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

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.

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.