web counter







The death of Charles VI on 2I October 1422 was an event of little significance in itself, but infinitely important in its consequences. The sovereign who thus disappeared from the stage had for a long time had no personal part to play. But the circumstances attending the succession to him upon the throne of France created an entirely novel situation. In this setting, a wholly gloomy one for France, the third act of the Hundred Years’ War opened; from 1422 to 1453 was to be unfolded, amid the changing fortunes of the great struggle, a sequence of events stirring and decisive for the destiny of the West. France was to be the prize of an intensely dramatic contest, in which its existence as a nation was at stake. In a most critical state at first, at one moment almost desperate, it made one of the most marvellous recoveries in history; and, finally, it came triumphant out of this terrible ordeal, the most formidable that it encountered throughout the ages, and emerged from so many misfortunes a new France, bruised and exhausted, but intact in all essen­tials, organically sound and convalescent, and ready to play in modern Europe an active and a preponderating part.

It is interesting to note, at the moment when the wretched career of Charles VI came to an end, the impression produced by this event on his contemporaries. All the evidence is in agreement on this point. It was one of complete indifference among the princes and nobles; but, on the other hand, of sincere emotion and of dismay among the people. The princes and the lords regarded Charles VI as a useless creature, who had in some sort outlived himself and whose existence was a nuisance, an obstacle to the realisation of the political combinations they had devised. The Court was impatient to see upon the throne of the Valois the little Henry VI, already King of England and heir to France. In fact, “ heir to France” (haeres Franciae) had been the title borne by Henry V from the time of his marriage with Charles VI’s daughter Catherine of France until his death, and from him Henry VI had inherited the title, which gave him formal guarantee for his expectancy of the succession. The Dauphin Charles, son of Isabella of Bavaria and reputed illegitimate, excluded from all right to the crown, banned as the guilty author of the assassination of the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, on the bridge of Montereau, was a wanderer in France, and the late king’s entourage considered his cause as adjudged, as lost. While Charles VI was alive, it might still be questioned whether article 6 of the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 was to be enforced. Now that Charles VI was dead, this extraordinary deviation from the true course of succession was realised with the greatest ease and without resistance. As soon as the funeral of Charles VI was over, the English king, in spite of his tender age, was immediately and solemnly proclaimed.

Thus was accomplished the transference of the crown of France to the house of England. The union of the Lancastrian Henry V with Catherine cloaked this transference with a semblance of legality; but it was none the less a direct contradiction of the decision of the French barons in 1328, and the solemn function of 1422 testified, as the result of the English victory, to the military collapse of France.

Now, while Court, princes, and grandees looked on unmoved at this presumptuous transference of the crown which went so directly counter to past history, it was quite otherwise with the people; the honest masses were strangely moved by the sadness of this grave occurrence. The people of France, of Paris above all, grieved bitterly on the news of the poor mad king’s death; at his funeral there were open manifestations of the popular feeling. This was very characteristic of their mood. It must not be looked upon as a mere outburst of emotion; it denoted the strain of apprehension, of anxiety, which gripped the minds of all true Frenchmen at this turning-point in their country’s history. What the man in the street at Paris was lamenting as the funeral cortege passed along its way was both the prince who was named “the Well-Beloved” and also the national cause which was felt to have died with him.

There is, in fact, no more sombre date in the history of France than the year 1422. It was not merely defeat, misery, civil war oppressing men’s minds; the very soul of the country was in agony. The dread of the unknown hung over the future; there was no longer any certain constitution, any firm idea from which the hope of better things might spring. France, in the course of its monarchical evolution, had come to associate its sentiment of nationality with the tradition of kingship; and now, at this moment of complete change, when, “in spite of all efforts and all the blood that had been shed,” the crown of France was united to that of England, the bewildered Frenchman asked himself where he was to bestow that loyalty to a king which was so indispensable for the ease of the individual conscience. Was this English king, thus solemnly proclaimed, the king by right? Or did not the law of succession, standing above the caprice of policy and the chance of military or diplomatic encounters, rather summon to the throne him whom they had long known officially, and whom many still spoke of beneath their breath, as the dauphin, Isabella’s son, Charles? As against the answer officially given by the Court and dictated by the Treaty of Troyes, product of the coalition of the unworthy queen with the Burgundians and the Lancas­trians, was there not also another answer, that of the Armagnacs, who abided by the fundamental principles of the “Salic Law” and the person of the dauphin, a prince forsaken, but become king now by his father’s death? Opposed to each other stood the partisans of Henry and the partisans of Charles, and among them, on both sides, there were some who were convinced of the legitimacy and right of their cause, others who were perplexed by doubts; while in between came the great multitude of the undecided, the indifferent, and the dispirited. The best minds were afflicted by a problem of conscience. Just as the Church had suffered and still was suffering from its schism, owing to the multiplicity of Popes, so now France was suffering from a duplication of royal authority.

Then, as to the division of the country between Henry VI of England (who should have been Henry II of France) and Charles VII. Territorially, there was no comparison between them. The victories of Henry V, the part played by the house of Burgundy in alliance with that of Lancaster, the apparent validity of the Treaty of Troyes, the title of haeres Franciae borne in turn by the husband and the son of Catherine—all contributed to create a position of manifest preponderance for the English party. In 1422, indeed, the English’ controlled the greater part of French soil. They held Normandy and Guienne, the old Plantagenet fiefs re-won by Henry V; they held Picardy, Champagne, the Ile de France, also conquered by the same prince; they profited by the adhesion and support of the house of Burgundy, which possessed, in fief from the Crown of France, Flanders, Artois, and Burgundy proper, not to mention its imperial fiefs, the Low Countries and Franche Comté; they had the suzerainty over Brittany. Paris, at once the head and the heart of the French kingdom, was theirs. The great institutions of State, the Parlement, the University, recognised, like the Court, the authority of King Henry.

On the other hand, the provinces in the centre—Berry, the Orleanais, Touraine, Poitou, Anjou—remained faithful to Charles; and there were others too, here and there, east, south, and west—Dauphiné and Provence in the Empire, Auvergne, Languedoc, and lastly La Rochelle and part of Saintonge. These scattered provinces, forming no coherent group, constituted the sum total that remained to the disinherited prince, who from 1422 onwards, however, may properly be called Charles VII.

It was at Mehun-sur-Yevre, that noble castle built and beautified by his great-uncle the Duke of Berry, brother of Charles V, that he learnt on 24 October the news of his father’s death. At first he made no move. But on 30 October, on information that steps were being taken at Paris to settle the question of the succession to his prejudice, he followed the advice of those who were in his immediate entourage and assumed the title of king at Mehun. In the castle chapel he caused a funeral service to be conducted to the memory of the sovereign who had just passed away; All Saints Day came immediately afterwards, and he was careful to perform with royal pomp the duties prescribed for this great festival of the Church. Thus the new reign was inaugurated. “The king of Bourges,” as he was commonly known, stood in the lists against the king of Paris. And the chronicler Jouvenel des Ursins applies the term Francoys-Angloys to those who cried: “Long live Henry, King of France and England.” “Renegade Frenchmen” became the more usual name for them.

So there were two kings and two obediences—two Frances. Leaving out of account the Burgundian territories, which were spared by the war, and apart from the losses and ravages wrought by physical violence or by the moral upheaval, it would be true to say that the same desolation afflicted the provinces administered from Paris as those administered from Bourges. In short, the two Frances were plunged, to the same depth, in anarchy. Bands of Armagnacs were still at large in the provinces of the English obedience; unemployed mercenaries, known as routiers or écorcheurs (a most expressive name, which tells its own tale), were coming and going, heedless of frontiers, robbing, massacring, torturing, and living on plunder. Ruined churches, a devastated countryside, terrorised towns, universal misery, famine, monetary disorder, high prices, unemployment, dislocation of the social framework, crime unpunished and multiplying, inhuman atrocities, a return to barbarism and the evil instincts of the most savage ages—these were the characteristic features of the crisis created by the Hundred Years’ War and the troubles which it brought in its train. At the moment when the most grievous stage of this period of prolonged ordeal began, all the causes of suffering were crowding upon one another and reaching the height of their effect; the constant tragedies of this awful time form the material for the stories of the chroniclers. The picture they give is one of the deepest gloom; and the unanimous agreement of all the contemporary literature makes it impossible to doubt that the colouring of the picture is absolutely realistic.

Besides the accounts of the chroniclers there is also the evidence of the charters, which are even more eloquent for being impersonal. They reveal the ghastly intensity of the crisis: there are contracts which deal only with waste land; acts of a later date in which the lord enfranchises his serfs in order that after so many lost years they may have a bettei heart for work; an account-book in which the head of a family has noted down, in matter-of-fact language that is therefore the more impressive, the successive catastrophes which have befallen his home; wills in which the ruin of families can be seen and almost felt by the reader. The ferocity of the nomad bands has left its mark on the language, in that a detail of military equipment has owing to them become the source of the precise modern significance of the word “brigand”. Fortified towns stood out as islands amid the waves of armed men battering upon them, but even they suffered equally with the countryside. Overcrowded with refugees, each of them was transformed into a beleaguered city in which means of livelihood were scarce and precarious, the mortality was terrible, famine and disorder almost incessant. Even in Paris the documents reveal a lamentable situation. The Bourgeois de Paris gives us some of its features: “When the dog-killer killed any dogs, the poor folk followed him into the fields to obtain the flesh or the entrails for food...they ate what the swine disdained to eat”. And the same author sums up in these words the crisis of which he has been telling the story: “I do not believe that from the time of Clovis, the first Christian king, France has ever been so desolate and divided as it is today”. These are not the exaggerations of a pessimist, but the expression of one who is meticulously stating the facts. Never, in truth, since the beginning of the French monarchy, had the country undergone a crisis, both material and moral, of such a character.

Exhausting as was the physical crisis, the moral crisis was even more severe a strain. For French patriotism, which had given new life to France at Bouvines, and had restored it to health after its constitution had been vitally impaired by the Treaty of Bretigny, might have been the salva­tion of the France of 1422. But on what was patriotism to depend in this hour of dismay? Patriotism was inconceivable unless founded upon kingship; loyalty to a prince was the inevitable form for national senti­ment to take. Now two princes were at the same time claiming to be the lawful ruler, and between them everyone, before the bar of conscience at any rate, had to make up his mind.

For the modem Frenchman no hesitation is possible. Charles VII, the son of Charles VI, was the true king. But for the men and women of the fifteenth century the situation was much more difficult to resolve. The Burgundian party had spread the report of the possible, or even probable, illegitimacy of the dauphin. Queen Isabella’s reputation provided only too good a basis for this, and she herself had justified it by accepting the Treaty of Troyes. Precision was given to the rumour by those who made out Charles to be the son of Louis of Orleans, lover of his sister-in-law the queen; this was affirmed, for instance, by the author of the Pastordiet. The act which removed Charles from the succession proceeded from Charles VI, the Well-Beloved. The exclusion of Isabella’s son was recog­nised by the constituent bodies at Paris, by the Parlement and the University; this had a natural effect upon men’s minds. Yet, was this action on the part of these venerable bodies the result of conviction and a clear conscience, or was it not rather due to constraint, to resignation, or to submission in the face of force?

At any rate, the fact that he was recognised as king by the governing classes in Paris, by the Parlement, and by the University, gave Henry a presumptive right which made an impression upon the worthy provincial peasantry. Instinctively, however, they revolted against it. How many, then, were questioning their consciences, anxiously, in perplexity, having lost their bearings in face of this novel and distracting problem of the two kings who disputed the realm between them?

So much for the material and moral picture of the France of 1422. The next task is to show what sort of men they were who faced one another in the lists, to contrast the kingship of Paris with the kingship of Bourges.

Henry VI personally did not count at all. He was an infant, and a sickly one. Born on 4 December 1421, he was not even a year old when the crown of France by inheritance from Charles VI was placed upon the frail head which already bore the crown of England by inheritance from Henry V. The guardianship had been offered, on Henry V’s death, to the Duke of Burgundy, but he had refused it; and it was the Duke of Bedford, Henry V’s brother, who took over on the accession of his nephew the regency of the kingdom of France. Bedford was a fine soldier and an able statesman, but in manner he was haughty, hard, and quick-tempered. He made, in truth, a serious and painstaking effort to remedy the evils from which the provinces subject to his authority were suffering; it was his deliberate policy to render the English occupation as mild as possible and not to injure the inhabitants; he laboured sincerely to assure the normal functioning of government, and even to improve it. He suppressed, to the best of his ability, brigandage in Normandy, the typical province of the English obedience; Thomas Basin speaks of 10,000 persons hanged in one year. This figure, however, is evidence both of the duke’s severity and of the intensity of the evil. As Basin also shews, the English regent’s care for the Normans did not prevent them from cordially detesting the English.

Administratively, Bedford did what he could and deserves that credit should be given to him for the methods ho employed. He improved the coinage, simplified and purified the procedure at the Châtelet at Paris, created a faculty of law at Caen, and granted on a considerable scale remissions of taxes to impoverished towns. But his policy was everywhere confronted by a passive resistance; he was tricked by the psychological factor. Though in law subjects of the Lancastrian dynasty, the French served it against their will. Bedford had to exact a strict oath from ecclesiastics as well as from laymen. At every moment he learned of possible, even imminent, defections. He had to make use of threats to obtain the voting of supplies by the Estates of Normandy or Champagne. Now, his task did not consist only in giving life to the conquered provinces and keeping them in their allegiance; he had also to conquer for his nephew the provinces held by those who were called in his camp “the Dauphinois.”

Dauphinois was the name given in the English North to the partisans of Charles, who were sometimes also dubbed by their adversaries with the old name of twenty years before, “Armagnacs.” Charles’ supporters had no objection to the former name, since, as he had not been crowned at Rheims, they still designated him by the title of “dauphin’’. Indeed, Joan of Arc was herself to greet him at Chinon as “gentle dauphin?’

Charles had not the personality to thrill those who adopted his cause, and he displayed none of the attributes of a leader. He is among the least pleasing of historical personages. His character defies exact definition. He acted in a vague and colourless manner at first; though he declared himself king in 1422, it was rather, it would seem, in order to satisfy his entourage than because he had the consciousness of being cast for a great role. He was listless, and on the morrow of his proclamation at Mehun-sur-Yèvre, appeared to be sunk in a deep apathy. This young man of twenty, faced with so many difficulties, seemed to be unequal to the task of surmounting them. He was like a child, heedless, letting men and things go their own way; in the absence of a firm hand everything was being allowed to drift.

What, then, is the explanation of this insensibility, which intensified the existing gravity of the situation and cast its gloom over the whole of the first period of the reign? Charles, though he was no man of distinction, was not without capacity. He proved himself, in the second half of his career, to be a capable administrator; and though a large share in this must be assigned to his ministers, he cannot be denied all credit. But he had failings which were very harmful to him, especially in the critical circum­stances in which he commenced his reign. One personal characteristic was his lack of any soldierly instincts, in which he resembled his grandfather Charles V; this military defect was a serious matter for a prince whose kingdom was attacked, invaded, and in part occupied by the enemy, at a time when fighting was continuous and force seemed the only arbiter. Besides this, Charles was slow to develop; he was late in reaching maturity. At the age of twenty his character was still unformed; he was naive, timid, shallow, heedless of the seriousness of his circumstances and the grave duties they imposed upon him; living a hand-to-mouth existence, he was accessible to all comers and became subject to influences often of the most harmful kind. As ill luck would have it, around this inexperienced youth, deserted by his family, there prowled a troop of low adventurers, who were greedy after their own personal gain and unaffected by the vital issues of the day.

Charles VII has often been accused of premature debauchery and dis­sipation at the beginning of his reign. It is necessary to make a stand against these unjust accusations, which were the inventions of his enemies. The sources studied by the Marquis du Fresne de Beaucourt give the lie to these malicious rumours. The king of Bourges appears in the sources as a pious and devout prince, much attached to his wife, Mary of Anjou, but somewhat under the thumb of his energetic and imperious mother-in- law, Yolande of Sicily. If we take the evidence of reliable documents only, we find neither luxury nor pleasure dominating his Court; the im­pression we get is rather of poverty and distress. In 1422, the year of his accession, he had to put his jewels in pawn and in particular his finest diamond, known as “the mirror'”; he had to borrow from one of his cooks (queux) in April 1423, and he was unable to pay the wages of his servants. Many other equally good examples could be cited to shew the wretchedness of his state.

The most serious factor was the absence of a strong personality at the central point of resistance to Bedford. Charles VII was dominated at first by a triumvirate composed of the president Louvet, Tanguy du Chatel, and a petty nobleman named Frotier. Then it was the turn of Arthur de Richemont. Third in order came the too lengthy period of the egoistic La Tremouille. To all these men Charles was little more than a cipher. His protracted adolescence, his delayed manhood, was not the only reason for his apathy. There was a deeper psychological cause for his weakness and his repugnance to face responsibility and decision. He was doubtful about his birth, whether he was legitimate or no; this problem which disturbed his subjects was a torment to himself Besides, the crime of Montereau had broken his spirit; the crushing responsibility laid on his shoulders when he was declared to be the author of the assassination of John the Fearless had deeply impressed itself upon his mind. And the distress of his youth, when he had been renounced by his family, had added to his depression. In him had been extinguished the taste for living and reigning. It needed time to raise him from the depths again. And while he waited for a spark of hope or a ray of truth to lighten his darkness, the king who should have issued his call to France did nothing of any avail. So far from directing events, he let himself be led by them.

It was, indeed, very difficult in the circumstances to react against the English occupation. However, if the impulse was to spring from another than the king, that impulse when it came was to be the more intense, spontaneous, and irresistible. But, in the meantime, the patriotism latent in the French, the national sentiment which was to save both king and kingdom, was displayed in a merely negative form; the only sign that revealed the popular instinct, hostile as always to a foreign occupation, was the stubborn passive resistance of those Frenchmen who inhabited the provinces that were in English hands. Renegade Frenchmen, whole­heartedly attached to the Lancastrians, were the exception; most of the inhabitants shut themselves up, as it were, in their shells, and without committing as a rule any overt act of rebellion, met the conciliatory and well-meaning policy of the energetic Bedford with a blank enmity, a heartfelt antipathy, which denoted afixed determination never to surrender.

At times, too, the voice of loyalty was already to be heard in the north. Tournai, a Burgundian town, on Charles Vi’s death sent a deputation to Charles VII. This was a rare, if not a unique instance, but it was symp­tomatic; one would look in vain for an instance of the opposite, of a spontaneous rally to the English side “par de là la Loire.” It is a valuable point to note, for it helps one to understand why, in spite of appearances to the contrary, the future was better assured for the king of Bourges than for the king of Paris. It little profited the son of Henry V that he could boast the more regal state and that the constituent bodies were in his train. He was a usurper legitimised, and the officials were too fulsome in their recognition of him for their sentiments to be sincere. When they sought to give an appearance of reality to the rights of their king, these Parisians were trying to stifle their own doubts; many of them, however, kept thinking of the imprescriptible and inalienable rights of the lawful race of national kings, and it is to be noted that the line in the modern opera, “Never in France shall reign an English king,” was no fiction, but an actual utterance of the time. It is to be found in the trial of Guillaume Prieuse, Superior of the Carmelites at Rheims, who was brought to justice for using suspicious language: “he said...that never had Englishman been King of France, and never should be so.” What Tournai proclaimed and Rheims was whispering, many were thinking without daring to breathe it aloud, and in the Lancastrian provinces were looking forward to the day when they would have the right to give expression to it. Everywhere, in fact, a latent patriotism was working during the worst years for the king of Bourges, and it was he that already was virtually the true king of the whole of France.

“At this date the English sometimes took a fortress from the Armagnacs in the morning, and then lost two again in the evening. Thus went on the war accursed of God”. This passage from the Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris, an invaluable source for the light it throws on contemporary opinion, admirably sums up the military history of the early years of Charles VII’s reign. They are confused years, years of bitter struggle between the two parties who were contesting the possession of France; years marked by trifling episodes which cancelled each other out: the capture and recapture of castles, a company here and there surprising a company of the enemy, warfare of a purely local character but taking place simultaneously everywhere, and with no other result than to increase the general misery and year by year to make the demoralisation more intense. From the accession of Charles VII to the coming of Joan of Arc, a war that lacked any pleasing or redeeming feature may be divided into three periods, all of them quite short. In the first, the English had the advantage; in the second, the cause of the king of Bourges seemed to be improving; finally, in the third period, this fleeting hope vanished and it appeared that the resumption of the initiative by the English must prove decisive.

What gave the English their chief advantage in the first period was their close accord not only with the Duke of Burgundy in the east and north, but also with Duke John VI of Brittany in the west and with Count John I of Foix in the south. John VI of Brittany and his brother the Count of Richemont constituted an importtint and effective menace to the king of Bourges; and this was the more effective since Charles, though secure in the firm loyalty of the town of Toulouse as well as of Languedoc, had to protect himself in that region against John I of Foix, who was similarly aided by his brother, Count Matthew of Comminges. Dominating Bearn and the territories attaching to it, the house of Foix was a formidable power in the south-west; Charles’ partisans had difficulty in maintaining themselves at Bazas. On the other side, the Earl of Salisbury and John of Luxemburg ranged at will over Champagne and the region of the Ardennes. The Count of Aumale, with a small body of adherents of the house of Valois, did defeat the English leader Suffolk in Maine at La Gravelle on 26 September 1423. But this victory had no morrow. For the Count of Aumale was himself overwhelmed and slain at the battle of Verneuil on 17 August 1424.

Verneuil was an unlucky day for the king of Bourges. The striking victory won by Bedford seemed to signalise the military triumph of the English party. It was the most important English success since Agincourt, and it makes a fourth in the series of great French disasters in the Hundred Years’ War. Verneuil almost ranks as an equal with Agincourt, Poitiers, and Crecy.

It was not any sudden outburst of energy on the part of Charles VII that originated the improvement which marks the succeeding period. The reasons were wholly external and fortuitous. The ambition of Bedford’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who wished to play a part on the Con­tinent, provoked a coolness between the Courts of England and Burgundy. At the same moment, the house of Brittany and the house of Foix severed their ties with Bedford. These various events resulted in a revival, though of rather an artificial nature, in the fortunes of the king of Bourges. It was over Hainault that a difference arose between the Duke of Gloucester and the powerful Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good. Philip in umbrage withdrew his support from the English and dissociated himself from their interests. A similar change of front took place in Brittany also. Riche­mont, the brother of Duke John VI, went to Chinon and on 7 March 1425 received from Charles VII the sword of the Constable of France. He immediately conducted an active campaign against the Lancastrians in Brittany, Normandy, and Maine. Finally, John I of Foix was won over by the office of Lieutenant-General of Languedoc and changed sides, passing with his brother the Count of Comminges into the camp of Charles VII.

Richemont was now the most influential figure at Charles’ Court; he appeared to be an acquisition of the first importance, and his successes were most encouraging for the future. But Bedford had succeeded in settling the dispute about Hainault, and in preventing Burgundy from abandon­ing the English alliance. The regent was skilful enough to set against Richemont the Earl of Warwick, who was given the high-sounding title of ‘‘Captain and Lieutenant-General of the king and the regentthroughout France and Normandy.” The Bearnais, in the service of the Count of Foix, reached the banks of the Loire; but they contented themselves merely with pillaging the countryside.

Then came the third period, the period of disillusionment. Jealous of La Tremouille, Charles VII’s new favourite, Richemont confined his activi­ties to Brittany. Warwick took heart again, and achieved the capture of Pontorson on 8 May 1427. Finally, the Earl of Salisbury arrived with an English army to lay siege to Orleans.

It is essential to appreciate the full significance of this siege of Orleans. In the first place, the English were attacking a town whose overlord, Duke Charles of Orleans, had been a prisoner in their hands since Agincourt, his rights being expressly guarded by treaty; therefore the English government was committing a breach of signed agreements. At the same time, it was disregarding the customary practice of feudal and chivalric behaviour: in the fifteenth century it was regarded as a definite rule that no attack should be made upon the domain of a lord while he was a prisoner. Salisbury was perhaps attracted by the town’s importance as the key to the line of the Loire. At any rate, his attack upon it was looked on as a moral outrage, and not only the citizens of Orleans but the people of France also were infuriated by it. This explains both the heroic and impassioned resistance of the defenders, and also the stir that their resistance aroused. Orleans became in everybody’s eyes symbolic. Some­thing was needed to quicken the latent patriotism in France into life; and that something was provided by the siege of Orleans.

There were indeed other heroic exploits calculated to maintain the spirits of the Valois party; for instance, the magnificent defence of Mont-Saint-Michel, that proud fortress which never yielded to the English. But there was a great difference between the resistance of Mont-Saint-Michel and that of Orleans: the former excited the feudal element only; in the case of Orleans the emotions of a whole people were aroused. If the English triumphed over Orleans, if the gallantry of its inhabitants who had justice, as it seemed, and right on their side was proved to be vain and useless, then surely it was plain that the King of England was the true King of France and that resistance to him was a crime. In the simple minds of the perplexed Frenchmen the notion of a judgment of God took shape, and in an agony of suspense they looked for the signs of it in all the events that attended the siege of the devoted city. The English felt that the resistance they encountered had a special significance, an exceptional importance, and they redoubled their efforts. Even after Salisbury had been killed and Talbot had taken his place, though the assaults ordered by the new commander failed, as had those of his predecessor, against the invincible heroism of the defenders, the besiegers did not lose heart; they counted on famine to break the valiant resistance of the inhabitants. At the Court of Charles VII also, there was a confused idea of the gravity of the crisis, and that it might possibly be the deciding one. In a vague way they realised that something must be undertaken on behalf of the loyal town in its hour of danger; and a body of troops from Auvergne, under the command of Charles of Bourbon, Count of Clermont, was dispatched against the besiegers.

Charles of Bourbon learnt that a convoy of provisions under the charge of Fastolfe was on its way to the English camp; and he .planned to inter­cept it. But the Auvergnats were defeated on 12 February 1429; the battle is known in history as “the battle of the herrings,” because the provision-train attacked, which was saved by the English, consisted mainly of barrels of red herrings destined to feed the English camp during the season of Lent. After “the battle of the herrings” it appeared impossible to save Orleans, and it can be taken for granted that in spite of all the heroism displayed by the inhabitants and by their leader, Jean de Dunois,  the most valiant of Charles VII’s captains, the courageous town would finally have succumbed, had it not been for the intervention of Joan of Arc.


There is no more astounding or more moving story in history than that of Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who became the commander of an army, saved her country from mortal danger, and herself died a martyr for her religious and patriotic faith.

Joan was born in the hamlet of Domremy in the duchy of Bar, on the borders of Champagne and Lorraine, a district over which the King of France claimed an absolute right, which, however, was disputed. Whether belonging to Lorraine or to Champagne, Joan regarded herself as a Frenchwoman. Her father, Jacques d’Arc, had by his wife Isabella Romée five children, two of whom were girls; Joan was the youngest, and was known in the family as Jeannette. She was probably born on 6 January 1412, though the actual year is uncertain as the heroine herself was not absolutely sure of her age. The child of lowly but comparatively well-to-do peasants, Joan received no education; she could neither read nor write, but was employed in household tasks, was expert at sewing and spinning, and as the youngest child of the house regularly took the animals to pasture. She was, to use her own description of herself, “a shepherdess.” Joan was most sincerely pious. In her environment the misfortunes of France and of its king made a profound impression. Situated on one of the main highways, Domremy caught the echo of all that was happening. The “great sorrow” of the kingdom was the subject of every conversation. Joan was evidently enveloped in this atmosphere of distress which tortured the soul of France, and naturally the hope of escaping from the haunting dread of irremediable defeat was present in every pious heart. The shepherdess of Domremy was about thirteen years old when, for the first time, a supernatural voice made itself heard to her in her father’s garden, coming from the right, from the direction of the church; the voice was accompanied by a bright light, and it told her to be of good conduct. The child was thoroughly frightened, until she realised that the voice came from Heaven. Afterwards the visions became more frequent, more definite, and more urgent: St Michael appeared to her, as a knight, surrounded by angels; and two saints, St Margaret and St Catherine. The celestial voices bade Joan set out for France, and when Orleans was besieged they revealed to her that she would deliver the town. Joan resisted, but for five years the visions continued, becoming more and more insistent, to dictate her mission to her. At last she acknowledged that the will of God was irresistible and that she must accomplish it.. She held out to her saints a ring given her by her parents which bore the inscription Jhesu Marian the saints touched it, and the young girl, her hands in theirs, took the vow of virginity. Henceforward, her mind was decided, to obey Heaven whatever might befall.

But she was at a loss how to carry out the order of Heaven. She went to Burey, near Vaucouleurs, to a cousin of her mother, Durand Lassart, whom she called uncle, and with him she went, in the month of May 1428, to Vaucouleurs to visit the nearest royal captain, Robert de Baudricourt. He only laughed at her, and advised Lassart to box her ears and take her home to her parents.

But meanwhile the war was coming nearer. Enemy scouts appeared in the district, and a panic seized upon Domremy. Joan went a second time to Baudricourt. The captain in his embarrassment sent her to Duke Charles of Lorraine, who questioned her and made her a small present. She returned to Baudricourt and spoke to him with such ardour and conviction that he decided to send her to the king. He gave her a letter for the king and a sword for herself; some of the people of Vaucouleurs bought her a man’s suit of clothes and a horse; an escort of four men-at-arms and two serving-men accompanied her, and she started for Chinon where Charles VII was then residing. This was towards the end of February 1429. The journey lasted eleven days, and at midday on 6 March the shepherdess of Domremy arrived at Chinon and dismounted at a modest hostelry in the town.

From one of her halts, Sainte-Catherine de Fierbois, Joan had dis­patched a letter to the king announcing her coming and notifying him that she “knew of several good things touching his business.” Already the rumour had spread in Orleans that a young shepherdess, called The Maid was coming to the king in order to raise the siege and conduct the king to Rheims. An attempt was made to question Joan before admitting her into the castle, but she refused to reveal anything until she had seen the king; and he at last consented to receive her. While she waited, full of anxiety, Joan prayed to God to send her “the sign of the king”. She came to the castle, and though the king, modestly clad, effaced himself among the lords who filled the vast hall, she went straight to him, saluted him familiarly with the title “gentle dauphin,” and at once made known to him the object of her mission: “I am come with a mission from God to give aid to you and to the kingdom, and the King of Heaven orders you, through me, to be anointed and crowned at Rheims, and to be the lieutenant of the King of Heaven who is the King of France.”

After a private interview with Joan, the king returned to his courtiers, his face alight with joy. It has been suggested that Joan had shown him a “sign” of her mission, which has remained a secret. But this supposi­tion does not seem necessary; the truth is no doubt much more simple. Joan had declared to the king, in the name of God, that he was the true son of Charles VI and the lawful heir. On the night of All Saints Day 1428, Charles VII, seeing his kingdom gradually passing away from him, had entered his oratory and had implored God to succour him if he was truly a king’s son. Joan gave the answer to the question put by the king to God; and one can imagine his feelings when they were alone together and he heard himself addressed by the inspired Maid in the following words: “I tell you on the part of Messire [Our Lord] that you are true heir of France and King’s Son”. Momentous words, indeed! For, humanly speaking, the problem of Charles’ birth was insoluble. Thanks to Joan of Arc, the problem was solved by divine aid. Mysticism came in as an essential agent in the making of history. To believe in Joan was to believe in the right of Charles VII, and so the paralysing doubt which clouded the minds of Frenchmen disappeared, and the spirit of loyalty, that is to say of patriotism in the only form conceivable in that age, was released from its prison. No longer were there two kings in France. The scaffolding of the Treaty of Troyes was falling down; did a prince of the Lancastrian house continue to call himself “King of France and England,” he was only repeating the empty formula of Edward III.

Joan, too, gave formal expression to the political consequences which resulted from her revelation; she issued her famous letter to the King of England and his lieutenants, summoning them to evacuate the kingdom which belonged to the Valois heir. “Jhesu Maria. King of England, and you Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the kingdom of France; William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, John de Talbot, and you Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourself lieutenant of the Duke of Bedford—give way to the King of Heaven over His royal lineage, render to the Maid sent by God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and ravaged in France. She is come, too, from God, the King of Heaven, to proclaim the royal lineage; she is full ready to make peace, if you will give way to her, so that you will restore and repay France for that you have had her in your hands. As for you, archers, squires, gentles, and others who stand before the good town of Orleans, go you away, in God’s name, to your own countries....King of England, if you do not so do, I am a leader in battle, and in whatever place I shall come upon your people in France, I will make them to go out, will they or will they not....And do not have it in your mind that you hold the kingdom of France from God, the King of Heaven, the son of Saint Mary, as King Charles, the true heir, will hold it; for God, the King of Heaven, wisheth it so, and He is revealed by the Maid”

An ecclesiastical enquiry, conducted at Poitiers by a commission presided over by an archbishop, the Chancellor Regnault of Chartres, had decided in favour of the truth of Joan’s mission. She was then sent to Tours. There she formed her household, consisting of a chaplain, Jean Pasquerel, a squire, Jean d’Aulon, her own two brothers, two men-at-arms, Jean de Metz and Jean de Poulengy, two pages, Louis de Contes and Raymond, two heralds, Ambleville and Guyenne. She had a suit of armour made for her, sent to Sainte-Catherine de Fierbois for a miraculous sword, and commissioned a Scottish painter, James Power, to paint her a standard, a banner, and a pennon. Thus equipped and become, as she had said, “a leader in battle,” she took over the command of a relieving army, 7000 to 8000 men, the supreme effort of the king of Bourges. Joan succeeded in passing a convoy of provisions into Orleans on Wednesday 27 April, and immediately afterwards she herself entered the town. From this moment the Bastard of Orleans, Dunois, the valiant defender of the valiant city, believed in the Maid’s mission. She it was who directed the sorties. She electrified the defenders, spread discouragement among the besiegers, and with the moral and mystical factor on her side won success after success. Feeling that his troops were wavering, Talbot gave the order for retreat, after ninety days of siege. On Sunday 8 May Orleans was delivered.

The deliverance of Orleans, by reason of the symbolic character of the siege, made a profound impression. Predicted and accomplished by the Maid, this liberation appeared as a decisive proof of her divine mission, and henceforward the truth of all that she announced followed logically. Charles VII himself notified the miracle to the towns in official manifestos, and a postcript to the letter preserved at Narbonne makes express mention of the part played by the Maid.

Charles was still to Joan only the “gentle dauphin” so long as he was unconsecrated. To cause the heir of Charles VI to be consecrated at Rheims was to affirm triumphantly his royal right. For the Maid, Rheims, coming after Orleans, was the second and perhaps the last stage of her mission. But it looked like madness to traverse an immense stretch of territory and to go through Lancastrian France in order to accomplish a religious ceremony. Charles and his Court hesitated. Joan, by her resolute conviction and her tranquil assurance, overcame all resistance. The Duke of Alençon, one of the most ardent in her support, collected a royal army and put in train operations designed to “sweep the river Loire.” The French army carried the bridge-head of Meung on 15 June, captured Beaugency, and thanks to a fiery charge by La Hire won the brilliant victory of Patay on 19 June; 2000 of the enemy were slain, and among the prisoners were Talbot, Scales, and other English nobles, while, according to the accounts, only three Frenchmen lost their lives. The march to Rheims became a triumphal progress, and on Sunday 17 July, in the cathedral for which this honour was reserved, was celebrated with all the traditional pomp the most moving coronation in history. Joan of Arc stationed herself with her standard at the foot of the altar during the ceremony. “When the Maid saw that the king was consecrated and crowned, she knelt down, all the lords being present before him, clasped him round the legs and said to him, shedding warm tears the while: ‘Gentle King, now is fulfilled the good pleasure of God, who willed that I should raise the siege of Orleans and should bring you to this city of Rheims to receive your holy anointing, showing that you are true king and he to whom the kingdom of France ought to belong’.” For the first time, Joan gave Charles the royal title; to every true believer he was henceforward King of France.

It seems certain, in spite of what has been said to the contrary, that Joan of Arc at one time considered her mission as accomplished at Rheims. She said to Archbishop Regnault of Chartres: “God will that I may be able to retire, to go to serve my father and my mother, to look after their flocks with my sister and my brothers who would be so happy to see me again.” But she had aroused too much admiration, too much enthusiasm. Whether owing to pressure from her comrades-in-arms or to a fresh intervention of her voices—for on this the evidence is obscure—she decided to remain in Charles’ service. Then, however, her mis­fortunes began. Paris, which had been expected to rise to the occasion and to expel the English on its own initiative, made no move; doubtless Bedford’s precautions were too good. Negotiations entered into with the Duke of Burgundy achieved no positive result; his accession would have been decisive, but he held himself open to the best offer from either side. Meanwhile, the prestige of the king after his coronation at Rheims had risen so high that the towns on his route vied with one another in admitting him—Corbeny, Vailly, Laon, Soissons, Chateau-Thierry, Montmirail, Provins, La Ferte-Milon, Crepy-en-Valois, Lagny-le-Sec, Compiegne, Senlis, Saint-Denis. Bedford certainly was avoiding battle, which the French were offering. But the English cause was very much on the down grade, and Charles penetrated to the immediate approaches to Paris. To win the capital would have been the culmination of his triumph; Joan, backed by the Duke of Alençon and the Count of Clermont, wanted to make the attempt. But in the unsuccessful assault of 8 September she was unluckily wounded in the thigh by a shot from a crossbow. In requital, Charles VII ennobled her, and included in the patent of nobility both her family and the descendants of her sister and brothers. The king, however, was beginning to waver. His strength was overtaxed by so rapid an effort; the acceleration of pace did not suit his temperament. Above all, he was lending too ready an ear to the insinua­tions of the ignoble courtier, La Tremouille, who was basely envious of the ascendancy of Joan. He refused to listen to her counsel of immediate action, and imposed upon her a rest of some days, thereby compromising the success of the campaign which had been so well conducted up to this point. What Joan had feared was coming about. On the way to Châlons, actually before the coronation, she had said to a ploughman from her village who had come to greet her: “I fear one thing only—treason”. She took up arms again, however, since she could not resign herself to idleness. She fought minor engagements at Melun and Lagny, and around Compiegne, which the Duke of Burgundy was trying to invest. It was under the walls of this town that, on the evening of 24 May, she was captured in the course of a sortie; she had been beaten back and found herself unable to re-enter within the walls, as the gate had been shut either of deliberate malice or merely thoughtlessly; she was thrown down and taken prisoner, and had to surrender to the bastard of Wandonne, a vassal of John of Luxemburg who was commanding on behalf of the Duke of Burgundy. Taken first to the castle of Beaulieu in Vermandois, and afterwards to John of Luxemburg’s castle of Beaurevoir, she was the object of a series of confused negotiations, the principal agent in which was the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, a tool of Isabella of Bavaria ind a devoted adherent of Bedford. Finally, Joan was sold to the English for the sum of 10,000 gold crowns.

An English escort conducted the prisoner by way of Arras, le Crotoy, Saint-Valery, Eu, and Dieppe to Rouen, where she was shut up in a tower of the fortress of Philip Augustus known as the Vieux-Château. The task of guarding her was entrusted to John Grey, a squire of Henry VI’s bodyguard, John Bemwoit, and William Talbot. The Earl of Warwick was in command at Rouen, and Henry VI was brought to the Norman capital as a precaution in case of a rising.

The suit instituted against Joan of Arc was conducted by a tribunal of the Inquisition presided over by Cauchon, in whose diocese she had been taken prisoner. Driven from his see of Beauvais by the advance on Rheims and Paris, he pursued at the same time both his personal revenge and his political ends. The University of Paris, submissive to English and Burgundian interests and hostile to Joan through jealousy arising from the favourable judgment of the clergy of Poitiers, intervened in the suit. The procedure was probably correct in form, but was vitiated by the fixed determination of the court to arrive at a condemnation. The least that can be said is that some of the devices employed were mean and odious; for instance, the trick of restoring to the prisoner her masculine attire in her cell in order to accuse her of clothing herself again in it. Now, in spite of the one-sidedness and the cowardly com­placency of the judges, in spite of the frequent duplicity and the insidious nature of the questions put to her, no document is more to the credit of the heroine than this moving record of her examination. Her answers provide the most striking evidence of her sincerity, her nobility of soul, her clear common sense, the purity of her faith, and the ardour of her patriotism; the report of the proceedings is full of those historic utterances on which has been sustained the cult devoted by France to the noblest figure in its annals.

A year of cruel captivity did not break the courage of this choice spirit. That she had a moment of weakness on 24 May 1431, the day of the scene at the cemetery of Saint-Ouen, is very doubtful. She was ill at the time and probably did not understand at all the subtle formula which was read to her and to which she had to give her adhesion, couched as it was in deliberately equivocal language. Moreover, it was possibly a mere manoeuvre, to justify the ultimate condemnation. However that may be, on the morrow of the abjuration, real or pretended, Joan re-affirmed all her former statements and was then declared a heretic and relapsed, and was condemned to the stake. On hearing this iniquitous sentence, she said: “I appeal to God, the great Judge, on the grievous wrongs and injuries that have been done to me.” And she said to Cauchon: “Bishop, through you I am dying... You promised me to put me into the hands of the Church, and you have let me fall into the hands of my enemies”. On the pile erected in the old market-place at Rouen, on 30 May 1431, Joan was tied to the stake, bearing on her head a mitre with this inscription upon it: “heretic, relapsed, apostate, idolatress”. She endured the awful agony with fortitude, in a spirit of ecstatic exaltation, protesting to the last her innocence and proclaiming that her voices were veracious. She expired with the cry “Jhesu!”

The remains of Joan of Arc were thrown into the Seine. Now, con­trary to the expectation of those who had demanded her death, this tragic end did not annul her work; it consecrated it. Joan l’Angelique has had the same apotheosis as the saints, men and women, whose story the people heard in sermons, whose heroism they viewed with admiration above the doors and the columns of their churches, and whose adventures they read in the “Golden Legend.” To confess one’s faith and die a martyr’s death was to give the supreme proof of the Christian verity. The execution of Joan of Arc was the demonstration not, as her enemies imagined, of the falsity, but of the truth of her mission. The French people in their multitudes henceforward regarded Joan as a saint and all her words as prophecies.

Charles VII might have taken advantage of this movement of the national conscience; he might have directed it and raised it to a higher plane. This his lethargy prevented him from doing. So long as Joan’s enemy, La Tremouille, was alive, Charles was little more than a figurehead, incapable of initiative. La Tremouille was assassinated in 1433 by a squire of the Constable Richemont. The latter then took charge of the government, supported by the king’s mother-in-law, Yolande of Sicily, and by her son, Charles of Anjou. The English by this time had recovered, and Richemont could only proceed by the laborious method of conquering bit by bit the provinces still held by the English. The story of this process, also, is disconnected, intricate, and confused. Further, the means employed were feeble; what the ardent faith of a Joan of Arc would have achieved in a few months, it took a mediocre king and his generals years to accomplish.

The prime factor which decided the fate of the English domination in France was the reconciliation of Charles VII with Philip the Good. The very year of Joan’s death, whether or no he was affected by remorse, the Duke of Burgundy entered into negotiations with the king. They were protracted, but they culminated at last in the Treaty of Arras of 21 September 1435. The duke devised an excuse for abandoning the English: he suggested papal mediation between the claims of the French and the English dynasties, and, on the refusal of the English to accept this arbitration, declared himself released from all obligation to the house of Lancaster. By the Treaty of Arras, Charles VII disavowed the crime of Montereau, offered reparation for the murder, and ceded to the duke Auxerre, the Auxerrois, Bar-sur-Seine, Luxeuil, the “Somme towns” (Peronne, Montdidier, Roye), Ponthieu, and Boulogne-sur-mer; a clause reserved to the Crown the right of repurchasing the “Somme towns”; but the duke was exempted for life from the obligation of homage to the king. The conditions were hard, but no price was too high to pay for such an accession of strength, which tilted the scales completely in favour of the Valois.

From 1435 onwards everything went awry for the English. After the death of Bedford (15 September 1435) a breach arose between Henry VI’s surviving uncles, Gloucester and Beaufort. The subject population every­where was seething with disquiet. No longer, as before the appearance of Joan of Arc, was it a matter of passive resistance; it was now a continual state of conspiracy. Paris was in agitation. Bands of Frenchmen penetrated everywhere. On all sides there were revolts and surprise attacks. Richemont, Dunois, Barbazan, Jean de Bueil, and others too, at the head of small forces, were assisting the inhabitants in each locality, ranging in every direction, even as far as Normandy. The Dauphin Louis went to the help of Dieppe, which was in revolt. Richemont entered Paris on 13 April 1436, and Charles VII could justly write that the Parisians them­selves had turned the English “out of the town.” And now, as he became more and more convinced of his right and of the truth of the Maid’s mission, Charles’ courage grew. His mind, slow to mature, was achieving its balance. Possibly his mistresses, each in her turn, Agnes Sorel and then Antoinette de Maignelais, assisted in this evolution; in any case, royalty, gaining in strength and convinced of its ultimate triumph, was launching out upon a laborious task of administrative reform. The series of great Ordonnances, the full extent of which will be made evident later, had already commenced.

The exhaustion on both sides was such that they agreed to accept papal mediation and to sign the truces of Tours on 16 April 1444; by successive extensions the truces lasted until 1449. It was arranged that King Henry VI should marry Margaret of Anjou, the niece of the Queen of France. The truces of Tours worked mainly to the advantage of France, where, as will be seen shortly, the work of reconstruction proceeded systematically. Hostilities were resumed in 1449 as a result of English intervention in Brittany against the new duke, Francis I, who after his accession in 1442 had done homage to Finance and taken up arms in its favour. Following on the capture and sack of Fougeres by Frantjois de Surienne, a captain in the English service, the king revived the tactics of Charles V, allowing his captains to operate against the English in Brittany while making no official breach of the truces. But Normandy was in a continually increasing state of ferment, and its population appealed to the French. An assembly held by the king on 17 July 1449 at the castle of Roches-Tranchelion, near Chinon, decided that this appeal must be answered and Normandy freed. In less than a year the province was conquered; the salient features in the campaign which effected this were the recapture of Rouen (the Duke of Somerset surrendered it on 29 October 1449, and the king made his solemn entry on 10 December), the victory of Formigny on 15 April 1450, and the fall of Cherbourg on 12 August 1450. The conquest of Guienne, the last province remaining to the English, proved to be a more troublesome undertaking. Bordeaux was recovered for the first time on 12 June 1451, and Bayonne opened its gates on 20 August following: but Talbot recaptured Bordeaux on 23 Octoberl452, and it was only the defeat and death of the valiant Englishman at the battle of Castillon on the 17 July 1453 which made possible the final ac­quisition by the king of Bordeaux (19 October) and with it the possession of the whole of the south-west. Henceforward, Calais alone remained to the English; and this was inaccessible to the French, because it was surrounded by Burgundian territory, which could not be violated by them.

Now that he was definitely the victor, Charles VII caused commemorative medals to be struck in honour of his troops. These medals, struck at the Paris mint, perpetuate the memory of the reconquest of Normandy and Guienne and the expulsion of the English from France. But Charles did more than this. Once in possession, at Rouen in 1450, of the documents of Joan of Arc’s trial, he ordered an investigation, from which resulted the suit of rehabilitation. The verdict was given on 7 July 1456, and annulled the first trial as irregular in its constitution and its procedure; a tardy but a just reparation, and a splendid epilogue to the Hundred Years’ War which was now at last at an end.


The period occupied by the third phase of the Hundred Years’ War is one of exceptional interest in the internal development of France and the elaboration of monarchical control. In the epoch of the decisive struggle which rescued it from the English, France came to see in the Valois monarchy the living and concrete personification of itself. Charles VII, to Joan of Arc and her contemporaries, stood for the country. “God wills it so”; and with this all the utterances of the heroine, through whose mouth the voice of France itself was speaking, were in accord. This national character of the legitimate monarchy was consecrated by military happenings and during a struggle for independence. It resulted, accordingly, that, in order to assure the triumph of the king, its champion, no sacrifice was too great for France to make. King and monarchy had the people behind them. There could be no serious question of discussing the respective rights of sovereign and nation, since the one was fighting for the other. There is no disputing the orders of the person to whom you look for salvation. Once Joan of Arc was gone, the Hundred Years’ War could only be brought to a conclusion completely favourable to France, provided that the country was willing to consent to a great military effort. So the needs of the war dictated the military reforms of Charles VII, and such reform at such a time must in the main be the expression of the aim of the body politic.

The truces of 1444 are exceptionally important from this point of view. The English king signed them to avoid the loss of all his possessions; he obtained a breathing space for a few years. But Charles VII, who also needed a breathing space, profited by the respite to recover his strength and to prepare the definitive success of his arms. This was the occasion for the commencement of the noble series of Ordonnances which will be described in detail. But first it must be noted that the military effort implied financial resources; so financial reform was a necessary accompaniment of theeffort. Financial reform in its turn also brought the govern­mental system into play. In the result, therefore, the monarchy emerged from its great trial far more powerful than it had been at the beginning of the crisis. Such was the general notion underlying the work of internal reconstruction which was accomplished under Charles VII; it is necessary now to describe its essential features.

The Constable Richemont appears to deserve the chief credit for the great military reform which marked the reign; at any rate, it was under his direction that it was put into execution. This reform may be regarded as having been accomplished in three stages: the first, which preceded the truces and occurred in 1439, aimed at the repression of the abuses committed by the military; the second, in the year 1445, consisted in the formation of compagnies d’ordonnance, the third, in 1448, was marked by the creation of the Francs-Archers.

The Ordonnance of 1439 had been tentatively anticipated by the Ordonnances of 1431 and 1438, which were limited, however, to a repetition of Charles V’s regulations on the same subject. The abuses committed by the military were one of the scourges of the time. But the Ordonnance of 1439 had a much wider range than any of its predecessors. It inaugurated, in fact, a regular military discipline. By it the regulations introduced by Charles V were revived and reinforced. The captains of Companies were forced to hand over to the ordinary justice any soldier under their command who was charged with an offence against the law. The right of levying troops or causing them to be levied was henceforward reserved to the king alone. Finally, companies of 100 men were re­established; and, moreover, upon each of these companies was imposed a special garrison-duty, from which it was forbidden to move without royal authorisation. Such was the first stage of military reform. The object was to bar the employment of armed forces by private initiative, to pre­vent it from being, as it were, a private concern; it had the result of fixing the companies as garrisons in definite places, and so of bringing to an end the scourge of soldiery ranging at will.

The second stage of reform followed upon the truces of 1444. At this date, since the truces were renewable, there was a temporary pause in the conflict between England and France. This fact gave rise to a serious problem—what was to become of the Companies in time of peace? Briefly, the problem with which the government of Charles VII was thus confronted was the same that Charles V and Du Guesclin had had to solve in the previous century; with this difference, however, that in the fifteenth century it was a question not only of preventing the excesses of the idle soldiery, but also of preserving for France an army in preparation for the day, for which due reckoning was being made in advance, when hostilities would be resumed. In these circumstances, it was the policy of the king and his Constable to eliminate the dangerous elements and to preserve those that were sound. In the first case, Charles VII essayed remedies analogous to the famous Spanish expedition of the fourteenth century. He dispatched a force of routlers, under the command of the dauphin, the future King Louis XI, with the avowed object of assisting the Emperor Frederick III against the Swiss; in the course of this campaign, the young prince’s troops won a victory which caused considerable stir, the victory of St Jakob (26 August 1444). The Swiss were definitely defeated, but on the French side many routiers lost their lives—in both respects a gain to the royal policy. In 1444 also, Charles VII laid siege to Metz, and though he failed to capture it, the Companies engaged in this Lorraine adventure were in the course of the campaign purged of their more inflammable elements.

There remained the second of the two objectives—to find a means to preserve in the service of France, instead of sacrificing them in battle or disbanding them, the better elements in the Companies. First of all, in order to purge these heterogeneous troops, the government decided to remove the evil characters. A complete amnesty was granted to all those with a crime on their conscience who retired voluntarily from the pro­fession of arms. Thus the undesirables were eliminated. The remainder— the better, or at any rate the less bad, elements—were retained and were incorporated in companies of a new formation.

The organisation of these new companies—the third stage in the reform—was the object of the celebrated Ordonnance of 1445. It is most unfortunate to have to record that this document is lost; the exact date, even, is unknown. All that can be said is that it was published in February or March, at Nancy. It is possible, however, to reconstruct almost completely the text of it, by making use of the subsequent Ordonnances, which repeated it with some additions and amendments, and also by means of the information supplied by the chroniclers, notably by Mathieu d’Escouchy and Thomas Basin.

In broad outline, the king appointed fifteen captains, each with the command of a hundred lances; there were in all, therefore, 1500 lances. By “lance” was meant a tactical unit composed of six men and six horses. The personnel of the lance consisted of a man-at-arms, a coutilier, a page, two archers, and a page or valets in some Companies the last-named was replaced by a third archer. The captain recruited his men himself, but he had to exact from each of them an oath to be faithful to the king and to fulfil the terms of the Ordonnance.. Every member of the Company had to be present at the inspections (montres) held by royal officers. The companies thus organised were officially known as “Compagnies de l’Ordonnance du roi” or, more succinctly, “Compagnies d’Ordonnance.”

The principle of the garrison, which had already been adopted, was maintained and in 1445 was put into definite operation. The “Compagnies de l’Ordonnance du roi” were assigned their stations and were distributed among the provinces. So, for example, Poitou received 130 lances, Saintonge 60. Later, changes were made in the original geographical distribution of the Companies, especially after 1453, that is to say, when the conflict with the English had come to an end. Now, though there were garrisons, there were of course no barracks. The soldiers were billeted on the inhabitants, who, however, could free themselves from this burdensome obligation by the payment of money instead, a sort of composition-tax; this was known as the taille des gens d’armes. Con­temporary chroniclers are unanimous in praising the reform and recording its successful results. Thus Chastellain boasts of Charles VII’s work for peace. The reform, indeed, had the double effect of creating internal order and of forging an effective weapon for the purpose of a possible future war.

The term “standing army” is usually employed to describe the military force which was created by the Ordonnances of Charles VII; it is necessary, however, to be clear as to the exact significance of this term. In enacting the regulations which have been described and the supplementary ones which followed, neither the king nor his Constable had in view the creation of permanent companies, properly so called. Their object was simply to keep mobilised the soundest troops of which they disposed at the time of the truces, so as to have them in readiness at the moment when hostilities should be resumed. But, as it happened, the Hundred Years’ War came to an end in 1453 without the interposition of any treaty. No guarantee existed that the war would not be resumed; fresh outbreaks were always possible. That is why the Companies were retained. Henceforward they were to continue indefinitely. Thus the biographer of Richemont, M. Cosneau, could justly write that, if Charles VII did not actually create a standing army, he did at any rate create what became a standing army.

The Ordonnance of 1445 only applied to a part of the kingdom, the country of Langue d’oil. It needed therefore to be completed, and this was done by the institution of 500 lances for Languedoc (Ordonnance of 1446); consequently 500 lances in the South were added to the original 1500, bringing the total number of lances to 2000. There were also some additional companies, less well paid or at any rate less well equipped. Little is known as to their organisation; in the texts they are called “petites payes”, “mortes payes,” or “compagnies de la petite ordonnance”.

So far only mounted corps had been instituted. Charles VII and Riche­mont wished to create an infantry as well. This object was attained in the third stage of reform. By an Ordonnance published at Montils-les-Tours on 28 April 1448, the Francs-Archers were instituted. The French monarchy already employed companies of archers or cross-bowmen, associations of which were formed in towns. In the fifteenth century the “noble art of shooting with the bow” was all the fashion. Undoubtedly the patriotic ardour aroused by “the English peril” had contributed greatly to the popularity of this pursuit, which became a favourite sport with the youth of the towns, whose example was followed by smaller places; a force available for use had thus come into being of its own accord. Naturally the successful employment of archers by Edward III of England could not be unfamiliar to Frenchmen. In 1425 the Duke of Brittany had formed a body of infantry in this way, composed of “folk of the commonalty.” Charles VII determined to outdo this Breton ex­periment, which was of course familiar to Richemont. The king’s intention was to operate on a grand scale, and to establish a powerful infantry by mobilising the archers from the parishes. This was the source from which the Ordonnance of 1448 drew to produce the Francs-Archers. The name of “Free Archers” was derived from the right attaching to them of exemption from taxation. The herald Berry says, in fact, that the king “freed them from paying any of the subsidies current in his kingdom”; and the same chronicler explains the method practised for the recruiting of these foot-soldiers: “it was ordered to all baillis in the kingdom, each in his own right, to choose in each bailliage and parish and to take therefrom the most skilful and suitable.” The Ordonnance of 1451 introduced some modifications in the arrangements originally made for the levying of the archers. Instead of the uniform system of one archer from every parish whatever its size, it seemed to be more equitable and practical to fix one archer for every fifty hearths. The equipment of the archer was at his own expense, or, in cases of poverty, at the expense of the parish. The choosing of the archers was done by the élus or the prévôt. They took an oath, and their names were entered on a roll, a duplicate of which was sent from every bailliage to the central authority. At first posted among the feudal levies, the Francs-Archers were soon formed into a separate corps; and they were made up into companies, probably one for each bailliage. Each company-commander received a salary of 120 livres tournois, and was entitled further to 8 livres for expenses. The cross-bowmen of the town bands, which had been formed already in the time of Charles V, were united to the archers from the parishes. It is difficult to estimate the exact numbers of the infantry force that was raised in this way. The figure of 8000 men, divided into 16 companies of 500 archers, has been suggested; but no contemporary document makes it possible to arrive at so precise a calculation.

Several acts in Charles VII’s reign were designed towards the perfecting of the old, the feudal, army. The most characteristic of the Ordonnance issued with this object appeared shortly after the expiration of the Hundred Years’ War, dated 30 January 1455. The king instructed the nobles to inform him as to the following they maintained, and announced that he would assign to each a payment proportionate to the importance of his following. The sums fixed upon, which were not to differ appreci­ably from the average rates previously in force, were briefly as follows: per month, a man-at-arms received 15 francs, a coutilier 5 francs, an archer or cross-bowman Genoese and Scottish archers reinforced, under Charles VII, the national troops of France. The brothers Bureau had particular charge of the artillery, which by the end of the reign had become a considerable and a formidable arm; there was both light artillery, with its characteristic weapon the piece known as couleuvrine or serpentine and heavy artillery, composed of bombardes. These pieces, especially the bombardes, were christened after the fashion of ships; some of them were of vast size, encircled with strong hoops of iron. The stone cannon-balls which they discharged weighed 100 to 150 lbs. Already in Charles VII's time the cannon were mounted on gun-carriages, and cannon mounted on wheels had also made an appearance. However, the rate of fire was still very slow, and scarcely more than two cannon-balls could be discharged per hour.

The fleet under Charles VII was used to support the army and to protect the coasts. Though France relied in the main on the assistance of the Castilian fleet—there was a traditional friendship between the two countries and, since the accession of the Trastamara dynasty, an alliance which was renewed from reign to reign—Charles VII realised the necessity of having a naval force at his disposal. The French king had ships of war of his own, and he also employed merchant vessels, which he put into fighting trim, acquiring them from their owners in return for the payment of an indemnity.

Jacques Coeur, the greatest man of business of the century, fitted out for the purpose of his own commercial ventures, of which something will be said later, a private flotilla; it was completely equipped, however, and consisted of seven vessels sailing under the flag of the Virgin. He obtained from Charles VII a license to raise crews by pressing vagrants as sailors; they were known as his caimans, and he was also allowed to hire convicts. In return for these advantages, Coeur put his fleet at the king’s disposal, much in the same way that the captains did with their Companies before the military reforms. Coeur’s nephew, Jean de Villages, was in command of his uncle’s vessels. Besides the ships belonging to the king or put at his disposal by their owners, the part played in naval matters in the fifteenth century by the corsairs must not be left out of account. Their operations, moreover, were not limited to wartime, although the king could make use of them. In practice, every time that a crime at sea remained unpunished and unrequited by the government responsible for the offender, the injured party received from his sovereign letters of marque authorising him to recoup himself at the expense of any of his aggressor’s compatriots, without being liable to an action of law in con­sequence.

The military effort was, as has been seen, conditioned by the problem of finance. The monarchy could only meet the expenses of the national defence by instituting a reorganisation of its finances. So, side by side with the military Ordonnance of Charles VII’s reign there went a noble series of financial Ordonnances.

In the course of the civil war in Charles VI’s time, the monarchy had surrendered its right to impose taxes; this was the evil fruit of the policy of competition for popular favour which had followed the death of Charles V. Charles VII was not content merely to re-establish the old royal right. He went farther, made royal taxation permanent, and effected a complete remodelling of the financial regime. By tradition a distinction was made in the royal revenues between the “ordinary finances,” derived from the domain, and the “extraordinary finances,” derived from taxes, dues, and subsidies. Now, war had affected the domain to such an extent that the “ordinary finances,” of which it was the source, were almost exhausted. Clearly, in order to bring these ruinous wars to a favourable conclusion, money must be found. It was to the “extraordinary finances,” therefore, that recourse had to be made. For this a new financial organisation was indispensable, and it came about as the result of a series of financial Ordonnance following one another in succession from 1443 onwards, of which the most important was the Ordonnance of Nancy of 10 February 1445. This remodelling leftintactthefundamental distinction between the “ordinary finances” of the domain and the “extraordinary finances” consisting of impositions (gaieties, aides, tailies), This distinction is clearly marked, and there were two separate budgets, as there were also two financial administrations. The domain itself was composed of two parts, the mutable and the immutable domain; the return from the former was irregular (sealing dues, cutting of woods etc.), that from the latter was fixed (perpetual quit-rents, for instance). To the receipts from the domain were charged not only the costs of the upkeep of the domain, but also general expenses of government, such as the pay of the baillis and of other officials of the bailliages. The “extraordinary finances” comprised three essential classes of revenue. The gabelle was a tax on salt, which was almost analogous to the employment by the modern French State of the monopoly of tobacco, but with this difference, that the Frenchman of today is at liberty to refrain from the consumption of tobacco while the purchase of a definite amount of salt was obligatory under the monarchical regime. Aide is a generic term to denote dues levied on the sale of commodities. Taille implies a direct tax assessed on the basis of landed property. It was in regard to tailles that Charles VII made his chief inno­vations.

It can be asserted that mainly by virtue of tailles the kingdom raised the sums necessary for victory. The taille, which hitherto had retained its exceptional character, was converted into a regular and permanent tax; it was now, in fact, levied every year. Formerly the monarchy had had to assemble the States in order to obtain a vote for what was held to be an extraordinary imposition. Under the cover of one-sided and ambiguous votes, obtained, for the purpose of the war, from assemblies mainly of notables and of local Estates, the annual levy of the taille came at last to be made purely and simply by virtue of the royal authority. This usurpation, which brought into being a new right, was accomplished without any difficulty, because the sacrifice imposed by the sovereign upon his subjects had its justification in the public welfare. The point has already been made, that no Frenchman could dispute his gold or his blood when the king, the incarnation of the country, claimed it manifestly for the great cause of the liberation of the realm. So, the formality of a vote from the States General fell into oblivion. The king fixed each year the rate of the tailles simply by letters patent decided on in his Council; and it came about that, as the practice went on, he even augmented the rate by “increases of taille”. Towards the end of Charles VIPs reign, the revenue from the taille reached the sum of 1,200,000 livres tournois while the maximum amount provided by the total of the royal impositions, though it had already grown considerably, never exceeded the figure of 1,800,000.

Even more than taxation, the financial administration underwent important reorganisation under Charles VII. Two parallel services functioned side by side, the one for the domain, the other for the “extra­ordinary finances.” The revenue from the domain was known as the trésor and its administration was entrusted to four trésoriers de France, each of whom was at the head of a district entitled his charge (Langue d’oil with Paris as the headquarters, Languedoc with Montpellier, Normandy with Rouen, Outre-Seine with Tours); there were also territories lying outside these charges, the administration of which will be described later. The trésoriers de France were overseers or administrators, but with no responsibility for the accounts; they handled none of the receipts and they made no disbursements. These duties were entrusted to receveurs ordinaires and to the changeur du trésor, this official, with his seat at Paris, acted as a centre for the revenue which came in from the provinces and was assisted by a controleur du tresor. In the provinces lying outside these charges, that is to say, the provinces reunited to the domain after Charles VII’s reorganisation, the regime prior to the reunion was allowed to continue; in practice, however, this regime differed little in its method of functioning from that of the charges described above.

For the administration of what were still known as the “extraordinary finances” France was divided into generalites. The generaux des finances corresponded to the trésoriers de France in the domain, and like them were managers and administrators; they also were four in number, and the four generalites had the same name and the same areas as the charges. The functionaries, however, who corresponded to the receveurs ordinaires bore various different names. For the receipt of tailies and aides the ghieralite was divided into elections, each with two elus at its head, as­sisted by a procureur royal, a greffier, a receveur de la taille, and a receveur des aides. Further, some provinces had neither elus nor elections. Those were the ones in which the Estates had survived, as will be shown later; in these provinces the Estates themselves continued to assess the taxes which in theory it still rested with them to vote. Thus was settled the classic division of France into “pays diktats” and “pays d’elections.” The service of the gabelles was particularly complicated. As a rule the two principal agents of this administration were known as grenetier and controleur; in Languedoc there was at the head of the service an official with the title of wisiteur general des gabelles. The returns from the “extra­ordinary finances” were rendered to the headquarters of each généralité, into the care of the receveur general (or general), who was assisted by a staff similar to that which handled the receipts from the domain.

This financial regime with its duplicated machinery was obviously cumbersome to manage. Actually, from 1450 at any rate, there was an état general des finances, and so a measure of co-ordination between the two financial services. This état was under the supervision of “le roy et messieurs de ses finances,” which meant a kind of superior commission consisting of the trésoriers and the généraux, from this was to evolve at a later date the unification of the financial system.

There remained the regulation of disputes. Charles VII created a chambre du trésor and a chambre des aides; finally, he instituted a chambre des comptes (Ordonnance of Mehun-sur-Yevre of 23 December 1454), which had the duty of checking and overhauling all parts of the financial machinery. From this sketch it will be seen that Charles VII endowed France with a new and a coherent financial system, just as he also endowed her with an army worthy of the name.


The ecclesiastical organisation was also subjected during this reign to extensive and bold changes, thanks to a celebrated and important act, the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438). The abuses of the fiscal system of the Papacy, aggravated by the Great Schism, aroused in fifteenth­century France a wide-spread revival of Gallicanism. The Schism at an end, a concordat had been concluded between the French Court and Pope Martin V in 1418, to last for five years. The five years expired in 1423, and as no arrangement had been concluded in the interval, Martin made a one-sided settlement of the problems in suspense by a constitution of 13 April 1425. The chief difficulty arose over the collation to benefices, owing to the rights associated with a vacancy and the choice of a new in­cumbent; the Pope disposed of vacant benefices during eight months of the year. In spite of the protests of the clergy, Henry VI and the Duke of Burgundy accepted this arrangement. Charles VII was more inclined to Gallican ideas, but, fearing to put Rome on the side of his enemies, he dissembled for some time. Negotiations entered into with Martin V led in 1426 to the signature of the Concordat of Genzano, which was almost identical with the bull of 1425. As soon as Martin was dead, Charles VII reopened negotiations with his successor Eugenius IV. After the recovery of Paris in 1436 the French Court was able to take a firmer line, while Eugenius IV, on the other hand, was in a weaker position owing to his conflict with the Council of Basle. Charles convoked a great assembly of the French Church to meet at Orleans on 1 May 1438; on 5 June its sessions were transferred to Bourges. The Bishop of Castres, Gerard Machet, the king's confessor, played the leading role at the sittings, at which twenty-five bishops and numerous other dignitaries were present; the Archbishop of Tours, Philippe de Coetquis, distinguished himself by his attacks on the abuses of the Curia. The assembly adopted most of the decrees of the Council of Basle, while amending some of them, and a Statute of the French Church was passed in the form of a “Pragmatic” issuing from Bourges and dated 7 July 1438.

The term “Pragmatic”, borrowed from the phraseology of the old imperial rescripts, was used in an entirely specialised sense, of a solemn settlement of ecclesiastical affairs by the civil government. No precedent could legally be invoked; the so-called Pragmatic of St Louis was a forgery. By virtue of this statute, the Pope was to have the right only to nominate to those benefices in which a vacancy was created at the Roman Court. Most of the sources of papal revenues from France were abolished; the monarchy established under its aegis a Gallican Church. Eugenius IV naturally resisted, and his successor Nicholas V did the same. But further assemblies of the clergy in 1450 and 1452 confirmed the statute of 1438. It was not until after the death of Charles VII that the Papacy was able to obtain from the French Court the renunciation of the “Pragmatic”, which had introduced a system so completely to the advantage of the monarchy.


The other institutions of medieval France did not bear so deeply the impress of the reign of Charles VII as those which have already been passed under review. Their development, however, in the period covered by the third phase of the Hundred Years’ War, is of definite importance, and it is essential to outline the changes which took place.

In judicial matters, only one innovation marks the reign, but that was of considerable importance: the creation of the first provincial Parlement of Toulouse. This was the successor to the ephemeral Parlement of Poitiers, which was the actual Parlement of the kingdom with its seat transferred to the provinces by the king of Bourges since he was dispossessed of Paris. The continued existence of the Parlement of Toulouse definitely brought to an end the old concentration of judicial competence in the hands of a single Parlement.

It was during the period covered by this chapter that the monarchy was freed from the tutelage of the States, a fact of extreme significance, since thereby vanished the possibility, which had appeared for a time, of a constitutional monarchy more or less on the English pattern. The States, the assemblies of the three orders of nobles, clergy, and third estate, remained a vague institution. By this vagueness Charles profited to escape from the control which he might well have had reason to fear. Only once after the death of his father did Charles summon an assembly of a general character—the States of Chinon in 1428; at this meeting the deputies from Languedoc expressed the hope that no tax would be levied without a vote. Generally in Charles VII’s reign there were separate meetings of the States of Langue d’oil and of Languedoc. Fifteen sessions of the former have been noted, and four of the latter; so the provincial Estates took the chief place and pushed the States General into the background. In actual fact, Languedoc, Normandy, and Champagne were the only parts of the France of Charles VII’s day which were to pre­serve their Estates. Moreover, as has been seen, the king had everywhere assumed the right of levying subsidies on his own authority.

Thus strengthened, and released from any effective limitation or control, the power of the sovereign was far stronger at the end of the crisis than on the accession of the Valois line. The feudal nobility was bridled. The military reforms of the reign made the king irresistible. Wars between baron and baron were no longer possible: the Dauphin Louis prohibited all private warfare in Dauphiné; Charles VII forbade his vassals to construct or repair any stronghold without his permission. At the same time that he increased the royal taxes, he prohibited the raising of excessive impositions by the lords. The performance of homage, the recognition and enumeration of fiefs, were strictly enforced. In 1435 caused a careful list to be made of fiefs acquired in the last sixty years. Well-served by his baillis and seneschals, he exacted respect for royal justice and furthered its development, and he affirmed his exclusive right to tolls from fairs and markets, and his right of granting patents of nobility and of legitimation. More and more the petty nobility tended to develop into a Court aristocracy. In 1440 there was a vain attempt at a feudal reaction, the Praguerie, so-called in memory of recent outbreaks in Bohemia; Duke Charles of Bourbon was at its head, the Dauphin Louis took part in it, and even Dunois was compromised. Vigorous action by the king in Auvergne stifled the movement.

The military effort which decided the conclusion of the Hundred Years’ War had rendered the monarchy safe from internal dangers; but it did not allow Charles VII to advance the economic prosperity of his kingdom, a task reserved for his successor. There was one figure in the king’s en­tourage, however, who impressed his personality upon French commerce. Born at Bourges about 1395, Jacques Coeur was a typical pioneer of industry. He combined commercial activity with official duties. He was the king’s silversmith, royal commissioner in the States of Languedoc, and a member of the Great Council. He enjoyed a practical monopoly of French trade in the Mediterranean and, as we have seen, he had a fleet at his disposal. The principal seat of his business was at Montpellier, where he owned a magnificent mansion; but he also had houses in several towns and his residence at Bourges was a dwelling fit for a prince. Charles VII ennobled his silversmith, but later, in 1451, he lent an ear to Coeur’s enemies, and accused him not only of granting monopolies, of which he was certainly not innocent, but in particular of having poisoned Agnes Sorel, who had died in childbirth the previous year (9 February 1450). Finally, he banished him on this trumped-up charge and confis­cated his goods. Coeur died in exile at Chio, where he had taken refuge, in the service of the Pope, on 25 November 1456. The great expansion of French maritime commerce in the second half of the century derived from the bold impulse given to economic activity by Jacques Coeur.

So, at the close of the age-long war, there dawned an era of restoration for devastated and ruined France. Already in the last years of Charles VII, even before the final victory of his arms, the renewal of agriculture and the revival of normal activities gave promise of a speedy recovery. The France of the middle of the century that set itself so courageously to work with the intention of repairing its fortunes was a France that was clearly monarchical, loyal and bound by ties henceforward indestructible to the royal dynasty.

One menace alone remained: the power, confronting the France that was the king’s, of some great feudal States. Out of the duel between France and England, a few favoured lordly houses were able to make their profit, and emerged from the war with added strength. Of these, in the front rank were Burgundy and Brittany; behind them at varying distances came some princes of the centre—Anjou, Bourbon; or of the south—Foix, Armagnac, Albret. These were the feudal dynasties which were to make the supreme attack upon Louis XI; and to this monarch it was left to break those formidable powers and to assure the definitive domination of the Crown over the united country.


The last years of Charles VII’s reign are not merely characterised by the economic and social revival of France after her release from the great war. The monarchy profited by the regaining of its freedom and the strengthening of its authority; it started again upon its traditional policy abroad, at the same time that it caused what remained of the French feudality to feel more and more the weight of the new power of the king upon them.

Actually, France had never ceased, even in its worst days, to look abroad; even before the end of the struggle with England, as soon as the truces of Tours gave the king a breathing space and the prospect of an end to the crisis—in fact, it might be said, from the time of the Treaty of Arras and the recovery of Paris—the monarchy had begun to make its presence felt outside the country and to assume again the role of a great power. The manifestations of this activity in the east, in Italy, and in Spain can be clearly detected.

On his eastern frontiers, Charles VII strove to restrict the area of Burgundian expansion. Burgundy, indeed, under Philip the Good had be­come a powerful and a formidable State. It had been indeed the true beneficiary of the Hundred Years’ War, and had grown out of all proportion. Skilful marriage-alliances rounded off an adroit policy, which was continually encroaching and was pursued without pause under cover of the conflict between the houses of Lancaster and Valois. The duke possessed what at the present day is represented by almost the whole of the kingdoms of Holland and Belgium, the departments of the Nord and the Pas de Calais and a part of the Somme, and in ducal Burgundy and Franche Comte and theirdependencies the equivalent of twelve modern departments. Wealthy and powerful, the house of Burgundy was the most splendid in Europe; the life of its Court, its art, and its literature were on the same level, and Philip the Good, haughty and magnificent, was already aspiring to the royal crown which Charles the Bold, in the time of Louis XI, was so obstinately to pursue. Charles VII realised the danger to the French State from this other State in process of formation on its very flanks. His eastern policy, then, was first and foremost a defensive policy. The expedition against the Swiss and the siege of Metz were not only designed as a means of employing the routiers, but also with the secret intention of interposing a barrier to Burgundian ambitions. In this roundabout way the Valois monarchy was returning to the ideas of Philip the Fair, to the French tradition expressed in the mystic saying of “natural frontiers,” to the attraction of the Rhine. Metz resisted, but Epinal, Toul, and Verdun recognised the authority of Charles VII; the king even took the Rhenish domains of Sigismund of Austria under his protection on the occasion of the marriage of that prince with Eleanor of Scotland; and he completed the encirclement of Burgundy by purchasing her claim to Luxemburg from the Duchess of Saxony. The reception given at Tours in 1457 to a Hungarian embassy had the same end in view. Philip the Good had sworn, with great pomp and circumstance, at a banquet at Lille, to go to reconquer Constantinople from the Turks,thus representing himself as the leader of the future crusade. The Franco-Hungarian agree­ment was a step towards the transference to the French monarchy of the direction of Christian policy against the Sultan, and up to the end of his reign Charles VII, the heir of the great crusading kings, was appealed to by Rome and by the East, to the great vexation of the Court of Burgundy.

In Italy, too, Charles VII revived a policy which came to him from old tradition; the aspirations of the house of Orleans to Milan, the claims of Anjou to Naples, and the French protectorate over Genoa, created manifold duties for the Valois monarchy. Among the repercussions of the Hundred Years’ War must certainly be reckoned the failure of René of Anjou in South Italy and the establishment at Naples of Alfonso V the Magnanimous of Aragon. On the death of the latter in 1458, the house of Anjou hoped for its revenge, and Rene’s headstrong son John of Anjou, the Duke of Calabria, attempted a vigorous counter-offensive against the Aragonese dynasty, represented now by Ferrante, Alfonso’s illegitimate son. This counter-offensive received support, both diplomatic and financial, from Charles VII.

It was the Hundred Years’ War also that prevented France from giving help when it was most needed to Charles of Orleans, son of Valentine Visconti, at Milan, in his rivalry with Francesco Sforza for the domination of Lombardy. The war which began on the death of Filippo Maria Visconti in 1447 ended in 1450 with the triumph of Sforza, who won both the admiration and the support of the Dauphin Louis; the county of Asti, Valentine’s dowry, alone remained to the house of Orleans to provide an opening for future claims.

As for Genoa, which was temporarily re-won by John of Calabria at the outset of his campaign in 1458, it was again lost to France while the champion of Angevin rights was performing dazzling but useless exploits in South Italy; the foolish enterprise of Rent’s son ended in the disaster of Troja at the beginning of Louis XI’s reign.

Finally, Spain, where once again Charles VII outlined the future policy of expansion which was to be pursued in detail by his successor. Two questions forced themselves on the attention of the French monarchy—the problem of Navarre and the problem of the eastern Pyrenees. In Navarre, which was a meeting-ground of French, Castilian, and Aragonese influences, a particularly difficult situation was created on the death of Queen Blanche, daughter of Charles the Noble and grand-daughter of Charles the Bad. John of Aragon, the husband of the dead queen, asserted a claim to the throne, interpreting his wife’s will in his own sense, and disregarding the rights of their only son, Charles, Prince of Viana. So the little kingdom, rent by factions, was bitterly disputed between father and son. The Count of Foix, Gaston IV, the husband of Leonora, one of Charles of Viana’s sisters, acted as intermediary between John of Aragon and Charles VII, who, with an eye to advantage to himself in the future, favoured the aims of the house of Foix upon Navarre.

At the other end of the Pyrenees, Charles VII, who inherited through his wife, Mary of Anjou, a somewhat dubious claim to the crown of Aragon, was planning a revision of the treaty of Corbeil, which had fixed in 1258 the Franco-Aragonese frontier at the Pas-de-Salses. A French embassy went to Barcelona in 1447 to claim the payment of the dowry of Yolande of Sicily, to whom the Queen of France was heiress. On their return, having obtained nothing more than vague promises from the regent Maria, the wife of Alfonso the Magnificent, the ambassadors took a significant step. When they came to Perpignan, they demanded an audience from the consuls of the town, and after describing the purpose and the ill-success of their mission, declared that they would hold their hearers responsible for the debt. Roussillon was virtually treated as a pledge. This was the first indication of the intention to push the frontier up to the eastern Pyrenees, the historic boundary which Louis XI was to reach and which he was even tempted to overstep.

While these schemes were maturing, Charles VII continued to give his attention as much to Barcelona as to Pampeluna. The death of Alfonso the Magnificent on 25 June 1458, by putting his brother John II on the throne, brought about a definite modification of the political equilibrium in Spain. Charles of Viana became primogènit of the principality of Catalonia, and the Catalans were already using this title as an excuse for manifesting their separatist tendencies, which were soon to develop into a tragic revolution. For some time Gaston of Foix had been working unceasingly to bring together his suzerain and his father-in-law, and his policy had resulted in the treaty of Valencia (17 June 1457), actually a defensive alliance between the two monarchies. Moreover, on his accession John II had dispatched to France his Constable of Navarre, Pedro de Peralta, to bind still closer this alliance; while the Prince of Viana, for his part, formed a league with the Dauphin Louis.

To impose obedience on the feudality was the domestic task which Charles VII, delivered from his preoccupation with England, had to bring to a successful conclusion, simultaneously with his conduct of affairs abroad. In this direction, the administrative measures which have been detailed, as well as the consequences of the Hundred Years’ War, auto­matically worked most effectively to the great advantage of the monarchy. During the last years of his reign, the liberator-king had to take serious action practically against only two of his vassals, the one in the north, the Duke of Alencon, the other in the south, the Count of Armagnac.

The Duke of Alencon, John II, handsome, affable, and free-handed, had preserved close relations with the English, whose side he favoured during their domination of Normandy. In 1455, he wrote to the Duke of York inviting him to descend upon the Cotentin. One of his messengers revealed the plot, and John was arrested by Dunois on 31 May 1456. The Court of Peers condemned him to death, but the king contented himself with confiscating the duchy and with imprisoning the traitor at Loehes; from this prison he obtained his release on the accession of Louis XI.

Graver still was the case of the Count of Armagnac, John V, who had succeeded his father John IV on 5 November 1450. A turbulent feudal baron, ruddy, stout, and short of stature, John V, like Gaston of Foix, was as much interested in Spanish affairs as in French. Like the Dauphin Louis, he had formed an alliance with Charles of Viana. His designs on the county of Comminges and his actions at Auch, where he tried to effect the nomination of an archbishop of his own choosing, brought him into violent opposition to Charles VII. Further, John V had displayed a keen and most untimely regret for the defeat and death of Talbot. To this offence of a political character was soon added the intolerable scandal caused by his cynical immorality. He was in love with his young sister Isabella, by whom he had two children, and after their birth he had the effrontery to apply at Rome for a dispensation to enable him to marry the partner of his guilt. Pope Nicholas V replied with an excommunication. John promised amendment, but the scandal continued and a third child was bom of this incestuous union. When all means of conciliation had failed, Charles VII dispatched against him a punitive expedition under John of Bourbon. The count took refuge first in his stronghold of Lectoure, which capitulated on 24 June 1455; he had escaped thence, and by way of Sarrancolin arrived in Spain, whither his sister Isabella had preceded him. Summoned to appear before the Parlement of Paris, he had the audacity to present himself; but after having exhausted every conceivable trick to stay proceedings, he again made good his escape by flight, and was found guilty by default of treason, incest, and rebellion. Like the Duke of Alencon, John V was rehabilitated by Louis XI.

So, at every turn in the policy of Charles VII there appeared the disturbing figure of the son who was to succeed him on the throne, the Dauphin Louis. It was the terror inspired by his heir, so little loved and so unlovable, that darkened the last days of the king whose youth had been so unhappy and whose old age was even more unhappy.

The king and the dauphin had from early days been in opposition to one another. Charles had not forgiven his son for his participation in the Praguerie, still less did he forgive his unpleasant behaviour towards the favourite, Agnes Sorel, then at the height of her influence. If Louis did not actually strike his father’s mistress, as one story has it, he did at any rate revile her to her face. In 1447 he was sent off to Dauphine, and there he set up his court at Grenoble and took up an attitude of inde­pendence. While towards the local nobility he displayed an autocratic tendency, at the same time he endowed Grenoble with a Parlement in 1453, gave his support to industry, improved the communications, founded fairs, protected agriculture by a duty on French corn, and provided facilities for the Jews to practise banking; in a word, he devised an economic policy which he was to develop later as king, and he simultaneously pursued with great energy an expansive foreign policy, which took no account of French interests and in fact was usually quite contrary to them.

With Savoy he had a secret treaty, and he plotted with this power a partition of Milanese territory. Left a widower by the death of his first wife, the unhappy Margaret of Scotland, he contracted a second marriage with Charlotte of Savoy, daughter of the Duke Louis, on 9 March 1451, and this marriage, which he carried out in the face of his father’s express prohibition, showed both his ambitions in the direction of the Alps and his growing opposition to his father. And when Charles VII reacted against this by forcing Louis of Savoy into an alliance with himself (treaty of Clappe, 27 October 1452), the dauphin took his revenge on his father-in-law in the following year by laying waste the district of Bugey.

Everywhere the young prince seemed to delight in taking the opposite side to his father. He was now on terms of close friendship with Francesco Sforza, whom he took as his model, while Charles VII, as has been said, supported the Orleanist aims; in Spain, he exchanged messages and presents with the Prince of Viana. Suspecting a punitive expedition, since he was fully conscious of the offence he had given, the dauphin took fright when he learnt that the king was advancing on Lyons in 1456, and on 30 August he abandoned his appanage to take refuge at the Burgundian Court.

While Charles VII took possession of Dauphiné, Louis put himself under the protection of Philip the Good. Philip installed him at Genappes in Brabant, and, in spite of the king’s effort to prevent it, granted him a pension of 36,000 livres, from this asylum the dispossessed dauphin tenaciously carried on in all directions the policy that he had previously pursued. Beyond the Alps he continued his intrigues, adapting himself in a remarkable way to the practices of Italian diplomacy, in which subtle art he shewed himself to be already a past master; he supported Ferrante of Naples against John of Anjou; he kept in closer touch than ever with Sforza; and he pushed his agreement with the primogénit Charles of Viana so far as to conclude an alliance with him, opposing to the league of the fathers a league of the sons. In England also the same opposition manifested itself. Charles VII supported his niece Margaret of Anjou, and in August 1457 the Grand Seneschal of Normandy, Pierre de Breze, took and sacked Sandwich; in retaliation the English threatened La Rochelle and plundered the island of Ré. When Edward IV was victorious over the Lancastrians, Charles tried to raise Wales against him. The dauphin for his part associated himself with the Yorkists, and so closely that his soldiers were seen fighting at Towton and his standard was flown in the battle, under the charge of Philippe de Melun, lord of La Barde. On the very eve of Charles VII’s death, his son’s emissaries were encouraging Edward to make an attack upon France.

This last episode reveals the intensity of mutual fear and hatred that existed between father and son. These sentiments cannot be doubted in either of them. Impatience to reign had reached such a pitch with the heir to the throne that he had lost all sense of French interests.

In Charles VII, now at the end of his days, this bitter and unnatural struggle had bred imaginative terrors: a sick man, he suspected his son of wishing to poison him. However, Charles VII died on 22 July 1461 not of voluntary starvation but as the result of a necrosis of the jaw which made it impossible for him to take any nourishment. It was in this culmination of moral and physical ill-being that came to its painful end the career of him “who had done so many fine things in France: in his reign, the kingdom of France had not merely escaped from the immense danger of English dominance; it had acquired the definite conception of its independence, its dignity, and its strength; it had linked its destiny with that of the national dynasty; finally, it had made its choice in favour of the monarchical regime and of institutions which, with their solid framework, were to remain as the foundation of the centralised government of modern times.