Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France under Charles V and Charles VI

Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France under Charles V and Charles VI

Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France under Charles V and Charles VI

Olivier de Clisson and Political Society in France under Charles V and Charles VI

Excerpt

More than twenty years ago, I began research for a study of military society in late fourteenth-century France, intending to compare the leading royal commanders with those who led the companies of free-lance soldiers (routiers) who caused great destruction during lulls in the Hundred Years' War. I soon discovered that the most influential royal commander was Olivier IV, lord of Clisson (1336-1407), who provided a link between the military leadership and an important party at court (the "Marmousets"). Then, in 1982, my respected friend Raymond Cazelles published a lengthy volume on the French nobility and political society during the reigns of John II and Charles V, yet never once mention Clisson. I determined to make a careful study of Clisson's career in order to determine his place in French royal politics and whether his omission by Cazelles was warranted.

The second, and least well-known of three great Breton warriors to hold the position of constable of France during the Hundred Years' War, Olivier de Clisson was a complex figure whose enormous wealth and difficult personality left a strong imprint on the politics of his time. To tell Clisson's story in the context of French royal politics is a daunting task because it requires bringing together three areas of study--politics at court, the aristocracy of Brittany, and the nobility of the royal household--in which other scholars (respectively Cazelles, Michael C. E. Jones, and R. C. Famiglietti) have a mastery of the documents that I cannot hope to equal. I have drawn heavily on their work, attempting to integrate their findings into my own research on Clisson and the Marmousets and to address questions that have not been of central importance in their work.

Abel Lefranc's "classic" study of Clisson nearly a century ago is now outdated because more documents are available and the narrative sources have been subjected to greater critical scrutiny. A pair of more recent works on Clisson, designed for a popular audience, by Georges Toudouze (1942) and Yvonig Gicquel (1981), draw heavily on nineteenth-century authors and share their excessive reliance on chroniclers that are not entirely reliable. The best known chronicler of the fourteenth century is, of course, Jean Froissart, an eminent literary figure, a marvelous storyteller, and a . . .

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