Religion and Royal Justice in Early Modern France: The Paris Chambre De L'édit, 1598-1665

Article excerpt

Religion and Royal Justice in Early Modern France: The Paris Chambre de l'Édit, 1598-1665. By Diane C. Margolf. [Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 67.] (Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press. 2003. Pp. xx, 227. $36.00 paperback.)

Diane C. Margolf here offers the first archival investigation of the Paris Chambre de l'édit, most important of the courts established to protect the legal rights of French Protestants under the terms of the Edict of Nantes.The Edict, issued by Henri IV in 1598, aimed at ending more than thirty years of war between Catholics and Protestants in France.

The Edict of Nantes and the courts it established were not an unqualified success, however. Margolf's exploration of the Chambre's records reveals several reasons why this was so. The courts were not independent but, rather, branches of the parlements, royal courts of appeal that dominated the judicial systems of the French provinces. Most of the parlements' judges were Catholics, which made it difficult for the subordinate Catholic-Protestant courts to act decisively in defense of Protestant rights. Just as the Paris parlement had the largest jurisdiction of any court in the system, so its Chambre de l'édit was the court of last resort for Protestants all over northern France. Yet it never had more than one Protestant judge.

Margolf divides the Chambre's cases into three groups.The first covers lawsuits arising from actions taken during the wars of religion. The court had to decide what constituted religiously motivated crimes and what fell under the king's command that the violence normal in wartime should be forgiven, if not forgotten. …