1.1 The Problem and Its Study

The seventeenth century was the era of dynastic warfare within Western Europe. It has often been assumed that this coincided with and even accelerated the development of the planned bureaucratic state. This perception is known as the Tilly thesis: ‘War made the state, and the state made war.’Footnote 1 Charles Tilly’s compelling moderni-sation theory suggests that warfare demanded a new development within the state-building process to cope with significant fiscal demands. This development did not go without opposition, but, according to Tilly, the objections came from outsiders to these activities.

Contrary to the modernist view of the seventeenth century, I argue that there was no deliberate—or accidental—state-building going on at the time. I have two arguments for this; one is historical, and the other one more linguistic (Begriffsgeschichte). The first argument against state-building is that in the historical reality of the seventeenth century, there were no states. What did exist were dominions: lands in the hands of dynasties, without clearly marked borders. Though there were imperial cities and (federation-) republics, the majority of dominions thus consisted of lands in the hands of dynasties. Within feudal structures, these lands had become hereditary, intimately tying the princes and their nobility together. In addition to this traditional hierarchical structure, patron-client relationships—for example, witnessing a marriage, or baptism—could also unite nobles or clergy to the ordinary people, or the lower nobility to those of higher birth. I cannot stress enough that the absence of states, or rather, the presence of dynastically ruled lands, is of crucial importance to understanding early modern societies. Influential sociological interpretations of history—such as Tilly and Max Weber—have shifted the focus to the institutions (organisation of power), ignoring the legitimacy of power (nature of power).Footnote 2 By ignoring the nature of power, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to explain critiques on warfare, bureaucracy, and taxations. The quest for glory, religious conversions, or wars of succession: all could personally trigger disputes amongst families. In order to finance warfare, offices were created and sold. An example of such an office was that of tax farmer: paying a set amount of money to the prince, in return for the right to collect—potentially much more—money within a specific area. Tax farming did not lead immediately to the creation of a bureaucracy, but in the long run, taxations did become institutionalised. Dominions did not become detached from their dynastic houses until the eighteenth-century revolutions, or with the constitutional reforms in the nineteenth century at the latest. It was not until then that states came into existence. In short, Tilly's theses cannot be applied to the early modern period, due to the absence of states; dynasties waged war to protect and expand their dominion(s).

Opposition to both dynastic warfare and to attempts to change existing governmental structures did not solely come from outside these structures. It also came from within: the nobility perceived warfare as a threat to the welfare and well-being of the inhabitants; and, indeed, they feared a loss of power. They consequently adopted ‘fatherland’ terminology—words such as fatherland, Patria , patriot, natio—to stress the need to safeguard the common good within the principality. I have found several documented examples showing that the nobles stayed within acceptable terminology, but did so with an adaptation. As vassals, they had pledged their loyalty to their prince, and critiquing his policy could—and, undoubtedly, would—be explained as an act of rebellion or treason.Footnote 3 However, facing warfare, destruction, and what the nobility perceived as financial extortion, noblemen temporarily adopted a presupposed office of a patriot.Footnote 4 This office allowed them to stand up, voice concerns, and protect the fatherland against the tyrannical rule of an absolutus Dominatus. This ‘office’ allowed them to critique possible threats to their fatherland by indicating that they—that is, the nobility– did stand up to protect its welfare, without pointing the finger at the perpetrator: the prince. It was mainly under threat of war, and with apprehension about this situation, that the nobility’s innovative use of fatherland terminology was triggered, to avoid association with open rebellion.

The second argument against state-building lies within the use of the term state. Applying that modern-day term in the early modern context flaws our understanding of a state, as it is loaded with connotations and presumptions. Both constitutional and legal historians suggest that the term state in the sixteenth and seventeenth century did not have the modern meaning of a public institution. Hence, the term’s application gives rise to needless confusion. In our current usage, the concept of state refers to both a government as a legal person, controlling a country and the country itself.Footnote 5 The term state in the seventeenth-century vocabulary should be understood as what we would now see as the state of a nation, or the state of an argument, which is not even close to a nation-state. In other words, state (derived from status) referred to a condition of something or someone.Footnote 6 Applying a modern-day term is anachronistic and superfluous, as we can simply call the political entities for what they were: kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, imperial cities, or federations. A precise word-choice allows us to keep a sharp focus, without—unconscious—modern-day connotations that have crept into the understanding we have of a state.

The focal point of this study is the period of the 1640s to mid-1650s. These roaring years were characterised by several violent events, for example the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire, the Franco-Spanish War between France and Spain (1635–1659), and the so-called Eighty Years’ War, a civil war in the Low Countries. These wars were not only fought against an external aggressor, but can equally be seen as internal strife triggered by reactions to dynastic aspirations, religious disagreements, and financial issues. Around the same time as the Civil War broke out in England, Naples’ Tommaso Aniello (Masaniello) led an uproar against the risen taxes imposed by their Habsburg ruler (1647), and France experienced the Fronde. Each of these examples illustrates the phenomenon of internal disorder. These events all happened at the time of the creation of the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which is often viewed as the birth of the ‘modern state’. Interestingly, while shifting the focus to less often studied principalities, the same phenomena of internal strife and objections from the nobility are found.

In this study, I expose institutional reasons for mobilising fatherland terminology within Jülich and Hesse-Cassel , both being within the Holy Roman Empire. I do so by contrasting it with the French structure in which the particularist province of Brittany forms the pivotal example. These cases are not meant to represent the situation within the entire Holy Roman Empire or France but may serve as starting points for possible further research. The cases are a depiction of the situation in the principalities above within their given context. It was the specific context that did—or did not—allow the use of fatherland terminology. In that respect, this work contributes to the understanding of the construction of the Holy Roman Empire: what were the duties and obligations of princes and the limits to their authority, and when could the emperor intervene? The selection of principalities for this study—Jülich, Hesse-Cassel, and Brittany—requires a more elaborate explanation. To appropriately position this current study, we first have to understand the early finds of Robert von Friedeburg in the 2000s and the research of Ingmar Vroomen on the Dutch Republic (2012).

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Von Friedeburg published extensively on the use of fatherland terminology between 1646 and 1651 in the principality of Hesse-Cassel. He discovered that the use of these words was not to differentiate between various cultural groups, but that these words were used structurally in order to express concerns within a conflict on the legitimacy of politics and policy.Footnote 7 The hierarchical power relations that existed made it challenging to address such issues without being accused of open rebellion. Consequently, Von Friedeburg shows, asserted to act out of love for their fatherland and stepped outside the current power balance to discuss what they perceived as problematic situations. This study fits into extensive research on resistance.

The Dutch Republic had an entirely different power structure than Hesse-Cassel : the number of noblemen was much smaller than in the Holy Roman Empire. More importantly, no prince held sovereign powers—at least, not formally. The stadtholder may have had such aspirations, but was still an officeholder appointed by the Estates-General (as commander-in-chief of the army), or by the Gewestelijke Estates (as head of the daily provincial government) respectively. It is important to realise that the Dutch Republic was a federation, meaning that each of the gewesten—commonly referred to in modern language as ‘provinces’—were, in fact, particularist republics within a federation. The power balance in the Republic’s states focussed on its cities. Within the cities, there was a tension between the regents and the burghers (citizens). Vroomen studied the application of political language in Dutch pamphlets, especially fatherland terminology between 1618 and 1672.Footnote 8 He focussed on especially tumultuous moments (1618–1619, 1650; 1672) in order to see what rift the events had on the vocabulary of political opponents. Vroomen argues that, although there are many differences within the constellation of the Republic, there is also a parallel: the position of the nobility and the burghers was—on a meta-level—comparable. Neither one of them considered themselves to be subordinate either to the prince nor the regents respectively, while, technically, they were.Footnote 9 The burghers had used to hold privileges—such as carrying arms—but had been facing restrictions and the loss of political influence since 1581. Vroomen explains that the resulting friction between the demand that they participate in times of war (such as the defence of the city) versus their decline in influence, gave rise to the use of fatherland terminology. The disgruntled inhabitants became patriots in order to defend their traditional rights and privileges.Footnote 10 Vroomen shows that the terms fatherland and patriot occurred in 53% of the—in total—1670 pamphlets he studied.Footnote 11 The burghers expressed their concerns about ongoing politics and critiqued the policy of the regents in these texts. William III, the Prince of Orange, did also use this terminology and those in favour of a sovereign government applied this terminology more often than their opponents (often referred to as ‘Republicans’).Footnote 12

The research of Von Friedeburg on Hesse-Cassel and Vroomen on the Dutch Republic shows that within these small territories with entirely different constitutional constellations, the same terminology was applied. This outcome gave rise to several hypotheses and formed the trigger for this current study. Firstly, when—in small territories—the interests of a subordinate group were confined, fatherland terminology was used to address the situation. Secondly, fatherland terminology was used by relatively homogeneous interest groups—burghers, or (lower) nobility, who expressed their critique on politics, as there were only limited options to bring about change. Testing these hypotheses is fascinating, as it allows us to learn more about political resistance to change from within the established groups close to the prince: the nobility.

The principality of Jülich was positioned close to the Dutch border, which influenced the region. Its history is known for its turmoil, due to a war of succession in the early seventeenth century; and to troops passing through amidst the Thirty Years’ War. Hesse-Cassel has been (re)studied, as the Althessische Ritterschaft held additional sources in their archive allowing to study the conflict between the landgraveFootnote 13 and the nobility until 1655.Footnote 14 The history of Hesse-Cassel is as tumultuous as that of Jülich: the landgrave had turned to the Calvinist religion, resulting in a forced exile. Upon passing away, his minor son inherited his lands. His widow pledged to uphold her late husband’s will and set out to regain the occupied principality. To contrast these two small principalities I have chosen the large particularist French province of Brittany, due to its vast amounts of land. Brittany had heterogeneous interest groups: both lower and high nobility inhabited the lands. While France actively participated in warfare, Brittany faced only an increase in taxes, without the horrors of destruction or the billeting of soldiers.

1.2 Definitions and the Development of Terminology

Though I reject the idea of state-building already taking place in the sixteenth and seventeenth century and being instrumentally used by princes to work their way towards ‘absolutism’; I do agree that princely governments faced a continuous process of decision-making. Consequently, by reacting to unwanted situations, illegal behaviour was condemned and positive behaviour was stimulated—the aim of bona politia as a philosophy in legal historyFootnote 15—and, with every step, it became clearer what should and should not be done. As there was no focal point on the horizon, and so we can neither consider this as working towards a specific goal nor as state-building; instead, it was aimed at protecting property and prosperity within the dominion and with that, ultimately securing the position of that dynastic house’s government.

In the following paragraphs, I will discuss the current status of literature on the development of early modern principalities. This exposure to modern scholarship is not meant to give a complete portrayal of the literature but as a general account of the topic. Understanding its development is instrumental in being able to understand the rise and use of fatherland terminology as well as why patriots deemed it necessary to protect their fatherland. However, first, the terminology to replace the generally used term ‘state’ needs to be determined, as well as how we refer to ‘assemblies’ in the early modern period.

I urge the use of terminology as close to the historical reality as possible. That is, referring to, for example, ‘principalities,’ rather than using the modern-day container concept of ‘state’. Avoiding modern-day concepts can be challenging, as historians may find the need to distinguish and specify entities towards others befalling under the rule of the same prince. Such a distinction can be made with newly invented terminology, or, jargon: not to obscure the language, but to avoid unnecessary confusion and modern connotations. In order to indicate the position of principalities and their ruler, several theorists have been searching for terms to characterise the nature of principalities in catchphrases—bearing the notion of their long history in mind. In the past decades, such catchphrases have incorporated three aspects: (1) the changeability of the combinations of principalities under monarchical rule, (2) the dynasties involved, and (3) various traditions represented within an entity.Footnote 16 Several terms have been thought of to grasp these aspects: for example, (a) dynastic states, (b) composite monarchies, and (c) dynastic agglomerates.Footnote 17 The term dynastic states emphasises the influence of monarchies on the country’s formation and organisation.Footnote 18 Shortly after, the term composite monarchies introduced both the heterogeneity of a monarchy and the various individual countries that were united.Footnote 19 In a critique of these terms, John Morrill suggests the term dynastic agglomerates. Morrill argues that, for example, neither the Iberian monarchy nor the Swedish monarchy remained the same over time: they sometimes added and sometimes lost territories.Footnote 20 Morrill’s catchphrase means to emphasise the unstable, changing nature of the entity. The individual principalities that became united could fall apart after the death of their ruling house and face separate futures.Footnote 21

Morrill’s suggestion seems to be the most appropriate definition of the seventeenth-century principalities, for he does not use the disputed term state. He does take into account both the origin and the changing nature of the entities, with the remark that the core of the larger principalities remained more or less stable. A principality is a geographical area which fell under the jurisdiction of a certain prince, whose borders were decided upon by custom, and which was passed down from generation to generation of rulers unless it was conquered.Footnote 22 Disintegration could also happen through the absence of a successor, and so, again, the term dynastic agglomerate is necessary to realise why different dynastic houses could inherit the unique parts. Additionally, while composite monarchies may have the connotation that principalities are merged into one (‘melting pot’), dynastic agglomerates do hold the uniqueness of each entity in high esteem. This stress on ‘uniqueness’ makes it easier to understand why, for example, the nobility in one part of a dynastic agglomerate reacted with displeasure to violations of customs, while those elsewhere may have been compatible.

In 1959 Francis Carsten published his Princes and Parliaments in Germany. He explicitly chose not to refer to ‘the meetings of the clergy, nobility, and towns’Footnote 23 as parliaments rather than estates. He considered the latter to be too ambiguous, and claimed that in comparison with the English Parliament, those in the German lands held the same function. Though not elected—as in the House of Commons—the German ‘parliaments’ did represent their ‘country’, despite their powers declining after the sixteenth century. Carsten is indeed right that the term ‘estates’ is an ambiguous term, for it mainly referred to someone’s status based upon birth (clergy, nobility, and commoners) and not-so-much to the political role they could have, as there was much heterogeneity within the estates. Alternatively, according to Peter Blickle, there was a ‘representation by estates in diets.’Footnote 24 While Carsten resorts to the term Parliaments, this too is a problematic term. In France, parlements were courts of justice, while the meetings of clergy, nobility and towns were called états. The German meetings were named Landstände. In both cases, there was no election. In France, travel distances and costs could form a severe obstacle to joining the états , especially for the lower nobility. The German principalities had, due to their small size, a lower threshold for travel distance, but there were relatively few noblemen, clergymen (if any) or towns to be present. Indeed, Carsten is right that the Landstände eventually became institutionalised and, later on, evolved into popular representations of society after the Revolutions. As we want to stay as close as possible to the historical reality at the time, I refer to the German meetings as Landstände and the French as états.

Resistance, Representation, and Community are not only frequently researched and inter-related topics, but also the title of the 1997-edited volume by Blickle. Here, resistance is explained as the common man rising and articulating his discontent regarding ongoing policy. Blickle’s own countless studies on the ‘gemeine Mann’ (common man) and his revolts suggest a heterogeneous group: the farmers, citizens of cities, and people living in mountainous areas (Bergknappe).Footnote 25 The cities had a pioneering role in the development of ‘tax systems law codes, bureaucracies, and juridical management of conflicts’ according to Thomas A. Brady.Footnote 26 Their importance was undoubtedly significant, as shown by Italian cities that became independent jurisdictions and started to exert their influence over surrounding rural communities.Footnote 27 The development of a properly functioning legal system was probably ‘[…] a demand of those who were weak, not those who were strong.’Footnote 28 Blickle ends his conclusions with the remark that kings had to legitimise their policies by securing justice, keeping peace and providing welfare.Footnote 29 He stresses that these values may have been in response to the demands of ordinary people. In either case, they were complementary to each other and kept princes in power. In other studies, Blickle adds that the Peasants’ War was an attempt to breach crises that were caused by hierarchical relationships: the so-called revolution of the common man.

Returning to the vital role of cities, Maarten Prak’s Citizens without Nations complements the abovementioned volume while focussing on urban citizenship in—mainly—Western Europe and contrasts this with China and the Americas.Footnote 30 Prak shows that citizens were prominent members of society and actively participated in public life (for example, by defending the city). He also stresses that the role of citizens was not fixed, but changed continuously if not abruptly. Max Weber claimed that Europe’s successful domination of the world had resulted from their public organisation. Prak disagrees as Asian and American cities were also prosperous and indeed had to a degree’ economic dynamism and social well-being’.Footnote 31 Prak turns the idea upside down: he claims that where principalities learned from the needs that were pushed forward by citizens, they became successful. The formal communal membership of citizens was meant to organise society, for example, who could hold a position in the council and have a role in the guilds. It was mainly male-dominated, but not exclusively so. Prak focusses on the prosperous regions of Italy, the Low Countries and England were the majority of people lived in cities, and it is their political interests which became dominant, as they furthered economic prosperity.

In the literature discussed above, we have seen that cities played a significant role in voicing their needs and, consequently, in the development of directive legislation to further economic prosperity. However, this prominent urban role does not explain what would happen if a prince did whatever he pleased and pursued a personal interpretation of a situation. Commenting on princely policy was a dangerous thing to do, whether the disagreement was caused by religion, economic decisions, or going to war for dynastic reasons. Such commentary was not something ‘new’. Mirrors for Princes as a genre of politically oriented texts were published throughout the Middle Ages to instruct princes on their proper conduct—though they could also function as job applications such as Machiavelli’s Il Principe (1513–15; 1532).

The translation of Aristotle’s politeia by Willem van Moerbeke and the commentaries on the work of Thomas Aquinas had a significant impact on medieval governments: due to their mistranslation, derivatives of the word Politeia became associated with the Latin word civitas.Footnote 32 It was interpreted as an organised group of people, living together under laws or in a city, rather than the far less defined Greek original. Based on this influential commentary, and within the genre of Mirrors for Princes, princes were taught their—new—duties and goals as a doctor were to keep a patient healthy, through dietary restrictions: a prince needed to secure his society by administering the legislation.Footnote 33 Initially, the focus of politeia was on how society functioned; however, due to its translations, the term became associated with the institutional organisation of society.Footnote 34 These institutions were responsible not only for the creation and implementation of legislation but also for its control. By controlling legislation and ‘keeping the patient healthy’, the core business of government was to ensure the common good of the res publica. The focus here was on how a prince should behave, and little was said on what subjects could do against improper behaviour. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century reactions to princely politics could go in two directions. Firstly, the most extreme reaction was a person committing regicide. Secondly, still dangerous but less extreme, was a small group commenting either orally or written on the prince’s policy.

It is essential to understand that neither of these actions were caused by the idea to rid a country of a certain prince, but that they were triggered by crises. A monarch turning into a tyrant and abusing his powers could cause distress, for at the very least the law of nature and customs were supposed to bound a prince.Footnote 35 In certain countries, such as France and England, there was the belief that the king had been anointed by God, through divine rights. Hence, he only answered to God and could not be held accountable by inhabitants. Around the 1570s, a shift can be perceived under the threat of religious warfare. Authors were keen on solving the problems at hand: either by stating that the prince would have all power and no objections could be made (Henning Arnisaeus) or only magistrates with a particular office (‘ephors’) could correct the monarch (Johannes Althusius). Unfortunately for some kings, people objected to their policy and did in fact kill this person they classified as a tyrant.Footnote 36

With time, more normative rules were trusted to paper. This normativity fits between formal law and traditional statutes, customary law, and social norms. These normative rules could thus come in a plurality of forms; therefore, literature regularly refers to these various types as multinormativity.Footnote 37 It was not only social norms and predecessors of voluntaristic laws that were formalised; the regulation of the relationship between the prince and his subjects was—step by step—written down. This formalisation is broadly studied by those occupying themselves with Verfassungsgeschichte, or constitutional history. Whether these noted rules of engagement can already be seen as a principality’s ‘constitution’, can be debated. However, the fact of the matter is that these normative rules regulated the relationship and were agreed upon by parties involved. Moreover, they were easy to refer to and therefore less disputed than biased commemorations of histories, written down upon the request of one party.

One of the closely linked themes to Verfassungsgeschichte is the monopolisation of violence (Staatsgewalt) as has been described by Wolfgang Reinhard.Footnote 38 Reinhard’s focus is on a society’s political order and how princes were victorious in gaining the upper hand in discussions with the nobility, ending communities’ autonomy. Initially, this happened through power-relations between the prince’s government and the peripheries, through patron-client-relationships. Reinhard’s account is specifically focussed on the triumph of princes, which gives a longitudinal overview that may result in overlooking small but significant moments of protest, that may have altered the course of history.

Here we circle back to the nobility and their role in early modern society. Reinhard seems to suggest that their influence waned since the sixteenth century, while the role of the monarch grew. This division of roles touches the topic of ‘dualism’ which has been studied broadly in the light of the Ständeforschung (the study of the Landstände in German principalities). Otto (von) Gierke described it as a dichotomy between ruler and society. At the same time, Volker Press stressed that this division was not so clear-cut as people could belong to both the Landstände, the bureaucracy, as well as the princely court.Footnote 39 As a result of the vagueness of the term, researchers studied conflicts of the Landstände in the 1970s. Rainer Walz concludes that there were various types of conflicts between the Landstände and their prince. Gabriele Haug-Moritz went even further, concerned that the idea of Dualism obscures studying the historical reality.Footnote 40 Consequently, Haug-Moritz advises against the use of the term, while Tim Neu disagrees and pleas for rebranding the terms by looking at legalistic claims and ongoing procedures. He explains in the contextualisation of his 2013 study on Hesse-Cassel that there can be a form of Dualism. For, so he says, when there are two actors—an individual one (prince) and a collective one (Landstände)—who act as legitimate, political representatives come forward to speak legally on behalf of all.Footnote 41

That raises the question of how one can speak on behalf ‘of all’? Especially when speaking concerns the critique of a prince. Above, I briefly mentioned that the nobility adopted a presupposed office of a patriot. As this may sound exotic and special, it requires specification. Moreover, the terms patriot, Patria, natio, and fatherland do need further elaboration—as our perception of the terms has been profoundly influenced by the Revolutions of the 1780s and 1790s. Therefore, projecting modern-day concepts backwards risks interpreting concepts in ways contemporaries would not have.Footnote 42 Indeed, the (modern) patriots of the French Revolution felt connected to France, and the early modern patriots using the terminology in the 1640s did express a specific affiliation: however, I argue that these affiliations were not the same.

The 1980s saw many publications on nationalism, due to the contemporary academic interest in modernism—most of these publications came from sociologists and anthropologists, not historians.Footnote 43 Modernity, industrialisation, urbanisation, secularisation, and democratisation were analysed as new features, as they did not exist in the early modern period.Footnote 44 The views on nationalism expressed by the modernists suggest that there was no ‘real’ nationalism before 1780.Footnote 45 Based on their publications, a list of characteristics that make this nationalism exclusive to the post-revolutions period could be created. Nationalism in the post-1780s-period is intertwined with the modern concept of ‘state’: sovereignty by the state, a fixed territory, inhabitants, legislative power, body politic (as a legal person and representative of the country), and bureaucracy. It assumes the same culture, language, and history; in other words: an identity. In order to construct an identity, concepts of ‘othering’ and ‘raising self-awareness’ are used. Nationalism has a strong moral imperative: the creation of unity and polarisation from other groups.

The fundamental objection to the idea that there was no nationalism before the 1780s is that the modernists assume that nationalism was fuelled by industrialisation, ergo that there would have been no nationalism in non-industrialised ‘states’.Footnote 46 Another objection is the rigid break that is perceived to have taken place in the 1780s with the American Revolution, as languages do not evolve so quickly. An emphasis on the speed of change is questionable. Critique of the rigid divide between pre-modern and modern societies has led to a movement stressing that the roots of both modern-day patriotism and nationalism can be traced back as far as the Middle Ages—known as the primordialist approach. This interpretation seems to be driven by an inherent desire to find continuity in history and an attempt to embed a culture, religion, and identity in a long tradition.Footnote 47

A source-based analysis potentially prevents jumping to flawed interpretations. Conal Condren, a historian and political theorist, laid the foundations for an entirely new perspective with his 2006 Argument and Authority.Footnote 48 According to Condren, a common feature of the early modern era was the claim of—presupposed—offices. For example, a midwife could—in case of an infant’s imminent death—baptise it, to prevent its doom in hell. At that moment, she did adopt the duties of a priest to save the child’s soul. Admittedly, it only happened in cases of emergency, but under those circumstances, it was a standard procedure and one taken for granted. This example shows a historical actor claiming a presupposed office (officium). According to Condren, this was quite common, but ignorance of this phenomenon can lead historians to misinterpret sources. What does ‘presupposed office’ mean? An office should be interpreted as a ‘duty’, dignitas or ‘task’ that one could adopt in an emergency.Footnote 49 Condren explains that too little attention has been paid to how people talked about offices, and what these offices entailed. Based on his study of many sources, Condren suggests that researchers should look for what authors at the time took for granted.Footnote 50 A ‘presupposition is something that in a given context is taken for granted; it is apt to be relatively general and constant but may be disclosed in a finite array of differing propositions.’Footnote 51 In other words, certain aspects of daily life are too insignificant to describe in detail. When people speak or write, they assume that the receiving party knew the context. Due to these unwritten assumptions, many aspects of daily life are hidden under a veil of presupposition. Those claiming a presupposed office adopted a persona. A persona was a ‘mask’, a reference from the Greek theatrical world, which indicated a division between the individual and the function he fulfilled.Footnote 52

In this study, I show that when the nobility used fatherland terminology, they were adopting a presupposed office. The nobility’s deliberate choice to summon other patriots to meetings means that those people knew what this meant, what was expected of them and acted upon that request. Consequently, they adopted the persona or office of a patriot. I argue that adopting the office of patriot should be seen in the light of Condren’s explanation. In accepting the persona of a patriot, one had the duty to expose severe government missteps: something a commoner could and should not attempt to do. Being a patriot was not an empty title. Accepting the task or ‘office’ of patriot meant taking on all the obligations it entailed, upholding the principality’s claims, duties, and traditions, as well as protecting its inhabitants from the princely usurpation of power.Footnote 53 The claims of this office of patriot were prompted by their context, for example, the increasing burdens of warfare and ensuing taxation and debt in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Footnote 54 The inhabitants suffered from ongoing warfare, according to the remarks of the Landstände . The nobility argued against additional tax burdens not only out of compassion for the subjects, but also because of their vested interest in peace. Tenants were unable to provide part of their harvest to their feudal lords when taxes heavily burdened them. For landowners to demand their rightful share during wartime would cause distress, starvation, and ruin the land even more. When the nobility—as patriots—spoke out, protecting their tenants and their interests, they criticised the policy of the prince. Such a critique could well be interpreted as a rebellion against the prince, and an uprising would mean unrest. It could lead to civil war and even regicide or—justifying it from the killer’s perspective: tyrannicide.Footnote 55 It would seem that such harsh criticism could only be voiced when it was under the cloak of loyalty to the principality.Footnote 56 Acting on behalf of and in defence of the fatherland was what made a person a good patriot.Footnote 57

Hence, the seventeenth-century use of the words patriot and fatherland was distinctively different from their late eighteenth-century use during the French Revolution. I argue that the nobility used fatherland terminology only when they felt threatened by the consequences of war and faced desolation and loss of power. Offices themselves, as Condren shows, were no novelty. People assumed that power relations occurred in combination with the rights and duties they encompassed during the seventeenth century. Offices, together with patron-client relations, tied the whole community together, controlled it, and helped create a functioning society.Footnote 58 The function someone held within society also provided privileges and liberties. All of this was well established but poorly studied.Footnote 59 What was new in this period was the introduction of the office of a patriot to enable open criticism of policy. The nobility had always held the position of a counsellor, which was their birth-right. However, their position of critics to their prince’s politics was new.Footnote 60 During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a ruler’s dynastic claims legitimised his position. In the long run, this could lead to ruling a dynastic agglomerate.Footnote 61 It is therefore not surprising that the patriots should explicitly request the prince to act in their fatherland’s best interest and to honour their traditions: many rulers were born in other parts of the dynastic agglomerate.Footnote 62 The acclaimed patriots were deeply involved in the principality’s administration, as is illustrated by their references to its history. Subsequently, they requested a similar involvement on the part of their prince.

Maurizio Viroli argues that political terminology underwent some severe changes by the end of the sixteenth and the early seventeenth century.Footnote 63 It became a whole new genre. Whereas medieval kings found legislation, which was based on either consent or divine law; the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a transformation to the ‘reason of state’ or ‘a government based on coercion’.Footnote 64 What is essential here, is Marianne Klerk’s observation that whenever ‘reason of state’ is being discussed, authors addressed the ‘notion of rulers pursuing their interests, not ‘states’ pursuing ‘national interests’.Footnote 65 The two are hard to discern, since government over a principality was not much different from the rule over the princely inheritance. Dynastic ambitions of expansion often formed the core of a prince’s motivations to wage war—often under the pretext of defending one’s possessions. In the seventeenth century, these phenomena were especially prominent. Princes were forced to participate in war, or risk losing their principalities, requiring vast sums of money. One way to obtain the necessary funds was by raising taxes, but it was faster to obtain loans. Hence, new beneficiaries stepped forward: financiers who gained interest by lending money or who bought prestigious new offices in exchange for large sums of money. Subsequently, the nobility saw their influence diminish as these new stakeholders gained power outside the traditional hierarchical sphere. The princes and nobility struggled to overcome war and internal conflicts, testing the limits of princely powers in the process.Footnote 66

Interestingly, it was not solely a matter of dynastic competition to possess as much land as possible and eliminate competitors in the process, nor of the religious enmity between Catholics and Protestants. There was a distinctive conflict going on between princes and their nobility.Footnote 67 The nobility, facing rivalry and expensive warfare that drained all the resources from their lands and tenants, spoke out against the situation. Henri II, Duke de Rohan (1579–1638) in his De l’interest des Princes et les Etats Chrestienté (1638) observed that reason of state was mostly synonymous with the princely pursuit of interests. Duke de Rohan was famous, or notorious, as a Huguenot leader and wrote his book while in exile. His ‘radical secular vision’, which focussed on personal interests and rational decisions, was undoubtedly a novelty within the genre of political writings during the seventeenth century.Footnote 68 Duke de Rohan’s work became what can be seen as a standard work, to which one could refer without having to name the author. He coined the change in policy as ‘new monarchy’ in his famous work De l'intérêt des princes et des États de la chrétienté.Footnote 69 The innovative aspect of these so-called new monarchies referred to the change in the style of government: the rise of new stakeholders providing the money for the warfare. New argumentation had to be developed but within the accepted terminology. The princes and their advisors had to substantiate the underlying administrative changes of shifting power to the new stakeholders. The nobility attempted to argue their case against this new type of war policy and changing government, as they feared losing their position.Footnote 70

As a consequence, both the prince and the nobility responded to the situation. The nobility reacted to the devastation of their lands and asserted they felt the duty to protect the principality’s population from high tax burdens.Footnote 71 The nobility formed the one stable factor in the fief, in earlier centuries known as a benefice, and as power brokers they were dependent on the dynasty’s survival.Footnote 72 Fierce reactions were provoked by princely claims of ‘necessitas’ when requisitioning taxes without the nobility’s obligatory consent. The princely solution, namely the—temporary—usurpation of power, led to the accusation of establishing an absolutus Dominatus. Such a situation was consistently addressed by using fatherland terminology. Absolutus Dominatus is not to be understood as a founding rule based upon ‘absolutism’, because this term was only invented after the French Revolution, just like the term ‘centralisation’.Footnote 73 But what does it mean? As Mario Turchetti explains, the Latin term dominus was the Latin equivalent of the Greek term tyrant. He claims that Cicero ‘[…] attributes to him [the dominus, CAR] the characteristics of a tyrant, merely sliding the notion of private law into the realm of public law. In this field, the dominus is the person who imperils public liberty.’Footnote 74 For instance, kings could claim to be the Dominus of a particular area, such as Lord of Ireland (Dominus Hiberniae). The term tyrant should not be confused with the term despot. Turchetti, drawing upon historical examples, accurately distinguishes between a despot and a tyrant by defining them as follows:

Despotism is a form of government which, while being authoritarian and arbitrary, is legitimate if not legal, in some countries, whereas tyranny, in the most rigorous sense, is a form of government which is authoritarian and arbitrary and which is illegitimate and illegal, because exercised not only without, but against the will of the citizens, and also scorns fundamental human rights.Footnote 75

Being aware of the distinction between these two terms is essential.

The serious accusation of establishing an absolutus Dominatus meant that tyrannical rule was looming, an illegal form of government and power abuse which would threaten the population as well as the fatherland (Patria). The arbitrary rule that would result from tyranny meant that a prince could rule without respecting the law—except for the laws of nature and the God-given laws. When the nobility wanted to discuss such potential abuse, their vocabulary for political argumentation included patriot, Patria and fatherland and, to a lesser extent, nation. A polemic emerged in which fatherland terminology was used in defence of the rights of the nobles and the general population to critique princely politics.Footnote 76 When cooperation with the prince would ensure their influence and enabled the états to uphold their privileges and traditions, the use of fatherland terminology was avoided.

The legal phrase absolutus Dominatus should not be confused with the French monarchie absolue which indicated the French king’s independence from other earthly authorities (for example the Pope). This terminology referred to puissance absolue or pleine puissance.Footnote 77 These terms could be used in the context of the king overcoming the resistance of a Parlement (the court) and were used in Lettres de jussion. The king would not use his position as monarch absolue when making laws, meaning that royal ordinances did not carry this terminology.

Let us just briefly examine fatherland terminology and consider their etymology. First I will make some remarks about ‘pays’, Patria and the related term patriot, followed by some clarifications on fatherland and natio . This recital is essential to understand what contemporaries understood them to be, putting our perception as influenced by the Revolutions aside.

The French word pays, which nowadays means ‘land’, was derived from the Latin word pagensis or pagus, meaning stronghold or so-called ‘gou’. It referred to the village which belonged to the stronghold.Footnote 78 Depending on the context, the term pays could refer to a town and immediate surroundings, to a small district, like a bailiwick, to a “province” (Brittany), or even to the kingdom of France—which became more common during the sixteenth century.Footnote 79 The French la patrie could be interpreted as ‘[…] pays où l’on est né et auquel on appartient comme citoyen’.Footnote 80 The term patriaux or ‘co[m]patriotes’ was introduced in 1531 and referred to those who lived in the same geographical area—which could either be the whole principality or the region in which one lived. In the French context, the ‘native region’ (German: ‘Heimat’) or patrie had been used ever since the time of Gregory of Tours (538–594), who used the Latin patria. However, the term referred strictly to a region or province, and not to a principality.Footnote 81 Hence, the terms patrie et provinciae regni were often combined.Footnote 82 Despite this clear origin, some authors believe that the word pays and patrie or patria may have the same stem.Footnote 83 The latter two terms, however, are considered to have a far greater emotional resonance in times of crisis. The term pays did not have this connotation.Footnote 84 The term patriot was used in the context of copatriotes or compatriots, which meant the inhabitants of the same city as a synonym to concitoyens.

In the Holy Roman Empire until the eighteenth century, the term patriot was synonymous with a fellow-citizen or countryman, usually, one who possessed a house.Footnote 85 Traditionally, the patriots listened to the ‘father’. An adjectival form of the word was unknown until the eighteenth century when ‘patriotism’ came to mean the same as the love of the fatherland, or love for one’s people.Footnote 86 However, the much earlier used word patriot was usually accompanied by positive adjectives such as ‘good’ or ‘loyal’.Footnote 87 In the German principalities, the term Patria can be traced back to the sixth century.Footnote 88 It is, however, essential to be aware that the use of the same word does not automatically imply that it had the same meaning throughout time. The terminology of patria became linked to a geographical area—terra, regio or provincia,Footnote 89 and a tribe. The extent to which it applied to either of the situations above, is contested and seems to have changed over time.Footnote 90 The word patria is often accompanied by adjectives indicating the sphere it applies to: for example, heavenly or divine.Footnote 91 It could, of course, also apply to a worldly dominium.Footnote 92 One thing is sure: it did not refer to nationalism.Footnote 93 Over time, patria became a multi-faceted term, with a strong emotional dimension.Footnote 94

The term ‘vaterland’ or ‘faterlant’ had been used since the eleventh century.Footnote 95 It is considered to be roughly equivalent to the Latin Patria and was used in the context of the land where one is born, or the people to whom one belongs.Footnote 96 The terms natus, natio, and nation are, in the French case, derived from la naissance, which means ‘birth’.Footnote 97 When turning to Latin, the term natio came from nasci, which meant ‘to be born’.Footnote 98 During the Middle Ages, the term was used to indicate to which family someone belonged (in other words: their place in the social order). However, it could also refer to the region of one’s birth or group of students—with various backgrounds—at universities.Footnote 99 In 1611 the word nationaire was found which equalled compatriote; that is, those who were born and raised in the vicinity.Footnote 100

In the ‘German’ language, natio first appeared in the fourteenth century (Lat. natio, genitive nationis), when it meant tribe or lineage.Footnote 101 During the sixteenth century, it came to refer to ‘all born in the same land’.Footnote 102 The word is frequently found in reference to the whole empire: the Holy Roman Teutsche Nation.Footnote 103 Two centuries later it became synonymous with ‘all those belonging to the same community (Gesellschaft), descent, land, language, laws, and government’.Footnote 104

1.3 Methodology, Sources and Structure

This book offers a comparative study on the use of fatherland terminology in three principalities. Using a comparative perspective allows us to see parallels between the entities, but, more importantly, it allows us to see exceptional situations. It gives room for a researcher to break free from an imposed idea and test grand old narratives.Footnote 105 Still, it is striking that so few comparative studies have been conducted to contrast principalities or Imperial Cities in the Holy Roman Empire. Monographs on individual entities do exist, and I connect these in this study, by restudying the source material and placing it within a broader framework: the use of a presupposed office to comment on ongoing politics. For Jülich, the work of Rainer Walz on Landstände is essential. The political conflict in Hesse-Cassel has been thoroughly studied in the works of Tim Neu, Armand Maruhn, and Robert von Friedeburg. Jim Collins has published many useful studies on Brittany.Footnote 106

This study features the argumentation used by the nobility in reaction to their princes’ new policy. The spiralling effect of dynastic competition, the intensification of warfare, and consequently, the increased demands of taxations to pay their armed forces, could have resulted in an increase of sovereign power at the expense of the old elite: the nobility. The nobility considered the princes’ usurpation of power and attempted to organise taxation a threat centrally. They argued against war and the princes’ policies because these were linked to the specific crisis at hand. In other words, the conflict between the princes and the nobility was the result of the crisis at hand: warfare.

So, how do we investigate the early modern noble’s use of fatherland terminology in such a crisis? It is tempting to search primarily for printed sources, but of these there are only few. Apart from historiography, the source material of this study includes political pamphlets—both written drafts and printed, reports on assemblies—Landstände Akten and Assiettes—but also legal suits, such as a massive court case to the Imperial Chamber Court. Furthermore, files containing tax reports and letters were studied for context and applied terminology. Using this wide-ranging source material, I will compare the political use of fatherland terminology in the principalities of Jülich, Hesse-Cassel, and Brittany in the period 1642–1655. This ambitious geographic exposure and time-span, also means that I have had to make selections that need some clarification. One of the limitations of this study is its representativeness. Reports on meetings voice the opinion of those present, and likely not dissident voices. For example, in Brittany, a group dramatically under-represented were the impoverished, lower-ranked nobility who could not afford to attend an assembly. Their voice was not recorded, and can consequently not be studied here.

Another limitation is the exclusion of the prince’s perception of the situation. My focus has been on the nobility’s perception and their application of terminology. Here and there, I may have added prince’s remarks that were quoted by the nobility, but they did not cite him on a consistent basis. An exception to this is the lawsuit in Hesse-Cassel , which contains the landgrave’s replies. I do think the princely reactions are interesting, but that would be an entirely different study. Finally, some may object to the lack of literary sources in this book—such as Hans Jacob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen’s Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus. This omission is a practical restraint of a corpus of source material that is already broad.

This study departs from the idea that the usage of fatherland terminology in monarchies could be influenced by the homogeneity or heterogeneity of society, as well as the economy of scale of the principality. The principalities are each discussed in separate chapters. Cross-referencing has been avoided as much as possible, as this distracts from mapping-out the nobility’s argumentation per specific principality. The proper comparison is reserved for the conclusion. The study itself has been divided into two parts: the Holy Roman Empire and France.

In the first part of this study, the cases in the Holy Roman Empire are discussed. In Chap. 2, various studies conducted in the past decades are discussed to lay the foundations for the two German case studies that follow. It focusses on the development of political thought which was crucial for the perception of responsibilities of those in government, and of those subjected to it. Furthermore, the use of fatherland terminology in other political contexts is explained. Jülich—Chap. 3—had a turbulent history during the early seventeenth century. A war of succession broke out among relatives of the late duke, who had no direct heirs. When his nearest nephew and grand-nephew divided the lands amongst each other, the situation was not recognised by the emperor, not least because of religious disagreements. When the Thirty Years’ War broke out, those living in Jülich found themselves on the crossroads of armies passing through. The de facto duke attempted, to the dismay of the nobility, to levy taxes to raise an army to protect the principality. Levying taxes resulted in the use of fatherland terminology.

In the Lower Principality of Hesse-Cassel—Chap. 4—the nobility considered themselves to be genuinely loyal patriots. They had supported the landgrave’s family even when he went into exile. Moreover, they pledged themselves to his minor son only hours after he passed away. This vow prevented the principality from going into the hands of the late landgrave’s cousin, who ruled over Hesse-Darmstadt. Thus, the nobility went against the emperor’s wishes and was still facing the occupation of their lands. The regent-landgravine took up arms and commanded an army to free her son’s inheritance, but she had to pay her armies too and requisitioned money from the people. This taxation met with fierce reactions from the nobility, who—as loyal patriots—wanted to protect their already poor fatherland. According to the Hessian nobility, their traditions were violated.

The second part focusses on France, in the case of Brittany in particular. In Chap. 5, the French political developments and thought are discussed: when was fatherland terminology used in the French context? It focusses mainly on the period 1570–1620s as an introduction to the next chapter, it focusses mainly on the period 1570–1620s, when French political language changed fundamentally. The sixth chapter focusses on the particularist province of Brittany. As one of the few remaining pays d’état it held a unique position in the French Kingdom: it could decide matters of taxation by itself. That is, the états had to agree to pay a certain amount of money—but they decided how it was collected. The nobility was divided—for and against Mazarin’s government in Paris. However, due to the ongoing warfare, the Parisian government demanded a contribution from Brittany. These issues caused tension among the (high) nobility but did not result in the use of fatherland terminology. The nobility sought a different approach to politics: working with the Parisian authorities, rather than objecting to them.