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 6

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.

with them certain alliances against me and my country, whilst making them
large offers to my prejudice. Of what is yours, sir, you may dispose
according to your pleasure; but it seems to me that you might do better
than wish to take from my hands what is mine, in order to give it to the
English or to any other foreign nation. I pray you, therefore, sir, if
such overtures have been made by your people, to be pleased not to
consent thereto in any way, but to put a stop to the whole, to the end
that I may remain your most humble servant, as I desire to be."

Louis returned no answer to this letter. He contented him-self with
sending to the commission of thirty-six notables, then in session at
Etampes for the purpose of considering the reform of the kingdom, a
request to represent to the Count of Charolais the impropriety of such
language, and to appeal for the punishment of the persons who had
suggested it to him. The count made some awkward excuses, at the same
time that he persisted in complaining of the king's obstinate pretensions
and underhand ways. A serious incident now happened, which for a while
distracted the attention of the two rivals from their mutual
recriminations. Duke Philip the Good, who had for some time past been
visibly declining in body and mind, was visited at Bruges by a stroke of
apoplexy, soon discovered to be fatal. His son, the Count of Charolais,
was at Ghent. At the first whisper of danger he mounted his horse, and
without a moment's halt arrived at Bruges on the 15th of June, 1467, and
ran to his father's room, who had already lost speech and consciousness.
"Father, father," cried the count, on his knees and sobbing, "give me
your blessing; and if I have offended you, forgive me." "My lord," added
the Bishop of Bethlehem, the dying man's confessor, "if you only hear us,
bear witness by some sign." The duke turned his eyes a little towards
his son, and seemed to feebly press his hand. This was his last effort
of life; and in the evening, after some hours of passive agony, he died.
His son flung himself upon the bed: "He shrieked, he wept, he wrung his
hands," says George Chatelain, one of the aged duke's oldest and most
trusted servants, "and for many a long day tears were mingled with all
his words every time he spoke to those who had been in the service of the
dead, so much so that every one marvelled at his immeasurable grief; it
had never heretofore been thought that he could feel a quarter of the
sorrow he showed, for he was thought to have a sterner heart, whatever
cause there might have been; but nature overcame him." Nor was it to his
son alone that Duke Philip had been so good and left so many grounds for
sorrow. "With you we lose," was the saying amongst the crowd that
followed the procession through the streets, "with you we lose our good
old duke, the best, the gentlest, the friendliest of princes, our peace
and eke our joy! Amidst such fearful storms you at last brought us out
into tranquillity and good order; you set justice on her seat and gave
free course to commerce. And now you are dead, and we are orphans!"
Many voices, it is said, added in a lower tone, "You leave us in hands
whereof the weight is unknown to us; we know not into what perils we may
be brought by the power that is to be over us, over us so accustomed to
yours, under which we, most of us, were born and grew up."

What the people were anxiously forecasting, Louis foresaw with certainty,
and took his measures accordingly. A few days after the death of Philip
the Good, several of the principal Flemish cities, Ghent first and then
Liege, rose against the new Duke of Burgundy in defence of their
liberties, already ignored or threatened. The intrigues of Louis were
not unconnected with these solicitations. He would undoubtedly have been
very glad to have seen his most formidable enemy beset, at the very
commencement of his ducal reign, by serious embarrassments, and obliged
to let the king of France settle without trouble his differences with his
brother Duke Charles of Berry, and with the Duke of Brittany. But the
new Duke of Burgundy was speedily triumphant over the Flemish
insurrections; and after these successes, at the close of the year 1467,
he was so powerful and so unfettered in his movements, that Louis might,
with good reason, fear the formation of a fresh league amongst his great
neighbors in coalition against him, and perhaps even in communication
with the English, who were ever ready to seek in France allies for the
furtherance of their attempts to regain there the fortunes wrested from
them by Joan of Arc and Charles VII. In view of such a position Louis
formed a resolution, unpalatable, no doubt, to one so jealous of his own
power, but indicative of intelligence and boldness; he confronted the
difficulties of home government in order to prevent perils from without.
The remembrance had not yet faded of the energy displayed and the
services rendered in the first part of Charles VII.'s reign by the
states-general; a wish was manifested for their resuscitation; and they
were spoken of, even in the popular doggerel, as the most effectual
remedy for the evils of the period.

"But what says Paris?"--"She is deaf and dumb."

"Dares she not speak?"--"Nor she, nor parliament."

"The clergy?"--"O! the clergy are kept mum."

"Upon your oath?"--"Yes, on the sacrament."

"The nobles, then?"--"The nobles are still worse."

"And justice?"--"Hath nor balances nor weights."

"Who, then, may hope to mitigate this curse?"

"Who? prithee, who?"--"Why, France's three estates."

"Be pleased, O prince, to grant alleviation . . ."

"To whom?"--"To the good citizen who waits . . ."

"For what?"--"The right of governing the nation . . ."

"Through whom? pray, whom?"--"Why, France's three estates."

In the face of the evil Louis felt no fear of the remedy. He summoned
the states-general to a meeting at Tours on the 1st of April, 1468.
Twenty-eight lords in person, besides representatives of several others
who were unable to be there themselves, and a hundred and ninety-two
deputies elected by sixty-four towns, met in session. The chancellor,
Juvenal des Ursins, explained, in presence of the king, the object of the
meeting: "It is to take cognizance of the differences which have arisen
between the king and Sir Charles, his brother, in respect of the duchy of
Normandy and the appanage of the said Sir Charles; likewise the great
excesses and encroachments which the Duke of Brittany hath committed
against the king by seizing his places and subjects, and making open war
upon him; and thirdly, the communication which is said to be kept up by
the Duke of Brittany with the English, in order to bring them down upon
this country, and hand over to them the places he doth hold in Normandy.
Whereupon we are of opinion that the people of the three estates should
give their good advice and council." After this official programme, the
king and his councillors withdrew. The estates deliberated during seven
or eight sessions, and came to an agreement "without any opposition or
difficulty whatever, that as touching the duchy of Normandy it ought not
to and cannot be separated from the crown in any way whatsoever, but must
remain united, annexed, and conjoined thereto inseparably. Further, any
arrangement of the Duke of Brittany with the English is a thing damnable,
pernicious, and of most evil consequences, and one which is not to be
permitted, suffered, or tolerated in any way. Lastly, if Sir Charles,
the Duke of Brittany, or others, did make war on the king our sovereign
lord, or have any treaty or connection with his enemies, the king is
bound to proceed against them who should do so, according to what must be
done in such case for the tranquillity and security of the realm
. . . . And as often soever as the said cases may occur, the people
of the estates have agreed and consented, do agree and consent, that,
without waiting for other assemblage or congregation of the estates, the
king have power to do all that comports with order and justice; the said
estates promising and agreeing to serve and aid the king touching these
matters, to obey him with all their might, and to live and die with him
in this quarrel."

Louis XI. himself could demand no more. Had they been more experienced
and far-sighted, the states-general of 1468 would not have been disposed
to resign, even temporarily, into the hands of the kingship, their rights
and their part in the government of the country; but they showed
patriotism and good sense in defending the integrity of the kingdom,
national unity, and public order against the selfish ambition and
disorderly violence of feudalism.

Fortified by their burst of attachment, Louis, by the treaty of Ancenis,
signed on the 10th of September, 1468, put an end to his differences with
Francis II., Duke of Brittany, who gave up his alliance with the house of
Burgundy, and undertook to prevail upon Duke Charles of France to accept
an arbitration for the purpose of settling, before two years were over,
the question of his territorial appanage in the place of Normandy. In
the meanwhile a pension of sixty thousand livres was to be paid by the
crown to that prince. Thus Louis was left with the new duke, Charles of
Burgundy, as the only adversary he had to face. His advisers were
divided as to the course to be taken with this formidable vassal. Was he
to be dealt with by war or by negotiation? Count de Dampmartin, Marshal
de Rouault, and nearly all the military men earnestly advised war.
"Leave it to us," they said: "we will give the king a good account of
this Duke of Burgundy. Plague upon it! what do these Burgundians mean?
They have called in the English and made alliance with them in order to
give us battle; they have handed over the country to fire and sword; they
have driven the king from his lordship. We have suffered too much; we
must have revenge; down upon them, in the name of the devil, down upon
them. The king makes a sheep of himself and bargains for his wool and
his skin, as if he had not wherewithal to defend himself. 'Sdeath! if
we were in his place, we would rather risk the whole kingdom than let
ourselves be treated in this fashion." But the king did not like to risk
the kingdom; and he had more confidence in negotiation than in war. Two
of his principal advisers, the constable De St. Pol and the cardinal De
la Balue, Bishop of Evreux, were of his opinion, and urged him to the top
of his bent. Of them he especially made use in his more or less secret
relations with the Duke of Burgundy; and he charged them to sound him
with respect to a personal interview between himself and the duke. It
has been very well remarked by M. de Barante, in his _Histoire des Dues
de Bourgogne,_ that "Louis had a great idea of the influence he gained
over people by his wits and his language; he was always convinced that
people never said what ought to be said, and that they did not set to
work the right way." It was a certain way of pleasing him to give him
promise of a success which he would owe to himself alone; and the
constable and the cardinal did not fail to do so. They found the Duke of
Burgundy very little disposed to accept the king's overtures. "By St.
George," said he, "I ask nothing but what is just and reasonable; I
desire the fulfilment of the treaties of Arras and of Conflans to which
the king has sworn. I make no war on him; it is he who is coming to make
it on me; but should he bring all the forces of his kingdom I will not
budge from here or recoil the length of my foot. My predecessors have
seen themselves in worse plight, and have not been dismayed." Neither
the constable De St. Pol nor the cardinal De la Balue said anything to
the king about this rough disposition on the part of Duke Charles; they
both in their own personal interest desired the interview, and did not
care to bring to light anything that might be an obstacle to it. Louis
persisted in his desire, and sent to ask the duke for a letter of
safe-conduct. Charles wrote with his own hand, on the 8th of October,
1468, as follows:--

"My lord, if it is your pleasure to come to this town of Peronne for
to see us, I swear to you and promise you, by my faith and on my
honor, that you may come, remain, sojourn, and go back safely to the
places of Chauny and Noy on, at your pleasure, as many times as it
may please you, freely and frankly, without any hinderance to you or
to any of your folks from me or others in any case whatever and
whatsoever may happen."

[Illustration: Charles the Rash----203]

When this letter arrived at Noyon, extreme surprise and alarm were
displayed about Louis; the interview appeared to be a mad idea; the
vicegerent (vidam) of Amiens came hurrying up with a countryman who
declared on his life that mylord of Burgundy wished for it only to make
an attempt upon the king's person; the king's greatest enemies, it was
said, were already, or soon would be, with the duke; and the captains
vehemently reiterated their objections. But Louis held to his purpose,
and started for Noyon on the 2d of October, taking with him the
constable, the cardinal, his confessor, and, for all his escort,
fourscore of his faithful Scots, and sixty men-at-arms. This knowing
gossip, as his contemporaries called him, had fits of rashness and
audacious vanity.

Duke Charles went to meet him outside the town. They embraced one
another, and returned on foot to Peronne, chatting familiarly, and the
king with his hand resting on the duke's shoulder, in token of amity.
Louis had quarters at the house of the chamberlain of the town; the
castle of Peronne being, it was said, in too bad a state, and too ill
furnished, for his reception. On the very day that the king entered
Peronne, the duke's army, commanded by the Marshal of Burgundy, arrived
from the opposite side, and encamped beneath the walls. Several former
servants of the king, now not on good terms with him, accompanied the
Burgundian army. "As soon as the king was apprised of the arrival of
these folks," says Commynes, "he had a great fright, and sent to beg of
the Duke of Burgundy that he might be lodged at the castle, seeing that
all those who had come were evil disposed towards him. The duke was very
much rejoiced thereat, had him lodged there, and stoutly assured him that
he had no cause for doubt." Next day parleys began between the
councillors of the two princes. They did not appear much disposed to
come to an understanding, and a little sourness of spirit was beginning
to show itself on both sides, when there came news which excited a grand
commotion. "King Louis, on coming to Peronne, had not considered," says
Commynes, "that he had sent two ambassadors to the folks of Liege to
excite them against the duke. Nevertheless, the said ambassadors had
advanced matters so well that they had already made a great mass (of
rebels). The Liegese came and took by surprise the town of Tongres,
wherein were the Bishop of Liege and the Lord of Humbercourt, whom they
took also, slaying, moreover, some servants of the said bishop." The
fugitives who reported this news at Peronne made the matter a great deal
worse than it was; they had no doubt, they said, but that the bishop and
Sire d'Humbercourt had also been murdered; and Charles had no more doubt
about it than they. His fury was extreme; he strode to and fro,
everywhere relating the news from Liege. "So the king," said he, "came
here only to deceive me; it is he who, by his ambassadors, excited these
bad folks of Liege; but, by St. George, they shall be severely punished
for it, and he, himself, shall have cause to repent." He gave immediate
orders to have the gates of the town and of the castle closed and guarded
by the archers; but being a little troubled, nevertheless, as to the
effect which would be produced by this order, he gave as his reason for
it that he was quite determined to have recovered a box full of gold and
jewels which had been stolen from him. "I verily believe," says
Commynes, "that if just then the duke had found those whom he addressed
ready to encourage him, or advise him to do the king a bad turn, he would
have done it; but at that time I was still with the said duke; I served
him as chamberlain, and I slept in his room when I pleased, for such was
the usage of that house. With me was there none at this speech of the
duke's, save two grooms of the chamber, one called Charles de Visen, a
native of Dijon, an honest man, and one who had great credit with his
master; and we exasperated nought, but assuaged according to our power."

Whilst Duke Charles was thus abandoning himself to the first outburst of
his wrath, King Louis remained impassive in the castle of Peronne, quite
close to the great tower, wherein, about the year 925, King Charles the
Simple had been confined by Herbert, Count of Vermandois, and died a
prisoner in 929. None of Louis's people had been removed from him; but
the gate of the castle was strictly guarded. There was no entering.
on his service, but by the wicket, and none of the duke's people came to
visit him; he had no occasion to parley, explain himself, and guess what
it was expedient for him to say or do; he was alone, wrestling with his
imagination and his lively impressions, with the feeling upon him of the
recent mistakes he had committed, especially in exciting the Liegese to
rebellion, and forgetting the fact just when he was coming to place
himself in his enemy's hands. Far, however, from losing his head, Louis
displayed in this perilous trial all the penetration, activity, and
shrewdness of his mind, together with all the suppleness of his
character; he sent by his own servants questions, offers, and promises to
all the duke's servants from whom he could hope for any help or any good
advice. Fifteen thousand golden crowns, with which he had provided
himself at starting, were given by him to be distributed amongst the
household of the Duke of Burgundy; a liberality which was perhaps
useless, since it is said that he to whom he had intrusted the sum kept a
good portion of it for himself. The king passed two days in this state
of gloomy expectancy as to what was in preparation against him.

On the 11th of October, Duke Charles, having cooled down a little,
assembled his council. The sitting lasted all the day and part of the
night. Louis had sent to make an offer to swear a peace, such as, at the
moment of his arrival, had been proposed to him, without any reservation
or difficulty on his part. He engaged to join the duke in making war
upon the Liegese and chastising them for their rebellion. He would leave
as hostages his nearest relatives and his most intimate advisers. At the
beginning of the council his proposals were not even listened to; there
was no talk but of keeping the king a prisoner, and sending after his
brother, the Prince Charles, with whom the entire government of the
kingdom should be arranged; the messenger had orders to be in readiness
to start at once; his horse was in the court-yard; he was only waiting
for the letters which the duke was writing to Brittany. The chancellor
of Burgundy and some of the wiser councillors besought the duke to

The king had come to Peronne on the faith of his safe-conduct; it would
be an eternal dishonor for the house of Burgundy if he broke his word to
his sovereign lord; and the conditions which the king was prepared to
grant would put an end, with advantage to Burgundy, to serious and
difficult business. The duke gave heed to these honest and prudent
counsels; the news from Liege turned out to be less serious than the
first rumors had represented; the bishop and Sire d'Humbercourt had been
set at liberty. Charles retired to his chamber; and there, without
thinking of undressing, he walked to and fro with long strides, threw
himself upon his bed, got up again, and soliloquized out loud, addressing
himself occasionally to Commynes, who lay close by him. Towards morning,
though he still showed signs of irritation, his language was less
threatening. "He has promised me," said he, "to come with me to
reinstate the Bishop of Liege, who is my brother-in-law, and a relation
of his also; he shall certainly come; I shall not scruple to hold him to
his word that he gave me;" and he at once sent Sires de Crequi, de
Charni, and de la Roche to tell the king that he was about to come and
swear peace with him. Commynes had only just time to tell Louis in what
frame of mind the duke was, and in what danger he would place himself, if
he hesitated either to swear peace or to march against the Liegese.

As soon as it was broad day, the duke entered the apartment of the castle
where the king was a prisoner. His look was courteous, but his voice
trembled with choler; his words were short and bitter, his manner was
threatening. A little troubled at his aspect, Louis said, "Brother, I am
safe, am I not, in your house and your country?" "Yes, sir," answered
the duke, "so safe that if I saw an arrow from a bow coming towards you I
would throw myself in the way to protect you. But will you not be
pleased to swear the treaty just as it is written?" "Yes," said the
king, "and I thank you for your good will." "And will you not be pleased
to come with me to Liege, to help me punish the treason committed against
me by these Lidgese, all through you and your journey hither? The bishop
is your near relative, of the house of Bourbon." "Yes, Padues-Dieu,"
replied Louis, "and I am much astounded at their wickedness. But begin
we by swearing this treaty; and then I will start, with as many or as few
of my people as you please."

Forthwith was taken out from the king's boxes the wood of the so-called
true cross, which was named the cross of St. Laud, because it had been
preserved in the church of St. Laud, at Angers. It was supposed to have
formerly belonged to Charlemagne; and it was the relic which Louis
regarded as the most sacred. The treaty was immediately signed, without
any change being made in that of Conflans. The Duke of Burgundy merely
engaged to use his influence with Prince Charles of France to induce him
to be content with Brie and Champagne as appanage. The storm was
weathered; and Louis almost rejoiced at seeing himself called upon to
chastise in person the Liegese, who had made him commit such a mistake
and run such a risk.

Next day the two princes set out together, Charles with his army, and
Louis with his modest train increased by three hundred men-at-arms, whom
he had sent for from France. On the 27th of October they arrived before
Liege. Since Duke Charles's late victories, the city had no longer any
ramparts or ditches; nothing seemed easier than to get into it; but the
besieged could not persuade themselves that Louis was sincerely allied
with the Duke of Burgundy, and they made a sortie, shouting, "Hurrah for
the king! Hurrah for France!" Great was their surprise when they saw
Louis advancing in person, wearing in his hat the cross of St. Andrew of
Burgundy, and shouting, "Hurrah for Burgundy!" Some even amongst the
French who surrounded the king were shocked; they could not reconcile
themselves to so little pride and such brazen falsehood. Louis took no
heed of their temper, and never ceased to repeat, "When pride rides
before, shame and hurt follow close after." The surprise of the Liegese
was transformed into indignation.

[Illustration: Louis XI. and Charles the Rash at Peronne----209]

They made a more energetic and a longer resistance than had been
expected. The besiegers, confident in their strength, kept careless
watch, and the sorties of the besieged became more numerous. One night
Charles received notice that his men had just been attacked in a suburb
which they had held, and were flying. He mounted his horse, gave orders
not to awake the king, repaired by himself to the place where the fight
was, put everything to rights, and came back and told the whole affair to
Louis, who exhibited great joy. Another time, one dark and rainy night,
there was an alarm, about midnight, of a general attack upon the whole
Burgundian camp. The duke was soon up, and a moment afterwards the king
arrived. There was great disorder. "The Liegese sallied by this gate,"
said some; "No," said others, "it was by that gate!" there was nothing
known for certain, and there were no orders given. Charles was impetuous
and brave, but he was easily disconcerted, and his servants were somewhat
vexed not to see him putting a better countenance on things before the
king. Louis, on the other hand, was cool and calm, giving commands
firmly, and ready to assume responsibility wherever he happened to be.
"Take what men you have," said he to the constable St. Poi, who was at
his side, "and go in this direction; if they are really coming upon us,
they will pass that way." It was discovered to be a false alarm. Two
days afterwards there was a more serious affair. The inhabitants of a
canton which was close to the city, and was called Franchemont, resolved
to make a desperate effort, and go and fall suddenly upon the very spot
where the two princes were quartered. One night, about ten P. M., six
hundred men sallied out by one of the breaches, all men of stout hearts
and well armed. The duke's quarters were first attacked. Only twelve
archers were on guard below, and they were playing at dice. Charles was
in bed. Commynes put on him, as quickly as possible, his breastplate and
helmet, and they went down stairs. The archers were with great
difficulty defending the doorway, but help arrived, and the danger was
over. The quarters of King Louis had also been attacked; but at the
first sound the Scottish archers had hurried up, surrounded their master,
and repulsed the attack, without caring whether their arrows killed
Liegese or such Burgundians as had come up with assistance. The gallant
fellows from Franchemont fell, almost to a man. The duke and his
principal captains held a council the next day; and the duke was for
delivering the assault. The king was not present at this council, and
when he was informed of the resolution taken he was not in favor of an
assault. "You see," said he, "the courage of these people; you know how
murderous and uncertain is street fighting; you will lose many brave men
to no purpose. Wait two or three days, and the Liegese will infallibly
come to terms." Nearly all the Burgundian captains sided with the king.
The duke got angry. "He wishes to spare the Liegese," said he; "what
danger is there in this assault? There are no walls; they can't put a
single gun in position; I certainly will not give up the assault; if the
king is afraid, let him get him gone to Namur." Such an insult shocked
even the Burgundians. Louis was informed of it, but said nothing. Next
day, the 30th of October, 1468, the assault was ordered; and the duke
marched at the head of his troops. Up came the king; but, "Bide," said
Charles; "put not yourself uselessly in danger; I will send you word when
it is time." "Lead on, brother," replied Louis; "you are the most
fortunate prince alive; I will follow you." And he continued marching
with him. But the assault was unnecessary. Discouragement had taken
possession of the Liegese, the bravest of whom had fallen. It was
Sunday, and the people who remained were not expecting an attack; "the
cloth was laid in every house, and all were preparing for dinner." The
Burgundians moved forward through the empty streets; and Louis marched
quietly along, surrounded by his own escort, and shouting, "Hurrah for
Burgundy!" The duke turned back to meet him, and they went together to
give thanks to God in the cathedral of St. Lambert. It was the only
church which had escaped from the fury and the pillaging of the
Burgundians; by midday there was nothing left to take in the houses or in
the churches. Louis loaded Duke Charles with felicitations and
commendations: "He knew how to turn them in a fashion so courteous and
amiable that the duke was charmed and softened." The next day, as they
were talking together, "Brother," said the king to the duke, "if you
have still need of my help, do not spare me; but if you have nothing more
for me to do, it would be well for me to go back to Paris, to make public
in my court of parliament the arrangement we have come to together;
otherwise it would run a risk of becoming of no avail; you know that such
is the custom of France. Next summer we must meet again; you will come
into your duchy of Burgundy, and I will go and pay you a visit, and we
will pass a week joyously together in making good cheer." Charles made
no answer, and sent for the treaty lately concluded between them at
Peronne, leaving it to the king's choice to confirm or to renounce it,
and excusing himself in covert terms for having thus constrained him and
brought him away. The king made a show of being satisfied with the
treaty, and on the 2d of November, 1468, the day but one after the
capture of Liege, set out for France. The duke bore him company to
within half a league of the city. As they were taking leave of one
another, the king said to him, "If, peradventure, my brother Charles, who
is in Brittany, should be discontented with the assignment I make him for
love of you, what would you have me do?" "If he do not please to take
it," answered the duke, "but would have you satisfy him, I leave it to
you two." Louis desired no more: he returned home free and confident in
himself, "after having passed the most trying three weeks of his life."

But Louis XI.'s deliverance after his quasi-captivity at Peronne, and the
new treaty he had concluded with Duke Charles, were and could be only a
temporary break in the struggle between these two princes, destined as
they were, both by character and position, to irremediable
incompatibility. They were too powerful and too different to live at
peace when they were such close neighbors, and when their relations were
so complicated. We find in the chronicle of George Chastelain, a Flemish
burgher, and a servant on familiar terms with Duke Charles, as he had
been with his father, Duke Philip, a judicious picture of this
incompatibility and the causes of it. "There had been," he says, "at all
times a rancor between these two princes, and, whatever pacification
might have been effected to-day, everything returned to-morrow to the old
condition, and no real love could be established. They suffered from
incompatibility of temperament and perpetual discordance of will; and the
more they advanced in years the deeper they plunged into a state of
serious difference and hopeless bitterness. The king was a man of
subtlety and full of fence; he knew how to recoil for a better spring,
how to affect humility and gentleness in his deep designs, how to yield
and to give up in order to receive double, and how to bear and tolerate
for a time his own grievances in hopes of being able at last to have his
revenge. He was, therefore, very much to be feared for his practical
knowledge, showing the greatest skill and penetration in the world. Duke
Charles was to be feared for his great courage, which he evinced and
displayed in his actions, making no account of king or emperor. Thus,
whilst the king had great sense and great ability, which he used with
dissimulation and suppleness in order to succeed in his views, the duke,
on his side, had a great sense of another sort and to another purpose,
which he displayed by a public ostentation of his pride, without any fear
of putting himself in a false position." Between 1468 and 1477, from the
incident at Peronne to the death of Charles at the siege of Nancy, the
history of the two princes was nothing but one constant alternation
between ruptures and re-adjustments, hostilities and truces, wherein both
were constantly changing their posture, their language, and their allies.
It was at one time the affairs of the Duke of Brittany or those of Prince
Charles of France, become Duke of Guienne; at another it was the
relations with the different claimants to the throne of England, or the
fate of the towns, in Picardy, handed over to the Duke of Burgundy by the
treaties of Conflans and Peronne, which served as a ground or pretext for
the frequent recurrences of war. In 1471 St. Quentin opened its gates to
Count Louis of St. Poi, constable of France; and Duke Charles complained
with threats about it to the Count of Dampmartin, who was in commend, on
that frontier, of Louis XI.'s army, and had a good understanding with the
constable. Dampmartin, "one of the bravest men of his time," says Duclos
[Histoire de Louis XI in the (Enures completes of Duclos, t. ii. p. 429),
"sincere and faithful, a warm friend and an implacable foe, at once
replied to the duke, 'Most high and puissant prince, I suppose your
letters to have been dictated by your council and highest clerics, who
are folks better at letter-making than I am, for I have not lived by
quill-driving. . . . If I write you matter that displeases you, and
you have a desire to revenge yourself upon me, you shall find me so near
to your army that you will know how little fear I have of you. . . .
Be assured that if it be your will to go on long making war upon the
king, it will at last be found out by all the world that as a soldier you
have mistaken your calling." The next year (1472) war broke out. Duke
Charles went and laid siege to Beauvais, and on the 27th of June
delivered the first assault. The inhabitants were at this moment left
almost alone to defend their town. A young girl of eighteen, Joan
Fourquet, whom a burgher's wife of Beauvais, Madame Laisne, her mother by
adoption, had bred up in the history, still so recent, of Joan of Arc,
threw herself into the midst of the throng, holding up her little axe
(hachette) before the image of St. Angadresme, patroness of the town, and
crying, "O glorious virgin, come to my aid; to arms! to arms!" The
assault was repulsed; re-enforcements came up from Noyon, Amiens, and
Paris, under the orders of the Marshal de Rouault; and the mayor of
Beauvais presented Joan to him. "Sir," said the young girl to him, "you
have everywhere been victor, and you will be so with us." On the 9th of
July the Duke of Burgundy delivered a second assault, which lasted four
hours. Some Burgundians had escaladed a part of the ramparts; Joan
Hachette arrived there just as one of them was planting his flag on the
spot; she pushed him over the side into the ditch, and went down in
pursuit of him; the man fell on one knee; Joan struck him down, took
possession of the flag, and mounted up to the ramparts again, crying,
"Victory!" The same cry resounded at all points of the wall; the assault
was everywhere repulsed. The vexation of Charles was great; the day
before he had been almost alone in advocating the assault; in the
evening, as he lay on his camp-bed, according to his custom, he had asked
several of his people whether they thought the townsmen were prepared for
it. "Yes, certainly," was the answer; "there are a great number of
them." "You will not find a soul there to-morrow," said Charles with a
sneer. He remained for twelve days longer before the place, looking for
a better chance; but on the 12th of July he decided upon raising the
siege, and took the road to Normandy. Some days before attacking
Beauvais, he had taken, not without difficulty, Nesle in the Vermandois.
"There it was," says Commynes, "that he first committed a horrible and
wicked deed of war, which had never been his wont; this was burning
everything everywhere; those who were taken alive were hanged; a pretty
large number had their hands cut off. It mislikes me to speak of such
cruelty; but I was on the spot, and must needs say something about it."
Commynes undoubtedly said something about it to Charles himself, who
answered, "It is the fruit borne by the tree of war; it would have been
the fate of Beauvais if I could have taken the town."

Between the two rivals in France, relations with England were a subject
of constant manoeuvring and strife. In spite of reverses on the
Continent and civil wars in their own island, the Kings of England had
not abandoned their claims to the crown of France; they were still in
possession of Calais; and the memory of the battles of Crecy, Poitiers,
and Agincourt was still a tower of strength to them. Between 1470 and
1472 the house of York had triumphed over the house of Lancaster; and
Edward IV. was undisputed king. In his views touching France he found a
natural ally in the Duke of Burgundy; and it was in concert with Charles
that Edward was incessantly concocting and attempting plots and campaigns
against Louis XI. In 1474 he, by a herald, called upon Louis to give up
to him Normandy and Guienne, else, he told him, he would cross over to
France with his army. "Tell your master," answered Louis coolly, "that I
should not advise him to." Next year the herald returned to tell Louis
that the King of England, on the point of embarking, called upon him to
give up to him the kingdom of France. Louis had a conversation with the
herald. "Your king," said he, "is undertaking this war against his own
grain at the solicitation of the Duke of Burgundy; he would do much
better to live in peace with me, instead of devoting himself to allies
who cannot but compromise him without doing him any service;" and he had
three hundred golden crowns presented to the herald, with a promise of
considerably more if peace were made. The herald, thus won over,
promised, in his turn, to do all he could, saying that he believed that
his master would lend a willing ear, but that, before mentioning the
subject, they must wait until Edward had crossed the sea and formed some
idea of the difficulties in the way of his enterprise; and he advised
Louis to establish communications with my lord Howard and my lord
Stanley, who had great influence with King Edward. "Whilst the king was
parleying with the said herald, there were many folks in the hall," says
Commynes, "who were waiting, and had great longing to know what the king
was saying to him, and what countenance he would wear when he came from
within. The king, when he had made an end, called me and told me to keep
the said herald talking, so that none might speak to him, and to have
delivered unto him a piece of crimson velvet containing thirty ells. So
did I, and the king was right joyous at that which he had got out of the
said herald."

[Illustration: Philip de Commynes----217]

It was now three years since Philip de Commynes had left the Duke of
Burgundy's service to enter that of Louis XI. In 1471 Charles had, none
knows why, rashly authorized an interview between Louis and De Commynes.
"The king's speech," says the chronicler Molinet, in the Duke of
Burgundy's service, "was so sweet and full of virtue that it entranced,
siren-like, all those who gave ear to it." "Of all princes," says
Commynes himself, "he was the one who was at most pains to gain over a
man who was able to serve him, and able to injure him; and he was not put
out at being refused once by one whom he was working to gain over, but
continued thereat, making him large promises, and actually giving money
and estate when he made acquaintances that were pleasing to him."
Commynes spoke according to his own experience. Louis, from the moment
of making his acquaintance, had guessed his value; and as early as 1468,
in the course of his disagreeable adventure at Peronne, he had found the
good offices of Commynes of great service to him. It was probably from
this very time that he applied himself assiduously to the task of gaining
him over. Commynes hesitated a long while; but Louis was even more
perseveringly persistent than Commynes was hesitating. The king backed
up his handsome offers by substantial and present gifts. In 1471,
according to what appears, he lent Commynes six thousand livres of Tours,
which the Duke of Burgundy's councillor lodged with a banker at Tours.
The next year, the king, seeing that Commynes was still slow to decide,
bade one of his councillors to go to Tours, in his name, and seize at the
banker's the six thousand livres intrusted to the latter by Commynes.
"This," says the learned editor of the last edition of Commynes'
Memoires, "was an able and decisive blow. The effect of the seizure
could not but be, and indeed was, to put Commynes in the awkward dilemma
of seeing his practices (as the saying was at that time) divulged without
reaping the fruit of them, or of securing the advantages only by setting
aside the scruples which held him back. He chose the latter course,
which had become the safer; and during the night between the 7th and 8th
of August, 1472, he left Burgundy forever. The king was at that time at
Ponts-de-Ce, and there his new servant joined him." The very day of his
departure, at six A. M., Duke Charles had a seizure made of all the goods
and all the rights belonging to the fugitive; "but what Commynes lost on
one side," says his editor, "he was about to recover a hundred fold on
the other; scarcely had he arrived at the court of Louis XI. when he
received at once the title of councillor and chamberlain to the king;
soon afterwards a pension of six thousand livres of Tours was secured to
him, by way of giving him wherewithal to honorably maintain his position;
he was put into the place of captain of the castle and keep of the town
of Chinon; and lastly, a present was made to him of the rich principality
of Talmont." Six months later, in January, 1473, Commynes married Helen
de Chambes, daughter of the lord of Montsoreau, who brought him as dowry
twenty-seven thousand five hundred livres of Tours, which enabled him to
purchase the castle, town, barony, land, and lordship of Argenton
[arrondissement of Bressuire, department of Deux-Sevres], the title of
which he thenceforward assumed.

Half a page or so can hardly be thought too much space to devote in a
History of France to the task of tracing to their origin the conduct and
fortunes of one of the most eminent French politicians, who, after having
taken a chief part in the affairs of their country and their epoch, have
dedicated themselves to the work of narrating them in a spirit of liberal
and admirable comprehension both of persons and events. But we will
return to Louis XI.

The King of England readily entertained the overtures announced to him by
his herald. He had landed at Calais on the 22d of June, 1475, with an
army of from sixteen to eighteen thousand men thirsting for conquest and
pillage in France, and the Duke of Burgundy had promised to go and join
him with a considerable force; but the latter, after having appeared for
a moment at Calais to concert measures with his ally, returned no more,
and even hesitated about admitting the English into his towns of Artois
and Picardy. Edward waited for him nearly two months at Peronne, but in
vain. During this time Louis continued his attempts at negotiation. He
fixed his quarters at Amiens, and Edward came and encamped half a league
from the town. The king sent to him, it is said, three hundred wagons
laden with the best wines he could find, "the which train," says
Commynes, "was almost an army as big as the English;" at the entrance of
the gate of Amiens Louis had caused to be set out two large tables
"laden with all sorts of good eatables and good wines; and at each of
these two tables he had caused to be seated five or six men of good
family, stout and fat, to make better sport for them who had a mind to
drink. When the English went into the town, wherever they put up they
had nothing to pay; there were nine or ten taverns, well supplied,
whither they went to eat and drink, and asked for what they pleased. And
this lasted three or four days." An agreement was soon come to as to the
terms of peace. King Edward bound himself to withdraw with his army to
England so soon as Louis XI. should have paid him seventy-five thousand
crowns. Louis promised besides to pay annually to King Edward fifty
thousand crowns, in two payments, during the time that both princes were
alive. A truce for seven years was concluded; they made mutual promises
to lend each other aid if they were attacked by their enemies or by their
own subjects in rebellion; and Prince Charles, the eldest son of Louis
XI., was to marry Elizabeth, Edward's daughter, when both should be of
marriageable age. Lastly, Queen Margaret of Anjou, who had been a
prisoner in England since the death of her husband, Henry VI., was to be
set at liberty, and removed to France, on renouncing all claim to the
crown of England. These conditions having been formulated, it was agreed
that the two kings should meet and sign them at Pecquigny, on the Somme,
three leagues from Amiens. Thither, accordingly, they repaired, on the
29th of August, 1475. Edward, as he drew near, doffed "his bonnet of
black velvet, whereon was a large fleur-de-lis in jewels, and bowed down
to within half a foot of the ground." Louis made an equally deep
reverence, saying, "Sir my cousin, right welcome; there is no man in the
world I could more desire to see than I do you, and praised be God that
we are here assembled with such good intent." The King of England
answered this speech "in good French enough," says Commynes. The missal
was brought; the two kings swore and signed four distinct treaties; and
then they engaged in a long private conversation, after which Louis went
away to Amiens and Edward to his army, whither Louis sent to him "all
that he had need of, even to torches and candles." As he went chatting
along the road with Commynes, Louis told him that he had found the King
of England so desirous of paying a visit to Paris that he had been
anything but pleased. "He is a right handsome king," said he: "he is
very fond of women; and he might well meet at Paris some smitten one who
would know how to make him such pretty speeches as to render him desirous
of another visit. His predecessors were far too much in Normandy and
Paris; his comradeship is worth nothing on our side of the sea; on the
other side, over yonder, I should like very well to have him for good
brother and good friend." Throughout the whole course of the negotiation
Louis had shown pliancy and magnificence; he had laden Edward's chief
courtiers with presents; two thousand crowns by way of pension had been
allowed to his grand chamberlain, Lord Hastings, who would not give an
acknowledgment. "This gift comes of the king your master's good pleasure,
and not at my request," said he to Louis's steward; "if you would have me
take it, you shall slip it here inside my sleeve, and have no letter or
voucher beyond; I do not wish to have people saying, 'The grand
chamberlain of England was the King of France's pensioner,' or to have my
acknowledgments found in his exchequer-chamber." Lord Hastings had not
always been so scrupulous, for, on the 15th of May, 1471, he had received
from the Duke of Burgundy a pension for which he had given an
acknowledgment. Another Englishman, whose name is not given by Commynes,
waxed wroth at hearing some one say, "Six hundred pipes of wine and a
pension given you by the king soon sent you back to England." "That is
certainly what everybody said," answered the Englishman, "that you might
have the laugh against us. But call you the money the king gives us
pension? Why, it is tribute; and, by St. George, you may perhaps talk so
much about it as to bring us down upon you again!" "There was nothing in
the world," says Commynes, "of which the king was more fearful than lest
any word should escape him to make the English think that they were being
derided; at the same time that he was laboring to gain them over, he was
careful to humor their susceptibilities;" and Commynes, under his
schooling, had learned to understand them well: "They are rather slow
goers," says he, "but you must have a little patience with them, and not
lose your temper. . . . I fancy that to many it might appear that the
king abased himself too much; but the wise might well hold that the
kingdom was in great danger, save for the intervention of God, who did
dispose the king's mind to choose so wise a course, and did greatly
trouble that of the Duke of Burgundy. . . . Our king knew well the
nature of the King of England, who was very fond of his ease and his
pleasures: when he had concluded these treaties with him, he ordered that
the money should be found with the greatest expedition, and every one had
to lend somewhat to help to supply it on the spot. The king said that
there was nothing in the world he would not do to thrust the King of
England out of the realm, save only that he would never consent that the
English should have a bit of territory there; and, rather than suffer
that, he would put everything to jeopardy and risk."

Commynes had good reason to say that the kingdom was in great peril. The
intentions of Charles the Rash tended to nothing short of bringing back
the English into France, in order to share it with them. He made no
concealment of it. "I am so fond of the kingdom," said he, "that I would
make six of it in France." He was passionately eager for the title of
king. He had put out feelers for it in the direction of Germany, and the
emperor, Frederic III., had promised it to him together with that of
vicar-general of the empire, on condition that his daughter, Mary of
Burgundy, married Duke Maximilian, Frederic's son. Having been
unsuccessful on the Rhine, Charles turned once more towards the Thames,
and made alliance with Edward IV., King of England, with a view of
renewing the English invasion of France, flattering himself, of course,
that he would profit by it. To destroy the work of Joan of Arc and
Charles VII.--such was the design, a criminal and a shameful one for a
French prince, which was checkmated by the peace of Peequigny. Charles
himself acknowledged as much when, in his wrath at this treaty, he said,
"He had not sought to bring over the English into France for any need he
had of them, but to enable them to recover what belonged to them;" and
Louis XI. was a patriotic king when he declared that "there was nothing
in the world he would not do to thrust the King of England out of the
realm, and, rather than suffer the English to have a bit of territory in
France, he would put everything to jeopardy and risk."

The Duke of Burgundy, as soon as he found out that the King of France
had, under the name of truce, made peace for seven years with the King of
England, and that Edward IV. had recrossed the Channel with his army, saw
that his attempts, so far, were a failure. Accordingly he too lost no
time in signing [on the 13th of September, 1475] a truce with King Louis
for nine years, and directing his ambition and aiming his blows against
other quarters than Western France. Two little states, his neighbors on
the east, Lorraine and Switzerland, became the object and the theatre of
his passion for war. Lorraine had at that time for its duke Rene II., of
the house of Anjou through his mother Yolande, a young prince who was
wavering, as so many others were, between France and Burgundy. Charles
suddenly entered Lorraine, took possession of several castles, had the
inhabitants who resisted hanged, besieged Nancy, which made a valiant
defence, and ended by conquering the capital as well as the
country-places, leaving Duke Rene no asylum but the court of Louis XI.,
of whom the Lorraine prince had begged a support, which Louis, after his
custom, had promised without rendering it effectual. Charles did not
stop there. He had already been more than once engaged in hostilities
with his neighbors the Swiss; and he now learned that they had just made
a sanguinary raid upon the district of Vaud, the domain of a petty prince
of the house of Savoy, and a devoted servant of the Duke of Burgundy.
Scarcely two months after the capture of Nancy, Charles set out, on the
11th of June, 1476, to go and avenge his client, and wreak his haughty
and turbulent humor upon these bold peasants of the Alps.

In spite of the truce he had but lately concluded with Charles the Rash,
the prudent Louis did not cease to keep an attentive watch upon him, and
to reap advantage, against him, from the leisure secured to the King of
France by his peace with the King of England and the Duke of Brittany. A
late occurrence had still further strengthened his position: his brother
Charles, who became Duke of Guienne, in 1469, after the treaty of
Peronne, had died on the 24th of May, 1472. There were sinister rumors
abroad touching his death. Louis was suspected, and even accused to the
Duke of Brittany, an intimate friend of the deceased prince, of having
poisoned his brother. He caused an inquiry to be instituted into the
matter; but the inquiry itself was accused of being incomplete and
inconclusive. "King Louis did not, possibly, cause his brother's death,"
says M. de Barante, "but nobody thought him incapable of it." The will
which Prince Charles had dictated a little before his death increased the
horror inspired by such a suspicion. He manifested in it a feeling of
affection and confidence towards the king his brother; he requested him
to treat his servants kindly; "and if in any way," he added, "we have ever
offended our right dread and right well-beloved brother, we do beg him to
be pleased to forgive us; since, for our part, if ever in any matter he
hath offended us, we do affectionately pray the Divine Majesty to forgive
him, and with good courage and good will do we on our part forgive him."
The Duke of Guienne at the same time appointed the king executor of his
will. If we acknowledge, however, that Louis was not incapable of such a
crime, it must be admitted that there is no trust-worthy proof of his
guilt. At any rate his brother's death had important results for him.
Not only did it set him free from all fresh embarrassment in that
direction, but it also restored to him the beautiful province of Guienne,
and many a royal client. He treated the friends of Prince Charles,
whether they had or had not been heretofore his own, with marked
attention. He re-established at Bordeaux the parliament he had removed
to Poitiers; he pardoned the towns of Pdzenas and Montignac for some late
seditions; and, lastly, he took advantage of this incident to pacify and
satisfy this portion of the kingdom. Of the great feudal chieftains who,
in 1464, had formed against him the League of the common weal, the Duke
of Burgundy was the only one left on the scene, and in a condition to put
him in peril.

But though here was for the future his only real adversary, Louis XI.
continued, and with reason, to regard the Duke of Burgundy as his most
formidable foe, and never ceased to look about for means and allies
wherewith to encounter him. He could no longer count upon the
co-operation, more or less general, of the Flemings. His behavior to the
Liegese after the incident at Peronne, and his share in the disaster
which befell Liege, had lost him all his credit in the Flemish cities.
The Flemings, besides, had been disheartened and disgusted at the idea of
compromising themselves for or against their Burgundian prince. When
they saw him entering upon the campaign in Lorraine and Switzerland, they
themselves declared to him what he might or might not expect from them.
"If he were pressed," they said, "by the Germans or the Swiss, and had
not with him enough men to make his way back freely to his own borders,
he had only to let them know, and they would expose their persons and
their property to go after him and fetch him back safely within his said
borders, but as for making war again at his instance, they were not free
to aid him any more with either men or money." Louis XI., then, had
nothing to expect from the Flemings any more; but for two years past, and
so soon as he observed the commencement of hostilities between the Duke
of Burgundy and the Swiss, he had paved the way for other alliances in
that quarter. In 1473 he had sent "to the most high and mighty lords and
most dear friends of ours, them of the league and city of Berne and of
the great and little league of Germany, ambassadors charged to make
proposals to them, if they would come to an understanding to be friends
of friends and foes of foes" (make an offensive and defensive alliance).
The proposal was brought before the diet of the cantons assembled at
Lucerne. The King of France "regretted that the Duke of Burgundy would
not leave the Swiss in peace; he promised that his advice and support,
whether in men or in money, should not be wanting to them; he offered to
each canton an annual friendly donation of two thousand livres; and he
engaged not to summon their valiant warriors to take service save in case
of pressing need, and unless Switzerland were herself at war." The
question was discussed with animation; the cantons were divided; some
would have nothing to do with either the alliance or the money of Louis
XI., of whom they spoke with great distrust and antipathy; others
insisted upon the importance of being supported by the King of France in
their quarrels with the Duke of Burgundy, and scornfully repudiated the
fear that the influence and money of Louis would bring a taint upon the
independence and the good morals of their country. The latter opinion
carried the day; and, on the 2d of October, 1474, conformably with a
treaty concluded, on the 10th of the previous January, between the King
of France and the league of Swiss cantons, the canton of Berne made to
the French legation the following announcement: "If, in the future, the
said lords of the league asked help from the King of France against the
Duke of Burgundy, and if the said lord king, being engaged in his own
wars, could not help them with men, in this case he should cause to be
lodged and handed over to them, in the city of Lyons, twenty thousand
Rhenish florins every quarter of a year, as long as the war actually
continued; and we, on our part, do promise, on our faith and honor, that
every time and however many times the said lord king shall ask help from
the said lords of the league, we will take care that they do help him and
aid him with six thousand men in his wars and expeditions, according to
the tenor of the late alliance and union made between them, howbeit on

A Bernese messenger carried this announcement to the Burgundian camp
before the fortress of Neuss, and delivered it into the hands of Duke
Charles himself, whose only remark, as he ground his teeth, was, "Ah!
Berne! Berne!" At the be-ginning of January, 1476, he left Nancy, of
which he had recently gained possession, returned to Besancon, and
started thence on the 6th of February to take the field with an army
amounting, it is said, to thirty or forty thousand men, provided with a
powerful artillery and accompanied by an immense baggage-train, wherein
Charles delighted to display his riches and magnificence in contrast with
the simplicity and roughness of his personal habits. At the rumor of
such an armament the Swiss attempted to keep off the war from their
country. "I have heard tell," says Commynes, "by a knight of theirs, who
had been sent by them to the said duke, that he told him that against
them he could gain nothing, for that their country was very barren and
poor; that there were no good prisoners to make, and that the spurs and
the horses' bits in his own army were worth more money than all the
people of their territory could pay in ransom even if they were taken."
Charles, however, gave no heed, saw nothing in their representations but
an additional reason for hurrying on his movements with confidence, and
on the 19th of February arrived before Granson, a little town in the
district of Vaud, where war had already begun.

Louis XI. watched all these incidents closely, keeping agents everywhere,
treating secretly with everybody, with the Duke of Burgundy as well as
with the Swiss, knowing perfectly well what he wanted, but holding
himself ready to face anything, no matter what the event might be. When
he saw that the crisis was coming, he started from Tours and went to take
up his quarters at Lyons, close to the theatre of war and within an easy
distance for speedy information and prompt action. Scarcely had he
arrived, on the 4th of March, when he learned that, on the day but one
before, Duke Charles had been tremendously beaten by the Swiss at
Granson; the squadrons of his chivalry had not been able to make any
impression upon the battalions of Berne, Schwitz, Soleure, and Fribourg,
armed with pikes eighteen feet long; and at sight of the mountaineers
marching with huge strides and lowered heads upon their foes and
heralding their advance by the lowings of the bull of Uri and the cow of
Unterwalden, two enormous instruments made of buffalo-horn, and given, it
was said, to their ancestors by Charlemagne, the whole Burgundian army,
seized with panic, had dispersed in all directions, "like smoke before
the northern blast." Charles himself had been forced to fly with only
five horsemen, it is said, for escort, leaving all his camp, artillery,
treasure, oratory, jewels, down to his very cap garnished with precious
stones and his collar of the Golden Fleece, in the hands of the "poor
Swiss," astounded at their booty and having no suspicion of its value.
"They sold the silver plate for a few pence, taking it for pewter," says
M. de Barante. Those magnificent silks and velvets, that cloth of gold
and damask, that Flanders lace, and those carpets from Arras which were
found heaped up in chests, were cut in pieces and distributed by the ell,
like common canvas in a village shop. The duke's large diamond which he
wore round his neck, and which had once upon a time glittered in the
crown of the Great Mogul, was found on the road, inside a little box set
with fine pearls. The man who picked it up kept the box and threw away
the diamond as a mere bit of glass. Afterwards he thought better of it;
went to look for the stone, found it under a wagon, and sold it for a
crown to a clergyman of the neighborhood. "There was nothing saved but
the bare life," says Commynes.

That even the bare life was saved was a source of sorrow to Louis XI.
in the very midst of his joy at the defeat. He was, nevertheless, most
proper in his behavior and language towards Duke Charles, who sent to him
Sire de Contay "with humble and gracious words, which was contrary to his
nature and his custom," says Commynes; "but see how an hour's time
changed him; he prayed the king to be pleased to observe loyally the
truce concluded between them, he excused himself for not having appeared
at the interview which was to have taken place at Auxerre, and he bound
himself to be present, shortly, either there or elsewhere, according to
the king's good pleasure." Louis promised him all he asked, "for," adds
Commynes, "it did not seem to him time, as yet, to do other-wise;" and he
gave the duke the good advice "to return home and bide there quietly,
rather than go on stubbornly warring with yon folks of the Alps, so poor
that there was nought to gain by taking their lands, but valiant and
obstinate in battle." Louis might give this advice fearlessly, being
quite certain that Charles would not follow it. The latter's defeat at
Granson had thrown him into a state of gloomy irritation. At Lausanne,
where he staid for some time, he had "a great sickness, proceeding," says
Commynes, "from grief and sadness on account of this shame that he had
suffered; and, to tell the truth, I think that never since was his
understanding so good as it had been before this battle." Before he fell
ill, on the 12th of March, Charles issued orders from his camp before
Lausanne to his lieutenant at Luxembourg to put under arrest "and visit
with the extreme penalty of death, without waiting for other command from
us, all the men-at-arms, archers, cross-bowmen, infantry, or other
soldiery" who had fled or dispersed after the disaster at Granson; "and
as to those who be newly coming into our service it is ordered by us that
they, on pain of the same punishment, do march towards us with all
diligence; and if they make any delay, our pleasure is that you proceed
against them in the manner hereinabove declared without fail in any way."
With such fiery and ruthless energy Charles collected a fresh army,
having a strength, it is said, of from twenty-five to thirty thousand
men, Burgundians, Flemings, Italians, and English; and after having
reviewed it on the platform above Lausanne, he set out on the 27th of
May, 1476, and pitched his camp on the 10th of June before the little
town of Morat, six leagues from Berne, giving notice everywhere that it
was war to the death that he intended. The Swiss were expecting it, and
were prepared for it. The energy of pride was going to be pitted against
the energy of patriotism. "The Duke of Burgundy is here with all his
forces, his Italian mercenaries and some traitors of Germans," said the
letter written to the Bernese by the governor of Morat, Adrian of
Bubenberg; "the gentlemen of the magistracy, of the council, and of the
burgherhood may be free from fear and hurry, and may set at rest the
minds of all our confederates: I will defend Morat;" and he swore to the
garrison and the inhabitants that he would put to death the first who
should speak of surrender. Morat had been for ten days holding out
against the whole army of the Burgundians; the confederate Swiss were
arriving successively at Berne; and the men of Zurich alone were late.
Their fellow-countryman, Hans Waldmann, wrote to them, "We positively
must give battle or we are lost, every one of us. The Burgundians are
three times more numerous than they were at Granson, but we shall manage
to pull through. With God's help great honor awaits us. Do not fail to
come as quickly as possible." On the 21st of June, in the evening, the
Zurichers arrived. "Ha!" the duke was just saying, "have these hounds
lost heart, pray? I was told that we were about to get at them." Next
day, the 22d of June, after a pelting rain and with the first gleams of
the returning sun, the Swiss attacked the Burgundian camp. A man-at-arms
came and told the duke, who would not believe it, and dismissed the
messenger with a coarse insult, but hurried, nevertheless, to the point
of attack. The battle was desperate; but before the close of the day it
was hopelessly lost by the Burgundians. Charles had still three thousand
horse, but he saw them break up, and he himself had great difficulty in
getting away, with merely a dozen men behind him, and reaching Merges,
twelve leagues from Morat. Eight or ten thousand of his men had fallen,
more than half, it is said, killed in cold blood after the fight. Never
had the Swiss been so dead set against their foes; and "as cruel as at
Morat" was for a long while a common expression.

"The king," says Commynes, "always willingly gave somewhat to him who was
the first to bring him some great news, without forgetting the messenger,
and he took pleasure in speaking thereof before the news came, saying, 'I
will give so much to him who first brings me such and such news.' My
lord of Bouchage and I (being together) had the first message about the
battle of Morat, and told it both together to the king, who gave each of
us two hundred marks of silver." Next day Louis, as prudent in the hour
of joy as of reverse, wrote to Count de Dampmartin, who was in command of
his troops concentrated at Senlis, with orders to hold himself in
readiness for any event, but still carefully observe the truce with the
Duke of Burgundy. Charles at that time was thinking but little of Louis
and their truce; driven to despair by the disaster at Morat, but more
dead set than ever on the struggle, he repaired from Morges to Gex, and
from Gex to Salins, and summoned successively, in July and August, at
Salins, at Dijon, at Brussels, and at Luxembourg the estates of his
various domains, making to all of them an appeal, at the same time
supplicatory and imperious, calling upon them for a fresh army with which
to recommence the war with the Swiss, and fresh subsidies with which to
pay it. "If ever," said he, "you have desired to serve us and do us
pleasure, see to doing and accomplishing all that is bidden you; make no
default in anything whatsoever, and he henceforth in dread of the
punishments which may ensue." But there was everywhere a feeling of
disgust with the service of Duke Charles; there was no more desire of
serving him and no more fear of disobeying him; he encountered almost
everywhere nothing but objections, complaints, and refusals, or else a
silence and an inactivity which were still worse. Indignant, dismayed,
and dumbfounded at such desertion, Charles retired to his castle of La
Riviere, between Pontarlier and Joux, and shut himself up there for more
than six weeks, without, however, giving up the attempt to collect
soldiers. "Howbeit," says Commynes, "he made but little of it; he kept
himself quite solitary, and he seemed to do it from sheer obstinacy more
than anything else. His natural heat was so great that he used to drink
no wine, generally took barley-water in the morning and ate preserved
rose-leaves to keep himself cool; but sorrow changed his complexion so
much that he was obliged to drink good strong wine without water, and, to
bring the blood back to his heart, burning tow was put into cupping-
glasses, and they were applied thus heated to the region of the heart.
Such are the passions of those who have never felt adversity, especially
of proud princes who know not how to discover any remedy. The first
refuge, in such a case, is to have recourse to God, to consider whether
one have offended Him in aught, and to confess one's misdeeds. After
that, what does great good is to converse with some friend, and not be
ashamed to show one's grief before him, for that lightens and comforts
the heart; and not at any rate to take the course the duke took of
concealing himself and keeping himself solitary; he was so terrible to
his own folks that none durst come forward to give him any comfort or
counsel; but all left him to do as he pleased, feeling that, if they made
him any remonstrance, it would be the worse for them."

But events take no account of the fears and weaknesses of men. Charles
learned before long that the Swiss were not his most threatening foes,
and that he had something else to do instead of going after them amongst
their mountains. During his two campaigns against them, the Duke of
Lorraine, Rend II., whom he had despoiled of his dominions and driven
from Nancy, had been wandering amongst neighboring princes and people in
France, Germany, and Switzerland, at the courts of Louis XI. and the
Emperor Frederic III., on visits to the patricians of Berne, and in the
free towns of the Rhine. He was young, sprightly, amiable, and brave; he
had nowhere met with great assistance, but he had been well received, and
certain promises had been made him. When he saw the contest so hotly
commenced between the Duke of Burgundy and the Swiss, he resolutely put
himself at the service of the republican mountaineers, fought for them in
their ranks, and powerfully contributed to their victory at Morat. The
defeat of Charles and his retreat to his castle of La Riviere gave Rend
new hopes, and gained him some credit amongst the powers which had
hitherto merely testified towards him a good will of but little value;
and his partisans in Lorraine recovered confidence in his for-tunes. One
day, as he was at his prayers in a church, a rich widow, Madame Walther,
came up to him in her mantle and hood, made him a deep reverence, and
handed him a purse of gold to help him in winning back his duchy. The
city of Strasbourg gave him some cannon, four hundred cavalry, and eight
hundred infantry; Louis XI. lent him some money; and Rend before long
found himself in a position to raise a small army and retake Epinal,
Saint-Did, Vaudemont, and the majority of the small towns in Lorraine.
He then went and laid siege to Nancy. The Duke of Burgundy had left
there as governor John de Rubemprd, lord of Bievres, with a feeble
garrison, which numbered amongst its ranks three hundred English, picked
men. Sire de Bievres sent message after message to Charles, who did not
even reply to him. The town was short of provisions; the garrison was
dispirited; and the commander of the English was killed. Sire de
Bievres, a loyal servant, but a soldier of but little energy, determined
to capitulate. On the 6th of October, 1476, he evacuated the place at
the head of his men, all safe in person and property. At sight of him
Rend dismounted, and handsomely went forward to meet him, saying, "Sir,
my good uncle, I thank you for having so courteously governed my duchy;
if you find it agreeable to remain with me, you shall fare the same as
myself." "Sir," answered Sire de Bievres, "I hope that you will not
think ill of me for this war; I very much wish that my lord of Burgundy
had never begun it, and I am much afraid that neither he nor I will see
the end of it."

Sire de Bievres had no idea how true a prophet he was. Almost at the
very moment when he was capitulating, Duke Charles, throwing off his
sombre apathy, was once more entering Lorraine with all the troops he
could collect, and on the 22d of October he in his turn went and laid
siege to Nancy. Duke Rend, not considering himself in a position to
maintain the contest with only such forces as he had with him, determined
to quit Nancy in person and go in search of re-enforcements at a
distance, at the same time leaving in the town a not very numerous but a
devoted garrison, which, together with the inhabitants, promised to hold
out for two months. And it did hold out whilst Rend was visiting
Strasbourg, Berne, Zurich, and Lucerne, presenting himself before the
councils of these petty republics with, in order to please them, a tame
bear behind him, which he left at the doors, and promising, thanks to
Louis XI.'s agents in Switzerland, extraordinary pay. He thus obtained
auxiliaries to the number of eight thousand fighting men. He had,
moreover, in the very camp of the Duke of Burgundy, a secret ally, an
Italian condottiere, the Count of Campo-Basso, who, either from personal
hatred or on grounds of interest, was betraying the master to whom he had
bound himself. The year before, he had made an offer to Louis XI. to go
over to him with his troops during a battle, or to hand over to him the
Duke of Burgundy, dead or alive. Louis mistrusted the traitor, and sent
Charles notice of the offers made by Campo-Basso. But Charles mistrusted
Louis's information, and kept Campo-Basso in his service. A little
before the battle of Morat Louis had thought better of his scruples or
his doubts, and had accepted, with the compensation of a pension, the
kind offices of Campo-Basso. When the war took place in Lorraine, the
condottiere, whom Duke Charles had one day grossly insulted, entered into
communication with Duke Rend also, and took secret measures for insuring
the failure of the Burgundian attempts upon Nancy. Such was the position
of the two princes and the two armies, when, on the 4th of June, 1477,
Rend, having returned with re-enforcements to Lorraine, found himself
confronted with Charles, who was still intent upon the siege of Nancy.
The Duke of Burgundy assembled his captains. "Well!" said he, "since
these drunken scoundrels are upon us, and are coming here to look for
meat and drink, what ought we to do?" The majority of those present were
of opinion that the right thing to do was to fall back into the duchy of
Luxembourg, there to recruit the enfeebled army. "Duke Rene," they said,
"is poor; he will not be able to bear very long the expense of the war,
and his allies will leave him as soon as he has no more money; wait but
a little, and success is certain." Charles flew into a passion. "My
father and I," said he, "knew how to thrash these Lorrainers; and we will
make them remember it. By St. George! I will not fly before a boy,
before Rend of Vaudemont, who is coming at the head of this scum. He has
not so many men with him as people think; the Germans have no idea of
leaving their stoves in winter. This evening we will deliver the assault
against the town, and to-morrow we will give battle."

And the next day, January the 5th, the battle did take place, in the
plain of Nancy. The Duke of Burgundy assumed his armor very early in the
morning. When he put on his helmet, the gilt lion, which formed the
crest of it, fell off. "That is a sign from God!" said he; but,
nevertheless, he went and drew up his army in line of battle. The day
but one before, Campo-Basso had drawn off his troops to a considerable
distance; and he presented himself before Duke Rene, having taken off his
red scarf and his cross of St. Andrew, and being quite ready, he said, to
give proofs of his zeal on the spot. Rene spoke about it to his Swiss
captains. "We have no mind," said they, "to have this traitor of an
Italian fighting beside us; our fathers never made use of such folk or
such practices in order to conquer." And Campo-Basso held aloof. The
battle began in gloomy weather, and beneath heavy flakes of snow, lasted
but a short time, and was not at all murderous in the actual conflict,
but the pursuit was terrible. Campo-Basso and his troops held the bridge
of Bouxieres, by which the Burgundian fugitives would want to pass; and
the Lorrainerss of Rend and his Swiss and German allies scoured the
country, killing all with whom they fell in. Rend returned to Nancy in
the midst of a population whom his victory had delivered from famine as
well as war. "To show him what sufferings they had endured," says M. de
Barante, "they conceived the idea of piling up in a heap, before the door
of his hostel, the heads of the horses, dogs, mules, cats, and other
unclean animals which had for several weeks past been the only food of
the besieged." When the first burst of joy was over, the question was,
what had become of the Duke of Burgundy; nobody had a notion; and his
body was not found amongst the dead in any of the places where his most
valiant and faithful warriors had fallen. The rumor ran that he was not
dead; some said that one of his servants had picked him up wounded on the
field of battle, and was taking care of him, none knew where; and
according to others, a German lord had made him prisoner, and carried him
off beyond the Rhine. "Take good heed," said many people, "how ye
comport yourselves otherwise than if he were still alive, for his
vengeance would be terrible on his return." On the evening of the day
after the battle, the Count of Campo-Basso brought to Duke Rend a young
Roman page who, he said, had from a distance seen his master fall, and
could easily find the spot again. Under his guidance a move was made
towards a pond hard by the town; and there, half buried in the slush of
the pond, were some dead bodies, lying stripped. A poor washerwoman,
amongst the rest, had joined in the search; she saw the glitter of a
jewel in the ring upon one of the fingers of a corpse whose face was not
visible; she went forward, turned the body over, and at once cried, "Ah!
my prince!" There was a rush to the spot immediately. As the head was
being detached from the ice to which it stuck, the skin came off, and a
large wound was discovered. On examining the body with care, it was
unhesitatingly recognized to be that of Charles, by his doctor, by his
chaplain, by Oliver de la Marche, his chamberlain, and by several grooms
of the chamber; and certain marks, such as the scar of the wound he had
received at Montlhery, and the loss of two teeth, put their assertion
beyond a doubt. As soon as Duke Rend knew that they had at last found
the body of the Duke of Burgundy, he had it removed to the town, and laid
on a bed of state of black velvet, under a canopy of black satin. It was
dressed in a garment of white satin; a ducal crown, set with precious
stones, was placed on the disfigured brow; the lower limbs were cased in
scarlet, and on the heels were gilded spurs. The Duke of Lorraine went
and sprinkled holy water on the corpse of his unhappy rival, and, taking
the dead hand beneath the pall, "Ah! dear cousin," said he, with tears in
his _eyes_.

For the time that I knew him he was not cruel; but he became so before
his death, and that was a bad omen for a long existence. He was very
sumptuous in dress and in all other matters, and a little too much so.
He showed very great honor to ambassadors and foreign folks; they were
right well feasted and entertained by him. He was desirous of great
glory, and it was that more than ought else that brought him into his
wars; he would have been right glad to be like to those ancient princes
of whom there has been so much talk after their death; he was as bold a
man as any that reigned in his day. . . . After the long felicity and
great riches of this house of Burgundy, and after three great princes,
good and wise, who had lasted six score years and more in good sense and
virtue, God gave this people the Duke Charles, who kept them constantly
in great war, travail, and expense, and almost as much in winter as in
summer. Many rich and comfortable folks were dead or ruined in prison
during these wars. The great losses began in front of Neuss, and
continued through three or four battles up to the hour of his death; and
at that hour all the strength of his country was sapped; and dead, or
ruined, or captive, were all who could or would have defended the
dominions and the honor of his house. Thus it seems that this loss was
an equal set-off to the time of their felicity. "Please God to forgive
Duke Charles his sins!"

[Illustration: The Corpse of Charles the Rash Discovered----236]

To this pious wish of Commynes, after so judicious a sketch, we may add
another: Please God that people may no more suffer themselves to be taken
captive by the corrupting and ruinous pleasures procured for them by
their masters' grand but wicked or foolish enterprises, and may learn to
give to the men who govern them a glory in proportion to the wisdom and
justice of their deeds, and by no means to the noise they make and the
risks they sow broadcast around them!

The news of the death of Charles the Rash was for Louis XI. an unexpected
and unhoped-for blessing, and one in which he could scarcely believe.
The news reached him on the 9th of January, at the castle of Plessis-les-
Tours, by the medium of a courier sent to him by George de la Tremoille,
Sire de Craon, commanding his troops on the frontier of Lorraine.

"Insomuch as this house of Burgundy was greater and more powerful than the
others," says Commynes, "was the pleasure great for the king more than
all the others together; it was the joy of seeing himself set above all
those he hated, and above his principal foes; it might well seem to him
that he would never in his life meet any to gainsay him in his kingdom,
or in the neighborhood near him." He replied the same day to Sire de
Craon, "Sir Count, my good friend, I have received your letters, and the
good news you have brought to my knowledge, for which I thank you as much
as I am able. Now is the time for you to employ all your five natural
wits to put the duchy and countship of Burgundy in my hands. And, to
that end, place yourself with your band and the governor of Champagne, if
so be that the Duke of Burgundy is dead, within the said country, and
take care, for the dear love you bear me, that you maintain amongst the
men of war the best order, just as if you were inside Paris; and make
known to them that I am minded to treat them and keep them better than
any in my kingdom; and that, in respect of our god-daughter, I have an
intention of completing the marriage that I have already had in
contemplation between my lord the _dauphin_ and her. Sir Count, I
consider it understood that you will not enter the said country, or make
mention of that which is written above, unless the Duke of Burgundy be
dead. And, in any case, I pray you to serve me in accordance with the
confidence I have in you. And adieu!"

Beneath the discreet reserve inspired by a remnant of doubt concerning
the death of his enemy, this letter contained the essence of Louis XI.'s
grand and very natural stroke of policy. Charles the Rash had left only
a daughter, Mary of Burgundy, sole heiress of all his dominions. To
annex this magnificent heritage to the crown of France by the marriage of
the heiress with the _dauphin_ who was one day to be Charles VIII., was
clearly for the best interests of the nation as well as of the French
kingship, and such had, accordingly, been Louis XI.'s first idea. "When
the Duke of Burgundy was still alive," says Commynes, "many a time spoke
the king to me of what he would do if the duke should happen to die; and
he spoke most reasonably, saying that he would try to make a match
between his son (who is now our king) and the said duke's daughter (who
was afterwards Duchess of Austria); and if she were not minded to hear of
it for that my lord, the _dauphin_, was much younger than she, he would
essay to get her married to some younger lord of this realm, for to keep
her and her subjects in amity, and to recover without dispute that which
he claimed as his; and still was the said lord on this subject a week
before he knew of the said duke's death. . . . Howbeit it seems that
the king our master took not hold of matters by the end by which he
should have taken hold for to come out triumphant, and to add to his
crown all those great lordships, either by sound title or by marriage, as
easily he might have done."

Commynes does not explain or specify clearly the mistake with which he
reproaches his master. Louis XI., in spite of his sound sense and
correct appreciation, generally, of the political interests of France and
of his crown, allowed himself on this great occasion to be swayed by
secondary considerations and personal questions. His son's marriage with
the heiress of Burgundy might cause some embarrassment in his relations
with Edward IV., King of England, to whom he had promised the _dauphin_
as a husband for his daughter Elizabeth, who was already sometimes
called, in England, the Dauphiness. In 1477, at the death of the duke
her father, Mary of Burgundy was twenty years old, and Charles, the
_dauphin_, was barely eight. There was another question, a point of
feudal law, as to whether Burgundy, properly so called, was a fief which
women could inherit, or a fief which, in default of a male heir, must
lapse to the suzerain. Several of the Flemish towns which belonged to
the Duke of Burgundy were weary of his wars and his violence, and showed
an inclination to pass over to the sway of the King of France. All these
facts offered pretexts, opportunities, and chances of success for that
course of egotistical pretension and cunning intrigue in which Louis
delighted and felt confident of his ability; and into it he plunged after
the death of Charles the Rash. Though he still spoke of his desire of
marrying his son, the _dauphin_, to Mary of Burgundy, it was no longer
his dominant and ever-present idea. Instead of taking pains to win the
good will and the heart of Mary herself, he labored with his usual zeal
and address to dispute her rights, to despoil her brusquely of one or
another town in her dominions, to tamper with her servants, or excite
against them the wrath of the populace. Two of the most devoted and most
able amongst them, Hugonet, chancellor of Burgundy, and Sire
d'Humbercourt, were the victims of Louis XI.'s hostile manoeuvres and
of blind hatred on the part of the Ghentese; and all the Princess Mary's
passionate entreaties were powerless both with the king and with the
Flemings to save them from the scaffold. And so Mary, alternately
threatened or duped, attacked in her just rights or outraged in her
affections, being driven to extremity, exhibited a resolution never to
become the daughter of a prince unworthy of the confidence she, poor
orphan, had placed in the spiritual tie which marked him out as her
protector. "I understand," said she, "that my father had arranged my
marriage with the emperor's son; I have no mind for any other." Louis in
his alarm tried all sorts of means, seductive and violent, to prevent
such a reverse. He went in person amongst the Walloon and Flemish
provinces belonging to Mary. "That I come into this country," said he to
the inhabitants of Quesnoy, "is for nothing but the interests of Mdlle.
de Burgundy, my well-beloved cousin and god-daughter. . . . Of her
wicked advisers some would have her espouse the son of the Duke of
Cleves; but he is a prince of far too little lustre for so illustrious a
princess; I know that he has a bad sore on his leg; he is a drunkard,
like all Germans, and, after drinking, he will break his glass over her
head, and beat her. Others would ally her with the English, the
kingdom's old enemies, who all lead bad lives: there are some who would
give her for her husband the emperor's son, but those princes of the
imperial house are the most avaricious in the world; they will carry off
Mdlle. de Burgundy to Germany, a strange land and a coarse, where she
will know no consolation, whilst your land of Hainault will be left
without any lord to govern and defend it. If my fair cousin were well
advised, she would espouse the _dauphin_; you speak French, you Walloon
people; you want a prince of France, not a German. As for me, I esteem
the folks of Hainault more than any nation in the world; there is none
more noble, and in my sight a hind of Hainault is worth more than a grand
gentleman of any other country." At the very time that he was using such
flattering language to the good folks of Hainault, he was writing to the
Count de Dampmartin, whom he had charged with the repression of
insurrection in the country-parts of Ghent and Bruges, "Sir Grand Master,
I send you some mowers to cut down the crop you wot off; put them, I pray
you, to work, and spare not some casks of wine to set them drinking, and
to make them drunk. I pray you, my friend, let there be no need to
return a second time to do the mowing, for you are as much crown-officer
as I am, and, if I am king, you are grand master." Dampmartin executed
the king's orders without scruple; and at the season of harvest the
Flemish country-places were devastated. "Little birds of heaven," cries
the Flemish chronicler Molinet, "ye who are wont to haunt our fields and
rejoice our hearts with your amorous notes, now seek out other countries;
get ye hence from our tillages, for the king of the mowers of France hath
done worse to us than do the tempests."

All the efforts of Louis XI., his winning speeches, and his ruinous
deeds, did not succeed in averting the serious check he dreaded. On the
18th of August, 1477, seven months after the battle of Nancy and the
death of Charles the Rash, Arch-duke Maximilian, son of the Emperor
Frederick III., arrived at Ghent to wed Mary of Burgundy. "The moment he
caught sight of his betrothed," say the Flemish chroniclers, "they both
bent down to the ground and turned as pale as death--a sign of mutual
love according to some, an omen of unhappiness according to others."
Next day, August 19, the marriage was celebrated with great simplicity in
the chapel of the Hotel de Ville; and Maximilian swore to respect the
privileges of Ghent. A few days afterwards he renewed the same oath at
Bruges, in the midst of decorations bearing the modest device, "Most
glorious prince, defend us lest we perish" (Gloriosissime princeps,
defende nos ne pereamus). Not only did Louis XI. thus fail in his first
wise design of incorporating with France, by means of a marriage between
his son the _dauphin_ and Princess Mary, the heritage of the Dukes of
Burgundy, but he suffered the heiress and a great part of the heritage
to pass into the hands of the son of the German emperor; and thereby he
paved the way for that determined rivalry between the houses of France
and Austria, which was a source of so many dangers and woes to both
states during three centuries. It is said that in 1745, when Louis XV.,
after the battle of Fontenoy, entered Bruges cathedral, he remarked, as
he gazed on the tombs of the Austro-Burgundian princes, "There is the
origin of all our wars." In vain, when the marriage of Maximilian and
Mary was completed, did Louis XI. attempt to struggle against his new and
dangerous neighbor; his campaigns in the Flemish provinces, in 1478 and
1479, had no great result; he lost, on the 7th of August, 1479, the
battle of Guinegate, between St. Omer and Therouanne; and before long,
tired of war, which was not his favorite theatre for the display of his
abilities, he ended by concluding with Maximilian a truce at first, and
then a peace, which in spite of some conditionals favorable to France,
left the principal and the fatal consequences of the Austro-Burgundian
marriage to take full effect. This event marked the stoppage of that
great, national policy which had prevailed during the first part of Louis
XI.'s reign. Joan of Arc and Charles VII. had driven the English from
France; and for sixteen years Louis XI. had, by fighting and gradually
destroying the great vassals who made alliance with them, prevented them
from regaining a footing there. That was work as salutary as it was
glorious for the nation and the French kingship. At the death of Charles
the Rash, the work was accomplished; Louis XI. was the only power left in
France, without any great peril from without, and without any great rival
within; but he then fell under the sway of mistaken ideas and a vicious
spirit. The infinite resources of his mind, the agreeableness of his
conversation, his perseverance combined with the pliancy of his will, the
services he was rendering France, the successes he in the long ruin
frequently obtained, and his ready apparent resignation under his
reverses, for a while made up for or palliated his faults, his
falsehoods, his perfidies, his iniquities; but when evil is predominant
at the bottom of a man's soul, he cannot do without youth and success;
he cannot make head against age and decay, reverse of fortune and the
approach of death; and so Louis XI. when old in years, master-power still
though beaten in his last game of policy, appeared to all as he really
was and as he had been prediscerned to be by only such eminent observers
as Commynes, that is, a crooked, swindling, utterly selfish, vindictive,
cruel man. Not only did he hunt down implacably the men who, after
having served him, had betrayed or deserted him; he revelled in the
vengeance he took and the sufferings he inflicted on them. He had raised
to the highest rank both in state and church the son of a cobbler, or,
according to others, of a tailor, one John de Balue, born in 1421, at the
market-town of Angles, in Poitou. After having chosen him, as an
intelligent and a clever young priest, for his secretary and almoner,
Louis made him successively clerical councillor in the parliament of
Paris, then Bishop of Evreux, and afterwards cardinal; and he employed
him in his most private affairs. It was a hobby of his thus to make the
fortunes of men born in the lowest stations, hoping that, since they
would owe everything to him, they would never depend on any but him. It
is scarcely credible that so keen and contemptuous a judge of human
nature could have reckoned on dependence as a pledge of fidelity. And in
this case Louis was, at any rate, mistaken; Balue was a traitor to him,
and in 1468, at the very time of the incident at Peronne, he was secretly
in the service of Duke Charles of Burgundy, and betrayed to him the
interests and secrets of his master and benefactor. In 1469 Louis
obtained material proof of the treachery; and he immediately had Balue
arrested and put on his trial. The cardinal confessed everything, asking
only to see the king. Louis gave him an interview on the way from
Amboise to Notre-Dame de Clery; and they were observed, it is said,
conversing for two hours, as they walked together on the road. The trial
and condemnation of a cardinal by a civil tribunal was a serious business
with the court of Rome. The king sent commissioners to Pope Paul II.:
the pope complained of the procedure, but amicably and without
persistence. The cardinal was in prison at Loches; and Louis resolved to
leave him there forever, without any more fuss. But at the same time
that, out of regard for the dignity of cardinal, which he had himself
requested of the pope for the culprit, he dispensed with the legal
condemnation to capital punishment, he was bent upon satisfying his
vengeance, and upon making Balue suffer in person for his crime. He
therefore had him confined in a cage, "eight feet broad," says Commynes,
"and only one foot higher than a man's stature, covered with iron plates
outside and inside, and fitted with terrible bars." There is still to be
seen in Loches castle, under the name of the Balue cage, that instrument
of prison-torture which the cardinal, it is said, himself invented. In
it he passed eleven years, and it was not until 1480 that he was let out,
at the solicitation of Pope Sixtus IV., to whom Louis XI., being old and
ill, thought he could not possibly refuse this favor. He remembered,
perhaps, at that time how that, sixteen years before, in writing to his
lieutenant-general in Poitou to hand over to Balue, Bishop of Evreux, the
property of a certain abbey, he said, "He is a devilish good bishop just
now; I know not what he will be here-after."

[Illustration: The Balue Cage----245]

He was still more pitiless towards a man more formidable and less
subordinate, both in character and origin, than Cardinal Balue. Louis of
Luxembourg, Count of St. Pol, had been from his youth up engaged in the
wars and intrigues of the sovereigns and great feudal lords of Western
Europe--France, England, Germany, Burgundy, Brittany, and Lorraine. From
1433 to 1475 he served and betrayed them all in turn, seeking and
obtaining favors, incurring and braving rancor, at one time on one side
and at another time on another, acting as constable of France and as
diplomatic agent for the Duke of Burgundy, raising troops and taking
towns for Louis XI., for Charles the Rash, for Edward IV., for the German
emperor, and trying nearly always to keep for himself what he had taken
on another's account. The truth is, that he was constantly occupied with
the idea of making for himself an independent dominion, and becoming a
great sovereign. "He was," says Duclos, "powerful from his possessions,
a great captain, more ambitious than politic, and, from his ingratitude
and his perfidies, worthy of his tragic end." His various patrons grew
tired at last of being incessantly taken up with and then abandoned,
served and then betrayed; and they mutually interchanged proofs of the
desertions and treasons to which they had been victims. In 1475 Louis
of Luxembourg saw a storm threatening; and he made application for a
safe-conduct to Charles the Rash, who had been the friend of his youth.
"Tell him," replied Charles to the messenger, "that he has forfeited his
paper and his hope as well;" and he gave orders to detain him. As soon
as Louis XI. knew whither the constable had retired, he demanded of the
Duke of Burgundy to give him up, as had been agreed between them. "I
have need," said he, "for my heavy business, of a head like his;" and he
added, with a ghastly smile, "it is only the head I want; the body may
stay where it is." On the 24th of November, 1475, the constable was,
accordingly, given up to the king; and on the 27th, was brought to Paris.
His trial, begun forthwith, was soon over; he himself acknowledged the
greater part of what was imputed to him; and on the 19th of December he
was brought up from the Bastille before the parliament. "My lord of St.
Pol," said the chancellor to him, "you have always passed for being the
firmest lord in the realm; you must not belie yourself to-day, when you
have more need than ever of firmness and courage;" and he read to him the
decree which sentenced him to lose his head that very day on the Place de
Greve. "That is a mighty hard sentence," said the constable; "I pray God
that I may see Him to-day." And he underwent execution with serene and
pious firmness. He was of an epoch when the most criminal enterprises
did not always preclude piety. Louis XI. did not look after the
constable's accomplices. "He flew at the heads," says Duclos, "and was
set on making great examples; he was convinced that noble blood, when it
is guilty, should be shed rather than common blood. Nevertheless there
was considered to be something indecent in the cession by the king to the
Duke of Burgundy of the constable's possessions. It seemed like the
price of the blood of an unhappy man, who, being rightfully sacrificed
only to justice and public tranquillity, appeared to be so to vengeance,
ambition, and avarice."

In August, 1477, the battle of Nancy had been fought; Charles the Rash
had been killed; and the line of the Dukes of Burgundy had been
extinguished. Louis XI. remained master of the battle-field on which the
great risks and great scenes of his life had been passed through. It
seemed as if he ought to fear nothing now, and that the day for clemency
had come. But such was not the king's opinion; two cruel passions,
suspicion and vengeance, had taken possession of his soul; he remained
convinced, not without reason, that nearly all the great feudal lords who
had been his foes were continuing to conspire against him, and that he
ought not, on his side, ever to cease from striving against thorn. The
trial of the constable, St. Pol, had confirmed all his suspicions; he had
discovered thereby traces and almost proofs of a design for a long time
past conceived and pursued by the constable and his associates--the
design of seizing the king, keeping him prisoner, and setting his son,
the _dauphin_, on the throne, with a regency composed of a council of
lords. Amongst the declared or presumed adherents of this project, the
king had found James d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, the companion and
friend of his youth; for his father, the Count of Pardiac, had been
governor to Louis, at that time _dauphin_. Louis, on becoming king, had
loaded James d'Armagnac with favors; had raised his countship of Nemours
to a duchy-peerage of France; had married him to Louise of Anjou,
daughter of the Count of Maine and niece of King Rend. The new Duke of
Nemours entered, nevertheless, into the League of Common Weal against the
king. Having been included, in 1465, with the other chiefs of the league
in the treaty of Conflans, and reconciled with the king, the Duke of
Nemours made oath to him, in the Sainte-Chapelle, to always be to him a
good, faithful, and loyal subject, and thereby obtained the governorship
of Paris and Ile-de-France. But, in 1469, he took part in the revolt of
his cousin, Count John d'Armagnac, who was supposed to be in
communication with the English; and having been vanquished by the Count
de Dampmartin, he had need of a fresh pardon from the king, which he
obtained on renouncing the privileges of the peerage if he should offend
again. He then withdrew within his own domains, and there lived in
tranquillity and popularity, but still keeping up secret relations with
his old associates, especially with the Duke of Burgundy and the
constable of St. Pol. In 1476, during the Duke of Burgundy's first
campaign against the Swiss, the more or less active participation of the
Duke of Nemours with the king's enemies appeared to Louis so grave, that
he gave orders to his son-in-law, Peter of Bourbon, Sire de Beaujeu, to
go and besiege him in his castle of Carlat, in Auvergne. The Duke of
Nemours was taken prisoner there and carried off to Vienne, in Dauphiny,
where the king then happened to be. In spite of the prisoner's
entreaties, Louis absolutely refused to see him, and had him confined in
the tower of Pierre-Encise. The Duke of Nemours was so disquieted at his
position and the king's wrath, that his wife, Louise of Anjou, who was in
her confinement at Carlat, had a fit of terror and died there; and he
himself, shut up at Pierre-Encise, in a dark and damp dungeon, found his
hair turn white in a few days. He was not mistaken about the gravity of
the danger. Louis was both alarmed at these incessantly renewed
conspiracies of the great lords and vexed at the futility of his pardons.
He was determined to intimidate his enemies by a grand example, and
avenge his kingly self-respect by bringing his power home to the ingrates
who made no account of his indulgence. He ordered that the Duke of
Nemours should be removed from Pierre-Encise to Paris, and put in the
Bastille, where he arrived on the 4th of August, 1476, and that
commissioners should set about his trial. The king complained of the
gentleness with which the prisoner had been treated on arrival, and wrote
to one of the commissioners, "It seems to me that you have but one thing
to do; that is, to find out what guarantees the Duke of Nemours had given
the constable of being at one with him in making the Duke of Burgundy
regent, putting me to death, seizing my lord the _dauphin_, and taking
the authority and government of the realm. He must he made to speak
clearly on this point, and must get hell (be put to the torture) in good
earnest. I am not pleased at what you tell me as to the irons having
been taken off his legs, as to his being let out from his cage, and as to
his being taken to the mass to which the women go. Whatever the
chancellor or others may say, take care that he budge not from his cage,
that he be never let out save to give him hell (torture him), and that he
suffer hell (torture) in his own chamber." The Duke of Nemours protested
against the choice of commissioners, and claimed, as a peer of the realm,
his right to be tried by the parliament. When put to the torture he
ended by saying, "I wish to conceal nothing from the king; I will tell
him the truth as to all I know." "My most dread and sovereign lord," he
himself wrote to Louis, "I have been so misdoing towards you and towards
God that I quite see that I am undone unless your grace and pity be
extended to me; the which, accordingly, most humbly and in great
bitterness and contrition of heart, I do beseech you to bestow upon me
liberally;" and he put the simple signature, "Poor James." "He confessed
that he had been cognizant of the constable's designs; but he added that,
whilst thanking him for the kind offers made to himself, and whilst
testifying his desire that the lords might at last get their guarantees,
he had declared what great obligations and great oaths he was under to
the king, against the which he would not go; he, moreover, had told the
constable he had no money at the moment to dispose of, no relative to
whom he was inclined to trust himself or whom he could exert himself to
win over, not even M. d'Albret, his cousin." In such confessions there
was enough to stop upright and fair judges from the infliction of capital
punishment, but not enough to reassure and move the heart of Louis XI.
On the chancellor's representations he consented to have the business
sent before the parliament; but the peers of the realm were not invited
to it. The king summoned the parliament to Noyon, to be nearer his own
residence; and he ordered that the trial should be brought to a
conclusion in that town, and that the original commissioners who had
commenced proceedings, as well as thirteen other magistrates and officers
of the king denoted by their posts, should sit with the lords of the
parliament, and deliberate with them.

In spite of so many arbitrary precautions and violations of justice, the
will of Louis XI. met, even in a parliament thus distorted, with some
resistance. Three of the commissioners added to the court abstained from
taking any part in the proceedings; three of the councillors pronounced
against the penalty of death; and the king's own son-in-law, Sire de
Beaujeu, who presided, confined himself to collecting the votes without
delivering an opinion, and to announcing the decision. It was to the
effect that "James d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, was guilty of high
treason, and, as such, deprived of all honors, dignities, and
prerogatives, and sentenced to be beheaded and executed according to
justice." Furthermore the court declared all his possessions confiscated
and lapsed to the king. The sentence, determined upon at Noyon on the
10th of July, 1477, was made known to the Duke of Nemours on the 4th of
August, in the Bastille, and carried out, the same day, in front of the
market-place. A disgusting detail, reproduced by several modern writers,
has almost been received into history. Louis XI., it is said, ordered
the children of the Duke of Nemours to be placed under the scaffold, and
be sprinkled with their father's blood. None of his contemporaries, even
the most hostile to Louis XI., and even amongst those who, at the states-
general held in 1484, one of them after his death, raised their voices
against the trial of the Duke of Nemours, and in favor of his children,
has made any mention of this pretended atrocity. Amongst the men who
have reigned and governed ably, Louis XI. is one of those who could be
most justly taxed with cruel indifference when cruelty might be useful to
him; but the more ground there is for severe judgment upon the chieftains
of nations, the stronger is the interdict against overstepping the limit
justified and authorized by facts.

The same rule of historical equity makes it incumbent upon us to remark
that, in spite of his feelings of suspicion and revenge, Louis XI. could
perfectly well appreciate the men of honor in whom he was able to have
confidence, and would actually confide in them even contrary to ordinary
probabilities. He numbered amongst his most distinguished servants
three men who had begun by serving his enemies, and whom he conquered,
so to speak, by his penetration and his firm mental grasp of policy.
The first was Philip of Chabannes, Count de Dampmartin, an able and
faithful military leader under Charles VII., so suspected by Louis XI.
at his accession, that, when weary of living in apprehension and
retirement he came, in 1463, and presented himself to the king, who was
on his way to Bordeaux, "Ask you justice or mercy?" demanded Louis.
"Justice, sir," was the answer. "Very well, then," replied the king,
"I banish you forever from the kingdom." And he issued an order to that
effect, at the same time giving Dampmartin a large sum to supply the
wants of exile. It is credible that Louis already knew the worth of the
man, and wished in this way to render their reconciliation more easy.
Three years afterwards, in 1466, he restored to Dampmartin his
possessions together with express marks of royal favor, and twelve years
later, in 1478, in spite of certain gusts of doubt and disquietude which
had passed across his mind as to Dampmartin under circumstances critical
for both of them, the king wrote to him, "Sir Grand Master, I have
received your letters, and I do assure you, by the faith of my body,
that I am right joyous that you provided so well for your affair at
Quesnoy, for one would have said that you and the rest of the old ones
were no longer any good in an affair of war, and we and the rest of the
young ones would have gotten the honor for ourselves. Search, I pray
you, to the very roots the case of those who would have betrayed us, and
punish them so well that they shall never do you harm. I have always
told you that you have no need to ask me for leave to go and do your
business, for I am sure that you would not abandon mine without having
provided for everything. Wherefore, I put myself in your hands, and you
can go away without leave. All goes well; and I am much better pleased
at your holding your own so well than if you had risked a loss of two to
one. And so, farewell!" In 1465, another man of war, Odet d'Aydie,
Lord of Lescun in Warn, had commanded at Montlhery the troops of the
Dukes of Berry and Brittany against Louis XI.; and, in 1469, the king,
who had found means of making his acquaintance, and who "was wiser,"
says Commynes, "in the conduct of such treaties than any other prince of
his time," resolved to employ him in his difficult relations with his
brother Charles, then Duke of Guienne, "promising him that he and his
servants, and he especially, should profit thereby." Three years
afterwards, in 1472, Louis made Lescun Count of Comminges, "wherein he
showed good judgment," adds Commynes, "saying that no peril would come
of putting in his hands that which he did put, for never, during those
past dissensions, had the said Lescun a mind to have any communication
with the English, or to consent that the places of Normandy should be
handed over to them;" and to the end of his life Louis XI. kept up the
confidence which Lescun had inspired by his judicious fidelity in the
case of this great question. There is no need to make any addition to
the name of Philip de Commynes, the most precious of the politic
conquests made by Louis in the matter of eminent counsellors, to whom he
remained as faithful as they were themselves faithful and useful to him.
The _Memoires of Commynes_ are the most striking proof of the rare and
unfettered political intellect placed by the future historian at the
king's service, and of the estimation in which the king had wit enough
to hold it.

Louis XI. rendered to France, four centuries ago, during a reign of
twenty-two years, three great services, the traces and influence of which
exist to this day. He prosecuted steadily the work of Joan of Arc and
Charles VII., the expulsion of a foreign kingship and the triumph of
national independence and national dignity. By means of the provinces
which he successively won, wholly or partly, Burgundy, Franche-Comte,
Artois, Provence, Anjou, Roussillon, and Barrois, he caused France to
make a great stride towards territorial unity within her natural
boundaries. By the defeat he inflicted on the great vassals, the favor
he showed the middle classes, and the use he had the sense to make of
this new social force, he contributed powerfully to the formation of the
French nation, and to its unity under a national government. Feudal
society had not an idea of how to form itself into a nation, or
discipline its forces under one head; Louis XI. proved its political
weakness, determined its fall, and labored to place in its stead France
and monarchy. Herein are the great facts of his reign, and the proofs of
his superior mind.

But side by side with these powerful symptoms of a new regimen appeared
also the vices of which that regimen contained the germ, and those of the
man himself who was laboring to found it. Feudal society, perceiving
itself to be threatened, at one time attacked Louis XI. with passion, at
another entered into violent disputes against him; and Louis, in order to
struggle with it, employed all the practices, at one time crafty and at
another violent, that belong to absolute power. Craft usually
predominated in his proceedings, violence being often too perilous
for him to risk it; he did not consider himself in a condition to say
brazen-facedly, "Might before right;" but he disregarded right in the
case of his adversaries, and he did not deny himself any artifice, any
lie, any baseness, however specious, in order to trick them or ruin them
secretly, when he did not feel himself in a position to crush them at a
blow. "The end justifies the means"--that was his maxim; and the end,
in his case, was sometimes a great and legitimate political object,
nothing less than the dominant interest of France, but far more often his
own personal interest, something necessary to his own success or his own
gratification. No loftiness, no greatness of soul, was natural to him;
and the more experience of life he had, the more he became selfish and
devoid of moral sense and of sympathy with other men, whether rivals,
tools, or subjects. All found out before long, not only how little
account he made of them, but also what cruel pleasure he sometimes took
in making them conscious of his disdain and his power. He was
"familiar," but not by no means "vulgar;" he was in conversation able and
agreeable, with a mixture, however, of petulance and indiscretion, even
when he was meditating some perfidy; and "there is much need," he used to
say, "that my tongue should sometimes serve me; it has hurt me often
enough." The most puerile superstitions, as well as those most akin to a
blind piety, found their way into his mind. When he received any bad
news, he would cast aside forever the dress he was wearing when the news
came; and of death he had a dread which was carried to the extent of
pusillanimity and ridiculousness. "Whilst he was every day," says M. de
Barante, "becoming more suspicious, more absolute, more terrible to his
children, to the princes of the blood, to his old servants, and to his
wisest counsellors, there was one man who, without any fear of his wrath,
treated him with brutal rudeness. This was James Cattier, his doctor.
When the king would sometimes complain of it before certain confidential
servants, 'I know very well,' Cattier would say, that some fine morning
you'll send me where you've sent so many others; but, 'sdeath, you'll not
live a week after!'" Then the king would coax him, overwhelm him with
caresses, raise his salary to ten thousand crowns a month, make him a
present of rich lordships; and he ended by making him premier president
of the Court of Exchequer. All churches and all sanctuaries of any small
celebrity were recipients of his oblations, and it was not the salvation
of his soul, but life and health, that he asked for in return. One day
there was being repeated, on his account and in his presence, an orison
to St. Eutropius, who was implored to grant health to the soul and health
to the body. "The latter will be enough," said the king; "it is not
right to bother the saint for too many things at once." He showed great
devotion for images which had received benediction, and often had one of
them sewn upon his hat. Hawkers used to come and bring them to him; and
one day he gave a hundred and sixty livres to a pedler who had in his
pack one that had received benediction at Aix-la-Chapelle.

[Illustration: Louis XI. at his Devotions----255]

Whatever may have been, in the middle ages, the taste and the custom in
respect of such practices, they were regarded with less respect in the
fifteenth than in the twelfth century, and many people scoffed at the
trust that Louis XI. placed in them, or doubted his sincerity.

Whether they were sincere or assumed, the superstitions of Louis XI. did
not prevent him from appreciating and promoting the progress of
civilization, towards which the fifteenth century saw the first real
general impulse. He favored the free development of industry and trade;
he protected printing, in its infancy, and scientific studies, especially
the study of medicine; by his authorization, it is said, the operation
for the stone was tried, for the first time in France, upon a criminal
under sentence of death, who recovered, and was pardoned; and he welcomed
the philological scholars who were at this time laboring to diffuse
through Western Europe the works of Greek and Roman antiquity. He
instituted, at first for his own and before long for the public service,
post-horses and the letter-post within his kingdom. Towards intellectual
and social movement he had not the mistrust and antipathy of an old,
one-grooved, worn-out, unproductive despotism; his kingly despotism was
new, and, one might almost say, innovational, for it sprang and was
growing up from the ruins of feudal rights and liberties which had
inevitably ended in monarchy. But despotism's good services are
short-lived; it has no need to last long before it generates iniquity and
tyranny; and that of Louis XI., in the latter part of his reign, bore its
natural, unavoidable fruits. "His mistrust," says M. de Barante, "became
horrible, and almost insane; every year he had surrounded his castle of
Plessis with more walls, ditches, and rails. On the towers were iron
sheds, a shelter from arrows, and even artillery. More than eighteen
hundred of those planks bristling with nails, called caltrops, were
distributed over the yonder side of the ditch. There were every day four
hundred crossbow-men on duty, with orders to fire on whosoever
approached. Every suspected passer-by was seized, and carried off to
Tristan l'Hermite, the provost-marshal. No great proofs were required
for a swing on the gibbet, or for the inside of a sack and a plunge in
the Loire. . . . Men who, like Sire de Commynes, had been the king's
servants, and who had lived in his confidence, had no doubt but that he
had committed cruelties and perpetrated the blackest treachery; still
they asked themselves whether there had not been a necessity, and whether
he had not, in the first instance, been the object of criminal
machinations against which he had to defend himself. . . . But,
throughout the kingdom, the multitude of his subjects who had not
received kindnesses from him, nor lived in familiarity with him, nor
known of the ability displayed in his plans, nor enjoyed the wit of his
conversation, judged only by that which came out before their eyes; the
imposts had been made much heavier, without any consent on the part of
the states-general; the talliages, which under Charles VII. brought in
only eighteen hundred thousand livres, rose, under Louis XI., to
thirty-seven hundred thousand; the kingdom was ruined, and the people
were at the last extremity of misery; the prisons were full; none was
secure of life or property; the greatest in the land, and even the
princes of the blood, were not safe in their own houses.

An unexpected event occurred at this time to give a little more heart to
Louis XI., who was now very ill, and to mingle with his gloomy broodings
a gleam of future prospects. Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the
Rash, died at Bruges on the 27th of March, 1482, leaving to her husband,
Maximilian of Austria, a daughter, hardly three years of age, Princess
Marguerite by name, heiress to the Burgundian-Flemish dominions which had
not come into the possession of the King of France. Louis, as soon as he
heard the news, conceived the idea and the hope of making up for the
reverse he had experienced five years previously through the marriage of
Mary of Burgundy. He would arrange espousals between his son, the
_dauphin_, Charles, thirteen years old, and the infant princess left by
Mary, and thus recover for the crown of France the beautiful domains he
had allowed to slip from him. A negotiation was opened at once on the
subject between Louis, Maximilian, and the estates of Flanders, and, on
the 23d of December, 1482, it resulted in a treaty, concluded at Arras,
which arranged for the marriage, and regulated the mutual conditions. In
January, 1483, the ambassadors from the estates of Flanders and from
Maximilian, who then for the first time assumed the title of archduke,
came to France for the ratification of the treaty. Having been first
received with great marks of satisfaction at Paris, they repaired to
Plessis-les-Tours. Great was their surprise at seeing this melancholy
abode, this sort of prison, into which "there was no admittance save
after so many formalities and precautions." When they had waited a
while, they were introduced, in the evening, into a room badly lighted.
In a dark corner was the king, seated in an arm-chair. They moved
towards him; and then, in a weak and trembling voice, but still, as it
seemed, in a bantering tone, Louis asked pardon of the Abbot of St.
Peter of Ghent and of the other ambassadors for not being able to rise
and greet them. After having heard what they had to say, and having held
a short conversation with them, he sent for the Gospels for to make oath.
He excused himself for being obliged to take the holy volume in his left
hand, for his right was paralyzed and his arm supported in a sling.
Then, holding the volume of the Gospels, he raised it up painfully, and
placing upon it the elbow of his right arm, he made oath. Thus appeared
in the eyes of the Flemings that king who had done them so much harm, and
who was obtaining of them so good a treaty by the fear with which he
inspired them, all dying as he was.

On the 2d of June following, the infant princess, Marguerite of Austria,
was brought by a solemn embassy to Paris first, and then, on the 23d of
June, to Amboise, where her betrothal to the _dauphin_, Charles, was
celebrated. Louis XI. did not feel fit for removal to Amboise; and he
would not even receive at Plessis-les-Tours the new Flemish embassy.
Assuredly neither the king nor any of the actors in this regal scene
foresaw that this marriage, which they with reason looked upon as a
triumph of French policy, would never be consummated; that, at the
request of the court of France, the pope would annul the betrothal; and
that, nine years after its celebration, in 1492, the Austrian princess,
after having been brought up at Amboise under the guardianship of the
Duchess of Bourbon, Anne, eldest daughter of Louis XI., would be sent
back to her father, Emperor Maximilian, by her affianced, Charles VIII.,
then King of France, who preferred to become the husband of a French
princess with a French province for dowry, Anne, Duchess of Brittany.

[Illustration: Views of the Castle of Plessis-les-Tours----258]

It was in March, 1481, that Louis XI. had his first attack of that
apoplexy, which, after several repeated strokes, reduced him to such a
state of weakness that in June, 1483, he felt himself and declared
himself not in a fit state to be present at his son's betrothal. Two
months afterwards, on the 25th of August, St. Louis's day, he had a fresh
stroke, and lost all consciousness and speech. He soon recovered them;
but remained so weak that he could not raise his hand to his mouth, and,
under the conviction that he was a dead man, he sent for his son-in-law,
Peter of Bourbon, Sire de Beaujeu; and "Go," said he, "to Amboise, to the
king, my son; I have intrusted him as well as the government of the
kingdom to your charge and my daughter's care. You know all I have
enjoined upon him; watch and see that it be observed. Let him show favor
and confidence towards those who have done me good service and whom I
have named to him. You know, too, of whom he should beware, and who must
not be suffered to come near him." He sent for the chancellor from
Paris, and bade him go and take the seals to the king. "Go to the king,"
he said to the captains of his guards, to his archers, to his huntsmen,
to all his household. "His speech never failed him after it had come
back to him," says Commynes, "nor his senses; he was constantly saying
something of great sense and never in all his illness, which lasted from
Monday to Saturday evening, did he complain, as do all sorts of folk
when they feel ill. . . . "Notwithstanding all those commands he
recovered heart," adds Commynes, "and had good hope of escaping." In
conversation at odd times with some of his servants, and even with
Commynes himself, he had begged them, whenever they saw that he was very
ill, not to mention that cruel word death; he had even made a covenant
with them, that they should say no more to him than, "Don't talk much,"
which would be sufficient warning. But his doctor, James Coettier, and
his barber, Oliver the Devil, whom he had ennobled and enriched under
the name of Oliver le Daim, did not treat him with so much indulgence.
"They notified his death to him in brief and harsh terms," says
Commynes; "'Sir, we must do our duty; have no longer hope in your holy
man of Calabria or in other matters, for assuredly all is over with you;
think of your soul; there is no help for it.' 'I have hope in God that
He will aid me,' answered Louis, coldly; 'peradventure I am not so ill
as you think.'

"He endured with manly virtue so cruel a sentence," says Commynes, "and
everything, even to death, more than any man I ever saw die; he spoke as
coolly as if he had never been ill." He gave minute orders about his
funeral, sepulchre, and tomb. He would be laid at Notre-Dame de Clery,
and not, like his ancestors, at St. Denis; his statue was to be gilt
bronze, kneeling, face to the altar, head uncovered, and hands clasped
within his hat, as was his ordinary custom. Not having died on the
battle-field and sword in hand, he would be dressed in hunting-garb,
with jack-boots, a hunting-horn, slung over his shoulder, his hound
lying beside him, his order of St. Michael round his neck, and his sword
at his side. As to the likeness, he asked to be represented, not as he
was in his latter days, bald, bow-backed, and wasted, but as he was in
his youth and in the vigor of his age, face pretty full, nose aquiline,
hair long, and falling down behind to his shoulders. After having taken
all these pains about himself after his death, he gave his chief
remaining thoughts to France and his son. "Orders must be sent," said
he, "to M. d'Esquerdes [Philip de Crevecoeur, Baron d'Esquerdes, a
distinguished warrior, who, after the death of Charles the Rash, had,
through the agency of Commynes, gone over to the service of Louis XI.,
and was in command of his army] to attempt no doings as to Calais. We
had thought to drive out the English from this the last corner they hold
in the kingdom; but such matters are too weighty; all that business ends
with me. M. d'Esquerdes must give up such designs, and come and guard
my son without budging from his side for at least six months. Let an
end be put, also, to all our disputes with Brittany, and let this Duke
Francis be allowed to live in peace without any more causing him trouble
or fear. This is the way in which we, must now deal with all our
neighbors. Five or six good years of peace are needful for the kingdom.
My poor people have suffered too much; they are in great desolation. If
God had been pleased to grant me life, I should have put it all to
rights; it was my thought and my desire, let my son be strictly charged
to remain at peace, especially whilst he is so young. At a later time,
when he is older, and when the kingdom is in good case, he shall do as
he pleases about it."

[Illustration: Louis XI----260]

On Saturday, August 30, 1483, between seven and eight in the evening,
Louis XI. expired, saying, "Our Lady of Embrun, my good mistress, have
pity upon me; the mercies of the Lord will I sing forever (misericordias
Domini in ceternum cantabo)."

"It was a great cause of joy throughout the kingdom," says M. de Barante
with truth, in his _Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne_: "this moment had
been impatiently waited for as a deliverance, and as the ending of so
many woes and fears. For a long time past no King of France had been so
heavy on his people or so hated by them."

This was certainly just, and at the same time ungrateful.

Louis XI. had rendered France great service, but in a manner void of
frankness, dignity, or lustre; he had made the contemporary generation
pay dearly for it by reason of the spectacle he presented of trickery,
perfidy, and vindictive cruelty, and by his arbitrary and tyrannical
exercise of kingly power. People are not content to have useful service;
they must admire or love; and Louis XI. inspired France with neither of
those sentiments. He has had the good fortune to be described and
appraised, in his own day too, by the most distinguished and independent
of his councillors, Philip de Commynes, and, three centuries afterwards,
by one of the most thoughtful and the soundest intellects amongst the
philosophers of the eighteenth century, Duclos, who, moreover, had the
advantage of being historiographer of France, and of having studied the
history of that reign in authentic documents. We reproduce here the two
judgments, the agreement of which is remarkable:--

"God," says Commynes, "had created our king more wise, liberal, and full
of manly virtue than the princes who reigned with him and in his day, and
who were his enemies and neighbors. In all there was good and evil, for
they were men; but without flattery, in him were more things appertaining
to the office of king than in any of the rest. I saw them nearly all,
and knew what they could do."

"Louis XI.," says Duclos, "was far from being without reproach; few
princes have deserved so much; but it may be said that he was equally
celebrated for his vices and his virtues, and that, everything being put
in the balance, he was a king."

We will be more exacting than Commynes and Duclos; we will not consent to
apply to Louis XI. the words liberal, virtuous, and virtue; he had nor
greatness of soul, nor uprightness of character, nor kindness of heart;
he was neither a great king nor a good king; but we may assent to Duclos'
last word--he was a king.


[Illustration: CHARLES VIII.----263]

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest