Victory over the parlements,
In 1663, Colbert instructed the intendants to gather political and financial information about the leading institutions and personalities of provincial France. In what he saw as an all-inclusive survey, he identified the political behaviour of the parlements as ‘the most important affair’ to consider. Colbert particularly wanted to know whether the parlements, having behaved badly in the Fronde, would make trouble in the future. The intendants were to scrutinize individual judges and determine their political loyalties, down to the last detail. Obviously Colbert respected the parlements and worried about how to cope with them.1
Within little more than a decade, however, he lost this anxiety and even his interest in the internal politics of the tribunals. When, in 1679, the intendant Herbigny reported on opposition judges in the Parlement of Grenoble, Colbert replied that Herbigny was wasting his time, as no one cared about the magistrates any more. The royal administration could not even remember why the parlements had been important in the past, ‘and it is to their advantage that it is this way now’.2 If Colbert had lost so much interest in the parlements, this could only mean that the king had finally rendered them politically harmless, completing the work begun in the ordinance of civil procedure. This chapter will explain when and how this important change occurred and what it meant in terms of issues, events and circumstances. For the most part our interest in this chapter lies with the provincial parlements, inasmuch as the Parlement of Paris, having been chastised in the lit de justice of 1669, remained reasonably calm.
Soon after he joined the High Council, Colbert took control of the royal domain and began an effort to increase its revenue stream. The domain consisted of real property in all its forms and revenue-generating rights that the king enjoyed as sovereign, the difference between its corporeal and incorporeal elements.