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

At the end of the century, royal politics is already under the influence of generations who have grown up in the belief that France is the first power in Europe. The lawyers who came out of the university schools where Roman law dominated apply the claims of the Roman emperor to their prince; and various treatise writers develop plans for expansion and conquests in dissertations, which represent, if not the real program of the monarchy, certainly the current ideas widely in France. The activity of Philip the Beautiful takes place (1285-1314) in a frame of megalomaniacal aspirations for both foreign and internal politics. The monarchy has now established the zones in which it must operate. First of all, all those eastern countries which, after having formed part of ancient Merovingian and Carolingic France, through the artificial constructions of Lotharingia they flowed into the bosom of the empire or, under the name of kingdom of Arles and Vienna, they sway between Germany and France. According to EXTRAREFERENCE, the valleys of the Saone and the Rhone above all feel the attraction to the kingdom alive. The secular and ecclesiastical principalities slowly break away from the Empire and gravitate around the French monarchy: the royal officials with skilful politics try to assert rights, to root customs in favor of France. To the north-west then, the county of Flanders, a rich country for the development of industries and trade, dominated by a class of capitalist industrialists, organized in the communes and strengthened by a whole series of privileges and franchises snatched during two centuries of struggles. to their principles, it was for France as necessary for the policy of Rhenish expansion as for an advantageous conclusion of the English conflict. Finally, the Gascony in the possession of the King of England was a continuing threat of a revival of the old plans of the Plantagenets. The monarchy dedicated its efforts to these problems, before tackling that maximum program of European hegemony that the treatise writers of the time outlined. It is true, however, that the kings and ministers of France were often overwhelmed by the illusion of being able to translate some points of this program into action and abandoned the methodical execution of those conquests in the immediately neighboring regions which seemed difficult or impossible in practice.

Freed from the conflicts with Aragon, the attention of the French king Philip IV turned to the English problem. Contrasts between French and English subjects gave reason to the government of Paris to seize the Duchy of Guienna and to order its occupation (1295-1296). The reconciliation of 1298, thanks to the marriage of Isabella, daughter of Philip IV, with the heir of the English throne, lasted just two decades; then in 1324 there was a new break and a new occupation of Guienna which lasted until 1327. The conflicts with England were now linked to those of Flanders, whose trade with London and the English ports created an important group of anti-French interests. In 1297 there was the alliance of Edward I and Guido di Dampierre, count of Flanders; L’ elected emperor of Germany Adolfo di Nassau joined the league and the block that Philip Augustus had destroyed at Bouvines seemed to have been redone. Defeated the English, Flanders was occupied by the French who imposed their protection on the count; but Philip IV with the battle of Courtrai saw unsuccessful attempts to subdue the Flemings. Flanders remained tied to England, and France was locked in as much north as south west. The expansion on the side of the border with the Empire seemed easier: Adolfo of Nassau, who had planned to oppose the French advance, could do nothing; the successor Albert of Austria assumed an attitude of sympathy towards Philip IV, of which he practically favored the expansion in Franche-Comté and in Lorraine. Otto Count of Burgundy ceded Franche-Comté to France; the city of Toul also gave itself to Philip IV; various Rhenish princes entered into pacts of alliance and subjection with France; and many bishoprics had prelates linked to the court of Paris. In the Rhone valley the largest imperial center, Lyon, was occupied in 1310 and the feudal states of the region, the Dauphiné, the county of Savoy, the county of Genevese and the minor fiefs were now exposed to the encircling action of the monarchy.

But the expansion program in Italy was not abandoned in the meantime. The Angevins, forced to renounce Sicily, resumed the old ideas of dominance in the peninsula: in 1301 the pretext of pacifying the municipalities of Tuscany brought Charles of Valois, brother of the king of France, to this region, without achieving any favorable outcome; in 1320 Filippo di Valois tries again the same peace program among the lords of Lombardy. So vain were the projects and studies to reaffirm the French primacy in the East, reconquering Constantinople to make it the center of an Angevin state.

Feudal France (Between 987 and 1108) 4

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