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Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth-Century

Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth-Century: The Politics of Patrimony

Barbara B. Diefendorf
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 380
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  • Book Info
    Paris City Councillors in the Sixteenth-Century
    Book Description:

    This book examines the character of the governing elite of sixteenth-century Paris--a group that included some of the most important jurists, administrators, and intellectuals of the early modern French state--and investigates the strategies employed by members of this group to promote and maintain their position in the city and in the monarchy.

    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: 978-1-4008-5377-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. A Note on Manuscript Sources and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Map of Paris
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxvi)

    Historians have long recognized that the bourgeoisie of sixteenth-century Paris produced some of the most illustrious dynasties of thenoblesse de robeof Old Regime France. They have recognized as well that the ties of kinship played an important part in the success of these families. And yet, despite the burgeoning literature on elites and the family in French history, little work has as yet been published on the families that constituted the dominant elite of the largest city and political capital of the sixteenth-century French monarchy.¹ Ironically, the very importance of the role played by Paris and its inhabitants...

  8. PART I Portrait of a Municipal Elite

    • 1. City Government: Institutions and Politics
      (pp. 3-32)

      Paris in the sixteenth century was the center of the French monarchy. Though the king’s household was not yet stationary, ambling like the medieval court from one royal residence to another and lingering more frequently in the gracious châteaux of the Loire valley than amidst the noisome activity of the metropolis on the Seine, Paris remained the heart of the realm. More than a symbol, “the glory of France, and one of the noblest ornaments of the world,” as Montaigne expressed it,¹ Paris was a functioning capital, a city that bustled with the business of the king.

      If the Valois...

    • 2. The City Councillors: A Collective Portrait
      (pp. 33-80)

      As we have seen in the previous chapter, election procedures in the Parisian municipality allowed a small number of families to dominate civic politics. It is the purpose of this chapter to examine the social and professional character of the families that made up that unofficial, self-selecting elite, first by studying the family background of the participants in city government and then by investigating their occupational pursuits. A number of questions present themselves: Was the Prévôté de la Marchandise in the sixteenth century still the organ of the merchants of Paris? What role did the growing legions of royal officers...

  9. PART II Professional Advancement

    • 3. The Careers of the City Councillors
      (pp. 83-111)

      For purposes of analysis, career choices, matrimonial arrangements, and successional patterns will be dealt with separately in the next three parts of the book. It is important, however, to realize that these three aspects of family planning are closely interrelated, not only in their psychological, motivational aspect but in their financial aspect as well. A man’s marriage and his first important professional position quite often occurred simultaneously, or nearly so, and the financial settlement of the marriage was frequently instrumental in advancing a man’s career. The influence and contacts of the newly acquired in-laws could serve this same purpose.


    • 4. Fathers and Sons
      (pp. 112-152)

      The choice of a career for one’s sons, like the choice of a son’s marriage partner, was quite naturally accepted as a parental responsibility by the middle and upper classes of sixteenth-century France. In legal documents, personal letters, and diaries, we read of men being “destined” by their fathers for the church, the army, or the courts. Though many fathers did not live to see their sons’ destinies fulfilled, they planned with care for the future careers of their young sons. Depending upon a man’s background and character, the decisions he made about his sons’ careers might be based upon...

  10. PART III The Marriage Alliance

    • 5. The Institution of Marriage
      (pp. 155-191)

      For the sixteenth-century Frenchman, as for the believing Catholic today, the sacrament of marriage joined man and wife in a mystical, indissoluble union. For the early modern state and society, however, the personal union of two unique individuals had distinctly less importance than the social and economic partnership engendered by the marriage vows. The elite of sixteenth-century Paris would have agreed with Montaigne when he said, “we do not marry for ourselves, whatever we say; we marry just as much or more for our posterity, for our family.”¹ Like Montaigne, they believed in the arrangement of marriage by a third...

    • 6. Marriage in the City Councillors’ Families
      (pp. 192-210)

      As we have seen, it was the practical value of marriage as an institution designed to protect and promote the family and its patrimony that mattered most. The personal bond between husband and wife and the ability of the union to satisfy the emotional and physiological needs of the marriage partners were clearly secondary. Within this context, marriage appears quite naturally as an alliance between families rather than individuals. It is important therefore to examine in more detail just how these alliances worked among the families of the city councillors. Because, as Roland Mousnier has pointed out, “a man married...

  11. PART IV The Family Estate

    • 7. The Marriage Contract
      (pp. 213-251)

      If a family was to prosper over a long period, it had not only to acquire prestigious positions and alliances but also to manage its wealth in such a way that both stability and growth were assured. The most vulnerable points in the family’s economic cycle occurred with the marriages and deaths of its members. These occurrences necessitated the reassessment of the rights and needs of individuals within the family and the reapportionment of family assets to meet these rights and needs. Because these matters were considered too important to be left to individual discretion, a body of customary law...

    • 8. Inheritance: Dividing the Family Estate
      (pp. 252-278)

      When a member of the Parisian elite died, the funeral was traditionally celebrated with great pomp. Members of the household were outfitted with new mourning clothes, masses were said, candles were lit, and alms were distributed to the poor. A cortege, which usually included representatives of the mendicant orders, children from local orphanages, and poor people who mourned professionally for a few sous, as well as friends and family, followed the casket to the cemetery or church where the deceased was laid to rest among the tombs of his ancestors.¹ If the deceased was a city councillor, the members of...

    • 9. Widowhood, Remarriage, and the Protection of the Patrimony
      (pp. 279-297)

      Because so many people died at an early age, it was very common for a marriage to be terminated by death before all of the children were grown.¹ The tendency to prolong the period of childbearing until it was ended naturally by death or menopause, coupled with the fact that most women were married to men eight years or more their senior, meant that widows were often left with young children. At least one-third of the city councillors died leaving a widow with minor children to raise. It is important therefore to consider the problems posed by widowhood and by...

  12. Conclusion. The Politics of Patrimony
    (pp. 298-306)

    Conscious of their status and confident of their role in both city and monarchy, the families of the city councillors of sixteenth-century Paris constituted one of the most important elites in the French kingdom. Their high standing and the stability of their position were maintained through the dextrous use of a variety of formal and informal mechanisms. For analytical purposes, it has been necessary to isolate these mechanisms and examine separately the ways in which civic office, professional advancement, marriage, and the partition of the family estate contributed to the acquisition and maintenance of the councillors’ position. In practice, however,...

  13. APPENDIX List of City Councillors, 1535-1575
    (pp. 307-312)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-338)
  15. Index
    (pp. 339-352)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-353)