FRANCE: THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR (to 1380)
From 1337 to 1453 a fresh conflict, severe and prolonged, was waged between England and France. It was wellnigh continuous, interrupted only for about ten years (1360-69) by a definite peace, and again for about twenty years (1388-1406) by truces of almost equal efficacy. It is owing to this continuity and this duration that it has been called The Hundred Years’ War. It had, as will be seen, a profound repercussion upon the history of England. But as its normal, almost exclusive, theatre was the soil of France, as its object was the ruin of the Capetians of the house of Valois or at any rate the dismemberment of their kingdom, as the military, political, and economic effects weighed upon the whole country and even extended in some measure to neighbouring countries, it is in France and on the continent that its development has principally to be viewed.
In considering the origin of the Hundred Years’ War, we find at its opening interests of all kinds involved: territorial disputes, economic rivalries, political coalitions, and a dynastic rivalry. But these were only the inevitable consequences from the past history. Even the characters of the kings, the conscious part they played in its inception, and their resultant responsibility, deeply as they influenced the nature and progress of the war, seem at the commencement to have been of secondary importance; Edward III was a mere youth, Philip VI a mediocrity. Actually the war represents the laborious liquidation of a heritage from the past that was no longer endurable. The danger to the kingdom of France arising out of the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy had been removed by Philip Augustus; it remained to remove by degrees the further danger arising out of the Aquitaine marriage of Henry II; and so the initial importance of Guienne and Gascony has very rightly been thrown into relief. The continued efforts of the kings of France in this direction since the Treaty of Paris, whether by way of military conquest or legal expropriation, inevitably aroused the definite hostility of the English king; they stirred him to dynastic claims, caused him to seek in every quarter for profitable diversions, as in Flanders and Brittany, and at last led him to adopt the offensive and to invade France.
When the conflict broke out, the kingdom of France had just passed through what may be termed a genealogical crisis. By a singular fatality the three sons of Philip the Fair had died without male issue. The last, Charles IV, left a widow with child. Twice already, on the deaths of Louis X and Philip V, had the king’s daughters been set aside in favour of the next male heir, in each case the king’s brother. But Charles IV had only cousins; and of these cousins, the King of England, Edward III, the son of a daughter of Philip the Fair, held the first place. If it was admitted that his mother could transmit to him a right she could not have enjoyed herself, he was the next male heir; he could assume the regency, and as a result, in a certain contingency, the crown. But if the Capetian succession could only be transmitted through the male line, it must revert to Philip of Valois, the nephew of Philip the Fair. There was no formal law of the State that was precise on this point, and at the assembly of barons held after Charles IV’s death Edward III upheld his rights. Probably this claim of a foreign king worked powerfully on a lurking national sentiment and caused the victory in a more precise form of a principle that had been invoked and applied already in 1316 and 1322.
So Philip of Valois was recognised first as regent, and, after Charles IV’s widow had given birth to a daughter, as king. This event was to have serious repercussions. Meanwhile, however, it appeared to be readily accepted. In order to meet the claims of the heiress with the best title in the female line, Jeanne of Évreux daughter of Louis X, the new king admitted her right to the kingdom of Navarre; a fact to be borne in mind, for her son, the future Charles the Bad, was to go back on the agreement which Jeanne had accepted. As for Edward III, after hesitations and a threat of the confiscation of Guienne, he decided to come to do homage in June 1329 at Amiens for all his actual possessions. But first there had to be negotiations and discussions to decide whether this was to be simple or liege homage, and it was only by letters patent of 30 March 1331 that the King of England recognised himself as the liegeman of the King of France.
The new King of France, Philip VI, had not been fashioned to reign. Hot-headed, undecided, somewhat simple-minded, he readily allowed himself to be controlled. His policy was usually inspired either by the Pope or by his wife, the “masculine queen” Jeanne of Burgundy. He was above all a knight, with all the prejudices of the chivalry of his day. With the same knightly tastes as Edward III, the same love of holding festival, he was politically very much his inferior.
Such was the king who found himself the mighty ruler of a kingdom larger than England, but less coherent and less adaptable. His domain comprising nearly half the kingdom, provided a strong basis for his power But the survival in the four comers of France of great independent fiefs—Flanders, Burgundy, Brittany, and Guienne—weakened the authority within and the defence from without. The royal institutions, already highly centralised and encumbered with officials, were developed without any counterpoise from, or direct collaboration with, the governed. Above all, the King of France lacked regular and adequate financial resources established on a solid footing. What he derived from the exploitation of the domain, and from a few limited taxes, sufficed only, and even then with frequent deficits, for the daily life of the court and for the royal administration. There was no provision for extraordinary needs apart from feudal aids, which were themselves limited to definite and exceptional circumstances. There was no war-chest. If a great crisis occurred, such as a long and difficult war, it would be necessary for the king to draw on the pockets of his subjects by means of subsidies, direct or indirect, by debasing the coinage, by subventions from the clergy or the Pope, by confiscations and other expedients. Even the right of the king to levy subsidies without the assent of his vassals and subjects was uncertain. The Crown was obliged to take account of the ideas of the time and the example of England, and, in order to make its position secure, it had adopted the method of asking for money from its subjects in each town separately, or in provincial assemblies and the States General of Langue d’oil and Languedoc. Moreover, by this time war could no longer be waged without plenty of money. The military services due to the king from the nobles, or from townsmen and country-folk, were varied in character and limited in extent; usually they had been replaced by money payments or had fallen into disuse. By these means it was impossible to get together an army. An army, in fact, could only be raised by special musters, with promises of high pay and large rewards to nobles, both knights and squires, and to Genoese or German adventurers. The assembling, equipping, provisioning of this mixed horde gave rise to abuses and to trickery. Further, the equipment of the nobility was both clumsy and ridiculous; their offensive weapons were very awkward to handle, their defensive armour was cumbersome. The whole science and tactics of chivalry consisted in dismounting one’s opponent and holding him to ransom, or in butchering the common folk, and it required all the verve and imagination of a Froissart to instil any charm into the story of their “apertises.”
What made an effective resistance possible for the kingdom of France was the fact that its prosperity and its resources were then so great. For long no invasion had touched it. The exactions of previous kings had removed more grievances than they had created. Never in the Middle Ages was the population so numerous; it certainly amounted to some twenty millions. Encouraged by the regulation or the redemption of feudal burdens and by the progress made by the royal peace, this population was spread over the open country rather than concentrated in the towns. Cattle were abundant. The holdings were sown with a variation of crops, and in spite of the system of fallow they yielded a good return in the fertile regions; the vines prospered in the South. In the towns, commerce and industry were organised. Paris, with its university, its Lombard banks, its great Company of the Marchands de l’eau, its markets, its great trades, its artisan gilds, was already the most important intellectual and economic centre of the West, and had more than 200,000 inhabitants.
The power of the king and the resources of the kingdom gave scope for great enterprises. A fact, too, of contemporary history increased the confidence of Philip VI. Pope John XXII, a native of Cahors, who had been Bishop of Avignon, had decided to establish in that town the papal court and had begun upon the Palace of the Popes. The new Rome was within the ancient Gaul, on the frontiers of France, at the mercy of the Capetian kings. Close relations were henceforth maintained. The king relied on the Pope in finance and in diplomacy; the Pope relied on the king in the endless contest he maintained with the Empire, both in Italy and in Germany.
In the first years of Philip VI’s reign, thanks to these favourable conditions, it was clear that the royal policy was considerably widening its range. As Philip the Fair had done, the new king intervened at once in Flanders. At the call of Bruges and Ypres, the western part of the land had revolted against the nobility in the country and the patriciate in the towns. The King of France had barely been crowned when he came with a large army at the appeal of the Count of Flanders, and at Cassel on 23 August 1328 his knights crushed the people of Flanders, who were butchered in thousands. The county was harshly punished, and the king and count were enriched by confiscations. Within the Empire, the King of France had made firm alliances. Continuing in the family tradition, he made closer still the link with the house of Luxemburg, which had held the imperial throne and was still ruling in Luxemburg and in Bohemia. John of Bohemia, prince of adventurers, loyal knight, lavish and fantastic, was ever the faithful friend of Philip VI. A Capetian, uncle to the King of France, Robert of Anjou, ruled in Provence and Naples. Philip VI, who had fought in Italy before his accession, was in close relations with the Lombard towns, and the Pope had accorded to him the right of occupying Modena and Reggio, while John of Bohemia sold him Lucca. But this was not enough; the King of France revived the splendid dream of a crusade, strongly incited thereto by John XXII. Preparations began in 1330; the king took the cross on 22 July 1332, and sought to draw in with him the whole of the West.
The crusade was to remain a dream, for between France and England the storm was gathering. Edward I, and quite recently Edward III too, had shown considerable solicitude for their possessions in Guienne, while at the same time they had firmly established their authority in it. They had associated the inhabitants with the administration, granted privileges to the towns, assured a sound coinage, and encouraged the trade of the merchants of Bordeaux, Libourne, and Bayonne. Under Charles IV a part of Guienne had been occupied by the French king’s vassals. Restitution had been promised in 1327, but it had clearly not been made. Interviews, negotiations, agreements could not avail to settle the legal issues of the past. The French encroachments went on, and this invasion of the duchy by process of law was openly pursued; even the question of confiscation was raised. For Edward III the choice lay between surrender and taking the offensive.
Elsewhere, too, the situation was hardly less difficult. The kings of England made continuous and energetic efforts to dominate Scotland. Now the alliance between France and Scotland was becoming a tradition of Capetian policy; the first agreements dated from 1295. When Edward III imposed on the Scots his creature Edward Balliol as king, it was in France that the dispossessed king, young David Bruce, took refuge, and he found there an asylum “moult débonnaire”. Philip VI at first attempted to get his mediation accepted. But, from the end of 1335 onwards, he directly lent his aid to the Scots, and an expedition was prepared for the spring of 1336. For Edward III this constituted a serious grievance.
In Flanders, the victory of Cassel had imposed the penalty of French influence; the count was wholly bound to the King of France. And yet, for their industry, the Flemings had need of England. To restore the balance, Edward III cleverly exploited the fact that the Flemish clothiers could not do without English wool; on 12 August 1336 he boldly prohibited the export of wool to Flanders. Reprisals followed: English merchants were arrested in Flanders, Flemish merchants in England. The Flemings thus found themselves in a dilemma between their economic interests and their duty of fealty to the count and the King of France. Relations between France and England became still more critical.
Another incident added to the hostility. Robert of Artois, the brother-in-law of Philip VI, considered himself to have been defrauded of the county of Artois. To provide more evidence of his rights and to oblige the king to do him justice, he let himself be guided by a band of intriguers who fabricated forged documents. Through a maze of complicated proceedings, with enquiries, oaths, imprisonments, executions, Robert of Artois maintained his rights against all comers. He was banished and deprived of his possessions; consumed with shame and hatred, he finally took refuge in England, where he received a noble welcome from the king and queen; there he never ceased to incite Edward III against France and the King of France.
Finally, a coalition was formed in the north against Philip VI. Edward III skilfully made use of family connexions and the greed of the princes of the Empire. A very successful diplomatic campaign, starting at the end of 1335, was conducted by the Bishop of Lincoln in the Low Countries and western Germany. He held great state and purchased allies, from the Duke of Brabant to the Margrave of Brandenburg. But his finest achievement was the alliance with the Emperor, who promised on 15 July 1337 to supply 2000 men-at-arms in return for 300,000 florins.
At the same time Edward III was making his military preparations. For long the English kings had imposed on their subjects the obligation of arming themselves according to their means. This had recently been regulated in detail by an ordinance of1334. Firstly, the barons and knights had to respond to the summons of the king, who took them into his pay or allowed them to buy themselves off; secondly, the king made a levy among the freemen with arms, “the strongest, most adept, most skilful in shooting with the bow or handling the lance, most inured to fatigue”. Thus was created a redoubtable body of infantry, armed with light bows made of yew and rapidly discharged, or with long pointed knives. A regular military education was envisaged. The knightly sports, so different from real warfare, were forbidden, and were replaced by contests with bows and arrows. The making of bows even became a privileged trade. Finally, all Englishmen were encouraged to have their children taught the French language, “which would make them more apt and useful in the wars”.
In face of these menaces and preparations, Philip VI was slow to determine his attitude. Up to 1336 he seems to have been entirely occupied with the crusade. But his policy was dependent on that of Benedict XII, who was little interested in the crusade but wished above all to settle to his own advantage the conflict between the Papacy and the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria. On the other side, the royal administration pursued its work in Guienne with a stolid tenacity, refusing to make any concession and at the same time making no stay of legal process. French sailors came to blows with English sailors, and preparations to help the Scots were continued. The embassies which passed between London, Paris, and Avignon seemed but an idle game. Benedict XII, though successful in imposing his mediation between England and Scotland, failed between France and England; facts were too strong for him. At the end of Lent 1336, full of uneasiness and distrust, he suspended the crusade, to the great disappointment of the King of France. At the Parliament at Nottingham in September 1336, Edward III spoke of the safety of his kingdom, and affirmed his rights to the crown of France. Then at last Philip VI began to rouse himself, and on 24 May 1337 the forfeiture of Guienne was proclaimed. The alliance of Edward III with the Emperor disturbed the Pope’s zeal for peace and further precipitated events. On 27 October 1337 Edward III in a letter to Benedict XII described Philip VI as “soi-disant” King of France. On All Saints’ Day the Bishop of Lincoln brought to Paris a formal letter of defiance, and a few days later the English devastated the island of Cadzand off the coast of Flanders. The Hundred Years’ War had begun.
The opening stages were at once complicated by a local crisis. Edward had indirectly dealt a decided blow at French influence in Flanders by stopping the Anglo-Flemish trade and prohibiting the export of English wool to Flanders. The Flemish cloth-trade, thus deprived of its raw material, was brought to a standstill, especially in the important town of Ghent, the chief centre of the trade; unemployment and distress were rife there, and sullen passions were rising against the count and the King of France, stirred by the rigorous treatment meted out to anyone suspected of English sympathies. The hostility of the commonalty to the rich burgesses yielded to the graver issues, and it was a rich clothier, James van Artevelde, a man in the prime of life, circumspect, eloquent, influential, who was invoked by the common people as their saviour. He counselled the people of Ghent to have no fear of France, but to come to terms at once with the King of England for a resumption of the wool-trade, and to organise a kind of economic defence of the Flemish towns. They put their trust in him; all factions ceased. As captain-general of the city he was able to frighten or to persuade the other great towns into the coalition. The Count of Flanders, Louis of Nevers, was helpless, and took refuge at the French court. The negotiations of Ghent with Edward III were immediately successful: English wool reappeared in Flanders, and a commercial treaty was concluded.
In the summer of 1338 Edward III appeared himself in the Low Countries. At Antwerp he lavishly distributed the money he had borrowed; at Coblenz, in a picturesque and symbolic ceremony, the Emperor made him imperial vicar. But it was not until 1339 that the King of England was able to assemble his allies, who were more prompt to receive money than to come into action. Philip VI also arrived with all his force; at the end of October the two armies were at Buironfosse in Picardy half a league apart, but they did not come into touch with each other. As some consolation for this check, Edward III obtained the effective alliance of the Flemings. To overcome their repugnance to disown their lawful lord, the King of France, he took at the Parliament of Ghent in January 1340 the title, the arms, and the seal of the King of France. All kinds of commercial advantages were granted to King Edward’s new subjects; at the same time the union of Flanders, Brabant, and Hainault was effected.
The campaign of 1340 was hardly more fruitful than the preceding one, in spite of the fact that it opened with a great victory by sea. Edward III on his return to England bad collected an imposing fleet. Philip VI, for his part, tried to organise a royal fleet, which was increased by vessels requisitioned in the Channel ports and by Genoese galleys. The Normans even had the design of a descent upon England and a second Conquest. On the French admirals was imposed the duty, under pain of death, of preventing the English from crossing and landing in France. The fleets met off Sluys. The French, hampered by their method of recruitment and with all the worst of the position, were decisively defeated after a battle lasting nine hours. But the actual campaign, in spite of the assistance of 60,000 Flemings, was limited to the useless siege of Tournai. As Edward III was in debt, and affairs in Scotland and Guienne were going unfavourably for him, the first “grand truce” of the war was signed on 25 September 1340.
The Breton war of succession
Following on Flanders, came the partial defection of Brittany and its influence on the Hundred Years’ War. On the death of Duke John III without issue, his brother John of Montfort and his niece’s husband Charles of Blois disputed the duchy. The rights of both were open to question, but both of them, without admitting any doubt, requested the King of France to receive their homage. The court at Paris after long discussions gave the verdict to the king’s nephew, Charles of Blois, who based his rights on grounds analogous to those of Edward III to the crown of France. Before sentence was given, however, preparations for a struggle had already been made. Brittany was by nature set apart, a land of heath and furze bushes, firmly attached to its traditions, inhabited by a pious and stubborn people, and divided up among a numerous squirearchy little better than peasants, with a few great barons. On the other hand, it was cut in two by difference of language: to the East, the French half, the Gallot, more fertile, and exposed towards Anjou and France; to the West, the Bretonnante, with the old Breton language and the moorlands. French Brittany was for Charles of Blois, the Bretonnante for Montfort. The two adversaries provided a similar contrast: Montfort was daring and intriguing; Charles was pious and learned as a clerk, scrupulous and merciful.
Montfort at once sought to lay hands on the duchy and to occupy the principal posts. To make himself more secure, he journeyed to Windsor to meet Edward III, and obtained his ready co-operation; the English could have no better means of entry into the kingdom of France. Charles of Blois could not hesitate any longer. Philip VI provided him with an army, commanded by his son John, who besieged Montfort at Nantes and forced him to surrender. But Charles, though the great Breton lords were all on his side, had still two-thirds of his duchy to conquer. So began the fierce Breton war which lasted more than twenty years, an obstinate and complicated struggle, which gave employment and entertainment to the men-at-arms, while the two leaders, Montfort and Blois, made prisoners in turn, were as often as not absent. The first campaign alone had some unity of plan; it was conducted at first with heroic energy by Jeanne of Montfort, a woman “with the heart of a man and a lion”, who defended Hennebont in a siege which has become legendary. Later, English assistance arrived, and in the autumn Edward III himself appeared. As in Flanders, Philip VI brought a strong army. Both sides, however, were anxious to avoid battle on the approach of winter, and two cardinals intervened to bring about a truce at Malestroit in January 1343. But the English maintained their footing in Brittany.
When war broke out again, Edward III, with fewer cards in his hand, was singularly more fortunate. The situation had been modified: in the spring of 1341 the Emperor had abandoned the English alliance and revoked the imperial vicariate of Edward III; many German princes imitated his withdrawal. Secondly, Artevelde had disappeared from the scene. Faction had appeared again in Flanders, and the mass of the artisans had risen against Artevelde, suspecting both his financial administration and his dealings with England. The Captain of Ghent was basely murdered by those who had raised him up. However, Philip VI, “bien hâtif homme” and entirely under the influence of his queen, Jeanne of Burgundy, was not able to profit by these circumstances. In Brittany war broke out again as the result of the mysterious and impolitic executions of Breton nobles. A great Norman baron, Godfrey of Harcourt, a feudal noble through and through, was prosecuted by the king’s justice and took refuge in England, where he did homage to Edward III. Treason surrounded Philip VI and embittered his temper. Then, Edward III made a new effort, this time in Guienne, where the King of France was continually encroaching by legal process or direct attack. The King of England had done everything to earn the gratitude of his subjects in Aquitaine, and, thanks to them, in the summer of 1345 the Earl of Derby was able to make a preliminary expedition, which drove back the French and took from them nearly fifty strong posts. The great effort made the next year by Duke John of Normandy with a splendid army against Aiguillon failed miserably, and in a second expedition the Earl of Derby pushed as far as Poitiers and Saint-Maixent, driving all before him.
Encouraged by these initial successes of Derby and by the promises of Godfrey of Harcourt, Edward III decided in July 1346 to land in Normandy near Saint-Vaast de la Hougue. With a small but dependable army of 20,000 men he penetrated, without striking a blow, as far as Caen, under the guidance of Godfrey of Harcourt, took the town after a courageous defence by the inhabitants, and, after profitable raids in all directions, pushed forward to the Seine, which he wished to cross in order to join hands with the Flemings. Philip VI, “dolent et angoisseux”, fearing fresh treasons, bustled about uselessly; he was unable to prevent the crossing of the Seine by the English at Poissy. Then at last he decided to initiate an active pursuit of them; he hoped to entrap them in the triangle between the Channel and the estuary of the Somme. But on 23 August Edward III managed to force the passage of the Somme at a ford below Abbeville, and on 25 August entrenched himself strongly on the plateau of Crecy. There, on the following day, took place the first great battle of the Hundred Years’ War. The reckless charges of the French chivalry broke before the strong position of the English, the volleys of the archers, and the knives of the foot-soldiers who penetrated into their ranks. The day ended in a headlong rout; the King of France was in flight; his army was broken and left some 4000 men on the field. King John of Bohemia was among the dead.
From Crécy Edward advanced to lay siege to Calais, which was to be the prize of victory. The town was a vigorous one, inhabited by good seamen, well fortified, two sea-leagues distant from Dover. The siege lasted for almost a year. To ensure the blockade, the English erected a new town, Villeneuve-la-Hardie. Jean de Vienne, a Burgundian, defended the town with a fierce energy, but the English could not be induced to loosen their grip by any diversion. Moreover, the Scots were beaten at Neville’s Cross in October 1346, and Charles of Blois was defeated and taken prisoner before La Roche-Derrien in Brittany on 20 June 1347. The King of France made a tardy effort to relieve the loyal town, but retired without fighting. Calais was reduced to extremity; they ate “toutes ordures par droite famine”. The defenders resolved “to die honourably in their places rather than to eat one another”. However, they discussed capitulation; but the conditions were very harsh. Edward III at first wanted to put to death all who remained within the walls; he contented himself with insisting that six burgesses should be sent to his camp with the keys of the city to suffer for the rest. Eustace of Saint-Pierre and five other burgesses volunteered; when they came before him stripped to their shirts with halters round their necks, he ordered them to be led to execution; and it was only the queen that was able to melt his wrath. The inhabitants had to migrate, and they found a hospitable refuge in France. Englishmen came to people the city anew; Calais was to remain English for two centuries. After the fall of Calais, two cardinals arranged a general truce which lasted till after the death of Philip VI. Moreover, peace was made in Flanders, where the new count, Louis de Maële, came to terms with the towns; but he was to prove a very lukewarm vassal for the King of France.
Philip VI was to end his days amid gloom and mourning. Yet, in spite of his mediocrity and his misfortunes, his reign was not without distinction and usefulness. He was devoted to the chase, living as a rule close to the great forests in the neighbourhood of Paris, holding high state; it was only war that forced him to rigid economy. Numerous important ordinances regulated in detail the Parlement, the treasury, the king’s justice, the river and the forest laws. The royal administration held in check the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, of which the very principles were freely discussed at an assembly of bishops and barons held at Vincennes at the end of 1329. By skilful policy, for which the royal officials were mainly responsible, Philip VI was assured of the definitive possession of the great southern town of Montpellier and the acquisition of the Dauphine for the endowment of his grandson Charles; thus was France happily rounded off in the south and east. But, more important still, war obliged the king to develop and organise his finances. On several occasions he had to have recourse to the States General, to listen to their grievances and even their reproaches, especially after Crecy. To the provincial assemblies of Normandy and Vermandois he made important concessions on the administration of subsidies. Improved and detailed regulations were laid down for the various kinds of royal taxes, whether direct taxation, in the form of the hearth-tax (fouage), or indirect, such as charges on the sale of merchandise, the salt-tax (gabelle), the tenths permitted by the Pope from the clergy, loans, and changes in the currency which were often made secretly and caused great disturbance to trade. The financial stress arising from defeat in war was not the only trial to which the kingdom was exposed at the end of the reign. On top of this came the Black Death in 1347, with a frightful mortality among the king’s subjects. Finally, Philip VI experienced the loss of most of those dearest to him; he himself died on 22 August 1350.
Accession of John II
Under John II, the war was to take a still more unhappy course for France. John was a little over thirty years of age; his father had made him Duke of Normandy, but he had failed to learn in his duchy the profession of king. As general in Brittany and Languedoc he had shown himself greedy for money but of poor judgment and extremely self-willed, “lightly making up his mind and difficult to move from his opinion”. He was subject to impulses and terrible rages. Otherwise, in spite of his unpleasing countenance and stolid expression, he was in many ways quite attractive; he could inspire affection by his generosity and spirit; he was known as John the Good. Unfortunately he was the victim of bad advice; not that his counsellors, for instance, Simon of Bucy, Robert of Lorris, Nicholas Braque, were knaves and rogues, but they were unscrupulous, intriguing, and greedy men.
While King John was ordering the execution of his Constable, Raoul de Brienne, to make way for his favourite, Charles of Spain, and while he was founding, with much pomp and circumstance, the Order of the Star, a new danger was arising for the kingdom. Charles, King of Navarre, born in 1332, was the nearest in descent from Philip the Fair, and through his mother, the daughter of Louis X, the prince most adjacent to the throne. In spite of his short stature, this young man of eighteen gave promise of the happiest gifts: he was affable, eloquent, and winning; but he was also full of ambition and covetousness, a hypocrite and mischief-maker. John married him to his daughter, a child of eight. Unfortunately misunderstandings soon arose between him and his son-in-law. Out of revenge and spite, the King of Navarre caused the new Constable to be stabbed, boasted of the murder, and at once entered into negotiations with the English. As he possessed extensive domains in Normandy, his alliance might be of priceless value to Edward III; so the King of France preferred to make a humiliating peace, in betrayal of his own interests, and increased the Norman domains of Charles. But the execution of the treaty gave occasion for a fresh conflict Charles, who from that time earned his surname of “the Bad”, fled to Avignon and secretly proposed to the King of England to partition the kingdom of France. Under the threat of an invasion, King John capitulated a second time.
This unexpected alliance decided Edward III to an active renewal of the war in 1355; in spite of the efforts of the Pope, successive truces had not been converted into a regular treaty of peace. An attempted invasion of Artois by Edward III himself yielded no result. But the eldest of his sons, the Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, haughty and magnificent in bearing, an intrepid and successful warrior, had arrived at Bordeaux. In the autumn, during a sudden expedition lasting two months, he ravaged Languedoc up to Narbonne, and returned unmolested to Bordeaux; never had been seen such destruction.
The year 1356 was to be full of remarkable happenings. In November 1355 John assembled the States General of Langue d’oil to demand supplies for the approaching campaign, and though they granted the subsidy they showed themselves very distrustful and exacting, wishing to keep in their own hands the administration and the disposal of the taxes which they had voted. At this meeting the lead was taken by the Provost of the Merchants of Paris, Etienne Marcel, a rich clothier like Artevelde, and like him daring and ambitious. Then in April 1356 a dramatic event happened at Rouen. The King of Navarre, continually bent on intrigue, sought to draw into a mysterious conspiracy the dauphin Charles, King John’s eldest son; a disturbing movement was revealed in Normandy. John’s wrath was roused, and in the middle of the festivities to celebrate the accession of the dauphin to the duchy of Normandy, to which he had just been appointed, the king suddenly appeared, and ordered the arrest of the King of Navarre and the execution of several nobles of Normandy and Navarre. At the same time, the possessions of the King of Navarre and of the Harcourt family in Lower Normandy were seized; the princes of Navarre and the Harcourts appealed for help to Edward III. Actually the Duke of Lancaster arrived soon afterwards, and advanced to Verneuil; and he only retired before a large army led by the king himself.
These events took place in the month of July. At the same time, the Prince of Wales, leaving Bordeaux with a small but very reliable army, penetrated as far as Touraine; on 7 September he was at Amboise on the Loire, with the obvious intention of uniting with the rebels in Normandy. But John concentrated all his forces against this redoubtable adversary. The English retired; it was a contest of speed almost to the gates of Poitiers. They had been pressed by the French, and on the morning of 17 September near Maupertuis they were preparing to continue their retreat when they were attacked by a large mounted advance-guard. They halted. The French dispositions for the attack were badly conceived; the advance-guard was repulsed and driven back in disorder. In succession the “battles” of the King of France, who fought on foot contrary to his custom, were routed: the first was broken by the volleys of the English archers; the second was overcome by panic; the last, led by the king, hoped to save the honour of the day, but John himself was taken prisoner. 7,000 English had cut in pieces 15,000 French; in three hours all was over. The Prince of Wales treated his royal prisoner with all chivalrous courtesy; but he hastened to take him to safe custody at Bordeaux. In the early spring of 1357, after accepting a truce for two years, he conducted him to England, where all London thronged to see the King of France enter the city. The unfortunate John waited there for his release for more than three years, engaged in hunting and jousting, keeping great state and receiving every consideration. His subjects sent him money and good wines. It was only in the last year, 1359, that a stricter regime was enforced.
In France the grief and the distress were extreme. In the South, the States of Languedoc passed an ordinance forbidding the wearing of “cointises” of any kind and imposing silence on the minstrels. There were mutterings of sullen anger against the nobles, who had failed to defend the king and the kingdom. Some ambitious and discontented spirits started an intrigue against the Valois in favour of the descendant in the direct line from the Capetian kings, Charles of Navarre. As ruler there was the eldest son of the king, the dauphin Charles, a young man of nineteen, who had hitherto kept silently in the background; he had at an early stage abandoned the field of battle at Poitiers. He was only the king’s lieutenant and so had but a limited and uncertain authority. He had immediately to face the States General summoned for October. There the strength of the bourgeoisie of Paris was displayed in all its might, led by Etienne Marcel, who undoubtedly was inspired by an ideal of reform and government, and by Robert le Coq, Bishop of Laon, an ardent partisan of the King of Navarre. They had the whole populace of Paris behind them, for they spoke readily and well, and they had just grievances in their attack on the dishonest administration of King John’s officials. “Now is the time to speak”, said Le Coq. “Shame to him who speaks not well, for never was the time so good as now.” The States strove to impose detailed restrictions on the royal prerogative, to get rid of the bad officials, to release the King of Navarre, and above all to organise round the dauphin a new form of government which would narrowly confine the young prince under the tutelage of the States. But skilfully, without any display, and without any sign of weakness, the dauphin managed to prorogue the States for a time while he went to Metz, under the pretext of seeking the alliance, useless though it was, of the Emperor Charles IV.
On his return, he found Paris much excited by the debasing of the coinage which he had ordered as a means of raising money. Since Marcel had made himself all-powerful, he had for the moment to yield to the storm. The leading officials of King John were imprisoned or in flight, and the States General had to be reassembled in February 1357. Less rash than their predecessors, they extorted a great ordinance which aimed at restoring order to the royal administration without going so far as to put the dauphin under tutelage, as designed by the previous States. But the times were too troubled for this wise reform to be permanent, or for a reasonable control by the States to be organised. Besides, no new right had been created; no proper charter had been presented and accepted; reforms and control alike were, as before, closely linked together and depended upon internal dues and the raising of temporary subsidies. Moreover, above the dauphin, his lieutenant, was the king, who had relinquished none of his power; he forbade the payment of the subsidy granted by the States and any further meetings of the States. So everywhere there was a certain number of refusals to pay, and the later meetings of the States, to which the dauphin was compelled to submit, soon came to be but the shadows of assemblies. A decided check had been given to the doubtful experiment of the States General.
Meanwhile the dauphin was too short of money to be able easily to shake off the yoke of Marcel, Le Coq, and their party. Moreover, the King of Navarre had reappeared on the scene; his release had on several occasions been demanded by the States. While a session was in progress in November 1357, Charles the Bad escaped from the castle of Arleux, thanks to the intrigues of Marcel and Le Coq. The Provost of the Merchants reckoned on finding in him the necessary support so as to dominate the dauphin more securely. Charles the Bad hoped to profit by the circumstances to obtain money and lands himself, and perhaps to arrive even at the throne. Henceforward he turned to his own advantage the movement of reform. In fact, as soon as he was released, he displayed himself and made speeches to the people of Amiens, Rouen, and Paris; he demanded reparation; he thrust himself upon the dauphin; he was allpowerful in council.
At the end of a month, however, the dauphin had exhausted “the virtue of patience which God had given him”. He took the offensive. Like Marcel and the King of Navarre, he made speeches himself, and had them made by others, to the people of Paris. It was Marcel and his friends, he gave out, on whom fell the responsibility for the revolutionary government to which he had been obliged to submit. All was now going from bad to worse: no serious reforms had been made; the subsidies brought in a poor return; the enemy, English and Navarrese, were everywhere; communications and provisioning had become difficult. Who was to blame but those who controlled and paralysed the royal authority? So it was the dauphin who now criticised the government imposed upon him, and denounced the new officials and their evil administration of the finances; he had received nothing from the subsidies. His masters replied, but the harm was done. King John, moreover, had arranged in London a satisfactory treaty of peace.
To meet the threatened transformation, Marcel and the King of Navarre thought to find two remedies. Firstly, in order to terrorise the dauphin by deeds of bloodshed, the two marshals of Normandy and Champagne were murdered at the prince’s own table. Secondly, they made the young prince regent, believing him to be entirely in their power for the future and hoping thus to profit by a complete authority equal to that of the king. But the dauphin was too subtle: a month later he found a clever pretext for leaving Paris, to which he was only to return as master. Once free, he applied himself to using his full power as regent against those who had put it in his hands. In fact, he now became confident and daring: he assembled at Compiegne a meeting of States entirely devoted to his cause; he collected soldiers; he occupied important positions around Paris; and he replied firmly and haughtily to the demands that he should return to the city. Marcel was uneasy: he wrote letters reproaching and threatening the prince; he organised the resistance of Paris, sought to raise money, put the walls in a state of defence, and assembled the artillery.
A tragic episode complicated the situation still further. The English had advanced up to the region around Paris; to them were added the officers of the King of Navarre; finally, the dauphin had collected his soldiers also. English, Navarrese, Bretons, and Gascons lived on the open country. The country people were the chief victims; continually they had to take refuge in towns, castles, churches, woods, or marshes. So their anger increased against the nobles: the nobles who had been defeated at Crécy and Poitiers, and now could not even defend their own people, but remained under arms, living on pillage and exactions, pretending to assist the dauphin and fight the English. In 1358 exasperation reached its height; and a spark started the conflagration. On 28 May, in the south of the Beauvaisis, the first effroi took place; several of the gentry were murdered. Immediately there were bands of peasants roaming the countryside, especially in Picardy and north of the Île de France. They were known as the Jacques, from the garment of that name worn by peasants. These bands set themselves to hunt the gentry down, and to sack and burn the castles; besides the peasants, there were also craftsmen from the towns, and clerks. The Jacques tried to create an organisation and took as their leader one Guillaume Cale. A few towns—Beauvais, Senlis, Clermont—were on their side. The terror of the nobles and burgesses finds an echo, rising to legendary heights, in the chroniclers. But, perhaps because the nobles fled before them, the Jacques seem to have indulged in pillage rather than bloodshed.
Marcel, without making an open alliance, acted in concert with them, and organised a kind of Jacquerie around Paris. The chief exploit was the attack by a troop of Parisians and peasants on the market-town of Meaux, on an island of the Marne, where the dauphiness and a part of the court had taken refuge. The ladies would have been captured and come to grave harm but for the unexpected arrival of Gaston de Foix, who was returning from Prussia. The assailants were routed and slaughtered wholesale. At the same time, Charles the Bad, in whom the common folk had placed so much hope, was himself conducting reprisals on the peasant bands to the north of Paris. He it was who got possession, by treachery, of the person of Guillaume Cale and had him put to death; the Jacques were now a body without a head and were cut in pieces. The nobles were pitiless. Before 24 June, 20,000 persons had been put to death. The Jacquerie was drowned in blood, and the villages were reduced to destitution by crushing fines.
At Paris, this marked the end of the power of Marcel and Charles the Bad; they were becoming unpopular, for the only object they had in view was to make war on the dauphin and to serve the interests of the King of Navarre. Besides, the dauphin was in front of Paris with an army and was attempting a kind of siege. Conferences failed to re-establish an accord that had become impossible. In vain Marcel called to his help the Flemings; they would not move. To protect himself, he was reduced to admitting the English into the city, to the great wrath of the Parisians. For his part, Charles the Bad was in negotiation with Edward III for a partition of the French kingdom. The common people, however, wished to fight the king’s enemies, who were pillaging the suburbs; they made a sortie, but fell into an ambush and many Parisians perished. The provost was hooted in the streets. The King of Navarre, who had prudently established himself at Saint-Denis, entered into pourparlers with the English and the dauphin in turn, but made no progress. Possibly at the end of his tether, he was about to return to Paris and proclaim himself as king, when on 31 July some resolute spirits roused the populace against Marcel as he was going the round of the defences, and killed him without anyone interposing on his behalf. His chief accomplices were immediately seized, and put to death or banished, and their goods confiscated. On 2 August the dauphin entered Paris, which gave him a great welcome. He sensibly granted a pardon to the Parisians at once; those who had remained faithful to him were rewarded out of confiscations, and the deposed officials were reinstated; the royal prestige and authority were restored. Thus ended in failure a premature attempt to limit and control the royal government. Of Marcel little was known; he was too exclusively Parisian, and his purpose was not understood by the rest of the country. Finally, the King of Navarre came and upset everything by his foolish ambition, and completed the ruin of the party of reform.
The dauphin had still to bring to an end two wars, the English and the Navarrese. The defeat of Poitiers had disorganised the defence of the kingdom. Around Paris, the towns of Poissy, Creil, Melun, Lagny, and Meulan had fallen, and remained in enemy hands. Brie and Champagne were overrun by English and Germans, Normandy and Picardy by the Navarrese. The valley of the Seine was pierced at several points, and from the Loire to the Garonne bands or companies occupied numerous castles. At the head of these Companies were enterprising leaders, whom Froissart has celebrated, such as Robert Knolles, Eustace of Auberchicourt, James Pipe, Bertucat d’Albret. The dauphin lacked money to resist them: the subsidies, both general and local, were poorly paid, owing to the universal distress; the debasement of the coinage brought in less and less profit because of the increased value of the silver mark. However, an energetic local defence was concerted with the inhabitants of every district. These were only “petites besognes”, but they were pursued harmoniously and tenaciously, and had happy results. Lieutenants and captains nominated by the dauphin were in charge of these local defences; among them appeared Bertrand du Guesclin. The burghers of Rouen, the communes of the district of Caux, the inhabitants of Caen, the burghers of Rheims and Châlons, among others, united in this way with men-at-arms and recovered a large number of fortresses from the leaders of the bands. The sentiments of sober folk were demonstrated in a striking fashion when King John, in March 1359, sacrificing his kingdom for his freedom, accepted in London the draft of a treaty which reconstituted in its entirety the domain of the Plantagenets prior to Philip Augustus, abandoned to Edward III all the west of the kingdom from Guienne to Calais, including Normandy, and imposed a ransom of four million gold crowns. The States General, diplomatically consulted by the dauphin in May, declared without hesitation that the treaty was “neither tolerable nor feasible”, and that they must “make goodly war upon the English.” By means of the subsidy voted, the dauphin was able to attack the King of Navarre. Siege was laid to Melun; it was distinguished by the prowess of du Guesclin in the royal army. But Charles the Bad had grievances against Edward III, and the dauphin was afraid of an English invasion. So they made peace at the end of July 1359: Charles recovered his lands and received money and fresh territory, but ceded Melun; at an interview the two princes were reconciled. The King of Navarre came back to Paris, where he received a poor reception from the people, who cherished rancour against him. The reconciliation, indeed, was only a verbal one; he remained an enemy.
The truce made at Bordeaux after the battle of Poitiers had expired; as peace had not been concluded, the English invasion recommenced. Edward III only appeared in Picardy in the autumn of 1359. His army was an imposing one and well provided; it was like a festal progress, for Edward III wished to be crowned at Rheims. But, on the French side, orders had been issued to everyone to take refuge in fortresses, and to the men-at-arms to refrain from battle. Edward III arrived before Rheims without encountering an enemy or capturing a stronghold; nor could he take the town. At the end of a month the English went into winter quarters in Upper Burgundy. In the spring of 1360, while a humiliating treaty freed the rest of Burgundy from invasion, Edward III appeared before Paris. The gates were firmly closed; for twelve days not a move was made. The English were at a loss what to do; the Scots were stirring, and Picard seamen had ravaged the English coast. A terrible storm in the plains of Beauce did grave damage to the English baggage train; and famine was threatening. At last Edward III decided to listen to the papal legate, who “every day held parley with him for the making of peace.”
Treaty of Bretigny
On 1 May 1360 conferences were opened at Bretigny near Chartres. In a week’s time the draft of a peace had been accepted and signed by the dauphin and the Prince of Wales. The King of England recovered the Agenais, Perigord, Quercy, Rouergue, the county of Bigorre, the Limousin, Saintonge, Angoumois, Poitou, the counties of Montreuil, Ponthieu, and Guines, and he retained Calais. The King of France was to abandon all jurisdiction over these territories. He bound himself to pay a ransom of three million gold crowns, the first payment, of 600,000 crowns, to be made at Calais within four months, the other payments to be guaranteed mainly by the surrender of numerous hostages. The English restored the fortresses of which they were in possession. Throughout the kingdom the relief was immense, though to some the terms of peace seemed too onerous. John left England in great pomp on 1 July. At Calais he waited until the hostages were ready and the money had been collected for the first payment of his ransom. When Edward III came to join John at Calais, only 400,000 crowns had been collected; but this satisfied the English king. In the midst of great festivities, a definitive form was given to the conventions of Bretigny; the charters were dated 24 October 1360. Very cleverly, the French negotiators caused the renunciation of sovereignty over the ceded territory by the King of France to be separated from the treaty proper. This renunciation, together with Edward III’s of the title of King of France, was subjected to various delays and conditions, and so it was much more easy to postpone and even to evade it altogether.
Once back in France, John had to carry out the treaty. It was a hard task: the handing over of territory was a slow process, performed with a bad grace and delayed by the reluctance of common people and nobles alike; it was not complete until 1363, when the Prince of Wales came to govern the English domains. The collection of the ransom was more laborious still. It was only in February 1361 that John completed the payment of the first instalment. An aid was established on the sale of merchandise, under a special administration, to last for the whole period in which the ransom was being paid. The burden fell mainly on the lie de France, Champagne, Normandy, and Languedoc. From 1360 to 1364 there were bad harvests, disastrous frosts, and a return of the plague. Finally, a part of the money collected was employed for the various needs of the kingdom; in 1364 King John was a million in arrears.
The kingdom at that time was the prey of armed bands or Companies. Disbanded at the peace, the Companies, whose trade was war, did not disarm; and they kept the strongholds they should have surrendered. The men in these Companies, Englishmen, Germans, and Spaniards, dreamed of nothing but surprises, pillagings, and above all ransoms; when they could not hope for good ransoms they were deliberately cruel. Each Company was organised like a small army, and was accompanied by various craftsmen, by clerks to draw up the “pâtis” (ransoms of villages) and safe-conducts, by dealers, mistresses, and pages. Sometimes they spread over a whole district, sometimes they joined up together; they were extremely mobile. They preferred the pasture-lands and wine-growing districts of Normandy, Burgundy, and Languedoc. In Normandy they were hunted by du Guesclin, appointed captain of the open country, and with remarkable success. Around Paris the Companies were more difficult to uproot. Meanwhile a number of these bands united together in Champagne and spread into Burgundy; they were known as the Grand Company. Their plan was to lay violent hands on the convoys of money coming from Languedoc for the king’s ransom. Geguin of Badefol, “the king of the Companies,” and other leaders surprised Pont Saint-Esprit near Avignon. There was great panic, and the Pope excommunicated the Companies. From there the bands penetrated into Italy; others established themselves in Languedoc; others again poured back northwards into the Lyonnais. A small royal army opposed their passage; it was cut to pieces at Brignais on 6 April 1362. The Companies, incapable of turning their victory to account, dispersed in different directions. In order to deliver the kingdom from them, King John revived the crusading project of Philip VI, and came to Avignon to interview the Pope. But it never amounted to more than a dream.
At the end of 1363 the king’s attention was occupied with the question of the succession to Burgundy. Philip of Rouvres, ruler of both the duchy and the free county of Burgundy, and also of Artois, Auvergne, the county of Boulogne, and other territory, died without immediate heirs, leaving a widow herself heiress to the county of Flanders. The King of France at once united the duchy of Burgundy to the Crown, as next of kin; the counties of Artois, Boulogne, and Auvergne were given to collaterals of the late duke. But the King of Navarre, who considered himself to have claims, received nothing. The entry into possession of the duchy was speedily effected. King John came himself to Dijon, and appointed his son Philip first as his lieutenant, then as Duke of Burgundy, and obtained from the Emperor the formal investiture with the county of Burgundy as well. Thus was founded the second Burgundian house, which was to become so powerful and so formidable. A few months later the King of Navarre made his protest; without replying to the Pope’s offer of mediation he prepared for war, and entered into correspondence with the English and with the leaders of the Companies.
But at this moment John disappeared from the scene. While he was negotiating, at the price of dangerous concessions, for the release of the princes of the blood who were hostages in England, one of them, his second son, the Duke of Anjou, broke his parole and escaped. John honourably decided to return to England in order to guarantee by his presence the execution of the treaty and to be able to negotiate. The dauphin was made regent. John was received with great pomp at London; after a winter spent in entertainments, he died there on 8 April 1364.
The work of Charles V was to repair the harm done by King John. The new king was twenty-six years of age. Physically he resembled his father, except that he was sickly and awkward in manner; he had a thin and angular figure, a pale, grave countenance, and an intent gaze. The last eight years had endowed him with experience and patience; so he had renounced the glamour and the bustle of war for tactics that brought no glory and also no risk. He had, besides, acquired great self-control and the power of hiding his feelings, which he considered necessary in a king. Above all things he liked order and moderation. No king had higher ideas of the royal dignity; he honoured his ancestor St Louis with a deep reverence. His devotion and zeal for all that had to do with religion were remarkable, and yet he could be tolerant. He was bountiful and spent money readily, and liked to surround himself with a truly royal luxury, to heap up precious objects among his treasures. He built the Hotel Saint-Paul, a vast residence, full of variety and richly decorated; he transformed and embellished the Louvre; he completed the castle of Vincennes. A lover of deep designs, astrology fascinated him. He enjoyed speculative ideas, liking to delve into causes and principles, and he was keenly interested in all that made up the science of his day. He collected a splendid library, which was housed in the Louvre; in particular he enriched it with translations of ancient works, specially made for him. There is, however, a darker side to this portrait: bis magnificence did not permit of economy, and he loaded his subjects with taxes; and his thoughtful and acute mind often led him to prefer cleverness to straightforwardness, legal finesse to equity in judgment. His subtle sophistry and the secrecy of his ways made him more to be feared than did his actual power.
Charles V knew how to surround himself with men of high worth: speculative thinkers like Raoul de Presles, translator of the Bible and of St Augustine; Philippe de Mezières, who inspired the Songe du Verger; Nicholas Oresme, translator of Aristotle, a great opponent of astrology; above all, with men of affairs, like his chancellors the two brothers de Dormans and Pierre d’Orgemont, his companion and closest friend Bureau de la Rivière the provost of Paris, the redoubtable justiciar Hugues Aubriot, and the skilful financier Jean le Mercier. But the most illustrious of all was Bertrand du Guesclin, who has already been mentioned more than once. Born in 1320, between Rennes and Dinan, after a rough and stormy childhood he had revealed his strength at jousts and tournaments, had fought for Charles of Blois in Brittany, and then for the king in Lower Normandy. When Charles V came to the throne, he was already famous for his marvellous exploits. He was a rough and stubborn soldier, without any of the prejudices of chivalry, fond of exposing his own person but very careful of his men; further, he was upright, dependable, and straightforward.
Charles’ first task was to settle up the legacy from the past: war with Navarre was beginning again, war in Brittany was still going on, and the Companies were spread over and terrorising the kingdom. It was the succession to Burgundy that had provoked Charles the Bad to fresh hostilities. The dauphin, as regent for his father on the latter’s return to England, wished to bring this new war to a quick end; by skilful surprises du Guesclin got possession of Mantes and Meulan just at the moment of King John’s death. This freed the valley of the Seine. A Navarrese army, derived mainly from the Companies and commanded by a famous Gascon adventurer, the Captal de Buch, arrived with all speed. Halted near Cocherel on the Eure, it was cut in pieces by du Guesclin, and the Captal was taken prisoner. The king learnt the news on the eve of his coronation at Rheims. The war, indeed, dragged on in Normandy, and not very satisfactorily, until the end of 1364. The Pope and the Captal, who was tired of captivity, persuaded the King of Navarre to treat for peace; he once again recovered his domains, but he exchanged Mantes and Meulan for the distant and strategically valueless Montpellier. Troublesome as ever, he would not seal the treaty with his great seal, and the Captal had to guarantee his master’s signature. It was, indeed, a “paix renard”.
In Brittany the situation had become lamentable. To avoid the expenses of war, Edward III had “farmed out” various parts of the duchy among his captains, who in their turn sub-let the government and possession of castles to adventurers who made the best offers. The peace of Calais had not put a stop to this intolerable state of affairs. Meanwhile, Edward III, in the capacity of guardian or practically of gaoler, had since 1343 been keeping John, the Montfort heir, by his side. In 1362 he released him to go to Brittany, after having tied his hands by rigorous conditions. In order to escape from them, John wished to come to terms with Charles of Blois. But Jeanne of Penthièvre, from whom her husband Charles of Blois derived all his rights, would not consent; hostilities were resumed, and the issue appeared as the judgment of God against her. In front of Auray, in spite of the support of du Guesclin, the army of Charles of Blois was overthrown in September 1364; Charles was killed and du Guesclin taken prisoner. It was useless to prolong the struggle. Charles V caused peace to be signed at Guérande a few months later: John of Montfort was recognised as Duke of Brittany; in default of male heirs the duchy was to revert to the children of Charles of Blois. John did homage to Charles V but remained English at heart.
The war in Castile
After this peace the Companies, thrown out of employment, were more than ever a public danger. As it was impossible to destroy them or to drive them out, the Pope and the King of France sought to dispatch them on distant expeditions; the first objective was Hungary, to make war on the Turks. But Hungary was far off; the bands got no farther than Alsace and poured back into France. The next idea was Spain. The ruler of Castile was Don Peter the Cruel; by his justice and his rapacity he had aroused great hatred. Moreover he had deserted, and either allowed or caused the death of his wife, who was Charles V’s sister-in-law. Finally, he had pursued with success a policy of hostility to Peter the Ceremonious, King of Aragon, a ruler of vain and restless temperament. One of the illegitimate brothers of the King of Castile, Don Henry, endeavoured to profit by these circumstances to organise a coalition with the Kings of France and Aragon against Don Peter. With Charles V’s help, Don Henry and du Guesclin collected a large number of the Companies; at Avignon they compelled the Pope to absolve them and to pay them large sums. On the other side of the Pyrenees they conquered Castile for Don Henry within two months. But the expedition had had too speedy a success, and most of the Companies poured back again into France. Meanwhile, Don Peter had come to Bordeaux to entreat the Prince of Wales to undertake his defence and help him to reconquer his kingdom. The prince was tempted by this expedition, which revived in Spain the struggle of French and English. He came himself, with an army of Gascons and various Companies; the King of Navarre, without declaring openly for him, delivered to him the passes over the mountains. At Navarete (Najera), in April 1367, the English defeated Don Henry and du Guesclin, who was again taken prisoner. But the Black Prince was ill, his army was decimated by dysentery, and he had rapidly to return to Bordeaux. Du Guesclin, after the payment of an enormous ransom, immediately brought fresh bands into Castile; Don Peter, abandoned to himself, was defeated at Montiel and killed by his brother’s hand in March 1369. Don Henry was now definitely King of Castile, thanks to the support of Charles V and the tenacity of du Guesclin. As for the Companies, they had been exhausted by these successive campaigns. Throughout the kingdom defensive and repressive measures were taken against them, and the last bands were reduced to great distress. It was just at this time that the great war was about to recommence.
It seems certain that up to 1378 the government and policy of Charles V were dominated by a single idea, the reversal of the Treaty of Calais and the desire for revenge. Undoubtedly, in his love of order and authority, which was known in his entourage as the “bonne policie”, he maintained and affirmed his rights against all men without hesitation; he watched over the constant increase and the proper administration of his domain and of his justice; he firmly and prudently applied himself to the preservation of the public peace. But his chief care was to make preparation and provision for a new war. The reforms in the domain, even with the complete reorganisation of its administration, could not suffice for that. The taxes on sales of merchandise and on liquors, instituted to pay the ransom of King John, were gradually diverted from their object. At the beginning of 1363, and especially in 1369, with the more or less direct concurrence of the States, the necessary revenue was made up by a direct tax, the hearth-tax. The new taxes were in course of time made permanent, and a timely revision of their administration assured their proper collection and employment. To these were added special subsidies from Languedoc, the salt-tax, local taxes raised to meet special requirements, and loans. A reform of the currency, which was firmly adhered to, relieved the royal finances as well as commercial transactions from fluctuations that were usually disastrous. In spite of malversations, exemptions, reductions granted to towns, and gifts to princes of the blood, Charles V had in this way the means to renew and to maintain the struggle.
He was, in fact, able to reorganise the army. The nobles of the kingdom, from princes of the blood to the humblest squire, were enlisted in the king’s service, paraded for review by his marshals, grouped in companies under his captains, and led to battle by his lieutenants or his Constable. The pay was carefully fixed and regularly paid by the war treasurers. Besides the nobles there were the cross-bowmen of the towns and some auxiliary corps of foreigners. Shooting with bow and cross-bow was, as in England, to replace all other sports, and meetings were to be held for the purpose. An already powerful artillery, which could discharge projectiles of more than 100 pounds, was an effective contribution for siege-warfare. The fortresses were regularly inspected, and were put in order at the expense of the lords, or destroyed if they were in bad repair and unfit for defence. Paris was surrounded with a new circuit of walls, and the neighbouring citadel of Vincennes was completed. Lastly, Charles V created a regular royal navy, the organisation of which was carried out by the admiral, Jean de Vienne. The arsenal was Clos des Galées at Rouen, on the Seine. Royal fleets could thus take part in great military operations.
Armies and fleets were not enough; Charles V was no less active in diplomacy. At the beginning of the conflict, great danger was to be feared from the direction of Flanders, which, from the time of Artevelde, lay open to English influence. The count, Louis de Maële, was much less reliable than his father. His only heir to his counties of Flanders, Artois, Burgundy, and Nevers was his daughter Margaret, widow of the late Duke of Burgundy. He would have liked to marry this great heiress to one of Edward III’s sons, but the Pope and the King of France put obstacles in his way; and in return for the cession of four towns which Flanders had lost in the time of Philip the Fair, he had to accept Charles V’s brother Philip, who was already Duke of Burgundy, as his son-in-law and heir. This marriage, the important political consequences of which will appear later, brought Flanders again, for a time at any rate, under French influence. An equally valuable alliance was that with Castile, to which Don Henry steadfastly adhered, and which was further supplemented by an alliance with Portugal; the imprudent designs of the Duke of Lancaster against Castile helped to strengthen the tie. Lastly, Charles V ensured the good will, if not the actual support, of the Emperor. The diplomatic work of Edward III at the beginning of the war had been almost completely undone; Charles V had managed to reconstruct it to his own advantage.
It soon became evident how insecure the peace of Calais was. The handing over of territory to the English was done slowly and with a bad grace. Edward III had been suspected of encouraging the Companies and giving his support to John of Montfort, and the Prince of Wales had fought against the French in Castile; oil the other side, King John’s ransom had not regularly been paid, and intrigues had been conducted by the French in the ceded districts. From 1368 onwards the tension grew, until it reached a crisis. The Prince of Wales held great state at Bordeaux; his government was hard, his demands high. He surrounded himself with Englishmen, and cultivated the friendship of a few of the larger towns, granting them privileges and exemptions. This disquieted the great local nobles; led by the families of Armagnac and Albret, they turned to Charles V. Moreover, by the Treaty of Calais, the King of France had only suspended his jurisdiction and sovereignty over the ceded districts. The renunciations agreed to at Bretigny, but skilfully excluded from the Treaty of Calais to be made into separate acts, had not been handed in by the appointed date. Charles V had discovered a legal way, a lawyer’s dodge the Duke of Lancaster called it, of escaping from the most serious of the concessions promised. After the campaign in Castile, the Prince of Wales was obliged to demand heavy subsidies from his subjects. John of Armagnac, Count of Rouergue, made a vigorous protest, which was not heeded, and then went off to the King of France; at the same time the Sire d’Albret married Charles V’s sister-in-law. All agreement was quickly concluded between the King of France and the great Gascon lords, and the appeal which they addressed to the Parlement against the Prince of Wales was entertained. The proceedings were conducted coolly and carefully. In January 1369 the Prince of Wales was cited to Paris. At the same time French sympathies were manifested in most of the districts ceded by the Treaty of Calais; the towns of Rodez and Cahors set the example, and by March more than 800 localities had rallied to the cause of French sovereignty. The Prince of Wales, a sick man, sent for the most famous of the English captains, Chandos, to conduct the war in his place; and hostilities were begun in Rouergue, In the north, Ponthieu was similarly won over. At the beginning of May, in an important assembly at Paris, the States General approved the actions of Charles V. An ultimatum was sent to Edward III, who immediately resumed the title of King of France.
The war was conducted with method on the French side and had reconquest for its object; in a few months, the whole of Rouergue, Agen, Tarbes, with most of the Agenais and the county of Bigorre, had been recovered, and Poitou was invested. The English, true to the memories of Crécy and Poitiers, recommenced their invasions; but the French tactics, tested already in 1359, of creating a void in front of the enemy, reduced to impotence the expeditions of Lancaster in Picardy and Normandy, and of Robert Knolles from Calais to Burgundy. After an unsuccessful demonstration in front of Paris, Knolles disappeared into the west; then du Guesclin arrived, summoned in all haste from the Limousin by the king. On 2 October 1370, at a solemn assembly, Charles V made him Constable and promised him his full confidence. In December, as the sequel to a daring raid near Pontvallain, du Guesclin surprised a part of Knolles1 army, overwhelmed it, and drove the remnant by the valley of the Loire into Brittany. In the south, the English had lost the town of Limoges. This new disaster enraged the Prince of Wales and brought him into action again; he made a furious assault on the town and handed it over to his troops to pillage. Shortly afterwards, his illness obtained the upper hand, and he retired to England to die a lingering death
The most decisive achievement was the conquest of Poitou, which was accomplished in three years by the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry, mainly owing to du Guesclin and his Bretons, with the aid of Castilian ships and of the adventurer Owain of Wales, who claimed to be descended from the ancient princes of Wales dispossessed by the kings of England. An English fleet was burned by the Castilians in the bay of La Rochelle. The captures of Chauvigny, Sainte-Sévère, and Soubise were occasions of Homeric exploits; in front of Soubise the Captal de Buch was taken prisoner a second time. Poitiers opened its gates with enthusiasm. La Rochelle, though thoroughly French at heart, was jealous of its privileges; it refused to be intimidated by the rough threats of du Guesclin, and did not open its gates until it had obtained from the royal princes the full extent of its demands. Every attempt made by Edward III to bring help to his captains ended in failure. After the capture of Surgères, in which the Poitevin nobles who had remained faithful to the English cause had taken refuge, and the defeat of a small enemy force by du Guesclin outside Chizé, the last English posts surrendered. Poitou, Aunis, Saintonge were, and remained for ever, restored to the French kingdom.
Charles V could well expect to win a similar success in Brittany. The Duke, John of Montfort, brought up in England and bound by personal ties to Edward III, gave a great welcome to Englishmen: Knolles, Chandos, and many others held castles and lands in his duchy. It was a source of considerable embarrassment to him when war broke out afresh between France and England; in the summer of 1372 he decided on alliance with England. But, in spite of the men-at-arms and the captains sent him by Edward III, he was deserted by the leading nobles and towns in Brittany, who since the Breton war of succession had hated the English. After having renounced his homage and set Charles V at defiance, John IV fled to England. Du Guesclin occupied the principal positions in the duchy, and by the end of 1373 only four Breton fortresses remained in English hands.
To make up for all these disasters, Edward III attempted a fresh invasion. He was too old to lead it himself, and the Dukes of Lancaster and Brittany could not break the spell of bad fortune; they followed the road that had been trodden three times already, from Calais to Burgundy. At a great council held at Paris, du Guesclin and Clisson, a leading Breton noble who had recently come over to the king, advised that now above all the policy of creating a void in front of the English should be adhered to. Lancaster’s army was sorely tried: after having crossed the Loire, it could only capture Tulle and Brive; and out of 30,000 horses only 6000 reached Bordeaux at the end of a campaign of five months. Once this expedition was over, the Duke of Anjou and du Guesclin pushed forward to La Reole. At the same time, Jean de Vienne, after a siege memorable for the part played in it by artillery, captured Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, a town in Normandy, one of Chandos’ fiefs. The English had failed to maintain a defence, and Charles V had attained his end. So both adversaries listened to the efforts of the Pope on behalf of peace; on 27 June 1375 a truce was concluded at Bruges, but, as the English adhered to the Treaty of Calais, a peace was impossible. It was during this truce that two of the principal actors vanished from the scene: the Prince of Wales in June 1376, and in June 1377, abandoned by victory and deserted by his friends, the aged Edward III.
Left by himself, Charles V experienced vicissitudes of fortune. Jean de Vienne with the French and Castilian fleets ravaged the English coast, but was unable to recover Calais; and the Duke of Burgundy was no more fortunate on land. On the other hand, Bergerac fell into the hands of the Duke of Anjou, and Bordeaux was threatened. But the grave anxieties of the worst days were revived when the king learnt through the capture of some agents of the King of Navarre that Charles the Bad had not ceased to play the traitor, and that in 1370, 1372, and again in 1378, he had negotiated with the English for the dismemberment of the French kingdom. All sorts of crimes were imputed to him, the last being a cunningly-laid plot to poison Charles V. The king shewed no hesitation: he forced Charles the Bad’s son to disavow his father; and du Guesclin and the Duke of Burgundy were sent to Normandy to occupy the domains of the King of Navarre. Cherbourg alone held out, because Charles the Bad had handed it over to the English; but a diversion of the Duke of Lancaster against Saint-Malo failed miserably. At the same time, Don Henry of Castile attacked Navarre. English succour came from Bordeaux, but could not save the king; his principal castles were seized. Charles the Bad was ruined; he was despoiled of his domains in France, even of Montpellier, and dragged out the rest of his life in hopeless destitution.
After the King of Navarre, the Duke of Brittany. At the end of 1378 Charles V commenced a rigorous process against him in the Parlement. By a judgment of 18 December, he was declared felon and his possessions were attached to the royal domain. The solution was too abrupt and hasty; this annexation to the domain did violence to Breton sentiment, which adhered above all to its ultimate independence. The oaths which the king exacted from the great Breton lords, du Guesclin, Clisson, Rohan, did nothing to lessen the popular indignation; and even Jeanne of Penthièvre took the side of the native Bretons against the King of France. John IV was recalled, and appeared at Dinard on 3 August 1379; the French were helpless against him. Du Guesclin, divided between his Breton and his French sympathies, spent his time in insignificant operations. Some of his enemies, accordingly, sought to destroy Charles Vs confidence in his Constable. They failed in this, but du Guesclin, in order to remove all suspicion, went off to fight the Companies, which had appeared again in the centre of France. Before Chateauneuf de Randon the Constable fell ill; the keys of the town were handed to him when he was on the point of death. His body was brought back to Paris and buried at Saint-Denis next to the tomb prepared for the king. In him were personified the stubbornness, heroism, and subtlety of the tactics that effaced the consequences of the great defeats.
From this time hostilities began gradually to die out. The new King of England, Richard II, was only ten years old at the death of his grandfather Edward III; and symptoms of trouble were beginning to appear in England. Charles V, who had attained his end, had turned aside from the war to other objectives. At the end of 1377 he received the Emperor Charles IV at Paris with majestic pomp; receptions, solemn councils, secret conferences followed one another in turn. Charles V held the Dauphine in the name of his son; his brother Philip was heir to the county of Burgundy; another brother, the Duke of Anjou, had tried to establish himself in Provence; and all of these were imperial territory. There was also mutual business to be discussed and difficulties to be provided for. The Emperor gave the King of France the imperial vicariate in the ancient kingdom of Arles; and alliances were concluded between Charles V and several princes in the Rhine valley. After this came the question of the Schism, the return of Gregory XI to Rome, the election at Rome of the Italian Urban VI, and at Fondi of the Frenchman Robert of Geneva, Clement VII. As Clement could not establish himself at Rome he returned to Avignon, and the royal diplomacy was henceforward entirely engrossed in obtaining his recognition in France and in Europe. So with regard to England the only idea was peace. Conference followed conference. Charles shewed himself conciliatory, and offered to give back Quercy, Périgord, Rouergue, and Saintonge as far as the Charente, with a large indemnity, and also to give his daughter in marriage to the young King of England. A fresh English expedition, led by the Earl of Buckingham, through Picardy and Champagne and as far as Brittany, yielded no result; while the attacks of the French fleet at the mouth of the Thames caused more fear than harm. Further, the King of France also tried to come to terms with the Duke of Brittany. From all this a genuine peace might have resulted, when suddenly Charles V was stricken with a mortal illness. Gregory XI, Don Henry of Castile, his queen Jeanne of Bourbon, a daughter, and finally du Guesclin, had all predeceased him. Now he himself passed away, fully conscious to the end, grave and devout, on 16 September 1380.
With Edward III and his son, and with Charles V, the first part of the Hundred Years’ War came to an end. Long and bitter though it was, and interspersed with disasters and terrible crises for France and unheard of successes for England, outwardly it made no change at all. Of their ephemeral conquests the English only kept Calais, Cherbourg, and Brest, and their possessions in Aquitaine were hardly more extensive than in 1336; England was no stronger, no more prosperous because of it. France was certainly covered with ruins and was still infested by armed bands. But the Valois had triumphed over rivals and over traitors: Charles V was more firmly established on his throne than any of his predecessors; the monarchical government was more strongly organised; Brittany had not been separated from France; and a Valois was Duke and Count of Burgundy, and was soon to become Count of Flanders. And, in particular, there was one consequence, not yet visible but of capital importance; for in the struggle national sentiment in the two kingdoms had already become definitely self-conscious.