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pragmatic sanction

pragmatic sanction, decision of state dealing with a matter of great importance to a community or a whole state and having the force of fundamental law. The term originated in Roman law and was used on the continent of Europe until modern times. The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, issued by Charles VII of France in 1438, sharply limited the papal authority over the church in France and established the liberty of the Gallican Church (see Gallicanism). It was revoked in 1461 by Louis XI, who sought to improve relations with the Holy See, but relations between church and state remained dubious until Francis I concluded the Concordat of 1516 (see concordat). There have been many other pragmatic sanctions, but the term, if unqualified, always refers to the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, issued by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to alter the law of succession of the Hapsburg family. Soon after Charles succeeded (1711) his elder brother Joseph I as emperor, he undertook to change the law so that, in the event of no male heir, the Hapsburg lands would be inherited through his own daughters rather than through Joseph's daughters. As it became apparent that there would be no male heir, the law took on great importance. By its terms, the succession to all Hapsburg dominions (but not to the imperial dignity, which was elective) was reserved for Charles's daughter Maria Theresa. The principal aim of the law was to guarantee the continued integrity of the Hapsburg territories and to prevent a struggle for the succession. Charles labored throughout his reign to obtain the adherence to the Pragmatic Sanction of the European sovereigns and of the diets and estates of the various Hapsburg lands. France gave it its support in 1738, and at the time of Charles's death (1740) most other powers and all the diets and estates of the Hapsburg domains (including those of the Austrian Netherlands, Bohemia, and Hungary) had endorsed it; the diet of the Holy Roman Empire had guaranteed it in 1732. A notable exception was that of Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII), who was married to Maria Amelia, one of the daughters of Joseph I who had been displaced by the Pragmatic Sanction. The other daughter, Maria Josepha, had been married to Elector Frederick Augustus II of Saxony (Augustus III of Poland), who had ratified the Pragmatic Sanction in 1733 in exchange for Austrian support in his struggle for the Polish throne. When Maria Theresa acceded to the Hapsburg succession in 1740, she had to defend her right in a long and bitter struggle, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), in spite of all the guarantees her father had obtained. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748 confirmed the Pragmatic Sanction.

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Pragmatic Sanction

Pragmatic Sanction. An edict of 1713 attempting to ensure the undisputed and undivided succession of the Habsburg lands when Charles VI should die by setting aside the claims of his elder brother's daughters in favour of any daughters he should have. The cause of great diplomatic activity in the 1720s and 1730s, it did not suffice to prevent Maria Theresa being attacked in 1740 by Prussia, France, Spain, Saxony, and Bavaria. Britain came to her assistance and helped to place a pragmatic army in the field.

J. A. Cannon

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Pragmatic Sanction

Pragmatic Sanction a document drafted in 1717 by the Emperor Charles VI providing for his daughter Maria Theresa to succeed to all his territories should he die without a son. It was accepted by Austria, Hungary, and the Austrian Netherlands in 1720–3, but opposition to it led to the War of the Austrian Succession on Charles's death in 1740.

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Pragmatic Sanction

PRAGMATIC SANCTION

A fundamental law of the state regulating important affairs of Church or State, e.g., the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 that determined the successor to the throne after the death of Emperor Charles VI. In France the term was used to designate the regulations of the general councils that, after lengthy legal advice, were enforced by the king. Royal sanctions of this type occurred in 1407 and 1418, but more famous and consequential than these was the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438).

Antecedents of Bourges. After the suspension of eugene iv by the Council of basel (Jan. 24, 1438), France, like the empire, sought to remain neutral in its relations with both the pope and the council. At a meeting convened at Bourges (May 1, 1438) King Charles VIII took the opportunity to discuss with the French clergy their attitude toward the threatened schism. After regaining most of the royal domain, thanks to joan of arc, Charles was able to consult with representatives from nearly all parts of France. When agents from the pope and from Basel had vigorously presented their opposing points of view, the assembly decided that the king should strive to restore harmony by sending envoys to both parties, by requesting them to end the controversy, and by allowing the council's reform decrees to be tested by a commission in France. The 23 decrees of Basel were accepted with partial modifications, and the changes were to be approved by the Council of Basel. The decisions became immediately effective with the king's endorsement on July 7. Six days later the Pragmatic Sanction was registered by the parlement. The council, however, did not give its approval until Oct. 17, 1439.

Content. Among the approved decrees were Frequens and Sacrosancta, which legislated respectively regarding the regular convening of councils and the supremacy of a council over the pope. Other decrees regarding elections, the granting of benefices, papal jurisdiction, and annates sharply limited the rights of the pope. Still others affected the celebration of the liturgy and choir chant or were directed against current abuses in the Church, against concubinage and immorality, and also against excessive use of excommunication, interdict, and reservation. Nevertheless, the Pragmatic Sanction, with more concern than the council, wished to spare the person of Eugene IV and not deprive him of all his resources.

Conflict. The Pragmatic Sanction was a thorn in the side of the popes, not so much because it painfully restricted their income and limited their rights, but especially because, by its recognition of Basel's supremacy, it had furthered the demands and threats of conciliarism. Thus the papacy's struggle against this legislation was quite understandable. However, the concordat negotiations, begun in 1442, produced no results. Cardinal G. d' estouteville, as the legate of Nicholas II, demanded in vain that the Assembly of the Clergy of 1452 abolish its restrictions, offering a concordat instead.

Moreover, pragmatic decrees were often used by the king as a means of bargaining against concessions of the pope in French and Italian affairs, and in this period a spurious Pragmatic Sanction, signed supposedly by St. louis ix in 1269, made its appearance. In the hope of gaining papal support in the struggle over Naples, Louis XI, much to the chagrin of the clergy and the parlement, abolished the Pragmatic Sanction in 1461. Since he did not achieve the desired objective, however, in 1463 he again issued a long list of decrees "as a protection against Roman encroachments and for the reestablishment of ancient Gallican liberties." Both Julius II and Leo X condemned the Pragmatic Sanction as a work of the schism, but as late as 1510, an assembly of French bishops expressed the desire that it be observed. The bull of Leo X was read at the 11th session of the Fifth lateran council (1516). But the popes paid a heavy price for the replacement of the Pragmatic Sanction by the French concordat of 1516. The Pragmatic Sanction lived on in the form of gallicanism, since it was generally held by the French clergy that only those articles had been abolished that were explicitly corrected or retracted in the concordat. Thus, some articles survived until the French Revolution. However, the maxim that "the absolute and infinite authority of the pope has no place in France" became a fundamental principle of Gallicanism.

Bibliography: c. j. von hefele, Histoire des conciles d'après les documents originaux (Paris 190738) 7.2:105361. n. valois, Histoire de la Pragmatique Sanction de Bourges sous Charles VII (Paris 1906). v. martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme, 2 v. (Paris 1939) v. 2. l. buisson, Potestas und caritas: Die päpstliche Gewalt im Spätmittelalter (Cologne 1958). r. naz, Dictionnaire de droit canonique (Paris 193565) 7:108113. p. de vooght, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 8:680.

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