Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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which had in the meanwhile reverted to the king of
France. Louis XL was too practical to be drawn into
Italian politics, but his incompetent son, Charles VIII.
(1483-98), was induced by various considerations to in-
vade Italy. There was, first of all, his claim to Naples ;
Milan was intriguing against the Aragonese and so urged
him to come ; Savonarola was calling for a reform in Flor-
ence and attacking the rule of the Medici, thus opening an
opportunity in Florence. In 1494 he crossed the Alps
and began that long and disastrous period of foreign inva-
sion and domination of Italy which was not ended till the
present century.


FRANCE, I 108-1494; ENGLAND, IO70-1485

The accession of Louis VI. (1108-37, called the Fat) France from
marks a change in the fortunes of the Capetian House. All Hundred*^
but the last years of his life were spent in passing through Scars' War.
his kingdom, punishing the rebellious barons, asserting his
royal rights, acquiring territory, and, in general, in in- Louis VI.,
creasing the prestige of the royal name. He was a stanch ° ~^^'
champion of the Church, and protected the clergy and their
lands from the violence of the barons. He favored the
cities, and tried to make travel safe and commerce secure.
Suger, the able abbot of St. Denis, was his counsellor and
was of great service to him in the difficult work which he
had to do. Though he was unable to reduce the great vas-
sals, he was one of the ablest of the Capetian line, and un-
til his increasing corpulence made travel impossible, he
spent his time and strength in the personal supervision of
the government. He was succeeded by his son, Louis Louis vii.,
VII. (1137-80), who was simple, credulous, capricious, and ^^^^~ °'
over-religious. So long as Suger lived, Louis was well
guided, but he made the mistake of going on a crusade and
of divorcing his wife, Eleanor, who held all of Aquitaine.
He intrigued with the sons of Henry II. of England, but
was unable to prevent the English from obtaining a large
amount of French territory.

His son, Philip II., called Augustus (1180-1223), was a Pliilipll.,
politician of rare ability, but treacherous and unscrupulous. " °-^223.
He, too, intrigued with the English princes, and thereby se-


230 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

cured the possession of Normandy, Maine, Anjou, and other
provinces. For some years he waged war on his other great
vassals and wrung many concessions from them. The bat-
tle of Bouvines was quite as advantageous for him as for
Frederick II. of Germany, for whom it was ostensibly
fought. Philip took no personal part in the persecution
of the Albigenses, but the crown reaped the benefit of it
by acquiring their territory.
The royal The reign of Philip II. was of fundamental importance

for the growth of the royal power. The king's domain was
more than doubled by him, and his income correspond-
ingly increased. For the first time the king was rich.
Philip II. found the old system of administration insufii-
cient. His estates had thus far been managed by a prevot,
who, in the name of the king, administered justice, collect-
ed the taxes, and preserved order. Although these prevots
were the king's officers, there was the tendency, in ac-
cordance with the character of the age, for them to look
upon their office as a fief, and hence hereditary. To keep
them from growing quite away from him, and also to get
the best returns from his estates, Philip II. created a new
officer, the baillie. He was put above the prevots, several
of whom were generally in his bailiwick. He was required
to hold court every month for the rendering of justice and
to make a full report of his doings to the king. He was
especially entrusted with collecting all the money possible
for the king and delivering it at Paris. The reign of Philip
II. had resulted in two most important things — the great
extension of the royal power and the better administration
of the royal affairs. The hereditary character of the
crown seemed so well established in his reign that he did
not think it necessary to secure the election of his son,
taking it for granted that the crown would pass on to

France, 1108-14-^4; England, loy 0-1483 231

Although Louis VIII. (1223-26) was thirty-six years old Louis Vlll.,
when his father died, he had never had any share in the
government or any independent income. He followed his
father's policy in all respects, except that he gave to each
of his sons the government and income of a certain terri-
tory, which was called an appanage. While this made the
position of the princes more dignified, it tended to separate
lands from the crown at a time when everything possible
should have been done to consolidate the royal possessions.

For ten years after the accession of Louis IX. (1226—70), Louis ix., the
his mother, Blanche of Castile, was regent. Imperious and
autocratic, she ruled with a strong hand ; and although
conspired against by almost all the great vassals, she was
able to add to the royal power. Under her training Louis
became the most perfect Christian ruler of his day. Few
men have ever taken Christianity so seriously and followed
its dictates, even against their own interests, so closely as
he. His religious conscience was absolute master of him.
He refused to extend his boundaries at the expense of his
neighbors, although many opportunities for doing so offered
themselves. He even restored to England certain territories
which he thought had been unjustly seized. He was deeply
distressed by the enmity between the Emperor and the
Pope, and tried to act as peacemaker between them. His
rei)utation for justice made him the arbiter of Europe, and
the Church expressed her approval of his character by de-
claring him a saint.

The reign of Louis IX. is important for various reasons. Reforms.
He increased the royal domain by the acquisition of several
large provinces. Up to this time more than eighty of his
subjects had had the right to coin money, and the money
coined in a province was the only legal tender there. Louis
made the royal money legal tender throughout France, and
issued stringent laws against counterfeiting. He reformed

232 A Short History of Mcdiceval Europe

The council
itivided into
three groups.

the office of baillie by prescribing that every bailHe should
take an oath to administer his office faithffilly and justly,
and to preserve local liberties as well as the rights of the
king ; that he should not receive any money or gift from
the people in his bailiwick, nor engage in any other busi-
ness, nor have any interest in his bailiwick except to serve
the king ; that he should not marry anyone from his dis-
trict, or surround himself with his relatives, or give them
any office under him. Every baillie was ordered to hold
court in person, regularly, and in the appointed places,
and to make reports to the king of all his doings; and after
being removed from his office, was to remain in the prov-
ince for forty days, in order that the opportunity might be
given to prefer charges against him.

Around the person of the king there were a large num-
ber of people of different rank, who formed his court. The
highest in rank of these were his council. Up to this time
all this court had helped him in the administration of the
affairs of government. Louis IX. introduced the principle
of division of labor by dividing this council into three
groups and assigning to each a particular kind of work.
These divisions were the council proper, the officers of the
treasury, and the parlement. The council retained the
executive functions of the government. The treasury
officials had charge of the collection and disbursement of
all the moneys of the king, while the parlement became the
highest judicial body in the realm. Previous to this time
the administration of justice had been made very difficult
because the king was constantly travelling from one part of
the kingdom to another. And since his council accom-
panied him, and all cases must be tried in, or near, his
presence, all the parties to a case were compelled to follow
him about ; and often several weeks, or even months,
would elapse before a case inight come to trial. To remedy

France, 1108-14Q4; England, my 0-14.8^ 23^

this, Louis established the parlement in Paris and gave it a
fixed place of meeting.

The jurisdiction of the parlement was also extended. The
The revival of the study of Roman law brought out tlie
imperial principle that the king is the source of all justice.
The theory arose that the jurisdiction of the nobles was a
fief held of tlie king. It followed as a matter of course that
every one should have the right of appealing to the king in
case he were not satisfied with the result of his trial, and
also that the king might call before his court any case that
he might wish. For various reasons the king wished to
make the number of these " royal cases " as large as possi-
ble and so interfered more and more in the baronial courts,
and brought all the important cases before his own judges.
Louis forbade the trial by duel and put in its stead the ap-
peal to a higher court. The parlement, therefore, became
the court of appeal over all the baronial courts, and the
king's justice became superior to all baronial justice.

While Louis was truly religious in accordance with the
ideas of his age, and defended the Church against all vio-
lence and injustice, he nevertheless guarded his royal pre-
rogatives against clerical encroachments. He compelled Louis ix. and
the Church to contribute its part toward the support of tlic ^ ^ ^^^^'
government by the payment of tithes and other taxes. He
limited, to a certain extent, the judicial ])OAver of the bish-
ops, and sul)jected a part of the clergy to the civil law. He
greatly favored the mendicant orders at the expense of the
clergy, using them as ambassadors, as missi dominici, and
in many of his highest offices.

With the accession of Philip III. (1270-85) favorites Philip TIL,
make their appearance at the French court, behind whom p^avori'tes at
the king hides so successfiilly as to conceal his real charac- the court.
ter. These favorites were generally of the common people,
capable, ambitious, and trained in the Roman law, from

234 ^^ Short History of Mediieval Europe

which fact they were called legistes. They were generally
hated by the nobility, who regarded them in the light of
usurpers. Philip III. was drawn into a war with some of
the kingdoms in Spain, which led to his acquisition of Na-
varre. He also added to the royal domain several other
important territories in the south of France. He punished
his rebellious vassals with great severity, and compelled
the Church to pay well for the privilege of receiving lega-
cies. In order to secure immunity from the laws of the
land, men took the tonsure and were called clergymen,
who engaged in business or led a wandering or vagabond
sort of life, many of them being married, and living in all
respects as laymen. These he deprived of the protection
of the Church law, and subjected to taxation and other
state control.
Philip TV., Under the rule of Philip IV. (12S5-1314), called the

12 5-1314- Handsome, France became the leading power in Europe.

His favorites furnished him with his policy, and he strove
to imitate Justinian. The influence of the Roman law at
his court may be seen from the fact that a large number of
great questions were settled by the form of trial. Philip
IV. chose the most opportune times of interfering in the
affairs of the provinces which were on the eastern frontier,
and owed allegiance to the C/erman Emperor. Since the
Emperors were all weak, he was able to extend his boun-
daries considerably at the expense of the Empire.

The commanding position of Philip IV. in Europe is

The Papacy shown by the removal of the Papacy to Avignon, and the

Av?-nion. ° control which he exercised over the Popes. Clement V.,

in order to escape from condemning his predecessor, Boni-

Destruction of face VIII., delivered the Order of the Templars into the

the Templars. Y\x\^\ hands. Heavy charges were trumped up against it,

but the real motive of the king was to secure possession of

its vast wealth.

France, 1108-14^4; England, 10^0-1485 23$
In the time of Philip IV. order was introduced into the improvements

, , . r • /-r- 1 /• 'n the govern-

government by the creation of certani new omces, the tunc- ment.
tions of which were prescribed. The various sorts of work
in the government were differentiated and each sort assigned
to a particular set of officials. For the jjersonal service of
the king there was a court called at that time the king's
" Hotel; " the chamberlain, the chaplain, and those who
had control of the guard and the troops were the most im-
portant persons of the Hotel. The " chancellerie " had
charge of all public affairs. By means of it all intercourse
between the king and his people was conducted. Within
the chancellerie there was a college of notaries who drew
up all public or state documents. The heads of this college
were called " clercs du secret," or private secretaries of the
king, because they were ac([uainted with the secrets of the
king and his council. The third chief division in the gov-
ernment was called the king's Council, the members of
which had to take a special oath to the king. They were
his secret counsellors and deliberated with him all impor-
tant questions. The States-generaP were not yet an organic The States-
part of the government. The attendance upon these, how- genera,
ever, had in the process of time come to be limited to the
more powerful nobles and to the abbots and bishops. It
had been customary for the king to summon them to obtain
their advice whenever the special situation demanded. In
1302, when the trouble with the Pope was assuming large
proportions, the king felt that he must know whether he
would have the support of all his people if he proceeded to
extreme measures against the Papacy. He therefore sum-
moned the States-general and at the same time called on the
cities each to send two or three representatives to attend

1 It should be noted that " Stntes-general " corresjiond to the Parh'a-
ment in England, while in France; the name Parlement was given to the
body of the king's judges. TIk- Parlement in PVance is a judicial body ;
in England the Parliament is a legislative body.

236 A SJiort History of JMcdUeval Europe

the meeting. The king laid before them his plans and
asked for their judgment. After some deliberation, the
body signified its approval and promised him the support
of the whole people. In 1308 a similar meeting of the
same body was held to discuss the charges against the Tem-
plars. More than two hundred cities sent their represent-
atives and again the States-general did nothing but say
yes to the king's proposals. It is characteristic of the part
which the cities played in this proceeding that they were
*' asked by the king to send deputies to hear, receive, ap-
prove, and do all that might be commanded them by the
king." Again in 13 14 the war with Flanders was about
to be renewed and the king's treasury was empty. The
king, therefore, summoned the States-general and told them
what he wanted. The States-general did nothing but ex-
press their submission to the will of the king. This was
the much written about entrance of the Third Estate into
the political history of France. French historians never
tire of exalting its importance. But as a matter of fact, the
influence of the Third Estate was, and remained, practi-
cally nothing, till the time of the French Revolution. It
had no such history and development as the House of Com-
mons in England. In France the authority of the king
prevailed, and the Third Estate was simply permitted to
say yes when it was commanded to do so.
The parie- The growth of the parlement during this reign was re-

kine's^justice m^rkable. Ordinary cases arising on the royal domain
were tried before it, and the number of appeals from all
parts of the kingdom greatly increased. The absolute su-
premacy of the king's court and the king's justice over all
baronial courts and baronial justice was more than ever
recognized. The right of appeal was made use of to such
an extent that the king was compelled to empower his
baillies to decide many cases in order to prevent the par-

France, 1108-14^4.; England, ioyo-i/j.85 237

lenient from being overwhelmed with work. By the estab-
lishment and development of the parlement, feudalism re-
ceived a heavy blow.

As the government grew more thoroughly organized, it
became much more expensive. Louis IX. had always had
enough income to support the government. Philip IV.
was always in debt. He made the most strenuous efforts
to raise money, but even by taxes, seizures, aids, forced Taxation,
loans, confiscations, persecutions of the Jews, taxation of
all the foreign merchants in France, taxation of the Church,
the seizure of the possessions of the Templars, and many
other questionable means, was not able to keep his treasury

Philip IV. was succeeded by his three sons in turn ;
Louis X. (13 1 4-1 6), Philip V., called the Long (1316-
22), and Charles IV. (1322-28). They were not able to
preserve the monarchy in that state to which their prede-
cessors had brought it. There was a general reaction on
the part of the nobles against the absolutism of Philip IV.,
and they were able to force from these kings many provin-
cial charters which restored and safeguarded local feudal
rights. Louis X. especially made a large number of such

Philip V. labored hard to strengthen the government
and centralize the power. He met, however, with the
most bitter opposition from his barons. All three brothers
died without male heirs, but since Philip V., in order to
justify his seizure of the crown, had prevailed on the Coun-
cil to declare that the crown could not pass by the female
line, the throne was vacant. The nearest male heir was End of the di-
Philip of Valois, a cousin of the dead king. Edward III. [i^*e', accessfon
of England also laid claim to the crown on tlie ground that of the House
he, being a nephew of the late king Charles IV., was the 1328.
nearest male heir by the female line. The claims of Ed-

238 A SJiort History of Mcdiccval Europe

England, 1070,
to the Hun-
dred Years'

William the

The Domes-
day Book.

William II.,
1087-1 100.

Henry I.,
1100-35, pub-
lishes a char-
ter of liberties.

ward were rejected and Philip of Valois made king. Ed-
ward soon gave up all pretensions to the throne, canne to
Amiens and did homage to Philip VI. for his feudal hold-
ings. In 1330 and again in 1331 he acknowledged him-
self without any reserve as the feudal subject of the king of

Norman genius showed itself in the government of Will-
iam the Conqueror. The name of what was formerly called
the Witenagemot, composed of all who held land directly
from the king, was gradually changed to Great Council.
Both his Norman and his English subjects were trouble-
some, but he used the one to keep the other in check. In
the large towns he built fortresses which he garrisoned with
Norman troops. He kept the English militia ready for
service. He had made an exact list of the possessions and
holdings of all his subjects, which was called the Domes-
day Book, and on the basis of which he levied and collected
his taxes with great regularity and exactness. His severity
in punishing all offences, his heavy taxes, and his devasta-
tion of a large territory to make a game preserve caused
him to be hated by his people, who did not understand the
great services he was rendering England.

The reign of William Rufus (1087-1100), the second
son of William the Conqueror, was violent and oppressive
in the extreme. He laid heavy financial burdens on the
people, and they were not sorry when he met his death
while hunting in the New Forest. The eldest son of William,
count Robert, had received the duchy of Normandy, but
had pawned it in order to go on the first crusade. The
third son, Henry, was made king of England (1100-35).
Fearing that his title to the crown was not good, and that
Robert would probably oppose him, he tried to propitiate
the people in every possible way. He published a charter
of liberties which contained concessions to the Church,

France, iioS-i4g^; England, loyo-i/jS^ 239

the vassals, and the nation at large, and assured all classes
that they would no longer be subjected to the wrongs and
exactions which they had suffered from his brother.

Henry increased his popularity by marrying the daughter
of the king of Scotland, Matilda, a descendant from the
old English line of kings. The wisdom of his conduct
became apparent when Robert returned from the crusade
and tried to get possession of England. The people stood
faithfully by Henry. Robert was taken prisoner in battle,
and Henry seized Normandy also. Henry was the first
English king to grant charters to towns, thus securing
them against unjust interference from their feudal lords, as
well as from excessive taxes and tolls. Henry established
the institution known as the curia regis, which had con- The curia
trol of the king's finances, and tried all cases in which the '^°^'^"
king's tenants-in-chief were concerned. Henry obtained
an oath from his barons that they would accept his daugh-
ter Matilda as ruler, but at his death his nephew, Stephen Stephen of
of Blois (1135-54), came to London and secured his own °'^' "35-54-
election. War ensued between Stephen and Matilda, and
England suffered much from it till 1153, when it was
agreed that Stephen should remain king, but should be
succeeded by Henry, the son of Matilda.

Henry H. (1154-89) was strong, active, and able, and iienry II.,
had but one thought, namely, to make himself the real mas- "^'^ ^^'
ter of England. Both the nobility and the Church were in
his way, and his reign is famous for his struggles Avith those

For the purposes of consultation, he called the Great
Council together often, and compelled many of the small
feudal holders to attend it. The curia regis was also
strengthened and its work of rendering justice emphasized.
In 1 166 he called a meeting of the Great Council at Clar-
endon and published a set of decrees called the Assize of

240 A SJiort History of Medmval Europe

Assize of Clar-
endon, 1166.

The Constitu-
tions of Clar-
endon, 1164.

Clarendon. By its terms the old custom of compurgation
was prohibited, and a new system was introduced. Twelve
men in every county and four men from each township in
it were to form a board for the purpose of deciding who
should be brought to trial — the work of our grand jury.
Henry revived the custom of sending out itinerant justices.
who by rendering strict justice in the king's name brought
the manorial and county courts into disfavor. In 11 70
Henry inquired into the way in which the various barons
who held the office of sheriff were performing their duties,
and as the result of the inquiry turned nearly all out and re-
placed them by men of lower birth, who served from this
time on as a check on the higher nobility. Henry com-
muted the military service which his barons owed him to
the payment of a sum of money (scutage), with which
he hired mercenaries. He also reorganized the militia, and
required all the people to come at his call, equipped at
their own expense and ready to fight.

The clergy were opposed to Henry's ideas of judicial
reform because he meant to bring them also under his own
jurisdiction. In 1 164 he published the Constitutions of
Clarendon, the purpose of which was to destroy the judicial
independence of the clergy. *•' Every election of bishop
or abbot was to take place before royal officers, in the king's
chapel, and with the king's assent. The prelate-elect was
bound to do homage to the king for his lands before con-
secration and to hold his lands as a barony from the king
subject to all feudal burdens of taxation and attendance in
the king's court. No bishop might leave the realm with-
out the royal permission. No tenant in chief or royal ser-
vant might be excommunicated, or their land placed under
interdict, but by the king's assent. What was new was
the legislation respecting ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The
king's court was to decide whether a suit between clerk

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