Louis XIV and the Parlements: the Assertion of Royal Authority

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Author: Roger Mettam
Date: Sept. 2003
From: The English Historical Review(Vol. 118, Issue 478)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 960 words

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By JOHN J. HURT (Manchester: Manchester U.P., 2002; pp. xvii + 217. 45 [pounds sterling]).

FEW historians of Louis XIV escape unscathed from Professor Hurt's sustained attack on 'revisionism'. In one memorable paragraph, he asserts that Ernest Lavisse, Roland Mousnier, Lloyd Moote, William Beik, David Parker and your reviewer have all erred, because they believed that there was some degree of compromise, accommodation or even consensus in the relationship between the king and his office-holders. The very opposite, he claims, is the truth. Thus Louis XIV imposed his authority ruthlessly on the judges of his parlements, determinedly suppressing their independence and caring naught for their wealth or social position. This interpretation is therefore an argument for 'absolutism' at its most unbridled, and is seemingly based on the assumption that the king was at odds with all the social elites in his realm. Yet Louis XIV himself, in his private memoirs for his son, gives a very different account. The king praised the wisdom of his judges in the parlements, whose workload was heavy and whose rewards were slight, and exhorted his son to show consideration for their families and to offer them patronage. In order that Hurt can attempt to sustain his absolutist thesis, he approaches his topic selectively. He shows no interest in writing a complete history of the parlements, but confines himself to charting their dealings with the sovereign and cites only those parts of the reign where...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A108691857