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.

5 Setting the Problem: Religious Values

Setting the Problem:
Religious Values

The Parlementaire Religious Tradition

The mystique of the French monarch as the Most Christian King has long been postulated as a major factor in European history, but the corollary mystique of France as the most Christian kingdom was apt to be dismissed as an invention of the propagandists of Philip IV (the Fair) in that king's struggle with Pope Boniface VIII at the opening of the fourteenth century. Not until the appearance of Joseph Strayer's magisterial essay was the equal place of the other elements fully recognized. He points out that "some of this glorification of France dates back to a period long before [Pierre] Dubois wrote" and that Guillaume de Nogaret's assertion, "the kingdom of France was chosen by the Lord and blessed above all other kingdoms of the world," was not unprecedented. Indeed, French believers held that France was the most important part of the church itself. "Any attack on the rights of the king or the independence and integrity of his kingdom was an attack on the faith. Conversely, any steps taken by the king to defend or strengthen his kingdom are for the benefit of Christendom." Nor were these sentiments confined to individuals who were, after all, apologists for a powerful French king. A Dominican monk, Guillaume de Sauqueville, claimed for the French king the lineage of David, thus making him "a type of Christ" and France "a type of the heavenly kingdom." Strayer comments, "Those who heard (rather than read) his sermons might have been a little confused about how close the resemblance was."[1]

Strayer's object is to show how this pairing of the king and the kingdom as especially Christian enabled the French "to avoid, to a very large degree,

[1] . Strayer, "The Holy Land," 13, 14, 8-9, 10, 14.


any feeling of contradiction between their duties to the church and their duties to the state. . . . Loyalty to France was bound to be loyalty to the church, even if the church occasionally doubted it. . . . In France, the religion of nationalism grew early and easily out of the religion of monarchy."[2] The essay serves the purposes of this study by showing how the French land, people, and king were believed to owe their unique and superior status to their linkage through the Roman Catholic Church, designated by the words Holy, Chosen , and Christian in the formula. Until the sixteenth century, no other institutionalized form of Christianity existed in western Europe. Heresies sprang up from time to time, but the church of Peter held its own as Holy Mother Church. When an important heresy surfaced in Languedoc, it was suppressed in the early thirteenth century by the combined forces of the papacy and the crown, to the advantage of both; the crown in particular, found in the Albigensian crusade the means finally to dominate that valuable and long-coveted region.

French culture was permeated by Roman Catholicism from its cradle so to speak. In the chaotic generations when Christianity was spreading through the tottering western Roman Empire, especially after the Visigoths had overrun North Africa and sacked the city of Rome itself (410 C.E.), the most vital centers of western Christianity—that is, those that recognized the leadership of Rome—were the monasteries of Gaul, and the most influential figures were Gallic, such as Saint Martin of Tours and Saint Denis.

Then the Franks, no longer contained east of the Rhine frontier, conquered Roman Gaul about 500 C.E. under the leadership of Clovis, who "defended the one true church against the heretic," as Pierre Droit de Gaillard has reminded us. The historical significance of this warrior-king was that, first, he alone of all the barbarian chieftains who were establishing kingdoms on the ruins of the western empire chose adherence to Rome rather than the Arian "heresy," and second, that he imposed this choice on his newly created Frankish kingdom.

The Carolingian family was able to take over the kingship in the middle of the eighth century, as a result of papal gratitude for the rescue of the papal states (not to mention their enlargement) by Pepin III, when he was still only "mayor of the palace" in the Frankish kingdom. This enabled his son, Charlemagne, to rule the most impressive European empire seen since that of Rome, with the active participation of churchmen as administrators and judges for the "emperor," whose title had been bestowed by the pope. In the scramble to succeed to the kingship when Charlemagne's heirs in

[2] . Ibid., 16.


turn lost control of the (West) Frankish kingdom, in the late tenth century, the house of Hugh Capet prevailed over its rivals in no small part because of the backing of the church, symbolized by the holy oil with which the kings of France were anointed for as long as the monarchy endured. The significance of the sacred aspects of Capetian kingship have been well known since the appearance of Marc Bloch's influential study Les Rois thaumaturges .[3]

Throughout the centuries the rhythm of life for believers—serfs, peasants, townspeople, and elites—followed the church calendar: the daily prayers, the weekly penance and masses, the seasons of fast and feast, the saints associated with every activity, occupation, and place through relics and shrines. The sacraments punctuated human life from baptism, which conferred "provisional membership" in the Christian community immediately upon birth, to the last rites, as an individual passed into the next life, and even beyond the grave, in the masses said for the dead. In an age of faith, an individual cut off from the sacraments was cut off from the human community as surely as were outcasts from the tribe, and powerful kings were brought to their knees by popes placing their kingdoms under the interdict. The church was often influential in shaping public policy, including war aims. War against the Moslem Turks who had conquered the Holy Land were fought under the sign of the cross, crusades. It is worth noting that the crusading movement was predominantly French, with three French kings among the leaders and a greater number of French nobles taking the cross than from all other regions of Europe combined. In the reign of Louis IX (died 1270), what the French call le rayonnement (cultural leadership or sphere of influence) of France extended from the Atlantic to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean—where the kingdoms of the earlier crusaders had been established. Roman Catholicism, in short, was a multifaceted force in French culture, so deeply embedded that abuses in the church in a negative direction, or new spiritual initiatives (heresy) in a positive direction, could not easily be perceived as isolated phenomena to be considered on their own merits, as they might, for instance, in the Germanies or the Netherlands.

The hold of the Roman church was further reinforced in France by the special application of a general European belief that religion was the most important cohesive factor in holding a community or kingdom together. As the concept of the state as such developed in sixteenth-century political theory, the principle of cuius regio eius religio was expressed in a variety

[3] . Marc Bloch, Les Rois thaumaturges (Strasbourg, 1924).


of formulae. In its Latin form the phrase is associated primarily with Martin Luther, who proclaimed it in the 1530s on behalf of the German princes who had adopted his reforms, and with the Peace of Augsburg (1555) when it triumphed. German princes, Lutheran or not, were able to assert independence in religious choice from the emperor. The phrase in itself is confessionally neutral: if the prince was Protestant so was the state. Where Catholicism was very strong, as in France, so was its claim to be the one faith that completed the trilogy un roi, une loi, une foi .

This principle was the underlying presupposition of the parlementaire religious tradition. We shall find mainstream spokesmen in every generation reiterating and elaborating it—as an argument against any degree of religious toleration in the decades when heresy threatened or seemed to threaten, from the 1520s to the 1570s, and later, in the 1590s, as the main basis of the argument that Henri IV should abjure Calvinism and become a Roman Catholic—in order to maintain the traditional unity between church and state, crown and people. It was by then unthinkable for the French people to be other than Roman Catholic; if Henri was to be accepted as king he must follow suit, no matter how strong his legitimate claim under the Salic law.[4]

If the one faith could be any faith adopted by the legal ruler, Lutheran in Saxony, Anglican in England, and so on, there was one institutional element in the French tradition wholly unique to France: the liberties of the Gallican church. These frequently figured as the issue in parlementaire discussions of religion and in periods of special tension between France and Rome, the Gallican issue absorbed all others. The most admired parlementaire models, like Jean Jouvenal des Ursins in earlier centuries and Thibault Baillet and Christophe de Thou in our period, were those whose reputation rested on the defense of the Gallican liberties (and/or of the Parlement itself); the most hated villains were those like Antoine Duprat, who breached the defenses and imperiled the autonomy of either. Even the kings of France, as individual rulers, were tested by these criteria and when they did not measure up, the Parlement—representing the true king, the other "eternal body"—was duty-bound to remonstrate and to refuse to bow.[5] The fight over the Concordat of Bologna is the classic case.

[4] . Wolfe, Conversion of Henri IV , esp. 123-125.

[5] . Antoine Duprat, 1463-1535, chancellor, cardinal, chief implementor of the Concordat of Bologna, holder of controversial benefices, and main target of parlementaire hostility; Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies .


These institutionalized traditions overlap: the French church, at one and the same time, exists as the most important part of l'église catholique, apostolique, et romaine , accepting the spiritual direction of the popes, and exists also as a unique national institution whose ecclesiastical administration has always been in French hands and whose authority alone has kept (or regained) the original autonomy of the primitive church.

When we turn from institutional matters to the personal spiritual life of our robins , the evidence is both less abundant and less explicit—after all, they were lawyers, most at ease with the vocabulary and structures of institutions. Yet the chief characteristics of their spiritual life are clear enough. The visible manifestations, their religious behavior, conformed to conventional, conservative, Roman Catholic piety in every respect; with a religious style ranging from "modest"—a word often used with approval in this context—to austere. The latter is infrequent, but admirable if not carried too far. Excess of any kind in expressions of piety is explicitly condemned. La Roche-Flavin gives examples of "ostentations," practices inappropriate to a judge, which include too frequent attendance at mass, prostration during prayers, publicizing one's pilgrimages and, especially, one's acts of charity, even "too much" study of and meditation on scripture.[6]

The more frequent incidence of such moralizing about religious behavior in the later decades as compared to earlier reflects the unfavorable impression made by the dramatic Counter-Reformation religiosity fashionable in ligueur Paris, specifically by Henri III in the final years of his reign, when the king and members of his court attracted much comment by taking part in processions through the streets of the city, some honoring the exposed Host (this was offensive to conservatives under any circumstances), others dramatizing human sin, the participants barefoot, wearing sackcloth and ashes, and, in the case of flagellants, beating one another.[7]

The positive content of desirable "modest" behavior was simple conformity to tradition, and the reason for it was the necessity to maintain order in an increasingly disorderly society. Gabriel Naudé was later to write, apropos of religious choice,

que la plus connue est toujours la meilleure, qu'il est dangereux d'y rien changer et peu utile, que ce n'est à un particulier de le faire, et enfin qu'un Royaume Chrétien bien policé ne doit jamais recevoir d'autres nouveautez

[6] . La Roche-Flavin, Treize Livres , bk. VIII, ch. 1.

[7] . On inappropriate religious behavior of Henri III see L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, esp. 2:109-114, 148-150, 182-183, and 333-334.


en religion, que celles que les Papes ou Conciles ont accoustumé d'y introduire.[8]

In private, away from prying eyes, however, one could maintain a degree of isolation which permitted "a certain license," that is, independence of belief. But the façade of "austere and discreet wisdom, studious serenity and irreproachable decency" should never be disturbed.[9]

Montaigne, who was in many ways atypical, is in this an articulate representative of robin opinion. In Essai no. 22, "De la coutume, et de ne pas changer aisement une loy reçue," he says,

le sage doit au dedans retirer son âme . . . et la tenir en liberté et puissance de juger librement les choses, mais quant au dehors, qu'il doit suivre entièrement des façons et formes reçues. . . . Car, c'est la regle des regles . . .que chacun observe celles du lieu où il est.

He regards it as self-importance and presumption to repudiate accepted beliefs and to establish new ones. The result:

renverser la paix publique et introduire de maux inévitables, et une horrible corruption de moeurs que les guerres civiles rapportent, et mutations de l'état. . . . Me semblant très-inique de vouloir soumettre les constitutions et observances publiques et immobiles, à l'instabilité d'une privée fantasie (la raison n'a qu'une juridiction privée. . . .)[10]

To the extent that any new ideas, different from the traditional, whether religious, like those of the reformers, or philosophical like those of the "libertines," tempted the typical robin , they reinforced his obligation to maintain control, conserver la façade : "the men attracted by disbelief . . . are those who can least permit themselves to show any signs of it."[11]

In cases where new ideas had actually taken root, conventional conformity constituted dissimulation of true belief. John Calvin castigated mercilessly those who secretly agreed with him while maintaining a Catholic façade. He called them Nicodemites, after Nicodemus, who came to Jesus

[8] . Pintard, Libertinage , 562-563, citing Gabriel Naudé.

[9] . Ibid., 100-101.

[10] Michel de Montaigne, Essais , ed. E. Courbet and C. Royer (Paris, 1872), "De la coutume," 1:137, 139, 141.

[11] . Pintard, Libertinage , 121.


by night.[12] A major question to consider in the following chapters arises: of the several religious postures discernible among members of Parlement is there one (or more) that we might label Nicodemite? if so, on what doctrinal grounds? on the basis of what kinds of evidence?

It is never easy and often impossible to be really certain of the doctrinal content of beliefs whose only clear character is their personal, private "inner" nature, as distinct from beliefs expressed externally, in ceremony and ritual. In a singularly important address to the American Historical Association in 1971, William Bouwsma concluded that early modern lawyers, both Catholic and Protestant, shared a preference "for a kind of piety that stressed the spiritual and inward quality of the faith, contrasted it sharply with the world and its ways, and, by emphasizing the incongruity, liberated secular life from direct religious control." They tended to an Augustinian spirituality and were "forced to recognize that the earthly city . . . could at best achieve only a contingent order quite different from that of the heavenly city. . . . For if the lawyer, as secularizer, was in some sense an agent of change, he also represented the need for order and gave expression to the conservative impulses of his age." The role of lawyers in an age of rapidly changing cultural patterns became central, because they were conditioned to the existence of conflicts that could never be entirely eliminated. Solution lay in accommodation. "Their role, in short, was to man the frontiers between the safe and familiar on the one hand, the dangerous and new on the other; between the tolerable and the intolerable; between the conventional world and the chaos beyond it. They constituted a kind of civil militia, whose difficulties were compounded by the fact that the precise location of the frontiers to which they were assigned was rarely clear, and these frontiers were constantly changing. We may well ask what kind of men these were."[13] This study is one attempt to answer that question, in the limited context of parlementaire mentalité , and the predicament described is precisely that of our robins , when their own religious tradition was faced with the drastic challenges of the sixteenth century.

The "modest" low-key religious attitude prescribed by La Roche-Flavin for aspiring magistrates characterized L'Estoile's reportage of parlementaire behavior. Moreover, he consistently practiced what he preached. Excep-

[12] . Calvin's attitude toward Nicodemism is succinctly expressed in his exchange with the liberal Catholic reformer Jacopo Sadoleto (W. Braun et al., eds., Johannis Calvini opera [Braunschweig, 1863-1900], vol. 5, cols. 386-387, vol. 6, cols. 589-618). See also Élisabeth Labrousse, "Plaidoyer pour le nicodémisme," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 82 (1987): 259-270.

[13] . Bouwsma, "Lawyers and Early Modern Culture," 312-314.


tional, as previously mentioned, is the extensive statement of his personal religious beliefs during a critical illness in September 1610. He was sixty-four years old. Deeply troubled by suspicions—hardening into accusations—of heresy, he felt compelled to set the record straight, especially to spare his children the stigma. After a lifetime of fiercely guarded silence or indirect allusions to faith even in the Mémoires-Journaux , the stress of speaking out was painful; acute physical suffering and the expectation of imminent death steeled his determination. Once he resolved to speak out, the dam broke. The torrent of words (eleven pages in the Brunet edition) gives the impression of a man in great haste, fearing that he would run out of time or strength before finishing the task.[14]

The most significant points follow: On Thursday, September 2,

God afflicted me with . . . several infirmities, the least of which would have been enough to kill me had not the hand on high that had always sustained me [intervened] . . . for beside the fever and a great intestinal hemorrhage, my hemorrhoids were on fire, causing difficulty of urinating that tormented me as much or more than all the rest. . . . Believing that God was about to call me, which was also the opinion of all those present, including my doctors, I requested that the last rites . . . be administered by the vicar of St-André who came on Tuesday, the 14th of the month (11:7).

At this meeting there was a long discussion about whether the Eucharist could be administered in both kinds, as L'Estoile wished, or only in one, as was the common practice. L'Estoile could not agree that this was a matter of indifference, "as some leaders of this church tried to make [him] believe."

I have always believed and [still] believe that a good Christian should not be deprived of so great a benefit in the hour when he most needs it because of a corruption of the form; the principal should not be rejected because of an accessory, as those of the Religion do, having entirely abolished the practice [of extreme unction]. [All their arguments] I find vain and futile, serving only to uproot a holy practice in God's church, [one] not contrary to His word but conforming to it, though masked by the abuses and corruption that have slipped in, which it is necessary to remove and reform and restore to correct usage, as all good men, myself the first, hope for, and not to abolish a thing good and holy in itself (11:8).

[14] . L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, 11:7-17 (parenthetical cites in this chapter's discussion refer to the Brunet edition).


The discussion was studded with Pierre's citations from the fathers of the church, in Latin, with chapter and verse. There was no meeting of minds. Pierre continues,

The day before, the 13th, wishing to confess and be reconciled [with God] before receiving the sacrament, I requested that a Jacobin, named Père des Landes, who seemed to preach more purely than others, come to visit me. He did so and consoled me greatly. His object was, after chastising my sins and asking me to beg God's forgiveness, to extract from me a declaration that I would die in the faith of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. There was no difficulty about complying with the first two requirements . . . but as for the third, on which he strongly insisted (remonstrating that to believe everything the Roman Church believed, and that it could not err, was necessary for salvation), I could not yield, seeing that the contrary was apparent on several doctrinal matters; until, overcome by feebleness of body and spirit. . . . I conceded, on condition that he could prove to me that the Roman Church of today conformed in every way to that of the ancient church, of the Apostles and Saint Paul, which preached only Jesus Christ crucified, recognizing no other basis for salvation, in which Roman faith I had always lived and wished to die. He promised me to do so if God restored my health (although I seriously doubt that he could, able as he is). We stopped there and I fear that's where we'll stay (11:9).

L'Estoile writes that he cannot remember some other points discussed, but he does remember the Jacobin speaking of the invocation of saints as an important practice of the church. "To which I responded that I recognized only one maître des requêtes in heaven, Jesus Christ, my savior and sole mediator, and that, miserable sinner that I might be, I was confident that in appealing to Him, . . . I should never be turned away." He appeased the monk somewhat by conceding that the invocation of saints "and even of the dead" was a very ancient custom, "and that I would be glad to be instructed by a good and learned man like him, if he could prove that this was in accord with Holy Scripture, where there is no mention of it, which made it hard for me to believe" (11:10).

He concludes that he would always honor this good monk for his patience and for having kindly put up with his frankness—a frankness occasioned by his conviction that he was on the edge of death ("though God ordained otherwise") and had arrived at that moment when, as Montaigne says in his Essais ,[15]

[15] . L'Estoile was an ardent admirer of Montaigne, whom he calls his vade mecum in a detailed justification of the Mémoires-Journaux inserted in the middle of the year 1606 (ed. Brunet, 8:225-227); see the full text in the appendix.


it is necessary to speak French and show whatever is good and clean at the bottom of the pot. That is why, if he had not offered me this liberty, I would have taken it, for my nature is such that I will always turn to open dissent rather than to hypocrisy (though God keep me from the one or the other!). I am only annoyed that this good father believes (as he has since said) that I hold mistaken and heretical opinions, discordant with the teachings of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church, which I have never intended, except insofar as the disaccord that I have on several points with the latter is in accordance (as I believe that it is) with the word of God, which I will always prefer to the commands and traditions of popes and of men. I learned also that he told my son that I had many heretical books of all sorts that I had avidly read, which was one of the reasons for my maintaining my errors. Upon which I remembered that when I was at my most feeble, the good man spoke to me and exhorted me to get rid of them and not to read them any longer. I know that he did so out of concern for my salvation, but reading them has not—by the grace of God—made me a worse Christian, for I never sought there the solutions to present-day religious controversies; rather I sought it in the writings of the ancient fathers of the church, whom I much prefer to the moderns, and I regret that the time I employed to read the latter was not given instead to the ancients (11:11-12).

But even more important than the church fathers to L'Estoile was Holy Scripture, "for it is the word of the living God, which should be our guide and star to steer by, as it was for the ancient fathers. I value only one book in the world, which is my entire consolation; it is the Bible and the New Testament." He insists that he is a "child of the Roman church," because in it he received the "mark of the children of God," by which God would assuredly recognize him as His own.

I do not, however, overlook how much this [present] church has degenerated from the primitive one, of which one can recognize only the faint traces, even though the foundation (which is the principal thing) has remained. I cannot admit and defend the errors because God forbids it. I will always wholeheartedly embrace its reform, but I will never consent to its dissipation; and even if she is a whore (as the Huguenots say), still she is my mother, to whom the sovereign magistrates must render her purity and original nuptial habits. In the meantime, I will pray God for her amendment, but I will not leave her or depart and join the other, where I find as many faults, in customs and in doctrines, as in this one, and I think that if [the other] had lasted only half as long, it could better be called Deformed than Reformed. . . . I don't say that a good thing couldn't be made out of the two of them, removing from one its excess and adding to the other what it lacks. But three things prevent this: lack of charity, insufficient zeal for the glory of God, and stubbornness, which is the last resort of the ignorant.

I will cling, therefore, to this old trunk (though rotten) of the papacy, in which one finds the church, even though it is not the church (11:13).


To substantiate this opinion, L'Estoile then quotes a Calvinist minister in Geneva and a long passage from Luther's commentary of Galatians. "Thus," he concludes, "according to the testimony of Lutherans and even of Calvinists, one can remain in the Roman Church, corrupt as it is, and still achieve salvation." He remains in the church, because to do otherwise would be to desert the upbringing and education he was given. But, for the sake of those who come after him, he wishes also to register the fact that nothing would have made him leave—or might yet make him leave—the Catholic church more surely than if he had been "constrained to observe certain ceremonies and superstitious practices that are the fashion, as happened during the League, under whose tyranny and constraint [he] often sweated bitterly on this account." Now that all these things are again left to an individual's own judgment, he has resolved to live and die in the Roman Catholic church, in accordance with the final wishes of his deceased father ("a good and most God-fearing man, as everyone knows"), who also desired the reformation of the church but thought no good would come from leaving it. He quotes his father's instructions to his teacher, Matthieu Béroald, a Calvinist who later became a minister in Geneva, and emphasizes that Béroald was forbidden to encourage Pierre (who was twelve years old at the time) to leave the Roman Catholic church but at the same time was told not to bring him up in "its abuses and superstitions."

This last wish of such a good father has always remained and will eternally remain engraved at the bottom of my heart and soul; praying God to grant me the grace to live and die as he did, that is to say, in the faith of the son of God crucified, which was his sole and unique hope, which is mine also, and I desire that it be passed on to my children, so that they will never recognize any purge for their sins but the blood of Jesus Christ, nor accept any reward except that gained for us all by His death and passion (11:14-15).

The account concludes with a moral, as usual with L'Estoile. He had missed all the events in Paris during his illness but considers that he gained more than he lost since "they were all foolishness and wastes of time," and quotes Saint Gregory and, finally, Saint Augustine who, when "regretting many things he wished he had not done in his youth, came to the conclusion that they had been sent to him as a punishment, confessing at the same time that God was just. I say the same, and with this holy person glorify God and cry out my thanks" (11:17).

It is obvious that L'Estoile's intense interest in and profound knowledge of theology and the range of conflicting arguments were greater by far than


laymen generally possessed, even including lawyers in the era of the Wars of Religion, when religious questions were entangled with relations of church and state. We cannot, therefore, postulate such well-formulated religious views on the part of other moderate magistrates, Catholic, but critical of the contemporary church to the extent of compromise on certain beliefs that were not doctrinally central, such as use of the vernacular and discipline of the clergy. We can, however, explore indications in the sources, while emphasizing the sociopolitical factors that underlay the moderates' position and distinguished them from their ultra colleagues, in successive periods from the 1520s to the 1580s.

Challenges to the Tradition

Major elements of the sixteenth-century French Catholic tradition were called in question by the reform movement as soon as it materialized in new institutionalized form, specifically that of John Calvin in the French Reformed Church. Although the first edition of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion , with the dedication to François I and refused by the king, appeared in 1536, it was not until about twenty years later that the new movement came of age as a specific rival to the old church. In the interval the problem of heresy was diffuse—although all forms were labeled "Lutheran." There were several degrees of deviation from orthodoxy in this second quarter of the century. Some dissenters in all classes, not negligible, but difficult to estimate precisely, found the "abuses" of the Roman church offensive, often including among the abuses some well-established practices like the sale of indulgences. A much smaller segment of dissenters moved from talk to action, by violating the rules (for example, eating meat on fast-days), committing blasphemy (very loosely defined), attending unauthorized preaching, possessing forbidden books, and other actions officially condemned by church or state. A narrow scholarly group, surrounding the well known humanist-reformer leaders Guillaume Briçonnet, bishop of Meaux, and Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples constituted the nucleus of evangelical reformers under the protection of Marguerite de Navarre, the king's sister. They challenged the papacy—at least by implication—concerning the intercession of saints and the doctrine of Purgatory, on the grounds that these were not to be found in the Gospels and therefore had been humanly rather than divinely instituted.

In this fluid period at midcentury, to be "suspect" of any of these degrees of unorthodoxy exposed one to persecution and/or prosecution by both the


church and the state—which was embodied in the crown's edicts and the power of the courts, especially the Parlement of Paris. Yet challenges to core Catholic dogma were as yet rare; repudiation of the mass was limited to a scattering of virtually unknown radicals (such as the perpetrators of the placards ) and attacks on the papacy and the sacramental system were generally based on their absence from the New Testament, which was a respectable position in an age whose motto was ad fontes . In general, even where the challenge to Roman doctrines was substantial, French doctrines to replace them were lacking.

Of course, some fully formulated heresies were circulating in Europe before the 1550s; Luther's, adopted by the northern German and Scandinavian states in the 1530s, Anglicanism, the Strasbourg reform, many forms of Anabaptism, and, most important, the Swiss movement of Zwingli in Zurich, followed by other reformers in Bern, Basel, and Geneva, the latter led by Guillaume Farel.[16] But none of these had much impact in France, not even the movement led by Farel until after he had attracted other Frenchmen to Geneva—notably John Calvin. The "openness" of the second quarter of the century, when all sorts of compromises and accommodations seemed possible, gave way to an increasingly polarized situation, with each side maintaining, Whoever is not with us is against us, and since God is with us, the others are agents of Satan and should be exterminated. Eventually these reciprocal recriminations would produce rival camps, each with its own confessional-political propaganda, fighting civil wars of religion in France and the Netherlands, as had already happened in the Germanies.

For a Frenchman to leave the traditional faith and embrace that of the Reformed Church (Calvinist) entailed not only a new theology, a new morality, a new view of heaven and earth, church and state, and different rituals but also different interpretations of human history and even differences in personal, inner piety. Moreover, the new religion could not serve as the cement of society, as did the old, whose chief champions had been kings of France, since it specifically differentiated the spiritual community (the church) from the secular community. To belong to the former one had to take definite personal initiatives, and the church stood aloof from—above—the latter. The definitions were drawn up and the regulations enforced not by the king and his council, nor by the bishops he had appointed, but by a new single-minded breed of men, who made stringent demands

[16] . Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), most influential of the early French reformers, brought Calvin to Geneva in 1535-36.


on the faithful in every sphere of life and made, significantly, the same demands on lord and serf, rich and poor, men, women, and children—lay and cleric alike.

The new church could be national in that its leaders and language were French, and in that it was confined within national frontiers, but it could not maintain the position of France as the superior member within the universal church—as did the traditional Gallican church. For a Frenchman to leave the old church was, then, to accept a bouleversement of values far beyond the confines of religious belief. For a parlementaire there would be a further disorientation in that the guardianship of the Gallican liberties was a basic function on which the court's existence and prestige depended.

The other new ideology, that of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, began to crystallize in France in the 1560s, but its heyday occurred in the years following 1584, year of the death of the last Valois male after Henri III then reigning, leaving Henri de Bourbon, king of Navarre, first prince of the blood, and leader of the Huguenots as heir presumptive. The raison d'être of the Holy League, led by the Guise-Lorraine family with the support of Spain and the papacy, was to prevent Henri, a heretic, from succeeding to the throne. Since the "heretic" had an indisputable claim under the Salic law and the regular rules of succession, they argued that a more fundamental law required the king to be Catholic, as already mentioned. In the interim, under Henri III, the heretic party survived all attempts to exterminate it, from confiscation of goods and banishment to death-by-fire for individuals and all-out war against the party. In ultra-Catholic eyes the policies of the crown constituted appeasement of the forces of evil, at least, and to the fanatics Henri III was a "tyrant" for tolerating them and especially for the murder of the champions of the true church (the young duke Henri de Guise and his brother the cardinal de Guise, assassinated in the château of Blois on Christmas Eve 1588). In contrast to traditional Gallican Catholicism, the Holy League favored increased papal power over the French church, with a consequent reduction in national autonomy. In political terms, the League was a part of the Spanish attempt to gain European hegemony through championship of the Roman Catholic cause. It was ultramontane in two respects, therefore, looking beyond the Alps to Rome and beyond the Pyrenees to Madrid.

Tridentine Catholicism, in short, posed a brutal and direct challenge to special parlementaire values and concerns. The claim of the League to be defender of the faith ironically compounded the discomfort of Frenchmen already struggling with the desire to preserve the old system but at the same time to allow for needed reforms. Polarization of religious options


created a terrible dilemma for traditional Gallicans, who found less comfort at the hands of their alleged defenders—ligueurs —than those of their heretical enemies.

Parlementaire Response to the Challenges

The robin religious tradition was faced with new challenges, one on each extreme: how would they respond? Of course, responses to ideological challenges are always conditioned by or filtered through factors in the particular historical environment. In sixteenth-century France, the factors through which responses to the reform were filtered contrasted with those of the Germanies, divided into more than three hundred states, and equally with those of Spain, where church and state had united to suppress heresy and eliminate abuses long before the appearance of Martin Luther. The independent Venetians—so reminiscent of our Gallicans—responded differently from the Spanish-ruled kingdom of the two Sicilies.[17] In England, native traditions of unorthodoxy (Lollardy) and anticlericalism, combined with strong royal leadership, favored a relatively easy institutional break from the old church, leaving unresolved doctrinal differences to plague the country for generations. All French subjects were affected by the interpenetration of Roman Catholicism with the French national culture, and therefore by relations between the crown and the papacy; because of the special linkage between the Parlement and the Gallican church, parlementaires were particularly sensitive to every nuance of tension and every shift in the policy of either the king or the pope, no matter how slight. With the polarization of all western Europe in the second half century, France became the central arena of ideological and military struggle between the Protestant-Gallican and Counter-Reformation forces. All French subjects were affected, at least potentially, by the alliances and enmities of the crown, with their shifting patterns in war and diplomacy. Here too, the Parlement was necessarily and directly involved: the success of the League-Spanish forces would violate the fundamental laws, change the royal succession, and destroy the Gallican church, while the triumph of Catherine de Médicis's policy of a degree of toleration for the Huguenots would violate the unity of un roi, une loi, une foi and risk accession of a heretic king in the near future.

Doubtless the fact that the religious reform had its roots in the Renaissance and arose from the intellectual movement of returning to the sources,

[17] . Paolo Sarpi, Lettere ai gallicani , ed. B. Ulianich (Wiesbaden, 1961).


classical and Christian, made a profound appeal to the educated robin elite, amongst whom were to be found the greatest number of writers and the owners of the most comprehensive libraries in France. And aside from religious issues, the general relations between the court and the crown had a determining effect on parlementaire perceptions of religious policy. It is significant, for example, that relations with François I were antagonistic from the outset, because of his disregard for the rules of recruitment, followed by the Concordat struggle, which was more constitutional than religious. The court was already outraged before the matter of heresy arose. With Henri II, on the contrary, relations were generally harmonious, and it was easy for crown and court to join forces against heresy, except when Henri II seemed to threaten the Gallican liberties, indeed the crown's own autonomy, notably by a proposal to institute an inquisition in 1555.[18]

These conditioning factors stood in different relations to each other at different times, naturally. When tensions were sharp between Parlement and François I over the Concordat, relations between the royal government and Rome were harmonious. In the regency of Catherine de Médicis (1560-63) there was less strain between France and the papacy than between France and Spain, and the latter was mild compared to the extreme antagonism between Catherine and Parlement. In the final years of Henri III's reign (1584-89), the king and the court were at sword's points over religious policy and the legality of the League but closed ranks to support the status of Henri de Bourbon as heir apparent under the Salic law, while Rome was abetting the ligueur -Spanish attempt to invalidate it. There was some opposition from the court to every one of the Edicts of Toleration (between 1562 and 1598) because the court opposed any breach of the solidarity of un roi, une foi . Yet such fears paled in parlementaire eyes when the Counter-Reformation forces took the offensive—so much more threatening than Huguenot demands.

When the successive configurations among the various factors are studied in chronological sequence, two kinds of pattern emerge. One is in the dimension of time: there were periods of acute tension concerning religious policy, tension between the court and religious dissidents—of whatever persuasion—tension between the court and the crown, and, most significantly, tensions within the Parlement itself. Each period covered several years (up to a decade in two cases), clearly bounded by some striking event or shift in policy at the beginning—such as the Berquin case, or the re-

[18] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:2-6; Sutherland, "An Inquisition in France?," 370-372.


sumption of severe repression in 1540 after a period of "amnesty"—and by another at the end, which, by causing a marked (often sudden) drop in tension, initiated a period of "decompression" or détente. Such was the amnesty of the mid-thirties, and the let-up of pressure that followed the termination of the special court for heresy, the Chambre Ardente, in 1551.[19] The starting points of these periods, when the tension mounts sharply, I call the "pressure points of the century." The intervals of decompression generally lasted about half as long as the periods of tension: for instance, the tension-period 1540-51 was followed by a decompression between 1551 and 1557. The particular group of parlementaires active in religious policy at any given time constituted a generation or cohort in operational terms, although of course some would be near the end of their careers and others just beginning. Among the leaders in our early generation, Thibault Baillet died in 1525, when the confrontation between the court and the regent was at its height; his colleague Charles Guillart outlived him by a dozen years, and his colleague Jean Prévost by thirty years (his fiftieth year of service in the court was celebrated in 1555).

The other pattern is the range of religious options discernible within the Parlement mainstream. During every period of tension there were noticeable differences among magistrates in attitude toward heresy and in religious policies advocated, forming a spectrum (roughly from more liberal to more fanatical, but accurate descriptions can only be given in the specific context). The options were not precisely the same in any two periods, because they were often not so much chosen as imposed by circumstances. Analysis of the several spectra will follow in chapters 6-10. A prerequisite is to establish the chronology of the pressure points and the parameters of the respective time periods.

The Concordat of Bologna

The first manifestations of reform sentiment (Lefèvre's translations of the Bible, and the first phase of the Berquin case, 1522-23) took place in the aftermath of the struggle between François I and the Parlement over the Concordat of Bologna. The active struggle itself had lasted nearly fourteen months (February 1517 to March 1518) exhausting and embittering to both sides, for the fight did not end with the enforced registration by the court and the king's victory. It was a case of "fire in the ashes." Parlement's opposition, which never died out entirely, was easily fanned into renewed

[19] . Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 2:4-7.


flame in the 1520s by acts of the crown, under the Concordat, which would have been illegal under the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and were therefore regarded by the Parlement as violations of the Gallican liberties. Another factor contributing to the court's "guerrilla warfare" against the Concordat was the virtually unbroken leadership of Parlement throughout the decade. Baillet had died in midstream, to be sure, but he left a heritage of eloquent argument for his colleagues to use, and none of the other leaders disappeared from the scene before the end of the decade, and by then the Concordat was no longer in the foreground. Chancellor Antoine Duprat was the chief villain in Parlement's eyes. Duprat's high-handed manner of dealing with the court would have created antagonism in any case, but the facts that he had formerly been a member and that he had succeeded in placing many protégés in important royal offices added bitterness. His nomination to the benefices of Sens and St-Benoît, over the expressed opposition of the canons and the monks to whom the choice belonged under the Pragmatic Sanction, compounded his original crime by making him its chief beneficiary.

The Concordat contradicted the specific provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction, both by substituting royal nomination for the election of bishops and abbots by their chapters, and by requiring that certain ecclesiastical revenues be reported to Rome. Gallicans feared that this latter was a step toward the restoration of annates. In addition, the superiority of the pope to church councils was implied. During the first six months of the struggle the strategy of the court was delay while using every weapon in its arsenal: citing all the precedents, claiming that a full convocation of the clergy was required, challenging the legitimacy of the presence of several royal spokesmen sent to intimidate them, setting up repeated commissions to study the question.[20]

On July 24, 1517, these tactics had to be abandoned. On that day speaking through Baillet, the court courageously refused to register the Concordat as "against the honor of God, the liberties of the Gallican church, the honor of the king, and the welfare of the kingdom." The king's retort, drawn up by Duprat, denied the existence of the Gallican liberties and the superiority of councils to the pope. As one historian says, "Both the king's policy and his procedure were arbitrary and Parlement was bound to oppose him on both counts."[21] Six months later the court was still defiant. The king openly

[20] . On the Concordat of Bologna see R. J. Knecht, "The Concordat of 1516: A Reassessment," University of Birmingham Historical Journal 9 (1963): 16-32; and his Francis I , ch. 4; Shennan, The Parlement of Paris , 193-197.

[21] . Sherman, The Parlement of Paris , 194, 195.


threatened a delegation of parlementaires with virtual abolition of the court if resistance continued. There was only one king in France, he reminded them, and the Parlement was not a senate, as in Venice. If they continued to be stubborn (obstinés ), the mildest fate that would befall them would be to follow his lead (trotter après lui ) as mere members of the royal suite; the worst fate was suggested by the hint that he would replace them with obedient subjects who would confine themselves to the administration of justice and refrain from meddling in affairs of state, or even that he might remove Parlement from the capital altogether.

The immediate dilemma was solved by a compromise proposed by the avocat général, Jean Le Lièvre: the Concordat was a contract between the king and the pope made independently of the Gallican church and thus could not affect its rights. The gens du roi therefore recommended registration by Parlement under the formula de expresso mandato regis (at the express command of the king). In its own arrêt on the matter, Parlement stipulated that it would continue to return judgments affecting benefices according to the Pragmatic Sanction. And it put a statement into the secret register, again expressing its stand. Historians' opinions of these actions range from accusations of cowardice to congratulations for courageous independence.[22]

After François I was captured at Pavia and imprisoned in Madrid, northeastern France and Paris itself lay open to attack from the Netherlands, which were ruled by the emperor. Louise de Savoie, as regent, called on Parlement to take charge of the defense of the capital. The response was prompt, loyal, and whole-hearted, as leaders of the court rallied all segments of the population, produced plans for all contingencies, and personally participated in their implementation. The non-judicial authority of the court, so recently denied by the king, was dramatically demonstrated. But Parlement also seized the occasion to "advise" the regent's government, and premier président Jean de Selve went to Lyon in April 1525 with a long list of remonstrances. The Concordat, Parlement's prerogatives, evocation—all were included. The overall message was the need to restore the traditional, constitutional equilibrium.[23]

Another phase of the struggle took place over the rival claims to the

[22] . Sherman, The Parlement of Paris , 195-196. See also Roger Doucet, Étude sur le gouvernement de François I dans ses rapports avec le Parlement de Paris (Paris, 1921), 1:168; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 1:580-581.

[23] . Shennan, The Parlement of Paris , 197-198. R. J. Kalas, "The Selve Family of Limousin: Members of a New Elite in Early Modern France," Sixteenth Century Journal 18 (1987): 147-172.


benefices of Sens and St-Benoît. The king had evoked the case to the Grand Conseil as soon as he realized the dimensions of Parlement's opposition to his nomination of Duprat to both offices. This was the occasion of Pierre Lizet's important speech denouncing evocations on principle.[24]

The situation encapsulates the real dilemma created by the Concordat for the Parlement: under its own precedents the court had to uphold petitioners whose cases were illegal under the Concordat, which was now the law of the land. Parlement even launched proceedings to indict the chancellor himself for his violation of the court's jurisdiction, and it proclaimed that rulings of the Grand Conseil were null and void in such matters. The dispute hung fire until after the king's return from Spain; predictably, he gave the judgment to Duprat and demanded the surrender of the court's registers so as to tear out the offending passages. This deadlock was the context of President Charles Guillart's speech setting forth the constitutional view, the parlementaire view.[25] On the matter of benefices, as on the opposition to the Concordat, the king's will prevailed. Yet before we conclude that this outcome was inevitable and that the constitution was only a delusion or obsession of parlementaires, it is worth recalling that even François I believed that his appointments, edicts, and treaties with foreign powers required registration by the Parlement of Paris if they were to have the force of law.

In these same years, 1521-27, when the struggle over the consequences of the Concordat was going on and the disasters of Pavia and Madrid occurred, another set of events took place: the first of the pressure points initiated the first period of tension over religious dissent, in its new, sixteenth-century, form. This was more than the news of Luther's defiance of pope and emperor, sensational as that was, or scandal over heretical books smuggled into France, arousing vague fears of contagion; this was the stark, explicit repudiation of basic Roman Catholic belief and its replacement by heretical belief, voiced unequivocally in the Parlement of Paris by one of its own members.

Successive Pressure Points and Generations

There were three distinct judicial phases to the case of Louis de Berquin, conseiller clerc, tried for heresy in 1523, 1526, and finally in 1529, when he

[24] . Shennan, The Parlement of Paris , 199-200.

[25] . For Charles Guillart's exposition of the Parlement's interpretation of the constitution, see Hanley, Lit de Justice , 53-55; and Archives Nationales registers of the Parlement (hereafter AN) x1a 1530, fols. 350v-357v.


was executed. During these six years the tension was building in spurts, as the court confronted François I. The king succeeded in rescuing Berquin on the first two occasions and might have done so again but for the rapidity of Parlement's definitive (and defiant) action. The sharp leap in pressure, however, occurred in the last phase when, in 1528, Paris experienced its first serious outbreak of iconoclastic vandalism, against a revered statue of the Virgin and Child. A sense of shock and outrage swept the city and influenced the Parlement to take a more firm—and also more extreme—stand than it had in previous years. The tension lasted without let-up until after l'affaire des placards (October 1534). Not until then did the king definitively adopt a policy of repression, though his earlier protection of the reformers had been increasingly eroded. In the 1520s, the Sorbonne had espoused the policy of repression firmly, and the Parlement was divided; François I's course made the crown appear to be the most lenient authority toward religious dissent and the most reluctant to resort to repression. The appearance was deceptive, but understandable, in the light not only of the king's interventions in behalf of Berquin but of his much-publicized protection of Briçonnet and Lefèvre. Eventually he turned against them also and silenced even his sister, who was closely associated with them and their ideas of reform within the Catholic fold. However disturbing these events might be, members of Parlement were accustomed to bizarre and irresponsible behavior on the part of les grands . The unorthodoxy—even heresy—of a fellow magistrate was quite another matter, and it posed the problem in terms that made the issue impossible to avoid.

When François I joined the Sorbonne and conservative elements of the Parlement in a dramatic procession through the streets of the capital in 1535, all the voices of authority were singing the same song, and tensions among them dropped rapidly.[26] (At the same time such unanimity in advocacy of repression created an atmosphere of crisis for the victims and their sympathizers, of course.) During these seven to eight years (1528-35) the articulate leaders of the court were Charles Guillart, Jacques de La Barde, and others of the early generation; only two leaders important in the initial stages had died (Thibault Baillet and Jean de Selve). This was the first generation of Frenchmen to be faced with dissent in religious views, well articulated by their own countrymen (in the case of Berquin, by a colleague) in such a way as to force them to take a position.

Events on the international scene contributed to the détente that began

[26] . Knecht, Francis I 250-252; Victor Bourrilly, ed., Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris (Paris, 1910), 358-360, 378-386.


in the latter months of 1535 and lasted until 1540. During these years a new pope (Paul III) was favoring the liberal faction in the College of Cardinals and urging reform rather than repression. More importantly, François I sought an accommodation with the emperor some of the time and at others tried to build up alliances with German princes against the emperor. Some of these princes were adherents of Luther, and while the king's opinion of heretics at home was not softened by his alliances with heretics abroad, in 1535 and 1536 he issued edicts offering amnesty to dissenters who abjured their faith. The pressures were greatly relieved. During the interval, many Frenchmen heard the name of John Calvin for the first time and also learned of the reform movement in the city of Strasbourg, a model of humanist moderation of the sort that would appeal to educated parlementaires.[27]

All the more brutal, therefore, was the shock when the policy of repression was resumed, with new implementing devices, in the Edict of Fontainebleau of 1540. The pressures escalated, and the renewed tension lasted for more than a decade. The climactic phase was related to the establishment and operation of the Chambre Ardente, between 1548 and 1550. In this period the crown (Henri II) and the court (dominated by Pierre Lizet) were in general agreement, and both persecution and prosecution rose to a new level of ferocity. But there were still some differences on the means to implement the elimination of heresy, and the Parlement resented a decree of 1543 (Edict of Paris) that seemed to reduce the court's traditional power over religious matters, to the advantage of the ecclesiastical authorities. In 1544 a list of prohibited books, prepared earlier by the Sorbonne, was established by royal decree (in imitation of the Roman Index); in 1545 special commissions of parlementaires to seek out heresy in particular regions began to function, providing precedents for both the personnel and the procedures of the Chambre Ardente. In 1546 the humanist Étienne Dolet (sometimes called the "martyr of the Renaissance") and fourteen members of the groupe de Meaux , formerly associated with Briçonnet, were put to death, and a much publicized procession was held some months later in expiation of their sins, at which the presence of all the lawyers licensed to practice before the Parlement was required. Fear of the noose was beginning to be felt in the Palais de Justice itself.[28]

[27] . All biographies of Calvin deal with his stay in Strasbourg and its influence on him. See William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (Oxford, 1988), 20-22.

[28] . Weiss, Chambre ardente , xxxvi-xxxviii.


It is worth noting that this new period of tension coincided with the collapse of the liberal reform effort in the Roman curia. Paul III began to lean in the direction of the "hard-liners," whose methods would triumph in the coming decades, personified by Cardinal Caraffa, later Paul IV. This leadership, in contrast to that of the liberals, under the Venetian Contarini, believed that no accommodation with heretics was either possible or desirable; their errors should simply be exterminated. The Society of Jesus, founded in 1540, stood ready to implement this policy; the Index and the Inquisition were already functioning in some states, and the Council of Trent held its first session in 1545-46.

The leadership of the court in this period was in perfect agreement with the new direction in Rome, under premier président Pierre Lizet and his alternate, président François de Saint-André. But this group proved to be a transitional generation, because although powerful, the acharnés could not really command and hold the confidence and adherence of the mainstream parlementaires who were not comfortable with their extreme position. Since moderates in the court could not safely voice their objections to the engine of repression on religious grounds (any such hint made one suspect), the initial murmurs of opposition ignored the specifically religious issues altogether and attacked instead the constitutionality of the Chambre Ardente as an "extraordinary tribunal." We have noted the court's resentment of any such body as a threat to the judicial sovereignty of the Parlement.[29]

A quarrel between Henri II and the papacy (Julius III) over the second session of the Council of Trent in 1551 provoked an incipient Gallican crisis and gave the moderates in Parlement a chance to reassert themselves. The Chambre Ardente had ceased to function, and heresy cases were moved into the Tournelle, the regular chamber for criminal cases. Important changes of personnel within the court itself also contributed to a decompression in the 1550s, especially with the appointment as présidents of two men who rapidly became the leaders of the inner group and remained so for a quarter of a century: Pierre (I) Séguier and Christophe de Thou, both fearless, influential, and solidly traditional in their views. From the outset (1554) they were able to shape Parlement's action and opinion, in part because of the removal from office of Lizet, and his temporary replacement by Jean Bertrand, who was distrusted and disliked, before the assumption of the premier présidence by Gilles Le Maistre, whose ambition often exposed

[29] . Shennan, The Parlement of Paris , 206-207; Bourrilly, ed., Journal d'un bourgeois , 213-216; Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 1:548-549; Doucet, Gouvernement de François I , 1:60-61.


him to hostile or satirical comment as well. Lizet, Bertrand, Le Maistre, each in his different way, deviated from the mainstream tradition, so that neither the majority of their contemporaries (nor the survivor-spokesmen for the Parlement at the end of the century like Loisel, L'Estoile, and La Roche-Flavin) felt comfortable with their ideas nor confident in their leadership. Séguier and de Thou, in contrast, they perceived as the embodiment of traditional parlementaire virtues.[30]

The decompression this time lasted five to six years. Although there were some signs of rising pressure in 1555, it did not become acute until 1557. It reached the highest level so far attained in 1559-60 and lasted for four years of escalating crisis including one of open civil war (only in the 1590s would tension be higher). The triggering events of 1557 included one action by the king (a proposal to establish a French inquisition) and one spectacular clash between the newly organized Parisian Calvinist community and the authorities (l'affaire de la rue St-Jacques ). But the complex and prolonged tension of 1557-63 came from the eruption of divisions within the court, formerly suppressed. Brought to light in contrasting judgments of heresy cases, and different reactions to royal religious policy in the context of a series of melodramatic events, these divisions reflected the necessity for each magistrate to think through the ideological puzzle and take a stand, as an individual Christian, as a subject of the French king, and as a member of Parlement.

The fact that the Pacification of Amboise (March 1563), which brought this crisis—together with the First Civil War—to an end coincided with the first major thrust of the Counter-Reformation is extremely significant. As soon as Cardinal Caraffa (Paul IV) ascended the throne of Peter he began to organize the several weapons created (or, in the case of the Inquisition, revived) by his predecessors into a system. The final session of the Council of Trent (1562-63), which provided the framework for the policies of the Roman church for four hundred years, thereafter issued a series of decrees relating to doctrine and to ecclesiastical administration that all Catholic rulers were then pressured to implement in their realms. No powerful ruler easily accepted these decrees, and even Philip II modified them to some extent. In France, they became the focus of the continuing struggle between Gallicans and ultramontanes, together with the legal status of the organi-

[30] . On the Gallican "crisis" of 1551, see Kelley, Foundations , 165-166; and chapter 2; on Pierre (I) Séguier and Christophe de Thou, see many specific references in chapters 1, 6-10, to these two leaders of the mainstream. On the disgrace of Lizet and its consequences, see Maugis, Parlement de Paris , 1:234 n.4; and AN x1a 1567, fols. 219, 223, 317.


zation most effective in carrying them out—the Society of Jesus. The Trent decrees and the Jesuits became the immediate targets, pushing the Concordat into the background—but never out of sight. Although declining to yield his own secular power over the church in Spain, Philip II, as is well known, committed his financial, diplomatic, and, when necessary, military power to the Catholic cause throughout the continent. In France, that meant partnership with the ultra-Catholic Guise-Lorraine party. The result was pivotal to our study: traditional Gallican concern with heresy faded in face of the much greater threat from Rome and Madrid. This shift of attention was entirely realistic; the ligueur -Spanish party was much stronger than the Huguenot party, even when the latter had the support of England and several German princes, and also at times stronger than the royalist-Gallican forces even when allied with the Huguenots in order to maintain the balance against the Counter-Reformation party.[31]

The end of this time segment, therefore, marks a break in our series. Whereas in the thirty-five years from the late 1520s to the early 1560s, the various shifts in parlementaire attitudes and policy were determined by the dual challenge to tradition from the dissidents on the one hand and from royal policy on the other, in the remaining years (into the early seventeenth century) the tensions between Gallican-traditionalists and the ultra-Catholics, foreign and domestic, were overriding. This did not mean greater acceptance of non-Catholic religious belief by parlementaires—far from it. In fact, the attitudes hammered out in the earlier decades were pretty well set by 1562. On certain occasions in the later decades, contention over policy toward heresy would surface again briefly—especially at the occurrence of a truce in the endemic civil wars. The Huguenot forces rarely managed to prevail in battle but always avoided final defeat and, when truces were signed, gained concessions: a measure of freedom of worship, access to offices and privileges, and politico-military autonomy in regions they already held. As one of the leading Catholic captains exclaimed in exasperation, "We win on the field and they with their damned documents!"[32]

The changed pattern after 1563 produced two periods of lesser tension over religious policy. One was in 1568, in the six months between the second and third civil wars, when there was a renewal of legal discrimination against Huguenots and the imposition of a second profession of faith on

[31] . On parlementaire hostility to the Trent decrees from the 1560s to the first years of the seventeenth century, see V. Martin, Gallicanisme , esp. 44-54, 188-211, 303-343.

[32] . Blaise de Monluc, Commentaires, 1521-1576 , ed. R. Courteault (Paris, 1964), 800.


royal officers. It lasted only until the end of the third war (August 1570). The decompression this time involved the most important of Catherine de Médicis's repeated attempts at reconciliation of the factions. The marriage of Henri de Navarre to one of the Valois daughters was to be the showpiece of this policy, and the crowning realization of the queen mother's dream. Unfortunately for long-range peace, the détente did not last. The presence of Huguenot leaders in fanatically Catholic Paris caused an explosion of anti-Huguenot prejudice, in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, four days after the wedding, August 24, 1572.[33] A second period of lesser tension occurred in 1576, when another Edict of Pacification—officially the Edict of Beaulieu, but usually referred to as the Peace of Monsieur—after the king's brother—stimulated the organization of the Holy League as a united movement (up to this point there had been a variety of regional leagues). The League challenged the king, Henri III, and supported policies that threatened the Gallican church.

An uneasy equilibrium prolonged the situation of 1563. We cannot speak of a "freeze" because there were three brief wars in the twenty-one years between the Pacification of Amboise and the death of Alençon in 1584, but in general the restraining factors prevailed over those threatening to upset the status quo. Two of the latter were new.[34] The active intervention of foreign powers on both sides, with military power supplementing diplomacy, blocked a military victory by any side. Of the nations involved, only Spain might (conceivably) have been strong enough, but it would have been a victory worse than Pyrrhic, and Philip hoped to prevail at a lesser cost. Catherine de Médicis's government became even weaker as she sought to reconcile factions and avoid war, civil or foreign, at almost any price—except capitulation to either faction. The weakness of the crown was hardly new, but as the decades dragged on, a general unraveling of morale took place, partly as a result of the feuds within the Valois family, which drew increasing comment.[35] The attack of the Huguenot pamphleteers on the

[33] . The works of N.M. Sutherland, especially The Massacre of St. Bartholomew and the European Conflict (London, 1973), were initially responsible for revision of Catherine's role, although the legend of "the wicked Italian queen" lingers in popular treatments. The relation of the Parlement to this major event is discussed in chapter 10.

[34] . On the interval and the causes and results of the Third Civil War (1568-1570) see Salmon, Society in Crisis , chs. 8-9; Nancy L. Roelker, Queen of Navarre: Jeanne d'Albret, 1528-1572 (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 297-300; J. Shimizu, Conflict of Loyalties: Politics and Religion in the Career of Gaspard de Coligny, Admiral of France, 1519-1572 (Geneva, 1970), esp. 125-130.

[35] . On the feuds in the Valois family see Roelker, Queen of Navarre , ch. 12 n.26; on dispatch of the Florentine ambassador (August 20, 1570) see A. Desjardins and G. Canestrini, eds., Négotiations diplomatiques de la France avec la Toscane (Paris, 1859-1875), 3:639.


royalist tradition was decidedly new, but its effects were further to isolate the Huguenots from the general population, and to reinforce in magistrates' minds their loyalty to the tradition of un roi, une foi . If a spokesman for the reformed faith advocated a revival of the Estates General and attacked Parlement for usurping its functions, as did François Hotman in the Franco-Gallia , parlementaires held up the work as confirming the irresponsibility and danger of religious dissent, a social evil that it was Parlement's duty to stamp out.[36] The implications for private belief also had a restraining effect. In the prevailing circumstances public adherence to the reform had become unthinkable for a member of the court; if he nevertheless held dissenting beliefs, he must keep them to himself, behind a safe, conformist façade. (He might, in other words, become a Nicodemite.)

Our final period of tension was initiated by the death of Alençon in 1584, which shocked Frenchmen into the realization that Henri de Bourbon would almost certainly become king at the death of Henri III, which could not be far off. Navarre's personal adherence to Calvinism, and even more his leadership of the Huguenot party, made this prospect unwelcome to many—and virtually unconstitutional to those for whom un roi, une foi was fundamental, if not officially a fundamental law. The pressure jumped up noticeably at once, and a new ultra-Catholic offensive sprang into being, sometimes called "the second League." It was in fact the old League, reorganized and reinvigorated, under the leadership of the second generation of the Guise-Lorraine family. With the help of Spain and the papacy they succeeded in capitalizing on the public discontents in French cities and towns to the point of open rebellion—in Paris on the Day of the Barricades, May 12, 1588.[37] Henri III was repudiated on the grounds that his weakness and concessions to heresy prevented him from fulfilling his royal duty, and after the assassination of the Guise brothers he was proclaimed a tyrant for persecuting the defenders of the true church. Under the doctrine of tyrannicide it became not merely legitimate but meritorious for anyone to assassinate him, without any special authorization.

[36] . Much has been written about the Huguenot "monarchomachs" and their pamphlets, especially by Kelley, Giesey, Salmon, and Franklin; and on Bèze's Droit des magistrats: e.g., Julian H. Franklin, ed., Constitutionalism and Resistance in the Sixteenth Century (New York, 1969); Kelley, François Hotman ; Hotman, Franco-Gallia .

[37] . The Day of the Barricades and the upheaval that followed figure in every history of the period. Pierre de L'Estoile's account, one of the fullest, is in his Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Roelker, 145-152.


Parlementaires found such disorder an abhorrence. The leadership that had to deal with it was in the hands of a younger generation, for the first time in twenty-five years. Pierre (I) Séguier had died in 1580, Christophe de Thou in 1582. There were of course many elements of continuity, in personnel and in opinion; the elite core was now led by Achille de Harlay, son of Christophe de Harlay and son-in-law of Christophe de Thou. His tenure as premier président would last for twenty-nine years (1582-1611), nine years longer than the term of his own predecessor, and he died in 1611, one year after the king whose reign he did much to bring about. The values stamped on the court by de Thou were voluntarily continued by Harlay, so that together they represent a half-century of mainstream mentalité .

The tension of this period did not break at all until the capitulation of Paris to Henri IV in March 1594, following his abjuration of Calvinism the previous July. At a lower level, the tension continued until 1598, the year when the first Bourbon king defeated the League, (with his nobles) drove the Spaniards out of France and then made peace with them in the Treaty of Vervins, and forced the Parlement of Paris to register the Edict of Nantes (February 1599). All the issues we have seen in earlier periods were raised again, but because the royal succession and even the survival of France as an independent nation were also at stake in the 1590s, the pressure was the greatest and the events were the most sensational of the entire century. For the parlementaires themselves the most intense pressure point of all time was the attack on the court by the extremist faction of the Paris League (the Sixteen) that led to the assassination of the premier président, Barnabé Brisson, and two others in November 1591.[38]

The Parlement of Paris put up the same struggle against the Edict of Nantes in 1598—after thirty-six years of civil war in which religious toleration was one of the main issues—as against the Edict of January 1562 and with many of the same arguments. But as we shall discover in chapter 11, the context was profoundly changed by the presence of a strong king. He was their opponent on the toleration issue and their ally in the Gallican issue, and their struggle was that of the fish on the end of the line held by a master fisherman.

[38] . On Barnabé Brisson see Barnavi and Descimon, Sainte-Ligue ; see also L'Estoile, Mémoires-Journaux , ed. Brunet, vols. 3-4; and Robert Descimon, Qui étaient les Seize? vol. 34 in Mémoires de la Fédération des sociétés historiques et archéologiques de Paris et l'Île de France (Paris, 1983)—a comprehensive biographical dictionary of the movement, with much genealogical as well as socioprofessional documentation.


5 Setting the Problem: Religious Values

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.