FRENCH HISTORY (cont.)
The Feudal Monarchy: (b) The Early Valois. Kings Hundred Years War (1337-1453)
Charles, count of Valois, was the younger brother of Philip the Fair, and therefore uncle of the three sovereigns lately dead. His eldest son Philip had been appointed guardian to the queen of Charles IV.; and when it appeared that she had given birth to a daughter and not a son, the barons, joining with the notables of Paris and the good towns, met to decide who was by right the heir to the throne, "for the twelve peers of France said and say that the crown of France is of such noble estate that by no succession can it come to a woman nor to a womans son," as Froissart tells us. This being their view, the baby daughter of Charles IV. was at once set aside, and the claims of Edward III. of England, if, indeed, he ever made it, rested on Isabella of France, his mother, sister of the three sovereigns. And if succession through a female had been possible, then the daughters of those three kings had rights to be reserved. It was, however, clear that the throne must go to a man, and the crown was given to Philip of Valois, founder of a new house of sovereigns.
The new monarch was a very formidable person. He had been a great feudal lord, hot and vehement, after feudal fashion; he was now to show that he could be a severe master, a terrible king. He began his reign by subduing the revolted Flemings on behalf of his cousin Louis of Flanders, and having replaced him in his dignities, returned to Paris, and there held high state as king. And he clearly was a great sovereign: the weakness of the late king had not seriously injured France; the new king was the elect of the great lords, and they believed that his would be a new feudal monarchy; they were in the glow of their revenge over the Flemings for the day of Courtrai; his cousins reigned in Hungary and Naples, his sisters were married to the greatest of the lords; the queen of Navarre was his cousin; even the youthful king of England did him homage for Guienne and Ponthieu. The barons soon found out their mistake. Philip IV., supported by the lawyers, struck them whenever they gave him opening; he also dealt harshly with the traders, hampering and all but ruining them, till the country was alarmed and disconnected. On the other hand, young Edward of England had succeeded to a troubled inheritance, and at the beginning was far weaker than his rival; his own sagacity, and the advance of constitutional rights in England, soon enabled him to repair the breaches in his kingdom, and to gather fresh strength from the prosperity and good-will of a united people. While France followed a more restrictive policy, England threw open her ports to all comers; trade grew in London as it waned in Paris; by his marriage with Philippa of Hainault, Edward secured a noble queen, and with her the happiness of his subjects and the all-important friendship of the Low Countries. In 1336 the folly of Philip VI. persuaded Louis of Flanders to arrest the English merchants them in Flanders; whereon Edward retaliated by stopping the export of wool; and Jacquemart van Arteveldt of Ghent, then at the beginning of his power, persuaded the Flemish cities to throw off all allegiance to their French-loving count, and to place themselves under the protection of Edward. In return Philip VI. put him self in communication with the Scots, the hereditary foes of England; and the great wars which were destined to last 116 years, and to exhaust the strength of two strong nations, were now about to begin. They brought brilliant and barren triumphs to England, and, like most wars, were a wasteful and terrible mistake, which, if crowned with ultimate success, might, by removing the center of the kingdom into France, have marred the future welfare of England; for the happy constitutional development of the country could never have taken place with a sovereign living at Paris, and French interests becoming ever more powerful. Fortunately, therefore, while the war evoked by its brilliant successes the national pride of Englishment, by its eventual failure it was prevented from inflicting permanent damage on England.
The war began in 1337, and ended in 1453; the epochs in it are the treaty of Bretigny in 1360, the treaty of Troyes in 1422, the final expulsion of the English in 1453.
The French king seems to have believed himself equal to the burdens of a great war, and able to carry out the most far-reaching plans. The pope was entirely in his hands and useful as a humble instrument to curb and harass the emperor. Philip had proved himself master of the Flemish, and, with help of the king of Scotland, hoped so to embarrass Edward III, as to have no difficulty in eventually driving him to cede all his French possessions. While he thought it his interest to wear out his antagonist without any open fighting, it was Edwards interest to make vigorous and striking war. France therefore stood on the defensive; England was always the attacking party. On two sides, in Flanders and in Brittany, France had outposts which, if well-defended, might long keep the English power far away from her vitals. Unluckily for his side, Philip was harsh and rash, and threw these advantages away. In Flanders the repressive commercial policy of the count, dictated from Paris, gave Edward the opportunity, in the end, of 1337, of sending the earl of Derby with a strong fleet to raise the blockade of Cadsand, and to open the Flemish markets by a brilliant action, in which the French chivalry was found powerless against the English yeomen-archers; and in 1338 Edward crossed over to Antwerp to see what forward movement could be made. The other frontier war was that of Brittany, which began a little later (1341). The openings of the war were gloomy and wasteful, without glory. Edward did not actually send defiance to Philip till 1339, when he proclaimed himself king of France, and quartered the lilies of France on the royal shield. The Flemish proved a very reed; and though the French army came up to meet the English in the Vermandois country; no fighting took place, and the campaign of 1339 ended obscurely. Norman and Genoese ships threatened the southern shores of England, landing at Southampton and in the Isle of Wight unopposed. In 1340 Edward returned to Flanders; on his way he attacked the French fleet which lay at Sluys, and utterly destroyed it. The great victory of Sluys gave England for centuries the mastery of the British Channel. But, important as it was, it gave no success to the land-campaign. Edward wasted his strength on an unsuccessful siege of Tournai, and, ill-suoorted by his Flemish allies, could achieve nothing. The French king in this year seized on Guienne; and from Scotland tidings came that Edinburgh castle, the strongest place held by the English, had fallen into the hands of Douglas. Neither fromm Flanders nor from Guienne could Edward hope to reach the heart of the French power; a third inlet now presented itself in Brittany. On the death of John III. of Brittany in 1341, John of Montfort, his youngest brother, claimed the great fief against his nieve Jeanne, daughter of his elder brother Guy, count of Penthievre. He urged that the Salic law which had been recognized in the case of the crown, should also apply to this great duchy, so nearly an independent sovereignty . Jeanne had been married to Charles of Blois, whom John III. of Brittany had chosen as his heir; Charles was also nephew of king Philip, who gladly espoused his cause. Thereon John of Montfort appealed to Edward, and the two kings again met in border strife in Brittany. The Bretons sided with John against the influence of France. Both the claimants were made prisoners; the ladies carried on a chivalric warfare, Jeanne of Montfort against Jeanne of Blois, and all went favorably for the French party till Philip, with a barbarity as foolish as it was scandalous, tempted the chief Breton lords to Paris and beheaded them without trial. The war, suspended by a truce, broke out again , and the English raised large and supplies, meaning to attack on three sides at once, - from Flanders, Brittany, and Guienne. The Flemish expedition came to nothing; for the people of Ghent in 1345 murdered Jacques van Arteveldt as he was endeavoring to persuade them to receive the Prince of Wales as their count; and Edward, on learning this adverse news, returned to England. Thence in July 1346 he sailed for Normandy, and landing at La Hogue overran with ease the country up to Paris. He was not, however, strong enough to attack the capital, for Philip lay with a large army watching him at St Denis. After a short hesitation Edward crossed the Seine at Poissy, and struck northwards, closely followed by Philip. He got across the Somme safely, and at Crecy in Ponthieu stood at bay to await the French. Though his numbers were far less than theirs, he had a good position, and his men were of good stuff; and when it came to the battle, the defeat of the French was crushing. Philip had to fall back with his shattered army; Edward withdrew unmolested to Calais which he took after a long siege in 1347. Philip had been obliged to call up his son John from the south, where he was observing the English under the earl of Derby; thereupon the English overran all the south, taking Poitiers, and finding no opposition. Queen Philippa of Hainault had also defeated and taken David of Scotland at Nevbilles Cross.
The campaign of 1346-1347 was on all hands disastrous to King Philip. He sued for an obtained a truce for ten months. These were the days of the "black death," which raged in France from 1347 to 1349, and completed the gloom of the country, vexed by an arbitrary and grasping monarch, by unsuccessful war, and now by the black cloud of pestilence. In 1350 King Philip died, leaving his crown to John of Normandy. He had added two districts and a title to France: he bought Montpellier from James of Aragon, and in 1349 also bought the terriotiries of Humbert, dauphin of Vienne, who resigned the world, under influence of the revived religion of the time, a consequence of the plague, and became a Carmelite friar. The fief and the title of dauphin were granted to Charles, the kings grandson, who was the first person who attached that title to the heir to the French throne. Apart from these small advantages the kingdom of France had suffered terribly from the reign of the false and heartless Philip VI. Nor was France destined to enjoy better things under John "the Good," one of the worst sovereign with whom she has been cursed. He took as his model and example the chivalric John of Bohemia, who had been one of the most extravagant and worthless of the princes of his time, and had perished in his old age at Crecy. The first act of the new king was to take from his kinsman, Charles "the Bad" of Navarre, Champagne and other lands; and Charles went over to the English king. King John was keen to fight; the States- General gave him the means for carrying on war, by establishing the odious "gabelle" on salt and other imposts. John hoped with his new army to drive the English completely out of the country. Petty war began again on all the frontiers, - an abortive attack on Calais, a guerilla warfare in Brittany, slight fighting also in Guienne. Edward in 1335 landed at Calais, but was recalled to pacify Scotland; Charles of Navarre and the duke of Lancaster were on the Breton border; the Black Prince sailed for Bordeaux. In 1356 he rode northward with a small army to the Loire, and king John, hastily summoning all his nobles and fiefholders, set out to meet him. Hereon the Black Prince, whose forces were weak, began to retreat; but the French king outmarched and intercepted him near Poitiers. He had the English completely in his power, and with a little patience could have starved them into submission; instead, he deemed it his chivalric duty to avenge Crecy in arms, and the great battle of Poitiers was the result (19th September 1356). The carnage and utter ruin of the French feudal army were quite incredible; the dead seemed more than the whole army of the Black Prince; the prisoners were too many to be held. The French army, bereft of leaders, melted away, and the Black Prince rode triumphantly back to Bordeaux with the captive King John and his brave little son in his train. A two years truce ensued; King John was carried over to London, where he found a fellow in misfortune in David of Scotland, who had been for 11 years a captive in English hands. The utter degradation of the nobles, and the misery of the country, gave to the cities of France an opportunity which one great man, Etienne Marcel, provost of the traders at Paris, was not slow to grasp. He fortified the capital and armed the citizens; the civic clergy made common cause with him; and when the dauphin Charles convoked the three Estates at Paris, it was soon seen that the nobles had become completely discredited and powerless. It was a moment in which a new life might have begun for France; in vain did the noble order clamor for war and taxes, - they to do the war, with what skill and success all men now knew, and the others to pay the taxes. Clergy, however, and burghers resisted. The Estates parted, leaving what power there was still in France in the hands of Etienne Marcel. He strove in vain to reconcile Charles the dauphin with Charles of Navarre, who stood forward as a champion of the towns. Very reluctantly did Marcel entrust his fortunes to such hands. With help of Lecocq, bishop of Laon, he called the Estates again together, and endeavored to lay down sound principles of government, which Charles the dauphin was compelled to accept. Paris, however, stood alone, and even there all were not agreed. Marcel and Bishop Lecocq, seeing the critical state of things, obtained the release of Charles of Navarre, then a prisoner. The result was that ere long the dauphin-regent was at open war with Navarre and with Paris. The outbreak of the miserable peasanty, the Jacquerie, who fought partly for revenge against the nobles, partly to help Paris, darkened the time; they were repressed with savage bloodshed, and in 1358 the dauphins party in Paris assassinated the only great man France had seen for long. With Etienne Marcels death all hope of a constitutional life died out from France; the dauphin entered Paris, and set his foot on the conquered liberties of his country. Paris had stood almost alone; civic strength is wanting in France; the towns but feebly supported Marcel; they compelled the movements to lose its popular and general character, and to become a first attempt to govern France from Paris alone. After some insincere negotiations, and a fear of desultory warfare, in which Edward III. traversed France without meeting with a single foe to fight, peace was at last agreed to at Bretiguy in May 1360. By this act Edward III. renounced the French throne, and gave up all he claimed or held north of the Loire, while he was secured in the lordship of the south and west, as well as of that part of northern Picardy which included Calais, Guines, and Ponthieu. The treaty also fixed the ransom to be paid by King John.
France was left smaller than she had been under Philip Augustus, yet she received this treaty with infinite thankfulness; worn out with war and weakness any diminution of territory seemed better to her than a continuance of her unbearable misfortune. Under Charles, first as regent, then as king, she enjoyed an uneasy rest and peace for 20 years. The monarchy was disgraced by failure and captivity; the nobles weakened and discredited in war and peace, headed by factious and self-seeking lords, could offer no hope for France; the cities had shown, during the effort of Marcel, that rare man of energy and genius, that they were unfit to take the command; the Jacquerie had declared the peasantry to be wretched and powerless; the black death with equal hand had smitten all, and had shown with lurid light the scandalous manners of the Avignon papacy, the want of patriotic or religious energy in the clergy; the country was pitilessly ravaged by the free companies, the inheritance of the war. In all Europe it was a dark and gloomy time; in France men might well despair. King John, after returning for a brief space to France, went back into his pleasant captivity in England, leaving his country to be ruled by the regent the dauphin. In 1364 he died, and Charles V., "the Wise," became king in name, as he had now been for some years in fact. This cold, prudent, sickly prince, a scholar who laid the foundations of the great library of Paris by placing 900 MSS. in three chambers in the Louvre, had nothing to dazzle the ordinary eye; to the timid spirits of that age he seemed to be a malevolent wizard, and his name of "Wise" had in it more of fear than of love. Yet he was a successful prince for the times; he discerned that nothing could be gained by fighting battles, - that Ennius had given him to clue to victory in describing Fabius as one who "cunctando restituit rem;" and he had the passive coldness of heart needful to carry out such a plan. He also is notable for tow things: he reformed the current coin, and recognized the real worth of Du Guesclin, the first great leader of mercenaries in France, a grim fighting-man, hostile to the show of feudal warfare, and herald of a new age of contests, in which the feudal levies would fall into the background. The invention of gunpowder in this century, the incapacity of the great lords, the rise of free lances and necessary troops, all told that a new era had arrived. It was by the hand of Du Guesclin that Charles overcame his cousin and namesake Charles of Navarre, and compelled him to peace. On the other hand, in the Breton war which followed just after, he was defeated by Sir John Chandos and the partisans of John of Montfort, who made him prisoner; the treaty of Guerande which followed gave them the dukedom of Brittany; and Charles V., unable to resist, was fain to receive the new dukes homage, and to confirm him in the duchy. The king did not rest till he had ransomed Du Guesclin from the hands of Chandos; he then gave him commission to raise a paid army of free-booters, the scourge of France, and to march with them to support, against the Black Prince, the claims of Henry of Trastamare to the crown of Castile. Successful at first, by help of the king of Aragon, he was made constable of Spain at the coronation of Henry at Burgos; Edward the Black Prince, however, intervened, and at the battle of Najara (1367) Du Guesclin was again a prisoner in English hands, and Henry lost his throne. Fever destroyed the victorious host, and the Black Prince, withdrawing into Gascony, carried with him the seeds of the disorder which shortened his days. Du Guesclin soon got his liberty again; and Charles V., seeing how much his great rival of England was weakened, determined at last on open war. He allied himself with Henry of Trastamare, listened to the grievances of the Aquitanians, summoned the Black Prince to appear and answer the complaints. In 1369 Henry defeated Pedro, took him prisoner, and murdered him in a brawl, thus perished the hopes of the English party in the south. About the same time Charles V. sent open defiance and declaration of war to England. Without delay he surprised the English in the north, recovering all Pontieu at once; the national pride was aroused; Philip, duke of Burgundy, who had, through the prudent help of Charles, lately won as a bride the heiress of Flanders, was stationed at Rouen, to cover the western approach to Paris, with strict orders not to fight; the Aquitanian were more than half French at heart. The record of the war is as the smoke of a furnace. We see the reek of burnt and plundered towns; there were no brilliant feasts of arms; the Black Prince, gloomy and sick, abandoned the struggle, and returned to England to die; the new governor, the earl of Pembroke, did not even succeed in landing; he was attacked and defeated off Rochelle by Henry of Castile, his whole fleet with all its treasure and stores taken or sunk, and he himself was a prisoner in Henrys hands. Du Guesclin had already driven the English out of the west into Brittany; he now overran Poitou, which received him gladly; all the south seemed to be at his feet. The attempt of Edward III. to relieve the little that remained to him in France failed utterly, and by 1372 Poitou was finally lost to England. Charles set himself to reduce Brittany with considerable success; a diversion from Calais caused plentiful misery in the open country; but, as the French again refused to fight, it did nothing to restore the English cause. By 1375 England held nothing in France except Calais, Cherbourg, Bayonne, and Bordaeux. Edward III. utterly worn out with war, agreed to a truce, through intervention of the pope; it was signed in 1375. In 1377, on its expiry, Charles, who in the two years had sedulously improved the state of France, renewed the war. By sea and land the English were utterly overmatched, and by 1378 Cahrles was master of the situation on all hands. Now, however, he pushed his advantages too far; and the cold skill which had overthrown the English was used in vain against the Bretons, whose duchy he desired to absorb. Languedoc and Flanders also revolted against him. France was heavily burdened with taxes, and the future was dark and threatening. In the midst of these things, death overtook the coldly-calculating monarch in September 1380.
Little had France to hope from the boy who was now called on to fill the throne. Charles VI. was not twelve years old, a light-witted, handsome boy, under the guardianship of the royal dukes his uncles, who had no principles except that of their own interest to guide them in bringing up the king and ruling the people. They selfishly quarreled round his person; the duke of Anjou stole his money and set off to make good his claims on Naples and Sicily; the duke of Burgundy had great prospects in the Low Countries; the duke of Berri ruled in southern France, and was a man of no character or worth; the duke of Bourbon, the late kings brother-in-law, with Burgundy, had charge of the boys education; Oliver Clisson was made constable of France in the room of Du Guesclin. Before Charles VI. had reached years of discretion he was involved by the French nobles in war against the Flemish cities, which, under guidance of the great Philip van Arteveldt, had overthrown the authority of the count of Flanders. The French cities showed ominous signs of being inclined to ally themselves with the civic movement in the north. The men of Ghent came out to meet their French foes, and at the battle of Roosebek (1382) were utterly defeated and crushed. Philip van Artebeldt himself was slain. It was a great triumph of the nobles over the cities; and Paris felt it when the king returned. All movement there and in the other northern cities of France was ruthlessly repressed; the noble reaction also overthrow the "new men" and the lawyers, by whose means the late king had chiefly governed. Two years later, the royal dukes signed a truce with England, including Ghent in it; and Louis de Male, count of Flanders, having perished at the same time, Margaret, his daughter, wife of Philip of Burgundy, succeeded to his inheritance (1384). Thus began the high fortunes of the house of Burgundy, which at one time seemed to overshadow emperor and king of France. In 1385 another of the brothers, Louis, duke of Anjou, died, with all his Italian ambitions, unfulfilled. In 1386 Charles VI., under guidance of his uncles, declared war on England, and exhausted all France in preparations; the attempt proved the sorriest failure. The regency of the dukes became daily more inpopular, until in 1388 Charles dismissed his two uncles, the dukes of Burgundy and Berri, and began to rule. For a while all went much better; he recalled his fathers friends and advisers, lightened the burdens of the people, allowed the new ministers free hand in making prudent government; and learning how bad had been the state of the south under the duke of Berri, deprived him of that command in 1390. Men thought that the young king, if not good himself, was well content to allow good men to govern ion his name; at any rate the rule of the selfish dukes seemed to be over. Their bad influences, however, still surrounded him; an attempt to assassinate Oliver Clisson the constable was connected with their intrigues and those of the duke of Brittany; and in setting forth to punish the attempt on his favorite the constable, the unlucky young king, who had sapped his health by debauchery, suddenly became mad. The dukes of Burgundy and Berri at once seized the reins, and put aside his brother the young duke of Orleans. It was the beginning of that great civil discord between Burgundy and Orleans, the Burgundians and Armagnacs, which worked so much ill for France in the earlier part of the next century. The rule of the uncles was disastrous for France; no good government seemed even possible for that unhappy land. From time to time the unfortunate king had lucid intervals; he seems even to have tried to put a stop to the great schism of the West, that struggle between rival popes, the scandalous quarrel of "Urbanists," followers of Urban VI., elected at Rome (in 1378) in opposition to the French power, and of "Clementines," followed of rthe Svignon pope, Clement VII. But his lucid intervals were too short and few; and the French court was also too much engaged in the Burgundian and Orleans contest to care much for the peace of the church. There is no more gloomy period of French history than the coming 50 years. It is the record of party strife of a mean and unscrupulous kind, in which also Paris begins her new role of partisan. The struggle in the 15th century between royalty and aristocracy is an unlovely sight, whether it be watched in England, in Germany, or in France. In France the contest took a peculiar form; the whole country seemed to be arrayed under two hostile banners that of the house of Burgundy, and that of the duke of Orleans. The house of Burgundy was headed by men of grasp and power, and its party bore the name of Burgundians, little as it expressed the true position; while the duke of Orleans was a mean and foolish person, and his party did not go by his name, but, by some accident, took that of the count of Armagnac, who was father-in-law to the duke of Orleans, and a prince of great name and vigor in the south of France. The duke of Burgundy was Philip the Bold, fourth son of King John of France, to whom his father had granted the duchy on the death of Philip de Rouvres, who had left no heirs, so that his inheritance had escheated to the crown. The duke was therefore uncle to Charles VI., and to his rival in France, Louis, duke of Orleans. By his marriage with Margaret of Flanders, to whom the county of Burgundy had descended by female succession, he reunited the duchy and county, and also became lord to Flanders. Though the county (Franche Comte) carried to the east of France into the empire, his chief power lay in the north. His connection with Germany led him to espouse the side of the Urbanists against the corrupt Avignon papacy. The policy of the duke made him popular with the cities of the north of France, and specially with Paris, - a popularity in no way impaired by his terrible punishment of Liege, which opposed him in 1408; that policy professed to relieve the cities of their worst burdens, and to give them a position of some independence in the presence of their unhappy sovereign and the corrupt court around him. In his foreign politics the duke had also added much to his strength by supporting the house of Lancaster in its successful attack on Richard II.; the friendship of Henry IV. and Henry V. of England was the result. In resources the house of Burgundy was deemed the richest in the world, and its magnificence on great occasions rivaled all that had been dreamt in fable. Lastly, while the French monarchs were a weary series of diseased or dissolute princes, their Burgundian cousins were all strong men, - men of faults enough, no doubt, but not of weak vices.
On the other hand, the duke of Orleans, with his following of nobles, was of the south; all his strength lay beyond the Loire, and his party represented the old aristocracy against the modern princes and the popular instincts of the cities. There is no greater mistake than that of speaking of the Burgundian dukes as the last great leaders of feudalism; the feudalism of the age was far more definitely on the side of the Armagnacs. In his church politics Orleans supported the southern Avignon pope against the Germanic and Italian Urbanists; in his foreign politics he and the court went with the losing Yorkist party in England, Richard II. having in 1396 espoused Isabelle of Valois, edlest daughter of Charles VI. At the beginning the Armagnacs were a mere court and noble party; no general or patriotic feelings seemed to be in question; as, however, time went on, and the house of Burgundy drew closer and closer to that of Lancaster, and when England and Burgundy in the days of Henry V. and Bedford seemed to be subjecting France for ever of the foregoing, then the Armagnac party gradually asserted a far higher position for itself, took up the national cause, and rousing the hitherto unconscious patriotism of the people, swept away the invader and his friends.
An obscure strife went on until 1404, when Duke Philip of Burgundy died, leaving his vast inheritance to John the Fearloss, the deadly foe of Louis of Orleans. Paris was with him, as with his father before him; the duke entered the capital in 1405, and issued a popular proclamation against the ill government of the queen-regent and Orleans. Much profession of a desire for better things was made, with small results. So things went on till 1407, when, after the duke of Berri, who tried to play the part of a mediator, had brought the two princes together the duke of Orleans was foully assassinated by a Burgundian partisan. The duke of Burgundy, though he at first withdrew from Paris, speedily returned, avowed the act, and was received with plaudits by the mob. For a few years the strife continued, obscure and bad; a great league of French princes and nobles was made to stem the success of the Burgundians; and it was about this time that the Armagnac name became common. Paris, however, dominated by the "Cabochians," the butchers party, the party of the "marrowbones and cleavers," and entirely devoted to the Burgundians, enabled John the Fearless to hold his own in France; the king himself seemed favorable to the same party. In 1412 the princes were obliged to come to terms, and the Burgundian triumph seemed complete. In 1413 the wheel went round, and we find the Armagnacs in Paris, rudely sweeping away all the Cabochians with their professions of good civic rule. The duke of Berri was made captain of Paris, and for a while all went against the Burgundians, until in 1414 Duke John was fain to make the first peace of Arras, and to confess himself worsted in the strife. The young dauphin Louis took the nominal lead of the national party, and, ruled supreme in Paris in great ease and self indulgence.
The year before Henry V. had succeeded to the throne of England, - bright and vigorous young man, eager to be stirring in the world, brave and fearless, with a stern grasp of things beneath all, - a very sheet anchor of firmness and determined character. Almost at the very opening of his reign, the moment he had secured his throne, he began a negotiation with France which boded no good. he offered to marry Catharine, the kings third daughter, and therewith to renew the old treaty of Bretigny, if her dower were Normandy, Maine, and Anjou, not without a good sum of money. The French court, on the other hand, offered him her hand with Aquitaine and the money, an offer rejected instantly; and Henry made ready for a rough wooing in arms. In 1415 he crossed to Harfleur, and while parties still fought in France, after a long and exhausting siege took the place; thence he rode northward for Calais, feeling his army too much reduced to attempt more. The Armagnacs, whoi had gathered at Rouen, also pushed fast to the north, and having choice of passage over the Somme, Amiens being in their hands, got before King Henry, while he had to make a long round before he could get across that stream. Consequently, when on his way he reached Azincourt, he found the whole chivalry of France arrayed against him in his path. The great battle of Azincourt followed, with frightful ruin and carnage of the French. With a huge crowd of prisones the young king passed on to Calais, and thence to England. The Armagnacs party lay buried in the hasty graves of azincourt; never had there been such slaughter of nobles. Still, for three years they made head against their foes; till in 1418 the duke of Burgundys friends opened Paris gates to his soldiers, and for the time the Armagnacs seemed to be completely defeated; only the dauphin Charles made feeble war from Poitiers. Henry V. with a fresh army had already made another descent on the Normandy coast; the dukes of Anjou, Brittany, and Burgundy made several and independent treaties with him; and it seemed as though France had completely fallen in pieces. Henry took Rouen, and although the common peril somewhat silenced the strife of faction, no steps were taken to meet him or check his course; on the contrary, matters were made even more hopeless by the murder of John, duke of Burgundy, in 1419, even as he was kneeling and offering reconciliation at the young dauphins feet. The young Duke Philip now drew at once towards Henry, whom his father had apparently wished with sincerity to check; Paris, too, was weary of the Armagnac struggle, and desired to welcome Henry of England; the queen of France also went over to the Anglo-Burgundia side. The end of it was that on May 21, 1420, was signed the famous treaty of Troves, which secured the crown of France to Henry, by the exclusion of the dauphin Charles, whenever poor mad Charles VI. should cease to live. Meanwhile Henry was made regent of France, promising to maintain all rights and privileges of the parliament and nobles, and to crush the dauphin with his Armagnac friends, in token whereof he was at once wedded to Catharine of France, and set forth to quell the opposition of the provinces. By Christmas all France north of the Loire was in English hands. All the lands to the south of the river remained firmly fixed in their allegiance to the dauphin and the Armagnacs, and these began to feel themselves to be the true French party, as opposed to be foreign rule of the English. For barely two years that rule was carried on by Henry V. with inflexible justice, and northern France saw with amazement the presence of a real king and an orderly government. In 1422 King Henry died; a few weeks later Charles VI. died also; and the face affairs began to change, although at the first Charles VII. the "Well-served," the lazy, listless prince, seemed to have little heart for the perils and efforts of his position. he was proclaimed king at Mehun in Berri, for the true France for the time lay on that side of the Loire; and the regent Bedford, who took the reins at Paris, was a vigorous and powerful prince, who was not likely to give way to an idle dreamer. At the outset Charles suffered two defeats, at Crevant in 1423 and at Verneuil in 1424, and things seemed to be come to their worst. Yet he was prudent, conciliatory, and willing to wait; and as the English power in France, - that triangle of which the base was the sea line from Harfleur to Calais, and the apex Paris, - was unnatural, and far from being really strong, and as the relations between Bedford and Burgundy might not always be friendly, the man who could wait had many chances in his favor. Before long things began to mend; Charles wedded Mary of Anjou, and won over that great house to the French side; more and more was he regarded as the nations king; symptoms of a wish for reconciliation with Burgundy appeared; the most vehement Armagnacs were sent away from court. Causes of disagreement also shook the friendship between Burgundy and England.
Feeling the evils of inaction most, Bedford in 1428 decided on a forward movement, and sent the earl of Salisbury to the south. He first secured his position on the north of the Loire, then, crossing that river, laid siege to Orleans, the key to the south, and the last bulwark of the national party. All efforts to vex or dislodge him failed; the attempt early in 1429 to stop the English supplies was completely defeated at Bouvray; from the salt fish captured, the battle has taken the name of "the Day of the Herrings." Dunois, bastard of Orleans, was wounded; the Scots, the kings bodyguard, on whom fell ever the grimmest of the fighting, suffered terribly, and their leader was killed. All went well for Bedford, till it suited the duke of Burgundy to withdraw from his side, carrying with him a large part of the fighting power of the besiegers. Things were already looking rather gloomy in the English camp, when a new and unexpected rumor struck all hearts cold with fear. A virgin, an Amazon, had been raised up as a deliverer for France, and would soon be on them, armed with mysterious powers.
A young peasant girl, one Jeanne Dare, had been brought up in the village of Domremy, hard by the Loraine border. The district, always French in feeling, had lately suffered much from Burgunidan raids; and this young damsel, brooding over the treatment of her village and her country, and filled with that strange vision-power which is in rare phenomenon in itself with young girls, came at last to believe with warm and active faith in heavenly appearances and messages, all urging her to deliver France and her king, From faith to action the bridge is short; and ere long the young dreamer of seventeen set forth to work her miracle. Her history is quite unique in the world; and though probably France would ere many years have shaken off the English yoke, for its strength was rapidly going, still to her is the credit of having proved its weakness, and of having asserted the triumphant power of a great belief. All gave way before her; Charles VII., persuaded doubtless by his mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon, who warmly espoused her cause, listened readily to the miadens voice; and as that voice urged only what was noble and pure, she carried conviction as she went. In the end she received the kings commission to undertake the relief of Orleans. Her coming was fresh blood to the defence; a new spirit seemed to be poured out on all her followers, and in like manner a deep dejection settled down on the English. The blockade was forced, and in eight days the besiegers raised the siege and marched away. They withdrew to Jargean, where they were attacked and routed with great loss. A little later Talbot himself, who had marched to help them, was also defeated and taken. Then, compelling Charles to come out form his inglorious ease, she carried him triumphantly with her to Rheims, where he was duly crowned king, the Maid of Orleans standing by, and holding aloft the royal standard.
She would gladly have gone home to Domremy now, her mission being accomplished; four she was entirely free from all ambitious or secondary aims. But she too great a power to be spared. Northern France was still in English hands, and till the English were cast out her work was not complete; so they made her stay, sweet child, to do the work which, had there been any manliness in them, they ought to have found it easy to achieve for themselves. The dread of her went before her, - a pillar of cloud and darkness to the English, but light and hope to her countrymen. Men believed that she was called of God to regenerate the world, to destroy the Saracen at last, to bring in the millennial age. Her statue was set up in the churches, and crowds prayed before her image as before a popular saint.
The incapacity and ill-faith of those round the king gave the English some time to recover themselves; Bedford and Burgundy drew together again, and steps were taken to secure Paris. When, however, Jeanne, weary of courtly delays, marched, contemptuous of the king, as far as to St Denis, friends sprang up on every side. In Normandy, on the English line of communications, four strong places were surprised; and Bedford, made timid as to his supplies, fell back to Rouen, leaving only a small garrison in Paris. Jeanne, ill-supported by the royal troops, failed in her attack on the city walls, and was made prisoner by the Burgundians; they handed her over to the English, and she was, after grievous indignities, and such treatment as chivalry alone could have dealt her, condemned as a witch, and burnt as a relapsed heretic at Rouen in 1431. Betrayed by the French court, sold by the Burgundians, murdered by the English, unrescued by the people of France which she so much loved, Jeanne Dare died the martyrs death, a pious, simple soul, a heroine of the purest metal. She saved her country, for the English power never recovered from the shock. The churchmen who burnt her, the Frenchmen of the unpatriotic party, would have been amazed could they have foreseen that nearly 450 years afterwards, churchmen again would glorify her name as the saint of the church, in opposition to both the religious liberties and the national feelings of her country.
The war, after having greatly weakened the noblesse, and having caused infinite sufferings to France, now drew towards a close; the duke of Burgundy at last agreed to abandon his English allies, and at a great congress at Arras in 1435 signed a treaty with Charles VII., by which he solemnly came over the French side. On condition that he should get Auxerre and Macon as well as the towns on and near the river Somme, he was willing to recognize Charles as king of France. His price was high, yet it was worth all that was given; for after all he was of the French blood royal, and not a foreigner. The death of Bedford, which took place about the same time, was almost a more terrible blow to the fortunes of the English. Paris opened her gates to her king in April 1436; the long war kept on with slight movements now and then for several years. In these same days the council of Basel sat, and declared the supremacy of councils over the papacy; the long evils of schism had brought the pontiff very low. In connection with this council Charles VII. in 1438 held a national council at Bourges, and enacted therein his Prgamatic Sanction, in which the French church repeated the conclusions of the Basel council, and affirmed the liberties of the Gallican church, in close connection with its allegiance rather to the king than the pope; it also claimed for capitular bodies and monasteries the right of electing their heads, declared the worst of the taxes levied by the papacy on the church illegal, and restrained the right of appeal to Rome. The French Church received the proclamation with gratitude and applause, while the papacy protested, and the dukes of Brittany and Burgundy refused to recognized it or adopt its principles within their dominions. It continued to be the church-law of France till the necessities of Francis I. bartered it away in 1516 for the Bologna concordat.
The next year was marked by the meeting of the States-General, and the establishment, in principle at least, of standing army. The Estates petitioned the willing king that the system of finance in the realm, should be remodeled, and a permanent tax established for the support of an army. Thus, it was thought, solidity would be given to the royal power, and the long standing curse of the freebooters and brigands cleared away. No sooner was this done than the nobles began to chafe under it; they scented in the air the coming troubles; they took as their head, poor innocents, the young dauphin Louis, who was willing enough to resist the concentration of power in royal hands. Their champion of 1439, the leader of the "Praguerie," as this new league was called, in imitation, it is said, of the Hussite movement at Prague, the enthusiastic defender of noble privilege against the royal power, was the man who afterwards, as Louis XI., was the destroyer of the noblesse on behalf of royalty. Some of the nobles stood firmly by the king, and, aided by them and by an army of paid soldiers serving under the new conditions, Charles VII., no contemptible antagonist when once aroused, attacked and overthrew the Praguerie: the cities and the country people would have none of it; they preferred peace under a kings strong hand. Louis was sent down to the east to govern Dauphony; the lessons of the civil were not lost on Charles; he crushed the freebooters of Champagne, drove the English out of Pontoise in 1441, moved actively up and down France, reducing anarchy, restoring order, resisting English attacks. In the last he was loyalty supported by the dauphin, who was glad to find a field for his restless temper. He repulsed the English at Dieppe, and put down the count of Armagnac in the south. During the two years truce with England which now followed, Charles VII. and Louis drew off their free-lances eastward, and the dauphin came into rude collision with the Swiss not far from Basel, in 1444. some sixteen hundred mountaineers long and heroically withstood at Saint Jacob the attack of several thousand Frenchmen, fighting stubbornly till they all perished. It is said that the experience so dearly bought on the field of Saint Jacob was very useful to Louis in after days, when he was content to leave Charles the Bold to ruin himself by his attacks on Switzerland. The red wine grown on the slope of the graveyard where they fell is called "Schweitzer-blut," Swiss-blood, to this day. It was at this time also that the cardinal of Winchester wedded Henry VI. of England to Margaret of Anjou, the ambitious daughter of King Rene, the laughter-loving troubadour of Provence, who cared so much for poetry and so little for kingship. The king and dauphin returned to Paris, having much reduced the numbers of the lawless free-lances. They next ser themselves to organize a regular army of fifteen companies of one hundred lances (each lance representing six fighting men), led by fifteen captains appointed by the king, and raised in different districts of France. This army partly absorbed and partly crushed the troublesome free-lances, and became a powerful police, which restored security and made good government once more possible. Round his own person Charles placed those sturdy and faithful fighting men the Scottish guard; under John Steward dAubigne they served the French king well, and at the end of his troubles were placed as a colony at St Martin dAuxigny near Bourges, whre their descendants still live in the enjoyment of special village-advantages, preserved to them by long use and tradition through all the changes of French history. This army, with the contingent due from the nobles, which was also reduced to order and made to receive pay, raised the power of the French monarchy far above anything that has as yet been seen; and had Cahrles VII. been more ambitious he might have begun to play the part reserved for his son. The dauphin, discontented again, was obliged once more to withdraw into Dauphiny, where he governed prudently and with activity.
In 1449 the last scene of the Anglo-French was began. In that year English adventurers landed on the Breton coast; the duke called the French king to his aid. Charles did not tarry this time; he broke the truce with England, sent Dunois into Normandy, and himself soon followed. In both duchies, Brittany and Normandy, the French were welcomed with delight; no love for England lingered in the west. Somerset and Talbot failed to defend Rouen, and were driven from point to point, till every stronghold was lost to them. Dunois then passed into Guienne, and in a few months Bayonne, the last stronghold of the English , fell into his hands (1451). When Talbot was sent over to Bordeaux with 5000 men to recover the south, the old English feeling revived, - for England was their best customer, and they had little in common with France. It was, however, but a last flicker of the flame; in July 1453, at the siege of Castillon, the aged Talbot was slain, and the war at once came to an end; the south passed finally into the kingdom of France. Normandy and Guienne were assimilated to France in taxation and army organization; and all that remained to England across the Channel was Calias with Havre and Guines Castle. Her foreign ambitions and struggles over, England was left to consume herself in civil strife, while France might rest and recover from the terrible sufferings she had undergone. The state of the country had become utterly wretched. We are told that from the Loire to the Somme, as fertile a part as any in France, all lay desert, given up to wolves, and traversed only by the robber and the free-lance; the peasant, despairing of his tillage, got him a weapon, and took to the roads; the danse Macabre, grimly limned on churchyard-walls -, was a parable of the age, in which all men lived in the presence of death; mysteries and moralities were the chief literature of the time; Froissart was gone, and Commines had not yet come; the duke of Orleans, so long a prisoner in England, is the one true poet of the time; the "good king Rene" is but in his earlier days, and gave himself most to poetry in his old age; within the walls of a few towns rose some splendid examples of domestic architecture, like the house of Jacques Coeur, the great merchant at Bouges; the stir and movement of the Renaissance finds little sympathy in France in these dark days.
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