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Manners, Customs, and Dress During the Middle Ages

The House of Jacques Coeur at Bourges


Fig. 284.--The House of Jacques Coeur at Bourges, now converted into the Hotel de Ville.]

Charles VII. reconquered his kingdom by a good and wise policy as much as by arms. He, doubtless, had cause to be thankful for the valeur and devotion of his officers, but he principally owed the success of his cause to one man, namely, his treasurer, the famous Jacques Coeur, who possessed the faculty of always supplying money to his master, and at the same time of enriching himself (Fig. 284). Thus it was that Charles VII., whose finances had been restored by the genius of Jacques Coeur, was at last able to re-enter his capital triumphantly, to emancipate Guyenne, Normandy, and the banks of the Loire from the English yoke, to reattach to the crown a portion of its former possessions, or to open the way for their early return, to remove bold usurpers from high places in the State, and to bring about a real alleviation of those evils which his subjects had so courageously borne. He suppressed the fraud and extortion carried on under the name of justice, put a stop to the sale of offices, abolished a number of rates illegally levied, required that the receivers' accounts should be sent in biennially, and whilst regulating the taxation, he devoted its proceeds entirely to the maintenance and pay of the army. From that time taxation, once feudal and arbitrary, became a fixed royal due, which was the surest means of preventing the pillage and the excesses of

the soldiery to which the country people had been subjected for many years. Important triumphs of freedom were thus obtained over the tyrannical supremacy of the great vassals; but in the midst of all this improvement we cannot but regret that the assessors, who, from the time of their creation by St. Louis, had been elected by the towns or the corporations, now became the nominees of the crown.

[Illustration: Fig. 285.--_Amende honorable_ of Jacques Coeur before Charles VII.--Fac-simile of a Miniature of the "Chroniques" of Monstrelet, Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the National Library of Paris.]

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, taxed his subjects but little: "Therefore," says Philippe de Commines, "they became very wealthy, and lived in much comfort." But Louis XI did not imitate him. His first care was to reinstate that great merchant, that clever financier, Jacques Coeur, to whom, as much as to Joan of Arc, the kingdom owed its freedom, and whom Charles VII., for the most contemptible reasons, had had the weakness to allow to be judicially condemned Louis XI. would have been very glad to entrust the care of his finances to another Jacques Coeur; for being sadly in want of money, he ran through his father's earnings, and, to refill his coffers, he increased taxation, imposed a duty on the importation of wines, and levied a tax on those holding offices, &c. A revolution broke out in consequence, which was only quenched in the blood of the insurgents. In this manner he continued, by force of arms, to increase and strengthen his own regal power at the expense of feudalism.

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