Louis XIV and the Parlements: The Assertion of Royal Authority

By John J. Hurt | Go to book overview

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 period was 1671–1673. As a result of their resistance to the fiscal demands of the Dutch War, the king imposed upon the tribunals those rules about registration procedure that deprived them of any influence upon new laws, relegating them to the margins of political life for the duration of the reign. Viewed from the perspective of constitutional thought and parlementary precedent, both dating from early in the sixteenth century, this was a big step in a new direction, a daring break with precedent. It was at once inherent in the claims long advanced by sympathizers with absolute government but also contingent upon the events of the 1670s and the personal decisions of Louis XIV.

Nothing ensured that the king would subject the parlements to such a stern regimen; he might have stopped with the rules he established in 1667, more in line with those of his predecessors, and avoided a showdown, as they always did. Instead, he put the parlements in their place and kept them there until he died. When the regent Philippe d’Orléans, after a brief conciliatory period, enjoyed a fresh success with authoritarian methods, he demonstrated once again the hard realism that lay at the heart of absolute government. This is not to deny that in other areas, notably in their spheres of judicial and administrative competence, the royal administration treated the parlements favourably, even leniently. But this was because the king already occupied the political high ground, controlling the strategic terrain. Strong where it counted most, he could afford to relax pressure in areas where issues of supreme authority did not come into play.

-195-

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Louis XIV and the Parlements: The Assertion of Royal Authority
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables viii
  • Preface and Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Abbreviations xvii
  • Introduction- Sovereignty and Registration of the Laws 1
  • 1 - Compulsory Registration and Its Limits, 1665–1671 17
  • 2 - Victory over the Parlements, 1671–1675 38
  • 3 - Venal Office and the Royal Breakthrough 67
  • 4 - The Ordeal of the Parlementaires 95
  • 5 - The Regent and the Parlements- The Bid for Cooperation 125
  • 6 - Confronting the Parlement of Paris, 1718 149
  • 7 - Sequels 173
  • Conclusion 195
  • Select Bibliography 200
  • Index 216
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