François Hotman (1524-1590)

François Hotman questioned royal absolutism.

A Huguenot jurist and polemicist

  • François Hotman's Francogallia © S.H.P.F

François Hotman was an outstanding student at the Law School at the University of Orléans.

He adopted the Reformed ideas around 1547. He fled persecutions and left France. Thanks to Calvin he was appointed as a teacher of literature in the Académie in Lausanne in 1549. In 1555 Hotman became a Professor of Law in Strasbourg. He qualified as a doctor in law in Basel in 1588.

He came back to France and joined Antoine de Navarre as his master of requests. He spent his time teaching and writing pamphlets for the king of Navarre or the Prince of Condé.

In 1572, at the request of Marguerite de Savoie, he taught at the university of Bourges, and was thus narrowly saved from the Saint-Bartholomew massacre. He then fled to Geneva where he taught Roman Law.

François Hotman the writer

In Geneva he published his De Furoribus Gallicis in which he denounced the role played by the royal court in the Saint Bartholomew massacre.

His major work was Francogallia, a historical study on the foundations of French institutions. This work is in fact a reflection on what he called « legitimate sedition ». He advocated, in the case of governmental tyranny, a constitutional revolt of the Etats Généraux (States General) against the king. It was an early questioning of royal absolutism to which Théodore de Bèze adhered. Hotman was therefore considered as a “monarchomaque”.

François Hotman, Francogallia or Gallic France, chapter I :

“Il est plus que nécessaire qu’un roi soit retenu en son devoir par la révérence et l’autorité des gens de bien et d’honneur, comme représentant la personne du Peuple, lequel les commet à cela et leur donne cette puissance.”

(It is more than necessary that a king should be kept to his duties by the due respect and authority of honourable and good persons, as representatives of the people that has commissioned them and given them such power.)


  • Books
    • BLOCAILLE Étienne, Étude sur F. Hotman : la Franco-Gallia, Slatkine, Genève, 1970
    • HOTMAN François, La Gaule française, Fayard, Paris, 1991

Associated notes