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THE HOUSE OF CAPET (CONT)
 ST. LOUIS was followed on the throne by his son, Philip the Bold. Philip the Bold was not as good a man as his
father. He was idle and pleasure-loving, and allowed himself to fall into the hands of favourites.
His reign is remembered for the terrible massacre of French people in the island of Sicily. Philip's
uncle, Charles of Anjou, had become the ruler of Sicily, but he ruled so badly that his fiery
subjects hated him bitterly, and because of him they hated the many thousands of French people
living in their midst. So the Sicilians resolved to sweep every Frenchman out of the island.
A secret plot was formed, and everything was ready for an attack on the French, when the matter was
brought suddenly to a head. One evening, when the bells of Palermo were ringing to Vespers to
evening prayers—a quarrel arose between a Frenchman and a Sicilian. With one accord the people
flew to arms, and murdered every French man, woman, and child in the city. The example was followed
 cities and villages, and scarce a Frenchman was left alive throughout the whole of Sicily. This
dreadful slaughter is remembered as "The Sicilian Vespers," because it commenced at eventide, when
the sweet bells were ringing to Vesper prayers.
After Philip the Bold came Philip the Handsome, but he was only handsome in his looks, and not at
all in his ways. He was a cold, crafty, money-loving King, whose chief purpose was to increase his
power and his wealth. The time had now come when the personal power of the King of France began to
grow steadily. This growth had started under St. Louis, and it had come about easily under that good
King, because he was so well beloved and used his power to such good ends, that his subjects were
glad to see him gain authority. One great reason for the growth of kingly power was that the power
of the great Barons was failing and growing less. The time when these feudal lords ruled their
estates like little kings was passing away, and they could no longer join together and overawe their
King. The King was now really their overlord, and his army was the chief in the land, and gave him
mastery over all.
THE ROMAN ARCH AT ORANGE, IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE.
THIS SHOWS ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS RAISED BY THE ROMANS WHEN THEY WERE MASTERS OF GAUL.
By the gain of the French possessions of the English Kings and the province of Toulouse, France had
greatly extended her borders. She now touched the Channel, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, and
the French King was constantly on the watch to interfere in the affairs of the great provinces not
 in his hands, in order to seize them if an opportunity should come.
Upon one neighbouring province Philip made an attack, and tried to seize it, but here he burned his
fingers. This country was Flanders, and at first Philip made good headway, for he took the Count of
Flanders prisoner and set a Frenchman in his place. Up rose the Flemings like one man, and in 1302
there was a battle at Courtrai, in Flanders, where the French had a most terrible beating. Four
hundred golden spurs were found upon the battle-field, showing how great a number of the French
nobles and knights had fallen at the hands of the tradesmen and citizens who filled the Flemish
ranks. In 1304 Philip made peace with them, and the brave Flemings recovered their independence.
Philip's love of money caused him to cast greedy eyes on the wealth of the Templars. The Templars
were an Order of religious knights, of Crusaders, who wore a red cross upon the left shoulder to
show their devotion to the Christian faith. The founders of this Order were so poor that they
adopted, as a device to show their poverty, a picture of two knights riding on one horse, and they
called themselves "Poor soldiers of the Holy Cross." But as time went on the traditions of poverty
were cast aside, and the Templars grew into a very powerful and wealthy body. Not only did they
bring home vast booty from the East, but many fair estates and great
 sums of money had been left to them by rich and pious people, who thought they were thus aiding in
the defense of Christendom.
Philip dared not attack them openly, for these famous warriors would have easily put to flight his
best soldiers. So he laid a plot against them, and on a certain day, at a certain hour, every
Templar was seized, cast into prison, and loaded with chains. Then the prisoners were tortured in
order to make them confess that they had been guilty of many evil deeds, and the tortures were so
terrible that many were ready to confess anything in order to escape from the dreadful pain they
were forced to endure. Upon these confessions all their wealth was taken from them by Philip, and
many were put to death. The head of them all, the Grand Master of the Order, was burned to death in
company with one of his chief officers.
Philip's reign is also marked by the calling together of the States-General, the Parliament of
France. The people of France were looked upon as belonging to three Estates. The clergy formed the
First Estate, the nobles the Second Estate, the townspeople or burghers the Third Estate. Members
were chosen by each Estate to represent them at the meeting of the States-General, and these members
were called Deputies. The King asked the States-General for aid or money; the States-General asked
for new laws, or made
com-  plaints as to matters that had gone wrong in the affairs of the country. All this sounds very much
like our early English Parliaments, but we must observe one most important difference. In England,
as a rule, nobles and commons stood shoulder to shoulder against a bad Sovereign; in France they
were enemies, and divided. Thus the King could play one Estate off against another, and their
quarrels gave him much greater strength.
When Philip the Handsome died in 1314, he left three sons, Louis, Philip, and Charles, and each of
them came to the throne in turn as Louis X., Philip V., and Charles IV. Louis X. did not enjoy a
long reign. He was weak and sickly, a feeble man and a feeble ruler. His reign is to be noted,
because at its close the Salic Law was set up in France. This law forbade a woman to come to the
throne as Queen of France in her own right. Louis was the first King of France who died and left no
son to take his place. He had a daughter, but she was set aside, and his brother took the crown.
This brother, Philip V., called Philip the Long, because he was a tall man, was as feeble in health
as Louis, and only reigned six years. He made, however, some good laws. His short reign was much
disturbed by a rising among the poorer people of his realm. Vast numbers of poor labourers and
shepherds became filled with the idea of going on a Crusade, and they left their work and their
 rambled through the land in great riotous troops, killing all the Jews they could seize, and
plundering houses and shops for food. In some towns the citizens drove them away, and there were
disturbances in which many were killed on both sides. At last an army was sent against them, when
many were killed or taken prisoners. The rest fled, and made their way back to their homes as well
as they could. This is remembered as the "Shepherds' Crusade."
There was also great trouble with the unhappy lepers, of whom there were many in France. The
dreadful disease of leprosy cannot be cured, so that people who suffered from it were driven apart
from their fellows lest it should spread to the healthy. A rumour flew through the land that the
lepers were poisoning the wells and streams, so that the healthy would be seized with leprosy or
some other mortal illness. There was no proof that this story was true, but it was believed on all
hands, and the French people went wild with fright. By order of the King all lepers were shut up,
and many were put to death. Those left alive were not allowed again to ramble about the country
begging for food, as it had been their custom to do. They had now to depend on their friends or
charitable people, who brought food to the places where they were imprisoned.
The third brother, Charles IV., reigned six years, the same time as his brother, Philip the Long,
and, like his father, he was called "le Bel," the Handsome.
 His reign was of slight importance, and it was the last of the House of Capet. When he died he left
a daughter, and her succession was barred by the Salic Law. So the crown went to his cousin, Philip
of Valois, the first of the line of Valois Kings.