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Royal Tax Revenues in Later Fourteenth Century France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2016

Charles M. Radding*
Princeton, New Jersey


The development of tax revenues into an important source of royal income was an important event in fourteenth century French history. The military successes of Charles V were based on large standing forces paid for by tax revenues. Under Charles VI, who as a minor and later as a lunatic was incapable of ruling for most of his reign, the struggle of the Valois princes for control of royal tax revenues brought the kingdom to civil war and, ultimately, to the brink of foreign conquest. Little is known, however, about the tax revenues of the period, and few records survive to guide historians who try to estimate the income from taxation of Charles V and Charles VI. The full impact of the establishment of taxation on French politics has, therefore, been difficult to assess.

Copyright © The Fordham University Press 

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1 For the armies of Charles V, see P. Contamine, Guerre, état et société à la fin du moyen age (Civilisations et Sociétés 24; Paris 1972 ). For the reign of Charles VI, see M. Nordberg, Les ducs et la royauté. Études sur la rivalté des ducs d'Orléans et de Bourgogne, 1392-1407 (Uppsala 1964); Rey, M., Les finances royales sous Charles VI. Les causes du déficit (1388-1413) (Paris 1965).

2 Rey, M., Le domaine du roi et les finances extraordinaires sous Charles VI (1388-1413) (Paris 1965) 262.

3 Rey, , Le domaine 36-39.

4 Rey, , Le domaine 260 n. 2, explains that the fourth levied on wines sold in taverns made up for the loss of the fouage. He does not seem aware that Charles V also collected the fourth.

5 Rey, , Le domaine 259-260. The text of the letter of remission is printed in an appendix, pp. 378-384.

6 Cited by Rey, , Le domaine 260.

7 For example, in A[rchives] N[ationales] KK 350, the accounts of Yvon Huart, receiver of the aides in Caen and Bayeux, a typical subheading begins: ‘Autre recepte faite par le dit Yvon Huart des feux …’ (fol. 67r). However, a letter of Charles V that mandated a change in the administration described the king as ‘voulanz tous yceulx aides estre semblablement governes ou dit paiz [de Normandie] comme es autres lieux … de nostre royaulme.’ Yvon was commanded to ‘faire exercer maintenir & gouverneur ycellui office’ of the receiver of Caen (fol. 5 r).

8 This table derives from that given in Rey, Le domaine 392, with additions as noted.

9 Letters announcing this taille have not survived. Rey suggested July 1386 as a likely date, but the instructions of the count of Alençon to his viscounts on the assessment of this taille are dated 8 October 1386, B[ibliotheque] N[ationale], MS fr. 26022 no. 952. The count's letters for previous subsidies usually followed within a few weeks of the announcement of the subsidy, e.g., B.N., MS fr. 26021 no. 868. This evidence indicates that the taille was imposed in September 1386.

10 Rey proposes March 1387 as the date of this taille, but it was being collected in Caen by the end of January and throughout Normandy in February. B.N., MS fr. 26022 nos. 980, 986, 998.

11 B.N., MS fr. 26022 no. 952. Rey gave the value of this taille as equal to half of II. It should be noted that the fifth, sixth, and seventh tailles derive their value from this tax.

12 Rey, , Le domaine 404; B.N., MS fr. 26022 no. 986.

13 Rey, , Le domaine 404; see also the column for Montivilliers, Table III, below.

14 In fact, the receivership of Gisors paid 13,361 l.t. for the second taille, which gives a total of 26,722 l.t. for the aides. The discrepancy with the calculated figure, which is less than one percent, is explained by the practice of adding a surtax to the assessment of each receivership to cover the expenses of collection.

15 Strayer, J. R., ‘Normandy and Languedoc,’ Medieval Statecraft and the Perspectives of History (Princeton 1971) 4647.

16 Ibid. 45.

17 Under Charles V Normandy produced about 400,000 Lt. to 450,000 l.t. a year exclusive of the gabelle—a figure arrived at by allowing for the fouage in addition to the tax revenues of Charles VI (see below table III and n. 21)—of total revenues of about 1,650,000 l.t. (n. 20). Among the regions of Languedoil that escaped the aides were Brittany, Dauphiné, Quercy, Rouergue, the Angoumois, the Limousin, Artois, Boulonnais, and the county of Saint-Pol. Rey, Le domaine 181-182.

18 The viguerie of Nimes, which had 753 of the 30,788 hearths of Languedoc in 1387-1388, paid 3,012 l.t.; at that rate Languedoc as a whole would have paid about 123,000 l.t. for this taille. Rey reaches the same total, but in a misreading of Ménard assumes that this sum represented half the aides of Languedoc. In fact, the letter given by Ménard clearly refers to an earlier taille, the arrears of which were already being collected in April 1386. This previous taille corresponds in timing and value to the taille imposed on Languedoil in May 1385. Tailles collected in Languedoc for ‘la voyage d'Espagne’ and ‘la garde des frontières’ bore the same relation to the taille of 1386 as the corresponding tailles in the north to the third taille for the invasion of England. There is, therefore, every reason to believe that in this period the tailles were levied at uniform rates throughout the kingdom. Rey, , Le domaine 262 n. 2; Ménard, L., Histoire civile, ecclésiastique et littéraire de la ville de Nismes (Paris 1752) III preuves 87-89; Dom, C. de Vic & Dom Vaissete, J., Histoire générale de Languedoc, nouvelle éd. par A. Molinier et al. (Toulouse 1874-1905) IX 933, X 1440-1445.

19 Henneman, J. B., Royal Taxation in Fourteenth Century France (Princeton 1971) 353.

20 See above n. 3.

21 The fouage was responsible for about 28 percent of the tax revenues of the receivership of Caen and about 40 per cent of the revenues of the receivership of Bayeux. The difference is explained by the high level of sales and wine taxes paid by the city of Caen, a town commercially more important than Bayeux. The fouage accounted for more than half the tax revenues of rural areas. A.N., KK 350. Rey, Le domaine 167, estimates that the fouage was responsible for half the tax revenues of the county of Anjou in 1372-1373.

22 ‘Par les exécutions, les banissements, les confiscations, les amendes, ils terrorisèrent la province [Normandie].’ Mirot, L., Les insurrections urbains au debut du règne de Charles VI (1380-1383). Leurs causes. Leurs conséquences. (Paris 1905) 212. E. Perroy follows him in commenting that ‘the terrorized country did not dare to stir.’ The Hundred Years War, trans. Wells, W. B. (London 1950) 190.

23 Some fined communities negotiated the terms of the fine like a tax or business transaction. The communities of the viscounty of Falaise outside the town of Falaise retained Robert Bigaut, clerk, king's notary, and brother of the viscount of Falaise, to negotiate for them. For earlier instances of réformateurs that were used to collect money, see Henneman, J. B., Enquěteurs-Réformateurs and fiscal officers in fourteenth-century France,’ Traditio 24 (1968) 309349.


24 ‘Still more than under Charles V, the taxes became not only permanent but crushing.’ Perroy, , Hundred Years War 190. Rey assumes there were large arrears from the tailles. Le domaine 326.

25 The receiver of Arques had rendered 17,000 l.t. of the 20,800 l.t. due for the third taille, the heaviest of the tailles, by 3 August 1386, less than two months after collections began. The overall value of the tailles of the 1380s was probably as follows: I, 426,666 l.t.; II, 640,000 l.t.; III, 800,000 l.t.; IV, 400,000 l.t.; V, 400,000 l.t.; VI, 266,666 l.t.; VII, 400,000 l.t.; VIII, 800,000 l.t.

26 Rey, , Les finances royales 611612.

* At the time the first taille was collected the diocese of Bayeux, of which the receivership of Caen was a part, was administered as a single receivership.

† It will be noted that the tailles of the diocese of Sées do not relate to one another according to the proportions given in Table II. The discrepancy between the fifth and seventh tailles and earlier tailles is explained by the inclusion of the sergeanty of La Ferté in the later assessments. The discrepancy between the first and second tailles seems to be due to a clerical error: the difference between the assessment of the second taille that is expected from the assessment of the first taille and that actually imposed is almost exactly 1,000 l.t.

a B.N., MS fr. 26021 no. 712.

b Rey, Le domaine 395.

c B.N., P. O. 1054 Erquembourg no. 3; MS fr. 23906 no. 72.

d B.N., MS fr. 20389 no. 33.

e B.N., P. O. 288 Bencelin no. 3.

f B.N., P. O. 1183 de la Fontaine en Norm. no. 6.

g B.N., MS fr. 23904 fol. 53.

h B.N., MS fr. 26020 no. 684.

i B.N., MS fr. 26022 no. 980.

j Douet d'Arcq L., Choix de pièces inédites relatives au règne de Charles VI (Paris 1874) no. xlii.

k Mirot L., ‘Une tentative d'invasion en Angleterre,’ Revue des études historiques 81 (1915) 255.

l B.N., MS fr. 23907 nos. 84-85.

m B.N., P. O. 340 Bigaut no. 10; P. O. 1947 le Mesnil en Norm. no. 81.

n B.N., MS fr. 26021 no. 948; 3106 1. 15 s.t. were assessed, including expenses.

o B.N., MS fr. 26022 no. 998 (including the sergeanty of La Ferté).

p B.N., P. O. 7 d'Acqueville no. 2 (including the sergeanty of La Ferté).

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