The society of Francia divided into two starkly opposed classes: the rulers who possessed all and the ruled who attempted in vain to gain a share of the wealth produced. A third priestly class was accepted on the condition that it served the kleptocracy of the Frankish rulers. In addition, the rulers of Christendom, the popes, became Frankish and either served the interests of the French Crown or else attempted to control the whole of the Christian nations with the methods of the Muslim and Frankish rulers.
16.5.1 The alliance of Franks and Muslims
The first crusade initiated in 1095 by pope Urbain II was a purely Frankish enterprise. The Frankish pope dreamed of a unified Christendom under his leadership, meaning therewith the dispatch of Byzantium. The Franks who participated to the 4th crusade took and looted Constantinople in 1204 and replaced Byzantium by a Latin empire whose official language was French. The legist Ph. Dubois suggested in 1304 to the French king Philippe (Supplication du peuple de France au Roi contre le pape Boniface, which means Supplication of the people of France to the king against Pope Boniface) that Philippe become emperor of a united Europe, with Constantinople as capital. Dubois suggested in 1306 the separation of the Church of France from Rome. The battle of Mohacs (1526) gave Hungary to Soliman. He engaged in this war at the pressing written demand of Francis I of France, and both Francis I and Luther applauded with the subjugation of Catholic Hungary. The English king Henry VIII refused to defend Vienna in 1529 on the contention that he needed all his strength to fight his true enemy Francis, who threatened to invade England. Francis wished the fall of Vienna into Ottoman hands whereas the finally lucid Luther called for its defense. No English or French vessels participated in the naval battle of Lepante (1571) but Anglican Elizabeth at least ordered prayers throughout her kingdom for the victory of the Roman Christians. Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), the prime minister of the French king Louis XIII, financed with exorbitant taxes inflicted on the people of France the war of the protestants against the Empire (the Thirty Years war), invaded Italy and annexed Spanish Roussillon in 1642 while the Empire was fighting the Ottomans. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), no French troops defended Vienna in 1683 and Ottoman vessels called routinely in the harbor of Marseille.
The privileged relationship of the Ottomans with France did not end with the French Revolution, but resumed stronger than ever to oppose the progress of Austria and Russia in the Balkans and the Crimea. Later on, the ayatollah Khomeyni found refuge in France to foment an Islamic revolution and establish an Islamic Republic in Iran in 1984.
16.5.2 Territorial expansion of the Isle-de-France
France and Islam have common traits, which are not Anglo-Saxon, even if the conduct of Great Britain and the USA has been, at times, repulsive. France is, like Islam, viscerally attached to conquered lands. “You also may become a Frenchman!”. This privilege cannot be possibly refused and any territory conquered by France is forthwith incorporated in the Nation, which is declared “One and indivisible”. A devolution of conquered territories (e.g. Corsica, Alsace, Algeria), is unthinkable.
Robert-le-Fort (count of Neustria) vanquished the Vikings without the help of the Carolingian emperor in 866 at Brissarthe (located in Normandy, France). In 987, Hughes Capet, a descendant of Robert-le-Fort, was designated by his peers “Dux, gratia Dei Rex” (Duke, King by the grace of God). The Saxon emperor Otto I, supported by pope Sylvester II, favored this election in the hope that the total discard of the Frankish Carolingians would end the rift between the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire. The Capetians were not of Carolingian lineage and had no imperial dreams. The elected capetian king was, before anything else, the duke of the Isle de France (fig. 16.7).
Figure 16.7. Francia was the Western part of the Saxonian Empire. The duke of the “Isle de France” (green) gained preponderance because of his central position in the region. Brittany refused allegiance to the elected king and remained faithful to the emperor. Flanders is the only part of Francia that eventually gained independence. Contemporary France includes Brittany and the territories colored violet.
Neighbors not much impressed by his royal crown surrounded him. The Normans had occupied England and the continental coast of the British channel, to which they gave the name Normandy. Their chief, the duke of Normandy, soon became king of England to whom the French king had nothing to say. The rich count of Flanders usually sided with the king of England. Burgundy became France’s most feared enemy after the creation of the grand duchy of Burgundy. In the south, people spoke another language, the “langue d’Oc“, they had another culture and this Languedoc belonged to the Empire. Aquitaine ignored the king. Poitou and Guyenne soon belonged by right to the king of England. Celtic Brittany spoke a Gaelic language, was faithful to the Emperor and remained independent until 1499.
The expansion of the Isle de France to the contemporary borders of France was not by the conquest of foreign lands over enemies or barbars, nor by marital arrangements but by brutal conquest of neighboring Christian nations. For the French, fealty is synonymous with barbarity and centralization synonymous with progress. They acquired this curious syndrome during the creation of the kingdom: it grew at the expense of its neighbors through usurpation of power from an elective towards a hereditary rule, against the supervision and arbitration of the emperor, against the great vassals who had elected the king in the first place, against the cities and their privileges 4, against provincial parliaments and regional autonomy and against the universality of the Church. This policy of ruthless expansion followed the example given by the Franks and Charlemagne, and was based on treason, deceit, murder and corruption.
16.5.3 The Frankish Popes
The Hildebrandine reform of the Church brought the possibility for non-Romans to occupy the Holy See. The Franks exploited forthwith this opportunity to their advantage: the French popes applied a policy that favored the rise of France but also betrayed the ideals of the Christian Faith.
The Frankish archbishop of Bordeaux (born 1042) had been prior at Cluny, i.e. the officer next to the abbot. He became pope under the name Urbain II in 1088. He envisioned a theocracy that would rule over Greek and Latin Christians from Rome and thought it feasible to return Turks and Arab Muslims back to their native homelands. The “reconquista” of Spain initiated in 1085 and the conquest of Sicily over the Arab Muslims by the Normans (1060-1091) had shown that Muslim armies were not invincible. The eviction of the Arab Muslims from the Occidental part of the Mediterranean allowed the rise of the Italian cities. Despite the aversion of the Church for banking practices, the Lombards lent money for an interest (as high as 33%) and had become the bankers of Christendom. They became rich through commerce and wanted to evict the Muslims from the oriental part of the Mediterranean Sea. Their wealth worked in synergy with their spirit of independence to oppose any tight control on their activities by the emperor. The North Italian cities created the Lombard Alliance, which perennially opposed the Emperor thereafter, and the papacy excommunicated those emperors who attempted to subjugate the Alliance.
To achieve his goal, Urbain sought the alliance of the north Italian city-states in 1095. Once this alliance was secured, Urbain II preached the holy war in Francia in 1096. The first crusade was largely restricted to Franks. With the kings Philip Ist of Francia, William II of England and Henry IV of Germany invalidated by excommunication, the pope addressed himself directly to the Frankish barons and serfs, in vernacular. The discourse he held in Clermont-Ferrand was the typical discourse of a warlord: “Race of the Franks, beloved and chosen by God….A cursed race….. has invaded the land of Jerusalem.….The deliverance of the land rests on you to whom, more than to all others, God conferred the glory of the arms, bravery and strength to humiliate those who resist you”. The pope reminded of Carolus Magnus, promised land, granted freedom for the serfs and unbound the vassals from their oath to their sovereign. In other words, he established for the Franks a new principle of obedience superior to the code of feal loyalty.
Betraying the ideal of non-violence of the Christian Faith, Pope Urbain II induced the crusaders to take as war-cry “Deex li volt” i.e. “God wills it”. War, the greatest evil, was presented by the pope as the greatest good and the doors were thereby flung wide open for religious intolerance, for sexual depravation, for greed and barbarity. Francia, freed from bondage, answered to the call of its undisputed Frankish leader. War, the greatest enemy of civilization, was advocated by the Defender of Civilization. The military successes of Islam had made some of its modes of operation attractive. The Hierarchy adopted the logic of the Muslim leaders: the end justifies the means and, logically, all means available must be used to achieve the purpose.
Two years later, in 1098, the integrist order of Citeaux was created in Francia as an offshoot of Cluny to sustain the drive of the papacy to eliminate heretics, schismatics, heathens and libertines by force of arms, terror and coercion. The Cistercians, policed and disciplined aristocrats who governed the Order according to the customs of the Frankish aristocracy, exploited the resources of the land with such intelligent diligence that the Order became extremely rich. Abbeys as Clairvaux were efficacious centers of production of agro-alimentary goods but possessed also an excellent forge that produced swords and daggers, helmets and shields, arrows and lances. The popes were recruited among the Cistercians. The Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux reinforced the rule of Citeaux in 1115. The Order of the Cistercians followed a strict and severe rule, impregnated with the dangerous primitive teachings of the Old Testament, which brought the Cistercians to favor the creation of military orders. Bernard established for the Templars a strict rule and wrote to them that the Christian who kills an unbeliever is assured of his reward, even more if he is himself killed! He initiated in 1147 the second crusade, bragging that “towns and castles are empty, there does not remain a man for seven women and everywhere there are widows of husbands still alive”. The bungled-up crusade was a fiasco, most husbands died and Bernard unleashed the hatred of the common folk for Jews.
The crusader suddenly was in contact with a new world. He fought for the True Faith but the fight was paradoxically conducted with heretics and Muslim allies. He proved utterly unable to convert the Infidel, which was an enigma. The Church, which condemned the taking of an interest in the lending of money, suddenly faced grave financial problems, which proved its weakness. The Church lost control over the movement and was unable to prevent the looting of Constantinople by the crusaders, which pitted Christians against Christians. All these contradictions, paradoxes and weaknesses undermined the religious certitudes of the western Franks, who became aware of themselves as a different cultural entity. Soon, the French sovereigns began to exploit the weakened authority of the Papacy to further their own interests.
The power of the Papacy reached its zenith with Innocent III (1198-1216). A manichean heresy developed considerably at the end of the XIth century in the Languedoc, which was imperial possession. The Cathars (i.e. “the pure” in Greek) attempted to reconcile Christianity with Nature. Catharic preachers denounced, in vernacular, the wealth of the Church, the great panderer. They claimed that Good and Evil coexist, rejected redemption of sins through the crucifixion of Christ and argued that the material world was an illusion. Women were equal to men and were ordained. They condemned all oaths because, they said, if you tell the truth there is no need to swear an oath. This was the worst of their preaching because the oath of fealty binding the vassal to his lord was the backbone of feudalism. This Catharic heresy occurred when Christendom thought it was under siege: the Arabs were still in Spain and the crusades were not won.
The Cathars killed in 1206 the Cistercian delegate of the Cisterian pope to the count of Toulouse, in the Languedoc. The armies of the king of France Philip August, advised by Cistercians, initiated a “crusade” in 1209. Despite the fact that the County was an imperial possession, Philip had promised the conquered land to his captains. The “crusaders” were unable to distinguish Catholics from Cathars. Hence, their battle cry: “Kill them all, God will recognize his own!” The king of France extended in this gruesome way his dominions as far as the Mediterranean. However, the region was so savagely ravaged until 1229 that it never recovered from this blow. It is still prostrate.
Figure 16.8. Dutch map of Francia. Francia is colored (yellow), after the acquisition of the Languedoc located on the Mediterranean coast. The Hundred years war finds its origin in the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine with an English prince. As a result, the kingdom of Henry II comprised in 1154 England and large parts of the continent (colored( red): Normandy, Maine with the Mans as capital, Anjou and Aquitaine). Brittany (Bretagne) is colored (gray). It was populated by Celts who remained faithful to the Emperor. In fact, it was independent. The expansion of England toward Scotland took place in 1157. Ireland was occupied in 1170 and Scotland was under control in 1174. Henry II had promised these lands to his three sons, John Lackland receiving Ireland.
The Saxon emperor Otto IV, appalled by the callous brutality of the conquest of the Languedoc, stolen of his devastated possession, attempted to put the Count of Flanders on the French throne with the help of the English (John lackland). Philip August reduced to nil in 1215 at Bouvines the prestige of the emperor, who was immediately replaced by Frederick II, and considerably diminished the power of the English Crown. Philip August recovered therewith a large part of the continental English dominions.
Bouvines signaled to the French rulers that the traditional primitive ruthless behavior of tyrants could be pursued with impunity After Bouvines, the French king instituted the official stealing of his subjects by money devaluation. He proceeded not by adulterating the metal but by taking in all the coins, reducing slightly their diameter and putting them again into circulation at their original value. The saved metal served to make new coins. The king however demanded that the royal taxes be paid in ingots and fair money. Jews and Lombards refused the clipped coins, the king exiled them, the international commerce withered away and the kingdom impoverished. This kleptocracy is ingrained: in the last sixty years, France suffered at least 20 devaluations and, at the moment I write, February 2008, the nation is outraged that it is not in its power to devaluate the Euro.
The university of Montpellier was in the Languedoc, which was imperial possession. It professed the most virulent anti-pontifical and imperialist form of Imperial law. It became part of Francia in 1215. It is there that Philippe the fair (king of Francia from 1285 to 1314) recruited the legists in charge of the administration of the kingdom, and combat the Papacy. They counseled according to the idea the Crown had of its own prerogatives. When Philip the Fair abandoned the counsels of the nobility and of the Church, which advised according to Frankish customs and Canon Law, to rely on legists, who counseled according to Imperial Law, the solution of the problems of the country was from then on tackled by a deductive intelligence that proceeded without reference to past experiences. Always short of money to satisfy the appetites of the Crown, the legists endeavored to invent taxes, justify them and collect them 5. In particular, Philip the fair instituted an army tax (in French : la taille de l’ost) for the maintenance of a professional royal army, a luxury that the other European rulers were not allowed. The military successes of France were favored during centuries by the maintenance of a royal army and the impossibility of the other European nations to assemble the armies able to durably oppose it.
The Templars were a military Order that guaranteed the moral values of Christendom. The seat of the Order was Paris. This extremely rich Order reported directly to the Holy See. The death of the personal enemy of Philip, pope Boniface, signaled to Philip that the richness of the Order could be his: the members of the Order were all imprisoned on the same night throughout the kingdom, tortured and exterminated but their treasury evanesced. The contingency instituted by the Crown had the consequence that the value of an individual was, from that moment, not anymore specified by his talent and achievements but by his subservience and the place he occupies within the French hierarchy of power. The dream of any ambitious Frenchman was from then on to serve in the army, in State-owned enterprises enjoying the protection of the State or else become a civil servant. This Roman vision of the exercise of power is ingrained and was restated by the president of the Republic Charles de Gaulle on 31 January 1964: “It must of course be understood that the indivisible authority of the State is trusted all into the hands of the President of the Republic by the people who elected him, that there exists none other, neither ministerial nor civil nor military nor judiciary, that be not conferred and maintained by him”. This stupefying statement was reported by his minister Peyrefitte, who did not wink an eyebrow.
Needing cash for the conduct of war against the English, Philip the Fair proposed to tax Church property. The Cistercians refused and the pope Boniface VIII protested that Church money could not be applied to the conduct of laic wars. The answer was first the closing of the national borders to goods and nummary, thereby effectively stopping the supply of the Vatican with money but also sterilizing international commerce and reinforcing the desire of French subjects to pertain to the power structure, and second the storming of the pope’s palace in 1303, the pope being accused of vice and heresy. The pope was hit by an iron gauntlet in the neck and the old choked man died a week later. Clement V, a French Pope elected in 1309, followed the suggestion of the French king and left Rome for Avignon, on the border of the river Rhône. Avignon was still imperial territory but the French realm began on the other side of the river. A thousand-year tradition and the moral strength of the papacy were thereby destroyed. Five succeeding French greedy and depraved popes serving French interests restated this policy.
The legitimacy of the papal authority was undermined. The Holy See returned to Rome in 1377. A year later, after the pope’s death, a new pope was elected in Rome and another in Avignon. The fundamental problem of legitimacy was thus applied precisely to the power that granted legitimacy. A third pope residing in Pisa was named in 1409. A general council held in Constance (1414) dismissed them all and elected Martin V in 1417. In 1511, the French king Louis XII invaded Italy and attempted to put the pope under tutelage. The French king Francis I concretized the gallic Church in 1516: French bishops and Church princes were named by the Crown. The sack of Rome by the Lutheran troops of the catholic emperor Charles V put a final point to Rome’s predominance in 1527.
It is often pretended that the sack was a result of the non-payment of the mercenary soldiers. Charles’ war treasury was indeed chronically empty because he had to relentlessly fight Francis I of France, the protestants and the Ottoman Turks, but was prevented to raise taxes at will for this purpose: he had to solicit the funds from cities and counties. However, the soldiers had received their pay. It was a gratuitous act of greed and resentment solely motivated by the hatred instilled by the preaching of Luther. The sack lasted three days, was utterly barbarous and horrible, with human urine in ciboria and human excrements on altars and smeared on religious paintings, and left the city totally ruined. It shocked the whole of Christendom, which did not understand its meaning and assumed it to be simply another act of greed and savagery.
Figure 16.9. The Apocalyps, wood, Dürer, 1497, i.e. 30 years before the sack. Prophetic because illustrating with a terrifying precision the horrors that will beset Europe, especially Flanders and Germany. The wars of religion lasted 120 years and unleashed the most debased human conducts. The four horses of the Apocalyps were first mentioned by the prophet Zacharias. John of Patmos wrote the Apocalyps for the contemporary Christians of the first century who doubted that Christendom would ever vanquish Rome. John gives the precision that one horse is red, meaning therewith the blood spilled by Rome, the second is black, meaning the sorrow brought by war, the third has the gray color of death itself and the fourth, white, is mounted by a bowman, i.e. a Parth, who will avenge the Christians and vanquish the Beast, i.e. Rome.
Erasmus admitted that he did not immediately recognize the significance of this deed, that heralded the beginning of the modern times. The pope had lost all authority: at the peace of Westphalia (1644-1648), the pope’s ambassador was not even allowed to attend the negotiations that consecrated the domination of France over the Germanic states. National States were created and needed no president. The Church lost the fight for the control of the souls and trusted in the hands of the princes part of its spiritual power, which led to an immediate social disaster with the callous exploitation of the population. The poverty of the population amplified with the Little Ice Age that plagued Europe and lasted about 300 years. In 1800, the mean income of the common people was twice to thrice inferior to that of their elders during the middle ages.
16.5.4 The Little Ice Age
Until the XVIIIth century, the agriculture of Europe had not progressed above that of the Neolithic. The fields were sown with cereals during two succeeding years and left fallow the third year, for the feeding of sheep. Fodder-plants (alfalfa, clover) began to be used in Flanders and the UK only in the XVIIIth century. Lack of food made it impossible to maintain cows in great numbers and these were raised more for the traction of carts than for milk and meat. Meat was very scarce, the yield in cereals for the making of bread was poor because mineral fertilizers were not known, and the constitution of reserves was nearly impossible. Chicken, which are now a commodity raised economically at such high densities that a live-weight pound of broiler chicken costs only $0.40, could not be raised in large numbers because of coccidiosis. The sulfonamide class of drugs changed agricultural practice only in 1948 and a chicken remained a luxurious commodity until 1934, when it still cost about $2.50.
The survival of the peasants became problematic with the advent of the Little Ice Age. Paleoclimatologists had long pondered the 3-century-long Little Ice Age that ended around 1850. A single cold spike spanned from 1670 to 1710. That was just after sunspots nearly disappeared from the face of the sun for more than 50 years. This event, called the Maunder sunspot minimum, is unique in the past 1,000 years. During this event, the sun grew a few tenths of a percent dimmer than it is today, which cooled the globe a modest 0.35°C and redistributed heat around the globe. At the same time, an unusual number of volcanoes erupted. The debris ejected into the stratosphere cooled the surface by reflecting sunlight back into space. The dual activity of sun and volcanoes generated an extreme cold localized over Northern Hemisphere continents, in winter. Inclement weather spelled famines.