The journeys made by the sovereign and his Court should not be viewed as wanderings but rather as acts through which the King literally embodied his power in the eyes of his subjects. Whether the tours were about restoring control and quelling urban revolts and rebellious princes, or installing trusted men, itinerance was vital to good government.

While prolonged and long-distance journeys increased towards the end of the Middle Ages, courtly nomadism was offset by the stability of sovereigns in a region of residence chosen partly because of tradition and geopolitical constraints. Because travelling was very much a way of life throughout the medieval period, the Court had to adapt how it functioned to accommodate this. The impact was significant and long-lasting.

From the 15th century on, the direct contact between a monarch and his kingdom prevailed despite the development of the Royal State and the increasing powers of its agents (bailiffs, lieutenants and governors) who tended to act on his behalf.

Contrary to popular belief, kings of the 16th century followed suit. They travelled just as much, if not more, than their medieval predecessors. In a new modern era, the development of the administrative monarchy and its bureaucracy coexisted with a sovereign who was still nomadic and a Court that moved from place to place. It wasn’t until the late 17th century when the King moved to Versailles (1682) that the Court settled down, for a while at least, until the turmoil of the Revolution.


Jean Fouquet, “Charles V’s triumphant entry into Paris by the Saint Denis gate”, Grandes Chroniques de France (Great Chronicles of France), 1455-1460, French 6465, folio 417. © BnF.

 Quintus Curtius Rufus, “Alexander’s Triumph”, Histories of Alexander the Great, French 22547, folio 245 v.© BnF.

 Jean Fouquet, “Isabeau of Bavaria’s entry into Paris”, Grandes Chroniques de France (Great Chronicles of France), v.1475, French 2646, folio 6r © BnF.