The House of Guise and the Church, c. 1550-1588
This thesis explores the relationship between a leading French Catholic family and the Church in the second half of the sixteenth century. This is a socio-cultural study rather than an investigation of the French Church during this period, although some insight into the Church is given. The Church is used to provide a focus for an examination of noble experience. The thesis notes that male and female religious were integral members of the family network. The means by which the dynasty maintained an alternative patrimony in the Church is outlined. Consideration is then given to the resources which high ecclesiastical office brought an individual, both tangible - in the form of economic assets - and more theoretical - access to patronage opportunities and influence, which contributed to an individual's power. The economic resources which benefice tenure brought are examined and their management analysed. Patronage is viewed more as an expression of a noble culture of interacting social networks than as a product of a hierarchical power structure. The position of the Lorraine-Guise Cardinals in relation to the French Church is assessed. Their power within the Church was a result of personal qualities rather than institutional structures. The power which came with tenure is discussed, as is any relationship between ecclesiastical and secular power. A final chapter looks at the experience of women religious. Churchmen and women could contribute in certain ways to family interests, but there is no evidence of large-scale despoliation of the Church through ecclesiastical kin.