Louis XI, precursor to Renaissance

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© Bob Denton 2014

Louis XI precursor to Renaissance   reigned 1461 – 1483

Louis had been a headstrong and rebellious Dauphin, so it seems odd that he became Louis XI le Prudent (the Prudent), though he was also nicknamed Louis le Rusé (the Cunning).

When he became aware that his father was dying he rushed to get to Reims before his brother Charles, the Duke of Berry. Despite his antagonism with his father his reign followed along on many of the same policies. Louis constrained the powers of the nobles and thinned out the offices of government. His prudent nickname came from this and his rationalisation of the tax system.

He even enjoyed friction with the Duke of Burgundy, though ‘his’ was Charles the Bold, who in 1467 was preparing to declare his territory as an independent kingdom. War broke out between them in 1472.  Charles ally, the House of York in England was prevailing in the War of the Roses and in 1475 declare war on France.

But, as we saw, the Treaty of Picquigny managed to divide and conquer the two foes. A deal with England allowed Louis now to concentrate on Burgundy.

Charles the Bold miscalculated when his forces invaded Switzerland. Charles lost two battles against a combined Franco-Swiss army and he was killed in the second, the Battle of Nancy in 1477. His Duchy and his other territories were subsumed in to France.

In fact Louis XI expanded the borders of France throughout his reign regaining Boulonnais and Picardy, inheriting Maine and Provence and seizing Artois, France-Comté and Marseille. He took control of a host of border provinces that had been autonomous or previously parts of Aragon the Holy Roman Empire and Navarre. The catalogue included –  Alsace, Artois, Béarn, Bresse, Brittany, Bugey, Calais, Capcir, Cerdagne, Comtat Venaissin, Conflent, Dauphiné, Flanders, Foix, Franche-Comté, Gex, Lorraine, Navarre, Nice, Provence, Roussillon, Savoie, Trois-Évêchés and Vallespir.

In shaping his realm to be more like we know as modern France, he also imposed more of a central control. To assist this process he set up a system of postal roads that could relay messages speedily to him from all parts of the kingdom. Hence his third sobriquet Louis l’Universelle Aragne (the Universal Spider).

So it was largely the reign of Louis that achieved the first transformation of France from a medieval and feudal state into the Renaissance state that it became soon after his death.

Forward to Charles VIII – Back to 5 – The French Renaissance
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014