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Patronages et clientélismes 1550-1750 (France, Angleterre, Espagne, Italie)

Roger Mettam
Charles Giry-Deloison

III. Église et armée

Kings, Patrons and Bishops: the French Church under Henri IV and Louis XIII

Joseph Bergin

Texte intégral

  • 1 Klientelsysteme im Europa der Frühen Neuzeit, ed. Antoni MACZAK, Munich, R. Oldenbourg, 1988.
  • 2 See Wolfgang REINHARD, Freunde und Kreaturen, Munich, E. Vögel, 1979.

1An unmistakable feature of recent historical writing on early modem Europe is the growing attention devoted to the nature and place of relations of patronage and clientage in both society and politics. Conferences, volumes of essays and individual studies have cast their nets increasingly widely, both in timescale and in subject matter, yet it is rare enough for them to dwell at any length on the question of ecclesiastical patronage, the importance of which few scholars would wish in principle to deny. It figured only marginally in the Mélanges Roland Mousnier and in the enquête into clientship and fidélités which he launched over a decade ago; it was almost totally absent from the conference on the subject of early-modern patronage and clientage held in Munich in 19841 One effect of this neglect has been that a methodology appropriate to ecclesiastical realities has been slow to develop, and this in turn may be a factor in preventing historians from extending insights gained elsewhere to the undoubtedly vast world of clerical patronage and clientage. Only one participant in the Munich conference has devoted considerable attention to this clerical world, Wolfgang Reinhard, who has worked on the early seventeenth-century papacy, and in particular on the practice and significance of nepotism. For all the differences between French and Roman society, Reinhard's ideas are not without interest. In his theoretical attempts to understand and define the workings of the ecclesiastical world, Reinhard has generally been more concerned with social and professional mobility than with patronage as such, and with defining the functions of benefices and offices for those placing their children in the church; he distinguishes, for example, between maintenance or upkeep functions on the one hand (Versorgungsfunktion) and advancement or mobility functions on the other (Mobiliätsfunktion). However, the advancement or mobility functions on the other (Mobilitätsfunktion). However, the dividing line between the two functions can only be drawn through close historical analysis, as one family's Versorgung may be another's Mobilität, and so on through endless permutations. Where Reinhard does address the question of patronage in general, and in a comparative perspective, he strongly urges historians to concentrate as far as possible on group networks, of which patronage would be only one of several constituent factors2. Curiously one factor which he does not explicitly suggest is that of socio-professional origins, which is precisely the area in which the French historiography of office-holding (and other) élites of all kinds has been so productive. Indeed, a major desideratum of French historiography is to connect this social history of élites to a political history of patronage and the strategies which this latter required.

2Such a marriage is best attempted in a large-scale study, and is certainly well beyond the scope of a paper as short as this. Major problems confront any historian of the subject. For instance, we still know surprisingly little about the formation or workings of networks of patrons and clients concerned with offices and power in the French church, and we have the greatest of difficulty establishing to what degree such networks were distinctly ecclesiastical or lay, or how far they were a mixture of the two. All that can be attempted here is some preliminary mapping out of the terrain; this can perhaps best be done by looking at some of the practices and institutions which may help us to define the context in which French patrons and clients interested in episcopal office operated.

  • 3 Michel PERONNET, Les Evêques dans l'ancienne France, Lille-Paris, IL Champion, 1977, 2 vols.

3As far as the French church is concerned, following Wolfgang Reinhard’s counsel to reconstitute group networks would clearly involve a vast programme of research. The first problem facing the historian is the sheer size of the French episcopate. In the early seventeenth century, there were 114 bishoprics in all, and although some of them appear to be very insignificant on the map, this impression can be extremely deceptive: many of the middling and even small dioceses of the south and elsewhere were better endowed, easier to administer, and consequently perhaps more attractive than some of their larger counterparts of the centre and the north. Likewise, archbishoprics might not always attract the most ambitious, even among those who were already bishops, for despite their higher status, they were often, like those of Bourges or Tours, relatively modestly endowed. If those seeking episcopal office perceived differences between bishoprics, they were differences involving endowment, or distance from Paris or from family lands and influence. Ideally, what we need is a map of the relative attractiveness of the 114 or so dioceses which made up the French church, a map which could be assembled from the study of episcopal resignations, transfers and promotions. Meanwhile, the historian must provisionally regard the bishoprics of the French church as more "equal" than we might imagine in the eyes of patrons and their clients in search of episcopal preferment. After all, a Grignan could covet the see of St Paul-TroisChâteau, a Ventadour that of Agde, and a Béthune that of Maillezais-these are all great names from the French nobility, but who could be excepted to recognize the names or the locations of their dioceses? The richest see in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century France was not Paris, Reims or Lyon, but Auch in Gascony. In France, there was nothing quite comparable to the hierarchy of dioceses to be found in contemporary Castile, where certain dioceses were clearly regarded as the lower rungs of the ladder, and where episcopal tenure was never intended to be more than temporary3.

4The numerical size of the French episcopate also ensured that the appointment of bishops would be relatively frequent rather than occasional events. Between 1595 and 1643, around 255 bishops, which include 43 coadjutors, were appointed. Under Henri IV, nominations averaged around 6.5 per annum, under Louis XIII they settled at around 5 per annum. This may seem relatively small, but it should be stressed that these averages are only the tip of an iceberg, and only represent cases in which candidates were successful in obtaining royal expéditions and papal provisions. For a variety of reasons, of which more presently, the filling of a vacant bishopric could be a protracted affair, involving competition between candidates holding a complex assortment of claims, promesses, brevets de réserve, brevets de nomination and so on. It was not a simple matter in such circumstances to emerge victorious and to obtain full papal provisions as a bishop. There are numerous instances in which the mere rumour of a bishop's death or impending death could trigger off frantic lobbying at court, and even lead to the provisional grant of a royal promise or brevet to the bishopric in question, with the curious result that historians are often better informed about episcopal appointments which did not take place than about those which did. In other cases, formal royal nominations were revoked, again no doubt in response to continued pressure from competitors, even after they had been sent to Rome for papal approval. The fortunate candidates were those who, like the bishop of Le Mans in 1639, had managed to get their papal provisions just in time before news of the revocation reached Rome; but others, like the nominees to Grenoble in 1607, to Toulon in 1639, were not so lucky and had their hopes dashed at the last hurdle. In such circumstances, it is not difficult to see that competition for bishoprics was a normal rather than an exceptional part of political life at court throughout the seventeenth century. In his letters written from court between January 1639 and April 1643 to the exiled parlementaire, president Barillon, Henri Arnauld, a future bishop of Angers, discussed episcopal vacancies and promotions no fewer than fifty times-and even then he did not discuss all the known cases.

  • 4 See Joseph BERGIN, The Rise of Richelieu, New Haven-London, Yale University Press, 1991, ch.2.

5This State of affairs was in turn closely connected to the processes and institutions of episcopal patronage. It is too readily assumed that the Concordat of Bologna of 1516 rewrote the rule-book where the filling of vacant bishoprics and abbeys was concerned. We know, of course, that the Concordat did little more than legalise the royal appointment of bishops which had become increasingly common during the previous century; we also know that the Concordat itself took some time to be translated into practice everywhere throughout France, and that Francis I and his successors were not always immediately able to impose their nominees on local dioceses. Obviously, the fact that the formal right to nominate bishops now belonged to the king served further to concentrate the attention of patrons and clients on the king's court, and success in obtaining bishoprics depended increasingly on good connections at court. But in granting formal powers of nomination to the king personally, the Concordat of Bologna did not abolish centuries of past practices and attitudes towards church benefices. It is clear that no one imagined that practices such as resigning benefices in favour of nominated successors (résignation en faveur), of choosing as coadjutor someone who would succeed to a bishopric on the death or retirement of the incumbent bishop, of exchanging a see with another bishop (permutation), or of regaining a benefice if the person to whom one had earlier resigned it either died or moved to another benefice (droit de regrès), had been set aside definitively by a stroke of the pen in 1516-if only because the Concordat made no mention of them at all. These were customs rather than strictly rights, and as such were not binding on the king, and obviously, those anxious to practise them needed support at court and, ultimately, royal approval. But the main consequence was that the king's powers under the Concordat, regardless of how he actually exercised them, were generally held to be enveloped, at least morally, in a spectrum of practices long enshrined in canon law, practices which gave considerable scope to patrons and clients in search of bishoprics. Indeed, it is not too fanciful to suggest that most of the activities of those in search of bishoprics occurred when there were no vacancies; to many of them, it was preferable to negotiate with reigning bishops, especially elderly bishops, with a view to a resignation en faveur or a coadjutorship, than to wait for an actual vacancy to arise, when events could be far more unpredictable, and success much less assured. Even before he had been confirmed as bishop of Luçon, the young Richelieu approached the elderly bishop of Poitiers with a view to negotiating succession rights to Poitiers. The bishop seemed willing enough, but Richelieu was warned that Sully was detertnined to instal one of his clients as bishop there when the time came. Nothing came of Richelieu's efforts, but this was probably the outcome of most endeavours of that kind4.

6The encouragement to patrons and clients provided by such survivals was further reinforced by the relative absence of any clearly structured mechanism for the business of actually nominating bishops. The assemblées du clergé discussed this question several times in the early seventeenth century, and pressed for some kind of structure; the same lack of clear rules also led the papacy to object to some of the demands being made for French nominees when seeking their provisions in Rome. At the assemblée des notables meeting at Rouen in late 1617, the clergy suggested that each ecclesiastical province should draw up a list of those deserving episcopal office, and that the king should be pressed to make his nominations from the names on these lists. But nothing came of this and, in the last analysis, the clergy were more concerned with episcopal reform than with bureaucratic procedures. Event the conseil de conscience introduced in 1643 by Anne of Austria was primarily a board of examiners which saw its task as vetoing unsuitable candidates and giving certificates of suitablity to those looking for office in the church; it was much less concerned with the business of handling appointments as such. It was not until the 1660s or 1670s that the minister of the feuille des bénéfices was given such a responsibility, especially that of recommending suitable choices to the king.

  • 5 AV, Fondo Pio 88, fos 25-26, letter to Bentivoglio, 22 September 1621.

7Until then there seems to have been a great deal of confusion. Routine administrative responsibility for handling appointments rotated between the secretaries of State, whose political influence might vary considerably; there are few signs that they attempted to introduce much order into the competition for bishoprics. Almost all of the successive réglements du conseil of the seventeenth century tried to reduce the possibility of arbitrary action by individual secretaries of State where major benefices were concerned. One example of what they could do as well as of the lack of clear procedures may be given here: the celebrated Guillaume du Vair, keeper of the seals and bishop of Lisieux, died in mid 1621, just before his nephew, who was already bishop of Riez in Provence, could obtain his papal provisions as coadjutor-bishop with succession rights to Lisieux. Puysieux, the principal secretary of state, immediately ensured that efforts to obtain the provisions to the now vacant see of Lisieux would be stopped until such time as the nephew in question had actually resigned as bishop of Riez. Once that was done and Riez had became vacant, Puysieux was able to offer Riez to Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio, lately papal nuncio in France. What Puysieux seemed most satisfied with in this entire affair was that no one but himself at court knew what the true position of the bishoprics of Lisieux and Riez actually was5.

  • 6 BN, Fr. 15610, p. 90, letter of 6 June 1639; ibid., p. 313, letter of 30 November 1639.

8It would be misleading to suggest that either ministers or secretaries of State routinely enjoyed such leeway, but it is hardly surprising that, at a time when little effort was being made to keep full records of the various promises or brevets de réserve granted to individuals, or to formulate lists of episcopabili, even rumours of a vacant bishopric should trigger intense competition among those with, or even without, particular claims to it. At that juncture, success could depend on the speed with which information was received, patrons alerted, and the king and his ministers suitably petitioned; past promises of preferment, whether verbal or written, could not be relied upon to secure a vacant bishopric. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time could be disastrous, as happened to the bishop of Lavaur in south-western France in 1639. In July that year, Henri Arnauld wrote: "Mr de Lavaur faict ce qu'il peut pour trouver récompense de son Evesché, il ne veult point aller si loing". Five months later, the bishop of Avranches in lower Normandy died, and candidates for the succession quickly showed themselves. Arnauld commented: "M de Lavaur se désespera d'estre parti pour son Evesché, il eust prétendu celuy-cy. Il a une passion merveilleuse d'en avoir un en Normandie"6. The bishop's desire to find a more convenient diocese and to exchange Lavaur for something better was thus no secret. Nor was his behaviour untypical. French ecclesiastics did not cease to be clients needing patrons when they became bishops, for the simple reason that large numbers of reigning bishops were continually looking for better bishoprics, and negotiations to exchange or resign them were commonplace. A study of episcopal patronage should extend beyond those anxious to become bishops and include those who were already bishops.

9These are but a few of the enduring general features of ecclesiastical patronage and episcopal succession in ancien régime France. A study of how they evolved from the 1590s to the 1640s should begin with the condition of the French episcopate around 1595 after over thirty years of civil war. It is probably fair to say that at no time had there been as much resigning, exchanging and accumulating of bishoprics as during the sixteenth century; diocese by diocese, the inordinately long succession lists of bishops offer incontrovertible evidence of this. Veritable ecclesiastical dynasties like the d'Amboise, Guise, Bourbon emerged and expanded as a result; but equally powerful individual clerics like the cardinal de Tournon or the cardinal de Joyeuse, who did not launch comparable dynasties, were remarkably effective patrons for their ecclesiastical clients. With the crisis of royal power during the religious wars, many noble families managed to stake their claims to local bishoprics, and to obtain royal and papal approval for an abnormally large contingent of obscure commoner bishops who were virtually all straw-men or confidentiaires. In certain cases, as is well known, both Charles IX and Henri III went beyond that and allowed particular nobles formally to "present" their candidates to bishoprics for royal approval. In 1579, the assemblée du clergé complained that at least one quarter of all French bishoprics were either vacant or held irregularly, and the proportion rose even further in the following decade.

  • 7 On these questions, see my article "Henri IV and the Problem of the French Episcopate", in From Va (...)

10Henri IV was as anxious as any of his predecessors to exercise his royal prerogative to the full: even before he converted to Catholicism and was absolved by Clement VIII in 1595, he attempted to appoint bishops to vacant dioceses; but the duc de Mayenne also made numerous appointments-some successful, some unsuccessful - on behalf on the Catholic League; the popes themselves made a small number of appointments, and a few cathedral chapters even tried to revive the practice of episcopal elections. The result was an extremely confused situation in which different factions struggled for episcopal patronage, and which it took several years to iron out. Because his political position was weak for many years, Henri IV found himself compelled to acquiesce in the appointment of some of the most obscure bishops of the entire ancien régime, and to accept some of the concessions made by his predecessors to individual noble patrons. Such pragmatism was an intrinsic part of Henri IV's efforts to gain recognition as king in many parts of France. By far the most striking illustration of this was the 1596 settlement in son-in-law Ventadour. The principal object of this exercise was to restore civil peace in Languedoc, where the Joyeuse-Montmorency conflicts of the period had involved bitter struggles to control bishoprics like Nîmes, Uzès, Carcassonne, Alet, Albi and others. In Burgundy, Mayenne demanded similar rights to control episcopal patronage and to nominate bishops, and Mercoeur would do the same in Brittany in 1597, but neither man was successful in extracting a Languedoc-type settlement from Henri IV. In general, however, Henri IV was determined to arrest the alienation of royal power when it came to episcopal appointments, and in his later years, when he was under less pressure from the great nobility, there are few signs that he was keen to imitate the largesse of Charles IX or Henri III. Nor did he show much sympathy for the clergy's own demands, which were repeated at the 1614 Estates General, for a return to episcopal elections by cathedral chapters7.

11Obviously, the situation at the end of the sixteenth century was untypical, extending beyond the normal bounds of French ecclesiastical patronage and clientage. At issue was whether the kings of France could retain effective power to control and channel high church patronage, or whether they would be content to follow the popes since 1516 in alienating all but a residual right of veto which changing circumstances might make it difficult to exercise effectively. Once again, the historiography has paid more attention to the reform of the episcopate than to questions of patronage. But it is clear that the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII saw the crown gradually regain a considerable measure of effective control over episcopal appointments. This was far from being a linear process, and during the decade or so after Henri IV's murder in 1610, when royal power became shaky again and aristocratic dissent generated political instability, the crown's grip on episcopal patronage weakened. That pressure to grant satisfaction to powerful interests increased can be seen in the fact that large numbers of noble families began reappearing among the French episcopate. It is particularly évident in the record number of often under-age coadjutor-bishops appointed during the 1610s, which drew complaints both from incumbent bishops and from the papacy of excessive pressure on bishops to accept coadjutors who were not wanted and were of little use anyway, since the principal objective was to secure the succession to bishoprics in later years. Other critics protested that in allowing this to happen, the crown was reducing the amount of episcopal patronage which would be available in years to come, and was curtailing its own future capacity to oblige and reward families and individuals. However, with the return of political stability in the 1620s, fewer concessions of this kind were made, and the conditions for those wishing to become coadjutors were gradually made more stringent. But the curtailing of coadjutorial succession did not spell doom for the nobility in search of bishoprics. Richelieu was certainly well disposed to giving bishoprics to sons of the nobility, whom he believed to be naturally better equipped to govern and command than their social inferiors.

12bishoprics. Richelieu was certainly well disposed to giving bishoprics to sons of the nobility, whom he believed to be naturally better equipped to govern and command than their social inferiors.

13These generalizations can be supported in different ways. Of the 43 coadjutor-bishops appointed between 1595 and 1643, 8 were nominated by Henri IV, 25 during the 1610s and early 1620s, and just eight between 1624 and 1643. The number of episcopal "dynasties" also declined steadily, with those of local aristocratic origin suffering more than dynasties drawn from high-ranking office-holding families. The movement of bishops from one diocese to another was also far less than it had been during the previous century, and shows evidence of growing royal control.

  • 8 AAE, Mémoires et Documents. Fonds France 834, f° 59, Bellegarde to Bouthillier de Chavigny, secret (...)

14These developments can also be illustrated in more impressionistic fashion. The experience of one quite "ordinary" diocese can serve our purposes here. The diocese of Conserans was one of those small Midi bishoprics that is hardly visible on the map. Under Henri III and Henri IV, from 1588 to 1612, it had two obscure bishops who were effectively nominees of Roger de Bellegarde, grand écuyer de France and a companion of both kings. In 1612, when the second of these bishops, an Italian friar, died, Bellegarde obtained the mitre for his nephew, Octave de Bellegarde, then in his late twenties. In 1622, when Bellegarde's influence on Louis XIII was at its height, this nephew was extracted from remote Conserans and elevated to the rank of archbishop of Sens. Meanwhile, Conserans was given to a Carthusian monk, Bruno Ruade, whose appointment gave rise to an unusual exchange of letters between Louis XIII, Ruade and the general of the Carthusian order, letters which were published in 1623. The letters were designed to show how difficult it had been to get Ruade to leave his humble monastic cell, but made no mention at all of the not unimportant fact that it was Bellegarde again who had been instrumental in selecting him for Conserans. Sixteen years later, in 1639, when Ruade was old and increasingly incapacitated, Bellegarde approached Richelieu, reminding him of his patronage of Ruade in 1622, and asking him if he would appoint another of his nephews as coadjutor to Ruade with succession rights. To precipitate a decision, he also warned Richelieu that Ruade was independently negotiating to resign Conserans en faveur to the son of a Toulouse lawyer, Bernard Marmiesse8. Unfortunately for Bellegarde, times had changed politically by 1639: he was in disgrace for having supported Marie de Médicis and Gaston d'Orléans against Richelieu in 1630-1632, and consequently was unable to exercise any influence at court. In fact, no immediate decision was made, but it is worth noting in passing that bishop Ruade was no more successful in his efforts to resign Conserans to a successor of his own choosing than was Bellegarde in promoting his nephew or preserving his episcopal patronage. It was not until a few weeks aflter Richelieu's death in December 1642 that a coadjutor for Conserans was finally chosen: he was neither a Bellegarde nephew nor a Toulouse lawyer's son, but the far more formidable Pierre de Marca, président of the parlement of Navarre and a papacy would grant him his provision to Conserans. Within a few years, however, Mazarin was ready to offer him the archbishopric of Toulouse.

15As the example of Conserans suggests, one of the major consequences of this changing pattern of episcopal appointments was the relative fragmentation of patronage and clientage networks in the church. First of all, the big ecclesiastical power-blocs associated with the Guise, the Joyeuse and other families declined and eventually disappeared, while newer dynasties of comparable power or influence failed to emerge. The duc de Guise was governor of Provence from 1594 to 1631, and yet there are few signs that he managed to influence episcopal appointments there in the manner in which his ancestors had dominated those of northern and eastern France in previous generations. The Joyeuse influence was severely diluted after the cardinal's death in 1615: some of it passed to the Epernon family, but the cardinal de La Valette was nothing like the figure that Joyeuse had been; most of Joyeuse's remaining benefices and influence went to the Guise family, but without appreciable effect. The last Guise cardinal died in 1621, a discredited figure; the last Guise archbishop of Reims resigned and fled the realm in 1641. The cardinal de Joyeuse had also been archbishop of Rouen since 1604, but significantly he had not succeeded in extending his influence throughout Normandy, obtaining only one bishopric for his clients there. It is instructive to see that when, in 1613, he set about finding a successor for Rouen, he chose François de Harlay, son of a leading Parisian parlementaire family, as his coadjutor. Moreover, by the late 1620s both the Epernon and Guise families were facing the erosion of their inherited political power. The Montmorency and their allies, the Ventadour and the Valois-Auvergne families, were more successful in monopolizing certain Southern dioceses until the 1620s, but the Languedoc revolt of 1632 seriously curtailed that influence.

16Other changes were having a similar effect by making it even more difficult to perpetuate dominant clienteles in the French episcopate. The decline and elimination of pluralism is a case in point, the cardinal de Joyeuse himself being the last French bishop to hold more than one bishopricat a time. The crown also gradually ignored the claims of certain families to present their nominees to particular bishoprics for royal approval. Admittedly, the use of confidentiaires, or straw men, would still survive until the 1610s and enable families to retain a measure of control over episcopal power and revenues, but it became more and more difficult thereafter to maintain and defend such practices against strong criticism.

17But how was the vacuum left by these changes filled? The fragmentation of patronage went hand in hand with an increasing focus on the court as the source of patronage; even if that did not make the crown sovereignly free to choose bishops regardless of external pressures, its effect was to give it a greater voice in determining episcopal appointments. This development was reinforced by the fact that from the mid-1620s onwards, the dominant ministerial figures also happened to be cardinals, who could combine the roles of patron and decision-maker in many appointments. There is no doubt that Richelieu, as a former bishop with wide to be cardinals, who could combine the roles of patron and decision-maker in many appointments. There is no doubt that Richelieu, as a former bishop with wide connections within the French church and the universities, came to possess an extensive ecclesiastical clientele. Several members of his personal household became bishops or were promoted to better or more prestigious dioceses than the ones they previously held, thanks to his patronage. Mazarin's ecclesiastical patronage is much less well known, and only further research could establish whether the relative smallness of his ecclesiastical clientele was compensated for by the greater powers of decision-making that he enjoyed as Anne of Austria's favourite.

18But chief ministers, whether cardinals or not, were limited in how much they could do for their clients, and Mazarin was frequently accused of ingratitude by his clients. Oddly, no one has ever established to what degree successive kings of France themselves patronized the careers of particular bishops. Membership of the king's household was one recognized avenue towards episcopal office, but despite the household's expansion, fewer of its members than might be imagined actually became bishops under Henri IV and Louis XIII. In any case, distinguishing between active royal patronage and the king's formal nomination of individuals as bishops is extremely difficult; even special requests for favourable treatment in Rome, especially over the cost of papal provisions, are not an infallible test of royal patronage of individuals.

19The patronage of individual members of the royal family is less hard to discern, and was a significant feature of early seventeenth-century developments. Marie de Médicis’s jointure included presentation rights to all the Breton dioceses (including Nantes), as well as to Clermont and St Flour in the Auvergne; her candidates, of course, required royal approval, and Louis XIII was not beyond trying to pre-empt her choices as soon as vacancies became known. Her ecclesiastical household produced a small crop of bishops in the 1610s and the 1620s, but she was not confined to promoting household members exclusively. It is interesting to note that during the revolts of 1619-1620, the problem of Marie de Medici's ecclesiastical patronage caused political friction; it was argued at court that so long as she was in revolt or disaffected, she should not be allowed to present her episcopal candidates, especially in Brittany; the continued possession of such patronage rights, it was said, would enable her to attract too many clients to her service by the prospect of such considerable rewards. In fact, Marie de Médicis made the full enjoyment of these rights a condition of her reconciliation with Louis XIII in 1619, and that condition was eventually granted. Much less evidence has survived in the case of Anne of Austria, either during or after Louis XIII's reign, but membership of her entourage was probably not the most obvious path to episcopal rank before 1643. Yet at least six members of her household became bishops. In his letters between 1639 and 1643 Henri Amauld mentions several cases of obvious lobbying by Anne and her supporters for certain bishoprics. The case of Gaston d'Orléans is also revealing. When he was given his apanage of Blois, Orléans and Chartres in 1626, great care, based on an examination of precedents, was taken specifically to exclude presentation rights to the bishoprics of Chartres and Orléans. This did not prevent the new bishop of Orléans in 1630 from thinking that he owed his promotion to Gaston's favour. In the event, one or two of Gaston d'Orléans's clients did become bishops, mainly during the 1620s; but thereafter political disputes reduced his capacity to promote his ecclesiastical clients.

20The cases of Marie de Médicis and Gaston d'Orléans would seem to show that the crown was increasingly reluctant to alienate its powers of ecclesiastical patronage by formal grants; the latter were difficult to revoke and their consequences were potentially dangerous. But at the same time, the crown was perfectly ready to satisfy Marie and Gaston by recognizing them as patrons whose clients and household members were obvious candidates for episcopal appointments.

21One could no doubt continue this kind of analysis indefinitely, extending it from the princes of the blood to leading figures within the church hierarchy itself. Nor would that alone suffice. In an age of church reform, other pressures were brought to bear on the crown and on those seeking episcopal office, pressures which undoubtedly inflected the normal workings of church patronage. For example, the papacy was increasingly concerned to establish acceptable criteria and procedures in order to eliminate unsuitable candidates; within the French church itself, the reformers whose pressure was instrumental in establishing the conseil de conscience in 1643 worked towards a similar objective. Beyond them lay pressure groups such as the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, a powerful vehicle for both reform and ambitions of a more conventional kind. Only when the relative influence of these factors has been weighed, and an adequate methodology for doing so has been constructed, will we be able to understand how church patronage really worked, and what kinds of pressures shaped the episcopate of Counter-Reformation France.


1 Klientelsysteme im Europa der Frühen Neuzeit, ed. Antoni MACZAK, Munich, R. Oldenbourg, 1988.

2 See Wolfgang REINHARD, Freunde und Kreaturen, Munich, E. Vögel, 1979.

3 Michel PERONNET, Les Evêques dans l'ancienne France, Lille-Paris, IL Champion, 1977, 2 vols.

4 See Joseph BERGIN, The Rise of Richelieu, New Haven-London, Yale University Press, 1991, ch.2.

5 AV, Fondo Pio 88, fos 25-26, letter to Bentivoglio, 22 September 1621.

6 BN, Fr. 15610, p. 90, letter of 6 June 1639; ibid., p. 313, letter of 30 November 1639.

7 On these questions, see my article "Henri IV and the Problem of the French Episcopate", in From Valois to Bourbon. Dynasty, State and Society in Early Modern France, ed. Keith CAMERON, Exeter, University of Exeter, Exeter Studies in History, vol. XXIV, 1989, pp. 127-143.

8 AAE, Mémoires et Documents. Fonds France 834, f° 59, Bellegarde to Bouthillier de Chavigny, secretary of state, 11 September 1639.


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