The Beginnings of National France Part III

The Beginnings of National France 3

According to, the crisis into which the country had been thrown, however, was too serious to be remedied. Neither trade nor industry could resume; the countryside was still uncultivated and depopulated and the needs of the state forced the government to continue under the terrible tax pressure. When Charles V died (1380), the government passed into the hands of the ruling princes for the young Charles VI. The populations, who were anxious and discontented for relief, as soon as they felt the hand of the rulers weaker and more uncertain, burst into agitation everywhere, demanding the abolition of all extraordinary taxes. If the Duke of Anjou gave in, eager to have popular sympathies, the situation did not improve, as the exhausted treasury prevented any government action and it was necessary to return to taxes, causing new riots in the cities. The Duke of Burgundy gave the government a more rigid attitude, assuming that he had the regency for Charles VI. A royal army intervened in Flanders to suppress the bourgeois agitation, always favorable to the English, and defeated the armed people of Ghent at Roosebeke; then the movements of the gods were repressed with numerous executions Maillotins of Paris and other cities. The tax system of Charles V was resumed in all its harshness: the populations continued to suffer: rural unrest resumed in the less supervised regions. As soon as Charles VI personally took over the state government, he proposed a review of all state activities, but soon madness drove him away from business and the hoped-for improvements vanished. The government of France returned to the princes of the royal family, who from this moment tried to exploit the poor energies of the country to carry out their plans of personal ambitions to the detriment of the state and France. The Duke of Burgundy, who became, due to his marriage with Margaret of Mäele, also Count of Flanders, was looking forward to the creation of a Flemish-Rhenish state, in which the French element had to leave the prevalence to the German element. France, after having believed that the reconstitution of the Duchy of Burgundy was a necessity to cherish the local autonomies, now saw the power of the counts of Flanders resurrected and greater than in the century. XIII. The duchy of Burgundy-Flanders had to make a great deal of the Flemish city bourgeoisies, still linked to English trade and therefore the formation of the anti-French bloc was presumable in the event of new wars. Even the Duke of Orleans who had become, through his marriage to Valentina Visconti, lord of Asti, had vast plans for expansion in Italy; he also had other projects in the Rhine valley. The king’s government passed alternately from the hands of the one to the hands of the other party.

The assassination of the Duke of Orleans in 1407 led to the outbreak of the civil war between the Armagnacchi or Orleanists and the Burgundians. A large part of France was seized by the terrible struggle which was burning between the two parties: the feudal classes and the bourgeoisie were divided according to the sympathies and interests. The government organization is revamped; disorder and corruption everywhere; the princes are rich, the state is unable to provide. Paris is the center of the turmoil: the government belongs to the faction that manages to have the capital and the court.

The States General, which met in 1413 in Paris, echoed the general discontent: the work of the government was criticized, programs were formulated. The intellectual element represented by the University of Paris seems to be at the head of the movement. The serious and profitable work is interrupted by popular violence: a reform must be proclaimed to calm the spirits (Ordonnance Cabochienne), but the government is thrown at the mercy of the square. The Duke of Burgundy takes no interest; the university and the upper middle class are afraid of a movement that no one knows where it will land. It is therefore easy for the Orleanists to react, restore order and abolish reforms.

Economic problems and party conflicts favored the English invasion in 1415. The defeats of the royal army allowed the systematic occupation of the whole north-west of France. The dominance of the Armagnacs over the government of the king, always mad, and the assassination of the Duke of Burgundy are good pretexts for the new Duke of Burgundy, Philip II, to make the alliance with England that was in Flemish traditions. They would like to undo unitary France and therefore the Duke of Burgundy recognizes the King of England Henry V (Treaty of Troyes) as the legitimate successor of Charles VI. Thus France disappears: the whole country of the Capetians is an English possession; the represented dynasty, Charles VI died in 1422, by the young Charles VII, took refuge south of the Loire. Difficult to Englishmen come down south of the river; but the reconquest of the north was also absurd for Charles VII. For some years the situation remained stationary and in the meantime any influence of France in Europe vanishes: the Spanish, Italian and German princes freely developed their activities. The French peoples feel the foreign invasions everywhere, they suffer the looting of the soldiers. Cities are depopulated; Paris itself offers the sight of abandoned and ruined houses everywhere.

The Beginnings of National France 3