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Favorites and Parliaments (Parlements) in the 1640's:

Strafford and Mazarin

This paper was presented in January 2008, at conference held at Villetaneuse (Université de Paris13): "Interactions and Transfers between France and the British Isles, 1640-1660"

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, Lord Deputy of Ireland, was attainted on May 9, 1641. King Charles I consented to his execution the next day, May 10; and Strafford was beheaded two days later. (1) On January 8, 1649, Jules Mazarin, Cardinal and Principal Minister of Her Majesty Anne of Austria, Queen Regent, was declared "criminel de lèse-majesté" (2): he was ordered to leave the realm, and a price of 50,000 livres was put on his head.

In both cases, the judgments came down from venerable and legitimate institutions: the king and Parliament in the case of Strafford, the Parlement of Paris in the case of Mazarin. Why and how did such eminent and trusted royal officials fall into such terrible straits? In answering this question, I hope to reveal the principal characteristics of monarchy as a political phenomenon, that is, to discern what is deeper, different, and common in mid-seventeenth-century English and French kingship.

Finding the balance between chronological narrative and schematic approaches is particularly difficult in comparative literature. Part I of this paper introduces the surface events through which the two "representative" bodies, Parliament and the Parlement, acted. Part II centers on the biographical, in order to suggest why Strafford and Mazarin generated so much animosity. Part III, and its subdivisions, centers on the legal-culture aspects, in England and in France, in which Parliament and the Parlement functioned, and compares the themes in their public declarations of grievances to their respective crowns in the form of remonstrances.
Lastly, some attention is given to the pressures of urban and aristocratic factions on the two bodies, prior to recounting the denouement: in Strafford's case, execution; and in Mazarin's, return to Paris in near triumph.

I. Some Surface Events

At the opening of the Commons in the Long Parliament in 1640, John Pym submitted a bill to impeach the Earl of Strafford. The Earl had long since ceased to be simply an opponent, as he had been in earlier Parliaments. He had become an enemy to be destroyed. A Whiggish narrative need not be constructed on belief of inevitability. Participants may sense just when a shift occurs from words to action — in this case, from temporizing and negotiating with the Scots, to military action in civil war — but interpretations founded on bad timing fail to satisfy. Was it Strafford's hubris which caused him to advise his sovereign to call Parliament?

Like the stability of the English narrative of events for 1640-41, that of the French narrative in 1649, and again in 1651, is so well-established that no new major approach is possible. Let us emphasize 1651. The urban populations' rise against Condé augured well for a general settlement. Mazarin's decision to enter the realm at the head of an army, aroused once more the divisions within the Parlement and the Parisian elites. (3)

The Reason-of-State program for the British Monarchy, as practiced by Charles I rested on the elimination of Parliament, and this was known and understood by the English governing elite, particularly those who remembered both James I's later Parliaments, and those of Charles, because they had sat in them. (4)

Memories of previous impeachments of royal councilors (Monpesson and Bacon in 1621, Cranfield in 1624, Buckingham in 1626, and Manwaring in 1628), like wars with the Scots, were framed by political-philosophical principles such as the appeal to the ancient constitution, fundamental law, "mixed" constitution of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Not all the impeachments ended in executions, but Parliament increasingly undermined the royal prerogative to appoint councilors. King Charles had not only endangered the balance of powers within the Monarchy, it also seemed that he wished to do so by not calling Parliaments, and by altering the Henrician Establishment in the Church. Memory can trail off into nostalgia for the good old days of Elizabeth's reign and, in France, for those of Henry IV. The phrase "Reason of State" became an epithet in England, and a moral ideal in France. Defeated in England when Strafford and Charles I were executed, it would triumph when Mazarin returned at the head of an army that he had put together in the name of Louis XIV, now of age.

There was also a Whiggish interpretation of seventeenth-century French history. Like the English Parliament, the French Parlements were courts of law, but Parlements, including provincial ones, sat permanently, except when the death of the sovereign automatically interrupted their service. Unlike the English stability under the Tudors, the French had descended into a series of civil wars that had left both king and Parlement wary: the king had the upper hand on powers to tax, although the judges claimed that no fiscal measure was legal if they did not register it. Despite stormy relations between Louis XIII and the Parlement in the 1630's, it seems never to have occurred to anyone that the Parlement could be definitively suspended or decreed out of existence. Again, memory and history informed action. In a Regency government, the Parlement would play a key role in determining where sovereignty lay. Memories of the regencies of Catherine de Médicis and Marie de Médicis weighed on all those who participated in the lit de justice of May 18, 1643, that abrogated the king's testament and gave unique, sovereign, and absolute power to Anne of Austria, to govern in the name of her four year-old son, Louis XIV, who wept in shame when he forgot the very brief speech he had learned for the occasion. (5) The Parlement of Paris could remonstrate against the king's policies, but it possessed only oblique weapons to attack directly any royal councilor. As a court of law, the English Parliament could try and sentence to death any of his Majesty's subjects. Impeachment, and attempts to impeach royal councilors, had become almost as frequent as Parliaments, occasions prompted by the virtual bankruptcy of the Crown. Procedure for impeachment involved prosecution, possible legal representation by an attorney in the House of Commons, judgment by the House of Lords, and a signed warrant accepting the king's judgment. Pym started an impeachment against Strafford, then switched, several months later, to an old law not used since 1459: "attainder," which did not require a full trial, and in which the king could not pardon the guilty person: he had to consent to the judgment. Later legal commentators refer to attainder as "Barbaric." The attainted person could neither inherit nor bequeath lands, was deemed "corrupt in his blood," and was sentenced to be hanged until almost dead, at which point he was disemboweled and destroyed by fire.

The Parlement of Paris had powers to declare a death sentence for treason and for numerous other crimes, to order a hanging or a beheading, a drawing and quartering, or destruction by fire followed by the scattering of the ashes to the winds at the four cardinal gates of Paris. The first general action against Mazarin occurred on September 22, 1648. The Grand'Chambre would soon vote a reinstatement of its arrêt of 1617 forbidding foreigners to serve on the Council of State. (6) This had been a strong signal to Marie de Médicis that her favorite, the Florentine, Concini, lacked support in the Parlement; but in fact neither she, nor young Louis XIII, nor the royal councilors would accept any restriction on the sovereign's power to nominate whomever they pleased to his council. Concini was subsequently shot down by royal guards, on the king's order. In one Mazarinade, Louis XIV is encouraged to emulate his father and have Mazarin shot. (7)

Opposition to Mazarin continued to smolder, then burst into flames in 1651. The move to exclude all cardinals from the Council of State received support from Condé's followers in the Parlement, but then there were second thoughts. Two Frondeurs, Paul de Gondi, known as "Retz," and Charles de Laubespine de Châteauneuf were both pressing the Queen Regent to nominate them for cardinalates, and both hoped to become at least royal councilors, and possibly principal minister. Their supporters in the Parlement effectively delayed the proposal to exclude cardinals; and around the same time, a proposal came forth to ask Anne to send Mazarin away (l'éloigner), not only from the Council but from the realm as well. This proposal was voted up in an intense atmosphere created by the arrest of the princes, Condé and Conti. Anne and young Louis XIV were virtually prisoners in the Palais-Royal, as plans for their escape broke down. Late on February 6, 1651, Mazarin simply walked out a city gate, went to Le Havre where he freed Condé and Conti in the Queen Regent's name, and tried to negotiate with these rebel princes, but failed. He would spend several months along France's borders, going from army camp to army camp. The royal commanders had largely been appointed by him, and they remained faithful.

Back in Paris, the Parlement became enraged by its own failure to stop Mazarin's influence over royal policy. In December 1651, it voted that he was a "perturber of the public peace," a well-known Roman law tag that was as familiar to schoolboys as to jurists, because the Senate had voted the same law against Caesar at a critical moment for the survival of the Republic, namely the war between Pompey and Caesar (Commentaries, Book I). A price of 50,000 livres would also be voted for Mazarin's head; his painting collection, furniture, and library were confiscated, and the proceeds went to the Frondeur army. (8)

Back in Westminster, Strafford would be taken prisoner by the guards already under the command of the House of Commons; but Mazarin could not be caught. Some Frondeur nobles rode up to the convent of Val de Grâce, where Mazarin's nieces had been staying, in hopes of taking them hostage. The Cardinal had anticipated such a move, and faithful supporters had taken the girls to safety.

Strafford had been confident that he could persuade the Commons not only of the legitimacy of his service to the king, but of his personal integrity as protégé-councilor to Charles. The months of imprisonment prior to his trial and execution served to break nearly all the affective bonds that might have tied Strafford to members of Parliament. The seeds of demonization had been there all along, and they would be cultivated by collective fears of Popery, tyranny, and by strong party bonds linking Pym's "Junto" in the Commons to Strafford-hating merchants and crowds in London. In fact, the fears extended to Whitehall Palace: Charles feared for himself and his queen.

Condé and his supporters invaded Paris after attacking the Porte Saint-Antoine in early July of 1652, and terrorized Parisians by making violent attempts to take over the city government and to raid whatever money and weapons the municipality possessed. Condé's reputation for brutality and intimidation increased as he used desperate measures to supply his dwindling army, camped outside the city. Having allied with Anne and Mazarin during the Parlementary Fronde, the prince assumed the characteristics of the "over-mighty subject." Wanting governorships, admiralties, and huge sums to pension his clients and relatives, Condé listened to plots to capture the little king (his cousin), and to rule in his name while the legitimate regent would be under virtual arrest in a convent. But Condé never went that far. He defied Anne and escaped Mazarin's power, because he could not be satisfied until he controlled all that was sovereignty, except the name.

In England, the only great personage to play a similar role was Francis Russell, fourth earl of Bedford, scion of a landed family, who shifted back and forth on the great questions regarding the royal prerogative, the powers of Parliament, church reform, and relations with the Scots. Bedford had a visceral dislike of favorites. (9) After supporting Pym in his plans to destroy Strafford, Bedford made some late attempts to have Strafford's life spared. Bedford would seem to be the classic type of leader-broker who possessed great power but who unleashed circumstances that went way beyond his imagination and control. His death shortly before Strafford's condemnation, cut short a trajectory that probably would have included exile to the Continent.

II. The Biographical Perspective

Some salient facts about Strafford's and Mazarin's social rank, education, and beliefs framed, but did not determine, their political careers.

Thomas Wentworth, created Earl of Strafford in 1640, was thirty-eight when he was beheaded, by order of the king and Parliament, on May 12, 1641. Born into a middling landed family of the North Country, he spent four years reading law at the Inner Temple and attending St. John's College, Cambridge. He then toured France and the Rhineland with a tutor from Oxford. Back in Yorkshire, Wentworth efficiently managed estates that produced an annual income of £ 5,000. His father had angled for a peerage in a period when titles were increasingly up for sale, but he did not receive one. He died leaving Thomas with nine brothers and sisters to place and marry off.

Elected to the House of Commons for the so-called "addled" Parliament of 1614, the gridlock that prevailed and that would intensify between the Crown and the House of Commons, would lead Wentworth to abandon the "party" that sought to limit the royal prerogative and assure the "ancient constitution" of the English Monarchy. His election was contested in 1621, but he prevailed by being elected by a borough rather than a shire — certainly a sign of someone in a hurry. By the end of eleven years without Parliament, Wentworth had become an articulate and influential voice for "reform," a program consisting of strong royal administration that enforced the rights of the Crown. Not cautious in speech, Wentworth spent years as Lord President in the North of England, and then as Lord Deputy in Ireland, where his policy of "thorough" consisted of enforcing the letter of the law, largely as it had been under the Tudors. Nominations to local offices, and recovering rights to property — especially to confiscated monastic lands for the Crown — brought him into conflict with some of the wealthiest and most powerful of the landowning aristocracy. Using special royal commissions to investigate claims to ownership, put Wentworth on a collision course with administrators and judges, who were generally beholden to the same powerful landowning aristocracy. Wentworth was an administrator, not a favorite. Only by rapidly accumulating high office in Ireland and military powers over an army (small, but impressive since there was no other) and fortifications, did he begin to confirm the historical image of the favorite: the over-mighty subject. Not until late in his career did he receive personal compliments from his sovereign, and some degree of intimacy. The newly created Earl of Strafford not only held, but practiced administratively, an ideal of kingship unshackled by the English Parliament, and he seemed successful in Ireland. His perceived success — especially his getting the Irish Parliament to vote financial support and his creation of a five-thousand-man Irish army — not only aroused suspicions in the minds of John Pym and his allies in the House of Commons, it contributed to his downfall.

Although a sincere friend of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose efforts to establish uniformity of liturgical practice throughout Scotland and England aroused growing opposition, Wentworth stayed on the sidelines. He knew that Laud's reforms were not Roman Catholic, and he seems not to have become engaged in debates over predestination. That he was buying land in Ireland and hoped that his son might one day become a leading owner-gentleman there, sheds light on his politics. His commissions to Van Dyck — a portrait of him alone, another with a faithful secretary, and a third of Queen Henrietta Maria — suggests some understanding of the life-style favored by King Charles.

Jules Mazarin was forty-eight when the Parlement of Paris set a price of 50,000 livres on his head. Born in Piscina in the Abruzzi, of a Roman family that had been clients of the great Colonna family for at least two generations, Mazarin grew up in Rome and attended the famous Jesuit Collegio Romano from age seven to seventeen. He then set off as a companion to a young Colonna, for a two-year stay in Alcala, Spain. Though well-connected, the Mazarini had little if any landed wealth; they rented their residences; and they possessed no office or business for Jules to inherit. Being the client of a great family, but not being housed by them, meant marginal status and few if any chances for promotion. Increasingly competent at diplomacy, and possessing plain old charm, Mazarin moved through the labyrinthian networks of the Colonna, Saccheti, and ultimately the Barbarini families, and became indispensable to Cardinal Antonio Barbarian, the weaker and less intelligent nephew of Pope Urban VIII. Charged with keeping Antonio informed about diplomatic and military affairs in North Italy, while in Milan Mazarin became familiar with virtually every aspect of the Hapsburg, essentially Spanish-French policies and rivalries during the years when a European war was looming on the horizon over the Mantuan succession. As papal envoy, he rode between two armies about to engage in battle at Casale (October 1630), and although this won him acclaim, he knew that high office in Rome could not be had by merit alone.

Mazarin met Cardinal Richelieu during these negotiations of 1630; and as he later put it to a friend, he "immediately decided to attach himself to him." Agreeable, always agreeable, and poised in manner if not affected, Mazarin would never doubt his ability to establish, with someone else, a degree of intimacy that would permit him to influence or to advise. In fact, he charmed Richelieu, as he would charm Louis XIII a few years later. And he then charmed the Regent, Anne of Austria. He established very strong ties to Chavigny, a secretary of state, and he became a kind of paternal friend to Michel Le Tellier, teaching him the ways of the world. Mazarin's great pupil in the art of friendship and politics would be, of course, Louis XIV, for whom he was a father in every way, except biologically. Mazarin practiced favoritism as the most subtle of political arts.

At some point in the late 1620's, Mazarin realized that he would never become truly influential in the Church without a cardinal's hat, and that the best way to procure one would be through nomination by a foreign head of state. Would he opt for France? Or for Spain? His encounter with Richelieu, and his subsequent appointment as nuncio to Paris, pretty much decided Mazarin's future. The death, in 1638, of Father Joseph, the French candidate for a cardinalate, opened the way for Mazarin's eventual appointment in December 1641.

In France, Mazarin carried out diplomatic and political affairs that showed his personal skills to advantage. He quickly earned Richelieu's total confidence, and Louis XIII saw in him not only someone he could trust, but someone from whom he felt easy accepting advice. In fact, Mazarin was already filling Richelieu's place in the King's heart and mind prior to Richelieu's death in December 1643.

Mazarin had become a naturalized citizen of France in 1639, probably to protect any property that might be subject to confiscation by law, should he die in France as a foreigner. Very soon thereafter, Louis XIII and Richelieu began assigning revenues to him from rich abbeys; but until that time Mazarin had lived on quite meager canonries in the Papal States. In a famous letter accompanying France's ambassadors to the peace conference at Munster in 1648, Mazarin described himself as a person of very modest means, and he affirmed that lack of wealth implied lack of self-interest, an advantage in politics. This was a pose.

Dealing with the office- and pension-grabbing of the great nobles, made him realize that his own modest wealth was a disadvantage. So he decided to become wealthy, very wealthy. He bought a superb palazzo in Rome that he could not yet afford; he built a large residence in Paris and another at Vincennes, had them decorated; but unlike Strafford, he did not buy land.

Richelieu had learned, while young, about the importance of what would later be called "public opinion." He tried to inform it, shape it. Mazarin either had a deaf ear, or else he discounted criticism of his policies — particularly the war that he had inherited, and the high fiscal demands it brought. He found "étrange" the ad hominem attacks on his person, and on the Queen Regent. Anne's subjects were well-disposed toward her until Mazarin came to be perceived as a favorite, a foreigner, an evil councilor, and a seducer. While apparently so stable, monarchy quickly became vulnerable when sovereign power appeared to shift from the crowned head to someone else. So perceptive, so seductive with individuals, Mazarin remained blind to the crucial dynamics that linked sovereigns and peoples. Probably only a mature and intelligent king would have succeeded in bridling Condé.

III. Institutions and Legal Cultures

It must be recalled that the English Parliament was every bit as much a court of law as the French parlements were. Procedures for civil cases and criminal cases were fixed and grounded in historical precedent, although it appears that the so-called cas royaux were more deeply integrated into general court procedure than in Westminster. If, in both courts, the laws of treason were grounded on Roman law, cases were recently just about as frequent in France as in England.
As corporate bodies that never quite split off from the Curia Regis, Parliament and Parlement shared the divine aura of the crowns in whose name they spoke and acted. Here is what the great jurist Sir Edward Coke said about Parliament and impeachment procedures in 1621, regarding relations between the two Houses:

I thank God for unities of this Parliament: 1, betwixt our sovereign and us; 2, betwixt the Lords and us; 3, betwixt ourselves. This is as weighty as any case in my time, because it concerns not only us but the Lords also. Therefore we are resolved according to former precedents to address ourselves to the Lords, for so it was in Henry the Sixth's time [1422-1471], in whose reign we have two precedents .... (10)

But the controversy over the uniformization of religious spaces and practices certainly spawned disaffection and bewilderment in the Parliament. In conflicts with Parliament, James I, Charles's father, frequently spoke of his divine authority, raising the suspicion that it might not radiate down to his subjects assembled in Westminster.

A Parliament could not assemble without a royal summons. In 1640, the lords spiritual (the Archbishop of Canterbury and twenty-four bishops) and the lords temporal, plus the great officers of state and the dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons — some 123 in all — constituted the Lords.

The knights of the shire (two from each county in England, and one from Wales), and two burgesses from each borough, constituted the Commons, a total membership of 507 in 1640. The Parlement of Paris, in 1652, consisted of about 222 justices, including lay and spiritual councilors and presidents. (11)

On first thought, the differences between the Paris Parlement and the Westminster Parliament seem so great that comparing the two would not yield interesting results. In Paris, the councilors held venal and heritable offices, but in Westminster members of the House of Commons were elected, and the Lords sat by right of their titles. In actual fact, however, the Paris Parlement was less a single chamber than it would seem. The judges did most of their work in the Enquêtes and Requêtes chambers. General sessions of the entire Parlement, sitting in the Grand'Chambre with the peers by right (including spiritual peers), resembled a general session of the King in Parliament in Westminster.

This said, I now wish to explore the similarities in the way that has been pioneered by specialists in political culture. Claims to uniqueness are strongly articulated in the general British and French narratives; but similarities have received little attention. We shall combine evidence of what was said and evidence of what was practiced, no doubt to the consternation of historians who make imperial claims for the one or the other.

What could be more similar than the virtually sacred spaces on which the two bodies met? One space is near the Thames, in a centuries-old building where Plantagenet, Lancastrian, Yorkist, and Tudor coats of arms could be viewed, to inspire wonder and thoughts about the past. The massive Palais de Justice sits along the Seine, in an ancient royal residence dominated by the Sainte-Chapelle. The great fifteenth-century Crucifixion hanging in the Grand'Chambre reminded the judges of their duty to render justice in conformity with their faith.

Suffice it to recall how the Londoners intimidated members of Parliament by lining up along their way to taunt and to goad them into ordering Strafford's execution. (12) In Paris, crowds of several hundred gathered to intimidate the Parlement, shouting epithets against Mazarin. On 26 August 1648, the Day of the Barricades, the city was shut down and the streets were blocked by some 275,000 people, until the Parlement won the release of the beloved judge, Broussel. (13) To be sure, some in the crowd had been paid to shout, but Omer Talon tells of the dire poverty into which so many Parisians had sunk, and the judges' decision to donate 100 livres each to charity (150 livres from each president). The crowds that showed up to support Condé had mostly been paid to do so. Thoughts of the angry crowd were not far from his mind. In Westminster, the London M.P.'s were linked to the street protesters by a cause, not by money or poverty.

For both institutions, speeches by the president or the sovereign included claims to represent the nation. The parlementaires expressed this theme very strongly whenever appeals for an Estates-General rose up in response to some deep contestation or a risk of civil war. Back in Westminster, the elected House members rarely specified whom they represented, but they often evoked "this kingdom" or "this nation," its health, its ills, its fears. Popular petitions characterized Strafford as "an enemy of the people." The potential contradiction about the origins of sovereignty was not yet apparent: God through the king, or God through the nation.

In addition, members of Parlement and members of Parliament alike, believed themselves to be the guarantors of the "fundamental laws" that governed the realm. To be sure, the laws of succession differed in the two kingdoms, but the vigilance as to their enforcement was the same in both institutions. On both sides of the Channel, the theme of a balance of powers, or a mixed constitution, involving kings and their councilors on one side and the Parliament/Parlement on the other, would frequently be repeated in Paris during the Fronde, and certainly in all of James's later Parliaments and in all of Charles's. These themes are what I have characterized as "what was said," that is, claims couched in rhetoric, with allusions to histories, the Bible, and a tradition of political thought with Aristotelian foundations. In both instances, claims to govern by divine-right Absolutism sustained opposition to the claims being made by the Parlement and the Parliament to have the right to advise the sovereign as respectful councilors. In both instances, the theme of the evil councilor and favorite lay just below the surface. As Thomas May wrote, "These are the ones that put themselves between the sovereign and his subjects, breaking down the love that usually exists between them." (14) Here we are close to the specific charges made against both Strafford and Mazarin. Was breaking that love an act of treason in England, according to the statute of 1352?


To counter the perceived danger to the powers of government so constituted, the Parliament in 1641, and the Parlement in 1648, held debates that culminated in lengthy texts known as "remonstrances." Here again, it is the procedure that was similar, not the substance, although each remonstrance was addressed to the sovereign, in November 1641 and July 1648 respectively. Couched in the language of respectful advice-giving, the Commons warned of a faction or party within the sate that sought to destroy the Church of England by introducing "opinions and ceremonies as are fittest for accommodation with Popery." Article 176 claims that "that whole kingdom [has been] totally subverted, rooted out religion, and destroyed all the Protestants ...." (15) There is also a complaint about the exportation of gold and silver to foreign countries, and the weakness of herring-fishing (articles 141-42), but the text as a whole claims that there is a gigantic conspiracy by Papists of all sorts, to subvert religion and the kingdom. Although Parliament had been protesting for decades about the Crown's resort to what it considered to be extra-legal commissions, among them the Star Chamber, this issue is not stressed in the Grand Remonstrance.

The Grand Remonstrance of the Parlement of Paris (and other sovereign courts joined to it), are more demanding in tone: they want the intendants to be suppressed. (16) By arbitrarily raising taxes, these officials in the Ile-de-France were assuming the duties of other officials. The judges voted a 25-percent reduction in the taille, the principal tax collected from the rural population. Attempts to draft clauses that would prohibit the arrest or exile of members of the Parlement were linked to a law of habeus corpus that limited the length of time one could be imprisoned without having been indicted. There is no mention of religious issues, or of any issues involving Church administration.

Anne of Austria, Mazarin, and the First President Molé argued that the Crown gave appointees the requisite powers, and that the power to arrest any subject in compliance with a royal order, was an indispensable feature of monarchy. During the weeks and months that followed, some of the articles were accepted and became law; but Mazarin wrote to Anne that these constraints on sovereign power would have to be abrogated. A politics of dissimulation would be practiced over the next three years, to the point that royal legislation, royal letters, and the combating parties no longer considered Mazarin's word to be meaningful.

As Strafford's trial before the Commons dragged on for seven-weeks during the spring of 1641, the prosecution sought to assemble all the charges. Strafford sought to have them be ad seriatum, (17) but he failed. This permitted a charge that there had been a general intent or design to subvert the fundamental laws of the realm. Conrad Russell remarks that, in Strafford's fate, Charles's other councilors sensed a threat to themselves, and willingly "ditched" him. (18) By contrast, Condé and Gaston d'Orléans pressed the Regent to disgrace Le Tellier and Lionne, two secretaries of state known to support Mazarin. The charges against Strafford also shifted away from his alleged support of Popery to his alleged intention to employ the Irish army to intimidate Parliament. Strafford had appointed the officers in that army, hence they were beholden to him. Charles's refusal to disband the army seemed to confirm the plot theory, and it was largely the charge about the army that would prompt the Lords to vote the attainder. Pressured by crowds, on April 20, 1641, the Commons voted 204 to 59 to condemn Strafford. Then, on May 8, in an atmosphere of plots and counter-plots — and with one of their leading members, Bedford, having died — the Lords, in a very sparsely-attended session, voted 51 to 9 to condemn Strafford. (19)

On the French side of the Channel, after the initial re-enactment of the arrêt against Concini, the charge that Mazarin had either bungled or blocked the peace negotiations with Spain was frequently aired in the Grand'Chambre. Mazarin was also alleged to have shipped massive amounts of gold and silver to Italy. Broussel, the venerable Frondeur judge, read aloud to the court the account books of Mazarin's banker, Contarini, which had been confiscated by warrant. The debate over excluding cardinals set off a display of Gallican eloquence and hair-splitting only a parlementaire could indulge in or understand: Did oaths taken by cardinals violate Gallican Liberties? Ought French cardinals be excluded along with the foreign ones? What if a French bishop became a cardinal while serving on the council? And last but not least: Do cardinals have precedence over foreign princes? Historical precedents from the sixteenth century were cited, and the effort to establish uniform language between acts of previous Parlements, and the current one, occupied the judges for hours, and for weeks. (20) Various high-ranking clergy immediately warned against insulting or in any way indicting a prince of the Church. And while Mazarin was not on good terms with the pope, the nuncio nevertheless warned that His Eminence had the protection due his rank.

Factions and Parties

We have already noted Condé's "party" in the Parlement, and Pym's possible allies with Bedford in Westminster. Next, let us look at the questions of factionalism within the two bodies. In effect, the House of Commons charged that there was a Catholic faction within the realm. The Catholics in both houses of Parliament lacked the strength to dispel this central charge of the Grand Remonstrance. They were known, but quite silent, especially in the Commons, where they were confronted by a zealous Puritan clique led by John Pym. Conrad Russell prefers the term "allies," for the members of the Commons who generally voted with Pym. (21) Other historians have referred to Pym's "Junto," For Pym, the religious issue — that is, the danger of Popery — remained more important than limiting the royal prerogative; and not a few in the Commons shared this priority, as did some London merchants and some Scots. Conrad Russell concludes that Strafford would have been found guilty of treason by a number of peers that exceeded the number participating in any faction linked to Pym. The same seems to have been true for the vote on the bill of attainder in the Commons.

The Parlement of Paris, during the months when Mazarin was being pursued, had also become something of a "rump." That is to say, Anne and Mazarin's usual supporters simply stayed away. Thus Condé's supporters in the Parlement — headed by Viole, Nesmond, and Longueil-Maisons — sought to mobilize their colleagues against Mazarin in every possible way, and to vote subsidies to pay the prince's half-starved army. Condé's appearances and speeches in the Grand'Chambre generally offended by their arrogant and intimidating tone. Neither Strafford nor Condé spoke effectively to collective bodies. At one point, Mazarin attended a session of the Parlement and spoke, then listened to harsh, rude, tumultuous speeches attacking him. He revealed no emotions under attack.

Approximately 1,600 pamphlets or Mazarinades were distributed in 1651, most of which attacked the Cardinal for seducing the Queen Regent, perverting the boy king, and stealing from the royal treasury. Several of the most scabrous writers were in Condé's pay, and their works were printed at his residence, on his presses. (22)

It was truly unthinkable for any member of the Parlement to be ideologically opposed to Condé -- who was a legitimate prince of an illegitimate branch of the French royal family, and the victor over the Spanish at Rocroy. But as Condé sought to intimidate first the city government and then the Parlement, a majority coalesced and stood up firmly against the Condé faction. The Parlement's unwillingness to subsidize an army led by a royal rebel struck a resonant chord in virtually all Parisians, fed up as they were with the brigandage of the troops and the violence of civil war. The Parisians changed their opinions; but Londoners supporting Pym stood firm. Aware that Condé had offered his services to Spain, a treasonable offense, support for him in the Parlement was reduced to a few ineffectual die-hards. Strafford, too, had communicated with the Spanish, and John Pym was aware of it during the trial; but did he not want to accuse further an enemy he could not understand?

For Seneca, a gift is something that pleases, that is not sought, and that has no quid pro quo to it. For Mazarin, major gifts to all participants were essential to every diplomatic negotiation: he believed that the distribution of grâces, as he called them, would bind recipient to benefactor and create a sense of being beholden. Virtually all of Mazarin's opponents who were in positions of leadership, were offered abbeys for their children, pensions, and offices in the royal service throughout the realm. Some eminent judges in the Parlement expressed outrage at Mazarin's attempts to "win" (gagner) them; others accepted what was offered and continued to oppose the Cardinal's policies. Mazarin considered this behavior to be "étrange," his preferred adjective for describing the events of the Fronde. Some Frondeur judges became deeply engaged in the deeper constitutional issues, to the point that they did not perceive the descent into humiliation experienced by the Parlement, as a result of its gridlock and its inability to enforce its decisions. Condé had a certain number of offices that he could distribute in order to persuade someone to become a client; but he wanted many more offices, and Mazarin seemed to be the only person in his way. Charles I raised Strafford to an earldom at a most impolitic time. It confirmed the image of him as a favorite and deprived him of a voice in the Commons.

Strafford's service, first as Law President in the North, and then as Lord Deputy in Ireland, gave him considerable patronage power. Judgeships and other administrative posts, as well as commands in the Irish army, were almost entirely in his gift. Thus, in addition to recovering royal rights over lands, his powers of appointment vexed and threatened leading aristocrats, among them the Earls of Cork and Clanricarde.

Military and Police Powers

The Parlement of Paris had raised an army in 1648-49, to defend Paris against the army loyal to the Regent and Mazarin -- an army then commanded by Condé! Never effectively mustered, and never defeated, the Parlement's army dwindled away after negotiations made it superfluous. The Parlement had been quick to appoint the son of one of its most rebellious members, as commander of the Bastille. In fact, the Parlement's powers to arrest, try, and execute anyone it wished, continued throughout the Fronde. The Regent, the young king, and the Cardinal had companies of royal guards and Swiss at their command. Anne and Mazarins' sole fear was that a rebel force might attempt to kidnap the king, or that the Parisian populace might storm the Palais-Royal in order to lynch Mazarin.

In Westminster, there were tensions between Charles I and Parliament over control of small companies of guards and command over the Tower of London. Charles and his queen feared for their lives during Strafford's trial, for they were virtually without troops to protect them; and it was feared that the London mob, or the trained bands or the city militia, might capture the royal family should Charles refuse to sign the Bill of Attainder ordering Strafford's execution.

Perhaps of more consequence were the rumors and plots that regularly drifted through Parliament concerning Charles's plan to arrest members such as Pym, or to capture Strafford in order to save him. Accompanying these rumors was Strafford's alleged plan to use the Irish army he had raised — not to put down rebellion in Scotland, but to march on London and intimidate Parliament. The Commons suspected that Strafford, in counsel to Charles, had perhaps said "England," instead of "Scotland" This question swayed the deliberations during Strafford's trial, and turned the Lords against him.

Comparing and Understanding the Consequences of the Strafford-Mazarin Trials

The British descent into civil war, after the conflict between Parliament and the Crown over Strafford, depended on the use of impeachment by both Parliament and the Crown. The Parliament gained the upper hand, as bishops and Catholics were purged from Parliament, the queen journeyed to the Continent in order to pawn her jewels, and the opinion strengthened that only military force would establish which was supreme, Parliament or the Crown.

In Paris, Mazarin had been driven into exile by an act of the Parlement; but as he traveled along the northern border, it became evident that he was supported by most, if not all army commanders. With funds scraped together by Colbert, he raised troops in order to impose his return by force. His return enraged the Parlement, now under Gaston's and Condé's control. Moods were changing too, as a result of the king's approaching majority.

A round of ministerial changes announced by Anne opened the door to calling the Parlement to assemble in Pontoise, thereby splitting the judges into loyalists versus Condéists. A plan was hatched whereby the Parlement would demand that Mazarin be exiled a second time -- which occurred. However, Condé's strength declined, and Mazarin's increased, especially after he returned at the head of a small but effective military force. Once the king's majority had been declared, and after yet another ministerial shuffle had taken place, first Louis XIV, and then Mazarin, triumphantly entered the capital on February 3, 1653. A humiliated, purged, but reunited Parlement remonstrated against the exile of its Condéist members, but support for civil war had evaporated. Mazarin would govern, as Anne withdrew and Louis learned about governance from the Cardinal. Condé was charged with treason in absentia: he was commanding the Spanish armies against the French, and would not return to France until the general Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. Mazarin died in his bed on March 9, 1661.

Last Thoughts

1) Threats and fears of war pervaded the daily political lives of the British in the mid-century, though there were no disciplined, professional armed forces at the Crown's disposal. The near absence of loyal companies of foot soldiers and horse guards left the king, his family, and his councilors under the threat of raucous or violent crowds.

2) The cohesive force of religious zeal, combined with a xenophobic climate centered on Popery, pervaded Westminster and some of London at the time of Strafford's trial. The only religious issue faced by Mazarin's enemies was the protection conferred on him by his dignity as prince of the Church.

3) The distribution of powers in the two monarchies was destabilized by similar things that brought similar consequences — that is, the attempt to strengthen kingly powers to meet the fiscal demands of war-making. Favorites and "evil councilors" were in the vanguard of these efforts, and they were the immediate objects to be attacked and removed from power by Parliament and by the Parlement.

4) Kingly ineptitude would not, on its own, have brought a civil war. The equilibrium of powers in the British Monarchy, the "mixed" constitution, would be contested by Parliament's frequently expressed desire to vet royal councilors and, by statute, to hold regular sessions, thereby diminishing the royal prerogative. In Paris, two princes, Gaston and Condé — not the Parlement — fought to be royal councilors by right. Their resignations in protest of Anne's decisions, which often had been inspired by Mazarin, weakened but, until the princes rebelled, did not in fact undermine princely rights to be counselors.

5) Mazarin reminded his opponents of King Charles's fate, which resulted from having accepted the attainder and execution of Strafford. The parallel was direct and telling. The Parlement voted 20,000 livres as monthly support for Queen Henrietta Maria, who was politely threatening to leave Paris: her joining the court would have meant changing sides in the Princely Fronde. On the Day of the Barricades she had strongly advised Queen Anne to receive a delegation from the rebellious Parlement — advice inspired by earlier experience in Westminster.

In his Six Books of the Republic (1583), Jean Bodin makes neither reasoned nor judicial-historical arguments in favor of absolute sovereignty. Rejecting "mixed" constitutions, oligarchy, and democracy, he insists on exactly what monarchy means — that is, full power invested in one person. All across early-modern culture a refrain welled up from the French, in favor of government by one person, a sovereign king, without a favorite or intimidation by over-mighty subjects. Bodin's Republic was written at a very low moment in the life of the French Monarchy. Understanding the Republic as strong advice given to his fellow countrymen, suggests Bodin's engagement in the active political life: he advised excluding mothers and favorites from power.

Hobbes fled to France in 1640. The Long Parliament had already begun its work. He would return from Paris a decade later, after publishing the Leviathan, a work that argues on behalf of absolute sovereignty. Cromwell did not need such advice. (23)

(The Notes follow the Bibliography)  

Brief Bibliography

The classic studies are S.R. Gardiner, History of England from the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of Civil War, 1603-1642, 10 vols. (London, 1883-1884); and A. Chéruel, Histoire de France pendant la Minorité de Louis XIV, 4 vols. (Paris, 1879-188).

The classics in biography are C.V. Wedgwood, First Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641 (New York, 1962); J.F. Merritt, ed., The Political World of Thomas Wentworth (Cambridge, 1996), is very strong and has no equivalent for Mazarin; but see S. Bertière, Mazarin (Paris, 2007); G. Dethan, Mazarin, un homme de paix à l'âge Baroque, 1602-1661 (Paris, 1981); and M. Laurain-Portemer, Une tête à gouverner quatre empires: Études Mazarines (Nogent-le-Roi, 1997). G. Treasure, Mazarin (London, 1995), is sound and balanced but lacking in sensitivity to the specifically Italian political ways of the Cardinal, which are better perceived by Dethan and Laurain-Portemer.

Articles by C. Russell on Bedford and Pym, R.G. Asch on Strafford, and A. Milton on Laud, in the Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), are authoritative and contain lengthy bibliographies. There is no satisfactory biography of Condé. Ruth Kleinman's Anne of Austria (Columbus, 1985) is sensitive and sound.

The numerous recent specialized studies on Parliament are remarkably authoritative and readable, with D.L. Smith, The Stuart Parliaments, 1603-1689 (London, 1999) being an excellent introduction. The works of C. Russell loom over the whole subject, particularly The Fall of the British Monarchies, 1637-1642 (Oxford, 1991), and his Unrevolutionary England, 1603-1642 (London, 1990), which consists of articles published elsewhere, including the Theory of Treason in the trial of Strafford. See also D.L. Smith, Constitutional Royalism and the Search for Settlement, c. 1640-1649 (Cambridge, 1994); C. Hibbard, Charles I and the Popish Plot (Chapel Hill, 1983); L.J. Reeve, Charles I and the Road to Personal Rule (Cambridge, 1989); and L.L. Peck, "Kingship, Counsel and Law in Early Stuart Britain," in The Varieties of British Political Thought, 1500-1800, ed. J.G.A. Pockcock (Cambridge, 1993); and the indispensable J.P. Kenyon, The Stuart Constitution (Cambridge, 1966).

On the Parlement, E.H. Kossman, La Fronde (Leiden, 1954) still merits reading for argument; A.L. Moote, The Revolt of the Judges, The Parlement of Paris and the Fronde, 1643-1652 (Princeton, 1971) is the standard work. More recent, Jean Le Boindre, Débats du Parlement de Paris pendant la Minorité de Louis XIV, vol. II, ed. I. Storez-Brancourt (Paris, 2002), includes short biographies of all the judges; and J. Cornette, La Mélancolie du Pouvoir, Omer Talon (Paris, 1998). BnF, mss. fr. 25025-25026, newsletters, Dec. 25-1648-Aug. 25, 1653, has been transcribed by P.M. Ranum and is available online on this site. The history of the law of treason still awaits its historian, but useful are M. Sbriccoli, Crimen Laesae Maiestatis (Milan, 1974); and R. Giesey, L. Haldy, and J. Milhorn, "Cardin Le Bret on Lèse-Majesté," Law and History Review, 4, (1986), pp. 23-55.

Among the pioneering works that compare the English Parliament and the French Parlement, the classic is P. Knachel, England and the Fronde (Ithaca, 1967).

On the specifically biographical as an explanation or "cause" for the personal tragedies, E.S. Cope, Politics without Parliaments, 1629-1640 (London, 1987) resumes most of the imperious or arrogant evidence about Strafford (p. 184). Forcing the Earl of Cork to demolish a funeral monument seems to be the nec plus ultra incident. On Mazarin's wealth, see C. Dulong, "Le Processus d'enrichissement du cardinal Mazarin d'après l'inventaire après décès de l'Abbé Mondin," Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes, tome. 148-II, 1990, pp. 355-425; and on his image as a sexual predator, J. Merrick, "The Cardinal and the Queen: Sexual and Political Disorders in the Mazarinades," French Historical Studies, 18 (spring 1994), pp. 667-99.


1. C.V. Wedgwood, The First Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641 (New York, 192), pp. 390-99.
2. Biographies do not stress these points, but see S. Bertière's Mazarin (Paris, 2007), and Dubuisson-Aubenai, Journal, ed. by G. Saige (Paris, 1883), I, p. 64.

3. L. Moote, The Revolt of the Judges (Princeton, 1971), p. 325.

4. The term is controversial, but see K. Sharpe, The Personal Rule of Charles I (London, 1992), and L.J. Reeve, Charles I and the Road to Personal Rule (Cambridge, 1989).

5. S. Hanley, The Lit de Justice (Princeton, 1983), p. 307.

6. Dubuisson-Aubenai, I, p. 64; O. Ranum, The Fronde (New York, 1993).

7. H. Carrier, Le Labyrinthe de l'État (Paris, 2004), p. 38.

8. Dubuisson-Aubenai, I, pp. 105, 122; property seized, p. 119; search for his silver, p. 139; portrait of him hanged, p. 337; and II, orders to him to leave the realm, p. 12; a price on his head, pp. 140-44; sale of his personal property, p. 160.

9. C. Russell, The Fall of the British Monarchies (Oxford, 1991), p. 149n; and his article in the Dictionary of National Biography. Wedgwood speculates on the maneuvers of April 30, p. 371.

10. J.P. Kenyon, The Stuart Constitution (Cambridge, 1966) p. 98.

11. This is a simplified count. See D.L. Smith, The Stuart Parliaments (London, 1999), pp. 19-26.

12. V. Pearl, London at the Outbreak of the Civil War (Oxford, 1961), p. 216; and K. Kindley, Popular Politics and Religion in Civil War London (London, 1997), p. 23. Was Parliament "free or forced?" in Strafford's attainder?

13. Ranum, Chap. 5; and R. Descimon, "Les barricades de la Fronde parisienne," Annales, Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, 45 (1990), pp. 397-422.

14. J.G.A. Pocock, "Thomas May and the Narrative of Civil War," in Writing and Political Engagement in Seventeenth-Century England, ed. D. Hirst and R. Strier (Cambridge, 1999), p. 124.

15. J.P. Kenyon, The Stuart Constitution (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 232-40.

16. Moote, Chapter V.

17. Kenyon, p. 94.

18. Russell, The Fall, p. 284

19. Russell, The Fall, pp. 290-97.

20. Some of the issues were no doubt raised by Mazarin's supporters to gain time. See J. Le Boindre, Débats du Parlement de Paris pendant la Minorité de Louis XIV, ed. I. Storez-Brancourt (Paris, 2002), p. 173.

21. The late Earl Russell searched time after time, and in every possible source, for evidence of a strong political link between Bedford and Pym. Like Warwick, Bedford was certainly a patron not only of Pym but of several others in the Commons and the Lords as well. In his D.N.B. article, Russell notes Bedford's hostility toward favorites (p. 245), and Bedford very probably saw Strafford as an evil counselor; but this does not qualify as a relationship in which the client does the bidding of the leader of a faction. Had Pym been strongly linked to Bedford, would not some source confirm it? Various sources mention Nesmond, Viole, and Longueil de Maisons as Condé's supporters in the Parlement. Further research may indication not only shifts, by actual "betrayals," notably by Nesmond.

22. Carrier, Le Labyrinthe, pp. 97-102, 237-40; and Les Mazarinades (Geneva, 1991), I, pp. 104-45.

23. See Carrier, Le Labyrinthe, pp. 96-191, and for Hobbes, p. 94 and passim.