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among a people exhausted by the long and calamitous war which it seemed to terminate, and now suffering cruelly under the devastations of the “ Compagnies,” the armed bands to which it had given birth.
The name of “Wise," which the Dauphin (afterwards Charles V.) owed to his love of reading (Note LXI., supra), and especially, it is said, to his taste for judicial astrology, belonged to him by a far higher title. History presents us with few examples of more distinguished talents for the conduct of affairs in seasons of the greatest difficulty than he displayed, without any considerable exception, during the whole of his regency and reign. The want of firmness which he had early shown made it be supposed that the defect extended from personal to moral courage, but this was certainly a mistake; for the hesitation which has been imputed to him on some occasions was only in appearance, and his temporary inaction, his yielding to circumstances, arose undoubtedly out of the often inextricable difficulties of his situation, from which he was sedulously providing the means of escaping, if he could not surmount them. In all his necessities he carefully avoided tampering with the coin; he never imposed taxes of his own mere authority; he protected the Jews, and obtained advances from them; he gained the favour of the clergy, who proved most useful allies against the English ; and he steadily resisted the encroachments of the Pope, preventing effectually all appeals to Rome. After partly gaining over the States, partly freeing himself from their usurpation, he assembled them only when he required supplies, which he obtained to a larger amount than any of his predecessors, and when he was desirous of their concurrence in his opposing Edward, who had put an end to the peace of Bretigny. They heartily joined him; and with their aid, supported by the country, he was enabled to reconquer all the territory which the treaty had given up. By his wise and successful administration he had materially increased the power of the Crown. When he avoided calling the States, he took counsel with the Prelates and men of personal distinction; and he leant upon the Parliament as a body both less likely to control him and of more weight by its composition as well as its judicial functions. He made, by " the plenitude of his royal authority," as it purports to be, his Ordinance for fixing at fourteen the majority of the Sovereign. During the last eleven years of his reign the States-General were never convoked, but he frequently had recourse to those of the Provinces.
The Ordinance respecting the King's majority was set aside on Charles VI.'s accession. A regency being formed under the Duc d'Anjou, the King was soon after crowned, and the government administered in his name (Note LXXII. infra). The Regent had possessed himself of the whole treasure left by his prede. cessor, and it became necessary to collect the taxes; but the Parisians revolted, and extorted an Ordinance abolishing all the imposts, without exception, laid on during the last sixty years, since the reign of Philip IV. (the Fair). The Nobles took the opportunity to raise a mob against the Jews, and rob them of the titledeeds and other securities which they had given for borrowed money. The confusion into which the finances of the country were Aung made a meeting of the States-General necessary. It was held at Compiègne, but no supplies could be obtained. Notwithstanding the repeal of the taxes, the Government continued to levy them by force wherever they dared.
After reigning eleven years with an authority which his uncles frequently shared in opposition to his will, his reason, always feeble, gave way, and for the remaining thirty years of his life he was, with some lucid intervals, in a state of incurable madness, ending in imbecility. The quarrels and intrigues of the pretenders to the regency greatly increased the miseries of the country, which became the theatre of civil war. During this dismal period there were no meetings of the States, but one or two assemblies were held of the nobles and other persons of rank, 1410.
with a number of citizens of Paris, at one of which the
** King made an Ordinance revoking grants of places, and providing that the produce of taxes, as well as the profits of the royal domains, should be applied to the expenses of the war. However, one more meeting of the States-General—for such it appears to have been, though some have supposed it to be only an assembly of Notables-was held before Henry's inva
, sion, in the expectation that the wretched condition of the country might not be imputed to the conduct of the Government alone, but might be made to appear in part the work of its representatives. The assembly was held at Paris, and consisted, as is said, only of the Prelates and Barons accustomed to attend the Court, with the Deputies of towns nearest the capital; for the country was so divided among the forces of the contending Princes, that communication between its different provinces was almost entirely interrupted by the soldiery and the bands of robbers who everywhere infested it. The application for supplies to prepare against the threatened invasion was refused. The grievances of the people were detailed by the few who took part in the proceedings; and a promise being given to take them into consideration, the meeting was dismissed.
Note LXVII.--pp. 343, 349, 453. The Compagnies,
Freebooters, or Robber-Bands. During the period to which we have been referring in the last note, the condition of the peasantry was truly wretched. The rise of the towns into importance, from the emancipation of their inhabitants and their acquisition of wealth, had been slowly but steadily going on during the twelfth and still more during the thirteenth century; but very little change had taken place in the country, the inhabitants of which, for the most part, continued in a state of servitude. In France, however, as in other countries, manumissions became more frequent towards the end of the thirteenth century; and Philip the Fair, by one Ordinance, gave liberty to all the serfs in his domain of Languedoc, converting their services into a small money payment. His successor, Louis X., extended this to all the villeins of the Crown.' The other Lords appear to have followed this example, and before the middle of the fourteenth century a great proportion of the peasantry were no longer in a state of servitude. But the immediate consequences of the change were far from proving beneficial. The poor serfs had not any desire to exchange their dependent but protected condition for a state of freedom' strange to them, and entailing self-defence and self-support; while the owners of the soil, no longer regarding them as their property, felt neither the duty of assisting them nor the disposition to spare them. All the accounts which have reached us represent the condition of the peasants in that age as the most deplorable of which history affords any example. It had become a proverb that the peasant, Jacques Bonhomme, as he was called in derision of his spiritless nature, could not be too harshly treated, and that he could only be made to give up his wretched savings by blows. The English invasion added to the miseries of his lot; for first the ransoms of the Barons, if taken prisoners, must be paid by extortions from the peasantry, even when the ravages of war had not extended to the district; and then the end of each campaign set free, from both armies, bands of ferocious soldiers, who, driving the trade of freebooters, were the terror of the whole country. The villages were deserted, and the towns crowded with starving fugitives. Even the neighbourhood of Paris was not safer than more remote districts; and the greater part of the inhabitants of the Isle de France sought refuge within the walls of the capital.
| Robertson (Charles V., book i, note xx.) has not referred to these Ordi. nances with his wonted accuracy. He considers them as a general law
The disasters of 1356 and the disbanding of soldiers on both sides had greatly increased the numbers of the freebooters, now
affecting all serfs in France, and states that no such law is to be found in our statute book. In fact, neither Philip nor Louis could do more than enfranchise their own serfs; and the latter in his Ordinance only expresses his hope that “other Lords will follow his example.”
i Not only serfs or villeins refused being emancipated, but free men often became serfs for the advantages of protection and support; in the same way as owners of allodial property, at an earlier period, obtained infeodation for the like benefit of defence which they derived from it.
called the “ Companies," although the evil had existed in a considerable degree during the greater part of the war. They received further reinforcements when the civil war broke out in 1358, by the quarrel between the Dauphin and the King of Navarre. The peasants, driven to despair by the cruelty and pillage of these marauders, armed themselves in their own defence; but exasperated likewise by the oppressions of the Barons and the refusal of the Government to protect them from the Companies, they attacked and plundered their châteaux, and committed every kind of excess. This Jacquerie, as it was called from the name given to the peasants, after producing great mischief and many murders, was in a few weeks put down by the union of all parties, French, Navarrese, and English, against the unarmed insurgents, of whom above 10,000 were massacred almost without resistance ; and the country which had chiefly been the scene of the insurrection, the Isle de France, was left almost unpeopled. The peace after John's return added greatly to the force of the Companies, now composed of Germans and Brabanters, as well as of French. Their numbers amounted to 16,000. They were joined by some gentlemen and not a few officers. Their devastations became more extensive; they were indeed the curse of the country, assailing all persons and all property. An army of 12,000 men sent against them, under Jacques de Bourbon, was defeated and their commander slain. They were then bribed by large gifts of money to go and serve in Lombardy, under the Marquis of Montferrat, against the Barons; but many of them returned, and, joining those who had refused to go, their numbers now amounted to 30,000. Their depredations were not confined to France: they attacked the dominions of the Emperor, who succeeded in repulsing them, but they then laid France waste; and, after an unsuccessful attempt, by the joint efforts of the Pope, the Emperor, and Charles V. of France, to make them serve the
Separate companies were called Malandrins ; when several were united, sometimes as many as six or seven, they were called Grandes Compagnies.Anc. Chron, de France. Malandrino, in Italian, meant robber.