Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/438

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enjoyed the privilege (committimus) of resorting to it direct. Or don- -nances required to be registered and promulgated by the Court of the Parlement before they received the force of law. The Court assumed the right to delay the registration of objectionable laws; and its protest was in some cases effectual even under Louis XI; but as a rule, in response to its protests, peremptory lettres de jussion proceeded from the King, to which they yielded. The Court had succeeded to the rights of the Cour des pairs, to whom belonged the exclusive power of judging those few members of the highest nobility, who were recognised as pairs de France. When such a peer came before the Court, a few peers took their seat with the other Counsellors, and the Court was said to be garnie de pairs.

Besides the peers, there were in the Parlement eight maitres des requetes, and 80 counsellors, equally divided since the time of Louis XI between clerical and lay. The counsellors were appointed by the King on the nomination of the members of the Court. It was usual at this time for the Parlement to present three selected candidates, the King to name one. But it is difficult to say how far this really held good under Louis XI. Authors of the time speak as if the King had it in his hands to nominate counsellors at his will. But a counsellor would not infrequently resign in favour of some relative, who was allowed to continue his tenure as if no vacancy had taken place. The magistracy was thus in some measure heritable. Louis XI promised (in 1467) not to remove any counsellor except for misconduct, and instructed his son to respect this decision. It is doubtful whether the venality of offices in Parlement, whether by counsellors selling their seats to successors, or by the King, had begun to establish itself before the reign of Francis I.

The Parlement was an august and powerful body. It could on occasion show a high degree of independence and even of obstinacy. But it was accessible to influence. To push a case, to avoid delay, to secure delay, even to obtain a favourable decision, the letter or the personal intervention of a great man was powerful, the half-expressed desire of the King almost irresistible. In the highest criminal cases the jurisdiction of the Parlement was often, especially under Louis XI, superseded by the establishment of a special commission appointed for the case. Such commissions could hardly deliver an independent judgment, especially when, as sometimes happened, the prospective confiscation of the prisoner's property had been distributed beforehand among the members of the Court.

Subordinate jurisdiction was exercised in the first instance on the royal domain \yyprev6ts, vicomtes, or viguiers. Above them stood the baillis or senechaux*, who acted as judges of appeal for their districts,