In a changing world, France, at the close of the fifteenth century, found herself faced with problems different from those of the past. These were to force her governments to take the necessary measures to adapt their policy and were to have repercussions throughout society. The Hundred Years War, whose outcome assured France of national independence, had already freed her from threats arising from the existence of a Flemish-Burgundian state. After the war, the kingdom, which had been partly reconstructed in the reign of Louis XI, had to shape a course for its policy among the new nations that were being established, to put the State into working order at a time when its functions remained ill-defined, to work out a definitive status for the Church, which was still shaken by the upheavals of the Great Schism, and to restore its economy, on which the fate of the various social classes depended.
Louis XI's political mistakes had been offset by a sometimes incoherent capacity for action and by almost miraculous strokes of chance. He was succeeded by kings of feeble intellect whose enterprises were inspired by foolish ambitions and who were bound to be mastered by the most skilful of their rivals. Except in rare cases, moreover, there was no statesman at the French court capable of taking over the reins of government. Such were the conditions under which French policy, already jeopardised by the mistakes made by Louis XI, was about to move in a direction which influenced the future of Europe for years to come.