Estates General, April 1357

The Estates-General was the national of France. It had three ‘estates’ representing the nobility, clergy and commons. Like the English system, the King and his Council went through the body to acquire the subsidies and laws that they felt were necessary. At times this process was smooth, at others the Estates opposed the monarch’s requests for a variety of reasons and compromises needed to be made.

Estates-General due to meet in Paris, 17th April 1357

In 1357, the system had an additional dimension. The king was held by the English, having been captured at the Battle of Poitiers. Government in Paris was therefore being administered by the Dauphin in the king’s name. But King John II was still able to communicate with Paris. He was held at Bordeaux prior to his transfer to London and, as part of his negotiations with Edward of Woodstock, was able to send his own instructions to the people of France.

Demands of Robert le Coq to the Estates General

The Estates-General had assembled on 5th February 1357. It was used by those opposed to the way in which France had been governed to enforce changes. Robert le Coq, the bishop of Laon, led the Estates in their demands for the replacement of key officials. In return, they were willing to grant a subsidy that would pay for an army of 30,000 men. This army was to go on the offensive against the English. The date set for the next meeting of the Estates-General was 17th April, with the tax being collected between the two sessions of the Estates-General.

King John II’s communications regarding the Estates General

As this was happening in the Estates-General, King John II was negotiating a truce with the English. It was agreed in Bordeaux on 23rd March. The English did not hesitate to give safe conducts to 3 members of the French king’s council. They carried letters instructing the people of France to refuse to pay the war subsidy issued by the Estates-General. Further, he instructed delegates not to attend the meeting of the Estates-General on 17th April.

Meeting of the Estates General cancelled

The Estates-General’s assembly had to be cancelled. France had a political system that had a displaced but still functioning king. The Dauphin was attempting to govern in his father’s absence, with a legislative body that was divided. All further complicated by the fact that the structure was then replicated in each of the provinces.
France’s governmental structure was exposing its own weaknesses, and these were to be exploited by men of all ranks in the following years.


Representation of the Three Estates under the lordship of Jesus Christ. They are labeled “Tu supplex ora” (you pray), “Tu protege” (you protect), “Tuque labora” (and you work) Source: Wikipedia.

Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse graduated in History and Politics and has since undertaken postgraduate studies in Medieval History and Education. Dan is a member of the Royal Historical Society and has previously been a member of the Historical Association’s Secondary Education Committee. Dan’s early publishing was in the Secondary School History Education field. This included co-authoring the Becta Award shortlisted Dynamic Learning: Medicine Through Time series for Hodder Murray and contributing to the Bafta Award winning Smallpox Through Time documentary series by A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

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