Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

of England (Angliæ Rox) and Lord of Ireland (Dominus Hibernice, abbreviated on the coins into Dns. or Dn. Hib., or Ib :). This title was retained on the coinage, and subsequently in: "Acts of Parliament, until 1544, when the Irish Parliament designated Henry VIII “King” of Ireland, and the English Parliament sanctioned and adopted the title in 1548. With this notice of the earlier title, which was first adopted in the thirteenth century, we Inay pass from the British Isles to France, which underwent far more extensive and important geographical and political changes.

France. When Philippe Augustus, one of the ablest monarchs that France has ever possessed, came to the throne in 1180, his actual kingdom really consisted of an extent barely as large as Yorkshire and Northumberland, viz., the Isle of France and a small portion of Orléanais and of Picardy. For, although he was nominally feudal sovereign over even more than what is now called France, the country was at that time divided among a number of nobles, dukes, counts, and others, who were practically almost independent of their feudal lord, and not unfrequently set him at defiance. The first instance of this occurred in the case of our own King John, who, though King of England, and so far totally independent of Philippe, was nominally subject to him in feudal tenure for the possessions inherited from his father Henry II, who had married Margaret of Anjou, by which title he became feudal possessor of Normandy, Anjou, Lorraine, Maine, and other portions of France far exceeding in size Philippe's own personal possessions.

When, however, after the death of Richard I, John usurped these French domains which had descended to his elder brother Geoffrey, the young Prince Arthur, Geoffrey's son, appealed against his uncle to Philippe, as John's feudal lord. And as John was at that time under the interdict of the Pope, Philippe availed himself of the opportunity to collect his other feudal lords, and cite John to answer before him in the matter of Prince Arthur's accusations. John, however, was then at warfare with his own subjects, as well as with the Pope, and was unprepared for a fight, and did not appear in answer to the summons. Having been called in vain, with all the feudal ceremony of the time, he was unanimously declared guilty of a breach of his feudal obligations, and Philippe's barons and troops being all ready, sped in every direction at once, and before John had time to make any successful resistance, Philippe had become possessed of Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, and Touraine, and only Guienne remained to John of all his French possessions. These acquisitions the crown of France never afterwards lost permanently.

In consequence of another alleged breach of feudal authority by the Comte of Flanders, Philippe attacked him also, and permanently annexed Flanders to his personal domains—thus becoming more powerful in his enlarged kingdom than any single feudal tributary.

It is difficult to realise in the nineteenth century the strength and tenacity which the conception of feudal lordship exercised over the minds of both feudal lord and feudal subordinates in the thirteenth century, and even later still; and it requires some effort to realise that a king like John, ruling independently over a kingdom many fold larger than the France of that day, should still be bound to obey the summons of his feudal lord ; and, further, that the mind and voice of the other vassals of his over-lord should recognise his duty of submission, and should sanction and assist in carrying out the forfeiture of all that his lord was able to seize. In French history we have other striking examples of the strength and tenacity of this conception of feudal relationship, and we obtain in Scott's novel of Quentin Durward a picture of surpassing vividness of the way in which it operated, in his account of the interview between Louis XI—the feudal lord-and the Duke of Burgundy (Charles the Bold)—the feudal tenant. Again we see the same principle at work in the account of this same Charles' behaviour towards his feudal subordinates-viz., the inhabitants of the towns in Burgundy and the sturdy Swiss, who were also his vassals-in another of Scott's novels, Anne of Geierstein.

Before the close of this thirteenth century another French king, the grandson of Philippe, Louis IX, or “ Saint Louis,” as he was most deservedly called, succeeded to the kingdom, and added still further to his domains by annexing Champagne by purchase, marriage, and treaty; and the extent of France royal was still further augmented in this important century by Philippe IV, le Bel, who added the kingdom of Navarre by marriage, and also Chartres and Lyonnais by purchase and conquest. Thus France, which commenced the century as one of the pettiest of kingdoms, ended it as one of the most powerful in Europe.

THE

INCREASED STRENGTH OF THE ROYAL DOMAIN DERIVED FROM WISE LEGISLATION

OF PHILIPPE AUGUSTUS AND SAINT LOUIS, LOUIS IX.

What Philippe had gained by the sword he retained by the same weapon, but still more effectually by the strong hand with which he repressed all intestine disorders in his new dominions, and made law and order reign throughout, under his new officers (“ bailiffs”) instead of lawless tyranny on the part of the nobles, and

frantic, lawless rebellion on that of the peasants. Philippe also established a standing army of 1200 men for his own personal defence and the suppression of the brigandage which was universal owing to the troops disbanded year by year after the periods of feudal service had been fulfilled. He further instituted a Council of State, consisting of six secular and six ecclesiastical lords, to assist him by its advice, and he furthermore established the University of Paris, and built the Palace of the Louvre.

Succeeding to a kingdom thus freed to a great extent by the previous strong regime from general or popular turmoil, and prepared in a degree by education for a higher standard of action, Louis IX, in accordance with his own character, established a reign of civil law, as distinguished from criminal law, and impressed upon his kingdom an abiding sense of religious and loving obedience, to supersede, as far as might be, the reign of simple fear and force. He abolished judicial combats, enacted laws against excessive usury, and founded the French “ Parlements,” which was the name given to the King's courts of justice, before which all causes were to be heard and decided according to established law, and not by personal caprice. These « Parlements" it must be carefully remembered had no resemblance whatever to our Parliaments, which are institutions for making laws—the French "Parlements" were courts for applying, not making them.

His “Pragmatic Sanction," so called, was also of the utmost importance in establishing the nationality and independence of France; for it forbade the court of Rome from levying taxes or subscriptions, such as “Peter's pence,” in France without the express sanction of the King, and it gave permission to a plaintiff to appeal in certain cases from the ecclesiastical to the civil court; and it thus saved the country from falling under the civil dominion of the court of Rome.

Previous to Louis's reign, twenty-four of the French nobles had issued private coinages, in which they debased the standard of purity at pleasure. But after his return from the sixth Crusade, Louis fixed the standard of purity, and issued such a pure and extensive silver coinage as drove all the others out of use, and thus materially strengthened the kingdom, both in its domestic and its foreign financial relations. As the inscription upon the coin he inserted the legend “Benedictum sit nomen domini nostri Dei Jesu Christi" (Blessed be the name of the Lord our God, Jesus Christ), which retained its place upon the French coinage until the Revolution in 1789; and his silver coins can still be obtained, and are yet in great perfection.

Thus at the close of the thirteenth century there was a France which it is difficult to associate with the France of the twelfth century, previous to the advent of these two great and noble figures who lived and worked in this period of mediæval Europe.

Leaving France and going southward, Spain occupied a position of no weight in Europe during this period : for she was divided in the north into the three hostile kingdoms of Leon, Aragon and Castille, which were constantly fighting among each other, while the south was now tranquilly occupied by the Moors, who had not extended their dominion beyond Cordova in 755, and Granada was only acquired late in the thirteenth century. They had ceased to be a terror to Europe, and constituted really the civilising and elevating element in mediæval Spain.

Portugal, also, was really unimportant in European history at that time, for her period of maritime adventure

« ForrigeFortsett »