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 Peace of God and the Truce of God
Henry I [1031-1060]

Robert the Pious was succeeded by his son, Henry I. He did not come to the throne in peace, for turbulent Queen Constance wanted the throne for her youngest son, Robert. So in his name she fought against her son Henry. But Queen Constance was defeated and died soon after.

Henry was even a weaker King than Robert had been. He did nothing to try to make his people better or happier. Indeed, the power of the King had gradually grown so weak that it was now far less than that of some of the great nobles who in name were vassals to the crown. Far more powerful than the King, for instance, was Robert of Normandy, the descendant of Duke Rollo. He was so great that he was called Robert the Magnificent, or sometimes, because of his wickedness, Robert the Devil. It was he more than any other who helped Henry to conquer Queen Constance. But he made the King pay for his help by giving him yet more land, and thus making him yet more powerful.

During the reign of Henry the misery of the people increased. For there was famine in the land. For three years the harvests failed. The sky was overcast with clouds, the rain hardly ceased. The corn seed rotted in the sodden earth, while weeds grew apace. The little grain which sprouted was destroyed by blight; so that it became so dear that men paid large sums for a handful of mouldy wheat.

Rich and poor alike were attacked by awful hunger, for money could not buy what none had to sell. Rich and poor alike grew gaunt and pale. They devoured the wild birds and beasts, and when there were no more they ate the bark of trees and the weeds that grew in the streams. They mixed a kind of white clay with what little they had of flour or bran and made bread of that. But the pangs of hunger were so cruel that some were even driven to the horror of eating human flesh. The people died in hundreds, in thousands. They fell by the wayside and in the fields, in such numbers that it was impossible to bury them all, and the wolves devoured them, and their bones lay whitening the earth.

No words can tell the misery and the horror and pain of this time. But at length it came to an end. The sky cleared, the rain ceased, and once more waving fields of golden corn covered the land.

During this time of fearful suffering the pride of the great had been softened. They felt that the famine had been sent by God as a punishment for their sins. And now that it was over the priests and Bishops prayed for a time of repentance and peace. Then the nobles met together with the Bishops and agreed to keep peace everywhere throughout the realm. It was commanded that whoever broke the peace should be despoiled of his goods and suffer dire punishments. For the breaker of the peace there should be no sanctuary. Even if he were found upon the very steps of the altar he should not escape the punishment of his crime.

Everywhere throughout the land the Bishops gathered the people together to hear the blessed news. It was received with joy both by great and small. The people listened to the voice of the priests as to the voice of God. For every heart was still shaken by the memory of the past misery. In every heart there lurked the dread lest some misfortune should prevent them from enjoying the promise of the golden harvest.

When the Bishops had spoken and told their good news, they raised their crosses to heaven crying, "Peace, peace, peace!" And the people stretching up their hands answered with one voice, "Peace, peace, peace!" Thus was a compact made between the people of France and God on high. And it was called the Peace of God.

The Peace of God was a glorious ideal. But it was too sublime, too splendid. It was impossible to hold to it in those rough times when war was the pastime of the great, the trade of half the world. The Peace of God was broken again and yet again.

Then, seeing that war could not be done away with altogether, some of the peoples of France made a new law. This was that from Wednesday evening till Monday morning there should be no fighting, and that during the weeks of Lent and Advent there should be no fighting at all. During Lent and Advent it was also forbidden to build castles, to make weapons, or to drill soldiers, or, indeed, do anything in connection with war.

This was called the Truce of God. It was perhaps never quite thoroughly kept, but it at least put a stop to a great deal of fighting. So although Henry I was a poor weak King and did little for his people, we have to remember that it was during his reign that men's hearts were moved to pity, so that they tried to lessen the misery of the people by such acts as the Peace of God and the Truce of God.