Louis XIV and the Parlements: The Assertion of Royal Authority

By John J. Hurt | Go to book overview

4
The ordeal of
the parlementaires

To fund the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714), Michel Chamillart, the controller general, increased current taxes, invented new taxes, borrowed heavily and manipulated the currency, the customary methods long called into use by hard-pressed finance ministers.1 Like Pontchartrain, but with greater frequency, he also extracted large sums from the parlements; and his successor, Nicolas Desmarets, continued to pursue them financially. Long before the war ended, the magistrates had reached the limits of their financial 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 of several years. But in late 1702 Chamillart surprised the tribunals when, in an unprecedented move, he demanded a new augmentations de gages in the same amount as in 1701 – another 5.67 million livres. To soften the blow, he set a higher rate of interest, the 16th denier (6.25 per cent), but the whole project took the parlements aback and led to somewhat mixed results.

Chamillart began by asking First President Harlay to persuade the Parlement of Paris to accept the augmentations de gages voluntarily, intending to use its example to induce the provincial parlements to fall into line. As a royal client par excellence, Harlay could be trusted, if anyone could, to serve the king’s interests. Surprisingly, however, the first president protested strongly, his first demur on a financial issue, picturing his magistrates as destitute, having sold their ‘silver plate and other movables’ to satisfy the augmentations de gages

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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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