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04 juin 2008

The Palace: from the Ancien Regime to the Revolution

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The Parlement of Paris was the first supreme court of justice of the kingdom. Originally, the king appointed its members. But Francis I, short of money, sold the titles to replenish his resources. From then on, they were considered the property of their owners, and were passed on to the heirs. Entitled to a seat in Parlement, by right or by privilege, were the noble figures of the realm: royal princes, the peers of France. When they rose up against the Crown, refusing to transcribe the royal edicts in their records, the sovereign resorted to the Bed of Justice, a formal session held in his presence. Exile to the provinces or prison were sometimes necessary. In the Great Chamber, directed by the presidents and counselors, the trials provided a living to a large number of nobles of the robe: prosecutors, lawyers, bailiffs, clerks, masters of pettifoggery and of procedure evoked by Racine in "Les Plaideurs". Since the XIVth century, the elected chief of advocates carries the magisterial staff of the Confraternity of Saint-Nicolas, which is why he is called the staff bearer.
  
Several fires ravaged the palace. On the night of March 6, 1618, a fire raced through the shops, and in less than one hour consumed the ornaments of the chambers, the sculptures, ceilings, doors, the royal statues in the lobby, the archives and all manner of pieces of evidence. Only a few records of little consequence were saved from the blaze by a bailiff of the name of Voisin, who fortunately was also able to turn the flames away from the Clock Tower. The spire of the Sainte-Chapelle burned down in 1630. (Around this time, the Dauphine Gallery was built adjacent to the west side of the Great Hall, to house merchants. It now contains the long "Louis XVI" staircase, which provides access to the Merchant Gallery from the inside.) There was a fire in the Court of Auditors in 1737, and in the Merchant Gallery in 1776. In the May Courtyard, some of the sentences rendered by Parlement were carried out: the Comtesse de la Motte, after the Affair of the Necklace (1786), was sentenced to be flogged at the foot of the staircase of the May Courtyard. In 1788, the Parlement convened the Estates General. An unfortunate decision: the Constituent Assembly pronounced its suppression. The Constituent restructured the tribunals by decree on September 7, 1790, and abolished all those existing under the authority of "viguiers" (provosts in the south of France), lords, provosts, viscounts, seneschals, bailiffs, and also those held in small castle-forts, bailiwick appeal courts, the provincial council of Artois, and those under the title of superior council and "parlement". On October 15, 1790, Bailly, the mayor of Paris, affixed the seals on the archives of the Parlement of Paris, which were then transported to the archives of France. Several members of Parlement were sent to the guillotine by the Convention.

 

reconstruction-palais

Rebulding of the Palace
after the fire of 1776

The Palace: Seat of the Revolutionary Tribunal

  
The tribunal, created by the Convention, was allocated the most prestigious rooms in the history of the Parlement of Paris: the Great Hall and the Saint-Louis Hall, renamed "chambre de la Liberté" and "chambre de l'Égalité". Fouquier-Tinville was put in charge of drawing up the indictments. The public prosecutor had a tied apartment set up at Quai de l'Horloge, adjacent to the Bonbec Tower, where he could be closer to his victims to prepare the cases and accelerate the already precipitous proceedings. Between April 1793 and July 1794, the Revolutionary Tribunal ordered the execution by guillotine of 2,600 people. Marie-Antoinette was sentenced to die on October 16, 1793. She was guillotined on the Revolution Square. Danton was sentenced to death by the very tribunal that he helped to create. Robespierre was also sentenced to death. In 1795, the members of the tribunal and its public prosecutor, Fouquier-Tinville, were condemned by the same jurisdiction that they lead.  

fouquier-tinville

Fouquier-Tinville jugded by the revolutionary tribunal

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