Actes du Parlement de Paris et documents du temps de la Ligue
(1588-1594), Paris, Champion, 2012
A veritable monument of scholarship! 665 octavo pages of Introduction, texts, notes, bibliography and index, all puzzlingly contextualized by the learned avocat, Pierre Pithou, who had a hand in the selection and ordering of a source narrative of relations between the Parlement of Paris and the League.
Sylvie Daubresse (henceforth abbreviated as "SD") is learnedly cautious. She is reluctant to speculate about the specific reasons why some quite possibly politically inflammatory texts remain the registers of the Parlement after Pithou (and others, as we shall learn) was instructed to remove them. Her caution is appropriate and must be respected; but that does not stop readers from conjecturing that when something is wrong, over time there will follow an impulse by someone else, to get it right.
This is my humble apology for what follows.
As evident by the dates, SD's Le Parlement de Paris ou la voix de la raison (1559-1589), Geneva, Droz, 2005, pp. 558, overlaps by only one year, 1588, what we will henceforth call the "Recueil Pithou." But there is, in fact, another book that is disguised as three chapters (211 pages!), entitled "De Paris à Tours; le Parlement de Paris 'du Roi' face au Parlement 'de la Ligue' (1589-1594)," which appears in a book, Le Parlement en exil, ou histoire politique et judiciaire des translations du parlement de Paris (XVe au XVIIIe siècles), whose authors are Sylvie Daubresse, Monique Morgat-Bonnet, and Isabelle Storez-Brancourt (Paris: Champion, 2007), pp. 841, a veritable mine of analysis and information, with a post-face by Françoise Hildesheimer. What follows will be a back and forth among SD's major works, with an emphasis upon the Recueil Pithou.
Nancy Roelker's One King, One Faith, the Parlement of Paris and the Religious Reformations of the Sixteenth Century (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1996), and Michel de Wael's Les Relations entre le Parlement de Paris et Henri IV (Paris: Publisud, 2000) may also be mined for the complementary fact, but I shall not go back and reread the urtexte for all these recent works: E. Maugis, Histoire du Parlement de Paris (Paris: Picard, 1913-1916); and the sources are largely the X series of the Archives nationales.
What follows will merely be soundings of different approaches and aims. The first will be quite bibliographical and centered on a Da-Vinci-code like hypothesis: what might the greffier civil have removed from the registers of which he was the keeper, before setting off for the Spanish Netherlands? The second will be a preliminary close reading of all the materials that Pierre Pithou personally wrote upon or copied, as he carried out instructions to delete from the registers materials that were susceptible of carrying out the official policy of "oubliance." The third and fourth will be advanced in due course.
Du Tillet should not be above suspicion, because there could have been "son-like-father" instances; see Elizabeth A.R. Brown's "Jean du Tillet et les archives de France," Histoire et Archives, 2 (1997), pp. 29-63
The last line of Henry IV's lettres de commission of March 20, 1594 - which created Antoine Loisel avocat du roi and Pierre Pithou procureur du roi in the Parlement, until the holders of those offices presently in Tours can assume their duties in a unified Parlement in Paris - states: "Collation a esté faicte avec l'original, rendu au Sr Pithou." It is not in the Recueil.
On March 30, 1594, the Paris (League) Parlement established a commission to Guillaume du Vair et Jehan Pithou, avocat, to search through the Parlement's archives in order to "suppress" what might be injurious or incriminating owing to the late troubles. "Jehan" Pithou, a scribal error? If Pierre Pithou is meant, he is still referred to by his title avocat, although the lettre de commission is dated March 28 and is the first recorded official act by Henry IV included in the register (Annexe, pp. 605ff) that created Pithou procureur général!
There was no time limit for the commission authorizing Pithou and Guillaume du Vair to search the archives; but we have already noted that Pithou's office as procureur général does have a time limit. Jacques de La Guesle, the permanent holder of the office, took up his duties on April 20, 1594, when the loyalist Tours Parlement and the league Paris Parlement were reunited.
But there is more. Not just administrative confusion about first names and titles, but also evidence of tension, animosity and probably hatred can be discerned over the supposedly relatively unimportant cleansing of the Parlement's archives.
With the royal letter in hand, Pithou had garde over the archives and, with du Vair, probably went quickly to work as of March 30, 1594. But then, on April 6, 1594, the Parlement removed Pithou from the commission to search the archives and replaced him with a Leaguer conseiller - tepid, yet a Leaguer nonetheless — named Philibert Le Masuyer. Thus Pithou was relieved of his duties on April 6, that is, just twelve days before his office as procureur général would be terminated by La Guesle's return to duty.
Pierre Pithou was an engaged and learned loyalist, a friend of Jacques-Auguste de Thou, and probably of the party of the rehabilitated chancellor, Hurault de Cheverny. By going through the registers, he could learn not only about the League as a faction, but also about individual conseillers as they sought to support Mayenne's war effort.
A commonplace among historians in the late sixteenth century is the need to be able to consult state archives. How could the history of the State be written without access to state papers? Pithou was a legist and a historian trained to interpret documents. He had been a Huguenot, and he was known for his learnedly farouche Gallicanism. It is highly doubtful that Le Masuyer would have held the same view as Pithou of the recent past, the years of civil wars. The still-in-place League presidents, Séguier, Cotton and Saint-André, had écarté Pithou. Yet de Thou says (SD, p. 8), that Pithou acted with Loisel. Could Pithou have gone through the registers to blot out or to cull the incriminating documents and in a mere nine days copy out for the Recueil? I believe so. Du Vair's role remains unclear, since his handwriting does not appear on the culled documents. A learned loyalist, a courageous street fighter (see Roelker, p. 430; and Radouant, p. 376), and a defender of the Salic law, du Vair may simply have deferred to Pithou, the historian, about how to carry out the duties of this brief commission. N.B.: De Thou does not attribute a role to him.
In carrying out those duties, was Pithou's first priority to remove documents susceptible of serving as precedents against the Crown? The League Estates-General, SD notes, is certainly a central preoccupation. Let's look for others. What about relations with Rome? And why did Pithou himself do so much of the copying? These issues will be explored more deeply in Part II of this essay.
Was Pithou the first to go through the registers and pull out incriminating or treasonable evidence? What about the Sieur de la Buissière, alias Jean du Tillet, greffier civil, a known Leaguer? Our first response is: Heavens no! he is very professional and would never do such a thing. After a paraphe that is "undoubtedly" his own, on a document dated March 7, 1589 (SD, p. 109), Jean du Tillet disappears from the Recueil Pithou! Readers must carefully ponder SD's second paragraph, p. 30, which describes the procedures for selecting and copying drafts to more definitive and official registers, moving from paper (but not always) to parchment. The1594 registers bear du Tillet's name, as if he had triumphed over his colleague, Richard Tardieu, who had performed these duties in the Parlement in Tours and with whom du Tillet was in conflict (SD, p. 34). But as SD informs me, these lettres are in fact brouillons; that accounts for the absence of du Tillet's signature, which was reserved for the final copy. The registers for 1594 (presumably the ones starting in March?) bear du Tillet's name.
In Robert Descimon and José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez, Les Ligueurs de l'Exil (Paris: Champs Vallon, 2005, we find Du Tillet in Liège, July 16, 1597 (p. 134), and "known to have been among the first exiles in Brussels" (p. 161). The greffier did not belong to a major household such as d'Aumale's that traveled north as a group, but he certainly had close ties to some of the other exiles. When, for various reasons, the "community of exiles" had the principal names listed in 1596 and 1597, Du Tillet's name does not show up. But the question is, When did he choose exile and effectively cease his duties in the Parlement? Jacques du Tillet and Louis du Tillet (the latter did not make it into the index) continued as members of the League Parlement, but was Jean still on duty?
According to SD, the five previous years, beginning in late March 1594, were not inscribed in the great parchment registers. Yet the registers of 1594 bear du Tillet's signature (presumably they date from the last months of the League). Through a micro-study of du Tillet's relations with Tardieu, the greffier at Tours, it might be possible to learn not only when du Tillet set off for the Spanish Netherlands, but also to find some retroactive recordings and signings by du Tillet in various registers.
Obviously, there is no evidence of things removed or blotted out by du Tillet. In the Recueil Pithou there are numerous references to Jacques du Tillet, and to Louis as well, as having been continued as conseillers in the League Parlement.
But what would du Tillet have thought should be deleted? The relations with the Papacy during the League's strong moment might have made a very devout and moderate Gallican uncomfortable. Also, allusions in the Recueil Pithou to Épernon (he was the lover of du Tillet's sister, Descimon and Ibáñez, p. 254) seem innocent enough; but the ex-mignon might have prompted something actionable from a League Parlement.
Du Tillet's brother-in-law, Pierre II Séguier, had taken refuge in the Perche (SD, "Parlement en exile," p. 325). He eventually was known to be loyal to Henry IV, but it seems that he lacked the courage to go to Tours when ordered to do so. He is not mentioned in the Recueil Pithou. Antoine Séguier was accused by the League of being close to Épernon (SD, Le Parlement ou la voix, p. 440). He had been a trimmer, speaking in favor of the Guises yet supporting royal authority once the time to make a final choice had arrived. Descimon and Ibáñez (p. 20) state that he was a pro-Jesuit royalist and an opponent of the Edict of Nantes, before being favorable to the pro-Spanish policies of Marie de Médicis.
The serment de l'Union of January 26, 1589, lists Aleaume (not in the index), who belonged to a family closely allied with the du Vairs; but if Guillaume du Vair actually participated in the culling of documents (he also signed the serment!), he probably left the actual removal of the serment to Pithou or Loisel. Published, and therefore easily available, the original was still removed from the registers and could not be cited as being in the registers. And Pithou did not copy it.
But, reader, enough hypotheticals! My point is that, thanks to all the new studies and to the publication of this monumental source, scholars will at last be encouraged to study, as never before, family ties, clientage networks and factions. We must catch up to what the British have accomplished in the history of their Parliament — truly remarkable.
A final point. I note SD's decision to number all the documents in the Recueil. This was an excellent decision, as it facilitates brief, rapid identification for readers. It occurred to me, however, that neither Pithou nor, for that matter, the greffiers entrusted with the Parlement's memory in the registers, ever turned to such a simple and efficient mode of citation and securitization. Withdrawing an arrêt from a register would have been immediately observable, owing to a missing number!
* * *
Thanks to SD's great care, it will now be possible to work out the shifts from very strong presence, to strong presence, to presence, in collecting materials for the Recueil Pithou. Pithou's handwriting is noted at every point: hence it is possible to discern how he worked at culling and copying from the archives of the Parlement. No less interesting are the documents in the Recueil that probably do not derive from that hastily-done commission. Thus the texts in the Recueil with Pithou's handwriting, and the remarkable lists in numbers 240 and 241, will be our focus of attention. A third, extremely important variant is represented by the documents copied out in extenso by Pithou himself. A fourth focus, the point sublime, will be remarks about the transcribed minutes of the Parlement's acts.
1. documents with marginalia in Pithou's hand;
2. documents listed in 240-241 that actually are in the Recueil;
3. documents copied out in extenso by Pithou;
4. the minutes: what do they tell us?
First, let's begin by noting that Pithou copied in full the first document (doc. 1), Henry III's letter to Guillaume Rose, the oldest document, dated 1583, that is, almost five years before the next document (doc. 2), which is printed in the version in the Recueil and with no evidence of Pithou's writing on it.
The last documents in the Recueil, as already noted, are the lists of documents in Pithou's hand. Thus the Recueil is built on a powerful, authentic foundation; the first and last documents have an autograph provenance from the learned avocat and temporary procureur général. We must be wary, however: document 1 is not on lists 240-241! Is this also the case for the other documents bearing Pithou's hand? This would be easy to verify, because on page 12 SD supplies her own list of where Pithou's hand can be observed. Sauf erreur, of the documents on her list, only one, document 8, is very specific to a meeting of the Paris city government, resulting en forme de l'exécution en Parlement (doc. 8 of list 241); but the document does not contain a list of names and therefore is not the same as the one cited in list 241. In the title of document 12 there is a reference to the legal appeals of Catherine of Cleves, and some testimony at the end; but on list 240 only her renunciation of community of property is mentioned. Document 12 is mainly an account of the assassinations of the Guises! Again, these documents are not the same. None of the documents with Pithou's hand are on the lists 240-41.
Second, where are the documents on lists 240-241? Are none of them to be found in the Recueil? SD has found some of them in the Parlement's registers, and numerous allusions scattered throughout copies of the Recueil and related texts. And, as we might expect in a recueil of documents, there are duplicates, or near duplicates — an indication that the collection was compiled over a fairly long period of time, resulting in an inability to recall exactly what he has, yet not wishing to take the time to check whether one or another document has already been inserted in the collection.
Third: thus far (we have reached document 3), all we have done is establish that none of the eighteen documents that Pithou copied out in their entirety (excluding lists 240-241), are to be found on the lists! So what are the non-listed documents about? With the exception of Henry III's letter to Rose appointing him bishop, they all involve very large issues such as relations with Spain, the Papacy, the Estates-General organized by the League, the Sorbonne's rejection of a Parisian bourgeois's appeal to Henry of Navarre to convert, a surséance of proceedings in the Parlement, efforts to negotiate peace, a lengthy summary of the Dialogue d'entre le Maheustre et le Manant (doc. 196), and a poem from the Satyre Ménippée! The summary and critical commentary on Le Maheustre et le Manant, may possibly be interpreted as a preparatory work for a refutation or a revision to alter Cromé's aims by someone who was a major collaborator on the Satyre Ménippée. The poem Pithou copied from the Satyre (doc. 222) was probably written by a fellow citizen from Troyes, the humanist Jean Passerat. I leave it to other scholars to work out just how the Recueil Pithou contributes to a deeper understanding of these great satires; and I refer them to Franck Lestringant and Daniel Ménager, eds., Études sur la Satyre Ménippée (Geneva: Droz, 1987), and also to an older but still useful work on the Maheustre by P. Ascoli, "The Sixteen and the Paris League (1585-1591," Ph.D. dissertation, Berkeley, 1972; and to H.M. Salomon, "French Satire," Renaissance and Revolt: Essays in the Intellectual and Social History of Early Modern France (Cambridge, U.K., 1987), pp. 73-97. I by no means claim to be up-to-date on the scholarship that centers on these very important texts.
The fourth point, the point sublime, is SD's deciphering of the minutes in the Recueil. These are second versions of parlementary documents. Clerks would then transcribe them into final drafts signed by the greffier. SD's skills as a paleographer are awesome. The photos of the plumitif give an indication of the labor that remains. Some day someone will be able to read them. In the case of the documents copied by Pithou, we are certain that he considered them important; but it is not at all certain that they are all extracted from the Parlement's registers. In the case of the minutes, we are certain of their provenance, and that it was Pithou who selected them. Of course, it is possible to assert that these plumitifs could have come from the archives of some other court; still, the internal evidence is strong for the Parlement. What are the subjects of the sixteen plumitifs? Several are about relations with the League, d'Aumale, Mayenne; the League Estates-General; declaring acts of the Tours Parlement to be illegal; the order of march in processions; the Roman Church; rentes, gages, debts, and an appointment to the governorship of the Ile-de-France and another as a bailli in Troyes. Like the majority of the documents copied out by Pithou, most of these plumitifs might provide grounds for litigation, for they contain precedents. Once one of these documents or minutes was removed from the registers, a plaintiff would be unable to find an avocat willing to plead on the basis of a remembered (but not consultable) document. Moreover, if the arrêt naming Chrétien de Savigny to be governor of the Ile-de-France was not in place in the official registers, would his letters of appointment (doc. 190) be legal? Very probably not; and since he was a Mayenne-League appointee, his days in office were numbered. The governor appointed by Henry III would still legally be in office, and would continue his function if Henry IV upheld the appointment.
A host of other research projects based on this volume come to mind, but I believe I have accomplished my purpose. The transcriptions of the minutes is an awe-inspiring accomplishment. As I leave this remarkable example of the crafts of paleography and bibliography, it remains for me to congratulate SD and to ask her about her future research plans. One question haunts me so much that I must pose it as a coda:
Letter 1, from Henry III to Guillaume Rose, nominating Rose to the bishopric of Senlis, could scarcely have been copied by Pithou for the incriminating evidence it contains. I propose that he copied it and kept it as a kind of political curiosity. Henry expresses not only support but also affection for Rose; so when the latter became a Leaguer, he, as a client, not only betrayed his king, he also broke a bond of support and affection. The hoary Mousnier-Kettering, et al. debate comes to mind — expressed in the word fidélité. There are strong indications that, in the Ménippée, Pithou did not write about Rose's role in the League. Rose is characterized as the fol: we might be a bit far-fetched as we imagine Pithou reading through a draft of the Ménippée and coming upon Rose's foolish antics, then sitting down to create the character Colonel d'Aubray in an ironic, fantastical estates-general. Satire, blistering irony, and political comedy all require authors to possess masterful control of the facts. Perhaps more than once did Pithou check his Recueil, to verify an arrêt for a case being brought before the Parlement, or to check just what antics the Leaguer parlementaires were up to, and exactly when.