The History Of France

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

Part Eleven

France was now consolidated into a great kingdom: the feudal system was
at an end. [A.D. 1492.] The vigor of Philip Augustus, the paternal wisdom of
St. Louis, the policy of Philip the Fair, had laid the foundations of a
powerful monarchy, which neither the arms of England nor seditions of Paris
nor rebellions of the princes were able to shake. Besides the original fiefs
of the French crown, it had acquired two countries beyond the Rhone, which
properly depended only upon the empire, Dauphine, under Philip of Valois, by
the bequest of Humbert, the last of its princes; and Provence, under Louis
XI., by that of Charles of Anjou. ^w Thus having conquered herself, if I may
use the phrase, and no longer apprehensive of any foreign enemy, France was
prepared, under a monarch flushed with sanguine ambition, to carry her arms
into other countries, and to contest the prize of glory and power upon the
ample theatre of Europe. ^x

[Footnote w: The country now called Dauphine formed part of the kingdom of
Arles or Provence, bequeathed by Rodolph III. to the Emperor Conrad II. But
the dominion of the empire over these new acquisitions being little more than
nominal, a few of the chief nobility converted their respective fiefs into
independent principalities. One of these was the Lord or Dauphin of Vienne,
whose family became ultimately masters of the whole province. Humbert, the
last of these, made John, son of Philip of Valois, his heir, on condition that
Dauphine should be constantly preserved as a separate possession, not
incorporated with the kingdom of France. This bequest was confirmed by the
Emperor Charles IV., whose supremacy over the province was thus recognized by
the kings of France, though it soon came to be altogether disregarded.
Sismondi (xiv. 3) dates the reunion of Dauphine to the crown from 1457, before
which time it was governed by the dauphin for the time being as a foreign
sovereignty.

Provence, like Dauphine, was changed from a feudal dependency to a
sovereignty, in the weakness and dissolution of the kingdom of Arles, about
the early part of the eleventh century. By the marriage of Douce, heiress of
the first line of sovereign counts, with Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona,
in 1112, it passed into that distinguished family. In 1167 it was occupied or
usurped by Alfonso II., King of Aragon, a relation, but not heir, of the house
of Berenger. Alfonso bequeathed Provence to his second son, of the same name,
from whom it descended to Raymond Berenger IV. This count dying without male
issue in 1245, his youngest daughter Beatrice took possession by virtue of her
father's testament. But this succession being disputed by other claimants,
and especially by Louis IX., who had married her eldest sister, she
compromised differences by marrying Charles of Anjou, the king's brother. The
family of Anjou reigned in Provence, as well as in Naples, till the death of
Joan in 1382, who, having no children, adopted Louis, Duke of Anjou, brother
of Charles V., as her successor. This second Angevine line ended in 1481 by
the death of Charles III.; though Regnier, Duke of Lorraine, who was descended
through a female, had a claim which it does not seem easy to repel by
argument. It was very easy, however, for Louis XI., to whom Charles III. had
bequeathed his rights, to repel it by force, and accordingly he took
possession of Provence, which was permanently united to the Crown by
letters-patent of Charles VIII. in 1486. Art de verifier les Dates, t. ii. p.
445. Garnier, t. xix. p. 57, 474.]

[Footnote x: The principal authority, exclusive of original writers, on which
I have relied for this chapter is the History of France, by Velly, Villaret,
and Garnier; a work which, notwithstanding several defects, has absolutely
superseded those of Mezeray and Daniel. The part of the Abbe Velly comes down
to the middle of the eighth volume (12mo edition), and of the reign of Philip
de Valois. His continuator, Villaret, was interrupted by death in the
seventeenth volume, and in the reign of Louis XI. In my references to this
history, which for common facts I have not thought it necessary to make, I
have merely named the author of the particular volume which I quote. This has
made the above explanation convenient, as the reader might imagine that I
referred to three distinct works. Of these three historians, Garnier, the
last, is the most judicious and, I believe, the most accurate. His prolixity,
though a material defect, and one which has occasioned the work itself to
become an immeasurable undertaking, which could never be completed on the same
scale, is chiefly occasioned by too great a regard to details, and is more
tolerable than a similar fault in Villaret, proceeding from a love of idle
declamation and sentiment. Villaret, however, is not without merits. He
embraces, perhaps more fully than his predecessor Velly, those collateral
branches of history which an enlightened reader requires almost in preference
to civil transactions, the laws, manners, literature, and in general the whole
domestic records of a nation. These subjects are not always well treated; but
the book itself, to which there is a remarkably full index, forms, upon the
whole, a great repository of useful knowledge. Villaret had the advantage of
official access to the French archives, by which he has no doubt enriched his
history; but his references are indistinct, and his composition breathes an
air of rapidity and want of exactness. Velly's characteristics are not very
dissimilar. The style of both is exceedingly bad, as has been severely
noticed, along with their other defects, by Gaillard, in Observations sur
l'Histoire de Velly, Villaret, et Garnier. (4 vols. 12mo. Paris, 1806.)

[This history is now but slightly esteemed in France, especially the
volumes written by the Abbe Velly. The writers were too much imbued with the
spirit of the old monarchy (though no adulators of kings, and rather liberal
according to the standard of their own age) for those who have taken the
sovereignty of the people for their creed. Nor are they critical and exact
enough for the present state of historical knowledge. Sismondi and Michelet,
especially the former, are doubtless superior; but the reader will not find in
the latter as regular a narration of facts as in Velly and Villaret. Sismondi
has as many prejudices on one side as they have on the opposite. [1848.]]]