The King’s Mother and Royal Prerogative in Early-Sixteenth-Century France

  • Elizabeth McCartney


Upon the premature death of her son Francis II of France on 5 December 1560, Catherine de Médicis became the first queen in French history to succeed to the regency without prior royal designation. She acted simply as mother of the young new king Charles IX and her regental prerogative was later confirmed by a meeting of the Estates General (Barry 1964: 350, 407–08; Mattei 1978; Lightman 1981; Hanley 1983). The regency of 1560 is rightly seen as a significant point in the history of French fundamental law, but while much attention has been given to the historical evolution of regental prerogative (particularly within the context of French public law regulating succession to the Crown), little recognition has been given significant developments in this area during the earlier sixteenth-century regencies of Louise of Savoy, mother of King Francis I. The omission is understandable, for Louise’s authority as regent was unusual: as the king’s mother but not an anointed queen, she was the first “royal” mother to exercise regental prerogative independently of ceremonial investiture. As a result, modern scholars have overlooked how contemporary writers emphasized the dynastic, mother-son bond between Louise and Francis to support her right to act as Francis’ guardian and later regent of the realm. This chapter considers several manuscripts, most of them from 1505 and 1506, that addressed the juridical and dynastic nature of regental authority within the context of royal succession, French public law, contemporary political concerns and legal scholarship.


Regental Authority Royal Court Divine Providence Temporal Authority French Rulership 
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Copyright information

© John Carmi Parsons 1998

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  • Elizabeth McCartney

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