The introduction sets out the methodological and historiographical framework in which this study is set. It presents a comparative approach to the understanding of the relationship between conscience and politics in Catholic monarchies in the seventeenth century. The emergence of confessors as political counsellors throughout this period is seen as the consequence of the post-Tridentine pastoral renewal of confession as counsel and its understanding that royal confessors should attend to both the monarch’s private and public conscience. The study therefore embeds political practices in their religious and intellectual framework. The comparison is deliberately based on Spain and France as two models of Catholic statecraft that have historically and historiographically been constructed in opposition. The comparative approach adopted here insists that, despite the undisputed differences, the two models were not self-contained, but in communication and debate over the very questions of politics and conscience that are at issue here.
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