(image source: KUL)
I presented a paper entitled "The rise of sovereignty or the resilience of legal hybridity ? A pre-revolutionary quarrel on legal title and territory" at the conference Images of Sovereignty, organised at the KULeuven.
In the medieval and early modern period, state sovereignty is closely linked to the submission to the monarch. The king reigns by divine law only, and is the source of all justice (Krynen). His imperium concerns foremost a territory, and only as a consequence of this, the subjects living on it (Beaud 2012). Power sharing with the elite (gouvernement mixte (Jouanna)) was rejected in the theses of Bodin and Hobbes (Loughlin), who witnessed civil war and the demise of legal order in their lifetimes. The advent of the centralized state crafted the dominance of the sovereign as legislator (Beaud 1994): “The sovereignty of the king cannot be divided, just as the point in geometry” (Cardin Le Bret). This was the quintessential conceptual step to modern government. National or representative sovereignty were only the successors to centralized monarchical rule, adapting the instruments created in the early modern period. The archetype of this “rise of the modern state” is France under Louis XIV (1638-1715). Yet, the French state of Colbert or Louvois rested on cooperation with local elites and noble dynasties (Rowlands/Beik). In a premodern era of legal pluralism, royal justice collided with seigneurial, ecclesiastical or customary jurisdictions. Furthermore, establishing royal sovereignty on freshly acquired territories was a gradual process, whereby the sovereign struggled with enduring feudal relationships (Blaufarb) or guaranteed “rights, franchises and good customs”. The prime example here is Alsace, where the consolidation process took from 1648 (Peace of Westphalia) to 1697 (Peace of Rijswijk). The multilevel structure of the Holy Roman Empire had to recede before French royal sovereignty. Louis XIV forcefully convinced local nobles to pledge allegiance to the French crown before local courts. This helped to eliminate the patchwork of enclaves on the left bank of the Rhine and installed continuous royal jurisdiction. The Peace of Rijswijk (1697) obliged Louis XIV to return a set of territories to German overlords, such as the bailliage of Seltz, 50 kilometers north of Strasburg. The Elector Palatinate and the French were in a continuous power struggle over the enclave. Subjects also crafted their own image of sovereignty, in appealing alternatively to the Elector’s jurisdiction and to that of the King of France, in the Conseil Souverain d’Alsace in Colmar (Livet & Wilsdorf). My paper will demonstrate how the terms used in this protracted bilateral negotiation, conserved in the French Archives Diplomatiques, reveal the dual image of early modern sovereignty. Establishing sovereignty in the “Grand Siècle” involved a combination of interests. The sovereign’s jus dominandi transpires from treaty clauses regarding territory, but equally from bottom-up solicitations of the roi justicier by local inhabitants.More information here.