In his learnedly brilliant Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince, Peter Stacey notes that the word "tyranny" does not appear in The Prince. (1) Nor does Jacques-Auguste de Thou refer to Henri de Guise (known as "le Balafré") as a tyrant.
Isn't the virtuous prince of The Prince in fact the tyrant? I am no specialist in Machiavelli's thought, nor a historian of political thought; thus I simply propose this, from a desire to prompt further thought on the commonplaces about tyranny that certainly were known to Machiavelli and to Jacques-Auguste de Thou. In order to differentiate from the usual definitions, I shall refer to the Florentine's "virtuous prince" as a prince-tyrant. His commands are the laws; his power to confiscate property (though it may not be wise) is unlimited, as are his powers of life and death over all his subjects. His powers are always used for personal reasons.
It is in the characterization of the minister (and presumably, the minister-favorite) that Machiavelli posits the fundamental relation that must exist between the prince and his subjects.:
When you see that the minister is thinking more about himself than about you," says the prince, "and that in all his actions he is looking after what is useful to him - this sort of person will never make a good minister, and you will never be able to trust him. For a man who has the state of someone in hand must never think about himself, but always about the prince, and must never concern himself with what does not belong to him. (2)
And there is the corollary that summarizes: The prince is 'protected by his own good deeds,' inspiring a love among his people which constitutes the prince's one 'unassailable fortress." (3) The antique commonplace about the relation between the tyrant and the people that de Thou will repeat anent Henri de Guise's pursuit of popular love and adulation, is here almost stated by Machiavelli concerning his ideal prince. The thing without the word; or more precisely, the thing designated by a different word.
Machiavelli's prince-tyrant will, from self-love, risk his life to maintain power (and will lose). In the parallel that de Thou constructs, moving from fact to parallel, concerning the fates of Jean-Louis Fiesque (Giovanni Luigi Fieschi) and the duc de Guise, there is a possible memory of another antique commonplace about the tyrant's fate. Death follows success, not failure. Fortune has no law for this supremely sovereign success. In recounting these events, De Thou refers to the Numen (which his translator renders as "le Tout Puissant,"), not to Fortuna.
The extremely high bar that Machiavelli sets for the truly virtuous prince -- Moses, Alexander, Caesar and, by implication, Jesus -- is founded on a notion of absolute power over others. The founders of states and religions must themselves be of their times, and acutely aware of occasione uniquely for them, thanks to Fortuna. Fiesque stepped on a broken plank, fell into the harbor of Genoa and drowned; Guise believed that Henry III lacked the virtu to order an execution-assassination. De Thou anxiously celebrates Henry of Navarre's legitimacy by blood and conquest, yet Henry's fate was the same. The Robe historian zealously defended the sacred rights of the French Crown, its wearers being too "indolent" to do so themselves when threatened by the ambitions of the Guise brothers -- the cardinal and the duke -- in the 1580s. The tissue of advice-giving in The History and The Prince is evident. (4)
While it is difficult to discern the Parisians' opinions during the very troubled early years of Henry IV's reign, it seems safe to conjecture that, in Paris, the term "tyrant" brought to mind the late King Henry III, rather than the duc de Guise. When de Thou's History appeared in 1602, readers might well have had to rethink their views on tyranny.
Almost always a theme in French mirror-of-princes treatises, the relation of prince to people might be explored through historical example, as Budé does in his Institution du Prince. The legitimate prince is sustained by God, the tyrant by Fortune. (5) Budé did not consider Julius Caesar to be a tyrant, but as someone who sought to live as another Alexander the Great. Having excoriated their late king as a tyrant and characterized the duc de Guise as a savior, it would require a major adjustment on the part of the ligueurs to accept de Thou's finding that Guise, not Henry, was a tyrant. When an assassination of Henry IV was attempted, Mariana and others who reworked arguments to justify tyrannicide, came as an aftershock and as a portent. Budé's historical idealization of Alexander comes closer to Machiavelli's (and de Thou's) notion of the prince-tyrant than do many French writers; and for that reason I introduce de Thou's views with Machiavelli's. (6)
In the decades of contestation over religious beliefs, a presence as devout and supportive of specifically Roman-Catholic beliefs and practices, helped the two generations of power-seeking Guise brothers -- cardinals and dukes -- pursue tyrannical powers. Leadership in the church by one brother, and leadership at court and in battle by the other brother, would be grounded on a multi-generational public presence. De Thou could not be used as the sole source, but a list of Guise actions that were known to the Parisians might be central to understanding the civic function of public memory. The sobriquet "Le Balafré," would, in its individuality and its origin, seem to be just the type of identifying figure of which Machiavelli writes.
Within the context of the need to change conduct according to the times (Discorsi, bk III, ix), Machiavelli notes Soderini's success at governing in accord with humanity and patience; but Soderini's ruin occurred when the times required something else. There follows a near exhortation that all would-be men of power should follow Pope Julius II's ways, in the impetuosity and passion that were part of his nature and character. The celebration of impetuosity is found frequently in Machiavelli's writings, indeed more than cool calculation. Fortuna cannot be coerced, nor can the times be made to stand still; thus the would-be man of power (Nuovo) must rely on the plans that come from deep within himself. Nowhere can this be more true than when planning for battle. Impetuosity implies that the man who seeks power over others may not really know what he wants. In continually seeking higher offices, recognition of descent from Charlemagne, and claims to higher rank than the Bourbons, and in toying with a marriage alliance that would put him directly in the immediate royal family, the duc de Guise (de Thou implies) was planning to become king.
In a court of law, a judge might fairly insist that de Thou stop "leading," that is, framing facts and intentions in ways that would yield a specific outcome for a court case, be it for the history of Guise-Valois relations from the 1560s, or be it re the violent deaths of the Guise brothers in 1588 - a fate not infrequently met by men who seek absolute power over people and realms. If Machiavelli is not being ironic when he writes favorably about Cesare Borgia, then the image of the power-seeker that he develops is coherent with a career deeply entangled with French policies under two kings, and with an alliance with the La Trémouille. Borgia's momentary successes (aut Caesar, aut nihil), his frequent rebounds and his final échec fascinate the passionately and insanely (sic) political across the centuries; but it is doubtful that the conservative believer, in strengthening legal cultures to reduce inhumanity, would have identified with him in any way. Ironic or not, Machiavelli remained passionately engaged in understanding Borgia as a type of prince-tyrant. The neo-republican advises readers (the Medici princely reader) on how to increase individual powers in a republic; he also does so for principalities (which includes monarchies), in such a way as to alter completely what it is to be a political man.
Bernini created a concetto portrait of Alexander the Great, in and through the recognizable features of the Sun King. The results are a brilliant synthesis of words and images of male heroic beauty. Perhaps intentionally, perhaps not (sic, and pace Philippe Ariès), narrators of the Fiesque Conjuration built upon what Machiavelli had developed as a result of careful scrutiny of conspirations and conspiracies in history, and especially in his own age. The heroic attempt to assume full powers in an old city state by sheer will and by inspiring leadership is the story of "Fiesque," that is, Giovanni Luigi Fieschi. The person and the mind of the would-be prince-tyrant is central to all these narratives, including conspiracies that end in failure almost before they begin, witness the fate of the councilor-favorite, the Earl of Essex.
The relation between the tyrant and the people is almost a gnome or commonplace in ancient Greek political thought. In ancient Athens, established institutions were frequently challenged to appeal to the people, flatter the people, and inspire the people to cherish the leader and follow him. Norma Thompson's "Most Favored Status in Herodotus and Thucydides, Recasting the Athenian Tyrannicides through Solon and Pericles," (7) has discerned this gnome to be the principal theme in the works of the founders of historical thought. Elucidating the mechanisms by which tyranny creates its own myth-history became the very foundation for historical thinking as it would develop over later centuries. Their paideia, as it were, consisted of teaching Athenians (and others) how to defend their customs and institutions, with a consequent rise in government grounded on laws. Herodotus and Thucydides believed that tyranny could not be stopped by laws and institutions, but only by an informed people alert to the actions of the tyrant as he rises to power.
Thompson points out the studied ambiguity of the founding historians toward the tyrant as a political practitioner. The ambiguous roles played by Solon and Pericles involved something of an "identification" between these principles and the historians. I am not certain about what ancient Greeks said, or how they described what the Romans later called ambitio, but this term is implicitly used here and there by historians who seek to describe tyrannical politics. (8) Thompson concludes: "If the seductive lure of tyranny is ever-present -- in rulers, political entities, and individual thinkers -- Herodotus and Thucydides show us the way to resist." (9)
De Thou's use of the term "ambition," and his emphasis on how the Greeks used religion to establish their power over the peuple, contains the gnome - tyrant, peuple - in a form that owes much to Machiavelli; but as elaborated and exemplified by de Thou in a narrative form, this concept bears strong similarities with what could be called the earliest civic history projects carried out by Herodotus and Thucydides. The near absence of other analytical frames permits de Thou to build a complete, unifying synthesis not unlike what the founding historians accomplished.
From a twenty-first century perspective, should we see de Thou as becoming anachronistic, not only vis-à-vis his present, but perhaps also in the way he forced the "facts" about the Guises into the ancient Greek tyranny-peuple frame? This question must be kept in mind throughout the rest of this project. Historians have often noted that the second duke did not really seem to know what he wanted during the crisis years of the 1580s. Was this lack of discernible intentions a feature of the rise of the Early Modern tyrant? Or did Guise really not know what he wanted? For de Thou, the duke's intentions were evident: he wanted to be king. The mysteries of state and the mysteries of tyranny are not the same; de Thou had Herodotus, Thucydides, Cato, Cicero, Tacitus, Machiavelli, and Guicciardini to deepen his reflections of the Guises, and to give form to his History.
Many, but not all the narratives about Fiesque, include an account of his eloquent speech to friends, followed by a silence that everyone interpreted as consent. Not exactly a collective oath, but no longer the action of a single, leading individual as in a conspiracy, Fiesque's act of intimidating consultation might have been approved by Machiavelli.
It is tempting to interpret still more the princely actions that Machiavelli proposes in the light of the Fiesque narratives, but this would take us far from what de Thou sought in his narrative of the conjuration, namely a parallel with the Guise conspiracy. Machiavelli would have been delighted to savor the narratives of Fiesque's rise and fall, because his template of actions is present, including the simple broken plank (Fortuna!) that led to the count's drowning.
Before leaving Machiavelli, two somewhat pedantic asides come to mind. Garrett Mattingly asserted, but did not develop the interpretation, that The Prince ought to be thought of as ironic. Stacey too asserts that The Prince is perhaps ironic; but he offers little by way of support for this view. Just what was irony in Florence, circa 1500?
Machiavelli's first readers seem to have failed to interpret the text as ironic. Their failure to catch irony in no way weakens the assertion that the text is ironic. From deeply and passionately within himself, an author may simply express an irony so profound that readers miss the point. Like negative exemplarity (of which Erasmus approved) anti-Senecan critiques could still prompt action. The genie was out of the bottle.
Secondly, just where did Machiavelli find, or come up with a moral calculus that justified political assassination in the name of increased personal power? To be sure, it was "in the air." John Addington Symonds, as we shall see, was not the first, nor certainly the last to count the number of political murders in Renaissance Italy. But what have we, beyond Machiavelli's non-scruple/scruple calculus that it is better to murder one's enemy before he can find allies? Events in France in August 1572, and again in 1630 and 1642 come to mind. Instead of presenting Machiavelli's views on the people, let us turn to early Greek historical thought as presented by Norma Thompson. (10)
The more historical contexts
René Girard's notion of "mimétisme anthropologique" is suggestive regarding the relation between the narratives of a particular conspiracy and the history of conspiracy in general. There is the usual problem of multiple witnesses who redact what they saw or did; but what may be considered paradigmatic in conspiracies inevitably has an impact on writing history. For example, what counts is not the specific secret of a specific would-be prince-tyrant, but the importance of secrecy, as such, to conspiracy and conjuration. The same may be said about dissimulation, and the mobilization of "friends," estate hands and servants, and of course brothers. Social rank is a variable too, but it is not always mentioned in conspiracy narratives; and the historical tyrants of his age, as found in the very numerous and all-similar/all-different narratives about them, rest on the material that historians include, for example the individual's age, and truly local conditions such as dates, street names, and so forth.
Jacob Burckhardt characterizes the despot as one who not only lacks legitimacy from traditional sources, such as an ancient noble family, but who also seeks to create a new, more intense legitimacy for himself through patronage of the arts and a luxurious life style. His sketches of the Veronese ruler Can Grande della Scala, and of Robert King of Naples were inspired by Petrarch's panegyrical heroicization of the despot. Like the household leaders of the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance prince was a master of what was little more than an extension of himself -- what would come to be known as court culture. For the tyrant "the fitness of the individual, his worth and capacity, were weightier than all the laws and usages that prevailed elsewhere in the West." (11)
Over-reaching? Not even the strongest northern monarchies, with their law courts and royal legislation, could coerce some of the grands who conducted themselves pretty much like petty kings. Some could even read!
Burckhardt's remark about Louis XI implies a correlation between traditional legitimacy, through dynasty and religious piety -- and un-culture. But there is a contrast nonetheless: "Louis XI, on the other hand, whose policy surpasses that of the Italian princes in their own style, and who was an avowed admirer of Francesco Sforza, must be placed in all that regards culture and refinement far below these rulers." (12)
The tyrant was (is), of course, only one half of the equation. While it is tempting to draw a parallel between what Burckhardt calls the "spirit of the people" in Cola's Rome, and the religious consciousness of the Parisian League in the 1580s, it is not our subject, except that they are intriguing illustrations of enthusiasm, even fanaticism grounded on Roman myth-history and myth-religion in Paris.
The "Mirabilia Romae" manifested itself, not surprisingly, while the papacy was in Avignon, although it would be incorrect to propose that the Roman revival occurred at the Church's expense. Popes Paul II, Sixtus IV, and Alexander VI would sponsor "magnificent processions" as "triumphs of the Roman Imperator." (13) The uncorrupted body of Julia, daughter of Claudius, found in Caecilia Metella's tomb, would be exposed and venerated as a relic. The St. Genevieve procession in Paris unleashed massive collective devotions. As Burckhardt sums up, "the ruins within and outside Rome awakened not only archeological zeal and patriotic enthusiasm, but an elegiac or sentimental melancholy." (14) Here the parallel stops. In Paris the post-League decades were years of religious reform, revived monasticism, and new spiritualities. But paintings of the Nativity might still show rough carpentry in the stable in the foreground, and Roman ruins in the distance.
The enthusiast paroxysm of the new ancient Roman Republic under Cola, and the spiritually intense corporatism of Parisian political and religious culture under the aegis of the Guises, brief as each was, have many similarities -- except, of course, for the discourses that inspired them.
Often dismissed as a mere elaborator of Burckhardt, John Addington Symonds, in his chapter on Machiavelli, (15) offers a strident critique of T.B. Macaulay's characterization of the Italian Renaissance despots. Political morality in the South of Europe, and brutality in the North, is, according to Symonds, what Macaulay seeks to establish. Symonds quotes him: "Wanton cruelty was not in his nature: on the contrary, where no political object was at stake, his disposition was soft and humane." (16) After that, Symonds lists particularly violent despots whose conduct refutes Macaulay's assertion.
For our purposes, what Symonds says about sixteenth-century despots is suggestive: "The conduct of the tyrant toward his subjects assumed an external form of mildness." (17) Tyranny became legalized in the Italian city state; but remaining in a post-republican mode, Symonds adds: "The despots developed a policy not of terrorism but of enervation." He cites Lorenzo de' Medici as an example. To support his assessment, he adds: "Savonarola's denunciations and Villani's descriptions of a despot read like passages from Plato's Republic, like the most pregnant of Aristotle's criticisms of tyranny." (18) Symonds continues in this vein for several pages.
Measuring more or less brutal or rationalized physical violence is not our subject. Known for imprisoning opponents (and denigrated for it), and for "extra-legally" trying and executing a handful of them, Richelieu's tyranny seems mild in comparison to the 62 executions for lèse-majesté carried out in Florence, 1480-1560. (19)
Memories of the future
The Wars of Religion -- civil wars -- were the great theme in the lifetime of the historian Jacques-Auguste de Thou. Could he be a Thucydides, a Livy, a Tacitus, or some other ancient historian who, in his narratives, privileged the political and the military events of his time? Nothing I have read thus far suggests that de Thou thought of his writing in this more classicizing, seventeenth-century way. Nor does he seem to lack confidence before so much violence and confusion.
It has been said that Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote about Andrew Jackson while thinking about Franklin D. Roosevelt, and wrote about Roosevelt when he was thinking of Jackson. J.H. Hexter made his parallels overtly (Roosevelt is even in the index), when writing about the great leader in the English civil war, "King Pym." The parallel here is structural and centered on a type of political leadership, namely the reforming leader in a legislative body that defines its power in negative actions. Pym led the House of Commons to vote in favor of military expenditures, etc., after the Commons had voted "no" on almost every bill for military expenses placed before it during nearly a half century. The same difficulty may be observed in Roosevelt's leadership of Congress during the middle years of the New Deal.
Putting the question simply, is there any evidence to suggest that, in narrating Fiesque's conjuration, de Thou occasionally thought of the role played by the Balafré in the French civil wars? Guises name is not mentioned in his Fiesque narrative. Only after a quite careful and close reading will there be an attempt here to answer this question.
The Fiesque Conjuration of 1547
1547: in just a few sentences de Thou sums up the Genoese political and social conditions through which Fiesque would make a break to control that city-state. The French had controlled it, lost it to the imperials, recovered it, and lost it again, leaving Andrea Doria in control. Doria was somewhat under French "protection," but eventually withdrew from it. Doria had granted nobles access to the sovereign magistracies in an attempt to consolidate his power; but all this did was intensify the already strong animosity between popular families and the nobles. De Thou notes that, given this intense division, "les esprits étant ainsi disposez, il y avoit toute apparence que les troubles naîtroient bien-tôt dans cette ville, s'il s'y trouvoit quelque citoyen entreprenant, et propre à changer l'état du gouvernement." (20) Fiesque is characterized as a "jeune homme d'un sang illustre et d'un grand courage." Jealous of Doria and intensely jealous of Doria's second cousin Jannetin (Giannetino), who was, it seemed, destined to be the heir of the childless Andrea, Fiesque would not have conspired against the elder Doria but would simply have waited for his death.
At this point, de Thou does not refer to Fiesque as ambitious, and the fact that he might not have conspired at all, were it not for Jannetin, suggests a political engagement, certainly, but not compulsive, wild, or even insane hunger after power, in the manner of the ideal would-be tyrants in The Prince.
Fiesque's successful search for allies need not detain us. Andrea Doria had become so powerful, that the House of Doria had risen to "un si haut point de grandeur, que le peuple en concevoit de justes ombrages." (21) Thus it is not surprising that Fiesque :
s'efforça de gagner l'affection du peuple par sa douceur, par son affabilité, et par les agrémens naturels de sa personne, accompagnez d'une extrême modestie. Il faisoit mille caresses aux jeunes gens des premieres familles populaires, et se trouvoit volontiers dans leurs assemblées, où il se familiarisoit avec eux. Dès qu'il se fut apperçû qu'il avoit gagné l'affection du peuple, il resolut d'en profiter. (22)
Fiesque attempted to gain control of some galleys; " il en trouva bien-tôt une occasion favorable." (23)
De Thou returns to Fiesque's personality when he observes that the count raised no suspicions in Doria because of the "beau naturel du jeune Fiesque." A more detailed portrait follows. It begins by noting Fiesque's youth, and that he :
excelloit dans l'art de dissimuler. Un air d'enjoüement et de modestie répandu sur son visage imposoit en sa faveur. Il avoit un fort beau teint, les yeux vifs et rians, la demarche noble et aisée; il parcouroit souvent la ville monté sur un beau cheval, pour se donner au peuple en spectacle. (24)
This lengthy presentation of Fiesque's public person culminates in the remark that no one suspected his hatred of Jannetin Doria, Andrea's nephew. When visiting, Fiesque caressed his enemy's children!
Seeking the support and affection of the popular classes is, of course, structural political science, in rhetoric a commonplace, a hallmark of the tyrant. De Thou will make the point repeatedly about the Balafré. Fiesque's composure, his self-assurance, and his � modesty � tell us about the persona that a Genoese leader was supposed to have, in order to gain popular support. Despite some minor variations, it is a trans-historical model of the leader-tyrant. Royal dynasties produce such human gods only once in awhile, just as the Medicis did not produce a Lorenzo every generation.
But according to some accounts, Fiesque went to his wife's chamber before giving orders to his followers. De Thou has him go into his cabinet with three trusted individuals, one of whom is Giambattista Verrina, to whom the historian gives a speech. We cannot be absolutely certain that this speech was written by de Thou, because his sources have not been researched; it may just come from one of them. Very likely, as antique historians did, the speech is what Verrina should have said, and it was de Thou who actually wrote it, as he grasped the stakes involved in attempting to wrest the city from Doria's control.
There are four major themes in the speech: 1) the revolt will restore public liberty: wielding the same powers as Doria, Fiesque will rule with moderation and will eliminate abuses by obeying the laws; 2) if a decision to revolt is not made, I, Fiesque, will languish in slavery, as did my father; 3) since I control some galleys, Jannetin will not rest, for he will not long accept shared authority; 4) it is necessary to kill not only Jannetin but also Doria himself and all the heads of the nobles' faction, because the passion for vengeance will always make life dangerous.
Fiesque accepts Verrina's advice. De Thou then informs us about the relations between the two men, and the stakes involved in the advice to act. Tempted by "actions extraordinaires et périlleuses," Fiesque had "comblé de bienfaits" Verrina, who was "egalement brave et éloquent, audacieux, rusé, et propre aux grandes entreprises; il avoit une haine implacable contre les nobles; accablé de dettes, il ne cherchoit de remède à ses propres playes que dans celles de la République." (25)
De Thou carefully explores the political, social, and international conditions affecting Fiesque's decision. The supreme compulsive plotting prism of Machiavelli is also present in de Thou's summary before action takes place: "Avec ces dispositions il ne lui [Verrina] fut pas difficile de séduire et de porter aux crimes les plus énormes un jeune homme vif et ambitieux, enflé d'ailleurs de l'éclat de sa maison, et de la gloire de ses ancêtres." (26)
Coming from a grand robin who, dramatically, married into the socially superior Barbançon-Cany and the de la Châtre, this almost offhand remark suggests that de Thou was rejecting claims that ancient family origins justify actions outside the law.
The decisions having been made, and readers having been informed, the genre almost requires an on-to-victory speech, plus fighting and killing. Not so for de Thou. He takes several hundred words to recount three previous scenarios that for various reasons had been rejected. One had been to organize a fête and to have the Dorias murdered while at table. Rejected for fear that Andre Doria might not come because he suffered from gout and would therefore escape the slaughter. The second involved arming a galley and amassing friends, men from Fiesque's "fiefs," and some guards. The colonel of the guards became suspicious and informed Doria and the city governors. A third and final plan involved amassing all Fiesque's supporters in his palace and mobilizing them with an eloquent speech and threatening punishment for anyone who refused to fight for Genoa's "liberation." Fiesque went to inform his wife, and she fell on her knees, begging him not to carry out the plot. He assured her that tomorrow she would be "premiere dame de Genes": "Ou vous ne me verrés plus, lui dit-il, ou demain vous verrés toute la République à vos piés." (27)
The combat by night went as planned, except that a galley ran aground near the Darsena River, and some galley slaves tried to break out of their chains. Rushing to help the galley slaves, Fiesque slipped, fell into the sea while climbing onto the galley, and drowned. The freed slaves began running throughout the city, terrifying the population.
De Thou concludes by saying that if, in conspiracies, there was a scale from perfect to less perfect, "jamais rebelles dans aucune conjuration n'avoient fait éclater plus d'allegresse et de confiance, et il n'y a point de doute, que si leur chef n'eut péri d'abord, le success n'eût répondu à leur attente." (28) Vengeance, smaller conspiracies, and the destruction of Fiesque's fortresses followed the consolidation of Doria's power. De Thou continues:
Ainsi cette monstrueuse enterprise formée avec tant de peine, et éclose dans une nuit, où elle étoit sur le point de renverser la République, se dissipa en un moment par un coup de la main du Tout-puissant, et fut, pour ainsi dire, avec son chef, engloutie dans les eaux. (... et ita dirum illud malum, quod longo labore conceptum ea nox in miserandum republicae exitium peperat, puncto temporis praepotenti supremi Numinis dextera in undus effusum est.) (29)
Not Fortuna for de Thou, but a synonym for the divine: Numen. (30)
Only in the summing-up do we learn more about Verrina and his text. The Fiesque Conspiracy turns out to have differed profoundly from that of the Machiavellian heroic-tyrant conqueror. Fiesque did not follow Verrina's advice:
Cependant, au jugement de tout le monde, quand méme Fiesque auroit survêcu, ce n'auroit pas été sans d'extrêmes difficultez qu'il se fût rendu maître de Genes par ses propres forces, comme Verrina avoit voulu le lui persuader. (31)
As de Thou moves on to Naples and its conspiratorial revolt, some of the individuals in the Fiesque Conjuration reappear, as do some political moves in an atmosphere of extremely fine-tuned powers: Milan, the Papacy, and the Spanish.
But were readers in 1602 prepared to see the Lorraine brothers reflected in the Fiesque mirror? There is little emphasis on the relation between the heroic conspirator and the people, as the rebellion begins. Fiesque had planned to incorporate the galley slaves into his move to take over the city, certainly an action conforming to the heroic model of the tyrant; but Fiesque died helping the slaves, before he could carry out his entire plan. The assassination of the second duke of Guise, and the execution of the third duke by Henry III, might certainly have been understood as providential (or heretical-diabolical) acts by early seventeenth-century readers. But rather than draw still more possible parallels, I wish to conclude on a more literary, indeed stylistic feature of de Thou's narrative.
His excitement about the events he describes is conveyed to readers, though perhaps not as intensely as in Machiavelli; but Fiesque clearly appeals to readers because he is a deeply engaged political animal. And although Fiesque was too much under Verrina's influence to satisfy Machiavelli's exemplary political animal, he was ambitious -- the very word that de Thou uses so often to characterize the Lorraines of Guise. What de Thou calls the "Neapolitan sedition" lasted longer and was more complex than the Fiesque Conspiracy, yet both conspiracies turned on the aims and hatreds of nobles, well-to-do merchants, and the people, with the fate of the republic and the kingdom often hinging on the actions of one man. The Conspiracy of Amboise would not come to mind.
The conquest of Naples was a dream that always seemed to turn into a nightmare. Over several centuries it had ensnared several French kings and high-ranking nobles. In 1557 the second duc de Guise attempted it, in alliance with the Caraffa, especially Pope Paul IV. And the seditions in Naples would still be in some memories when Henri II, duc de Guise, returned to France in 1647 to lead a failed popular revolt!
And the fact that members of the Fiesque family continued to hold important military and court charges in France until at least the 1620s, would have attracted readers to the Conjuration de Fiesque. Ugo Fieschi served in the royal armies and participated in the siege of Montauban in 1621, after which he became Genoa's ambassador to England. Owing to a marriage alliance, Scipione Fieschi served as a chevalier d'honneur to Catherine de Médicis. He received the Order of the Holy Spirit from Henry III in 1578. (32) In his account of the 1570s, de Thou would mention that Scipione Fieschi, the brother of the conspirator who had lost his life twenty-three years earlier trying to become master of the Republic of Genoa, was a chevalier d'honneur at the wedding of Henri duc de Guise! (33) When de Thou sums up the claims of the French Crown to Genoa, he is aware that he can draw strong parallels about aristocratic leadership in urban populations.
De Thou used the word "faction" as a concept. Arlette Jouanna has proposed some working definitions. A faction is:
la formation de groupes d'influence, constructions fluctuantes adaptées aux besoins d'une action politique précise composées d'amis, de clients et alliés temporaires.
She notes that the secrétaires d'État Robertet were "attachés aux Guises," and that Claude de l'Aubespine "est plutôt lié aux Montmorency. (34) Beginning with the householders and estate managers, there were multi-generational clients that could play important roles in a crisis of political rivalry. The parlementaires who served on the personal aristocratic councils certainly supported their aristocratic patrons, and often lent them money. Stuart Carroll lays all this out for Lorraine-Guise power in Normandy. (35)
Jouanna's emphasis on the temporary character of a faction certainly squares with the political-cultural realities of the court, especially around royal mistresses and favorites. But what about the longer-term relations that the Lorraines-Guises were building through their influence on appointments to royal offices virtually all over the realm, but especially in Burgundy, Champagne and Normandy? De Thou notes these appointments in many instances, and he probably considered them to be faction-building.
As I write this, I think of all the remarkably strong and authoritative works byAnglo-American scholars on clientage, brokering and affinities that I have read (and have in my library!). These truly are flowers that make a great and unique bouquet in early-modern French history. But I wish to move on, only after noting the history of the vicomte de Saulx-Tavannes, as brilliantly reconstructed by Xavier Le Person, (36) a most original and important contribution to a new type of political cultural history. Chapter VI is a must-read! Here I simply wish to note that the model that Tavannes followed in Auxonne to enhance his own authority and power, was not unlike the one he was challenging -- that is, his situation as a client of the Lorraines. And in his relation to the upstart in Auxonne, Henry III's actions are just about as inconsistent as his conduct in the whole realm.
But factionalism, even when it has a military dimension, does not take us all the way. The duc de Guise fostered the League, a social-religious and corporate movement that, as we have noted, was already becoming an initiator of political action that Guise and his clients could still control but -- had the execution of December 1588 not taken place -- for how long? In his instructions to Lenet and his sister, Madame de Longueville, regarding the revolt in Bordeaux during the Fronde, Condé advised them to support disorder from whatever "party" it came: Ormée, Parlement, etc. The intensity of religious experiences, feelings and fears made the Paris of the League exceptional; Bordeaux under the influence of the Ormée, with its popular expressions of revolt and hope, was more typical of Renaissance urban political action than of the League.
1. Peter Stacey, Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince (Cambridge, 2007), p. 272.
2. Stacey, p. 301.
3. Stacey, p. 272.
5. Le Prince dans la France des XVIe et XVIIe siècles, ed. C. Bontems, L.-P. Raybaud and J.-P. Brancourt (Paris, 1965).
6. Some of the classic studies in tyranny, as an idea in sixteenth-century France, are G. Lewy, Constitutionalism and Statecraft during the Golden Age of Spain (Geneva, 1960), on Mariana's reception in France; F. Baumgartner, Radical Reactionaries (Geneva, 1976); R. Bireley, The Counter-Reformation Prince (Chapel Hill, 1990); and E. Nelson, The Jesuits and the Monarchy (Aldershot, 2005).
7. The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Political Thought, ed. S. Salkever (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 65-95.
8. N. Thompson, in Salkever, ed.
9. N. Thompson, in Salkever, ed., p. 91. As Ranke put it: "Guise's ambition was not that aspiring kind to which imagination gives birth; but the cool and practical ambition of a man of intellect, who always seeks to attain what lies nearest to him first, proceeds from position to position, and allows his efforts to be directed by the course of circumstances." Civil Wars and Monarchy in France, transl. by M.A. Garvey (New York, 1972), p. 214.
10. N. Thompson, in Salkever, ed.
11. Jacob Burckhardt, Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (New York, 1954), p. 17.
12. Burckhardt, p. 14.
13. Burckhardt, p. 137.
14. Burckhardt, p. 139.
15. John Addington Symonds, Renaissance in Italy; The Age of the Despots (New York, 1888), Chapter VI, and p. 127.
16. Symonds, p. 137.
17. Symonds, p. 128.
18. Symonds, p. 128.
19. N.S. Baker, "For Reasons of State: Political Executions, Republicanism, and the Medici in Florence, 1480-1560," Renaissance Quarterly, 62 (2009), pp. 444-478.
20. HU, vol. I, bk III, p.156.
21. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 157.
22. HU, vol. I, bk. III, p. 157.
23. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 157.
24. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 159.
25. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 161.
26. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 161.
27. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 164.
28. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 167.
29. HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 167 [sic; read: 168].; Historiarum sui temporis, vol. 1, bk III, p. 99.
30. For a discussion of de Thou's use of the word Numen, Numenis, see my Preface. [LINK]HU, vol. I, bk III, p. 167.
32. Moréri, Grand Dictionnaire historique, ed. of Paris, 1759, vol. V, pp. 152-153.
33. HU, vol. VI, bk XLVII, p. 64.
34. A. Jouanna, La France du XVIe siècle (Paris, 1996), p. 234.
35. Stuart Carroll, Noble Power during the French Wars of Religion (Cambridge, 1998).
36. X. Le Person, 'Practiques' et ' Practiqueurs'... (Geneva, 2002).