France in the Middle Ages
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- West Francia (843–987) and the Viking invasions and the piecemeal dismantling of the Carolingian Empire by local powers,
- the elaboration of the seigneurial economic system and the feudal system of rights and obligations between lords and vassals,
- the growth of the region controlled by the House of Capet (987–1328) and their struggles with the expanding Norman and Angevin regions,
- a period of artistic and literary outpouring from the 12th to the early 14th centuries,
- the rise of the House of Valois (1328–1589), the protracted dynastic crisis of the Hundred Years' War with the Kingdom of England (1337–1453) and the catastrophic Black Death epidemic (1348), and
- the expansion of the French nation in the 15th century and the creation of a sense of French identity.
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|History of France|
From the Middle Ages onward the French rulers believed their kingdoms had natural borders: the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Rhine. This was used as a pretext for an aggressive policy and repeated invasions. This however had little basis in reality for not all of these territories were part of the Kingdom and the authority of the King within his kingdom would be quite fluctuant. The lands that composed the Kingdom of France showed great geographical diversity, the northern and central parts enjoyed a temperate climate when the southern part were closer to the Mediterranean climate. While there were great differences between the northern and southern parts of the kingdom there were equally important differences depending on the distance of mountains: mainly the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. France had important rivers that were used as waterways: the Loire, the Rhone, the Seine as well as the Garonne. These rivers were settled earlier than the rest and important cities were founded on their banks but they were separated by large forests, marsh, and other rough terrains.
Before the Romans conquered Gaul, the Gauls lived in villages organised in wider tribes. The Romans referred to the smallest of these groups as pagi and the widest ones as civitates. These pagi and civitates were often taken as a basis for the imperial administration and would survive up to the middle-ages when their capitals became centres of bishoprics. These religious provinces would survive until the French revolution. During the Roman Empire, southern Gaul was more heavily populated and because of this more episcopal sees were present there at first while in northern France they shrank greatly in size because of the barbarian invasions and became heavily fortified to resist the invaders.
Discussion of the size of France in the Middle Ages is complicated by distinctions between lands personally held by the king (the "domaine royal") and lands held in homage by another lord. The notion of res publica inherited from the Roman province of Gaul was not fully maintained by the Frankish kingdom and the Carolingian Empire, and by the early years of the Direct Capetians, the French kingdom was more or less a fiction. The "domaine royal" of the Capetians was limited to the regions around Paris, Bourges and Sens. The great majority of French territory was part of Aquitaine, the Duchy of Normandy, the Duchy of Brittany, the Comté of Champagne, the Duchy of Burgundy, and other territories (for a map, see Provinces of France). In principle, the lords of these lands owed homage to the French king for their possession, but in reality the king in Paris had little control over these lands, and this was to be confounded by the uniting of Normandy, Aquitaine and England under the Plantagenet dynasty in the 12th century.
Philip II Augustus undertook a massive French expansion in the 13th century, but most of these acquisitions were lost both by the royal system of "apanage" (the giving of regions to members of the royal family to be administered) and through losses in the Hundred Years' War. Only in the 15th century would Charles VII and Louis XI gain control of most of modern-day France (except for Brittany, Navarre, and parts of eastern and northern France).
The weather in France and Europe in the Middle Ages was significantly milder than during the periods preceding or following it. Historians refer to this as the "Medieval Warm Period", lasting from about the 10th century to about the 14th century. Part of the French population growth in this period (see below) is directly linked to this temperate weather and its effect on crops and livestock.
At the end of the Middle Ages, France was the most populous region in Europe—having overtaken Spain and Italy by 1340. In the 14th century, before the arrival of the Black Death, the total population of the area covered by modern-day France has been estimated at around 17 million. Paris, the largest city in Europe, had over 200,000 inhabitants in the 13th century. The Black Death killed an estimated one-third of the population from its appearance in 1348. The concurrent Hundred Years' War slowed recovery. It would be the mid-16th century before the population recovered to mid-fourteenth century levels.
In the early Middle Ages, France was a center of Jewish learning, but increasing persecution, and a series of expulsions in the 14th century, caused considerable suffering for French Jews; see History of the Jews in France.
Social structures 
In the Middle Ages in France, the vast majority of the population (between 80 and 90 percent) were peasants.
Traditional categories inherited from the Roman and Merovingian period (distinctions between free and unfree peasants, between tenants and peasants who owned their own land, etc.) underwent significant changes up to the 11th century. The traditional rights of "free" peasants -- such as service in royal armies (they had been able to serve in the royal armies as late as Charlemagne's reign) and participation in public assemblies and law courts -- were lost through the 9th to the 10th centuries, and they were increasingly made dependents of nobles, churches and large landholders. From the mid-8th century to 1000 also saw a steady increase of aristocratic and monastic control of the land, at the expense of landowning peasants. At the same time, the traditional notion of "unfree" dependents and the distinction between "unfree" and "free" tenants was eroded as the concept of serfdom (see also History of serfdom) came to dominate.
From the mid-8th century on, particularly in the north, the relationship between peasants and the land became increasingly characterized by the extension of the new "bipartite estate" system (manors, manorialism), in which peasants (who were bound to the land) held tenant holdings from a lord or monastery (for which they paid rent), but were also required to work the lord's own "demesne"; in the north, some of these estates could be quite substantial. This system remained a standard part of lord-tenant relations into the 12th century.
The economic and demographic crises of the 14th-15th centuries (agricultural expansion had lost many of the gains made in the 12th and 13th centuries) reversed this trend: landlords offered serfs their freedom in exchange for working abandoned lands, ecclesiastical and royal authorities created new "free" cities (villefranches) or granted freedom to existing cities, etc. By the end of the 15th century, serfdom was largely extinct; henceforth "free" peasants paid rents for their own lands, and the lord's demesne was worked by hired labor. This liberated the peasantry to a certain degree, but also made their lives more precarious in times of economic uncertainty. For lords who rented out more and more of their holdings for fixed rents, the initial benefits were positive, but over time they found themselves increasingly cash-strapped as inflationary pressures reduced their incomes.
Aristocracy, nobles, knights 
In the Carolingian period, the "aristocracy" (nobilis in the Latin documents) was by no means a legally defined category. With traditions going back to the Romans; one was "noble" if he or she possessed significant land holdings, had assess to the king and royal court, could receive honores and benefices for service (such as being named count of duke). Their access to political power in the Carolingian period might also necessitate a need for education. Their wealth and power was also evident in their lifestyle and purchase of luxury goods, and in their maintenance of an armed entourage of fideles (men who had sworn oaths to serve them).
From the late 9th to the late 10th century, the nature of the noble class changed significantly. First off, the aristocracy increasingly focussed on establishing strong regional bases of landholdings, on taking hereditary control of the counties and duchies, and eventually on erecting these into veritable independent principalities. (By 1025, the area north of the Loire was dominated by six or seven of these virtually independent states.) After 1000, these counties in turn began to break down into smaller lordships, as smaller lords wrest control of local lands in the so-called "feudal revolution". This was not however systematic throughout France, and in certain counties (such as Flanders, Normandy, Anjou, Toulouse), counts were able to maintain control of their lands into the 12th century or later.
Secondly, from the 9th century on, military ability was increasingly seen as conferring special status, and professional soldiers or milites, generally in the entourage of sworn lords, began to establish themselves in the ranks of the aristocracy (acquiring local lands, building private castes, seizing elements of justice), thereby transforming into the military noble class historians refer to as "knights".
Finally, through the usurpation and hereditary control of comital powers, the great lords and, eventually the lesser lords, privatized a wide range of prerogatives and rights, most importantly the highly profitable rights of justice. These seigneurial rights included travel dues, market dues, fees for using woodlands, obligations to use the lord's mill, etc. Power in this period became more personal. Justice in seigneurial lands (including those held by the church or within cities) was generally overseen by the seigneur or his delegated officers, and this system would remain in effect until the 15th century, when much of the seigneur's legal purview was given to the bailliages, leaving them only affairs concerning seigeurial dues and duties, and small affairs of local justice.
Administration and government 
Monarchy and regional powers 
France was a very decentralised state during the Middle Ages. The authority of the king was more religious than administrative. The 11th century in France marked the apogee of princely power at the expense of the king when states like Normandy, Flanders or Languedoc enjoyed a local authority comparable to kingdoms in all but name. The Capetians, as they were descended from the Robertians, were formerly powerful princes themselves who had successfully unseated the weak and unfortunate Carolingian kings.
The Carolingian kings had nothing more than a royal title when the Capetian kings added their principality to that title. The Capetians, in a way, held a dual status of King and Prince; as king they held the Crown of Charlemagne and as Count of Paris they held their personal fiefdom, best known as Île-de-France.
The fact that the Capetians both held lands as Prince as well as in the title of King gave them a complicated status. Thus they were involved in the struggle for power within France as princes but they also had a religious authority over Roman Catholicism in France as King. However, and despite the fact that the Capetian kings often treated other princes more as enemies and allies than as subordinates, their royal title was often recognised yet not often respected. The royal authority was so weak in some remote places that bandits were the effective power.
Some of the king's vassals would grow sufficiently powerful that they would become some of the strongest rulers of western Europe. The Normans, the Plantagenets, the Lusignans, the Hautevilles, the Ramnulfids, and the House of Toulouse successfully carved lands outside of France for themselves. The most important of these conquests for French history was the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror, following the Battle of Hastings and immortalised in the Bayeux Tapestry, because it linked England to France through Normandy. Although the Normans were now both vassals of the French kings and their equals as kings of England, their zone of political activity remained centered in France.
An important part of the French aristocracy also involved itself in the crusades, and French knights founded and ruled the Crusader states. An example of the legacy left in the Middle East by these nobles is the Krak des Chevaliers' enlargement by the Counts of Tripoli and Toulouse.
The history of the monarchy is how it overcame the powerful barons over ensuing centuries, and established absolute sovereignty over France in the 16th century. A number of factors contributed to the rise of the French monarchy. The dynasty established by Hugh Capet continued uninterrupted until 1328, and the laws of primogeniture ensured orderly successions of power. Secondly, the successors of Capet came to be recognised as members of an illustrious and ancient royal house and therefore socially superior to their politically and economically superior rivals. Thirdly, the Capetians had the support of the Church, which favoured a strong central government in France. This alliance with the Church was one of the great enduring legacies of the Capetians. The First Crusade was composed almost entirely of Frankish Princes. As time went on the power of the King was expanded by conquests, seizures and successful feudal political battles.
Vassalage and feudal land 
The Merovingians and Carolingians maintained relations of power through the use of clientele systems and the granting of honores and benefices, including land, a practice which grew out of Late Antiquity. This practice would develop into the system of vassalage and feudalism.
Originally, vassalage did not imply the giving or receiving of landholdings (which were granted only as a reward for loyalty), but by the eighth century the giving of a landholding was becoming standard. The granting of a landholding to a vassal did not relinquish the lord's property rights, but only the use of the lands and their income; the granting lord retained ultimate ownership of the fee and could, technically, recover the lands in case of disloyalty or death. In 8th-century France Charles Martel was the first to make large scale and systematic use (the practice had remained until then sporadic) of the remuneration of vassals by the concession of the usufruct of lands (a beneficatium or "benefice" in the documents) for the life of the vassal, or, sometimes extending to the second or third generation. By the middle of the 10th century, fee had largely become hereditary. The eldest son of a deceased vassal would inherit, but first he had to do homage and fealty to the lord and pay a "relief" for the land (a monetary recognition of the lord's continuing proprietary rights over the property).
Cities and Bishoprics 
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The Royal court 
Compared to the Renaissance court, the medieval French royal court was a small entourage composed of officers, administrators, and domestic servants; large-scale festivities occurred only during great occasions. Originally, there was a distinction between people attached to the person of the king (collectively the "hôtel du roi", or, later, the "maison du roi") and people called upon to counsel the king in his administration of the realm (originally called the Curia regis, or the "court"), although by the middle of the 13th century these distinctions were less clear. The royal administration was led by a number of Great Officers of the Crown of France, such as the Constable of France (established by King Philip I in 1060), the Chancellor, the Grand Chambrier (who managed the Royal Treasury along with the Grand Bouteiller (Grand Butler), before being supplanted of these functions by the Chamber of Accounts (Chambre des comptes, created by King Philip IV) and the position of Surintendant des finances (created in 1311). As the royal power became increasingly centralized during the reigns of Philip II and Louis IX, the administrative apparatus around the king grew larger with specialized clerics and talented lay personnel, jurists, members of the lesser nobility.
Medieval French kings conferred the dignity of peerage upon certain of his preëminent vassals, both clerical and lay. Some historians consider Louis VII (1137–1180) to have created the French system of peers.
Peerage was attached to a specific territorial jurisdiction, either an episcopal see for episcopal peerages or a fief for secular. Peerages attached to fiefs were transmissible or inheritable with the fief, and these fiefs are often designated as pairie-duché (for duchies) and pairie-comté (for counties).
By 1216 there were nine peers:
- Archbishop of Reims who had the distinction of anointing and crowning the king
- Bishop of Langres
- Bishop of Beauvais
- Bishop of Châlons
- Bishop of Noyon
- Duke of Normandy
- Duke of Burgundy
- Duke of Aquitaine also called Duke of Guyenne
- Count of Champagne
A few years later and before 1228 three peers were added to make the total of twelve peers:
These twelve peerages are known as the ancient peerage or pairie ancienne, and the number twelve is sometimes said to have been chosen to mirror the 12 paladins of Charlemagne in the Chanson de geste (see below). Parallels may also be seen with mythical Knights of the Round Table under King Arthur. So popular was this notion, that for a long time people thought peerage had originated in the reign of Charlemagne, who was considered the model king and shining example for knighthood and nobility.
The dozen pairs played a role in the royal sacre or consecration, during the liturgy of the coronation of the king, attested to as early as 1179, symbolically upholding his crown, and each original peer had a specific role, often with an attribute. Since the peers were never twelve during the coronation in early periods, due to the fact that most lay peerages were forfeited to or merged in the crown, delegates were chosen by the king, mainly from the princes of the blood. In later periods peers also held up by poles a baldaquin or cloth of honour over the king during much of the ceremony.
In 1204 the Duchy of Normandy was absorbed by the French crown, and later in the 13th century two more of the lay peerages were absorbed by the crown (Toulouse 1271, Champagne 1284), so in 1297 three new peerages were created, the County of Artois, the Duchy of Anjou and the Duchy of Brittany, to compensate for the three peerages that had disappeared.
Thus, beginning in 1297 the practice started of creating new peerages by letters patent, specifying the fief to which the peerage was attached, and the conditions under which the fief could be transmitted (e.g. only male heirs) for princes of the blood who held an apanage. By 1328 all apanagists would be peers.
The number of lay peerages increased over time from 7 in 1297 to 26 in 1400, 21 in 1505, and 24 in 1588.
Taxation and the Estates General 
The king was expected to survive on the revenues of the "domaine royal", or lands that belonged to him directly. In times of need, the taille, an "exceptional" tax could be imposed and collected; this resource was increasingly required during the protracted wars of the 14th-15th centuries and the taille became permanent in 1439, when the right to collect taxes in support of a standing army was granted to Charles VII of France during the Hundred Years' War.
Similar reasons were behind the convocation of the States-General or Estates-General. In 1302, expanding French royal power led to a general assembly consisting of the chief lords, both lay and ecclesiastical, and the representatives of the principal privileged towns, which were like distinct lordships. Certain precedents paved the way for this institution: representatives of principal towns had several times been convoked by the king, and under Philip III there had been assemblies of nobles and ecclesiastics in which the two orders deliberated separately. It was the dispute between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII which led to the States-General of 1302; the king of France desired that, in addition to the Great Officers of the Crown of France, he receive the counsel from the three estates in this serious crisis. The letters summoning the assembly of 1302 are published by M. Georges Picot in his collection of Documents inédits pour servir à l'histoire de France. During the same reign they were subsequently assembled several times to give him aid by granting subsidies. Over time subsidies came to be the most frequent motive for their convocation.
The Estates-General included representatives of the First Estate (clergy), Second Estate (the nobility), and Third Estate (commoners: all others), and monarchs always summoned them either to grant subsidies or to advise the Crown, to give aid and counsel. In their primitive form in the 14th and the first half of the 15th centuries, the Estates-General had only a limited elective element. The lay lords and the ecclesiastical lords (bishops and other high clergy) who made up the Estates-General were not elected by their peers, but directly chosen and summoned by the king. In the order of the clergy, however, since certain ecclesiastical bodies, e.g. abbeys and chapters of cathedrals, were also summoned to the assembly, and as these bodies, being persons in the moral but not in the physical sense, could not appear in person, their representative had to be chosen by the monks of the convent or the canons of the chapter. It was only the representation of the Third Estate which was furnished by election. Originally, moreover, the latter was not called upon as a whole to seek representation in the estates. It was only the bonnes villes, the privileged towns, which were called upon. They were represented by elected procureurs, who were frequently the municipal officials of the town, but deputies were often elected for the purpose. The country districts, the plat pays, were not represented. Even within the bonnes villes, the franchise was quite narrow.
Prévôts, baillages 
The prévôts or their equivalent (in Normandy a vicomte, in parts of northern France a châtelain, in the south a viguier or a bayle) were the first-level judges created by the Capetian monarchy around the 11th century who administered the scattered parts of the royal domain. Provosts replaced viscounts wherever a viscounty had not been made a fief, and it is likely that the provost position imitated and was styled after the corresponding ecclesiastical provost of cathedral chapters. Provosts were entrusted with and carried out local royal power, including the collection of the Crown's domainal revenues and all taxes and duties owed the King within a provostship's jurisdiction. They were also responsible for military defense such as raising local contingents for royal armies. The provosts also administered justice though with limited jurisdiction.
In the 11th century, the provosts tended increasingly to make their positions hereditary and thus became more difficult to control. One of the King's great officers, the Great Seneschal, became their supervisor. In the 12th century, the office of provost was put up for bidding, and thereafter provosts were farmers of revenues. The provost thus received the speculative right to collect the King's seignorial revenues within his provostship. This remained his primary role.
To monitor the performance and curtail abuses of the prévôts, Philip II Augustus, an able and ingenious administrator who founded many of the central institutions on which the French monarchy's system of power would be based, established itinerant justices known as baillis ("bailiff") based on medieval fiscal and tax divisions which had been used by earlier sovereign princes (such as the Duke of Normandy). The bailli was thus the king’s administrative representative in northern France responsible for the application of justice and control of the administration and local finances in his baillage; in the south of France, the term found most often is "sénéchal, sénéchaussé".
Over time, the role of the baillages/sénéchaussés would be greatly extended as extensions of royal power, administration and justice. With the office of Great Seneschal vacant after 1191, the bailies became stationary and established themselves as powerful officials superior to provosts. A bailie's district included about half a dozen provostships. When appeals were instituted by the Crown, appeal of provost judgments, formerly impossible, now lay with the bailie. Moreover, in the 14th century, provosts no longer were in charge of collecting domainal revenues, except in farmed provostships, having instead yielded this responsibility to royal receivers (receveurs royaux). Raising local army contingents (ban and arrière-ban) also passed to bailies. Provosts therefore retained the sole function of inferior judges over over vassals with original jurisdiction concurrent with bailies over claims against nobles and actions reserved for royal courts (cas royaux). This followed a precedent established in the chief feudal courts in the 13th and 14th centuries in which summary provostship suits were distinguished from solemn bailliary sessions (assise).
Carolingian legacy 
During the later years of the elderly Charlemagne's rule, the Vikings made advances along the northern and western perimeters of his kingdom. After Charlemagne's death in 814 his heirs were incapable of maintaining political unity and the empire began to crumble. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 divided the Carolingian Empire, and Charles the Bald ruled over West Francia, roughly corresponding to the territory of modern France.
Viking advances were allowed to escalate, and their dreaded longboats were sailing up the Loire and Seine Rivers and other inland waterways, wreaking havoc and spreading terror. In 843 Viking invaders murdered the Bishop of Nantes, and a few years after that, they burned the Church of Saint Martin at Tours, and in 845 the Vikings sacked Paris. During the reign of Charles the Simple (898–922), Normans under Rollo were settled in an area on either side of the Seine River, downstream from Paris, that was to become Normandy.
The Carolingians were subsequently to share the fate of their predecessors: after an intermittent power struggle between the two families, the accession (987) of Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, established on the throne the Capetian dynasty which with its Valois and Bourbon offshoots was to rule France for more than 800 years.
The Carolingian era had seen the gradual emergence of institutions which were to condition France's development for centuries to come: the acknowledgement by the crown of the administrative authority of the realm's nobles within their territories in return for their (sometimes tenuous) loyalty and military support, a phenomenon readily visible in the rise of the Capetians and foreshadowed to some extent by the Carolingians' own rise to power.
The First Capetians (940-1108) 
The history of medieval France starts with the election of Hugh Capet (940-996) by an assembly summoned in Reims in 987. Capet was previously "Duke of the Franks" and then became "King of the Franks" (Rex Francorum). Hugh's lands extended little beyond the Paris basin; his political unimportance weighed against the powerful barons who elected him. Many of the king's vassals (who included for a long time the kings of England) ruled over territories far greater than his own. He was recorded to be recognised king by the Gauls, Bretons, Danes, Aquitanians, Goths, Spanish and Gascons. The new dynasty was in immediate control of little beyond the middle Seine and adjacent territories, while powerful territorial lords such as the 10th- and 11th-century counts of Blois accumulated large domains of their own through marriage and through private arrangements with lesser nobles for protection and support.
Count Borell of Barcelona called for Hugh's help against Islamic raids, but even if Hugh intended to help Borell, he was otherwise occupied in fighting Charles of Lorraine. The loss of other Spanish principalities then followed, as the Spanish marches grew more and more independent. Hugh Capet, the first Capetian king, is not a well documented figure, his greatest achievement being certainly to survive as king and defeating the Carolingian claimant, thus allowing him to establish what would become one of Europe's most powerful house of kings.
Hugh's son – Robert the Pious – was crowned King of the Franks before Capet's demise. Hugh Capet decided so in order to have his succession secured. Robert II, as King of the Franks, met Emperor Henry II in 1023 on the borderline. They agreed to end all claims over each other's realm, setting a new stage of Capetian and Ottonian relationships. Although a king weak in power, Robert II's efforts were considerable. His surviving charters imply he relied heavily on the Church to rule France, much like his father did. Although he lived with a mistress — Bertha of Burgundy — and was excommunicated because of this, he was regarded as a model of piety for monks (hence his nickname, Robert the Pious). The reign of Robert II was quite important because it involved the Peace and Truce of God (beginning in 989) and the Cluniac Reforms.
Robert II crowned his son — Hugh Magnus — as King of the Franks at age 10 to secure the succession, but Hugh Magnus rebelled against his father and died fighting him in 1025.
The next King of the Franks was Robert II's next son, Henry I (reigned 1027-1060). Like Hugh Magnus, Henry was crowned as co-ruler with his father (1027), in the Capetian tradition, but he had little power or influence as junior king while his father still lived. Henry I was crowned after Robert's death in 1031, which is quite exceptional for a French king of the times. Henry I was one of the weakest kings of the Franks, and his reign saw the rise of some very powerful nobles such as William the Conqueror. Henry I's biggest source of concerns was his brother — Robert I of Burgundy — who was pushed by his mother to the conflict. Robert of Burgundy was made Duke of Burgundy by King Henry I and had to be satisfied with that title. From Henry I onward, the Dukes of Burgundy were relatives of the King of the Franks until the end of the Duchy proper.
King Philip I, named by his Kievan mother with a typically Eastern European name, was no more fortunate than his predecessor although the kingdom did enjoy a modest recovery during his extraordinarily long reign (1060–1108). His reign also saw the launch of the First Crusade to regain the Holy Land, which heavily involved his family although he personally did not support the expedition.
The area around the lower Seine, ceded to Scandinavian invaders as the Duchy of Normandy in 911, became a source of particular concern when Duke William took possession of the kingdom of England in the Norman Conquest of 1066, making himself and his heirs the King's equal outside France (where he was still nominally subject to the Crown).
Louis VI and Louis VII (1108–1180) 
It is from Louis VI (reigned 1108–1137) onward that royal authority became more accepted. Louis VI was more a soldier and warmongering king than a scholar. The way the king raised money from his vassals made him quite unpopular; he was described as greedy and ambitious and that is corroborated by records of the time. His regular attacks on his vassals, although damaging the royal image, reinforced the royal power. From 1127 onward Louis had the assistance of a skilled religious statesman, Abbot Suger. The abbot was the son of a minor family of knights, but his political advice was extremely valuable to the king. Louis VI successfully defeated, both military and politically, many of the robber barons. Louis VI frequently summoned his vassals to the court, and those who did not show up often had their land possessions confiscated and military campaigns mounted against them. This drastic policy clearly imposed some royal authority on Paris and its surrounding areas. When Louis VI died in 1137, much progress had been made towards strengthening Capetian authority.
Thanks to Abbot Suger's political advice, King Louis VII (junior king 1131–1137, senior king 1137–1180) enjoyed greater moral authority over France than his predecessors. Powerful vassals paid homage to the French king. Abbot Suger arranged the 1137 marriage between Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Bordeaux, which made Louis VII Duke of Aquitaine and gave him considerable power. However, the couple disagreed over the burning of more than a thousand people in Vitry during the conflict against the Count of Champagne.
King Louis VII was deeply horrified by the event and sought penitence by going to the Holy Land. He later involved the Kingdom of France in the Second Crusade but his relationship with Eleanor did not improve. The marriage was ultimately annulled by the pope under the pretext of consanguinity and Eleanor soon married the Duke of Normandy – Henry Fitzempress, who would become King of England as Henry II two years later. Louis VII was once a very powerful monarch and was now facing a much stronger vassal, who was his equal as King of England and his strongest prince as Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine.
(Henry had inherited the Duchy of Normandy through his mother, Mathilda of England, and the County of Anjou from his father, Geoffrey of Anjou, and in 1152, he had married France's newly-divorced ex-queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who ruled much of southwest France. After defeating a revolt led by Eleanor and three of their four sons, Henry had Eleanor imprisoned, made the Duke of Brittany his vassal, and in effect ruled the western half of France as a greater power than the French throne. However, disputes among Henry's descendants over the division of his French territories, coupled with John of England's lengthy quarrel with Philip II, allowed Philip II to recover influence over most of this territory. After the French victory at the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, the English monarchs maintained power only in southwestern Duchy of Guyenne.)
The late direct Capetian kings were considerably more powerful and influential than the earliest ones. While Philip I could hardly control his Parisian barons, Philip IV could dictate popes and emperors. The late Capetians, although they often ruled for a shorter time than their earlier peers, were often much more influential. This period also saw the rise of a complex system of international alliances and conflicts opposing, through dynasties, Kings of France and England and Holy Roman Emperor.
Philip II Augustus (1180–1223) 
The reign of Philip II Augustus (junior king 1179–1180, senior king 1180–1223) marked an important step in the history of French monarchy. His reign saw the French royal domain and influence greatly expanded. He set the context for the rise of power to much more powerful monarchs like Saint Louis and Philip the Fair.
Philip II spent an important part of his reign fighting the so-called Angevin Empire, which was probably the greatest threat to the King of France since the rise of the Capetian dynasty. During the first part of his reign Philip II tried using Henry II of England's son against him. He allied himself with the Duke of Aquitaine and son of Henry II — Richard Lionheart — and together they launched a decisive attack on Henry's castle and home of Chinon and removed him from power.
Richard replaced his father as King of England afterward. The two kings then went crusading during the Third Crusade; however, their alliance and friendship broke down during the crusade. The two men were once again at odds and fought each other in France until Richard was on the verge of totally defeating Philip II.
Adding to their battles in France, the Kings of France and England were trying to install their respective allies at the head of the Holy Roman Empire. If Philip II Augustus supported Philip of Swabia, member of the House of Hohenstaufen, then Richard Lionheart supported Otto IV, member of the House of Welf. Otto IV had the upper hand and became the Holy Roman Emperor at the expense of Philip of Swabia. The crown of France was saved by Richard's demise after a wound he received fighting his own vassals in Limousin.
John Lackland, Richard's successor, refused to come to the French court for a trial against the Lusignans and, as Louis VI had done often to his rebellious vassals, Philip II confiscated John's possessions in France. John's defeat was swift and his attempts to reconquer his French possession at the decisive Battle of Bouvines (1214) resulted in complete failure. Philip II had annexed Normandy and Anjou, plus capturing the Counts of Boulogne and Flanders, although Aquitaine and Gascony remained loyal to the Plantagenet King. In an additional aftermath of the Battle of Bouvines, John's ally Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV was overthrown by Frederick II, member of the House of Hohenstaufen and ally of Philip. Philip II of France was crucial in ordering Western European politics in both England and France.
Philip Augustus founded the Sorbonne and made Paris a city for scholars.
Prince Louis (the future Louis VIII, reigned 1223–1226) was involved in the subsequent English civil war as French and English (or rather Anglo-Norman) aristocracies were once one and were now split between allegiances. While the French kings were struggling against the Plantagenets, the Church called for the Albigensian Crusade. Southern France was then largely absorbed in the royal domains.
Saint Louis (1226–1270) 
France became a truly centralised kingdom under Louis IX (reigned 1226–1270). Saint Louis has often been portrayed as a one dimensional character, a flawless representant of the faith and an administrative reformer who cared for the governed ones. However, his reign was far from perfect for everyone: he made unsuccessful crusades, his expanding administrations raised opposition, and he burned Jewish books at the Pope's urging. His judgments were not often practical, although they seemed fair by the standards of the time. It appears Louis had a strong sense of justice and always wanted to judge people himself before applying any sentence. This was said about Louis and French clergy asking for excommunications of Louis' vassals:
For it would be against God and contrary to right and justice if he compelled any man to seek absolution when the clergy were doing him wrong.
Louis IX was only twelve years old when he became King of France. His mother — Blanche of Castile — was the effective power as regent (although she did not formally use the title). Blanche's authority was strongly opposed by the French barons yet she maintained her position until Louis was old enough to rule by himself.
The kingdom was vulnerable: war was still going on in the County of Toulouse, and the royal army was occupied fighting resistance in Languedoc. Count Raymond VII of Toulouse finally signed the Treaty of Paris in 1229, in which he retained much of his lands for life, but his daughter, married to Count Alfonso of Poitou, produced him no heir and so the County of Toulouse went to the King of France.
King Henry III of England had not yet recognized the Capetian overlordship over Aquitaine and still hoped to recover Normandy and Anjou and reform the Angevin Empire. He landed in 1230 at Saint-Malo with a massive force. Henry III's allies in Brittany and Normandy fell down because they did not dare fight their king, who led the counterstrike himself. This evolved into the Saintonge War (1242).
Ultimately, Henry III was defeated and had to recognize Louis IX's overlordship, although the King of France did not seize Aquitaine from Henry III. Louis IX was now the most important landowner of France, adding to his royal title. There were some opposition to his rule in Normandy, yet it proved remarkably easy to rule, especially compared to the County of Toulouse which had been brutally conquered. The Conseil du Roi, which would evolve into the Parlement, was founded in these times.
After his conflict with King Henry III of England, Louis established a cordial relation with the Plantagenet King. An amusing anecdote is about Henry III's attending the French Parlement, as Duke of Aquitaine; however, the King of England was always late because he liked to stop each time he met a priest to hear the mass, so Louis made sure no priest was on the way of Henry III. Henry III and Louis IX then started a long contest for who was the most faithful; this evolved to the point that none ever arrived on time to the Parlement, which was then allowed to debate in their absence.
The Kingdom was involved in two crusades under Saint Louis: the Seventh Crusade and the Eighth Crusade. Both proved to be complete failures for the French King. He died in the Eighth Crusade and Philip III became king.
The 13th century was to bring the crown important gains also in the south, where a papal-royal crusade against the region's Albigensian or Cathar heretics (1209) led to the incorporation into the royal domain of Lower (1229) and Upper (1271) Languedoc. Philip IV's seizure of Flanders (1300) was less successful, ending two years later in the rout of his knights by the forces of the Flemish cities at the Battle of the Golden Spurs near Kortrijk (Courtrai).
Philip III and Philip IV (1270–1314) 
After Louis IX died of bubonic plague crusading in Tunisia in 1270, his son Philip III (1270-1285) and grandson Philip IV (1285-1314) followed him. Philip III was called "the Bold" on the basis of his abilities in combat and on horseback, and not because of his character or ruling abilities. Philip III took part in another crusading disaster: the Aragonese Crusade, which cost him his life in 1285.
Philip III continued the steady expansion of the royal domain, bringing in Toulouse (1271) and marrying the heiress to the county of Burgundy to his son in 1295 (he had already married another son to the heiress of Champagne and Navarre). Southern Flanders and Lyon were annexed into France in 1312 along with numerous smaller territories.
After taking the throne, Philip III felt obliged to continue his father's apparently solid diplomacy despite circumstances having changed. In 1282, the misrule of Charles of Anjou in Sicily compelled the island's populace to rebel in favor of King Peter III of Aragon. As Pope Martin IV was a close ally of Philip, he immediately excommunicated Peter and offered his throne to one of the French king's sons. Since Philip the Fair was already slated to inherit Navarre, the entire Spanish March seemed ripe for reconquest by France. Unfortunately, Philip III's attempted crusade against Aragon, a blatantly political affair, ended in disaster as an epidemic struck his army, which then was soundly defeated by Aragonese forces at Col de Panissars. The humiliated king died shortly afterwards in Perpignan, followed by Charles of Anjou and Martin IV.
Of the later Capetian rulers, Philip IV was the greatest, bringing royal power to the strongest level it would attain in the Middle Ages, yet alienated a great many people and generally left France exhausted. As such, his sons were obliged to follow a more restrained course without however abandoning their father's ambitions. Philip IV for the most part ignored the Mediterranean and instead focused his foreign policy efforts on France's northern frontiers. Some of this was done at the expense of the Holy Roman Emperors, but the king's most aggressive actions were against England. Disputes over Aquitaine were a bone of contention for years and finally in 1294, war broke out. The French armies drove deep into Gascony, leading to Edward I of England joining forces with Flanders and other allies on the northern borders of France. The allied forces were soundly beaten in 1297 by a French army led by Robert of Artois and a truce was agreed to, leading to preservation of the status quo ante bellum. As part of the peace arrangement, Edward married Philip's sister and the son and daughter of both kings were slated to marry.
Flanders remained stubbornly rebellious and insubordinate. Although their count had been imprisoned by Philip, this did not prevent the Flemish burghers from rising up against French troops stationed there, inflicting a sensational defeat on them at the 1302 Battle of Courtrai. Eventually however, the king began a new offensive into Flanders and a peace was finally agreed to in 1305 which however still failed to placate the Flemish townsmen.
In addition, Philip IV extended royal jurisdiction by treaty into the ecclesiastical territories of Vivers, Cahors, Mende, and Le Puy. With all this, the king could now assert power nearly anywhere in France, yet there was still a great deal of work yet to be done and French rulers for the time being continued to do without Brittany, Burgundy, and numerous lesser territories although they legislated for the whole realm. Governmental administration in France during this period became more bureaucratic and sophisticated along with the steady expansion of royal power. Even so, the Capetian kings should not be taken as arbitrary tyrants since feudal custom and tradition still acted as restraints on them.
If Philip's policies provoked hostility and complaints, it was because they favored no class in particular. The king's policy towards the towns remained fairly traditional, but this was not the case with the Church. When he wanted to tax French clergy to fund military campaigns, he encountered the objection of Pope Boniface VIII. The pope had received a number of complaints from French and English clergy over lay taxes and thus issued the bull Clericis lacios in 1296 declaring that papal consent was necessary for this. Philip however became infuriated and issued loud arguments in defense of his actions, leaving the clergy divided over the matter. Eventually the pope withdrew his objection.
In 1301, fresh trouble erupted when the Bishop of Pamiers was accused by the King of heresy and treason, leading to another protest from Boniface VIII that Church property could not be confiscated without Rome's permission and all Christian rulers were subordinate to papal authority. The pope summoned French clergy to the Vatican to debate a reform of the kingdom. Once again the prelates were left divided between loyalty to their country and loyalty to the Church. Those who took the side of Philip met in a large assembly in Paris along with other segments of French society criticizing the Pope, who responded by excommunicating the king and all clergy who had supported him. The following year, Philip struck back with a vengeance. Prelates loyal to the crown formed a scheme to bring Boniface to trial, and the Pope was summarily arrested at Anagni that September. He was beaten by his jailers and threatened with execution if he did not resign the papacy, but he refused. The 68-year old Pope was released from captivity after only a few days and died several weeks later.
Philip ensured that he would never again have trouble with the Church by promoting Raymond Bertrand de Got, archbishop of Bordeaux, as the next Pope. The papal concave was evenly divided between French and Italian cardinals, but the latter acquiesced and de Got became Pope Clement V. Thus, Philip successfully installed an obedient French puppet in the papacy that was moved to Avignon.
One of the more bizarre episodes of Philip's reign, he was responsible for the destruction of the Knights Templar. The Templars had been founded during the Crusades more than a century earlier, but now consisted of old men who's prestige was greatly diminished after the fall of the Holy Land and no longer seemed to serve any useful purpose worth their privileges. Unable to find suitable evidence of misdeeds by the Templars to justify disposing of the order, Philip had to resort to a mass meeting at Tours in 1308 to rally support. Finally in 1312, Clement V, despite his misgivings, issued a bull ordering their dissolution. The Templars' possessions were handed over to the Knights Hospitallers and their remaining members imprisoned or executed for heresy.
Louis X and Philip V (1314-1322) 
In 1314, Philip IV died abruptly in a hunting accident at the age of 47 and the throne passed to his son Louis X (1314-1316). Louis's brief reign saw further unsuccessful attempts to assert control over Flanders as the king mobilized an army along the border, but supply problems caused the effort to break down. Louis died in the summer of 1316 at only 26 of an unknown illness (possibly gastroenteritis) after consuming a large quantity of chilled wine following a game of tennis on an extremely hot day. The king's wife was then pregnant and gave birth to a son, John, in November, but he died after a week and the throne passed to his brother Philip.
Philip V (1316-1322) made peace with Flanders via a marriage compact with its count Robert III and faced continued quarrels with Edward II of England over Gascony. He made plans for a new crusade to relieve the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, but the Flanders situation remained unstable and an attempted French naval expedition to the Middle East was destroyed off Genoa in 1319. At this point, peasants and soldiers originally intended to invade Flanders rose in another self-proclaimed crusade (Pastoreux) which once again turned into an assault on the nobility, tax collectors, and Jews. Pope John XXII denounced the uprising and Philip was forced to send troops to break it up.
In 1321, a rumor began spreading through the country that Jews in the employ of foreign Muslim rulers were using lepers to poison drinking wells. With the Pastoreux still fresh in everyone's mind, a volatile situation had formed especially as Philip V granted tolerance to Jews and even employed a number of them in his service. With the king facing potential disaster no matter what side he took, his health began to fail from stress and he succumbed at the start of 1322, only 29 years old.
Having failed to produce a son that survived infancy, Philip was succeeded by his brother (and the youngest of Philip IV's sons) Charles IV (1322-1328). The new king faced much of the same problems as his predecessors (namely the quarrels over Flanders and Gascony). Having put an end to the chaos in southern France that his brother faced, he turned his attention to Flanders, but then a revolt broke out in Gascony over the unwelcome construction of a fortress on the border by a French vassal. The king's uncle Charles of Valois invaded the province, whereupon the former declared Edward II's claims to it null and void. Although Charles IV's sister married the English king, he still refused to return Gascony and finally came to an agreement to divide it up among the two rulers.
Charles was also eager to begin a new crusade in the Levant and had once plotted to become Byzantine emperor. He failed to work out an agreement with the Pope over funding the expedition however, and his attention was distracted by the events in Gascony. But in 1327, a French ambassador traveled to Constantinople and found the Byzantine Empire beset by civil wars. The following year, Charles IV died, ending any plans for crusades in the region.
The Hundred Years' War (1328–1453) 
The death of Charles IV in 1328 without male heirs ended the main Capetian line. Under Salic law the crown could not pass through a woman (Philip IV's daughter was Isabella, whose son was Edward III of England), so the throne passed to Philip VI, son of Charles of Valois. This, in addition to a long-standing dispute over the rights to Gascony in the south of France, and the relationship between England and the Flemish cloth towns, led to the Hundred Years' War of 1337–1453. The following century was to see devastating warfare and peasant revolts (the English peasants' revolt of 1381 and the Jacquerie of 1358 in France).
French losses in the first phase of the conflict (1337–60) were partly reversed in the second (1369–96); but Henry V's shattering victory at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 against a France now bitterly divided between rival Armagnac and Burgundian factions of the royal house was to lead to his son Henry VI's recognition as king in Paris seven years later under the 1420 Treaty of Troyes, reducing Valois rule to the lands south of the Loire River Valley.
France's humiliation was abruptly reversed in 1429 by the appearance of a restorationist movement symbolised by the peasant maid Joan of Arc from Domremy la Pucelle, who claimed the guidance of divine voices for the campaign which rapidly ended the English siege of Orléans and ended in Charles VII's coronation in the historic city of Rheims. Subsequently captured by the Burgundians and sold to their English allies, her execution for heresy in 1431 redoubled her value as the embodiment of France's cause.
Reconciliation in 1435 between the king and Philippe the Good, duke of Burgundy, removed the greatest obstacle to French recovery, leading to the recapture of Paris (1436), Normandy (1450) and Guienne (1453), reducing England's foothold to a small area around Calais (lost also in 1558). After victory over England, France's emergence as a powerful national monarchy was crowned by the "incorporation" of the Duchies of Burgundy (1477) and Brittany (1532), which had previously been independent European states.
The losses of the century of war were enormous, particularly owing to the plague (the Black Death, usually considered an outbreak of bubonic plague), which arrived from Italy in 1348, spreading rapidly up the Rhone valley and thence across most of the country: it is estimated that a population of some 18–20 million in modern-day France at the time of the 1328 hearth tax returns had been reduced 150 years later by 50% or more.
The tensions between the Houses of Plantagenet and Capet climaxed during the so-called Hundred Years' War (actually several distinct wars over the period 1337 to 1453) when the Plantagenets claimed the throne of France from the Valois. This was also the time of the Black Death, as well as several civil wars. The French population suffered much from these wars. In 1420 by the Treaty of Troyes Henry V was made heir to Charles VI. Henry V failed to outlive Charles so it was Henry VI of England and France who consolidated the Dual-Monarchy of England and France.
It has been argued that the difficult conditions the French population suffered during the Hundred Years' War awakened French nationalism, a nationalism represented by Joan of Arc (1412–1431). Although this is debatable, the Hundred Years' War is remembered more as a Franco-English war than as a succession of feudal struggles. During this war, France evolved politically and militarily.
Although a Franco-Scottish army was successful at the Battle of Baugé (1421), the humiliating defeats of Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) forced the French nobility to realise they could not stand just as armoured knights without an organised army. Charles VII (reigned 1422–1461) established the first French standing army, the Compagnies d'ordonnance, and defeated the Plantagenets once at Patay (1429) and again, using cannons, at Formigny (1450). The Battle of Castillon (1453) was regarded as the last engagement of this "war", yet Calais and the Channel Islands remained ruled by the Plantagenets.
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The period after the death of Charlemagne was marked by an economic crisis caused by political instability; town life all but disappeared. However, this had changed by the 11th century. The introduction of new crops, the improvements in the climate, and the introduction of new agricultural technologies created a large agricultural surplus. This was accompanied by the growth in town life, trade, and industry. The economy once again collapsed in the fourteenth century because of war, bad weather, and the Black Death.
The rural economy was based on the manor; in urban areas economic activity was organized around guilds.
The Church 
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- For the literature of Northern France written in one of the Old French languages ("langues d'oïl") and (later) Middle French, see Medieval French literature.
- For the literature of Southern France written in one of the Occitan languages, see Occitan literature.
- For the literature written in the "langue d'oïl" Anglo-Norman language during the Norman rule of England, see Anglo-Norman literature.
List of kings during this period 
- Capetian Dynasty (House of Capet):
- Hugh Capet, 940-996
- Robert the Pious, 996-1027
- Henry I, 1027-1060
- Philip I, 1060–1108
- Louis VI the Fat, 1108–1137
- Louis VII the Young, 1137–1180
- Philip II Augustus, 1180–1223
- Louis VIII the Lion, 1223–1226
- Saint Louis IX, 1226–1270
- Philip III the Bold, 1270–1285
- Philip IV the Fair, 1285–1314
- Louis X the Quarreller, 1314–1316
- John I the Posthumous, five days in 1316
- Philip V the Tall, 1316–1322
- Charles IV the Fair, 1322–1328
- House of Valois:
See also 
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- Elizabeth M. Hallam & Judith Everard, Capetian France 987–1328, Editions Longman pp. 1–2
- Josiah C., Russell. "Medieval Sourcebook: Tables on Population in Medieval Europe". "Population in Europe:, in Carlo M. Cipolla, ed., The Fontana Economic History of Europe, Vol. I: The Middle Ages. Collins/Fontana. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- McEvedy, Colin, and Richard Jones, Atlas of World Population History. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 55–58.
- Wickham, 529-30.
- Wickham, 515.
- Wickham, 538.
- Wickham, 534-5.
- Wickham, 537-8.
- Cantor, 481-2.
- Cantor, 483.
- Cantor, 484.
- Cantor, 484.
- Cantor, 484-5.
- Wickham, 520.
- Wickham, 520.
- Wickham, 415.
- Wickham, 450.
- Wickham, 441.
- Wickham, 442.
- Wickham, 443.
- Wickham, 444.
- Wickham, 523.
- Wickham, 519-520.
- Wickham, 518.
- Wickham, 522.
- Georges Duby, France in the Middle Ages 987–1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc (1993).
- David Carpenter The Struggle for Mastery. The Penguin history of Britain 1066–1284 p. 91: "In the first place, after 1072 William was largely an absentee. Of the 170 months remaining of his reign he spent around 130 in France, returning to England only on four occasions. This was no passing phase. Absentee kings continued to spend at best half their time in England until the loss of Normandy in 1204... But this absenteeism solidified rather than sapped royal government since it engendered structures both to maintain peace and extract money on the king's absence, money which was above all needed across the channel".
- Marvin Perry et al. (2008). Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society: To 1789. Cengage Learning. p. 235.
- Cantor (1993), pp. 198-199.
- Cantor (1993), pp. 198-199.
- Lebecq, pp.196-197.
- Cantor (1993), p. 200.
- Solnon, 13.
- Bourin-Derruau (1990), 186.
- Such is the view of, for example, François Velde.
- Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages 1993:412f, discusses the institution of the bailli.
- William W. Kibler, ed. Medieval France: An Encyclopedia (1995)
- Capetian France 937–1328 p. 64: "Then, in 1151, Henry Plantagenet paid homage for the duchy to Louis VII in Paris, homage he repeated as king of England in 1156.
- Paul Frankl, Gothic Architecture (2001)
- Gigot, Francis E. (1910). "Judaism". The Catholic Encyclopedia VIII. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 13 August 2007.
- Capetian France p. 265.
- Capetian France p. 264.
Further reading 
- Norman F. Cantor. The Civilization of the Middle Ages. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. ISBN 0-06-092553-1
- Georges Duby. France in the Middle Ages 987–1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc. Wiley-Blackwell: 1993. ISBN 978-0631189459
- Stéphane Lebecq. Les origines franques: Ve-IXe siècles. Series: Nouvelle histoire de la France médiévale. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1999. ISBN 2-02-011552-2
- Chris Wickham. The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000. Penguin: 2009. ISBN 978-0-14-311742-1