A page of history of the Dropt

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Contents of the page :  the actors - Agenais history - foundation of French and English bastides  - later wars

The lower Dropt valley, in the English Guyenne, is going through a stable period during the XIIIth century.
Meanwhile, the higher Dropt valley, which belongs to the Agenais, is a source of conflict between the king of France on the one hand, and on the other hand the Count of Toulouse then the king of England.

The actors :

    -         the Counts of Toulouse : Raymond VII then Alphonse of Poitiers
-         the kings of France : Louis IX (Saint-Louis) then Philippe III le Hardi
-         the kings of England : Henry III then Edward I
Raymond VII, by his mother and Henry III, by his father, are both nephews of Richard Lion Heart ; and Alphonse of Poitiers – Raymond VII’s son in law – is also Louis IX’s brother…

Great dates of the Agenais history in the XIIIth century: 

    1229 : consequently to the Crusade against the Albigeois, the Meaux treaty between Louis IX and Raymond VII seals the decline of the powerful Counts of Toulouse. Raymond VII recognizes the king of France’s suzerainty and gives his daughter Jeanne in marriage to the king’s brother, Alphonse of Poitiers. The Agenais remains the Count of Toulouse’s stronghold.
    1249 : Death of Raymond VII. Alphonse of Poitiers, successor by marriage of Raymond VII, inherits the County of Toulouse (including the Agenais).
    1259 : Paris Treaty between Louis IX and Henry III, king of England. Saint Louis, in compensation for territorial advantages (Henry III must pay tribute to the Capetian for the Limousin, the Périgord and the Quercy), accepts to give up the Agenais to the British crown if Jeanne of Toulouse dies childless.
1270 : Death of Saint Louis. His son Philippe III le Hardi succeeds him.
1271 : Death of Alphonse de Poitiers and Jeanne de Toulouse, without any descendants. The king of France, Philippe III le Hardi seizes the Agenais, spurning the clauses of the 1259 Paris Treaty.
1274 : Philippe III is compelled to respect the 1259 Paris Treaty clauses, and returns the Agenais to the king of England.
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Foundation of the French "bastides" of the Dropt valley :

    In 1249, at Raymond VII’s death, Alphonse de Poitiers takes possession of the County of Toulouse. At that time, the Dropt is a natural frontier between the County of Toulouse and the kingdom of France, exceptional position in History for a river ; position that has been compared to that of the Rhine (Newspaper Le Monde – boxed text in a page on the Rhine, taken from the series “Great rivers”).
Alphonse de Poitiers’s policy is to build “new towns”, the “bastides”, mostly along the Dropt valley : Villeréal (1267), Castillonnès (1259), Eymet (1270).

    These three “bastides”, although situated at the borderline of the county, do not have a military vocation ; without defences, they are “open towns”. In this enterprise, Alphonse of Poitiers is seeking political and economic advantages : legal and administrative control of groups of populations taken from the unruly and fickle barons of the Agenais (often in favour of the English), exploitation of this region. 

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Foundation of the Enblish "bastides" of the Dropt valley :

    In 1274, the Dropt valley becomes an English possession. Edward I, in order to protect his frontiers, creates new “bastides”, now with a military vocation : Monpazier (1284), Miramont (1286) on the Dourdenne.
    In the lower part of the Dropt, to Monségur (1265) founded by Henry III’s wife, Sauveterre (1283) on the Vignague is added, founded by Henry III to protect the right hillside of his province.

    At the edges of the Dropt basin, the French “bastides” of Monflanquin (1256) and Villefranche (1261) and the English “bastide” of Beaumont (1272) are founded during the same period.

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The Hundred Years War and the wars of religion :  

    The Dropt region, English from 1274, at the threshold of the kingdom of France, changes sovereign (at the same time as the Agenais) according to the fortune of arms.
In 1293, a conflict arises between Philippe le Bel, king of France, and Edward I, king of England. A new Treaty of Paris (1303) returns the Agenais to the king of France.
In 1324, yet another conflict ; the Agenais comes back to the king of England in 1327.
Then, roughly from 1350 to 1450, the Hundred Years War takes place : more misfortunes.

    In this way, during two centuries of conflicts, the “bastides” are pillaged, burnt, even razed, as often by the French as by the English. Monpazier changes hands five times, Castillonnès seven times, etc. …

      The period of the religion wars (XVIth – XVIIth centuries) was an opportunity for other disasters for the region, which had been open to the ideas of the Reform.

      Most of the “bastides” have nevertheless preserved many signs of their past and their local importance, for they constitute the network of principal market towns for their “canton” (district).

      A few have disappeared, such as Roquépine (1285) on the Bournègue, or Fonroque (1284) near Eymet, which were English royal “bastides”.  

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Bibliography: Bastides, villes nouvelles du Moyen Age - Ed.Milan