AskDefine | Define jacquerie

Extensive Definition

The Jacquerie was a popular revolt in late medieval Europe by peasants that took place in northern France in 1358, during the Hundred Years' War. The revolt centered in the Oise valley north of Paris. This rebellion became known as the Jacquerie because the nobles derided peasants as "Jacque" or "Jaque Bonhomme" for their padded surplice called "jacque". Their revolutionary leader Guillaume Cale was also popularly known as Jacques Bonhomme ("Jim Goodfellow") or Callet. The word "Jacquerie" has become synonymous for peasant uprisings in general.

Background

After the capture of the French King John II the Good by the English during the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, power in France devolved to the States General, Charles the Bad, King of Navarre, and John's son, the Dauphin, Charles V. However, the States General were too divided to provide effective government and the disputes between the two rulers provoked disunity amongst the nobles. To secure their rights, the French privileged classes, the nobility, the merchant elite, and the clergy, forced the peasantry to pay ever-increasing taxes (for example, the taille) and to repair their war-damaged properties under corvée— without compensation. This was particularly onerous as many common people already blamed the nobility's corruption for the defeat at Poitiers. The chronicle of Jean de Venette articulates the perceived problems between the nobility and the peasants, yet some historians, Samuel K. Cohn being one of them, see the Jacquerie revolts as a reaction to a combination of short and long-term effects dating as early as the grain crisis and famine of 1315.
In addition, bands of English, Gascon, German and Spanish routiers— unemployed mercenaries and bandits employed by the English during outbreaks of the Hundred Years' War— were left untouched to loot, rape and plunder the lands of Northern France almost at will, the States General powerless to stop them. Many peasants questioned why they should work for a government that clearly could not protect its citizens.

The uprising

This combination of problems set the stage for a brief series of bloody rebellions in northern France in 1358. The account of the rising by the contemporary chronicler Jean le Bel includes a description of horrifying violence. According to him, peasants
"killed a knight, put him on a spit, and roasted him with his wife and children looking on. After ten or twelve of them raped the lady, they wished to force feed them the roasted flesh of their father and husband and made them then die by a miserable death."
Examples of violence on this scale by the hands of French peasants are offered throughout all of the medieval sources, including Jean de Vanette and the particularly unsympathetic aristocrat Jean Froissart. The peasants involved in the rebellion seem to have lacked any real organization, instead rising up locally as an unstructured mass. It is speculated by Jean le Bel that evil governors and tax collectors spread the word of rebellion from village to village to inspire the peasants to rebel against the nobility. When asked as to the cause of their discontent they apparently replied that they were just doing what they had witnessed others doing. Additionally it seems that the rebellion contained some idea that it was possible to rid the world of nobles. Froissart's account portrays the rebels as mindless thugs bent on destruction, which they wreaked on over 150 noble houses and castles, murdering the families in horrendous ways. Outbreaks occurred in Rouen and Rheims, while Senlis and Montdidier were sacked by the peasant army.
The Jacquerie must be seen in the context of this period of internal instability. In this period of personal government, the absence of a charismatic king was detrimental to the state. The Dauphin had to contend with roaming free companies of out-of-work mercenaries, the plotting of Charles the Bad, and the possibility of another English invasion. The Dauphin gained effective control of the realm only after the supposed surrender of the city of Paris under Étienne Marcel in July 1358. Marcel had joined Cale's rebellion somewhat inadvisedly, and it cost him the city and his life, when his wealthy supporters deserted his cause.

Suppression

The revolt was suppressed by French nobles led by Charles the Bad of Navarre. His and the peasant army opposed each other near Mello on June 10, 1358 when Guillaume Cale, the leader of the rebellion, was invited to truce talks by Charles. Foolishly, he went to the enemy camp where he was seized by the French nobles (who apparently believed that the rules of chivalry and truce did not apply to one of such low birth) and later decapitated. His now leaderless army, which some contemporaries claimed was 20,000 strong, was ridden down by divisions of knights' cavalry in the ensuing Battle of Mello, which was followed by a campaign of terror throughout the Beauvais region where soldiers roamed door to door in the countryside lynching countless peasants.

In the arts

The subject of the Jacquerie engaged the Romantic historical imagination, resulting in numerous nineteenth-century historical novels with somewhat operatic plots set against the backdrop of the Jacquerie—The Jacquerie, or, The Lady and the Page: An Historical Romance by G. P. R James (1842) and the like— and even an opera, by Alberto Donaudy.

References

  • J. B. Bury, The Cambridge Medieval History: Decline of Empire and Papacy, Vol. VII. New York: Macmillan Company, 1932.
  • Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., Popular Protest in Late Medieval Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Jean Froissart. Chronicles. London: Penguin Books, 1978.
jacquerie in Bulgarian: Жакерия
jacquerie in German: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Spanish: Jacquerie
jacquerie in French: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Galician: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Italian: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Luxembourgish: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Dutch: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Japanese: ジャックリーの乱
jacquerie in Polish: Żakieria
jacquerie in Portuguese: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Russian: Жакерия
jacquerie in Serbian: Жакерија
jacquerie in Finnish: Jacquerie (kapinat)
jacquerie in Swedish: Jacquerie
jacquerie in Ukrainian: Жакерія
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