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The region, whose history from the eleventh to the end of the fifteenth century forms the subject of this chapter, has been known by different names in turn. It was called regnum Burgundiae after the people who occupied it at the time of the barbarian invasions; its ruler was known also as rex Iurensis, rex Austrasiorum, or even rex Alamannorum et Provincial. It is not until the twelfth century that we meet with the expression “kingdom of Arles” (regnum Arelatense” to which “and of Vienne” is often added as well. In the course of this chapter the term “kingdom of Burgundy” will be employed for the earlier period, and “kingdom of Arles and Vienne” for the later.

The history of this kingdom is the history of a part of Gaul which derived extreme importance from its geographical situation. On the south it was bounded by the sea, from the western mouth of the Rhone to the neighbourhood of Ventimiglia. Its eastern frontier, starting from the coast, coincided at first with the modern frontier between France and Italy, except that it included the valley of Aosta, now part of Italy. From there the line ran to the St Gotthard, and thence north to the Aar and the Rhine, thus bringing into the kingdom not only French Switzerland, but also an important stretch of territory with a German speaking population. Basle marked the most northerly point of this region, in which the principal towns were Geneva, Lausanne, Sion, and Solothurn. Next the line passed through the gap of Belfort to the southern Vosges, and then turned back to the Saône, following its course almost exactly, but relinquishing to France that part of the county of Châlon which lay on the left bank of the river. On the other hand, it crossed the Saône lower down, so as to include the town and county of Lyons and the county of Forez. Farther south, it diverged from the Rhone to embrace Tournon, Annonay, Viviers, and the Vivarais, afterwards following the course of the river to the Mediterranean. The kingdom thus comprised western Switzerland and that part of modern France which corresponds to the Free County of Burgundy, Savoy, the Lyonnais, Dauphiné, Vivarais, and Provence.

It is obvious that this kingdom was composed of two distinct elements: in the West, a region varying in width, made up of the valleys of the Saône and the Rhone and adjacent lowlands; in the East, a mountainous region of the Alps and the Jura, containing the loftiest peaks in Europe. The plain was one of the great arteries of the Western world, thanks to the roads which, from ancient times, followed the course of the Rhone and then continuing north along the Saone brought the Mediterranean into touch with the fairs of Champagne, with North and East France, and with Alsace; to these must be added the transverse routes crossing the great rivers at different points, such as Avignon and Lyons, and linking up southern Gaul and the Spanish peninsula with Italy and with Switzerland. These lowlands by themselves alone appeared a most desirable domain, and, if we can credit Gervase of Tilbury, who wrote at the beginning of the thirteenth century, one quite easy to master. They are, he says, lands blessed by heaven, spreading out in fertile champaigns rich in the gifts of nature, filled with trading towns, inhabited by a population mentally alert and excitable, who are active or listless as the impulse takes them but, when circumstances demand, ready to endure hardship and suffering. These peoples, Gervase adds, need a kind and upright master; for they are prone to submit to any power which will display sufficient energy to make itself feared.

The highlands, however, were a far more difficult conquest. Thanks to their configuration and their rugged character, the inhabitants had been able to retain their independence for a much longer period against the Roman conqueror; while the feudal lords who held sway there in the Middle Ages were not disposed to submit to the authority of a distant sovereign, however great the prestige of his title, and, in spite of the ban of temporal and spiritual authority alike, they were well able to bar their passes against any who refused to pay what they deemed to be an adequate toll.

How powerful, then, would that ruler have been, in the Middle Ages, who could have exercised an uncontested authority over mountain and plain alike! He could have penetrated without difficulty into the lands of the King of France from the north of the county of Burgundy, the traditional route of invaders. He would have had control of the passes of the Jura and the Alps, and the opening of the gates into Italy, France, and Switzerland would have been subject to his pleasure. Master of the Mediterranean ports, he could easily have dominated this sea, in which Latins, Byzantines, and Arabs were to dispute the hegemony of the world, and he could have held at his disposal the routes by which the crusaders went to the attack on Syria and Egypt. On several occasions during the Middle Ages it looked as though such a kingdom was on the point of being established. The following pages will describe how and why this consummation failed of its realisation.

With the break-up of the Carolingian Empire there came into being, as is well-known, two new kingdoms. The one, Jurane or Upper Burgundy, had Swiss Burgundy as its core; the other, Provence, of which at first Vienne was the political centre, extended over the valley of the Rhone from Lyons to the sea. The frontier between these two kingdoms varied with the change of circumstances and as each was powerful in turn. Now, between 920 and 930, it happened that the King of Upper Burgundy, Rodolph II, and the ruler of Provence, Hugh, were in turn tempted with the prospect of bringing the Italian peninsula beneath their sway. Rodolph II was the first to make the attempt; but after some short-lived successes he had to recognise his powerlessness and to withdraw. Hugh was more fortunate; but, to avoid the danger of a fresh enterprise on Rodolph’s part, he bought him off by abandoning to him the greater part of his rights in Provence. After various changes of fortune, the son of Rodolph II, Conrad the Pacific, was able to unite the two kingdoms under his rule. Thus was established a State which was to exist for three-quarters of a century, nominally, at any rate, under the control of Conrad and his son Rodolph III, the Sluggard.

The formation of this kingdom was due neither to geography, nor to ethnography, nor to commercial relations; it was the product of a purely political contrivance. The numerous peoples scattered throughout its parts were united by no permanent bond. So artificial was the structure that, as has been seen, some considerable time elapsed before the kingdom received a definite and regular name. And not only a title, but also the reality of power, was lacking to the monarchy; without an army of its own at its disposal, without financial resources regularly assured, and without an organised and trained body of officials, its existence was half stifled by the rapid development of ecclesiastical principalities and lay powers. By the side of the great ecclesiastical lordships of Besançon, Lyons, and Vienne—to mention only the most important—there were to be found the domains of secular dynasties, especially those of Otto-William in the County of Burgundy (Franche Comté), of Guigues in the Viennois, of Humbert Whitehands in Maurienne, and of the counts and marquesses of Provence in the valley of the lower Rhone. It was to these local lords far more than to the king that the people looked for protection from the incursions of the Saracens, raiding from their Alpine strongholds or landing upon the Mediterranean shores. The real authority rested with these local rulers, and only the shadow remained to the monarchy.

Wandering up and down their territories, the kings dwelt where they could. Hardly ever were they to be seen at Arles, in spite of the still surviving tradition which gave this city exalted rank in the hierarchy of the towns of Gaul. On the other hand, they frequently resided at Vienne, the rival of Arles and proud, like it, of its Roman memories, where they long retained domains of their own; also in Jurane Burgundy, where were the best part of the lands belonging to the royal focus—often they settled in the lake-district of western Switzerland and in Savoy. On different occasions they had lived at Basle, and sometimes too they had taken up their residence in great abbeys such as Payerne; above all, at St Maurice-en-Valais (Agaune), whose history was closely bound up with that of the royal house. These weak kings further aggravated their weakness by grants from their domains to the nobles. In truth, the kingship of the rulers of this kingdom, which had no name and no capital, no treasure and no army, and resembled in many respects that of the later Carolingians, was an illusion rather than a reality.


In the beginning of September 1032, the cathedral of Lausanne received the mortal remains of Rodolph III. This prince left no legitimate issue, and it had for some time seemed that the succession was bound to fall to the Emperor Henry II, who was the nearest relative in the collateral line. Henry, doubtless estimating none too highly the efficacy of an appeal to hereditary right, had taken his precautions during Rodolph’s lifetime by occupying Basle; further, Rodolph had bound himself in solemn conventions to bequeath to him the succession. The prospect of the accession to the Burgundian kingdom of a powerful sovereign—the most powerful in Europe—had alarmed many of the local nobles. Possibly they were reassured by the death of Henry, whom Rodolph outlived. If so, their security did not last long. They soon learnt in Burgundy that the German crown had fallen into the hands of an able and determined ruler, Conrad II, who, as his object was to reconstitute the Empire of Charlemagne, could not relinquish the task undertaken by his predecessor in Burgundy; he had all the more excuse for continuing it as he too was a near relative of King Rodolph III. Actually, in the order of affinity, Conrad’s hereditary claims were inferior to those of a powerful French baron, Odo II, Count of Chartres, Blois, and Tours. But Conrad had been able in 1027 to persuade Rodolph III to set aside the rights of the next of kin; a convention assured to him the succession to the feeble sovereign. In accordance with this agreement, on Rodolph’s death a Burgundian deputation had to bring to the Emperor the emblems of the kingship, the royal diadem and the lance of St Maurice, the patron saint who was as popular in the northern part of the Rhone valley as St Denis and St Martin were in France. On various occasions Count Odo tried to win his heritage by force of arms; but the Emperor Conrad II was able, by diplomacy or force, to foil his attempts and to obtain general recognition as the successor of the last of the Burgundian kings. Legally, then, the kingdom which was ultimately to be known as the kingdom of Arles became in this way united to the Empire, which was to retain it, nominally at any rate, until its own dissolution under the blow dealt it by the victories of Napoleon I.

The uneasiness aroused in the local nobility by the accession of the new king of Burgundy was, in fact, well founded. If we picture to ourselves the juridical position of these nobles, we see that they were either great prelates or counts descended from Frankish officials. In either case, by virtue of their titles they were not necessarily vassals of the king; they were, indeed, bound to him by the general obligation of obedience and fealty which was imposed on all subjects, but there was no other obligation than this. Such a bond was a slender one, as the nobles had clearly demonstrated to Rodolph III and his predecessors; in order to strengthen it, the royal policy aimed at transforming into vassals bound by definite obligations under feudal law those persons who could be ranked in the category of allodial nobles.

The question was whether the Emperors, having become direct rulers of the country, could change this ancient state of affairs to their advantage. Just at the time when the crown of Rodolph III was passing to them, a personage closely in touch with affairs in the Empire, the imperial chaplain Wipo, was stressing the risks that his master’s sovereignty had to face in the newly-acquired territories. “O king,” he said to Conrad II, “Burgundy has called for you. Arise, come in haste.... Profoundly true is the old saying: Out of sight, out of mind. Though Burgundy now enjoys peace because of you, it wishes to contemplate in your person the author of this peace, and to feast its eyes on the sight of the king.” This is to be the appeal, often uttered and almost always in vain, of the imperial partisans in Burgundy: the Emperor was too far off; let him appear at last and take in his own hands the direction of the country’s affairs.

If Conrad II formed the design of responding to these appeals, he had not the time to carry it into effect. He died a few years after his acquisition of Rodolph’s kingdom. His son Henry III, whom he had caused to be recognised as king in his own lifetime by the grandees of the kingdom, endeavoured to satisfy the wishes of his partisans. Not only did he organise for Burgundy a special chancery, at the head of which he appointed as arch-chancellor one of his supporters, Archbishop Hugh of Besançon; besides this, he visited the country himself on several occasions. In 1042, he was at St Maurice-en-Valais at the head of an army, and there received numerous submissions; on three occasions he held diets at Solothurn; in 1042 he visited Franche Comté, and again in 1043 it was at Besançon that he celebrated his betrothal with Agnes of Aquitaine, who was related to Count Rainald I of Burgundy; in 1044 he repressed by force of arms an insurrection of the Counts of Burgundy and Genevois. Meanwhile he did not neglect to establish his influence over the ecclesiastical principalities. He could, of course, count on the Archbishop of Besançon; after two successive vacancies, he himself nominated the Archbishop of Lyons; finally, in 1046, when he went to Rome to obtain the imperial crown, he was accompanied not only by the Archbishop of Besançon but by those of Lyons and Arles as well. This was clearly significant, and the conclusion could be drawn that the Emperor was basing his power in Burgundy on the influence of the higher clergy; moreover, this was the line that he, like his predecessors, followed in Germany. It was a course of action imposed upon him; for he could not count on the lay nobles, who were anxious to preserve independence both for themselves and for their descendants. Only Count Humbert Whitehands of Maurienne was faithful to him, and he was rewarded for his fidelity by a considerable extension of his domains. The others displayed an attitude of indifference towards the Emperor, when they did not show themselves openly hostile.

On the death of Henry III, the kingdom of Burgundy passed without trouble to his son, the future Emperor Henry IV. His mother Agnes, who governed during his minority, doubtless distrusted her own capacity to play an effective part in Burgundy. It is to her initiative that is due the first example of an institution which later Emperors were to copy, the rectorate of Burgundy. The rector had to play the part of a viceroy, and Agnes entrusted this duty to a great Transjurane noble, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, who also became her son-in-law. It does not appear that Rudolf’s rectorate fulfilled the expectations of the Empress, or that it left any mark on the history of Burgundy.

The policy followed by Henry IV during the early years of his reign differed little from that adopted by Henry III. But since the king relied on the bishops, it was essential that no conflict of principle should provoke a breach between Church and State; it was essential that, while bestowing his favour on the Church, the king should not seek to hold it in thrall, and thereby pave the way for a reaction which would be fatal to his authority. Henry IV was not wise enough to avoid this grievous error; the history of the Investiture Struggle shows how he became implicated in it and with what persistence he pursued it. The consequences were disastrous to imperial authority in the former kingdom of Rodolph III. The lay nobles in general, while refraining from imitating the Count of Burgundy, gave no support to the Emperor. As for the clergy, its leaders showed themselves for the most part faithful to the cause of the Church. One of them, Hugh, Bishop of Die and later Archbishop of Lyons, was, as legate of the Apostolic See, a devoted auxiliary of Gregory VII and an active worker in the cause of ecclesiastical reform with which that Pope’s name is associated. Later, when Paschal II was prepared to concede lay investiture to Henry V, it was in the valley of the Rhone, at a council held at Vienne in 1112 under the presidency of the archbishop, Guy of Burgundy, that the concession was condemned with more vehemence than it had been some months earlier at the council in the Lateran; it is significant that it was this same Guy, Archbishop of Vienne, who in 1119 was elected to the papal throne as Calixtus II. If this was the prevailing opinion in this region, it is not surprising that Henry IV coming to Canossa was looked on rather as a criminal than a king, and that the chancery of Burgundy had become a sinecure. The most important questions, such as the division of Provence in 1185 between the Berengars and the house of Toulouse, were settled, apparently, without the parties concerned thinking of obtaining the consent of their sovereign, the Emperor. The habit of referring to the royal authority had been lost; and this was the more dangerous for the Empire as the best part of Burgundy, the Rhone provinces, were attracted towards France, to which they were linked by the ties of custom, of kinship, of language, and of literature. From this time, the current which drew these provinces Francewards, and which had been accelerated by the religious wars, had gathered too much strength to be checked by the feeble measures to which the Emperors were reduced, such as the reconstitution of the Burgundian chancery or the granting of charters which showed a royal authority more nominal than real.

Perhaps a ruler of considerable energy, personally resident in the kingdom, might have arrested the decline. Such a task presented the gravest difficulties; nevertheless, it attracted the Emperors of the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries who succeeded the Franconian dynasty. The most active in this undertaking were, it is not surprising to find, the princes of the house of Swabia. But they were to have no better success than their predecessors.

Between the houses of Franconia and Swabia came one intermediary reign, that of Lothar III of Supplinburg. Lothar was soon forced to recognise his almost complete lack of authority, when the members of the Burgundian and Provencal nobility refrained from answering his summons. “You have paid no heed to them,” he wrote; “you have thus marked in most impudent fashion your contempt for our supreme power.” Except for the Archbishop of Besançon, no noble in the kingdom of Arles appeared at an imperial diet or took part in the campaigns of Lothar; moreover, on the occasion of his expedition into Italy in 1136, the Emperor had to subdue one of them, Count Amadeus III of Maurienne, who had been bold enough to make common cause with the enemies of his sovereign. A few years later, it was the turn of Rainald III, who had succeeded William the Child as Count of Burgundy and paid little heed to the imperial rights; Lothar decided to replace him by a powerful Swiss noble, Conrad of Zähringen. He went farther still, following the example set in the reign of Henry IV, and made Conrad, as a loyal subject whom he could trust, not only the successor of Rainald in Franche Comte, but also the governor, with the title of rector, of the whole of Cisjurane and Transjurane Burgundy. Doubtless he hoped to find in him an able and energetic representative, such as his predecessors had never known. But, in spite of Lothar’s orders and threats, the scheme was a failure; Rainald maintained his hold on Franche Comté, and Conrad was unable to assert his authority on the western side of the Jura.

Nothing had been done, then, by the time of the accession in 1143 of Conrad III, the first king of the Swabian house. In the course of his reign, he indicated his policy with regard to the kingdom of Arles in two ways: firstly, he granted privileges to members of the higher clergy, especially Archbishop Humbert of Vienne, whom he thus attached to his cause; secondly, he intervened, without much success, on behalf of the head of an important Provencal family, Raymond of Baux, who on the death of Count Berengar-Raymond tried to make good the claims of his house to the county of Provence, and approached the king to obtain his support. The action of Conrad III was not fruitful in results, but at any rate it revived a twofold policy which his successors did not fail to pursue: of seeking the support of the leading prelates, and of taking the opportunity to intervene in all the dissensions which arose among the lay nobility. This was the old tradition of imperial policy.

Since the death of Rodolph III, the imperial authority had made but feeble progress in the old Burgundian kingdom. Then to Conrad III succeeded Frederick Barbarossa, a young prince of keen intelligence, of active will, eager for fame, and fired with the ambition of re-establishing the universal monarchy of Charlemagne. He was not long in realising that, to attain this end, he must first bring effectively under his control the kingdom of Arles; he turned his attention to this quarter even before occupying himself with Italy.

At the very beginning of his reign, he recognised, as the result of a fresh and again unsuccessful effort, that no useful results were to be expected from the viceroyalty of Berthold, the son of Conrad of Zähringen. So a reversal of Frederick’s former policy in this region soon became evident; having given to the house of Zähringen, by way of compensation, the advocacies of the churches of Lausanne, Geneva, and Sion, he came to terms with the comital house of Burgundy and married the young Beatrice, who had recently inherited Franche Comté on the death of Rainald III. At once Barbarossa acquired in Burgundy an advantage which his predecessors had never had—a firm basis and devoted adherents. The fruits of this policy can be seen in 1157. Frederick appeared at Besançon, and held a diet there at which all the magnificence of the imperial court was displayed; among those who hastened to attend their sovereign were, as well as the Archbishop of Besancon, the Archbishops of Lyons, Vienne, and Tarantaise, and a number of bishops and secular nobles. The Emperor was justified in announcing to his faithful minister, Abbot Wibald of Stablo, “the magnificent success” of his affairs in Burgundy. Certainly the imperial chancery distributed numerous privileges, and their general effect was theoretical rather than practical. But the Emperor did not limit himself to this expedient; he did not hesitate to intervene in several disputes which broke out at Lyons or in Provence. In fact, he shewed plainly that he understood how to play the king. The King of France, Louis VII, realised this so clearly that he took umbrage, slipped away from a conference which had been arranged between him and Frederick, and assembled in Champagne considerable forces, so that for some time there was danger of war between the two sovereigns. The fact was that the Capetian monarchy had now become powerful enough to resent the establishment in the south-east of Gaul of a power which was not subject to its influence.

Meanwhile, the Emperor, thinking to follow in the Carolingian tradition, had attempted to establish his authority over the Roman Church. The result of his attempt is well known—his rupture with Alexander III and the election of an anti-Pope, Victor IV. In the struggle which ensued, the Emperor asked for help from his subjects in the kingdom of Arles, and for some years he met with open friendship or at any rate latent sympathy there. This development was only fully revealed when the news arrived of the memorable expedition of 1162, which culminated in the destruction of Milan; the prestige of the Emperor rose to the summit, and with it the terror that he inspired. Several of the prelates, and among them the most important, were won over to the side of Frederick and his anti-Pope. And not only in Franche Comté could Barbarossa reckon on adherents; he could pride himself on having Guigues, the Dauphin of Viennois, in his train, and even, for a time, Raymond-Berengar II, the Count of Provence. Leaving minor nobles out of account, the only personage who eluded his influence was Humbert III, Count of Maurienne. It even seemed in 1162 that the moment had come when he would succeed in associating with his religious policy the King of France, Louis VII.

Once more, at the last moment, Louis withdrew, and refused to abandon the cause of Alexander III. His decision had important repercussions in Burgundy throughout the Rhone district. Louis quite soon found himself the leader of a considerable party in the east and south-east of Gaul; the various elements of discontent rallied round him; he became the recognised protector of that section of the higher clergy which still remained faithful to Alexander III; and, moreover, the members of this party now began to raise their heads once more. A visit paid by the Emperor with his wife Beatrice to Burgundy did not perceptibly improve the situation for him; and it became definitely worse after the disaster which brought his expedition into Italy in 1167 to an end; Frederick himself, on his return, in order to assure his retreat, had to solicit, and to pay heavily for, the goodwill of the Count of Maurienne.

As a result of all this, Barbarossa was destined to see his influence decline in Burgundy; it is not surprising that, during the last years of his struggle with Alexander III, his interference in this region was less frequent and less effective. To attempt to revive his authority, he had to wait until 1177 when he had bent the knee to Alexander III and concluded peace with him; then he thought it necessary to make a fresh and a striking manifestation of his sovereignty in the kingdom of Arles. He went to Arles, attended by a numerous train, and in the cathedral of St Trophimus, which was resplendent with all the brilliance of the court, he had himself crowned king, after the ancient tradition, by the metropolitan, Raymond of Bollene, assisted by the Archbishops of Vienne and Aix and five bishops of neighbouring dioceses. Besides these prelates there were numerous lay nobles, among them Raymond of St Gilles, who held the marquessate of Provence and the French county of Toulouse.

The nobles, lay and ecclesiastical, who came to greet their sovereign, either at Arles or at different points in his progress through the country, were rewarded by numerous grants of various kinds: privileges, confirmation of immunities, grants of the title of prince of the Empire, tolls, guardianship of the Jews, and a general settlement of disputes. The prelates seem to have appreciated these favours. During the last years of Barbarossa’s reign, they are often to be found on the look-out for similar grants, and for that purpose hastening to different diets summoned by the Emperor in North Italy. Frederick, moreover, followed the policy of his predecessors in giving his protection to the bishops: he took up the cause of the Bishop of Geneva who was engaged in a contest with the Count of Genevois, and particularly that of the Archbishop of Tarantaise and the Bishop of Sion against the claims of Count Humbert III of Maurienne; also, that of the Bishops of Valence and Die against the Counts of Valentinois. Meanwhile, he did not neglect, whenever possible, to win over the lay nobles; he always preserved a nucleus of loyalty in Franche Comté, he acquired vassals in Bressé, and he strengthened the tie which held the Dauphin of Viennois to his side.

On a general consideration of the facts that have been detailed above, it will be seen that Frederick took his title of king in Burgundy and Provence quite seriously. He employed favourable circumstances to assure the obedience of subjects who had disregarded it hitherto. Furthermore, he laboured to supply the indispensable machinery for his government by reorganising the chancery, over which he placed the Archbishop of Vienne as arch-chancellor, and by sending to the various districts trusty representatives—legati curiae imperially legati domini imperatoriy iusticiarii— whose functions cannot precisely be stated, but who certainly had as their mission to make the royal government’s action and its control felt, a thing unknown before in Burgundy and Provence. A few years before his death Frederick gave a further proof of his care for the royal authority in those districts. On 27 April 1186, when he was holding his court in Milan on the occasion of the marriage of his son Henry, King of the Romans, with the heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily, after Henry, in the basilica of St Ambrose, had received the crown of Italy from the Patriarch of Aquileia, Frederick had himself crowned anew as King of Arles by the Archbishop of Vienne. There was nothing in the repetition of the coronation to appear strange to the Middle Ages; but it is a testimony to the importance Barbarossa attached to the royal authority in those regions.


Henry VI, who succeeded his father Frederick Barbarossa as Emperor in 1190, had been concerned, before his accession, with affairs in the kingdom of Arles. It was he who had arranged the closer alliance of the Emperor with the Dauphin of Viennois; he too who had conducted the campaign which the Emperor had to undertake against Humbert III, Count of Maurienne and Savoy. To be better informed of the state of these regions, he had returned from Lombardy by the Mont-Cenis or the Mont-Genèvre, and had stayed at various places, notably at Lyons. It is impossible to know what impression this journey left upon him. But, since the ambition of his race seemed incarnate in his being, since too he considered himself the universal monarch, allowing no considerations to qualify his pretensions, it is certain that he was prepared to yield none of his rights or of his claims over Burgundy or Provence.

However, the sustained effort which was necessary in order to bind more closely these provinces to the Empire, and so to make good the work of his father, was ill-suited to the temperament of the new sovereign. He preferred to begin and end this task in one stroke by placing at the head of these provinces, as a king dependent upon him, a personage who, he hoped, would subserve his policy. This was a renewal on a grander scale of the Zähringen rectorate which had been so unsuccessful. The person he chose was no other than Richard Coeur-de-Lion.

To explain his choice, it is important to notice that, during the early years of Henry’s reign, the King of France had pushed to extremes his attack on England, and so had aroused the uneasiness not only of the Welf party in Germany, but also of the Emperor, who had to take account of this party, although it was hostile to his policy. In 1192, Richard, on his return from the Holy Land, in defiance of the principles of public law in the Middle Ages, was captured and thrown into prison by the Duke of Austria. Henry VI caused the prisoner to be handed over to him, and found him a valuable pawn in the game that he was playing, which was, as at least he hoped, to result for him in the hegemony of the West. His first thought was to turn Richard’s captivity to account by rendering a service to Philip Augustus for which he would not have failed to require payment; but in this way he would have irritated the Welfs, the traditional friends of the English sovereigns. By itself this consideration might perhaps not have been sufficient to modify Henry’s plans, but he had also taken umbrage at the alliance contracted at about the same time by the King of France with Denmark, an alliance which was consolidated by Philip’s unhappy marriage with Ingeborg. Denmark was in Henry’s eyes his enemy, because its king had refused to recognise his supremacy.

So the Emperor suddenly veered round and decided to satisfy the Welfs, who threatened him with civil war if he took the side of France against England. At the diet of Worms in 1193, he made Richard surrender to him his kingdom and receive it back as a fief of the Empire. By such infeudations, which thrilled his imagination and which he took pains to effect as often as he could, Henry thought to make himself, in appearance if not in fact, the master of the world. The diet of Worms was followed by a period of complicated negotiations, in which the only detail that concerns us here is that, about the end of 1193, the Emperor, holding to the English alliance, wished after his fashion to mark his favour to his new ally. Perhaps it was due to the suggestion of Savaric, Bishop of Bath, who was related to the house of Hohenstaufen and later became chancellor of Burgundy, that he offered to Richard to enfeoff him not only with England but also with Arles, Vienne and Viennois, Lyons, and all the country up to the Alps—that is to say, the kingdom of Arles and Vienne together with the Hohenstaufen possessions in Burgundy. Roger of Howden, to whom we owe our knowledge of this scheme, adds that the infeudation was to extend to other territories situated in Languedoc and not subject to Henry’s overlordship, which appears most unlikely. However, it is none the less true that the Emperor was reviving, in a different form, the plan conceived by his predecessor Lothar of Supplinburg on behalf of the house of Zähringen, which had been abandoned by Barbarossa. Had he been able to carry it into effect, he would have been freed from the task of having to govern directly provinces where he was really powerless; the responsibility of governing would have been transferred to a bold and active prince, who would still be his feudal subordinate. Moreover, the scheme entailed a further advantage in that it removed the kingdom of Arles from the sphere of French influence, which was regarded as dangerous to the Empire. Richard, for his part, could not fail to realise that to his possessions in the west of France he would be uniting the valuable and wealthy provinces of the east, and that he would also have the prospect of stifling in his grip the nascent power of his Capetian rivals.

Unfortunately for the Empire, a scheme of this kind belonged, not to the sphere of practical politics, but to the visionary world in which Henry VI was living. It was soon abandoned; contemporary documents have left no trace of any measure destined to carry it into realisation.

The register of Henry’s acts shows a great poverty as far as the kingdom of Arles is concerned. He could not hope for any effective assistance from his incapable younger brother, Otto, Count of Burgundy (Franche Comté), and in the course of his short reign he seems to have gradually lost interest in these regions, after he had come to recognise the failure of his plan of entrusting them to Richard as his viceroy.


During the years which followed the death of Henry VI, and which in the Empire were taken up with the rivalry between Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick, the first-named was able at certain times to count on quite a considerable number of supporters in the Burgundian territories; Otto’s influence, on the other hand, appears to have been very slight. It is not, however, until the reign of Frederick II that the ruler of the Empire is again found to be following a clearly defined policy.

It is not possible here to describe in detail the very complicated policy of Frederick II in the kingdom of Arles and Vienne, but only to denote some of its characteristic traits. In the early years of his reign he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors. He reverted to the practice of viceroys, and nominated two, or perhaps three, in turn: William of Baux, Duke Odo of Burgundy (though there is doubt in his case), and Marquess William of Montferrat. These attempts were no more successful than the preceding ones. At the same time, as the register of his acts attests, he was not sparing in his favours to the prelates. Thus, in a conflict between the bishop and the townsfolk of Marseilles, he took the bishop’s side without reserve, and in resounding proclamations he put the town under the ban of the Empire and threatened the freedom and the privileges of its commerce in the Mediterranean world. This threat, coming from a ruler who was master of Sicily and counted numerous adherents in Italy, did not fail to agitate the people of Marseilles; but it did not decide them to abandon the struggle. The Emperor was too much occupied in these years with affairs in Italy and his crusade to the Holy Land, and he could not back his proclamations by effective action. Another sign of this is seen in the cautious nature of his protests when the French crusading army, led by Louis VIII, occupied an imperial town, Avignon, after a siege of several months.

The imperial policy took a different form in 1230. Freed from his embarrassments in Lombardy and the East, and reconciled again with Pope Gregory IX, Frederick took in hand the pacification of the kingdom of Arles, in order to be able to draw from it the contingents and the subsidies which he needed for his Italian expeditions. In the valley of the Rhone his subjects were divided into two camps: at the head of one party, besides the Bishop of Marseilles, was Raymond-Berengar IV, Count of Provence; at the head of the other were the townsfolk of Marseilles and Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. For four years Frederick set himself to support the bishop and Raymond-Berengar. He did not confine himself to action from a distance; he entrusted the duty of representing him in this region, first of all to the Archbishop of Arles, Hugh Beroard, then to one of his intimate counsellors, an Italian by origin, Quaglia of Gorzano. He was able in this way to increase his influence in the Provencal area, but he did not succeed in re-establishing peace. At any rate a proof of this influence was to be seen at the end of 1235, when there appeared at the side of the Emperor, in the assembly of Hagenau, the Counts of Provence and Valentinois and Count Raymond VII of Toulouse, to whom in the previous year Frederick had given a diploma granting him, in defiance of the claims of the Roman Church, the restitution of the Venaissin, which had been taken from him as a result of Louis VIII’s crusade.

At Hagenau was clearly betokened the radical change of imperial policy which took place at this time. It is impossible here to investigate the causes of this volte-face; it must suffice to say that Frederick had already been irritated by the friendly relations between St Louis and his own intractable son, Henry (VII), King of the Romans, and that he was offended by the marriage of the French king with the daughter of Raymond-Berengar IV. Henceforward he made common cause with Count Raymond VII of Toulouse, and bitterly opposed the Count of Provence. Raymond VII, who was suspected of favouring heresy, was the leader of the anticlerical party throughout this region; around him were gathered, not only those lay nobles who were hostile to the clergy, but also the associations or confraternities which, in the towns, combated its influence. There were henceforward in the kingdom of Arles two great parties, the one favourable to the Church, the other opposed to it; and with all the forces of which it could dispose the imperial power supported the latter party.

The facts are too complex to be mentioned here in detail. All that can be said is that, in order to sustain the struggle, which he pursued with ardour, Frederick on different occasions sent confidential agents, taken from his Italian entourage, to watch over his interests and rally his supporters: for instance, Henry of Revello, who came in 1237, and later Sopramoute Lupo, Torello of Strada, and finally Count Berardo of Loreto; these agents bore the title either of imperial nuncio or imperial vicar, and norite of Frederick’s predecessors had taken so much trouble about the kingdom of Arles. Thus, while fortune favoured him, his authority in these regions continued to increase; in 1238 he was able to count, in his army in Lombardy, contingents from Provence, Dauphiné, Valentinois, and Savoy.

At the moment when everything seemed to smile on Frederick, fortune turned traitor. The army failed before Brescia, and the check was anything but fortunate for the Emperor’s prestige in the kingdom of Arles, Meanwhile he persisted in his policy; amid all the conflicts which raged in Provence he fought the partisans of the Roman Church; and when in 124e5 the Pope, who had taken refuge at Lyons, assembled there the episcopate of the Latin Church, the Emperor, thanks to the assistance of the Dauphin Guigues VII and Amadeus IV, Count of Savoy, prepared an attack by force of arms upon this city. A rising of the Guelfs at Parma, however, prevented him from carrying out his design. About the same time, by the death of Raymond-Berengar IV, the county of Provence passed to his other son-in-law Charles of Anjou, St Louis’ brother, who was a far more redoubtable enemy for Frederick than the father-in-law had been. A few years later, in 1249, the death of Raymond VII deprived the Emperor of an ally, and gave him a new adversary in the person of another brother of the French king, Alphonse of Poitiers, to whom was assigned the Venaissin. Frederick none the less persisted in his anti-clerical policy, and up to his death in 1250 he was in Provence as elsewhere the leader of all the enemies of the clergy.


The period of the Great Interregnum which followed the death of Frederick was an age of imperial decadence; and it was particularly so in the kingdom of Arles, where the imperial power, in spite of the efforts of several sovereigns of the house of Swabia, had never become solidly established. If one of the claimants to Empire, Alfonso of Castile, tried to form connexions within the kingdom, he gained no advantage thereby; he could not, still less could his rival, exercise authority there. The bankruptcy of imperial prestige resulted naturally in profit to the France of St Louis and Philip the Bold, as can be seen at this time by what happened in Savoy and Dauphine, and also by other similar negotiations.

When Rudolf of Habsburg came to Lausanne at the beginning of his reign, he was received there by a few prelates of the kingdom of Arles. These adhesions could not create in him any illusions as to the extent of his influence in the kingdom; for at this time the most important of the lay nobles, starting with the Count of Savoy, Philip, the rival of the Habsburgs in the Swiss territories, were hostile to him; and others were at least neutral. The work essayed by Barbarossa and Frederick II had all to be done over again. It would seem that Rudolf was not attracted by a policy which meant a slow piecemeal recovery of the kingdom of Arles. He preferred a line of action similar to that of his predecessors who had wished to put over the kingdom a ruler bound by close ties to the Empire; it was no longer a question of a rector, a kind of viceroy, but of a vassal king as had been Henry VI’s dream. Projects of this kind, formed in the reign of Rudolf of Habsburg and his successors, were to occupy the attention of the chanceries of Europe for half a century.

The first of these plans came into being in 1278 as the result of a rapprochement between the Empire and England; this in its turn had arisen out of a negotiation in which Rudolf had shown himself favourable to the claims of Margaret, St Louis’ widow, to the succession in Provence, for at the French court Margaret was the leader of the English party and hostile to that of Charles of Anjou. A marriage was arranged between Rudolf’s son Hartmann and Joan, the daughter of Edward I of England. Hartmann was to wear the crown of Arles, and hold it as a fief from the Empire. Apparently, however, none of the parties concerned took any steps to carry this somewhat chimerical plan into execution.

If the crown of Arles was to be revived, it could only be by agreement with the leading figure in that region, who was then playing the chief role on the political stage in the West—Charles of Anjou. From the beginning of his rule in Provence he had evinced his ambition of wearing the crown. This is proved by the conventions which he made in 1257 with the head of the house of Baux to yield to him the rights to the kingdom of Arles which that family could base on the grant accorded them by Frederick II in 1215. Later, in 1309, Charles II of Anjou renewed this convention with the Prince of Orange, Bertrand II de Baux. The Angevin dynasty had the idea firmly rooted in their minds that, if the kingdom of Arles was to be revived, it must only be done on their behalf.

During the reign of Rudolf of Habsburg, Pope Nicholas III had been solicitous to reconcile the king with Charles I of Anjou, and so to establish a balance of power which would produce peace in Italy. One of the terms in the arrangement proposed by him, and accepted, was the marriage of Charles Martel, the grandson of Charles of Anjou, with Rudolfs daughter Clementia; the dowry she was to bring with her was nothing less than the kingdom of Arles, which was to be reconstituted for the Prince of Salerno, Charles’ eldest son; and he was to pass it on immediately to the young couple, whose marriage was to inaugurate a new system of alliances in Europe. The scheme raised lively alarm in Burgundy and Provence; Count Philip of Savoy, the Count-Palatine Otto IV of Franche Comté, Duke Robert of Burgundy, and others used every effort to make it fail. Whether they would have succeeded, we shall never know. For the catastrophe of the Sicilian Vespers soon put an end to the soaring ambition of the house of Anjou. Henceforward the question for Charles was to maintain his Sicilian kingdom, not to acquire a new one.

A similar project was to be raised thirty years later. Once more it was a question of reconciling Guelf and Ghibelline, the Emperor Henry VII and King Robert of Naples; the reconciliation was by no means displeasing to Pope Clement V, since it would have furnished him with a means of support against the imperious demands of Philip the Fair. One of the conditions of the scheme was the re-establishment of the kingdom of Arles for one of King Robert’s sons, who was to marry a daughter of Henry VII. The project seems to have been seriously discussed during the year 1310, both at the court of Avignon and in the chanceries of Naples and the Empire.

It was easy to foresee the opposition this scheme was likely to encounter. It had to reckon with the hostility of divers rulers whose domains formed part of the kingdom; as they were in fact independent, they were not anxious for this new suzerainty to which they were expected to submit. But above all the opposition of the King of France was to be anticipated. The plan of the treaty did, indeed, lay down that any king appointed by Henry VII “ez aisles ou ez frontieres du royaume de France” should bind himself by oath to be “bienveillant du roy de France ou allié a lui.” This was not enough to disarm Philip the Fair; he was not anxious to see the organisation of a regime which would have the effect of consolidating, to his own detriment, the power of his cousins of Anjou in the south-east of Gaul. We know how vigorously his ambassadors protested at the court of Avignon, towards the end of the year 1310, against the reconstruction of the kingdom of Arles, “if kingdom it be.” They did not fail to impress on the timid Clement V that their king would hold him responsible for this untoward creation. It was inevitable that the project should be silently dropped when the Pope declared that he refused his adhesion to it; moreover, the reconciliation of Henry VII and King Robert was to remain in the realm of things unattainable. On the other hand, negotiators on both sides worked for several years to bring about an accord between Philip the Fair and the Emperor; this also came to nothing, and it seems highly probable that the policy pursued by the King of France on his eastern and south-eastern frontiers contributed no little to the failure.

Philip the Fair had not hesitated to declare his opposition to the accession of an Angevin prince to the crown of Arles. Four years later, however, he was himself working to place this crown on the head of one of his own sons, probably the future Philip the Tall. Now, besides the opposition of the Angevins of Naples, the Dauphin of Viennois, John II, and Amadeus V, Count of Savoy, forgot their rivalry to make common cause against this project. What became of it we do not know. For Philip the Fair died the same year, and his ambitions vanished with him.

Ten years later, the kingdom of Arles became the object of a new scheme, contrived once again for the advantage not of the Angevins but of the Capetians of France. The author of this scheme was no other than Henry’s son, John of Luxemburg, the King of Bohemia. He had one end in view, to win over the King of France, Charles the Fair, to the policy of restoring the house of Luxemburg to the imperial throne, which at the moment was in dispute between the houses of Bavaria and Habsburg. To attain this end, it was necessary to give France something in return; and the proposal was to hand over the kingdom of Arles to Charles, Count of Valois, the brother of Philip the Fair and uncle of the reigning monarch. The misfortune was that this ingenious scheme encountered the opposition of Robert of Anjou, King of Naples and Count of Provence, in spite of the tie which linked him with Charles of Valois in the marriage of Charles’ daughter with Charles of Calabria, the heir-presumptive of Naples. The Angevin king would not renounce, even in Charles’ favour, the hope so long entertained of acquiring the crown of Arles for himself and his line.

A similar project was put forward in 1332, once again on the initiative of John of Bohemia. The idea was to obtain the election of an Emperor favourable to the house of Luxemburg in place of Lewis of Bavaria, and to establish for John a hereditary kingdom in Italy. In return for these advantages, which were of the greatest importance to the Luxemburgs, the imperial authority would invite the King of France, Philip of Valois, to undertake the government of the kingdom of Arles and Vienne; and assent to this had already been given by Duke Henry of Lower Bavaria, who was to be Emperor under the scheme. The plan could only succeed provided that Lewis of Bavaria would bring himself to abdicate. From this course Lewis was dissuaded by certain powerful influences: first of all, Michael of Cesena and his associates, the Spiritual Franciscans; secondly, King Robert of Naples, the head of a house of which several members professed a lively sympathy with this Franciscan sect; and, finally, the aged Cardinal Napoleon Orsini, whose body still lies in the lower basilica at Assisi, and who in his day played an important role in the politics of the time. Thus the second of John of Bohemia’s schemes was ruined.

These failures had not discouraged the ambition of the King of France; he had his eyes constantly fixed upon the rich domains of Burgundy and the valley of the Rhone. To bar the road to him, Lewis of Bavaria, two years after the essays of John of Bohemia, tried to block Philip’s policy by creating a King of Arles who would not be a Capetian. At that time Dauphine was governed by Humbert II, the last descendant of three lines to which this county had belonged in turn. He had been brought up at the brilliant court of Naples, and his imagination was filled with magnificent dreams that could never come true; to Lewis of Bavaria he appeared to be just the man whose ardent ambition could be tempted. So he dispatched an embassy to offer him, in the name of the Empire, the crown of Arles and Vienne. Humbert’s pride was certainly flattered by this brilliant perspective; but, dreamer as he was, he could not fail to realise that he would encounter the energetic resistance of the powerful King of France. Besides, he had also to reckon with the determined opposition of Pope John XXII. The Pope could not be expected to support a project for the creation of a kingdom put forward by a ruler who had been banned by the Church and was in open revolt against its power. Guided by common prudence as well as by religious sentiments, the dauphin had to bring himself to decline the offer of Lewis of Bavaria.


These numerous negotiations, the different authors of which aimed at settling at one stroke the fate of the kingdom of Arles, had continued for half a century without producing any resultant advantage either to the French princes, the Angevin princes, or any other claimants. However, in the course of the same period, the firm and persistent pressure of the policy of the Capetian kings on different parts of the kingdom of Arles had brought some partial, but at the same time quite substantial, advantages to France, which promised a still more successful prospect for the future.

In the last quarter of the thirteenth century, the French monarchy, putting forward the claim that in making war on Aragon it was serving the cause of the Church, had obtained from the Holy See a tenth of the revenues of all benefices; and now, by a special favour, the Popes had assigned the French kings a tenth from various dioceses in the kingdom of Arles, though these were not dependent on the French Crown. It goes without saying that this favour was revoked during the quarrel of Boniface VIII and Philip the Fair; but it remains a fact that for a certain number of years, as far as the payment of tenths was concerned, the clergy of this region had been treated as French clergy.

This assimilation Philip the Fair and his successors were only too anxious to push still farther, as can be seen from the way in which they acted with regard to the temporalities of certain bishoprics in the kingdom of Arles. The temporalities of the archbishopric of Lyons formed an important principality on which the city was dependent. To subordinate this to the royal authority was an aim that had long been pressed by French policy; as is well known, Philip the Fair, assisted by the townsfolk of Lyons, laboured actively to this end, and succeeded, in 1312, in reaching the desired goal, though not without causing grave ill-feeling in the Church as well as in the Empire. Some years earlier, in 1305 and in 1307, conventions made with the Bishops of Viviers gave the king an overriding influence in the domains of that bishopric; he formed a portage, or association, with the bishop, which in the nature of things meant that the royal authority was really dominant. On the other side of the Rhone there extended an ecclesiastical principality of considerable importance, the temporality of the Archbishop of Vienne. The king could certainly not lay hands on this domain; but he kept a close watch on it, and, in order to make his presence felt, Philip VI constructed opposite Vienne at Sainte-Colombe one of those fortified bridge-heads which he regarded as so useful on the French bank of the Rhone. The clergy of Vienne well understood the intentions of their powerful neighbour, and they were anything but pleased by them.

It was not only the ecclesiastical temporalities that stirred the ambition of the French monarchy. At the end of the thirteenth century, Philip the Fair had acquired a dominance over the County of Burgundy (Franche Comté) which no local resistance could shake. By the marriage of his son, the future Philip the Tall, with the heiress to the county, a French dynasty was installed there to the great injury of imperial authority. Farther south, the French king had brought the Count of Valentinois under his influence. Moreover, by skilfully making use of the traditional rivalry between the Count of Savoy and the Dauphin of Viennois, he had made his support necessary to one or other of them, according to circumstances, sometimes to both at once. The time came when the Dauphin Humbert II, having no direct heir and being hopelessly encumbered with financial difficulties, was prepared to sell his dominions. Philip of Valois, as is well known, bought them from him and put in Humbert’s place the eldest son of the King of France, who was to take the title of dauphin without there being any actual change in the subordinate relation of Dauphine to the ruler of the Empire; although he belonged to the French royal house, the dauphin was to remain, in law, a prince of the Empire.

The negotiations for this cession of Dauphine were begun during the reign of Lewis of Bavaria, who was not consulted at all; they were concluded during the first years of his successor, Charles IV of Bohemia, whose consent was similarly not asked for. There was nothing abnormal in such a procedure at this time. Charles IV was entirely disregarded in 1348 when Queen Joanna of Provence sold the imperial town of Avignon to the Holy See, and again in 1355 when the French dauphin and the Count of Savoy concluded a treaty which profoundly altered the territorial constitution of their respective States1. Meanwhile, in 1350, the county of Burgundy passed to a minor, Philip of Rouvres, who by his mother’s second marriage became the stepson of King John. Further, in the course of these years, the French king, having consolidated his position in Dauphine, tried by a similar arrangement to make himself master of Provence. This ambitious scheme was premature, it is true; but it was certainly the case that from this time, during the second half of the fourteenth century, the royal government and especially its representatives in Dauphine, the governor and the delphinal council, worked assiduously to transfer the control of Provence from the Angevins of Naples to the French royal house. This was a scheme which must not be lost from sight if the history of the policy pursued by France in these regions is to be properly elucidated.


The situation in the kingdom of Arles during the early years of his reign could not fail to cause grave anxiety to the Emperor Charles IV. Undoubtedly he aimed at recovering the iura Imperii which were being seriously compromised by the encroachments, especially of France, but the question was how this programme was to be realised. Charles was not possessed at all of the chivalrous traits which distinguished his father John of Bohemia, the hero of Crecy, and his grandfather Henry VII; his qualities were in the spheres of diplomacy and public business. Meticulous, suspicious, and at the same time cold and calculating by nature, he was endowed with consummate patience, which enabled him to leave to time the solution of many difficulties. To make war on France on behalf of the kingdom of Arles was perhaps in his mind; there is a sign of this in the pact he made in June 1348 with the King of England, Edward III, in which he stipulated to hike no part in the struggle between Edward and Philip of Valois, unless he decided to enter into war with France pro iuribus Imperii nostri. This eventuality was never realised: it was consonant neither with Charles’ own character nor with his relations with the French rulers.

Meanwhile, he renounced none of his claims to sovereignty over a considerable portion of ancient Gaul, and especially over the kingdom of  Arles. At the beginning of his reign he had manifested this intention by giving his uncle Baldwin, Archbishop of Treves, the function of acting as his representative, in the capacity of arch-chancellor of the kingdom, a title retained by the archbishops of Treves up to the seventeenth century. But these claims, which he affirmed at intervals and of which he sometimes liked to make a show, were especially maintained by him in a diplomatic contest, at times somewhat stormy, with intervals of comparative calm, at times displayed in public acts which are as contradictory as the tendencies which inspired them. The present writer has already attempted to disentangle the threads of this story, in a book published more than forty years ago. A detailed account would exceed the limits of this chapter, and it must suffice to denote the main points which mark the conduct of the Emperor in relation to the kingdom of Arles.

Charles viewed himself as being the legal embodiment of all secular sovereignty in the kingdom; it resulted that there were no rightful powers other than those emanating from the plenitude of jurisdiction possessed by him. In the secular world, apart from him, the princes could appeal only to claims that were open to dispute; this was a defect in an age more keenly concerned than our own with the ideas of justice and right. It is not surprising, too, that on various occasions he refused to recognise the validity of important acts which had been carried through without his consent, such as the cession of Dauphine or the treaty between the dauphin and Savoy in 1355. Nor is it surprising to find a large number of charters issuing from his chancery to ecclesiastical or lay nobles from whom he exacted homage, to religious establishments, or to towns in the kingdom, granting rights of jurisdiction, municipal organisation, coinage, fairs and markets, even the creation of universities. He never ceased to act as sovereign, and he used the language of his part when he claimed feudal homage from rulers such as the Counts of Burgundy, Savoy, and Provence, the dauphin, or the holders of the great episcopal sees; he received it when they had an interest in approaching the imperial court, or wished to regularise their position in the eyes of the law. His diplomas undoubtedly possessed, both for the grantor and for the recipients, a moral and a legal interest; but the beneficiaries were experienced enough to know that the Emperor would not employ force to give them sanction.

So numerous are the manifestations of this that if anyone were to cast a hasty glance over the register of Charles IV’s acts he might easily be led to imagine that the author of them enjoyed an undisputed authority in these parts. Two instances will be sufficient to illustrate the point.

First of all, the imperial diet held at Metz in December 1356, a few months after the battle of Poitiers. It was a brilliant gathering, and the Cardinal of Périgord was there to represent the Holy See. The great nobles thronged the court, bringing to the sovereign the unequivocal testimony of their obedience. It was an event quite out of the common  in the annals of the Empire when on 22 December 1356 the young Dauphin Charles, regent of France for his father John, who was a captive in English hands, presented himself at the gates of Metz to discharge his duties as a prince of the Empire. He entered the city escorted by a brilliant cavalcade; a period of festivities and negotiations commenced, in the course of which the dauphin decided to yield to the ruler of the Empire what his father John the previous year had hesitated to do. It was undoubtedly under the dauphin’s influence that the young Philip of Rouvres paid to the Emperor’s representative the homage which had long been demanded for the county of Burgundy; while, for his part, the regent of France personally did homage to Charles IV for Dauphiné, and obtained from him in exchange the investiture of this province and the confirmation of his privileges.

Nine years later the Emperor gave a still more striking display of his rights over the kingdom. In 1365 he went to Provence to revive the solemn ceremony of royal coronation which had lapsed for two centuries. The inhabitants of Geneva, of Savoy, and of Dauphine gave him a magnificent reception en route, such as it was their duty to give to their acknowledged sovereign. After a stay with Pope Urban V at Avignon, where he met the Dukes of Berry and Anjou, he continued his journey and arrived at Arles surrounded by a numerous escort, including the Duke of Bourbon and Count Amadeus VI of Savoy. On 4 June, the basilica of St Trophimus witnessed for the last time the splendours of this ceremony, in which the Emperor received from Archbishop William de la Garde the royal crown of Arles and Vienne. This journey was the occasion of numerous grants of privileges, which were bestowed upon prelates, lay nobles, and the new universities of Geneva and Orange; added to this was the creation by diploma of a special coinage. It seemed that Charles IV, in such circumstances, could perform all the functions necessary to display, at any rate in theory, his sovereignty over the kingdom.

Nor did he limit himself to displays such as these. On several occasions in the course of his long reign he went farther and tried to make his authority more real by delegating it. His method was to create imperial vicars, whom he instituted in the kingdom of Arles as in other parts of his dominions, notably in Italy. In 1349, at the moment when the Capetian dynasty had just acquired Dauphine, Charles, who bore this with an ill grace, appointed the Count of Valentinois as his vicar in the kingdom; he delegated the supreme jurisdiction to him, and by the same act put him in a position transcending that of the bishops and great nobles who till then had been his peel's. Later, by virtue of various diplomas, the first of which is dated July 1356, Count Amadeus VI of Savoy, known as the “Green Count,” was deputed, as vicar, to hold sovereign imperial rights not only in his hereditary estates, but also in the dioceses of Lausanne, Sion, Geneva, Belley, Ivrea, Turin, and in various neighbouring districts; it was as though the Emperor, by this act, was wishing to Contribute to the formation of a vast territorial sovereignty iii favour of the house of Savoy. At the end of this same year, 1356, on the occasion of the diet of Metz, Charles, the son of King John of France, obtained the same favour for the domains which he had acquired from the Dauphin Humbert II.

Now the French monarchy had for a century been striving to expel foreign dynasties, including its kinsmen of Naples, from the kingdom of Arles and Vienne, with the clear intention of acquiring it for itself. The granting of the vicariate, which was common in the second half of the fourteenth century, seemed to members of the French government a means of realising the acquisition, while in appearances safeguarding imperial sovereignty, which would thus become a mere outward show. In 1355, before the diet of Metz, the dauphin’s council had claimed for him, not indeed the whole kingdom of Arles, but a delegation of imperial sovereignty over his own domains in Dauphine, over Vienne and its castles, over the counties of Provence, Forcalquier, Valentinois, and Genevois, over the temporalities of the churches of Valence, Die, Sion, Lausanne, and Geneva, and in addition the advocacy of several important monasteries in those parts. The diploma granted to the dauphin on the occasion of his journey to Metz, since it restricted the vicariate to Dauphine, was far from satisfactory to the extensive ambitions of the French government. Those who directed its policy, with their characteristic tenacity, were later to take the project in hand again.

In 1365, when Charles IV stopped at Grenoble on his way to Arles for the coronation, the governor who represented the king-dauphin Charles V had the task of requesting, on behalf of his master, from the Emperor a delegation very similar to that asked for ten years previously, but including also the marquessate of Saluzzo on the other side of the Alps. The negotiations that were begun on this point came to nothing. Charles was evidently not prepared to make concessions of this character; they would have seriously compromised his relations with the Count of Savoy, whose vicariate, moreover, he revoked in 1366.

It was a different story thirteen years later, when Charles IV, realising the dangers that threatened his dynasty after his death, wished to form a close tie with his relatives at the French court, and paid Charles V the famous visit which caused such agitation in the chanceries of the western kingdoms. The Emperor, who was a skilful negotiator, certainly neglected no means of winning the favour of his host. We do not know exactly the promises he obtained from Charles V, who was a ruler as discreet as himself. What we can say is that, in the matter of his own concessions to France, the Emperor held out expectations of his support against England, that he consented to recognise the Franco-Hungarian alliance, which was to be cemented by the marriage of the king’s younger son Louis of Valois (later Louis of Orleans), with the heiress of Hungary and finally, which is most to the purpose here, that he handed over to the French dauphin the vicariate of the whole kingdom of Arles with the exception of Savoy.

This grant was made effective by various solemn diplomas issuing from the imperial chancery at Paris in January 1378. In the whole kingdom of Arles, from Franche Comté to Provence, except the county of Savoy, the young dauphin, Charles, the eldest son of the King of France, received, with the title of Vicar of the Empire, the delegation of most of the attributes of sovereign power—supreme jurisdiction, the rights of pardon and amnesty, of declaring war, of exercising the ecclesiastical patronage and the feudal suzerainty of the Emperor, of coining money, of instituting tolls, fairs, and markets; in short, practically the sum total of regalian rights. All concessions were revoked which conflicted with the diploma conferring the vicariate for his lifetime on the young dauphin.

Actually this grant did not produce throughout the whole kingdom of Arles the effect which the French court might perhaps have been led to imagine. But it was effective in the Rhone region at any rate. The governor of Dauphiné hoisted the standard of the vicar and, by virtue of the powers which he derived from the title conferred on his master, compelled the allodial lords, especially bishops who had previously relied on the immunities granted them by charter, to recognise the superior authority of the dauphin acting in the Emperor’s name; the Archbishop of Vienne, the Bishop of Valence, the Count of Valentinois all discovered this to their cost. To resist with effect the encroachment of the delphinal government required force that they could not muster; but others possessed it and made use of it, for instance the regents of Provence for the children of Louis I of Anjou.


Charles IV did not long survive his grant of the imperial vicariate to the French dauphin. His immediate successor, his son Wenceslas, and after him Rupert of the Palatinate, were too far off and too much occupied with other things; they seem to have paid little heed to the kingdom of Arles. It was different with the Emperor Sigismund, another of Charles IV’s sons. During the first part of his reign (which began in 1410), he displayed on several occasions, as his father had done, his claim to sovereignty. The journey he undertook at the end of 1415 to Perpignan to meet Pope Benedict XIII, whose abdication he wished to obtain, gave the peoples of the Rhone valley the opportunity once more to render the honours due to their lawful sovereign. He himself, like his father, was prodigal of grants and diplomas, among which may be mentioned the one that raised Amadeus VIII, Count of Savoy, to the rank of duke1, and the confirmation of privileges to the towns of Valence and Vienne; further, he made the Bishop of Valence his vicar, and renewed the grant again in 1426. The representatives of the King of France in Dauphine took offence at this. Sigismund certainly was at pains to appease them, for, on the occasion of his journey to Perpignan, he described himself as the fervent friend of Charles VI. This friendship did not survive the visit of the Emperor, a few months later, to the English court, where the glories of Agincourt were still fresh. He made a rapid volte-face, characteristic of his fickle temperament, and embraced an alliance with Henry V, becoming his warm partisan. He went so far as to form a plan to unite his forces with those of the victor of Agincourt, and to make France feel his strength, by taking from her the regions which he accused her of having usurped from him. Of these regions he placed Dauphiné in the forefront, claiming that the Empire had never ratified the agreement made between Philip of Valois and the Dauphin Humbert II; and he did not hide his intention of giving it, after he had won it back, to a prince of the English royal family. This design, which caused some uneasiness in France, was not to be put into execution; it was one of those fanciful ideas that one finds on so many pages of the history of the kingdom of Arles.

Later, influenced doubtless by the French victories, Sigismund changed his point of view once more. The grant of the imperial vicariate had been limited to the lifetime of Charles V’s eldest son, Charles VI; so, on his death in 1422, it legally came to an end. Later on, it became known in the entourage of Charles VII that Sigismund was returning to his father’s policy and might be inclined to renew this grant in favour of France. The question whether there was any advantage from such an arrangement was discussed in the royal council and decided in the negative. The monarchy felt itself strong enough in the east and south-east of France to stand on its own feet. It was obvious that the imperial power was getting more and more feeble in those regions, and that it could cause no alarm to France. Another power was growing and needed to be watched with care, and if need be forcibly opposed, by the Valois kings, though in the meanwhile it served a useful purpose on the eastern frontiers by preventing any advance on the part of the Habsburg Emperors. This was Burgundy under its second ducal house, which in the course of the fifteenth century came near to changing the whole future of the Capetian monarchy. The battle of Nancy (1477), as is well known, at one stroke put an end to the life of the “Grand Duke of the West”, and also to his ambitious schemes.

Though his chief preoccupation was to combat the policy of Charles the Bold, Louis XI did not abandon the traditional designs of his predecessors upon the kingdom of Arles. While still dauphin, he had retired into his Alpine domains, wishing to emancipate himself from his father’s control; having in consequence incurred the wrath of Charles VII, he had taken refuge in Flanders, leaving his principality to come under his father’s direct and absolute rule. When he became king, Louis did not dream of making Dauphine autonomous again. As dauphin and as king, he completed the work begun by his ancestors, and succeeded in finally establishing his suzerainty over the Archbishop of Vienne and the Bishop of Gap, whose allodial position was transformed into one of vassalage. At the end of his reign, in 1481, he was able to acquire the jewel so long coveted in vain—Provence; and from this time its destiny was linked with that of France. Henceforward, the king was master of Lyons, of Dauphiné, to which Valentinois had been added in the first half of the fifteenth century, of Vivarais, and of Provence; he kept a watch over Avignon from his fortress at Villeneuve; and so in the chief part of the kingdom of Arles he was unquestionably the dominant power. Savoy and the districts of French Switzerland certainly remained independent, and for two centuries to come Franche Comté avoided the sovereignty of France. But the French king was master of the fertile valley of the Rhone, of Lyons, a commercial town of the first rank, and of the great port of Marseilles, which introduced French influence into the Mediterranean. A splendid share had come to the kingdom of the fleurs-de-lis; this was the due reward of a far-seeing and patient policy, which made it possible to look forward to the future with confidence and with security.