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The Unifying Concept of Loyalty to a King

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The Unifying Concept of Loyalty to a King

Froissart’s Chronicles portrays the early formation of the Hundred Years’ War as a sequence of internal and external conflicts between the Kings of France and England. Even though the king’s authority was not always absolute, he reveals how kings needed loyalty from all ranks in order to stabilize peace— from the dukes and barons that who advised him to the peasants that formed their armies. In Froissart’s chronicle, loyalty to the king, as opposed to a national identity, was a more prominent factor for political unity because of the social divisions that a national identity evoked. Attempts at a national identity fail because loyalty to a king was a unifying concept for all classes.

Although Froissart’s description of the Estates General is a strong example of political unity without the authority of a king, the administration failed due of the class divisions between the Estates. With the capture of King John of France after the Battle of Poitiers, power was diverted to the Estates General, a governing body composed of twelve members from the clergy, the barons and knights, and the burgesses (147). But as Froissart reflects of the administration,

“The nobles and prelates began to grow tired of the institution of the Estates and left the Provost of the Merchants and some of the burgesses of Paris to go their own way, finding that these were interfering more than they liked with the conduct of affairs” (149). Although Froissart down plays the situation, the Estates General lacked the unity needed to run France. Even more so, they lacked a strong leader to unite them together, leaving the French countryside to be raided by a band of raiders known as the Free Companies. The lack of strong leadership left France in a state of constant looting and pillaging until another movement, disgusted with the nobility of France, arose.

While the Estates General lacked a strong leader to hold them together, the Jacquerie were united by a common class and goal, but failed because they never achieved national unity. Although they had an elected a leader by the name of Jack Goodman, they were more unified by their mutual discontent with the nobility (151). As Froissart notes about the purpose of the Jacquerie, “When they were asked why they did these things, they replied that they did not know… they thought that by such means they could destroy all the nobles and gentry in the world…” (153). Froissart’s statement reveals that the revolt by the Jacquerie could be considered a nationalistic movement because it represented the largest makeup of the population, the peasantry, but a common social class rather than national unity held it together. Even with the overwhelming number of supporters, the Jacquerie failed in the end because everyone else united in order to stop them. The revolt of the Jacquerie revealed not only the need for a king to govern the country, but as someone that could appeal to all social classes.

Similarly, the Peasants’ Revolt in England revealed the importance of loyalty to the king to keep a nation from falling apart. Like the Jacquerie in France, the Peasant’s Revolt in England grew from the discontent of the peasants with the nobility. Instigated by a priest named John Ball, he believed that the “country was badly governed and was being robbed of its wealth by those who called themselves noblemen” (213). The unhappy peasants desired to be free from serfdom and appealed to the King of England to grant them their demands. The King of England, the young Richard II, would eventually meet with them and granted all their demands, and as Froissart writes, “These words did much to calm those humble people… So these people were placated and began to go back to London” (221). Because the king appeared to be on their side, much of the revolt dissipated with his promises. The ability of the king to quell the revolt showed how much loyalty to the king was an important unifying factor with such sharp class divisions in medieval society. The peasants showed their loyalty to the king by accepting his word as true, even though

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