The History Of France

History Of Europe During The Middle Ages
Book: Book I:
Author: Hallam, Henry

Part Six

There still remained five great and ancient fiefs of the French crown;
Champagne, Guienne, Flanders, Burgundy, and Brittany. But Philip IV. [A.D.
1285], usually called the Fair, married the heiress of the first, a little
before his father's death; and although he governed that county in her name
without pretending to reunite it to the royal domain, it was, at least in a
political sense, no longer a part of the feudal body. With some of his other
vassals Philip used more violent methods. A parallel might be drawn between
this prince and Philip Augustus. But while in ambition, violence of temper
and unprincipled rapacity, as well as in the success of their attempts to
establish an absolute authority, they may be considered as nearly equal, we
may remark this difference, that Philip the Fair, who was destitute of
military talents, gained those ends by dissimulation which his predecessor had
reached by force.

The duchy of Guienne, though somewhat abridged of its original extent,
was still by far the most considerable of the French fiefs, even independently
of its connection with England. ^i Philip, by dint of perfidy, and by the
egregious incapacity of Edmund, brother of Edward I., contrived to obtain, and
to keep for several years, the possession of this great province. A quarrel
among some French and English sailors having provoked retaliation, till a sort
of piratical war commenced between their respective countries, [A.D. 1292]
Edward, as Duke of Guienne, was summoned into the king's court to answer for
the trespass of his subjects. Upon this he despatched his brother to settle
terms of reconciliation, with fuller powers than should have been intrusted to
so credulous a negotiator. Philip so outwitted this prince, through a
fictitious treaty, as to procure from him the surrender of all the fortresses
in Guienne. He then threw off the mask, and after again summoning Edward to
appear, pronounced the confiscation of his fief. ^j This business is the
greatest blemish in the political character of Edward. But his eagerness
about the acquisition of Scotland rendered him less sensible to the danger of
a possession in many respects more valuable; and the spirit of resistance
among the English nobility, which his arbitrary measures had provoked, broke
out very opportunely for Philip, to thwart every effort for the recovery of
Guienne by arms. [A.D. 1303.] But after repeated suspensions of hostilities a
treaty was finally concluded, by which Philip restored the province, on the
agreement of a marriage between his daughter Isabel and the heir of England.

[Footnote i: Philip was highly offended that instruments made in Guienne
should be dated by the year of Edward's reign, and not of his own. This
almost sole badge of sovereignty had been preserved by the kings of France
during all the feudal ages. A struggle took place about it, which is recorded
in a curious letter from John de Greilli to Edward. The French court at last
consented to let dates be thus expressed: Actum fuit, regnante P. rege
Franciae, E. rege Angliae tenente ducatum Aquitaniae. Several precedents were
shown by the English where the counts of Toulouse had used the form. Regnante
A. Comite Tolosae. Rymer, t. ii. p. 1083. As this is the first time that I
quote Rymer, it may be proper to observe that my references are to the London
edition, the paging of which is preserved on the margin of that printed at the
Hague.]

[Footnote j: In the view I have taken of this transaction I have been guided
by several instruments in Rymer, which leave no doubt on my mind. Velly of
course represents the matter more favorably for Philip.]

To this restitution he was chiefly induced by the ill success that
attended his arms in Flanders, another of the great fiefs which this ambitious
monarch had endeavored to confiscate. We have not, perhaps, as clear evidence
of the original injustice of his proceedings towards the Count of Flanders as
in the case of Guienne; but he certainly twice detained his person, once after
drawing him on some pretext to his court, and again, in violation of the faith
pledged by his generals. The Flemings made, however, so vigorous a
resistance, that Philip was unable to reduce that small country; and in one
famous battle at Courtray they discomfited a powerful army with that utter
loss and ignominy to which the undisciplined impetuosity of the French nobles
was pre-eminently exposed. ^k [A.D. 1302.]

[Footnote k: The Flemings took at Courtray 4000 pair of gilt spurs, which were
only worn by knights. These Velly, happily enough, compares to Hannibal's
three bushels of gold rings at Cannae.]

Two other acquisitions of Philip the Fair deserve notice; that of the
counties of Angouleme and La Marche, upon a sentence of forfeiture (and, as it
seems, a very harsh one) passed against the reigning count; and that of the
city of Lyons, and its adjacent territory, which had not even feudally been
subject to the crown of France for more than three hundred years. Lyons was
the dowry of Matilda, daughter of Louis IV., on her marriage with Conrad, King
of Burgundy, and was bequeathed with the rest of that kingdom by Rodolph, in
1032, to the empire. Frederic Barbarossa conferred upon the Archbishop of
Lyons all regalian rights over the city, with the title of Imperial Vicar.
France seems to have had no concern with it, till St. Louis was called in as a
mediator in disputes between the chapter and the city, during a vacancy of the
see, and took the exercise of jurisdiction upon himself for the time. Philip
III., having been chosen arbitrator in similar circumstances, insisted, before
he would restore the jurisdiction, upon an oath of fealty from the new
archbishop. This oath, which could be demanded, it seems, by no right but that
of force, continued to be taken, till, in 1310, an archbishop resisting what
he had thought an usurpation, the city was besieged by Philip IV., and, the
inhabitants not being unwilling to submit, was finally united to the French
crown. ^l

[Footnote l: Velly, t. vii. p. 404. For a more precise account of the
political dependence of Lyons and its district, see L'Art de verifier les
Dates, t. ii. p. 469.]

Philip the Fair left three sons, who successively reigned in France;
Louis, surnamed Hutin [Louis X., A.D. 1314], Philip the Long, and Charles the
Fair; with a daughter, Isabel, married to Edward II. of England. ^m Louis, the
eldest, survived his father little more than a year, leaving one daughter, and
his queen pregnant. The circumstances that ensued require to be accurately
stated. Louis had possessed, in right of his mother, the kingdom of Navarre,
with the counties of Champagne and Brie. Upon his death, Philip, his next
brother [Philip V., A.D. 1315], assumed the regency both of France and
Navarre; and not long afterwards entered into a treaty with Eudes, Duke of
Burgundy, uncle of the Princess Jane, Louis' daughter, by which her eventual
rights to the succession were to be regulated. It was agreed that, in case
the queen should be delivered of a daughter, these two princesses, or the
survivor of them, should take the grandmother's inheritance, Navarre and
Champagne, on releasing all claim to the throne of France. But this was not
to take place till their age of consent, when, if they should refuse to make
such renunciation, their claim was to remain, and right to be done to them
therein; but, in return, the release made by Philip of Navarre and Champagne
was to be null. In the meantime, he was to hold the government of France,
Navarre, and Champagne, receiving homage of vassals in all these countries as
governor; saving the right of a male heir to the late king, in the event of
whose birth the treaty was not to take effect. ^n

[Footnote m: [Note XV.]]

[Footnote n: Hist. de Charles le Mauvais par Secousse, vol. ii. p. 2.]

This convention was made on the 17th of July, 1316; and on the 15th of
November the queen brought into the world a son, John I. (as some called him),
who died in four days. ^o The conditional treaty was now become absolute; in
spirit, at least, if any cavil might be raised about the expression; and
Philip was, by his own agreement, precluded from taking any other title than
that of regent or governor, until the princess Jane should attain the age to
concur in or disclaim the provisional contract of her uncle. Instead of this,
however, he procured himself to be consecrated at Rheims; though, on account
of the avowed opposition of the Duke of Burgundy, and even of his own brother
Charles, it was thought prudent to shut the gates during the ceremony, and to
dispose guards throughout the town. Upon his return to Paris, an assembly
composed of prelates, barons, and burgesses of that city, was convened, who
acknowledged him as their lawful sovereign, and, if we may believe an
historian, expressly declared that a woman was incapable of succeeding to the
crown of France. ^p The Duke of Burgundy, however, made a show of supporting
his niece's interests, till, tempted by the prospect of a marriage with the
daughter of Philip, he shamefully betrayed her cause, and gave up in her name,
for an inconsiderable pension, not only her disputed claim to the whole
monarchy, but her unquestionable right to Navarre and Champagne. ^q I have
been rather minute in stating these details, because the transaction is
misrepresented by every historian, not excepting those who have written since
the publication of the documents which illustrate it. ^r

[Footnote o: Ancient writers, Sismondi tells us (ix. 344), do not call this
infant anything but the child who was to be king; the maxim of later times,
"Le roi ne meurt pas," was unknown. I suspect, nevertheless, that the strict
hereditary succession was better recognized before this time than Sismondi
here admits; compare what he says afterwards of a period very little later,
vol. xi. 6.]

[Footnote p: Tunc etiam declaratum fuit, quod in regno Franciae mulier non
succedit. Contin. Gul. Nangis, in Spicilegio d'Achery, tom. iii. This monk,
without talents, and probably without private information, is the sole
contemporary historian of this important period. He describes the assembly
which confirmed Philip's possession of the crown; - quamplures proceres et
regni nobiles ac magnates una cum plerisque praelatis et burgensibus
Parisiensis civitatis.]

[Footnote q: Hist. de Charles le Mauvais, t. ii. p. 6. Jane, and her husband
the Count of Evreux, recovered Navarre, after the death of Charles the Fair.]

[Footnote r: Velly, who gives several proofs of disingenuousness in this part
of history, mutilates the treaty of the 17th of July, 1316, in order to
conceal Philip the Long's breach of faith towards his niece.]

In this contest, every way memorable, but especially on account of that
which sprung out of it, the exclusion of females from the throne of France was
first publicly discussed. The French writers almost unanimously concur in
asserting that such an exclusion was built upon a fundamental maxim of their
government. No written law, nor even, as far as I know, the direct testimony
of any ancient writer, has been brought forward to confirm this position. For
as to the text of the Salic law, which was frequently quoted, and has indeed
given a name to this exclusion of females, it can only by a doubtful and
refined analogy be considered as bearing any relation to the succession of the
crown. It is certain nevertheless that, from the time of Clovis, no woman had
ever reigned in France; and although not an instance of a sole heiress had
occurred before, yet some of the Merovingian kings left daughters, who might,
if not rendered incapable by their sex, have shared with their brothers in
partitions then commonly made. ^s But, on the other hand, these times were
gone quite out of memory, and France had much in the analogy of her existing
usages to reconcile her to a female reign. The crown resembled a great fief;
and the great fiefs might universally descend to women. Even at the
consecration of Philip himself, Maud, Countess of Artois, held the crown over
his head among the other peers. ^t And it was scarcely beyond the recollection
of persons living that Blanche had been legitimate regent of France during the
minority of St. Louis.

[Footnote s: The treaty of Andely, in 587, will be found to afford a very
strong presumption that females were at that time excluded from reigning in
France. Greg. Turon. l. ix.]

[Footnote t: The continuator of Nangis says indeed of this, de quo aliqui
indignati fuerunt. But these were probably the partisans of her nephew
Robert, who had been excluded by a judicial sentence of Philip IV., on the
ground that the right of representation did not take place in Artois; a
decision considered by many as unjust. Robert subsequently renewed his appeal
to the court of Philip of Valois; but, unhappily for himself, yielded to the
temptation of forging documents in support of a claim which seems to have been
at least plausible without such aid. This unwise dishonesty, which is not
without parallel in more private causes, not only ruined his pretensions to
the county of Artois, but produced a sentence of forfeiture, and even of
capital punishment, against himself. See a pretty good account of Robert's
process in Velly, t. viii. p. 262.

Sismondi (x. 44) does not seem to be convinced that Robert of Artois was
guilty of forgery; but perhaps he is led away by his animosity against kings,
especially those of the house of Valois. M. Michelet informs us (v. 30) that
the deeds produced by the demoiselle Divion, on which Robert founded his
claims, are in the Tresor des Chartes, and palpable forgeries.]

For these reasons, and much more from the provisional treaty concluded
between Philip and the Duke of Burgundy, it may be fairly inferred that the
Salic law, as it was called, was not so fixed a principle at that time as has
been contended. But however this may be, it received at the accession of
Philip the Long a sanction which subsequent events more thoroughly confirmed.
Philip himself leaving only three daughters, his brother Charles mounted the
throne [Charles IV., A.D. 1322]; and upon his death the rule was so
unquestionably established, that his only daughter was excluded by the Count
of Valois, grandson of Philip the Bold. This prince first took the regency,
the queen-dowager being pregnant, and, upon her giving birth to a daughter,
was crowned king. [A.D. 1328.] No competitor or opponent appeared in France;
but one more formidable than any whom France could have produced was awaiting
the occasion to prosecute his imagined right with all the resources of valor
and genius, and to carry desolation over that great kingdom with as little
scruple as if he was preferring a suit before a civil tribunal.

From the moment of Charles IV.'s death, Edward III. of England buoyed
himself up with a notion of his title to the crown of France, in right of his
mother Isabel, sister to the three last kings. We can have no hesitation in
condemning the injustice of this pretension. Whether the Salic law were or
were not valid, no advantage could be gained by Edward. Even if he could
forget the express or tacit decision of all France, there stood in his way
Jane, the daughter of Louis X., three of Philip the Long, and one of Charles
the Fair. Aware of this, Edward set up a distinction, that, although females
were excluded from succession, the same rule did not apply to their male
issue; and thus, though his mother Isabel could not herself become Queen of
France, she might transmit a title to him. But this was contrary to the
commonest rules of inheritance; and if it could have been regarded at all,
Jane had a son, afterwards the famous King of Navarre, who stood one degree
nearer to the crown than Edward.

It is asserted in some French authorities that Edward preferred a claim
to the regency immediately after the decease of Charles the Fair, and that the
States-General, or at least the peers of France, adjudged that dignity to
Philip de Valois. Whether this be true or not, it is clear that he
entertained projects of recovering his right as early, though his youth and
the embarrassed circumstances of his government threw insuperable obstacles in
the way of their execution. ^u He did liege homage, therefore, to Philip for
Guienne, and for several years, while the affairs of Scotland engrossed his
attention, gave no sign of meditating a more magnificent enterprise. As he
advanced in manhood, and felt the consciousness of his strength, his early
designs grew mature, and produced a series of the most important and
interesting revolutions in the fortunes of France. These will form the
subject of the ensuing pages.

[Footnote u: Letter of Edward III. addressed to certain nobles and towns in
the south of France, dated March 28, 1328, four days before the birth of
Charles IV.'s posthumous daughter, intimates this resolution. Rymer, vol. iv.
p. 344 et seq. But an instrument, dated at Northampton on the 16th of May, is
decisive: This is a procuration to the bishops of Worcester and Litchfield, to
demand and take possession of the kingdom of France, "in our name, which
kingdom has devolved and appertains to us as to the right heir." P. 354. To
this mission Archbishop Stratford refers, in his vindication of himself from
Edward's accusation of treason in 1340; and informs us that the two bishops
actually proceeded to France, though without mentioning any further
particulars. Novit enim qui nihil ignorat, quod cum quaestio de regno
Franciae post mortem regis Caroli, fratris serenissimae matris vestrae, in
parliamento tunc apud Northampton celebrato, tractata discussaque fuisset;
quodque idem regnum Franciae ad vos haereditario jure extiterat legitime
devolutum; et super hoc fuit ordinatum, quod duo episcopi, Wigorniensis tunc,
nunc autem Wintoniensis, ac Coventriensis et Lichfeldensis in Franciam
dirigerent gressus suos, nomineque vestro regnum Franciae vindicarent et
praedicti Philippi de Valesio coronationem pro viribus impedirent; qui juxta
ordinationem praedictam legationem iis injunctam tunc assumentes, gressus suos
versus Franciam direxerunt; quae quidem legatio maximam guerrae praesentis
materiam ministravit. Wilkins, Concilia, t. i. p. 664.

There is no evidence in Rymer's Foedera to corroborate Edward's supposed
claim to the regency of France upon the death of Charles IV.; and it is
certainly suspicious that no appointment of ambassadors or procurators for
this purpose should appear in so complete a collection of documents. The
French historians generally assert this, upon the authority of the continuator
of William of Nangis, a nearly contemporary, but not always well-informed
writer. It is curious to compare the four chief English historians. Rapin
affirms both the claim to the regency on Charles IV.'s death, and that to the
kingdom after the birth of his daughter. Carte, the most exact historian we
have, mentions the latter, and is silent as to the former. Hume passes over
both, and intimates that Edward did not take any steps in support of his
pretensions in 1328. Henry gives the supposed trial of Edward's claim to the
regency before the States-General at great length, and makes no allusion to
the other, so indisputably authenticated in Rymer. It is, I think, most
probable that the two bishops never made the formal demand of the throne as
they were directed by their instructions. Stratford's expressions seem to
imply that they did not.

Sismondi does not mention the claim of Edward to the regency after the
death of Charles IV., though he supposes his pretensions to have been taken
into consideration by the lords and doctors of law, whom he asserts, following
the continuator of William of Nangis, to have consulted together, before
Philip of Valois took the title of regent. (Vol. x. p. 10.) Michelet, more
studious of effect than minute in details, makes no allusion to the subject.]

 

Main Page

World History Project