Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/434

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the provincial nobility became dependent on the Court, and in large measure resident there. This process begins in early times, but advances more rapidly under Charles VII and his successors, and is nearly completed under Francis I.

The third Order, that of the bourgeois of the bonnes villes, has lost all the political independence that it had ever possessed. The free communes of the North and North-east had succumbed as much by their own financial mismanagement as from any other cause. Throughout the fourteenth century the intervention of the King in the internal affairs of the towns became a normal experience, and Charles V actually suppressed a number of communes. A considerable degree of municipal liberty is left, but the power of political action is gone. The government is as a rule in the hands of a comparatively small number of well-to-do bourgeois, who support the King's authority, and from whom is drawn the most efficient class of financiers and administrators. In time of need they help the King with loans and exceptional gifts. Many of the towns are exempt from faille, but the aides fall heavily upon them. Louis XI continued on the same lines. He granted abundant privileges to towns-fairs, markets, nobility to their officers, and the right of purchasing noble fiefs. But their intervention in politics was not encouraged. On a slight provocation the King took the town government into his hands, and heavy was the punishment of a town like Reims or Bourges, that ventured to rebel.

The position of the peasants can only be faintly indicated here. Personal servitude still exists, though probably a majority of the serfs have been enfranchised. In either case the rights of the lord have as a rule become fixed. The peasants are for the most part holders at a quit rent or in mktayage, though bound to the corvee, and to the use of the lord's mill and of his bakehouse. If serfs, they are mainmortables, that is, their personal property belongs to their lords on their decease. Such a right obviously cannot be strictly exercised. Necessary agricultural stock must at least be spared. The lord can no longer tallage his peasants at will. His Courts are rather a symbol of his dignity and a source of petty profit, than a real instrument of arbitrary authority. Everywhere the King's power makes itself felt.

Thus the peasant was beginning to be more concerned in the character and policy of the King than in those of his lord, though, if the latter was imprudent, his peasants' crops might be ravaged. The rate of the King's faille made the difference between plenty and want. The faille cut the sources of wealth at their fountain-head, while the seigneur only diverted a portion of their flow. The faille was liable to more momentous variation than seigniorial dues; as imposed by Louis XI, it was almost, though not quite, as ruinous as the English War. Under Charles VIII and still more under Louis XII, the cessation of internal war, and the remission of faille, made these reigns a golden