The Beginnings of National France Part IV

The Beginnings of National France 4

According to, the feudal aristocracies were impoverished, the city bourgeoisies were decimated, the church torn apart by the contemporary crisis of the papal schism, only one institution survives from the past: the monarchy.

Joan of Arc, who in 1429 led some militias to help Orléans and immediately succeeded in bringing the king to Reims for the coronation, represented at that moment the French popular soul, who, tempered in misfortune, affirmed unity. national team created by the efforts of the Capetian dynasty in the previous three centuries. The revival of arms succeeded, in the twenty years from 1431 to 1451, to free all French soil from the invaders. But at the cost of great sacrifices.

At the Peace of Arras the monarchy recognized the independent existence of the Burgundian-Flemish state, which prevents France from any expansionist movement on the Rhine; the Habsburgs are free to lay the pillars of the future power; the Aragonese settle in Sicily and Naples, and prepare the union with Castile; in Italy, the Duchy of Savoy was happily organized and expanded, to the detriment of Milan, a French ally, under imperial supremacy; Genoa too, occupied for a moment by France, regains freedom; the Church puts an end to the schism in the council of Constance convened by the emperor and the seat of the papacy returns definitively to Rome. Everything had to be redone: rebuilding the country’s wealth, disciplining barbaric classes and populations, rebuilding monarchical institutions, resume hegemonic aspirations in Europe. The monarchy embarked on this grandiose work of restoration with the support of a new force formed in the hundred years of internal and external wars: national sentiment. Nation and monarchy proceed after the appearance of Joan of Arc in order to connect and merge: the absolute monarchy was born from the great crisis of the century. XIV and XV and draws its ideal value as material strength from being a symbol of national unity.

The victory over the English pushes the kings to fight internally the old enemy that the war has awakened and made violent: feudalism, which, impoverished by the war, feels the desire to preserve that anarchic state that the war has created and left. First of all, the kingdom is rid of the unemployed venture companies accustomed to living in the country by violent measures (Ecorcheurs). Around 1440 some princes of the blood, the dukes of Anjou, Bourbon, d’Alençon, of Brittany, wishing to affirm their independence from the crown, organized a plot in agreement with the heir of the throne himself, the dauphin Louis (Praguerie). The king contented himself with threats and an appearance in arms in Poitou and Auvergne; new attempts at rebellion led to harsh punishments. The dolphin was exiled to his Dauphiné state; the count of Armagnac, the count of Alençon were seriously affected and their territories were confiscated and annexed to the royal domain; so Comminges County was also annexed. Few princely houses remained to crown the throne: the dukes of Orleans represented by Charles, the poet, and his brother the bastard Dunois; the Dukes of Anjou, who had managed to conquer and hold only Provence from the territories of the kingdom of Naples; the dukes of Bourbon, also masters of Forez and Beaujolais; the Dukes of Brittany, linked to France, but forced to take great account of the tendencies of their subjects. L’ energy of Charles VII seemed to have triumphed over the aspirations of this great princely feudalism: but in the first years of the reign of Louis XI the feudal ambitions rose and landed in a League of princes eager, they said, to do the good of the people. It was therefore called League of the public good: it was attended by the dukes of Berry, Lorraine and Bourbon, the counts of Charolais (Charles the Bold) and Saint-Pol, the duke of Alençon, the count of Nemours and others. But their program of crushing the court and destroying the monarchical organization failed in the face of the diplomatic skill of Louis XI, who agreed to negotiate and grant all the fiefs they demanded to the various connected ones; he ceded Normandy as a hereditary fief to the Duke of Berry; to the count of Charolais, the counties of Boulogne and Guines, to the duke of Brittany the counties of Montfort and of Étampes; to the Duke of Lorraine the custody of Toul and Verdun. When the league was dissolved, the king hastened to take Normandy back from the Duke of Berry, after having bribed the Duke of Brittany with money; then he attacked the latter and forced him to peace; definitively confiscated the fiefs of Armagnac and Nemours; on the death of his brother he confiscated his prerogative of Guienna; to the detriment of Brittany he reconquered the cities of the Somme, ceded by his father to the peace of Arras, reoccupied in 1463, then again abandoned to Charles the Bold at the peace of Péronne. In 1477, on the death of the last Duke of Burgundy, he hastened to occupy French Burgundy, Artois and the castles of Roge, Montdidier and Péronne. Meanwhile he supervised the actions of his old uncle, Renato d’Angiò, ready to occupy all his states; in 1474 he took Angers and all of Anjou; in 1480, when Renato died and soon after his only heir Charles of Maine, he also annexed Provence to the royal domain and dominated the Mediterranean for the wide stretch from the Pyrenees to the Alps. The dukes of Bourbon by now had no capacity to oppose and neither did the dukes of Orleans: the death sentences of Jacques de la Marche and the Count of Saint-Pol had been a sad warning. In 1483 in the old Carolingian France, Brittany was the only independent state, which was to take a few years to join the kingdom with the marriage of the heiress, first with Charles VIII and then with Louis XII: the possessions of the Orléans would then be united with the ‘assumption to the throne of Louis XII and Francis I, while those of the Dukes of Bourbon were confiscated in the third decade of the 16th century. Territorial unity no longer found obstacles after the fall of the English aspirations on continental dominions.

The Beginnings of National France 4