France emerged at the same time as the only serious rival to Spain. The French king Charles VII (r. 1422 – 1461), the same king who finally won the 100 Years War for France and expelled the English, created the first French professional army that was directly loyal to the crown. He funded it with the taille, the direct tax on both peasants and nobles that had originally been authorized by the nobility and rich merchants of France during the latter part of the Hundred Years’ War, and the gabelle, the salt tax. Each of these taxes were supposed to be temporary sources of revenue to support the war effort.
Charles’s successor Louis XI (r. 1431 – 1483), however, managed to make the new taxes permanent. In other words, he converted what had been an emergency wartime revenue stream into a permanent source of money for the monarchy. He was called “The Spider” for his ability to trap weak nobles and seize their lands under various legal pretenses. He also expelled the Jews of France as heretics, seizing the wealth of Jewish money-lenders in the process, and he even liquidated the old crusading order of the Knights Templar headquartered in France, seizing their funds as well. By the time of his death, the French monarchy was well funded and exercised increasing power over the nobility and towns.