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date: 19 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

After the King and his councils, the French parlements and provincial estates stood out as two of the most prestigious political, legal, and administrative institutions in the kingdom. By the eighteenth century, there were no fewer than thirteen parlements, proudly dominating the social, cultural, and even economic lives of cities such as Aixen-Provence, Besancon, Rennes, and Toulouse. It was, however, the Parlement of Paris that was generally recognized as the senior court, with a jurisdiction covering approximately one-third of France, including provinces such as Auvergne, Champagne, and Poitou as well as the major cities of Orleans and Lyon. The Paris Parlement and its many ardent apologists frequently claimed that it “was as old as the monarchy” and a direct descendant of the Frankish assemblies that had once met on the Champs de Mars. It was an argument that placed the Parlement above the Estates-General as the French national representative body, but it was, in reality, little more than antiquarian wishful thinking and the Parlement was of more recent vintage, having been founded during the fourteenth century. The various provincial parlements had been established later, often when formerly independent provinces had been absorbed into France.

Keywords: parlements, provincial estates, Parlement of Paris, senior court, monarchy, Frankish assemblies

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