Les Journals d'Artois
Selected Excerpts from the Writings of Jacque d'Artois
It is all too easy to forget that history has a human face. This excellent work goes some distance to establishing that there were no robots during the 14th Century.
- Josef Čapek
Compares poorly to the Da Vinci Code. Not for the casual reader.
- Pro-G Review
A shameful work that wilfully propagates anti-Breton slander and propaganda.
- Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary of the Celtic league
During the 14th Century the Kingdom of France underwent one of the most tumultuous and violent episodes in its long history. It was a process shaped by powerful social and political forces; a process that would see bloodshed and turmoil on a scale not seen in Western Europe since the fall of Rome. Many of the results and products of these staggering conflicts are still visible in the world today.
Despite the extreme importance and impact of these events, historians today know surprisingly little about many aspects of the wars. Chronicles are unreliable sources at best while few of the scant records and accounts of governance have survived the centuries. As such the recent discovery of the Artois Papers has been hailed as one of the most significant historical developments that this field has ever seen. Consisting of a detailed and honest account of one Jacques d'Artois, Chancellor of Brittany, the papers contain a wealth of information regarding both the larger events that shaped the realm and daily life in medieval times.
Recovered in remarkably good condition, with only minor damage, and translated by Professor Jeanne Aktovy of South Brittany University, they have proven to be of interest to professional scholars and the general public. The following work is aimed primarily at the latter and contains notable extracts from these papers that deal with the significant historical changes that wracked France at the time. As both witness and participant the insights of d'Artois represent an almost unique perspective of warfare and politics for the era.
We know little of d'Artois' life prior to his banishment but he appears to have been a courtier within the royal court at Paris. In 1337 he apparently offended Jean de Valois, Duke of Normandy and heir to the French throne, to the degree that he was exiled to Brittany. We do not know what actions warranted such a punishment. While evidently a capable man, I will leave conclusions as to nature of his character to the reader of his papers.
Jacques d'Artois: He drew this himself
Some context is required to fully understand and appreciate the following papers. After all commentary is of little use if the events themselves are hidden. It is beyond the scope of this work to provide a detailed history of France or French politics but a brief introduction shall serve.
Perhaps the most important point to be made regarding 14th Century France is that "France" itself was a relatively new and uncertain concept. While the title of the "King of the Franks" dates back to 410 CE, by the time of Hugh Capet, in 987 CE, it was a nominal title only. In reality the King exercised power only within the limits of Paris (Pays de France) and exerted little to no influence over his supposed vassals. The following centuries would see the French kings slowly attempt to extend their influence and power across their kingdom.
By the time the Capetian dynasty came to an end, with the death of Charles IV in 1328, the influence of the Crown had been much strengthened, largely as the result of land acquisitions to the south. On his coronation Philip de Valois could at least demand the attention, if not actual obedience, of his vassals and was capable of waging war in his own right. Despite this France was still far from a monolithic kingdom and the powerful French dukes enjoyed practical autonomy and independence from Paris.
This lies in sharp contrast to affairs in England where Edward III enjoyed the benefits of the centralised English state. However the Angevin kings of England were not content with their island holdings and were eager to recover lost ancestral lands on the Continent. Tension between the realms was rarely absent and would rise to new heights with the death of Charles IV. As nephew of the dead king, through Isabella of France, Edward laid claim to the French throne and the legitimate King of France.
By the time Jacques d'Artois was exiled to Brittany, in 1337, affairs were reaching a head as tense peace began to give way to open warfare...
Major Duchies of France (circa 1337)