Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The War With the Albigenses
Philip II (Augustus) [1180-1223]

Philip as over-lord now called upon John as his vassal to appear before the peers of France and answer for his crimes. John from the safe distance of England sent a Bishop as his messenger to the King of France. "The King of England will willingly come," said the messenger. "He will show all obedience in the matter. But safe conduct must he have."

"Let him come in peace and surety," said the King.

"Yea, and go again so also?" asked the Bishop.

"If so the peers allow it," said the King.

Then the messenger begged Philip to grant John safe conduct both going and returning. But the King was wroth.

"No, by all the saints of France!" he cried. "He shall not go again unless he prove him innocent and the peers will it."

"But, my lord King," replied the messenger, "the Duke of Normandy cannot come if the King of England come not too, since the Duke and the King are one and the same person. The barons of England would never permit it. And the King, even if he were willing, would stand in danger of imprisonment and death. That you know well."

"How now, my lord Bishop?" cried Philip. "It is well known my vassal, the Duke of Normandy, took possession of England by force. And so, prithee, if a vassal increase in honor and power shall his over-lord lose his rights? Nay, never!"

So the messenger, finding that he could not by any means get a promise of safe conduct from Philip, departed home again. And John, fearing the French King, refused to come at his bidding.

Then, although he would not come to hear his sentence, the peers of France declared him guilty of treason and of murder and condemned him to lose all his lands in France, and to be put to death. But of course no French lords could really condemn the King of England to death. So the sentence was idle and empty. But Philip was powerful enough to keep possession of all John's French lands, which made his kingdom twice as large as it had been.

While Philip had been thus fighting at home to enlarge his kingdom, Frenchmen had been founding a French Empire in the East. In 1202 a fourth Crusade set out. This time the Crusaders were nearly all Frenchmen. But they never reached Palestine. They turned aside and besieged Constantinople instead, which at this time was still the capital of the Greek Empire.

They took Constantinople and divided the Greek Empire amongst themselves. Baldwin of Flanders was made Emperor, other great nobles were made kings and dukes, and thus a New France was founded upon the very outposts of Europe. But these robber knights were not strong enough to keep their conquests and in sixty years this new empire ruled by Frenchmen passed away. It had never been anything but a burden and hindrance to France.

Hardly was this Crusade over when another began. This one, however, did not set out to fight the Saracens, but Frenchmen gathered to fight Frenchmen. At this time, as you know, nearly all Christians belonged to the Church of Rome and the Pope claimed power over every Christian land. But in the south of France some people had begun to draw away from the Church of Rome. These people did not believe that the Pope could do no wrong, and they preached against a great many things which were taught by the Church. This was called heresy, which really means that these people began to think for themselves, for heresy comes from a Greek word meaning to choose or go one's own way.

At first there were very few of these heretics, but their number grew and grew until there were very many. They were called by different names, but among the chief were the Albigenses, so called from the town of Albi.

When the Pope saw how the heretics were increasing he was angry. He sent monks to preach to them and when they would not listen to the monks he tried the Inquisition. This was a new and terrible court before which the heretics were brought. If they would not confess they, were tortured and many were burned to death.

But even the Inquisition could not crush out the heresy. So the Pope next preached a Crusade against the heretics. They were worse than Saracens, he said, and he promised to give their lands to all good Christians who would help him to punish them.

Many knights and barons eager for war, eager for plunder, flocked to his banner. King Philip did nothing.

"Tell my lord Pope," he said to his messenger, "that I have upon my flanks to great and terrible lions. The one is the German Emperor, the other John, King of England. Both labor with all their strength to cast trouble into the realm of France. How does he think then that I can leave my kingdom, either I or my son? It is enough that I give my barons leave to march against these disturbers of the Faith."

Again and again the Pope urged King Philip to fight for the Faith. But the King stood firm. He was no lover of heretics, but neither did he love fighting for fighting's sake. He fought to strengthen and enlarge his kingdom.

"It is impossible," he said, "to raise and keep two armies, the one to defend my country against the King of England, the other to fight the Albigenses. Let my lord Pope supply the money and the soldiers; then we shall see."

But though the King did not help the Pope, many of his nobles did, and a great army was gathered. Their leader was Simon de Montfort. He was the father of that Simon de Montfort who became so great in English history. He was a brave man, a splendid soldier and fearless leader. He loved his men and thought for them, and they in return loved him and followed him gladly. To his enemies he was pitiless. Now he believed that he was fighting God's battle, that the Albigenses were God's enemies, and he had no mercy for them.

With such a leader it was no wonder that the war was cruel and pitiless. No mercy was shown to prisoners. When a town was taken, the people were all put to death, often in cruel ways. Once the question was asked, "How shall we know true believers from heretics?' 1

"Kill them all," was the answer; "the Lord will know His own."

This cruel war lasted fifteen years. The Pope who preached it, Simon who led, and Philip who looked on, were all dead before it ended. It began as a war of religion; it ended as a war against the nobles of southern France. For the Pope had promised the lands they might conquer to the Crusaders as a reward. Philip was little pleased that the Pope should thus give away lands which belonged to his vassals. So unjust did he deem the war that, although eager to enlarge his kingdom, he refused to take possession of the conquered states when they were offered to him. Five years later, however, the offer was again made to his son. This time it was accepted, and thus more land was added to France.