An Impartial Glance at the Ancient Magistracy

A Mighty fortunate personage in the year of grace 1482, was the noble knight, Robert d’Estouteville, Sieur of Beyne, Baron of Ivry and Saint-Andry in the March, Councillor and Chamberlain to the King, and Warden of the Provostry of Paris. It was well-nigh seventeen years ago since he had received from the King, on November 7, 1465—the year of the comet1

—this fine appointment of Provost of Paris, reputed rather a seigneurie than an office. Dignitas, says Joannes Lœmnœus, quœ, cum non exigua potestate politiam concernente, atque prœrogativis multis et juribus conjuncta est.2 It was indeed a thing to marvel at that in 1482 a gentleman should be holding the King’s commission, whose letters of appointment dated back to the date of the marriage of a natural daughter of Louis XI with Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon. On the same day on which Robert d’Estouteville had replaced Jacques de Villiers in the Provostry of Paris, Maître Jehan Dauvet superseded Messire Hélye de Thorrettes as Chief President of the Court of Parliament, Jehan Jouvenel des Ursins supplanted Pierre de Morvilliers in the office of Chancellor of France, and Regnault des Dormans turned Pierre Puy out of the post of Master of Common Pleas to the royal palace. But over how many heads had that Presidency, that Chancellorship, and that Mastership passed since Robert d’Estouteville held the Provostship of Paris! It had been “given unto his keeping,” said the letters patent; and well indeed had he kept the same. He had clung to it, incorporated himself into it, had so identified himself with it that he had managed to escape that mania for change which so possessed Louis XI, a close-fisted, scheming king, who sought to maintain, by frequent appointments and dismissals, the elasticity of his power. Furthermore, the worthy knight had procured the reversion of his post for his son, and for two years now the name of the noble M. Jacques d’Estouteville, Knight, had figured beside that of his father at the head of the roll of the Provostry of Paris—in truth, a rare and signal favour! To be sure, Robert d’Estouteville was a good soldier, had loyally raised his banner for the King against the “League of the Public Weal,” and on the entry of the Queen into Paris in 14— had presented her with a wonderful stag composed of confectionery. Besides this, he was on a very friendly footing with Messire Tristan l’Hermite, Provost-Marshal of the King’s palace. So Messire Robert’s existence was an easy and pleasant one. First of all, he enjoyed very good pay, to which were attached and hanging like extra grapes on his vine, the revenues from the civil and criminal registries of the Provostry, the revenues, civil and criminal, accruing from the auditory courts of the Châtelet, not to speak of many a comfortable little toll-due from the bridges of Mantes and Corbeil, and the profits from the taxes levied on the grain-dealers, as on the measurers of wood and salt. Add to this, the pleasure of displaying on his official rides through the city—in shining contrast to the party-coloured gowns, half red, half tan, of the sheriffs and district officers—his fine military accoutrements, which you may admire to this day, sculptured on his tomb in the Valmont Abbey in Normandy, and his morion with all the bruises in it got at Montlhéry. Then, it was no mean thing to have authority over the constables of the Palais de Justice, over the warder and the Commandant of the Châtelet, the two auditors of the Châtelet (auditores Castelleti), the sixteen commissioners of the sixteen districts, the jailer of the Châtelet, the four enfeoffed officers of the peace, the hundred and twenty mounted officers of the peace, the hundred and twenty officers of the rod, the captain of the watch with his patrol, his under-patrol, his counter-and-night-patrol. Was it nothing to exercise supreme and secondary jurisdiction, to have the right of pillory, hanging, and dragging at the cart’s tail, besides minor jurisdiction in the first resort (in prima instantia, as the old charters have it) over the whole viscomty of Paris, so gloriously endowed with the revenues of seven noble bailiwicks? Can you conceive of anything more gratifying than to mete out judgment and sentence, as Messire Robert d’Estouteville did every day in the Grand Châtelet, under the wide, low-pitched Gothic arches of Philip Augustus; and to retire, as he was wont, every evening to that charming house in Rue Galilée, within the purlieus of the Palais Royal, which he held by right of his wife, Dame Ambroise de Loré, where he could rest from the fatigues of having sent some poor devil to pass the night on his part in that “little cell of the Rue de l’Escorcherie, which the provosts and sheriffs of Paris frequently used as a prison—the same measuring eleven feet in length, seven feet and four inches in width, and eleven feet in height?”3

And not only had Messire Robert d’Estouteville his special jurisdictional offices as Provost of Paris, but also he had his seat, with power over life and death, in the King’s Supreme Court. There was no head of any account but had passed through his hands before falling to the executioner. It was he who had fetched the Comte de Nemours from the Bastille Saint-Antoine, to convey him to the Halles; he who had

  By PanEris using Melati.

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