The End of Europe's Middle Ages

New Monarchies

This chapter is composed of five sections: Introduction, England, France, Spain, and Portugal. Please follow the link at the end of each section to read the entire chapter.


As the Middle Ages progressed in Europe, feudalism created layers of conflicting laws, customs and traditions. Numerous feudal courts were established under dukes and earls whose interests were often contrary to those of the monarch, threatening royal authority. In an effort to rectify this situation, the monarchs of England, France, Spain, and Portugal took steps to re-establish their authority over the aristocracy and the clergy. They did this by centralising governmental offices and placing officials throughout the kingdom to represent royal interests. As they moved to secure autonomy within their own kingdoms, they also sought to solidify national boundaries. Those monarchies that experienced a move towards greater control by the king through a centralised government are known as the 'New Monarchies'. Despite the similarity of outcome, England, France, Spain, and Portugal each followed slightly different routes and the trend towards centralisation suffered a temporary setback between the early fourteenth and mid-fifteenth century. Wars, internal dissension, riots, famine, and plague disrupted governmental processes and it was not until the end of the fifteenth century that the royal houses of England, France, Spain, and Portugal were able to re-establish control.

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