L'Hôpital (L'Hospital), Michel de
L'HÔPITAL (L'HOSPITAL), MICHEL DE
French statesman and advocate of religious toleration; b. Auvergne, near Aigueperse, 1507; d. Vignay, March 13, 1573. His father was a physician and served also as comptroller of accounts for Charles of Bourbon. His early education was at Toulouse until he was forced to flee France in 1523. For six years he studied law at Padua and then he joined his father in Rome, where he served as auditor of the rota. Upon his return to France in 1534, he practiced law, and he married in 1537. L'Hôpital was appointed counselor to the Parlement of Paris from 1537 to 1547. In 1547 henry ii sent him to Bologna as his representative to the first session of the Council of Trent. L'Hôpital returned to France in 1548 and became chancellor to Princess Margaret, the king's sister. In 1553 he was appointed master of requests and in 1554 president of the Chambre des Comptes. In 1557 he became a member of the privy council. He reached the pinnacle of his career when, through the influence of catherine de mÉdicis, he was appointed chancellor of France (1560). He served in this position during a period of religious strife in France over the rise of the huguenots.
Wars of Religion. In 1561 he appeared before a meeting of the States-General to appeal for greater toleration. The result was the enactment of the Edict of Orléans (1561) and the Edict of January of 1562, which granted improved conditions for the Huguenots. A massacre of Huguenots by soldiers of Francis, the Duke of Guise, took place in March of 1562. In protest, L'Hôpital withdrew to his estates at Vignay until the civil strife was ended through the Edict of Amboise (March 1563), which provided protection for the rights of the Huguenots. Upon his return to court L'Hôpital undertook to strengthen the government of Catherine de Médicis. At his bidding the royal council refused to publish the acts of the Council of Trent because of their conflict with the Gallican liberties of the French Church. He supported the position of the moderate Catholic party in opposition to the rightist Guise position. In 1566 he obtained the enactment of the Ordinance of Moulin, which provided for judiciary reform. No further reforms were possible since religious hostilities broke out again in 1567, and L'Hôpital's influence began to decline. Catherine de Médicis blamed him for policies of moderation that she had supported but that his critics believed responsible for increasing religious strife. As the second phase of the religious wars began, the criticism of his policies increased. The cardinal of Lorraine, the duke of Alva, and others accused him of supporting the Huguenots. In 1568 he was forced to resign his position as keeper of the seals as a result of papal pressure. In return, the papal Curia transferred control of certain Church property to the French government. Shortly thereafter L'Hôpital withdrew from public life, believing that his vacating of his position was essential for the peace of France, although technically he did not resign the chancellorship until forced to do so in February of 1573.
Late Life. L'Hôpital spent the last years of his life in seclusion at Vignay. Here he wrote poems and other short commentaries on his era. In 1570 he addressed to Charles IX a short memoir entitled Le But de la guerre et de la paix, ou discours du chancelier l'Hospital pour exhorter Charles IX à donner la paix à ses sujets. In 1585 a grandson published another of his works, entitled Epistolarum seu sermonum libri sex.
Although Michel de L'Hôpital was accused of heresy in his own time, he remained a practicing Catholic to the end of his life. His enemies criticized him for the policy of placing the welfare of France above the welfare of a single group. Catherine continued her support of this policy for many years after his death, despite the fact that it was responsible for his fall from power. He deplored the excesses of the Massacre of st. bartholomew's day, which occurred less than a year before his death, and he so indicated in a letter to Charles IX.
Bibliography: Oeuvres inédites de Michel l'Hospital, ed. p.j. s. dufÉy, 2 v. (Paris 1825). a. e. shaw, Michel de l'Hospital and his Policy (London 1905). c. t. atkinson, Michel de l'Hospital (New York 1900). a. f. villemain, Vie du chancelier de l'Hôpital (Paris 1874). j. hÉritier, Michel de l'Hospital (Paris 1943). a. c. keller, "Michel de l'Hospital and the Edict of Toleration of 1562," Bibliothèque d'humanisme et renaissance 14 (1952): 301–310. a. buisson, Michel de l'Hospital, 1507–1573 (Paris 1950), bibliog. j. lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, tr. t. l. westow, 2 v. (New York 1960). r. nÜrnberger, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–) 4:341. s. skalweit, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (Freiburg 1957–65) 6:1003.
[w. j. steiner]