Jacquerie

Last updated

Prisoners in an illuminated manuscript by Jean Froissart Jacquerie repression.jpg
Prisoners in an illuminated manuscript by Jean Froissart

The Jacquerie (French:  [ʒakʁi] ) was a popular revolt by peasants that took place in northern France in the early summer of 1358 during the Hundred Years' War. [1] The revolt was centred in the valley of the Oise north of Paris and was suppressed after a few weeks of violence. This rebellion became known as "the Jacquerie" because the nobles derided peasants as "Jacques" or "Jacques Bonhomme" for their padded surplice, called a "jacque". [2] The aristocratic chronicler Jean Froissart and his source, the chronicle of Jean le Bel, referred to the leader of the revolt as Jacque Bonhomme ("Jack Goodfellow"), though in fact the Jacquerie 'great captain' was named Guillaume Cale. The word jacquerie became a synonym of peasant uprisings in general in both English and French. [3]

Contents

Background

After the capture of the French king (John II, Froissart's bon roi Jean "good king John") by the English during the Battle of Poitiers in September 1356, power in France devolved fruitlessly among the Estates-General, King Charles II of Navarre and John's son, the Dauphin, later Charles V.

The Estates-General was too divided to provide effective government and the disputes between the two rulers provoked disunity amongst the nobles. Consequently, the prestige of the French nobility sank to a new low. The century had begun poorly for the nobles at Courtrai (the "Battle of the Golden Spurs"), where they fled the field and left their infantry to be hacked to pieces; they had also given up their king at the Battle of Poitiers. To secure their rights, the French privileged classes – the nobility, the merchant elite, and the clergy – forced the peasantry to pay ever-increasing taxes (for example, the taille) and to repair their war-damaged properties under corvée – without compensation. The passage of a law that required the peasants to defend the châteaux that were emblems of their oppression was the immediate cause of the spontaneous uprising. [4] The law was particularly resented as many commoners already blamed the nobility for the defeat at Poitiers. The chronicle of Jean de Venette articulates the perceived problems between the nobility and the peasants, yet some historians, such as Samuel K. Cohn, see the Jacquerie revolts as a reaction to a combination of short- and long-term effects dating from as early as the grain crisis and famine of 1315.

In addition, bands of English, Gascon, German, and Spanish routiers – unemployed mercenaries and bandits employed by the English during outbreaks of the Hundred Years' War – were left uncontrolled to loot, rape, and plunder the lands of northern France almost at will, with the Estates-General powerless to stop them. Many peasants questioned why they should work for an upper class that would not meet its feudal obligation to protect them.

Uprising

This combination of problems set the stage for a brief series of bloody rebellions in northern France in 1358. The uprisings began in a village of St. Leu near the Oise river, where a group of peasants met in a cemetery after vespers to discuss their perception that the nobles had abandoned the King at Poitiers. "They shamed and despoiled the realm, and it would be a good thing to destroy them all." [2]

The account of the rising by the contemporary chronicler Jean le Bel includes a description of horrifying violence. According to him,

"peasants killed a knight, put him on a spit, and roasted him with his wife and children looking on. After ten or twelve of them raped the lady, they wished to force feed them the roasted flesh of their father and husband and made them then die by a miserable death".

Examples of violence on this scale by the French peasants are offered throughout the medieval sources, including accounts by Jean de Venette and Jean Froissart, an aristocrat who was particularly unsympathetic to the peasants. Among the chroniclers, the one sympathetic to their plight is Jean de Venette, sometimes known as the continuator of the chronicle of Guillaume de Nangis. [5]

The peasants involved in the rebellion seem to have lacked any real organization, instead rising up locally as an unstructured mass. Jean le Bel speculated that governors and tax collectors spread the word of rebellion from village to village to inspire the peasants to rebel against the nobility. When asked as to the cause of their discontent they apparently replied that they were just doing what they had witnessed others doing. Additionally it seems that the rebellion contained some idea that it was possible to rid the world of nobles. Froissart's account portrays the rebels as mindless savages bent on destruction, which they wrought on over 150 noble houses and castles, murdering the families in horrific ways. Outbreaks occurred in Rouen and Rheims, while Senlis and Montdidier were sacked by the peasant army. The bourgeoisie of Beauvais, Senlis, Paris, Amiens, and Meaux, sorely pressed by the court party, accepted the Jacquerie, and the urban underclass were sympathetic. [6] A small number of knights and squires provided leadership for some of the peasant bands, although in letters of pardon issued after the suppression of the rising, such individuals claimed that they were forced to do so.

The Jacquerie must be seen in the context of this period of internal instability. At a time of personal government, the absence of a charismatic king was detrimental to the still-feudal state. The Dauphin had to contend with roaming free companies of out-of-work mercenaries, the plotting of Charles the Bad, and the possibility of another English invasion. The Dauphin gained effective control of the realm only after the supposed surrender of the city of Paris under the high bourgeois Étienne Marcel, prevôt des marchands in July 1358. Marcel had joined Cale's rebellion somewhat inadvisedly, and when his wealthy supporters deserted his cause, it cost him the city and his life, in September. It is notable that churches were not generally the targets of peasant fury, except in certain regions.

Suppression

Defeat of the Jacquerie in Meaux on 9 June 1358 Jacquerie meaux.jpg
Defeat of the Jacquerie in Meaux on 9 June 1358

The revolt was suppressed by French nobles and gentry led by Charles the Bad of Navarre, cousin, brother-in-law, and mortal enemy of the Regent, whose throne he was attempting to usurp. His army and the peasant force opposed each other near Mello on 10 June 1358, when Guillaume Cale, the leader of the rebellion, was invited to truce talks by Charles. Foolishly, he went to the enemy camp, where he was seized by the French nobles, who considered that the conventions and standards of chivalry did not apply to him; he was tortured and decapitated. [2] His now leaderless army, claimed to be 20,000 strong in only Froissart's account, which was heavily influenced by the conventions of Romance, was ridden down by divisions of mounted knights. In the ensuing Battle of Mello and in a campaign of terror throughout the Beauvais region, knights, squires, men-at-arms and mercenaries roamed the countryside lynching uncounted peasants. Maurice Dommaget notes that the few hundred aristocratic victims of the Jacquerie were known as individuals to the chroniclers, who detailed the outrages practiced upon them. [7] An estimated 20,000 anonymous peasants were killed in the reprisals that followed.

The final events transpired at Meaux, where the impregnable citadel was crowded with knights and their ladies. On 9 June a band of some 800 armed commoners (not the 10,000 Jacques of Froissart's account) came out of Paris under the leadership of Etienne Marcel to support the rising. Like many of the peasants, they seem to have seen themselves as acting in the name of the imprisoned king. When the band from Paris appeared before Meaux they were taken in hospitably by the disaffected townspeople and fed. The fortress, somewhat apart from the town, remained unassailable. Two captain adventurers, returning from crusade against the pagans of Prussia, were at Châlons, Gaston Phebus, comte de Foix and his noble Gascon cousin the Captal de Buch. The approach of their well-armed lancers encouraged the besieged nobles in the fortress, and a general rout of the Parisian force ensued. The nobles then set fire to the suburb nearest the fortress, entrapping the burghers in the flames. The mayor of Meaux and other prominent men of the city were hanged. There was a pause, then the force led by the nobles and gentry plundered the city and churches and set fire to Meaux, which burned for two weeks. They then overran the countryside, burning cottages and barns and slaughtering all the peasants they could find.

The reprisals continued through July and August. Senlis defended itself. Knights of Hainault, Flanders, and Brabant joined in the carnage. Following the declaration of amnesty issued by the Regent on 10 August 1358, such heavy fines were assessed upon the regions that had supported the Jacquerie that a general flight of peasantry ensued. [8] Historian Barbara Tuchman says: "Like every insurrection of the century, it was smashed, as soon as the rulers recovered their nerve, by weight of steel, and the advantages of the man on horseback, and the psychological inferiority of the insurgents". [2]

The slanted but vivid account of Froissart can be balanced by the Regent's letters of amnesty, a document that comments as severely on the nobles' reaction as on the peasants' rising and omits the atrocities detailed by Froissart: "it represents the men of the open country assembling spontaneously in various localities, in order to deliberate on the means of resisting the English, and suddenly, as with a mutual agreement, turning fiercely on the nobles". [6]

The Jacquerie traumatized the aristocracy. In 1872 Louis Raymond de Vericour remarked to the Royal Historical Society, "To this very day the word 'Jacquerie' does not generally give rise to any other idea than that of a bloodthirsty, iniquitous, groundless revolt of a mass of savages. Whenever, on the Continent, any agitation takes place, however slight and legitimate it may be, among the humbler classes, innumerable voices, in higher, privileged, wealthy classes, proclaim that society is threatened with a Jacquerie". [9]

In the arts

Notes

  1. Froissart's date of November 1357, is erroneous; the first incidents occurred on 28 May 1358 at Saint-Leu-d'Esserent and neighbouring villages (J. Flammermont, 'La Jacquerie en Beauvaisis', Revue historique, 9 (1879): 123–43.)
  2. 1 2 3 4 Barbara Tuchman. A Distant Mirror . Alfred A. Knopf, NY (1978). p. 155ff.
  3. The first attestation of the word Jacquerie for the revolt comes from a manuscript of 1360, Paris, Archives nationales JJ 88, no. 43, fol. 29v 'Chartre de Jacquerie'. The term ‘Jacques’ for the rebels first appears in a manuscript from October 1358, Archives nationales JJ 86, no. 430, fol. 151r. It derives from the nickname Jacques Bonhommes given to common-born footsoldiers, attested well before the Jacquerie. See Justine Firnhaber-Baker, The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants Revolt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  4. Dommanget, Maurice (1971). La Jacquerie. Paris: F. Maspero.
  5. Remarked on by de Vericour, Louis Raymond (1872). "The Jacquerie". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society1: 302.
  6. 1 2 Vericour 1872:304.
  7. Dommaget 1971.
  8. Vericourt 1872:309.
  9. Vericour 1872:296; see, for example Philippe Gabriel Eidelberg, The Great Rumanian Peasant Revolt of 1907. Origins of a Modern Jacquerie (Leiden, 1974); John T. Alexander, Emperor of the Cossacks: Pugachev and the Frontier Jacquerie of 1773–1775 (Lawrence, Kansas, 1973); Serge Aberdam and Marcel Dorigny,eds. Paysans en Révolution: Terre, Pouvoir, et Jacquerie, 1789–1794 (Paris, 1996) etc.
  10. These "non-historical" literary aspects of the chronicles were examined by Marie-Thérèse de Medeiros, Jacques et Chroniqueurs: Une Étude comparée de récits contemporains relaxant la Jacquerie de 1358 (Paris, 1979).
  11. "The Iron Trevet: Deals with the Jacquerie revolts and the peasants alliance with the revolutionary bourgeois of Paris..." Advertisement for "Mysteries of the People" by Eugène Sue. The New Review magazine, April 1915 (p. 245).

Related Research Articles

Battle of Poitiers Battle in 1356 during the Hundred Years War

The Battle of Poitiers was a major English victory in the Hundred Years' War. It was fought on 19 September 1356 in Nouaillé, near the city of Poitiers in Aquitaine, western France. Edward, the Black Prince, led an army of English, Welsh, Breton and Gascon troops, many of them veterans of the Battle of Crécy. They were attacked by a larger French force led by King John II of France, which included allied Scottish forces. The French were heavily defeated; an English counter-attack captured King John, along with his youngest son, and much of the French nobility who were present.

Year 1358 (MCCCLVIII) was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar.

Charles II of Navarre King of Navarre

Charles II, called Charles the Bad, was King of Navarre 1349–1387 and Count of Évreux 1343–1387.

Charles V of France King of France

Charles V, called the Wise, was King of France from 1364 to his death in 1380. His reign marked an early high point for France during the Hundred Years' War, with his armies recovering much of the territory held by the English, and successfully reversed the military losses of his predecessors.

John II of France King of France

John II, called John the Good, was King of France from 1350 until his death in 1364. When he came to power, France faced several disasters: the Black Death, which killed nearly half of its population; popular revolts known as Jacqueries; free companies of routiers who plundered the country; and English aggression that resulted in catastrophic military losses, including the Battle of Poitiers of 1356, in which John was captured.

Étienne Marcel French politician (c. 1302–1358)

Étienne Marcel was provost of the merchants of Paris under King John II of France, called John the Good. He distinguished himself in the defence of the small craftsmen and guildsmen who made up most of the city population.

Bonhomme, Bon Homme or Bonhommes may refer to:

Popular revolts in late-medieval Europe

Popular revolts in late medieval Europe were uprisings and rebellions by (typically) peasants in the countryside, or the bourgeois in towns, against nobles, abbots and kings during the upheavals of the 14th through early 16th centuries, part of a larger "Crisis of the Late Middle Ages". Although sometimes known as Peasant Revolts, the phenomenon of popular uprisings was of broad scope and not just restricted to peasants. In Central Europe and the Balkan region, these rebellions expressed, and helped cause, a political and social disunity paving the way for the expansion of the Ottoman Empire.

Hundred Years War (1337–1360) First phase of the Hundred Years War

The first phase of the Hundred Years' War between France and England lasted from 1337 to 1360. It is sometimes referred to as the Edwardian War because it was initiated by King Edward III of England, who claimed the French throne in defiance of King Philip VI of France. The dynastic conflict was caused by disputes over the French feudal sovereignty over Aquitaine and the English claims over the French royal title. The Kingdom of England and its allies dominated this phase of the war.

Enguerrand VII de Coucy

Enguerrand VII de Coucy,, also known as Ingelram de Coucy and Ingelram de Couci, was a medieval French nobleman, and the last Lord of Coucy. He became son-in-law of King Edward III of England following his marriage to the king's daughter, Isabella of England, and the couple was subsequently granted by the king several English estates, among them the title Earl of Bedford. Coucy fought in the Battle of Nicopolis (1396) as part of a failed crusade against the Ottoman Empire, and was taken prisoner. Having contracted the bubonic plague, he died in captivity at Bursa, Ottoman Empire.

Froissarts <i>Chronicles</i>

Froissart's Chronicles are a prose history of the Hundred Years' War written in the 14th century by Jean Froissart. The Chronicles open with the events leading up to the deposition of Edward II in 1326, and cover the period up to 1400, recounting events in western Europe, mainly in England, France, Scotland, the Low Countries and the Iberian Peninsula, although at times also mentioning other countries and regions such as Italy, Germany, Ireland, the Balkans, Cyprus, Turkey and North Africa.

Jean III de Grailly Military leader in the Hundred Years War

Jean III de Grailly, Captal de Buch,, was a Gascon nobleman and a military leader in the Hundred Years' War, who was praised by the chronicler Jean Froissart as an ideal of chivalry.

Jean de Venette, or Jean Fillons was a French Carmelite friar, from Venette, Oise, who became the Prior of the Carmelite monastery in the Place Maubert, Paris, and was a Provincial Superior of France from 1341 to 1366. He is the author of L'Histoire des Trois Maries, a long French poem on the legend of the Three Marys, giving his name at the start of the text, and has since 1735 been also regarded as the author of an anonymous Latin chronicle of the period of the Hundred Years War between England and France. In recent decades it has been questioned whether these were in fact the same author, although it seems that both were Carmelites. Other historians see no reason to create an extra author, but recent French publications tend to refer to the "Chronique dite de Jean de Venette". By his own account the chronicler was of peasant origin, and his view of the events of his lifetime has a significantly different perspective from that of other chroniclers.

Battle of Taillebourg Medieval battle between France and England

The Battle of Taillebourg, a major medieval battle fought in July 1242, was the decisive engagement of the Saintonge War. It pitted a French Capetian army under the command of King Louis IX and his younger brother Alphonse of Poitiers against forces led by King Henry III of England, his brother Richard of Cornwall and their stepfather Hugh X of Lusignan.

The Battle of Mello was the decisive and largest engagement of the Peasant Jacquerie of 1358, a rebellion of peasants in the Beauvais region of France, which caused an enormous amount of damage to this wealthy region at the height of the Hundred Years' War with England. The battle was in fact two separate engagements; a major battle at Mello and a smaller one at the nearby town of Meaux, which the battle is also sometimes named after.

Guillaume Cale

Guillaume Cale was a wealthy peasant from the village of Mello near Beauvais, who became leader of the peasant Jacquerie which broke out in May 1358 and continued for a month unchecked until the Battle of Mello on 10 June. Cale's origins are unknown; it is not clear how old he was at the time of the uprising, nor is anything known about his family and business ties, except that he was a reasonably well-off farmer.

Sir Jacques Le Gris was a French squire and knight who gained fame and infamy, and was ultimately killed, when he engaged in the last judicial duel permitted by the Parlement of Paris after he was accused of rape by Marguerite de Carrouges, the wife of his neighbour and rival Sir Jean de Carrouges. Carrouges brought legal proceedings against Le Gris before King Charles VI who after hearing the evidence, authorised a trial by combat to determine the question. The duel attracted thousands of spectators and has been discussed by many notable French writers, from the contemporary Jean Froissart to Voltaire.

Isabella of Valois, Duchess of Bourbon Duchess consort of Bourbon

Isabella of Valois, Duchess of Bourbon, was a relative of the French royal family. She was the daughter of Charles of Valois by his third wife Mahaut of Châtillon. She was the wife of Peter I, Duke of Bourbon.

Bonhomme is a surname. The word comes from the French language meaning fellow, old man, or chap.

The croquant rebellions were several peasant revolts that erupted in Limousin, Quercy, and Perigord (France) and that extended through the southeast of the country in the latter part of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries.

References