BECK index

France and National War

by Sanderson Beck

Louis IX and Philippe III 1250-85
Philippe IV and His Sons 1285-1328
Philippe VI at War 1328-50
Jean II at War 1350-64
Charles the Wise 1364-80
Charles the Mad 1380-1400
Romance of the Rose
French Theater
Machaut’s Poetry

This chapter has been published in the book Medieval Europe 1250-1400.
For information on ordering click here.

Louis IX and Philippe III 1250-85

France and Flanders 1200-1250

King Louis IX (r. 1226-70) instituted a series of reforms beginning in 1254 with new ordinances. He delegated to his officers the administration of justice and the collection of taxes. They were forbidden to accept gifts or loans in order to avoid favoritism. The top officials (baillis and seneschals) had to render accounts and were not allowed to acquire land in their jurisdictions even for their children by marriage or ecclesiastical benefices. The right of hospitality for officials on tour was limited, and they were not allowed to make any levies for their own use. The sale of lesser offices was also prohibited. Public vices such as blasphemy, gambling, prostitution, drunkenness, and brawling were suppressed. Louis often over-ruled judgments if he believed they were unjust, and he punished barons who executed someone without a trial or by a wrong judgment. Land was well cultivated, and peasants prospered. As economic conditions improved, capitalists tended to take control of municipal governments, though the statutes of the guilds were still recorded. Louis even tried to make restitution for past wrongs by appointing commissioners to find out what lands had been unjustly annexed during the previous two reigns. Then he restored them or distributed their value to the poor.

Under Louis IX criticism did occur. After Dominicans refused to join a strike at the university in 1253, Guillaume de Saint-Amour, a doctor of the University of Paris, led the secular party; after questioning the King’s devotions to the mendicant friars he lost his position. His treatise De Periculis novissimorum temporum (“On the Dangers of the Final Days”) castigated the friars and was condemned in 1256, and he went into exile. As part of the university the Cistercians opened a college in 1246, followed by the Premonstratensians in 1252 and the Cluniacs in 1261. Robert de Sorbonne founded a college for poor students in 1257 which was generously supported by King Louis, who also aided the mendicant orders. Before leaving Palestine, Louis had ordered the Jews expelled and their possessions seized, and this was confirmed in an ordinance of 1258. Skilled artisans were excepted, and the ordinance was extended to some Christian usurers from Normandy. In 1261 Louis followed the Pope’s advice by forbidding festivals and tournaments, impoverishing jongleurs. Concerned that the mayors of the communes were controlled by urban oligarchies, in 1262 Louis issued two ordinances regulating the election of mayors and requiring the accounts of 35 communes to be submitted to royal auditors. The integrity of the King also made sure that the mints supplied a solid currency.

After the failed crusade Louis IX tried to maintain peaceful relations. His arbitration ended the conflict in Flanders with his “Dit of Péronne” in 1256. In 1258 he prohibited all warfare in his kingdom, banned the carrying of weapons, and outlawed arson and the harming of draft animals. The next year judicial duels were abolished. Louis believed that a legal process of justice is better because “battle is not the path of right.” Lawyers became more important as the justice system based on written laws gained royal favor. His ordinances of quarantaine-le-roi and asseurement (inviolability) forbade private revenge and allowed forty days for the king’s justice to work.

The Treaty of Corbeil in 1258 established the Pyrenees as the border between Aragon and France except that Jaime I retained Roussillon and Montpellier. This treaty was sealed by the marriage of Louis’ son Philippe to the Aragonese princess Isabelle, and Queen Marguerite got Jaime to yield his rights in Provence to her. The next year Louis finalized a treaty with Henry III at Paris that paid the English king enough for 500 knights for two years for renouncing any claim to Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, and Poitou. Henry swore fealty to France for Gascony; but some historians have criticized Louis for giving Henry the dioceses of Limoges, Cahors, and Périgueux except for the lands held by those bishops. Louis also tried to arbitrate a dispute between Henry III and his barons with the Mise of Amiens in 1264; but it favored the King, and Simon de Montfort refused to agree. When a small war broke out between the conflicting feudal rights of Bar, Luxembourg, Champagne, and Choiseul in 1266, Pope Clement IV asked King Louis to arbitrate; it was eventually decided by his chamberlain Pierre of Villebéon two years later.

Louis IX, who later was named a saint, was criticized by barons for spending several hours a day praying and hearing masses and sermons; but he simply noted that few would object if he spent twice the time in games and hunting. Louis gave regularly to the poor and attended the needs of some beggars personally. He founded the hospice of the Quinze Vingts to serve 300 blind people. He helped poor women avoid prostitution by aiding them in joining the Daughters of God. In his daily life he was frugal and avoided luxury, but he could be extravagant on special occasions and spent 13,758 livres when his son Philippe was knighted in 1267.

Louis IX’s ambitious brother Charles of Anjou invaded Sicily in 1266, defeating and killing Manfred. Charles restored free elections to the churches, but he took money from Sicily for the Holy See and to pay back loans. Pope Clement IV persuaded Charles to keep his promise and resign from the Roman senate. Yet in 1268 Charles had the last Hohenstaufen ruler Konradin beheaded. His wife Beatrice died in 1267, and Charles extended his power by marrying Marguerite, daughter of the late Count of Nevers and grand-daughter of Hugh of Burgundy. Charles even planned to help Emperor Baldwin II reconquer Constantinople in exchange for Greek territories; but this was blocked when the doge of Venice made a treaty with the Greek emperor. Also revolts in Sicily kept Charles occupied, though he made diplomatic gains with the king of Serbia and the czar of Bulgaria and negotiated marriages with the king of Hungary. Meanwhile he prepared a fleet to invade Morea in Greece.

King Louis decided to go on another crusade in 1267 and began administering funds for the Church not only in his own realms but also in the dioceses of Cambrai, Metz, Toul, Verdun, and Liege. The French Church had recently contributed a hundredth for the Holy Land and a tenth for Sicily, and many now rebelled against another tenth for a crusade. Yet all the great barons and most of his knights volunteered. Charles urged his brother Louis to go to Tunis in order to protect Sicily, and Louis had supported the Sicilian expedition as a preparation for a crusade; but Louis probably agreed on Tunis because the king there had indicated a desire to convert to Christianity. In 1269 the Dominican convert Paul the Christian persuaded Louis to require all Jews to wear badges of red or yellow on the front and back of their garments. Jews in northern France submitted; but in Provence prominent Jews got the law rescinded until Philippe III reintroduced it in 1271. A large fleet of crusaders arrived at Tunis in July 1270; but the Tunisian ruler did not convert, and disease devastated the Christian camp, causing the death of Louis the next month.

Philippe III (r. 1270-85) succeeded his father Louis as king while on the crusade in Tunis. Several thousand men and the money the Muslims had paid him to depart were lost in a storm. Philippe took over Lyons from imperial authorities that were not controlling disturbances. By the time he got back to Paris five of his relatives were dead, including his wife and child. Special taxes were raised for his coronation in 1271 and for his new queen in 1275. Philippe tried to get elected king of the Romans and gave the Comtat-Venaissin with its capital Avignon over to the papal government in 1274. That year he married Marie de Brabant, and soon scandals erupted in court. Unlike his saintly father, Philippe allowed judicial combat, and he delighted in tournaments.

After the 1274 death of King Henri of Navarre, who was also count of Champagne, Philippe III gave Henri’s widow Blanche of Artois refuge at his court and arranged the betrothal of her daughter Jeanne to his son Philippe. French armies occupied Navarre, but they were resented and had to suppress a revolt in 1276. When Blanche married Edward’s brother Edmund, earl of Lancaster, Champagne was governed by him until Philippe married Jeanne in 1284. A family dispute over Provence was settled by allowing Charles of Anjou to keep it and by giving his mother income from Anjou. To support his military campaigns in the south Philippe called upon men who previously had been exempt from such service. The French government was managed by the chamberlain Pierre de la Broce until he alienated Philippe’s second wife and was hanged without public explanation in 1278. The treaty of Amiens in 1279 recognized Edward’s possession of the Agenais.

Tallages on the Jews starting in 1281 helped Philippe III pay for increasing expenses. After the Sicilian revolt against the harsh rule of Charles of Anjou in 1282, the French Pope Martin IV (1281-85) excommunicated Pedro III of Aragon and proclaimed a crusade against him. Assemblies of magnates at Bourges and Paris organized a campaign, but early in 1285 both Charles and Martin died. By the time the large French army had crossed the Pyrenees and besieged Girona, supplies were exhausted. After the French navy was defeated at Islas Hormigas, the army was desperate. Disease spread, and on the retreat Philippe III died in October 1285. He was succeeded by his 17-year-old son Philippe the Fair.

Philippe de Beaumanoir was born about 1250 and became bailli (judge) of Clermont in 1279. In September 1283 he made an improper arrest in territory that belonged to the Cistercian abbey of Chaalis and left that position. He worked in the administration of Philippe III and Philippe IV as sénéchal of Poitou and Saintonge and then as bailli of Vermandois, Touraine, and Senlis. He spent three years writing The Customs of Beauvaisis, completing it in 1283. This long work is a thorough analysis of that judicial system with chapters on judges, summonses, permissible delays, attorneys, advocates, complaints, answers, latecomers, inspections, superior jurisdiction, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, wills, dower, inherited real property, custodianship, minors, tutors, illegitimacy, consanguinity, good-faith holders, partnerships, corporations, property, customs, highways, measurements, prices, horses, services, offenses, larceny, novel disseisin, fraud, contracts, writings, safekeeping, loans, rentals, proofs, auditors, arbitrators, liquidated damages, sureties, redemption, avowals, religious houses, subinfeudation, freehold, necessity, communes, seizures, trespass, reclamation, creditors’ remedies, incompetents, marital maintenance, jurisdiction, private war, truces, appeals, default of judgment, defenses, judicial battles, jurors’ delays, recusal, judgment, usury, misadventure, and unenforceable gifts.

In the first chapter of The Customs of Beauvaisis Beaumanoir describes the ten virtues of a good judge. The first and most important is wisdom. The second is to love God and the Church. He should be kind and gentle without severity except towards the cruel and those who commit offenses. He should listen without getting angry or upset. He must be bold and not lazy. He should be generous, courteous, and moderate. He should obey his lord except commands that would cause him to lose his soul. The eighth virtue is to be knowledgeable, especially in discerning right from wrong. He must be skillful in managing without wronging other people. The tenth virtue is also very important, and that is to be honest. In the conclusion he wrote,

A person who has set his heart on a firm peace
is rightfully lord of this world and a companion of God.
For he is lord of this world inasfar as he has good thoughts,
and his heart is at peace,
so that he does not immoderately desire any earthly thing;
and he is a companion of God
because he is in a state of grace and without sin….
If he is not in a state of grace,
for example he is in mortal sin,
his own conscience makes war on him;
for we do not believe there is any man so bad
that his own heart is not attacked by his own conscience….
And although some people say
that not every one who wants peace can have it,
they do not speak the truth;
for if someone is attacked in a private war, or by lawsuits,
or he loses friends or property,
and he loves God and desires a firm peace,
he will bear his tribulations so patiently
that they will hurt him little or not at all,
and he will seek with all his strength
the way for complete peace to dwell in his heart.1

Philippe IV and His Sons 1285-1328

In 1286 King Philippe IV (r. 1285-1314) purchased the county of Chartres, which the cathedral chapter had put under interdict because the prévot had arrested one of their men. When Philippe took over Poitou, the bishop complained that the King did not have the right of regalia in Poitiers and appealed to the archbishop of Bordeaux. In 1288 the bishop refused to appear before the royal High Court for refusing investiture and was condemned by default. Both Chartres and the Poitiers bishop appealed to Pope Nicholas IV, who ordered an investigation of both cases in 1289. The next year a compromise was worked out by Cardinal Benedict Gaetani (the future Boniface VIII) that revoked all actions taken against royal officials and residences of the royal domain. French prelates met at Sainte-Genevieve, and at their request Philippe issued an ordinance clarifying his rights and privileges while forbidding interference in ecclesiastical jurisdiction, exempting clerics from tallage, allowing prelates to buy alienated tithes, and prohibiting royal officials from holding court on Church lands. The King and not the Pope had settled the case, and after 1290 appeals from the secular courts of the bishops went to Parliament. In 1290 Charles of Valois renounced his claim to Aragon, but he received Anjou and Maine with his marriage to Marguerite, daughter of Charles II of Naples.

In 1294 Philippe IV purchased the military support of the dauphin of Vienne for his war against England’s King Edward in Gascony. While Edward remained in England, French forces were successfully led by Constable Raoul de Nesle in 1294, by Charles of Valois in 1295, and by Robert II of Artois in 1296. Edward invaded Flanders in 1297, but Robert won the battle at Furnes and took Lille and Bruges. A truce was proclaimed in October. In September 1299 Philippe’s sister Marguerite married Edward, and his daughter Isabella would wed Edward II in 1308. The war against England was costly and was not settled until 1303, followed by financial troubles from the debased currency.

King Philippe made taxation regular, but the great feudal lords of Flanders, Burgundy, and Brittany kept half the revenues, and other barons retained a third or a quarter for themselves. The French Church agreed to pay two double tithes in 1297, a biennial tithe in 1299, and a tithe in 1303 while owners of one hundred livres of land had to pay one-fifth. For the 1304 campaign the churches paid a double tithe or a fifth, and each prelate and noble had to equip one armed horseman for every 500 livres of income. Flanders allied with England, and on May 18, 1302 burghers in Bruges massacred the French who could not pronounce a Flemish word. The French army was badly defeated near Courtrai on July 11, 1302. However, on August 10, 1304 the French navy supported by Holland defeated the Flemish fleet, and one year later the French army defeated them again at Mons-en-Pevele. In June 1305 Flanders agreed to pay an indemnity and take on other financial obligations, but both were hard to collect. Philippe arrested many Jews in order to seize their assets, and on July 22, 1306 he expelled the Jews from France. They had one month to leave and usually left behind their goods and debts. The King thus gained much of their property. Those who did not leave in time were executed. Flemish towns only ratified a modified treaty in 1309.

 France’s taxes on clerics to support the war against England in 1294 provoked a conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. His Clericus laicos bull on February 24, 1296 forbade clergy to pay taxes to temporal rulers; but this was too broad and could not be enforced. Philippe discussed this with an assembly of prelates, and on August 17 he prohibited exporting gold, silver, arms, or horses from France. On September 20 Boniface issued Ineffabilis amor to allow the king to raise subsidies from the clergy with the Pope’s consent if the kingdom was in danger; he also demanded an explanation for the ban on exports. In February 1297 the Pope authorized Philippe to collect voluntary contributions from clerics without his permission, and in July he renounced the claims he made in Clericus laicos. In August he canonized Louis IX as a saint. Philippe used his grandfather as a role model, issuing reform charters and canceling taxes. Parliament met usually at Paris once or twice a year. In 1299 Philippe made an alliance with King Albrecht of Austria, who had been excommunicated for overthrowing Adolf of Nassau, threatening the papacy.

When the Viscount of Narbonne refused to do homage to his archbishop, Pope Boniface sent Bishop Bernard de Saisset of Pamiers to restore the consecrated land. Philippe started an inquiry that accused Bernard of rousing Languedoc to revolt against French rule to reunite Aragon. Bernard was arrested and arraigned on October 14, 1301, but the archbishop protected him. Philippe sent Pierre de Flotte to Rome to demand that Bernard be punished; but he returned without a reply, and the Pope refused to demote Bernard de Saisset. In December 1301 Boniface issued his bull Ausculta fili in which he claimed that God had put the Pope over kings and kingdoms. The Secunda divina bull commanded Philippe to free Saisset, and in February 1302 Philippe burned the Ausculta fili bull. The King convoked an assembly on November 1, 1302, and that month the Pope’s Unam sanctum claimed both spiritual and temporal power.

In March 1303 Philippe IV presided over the assembly in Paris that accused Pope Boniface of a long list of wrongs including heresy, sorcery, simony, murder, urging war crimes, and hatred of France. The next month Boniface threatened to excommunicate Philippe if he did not submit. The Pope sent the archdeacon Nicolas de Beinfaite, and the King had him arrested at Troyes. Philippe presided over a large assembly at the Louvre on June 13 that called for a legitimate pope. On June 24 the King called for a general council to be convoked. Boniface announced that Philippe would be excommunicated on September 8; but the day before that the French minister Guillaume de Nogaret led four hundred cavalry and hundreds of infantry to arrest Boniface at Anagni. Sitting on his throne, the 86-year-old Pope refused to abdicate. Boniface refused to eat from fear of poison, and three days later the aroused peasants of Anagni freed him. Boniface returned to Rome, but he died of illness on October 11. His successor Benedict XI released Philippe from Boniface’s sentences, but he excommunicated Nogaret, Sciarra Colonna, and others who had helped them. Benedict died on July 7, 1304.

In Paris, where the population had tripled in the 13th century to nearly 200,000, the Seine was being polluted by the slaughter of animals. In 1293 Parisians killed 188,522 sheep, 30,346 oxen, 19,604 calves, and 30,784 pigs. By 1300 only about 32 million acres of forests remained in France, and this is less than existed in the year 2000. Wood became so expensive at Douai in northern France that poor families could only afford to rent a wooden coffin for funerals. Since the reign of Philippe II the royal domain of France had expanded greatly, though independent duchies still existed in Burgundy, Brittany, and Gascony. The population of France had increased rapidly to about twenty million by 1300.

In 1306 Pierre Dubois offered a plan for a league of nations in his book The Recovery of the Holy Land. Dubois had studied at Paris under Thomas Aquinas and Siger de Brabant. He became a lawyer and was a member of the Estates General assembly. He was a chauvinist patriot who believed in a strong French military, and he wanted the French king to rule the west and the east, including Palestine and the Greek empire. He suggested the education of both boys and girls for service in the east. He proposed that disputes between sovereign princes be settled by means of arbitration by a council of appointed clerics and laymen from each nation. He exhorted all Christian believers to join in peace and refrain from war, and he suggested as a penalty for violation the loss of property and exile to the holy land. Dubois proposed establishing a league of universal peace. He suggested that a council of prelates and princes along with secular knights owing service should solemnly swear to uphold with all their power this league of peace and its penalties and see that it is observed. Unfortunately his scheme was too biased in favor of the French.

Archbishop Bertrand d’Agoust of Bordeaux was elected Pope Clement V (1305-14) and consecrated on November 15 at Lyons as the first of a series of French popes. He appointed 25 Frenchmen out of the next 28 cardinals. In 1308 he began holding court in the papal territory at Avignon, and he did not return to Rome. Philippe IV wanted to eliminate the 15,500 Templars, whose treasury had 150,000 gold florins and whose activities were clothed in secrecy. In August 1307 Clement ordered an inquiry. On October 13 hundreds of Knights Templar were arrested in France as the King seized their assets. Royal commissioners turned them over to inquisitors, who used torture until they admitted heresy. In December the French prisoners were handed over to two papal envoys. Many knights took back their confessions, and a commission in Paris had 54 Templars burned to death. In January 1308 Philippe suspended the French inquisitors. The King called another assembly of clerics, nobles, and town leaders at Tours. Pope and King agreed to let the bishops supervise the interrogations. A general Church council met at Vienne in October 1311, and the following April the Pope ended the Order of the Templars. Their property was to be transferred to the Hospitallers, but two-thirds of their personal property, all the funds in their temples, and much of their land went into the royal treasury. Clement V did much to centralize the power of the papacy. On March 11, 1314 the grand-master Jacques de Molay and master Guy of Normandy were burned at the stake, and the last Templar officials were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1310 Philippe IV minted debased coins, and all old money had to be exchanged. The importation of gold florins was prohibited. Usury was forbidden, and Lombard financiers were expelled in 1311. In June 1313 the King prohibited all barons and prelates from minting new money. Chamberlain Enguerrand de Marigny arranged for Robert of Flanders to cede the castellanies of Lille, Douai, and Béthune in 1312, and that year Philippe IV annexed Lyons. In the spring of 1314 the wives of two of Philippe’s sons were accused of adultery and were secluded in an abbey, and their suspected lovers were mutilated and beheaded. The other wife Joan of Burgundy may not have had her marriage annulled because her great wealth would have been lost. When Philippe announced a new sales tax on all merchandise, a union of the nobles and bourgeoisie forced him to cancel it. The war in Flanders broke out again in August 1314; another assembly met at Paris, and the previous peace was confirmed in September. The King banned tournaments in October. Leagues of protest were organized. Philippe stopped the Flemish levy on November 28, and he died two days later.

Philippe’s son Louis X, who had inherited the kingdom of Navarre and the county of Champagne in 1305, ruled France for only a year and a half before he died without a son. His uncle Charles of Valois hated Philippe’s powerful chamberlain Enguerrand de Marigny for debasing the coins. Louis wanted to banish him; but when Charles accused his wife and him of necromancy, the barons condemned Marigny and hanged him on April 30, 1315. Because his wife Marguerite had been imprisoned for adultery, Louis tried to elect a Pope who would annul his marriage. Marguerite died suspiciously in April 1315, and he married Clemence of Hungary on July 31.  Louis X was crowned four days later.

During the winter of 1315 assemblies had met all over France complaining about abuses, and the King tried to satisfy the leagues by granting charters to Normandy and others. Many ordinances were passed to restore the privileges of the nobles. Louis declared that every man by nature was born free, and the serfs in the royal domain were allowed to ransom themselves. He allowed Jews to return to France, but they had to wear a badge. Louis was the first king of France to borrow money on the credit of the state, and he left a large debt to his successors. He raised an army that marched into Flanders in 1315 to discipline the disobedient Count Robert III, but heavy rains flooded their camp and ruined their provisions and crops. After this failure barons levied war to make a profit, and Charles of Valois and other lords issued coins in violation of the King’s order. After playing ball Louis went into a cold cellar and drank so much that he died.

When Louis X died on June 5, 1316, his second wife Clemence was pregnant. His brother Philippe governed as regent until her son Jean was born in November; but he died five days later. Then Philippe V was crowned on January 9, 1317. Some especially in Burgundy wanted Jeanne, the daughter of Louis’ first wife, to be Queen; but in February an assembly of eminent men decided that Philippe’s claim was good and that no woman should succeed to the throne of France. Duke Eudes (Odo) IV of Burgundy was mollified by marrying Philippe’s daughter Jeanne, receiving a large dowry and Franche-Comté. Philippe’s wife had been cleared on the charge of adultery.

Historians consider Philippe V a prudent king, though he was not very popular at the time. In 1316 he forbade nobles from selling fiefs or feudal property to those who were not nobles. However, he granted titles of nobility to commoners. In March 1317 he began a system that enabled each town to provide their own defense. His privy council met every month, and they organized the persecution of Jews and lepers. Yet he enforced laws to stop brigands, private wars, and tournaments. Philippe tried to establish a uniform currency and standards for weights and measures; but he intended to use one-fifth of all goods for this purpose, and this met widespread resistance. Philippe V rarely used armed force and tried to resolve conflicts in Flanders by diplomacy. He successfully intervened in Artois to protect his mother-in-law Countess Mahaut against her nephew Robert of Artois.

Philippe launched a crusade to retake the Holy Land in 1320. It was called the Shepherds’ Crusade as thousands of shepherds moved from town to town in northern France; but to gain funding they robbed and killed Jews. About five hundred took refuge in the fortress at Verdun and let a man kill them; he then asked to be baptized. More than a hundred Jewish congregations in France and northern Spain were wiped out. The shepherds began attacking priests; but the seneschal of Carcassonne could not raise troops against them because the common people would not help. Finally Pope John XXII excommunicated the shepherds, and the seneschal of Beaucaire was able to suppress them. Towns closed their gates to them, and people were forbidden to give them food on pain of death. Many died of hunger, and some were killed in battles or were hanged. They had terrified the rich and privileged. In 1321 lepers poisoned wells in reaction to their bad conditions. This was blamed on Jews by using tortured confessions, and a few thousand were killed. Jedaiah of Béziers and Kalonymos ben Kalonymos wrote poetry about Jewish conditions and wisdom. Philippe V died of illness on January 3, 1322. As both his sons had died in 1317, he was succeeded by his younger brother Charles.

Charles IV (r. 1322-28) had imprisoned his wife Blanche d’Artois for adultery in 1314, but the marriage was not annulled until 1322, enabling him in August to wed Marie de Luxembourg, sister of the chivalrous Jan of Bohemia. When she died in 1324, Charles married Jeanne d’Evreux; but she bore only daughters. He executed the rebellious Count Jourdain de l’Ilse and made a successful tour of the south. After the Jews were accused of plotting to poison wells with lepers, in 1322 many Jews emigrated. Needing money, the King became unpopular by selling offices, debasing the coins, and by collecting debts that Christians owed to Jews. In 1323 Charles went to war against England and invaded Guyenne, and the next year his uncle, Charles of Valois, marched into Aquitane with about 7,000 men. In May 1325 half the French army captured Saintres in Saintonge while the others attacked Bordeaux and the Gironde ports. A truce was agreed to in May, and King Charles was allowed to occupy the remainder of Aquitane.

Isabella, the brother of Charles, was married to Edward II, and he sent her to France to negotiate. However, Charles and Isabella conspired with her lover Roger Mortimer to have Edward II murdered. They made themselves regents in England for her son who became Edward III. In a treaty signed at Paris on March 31, 1327 France gained much of Gascony and retained the Agenais and Bazas while England promised to pay an indemnity of 50,000 marks sterling. That year a treaty was signed by the kings of France, England, Castile, Aragon, Sicily, and Majorca to assure free trade from one kingdom to another. Charles of Valois was the King’s primary advisor, and he went to negotiate with Pope John XXII (1316-34) for a proposed crusade that the King used for raising money. John’s papacy had revenues of 4,100,000 florins and spent 4,191,466. He spent 64% on wars, 22% on maintenance and entertainment, but only 7% on alms and 0.16% on the library. Charles IV died on February 1, 1328. Both of his sons had also died, and he was succeeded by his cousin Philippe of Valois, ending the Capetian line that had begun with Hugh Capet in 987.

Philippe VI at War 1328-50

England’s Edward III was also a cousin of Charles IV; but his claim was disallowed because it was through his mother and because he was a foreigner. Philippe VI (r. 1328-50) was the nephew of Philippe IV. At first he was only regent because the wife of Charles IV was pregnant; but she gave birth to a daughter, and Philippe was crowned on May 29, 1328. He had already tortured and executed Pierre Remi, the treasurer of Charles IV. Philippe admitted the right of Jeanne d’Evreux, daughter of Louis X, to the kingdom of Navarre. He led his knights into Flanders and defeated 12,000 men gathered at Cassel on August 23. Philippe captured several towns and took one thousand citizens of Bruges as hostages. Edward III came to Amiens and did homage to Philippe on June 6, 1329 while still claiming his territories along the southern coast. After a long negotiation Edward accepted it as liege homage on March 30, 1331.

Philippe was not very capable and was strongly influenced by his wife Jeanne of Burgundy and Pope John XXII. The King loved chivalry and liked to hold festivals. He held a large domain, but the fiefs of Flanders, Burgundy, Brittany, and Guyenne were independent. John had been bishop of Avignon, and he began building a palace there for the papal court. He helped the King with finances and diplomacy while Philippe backed the Pope against the empire in Germany and Italy. Philippe had previously fought in Italy, and the Pope let him occupy Modena and Reggio; he also bought Lucca from Jan of Bohemia. A crusade had a great appeal to Philippe, and he began preparations in 1330, taking the cross on July 22, 1332.

The King’s brother-in-law Robert III of Artois believed that Philippe V and Charles IV had cheated him out of his county. To overcome two previous judicial decisions Robert submitted documents that were judged to be forgeries. Robert had fifty witnesses supporting him, but Parliament ruled against him. In 1331 his property was confiscated, and he was banished. In 1332 Robert fled to Brabant, and then in 1334 he went to England, where he incited Edward against France.

In late 1335 Philippe VI began aiding the Scots against England. On August 12, 1336 Edward III prohibited the export of wool to Flanders. English merchants were arrested in Flanders, and England retaliated by arresting Flemish traders. Pope Benedict XII (1334-42) had mediated between England and Scotland, but he could not do so between England and France. Wars in Italy had prevented John XXII and Benedict XII from returning to Rome or even to Bologna, and Benedict began the building of a papal palace at Avignon. The violence in Rome continued during the eras of Clement VI (1342-52) and Innocent VI (1352-62). Edward III complained to Clement VI that the successors of the apostles were supposed to lead their sheep to pasture, not fleece them. Edward formed an alliance with Emperor Ludwig, who provided two thousand knights in exchange for 300,000 florins and named Edward vicar-general of the empire. In September 1336 Edward asserted his claim to France. On May 24, 1337 Philippe proclaimed that Guyenne was forfeited, and he hired many German mercenaries. In September the French fleet failed to capture Bishop Henry Bergersh of Lincoln, and they took shelter on the island of Cadzand off Flanders. In October an English force of 500 soldiers and 2,000 archers led by Walter Manny of Hainaut attacked them there, killing Guy of Flanders. The Bishop of Lincoln brought a letter of defiance to Paris on November 1. The war that would last for more than a century had begun.

The lack of wool from England affected Ghent the most, and the people were led by Captain Jacob van Artevelde to form a coalition that forced Count Louis of Flanders to flee to the French court. Ghent then negotiated with Edward III and agreed on a commercial treaty that restored the importing of English wool. In the spring of 1338 Edward led the forces he could raise to Antwerp and spread money around to gain support from princes. Nicolas Béhuchet led a naval attack on England that burned Portsmouth, and Southampton was burned in October. Philippe’s army also arrived in Flanders, and at the end of October the two armies were near each other at Buironfosse in Picardy; but they did not fight each other. In 1339 German allies joined the English, who sacked Le Treport and in the fall burned thirty French ships anchored at Boulogne, hanging the captains.

Against his allies’ advice Edward invaded France, and his brother-in-law, Count Guillaume of Hainaut, went over to Philippe’s side. Edward marched toward St. Quentin in September with a  small force, ravaging the land; but Philippe had an army of 35,000 that included many Genoese and Italians. Edward sent his adversary a challenge, but Philippe, warned by an astrologer not to fight the English when Edward was with them, declined the combat. The French army captured Blaye on the Gironde estuary, and in 1340 they seized Bourg at the mouth of the Dordogne. The German allies abandoned the English, and Philippe garrisoned his men to defend France’s frontier. Concerned about their religious obligation, the Flemings told Edward that they would not support him unless he was their king. So in a parliament at Ghent in 1340 Edward claimed he was king of France, and he promised to revive the good laws of St. Louis and granted commercial privileges to the union of Flanders, Brabant, and Hainaut. When he left, Edward had to leave his pregnant wife Philippa and children in Ghent as surety for his debts.

After the French navy captured the English cogs Christopher and Edward, on June 22, 1340 Edward III sailed with his fleet of 147 ships to Zeeland. The English and French navies met off Sluis, where the French fleet of 140 ships was crowded with 40,000 men, half of them pressed into service. The latter were badly positioned and were devastated as Barbavara retreated with forty Genoese galleys. Béhuchet was hanged from the yardarm of Edward’s flagship. Edward then used 60,000 Flemings to besiege Tournai. He challenged Philippe to single combat or by one hundred knights, but the French king answered that they would expel the English intruders. Tournai survived eleven weeks of siege. Robert of Artois led citizens of west Flanders to plunder St. Omer, but the French forces routed them, killing four thousand. Edward could not pay his mercenaries, and Countess Jeanne of Hainaut mediated the first truce of the war signed on September 25. In the spring of 1341 Emperor Ludwig abandoned his alliance with Edward, and many German princes did likewise. Edward owed Florentine bankers £180,000 and caused a banking crisis there that became critical in 1343. The artisans suspected Van Artevelde of corrupt financial dealing with England, and he was murdered by a mob. Philippe raised revenues by taxing hearths, salt, and the sale of goods. An assembly of the three estates in 1343 granted the King conditional subsidies. He would also borrow one million gold florins from the Pope.

After Duke Jean III of Brittany died without an heir on April 30, 1341, his half-brother Jean IV de Montfort occupied the capital at Nantes and challenged his niece Jeanne of Penthievre and her husband Charles of Blois, King Philippe’s nephew, for the duchy of Brittany. The King supported the French-speaking portion of Charles in the east, and the Celtic Bretons in the west were for Montfort, who visited England and became allied with King Edward. After Montfort took control of most of Brittany, Philippe VI sent an army commanded by his son Jean that besieged Nantes. After the French catapulted the heads of thirty knights over the walls, the city surrendered. Montfort was taken as a prisoner to Paris. Yet Charles still held only a third of Brittany, and a war began that lasted twenty years.

Montfort’s wife Joanna gallantly led the fight and was reinforced in the spring of 1342 by an English army led by Walter Manny. Constable William de Bohun led another force that defeated a French army led by Charles of Blois near Morlaix on September 30. Sickness weakened the English, and Robert of Artois died of his wounds after their defeat at Vannes. Edward III arrived at Brest in October with 12,000 men and reoccupied Vannes. Duke Jean of Normandy marched to meet him, but two cardinals mediated a truce at Malestroit on January 19, 1343. The next year a dozen Breton nobles were captured and taken to Paris, where they were beheaded without a trial. In the summer of 1345 Aquitane’s forces helped Henry of Grosmont, the earl of Derby, take fifty strong posts from the French, and he won an important victory at Auberoche on October 21. Then he recaptured La Réole and Aiguillon. The next year Jean III of Brittany failed to take Aiguillon, and Derby conquered Poitiers and Saint-Maixent. Jean de Montfort had been released at Easter 1345 and paid homage to Edward in England for his duchy, but he died of illness after returning to Brittany. His distraught wife went mad, and he was succeeded by his son Jean. The garrisons in Brittany forced the villagers to pay them and provide them with food and wine, or they would kill them and burn their villages. This protection racket (patis) spread throughout English-occupied territory in France.

In July 1346 Edward III landed in Normandy with about 15,000 men who began plundering the towns and ravaging the country. They spent five days pillaging Caen and killing three thousand, but they lost five hundred men and could not take the castle. Edward ordered the people of Caen slaughtered, but Godfrey of Harcourt persuaded him that was a bad strategy. So they threatened with the gallows anyone who started a fire, killed a man, or raped a woman. Nonetheless there were many cases of arson and murder among the pillaging. On August 12 Philippe VI ordered the bridge of Poissy broken and Paris evacuated and abandoned while trying to calm Parisians by saying he would fight the English. The next day the English crossed the Seine and occupied Poissy about 15 miles from Paris.

The French army of 40,000 tried to trap the English between the Channel and the Somme estuary; but on August 23 Edward’s army forded the Somme below Abbeville and entrenched on the plateau of Crecy. The French arrived on August 26 and outnumbered the English at least three to one. The lords were eager for battle; but about 6,000 Genoese warned that they had marched eighteen miles that day and could not fight. As the Genoese began to retreat, the French knights attacked them and then charged the English lines about a dozen times from late afternoon until midnight. English archers and infantry that included 5,000 Welsh defeated the French, who lost about 4,000 men. The next day the English went after the stragglers and killed four times as many. About 1,500 of those killed at Crecy were nobles. This battle showed that the era of the armored knights was passing.

On September 4 Edward besieged Calais, which held out for nearly a year. The commander at Calais, Jean de Vienne, ordered the poor without stocks to leave, and more than 1,700 men, women, and children were allowed to pass through the English army. Edward had a town of houses built around Caen for his army that grew to 30,000. After the French army failed to relieve the siege in July 1347, those starving in Calais surrendered. Edward hated Calais because of the pirates that attacked English ships, and he wanted them all killed; but Walter Manny used the following argument:

You are setting a bad example for us.
Suppose one day you sent us
to defend one of your fortresses,
we should go less cheerfully
if you have these people put to death,
for then they would do the same to us
if they had the chance.2

Edward relented but then wanted to kill six leading burghers who had volunteered to be hostages, but Queen Philippa successfully begged him to be merciful. The inhabitants were forced to migrate, and most went to Saint-Omer. The English moved into Calais and held it for the next two centuries.

Edward had spent nearly £400,000 on one campaign. Papal legates mediated another truce in September for ten months that would last eight years, and Edward returned to England in October. Philippe summoned the estates again in November to ask for more money. The French led by Geoffrey de Charney tried to retake Calais by bribery; but it was reported, and de Charney and thirty knights let in the gates were captured and ransomed.

Charles of Blois was defeated and captured on June 20, 1347 at La Roche-Derrien during the siege of Calais, and he was taken to England. The war in Brittany often continued during the truces, and after the truce of 1347 thirty Frenchmen fought thirty English and Germans in a tournament between the garrisons of Ploermel and Josselin. Nine on the English side were killed and four French while all the rest were wounded.

In 1348 the bubonic plague spread from Italy to France, wiping out nine of ten people in some towns of southern France and killing 800 a day in Paris. About a quarter of the people in France died in the plague. The flagellant movement rose again, and even Pope Clement VI encouraged it at Avignon in May 1349. After he realized it was dangerous, he issued a bull against the flagellants in October and sent it to archbishops in Germany, Poland, France, England, and Sweden. The University of Paris condemned self-flagellation, and clerics wrote tracts against the practice. Secular authorities cooperated in suppressing the movement by executing flagellants.

The queen of France, Jeanne of Burgundy, and the queen of Navarre also died. Duke Jean of Normandy married the duchess of Burgundy, Jeanne of Auvergne, in February 1349, and his father Philippe married princess Blanche d’Evreux of Navarre in January 1350. With fewer workers the price of grain quadrupled in two years, and many starved. Philippe expanded the borders of France and bought Montpellier from Jaume III of Majorca in April 1349. That year he acquired the Dauphiné and granted it to the crown prince Jean who became known as the dauphin. Philippe VI died of illness on August 22, 1350.

Jean II at War 1350-64

Philippe’s son Jean had married Bonne de Luxembourg in 1332 and became duke of Normandy. To pay the expenses of his coronation at Rheims on September 26, 1350 King Jean II debased the coinage. The constable Raoul de Brienne was paroled by Edward III. Jean blamed him for ceding the county of Guines and had him arrested and beheaded. The county of Eu was given to Jean of Artois, and the King’s friend Carlos de la Cerda of Castile was appointed constable of France. Jean also angered Charles of Navarre by giving the county of Angouleme to Carlos. Jean issued ordinances altering monetary values eighteen times in 1351, and the treasury could pay only part of the officers’ annual wages and the interest on the debt. Thomas Dagworth, the English commander in Brittany, was killed on March 27, 1351 by an ambush arranged by Countess Jeanne of Blois. On January 6, 1352 King Jean founded the Order of the Star for five hundred knights who swore not to retreat. In August a French army led by Marshal de Nesle occupied Rennes and began a chevauchée (horse charge), moving toward Brest. In the spring of 1353 the Cardinal of Boulogne convened a peace conference at Guines. Edward released Charles of Blois, but his wife Jeanne de Penthiévre declined the terms and sent him back.

King Charles of Navarre led the Evreux family and sent his brother Philippe and other Norman nobles to murder by ambush the constable Carlos in January 1354. Jean marched against him and sent the Count d’Armagnac from Toulouse to occupy Navarre, beginning a civil war. The Cardinal of Boulogne mediated an agreement at Nantes on February 22, 1354 that assured Charles of Navarre of his claims, and he begged the King’s pardon in the Parliament. When Jean learned that Charles was negotiating with England, he took over his estates in Normandy in November. Charles took refuge with the Pope at Avignon. In February 1355 the French rejected the unratified Treaty of Guines because the English were interfering in Brittany and sheltering Charles of Navarre. Because of the English threat, Jean was persuaded to give concessions to Charles, and they made a second treaty on September 10, 1355. Charles set up his court at Rouen and began entertaining the dauphin Charles. The Estates agreed to raise five million livres to support 30,000 armed men for one year, and their committee would pay the troops.

The Franciscan friar Jean de la Rochetaillade criticized the luxuries and corruption of the prelates and princes, predicted their doom, and had been imprisoned by Pope Clement VI in 1345. In 1356 he wrote the book Vade Mecum in tribulatione and Ostensor, which prophesied many strange events in the next four years, and he was arrested by Pope Innocent VI.

Edward III changed his plans, landed at Calais, and invaded Artois in November 1355. Jean marched against him, keeping him out of France. The English passed through Languedoc and ravaged Castelnaudary and Carcassonne to Montpellier. The English collected 5,000 prisoners and a thousand wagons full of silver and other valuables. Discovering a conspiracy involving the King of Navarre with the dauphin Charles, on April 5, 1356 King Jean had Charles “the Bad” of Navarre arrested and confiscated his estates in Normandy; Jean d’Harcourt and three others were beheaded. The Dauphin was present and was taken back to Paris by the royal guard. On April 27 Marshal Amoul d’Audrehem went to Arras, where he had twenty men decapitated in the marketplace for rebellion. Jean also seized their possessions and those of the Harcourts in Lower Normandy. Godefrey d’Harcourt, Navarre’s brother Philippe, and others then turned to Edward III. The States General met for a third time at Paris in May and granted subsidies to the King.

Henry of Grosmont, now duke of Lancaster, was leading the English fight in Normandy. Edward the Black Prince of Wales also invaded Normandy and reached Amboise on September 7, 1356. King Jean sent 3,000 men who forced Lancaster’s forces back to Brittany. Confronted by Jean’s French army, both sides raced toward Poitiers. Cardinal Talleyrand de Périgord mediated and gained a truce until morning to try to prevent a battle between Prince Edward and Jean, but the latter demanded that the Prince and a hundred knights surrender to his larger army. In the battle outside the gates of Poitiers on September 19 about 7,000 well-positioned English defeated about 20,000 or more French and captured King Jean, who kept  his vow to the Order of the Star by not retreating as most of the French did. The French had 11,000 men killed and the English 2,500. The English captured 2,000 armed men including 70 barons, 13 counts, one archbishop, and much gold, silver, and jewels, plus ransoms later. Prince Edward took the King to Bordeaux. In the spring of 1357 they agreed on a truce for two years and then went to England. Jean was treated well and was allowed to hunt and joust.

The reformer Etienne Marcel as provost of the merchants led the Parisian bourgeoisie at the States General in October 1356. The leader of the prelates, Bishop Robert le Coq of Laon, and the nobles’ Jean de Picquigny of Vermandois were loyal to Navarre. The three estates planned to raise funds for 30,000 armed men. The dauphin Charles managed to prorogue the meeting while he went to see Emperor Karl IV at Metz. The States General of the Languedoc voted to maintain 15,000 men. Upon the Dauphin’s return the States General reassembled in February 1357.  On March 3 at the palace the Bishop of Laon demanded they remove 22 royal officers and suspend the rest pending investigations, and those officials who had not been arrested fled. Each of the three estates elected twelve representatives to a governing Grand Council, and they were to meet twice a year. The Dauphin agreed to the grande ordonnance of reformation, promising to refrain from imposing taxes or divert money from the treasury without the vote of the Grand Council, to make justice prompt and impartial and not sell judicial offices, and not to alter the coinage from what the Provost would propose. The Grand Council appointed new officials to collect taxes, levies, tithes, duties, and loans.

Jean in England forbade the subsidies granted and any further meetings. Yet during a session in November the King of Navarre escaped with help from Marcel and Le Coq. He made speeches in Amiens, Rouen, and Paris, demanding reparation. The Dauphin lost patience and made speeches too, criticizing the new officials’ administration of finances, for he had received nothing from the subsidies. On February 8, 1358 he revoked the grande ordonnance. That month a rioting mob came into his room, and Marcel had the marshals of Champagne and Normandy killed, spattering blood on the Dauphin and giving him one of their blue-and-red caps. Marcel presided over the Grand Council of 36 and organized similar local governments. In London the kings Edward and Jean negotiated a peace treaty. The dauphin Charles left Paris to avoid being controlled, and he gathered a more loyal assembly at Compiegne.

The armies of the English, Navarrese, Bretons, and Gascons had been devastating the country, and on May 28, 1358 bands of peasants began murdering and raping the gentry. They were called Jacques for the garment they wore, and Guillaume Cale became their leader. When the nobles fled, the Jacques pillaged. Soon it was reported that a hundred thousand peasants were involved in the attacks. Charles the Bad had escaped from a dungeon in Picardy in April, and he fought against them, capturing Cale by treachery and executing him. Charles and his forces killed 3,000 Jacques in one day in Beauvaisis. Other knights came from Flanders, Hainaut, and Brabant to help their friends. The  Count of Foix and his cousin the Captal de Buch led a force to Meaux that rescued the duchesses of Normandy and Orleans and three hundred other ladies, killing seven thousand Jacques in one day according to Froissart. By June about 20,000 people had been put to death, and villagers were devastated by fines. The peasant revolt was suppressed by August.

Charles of Navarre established his own army of mercenaries at Saint-Denis, and he formed a secret pact with the regent Charles. He even persuaded Provost Marcel to send him two pack-horses loaded with florins twice a week from Paris. Mercenaries remaining in Paris came into conflict with Parisians, and sixty soldiers were killed. The Provost reprimanded the people, but he also imprisoned 150 soldiers in the Louvre. Later the English mercenaries were released and joined Charles at Saint-Denis. They declared war on the Parisians and killed more than seven hundred as they were fleeing. People blamed Marcel. Captain of the guard, Jean Maillart, quarreled with Marcel and killed him and six others on July 31. Two days later the dauphin Charles was welcomed back to Paris. He called together eminent people and, speaking to them in Latin at first, won them over. He reinstated deposed officials and rewarded the loyal. Near Paris the English had taken over Poissy, Creil, Melun, Lagny, and Meulan. Germans and the English were in Brie and Champagne, and the Navarrese occupied Normandy and Picardy.

Edward III raised an army of 30,000 and landed at Calais on October 28, 1358. In March 1359 the captive Jean agreed to a treaty that would pay a ransom of four million gold écus and give back to Edward III extensive territory the Plantagenets had not held since before Philippe II. In May the States General consulted with Dauphin Charles and rejected the treaty, choosing war on the English. They voted a subsidy that enabled the Dauphin to attack Charles the Bad of Navarre at Melun. Then the two adversaries named Charles made peace in July so they could fight Edward together. Edward III landed at Calais in October with an army of about 12,000 and ravaged Artois, Thiérache, and Champagne, but they could not take Rheims. The duke of Burgundy paid 200,000 gold moutons for protection, and the English went into winter quarters in Upper Burgundy. On March 15, 1360 French ships attacked and burned Winchelsea and left England the next day. That month a decree was issued allowing Jews to return to France for twenty years, but they had to wear a red-and-white badge. Manassier de Vesoul had stimulated the return, and he collected taxes from Jews in northern France.

Edward III marched to the gates of Paris; but after a terrible storm on April 13 the papal legate near Chartres persuaded him to agree to a peace treaty that was signed on May 8 by the Dauphin and the Prince of Wales. France abandoned territory and promised to pay a ransom of 3,000,000 gold écus with 600,000 due at Calais in four months. Only 400,000 écus were collected by October, but King Jean was released in November. On December 6 a royal ordinance enacted a triple tax on merchandise, salt, and wine. Jean promised to marry his 11-year-old daughter Isabelle to the 9-year-old son of Galeazzo Visconti in exchange for 600,000 gold florins.

In November 1361 Duke Philippe of Burgundy died without an heir, and Jean dismissed the claim of Charles of Navarre and annexed Burgundy to France. Handing over French territory to the English was difficult and unpopular and dragged on until 1363, when the Prince of Wales came to govern them. In November 1362 the hostages made a treaty with Edward and were moved to Calais to be released. However, the treaty, accepted by Jean, was rejected by Dauphin Charles and the Estates.

Meanwhile armed bands of unemployed soldiers called Companies were preying upon the country, and in Champagne and Burgundy they joined into the Grand Company. They robbed convoys of money, and in 1364 Pope Urban V excommunicated them and anyone helping them. A French army led by the Duke of Bourbon tried to stop them at Brignais near Lyons on April 6, 1362 and was defeated. On September 6, 1363 King Jean gave Burgundy to his son Philippe. Charles of Navarre believed he had a claim and prepared for war against France. While Jean was negotiating the release of hostages in England, his son Louis of Artois escaped. In October the Estates General meeting at Amiens refused to ratify an agreement made by Edward III and the hostages. Jean honorably returned to England in December, leaving the Dauphin as regent. That month the Estates agreed to a hearth tax paid quarterly for one year. Bad harvests preceded a plague, and by 1364 Jean was a million behind in his payments. Jean II died of illness in England on April 8, 1364.

Charles the Wise 1364-80

Bertrand du Guesclin led forces that won back Mantes and Meulan, freeing the valley of the Seine the same week that King Jean died. Then two days before Charles V was crowned king of France at Rheims on May 18, 1364, he defeated the Navarrese army of Companies near Cocherel and captured their leader Captal de Buch. Pope Urban V and Buch persuaded Charles the Bad of Navarre to trade his claim to Mantes and Meulan for Montpellier. Charles V executed leaders of the raiding Companies and cut down on brigandage. After Countess Jeanne of Blois refused to come to terms with Jean de Montfort, on September 29, 1364 at Auray the army of Charles of Blois was defeated; he and his son were killed, and du Guesclin was captured. In April 1365 Charles V signed the Treaty of Guérande, recognizing Jean de Montfort as duke of Brittany in exchange for his homage. Charles also paid 40,000 florins to ransom du Guesclin. Charles of Navarre gave up his fortresses on the lower Seine in March 1365.

Charles V wanted to help Enrique of Trastamara against Pedro I of Castile, who had killed his wife Blanche, the sister-in-law of Charles. Du Guesclin persuaded the leaders of 25 Companies to follow him, and his army reported to be 30,000 went to see Pope Urban at Avignon. The Pope threatened to excommunicate them if they did not leave, and he wanted them to go on a crusade against the Turks in Hungary. John Hankwood led 3,000 men only as far as Italy, where they fought as mercenaries. Du Guesclin demanded the Pope pay them 200,000 francs. When he found out the money came from the people of Avignon, he gave it back to them and insisted on being paid from the papal treasury. Urban paid him and got it back by taxing the clergy. They went to fight against Pedro, who was forced out of his kingdom of Castile by his half-brother Enrique, who was crowned king in Burgos on April 5, 1366. Pedro fled to Bordeaux and made an alliance with Prince Edward.

In February 1367 du Guesclin led about 10,000 men, and Charles of Navarre allowed them to use passes over the Pyrenees; but the English with a reported 27,000 men aided Pedro, and on April 3 at Najera they defeated the French, taking du Guesclin and Marshal d’Audrehem prisoners. Prince Edward and his army suffered illness and returned to Bordeaux. Charles V paid a ransom of 100,000 florins for du Guesclin and made an open alliance with Henrique in July 1368. Du Guesclin took fresh troops back to Castile, and they defeated Pedro at Montiel on March 14, 1369. Pedro was taken prisoner and while he was fighting with Enrique, du Guesclin helped Enrique murder the King. In gratitude Enrique offered the Castilian navy as an ally of France.

To pay for the Castilian intervention Prince Edward summoned the Estates of Aquitane and Angouleme which passed a hearth tax of ten sous for five years. However, the Gascon lords Jean d’Armagnac and Charles d’Albret refused to let tax collectors into their territory. Charles V made an agreement with them, and on June 30, 1368 the Count of Armagnac appealed to Charles before the Parliament. On December 3 Charles proclaimed his right to receive appeals, and later that month the Grand Council endorsed his policy. By the following May more than eight hundred localities appealed and accepted French sovereignty. In June the King declared war against Prince Edward, and French forces took Abbeville and St. Valery. On November 30 Charles V announced he was confiscating Aquitane.

The ailing Charles never fought in battle, but he was called “the Wise” and collected a library of more than a thousand books in the Louvre. He read the entire Bible once a year. During his reign French translations were made of the Bible first, then Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics, Augustine’s City of God, and Livy’s History of Rome. He also had astrological works translated, founded a college of astrology at the University of Paris, and hired Thomas of Pisano, a doctor of astrology from the University of Bologna to advise him. The King ordered the practice of archery, but he forbade public sports. He was the only French king who permitted arming all men in the nation. The French developed cannons that could shoot projectiles weighing more than a hundred pounds. Charles ordered the destruction of all castles that were not defensible, and he forbade his commanders from fighting pitched battles like the ones they lost at Crecy and Poitiers. He had a new circle of walls built around Paris, and he created a royal navy and appointed Jean de Vienne admiral. He ordained the age of 13 as a king’s majority and required that the tutor of the king and the regent must not be the same person. Although he confirmed his brother Philippe in the duchy of Burgundy, he ordained that in the future no sovereign fiefs should be conceded.

Charles V summoned the Prince of Wales to answer criminal charges, and Edward replied that he would come with 60,000 armed men. His father Edward III once again claimed the throne of France. Charles convened the Estates General on May 9, 1369 in Paris, and they unanimously voted taxes for defense. King Edward sent his son John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, to Artois, Picardy, and Normandy. In 1370 Charles V issued numerous ordinances granting trading privileges to loyal towns. On October 2 he appointed du Guesclin constable of France, and he drove the army of Robert Knollys from the Loire valley into Brittany. Duke Jean of Berry persuaded Bishop Jehan de Cros of Limoges to come over to the French, and Limoges was exempted from excise taxes for ten years. Berry left only a small garrison, and the army of the angry Prince Edward broke through the wall of Limoges and slaughtered three thousand men, women, and children. Du Guesclin and the Castilian navy helped the dukes of Burgundy and Berry conquer Poitou, Aunis, and Saintonge. Ill Prince Edward turned Aquitane over to the Duke of Lancaster and departed France in January 1371, never to return.

The Earl of Pembroke was sent to govern La Rochelle, but in June 1372 Enrique’s Castilian navy captured him and sank his fleet with the £20,000 to pay the Gascon army. Du Guesclin took Poitiers and captured the Captal de Buch. La Rochelle drove out the English garrison and came to terms with France on September 8, 1372. That year Jean of Montfort abandoned Brittany, and by the end of 1373 du Guesclin had won back all but four Breton fortresses. Edward III sent the dukes of Lancaster and Brittany with 30,000 men back to France in July 1373, but they could only capture Tulle and Brive. By the time the English reached Bordeaux only 6,000 of their 30,000 horses remained, and they had lost more than a third of their men. Jean de Vienne used cannons to take Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte in Normandy. Du Guesclin made a local truce with the Duke of Lancaster at Périgueux in January 1374.

In March 1375 a peace conference began meeting at Bruges chaired by the Archbishop of Ravenna with Count Louis de Male of Flanders as mediator. The English and French agreed to a one-year truce at Bruges on June 27, and it was extended for a second year; but the English would not abandon the Treaty of Calais, and Charles V would not give up sovereignty. Prince Edward died in June 1376, and Edward III passed away one year later. Then Charles V broke the truce and put five armies in the field to conquer Guyenne. The French navy raided the English coast but could not regain Calais. Learning that Charles of Navarre had been negotiating with England to divide France, Charles V sent du Guesclin and Duke Philippe of Burgundy to occupy the domains of Navarre’s king, who gave Cherbourg to the English. Enrique of Castile invaded Navarre, and Charles the Bad lost all his land in France.

Charles V summoned Duke Jean IV of Montfort to court on June 20, 1378, but he failed to appear. On December 18 the French Parliament declared him a felon and annexed Brittany. Gascons signed an act of confederation with France on April 26, 1379. Although the Breton lords du Guesclin, Olivier de Clisson, and Rohan were loyal to France, the people were angry and recalled Jean IV of Montfort, who returned to Dinard in August 1379. Du Guesclin felt a divided loyalty and went to fight the Companies in central France. He became ill in Languedoc and died on July 13, 1380. His last words were, “Remember that whenever you are at war, churchmen, women, children, and the poor are not your enemies.”3 The English retained only Calais, Cherbourg, Brest, Bayonne, and Bordeaux with little more of the Aquitane than they held in 1336.

Pope Urban V had traveled from Avignon to Rome in April 1367, but he came back to Avignon in September 1370 two months before his death. Pope Gregory XI left Avignon in September 1376 but could not enter Rome until January 1377. He died there on March 27, 1378. The Romans forced the cardinals to elect an Italian, and the Neapolitan Bartolomeo Prignano, the archbishop of Bari, became Pope Urban VI in April. Thirteen French cardinals withdrew to Anagni near Naples, and on September 20 they elected Robert of Geneva, who became Pope Clement VII. At first Charles V declared neutrality, but after meeting with assembled clergy at Vincennes in November and examining the documents, he favored Clement, who was also accepted by Scotland, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Portugal, Savoy, Denmark, Norway, and the German states of the Meuse and Rhine. Clement granted Charles a third of the taxes on the French clergy.

The King’s brother Duke Louis of Anjou actively supported Pope Clement in Languedoc, and he sent others to help in Florence, Milan, and Naples. After Urban’s forces defeated him, Clement asked Anjou for military support. Clement moved to Avignon in January, beginning the “Great Schism.” His bull on April 17, 1379 authorized Louis to conquer the Papal States and to keep all of them as Adria, giving only Rome and Naples to Pope Clement. This kingdom was also to include Ferrara, Bologna, Ravenna, Romagna, the March of Ancona, and Spoleto, and he was to give the papacy 40,000 francs a year. Louis promised to protect Queen Giovanna of Naples and became her heir. They began a campaign to persuade people that the forced election of Urban was invalid. The masters of theology at the University of Paris reluctantly accepted Clement, but two years later all four faculties voted to end the schism in favor of a General Council.

Louis ruled Anjou harshly with war and heavy taxes oppressing the poor. After his Anjou council imposed a new tax on hearths without consulting the Estates, the people of Languedoc rioted. The revolt spread, and in October at Montpellier five of Anjou’s councilors were killed, and eighty others were reported massacred. Pope Clement sent Cardinal Albano, who persuaded the rebel leaders to submit to the King. However, Duke Louis condemned six hundred to be executed, confiscating their property, making their children slaves and fining the town 600,000 francs, though the Cardinal and King persuaded him to reduce the sentences. Charles sent commissioners to investigate his brother and gave Languedoc to the Count of Foix. England and Brittany signed a treaty of alliance on March 1, 1380, and Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock, the Earl of Buckingham, led an army of 5,060 men who landed at Calais on July 19 and marched to Brittany. Charles V struggled with a long illness, and on September 16, 1380, the day he died, he cancelled the hearth tax against the advice of his counselors.

Charles the Mad 1380-1400

Duke Louis of Anjou was regent until Charles VI was crowned at Rheims on November 4, 1380 one month before his twelfth birthday. The boy was dominated by his four uncles—the dukes of Anjou, Berry, Burgundy, and Bourbon. Enmity from the University caused the imprisonment of Hugues Aubriot, the provost of Paris, and Chancellor Pierre d’Orgemont resigned. While regent, Louis had appropriated much of the treasury, but his Languedoc was turned over to the extravagant Duke Jean of Berry. Olivier de Clisson was appointed constable of France. The kingdom was governed by the Council of Twelve. Louis left on his adventure to conquer Italy, and Duke Philippe of Burgundy dominated the Council. The French people were tired of ten years of continuous taxation, and in the fall violence erupted at Compiegne, Saint-Quentin, and Paris. The Estates General met on November 14 and passed an alternative tax to the hearth duty, but the demonstrations in Paris caused the Council to repeal the hearth and salt taxes and the aids two days later. Mobs ransacked the shops of Jews, shouting, “Noel, Noel!” In the first four days of March 1381 many Jews were plundered, abused, and murdered.

Local assemblies gathered to try to raise money for the soldiers. In February 1382 the aids were renewed for another year, and riots in Rouen lasted three days, spreading to Amiens, Rheims, and Laon. On the first of March the people of Paris began arming themselves with lead mallets and were called Maillotins. They hunted down tax collectors and Jews, robbing their houses. After they opened the prisons, the wealthy and moderates reacted behind the popular attorney Jean des Mares. Taxes were abolished again, and rebel leaders were arrested or executed. King Charles VI went to Rouen to abolish the commune, but a riot broke out because of taxes imposed by the states of Normandy. Having married Margaretha of Dampierre in 1369, Duke Philippe of Burgundy was heir to Flanders, where he demanded money from the rich and killed those who disobeyed. He persuaded Charles to support him against a revolt by wealthy Ghent, and they mobilized the French army of 40,000 on November 18. Nine days later at Roosebeke they defeated the Flemings led by Philip van Artevelde, killing him and 25,000. Then to complete the revenge for their loss in 1302, the French sacked and burned Courtrai, slaughtering or enslaving the inhabitants.

King Charles did not want to stay in Ghent and led the army back to France. He returned to Paris as a conquering hero and arrested hundreds. Jean des Mares was among the three hundred wealthy men executed, and the office of the provost of the merchants was eliminated. Ward organizations and artisan confraternities were also abolished. Fines hampered commerce. Languedoc was ordered to pay 800,000 francs and was ruined. Paris had to pay 400,000, and large fines were also imposed on Rouen, Laon, Orleans, and Rheims, increasing the wealth of the dukes of Berry and Burgundy. Even though Flanders supported Pope Urban, in the spring of 1383 Bishop Henry Despenser of Norwich landed at Calais with about 5,000 men and took towns along the coast including Dunkirk before besieging Ypres. Again Charles VI led a French army and forced them to retreat to Gravelines, where they were rescued by Bretons.

Meanwhile after Giovanna was murdered by her nephew Charles of Durazzo in Naples in May 1382, Duke Louis of Anjou used French treasure to try to conquer that kingdom. He stopped at Avignon, where Pope Clement VII crowned him king of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem and excommunicated Charles of Durazzo. Louis led an army of 15,000 men, and in February 1383 they suffered an epidemic in the mountains near Naples. They retreated to the south, and in April the Council of France granted Anjou 190,000 francs. Louis died of fever in September 1384 just before the reinforcements led by Enguerrand de Coucy arrived.

Count Louis de Male also died in 1384, and Philippe of Burgundy claimed Flanders. The French seized Damme, the port of Bruges, and blockaded Ghent, which submitted in the treaty made at Tournai in December 1385. That year Charles VI formed an alliance with Bavaria by marrying Isabeau de Baviere. England had recently suffered a peasant revolt, and the French planned a big invasion with 1,387 ships (according to Froissart) and enough wood to build a town. France raised more money from taxes in 1386 than in any year of the past century. However, the Duke of Berry arrived late, and in the fall weather the ships were lost at sea or captured; the expedition against England was postponed in November 1386. The next year the Duke of Brittany captured and imprisoned Clisson before he could bring the Breton fleet for the campaign, which was finally abandoned in 1388.

The last known trial by combat that the Parliament of Paris ordered was attended by the King and many others in early 1387. The wife of the knight Jean Carrouges accused the squire Jacques Le Gris of raping her while her husband was on a journey. Because she could not prove her case, the court ordered a duel to the death. Her husband agreed to participate even though if he lost, he would be hanged, and his wife would be burned. Carrouges was wounded but then killed Le Gris. The King rewarded him with 1,000 francs and a pension for life. Three chroniclers questioned the result, noting that a condemned man later confessed to the rape. Jurists no longer believed in this method of determining justice, and very few judicial combats occurred after that.

The monk Honoré Bouvet (Bonet) earned his Doctor of Decretals at the University of Avignon in 1386 and wrote The Tree of Battles in French, dedicating it to Charles VI in 1387. He examined the laws and customs of war during a time tried by the tribulation of the Church schism, conflicts between Christian kings, and internal discord among communities. He argued that war should not be harmful to those who are not participating; yet he found that it did inflict misery on poor laborers and others. Yet he set aside the reality that war is harmful and evil, arguing that war is “good and virtuous” because “it seeks nothing other than to set wrong right.”4 He justified war against the Saracens, war by the Emperor and kings, and war by the Pope against the Emperor but not war by the Emperor against the Pope. Bouvet also discussed the duties of various persons and the moral obligations in many situations that occur during wars.

Philippe de Mezieres was knighted during the crusade to Smyrna in 1346. He went to Jerusalem and tried unsuccessfully to found the Order of the Passion. He went to Cyprus and became chancellor there in 1359. He helped organize a crusade to Egypt that sacked Alexandria in October 1365. He went to Paris in 1373 and became a member of the royal council under Charles V and tutor of his son Charles. When the councilors were expelled in 1380, he withdrew into the Celestine monastery at Paris. There in 1389 he wrote the autobiographical and allegorical Dream of the Old Pilgrim in which he advocated peace with England so that they could pursue crusades. The pilgrims Ardent Desire and his sister Good Hope travel to prepare the world for the Queen of  Truth and her servants Peace, Mercy, and Justice, who have been away from Earth. Devotion is depicted as a disheveled old woman who is now called Despair.

After returning from a visit to Germany, Charles VI decided in November 1388 that he would start ruling as king. The Cardinal of Laon proposed this at a Council meeting and died a few days later, some suspecting poison. Charles dismissed his uncles and reinstated his father’s ministers who were called Marmosets because they resembled those monkeys. These included Constable Olivier de Clisson, Admiral Jean de Vienne, the royal tutor Philippe de Mezieres, and the financial expert Jean le Mercier. At the beginning of 1389 Louis of Orleans replaced the Duke of Burgundy in the Council, and in November the Pope at Avignon crowned him king of Naples, Sicily, and Jerusalem. The Parliament and Council were purged, and reforms were enacted based on the policies of Charles V. Judges were to be chosen by the Parliament and Council. Jean Jouvenel was appointed provost of the merchants. The plague returned for the fourth time 1388-90, and in the 14th century the population of Europe was reduced nearly by half.

King Charles went to Languedoc in 1390 to stop the abuses of Berry’s administration, and he was entertained by a continuous round of festivals at Lyons, Avignon, Montpellier, and Toulouse. Yet Charles replaced Duke Jean of Berry with Count Gaston Phoebus of Foix. The financial commissioner Bétizac was hated for having taken three million francs in taxes by cruel extortions, impoverishing people and even abusing their wives and daughters. He was cleared of charges because all the money he took had gone to the Duke of Berry. They persuaded him that he could save his life by pleading guilty to heresy so that his crime would not reflect on the duke appointed by the King. He was promised that if he confessed, he would be turned over to the Pope at Avignon who would protect him; but instead he was handed to the civil authority and was burned at the stake. The citizens of Languedoc were so happy to be rid of Bétizac that they voted to give the King 300,000 francs in aid.

Peace talks with the English had begun in 1388, and on June 18, 1389 at Leulinghen they agreed to a truce for three years. In 1390 Duke John of Lancaster was endowed with the duchy of Aquitane. Unemployed mercenaries continued to raid during the truces. In 1391 the English agreed to evacuate all the Breton fortresses except Brest. Louis of Orleans married Valentine Visconti, and in 1391 he got French troops to try to win the kingdom of Adria in the Papal States with help from Gian Galeazzo Visconti; but he only gained a foothold in Asti. Louis II of Anjou sent Otto of Brunswick to control Naples, and Louis arrived in August; but Charles VI never came to establish the kingdom of Adria. Also in 1391 Duke Louis II of Bourbon led 1,500 knights against Tunis.

Charles VI became ill in April 1392, probably with typhoid fever. On June 13 the recently dismissed chamberlain Pierre de Craon with twenty men tried to murder Clisson; but the Constable survived his wounds, and Craon fled to Brittany. The King considered it an attack on him and marched toward Brittany with an army. On August 5, 1392 a man tried to stop the King on the road. Suddenly a loud sound stimulated the hot Charles to go berserk. He shouted, “Treason!” and attacked his brother Louis, not recognizing him, and he killed five of his men. For two days Charles was senseless and did not speak. His elderly physician Guillaume de Harsigny treated him, and gradually he seemed to recover; but he warned the royal advisors not to burden the King with affairs of state. The dukes of Berry and Burgundy had taken control immediately and dismissed all his other counselors, but the people resented them because of their riches. Clisson was allowed to flee and was banned, but the Sire de la Riviere and Jean le Mercier were imprisoned. Eventually they were all pardoned and released, but only Clisson resumed his position. Dukes Philippe and Jean were joined by the King’s younger brother Louis, who was made duke of Orleans and led the Council.

During a festival in early 1393 torches accidentally set fire to pitch and hair in costumes, causing five nobles to be burned to death. The King himself was also in the same costume, but he was saved by the Duchess of Berry, who wrapped him in her robe. The English sold Cherbourg to the king of Navarre, who sold it to France. The King’s second psychotic episode occurred in June and lasted for seven months. Charles acted strangely, often did not recognize people, and sometimes did not even know who he was. He was persuaded to ban the Jews on September 17, 1394, but he ordered that no harm come to them and that they had one month to leave. Many Jews migrated to Germany and Italy. The King’s third interlude of insanity was from November 1395 to January 25, 1396. He recognized his officers but did not know his queen or his children. The fourth psychotic episode a year later began a pattern of brief interludes of madness, but they came more often.

In 1394 Enguerrand de Coucy occupied Savona for Orleans. Doge Antonio Adorno of Genoa felt threatened by Louis and asked for the protection of Charles VI. In July 1395 negotiations began for Charles VI’s 6-year-old daughter Isabella to marry Richard II of England, and they were betrothed in Paris on March 12, 1396, the day the truce was extended for 28 years. Richard received a dowry of about 800,000 francs. The kings met again on October 26, and England gave back Brest, their last city in Brittany.

The French princes lived in luxury, and the Rapondi and other banking families from Lucca invested in France. Johan of Limburg illustrated the book of Rich Hours for the Duke of Berry, who owned seventeen castles and two residences in Paris. During this period many French knights went off to fight in other places. Duke Louis II of Bourbon fought for Castile. Jean de Vienne and Jacques de Heilly went to Scotland. Enguerrand de Coucy, Jean III of Armagnac, Raymond of Turenne, Olivier du Guesclin, and Bernardon of Sens went to various wars in Italy.

In 1386 the refugee King Leo V of Cilicia had come to Paris and London, pleading for a crusade against the Turks. In 1396 Burgundy’s son Jean de Nevers and Coucy led the French in a crusade against the Turks along with Hungary. The French knights were well supplied with rich food, wine, and prostitutes but did not bring siege weapons. They rejected Sigismund’s defensive strategy and attacked the Turks’ untrained conscripts in front of their main army. Then about 8,000 Christians faced a Turkish army twice as large at Nicopolis. Half the French were unhorsed and were defeated by tough sipahi warriors. Sultan Bayezid had all the prisoners killed except eighty nobles held for ransom. Jean was imprisoned for two years before the banker Dino Rapondi arranged their release for 200,000 ducats. They also had to pay 100,000 ducats in debts for their expenses. Jacques de Heilly was sent on parole to demand ransoms from France and Burgundy and returned. Later he even hired himself out to the Turks and fought Egyptians. Boucicault tried to help the Byzantine emperor by raiding the coast of Syria and Alexandria. Jean de Fay won acclaim fighting for the conquering Timur. In November 1396 Charles VI sent a governor to take over Genoa, but the Duke of Orleans had to abandon nearby Savona.

Pope Clement VII taxed his bishops so much that in 1392 they refused to pay and tacked their protest on the door of the papal palace in Avignon. Clement died in 1394, and the cardinals at Avignon elected Pedro de Luna, who favored Church unity and said he could abdicate as easily as taking off a hat. The two kings Charles VI and Richard II agreed they would compel him to abdicate. The dukes of Berry, Orleans, and Burgundy went to Avignon, but as Pope Benedict XIII he stubbornly maintained his authority. In February 1395 at Paris 109 prelates met and voted in favor of both popes resigning and to renounce the use of force. In May 1398 the University of Paris held an assembly and proclaimed a policy of withdrawing allegiance from both popes in order to restore religious liberty. The French clergy met at Paris for the next three months, and this became the position of the French Church. Only five cardinals stayed at Avignon while the other eighteen went to Villenueve. Benedict XIII would not give in and was besieged by the people of Avignon. The Duke of Orleans led his supporters and eventually got France to return to obeying him in 1403. In the year 1399 Charles VI suffered six bouts of insanity. In royal letters on March 20, 1400 the crown took control of filling vacancies in the Church.

France’s Long War 1400-1453

Romance of the Rose

Before he died about 1237, Guillaume de Lorris in northern France wrote 4058 lines of a poem called Roman de la Rose. An anonymous poet soon added 78 lines to bring the unfinished poem to a conclusion. This allegorical poem about courtly love was quite popular, and about 1275 the scholastic Jean de Meun greatly extended the poem to 21,780 lines. Jean de Meun also wrote his own testament and codicil in poetry. That he was very well read is indicated by some of the works that he translated from Latin such as Military Art by Vegetius, The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, Life and Letters of Pierre Abélard and Héloise, Spiritual Friendship by Aelred of Rievaulx, and The Topography of Ireland by Gerald of Wales.

Guillaume de Lorris began his poem with an allegorical dream he had when he was twenty as he hoped that his Romance of the Rose would describe the art of love. The dreamer sees statues in a garden wall that represent hate, felony, villainy, covetousness, avarice, envy, sorrow, old age, holy Pope (hypocrisy), and poverty. The dreamer then enters the garden of Mirth and meets Idleness, Gladness, and Courtesy. The God of Love is with Sweet Looks, and his five sharpest arrows are beauty, simplicity, independence, companionship, and fair seeming. The five arrows of ugly iron are pride, villainy, shame, despair, and faithlessness. Love is attached to a noble dame who is also named Beauty and with her is proud Wealth. In discussing Lady Largesse the poet notes that whoever wishes to be loved must not hold one’s own treasure too dear but give generously. Franchise is also with Courtesy and Idleness. The dreamer is pursued by the God of Love, and the poet tells how unloved Echo got revenge on Narcissus, who also died after falling in love with his own face.

The dreamer falls in love with the Rose as the God of Love shoots into his heart the five arrows of beauty, simplicity, courtesy, companionship, and fair seeming. The dreamer becomes the lover as he surrenders to the God of Love, giving him the key to his heart as a hostage. The lover will obey the God of Love and is given instructions. He must avoid cruel and unpitying villainy that is unserviceable and friendless. He should be reasonable, courteous, and moderate to all, avoiding ribaldry and dirty words. He should serve ladies, honoring and championing them. Pride is a foolish sin that nullifies the lover’s art. He should dress well and keep clean without using artificial aids that are unsuitable even for females. He should keep his disposition cheerful even when lovesick. If he is athletic, he can compete in contests with arms. He can sing, play a musical instrument, and dance. He should not be miserly but offer his goods willingly. He should think of love ceaselessly.

The lover suffers the pains of love, and the God of Love urges him to tell her how her love troubles him. He should bestow gifts on her maid and honor her friends. He should not leave her without leaving his heart as hostage. As remedies the God of Love suggests hope along with sweet thoughts, sweet speech, and the sweet sight of his love. He could benefit by finding a wise friend in secret. Courtesy’s son Fair Welcome encourages the lover, but Danger with his companions Evil Tongue, Shame, and Fear frighten him. Shame was born from Reason and Misdeed when the sensualists were assailed by Chastity. Venus stole the roses as Chastity was protected by Shame, Jealousy, and Fear. It is not right for the lover to steal a bud, and fear of Danger causes him to flee. Reason advises the lover to renounce the foolishness of the Love God, for the lover pays more penance than a monk, has little joy only by chance, and a short life. Reason urges him to resist the passion of his heart; but the lover is not persuaded. He finds a friend who helps him pacify Danger, who eventually forgives him. Franchise and Pity help the lover to convince Danger to let Fair Welcome return, and the lover manages to kiss the Rose.

Quickly Shame and Evil Tongue arouse Jealousy, though Shame defends him against their slanders. Jealousy fears Lechery, but Fear gradually withdraws. Shame awakens Danger, who becomes angry. The God of Love renews the desires of the lover after he has had a taste; but Jealousy builds a tower to protect Fair Welcome and the Rose, assigning Danger and Evil Tongue to guard the gates. The lover laments that Fair Welcome has been imprisoned, and the poem of Guillaume de Lorris ends with the lover in despair.

In only 78 lines the anonymous poet has Pity bring Fair Welcome, Beauty, Loyalty, Sweet Looks, and Simplicity as the God of Love opens the gate. Dame Beauty gives him the prize sought, and he spends all night kissing the Rose in joyous satisfaction. Beauty exhorts him to serve her honestly. The lover says good-bye, and they return to the tower as his dream comes to an end.

Jean de Meun takes up the poem with the lover in despair; but he does not give up hope even though hope is perilous. He lost the three gifts of sweet speech, sweet thought, and sweet sight. Reason returns to the lover and warns against the love based on lust. He quotes Cicero that old age is better for friendship than youth, which leads to folly, debauch, ribaldry, lechery, and quarreling. He warns against having anything to do with a woman who sells her body. True love is born from the noble heart, and reason recommends the higher love of friendship, sharing goods in the charity of community. The exceptions to helping a friend are taking a life or doing anything dishonorable. Feigned love can come from the malady of covetousness. Reason describes the ups and downs of Fortune and warns that friends can be lost by anger, pride, reproach, or by revealing secrets. Reason suggests that happiness does not come from wealth of those who desire money but from self-sufficiency. Riches should be used to help those in distress, not for usury. The valuable is what a person has within that remains with oneself, not external goods. Reason urges him to embrace all humanity, not just one.

Participating in community
Of love, you may love all in general,
And love all loyally. Love the whole world
As you would one, with all-embracing love.
Be to all men what you’d have all men be
To you; do naught but what you would have done
To you again.5

Reason defines natural love as perpetuating the race by generation and nourishment. Again Reason asks the lover to forsake the God of Love and offers to be a loyal friend. Reason describes how changing Fortune treated Seneca and Nero, and he tells the story of Croesus, who fell from power and wealth. He refers to Manfred, who was decapitated by Charles of Anjou in 1266.

However, the lover accuses Reason of lewdness and will not give up his quest for the Rose. Next the lover’s friend urges him to serve the God of Love loyally. He advises against a direct assault on the tower but recommends using cunning to deceive Evil Tongue, for it is no sin to cheat a rascal. Bribery can also be effective. The lover refuses to be a hypocrite; but the friend says if he defies them, he will see Fair Welcome in chains or destroyed. So the lover reluctantly accepts his advice, and the friend says that giving much can open the path to his goal. The friend describes the suffering of poverty but says he does not have to be wealthy to bestow small gifts.

The friend warns him about the jealous husband who abuses his wife by chastising her and beating her so that she lives in fear. Some treat their wives like property. The jealous husband tells of Abélard and Héloise, and he notes the constant war between Beauty and Chastity. The friend says that the husband who demands supremacy kills love, because love only lives in hearts that are emancipated, frank, and free. The friend advises the lover not to hamper a mistress or a wife with rules but let her be free to come and go. Do not even reproach her vices, let alone punish them. Beating does not make love better. Even if she scolds, he should not take revenge. If he decides to take a second love and keep the first, he should be careful they do not learn about his gifts to the other. Only the fool brags about love; the wise conceal the facts.

As sweet thought and sweet speech return, the lover goes after Fair Welcome but finds that Wealth guards the path. The God of Love pardons the lover for having listened to Reason, and the lover laments that Fair Welcome is still imprisoned. The God of Love summons his barons in order to rescue Fair Welcome. First Forced Abstinence and False Seeming work together to conquer Jealousy and release Fair Welcome. Wealth declines to participate in the assault.

False Seeming makes a long discourse on the hypocrisy of the mendicant friars, who advise abstinence but indulge in good food and wine and who preach poverty but cater to the wealthy. False Seeming argues that the apostles worked for their necessities and suggests that one who gives away one’s possessions should live in the institution that receives them. He refers to a book on the Everlasting Gospel of Joachim of Fiore that was published in 1254, causing many to believe in the coming anti-Christ, and he defends William of St. Amour, who was banished for criticizing the fanatical mendicants. Fair Seeming admits that the one who fears God cannot attain great estate on earth. Yet he gains graft by hearing confessions of the rich. Forced Abstinence is dressed as a Béguine, a lay order for women, and False Seeming wears the cloak of a preaching friar. Abstinence tells Evil Tongue to restrain speech. Evil Tongue suspects they lie, but False Seeming persuades Evil Tongue to confess. Then False Seeming and Forced Abstinence strangle Evil Tongue and cut out his tongue. Then with Largesse and Courtesy they make their way to Fair Welcome.

The four encounter the Duenna, who is afraid she will be blamed by Jealousy. She acts as a go-between and gives Fair Welcome a chaplet of flowers from the Lover. The Duenna tells her story to Fair Welcome and gives examples of women who suffered such as Dido, Phyllis, Oenone, and Medea. She advises not giving her heart to one alone. The Duenna gives many practical suggestions for gaining a man’s love. She can dress well and use a hair-piece and make-up. A maid should not wait too long before she takes up the game of love. By spreading her nets wide she can attract many men, and she may give promises to several and accept gifts. After telling of Vulcan’s unfortunate experience with Venus, she notes that only fear of punishment or shame can help one keep marriage vows. She considers jealousy the most foolish vice, because it causes one to lose what one is trying to keep. Lovers should swim in the sea of love together and arrive at port in unison; if the woman does not, she should feign pleasure. She warns against believing that any magic or sorcery can compel love. The Duenna advises against a woman giving liberally; she should accept gifts from men but not give them. The Duenna admits that the only man she ever loved did not really love her.

Fair Welcome agrees to receive the lover, who enters the castle of Jealousy with his supporters. He is happy to see the sweet sight again, but Danger blocks him from the Rose. With Fear and Shame, these three devils chase the saints away. The lover is willing to be imprisoned with Fair Welcome, but Danger refuses. The lover is about to be beaten when Love’s sentinels come to his aid. In the battle Danger overcomes Franchise. Pity comes to the rescue but is attacked by Shame and aided by Delight. With the help of Hide-Well they overcome Shame, but Fear defeats Hardihood. Security with the shield of peace and concord strikes at Fear. Finally the God of Love makes a truce, and Venus comes to her son Cupid’s aid. She wages war against Chastity, for Cupid keeps no vow. Yet he gets the barons to swear to follow him. This causes Nature to make adjustments for the likely deaths; for no matter how many die, Nature always perpetuates the species. Nature overcomes Corruption by renewing individuals. Art also transforms materials but can never do so as well as Nature. Nature confesses to Genius, who warns against trusting secrets to a wife. If the fool can not keep his secret, how could she?

Nature also discusses destiny and free will in relation to God’s omniscience. She argues that Reason can bring men and women back from evil to good. The wise know that Reason is not subject to the stars. Human works based on free will do not come from necessity although God knows the results of every choice. God knows all the possibilities, and so humans are still free to choose. Good intelligence helps one to avoid grief, and Nature emphasizes that every human is responsible. If fools refuse to know themselves, their own wickedness is at fault, because they could use free will to follow reason. Nature also discourses on the heavens, mirrors, and dreams in which the soul seems to travel out of the body. Nature claims that nobility and gentleness come not from birth but from virtue, and the learned are much more likely to be courteous and wise than illiterate princes. The noble must guard against pride and be gentle to all except unreconciled enemies. Humans have being in common with stones, life in common with plants, feeling in common with animals, and thinking in common with angels. Nature humbly admits that human understanding does not come from her but from God. What Nature makes can fail, but what God wisely wills with intelligence never dissolves nor corrupts. Nature regrets that most people are slaves of vices.

Nature sends Genius to encourage the God of Love. Genius conveys Nature’s message, urging them to reproduce. Much is borrowed from Plato as he discusses the three fates and how souls are judged after death. Genius urges them to lead a good life, embrace their sweethearts, and let them also embrace their lovers. Confess, forsake evil, and follow good, and they will be blessed in paradise, where all time is present.

Finally Venus prepares all the barons for the final assault on the castle of Jealousy. Shame and Fear try to resist them. After another digression in which Pygmalion asks Venus to bring his beautiful sculpture to life, promising he will give up chastity, Venus sets fire to the tower. Shame and Fear retreat as Courtesy and Franchise free Fair Welcome. Courtesy with Franchise and Pity argues that Jealousy is no longer to be feared, and she urges her son Fair Welcome to receive the lover, for “Love conquers all.” Fair Welcome agrees to offer the Rose to the lover, who enters the ivory tower with his staff and plucks the bud, leaving a little seed spilled, and deflowering her, who had never known love before. Then the lover thanks his loyal helpers with kisses, except for Reason and Wealth. He is grateful that Jealousy did not keep him from the Rose. Having won the Rose, the dreamer at last awakes.

The erotic symbolism of the conclusion is clear, but the poet Jean de Meun brings much ancient wisdom to this allegory as he summarizes Greek myths and philosophical arguments from Plato and Boethius. The new cultural movement of courtly love has come full circle, arguing for erotic pleasure with willing lovers without the encumbrance of jealousy. Western civilization, art, and literature have been transformed into a romantic culture that still endures after several centuries. Yet the erotic paganism has been synthesized with the spiritual charity of Christianity.

French Theater

Le Miracle de Théophile was composed by the Parisian trouvere Rutebeuf about 1261. The priest Théophile is dissatisfied with his position and blames God. Salatin offers to give him what he wants if he will renounce God and the holy saints to serve him. Théophile reluctantly agrees, and Salatin conjures the devil. Théophile does homage to the devil, and then the bishop restores Théophile to his office. Théophile quarrels with Pierre and Thomas, treating them with anger and cruelty. Seven years later Théophile is miserable and repenting; he prays in her chapel to Mary, and her statue comes alive to answer him sternly. She tramples on the devil and sends him back to hell. Théophile confesses what he did to the bishop, who marvels at the Virgin Mary’s miracle.

The Boy and the Blind Man was composed in French at Tournai about 1265 or so; it is a short farce in which the boy takes advantage of the man’s blindness.

Adam de la Halle wrote the autobiographical comedy Le Jeu de la Feuillée soon after 1276. Feuillée implies either the canopy of green leaves over the shrine of Notre Dame or folly or both. The boisterous play has little plot and has been compared to a comedic psychodrama about Adam and his friends or a contemporary satirical revue. Adam wants to go to Paris to study but is lured by his father Henri into a tavern. Henri complains that the Pope has reduced a third of the clerics to servitude and poverty simply because they were married, and he argues this makes lawful marriage worse than living together in fornication. The humor is quite bawdy and crude. The friends make fun of an idiot who is accompanied by his father, and they make the sleeping monk pay the tavern bill. Three fairies led by Morgan le Fay appear and may represent sexual fantasies.

Perhaps the most popular subject for secular plays in this era is that of Robin Hood and Marion. The Play of Robin and Marion was written by Adam de la Halle about 1283 shortly before his death. He wrote it to entertain Charles of Anjou’s garrison at Naples, and it may be one of the first musical comedies from western Europe. Marion joyfully sings how she loves Robin, and she tells an amorous knight that she could never love him. Robin brings her apples, and they sing and dance. The hunting knight loses his falcon and beats up Robin for handling it too gently. The knight carries off Marion until she finally convinces him she is not for him. Then Robin, Marion, Alice, and three other men frolic, dance, sing, eat and play games, and Robin stops Simon from singing an obscene chanson de geste called Audigier.

From 1339 to 1382 a series of forty plays called The Miracles of Notre Dame were performed one a year, each with the theme of the Virgin saving those in need. She also forgives adulterers, pregnant nuns, vain royals, and rioting students. God is portrayed in a white robe with a gilded wig, and devils run around with gruesome masks, horns, tails, and are covered with horsehair. The Day of Judgment and Christ leading Adam and prophets out of hell to paradise displays the apocalypse. The anti-Christ wins over kings and prelates before evil is overthrown in the final battle of Armageddon. When Emperor Karl visited Paris in December 1377, the siege and taking of Jerusalem in the first crusade was portrayed in the Parliament.

French Poetry, Villon and Theatre

Machaut’s Poetry

Guillaume de Machaut was born about 1300 in Rheims. He was a leading composer of music for his lyrics and also wrote much poetry. After taking holy orders in 1323 he became secretary and chaplain for the famous King Jan of Luxembourg and traveled with him to Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Italy, and Austria. Jan’s daughter Bonne became his patron, and in 1332 she married Jean le Bon, who became king of France after she died in 1349. Machaut was appointed canon of Rheims cathedral in 1337. Jan became blind and was killed while fighting at Crecy in 1346. King Charles the Bad of Navarre married a daughter of Jan and Bonne, and Machaut became associated with him in 1349. After Charles V was crowned at Rheims in 1364, Machaut became friends with King Pierre de Lusignan of Cyprus, a leading crusader. Machaut’s last poem, La Prise d’Alexandrie (The Capture of Alexandria), is about Pierre. Machaut wrote polyphonic songs in the more melodic Ars Nova style. His poems are good examples of the tradition of courtly love, and he was strongly influenced by the Roman de la Rose.

Before Machaut’s first work is a Prologue in which Nature encourages him to write poems about love, and to aid him he sends his three children Meaning, Rhetoric, and Music. The poet answers that he will so direct his mind and energy to create such works. Then Love comes to him with her three children Sweet Thought, Pleasure, and Hope to help him with his task. Machaut’s first poem after the Prologue is Story of the Orchard. The God of Love makes him think without impure thoughts of his gracious lady, and he praises her. To comfort his friends, Love sends the noble young men Free Will, Thought, Sweet Pleasure, Faithfulness, Discretion, and Desire along with the honored young women Grace, Pity, Hope, Memory, Generosity, and Moderation. Those opposed to Love are Haughtiness, Fright, Shame, Hardheartedness, Cruelty, and Fear of Errors. Grace defends the Lover from Haughtiness, and Pity overcomes Cruelty. Courteous Generosity is the antidote to Hardheartedness. Faithfulness and Discretion keep the lover from Shame and  Fright. As Love departs and cold dew falls on the lover, he realizes that he has been in a trance.

Machaut’s poem, Le Jugement du Roy de Behaigne (The Judgment of the King of Bohemia), was probably written before 1342. A knight meets a lady who is mourning the death of her beloved husband. He describes how he fell in love with a beautiful girl and then lost her to another man. He argues that his sorrow is more grievous than hers, and they agree to submit the question to King Jan of Bohemia as an arbiter at a nearby castle. Reason argues that her dead husband will not be coming back, and so her grief will decrease; but the knight still has hope that his faithless lover may return to him, and so his sorrow is likely to persist. The King is also advised by Sincerity, Honor, Courtesy, Beauty, Desire, Happiness, Bravery, Valor, Love, Loyalty, Generosity, Will, Thought, Wealth, and Youth, but Reason’s argument is paramount. The King concludes that the knight “endures more suffering, tribulations, and distress than does she.”

Machaut probably wrote Remede de Fortune about 1340. This poem of 4,300 lines is narrated by the Lover, and he is taught about courtly love by Hope in a dialog. The Lover asks to be guided by Love, who wins him and then chastises him for his inexperience. He is taught to think little of himself and be humble. He finds a Lady who becomes the object of his love, and he becomes devoted to her. He composes a song about his feelings, and then the Lady has him read a lai he wrote. Next the Lover writes a complaint about Fortune and her changing wheel. While the Lover is lamenting over Fortune, he see his Lady. He laments to himself.

Hope comes to comfort and teach the Lover. She advises him that nothing is so wasteful as goodness unrecognized. Hope chastises the Lover and explains that the one who endures conquers. While Hope is singing, the Lover falls asleep. They talk, and Hope tells him of her power. The Lover thanks her, and she talks about Fortune. Hope says that even the clever join her court and in serving her are enslaved by Fortune. Hope says that nothing can satisfy avarice, and whoever covets everything loses everything. The virtues of sufficiency and patience can lead to happiness, which brings glory, delight, esteem, power, honor, and sufficiency. Hope sings a song for the Lover and then leaves him.

After the Lover sings a ballad, Hope takes him to his Lady’s manor. On the pathway the Lover kneels and prays to Love. The Lover sings a ballad before his Lady and then speaks to her. He concludes with the proverb “that asking comes from ill breeding, while giving is born of courtliness.”6 The Lady replies that the one who does reflect before asking must be considered a fool. Whoever covets more than one should will be ruined. Also one should not climb so high that he is ashamed of coming back down. Yet a proper request will elicit a proper response. The Lover thanks his Lady and attends her dinner. He declares his love, and she responds,

My dear friend, since Love has brought us to join
our two hearts together completely and inseparably,
and wishes to make two into one,
in God’s name, let us make them equal;
for they will be lost and shamed
if they are not kept alike and united
in both good times and bad, always equal,
with no thought of mastery, supremacy, or lordship.
For there are always quarrels and disputes
between mastery and love.
And above all we must each keep honor
and peace with the other.7

They exchange rings as a sign of their blissful love, and the lover departs singing.

Charles was crowned king of Navarre on June 27, 1350, and he believed his claim to the crown of France was as good as that of the Valois family. King Jean arrested Charles on April 5, 1356 without charging him, and the poet believed he was being harshly treated. After Charles was imprisoned for more than a year and was about to be released, Machaut wrote the poem Comfort for a Friend to console his friend Charles. The poet relates Biblical stories about Susannah, Daniel, and King Manasseh. Machaut also refers to tales from mythology involving Orpheus, Proserpine and Ceres, Paris and Helen, Hercules and Deianira, and other heroes including Jan of Luxembourg.

In the Book of the Fountain of Love the poet Machaut portrays a nobleman who represents Jean of Berry’s relationship to himself. The narrator is having trouble sleeping when he overhears the voice of the nobleman composing a sorrowful complaint because he is too shy to tell a lady of his love for her. This long poem meditates on the lover’s loss of the lady. The lover asks Morpheus, the god of sleep, to appear in the lady’s dreams several times to tell her of his love. A neighbor’s servant brings the nobleman the present of a horse, which he sends to his lady. The narrator offers to serve the nobleman and is accepted. The nobleman leads his new friend to a park where sculpture depicts the story of Narcissus. A fountain that depicts Venus is believed to stimulate love; but the narrator refuses to partake, and the nobleman believes he has had enough.

The nobleman falls asleep in the lap of his companion, who also dozes off. They share a dream in which Venus brings the lover’s lady. Venus tells the story of the golden apple, which Discord offers to the most beautiful goddess. Mercury hears the arguments of wise Athena, wealthy Juno, and beautiful Venus; but he and Jupiter both refuse to judge the contest. Instead the Trojan Paris is offered wisdom by Athena, wealth by Juno, and the most beautiful woman in the world by Venus. He awards the golden apple to Venus and wins Helen. Venus decides to help the nobleman win his lady’s affection. The lady urges the lover to stop grieving and promises to be his, but he must not ask for the greater favor (physical consummation). She gives him a ring. When the nobleman wakes, he finds the ring on his finger and vows to build a temple to honor Venus. The nobleman and the narrator then enjoy a fine dinner and the next morning begin a journey. When the nobleman leaves the country, he entrusts his new friend with his land and gives him jewels.

In his later years Guillaume de Machaut wrote the long Book of the True Poem (Le Livre dou Voir Dit), which is set during the years 1362-65 and claims to present the true letters of the poet and a young admirer who loves him. The poet has no lady and needs inspiration when he falls in love with a young woman who loves his poetry. During the first year of their relationship there are illnesses and difficulties in communication. Their time together is interrupted when the poet leaves to entertain the duke of Normandy. Their plans to meet fail, and the poet expresses his misery at home to the young lady. Then she disappears, and his complaint is not well received. Weather prevents their meeting, and then he discovers her infidelity. Finally at the end of the poem they are reconciled, and the poet hopes to serve her with a pure heart even after his death. Machaut died in 1377.


1. The Coutumes de Beauvaisis of Philippe de Beaumanoir tr. F. R. P. Akehurst, p. 725-726.
2. Chronicles by Froissart tr. Geoffrey Brereton, p. 106
3. Grand Larousse du XIXé Siecle, 1361 quoted in The Flower of Chivalry: Bertrand du Guesclin and the Hundred Years War by Richard Vernier, p. 205.
4. The Tree of Battles of Honoré Bonet tr. G. W. Coopland, p. 125.
5. Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose 5440-5450 tr. Harry W. Robbins, p. 116.
6. Remede de Fortune by Guillaume de Machaut tr. James I. Wimsatt and William W. Kibler, p. 380.
7. Ibid., p. 394.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book Medieval Europe 1250-1400.
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Crusaders and Byzantine Decline 1250-1400
Eastern Europe 1250-1400
Catholic Ethics 1250-1350
German Empire 1250-1400
Scandinavia 1250-1400
Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Portugal 1250-1400
Italian City States 1250-1400
Dante and Marsilius
Petrarca and Boccaccio
Low Countries and Burgundy 1250-1400
France and National War 1250-1400
England, Scotland, and Ireland 1250-1400
Mystics, Wyclif, Gower, and Chaucer
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronology 750-1300
World Chronology 1300-1400
Chronology of Europe to 1400

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