chapter  III
13 Pages

Italy

By2. Frederick II 3. Germany III. FRANCE

Philip Augustus, on ascending the throne, was still the immediate ruler only of the ancient royal domain, a little enlarged by Louis VI and Louis VII, but still without outlets to the sea, and threatened on the west and the north by the alliance of the Count of Flanders and the King of England. On his death he left his son in possession of Brittany, Poitou, and Normandy, and assured of the obedience of the Count of Flanders, who was reduced to the rôle of a protégé of the Crown. There was no longer any prince in the kingdom who was in a position to oppose him successfully. However, the Midi was still independent of the monarchical power. In respect of the County of Toulouse, Louis VIII was in almost the same situation as Clovis had been, eight hundred years earlier, in respect of the kingdom of the Visigoths. As with Clovis, it was a religious motive that furnished him with the opportunity of intervening. Clovis in the 5th century attacked the Visigoths on the pretext that they were Arians; Louis VIII was impelled to annexe the County of Toulouse on account of the heresy of the Albigenses. In both cases the religious motive merely served to hasten what was inevitable. In the interests of the geographical unity of France its political unity was indispensable. The North and the South were not opposed to each other; on the contrary, each was merged into the other. Add to this the attraction of the Mediterranean, the highway par excellence of maritime trade, the sea-road to the East. It had been this under Clovis; and had become it again at the beginning of the 13th century. From Paris, the kings of France were bound to make for it, as the kings of the Franks had done. Moreover, their suzerainty extended to the Pyrenees. At the beginning of the 13th century there was perhaps no region in Europe so radiant with life as Languedoc. Thanks to the Mediterranean trade, its cities were numerous and prosperous. Like Genoa and Pisa, Marseilles and Montpellier despatched their vessels to the ports of Egypt and Syria. Like Siena and Florence, Cahors was engaged in the silver trade, and the fame of her bankers extended even to the Low Countries. The importance of Toulouse, in the

plain of the Garonne, was analogous to that of Milan in Lombardy. However, the French cities of the Midi, unlike the Italian, were not autonomous republics. As in the North, they acknowledged the overlordship of the territorial principalities which had been constituted since the dismemberment of the Carolingian Empire, the most important of which was the County of Toulouse. The situation of the Counts of Toulouse, in the south of the kingdom, was very like that of the Counts of Flanders at the opposite extremity. Rich and powerful like the latter, they took advantage, like them, of their excentric position, behaving, as far as the king was concerned, with almost absolute independence. Lastly, just as a certain proportion of the subjects of the Counts of Flanders spoke “Thiois,” the subjects of the Counts of Toulouse spoke Provencal, and this lin-guistic individuality helped to emphasize the political individuality which distinguished the County of Toulouse from the rest of France; the more so as the Provençal literature of the 12th century was greatly superior to that of the north of France. Its songs of love and war (sirventes) were greatly appreciated by the nobles of the Midi, and they made their way into Italy, and even into the north of France, thanks to an infatuation analogous to that which in the 16th and 17th centuries set all the beaux esprits reading the Italian, and then the Spanish writers. Richard Cœur de Lion, Frederick II, and Henry II, Duke of Brabant, composed poems in the Provençal language, whose literary development was in advance of that of all the other Romanic languages. This alone is enough to show that the intellectual activity of the Midi was in no way inferior to its economic activity. Indeed, this intellectual activity was so potent that while it inspired the poets it also provoked a formidable religious crisis.