Feudal France (Between 987 and 1108) – The Organization of the Feudal Monarchy Part II

After the troubled years of the regency, the monarchy organizes its conquests with a policy of peace and justice. Louis IX represents the policy of settling feudal France under the aegis of the royal authority, with the merger of the two authorities, head of the feudal hierarchy and monarch of divine right. Louis IX, like his predecessors and successors, was dominated by the feudal conception and deluded himself that he was governing in the context of the feudal conceptions theorized and rigidified by the treatises. In reality, the monarchy is content to exploit feudal habits, to interpret feudal rules in its own interest, drawing all the political and territorial advantages from it. But the fundamental conceptions are different and are superior to feudalism: the monarch reigns by divine authority,

According to ESTATELEARNING, the curia regis (see below: Law), the center of government, has been transformed: next to the great officers of the crown they appear in the 10th century. XII councilors of obscure, bourgeois origin, modest officers who have actual government duties. In the following age the bourgeois became numerous and powerful in the king’s council, a symbol of an understanding which had by now taken place between the monarchy and the bourgeoisie. In the cities and castles of the old royal domain, the kings of the century XI and XII had had as representatives modest officials, the provosts. Under Philip Augustus, territorial development required the institution of a new provincial official, the bailli ; therefore there were new, wider territorial circumscriptions called bailliages ; as in southern France there was the sénéchausée, headed by a military officer called sénéchal. From Philip Augustus the monarchy tried to organize its finances, that is, to eliminate the most serious drawback of the feudal organization. It is necessary to replace the overtime and the random with the regular and fixed tax. So also for the army: instead of resorting to feudal organization, kings tried to organize their own militias. The Capetian state thanks to this new equipment was able to make rapid progress during the century. XIII. Provosts, baillissénéchaux they initiate a penetration action on every point of France in the name of the monarchy. The monarchy protects, organizes and frames the social forces of the country. The first is feudality. The feudal element of the old domain was severely dismantled in the century. XII and became a faithful executor of the royal will. But in the newly acquired regions the feudal class is still riotous, turbulent, lover of looting, harsh with subjects. The monarchy intervenes to put an end to private wars; oversees the military obligations of vassals; prevents the union of the great fiefdoms by means of marriages and tries to marry the heiresses of the fiefdoms with members of the royal family; intervenes to confirm acts of the great barons with their vassals, bishops and bourgeois; forces the great lords to accept royal decisions, to recognize the king as interpreter of the feudal law, it imposes the obligation of direct dependence on the sovereign on all vassals who have inherited a fiefdom, beginning of the crumbling of the feudal building. Above all, overseas enterprises, the Crusades, serve as an outlet for the restlessness of feudalism. The kings remain faithful to the traditional policy of intimate agreement with the church; repeatedly they fight against the feudatars to defend bishoprics and abbeys. But at the same time they demand the strictest obedience from the clergy. Philip Augustus also uses harshness in his defense of the throne against ecclesiastical claims; bishops and abbots were subjected to all feudal obligations. Even the church was subjected to royal justice and the episcopal courts were recalled to pure ecclesiastical causes. The same strict policy was followed by Louis IX. The latter, on the other hand, tried to protect the French church from the exactions of the Holy See, to prevent the French clergy from being exploited for the interest of the Italian politics of the papacy; but he did not fail to hit the French church with very heavy exactions for the direct benefit of the monarchy.

With Filippo Augusto begins a new directing policy towards the municipalities; the monarchy seems determined to become the protector of the municipal movement. In the century XII the kings had taken an uncertain attitude in this regard; Louis VI grants municipal franchise cards to some center to have allies in an immediate struggle or to get money. Thus Louis VII had tried to exploit the cities, which awakened economically and wished for administrative autonomy, to oppose them to the lay and ecclesiastical barons; in its territories it seems to have prevented or hindered the development of the commune, instead it favors it where it is necessary to weaken the feudal power. Filippo Augusto devotes a lot of attention to confirming or creating municipalities: he increases the municipal prerogatives, regulates the relations of the municipality with the royal authority, simplifies and mitigates the burdens. Wherever then the king found fiscal interests; because the basis of the municipal exemption was inevitably the tax to the royal tax authorities, as compensation for the feudal rights abandoned to the municipality. The monarchy ostentatiously assumes the protection of the communities, even in the territories belonging to the great fiefs that at least partially escape the royal erosion: the municipalities in these territories become the cornerstones of the program of pacification and monarchical transformation in the convulsion of feudal life. The policy of the monarchy towards the communes, however, hints at changing during the century. XIII. As the great feudality bent and fell under the blows of the dynasty, it felt less and less the need to take care of relations with the communes. The royal authority distrusts these cities where the unrest, the contrasts between the various classes are so lively; furthermore, it is necessary to increase the incomes of the crown. The ordinances of Louis IX of 1262 impose on the municipalities the obligation to renew the municipalities every year, to present the annual accounts of expenses and income to the king’s officers. Thus the government was systematically informed of the economic situation of the municipalities. Through all this internal activity, the monarchy tightens to itself the various social elements of France and uses new forces. Near the old element of the Isle of France appear in the century. XIII new elements in the royal administration: Normans, Bretons, Tolosans and Provençals. Paris has already in the century. XIII a very great importance: the royal administration, the university and the trade attract the provincials.

Feudal France (Between 987 and 1108) 2

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