The Lit de Justice of the Kings of France

The Lit de Justice of the Kings of France: Constitutional Ideology in Legend, Ritual, and Discourse

Sarah Hanley
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 404
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvvsm
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  • Book Info
    The Lit de Justice of the Kings of France
    Book Description:

    In this study of the Lit de Justice assembly, Sarah Hanley draws on history, legend, ritual, and discourse to show how constitutional ideologies were propagated in the Grand-chambre of the Parlement of Paris during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    Originally published in 1983.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5536-0
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    Sarah Hanley
  5. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiv-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION: WHITHER THE ANCIENT FRENCH CONSTITUTION?
    (pp. 3-13)

    In the mid-eighteenth century theparlementaireLouis-Adrien Le Paige passionately decried the perverted format of the contemporaryLit de Justiceassembly.

    You ask me what aLit de Justiceis? I will tell you! In its origins and according to its true nature, aLit de Justice[assembly] is a solemn session of the king in the Parlement [of Paris] which is convoked to deliberate on important affairs of state. It is a tradition which originated in ancient general assemblies held in earlier times. ... [But today] the convocation of aLit de Justice[assembly] is an occasion of mourning...

  7. I THE JUDICIAL MONARCHY IN FRENCH CONSTITUTIONAL IDEOLOGY: THE ROYAL SÉANCE AND THE “LIT DE JUSTICE” IN THE LATER MIDDLE AGES
    (pp. 14-47)

    In early modern France the historical imagination was struck by the richness of the nation’s past as antiquarians and legists studied archival sources in search of the ancient constitution. The resulting reconstruction of the French constitution, outlined in the early sixteenth century by Jean du Tillet and elaborated in the early seventeenth century by a host of disciples, produced a critical typology of royal visits to the Parlement of Paris which distinguished between RoyalSéances(honorary visits) andLits de Justice(constitutional sessions), creating the historical fiction of a medievalLit de Justiceassembly. On the basis of that fiction...

  8. II THE JURISTIC MONARCHY IN FRENCH CONSTITUTIONAL IDEOLOGY: THE CEREMONIAL LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLIES OF 1527
    (pp. 48-85)

    Contrary to historical suppositions about its ancient origins, theLit de Justiceassembly first appeared in the early sixteenth century, not in the fourteenth century, and was clearly distinguished on constitutional grounds from the RoyalSéance,the usual type of parlementary session held in the Grand-chambre of Parlement and attended by the king. Likewise, contrary to historical opinion casting theLit de Justiceassembly primarily as a political tool used against parlementary remonstrances,¹ it was convoked in the sixteenth century mainly to treat specific matters related to Public Law. It is the purpose of the next few chapters to redress...

  9. III CONFIRMATION OF FRENCH HEGEMONY IN A CONSTITUTIONAL FORUM: THE LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY OF 1537
    (pp. 86-101)

    The case that has been posed thus far, that theLit de Justiceassembly appeared first in 1527 and served as an extraordinary constitutional forum, is borne out by the thirdLit de Justiceassembly, convoked by Francis I in the Grand-chambre of the Parlement of Paris on 15 January 1537.¹ It too was convened to discuss a matter involving the disposition of the royal domain and was therefore technically concerned with the Public Law of the French monarchy. Over the decade between the second and thirdLits de Justice,political relations between Francis I and Emperor Charles V were...

  10. IV FACT AND FICTION IN HISTORICAL RESEARCH: JEAN DU TILLET’S RECONSTRUCTION OF THE FRENCH CONSTITUTION
    (pp. 102-125)

    Although little is known about the evolution of the clerkship in the Parlement of Paris during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries,’ it is clear that the rapid rise in status accorded that office in the early sixteenth century correlated directly with a burgeoning interest in the French historical past. At the forefront of these developments, Jean du Tillet, Sieur de la Bussiere (d. 1570), exercised with consummate skill the office of chief clerk(greffier civil) of the Parlement of Paris for almost half a century. In 1526 he assumed the office to which he was appointed in 1521 and recorded...

  11. V A POLARIZED VIEW OF THE FRENCH CONSTITUTION: HISTORY DEBATED AND CEREMONY MODIFIED AT MID CENTURY
    (pp. 126-143)

    Between the late 1520’s and the 1550’s, the provenance of theLit de Justiceassembly was discussed, Jean du Tillet provided the assembly with historical roots and constitutional validity, and in royal circles, at least, theLit de Justiceby mid century was treated as a traditional constitutional forum. During the 1540’s and 1550’s, therefore, it is perplexing to find that theLit de Justiceassembly was not convoked while at the same time some of its novel ceremonial attributes were vested in the RoyalSéance.Although Henry II (1547-1559) did not hold aLit de Justiceduring his entire...

  12. VI THE QUESTION OF LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY: PROBLEMS OF REGENCY GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 144-159)

    TheLit de Justiceassembly, which was first convoked by Francis I in 1527 and 1537 and then provided with historical legitimacy by Jean du Tillet’s research spanning the 1530’s, 1540’s, and 1550’s, actually faded in practice during the latter two decades, yet spawned the historicalrhetorical debate about the ancient constitution at mid century. This paradoxical waxing and waning of practice and theory was further com plicated by a tangled web of regency problems and religious wars in the 1560’s. Francis II (1559-1560) did not visit the Parlement of Paris during his short reign.¹ Yet the young king’s claim to...

  13. VII THE ROYAL STANCE ON THE FRENCH CONSTITUTION: THE MAJORITY LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY OF 1563
    (pp. 160-182)

    The reappearance of theLit de Justiceassembly in 1563 reflected both circumstance and design. The assembly itself was not convoked during the 1540’s and 1550’s, yet the new theory of the ancient constitution, which depended on theLit de Justiceassembly for a separation of constitutional and judicial functions, was elaborated in those decades and integrated into discourse on constitutional ideology. As a result, fortune’s wheel reversed a turn: the “revival” of theLit de Justicein 1527 had generated its theoretical elaboration; in turn the new theory reactivated the assembly in 1563, altered somewhat to suit constitutional needs....

  14. VIII THE REVERSAL OF PARISIAN PARLEMENTARY PROCEDURE: REACTION TO THE MAJORITY LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY OF 1563
    (pp. 183-208)

    From the point of view of the royal party, the MajorityLit de Justiceof Rouen established two constitutional precedents: kings could convokeLit de Justiceassemblies in any Parlement of France, and the royal legislative prerogative demonstrated in the Majority ceremony signaled the end of regency government. For the Parlement of Rouen, which cooperated amiably in hosting the MajorityLit de Justice,the event brought eminence and set a favorable precedent for future location. But for the Parlement of Paris, which did not participate, the convocation of aLit de Justicein a provincial Parlement diluted the Parisian Parlement’s...

  15. IX A CONSERVATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL COURSE: THE ROYAL SÉANCE AND THE LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY 1569-1597
    (pp. 209-230)

    After its provincial debut as a Majority celebration in the Parlement of Rouen in 1563 (followed up in Bordeaux and Toulouse in 1564 and 1565), theLit de Justiceassembly was held only twice during the remainder of the sixteenth century, both times in the Parlement of Paris. Charles IX convoked theLit de Justicein 1573 and Henry IV in 1597; the first was a legitimate assembly according to prevailing constitutional policy whereas the second was not. The main architects of constitutional policy on theLit de Justice,Chancellor Michel de L’Hôpital and Jean du Tillet, had departed from...

  16. X THE DYNASTIC MONARCHY IN FRENCH CONSTITUTIONAL IDEOLOGY: THE INAUGURAL LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY OF 1610
    (pp. 231-253)

    On 14 May 1610 the Parlement of Paris had vacated the Grand-chambre for the post-Coronation festivities of the queen and were assembled in the Convent of the Augustinians when the news of Henry IV’s assassination was received.¹ Theparlementaireswere shocked by the dire news and confused by conflicting reports. They sent for First President Achille (I) de Harlay to assume command of the Court and dispatched thegens du roi(Louis Servin and Cardin Le Bret) to confer with Queen Marie de Medicis at the palace of the Louvre. Thegens du roimet with the royal party at...

  17. XI A REVISION OF CONSTITUTIONAL IDEOLOGY: THE CORONATION ENTRÉE TO REIMS IN 1610
    (pp. 254-280)

    Louis XIII’S extraordinaryLit de Justiceof 1610, which concurrently inaugurated a minor king and displayed his legislative capacity, effectively modified the French constitution. First, the InauguralLit de Justicedisplaced the inaugural program of the sixteenth century, which demonstrated the tenets of juristic monarchy. Second, it stimulated a new wave of historical research onLits de Justiceand a programmatic extension of ritual therein. Third, it witnessed the demise of the RoyalSéanceand the amplification of legislative functions in theLit de Justiceassembly.

    The traditional ceremonial program of inauguration (Royal Funeral, Coronation, and MajorityLit de Justice)...

  18. XII THE ARTICULATION OF DYNASTIC RIGHT AND LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY: LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLIES 1614-1641
    (pp. 281-306)

    In theLit de Justiceof 1610 the Parlement of Paris sought prominence on two fronts, as the primary inaugural institution and as the legislative tutor of a minor king. To realize those ends, the Court willingly implemented the royal inauguration but issued a preemptive regencyarrêtto limit royal legislative capacity. Yet in the long run the ceremonial demonstration of dynastic kingship carried out in theLit de Justice,repeated in the CoronationEntrée,and rationalized by legend-makers stamped the emerging system of dynastic monarchy with a strong legislative hue. Starkly dramatic thenceforth was the royal alliance of dynastic...

  19. XIII THE ABSOLUTIST MONARCHY IN FRENCH CONSTITUTIONAL IDEOLOGY: THE ROYAL SÉANCE AND THE LIT DE JUSTICE ASSEMBLY 1643-1713
    (pp. 307-328)

    The InauguralLit de Justiceof 1643 took place in circumstances quite different from its prototype of 1610. When Louis XIV succeeded to the Crown of France as a minor there was no pressing constitutional crisis, because the ideology of dynastic monarchy, introduced through the ritual of Louis XIII’s InauguralLit de Justice,confirmed in the pre-CoronationEntrée,and propagated for decades, allowed no ceremonial or legal interregnum in theory or practice. Nor was there a regency issue to settle, because the regency had been declared by Louis XIII weeks before his death. Nor, finally, was the firstLit de...

  20. XIV EPILOGUE: THE BOURBON CULT OF RULERSHIP AT THE TURN OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 329-344)

    Toward the end of the seventeenth century and at the turn of the eighteenth century the Bourbon cult of rulership comprehended a variety of disparate attributes—secular and sacred, classical and Christian, rational and magical—and was supported by the cultural system at large. Casting its net ever wider for French and foreign adherents, the royal cult first moved out of the Grand-chambre into the palaces, churches, and streets of Paris and then crossed international borders. The perpetrators of that phenomenon—ceremonial masters, writers, artists, historiographers, and propagandists—constructed a grand cultural edifice for Louis XIV. Only brief comments can...

  21. Table One: The Legend of the Lit de Justice Assembly
    (pp. 345-352)
  22. Table Two: The Lit de Justice Assembly in the Recueil des roys de France of Jean du Tillet (ed. 1607)
    (pp. 353-354)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 355-372)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 373-388)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 389-389)