Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/436

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

The recommendations are business-like and strike at the root of many abuses. They suggested or foreshadowed many reforms actually carried out in the next thirty years. But they had no binding force. Their execution depended on the goodwill of the King's government. With such high matters as the constitution of the Council of Regency and the settlement of the rivalry between Beaujeu and Orleans the Estates ventured at most timidly to coquette. Finally they decided to take no part in the controversy and to leave all questions of government to be determined by the princes of the blood, who alone were competent to deal with them. They ventured however humbly to recommend that some of the wisest of the delegates should be called in to share the counsels of the government. In the matter of the taille they showed more earnestness, begging, indeed almost insisting, that a return should be made to the lower scale of Charles VII. Large concession was made to them in this respect; but the government neither resigned, nor had ever intended to resign, the absolute control over finance which it had acquired. Parliamentarism had perhaps a chance in 1484; but the tradition of humility and obedience, the sense of ignorance and diffidence in things political, were too strong, and the opportunity slipped away.

The assembly of Estates in 1506 was summoned to confirm the government in abandoning the marriage agreement already concluded between the eldest daughter of Louis XII, and the infant Duke of Luxemburg. Louis knew that his change of policy was popular, and was glad to strengthen his feeble knees with popularity against opposition in exalted quarters. But the royal will was decisive with or without the sanction of popular support.

After the battle of Nancy the King had no longer any single formidable rival within the limits of France. After the Wars of Britanny he needed no longer fear any coalition. His direct authority was enormously extended. Burgundy, Provence, Anjou, Maine, Guyenne with the dominions of Armagnac, had been annexed by the Crown, and Britanny was in process of absorption. Orleans and Blois were soon added. His power was at the same time gaining, and not only in extension, as the organs of his will became more fitted for its execution. Legislation was in his hands; the ordonnances were his permanent commands. In the business of making laws he was assisted by his Council, a body of sworn advisers, to which it was usual to admit the Princes of the Blood, though the King could summon or exclude whom he pleased at his discretion.

The amount of authority entrusted to the Council varied. It was said of Louis XI that the King's mule carried not only the King but his Council. It is certain that the Council never dominated him, and that he kept all high matters of State to himself and a few confidential advisers, though he made extensive use of the Council's assistance for less important things. Under a powerful minister like Georges d'Amboise the Council's