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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Guyenne itself had become the king's in 1472


The

work of consolidation had been as rapid as it was complete. In 1464, three years after his succession, Louis XI. was confronted by a formidable association of the great feudatories of France, which called itself the _League of Public Weal_. Charles of Guyenne, the king's brother, the Count of Charolais (known as Charles the Bold of Burgundy), the Duke of Brittany, the two great families of the Armagnacs, the elder represented by the Count of Armagnac, and the younger by the Duke of Nemours, John of Anjou, Duke of Calabria, and the Duke of Bourbon, were allied in arms against the king. Yet by 1465 Normandy had been wrested from the Duke of Guyenne; Guyenne itself had become the king's in 1472; the Duke of Nemours had been crushed and slain in 1476; the Count of Charolais, become Duke of Burgundy, had been overthrown, his power shattered, and himself slain by the Swiss peasant confederates, and almost all his French _fiefs_ had been incorporated by 1480; and on the death of King Rene (1480) the provinces of Anjou and Provence had been annexed to the Crown of France. The great feudatories were so thoroughly broken that their attempt to revolt during the earlier years of the reign of Charles VIII. was easily frustrated by Anne of Beaujeu acting on behalf of the young king.

The efforts to secure hold on the Church date back from the days of the Council of Basel, when Pope Eugenius was at hopeless issue with the majority of its members. In 1438 a deputation

from the Council waited upon the king and laid before him the conciliar plans of reform. Charles VII. summoned an assembly of the French clergy to meet at Bourges. He was present himself with his principal nobles; and the meeting was also attended by members of the Council and by papal delegates. There the celebrated Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges was formally presented and agreed upon.

This Pragmatic Sanction embodied most of the cherished conciliar plans of reform. It asserted the ecclesiastical supremacy of Councils over Popes. It demanded a meeting of a Council every ten years. It declared that the selection of the higher ecclesiastics was to be left to the Chapters and to the Convents. It denied the Pope's general claim to the reservation of benefices, and greatly limited its use in special cases. It did away with the Pope's right to act as Ordinary, and insisted that no ecclesiastical cases should be appealed to Rome without first having exhausted the lower courts of jurisdiction. It abolished the _Annates_, with some exceptions in favour of the present Pope. It also made some attempts to provide the churches with an educated ministry. All these declarations simply carried out the proposals of the Council of Basel; but they had an important influence on the position of the French clergy towards the king. The Pragmatic Sanction, though issued by an assembly of the French clergy, was nevertheless a royal ordinance, and thereby gave the king indefinite rights over the Church within France. The right to elect bishops and abbots was placed in the hands of Chapters and Convents, but the king and nobles were expressly permitted to bring forward and recommend candidates, and this might easily be extended to enforcing the election of those recommended. Indefinite rights of patronage on the part of the king and of the nobles over benefices in France could not fail to be the result, and the French Church could scarcely avoid assuming the appearance of a national Church controlled by the king as the head of the State. The abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction was always a bait which the French king could dangle before the eyes of the Pope, and the promise to maintain the Pragmatic Sanction was always a bribe to secure the support of the clergy and the _Parlements_ of France.


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