Four reigns almost fill up the space of time from Agincourt to Marignano. In that century the slow consistent policy of four Kings and their agents raises France from her nadir almost to her zenith. The institutions and the prosperity built up by Louis the Fat, Philip Augustus, Louis IX, and Philip the Fair had been shattered under the first two Valois; the prosperity had been in part restored, the institutions further developed under Charles V. In the long anarchy which we call the reign of Charles VI, all bonds had been loosened, all well-being blighted, all order overwhelmed. Slowly the old traditions reassert themselves, the old principles resume their domination, and from chaos emerges the new monarchy, with all and more than all the powers of the old.
Communal, feudal, representative institutions have proved too weak to withstand the stress of foreign and civil war. The monarchy and the monarchical system alone retain their vitality unimpaired, and seem to acquire new vigour from misfortune. Under Charles VII the new regime was begun; under Louis XI and his daughter the ground was ruthlessly cleared of all that could impede regal action at home, while the wars of Charles VIII and Louis XII, purposeless and exhausting as they were, without seriously diminishing domestic prosperity, satisfactorily tested the strength and solidity of the new structure.
Thus equipped and prepared, France enters on the race of modern times as the most compact, harmonious, united nation of the European continent. All that she has suffered is forgotten. The sacrifice of individual and local liberty is hardly felt. In the splendour and power of the monarchy the nation sees its aspirations realised. Nobility, clergy, commons, abandon their old ideals, and are content that their will should be expressed, their being absorbed, their energy manifested in the will and being and operations of the King.
Institutions of independent origin give up their strength to feed his power, and exist if at all only by his sufferance. Time had been when clergy, nobility, even towns, had been powers in the State with which the King needed to reckon, not as a sovereign, hardly as a superior. Before the Reformation two of these powers had been yoked in complete submission, and the third was far on the way to final subjugation.
Critical in all respects, the period of Charles VII and his three successors was not least so in respect of the King's relations with the Church and the Papacy. The Conciliar movement, fruitless on the whole, had an important effect in France. It initiated a fresh stage in the struggle between Church and State in France; and for a time Gallican liberties were conceived as something different from the authority of the French King over the French Church, and especially over her patronage.
From the beginning the King played a conspicuous part, and in the end he succeeded in seizing the chief share of all that was won from the Pope. But at first he assumed the air of an impartial and sovereign arbiter between Council and Pope. In 1438 the majority of the Council of Basel were in open rupture with the Pope, Eugenius IV. Charles VII, while negotiating on the one hand with the Fathers of the Council, and on the other with the Pope, and outwardly maintaining his obedience to Eugenius, was careful to preserve his liberty of action. In the same year a deputation of the Council waited upon Charles and communicated to him the text of the decrees of reform adopted up to that time by the Fathers. The King called an assembly of the clergy of his kingdom to meet at Bourges, where, together with himself and a considerable number of his chief councillors, ambassadors of Pope and Council were present. The result was the royal ordinance issued on July 7, 1438, and known as the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges.
In this solemn edict, issued by the sovereign authority of the prince, but supported by the consent and advice of the august assembly which he had summoned, more of conciliar spirit is observable than of royal ambition. The superiority of the Council to the Pope was acknowledged in matters touching the faith, the extirpation of schism, and the reform of the Church in Head and members. Decennial Councils were demanded. Election by the Chapter or the Convent was to be the rule for the higher ecclesiastical dignities; but the King and the magnates were not debarred from recommending candidates for election. The general right of papal reservation was abolished, and a strict limit placed on the cases in which it was permissible. No benefice was to be conferred by the Pope before vacancy under the form known as an expectative grace.
Provisions were made in favour of University graduates. In every cathedral church one prebend was to be given on the earliest opportunity to a graduate in theology, who was bound to lecture at least once a week. Furthermore, in every cathedral or collegiate church one-third of the prebends were to be reserved for suitable graduates, and the same principle was to obtain in the collation of other ecclesiastical benefices. Graduates were also to be entitled to a special preference in urban parish churches. No appeals or evocation of causes to Rome were to be allowed until the other grades of jurisdiction had been exhausted. Moreover, where the parties should be distant more than four days1 journey from the Curia, all ordinary cases were to be judged by those judges in partibus to whom they belonged by custom and right. The decree of the Council limiting the number of Cardinals to twenty-four was approved. Annates were abolished with a small reservation in favour of the existing Pope. A number of edicts of the Council, relating to the order of divine service and the discipline of the clergy, were confirmed. The decrees of the Council accepted without modification were to be put in force immediately within the kingdom, and the assent of the Council was to be solicited where modifications had been introduced. These purport to have been the decisions of the Council of Bourges, and the King at its request ordered that they should be obeyed throughout the kingdom and in Dauphine, and enforced by the royal Courts.
Yet republican as is the constitution of the Church as sanctioned at Basel and Bourges, it must be noticed that the sovereign authority of the King is expressly invoked by the Council of Bourges as necessary to secure execution of the reforms proposed; and in so far the Church of France is subordinated to the State, and the ultimate issue of these developments foreshadowed. The usurpation of authority is patent; and forgery was needed to support it. Few now believe in the Pragmatic Sanction of St Louis, which seems first to have seen the light after 1438. On the other hand the freedom of election conferred meant little more than the freedom to entertain recommendations from the King and other great personages. For the conflict of intrigue at the Court of Rome was substituted a conflict of influence within the kingdom, and the share of patronage obtained in this by the King was not destined long to satisfy him.
The position of the clergy and people was so far improved that the drain of treasure from France to Rome caused not only by the annates, but also in great measure by the receipts of non-resident beneficiaries, by the fees incident to litigation at Rome, and by the presents required from suitors and petitioners for favour, was under the Pragmatic greatly diminished. But the abuses in the Church, due to the holding of benefices' in plurality, were not directly touched by the decree. The holding of abbeys and priories in commendam, so detrimental to the discipline of the religious orders, remained unaffected. The University received considerable privileges, and the power of the Parlement over the Church was greatly increased.
Charles VII, though consistent in supporting Eugenius against the Council's Anti-Pope, as steadily maintained the Pragmatic against the repeated protests of successive Popes, and a very liberal Concordat offered by Eugenius for some reason never came into effect. The King did not however always respect the liberty of election which he had restored to the Church, and we even find him approaching the Pope to solicit his nomination for certain benefices. Louis on his accession went further. It was said that during his exile at Genappe he had promised to abolish the Pragmatic Sanction. No doubt he hoped in cooperation with a friendly Pope to secure more complete control over the appointment to prelacies than was possible under the system of elections established by the Sanction. He hoped at the same time, by making a favour of the repeal, to secure the Pope's support for the Angevin claims on Naples against Ferrante. Accordingly, towards the end of 1461 the Pope was in possession of his formal promise to abolish the obnoxious edict; and the Parlement was forced to register the letter of abolition as a royal ordinance. But the Pope was too deeply pledged to Ferrante, and saw too clearly the danger of French intervention in Naples. John of Calabria, the representative of the Angevin claims, met an open enemy in Pius II. Neither did Louis find that promotion in France proceeded entirely according to his wishes. Thus from 1463 an anomalous situation prevailed.
The Pragmatic was not formally restored, but a series of edicts were passed against the oppression and exactions of papal agents, against those who applied at Rome for expectative graces or the gift of prelacies, against papal jurisdiction in questions relating to the possession of benefices, and against the export of treasure. In 1472 a Concordat was arranged between Louis and Sixtus IV for the division of patronage between the Ordinary and the Pope, and to regulate other matters of dispute; but hardly any attempt seems to have been made to carry this agreement into effect. On the whole, the policy of Louis seems to have been to keep the whole question open; to resist as far as possible the export of treasure; to discourage the independent exercise by the Pope of his power to provide for prelacies; to oppose reservations and expectative graces; to keep the jurisdiction in question of prelacies and benefices in the hands of the royal judges; and thus, sometimes by suggestion at the Court of Rome, sometimes by election under pressure, sometimes by means of the King's influence on the Parlement and other Courts, and not infrequently by the blunt use of force, to retain all important ecclesiastical patronage at his own disposal;-and this without any acute breach with Rome or with the Gallican clergy. His means were various and even inconsistent, but his general policy is clear.
The great Estates of Tours in 1484 showed the trend of feeling, both lay and ecclesiastical. The Estate of the Church demanded the restitution of the Pragmatic Sanction. And the third Estate speaks feelingly of the "evacuation de pecune" resulting from the papal exactions, and prays for reform. The Bishops indeed protested in defence of the authority of the Holy See. But the King's Council took no decisive step. The old confusion continued; it was impossible to say whether the Pragmatic was or was not in force. Louis XII on his accession confirmed the Pragmatic, and the Parle-ment as before seized every opportunity to enforce it by its decisions. But so long as the King and the Pope were on good terms no serious question arose; for Amboise held continuously the office of legate for France and was in effect a provincial Pope. Julius promised to nominate to prelacies in France only titularies approved by the King. After the breach between Louis and Julius the kingdom was in open disobedience, and the law was silent. It was left for Francis I and Leo X to put aside the principle of free election so long defended by Parlement and clergy, and to agree upon a division of the spoils, which ignored the liberties of the Gallican Church, while conferring exceptional privileges on the King of France.
The result was the Concordat of 1516. Elections were abolished. The King was to nominate to metropolitan and cathedral churches, to abbeys and conventual priories, and if certain rules were observed the papal confirmation would not be refused. Reservations and expectative graces were abolished. The third of benefices was still reserved to University graduates. The regular degrees of jurisdiction were to be respected, unless in cases of exceptional importance. By implication though not by open stipulation annates were retained. The Lateran Council accepted this agreement. The Pragmatic was finally condemned. Although the Parlement and the University of Paris protested energetically, resistance was in vain. No power in France could withstand this alliance of King and Pope, by which the material ends of each were secured, without any conspicuous tenderness being shown for the spiritual interests of the Church.
During the same period the proud independence of the University of Paris was successfully attacked. In 1437 the exemption from taxation claimed for its numerous dependents was abolished. In 1446 it was first made subject to the jurisdiction of the Parlement. In 1452 the Cardinal d'Estouteville, acting in concert with the King and the King's Parlement, imposed upon it a scheme of reformation, and its independence of secular jurisdiction was at an end. Under Louis XII the old threat of a cessation of public exercises was used in resistance to royal proposals of reform. The scholars soon found that the King was master, and were like the rest of the kingdom obliged to submit. The condemnation of the Nominalists by Louis XI is a grotesque but striking proof that even the republic of letters was no longer exempt from the interference of an alien authority.
The Church, whose independence was thus impaired by progressive encroachments, could not claim that its privileges were deserved by virtues, efficiency, or discipline. Plurality, non-residence, immorality, neglect of duty, worldliness, disobedience to rule, were common in France as elsewhere. Amboise did something for reform in the Franciscan, Dominican, and Benedictine Orders; but far more was needed to effect a cure. Unfortunately the Concordat of Francis I tended rather to stimulate the worldly ambitions and interests of the higher clergy, than to aid or encourage any royal attempts in the direction of reform.
Passing to those secular authorities that were in a position to refuse obedience to the King, we have first to notice the appanaged and other nobility of princely rank. The successful Wars of 1449-53 drove the English from the limits of France, extinguished the duchy of Aquitaine, and left only Calais and Guines to the foreigner. The English claims were still kept alive, but the only serious invasion, that of 1475, broke down owing to the failure of cooperation on the part of Burgundy. The duchy of Aquitaine was revived by Louis XI as a temporary expedient (1469-72) to satisfy the petulant ambition of his brother, while separating him by the widest possible interval from his ally of Burgundy. On the death of Charles of Aquitaine the duchy was reoccupied. But during the English Wars a Power had arisen in the East which menaced the very existence of the monarchy. In pursuance of that policy of granting escheated or conquered provinces as appanages to the younger members of the royal house, which facilitated the transition from earlier feudal independence to direct royal government, John had in 1363 granted the duchy of Burgundy to his son, Philip, and the gift had been confirmed by Charles V. By marriage this enterprising family added to their dominions Flanders, Artois, the county of Burgundy, Nevers and Rethel, Brabant and Limburg; by purchase Namur and Luxemburg, and, mainly by conquest, Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland. Enriched by the wealth of the Low Countries, fortified by the military resources of so many provinces, animated against the house of France by the murder of his father (1419), released from his oath of allegiance and further fortified by the cession of the frontier fortresses along the Somme by the Treaty of Arras in 1435, during thirty years after the conclusion of that treaty Philip the Good (1419-67) had been content to maintain a perfect independence, and to gather his strength in peace. Then, as the old man's strength failed, his son's opportunity came. Enraged that Louis had been allowed in 1463 to repurchase the towns on the Somme under the terms of their original cession, Charles the Bold contracted a League with the discontented princes and nobles of France, and in 1465 invaded the kingdom, and with his allies invested Paris.
The Treaties of St Maur des Fosses and of Conflans dissolved the League of the Public Weal, but restored to Burgundy the Somme towns, and established Charles of France in the rich appanage of Normandy. Then in four campaigns Liege and the other cities of her principality, which in reliance on French support had braved the power of Burgundy, were brought low, and in 1468 the episcopal city was destroyed in the forced presence of the King of France. Meanwhile, in 1467 Charles the Bold succeeded to the duchy whose policy he had controlled for two years, and in 1468 he married the sister of Edward IV, the hereditary enemy of France.
The fortunes of Charles of Burgundy perhaps never stood higher than at the fall of Liege. Louis XI, his prisoner at Peronne, had been forced to promise Champagne to Charles of France, the ally of Burgundy, which would have made a convenient link between the northern and the southern dominions of Charles the Bold. But in the war of intrigue and arms that filled the next four years Louis on the whole gained the advantage. Charles of France was persuaded to give up Champagne. The old League was almost, but never quite, revived. The death of Charles of France in 1472 came opportunely, some said too opportunely, for his brother the King. Charles the Bold, who had recently established a standing army of horse and foot, determined to force the game and invaded France. But Louis avoided any engagement, and Charles consumed his forces in a vain attack on Beauvais. He retreated without any advantage gained. Meanwhile Britanny had been reduced to submission.
From that time Charles' ambition seems to look rather eastwards. In 1469 he had received from Sigismund of Austria, as security for a loan, the southern part of Elsass with the Breisgau. In 1473, after the conquest of Gelders and Zutphen, he entered on fruitless negotiations with the Emperor Frederick III with a view to being crowned as King, and recognised as imperial Vicar in the West. He even hoped to be accepted as King of the Romans. In 1474 he interfered in a quarrel between the Archbishop of Cologne and his Chapter, and laid siege to the little town of Neuss. Eleven months his army lay before this poor place. Imperial hosts gathered to its relief, and Charles was-baffled. Meanwhile his chance of chances went by. When, as the result of long-continued pressure, Edward IV at length invaded France, Charles, who had just raised the siege of Neuss, was exhausted and unable to take his part in the proposed operations. Edward made terms with Louis and retired. In the autumn (1475) Charles scored his last success by overrunning Lorraine. At length his northern and his southern dominions were united.
But meanwhile his acquisitions in Elsass and the Breisgau had involved him in quarrels with the Swiss. Swiss merchants had been ill-treated. The mortgaged provinces were outraged by the harsh rule of Peter von Hagenbach, the Duke's governor. The Swiss took up their quarrel, instigated by French gold. A revolt ensued, and the Swiss assisted the inhabitants to seize, try, and execute Hagenbach (May, 1474). In his camp before Neuss Charles received the Swiss defiance. Soon afterwards, the Swiss invaded Franche Comte and defeated the Duke's forces near Hericourt. In March, 1475, Pontarlier was sacked, and later in the same year the Swiss attacked the Duchess of Savoy and the Count de Romont, the Duke's allies, and were everywhere victorious. These were insults not to be borne. Charles marshalled all his strength, crossed the Jura in February, 1476, and advancing to the shore of Neuchatel, assaulted and captured the castle of Granson. Moving along the north-western verge of the lake, a few miles further he was attacked by the Swiss. An unaccountable panic seized his army; it broke and fled. All the rich equipment of Charles, even his seal and his jewels, fell into the hands of the Swiss; and the Duke himself fled. At Lausanne, under the protection of the Duchess of Savoy, he reorganised his army. In May he was ready to set forth once more against the Swiss and especially against Bern. His route this time led him to the little town of Morat, S.E. of the lake of Neuchatel. Here he lingered for ten days in hopes to overpower the garrison and secure his communications for a further advance. But the little place, whose walls still stand, held out. Time was thus given for the enemy to collect. On June 21 their last contingent arrived. The next day they moved forward in pouring rain to attack. The Burgundians awaited their arrival in the neighbourhood of their camp to the south of Morat. The battle was fierce, but the shock of the Swiss phalanx proved irresistible. This time the Duke's army was not only scattered, but destroyed, after being driven back upon the lake. But few escaped, and no prisoners were made.
Once more the Duke threw himself on the mercy of the Duchess of Savoy, whose kindness he soon afterwards ill repaid by making her his prisoner. After a period of deep depression, bordering on insanity, Charles was roused once more to action by the news that Rene of Lorraine was reconquering his duchy. Nancy and other places had already fallen, when Charles appeared at the head of an army. Rene, leaving orders to hold Nancy, retired from the province to seek aid abroad. The Swiss gave leave to raise volunteers; the King of France supplied him with money; and, while Nancy still held out, Rene at length, in bitter weather, set out from Basel. As he approached Nancy, Charles met him with his beleaguering army to the south of the town (January 5, 1477); but the Swiss were not to be denied. Once more Charles was defeated; this time he met with his death. His vast plans, which had even included the acquisition of Provence by bequest from the Duke of Anjou, so as, with the control or possession of Savoy, to complete the establishment of his rule from the Mediterranean to the mouth of the Rhine, were extinguished with him.
The King of France, who hitherto had left his allies to fight alone, now took up arms, and occupied both the duchy and the county of Burgundy, the remaining Somme towns, and Artois with Arras. But Mary, Charles' heiress, gave her hand to Maximilian of Austria, who succeeded in stemming the tide of Louis1 conquests, and even inflicted a defeat on him at Guinegaste (1479). Louis lost and recovered the county of Burgundy. At length a treaty was concluded at Arras ( 1482). Early in the same year Mary had died, leaving two children. The duchy of Burgundy was lost for ever to her heirs and incorporated with the royal domain. Artois, the county of Burgundy, and some minor lands were retained by Louis as the dowry of Margaret of Burgundy, who was betrothed to the infant Dauphin. After this marriage had been finally broken off in 1491, Charles VIII restored Artois and Franche Comte to the house of Burgundy by the Treaty of Senlis (1493).
Thus ended the great duel of war and intrigue between Louis XI and Charles the Bold. The struggle had taxed the strength of France, which had hardly yet recovered from the Hundred Years' War. But the result was all or nearly all that could be wished. The old feud reappears in a new form in the rivalry of Charles V and Francis I. The danger was however then distinctly foreign; Charles the Bold, on the other hand, was still a French prince and relied on French territory and French support.
Second, but far inferior in power, to the Duke of Burgundy came the Duke of Britanny,—Duke by the grace of God. His duchy was indeed more sharply severed from the rest of France by conscious difference of blood; his subjects were not less warlike and of equal loyalty. But his province stood alone, and was not, like that of Charles the Bold, supported by other even more rich and populous territories forming part of France or of the Empire. The undesirable aid of England could be had for a price, and was occasionally invoked, but could never be a real source of strength. On the other hand, like Burgundy, Britanny was exempt from royal faille and aides, and was not even bound to support the King in his wars. The Duke of Britanny did only simple homage to the King for his duchy. The homage of his subjects to their Duke was without reserve. He had his own Court of appeal, his "great days," for his subjects. Only after this Court had pronounced, was resort allowed to the Parlement, on ground of deni de justice, or faux jugement.
Britanny sent no representatives to the French States-General. She had her own law, her own coinage, of both gold and silver. In 1438 she refused to recognise the Pragmatic. Yet French had here since the eleventh century been the language of administration. The Breton youth were educated at Paris or Angers. Breton nobles rose to fame and fortune in the King's service. In 1378 Jean IV was driven out for supporting too warmly the English cause. French tastes and sympathies were thus consistent with obstinate attachment to Breton independence.
To preserve this cherished independence, the Dukes maintained a long and unequal struggle. Charles V had attempted to annex the duchy by way of forfeiture, but soon found the task beyond his powers. In all the intrigues of the reign of Louis XI, the Duke of Britanny was either an open or a covert foe. His isolated position exposed him to the King's attacks, and although at one time, when allied with Charles, then Duke of Normandy, his armies occupied the western half of that province, the close of Louis' reign showed him distinctly weaker. The character of the last Duke, Francis II, was not such as to qualify him for making the best of a bad position. Weak, unwarlike, and easily influenced, he provoked a hostility which he was not man enough to meet.
In the intrigues against the government of Anne of Beaujeu during the minority of Charles VIII, Francis of Britanny was leagued with the Duke of Orleans, the Count of Angouleme, Rene of Lorraine and other discontented princes. Unfortunately the Duke's confidential minister, Landois, by his corrupt and oppressive rule, alienated a large part of his subjects, and provoked a revolt, which was supported by the Court of France. The Duke of Britanny was helpless. Louis of Orleans, who was already scheming for a divorce and an aspirant for the hand of Anne of Britanny, could render little assistance, and his undeveloped character was unequally matched with the political wisdom of Madame de Beaujeu. English aid was hoped for; but Richard III was fully occupied at home. Bourbon and d'Albret, who supported the coalition, were too distant to render effective aid. Thus the only result of the "Guerre Folle" was that Landois fell into the hands of the rebels, and was hanged. The hollow Peace of Beaugency and Bourges (1485) decided nothing, but gave the government time to strengthen its position. Henry Tudor, who had in the interval established himself in England, was indebted to France for opportune support and protection, and remembered his obligation for a time.
Landois removed, the Bretons remained disunited. French influence was disliked by all, and annexation to France abhorred. The Estates of Britanny (February, 1486) declared that the succession to the duchy belonged to the Duke's two daughters in order of birth, thus barring the rights of the House of Penthievre*, which Louis XI had purchased in 1480. But the Duke's attachment to his French advisers kept in vigour the Breton opposition, which was forced to lean upon the Court of France, and hoped nevertheless (by the Treaty of Chateaubriant, 1487) to secure the liberties of Britanny. For his part the Duke allied himself with Maximilian, recently elected King of the Romans, who began hostilities on the northern frontier of France in the summer of 1486, and, later in the same year, with Orleans, Lorraine, Angouleme, Orange, and Albret. Dunois, Lescun (now Comte de Comminges and Governor of Guyenne), Commines, and others, lent the weight of their experience and personal qualities. Bourbon this time stood aloof, and the French government promptly threw its whole force on the south-western Powers, who were forced to submit. Lescun was replaced in the government of Guyenne by the Sire de Beaujeu (March, 1487). The French army was then directed against Britanny, remaining in concert with the opposition within the duchy. A desultory campaign ensued, while des Querdes acted boldly and brilliantly against Maximilian in the north of France. The Sire de Candale, Beaujeu's lieutenant in Guyenne, prevented Albret from bringing aid to Francis, and forced him to give hostages for good behaviour. The Breton opposition under the Sire de Rohan held the north-west of the country and captured Ploermel. The French army met with little serious resistance except at Nantes, where they were forced to raise their siege; Norman corsairs blocked the coast, and the land was ravaged by friend and foe.
Early in 1488 the Duke of Orleans recovered for Francis Vannes, Auray, and Ploermel. Rohan was forced to capitulate. D'Albret obtained assistance from the Court of Spain, and joined the Duke's army with 5000 men; Maximilian had previously sent 1500 men. The young French general, La Tremouille, delayed on the borders of the duchy until his forces were complete. An English force landed under Lord Scales. On the other hand the Roman King was busy with rebellious Flanders, supported by des Querdes, and d'Albret was pushing his claims to the hand of the heiress of Britanny, which conflicted with the hopes of Maximilian, and of Louis of Orleans. At length La Tremouille was satisfied with his army of 15,000 men, including 7000 Swiss, and equipped with an admirable artillery. He gave battle (July, 1488) at St Aubin du Cormier, defeated the Breton host, and captured the Duke of Orleans. By the Peace of Le Verger (August) the Breton government pledged itself to dismiss its foreign allies, and to marry the Duke's daughters only with the King's consent. Four strong places and a substantial sum were to be given as guarantee. A few days after Francis II died. An amnesty was granted to d'Albret, Dunois, Lescun, and others; but the Duke of Orleans was kept a prisoner till 1491, as a penalty for his share in the rebellion.
Francis had left the guardianship of his daughters to the Marshal de Rieux, but this was promptly claimed by the royal Council. The French armies advanced to take possession of the duchy. Foreign powers intervened. Alliances were concluded in February, 1489, between Henry VII, Maximilian, and the Duchess Anne. Ferdinand and Isabel demanded the restitution of Roussillon, and on its refusal joined the league. Hereupon 2000 Spaniards and 6000 English landed in Britanny. But the Breton leaders were themselves divided. Rieux favoured the marriage proposals of d'Albret, who was with him at Nantes. The English, after first upholding d'Albret, advanced a candidate of their own. Dunois and others, with whom were the young princesses, opposed d'Albret, to whose unattractive person Anne took a strong dislike. Rohan had hopes for one of his sons.
The Peace of Frankfort (July, 1489) proved abortive so far as regards the affairs of Britanny, though it gave Maximilian a breathing space for making favourable terms with the cities of the Netherlands. Meanwhile the state of war in Britanny continued. Like Mary of Burgundy before her, Anne sought a deliverer from unwelcome suitors and the stress of war in the Austrian Archduke. Covetous as usual of a profitable marriage, Maximilian snatched a moment from the claims of other business, and caused full powers to be made out for the conclusion by proxy of a marriage-contract on his behalf. Ten days afterwards the King of Hungary and conqueror of Austria, Matthias Corvinus, died (April 6, 1490). The prospect of recovering Vienna and acquiring Hungary opened before the eyes of Maximilian. He was at once immersed in correspondence and preparations, then in war. Successes were followed by difficulties, difficulties by reverses. The War in Hungary was closed in November, 1491, by the Peace of Pressburg. Meanwhile his emissaries had not found their course quite clear in Britanny. A Spanish suitor was in the field, and a series of delays followed. At length (December, 1490) the wedding of Maximilian to the Breton heiress was solemnly concluded by his proxy. But while to protect his bride, even to make the bond secure, his personal presence was needed, the bridegroom lingered in Eastern lands, and the French pressed on. Albret, disgusted at his own rebuff, surrendered the castle of Nantes to the suzerain, and the town was shortly occupied. Henry VII and Ferdinand sent no aid. The Duke of Orleans was liberated and reconciled to the King, who was beginning to act on his own behalf. The Duchess was besieged at Rennes and was forced to accept the French terms, consisting of the rupture of her marriage with the Roman King, and her union with the King of France. Without waiting for the needful dispensations the contract was concluded, and the marriage followed (December, 1491).
The marriage with Anne involved a breach of the Treaty of Arras (1482), which stipulated that Charles should marry Margaret of Austria (indeed, the marriage had been solemnised, though not consummated), and led to the retrocession in 1493 to Maximilian of Franche Comte, Artois and minor places. Yet the gain was adequate. Britanny was not as yet united to the French Crown, but preserved its liberties and separate government. It was, however, agreed that Anne, if she survived her husband, should be bound to marry the successor, or presumptive successor, to the Crown. Louis XII, on his accession, realised his early wish, obtained a divorce from his saintly, unhappy wife, and became Anne's third royal consort. Dangerous plans were at one time pushed by Anne for the marriage of her daughter to the heir of Burgundy, Spain, and Austria, but these plans fortunately broke down, and the marriage of her elder daughter and heiress Claude to Francis of Angouleme prevented the separation of Britanny from France. In 1532 the Estates of Britanny under pressure agreed to the union of the province to the Crown; and its formal independence actually came to an end on the accession of King Henry II in 1547.
The Duke of Anjou, as holding in addition Lorraine, Provence, the titular crown of Naples, and the family appanage of Maine, was another powerful rival to the King. But Charles VII had married an Angevin wife, and was in intimate alliance with the House of Anjou. Throughout his long reign the Duke Rene (1431-81), more interested in literature and art and other peaceful pastimes than in political intrigue, gave little trouble to France. His son, John of Calabria, joined in the League of the Public Weal, but was afterwards reconciled to Louis XI. He lost his life in an adventurous attempt to win a crown in Catalonia (1470). The grandson, Nicolas of Calabria, was one of the aspirants to the hand of Mary of Burgundy, but died in 1472. The independence of Anjou, like that of most of the later appanages, was strictly limited. The Duke received neither tattle nor aides, but generally drew a fixed pension. Strictly he had not the right to maintain or levy troops, though this rule inevitably failed to act in time of revolution. But the domain profits were considerable, and the lack of direct royal government was a considerable diminution of the King's authority, and might at any time become a serious danger. In 1474 Louis XI took over the administration of Anjou, and in 1476, as it was reported that Rene had been meditating the bequest of Provence to Charles of Burgundy, the King forced on the old Duke a treaty whereby he engaged never to cede any part of that province to the enemies of France. On the Duke's death in 1480, his nephew Charles succeeded, but only survived him for a year, when by his will all the possessions of Anjou except Lorraine reverted to the Crown. The process of consolidation was proceeding apace. Provence had never hitherto been reckoned as part of France.
The tradition of feudal independence was nowhere stronger than in Guyenne. The revolt of the South against the Black Prince was occasioned by the levy of a fauage at a time when France was accepting a far more burdensome system of arbitrary taxation almost without a murmur. The great principalities of the South were Armagnac, Albret, and Foix. The Counts of Armagnac had been associated with the worst traditions of the anarchical period. Jean V carried into private life the lawless instincts of the family. Imprisoned by Charles VII for correspondence with the English government, he was liberated and treated witlfc favour by Louis XI. He requited his benefactor by revolt and treachery in the War of the Public Weal. Pardoned, he continued his game of disobedience and intrigue. The King's writ could hardly be said to run in Armagnac and its appendant provinces; the King's taxes were collected with difficulty, if at all; the Count's men-at-arms owned no restraint. Driven out in 1470, Jean returned under the protection of the King's brother, the Duke of Guyenne. In 1473 a fresh expedition was sent against him; Lectoure was surrendered; and the Count killed, perhaps murdered. His fate deserves less sympathy than it has found. The independence of Armagnac, Rouergue and La Marche was at an end.
His brother, Jacques, had a similar history. Raised to the duchy of Nemours and the pairie by Louis XI, he became a traitor in 1465, and was implicated in all the treacherous machinations of his brother. His fate was delayed till 1476, when he was arrested. His trial left something to be desired in point of fairness, but there can be little doubt that substantial justice was done, when he was executed in 1477. Charles VIII restored the duchy to his sons, one of whom died in the King's service at the battle of Cerignola. With him the male line of Armagnac became extinct.
The House of Albret was more fortunate. Though implicated in the League of the Public Weal, and in the Breton rebellion, this House incurred no forfeiture. But the long rule of Alain le Grand (1471-1522) illustrates pathetically the humiliations, vexations, and losses that so great a prince had constantly to endure through the steady pressure of the King's agents, lawyers, and financiers, and, in some cases, through the ill-will of his own subjects. In spite of his vast domains, his appeal Courts, his more than princely revenue, he was unable to meet his still greater expenses, swelled by the new luxury and by legal costs, without a heavy pension from the King. A man, reckoned to have received from the Crown in his fifty years no less than six millions l.t., cannot, however powerful he was, be regarded as independent. By marriage his House in the next generation acquired Navarre with Foix, and was ultimately merged in Bourbon, and in the Crown.
Other appanages call for little remark. Bourbon, with its ap-pendants, Auvergne, Beaujolais, Forez, and (1477) La Marche, was the most important. It was preserved from reunion to the Crown by the influence of Anne of Beaujeu, who secured it for her daughter and her husband, the Count of Montpensier. The duchy of Orleans with the county of Blois was united to the Crown at the accession of Louis XII. None of these important fiefs were free from the royal taxes or authority, though they enjoyed some administrative independence.
Princes and minor nobles alike were gradually brought into the King's obedience by the King's pay. While the poor gentlemen entered the King's service as guards, as men-at-arms, or even as archers, the great princes drew the King's pensions, or aspired to the lucrative captainship of a body of ordonnances. If of sufficient dignity and influence they might hope for the still more valuable post of governor in some province. When they had once learnt to rely on the mercenary's stipend, they could not easily bring themselves to exchange it for the old honourable, though lawless, independence. Gradually the provincial nobility became dependent on the Court, and in large measure resident there. This process begins in early times, but advances more rapidly under Charles VII and his successors, and is nearly completed under Francis I.
The third Order, that of the bourgeois of the bonnes villes, has lost all the political independence that it had ever possessed. The free communes of the North and North-east had succumbed as much by their own financial mismanagement as from any other cause. Throughout the fourteenth century the intervention of the King in the internal affairs of the towns became a normal experience, and Charles V actually suppressed a number of communes. A considerable degree of municipal liberty is left, but the power of political action is gone. The government is as a rule in the hands of a comparatively small number of well-to-do bourgeois, who support the King's authority, and from whom is drawn the most efficient class of financiers and administrators. In time of need they help the King with loans and exceptional gifts. Many of the towns are exempt from faille, but the aides fall heavily upon them. Louis XI continued on the same lines. He granted abundant privileges to towns-fairs, markets, nobility to their officers, and the right of purchasing noble fiefs. But their intervention in politics was not encouraged. On a slight provocation the King took the town government into his hands, and heavy was the punishment of a town like Reims or Bourges, that ventured to rebel.
The position of the peasants can only be faintly indicated here. Personal servitude still exists, though probably a majority of the serfs have been enfranchised. In either case the rights of the lord have as a rule become fixed. The peasants are for the most part holders at a quit rent or in mktayage, though bound to the corvee, and to the use of the lord's mill and of his bakehouse. If serfs, they are mainmortables, that is, their personal property belongs to their lords on their decease. Such a right obviously cannot be strictly exercised. Necessary agricultural stock must at least be spared. The lord can no longer tallage his peasants at will. His Courts are rather a symbol of his dignity and a source of petty profit, than a real instrument of arbitrary authority. Everywhere the King's power makes itself felt.
Thus the peasant was beginning to be more concerned in the character and policy of the King than in those of his lord, though, if the latter was imprudent, his peasants' crops might be ravaged. The rate of the King's faille made the difference between plenty and want. The faille cut the sources of wealth at their fountain-head, while the seigneur only diverted a portion of their flow. The faille was liable to more momentous variation than seigniorial dues; as imposed by Louis XI, it was almost, though not quite, as ruinous as the English War. Under Charles VIII and still more under Louis XII, the cessation of internal war, and the remission of faille, made these reigns a golden memory to the French peasant. Seyssel says that one-third of the land of France was restored to cultivation within these thirty years. Moreover, it was not until the reign of Louis XII that the peasant felt the full benefit that he should have received from the establishment of a paid army. Under Louis XI the discipline of the regulars was still imperfect; and the arriere-ban was even worse. For good government and for bad government alike the peasant had to pay; to pay less for better government was a double boon.
But what of that institution, the Estates General, that attempted to bring the three Orders (in which the peasants were not included) into touch with the central government? The representative institutions of France had always been the humble servants of the monarchy. At the utmost for a moment in the time of Etienne Marcel they had ventured to take advantage of the King's weakness, and to interfere in the work of government. The interesting ordinance of 1413, known as the Cabo-chienne, is not the work of the Estates, but of an alliance between the University, the people of Paris, and the Duke of Burgundy. As a rule, the Estates approach the King upon their knees. They supplicate, they cannot command. Legislation is not their concern; even if a great ordinance, as that of 1439, is associated with a meeting of Estates, it cannot be regarded as their work. Their single important function, that of assenting to the faille, is taken from them almost unobserved in 1439. The provincial Estates of central France continue to grant the tattle till 1451, when their cooperation also ceases. Normandy, and more definitely Languedoc and the later acquisitions, retain a shadow of this liberty. But with the power of the purse the power of the people passes slowly and surely to the King.
Parliamentarism was doomed. Louis XI only summoned the Estates once, in 1468, to confirm the revocation of the grant of Normandy which he had made to Charles. The Treaty of 1482, which required the consent of the Estates, was sanctioned by not less than 47 separate local assemblies of Estates. On his death an assembly was summoned to Tours (1484), which was perhaps the most important meeting of Estates General previous to 1789. Each Estate was here represented by elected members. Thus the freedom of the assembly was not swamped by the preponderance of princes and prelates. The persons who took the lead were distinctly of the middle class, gentlemen, bourgeois, clerks. Three deputies were as a rule sent from each ballliage or senechaussee; but to this there were many exceptions. The assembly was divided into six sections, more or less corresponding to the generalites,—Paris with the North-east, Burgundy, Normandy, Guyenne, Languedoc with Provence and Dauphine, and Languedoil, which comprised the whole of the centre of France together with Poitou and Saintonge. Each section deliberated separately. Then the whole met to prepare their bills of recommendations (cahiers), which were presented separately by the three Estates. The recommendations are business-like and strike at the root of many abuses. They suggested or foreshadowed many reforms actually carried out in the next thirty years. But they had no binding force. Their execution depended on the goodwill of the King's government. With such high matters as the constitution of the Council of Regency and the settlement of the rivalry between Beaujeu and Orleans the Estates ventured at most timidly to coquette. Finally they decided to take no part in the controversy and to leave all questions of government to be determined by the princes of the blood, who alone were competent to deal with them. They ventured however humbly to recommend that some of the wisest of the delegates should be called in to share the counsels of the government. In the matter of the taille they showed more earnestness, begging, indeed almost insisting, that a return should be made to the lower scale of Charles VII. Large concession was made to them in this respect; but the government neither resigned, nor had ever intended to resign, the absolute control over finance which it had acquired. Parliamentarism had perhaps a chance in 1484; but the tradition of humility and obedience, the sense of ignorance and diffidence in things political, were too strong, and the opportunity slipped away.
The assembly of Estates in 1506 was summoned to confirm the government in abandoning the marriage agreement already concluded between the eldest daughter of Louis XII, and the infant Duke of Luxemburg. Louis knew that his change of policy was popular, and was glad to strengthen his feeble knees with popularity against opposition in exalted quarters. But the royal will was decisive with or without the sanction of popular support.
After the battle of Nancy the King had no longer any single formidable rival within the limits of France. After the Wars of Britanny he needed no longer fear any coalition. His direct authority was enormously extended. Burgundy, Provence, Anjou, Maine, Guyenne with the dominions of Armagnac, had been annexed by the Crown, and Britanny was in process of absorption. Orleans and Blois were soon added. His power was at the same time gaining, and not only in extension, as the organs of his will became more fitted for its execution. Legislation was in his hands; the ordonnances were his permanent commands. In the business of making laws he was assisted by his Council, a body of sworn advisers, to which it was usual to admit the Princes of the Blood, though the King could summon or exclude whom he pleased at his discretion.
The amount of authority entrusted to the Council varied. It was said of Louis XI that the King's mule carried not only the King but his Council. It is certain that the Council never dominated him, and that he kept all high matters of State to himself and a few confidential advisers, though he made extensive use of the Council's assistance for less important things. Under a powerful minister like Georges d'Amboise the Council's advice might be useful, even necessary, but its wishes might be neglected. On the other hand, during the youth of Charles VIII the support of the Council was a valuable prop to Anne, who skilfully introduced into it men of her own confidence. The Princes of the Blood, with few exceptions, were irregular and fitful in their attendance. The professional men of affairs, legists and financiers, by their knowledge, industry, and regular presence, must have effectively controlled the business. And this was of the most varied and important character. Not only legislation, but all manner of executive matters came under its notice; police, foreign policy, ecclesiastical matters, finance, justice,—nothing was excluded from its purview. The members of the Council were numerous, their total amounting to fifty, sixty or more. After the death of Louis XI some attempt was made to limit the numbers to twelve or fifteen, and the name Conseil etroit was applied to this smaller body; but the endeavour, if serious, was unsuccessful; the numbers soon rose again, and were further swelled by the great men's habit of bringing with them their own private advisers.
The exercise of jurisdiction by this body often brought it into collision with the Parlement of Paris, whose decisions it sometimes quashed, and whose cases it evoked while still sub judice. Apparently under Louis XI first, and afterwards under his successors, a judicial committee of the King's Council was created to deal with contentious litigation. The specific name of Grand Conseil seems to attach to this tribunal, which was especially occupied with questions relating to the possession of benefices, and to the right of holding offices under the Crown. It is probable that the Parlement, always favourable to the Pragmatic, could not after its revocation be trusted in beneficiary actions to give judgments satisfactory to the Crown. Hence this extension and regularisation of the exceptional jurisdiction of the Council. The Estates of 1484 complained of the frequency of evocations, and interference with the ordinary course of justice, but in 1497 the Grand Conseil was consecrated by a new ordinance, making it in the main a Court of administrative justice. It then had in its turn to suffer the encroachments of the King's ordinary Council.
The Parlement of Paris was the supreme constitutional tribunal of law for the chief part of the kingdom. The jurisdiction of the King's Council sprang out of the plenitude of the royal power, and was hardly, except so far as the ordinance of 1497 extended, constitutional. For Languedoc the Parlement of Toulouse was created in 1443, for Dauphine that of Grenoble in 1453, that of Bordeaux for Guyenne in 1462, and that of Dijon for conquered Burgundy in 1477. Aix was the seat of a similar tribunal for Provence after 1501, and in 1515 the Exchequer of Normandy took the style of Parlement. Outside the limits of these jurisdictions the Parlement of Paris was the sovereign Court of appeal, and a Court of first instance for those persons and corporations which enjoyed the privilege (committimus) of resorting to it direct. Or don- -nances required to be registered and promulgated by the Court of the Parlement before they received the force of law. The Court assumed the right to delay the registration of objectionable laws; and its protest was in some cases effectual even under Louis XI; but as a rule, in response to its protests, peremptory lettres de jussion proceeded from the King, to which they yielded. The Court had succeeded to the rights of the Cour des pairs, to whom belonged the exclusive power of judging those few members of the highest nobility, who were recognised as pairs de France. When such a peer came before the Court, a few peers took their seat with the other Counsellors, and the Court was said to be garnie de pairs.
Besides the peers, there were in the Parlement eight maitres des requetes, and 80 counsellors, equally divided since the time of Louis XI between clerical and lay. The counsellors were appointed by the King on the nomination of the members of the Court. It was usual at this time for the Parlement to present three selected candidates, the King to name one. But it is difficult to say how far this really held good under Louis XI. Authors of the time speak as if the King had it in his hands to nominate counsellors at his will. But a counsellor would not infrequently resign in favour of some relative, who was allowed to continue his tenure as if no vacancy had taken place. The magistracy was thus in some measure heritable. Louis XI promised (in 1467) not to remove any counsellor except for misconduct, and instructed his son to respect this decision. It is doubtful whether the venality of offices in Parlement, whether by counsellors selling their seats to successors, or by the King, had begun to establish itself before the reign of Francis I.
The Parlement was an august and powerful body. It could on occasion show a high degree of independence and even of obstinacy. But it was accessible to influence. To push a case, to avoid delay, to secure delay, even to obtain a favourable decision, the letter or the personal intervention of a great man was powerful, the half-expressed desire of the King almost irresistible. In the highest criminal cases the jurisdiction of the Parlement was often, especially under Louis XI, superseded by the establishment of a special commission appointed for the case. Such commissions could hardly deliver an independent judgment, especially when, as sometimes happened, the prospective confiscation of the prisoner's property had been distributed beforehand among the members of the Court.
Subordinate jurisdiction was exercised in the first instance on the royal domain \yyprev6ts, vicomtes, or viguiers. Above them stood the baillis or senechaux*, who acted as judges of appeal for their districts, which were considerable in size, not only from the royal judges, but also from the seigniorial courts within the limits of their authority. They held periodical assizes, and were bound to appoint lieutenants under them. The baillis and senechaux had by this time lost their financial attributes, but they still duplicated military and judicial functions. When the ban et arriere-ban was called out, these officers assumed the command, and it was not till a later time that the office was divided so as to suit the two somewhat incompatible duties. Frequent edicts were passed to secure the residence of these important functionaries, but we not infrequently find the office held by a courtier, or by a soldier on campaign.
Among the great legislative acts of Charles VII the ordinance of Montils-lez-Tours ranks high, and settles the general rules of judicial procedure for the kingdom. The reign of Louis XII saw considerable reforms in the detail of judicial machinery (1499 and 1510), but the outline of the judicial constitution was not seriously changed. The codification of local customs projected by Louis XI was begun under Charles VIII, and carried on vigorously under Louis XII, but not completed at his death. More than a century elapsed before this great task was finally achieved. This reform affected the northern part of France which was governed by droit coutumier, as opposed to those provinces (Dauphine, Provence, Languedoc, Guyenne and Lyonnais), which were dominated by droit tcrit, a modified form of Roman law.
There were many officers of more dignity than real authority, whose posts were a heritage from the more primitive organisation of feudal times. The foremost of these was the Constable of France, whose sword of office was coveted by the greatest nobles of the realm. Great nobles were also given the rank and style of governors of provinces with viceregal powers; but the functions of such governors were not an essential part of the scheme of rule. More humble, but perhaps not less important, were the secretaries and notaries of bourgeois rank attached to the King's chancellery. Many of these, Bourre, for instance, and Balue, rose to great authority, wealth, and influence. The tendency to give real power and confidence rather to bourgeois, clerks, and poor gentlemen than to the highest nobility is marked both in Charles VII and Louis XL Of poor gentlemen so elevated Commines and Ymbert de Batarnay are conspicuous examples.
The multiplication of offices, especially of financial offices, is a cause of complaint at least from the time of Louis XI onwards. That King, regarding himself, in virtue of his consciousness of supreme political wisdom, as emancipated from all rules that experience teaches to small men, would, when anxious to reward a useful servant, create without scruple an office for his sake, as readily as he would alienate for him a portion of domain, or fix a charge upon a grenier of salt. The complaints of the Estates of 1484 suggest that the venality of offices, even judicial, had already begun. Certainly it was an evil day for France, when the sale of offices was first adopted as a financial expedient, whether by Louis XII in 1512, or by another sovereign.
The efficiency of the King's officers throughout the land is chiefly shown by their zeal for his interests and their own. Under Louis XII a considerable improvement is evident in the matters of public order and police, but on this side very much still remains to be desired. The police is in the hands of the prevots and baillis assisted by their sergens. The prevot of Paris also exercised a singular police jurisdiction throughout the land; and Louis XI made extensive use of the summary jurisdiction of the prevot des marechaux, whose powers properly extended only over the military.
Complicated as is the financial system of France at the end of the Middle Ages, an effort to understand it is not wasted. The life of the Middle Ages for the most part escapes all quantitative analysis; and even the detail of anatomy and function must in great measure remain unknown. It is much then that we are permitted to know the main outlines of the scheme which supplied the means for the expulsion of the English, for the long struggle with Charles the Bold and Maximilian, and for the Italian campaigns, as well as for the not inconsiderable luxury and display of the French Court in this period. It is much that we are able to give approximate figures for the revenue, and to guess what was the weight of the public burdens, and how and on whom they pressed. Moreover, the financial institutions are themselves of rare historical interest; for each anomaly of the system is a mark left on the structure of the government by the history of the nation.
The history of French finance in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries can be summed up with relative accuracy in a few words. When Philip the Fair first felt the need of extraordinary revenue, he endeavoured to secure the consent of the seigneurs individually for the taxation of their subjects. Afterwards the Estates made grants of imposts, direct and indirect, to meet exceptional emergencies. As the result of masked or open usurpation, the Kings succeeded in making good their claim to levy those taxes by royal fiat over the greater part of the kingdom.
In the earlier half of the fifteenth century it was still usual to secure the consent of the provincial Estates of at least the centre of France for the taUle. Under Charles VII this impost, the last and the most important, became, definitely and finally, an annual tax, and the fiction of a vote by the Estates, whether general or provincial, was almost entirely given up in Languedoil. From that time till the reforms of Francis I no important change in method was introduced. The screw was frequently tightened, and occasionally relaxed. New provinces were added to the kingdom, and received exceptional and indulgent treatment. But the main scheme of finance was fixed. Many of its features, indeed, were to remain unaltered till the Revolution. The revenue, as collected in the latter half of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century, is classed as ordinary and extraordinary. The ordinary revenue is the ancient heritage of the Kings of France, and comes from the domain lands and rights, being increased on the one hand by the acquisitions of the sovereigns, and diminished on the other by war and waste, extravagant donations, and from time to time by grants of appanages to the members of the royal house. A variety of profits accrue to the King from his position as direct proprietor of land, or as suzerain. Rents and fines, reliefs and escheats, sale of wood, and payments made in kind form one class of domain receipts; while the official seal required to authenticate so many transactions brings a substantial income, and the King still makes a profit by the fines and forfeitures decreed by his prevots and baillis in his local courts. The inheritance of foreigners (aubaine), and of bastards, is yet another valuable right. Regales, Jrancs-Jiefs, droits d'amortissements, are further items in a long list bristling with the technicalities of feudal law, as developed by the Kings with a single-minded attention to their own interest. Language, if not public feeling, still insists that this revenue is to be regarded as ordinary, while other revenue is in some sort extraordinary, if not illegitimate; but a King who should attempt to live upon his ordinary receipts would be poor indeed. The expenses of collecting the domaine are heavy, the waste and destruction of the Hundred Years' War and the extravagant administration of successive Kings have reduced the gross returns, until under Charles VII the domaine is estimated at no more than 50,000 clear annual livres tournois*; and although under Louis XI it may have risen to 100,000, under Louis XII to 200,000 or more, the total is insignificant compared with the needs even of a pacific and economical King.
To his assistance come the aides, gabelle, and tattle. The aides are indirect taxes, formerly imposed by the Estates General, but levied since Charles V by royal authority. There is a twentieth levied on the sale of goods, and an eighth, sometimes a fourth, on liquors sold retail. There are many kinds of duties and tolls levied on goods in transit, not only on the frontiers of the kingdom, but at the limits of the several provinces and elsewhere. These imports, multiplex as they are, and oppressive as they seem, bring in, from the farmers who compound for them, no more than 535,000 livres tournois in 1461; and in 1514 their return has not risen above 654,000 l.t. Languedoc has its separate excise duty on meat and fish, known as the equivalent, and collected by the authority of the Estates.
The gabelle du sel, once a local and seigniorial tax, has, since the time of Philippe de Valois, become a perpetual and almost universal royal impost. As a rule the salt of the kingdom is brought into the royal warehouses, greniers, and left there by the merchants for sale, this taking place in regular turn. A fixed addition for the royal profit is made to the price of the salt as it is sold; and heads of houses are required to purchase a fixed annual minimum of salt. In Languedoc the tax is levied on its passage from the salt works on the sea coast, and the black salt of Poitou and Saiiitonge gets off with a tax of 25 per cent.; but the general principle is the same. From a quarter upwards is added to the price of a necessary of life, and the product is in 1461 about 160,000 l.t., rising in the more prosperous times and with the more accurate finance of Louis XII to some 280,000 l.t.
Finally there is the tattle, jbuage, hearth or land-tax. The gradual process by which the right of the seigneurs to levy tattle on their subjects had passed into the exclusive possession of the King is too long to admit of being followed here. Here as in other cases the Estates at first permitted what the King afterwards carried on without their leave. Under the agonising pressure of foreign and civil war Charles VII was allowed,—we can hardly say that he was authorised,—to transform the tattle into an annual tax levied at the King's discretion. The normal total was fixed at 1,200,000 l.t.; but Charles VII established a precedent by imposing crues, or arbitrary additions to the tax, levied for some special emergency. The intervention of the Estates in Languedoil and Outreseine ceased; in Normandy it became a mere form; in Languedoc it was reduced to a one-sided negotiation between the province and the King, in which he might show indulgence, but the deputies could hardly show fight. Yet resistance was not infrequently tried, and was sometimes successful even with the inexorable Louis XI. On the other hand even in Languedoc a crue is sometimes ordered and paid without a vote, though never without protest. The tattle fell only on the roturiers, and spared the privileged orders of clergy and noblesse. In Languedoc the exemption followed the traditional distinction of tenements into noble and non-noble; in Languedoil the peasant paid if occupying a noble fief, the noble was exempt, although in actual possession of a villain holding.
Thus the clergy and the nobility escaped, except in a few cases, the direct burden of the principal tax. Speaking generally, they did not escape the burden of the aides and gabelle, though they had certain privileges. Royal officers for the most part escaped not only tattle but gabelle. Many of the principal towns also escaped the former. Such were Paris, Rouen, Laon, Reims, Tours, and many others. There were other inequalities and injustices. Normandy paid one-fourth of the whole toi&,—a monstrous burden upon a province which had suffered not less than any other from the War. The proportion of one-tenth fixed on Languedoc was probably also excessive. In the recherche of 1491 it was calculated that Languedoil paid 19 l.t. per head, Outreseine 27, Normandy 60, and Languedoc 67,—an estimate which may be very far from the facts, but gives the result of contemporary impression. Guyenne, when added to the direct dominion of the Crown, escaped in large measure the aides, and was allowed to vote a small contribution by way of tattle. Burgundy compounded for her share of taille by an annual vote of about 50,000 l.t., contributing also to aides and gahelle. Provence was allowed to keep her own Estates and to vote a moderate subsidy. The independent and privileged position of Britanny was not altered until after the death of Louis XII. Dauphine was treated with a consideration even greater than was warranted by its poverty. Thus the main tax, unevenly distributed as it was, pressed the more heavily on the cultivators of the less fortunate regions. It is not uncommon to hear of the inhabitants of some district under Charles VII or Louis XI preferring to leave home and property rather than bear the enormous weight of the public burdens. The taxable capacity of the people was constantly increasing in the latter half of the fifteenth century; but under Louis XI the burdens increased with more than equal rapidity. The taille increased from 1,035,000 l.t. in 1461 to some 3,900,000 in 1483. From the pressing remonstrances of the Estates in 1484 a great alleviation resulted. The taille was reduced to 1,500,000 l.t. and although the expedition of Naples, the War of Britanny, and other causes, necessitated a subsequent rise, the figures remained far below the level of Louis XFs reign. Louis XII was enabled, in spite of his ambitious schemes, to effect further reductions; but the War of Cambray and its sequel swept away nearly all the advantage that had been gained. The revenue raised in 1514 was as high as the highest raised under Louis XI. But the aides and domaine were more productive; the taille was less, and weighed less heavily on a more prosperous nation.
Under Philip the Fair and his successors down to Charles VII a considerable though precarious revenue had often been realised by the disastrous method of tampering with the standard of value. In the latter years of Charles VII and under his three successors this device was rarely employed. A considerable depreciation may be indeed observed between the standard of Louis XII and that of Charles VII; but the changes were far less important and frequent than those of the earlier period. A certain revenue was obtained by legitimate seigniorage, and the illegitimate profits of debasement and the like may be almost neglected.
The system of collection was still only partially centralised, and marked the imperfect union of the successive acquisitions of the monarchy. For the collection and administration both' of domaine and extraordinary revenue the older provinces were distributed into four divisions. Western Languedoil was administered with Guyenne; but the parts of Languedoil beyond Seine and Yonne, when reunited to the Crown, about 1436, were organised as a separate financial group (Outre-seine). Normandy formed a third and separate administrative area. Administrative Languedoc, that is to say the three senechaussees of Carcassonne, Beaucaire, and Toulouse, forms the fourth. Picardy, Burgundy, Dauphine, Provence, Roussillon and of course Britanny, were not included in the general scheme. Milan had its separate financial establishment, and maintained 600 lances. .In these last-mentioned provinces the ordinary and extraordinary revenue were administered together; elsewhere domaine and extraordinary revenue were separated. For the administration of the domaine each of the four main divisions had a separate treasurer, who was practically supreme in his own district. Under them were as administrators on the first line the baillis or senechaux, on the second, the prevots, vicomtes, or viguiers. The separation of the receipt from the administration of funds is a principle that runs through the whole system of finance both ordinary and extraordinary. Accordingly, there is a receveur for each prevote or other subdivision, and a general receiver for the whole domain, known as the changeur du Tresor. But the actual collection of cash at the central office was in large measure avoided, partly by charging the local officer of receipt with all local expenses, and partly by a system of drafts on local offices adopted for the payment of obligations incurred by the central government. The beneficiary presented his draft to the local receveur or grenetier, or discounted it with a broker, who forwarded it to his agent for collection. The same plan was adopted in the extraordinary finance, and made an accurate knowledge of the financial position, and correct supervision of the accounts, a matter of extreme difficulty. Contentious business was either settled by the baillis or prevots, or by a central tribunal of domaine finance, the Chambre du Tresor, or in some cases by the Chambre des Comptes or the Parlement.
The same regions of France were similarly divided for extraordinary finance into four generalites. At the head of each were two generaux, one pour le fait des finances, the other pour le fait de la justice. The four generaux de la justice met together to form the Cour des Aides, an appeal Court for contentious questions arising out of the collection of the extraordinary revenue. There are other Cours des Aides, at Montpellier for Languedoc, and at Rouen for Normandy. Each general des finances was supreme in the administration of his own generalite. Associated with each general there was a receveur general, who guarded the cash and was accountable for it. In Languedoc the partition and collection of faille and the collection of aides was managed by the Estates of the province. The other three generalites (except Guyenne, which was administered by commissioners) were divided into elections, a term reminiscent of the earlier system when the Estates collected the sums they had voted and elected the supervising officers. The elus, who stood at the head of each Election, and whose duty it was to apportion the tattle over the several parishes, to let out the aides, and to act as judges of first instance in any litigation that might arise, were now, as they had long since been, the nominees of the King. Beside them stood the receveurs, who as a rule handled the product both of tattle and aides. As a general rule each receveur, whether of ordinary or extraordinary finance, was doubled with a comptroller, whose business it was to check his accounts, and fortify his honesty. The aides were let out at farm. The actual collection of the tattle was carried out by locally appointed collectors, who received five per cent, for their trouble. The assessment on individuals was the work of locally elected asseeurs. The collection of the gabelle was in the hands of special officers. Each grenier had a receiver called grenetier and the inevitable contreroleur.
All accounts of the area so circumscribed were inspected and passed by a superior body, the Chambre des Comptes. Separate Courts were also set up at Nantes, Dijon, Aix, and Grenoble for their respective provinces. The Chambre des Comptes of Paris was differently composed at different times but consisted in 1511 of two presidents and ten maitres des Comptes. It had power to impose disciplinary penalties on financial officers, and claimed to be a sovereign Court, exempt from the controlling jurisdiction of the Parlement, but this claim was not always successfully maintained. All alienations of domain, and pensions for more than a brief period of years, had to be registered in the Chambre des Comptes,—a form which gave this Court the opportunity to protest against, and at any rate to delay, injudicious grants.
As will be seen, this financial system by no means lacked checks and safeguards; rather perhaps it erred on the side of over-elaboration. Although an immense improvement is perceptible since the time of Charles VI, there can be little doubt that the system suffered from considerable leakage. The men employed in the King's finance were mostly of bourgeois rank; Jacques Cceur, Guillaume and Pierre Bricon-net, Jacques de Beaune, Etienne Chevalier, Jean Bourre, are among the most famous names; in many cases they were related to each other by blood or marriage, and they all, almost without exception, became very rich. In some cases this need be thought no shame; thus Jacques Coeur no doubt owed his wealth to the inexhaustible riches of oriental trade. But as a rule servants only grow rich at the expense of their master; and it is a sign of evil augury when the servant lends his master money, as for instance Jacques de Beaune did on a large scale. This great financier was in the ambiguous position of a banker who himself discounted the bills just signed by him for his King. The business was legitimate, and lucrative because of its very hazardousness; but it comported ill with a position of supreme financial trust and responsibility.
Not only was the system of control imperfect, and the tradition of honesty unsatisfactory, but the scheme lacked unity of direction. There was no single responsible financial officer. Jacques de Beaune (sieur de Semblencay, 1510-23) enjoyed a certain priority of dignity, but exercised no unifying authority. Once a year the treasurers and g&n&-raux, "Messieurs des finances" met in committee and drew up in concert the budget for the year. So much being expected as receipt from domaine, aides, and gahelle, and so much anticipated as expenditure,—then the faille must be so much to meet the balance. And to a certain extent the Council of State kept its hand on finance, assisted at need by the financial officers specially convened. But unity of management and administration was conspicuously wanting.
The expenditure of the four Kings cannot, on the whole, if tried by a royal standard, be called extravagant. The most questionable item is that of pensions. Pensions were not only used to reward services, and gratify courtiers, but were also given on a large scale to Princes of the Blood and considerable nobles. Historically such pensions may be regarded as some compensation for the loss of the right of raising aides and taille in their own domain, which had once belonged to personages holding such positions, but which since 1439 had remained categorically abolished. With the fall of Charles the Bold and the absorption of Britanny the last examples of princes enjoying such rights unquestioned disappeared. Politically such pensions were intended to conciliate possible opponents and enemies, for the great princes, though stripped by law of their chief powers, still possessed in spite of the law sufficient influence and authority to raise a war. How strong such influence might be we see in 1465, when not only Britanny and Burgundy, but Bourbon, Armagnac, and d'Albret, found their subjects ready to follow them against the King.
Such pensions were an old abuse. Louis XI found in them one of his most powerful political engines, and distributed them with a lavish hand. The pensions bill rose under him from about 300,0001.1. to 500,000. In addition there were the great English pensions, and the pensions to the Swiss. The totals were probably not much less under Charles VIII; but Louis XII reduced them at one time so low as 105,000 and seems to have effected a substantial average diminution. However, the practice of charging pensions on local sources of revenue, especially the greniers of salt, prevents the whole magnitude of this waste from coming into view.
The expenses of the Court, largely military, rose under Louis XI from about 300,000 to 400,000 U.; and seem to have been reduced by half or more by Louis XII. Military expenses are of course the chief item of the budget. The constantly increasing expenditure of Louis XI is chiefly due to the cost of the army. The establishment rose from 2000 lances to 3,884 in 1483, when there was also a standing army of 16,000 foot at Pont de l'Arche in Normandy, including 6,000 Swiss. The cost of the army on a peace footing is not less in this year than 2,700,000 l.t. The difficulties of Louis XI were very great, and the results of his military expenditure on the whole commensurate with the sacrifices, but he seems in his later years to have been driven by nervous fear to excessive precaution.
The military budget of the succeeding Kings was conspicuously less. The War of Naples was chiefly waged on credit, and at the death of Charles VIII a deficit of 1,400,000 remained unliquidated, but in no year can the totals of Louis XI have been passed; perhaps in 1496 they may have been reached. Louis XII carried on his wars very economically until the deserved disasters of the War of Cambray. The taille of these years speaks for itself. It rises steadily from 2,000,000 l.t. in 1510 to 3,700,000 in 1514, and the father of his people left an additional deficit of a million and a half.
The new conditions, political and social, of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in France had long demanded a reorganisation of the army. Service by tenure had lost its meaning since, in the time of Philip the Fair, the practice of paying the contingents had been adopted. There is little that is feudal in the organisation of the French army during the Hundred Years' War, much more that is anarchical, and a little that is royal. At most the feudal aristocracy supplies some of the cadres in which the troops are embodied. But the aristocracy is not a necessary but an accidental feature of the scheme. The organisation of the host and of its units does not follow the lines of the feudal hierarchy. The King is a rallying-point, giving rise to a delusive sense of unity of direction; chance and the love of fighting accomplish the rest. For a few years the centralising purpose of Charles V warranted better hopes, which perished with his death.
As the War continues, the professional soldier, the professional captain, becomes all in all. This soldier or captain may be a noble, born to the art of arms, but side by side with him are many adventurers sprung from the lower orders. They are glad to receive pay if pay is forthcoming; if not, they will be content with loot; in any case they are lawless, landless, homeless mercenaries, who live upon the people, and are the terror rather of friend than of foe. This lack of even feudal discipline in France is the cause of the success of the better-organised armies of England. It is also the principal cause of the horrors of the endless War. When a respite intervenes, the country knows no peace till the mercenaries are sent to die abroad,—in Castile, in Lorraine, or against the Swiss.
To have put an end to this misrule is the conspicuous service of Charles VII and his successors. In 1439, on the occasion of a great meeting of the Estates at Orleans, the King and his Council promulgated a notable edict. The number of captains was henceforth to be fixed, and no person was under the gravest penalties to entertain soldiers without the King's permission. A pathetic list follows of customary outrages, which are now forbidden; and the captains are made responsible for the good conduct of their men. The seneschals and bailiffs are given authority, if authority suffices, to punish any military crimes whatsoever, and wheresoever committed. The financial side of the measure is indicated by a clause prohibiting all lords from levying tallies in their lands without the King's leave, impeding the collectors of the King's faille, or collecting any increment on their own account. The King intends to have an army, to have the only army, to have it disciplined and obedient, and to have the money for its pay.
Unfortunately the revolt known as the Praguerie, which broke out soon after, impeded the development of this plan. The Armagnacs were then sent to be let blood in Lorraine and Switzerland. The warlike operations of 1444 having been carried out, the scheme took effect in the following year. Fifteen companies of one hundred "lances" were instituted, each under a captain appointed by the King. It would seem that five more were to be supported by Languedoc. Each "lance" was to consist of one man-at-arms, two archers, a swordsman, a valet, and a page, all mounted and armed according to their quality. The page and the valet were the servants of the man-at-arms, but the valet at least was a fighting man. The method of organisation is strange, but has an historical explanation. It had long been customary for the man-at-arms to take the field accompanied by several armed followers; the ordinance adopted the existing practice. Its effect was to establish several different sorts of cavalry, light and heavy, capable of manoeuvring separately, and useful for different purposes; but tradition required that they should be grouped in "lances," and it was long before the advantage of separating them was understood. For a time the superstitious imitation of English tactics made the men-at-arms dismount for the shock of battle; but they learned their own lesson from experience, and found that few could resist the weight of armoured men and heavy horses charging in line.
At first the new companies were quartered on the several provinces, and the task of providing for them was left to the local Estates. But before long the advantage of regular money payment was perceived, and a tattle was levied to provide monthly pay, at the rate of thirty-one livres per lance.
The force of standing cavalry so formed became the admiration of Europe. Their ranks were mainly filled with noblemen, whose magnificent tradition of personal courage and devotion to the practice of arms made them the best possible material. In four campaigns they mastered and expelled the English. In Britanny, in Italy, on a score of fields they proved their bravery, their discipline, their skill. They had undoubtedly the faults of professional soldiers, but their virtues no body of men ever had in a higher degree. Even the moral tone of an army that trained and honoured Bayard could not be altogether bad. Fortunately perhaps for Europe, the King's efforts to form an adequate force of infantry were not equally successful. In 1448 each parish was ordered to supply an archer fully armed for fighting on foot. The individual chosen was to practise the bow on feast-days and holidays, and to serve the King for pay when called upon. In return he was freed from the payment of tattle, whence the name francs archers. Later the contingent was one archer to every fifty feuoc, and under Louis XI it was reckoned that there were some 16,000 men in this militia. Four classes were then differentiated; pikemen, halberdiers, archers, cross-bowmen. They were organised in brigades of 4,000 under a captain-general, and bands of 500 under a captain. They did not however prove efficient, and in 1479 disgraced themselves at Guinegaste. Louis XI then dismissed them and established a standing army of 16,000 foot at Pont de TArche in Normandy, of whom 6,000 were Swiss. To meet the expense and provide regular pay, an extra tattle was imposed.
The cost of this army led to its disbandment in the next reign, and Charles VIII tried to revive the institution of free archers. Free archers fought on both sides in the Wars of Britanny. But they were not taken to Naples, and although they are still mentioned occasionally, they saw no further service in the period now under review.
Louis XII relied largely on Swiss, and afterwards on Germans. But he also organised bands of French aventuriers under the command of gentlemen. Those who guarded the frontier of Picardy were known as the bandes de Picardie. Levies were also made in Gascony, Britanny, Dauphine, and Piedmont. But they were usually disbanded on the conclusion of a war. For garrison duty a force of veterans was kept on foot known as morte-paies. But the infantry arm of the service continued to be unsatisfactory. The general levy of all those bound to bear arms, known as ban et arriere-ban, was not infrequently called out by Louis XI, but proved disorderly and unserviceable.
The artillery was first organised under Charles VII by the brothers Bureau. The French artillery was distinguished by its comparative mobility, and discharged iron shot. It was under the command of the grand maitre de rartttlerie, and served as a model to the rest of Europe. We find under Louis XI, and afterwards, an organised force of sappers.
The navy depended still in large measure on the impressment of merchant vessels and seamen. Normandy, Provence, and afterwards Britanny, were the chief recruiting grounds. In the Italian Wars we find the French Kings chiefly dependent on Genoa for galleys. But under Louis XII a few war vessels were built and owned by the King. The French mounted heavy guns on large ships with excellent results.
Everywhere we find invention at work, directed for the most part to practical construction and consolidation. Commerce was stirring. The French were directing their attention to the oriental trade, in which Jacques Cceur and the Beaune family founded their fortunes. Breton sailors went far afield, traded with the Canaries and Madeira, and were fishing cod off Iceland, perhaps on the Banks of Newfoundland, long before the recognised discovery of the New World. But internal trade was more prosperous than foreign. In spite of paralysing tariffs on the frontiers of provinces and the myriad peages which the Kings in vain attempted to keep down, steady progress was made. The misfortunes of Bruges and Ghent, Liege and Dinant, left a gap in home markets which French traders partly succeeded in filling. The silk trade took root at Tours and Lyons, and was encouraged by Louis XI. Reviving agriculture stimulated commercial and industrial life in many a country town, and small fortunes were frequently made. The marvellous recuperative power of France was never more clearly seen than in the half century after the English wars.
The middle of the fifteenth century saw a national revival of art in France. French miniaturists had long explored the resources and perhaps reached the limits of their charming art. The Hours of the Duke of Berry, dating from the early fifteenth century, are hardly to be surpassed. But Jean Foucquet (1415-80) was not only a master among masters of miniature, but a painter prized even in Italy. His work is interesting as showing the taste for classical architecture in works of fancy long before it had begun to influence the constructions of French builders. It is probable that the competition of Italian painters for the patronage of the great, which begins immediately after the Italian wars, checked the growth of an indigenous French school of painting, which might have fulfilled the promise of French miniaturists. In sculpture a school arose at Dijon under Charles VI, which is original and fruitful. In this school was trained Michel Colombe (who died in 1512); his masterpiece is perhaps the tomb of Francis II at Nantes.
Gothic ecclesiastical architecture had lost itself in the meaningless elaborations of the decadent "Flamboyant." But in domestic architecture the corps de metier were still capable of producing such masterly work as the house of Jacques Coeur at Bourges, and, in.the reign of Louis XI, the castles of Langeais and Le Plessis Bourre, still standing solid and reminiscent of the necessities of defence. Amboise, of a still later date, shows the same characteristics. Gradually classical influence begins to modify, first detail, then construction. The results may be seen in Louis XII's part of the castle of Blois. But the golden age of , French Renaissance architecture is the reign of Francis I, when first the castle put off its heavy armour, and assumed the lightness, grace, and gaiety, so well known to travellers on the Loire.
In literature, the excellence of the best is so great that it makes us the less willing to remain content with the dull mediocrity of the mass. Charles of Orleans' melancholy, musical verse fixes in perpetuity the fragrance of the passing ideals of chivalry. Villon, closely conversant with the pathos and humours of the real, veils it gracefully and slightly in transparent artificialities. Commines, naif, for all his dignified reserve, cold wisdom, and experienced cynicism, ranks alike with those who have rediscovered the art of history, and with those who have assisted to perfect French prose. Chastelain, burdened with cumbrous rhetoric and prone to useless sermonising, can on occasion tell a stirring tale, and proves his faults to be not of himself, but of his school. For the rest, in poetry and prose, whether the tedious allegories learnt from the Roman de la Rose prevail, or the not less tedious affectations of classical imitation, or the laboured tricks of a most unhappy school of verse, there are few names that deserve to be remembered.
In the world of thought the French clung longer than other nations to the traditions of Scholasticism. But the school of Nicolas of Cusa, which represents a transitional movement from medieval to Renaissance philosophy, had its followers in France, of whom the first was Jacques le Fevre d'F^taples, and the most distinguished Carolus Bovillus.
To deal adequately with the men whose accumulated endeavours restored order, unity, and prosperity to France after the English wars would need a volume, not a chapter. Many of them, humble, obscure, energetic, faithful, escape the notice of the historian. Valuable monographs have been written upon some, but no adequate memorial exists of the most powerful French minister of the time, Georges d'Amboise, without whom nothing of moment whether good or bad was done during the best years of Louis XII. One figure stands out above all others,—Louis XI, of the four Kings the only one who both reigned and governed. Whether we condemn or whether we condone the remorseless rigour with which that King pursued his public ends, whether we regret the absolute monarchy which he established, or accept it as having been the only possible salvation of France, we cannot deny to him the name of great. Great he was in intellect and in tenacity of purpose, great in prosperity and even greater in misfortune. Whatsoever he did had its determined end, and that end was the greatness of France,—or, if the expression be preferred, of the French monarchy. The universal condemnation which he has incurred may be ascribed chiefly to two causes: the unrelenting sternness with which he visited treachery in the great, and the severity of the taxation which he found it necessary to impose. The world was shocked by the fate of Jean d'Armagnac, Jacques de Nemours, Louis de St Pol, Cardinal Balue, and by the cynical methods which achieved their ruin. Looking back without passion, we pronounce their sentence just. The burden of taxes was cruel, and the stories we read in Brantome and elsewhere of lawless and inhuman executions are probably not without foundation. These methods may be supposed to have been required to bring the enormous taxes in. The gabelle. We need not accept the number; the Estates believed many strange tales; but the suggestion is instructive, and helps to explain the legends of apparently meaningless slaughter wrought upon the humble. In the struggle for life and death in which France was engaged those taxes and perhaps those executions saved her; the King's crimes were national crimes, and national crimes are not to be judged by the standards of domestic morality. The France of Louis XII is the justification of Louis XI.