Front Page Titles (by Subject) 99.: The Fronde and the Parlement of Paris - Judgments on History and Historians
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
99.: The Fronde and the Parlement of Paris - 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 Fronde and the Parlement of Paris
Any truly legal shaping of public affairs was hardly conceivable in those days. Between ruthless seigneurs and a dangerous city mob there was maintained the highly dubious legality of an authority like the parlement of Paris. Even if it was allied with all provincial parliaments and in all of France the noblesse de robe behaved blamelessly and harmoniously, it nevertheless was only one class against which all the others would have conspired. And it was a curious class to rule, too, what with its filling of offices through purchase and inheritance.
The critical moment is January, 1649, when the parliaments called in the seigneurs, who, after all, were well enough known! With the seigneurs they inevitably opened the door to the old Spanish conspiracy against the French state as such.
From that point on the entire parliamentary system along with the whole question of relief of the people is only an appendage to the struggles of the mighty, in which, oddly enough, the “people,” too, take an interest, for or against. No matter how loudly Condé, e.g., may in all phases of the Fronde voice his naive contempt for parlement and Parisians, the people and the parlement nevertheless help to demand his release.
Although in the 1640’s the mere threatening of parliamentary councilors had caused great outbreaks, afterwards any act of violence could take place with impunity. Especially in 1651 the parlement was egged on to the most extreme and most foolish decisions only in the interest of the seigneurs. It persistently joined in the clamor that Mazarin must never be allowed inside the country again.
Condé had become so blindly set in his arrogance and his contempt of Mazarin that gradually whatever vestiges of royalism were still within Frenchmen had to turn against him.
French royalism of the time is described thus (in Hiob Ludolf, Schaubühne der Welt, Frankfurt, 1713, III, 395): “For this praise must be given to the French: whether their king may do them good or harm, act justly or unjustly, they still stick by him and always speak well of him.”
A very base thing was the last union of Condé, in the spring of 1652, with Gaston, the uncle of Louis XIV, who brought with him the Duke of Lorraine.
In the affairs of the Faubourg St. Antoine, Gaston’s daughter, Princess de Montpensier, helped to save Condé, and the parlement ruined itself for all time by “conferring” upon the two conspirators (who were now openly allied with Spain) the two highest powers of the state—and this in the face of the king who had attained his majority. All this was done only out of rage against “le Mazarin,” the foreigner, the extortionist, the tyrant, without their stopping to realize that they would hardly have acted better toward any possessor of the supreme state power.
And now there ensued what always happens at some time in unpredictable phases of a movement: the peace-loving elements gained strength.
Later, in February, 1653, when Condé was a fugitive, the royal uncle Gaston was semi-pardoned, and Retz was in prison, Mazarin was able to move into Paris again and manage a satiated despotism without any longer having to speak politely to the seigneurs.