Philip VI of France

Dafato Team | May 14, 2023

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Philippe de Valois, king of France from 1328 to 1350 under the name of Philippe VI known as "le Fortuné", born in 1293 and died on August 22, 1350 in Nogent-le-Roi, came from the youngest branch of the Capetian house, known as the house of Valois, founded by his father Charles de Valois, younger brother of Philip IV the Fair.

His accession to the throne in 1328 was the result of a political choice, following the death of John I the Posthumous in 1316 and Charles IV in 1328 without a son or brother, in order to prevent the crown of France from passing into the hands of the Plantagenet house. Although respectively grandson of Philip V the Long and grandson of Philip the Fair, Philip of Burgundy and Edward III of England - but also the future Louis II of Flanders, second grandson of Philip the Long, and the future Charles II of Navarre, grandson of Louis the Hutin, who were to be born in 1330 and 1332 - were all four excluded from the succession in favor of the agnatic eldest of the Capetians. At the time of his accession, Philip VI must also negotiate with Jeanne II of Navarre, daughter of Louis X the Hutin, discarded from the succession in 1316 because she was a woman. Although suspected of bastardy, Jeanne claimed the kingdom of Navarre and the counties of Champagne and Brie that Philip IV the Fair held from his wife Jeanne I of Navarre. Not being heir of the kings of Navarre as were his predecessors, Philip VI restored the kingdom of Navarre to Jeanne, but refused to yield Champagne and Brie to her, fearing to be confronted with a too powerful party.

If he reaches the head of the most powerful State of Occident, Philip VI lacks financial means, which he tries to compensate by the manipulation of the currency and additional taxes, which are accepted only in period of war. He must assert his legitimacy as soon as possible. He did this by restoring royal authority in Flanders by crushing the rebellion there at the battle of Cassel on August 23, 1328, during which 16,000 artisans and peasants who had revolted against the Count of Flanders were killed and massacred. Through a skilful diplomatic and matrimonial policy, he contributed to increase the influence of the kingdom in the east of the kingdom of France. He bought back the Dauphiné for his grandson, remarried his son to a potential heiress of Burgundy and took an option on the county of Provence.

In conflict with Edward III of England, Philip eventually obtained the tribute for Guyenne, but their intrigues for the control of Flanders, the Franco-Scottish alliance and the need to justify additional taxes led to the Hundred Years War.

It began in a latent manner, neither king having sufficient resources to support his ambitions. The war was waged by allies, except in Guyenne where the French forces laid siege to Bordeaux, but had to give up because of a lack of supplies. In the same way, if the French fleet was largely destroyed at the battle of L'Écluse in 1340, Edward III could not achieve this victory on land, and the German-English alliance that he had organized broke up because he could not keep his financial promises.

After the death of Duke Jean III of Brittany, in April 1341, a succession conflict opposed Jean de Montfort to Charles de Blois for the succession of Brittany. Philip VI arbitrated in favor of his nephew, Charles de Blois. Jean de Montfort allied himself with the English, who disembarked in Brest in 1342 and occupied the west of Brittany until 1397.

However, the real turning point of the conflict took place in June 1344, when Edward III obtained from the English Parliament important fiscal resources for two years. Philip could only respond by resorting to monetary changes, which led to very unpopular devaluations because they destabilized the economy. Strong of its financial resources, Edward III is able to attack in force on at least two fronts. He regained ground in Aquitaine and above all inflicted a crushing defeat on Philip at the battle of Crecy on August 26, 1346. The latter no longer had the means to prevent the king of England from taking Calais, after eleven months of siege, on August 3, 1347.

It is completely discredited and in full epidemic of plague that Philip VI dies in 1350.

Philip VI is the eldest son of Charles de Valois, younger brother of King Philip the Fair, and of Marguerite d'Anjou. He is thus first cousin of the three sons of Philip the Fair (Louis X, Philip V and Charles IV), who succeeded one another on the throne of France between 1314 and 1328.

Philippe de Valois marries in July 1313 with Jeanne de Bourgogne.

Regency and accession to the throne of France

To understand the accession of Philip VI to the throne of France at the expense of Edward III, one must go back to 1316. For the first time since Hugues Capet, Louis X died without a male heir: the direct heir of the kingdom of France was therefore Jeanne de Navarre, a minor daughter. The decision that was taken at this time was very important, because it became customary and would be applied again when the dynastic question arose in 1328. The proven infidelity of Queen Marguerite raised the risk that a pretender to the throne, in order to legitimize his revolt, would use the fact that the queen was a bastard as a pretext. The powerful Philip of Poitiers, a seasoned knight trained by his father to be a king, imposed himself as regent upon the death of his brother Louis X the Hutin. At the death of John the Posthumous, he was considered by the great as the most suitable to govern and was crowned king of France, consecrating the ousting of Joan: if the choice of the French monarch was based on heredity and the coronation, the election could resume its rights in case of problem.

After the short reign of Philip V, who died without a male heir, it was his younger brother, Charles IV, who, benefiting from the precedent of his elder brother, took his turn at the crown. Despite his successive marriages, Charles IV was still without a male heir when he died at Vincennes on February 1, 1328. Jeanne d'Évreux, his widow, was pregnant, and the sex of the child was eagerly awaited. Philippe de Valois was chosen as regent and therefore had a great chance of becoming king if it turned out to be a girl. He took advantage of the regency to neutralize his most threatening rivals, the Évreux-Navarre. Queen Jeanne d'Évreux gave birth to a daughter, Blanche on April 1, 1328. When the third and last son of Philip the Fair died without a male descendant, the dynastic question was the following: Jeanne de Navarre had no son yet (Charles de Navarre was born only four years later), Isabelle de France, the last daughter of Philip the Fair, had a son, Edward III, king of England. Could she transmit a right that she herself could not exercise according to the custom established ten years earlier?

Edward III could be a candidate, but it is Philippe de Valois who is chosen. He was the son of Charles de Valois, younger brother of Philip the Fair and thus descended through the males of the Capetian line. It is a geopolitical choice and a clear expression of a nascent national conscience: the refusal to see a possible foreigner marry the queen and lead the country. The peers of France refused to give the crown to a foreign king, following the same logic of national politics as ten years before. Philippe de Valois ceased to hold the title of regent of the kingdoms of France and Navarre and became king of France. On Sunday, May 29, 1328, he was crowned in Reims by Archbishop Guillaume de Trie. As Duke of Aquitaine, Edward III, however peer of France, did not attend the ceremony. The news did not surprise England, only Isabelle of France, who was the daughter of Philip the Fair, protested this decision which deprived her son of the crown. She sent two bishops to Paris to claim her son's inheritance, but they were not even received. In addition, the English Parliament, meeting in 1329, declared that Edward had no right to the crown and had to pay tribute for Aquitaine. In the same way, Jeanne de Navarre, who had been ousted in 1316, remained a candidate in 1328, her son Charles, who was the most direct male descendant of Louis X, was only born in 1332 and could not be a fortiori a candidate.

Succession of Navarre, Brie and Champagne

When she came of age, Jeanne should have confirmed her renunciation of Navarre, Champagne and Brie. Philip the Fair held these lands from his wife Jeanne I of Navarre and Jeanne was their direct descendant and heiress (in this case, the king holding these lands through women could not contest that their transmission was through women). Joan was married to Philip of Evreux (heir to the crown if the Valois branch died out) and could count on the unconditional support of the Navarrese barons who refused to allow the kingdom to be an annex governed at a distance by the king of France. Against Philip of Evreux and his wife, there are the daughters of Philip V and Charles IV who were both kings of Navarre. They recall never having renounced even temporarily their inheritance and especially not having received any compensation. They also have their champions. The eldest daughter of Philip V married Eudes, Duke of Burgundy, who put his influence in the balance. His mother was the daughter of Saint Louis, so the couple is not to be taken lightly. As for the children of the last king, they have for champion their own mother, the queen Jeanne d'Évreux. We see here again this family of Evreux which is the first collateral branch of the house of France but also carries the colors of the direct Capetians.

The Navarrese chose their camp, they claimed the daughter of the eldest son of their former queen as their sovereign, that is to say Jeanne de Navarre, wife of Philippe d'Évreux. They were not concerned about their crown falling into the hands of unpredictable foreign rulers, as they had seen their crown pass from the Champenois to the Capetians in a century. Moreover, the Navarrais badly supported to see the wife of Philip IV taking care, of the city of Paris where she resides, only of Champagne, which is explained by the geographical proximity. The Champagne sovereigns had settled in their Pyrenean kingdom, what the Capetians will not make, transforming Navarre into a piece of France. The Navarrese choose in fact the independence. Philip VI had to compromise: in April 1328, the great council assembled in Saint-Germain-en-Laye left Navarre to Jeanne, but refused to give up Champagne and Brie, because that would make the Navarrese pretenders too powerful, taking Paris in a pincer between their Norman and Champagne lands. A compensation is thus foreseen but is not fixed. The Évreux were wrong to accept in advance the exchange which will be fixed in 1336: they obtain only the county of Mortain and, for one time only, the county of Angoulême. Philip VI of Valois thus avoids a terrible threat in the east, but here he is with a second foreign king (after the king of England) possessing lands in France, and who would be reluctant to present him the vassalic homage.

The battle of Cassel

The king's positions in Flanders may seem strong. The military expeditions of the time of Philip IV the Fair are forgotten, the long dispute around the unenforceable clauses of the treaty of Athis of 1305 also. The "matines of Bruges" and the massacre of Courtrai were on everyone's mind and did not make the French nobility want to fight the Flemish. The toughest opponent of the Capetian at the time of Robert de Béthune, Count of Flanders, was his son Louis I of Nevers, who died a few months before his father. Robert de Béthune was succeeded by his grandson, Louis I of Flanders, also known as Louis de Nevers, Louis de Dampierre or Louis de Crécy. Count of Flanders in 1322, this prince played the royal card and deliberately relied on the business aristocracy, which had ties with the king of France. His great-grandfather Gui de Dampierre and his grandfather Robert de Béthune had known how to play the social tensions generated by an economic development based on the textile industry against the encroachments of the royal power. Louis I of Flanders, allied with the patriciate, was a target of choice when the first social upheavals occurred.

His accession to the head of the county of Flanders in 1323 provoked discontent among some Flemings, but at first it was only a diffuse rumbling throughout the countryside of maritime Flanders. Officers and lords were molested. The affair changed dimension when Bruges, a large industrial port rich in thirty thousand inhabitants and a port movement favorable to the mixing of ideas and men, rose up in protest.

Ghent was obviously on the opposite side of the argument from Bruges. The people of Ghent had bitter memories of what it had cost the Flemish cities to follow Bruges in 1302. On the other hand, Ypres followed Bruges out of hostility for the Ghenters, their competitors in the cloth industry. Furnes, Dixmude and Poperingue allied themselves with Bruges. The civil war begins. The audacity of the little people is reinforced by the memory of Kortrijk, where the French chivalry was corrected by weavers and fullers. The insurgents beat the countryside for five years. The villages burn, the cities tremble behind their walls. The tax collectors and every man of the count of Flanders hid if they did not flee. The patricians go into exile, their houses are pulled down. The dead are no longer counted: the bourgeois have their throats slit on street corners, peasants and artisans are beaten in their homes or slaughtered in pitched battles.

The problems were aggravated by the increase in the count's fiscal demands, which, by increasing the means of his government, allowed him to resist the tentacular administration of the king of France. This was added to difficult harvests that led to misery, while unemployment increased due to the inadequacy of production. The Church did not escape the popular fury.

In 1328, the count of Flanders took advantage of the homage which he paid to his new lord Philip VI to ask him for help. He relaunches it at the time of the ceremony of the coronation of Philip VI in June. Philip sees there the occasion to reinforce his legitimacy by restoring the social order scorned on the field. One takes advantage of the fact that the whole of the barons meets in Reims for the coronation. Philippe wants to march immediately against the Flemish. He summoned the ost to Arras for the month of July 1328 and took the oriflamme to Saint-Denis. Ghent attacked Bruges, immobilizing a large part of the insurgent forces for the defense of the city. Counting on forcing the enemy to fight him in the open country and on terrain favorable to his cavalry, the king entrusted the marshals with the organization of a ride that would pillage and ravage western Flanders until the gates of Bruges. During this time, the main part of the army marched on Cassel. The meeting was held there on August 23, 1328. The insurgents were entrenched on Mount Cassel, a 157-meter high hill. From there, they could see their villages being burned and the French army deploying. The "battle" of the king counts 29 banners, that of the count of Artois 22. The memory of the battle of Kortrijk, where in 1302 the Flemish pikemen tore the French chivalry to pieces, is always present, and the time is marked by the preeminence of the defense on the attack. Philippe VI is perfectly conscious of it and is careful not to make charge his cavalry without thinking. Nicolaas Zannekin (with Zeger Janszone and Lambrecht Bovyn) is the leader of the insurgents. He is a small landowner who wants to play the knight. He sends messengers to propose to the king to fix a "day of battle" but they are answered with contempt, considering that they were "people without a leader" just good for a beating. Without consideration for this low-class opponent, the king's knights took off their armor and made themselves comfortable in their camp. The insurgents did not hear of it and attacked unexpectedly, surprising the infantry in the middle of their nap, which only had to flee to save itself. The infantry was found more or less grouped the next day at Saint-Omer. The alert was given and the king and his knights quickly pulled themselves together. The king, wearing a blue robe embroidered with golden fleur-de-lis and wearing only a leather hat, gathered his knights and launched the counter-attack in the purest spirit of chivalry, paying with his life at the head of his troops. The knights had lost the habit of seeing the king expose himself in this way, since the death of Saint Louis under the walls of Tunis. He would then have launched the famous rallying cry: "who loves me follows me". The French counter-attack forced the insurgents to form a circle, elbow to elbow, which prevented them from withdrawing. At close range the bows were not very effective and it was a real carnage. Led by the Count of Hainaut, the king's knights begin a revolving charge around the circle, sending heads flying with their long swords. There is no survivor among the insurgents.

The royal army burns Cassel. Ypres submits and Bruges follows. Philip VI places Jean III of Bailleul as governor in the town of Ypres so that he commands in his name. Louis de Nevers takes again the control of the county in the blood of the capital executions and Philip VI withdraws all the prestige of a king knight: he thus establishes fully his authority on the throne. More still, by posing as the defender of one of his princes whose power was disputed by these times of change, he becomes the guarantor of the feudal social order and obtains the support of these powerful princes who could have disputed his legitimacy and his authority. The legitimacy of the Valois is increased. From this moment, the possible contestation of its sovereignty on Guyenne by Edward III becomes difficult.

Tribute from Edward III of England

Since Saint Louis, the modernization of the legal system has drawn many bordering regions into the French cultural sphere. Especially in the lands of the Empire, the cities of the Dauphiné or the county of Burgundy resorted since Saint Louis to the royal justice to settle disputes. For example, the king sent the bailiff of Mâcon, who intervened in Lyon to settle disputes, just as the seneschal of Beaucaire intervened in Viviers or in Valence. Thus, the court of Philip VI was largely cosmopolitan: many lords such as the Constable of Brienne had possessions that straddled several kingdoms. The kings of France widened the cultural influence of the kingdom by attracting to their court the nobility of these regions by allocating rents to them and by engaging in a skilful matrimonial policy. Thus, the counts of Savoy paid tribute to the king of France in exchange for pensions. Jean de Luxembourg, known as "the Blind", king of Bohemia, was a regular at the French court, as was his son Wenceslas, the future emperor Charles IV.

In 1330, the conflict between Pope John XXII and Emperor Louis IV turned to the advantage of the former. Louis IV, excommunicated, tried to appoint an antipope but, finding himself discredited, was forced to leave Italy where he no longer had any support. The king of France saw the opportunity to extend his kingdom to the east, and to take control of the Rhone axis in particular, as it was one of the main trade routes between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Thus, the Dauphiné, Provence or the county of Burgundy were strongly coveted by the kings of France.

The accession to the throne of Philip VI having been made at the expense of Edward III, however grandson of Philip the Fair, the new king must imperatively establish the legitimacy of his dynasty. At his accession, in the spring of 1328, John the Good, then nine years old, was his only living son. In 1332, Charles of Navarre was born, a more direct claimant than Edward III to the crown of France. Philip VI decided to quickly marry his son - then thirteen years old - to create the most prestigious matrimonial alliance possible and to give him an apanage (Normandy). He envisaged for a time to unite him to Eleanor, sister of the king of England.

But, it is in the east that Philip VI finds a prestigious matrimonial alliance. Jean de Luxembourg is the son of the emperor Henri VII, but he was ousted from the imperial election because of his young age. Eager for grandiose projects, he was particularly expensive and chronically in debt. He fit perfectly with the plans of expansion towards the east of the kingdom of France at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire, which was at the bottom of its political power, and everything was done on behalf of the French monarch to keep him loyal: he was pensioned at the French court, which he assiduously frequented. The conflict between the Holy Empire and the papacy of Avignon has just turned to the advantage of the pope John XXII and gives the occasion to Philip VI and John of Bohemia to seal their alliance in a beneficial way for the two parts. The forced departure of the emperor Louis IV of Italy makes it possible to the king of Bohemia Jean of Luxembourg to put the hand on several Italian cities, which puts it in strong position to reign on a kingdom guelfe in North Italy subordinated to the papal authority equivalent to the kingdom of Naples for Southern Italy. This would also limit the possibilities for Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, to subject the papacy to a real protectorate. To do this, the king of Bohemia needs the diplomatic support of the most powerful sovereign of the West: the king of France.

In January 1332, Philip VI invites Jean of Luxembourg to propose him a treaty of alliance which would be cemented by the marriage of one of the daughters of the king of Bohemia with his son Jean. The king of Bohemia, who had aims on Lombardy and needed the French diplomatic support, accepted this agreement. The military clauses of the Treaty of Fontainebleau stipulated that in the event of war, the Bohemian king would join the army of the French king with four hundred men at arms if the conflict took place in Champagne or Amiens; with three hundred men, if the theater of operations was further away. The political clauses foresee that the Lombard crown would not be contested to the king of Bohemia if he manages to conquer it; and that, if he can dispose of the kingdom of Arles, this one would return to France. Moreover, the treaty ratified the status quo concerning French advances in the Empire. The king of France was given the choice between the two daughters of the king of Bohemia. He chose Bonne as his wife because she was of childbearing age (she was 16 and her sister Anne 9) and could give him a son. The dowry was fixed at 120 000 florins.

Finally the city of Lucca is given to the king of France. But Robert of Anjou, king of Naples and count of Provence, can only be hostile to this project supported by John XXII. Especially that the Italian cities, having tasted for a long time their independence, it is not possible any more in fact to impose them their submission to a Guelph kingdom as it is the case in Southern Italy. Guelphs and Ghibellines allied themselves and created a league in Ferrara which put to evil the forces of Jean de Luxembourg and Bertrand du Pouget. Brescia, Bergamo, Modena and Pavia fell to the Viscontis in the fall of 1332. Jean de Luxembourg returned to Bohemia in 1333 and Bertrand du Pouget was driven out of Bologna by an insurrection in 1334.

Causes of the conflict

While the population had been growing in the West since the tenth century due to the progress of agricultural techniques and land clearing, a threshold was reached which exceeded the capacity of agricultural production in certain areas of Europe at the end of the thirteenth century. With the game of inheritance sharing, the plots of land were reduced: in 1310 they had only one third of their average surface area of 1240. Some regions, such as Flanders, were overpopulated and tried to gain cultivable land from the sea. Nevertheless, in order to cover their needs, they opted for a trading economy that allowed them to import agricultural goods. In England, as early as 1279, 46% of the peasants only had a cultivable area of less than 5 hectares. However, to feed a family of 5 people, 4 to 5 hectares were needed. The rural population was impoverished, the price of agricultural products was falling and the tax revenues of the nobility were decreasing, while the tax pressure was increasing and therefore the tensions with the rural population. Many peasants tried their luck as seasonal workers in the cities for very low wages, which also led to social tensions in urban areas. The climatic cooling causes bad harvests which are translated because of the demographic pressure in famines (which had disappeared since the XIIth century) in the North of Europe in 1314, 1315 and 1316: Ypres loses 10 % of its population and Bruges 5 % in 1316.

The nobility had to compensate for the decrease in their land income and war was an excellent way to do so: through ransoms collected after the capture of an adversary, looting and the increase in taxes justified by the war. It is thus that the nobility pushes to the war and particularly the English nobility whose land incomes are the most touched. Philip VI needs to refloat the coffers of the State and a war would make it possible to raise exceptional taxes.

The Scottish conflict

By landing at the head of a private army on August 6, 1332 in the county of Fife in northwestern Scotland, Edward Balliol, the son of the pro-English ex-king John Balliol, revived the Anglo-Scottish conflict. Since 1296, taking advantage of the death of Alexander III without a male heir and an attempt to take control by marriage, England considered Scotland a vassal state. However, the Scots contracted with France the Auld Alliance on October 23, 1295. Philip the Fair played the Scots against Edward I of England, whose arbitration of the difficult succession of Margaret of Scotland in favor of John Balliol did not even secure the loyalty of this vassal king. The king of France had intervened on behalf of the defeated Balliol and had obtained his release. William Wallace, leader of the barons insurgent against the English tutelage, found refuge in France after his defeat in 1298. Chancellor Pierre Flote threatened Pope Boniface VIII and the English negotiators, during a mediation of the Holy See, to intervene directly in Scotland if the king of England persisted in supporting the Flemish insurgents. The following years marked a turnaround, the Franco-English peace and the succession of Capetian princesses on the throne of England dissuaded the king of France from too conspicuous interventions in favor of the Scottish rebels. In 1305, Philip the Fair let Wallace be taken and executed. The abscess of fixation that was the Scotland of Robert Bruce for Edward I assured France a relative tranquility. Border conflicts, brief military expeditions, harassment on the ground follow one another. Robert Bruce (the future Robert I of Scotland) ended up, at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, by crushing the English chivalry, although they were far superior in numbers, thanks to their pikemen who, by sticking their spears into the ground, could break the cavalry charges as the Flemings had done against the French at the battle of Courtrai. These pike formations could be used offensively in the manner of the Greek phalanxes (the tight formation allowed the kinetic energy of all the fighters to be accumulated, which could overthrow the opposing infantry) and broke up the English ranks, inflicting a severe defeat. In 1328, Robert Bruce was recognized as King of Scotland by the Treaty of Northampton. But when he died in 1329, David II was only eight years old and Edward Balliol had a good opportunity to claim the crown.

After the disaster of Bannockburn, the English recognized the end of chivalry's superiority on the battlefield and developed new tactics. King Edward I of England introduced a law that encouraged archers to train on Sundays, banning the use of other sports, and the English became skilled in the use of the longbow. The wood used was yew (which England imported from Italy), which had superior mechanical qualities to the white elm used in Welsh bows: performance was thus improved. This more powerful weapon could be used for long-distance mass shooting. The English adapted their way of fighting by reducing the cavalry but using more archers and men-at-arms on foot protected from charges by stakes planted in the ground (these units moved on horseback but fought on foot). To be effective, the longbow must be used by a protected army and therefore in a defensive position. It is therefore necessary to force the opponent to attack. To do this, the English used the principle of the chevauchée in Scotland: the army deployed over a large area devastated an entire territory until the opponent was forced to attack to put an end to the pillage. Using a tactical scheme that prefigured the battle of Crécy, with men-at-arms entrenched behind stakes driven into the ground and archers positioned on the flanks to prevent projectiles from ricocheting off the basins and armor profiled to deflect the blows delivered from the front, Edward Balliol crushed the Scots, despite being superior in numbers, on August 11, 1332, at the battle of Dupplin Moor. After another success, he was crowned king of Scotland at Scone on September 24, 1332. Edward III did not take part in the campaign but, letting it happen, he did not ignore that the result was very favorable to him: he had an ally at the head of Scotland.

Balliol's successes showed the tactical superiority conferred by the English longbow, so when he was overthrown on December 16, 1332, Edward III openly took matters into his own hands. He revoked the treaty of Northampton that had been signed during the regency, thus renewing the claims of English sovereignty over Scotland and triggering the second Scottish war of independence. Intending to regain what England had conceded, he laid siege to and regained control of Berwick, then crushed the Scottish relief army at the Battle of Halidon Hill using exactly the same tactics as at Dupplin Moor. He showed extreme firmness: all the prisoners were executed. Edward III was then in a position to put Edward Balliol on the throne of Scotland. The latter paid homage to the king of England in June 1334 at Newcastle and ceded him 2,000 "librates" of land in the southern counties: the Lothians, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire, Dumfriesshire, Lanarkshire and Peeblesshire.

The length of the Scottish conflict served the purposes of Philip VI, he thus left his traditional allies to fend for themselves. He knows his power in France still weak and cannot risk the disorders which would cause the loss of the English wool supplies of which the drapery industry of the large Flemish cities is fond. The king of France is thus satisfied to observe. Philip VI gains the peace in the immediate future by his prudence, but in the long run, he is loser. A David Bruce would have been more useful powerful and with reasons to be grateful. Pope Benedict XII sees in the Anglo-Scottish conflict the principal risk of European conflict, if the king of France gets involved again, the count of Namur, that of Gueldre and that of Juliers being implied in Scotland by the contingents which they place at the disposal of Edward III. Moreover, the sailors of Dieppe and Rouen risked themselves in the race against those of Southampton. One can reasonably locate the next war around the Channel, and not towards Saint-Sardos, where the barons make drag the talks with the most obvious ill will. That makes the game of Philip VI who welcomes David II in May 1334 and installs him with his court in the icy Château-Gaillard. What counts is not the success of the Scots, but the threat which they make weigh on England. Edward III tried to appease the king of France and to obtain retrocession of the lands seized by Charles IV in Aquitaine, but Philip required in exchange the restoration of David II: the questions of Guyenne and Scotland were henceforth linked. Despite the victories of Dupplin and Halidon, David Bruce's forces soon began to recover. In July 1334 Edward Balliol had to flee to Berwick and ask for help from Edward III. Thanks to a tax obtained from Parliament and a loan from the Bardi bank, he re-launched a Scottish campaign. He launched a devastating campaign but the Scots had learned their lesson. They avoided pitched battles and opposed him to the tactic of the deserted land. The Plantagenet occupation was in danger and Balliol's forces were rapidly losing ground. Edward then raised an army of 13,000 men who embarked on a second fruitless campaign. The French mounted an expeditionary force of 6,000 men and waged a running war in the English Channel. Edward III dismissed his army in the fall. At the end of 1335, the Scottish Independents led by Sir Andrew Murray fought at Culblean against a supporter of Edward Balliol. They pretended to flee and the English charged from their defensive position. They were then subjected to a flanking charge and disbanded.

In 1336, Philip VI, feeling his power more assured, took initiatives. In March, he was in Avignon where Pope Benedict XII, who was beginning to build the famous fortress, refused to launch the crusade so desired by the king of France, judging the operation impossible given the numerous divisions in the West. The latter, vexed (he had been promised the command of the crusade) made the French fleet pass from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. England trembled. Edward III put his coasts in a state of alert. The sheriffs urgently armed all men from sixteen to sixty years old. The Parliament voted a subsidy without being asked. Benoît XII had already retained the king of France on the way of the crusade, he endeavours to retain it also on that of Scotland. Philip VI receives from him a letter of a consummate political wisdom and of which the king would have had advantage to meditate the lesson:

"In these troubled times, when conflicts are breaking out in all parts of the world, one should think long and hard before committing oneself. It is not difficult to undertake a business. But it is necessary to know first of all, it is a question of science and reflection, how one will finish it and what will be the consequences of it".

The king of France ignored the lesson and his ambassadors held a conference in England with those of David Bruce and a delegation of Scottish barons. One speaks about war there. Edward III, informed, does not have any more illusions, his cousin poses as enemy. Benoît XII imposes again his mediation, and calms with difficulty the ardors of Philip. He also prevents the emperor Louis of Bavaria from forming against France a coalition with Edward III. The balance is fragile and the race with the weapons starts again of more beautiful, hampered by the lack of money of each of the parts. With the assistance of his principal adviser Miles de Noyers, Philip VI ensured the support of some States (Genoa, Castile, Montferrat) and bought strong places in the north and the east of the Kingdom.

At this time, in 1336, Edward III's brother, John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, died. In his work Gestia annalia, the historian John of Fordun accused Edward of killing his brother in a quarrel in Perth. Although Edward III allocated a very large army to Scottish operations, the vast majority of Scotland was recaptured by David II's forces in 1337, leaving only a few castles such as Edinburgh, Roxburgh and Stirling in Plantagenet hands. A papal mediation tried to obtain peace: it was proposed that Balliol remain king until his death and that he be replaced by David Bruce. The latter refused at the instigation of Philip VI. In the spring of 1337, the Franco-English war seemed inevitable.

The few strongholds still under his control were insufficient to impose Edward's rule, and in the years 1338-1339 he shifted from a strategy of conquest to one of defending his gains. Edward faced military problems on two fronts; the struggle for the French throne was no less important. The French were a problem in three areas: first, they provided constant support to the Scots through a Franco-Scottish alliance. Second, the French regularly attacked several English coastal towns, initiating rumors of a massive invasion of England. Indeed, Philip VI mounted an expedition of 20,000 men-at-arms and 5,000 crossbowmen. But to transfer such a force it must rent Genoese galleys. Edward III, informed by spies, prevented the project by paying the Genoese to neutralize their fleet: Philip VI did not have the means to outbid them.

The race for alliances

On All Saints Day 1337, the Bishop of Lincoln, Henry Burghersh, arrived bearing a message from the King of England to "Philip of Valois, who calls himself King of France. This was a breach of homage and a declaration of war.

Since the vote of the subsidies by the English Parliament gathered in Nottingham a year earlier, the march to war had been rapid. King Edward III of England had armed a fleet and sent arms to Guyenne. At the end of 1336, he had decreed a ban on the sale of English wool to Flanders, and in February 1337 granted privileges to foreign workers who came to settle in English towns, to force the cloth-making towns (Ypres, Ghent, Bruges, Lille) to choose between their English suppliers and their French customers. The importation of foreign cloths was forbidden. England wanted to give the impression that it was preparing to live without Flanders. Edward III also played on the rivalries between the northern provinces. He favored English exports to Brabant, as the drapery of Mechelen and Brussels began to compete effectively with that of the large traditional centers in Flanders. Brabant received 30,000 bags of wool on the sole condition that it would not give any of it to the Flemish cities. The king of England also rewarded the firmness of the duke of Brabant, John III, in the face of the observations of the king of France at the time when Robert d'Artois was in exile on his lands. The diplomacy of the sterling is deployed in the western confines of the Holy Roman Empire against the king of France. English ambassadors held in Valenciennes, at the gates of the kingdom, an exchange of alliances where the hatred of the Valois could be exchanged. The king of France massed his fleet in Normandy and revived the resistance of the Scots against Edward III. On May 24, 1337, having refused to comply with the summons, Edward III was condemned to the seizure of his duchy. Pope Benedict XII obtained from the king of France a stay of execution of the seizure. Philippe VI promises to occupy the duchy of Guyenne only the following year. Edward III's reply was the challenge made by Henry Burghersh, the bishop of Lincoln.

The Flemish cities and Brabant thus opt for the English alliance, involving with them Hainaut, which after a time of hesitation, decides not to be unnecessarily isolated. Moreover, Edward III, husband of Philippa of Hainaut, is son-in-law of the count. As William I of Hainaut is also count of Holland and Zeeland, Flanders is surrounded on the side of the Empire, from the North Sea to the French border, by a state resolutely hostile to the Valois. The Rhine principalities complete the coalition; Juliers, Limbourg, Cleves and some others give in to the policy of sterling. Philip VI can, him, count in this area only on the survivals of a French influence which knew its apogee under Louis IX of France and Philip IV the Fair. The count of Flanders is not reliable because his county escapes him. The bishop of Liège and the city of Cambrai were just enough to balance the influence of their too powerful neighbors of Brabant and Hainaut. The king of France had little to hope for in the north.

The game is more subtle on the side of the emperor Louis of Bavaria, excommunicated and schismatic. To survive, he was so weakened that he had to break up the agreement of the Christian princes and put his alliance up for auction. In August 1337, he finally sold his adhesion to the Plantagenets. Edward III even obtained from the emperor the title of "imperial vicar in Lower Germany" which made him the official representative of the imperial authority on the Rhine and the Meuse. The affair was celebrated in September 1338 in Coblence during magnificent celebrations organized by the emperor but financed by the king of England. That should automatically involve the support of the pope to the king of France but Benedict XII prevaricates, being satisfied to protest against this alliance, always hoping to impose his mediation. The king of England will force him to decide when he will recall in July 1338 his ambassadors in Avignon. Edward thinks he can do anything. He received in Coblence the homage of the vassals of the Empire, with the exception of the bishop of Liege. He established relations with the count of Geneva and the count of Savoy. The Duke of Burgundy himself, still bitter about the dynastic choice of 1328, lent a sympathetic ear to the words of the Plantagenet. Edward III placed an order for a fleurdelisé crown, he already saw himself in Reims.

The alliances of Philip VI are less numerous but more solid and thus more useful on the long term. Distributions of rent on the Treasury acquired to the Valois the counts of Geneva and Savoy tempted by the English alliance, just like the count of Vaudémont and that of Deux-Ponts (of). Jean l'Aveugle, count of Luxembourg and king of Bohemia, an accustomed of the court of France, arranged in the French camp, involving with him his son-in-law, the duke of Lower Bavaria. Genoa undertook to provide ships and experienced crossbowmen. The Habsburg marks his sympathy. But the greatest success of the French diplomatic activity, led by Miles de Noyers, is the alliance of the king of Castile obtained in December 1336. Alfonso XI promised the king of France a maritime support which would prove to be very useful on the Atlantic. Indeed, Gascon and English sailors on one side and French and Breton sailors on the other fought at every opportunity, at sea or on the quayside. Four years later, Castilian ships were reinforced as far as the North Sea.

Offensive in Aquitaine

At the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, noting the inefficiency of the campaign that he had entrusted to Raoul II de Brienne, Philip VI turned to John I of Bohemia. Indeed, the Constable of France, having made the mistake of dividing his troops to try to take the Gascon fortresses, found himself stuck since the spring of 1338 in interminable sieges while the English had very few men. Jean de Bohême was joined by Gaston Fébus (who received a few seigneuries in exchange) and two Savoyard mercenaries: Pierre de la Palu and Le Galois de La Baume. The king allocated 45,000 pounds per month to this force of 12,000 men. Considering that it was going to be a question of taking the Gascon fortresses one after the other without hope of starving them, a corps of German sappers and miners was recruited and this army was equipped with a few bombards. The success is fast: the strongholds of Penne, Castelgaillard, Puyguilhem, Blaye and Bourg are taken. The objective was not far from being reached when the army laid siege to Bordeaux in July 1339. But the city resisted, a gate was taken, but the attackers were pushed back with difficulty. The problem of supplying 12,000 men proved insoluble, as local resources were exhausted. Troops were taken to fight in the North. The siege was lifted on July 19, 1339.

Edward III's ride in 1339

Philip's army having launched its victorious offensive in Aquitaine and Edward III being under the threat of a French landing in England, the latter decided to bring the war to Flanders. He secured the alliance of the Flemish cities that needed English wool to keep their economy going, but also of the emperor and the princes of the region who viewed the French advances in the lands of the empire with suspicion. Among these princes of the North, not the least, are Guillaume I (d'Avesnes), count of Hainaut, the duke of Brabant, the duke of Gueldre, the archbishop of Cologne and the count (marquis?) of Juliers. These alliances were made under the promise of financial compensation from the king of England. So when he disembarked on July 22, 1338 in Antwerp, at the head of 1,400 men-at-arms and 3,000 archers, his allies were quick to ask him to pay his debts rather than provide him with the planned contingents. The king of England spent the winter in Brabant negotiating with his creditors. To neutralize the French king's troops that arrived in Amiens on August 24, he launched negotiations led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham. The maneuver having succeeded, the king of France had to send back his considerable army.

But this status quo, which lasted for almost a year, displeased the taxpayers of both sides who bled to finance armies that looked at each other with a straight face. In the summer of 1339, Edward III launched the offensive. Having received reinforcements from England, and having succeeded in guaranteeing his debts to his allies, he marched with them on Cambrai (a city of the Empire but whose bishop sided with Philip VI) at the end of September 1339. Seeking to provoke a pitched battle with the French, he looted everything in his path, but Philip VI did not budge. On October 9, beginning to exhaust the local resources, the king of England must decide to deliver battle. He thus obliqued to the southwest and crossed the Cambrésis by burning and killing everything in his path: 55 villages of the diocese of Noyon were razed. During this time, Philippe VI had his ost gathered and arrived until Buironfosse. The two armies then marched towards each other and met a first time near Péronne. Edward had 12,000 men and Philip 25,000. The king of England, finding the ground unfavorable, withdrew. Philip VI suggested that they meet on October 21 or 22 on open ground where their armies could fight according to the rules of chivalry. Edward III awaits him near the village of La Capelle where he established his camp in favorable ground, entrenched behind piles and ditches, his archers positioned on the wings. The king of France, considering that a cavalry charge would be suicidal, also dug in, leaving the honor to the English to attack. On October 23, 1339, since one of the two adversaries did not take the initiative, the two armies returned home. The French chivalry which counted to finance itself on the ransoms asked to the possible prisoners made during the fights growls and accuses Philip VI of "foxing".

Conflict stalemate

The conduct of the war of Philip VI generates many discontents. For lack of being able to raise enough taxes to support the effort of war as much as his administration and the pensions and exemptions more and more important that he allots to the lords that he fears to see tipping in the English camp, he has recourse to frequent monetary changes which involve inflation: the content of noble metals of the currency is confidentially decreased. He governed with a restricted council made up of close relatives, which displeased the princes excluded from the ruling sphere. His strategy of avoiding pitched battles was decried by the chivalry, which had high hopes for the ransoms paid by potential prisoners. As for Edward III, if he was ruined, he interested the feudalists by a policy aiming to attract the good graces of the Gascon vassals of the king of France. At the end of 1339, Oliver Ingham, seneschal of Bordeaux, succeeded in drawing Bernard-Ezy V, lord of Albret, into his camp, taking many lords with him. Edward III appointed him as his lieutenant in Aquitaine. At the head of Gascon troops, he advanced eastward, taking Sainte-Bazeille on the Garonne and besieging Condom. His advance culminated in September 1340 but Pierre de la Palu, the seneschal of Toulouse, led a counter-offensive that forced him to lift the siege. In the process, all the cities were retaken.

The year 1340 was not more favorable to Edward III on the Scottish front: the guerrilla warfare of David Bruce's supporters intensified and raids were carried out on Northumberland. William Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale, seized Edinburgh and David Bruce returned from exile in June 1341.

Edward III, who had only negotiated the truce of Esplechin to gain time at a time when the evolution of the conflict was unfavorable to him (he had no confidence in the papal mediation, which he judged to be completely pro-French), resumed hostilities and took Bourg in August 1341, at a time when tension was mounting between Philip VI and James II of Majorca, the latter refusing to pay homage to the king of France for the city of Montpellier.

War of Succession of Brittany

On April 30, 1341, Duke Jean III of Brittany died, without descendants despite three marriages, to Isabelle of Valois, Isabelle of Castile and Jeanne of Savoy, and without having designated his successor. The pretenders were, on the one hand, Jeanne de Penthièvre, daughter of her brother Guy de Penthièvre, married since 1337 to Charles de Blois, a relative of the king, and, on the other hand, Jean de Montfort, Count of Montfort-l'Amaury, half-brother of the late duke, son of the second marriage of Arthur II of Brittany with Yolande de Dreux, Countess of Montfort-l'Amaury.

In May 1341, sensing that the verdict would be in favor of Charles de Blois, a close relative of the king, Jean de Montfort, urged on by his wife, Jeanne de Flandre, took the initiative: he moved to Nantes, the ducal capital, and seized the ducal treasury in Limoges, a city of which Jean III had been the viscount. He summoned the great Breton vassals to be recognized as duke but the majority did not come (many of them also had possessions in France that they risked being confiscated if they opposed the king).

In the months that followed (June-July), he made a great ride in his duchy to ensure the control of the strongholds (Rennes, Malestroit, Vannes, Quimperlé, La Roche-Piriou, Quimper, Brest, Saint-Brieuc, Dinan and Mauron before returning to Nantes). He managed to take control of about twenty places.

Jean de Montfort having taken possession of all the strongholds of the duchy in the spring of 1341 and having given the lige homage to Edward III, it was necessary to put Charles de Blois effectively in possession of the duchy. Philip VI thus convened an army of 7000 men reinforced with Genoese mercenaries in Angers for September 26, 1341. Jean le Bon, duke of Normandy was put at the head of the expedition, flanked by Miles de Noyer, the duke of Burgundy and Charles de Blois. The army left Angers at the beginning of October 1341, overthrew Jean de Montfort at L'Humeau, then laid siege to Nantes where he had taken refuge. He took the fortress of Champtoceaux which, on the left bank of the Loire, locked the access to Nantes. Edward III, who had just extended the truce of Esplechin, could not intervene. The city capitulated after a week, at the beginning of November 1341. Jean de Montfort surrendered to the son of the king of France on November 21 and handed over his capital to him. He received a safe-conduct to go to Paris to plead his case but he was arrested and imprisoned in the Louvre in December 1341. Deprived of its leader and the support of the great Breton families, the Monfortist party was to collapse. With the winter, the Duke of Normandy finished the campaign without having annihilated the last obstacles: thinking he had settled the matter by securing the person of Jean de Montfort, he returned to Paris. But Jeanne de Flandre, wife of Jean de Montfort, rekindled the flame of resistance and rallied her supporters in Vannes. She entrenched herself in Hennebond, sent her son to England and concluded an alliance treaty with Edward III in January 1342. Anxious to open a new front that would ease French pressure in Guyenne and limit the number of troops that could be sent to support the Scots, Edward III decided to respond favorably to Joan of Flanders' requests for military assistance. The king of England did not have a penny to pay for an expedition: it was therefore the Breton ducal treasury that would finance it. In April 1342, he could only send 34 men-at-arms and 200 archers. In the meantime, the French took Rennes and besieged Hennebont, Vannes and Auray, which resisted. Charles de Blois was forced to break camp in June 1342 in front of the arrival of Wauthier de Masny and Robert d'Artois at the head of English troops. In July 1342, strong French reinforcements arrived, Jeanne de Flandre had to flee and found herself besieged in Brest. But on August 15, the bulk of the English troops finally arrived in Brest with 260 ships and 1,350 soldiers. Charles de Blois retreated to Morlaix and found himself besieged by Robert d'Artois, who hoped to open a second port in northern Brittany to the English. The English tried to take Rennes and Nantes, but they had to content themselves with sacking Dinan and laying siege to Vannes, a city in front of which Robert d'Artois was seriously wounded. The French, who were waiting for them in Calais, had withdrawn their forces because of the success of Charles de Blois. On September 30, the forces of the latter suffered serious losses near Lanmeur.

A French army under the orders, once again, of the Duke of Normandy, was assembled to face the battle. But Jean de Montfort being a prisoner and Jeanne de Flandre having fallen into madness, a truce was signed on January 19, 1343. In fact, the English occupied and administered the strongholds still loyal to Jean de Montfort. A large English garrison occupied Brest. Vannes was administered by the Pope. The conflict, which was by no means settled, lasted 22 years and allowed the English to gain a lasting foothold in Brittany.

The truce of Malestroit in January 1343 led to the dismissal of many mercenaries who formed the first Great Companies. The latter acted in Languedoc, as did the Société de la Folie, which raged in the vicinity of Nîmes, and the unsalaried English or Breton bands that ransomed the population and plunged the Duchy of Brittany into anarchy.

Lancaster's campaign in Aquitaine

The turning point of the war was financial. Taking advantage of the truce of Malestroit, Edward succeeded in convincing the Parliament that it was not possible to win this war without sending considerable forces against the enemy. He made great propaganda efforts to convince the population of the threat posed by the French king. In June 1344, the Parliament voted him a two-year tax: enough to bring together two very well-equipped armies to wage decisive campaigns in Aquitaine and Northern France, and smaller contingents to weigh in on the War of the Breton Succession.

In early August 1345, Count Henry of Lancaster landed in Bordeaux with 500 men-at-arms, 1,000 archers and 500 Welsh infantry. He had the title of lieutenant for Aquitaine and complete freedom of action. His first objective was to neutralize Bergerac, from where devastating raids were regularly launched. The city was taken in August. He took hundreds of prisoners who were held for ransom. Reinforced by Gascon troops and Stafford's troops (his army numbered 2,000 men-at-arms and 5,000 archers and foot soldiers), he laid siege to Périgueux. John the Good, in charge of the defense of Aquitaine, sent the Count of Valentinois, Louis de Poitiers, with 3,000 men-at-arms and 6,000 infantrymen to rescue the city. But fifteen kilometers from Périgueux, Louis de Poitiers stopped to besiege the castle of Auberoche. He was surprised by Henry of Lancaster on October 21, the French army was defeated and the English once again took many prisoners. On the strength of this success, Henry of Lancaster took several fortified towns, clearing the area between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers of French garrisons, and then laid siege to La Réole. The city was taken on November 8, but the citadel resisted: it promised to surrender if no help arrived within five weeks. Jean le Bon did not move, as a large part of his army had been defeated at Auberoche and he had dismissed the rest. La Réole but also Langon and Sainte-Bazeille did the same, in January 1346. This had a catastrophic effect: faced with the inertia of the French, many Gascon lords changed sides, such as the powerful Durfort and Duras families, and the local communities organized their own defense and refused to pay the royal taxes. As a result, the French sovereignty over Aquitaine receded, giving way to the action of the Grand Compagnies and private wars, which accentuated the phenomenon. On the other hand, the prisoners of Bergerac and Auberoche brought in nearly 70,000 pounds of ransom for Henry of Lancaster, and his lieutenants were not to be outdone: people in England became aware that war in France could be profitable, which gave rise to many vocations. Aiguillon fell at the beginning of 1346, Philip VI finally decided to act: he had to find finances to assemble an army. With great difficulty, he obtained finances from the States of the langue d'oïl and the langue d'oc, he borrowed from the Italian banks of Paris and above all he received the support of the pope who authorized him to take 10% of the ecclesiastical revenues of the kingdom and lent him 33 000 florins. He recruited mercenaries in Aragon and Italy. His son John found himself at the head of 15,000 men, including 1,400 Genoese. He began the Aquitaine campaign by besieging Aiguillon on August 1. The place at the confluence of the Garonne and the Lot was extremely well fortified and held by a solid garrison of 600 archers and 300 men-at-arms. Jean made an oath not to leave the place before having taken the

Land defeats

The English being threatening, Philip pushed King David II of Scotland to invade England from the north, theoretically little defended since Edward was preparing the invasion of France in the south. David II was defeated and captured at Neville's Cross on October 17, 1346. Meanwhile, Edward III of England landed in Normandy in July 1346 and carried out a systematic raid of the French regions he crossed.

The two armies met at Crécy on August 26, 1346. The French outnumbered the English, but the French army, relying on its powerful chivalry, faced an English army composed of archers and infantrymen in the process of being professionalized. Confronted with the decline of its land revenues, the nobility was counting on the ransoms demanded in exchange for the captured opposing knights. It is scalded by the evasions of Philip VI who, conscious of the English tactical superiority conferred by the longbow, preferred several times to give up the combat rather than to risk a defeat. The king does not have any more the charisma and the credibility necessary to hold his troops. From then on, everyone wanted to reach the English enemy as quickly as possible in order to take the lion's share of the battle; no one obeyed the orders of King Philip VI who, carried away by the movement, was forced to throw himself into the battle. Hindered in their progression by their own pedestrians and the Genoese mercenary crossbowmen routed by the rain of English arrows, the French knights are obliged to fight with their own men. It is a disaster on the French side where Philip VI of Valois is illustrated by his military incompetence. The French knights charge by successive waves the mount of Crécy, but their mounts (at the time not or little protected) are massacred by the rains of arrows launched by the English archers sheltered behind rows of stakes. Struggling to get up from their fall, the French knights, heavily clad in their armor, were easy prey for the infantrymen who had only to finish them off.

The French army destroyed, Edward III went north and laid siege to Calais. With a relief army, the king of France tried to lift the blockade of the city, but did not dare to confront Edward III. It is in dramatic circumstances, during which the famous burghers of Calais give the keys of their city to the besiegers, that Calais passes under English domination, which will last until the XVIth century. Philip VI negotiated a truce with Edward III, who, in a position of strength, obtained full sovereignty over Calais.

In 1347, after the fall of Calais, Philippe VI, old (53 years) and discredited, must give in to the pressure. It is his son Jean, the duke of Normandy, who takes things in hand. His allies (the Melun family and members of the business bourgeoisie who had just been victims of the purge that followed Crécy and whom he had rehabilitated) entered the king's council, the Chamber of Accounts and held high positions in the administration. The political attraction of France allowed the kingdom to expand eastward despite military defeats. Thus, Count Humbert II, ruined by his inability to raise taxes and without an heir after the death of his only son, sold the Dauphiné to Philip VI. Jean takes part directly in the negotiations and finalizes the agreement.

The great plague

The Black Death was a pandemic that affected the European population between 1347 and 1351. Diseases called "plague" had disappeared from the West since the 8th century (Justinian plague). It was the deadliest pandemic in human history until the Spanish flu, as far as we know. It is the first pandemic in history to have been well described by contemporary chroniclers.

It is estimated that the Black Death killed between 30 and 50 percent of the European population in five years, claiming about twenty-five million victims. This pandemic had a lasting impact on European civilization, but also on the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, after this first wave, the disease reappeared regularly in the various countries affected: between 1353 and 1355 in France, and between 1360 and 1369 in England, in particular, and then about every 20 years until the 17th century.

Purchase of Montpellier

In 1331, Jacques III of Majorca, aged 16, paid tribute to Philip VI for the city of Montpellier, which his family had inherited through marriage. Montpellier is located in the kingdom of France but is a possession of the king of Majorca like Guyenne for the king of England. The kingdom of Majorca was itself a vassal state of the kingdom of Aragon, but it could not bear the fiscal burden of this vassalage, which had been imposed on it by force.

Montpellier itself has a lot of independence. It is a three-day walk from the rest of the king of Majorca's continental possessions in Roussillon. It is commercially dependent on Languedoc, but trade with the Spanish is less advantageous because of their own currency. The use of French currencies was common and its commercial interests pushed it towards the kingdom of France. Suspecting the independence of James III of Majorca, who was reluctant to pay homage to him, Peter IV of Aragon, known as the Ceremonious One, worked towards the reunion of the two crowns.

In 1339, worried by the rumours of marriage of a son of Jacques III with a girl of Edward III, rumours peddled by the king of Aragon who works actively to isolate his vassal, Philip VI summons the king of Majorca to renew his homage for the town of Montpellier. Jacques III answered him that he doubted the legality of this homage and gave himself to the pope. Seeing that France was put in difficulty by England, James III had jousts organized in Montpellier, which was in contradiction with the order of the king of France who had forbidden them in times of war: it was a clear challenge to the sovereignty of Philip VI over Montpellier. Pierre IV, playing a double game and assuring Jacques that he would help him militarily in the event of conflict with France, pushes the king of Majorca to assert himself more and more in an alliance with the king of England, but at the same time he asks the support of the king of France. Philippe VI makes seize the city of Montpellier and the viscounties of Aumelas and Carladis. He charges Jean le Bon to assemble an army to enter Roussillon. But Jacques III realizes that he was played by the king of Aragon and makes amends. Philip VI, who understood well that the games are made, ratifies the alliance with Pierre the Ceremonious and returns his French possessions to the king of Majorca, knowing pertinently that this one, surrounded by such a powerful alliance, will not be able to preserve them. In 1343, Pierre IV invaded the Balearic Islands, and made himself master of Roussillon in 1344. On September 5, 1343, Philip VI supports the Aragonese offensive by prohibiting any provisioning of the king of Majorca in weapons, food or horses. Completely isolated, Jacques III is forced to accept the defeat. His fate was sealed by the Cortes in Barcelona, where it was decided to leave him his fiefdom of Montpellier. But he refused and fled to one of his friends, the count of Foix, with forty of his knights. Meeting Philip VI in Avignon, he sold him the city of Montpellier and pledged part of the Cerdanya and Roussillon on April 18, 1349 for 120,000 gold crowns. He could thus reconstitute an army and a fleet. The agreements stipulated that he would retain the rights to his city until his death. This death occurred on October 25, 1349: Montpellier belonged to the French crown. On the other hand, Cerdanya and Roussillon, disputed by the king of Aragon, remained Aragonese.

Acquisition of the Dauphiné

On July 16, 1349, Humbert II de la Tour du Pin, dauphin of Viennois, ruined because of his inability to raise taxes, and without an heir after the death of his only son, gave the king of France the Dauphiné, land of the Holy Roman Empire. Neither the pope nor the emperor being purchasers, the business is concluded with Philip VI. According to the agreement, it should go to a son of the future king John the Good. It is thus Charles V, as the eldest son of the latter, who becomes the dauphin. He was only eleven years old, but was immediately confronted with the exercise of power. The control of the Dauphiné is precious for the kingdom of France because it occupies the Rhone valley, a major commercial axis between the Mediterranean and the North of Europe since the Antiquity, putting them in direct contact with Avignon, papal city and diplomatic center impossible to circumvent of medieval Europe.

Duchy of Burgundy

The daughter-in-law of Philip VI, Bonne de Luxembourg, died of the plague in 1349. Philip carried out a new diplomatic maneuver which increased his possessions towards the east. Jean de Normandie married in second marriage, on February 19, 1350 in Nanterre, the countess Jeanne de Boulogne, daughter of Guillaume XII d'Auvergne and Marguerite d'Évreux, widow aged 24 years, heiress of the counties of Boulogne and Auvergne and regent of the duchy of Burgundy, of the counties of Burgundy and Artois in the name of her son of the first bed, Philippe de Rouvre. She received in dower the seigneuries of Montargis, Lorris, Vitry-aux-Loges, Boiscommun, Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, Corbeil, Fontainebleau, Melun and Montreuil.

Philip VI died during the night of August 22-23, 1350 at the castle of Nogent-le-Roi according to some historians or more likely at the abbey of Notre-Dame de Coulombs according to others. Philip left a kingdom that was permanently disorganized and entered a phase of revolts that turned into a civil war with the Great Jacquerie of 1358.

In July 1313, Philip VI of Valois married Jeanne of Burgundy (c. 1293-1349), daughter of Robert II (1248-1306), Duke of Burgundy (1272-1306) and titular king of Thessalonica, and Agnes of France (1260-1325). From this union came at least eight children:

Having become the widower of Jeanne de Bourgogne, who died on December 12, 1349, the king married Blanche of Navarre (c. 1331-1398), known as Blanche d'Évreux, daughter of Philip III (1306-1343), count of Évreux (1319-1343) and king of Navarre by marriage, in a second marriage at Brie-Comte-Robert on January 11 or 29, 1350, depending on the source.  1331-1398), known as Blanche d'Évreux, daughter of Philippe III (1306-1343), count of Évreux (1319-1343) and king of Navarre by marriage, and of Jeanne II (1311-1349), queen of Navarre (1328-1349) and countess of Champagne. From this union a posthumous daughter was born:

Philip VI of Valois would have had two natural sons:

Primary sources

: document used as a source for the writing of this article.


  1. Philip VI of France
  2. Philippe VI de Valois
  3. Le lieu exact de son décès est discuté. Selon certaines sources[Lesquelles ?], il serait mort à Coulombs dans l'abbaye Notre-Dame. Selon d'autres, il serait mort dans l'ancien château fort (aujourd'hui disparu) de Nogent-le-Roi.
  4. D'après la Chronique latine du moine bénédictin Guillaume de Nangis[13], les barons français préconisaient majoritairement de reporter le combat contre les milices flamandes à Cassel le 23 août 1328, en arguant de l'approche de l'hiver. Le roi Philippe VI demanda conseil à son connétable, Gaucher de Châtillon, qui l'exhorta à livrer bataille en répondant hardiment : « Qui a bon cœur trouve toujours bon temps pour la guerre. » Galvanisé par cette réponse, le souverain lui aurait donné l'accolade avant de lancer à ses barons la fameuse formule « Qui m'aime me suive ! »[14] (« Qui me diligit me sequatur »). Cependant, l'origine de ce « mot historique » est controversée puisque Plutarque attribuait déjà la tirade « Qui m'aime me suive » à Alexandre le Grand, plusieurs siècles plus tôt[15].
  5. ^ David Nicolle, Crécy 1346: Triumph of the Longbow, (Osprey, 2000), 12.
  6. ^ a b Elizabeth Hallam and Judith Everard, Capetian France 987-1328, 2nd edition, (Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 366.
  7. ^ a b Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle, Vol. I, (Faber & Faber, 1990), 106-107.
  8. ^ Viard, "Philippe VI de Valois. Début du règne (février-juillet 1328)", Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes, 95 (1934), 263.
  9. 1,0 1,1 1,2 1,3 1,4 1,5 1,6 1,7 «Kindred Britain»
  10. David Nicolle, Crécy 1346: Triumph of the Longbow, (Osprey, 2000), 12.
  11. Elizabeth Hallam and Judith Everard, Capetian France 987-1328, 2nd edition, (Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 366.
  12. ^ I guelfi genovesi erano guidati dalle famiglie, Grimaldi e Fieschi.
  13. ^ Gli esuli ghibellini erano guidati dalle famiglie, Doria e Spinola.
  14. ^ (EN) Fabio Romanoni, L’organizzazione militare a Tortona attraverso il « Registro delle entrate e uscite del Comune » (1320-1321), in "Bollettino Storico-Bibliografico Subalpino", 114 (2016).. URL consultato il 5 febbraio 2019.
  15. ^ Filippo IV di Francia era rispettivamente zio e nonno di Filippo di Valois e del re d'Inghilterra Edoardo III

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