Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Part 4 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

back to the provost of Paris, and put off their decision to the following
day; but Philip the Handsome, without waiting for the morrow, and without
consulting the judges, ordered the two Templars to be burned the same
evening, March 11, 1314, at the hour of vespers, in Ile-de-la-Cite, on
the site of the present Place Dauphine. A poet-chronicler, Godfrey of
Paris, who was a witness of the scene, thus describes it: "The Grand
Master, seeing the fire prepared, stripped himself briskly; I tell just
as I saw; he bared himself to his shirt, light-heartedly and with a good
grace, without a whit of trembling, though he was dragged and shaken
mightily. They took hold of him to tie him to the stake, and they were
binding his hands with a cord, but he said to them, 'Sirs, suffer me to
fold my hands a while, and make my prayer to God, for verily it is time.
I am presently to die; but wrongfully, God wot. Wherefore woe will come,
ere long, to those who condemn us without a cause. God will avenge our

It was probably owing to these last words that there arose a popular
rumor, soon spread abroad, that James de Molay, at his death, had cited
the pope and the king to appear with him, the former at the end of forty
days, and the latter within a year, before the judgment-seat of God.
Events gave a sanction to the legend: for Clement V. actually died on the
20th of April, 1314, and Philip the Handsome on the 29th of November,
1314, the pope, undoubtedly, uneasy at the servile acquiescence he had
shown towards the king, and the king expressing some sorrow for his greed
and for the imposts (_maltote, maletolta,_ or _black mail_) with which he
had burdened his people.

In excessive and arbitrary imposts, indeed, consisted the chief grievance
for which France, in the fourteenth century, had to complain of Philip
the Handsome; and, probably, it was the only wrong for which he upbraided
himself. Being badly wounded, out hunting, by a wild boar, and
perceiving himself to be in bad case, he gave orders for his removal to
Fontainebleau, and there, says Godfrey of Paris, the poet-chronicler just
quoted in reference to the execution of the Templars, "he said and
commanded that his children, his brothers, and his other friends should
be sent for. They were no long time in coming; they entered
Fontainebleau, into the chamber where the king was, and where there was
very little light. So soon as they were there, they asked him how he
was, and he answered, 'Ill in body and in soul; if our Lady the Virgin
save me not by her prayers, I see that death will seize me here; I have
put on so many talliages, and laid hands on so much riches, that I shall
never be absolved. Sirs, I know that I am in such estate that I shall
die, methinks, to-night, for I suffer grievous hurt from the curses which
pursue me: there will be no fine tales to be told of me.'" Philip's
anxiety about his memory was not without foundation; his greed is the
vice which has clung to his name; not only did he load his subjects with
poll taxes and other taxes unauthorized by law and the traditions of the
feudal system; not only was he unjust and cruel towards the Templars in
order to appropriate their riches; but he committed, over and over again,
that kind of spoliation which imports most trouble into the general life
of a people; he debased the coinage so often and to such an extent, that
he was everywhere called "the base coiner." This was a financial process
of which none of his predecessors, neither St. Louis nor Philip Augustus,
had set him an example, though they had quite as many costly wars and
expeditions to keep up as he had. Some chroniclers of the fourteenth
century say that Philip the Handsome was particularly munificent and
lavish towards his family and his servants; but it is difficult to meet
with any precise proof of this allegation, and we must impute the
financial difficulties of Philip the Hand-some to his natural greed, and
to the secret expenses entailed upon him by his policy of dissimulation
and hatred, rather than to his lavish generosity. As he was no stranger
to the spirit of order in his own affairs, he tried, towards the end of
his reign, to obtain an exact account of his finances. His chief
adviser, Enguerrand de Marigny, became his superintendent-general, and
on the 19th of January, 1311, at the close of a grand council held at
Poissy, Philip passed an ordinance which established, under the headings
of expenses and receipts, two distinct tables and treasuries, one for
ordinary expenses, the civil list, and the payment of the great bodies of
the state, incomes, pensions, &c., and the other for extraordinary
expenses. The ordinary expenses were estimated at one hundred and
seventy-seven thousand five hunded livres of Tours, that is, according to
M. Boutaric, who published this ordinance, fifteen million nine hundred
thousand francs (about three million eighty-four thousand dollars).
Numerous articles regulated the execution of the measure; and the royal
treasurers took an oath not to reveal, within two years, the state of
their receipts, save to Enguerrand de Marigny, or by order of the king
himself. This first budget of the French monarchy dropped out of sight
after the death of Philip the Handsome, in the reaction which took place
against his government. "God forgive him his sins," says Godfrey of
Paris, "for in the time of his reign great loss came to France, and there
was small regret for him." The general history of France has been more
indulgent towards Philip the Handsome than his contemporaries were; it
has expressed its acknowledgments to him for the progress made, under his
sway, by the particular and permanent characteristics of civilization in
France. The kingly domain received in the Pyrenees, in Aquitaine, in
Franche-Comte, and in Flanders territorial increments which extended
national unity. The legislative power of the king penetrated into and
secured footing in the lands of his vassals. The scattered
semi-sovereigns of feudal society bowed down before the incontestable
pre-eminence of the kingship, which gained the victory in its struggle
against the papacy. Far be it from us to attach no importance to the
intervention of the deputies of the communes in the states-general of
1302, on the occasion of that struggle: it was certainly homage paid to
the nascent existence of the third estate; but it is puerile to consider
that homage as a real step towards public liberties and constitutional
government. The burghers of 1302 did not dream of such a thing; Philip,
knowing that their feelings were, in this instance, in accordance with
his own, summoned them in order to use their co-operation as a useful
appendage for himself, and absolute kingship gained more strength by the
co-operation than the third estate acquired influence. The general
constitution of the judiciary power, as delegated from the kingship, the
creation of several classes of magistrates devoted to this great social
function, and, especially, the strong organization and the permanence of
the parliament of Paris, were far more important progressions in the
development of civil order and society in France. But it was to the
advantage of absolute power that all these facts were turned, and the
perverted ability of Philip the Handsome consisted in working them for
that single end. He was a profound egotist; he mingled with his
imperiousness the leaven of craft and patience, but he was quite a
stranger to the two principles which constitute the morality of
governments, respect for rights and patriotic sympathy with public
sentiment; he concerned himself about nothing but his own position, his
own passions, his own wishes, or his own fancies. And this is the
radical vice of absolute power. Philip the Handsome is one of the kings
of France who have most contributed to stamp upon the kingship in France
this lamentable characteristic, from which France has suffered so much,
even in the midst of her glories, and which, in our time, was so
grievously atoned for by the kingship itself when it no longer deserved
the reproach.

Philip the Handsome left three sons, Louis X., called _le Hutin_ (_the
Quarreller_), Philip V., called the _Long,_ and Charles IV., called _the
Handsome,_ who, between them, occupied the throne only thirteen years and
ten months. Not one of them distinguished himself by his personal
merits; and the events of the three reigns hold scarcely a higher place
in history than the actions of the three kings do. Shortly before the
death of Philip the Handsome, his greedy despotism had already excited
amongst the people such lively discontent that several leagues were
formed in Champagne, Burgundy, Artois, and Beauvaisis, to resist him; and
the members of these leagues, "nobles and commoners," say the accounts,
engaged to give one another mutual support in their resistance, "at their
own cost and charges." After the death of Philip the Handsome, the
opposition made head more extensively and effectually; and it produced
two results: ten ordinances of Louis the Quarreller for redressing the
grievances of the feudal aristocracy, for one; and, for the other, the
trial and condemnation of Enguerrand de Marigny "coadjutor and rector of
the kingdom" under Philip the Hand-some. Marigny, at the death of the
king his master, had against him, rightly or wrongly, popular clamor and
feudal hostility, especially that of Charles of Valois, Philip the
Handsome's brother, who acted as leader of the barons. "What has become
of all those subsidies, and all those sums produced by so much tampering
with the coinage? "asked the new king one day in council. "Sir," said
Prince Charles, "it was Marigny who had the administration of everything;
and it is for him to render an account." "I am quite ready," said
Marigny. "This moment, then," said the prince. "Most willingly, my
lord: I gave a great portion to you." "You lie!" cried Charles. "Nay,
you, by God!" replied Marigny. The prince drew his sword, and Marigny
was on the point of doing the same. The quarrel was, however, stifled
for the moment; but, shortly afterwards, Marigny was accused, condemned
by a commission assembled at Vincennes, and hanged on the gibbet of
Montfaucon which he himself, it is said, had set up. He walked to
execution with head erect, saying to the crowd, "Good folks, pray for
me." Some months afterwards, the young king, who had indorsed the
sentence reluctantly, since he did not well know, between his father's
brother and minister, which of the two was guilty, left by will a
handsome legacy to Marigny's widow "in consideration of the great
misfortune which had befallen her and hers;" and Charles of Valois
himself, falling into a decline, and considering himself stricken by the
hand of God "as a punishment for the trial of Enguerrand de Marigny," had
liberal alms distributed to the poor with this injunction: "Pray God for
Euguerrand de Marigny and for the Count of Valois." None can tell, after
this lapse of time, whether this remorse proceeded from weakness of mind
or sincerity of heart, and which of the two personages was really guilty;
but, ages afterwards, such is the effect of blind, popular clamor and
unrighteous judicial proceedings, that the condemned lives in history as
a victim and all but a guileless being.

[Illustration: The Hanging of Marigny----200]

Whilst the feudal aristocracy was thus avenging itself of kingly tyranny,
the spirit of Christianity was noiselessly pursuing its work, the general
enfranchisement of men. Louis the Quarreller had to keep up the war with
Flanders, which was continually being renewed; and in order to find,
without hateful exactions, the necessary funds, he was advised to offer
freedom to the serfs of his domains. Accordingly he issued, on the 3d of
July, 1315, an edict to the following effect: "Whereas, according to
natural right, every one should be born free, and whereas, by certain
customs which, from long age, have been introduced into and preserved to
this day in our kingdom . . . many persons amongst our common people
have fallen into the bonds of slavery, which much displeaseth us; we,
considering that our kingdom is called and named the kingdom of the Free
(Franks), and willing that the matter should in verity accord with the
name . . . have by our grand council decreed and do decree that
generally throughout our whole kingdom . . . such serfdoms be redeemed
to freedom, on fair and suitable conditions . . . and we will,
likewise, that all other lords who have body-men (or serfs) do take
example by us to bring them to freedom." Great credit has very properly
been given to Louis the Quarreller for this edict; but it has not been
sufficiently noticed that Philip the Handsome had himself set his sons
the example, for, on confirming the enfranchisement granted by his
brother Charles to the serfs in the countship of Valois, he had based his
decree on the following grounds: "Seeing that every human being, which is
made in the image of Our Lord, should generally be free by natural
right." The history of Christian communities is full of these happy
inconsistencies; when a moral and just principle is implanted in the
soul, absolute power itself does not completely escape from its healthy
influence, and the good makes its way athwart the evil, just as a source
of fresh and pure water ceases not to flow through and spread over a land
wasted by the crimes or follies of men.

It is desirable to give an idea and an example of the conduct which was
already beginning to be adopted and of the authority which was already
beginning to be exercised in France, amidst the feudal reaction that set
in against Philip the Handsome and amidst the feeble government of his
sons, by that magistracy, of such recent and petty origin, which was
called upon to defend, in the king's name, order and justice against the
count-less anarchical tyrannies scattered over the national territory.
During the early years of the fifteenth century, a lord of Gascony,
Jordan de Lisle, "of most noble origin, but most ignoble deeds," says a
contemporary chronicler, "abandoned himself to all manner of
irregularities and crimes." Confident in his strength and his
connections,--for Pope John XXII. had given his niece to him in
marriage,--"he committed homicides, entertained evil-doers and murderers,
countenanced robbers, and rose against the king. He killed, with the
man's own truncheon, one of the king's servants who was wearing the royal
livery according to the custom of the royal servants. When his misdeeds
were known, he was summoned for trial to Paris; and he went thither
surrounded by a stately retinue of counts, nobles, and barons of
Aquitaine. He was confined, at first, in the prison of Chatelet; and
when a hearing had been accorded to his reply and to what he alleged in
his defence against the crimes of which he was accused, he was finally
pronounced worthy of death by the doctors of the parliament, and on
Trinity-eve he was dragged at the tail of horses and hanged, as he
deserved, on the public gallows at Paris." It was, assuredly, a
difficult and a dangerous task for the obscure members of this
parliament, scarcely organized as it was and quite lately established
for a permanence in Paris, to put down such disorders and such men.
In the course of its long career the French magistracy has committed many
faults; it has more than once either aspired to overstep its proper
limits or failed to fulfil all its duties; but history would be
ungrateful and untruthful not to bring into the light the virtues this
body has displayed from its humble cradle, and the services it has
rendered to France, to her security at home, to her moral dignity, to her
intellectual glory, and to the progress of her civilization with all its
brilliancy and productiveness, though it is still so imperfect and so

Another fact which has held an important place in the history of France,
and exercised a great influence over her destinies, likewise dates from
this period; and that is the exclusion of women from the succession to
the throne, by virtue of an article, ill understood, of the Salic law.
The ancient law of the Salian Franks, drawn up, probably, in the seventh
century, had no statute at all touching this grave question; the article
relied upon was merely a regulation of civil law prescribing that "no
portion of really Salic land (that is to say, in the full territorial
ownership of the head of the family) should pass into the possession of
women, but it should belong altogether to the virile sex." From the time
of Hugh Capet heirs male had never been wanting to the crown, and the
succession in the male line had been a fact uninterrupted indeed, but not
due to prescription or law. Louis the Quarreller, at his death, on the
5th of June, 1316, left only a daughter, but his second wife, Queen
Clemence, was pregnant. As soon as Philip the Long, then Count of
Poitiers, heard of his brother's death, he hurried to Paris, assembled a
certain number of barons, and got them to decide that he, if the queen
should be delivered of a son, should be regent of the kingdom for
eighteen years; but that if she should bear a daughter he should
immediately take possession of the crown. On the 15th of November, 1316,
the queen gave birth to a son, who was named John, and who figures as
John I. in the series of French kings; but the child died at the end of
five days, and on the 6th of January, 1317, Philip the Long was crowned
king at Rheims. He forthwith summoned--there is no knowing exactly where
and in what numbers--the clergy, barons, and third estate, who declared,
on the 2d of February, that "the laws and customs, inviolably observed
among the Franks, excluded daughters from the crown." There was no doubt
about the fact; but the law was not established, nor even in conformity
with the entire feudal system or with general opinion. And "thus the
kingdom went," says Froissart, "as seemeth to many folks, out of the
right line." But the measure was evidently wise and salutary for France
as well as for the king-ship; and it was renewed, after Philip the Long
died on the 3d of January, 1322, and left daughters only, in favor of his
brother Charles the Handsome, who died, in his turn, on the 1st of
January, 1328, and likewise left daughters only. The question as to the
succession to the throne then lay between the male line represented by
Philip, Count of Valois, grandson of Philip the Bold through Charles of
Valois, his father, and the female line represented by Edward III., King
of England, grandson, through his mother, Isabel, sister of the late King
Charles the Handsome, of Philip the Handsome. A war of more than a
century's duration between France and England was the result of this
lamentable rivalry, which all but put the kingdom of France under an
English king; but France was saved by the stubborn resistance of the
national spirit and by Joan of Arc, inspired by God. One hundred and
twenty-eight years after the triumph of the national cause, and four
years after the accession of Henry IV., which was still disputed by the
League, a decree of the parliament of Paris, dated the 28th of June,
1593, maintained, against the pretensions of Spain, the authority of the
Salic law, and on the 1st of October, 1789, a decree of the National
Assembly, in conformity with the formal and unanimous wish of the
memorials drawn up by the states-general, gave a fresh sanction to that
principle, which, confining the heredity of the crown to the male line,
had been salvation to the unity and nationality of the monarchy in


The history of the Merovingians is that of barbarians invading Gaul
and settling upon the ruins of the Roman empire. The history of the
Carlovingians is that of the greatest of the barbarians taking upon
himself to resuscitate the Roman empire, and of Charlemagne's descendants
disputing amongst themselves for the fragments of his fabric, as fragile
as it was grand. Amidst this vast chaos and upon this double ruin was
formed the feudal system, which by transformation after transformation
became ultimately France. Hugh Capet, one of its chieftains, made
himself its king. The Capetians achieved the French kingship. We have
traced its character and progressive development from the eleventh to the
fourteenth century, through the reigns of Louis the Fat, of Philip
Augustus, of St. Louis, and of Philip the Handsome, princes very diverse
and very unequal in merit, but all of them able and energetic. This
period was likewise the cradle of the French nation. That was the time
when it began to exhibit itself in its different elements, and to arise
under monarchical rule from the midst of the feudal system. Its earliest
features and its earliest efforts in the long and laborious work of its
development are now to be set before the reader's eyes.

The two words inscribed at the head of this chapter, the Communes and the
Third-Estate, are verbal expressions for the two great facts at that time
revealing that the French nation was in labor of formation. Closely
connected one with the other and tending towards the same end, these two
facts are, nevertheless, very diverse, and even when they have not been
confounded, they have not been with sufficient clearness distinguished
and characterized, each of them apart. They are diverse both in their
chronological date and their social importance. The Communes are the
first to appear in history. They appear there as local facts, isolated
one from another, often very different in point of origin, though
analogous in their aim, and in every case neither assuming nor pretending
to assume any place in the government of the state. Local interests and
rights, the special affairs of certain populations agglomerated in
certain spots, are the only objects, the only province of the communes.
With this purely municipal and individual character they come to their
birth, their confirmation, and their development from the eleventh to the
fourteenth century; and at the end of two centuries they enter upon their
decline, they occupy far less room and make far less noise in history.
It is exactly then that the Third Estate comes to the front, and uplifts
itself as a general fact, a national element, a political power. It is
the successor, not the contemporary, of the Communes; they contributed
much towards, but did not suffice for its formation; it drew upon other
resources, and was developed under other influences than those which gave
existence to the communes. It has subsisted, it has gone on growing
throughout the whole course of French history; and at the end of five
centuries, in 1789, when the Communes had for a long while sunk into
languishment and political insignificance, at the moment at which France
was electing her Constituent Assembly, the Abbe Sicyes, a man of powerful
rather than scrupulous mind, could say, "What is the Third Estate?
Everything. What has it hitherto been in the body politic? Nothing.
What does it demand? To be something."

These words contain three grave errors. In the course of government
anterior to 1789, so far was the third estate from being nothing, that it
had been every day becoming greater and stronger. What was demanded for
it in 1789 by M. Sicyes and his friends was not that it might become
something, but that it should be everything. That was a desire beyond
its right and its strength; and the very Revolution, which was its own
victory, proved this. Whatever may have been the weaknesses and faults
of its foes, the third estate had a terrible struggle to conquer them;
and the struggle was so violent and so obstinate that the third estate
was broken up therein, and had to pay dearly for its triumph. At first
it obtained thereby despotism instead of liberty; and when liberty
returned, the third estate found itself confronted by twofold hostility,
that of its foes under the old regimen and that of the absolute democracy
which claimed in its turn to be everything. Outrageous claims bring
about in-tractable opposition and excite unbridled ambition. What there
was in the words of the Abbe Sicyes in 1789 was not the verity of
history; it was a lying programme of revolution.

We have anticipated dates in order to properly characterize and explain
the facts as they present themselves, by giving a glimpse of their scope
and their attainment. Now that we have clearly marked the profound
difference between the third estate and the communes, we will return to
the communes alone, which had the priority in respect of time. We will
trace the origin and the composition of the third estate, when we reach
the period at which it became one of the great performers in the history
of France by reason of the place it assumed and the part it played in the
states-general of the kingdom.

In dealing with the formation of the communes from the eleventh to the
fourteenth century, the majority of the French historians, even
M. Thierry, the most original and clear-sighted of them all, often
entitle this event the communal revolution. This expression hardly gives
a correct idea of the fact to which it is applied. The word revolution,
in the sense, or at least the aspect, given to it amongst us by
contemporary events, points to the overthrow of a certain regimen, and of
the ideas and authority predominant thereunder, and the systematic
elevation in their stead of a regimen essentially different in principle,
and in fact. The revolutions of our day substitute, or would fain
substitute, a republic for a monarchy, democracy for aristocracy,
political liberty for absolute power. The struggles which from the
eleventh to the fourteenth century gave existence to so many communes
had no such profound character; the populations did not pretend to any
fundamental overthrow of the regimen they attacked; they conspired
together, they swore together, as the phrase is according to the
documents of the time--they rose to extricate themselves from the
outrageous oppression and misery they were enduring, but not to abolish
feudal sovereignty and to change the personality of their masters. When
they succeeded they obtained those treaties of peace called charters,
which brought about in the condition of the insurgents salutary changes
accompanied by more or less effectual guarantees. When they failed or
when the charters were violated, the result was violent reactions, mutual
excesses; the relations between the populations and their lords were
tempestuous and full of vicissitudes; but at bottom neither the political
regimen nor the social system of the communes was altered. And so there
were, at many spots without any connection between them, local revolts
and civil wars, but no communal revolution.

One of the earliest facts of this kind which have been set forth with
some detail in history clearly shows their primitive character; a fact
the more remarkable in that the revolt described by the chroniclers
originated and ran its course in the country among peasants with a view
of recovering complete independence, and not amongst an urban population
with a view of resulting in the erection of a commune. Towards the end
of the tenth century, under Richard II., Duke of Normandy, called the
Good, and whilst the good King Robert was reigning in France, "In several
countships of Normandy," says William of Jumiege, "all the peasants,
assembling in their conventicles, resolved to live according to their
inclinations and their own laws, as well in the interior of the forests
as along the rivers, and to reck nought of any established right. To
carry out this purpose these mobs of madmen chose each two deputies, who
were to form at some central point an assembly charged to see to the
execution of their decrees. As soon as the duke (Richard II.) was
informed thereof, he sent a large body of men-at-arms to repress this
audaciousness of the country districts and to scatter this rustic
assemblage. In execution of his orders, the deputies of the peasants and
many other rebels were forthwith arrested, their feet and hands were cut
off, and they were sent away thus mutilated to their homes, in order to
deter their like from such enterprises, and to make them wiser, for fear
of worse. After this experience the peasants left off their meetings and
returned to their ploughs."

[Illustration: The Peasants resolved to Live according to their own
Inclinations and their own Laws----209]

It was about eighty years after the event when the monk William of
Jumiege told the story of this insurrection of peasants so long anterior,
and yet so similar to that which more than three centuries afterwards
broke out in nearly the whole of Northern. France, and which was called
the Jacquery. Less than a century after William of Jumiege, a Norman
poet, Robert Wace, told the same story in his Romance of Rou, a history
in verse of Rollo and the first dukes of Normandy: "The lords do us
nought but ill," he makes the Norman peasants say: with them we have nor
gain nor profit from our labors; every day is for us a day of suffering,
of travail, and of fatigue; every day our beasts are taken from us for
forced labor and services . . . why put up with all this evil, and why
not get quit of travail? Are not we men even as they are? Have we not
the same stature, the same limbs, the same strength--for suffering? Bind
we ourselves by oath; swear we to aid one another; and if they be minded
to make war on us, have we not for every knight thirty or forty young
peasants ready and willing to fight with club, or boar-spear, or arrow,
or axe, or stones, if they have not arms? Learn we to resist the
knights, and we shall be free to hew down trees, to hunt game, and to
fish after our fashion, and we shall work our will on flood and in field
and wood."

These two passages have already been quoted in Chapter XIV. of this
history in the course of describing the general condition of France under
the Capetians before the crusades, and they are again brought forward
here because they express and paint to the life the chief cause which
from the end of the tenth century led to so many insurrections amongst
the rural as well as urban populations, and brought about the
establishment of so many communes.

We say the chief cause only, because oppression and insurrection were not
the sole origin of the communes. Evil, moral and material, abounds in
human communities, but it never has the sole dominion there; force never
drives justice into utter banishment, and the ruffianly violence of the
strong never stifles in all hearts every sympathy for the weak. Two
causes, quite distinct from feudal oppression, viz., Roman traditions and
Christian sentiments, had their share in the formation of the communes
and in the beneficial results thereof.

The Roman municipal regimen, which is described in M. Guizot's _L'Essais
sur l'Histoire de France_ (1st Essay, pp. 1-44), did not everywhere
perish with the empire; it kept its footing in a great number of towns,
especially in those of Southern Gaul, Marseilles, Arles, Nismes,
Narbonne, Toulouse, &c. At Arles the municipality actually bore the name
of commune (_communitas_), Toulouse gave her municipal magistrates the
name of _Capitouls,_ after the Capitol of Rome, and in the greater part
of the other towns in the south they were called Consuls. After the
great invasion of barbarians from the seventh to the end of the eleventh
century, the existence of these Roman municipalities appears but rarely
and confusedly in history; but in this there is nothing peculiar to the
towns and the municipal regimen, for confusion and obscurity were at that
time universal, and the nascent feudal system was plunged therein as well
as the dying little municipal systems were. Many Roman municipalities
were still subsisting without influencing any event of at all a general
kind, and without leaving any trace; and as the feudal system grew and
grew they still went on in the midst of universal darkness and anarchy.
They had penetrated into the north of Gaul in fewer numbers and with a
weaker organization than in the south, but still keeping their footing
and vaunting themselves on their Roman origin in the face of their
barbaric conquerors. The inhabitants of Rheims remembered with pride
that their municipal magistracy and its jurisdiction were anterior to
Clovis, dating as they did from before the days of St. Remigius, the
apostle of the Franks. The burghers of Metz boasted of having enjoyed
civil rights before there was any district of Lorraine: "Lorraine," said
they, "is young, and Metz is old." The city of Bourges was one of the
most complete examples of successive transformations and denominations
attained by a Roman municipality from the sixth to the thirteenth century
under the Merovingians, the Carlovingians, and the earliest Capetians.
At the time of the invasion it had arenas, an amphitheatre, and all that
characterized a Roman city. In the seventh century, the author of the
life of St. Estadiola, born at Bourges, says that "she was the child of
illustrious parents who, as worldly dignity is accounted, were notable by
reason of senatorial rank; and Gregory of Tours quotes a judgment
delivered by the principals (_primores_) of the city of Bourges. Coins
of the time of Charles the Bald are struck with the name of the city of
Bourges and its inhabitants (_Bituriges_). In 1107, under Philip I., the
members of the municipal body of Bourges are named _prud'hommes_. In two
charters, one of Louis the Young, in 1145, and the other of Philip
Augustus, in 1218, the old senators of Bourges have the name at one time
of _bons hommes,_ at another of _barons_ of the city. Under different
names, in accordance with changes of language, the Roman municipal
regimen held on and adapted itself to new social conditions.

In our own day there has been far too much inclination to dispute, and
M. Augustin Thierry has, in M. Guizot's opinion, made far too little of,
the active and effective part played by the kingship in the formation and
protection of the French communes. Not only did the kings, as we shall
presently see, often interpose as mediators in the quarrels of the
communes with their laic or ecclesiastical lords, but many amongst them
assumed in their own domains and to the profit of the communes an
intelligent and beneficial initiative. The city of Orleans was a happy
example of this. It was of ancient date, and had prospered under the
Roman empire; nevertheless the continuance of the Roman municipal regimen
does not appear there clearly as we have just seen that it did in the
case of Bourges; it is chiefly from the middle ages and their kings that
Orleans held its municipal franchises and its privileges; they never
raised it to a commune, properly so called, by a charter sworn to and
guaranteed by independent institutions, but they set honestly to work
to prevent local oppression, to reform abuses, and make justice prevail
there. From 1051 to 1281 there are to be found in the _Recueil des
ordonnances des rois_ seven important charters relating to Orleans. In
1051, at the demand of the people of Orleans and its bishop, who appears
in the charter as the head of the people, the defender of the city, Henry
I. secures to the inhabitants of Orleans freedom of labor and of going to
and fro during the vintages, and interdicts his agents from exacting
anything upon the entry of wines. From 1137 to 1178, during the
administration of Suger, Louis the Young in four successive ordinances
gives, in respect of Orleans, precise guarantees for freedom of trade,
security of person and property, and the internal peace of the city; and
in 1183 Philip Augustus exempts from all talliage, that is, from all
personal impost, the present and future inhabitants of Orleans, and
grants them divers privileges, amongst others that of not going to
law-courts farther from their homes than Etampes. In 1281 Philip the
Bold renews and confirms the concessions of Philip Augustus. Orleans was
not, within the royal domain, the only city where the kings of that
period were careful to favor the progress of the population, of wealth,
and of security; several other cities, and even less considerable burghs,
obtained similar favor; and in 1155 Louis the Young, probably in
confirmation of an act of his father, Louis the Fat, granted to the
little town of Lorris, in Gatinais (nowadays chief place of a canton in
the department of the Loiret), a charter, full of detail, which regulated
its interior regimen in financial, commercial, judicial, and military
matters, and secured to all its inhabitants good conditions in respect of
civil life. This charter was in the course of the twelfth century
regarded as so favorable that it was demanded by a great number of towns
and burghs; the king was asked for _the customs of Lorris_
(_consuetudines Lauracienses_), and in the space of fifty years they were
granted to seven towns, some of them a considerable distance from
Orleanness. The towns which obtained them did not become by this
qualification communes properly so called in the special and historical
sense of the word; they had no jurisdiction of their own, no independent
magistracy; they had not their own government in their hands; the king's
officers, provosts, bailiffs, or others, were the only persons who
exercised there a real and decisive power. But the king's promises to
the inhabitants, the rights which he authorized them to claim from him,
and the rules which he imposed upon his officers in their government,
were not concessions which were of no value or which remained without
fruit. As we follow in the course of our history the towns which,
without having been raised to communes properly so called, had obtained
advantages of that kind, we see them developing and growing in population
and wealth, and sticking more and more closely to that kingship from
which they had received their privileges, and which, for all its
imperfect observance and even frequent violation of promises, was
nevertheless accessible to complaint, repressed from time to time the
misbehavior of its officers, renewed at need and even extended
privileges, and, in a word, promoted in its administration the progress
of civilization and the counsels of reason, and thus attached the
burghers to itself without recognizing on their side those positive
rights and those guarantees of administrative independence which are in a
perfect and solidly constructed social fabric the foundation of political

[Illustration: Insurrection in favor of the Commune at Cambrai----214]

Nor was it the kings alone who in the middle ages listened to the
counsels of reason, and recognized in their behavior towards their towns
the rights of justice. Many bishops had become the feudal lords of the
episcopal city; and the Christian spirit enlightened and animated many
amongst them just as the monarchical spirit sometimes enlightened and
guided the kings. Troubles had arisen in the town of Cambrai between the
bishops and the people. "There was amongst the members of the
metropolitan clergy," says M. Augustin Thierry, "a certain Baudri de
Sarchainville, a native of Artois, who had the title of chaplain of the
bishopric. He was a man of high character and of wise and reflecting
mind. He did not share the violent aversion felt by most of his order
for the institution of communes. He saw in this institution a sort of
necessity beneath which it would be inevitable sooner or later, Willy
nilly, to bow, and he thought it was better to surrender to the wishes of
the citizens than to shed blood in order to postpone for a while an
unavoidable revolution. In 1098 he was elected Bishop of Noyon. He
found this town in the same state in which he had seen that of Cambrai.
The burghers were at daily loggerheads with the metropolitan clergy, and
the registers of the Church contained a host of documents entitled _Peace
made between us and the burghers of Noyon._ But no reconciliation was
lasting; the truce was soon broken, either by the clergy or by the
citizens, who were the more touchy in that they had less security for
their persons and their property. The new bishop thought that the
establishment of a commune sworn to by both the rival parties might
become a sort of compact of alliance between them, and he set about
realizing this noble idea before the word commune had served at Noyon as
the rallying cry of popular insurrection. Of his own mere motion he
convoked in assembly all the inhabitants of the town, clergy, knights,
traders, and craftsmen. He presented them with a charter which
constituted the body of burghers an association forever under magistrates
called jury-men, like those of Cambrai. 'Whosoever,' said the charter,
'shall desire to enter this commune shall not be able to be received as a
member of it by a single individual, but only in the presence of the
jurymen. The sum of money he shall then give shall be employed for the
benefit of the town, and not for the private advantage of any one
whatsoever. If the commune be outraged, all those who have sworn to it
shall be bound to march to its defence, and none shall be empowered to
remain at home unless he be infirm or sick, or so poor that he must needs
be himself the watcher of his own wife and children lying sick. If any
one have wounded or slain any one on the territory of the commune, the
jurymen shall take vengeance therefor.'"

The other articles guarantee to the members of the commune of Noyon the
complete ownership of their property, and the right of not being handed
over to justice save before their own municipal magistrates. The bishop
first swore to this charter, and the inhabitants of every condition took
the same oath after him. In virtue of his pontifical authority he
pronounced the anathema, and all the curses of the Old and New Testament,
against whoever should in time to come dare to dissolve the commune or
infringe its regulations. Furthermore, in order to give this new pact a
stronger warranty, Baudri requested the hing of France. Louis the Fat,
to corroborate it, as they used to say at the time, by his approbation
and by the great seal of the crown. The king consented to this request
of the bishop, and that was all the part taken by Louis the Fat in the
establishment of the commune of Noyon. The king's charter is not
preserved, but, under the date of 1108, there is extant one of the
bishop's own, which may serve to substantiate the account given:--

"Baudri, by the grace of God Bishop of Noyon, to all those who do
preserve and go on in the faith:

"Most dear brethren, we learn by the example and words of-the holy
Fathers, that all good things ought to be committed to writing, for fear
lest hereafter they come to be forgotten. Know, then, all Christians
present and to come, that I have formed at Noyon a commune, constituted
by the counsel and in an assembly of clergy, knights, and burghers; that
I have confirmed it by oath, by pontifical authority, and by the bond of
anathema; and that I have prevailed upon our lord King Louis to grant
this commune and corroborate it with the king's seal. This establishment
formed by me, sworn to by a great number of persons, and granted by the
king, let none be so bold as to destroy or alter; I give warning thereof,
on behalf of God and myself, and I forbid it in the name of pontifical
authority. Whosoever shall transgress and violate the present law, be
subjected to excommunication; and whosoever, on the contrary, shall
faithfully keep it, be preserved forever amongst those who dwell in the
house of the Lord."

This good example was not without fruit. The communal regimen was
established in several towns, notably at St. Quentin and at Soissons,
without trouble or violence, and with one accord amongst the laic and
ecclesiastical lords and the inhabitants.

We arrive now at the third and chief source of the communes, at the case
of those which met feudal oppression with energetic resistance, and
which, after all the sufferings, vicissitudes, and outrages, on both
sides, of a prolonged struggle, ended by winning a veritable
administrative, and, to a certain extent, political independence. The
number of communes thus formed from the eleventh to the thirteenth
century was great, and we have a detailed history of the fortunes of
several amongst them, Cambrai, Beauvais, Laon, Amiens, Rheims, Etampes,
Vezelay, &c. To give a correct and vivid picture of them we will choose
the commune of Laon, which was one of those whose fortunes were most
checkered as well as most tragic, and which after more than two centuries
of a very tempestuous existence was sentenced to complete abolition,
first by Philip the Handsome, then by Philip the Long and Charles the
Handsome, and, finally, by Philip of Valois, "for certain misdeeds and
excesses notorious, enormous, and detestable, and on full deliberation of
our council." The early portion of the history connected with the
commune of Laon has been narrated for us by Guibert, an abbot of Nogent-
sous-Coucy, in the diocese of Laon, a contemporary writer, sprightly and
bold. "In all that I have written and am still writing," says he, "I
dismiss all men from my mind, caring not a whit about pleasing anybody.
I have taken my side in the opinions of the world, and with calmness and
indifference on my own account I expect to be exposed to all sorts of
language, to be as it were beaten with rods. I proceed with my task,
being fully purposed to bear with equanimity the judgments of all who
come snarling after me."

Laon was at the end of the eleventh century one of the most important
towns in the kingdom of France. It was full of rich and industrious
inhabitants; the neighboring people came thither for provisions or
diversion; and such concourse led to the greatest disturbances. "The
nobles and their servitors," says M. Augustin Thierry, "sword in hand,
committed robbery upon the burghers; the streets of the town were not
safe by night or even by day, and none could go out without running a
risk of being stopped and robbed or killed. The burghers in their turn
committed violence upon the peasants, who came to buy or sell at the
market of the town." "Let me give as example," says Guibert of Nogent,
"a single fact, which, had it taken place amongst the Barbarians or the
Scythians, would assuredly have been considered the height of wickedness,
in the judgment even of those who recognize no law. On Saturday the
inhabitants of the country places used to leave their fields, and come
from all sides to Laon to get provisions at the market. The townsfolk
used then to go round the place, carrying in baskets, or bowls, or
otherwise, samples of vegetables, or grain, or any other article, as if
they wished to sell. They would offer them to the first peasant who was
in search of such things to buy; he would promise to pay the price agreed
upon; and then the seller would say to the buyer, 'Come with me to my
house to see and examine the whole of the articles I am selling you.' The
other would go; and then, when they came to the bin containing the goods,
the honest seller would take off and hold up the lid, saying to the
buyer, 'Step hither, and put your head or arms into the bin, to make
quite sure that it is all exactly the same goods as I showed you
outside.' And then when the other, jumping on to the edge of the bin,
remained leaning on his belly, with his head and shoulders hanging down,
the worthy seller, who kept in the rear, would hoist up the thoughtless
rustic by the feet, push him suddenly into the bin, and, clapping on the
lid as he fell, keep him shut up in this safe prison until he had bought
himself out."

In 1106 the bishopric of Laon had been two years vacant. It was sought
after and obtained for a sum of money, say contemporaries, by Gaudri, a
Norman by birth, referendary of Henry I., King of England, and one of
those Churchmen who, according to M. Augustin Thierry's expression, "had
gone in the train of William the Bastard to seek their fortunes amongst
the English by seizing the property of the vanquished." It appears that
thenceforth the life of Gaudri had been scarcely edifying; he had, it is
said, the tastes and habits of a soldier; he was hasty and arrogant, and
he liked beyond everything to talk of fighting and hunting, of arms, of
horses, and of hounds. When he was repairing with a numerous following
to Rome, to ask for confirmation of his election, he met at Langres Pope
Pascal II., come to France to keep the festival of Christmas at the abbey
of Cluny. The pope had no doubt heard something about the indifferent
reputation of the new bishop, for, the very day after his arrival at
Langres, he held a conference with the ecclesiastics who had accompanied
Gaudri, and plied them with questions concerning him. "He asked us
first," says Guibert of Nogent, who was in the train, "why we had chosen
a man who was unknown to us. As none of the priests, some of whom did
not know even the first rudiments of the Latin language, made any answer
to this question, he turned to the abbots. I was seated between my two
colleagues. As they likewise kept silence, I began to be urged, right
and left, to speak. I was one of those whom this election had
displeased; but with culpable timidity I had yielded to the authority of
my superiors in dignity. With the bashfulness of youth I could only with
great difficulty and much blushing prevail upon myself to open my mouth.
The discussion was carried on, not in our mother tongue, but in the
language of scholars. I therefore, though with great confusion of mind
and face, betook myself to speaking in a manner to tickle the palate of
him who was questioning us, wrapping up in artfully arranged form of
speech expressions which were softened down, but were not entirely
removed from the truth. I said that we did not know, it was true, to the
extent of having been familiar by sight and intercourse with him, the man
of whom we had made choice, but that we had received favorable reports of
his integrity. The pope strove to confound my arguments by this
quotation from the Gospel: 'He that hath seen giveth testimony.' But as
he did not explicitly raise the objection that Gaudri had been elected by
desire of the court, all subtle subterfuge on any such point became
useless; so I gave it up, and confessed that I could say nothing in
opposition to the pontiff's words; which pleased him very much, for he
had less scholarship than would have become his high office. Clearly
perceiving, however, that all the phrases I had piled up in defence of
our election had but little weight, I launched out afterwards upon the
urgent straits wherein our Church was placed, and on this subject I gave
myself the more rein in proportion as the person elected was unfitted for
the functions of the episcopate."

[Illustration: Burghers of Laon----220]

Gaudri was indeed very scantily fitted for the office of bishop, as the
town of Laon was not slow to perceive. Scarcely had he been installed
when he committed strange outrages. He had a man's eyes put out on
suspicion of connivance with his enemies; and he tolerated the murder of
another in the metropolitan church. In imitation of rich crusaders on
their return from the East, he kept a black slave, whom he employed upon
his deeds of vengeance. The burghers began to be disquieted, and to wax
wroth. During a trip the bishop made to England, they offered a great
deal of money to the clergy and knights who ruled in his absence, if they
would consent to recognize by a genuine Act the right of the commonalty
of the inhabitants to be governed by authorities of their own choice.
"The clergy and knights," says a contemporary chronicler, "came to an
agreement with the common folk in hopes of enriching themselves in a
speedy and easy fashion." A commune was therefore set up and proclaimed
at Laon, on the model of that of Noyon, and invested with effective
powers. The bishop, on his return, was very wroth, and for some days
abstained from re-entering the town. But the burghers acted with him, as
they had with his clergy and the knights: they offered him so large a sum
of money that "it was enough," says Guibert of Nogent, "to appease the
tempest of his words." He accepted the commune, and swore to respect it.
The burghers wished to have a higher warranty; so they sent to Paris, to
King Louis the Fat, a deputation laden with rich presents. "The king,"
says the chronicler, "won over by this plebeian bounty, confirmed the
commune by his own oath," and the deputation took back to Laon their
charter sealed with the great seal of the crown, and augmented by two
articles to the following purport: "The folks of Laon shall not be liable
to be forced to law away from their town; if the king have a suit against
any one amongst them, justice shall be done him in the episcopal court.
For these advantages, and others further granted to the aforesaid
inhabitants by the king's munificence, the folks of the commune have
covenanted to give the king, besides the old plenary court dues, and
man-and-horse dues [dues paid for exemption from active service in case
of war], three lodgings a year, if he come to the town, and, if he do not
come, they will pay him instead twenty livres for each lodging."

For three years the town of Laon was satisfied and tranquil; the burghers
were happy in the security they enjoyed, and proud of the liberty they
had won. But in 1112 the knights, the clergy of the metropolitan church,
and the bishop himself had spent the money they had received, and keenly
regretted the power they had lost; and they meditated reducing to the old
condition the serfs emancipated from the yoke. The bishop invited King
Louis the Fat to come to Laon for the keeping of Holy Week, calculating
upon his presence for the intimidation of the burghers. "But the
burghers, who were in fear of ruin, says Guibert of Nogent, "promised the
king and those about him four hundred livres, or more, I am not quite
sure which; whilst the bishop and the grandees, on their side, urged the
monarch to come to an understanding with them, and engaged to pay him
seven hundred livres. King Louis was so striking in person that he
seemed made expressly for the majesty of the throne; he was courageous in
war, a foe to all slowness in business, and stout-hearted in adversity;
sound, however, as he was on every other point, he was hardly
praiseworthy in this one respect, that he opened too readily both heart
and ear to vile fellows corrupted by avarice. This vice was a fruitful
source of hurt, as well as blame, to himself, to say nothing of
unhappiness to many. The cupidity of this prince always caused him to
incline towards those who promised him most. All his own oaths, and
those of the bishops and the grandees, were consequently violated." The
charter sealed with the king's seal was annulled; and on the part of the
king and the bishop, an order was issued to all the magistrates of the
commune to cease from their functions, to give up the seal and banner of
the town, and to no longer ring the belfry chimes which rang out the
opening and closing of their audiences. But at this proclamation, so
violent was the uproar in the town, that the king, who had hitherto
lodged in a private hotel, thought it prudent to leave, and go to pass
the night in the episcopal palace, which was surrounded by strong walls.
Not content with this precaution, and probably a little ashamed of what
he had done, he left Laon the next morning at daybreak, with all his
train, without waiting for the festival of Easter, for the celebration
of which he had undertaken his journey.

All the day after his departure the shops of the tradespeople and the
houses of the innkeepers were kept closed; no sort of article was offered
for sale; everybody remained shut up at home. But when there is wrath at
the bottom of men's souls, the silence and stupor of the first paroxysm
are of short duration. Next day a rumor spread that the bishop and the
grandees were busy "in calculating the fortunes of all the citizens, in
order to demand that, to supply the sum promised to the king, each should
pay on account of the destruction of the commune as much as each had
given for its establishment." In a fit of violent indignation the
burghers assembled; and forty of them bound themselves by oath, for life
or death, to kill the bishop and all those grandees who had labored for
the ruin of the commune. The archdeacon, Anselm, a good sort of man, of
obscure birth, who heartily disapproved of the bishop's perjury, went
nevertheless and warned him, quite privately, and without betraying any
one, of the danger that threatened him, urging him not to leave his
house, and particularly not to accompany the procession on Easter-day.
"Pooh!" answered the bishop, "I die by the hands of such fellows!" Next
day, nevertheless, he did not appear at matins, and did not set foot
within the church; but when the hour for the procession came, fearing to
be accused of cowardice, he issued forth at the head of his clergy,
closely followed by his domestics and some knights with arms and armor
under their clothes. As the company filed past, one of the forty
conspirators, thinking the moment favorable for striking the blow, rushed
out suddenly from under an arch, with a shout of "_Commune! commune!_"
A low murmur ran through the throng; but not a soul joined in the shout
or the movement, and the ceremony carne to an end without any explosion.
The day after, another solemn procession was to take place to the church
of St. Vincent. Somewhat reassured, but still somewhat disquieted, the
bishop fetched from the domains of the bishopric a body of peasants, some
of whom he charged to protect the church, others his own palace, and once
more accompanied the procession without the conspirators daring to attack
him. This time he was completely reassured, and dismissed the peasants
he had sent for. "On the fourth day after Easter," says Guibert of
Nogent, "my corn having been pillaged in consequence of the disorder that
reigned in the town, I repaired to the bishop's, and prayed him to put a
stop to this state of violence. 'What do you suppose,' said he to me,
'those fellows can do with all their outbreaks? Why, if my blackamoor
John were to pull the nose of the most formidable amongst them, the poor
devil durst not even grumble. Have I not forced them to give up what
they called their commune, for the whole duration of my life?' I held my
tongue," adds Guibert; "many folks besides me warned him of his danger;
but he would not deign to believe anybody."

Three days later all seemed quiet; and the bishop was busy with his
archdeacon in discussing the sums to be exacted from the burghers. All
at once a tumult arose in the town; and a crowd of people thronged the
streets, shouting "_Commune! commune!_" Bands of burghers armed with
swords, axes, bows, hatchets, clubs, and lances, rushed into the
episcopal palace. At the news of this, the knights who had promised the
bishop to go to his assistance if he needed it came up one after another
to his protection; and three of them, in succession, were hotly attacked
by the burgher bands, and fell after a short resistance. The episcopal
palace was set on fire. The bishop, not being in a condition to repulse
the assaults of the populace, assumed the dress of one of his own
domestics, fled to the cellar of the church, shut himself in, and
ensconced himself in a cask, the bung-hole of which was stopped up by a
faithful servitor. The crowd wandered about everywhere in search of him
on whom they wished to wreak their vengeance. A bandit named Teutgaud,
notorious in those times for his robberies, assaults, and murders of
travellers, had thrown himself headlong into the cause of the commune.
The bishop, who knew him, had by way of pleasantry and on account of his
evil mien given him the nickname of _Isengrin_. This was the name which
was given in the fables of the day to the wolf, and which corresponded to
that of Master Reynard. Teutgaud and his men penetrated into the cellar
of the church; they went along tapping upon all the casks; and on what
suspicion there is no knowing, but Teutgaud halted in front of that in
which the bishop was huddled up, and had it opened, crying, "Is there any
one here?" "Only a poor prisoner," answered the bishop, trembling. "Ha!
ha!" said the playful bandit, who recognized the voice, "so it is you,
Master Isengrin, who are hiding here! "And he took him by the hair, and
dragged him out of his cask. The bishop implored the conspirators to
spare his life, offering to swear on the Gospels to abdicate the
bishopric, promising them all the money he possessed, and saying that if
they pleased he would leave the country. The reply was insults and
blows. He was immediately despatched; and Teutgaud, seeing the episcopal
ring glittering on his finger, cut off the finger to get possession of
the ring. The body, stripped of all covering, was thrust into a corner,
where passers-by threw stones or mud at it, accompanying their insults
with ribaldry and curses.

[Bishop Gaudri dragged from the Cask----224]

Murder and arson are contagious. All the day of the insurrection and all
the following night armed bands wandered about the streets of Laon
searching everywhere for relatives, friends, or servitors of the bishop,
for all whom the angry populace knew or supposed to be such, and wreaking
on their persons or their houses a ghastly or a brutal vengeance. In a
fit of terror many poor innocents fled before the blind wrath of the
populace; some were caught and cut down pell-mell amongst the guilty;
others escaped through the vineyards planted between two hills in the
outskirts of the town. "The progress of the fire, kindled on two sides
at once, was so rapid," says Guibert of Nogent, "and the winds drove the
flames so furiously in the direction of the convent of St. Vincent, that
the monks were afraid of seeing all they possessed become the fire's
prey, and all the persons who had taken refuge in this monastery trembled
as if they had seen swords hanging over their heads." Some insurgents
stopped a young man who had been body-servant to the bishop, and asked
him whether the bishop had been killed or not; they knew nothing about
it, nor did he know any more; he helped them to look for the corpse, and
when they came upon it, it had been so mutilated that not a feature was
recognizable. "I remember," said the young man, "that when the prelate
was alive he liked to talk of deeds of war, for which to his hurt he
always showed too much bent; and he often used to say that one day in a
sham-fight, just as he was, all in the way of sport, attacking a certain
knight, the latter hit him with his lance, and wounded him under the
neck, near the tracheal artery." The body of Gaudri was eventually
recognized by this mark, and "Archdeacon Anselm went the next day," says
Guibert of Nogent, "to beg of the insurgents permission at least to bury
it, if only because it had once borne the title and worn the insignia of
bishop. They consented, but reluctantly. It were impossible to tell how
many threats and insults were launched against those who undertook the
obsequies, and what outrageous language was vented against the dead
himself. His corpse was thrown into a half-dug hole, and at church there
was none of the prayers or ceremonies prescribed for the burial of, I
will not say a bishop, but the worst of Christians." A few days
afterwards, Raoul, Archbishop of Rheims, came to Laon to purify the
church. "The wise and venerable archbishop," says Guibert, "after
having, on his arrival, seen to more decently disposing the remains of
some of the dead and celebrated divine service in memory of all, amidst
the tears and utter grief of their relatives and connections, suspended
the holy sacrifice of the mass, in order to deliver a discourse, touching
those execrable institutions of communes, whereby we see serfs, contrary
to all right and justice, withdrawing themselves by force from the lawful
authority of their masters."

Here is a striking instance of the changeableness of men's feelings and
judgments; and it causes a shock even when it is natural and almost
allowable. Guibert of Nogent, the contemporary historian, who was but
lately loud in his blame of the bishop of Laon's character and conduct,
now takes sides with the reaction aroused by popular excesses and
vindictiveness, and is indignant with "those execrable institutions of
communes," the source of so many disturbances and crimes. The burghers
of Laon themselves, "having reflected upon the number and enormity of the
crimes they had committed, shrank up with fear," says Guibert, "and
dreaded the judgment of the king." To protect themselves against the
consequences of his resentment, they added a fresh wound to the old by
summoning to their aid Thomas de Marle, son of Lord Enguerrand de Coucy.
"This Thomas, from his earliest youth, enriched himself by plundering the
poor and the pilgrim, contracted several incestuous marriages, and
exhibited a ferocity so unheard of in our age, that certain people, even
amongst those who have a reputation for cruelty, appear less lavish of
the blood of common sheep than Thomas was of human blood. Such was the
man whom the burghers of Laon implored to come and put himself at their
head, and whom they welcomed with joy when he entered their town. As for
him, when he had heard their request, he consulted his own people to know
what he ought to do; and they all replied that his forces were not
sufficiently numerous to defend such a city against the king. Thomas
then induced the burghers to go out and hold a meeting in a field where
he would make known to them his plan. When they were about a mile from
the town, he said to them, 'Laon is the head of the kingdom; it is
impossible for me to keep the king from making himself master of it. If
you dread his arms, follow me to my own land, and you will find in me a
protector and a friend.' These words threw them into an excess of
consternation; soon, however, the popular party, troubled at the
recollection of the crime they had committed, and fancying they already
saw the king threatening their lives, fled away to the number of a great
many in the wake of Thomas. Teutgaud himself, that murderer of Bishop
Gaudri, hastened to put himself under the wing of the Lord of Marie.
Before long the rumor spread abroad amongst the population of the
country-places near Laon that that town was quite empty of inhabitants;
and all the peasants rushed thither and took possession of the houses
they found without defenders. Who could tell, or be believed if he were
to attempt to tell, how much money, raiment, and provision of all kinds
was discovered in this city? Before long there arose between the first
and last comers disputes about the partition of their plunder; all that
the small folks had taken soon passed into the hands of the powerful; if
two men met a third quite alone they stripped him; the state of the town
was truly pitiable. The burghers who had quitted it with Thomas de Marle
had beforehand destroyed and burned the houses of the clergy and grandees
whom they hated; and now the grandees, escaped from the massacre, carried
off in their turn from the houses of the fugitives all means of
subsistence and all movables to the very hinges and bolts."

The rumor of so many disasters, crimes, and reactions succeeding one
another spread rapidly throughout all districts. Thomas de Marle was put
under the ban of the kingdom, and visited with excommunication "by a
general assembly of the Church of the Gauls," says Guibert of Nogent,
"assembled at Beauvais; "and this sentence was read every Sunday after
mass in all the metropolitan and parochial churches. Public feeling
against Thomas de Marle became so strong that Enguerrand de Bowes, Lord
of Coucy, who passed, says Suger, for his father, joined those who
declared war against him in the name of Church and King. Louis the Fat
took the field in person against him. "Men-at-arms, and in very small
numbers, too," says Guibert of Nogent, "were with difficulty induced to
second the king, and did not do so heartily; but the light-armed infantry
made up a considerable force, and the Archbishop of Rheims and the
bishops had summoned all the people to this expedition, whilst offering
to all absolution from their sins. Thomas de Marle, though at that time
helpless and stretched upon his bed, was not sparing of scoffs and
insults towards his assailants; and at first he absolutely refused to
listen to the king's summons." But Louis persisted without wavering in
his enterprise, exposing himself freely, and in person leading his
infantry to the attack when the men-at-arms did not come on or bore
themselves slackly. He carried successively the castles of Crecy and
Nogent, domains belonging to Thomas de Marle, and at last reduced him to
the necessity of buying himself off at a heavy ransom, indemnifying the
churches he had spoiled, giving guarantees for future behavior, and
earnestly praying for re-admission to the communion of the faithful. As
for those folks of Laon, perpetrators of or accomplices in the murder of
Bishop Gaudri, who had sought refuge with Thomas de Marle, the king
showed them no mercy. "He ordered them," says Suger, "to be strung up to
the gibbet, and left for food to the voracity of kites, and crows, and

There are certain discrepancies between the two accounts, both
contemporaneous, which we possess of this incident in the earliest years
of the twelfth century, one in the Life of Louis the Fat, by Suger, and
the other in the Life of Guibert of Nogent, by himself. They will be
easily recognized on comparing what was said, after Suger, in Chapter
XVIII. of this history, with what has just been said here after Guibert.
But these discrepancies are of no historical importance, for they make no
difference in respect of the essential facts characteristic of social
condition at the period, and of the behavior and position of the actors.

Louis the Fat, after his victory over Thomas de Marle and the fugitives
from Laon, went to Laon with the Archbishop of Rheims; and the presence
of the king, whilst restoring power to the foes of the commune, inspired
them, no doubt, with a little of the spirit of moderation, for there was
an interval of peace, during which no attention was paid to anything but
expiatory ceremonies and the restoration of the churches which had been a
prey to the flames. The archbishop celebrated a solemn mass for the
repose of the souls of those who had perished during the disturbances,
and he preached a sermon exhorting serfs to submit themselves to their
masters, and warning them on pain of anathema from resisting by force.
The burghers of Laon, however, did not consider every sort of resistance
forbidden, and the lords had, no doubt, been taught not to provoke it,
for in 1128, sixteen years after the murder of Bishop Gaudri, fear of a
fresh insurrection determined his successor to consent to the institution
of a new commune, the charter of which was ratified by Louis the Fat in
an assembly held at Compiegne. Only the name of commune did not recur in
this charter; it was replaced by that of Peace-establishment; the
territorial boundaries of the commune were called peace-boundaries, and
to designate its members recourse was had to the formula, _All those who
have signed this peace_. The preamble of the charter runs, "In the name
of the holy and indivisible Trinity, we Louis, by the grace of God king
of the French, do make known to all our lieges present and to come that,
with the consent of the barons of our kingdom and the inhabitants of the
city of Laon, we have set up in the said city a peace-establishment."
And after having enumerated the limits, forms, and rules of it, the
charter concludes with this declaration of amnesty: "All former
trespasses and offences committed before the ratification of the present
treaty are wholly pardoned. If any one, banished for having trespassed
in past time, desire to return to the town, he shall be admitted and
shall recover possession of his property. Excepted from pardon, however,
are the thirteen whose names do follow; "and then come the names of the
thirteen excepted from the amnesty and still under banishment.
"Perhaps," says M. Augustin Thierry, "these thirteen under banishment,
shut out forever from their native town at the very moment it became
free, had been distinguished amongst all the burghers of Laon by their
opposition to the power of the lords; perhaps they had sullied by deeds
of violence this patriotic opposition; perhaps they had been taken at
haphazard to suffer alone for the crimes of their fellow-citizens." The
second hypothesis appears the most probable; for that deeds of violence
and cruelty had been committed alternately by the burghers and their foes
is an ascertained fact, and that the charter of 1128 was really a work of
liberal pacification is proved by its contents and wording. After such
struggles and at the moment of their subsidence some of the most violent
actors always bear the burden of the past, and amongst the most violent
some are often the most sincere.

For forty-seven years after the charter of Louis the Fat the town of Laon
enjoyed the internal peace and the communal liberties it had thus
achieved; but in 1175 a new bishop, Roger de Rosoy, a man of high birth,
and related to several of the great lords his neighbors, took upon
himself to disregard the regimen of freedom established at Laon. The
burghers of Laon, taught by experience, applied to the king, Louis the
Young, and offered him a sum of money to grant them a charter of commune.
Bishop Roger, "by himself and through his friends," says a chronicler, a
canon of Laon, "implored the king to have pity on his Church, and abolish
the serfs' commune; but the king, clinging to the promise he had received
of money, would not listen to the bishop or his friends," and in 1177
gave the burghers of Laon a charter which confirmed their peace-
establishment of 1128. Bishop Roger, however, did not hold himself
beaten. He claimed the help of the lords his neighbors, and renewed the
war against the burghers of Laon, who, on their side, asked and obtained
the aid of several communes in the vicinity. In an access of democratic
rashness, instead of awaiting within their walls the attack of their
enemies, they marched out without cavalry to the encounter, ravaging as
they went the lands of the lords whom they suspected of being
ill-disposed towards them; but on arriving in front of the bishop's
allies, "all this rustic multitude," says the canon-chronicler, "terror-
stricken at the bare names of the knights they found assembled, took
suddenly to flight, and a great number of the burghers were massacred
before reaching their city." Louis the Young then took the field to help
them; but Baldwin, Count of Hainault, went to the aid of the Bishop of
Laon with seven hundred knights and several thousand infantry. King
Louis, after having occupied and for some time held in sequestration the
lands of the bishop, thought it advisable to make peace rather than
continue so troublesome a war, and at the intercession of the pope and
the Count of Hainault he restored to Roger de Rosoy his lands and his
bishopric on condition of living in peace with the commune. And so long
as Louis VII. lived, the bishop did refrain from attacking the liberties
of the burghers of Laon; but at the king's death, in 1180, he applied to
his successor, Philip Augustus, and offered to cede to him the lordship
of Fere-sur-Oise, of which he was the possessor, provided that Philip by
charter abolished the commune of Laon. Philip yielded to the temptation,
and in 1190 published an ordinance to the following purport: "Desiring to
avoid for our soul every sort of danger, we do entirely quash the commune
established in the town of Laon as being contrary to the rights and
liberties of the metropolitan church of St. Mary, in regard for justice
and for the sake of a happy issue to the pilgrimage which we be bound to
make to Jerusalem." But next year, upon entreaty and offers from the
burghers of Laon, Philip changed his mind, and without giving back the
lordship of Fere-sur-Oise to the bishop, guaranteed and confirmed in
perpetuity the peace-establishment granted in 1128 to the town of Laon,
"on the condition that every year at the feast of All Saints they shall
pay to us and our successors two hundred livres of Paris." For a century
all strife of any consequence ceased between the burghers of Laon and
their bishop; there was no real accord or good under-standing between
them, but the public peace was not troubled, and neither the Kings of
France nor the great lords of the neighborhood interfered in its affairs.
In 1294 some knights and clergy of the metropolitan chapter of Laon took
to quarrelling with some burghers; and on both sides they came to deeds
of violence, which caused sanguinary struggles in the streets of the town
and even in the precincts of the episcopal palace. The bishop and his
chapter applied to the pope, Boniface VIII., who applied to the king,
Philip the Handsome, to put an end to these scandalous disturbances.
Philip the Handsome, in his turn, applied to the Parliament of Paris,
which, after inquiry, "deprived the town of Laon of every right of
commune and college, under whatsoever name." The king did not like to
execute this decree in all its rigor. He granted the burghers of Laon a
charter which maintained them provisionally in the enjoyment of their
political rights, but with this destructive clause: "Said commune and
said shrievalty shall be in force only so far as it shall be our
pleasure." For nearly thirty years, from Philip the Handsome to Philip
of Valois, the bishops and burghers of Laon were in litigation before the
crown of France, the former for the maintenance of the commune of Laon in
its precarious condition and at the king's good pleasure, the latter for
the recovery of its independent and durable character. At last, in 1331,
Philip of Valois, "considering that the olden commune of Laon, by reason
of certain misdeeds and excesses, notorious, enormous, and detestable,
had been removed and put down forever by decree of the court of our most
clear lord and uncle, King Philip the Handsome, confirmed and approved by
our most dear lords, Kings Philip and Charles, whose souls are with God,
we, on great deliberation of our council, have ordained that no commune,
corporation, college, shrievalty, mayor, jurymen, or any other estate or
symbol belonging thereto, be at any time set up or established at Laon."
By the same ordinance the municipal administration of Laon was put under
the sole authority of the king and his delegates; and to blot out all
remembrance of the olden independence of the commune, a later ordinance
forbade that the tower from which the two huge communal bells had been
removed should thenceforth be called belfry-tower.

[Illustration: The Cathedral of Laon----233]

The history of the commune of Laon is that of the majority of the towns
which, in Northern and Central France, struggled from the eleventh to the
fourteenth century to release themselves from feudal oppression and
violence. Cambrai, Beauvais, Amiens, Soissons, Rheims, Vezelay, and
several other towns displayed at this period a great deal of energy and
perseverance in bringing their lords to recognize the most natural and
the most necessary rights of every human creature and community. But
within their walls dissensions were carried to extremity, and existence
was ceaselessly tempestuous and troublous; the burghers were hasty,
brutal, and barbaric,--as barbaric as the lords against whom they were
defending their liberties. Amongst those mayors, sheriffs, jurats, and
magistrates of different degrees and with different titles, set up in the
communes, many came before very long to exercise dominion arbitrarily,
violently, and in their own personal interests. The lower orders were in
an habitual state of jealousy and sedition of a ruffianly kind towards
the rich, the heads of the labor market, the controllers of capital and
of work. This reciprocal violence, this anarchy, these internal evils
and dangers, with their incessant renewals, called incessantly for
intervention from without; and when, after releasing themselves from
oppression and iniquity coming from above, the burghers fell a prey to
pillage and massacre coming from below, they sought for a fresh protector
to save them from this fresh evil. Hence that frequent recourse to the
king, the great suzerain whose authority could keep down the bad
magistrates of the commune or reduce the mob to order; and hence also,
before long, the progressive downfall, or, at any rate, the utter
enfeeblement of those communal liberties so painfully won. France was at
that stage of existence and of civilization at which security can hardly
be purchased save at the price of liberty. We have a phenomenon peculiar
to modern times in the provident and persistent effort to reconcile
security with liberty, and the bold development of individual powers with
the regular maintenance of public order. This admirable solution of the
social problem, still so imperfect and unstable in our time, was unknown
in the middle ages; liberty was then so stormy and so fearful, that
people conceived before long, if not a disgust for it, at any rate a
horror of it, and sought at any price a political regimen which would
give them some security, the essential aim of the social estate. When we
arrive at the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth
century, we see a host of communes falling into decay or entirely
disappearing; they cease really to belong to and govern themselves; some,
like Laon, Cambrai, Beauvais, and Rheims, fought a long while against
decline, and tried more than once to re-establish themselves in all their
independence; but they could not do without the king's support in their
resistance to their lords, laic or ecclesiastical; and they were not in a
condition to resist the kingship, which had grown whilst they were
perishing. Others, Meulan and Soissons, for example (in 1320 and 1335),
perceived their weakness early, and themselves requested the kingship to
deliver them from their communal organization, and itself assume their
administration. And so it is about this period, under St. Louis and
Philip the Handsome, that there appear in the collections of acts of the
French kingship, those great ordinances which regulate the administration
of all communes within the kingly domains. Hitherto the kings had
ordinarily dealt with each town severally; and as the majority were
almost independent, or invested with privileges of different kiwis and
carefully respected, neither the king nor any great suzerain dreamed of
prescribing general rules for communal regimen, nor of administering
after a uniform fashion all the communes in their domains. It was under
St. Louis and Philip the Handsome that general regulations on this
subject began. The French communes were associations too small and too
weak to suffice for self-maintenance and self-government amidst the
disturbances of the great Christian community; and they were too numerous
and too little enlightened to organize themselves into one vast
confederation, capable of giving them a central government. The communal
liberties were not in a condition to found in France a great republican
community; to the kingship appertained the power and fell the honor of
presiding over the formation and the fortunes of the French nation.

But the kingship did not alone accomplish this great work. At the very
time that the communes were perishing and the kingship was growing, a new
power, a new social element, the Third Estate, was springing up in
France; and it was called to take a far more important place in the
history of France, and to exercise far more influence upon the fate of
the French father-land, than it had been granted to the communes to
acquire during their short and incoherent existence.

It may astonish many who study the records of French history from the
eleventh to the fourteenth century, not to find anywhere the words third
estate; and a desire may arise to know whether those inquirers of our day
who have devoted themselves professedly to this particular study, have
been more successful in discovering that grand term at the time when it
seems that we ought to expect to meet with it. The question was,
therefore, submitted to a learned member of the _Academie des
Inscriptions et Belles-lettres,_ M. Littre, in fact, whose _Dictionnaire
etymologique de la Langur Francaise_ is consulted with respect by the
whole literary world, and to a young magistrate, M. Picot, to whom the
_Acacdemie des Sciences morales et politiques_ but lately assigned the
first prize for his great work on the question it had propounded, as to
the history and influence of states-general in France; and here are
inserted, textually, the answers given by two gentlemen of so much
enlightenment and authority upon such a subject.

M. Littre, writing on the 3d of October, 1871, says, "I do not find, in
my account of the word, third estate before the sixteenth century. I
quote these two instances of it: 'As to the third order called third
estate . . .' (_La Noue, Discours,_ p. 541); and 'clerks and deputies
for the third estate, same for the estate of labor (laborers).'
(_Coustumier general,_ t. i. p. 335.) In the fifteenth century, or at
the end of the fourteenth, in the poems of Eustace Deschamps, I have--

'_Prince, dost thou yearn for good old times again?
In good old ways the Three Estates restrain._'

"At date of fourteenth century, in Du Cange, we read under the word
status, '_Per tres status concilii generalis Praelatorum, Baronum,
nobilium et universitatum comitatum._' According to these documents, I
think it is in the fourteenth century that they began to call the three
orders _tres status_, and that it was only in the sixteenth century that
they began to speak in French of the _tiers estat_ (third estate). But I
cannot give this conclusion as final, seeing that it is supported only by
the documents I consulted for my dictionary."

M. Picot replied on the 3d of October, 1871, "It is certain that acts
contemporary with King John frequently speak of the 'three estates,' but
do not utter the word _tiers-etat_ (third estate). The great chronicles
and Froissart say nearly always, 'the church-men, the nobles, and the
good towns.' The royal ordinances employ the same terms; but sometimes,
in order not to limit their enumeration to the deputies of closed cities,
they add, _the good towns, and the open country_ (Ord. t. iii p. 221,
note). When they apply to the provincial estates of the _Oil_ tongue it
is the custom to say, the burghers and inhabitants; when it is a question
of the Estates of Languedoc, the commonalties of the seneschalty. Such
were, in the middle of the fourteenth century, the only expressions for
designating the third order.

"Under Louis XI., Juvenal des Ursins, in his harangue, addresses the
deputies of the third by the title of _burghers and inhabitants of the
good towns_. At the States of Tours, the spokesman of the estates, John
de Rely, says, _the people of the common estate, the estate of the
people_. The special memorial presented to Charles VIII. by the three
orders of Languedoc likewise uses the word _people_.

"It is in Masselin's report and the memorial of grievances presented in
1485 that I meet for the first time with the expression third estate
(_tiers-etat_). Masselin says, 'It was decided that each section should
furnish six commissioners, two ecclesiastics, two nobles, and two of the
third estate (_duos ecclesiasticos, duos nobiles, et duos tertii
status._)' (_Documents inedits sur l'Histoire de France; proces-verbal de
Masselin,_ p. 76.) The commencement of the chapter headed _Of the Commons
(du commun)_ is, 'For the third and common estate the said folks do
represent . . .' and a few lines lower, comparing the kingdom with the
human body, the compilers of the memorial say, 'The members are the
clergy, the nobles, and the folks of the third estate. (_Ibid. after
the report of Masselin, memorial of grievances,_ p. 669.)

"Thus, at the end of the fifteenth century, the expression third estate
was constantly employed; but is it not of older date? There are words
which spring so from the nature of things that they ought to be
contemporaneous with the ideas they express; their appearance in language
is inevitable, and is scarcely noticed there. On the day when the
deputies of the communes entered an assembly, and seated themselves
beside the first two orders, the new comer, by virtue of the situation
and rank occupied, took the name of third order; and as our fathers used
to speak of the third denier (_tiers denier_), and the third day (_tierce
journee_), so they must have spoken of the (_tiers-etat_) third estate.
It was only at the end of the fifteenth century that the expression
became common; but I am inclined to believe that it existed in the
beginning of the fourteenth.

"For an instant I had imagined, in the course of my researches, that,
under King John, the ordinances had designated the good towns by the name
of third estate. I very soon saw my mistake; but you will see how near I
found myself to the expression of which we are seeking the origin. Four
times, in the great ordinance of December, 1335, the deputies wrest from
the king a promise that in the next assemblies the resolutions shall be
taken according to the unanimity of the orders 'without two estates, if
they be of one accord, being able to bind the _third._' At first sight it
might be supposed that the deputies of the towns had an understanding to
secure themselves from the dangers of common action on the part of the
clergy and noblesse, but a more attentive examination made me fly back to
a more correct opinion: it is certain that the three orders had combined
for mutual protection against an alliance of any two of them. Besides,
the States of 1576 saw how the clergy readopted to their profit, against
the two laic orders, the proposition voted in 1355. It is beyond a doubt
that this doctrine served to keep the majority from oppressing the
minority whatever may have been its name. Only, in point of fact, it was
most frequently the third estate that must have profited by the

"In brief, we may, before the fifteenth century, make suppositions, but
they are no more than mere conjectures. It was at the great States of
Tours, in 1468, that, for the first time, the third order bore the name
which has been given to it by history."

The fact was far before its name. Had the third estate been centred
entirely in the communes at strife with their lords, had the fate of
burgherdom in France depended on the communal liberties won in that
strife, we should see, at the end of the thirteenth century, that element
of French society in a state of feebleness and decay. But it was far
otherwise. The third estate drew its origin and nourishment from all
sorts of sources; and whilst one was within an ace of drying up, the
others remained abundant and fruitful. Independently of the commune
properly so called and invested with the right of self-government, many
towns had privileges, serviceable though limited franchises, and under
the administration of the king's officers they grew in population and
wealth. These towns did not share, towards the end of the thirteenth
century, in the decay of the once warlike and victorious communes. Local
political liberty was to seek in them; the spirit of independence and
resistance did not prevail in them; but we see growing up in them another
spirit which has played a grand part in French history, a spirit of
little or no ambition, of little or no enterprise, timid even and
scarcely dreaming of actual resistance, but honorable, inclined to order,
persevering, attached to its traditional franchises, and quite able to
make them respected, sooner or later. It was especially in the towns
administered in the king's name and by his provosts that there was a
development of this spirit, which has long been the predominant
characteristic of French burgherdom. It must not be supposed that, in
the absence of real communal independence, these towns lacked all
internal security. The kingship was ever fearful lest its local officers
should render themselves independent, and remembered what had become in
the ninth century of the crown's offices, the duchies and the countships,
and of the difficulty it had at that time to recover the scattered
remnants of the old imperial authority. And so the Capetian kings with
any intelligence, such as Louis VI., Philip Augustus, St. Louis, and
Philip the Handsome, were careful to keep a hand over their provosts,
sergeants, and officers of all kinds, in order that their power should
not grow so great as to become formidable. At this time, besides,
Parliament and the whole judicial system was beginning to take form; and
many questions relating to the administration of the towns, many disputes
between the provosts and burghers, were carried before the Parliament of
Paris, and there decided with more independence and equity than they
would have been by any other power. A certain measure of impartiality is
inherent in judicial power; the habit of delivering judgment according to
written texts, of applying laws to facts, produces a natural and almost
instinctive respect for old-acquired rights. In Parliament the towns
often obtained justice and the maintenance of their franchises against
the officers of the king. The collection of kingly ordinances at this
time abounds with instances of the kind. These judges, besides, these
bailiffs, these provosts, these seneschals, and all these officers of the
king or of the great suzerains, formed before long a numerous and
powerful class. Now the majority amongst them were burghers, and their
number and their power were turned to the advantage of burgherdom, and
led day by day to its further extension and importance. Of all the
original sources of the third estate, this it is, perhaps, which has
contributed most to bring about the social preponderance of that order.
Just when burgherdom, but lately formed, was losing in many of the
communes a portion of its local liberties, at that same moment it was
seizing by the hand of Parliaments, provosts, judges, and administrators
of all kinds, a large share of central power. It was through burghers
admitted into the king's service and acting as administrators or judges
in his name that communal independence and charters were often attacked
and abolished; but at the same time they fortified and elevated
burgherdom, they caused it to acquire from day to day more wealth, more
credit, more importance and power in the internal and external affairs of
the state.

Philip the Handsome, that ambitious and despotic prince, was under no
delusion when in 1302, 1308, and 1314, on convoking the first states-
general of France, he summoned thither "the deputies of the good towns."
He did not yet give them the name of third estate; but he was perfectly
aware that he was thus summoning to his aid against Boniface VIII. and
the Templars and the Flemings a class already invested throughout the
country with great influence and ready to lend him efficient support.
His son, Philip the Long, was under no delusion when in 1317 and 1321 he
summoned to the states-general "the commonalties and good towns of the
kingdom "to decide upon the interpretation of the Salle law as to the
succession to the throne, "or to advise as to the means of establishing a
uniformity of coins, weights, and measures;" he was perfectly aware that
the authority of burgherdom would be of great assistance to him in the
accomplishment of acts so grave. And the three estates played the
prelude to the formation, painful and slow as it was, of constitutional
monarchy, when, in 1338, under Philip of Valois, they declared, "in
presence of the said king, Philip of Valois, who assented thereto, that
there should be no power to impose or levy talliage in France if urgent
necessity or evident utility did not require it, and then only by grant
of the people of the estates."

In order to properly understand the French third estate and its
importance, more is required than to look on at its birth; a glance must
be taken at its grand destiny and the results at which it at last
arrived. Let us, therefore, anticipate centuries and get a glimpse, now
at once, of that upon which the course of events from the fourteenth to
the nineteenth century will shed full light.

Taking the history of France in its entirety and under all its phases,
the third estate has been the most active and determining element in the
process of Freneh civilization. If we follow it in its relation with the
general government of the country, we see it at first allied for six
centuries to the kingship, struggling without cessation against the
feudal aristocracy and giving predominance in place thereof to a single
central power, pure monarchy, closely bordering, though with some
frequently repeated but rather useless reservations, on absolute
monarchy. But, so soon as it had gained this victory and brought about
this revolution, the third estate went in pursuit of a new one, attacking
that single power to the foundation of which it had contributed so much
and entering upon the task of changing pure monarchy into constitutional
monarchy. Under whatever aspect we regard it during these two great
enterprises, so different one from the other, whether we study the
progressive formation of French society or that of its government, the
third estate is the most powerful and the most persistent of the forces
which have influenced French civilization.

This fact is unique in the history of the world. We recognize in the
career of the chief nations of Asia and ancient Europe nearly all the
great facts which have agitated France; we meet in them mixture of
different races, conquest of people by people, immense inequality between
classes, frequent changes in the forms of government and extent of public
power; but nowhere is there any appearance of a class which, starting
from the very lowest, from being feeble, despised, and almost
imperceptible at its origin, rises by perpetual motion and by labor
without respite, strengthens itself from period to period, acquires in
succession whatever it lacked, wealth, enlightenment, influence, changes
the face of society and the nature of government, and arrives at last at
such a pitch of predominance that it may be said to be absolutely the
country. More than once in the world's history the external semblances
of such and such a society have been the same as those which have just
been reviewed here, but it is mere semblance. In India, for example,
foreign invasions and the influx and establishment of different races
upon the same soil have occurred over and over again; but with what
result? The permanence of caste has not been touched; and society has
kept its divisions into distinct and almost changeless classes. After
India take China. There too history exhibits conquests similar to the
conquest of Europe by the Germans; and there too, more than once, the
barbaric conquerors settled amidst a population of the conquered. What
was the result? The conquered all but absorbed the conquerors, and
changelessness was still the predominant characteristic of the social
condition. In Western Asia, after the invasions of the Turks, the
separation between victors and vanquished remained insurmountable; no
ferment in the heart of society, no historical event, could efface this
first effect of conquest. In Persia, similar events succeeded one
another; different races fought and intermingled; and the end was
irremediable social anarchy, which has endured for ages without any
change in the social condition of the country, without a shadow of any
development of civilization.

So much for Asia. Let us pass to the Europe of the Greeks and Romans.
At the first blush we seem to recognize some analogy between the progress
of these brilliant societies and that of French society; but the analogy
is only apparent; there is, once more, nothing resembling the fact and
the history of the French third estate. One thing only has struck sound
judgments as being somewhat like the struggle of burgherdom in the middle
ages against the feudal aristocracy, and that is the struggle between the
plebeians and patricians at Rome. They have often been compared; but it
is a baseless comparison. The struggle between the plebeians and
patricians commenced from the very cradle of the Roman republic; it was
not, as happened in the France of the middle ages, the result of a slow,
difficult, incomplete development on the part of a class which, through a
long course of great inferiority in strength, wealth, and credit, little
by little extended itself and raised itself, and ended by engaging in a
real contest with the superior class. It is now acknowledged that the
struggle at Rome between the plebeians and patricians was a sequel and a
prolongation of the war of conquest, was an effort on the part of the
aristocracy of the cities conquered by Rome to share the rights of the
conquering aristocracy. The families of plebeians were the chief
families of the vanquished peoples; and though placed by defeat in a
position of inferiority, they were not any the less aristocratic
families, powerful but lately in their own cities, encompassed by
clients, and calculated from the very first to dispute with their
conquerors the possession of power. There is nothing in all this like
that slow, obscure, heart-breaking travail of modern burgherdom escaping,
full hardly, from the midst of slavery or a condition approximating to
slavery, and spending centuries, not in disputing political power, but in
winning its own civil existence. The more closely the French third
estate is examined, the more it is recognized as a new fact in the
world's history, appertaining exclusively to the civilization of modern,
Christian Europe.

Not only is the fact new, but it has for France an entirely special
interest, since--to employ an expression much abused in the present day--
it is a fact eminently French, essentially national. Nowhere has
burgherdom had so wide and so productive a career as that which fell to
its lot in France. There have been communes in the whole of Europe, in
Italy, Spain, Germany, and England, as well as in France. Not only have
there been communes everywhere, but the communes of France are not those
which, as communes, under that name and in the middle ages, have played
the chiefest part and taken the highest place in history. The Italian
communes were the parents of glorious republics. The German communes
became free and sovereign towns, which had their own special history, and
exercised a great deal of influence upon the general history of Germany.
The communes of England made alliance with a portion of the English
feudal aristocracy, formed with it the preponderating house in the
British government, and thus played, full early, a mighty part in the
history of their country. Far were the French communes, under that name
and in their day of special activity, from rising to such political
importance and to such historical rank. And yet it is in France that the
people of the communes, the burgherdom, reached the most complete and
most powerful development, and ended by acquiring the most decided
preponderance in the general social structure. There have been communes,
we say, throughout Europe; but there has not really been a victorious
third estate anywhere, save in France. The revolution of 1789, the
greatest ever seen, was the culminating point arrived at by the third
estate; and France is the only country in which a man of large mind
could, in a burst of burgher's pride, exclaim, "What is the third estate?

Since the explosion, and after all the changes, liberal and illiberal,
due to the revolution of 1789, there has been a common-place, ceaselessly
repeated, to the effect that there are no more classes in French society
--there is only a nation of thirty-seven millions of persons. If it be
meant that there are now no more privileges in France, no special laws
and private rights for such and such families, proprietorships, and
occupations, and that legislation is the same, and there is perfect
freedom of movement for all, at all steps of the social ladder, it is
true; oneness of laws and similarity of rights, is now the essential and
characteristic fact of civil society in France, an immense, an excellent,
and a novel fact in the history of human associations. But beneath the
dominance of this fact, in the midst of this national unity and this
civil equality, there evidently and necessarily exist numerous and
important diversities and inequalities, which oneness of laws and
similarity of rights neither prevent nor destroy. In point of property,
real or personal, land or capital, there are rich and poor; there are the
large, the middling, and the small property. Though the great
proprietors may be less numerous and less rich, and the middling and the
small proprietors more numerous and more powerful than they were of yore,
this does not prevent the difference from being real and great enough to
create, in the civil body, social positions widely different and unequal.
In the professions which are called liberal, and which live by brains and
knowledge, amongst barristers, doctors, scholars, and literates of all
kinds, some rise to the first rank, attract to themselves practice and
success, and win fame, wealth, and influence; others make enough, by hard
work, for the necessities of their families and the calls of their
position; others vegetate obscurely in a sort of lazy discomfort. In the
other vocations, those in which the labor is principally physical and
manual, there also it is according to nature that there should be
different and unequal positions; some, by brains and good conduct, make
capital, and get a footing upon the ways of competence and progress;
others, being dull, or idle, or disorderly, remain in the straitened and
precarious condition of existence depending solely on wages. Throughout
the whole extent of the social structure, in the ranks of labor as well
as of property, differences and inequalities of position are produced or
kept up and co-exist with oneness of laws and similarity of rights.
Examine any human associations, in any place and at any time, and
whatever diversity there may be in point of their origin, organization,
government, extent, and duration, there will be found in all three types
of social position always fundamentally the same, though they may appear
under different and differently distributed forms; 1st, men living on
income from their properties, real or personal, land or capital, without
seeking to increase them by their own personal and assiduous labor; 2d,
men devoted to working up and increasing, by their own personal and
assiduous labor, the real or personal properties, land or capital they
possess; 3d, men living by their daily labor, without land or capital to
give them an income. And these differences, these inequalities in the
social position of men, are not matters of accident or violence, or
peculiar to such and such a time, or such and such a country; they are
matters of universal application, produced spontaneously in every human
society by virtue of the primitive and general laws of human nature, in
the midst of events and under the influence of social systems utterly

These matters exist now and in France as they did of old and elsewhere.
Whether you do or do not use the name of classes, the new French social
fabric contains, and will not cease to contain, social positions widely
different and unequal. What constitutes its blessing and its glory is,
that privilege and fixity no longer cling to this difference of
positions; that there are no more special rights and advantages legally
assigned to some and inacessible to others; that all roads are free and
open to all to rise to everything; that personal merit and toil have an
infinitely greater share than was ever formerly allowed to them in the
fortunes of men. The third estate of the old regimen exists no more; it
disappeared in its victory over privilege and absolute power; it has for
heirs the middle classes, as they are now called; but these classes,
whilst inheriting the conquests of the old third estate, hold them on new
conditions also, as legitimate as binding. To secure their own
interests, as well as to discharge their public duty, they are bound to
be at once conservative and liberal; they must, on the one hand, enlist
and rally beneath their flag the old, once privileged superioritics,
which have survived the fall of the old regimen, and, on the other hand,
fully recognize the continual upward movement which is fermenting in the
whole body of the nation. That, in its relations with the aristocratic
classes, the third estate of the old regimen should have been and for a
long time remained uneasy, disposed to take umbrage, jealous and even
envious, is no more than natural; it had its rights to urge and its
conquests to gain; nowadays its conquests have been won, the rights are
recognized, proclaimed, and exercised; the middle classes have no longer
any legitimate ground for uneasiness or envy; they can rest with full
confidence in their own dignity and their own strength; they have
undergone all the necessary trials, and passed all the necessary tests.
In respect of the lower orders, and the democracy properly so called, the
position of the middle classes is no less favorable; they have no fixed
line of separation; for who can say where the middle classes begin and
where they end? In the name of the principles of common rights and
general liberty they were formed; and by the working of the same
principles they are being constantly recruited, and are incessantly
drawing new vigor from the sources whence they sprang. To maintain
common rights and free movement upwards against the retrograde tendencies
of privilege and absolute power, on the one hand, and on the other
against the insensate and destructive pretensions of levellers and
anarchists, is now the double business of the middle classes; and it is
at the same time, for themselves, the sure way of preserving
preponderance in the state, in the name of general interests, of which
those classes are the most real and most efficient representatives.

On reaching, in our history, the period at which Philip the Handsome, by
giving admission amongst the states-general to the "burghers of the good
towns," substituted the third estate for the communes, and the united
action of the three great classes of Frenchmen for their local struggles,
we did well to halt a while, in order clearly to mark the position and
part of the new actor in the great drama of national life. We will now
return to the real business of the drama, that is, to the history of
France, which became, in the fourteenth century, more complex, more
tragic, and more grand than it had ever yet been.


We have just been spectators at the labor of formation of the French
kingship and the French nation. We have seen monarchical unity and
national unity rising, little by little, out of and above the feudal
system, which had been the first result of barbarians settling upon the
ruins of the Roman empire. In the fourteenth century, a new and a vital
question arose: Will the French dominion preserve its nationality? Will
the kingship remain French, or pass to the foreigner? This question
brought ravages upon France, and kept her fortunes in suspense for a
hundred years of war with England, from the reign of Philip of Valois to
that of Charles VII.; and a young girl of Lorraine, called Joan of Arc,
had the glory of communicating to France that decisive impulse which
brought to a triumphant issue the independence of the French nation and

As we have seen in the preceding chapter, the elevation of Philip of
Valois to the throne, as representative of the male line amongst the
descendants of Hugh Capet, took place by virtue, not of any old written
law, but of a traditional right, recognized and confirmed by two recent
resolutions taken at the death of the two eldest sons of Philip the
Handsome. The right thus promulgated became at once a fact accepted by
the whole of France; Philip of Valois had for rival none but a foreign
prince, and "there was no mind in France," say contemporary chroniclers,
"to be subjects of the King of England." Some weeks after his accession,
on the 29th of May, 1328, Philip was crowned at Rheims, in presence of a
brilliant assemblage of princes and lords, French and foreign; and next
year, on the 6th of June, Edward III., King of England, being summoned to
fulfil a vassal's duties by doing homage to the King of France for the
duchy of Aquitaine, which he held, appeared in the cathedral of Amiens,
with his crown on his head, his sword at his side, and his gilded spurs
on his heels. When he drew near to the throne, the Viscount de Melun,
king's chamberlain, invited him to lay aside his crown, his sword, and
his spurs, and go down on his knees before Philip. Not without a murmur,
Edward obeyed; but when the chamberlain said to him, "Sir, you, as Duke
of Aquitaine, became liegeman of my lord the king who is here, and do
promise to keep towards him faith and loyalty," Edward protested, saying
that he owed only simple homage, and not liege-homage--a closer bond,
imposing on the vassal more stringent obligations [to serve and defend
his suzerain against every enemy whatsoever]. "Cousin," said Philip to
him, "we would not deceive you, and what you have now done contenteth us
well until you have returned to your own country, and seen from the acts
of your predecessors what you ought to do."

[Illustration: Homage of Edward III. to Philip VI.----250]

"Gramercy, dear sir," answered the King of England; and with the
reservation he had just made, and which was added to the formula of
homage, he placed his hands between the hands of the King of France, who
kissed him on the mouth, and accepted his homage, confiding in Edward's
promise to certify himself by reference to the archives of England of the
extent to which his ancestors had been bound. The certification took
place, and on the 30th of March, 1331, about two years after his visit to
Amiens, Edward III. recognized, by letters express, "that the said homage
which we did at Amiens to the King of France in general terms, is and
must be understood as liege; and that we are bound, as Duke of Aquitaine
and peer of France, to show him faith and loyalty."

The relations between the two kings were not destined to be for long
so courteous and so pacific. Even before the question of the succession
to the throne of France arose between them they had adopted contrary
policies. When Philip was crowned at Rheims, Louis de Nevers, Count of
Flanders, repaired thither with a following of eighty-six knights, and he
it was to whom the right belonged of carrying the sword of the kingdom.
The heralds-at-arms repeated three times, "Count of Flanders, if you are
here, come and do your duty." He made no answer. The king was
astounded, and bade him explain himself. "My lord," answered the count,
"may it please you not to be astounded; they called the Count of
Flanders, and not Louis de Nevers." "What then!" replied the king; "are
you not the Count of Flanders?" "It is true, sir," rejoined the other,
"that I bear the name, but I do not possess the authority; the burghers
of Bruges, Ypres, and Cassel have driven me from my land, and there
scarce remains but the town of Ghent where I dare show myself." "Fair
cousin," said Philip, we will swear to you by the holy oil which hath
this day trickled over our brow that we will not enter Paris again before
seeing you reinstated in peaceable possession of the countship of
Flanders." Some of the French barons who happened to be present
represented to the king that the Flemish burghers were powerful; that
autumn was a bad season for a war in their country; and that Louis the
Quarreller, in 1315, had been obliged to come to a stand-still in a
similar expedition. Philip consulted his constable, Walter de Chatillon,
who had served the kings his predecessors in their wars against Flanders.
"Whoso hath good stomach for fight," answered the constable, "findeth all
times seasonable." "Well, then," said the king, embracing him, "whoso
loveth me will follow me." The war thus resolved upon was forthwith
begun. Philip, on arriving with his army before Cassel, found the place
defended by sixteen thousand Flemings under the command of Nicholas
Zannequin, the richest of the burghers of Furnes, and already renowned
for his zeal in the insurrection against the count. For several days the
French remained inactive around the mountain on which Cassel is built,
and which the knights, mounted on iron-clad horses, were unable to scale.
The Flemings had planted on a tower of Cassel a flag carrying a cock,
with this inscription:--

"When the cock that is hereon shall crow,
The foundling king herein shall go."

They called Philip the foundling king because he had no business to
expect to be king. Philip in his wrath gave up to fire and pillage the
outskirts of the place. The Flemings marshalled at the top of the
mountain made no movement. On the 24th of August, 1328, about three in
the afternoon, the French knights had disarmed. Some were playing at
chess; others "strolled from tent to tent in their fine robes, in search
of amusement; "and the king was asleep in his tent after a long carouse,
when all on a sudden his confessor, a Dominican friar, shouted out that
the Flemings were attacking the camp. Zannequin, indeed, "came out full
softly and without a bit of noise," says Froissart, with his troops in
three divisions, to surprise the French camp at three points. He was
quite close to the king's tent, and some chroniclers say that he was
already lifting his mace over the head of Philip, who had armed in hot
haste, and was defended only by a few knights, of whom one was waving the
oriflamme round him, when others hurried up, and Zannequiii was forced to
stay his hand. At two other points of the camp the attack had failed.
The French gathered about the king and the Flemings about Zannequin; and
there took place so stubborn a fight, that "of sixteen thousand Flemings
who were there not one recoiled," says Froissart, "and all were left
there dead and slain in three heaps one upon another, without budging
from the spot where the battle had begun." The same evening Philip
entered Cassel, which he set on fire, and, in a few days afterwards, on
leaving for France, he said to Count Louis, before the French barons,
Count, I have worked for you at my own and my barons' expense; I give you
back your land, recovered and in peace; so take care that justice be kept
up in it, and that I have not, through your fault, to return; for if I
do, it will be to my own profit and to your hurt."

The Count of Flanders was far from following the advice of the King of
France, and the King of France was far from foreseeing whither he would
be led by the road upon which he had just set foot. It has already been
pointed out to what a position of wealth, population, and power,
industrial and commercial activity had in the thirteenth century raised
the towns of Flanders, Bruges, Ghent, Lille, Ypres, Fumes, Courtrai, and
Douai, and with what energy they had defended against their lords their
prosperity and their liberties. It was the struggle, sometimes sullen,
sometimes violent, of feudal lordship against municipal burgherdom. The
able and imperious Philip the Handsome had tested the strength of the
Flemish cities, and had not cared to push them to extremity. When, in
1322, Count Louis de Nevers, scarcely eighteen years of age, inherited
from his grandfather Robert III. the countship of Flanders, he gave
himself up, in respect of the majority of towns in the countship, to the
same course of oppression and injustice as had been familiar to his
predecessors; the burghers resisted him with the same, often ruffianly,
energy; and when, after a six years' struggle amongst Flemings, the Count
of Flanders, who had been conquered by the burghers, owed his return as
master of his countship to the King of the French, he troubled himself
about nothing but avenging himself and enjoying his victory at the
expense of the vanquished. He chastised, despoiled, proscribed, and
inflicted atrocious punishments; and, not content with striking at
individuals, he attacked the cities themselves. Nearly all of them,
save Ghent, which had been favorable to the count, saw their privileges
annulled or curtailed of their most essential guarantees. The burghers
of Bruges were obliged to meet the count half way to his castle of Vale,
and on their knees implore his pity. At Ypres the bell in the tower was
broken up. Philip of Valois made himself a partner in these severities;
he ordered the fortifications of Bruges, Ypres, and Courtrai to be
destroyed, and he charged French agents to see to their demolition.
Absolute power is often led into mistakes by its insolence; but when it
is in the hands of rash and reckless mediocrity, there is no knowing how
clumsy and blind it can be. Neither the King of France nor the Count of
Flanders seemed to remember that the Flemish communes had at their door a
natural and powerful ally who could not do without them any more than
they could do without him. Woollen stuffs, cloths, carpets, warm
coverings of every sort were the chief articles of the manufactures and
commerce of Flanders; there chiefly was to be found all that the active
and enterprising merchants of the time exported to Sweden, Norway,
Hungary, Russia, and even Asia; and it was from England that they chiefly
imported their wool, the primary staple of their handiwork. "All
Flanders," says Froissart, "was based upon cloth and no wool, no cloth."
On the other hand it was to Flanders that England, her land-owners and
farmers, sold the fleeces of their flocks; and the two countries were
thus united by the bond of their mutual prosperity. The Count of
Flanders forgot or defied this fact so far as in 1336, at the
instigation, it is said, of the King of France, to have all the English
in Flanders arrested and kept in prison. Reprisals were not long
deferred. On the 5th of October in the same year the King of England
ordered the arrest of all Flemish merchants in his kingdom and the
seizure of their goods; and he at the same time prohibited the
exportation of wool. "Flanders was given over," says her principal
historian, "to desolation; nearly all her looms ceased rattling on one
and the same day, and the streets of her cities, but lately filled with
rich and busy workmen, were overrun with beggars who asked in vain for
work to escape from misery and hunger." The English land-owners and
farmers did not suffer so much, but were scarcely less angered; only it
was to the King of France and the Count of Flanders rather than their own
king that they held themselves indebted for the stagnation of their
affairs, and their discontent sought vent only in execration of the

When great national interests are to such a point misconceived and
injured, there crop up, before long, clear-sighted and bold men who
undertake the championship of them, and foment the quarrel to
explosion-heat, either from personal views or patriotic feeling.
The question of succession to the throne of France seemed settled by the
inaction of the King of England, and the formal homage he had come and
paid to the King of France at Amiens; but it was merely in abeyance.
Many people both in England and in France still thought of it and spoke
of it; and many intrigues bred of hope or fear were kept up with
reference to it at the courts of the two kings. When the rumblings of
anger were loud on both sides in consequence of affairs in Flanders, two
men of note, a Frenchman and a Fleming, considering that the hour had
come, determined to revive the question, and turn the great struggle
which could not fail to be excited thereby to the profit of their own and
their countries' cause, for it is singular how ambition and devotion,
selfishness and patriotism, combine and mingle in the human soul, and
even in great souls.

Philip VI. had embroiled himself with a prince of his line, Robert of
Artois, great-grandson of Robert the first Count of Artois, who was a
brother of St. Louis, and was killed during the crusade in Egypt, at the
battle of Mansourah. As early as the reign of Philip the Handsome Robert
claimed the count-ship of Artois as his heritage; but having had his
pretensions rejected by a decision of the peers of the kingdom, he had
hoped for more success under Philip of Valois, whose sister he had
married. Philip tried to satisfy him with another domain raised to a
peerage; but Robert, more and more discontented, got involved in a series
of intrigues, plots, falsehoods, forgeries, and even, according to public
report, imprisonments and crimes, which, in 1332, led to his being
condemned by the court of peers to banishment and the confiscation of
his property. He fled for refuge first to Brabant, and then to England,
to the court of Edward III., who received him graciously, and whom he
forthwith commenced inciting to claim the crown of France, "his
inheritance," as he said, "which King Philip holds most wrongfully."
Edward III., who was naturally prudent, and had been involved, almost
ever since his accession, in a stubborn war with Scotland, cared but
little for rushing into a fresh and far more serious enterprise. But of
all human passions hatred is perhaps the most determined in the
prosecution of its designs. Robert accompanied the King of England in
his campaigns northward; and "Sir," said he, whilst they were marching
together over the heaths of Scotland, "leave this poor country, and give
your thoughts to the noble crown of France." When Edward, on returning
to London, was self-complacently rejoicing at his successes over his
neighbors, Robert took pains to pique his self-respect, by expressing
astonishment that he did not seek more practical and more brilliant
successes. Poetry sometimes reveals sentiments and processes about which
history is silent. We read in a poem of the fourteenth century, entitled
The vow on the heron, "In the season when summer is verging upon its
decline, and the gay birds are forgetting their sweet converse on the
trees, now despoiled of their verdure, Robert seeks for consolation in
the pleasures of fowling, for he cannot forget the gentle land of France,
the glorious country whence he is an exile. He carries a falcon, which
goes flying over the waters till a heron falls its prey; then he calls
two young damsels to take the bird to the king's palace, singing the
while in sweet discourse: 'Fly, fly, ye honorless knights; give place to
gallants on whom love smiles; here is the dish for gallants who are
faithful to their mistresses. The heron is the most timid of birds, for
it fears its own shadow; it is for the heron to receive the vows of King
Edward, who, though lawful King of France, dares not claim that noble
heritage.' At these words the king flushed, his heart was wroth, and he
cried aloud, 'Since coward is thrown in my teeth, I make vow [on this
heron] to the God of Paradise that ere a single year rolls by I will defy
the King of Paris.' Count Robert hears and smiles; and low to his own
heart he says, 'Now have I won: and my heron will cause a great war.'"

Robert's confidence in this tempter's work of his was well founded, but a
little premature. Edward III. did not repel him; complained loudly of
the assistance rendered by the King of France to the Scots; gave an
absolute refusal to Philip's demands for the extradition of the rebel
Robert, and retorted by protesting, in his turn, against the reception
accorded in France to David Bruce, the rival of his own favorite Baliol
for the throne of Scotland. In Aquitaine he claimed as of his own domain
some places still occupied by Philip. Philip, on his side, neglected no
chance of causing Edward embarrassment, and more or less overtly
assisting his foes. The two kings were profoundly distrustful one of the
other, foresaw, both of them, that they would one day come to blows, and
prepared for it by mutually working to entangle and enfeeble one another.
But neither durst as yet proclaim his wishes or his fears, and take the
initiative in those unknown events which war must bring about to the
great peril of their people and perhaps of themselves. From 1334 to
1337, as they continued to advance towards the issue, foreseen and at the
same time deferred, of this situation, they were both of them seeking
allies in Europe for their approaching struggle. Philip had a notable
one under his thumb, the pope at that time settled at Avignon; and he
made use of him for the purpose of proposing a new crusade, in which
Edward III. should be called upon to join with him. If Edward complied,
any enterprise on his part against France would become impossible; and if
he declined, Christendom would cry fie upon him. Two successive popes,
John XXII. and Benedict XII., preached the crusade, and offered their
mediation to settle the differences between the two kings; but they were
unsuccessful in both their attempts. The two kings strained every nerve
to form laic alliances. Philip did all he could to secure to himself the
fidelity of Count Louis of Flanders, whom the King of England several
times attempted, but in vain, to win over. Philip drew into close
relations with himself the Kings of Bohemia and Navarre, the Dukes of
Lorraine and Burgundy, the Count of Foix, the Genoese, the Grand Prior of
the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and many other lords. The two
principal neighbors of Flanders, the Count of Hainault and the Duke of
Brabant, received the solicitations of both kings at one and the same
time. The former had to wife Joan of Valois, sister of the King of
France, but he had married his daughter Philippa to the King of England;
and when Edward's envoys came and asked for his support in "the great
business "which their master had in view." "If the king can succeed in
it," said the count, "I shall be right glad. It may well be supposed
that my heart is with him, him who hath my daughter, rather than with
King Philip, though I have married his sister; for he hath filched from
me the hand of the young Duke of Brabant, who should have wedded my
daughter Isabel, and hath kept him for a daughter of his own. So help
will I my dear and beloved son the King of England to the best of my
power. But he must get far stronger aid than mine, for Hainault is but a
little place in comparison with the kingdom of France, and England is too
far off to succor us." "Dear sir," said the envoys, "advise us of what
lords our master might best seek aid, and in what he might best put his
trust." "By my soul," said the count, "I could not point to lord so
powerful to aid him in this business as would be the Duke of Brabant, who
is his cousin-german, the Duke of Gueldres, who hath his sister to wife,
and Sire de Fauquemont. They are those who would have most men-at-arms
in the least time, and they are right good soldiers; provided that money
be given them in proportion, for they are lords and men who are glad of
pay." Edward III. went for powerful allies even beyond the Rhine; he
treated with Louis V. of Bavaria, Emperor of Germany; he even had a
solemn interview with him at a diet assembled at Coblenz, and Louis named
Edward vicar imperial throughout all the empire situated on the left bank
of the Rhine, with orders to all the princes of the Low Countries to
follow and obey him, for a space of seven years, in the field. But Louis
of Bavaria was a tottering emperor, excommunicated by the pope, and with
a formidable competitor in Frederick of Austria. When the time for
action arrived, King John of Bohemia, a zealous ally of the French king,
persuaded the Emperor of Germany that his dignity would be compromised if
he were to go and join the army of the English king, in whose pay he

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest