Viche 2014 12

12, 2014

Development of the State and Supreme Representative Bodies of England and France in the Pre-Revolutionary Period

The vast majority of the peoples of Western Europe belong to two cultural and religious groups, i.e. the Germanic and Protestant and the Romance and Catholic. At a certain stage of development, the leading positions within these groups of people were taken by England and France. These countries have endured great social revolutions. In addition, they underwent the same periods of their development: birth, childhood, youth, etc. Whereas the establishment of statehood in England had taken place about 100-150 years earlier than in France, the French Great March Ordinance (1357) is considered to be the analogue of the English Magna Carta (1215). The author examined the relationships between these documents and determined that the Estates General of France (1413) was the counterpart of the Parliament of England (1265), as the epoch of absolutism in this country began after the Huguenot Wars.
Keywords: dominant state, supreme representative body, initial period, estate-representative monarchy, absolutism

Nowadays, the idea of a special mission and role of Great Britain in the history of Europe and the world, particularly, of its importance as the homeland of parliamentarianism is quite popular [Havrylyshyn, 1993: 86]. And the historical role of France is often downplayed against the background of British achievements. The French historian Charles Petit­Dutaillis repeatedly paid attention to the fact that the political development of France (compared to its neighbour) had been delayed for at least one hundred years [Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 99, 161].

Although, this myth can easily be refuted on the basis of a comparative analysis of the development of statehood and the supreme representative bodies in England (1066­1640) and France (1214­1789) by selecting similar processes and events in the two countries during three historical periods (the initial one, the period of estate­representative monarchy, and the period of absolutism).

The initial period. The Battle of Hastings and the reign of William the Conqueror (1066­1087) are considered to be the primary starting points of the history of England in this period (1066­1265). The development of France during this period (1214­1413) was intensified by the Battle of Bouvines (1214) and the rule of Philip II Augustus (1180­1223), correspondingly. In both countries, the victorious battles accelerated the processes of centralization: sizes of royal domains exceeded scales of any other feudal possessions and, therefore, contributed to their transformation into a unifying centre of the entire state. William the Conqueror of England and Philip II Augustus of France independently appointed their successors but, at the same time, granted large land parcels to other sons inviting future dangers to the integrity of the states. While struggling for the unification of the countries, the rulers were supported by the same population strata, i.e. by small­ and medium­sized feudalists, urban residents, the church, and rich peasantry. Meanwhile, both in England and in France, the greatest resistance to unification and centralization of the states administration was offered by feudal lords with extensive holdings [Carpentier, 2008: 156; Livantsev, 2000: 33­34, 66­67; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 25­26, 56, 171­183, 215­216, 255, 277­278; Shtokmar, 2005: 49­54].

During the exploring period, the supreme rulers of those states finally gained footholds as the heads of the feudal systems. The king's power rose above the vassal hierarchy, and the feudal system was used to increase the number of a ruler's immediate subjects (vassals). One can actually state that during this period the sovereigns initiated the establishment of the concept of single citizenship, elaborated the declaration of intent, and cherished dreams of the kings. For example, according to the Oath of Salisbury introduced by William I (1086), every English knight was obliged to serve in the royal army if it was necessary [Livantsev, 2000: 66; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 55, 178, 267].

During the reigns of Henry II Plantagenet and his sons Richard and John in England, and, correspondingly, of Louis IX the Saint and Philip IV the Fair in France, royal domains started occupying most parts of the countries. Since that time, the successor of the king has received the lions share of parental heritage, and his younger sons have been provided with the insignificant units [Gutnova, 1960: 47; Carpentier, 2008: 156, 168; Manfred, 1972: 98; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 101, 216; Shtokmar, 2005: 54­60].

The royal councils were gradually transformed into administrations and supreme representative bodies (the English Parliament and the French Estates General). In the second half of the initial period, there was a clearer separation between the great royal councils which were not permanent bodies and the so­called small curias (councils) to transform into permanent advisory institutions attached to the rulers. In addition, the Royal Household also obtained the status of a separate structure. At that time, specialized functions were divided among the members of small councils, and that was actually the first step towards the formation of the future governments of modern developed countries [Gutnova, 1960: 79­81; Carpentier, 2008: 157­158; Manfred, 1972: 34­35, 68; Levin, 1959: 30­31].

The operation of the general meeting of royal councils (or the so­called Great Royal Councils) initiated the establishing of higher representative bodies of states. In England, such a status was obtained by the gathering of 1177 in Winchester during which Henry II intended to discuss the performance of the military expedition to France; in France, that status was granted to the large meeting of 1302 in Paris convened by the King Philip IV the Fair after the beginning of his conflict with the Pope Boniface VIII. One puts a wrong construction on the matter identifying the Estates General gathered on the initiative of Philip IV the Fair with the English Parliament of 1265, as it did not lay the foundation for the estate­representative monarchy in France. The French scientist Georges Carpentier states that the meetings taking place in the early 14th century only pre­typified the future Estates General. In his opinion, researchers are misled by the identity of the names of these gatherings. By the way, a similar situation was also observed in England, since the term parliament was first mentioned in its official documents in 1242, and the meetings in London (2 April 1258) and Oxford (11 June 1258) were also called parliaments [Gutnova, 1960: 79­81; Livantsev, 2000: 34­35, 40­45; Carpentier, 2008: 155; Levin, 1959: 33­34; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 111­112, 204­214, 302­303, 312­313].

Both in the reign of Henry II of England and during the rule of Louis IX of France, all free citizens were granted the right to address themselves to the throne for the administration of justice. That became the most effective method of strengthening royal power and contributed to the gradual unification of law. Although, social grassroots did not have the opportunity to appeal to the royal court due to large legal fees.

In the initial period, the armies of England and France still remained feudal. Their cores were formed by the cavalry of large feudalists but one also observed a simultaneous increase in the number of foot­borne militias and mercenaries. The latters activities contributed to curtailing the rulers dependence on feudal military forces and weakened the organization thereof. In addition, the kings of England and France carried out their task­oriented policies concerning the church: on the one hand, its representatives received extensive land parcels and a number of privileges (e.g., the creation of ecclesiastical courts), and, on the other hand, they were under control of the state whose monarchs appointed all the religious hierarchs. Consequently, the strengthening of temporal power provoked conflicts with the church [Anderson, 2010: 84­85; Carpentier, 2008: 158; Manfred, 1972: 103­104; Livantsev, 2000: 1­52, 67­69, 86­87; Levin, 1959: 28­34; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 63­67, 165­173; Shtokmar, 2005: 44, 50­52, 55­59].

As a result of the war against the French King in 1202, John Lackland, the ruler of England, lost his lands in France. In the beginning of the Hundred Years War (1337­1453), the French also lost significant territories. Although, the monarchs attempts to retake them were useless.

King John Lackland of England convened a meeting in St. Albans (1213) to try to enlist the wide support of the knights and urban residents. Instead, by using the weakening of royal power, the English aristocracy and clergy headed by the Primate Stephen Langton forced the King to sign the Magna Carta (1215). The French Estates General (convened by the Dauphin Charles in 1356) is historically considered to be the analogue of this assembly. Headed by the Prevost of Paris Etienne Marcel and the Bishop of Laon Robert Le Coq the Estates General advanced their programme of reforms and, as a result, conquered the adoption of the Great March Ordinance (1357). In both countries, the representatives of the societies established the bodies (the Council of 25 Barons in England and the Council of 28 in France) to control implementation of the provisions of the above­mentioned documents by the kings and their surroundings. Those political and legal instruments ensured fair justice for all citizens and had to be in line with the laws of the countries and be administered by the so­called Court of Peers (i.e. the Court of Equals), as well as additional rights for the church.

As a result, the royal powers of the states began a stubborn fight against the rebels trying not to execute the requirements of the signed documents. Even though the wealthy French urban residents were more active (that was caused by a series of military defeats of the French nobility which weakened their positions and annihilated a part of the aristocracy), the coalition that advocated limitations of royal outrage and submission of the monarchy to control of the people was extremely heterogeneous in both countries, and hence, disintegrated very quickly [Manfred, 1972: 126­132; Levin, 1959: 34­38; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 289­300, 317­320].

Assessing that situation in the context of the political and legal development of a state, one can stipulate that the Second Barons War (1258­1267) in England may be considered as the counterpart of the French Civil War between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians which began in the early 15th century. During the Second Barons War, King Louis IX of France rendered the English ruler Henry III the French province of Guyenne, and gave him financial support. In turn, Henry III paid homage (i.e., the medieval oath of allegiance the act of conclusion of an agreement or an agreement itself according to which any person who has paid homage becomes a man of their lord) that later gave the main impetus to the English­French War initiated by King Henry V of England [Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 290­300, 307; Khachaturian, 1989: 125].

During the Second Barons War, Simon de Montfort convened the first English Parliament (1265) which was simultaneously represented by large feudalists, knights of the counties, and urban residents. However, that was a forced step: as a result of the civil wars, Simon de Montfort began losing the support of the barons and, therefore, strived for much assistance from the representatives of other strata of the population.

Due to the civil wars between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the Estates General was convened in 1413 in Paris. Its participants lodged their strong protest against the civil war in the country and complained about the unbearable abuse of the ducal officials. However, neither the British Parliament of 1265 nor the French Estates General of 1413 were able to stop the anarchy and civil war. The wealthy population strata of both countries strained after moderate reforms in financial, judicial, and military spheres. After the lower population strata had increased their support to the insurgents, the knights and wealthy urban residents gradually stopped their active participation in civic strives: Simon de Montfort was defeated at the Battle of Evesham, London opened its gates to royal troops, and Paris was eventually taken by the Armagnacs. In both cases, the winners brutally reckoned with the rebels [Manfred, 1972: 136­137; Levin, 1959: 39; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 307­310].

The second large period of the historical development of England (1265­1485) and France (1413­1614) the epoch of estate­representative monarchy was characterized by a further strengthening of the central power based on political alliances with the nobility and cities. The states created permanent mercenary armies and reformed their tax systems (temporary subsidies were replaced by direct and indirect taxes) [Gutnova, 1960: 63­69; Manfred, 1972: 142; Levin, 1959: 42].

The author does not agree with the statement according to which the establishment of the absolute monarchy in France occurred during the reign of Francis I (1515­1547), since the Estates General was convened in 1506 and 1548, and actively operated during the Huguenot Wars. Royal power was still supported by the leading layers of society, although it was able to atomize their influence. Activities of the provincial states were due in no small part to that process, as they determined the criteria and kinds of taxes for people not wanting to concede their prerogative in favour of the Parliament of the country.

Of course, the supreme estate­representative bodies of that time had some differences which, however, did not change their nature: both in England and in France, the central power strived for finding its foothold amongst the leading layers of the countrys society. However, having the right to membership in the estate­representative bodies the nominees of the aristocracy, nobility, and the clergy removed the vast majority of urban residents and peasants from the processes of governance, and, thus, they were unable to defend their rights [Anderson, 2010: 81­84; Manfred, 1972: 171; Petit­Dutaillis, 1938: 321; Shcherbinin].

In both countries, royal power gradually strengthened to the extent that it was even able to make exhausting foreign wars. So, in 1337, the King Edward III of England started the Hundred Years War against France. Instead of that, the French King Charles VIII initiated the beginning of the so­called Italian Wars (1494­1559). But their failures directly resulted in internal conflicts the Wars of the Roses (1455­1485) in England and the Huguenot Wars (1562­1594) in France.

In the wake of the internal strives, the states faced the emergence of new ruling dynasties. The weakening of the power of the large feudalists gave the nobility and the bourgeoisie an opportunity to support the Tudor (England) and Bourbon (France) dynasties. Their strong royal power could provide protection for trade, enforce the obedience of the large landowners, and suppress popular uprisings [Pavliv, 2011: 161­162; Shcherbinin].

The time frame of the age of absolutism is limited to the period of 1485­1640 in England, and to the period of 1614­1789 in France. During the reign of King Henry VIII of England, the Secretary of State Thomas Cromwell (1533­1540) laid the foundations for the process of transformation of the medieval palace administration into the bureaucratic apparatus of a centralized state. The rule of the tandem of King Louis XIII (1610­1643) and Cardinal Richelieu (1622­1642) can be considered as the equivalent of such transformations in France. The establishment of absolutism coincided with the processes of turning the church into a part of the state apparatus which took place in both countries. However, English absolutism was distinguished by the existence of Parliament to play the role of an active tool of royal policy [Anderson, 2010: 88­104, 110­133; Levin, 1959: 89; Pavliv, 2011: 162­164; Khachaturian, 1989: 7].

Conclusions. Each state undergoes the same stages of development consisting of certain forms of government and state bodies as their elements. The supreme representative body of France is the natural and consistent part of this states development. Therefore, the British Parliament cannot be considered as the prototype of all parliaments of the world. This statement may only relate to the Germanic and Protestant nations (though, the first parliament of the peoples of this group is considered to be the Icelandic Althing founded in 930).

Based on the analysis of historical events this article proposes an updated periodization of the history of nation building in England and France: the initial period England in 1066­1265, France in 1214­1413; the estate­representative monarchy England in 1265­1485, France in 1413­1614; the absolute monarchy England in 1485­1640, France in 1614­1789. Thus, one can state that the era of the New Age did not begin everywhere after the English Revolution of 1640 but only in those states belonging to the Germanic and Protestant group of peoples. The starting point of this period for the Romance and Catholic countries was the Great French Revolution: it contributed to strengthening the idea that the process of nation building in England had started about 100­150 years earlier than in continental France (see the Table).

 

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Andriy PAVLIV