Arrêt Le Maistre: The French Question

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Original French

Here we have an English translation of Arrêt Le Maistre of 1593:

JUDGMENT of the sitting parliament in Paris which annulls all treaties made or to be made which would call to the throne of France a foreign prince or princess, as contrary to the salic law and other fundamental times of the state.

Paris, June 28, 1593

The court, on the above remonstrance made to the Court by the Attorney General of the King and the subject matter of deliberation, said court, all the assembled chambers, having, as it never had other intention other than to maintain the catholic, apostolic and roman religion and the state and crown of France, under the protection of a good king very Christian, catholic and French,

Ordered and ordered that remonstrances will be made this afternoon by Master Jean Lemaistre President, assisted by a good number of advisers in the said court, to the Duke of Mayenne, Lieutenant General of the State and Crown of France, in the presence of the princes and officers of the crown, now being in this city, that no treaty be made to transfer the crown into the hands of prince or princess foreigners;

That the fundamental laws of this kingdom be kept and the judgments given by the said court for the declaration of a Catholic and French king executed; and that it is necessary to employ the authority which has been committed to him to prevent that, under pretext of religion, be transferred in foreign hands against the laws of the kingdom; and to provide as quickly as possible for rest at the relief of the people, for the extreme necessity in which it is reduced; and yet, at the present time, said court declares all treaties made and to be made hereafter for the establishment of null foreign prince and princess and of effect and value, as done to the prejudice of the Salic law and other fundamental laws of the state. [Emphasis added]

Basic Background

Henri IV of France

Henri IV, a Protestant, became the nominal King of France.

Many Catholics naturally opposed having a Protestant king. Thus many supported other claimants. One being Infante Isabella.

Unable to win militarily, Henri announced his intent to convert to the Catholic faith. The Parlement of Paris then issued the aforementioned judgment. [Note: the Parlement was a judicial body, not a legislative one.]

Analysis

Four times the judgment states the crown is not to be given to foreigners (or to that effect). Twice the judgment describes the king as French. Salic law is mentioned twice, and the fundamental laws (or times) are mentioned thrice.

Clearly, the main objection to Isabella and the other claimants was that they were foreign.

Notice also the preamble:

JUDGMENT of the sitting parliament in Paris which annulls all treaties made or to be made which would call to the throne of France a foreign prince or princess, as contrary to the salic law and other fundamental times of the state.

The phrase “as contrary” clearly indicates a belief that foreigners were already to be excluded from the throne by the fundamental laws.

Take another look at the final paragraph of the judgment:

That the fundamental laws of this kingdom be kept and the judgments given by the said court for the declaration of a Catholic and French king executed; and that it is necessary to employ the authority which has been committed to him to prevent that, under pretext of religion, be transferred in foreign hands against the laws of the kingdom

The phrase “against the laws of the kingdom” once again indicates that it was already contrary to the fundamental laws to give the crown to a foreigner.

Was Henri IV a foreigner?

No*. Despite being born in (and being King of) Navarre, Henri was not a foreigner. He was the son of a French Peer, Antoine de Bourbon, who participated in French politics.

[While one might describe him as a foreigner in the since that he was King of Navarre (as the Anjouists love to point out and say it disproved the point entirely) Henri was not foreign in the context used in Le Maistre. Foreign titles and nationality has nothing to do with this. What matters is whether the person in question is French.]

Henri, likewise, participated in French politics. Never did Henri or his father leave France with no intention of returning. In fact, both died in France. Thus, neither ever became a foreigner.

It is clear, then, that the fundamental laws require the king to be a Frenchman.

What is a Frenchman?

This may seem like an easy question, but it isn’t. Many people believe, as I do, that there is something more to what is commonly called “nationality” than a legal status.

In a purely legal sense, anyone can potentially become a “national” or “citizen” of another country. But let’s face reality: Plopping a German in the middle of Paris and proclaiming him a French citizen does not make him a Frenchman by his nature. His nature is, and always will be, German.

There is something that transcends the legal qualifications of nationality. Each nation has its own culture, its own spirit (for lack of a better term). A German simply would not possess the French spirit. Thus, by his nature, he is a German.

This is why I, and many others, will never consider the Spanish Bourbons to be French (even if Luis Alfonso de Borbón has French citizenship through his grandmother). The Spanish Bourbons stopped being French years ago.

Legally, a person lost their French nationality upon leaving France with no intention of returning.

In 1883, after the death of the Comte de Chambord (de jure Henri V), the Count of Montizón became the senior agnate of the House of Bourbon.

But Don Juan, Count of Montizón was a Spaniard, not a Frenchman. Don Juan was the great-great-grandson of Philip V of Spain. Don Juan was the result of multiple generations of Spaniards. Don Juan, and his direct ancestors, were raised in Spain. Don Juan was of the Spanish spirit, not of the French spirit. He was not, in any any sense of the word, a Frenchman.

Don Juan was likely the rightful King of Spain, but he had no right to the throne of France.

How rigid is the Unavailability (inalienability) of the Crown?

One of the fundamental laws is the Unavailability of the Crown – the idea that the crown is not the property of the King or anyone else. This generally means that abdications, renunciations, and arbitrary attempts to change the line of succession are void. Hence the debate over Utrecht, which I’m not getting into in this post.

Those who believe in succession based on the fundamental laws tend to hold this rule as very rigid. Anjouists (supporters of Don Luis) hold it as so rigid that they believe the Peace of Utrecht to be void.

This is clearly why Anjouists deny that there is a requirement that the king be a Frenchman. Otherwise, their candidate (Don Luis) would be illegitimate. It is their interpretation that the king simply be of male descent from the Royal House of France. Thus, they view patrilineal descendants of Philip V as automatically “French.”

I, and many others, find this line of thinking absurd. The Spanish Bourbons are not of the French spirit, nor have they been for several generations.

But, as I’ve stated, the Anjouist line of thinking is necessary for their cause.

The rigidity of the unavailability rule means that once the right of succession is lost, it cannot be regained because such a restoration would constitute an arbitrary change in the order of succession. In other words, the Spanish Bourbons are permanently outside the line of succession to the French throne.

To put the Spanish Bourbons ahead of the French Orleans would be a usurpation, the same crime committed by Louis-Philippe, the illegitimate “King of the French.”

Thus, it doesn’t matter that Don Luis has French citizenship through his grandmother. Firstly, he is not of the French spirit. Secondly, the Spanish Bourbons are permanently outside the line of succession because of the Unavailability of the Crown.

The Count of Paris, therefore, is the rightful King of France, the de jure Henri VII.

HRH Prince Henri, Count of Paris, de jure Henri VII

EDIT/UPDATE: I found this quote from Claude de Seyssel, a Savoyard jurist and advisor to Louis XII:

And the first speciatie that I find good there is that the kingdom goes by male succession, without being able to fall into the hands of a woman, according to the law that the French call “salic”, which is a very good thing. Because, falling in a feminine line, it comes into the hands and power [it can come into power] of a man of strange nation, which is pernicious and dangerous thing: yet that which comes from such a strange nation [the one who comes from strange nation]is other food and condition and has other mores, other language and other way of living than those of the country where it comes to dominate. And if it is common to advance those of his nation, and to give them the greatest and most important authority in the handling of affairs; and more preferring them to honors and profits; yet he always has more love and confidence in them, and conforms more to their mores and conditions than to those of the country where he comes again. Whose ensuing desire and dissention between those of the country and the foreigners, and indignation against the princes, as we often saw by experience and see it every day. Also, coming from the successors of male to male, the heir is always certain and if is of the same blood of those who have been before. [1557: incontinent that] the other is bankrupt, even though he is in a distant degree and there are daughters of the deceased, without there being any mutation or difficulty, as we have seen at the death of King Charles VIII and King Louis XII last deceased. And how much more than at other times before, there were great questions and disputes for such occasions (which ensued [ ensuivies ] great wars, persecutions and desolations in the kingdom), but it was more on other occasions (under the color of such quarrels, still that they were known to be frivolous and ill-founded) than for reason. And if things finally come to their righteousness and are so established that there can be no dispute or difficulty with it at any time. And I understood, in describing this Monarchy, [And, to prove and maintain what I said about the perfection of the Monarchy of France, I understood, by describing this collection,] the State of France as it is now, joining the old laws, customs and observances with the new and more recent ones.

What Seyssel called “other mores” and “other way of living” is exactly what I mean by spirit. Each nation has its own way of living. France is French and Spain is Spanish. Seyssel’s writing demonstrates that there was a clear understanding of this in the 16th century, and this understanding was used to justify the Salic law in keeping France out of foreign hands.

Seyssel’s understanding is unlikely to support giving the crown to a person of Spanish habits and mores.

It should likewise come as no surprise that the Royal Almanac of 1821 has the Houses of Bourbon-Orleans and Bourbon-Conde ahead of the Spanish Bourbons.

Royal Almanac of 1821 Page 1

Royal Almanac of 1821 Page 2

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