, virulently anti-Spanish, but the positive element is more boldly stated than earlier, reflecting the shift in Parisian opinion, the ideal of le bon catholique françois , who combined traditional piety with equally traditional loyalty to the legitimate king, championed by Loisel (and others). Le Maistre was seen

[30] . Diefendorf, Beneath the Cross , 159-175. See also Barbara B. Diefendorf, "The Catholic League: Social Crisis or Apocalypse Now?" French Historical Studies 15 (1987): 332-344.

[31] . Throughout the 1590s recevoir un billet is the idiom for receiving a command to leave the city; until his departure (March 6, 1594) this meant an order of Mayenne's, starting March 22, an order of Henri IV's.


as the embodiment, after the arrêt that bears his name. Wolfe links it to "the concepts of amitié and douceur in the reciprocal conciliation process, that made each person accept and cherish his place in society [and] . . . gave the monarchy a more comely image that made subjects willing, indeed enthusiastic, to obey its commands." Yardeni sums it up well: "La conquête de la France par Henri IV va de pair avec les conquêtes du sentiment national." Although this sentiment shares some characteristics with the "juridical nationalism" of the parlementaire historians in the earlier religious wars, the 1590s national sentiment was more popular, less theoretical, even as articulated by robin spokesmen.[32]

D'Aubray left the capital on Thursday, December 30 (with a wagon loaded with his arms). There were crowds in the streets to salute him, including the prévôt des marchands. "This enraged the Sixteen, who said out loud that the prévôt was a good-for-nothing . . . but women who gathered outside his house shouted that it was [d'Aubray's] wicked curé who was responsible for his banishment, and that [the curé] should be thrown in the river. . . . The Sixteen walked with their heads high, and the politiques with theirs lowered."

By January 3, 1594, the legate and his ally, Cardinal Pellevé, were openly demanding the purging of Parlement, "in time of war [they argued] there was no need for so many judges, especially as the majority of the members were heretics or fauteurs d'hérésie and they should be purged, so as not to permit their reinforcement of the enemy. In their place should be appointed a dozen of the best Catholics in Paris." When the duc de Mayenne said that he could not do this because it would be a violation of the ordinances of France, the Spanish ambassador retorted than one should not bother with ordinances when the state and religion were imperiled (Brunet 6:135-136).

A week later the court was upset to hear that Belin was to be forced out (and the office of governor given to Brissac), for having said that he was a Frenchman and no Spaniard. They sent two members to ask him about it directly and understood from his manner that it was so, and that Mayenne had been pressured by the legate and the Spaniards to banish him. Whereupon the court took courage to pass an arrêt , which reads in part:

[The court] protests the evil designs of the Spaniards, and of those who wish to bring them into France, commands the foreign garrisons to leave Paris, and declares its intentions to use all its power to prevent the sieur de

[32] . Michael Wolfe, "The Conversion of Henri IV and the Origins of Bourbon Absolutism," Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques 14 (1987): 290; Yardeni, Conscience nationale , 201-222.


Belin from abandoning the said city, and any citizens likewise, or [Parlement] would leave with him. They also call in a body on the prévôt des marchands to convoke a general assembly [of the municipality] to consult on the state of affairs and to join the court in the execution of this arrêt . The court will suspend all other business until this is done (Brunet 6:138-139).

The moment was critical—for both sides. Up to this time it had only been rumored that the pope would not receive the duc de Nevers as the king's ambassador, and the rumor had been fanned and repeated by the legate's agents, but in early January couriers brought confirmation from reliable sources in Rome. The royalist cause reeled from the blow, which seemed to provide an opportunity for the extremist ligueurs and their Spanish supporters to revive. The fate of Belin was crucial to the outcome; furthermore, Mayenne's own authority was at stake. If the squeeze on the duke had seemed acute in earlier periods, he was now caught in a vise from which there was no possibility of escape. The legate and Feria had him at their mercy, and the Parlement and its allies were emboldened to speak up out of desperation.

The duke sought an interview with Le Maistre on January 11, but the latter refused, sending the message that "it was not necessary to go through so many comings and goings to get rid of him, because he was ready to go whenever the duke issued the order." Upon receiving this message the duke exclaimed Voila un terrible homme! (Brunet 6:139). The next day the duke insisted on meeting Le Maistre and attempted to justify his policy of straddling. He could not accept the articles of truce the king had sent because to do so would betray the cause of religion, which he had sworn to defend to the death, but he would surely do so when the pope had received Navarre and would recognize him as his sovereign, provided that conditions could be arranged that were suitable for a prince of Mayenne's standing. To this Le Maistre made a dignified reply, requesting the duke to put aside his personal concerns and consider the public good: "As long as I bear the responsibility . . . that you yourself laid upon me, I am obliged to represent the necessity of the public, which is severe, and beg you to have pity [on the people]. In so doing you will carry out the duty of the great prince you are and will also earn the blessings of the people." Mayenne appeared to take this advice in good part and Le Maistre returned to the Court fort joyeux et content (Brunet 6:142-143).

The next public figure to be pressured was Luillier, prévôt des marchands. A large delegation of politiques pressed him to force Mayenne "to relieve the hardships of the populace." When the duke, exasperated, asked what


they were complaining of and what they wanted him to do, the prévôt replied, "They believe that you are trying to turn them into Spaniards." Whereupon the duke begged him, as his loyal servant, to explain that he needed time to put everything in order . . . [and by God's blood] I swear and beg you to assure them, that I am not and will never be a Spaniard, but a good Frenchman." When Luillier appealed for time, on the grounds that the duke was working for their reconciliation with the other faction, that is, the Sixteen, they retorted that they were all gens de bien and did not wish to be reconciled with such evil men. Luillier, in his turn, was then obliged to repeat the refrain, "As for me, I declare out loud that I am not a Spaniard, and I never will be; on the contrary, I would lay down my life to preserve French liberty from the foreigner" (Brunet 6:145-147).

The stalemate continued until the reduction of Paris, nearly two months later, amid constantly renewed manifestations of the polarization of opinion. Mayenne refused to capitulate, either to the ultra-Catholics or to the politiques . The ranks of the former had diminished, but the jusqu'au-boutistes never flagged in intensity. A new tactic of the notorious d'Aubry at St-André des Arts was an attack on the wives of the four présidents who were his parishioners, Mesdames Séguier, Le Maistre, Cotton, and St-André, accusing them of hypocrisy in their professed Catholicism, on grounds ranging from the fact that they had relatives in the king's camp to the alleged assertion that the pope had only spiritual jurisdiction over kings but no authority over their temporal powers. Belin left Paris at this time (Brunet 6:147-148).

The agony of waiting for the end of the long ordeal was relieved for the Parlement (and exacerbated for Mayenne) in February by a series of surrenders by important towns to the king. The news of Lyon arrived in St-Denis on Sunday, February 13, and was celebrated by a Te Deum and fireworks; the next day, in Paris, the Requiem was sung instead. The fall of Orléans made an even greater impression:

The duc de Mayenne was astonished and angry; the duke of Feria and the legate even more so. They went at once to Mayenne and demanded the expulsion of 400 politiques , of whom they would provide the names, and the establishment of a Spanish garrison of 10,000 men. The duke replied that he would have none but Frenchmen and would install 10,000 if indeed the Spaniards would pay them [as they had proposed for the Spaniards]. As for the politiques , he would make inquiries to see if there were any mischief makers, whom it would be reasonable to banish. The legate, Feria, all the Spaniards, and the Sixteen were upset by this reply and began to say


out loud that the duke was in league with the enemy and should be confined to the Bastille (Brunet 6:157).

Although the court could not act until royalist military force had supplanted that of the League, it was not intimidated into silence and drew up a strong remonstrance, insisting on its right to be heard and to "transmit to posterity the fruits of its deliberations, fearing that silence would be misinterpreted." The claim of the Spaniards that they would exterminate heresy is called "vain" in view of their failure to do so in Flanders, which they governed directly, and the right of the Parlement and of the people of Paris to be heard is reaffirmed. "This court holds no small place in this kingdom . . . holding indeed the privilege, during interregnums, such that those who have the regency must do nothing without its advice and opinion." The Roman question is attacked head on: "[the pope] will not refuse to approve a sound peace or receive ambassadors sent to arrange it, because of the danger of schism and the peril of division that such a refusal would pose for Christendom." Instead of following the example of Spaniards, "who proceed by ambush and trickery (so different from the French way, open and straightforward), let us rather imitate the Venetians, who, after the Battle of Lepanto, preferred to make peace with the Turk rather than be driven out by Don Juan of Austria."[33]

The case for peace was also specifically argued by Guillaume Du Vair, in his response to a manifesto from the legate entitled Lettre du Mgr. l'Illme et Revme Cardinal de Plaisance Legat de N.S. Pere et du S. Siege apostolique au royaume de France, à tous les catholiques du mesme royaume par lesquelles est declarée l'intention de Sa Sainteté touchant ce qui s'est n'agueres passé à Rome . It was published by Rolin Thierry, Paris, 1594, and bears the date January 27. Du Vair's reply is Response d'un bourgeois de Paris à la lettre de Monseigneur le Legat du vingt septiesme janvier, mil cinq cens nonante quatre, à Paris , 1594. It is dated February 10.[34]

Du Vair's argument is addressed to devout Catholics uncertain what they should do. His aim is to persuade them that they could recognize Henri de Navarre as king without betraying the faith. As Radouant points out, the Lettre d'un bourgeois presents a significant contrast to the Satyre Ménippée , which had appeared a few weeks earlier. The Satyre , addressed to politiques , witty, full of sophisticated ironies, had the effect of annihilating

[33] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:127-129.

[34] . See Radouant, Du Vair , 353-354.


the credibility of the League. Du Vair's serious plea to perplexed fellow Catholics respects their religious commitment and assuages their consciences. He carefully avoids attacking the pope or his deputy. In fact, he begins with the hypothesis that the legate's letter cannot be genuine; it must be a forgery written by some mischief maker to embarrass Catholics and weaken their cause. Du Vair refuses to stoop to what Radouant calls "theological chicanery"—that characterized so many polemical writings of the period—and speaks throughout as a statesman. He demonstrates that not only was the papal bull refuting Navarre's claim, refusing recognition, and excommunicating his adherents cast in improper form, but it violated the long-established postulate that in matters of faith the will (in this case to abjure heresy) is the equivalent of fact—even in the case of private persons. Moreover, what is at stake here is not the spiritual standing of one individual, but of a whole people. Religion is "in the state," and the state is not "in," that is, subordinate to religion, as the Spaniards would have us believe. They are not to be trusted. Their boast that they could stamp out heresy in France is contradicted by their failure to do so in Flanders. The key point of the argument is driven home: "You joined the League to oppose a heretic, but now there is no heretic, so there is no more need for the League—in fact you have accomplished its purpose." He also stresses that peace is not only essential to France, but a unified Catholic France is indispensable to the papacy and to the peace of all Christendom.

The title chosen by Du Vair is apt; his biographer sees the speaker as embodying sixteenth-century Parisian bourgeois values:

educated, affluent, practical, and believer in comfort; not one to yield his prerogatives but sensible and straightforward; little given to poetry or enthusiasms, with little appetite for martyrdom, armed with firm reason and common sense, hating equivocation and exaggeration, hostile to quibblers and logic-choppers; religious but without bigotry or mysticism, obedient to the clerical hierarchy but profoundly Gallican; possessed of national pride easily aroused, impatient with all foreign interference ultramontane or other; kindly and charitable but with a trace of defiance and scorn for "the stupid populace" of which L'Estoile speaks; above all very conscious of the interests of the state, in short, politique , which says it all in a word thrown at him as an insult but which he claimed as an honorable title. Such was . . . Du Vair, and with individual variations, all his friends, from the "Huguenots" Du Bellay and Canaye to the pious and upright Le Fèvre, and in between, J.-A. de Thou, . . . Pasquier, the Pithous, . . . Loisel.[35]

[35] . Ibid., 354-359 (cite, 359).


On March 1, 1594, when news that the king had been crowned in Chartres (February 27) arrived in Paris, Guarinus preached a sermon. L'Estoile reports,

which I heard myself, [saying] that . . . [Henri] was no more king of France than the devil was when he offered Jesus Christ all the kingdoms of the world that he held only in imagination. He also said that there was a conspiracy in which Parlement shared, and that good Catholics were being deprived of their liberty. I don't dare go to see a friend for fear of being charged with sedition (Brunet 6:163-164; Roelker 253).

Loyalist Catholics hailed the coronation as proof positive of the king's sincerity. Premier président Achille de Harlay officially saluted the act, which "showed your people that you recognize God's purpose in constituting you to command and rule over us, and that you wish [the people] to live in God's religion, supported by justice." Nicolas de Thou, bishop of Chartres, who had officiated, wrote the king a few days later that the coronation had done more for the royal cause than four years of warfare.[36]

Simultaneously with this much dreaded fait accompli outside the walls, the ranks of Paris ligueurs were hit by a deadly weapon that had sailed over them. The completed Satyre Ménippée , just published in Tours, penetrated and conquered Paris. Four editions, each larger than the last, were produced in less than four weeks. One specialist in sixteenth-century French polemics has called it "a battle of Ivry in the realm of the mind," and indeed it did galvanize public opinion and rally to the politique cause the indifferent, the apathetic, the despairing. After nearly ten years of ligueur monopoly, suddenly and all at once the literary advantage had passed to the politiques .[37]

The form of the Ménippée is a fictional session of the Estates of the League. Speeches are made by grotesque caricatures of five real leaders of the League; Mayenne, the legate, Cardinal Pellevé, Pierre d'Épinac, archbishop of Lyon, and Guillaume Rose, then by a fictional petty noble, the sieur de Rieux, and finally and most important, by Colonel d'Aubray, as spokesman of the Third Estate. The authors were members of a circle of friends, highly educated and sharing certain traditional values, especially

[36] . Harlay's speech: BN mss. Dupuy, 546, fol. 57-59; Nicolas de Thou, Cérémonies observées au sacre et couronnement du Très-chrestien et très-valeureux Henry IV, Roy de France et Navarre (Paris, 1594).

[37] . La Satyre Ménippée, ou la vertu du Catholicon d'Espagne et de la tenue des états de Paris (1594), ed. Charles Labitte (Paris, 1848).


royalist and Gallican, who had a habit of meeting frequently, if informally.[38] With the exception of d'Aubray's, the speeches are short, clever, and full of classical and contemporary citations and allusions. There are many Rabelaisian touches, some straight borrowings, and some imitations of language, character, and plot.

The discours of the sieur de Rieux reflects Parlement's "country bumpkin" perception of the nobility,

I don't want to hear any more about this Salic law; I don't know what it is, but [one of the Spaniards] recited it to me and gave me some nice round [gold] pieces that did me a lot of good. In any case, the main thing is to sack those fur-hatted types in the court of Parlement, who spend their time flirting and meddling in affairs of state. . . . If M. le Légat would just say the word, there is no square bonnet . . . I would not dispatch, even MMs. Le Maistre and Du Vayr, who set the others off.[39]

D'Aubray's long speech begins by apostrophizing Paris, "Paris, that is no longer Paris," followed by a detailed description of the low state into which the capital has fallen under the League economically, politically, psychologically, by comparison with its true royalist character. He then rehearses the history of the League, in a manner that is a mirror image of the Manant's history. The twentieth-century student is struck by his account of the origins, which he places in the reign of François II, and attributes to the quarrels of les grands , specifically, the rivalry of the houses of Bourbon and Montmorency with the house of Guise, "because all these bloody tragedies we have since seen played on this pitiful French stage, all sprang from those first feuds and not from differences in religion, as the naive and stupid have been led to believe, without justification,"[40] an interpretation usually attributed to Lucien Romier in the twentieth century. We are less surprised to find the cardinal de Lorraine cast as the chief villain, especially for the deception of the gullible populace:

jealousy [of the rival nobles] was the sole cause of all our ills, but the [defense of] the Catholic faith was the potion that befuddled us and put us to sleep, like a well-sugared opiate, acting like a doctor's narcotic to anesthetize our limbs, so that while we slept we would not know that we were

[38] . The authors included Pierre Le Roy, Nicolas Rapin, Jacques Gillot, Jean Passerat, Florent Chrétien, and Pierre Pithou, the most important.

[39] . Satyre , 115-125, de Rieux speech.

[40] . Ibid., 134, start of d'Aubray's speech.


being cut up, one after the other, in small pieces, leaving only a trunk that would soon be drained of all blood and warmth.[41]

Most of the speech is addressed to Mayenne in savage satirical terms, pitilessly exposing his weakness and his vanity, but shortly before the end the tone changes. Following a very serious description of the various claimants to the throne, discrediting each in turn, d'Aubray describes "the king we need," in moving terms. Among many benefits,

we will be rid of all these kinglets . . . and of their tyrannies and exactions . . . that consume the prime of our lives and give us sicknesses that ruin our health. We will have a king who will put everything in order . . . chastise the violent, punish the wrongdoers, exterminate the criminals, clip the wigs of the ambitious, force the sponges of public funds to disgorge them, oblige everyone to observe the limits of his station, and keep all the world in peace and tranquillity.[42]

Speaking for the Estates, he admits they can make any number of lesser figures, "but we cannot make a king." The final plea for recognition of the king takes account of Parisian fears:

There is a difference between clemency and leniency. Leniency is usually found in women, and in men of little courage, but clemency is found only in one who is absolute master, and who does good when he could do evil. Believe then that our king will show us clemency when we have all recognized his power.[43]

On Sunday, March 6, the duke left the city, taking his family with him. This heightened the tension between factions and the general apprehension. The Parlement complained of the "bloodthirsty sermons," saying that the houses of the clergy were full of arms. Brissac left the city for two days and when he returned felt it necessary to beg forgiveness from the legate "for communicating with heretics. [The cardinal] granted him pardon and praised his devotion (which tended in quite a different direction from what Monseigneur thought) . . . for the truth was that this good man was much more subtle and clever than the rest and in the end he had the laugh on them." Rumors ran wild. On March 19 it was said that the Bastille had surrendered to the enemy; "some took this to mean the king, and others the Spaniards." According to the testimony of the politiques themselves,

[41] . Ibid., 194.

[42] . Ibid., 213-214.

[43] . Ibid., 216-227.


many of the rumors were "spread about by those who were secretly preparing the reduction of the city to the king's obedience." The Spaniards and the Sixteen were alarmed and appealed to Brissac on March 21 "to put things in order." His response was that they should trust him. They saw the result the next morning, quite different from what they had expected. "Thus God laughs at the vanity of men's plans."

Henri IV himself directed the final preparations, according to those involved in them. He had no illusions about the loyalty and trustworthiness of many "converts of the eleventh hour" to the royalist cause, more numerous every day. He well knew that Brissac had sold out Henri III to join the League and that he was now ready to do the same in reverse. Moreover, the king specifically designated Le Maistre, Molé, Damours, and Du Vair to meet with prévôt des marchands Luillier and Brissac, "to work out in detail the manner and the means of reducing this city to the king's obedience." L'Estoile mentions one such meeting at the Arsenal, on March 19. One supposes the agenda included the conditions of both sides—including those concerning the status of the parlementaires who had remained in Paris vis-à-vis those of Tours and Châlons—but unfortunately we have no reports of the discussions or conclusions. From subsequent events and testimony we can nevertheless hazard a few hypotheses.[44]

Tuesday, March 22, at seven in the morning, the king entered Paris by the same gate by which the late king had left. The city was reduced to its obedience without sack or bloodshed, except for a few lancers and two or three bourgeois of the city. The king has since said that he wished he could buy back their lives for 50,000 crowns to leave as a remarkable witness to posterity that the king had taken Paris without the death of a single man. . . .

When he arrived at the Pont Notre-Dame and heard the people joyously crying, Vive le Roi! he said, "I can see that these people have been tyrannized over." When he set foot on the ground in front of Notre-Dame, the people pressed in on him and the captains of the guards tried to push them back, but he wouldn't let them, and said he would rather . . . have them at their ease, as "they are famished for the sight of a king" (Brunet 6:183-186; Roelker 255-256).

Du Vair played an active part in the actual reduction of the city, by taking military command of a detachment of armed men in the neighborhood of the University of Paris, whose headquarters was the Hôtel de Cluny. This was the most dangerous section of the city for known royalists lacking

[44] . Firsthand reports of both Antoine Loisel and Pierre Pithou constitute the most direct source; see also Pasquier's letters.


protection of the regular troops—as yet outside the capital. As we have noted repeatedly, every episode of violence aimed at heretics and anybody thought to sympathize or associate with them since l'affaire de la rue St-Jacques in September 1557, had its main constituency there. The volatile student population was the most responsive audience of the prédicateurs .

Advancing on a band of jusqu'au-boutiste youth, Du Vair suddenly realized that with two or three exceptions those under his supposed command were nowhere in sight. Whereupon he had the wit, in the words of his biographer, "to replace the captain with the orator" and began exhorting them as Frenchmen to oppose the Spaniards. The response was a point-blank shot, fortunately unable to penetrate his breastplate. Reportedly, he paid no attention, passing on to another argument: that the game they were playing would get them hanged. This intrepid posture "won" the confrontation for him, and his assailants retreated.[45] This incident marks still another distinction between Du Vair and the typical parlementaire, whose view of military action was that of André Guillart.[46] L'Estoile's account:

At about nine in the evening [before] I was informed, as were a number of other good inhabitants of this city of Paris who had always held to the French party, the party of the king, that on the morrow, March 22, between three and four in the morning, the king would enter by one of two gates, with troops that would have been approaching in the night, and that I should be ready at the appointed hour, armed and wearing a white scarf. I complied. When I reached the Pont St-Michel . . . I found four or five persons, who recognized me and said that it was too early, and that we must withdraw for another half hour. As we did so, we met about fifty men armed and wearing white scarves who asked us the password, which we gave: Vive le Roi et la paix! At that moment another forty or fifty men, also armed, with white scarves, joined us, making 100 or 120 in all. We seized both ends of the Pont St-Michel, placing sentinels at the nearby street crossings and welcoming those who continued . . . to join us.

The Spaniards and Neapolitans, having been alerted, sent men—unarmed, from all directions to spy out the situation—who were captured by us, and they also tried to reinforce their garrison by the Porte de Bussy with armed men. We captured both those who were leaving and those who were arriving, so that they had no new forces.

Meanwhile, the people gradually assembled, some on the Pont St-Michel, some on the Petit Pont, and others [in other places]. Whenever a ligueur came of out his house, he was seized.

Now, although at first there had been few men for the king, they were so bold and resolute that this confidence gradually increased both their

[45] . Radouant, Du Vair , 376-377.

[46] . See Jouanna, "André Guillart," 252-253.


numbers and their courage. Although the Italians and Spaniards numbered a good 700 or 800 armed men in the garrison, by divine intercession they were seized by such fear that none dared to leave the barracks—nor were any orders to that effect given. This is how things were going in our part of the city.[47]

Things happened thick and fast on the day of the reduction. A general amnesty was announced immediately, from which only 120 native French subjects were later excluded.[48]

The Guise princesses, who had been so active in the cause of the League, were specifically reassured and personally received by the king. They were fulsome in their praise, but his response showed full consciousness of their real feelings and indirectly warned them to mend their ways. The "Tableau de Madame de Montpensier," depicting the alleged torture of Catholics in England, displayed in the churchyard of St-Séverin since 1587, was removed by the king's direct command. In the afternoon the duke of Feria, escorted by the entire foreign garrison, left the city by the Porte St-Denis. The king was seated in a balcony overlooking the scene. He responded to the formal salutations of the duke with mock solemnity, sweeping off his great hat with its famous white plume, saying, "My greetings to your master, but do not return." He could not resist teasing some of his new followers. He asked one well-known "convert, 'What do you say to seeing me in Paris?' 'I say, Sire, that what belongs to Caesar has been rendered to Caesar, as what belongs to God should be rendered to God.' 'Ventre St-Gris! ' said the king, '[Paris] was not rendered (rendu ) to me, but sold (vendu ).' He said this in the presence of M. Brissac, the prévôt, and others of the vendeurs " (Brunet 6:187-189; Roelker 257).

De Thou comments,

The tranquillity that reigned in the city after such a great revolution was almost incredible. The shops were opened in the afternoon, so that all could see within a single day, almost in a moment, the enemies of the state ban-

[47] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:258-259 (variantes; these are entries L'Estoile revised that the Brunet edition prints separately, at the end of a volume).

[48] . That is the number receiving billets of banishment dated March 30. All were known to have criminal records and/or to have been in the pay of the Spaniards. In addition, anyone who wished to leave with the Spaniards was free to do so and a considerable number did—for fear of what their neighbors would do if they stayed. The most virulent of the clergy left with the Legate.


ished, the factions overcome, a legitimate king on the throne, the authority of the magistracy, public liberty and the law itself reestablished.[49]

Étienne Pasquier, who had himself been in the royal counsels since the start of the reign, left a precious, detailed account of the timetable of the actual takeover of the capital, in a letter to his eldest son, Theodore. It was a proud moment for the Pasquier family. Two of Étienne's sons were leading segments of the royal armed force, "with the intention of performing a faithful service to the king or laying down their lives in the attempt. So joyous you would have thought they were going to a wedding. . . . I gave them my blessing with tears in my eyes, as to those I never expect to see again." Pasquier gives a very exact account of the military movements and says he is sorry he cannot tell what was happening on the political plane inside the city at the same time, "except that I know M. Langlois, avocat in Parlement and one of the échevins, was the principal leader."[50] He describes the foreign garrisons as "astounded" and surrendering at once. "The king entered the city, saluted M. de Brissac, presented him with a white scarf, and then went straight to Notre-Dame to give thanks to God, accompanied by cries of Vive le Roi! and general acclamation, in an admirable correspondence of mutual trust, the king's of his new subjects and theirs of their new king."[51]

The reality of the reduction was not quite as smooth and idyllic as depicted in these euphoric remarks; the Bastille was not surrendered until the 26th, and the expressions of mutual affection and trust owed something to the imposition of strict censorship—booksellers were to suppress all books injurious to the honor of the late king and the present king, on pain of death and confiscation of all their property—and the requirement for all officers to make profession of orthodox Catholic belief. These were the price of amnesty.[52] For members of Parlement, moreover, relief and rejoicing were mixed with considerable apprehension: what would be the attitude of the triumphant king toward subjects, bound by oath to the crown and charged with guardianship of the law, who had remained in Paris in defiance

[49] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 3:391.

[50] . Martin Langlois, first échevin, also maître des requêtes, was rewarded immediately by the office of prévôt des marchands.

[51] . Pasquier, Lettres historiques , 475-478 to his eldest son, Theodore, describing the reduction of Paris, March 1594; Loisel, Guyenne . White scarves were the distinguishing badge of Navarre's soldiers, corresponding to his own symbol, the white plume.

[52] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:395-396; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:190-192.


of explicit royal commands? What status would the king ordain for the ligueur court vis-à-vis the loyalist courts of Tours and Châlons? How would the chambers be reestablished and the members redeployed? Every member of the Paris court must have suffered some anxiety about his future, especially the jusqu'au-boutistes , but also the converts of the final hour.

Even those who had saved the Salic law through the "arrêt du président Le Maistre" must have held their breath to see whether the king would display the gratitude they anticipated. Even if he did, how would their loyalist colleagues react? In the best of circumstances the Parisians must endure some censure for more than five years of cooperation with the League. As early as March 27, it was known that the king had commissioned Pierre Pithou and Antoine Loisel to "purge" the registers: to go through them carefully and to set aside and then destroy everything they found since the start of the rebellion that would be dangerous in the future. They set about the task at once.[53]

One question was soon answered—Henri IV decided to rehabilitate the Paris Parlement without waiting for the return of the loyalists from Tours. "Saturday, March 26, the king promised Messieurs of the Parlement that they would be reestablished in spite of the opposition of some who begged him to wait for the Parlement of Tours, to whom he responded, curtly, 'Those of Tours tended to their own affairs, those of Paris tended to mine.'"[54] Those who opposed this decision included some of our mainstream spokesmen, including J.-A. de Thou and Antoine Loisel, whereas Pasquier and Pithou supported it. While spelling out the terms of the transaction with its usual care for accuracy, L'Histoire universelle shows the strain imposed by de Thou's own contrary opinion:

This was accomplished principally because of the pressure brought by d'O,[55] a man who was the enemy of every virtue, interested in flattering the Parisians and keeping his own influence great by perpetuating the schism in the Parlement and attacking the king's loyal servants. . . . He argued that any delay [in rehabilitating the court] risked the king changing his mind, and the consequent loss of the benefits [they had been promised] and declared that it would be easier to reconcile the opposing factions if the king would make no distinctions between the loyalists and those whom repentance would make equally loyal. The king allowed himself to be persuaded

[53] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:190-192; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:266-267 (variantes).

[54] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:194; ed. Roelker, 259.

[55] . François, sieur de Fresnes, formerly mignon of Henri III, governor of Paris under the League, a special target of Parlement hatred.


. . . and from then on one realized, sadly, that grace would be accorded with little equity or discernment, that there would be no distinction made between gens de bien and the wicked.[56]

Some years later in a letter to président Jeannin, de Thou expressed bitterness that he was not named premier président. He had counted on the king's gratitude for his services and his sacrifices. "My property was ransacked during the war." The king commented that only de Thou refrained from importuning him (the king). This gratifying remark was the single recompense for five years of service. "The king's attitude toward me changed with his fortune, proving that the sight of one to whom we are obliged is a disagreeable reproach."[57]

Radouant offers a justification for the decision: it was essential that normal life and order be restored to the city legally, that is, according to accepted custom, that all royal ordinances and edicts be ratified and registered by the Parlement. It would be dangerous to wait for some weeks to reestablish legal government. Two necessities, to observe the traditional forms and to consolidate the support of the populace, and especially the political class, that is, the officers of the municipality and of the sovereign courts, decided Henri to recognize the ex-ligueur court at once.[58]

The decision was implemented on Monday, March 28, when the chancellor came to the court and, with the assistance of Pithou and Loisel, acting as procureur and avocat du roi respectively, reinstated both the Parlement and the Chambre des Comptes. The next day, members of the court went to the Louvre to pay homage to the king and joined in a formal procession to Notre-Dame, where solemn thanks were offered for the restoration of the time-honored, legal institutions, the crown, the law, and the courts.[59]

The new regime really began on March 30, when Le Maistre was installed as seventh président, Du Vair as maître des requêtes, and Langlois as prévôt des marchands. The reestablished Parlement's first act was to pass an arrêt revoking all acts since December 29, 1588, and also the authority and office of lieutenant général du royaume, "formerly attributed to the duc de Mayenne." It declared that anyone who obeyed any of his commands, or those of other princes of the house of Lorraine, would be held guilty of lèsemajesté. All acts, resolutions, and regulations of the provincial deputies

[56] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:392-394.

[57] . Radouant, Du Vair , 381.

[58] . Ibid., 378-381; de Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:394-395.

[59] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:395; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:197-198.


recently assembled in Paris "under the false title of Estates," were revoked and declared null. All persons were required to renounce membership in the League and all assemblies and processions were prohibited, except that every year on the 22d of March a solemn procession would be held, in which members of Parlement would wear their red robes, to commemorate the reduction of Paris to the king's obedience.[60]

During Holy Week the king was careful to follow the traditional (royal) religious observances, washing the feet of the poor and distributing alms on Maundy Thursday, visiting the prisons and releasing many, including debtors and those who had defaulted on their taxes, on Good Friday, "all pious works that cost the king little but served him not a little with the people," says L'Estoile. And indeed, the Histoire universelle records, "The people, who gathered in crowds at this pious spectacle, admired and adored, so to speak, the same prince they had shortly before hated and detested." On Easter Sunday, the king touched more than six hundred people afflicted with scrofula, exercising "the king's touch."[61]

Everyone was waiting for the arrival of the Parlement of Tours. When this was mentioned to the king, he said, "I wish to end the quarrel of the Parisians and the Tourangeaux, that they call it off and go forward as good friends." The event was postponed until after Easter (April 10). Various emissaries had been sent to greet the Tours magistrates and pave the way for their entry and the hoped-for reconciliation. The principal object was to induce "the severe Harlay," as Radouant calls him, to accept the decision to rehabilitate the Paris Parlement without waiting for the faithful from Tours. Conseiller Damours, one of the (converted) royalists, was sent to greet the premier président in Étampes, "deploring the unhappy circumstances of the past, praising the firm loyal stand [of Harlay] and promising him that it would be respected from then on and that the whole court would be united under his leadership in the service of the state." In addition, d'O was sent with a detachment of cavalry, to escort the returnees from Longjumeau into the city. De Thou explains, "This seigneur tried to justify the hasty reestablishment of the Paris court in the eyes of the premier président, explaining it by saying that the king's kind heart could not refuse [the people's] tears."[62]

L'Estoile describes the arrival of the Tourangeaux in the city:

[60] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:395-396; Radouant, Du Vair , 381-383.

[61] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:203-205. De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:396.

[62] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:396.


There were about two hundred persons, who entered in a disorderly way with quite poor equipment. People said they were laden down with moneybags, but the poor nags they had could hardly carry themselves. . . . The people lined the streets as if it were a royal entry, women in the windows, festooned with tapestries. Everyone saluted them joyfully, wishing aloud that they would never leave again and they would dispense justice to the ligueurs .[63]

Attempts to soften Harlay's attitude were not successful. As de Thou says, "He could not be consoled for having been deprived of such a fine opportunity to tear out by the root the seeds of a dangerous faction." He lost no time in deciding that the terms of those who had entered the Paris Parlement during the League or who had remained contrary to royal command would date only from the day of their taking a new oath, under new provision, by Henri IV. Furthermore, it was decreed that those of Tours would always take precedence over them. A final humiliation was that the Parisians had not received their wages. In early May they appealed to the king, protesting this inequity on the basis of his declared will that the two groups "live together forever, without division."

Procureur général La Guesle was charged with the responsibility to formalize the policy of letting bygones be bygones at the first session after the reunion of the two courts.[64] One senses that he is defending the parlementaires of Paris against those of Tours, like a "public defender" carrying out an assignment. He stops short of accusing the Parisians of complicity in the rebellion but insinuates it by citing the reply of Fabius Maximus to Livius Salinator, who claimed that he had helped in the recovery of Tarentum. "You are right," said Fabius, "because if you had not lost it, it would not have been recovered." Even so, the procureur général expresses the king's will that "those who left and those who stayed should be united in the service of His Majesty." And he goes so far as to state, "we are all Parisians." Citing Aristotle, who said that a city was its citizens, he concluded that, in Paris, both groups of magistrates should set the example for the rest.[65]

On the surface they closed ranks and presented a united front during the weeks of returning normalcy, one important manifestation of which was the submission of the Sorbonne on April 22; another was the request of the

[63] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:205-206.

[64] . The much smaller and less important Parlement of Châlons did not return until May 15.

[65] . Radouant, Du Vair , 385-386; Remonstrances de Jacques de La Guesle (Paris, 1611), no. 6, Pâques 1594, 273-286.


university that the Jesuits be exiled, on May 12.[66] While the king's strong hand and his virtually universal support in public opinion were mainly responsible for the extent that unity was attained, relief that the uncertainty was over must have been a factor also, and, for the ex-ligueurs , additional relief that they had escaped greater reprisals.

Yet questions of precedence still rankled. Manipulations, jostling for advantage, and personal feuds among individuals, as well as antagonism—thinly disguised—between the two main groups can be glimpsed through the impersonal prose of the records of "the reconstitution of the chambers."[67] Twelve magistrates had been condemned as felons by Henri III on May 14, 1589. Two présidents were dead (Brisson and Pierre Le Maistre); three conseillers were banished (Baston, Machault, and Léon Lescot), but the last was readmitted a year later. The others were among the sixty-five reintegrated. These facts provide a measure of the clemency of Henri IV toward the court, and also an explanation of the resentment of those like de Thou, who felt that traitors were being rewarded at the expense of the faithful. Of thirty-two survivors of the pre-Barricades roll, twenty were Parisians, and only four were forced to resign as punishment for ligueur activity. Édouard Molé had earned his reinstatement by his leading part in the Parlement's initiative in the spring of 1593, and though he had to yield the office of procureur général to Jacques de La Guesle when the parquet was reconstituted, he retained that of conseiller and was further rewarded in 1602 when he became the seventh président. Two loyalists took over as avocats généraux, however, the beleaguered Antoine Séguier and Louis Servin.[68]

As of 1594 the roll contained 176 names: 7 présidents, 25 conseillers clercs, and 144 lay members. Additions, reinstatements, and several special deals brought the number to 188 by 1599. Rivalries for inferior offices such as greffier , procureur, and huissier were also rife, and the basoche was no less unruly than in earlier decades.[69]

Of the approximately one hundred twenty persons who received orders to leave the country Barnavi estimates about one-fifth to have been influential in the League: six ecclesiastics (the familiar prédicateurs ), three mag-

[66] . De Thou, Histoire universelle , 8:397-398; L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 6:206-207, 212, 216, 265-280 (variantes).

[67] . The official date was April 22, 1594, but many transactions known to have taken place later are included. The roll was not settled for some months, though the April date was retained.

[68] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:194-198.

[69] . Ibid., 196.


istrates, four lawyers, six praticiens , including the notorious Senault, La Bruyère, and Crucé; only four were merchants.[70] Although Barnavi estimates that 90 percent of the "hard core" left France either voluntarily or by royal command, he is impressed by the evidence that those who were pardoned and reintegrated were not handicapped in their subsequent careers by their ligueur past, and that the heirs of even the jusqu'au-boutistes of lower ranks were able to prosper in the new regime. This is easy to understand, he remarks, because of the king's firm intention to sponsor a national reconciliation. To have done otherwise would have given Henri IV the lie and added to the ranks of the disaffected.[71]

Maugis finds the most conspicuous proof of the prevailing parlementaire egotism in the contrast between the extensive vengeance exacted on those responsible for the parlementaire murders of November 1591, and the almost casual slap on the wrist administered to the regicides. By the former, la Cour témoigne éloquemment de son ardeur pour sa propre cause , as opposed to le zèle bien tiède , and it shows étrange réserve for the murdered king. All those implicated in the Brisson murder—even those already dead—were hanged in effigy, and there were many punitive acts involving a large proportion of the court over some months. The penitence exacted for the king's murder was embodied in an arrêt ordering prayers to be said for the king's soul in the churches.[72]

The position of the Parlement in 1594 was both ironic and paradoxical. At the very moment the court's actions leading to the reduction had brought it to the greatest political influence and most favorable reputation in its then three-hundred-year history, the renewed power of the crown left it nowhere to go thereafter but down. In the new circumstances, not only had the leeway permitting the court's initiative since the death of Henri II been closed off, but the internal atmosphere of the court reflected rapidly changing values. Mark Cummings has demonstrated that for the most up-and-coming of the dominant generation from the 1590s into the next century, membership in Parlement was no longer the ultimate career goal but was seen rather as a stepping-stone, and that those who retained the traditional values were left behind, fighting a rearguard action in defense of an idea whose time had gone and would never return in the same form.[73]

[70] . Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 244.

[71] . Ibid., 250-255.

[72] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:204-206; see esp. Michael Wolfe, "The Strange Afterlife of Henri III: Dynastic Distortions in Early Bourbon France," Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 17 (1990): 152-157.

[73] . Barnavi, Le Parti de Dieu , 243-247; Cummings, "A Social Portrait," ch. 6.



Preferred Citation: Roelker, Nancy Lyman. One King, One Faith: The Parlement of Paris and the Religious Reformations of the Sixteenth Century. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1996.