French Revolution Essay

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The end of the Ancien Regime in France has long been associated with the activities of the various parlements and their influence within the revolutionary movements that shook France from 1787 onwards. These movements reached their zenith with what is commonly called the "Revolution of 1789".


Parlements were political institutions that developed of the previous "Kings Councils, the Conseil du Roi or Curia Regis. Originally there was just one Parlement, that in Paris, but by mid Fifteenth Century there was one in Toulouse, which extended its authority over much of Southern France. From 1443 until the explosion of the French Revolution there were fourteen other parlements created, in cities such as Arras, Grenoble and Perpignan. Importantly, all these cities had always been administrative capitals of their regions (often stemming from Roman rule) and had strong traditions of independence from central control.
Officially parlements were not legislative bodies, but rather courts of appeal. However, they did have the responsibility to record all edicts and laws, and could refuse to apply such laws when they went against "fundamental law", or the local coutumes. Increasingly, and this was particularly the case with the Parlement of Paris, the parlements began to "challenge royal edicts" (Doyle, 2001, p.1) . These challenges often took the form of deliberate delaying tactics until the king held a lit de justice or sent a letter de cachet that would essentially force them to act. ...
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