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Paris, Cinqieme jour de Octobre, 1594.


Single vellum leaf, [ cm. x  cm.] folded in two. Ten lines of manuscript, in a fine C16th French secretarial hand, autograph of Henry IV below, another illegible beneath, title of document on outer fold, with autograph ‘Marssl.’ beneath, for whom the debt was paid. Original paper flaw, sewn up in upper blank margin, small stain across manuscript not affecting script, light yellowing in places. Very good.

Most interesting document signed by Henri IV of France, the year of his coronation and legitimisation as King of France, in which he settles the debt, of 70,254 sols or sous, of his former councillor, the celebrated jurist and author, the protestant Francois Hotman. Francois Hotman was one of the most important Jurists of his age, and some have described him as an early revolutionary, for his legal treatises which proposed curtailing the power of the monarchy, and introducing greater democracy to court. In 1580 he was appointed councillor of state to Henry, as King of Navarre and was admitted to the Privy Council of King Henry (of France) in December 1585. In 1589 he retired to Basel, where he died, leaving two sons and four daughters; he was buried in the cathedral. His most important work, the Franco-Gallia (1573), found favour neither with Catholics nor with Huguenots in its day (except when it suited their purposes); yet its vogue has been compared to that obtained later by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s, Contrat Social. It presented an ideal of Protestant statesmanship, pleading for a representative government and an elective monarchy. It served the purpose of the Jesuits in their pamphlet war against Henry. He intervened directly in support of Henry IV in his writings on many occasions such as when Pope, Sixtus V, appalled that France was going to fall into Protestant hands, wrote the Declaratio, freeing all Frenchmen from obedience to his authority in the event of Henri’s becoming King. Hotman was incensed at this intervention in France’s internal affairs and responded with a polemical and scholarly attack on the Declaratio, the temporal authority and political pretensions of the Papacy.

In October 1594 when this document was created, Henri had been crowned and legitimised as King of France, only seven months earlier, suggesting it was given some priority. It is witnessed by Philippe Hurault, comte de Cheverny (1528 – 1599) the leading minister and lawyer who was Chancellor of France from 1583 to 1588 and again reinstated by Henri IV in 1590. During his term as chancellor under Henry III he was considered de facto head of government.

This document does not state why this sum of money was being paid four years after Hotman’s death; it may have been a  royal acknowledgement of Hotman’s long term and invaluable defence of Henri’s right to the French throne, now finally achieved.