Front Page Titles (by Subject) 78.: The Special Character of the French Court - Judgments on History and Historians
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
78.: The Special Character of the French Court - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The Special Character of the French Court
It consists in the king’s always being surrounded by factions which divide favors and offices among themselves, or get everything into their hands, if possible.
The parties at the court of Philip II, such as those of Alba and of Ruy Gomez in their contrast, are of a quite different kind, and the country need not find out about it. The Tudors, including Elizabeth, completely dominate their court, according to their own changing caprices. Here only the minority of Edward VI made a difference.
At the French court the women are powerful, and not the queens. Catherine de Medici becomes something only as a regent. Around the court there is general and continual gossip, a general attentiveness to the chances for favor or disfavor. It was the subsequent misfortune of the royal house that the crown got into a “false position,” like anyone who is to represent right or fairness, i.e., the permanent interests of the nation among raging factions. In the face of passions, the representative of right has always been in such a position.
On the course and the result of the French religious wars depended the religious fate of the entire West. France determined the continuation, or restoration, of Catholicism in Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, even its safeguarding in Italy and Spain, at least indirectly. Things would have happened differently everywhere if France had become Huguenot.
But in that case things could have turned out rather strikingly! The Huguenot king would have got into the hands of a fanatical Huguenot preacher faction and been forced to act toward all of Europe as an intervening and conquering Calvinist caliph—a Calvinist Louis XIV. For all around people would have had cause (n.b. toward Lutherans as well) “de venger Dieu et sa sainte église” [to avenge God and His holy church], and the preachers had within themselves the never-extinguished passion against everything that was different from the way they were. However, the French nation could, as always, have been appeased only by constant successes on the outside.