1902 Encyclopedia > Provence


PROVENCE (Provincia), a province of France lying to the extreme south-east on the shores of the Mediterranean, bounded on the W. by Languedoc, on the N. by Ven-aissin and Dauphine, and on the E. by Italy. It now forms the departments of Bouches-du-Rhone, Var, and Basses-Alpes, with portions of Vaucluse and Alpes Maritimes. It was divided into Upper Provence, containing the four seneschalates of Forcalquier, Castellane, Sisteron Digne, and the Valley of Barcelonnette; and Lower Provence, containing the eight seneschalates of Aix, Aries, Brignoles, Grasse, Marseilles, Draguignan, Hyeres, and Toulon. In ancient as in modern times the most important city was Marseilles (Massilia), a chief seat of trade for the Greek merchants of the Mediterranean, who extended their power along the coast and founded Agde, Antibes, Grasse, and Nice. They afterwards called in the aid of the Romans (125 B.C.) against the Ligurian inhabitants of the surround-ing country, and the new-comers soon made themselves masters of the territory which later formed the provinces of Languedoc, Dauphine, and Provence. The new pro-vince, of which the capital was Aquae Sextias (Aix), was called Provincia Gallica until the total conquest of Gaul, when the name of the district was changed to Gallia Narbonensis. In the 4th century of the Christian era, when the greater part of Languedoc, or Narbonensis Prima, had become subject to the Visigoths, and the Burgundians had spread to the Viennois, Provincia came to be applied only to the country lying between the Rhone, the Durance, and the Alps which was still held by the Romans. But they could not withstand for long the advancing tide of barbarian power. Although the Visi-gothic king Theodoric I. was defeated by Aetius before Aries in 425 A.D., and their united armies in turn defeated Attila in 451, yet Theodoric II. imposed the emperor Avitus on the Romans, and Euric by the capture of Aries (480) made the Visigoths masters of Provence. Their defeat at the battle of Bougie in 507 by Clovis and Gundibald, king of the Burgundians, placed Provence at the mercy of the latter, who ceded it in 511 to Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, as guardian of the Visigothic king. The powers so gained were, however, resigned by his suc-cessor Witiges in 536 to Theodebert, king of the Franks, who had previously overthrown the Burgundian kingdom. On the death of Clotaire I. (561) Provence was divided between his sons Sigebert, king of Austrasia, and Gontran, king of Burgundy, Marseilles falling to the former and Aries to the latter. When Gontran died in 593 the pro-vince was united under his nephew Childebert, only to be divided again by his sons and reunited under Clotaire II. (613), until the sons of Dagobert, Sigebert II. and Clovis II. (633) parted it between them. In 719 the Saracens crossed the Pyrenees and made themselves masters of almost all Septimania, or Languedoc, and in 739 they joined with Maurontis, a Byzantine governor of Marseilles, in his attempt to drive out the Franks. Fortunately for Europe their forces were completely defeated by Charles Martel, who again united Provence to the Frankish kingdom. On the division of the Carlovingian empire in 843 Provence fell to Lothair, who left it with the title of king to his son Charles (855), at whose death without issue in 863 it was seized by Charles the Bald. In 879 his brother-in-law Boson, a son-in-law of the emperor Louis II., and governor of Vienne, was elected king by the synod of Mantale, when his united provinces became known as Cisjuran Burgundy. His son, Louis the Blind, obtained the crown of Italy (900), but was deposed by Hugo, who, in his turn obtaining the Italian kingdom, ceded Provence in 932 to Rudolph II., king of Transjuran Burgundy. The two Burgundies thus united received the name of the Kingdom of Aries, which lasted in a phantom form until 1032, but Provence was always governed by princes whose powers gradually increased, until the county was changed from a beneficiary to an hereditary fief. The line of bene-ficiary counts begins with Boson I. (926), who was rein-vested by Rudolph II. in 934. He was succeeded by Boson II. (948), whose son William I. (968) signalized his reign by driving out from the stronghold of Fraxinet the Moorish pirates who had seized it in 889, and thence ravaged the neighbouring country. His brother Rothbold, who held the fief until 1008, was followed by his nephew William IL, and, as the union of the kingdom of Aries with the German empire was by this time almost nominal, the counts of Provence claimed independence, and William's sons, Geoffrey-Bertrand I. and William III., divided the county in 1018 as an allodial fief. William III. died in 1053 and Geoffrey-Bertrand handed over to his nephews the northern part, or the county of Forcalquier, he himself retaining the main province to which his son Bertrand II. succeeded in 1063. At his death without issue in 1093 the county was ruled by his mother Étiennette, who was followed (1100) by her daughter Gerberge, wife of Gilbert, viscount of Milhaud and Gévaudan. Their daughter Douce was married to Baymond-Bérenger, count of Barcelona, of the house of Aragon, and Provence passed to him in 1112. But his succession was not undisputed. Baymond de S. Gilles, count of Toulouse and Venaissin, a great-grandson of Bothbold, had about 1085 laid claim to the county of Forcalquier, and his pretensions were pro-bably partly admitted. The excitement of the crusades put a stop to further action, and in 1096, accompanied by Count Gilbert, he led the Provençal contingent, which was, however, more distinguished for foraging than fighting. On his death in 1105 his claims were revived by his son Alfonse Jourdain, who succeeded in obtaining from Raymond-Bérenger an extension of the county of Venaissin. Raymond-Bérenger I. died in 1130, and was succeeded by his son Bérenger-Baymond, whose rights were disputed by Baymond de Baux, husband of his mother's sister Etiennette. In the war which ensued the count was killed before Melgueil, leaving a young son, Baymond-Bérenger II. (1144), to the guardianship of his uncle, Raymond-Bérenger of Aragon. The claims of Raymond de Baux were renewed by his son Hwgo, on whose defeat in 1162 the emperor Frederick I. gave his niece Richilda in marriage to the young count, and invested him with the fiefs of Provence and Forcalquier. His only daughter Douce had been betrothed to the count of Toulouse, who accordingly on the death of Raymond-Bérenger II. (1166) claimed the county, but was defeated by Alphonso I. of Aragon, who invested his brother Baymond-Bérenger III., on whose death in 1181 the fief reverted to Alphonso I. to pass to his son Alphonso II. (1196). This prince died in 1209, and was succeeded by his son Raymond-Bérenger IV., who, seeing that the great cities were nests of intrigue for rivals to the throne, set himself to destroy their independence. Through all changes of rulers the cities had kept their internal freedom and old Boman self-government. The election of the governing body had always remained in the hands of the citizens, but the office of chief magistrate, after ceasing to be filled by a nominee of the Byzantine emperor, had be-come vested either in certain families or in the bishops. In the 12th century measures of reform were imitated from the Italian republics, the chief characteristic of which was the election for life of a stranger as chief magistrate or podestà. The power of the podestàs was too great to be broken at once, and, though the Albigenses in Avignon capitulated in 1226, and Nice, Grasse, Toulon, and Marseilles afterwards submitted tò Raymond-Bérenger IV., it was left to his son-in-law, CHARLES OF ANJOU (see vol. v. pp. 422-23), to replace the podestàs by governors of his own nomination (1246). Charles died in 1285, leav-ing the states of Anjou, Provence, and Naples to his son Charles II., under whose rule peace and prosperity to some extent revived. But the efforts of his son Robert (1309) in the cause of the Guelphs called for increased taxation, and he left a troubled heritage to his granddaughter Joan of Naples (1343). To avenge the murder of his brother Andrew, the husband of Joan, at whose instigation the crime had been committed, Louis of Hungary marched into Italy (1347), and made himself master of the kingdom of Naples. Joan fled to Provence, and by timely conces-sions to her people secured their favour in her efforts to regain the Neapolitan crown. But money was needed ; so Avignon, where the popes had resided since 1305, was sold to Pope Clement VI., and Joan won back Naples. An important part in the affair was played by the Pro-vençal estates, which consisted of the three houses of clergy, nobility, and commons, and were supreme in all financial matters, however absolute the counts might be in other branches of government. This power of the purse was jealously guarded, and the subsidies granted to the prince were never considered as other than dons gratuits, the name by which they were called even after the union with France, when they became an annual tri-bute. Owing to the right of repartition to definite objects of the sums raised by taxation, the Provençaux were not on the whole badly governed, for, though the estates had only the right of petition for legislation, yet when the need arose they could very effectually speak with the voice of the whole people. The representation of the bulk of the nation in the tiers-état was particularly good, for the deputies, who were paid, were returned not only by the twenty-five country electorates, or vigueries, but from thirty-seven communes as well. The English constitution may therefore be indebted to Provence for the important step which was taken by the younger Simon de Montfort in first summoning the representatives of cities and boroughs to the parliament of 1265. The earliest re-corded session of the estates was in 1146, and the meet-ings continued at intervals until 1639, when they ceased until 1787. The sessions not being annual, the powers of the estates in ordinary matters were delegated to a general assembly, composed of the archbishop of Aix, the procureurs joints, who were representatives of each of the estates of the clergy and the nobility, and the whole of the tiers-état. This assembly gradually superseded the estates until in 1639 it replaced them altogether. To meet sudden emergencies there was a "great council," which consisted of the archbishop and three consuls of Aix as procureurs du pays, and the procureurs joints of the three estates, under the presidency of the grand seneschal. This officer was the representative of the counts in judicial affairs, and during their absence from the country in military matters also. His powers were not only adminis-trative, but to a great extent legislative, and they were therefore fated either to increase at the expense of the sovereign or to be cut down by a firm ruler. Joan chose the latter course, and deprived the grand seneschal of his powers over the state domains, and his right to remove judges and pardon capital crimes. And she not only reduced his power but appointed an Italian to the office, upon which the nation rose in revolt, and Louis of Anjou, seizing the opportunity to press his claims to the throne, led an army into Provence in 1368. The pretensions of Louis were met by Joan's offer to adopt him as her heir, and on her death in 1382 he succeeded to the county. The reign of Louis I. was passed in the unsuccessful pur-suit of his claims to the kingdom of Naples, and his son Louis II. (1384) and grandson Louis III. (1417) con-tinued the same unprofitable contest. René (1434), a brother of Louis III., was not less inclined to give up his rights, which had revived in force from his adoption by Joan II. of Naples, but, though fortune at first smiled ou him, he was at last forced to resign his claim in favour of the house of Aragon. The count, or titular king, was an accomplished musician and a lover of literature and the arts ; and, the latter part of his reign being on the whole peaceful, he was able to give free play to his inclinations. The artistic fame of his court has lasted to the present day, but it was the interest which he took in his subjects' material welfare, and his administration of wise laws, which caused his people to lament the death of René the Good. He died in 1480, and, leaving only a daughter Margaret, the ill-fated wife of Henry VI. of England, bequeathed the county to his nephew Charles of Maine. Charles III. died in the following year, making Louis XI. of France his heir, and in 1486 Charles VIII. by letters patent reunited the county to the kingdom of France.

The union was confirmed by the estates with the full approval of the people ; but the emperor was not inclined to relinquish without a struggle his claims to overlordship, and he found a willing tool in the constable, Charles of Bourbon, who entered Provence at the head of the im-perialist army in 1524. His adventure met with failure, and the invasion by the emperor Charles V. himself in 1536 was equally unsuccessful. In 1501 Louis XIII., with the view of strengthening his own authority, replaced the " conseil eminent," which in the time of the counts had been the highest court of justice, by a " parlement," consist-ing at first of the grand seneschal, a president, and eleven nominated councillors. The functions of the court were strictly judicial, but before its abolition in 1790 it had often assumed legislative rights, and consequently played a conspicuous part in the civil wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. The principles of the Reformation made what little progress they did in Provence from external rather than internal causes, and the people themselves never took kindly to doctrines which in many ways assumed an extremely bizarre and heretical form. The 13th century had witnessed Simon de Montfort's crusade against the Albigenses of Languedoc, and the ruin which heresy had brought on that province cannot have given the prosper-ous Provençaux any great love for new doctrines. The Waldenses of the 16th century were therefore chiefly con-fined to the mountainous districts, but the persecutions ordered by the parlement brought the horrors of civil war on the whole country. The extreme Catholics formed the Holy League against the Protestants, and the two parties were equally at enmity with Henry III., who tried to please both without satisfying either. In time the royal-ists and Protestants united under the name of Bigarrats, but it was not until Henry IV. had come to the throne, and Marseilles, the last stronghold of the League, had submitted, that the worn-out country was again at peace. Richelieu tried to increase the taxation of the people with-out their consent, but the disorders of the Cascaveous were the result, and a similar attempt by Mazarin in 1647 led to disturbances in connexion with the Fronde which lasted until 1652. In 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the army of the allies under Prince Eugene invaded the province, and the horrors of war were followed by those of the plague of 1720, when 100,000 persons perished, Marseilles alone losing 50,000 out of a popula-tion of 90,000. The dispute between the Jesuits and Jansenists waxed warm about 1726, but the victory of the former only preceded their suppression by Pope Clement XIV. in 1773 in return for the cession of Avignon and the county of Venaissin, which had twice changed hands since their reunion with Provence in 1663. On the reconvocation of the estates in 1787 the two upper houses refused to bear their share of taxation, and in 1789, in
the states-general of the kingdom, Mirabeau with his colleagues renounced the freedom and independence of the province. The division of Provence into departments in 1790 finally obliterated all traces of the ancient constitution, but the people still preserve in the soft tones
of their langue d'oc an undying reminder of their former independence. (H. B. B.)

The above article was written by: H. B. Briggs.

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