The retractation imposed upon Cardinal de Noailles, and his replacement in the archbishopric of Paris by Vintimille, an unequivocal Molinist, excited among the populace a very violent agitation against the court of Rome and the Jesuits, the prelude to a united Fronde of the Sorbonne and the parlement.
In 1865 he obtained a fellowship in history, and in 1875 became a doctor of letters; he was appointed maitre de conference (1876) at the ecole normale superieure, succeeding Fustel de Coulanges, and then professor of modern history at the Sorbonne (1888), in the place of Henri Wallon.
In Germany, the Jesuits were eagerly welcomed as the only persons able to meet the Lutherans on equal terms. Only in France, among the countries which still were united with the Roman Church, was their advance checked, owing to political distrust of their Spanish origin, together with the hostility of the Sorbonne and the bishop of Paris.
The Sorbonne censured it and the parliament suspended the sale, taking advantage of the king's absence from Paris.
On account of these works he was made Docteur-es-lettres of the Sorbonne and professor of philosophy at Rochefort (1840).
For as a matter of fact obscenity no less than impiety was charged against him by his ultra-orthodox enemies, and the obscenity no less than the supposed impiety gave them a handle against him before such bodies as the Sorbonne and the parliaments.
Appointed to a lectureship at the Ecole Normale Superieure in February 1870, to a professorship at the Paris faculty of letters in 1875, and to the chair of medieval history created for him at the Sorbonne in 1878, he applied himself to the study of the political institutions of ancient France.
Retz, however, despite the little inclination which he felt towards clerical life, entered into the disputes of the Sorbonne with vigour, and when he was scarcely eighteen wrote the remarkable Conjuration de Fiesque, a little historical essay, of which he drew the material from the Italian of Augustino Mascardi, but which is all his own in the negligent vigour of the style and the audacious insinuation, if nothing more, of revolutionary principles.
At the Sorbonne he acquired a great reputation for ability in discussion, and was known as the Doctor Illuminatus and Magister Acutus.
Balard at the Ecole Normale, and in 1859 became professor at the Sorbonne in place of J.