Against one set of enemies, however, Charles VII was not successful—his rebellious vassals, many of them beneficiaries of the new bastard feudalism, who still controlled nearly half of the kingdom. The most powerful of these vassals was the duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good (r. 1419-1467), whose authority extended to Flanders and other major portions of the Low Countries. This sprawling Burgundian realm was almost an emerging national state.
The Rise of the Nation
The new king, Charles VI (1380-1422), was intermittently insane. During his reign the monarchy was threatened by the disastrous results of the earlier royal policy of assigning provinces called apanages to the male members of the royal family. Such a relative might himself be loyal, but within a generation or two his heirs would be remote enough from the royal family to become its rivals. In 1363 King John II made Burgundy the apanage of his youngest son, Philip. Charles the Wise gave Orleans as an apanage to his younger son, Louis.
In these years the French monarchy faced increasingly hostile criticism at home. When summoned in 1355 to consent to a tax, the Estates General insisted on determining its form—a general levy on sales and a special levy on salt—and demanded also that their representatives rather than those of the Crown act as collectors.
The nominal cause of the war was a dispute over the succession to the French throne. For more than three hundred years son had followed father as king of France. This remarkable succession ended with the three sons of Philip the Fair, none of whom fathered a son who survived infancy. The crown then passed to Philip of Valois, Philip VI (1328-1350), a nephew of Philip the Fair. But the king of England, Edward III (r. 1327-1377), claimed that as the nephew of the last Capetian king he had a better right to succeed than Philip of Valois.
At the death of Philip the Fair in 1314, the Capetian monarchy of France seemed to be evolving into a new professional institution staffed by efficient and loyal bureaucrats. Philip Augustus, Louis IX, and Philip the Fair had all consolidated royal power at the expense of their feudal vassals, who included the kings of England.
Soon, however, France became embroiled in a long conflict with England—the so-called Hundred Years’ War of 1337-1453—that crippled the monarchy for well over a century.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries old forms and attitudes persisted in Western politics but became less flexible and less creative. The Holy Roman emperor Henry VII in the early 1300s sought to straighten out the affairs of Italy in the old Ghibelline tradition, even though he had few of the resources that had been at the command of Frederick Barbarossa. The nobles of France and England, exploiting the confusion of the Hundred Years’ War, built private armies and great castles and attempted to transfer power back from the monarch to themselves.