The "Grand Conseil" had a jurisdiction over the entire kingdom, but could only be convoked by the king. The king sought the Grand Conseil's intervention in affairs considered to be too contentious for the parlement. The Grand Conseil was convoked on contentious issues pertaining to:
At its creation, the "Grand Conseil" was presided by the Chancellor of France, assisted by the maîtres des requêtes, and included several specialized officers (initially 17 consellors, increased to 20 (dividing their service in two semester) by Louis XII). Under François I, the positions of First President and four secondary (or so-called "mortar board" magistrates) "président à mortier" were added, and the chancellor ceased to preside over the court, other than in exceptional circumstances. In this way, the "Grand Conseil" slowly developed an internal structure similar to other sovereign courts of the realm. By the end of the Ancien Régime, the court consisted of a first president, eight presidents, 48 consellors, a prosecutor ("procureur général"), several attorneys (an ""avocat général" and eight substitutes), and various secretaries, baillifs and scribes.
The "Grand Conseil" was permanently situated in Paris from the reign of Henri II on; its exact location varied over time: first at the Louvre, then at the Augustins, the cloister of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, the hôtel d’Aligre (from 1686 on), and again at the Louvre (from 1754 on).
Extremely criticized for its extended jurisdiction, the Grand Conseil nevertheless remained in existence until the French Revolution.
Note: The "Grand Conseil" should not be confused with the "Conseil privé" or "Conseil des parties", which first appeared in 1557. With the "Grand Conseil" being a completely autonomous court of justice separated from the king's council, the need was seen for certain judicial affairs to be discussed and judged within the king's council, especially those in which the impartiality of the courts was called into question. These special session trials gave rise to a new section of the king's council overseeing contentious issues, which took the name "Conseil privé" ("Privy Council") or "Conseil des parties" ("Council of Parties", i.e. the party in a legal suit). The main area of jurisdiction of the "Conseil privé" was civil trials between individuals (especially in cases involving the presigious families and possible conflicts of interest among parlementary judges) and conflicts of judicial or administrative jurisdiction. The "Conseil privé" was presided by the chancellor, and made up of the maîtres des requêtes and the conseillers d'État. Like the "Grand Conseil", the Privy Council acted as a supreme court, pronounced judgements on the various sovereign courts of the realm (including the parlements and the "Grand Conseil"), and provided final judicial review and interpretation of law, oversight of the judicial corps, and judged disputes on royal offices, church benefices and problems between catholics and protestants.
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