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Louis XI and Charles VIII


Charles VIII
Charles VIII

Profiting from a somewhat healthier economy and a more muscular royal administration, the monarchy built on the momentum it had acquired at the end of the Hundred Years’ War to expand control over remaining noble enclaves. In 1461, the year Louis XI became king, the Valois-Burgundian alliance collapsed. The duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, was attempting to reconstitute the kingdom of Lotharingia. He made another alliance with the English and also allied with French nobles who were antagonistic to the new French king. This faction organized a league, to which Louis was forced to make concessions in 1465. In 1467 Charles the Bold succeeded Philip, and in 1472 he led an Anglo-Burgundian force against Louis. Louis responded by buying off England and forming his own coalition of powers that were threatened by Charles. Although Louis was slow to capitalize on his strategic advantage as king, Charles was killed in battle in 1477. Louis might have annexed all of Charles’s large inheritance, but in the end, Charles’s sole heir, Mary, wedded Maximilian I of the Habsburg family, giving the Habsburgs a major claim on her inheritance.

The settlement of the conflict produced mixed results. Mary’s marriage to Maximilian allowed the Habsburgs to annex the Low Countries and left France with a ragged eastern border. There conflicting sovereignties produced a string of conflicts with German powers in succeeding centuries. At the same time, the settlement definitively neutralized the threat to French security from Burgundy. The Burgundian territories were dismembered, and the French crown annexed the western regions. Louis also consolidated his hold on areas inside France, such as Guyenne and Normandy, which had been allied with Charles.

Moreover, the royal domain continued to grow after the Burgundian settlement. In 1481 Provence and the Var, areas in the south of France, were added.

In 1491 Charles VIII, who reigned from 1483 to 1498, married Anne of Brittany, thereby preparing for that province’s absorption into the royal domain in 1532. These territories fell under Valois control according to a variety of terms. Many were allowed to keep their provincial estates (regional assemblies elected by members of the clergy, nobility, and commoners), thereby limiting the extent to which later French kings could integrate the kingdom. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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