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 X V, 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 magistrates had followed the dictates of public law, they also did Orléans a favour, which he promptly repaid.1
By the Declaration of Vincennes, issued on 15 September, the regent restored to all the parlements the right to submit remonstrances before they registered new laws, that part of registration procedure that allowed them the most influence upon legislation. The tribunals thus recovered some of the leverage and bargaining power taken from them in 1673, and even those historians most sympathetic to Orléans have faulted him for what they see as a political mistake.2 Indeed, one can well ask why the regent, as one of his first official acts, chose to blur the sharp, clear lines within which Louis XIV had confined the once unruly tribunals.
The answer is that he wanted to make the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris, and by extension those in all the tribunals, into friends and allies. In an effort to win their affection, he cajoled, courted and occasionally capitulated to the very judges whom Louis XIV had tethered. In 1718, when Orléans finally broke with the Parlement, he described his earlier attitude towards it as one of ‘deference’ and ‘friendship’. The duc de Saint-Simon, his lifelong friend and a member of the Regency Council, condemned it as irresolute fawning, born of an exaggerated sense of the Parlement’s importance. But Orléans was not alone in believing that the tribunal could trouble his regency unless he got it on his side.3
Well before 1715, high-level officials anticipated that all the parlements would emerge from their political cocoons once the reign ended. Already in 1709, d’Argenson, the lieutenant general of police for Paris, had cautioned the