Kingdom of France (13th – 15th c.)
Philip II (1180-1223) was succeeded by his son Louis VIII (1223-1226) who launched a crusade against the heretical Albigenses and strengthened the royal authority in central France. Louis’ successor Louis IX the Saint (1226-1270) continued the consolidation of French monarchy and further strengthened the monarchical power by limiting the power of feudal lords and clergy. Louis IX also settled the question of the English possessions in France by forcing the English King to acknowledge French suzerainty in the disputed region of Aquitaine. Both crusades (Cyprus 1248-54 and Tunis 1270) launched by Louis IX turned out to be failure but France became the leading power in Europe by the time of his death in 1270.
France increased its power and influence under Louis’ successor Philip III the Bold (1270-1285) and his son Philip IV the Fair (1285-1314). Philip III captured Navarre, Toulouse and some other territories in the southern France, while Philip IV further strengthened the royal control over the nobility as well as over the clergy. Philip’s conflict with the church over the question of taxation resulted in the so-called “Babylonian Captivity” of the papacy (1309-1377) which brought papacy under French influence. The Capetian line seemed to be assured at the time of Philip’s death in 1314. Philip IV had three sons who succeeded him in turn: Louis X (1314-1316), Philip V (1316-1322) and Charles IV (1322-1328) but none of them produced a male heir. Thus the direct Capetian male line came to an end on the death of Charles IV in 1328.
Charles IV was succeeded by the nephew of Philip IV and great-grandson of Louis the Saint, Philip of Valois who assumed to the throne as Philip VI (1328-1350). However, the accession of the House of Valois to the French throne was rejected by Edward III of England (1327-1377) who claimed the French throne as grandson of Philip IV. English claim to the French throne, dispute over Gascony and political alliance between England and Flanders led to the outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War in 1337. The period from 1338 to 1380 generally ended favorable for France although all the major battles until 1360 were won by the English: the Battle of Sluys (1340), the Battle of Crecy (1346), the Siege of Calais (1347) and the Battle of Poitiers (1356). Edward, the Black Prince captured King John II of France (1350-1364) in the Battle of Poitiers and released him after payment of a large ransom in 1360. The period from 1360 to 1380 evolved in French favor, especially after the accession of John’s son Charles V the Wise (1364-1380) to the French throne. He was a poor soldier but an excellent statesman and skillful diplomat and France regained almost all lost territories by the end of Charles’s reign in 1380. However, France fell into chaos and was greatly exposed to renewed English attacks under his successor Charles VI the Mad (1380-1422).
Charles VI became insane in 1392 and serious conflicts broke out over the regency between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy leading to the outbreak of a civil war. Henry V of England (1413-1422) took advantage of the situation in France and conquered Normandy, captured Paris and forced Charles VI to disinherit his son in Henry’s favor. Both Charles VI and Henry V died in 1422 and Henry’s son Henry VI succeeded the throne of both France and England. However, Henry VI was recognized as king only in northern France, while southern France remained loyal to the Dauphin, later Charles VII (1422-1461).
The emergence of Joan of Arc, a peasant girl who persuaded Charles VII that she was led by the divine voices to save France turned out to be of greatest importance for the final outcome of the Hundred Years’ War. The French forces under her command lifted the Siege of Orleans in 1429 which is widely regarded as the turning point of the Hundred Years’ War. The English position became hopeless after the Congress of Arras in 1435 which resulted in reconciliation between Duke of Burgundy and Charles VII and thus the Hundred Years’ War ended with English withdrawal in 1453. The outcome of the Hundred Years’ War resulted in consolidation of the French monarchy which developed into a centralized nation-state.