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England they were struggling for law and order. Throughout the struggles
between the Popes and the Emperor Frederick II., Louis would not be
induced to assist in a persecution of the Emperor which he considered
unjust, nor permit one of his sons to accept the kingdom of Apulia and
Sicily, when the Pope declared that Frederick had forfeited it. He could
not, however, prevent his brother Charles, Count of Anjou, from
accepting it; for Charles had married Beatrice, heiress of the imperial
fief of Provence, and being thus independent of his brother Louis, was
able to establish a branch of the French royal family on the throne at
Naples. The reign of St. Louis was a time of much progress and
improvement. There were great scholars and thinkers at all the
universities. Romance and poetry were flourishing, and influencing
people's habits, so that courtesy, _i.e._ the manners taught in castle
courts, was softening the demeanour of knights and nobles. Architecture
was at its most beautiful period, as is seen, above all, in the Sainte
Chapelle at Paris. This was built by Louis IX. to receive a gift of the
Greek Emperor, namely, a thorn, which was believed to be from the crown
of thorns. It is one of the most perfect buildings in existence.


10. Crusade of Louis IX. - Unfortunately, Louis, during a severe
illness, made a vow to go on a crusade. His first fulfilment of this vow
was made early in his reign, in 1250, when his mother was still alive to
undertake the regency. His attempt was to attack the heart of the
Saracen power in Egypt, and he effected a landing and took the city of
Damietta. There he left his queen, and advanced on Cairo; but near
Mansourah he found himself entangled in the canals of the Nile, and with
a great army of Mamelukes in front. A ford was found, and the English
Earl of Salisbury, who had brought a troop to join the crusade, advised
that the first to cross should wait and guard the passage of the next.
But the king's brother, Robert, Count of Artois, called this cowardice.
The earl was stung, and declared he would be as forward among the foe as
any Frenchman. They both charged headlong, were enclosed by the enemy,
and slain; and though the king at last put the Mamelukes to flight, his
loss was dreadful. The Nile rose and cut off his return. He lost great
part of his troops from sickness, and was horribly harassed by the
Mamelukes, who threw among his host a strange burning missile, called
Greek fire; and he was finally forced to surrender himself as a prisoner
at Mansourah, with all his army. He obtained his release by giving up
Damietta, and paying a heavy ransom. After twenty years, in 1270, he
attempted another crusade, which was still more unfortunate, for he
landed at Tunis to wait for his brother to arrive from Sicily,
apparently on some delusion of favourable dispositions on the part of
the Bey. Sickness broke out in the camp, and the king, his daughter, and
his third son all died of fever; and so fatal was the expedition, that
his son Philip III. returned to France escorting five coffins, those of
his father, his brother, his sister and her husband, and his own wife
and child.


11. Philip the Fair. - The reign of _Philip III._ was very short. The
insolence and cruelty of the Provençals in Sicily had provoked the
natives to a massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers, and they then
called in the King of Aragon, who finally obtained the island, as a
separate kingdom from that on the Italian mainland where Charles of
Anjou and his descendants still reigned. While fighting his uncle's
battles on the Pyrenees, and besieging Gerona, Philip III. caught a
fever, and died on his way home in 1285. His successor, _Philip IV.,
called the Fair_, was crafty, cruel, and greedy, and made the Parliament
of Paris the instrument of his violence and exactions, which he carried
out in the name of the law. To prevent Guy de Dampierre, Count of
Flanders, from marrying his daughter to the son of Edward I. of England,
he invited her and her father to his court, and threw them both into
prison, while he offered his own daughter Isabel to Edward of Carnarvon
in her stead. The Scottish wars prevented Edward I. from taking up the
cause of Guy; but the Pope, Boniface VIII., a man of a fierce temper,
though of a great age, loudly called on Philip to do justice to
Flanders, and likewise blamed in unmeasured terms his exactions from the
clergy, his debasement of the coinage, and his foul and vicious life.
Furious abuse passed on both sides. Philip availed himself of a flaw in
the Pope's election to threaten him with deposition, and in return was
excommunicated. He then sent a French knight named William de Nogaret,
with Sciarra Colonna, a turbulent Roman, the hereditary enemy of
Boniface, and a band of savage mercenary soldiers to Anagni, where the
Pope then was, to force him to recall the sentence, apparently intending
them to act like the murderers of Becket. The old man's dignity,
however, overawed them at the moment, and they retired without laying
hands on him, but the shock he had undergone caused his death a few days
later. His successor was poisoned almost immediately on his election,
being known to be adverse to Philip. Parties were equally balanced in
the conclave; but Philip's friends advised him to buy over to his
interest one of his supposed foes, whom they would then unite in
choosing. Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, was the man, and in
a secret interview promised Philip to fulfil six conditions if he were
made Pope by his interest. These were: 1st, the reconciliation of Philip
with the Church; 2nd, that of his agents; 3rd, a grant to the king of a
tenth of all clerical property for five years; 4th, the restoration of
the Colonna family to Rome; 5th, the censure of Boniface's memory. These
five were carried out by Clement V., as he called himself, as soon as he
was on the Papal throne; the sixth remained a secret, but was probably
the destruction of the Knights Templars. This order of military monks
had been created for the defence of the crusading kingdom of Jerusalem,
and had acquired large possessions in Europe. Now that their occupation
in the East was gone, they were hated and dreaded by the kings, and
Philip was resolved on their wholesale destruction.


12. The Papacy at Avignon. - Clement had never quitted France, but had
gone through the ceremonies of his installation at Lyons; and Philip,
fearing that in Italy he would avoid carrying out the scheme for the
ruin of the Templars, had him conducted to Avignon, a city of the Empire
which belonged to the Angevin King of Naples, as Count of Provence, and
there for eighty years the Papal court remained. As they were thus
settled close to the French frontier, the Popes became almost vassals of
France; and this added greatly to the power and renown of the French
kings. How real their hold on the Papacy was, was shown in the ruin of
the Templars. The order was now abandoned by the Pope, and its knights
were invited in large numbers to Paris, under pretence of arranging a
crusade. Having been thus entrapped, they were accused of horrible and
monstrous crimes, and torture elicited a few supposed confessions. They
were then tried by the Inquisition, and the greater number were put to
death by fire, the Grand Master last of all, while their lands were
seized by the king. They seem to have been really a fierce, arrogant,
and oppressive set of men, or else there must have been some endeavour
to save them, belonging, as most of them did, to noble French families.
The "Pest of France," as Dante calls Philip the Fair, was now the most
formidable prince in Europe. He contrived to annex to his dominions the
city of Lyons, hitherto an imperial city under its archbishop. Philip
died in 1314; and his three sons - _Louis X._, _Philip V._, and _Charles
IV._, - were as cruel and harsh as himself, but without his talent, and
brought the crown and people to disgrace and misery. Each reigned a few
years and then died, leaving only daughters, and the question arose
whether the inheritance should go to females. When Louis X. died, in
1316, his brother Philip, after waiting for the birth of a posthumous
child who only lived a few days, took the crown, and the Parliament then
declared that the law of the old Salian Franks had been against the
inheritance of women. By this newly discovered Salic law, Charles IV.,
the third brother, reigned on Philip's death; but the kingdom of Navarre
having accrued to the family through their grandmother, and not being
subject to the Salic law, went to the eldest daughter of Louis X., Jane,
wife of the Count of Evreux.


CHAPTER II.

THE HUNDRED YEARS' WAR.


1. Wars of Edward III. - By the Salic law, as the lawyers called it,
the crown was given, on the death of Charles IV., to _Philip, Count of
Valois_, son to a brother of Philip IV., but it was claimed by Edward
III. of England as son of the daughter of Philip IV. Edward contented
himself, however, with the mere assertion of his pretensions, until
Philip exasperated him by attacks on the borders of Guienne, which the
French kings had long been coveting to complete their possession of the
south, and by demanding the surrender of Robert of Artois, who, being
disappointed in his claim to the county of Artois by the judgment of the
Parliament of Paris, was practising by sorcery on the life of the King
of France. Edward then declared war, and his supposed right caused a
century of warfare between France and England, in which the broken,
down-trodden state of the French peasantry gave England an immense
advantage. The knights and squires were fairly matched; but while the
English yeomen were strong, staunch, and trustworthy, the French were
useless, and only made a defeat worse by plundering the fallen on each
side alike. The war began in Flanders, where Philip took the part of the
count, whose tyrannies had caused his expulsion. Edward was called in to
the aid of the citizens of Ghent by their leader Jacob van Arteveldt;
and gained a great victory over the French fleet at Sluys, but with no
important result. At the same time the two kings took opposite sides in
the war of the succession in Brittany, each defending the claim most
inconsistent with his own pretensions to the French crown - Edward
upholding the male heir, John de Montfort, and Philip the direct female
representative, the wife of Charles de Blois.


2. Creçy and Poitiers. - Further difficulties arose through Charles the
Bad, King of Navarre and Count of Evreux, who was always on the watch to
assert his claim to the French throne through his mother, the daughter
of Louis X., and was much hated and distrusted by Philip VI. and his son
John, Duke of Normandy. Fearing the disaffection of the Norman and
Breton nobles, Philip invited a number of them to a tournament at Paris,
and there had them put to death after a hasty form of trial, thus
driving their kindred to join his enemies. One of these offended
Normans, Godfrey of Harcourt, invited Edward to Normandy, where he
landed, and having consumed his supplies was on his march to Flanders,
when Philip, with the whole strength of the kingdom, endeavoured to
intercept him at _Creçy_ in Picardy, in 1348. Philip was utterly
incapable as a general; his knights were wrong-headed and turbulent, and
absolutely cut down their own Genoese hired archers for being in their
way. The defeat was total. Philip rode away to Amiens, and Edward laid
siege to Calais. The place was so strong that he was forced to blockade
it, and Philip had time to gather another army to attempt its relief;
but the English army were so posted that he could not attack them
without great loss. He retreated, and the men of Calais surrendered,
Edward insisting that six burghers should bring him the keys with ropes
round their necks, to submit themselves to him. Six offered themselves,
but their lives were spared, and they were honourably treated. Edward
expelled all the French, and made Calais an English settlement. A truce
followed, chiefly in consequence of the ravages of the Black Death,
which swept off multitudes throughout Europe, a pestilence apparently
bred by filth, famine, and all the miseries of war and lawlessness, but
which spared no ranks. It had scarcely ceased before Philip died, in
1350. His son, _John_, was soon involved in a fresh war with England by
the intrigues of Charles the Bad, and in 1356 advanced southwards to
check the Prince of Wales, who had come out of Guienne on a plundering
expedition. The French were again totally routed at Poitiers, and the
king himself, with his third son, Philip, were made prisoners and
carried to London with most of the chief nobles.


3. The Jacquerie. - The calls made on their vassals by these captive
nobles to supply their ransoms brought the misery to a height. The salt
tax, or _gabelle_, which was first imposed to meet the expenses of the
war, was only paid by those who were neither clergy nor nobles, and the
general saying was - "Jacques Bonhomme (the nickname for the peasant) has
a broad back, let him bear all the burthens." Either by the king, the
feudal lords, the clergy, or the bands of men-at-arms who roved through
the country, selling themselves to any prince who would employ them, the
wretched people were stripped of everything, and used to hide in holes
and caves from ill-usage or insult, till they broke out in a rebellion
called the Jacquerie, and whenever they could seize a castle revenged
themselves, like the brutes they had been made, on those within it.
Taxation was so levied by the king's officers as to be frightfully
oppressive, and corruption reigned everywhere. As the king was in
prison, and his heir, Charles, had fled ignominiously from Poitiers,
the citizens of Paris hoped to effect a reform, and rose with their
provost-marshal, Stephen Marcel, at their head, threatened Charles, and
slew two of his officers before his eyes. On their demand the
States-General were convoked, and made wholesome regulations as to the
manner of collecting the taxes, but no one, except perhaps Marcel, had
any real zeal or public spirit. Charles the Bad, of Navarre, who had
pretended to espouse their cause, betrayed it; the king declared the
decisions of the States-General null and void; and the crafty management
of his son prevented any union between the malcontents. The gentry
rallied, and put down the Jacquerie with horrible cruelty and revenge.
The burghers of Paris found that Charles the Bad only wanted to gain the
throne, and Marcel would have proclaimed him; but those who thought him
even worse than his cousins of Valois admitted the other Charles, by
whom Marcel and his partisans were put to death. The attempt at reform
thus ended in talk and murder, and all fell back into the same state of
misery and oppression.


4. The Peace of Bretigny. - This Charles, eldest son of John, obtained
by purchase the imperial fief of Vienne, of which the counts had always
been called Dauphins, a title thenceforth borne by the heir apparent of
the kingdom. His father's captivity and the submission of Paris left
him master of the realm; but he did little to defend it when Edward III.
again attacked it, and in 1360 he was forced to bow to the terms which
the English king demanded as the price of peace. The Peace of Bretigny
permitted King John to ransom himself, but resigned to England the
sovereignty over the duchy of Aquitaine, and left Calais and Ponthieu in
the hands of Edward III. John died in 1364, before his ransom was paid,
and his son mounted the throne as _Charles V_. Charles showed himself
from this time a wary, able man, and did much to regain what had been
lost by craftily watching his opportunity. The war went on between the
allies of each party, though the French and English kings professed to
be at peace; and at the battle of Cocherel, in 1364, Charles the Bad was
defeated, and forced to make peace with France. On the other hand, the
French party in Brittany, led by Charles de Blois and the gallant Breton
knight, Bertrand du Guesclin, were routed, the same year, by the English
party under Sir John Chandos; Charles de Blois was killed, and the house
of Montfort established in the duchy. These years of war had created a
dreadful class of men, namely, hired soldiers of all nations, who, under
some noted leader, sold their services to whatever prince might need
them, under the name of Free Companies, and when unemployed lived by
plunder. The peace had only let these wretches loose on the peasants.
Some had seized castles, whence they could plunder travellers; others
roamed the country, preying on the miserable peasants, who, fleeced as
they were by king, barons, and clergy, were tortured and murdered by
these ruffians, so that many lived in holes in the ground that their
dwellings might not attract attention. Bertrand du Guesclin offered the
king to relieve the country from these Free Companies by leading them to
assist the Castilians against their tyrannical king, Peter the Cruel.
Edward, the Black Prince, who was then acting as Governor of Aquitaine,
took, however, the part of Peter, and defeated Du Guesclin at the battle
of Navarete, on the Ebro, in 1367.


5. Renewal of the War. - This expedition ruined the prince's health,
and exhausted his treasury. A hearth-tax was laid on the inhabitants of
Aquitaine, and they appealed against it to the King of France, although,
by the Peace of Bretigny, he had given up all right to hear appeals as
suzerain. The treaty, however, was still not formally settled, and on
this ground Charles received their complaint. The war thus began again,
and the sword of the Constable of France - the highest military dignity
of the realm - was given to Du Guesclin, but only on condition that he
would avoid pitched battles, and merely harass the English and take
their castles. This policy was so strictly followed, that the Duke of
Lancaster was allowed to march from Brittany to Gascony without meeting
an enemy in the field; and when King Edward III. made his sixth and last
invasion, nearly to the walls of Paris, he was only turned back by
famine, and by a tremendous thunderstorm, which made him believe that
Heaven was against him. Du Guesclin died while besieging a castle, and
such was his fame that the English captain would place the keys in no
hand but that of his corpse. The Constable's sword was given to Oliver
de Clisson, also a Breton, and called the "Butcher," because he gave no
quarter to the English in revenge for the death of his brother. The
Bretons were, almost to a man, of the French party, having been offended
by the insolence and oppression of the English; and John de Montfort,
after clinging to the King of England as long as possible, was forced to
make his peace at length with Charles. Charles V. had nearly regained
all that had been lost, when, in 1380 his death left the kingdom to his
son.


6. House of Burgundy. - _Charles VI._ was a boy of nine years old,
motherless, and beset with ambitious uncles. These uncles were Louis,
Duke of Anjou, to whom Queen Joanna, the last of the earlier Angevin
line in Naples, bequeathed her rights; John, Duke of Berry, a weak
time-server; and Philip, the ablest and most honest of the three. His
grandmother Joan, the wife of Philip VI., had been heiress of the duchy
and county of Burgundy, and these now became his inheritance, giving him
the richest part of France. By still better fortune he had married
Margaret, the only child of Louis, Count of Flanders. Flanders contained
the great cloth-manufacturing towns of Europe - Ghent, Bruges, Ypres,
etc., all wealthy and independent, and much inclined to close alliance
with England, whence they obtained their wool, while their counts were
equally devoted to France. Just as Count Louis II. had, for his lawless
rapacity, been driven out of Ghent by Jacob van Arteveldt, so his son,
Louis III., was expelled by Philip van Arteveldt, son to Jacob. Charles
had been disgusted by Louis's coarse violence, and would not help him;
but after the old king's death, Philip of Burgundy used his influence in
the council to conduct the whole power of France to Flanders, where
Arteveldt was defeated and trodden to death in the battle of Rosbecque,
in 1382. On the count's death, Philip succeeded him as Count of Flanders
in right of his wife; and thus was laid the foundation of the powerful
and wealthy house of Burgundy, which for four generations almost
overshadowed the crown of France.


7. Insanity of Charles VI. - The Constable, Clisson, was much hated by
the Duke of Brittany, and an attack which was made on him in the
streets of Paris was clearly traced to Montfort. The young king, who was
much attached to Clisson, set forth to exact punishment. On his way, a
madman rushed out of a forest and called out, "King, you are betrayed!"
Charles was much frightened, and further seems to have had a sunstroke,
for he at once became insane. He recovered for a time; but at Christmas,
while he and five others were dancing, disguised as wild men, their
garments of pitched flax caught fire. Four were burnt, and the shock
brought back the king's madness. He became subject to fits of insanity
of longer or shorter duration, and in their intervals he seems to have
been almost imbecile. No provision had then been made for the
contingency of a mad king. The condition of the country became worse
than ever, and power was grasped at by whoever could obtain it. Of the
king's three uncles, the Duke of Anjou and his sons were generally
engrossed by a vain struggle to obtain Naples; the Duke of Berry was
dull and weak; and the chief struggle for influence was between Philip
of Burgundy and his son, John the Fearless, on the one hand, and on the
other the king's wife, Isabel of Bavaria, and his brother Louis, Duke of
Orleans, who was suspected of being her lover; while the unhappy king
and his little children were left in a wretched state, often scarcely
provided with clothes or food.


8. Burgundians and Armagnacs. - Matters grew worse after the death of
Duke Philip in 1404; and in 1407, just after a seeming reconciliation,
the Duke of Orleans was murdered in the streets of Paris by servants of
John the Fearless. Louis of Orleans had been a vain, foolish man,
heedless of all save his own pleasure, but his death increased the
misery of France through the long and deadly struggle for vengeance that
followed. The king was helpless, and the children of the Duke of Orleans
were young; but their cause was taken up by a Gascon noble, Bernard,
Count of Armagnac, whose name the party took. The Duke of Burgundy was
always popular in Paris, where the people, led by the Guild of Butchers,
were so devoted to him that he ventured to have a sermon preached at the
university, justifying the murder. There was again a feeble attempt at
reform made by the burghers; but, as before, the more violent and
lawless were guilty of such excesses that the opposite party were called
in to put them down. The Armagnacs were admitted into Paris, and took a
terrible vengeance on the Butchers and on all adherents of Burgundy, in
the name of the Dauphin Louis, the king's eldest son, a weak, dissipated
youth, who was entirely led by the Count of Armagnac.


9. Invasion of Henry V. - All this time the war with England had
smouldered on, only broken by brief truces; and when France was in this
wretched state Henry V. renewed the claim of Edward III., and in 1415
landed before Harfleur. After delaying till he had taken the city, the
dauphin called together the whole nobility of the kingdom, and advanced
against Henry, who, like Edward III., had been obliged to leave Normandy
and march towards Calais in search of supplies. The armies met at
Agincourt, where, though the French greatly outnumbered the English, the
skill of Henry and the folly and confusion of the dauphin's army led to
a total defeat, and the captivity of half the chief men in France of the
Armagnac party - among them the young Duke of Orleans. It was Henry V.'s
policy to treat France, not as a conquest, but as an inheritance; and he
therefore refused to let these captives be ransomed till he should have
reduced the country to obedience, while he treated all the places that
submitted to him with great kindness. The Duke of Burgundy held aloof
from the contest, and the Armagnacs, who ruled in Paris, were too weak
or too careless to send aid to Rouen, which was taken by Henry after a
long siege. The Dauphin Louis died in 1417; his next brother, John, who
was more inclined to Burgundy, did not survive him a year; and the third


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHistory of France → online text (page 2 of 8)