PARLEMENT (see Parli.-wient) , in O. Fr. the name given to any meeting for discussion or debate (parler, to speak), a sense in which it was still used by Joinville, but from the latter half of the 13th century employed in France in a special sense to designate the sessions of the royal court [curia regis). Finally, when the Parlement of Paris had become a permanent court of justice, having the supreme authority in cases brought before it, and especially in appeals against the sentences of the baillis and seneschals, it retained this name, which was also given to the other supreme courts of the same nature which were created after its model in the provinces.
The early Capetians had a custom, based upon ancient precedents, of summoning periodically to their court their principal vassals and the prelates of their kingdom. These gatherings took place on the occasion of one of the great festivals of the year, in the town in which the king was then in residence. Here they deliberated upon political matters and the vassals and prelates gave the king their advice. But the monarch also gave judgment here in those cases which were brought before him. These were few in number during the early days of the Capetian dynasty; for though the king always maintained the principle that he was judge, and even that his competence in this respect was general and unlimited, this competence was at the same time undefined and it was not compulsory to submit cases to the king. At this period, too, appeals, striclly so called, did not exist. Nevertheless when a suit was brought before the king he judged it with the assistance of his prelates and vassals assembled around him, who formed his council. This was the curia regis. But in law the king was sole judge, the vassals and prelates being only advisers. During the 12th and at the beginning of the 13th centuries the curia regis continued to discharge these functions, except that its importance and actual competence continued to increase, and that we frequently find in it, in addition to the vassals and prelates who formed the council, consiliarii, who are evidently men whom the king had in his entourage, as his ordinary and professional councillors. Under the reign of St Louis (which was also the period at which the nam.e parlement began to be applied to these judicial sessions) the aspect of affairs changed. The judicial competence of the Parlement developed and became more clearly defined; the system of appeals came into existence, and appeals against the judgments of the baillis and seneschals were brought before it; cases concerning the royal towns, the bonnes villes, were also decided by it. Again, in the old registers of the Parlement at this period, the first Olim books, we see the names of the same councillors recurring from session to session. This suggests that a sufficient numberof councillors was assured beforehand, and a list drawn up for each session; the vassals and prelates still figuring as a complementary body at the council.
Next came the series of ordinances regulating the tenure of the Parlement, those of 1278, 1291, 1296 and 1308, and the institution was regularized. Not only were the persons who were to constitute each Parlement named in advance, but those who were not placed on this list, even though vassals or prelates, were excluded from judging cases. The royal baillis had to attend the Parlement, in order to answer for their judgments, and at an early date was fixed the order of the different bailliages. in which the cases coming from them were heard. The baillis, when not interested in the case, formed part of the council, but were afterwards excluded from it. Before the middle of the 14th century the personnel of the Parlement, both presidents and councillors, became fixed de facto if not de jure. Every year a list was drawn up of those who were to hold the session, and although this list was annual, it contains the same names year after year; they are as yet, however, only annual commissaries (commissaires). In 1344 they became ofScials (officiers) fixed but not yet irremovable. At the same time the Parlement had become permanent; the number of the sessions had diminished, but their length had increased. In the course of the 14th centurjit became the rule for the Parlement to sit from Martinmas (Nov. 11) till the end of May; later the session was prolonged till the middle of August, the rest of the year forming the vacation. The Parlement had also become fixed at Paris, and, by a development which goes back to fairly early times, the presidents and councillors, instead of being merely the king's advisers, had acquired certain powers, though these were conferred by the monarch; they were, in fact, true magistrates. The king held his court in person less and less often, and it pronounced its decrees in his absence; we even find him pleading his cause before it as plaintiff or defendant. In the 14th century, however, we still find the Parlement referring delicate affairs to the king; but in the 15th century it had acquired a jurisdiction independent in principle. As to its composition, it continued to preserve one notable feature which recalled its origin. It had originally been an assejnbly of lay vassals and prelates; when its composition became fi.xed and consisted of councillormagistrates, a certain number of these offices were necessarily occupied by laymen, and others by ecclesiastics, the conseillers lais and the conseillers clercs.
The Parlement was at the same time the court of peers (cour des pairs). This had as its origin the old principle according to which every vassal had the right to be tried by his peers, i.e. by the vassals holding fiefs from the same lord, who sat in judgment with that lord as their president. This, it is well known, resulted in the formation of the ancient college of the peers of France, which consisted of six laymen and six ecclesiastics. But although in strict logic the feudal causes concerning them should have been judged by them alone, they could not maintain this right in the curia ngis; the other persons sitting in it could also take part in judging causes which concerned the peers. Finally the peers of France, the number of whom was increased in course of time by fresh royal creations of peerages, became c.r officio members of the Parlement; they were the hereditary councillors, taking the oath as official magistrates, and, if they wished, sitting and having a deliberative function in the Parlement. In suits brought against them personally or involving the rights of their peerage they had the right of being judged by the Parlement, the other peers being present, or having been duly summoned.
While maintaining its unity, the Parlement had been subdivided into several chambres or sections. In the first place there was the Grand Chambre, which represented the primitive Parlement. To it was reserved the judgment in certain important cases, and in it a peculiar procedure was followed, known as oral, though it admitted certain written documents. Even after the offices of the Parlement had become legally saleable the councillors could only pass from the other chambers into the Grand Chambre by order of seniority. The Chambres dcs enquHcs and dcs rcquetcs originated at the time when it became customary to draw up lists for each session of the Parlement. The enqiiHcurs or audileurs of the Parlement had at first been an auxiliary staff of clerks to whom were entrusted the inquests ordered by the Parlement. But later, when the institution of the appeal was fully developed, and the procedure before the various jurisdictions became a highly technical matter, above all when it admitted written evidence, the documents connected with other inquests also came before the Parlement. A new form of appeal grew up side by side with the older form, which had been mainly an oral procedure, namely the appeal by writing (appcl par ecrit). In order to judge these new appeals the Parlement had above all to study written documents, the inquests which had been made and written down under the jurisdiction of the court of first instance. The duty of the enquHeurs was to make an abstract of the written documents and report on them. Later the reporters (rapporteurs) were admitted to judge these questions together with a certain number of members of the Parlement, and from 1316 onwards these two kinds of member formed together a chambre des enquetes. As yet, no doubt, the rapporteur only gave his opinion on the case which he had prepared, but after 1336 all those who formed part of the chamber were put on the same footing, taking it in turn to report and giving judgment as a whole. For a long time, however, the Grand Chambre received aU cases, then sent them to the Chambre des enquetes with directions; before it too were argued questions arising out of the inquiry made by the Chambre dcs enquetes, to the decisions of which it gave effect and which it had the power to revise. But one by one it lost all these rights, and in the 16th century they are no longer heard of. Several Chambres des enquetes were created after the first one, and it was they who had the greater part of the work.
The Chambre des requites was of an entirely different nature. At the beginning of the r4th century a certain number of t Dse who were to hold the session of the Parlement were set apart to receive and judge the petitions (requetes) on judicial questions which had been presented to the king and not yet dealt with. This eventually led to the formation of a chamber, in the strict sense of the word, the Requetes du palais. But this became purely a jurisdiction for privileged persons; before it (or before the Requetes de Fhotd, as the case might be) were brought the civil suits of those who enjoyed the right of Committimus. The Chambre des requetes had not supreme jurisdiction, but appeals from its decisions could be made to the Parlement proper.
The Parlement had also a criminal chamber, that of La Tournellc, which was not legally created until the 16th century, but was active long before then. It had no definite membership, but the conseillers lais served in it in turn.
Originally there was only one Parlement, that of Paris, as was indeed logical, considering that the Parlement was simply a continuation of the curia regis, which, like the king, could only be one. But the exigencies of the administration of justice led to the successive creation of a certain number of provincial parlements. Their creation, moreover, was generally dictated by political circumstances, after the incorporation of a province in the domain of the Crown. Sometimes it was a question of a province which, before its annexation, possessed a superior and sovereign jurisdiction of its own, and to which it was desired to preserve this advantage. Or else it might be a province forming part of feudal France, which before the annexation had had a superior jurisdiction from which the Crown had endeavoured to institute an appeal to the Parlement of Paris, but for which after the annexation it was no longer necessary to maintain this appeal, so that the province might now be given a supreme court, a parlement. Sometimes an intermediate regime was set up between the annexation of the province and the creation of its provincial parlement, under which delegates from the Parlement of Paris went and held assizes there. Thus were created successively the parlements of Toulouse, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rouen, Aix, Rennes, Pau, Metz, Douai, Besanfon and Nancy. From 1762 to 1771 there was even a parlement for the principality of Dombes. The provincial parlements reproduced in a smaller scale the organization of that of Paris; but they did not combine the functions of a court of peers. They each claimed to possess equal powers within their own province. There were also great judicial bodies exercismg the same functions as the parlements, though without bearing the name, such as the Conseil souverain of Alsace at Colmar, the Conseil superieur of Roussillon at Perpignan; the provincial council of Artois had not the supreme jurisdiction in all respects.
The parlements, besides their judicial functions, also possessed pohtical rights; they claimed a share in the higher policj' of the realm, and the position of guardians of its fundamental laws. In general the laws did not come into effect within their province until they had been registered by the parlements. This was the method of promulgation admitted by the ancient law of France, but the parlements verified the laws before registering them, i.e. they examined them to see whether they were in conformity with the principles of law and justice, and with the interests of the king and his subjects; if they considered that this was not the case they refused their registration and addressed remonstrances (rcmontrances) to the king. In acting thus they were merely conforming to the duty of counselling (devoir de conseil) which all the superior authorities had towards the king, and the text of the ordinances (ordonnances) had often invited them to do so. It was natural, however, that in the end the royal will should seek to impose itself. In order to enforce the registration of edicts the king would send lettres de cachet, known as letires de jussion, which were not, hoy,fever, always obeyed. Or he could come in person to hold the parlement, and have the law registered in his presence in a lit de justice. This was explained in theory by the principle that if the king himself held his court, it lost, by the fact of his presence, all the authority which he had delegated to it; for the moment the only authority existing in it was that of the king, just as in the ancient curia regis there was the principle that apparente rcge cessat magistratus. But, principally in the 18th century, the parlements maintained that only a voluntary registration, by the consent of the parlement, was valid.
The parlements had also a wide power of administration. They could mak : regulations (pouvoir reglementaire) having the force of law within their province, upon all points not settled by law, when the matter with which they dealt fell within their judicial competence, and for this it was only necessary that their interference in the matter was not forbidden by law. These were what were called arrete de r'eglement.
By this means the parlements took part in the administration, except in matters the cognisance of which was attributed to another supreme court as that of taxation was to the cours des aides. They could also, within the same limits, address injunctions (injonctions) to officials and individuals.
See La Roche-Flavin, Treize livres des parlements de France (1617); Felix Aubert, Histoire dti parlement de Paris, des origines h Francois I. (2 vols., 1894); Ch. V. Langlois, Texles relatifs d V histoire du parlement depuis les origines jusqu'en 13 14 (1888); Guilhiermoz, Enquetes et proces (1892); Glasson, Le Parlement de Paris, son role politique depuis le rhgne de Charles VII. jusqu'd la revolution (2 vols., 1901). (J. P. E.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)