The Masters of Requests : an Extraordinary Judicial Company in an. Age of Centralization (1589 - 1648)
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As readers of the journal of the marquis d Argenson will knows the mastres des requetes ordinaires do 1'hotel du roi were "la vraie pepiniere des administrateurs" in the eighteenth century (1) From this judicial company were drawn the intendants of the provinces, finance and commerce, most of the councillors of state and, sometimes, secretaries of state, keepers of the seal and chancellors. (2) The term "pepiniere" could also be used to describe the masters during the reign of Louis X, at least after 1660.. Yet, before the reign of Louis xiii the description was not an accurate characterization, for the simple reason that the centralized administration of later Bourbon France did not exist.. To be sure administrators abounded, even though they were fewer in number in sixteenth than seventeenth-century France. As a well-known article by Gaston Zeller illustrates Valois France was ruled by a decentralized. administration. - (3) "Before the intendants" the realm was under the supervision of governors, parlements, estates and local functionaries. Representatives from the centre made few appearances in the provinces, for the centre was composed of the king and his court and only a handful of robins and scribes. From the end of the religious wars until the Fronde this system began to crumble under the assault of what historians refer to as administrative centralization.. To say that the monarchy "undertook" this policy would be misleading since it was mainly a consequence of the efforts of the crown, supported by much of the elite, to liberate itself from both the Protestant state-within a- state and the Spanish hegemony. Obliged to mobilize resources, to control internal conditions which became more alarming in the 1620s and 1630s and to handle the growing influx of administrative and judicial business which was the result of its policies, the crown required a group of officials who would be responsible first and foremost to itself. Local magistrates and administrators, whose reliability was sometimes undermined by provincial loyalties and attachments to venerable institutions dis-ow posing of much independence from the crown, could not be entrusted with all the necessary, tasks. But the company, of masters, originally a tiny group of magistrates who had traditionally received placets presented to the king, was the tool to which the king had recourse. One of our intentions is to show how the monarchy adapted this traditional group to serve ends which were revolutionary. This work traces what can only be called the rise of the masters", a phenomena which coincided with their metamorphosis into the "pepiniere" of a central administration which was busier and more involved in local affairs under Louis XIII than under the Valois. The period covered is one which would have seemed coherent to men of the l64Os vfor as Pomponne do Bellievre, a councillor of state, wrote: de temps en temps les fonctions do lours charges s'estoient alleves et quelquefois diminuees, ii est advenu quo los guerres civilles de la ligue finissantes apres la diminuation de leurs charges, elles se releverent beaucoup, en sorte quo le prix d'icelles estant d'un tiers moindre que les offices au parlement, auiourd'huy, cinquante ans apres, le prix an est augmente pardessus les offices au parlement de plus du tiers, l'asseurance du droict annuel donna courage d'y entrer et L'esperance at comme certitude d'en sortir conseiller d'estat: en y ayant beaucoup porte qui autrement n'y fussent pas entres"., (4) However, ideally we would be obliged to follow the history of the company into the 1660s. This has been done in some, but not all, sections of this work. The story of the group is a complicated and rich one' as scholars who have ventured in this direction-- especially Professors Mousnier and Antoine-- are well aware. (5) Although the most important cause of the magisterial success is the one noted above, it will be necessary to explain other factors- the conditions of success, some of which lay in the chaotic financial conditions of Valois France, and other forces which propelled the masters along an advantageous itinerary. , "such as their skill as a pressure group. Attention, will also be given to the ambiguities of their position. for they were tied closely professionally, and socially to judicial companies which drifted steadily into opposition to the crown, under Louis XII7.
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