There were many reasons behind royal progresses, and just as many ways of lodging the King and his Court.

Royal residences

Monarchs certainly moved around a lot but, apart from long-distance journeys, they had well-established centres of gravity. Most trips occurred in and around places of residence. The King would stay in the same châteaux, in turn, for several months. He would have the entire Court around him or travel with an inner circle only.

Up until the mid 14th century most royal residences were to be found in and around Paris. They were on a north-south axis running from Compiègne to Fontainebleau, and on an east-west axis from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Vincennes. Because of its proximity to the capital and the fact it was in the middle of a forest, Vincennes was a very popular residence at one point. The château really became a suburban centre of government. From Charles VII to Louis XII, the royal residence zone shifted, gravitating around Loches, Chinon, Montil-les-Tours and Tours.

In both cases, locations for royal homes were to an extent dictated by the position of forests, because of the possibilities for hunting and social pleasures, and also of road or river routes making it easier for supplies to be delivered.

Towns and lodgings

Aside from these preferred spots, the royal household owned tents or pavilions. But the majority of the time the monarch would stay in abbeys, or episcopal palaces or those of local nobility, even the homes of his officers or ordinary people. Known

as the “droit de gîte” this feudal duty included a requirement to provide the sovereign with food, drink and fodder where he stayed.

The arrival of the Court could be hugely important for towns and villages. The King’s presence was a privilege that was costly but much appreciated by his hosts. Feeding and maintaining the Court was an economic boost for traders. So some towns or some nobles would try to attract the king. This was the goal of Louis I, Duke of Anjou, when he built a modern residence in Loches at the end of the 14th century. He hoped, in vain as it transpired, to attract his brother King Charles V to Loches.

The number of places various monarchs stayed in is impressive. In 29 years of reign, (1285-1314), Philip the Fair stayed in 527 different spots, including 311 that he visited only once. His nephew, Philippe VI of Valois (1328-1350) visited 447 sites during his 22 years on the throne. At the end of the 15th century, Louis XI (1461-1483) stayed in 511 different abodes.

Ultimately, the choice of where to stay and what regions to stay in from one reign to another was subject to cyclical obligations as well as the personal tastes of sovereigns.

Focus: Royal entries

A showcase for royal authority, the arrival of a King at a town in his kingdom was an event and so “entries” became a thing. Road networks would be cleaned and repaired for the occasion. Streets would be paved. The King would receive the keys to the city at the gates of his “good town” as a sign of fealty. The King would also settle taxes or fines and receive gifts that would tend to be expensive. When Louis XI made his entry into Tournai (1464), he was presented with 20,000 gold crowns. From the 1490s, royal entries had a more lasting effect thanks to the birth of printing. Printed plates were published as a lasting souvenir of a fleeting political spectacle.



Quintus Curtius Rufus, Histories of Alexander the Great, 15th century, French 257, folio 191 r.© BnF.

 Jean Fouquet, “Emperor Charles IV’s entry into Saint Denis”, Grandes Chroniques de France (Great Chronicles of France), 1455-1562, French 6465, folio 442r. © BnF.