Sex crime appeals at the Parlement of Paris, 1564-1655




Semmens, Justine

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This dissertation examines the intersection of the prosecution of criminal justice, sexual morality and the family at the parlement of Paris, which was the highest court of appeal in France, during the height of its power and influence in the kingdom from 1564-1655. This dissertation argues that in its adjudication of the crimes of seduction, infanticide, adultery, and bigamy the parlement of Paris interpreted the law according to a paternal theory of state by prioritizing family integrity and patriarchal honour in its decisions. In so doing, it presents a unique synthesis of statute and published legal opinion with a systematic survey of judicial decisions, based on archival findings, relating to these sex crimes in early modern France. It concludes that these judicial decisions were ensconced in the concepts of family, the king’s justice, and sovereignty, which were foundational to the interconnected theories of state and society in early modern France. The parlement tended to separate elite and modest appellants according to the socio-economic priorities of lignage and ménage, or the protection of the integrity of elite lineages and the stability of artisanal households within broader networks of family and community. Ultimately, this study exposes the expectations and values that gendered authority placed on men and women in early modern French society, reveals the ways that the most powerful judges in France interpreted the law according to these values, and unveils the narratives that women and men crafted when they confronted these expectations before these powerful judges. In so doing, this dissertation sheds new light on the relationships between gender and the law, gender relations in state and society, and the lived experience of marriage in early modern France.



Parlement of Paris, Early modern France, Legal history, Social history, Family history, sex crime, History of crime, Gender history, Canon law, Roman law, Infanticide, Rapt, Seduction, Adultery, Bigamy