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to his son ; but he vainly flattered himself with hav-
ing her for daughter-in-law whom he had stripped
of her dominions; and thus this great politician
missed an opportunity of annexing Franche-Comte
and all the Low Countries to his kingdom.

The people of Ghent and of the rest of the towns
in Flanders, who enjoyed more freedom at that time
under their sovereigns, than even the English do
under their kings, destined Maximilian, son of the
emperor Frederick III., for a consort to their prin-

At present subjects learn the marriages of their
princes, the making of war and peace, the laying on
of taxes, and in short the whole of their destiny,
from the declarations issued by their masters, but it
was not so in Flanders : the people of Ghent deter-
mined that their princess should marry a German:
and they cut off the heads of Princess Mary's chan-
cellor, and of her chamberlain, Imbercourt, for
having entered into a treaty of marriage for her
with the dauphin of France ; and these two ministers
were executed in 1478, in the very presence of the
young princess, who pleaded in vain for their pardon
with these rough people.

Maximilian, who was invited rather by the people
than the princess, repaired to Ghent to conclude his

Chivalry. 155

nuptials, like a private gentleman going to make
his fortune by marrying a rich heiress ; his wife
defrayed the expense of his journey, his equipage,
and his household. But, though he espoused Mary,
he did not get possession of her dominions, and was
only the husband of a sovereign princess ; and even
when at the death of his wife he became guardian
of their son; when he had the government of the
Low Countries, and even after he came to be king
of the Romans, and emperor, the inhabitants of
Bruges imprisoned him in 1488 for four months, for
having violated their privileges. Thus, if princes
have frequently abused their powers, the people on
the other hand have as much abused their privileges.
This marriage of the heiress of Burgundy with
Maximilian proved the source of all those wars
which have for such a number of years set the house
of France at variance with that of Austria. This it
was which gave rise to the greatness of Charles
V., and brought Europe to the brink of slavery : all
through the obstinacy of the citizens of Ghent, in
marrying their princess.



THE extinction of the house of Burgundy, the
administration of Louis XL, and, above all, the new
method of making war lately introduced throughout
Europe, had little by little contributed to the aboli-

156 Ancient and Modern History.

tion of that kind of military dignity or brotherhood,
known by the name of chivalry, of which only the
shadow is now left.

This chivalry was a military institution which
had arisen of itself among the great lords, in the
same manner as religious societies or brotherhoods
had been established among the citizens. This insti-
tution owed its birth to the anarchy and rapine which
desolated all Europe upon the decline of the Charle-
magne family. The nobles of all degrees, dukes,
counts, viscounts, vidames, castellans, were now
sovereign princes in their own territories, and con-
tinually making war upon one another ; and, instead
of the great armies of Charles Martel, Pepin, and
Charlemagne, almost all Europe was divided into
small troops of seven or eight hundred men, and
sometimes much less. Two or three towns made
a petty state, which was incessantly fighting with its
neighboring states. The communication between the
provinces was cut off, the high roads were neg-
lected, or so infested with robbers that the merchant
could no longer travel in safety, or bring his com-
modities to market, without which there was no
subsisting. Every possessor of a castle stopped them
upon the road and laid them under contribution, and
many of the larger castles upon the borders of the
rivers were real dens of thieves, who not only plun-
dered the merchants, but frequently carried off all
the women that came in their way.

Several of the lords by degrees entered into asso-

Chivalry. 157

ciations for the defence of the public safety, and
the protection of the ladies, to which they bound
themselves by oath; and this virtuous institution,
by being made a religious act, became an indispen-
sable duty; several associations of this kind were
formed in most of the provinces, and every lord of
a large fief held it an honor to be a knight and to be
admitted to this order.

Toward the eleventh century there were several
religious and profane ceremonies appointed for the
observance of each candidate, which seemed to throw
a new character upon the order. The person who
stood for admittance was to fast, to confess himself,
to receive the sacrament, and to pass one whole night
under arms: after this he was to sit at a table by
himself, while his godfather and the ladies that were
to arm the new knight dined at another. The can-
didate, clad in a white robe, was at his little table
by himself, where it was forbidden him to speak,
laugh, or even to touch food. The next day he was
to make his entrance into the church, with his
sword hanging about his neck, and received the
priest's benediction; he was then to go and kneel
down before the lord or lady who was to invest him
with his armor of knighthood. Those of the assist-
ants who were qualified put on his spurs, clad him
with his cuirass, his cap, his cuishes, his gaunt-
lets, and the coat of mail called the hauberk. The
godfather who installed him gave him three strokes
with the flat of bis sword on the neck, in the name

158 Ancient and Modern History.

of God, St. Michael, and St. George. And, from
this instant, every time he heard mass he drew his
sword at the reading of the Gospel and held it

The installation was followed by a magnificent
entertainment, and frequently by a tournament ; but
these were always at the people's expense. The
great feudal lords imposed a tax upon their vassals,
on the day that any of their children were made
knights. Young people were generally admitted
to this honor at the age of twenty-one : before that
they were termed bachelors, which is as much as to
say lesser knights, varlets, or squires; and the
lords who were incorporated in these military soci-
eties frequently gave their children to each other, to
be brought up at a distance from the parental roof,
under the name of varlets, or apprentices in chivalry.

These knights were in greatest vogue in the time
of the Crusades. The lords of fiefs, who brought
vassals into the field under their banner, were called
knights-banneret ; not that the title of knight alone
gave them the privilege of appearing in the field with
banners. It was their power, and not the ceremony
of installation, which enabled them to raise troops
and keep them on foot. They were bannerets in
virtue of their fiefs, and not of their knighthood;
this title being only a distinction introduced by cus-
tom; a kind of conventional honor, and not any
real dignity in the state, nor of the least weight in
the form of government. The knights had no share

Chivalry. 159

in the elections of emperors or kings; nor was it
necessary to have been dubbed a knight to be
admitted to a seat in the diets of the empire, the
parliaments of France, or the cortes of Spain. In
a word, none of the essentials of government, such
as enfeoffments, rights of dependency and juris-
diction, inheritance, or laws, had any connection
with chivalry. The chief privileges of this insti-
tution consisted in bloody exhibitions and tourna-
ments. A bachelor or esquire was not in general
allowed to enter the lists against a knight.

Kings themselves frequently entered into this
order, but this made no addition to their honor or
power; they did it only to encourage chivalry and
valor by their example. The knights were always
treated with great respect by the community, and
that was all.

But after King Edward III. instituted the Order
of the Garter ; Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy,
that of the Golden Fleece ; and Louis XL the Order
of St. Michael, which at its first institution was as
noble as either of the other two, though now so
ridiculously disgraced; then the ancient chivalry
began to decline. It had no longer any distinguish-
ing mark, nor a chief to confer the particular honors
and privileges of the order. And there were no
longer any knights banneret after the kings and
great princes had erected military companies; so
that chivalry became then only a name. The honor
of knighthood was generally conferred by a great

160 Ancient and Modern History.

prince, on some renowned warrior. Those lords
who were of any established rank of dignity took,
with the rest of their titles, that of knight; and
all those who made profession of arms called them-
selves esquires.

The military orders of knighthood, as those of the
Templars, of Malta, the Teutonic Order, and sev-
eral others, are only imitations of the ancient chiv-
alry, and have added religious ceremonies to the
military function. But this kind of chivalry is quite
different from the ancient institution, and was only
productive of certain orders of military monks,
founded by the popes, endowed with benefices, and
confined to three orders of monks. Of these extraor-
dinary orders, some have been great conquerors,
others have been suppressed on account of their
debaucheries, and others still continue to subsist in
high reputation.

The Teutonic was a sovereign order, as that
of Malta still is, and will long continue to be.

Almost every province in Europe has endeavored
to establish an order of knighthood. The simple
title of knight, bestowed by the kings of England
upon some of the principal citizens without their
being incorporated into any particular order, is
derived from the ancient chivalry, but differs widely
from its original. The ancient chivalry has been
preserved nowhere but in France, in the ceremony of
creating knights all the ambassadors sent to that
court irom the republic of Venice; and in this

Feudal Government. 161

installation the dubbing, or striking with the sword,
is the only part of the original institution which is

Here we have exhibited to us a varied picture,
and, if we attentively trace the chain of all the cus-
toms in Europe since the time of Charlemagne, in
state, church, war, honors, finances, and society, nay,
even in dress itself, we shall meet with nothing but
one perpetual change.



You have already seen how in Italy, France, and
Germany anarchy was turned into despotism, under
the reign of Charlemagne, and despotism again over-
turned by anarchy under his descendants.

You are sensible how wrong it is to think that
there were no hereditary fiefs before the time of
Hugh Capet. Normandy is a strong instance of the
contrary. Bavaria and Aquitaine were hereditary
fiefs before Charlemagne's time, as were almost all
the Italian fiefs under the Lombard kings. In the
reign of Charles the Fat and the Simple, the great
officers of state and some bishops arrogated to them-
selves the rights of regality. But there were always
possessors of large territories under the title of
Sires in France, Herren in Germany, and Ricos
Hombres in Spain. There are always, likewise,
Vol. 2611

1 62 Ancient and Modern History.

some great cities governed by their own magistrates,
as Rome, Milan, Lyons, Rheims, etc. Now the
bounds of the liberties of these cities, and those of
the power of particular lords, have been always
changing; and force and fortune have determined
everything. If some of the great officers became
usurpers, the father of Charlemagne had been the
same. Pepin, the grandson of Arnold, bishop of
Metz, and preceptor to Dagobert, dethroned the
family of Clovis ; Hugh Capet dispossessed Pepin's
family; and the descendants of this Hugh Capet
were never able to reassemble the scattered mem-
bers of the French monarchy.

The feudal power in France received a mortal
blow from Louis XI., and was vigorously opposed
in Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella. In England
it had been obliged to give way to the mixed form
of government. It still subsisted in Poland, though
under another form. But in Germany it remained in
full vigor, and was even increasing every day. The
count of Boulainvilliers calls this constitution " The
effort of human genius." Loiseau and other great
civilians term it "An extravagant institution; a
monster composed of members without a head."

We cannot think it a very powerful effort of
genius, but rather the mere natural and common
effect of human reason and ambition, for those who
were in possession of lands to be desirous of being
masters in their own territories. The great land-
holders, from the midst of Muscovy to the mountains

Feudal Government. 163

of Castile, have all thought in the same manner,
though they may not perhaps have communicated
their ideas to each other, and were all equally
desirous that their lives and estates should not
depend upon the absolute power of a king. They
have associated together in every country to oppose
this power, and at the same time have exercised
it as much as they were able upon their own vassals
and subjects.

This kind of government prevailed in Europe
for more than five hundred years; it was indeed
unknown among the Greeks and Romans. But cer-
tainly that cannot properly be called an extrava-
gant institution which has been so universally
received in Europe. It is doubtless an unjust one,
because the greater number are crushed by the fewer,
and the private citizen can never hope to rise but
by a general subversion of the state. No flourishing
cities, no extensive commerce, nor any encourage-
ment for the polite arts can be found under a govern-
ment purely feudal ; and the powerful cities in Ger-
many and Flanders flourished only in consequence of
a short interval of liberty. The cities of Ghent,
Bruges, and Antwerp, for example, are to be con-
sidered rather as republics under the protection of
the dukes of Burgundy, than towns subject to the
arbitrary authority of those dukes. The same may
be said of the imperial cities.

You have seen a feudal anarchy establish itself
through a great part of Europe under the successors

164 Ancient and Modern History.

of Charlemagne : but before his time, and under the
Lombard kings, the feudal form of government was
more regular. The Franks, when they invaded Gaul,
divided among themselves the territories of Clovis :
therefore the count of Boulainvilliers will have it
that the lords of castles were all sovereign princes
in France. But what person not possessed of terri-
tories can say, " I am a descendant of one of the con-
querors of Gaul ? " Or, though he should be
descended in a right line from any one of those
usurpers, would not the cities and the commons
have a better right to recover their liberty than this
Frank ever could have had to deprive them of it ?

It cannot be said that the feudal power in Ger-
many was established by right of conquest, as it was
in Lombardy and France. Germany was never
entirely conquered by foreigners; and yet it is, at
this time, the only country in the world where the
feudal law truly subsists. The Boyards of Russia
have their subjects, but they are subjects themselves,
and do not form a body politic like the German
princes. The Tartar khans and the princes of Wal-
lachia and Moldavia are real feudal lords, holding
of the Grand Seignior. But then they are liable
to be deposed by an order of divan; whereas the
German lords cannot be dispossessed but by the
general decree of the whole nation. The Polish
nobility are more upon an equality with one another
than the land-holders in Germany ; therefore this is
not a real feudal government. There are no rear-

Feudal Government. 165

vassals in Poland. A nobleman there is not the
subject of another nobleman, as in Germany.
Poland is an aristocratic republic, where the common
people are all slaves.

The feudal law is on a different footing in Italy.
Every territory is deemed a fief of the empire in
Lombardy, which occasions great uncertainty; for
the emperors are supreme lords of those fiefs, only
in quality of kings of Italy, and successors to the
kings of Lombardy. Now certainly a Diet of Rat-
isbon is not king of Italy. But what has happened
from this? The Germanic liberty having prevailed
over the imperial authority in Germany, and the
empire having become a distinct thing from the
emperor, the Italian fiefs call themselves vassals of
the empire, and not of the emperor. Thus one feudal
administration has become another feudal adminis-
tration. The fief of Naples, again, is of a nature
entirely different from either of these. It is a
homage paid by the stronger to the weaker ; a kind
of ceremony kept up by custom.

Everything has been a fief in Europe, and the
laws of fiefs have been everywhere different. When
the male branch of Burgundy became extinct, Louis
XI. thought he had a right to succeed to that duke-
dom. But if the house of Saxony or Bavaria was
to fail, the emperor would have no right to take
possession of those provinces: nor would the pope
have any claim to the kingdom of Naples, in case
the reigning family was to become extinct. These

1 66 Ancient and Modern History.

rights are all derived from force, custom, or agree-
ment. Force gave Burgundy to Louis XL, for there
was still a prince of that house living, the count of
Nevers, who was a descendant of the lawful pos-
sessors, but dared not assert his right. It was no less
scandalous that Mary of Burgundy was excluded
from the succession, for in the grant made of the
dominion of Burgundy to her ancestors by King
John of France, it is expressly said that the heirs
shall succeed to the honors; now a daughter is an

The question concerning male and female fiefs, the
right of liege homage or simple homage ; the confu-
sion among those lords who held different lands
in vassalage of two lords paramount at a time,
and among the vassals of lords paramount who
contested the supreme demesne, and a thousand
difficulties of like nature, gave rise to numberless
processes which could be decided only by the force
of arms. The fortunes and possessions of private
citizens were still in a more unhappy situation.

What must be the situation of that vassal whose
lord is himself subject to another, who holds of
a third! He must be involved in suits in almost
every court, and lose all he is worth before he can
obtain a final decree. It is certain that the people
never voluntarily made choice of this form of gov-
ernment ; nor is that country worthy to be inhabited,
where all degrees and conditions are not equally
subjected to the laws.

Charles VIII. 167



Louis XI. left his son, Charles VIII., a child of
fourteen years of age, weak in body and unimproved
in mind, master of the finest and most powerful
kingdom in Europe. But he left him at the same
time a civil war, which is almost the inseparable
attendant of a minority. The young king was indeed
no longer a minor by Charles V.'s law, but he
was still so by nature. His eldest sister, Anne, wife
of Beaujeu, duke of Bourbon, was left regent by her
father's will, and is said to have been very worthy
of this high post. Louis, duke of Orleans, first
prince of the blood, and afterward that Louis XII.
whose memory is still so dear, began by being the
scourge of the kingdom to which he afterward
proved the tenderest parent. In the first place, his
rank of first prince of the blood had been so far
from procuring him any share in the government
that it had not even given him the right of prece-
dence over those peers who were of more ancient
creation. On the other hand, it seemed extraor-
dinary that a woman who was by law declared inca-
pable of ascending the throne should nevertheless
reign under another name. These considerations
excited Louis of Orleans, who was of an ambitious
temper as the most virtuous frequently are to

1 68 Ancient and Modern History.

raise a civil war against the king, his master, in order
to be made his guardian.

The parliament of Paris then found, for the first
time, of how much consideration it might be during
a minority. The duke of Orleans applied in per-
son to the courts for an order to alter the adminis-
tration. La Vaquerie, the first president, who was
an able lawyer, made him answer that the parliament
had nothing to do either with the finances or the
government of the state, which belonged to the
states-general, whom the parliament did not rep-

This reply proves that the city of Paris at that
time was in full tranquillity, and that the parliament
was in the interest of Madame de Beaujeu. A civil
war now in 1488 broke out in the provinces,
and especially in that of Brittany, where the old
duke, Francis II., espoused the cause of the duke
of Orleans. A battle was fought near St. Aubin
in Brittany; and here it must be observed that,
in the army of the Bretons and the duke of Orleans,
there were between four and five hundred English,
notwithstanding the troubles which then distracted
that country, and drained it of its soldiers. The
English have seldom stood neutral when France was
to be attacked. The rebel army was defeated by that
great general, Louis de la Trimouille, and the duke
of Orleans, who afterward came to be sovereign,
was taken prisoner. Louis may be reckoned the
third king of the Capet family who had been taken

Charles VIII. 169

prisoner in battle, and he was not the last. The duke
of Orleans continued prisoner nearly three years in
the tower of Bourges, till Charles VIII. went in
person in 1491 to deliver him. The manners
of the French were much milder than those of the
English, who, harassed with continual civil wars
at that time, made it their common practice to put
to death by the hands of the executioner those whom
they conquered in battle.

The peace and greatness of France were at length
happily established by the marriage of Charles VIII.,
who obliged the old duke of Brittany to give him his
daughter to wife, with all his dominions in dowry.
Princess Anne of Brittany, one of the most beauti-
ful women of her age, had a passion for the duke
of Orleans, who was still in the flower of his youth,
and master of many amiable accomplishments ; and
who, by this civil war, found himself deprived at
once of his liberty and his mistress.

Upon the marriage of princes in Europe, depends
the fate of their people. Charles VIIL, who, during
the lifetime of his father, might have espoused the
princess Mary, heiress of Burgundy, might now
have had to wife the daughter of this Mary, and of
Maximilian, king of the Romans ; and Maximilian,
on his side, who had lost his queen, Mary of Bur-
gundy, had, not without reason, entertained hopes
of obtaining Anne of Brittany for his second con-
sort. He had even gone so far as to espouse her by
proxy; and the count of Nassau had, according

170 Ancient and Modern History.

to the custom of those times, put one leg into the
princess' bed, in the name of the king of the Ro-
mans. But this did not hinder the king of France
from concluding his marriage ; and he obtained the
princess, together with Brittany for her portion,
which has since been reduced to a province of

France was then in its zenith of glory, and noth-
ing but the many errors it was afterward guilty of
could have prevented it from being the arbiter of

We may remember that the last count of Provence
bequeathed his dominions to Louis XL This count-.
in whom the house of Anjou became extinct, took the
title of king of the two Sicilies, which his family
had lost the possession of for a long time. This
title he also left to Louis XL, by the donation of the
county of Provence. Charles VIII. , determining not
to wear an empty title, made all preparations for
the conquest of Naples, and the dominion of all Italy.

Here we must stop and take a view of the state
of Europe toward the end of the fifteenth centurv,
when these events took place.



AT this time 1493 the emperor Frederick
III., of the house of Austria, died, leaving the empire
to his son, Maximilian, who was in his father's life-

Europe at End of XV. Century. 171

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