By Marcello Manimtim CM[1]

The report on the socio-political forces in the 17th century France is meant to provide a context of understanding the action of St. Vincent de Paul on the society of his time. We have set 1598 and 1660 as the boundaries of the period under consideration. In 1598 Henry of Navarre, former leader of the Huguenots[2] and now the Catholic king Henry IV of France, assured religious toleration to the Protestants in the Edict of Nantes. This closed the doors on the 40-year long conflict that racked the nation and cleared the way for an internal cohesion around the person of the king. In 1600 Vincent de Paul was ordained priest and died sixty years later. Vincent’s death on September 1660 was followed by Cardinal Mazarin’s on March 1661. King Louis XIV made known that he was not seeking any replacement for a Prime Minister. He began the personal charge of the government and inaugurated the rule of an absolute monarch.

The report has three parts. In the first we try to set the stage for understanding the interaction of the socio-political forces in the 17th century French society. We briefly delineate the formation of the monarchy, the presence of Protestantism in France and chronicled briefly the Wars of Religion. The second describes the constitution of the French society in the three orders or estates. The third presents the action of the government, the resulting economic conditions of those actions, and a sampling of the reactions of the people. We have tried, as far as the materials allowed, adopting a narrative form in the presentation.

I. Setting the Stage

A. The Formation of the French Monarchy

The monarchy of France was formed slowly from medieval feudalism, by assembling the kingdom piecemeal. Different local customs, legal systems and privileges were bound together with little more than the personal authority of the king. In the very process of gradual accretion, the French king was given a very crucial power. The Estates General of 1439 accorded Charles VII taxation as an established right of the monarchy. The main direct tax on property, the taille, was given to the king as a right in support of a standing army. The total amount was first set by the king from year to year, and this amount was then apportioned among the various provinces for collection. This formed the basis of the growth of the royal treasury.

With steady wealth coming from the taille, the monarchy maintained the loyalty of the provinces by harnessing local patriotism and creating important new institutions, like regional parliaments or courts. This was part of the highly successful technique of ruling through the exercise of patronage. The tax revenues that increased with general prosperity in the 15th and 16th centuries allowed the kings to finance a massive spoils system. Apart from money pensions, the nobles became beneficiaries of grants of the king of local authorities like provincial governorships. Military service also meant prestigious commands for important nobles, at the same time that it gave lesser nobles the chance to rise through serving the crown in battle.

Under Francis I (1515-1547) we see the first instance of royal offices being sold in large numbers. As a source of income it would rival direct taxation. Besides the financial returns, this was an ingenious extension of patronage, since the new officials were dependent on the king for support in the exercise of their powers. Power in local areas now depended not only on landholding and feudal dependence relations but also on the ability to influence the distribution of patronage from the center. This was an important means by which royal power penetrated to the extremities of the realm. The nobles, for their part, would secure positions for their followers, creating in turn their own circles of influence. In this way the monarchs encouraged the extension of complex networks of fidelity and dependency.[3]

B. Protestantism in France

In Germany the progress of the Protestant Reformation came to a definitive stage at the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 with the adoption of the principle “cuius regio, eius religio.” Protestant and Catholic princes agreed to stop the internecine battles fragmenting the empire by according equal legitimacy to the two denominations in conflict, Catholics and Lutherans. Principalities would adopt the religion of their leaders.

The French Protestants were followers of Calvin, who established his first community in Geneva. The early followers were mostly artisans and small tradesmen. The movement had increasing success with groups higher up the social ladder, such as lawyers, doctors and petty local officials. Eventually it began to penetrate the nobility, often beginning with the women and then, with their assistance, winning over husbands and sons. Calvin, who mistrusted the individualism of the early ministers, drew on the higher social groups for his new recruits to the ministry, so that the Calvinist pastors were greatly superior, both socially and intellectually, to most of their Catholic counterparts.

The success of the Protestants was remarkable during the 1540s and 1550s but they were limited to the towns and their immediate vicinity. Widespread illiteracy, suspicion of strangers and attachment to traditional practices were factors that excluded the Protestants, to a great degree, from the rural world. First operating in secrecy, the ministers were able to create communities in almost all French towns. As their numbers increased, it became increasingly difficult to continue with clandestine meetings. In 1559 they held their first synod at Paris, for which Calvin drafted a confession of faith, the Confessio Gallicana.[4] The Calvinists became known in France as Huguenots.

C. The Wars of Religion

The death of Henry II in 1559 saw Francis II, a youth of 15, technically of age to rule, but obviously incapable of exercising real power. During his brief reign the royal council was dominated by his relations by marriage, the house of Guise. This ascendancy by one magnate family invited resentments among their rivals, particularly the great houses of Bourbon and Montmorency. The rivalry between the great families created the impression that France was divided up between the Bourbons in the south-west, Montmorency in the center, and Guises in the east. In all the regions, however, were leading noble families which did not belong to the clientage systems of the three families. The control, therefore, of the royal council trickled into the balance in local powers.

Faction quarrels among the magnate nobles were complicated by the appearance of religious differences among the magnates. The Guises were staunchly Catholics; the Montmorency were also generally Catholics, but nephews, notably Coligny, had become Calvinists. The elder Bourbon prince, the king of Navarre, was non-committed but his brother, Conde, emerged as the political leader of the Calvinists. The success of the Guises at court appeared to threaten the increased repression of the Calvinists, who quickly organized themselves as a military power.[5]

On the ground, the clash of religions became acrimonious and violent. The Calvinists decried what they saw as the idolatry of the Catholics with their veneration of the saints and the consecrated host. They accused the priests of centuries of frauds against innocent believers by inventing unnecessary rituals that required monetary payments. This indignation was accompanied with numerous incidents of desecration of venerated images and attacks on monastic houses and clergymen. To the Catholics, the smashing of the images of the saints, the blasphemy against God’s holy body, and the attack on the ministers put their community in mortal danger. The long standing belief that tied France’s prosperity and survival to its loyalty to the true faith reinforced these sentiments. Any concession of freedom of worship to the Protestants represented a betrayal of the crown’s sworn obligations. If the crown could not fulfill its duty to punish such depraved groups, ordinary Christians had to do it for them, by violence if necessary. Catholic violence in turn generated an increasingly aggressive Protestant response in the name of self-defense. Once the cycle of war began, memories of past injuries and suspicion of the other side’s intentions added more fuel to the fire.[6]

At the death of Henry II in 1560, Charles IX was still a minor, so his mother, Catherine de Medici, became regent and took a center position in the political stage which she was to maintain for almost 30 years. She brought the Huguenots to court where they enjoyed a brief period of ascendancy in the royal council. The January 1562 edict which granted the Protestants a limited freedom of worship led to a series of local clashes which developed into the first open war between Protestants and Catholics. The numerical advantage of the Catholic forces was enhanced by the help from Philip II of Spain who dispatched his troops to fight the Protestants. Wearied and running out of money, both sides agreed to end the war with the Peace of Amboise in March 1563. The edict granted general liberty of conscience but conceded to the Protestants public worship in only one town in each judicial district, called bailliage. The concessions were greatly disliked by the Catholics, but the Huguenots also had reason to be dissatisfied. The effect of the edict was to confine them within areas they had already taken over. The new peace held for more than four years, thanks in large measure to the vigorous efforts of the queen mother and the chancellor Michel de L’Hôpital.

The escalating spiral of antagonism reached its peak in the massacre that broke out in Paris on St. Bartholomew’s Day (24 August) 1572. The occasion was the marriage of Henry of Navarre to Marguerite of Valois, which brought the cream of aristocracy, many of them Protestants, to Paris. An attempt on the life of Coligny was followed by an imprudent threat of revenge by the Huguenot nobles against the king and the royal family. The king’s associates, in panic reaction, persuaded the king of the Huguenots’ impending coup, and that he must strike first. The court’s intentions were limited to the elimination of small group of leaders, notably Coligny. The execution of the plan set off an unintended chain of reaction: the Paris mob ran amok, killing Protestants in thousands the next two days. Lesser massacres occurred in about a dozen other towns as the news spread, despite royal attempts to prevent it. Huguenots fled France in great numbers. The king of Navarre and Conde, held prisoners, were forced to become Catholics.[7]

Two results issued from the massacre. First, the Huguenots, who would never trust the Valois kings again, abandoned their efforts of negotiating with the king and concentrated on defending their provincial strongholds. Second, moderate Catholics, seeing that the crown had tilted toward the extremist position of elimination of heresy, developed a politique party which looked into negotiated settlement, including an element of toleration, with the Protestants.[8] When Henry III became king an alliance between Huguenots and politiques led to the Peace of Monsieur of 1576, which extended the freedom to worship to the Huguenots anywhere in the kingdom except within two leagues of Paris, created special courts to hear their lawsuits, and granted modest compensation on families of the victims of St. Bartholomew’s Massacre.

The concessions made to the Huguenots caused widespread dismay among the Catholic zealots and a new force appeared in the shape of a general Catholic League. This was an essentially conservative party based among the nobility, under the leadership of the young duke of Guise. Several ideas held the members of the League together. The king was to be preserved in his authority without prejudice to the rights of the Estates; the provinces were to have their ancient rights restored; all members of the League were to swear obedience to its head without regard for any other authority. Henry III put himself at the head of the League and renewed the war against the Huguenots. But the efforts to suppress the heretics failed and the negotiated Peace of Bergerac of 1577 returned to the old terms of Amboise.

The death of the duke of Alençon (or Anjou), the king’s brother, presented the Catholics with a big problem. Henry III was certain to remain childless and the heir apparent to the throne was the Huguenot leader, Henry of Navarre. Even moderate Catholics could not be expected to welcome this prospect. The Catholic League now reappeared in a more fanatical form, inspired by a small Parisian group of clerics and lesser bourgeois. After taking control of most towns and provinces of northern and central France, they issued a manifesto in March 1585 which articulated their goals: the Cardinal of Bourbon should be the heir apparent, Catholicism should be re-established as the role religion of the realm; taxes should be reduced; the nobility should be restored to the full enjoyment of its privileges, and an Estates-General should be summoned every three years.

The mutual distrust reached its climax when Henry III turned on the League by having Henri, duke of Guise and his brother Cardinal of Guise murdered in December 1588. The Cardinal of Bourbon and other League leaders were imprisoned. The stunned members of the Estates dispersed. The murders also provided the occasion for a major realignment of forces across the kingdom. Catherine de Medici, for long the advocate of moderate policies in regards to the Huguenots, ha died at the beginning of the year. After disposing of the Guises, Henry III allied himself with Henry of Navarre declaring the latter the true heir to the throne. Together the two Henries directed themselves to Paris to put the city under siege in the summer of 1589; the city seemed doomed when a fanatical monk, Jacques Clément, avenged the Guises by assassinating Henry III.[9]

Henry of Navarre, now the sole claimant to the throne, proved himself militarily a much better general than any of the League’s commanders. Once his enemies were defeated, and after a suitable period of tutoring, he publicly abjured his Protestant beliefs in July 1593 at Saint-Denis. His conversion was an acceptance of the principle that the king of France had to be Catholic. At the same time it removed the primary obstacle that kept many of his subjects from recognizing him as king. Within a year, Paris, Lyon and dozen other cities all proclaimed their allegiance to him. On their part, the Huguenots used their final years of fighting to extract concessions from a king who was no longer their co-religionist. In April 1598 Henry issued the Edict at Nantes granting the Huguenots freedom of worship in a specified number of localities, which at this time reached about 200. Other articles confirmed the existence of special chambers of the parlements to provide impartial justice for Protestant litigants, the Protestant control of 84 garrisoned towns, and modest subsidies for their schools and worship.[10]


II. Socio-Political Institutions

France in the seventeenth century was one of the more populous nations, with a total population of about 20 million, distributed unevenly within close to half a million square kilometers of territory.[11] Of the total population about 12 million managed some forms of productive activity. Despite the incidences of war and the heavy fiscal burden, the productivity of the people supported a substantial wealth of the nation.

Over the nation the king is the sovereign authority. The king’s sovereignty recognizes God as the only superior power; hence he is dependent on no earthly power, neither that of the emperor, of the pope, of the nobles, or of the people.[12] He is subject to no law, since he is the lawgiver, and can proceed in an action without having to give an account to any other authority.

The union of the Church and State in France meant that the sovereign must of the same faith as his subjects. As demonstrated in the case of Henry IV of Navarre, political authority is founded on religious unity. The consecration of the king signifies his divine right to rule and gives him the right to intervene in the Church. The sovereign maintains structures that defend the Catholic religion from enemies and facilitate the citizens’ exercise of religious duties. The civil society assimilates the structures of the ecclesiastical society and offenses against religion become crimes against the state. Marriage is regulated by Canon Law and religious vows are recognized by civil authorities. The sovereign grants to the Church the monopoly of religious instruction and charitable assistance, and accords all categories of immunities: royal immunity which is exemption from taxes for the goods of the Church; local, the right of asylum; and personal, the exemption for ecclesiastics from being hailed before civil courts.

One of the chief ways in which the king exercises control over the Church is by the nomination of bishops and of important benefices. This power of the king was sanctioned in the Concordat of Bologna in 1516 signed between Francis I and Pope Leo X. This relationship had depended on a much older arrangement, the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges of 1438. The Pragmatic Sanction guaranteed the independence of French cathedral chapters by allowing them to elect their own bishops and abbots. The Concordat of 1516 replaced the Pragmatic Sanction and gave the French king the legal right to nominate the bishops himself when vacancies occurred, though the pope still retained the right to refuse any nominees who were unqualified for office.[13]

The social ordering of the 17th century France may start with the traditional division of the three Estates: clergy, nobles, and people. The division reflects a religious and military conception of society of primitive, pre-industrial economy. A society seen in terms of “the clerics who prayed, the nobles who fought and governed, and the people who worked” was meant to make a social whole founded on interlocking functions. The categories state a perception of what each “estate” primarily does rather than its actual socio-economic standing. Each category covers a complex mixture of economic and social gradings.

In an unequal society, where the 10% or so owned enough property to guarantee regular and adequate meals while the 90% do not, a modest laborer with a capital of 4,000 livres and a duke worth 4 millions both belonged to the privileged 10%, but they have nothing else in common. Among the clergy, opposed economic interests arose between the aristocratic high clergy and the mass of priests of who did the real work. The realities of life in the 17th century were more complex to fit neatly into the ordering of social classes. Strictly speaking, no class can be said to have possessed a genuine class-consciousness in the sense that there was little sign of people’s behavior being influenced by ideas about their class interest. Nonetheless, the ordering will be used taking into consideration its limitations.

A. The Clergy

The influence of the clergy on society rested on the substantial wealth of the Church, estimated to be as much as third of the kingdom.[14] The wealth comprised of the properties of the Church, the rent corresponding to their use, and the dues associated with the functions of the clergy. The total number of the clergy, including the religious, reached only up to 2% of the population but its influence was felt in society up to the higher levels of government.[15]

The high clergy occupied the leading positions of bishoprics and major religious abbeys and convents. A great number of bishops came from noble families, in some cases establishing episcopal genealogies: e.g. de Gondi, Rochefoucauld, Bethune, Potier, and d’Estrees. The grant of bishoprics was a way on the part of the king to secure the loyalty or reward the service of concerned parties. Besides political expediency, the preference for nobles betrayed a particular view of society of the period:

The nobility which has the virtue often has also the desire for honor and glory which produces the same effects as the zeal that is generated by the pure love of God in such a way that the noble person lives the ordinary with luster and generosity befitting his position and knows better the manner of acting and getting along in the world.”[16]

The power of the bishop operated on a number of levels, which tended to reinforce one another. Within his diocese, and especially his cathedral town, the bishop could rely on a combination of wealth, patronage, traditional rights, and religious authority. He was normally treated on equal terms with the provincial governor or the premier president of a sovereign court. He was expected to organize poor relief, both in ordinary times and in emergencies, to mediate in local disputes, and to intercede with the royal government on behalf of his diocese. Where there were local estate assemblies an archbishop or bishop commonly presided over them. This situation generally suited the crown very well, for most bishops proved loyal and reliable. Normally he would be an assiduous correspondent, acting as a general government informer and thus occupying a pivotal role between central and local authority.[17]

The parish is the basic local unit of both the Church and the State. It is headed by the parish priest (curé). Far from being humble peasants, the great majority of parish priests were sons of small to middling bourgeois, sometimes of lesser nobles. Where they were of rural origins, they were the sons of prosperous farmers monopolizing some unusually profitable positions.[18] The great majority of parish priests were nominated not by the bishop but by patrons, who could very well be secular lords. It was a lucky bishop who appointed a third of his curés. In Limoges, the bishop could appoint only 363 of 868 parish priests. Once nominated, they could not be easily moved, hence the great independence of curés. In many cases the curé called on the help of a vicar. A far greater number, however, were priests who were without benefice or fixed pastoral work. These were called “habitual” priests.[19]

Before the introduction of formal seminary training, most priests learned through apprenticeship to an existing priest, very often a relative. One can easily surmise the intellectual and moral quality of their preparation. We get a picture of that state from the records of canonical visitations made by bishops. They reveal not only the dilapidated state of churches but also the inadequacies of the parish clergy. In 1643 the archdeacon of Bourges testified to lamentable cases of priests: “… one could not say what they do when they celebrate the Mass, … there are those who put in the tabernacle pieces of candles, of coins and paper together with sacred hosts … or who after twenty years did not know the form of absolution nor which part of the body had to be anointed in the Extreme Unction.”[20] Nonetheless, even when clerical abuse and ignorance were widely condemned, many parish priests evidently enjoyed the esteem and trust of their parishioners. If a parish priest was popular with his parishioners, they were quite likely to conceal his misbehavior, even if it included keeping a concubine. Tolerated in many cases, such moral failings aroused scandalized protests when a priest was disliked for avarice and absenteeism. These were the major faults in the eyes of most of the faithful.

Whatever his social origin, preparation or personal failings, the parish priest enjoyed a certain prestige and affluence. He had a vital social role in the community where he ranked as a notable. He was an agent of government charged with making announcements from the pulpit, issuing notices which ordered witnesses to testify before courts, and replying to questionnaires sent out by the intendants.[21] He recorded baptisms, marriages, and deaths in his parish register, organized informal charity, mediated with outsiders such as lawyers and tax-collectors. There was a danger that in both his secular and his religious capacities the priest would be a rather ambivalent figure, often having to perform unpopular duties which emphasized that his loyalties were divided.[22]

B. The Nobles

The nobility made up 4-5% of the total population in the 17th century France. This second “estate” embraces a complex group whose limits are not easy to set.[23] The noble class in general relied on the land for its income. In a money economy that developed to a certain degree at this period, this meant that everything could be made to yield cash immediately: estates were rented out, houses let, and offices of state bought and sold. The lord generally possessed the right to levy a whole range of duties, from commission for the rent and sale of state offices, to a form of secular tithe, to charges for the use of the mill. Furthermore, he maintained a court of first instance through which he could enforce those duties.[24] Numerous nobles received pensions from the king in the forms of benefice and grants connected with dignitary offices. In the Church, many families had the right of patrimony to benefices, from which comes their right nominate parish priests. They were also exempted from paying royal dues, especially the taille.

The advantageous position accruing from the possession of land, the favored relationship they cultivated with the monarchy, and the exemption from direct taxes assured the nobility considerable wealth. But the aristocratic nobles who maintained riches were few. These few tried by all means to retain their dominant and privileged position in society. They also felt the need to “live nobly.” Despite changed fortunes, the attempt to keep up appearances led the nobility to a great deal of money spent wastefully. The Spanish Duke of Béjar confessed in 1626: “Everyone judges me to be rich, and I do not wish outsiders to know differently because it would not be to my credit for them to understand that I am poor.” The policy of keeping up appearances that was financially suicidal took many forms. One was the system of keeping a large household of retainers and servants. Some nobles had five and six hundred retainers. Other obvious ways of conspicuous spending included luxurious clothes, banquets, and hunting indulged in on a scale that made commoners gasp. As an example, it was no doubt the urge to impress that made the Englishman Lord Hay give a feast in 1621 to the French ambassador, in the preparation of which one hundred cooks were employed eight days to cook one thousand six hundred dishes. Outstanding among the items of expenditure was the building of residences. One motive seems to have been preponderant: the ambition of the rich to build homes worthy of their own wealth and status; homes, moreover, that would surpass those of all their rivals.[25]

The observation of Richelieu about the nobles in 1614 not only referred to their wasteful way of life but also hinted to the changing status of the nobility. “The majority,” he said, “as poor in money as they are rich in honor, cannot obtain posts in the royal household or judicial offices, since one can only attain such honors through means which they do not possess”. The change in the status of nobility accompanied the discussion of the question: “By what right do the nobles govern? By the end of the 16th century there were still those who held the view that lineage conferred power. Monferrat noble Stefano Guazzo wrote in 1584: “in so far as we are born of good lineage, we are the best.” As against this traditionalist position, the post-Renaissance thinkers emphasized virtue, education and service to the state, dictated by the need to find a place in the political establishment for a class of successful merchants and civil servants. It is this class which became the new nobility at the turn of the century.[26]

Whereas merchants and artisans dominated medieval cities, leadership passed in the 16th century to royal officials and lawyers. The royal officials consisted mainly of those who took charge of royal finances gathered from taxation. They multiplied in number together with the officials of the courts as more and more regions came under direct royal control. The judges gained visibility and importance in cities, and played increasingly important role in local governance because they represented the king and held some portion of his powers. Financial offices had less social status than judgeships but they brought higher profits, since many officials received a share of all the monies that they collected. All of this new wealth, deriving ultimately from the exercise of public power, provided the basis for an increasingly aristocratic mode of living, and eventually for claims to formal nobility as well. The more important judges and royal officials also came to enjoy the tax exemptions and other advantages of noble birth. After 1600, this informal consensus received increasingly legal confirmation. For some officials, this meant immediate ennoblement on assuming office; more commonly families could claim noble status when they held an office for three generations. The highest levels of royal officialdom now constituted a “nobility of the robe,” distinct from the traditional nobility in its manners and functions, but similar in enjoyment of privilege and esteem.[27]

At about the same time that the merchants and civil servants were securing their social ascent and obtaining the noble status, other long-cherished prejudices of the noble class were changing rapidly. The best known of these was the belief that nobles should not work for their living because to work for gain or profit was demeaning. The sixteenth-century French jurist Loyseau affirmed in his Traité des Ordres, “it is gain, whether vile or sordid, that derogates from nobility, whose proper role is to live off rents.” Derogation, dérogeance, meant the possible loss of noble status. In France it was the royal government that did most to break down the old attitude to commerce. At the turn of the century, when the Parlement of Lyon demanded that merchants who became nobles should live noblement (that is, should no longer trade), the royal council declared in June 1607 that “the King wishes them to enjoy fully and freely the privileges of nobility, as though they were nobles of ancient lineage, and they may continue to do business and trade, both in money and banking as in any other large-scale trading.” It was with Richelieu that we get the most precise statements of policy. In the Code Michau of 1629, a clause declared that “all nobles who directly or indirectly take shares in ships and their merchandise shall not lose their noble status.”[28]

C. The People.

This “estate” called the people or commoners is marked by the socio-economic heterogeneity of its components. In it are included the following:

1. The Bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie constituted 15% to 20% of the kingdom. Within this category were varied groups classifiable in various ways. One was between the inactive and active bourgeoisie. The first disposed their resources for rent, especially money to the government; the second engaged in the administrative and financial running of the government.[29]

Though having less substantial properties than the nobles, the bourgeois were more aggressive in the profit-making activities: lending of cash and seeds, letters of credit, rent of agricultural tools, textile and salaries. They ended up in many cases carving out the property of the nobles and expropriating the peasants. In recognition of their enterprising abilities, they were often asked to administer the properties of nobles and of the clergy. It was also from the bourgeois that the central government would call upon to fill up the various administrative, financial and judicial offices that multiplied in the 17th century.[30] The extent of their influence became more pronounced especially when the royal government farmed out the taxes as an emergency measure to assure itself a more ready source of money for the conduct of the war. This we shall see in the next section.

A good percentage of the bourgeois involved in the administration, especially the royal officials, was elevated into the nobility. Once they had become established in this way, these families tended to remain at the same level, with judicious intermarriages likely increasing their wealth and status. They created a tight circle of related families which guarded jealously their newly acquired status and privileges. Their service became indispensable to an extent that the monarchs admitted a few such men to membership of the inner council which dealt with major affairs of state.[31]

2. The Artisans

There existed corporations of patrons, officials and workers of diverse professions: weavers, tanners, dyers, masons, carpenters, sawyers, blacksmiths, butchers, cutlers, etc. They formed two groups:

  • Free (“métiers réglés”): those regulated by towns through statutes and controlled by the police.
  • Sworn (“métiers jurés”): autonomous professional groupings with their own strict regulations. The members shared the same rights and obligations and took oaths to remain united (hence, “métier juré”).[32]

The conditions of apprenticeship and the access to the mastery of the profession were determined with precision in each profession. The corporations regulated the monopoly granted to each profession in the towns and regions.

3. Salaried town workers

At the bottom of urban society was the mass of salaried workers, normally hungry and oppressed by the commercial bourgeois. They were lodged in the suburbs and poor villages around towns and cities. Dispossessed of land and house, and with minimal furniture and clothings, their salary was their only means of survival. But the salary as well as the employment was uncertain. Forced to borrow in order to survive, the system of loans into which they were sucked reduced them to perpetual indebtedness. Illiteracy and the lack of skilled specialization pushed these manual workers, especially those who could not obtain work contracts due to age and sickness, normally outside the reach of any supportive organization or corporation. Only the more fortunate workers, those who were able to work up to the maximum of 260 to 290 days’ work in a year, received enough to support their families.

The purchasing power of the salary of the workers fluctuated according to the rise and ebb of prices of grains, determined in turn by the quality of harvest from year to year. The fluctuation, which ranged between 10 to 20 percent, always worked to the advantage of manufacturers and traders. The workers thus adversely affected were reduced to hunger and misery and had to recourse to charitable institutions for survival.[33]

4. Peasants

French society was propped up by the most numerous, eminently productive yet dependent mass of peasants. “Just one year in which the land was not tilled would have meant death of everyone.”[34] The peasants who by their toil produced the goods on which the whole kingdom depended may be classified into three types:

a) The peasant-farmers: these were the farmers who possessed the necessary means, the land and the agricultural tools, to cultivate the land. The tenant-farmers, though not possessing land, were a powerful group because they had the means to cultivate the land of the big landowners, be they nobles, clerics or bourgeois.[35] The landowner-farmers may be considered either wealthy or middle. The wealthy farmers owned from 20 to 30 hectares. Many of them were also tax collectors of the nobles, leased agricultural tools to other farmers and money to the government. Because of their economic prowess, they constituted a sort of village aristocracy. They figured prominently in the stories of misery of poor peasants who were heavily indebted to them. The middle farmers possessed smaller tracks of land, around ten hectares, worked on their own land or those of the neighboring families, and extended their resources by going into some leasing activities.

b) Small farmers: they possessed small parcels of land, cultivated others that they rented, and raised certain number of animals. Many of them had to find other occupations in order to survive.

c) The farm-workers and day laborers: they made up the biggest number of the poor in the rural population. They did all sorts of heavy jobs assigned to them by the employer of the day: cut wood or hay, do the harvest, carry grain, plow the field, cultivate the vineyard, or assist masons, etc.[36] The farm-workers were usually fixed in their residence, while day-laborers had so little means of their own that they were more often on the move, particularly into the towns. Continually indebted, they worked intermittently on certain periods of the year. Their work afforded them barely to pay the debts or earn some money. They lived in rented dwellings and were normally incapable to support their family from their earnings. To escape an almost permanent state of misery, some hired themselves to take care of farm animals or become carders.

How is the picture of the rural population in relation to actual landholding? Within the peasant class, there was a readily recognizable structure of landholding: at the top were a small handful of well-landed independent farmers and at the bottom a large number of peasants with very much smaller rented holdings. As an example, in the French district of Beauvaisis in the seventeenth century a typical village community of about one hundred families would have one or two very rich peasant farmers, five or six middling farmers, and about twenty small farmers. Below these were the rest of the much larger class of farm-workers and day-laborers of various sorts who made up the vast majority of the rural population.[37]

Given the situation of the peasants, different entities descended on them and benefited from their work. A French lawyer, La Barre, observed in 1622:

If, when he sowed his ground the peasant really realized for whom he was doing it, he would not sow. For he is the one to profit least from his labor. The first handful of grain he casts on the soil is for God, so he throws it freely. The second goes to the birds; the third for ground-rents; the fourth for tithes; the fifth for tailles, taxes and impositions. And all that goes even before he has anything for himself.[38]

How the various obligations of the peasants operated in practice may be seen in the case of the peasants of Beauvaisis referred to above. The average small farmer worked about five hectares of land. The payment of taxes to the crown would take up about one-fifth of his output (the taille accounted for most of this), leaving him with eighty per cent of his harvest. The tithe and church taxes would take up another eight per cent of his revenue, and other taxes would account for four per cent more, so that eventually the peasant would be left with sixty-eight per cent of the harvest. Another twenty per cent, however, would have to be set aside for running costs and for the reservation of seed to be sown the following year. This left forty-eight per cent, and still the outgoings were not at an end, for the rent to the proprietor of the land remained to be paid. This varied widely, depending on the system of tenure. What the peasant received eventually might be only a small fraction of his original harvest. This, of course, was in a normal year; and takes no account of the possibility that the peasant might have debts to be repaid out of his income. If the year had been a bad one, as all too frequently it was, or if his debts were many, which was generally true, the peasant faced disaster.[39]

The debts of the middling and small farmers eventually filled the coffers of the administrative officials who recouped their rented money in terms of parcels of land. Thus, the farmers, forced to sell part of their land to pay debts and to feed the family, often found themselves tenants in the very lands they had lost. The fiscal obligations reduced the rural population to misery, and quite often in the 17th century, to rebellion.


III. Government Action and People’s Reaction

The end of the civil war brought about by the Edict of Nantes in 1598 guaranteed neither a lasting peace nor the certain restoration of the authority of the crown. As the king of the newly unified nation, Henry IV was preoccupied with the strengthening of the royal institutions so that no future challenge to the crown would destabilize the nation the way they did during the Wars of Religion.

There were several problems that Henry IV and his successors faced:

1. the religious tensions left over from the civil wars, as well as the long-term solution to the Huguenot “state within a state”;

2. the challenge of the powerful subjects—aristocratic, clerical, judicial—to the royal crown;

3. the perennial problem of insufficient revenues of the crown, especially during wartime.

A. The Religious Problem

When Henry IV abjured his Calvinist faith in 1593 he had to convince the Catholics that his conversion was sincere and not just a cynical act of political opportunism. Henry made explicit efforts to demonstrate his devotion to his new faith. In the capital during Holy Week, he made numerous public demonstrations of his devotion: marching in religious processions on Palm Sunday, washing the feet of the poor in various parish churches in the city on Maundy Thursday, and publicly attending mass and receiving communion on Easter Sunday in Notre-Dame. The same scenario was repeated in the League cities that surrendered to him in 1594 and 1595. The popular reaction suggests that Henry’s efforts were largely successful. Though public behavior was so often staged and controlled at many royal entries, the evidence suggests that on these occasions the popular response was both spontaneous and genuine.

Although Henry IV realized that his royal person was still the only acceptable focus for national unity in the kingdom, he was very aware that the legacy of the Wars of Religion meant that his focus would have to be somewhat different. While many French Catholics were seeking to introduce and implement a renewed post-Tridentine Catholicism after 1598, Henry found himself trying to disengage the monarchy from some of its more traditional Catholic moorings in order to better maintain the peace. He was determined to keep the country of “one king, one faith and one law,” but was equally set not to force his former co-religionists to convert to Catholicism. He preferred that they voluntarily unite with the Catholics, for which purpose he used a number of incentives—generally in the form of offices and pensions. This policy prevented the renewal of civil war during his reign. That it was Francois Ravaillac, a critic of his policies, who assassinated Henry in May 1610 underscores the precarious nature of any solution to the Huguenot problem.[40]

Under Louis XIII, the tenuous peace reverted to war. The problem was seen in the case of La Rochelle near the Atlantic. Some Huguenot nobles and grandees organized armed resistance to the king, set up their own system of justice and tax assessment in some selected towns, and took over some fortified towns. This forced Louis XIII into action, resulting in the sieges of Montauban in 1621 and of Montpellier in 1622. The lengthy and costly sieges made Louis XIII recognize that it was the very provisions of the Edict of Nantes that allowed the rebel nobles to defy royal authority. The ability to maintain garrisons of troops in nearly 200 towns allowed the Huguenots nobles to remain a constant threat to the crown. The siege of La Rochelle began in earnest with 15,000 royal troops surrounding the citadel in an attempt to cut of all supplies and munitions and force surrender. When an English attempt to aid the Huguenots by sea was repelled in November 1627, the Huguenots’ fate was sealed. Famine and starvation decimated the population of the city before the leaders reluctantly surrendered in October 1628. With an act of statesmanship that shone both his political shrewdness and genuine humanity, Richelieu advised the king to confirm the Edict of Nantes, pardon the rebellion, and simply revoke the supplementary articles. Henceforward, the Huguenots lost their fortresses and troops, but were guaranteed liberty of conscience.[41]

The other principal religious problem Henry IV and Louis XIII had to face was the group of militantly devoted Catholics, who came to be called dévots. Some of these individuals were leftovers from the Catholic League who were dissatisfied with the legal recognition granted to the Huguenots in the Edict of Nantes. They were only too happy to support any effort to renew the war against the Huguenots. Others were imbued with the reforming spirit of Catholic reform that had emerged after the Council of Trent and felt that their principal focus should be on the spiritual renewal of the Catholic laity.

The dévots found themselves increasingly at odds with Cardinal Richelieu. Concerned more about domestic issues, they had been critical of Richelieu’s foreign policy seeing little gain to be had from opposing the Catholic Habsburg abroad. They felt his support for the spiritual renewal and reform unsatisfactory. One such voice was Michel de Marillac, keeper of the seals and member of the king’s council. Because they felt the backing of Marie de Medici for their positions, policy-making in the king’s council became divisive. The conflict came to a head on November 10, 1630. Louis XIII banished his mother from court and had Michel de Marillac stripped of the royal seals, arrested and confined at Chateaudun. It was called the Day of Dupes, because just one day earlier Richelieu thought that the king has supported the queen and de Marillac. The queen mother fled to the Spanish Netherlands, never to see France again. Michel de Marillac died two years later in disgrace.

The dévots continued to criticize Richelieu’s policies. His willingness to tolerate the Huguenots at home while he supported the Protestant princes abroad in the Thirty Years War made him highly suspect as a champion of the Catholic cause. Richelieu found a most valuable ally for his policies in Francois Le Clerc du Trembley, a Capuchin, who was better known as Father Joseph. With Richelieu he saw that the Habsburg emperor’s war strategy in Germany was a significant threat to France. Richelieu relied on Father Joseph, a specialist on German affairs, to make the dévots realize that their support of the Habsburg emperor against the German Lutheran princes was bound to fail. Once France officially entered the Thirty Years War in 1635, the dévots were virtually finished as a political party in opposition to the crown.[42]

B. The Problem of Loyalty to the Crown

Contemporary accounts credit Henry IV with personal charisma for restoring order after the civil wars. Very quickly, however, he realized that restoring the authority of the crown and the unity of the nation required more than personality. He made much greater systematic use of the royal clientage system than his predecessors had done in order to govern. The use of patronage had been a traditional means of tying together into a network members of elite classes. The problem was that the system enabled various nobles to build vast clientage networks on their own throughout the realm, at times rivaling that of the king. After Henry IV’s victory over the Catholic League, he won over the loyalty of many of those who opposed him by bringing them into his own personal clientage network. He guaranteed their loyalty to him as their patron by placing his own clients in positions of authority.[43] He co-opted into his clientage networks those former opponents who had demonstrated their loyalty to him at the end of the civil wars.

Henry IV also reinvigorated the sale of offices throughout the realm. In the course of the 16th century most of the king’s financial and legal officials became office-holders through sale as successive kings needed more and more revenue. In theory, an office was purchased for life from the crown. In return, the office-holder received an income that derived from interest earned on the original sum paid for the office, as well as other fees that added to the office-holder’s financial reward. These offices were not automatically inheritable by the office-holder’s heir. Indeed, if the holder of an office died within forty days of passing his office to an heir, the office automatically reverted to the crown for resale. After 1568 office holders could pay a sum of one-third the value of their office in order to be exempt from the forty-day rule, but this was usually too large a sum for most to afford. More often they bargain with brokers, called traitants, who were middlemen between the crown and the office-holders. This usually resulted in paying yet more fees as well as an increase in the cost of the office. This was exactly where the local magnates could be the most effective in insuring that their clients continued to profit from the system.

This changed with the introduction of the paulette in 1604. The paulette was an annual tax of one sixtieth of the office’s value that exempted the office-holder from the forty-day law, at death. This not only meant that there were more clients of the crown who were no longer beholden to the local magnates, but it also produced some significant revenues for the crown.[44] The most immediate effect was to make offices much more desirable and valuable, and the cost of the offices began to escalate considerably as a result. As an example, the cost of a counsellorship in the parlement of Rouen was valued at 7,000 livres tournois in 1593. After the introduction of the paulette its value increased to 15,000, escalated to 40,000 in 1622, 66,000 in 1626, and up to as much as 80,000 by 1637. To place the prices in context, the counsellorship would have cost the equivalent of 8,750 times the daily wage of a construction worker (mason, plasterer or carpenter) in 1593. It rose to 40,000 times in 1622, and 85,000 times in 1637. [45]

Moreover, the number of offices created by the crown also rose dramatically. By the death of Henry IV in 1610, every financial office in the realm had three office-holders, each of whom served one year out of every three. In the long run this expansion of the system did manage to diminish the influence of local magnates in favor of the crown, but it also created significant political problems. Not only did traditional nobles complain about the system, but even the office-holders themselves soon saw the increase in the number of offices diluting their own authority.

In many ways Louis XIII and Richelieu built upon the efforts of Henry IV. They expanded their personal clientage networks and used them to centralize royal authority in the provinces. Cardinal Richelieu had the distinction of placing his creatures into every level of government. This network consisted of a small group of interconnected nobles and their own clients, making it relatively easy for the cardinal to counteract hostile royal governors, and ultimately to control entire regions from Paris. He systematically used this strategy of surrounding recalcitrant nobles with administrative networks loyal to him and to the king.[46] This innovation was continued by his ministerial successors.

Richelieu’s principal innovation in securing the loyalty of French subjects to the crown was in his novel use of intendants. Intendants were royal commissioners who had traditionally been deployed as agents of the crown to deal with special commissions or particular emergencies. These officials usually fell into three broad categories: intendants of justice, intendants of finance, and intendants of police. Richelieu himself first used intendants immediately after the Day of Dupes in 1630, to deal with the emergency measures following the dismissal of Michel de Marillac as Keeper of the Seals. Between 1630 and 1633 the cardinal found them to be a useful solution to dealing with rebellion of all sorts: as royal enforcers in the provinces on a semi-permanent basis.

Events between 1635 and 1642 transformed the institution of the intendants. The entry of France into the Thirty Years War, with its tax revenue and military implications, made the intendants increasingly more in demand. By 1642 the practice of basing intendants throughout the realm had become permanent. Initially, one intendant was assigned to each province or generalité, i.e., the twenty-two administrative districts of France. The number soon increased as more than one intendant was needed in most of the larger districts. To ensure that these officials were loyal to the crown, Richelieu insisted on a firm three-year maximum stay in any one locality. There were few exceptions, among them Francois de Villemontee, who was intendant in Poitou almost continuously from 1631 to 1648. The intendants enabled Richelieu to construct a more centralized and more bureaucratic administration in the provinces. The use of intendants helped transform a system of personal loyalty based on patron-client relations to one of loyalty to the state. This practice was continued under Mazarin.

These new royal agents naturally attracted the hostility of many royal office-holders whose duties they usurped, particularly the parlementaires. When the government collapsed and bankruptcy was declared in 1648 at the outbreak of the Fronde, it was no surprise that the Parlement of Paris demanded that all intendants be recalled.[47]

C. The Revenue Problem

One of the reasons why the crown could not defeat either the Huguenots or the Catholic League during the Wars of Religion was its inability to raise on short notice significant amount of cash needed for the war. The assessment and collection of the principal direct tax, the property tax called the taille, was inefficient. One reason behind this was that the kingdom was split between two very different systems of tax assessment and collection.


  1. At the centre of the kingdom—including Paris and Ile-de-France—taxes were theoretically under the jurisdiction of royal tax officials called élus. In some areas, rather than the élus, tax farmers or other professional tax collectors were paid on a commission basis to collect the taille. Nearly everywhere only a fraction of the amounts assessed was actually collected. The regions were called pays d’élections.
  2. Along the French frontier were the peripheral provinces (e.g. Burgundy, Brittany, Languedoc, Provence, Bearn, Guyenne, and Dauphiné) which retained many local privileges and liberties as part of their bargain with the crown upon their incorporation into the kingdom. They were called pays d’états because they retained their own provincial estates to assess and collect taxes. These regions turned over much less revenue to the crown than the pays d’élections. The regions with their own provincial estates made up between one-third and one-fourth of the taxable population of France, yet they provided one-tenth of the crown’s revenue from the taille.

In 1603, Henry IV’s superintendent of finances, the duke of Sully, issued a royal edict creating élections in Guyenne, along with the royal tax officials, the élus. During the reign of Louis XIII an even broader and more systematic reform of the tax system in the pays d’états was undertaken. The creation of new élections in the provinces of Languedoc, Provence, Burgundy and Dauphine between 1628 and 1630 provoked violent reaction and open revolts. This made the king realize that he had to be flexible if he were to succeed in increasing the tax revenue from the pays d’états. In those areas where there was little or no opposition, the crown installed its own tax collectors to supersede the provincial estates. In those provinces where the opposition was significant Richelieu chose other means to increase revenues. He allowed certain provinces to remain exempt from the elections; they bought back their right to assess and collect their own taxes. Even in these provinces, however, he used a series of traditional maneuvers—e.g. bribery—as well as the recent innovation of intendants, to insure that these provinces still contribute their fair share of direct taxation to the crown.

In practice, by replacing the provincial estates in some of the pays d’états and by manipulating the estates better in those where they survived, the crown managed to tap into the resources of many under-taxed parts of the kingdom. The result was a structure that was significantly more efficient in raising revenue for the crown. Without these efforts, France would have been hard pressed to raise an army of unheard proportions in the 1640’s, much less make much of a difference in the Thirty Years War.

The other principal source of crown revenue that increased dramatically in the 1630’s was income from the sale of offices. One way to increase revenues was simply to create entirely new companies of offices. New courts of aids were created; new bureaus of finances were established. Even more frequent was the practice of adding more officers to already existing companies. While this had the effect of stirring up great antagonism among existing office-holders, whose prestige and authority was now diluted by the newly created officers, the result for the crown was significantly increased income. Sometimes the existing office-holders paid the king to revoke the new creations, or often they purchased the new offices among themselves to prevent outsiders from joining the company. Either way the result was significant new revenues for the royal treasury.

Other ways the crown managed to squeeze more income from the venal system included exacting forced loans from the office-holders. One of the most efficient ways was to require office-holders to pay their paulette in advance, requiring nine years’ worth of dues to be paid in just three years. Another ploy was for the crown simply to stop paying the office-holders their gages, the interest earned on the sum paid for the office. Since every office-holder wanted to hold on to his original investment, whose value had increased dramatically since the introduction of the paulette in 1604, officers had little option but to live with the adjustments of the system. The whole complex adjustment increased the royal treasury significantly. The crown’s total revenues in 1604 had been 98.6 million livres tournois. In 1624, when Richelieu first came onto the king’s council, revenues totaled 203 million. By 1634 this had climbed to 333.5 and reached 588 million by 1639.[48]

D. Resulting Economic Conditions

Despite the wealth of nobles, ministers and officials, average French men and women remained poor in the 17th century. They did not manage to boost their earnings or their consumption. France experienced a commercial slump in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries when economic leadership passed from Italians along the Mediterranean to the Dutch and English along the Atlantic. Some places thrived—like the city of Lyon in the early sixteenth century—while others faltered. Still the output and incomes as a whole did not rise. Why then did the French economy fail to grow?

Over the years, historians have advanced a number of possible explanations for France’s failure to achieve long-run growth. Because France, like most underdeveloped countries, was largely agricultural, much of the blame for its economic stagnation had fallen on the peasantry. Population growth, it had been argued, left French peasants tilling small, inefficient farms. Their mentality made them hostile to new crops and techniques of production. Their only concern was producing enough to eat, and once that goal of self-sufficiency was met, they would neither innovate nor invest in the rudimentary capital goods (livestock, farm buildings, and better seed) that could have boosted production. French merchants have not escaped blame either. Lured away by government offices and the prospect of entering the nobility, they abandoned commerce—what has been coined “the treason of the bourgeoisie.”

We need to look more closely on the economic stagnation of early modern France and get a better sense of how the French economy operated in order to understand what really held France’s economy back.

1. Agriculture

In early modern France, some 80 to 90 percent of the population lived in the countryside, and 60 to 80 percent of French adults toiled in agriculture. Because agriculture dominated the economy, what happened on farms and field dictated largely the rate of overall economic growth. Yet the French farms could barely produce enough to feed the growing population. This failure to produce left France vulnerable to subsistence crises which struck the country repeatedly in the 16th and 17th centuries.[49] The crisis might begin when an army passed through, seizing grain and driving up the demand for food. Or it might be triggered by bad weather, which could cut grain yields by a half even on the best of soils. Whatever the cause of the crises, the price of bread skyrocketed and the poor went hungry. A day laborer might have to work two or three days just to earn enough to feed himself for a week, and he would still have nothing for his family. Death rates inevitably shot upward, less because of actual starvation than because people wandered farm from their homes in search of food, exposing themselves to new strains of disease.

There were farmers in France who managed to get more from their farms. Tenant farmers outside Paris cleared land, dug ditches and reoriented their crops for the Parisian markets. Agricultural productivity rose in Normandy too as well as in the south of France. The problem was that these successes could not be extended throughout the kingdom. The Wars of Religion wiped out the farmers’ gains, and productivity growth eventually halted in Normandy and southern France. [50]

What caused the slump in agriculture in France? French historians have distinguished three great agricultural zones in France, each with its distinctive agricultural technology. In the North, farmers divided their holdings roughly into thirds each year. On one-third of the fields they grew rye or winter wheat, on another third, a spring grain such as oats or barley. The remaining third—the fallow—was ploughed and fertilized for a year to prepare for winter grain production the next year and spring grain the year after that. Each field thus would yield crop only two years in three. In the south, where the soil was lighter and drier, the crop rotation went through a two-year cycle of fallow and grain. The rotation in the West was more complicated. Farmers would raise livestock on pasture, commons and waste, at the same time cultivate other areas intensively for several years, until they are depleted. Then they abandon the fields and reclaimed land from the surrounding waste.

The generalized, and to a certain extent oversimplified, picture of three farming zones allows us to understand some of the criticisms levied against early modern France agriculture. One accusation is that the farmers could have cultivated the fallow by planting new crops. That would have meant additional fodder every second or third year and perhaps more fertile soil and higher grain yields. Another charge is that the French landlords should have consolidated their holdings and created larger, more efficient farms, which would have enjoyed the additional advantage of having fields enclosed by fences or hedges. The enclosures would have freed agriculture from the communal property rights that retarded progress.

Recent research has cast doubt on these arguments. Enclosures, it turns out, added relatively little to agricultural productivity. Large farms were not that much more efficient. In any case most French farms were probably of the optimal size. The peasants were far more clever than historians have imagined. They planted vines for export trade in the West, cleared land and shifted crops outside Paris, boosted yields and converted arable to pasture in Normandy and introduced meadows and expanded their livestock herds in the South. They were capable of innovation, even on small farms, and when farms were too small, they used sales and leases to achieve the appropriate size. The overview of French agriculture suggests that peasant farming was not what held back the French economy.[51]

2. Commerce and Trade

It was not just agriculture that failed to achieve sustained growth in France. Long-run economic growth in other sectors of the economy occurred in other countries. For instance, in the 17th century the Netherlands thrived as a center of commerce, finance, shipbuilding and textile production. In an era when most clothing was woven from wool yarn, the Dutch became the first to dominate the huge market for inexpensive woolen fabric. Later in the century the English managed to supplant the Dutch in the textile market. As in agriculture, France could point to some successes in commerce and manufacturing. Lyon flourished in the 16th century, becoming the focal point for European finance and trade with Italy. In the 17th century it was still the leading producer of silk on the continent. Later, however, the city suffered as business with Italy slackened, foreign merchants fled the violence and fiscal exactions of the Wars of Religion, and finance shifted to Paris and the new markets like Amsterdam. Similarly, in the second quarter of the 17th century, the textile industry in Amiens, Beauvais, Lille and Rheims fell victim to a European wide trade slump. When the slump passed, cloth makers in these northern cities found it difficult to compete against their English counterparts. Even when French industry and trade thrived for a period, they did not grow large enough to lift incomes throughout the kingdom. Specialization in items such as silk made France Europe’s premier manufacturer of high quality products, but the luxury trade was too small to generate noticeable economic growth.[52]

Trade in early modern France was hampered by a number of obstacles. One of these was the high cost of delivering goods to market, particularly bulky crops like grain. Over water, grain could be profitably shipped long distances under the right conditions. But overland it was often too costly to transport it further than one day’s journey, whether it was hauled in a cart or carried in sacks on a horse’s back. Better roads made it possible to transport goods in carts and wagons, rather than in the back of pack animals. They also cut the cost of getting grain to the nearest navigable waterway. The efforts to build roads were disappointing; big investments on the construction in canals and roads were made by Sully, Henry IV’s minister, but the work slackened when Sully left office.[53]

Another obstacle in France was the general distrust of middlemen, who would organize the land-based transport of grain. Feared as speculators who might drive up price of food, they faced legal and political obstacles that hampered their work. Nearly all transactions depended on informal credit. Credit of this sort depended on trust and a reputation for repaying debts. But informal credit works only with persons who know each other relatively well. Informal credit itself is an obstacle to the extension of trade. Long-distance means goods are exchanged among parties who do not know each other. When they do not know one another, they will hesitate to extend one another credit.

The only alternative was to demand cash in all transactions, but that was cumbersome. The only money in existence was coinage, and coins were scarce. The reasons for the scarcity of coins are complex. Suffice to say that by the early 16th century the kings of France achieved close to a monopoly over coinage. The king maintained a number of provincial mints and farmed out the rights to operate these mints to private contractors. The mints turned out three types of coinage that circulated in France: a small change of copper or a copper and silver mix; silver coins that were used for larger transactions; and gold coins that served (along with many foreign coins that circulated in France) as an international medium of exchange.

It was difficult to keep the three kinds of coin in circulation. One of the reasons is that the mint produced a profit for the crown. When pressed for cash, the monarchy would try to squeeze more revenue out of the mints by manipulating the coinage. By the 16th century, the French monarchy dictated what coins were worth in what was called money of account. But he could change the valuation which usually forced the people to bring coins to the mint to be reminted. The operation was more profitable for silver than for the small change of copper or copper silver. Therefore, the mints spent more time reminting silver coins than producing small change that was needed for much local trade.

The monarchy’s action dried up small change, making everyday buying and selling arduous. They also made it difficult to arrange long-term loans, because long-term debt contracts had to be specified in money of account. A lender who made a long-term loan therefore risked repayment in debased coinage—a risk that undermined the sort of long-term credit that might pay for the establishment of a business.

The various obstacles to trade did take a toll on the early modern French economy, for they impeded commerce that would have raised incomes and consumption. The monarchy must bear at least some of the blame, for it spent relatively little on the roads and canals that would have cut the cost of getting goods to market and it distrusted the middlemen who could have extended trade in the countryside.[54]

3. Government’s Fiscal Policy

One of the biggest factors that affected the economy of early modern France was the change of the monarchy’s fiscal policy. The crown pushed taxes and borrowed heavily, all in an effort to meet the rising cost of war. Most of the money collected went for armies and defence, for subsidies to allies, or for interest payments on loans that had financed previous wars. Warfare absorbed the money because military technology had changed. Meanwhile, armies swelled in size, from 14.000 men in peacetime in the late 15th century, to 72,000 in peacetime in 1660s, and perhaps double that in war.[55]

To support the war the king extracted tax revenues from the subjects. Despite huge tax increases, the revenues did not suffice. Once war broke out, expenses skyrocketed, and tax increases could not keep pace. The only solution was to borrow. The monarchy began raising money through short-term loans from foreign bankers. It also sought long-term financing by issuing rentes, i.e., perpetual annuities in return for a loan. The rentes proved popular with the moneyed bourgeois, because it assured their children of income and protected their estates from profligate heirs. [56]

The late 16th century saw the onset of the gradual movement of wealth and prosperity from countryside to city. Cities grew as wealth and jobs attracted migrants from the countryside. The transfer of resources had a number of causes. Prominent among them was the increase in taxes. The taxes bore down more heavily on the politically weak peasantry and tax revenues were spent in cities. The officials who collected the taxes as well as the burgeoning corps of judicial officials lived in cities. Soldiers resided in cities, too, at least when they were not fighting. Thus more and more money was moving from tax-paying peasants to the city dwellers, many of whom were in fact tax exempt.

Cultural and religious changes accelerated the movement of resources. Rural nobles started to spend more and more time in cities, spending revenues from their rural property in town rather than in the countryside. Similarly, during the Catholic Reformation, cities throughout France saw newly founded religious houses. Since the money to support religious houses came from rural property, the cities benefited again. Finally, the tax exemptions of the city dwellers allowed them to buy up increasing amounts of farm land from impoverished tax-paying peasants. They then rented the land out and thus added to the streams of revenue flowing from countryside to cities. Those who did this might be nobles, officers, or bourgeois—in any case they served as models for those who lived from their investments. For the tax-exempt city dwellers, rural property was thus a vast tax shelter and every tax increase made it more attractive.[57]

Rural property had the added advantage of serving as a hedge against the effects of inflation and currency manipulations. The reason for this was that long-term loans to private individuals or government rentes had to be specified in money of account. The lender thus risked losing his investment to inflation or to one of the government’s frequent debasement of coinage. But if he bought rural property, he could collect the rent in kind or revise it when leases were renewed. He was thus protected against the devastating effect of inflation and debasement.[58]

What about the behavior of the bourgeoisie—the city dwellers and merchants who dominated trade and manufacturing? They have been accused of treason, of having abandoned commerce for government offices or for the profits of tax farming, and for the purchase of rural properties.

The merchants did, yet all they were doing were responding to incentives, which, in large part, were monarchy’s creation. If they lent money to the crown, it was because they were drawn by the profits of doing so. If they bought government offices and rural properties it was because these investments were attractive. The offices promised a return, plus prestige and the possibility of ennoblement. The rural land offered a hedge against inflation and currency manipulations, and a tax shelter as well. Societal attitudes and above all, the government created these incentives.

The damage that war did to the French economy was terrible. The Wars of Religion halted the export of wine and salt from Brittany and hobbled textile manufacturing in Amiens. The harm went beyond suspended shipments and idled looms. When the French government borrowed to finance warfare and then defaulted on its loans, it helped drive away the foreign merchants and bankers. But the economic injuries war inflicted were greatest in agriculture. The rising taxes that paid for the wars bore down most heavily on the countryside, where tax collectors seized grain and stock—essential agriculture capital—when peasants fell into arrears. Marauding troops, even when they were French, made similar exactions, and often farmers fled when armies approached. With farms abandoned and fields unploughed, weeds grew up and turned to brush, as farm land reverted to waste. In relatively short time, years of labor invested in reclaiming land would be lost. The risks could drive nearly a whole generation of farmers to the edge of bankruptcy, and thus wipe out skills that were difficult to replace. [59]

What the previous discussion reveals is the view that the slump of French economy in the 17th century is traceable to the economic and political choices of the monarchy. Had the kings fought less France might have developed a stronger economy. The expansion of royal taxation, forced by the conduct of the war, came at the moment when there were signs of general stagnation. We have seen how the government’s devices for increasing income represented a major diversion of energy and resources. Similarly, in the process we see also the exploitation of the peasantry. This is a dominant impression left by the social and economic scene in the 17th century France.

E. Popular Revolts

We shall take up three examples of popular revolts that were reactions to the action of the government. The first two are basically revolts against increasing tax measures. The third, the Fronde is a bit more complicated.

1. The Croquants’ Revolt (1636-1637)

France entered the Thirty Years War in 1635. During the five years leading up to this conflict taxes in France had tripled. In 1635 rioting swept through many towns in response to imposition of a tax on low-grade wines to be paid by innkeepers, who passed the cost on to their clientele. This created a climate of unrest that persisted almost continuously for two decades. In June 1636 in the village of Angouleme, four thousand peasants, led by their parish priest met the tax commissioner. The mob arrested a surgeon, suspected of carrying the letters of instruction, stripped him naked, cut off his arm, paraded him around the marketplace, killed him and then disbanded and went home. In other villages the peasants threatened to cut off foods supplies and to burn the houses of the tax-collectors. As a concession the government abolished a tax on manufactured goods.

In 1637 a full scale rebellion emerged in Perigord because of a special tax termed “rations for the army at Bayonne.” The tax comprised a wheat levy: the grain was to be collected by the provincial crown court judges, loaded into sacks and sent to Dax and Mont-de-Marsan, sites of storehouses for provisions for the army at Bayonne. The various communities of the province had to borrow wheat from granaries owned by merchants and then reimburse them with revenues from taxes on themselves. This system resulted in one-third increase in total taxes. [60]

The Perigord peasants chose as their leader a noble, Antoine du Puy de la Mothe de la Forêt, who issued a manifesto declaring that he was taking up arms not to oppose the king but to bring an end to extortionate taxes. With a well-disciplined army of 10,000 La Mothe occupied the town of Bergerac. His force was soon joined by Baron de Madaillan. The rebels appealed to other towns not to pay any tax they had not agreed to. Numerous towns quickly capitulated to them.

The king sent orders to the provincial governor to suppress the revolt by any means. The duke of La Valette organized a force of about 3000 infantry and 400 cavalry. After an initial encounter in which 1500 rebels and 800 royal forces were killed, La Valette, hoping to avoid further bloodshed, sent an emissary inquiring about the Croquants’ reasons for rebelling and their objectives. The rebel leaders responded that they desired only two things of the king: to exempt them from all special taxes and to grant them amnesty. La Mothe, frightened by the news that cannons had been delivered to the royal army and quite aware of the weakness of the Croquants’ force agreed to disband his army with La Valette’s assurance that they would not be hunted down and he would personally appeal to the king for their pardon. [61]

But at Bergerac a diehard denounced La Mothe as traitor and offered to lead the rebels.[62] La Mothe joined La Valette against the rebels who, upon the death of the new leader, gradually disbanded. As unrest persisted, La Valette sent out letters urging punitive measures against the Croquants, if only to intimidate the peasants and discourage further uprisings. The victorious royal troops remained to garrison the towns that had supported the Croquants and must now pay the expenses of an army of occupation. Provincial officials brought numerous rebels to trial as examples and sent them to prison. Only about a dozen rebels were executed.

2. Va-nu-Pieds Revolt (1639-1643)

Desperate to raise funds for the ongoing war with Spain, Richelieu turned to new or increased taxes as a solution, applying the principle of solidité, whereby residents of a parish were held mutually responsible for payment—those who paid but refused to provide payment for their insolvent neighbors were subject to imprisonment, just as were those who did not pay. The threat of new taxation raised the ire of Normandy residents who felt that they had been overburdened for years. The residents of Avranches in Lower Normandy initiated the revolt that took the name of Va-nu-Pieds, after the workers of the salt marshes, who labored barefoot.

The area of Avranches bordering the sea was exempt from the gabelle (salt tax), because salt was not a royal monopoly there and the residents earned their livelihood by collecting salt in the salt pans of the bay. In the spring of 1639 news spread that the government planned to prohibit the use of white salt and to impose the gabelle-meaning the financial ruin of the residents. On July 16, Charles de Poupinel, who had no connection with taxation, arrived in Avranches and was mobbed by the residents, beat him to death in the street. He was secretly buried at night, but the people found his grace and placed an inscription on it warning that anyone who came to town to impose new taxes could expect the same fate.

Within a few weeks the rebellion spread throughout Lower Normandy. A peasant army recruited in the villages gathered in the countryside under the leadership of priests and nobles, the latter serving as officers. By the end of autumn the rebel army numbered about 20,000. The rebels promised to abolish all taxes since the reign of Henry IV, and appealed to all of Normandy to join them in revolt, encouraging members of every social class to participate.

They garnered early support in Rouen, whose residents were incensed over the government’s levying of an increased duty on dyed fabrics. When the first official sent out to enforce the duty on dyed fabrics arrived, a mob killed him in the square before the cathedral. Then for four days, mobs comprised of young men pillaged the houses belonging to tax farmers. Any person associated with taxation became a target of the rebels. The president of the parlement requested the local gentry and bourgeois militia to quell the disturbances, but many of the bourgeoisie instead gathered to attack the men called to arms.

The king’s council decided to smash the rebellion. Fearing that the soldiers might commiserate with the rebels, the government assigned the task of repression to a colonel with foreigners as troops. This force smashed the revolt in Caen, executing and quartering its leaders and comrades. They then proceeded to Avranches where they looted homes, hanged a dozen insurgents, and condemned still others to the galleys. Chancellor Pierre Seguier met the rebel delegations in Rouen. He reimposed all the contested taxes. In addition, Rouen residents must quarter Seguier’s soldiers and provide their pay, and the city must pay an indemnity of over a million livres and compensate the tax farmers. Over a three-month period the chancellor saw to the executions of numerous rebels. Thus ended the Va-nu-Pieds revolt.[63]

3. The Fronde

The crisis of 1648 which came to be called the Fronde started with very noble intentions. The focal point of the crisis was the terrible suffering of the common people, for which the advocate general, Omar Talon, found touching words in a celebrated discourse before the young Louis XIV.

For ten years now the country has been ruined, the peasants reduced to sleeping on straw, after their furniture has been sold to pay taxes which they cannot raise—to maintain the luxury of Paris, millions of innocent souls are forced to live on bread, bran and oats, and cannot hope for any protection except their impotence. These unfortunates do not possess anything but their souls, and them only because they cannot be auctioned off.[64]

Talon made this speech in a lit de justice of January 15, 1648, a special session of the Parlement in which the monarch made known his sovereign will. It was arranged by the finance minister, Particelli d’Emery, whose fiscal policies caused widespread discontent: among the officials because their salaries were unpaid, in the Parlement over demands for new taxes and attempts to evade the normal machinery of budget control, and in the country at large at the sheer weight of taxation and the way it was enforced. Exasperation with d’Emery, had reached the point where all his proposals for new taxes were being blocked, bringing the crown to the verge of bankruptcy. The desperate Emery sought a way out by calling for a lit de justice and suspending the paulette until the judges registered the measures to which they strongly objected.

The Parlamentarians launched the Fronde in May 1648 by calling for a joint assembly of the four Paris sovereign courts in the Chambre Saint Louis when the government levied a tax on the judicial officers of the Parlement. The Parlement refused to pay the tax and made clear that their foe was not the monarch or the regent but his ministers. The news of the Chambre Saint Louis meeting swept across the country, closely followed by the announcement of a series of concessions by the government: the dismissal of d’Emery, reduction in taxes, and the recall of intendants from most of the provinces.

In late August 1648 Mazarin ordered the arrest of the leading radicals in the Parliament. Paris responded with a traditional form of protest, a Day of Barricades. He invoked the aid of Prince de Condé, who had returned to Paris from a victory over the Spanish troops in Lens. Early in the New Year the court slipped out of Paris, and the Regent Anne of Austria denounced the parliamentarians as traitors and enemies of the monarchy. The exaggerated accusations led even the moderate members of the Parliament to disobey the orders for their exile and set about organizing the defence of Paris, which was soon invested by Condé’s troops. The stand-off in Paris resulted in the Peace of Rueil in March 1649 which confirmed the Parliament’s reform demands: the right to debate and amend royal decrees.

The end of the Fronde of the Parliament was an illusory relief for the government. The Frondeur nobles, among them the future Cardinal de Retz, and the dukes of Longueville, Beaufort and Chateauneuf, who had taken the side of the Parliament continued their intrigues against Mazarin. This was compounded by the progressive collapse of the royal authority in the provinces. Once it was plain that the government, lacking both intendants and funds, could not intervene effectively, a whole range of previously pent-up conflicts burst into the open. The most serious disturbances were in Provence, Guyenne and Normandy, where governors, parliaments and municipalities levied troops, and armed clashes resulted.

Alarmed by Condé’s growing power, Mazarin formed an alliance with the Frondeur group led by Gondi and Chateauneuf, which led to Condé, his brother Conti and brother-in-law Longueville arrested and imprisoned in January 1650. This arrest precipitated what came to be called the Fronde of the nobles. The arrested princes were released a year later because they had formed an alliance with the Frondeurs against Mazarin. Since 1648, the Parisian presses had been pouring out pamphlets, the so-called Mazarinades, attacking the minister and the Regent, and calling for the exclusion of foreigners and churchmen from the government. All the parties now agreed on one thing: the Cardinal has to go, so he went on voluntary exile to Cologne.[65] The exile of the minister led to the collapse of the coalition of his enemies. This goes to show that the second Fronde was a revival of feudal notions of resistance by landed aristocracy in support of their own privileges.

The most destructive phase of the civil war began in the autumn of 1651, after the king’s formal majority had been declared. For the next two years the war lingered on degenerating into anarchy. On February 6, 1653 Mazarin re-entered Paris. The young king met him three miles outside the city and escorted him back as a hero.[66]

The Fronde took its name from a game of children. In retrospect, the complex moves and countermoves between the nobles-princes, the royal court, the Parliament and the local governments were engaged in with a lighthearted frivolity which justified giving the whole movement the name of a game the children played in the crowded streets of Paris. Each move was dictated by a particular interest. The moving words of the advocate general, Omar Talon, before the young king become open to reinterpretation when one considers that the Parliament rebelled when the normally tax-exempt officials were ordered to pay. It was a farce, but for the common folk, craftsmen and peasants whose goods had been wasted and destroyed, it was a bitter mockery. No one thought of recompensing them for their losses.

The Croquants and Va-nu-Pieds revolts were principally reactions against the increased taxation imposed by the royal government. The savagery with which the tax commissioners and collectors were attacked betrayed the desperate situation of the citizens, particularly the peasants, burdened by increased taxation. Their cause was joined easily by members of the clergy and the nobility, revealing loyalties that crossed social stratification. In many instances it also displayed the tension and resentment that had developed between the countryside of the peasants and the towns of the officials. The brutal repression of the rebels, meant to instill a lesson of submission, also betrayed the desperation into which the policy of war pursued by the two cardinals-ministers had led the central government. The pursuit of war depended on a steady income that was extracted from the people who possessed the barest minimum to survive. The economic depression that ensued begot multitudes of beggars and vagabonds that peopled the roadsides of the country and the streets of the towns and cities. Now the government had to face the problem of containing their movement and channeling their activities.

The Fronde started as a tax protest from the officials who normally were tax-exempt. The crisis evolved into a struggle of the nobles who found in their irritation against a “foreign” regent and minister a vindication of their long-held privileges. Their declaration of loyalty to the young king Louis XIV was a hearkening cry to the old times when the king gathered the faithful around himself. When in 1661 Louis XIV commenced his personal reign without the minister he fulfilled best the dreams of the Frondeurs.


[1] Dr. Marcello Manimtim is former visitor provincial of the Philippines. After earning doctorate degree in philosophy at the Gregorian University he went for mission to Solomon Islands for more than five years. He teaches in St. Vincent de Paul School of Theology at Manila now.

[2] Used originally as a term of derision, the derivation of the name Huguenot remains uncertain. It may have been a French corruption of the German word Eidgenosse, meaning a Swiss confederate, perhaps in combination with a reference to the name Besançon Hugues (d 1532). In Geneva, Hugues was the leader of the “Confederate Party,” so called because it favored an alliance between the city-state of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation. This theory of origin has support from the alleged fact that the label Huguenot was first applied in France to those conspirators (all of them aristocratic members of the Reformed Church) involved in the Amboise plot of 1560 against the king: a foiled attempt to usurp power in France from the influential House of Guise, a move which would have had the side-effect of fostering relations with the Swiss. Thus, Hugues plus Eidgenosse becomes Huguenot, with the intention of associating the Protestant cause with some very unpopular politics. Cf.

[3] Robin Briggs, Early Modern France, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 2-4

[4] August Franzen, A History of the Church, revised and edited by John P. Dolan, Montreal: Palm Publishers, 1968, pp. 303-304.

[5] Briggs, op. cit., pp. 13-14

[6] Philip Benedict, “The Wars of Religion, 1562-1598,” in Mack Holt (ed.), Renaissance and Reformation France. 1500-1648, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 148.

[7] Ibid, pp. 155-157; Briggs, op. cit., 19-22

[8] The term is applied to the moderate Catholics who placed national security of France over religious zeal. They will distinguish themselves from the zealotry of the Catholic League during the Wars of Religion and of the dévots during the ministership of Richelieu and Mazarin.

[9] Briggs, op cit., pp. 24-27

[10] Benedict, op. cit., pp. 172-173.

[11] In the 17th century Spain had 6 to 8 millions, England, 5 to 6 millions, Italy, 11 to 13 millions, and the Empire, 8 millions.

[12] Cardinal Richelieu declared before the Estates General in 1614: “That, as the king is the recognized sovereign in his state, not holding his crown but from God alone, there exists no power on earth whatever it might be, whether spiritual or temporal, which has any right over his kingdom. … The state of France depends immediately only upon God.” Cited by Carl J. Friedrich, The Age of Baroque. 1610-1660, of the series The Rise of Modern Europe, edited by William Langer, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952, p. 201.

[13] Mack Holt, “The Kingdom of France in the sixteenth century,” in Mack Holt (ed.), Renaissance and Reformation France. 1500-1648, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 16.

[14] J. Orcibal, Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, abbé de Saint-Cyran et son temps, Paris, 1947, II, p.2.

[15] A survey made ca 1660 reports the following figures: 136 achbishops and bishops, 40,000 parish priests, 40,000 vicars, chaplains, confessors of religious and “habitual” priests, 5,000 abbots and secular priors, 16,000 canons, totaling 101,000 diocesan ecclesiastics. To them were added 82,600 religious, of whom 35,6000 belonged to communities who worked and lived on rent, and 47,000 mendicants, “who lived and prosper through begging.” cf José María Ibañez, C.M., “Entorno Historico-Social en Tiempo de San Vicente de Paúl, Vincentiana, 1984, p 336.

[16] Richelieu, “Testament politique,” Amsterdam, 1688, p. 54 cited by Tavenaux, I, p. 36.

[17] Robin Briggs, Communities of Belief: Cultural and Social Tension in Early Modern France, Oxdord: Clarendon Press, 1995, p. 187

[18] As an example, in the diocese of Beauvais, of 64 seminarians, 4 were nobles, 20 were sons of merchants, surgeons and procurators.

[19] Luigi Mezzadri, C.M., “L’Eglise en France au temps de Saint Vincent,” Vincentiana, 1984, p. 366; Briggs, Communities of Belief, p. 189.

[20] J. Orcibal, Jean Duvergier de Hauranne, p. 6, cited by Mezzadri, op. cit., p. 367.

[21] These were royal officials which became a part of local bureaucracy from the time of Cardinal Richelieu onward.

[22] Robin Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 174

[23] The words ‘aristocrat’, ‘noble’ and ‘gentleman’ will be used interchangeably, for the simple reason that most contemporaries used them in that way. All countries tended to divide the noble class into two grades at least, the greater and the lesser. When the Englishman Sir William Segar wrote his Honour military and civil in 1602 he used the word ‘gentleman’ to describe the uppermost social category, and then proceeded to sub-divide as follows: ‘Of Gentlemen, the first and principal is the King, Prince, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts and Barons. These are the Nobility, and be called Lords or Noblemen. Next to these be Knights, Esquires and simple Gentlemen, which last number may be called Nobilitas minor.’ Segar was distinguishing between the titled nobility and others, but in many other countries a clear distinction was made within the titled class itself, as in Spain where grandees were a grade above the ordinary títulos. Single words such as noblesse or nobleza therefore tended on the continent to cover a widely differentiated class. Under one term, then, a whole spectrum of ranks could be covered. Cf. Henry Kamen, The Iron Century: Social Change in Europe, 1550-1660, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971, p. 135.

[24] Briggs, op. cit., p. 48.

[25] Henry Kamen, The Iron Century: Social Change in Europe, 1550-1660, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1971, pp. 141-145; Briggs, Early Modern France, pp. 58-59.

[26] Kamen, op. cit, pp. 130-131.

[27] Jonathan Dewald, “Social groups and cultural practices,” in Mack Holt (ed.), Renaissance and Reformation France. 1500-1648, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp 45-47; Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 54,77.

[28] Kamen, op. cit., p. 134-135

[29] Pierre Goubert classified the participation of the bourgeoisie in the administration of the monarchy:

a) administrative: officials and staff of the mid-level and lower courts: lawyers, clerks, bailiffs;

b) economic: administrators and tax collectors, in cash and in kind, for the civil and ecclesiastical proprietors;

c) financial: major money lenders to the government, collectors of dues, and lease-holders for the monarchy.

d) commercial: arm suppliers and producers, big merchants and manufacturers.
To the above may be added the liberal professions that belong to the bourgeoisie: physicians, surgeons, publishers, artists and speech writers.
Cf. Pierre Goubert, L’Ancient Regime, Paris, Vol. I, 1969 cited by José María Ibañez, C.M., “Entorno Historico-Social en Tiempo de San Vicente de Paúl,” Vincentiana, 1984, p. 338

[30] R. Mousnier, La vénalité des offices sous Henri IV et Louis XIII, Paris: 1971.

[31] Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 77

[32] José María Ibañez, op. cit., p. 340.

[33] Ibid., pp. 341-342.

[34] G. Hanotaux, La France en 1614, Paris, 1913, p. 398.

[35] J. Jacquart, La Crise rurale en Île-de-France, 1550-1670 ( Paris, 1974), pp. 632-636.

[36] Vauban, Projet d’une dixme royale, Paris, 1933. pp. 77-81, cited by José María Ibañez, C.M., op. cit., pp. 354.

[37] Kamen, op.cit., p. 208

[38] Ibid, p. 209

[39] Ibid, p. 210

[40] Mack Holt, “Redrawing the Lines of Authority” in Mach Holt (ed), Renaissance and Reformation France, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 203-207

[41] Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 92-93.

[42] Holt, op. cit., pp. 208-210.

[43] Kamen, The Iron Century, p. 163

[44] Briggs, op. cit., p. 79

[45] Holt, op. cit., p. 214

[46] More than any of his predecessors, Richelieu employed the practices of fidelite into the management of the central administration. A secretary of state ended a letter with his assurances that he had “nothing else on my mind but the care to please Monseigneur, and the passion to show him by all my actions that I am his very humble, very obedient, very faithful and very obliged creature….” cited by Briggs, op. cit., p. 106.

[47] Holt, op. cit., pp. 215-216, Briggs, op. cit., pp. 98-100, 119-121.

[48] Holt, op. cit., p. 221.

[49] Historians record crises of subsistence in France in the years 1630-31, 1648-51, 1661-62, and some more later. cf. Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 36

[50] Philip T. Hoffman, “Rural, urban, and global economies,” in Mach Holt (ed), Renaissance and Reformation France, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 64-66.

[51] Ibid., pp. 71-74.

[52] Ibid., pp. 67-68.

[53] Ibid., pp.74-75.

[54] Ibid., pp. 76-79.

[55] Briggs, Early Modern France, p. 62; Hoffman, op.cit., pp.86-88.

[56] Briggs, op. cit., pp. 63-64

[57] Ibid, p. 90; Briggs, op. cit., p. 52.

[58] Hoffman, op. cit., 91.

[59] Ibid., p. 97

[60] David F. Burg, A World History of Tax Rebellions: An Encyclopedia of Tax Rebels, Revolts, and Riots from Antiquity to the Present, New York: Routledge, 2003, pp. 200-204.

[61] Briggs, Early Modern France, pp. 113-114

[62] Robin Briggs, Communities of Belief: Cultural and Social Tension in Early Modern France (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 174-175

[63] David Burg, op. cit., pp. 205-207.

[64] Translated from text as given by Cheruel, Histoire de France pendant la Minorite de Louis XIV, II, 501, cited by Carl J. Friedrich, The Age of Baroque, p. 236

[65] Claude Joly, the constitutionalist opponent of Mazarin, wrote during the Fronde that “France has never been a despotic government, unless it be in the last thirty years, when we have been subject to the mercy of ministers.” Cited by Henry Kamen, The Iron Century, p. 434.

[66] José María Ibañez, C.M., “Entorno historico-politico en tiempo de San Vicente de Paul,” Vincentiana, 1984, pp. 323, 328-330; Briggs, Early Modern France, pp. 124-133;

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