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.



Opinions on the reliability of the Mémoires-Journaux as a documentary source for historical events range from unquestioning acceptance to skepticism, rejection, and outright accusations—that the diarist "fabricated" events that never took place.

Paul Robiquet: "In comparing the Registers of the city with the Mé-moires-Journaux it is impossible not to be struck by the perfect exactitude of the chronicler. Almost never is he found to differ from the original documents that constitute the true basis of our work" (Paris et la Ligue sous Henri III [Paris, 1886], 300).

Paul Geisendorf:

in this time when everyone took sides—and with what ardor! This good Parisian bourgeois, wandering in his great city, his nose to the wind, attentive to all the events of the day and passing them through the virtually infallible sieve of his good common sense, always knew how to keep from falling into one extreme or another; a spectator rather than an actor, he succeeded in delivering to us . . . a lively, even-handed and sensitive chronicle of the terrible years, 1574-1611, almost never taking sides or at least without [doing so] with the furor and outrage that animated almost all his contemporaries.

Geisendorf goes on to note the great value of L'Estoile as a collector and commentator of propaganda ("Trois chroniqueurs devant la propagande," in Aspects de la propagande religieuse [Geneva, 1957], 405-406).

Édouard Maugis, for the negative, finding that a number of L'Estoile's entries lack any mention in the registers, dismisses every such action or statement as false. He thus invalidates the very basis of L'Estoile's usefulness as a source, an illustration of Maugis's most serious flaw as an inter-


preter of the Parlement: mistaking the nature of the constitutional, bargaining, process (throughout the three volumes) he also mistakes the function of the registers, which are a record of official actions and not a narrative of daily transactions. When Maugis occasionally cites L'Estoile, it is with disdain, and he qualifies the account as colorisé, dramatisé , novelistic. Examples from Parlement de Paris are 2:45, 53-55, 59, 73, 206.

Late twentieth-century scholars generally assume factual reliability, except for alleged statements or facts that reflect L'Estoile's bias forcefully, with no supporting independent evidence. For instance, J. H. M. Salmon (in a critique requested by me) questions whether Senault was really the controlling member of the Sixteen, and whether the Spanish ambassador really said that Mayenne should be sent to the Bastille. Sarah Hanley finds both L'Estoile and J.-A. de Thou unreliable on the lit de justice . In a critique requested by me, she cites definitions, chronology, substance, and discourse that she finds untrustworthy.

Jean-Louis Bourgeon mentions L'Estoile in the earlier articles of his series without singling the diarist out individually but never cites him in the major article on the Parlement and the Massacre, where he castigates de Thou, Séguier, and Montaigne as responsible for Parlement's "conspiracy" and especially for the "coverup." By implication this applies to L'Estoile, who echoes the sentiments of these leaders and who admires them wholeheartedly.

Isabella Armitage, ed., Fragment des recueils de Pierre de L'Estoile: édition critique originale (University of Kansas Publications, Lawrence: 1976) recapitulates L'Estoile's narrative of events with little analysis of context or critical sense, and no apparent familiarity with the recent scholarship on the League. Armitage is evidently a specialist in French linguistics. Her most original contribution is ch. 3, on L'Estoile's language and style. The discussion of the evolution of the latter shows that L'Estoile was concerned with the literary quality of the Mémoires-Journaux , and the later versions of key episodes (as compared to earlier) are indeed colorisé, dramatisé . Alfred Soman believes that all the later versions (variantes) were added by others in later years and should not be taken as authentic.

For purposes of the present study, L'Estoile is a preeminently reliable source for his mind-set, mentalité , with its consistent, unmistakable bias—royalist, politique , anti-ultramontane to the nth degree—expressing a romantic vision of a perfect French society as well as bitter disillusionment in the sixteenth-century reality as he perceived it.

L'Estoile's own opinion of the usefulness of journals is also worth noting:


Les Registres-Journaux sont d'usage ancien, et servent souvent à nous oster de peine et à soulager nostre mémoire labile, principalement quand nous venons sur l'aage, comme moy. Monsr de Montagne, en ses Essais , dit que feu son père en avoit ung, où il faisoit insurer toutes les survenances de quelque remarque, et, jour par jour, les mémoires de l'histoire de sa maison. Le mien ne sera si exact, car il ne s'estend guères, pour le particulier, au delà des Curiosités de mon Estude et Cabinet; mais, pour le publiq, plus loing. Et me trouve un sot de l'avoir fait; comme Montagne, au contraire, s'apelle et trouve tel pour avoir failli à la continuation de celui de son père (livre Ier, ch. 34).
Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 8:225-226.



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.