father-in-law, Louis the Twelfth, the country of which he became monarch
was already an extensive, flourishing, and well-consolidated kingdom.
The territorial development of France was, it is true, far from
complete. On the north, the whole province of Hainault belonged to the
Spanish Netherlands, whose boundary line was less than one hundred miles
distant from Paris. Alsace and Lorraine had not yet been wrested from
the German Empire. The "Duchy" of Burgundy, seized by Louis the Eleventh
immediately after the death of Charles the Bold, had, indeed, been
incorporated into the French realm; but the "Free County" of
Burgundy--la Franche Comté, as it was briefly designated--had been
imprudently suffered to fall into other hands, and Besançon was the
residence of a governor appointed by princes of the House of Hapsburg.
Lyons was a frontier town; for the little districts of Bresse and Bugey,
lying between the Saône and Rhône, belonged to the Dukes of Savoy.
Further to the south, two fragments of foreign territory were completely
enveloped by the domain of the French king.
The first was the sovereign principality of Orange, which,
after having been for over a century in the possession of the
noble House of Châlons, was shortly to pass into that of
Nassau, and to furnish the title of William the Silent, the
future deliverer of Holland. The other and larger one was the Comtât
Venaissin, a fief directly dependent upon the Pope. Of irregular shape,
and touching the Rhone both above and below Orange, the Comtât Venaissin nearly enclosed the diminutive principality in its folds. Its capital,
Avignon, having forfeited the distinction enjoyed in the fourteenth
century as the residence of the Roman Pontiffs, still boasted the
presence of a Legate of the Papal See, a poor compensation for the loss
of its past splendor. On the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the
Spanish dominions still extended north of the principal chain of the
Pyrenees, and included the former County of Roussillon.
But, although its area was somewhat smaller than that of the modern
republic, France in the sixteenth century had nearly attained the
general dimensions marked out for it by great natural boundaries. Four
hundred years had been engrossed in the pursuit of territorial
enlargement. At the close of the tenth century the Carlovingian dynasty,
growth of the municipalities, in order to secure their assistance in the
reduction of refractory vassals. Flourishing trading communities had
sprung up on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and of the ocean, and
on the banks of the navigable rivers emptying into them. These
corporations had secured a degree of independence proportioned, for the
most part, to the weakness of their neighbors. The policy of the crown
had been, while generously conferring privileges of great importance
upon the cities lying within the royal domain, to make still more lavish
concessions in favor of the municipalities upon or contiguous to the
lands of the great feudatories.3
No sooner, however, did the humiliation of the landed nobility render it
superfluous to conciliate the good-will of the proud and opulent
citizens, than the readiest means were sought for reducing them to the
level of ordinary subjects. Paris especially, once almost a republic, had of
late learned submission and docility.4 By the change, however,the capital
1 Yet the old prejudice against city life had not fully died
out. So late as in 1527, Chassanée wrote: "Galliæ omnis una est nobilium
norma. Nam rura et prædia sua (dicam potius castra) incolentes urbes
fugiunt, in quibus habitare nobilem turpe ducitur. Qui in illis degunt,
ignobiles habentur a nobilibus." Catalogus Gloriæ Mundi, fol. 200.
2 Michel Suriano, Rel. des Amb. Vén., i. 488.
3 Mignet, ubi supra, ii. 160, etc.
4 Rel. dell' Amb. Marino Cavalli (1546), ubi supra, i.229.
had lost neither wealth nor inhabitants, being described as very rich and
populous, covering a vast area, and wholly given up to trade.1 In the
absence of an accurate census, the number of its inhabitants was variously
stated at from 300,000 souls to nearly thrice as many; but all accounts
agreed in placing Paris among the foremost cities of the civilized world.2
With the military resources at his command, the king had the means of
rendering himself formidable abroad and secure at home. The French
cavalry, consisting of gentlemen whose duty and honorable distinction it
was to follow the monarch in every expedition, still sustained the
reputation for the impetuous ardor and the irresistible weight of its
unexpected rebuffs on the fields of Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt, the
chivalry of France had been too successful in other engagements to lose
courage and enthusiasm. The nobles, both old and young, were still ready
at any time to flock to their prince's standard when unfurled for an
incursion into Naples or the Milanese. Never had they displayed more
alacrity or self-sacrificing devotion than when young Francis the First
set out upon his campaigns in Italy.3 The
1 It would seem that the Venetian ambassadors were never
free from apprehension lest their admiration of what they had seen
abroad might be construed as disparagement of their own island city.
Hence, Marino Giustiniano (A. D. 1535), after making the statement which
we have given in the text, is careful to add: "Pur non arriva di
richezza ad una gran gionta quanto Venezia; nè anco ha maggior popolo,
per mio giudizio, di che loro si gloriano." Rel. Venete (Albèri,
Firenze), serie 1, i. 148.
2 The lowest estimate, which is that of Guicciardini (Belgiæ
Descriptio, apud Prescott, Philip II., i. 367), is probably nearest the
mark; the highest, 800,000, is that of Davila, Storia delle Guerre
Civili, 1. iii. (Eng. trans., p. 79). Marino Cavalli, in 1546, says
500,000; Michel Suriano, in 1561, between 400,000 and 500,000. M.
Dulaure is even more parsimonious than Guicciardini, for he will allow
Paris, in the sixteenth century, not more than 200,000 to 210,000 souls!
Histoire de Paris, iv. 384. Some of the exaggerated estimates may be
errors of transcription. At least Ranke asserts that this is the case
with the 500,000 of Fran. Giustiniani in 1537, where the original
manuscript gives only 300,000. Französische Geschichte, v. (Abschn. 1),76.
3 See, for example, the MS. receipt, from which it appears
that, in 1516, Sieur Imbert de Baternay pledged his entire service of
plate to help defray the expenses of the war. Capefigue, François
Premier et la Renaissance, i. 141.
French infantry was less trustworthy. The troops raised in Normandy,
Brittany, and Languedoc were reported to be but poorly trained to military exercises; but the foot-soldiers supplied by some of the frontier provinces
were sturdy and efficient, and the gallant conduct of the Gascons at the
disastrous battle of St. Quentin was the subject of universal admiration.1 Foreign mercenary troops.