Friday, 3 June 2011

Revival and consolidation of France

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During 150 and 1450 large areas of France were under English occupation. The French monarchy was weak The Hundred Years War left France with a declining population and desolate countryside. However, during the last phase of the war, the Estates General granted the King Louis XI (Spider King) the right to an annual direct tax known as the tallie. This tallie tax allowed King Louis XI to be the first Renaissance king to be able to afford cast-bronze cannons. Although Louis had an unattractive personality, he was also clever, calculating, and an extremely effective ruler. He laid a foundation that his successors could build upon. Louis XI gradually gained some of the political and economic control from the nobles and gave it to the eager hands of the Bourgeoisie. However, trying to reduce the power of the nobles all at once was a big mistake. The nobles responded (the War of the Common Weal) and King Louis XI was forced to grant the nobles exemption from the tallie tax. The king also had other income such as tenant’s dues, court fines, confiscated estates, letters of pardon, ennoblement, legitimation, and so on. In addition to these, other revenue developed over the years. These other taxes were aides (excise on the sale of goods; duties and tolls; and gabelle (salt tax), but the biggest tax of all, and the most burdensome on the peasants was the tallie tax, usually on land or property.

Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy was the most colorful ruler of the century. He possessed some of the richest territories in France, some of which he inherited from his father Philip the Good, and others, which he acquired on his own. The dukes of Burgundy were perhaps the strongest rulers in France. Their domain consisted of some of the richest on the continent, but that was not enough for Charles. He wanted more. A series of encounters during the autumn of 1476 with the wise pikeman at Grandson and Murten, the Burgundian knights were defeated and Charles the Bold was killed in a battle at Nancy. Charles had no male heirs therefore the kingdom reverted to the French crown. But his daughter married Maximillian of Austria and this prevented the kingdom falling into the French.

Other than a few non-French territories and provinces where the king had limited authority, only the duke of Brittany stood outside of the royal jurisdiction. This problem was solved when Louis XI son Charles VIII married Anne of Brittany, heiress to the duchy. Eight years later Charles VIII died and his cousin and successor Louis VII repudiated his wife and married Anne, thereby containing Brittany for another generation.

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