[Divorce] ARREST DE LA COUR DE PARLEMENT. Contre les Femmes Rebelles à leurs Maris. Iouxte à la Coppie imprimée à Paris. Chez la Veuve CHARMOT, Rue vieille bouclerie, au Chef Saint Jean. No place, no date. [May 14, 1682]. 4 numbered pages, 1 sheet folded once. French text. Disbound, stitch-holes, one slight tear in the margin, not affecting the text.
On September 19, 1681, Nicole Courtois was given permission by the Ballif du Palais in Paris to live separate and be divorced from her husband, Edme Perron, having proven the mauvaise conduite and mauvais traitemens she had been subjected to by her husband. Their assets were ordered to be divided. Perron was ordered to pay Courtois yearly and for the rest of her life 60 livres for food in addition to the 75 livres Perron had been ordered to pay previously on August 3, 1681, as well as the court costs of the sentence on September 11, 1681, which was appealed to La Cour de Parlement by Perron. The dates of the court appearances are recorded. Perron was found to be in default, not having done what the Court ordered him to do, pleading his inability to pay. Courtois brought her father to court to explain why the 1,000 livres, which was her dowry in the marriage contract made with Courtois’s parents, Claude Courtois and Marie Hennequin on September 22, 1680, should not be paid to Perron. The Court ruled in her favor: « Ordonné que led[it] Perron ne poura recevoir les milles livres promise en dot à ladite Courtois sa femme par Claude Courtois & Marie Hennequin ses père & mère par contrat de mariage avec ledit Perron. » Perron was also charged for his disobedience to the Court: “… condamné ledit Perron aux depens des contumaces contre luy obtenues …”. “Signé par la Cour, DU TILLET.” The Cour[t] de Parlement issued this order May 14, 1682, in the fortieth year of the reign of Louis XIV (1643 – 1715).
Divorce in Catholic France of 1682 was unknown, properly speaking. In this order, the word “divorce” is used (“& le divorce qui etoit entre’eux…”). The reasons Nicole Courtois gave as proof of her husband’s “evil” or “wicked” conduct and treatment of her met the burden of proof and were accepted by the highest court in France, La Cour de Parlement. The meanings of adjectives in a legal document differed from those same words used in non-legal discourse. Couched in these legal meanings, this order preserved the public decency and enforced the law, thus protecting Nicole Courtois from further “evil” treatment, as well as preserving to her family her substantial dowry. « Arrest » printed at the top of the first page meant there was no appeal, and the highest court’s decision was final, as from the highest court of the French Sovereign State (1266 – 1790). In the Répertoire Universel et Raisonné de Jurisprudence Civile, Criminelle, Canonique et Bénéficiale, 1784 : V, page 742b : « … il faut que le mari se soit permis des sérvices & mauvais traitemens contre sa femme. » There is a footnote citing canon law “… nulli ex conjugibus licet, quamdiu alter vivat, de alio cogitare matrimonio…” because the Catholic Church in the French Sovereign State did not allow divorce. In Collection de Décisions Nouvelles et de Notions Relatives à la Jurisprudence, Donnée par Maître Denisart, Procurer au Châtlet. 1806, XII, page 601a, 12, it is stated that from the eleventh century in France, divorce was unknown, properly speaking. A marriage could be contested in two ways. First by annulment, then by appeal because of abuse; but, in that case, one could not dissolve a marriage lawfully contracted, it was as if the marriage had never been contracted and any children issued from the marriage became illegitimate. This dissolution of marriage had no relation or correspondence with divorce. One could not misunderstand the nullification of a marriage, where there was voluntary or legal annulment of a rightly contracted marriage, to be a divorce. Another copy of this order was found in the Bibliothèque de France.