1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Picardy

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PICARDY (La Picardie), one of the old provinces of France, bounded on the N. by Hainaut and Artois, on the E. by Champagne, on the S. by the Île de France, and on the W. by Normandy and the English Channel. Its maritime frontier ran from the mouth of the Aa to the cliffs of Caux, and it included the whole of the basin of the Somme and part of that of the Oise. The chief towns of Picardy were Amiens, Boulogne, Abbeville, Laon, Soissons, Montreuil, Péronne, Beauvais, lIontd1d1er, St Quentin and Noyon. Its principal rivers were the Somme and the Oise. Picardy formed part of the archdiocese of Reims, and its bishoprics were Amiens, Beauvais, Senhs, Soissons, Noyon and Laon. In 1789 the province of Picardy was covered by the three bishoprics of Amiens, Noyon and Boulogne. It was one of the provinces of the five great fermes, districts subject to the tariff of 1664, and in judicial matters was under the authority of the parlement of Paris. Its area now forms the department of the Somme and parts of the departments of Pas de Calais, Aisne and Oise.

The name of Picardy does not appear until the 13th century, but was employed by Matthew Paris and was in general use in the I4ll1 century. In the 13th century the province was divided into the two bailliages of Amiens and Vermandois, but its regular organization as part of the kingdom of France only dates from the beginning of the 16th century. At this time it was divided into north and south Picardy. North Picardy, or Picardy proper, formed one of the great military governorships of the kingdom, while south Picardy was included in the Île de France. North Picardy was divided into upper and lower Picardy, the former being the interior part of the province and the latter the district along the coast. Upper Picardy comprised the districts of Amiénois, Santerre, Vermandois and Thiérache, and lower Picardy those of Ponthieu, Vimeu, Boulonnais and Calaisis, or the Pays reconquis; south Picardy included the districts of Beauvaisis, Laonnais and Soissonais.

Under the Romans Picardy was part of Belgica secunda; it was inhabited by the Morini, the Ambiani, the Veromandui, the Bellovaci and the Suessiones, whose names still appear in Amiens, Vermandois, Beauvais and Soissons. The Romans intersected the district with roads and built several castra to defend the valley of the Somme. In the 3rd century Christianity was preached here, and St Quentin and others were martyred. A little later abbeys were founded, among them Corbie, St Valéry and St Riquier. Early in the 5th century Picardy became the centre of Merovingian France, for, as the historian Michelet says, “l'histoire de l'antique France semble entassée en Picardie.” Clovis had his first capital at Soissons; Charlemagne had his at Noyon, and Laon was the capital and the refuge of the later and feebler Carolingian sovereigns.

During the later feudal period Picardy was the home of the counts of Vermandois, of Clermont and of Ponthieu, the sire of Coucy and others. The neighbouring dukes of Burgundy cast covetous eyes upon the province; in 1435, by the famous treaty of Arras, the royal towns and lands in the valley of the Somme were ceded by King Charles VII. to Burgundy. However, after the death of Charles the Bold in 1477 Picardy was finally united with the crown of France. The province was early an industrial district. Flemish immigrants brought with them the lucrative trade of weaving cloth, and the Somme towns were soon competing with those of Flanders. The Picard towns were noted for their love of independence, which often brought them into collision with the kings of France during the 13th century. At a later time the province received a number of Spanish immigrants. In the middle ages the Picards formed one of the four “ nations ” at the university of Paris. Picardy has a high place as a home of Gothic art, this being testified to by the superb cathedrals at Amiens and Noyon, while within its borders is the famous chateau of Coucy.

Picardy has a literature of its own, which was rich and popular in the 12th century. It suffered greatly from the ravages of the Normans, and later during the Hundred Years' War and the wars between France and Spain. Within it are the famous fields of Creçy, Agincourt and St Quentin, while it also includes places of conference like Guînes, Amiens and Picquigny. The Picard had a high reputation as a soldier, being sometimes called the " Gascon of the North,” and in 1558 Henry II. created the régiment de Picardie. Many anthropological remains have been found in the Somme valley.

See Labourt, Essai sur l'orgine des villes de Picardie (Amiens, 1840); Grenier, Introduction à l'histoire genérale de la province de Picardié (Amiens, 1856); and H. Carnoy, Littérature orale de la Picardie (1883).