The Fronde was a poorly coordinated French civil war resulting from the conflict between an increasingly absolutist maonarchy and both the Parlement of Paris the nobels of France. It occured during the the monarchy of a very young King Louis XIV. He was a boy king and for a time his life was in danger. It occurred at about the same time as the later stages of the Civil War in England and immediately after the Thirty Years War in Germany. All three of these conflicts were caused by the attempt of the monarchy to expand the authority of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility and wealthy merchants. The outcome in each country was radically different. The name Fronde was derived from a play sling used by the boys of Paris in mimic street fights. Itbwas useful in breaking the windows of Cardinal Mazarin and the Court party.
T he Fronde occured the monarchy of King Louis XIV, but while he was still a child. His father Louis XIII had died at a relativeky young age (1643). Thus Louis became king when he was only 5 years old. The Fronde broke out 5 years later whenn Louis was 10 years old. The Fronde was to put the monarchy and the royal family in danger. Louis would go on to become perhaps France's most powerful king, but at the time of the Fronde he was still a child and in mortal danger. It was an experience that he would never forget. And a factor in centralizing the French state and reducing Parlement and the nobility to impotence.
The Fronde occurred at about the same time as the later stages of the Civil War in England and immediately after the Thirty Years War in Germany. All three of these conflicts were caused by the attempt of the monarchy to expand the authority of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility and wealthy merchants. The outcome in each country was radically different. The failure of the Fronde enabled Louis XIV to establish an absolutist monary. The English Civil War on the otherhand confirmed and expanded constitutional limits on the British monarchy. The Thirty Years War in German not only essebntially destroyed the authority of the Germany monachy (Holy Roman Emperor), but left Germany disunited for over three centuries.
Cardinal Mazarin was the protege and successor of Cardinal Richelieu who served Louis XIII and worked tirelessly to cenralize the French state and expand the powers of the monarchy. Mazarin attempted to bring the shaky finances of the French Government under control. The royal finances had been strained by French participation in the Thirty Years War against both the Hapsburgs in Germany and Spain. For his austere financial measures and other reasons the Italian-born prealte became very unpooular, the nobels accusing him of despotic behavior. Mazarin's appointment of foreigners was especially unpopular. The Parlement of Paris thought its perogatives were threatened. People compalined of excessive taxes and administrative abuses. it was a poweful opposition at atime that King Louis was just a boy.
The name of the Parlement of Paris is misleading. Itbwas not a munocipal body. And because it was located in Paris took on a national importance. It developed out of the feudal Curia Regis (Royal Court). It developed an established existence outside of the Court by the reign of Louis IX (1226–70). Gradually provincial parlements, similar to the Paris Parlement in organization but with less jurisdictional authority were also established (by the 15th century). The duties were at first strictly judicial. Over time, however, Parlement gained considerable political power, primarily as a result of its responsibility for registering royal edicts and letters patent before they actually became a law. The "right of remonstrance" developed giving Parlement the right to identify any breach of monarchic tradition. It was essentially a check on capricious royal authority. The king had the authority to exert his authority. He ould order registration if he issued a special lettre de jussion (peremptory order). He could also hold a lit de justice. this was a rare formal session of Parlement with the king in attendance. The Parlement lacked any right of political initiative. The Parelement began as abourgeois judicial court, but by Louis's reign was almost exclusively noble. Seats had been purchased, hereditary ownership had develop, and the king had enobeled members. Both the Paris Parlement and the regional parlements began questioning royal reform measures (late-16th century).
France had aided the northern Protestant princes in the Thirty Years War to oppose the Hapsburgs which it faced in Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Finally Framnce entered the War directly to avoid a Hapsburg victory. This proved very costly and was a major reason Mazarin needed additional taxes. The ending of the War in Germany and the French victory over the Spanish at Lens (1648) by the Prince de Condé (1648) strengthened the position of Mazarin and the court as it ended foreign distractions and freed a trained army for domestic uses if needed.
The King at age 10 did not play a major role. His eldely father just before he died, had created a Regency Council. This fefied established custom by which Queen Anne would have been the sole Regent of France. The King lacked confidence in the Queen's political abilities. He did, however, appoint the Queen to head the council. The King's Regency Council faced a formidable but divided opposition, It included the princes, the nobility, the law courts (parlements), and most of the French people. The dispute began when the cash-strapped government issued seven fiscal edicts which increased taxation. The result was essentu\ially armed rebellion which played out in two uncoordinated phases. The Fronde was actually two fifferent campaigns: 1) the Parlementary Fronde and 2) the Fronde of the Princes.
The parlements pushed back on the Government's imposition of taxes without parlementary consent. They questioned the constitutionality of the taxes and sought to check the momarchy's powers. [Magill, p. 78]
It was no accident that the outbreak of the Parlementary Fronde occured just after he Peace of Westphalia (1648) that brought the Thirty Years War to an end. , was significant. The nuclei of the armed bands that terrorized parts of France under aristocratic leaders during this period had been hardened in a generation of war in Germany, where troops still tended to operate autonomously. Louis XIV, impressed as a young ruler with the experience of the Fronde, came to reorganize French fighting forces under a stricter hierarchy whose leaders ultimately could be made or unmade by the King. Cardinal Mazarin blundered into the crisis but came out well ahead at the end. The Fronde represented the final attempt of the French nobility to do battle with the king, and they were humiliated. In the long-term, the Fronde served to strengthen Royal authority, but weakened the economy. The Fronde facilitated the emergence of absolute monarchy.[Moote] The Parlement launched the Fronde when they refused to approve royal edicts and Mazarin's economic program. Under Richelieu the Parlement had been a subservient body, routeinly endorsing royal edicts. This was intially a limited action and within constitutional lines, although not what Mazarin expected. Gradually the French nobels expanded the confrintation into a struggle aimed at regaining the privliges they had enjoyed before Richelieu. The leaders of the Fronde were first president of Parlement Mathieu Molé and councilers Blancmenil and Broussel. Mazarin struck the first blow, ordering the arrest of Parelment councilers Blancmenil and Broussel (August 1648). Mazarin hoped to destroy the Fronde before opposition grew any further. The people of Paris took up arms, attacked and dispersed the royal guard, and erected baricades around the Palais Royal. The young Louis XIV was inside the palace and was in fear for his life. The people if oaris and the Parlement were joined by some nobels. This is a time that King Louis XIV as an adult would look back on with great fear. Negotiations followed. Mazarin approved an ordinance regulationg financial and judicual matters (August 1, 1649). There was some reduction of taxes, but Mazarin and his aides retained their offices. This placated some, but not the nobels who insisted on removing Mazarin. The two sides observed each others movements closely, with great distrust. The Court party began calling the Parlement party "frondeurs"--loosely "slingers".
The second phase of the Fronde degenerated into intrigues, half-hearted warfare in a scramble for power and control of patronage. This was no longer a constitutional phase. The leaders were disafected princes and nobles. The major figures were Gaston, Duke of Orleans (the king's uncle), the great Louis II, Prince de Condé and his brother Armand, Prince of Conti, Frédéric, the Duke of Bouillon and his brother Henri, Viscount of Turenne. There were female figures as well: Gaston's daughter, Mademoiselle de Montpensier (La grande Mademoiselle), Condé's sister, Madame de Longueville, Madame de Chevreuse. Another notable figure was the accoplished intriguer Jean François Paul de Gondi, the future Cardinal de Retz. The military operations fell into the hands of war-experienced mercenaries, led by two important generals. Mazarin made another attemp to end the Fronde by arresting its leaders. This time he moved against some of the most important nobels. He had the Prince de Condé (Duc de Longueville) and Armand de Bourbon (Prince de Conti) arrested by royal decree (January 1650). This act aroused the provinces.
The Duchess Longueville, Conde's sister, persuaded the Vicomte de Tuerenne to lead an army against the Court party. Tuerenne scorded some initial successes, but was defeated at a battle near Rethel. Despite this victory, Mazarin had become so unpopular, he had to relaese the arrestted nobels and flee to the Netherlands.
Following the battle at Rethel (1650), Mazarin and Louis gradually out manaeuvered the Frounde leaders in domestic political infighting and intrigue. Basically instead of arresting the leaders, Mazarin and the Court bought off important leaders, leaving the remaining opposition leaders to weak to defy the Court. The conflict which began over the oppression of the people and oppresive tactics turned to court intrigue. The Queen Mother and regent, Anne of Austria, convinced Turenne to transfer his alligance. Mazarin bribed another imprtant Fronde leader, Jean François Paul de Gondi with the offer of a cardinate. Condé who had made himself unpopular by his obnoxious behavior fled to Guienne southwest France. Louis XIV by this time was 14 years old and beginning to take a more prominent role in the affairs of state. He tried to convince Condé to return to Paris. Condé having been arrested once did not trust the King and forned an army. Condé's forces fought with a royal army commanded by Turenne (July 2, 1652). Parelement again negotiated with the Court over the removal of Mazarin who had returned from the Netherlands. Louis agreed to this and declared a general amnesty. Condé still distrustful offerdec his services to the Soanish crown and Louis declared him a traitor. Soon afterwards, Mazarin returned again.
The victory of the Court party led by Mazarin effectively removed all organized constitutional restraints on royal power. This left Louis open when he assumed his majority to rule as an absolute monarch. And this is precisely what he did, summarizing his rule with the statement, "I am the state". Thus England and France perenial ememies moved in opposite direction deepening a conflict that would last another two centuries.
Magill, Frank Northen. Magill's History of Europe (1993).
Moote, A. Lloyd. The Revolt of the Judges: the Parlement of Paris and the Fronde, 1643-1652. Princeton University Press: 1972).
Well, H.G. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (Doubleday & Company: New York, 1971), 1103p.
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