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Throughout the Middle Ages, French territory suffered from the process of political defragmentation motivated by the emergence of feudalism. Only in the twelfth century, still during the Capetinia dynasty, the process of French political centralization was initiated by King Philip II. Using the conflicts against the English for control of northern France, this monarch was able to form a large army supported by taxes levied throughout the national territory.
The formation of this imposing army and the victory against the English allowed the expansion of royal political power. From then on, the French king created an articulated corps of civil servants who were to impose royal authority in opposition to feudal lords. At the same time, the bourgeoisie began to lend large sums for the king to guarantee the freedom of the cities through a letter of franchise, a document granted by the monarch himself who freed the urban centers from feudal taxation.
During King Louis IX's rule, royal might was expanded by the creation of legal institutions subordinate to national laws and the commercial economy was strengthened by the institution of a single national currency. Later, under Philip IV the Beautiful, monarchical authority was already a present reality. In the year 1302, the assembly of the General States - made up of the clergy, the nobility and the merchants - was created to reaffirm the king's political action.
Through this body, King Philip IV was able to impose taxes on Church property. The French monarch's action was immediately rebuked by Pope Boniface VIII, who threatened the king of excommunication. With the death of the Pope, Philip IV interfered with the French Cardinal Clement V being chosen as Pope and, in addition, forced the Vatican headquarters to be moved to the city of Avignon. In the following decades, this episode marked a feud between the French state and the Church known as the "captivity of Avignon" or "Schism of the West."
At this point, the supremacy of the French monarchical authority seemed to have no obstacles whatsoever. However, fiscal and territorial disputes with England inserted the French state into the protracted and painful conflicts that marked the Hundred Years War. Throughout the fourteenth century, spending on war and social upheaval from the Black Death and peasant revolts shook monarchical supremacy. In the next century alone, a series of popular uprisings succeeded in disrupting the British victories in the war.
It was in this context that came the mythical figure of Joan of Arc, a humble daughter of peasants who commanded various struggles against England, claiming to fulfill divine orders. These victories politically strengthened Charles VII, who was crowned king of France and reorganized the military reaction against the British. Although burned in 1430, accused of heresy, Joan's heroic deeds served to return the French to the struggle.
In the year 1453, King Charles VII completed the expulsion process of the British from French territory and began to command with broad powers. With the support of the big bourgeois, it centralized the national government, created new taxes and financed the establishment of a permanent army. From then on, France became the prime example of European royal absolutism.
Charles VII and Philip IV: central characters of the process of formation of the monarchy in France.
The French Monarchy was definitively consolidated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries during the Hundred Years War against England. Indeed, this conflict was also important for England to consolidate its central power.