In the late fifteenth century, France remained a highly regionalised and diverse society, its identity shaped by a long period of war and socio-economic catastrophes. We need to understand both the social consequences of that period and the nature of inherited social attitudes in order to judge the country’s view of itself. When Louis XI became king in 1461 large areas of the kingdom lay in ruins. The previous decade had seen the fruition of an exhausting effort to reverse the disastrous consequences of a century of English military intervention in French civil conflicts. In the 1460s, the conflict turned inward as the great princes, allied with Burgundy, struggled in the War of the Public Weal (1465) to place limits on the king’s power. Louis himself, profiting from the success of his policy in England during 1470, relaunched the attack on Burgundy that was to culminate in 1477 and rumble on amidst the troubles of Charles VIII’s minority until 1493. Epidemic, economic depression and chaotic government had compounded these problems. ‘Grievous oppressions, mutilation of men, rape of women and girls, arson, robbery and ransom’ were the lot of the people according to a royal letter of remission of the reign of Charles VII.
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