1647 Parlement of Brittany FRANCE
French Politics Government Law Bretagne Frain
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The Parlement of Brittany (Fr: parlement de
Bretagne) was a court of justice, under France’s Ancien Régime, with its seat
at Rennes. The last building to house the parlement still stands and is now the
Rennes Court of Appeal, the natural successor of the parlement.
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author: Sébastien Frain
de la Cour du Parlement de Bretagne...
Published: Imprimé á Paris et se vende a
Rennes chez Pierre Garnier 1647.
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Imprimé á Paris et se vende a Rennes chez Pierre Garnier 1647.
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Parlement of Brittany (Fr: parlement de Bretagne) was a court of justice, under
France’s Ancien Régime, with its seat at Rennes. The last building to house the
parlement still stands and is now the Rennes Court of Appeal, the natural
successor of the parlement.
under the Ancien Régime
The parliament building
Notes and references
under the Ancien Régime
with all the parlements of France under the Ancien Régime, the parlement of
Brittany was a sovereign court of justice, principally listening to appeals of
sentences issued by lower jurisdictions. The parlement also possessed
legislative powers, asserting some autonomy with respect to the royal
prerogative. The nobles of Brittany were keen to defend the rights of the
province, known as the "Breton liberties", maintained by the treaty
of union with France. They were determined to exercise these powers and to play
a big part in the life of the parlement and consequently in the life of the
resistance to royal powers, involving the defending of its institutions and the
privileges of the nobility, was widespread. Composed of similar members with
many interests in common, the Estates of Brittany were invariably united with
the parliament of Brittany in defence of their rights.
: Duke Francis II establishes a sovereign parlement at Vannes, first sitting in
: Cancelled by a special tribunal of Charles VIII, after which, all appeals are
judged by the Parlement of Paris, contributing to delays in the restoration of
a sovereign court in the province.
1553 : Recreation of the parlement of Brittany, sitting alternately at Rennes
(August -October) and to Nantes (February–April).
2, 1554 : First meeting at Rennes followed by the second one at Nantes on
February 4, 1555
1557 : Meeting bi-annually, but only at Nantes. The meetings are shared between
the “Grand Chamber” and the “Inquiry Chamber”. Sixty judges preside.
: Meeting solely at Rennes, at the convent of the Cordeliers.
1575 : Creation of the criminal room, the Tournelle
1580 : Creation of the “Repeal Chamber”, where appeals against sentences of the
parliament itself were made.
: Beginning of extended meetings, but with no increase in payments.
20, 1598 : Duke Philippe-Emmanuel of Lorraine grants an amnesty for the
parliamentarians that established a court at Nantes in 1589.
: Ban on magistrates meeting in August
: Rennes is permitted to raise taxes for the construction of a new parlement
building - notably a tax on cider jars.
1600 : The meetings become bi-annual: February to July and August to January.
15, 1618 : First stone laid for the new building
: Conflict with Cardinal Richelieu after the restoration of mooring fees.
16, 1655 : The new building officially opened by the oldest of the presidents
of the parlement
22, 1668 : Creation of the “Upper Chamber” of the nobility of Brittany
18, 1675 : Louis XIV transfers the court to Vannes to punish Rennes for
participating in the Stamp Duty Revolt
1, 1690 : First meeting after the court returns to Rennes
1704 : Creation of an Appeal Chamber for matters concerning water and forests.
1724 : A single annual meeting from November to August. Creation of a chamber
to be assembled during the summer vacation. A second ‘Inquiry Chamber’ was
created, as well as fa second ‘Repeal Chamber’.
15, 1769 : Parliament restored after 3 years’ suspension by the military
governor, Emmanuel Armand de Vignerot.
1771 : Parliament closed by Louis XV on the advice of René Nicolas de Maupeou
1774 : Parliament recalled on the accession of Louis XVI
: Strong opposition of the parliament of Brittany to the edicts setting up the
creation of the new large administrative areas of France. It refuses to name
any representatives to the “États Généraux”.
: Last meeting.
3, 1790 : Legal existence ended. The closure, by the National Assembly, was
never ratified by the Breton parliamentarians, who, on the same day, declared
the decision “null and void forever” (Thesis Toublanc).
parliament of Brittany’s foremost responsibilities were the processing of
appeals against judgements in civil matters rather than criminal matters. It
had to instruct and to judge across wide-ranging areas of litigation and
question all that which may have escaped the attention, for various reasons, of
the lower provincial jurisdictions.
relating to the "privileges, prerogatives and pre-eminences” of the barons
concerning the bishops chapter
concerning Royal officers and the Clergy
arising within the parliament itself
or embezzlement by clerks, ushers and prosecutors
concerning privileges of cities, towns, communities and parishes
of regulations for fairs and markets
of general policy
of vested interest
of judges relating to their workloads
of choice of place of judgement where the matters may cover many jurisdictions.
regarding guardianship of children or the insane
as a result of "an incompetent judge"
of royal jurisdictions (outside of tribunals) concerning ownership of land
as a result of "denial of justice" and of "dismissal"
against sentences passed by the Provost of the university of Nantes
as a result of the jurisdiction of the chapter-house.
as a result of abuse
as a result of legal confiscation or permission to confiscate
against leases and auctions of buildings
against judgements regarding the beneficiaries of wills
against consular and arbitration sentences
judgements of the Chamber (excluding a few processes that lasted more than ten
years) had an average delay between the initial sentence and the appeal
decision of two or three years at the beginning of the 18th century, but this
increased steadily until it was over five years at the end of the century.
that same sample of judgements, parliament confirmed the judgement in 60% of
cases. It was divided in 30% of cases, some being the object of an evocation
before the Court. The remaining 10% of judgements were left unfinished as
“having to be done right”). More half of the procedures concerned questions of
succession, of property and of obligations.
parliament of Brittany possessed many administrative prerogatives such as
guardianship of parishes and control of policing. The contentions and
complaints that it processed allowed for it to be fairly informed of general
difficulties justifying the sentences passed or to override the strict judicial
framework. All the same, royal orders and edicts could demand implementation
more or less immediately. One of the innovations of the laws of August 16 and
August 24, 1790 was the separation of the judicial and the administrative
courts. The parishes had to ask for parliament’s agreement when they wanted to
raise money for their own needs (repairs, for example). Forty parishes asked
for such during a single term during the year 1693. The parish rector had to publicise
were drawn by the city architect, German Gaultier and reviewed by Salomon of
Brush (designer of the facades). Built in a restrained style, the parliament of
Brittany decided to site the palace in the heart of the city of Rennes, where
the parliamentary representatives have sat ever since 1655. The building has
been recently restored, following severe fire damage on February 5, 1994, a
consequence linked to the violent demonstrations of the local fishermen.
Adapted to the requirements of the 21st century, the Court of Appeal of Rennes
was able to resume the activities of the previous centuries. Other, newer
buildings in the city are home to the various forms of justice (Law courts,
civil courts etc.).