Abbildungen der Seite

gaged in repelling a sally, when a stone from one of the walls ttruck him and put an end to his existence. The death of De Montfort was of course considered a martyrdom by the clergy, and his fame in their chronicles far outshines that of Godfrey of Bouillon or of Richard the Lion-hearted.

King Philip was in the mean time pursuing his darling object, the humbling the power of the princes of England. He had already driven John from the west of France. That monarch, at variance with his barons, and at the same time excommunicated by the church, seemed an easy prey to Philip. The Frencli k'ng meditated the conquest of England. He leagued with he malcontents of that country, and formed a powerful army for the purposes of invasion. John, to ward off the blow, not only became reconciled to the Roman see, but made himself and his kingdom feudatory to the pope. A papal legate immediately took John under his protection; and the French monarch, rather than risk a quarrel with the church, turned his armies towards Flanders, which he wasted and plundered impitiably, from hatred to its count. The emperor Otho, then in alliance with king John against France, came to the relief of the Flemings; and thus, for the first time since the accession of the new7 dynasty, the armies of France and Germany found themselves arrayed against each other in national hostility, each commanded by its respective monarch. The rival hosts met at Bouvines, in the month of August 1214. Twenty thousand combatants on either side, together with the presence of two monarchs, gave gravity and importance to the action. It was sharply contested. Wherever the armed knight met the comparatively defenceless burgess, the latter was defeated ; the militia of the commons had not yet acquired discipline and hardihood sufficient to compete with the iron-clad warriors of the aristocracy. It was thus the cavalry of Otho broke through a band of militia, and reaching king Philip, threw him from his horse, and would have killed him, but for the excellence of his armor and the devotion of several brave followers. The emperor Otho, on his side, encountered equal peril from the French knights, and escaped with difficulty from the field. The rebel counts of Boulogne and^ Flanders both were made prisoners. The army of Philip gained a complete victory. Bouvines was the first important battle of the monarchy; the first in which the king appeared in his place, at the head of his barons, leading them on to conquest. It materially increased the dignity and authority of the French king; whilst, to Philip Augustus personally, it brought not only its just meed to praise, but an exaggerated port "m of renown.

The brilliant success of Bouvines seei 3 to have contented


and allayed the hitherto restless ambition of Philip. In a year or two after, the barons of England, discontented with John, offered their crown to Louis, the son of Philip Augustus. The old monarch hesitated; he dreaded the anathema with which the pope threatened him, if he attacked his vassal, John of England. Prince Louis was obliged to undertake the expedition with but scanty aid from his parent He was at first successful. Almost all England owned his sovereignty. The castle of Dover alone held out. But the death of John, which took place during the siege, and the proclaiming of his son, Henry III., soon obliged the French prince to abandon his claim and his conquests in England.

In the south, Philip Augustus showed himself equally dead to enterprise and lost in spirit. Amaury de Montfort, son of Simon, offered to cede to the king all his rights in Languedoc, which he was unable to defend against the old house of Toulouse. Philip hesitated to accept the important cession, and left the rival houses to the continuance of a struggle carried feebly on by either side. He at length expired, in 1223, after a reign of forty-three years. This period of half a century was one of uninterrupted progress to the French monarchy, and to its sovereign power. Though much of this was due to the age, to circumstances, and to the natural development of the country's political system, still much remains due to the personal character of Philip,—to his activity, his prudence, foresight, and courage. The mere list of the provinces which he subdued and united to the monarchy forms the fittest monument to his fame. These were Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and Poitou, wrested from John; Picardy and Auvergne, won in the commencement of his reign; Artois, acquired by his marriage with Isabella of Hainault; and, finally, the influence over Languedoc which the crusaders brought him, and which nothing but Philip's age and declining strength prevented him from converting into sovereignty. In minpr matters the active spirit of Philip Augustus equally displayed itself. He put the police on an efficient footing; he walled and paved Paris and the principal towns under his sway; he built and fortified; he encouraged literature by the foundation of professorships; improved the discipline of the army; and, with all his enterprises and expenses, so ordered his finances as to leave a considerable treasure at his death.

When Louis VIII. succeeded his father Philip on the throne, it was remarked with joy by the lovers of legitimacy, that he was descended by his mother, Isabella of Hainault, from Charles of Lorraine, the last prince of Charlemagne's blood, and that he thus united the rights of Carlovingian and Capetian. He was feeble in person, and is said not to have 4

been endowed with much capacity; but the sage policv of Philip Augustus, together with the impulse he had given to affairs, continued to direct them, and to render France triumphant over her enemies. Henry III. lost the towns of Niort and La Rochelle, and was driven by Louis from Poitou; yet so little did the English feel the loss of this province, that it is scarcely noticed by the historians of the island. The 'barons were so much occupied with jealousy of their sovereign and of his power, that Henry could procure or send no aid to his French provinces. A feeble expedition was at length fitted out, which preserved Gascony to England, but. recovered no part of the lost province.

A singular cause of contention arose about this time in Flanders. Baldwin, its last count, had been one of the leaders of that crusade, which, in the commencement of the century, took Constantinople from the Greeks. He had been elected emperor of the East, and had been the first of the Latin dynasty which reigned over that city. Soon after, in the year 1205, he had been taken prisoner by the Bulgarians, and had not since been heard of. His daughter Jeanne succeeded to the county of Flanders, and had married Ferrand, who had opposed Philip Augustus, and who was taken prisoner by that monarch at the battle of Bouvines. Jeanne took no steps to liberate her husband, or to pay his ransom, when an aged man appeared in Flanders, calling himself count Baldwin, and giving an account of his long captivity and recent escape from the Bulgarians. Jeanne denied the identity of this person with her father; Louis VIII. was of the same opinion; while Henry III. treated and allied with him as the veritable Baldwin. The self-entitled count appeared before king Louis at Peronne, offering proofs of his identity; but unfortunately he could not recall the place where he had done homage tc Philip Augustus, nor the place where he had been knighted, nor yet the place and day of his marriage. Whether he really could not make answer to these questions, or whether ago had troubled his memory, the old man was condemned at a pretender, and the countess Jeanne soon after caused hin* to be hanged. The common people still persisted in giving credit to his identity with count Baldwin, and looked or. Jeanne as the murderer of her father. Henry III. in no way supported this his unfortunate ally.

The sovereignty over Languedoc was still undecided. King Louis was anxious to undertake a crusade in that coun^ try, with all the indulgences and advantages of a warlike pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The hostilities with England and the fickleness of the pope delayed the execution of this purpose. Both obstacles were removed at length. Amaury £226. DEATH OP LOUIS VIII. 53

de Montfort being" driven from the conquests of his fatter by the sons of count Raymond, reanimated the zeal of the pope and the old crusaders. Amaury retired to Paris, and made cession of his claims to king Louis, who, in return, promised him the office of constable. A new crusade was preached n gainst the Albigenses; and Louis marched towards Languedoc at the head of a formidable army, in the spring of the year 1226. The town of Avignon had proffered to the crusaders the facilities of crossing the Rhone under her walls, but refused entry within them to such a host. Louis, having arrived at Avignon, insisted on passing through the town: the Avignonais shut their gates, and defied the monarch, who instantly formed the siege. One of the rich municipalities of the south was almost a match for the king of France. He was kept three months under its walls; his army a prey to famine, to disease, and to the assaults of a brave garrison. The crusaders lost twenty thousand men. The people of Avignon at length submitted, but on no dishonorable terms. This was the only resistance that Louis experienced in Languedoc. Raymond VII. dared not meet the crusaders in the field, nor durst one of his towns or chateaux remain faithful to him. All submitted. Louis retired from his facile conquest; he himself, and the chiefs of his army, stricken by an epidemy which had prevailed in the conquered regions. The monarch's feeble frame could not resist it: he expired at Montpensier in Auvergne, in November, 1226.



During the reign of the first Capetians, the royal power was shown to be at its lowest ebb. With Louis the Fat it began to rise. One of the great feudatories, the duke of Normandy, a king himself, grew to rival and overshadow the monarch of France. In the struggle which ensued betwixt them, the lesser barons rallied to one side or the other; and came to acknowledge and be accustomed in the field to the supremacy of a master, which they were inclined to deny in their own castles and domains. The crusades, the rise of the commons, that of luxury, and many other circumstances, added still greater force to this cause of royal enhancement. And when Philip Augustus brought the war to a conclusion by the conquest of Normandy, he was not only triumphan over king John, but,—a victory of equal importance,—he found himself paramount to all his powerful vassals, and in a condition to enforce his ro}al authority.

To strengthen and extend this authority was the continued and successful policy of Philip Augustus and his son. To consolidate and legalize it, was the task of St. Louis, who succeeded them. Philip, indeed, though he found the sword to be the most efficient sceptre, was not blind to the commodiousness of legal forms and judgments, as the instruments of his sovereign power. A decree, issued by a few attached barons in his court of peers, seemed to come from the aristocracy, not from him, and was therefore obeyed with less reactance. The advantages of a judicial body that might act is arbiter betwixt the monarch and his nobles were acknowledged on both sides. The latter, seeing the members were of themselves, or of their class, saw in it a bulwark against despotism. The monarch, more crafty, found in it a power of a contrary tendency. The barons were too idle and too ignorant to suffice for the execution of their judicial functions; they had need of men of study and business to aid them. Legists were thus introduced into the parliament, and these soon engrossed all its authority and power. They became almost a fourth order in the state. Raised from the lower or middling classes, they were jealous of the aristocracy, and more so of the priesthood; and they labored with inveterate diligence to raise royalty, to which they owec their own elevation and honors, on the ruins of those two estates. The ensuing hundred years of French history might be called the age of lawyers, so universally did they dominate and bend every power and institution to their will. It was their teachings and maxims that gave to kings that divine right which the church at that time claimed for itself. That devotion to royalty, which in romance is considered to have been the characteristic of the high-born, was in reality first held and forced upon them by the plebeian lawyer. This profession, which in later times has given to the cause of liberty its ablest advocates, laid, in the thirteenth century, the firmest foundations of absolute power.

The French nobles were not yet reconciled to their new iitate of dependence and subordination. The present seemed a favorable opportunity for recovering* their influence. Louis IX. had not reached the age of twelve. His mother, Blanche of Castile, assumed the regency. A woman and a minor did not seem formidable enemies; but Blanche was a person of capacity and firmness: all their efforts proved unavailing against her. Peter duke of Britany, surnamed Mauclerc,

« ZurückWeiter »