What was the state of France, when Henry VI inherited the throne in 1589?
The outbreak of Religious wars in France marked the start of over 30 years of war and destruction. The people of France not only had to deal with the effects of war, but there was also a ‘Little ice age’ due to climate change, which in particular greatly affected European countries. After the warm spell towards the end of the medieval period, there was a sudden drop in temperature. As a result, there was a series of poor harvests, which led to widespread famine and disease and infant mortality rates throughout Europe. In consequence, there was a rise in inflation, putting greater pressure on peasants and serfs throughout Europe. Not only this, but parts of France experienced severe outbreaks of plague.
The impact of the wars on towns and on rural France varied between the different regions of France. Some parts, particularly Northern France where much of the fighting was taking place, suffered terribly from war however in other regions escape the worst of the fighting. Despite this, after 1584, most of France was affected; trade was disrupted and the Dutch seized this opportunity to take advantage of France’s vulnerable position, thus leaving France in a dire financial position, not helped by the crippling costs of wars and the royal expenses. With the rising food prices and economic growth at a standstill there was widespread adversity. Along with the destruction left behind by passing soldiers, who confiscated crops and raided villages and pressed their young men into military service, it is little wonder that the peasants suffered so much.
The people of France had had enough. The disabling nature of droughts and famine, was pressure enough on the ‘ordinary’ people of France, and this despair and angst was only heightened by the effects of civil war. The 1570’s onwards marked the time that the peasants began to rise up as new ideas about authority and government were circulated....