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They further agreed to adopt whatever measures the King and his council should recommend; and under pretence of restoring the standard of the coin, they were asked to approve of a heavy tax on all the subjects of the Crown. The Ordinance made on this occasion was in the name of the Regent as well as the King, and purported to be by the advice and consent of the Three Estates. It may be recollected that by the treaty Henry bound himself, both as Regent and when King, to advise with the nobles and wise men of the realm, to preserve their rights and those of the towns and communities, and to impose no taxes save in cases of necessity, and to a reasonable amount. The Regent Bedford, after his brother's death, did not assemble the States to obtain either a recognition of Henry VI.'s title or supplies for the war; but he called a meeting of notables, lay and clerical, for both those purposes. They granted an aid; but when he asked for a restoration to the Crown of all the lands granted to the Church during the last reign, the clergy treated the proposition as sacrilege, and Bedford was obliged to withdraw it. Here, then, it should seem that the embarrassments of the government imposed some restraint upon the royal authority.
Charles VII., upon taking the management of affairs into his own hands, pursued an entirely different course from that of Armagnac in the provinces which he still held. He assembled the
States-General at Bourges, and those of Languedoc at Carcassonne, asking from them a recognition of his title upon his father's death, and a supply for the expenses of the war. Both requests were willingly complied with; but a complaint of judicial abuses accompanied the grant, and Charles issued an Ordinance to redress the grievance. It was prepared by a commission of prelates and lawyers, and must be regarded as an important result of the difficulties in which the Crown was placed, and a concession obtained through the popular assembly. Another step in the same direction was afterwards
1425. made by the Parliament at Poictiers, whither Charles had transferred the Parliament of Paris. That body refused to register an Ordinance giving the Pope the power of nominating to benefices. The ground of the refusal was that the Ordinance had been surreptitiously obtained by the Romish clergy, and in derogation of a former Ordinance of Charles establishing the independence of the Gallican Church. As his embarrassments increased he more frequently appealed to the States; but he found great difficulty in obtaining their attendance from the disturbed state of the country. Sometimes no meeting could be held; sometimes they met, but in small numbers. Of their proceedings the accounts, where any have reached us, are both meagre and contradictory. Among the statements which can be relied on is one, that the Assembly in Languedoc, having made a very inconsiderable grant to Foix, Charles's lieutenant, and he having attempted to raise 22,000 livres beyond the sum given, though to be expended in the service, the States remonstrated, and the additional collection was suspended by a Royal Ordinance. The States General assembled at Mehun some time before had shown very little of the same jealousy. They complained of the expenses occasioned by the army and of the outrages which it committed; but granted a general taille, and, expecting not to be often again assembled, declared their readiness to support the King with their lives and fortunes, in whatever measures he might adopt, and without being called together. It is manifest that they did not wish to meet, and were well assured no imposts would be levied without their assent . That Charles took this view of their proceeding is obvious, because he never acted upon the licence which they had affected to give him, and made repeated attempts to convoke them again. After several failures, he induced them to assemble by offering them the full power of discussing all public affairs, and thus at length obtained a meeting. The States of all the provinces met at Chinon, and granted him a supply of 400,000 livres, to be paid by the nobles and clergy, as well as the tiers Stat; but they also demanded that the Parliament of Paris (now sitting at Poictiers) and that of Toulouse (sitting at Be'ziers on account of the plague) should be united. This was accordingly done by an Ordinance which continued in force for thirteen years; and it proves the weight which the States of Languedoc had in the Assembly. Other demands were made of a reform in the Chamber of Accounts and inferior judicatures.
The state of the country prevented a resort to the Court and Parliament at Paris and to the Parliament at Poictiers, while it interrupted the trade of all the towns; and Bedford as well as Charles was induced to devise measures of relief. They both issued Ordinances with this view; and among other expedients they endeavoured to encourage commerce by opening the ports and inducing foreign merchants to resort thither. These Ordinances, though made without any authority from the States, were not likely to occasion a difference of opinion in any quarter. But deep and general discontent had been excited in the northern parts of the country by the insolent and overbearing demeanour of the English, who even set the Parisians against them—a consummation which all Henry's haughtiness and cruelty had failed to bring about;1 and in the provinces still under Charles, the calamities of the war, with its attendant anarchy —ascribed, and justly ascribed, to the English invasion—roused in the people such a spirit of resistance as secured him their zealous support, while it crippled his adversary. For some years, therefore, he rarely convoked the States. From one of their meetings at Vienne he obtained a supply, which was followed by a similar grant the year after from the States of Languedoc. In the next four years he frequently assembled them, but
1 Note LXIX.
their proceedings were of so little importance that few or no traces of them remain.
Now, however, the successes of the war, the reconcilement with the Duke of Burgundy, the prospect of finally expelling the English by a vigorous effort, above all, the dreadful state of the country, appear to have produced an effect upon Charles of which history affords scarcely any other example. His whole character suffered an extraordinary change—it seemed as if his nature had undergone a transformation. Shaking off the habits of an indolent voluptuary, the tool of intriguers and dupe of favourites, he devoted himself without reserve to public affairs, and displayed talents yet more remarkable than the pleasing manners and other trivial accomplishments which had hitherto made him be rather loved than respected, and chiefly the two highest qualities of a ruler, firmness of purpose, with the power as well as the will ever to choose capable servants. He was thus able to restore the independence of his country; but he bestowed upon his people an equally precious gift by re-establishing domestic peace through the restored dominion of the law. These truly great triumphs were attended with considerable changes in the constitution.
When he began what may be termed his own reign, he found the wretchedness of the
people so dreadful, from the anarchy every where prevailing, that he was not only enabled by the assent of all classes, but compelled by their in