France in the Middle Ages

France in the Middle Ages

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Encyclopedia
France in the Middle Ages covers an area roughly corresponding to modern day France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, from the death of Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 in 840 to the middle of the 15th century. The Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in France were marked by:
  1. West Francia (843–987) and the Viking
    Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

     invasions and the piecemeal dismantling of the Carolingian Empire
    Carolingian Empire
    Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

     by local powers,
  2. the elaboration of the seigneurial
    Manorialism
    Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

     economic system and the feudal
    Feudalism
    Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

     system of rights and obligations between lords and vassals,
  3. the growth of the region controlled by the House of Capet
    House of Capet
    The House of Capet, or The Direct Capetian Dynasty, , also called The House of France , or simply the Capets, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328, was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. As rulers of France, the dynasty...

     (987–1328) and their struggles with the expanding Norman and Angevin regions,
  4. a period of artistic and literary outpouring from the 12th to the early 14th centuries,
  5. the rise of the House of Valois (1328–1589), the protracted dynastic crisis of the Hundred Years' War
    Hundred Years' War
    The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

     with the Kingdom of England
    Kingdom of England
    The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

     (1337–1453) and the catastrophic Black Death
    Black Death
    The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

     epidemic (1348), and
  6. the expansion of the French nation in the 15th century and the creation of a sense of French identity.

Geography



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
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 and the Massif Central
Massif Central
The Massif Central is an elevated region in south-central France, consisting of mountains and plateaux....

. France had important rivers that were used as waterways: the Loire, the Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

, the Seine
Seine
The Seine is a -long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre . It is navigable by ocean-going vessels...

 as well as the Garonne
Garonne
The Garonne is a river in southwest France and northern Spain, with a length of .-Source:The Garonne's headwaters are to be found in the Aran Valley in the Pyrenees, though three different locations have been proposed as the true source: the Uelh deth Garona at Plan de Beret , the Ratera-Saboredo...

. 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
Pagus
In the later Western Roman Empire, following the reorganization of Diocletian, a pagus became the smallest administrative district of a province....

and the widest ones as civitates
Civitas
In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas , according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law . It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other...

. 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
Prince-Bishop
A Prince-Bishop is a bishop who is a territorial Prince of the Church on account of one or more secular principalities, usually pre-existent titles of nobility held concurrently with their inherent clerical office...

. These religious provinces would survive until the French revolution. During the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, 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
Crown lands of France
The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or domaine royal of France refers to the lands, fiefs and rights directly possessed by the kings of France...

") and lands held in homage by another lord. The notion of res publica
Res publica
Res publica is a Latin phrase, loosely meaning "public affair". It is the root of the word republic, and the word commonwealth has traditionally been used as a synonym for it; however translations vary widely according to the context...

inherited from the Roman province of Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

 was not fully maintained by the Frankish kingdom
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 and the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

, and by the early years of the Direct Capetians
House of Capet
The House of Capet, or The Direct Capetian Dynasty, , also called The House of France , or simply the Capets, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328, was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. As rulers of France, the dynasty...

, the French kingdom was more or less a fiction. The "domaine royal" of the Capetians was limited to the regions around Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, Bourges
Bourges
Bourges is a city in central France on the Yèvre river. It is the capital of the department of Cher and also was the capital of the former province of Berry.-History:...

 and Sens
Sens
Sens is a commune in the Yonne department in Burgundy in north-central France.Sens is a sub-prefecture of the department. It is crossed by the Yonne and the Vanne, which empties into the Yonne here.-History:...

. The great majority of French territory was part of Aquitaine
Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

, the Duchy of Normandy
Duchy of Normandy
The Duchy of Normandy stems from various Danish, Norwegian, Hiberno-Norse, Orkney Viking and Anglo-Danish invasions of France in the 9th century...

, the Duchy of Brittany, the Comté of Champagne
Champagne, France
Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France, now best known for the sparkling white wine that bears its name.Formerly ruled by the counts of Champagne, its western edge is about 100 miles east of Paris. The cities of Troyes, Reims, and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area...

, the Duchy of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

, and other territories (for a map, see Provinces of France
Provinces of France
The Kingdom of France was organised into provinces until March 4, 1790, when the establishment of the département system superseded provinces. The provinces of France were roughly equivalent to the historic counties of England...

). 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
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 under the Plantagenet dynasty
House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

 in the 12th century.


Philip II Augustus
Philip II of France
Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...

 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
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

. Only in the 15th century would Charles VII
Charles VII of France
Charles VII , called the Victorious or the Well-Served , was King of France from 1422 to his death, though he was initially opposed by Henry VI of England, whose Regent, the Duke of Bedford, ruled much of France including the capital, Paris...

 and Louis XI
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

 gain control of most of modern day France (except for Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

, Navarre
Navarre
Navarre , officially the Chartered Community of Navarre is an autonomous community in northern Spain, bordering the Basque Country, La Rioja, and Aragon in Spain and Aquitaine in France...

, 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
Medieval Warm Period
The Medieval Warm Period , Medieval Climate Optimum, or Medieval Climatic Anomaly was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, that may also have been related to other climate events around the world during that time, including in China, New Zealand, and other countries lasting from...

", 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.

Demographics



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
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 killed an estimated one-third of the population from its appearance in 1348. The concurrent Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 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
History of the Jews in France
The history of the Jews of France dates back over 2,000 years. In the early Middle Ages, France was a center of Jewish learning, but persecution increased as the Middle Ages wore on...

.

The Carolingian legacy


During the later years of the elderly Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

's rule, the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s 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
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

 of 843 divided the Carolingian Empire, and Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

 ruled over West Francia, roughly corresponding to the territory of modern France.

Viking advances were allowed to escalate, and their dreaded longboat
Longboat
In the days of sailing ships, a vessel would carry several ship's boats for various uses. One would be a longboat, an open boat to be rowed by eight or ten oarsmen, two per thwart...

s were sailing up the Loire
Loire (river)
The Loire is the longest river in France. With a length of , it drains an area of , which represents more than a fifth of France's land area. It is the 170th longest river in the world...

 and Seine
Seine
The Seine is a -long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre . It is navigable by ocean-going vessels...

 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
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

, and in 845 the Vikings sacked Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. During the reign of Charles the Simple
Charles the Simple
Charles III , called the Simple or the Straightforward , was the undisputed King of France from 898 until 922 and the King of Lotharingia from 911 until 919/23...

 (898–922), Normans under Rollo
Rollo
Rollo has multiple meanings. It may mean:a first name*Rollo Armstrong, member of British dance act Faithless* Rollo May, American psychologist...

 were settled in an area on either side of the Seine River, downstream from Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, that was to become Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

.

The Capetians


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
Capetian dynasty
The Capetian dynasty , also known as the House of France, is the largest and oldest European royal house, consisting of the descendants of King Hugh Capet of France in the male line. Hugh Capet himself was a cognatic descendant of the Carolingians and the Merovingians, earlier rulers of France...

 which with its Valois and Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 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 old order left the new dynasty 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
Blois
Blois is the capital of Loir-et-Cher department in central France, situated on the banks of the lower river Loire between Orléans and Tours.-History:...

 accumulated large domains of their own through marriage and through private arrangements with lesser nobles for protection and support.

The area around the lower Seine, ceded to Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n invaders as the Duchy of Normandy in 911, became a source of particular concern when Duke William
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 took possession of the kingdom of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 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).


Worse was to follow. A protracted succession dispute
The Anarchy
The Anarchy or The Nineteen-Year Winter was a period of English history during the reign of King Stephen, which was characterised by civil war and unsettled government...

 among William's descendants ended in 1154 with the coronation of Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

. Henry had inherited the Duchy of Normandy through his mother, Mathilda of England, and the County of Anjou
Anjou
Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

 from his father, Geoffrey of Anjou, and in 1152, he had married France's newly-divorced ex-queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. As well as being Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, she was queen consort of France and of England...

, 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
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 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
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

's lengthy quarrel with Philip II, allowed Philip II
Philip II of France
Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...

 to recover influence over most of this territory. After the French victory at the Battle of Bouvines
Battle of Bouvines
The Battle of Bouvines, 27 July 1214, was a conclusive medieval battle ending the twelve year old Angevin-Flanders War that was important to the early development of both the French state by confirming the French crown's sovereignty over the Angevin lands of Brittany and Normandy.Philip Augustus of...

 in 1214, the English monarchs maintained power only in southwestern Duchy of Guyenne
Guyenne
Guyenne or Guienne , , ; Occitan Guiana ) is a vaguely defined historic region of south-western France. The Province of Guyenne, sometimes called the Province of Guyenne and Gascony, was a large province of pre-revolutionary France....

.

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
Languedoc
Languedoc is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day régions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées in the south of France, and whose capital city was Toulouse, now in Midi-Pyrénées. It had an area of approximately 42,700 km² .-Geographical Extent:The traditional...

. Philip IV
Philip IV of France
Philip the Fair was, as Philip IV, King of France from 1285 until his death. He was the husband of Joan I of Navarre, by virtue of which he was, as Philip I, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1284 to 1305.-Youth:A member of the House of Capet, Philip was born at the Palace of...

's seizure of Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 (1300) was less successful, ending two years later in the rout of his knights by the forces of the Flemish
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 cities at the Battle of the Golden Spurs
Battle of the Golden Spurs
The Battle of the Golden Spurs, known also as the Battle of Courtrai was fought on July 11, 1302, near Kortrijk in Flanders...

 near Kortrijk
Kortrijk
Kortrijk ; , ; ) is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province West Flanders...

 (Courtrai).

Saint Louis




King Louis IX (1214–70) desired a fair justice for all and created new tribunals in that purpose and tried curing lepers himself. The oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 of Vincennes
Vincennes
Vincennes is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the centre of Paris. It is one of the most densely populated municipalities in Europe.-History:...

 below which, at least according to the myth, he often did justice represents the affection his subjects had for him. For some time he remained under the influence of his mother Blanche of Castile
Blanche of Castile
Blanche of Castile , was a Queen consort of France as the wife of Louis VIII. She acted as regent twice during the reign of her son, Louis IX....

, who supported a policy of expanding the borders of the Kingdom. However Louis IX realised many people were discontent in his realm and ordered a large inquiry in 1247 in which his subjects were allowed to expose their griefs with the state and several major reforms were enforced afterward. During the first part of his reign he was known to collect expensive horses, however after his first crusading failure he became a lot more modest and lived a simple life.

Louis IX received an education comparable to that of his father, utilizing private tutors rather than a monastic course of study. He acquired a respectable competence in mathematics, reading, writing, grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. His surviving writings show he could present his points in a logical and organised way in both French and Latin. He became a highly skilled knight and developed a passion for horses.

As the oldest surviving son of Louis VIII, Louis IX was crowned king of France in 1226. Only 12 years of age, he was too young to rule independently, but as there were potential rivals the young king was switfly crowned to avoid all contestations. Indeed, the rules of the French succession were as yet unclear to many for Hugh Capet had been elected rather than succeeding his father; most French kings were crowned by their father when the latter was still alive to avoid the election. Fortunately for the young king, he was supported by many powerful nobles who were loyal to the Capetians and who took great care to keep potential rivals from assuming control of the kingdom. The church of France and ultimately the pope clearly defended this position.
Regency and revolts

The butt regency proved efficient, as Blanche left all decisions to the administrators and only acted as a form of executive power. She stood against all insults and personal attacks against her private life in her objective to support the state. She was the target of all possible insults and was accused of being the mistress of many nobles and even a bishop. These were surely only lies intended to undermine her authority. Many nobles were missing at Rheims when Louis IX was made King: the Count of Flanders was still imprisoned since Bouvines, the Count of Champagne was forbidden to come and others simply refused to attend. However, the Countess of Flanders replaced her husband, and the Duke of Burgundy was also present. There were revolts against Blanche in the following years; the first one was led by Duke Pierre Mauclerc of Brittany
Peter I, Duke of Brittany
Pierre Mauclerc , also known as Peter of Dreux or Pierre de Dreux, was duke of Brittany jure uxoris from 1213 to 1221, then regent of the duchy from 1221 to 1237 as well as Earl of Richmond from 1219 to 1235.-Biography:He was the second son of Robert II, Count of Dreux...

, Count Hugh XI of La Marche
Hugh XI of Lusignan
Hugh XI de Lusignan, Hugh VI of La Marche or Hugh II of Angoulême or Hugues XI & VI & II de Lusignan . He succeeded his mother Isabelle of Angoulême, former queen of England, as Count of Angoulême in 1246. He likewise succeeded his father Hugh X as Count of La Marche in 1249...

 and Count Thibault of Champagne in January 1227. This revolt was supported by King Henry III of England
Henry III of England
Henry III was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready...

, but he sent them no help. Because of the lack of support and the fact they would have been fighting their king, this revolt failed. Its authors were pardoned and were given money in return for paying homage to the king.

During the same period the residents of Languedoc, seeking an end to the Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

, called for peace. Count Raymond VII of Toulouse entered negotiations with Blanche, and the outcome would have important consequences for the crown. They signed the Treaty of Meaux-Paris
Treaty of Paris (1229)
The Treaty of Paris was signed on April 12, 1229 between Raymond VII of Toulouse and Louis IX of France. Louis was still a minor and it was his mother Blanche of Castile who had been responsible for the treaty. The agreement officially ended the Albigensian Crusade in which Raymond conceded defeat...

 in which Raymond VII was allowed to keep his lands until his death. Attendant to the treaty, his only daughter, Joan
Joan, Countess of Toulouse
Joan was Countess of Toulouse from 1249 through 1271. Her father was Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse. She married Alfonso, Count of Poitou in 1237 as the Treaty of Paris had stipulated she marry a brother to King Louis. On her father's death she became the countess....

, married Count Alfonso of Poitiers, with an important condition: in the event that they should die without an heir, control of the Languedoc would revert to the crown. Indeed, Alfonso and Joan died without a son, and the king gained direct access to the Mediterranean sea through his royal domain, significantly changing the balance of power. Many changes followed in the Languedoc, the most evident of which was the creation of the Inquisition
Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

, a new form of police power combining older techniques (e.g. torture) with more recent ones like tribunals in which evidence was presented and judgment the outcome of formal argumentation. The University of Toulouse
University of Toulouse
The Université de Toulouse is a consortium of French universities, grandes écoles and other institutions of higher education and research, named after one of the earliest universities established in Europe in 1229, and including the successor universities to that earlier university...

 was also founded during the same period.

Troubles would rise again in the north when greater numbers of people rebelled against Blanche, but the king was always present when there were conflicts and this often had its consequences. Popular opinion began to turn against the regency. When the church asked Blanche to punish people participating in Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras
The terms "Mardi Gras" , "Mardi Gras season", and "Carnival season", in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday...

 she ordered every man guilty of participation to be arrested and sentenced. Professors and students of the University of Paris were the first victims of this policy, resulting in the strike of 1229
University of Paris strike of 1229
In 1229, a student riot at the University of Paris resulted in the deaths of a number of students, and the ensuing "dispersion" or student strike in protest lasted more than two years and led to a number of reforms of the medieval university...

. Many professors were offered to go to London to teach there and most of them moved to Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

. Blanche ultimately had to give up and the pope granted privileges to the University of Paris. The Count of Boulogne subsequently attacked the Count of Champagne, and in 1230 the King of England landed in Brittany to engage the King of France. The Royal Army quickly moved against the English forces, and Henry III fled to Bordeaux to sail back to England. Taking advantage of this diversion, Blanche moved to assist the Count of Champagne, gaining territories for the French crown. The last revolt was led by Pierre Mauclerc and was suppressed directly by Louis IX in 1234, now old enough to rule in his own right.

The Hundred Years' War



The death of Charles IV
Charles IV of France
Charles IV, known as the Fair , was the King of France and of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1322 to his death: he was the last French king of the senior Capetian lineage....

 in 1328 without male heirs ended the main Capetian line. Under Salic law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 the crown couldn't pass through a woman (Philip IV's daughter was Isabella, whose son was Edward III of England
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

), so the throne passed to Philip VI
Philip VI of France
Philip VI , known as the Fortunate and of Valois, was the King of France from 1328 to his death. He was also Count of Anjou, Maine, and Valois from 1325 to 1328...

, son of Charles of Valois
Charles of Valois
Charles of Valois was the fourth son of Philip III of France and Isabella of Aragon. His mother was a daughter of James I of Aragon and Yolande of Hungary. He was a member of the House of Capet and founded the House 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
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

 of 1337–1453. The following century was to see devastating warfare, peasant revolts (the English peasants' revolt of 1381 and the Jacquerie
Jacquerie
The Jacquerie was a popular revolt in late medieval Europe by peasants that took place in northern France in the summer of 1358, during the Hundred Years' War. The revolt, which was violently suppressed after a few weeks of violence, centered in the Oise valley north of Paris...

of 1358 in France) and the growth of nationalism in both countries.

French losses in the first phase of the conflict (1337–60) were partly reversed in the second (1369–96); but Henry V
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

's shattering victory at the battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

 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
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

's recognition as king in Paris seven years later under the 1420 Treaty of Troyes
Treaty of Troyes
The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement that Henry V of England and his heirs would inherit the throne of France upon the death of King Charles VI of France. It was signed in the French city of Troyes on 21 May 1420 in the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt...

, reducing Valois rule to the lands south of the Loire
Loire
Loire is an administrative department in the east-central part of France occupying the River Loire's upper reaches.-History:Loire was created in 1793 when after just 3½ years the young Rhône-et-Loire department was split into two. This was a response to counter-Revolutionary activities in Lyon...

 River Valley.

France's humiliation was abruptly reversed in 1429 by the appearance of a restorationist movement symbolised by the Lorraine peasant maid
Maid
A maidservant or in current usage housemaid or maid is a female employed in domestic service.-Description:Once part of an elaborate hierarchy in great houses, today a single maid may be the only domestic worker that upper and even middle-income households can afford, as was historically the case...

 Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

 from Domremy la Pucelle, who claimed the guidance of divine voices for the campaign which rapidly ended the English siege of Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

 and ended in Charles VII
Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII, called the Affable, , was King of France from 1483 to his death in 1498. Charles was a member of the House of Valois...

'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. Joan of Arc was later declared innocent by Pope Callixtus III after her family requested a retrial. She was later canonized
Canonization
Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares a deceased person to be a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the canon, or list, of recognized saints. Originally, individuals were recognized as saints without any formal process...

 by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.


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
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 (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
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 (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
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

, 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.

Economy


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
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

.

The rural economy was based on the manor; in urban areas economic activity was organized around guilds.

Government


France had a feudal system of government; the royal power was largely decentralised. In rural areas, feudal lords handled matters such as defense and the maintenance of law and order. This was the result of the chaos that followed the Germanic and Viking invasions.
The feudal hierarchy started with Kings at the top. The next step down were the Liege lords, Dukes, and other nobles with titles who were given manors and dioceses(fiefs) to control within the King's Domain. Below them were the vassals, or lesser lords who controlled smaller pieces of land on the Leige lord's manor. Below the knights were serfs. Serfs were peasants who were indebted to the vassals, and in order to pay off their debt, they had to work the land and give half of their crops to their vassal. A serf was bound to their land, meaning that they could not travel without permission. A serf's debt could be sold from one manor to another. If the lord of the manor died, then the serfs would continue to pay their debt to the new lord.
In urban areas, popular agitation led to the setting up of autonomous "communes
Medieval commune
Medieval communes in the European Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense among the citizens of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread...

" that served as units of self-government.

Literature


  • For the literature of Northern France written in one of the Old French
    Old French
    Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

     languages ("langues d'oïl") and (later) Middle French
    Middle French
    Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from 1340 to 1611. It is a period of transition during which:...

    , see Medieval French literature
    Medieval French literature
    Medieval French literature is, for the purpose of this article, literature written in Oïl languages during the period from the eleventh century to the end of the fifteenth century....

    .
  • 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
    Anglo-Norman language
    Anglo-Norman is the name traditionally given to the kind of Old Norman used in England and to some extent elsewhere in the British Isles during the Anglo-Norman period....

     during the Norman
    Normans
    The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

     rule of England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    , see Anglo-Norman literature
    Anglo-Norman literature
    Anglo-Norman literature is literature composed in the Anglo-Norman language developed during the period 1066–1204 when the Duchy of Normandy and England were united in the Anglo-Norman realm.-Introduction:...

    .