The difficulties of Louis XI were very great, and the results of his military expenditure on the whole commensurate with the sacrifices, but he seems in his later years to have been driven by nervous fear to excessive precaution.
The military budget of the succeeding Kings was conspicuously less. The War of Naples was chiefly waged on credit, and at the death of Charles VIII a deficit of 1,400,000 remained unliquidated, but in no year can the totals of Louis XI have been passed; perhaps in 1496 they may have been reached. Louis XII carried on his wars very economically until the deserved disasters of the War of Cambray. The taille of these years speaks for itself. It rises steadily from 2,000,000 l.t. in 1510 to 3,700,000 in 1514, and the father of his people left an additional deficit of a million and a half.
The new conditions, political and social, of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in France had long demanded a reorganisation of the army. Service by tenure had lost its meaning since, in the time of Philip the Fair, the practice of paying the contingents had been adopted. There is little that is feudal in the organisation of the French army during the Hundred Years' War, much more that is anarchical, and a little that is royal. At most the feudal aristocracy supplies some of the cadres in which the troops are embodied. But the aristocracy is not a necessary but an accidental feature of the scheme. The organisation of the host and of its units does not follow the lines of the feudal hierarchy. The King is a rallying-point, giving rise to a delusive sense of unity of direction; chance and the love of fighting accomplish the rest. For a few years the centralising purpose of Charles V warranted better hopes, which perished with his death.
As the War continues, the professional soldier, the professional captain, becomes all in all. This soldier or captain may be a noble, born to the art of arms, but side by side with him are many adventurers sprung from the lower orders. They are glad to receive pay if pay is forthcoming; if not, they will be content with loot; in any case they are lawless, landless, homeless mercenaries, who live upon the people, and are the terror rather of friend than of foe. This lack of even feudal discipline in France is the cause of the success of the better-organised armies of England. It is also the principal cause of the horrors of the endless War. When a respite intervenes, the country knows no peace till the mercenaries are sent to die abroad,—in Castile, in Lorraine, or against the Swiss.
To have put an end to this misrule is the conspicuous service of Charles VII and his successors. In 1439, on the occasion of a great meeting of the Estates at Orleans, the King and his Council promulgated a notable edict. The number of captains was henceforth to be fixed, and no person was under the gravest penalties to entertain soldiers without the King's permission. A pathetic list follows of customary outrages,