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Kingdom of FranceTimeline: Régime de l'Aigle
Royaume de France
OTL equivalent: Kingdom of France
Montjoie Saint Denis!
Map of France in 1648.
|Official languages||French, Latin|
|Regional Languages||Occitan, Breton,
Basque, Catalan, Alsatian, Walloon Francique,Franco-Provençal
|-||Treaty of Verdun||10 August 843|
The Kingdom of France (French: Royaume de France; Latin: Regnum Franciae) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in western Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in the modern era. Although known as the Empire of Francia, the Kingdom of France formed from the partitioning of the Carolingian Empire, comprising the western portions of the former empire.
After the death of Charlemagne, the kingdom was ruled by his descendants, the Carolingian dynasty, for much of the next two centuries. Frequent civil wars and other conflicts within the nation eventually led to a uniform method of electing the Rex Francorum, or King of France, creating an elective monarchy. This principle became fundamental in the continued growth of the empire. Despite this elective nature, kings were frequently elected from a series of dynasties. The French prince-electors, collectively known as the Sénat de Électeurs, the highest ranking noblemen of the empire, usually elected one of their peers as king.
Division of the Carolingian Empire
Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, and King of the Franks, died on 20 June 840, leading to his eldest son, Lothair I, claimed overlordship over the whole of his father's kingdom. This came in violation of the Salic Law of the Franks, which required division of Louis’ empire among all his sons. Lothair also supported the claim of his nephew Pepin II to Aquitaine, a large province in the west of the Frankish realm. Lothair’s claims were not recognized by his brother Louis the German and his half-brother Charles the Bold, and war soon loomed over Francia.
Charles and Louis assembled their armies and marched against Lothair. At the Battle of Worms Lothair would be defeated, and was forced to grant Charles all the lands of the west, and Louis that of Bavaria and the lands of the east. Lothair was left with the lands he managed to hold, the Kingdom of Italy, and the imperial title. Despite this division, conflict continued, beginning on 24 July 840 when Lothair declared in Strasbourg ownership over the entirety of the empire. Lothair was joined by his nephew Pepin and Girard II, Count of Paris, Lothair's brother-in-law, and marched into the Loire Valley. The barons of Burgundy became split over their allegiances, with Ermenaud III of Auxerre, Arnoul of Sens, and Audri of Autun pledging themselves for Lothair, and Guerin of Provence and Aubert of Avallon remaining with Charles. By March 831 Burgundian forces loyal to Charles and the forces of Guerin had been organized, and by May of that year they had joined Louis of Bavaria and Charles the Marne river.
At the Battle of Fontenoy the forces of Charles and Louis met Lothair and Pepin. Lothair and his allies initiated combat, and took the upper hand against Charles and Louis, until the arrival of Guerin and his army of Provençals. Pepin’s contingent managed to repulse the forces of Charles, while Lothair was slowly pushed back by Louis and the reinforcing Provençals. Lothair was eventually defeated, and fled to his capital at Aachen. After gathering his army Lothair continued raiding, but outnumbered by his brothers was unable to decisively defeat them. In 842 Charles and Louis would sign the Oaths of Strasbourg, declaring Lothair unfit for the imperial throne.
In August 843 Lothair would agree to negotiations with his brothers. The ensuing Treaty of Verdun would officially end the Carolingian Civil War, and would fully partition the former Carolingian Empire. Each of the three brothers retained their already established kingdom: Lothair in Italy, Louis the German in Bavaria, and Charles the Bald in Aquitaine. Lothair retained his title of emperor, and in addition each of the following terms was fulfilled:
- Lothair received the central portion of the empire which later became, from north to south: the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy (which covered only the northern half of the Italian Peninsula), collectively called Middle Francia. Lothair also received the two imperial cities, Aachen and Rome, with his possession of the imperial title recognized. Despite his title Lothair retained only nominal overlordship of his brothers' lands.
- Louis the German was guaranteed the kingship of all lands to the east of the Rhine and to the north and east of Italy, and received the eastern sections of the empire. This land later became known East Francia, and would lay the foundations for the Kingdom of Germany, the largest component of the Holy Roman Empire.
- Charles the Bald received all lands west of the Rhône, which became known as West Francia. Pepin II was granted the kingdom of Aquitaine, but only under the authority of Charles.
In addition to the divisions at Verdun, after the death of Lothair in 855, Upper and Lower Burgundy (Arles and Provence) passed to his third son Charles of Provence, with his remaining territory north of the Alps to his second son Lothair II, who ruled over the land which would later be known as Lotharingia. Lothair's eldest son, Louis II inherited Italy and his father's claim to the Imperial title.
Reign of Hugh Capet
In West Francia the Carolingians would continue to rule until the late 900’s. The last Carolingian king, Louis V, died on 21 May 987 after he fell while hunting near the town of Senlis, Oise. Louis had no legitimate heirs, and as such it was expected that his uncle, Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine, would be nominated as his successor. Instead the clergy, led by Louis’ enemy Adalberon, archbishop of Reims, who Louis had been investigating for treason, and Gerbert, who later became Pope Sylvester II, argued on behalf of Hugh Capet. Hugh Capet was son of Hugh the Great, Duke of the Franks, and Hedwige of Saxony, daughter of the German king Henry the Fowler. Through his mother, Hugh was also the nephew of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor; Henry I, Duke of Bavaria; Bruno the Great, Archbishop of Cologne; and Gerberga of Saxony, Queen of France, wife of Louis IV, King of France, and mother of Lothair of France and Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine.
Since the late ninth century the nobility of West Francia had argued that the monarchy was elective, as they had previously elected two Robertians over Carolingians; Odo I and Robert I, who became indispensable in leading the nation. After the death of Rudolph of Burgundy, King of the Franks, and Hugh the Great’s brother-in-law, he had chosen not to claim the throne for himself, as that would risk an election against Herbert II, Count of Vermandois, father of Hugh, Archbishop of Reims, who was himself allied to Henry the Fowler, King of Germany; and with Hugh the Black, Duke of Burgundy, brother of the late king. Nevertheless Hugh had become one of the most powerful and influential people in West Francia, leading to Louis IV granting him the title of dux Francorum and declaring him "the second after us in all our kingdoms."
In 987 Hugh Capet was elected King of the Franks, and almost immediately after his coronation, began to push for the coronation of his son Robert. The archbishop of Reims however, wary of establishing hereditary kingship in the Capetian line, said that two kings cannot be created in the same year. Despite the king’s claims that he planned a campaign against the Moorish armies at odds with Borrel II, Count of Barcelona, a vassal of the French crown, these requests would be denied.
The Carolingian heir, Louis V’s uncle Charles of Lorraine, contested the results of the election. With support from the Count of Vermandois, a cadet of the Carolingian dynasty; and from the Count of Flanders, loyal to the Carolingian cause, Charles took Laon, the seat of the Carolingian royalty. In response Hugh Capet and his son Robert besieged the city twice, but would both times be repulsed.
After the death of Adalberon, Archbishop of Reims, his position was contested by Gerbert and Arnulf, illegitimate son of the Carolingian king Lothair of France. In an attempt to end hostilities between supporters of the Carolingians, Hugh chose Arnulf as archbishop, after having him swear an oath of loyalty. Despite his oath, Arnulf supported his family, and opened the city of Reims to Charles’ forces. An attempt to broker peace failed after Hugh unsuccessfully attempted to capture Charles during negotiations. As a result many of the southern cities of West Francia refused to recognize Hugh after his betrayal, allowing Charles to gain greater power.
Following his betrayal at Reims, Hugh called on Pope John XV to depose Arnulf, but was embroiled in a conflict with the Roman aristocracy. Hugh instead settled for a domestic council to be convened, which deposed the archbishop and chose Gerbert as his successor. The pope refused to recognize these results, and called for a new council in Aachen, but the French bishops chose to stand by their decision. Another attempt to call a council between German and French bishops at Mousson would fail, when Hugh prevented his bishops from attending. The deposition of Arnulf would later be pronounced illegal, contested by Gerbert. The bishops who had elected Gerbert were excommunicated, leading to them declaring Gerbert antipope Sylvester II, in order to counter the German dominated papacy.
Return of Carolingians and Ramnulfids
Charles, Duke of Lower Lorraine, regrouped his forces and led an attack against Paris, forcing Hugh Capet to meet him on the field of battle. In the ensuing campaign that followed Hugh would be killed and Paris seized, leading to Charles being crowned king. Charles only ruled briefly however before his death, after which conflict would erupt between his eldest son Otto and Hugh Capet’s heir Robert. Robert faced additional problems when he was excommunicated for consanguinity, allowing Otto to secure his election as king. When Otto chose to be crowned by antipope Sylvester II, he too was likewise excommunicated by the pope in Rome. In 1012 Otto died with no legitimate heirs, leading the French nobility to elect a new king.
William V, Duke of Aquitaine was elected king, who ruled France from various cities throughout his rule. By the time of his ascension France was largely divided into a series of stem duchies, which ultimately held power within the kingdom. William sought to weaken the hold of individual duke’s, first by repairing the schism between French clergy and the popes in Rome. William proposed the expansion of church lands, which in reality were in an effort to limit the power of the dukes. Bishops were granted imperial lands, and unlike their neighboring dukes, could not pass hereditary titles and lands to any descendants. Instead William was able to control the succession of bishops, despite the fact that this was against the canon law of the Catholic Church, which eventually weakened the emperor’s relations with the papacy.
In addition to his creation of church lands across France, William likewise attempted to promote church policies, such as the Peace and Truce of God movements initiated by the papacy. Mailezais Abbey and Bourgueil Abbey would be founded by William in Aquitaine, as would a number of cathedrals and other religious structures after a fire had damaged the city of Poitiers. In 1024 an embassy from Italy sent by Ulric Manfred II of Turin beseeched William to claim the Kingdom of Italy, which under Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor had been greatly neglected. The nobles of Italy had refused to recognize Conrad automatically after the death of emperor Henry II.
When news spread of Henry’s death the nobles in Italy revolted in an effort to separate the Kingdom of Italy from the empire. In Pavia the imperial palace was destroyed, after the city’s attempts to received greater autonomy had gone unheeded. When attempts to negotiate with the emperor failed, the nobles of Italy instead William's claims, who invaded Italy with a French army. Conrad marched a contingent of soldiers into Italy, where he was crowned king in Milan. After two years Italy would finally be quelled under Conrad, with a treaty between William and Conrad being brokered by Abbot Odilo of Cluny in 1027. When William returned home to France he would hold a king’s council in Clermont, which sought to finalize French laws, as part of an imperial constitution. This however only helped to diminish central power in favor of local dukes.
William died in 1030, and was succeeded by his son William VI in Aquitaine, and was later elected as king. William II as king came into conflict heavily with Geoffrey II, Count of Anjou. War broke out between the king and Geoffrey in 1034, resulting in William’s defeat. The king was forced to cede Saintes and Bordeaux, and after renewing hostilities was likewise forced to cede the isle of Oléron.When William II died in 1038 his half brother Odo of Gascony succeeded him in Aquitaine, but was forced into combat with his half brother William, son of William I of France and stepson of Geoffrey Martel.
During this time Geoffrey would seize the throne of France through his marriage to William I’s widow, Agnes of Burgundy. Odo would be killed in 1039, who seized the throne of Aquitaine. Geoffrey however refused to cede William the territories seized from his predecessors, beginning a war between the two. The feud between Poitiers and Anjou culminated in a siege of Tours in 1042 by Geoffrey, who allied with Henry I, Count of Paris. In 1044 Count Theobold I of Blois-Chartres was taken prisoner by Geoffrey, and was forced to surrender the city of Tours.
Geoffrey also led a number of campaigns into Normandy, seizing the city of Mans during William of Talou’s rebellion against the duke of Normandy. Geoffrey next seized Domfront and Alençon, taking advantage of internal conflict to extend his own influence. Duke William unsuccessfully laid siege to Domfront, but after William of Talou’s rebellion ended, Duke William was able to retake these cities and push Geoffrey across the Norman border into Maine. War would continue between the king and Normandy until 1060, when Geoffrey died.
After the death of king Geoffrey, the Ramnulfids successfully returned to the throne of France, with the election of William VIII, William V’s four son, as William III of France. William had become duke in Gascony beginning 1052 during his older brother William VII's rule. As king William led an army to aid Ramiro I of Aragon in the Siege of Barbastro, the first expedition organized by the papacy, namely Pope Alexander II, against a Muslim city. After this campaign William would continue good relations between France and the nations of the Iberian peninsula, establishing a number of ties through the marriage of his daughters.
During William III’s reign conflict once more arose between France and the papacy. The reform minded pope Gregory VII attempted to end the practice of kings of France and Germany appointing bishops within their realms, leading to the Investiture Controversy. In Germany King Henry IV refused the pope’s demands and persuaded his nation’s bishops to excommunicate the Pope. The Pope, in turn, excommunicated the king, declared him deposed, and dissolved the oaths of loyalty made to Henry. William was similarly excommunicated after refusing to comply.
Seeking to take advantage of the king’s current weak rule, William, Duke of Normandy launched a revolt, alongside Theobald III, Count of Blois, Philip I, Count of Paris, and numerous other allies. William was elected as an antiking, after he promised to respect the electoral concept of the kingdom, and submit to the papacy. The king responded by marching an army into the County of Blois, where he was met with success. Duke William was coronated in Reims, causing a revolt to occur among the local populace. The duke’s forces were forced into Champagne, where they then marched against the royal army besieging Sancerre. An attempt by the Count of Paris to break the siege ended in failure, and the rebels fled across the Loire River.
Duke William rallied the rebel forces and had them march against the invaders at Blois, where they managed to repulse the king’s forces. The king was again defeated near Vierzon, being mortally wounded and dying soon after. William was crowned king, but not without revolts against him too. The pope soon turned against William when he supported Henry IV of Germany’s attempts to depose him. Civil war in France would not end until 1084, when William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, William III’s successor in Aquitaine, recognized the legitimacy of William’s reign.
The Investiture Controversy would continue between William and his descendants against the pope for several decades, as each succeeding pope tried to diminish imperial power by stirring up revolt in Germany and France. In 1087 William IV died, and was succeeded by his son William V of France. The crisis would not fully be settled until the Concordat of Rouen under William V’s son, Henry I, in which he managed to reach an agreement with the pope. Overall the political power of the king had been preserved, but the investiture controversy exposed the limits to his rule, especially in church related matters.
House of Normandy
The reign of William V saw France’s involvement in the FIrst Crusade to retake the Holy Land, which succeeded in creating the Kingdom of Jerusalem. William's heir, Henry I, would later partake in his own crusade, the Second Crusade, as penitence for acts committed during a conflict with Champagne. This period would also see the rise of Gothic architecture, which soon became standard in most European cathedrals. Under the rule of Henry the House of Normandy became increasingly unpopular, as he attempted to extract higher taxes and land from his vassals.
Henry’s marriage to his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine was annulled by the pope under the pretext of consanguinity, and Eleanor soon married Louis, Count of Paris. In 1120 Aquitaine launched a revolt against the king in Normandy, securing alliances with the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne, who invaded that year in April. Likewise the Bretons invaded Normandy from the west soon after. Both assaults failed however, with the Count of Boulogne being killed in battle. The Breton invaders would be decisively defeated by imperial forces, taking heavy losses as well as a great amount of supplies.
By the end of the year the King of France had signed a peace treaty with most of the rebellious states, returning northern France to as it was before the war. With Normandy secured, in 1121 an invasion was launched into Aquitaine. Henry was unable to uproot the Ramnulfids in battle, and it was not until Eleanor’s youngest son defected along with a portion of Aquitaine’s forces did they relent. Louis, Count of Paris would be captured and die in captivity. Eleanor would be allowed to remain in control of Aquitaine, but forced to grant her traitorous son, and each of her subsequent sons, portions of her domain. Eleanor later married Edgar II of England, with whom she bore three sons and one daughter.
In 1125 Henry I’s only son, William, would be killed in a shipwreck, leaving his succession unclear. Henry’s had one daughter, Matilda, but at this time the female rights of inheritance were unclear. Henry sought to preserve his family’s control over the kingdom, but knew that already many in France plotted against the House of Normandy. This became readily apparent after the rebellion by Aquitaine, which Henry was only narrowly able to quell. Matilda’s second marriage was to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, but his succession seemed unlikely, as he was unpopular in Normandy, and much of France as a whole.
Various costly wars, high taxation, and other expenses had left Henry with severe financial issues, and deteriorating relations with much of the kingdom, making an election of his family improbable. Despite this, Henry sought to promote the succession of his daughter Matilda, angering many nobles even further. On multiple occasions Henry had his court in Normandy swear an oath to recognize Matilda, but despite support in Normandy, France as a whole was uncertain. Geoffrey proposed that Henry cede his castles in Normandy to Matilda while he was still alive, but Henry declined this, fearing that Geoffrey would attempt to overthrow him. When a rebellion did break out in southern Normandy, Geoffrey intervened on behalf of the rebels. It was at this time that Henry unexpectedly fell ill.
When an election finally did occur in Paris, Stephen of Blois was elected king of France. Geoffrey and Matilda began preparations to fight Stephen, but were left in an awkward position fighting the Norman royal army, which would have to be used against Stephen if they wished to be successful. Geoffrey readied his forces in Anjou, while the royal army in Normandy was organized. The newly elected Stephen advanced south to rally France’s forces, and those who were enemies of Normandy, to fight back against Matilda and Geoffrey, while Stephen’s older brother Theobald II of Blois marched to slow down the Normans.
King Stephen managed to secure a costly victory in the end, forcing Geoffrey to sign a peace treaty recognizing his election in 1137. This peace lasted until 1140, when Stephen unexpectedly died, possibly assassinated. Geoffrey again claimed the throne, in contention with Stephen’s son William. A coalition was formed with Flanders, Boulonge, Lorraine, Brabant, and other states against Geoffrey, who had marched to Paris and received the backing from the majority of electors. This was partially attributed to bribes, as well as the hope of establishing order in the Kingdom of France under a stable house.
Geoffrey’s army was much smaller in comparison, but nevertheless he gathered what forces he could and prepared to mount a defense against this alliance. On the plains east of Bouvines and the river Marque Geoffrey caught up to this assembled army, initiating combat. The allied army faced to the southwest towards Bouvines, with heavy cavalry positioned on its wings, and its infantry collected in the center. Combat began between both sides cavalry, while Geoffrey’s infantry attempted to push back their opponent. After being personally unhorsed, Geoffrey managed to rally his forces and narrowly drive back a portion of the allied army. On the left flank the French army had managed to route the Flemish cavalry, beginning a retreat. As the allied army fell back to their center Geoffrey pursued, striking heavy casualties.
House of Plantagenet
The victory of Geoffrey Plantagenet at the Battle of Bouvines effectively ended The Anarchy, and ushered in the rule of the Plantagenet dynasty in France. Under Geoffrey I a number of baronial revolts would be put down across Anjou and Normandy. In 1151 Geoffrey was strucken with fever while returning home after a royal council. He arrived at the town of Château-du-Loir, before collapsing on a couch, making bequests of gifts and charities, before his death. He was buried at St. Julien's Cathedral in Le Mans France. Geoffrey would be succeeded by his son Henry, as Henry II of France.
In 1163 Henry II declared war on Godwin I of England, after he attempted to unite England and Aquitaine under English rule following the death of his brother Duke Harold. The war soon turned into civil war, with Aquitaine being further fragmented among various loyalties, and many claimants to the ducal title emerging. After two years the war would officially end, with Godwin withdrawing from France, while parts of Aquitaine remained under rule of the House of Godwin. Henry II would participate in the Third Crusade in 1189, but fall ill while campaigning and die in the holy land, fragmenting French forces. As a result the crusaders failed to capture Jerusalem, but secured a treaty guaranteeing the independence of several crusader states, safe travel to the holy land, and a peace treaty lasting at least three years.
Henry II would be succeeded by his son Richard I, however with Henry’s forces distant or scattered, many rivals in France sought to weaken the Plantagenets and elevate their own families to the throne of France. One of Richard’s main opponents became Louis IX, Count of Paris, who managed to gain a significant following in France during the previous king’s absence. Louis was elected king counter to Henry in Reims, beginning a war between the Plantagenets and the Capets. Louis was popular with the clergy, as many of his actions as count were inspired by Christian values. Gambling, blasphemy, interest-bearing loans, prostitution, and other sins had all been declared illegal in Paris under Louis, and many relics were brought to France by Louis.
Richard was an experienced leader and commander, from his journey in the holy land and other engagements, and defeated Louis on multiple occasions. During a march on Paris by Richard, Louis would be killed, cementing Richard’s rule as king of France. Towards the end of Richard’s rule, he became involved in the First Baron’s War in England, a conflict between forces loyal to King Edmund III of England and rebels demanding the end of despotic rule. After Edmund had failed to follow terms outlined by the barons of England, war broke out, and in 1207 the fifty year old Richard intervened. Under Richard England would be occupied for several months, before the French were eventually repelled in 1209.
Soon after Richard would also participate in the Albigensian Crusade, a twenty year war to eliminate the number of practising Cathars in Languedoc, which eventually led to dramatic changes in the structure of the County of Toulouse. After the conclusion of the crusade in southern France, King Richard I would die of old age, being succeeded by his son Charles V of Anjou. Charles had already ascended to the throne of Provence, which was technically a part of the Kingdom of Burgundy and hence the Holy Roman Empire, although in practice it was free of central authority. Under previous counts the region had experienced considerable liberty, particularly in the imperial cities of Marseille, Arles, and Avignon. Charles however governed firmly, and when he departed for Anjou the local nobility in Provence formed a defensive league of cities to combat him.
In order to secure his election, Charles had promised a French crusade, and was forced to compromise with the nobles of Provence, as not to subtract from his venture in the holy land. The subsequent Seventh Crusade ended in status quo ante bellum, and when Charles returned to Provence he found that the region had turned hostile. After a year of fighting to combat the rebellious parties, Arles, Avignon, and the other cities of Provence eventually surrendered. In 1251 Charles would intervene in the War of the Succession of Flanders and Hainault, causing a victory for Margaret II of Flanders, and placing an Angevin count in control of Hainault.
The following year Charles would receive envoys from Pope Innocent IV, who called on Charles to aid him in uprooting Holy Roman Emperor Conrad IV from the throne of Sicily. Charles accepted the offer and signed a treaty with the pope, promising that the kingdom would never again be united with the empire. In 1253 Charles would march into Rome, where he was proclaimed King of Sicily. When Charles’ main forces crossed into Italy, the Hohenstaufens met him at the Battle of Benevento, which would result in a decisive French victory. Following Conrad’s death in the subsequent campaign, Charles became undisputed king in Sicily, where he again attempted to consolidate his rule and maximize revenue. Revolts in Sicily followed, which would not be fully quelled until 1259.
Charles next looked to further expansion in the Mediterranean, hoping to restore former possessions of the Kingdom of Sicily. The Treaty of Viterbo in 1255 between Charles and the rulers of the Latin Empire transferred many of the rights from the defunct empire to Charles, granting France the island of Corfu, suzerain rights over Achaea, and most of the Aegean islands. The now elderly Charles turned his attention toward a crusade against the Caliph of Tunis, Muhammad I al-Mustansur, who had been a vassal of Sicily previously. Charles launched the Eighth Crusade, and managed to defeat the Tunisians on the field of battle. Disease ands a storm however devastated his army and invading fleet, and Charles returned home after securing a treaty of tribute with the Caliph of Tunis.
Charles sought next to invade the Byzantines, under his claim to the Latin Empire, but this venture would be delayed by the rise of Pope Gregory X, who declared his intentions of unifying the Greek and Latin churches. In the meantime Charles launched attacks on numerous Adriatic possessions, capturing the city of Durazzo, and controlling much of Albania. This led to conflict with the city of Genoa, which eventually escalated into a revolt across northern Italy. Northern Italy became loyal to the emperor, confining Charles in the south of Italy. Charles later claimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem, sending French representatives to administer the territory from Acre.
The proposed union of the Latin and Greek churches had broken down, and the emperor of the Byzantines launched a military campaign into Albania. The newly elected pope in 1281 approved Charles’ ambitions to restore the Latin Empire, and war ensued in Albania and the Peloponnese. Plans were made for an invasion of Constantinople, but Charles’ death in 1282 ended these efforts. Charles was succeeded by his son, Charles VI, and was immediately faced with trouble trying to administer his family’s large realm. Peter III of Aragon, who had married into the Hohenstaufen family after the death of Conrad, now claimed the Kingdom of Sicily for himself.
War of the Sicilian Vespers
Aragon invaded the Kingdom of Sicily that year, aided by an Italian rebellion in the region. French officials were massacred, and Charles VI was forced to flee from Italy. Supported by the pope and many French nobles, Charles assembled a French army and prepared to march against Aragon. In 1283 the pope granted the kingdom of Aragon to Charles, Count of Valois, and a crusade was called. At this time Peter III also faced rebellion in Aragon, and was forced to combat several rebellious subjects. An alliance with Castile was renewed, in part in order to prevent Navarre from joining France and creating a two front war in Aragon. France was joined by Navarre, Genoa, and Majorca, and an invasion was launched into Aragon.
The French invasion did not go as successfully as planned, and the Aragonese managed to defeat the mountain passes guarding the Iberian peninsula. In 1285 Peter III died, and was succeeded in Aragon by Alfonso III. After several more years of warfare, a treaty was signed in Tarascon, which affirmed the rule of Alfonso’s brother James II in Sicily. Alfonso was also obligated to go to Rome in person and have his excommunication lifted, pay a tribute to the church, carry out a crusade, and remove all Aragonese and Catalan knights from Sicily. Alfonso also promised that Sicily would not interfere in Italy against the pope. Alfonso’s untimely death that year however placed Aragon and Sicily in personal union under James II, renewing conflict with France. The Treaty of Anagni was signed in 1295, granting Sicily to the pope, who in turn attempted to return it to Charles VI of France, however the Aragonese regent in Sicily, and the Sicilian people themselves, refused to follow such terms.
James II sought to obey the terms of the treaty, and war ensued against his own brother. James’ brother Frederick was initially successful, but by 1300 the Aragonese and the Angevin defeated him, capturing Frederick at the Battle of Ponza. In 1302 Charles VI of France supported an invasion by his ally Charles of Valois, who launched his own invasion on request by the pope. This invasion proved successful, and in late 1302 the Peace of Caltabellotta was signed, granting the mainland of the kingdom to Charles VI, and the island of Sicily itself to Frederick, which would pass to Charles in the event of Frederick’s death.
House of Valois
In 1309 Charles VI of France died, and rather than elect one of his sons, French nobles instead selected Charles of Valois, a successful military commander, and one less likely to get the nation entrenched in an Italian conflict, like the previous king’s family. Charles VII would successfully seize English holdings on the continent in Flanders, and repulse a subsequent invasion to take them back. In 1325 the king would die, leaving his son to succeed him, as Philip I of France.
By this time the Kingdom of France had underwent massive structural change in how it administered its land. Money greatly became a means to represent economic value in agriculture, with peasants paying an increasingly large sum to their lords. The ancient forms of jurisdiction began to be replaced by the concept of individual property, with power becoming increasingly tied to land. As land came to form the basis of individuals’ power, legislation continued to be almost non existent, allowing courts to continue using traditional customs or rules. The realm of the French kings as a whole began to be commonly referred to as an ‘empire’, with later kings retaining the title “Emperor of Francia”. Within this empire individual territories formed the basis of modern nation states, becoming increasingly independent. This led to the emergence of a Sénat de Électeurs, a fixed college of prince-electors, who formalized the election of future kings of France. Under Philip I a decree would be passed designating seven nobles of France as the nation’s electors, responsible for future elections.
The king’s power had always in some part relied on the kingdom’s, which included several imperial cities and territories. Starting under the Angevin kings, these territories had been frequently sold or pawned to raise funds, especially for wars in Italy. Kings now largely relied on the strength of their respective dynastic lands, which were much easier to administer than the kingdom’s imperial cities and other territories, which were largely disorganized. In addition to these administrative reforms, Philip also instituted an empire wide Parlement, which sought to address problems arising across the nation.
In 1337 the largest war to date between England and France, over the succession of the ducal title of Aquitaine, broke out between Philip's successor, John I, and Edward V. The House of Wessex had ruled over parts of Aquitaine since the succession of Queen Eleanor, and had managed to expand their influence to rival the King of France’s. Although France had defeated England and Aquitaine previously, partitioning Aquitaine among multiple families, and reducing English territories in the north of France, the English dynastic alliance with the Plantagenets of Anjou greatly threatened the Valois.
As such, upon the death of the duke in Poitiers, Edward V launched an English invasion, prompting immediate retaliation by John, in an effort to contain the English on the mainland. While Edward gathered funds for an invasion, the French went on the offensive, seizing English possessions in southern France, and using hired Genoan galleys to raid the English coast. Needing to produce a military success, Edward landed a large English army in Anjou, where he met up with the Plantagenets and marched into France proper. The English were pushed back with heavy casualties to both sides, while the French eventually withdrew to regroup. At the same time the French navy successfully defeated an English fleet off the coast of northern France, allowing the French to largely dominate the English Channel in the coming years.
The war between England and France further escalated when in 1341 the Duke of Brittany died without heir, beginning the Breton War of Succession. The late duke’s younger half-brother, John, Count of Montfort, assumed the title, seizing the Breton capital at Nantes. When many of the duchy’s magnates and bishops refused to recognize John, a civil war broke out. The House of Montfort would eventually prevail with English assistance, but not without heavy cost to the English. Throughout the later half of the succession war, the Truce of Malestroit was in effect, temporarily ending conflict in France proper. Both nations were heavily in debt and exhausted with war, with the French king instituting a number of unpopular taxes to lessen the burden of national debt.
In 1346, with the truce now over, Edward returned to France to begin a massive invasion of France across the channel. An extensive campaign broke out across King John’s territory of Valois, with the French suffering decisive defeats or failing to repulse the English at Caen and Blanchetaque. At the Battle of Crécy the French suffered their worst defeat to date, and Calais was ceded to England as a result. Despite English success in the Lowlands, they were unable to continue their extensive campaign, as the Black Death now swept across Europe, weakening their forces.
In 1355 Edward’s son, Edward the Black Prince, returned to France and began a brutal campaign of raiding. King John responded with a large army, which trapped the English and forced them into combat. The French would be decisively defeated, with John captured by the English. With the signing of the Treaty of London, France would be forced to cede a large concession to the English, as well as pay a high ransom for John’s return. When John died in 1364 controversy arose over who should succeed him, with Charles II of Navarre arising as one potential candidate. In 1365 Navarre would invade English possessions in Gascony, in an effort to rally the French electors to his side.
Charles would defeat the English at Bayonne, gaining the support of the remaining states of the Gascony region in an effort to repulse the English. The English were already occupied in the Castilian Civil War, drawing away much needed forces, and turning the rival faction in Spain to France’s side. Following the death of Edward V, the English would be pushed back out of Aquitaine, retaining only their holding of Calais in the north. The actions of the Navarran king would lead to his election as Charles VIII in 1369, ending a four year interregnum. Charles would spend much of his reign at war in Aquitaine, although a lasting peace would not be reached until 1373, with the Treaty of Troyes, affirming French gains since the reign of John I.
Charles VIII’s death in 1387 heightened an already growing rivalry between the dukes of Orléans and the dukes of Burgundy, who both competed for control of the imperial throne. Ultimately the Orléans family won out, and Duke Louis I was crowned Louis VI of France. As king, Louis sought to further limit the power of the Burgundians, first by acquiring the Duchy of Luxembourg for his family in 1390, which cut off Burgundian influence in the Lowlands. This rivalry culminated in the king’s murder by John the Fearless of Burgundy in 1395, sparking a civil war between the two factions.
Louis was succeeded by his son as Charles V, who mobilized against the Burgundians. The Burgundians received support however from the English, beginning a twenty year civil war involving most of the empire. The war would conclude with the Treaty of Arras in 1415, which officially ended the Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War, and English intervention in the empire. England retained Calais, but was removed from the rest of the Lowlands and Aquitaine, although cadet branches of the English royal family would remain prevalent in some of these areas for years to come.