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9-08-2015, 15:07

France

In France, Philip Augustus (ruled 1180–1223) and his descendants enlarged the territory of the kingdom through military conquest, marriage, and inheritance; they ruled through a system of professional non-noble royal agents, called seneschals in the south and baillis in the north, who had judicial, fi nancial, and military powers. Extended military actions sometimes required extraordinary taxes, and in the early fourteenth century the king decided that a national assembly was needed to approve such demands. These taxes included a levy on the clergy, which put the king into direct confl ict with the pope, who denied that kings had any legal or fi nancial authority over members of the clergy. The national assembly was organized into three Estates, which were legally defi ned social classes – the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobility), and the Third Estate (residents of chartered towns called bourgs ). This meeting of the national assembly, also called the Estates General, approved the king’s taxes and royal policies vis-à-vis the pope, and during the Hundred Years War subsequent kings sometimes called the Estates General when they needed money. Several of these Estates General granted the monarchy more permanent taxes than did the English parliaments, including the taille on land, the aide on sales, and the gabelle on salt. Some provinces of France had separate provincial Estates, which also imposed taxes that became more permanent. Because of these permanent taxes, the kings of France could more easily engage in warfare without needing to convene a representative body, as the kings of England had to do. In both the national and provincial assemblies, each Estate voted as a block, and gradually the First and Second Estates established the principle that they were exempt from taxes – the clergy supported the monarch through prayer, they argued, and the nobility through fi ghting. This meant that these two more powerful groups were less concerned about tax levels than were their counterparts in England. As in England, during the Hundred Years War the great nobles in France gained power, but Charles VII (ruled 1422–61), the king from the Valois line crowned at Reims through the actions of Joan of Arc, began to reassert the power of the monarchy. He created the fi rst permanent royal army in western Europe, reorganized his royal council, and forced the pope to agree to the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which gave the crown the right to name bishops and abbots and halted some papal taxes. His son Louis XI (ruled 1461–83) expanded the army, using funds gained through commercial treaties and the taxation of economic activities he supported such as silkweaving. Louis sought to further expand the French kingdom, but in this he confronted the power of the duke of Burgundy, who was technically a vassal of the king of France but had allied himself with England in the later stages of the Hundred Years War. Through conquest, treaties, and marriage, by 1467 Duke Philip “the Good” (ruled 1419–67) held not only Burgundy but also Flanders, Brabant, Hainault (all in present-day Belgium and France) and Luxembourg; his son Charles the Bold (ruled 1467–77) sought to expand Burgundian holdings still further, and allied himself with the English by marrying the sister of Edward IV of England. His efforts might have led to a strong monarchy in the east of France, but Charles was killed in battle in 1477. Louis XI seized many of his vast lands, though some went to Charles’s daughter Mary, who, as we have seen, married Maximilian of Habsburg, son of the emperor, the same year her father died. Marital politics expanded the French realm to the west as well as to the east; when the duke of Brittany died in 1489, his widow Anne married two kings of France in succession. She continued to rule an independent Brittany until her death, but eventually the duchy passed to the French crown. During this period of territorial expansion and consolidation, the king’s court developed larger and more permanent institutions. The most important of these was the parlement of Paris, the name given to the royal court acting on judicial business. The parlement of Paris was the supreme court of the territory under direct royal control, which was about one-third of present-day France in 1450, but grew steadily afterwards. Some regions of France also had their own parlements . The parlements could not legislate in the way the English Parliament could, though by tradition they had the right to examine royal edicts and forbid their registration if they did not conform to established law. Kings could compel a parlement to register an edict by personally appearing in the court (an event termed a lit de justice ), however, so this power was limited. In theory, a position as councillor in a parlement required legal training and skill, but the Valois kings Francis I (ruled 1515–47) and Henry II (ruled 1547–59) viewed these posts, along with most other positions in the royal bureaucracy and even the army, as open for sale. The sale of offices became an important means of raising revenue for French monarchs. Most offices were purchased by nobles, who then collected the income and other perquisites from the office and hired someone at a much lower salary to actually do the work required. Holding a royal office opened the possibility for receiving other forms of royal patronage, or for gaining a higher noble title; thus many purchasers were members of the lower nobility or eventually even wealthy non-nobles. Individuals who gained a noble title through office-holding were called noblesse de robe , nobles of the robe, a term derived from the robes worn by judges and officials, and set in opposition to the noblesse d’épée , nobles of the sword, the old nobility whose titles derived – at least in theory – from military service. High nobles viewed this avenue for social climbing with contempt, but it was a means for the monarchy to cement allegiances with those slightly lower on the social scale, who were becoming an increasingly powerful and wealthy group. The price of an offi ce increased dramatically in the sixteenth century – a position as councillor on the Paris parlement went from 6,000 livres in 1522 to 60,000 in 1600 – and with royal expenses also rising, the sale of offi ces became an essential revenue stream for the monarchy. Because nobles escaped most taxes in France, however, the long-term fi scal implications of selling offi ces that carried with them noble titles were very harmful, particularly as many of these offi ces became hereditary.

 

 

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