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The term Fronde (German: the sling) describes a complex sequence of revolts and civil wars that shook France between 1648 and 1653. The context was the open war against Spain and the Habsburgs that had been waged since 1635 and , with varying degrees of luck, exhausted the kingdom, as well as the reign of Anna of Austria , during which the royal power was weakened.

A distinction is generally made between two phases: the fronde parlementaire (1648–1649), during which the parlement (i.e. the assembly of the pairs ) of Paris , the city of Paris itself and parts of the people oppose the levying of war taxes and for a greater say for the parliament raised; and the fronde des princes (1650–1652), through whom the “princes of the blood” sought to exert influence over the regent's government. Part of this was the Fronde of Bordeaux (1648–1653).

The term fronde

The term fronde originated around 1648. Originally, it referred to a throwing sling that children played with. From this the verb fronder was derived, which was used in politics to describe expressions of opinion directed against the royal court or the government. In the late 1640s, all members of the parliament who opposed the government were generally referred to as frondeurs . At the end of 1651, leaflets finally appeared in which the political events since 1648 were described as a whole using the word fronde , and by the end of the 17th century the term became firmly established in historiography . Today, in addition to the historical events between 1648 and 1653, fronde is a group of unorganized oppositionists against a government or generally the rejection of an authority.


The Fronde was primarily due to the social and political developments in France during the reign of King Louis XIII. (1610–1643), whose first minister from 1624 was Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642). Richelieu initially pursued the goal of strengthening the central power of the crown and then moving to a more aggressive foreign policy. For both purposes he primarily needed a stable financial system. The old system of tax collection by the aristocratic governors of provinces had proved ineffective. In 1634, Richelieu therefore sent intendants to the provinces, which were directly subordinate to the Crown and had all the powers to collect taxes. Although the Intendants were supposed to complement and not replace the governors, their establishment had the consequence that the Bureaux des finances of each province, which had previously carried out the financial and administrative tasks, were gradually dissolved by August 1642. The official nobility employed in them lost prestige and income and became a bitter opponent of the policy of the crown.

With France's intervention in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) and the entry into the Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), the expenditure of the crown rose significantly. In 1624, when Richelieu was appointed First Minister, they had amounted to 4.6 million thalers, but after France declared war on Spain they rose to 16.5 million thalers (1635) and after the cardinal's death they reached 19.4 million thalers (1643 ). The cost of the war was mainly covered by the increase in the waistline , the only direct royal tax , as expanding the tax base would have taken too much time and posed the risk of civil unrest. This tax was almost entirely due to the peasantry and in 1639, at 42 million livres, made up 54 percent of the total royal budget. The high loads led to some peasant revolts in the provinces , which in some cases, as in Normandy (1639), even made the use of the military necessary.


In 1648 revolts began, especially in and around Paris, against the reign of Anna of Austria, the mother of the only ten-year-old Louis XIV , and the government of her minister, Cardinal Mazarin . The aim was to take advantage of a moment of weakness in the monarchy, to restore the feudal rights of the nobility and the rights of appeal of the parliament, which under Louis XIII. († 1643) and his minister Cardinal Richelieu († 1642) had been severely circumcised.

The Fronde began on August 6, 1648 as Fronde parlementaire with barricade fighting of the Parisian people, which demanded the release of Pierre Broussel and other high judges who had been openly opposed to Mazarin and his financial policy on behalf of Parliament since May and had been arrested for it. The royal family and their immediate staff fled to Saint Germain in January 1649 and lived there in poor conditions until the army, which was besieging Paris under the leadership of Louis II de Bourbon, prince de Condé , enforced the Peace of Rueil in March 1649 , in which the court promised reforms. A few months later, however, a conflict arose between the royal court and Condé, who had hoped for the place of Mazarin. Condé tried to revive the judicial opposition, which he only partially succeeded, and also incited other representatives of the high nobility, including the younger brother of Louis XIII, who was still alive. When Mazarin had Condé arrested in early 1650, his supporters from the high nobility gathered troops in the provinces and instigated rebellions: The Fronde des Princes began. Condé was finally released, and Mazarin went into exile in 1651 to the Archbishop of Cologne, Maximilian Heinrich von Bayern, in Brühl .

Subsequently, the opposition quickly fell out, and Condé, for his part, left Paris to drag other discontented parties and even Spain into the power struggle. In 1651 the Frondeurs suffered a defeat at Bordeaux against troops loyal to the king. In 1652, Condé took Paris with the help of the townspeople (which subsequently led to the Battle of Étampes ) but they rose against him very soon, so that he had to flee to Spain in early 1653. Queen Mother Anna of Austria, the young king and the court, who had fled again, returned. In 1654 Mazarin, who had pulled his strings from afar, also returned, took the last bastions of the rebels and had their high-ranking leaders punished. As a rule, they were banished from Paris.

Mazarin thus secured absolute rule for Louis XIV . When he took over sole rule after Mazarin's death in 1661 at the age of 22, he did everything in his power to further disempower the nobility and parliaments and to calm down their representatives with pensions, honorary privileges and court offices and to bind them to himself. The war against Spain could also be continued until the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659.

Occurrence in literature

Alexandre Dumas uses the events of the fronde parlementaire as a framework in the novel "Twenty Years After", the second part of the novel series about the three musketeers .


  • Yves-Marie Bercé: The Birth of Absolutism - A History of France 1598–1661. Macmillian Press Ltd, London 1996.
  • Eckart Birnstiel: The Fronde in Bordeaux 1648–1653. Verlag Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1985 (= writings on European social and constitutional history , vol. 3), ISBN 3-8204-8480-9 .
  • Richard Bonney: Cardinal Mazarin and the Great Nobility during the Fronde. In: English Historical Review 96 (1981), Vol. 381, pp. 818-833.
  • Hubert Carrier: Le mot Fronde - Sens et imlications. In: Formation et aspects du vocabulaire politique français, XVIIe – XXe siècles. Paris 1968 (= Cahier de Lexicologie , Vol. 13).
  • Paul Rice Doolin: The Fronde. Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1935 (= Harvard Historical Studies , Vol. 39).
  • Sharon Kettering: Patronage and Politics during the Fronde. In: French Historical Studies 14 (1986), No. 3, pp. 409-441.
  • Helmut Kötting: The Ormée (1651-1653). Formative forces and personal connections of the Bordelaiser Fronde. Aschendorff, Münster 1983, ISBN 3-402-05633-X .
  • Klaus Malettke : Economic, social and political aspects of the Fronde (1648–1653). In: ders. (Ed.): Social and political conflicts in the France of the Ancien Régime. Colloquium-Verlag, Berlin 1982. (= individual publications of the Historical Commission of Berlin , vol. 32)
  • A. Lloyd Moote: The Revolt of the Judges - The Parlement of Paris and the Fronde 1643-1652. Princeton University Press, Princeton / New Jersey 1971, ISBN 0-691-05191-7 .
  • Geoffrey Parker (Ed.): The Thirty Years War. (2nd ed.), Routledge, London / New York 1997, ISBN 0-415-12883-8 .
  • Alexander Rubel : It's a question of honor. The Fronde (1648–1653) caught between the ethos of nobility and literature. n: Francia 32/2 (2005), pp. 31-57.

Individual evidence

  1. A detailed history of the term can be found in: Hubert Carrier: Le mot Fronde - Sens et implications , in: Formation et aspects du vocabulaire politique français, XVIIe – XXe siècles , Paris 1968; Cf. Klaus Malettke: Economic, social and political aspects of the Fronde (1648–1653) , in: ders. (Ed.): Social and political conflicts in the France of the Ancien Régime , Colloquium-Verlag, Berlin 1982, p. 27f
  2. On the life and work of Cardinal Richelieu see Carl Jacob Burckhardt : Richelieu (3 vol.), Verlag Georg DW Callway, Munich 1965. On Ludwig XIII. see: Alanson Lloyd Moote: Louis XIII - The Just , University of California Press, Berkeley / California 1989.
  3. Yves-Marie Bercé: The Birth of Absolutism - A History of France 1598–1661 , London 1996, pp. 137–139
  4. A tabular overview of the French military editions from 1618 to 1648 can be found in: Geoffrey Parker (Ed.): The Thirty Years War (2nd edition), London / New York 1997, p. 135
  5. ^ Yves-Marie Bercé: The Birth of Absolutism - A History of France 1598–1661 , London 1996, p. 136