The Beginnings of National France Part II

The Beginnings of National France 2

Thus violent attacks on the monarchy came from the countries most threatened by the English invasion. After Poitiers the anti-monarchist movement gained the old provinces of the royal domain. The crown in the States General of 1357 was represented by the Dauphin, Duke of Normandy and lieutenant of the king, anxious to beware of the dangers of his relative Charles, King of Navarre, who thought of replacing the Valois on the throne of France. The States, instead of deliberating on the subsidies requested by the government, under the influence of the bourgeois element of Paris represented by the provost of the merchants, Étienne Marcel, began to study the reforms to be imposed on the regent. Their conclusions were gathered in the Grand Ordonnance of March 3, 1357, the greatest attempt to harness the absolute power of the French monarchy. Serious measures were sanctioned with which the prodigality of the king was curbed, not yet convinced that he could not use the state budget as he had previously used the proceeds of his domain; the state administration was regulated, which had grown enormously due to the multiplication of offices, in bulk, without justification of a real development of public services and beyond the financial capacity of the state. There is no doubt that the ordinance of 1357 diminished the royal prerogatives, such as were found in the Carolingian absolutist tradition, if not in the feudal monarchical tradition; but the dynasty had triumphed in the century. XIII as it defended the country from external enemies and ensured internal peace, and now the kings had failed in this mission.

Precisely in these years the war and the epidemic distanced the rural populations from the peaceful work in the fields; in 1358 the agitations worsened and took on the aspect of a true insurrection against the feudal classes. But this movement, called Jacquerie (v.), Was harmful to the bourgeois attempt to regulate the government: the violence of the Jacques determined an energetic and effective reaction of the king and the nobles: the Jacques they were massacred and the countryside pacified; the bourgeois themselves abandoned Étienne Marcel, who perished in a popular uproar; the regent recovered Paris and all traces of the reorganization by the states disappeared. The reform of 1357 was born in fact in a moment of national crisis, in a moment of mistrust in the work of the monarchy. But it was inevitably called upon for reconstruction, since the nobility and the bourgeoisie could not offer the basis for a vital reform. In a country where all the regions were still dominated by many reasons of provincialism and separatism, the dynasty represented what in the presence of the invader was becoming the ultimate aspiration of all the French populations: compactness and unity. Therefore the dynasty quickly regained its prestige,

According to, the reign of Charles V was aimed at healing the wounds suffered by France under the reign of Philip VI and John II. The loss of the provinces of the southwest was somehow remedied with the annexation of the Duchy of Burgundy, with the marriage of the heir of the county of Flanders to the king’s brother, Philip Duke of Burgundy. Relations with Pope Urban V, with the Stuarts of Scotland, the Visconti of Milan and above all with the Emperor Charles IV are strengthened, taking advantage of the internal crisis in England, the war is resumed and with systematic action against the English presidencies, it is possible to reoccupy all the lost provinces and even part of the Guienna; he takes possession of the lands and castles still owned in Normandy and on the Isle of France by the king of Navarre; expeditions are made to Castile to support the prestige of the French monarchy undermined by English influence. The visit of Emperor Charles IV to Paris in 1378 is a clear sign that the dynasty is again powerful: the empire gives it the lieutenancy in the kingdom of Arles and authorizes and recognizes its affirmation in those regions.

It is not so easy to cure the internal evils of the country: Charles V did not succeed. However, the king was convinced of the need to consolidate the royal institutions left by his ancestors, avoiding any dangerous innovation. This is the program of Charles V’s “bonne policie”: the French monarchy was now neither the feudal form of Louis IX, nor the violent and arbitrary absolutist form of Philip the Fair. We want to achieve an absolute government, but aimed at the good of the populations. A series of reforms of the administration, of justice, of the economy, of the army was the organic manifestation of the beneficial absolutism of the crown; the king was scruple to decide without first having heard the advice of the councilors and the wise and competent people coming especially from the bourgeoisie were called to the royal council.

The Beginnings of National France 2