François Pierre Guillaume Guizot.

A Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 4 online

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made and the debts he had contracted for the service of the crown in
Milaness, nay, his salary as constable and his personal pensions, were
unpaid. Was this the effect of secret wrath on the part of the
queen-mother, hurt because he seemed to disdain her good graces, or an
act arising may be from mistrust and may be from carelessness on the
king's part, or merely a result of the financial disorder into which the
affairs of Francis I. were always falling? These questions cannot be
solved with certainty. Anyhow the constable, though thus maltreated,
did not cry out; but his royal patroness and mother-in-law, Anne of
France, daughter of Louis XI., dowager-duchess of the house of Bourbon,
complained of these proceedings to the king's mother, and uttered the
word ingratitude. The dispute between the two princesses grew rancorous;
the king intervened to reconcile them; speedy payment was promised of
all that was due to the constable, but the promise was not kept. The
constable did not consider it seemly to wait about; so he quitted the
court and withdrew into his own duchy, to Moulins, not openly disgraced,
but resolved to set himself, by his proud independence, above the reach
of ill-will, whether on the king's part or his mother's.

Moulins was an almost kingly residence. "The dukes," said the Venetian
traveller Andrew Navagero, in 1528, "have built there fortress-wise a
magnificent palace, with beautiful gardens, groves, fountains, and all
the sumptuous appliances of a prince's dwelling." No sooner did the
constable go to reside there than numbers of the nobility flocked thither
around him. The feudal splendor of this abode was shortly afterwards
enhanced by an auspicious domestic incident. In 1517 the Duchess of
Bourbon was confined there of a son, a blessing for some time past
unhoped for. The delighted constable determined to make of the child's
baptism a great and striking event; and he begged the king to come and be
godfather, with the dowager Duchess of Bourbon as godmother. Francis I.
consented and repaired to Moulins with his mother and nearly all his
court. The constable's magnificence astonished even the magnificent king
"five hundred gentlemen, all clad in velvet, and all wearing a chain of
gold going three times round the neck," were in habitual attendance upon
the duke; "the throng of the invited was so great that neither the castle
of Moulins nor the town itself sufficed to lodge them; tents had to be
pitched in the public places, in the streets, in the park." Francis I.
could not refrain from saying that a King of France would have much
difficulty in making such a show; the queen-mother did not hide her
jealousy; regal temper came into collision with feudal pride. Admiral
Bonnivet, a vassal of the constable and a favorite of the king, was
having built, hard by Chatellerault, a castle so vast and so magnificent,
"that he seemed," says Brantome, "to be minded to ride the high horse
over the house of M. de Bourbon, in such wise that it should appear only
a nest beside his own." Francis I., during a royal promenade, took the
constable one day to see the edifice the admiral was building, and asked
him what he thought of it. "I think," said Bourbon, "that the cage is
too big and too fine for the bird." "Ah!" said the king, "do you not
speak with somewhat of envy?" "I!" cried the constable; "I feel envy of
a gentleman whose ancestors thought themselves right happy to be squires
to mine!" In their casual and familiar conversations the least pretext
would lead to sharp words between the Duke of Bourbon and his kingly
guest. The king was rallying him one day on the attachment he was
suspected of having felt for a lady of the court. "Sir," said the
constable, "what you have just said has no point for me, but a good deal
for those who were not so forward as I was in the lady's good graces."
[At this period princes of the blood, when speaking to the king, said
Monsieur; when they wrote to him, they called him Monseigneur.] Francis
I., to whom this scarcely veiled allusion referred, was content to reply,
"Ah! my dear cousin, you fly out at everything, and you are mighty
short-tempered." The nickname of short-tempered stuck to the constable
from that day, and not without reason. With anybody but the king the
constable was a good deal more than short-tempered the chancellor,
Duprat, who happened to be at Moulins, and who had a wish to become
possessed of two estates belonging to the constable, tried to worm
himself into his good graces; but Bourbon gave him sternly to understand
with what contempt he regarded him, and Duprat, who had hitherto been
merely the instrument of Louise of Savoy's passions, so far as the duke
was concerned, became henceforth his personal enemy, and did not wait
long for an opportunity of making the full weight of his enmity felt.
The king's visit to Moulins came to an end without any settlement of
the debts due from the royal treasury to the constable. Three years
afterwards, in 1520, he appeared with not a whit the less magnificence
at the Field of Cloth of Gold, where he was one of the two great lords
chosen by Francis I. to accompany him at his interview with Henry VIII.;
but the constable had to put up with the disagreeableness of having for
his associate upon that state occasion Admiral Bonnivet, whom he had but
lately treated with so much hauteur, and his relations towards the court
were by no means improved by the honor which the king conferred upon him
in summoning him to his side that day. Henry VIII., who was struck by
this vassal's haughty bearing and looks, said to Francis I., "If I had a
subject like that in my kingdom, I would not leave his head very long on
his shoulders."

More serious causes of resentment came to aggravate a situation already
so uncomfortable. The war, which had been a-hatching ever since the
imperial election at Frankfort, burst out in 1521, between Francis I.
and Charles V. Francis raised four armies in order to face it on all his
frontiers, in Guienne, in Burgundy, in Champagne, and in Picardy, "where
there was no army," says Du Bellai, "however small." None of these great
commands was given to the Duke of Bourbon; and when the king summoned him
to the army of Picardy, whither he repaired in all haste with six
thousand foot and three hundred men-at-arms raised in his own states,
the command of the advance-guard, which belonged to him by right of his
constableship, was given to the Duke of Alencon, who had nothing to
recommend him beyond the fact that he was the husband of Marguerite de
Valois and brother-in-law of the king. Bourbon deeply resented this
slight; and it was remarked that he frequently quoted with peculiar
meaning a reply made by a Gascon gentleman to King Charles VII., who had
asked him if anything could shake his fidelity, "Nothing, sir, nothing;
not even an offer of three such kingdoms as yours; but an affront might."
The constable did not serve a whit the less valiantly and brilliantly in
this campaign of Picardy; he surprised and carried the town of Hesdin,
which was defended by a strong garrison; but after the victory he treated
with a generosity which was not perhaps free from calculation the
imperialist nobility shut up in the castle; he set all his prisoners at
large, and paid particular attention to the Countess de Roeux, of the
house of Croy, whom he knew to have influence with Charles V. He was
certainly not preparing just then to abandon the King of France and go
over to the camp of the emperor; but he was sufficiently irritated
against Francis I. to gladly seize an opportunity of making new friends
on the rival side.

Meanwhile there occurred the event which was to decide his conduct and
his destiny. His wife, Suzanne of Bourbon, died at Chatellerault, in
April, 1521, after having lost the son whose birth had been celebrated
with such brilliancy at Moulins, and having confirmed by her will the
settlement upon her husband of all her possessions, which had already
been conferred upon him by their marriage contract. From whom came the
first idea of the proposal to which this death was ere long to lead? Was
it the chancellor, Duprat, who told the mother of Francis I. that the
will and the settlement might be disputed at law, and that she would then
enter into possession of a great part of what belonged to the House of
Bourbon? Was it Louise of Savoy herself who conceived the hope of
satisfying at one and the same time her cupidity and the passion she felt
for the constable, by having an offer made to him of her hand, with the
retention secured to him of those great possessions which, otherwise,
would be disputed, and which a decree of Parliament might take away from
him? Between these two explanations of what occurred at that time, there
is no certain choice afforded by historical documents; but the more
reasonable conviction is, that the passion of Louise of Savoy was the
first and the decisive cause of the proposal made to the constable. He
was then thirty years old; Louise of Savoy was forty-five, but she was
still beautiful, attractive, and puissant; she had given the constable
unmistakable proofs of her inclination for him and of the influence which
his inclinations exercised over her: she might well flatter herself that
he would be attracted by the prospect of becoming the king's step-father
and almost a sharer in the kingly power, whilst retaining that of the
great feudal lord. The chancellor, Duprat, full of ability and
servility, put all his knowledge, all his subtlety in argument, and all
his influence in the Parliament at the disposal of Madame Louise, who, as
a nearer relative than the constable, claimed the possessions left by his
wife, Suzanne of Bourbon. Francis I., in the name of the crown, and in
respect of the constable's other possessions, joined his claims to those
of his mother. Thus the lawsuit with which the duke was threatened
affected him in every part of his fortune. It was in vain that more or
less direct overtures, on behalf of Madame Louise and of the king
himself, were made to induce him to accept the bargain offered: his
refusal was expressed and given with an open contempt that verged upon
coarseness. "I will never," said he, "marry a woman devoid of modesty."

The lawsuit was begun and prosecuted with all the hatred of a great lady
treated with contempt, and with all the knowingness of an unscrupulous
lawyer eager to serve, in point of fact, his patroness, and to
demonstrate, in point of law, the thesis he had advanced. Francis I.,
volatile, reckless, and ever helpless as he was against the passions of
his mother, who whilst she adored, beguiled him, readily lent himself to
the humiliation of a vassal who was almost his rival in puissance, and
certainly was in glory. Three lawyers of renown entered upon the
struggle. Poyet maintained the pretensions of the queen-mother; Lizet
developed Duprat's argument in favor of the king's claims; Montholon
defended the constable. The Parliament granted several adjournments,
and the question was in suspense for eleven months. At last, in August,
1523, the court interest was triumphant; Parliament, to get rid of direct
responsibility, referred the parties, as to the basis of the question, to
the king's council; but it placed all the constable's possessions under
sequestration, withdrawing the enjoyment of them wholly from him. A few
years afterwards Poyet became chancellor, and Lizet premier-president of
Parliament. "Worth alone," say the historians, "carved out for Montholon
at a later period the road to the office of keeper of the seals."

The constable's fall and ruin were complete. He at an early stage had a
presentiment that such would be the issue of his lawsuit, and sought for
safeguards away from France. The affair was causing great stir in
Europe. Was it, however, Charles V. who made the first overtures as the
most efficient supporter the constable could have? Or was it the
constable himself who, profiting by the relations he had established
after the capture of Hesdin with the Croys, persons of influence with the
emperor, made use of them for getting into direct communication with
Charles V., and made offer of his services in exchange for protection
against his own king and his own country? In such circumstances and in
the case of such men the sources of crime are always surrounded with
obscurity. One is inclined to believe that Charles V., vigilant and
active as he was, put out the first feelers. As soon as he heard that
Bourbon was a widower, he gave instructions to Philibert Naturelli, his
ambassador in France, who said, "Sir, you are now in a position to marry,
and the emperor, my master, who is very fond of you, has a sister
touching whom I have orders to speak to you if you will be pleased to
hearken." It was to Charles V.'s eldest sister, Eleanor, widow of Manuel
the Fortunate, King of Portugal, that allusion was made. This overture
led to nothing at the time; but the next year, in 1522, war was declared
between Francis I. and Charles V.; the rupture between Francis I. and the
Duke of Bourbon took place; the Bourbon lawsuit was begun; and the duke's
mother-in-law, Anne of France, daughter of Louis XI., more concerned for
the fate of her House than for that of her country, and feeling herself
near her end, said one day to her son-in-law, "My son, reflect that the
House of Bourbon made alliance with the House of Burgundy, and that
during that alliance it always prospered. You see at the present moment
what is the state of our affairs, and the lawsuit in which you are
involved is proceeded with only for want of alliances. I do beg and
command you to accept the emperor's alliance. Promise me to use thereto
all the diligence you can, and I shall die more easy." She died on the
14th of November, 1522, bequeathing all her possessions to the constable,
who was day by day more disposed to follow her counsels. In the summer
of 1522, he had, through the agency of Adrian de Croy, Lord of Beaurain,
entered into negotiations not only with Charles V., but also with Henry
VIII., King of England, deploring the ill behavior of Francis I. and the
enormity of existing abuses, and proposing to set on foot in his own
possessions a powerful movement for the reformation of the kingdom and
the relief of the poor people, if the two sovereigns would send "persons
of trust and authority into the vicinity of his principality of Dombes,
to Bourg-en-Bresse, whither he on his side would send his chancellor to
come to an agreement with them and act in common." In the month of
March, 1523, whilst the foreign negotiations thus commenced and the
home-process against the constable were pursuing a parallel course,
Bourbon one day paid a visit to Queen Claude of France at the hour when
she was dining alone. She was favorably disposed towards him, and would
have liked to get him married to her sister Renee, who subsequently
became Duchess of Ferrara. She made him sit down. Francis I., who was
at dinner in an adjacent room, came in. Bourbon rose to take leave.
"Nay, keep your seat," said the king; "and so it is true that you are
going to be married?" "Not at all, sir." "O, but I know it; I am sure
of it; I know of your dealings with the emperor. And bear well in mind
what I have to say to you on the subject." "Sir! is this a threat, pray?
I have not deserved such treatment." After dinner he departed and went
back to his hotel hard by the Louvre; and many gentlemen who happened to
be at court accompanied him by way of escort. He was as yet a powerful
vassal, who was considered to be unjustly persecuted.

Charles V. accepted eagerly the overtures made to him by Bourbon in
response to his own; but, before engaging in action, he wished to be
certified about the disposition of Henry VIII., King of England, and he
sent Beaurain to England to take accurate soundings. Henry at first
showed hesitation. When, Beaurain set before him all the advantages that
would accrue to their coalition from the Duke of Bourbon's alliance: "And
I," said the king, brusquely, "what, pray, shall I get?" "Sir," answered
Beaurain, "you will be King of France." "Ah!" rejoined Henry, "it will
take a great deal to make M. de Bourbon obey me." Henry remembered the
cold and proud bearing which the constable had maintained towards him at
the Field of Cloth of Gold. He, nevertheless, engaged to supply half the
expenses and a body of troops for the projected invasion of France.
Charles V. immediately despatched Beaurain to the Duke of Bourbon, who
had removed to Montbrison, in the most mountainous part of his domains,
on pretext of a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame du Puy. Beaurain was conducted
thither, in great secrecy, on the 17th July, 1523, by two of the duke's
gentlemen, and passed two days there shut up in a room adjoining the
constable's apartment, never emerging save at night to transact business
with him. On the 18th of July, in the evening, he put into Bourbon's
hands his letters of credit, running thus: "My dear cousin, I send to you
Sieur de Beaurain, my second chamberlain. I pray you to consider him as
myself, and, so doing, you will find me ever your good cousin and
friend." The negotiation was speedy. Many historians have said that it
was confined to verbal conventions, and that there was nothing in writing
between the two contracting parties. That is a mistake. A treaty was
drawn up in brief terms by Beaurain's secretary, and two copies were
made, of which one was to be taken to Charles V. and the other to be
left with the Duke of Bourbon. It stipulated the mutual obligations of
the three contracting parties in their offensive and defensive league.
Bourbon engaged to attack Francis I. but he would not promise to
acknowledge Henry VIII. as King of France. "I am quite willing to be his
ally," he said, "but his subject, his vassal, no! All I can do is to
leave myself, as to my relations towards him, in the emperor's hands."
A strange and noble relic of patriotism in that violent and haughty soul,
more concerned for its rights than its duties, and driven to extremity by
the acts of ungrateful and unthoughtful injustice, to which the great
lord and the valiant warrior had been subjected. The treaty having been
signed with this reservation, Bourbon sent, about midnight, for
Saint-Bonnet, Lord of Branon, whom he intended to despatch to Charles
V., and, after having sworn him, "I send you," said he, "to the emperor,
to whom you will say that I commend myself humbly to his good graces,
that I beg him to give me his sister in marriage, and that, doing me
this honor, he will find me his servant, his good brother, and friend."

The fatal step was taken. Bourbon was now engaged in revolt against his
king and his country, as well as in falsehood and treason - preliminary
conditions of such a course. He needed tools and accomplices; and though
he had a numerous and devoted following, he could not feel sure of them
all for such a purpose. The very day after the conclusion of his treaty
with Charles V., one of his most intimate and important confidants, John
of Poitiers, Lord of St. Vallier, who was present at Montbrison during
the negotiation of the treaty, said to him in the morning, "Sir, it was
your wish; I heard all; and I spent the whole night thinking about it;
tell me, I pray you, do you feel sure of your friend?" "I was not more
fond of the brother I lost at Melegnano," said the constable; "I should
not have felt more sure of him." "Well, then," rejoined St. Vallier,
"fancy that it is that brother who is speaking to you, and take in good
part what he is about to say to you. This alliance which is offered to
you will bring upon France the Germans, the Spaniards, and the English;
think of the great mischief which will ensue - human bloodshed,
destruction of towns, of good families and of churches, violation of
women, and other calamities that come of war. Reflect also on the great
treason you are committing; when the king has started for Italy and left
you in France, putting his trust in you, you will go and stab him in the
back, and destroy him as well as his kingdom. You belong to the House of
France, and are one of the chief princes of the country, so beloved and
esteemed by all that everybody is gladdened at the very sight of you. If
you should come to be the cause of so great ruin, you will be the most
accursed creature that ever was, accursed for a thousand years after your
death. For the love of God consider all this; and if you have no regard
for the king and Madame his mother, who, you say, are treating you
wrongfully, at least have some regard for the queen and the princes her
children, and do not wilfully cause the perdition of this kingdom, whose
enemies, when you have let them into it, will drive you out of it
yourself." "But, cousin," said the constable, quite overcome, "what
would you have me to do? The king and Madame mean to destroy me; they
have already taken away a part of my possessions." "Sir," replied
Saint-Vallier, "give up, I pray you, all these wicked enterprises; commend
yourself to God, and speak frankly to the king." If we are to believe
Saint-Vallier's deposition, when, six months afterwards, he was put on
his trial and convicted for his participation in the plot and treason,
the constable was sufficiently affected by his representations to promise
that he would abandon his design and make his peace with the king: but
facts refute this assertion. In the latter months of 1523, the
stipulations of the treaty concluded at Montbrison on the 18th of July
were put into execution by all the contracting parties; letters of
exchange from Henry VIII. were sent to Bale for the German lanzknechts he
was to pay; the lanzknechts crossed the Rhine on the 26th of August, and
marched through Franche-Comte in spite of its neutrality; the English
landed at Calais between the 23d and 30th of August, to co-operate with
the Flemings; the Spaniards began the campaign, on the 6th of September,
in the direction of the Pyrenees; and the Duke, of Bourbon on his side
took all the necessary measures for forming a junction with his allies,
and playing that part in the coalition which had been assigned to him.

According to what appears, he had harbored a design of commencing his
enterprise with a very bold stroke. Being informed that Francis I. was
preparing to go in person and wage war upon Italy, he had resolved to
carry him off on the road to Lyons, and, when once he had the king in his
hands, he flattered himself he would do as he pleased with the kingdom.
If his attempt were unsuccessful, be would bide his time until Francis I.
was engaged in Milaness, Charles V. had entered Guienne, and Henry VIII.
was in Picardy: he would then assemble a thousand men-at-arms, six
thousand foot and twelve thousand lanzknechts, and would make for the
Alps to cut the king off from any communication with France. This plan
rested upon the assumption that the king would, as he had announced,
leave the constable in France with an honorable title and an apparent
share in the government of the kingdom, though really isolated and
debarred from action. But Francis had full cognizance of the details of
the conspiracy through two Norman gentlemen whom the constable had
imprudently tried to get to join in it, and who, not content with
refusing, had revealed the matter at confession to the Bishop of Lisieux,
who had lost no time in giving information to Sire de Breze, grand
seneschal of Normandy. Breze at once reported it to the king, and his
letter ran: "Sir, there is need also to take care of yourself, for there
has been talk of an attempt to carry you off between here and Lyons, and
conduct you to a strong place in the Bourbon district or on the borders
of Auvergne." Being at last seriously disquieted for the consequences of
his behavior towards the constable, Francis took two resolutions: one
was, not to leave him in France during his own absence; the other was,
to go and see him at Moulins, at the same time taking all necessary
precautions for his own safety, and win him over once more by announcing
an intention of taking him off to Italy and sharing with him the command
of the army. On approaching Moulins the king recalled the lanzknechts
who had already passed the town, entered it himself surrounded by his
guards, and took up his quarters in the castle, of which he seized the
keys. At his first interview with the constable, who was slightly
indisposed and pretended to be very much so, "I know," said he, "that you



Online LibraryFrançois Pierre Guillaume GuizotA Popular History of France from the Earliest Times, Volume 4 → online text (page 5 of 38)