ABSTRACT

DURING THE LATER MEDIEVAL era marked by growing national consciousness and construction of a polity, or public realm (12th through 15th centuries), and through the modern period of nascent state formation (16th through 18th centuries), the governance of France was circumscribed by two successive juridical frameworks, with the earlier one excluding women from rule in the French kingdom and the later one defining governing power as a male right. As the basis for the first framework, a French Salic law ordinance (from the Salic Law Code Pactus Legis Salicae, sixth through ninth centuries), was retrieved in 1358, and revived and debated in the 15th century. A forged version of it was transmitted in the 1530s as a French public, or fundamental, law founding a kingdom wherein women were excluded from rule. When the forgery of the Salic law was discovered by legal scholars in the mid-16th century, that first framework collapsed. It was followed by a French law canon, which was formulated from the mid-l6th century through the 1650s and then maintained through the 18th century as a body of French law (civil and public) upholding a monarchic state wherein the male right to rule, modeled on the marital regime, was sanctioned in the household (in the person of the husband) and in the state (in the person of the king). Reflection upon the history of these successive legal systems-the French Salic law, legitimating female exclusion from rule, and the later French law canon prescribing the male right to rule-allows historians to assess a cultural process that configured political identity, moving from the establishment of a right to govern a kingdom, or chose publique (public realm), to the emergence of a modern monarchic state.