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brother, Charles, a mere boy, was in the hands of the Armagnacs. In 1418
their reckless misuse of power provoked the citizens of Paris into
letting in the Burgundians, when an unspeakably horrible massacre took
place. Bernard of Armagnac himself was killed; his naked corpse, scored
with his red cross, was dragged about the streets; and men, women, and
even infants of his party were slaughtered pitilessly. Tanneguy
Duchatel, one of his partisans, carried off the dauphin; but the queen,
weary of Armagnac insolence, had joined the Burgundian party.


10. Treaty of Troyes. - Meanwhile Henry V. continued to advance, and
John of Burgundy felt the need of joining the whole strength of France
against him, and made overtures to the dauphin. Duchatel, either fearing
to be overshadowed by his power, or else in revenge for Orleans and
Armagnac, no sooner saw that a reconciliation was likely to take place,
than he murdered John the Fearless before the dauphin's eyes, at a
conference on the bridge of Montereau-sur-Yonne (1419). John's wound was
said to be the hole which let the English into France. His son Philip,
the new Duke of Burgundy, viewing the dauphin as guilty of his death,
went over with all his forces to Henry V., taking with him the queen and
the poor helpless king. At the treaty of Troyes, in 1420, Henry was
declared regent, and heir of the kingdom, at the same time as he
received the hand of Catherine, daughter of Charles VI. This gave him
Paris and all the chief cities in northern France; but the Armagnacs
held the south, with the Dauphin Charles at their head. Charles was
declared an outlaw by his father's court, but he was in truth the leader
of what had become the national and patriotic cause. During this time,
after a long struggle and schism, the Pope again returned to Rome.


11. The Maid of Orleans. - When Henry V. died in 1422, and the unhappy
Charles a few weeks later, the infant Henry VI. was proclaimed King of
France as well as of England, at both Paris and London, while _Charles
VII._ was only proclaimed at Bourges, and a few other places in the
south. Charles was of a slow, sluggish nature, and the men around him
were selfish and pleasure-loving intriguers, who kept aloof all the
bolder spirits from him. The brother of Henry V., John, Duke of Bedford,
ruled all the country north of the Loire, with Rouen as his
head-quarters. For seven years little was done; but in 1429 he caused
Orleans to be besieged. The city held out bravely, all France looked on
anxiously, and a young peasant girl, named Joan d'Arc, believed herself
called by voices from the saints to rescue the city, and lead the king
to his coronation at Rheims. With difficulty she obtained a hearing of
the king, and was allowed to proceed to Orleans. Leading the army with a
consecrated sword, which she never stained with blood, she filled the
French with confidence, the English with fear as of a witch, and thus
she gained the day wherever she appeared. Orleans was saved, and she
then conducted Charles VII. to Rheims, and stood beside his throne when
he was crowned. Then she said her work was done, and would have returned
home; but, though the wretched king and his court never appreciated her,
they thought her useful with the soldiers, and would not let her leave
them. She had lost her heart and hope, and the men began to be angered
at her for putting down all vice and foul language. The captains were
envious of her; and at last, when she had led a sally out of the
besieged town of Compiègne, the gates were shut, and she was made
prisoner by a Burgundian, John of Luxembourg. The Burgundians hated her
even more than the English. The inquisitor was of their party, and a
court was held at Rouen, which condemned her to die as a witch. Bedford
consented, but left the city before the execution. Her own king made no
effort to save her, though, many years later, he caused enquiries to be
made, established her innocence, ennobled her family, and freed her
village from taxation.

12. Recovery of France (1434 - 1450). - But though Joan was gone, her
work lasted. The Constable, Artur of Richmond, the Count of Dunois, and
other brave leaders, continued to attack the English. After seventeen
years' vengeance for his father's death, the Duke of Burgundy made his
peace with Charles by a treaty at Arras, on condition of paying no more
homage, in 1434. Bedford died soon after, and there were nothing but
disputes among the English. Paris opened its gates to the king, and
Charles, almost in spite of himself, was restored. An able merchant,
named Jacques Cœur, lent him money which equipped his men for the
recovery of Normandy, and he himself, waking into activity, took Rouen
and the other cities on the coast.


13. Conquest of Aquitaine (1450). - By these successes Charles had
recovered all, save Calais, that Henry V. or Edward III. had taken from
France. But he was now able to do more. The one province of the south
which the French kings had never been able to win was Guienne, the duchy
on the river Garonne. Guienne had been a part of Eleanor's inheritance,
and passed through her to the English kings; but though they had lost
all else, the hatred of its inhabitants to the French enabled them to
retain this, and Guienne had never yet passed under French rule. It was
wrested, however, from Eleanor's descendants in this flood-tide of
conquest. Bordeaux held out as long as it could, but Henry VI. could
send no aid, and it was forced to yield. Two years later, brave old Lord
Talbot led 5000 men to recover the duchy, and was gladly welcomed; but
he was slain in the battle of Castillon, fighting like a lion. His two
sons fell beside him, and his army was broken. Bordeaux again
surrendered, and the French kings at last found themselves master of the
great fief of the south. Calais was, at the close of the great Hundred
Years' War, the only possession left to England south of the Channel.


14. The Standing Army (1452). - As at the end of the first act in the
Hundred Years' War, the great difficulty in time of peace was the
presence of the bands of free companions, or mercenary soldiers, who,
when war and plunder failed them, lived by violence and robbery of the
peasants. Charles VII., who had awakened into vigour, thereupon took
into regular pay all who would submit to discipline, and the rest were
led off on two futile expeditions into Switzerland and Germany, and
there left to their fate. The princes and nobles were at first so much
disgusted at the regulations which bound the soldiery to respect the
magistracy, that they raised a rebellion, which was fostered by the
Dauphin Louis, who was ready to do anything that could annoy his father.
But he was soon detached from them; the Duke of Burgundy would not
assist them, and the league fell to pieces. Charles VII. by thus
retaining companies of hired troops in his pay laid the foundation of
the first standing army in Europe, and enabled the monarchy to tread
down the feudal force of the nobles. His government was firm and wise;
and with his reign began better times for France. But it was long before
it recovered from the miseries of the long strife. The war had kept back
much of progress. There had been grievous havoc of buildings in the
north and centre of France; much lawlessness and cruelty prevailed; and
yet there was a certain advance in learning, and much love of romance
and the theory of chivalry. Pages of noble birth were bred up in castles
to be first squires and then knights. There was immense formality and
stateliness, the order of precedence was most minute, and pomp and
display were wonderful. Strange alternations took place. One month the
streets of Paris would be a scene of horrible famine, where hungry dogs,
and even wolves, put an end to the miseries of starving, homeless
children of slaughtered parents; another, the people would be gazing at
royal banquets, lasting a whole day, with allegorical "subtleties" of
jelly on the table, and pageants coming between the courses, where all
the Virtues harangued in turn, or where knights delivered maidens from
giants and "salvage men." In the south there was less misery and more
progress. Jacques Cœur's house at Bourges is still a marvel of household
architecture; and René, Duke of Anjou and Count of Provence, was an
excellent painter on glass, and also a poet.


CHAPTER III.

THE STRUGGLE WITH BURGUNDY.


1. Power of Burgundy. - All the troubles of France, for the last 80
years, had gone to increase the strength of the Dukes of Burgundy. The
county and duchy, of which Dijon was the capital, lay in the most
fertile district of France, and had, as we have seen, been conferred on
Philip the Bold. His marriage had given to him Flanders, with a gallant
nobility, and with the chief manufacturing cities of Northern Europe.
Philip's son, John the Fearless, had married a lady who ultimately
brought into the family the great imperial counties of Holland and
Zealand; and her son, Duke Philip the Good, by purchase or inheritance,
obtained possession of all the adjoining little fiefs forming the
country called the Netherlands, some belonging to the Empire, some to
France. Philip had turned the scale in the struggle between England and
France, and, as his reward, had won the cities on the Somme. He had
thus become the richest and most powerful prince in Europe, and seemed
on the point of founding a middle state lying between France and
Germany, his weak point being that the imperial fiefs in Lorraine and
Elsass lay between his dukedom of Burgundy and his counties in the
Netherlands. No European court equalled in splendour that of Philip. The
great cities of Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, and the rest, though full of
fierce and resolute men, paid him dues enough to make him the richest of
princes, and the Flemish knights were among the boldest in Europe. All
the arts of life, above all painting and domestic architecture,
nourished at Brussels; and nowhere were troops so well equipped,
burghers more prosperous, learning more widespread, than in his domains.
Here, too, were the most ceremonious courtesy, the most splendid
banquets, and the most wonderful display of jewels, plate, and
cloth-of-gold. Charles VII., a clever though a cold-hearted, indolent
man, let Philip alone, already seeing how the game would go for the
future; for when the dauphin had quarrelled with the reigning favourite,
and was kindly received on his flight to Burgundy, the old king sneered,
saying that the duke was fostering the fox who would steal his chickens.


2. Louis XI.'s Policy. - _Louis XI._ succeeded his father Charles in
1461. He was a man of great skill and craft, with an iron will, and
subtle though pitiless nature, who knew in what the greatness of a king
consisted, and worked out his ends mercilessly and unscrupulously. The
old feudal dukes and counts had all passed away, except the Duke of
Brittany; but the Dukes of Orleans, Burgundy, and Anjou held princely
appanages, and there was a turbulent nobility who had grown up during
the wars, foreign and civil, and been encouraged by the favouritism of
Charles VI. All these, feeling that Louis was their natural foe, united
against him in what was called the "League of the Public Good," with his
own brother, the Duke of Berry, and Count Charles of Charolais, who was
known as Charles the Bold, the son of Duke Philip of Burgundy, at their
head. Louis was actually defeated by Charles of Charolais in the battle
of Montlhéry; but he contrived so cleverly to break up the league, by
promises to each member and by sowing dissension among them, that he
ended by becoming more powerful than before.


3. Charles the Bold. - On the death of Philip the Good, in 1467,
Charles the Bold succeeded to the duchy of Burgundy. He pursued more
ardently the plan of forming a new kingdom of Burgundy, and had even
hopes of being chosen Emperor. First, however, he had to consolidate his
dominions, by making himself master of the countries which parted
Burgundy from the Netherlands. With this view he obtained Elsass in
pledge from its owner, a needy son of the house of Austria, who was
never likely to redeem it. Lorraine had been inherited by Yolande, the
wife of René, Duke of Anjou and titular King of Sicily, and had passed
from her to her daughter, who had married the nearest heir in the male
line, the Count of Vaudémont; but Charles the Bold unjustly seized the
dukedom, driving out the lawful heir, René de Vaudémont, son of this
marriage. Louis, meantime, was on the watch for every error of Charles,
and constantly sowing dangers in his path. Sometimes his mines exploded
too soon, as when he had actually put himself into Charles's power by
visiting him at Peronne at the very moment when his emissaries had
encouraged the city of Liège to rise in revolt against their bishop, an
ally of the duke; and he only bought his freedom by profuse promises,
and by aiding Charles in a most savage destruction of Liège. But after
this his caution prevailed. He gave secret support to the adherents of
René de Vaudémont, and intrigued with the Swiss, who were often at issue
with the Burgundian bailiffs and soldiery in Elsass - greedy, reckless
men, from whom the men of Elsass revolted in favour of their former
Austrian lord. Meantime Edward IV. of England, Charles's brother-in-law,
had planned with him an invasion of France and division of the kingdom,
and in 1475 actually crossed the sea with a splendid host; but while
Charles was prevented from joining him by the siege of Neuss, a city in
alliance with Sigismund of Austria, Louis met Edward on the bridge of
Pecquigny, and by cajolery, bribery, and accusations of Charles,
contrived to persuade him to carry home his army without striking a
blow. That meeting was a curious one. A wooden barrier, like a wild
beast's cage, was erected in the middle of the bridge, through which the
two kings kissed one another. Edward was the tallest and handsomest man
present, and splendidly attired. Louis was small and mean-looking, and
clad in an old blue suit, with a hat decorated with little leaden images
of the saints, but his smooth tongue quite overcame the duller intellect
of Edward; and in the mean time the English soldiers were feasted and
allowed their full swing, the French being strictly watched to prevent
all quarrels. So skilfully did Louis manage, that Edward consented to
make peace and return home.


4. The Fall of Charles the Bold (1477). - Charles had become entangled
in many difficulties. He was a harsh, stern man, much disliked; and his
governors in Elsass were fierce, violent men, who used every pretext for
preying upon travellers. The Governor of Breisach, Hagenbach, had been
put to death in a popular rising, aided by the Swiss of Berne, in 1474;
and the men of Elsass themselves raised part of the sum for which the
country had been pledged, and revolted against Charles. The Swiss were
incited by Louis to join them; René of Lorraine made common cause with
them. In two great battles, Granson and Morat, Charles and all his
chivalry were beaten by the Swiss pikemen; but he pushed on the war.
Nancy, the chief city of Lorraine, had risen against him, and he
besieged it. On the night of the 5th of January, 1477, René led the
Swiss to relieve the town by falling in early morning on the besiegers'
camp. There was a terrible fight; the Burgundians were routed, and after
long search the corpse of Duke Charles was found in a frozen pool,
stripped, plundered, and covered with blood. He was the last of the male
line of Burgundy, and its great possessions broke up with his death. His
only child, Marie, did not inherit the French dukedom nor the county,
though most of the fiefs in the Low Countries, which could descend to
the female line, were her undisputed portion. Louis tried, by stirring
up her subjects, to force her into a marriage with his son Charles; but
she threw herself on the protection of the house of Austria, and
marrying Maximilian, son of the Emperor Frederick III., carried her
border lands to swell the power of his family.


5. Louis's Home Government. - Louis's system of repression of the
nobles went on all this time. His counsellors were of low birth (Oliver
le Daim, his barber, was the man he most trusted), his habits frugal,
his manners reserved and ironical; he was dreaded, hated, and
distrusted, and he became constantly more bitter, suspicious, and
merciless. Those who fell under his displeasure were imprisoned in iron
cages, or put to death; and the more turbulent families, such as the
house of Armagnac, were treated with frightful severity. But his was not
wanton violence. He acted on a regular system of depressing the lawless
nobility and increasing the royal authority, by bringing the power of
the cities forward, by trusting for protection to the standing army,
chiefly of hired Scots, Swiss, and Italians, and by saving money. By
this means he was able to purchase the counties of Roussillon and
Perpignan from the King of Aragon, thus making the Pyrenees his
frontier, and on several occasions he made his treasury fight his
battles instead of the swords of his knights. He lived in the castle of
Plessis les Tours, guarded by the utmost art of fortification, and
filled with hired Scottish archers of his guard, whom he preferred as
defenders to his own nobles. He was exceedingly unpopular with his
nobles; but the statesman and historian, Philip de Comines, who had gone
over to him from Charles of Burgundy, viewed him as the best and ablest
of kings. He did much to promote trade and manufacture, improved the
cities, fostered the university, and was in truth the first king since
Philip Augustus who had any real sense of statesmanship. But though the
burghers throve under him, and the lawless nobles were depressed, the
state of the peasants was not improved; feudal rights pressed heavily on
them, and they were little better than savages, ground down by burthens
imposed by their lords.


6. Provence and Brittany. - Louis had added much to the French
monarchy. He had won back Artois; he had seized the duchy and county of
Burgundy; he had bought Roussillon. His last acquisition was the county
of Provence. The second Angevin family, beginning with Louis, the son of
King John, had never succeeded in gaining a footing in Naples, though
they bore the royal title. They held, however, the imperial fief of
Provence, and Louis XI., whose mother had been of this family, obtained
from her two brothers, René and Charles, that Provence should be
bequeathed to him instead of passing to René's grandson, the Duke of
Lorraine. The Kings of France were thenceforth Counts of Provence; and
though the county was not viewed as part of the kingdom, it was
practically one with it. A yet greater acquisition was made soon after
Louis's death in 1483. The great Celtic duchy of Brittany fell to a
female, Anne of Brittany, and the address of Louis's daughter, the Lady
of Beaujeu, who was regent of the realm, prevailed to secure the hand of
the heiress for her brother, Charles VIII. Thus the crown of France had
by purchase, conquest, or inheritance, obtained all the great feudal
states that made up the country between the English Channel and the
Pyrenees; but each still remained a separate state, with different laws
and customs, and a separate parliament in each to register laws, and to
act as a court of justice.


CHAPTER IV.

THE ITALIAN WARS.


1. Campaign of Charles VIII. (1493). - From grasping at province after
province on their own border, however, the French kings were now to turn
to wider dreams of conquest abroad. Together with the county of
Provence, Louis XI. had bought from King René all the claims of the
house of Anjou. Among these was included a claim to the kingdom of
Naples. Louis's son, _Charles VIII._, a vain and shallow lad, was
tempted by the possession of large treasures and a fine army to listen
to the persuasions of an Italian intriguer, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of
Milan, and put forward these pretensions, thus beginning a war which
lasted nearly as long as the Hundred Years' War with England. But it was
a war of aggression instead of a war of self-defence. Charles crossed
the Alps in 1493, marched the whole length of Italy without opposition,
and was crowned at Naples; while its royal family, an illegitimate
offshoot from the Kings of Aragon, fled into Sicily, and called on
Spain for help. But the insolent exactions of the French soldiery caused
the people to rise against them; and when Charles returned, he was beset
at Fornovo by a great league of Italians, over whom he gained a complete
victory. Small and puny though he was, he fought like a lion, and seemed
quite inspired by the ardour of combat. The "French fury," _la furia
Francese_, became a proverb among the Italians. Charles neglected,
however, to send any supplies or reinforcements to the garrisons he had
left behind him in Naples, and they all perished under want, sickness,
and the sword of the Spaniards. He was meditating another expedition,
when he struck his head against the top of a doorway, and died in 1498.


2. Campaign of Louis XII. - His cousin, _Louis XII._, married his
widow, and thus prevented Brittany from again parting from the crown.
Louis not only succeeded to the Angevin right to Naples, but through his
grandmother he viewed himself as heir of Milan. She was Valentina
Visconti, wife to that Duke of Orleans who had been murdered by John the
Fearless. Louis himself never advanced further than to Milan, whose
surrender made him master of Lombardy, which he held for the greater
part of his reign. But after a while the Spanish king, Ferdinand, agreed
with him to throw over the cause of the unfortunate royal family of
Naples, and divide that kingdom between them. Louis XII. sent a
brilliant army to take possession of his share, but the bounds of each
portion had not been defined, and the French and Spanish troops began a
war even while their kings were still treating with one another. The
individual French knights did brilliant exploits, for indeed it was the
time of the chief blossom of fanciful chivalry, a knight of Dauphiné,
named Bayard, called the Fearless and Stainless Knight, and honoured by
friend and foe; but the Spaniards were under Gonzalo de Cordova, called
the Great Captain, and after the battles of Cerignola and the Garigliano
drove the French out of the kingdom of Naples, though the war continued
in Lombardy.


3. The Holy League. - It was an age of leagues. The Italians, hating
French and Spaniards both alike, were continually forming combinations
among themselves and with foreign powers against whichever happened to
be the strongest. The chief of these was called the Holy League, because
it was formed by Pope Julius II., who drew into it Maximilian, then head
of the German Empire, Ferdinand of Spain, and Henry VIII. of England.
The French troops were attacked in Milan; and though they gained the
battle of Ravenna in 1512, it was with the loss of their general, Gaston
de Foix, Duke of Nemours, whose death served as an excuse to Ferdinand
of Spain for setting up a claim to the kingdom of Navarre. He cunningly
persuaded Henry VIII. to aid him in the attack, by holding out the vain
idea of going on to regain Gascony; and while one troop of English were
attacking Pampeluna, Henry himself landed at Calais and took Tournay and
Terouenne. The French forces were at the same time being chased out of
Italy. However, when Pampeluna had been taken, and the French finally
driven out of Lombardy, the Pope and king, who had gained their ends,
left Henry to fight his own battles. He thus was induced to make peace,
giving his young sister Mary as second wife to Louis; but that king
over-exerted himself at the banquets, and died six weeks after the
marriage, in 1515. During this reign the waste of blood and treasure on
wars of mere ambition was frightful, and the country had been heavily
taxed; but a brilliant soldiery had been trained up, and national vanity
had much increased. The king, though without deserving much love, was so
kindly in manner that he was a favourite, and was called the Father of
the People. His first wife, Anne of Brittany, was an excellent and
high-spirited woman, who kept the court of France in a better state than
ever before or since.


4. Campaigns of Francis I. - Louis left only two daughters, the elder
of whom, Claude, carried Brittany to his male heir, Francis, Count of
Angoulêine. Anne of Brittany had been much averse to the match; but
Louis said he kept his mice for his own cats, and gave his daughter and


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeHistory of France → online text (page 3 of 8)