The assertion of royal authority

This study examines the political and economic relationship between Louis XIV and the parlements of France, the parlement of Paris and all the provincial tribunals. It explains how the king managed to overcome the century-old opposition of the parlements to new legislation, and to impose upon them the strict political discipline for which his reign is known. The work calls into question the current revisionist understanding of the reign of Louis XIV and insists that, after all, absolute government had a harsh reality at its core. When the king died in 1715, the regent, Philippe d'Orleans, after a brief attempt to befriend the parlements through compromise, resorted to the authoritarian methods of Louis XIV and perpetuated the Sun King's political and economic legacy.

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Conclusion As previously noted, revisionist historians view the royal state as ruling Old Regime France by means of compromises with national and regional elites, sharing authority with them and protecting their interests in return for their loyalties. This study has tried to show that the administration of Louis XIV had after all an authoritarian core, especially in its relations with the parlements. Absolute government, whatever ornate compromises decorated its multiple facades, rested on an authoritarian foundation. With respect to our topic, the critical

in Louis XIV and the parlements

1 Compulsory registration and its limits, 1665–1671 Every student of French history knows that Louis XIV deprived the parlements of their most important power and function – that of opposing new legislation, especially fiscal legislation, when it first appeared before them. Given the tendency of the parlements to obstruct new legislation, frequently under Henry IV and Louis XII and periodically under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the reign of Louis XIV stands in sharp contrast in this regard. Curiously, however, even the most recent studies offer little in the way of

in Louis XIV and the parlements

office. Parker and Mettam, expanding upon Moote and inspired by Beik, thought that the kings reached a social compromise with office-holders, intentionally making them into partners of absolute government by respecting their venal interests and bolstering their economic and social position. Revisionism firmly insists that Louis XIV treated the venal interests of the parlementary judges with particular delicacy. It argues, in the manner of Lavisse and Mousnier, that on the issue of venality the upper magistracy still limited the authority of the king. On this reading, 67

in Louis XIV and the parlements

endurance, with their offices heavily mortgaged and dwindling in value and office income drying up. On the subject of venality, the late reign of Louis XIV indeed subjected the magistrates to a grinding ordeal. The Augmentations de gages of 1702–1703 In 1701, as preparations for the war began, the magistrates were busy paying the government 5.67 million livres in augmentations de gages for the renewal of the droit annuel (chapter 3, Table 1), their money going directly into various war-related treasuries. Based on past experience, they had reason to expect a financial respite

in Louis XIV and the parlements
The bid for cooperation

5 The regent and the parlements: the bid for cooperation On 2 September 1715, the Parlement of Paris recognized Philippe, duc d’Orléans, a grandson of Louis XIII and the nephew of the late Louis XIV, as regent of France, with the exercise of sovereignty until Louis XV, five years old, came of age. In so doing, the tribunal set aside the political articles of the testament of the late king who, distrusting Orléans, had denied him the title of regent and merely named him chief of a Regency Council, where he could be outvoted by rivals and enemies. Although the

in Louis XIV and the parlements
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returned to Rennes, the whole Parlement closely followed the struggle waged by the Parisian judges against the recoinage edict. That episode led to the idea, which apparently originated with the Bretons, of joining forces with the senior tribunal, another ‘association’ for d’Argenson to apprehend and to disapprove. 173 Louis XIV and the parlements In 1709, the Parlement of Rennes had distributed a circular letter to all the parlements in an apparent effort to rally them in mutual opposition to the financial demands of the government, so the idea of a broad association had

in Louis XIV and the parlements
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Sovereignty and registration of the laws

frequently, affirmed their steadfast belief in the king’s full legislative sovereignty. But as framers of the American constitution would one day discover, things grew more complicated when political theory gave way to the actual making of laws.2 The kings issued laws and sent them to their parlements to be registered, in order to bring the new legislation to public attention and to make it enforceable within the parlements’ jurisdictions. Reduced to its essentials, registration meant that the parlements ‘published’ the laws by reading them aloud in open 1 Louis XIV and the

in Louis XIV and the parlements

with revenue farmers (traitants or fermiers), financiers who made money by advancing funds to the crown against the yield of taxes and other fiscal devices. Colbert chose to make some revenue farmers into royal clients and to support their interests, provided that they supplied the money he needed. He thus put into place a close fiscal/administrative partnership that would outlive himself and Louis XIV and ultimately make the government dependent upon monied interests, as has recently been argued. At the onset, however, the financiers needed the strong support in the

in Louis XIV and the parlements

what 149 Louis XIV and the parlements he is saying. His brief statement, to which he finally gave voice, also failed to impress. It merely reaffirmed the government’s promise to pay interest on all its notes and loans, a bland, halting response that answered none of the substantive points in the remonstrance.2 At a divisive plenary session on 4 March, the Parlement appointed commissioners to examine d’Argenson’s remarks but assigned them no deadline upon which to report. This tabled things until further notice – although not, as it turned out, permanently. For the time

in Louis XIV and the parlements