Edict of Châteaubriant

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Catholic Valois propaganda: a haloed Henri II, attended by France and crowned by Fame, effortlessly tramples Heresy under foot in this engraving by Jean Duvet, ca. 1548

The Edict of Châteaubriant,[1] issued from the seat of Anne, duc de Montmorency in Brittany, was promulgated by Henri II of France, 27 June 1551. The Edict was one of an increasingly severe series of measures taken by Henry II against Protestants, whom he regarded as heretics. In the preamble, the Edict frankly reported that previous measures against heresy in the kingdom had proved ineffectual.[2] "Heretics", the Edict reported, met in conventicles, infected schools, invaded the judicial bench and forced toleration upon judges. To ensure more rigorous judgements, in 1547 Henri had already created a special judicial chamber drawn from members of the parlements, solely to judge cases of heresy, (called by Protestants the Chambre Ardente (the "Burning Chamber").[3] The Edict contained quite detailed provisions: it called upon the civil and ecclesiastical courts to detect and punish all heretics, and placed severe restrictions on Protestants, including loss of one-third of property granted to informers, who were also granted immunity[4] and confiscations of property both moveable and immovable belonging to those who had fled to Geneva, with whom the king's subjects were forbidden to correspond or to send money.[5] Fourteen of its forty-six articles were concerned with censorship; its terms strictly regulated the press by prohibiting the sale, importation or printing of any book unapproved by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Paris, then or, now it was implied,[6] in the future.[7] Booksellers were to display a copy of the Faculty's printed list of prohibited books alongside a list of books for sale. Delegates of the Faculty were to make visits twice a year to each bookseller to ensure that the provisions were complied with. Since 1542 it had been a requirement that any shipment of books into France be opened and unpacked in the presence of delegates from the Faculty of Theology, which now, according to Roger Doucet,[8][9] "assumed the intellectual direction of the kingdom."

Though the Edict went so far as to forbid the discussion of religious topics at work, in the fields, or over meals, it proved insufficient to stem the rising tide of reform in religion. Sterner measures would be taken in the next edict of the series, the Edict of Compiègne, 1557, which applied the death penalty for all convictions of heresy.

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  1. ^ Often Châteaubriand; the modern spelling of the place is Châteaubriant; the château had been rebuilt magnificently by Jean de Laval, baron de Châteaubriant, whose wife, Françoise de Foix, had been a mistress of François I; the baron had made a gift of it in 1539/40 to the connétable Anne de Montmorency. (Abbé Guillotin de Corson, "Châteaubriant, baronnie, ville et paroisse" in Abbé Goudé, Histoire politique et civile de Châteaubriant (1869), pt. I, ch. vi:On-line text, and following chapters
  2. ^ The first punitive code, the Edict of Fontainebleau (1540), had been issued in 1540.
  3. ^ Linda L. Taber, "Religious Dissent within the Parlement of Paris in the Mid-Sixteenth Century: A Reassessment" French Historical Studies 16.3 (Spring 1990:684-699) p 685.
  4. ^ Raymond A. Mentzer, Jr., "The Legal Response to Heresy in Languedoc, 1500-1560" Sixteenth Century Journal 4.1 (April 1973:19-30) p. 22.
  5. ^ The Edict of Compiègne, of 1557, made travelling to Geneva an act punishable by death (Mentzer 1973:24.)
  6. ^ By a future tense in the wording (Francis M. Higman, Censorship and the Sorbonne [Geneva: Broz] 1979:65).
  7. ^ James K. Farge, Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France: The Faculty of Theology of Paris, 1500-1543 (Leiden: Brill) 1985:218.
  8. ^ The Rabelais encyclopedia by Elizabeth A. Chesney 2004 ISBN 0-313-31034-3 pages 31-32
  9. ^ Doucet, Les institutions de la France, (Paris:Picard) 1948:II:747), noted by Farge 1995:218f and note.