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

Sons of Philip the Fair and the Salic Law
Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV [1314-1328]

Philip was the most cruel and vengeful King who had sat upon the throne of France and his people hated him. Yet it was he who first called the States-General together, it was he who broke the power of the Pope, who humbled the feudal lords. He may have been a hard man and a bad King, but his reign was a great one.

Very different were the reigns which followed.

Philip IV was succeeded by his son Louis X le Hutin, or the Quarrelsome. Louis X ruled only eighteen months and perhaps the thing best worth remembering about him is that he made a law forcing slaves to buy their freedom. He needed money, and he fell upon this new way of getting it. "According to the right of Nature," he said, "every one ought to be born free. But by old custom many of our people have fallen into bondage. This displeases us much. Seeing that our kingdom is named the Kingdom of the Franks (freemen) we wish that facts be in keeping with the name." Therefore the slaves were ordered to buy their freedom. But few had money enough; even those who had were too ignorant to know the value of what was offered them. So the King got little money; by this means. But from this time onward slaves, or serfs, became fewer and fewer.

Louis X died in 1316. He left no son and his little daughter was only six years old. A little child of six could not rule, so Louis's brother Philip le Long, or the Tall, seized the throne.

Philip was crowned at Reims, but hardly any of the nobles came to the ceremony. Indeed, knowing that many were against him, and fearing their anger, Philip ordered the gates of Reims to be closed and guarded until the crown was on his head.

Philip knew that he was only a usurper. So he determined to make his claim to the crown sure. He therefore made use of an old law of the Salian Franks which said that no woman might inherit land. Philip and his lawyers said that meant no woman might sit on the throne and rule over France. The old law did not really mean this at all. But that did not matter, many people believed it did, and it served Philip's purpose. Ever after, as long as Kings ruled in France, the Salic Law, as it is called, was held to.

But even after this law had been found many nobles were discontented, and it seemed as if there might be civil war. There was none. Philip married his daughter to the most powerful of his enemies, he promised to give his niece, whose throne he had taken, a good sum of money. In one way or another he persuaded the nobles to accept the new law and the new King in peace.

This institution of the Salic Law is the chief thing worth remembering in the reign of Philip V. It is very well worth remembering, for but for it the whole history of France, perhaps of England too, would have been different.

Philip V ruled for six years. He taxed the people heavily, he cruelly treated the lepers and the Jews, and robbed them of their money. He ground a great deal of money out of his people, yet he did nothing with it. He did not pay the debts which the kings before him had left, he did not go on a Crusade, he did not build fine churches and cathedrals. What then did the King do with all the money? the people asked. They were poor and miserable, and they hated and cursed their King. When he fell ill and died some said that his illness was brought on by these curses.

Yet Philip V tried to do some things for the good of his people. He tried to make all weights and measures alike throughout the country. He tried to make the money alike, so that people from distant parts of the kingdom could buy and sell with ease. But the people did not understand that these things were for their good. They only saw in them new ways of robbery, and they hated the King the more.

Philip V died in 1322, and like his brothers, he also left only daughters. According to the Salic Law they could not succeed, and so Philip's brother Charles IV the Handsome came to the throne.

Nothing very interesting happened in his reign, which lasted six years. He too, like his brothers, died leaving only daughters, and as he was the youngest son of Philip the Handsome there was no direct heir to the throne. It passed therefore to his cousin, Philip of Valois, who became Philip VI.

Thus after three hundred and forty years the direct line of the Capetians ceased. The Kings who came next were called the Valois, for Philip was Count of Valois before he became King of France.