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Crown lands of France

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Title: Crown lands of France  
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Subject: Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, Battle of Bouvines, Anjou, Henry IV of France, Philip IV of France, Charles V of France, Philip VI of France, Louis XII of France, Louis VI of France, Philip I of France
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Crown lands of France

The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or (in French) domaine royal (from demesne) of France refers to the lands, fiefs and rights directly possessed by the kings of France.[1] While the term eventually came to refer to a territorial unit, the royal domain originally referred to the network of "castles, villages and estates, forests, towns, religious houses and bishoprics, and the rights of justice, tolls and taxes" effectively held by the king or under his domination.[2] In terms of territory, before the reign of Henry IV, the domaine royal did not encompass the entirety of the territory of the kingdom of France and for much of the Middle Ages significant portions of the kingdom were the direct possessions of other feudal lords.

In the tenth and eleventh centuries, the first Capetians—while being the kings of France—were among the least powerful of the great feudal lords of France in terms of territory possessed. Patiently, through the use of feudal law (and, in particular, the confiscation of fiefs from rebellious vassals), conquest, annexation, skillful marriages with heiresses of large fiefs, and even by purchase, the kings of France were able to increase the royal domain. By the time of Philip IV, the meaning of "royal domain" began to shift from a mere collection of lands and rights to a fixed territorial unit,[3] and by the sixteenth century the "royal domain" began to coincide with the entire kingdom. However the medieval system of appanage (a concession of a fief with its land rights by the sovereign to his younger sons, which reverts to the crown upon the extinction of the male line of the original holder) alienated large territories from the royal domain and sometimes created dangerous rivals (especially the Duchy of Burgundy from the 14th to the 15th centuries).

During the Wars of Religion, the alienation of lands and fiefs from the royal domain was frequently criticized. The Edict of Moulins (1566) declared that the royal domain (defined in the second article as all the land controlled by the crown for more than ten years) could not be alienated, except in two cases: by interlocking, in the case of financial emergency, with a perpetual option to repurchase the land; and to form an appanage, which must return to the crown in its original state on the extinction of the male line.

Traditionally, the king was expected to survive from the revenues generated from the royal domain, but fiscal necessity, especially in times of war, led the kings to enact "exceptional" taxes, like the taille, upon the whole of the kingdom (the taille became permanent in 1439).

Chronology of the formation of the royal domain

Reign of Hugh Capet

At the beginning of Hugh Capet's reign, the crown estate was extremely small and consisted essentially of scattered possessions in the Île-de-France and Orléanais regions (Senlis, Poissy, Orléans), with several other isolated pockets, such as Attigny. These lands were largely the inheritance of the Robertians, the direct ancestors of the Capetians.

Reign of Robert II

  • 1016: acquisition of the Duchy of Burgundy. The king was the nephew of Duke Henry of Burgundy, who died without heirs.
  • Robert gains the counties of Paris, Dreux and Melun, and negotiates the ultimate acquisition (1055) of a part of Sens.[4]

Reign of Henry I

Reign of Philip I

Reign of Louis VI

Reign of Louis VII

Reign of Philip II Augustus

Reign of Louis VIII

Reign of Louis IX

Reign of Philip III

Reigns of Philip IV, the Fair and his sons

Reign of Philip VI of Valois

Reign of John II

Reign of Charles V

Reign of Charles VI

Reign of Charles VII

Reign of Louis XI

Reign of Charles VIII

Reign of Louis XII

  • 1498: the crowning of the new king brings his appanages Valois (alienated in 1386?) and Orléans (alienated in 1392) back to the royal domain, and the county of Blois is integrated into the royal domain for the first time.
  • 1498: the second marriage of the king with the Duchess Anne of Brittany continues the personal union of Brittany to the kingdom which had been interrupted when Anne, as widow, asserted the independence of Brittany.
  • 1498: at the death of Odet of Aydie, the County of Comminges (alienated in 1462) returns to the crown.
  • 1499: the king gives the Duchy of Berry to his former wife Joan of France.
  • 1504–1512: the Duchy of Nemours reverts to the royal domain. In 1507, it is given to Gaston of Foix, but reverts at his death in 1512.

Reign of Francis I

From the reign of Francis I, the concept of "royal domain" begins to coincide with the French kingdom in general; the appanage of the House of Bourbon however remains alienated.

Reign of Henry II

Reign of Henry IV

Reign of Louis XIII

  • 1620: The king issues an edict, uniting the kingdom of Navarre to the crown of France. From then on, the kingdom of Navarre was no longer a separate kingdom.

See also

Kingdom of France portal


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