FOIX, a town of south-western France, in the middle ages capital of the counts of Foix, and now capital of the department of Ariège, 51 m. S. of Toulouse, on the Southern railway from that city to Ax. Pop. (1906) town, 4498; commune, 6750. It is situated between the Ariège and the Arget at their confluence. The old part of the town, with its ill-paved winding streets and old houses, is dominated on the west by an isolated rock crowned by the three towers of the castle (12th, 14th and 15th centuries), while to the south it is limited by the shady Promenade de Villotte. The chief church is that of St Volusien, a Gothic building of the 14th century. The town is the seat of a prefecture, a court of assizes and a tribunal of first instance, and has a lycée, training colleges, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Flour-milling and iron-working are carried on. Foix probably owes its origin to an oratory founded by Charlemagne. This afterwards became an abbey, in which were laid the remains of St Volusien, archbishop of Tours in the 5th century.
The county of Foix included roughly the eastern part of the modern department of Ariège, a region watered chiefly by the Ariège and its affluents. During the later middle ages it consisted of an agglomeration of small holdings ruled by lords, who, though subordinate to the counts of Foix, had some voice in the government of the district. Protestantism obtained an early entrance into the county, and the religious struggles of the 16th and 17th centuries were carried on with much implacability therein. The estates of the county, which can be traced back to the 14th century, consisted of three orders and possessed considerable power and virility. In the 17th and 18th centuries Foix formed one of the thirty-three governments of France, and in 1790 it was incorporated in the department of Ariège.
Counts of Foix. - The counts of Foix were an old and distinguished French family which flourished from the 11th to the 15th century. They were at first feudatories of the counts of Toulouse, but chafing under this yoke they soon succeeded in throwing it off, and during the 13th and 14th centuries were among the most powerful of the French feudal nobles. Living on the borders of France, having constant intercourse with Navarre, and in frequent communication with England, they were in a position peculiarly favourable to an assertion of independence, and acted rather as the equals than as the dependents of the kings of France.
The title of count of Foix was first assumed by Roger, son of Bernard Roger, who was a younger son of Roger I., count of Carcassonne (d. 1012), when he inherited the town of Foix and the adjoining lands, which had hitherto formed part of the county of Carcassonne. Dying about 1064, Roger was succeeded by his brother Peter, who died six years later, and was succeeded in turn by his son, Roger II. This count took part in the crusade of 1095, and was afterwards excommunicated by Pope Paschal II. for seizing ecclesiastical property; but subsequently he appeased the anger of the church by rich donations, and when he died in 1125 he was succeeded by his son, Roger III. The death of Roger III. about 1149, and of his son, Roger Bernard I., in 1188, brought the county to Roger Bernard's only son, Raymond Roger, who, in 1190, accompanied the French king, Philip Augustus, to Palestine and distinguished himself at the capture of Acre. He was afterwards engaged in the wars of the Albigenses, and on being accused of heresy his lands were given to Simon IV., count of Montfort. Raymond Roger, who came to terms with the church and recovered his estates before his death in 1223, was a patron of the Provençal poets, and counted himself among their number. He was succeeded by his son, Roger Bernard II., called the Great, who assisted Raymond VII., count of Toulouse, and the Albigenses in their resistance to the French kings, Louis VIII. and Louis IX., was excommunicated on two occasions and died in 1241. His son, Roger IV., who followed, died in 1265, and was succeeded by his son, Roger Bernard III., who, more famous as a poet than as a warrior, was taken prisoner both by Philip III. of France and by Peter III. of Aragon. This count married Marguerite, daughter and heiress of Gaston VII., viscount of Béarn (d. 1290), and this union led to the outbreak of a long feud between the houses of Foix and Armagnac; a quarrel which was continued by Roger Bernard's son and successor, Gaston I., who became count in 1302, inheriting both Foix and Béarn. Becoming embroiled with the French king, Philip IV., in consequence of the struggle with the count of Armagnac, Gaston was imprisoned in Paris; but quickly regaining his freedom he accompanied King Louis X. on an expedition into Flanders in 1315, and died on his return to France in the same year. His eldest son, Gaston II., was the next count. Having become reconciled with the house of Armagnac, Gaston took part in various wars both in France and Spain, dying at Seville in 1343, when he was succeeded by his son, Gaston III. (1331-1391). Gaston III., who was surnamed Phoebus on account of his beauty, was the most famous member of the old Foix family. Like his father he assisted France in her struggle against England, being entrusted with the defence of the frontiers of Gascony; but when the French king, John II., showed a marked preference for the count of Armagnac, Gaston left his service and went to fight against the heathen in Prussia. Returning to France about 1357 he delivered some noble ladies from the attacks of the adherents of the Jacquerie at Meaux, and was soon at war with the count of Armagnac. During this struggle he also attacked the count of Poitiers, the royal representative in Languedoc, but owing to the intervention of Pope Innocent VI. he made peace with the count in 1360. Gaston, however, continued to fight against the count of Armagnac, who, in 1362, was defeated and compelled to pay a ransom; and this war lasted until 1377, when peace was made. Early in 1380 the count was appointed governor of Languedoc, but when Charles VI. succeeded Charles V. as king later in the same year, this appointment was cancelled. Refusing, however, to heed the royal command, and supported by the communes of Languedoc, Gaston fought for about two years against John, duke of Berry, who had been chosen as his successor, until, worsted in the combat, he abandoned the struggle and retired to his estates, remaining neutral and independent. In 1348 the count had married Agnes, daughter of Philip, count of Evreux (d. 1343), by his wife Jeanne II., queen of Navarre. By Agnes, whom he divorced in 1373, he had an only son, Gaston, who is said to have been incited by his uncle, Charles II., king of Navarre, to poison his father, and who met his death in 1381. It is probable, as Froissart says, that he was killed by his father. Left without legitimate sons, Gaston was easily persuaded to bequeath his lands to King Charles VI., who thus obtained Foix and Béarn when the count died at Orthes in 1391. Gaston was very fond of hunting, but was not without a taste for art and literature. Several beautiful manuscripts are in existence which were executed by his orders, and he himself wrote Déduits de la chasse des bestes sauvaiges et des oiseaulx de proye. Froissart, who gives a graphic description of his court and his manner of life, speaks enthusiastically of Gaston, saying: "I never saw none like him of personage, nor of so fair form, nor so well made," and again, "in everything he was so perfect that he cannot be praised too much."
Almost immediately after Gaston's death King Charles VI. granted the county of Foix to Matthew, viscount of Castelbon, a descendant of Count Gaston I. Dying without issue in 1398, Matthew's lands were seized by Archambault, count of Grailly and captal de Buch, the husband of his sister Isabella (d. 1426), who became count of Foix in 1401. Archambault's eldest son, John (c.1382-1436), who succeeded to his father's lands and titles in 1412, had married in 1402 Jeanne, daughter of Charles III., king of Navarre. Having served the king of France in Guienne and the king of Aragon in Sardinia, John became the royal representative in Languedoc, when the old quarrel between Foix and Armagnac broke out again. During the struggle between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, he intrigued with both parties, and consequently was distrusted by the dauphin, afterwards King Charles VII. Deserting the cause of France, he then allied himself with Henry V. of England; but when Charles VII. became king in 1422, he returned to his former allegiance and became the king's representative in Languedoc and Guienne. He then assisted to suppress the marauding bands which were devastating France; fought for Aragon against Castile; and aided his brother, the cardinal of Foix, to crush some insurgents in Aragon. Peter, cardinal of Foix (1386-1464), was the fifth son of Archambault of Grailly, and was made archbishop of Arles in 1450. He took a prominent part in the struggle between the rival popes, and founded and endowed the Collège de Foix at Toulouse. The next count was John's son, Gaston IV., who married Leonora (d. 1479), a daughter of John, king of Aragon and Navarre. In 1447 he bought the viscounty of Narbonne, and having assisted King Charles VII. in Guienne, he was made a peer of France in 1458. In 1455 his father-in-law designated him as his successor in Navarre, and Louis XI. of France gave him the counties of Rousillon and Cerdagne, and made him his representative in Languedoc and Guienne; but these marks of favour did not prevent him from joining a league against Louis in 1471. His eldest son, Gaston, the husband of Madeleine, a daughter of Charles VII. of France, died in 1470, and when Gaston IV. died two years later, his lands descended to his grandson, Francis Phoebus (d. 1483), who became king of Navarre in 1479, and was succeeded by his sister Catherine (d. 1517), the wife of Jean d'Albret (d. 1516). Thus the house of Foix-Grailly was merged in that of Albret and subsequently in that of Bourbon; and when Henry of Navarre became king of France in 1589 the lands of the counts of Foix-Grailly became part of the French royal domain. A younger son of Count Gaston IV. was John (d. 1500), who received the viscounty of Narbonne from his father and married Marie, a sister of the French king Louis XII. He was on good terms both with Louis XI. and Louis XII., and on the death of his nephew Francis Phoebus, in 1483, he claimed the kingdom of Navarre against Jean d'Albret and his wife, Catherine de Foix. The ensuing struggle lasted until 1497, when John renounced his claim. He left a son, Gaston de Foix (1489-1512), the distinguished French general, and a daughter, Germaine, who became the second wife of Ferdinand I., king of Spain. In 1507 Gaston exchanged his viscounty of Narbonne with King Louis XII. for the duchy of Nemours, and as duke of Nemours he took command of the French troops in Italy. Having delivered Bologna and taken Brescia, Gaston encountered the troops of the Holy League at Ravenna in April 1512, and after putting the enemy to flight was killed during the pursuit. From the younger branch of the house of Foix-Grailly have also sprung the viscounts of Lautrec and of Meilles, the counts of Bénanges and Candale, and of Gurson and Fleix.
See D.J. Vaissète, Histoire générale de Languedoc, tome iv. (Paris, 1876); L. Flourac, Jean Ier, comte de Foix, vicomte souverain de Béarn (Paris, 1884); Le Père Anselme, Histoire généalogique, tome iii. (Paris, 1726-1733); Castillon, Histoire du comte de Foix (Toulouse, 1852); Madaune, Gaston Phœbus, comte de Foix et souverain de Béarn (Pau, 1865); and Froissart's Chroniques, edited by S. Luce and G. Raynaud (Paris, 1869-1897).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)