The way in which the kingdom was ruled in its different provinces had always varied according to the degree that power had been permanently or temporarily devolved to apanage princes and great nobles or that representative assemblies continued to function. It is therefore axiomatic that there was no ‘system of government’ in the France of the Renaissance. The question is: was there a tendency for the kingdom to become more centralised? R. Bonney has wisely cautioned against the over-use in French history of the term ‘centralisation’, a term coined in 1794. The main distinction drawn in the early modern period, as Mousnier made clear, was that between the king’s ‘delegated’ and ‘retained’ justice, the latter covering all the public affairs of the kingdom in which the crown was supreme and the former the private affairs of his subjects.1 No one would pretend, however, that a clear line of division was ever established between the two.
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