'Ceux de Guise' : the Guise family and their affinity in Normandy, 1550-1600
Despite their importance in. France and Europe in the sixteenth century, the Guise have received little archival study from historians this century. This thesis overturns the myths that have surrounded the family as a result of this neglect, and re-evaluates the political aims of the Guise. They were not confined in their interests to eastern France; they possessed lands in provinces as diverse as Provence and Brittany. Moreover, they were a family with a truly European strategy with concerns in Scotland, Italy and the Empire. The Norman lands of the Guise were the wealthiest possessions of the family and provided an important base for Guise intervention in Scotland. This thesis traces the development and dynamics of the Guise affinity in Normandy, composed of clients, servants and kinsmen. There was a volatile relationship between patron and client, and the Guise regularly sought the advice and opinions of their clients in council when formulating family strategy. This strategy was one primarily concerned with family interest and not blinded by devotion to religious dogma; the Guise protected their Calvinist kinsmen and employed Calvinist servants on their estates. The position of the Guise in the popular imagination and the relationship between elite politics and the masses was highly complex. The Guise manipulated religious passions in factional manoeuvring at court and as early as 1562 established a catholic peasant league in Normandy. However, the Guise could only exploit, not control, popular forces. The research for this thesis was undertaken in Paris and Rouen over fifteen months. It attempts to construct the personnel and relationships that constituted an affinity by harnessing quantitative data drawn from gendarmerie musters, household accounts, legal and financial transactions to the more conventional sources of letters and memoirs. For example, the uncatalogued notarial records of Rouen demonstrate that the correlation between the heavy financial investment made by Guise clients in the city elite and the growth of the ultra-catholic faction in the city. The ambitions of the Guise are still misinterpreted because research has been hindered the by the prejudices of monarchical apologists, liberal nationalist and protestant historians. This thesis uses new archival material to show that the Guise pursued strategies and defended their interests within the context of sixteenth-century noble culture and aspirations, challenging assumptions about the role of monarchical power and the rise of the 'state'.