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Title: Women of Mediæval France - Woman: in all ages and in all countries Vol. 5 (of 10)
Author: Butler, Pierce
Language: English
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[Illustration 1:
After the painting by Albrecht de Vriendt.
The king, now often idiotic when he was not raving,... To amuse and
distract him, and also to strengthen the Burgundian influence, the Duke
of Burgundy provided him with a fair child as playmate and mistress. To
the sway once held by Valentine over Charles there now succeeded Odette.
She was little more than a child, but she became mistress as well as
playfellow of the mad king. Of humble origin (daughter of a horse
dealer), she wears in court history a name better than that she was born
to, Odette de Champdivers; and the people, indulgent of the sin of the
mad king, called her "la petite reine" She was happy, it seems, and kind
to the king, amused him, was loved by him; and, more true to him than
was quite pleasing to the Burgundians, did not play false to France in
later years when Burgundy and England were leagued together.]


In all ages and in all countries




Of Tulane University of Louisiana



COPYRIGHT. 1907, BY GEORGE BARRIE & SONS Entered at Stationers' Hall,

M. L. B. AND J. P. B.


IT is the customary privilege of the author to meet you at the
threshold, as it were, bid you welcome, and in his own person explain
more fully and freely than he may elsewhere the plan and intent of his
book. After you have crossed this imaginary boundary you may judge for
yourself, weigh and consider, and condemn even with scant regard for the
author's feelings; for as a guest it is your privilege. But here outside
I am still speaking as one with authority and unabashed; for I know not,
and will not let myself fancy, how the reader will censure me. Though
the little that need be said may be said briefly, I trust the reader
will be a reader gentle enough to permit me graciously this word of
general comment upon the whole work.

From the mediaeval _Ladies' Book_, of a kind that will be referred to in
the following pages, to the very latest volume of _Social England_, or
more aptly, perhaps, to the most local and frivolous _Woman's World_
edited by an Eve in your daily paper, all the little repositories of
ebbing gossip help immensely in the composition of a picture of the life
of any period. They are not history; by the dignified historian of a few
generations ago they were neglected if not scorned; but more and more
are they coming to their own as material for history. In like manner the
volume hardly claims to be a formal history, but rather ancillary to
history. It has been the aim to present pictures from history, scenes
from the lives of historic women, but above and through all to give as
definite an idea as might be of the life of women at various periods in
the history of mediaeval France.

The keenness of your appetite for the repast spread will be the measure
of the author's success. But whether I have been successful or not, the
purpose was as has been said. Figures more or less familiar in history
have been selected as the centrepieces; but scarcely anywhere have I
felt myself bound to expound at length the political history of France:
that was a business in which few women had a controlling voice, however
lively their interest may have been, however pitifully or tragically
their fate may have been influenced by battle or politics or mere
masculine capricious passion.

        "Theirs not to reason why;
        Theirs but to do or die,"

may be said of the soldier. Of these women of mediaeval France, as of
all in the good days of old, it might be better said that it was not
even theirs to do; the relief of action was not theirs; but to suffer
and to die, without question. Yet the life was not all pain and
suffering and sadness, as the scenes depicted will show. It is merely
that the laughter has fallen fainter and fainter and died away--comedy
perishes too often with the age that laughed at it--while the tears have
left their stain.

With this little hint to the reader I have done, and let the book tell
him more if he please. To those who helped me in the writing of, nay,
who made it possible to write this book, my gratitude is none the less
strong that I do not write them down in the catalogue. Many a page will
bring back vividly to them as well as to me the circumstances under
which it was written. May these memories sweeten my thanks to them.

New Orleans.



In the older conception, history was a record chiefly of battles, of
intrigues, of wicked deeds; it was true that the evil that men did lived
after them; at least, the even tenor of their ways was passed over
without notice by the chroniclers, and only a salient point, a great
battle or a great crime, attracted attention. If little but deeds of
violence is recorded about men, still less notice does the average
mediaeval chronicler condescend to bestow upon women. History has been
unjust to women, and this is preeminently the case in the history of
France at the period with which we are to begin in this chapter. The age
of the good King Robert was an age of warfare; the basic principle of
feudalism was military service; and what position could women occupy in
a social system dependent upon force? The general attitude toward women
is hinted at by the very fact that, in the great war epic of Roland, the
love story, upon which a modern poet would have laid much stress, is
entirely subordinated; it is the hero and his marvellous valor that the
poet keeps before us. The heroine, if she can be so called, the sister
of Roland's brother in arms, Oliver, is not once named by the hero. In
the midst of the battle, when Roland proposes to sound his horn to
summon Charlemagne to his aid, Oliver reproaches him:

                    "Par ceste meie barbe!
        Se puis vedeir ma gente soror Aide,
        Vos ne gerrez jamais entre sa brace."

(By my beard! if I live to see my sister, the beautiful Aude, you shall
never be her husband!) After this she is mentioned no more until
Charlemagne returns to Aix with the sad news of Roland's heroic death.
Then comes to him _la belle Aude_ to ask where is her betrothed Roland.
"Thou askest me for one who is dead," says Charlemagne; "but I will give
thee a better man, my son and heir, Louis." "I understand thee not,"
replies Aude. "God forbid that I should survive Roland!" She falls
fainting at the emperor's feet, and when he lifts her up he finds her
dead. Then he calls four countesses, who bear the body into a convent
and inter it, with great pomp, near the altar. (II. 3705-3731.) _La
belle Aude_ has fulfilled her mission when she dies for love of Roland.
If she had been on the battlefield, she might have dressed Roland's
wounds, since the rôle of physician and nurse was frequently played by
women. Otherwise there is little use for women in an age of warfare, and
so we shall find most of the good women passed over in silence, and only
those of more masculine traits prominent in the earlier parts of our

Before we can begin the story of those women whose names have come down
to us from the France of the year 1000, it is necessary to have some
sort of understanding of the social, if not of the political, condition
of France, to learn what sort of influences environed and moulded the
lives of women in those days. Such a survey of society, indeed, will be
useful for the whole period of the Middle Ages, and will serve as a
background for the figures of the women we shall have to consider,
whether they be saints or sinners.

At the beginning of the reign of the good King Robert, the France over
which he ruled was still scarcely consolidated. The power of the kings
of France hardly yet extended, in reality, over more than the little
duchy of France, a territory bounded, roughly, by the cities of Orléans
on the south, Sens on the east, Saint-Denis on the north, and Chartres
on the west. Not only were the more powerful barons, counts, and dukes,
among whom the land was parcelled out, subject to the kings only at
their good pleasure, but the very people over whom they directly ruled
were still dimly conscious of the fact that they sprang from different
races. Even as late as the middle of the tenth century we hear of
"Goths, Romans, and Salians" as more or less distinct. The fusion of the
several races on the soil of France was, however, at that time probably
complete in all but name, if we except the Celts in Brittany; even the
latest arrivals in France, the Norsemen, had ceased to be mere wandering
freebooters and were fast developing, like the rest of France, a caste
of hereditary nobles whose title and power depended upon the tenure of

We may roughly divide the society of the period into four classes. In
the first we must place the nobles and their bands of retainers. In the
second we find the churchmen, the greater among whom are hardly to be
distinguished from the secular nobility, Below these, and a long
distance below, come the inhabitants of the larger towns, the merchants
and the better class of artisans. At the bottom, trodden down to the
very soil from which they are forced to extract food for all the rest,
and perhaps, if any is left, for themselves, come the peasantry.

Since the disruption of the great conglomerate empire of Charlemagne,
the power of the nominal kings of France had been gradually restricted.
Powerless to protect the kingdom from the attacks of foreign enemies,
the king was also powerless to preserve order within it. Personal
immunity from force could be obtained only by the use of force; and if
one were not strong enough to protect one's self, the only way was to
purchase protection from a stronger neighbor. This was the reason for
the growth of the complicated system of feudalism, with whose remote
origins and exact details we are not here concerned.

As regards the influence of the feudal system upon the position of
women, it might be safe to say that feudalism at first made little
change in their condition. They enjoyed neither more nor less rights
than during the ages of barbaric _Sturm und Drang_; but certainly they
found a little greater security against violence and oppression, since
greater security was the general aim and the general effect of
feudalism. The weak must always occupy a relatively better position in a
compactly organized society than in a democracy of violence; and so the
feudal system, retaining for women such small civil rights as they
already possessed, added a greater personal security.

This was not all. Though the transmission of property, on which all
social standing was based, was regularly from male to male, and though
female heirs might be passed over or disposed of by violence or
chicanery, there were exceptions, which become more numerous as we go
on. It cannot be said that there was at any time absolute prohibition of
a daughter's inheriting from her father. In the Salic law, so called,
there was a provision that "no part _of the salic land_ shall pass to a
woman;" but all land was not salic, or allodial, and this provision was
later held to apply particularly to the lands of the crown, and hence to
the crown itself, as we shall see. Under the feudal system, the fief was
held on condition of military service, and each vassal, as a rule, must
_servir son fief_ (do the service of his fief) in person; but it was
expressly stipulated that ecclesiastics, women, and children could
perform this service by proxy, generally through a seneschal or baillie.

Though warlike churchmen not infrequently led their vassals in person,
witness the Bishop of Beauvais at the battle of Bouvines, "who shed no
blood, though he brake many bones with his club," women appeared but
rarely in the earlier time as Amazons, and then half in sport, as in the
case of Queen Eleanor in the second Crusade.

But, however they chose to perform their duty in the _host_ summoned by
the sovereign's _ban general_, women were recognized as members of the
feudal nobility. At the very top we find them, among the immediate great
vassals of the crown, the _pairs de France_. We find, for example,
Mathilde, or Mahault, Countess of Artois, sitting as a peer in the
assembly which rendered judgment against the claims of her nephew,
Robert, to the countship of Artois, in 1309; and the same countess
receives a special summons to attend the court of peers in 1315; and in
the next year, at the coronation of Philip V., she is among the peers
who hold the crown over the king's head. This function was also
performed by another Countess of Artois at the consecration of Charles
V., in 1364.

In less exalted stations, too, women held fiefs, and there may
frequently have been personal reasons for the suzerain's preferring
female vassals. For first by custom, and then by written law (see the
_Assises de Jérusalem_ and the _Etablissements de Saint Louis_), the
suzerain exercised a right of guardianship over his female vassals,
maids or widows, as long as they were unmarried. In England very serious
abuses followed from this right of wardship, as it was called, and the
unfortunate French girls and children who were subjected to it were no
better off than the English. We are not especially concerned here with
the case of minor heirs under _garde-noble_, or ward, except where these
heirs were girls. The girl so situated must not marry without the
consent of the lord who held the _garde-noble_ of her person and of her
domain. If she did so she was liable to fines and even to forfeiture of
her fief; and this power was one which the feudal lords did not hesitate
to exercise. We find Saint Louis objecting to the marriage of Jeanne,
heiress of the county of Ponthieu, to the King of England, and to the
marriage of the Countess of Flanders, widow of Count Ferrand, to Simon
de Montfort, a vassal of the King of England. Both these instances show
the reason which, in such a system as feudalism, underlay a power
apparently so arbitrary; the suzerain, in mere self-defence, could not
allow one of his fiefs to fall into the possession of a possible enemy.

There was another right, a corollary to this one. The lord could compel
his female ward to marry in order that the military duties of the fief
might be performed by a man. Saint Louis compelled Matilda of Flanders
to marry Thomas, Prince of Savoy. The famous _Assises de Jérusalem_,
organizing one of the most compact bodies which feudalism developed, to
defend the Holy Sepulchre in the midst of hostile infidels, contains
express provisions on this subject. According to this code, the baron
could say to his female vassal: "Dame, you owe service of marriage." He
then designated three suitable candidates, and she had to choose from
among them. The regulations of the so-called _Etablissements de Saint
Louis_ on this subject are so interesting that we may give a paraphrase
of a considerable portion of them. "When a lady becomes a widow, and is
advanced in years, and has a daughter, the seigneur to whom she owes
allegiance may come to her and say: 'Dame, I wish you to give me surety
that you will not marry your daughter without my advice and consent, or
without the advice and consent of her father's relatives; for she is the
daughter of my liegeman, and therefore I do not wish her to be deprived
of this advice.' Then it behooves the lady to give him due surety. And
when the girl shall be of marriageable age, if the lady find anyone who
asks her in marriage, she must come before the seigneur and the
relatives of the girl's father and say to them: 'Sire, my daughter is
asked in marriage, and I will not give her without your consent, nor
should I do so. Now give me your good and faithful counsel; for a
certain man has asked for her' (and she must give his name). And if the
seigneur say: 'I do not wish this man to have her, for so-and-so, who is
richer and of better rank than the one you have named, has asked me for
her, and will take her willingly' (and he shall name the man); or if the
relatives on the father's side say: 'We know a richer and a better man
than either of those you have named to us' (and they shall name him);
then shall they deliberate and choose the best of the three and the one
most advantageous to the demoiselle. And he who is chosen as the best
should be really thought so, for no one should make a mockery of law.
And if the lady marry her daughter without the consent of her seigneur
and of the relatives on the father's side, after she had been forbidden
to do so, she shall lose her movable goods," on which the seigneur is
given the power of distraint. There is in this enactment elaborate
provision for satisfying everybody but the person one would think most
interested the young lady. Her consent to the arrangement was, to the
mediaeval mind, a matter of small moment.

The powers thus given to the seigneur by formal law were certainly
exercised by right of custom, and probably with far less restraint of
justice than that provided for in the _Etablissements_. For caprice,
tyranny, or avarice might be satisfied by forcing an unfortunate ward
into marriage. Frequently, the unscrupulous baron forced his ward to
marry the highest bidder, or proposed some absolutely impossible
candidate for her hand merely to have her buy her freedom. "You will
either marry this decrepit old knight, to whose rank and wealth you
cannot reasonably object, or you will pay me so much." We can well
imagine that the impulse of youth would suggest surrender of almost any
worldly wealth to have "freedom in her love." The romances are full of
incidents akin to this, where the authority of either father or guardian
was exerted in vain; and the romances, however fantastic in some
respects, are but the reflections of actual conditions.

The unmarried woman, whether princess or mere demoiselle, was in a
condition almost as dependent as the serf. If she did not choose to
marry, or if her face or her fortune could not tempt anyone to ask her
in marriage, she might enter a monastery. Indeed, a father unwilling or
unable to provide a suitable dower for her might force her to become a
nun. The eldest son must be provided for first. If the patrimony were
small and the family large, younger sons had to fend for themselves, and
daughters had to take what they could get. The convent was the cheapest
and the safest place in which to establish them.

Yet in the age of feudalism there were certain safeguards for women,
whether these were altogether of feudal origin or merely survivals of
homely, common-sense custom. To cite but a few examples, we find in the
_Assises de Jérusalem_ most stringent provisions for the punishment of
seduction or crimes of violence against women. The statute provides that
the seducer, if he be able to do so and is approved by the parents,
shall marry the girl. In another connection, we learn that in Paris it
was for a while customary to marry such a couple, whether they would or
not, in the obscure little church of Sainte-Marine, and with a ring of
straw as a symbol of their shame. In case marriage was not acceptable to
the parents of the girl, the seducer might provide for her suitably in a
convent, and he himself might be punished by mutilation, confiscation of
his goods, and banishment. The husband had to secure to his wife a
certain proportion of, if not all, her dowry, and in the book of the
customs of Anjou we find it definitely stated that: _Il est usage que
gentil home puit doer sa fame a porte de mostier dou tierz de sa terre_
(It is the custom for a gentleman to endow his wife with the third of
his goods at the church door). Then, to protect widows from oppressive
feudal reliefs, as they were called, the _Etablissements de Saint Louis_
ordain that "no lady shall pay a redemption fee (to secure succession to
the fief), except in case she marry. But if she marry, her husband shall
pay the fee to the seigneur whose vassal she is. And if what is offered
does not please the seigneur, he can claim but the revenues of the fief
for one year."

Once admitted to the recognized class of the nobility, either as a wife
or as one of the greater vassals, a woman's position was decidedly
improved. Her rights were not many, but yet the feudal chatelaine
occupied a position of some dignity and importance. She was regarded as
in some sort the representative of her husband during his presence as
well as during his absence. The _Assises de Jérusalem_ provide, among
other things, that she shall not be proceeded against in court as the
representative of her husband until a respite of a year and a day has
elapsed, to allow for his possible return; and in the chateau, at all
times the lady had charge of domestic affairs, and on state occasions
shared the dignity of her husband.

The feudal chateau of a great baron was not only a fortress to secure
him against his enemies; it was also a home for his family and for
scores of dependents and retainers, and frequently a hostelry for the
entertainment of travellers of high and low degree. The moat, the
drawbridge and portcullis, the strong walls pierced with narrow slits to
admit scant light and air in time of peace and to deliver arrows in time
of war, the battlements, and the lofty tower of strength, all these are
familiar in our conceptions of the feudal castle. Many of us have
followed Marmion in his mad dash under the descending portcullis and
across the drawbridge of Lord Angus's castle; and we have watched the
arrows flying against the walls of Front de Boeuf's donjon and old mad
Ursula raving on its battlements. But the other features of the
dwellings, though sometimes described with equal care by the great Sir
Walter and his disciples, attract less attention and fade sooner from
our memories. Such a manor hall as that of Cédric the Saxon should be
kept in mind if we wish to get a fair idea of the actual life of the
better classes, not only in England but in France, for the main features
of the architecture and of the furnishings were the same. The nature and
extent of the fortifications might vary greatly, according to the power
or ambition of the owner; but the domestic arrangements of the feudal
home would be substantially the same in all.

The main portion of the house was given up to a huge hall. Entering the
gateway of the outer wall, one found one's self in a court, around which
were ranged the great hall, the smaller sleeping apartments, the
domestic offices, and the stables. Every possible provision was made for
men and animals to live within the enclosure in case of siege. The great
hall itself was usually at least thirty or forty feet in length, and
often so wide that its high, vaulted roof had to be supported on a row
of columns extending down the middle. In the ceiling was a hole, or
_louvre_, to allow the smoke to escape when fire was lighted on the
hearth in the centre of the floor for chimneys were used as yet, if at
all, only in the smaller rooms. At one end of the hall there was
probably a slightly elevated dais, or platform, on which were the seats
for the lord and lady, and perhaps for distinguished guests. In the tall
ogival windows, which were glazed only in the houses of the very
wealthy, were window seats, and along the rude board or table in the
body of the hall were rough benches and stools for the retainers and
guests of lesser rank. And if the lord were rich, there would be a
gallery, at the opposite end from the dais, for the minstrels who played
during banquets. Armorial bearings and weapons and armor hung upon the
walls. If the roof were so broad as to require the support of pillars,
these and the arches of the roof were decorated with carving. Sometimes
a further effect of color might be added by tapestries upon the walls,
and sometimes, though rarely, by mural paintings, as we are told in the
lay of _Guingamor_:

        "La chambre est paint tut entur;
        Venus, la devesse d'amur,
        Fu tres bein en la paintur."

(The room is painted all about; Venus, the goddess of Love, was
beautifully pictured in the painting.)

The floor of the hall might be of wood, though at the early period of
which we write it was very commonly of earth. There were no carpets,
except in palaces of great luxury, even at a much later date; instead,
the floor was covered with rushes or straw. Straw was anciently one of
the symbols of investiture; in the Salic law the person conveying an
estate cast a wisp of straw into the bosom of him to whom the property
was to be conveyed. With this custom in mind, we can understand the
anecdote told by Alberic des Troisfontaines of William the Conqueror.
The floor of the room in which he was born was covered with straw. The
newborn child, having been placed on the floor for a moment, seized in
his tiny hands a bit of the straw, which he held vigorously. _"Parfoi!"_
cried the midwife, _"cet enfant commence jeune à conquerir."_ Obviously,
the anecdote, with its allusion to the Conquest, was made up long after
the event, but it serves to show that even in the mansions of the well
to do straw was the usual floor covering; and even much later we do not
find the old coverings of rushes, branches, or straw displaced by
carpets. In 1373 the inhabitants of a certain town (Aubervilliers) were
exempted from a feudal tax on condition of their furnishing annually
forty cartloads of straw to the hotel, or palace, of Charles V., twenty
to that of the queen, and ten to that of the dauphin. On special
occasions the ordinary straw might be displaced by fresh green boughs
upon the floor and against the walls. Froissart tells us that on a very
warm day "the count of Foix entered his chamber and found it all strewn
with verdure and full of fresh new boughs; the walls all about were
covered with green boughs to make the room more fresh and fragrant....
When he felt himself in this fresh new chamber, he said: 'This greenery
refreshes me greatly, for assuredly this has been a hot day.'" When the
rushes or straw remained long on the floor without being renewed, as was
assuredly often the case, trampled on by men and used as a couch by the
dogs of the establishment, the effect must have been quite other than
refreshing. This must have been the case in many a private house, but
especially in such public places as the great churches and the great
university of the Sorbonne, whose students sat on the floor upon straw,
and had to pay twenty-five sous each to the chancellor for furnishing

In the hall of the castle thus rudely furnished the inmates lived a
large part of their lives. There the household assembled for meals.
There the minstrel, if one chanced to be present, recited his romance.
There the lord in person, or his seneschal or baillie, held his court to
administer justice. It was the common room of the house, and usually
contained all there was in the way of decoration. Comfort even here was
hardly to be found; one can fancy that the fire on the open hearth gave
out more smoke than heat, and the windows, often entirely unglazed and
ill-fitting, let in more cold than light.

The smaller apartments were even less pretentious in the way of comfort.
Opening out of the hall, or arranged around the court, were little
cubby-holes of places to serve as sleeping apartments. The furniture in
them was of the simplest description, and one was not even sure of
finding a bedstead; for unless the occupant were outrageously affected
by what the old folks doubtless called the degenerate effeminacy of the
age--in the year 1000--his bed was apt to be made on the floor, or in a
bunk against the wall. Sometimes there was a larger apartment opening
from the rear of the hall and destined for the private use of the lord
and his lady. As luxury increased, this apartment gradually became
better furnished, and at length there developed the lady's bower, where
she might retire with her maids. Of these there would often be a goodly
number, some mere domestics, some young girls of good family sent to
learn polite manners and domestic arts under the lady of the castle. In
the bower also tapestries would be hung on the walls, and, in place of
arms, perhaps there would be the various musical instruments in popular
use, particularly the harp, in various forms, known as _psaltérions,
cythares, décacordes_; the rote, which was what we should now call a
viol; various forms of violins, such as the rebec and the lute; guitars;
and perhaps flutes. The use of these instruments was, of course, not
unknown to the ladies themselves, and we find many references in the
romances to maidens at the courts playing upon the harp and singing,
though the professional minstrel or the page in training was oftener the

In the bower, the lady was not occupied with mere amusements. We are apt
to forget that our more complex civilization has taught us to rely upon
others to do many things which even our great-grand-mothers had to do
for themselves. Placed in the position of Robinson Crusoe, even with the
help of the simple tools which Defoe allows him to have, how helpless
would be the average man of to-day, simply because, from long dependence
on the little conveniences of modern life,--from Lucifer matches and
cooking stoves to ready-made clothing and ready-made houses,--he would
have lost the use of the most elementary faculties. So the female
Crusoe, in a feudal castle lone island, far from the conveniences of
town and shops, must, if she expected to get any comfort for herself and
those around her, know how to do innumerable small things that even the
modern shopgirl finds done for her as a matter of course.

She must know how to make bread, without question. In the romance of
King Florus a faithful wife disguises herself as a page and accompanies
her husband without his recognizing her. They fall upon evil days, and
the wife-page earns a living for herself and her master by starting a
bakery and eventually an inn. The lady of the manor must not only know
how to make the greater part of the clothing that she wears, but must
know how to weave the cloth of which her gown is made, and to spin the
yarn from which cloth and thread alike must come, and to card the wool
or prepare the flax before that. If soap be considered necessary,--and
there seems to have been no excessive use of it,--it would be wise for
her to know how to make it, since there might be no place near by where
soap could be bought. Candles, too, of a rude sort, or some sort of
rushlight, for domestic use, it would be well to know how to make; and,
of course, she should know how to make cheeses and to cure meats for use
during the long months when fresh meats might not be had. Even on the
tables of the rich, salt meats were the staple article. Unable to
provide for the feeding of large flocks through the winter--forage was
scarce, root crops were little cultivated for stock, and the omnipotent
potato had not yet come to its own,--the lord's steward would have a
large number of animals slaughtered just at the beginning of winter, and
the flesh of these had to be salted down. The good housewife would, of
course, know something of the process. Though in large households the
management of the male servants, the outdoor servants generally, fell to
the steward or baillie, the lady even here undoubtedly had to give a
general supervision, and had to provide work for and maintain discipline
among the women of the household. It must have required no small amount
of ability and tact, therefore, successfully to be the lady of the

We need not pause here to consider the amusements and the traditional
occupations of women, such as fine sewing and embroidery, or music and
the care of flowers. These can best be noticed when we examine the
romances of a later age.

For women of the upper classes feudalism was not, we may say, entirely
unjust or evil in its operations; but as feudalism meant oppression
verging on slavery for Jacques Bonhomme, the peasant, his wife Jeanne
could hardly have been in better case. With peasant marriages the
seigneur could interfere even more tyrannically than with those of his
feudal wards. In some places the bride and groom owed to the seigneur
certain gifts called _mets de manage_. On the day of the wedding these
"must be brought to the chateau by the bride, accompanied by musicians;
the said mets shall consist of a leg of mutton, two fowls, two quarts of
wine, four loaves of bread, four candles, and some salt, under pain of a
fine of sixty sous." In some places that most infamous right known _par
excellence_ as the _droit du seigneur_ was claimed, and we find a writer
even as late as the seventeenth century recording the fact that the
husband was sometimes required to purchase his bride's exemption from
this right.

At the early date of which we write, however, there is little or no
information to be had about the peasantry; the monkish chroniclers
mention them but rarely, and then unsympathetically. Popular literature,
with its _lais, contes, fabliaux_, or rude dramas in which Jacques and
Jeanne appear, did not yet exist. We may, however, guess from the
barbarity with which they were treated how near to that of the brutes
was their condition.

About the year 997, soon after the death of the glorious Duke Robert the
Fearless, the peasants of Normandy began to murmur against the wrongs
they had to suffer. "The seigneurs," they said, "only do us harm; on
account of them we have neither gain nor profit from our labor. Every
day they take from us our work animals for feudal services. And then
there are the laws, old and new, and pleas and lawsuits without end,
about coinage, about forest rights, about roads, about milling our
grain, about _hommage_. There are so many constables and bailiffs that
we have not one hour of peace; every day they are pouncing down on us,
seizing our goods, chasing us away from our land. There is no guarantee
for us against the seigneurs and their men, and no contract holds good
with them. Why do we allow ourselves to be treated thus, instead of
trying to right our wrongs? Are we not men as they are? Courage is all
we need. Let us therefore bind ourselves together by an oath, swearing
to sustain each other. And if they make war upon us, have we not, for
one knight, thirty or even forty young peasants, active, and fit to
fight with clubs, with pikes, with bows and arrows, yea, with stones if
there be no better weapons? Let us learn how to resist the knights, and
we shall be free to cut the trees, to hunt, to fish at our own sweet
will; and we will do as we please upon the water, in the fields, and in
the forests." They held secret meetings, and finally formed some sort of
an organization. But the seigneurs got wind of their designs. The young
Duke Richard sent for his uncle, Raoul, Count of Evreux. "Sire," said
Raoul, "do not you stir a foot, but leave it all to me." He collected a
force of knights and men at arms, and, informed by a spy of the meeting
place of the peasants, bore down upon them suddenly and arrested all the
ringleaders. Then came the punishment, the like of which was not
uncommon, though the victims were more numerous than usual. Some were
empaled outright; some were cooked before a slow fire; some were
sprinkled with molten lead. Others had their eyes torn out, their hands
cut off, their legs scorched; and of these victims the few who survived
were sent back among their fellows to inspire terror.

One can well believe that these horrors and the ever present sight of
those who had suffered from them kept the peasants in awe, as the old
chroniclers exultantly tell us. The account as given in Wace's _Roman de
Rou_ has in our eyes a pathos and a poetic grandeur far greater than the
chronicler's enthusiastic record of the deeds of the great Norman dukes.
With us the democratic spirit, or mere humanity, is so much stronger
than with him that we read his lines with feelings of pity and
indignation quite unforeseen by him. Is it not pitiful, this cry of the

        "Nus sumes homes cum il sunt,
        Tex membres avum cum il unt,
        Et altresi grant cors avum,
        Et altretant sofrir poum."

(We are men even as they are, we have limbs and bodies like theirs, and
can suffer as much.) One hears the echo of Shy lock's "Hath not a Jew
eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections,
passions?" The feudal ages would have answered Jew and peasant alike
with an emphatic "No!"

The barbarism in the suppression of this revolt is merely a typical
instance of the prevailing cruelty of manners. It was not the peasant
alone, regarded as hardly the same flesh and blood, to whom the seigneur
was cruel. Let us look at a few of these famous knights, and first at
the deeds of one notoriously wicked even in his own day. This was
Foulques, surnamed Nerra, the black, Count of Anjou, and ancestor of the
Plantagenet line. This same Foulques was twice married. His first wife,
Elizabeth, accused of adultery--probably because he wished to get rid of
her,--he disposed of by violent methods. One account reports that he had
her burned alive; another, that he had her thrown over a precipice; and
as she survived this, he, scandalized by her refusal to die in this more
picturesque fashion, stabbed her himself. One is reminded of Nero, that
most cheerful of the Roman murderer-emperors, who contrived an elaborate
machine to drown his mother, and, when she swam ashore, was so irritated
by the failure of his scheme that he had her summarily decapitated.
Foulques's second wife was so ill used that she fled to the Holy Land.
The pious count once burned down the church of Saint-Florent at Saumur,
calling out to the saint: "Let me burn your old church here, and I'll
build you a far finer one in Angers." And later he did build a huge
abbey, which no one of the neighboring bishops would consecrate; but a
judicious application to Rome, backed by a present, brought a cardinal
to consecrate it; and the wrath of Heaven was shown, says the
chronicler, for the new church was destroyed by lightning. At length the
devout Foulques, who had made two previous pilgrimages to the Holy Land,
was so smitten by remorse that he undertook a third. When he arrived at
Jerusalem he had himself tied to a hurdle and dragged through the
streets, while two of his servants flogged him, and he cried out at
every blow: "Have mercy, O Lord, on the perjured traitor, Foulques!" We
are not told--but it is probable--that the servants who did the flogging
either did not survive very long, or else were wise enough to flog very
gently. Foulques, however, died on his way back from Jerusalem.

Then there is the story of the chatelaine of the magnificent castle of
Ivri, Albérède, or Aubrée, wife of Raoul, Count of Evreux, half-brother
of Richard I. She employed Lanfred, the most accomplished architect of
the time, who had built the strong castle of Ponthiviers (about 1090),
to build the castle of Ivri, stronger and more cunningly devised than
any other. When he had finished, in order that he might build no better
castle, or might not reveal the secrets of the fortifications of Ivri,
she had his head cut off. But Count Raoul was a prudent man, and took
the hint. He had Albérède executed too.

One Norman gentleman, Ascelin de Goël, having had the good luck to
capture his feudal lord, held him for ransom; and in order that he might
be encouraged to pay more, had him exposed at an open north window, in
his shirt, and poured cold water over him, that the winter winds might
freeze it. And even the mild and saintly King Robert, in his war against
the Duke of Burgundy, laid waste the country far and wide, massacred
defenceless peasants, and did not spare even monasteries and churches,
since peasants and monasteries alike were regarded as but the goods of
the duke, which it was his right to destroy.

The Church had some redress for the evils suffered. The pious and
superstitious king was tormented nearly all his life by the threats of
eternal damnation which the Church held over him. This brings us to a
consideration of the influence of the Church upon manners in general and
upon the condition of women.

Though there were many ambitious, greedy, and cruel priests; though many
of them lived in open defiance of the Church's prohibition of marriage
among the clergy,--there were several married bishops at an earlier
period, and one of these, the Bishop of Dole, actually plundered his
church to dower his daughters,--the Church as a whole unquestionably
stood for the best in manners and in morals. After Charlemagne's vain
attempts to revive popular education, what learning there was existed
only among the clergy. Though themselves forming part of the feudal
nobility and holding fiefs for which they owed military service, the
bishops, abbots, and priors almost always espoused the cause of the weak
and the oppressed. Within the precincts of the church the poor fugitive
from violence done in the name of justice was offered sanctuary, and the
right of sanctuary was usually respected.

Within the walls of the monastery women were offered safety. There were
many, of course, who might choose the quiet and the comparative ease of
the cloister life from motives little better than worldly, and others
who might enter with sentiments of romantic devoutness which it is hard
for most of us to appreciate in this day; and both were doubtless
satisfied with what they found in the convent. But there were many
others who had been forced into a life absolutely distasteful to them
and alien to their temperaments. How many of these withered away in
discontent! how many revolted more actively and led lives that brought
reproach and disgrace upon the Church! Among the earliest of the satires
against social abuses we find those against hypocritical, avaricious,
gluttonous, or licentious monks and nuns; and the stream of satire runs
throughout the Middle Ages. Monks live in the _pays de Cocagne_, to gain
admittance to which one had to wallow seven years in filth; monks and
nuns are in Rabelais's _Abbé de Thélème_, and _en leur reigle n'estoit
que ceste clause: fais ce que vouldra_; and monks and nuns again play
anything but edifying roles in the _fabliaux_ and their successors, the
short tales such as one finds in the _Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles_.

Monasteries for women abounded all over France, most of them under some
form of the Benedictine rule. Within their own monasteries women could
govern themselves, though the whole convent was usually dependent upon
male ecclesiastical control, either attached to a neighboring monastery,
or under the jurisdiction of a bishop. In the great double monastic
community of Fontevrault, established about noo by Robert d'Arbrissel,
women were exalted above men; the nuns sang and prayed, the monks
worked, and the entire establishment was under the guidance of the

The abbess or prioress occupied a position of responsibility and dignity
not unlike that of the chatelaine. She too had the control of a large
domestic establishment, and she was responsible not only for religious
discipline but for the temporal provision for her nuns. The abbess had
the power of a bishop within the limits of her convent, and bore a
crosier as the sign of her rank. She might even hold some feudal tenure
in the name of her convent. She drew revenues from her holdings and was
in every sense the executive head of her house. At first--always under
some of the stricter rules--the abbess carried on business outside the
convent through some male agent. Greater freedom undoubtedly prevailed
at times, however, and the rule against her leaving the convent was
ignored. She was in some cases appointed, but usually elected from among
the nuns, though cases are found, of course, where the abbess was the
mere creature of some powerful lay or ecclesiastical authority. To
become abbess of a nunnery was not considered beneath even a princess of
the blood; and in some convents probably the same caste distinctions
were observed as prevailed outside, and the nuns were nothing more than
elegant retired ladies of birth and fashion.

The abbess appointed her subordinates, who varied in number and rank
according to the power of the convent. There was generally a
sub-prioress, second in authority to the abbess, and certain minor
executive officers, whose duties were nevertheless important, such as
the chaplain, the sexton, and the cellaress. The chaplain was in most
cases a monk chosen to celebrate Mass for the nuns, since women were not
allowed to become actual priests; but in some cases the officer called
the chaplain was a nun, whether or not she could officiate in all
capacities. The sexton was a nun whose duties were to ring the bells for
services, to keep in order the chapel, the altar, and the sacred
vessels, and sometimes to act as a treasurer. The most interesting of
these officers, however, and the one whose position must have been
really most trying, was the cellaress. It was she who had general
supervision of the commissariat. She was usually chosen upon the advice,
if not by the election, of the whole community, and it was especially
important that she should be a tactful person and a judicious manager.
As housekeeper of the establishment, she had to control the servants and
to satisfy the nuns. In providing food and drink for the household, she
had to manage receipts and disbursements of considerable amounts. Very
frequently a farm was attached to the nunnery, or there were several
farms whose produce was to be used for the support of the institution.
For whatever was bought or sold the cellaress had to make an accounting.
With the proceeds of her sales or of the rent of the farms under her
control, or with the money allowed her, she had to buy such provisions
as were needed: grain, flesh, fish,--usually a very large item,
especially in the Lenten season,--condiments, such as preserved fruits,
spices, salt, etc., and, where the rule did not utterly forbid it, wine
or ale. Of these details we shall speak more fully in connection with
the rules for a model nunnery which Abélard wrote for Héloïse and upon
which she based her government of the famous monastery of the Paraclete.

[Illustration 2:
After the painting by Lucien Mélingue.
As feudalism meant oppression verging on slavery for Jacques Bonhomme,
the peasant, his wife Jeanne could hardly have been in better case. With
peasant marriages the seigneur could interfere even more tyrannically
than with those of his feudal wards. In some places the bride and groom
owed to the seigneur certain gifts called _mets de mariage...._ and that
most infamous right known as the _droit du seigneur_ was claimed, and we
find a writer even as late as the seventeenth century recording the fact
that the husband was sometimes required to purchase his bride's
exemption from this right.]

Aside from the protection they afforded to women who might otherwise
have been utterly lost in the rough world, the monasteries were of great
importance in other ways. Whatever it may have become during the period
of the decline of monastic purity, the life in the nunneries, even in
the comparatively dark period about the year 1000, was not an idle one.
The day was carefully portioned off into periods of work, of religious
devotion, and of leisure, which long custom fixed into a routine. The
occupations included what we should now class chiefly as artistic work,
though much of it was at the time really useful in a more homely
way,--weaving of hangings and tapestries for the church, embroidery,
painting and illuminating, and copying of manuscripts. This last was, of
course, work of the highest utility, though the artistic skill displayed
in the writing itself and in the beautiful illuminations made it also an
art. We have few names of actual scribes of either sex, since they
rarely signed the manuscripts they copied; but among these few there are
some of women. The magnificent tapestries, sometimes large enough to
cover in one piece the side of a church, are perhaps the most noteworthy
of the products of the monasteries. So famous was the work of the nuns
in this particular that tradition assigned to them, though perhaps
mistakenly, the production of one of the most famous historical
authorities for the Norman Conquest, the Bayeux tapestries, said to have
been wrought for Bishop Odo of Bayeux by nuns under the direction of
Queen Matilda.

Most important of all in the activities of the convent was education. At
the time of which we write, the standard of learning in the convents was
higher than one would think, and higher than it was some centuries
later; for Latin was still used familiarly among some of the women
educated in convents. The most famous instance of learning is that of
the Saxon nun Hrotsvith, or Roswitha, of the tenth century, who wrote
legends of the saints, dramas on the model of the comedies of Terence,
and chronicles. There were other learned nuns, though none famous in the
French literature of the time, all of whom gained their knowledge in
convents; for it was in convents alone that women could ordinarily
receive any education at all. One of the main purposes of the convent
was to train young girls. Sometimes there was only such training as
would fit them to became novices and eventually nuns, and the degree of
education was of course determined in part by social standing; that is,
a princess would be more carefully trained than a mere demoiselle; but
some convents became famous schools, where education was given for its
own sake, not merely to train those who meant to become nuns. In many
cases, children of both sexes were taught, and girls and boys together
learned Latin. In the romance of _Flore et Blancheflore_, the hero
recalls how he and Blancheflore loved when they were children at school,
"and told each other of our love in Latin, and none understood us." But
the girls were probably better educated, in our sense of the word, than
the boys; for teaching a boy to avoid breaking Priscian's head was then
less necessary than teaching him to break that of his opponent in

Leaving the convents out of the question, the Church helped the cause of
woman and of humanity by its constant endeavor to repress violence.
About the year 1030 France was afflicted by a succession of bad crops,
resulting, together with the constant waste and ravages of petty wars,
in the most frightful famine. The people in their misery became almost
inhuman; men died in such multitudes that it was impossible to bury
them, and the wolves fed on their flesh; human flesh was actually
offered for sale in the market of Tournus; and one monster, near Macon,
living as a hermit, enticed unwary travellers into his den and there
slew and devoured them! When found out he had a pile of forty-eight
human skulls, those of his victims. In the midst of this horrible state
of affairs the bishops and abbots of all parts of France met in council
and decreed punishment upon whoever should carry arms, and upon whoever
should use violence against defenceless persons, merchants, monks, and
women; not even the refuge of the altar was to protect him who disobeyed
this decree. Raising their hands to heaven all those present cried out,
_Pax! pax! pax!_ in witness of the eternal peace compact, the _Paix de
Dieu_--the Peace of God. Wars had caused much of their distress, and the
kingdom was indeed weary of war, but the millennium had not yet
come,--philosophers still tell us that it is "just beyond the sky
line,"--and the Peace of God was ineffective.

Failing to suppress war, the Church next sought, with more practical
wisdom, to modify its horrors. In 1041 was proclaimed the _Trève de
Dieu_--the Truce of God. All private feuds were to cease during the
period from Wednesday evening to Monday morning, under penalty of fine,
banishment, and exclusion from Christian communion. Then the days of the
great feasts were included in the period of truce, as well as Advent and
Lent. "Churches and unfortified cemeteries," says the chronicler Ranulph
Glaber, "as well as the persons of all clerks and monks, provided they
did not carry arms, were put under the perpetual protection of the Truce
of God. For the future, when making war upon the seigneur, men were
forbidden to kill, to mutilate, or to carry off as captives the poor
people of the country, or to destroy maliciously implements of labor and
crops." This last provision in particular is very interesting. Of
course, powerful barons broke the truce again and again; but it was
there as a real moral force of restraint, and the Church did not forget
to contend for its observance, so that it must have had some effect. To
no class in society could peace have been more welcome, more essential,
than to women, always the sufferers in war.

We have left to the last one most important question in considering the
moral influence of the Church. Surely, the sanctity of the marriage tie
is one of the foundation stones of morality and of civilization; upon it
rests the home, where woman has always found her greatest and surest
happiness. The Church had been struggling for centuries, and was to
struggle some time longer, to make effective its opposition to marriage
among the clergy. Among the secular priests, those not connected with a
monastic order, marriage or concubinage had not by any means ceased, and
we find even bishops leading scandalous lives. But the Church continued
to fulminate its decrees, and the evil grew slowly less and less, till
it existed only among the lower orders of the clergy and in
out-of-the-way places. Monks and nuns alike took the three vows of
poverty, of chastity, and of obedience. We are not concerned with the
general question of whether or not priests should be married, or whether
or not it is wisdom to force the observance of a vow of perpetual
chastity upon young men and women who may have taken such a vow without
duly considering their own temperaments, or who have been compelled to
take it against their wills. Despite the scandals,--scandal has always a
noisy tongue,--there should be no doubt that in the great majority of
cases the vow of chastity was sincerely kept. Within its own limits the
Church discouraged and was soon utterly to forbid marriage; what did it
do to sanctify and to protect marriage outside of the ranks of the

Marriage was made one of the seven great sacraments of the Church, and
the breach of the marriage tie was one of the sins most severely
punished. Adultery had been severely punished under the customary laws
of the Franks, usually by the death of both parties with frightful
tortures; and the Church added to the physical punishment inflicted by
the civil law in this world the threat of eternal torments in the next.
Nevertheless, according to the testimony of many who are satirists and
of some who are not, it was the unmarried priest who was the most
frequent offender. An anecdote will illustrate the prevailing looseness
of clerical morals. Wace tells us that a sacristan of Saint-Ouen, in
Rouen, fell in love with a lady who lived across the little river Robec.
As he was stealing across to meet her one dark night, his foot slipped
on the plank by which he was crossing the stream, and he tumbled therein
and was drowned. A devil was just about to pitchfork his soul and carry
it off when an angel appeared, contending that the sacristan had not yet
committed the sin. The case was submitted to Duke Richard, who ordered
that the soul should be returned to the body, and that he would then
judge according to the sacristan's actions. Presto! it was done; and the
monk, his ardor cooled by the ducking, went back to his abbey and
confessed to the abbot. A popular proverb makes the story survive: "Sir
monk, step lightly, and take good care when you cross the plank." Not
only in the Church, but in the world, immorality was too common and too
easily pardoned. It is significant that illegitimacy was the rule rather
than the exception among the Norman dukes, and that William the
Conqueror, himself illegitimate, was conspicuous in his age for marital

The moral theory of the Church was correct enough, however it failed in
practice. Every precaution was taken--indeed, too many were taken--to
prevent hasty and ill-assorted marriages. The banns had to be read three
times in the church; the contracting parties must be of proper age; they
must have the consent of parent or guardian; they must not be related
within the degrees prohibited by the Church; they must not be bound by
any previous vow of chastity or be guilty of any mortal sin.

These provisions would seem to be in the main wise enough, and yet out
of one of them grew a considerable moral evil. Divorce had been
recognized by the Salic law: "Seeing that discord troubles their union,
and that charity reigns not in it, N. and M., husband and wife, have
agreed to separate and to leave each other free either to retire to a
monastery or to remarry," without question or opposition from either
party. So ran one of the formulas; and as a sign of the divorce the keys
of the house were taken from the wife, or a piece of linen was torn
before her. The Church, however, opposed divorce, and declared it
contrary to the spirit of Christianity. Yet, if one were wealthy or
powerful, it was easy to have a marriage annulled, on one pretext or
another. The most frequent was the plea for divorce for reasons of
conscience, since the contracting parties, being within the prohibited
degrees of relationship,--a fact which they had not known at the time of
the marriage,--were guilty of incest in the eyes of the Church, and
prayed to be relieved from the danger of perilling their immortal souls
by deadly sin. Other pleas were resorted to, but this seems to have been
a favorite one. By a subtile division of a hair "'twixt south and
southwest side," this might be considered as not divorce, but the mere
annulment of a contract which had been illegal and unsanctified from the
start; and the distinction was an important one, since the rich noble or
the monarch who had disposed of an objectionable wife in this way, and
who had absolved himself by proper penances and by sufficient gifts to
the Church, might, and generally did, remarry.

It is with the story of a divorce or forced separation that we are
concerned in the case of Queen Bertha. Robert, the son of Hugues Caput,
and the first real king of the Capetian line, was a devoted friend of
Eudes, Count of Champagne and Blois, who proudly styles himself, in his
charters, _Comes Ditissimus_,--richest count of France,--and whom Robert
had honored with the title of count or seneschal of the royal palace.
This Eudes had a beautiful and virtuous wife, Bertha, daughter of King
Conrad the Pacific of Aries, and descended from the great Emperor Henry,
the Fowler. Robert, then married to a princess named Rosella, was
godfather to one of the children of Eudes and his fair cousin Bertha.
Both Princess Rosella and the Comes Ditissimus died. Bertha and Robert
already loved each other, it would seem, since neither mourned very
long. Within a few months they were married, in spite of the protests of
Hugues Capet, who would have liked a more powerful alliance for his son
and heir. Although Bertha and Robert were cousins, it was only in the
fourth degree. This actual relationship, though within the proscribed
degrees, would have been overlooked probably, as well as the spiritual
relationship established by Robert's having stood godfather to one of
Bertha's children, had it not been for the prince's ill luck in
incurring the enmity of certain powerful and active churchmen.
Archambaud, Archbishop of Tours, had issued a special dispensation, and
had blessed the marriage in the presence and with the consent of several
other bishops. But to understand fully the violent opposition which the
marriage encountered from the papal party we must go back to an episode
in the reign of Hugues Capet.

In the course of the last effort of Carl, the heir of the Carlovingian
line, to recover dominion, the Archbishop of Rheims had betrayed Hugues
Capet, and had agreed to introduce Carl's forces into Rheims. It was
proved that this man, Arnoul, or Arnulph, had surrendered the keys of
the city to the emissaries of Carl, and he himself confessed his guilt.
Accordingly, with the sanction of an ecclesiastical court, Arnoul was
deprived of his see, which was given to Gerbert, the tutor of the young
King Robert. The papal party refused to recognize the jurisdiction of
the court which had deposed Arnoul, and which still kept him imprisoned
at Orléans, and a special legate was sent to France to protest against
this action at the very time of Robert's marriage to Bertha. The legate
raised his voice in protest against the incestuous and sinful marriage.
Thinking to appease him, Robert released Arnoul and restored him to his
archbishopric; but to do this he had to depose Gerbert, and by so doing
he made an enemy of one of the most active and able men in the Church,
famous as a theologian, and afterward to become Pope Silvester II.

For a time, however, Bertha and Robert, who loved each other devotedly
and lived in a simple piety quite in contrast to the licentious habits
of the period, were left unmolested. The bribe to Rome was sufficient
for the moment to purchase for them innocent happiness. Robert was most
singularly devout, and was ranked almost as a saint by the
ecclesiastical chroniclers who preserve his story for us. Though a
handsome and well-formed man, and not altogether unfit for martial
exercises, he delighted in pastimes rather befitting a monkish scholar
than a soldier. He was gentle and kind to those about him, especially
the poor and the unfortunate, and was devoted to music. He himself
composed a number of Latin hymns for the Church, some of which are still
retained, notably the sequence to the Holy Spirit, _Adsit nobis gratia_,
and he set many others to tunes of his own composing. He was innocently
vain of his powers as a musician and singer, and on a pilgrimage to Rome
in after years, 1016, he deposited on the altar of Saint Peter his Latin
poems set to music. The very graces and virtues for which his
contemporaries praise Robert are the ones that make him manifestly out
of place as King of France in the year 1000, and the misery of his
domestic career is only more pitiful than the disorder which reigned in
his kingdom. That one of the most pious kings of France should
nevertheless have begun his career in opposition to the Church is very

While Bertha and Robert were enjoying their brief respite from
persecution, the papacy itself was struggling for existence.. At last
the Emperor Otho fought his way into Rome, seized the leader of the
popular party, John Crescentius, "Senator and Consul of Rome," and
pitched him over the walls of the castle of Saint Angelo. The unhappy
Pope, John XVI. was replaced by the emperor's nominee, Gregory V. Almost
as soon as Gregory was seated he summoned a council (998), in which
Gerbert, now Robert's bitter enemy, sat as Bishop of Ravenna. This
council, largely controlled by the vindictive Gerbert, threatened the
kingdom of France with a universal interdict, suspending all religious
rites but those of baptism and extreme unction, if Robert would not
repudiate Bertha. The decree commanded "that King Robert, who has,
contrary to the holy canons of the Church, married his cousin, Bertha,
shall forsake her at once, and shall perform a penance of seven years,
in accordance with the rules and customs of the Church. If he obey not,
may he be anathema! And so also be it as regards Bertha! That
Archambaud, Archbishop of Tours, who consecrated this incestuous union,
and all the bishops who sanctioned it by their presence, be refused the
Holy Communion until such time as they shall have come to Rome to make
amends to the Holy See!"

One can imagine that, to a nature as devout as Robert's, such a curse
was almost overwhelming. Yet he and Bertha endured for some time the
horrors which this excommunication brought upon them, and Robert
resisted with far more spirit than one would have supposed him to
possess. The curse fell upon France, and upon its king and queen, who
were surely no more morally guilty than their unfortunate subjects.
Awful were the effects of the curse, according to Petrus Damianus, who
records with pious unction most of the signs and wonders with which the
age was filled. All save a few of the lowest servants fled from the
accursed presence of Robert and his queen, and even these menials, when
they had prepared the king's food, deemed the very vessels from which he
had eaten polluted by his touch, and purified them by fire or destroyed
them. Bertha was reported to be a foul witch, and to have the foot of a
goose, and was nicknamed _la reine pedauque_, or _pied d'oie_ (Queen
Goose-foot). In her agitation and misery, the child she should have
borne was prematurely brought forth. The charitable Damianus tells us
that it was currently reported to be of monstrous form, having the head
and neck of a swan and not of a human being.

Whether these horrors were direct effects of God's wrath or had birth in
the zealous imagination of a writer whose interest it was to lay on the
colors in his description of the blasting effects of excommunication,
Robert and Bertha had to resign themselves to the cruel separation.
Robert's superstitious fears were worked on by his monkish advisers,
particularly Abbo, Abbot of Fleury, "who incessantly reprimanded the
king, in public and in, private." This holy man, says the biographer of
Robert, "continued his reproaches until the good King acknowledged his
fault and abandoned the wife whom it was not permitted him to possess."
The separation seems to have taken place definitely about the year 1006,
and Robert was to be miserable in his domestic life all the rest of his

He and Bertha had passed part of their married life together in the
midst of a veritable reign of terror. All over Christendom the belief
was general that the end of the work! was at hand. The lurid prophecies
of the Apocalypse were supplemented by texts believed to be prophetic of
the Judgment Day, raked together from all parts of the Scriptures and
from what superstitious ignorance regarded as almost of equal authority,
the Sibylline Leaves. Preachers took as their text the horrors of the
approaching dissolution of the world, when, according to Revelations:
"The stars of heaven fell unto the earth... and the heavens departed as
a scroll when it is rolled together;" or in the magnificent words of a
hymn written long after: _Dies iræ, dies illa Solvet, sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sybilla_. (Day of wrath! O day of mourning! See
fulfilled the prophet's warning! Heaven and earth in ashes burning!)
They supplemented this picture by accounts of the torments of hell as
reported in the legends of those who had been granted a vision of them.
"Repent ye! repent ye! for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Woe unto
him who in that day shall be found still a sinner!" There was naturally
a paralysis of all useful activities. What was the use of preparing for
the morrow, if there was to be no morrow? During the last year of the
century the terror reached its highest point, and only absolute needs
were attended to. There were great donations to the Lord on the part of
tardy sinners who thought thus to purchase remission of their sins. But
there were also those who refused to repent, and who resolved, since
their life was to be short, to make it as merry as it could be. While
the former crowded the churches, weeping and praying and surrendering
themselves to the terrors suggested by the priest, the latter gave
themselves up to the wildest dissipation. The year 1000 passed away, and
still the stars were in heaven, and the wicked on earth began to breathe
more freely; and when the next year went by without any Day of Judgment,
courage revived, and the Church began to make use of the immense gifts
which impulsive sinners had turned over to her. New cathedrals and new
abbeys rose all over the land.

The pathos of the story of Bertha is heightened when we look at her
successor on the throne. Even in her own day Constance, daughter of
Guilhelm Taillefer, Count of Toulouse, was considered harsh and cruel;
one chronicler euphemistically expresses this when he says: "There was
as much constancy in her heart as in her name." She probably came by her
nature honestly enough, for her mother was Arsinda, sister of that
Foulques Nerra of cheerful memory, who, indeed, according to some
accounts, forced the weak Robert to marry his niece. She was, says the
chronicler, surnamed Candida on account of her excessive fairness, and
is not infrequently called Blanche, the "fair queen." Into the rather
primitive court of the French king, surrounded by his monks and probably
longing for the banished Bertha, she came with a scandalous display of
luxury and frivolity.

The south of France, in contact with Italy, with the cultured Moors of
Spain, and, through its Mediterranean ports, with the most advanced
civilization then known, that of the Arabs, was far in advance of the
northern provinces in civilization, or at least in luxury and knowledge
of the arts usually accompanying civilization. Provence, especially,
with its ancient port of Marseilles to recall memories of the most
cultured nation of antiquity, was in material prosperity and in arts
already advancing to that stage of civilization which was to make her,
in the course of the next century, the mother of the first real
literature France had known and of the first extended protest against
the Church of Rome. The troubadours were soon to make Provence and the
Provençal tongue famous, and the Albigenses, with their heresy, were to
invite the destruction of this gay, brilliant, but unsound society. The
south was already far more gay and pleasure loving than the north, where
the ravages of wars foreign and domestic had been more terrible. And out
of the south came Queen Constance, _la Blanche_, to a court where the
king was more monk than king.

The northerners, always disliking the men of Provence, exclaimed in
horror against the manners and the costume of the horde of Provençal
attendants whom Constance brought with her. "The favor of the queen,"
says Glaber, "attracted into France and Bourgogne many natives of
Aquitaine and Auvergne. These vain and frivolous men showed themselves
to be as ill-regulated in their morals as they were immodest in their
dress. Their armor and the furnishings of their horses were
extraordinary. Their hair fell scarce to the middle of their heads (the
fashion of shaving the back of the head was strange in northern France,
though afterward so prevalent that William's Norman knights were
reported by Harold's spies to be all shaven-crowned monks); they shaved
their beards off as smooth as play actors; they wore boots indecently
turned up in long points at the toes, robes cut off short, reaching to
the knees and divided behind and before; in walking they hopped along!"
Alas for France! the French and the Burgundians, formerly the most
honest and sober of all nations, eagerly followed the "sinful example"
set by the queen's favorites. The whole nation copied these indecent
costumes, and short hair, short robes, and sinfully pointed shoes became
the fashion. As the Puritans inveighed against Babylonish apparel, the
livery of the "scarlet woman," in the shape of Cavalier curls and long
plumes, so the divines of France made a crusade against this livery of
the devil. They declared that the finger of Satan was in all this, and
that the pointed shoes would infallibly carry their wearers to the realm
of the master whose livery they wore. One can hear the very voice of Ben
Jonson's Ananias, the Puritan, as he testifies against the costume of
the Spaniard: "They are profane, lewd, superstitious, and idolatrous

Nevertheless, the satanic livery was never utterly thrown aside; and
clothes were not the only things satanic about the new queen. Constance,
high-tempered and energetic, reigned over France through or in spite of
King Robert. Coming of a forceful and warlike race, she must have found
many things distasteful in the weakness and superstition which were the
chief traits she noted in her husband. She and her kinsfolk left him
free to compose hymns, while they ruled France. But when one of his
favorites, Hugues de Beauvais, whom he had made count of the palace,
suggested to Robert that he might get rid of Constance and send for the
ever-regretted Bertha, Constance notified her strenuous uncle Foulques.
Foulques promptly despatched a dozen brave knights, with orders to slay
Hugues whenever and wherever they found him: they found him and murdered
him in the very presence of the king. Robert was too weak to resist
effectively, made his peace with the queen, and gave himself up more and
more to religious devotions.

He used to go to the church of Saint-Denis and sing with the choir and
challenge the singers to a trial of skill. When Constance one day asked
him to compose some song in her honor, he responded with a stave of his
hymn: _O! Constantia martyrum_ (O! faith and constancy of the martyrs),
with which she was as well pleased as if the reference had not been a
bit ambiguous. On a certain occasion, as he was besieging a castle on
the feast of Saint Hippolytus, to whom he professed a special devotion,
he left the army and repaired to Saint-Denis to sing hymns in honor of
the saint. While he was thus engaged, the walls of the castle fell, and
the king's troops entered in; a manifest reward for his singing _Agnus
Dei, dona nobis pacem!_ While he was one day at prayers, shedding many
tears, as was his wont, the vain and worldly-minded Constance adorned
his lance with silver ornaments. The king, finding this sinful waste,
looked out of his door and saw a poor man near by. He sent him off to
get some sort of tool to cut off the decorations, shut himself up in a
room with the fellow, stripped the lance of its silver gewgaws, and gave
them to him, bidding him begone in haste lest the queen see him.
Constance asked what had become of the silver, and Robert "swore by the
Lord's name, though not in earnest," that he knew not what had become of

In spite of this pious perjury, we are told that Robert had a great
horror of lying. The proof of this statement is very interesting. He had
a reliquary made of crystal, set in a golden case, and containing no
relic. Upon this his nobles, ignorant of the deceit, could swear without
danger of risking their souls, in case the oath was false. And as common
folk had souls, too, and might endanger them by false swearing, he had a
similar reliquary, made of silver, in which was deposited nothing more
sacred than an egg. He was constantly endeavoring to shield the petty
malefactors whom his unworldliness had tempted to wrongdoing, and whom
Constance would have punished. It was his habit to have the poor fed
from his table, and on one occasion he had a fellow concealed under the
table at his feet. The man found time between bites to cut off a heavy
gold ornament attached to the king's knee. "What enemy of God, my good
lord, has dishonored your gold-adorned robe?" cried Constance.
"Undoubtedly," said Robert, "he who took it wanted it more than I, and
with God's aid it will be of service to him." One day he saw a young
clerk named Ogger steal a candlestick from the altar in his chapel. The
priests were much disturbed over its loss; and the queen, in a rage,
swore by the soul of her father that she would have the eyes of the
priests torn from their sockets if they did not account for what had
been stolen from the sanctuary. The priests questioned Robert, who,
denying all knowledge of the theft, at once sent for the thief. "Friend
Ogger," said he, "haste thee hence, lest my inconstant Constancy eat
thee up. What thou hast taken will be enough to carry thee to thy own
country. The Lord be with thee." When the thief was beyond danger of
pursuit, Robert cheerfully said: "Why all this pother about a
candlestick? The Lord has given it to some of his poor."

One can well understand that however churchmen might commend this sort
of meekness it was most irritating to Constance. She was full of energy
and vigor, and never jested, says her biographer, about anything. She
and her uncle Foulques, whom Robert had made governor of Paris, ruled
France and fought against the turbulent and rebellious barons, chief
among whom was Eudes II., Count of Blois, of Chartres, of Tours, and of
Champagne, the son of the deposed queen, Bertha. She led in the first
important attack upon heresy. Certain clerks in the city of Orléans
developed a secret, heretical sect which gained many proselytes, among
others a certain Etienne, who had been the confessor of Queen Constance.
Their secret was discovered; they were brought to trial, refused to
recant, and were ordered to execution. As they marched from the church
where they had been tried to the immense funeral pyre, they passed
Constance in the porch of the church. Recognizing Etienne among the
thirteen prisoners, she attacked him furiously, and with a whip put out
one eye of the defenceless victim. This vindictive queen, aggravating
the tortures of the first victims of the new religious persecutions, is
not a pleasant figure in French.

As Robert grew older and it became necessary to determine on a
successor,--the right of the oldest son was not yet altogether
fixed,--Constance began to intrigue against her husband. Robert was in
the habit of saying: "My hen pecks, but she gives me plenty of
chickens." They had had six children; but had lost their eldest son,
Hugues, in 1025. Of the three remaining sons, Eudes, the eldest, was an
idiot; Henry, the second, was his father's choice; and Robert, the
youngest, was favored by Constance, "with her habitual spirit of
contradiction." She said, with some reason, that Henry was weak,
inactive, deceitful, and negligent of affairs, and could no more be king
than his father could; whereas Robert had far more energy and sense than
his brothers. For once, the king resisted, and with the consent of the
peers assured the succession to Henry. Constance fomented ill feeling
between the two sons, and between Henry and his father. Robert, with the
notion that injustice had been done him, was soon in revolt against his
father. But the queen had always been so harsh to all her children that
none of them seem to have had faith in her or affection for her, and the
two brothers, Henry and Robert, soon became reconciled to each other and
made a joint invasion of their father's dominions, pillaging his castles
and territories. The poor king, after many ravages had been committed,
at length bribed his sons to let him sing his last hymns in peace. Henry
was to succeed to the throne, and Robert became Duke of Burgundy.

The peace thus made did not long outlast King Robert. He died in July,
1031, and the monks mourned their friend and protector, and many of the
poor sincerely bewailed the loss of their "good father"; but there is no
sign of any excessive grief on the part of Constance. She soon gave the
kingdom cause to mourn in other fashion; for no sooner was Henry I.
seated on his throne than his mother began to stir up rebellion against
him. She had always been violent in private as in public life, and
treated Henry in particular "as if she hated him like a stepmother." Her
intrigues now were so far successful that she won over to her side most
of the direct vassals of the crown, and the greater number of the towns
in the duchy of France declared themselves in favor of placing Robert,
Duke of Burgundy, on the throne. By surrendering the county of Sens to
her old enemy, Eudes, Count of Blois, Constance gained his aid. This
plot of a mother against her son was successful in all but one main
point: the other son, in whose name she was preparing to wage civil war,
took no active part against his brother, and appears to have remained
quietly in Burgundy. Perhaps he was wise enough to understand that what
Constance was really scheming for was the continuance of her own power,
and that if placed on the throne he would have been completely under her

In this crisis of the affairs of the kingdom, Henry, fleeing with a
following of but twelve vavasours, called upon Normandy for aid; and
most effective aid he had from one whose name was to become famous, a
nucleus for the gathering of romance. This was Duke Robert of Normandy,
surnamed Robert the Devil, who carried on a predatory warfare so savage
and so successful that most of the revolted lords near the borders of
Normandy "bowed their heads before him." Old Foulques Nerra, probably in
one of his edifying fits of repentance, at length brought Constance to a
reconciliation with Henry, reproaching her with the brutal fury with
which she was treating her son. The miserable queen, who had caused so
much unhappiness to her husband and to her sons, did not long survive
the peace, dying at Melun in July, 1032. Her ally Eudes continued the
struggle some little while, but was at last vanquished and forced to
disgorge half of the county of Sens which Constance had given him as a

Thus ends the life of one of the first of the French queens who really
took an active part in affairs. Beautiful, witty, and full of graces and
caprices essentially feminine, as well as of some masculine qualities,
she yet appears to have inspired no love, nothing but dread, in anyone
who came near her; and the chroniclers of the time seem to delight in
telling anecdotes illustrative of her wickedness as contrasted with
Robert's saintliness. But we must remember that at least she
accomplished something, and that her enemies tell her story.

At the period of which we write, Normandy was all powerful, and the
Capets had come to look upon her dukes now as their most dangerous foes
and now as their most useful friends. Duke Robert the Magnificent, as
his courtiers called him, or Robert the Devil, as literature knows him,
had an amour which is interesting as showing that class distinctions
were not so rigid as one might think. According to Wace's story of the

        "A Faleize ont li Dus hante,...
        Une meschine i ont amee,
        Arlot ont nom, de burgeis née."

(The duke did much frequent Falaise,... There he loved a girl named
Arietta, born of a burgess of the town). Arietta, the tanner's daughter,
was to become a figure of romance in the story of Robert the Devil; but,
romance or no romance, she was the mother of the greatest of the Norman
dukes, William the Conqueror, born in 1028. William had hard work to
keep his place in Normandy, but we cannot stop to tell of the long and
successful struggle which he waged against the haughty barons who
refused to bow to the illegitimate son of the tanner's daughter. We all
know the story of how the citizens of Alençon, which he was besieging,
beat skins upon the walls of one of their redoubts, crying: "Work for
the tanner!" and how William captured the redoubt, cut off the hands and
feet of the unlucky jokers, and threw them over the town walls.

With a man of such temper, it is not unnatural that there should have
arisen a curious story of his courtship, which began soon after this
episode at Alençon. Engaged in constant conflict with his neighbors,
William determined at least to secure the friendship of Flanders. He
sought the hand of Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders.
Mauger, William's uncle, objected to the marriage, because Matilda and
William were cousins, and caused the clergy to prohibit it. The Pope
issued a special pronouncement against it. With him William could not
proceed after the manner which doubtless most commended itself to him,
but when the Italian Lanfranc, at the monastic school of Bee, dared to
pronounce the marriage sinful, William promptly gave orders to burn down
the farms from which the monks drew their sustenance, and to banish
Lanfranc. But a shrewd display of courage and wit on Lanfranc's part
made William his friend; and soon it was agreed that if William would
found two monasteries the sin of his marriage would be forgiven him.

The chronicles of Tours report that Matilda herself objected to wedding
the bastard of Normandy. The match, however, had been agreed to by her
father, and William had set his heart on it. As proof of his
determination, if not of his lover-like devotion, he waited for her as
she came out of church one day, and whipped her till she consented to
marry him! And as some writers assert, even after the marriage he
continued to use this sort of suasion with his duchess, finally causing
her death by his brutality. Despite this unlovely beginning, the
marriage was a happy one. Matilda was beautiful, virtuous, and of strong
character, so that she won her husband's confidence and love. In an age
of scandalous marital infidelity, he was faithful to her. She was his
faithful friend and counsellor through life; and when he went on that
perilous voyage of adventure to win the English crown, it was she who
was left in charge of the duchy of Normandy; she who was praying for her
husband's safety in the priory she had founded at Rouen, when she heard
the news of the great victory of Hastings, and christened the church
Bonne Nouvelle; she who welcomed him back to his capital of Rouen after
the success in England.

The purity and devotion of the Conqueror's queen present a picture very
different from that of Bertrade de Montfort, who, like the wicked
Constance, was connected with the house of Anjou. Philip I., a pitiable
_roi fainéant_, had married, in 1071, Bertha of Holland, by whom he had
had three children. Having wearied of her, he sent her off to the
chateau of Montreuil, prepared for her long before as a wedding bower,
and then discovering one of those convenient relationships we have
mentioned, succeeded in having his marriage annulled. Having thus
relieved his conscience, it was but natural that he should begin to look
about him--he may have looked before--for a wife whom he might keep for
a while without distressing his conscience. He found this helpmeet in
Bertrade de Montfort, with whom he fell in love while on a trip to
Tours, in 1092. It is true that "a good man could find naught to admire
in her but her beauty," and that her husband, another Foulques of Anjou,
was still living. But these are small matters when one is King of France
and has one's heart set upon some particular lady. Foulques was not an
attractive man; he seems to have had something like a club foot, and to
have worn long, pointed shoes to hide his deformity; besides, he had
already been twice divorced. Bertrade, young, beautiful, ambitious, was
quite ready to go to the king and replace the unhappy Bertha. She eloped
on the night following the king's visit to her husband, found an escort
waiting for her at Meung-sur-Loire, and was conducted to Philip at

Philip and Bertrade decided to get married, for the duchess was anxious
to be called queen. They were indignant because most of the bishops
suggested that the proceeding was rather irregular, since Foulques was
not only still living but at that moment actually preparing to bring
back his runaway spouse by force of arms. Nevertheless, by large gifts,
the king persuaded one bishop to consecrate his union with Bertrade.
Foulques and the friends of the deposed queen, Bertha, made forays into
Philip's territory, but accomplished nothing. Meanwhile, Philip incited
one of his barons to make war on and imprison the Bishop of Chartres,
who had dared to denounce the marriage with Bertrade. The whole power of
the Church was soon enlisted against him, and Pope Urban II. despatched
a special legate to dissolve the marriage, or to excommunicate Philip if
he did not leave his paramour. The Bishop of Chartres was promptly
released, and Philip attempted to forestall further action on the part
of his enemies by calling a special council at Rheims to try the bishop
on a frivolous charge. But the legate summoned another council at Autun,
which issued a decree of excommunication against Philip and Bertrade in
October, 1094.

Though Queen Bertha was now dead, the ecclesiastical censure still held
good. According to one of the conditions of the decree, Philip was to
put off his crown. He obeyed this to the letter, refused to wear any
insignia of royalty, and feigned to have ceased all intercourse with
Bertrade. The Pope gave him till All Saints' Day, 1095, to reform, being
afraid to use extreme measures while a rival Pope, already sustained by
the German Emperor, might entice the King of France into his following.
All Saints' Day came and went, and still Philip and Bertrade were living
as man and wife. Once more Philip was excommunicated, by a council held
at Clermont; he again made fine promises of reformation, broke his word,
and even had the audacity to have Bertrade consecrated as queen.
Excommunication after excommunication was pronounced against him, and
the kingdom was put under an interdict; he continued to make most
generous promises about sending Bertrade back where she belonged, and
still never did he do what he promised.

The terrors of excommunication had evidently lost their force, or else
laymen and clerks alike were too much occupied with other important work
before the council of Clermont, work whose effects were to influence
profoundly the whole history of Europe and to bring about great social
as well as great political changes: men were talking of the First
Crusade. In the mighty stir of preparation, in the wild enthusiasm of
that great movement, the king and his paramour were for the moment lost
sight of. While men and women, and even children, were listening to the
fierce eloquence of Peter the Hermit, and in inspired frenzy shouting
out their approval: _Dieu le veult! Dieu le veult!_ who could stop to
think of the idle and shifty King of France? Were they not all going to
battle in the service of a greater king than he?

Yet the motives of even these first Crusaders were in some cases far
from that consistent purity which one would expect. Among the leaders is
one Guilhelm, Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers, a gay and famous
troubadour, who has founded in his own domain a _maison de plaisir_
where the inmates are dressed like nuns, a sort of Persian heaven ("A
Persian's heaven is easily made 'Tis but black eyes and lemonade"); who
bids an affecting farewell "to brilliant tourneys, to grandeur and to
riches, to all that enchained his heart, for he goes in the service of
God to find remission for his sins;" and who yet carries with him on
this holy war a perfect swarm of the beauties (_examina puellarum_) who
enchained his heart, and continued to enchain it, probably, until they
were captured by the Turks. But this Guilhelm gives a still more
interesting proof of the motives of his pious warfare. Two papal legates
came to Poitiers in November, 1100, to hold a council. Having preached
the Crusade, they next proceeded to renew the curse of excommunication
upon Philip, who was still living with Bertrade. The good Count
Guilhelm, with the red cross already upon his breast, stirred up a mob
against the legates, led the way into the church where the council was
sitting, and encouraged his followers to stone the assembled bishops.
There were broken heads, and there was some bloodshed, but enough of the
bishops stood their ground to pronounce the excommunication once more.

Bertrade bore the censures with amazing effrontery, and jested about how
the bells of the churches, silent during their stay, would begin to ring
as they left a town; and she actually forced some priests to hold a
service for her. But repeated curses, or the debauchery in which he had
all his life indulged, seem to have undermined Philip's constitution. At
any rate, he determined to relieve himself of the cares of government.
In spite of the protests of Bertrade, who wished to prevent the power of
the sceptre from going to the son of Queen Bertha, Philip, in 1100,
associated his son Louis in the government.

The young man proved himself a vigorous ruler, and won the love of his
subjects by attempts to punish some of the robber barons who made life
miserable for merchants and travellers. He became too popular to be
altogether agreeable to his amiable stepmother, who set about planning
to get rid of him. Louis went to visit the English king, Henry
Beauclerc, in 1102, and was received with all the courtesy and honor due
his rank. Bertrade despatched after him letters, sealed with the royal
seal of Philip, instructing Henry to seize Louis and confine him in
prison for the rest of his days. But Henry was either too wise or too
humane to perpetrate this outrage, and sent the young prince back with
every honor. Louis was furious; Philip denied all knowledge of the
infamous letters; and Louis, guessing whence they came, planned to kill

She, however, was not easily to be caught, and began devising means to
procure the death of Louis. She first had resort to three clerks, who
proposed to destroy the prince by means of sorcery, if they could
conduct their incantations unmolested for nine days. But one of them
confessed the plot, and the black art was abandoned for some surer
method. The queen had Louis poisoned. He languished for several days,
unable to eat or to sleep, and given over by the best physicians in
France. At length, one who had learned some of the art of the Saracens
volunteered his services; and under his care Louis's life was saved,
though he bore traces of the poisoning all the rest of his days.

Queen Bertrade, like an affectionate mother, had hoped to see one of her
own sons seated upon the throne, and was much grieved at Louis's
recovery. Philip, completely under her influence, actually implored his
son to forgive this second direct attempt upon his life; and Bertrade,
in a great fright now that her crime had failed and had been found out,
cringed before Louis like a common servant, and at length won his

Philip determined to be reconciled to the Church. At a council held at
the close of 1104 he appeared as a sincere penitent,--barefooted, with
unkempt hair and beard,--and solemnly swore never to live with Bertrade
again. The curse of excommunication was removed; the council discreetly
went about its business; and Philip went outside, and put on his shoes,
and had his hair cut, and put on his crown, and had one ready for
Bertrade, too. But the Church was tired of contending with him, and took
no further notice of his irregularities, though what happened soon
afterward was, if possible, more scandalous than all that had gone

Bertrade had the address to reconcile her two husbands; and in 1106 she
and Philip actually went to visit Foulques, in Angers, where all three
hobnobbed most amicably, sitting at the same table, or occupying seats
of honor in the church, with Philip seated by Bertrade's side and
Foulques on a stool at her feet. One can hardly credit a statement like
this, but there seems to have been no limit to Bertrade's effrontery,
and the complete subjection of Foulques is recorded in the Latin life of
Louis the Fat: "Although he was banished outright from her bed, she so
mollified him that... often sitting on a stool at her feet, he submitted
in all things to her will."

Foulques, though he sat at the feet of his wife and the king's paramour,
and though he ceased to make active claim to his share of Bertrade, has
recorded his and his wife's infamy for us. One of his charters, for
example, is dated thus: "This donation was made in the year one thousand
and ninety-five after the incarnation of Our Lord, Urban being Pope, and
France befouled by the adultery of the infamous King Philip." But this
was in the salad days of his wrath, before Bertrade had induced him to
sit on a stool at her feet and submit to her will in all things.

In the year 1108, Philip, feeling his sins and his diseases lie heavy
upon him, determined to take an allopathic dose of repentance to purify
himself from the first before the second carried him off. He addressed
special prayers to Saint Benedict, ordered that his wicked body should
not be buried in the royal tombs at Saint-Denis, and clothed himself in
the habit of a Benedictine monk. Thus he expired, having existed--not
reigned--as king for forty-eight years, and was succeeded immediately by
Louis the Fat, who was crowned within five days after the death of his

This haste was not altogether without excuse, for Bertrade was still
alive, and not wasting her time in prayers to Saint Benedict. Taking
advantage of the disturbed state of the kingdom, she managed to form a
coalition, headed by her brother, Amauri de Montfort, and by the
successor of her Angevin husband, to dethrone Louis and put in his place
her own son, Philip, Count of Mantes. But Louis was too active to be
caught as the conspirators had planned. He summoned Philip to appear
before the court of peers of the duchy of France, and, on his refusal,
seized upon the strongholds of his enemies before they were prepared,
and deprived Philip of his county of Mantes.

Bertrade's last card was played, and she succumbed to her defeat. Though
still in the height of her beauty, with not a wrinkle on her brow, she
retired to the convent of Haute Bruyère, a dependency of the famous
monastery of Fontevrault. Whether or not she was truly penitent for the
evil life she had led we do not know. But there was to be short time
left her for the cultivation of the monastic virtues; for the austerity
of the new life soon wore her out, and she died in the convent.



In Père Lachaise, the famous cemetery of Paris, there is none among the
hundreds of monuments upon which the traveller looks with more interest
than that of the lovely and unhappy Héloïse. There her body lies, with
that of her lover-husband, Pierre Abélard. It is her story that we wish
to tell; but her fame and that of Abélard are so intimately associated
that one cannot tell of Héloïse without first telling something of
Abélard. The debt to fame, however, is not all on her side; to translate
the words of a great French historian: "Alone, the name of Abélard would
be known to-day only to scholars: linked with the name of Héloïse, it is
in every heart. Paris, above all,... has kept the memory of the immortal
daughter of the Cite with exceptional and unchanging fidelity. The
eighteenth century and the Revolution, so pitiless towards the Middle
Ages, revived this tradition with the same ardor which led them to
destroy so many other memories. The children of Rousseau's disciples
still go in pilgrimage to the monument of this great saint of love, and
each spring sees pious women placing fresh crowns of flowers upon the
tomb in which the Revolution reunited the two lovers." We shall not,
therefore, attempt to part those whom love has for more than seven
centuries joined together, and shall tell of Abélard as well as of

The great University of Paris was already famous in the twelfth century.
Professors, most of them ecclesiastics, lectured on all the foolish
subtilties of the learning of the day to crowds of students collected
from every quarter of Europe. At the monastic school of Notre Dame the
most distinguished lecturer on dialectic,--meaning philosophy and logic
as applied to philosophy,--at the close of the eleventh century, was
Guillaume de Champeaux. The method of instruction was, necessarily,
almost entirely oral, for books were worth almost their weight in coin.
It was the custom for the professor to encourage discussions with the
students and to overwhelm them with the weight of his wisdom and the
acuteness of his reasoning. In this fashion Guillaume had long
triumphed, and had, we may fancy, acquired no little of that dogmatic
habit of mind which is fostered by unchallenged teaching. About the year
1100 his ascendency was seriously threatened by a young Breton, scarcely
yet a man, who had come to his school as a student and had had the
temerity to overcome him in argument. This was Pierre Abélard, soon
famous as a logician, philosopher, and theologian, now remembered
chiefly because of his connection with the fair and noble Héloïse.
Abélard was born at Pallet, or Palais, not far from Nantes. He was the
eldest son of a family of some distinction, and his father, Bérenger,
was determined to give his son an education in keeping with his own
knightly rank. Bérenger himself was better educated than most of the
gentlemen of his class, and there seems to have been a decided leaning
to devoutness in the family, since both Bérenger and his wife, Lucie,
took monastic vows later in life. At any rate, Pierre, after a taste of
learning, determined to devote himself entirely to the pursuit of
knowledge. Let us see how he tells this part of his own story. "The
progress that I made in learning attached me to its pursuit with an ever
increasing ardor, and such was the charm that it exercised over my mind
that, renouncing the glory of arms, my own heritage, my own privileges
as eldest son, I abandoned forever the camp of Mars to take refuge in
the bosom of Minerva. Preferring the art of dialectic to all the other
teachings of philosophy, I exchanged the arms of war for those of logic,
and sacrificed trophies of the battlefield for the joys of contest in
argument. I took to travelling from province to province, going wherever
I heard that the study of this art received special honor, and always
engaging in argument, like a veritable emulator of the Peripatetics."

In this way, Abélard, still under twenty, came to the school of
Guillaume de Champeaux. Received at first with honor, as an intelligent
pupil, Abélard remained some time, perhaps two years. But his restless,
inquisitive, and, above all, rational mind could not accept calmly what
seemed to it untrue. Abélard, a mere boy, dared to dispute with his
master, Guillaume, and, what is far worse, to get the better of
arguments on Guillaume's own peculiar subject. The school was divided
into two parties. Guillaume, being the more influential, prevented his
pupil from establishing himself as a lecturer in Paris, and Abélard
removed to Melun, at that time a royal residence and a city of some
importance. Here he opened a school of his own, which prospered so
greatly, in spite of the jealousy of Guillaume and the older teachers,
that he removed to Corbeil, near Paris, and was soon recognized as more
than the equal of his old instructor. But his health broke down under
the strain; he retired to rest and recuperate in his native land, and
remained there several years. Returning about 1108, he again met
Guillaume in argument, in the convent of Saint-Victor, outside Paris,
and again vanquished him, this time so completely that Guillaume gave up
his chair in Paris. His jealousy, however, still kept Abélard from
establishing himself in the great city. The young philosopher opened his
school on Mont Sainte-Geneviève, a hill just outside the walls of the
Paris of that day, where he taught with brilliant success, till summoned
to Brittany by his mother Lucie, then about to take the veil. On his
return from this trip he determined to study theology. The venerable
Anselm of Laon was the most distinguished teacher of theology, and to
him Abélard went. Here is part of his comment on Anselm, which will help
us to understand something of the writer's character.

"He enjoyed marvellous facility of speech, but his thought was without
value, even without good sense. The fire that he kindled filled his
house with smoke, but did not illuminate it. He was a tree dense with
foliage and beautiful from afar, but found fruitless when examined more
closely. I had come to him to gather fruit; I found in him the fig tree
cursed by the Lord, or the old oak to which Lucan compares Pompey: But
the shadow of a great name, the lofty oak in the midst of the fruitful
field." With such an opinion of his preceptor, it is not surprising that
Abélard grew impatient and talked imprudently. The immediate result was
that the young scholar proved, to his own satisfaction and apparently to
that of his hearers, that he could lecture on theology, as Anselm
understood theology, by the aid of ordinary intelligence alone. The
ultimate result was that he made an enemy of Anselm. He returned to
Paris--about 1115--in triumph, was given the chair formerly held by
Guillaume de Champeaux, and became a canon of the cathedral of Notre

During the three or four years that followed this signal triumph over
his old master, Abélard enjoyed a popularity and a reputation for
learning almost without parallel. He was of handsome presence, polished
and winning in manners, accomplished even in the little arts and graces
of the society of the period. All this would account for his personal
popularity; but his was really a brilliant mind, fascinatingly if
dangerously logical, and straightforward in dealing with vexed questions
of philosophy and theology. And with all his learning he knew how to
meet the difficulties of ordinary minds, to present his arguments in a
style not only simple but lucid and entertaining. He brought to his work
a precious quality--enthusiasm. From all parts of Europe students
flocked to him, by hundreds, by thousands; and with the offerings they
brought he was rich. Then it was that pride prepared his ruin.
"Believing myself henceforth the only living philosopher, fancying that
I had no more opposition to encounter or accusation to fear, I commenced
to give rein to my passions, I who had always lived in the greatest
continence. The more I advanced in the paths of philosophy and theology,
the further I was getting, by my impure life, from philosophers and
saints." How much of this confession is real humility, and how much mere
pretence, exaggeration, and vain rhetoric, we cannot say. It is an
unfortunate fact that what is recognized as the language of religion is
so highly colored, so tropical, so manifestly not to be taken in its
absolute and literal sense, that one cannot estimate a character by
autobiographic testimony of this sort. What Rousseau meant when he
confessed that he "gave rein to his passions" we know full well, for he
tells us. What, or rather how much, Abélard means we cannot tell, since
his language is evidently in large part figurative. We do not think,
however, that he was ever really a libertine.

In his own account of his love story Abélard says that he was attracted
by the beauty, the youth, and the mental attainments of Héloïse, the
niece of Fulbert, a canon of Notre Dame, who had loved her tenderly and
had educated her with unusual care. Smitten more by the physical than by
the mental graces of the girl, then about eighteen, Abélard sought a
pretext to ingratiate himself with Fulbert, and to enter his house as a
lodger. The opportunity of having his beloved niece instructed by a
person of such distinction was more than Fulbert could let pass. In the
intimate relations of teacher and pupil Abélard also found his
opportunity; and the two were soon plainly lovers in the eyes of all the
world save Fulbert, who refused to believe in the treachery of his
friend and the shame of his niece. Abélard, who was in his thirty-ninth
year, loved with all the ardor of youth; he wrote passionate love songs,
which were long popular but have been lost; he neglected his work, and
devoted his time to Héloïse instead of to his lectures on theology. At
last even Fulbert could no longer refuse to believe. The lovers were
separated, but continued to meet in secret. Not long after the first
discovery of their relations by her uncle, Héloïse found herself about
to become a mother. Abélard stole her away one night, while Fulbert was
absent, and fled with her to Brittany, where she remained with his
sister until after the birth of her son, whom she named Astrolabe.

To appease Fulbert, who was thirsting for revenge but dared not pursue
the pair into Brittany, the stronghold of Abélard's family, Abélard
proposed to marry Héloïse, provided the union be kept secret, so as not
to jeopardize his interests or prospects in the Church. Héloïse, devoted
body and soul to Abélard, would not hear of a marriage which might ruin
his career, and was with difficulty brought to consent even to a secret
union. Fulbert, seeing no other means of redress, accepted Abélard's
proposition, and gave his word to keep the marriage a secret. Héloïse
and Abélard secretly came back to Paris and were wedded a few days
later, the ceremony being performed at dawn, in the presence of Fulbert
and a few of his friends.

But the temporary disappearance from Paris of so noteworthy a person as
Abélard could not be concealed. The whole town had known of his passion
for Héloïse, and the gossips now guessed, no doubt, why he had
disappeared, and why Héloïse also had gone. We do not need to be told
that the surmises made, all so dishonorable to his niece, must have been
galling in the extreme to Fulbert. He could not endure the shame of his
niece, and tried to quell the scandal by letting the news of the
marriage leak out. Abélard says that Fulbert told it himself, in
violation of his oath of secrecy--for which we can hardly blame him as
much as Abélard does. The devoted Héloïse, to protect Abélard, flatly
denied the marriage; not all Fulbert's entreaties and threats could move
her to admit that she was anything but Abélard's mistress. Beside
himself with anger and shame, Fulbert grew so violent that Héloïse fled
to a nunnery at Argenteuil, near Paris, Abélard aiding her in her
flight. At Argenteuil Abélard had her dressed in the monastic habit,
though she did not take the vows.

We must admit that there were some grounds for supposing, as Fulbert and
his family believed, that Abélard meant to rid himself of his wife by
having her shut up in the convent: and they had experienced enough of
her self-sacrificing firmness to know that she would offer no resistance
to Abélard's wishes, if such were his wishes. Determined at least to
punish him, they bribed one of his servants, broke into his house at
night, and inflicted upon him the most severe and brutal mutilation. If
Héloïse was forced to be a nun, Abélard should be fit for nothing but a

The perpetrators of this Draconian vengeance fled. Paris was all agog
with the shame of the brilliant philosopher. There were partisans in
plenty on his side, and Abélard takes pleasure in telling us that two of
the perpetrators of the crime, including his servant, were captured,
blinded, and mutilated as he had been. The justice of the Middle Ages
never erred on the side of mercy. Abélard fell into the most abject
despair, but still we see in him the same dominant regard to his career
in the world. When his friends came about him, particularly the clerks,
with their lamentations and their manifestations of compassion, he says:
"I suffered more from their compassion than from the pain of my wound; I
felt my shame more than my actual mutilation." He felt not only the
shame, but the ruin of all his ambitions. "In this state of hopelessness
and of utter confusion it was, I admit, rather a feeling of shame than
predilection for the vocation that impelled me towards the shades of a
cloister." Ever ready to obey his wishes, Héloïse took the veil in the
convent of Argenteuil at the same time that Abélard entered the abbey of
Saint-Denis. Héloïse was not yet twenty; did her youthful heart, full of
love of life, yearn for the cramped life of the nunnery? We shall later
see what she herself says upon this score; for the present suffice it to
note that even Abélard pauses in the account of his woes to praise her
complete abnegation of self, and to tell us that she went to the altar
where the irrevocable vows were to be taken, repeating in the midst of
her sobs the lament of Cornelia: "O my husband, greatest of men! worthy
of a bride far better than I! Had Fate such power over a head so
illustrious? Wretch that I am, why did I wed thee only to bring woe upon
thee? Be thou now avenged in the sacrifice I so willingly make for
thee!"--(Lucan, Pharsalia, VIII., 1. 94.) The convent was to her a
punishment; but as she goes to it she does not think of her punishment,
but only of his.

Let us leave Héloïse for the present and pursue the story of Abélard.
His troubles were just beginning; henceforth almost everything seemed to
go wrong with him. Scarcely recovered from his injuries, he was besought
by his former pupils to resume his lectures, while the monks of
Saint-Denis, thinking to gain credit through their illustrious recruit,
also urged him to teach again. These same monks Abélard had found far
from congenial. They were covetous, narrow-minded, and outrageously
licentious. He was, therefore, the more willing to undertake his old
work, and opened a modest school at the little village of Maisoncelle,
in Brie, where the monks of Saint-Denis had a priory. Here, once more,
crowds came to hear him, and he felt so encouraged that he ventured to
put in book form some of his theological and philosophical opinions, at
the instance and for the use of his students. Neither misfortune nor the
wish of Job that his adversary had written a book had taught him
caution; in his book, probably the _Introductio ad Theologiam_ that has
come down to us, he ventured to discuss even the most obscure and
jealously guarded mysteries of the faith, and to discuss them with the
same lucidity, directness, and acuteness of reason that had made him
famous as a lecturer. He was, indeed, in the habit of acting upon one of
the phrases which one may cull from his writings as characteristic of
the man's mental attitude: "Understand, that you may believe." Abélard
found, like hundreds of others who have proceeded in this way, that his
reason could not account, to its own satisfaction, for all the things
called of faith. He was constantly allowing himself to be led on in
discussion until he found himself confronted with a dilemma: either to
follow logic still further and end in infidelity, or to silence, as best
he could, the voice of reason by an appeal to authority and to faith. On
the present occasion it was an utterance on the dogma of the Trinity
that his enemies seized upon. The leaders of the persecution were two
former classmates, who now intrigued against him. Without examining him,
without giving him a chance to discuss, justify, or explain his
doctrine, a council, assembled at Soissons in 1121, condemned his book,
not so much for what it taught, as because the author had presumed to
teach theology without definite authority from the Church. Summoned
before the council--the decision had been reached and the trial
conducted without his presence--Abélard was forced to throw his book
into the flames. As a confession of faith he was made to recite the
Athanasian creed, and, to humiliate him still further, they brought him
the text, as if he could not recite from memory that which was known by
every child. The man's overwrought nature gave way under this last
exhibition of petty malice. He tells us: "I read (the creed) as well as
I could for sobs and tears." He was then delivered to the abbot of
Saint-Médard to be confined to the monastery for an indefinite period.

He soon obtained permission to return to Saint-Denis, but here his
tongue once more got him into trouble. The patron saint of the abbey,
the patron saint of all France, was Saint Denis, whom the ignorant monks
of the abbey, jealous of the dignity of their patron, identified with
Dionysius the Areopagite, the convert of Saint Paul. Abélard pointed out
to them a passage in Bede which proved the whole thing a legend. Abélard
was perfectly right, but in the eyes of his brother monks he was
certainly a traitor, probably an emissary of the devil. His life at
Saint-Denis becoming unbearable, he fled at night to Champagne, and,
after some little opposition, was permitted to retire to a desert place
not far from Troyes. Here he built an oratory of reeds and thatch,
dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and here he dwelt as a hermit. But even
here pupils sought him out. To gain his living, he opened a school; and
the desert gave birth to scores of little huts and tents, in which his
eager hearers lived. His own little oratory being too small to
accommodate the crowds, the students built for him a new and larger
temple, which, in gratitude for the consolation he had found here, he
dedicated to the Trinity and named Paraclete, in honor of the Holy
Ghost, the Comforter.

But he was tormented by new dangers, or at least by new fears. A nature
so hypersensitive perhaps conjured up hobgoblins of persecution out of
pure imagination. "I could not hear of an assemblage of churchmen
without thinking that its object was to condemn me." He even cherished
the idea of flying from Christendom, to live among the infidels. When
the abbacy of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys, a remote place on the coast of
Brittany, was offered to him, he hastened to accept, thinking that if he
gave up teaching the persecution would cease. This was about 1128, and
for nearly ten years Abélard struggled on there. It was a struggle, for
he found the monks not only undisciplined, and given to licentious
pleasures, but positively criminal. One gets a picture of the abbot and
the abbey in Longfellow's _Golden Legend_, where Lucifer, in the guise
of a monk, gets into the refectory of the convent of Hirschau and tells
the monks how much more delightful is life in his own abbey of
Saint-Gildas de Rhuys:

        From the gray rocks of Morbihan
        It overlooks the angry sea;
        The very sea-shore where,
        In his great despair,
        Abbot Abélard walked to and fro,
        Filling the night with woe,
        And wailing aloud to the merciless seas
        The name of his sweet Héloïse!
        Whilst overhead
        The convent windows gleamed as red
        As the fiery eyes of the monks within,
        Who with jovial din
        Gave themselves up to all kinds of sin!.
        He was a dry old fellow....
        There he stood,
        Lowering at us in sullen mood,
        As if he had come into Brittany
        Just to reform our brotherhood!...
        Well, it finally came to pass
        That, half in fun and half in malice,
        One Sunday at Mass
        We put some poison into the chalice.
        But, either by accident or design,
        Peter Abélard kept away
        From the chapel that day,
        And a poor, young friar, who in his stead
        Drank the sacramental wine,
        Fell on the steps of the altar, dead!

The facts here presented are essentially the same as those vouched for
by Abélard himself, even to the poisoning of the young monk. There were
two attempts of this kind, and the wicked monks also hired assassins to
waylay their abbot, who lived in constant terror of his life. He strove
to control his monks by every sort of means, but at length was forced to
fly to the protection of a friend in Brittany. He did not definitely
abandon his abbey for some time, probably not before 1138; but his
regular connection with it ceased some years earlier.

The years of his struggle with the monks of St. Gildas were not without
their periods of relief. In the midst of his selfish preoccupation with
his own tribulations his thoughts were distracted by solicitude for
Héloïse. Héloïse, in the nunnery of Argenteuil, had led a life so
exemplary that she had won universal esteem. But it happened, says
Abélard, "that the Abbot of Saint-Denis had claimed, as a dependency
formerly subject to his jurisdiction, the Abbey of Argenteuil, in which
my sister in Christ, rather than my spouse, had taken the veil. Having
obtained possession, he expelled the congregation of nuns, of whom my
companion was prioress." When this happened Abélard bestirred himself to
provide for Héloïse and her nuns, and at the same time to provide for
the maintenance of religious services in his old temple of the
Paraclete. He returned thither, and invited the nuns to come. He donated
to them the oratory and its dependencies, and Pope Innocent II.
confirmed the donation to them and to their successors forever. For some
time Héloïse and her nuns endured great privations, for the Paraclete,
after its abandonment by Abélard, had relapsed into the condition of a
wilderness; "but," continues Abélard, "for them, too, the Lord, showing
himself in very truth the Comforter, touched with pity and good-will the
hearts of the people in the neighborhood. In one single year... the
fruits of the earth multiplied around them more than I could have made
them do had I lived a century... The Lord granted that our dear sister,
who directed the community, should find favor in the eyes of all men:
bishops cherished her as their daughter, abbots as their sister, laymen
as their mother; all admired equally her piety, her wisdom, and her
incomparably sweet patience."

It has been doubted by some biographers whether Héloïse ever saw her
lover after she took the veil. His language in the passage just quoted
as well as that in the following would seem to leave no room for doubt
that they met frequently at this time: "All their neighbors blamed me
for not doing all that I could, all that I ought, to help them in their
misery, when the thing would have been so easy for me to do, by
preaching. Accordingly I made them more frequent visits, in order to
work for their good." The voice of calumny, he continues, would not even
yet be still; but, in spite of evil tongues, "I was resolved to do my
best to take care of my sisters of the Paraclete, to administer their
affairs for them, to increase their respect by my very bodily presence
in such a way as to give me, at the same time, a better opportunity to
look out for their wants." When or how often he visited the Paraclete we
do not know; but in some of these visits Héloïse and Abélard must have
met again.

While visiting a friend, during one of his enforced flights from
Saint-Gildas, Abélard wrote the history of his woes, _Historia
Calamitatum_, to which we owe most of the details given previously. This
work, in the form of a letter, is addressed to a friend whose name we do
not know. Abélard calls him "my old friend and very dear brother in
Christ, my intimate companion," so that it is at least certain that he
was a clerk. It may have been that this letter was meant for Peter the
Venerable, who afterward showed himself a devoted friend to Abélard as
well as to Héloïse. But to whomsoever the letter was written, it came
into the hands of her who had sacrificed so much for the writer. All the
old love awoke in Héloïse's heart when chance threw in her way the
story, in Abélard's own hand, of their misfortunes. Moved beyond her
powers of repression, her feelings overflowed in a beautiful letter to
her lost husband. In all the literature of love there is nothing finer
than this letter, either for passion or for tenderness and pathos. It is
no wonder that Abélard replied, as she besought him to do. A sort of
correspondence was opened; she wrote three letters in all, and he four.
The actual text of these letters is in a Latin manuscript of a date one
hundred years later than the time of Héloïse. The preservation of such a
series of letters has seemed to some investigators improbable, but there
is every reason to believe that Héloïse herself would have collected and
preserved with the greatest care a correspondence so precious to her.
That the letters excited the highest admiration from the very first we
have ample proof, for one of the authors of the _Romance of the Rose_,
Jean Clopinel, translated them as early as 1285. In the fifteenth
century they were printed, and since then numberless translations,
imitations, and perversions have appeared. We need feel no doubt,
therefore, that we are reading an actual love letter, dating from about
1135, when we follow the glowing lines addressed to Abélard by Héloïse.

There is naturally a marked difference in the tone of the letters, due
to a difference of character and to different environment. While
passages in the first letter of Héloïse are almost lyric in their
intensity, like the words of a Juliet, at times almost of a Sappho, the
reply from Abélard is apparently cold in many places, certainly
constrained, only occasionally throbbing an answer to the touch of her
whom he had loved. As we shall have some very unfavorable things to say
of Abélard's character in general, it seems but fair to say that this
constraint and evident desire to suppress the violence of Héloïse's love
and to direct her thoughts to the duties of her calling cannot be
charged against him as a fault. Not one of his replies shows lack of
affection. In justice to him we may say that he was seeking to teach her
resignation; to divert her thoughts from the past, where was only storm
and shipwreck in their brief love.

It is pleasant to believe that, when he wrote these letters, Abélard was
in some sort aware of and repentant for the great wrong he had done.
There was never a more disgustingly deliberate and inhumanly selfish
seduction than that of Héloïse by Abélard. He was by nature excessively
vain of his personal appearance no less than of his attainments. We have
seen how he speaks of Anselm; in the same tone, in the same florid,
turgid, pedantic style he was constantly boasting of his achievements.
Having won all the laurels available in the intellectual world, he
sought new experiences. It has been remarked, not inaptly, that this
sudden awakening of the man in the scholar is a reproduction of the
Faust legend with living actors. As the scholar, Faust, bent with age
and labors, is suddenly transformed into the youthful, ardent, and
selfish lover, so Abélard's long dormant passions transform him. But his
real nature is not altered; he is always fundamentally selfish. The very
terms in which he relates his first feelings toward Héloïse are almost
brutal. He praises the unusual extent of her knowledge, an attraction of
special force for him; and then, "physically, too, she was not bad."
While he condescends to allow that Héloïse was "not bad" as regards
looks, it is quite another tale with regard to himself: "Seeing her
adorned with all the charms that attract lovers, I thought to enter into
a liaison with her, and I felt sure that nothing would be easier than to
succeed in this design. I enjoyed such reputation, and had so much grace
of youth and good looks, that I thought I should have no rebuff to fear,
whoever might be the woman whom I should honor with my love."

All through the man's career one finds the same exaggerated self-esteem,
the same preoccupation with his own selfish interests. He positively
chuckles over the perfect success of his ruse to deceive Fulbert.
"Fulbert was fond of his money. Add to this the fact that he was eager
to procure for his niece all possible advantages in belles-lettres. By
flattering these two passions, I easily won his consent, and obtained
what I desired.... He urged me to devote to her education all of my
spare time, by day as well as by night, and not to fear to punish her
should I find her at fault. I wondered at his naiveté!... Entrusting her
to me not only for instruction but for chastisement, what was this but
allowing full licence to my desires and furnishing me, even against my
will, with the opportunity of conquering by blows and threats if
caresses should be unavailing?" When he has ruined this niece, of whom
Fulbert was so proud, a moment of apparent remorse comes to him as he
witnesses the old man's distress: "I promised him any reparation which
it might please him to demand; I protested that what I had done would
surprise no one who had ever felt the violence of love and who knew into
what abysses women had, since the very beginning of the world, plunged
the greatest men. To appease him still further, I offered him a sort of
atonement _far greater than anything he could have hoped: I proposed to
marry her whom I had seduced, on condition only that the marriage be
kept secret, so as not to injure my reputation._" The italics are ours;
they can but faintly indicate our astonishment at the impudence no less
than the selfishness of this piece of condescension. This passage is
followed by four pages devoted to pedantic arguments, enforced by appeal
to historic cases, seeking to prove how prejudicial a thing marriage is
to holy men, to wise men, to great men, and that therefore it must be so
to Abélard. All this argument he ascribes to Héloïse, who implored him
not to marry her; but the tone is his own; there is never a thought of
what it may mean for her, only for himself. In the same way, after
Fulbert has taken vengeance on him, in two pages of lamentations over
his fate there is not one word of pity for the grief of the woman who
had given all to him. It is: How shall I appear in public? What a wreck
I have made of my life! Not once: How shall I care for Héloïse? What
amends can I make her for the wreck of her young life? One need not
wonder--since this was the sentiment of the period--that he fears the
vengeance of God only because he has broken the rule of continence, not
at all because he has led into wrong doing one who trusted and loved

The shame of his punishment and the griefs of his life do seem to have
made some impression on him, however. Abélard actually learns to speak
of "the shameful treachery of which I was guilty towards your uncle."
One can but compare him with Rousseau; those who have read the latter's
fascinating, eloquent, but disgusting _Confessions_ cannot fail to
remember that there is the same inordinate vanity and selfishness in
them as young men, the same misery and insane fear of foes, sometimes
purely imaginary, in them as old men.

Beginning as a vulgar passion, there is no doubt that Abélard's feeling
for Héloïse afterward became more honorable. After their separation, and
the softening, chastening influence of his misfortunes, he developed for
her a real affection. Though there is a constraint, a coldness in the
address of his letters, and often too much solicitude about form and too
much display of erudition, the heart of the man is moved in spite of
himself. He begins his first letter to her: "To Héloïse, his
well-beloved sister in Christ, Abélard, her brother in Christ;" the
second: "To the spouse of Christ, the servant of that same Christ." But
he shows a tenderness for her at the very start; if he has not written
to her and advised her before, he says, it is because he had such
absolute confidence in her judgment. He calls her his "sister, once so
dear in the flesh," and sends her a Psalter, which she is to use in
imploring the Divine mercy for him. He will give counsel to her and to
her nuns, if she desires it. And here he can dissemble no longer: "But
enough of your holy congregation,... it is to you, to you whose goodness
will, I know, have such power with God, that I address myself....
Remember in your prayers him who is your very own." He sends a form of
prayer which she and her nuns are to use for him. Then the man once more
gets the better of the monk: "If it chance that the Lord deliver me up
into the hands of mine enemies, and that they, victorious, put me to
death, or if, while far from you, some accident should bring me to that
goal whither all flesh is tending, let my body, whether it be already
buried or simply abandoned, be brought under your care, I implore you,
to your cemetery."

It is pleasant to read his letters, after one has become convinced that
the man really loved Héloïse; then, one finds in them gentleness and
consideration for her feelings. With patience and adroitness, he answers
the questions she asks, distracts her thoughts, still too much intent on
him, and works out for her an elaborate scheme of government for use in
the Paraclete; and one can understand that this, if anything, would have
been a consolation to Héloïse, to feel that the whole tenor of her life
was regulated by the affectionate legislation of the man whom she had

About the love of Héloïse we need not hesitate. "Truly, she did love
him," says the old chronicler of Saint Martin de Tours, and the ages
since have been but echoing this. We must try, however, to form some
more definite idea of the personality of one who is perhaps the greatest
figure in an actual romance that the world has known. Of her beauty
there can be no question; but we neither know nor very greatly care
whether she was tall and dark or slender and fair. Probably we should be
safe in assuming, on general principles, that she was a blonde, since
the predilection for that style of beauty was so strong that Saint
Bernard devotes a whole sermon to proving that there is no contradiction
in the statement in the Song of Songs: "I am black, but comely." The
most remarkable thing about her was her learning. Even when Abélard
first met her, she was "most distinguished for the extent of her
learning,"... "in great renown throughout the kingdom" for her
proficiency. Her knowledge included not only Latin, but Greek and even
Hebrew, both rarely understood even among men in a day when men usually
got all and women none of the education that could be had. Her monastery
at the Paraclete became a school as famous in its way as Abélard had
made Paris.

Of another trait in her character, too, we can speak with certainty.
Together with her learning went firmness of judgment and perfect sanity,
the elements which go to make up what we vaguely call character. We have
seen Abélard expressing his confidence in her wisdom and judgment. Saint
Bernard, the bitter enemy of Abélard, could not withhold his admiration
from her, although she herself, a faithful partisan of her husband,
always spoke of Saint Bernard as "the false Apostle." The latter, as was
natural in a man renowned for intellect and for asceticism, was more
struck by the grandeur of her character than moved by her personal
charms, and he wrote a letter to the Pope, commending her as a prioress,
in a tone of lofty esteem rather than sympathy. Her own conduct, we have
remarked, was above reproach, and her convent was so well governed that
its rule became the standard for all the convents of her day. Whatever
may have been the violence of her grief over the separation from
Abélard, she was too proud to expose her feelings to the world. She
lived on bravely, honorably, respected by high and low, yet making no
secret of the fact that she had loved and still did love Abélard. One
does not wonder that she won the popular fame which has kept her name
alive, and which has fixed the epithet applied by Villon some three
centuries later: _La très-sage Héloïse_. In all the happy phrases of the
_Ballade des Belles Dames du Temps Jadis_ there is no juster epithet.

In striking contrast to the brutal selfishness of Abélard is the noble
disinterestedness and complete effacement of self seen in the conduct of
Héloïse. Realizing that with him success in his vocation is everything
and love but an episode, she is content. More than this, she does
everything in her power to make him sacrifice her for the sake of the
career which she knows he is bent upon. She flatters him, feeds his
vanity, already overgreat, and consistently keeps out of view her own
woman's feelings. When Abélard, with what he considers unusual and
exemplary generosity, offers to marry her--one can fancy that he was not
very urgent--this is part of the argument she uses to dissuade him: "She
asked," says Abélard, "what atonement would not the world have a right
to require of her should she deprive it of such a light? What curses she
would call upon her head! What a loss this marriage would be to the
Church! What tears it would cost philosophy! Would it not be an unseemly
and deplorable thing to see a man whom nature had created for the whole
world made the slave of one woman?... The marriage would be a shame and
a burden to me... What agreement could there be between the labor of the
school and the cares of a house, between the desk and the cradle?... Is
there a man who, devoted to the meditations of philosophy or to the
study of the Scriptures, could endure the cries of a child, the singing
of the nurse as she put it to sleep, the continual coming and going of
the servants, the incessant worries of young children?"

That Abélard has reported her arguments with accuracy we need not doubt
when we come upon this remarkable and often quoted passage in her first
letter: "I never thought... of my own wishes; it was always yours, you
know yourself, that my heart was bent upon satisfying. Although the name
of wife seems both more sacred and more enduring, I should have
preferred that of mistress, or even concubine... thinking that, the more
humble I made myself for your sake, the more right I should have to your
favor, and the less stain I should put upon the brilliancy of your

When their misfortunes came upon them and Abélard wanted her to enter
the cloister she obeyed without complaint; but the truth comes out at
the close of her first letter: "When you entered the service of God, I
followed, nay, I preceded you... You made me first take the veil and the
vows, you chained me to God before yourself. This mistrust, the only
lack of confidence in me you ever showed, filled me with grief and
shame, me, who would, God knows, have followed you or have gone before
you unhesitatingly into the very flames of hell! For my heart was no
longer with me but with you." In this letter are the only things that
even look like reproaches on her part; she complains of his not writing
to her, of his grudging her even the poor consolation of a letter, when
she had done all for him: "Only tell me, if you can, why, since the
retirement from the world which you yourself enjoined upon me, you have
neglected me. Tell me, I say, or I will say what I think, and what is on
everybody's lips. Ah! it was lust rather than love which attracted you
to me... and that is why, your desire once satisfied, all demonstrations
of affection ceased with the desire which inspired them." She implores
him, therefore, to write and silence these disquieting voices in her

There was no hypocrisy in Héloïse; she never was resigned to her
seclusion in the convent, and never pretended to be. She wrote to
Abélard that she was continuing to live in the convent only to obey him,
"for it was not love of God, but your wish, your wish alone which cast
my youth into the midst of monastic austerities." From the very
monastery of which she was prioress she writes her burning letters. The
first is superscribed: _Domino suo, imo patri, conjugi suo, imo fratri;
ancilla sua, imo filia; ipsius uxor, imo soror; Abélardo Heloissa_: "To
her lord, nay, to her father; to her husband, nay, to her brother; his
servant, nay, his daughter; his wife, nay, his sister; to Abélard,
Héloïse." She seems to lack words to voice the passionate devotion of
her heart, and comes at the last to the best and simplest, a veritable
cry of the heart it is To Abélard, Héloïse. Even in the letters
subsequent to Abélard's patient endeavor to allay the transports of
devotion to a mere man in one who had vowed her life to Christ, she does
not restrain her feelings entirely. She superscribes them: "To him who
is all for her after Christ, she who is all for him in Christ," and
finally, "To her sovereign master, his devoted slave." It is true that
the passion is more under control, but it is there nevertheless; for in
one of these letters she ever and anon addresses Abélard as "my greatest
blessing," and deliberately says: "Under all circumstances, God knows, I
have feared offending you more than I have feared offending Him; and it
is you far more than God whom I wish to please; it was a word from you,
no divine call, that made me take the veil." And she says, in reply to
Abélard's request to be buried in the cemetery of the Paraclete: "I
shall be more intent on following you without delay than upon providing
for your burial."

Bigotry or narrow piety, which are so much alike as to be scarcely
distinguishable, might find fault with the uncompromising frankness of
Héloïse in confessing the persistence of love after she is a nun. She
admits that she loved Abélard passionately; moreover: "If I must indeed
lay bare all the weakness of my miserable heart, I do not find in my
heart contrition or penitence sufficient to appease God. I cannot
withhold myself from complaining of His pitiless cruelty in regard to
the outrage inflicted on you, and I only offend Him by rebellious
murmurings against His decrees, instead of seeking to allay His wrath by
repentance. Can it be said, in fact, that one is truly penitent,
whatever be the bodily penances submitted to, when the soul still
harbors the thought of sin and burns with the same passions as of old?"
She cannot bring herself to regret or even to forget and to cease to
long for the pleasures of their love. "They praise me for purity of
life; it is only because they do not know of my hypocrisy. The purity of
the flesh is set down to the credit of virtue; but true virtue is of the
soul, not of the body." These confessions, it strikes us, are proof of
the purity and loftiness of her ideals; she will not accept credit for
virtues that are only skin deep; she honors the robe she wears too much
to soil it by any sort of indulgence that might give occasion for
scandal or for irreverent scoffing. But she bravely owns: "I do not seek
the crown of victory (over my evil thoughts), it is enough for me to
avoid the danger."

In a person so honest with herself we are not surprised to find a
charity for the weaknesses of others and a catholicity of view in regard
to things moral and religious quite in advance of the rather cramped
asceticism distinctive, for example, of Saint Bernard, whom we take as a
typical representative of the religious feeling of the age. In the last
of her letters, she shows her learning, it must be admitted, with a
little too much pedantry; but that was in accord with the habit of the
day. She overloads her letter with useless erudition in the way of
appeals to this and that holy man or this and that text of Scripture to
support a point which the reader would accept as axiomatic. But behind
this there is good sense and kindness. She asks Abélard to determine, in
the rule he is to make for her convent, all sorts of practical points.
Can women, being physically weaker, fast as rigidly as men? Yet meat is
not so necessary for women; is it really a deprivation, then, to make
them abstain from meat? Women are not so prone to intemperance as men,
and at times they really need some stimulant; how shall we determine in
regard to wines? We should avoid, of course, male visitors; but do not
vain, gossiping, worldly women corrupt their own sex just as much as men
would? Above all, she says, nuns must learn to eschew Pharisaism, the
better-than-thou frame of mind. "The blessings promised us by Christ
were not promised to those alone who were priests; woe unto the world,
indeed, if all that deserved the name of virtue were shut up in a

The close of this last letter is in a tone of religious exaltation which
but poorly conceals the more human sentiments of the noble Abbess
Héloïse: "It is for thee, O my master, it is for thee, as long as thou
livest, to institute the rule which we are to follow evermore. For,
after God, thou wast the founder of our community; it is for thee, then,
with God's assistance, to legislate for our order."

The two letters in which Abélard answers this request are more coldly
formal, less personal, than any of the others. At the end, for example,
instead of some tender reminiscence, some hint that it was at the
bidding of love that he had poured forth his erudition on the subject of
the monastic life, we find merely an exhortation such as might be
addressed by any father confessor to one seeking his direction:
"Imitate, in the love of study and of good books, those blessed
disciples of Saint Jerome, Paula and Eustochia, at whose request this
great doctor wrote so many works that are a guiding light to the

What were the rules by which Héloïse and her nuns were to live? In
essence not fundamentally different from those in use in regular
monasteries of the Benedictine rule, they are yet of sufficient interest
to warrant us in giving a brief account, a mere abstract, of the very
lengthy and verbose commentary on monasticism which Héloïse received
from Abélard. We cannot doubt that a person of her intelligence and
strength of character followed the spirit, not the letter, of the law,
and made her nuns live as she lived, beyond the utmost reach of evil

The three cardinal virtues in the view of monasticism are Chastity,
Poverty, Silence. These the nuns must observe most strictly, and such
observance involves the renunciation of all family ties, of all worldly
affections and desires. As there is less of temptation to worldliness in
the solitary places of the earth, the convent should be remote. The
absurd extent to which the cult of mere chastity was exalted in the
mediaeval mind has been commented on by many a writer; but one little
incident or illustration from the book by which Héloïse was to govern
herself and her community may be forgiven us. Abélard quotes from a
letter of Saint Jerome. In the life of Saint Martin, written by
Sulpicius, we read that the saint wished to pay his respects to a virgin
renowned for her exemplary conduct and her chastity, who, it seems, had
spent all her life since girlhood shut up in a small cell. She refused
to allow Saint Martin to come into her dwelling, but, looking out of the
crevice which served for a window, she said: "Father, pray where you
are, for I have never received a visit from any man." Saint Martin "gave
thanks to God that, thanks to such a mode of life, she had preserved her
chastity." The humor, the irony, of such a remark appeals to us; but it
never occurred to Saint Martin, to Saint Jerome, to Abélard, or to
Héloïse, that she who had continued chaste merely because she had
bottled herself up in a living tomb did not merit praise for any
extraordinary virtue: one might as well praise Robinson Crusoe on his
island for not indulging in the dissipations of society.

To continue the rules for the Paraclete, which was certainly situated in
a place remote enough to protect its inmates from worldly intrusions, we
may add that the rule advises that the grounds or inclosure of the
convent should contain "all that is needful for the life of the convent,
that is to say, a garden, water, a mill, a bolting house and a bakery
oven," in short, everything that can be thought of, in order to obviate
the necessity of communication with the outside world.

Héloïse's monastery, we may be assured, did not want for a diligent
abbess, who was to be assisted by six subordinates: "For the entire
administration of the convent we believe that there ought to be seven
mistresses, so many and no more: the porteress, the cellaress, the
vesturess (_robaria_), the infirmaress, the precentress (_cantaria_),
the sacristan, and finally a deaconess, called now an abbess.... In this
camp of Heaven's militia... the deaconess takes the place of the
general-in-chief, to whom all are in all things obedient." The six other
sisters called officers, who command under her, rank as colonels or
captains. The rest of the nuns belonging regularly to the order are the
soldiers of the Lord, while the lay sisters, who were employed in menial
offices and were not initiated into the order, but merely took vows
renouncing the world, were to be the foot soldiers.

Héloïse would accord quite well with the requirements for an abbess or
deaconess. Such a one must have learning sufficient to read and to
comprehend the Scriptures and the rules of her order. She must be
dignified, able to command respect and obedience. "Only as a last resort
and for pressing reasons should women of high rank or of great fortune
be chosen as abbesses." Full of the importance of their titles, they are
ordinarily vain, presumptuous, proud. Being the guardian of the whole
community, the abbess should keep a close watch over her own conduct,
lest she corrupt by evil example. Above all, the abbess is forbidden to
"live in greater comfort, greater ease, than any of her nuns. She shall
not have any private apartments for dining or sleeping; she shall share
all with her flock, whose needs she will comprehend so much the better."
When guests are to be entertained at table the abbess is not to make
this an excuse for providing delicacies on which she herself may feast,
the guest is to sit at the table with the other nuns, though a special
dish may be provided for her, and the abbess herself is to wait on her,
and afterward to eat with the servants. According to a maxim of Saint
Anthony, as fish that are kept long out of water die, even so monks who
live long out of their cells in communication with worldly folk break
their vow of seclusion. We may recall that Chaucer's jolly monk held
this same text "not worth an oyster"; but the abbess of the Paraclete is
specially enjoined "never to leave the convent to attend to outside
business." This reminds us that it was provided that the Paraclete
should have a certain number of monks attached to it. Convents, indeed,
were rarely if ever independent of masculine supervision, if not
control, and in this case it is specially provided that the convent
"shall be subject always to a monastery, in such sort that one abbot may
preside, and... that there be but one fold and one shepherd." The
relations, however, are decidedly to the advantage of the nuns; their
subjection is only nominal, and every provision is made, in the letter
of the law, that the monks shall attend merely to things outside of the
convent and shall not meddle with its administration: "If we wish that
the abbot... should have control over the nuns, it is only in such sort
that he shall recognize as his superiors the spouses of Christ, whose
servant only he is, and that he shall find pleasure in serving, not in
commanding them. He should be like the intendant of a royal household,
who does not venture to make his mistress feel his power.... He or his
representatives shall never be at liberty to speak to the virgins of the
Lord in the absence of their abbess.... He shall decide nothing
concerning them or their affairs until he has taken counsel with her;
and he shall transmit his instructions or orders only through her....
All that concerns costume, food, even money, if there be any, shall be
gathered together and put in the custody of the nuns; out of their
superfluity they shall provide what is needful for the monks. The monks,
therefore, shall take charge of all outside affairs, and the nuns of all
those things which it becomes women to attend to in the house, to wit,
to sew the frocks of the monks, to wash them, to knead the bread, to put
it in the oven and bake it. They shall have charge of the dairy and its
dependencies; they shall feed the hens and geese; in short, they shall
do all that women can do better than men.... Men and women both shall
vow obedience to the abbess."

Though not so radical in some respects as the constitution which Robert
D'Arbrissel imposed upon his monastery of Fontevrault, where women were
exalted above men in all respects, the provisions cited above seem
sufficient to insure the independence of the nuns. There are, of course,
careful rules to safeguard the virtue of both monks and nuns in the
close relations necessitated by the conventual scheme; but as these are
not different from what ordinary prudence would suggest--and ordinary
craft circumvent--we need not pause to give them.

The deaconess or abbess was not absolute; she must take counsel with her
subordinates, and for some things she must convene the whole convent to
ask advice and consent. Her subordinates had duties and responsibilities
of no mean sort. The sacristan, who is also treasurer, shall have charge
of the chapel and its ornaments, their repairs, etc. She must care for
the things needful for the services of the church, such as the incense,
the relics, the bells, and the communion wafers, which latter the nuns
are to make of pure wheat flour. The sacristan, too, having to decorate
the church in keeping with the seasons of the religious year, must be
enough of a scholar to know how to compute and determine the feast days
according to the calendar.

With the precentress, or mistress of the choir, rested the
responsibility for the church music. She was to train the choir, and to
teach music, in which she must be well versed. Besides this, she was the
librarian, must give out and take in the books, and take care of books
and illuminations. In case of the illness or other incapacity of the
abbess, the precentress took her place.

One of the most trying places must have been that of infirmaress, who
not only had charge of the sick in the capacity of nurse, but "must keep
herself supplied with proper medicines, according to the resources of
the place, and this she can do the better if she knows a little of
medicine.... She must know how to let blood (the medicine of the period
relied very largely upon phlebotomy), so that this operation may not
require the access of any man among the nuns." Much of the simpler
knowledge and practice of medicine was permitted to women; the simpler
medicine, indeed, was the only hope of the unfortunate sick in the days
of drastic doctoring.

The nun called the _robaria_, who had charge of the wardrobe, we have
christened "vesturess," for lack of a better name. She provided and
cared for the clothing of both monks and nuns, not so simple a matter as
it might seem, for "she shall have the sheep sheared, and shall receive
the leather (for shoes, etc.); she shall collect and take care of the
wool and linen and see to the making of the cloth from them; she shall
distribute thread, needles, and scissors (to the nuns assigned to work
under her). She shall have charge of the dormitory and of the beds; and
she shall be charged with directing the cutting, sewing, and washing of
the table-cloths, napkins, and all the linen of the monastery.... She
shall have all the necessary implements for her work, and shall regulate
the tasks assigned to each sister. She shall have charge of the novices
until they are admitted to the community." The novices, by the way, were
regularly taught in the convent, and a good deal of the work for which
religious exercises left the nuns little time was assigned to them.

The clothes worn by the nuns of Héloïse's convent were to be of the
simplest kind. "The clothes shall be of black woollen stuff; no other
color, for that best accords with the mourning of penitence; and no fur
is more fitting than the fleece of lambs for the spouses of Christ...."
And this black robe was not to extend lower than the heel ("to avoid
raising the dust"), or to have sleeves longer than the natural length to
cover arm and hand,--a provision which one can understand only after
seeing pictures of the immense sleeves in fashion. "The veils shall not
be of silk, but of cloth or dyed stuff. They shall wear chemises of
cloth next the skin, and these they shall not take off even to sleep.
Considering the delicacy of their constitutions, we will not forbid the
use of mattresses and sheets.... For covering (at night), we think a
chemise, a robe and a lamb skin, adding over these, during the cold
weather, a mantle for covering to the bed, will suffice. Each bed must
have a mattress, a bolster, a pillow, a counterpane, and a sheet." In
order to guard against vermin and dirt, all clothing should be provided
for each nun in double sets. On their heads the nuns were to wear a
white band with the veil over it; when necessary, on account of the
tonsure, a bonnet of lamb skin might be worn. When a nun died, she was
dressed in clean but coarse garments, with sandals on her feet, and the
garments sewn or fastened to the body, so that they might not be
disarranged in the presence of the priests officiating at her funeral.
As a special honor, the abbess could be buried in a garment of
haircloth, sewn around her like a sack.

The duties of the porteress were sufficiently simple, consisting chiefly
in guarding the gate and admitting only persons properly accredited. But
the cellaress had duties manifold. She "shall have charge of all that
concerns the feeding of the nuns: cellar, refectory, kitchen, mill,
bakery, bake ovens, gardens, orchards and fields, beehives, flocks,
cattle of all kinds, and poultry." With keen insight into human nature,
it is especially provided that she shall not reserve any tidbits for
herself at the table, with the admonition that this was precisely what
Judas did.

We have given but the merest sketch of the provisions by which Héloïse
was to regulate her life. The rule determines points great and small;
meat can be allowed three times a week, except during Lent; wine may be
used in moderation; services must be held at such and such times, with
work or sleep between; nuns must never go bare-footed, nor gossip with
visitors, and so on. But one thing we must add, as illustrative of the
manners of the time: "There is one thing more which must be not only
forbidden but held in abhorrence, although it is a custom in use in most
monasteries: that is that the nuns should wipe their hands or their
knives with the pieces of bread remaining from dinner, which are the
portion of the poor. To save table linen it is not right to soil the
bread of the poor."

In the way of actual facts little is really known of the life of
Héloïse. We have sought to trace the fortunes of the man to whom she was
so unselfishly yet so passionately attached and to reproduce from her
own scanty writings as much as may be of her character. We must now
conclude the story of Abélard. After his departure from Saint-Gildas his
days were still full of trouble. In 1136 we find him once more
triumphing in his old field, delivering his lectures to crowds of
students upon Mont Sainte-Geneviève. Not only did his teaching draw
crowds, but his book on theology was in every hand, and his doctrines
spread beyond the Alps. In the words of one of his enemies, writing to
Saint Bernard: _Libri ejus transeunt maria, transvolant Alpes_: "His
books are wafted across the seas, and fly over the Alps." Arnold of
Brescia, a disciple of Abélard, was preaching in Italy a more democratic
religion and a more liberal form of government, stirring up the wrath of
the Church as another Tribune of the People daring to incite the Italian
cities to proclaim their freedom. The final conflict of Abélard's life
was preparing.

At Clairvaux, in a valley so dismal as to have won the name of the
_Valley of Wormwood_, lived the very incarnation of asceticism, stern
religious orthodoxy, and uncompromising conservatism--Saint Bernard. To
him, a restless, daring innovator like Abélard was abhorrent. To profess
doctrines that led to the view that original sin was less a sin than a
punishment, that the redemption of man was an act of pure love, not one
of necessity for our redemption, that God, in short, was a God of Love,
not a God of Wrath--what was all this but striking at the very root of
that exquisite mortification of the flesh, the prayers, the fasting, the
actual corporeal torment inflicted upon himself by Saint Bernard in the
hope of purchasing remission of his sin? His sin, we may remark,
consisted merely in being descended from Adam, for he had been pure in
life from his youth up. Saint Bernard was looked upon even in his own
life as almost a saint; his influence was tremendous. He now began to
stir up the powers of the Church, from the Pope down, against Abélard.
The latter, puffed up with pride at his renewed success, or perhaps
willing to risk all at one throw, did not wait for the Church to proceed
against him: he challenged his enemies to prove his doctrines heretical;
he challenged Bernard himself to meet him in debate before a council
that was to meet at Sens in 1140. Fully aware of his inferiority as a
logician to this trained thinker, Saint Bernard reluctantly consented to
take up the battle for orthodoxy. All was ready; Abélard appeared before
the council, realized that his case was prejudged, and appealed to Rome.
Nevertheless, Saint Bernard got the council to pass judgment against
Abélard and to sentence him to silence and to perpetual reclusion in a
monastery, and Innocent II., the next year, confirmed the finding of the
council. Broken in spirit, Abélard nevertheless set out for Rome to urge
his plea in person, but at Cluni he broke down in health. Tenderly cared
for by the good abbot, Peter the Venerable, who effected a sort of
reconciliation between Abélard and the triumphant Abbot of Clairvaux,
Abélard lingered but a few months. To ease his dying days Peter the
Venerable had him removed to the little priory of Saint Marcel, a
dependency of Cluni, where he died, April 21, 1142.

In accordance with the wishes of Héloïse and of Abélard himself, Peter
the Venerable sent his remains secretly to the Paraclete, writing to
Héloïse: "May the Lord keep him for you, to give him back to you through
His mercy." There was a heart still in the breast of this old monk; we
trust that his prayer has been answered, even as we trust that the
absolution which he sent at Héloïse's request has washed away the sins
of her lover: "I, Peter, Abbot of Cluni, who received into the monastery
of Cluni Peter Abélard, and granted that his body be borne secretly to
the Abbess Héloïse and the convent of the Paraclete, by the authority of
God Almighty and of all the saints, absolve him, by virtue of my office,
from all his sins."

We hear nothing more of Héloïse, except that she provided for her child,
left with Abélard's sister in Brittany; but we know that she lived her
life not only bravely, but honorably. For twenty-two years more she
lived on at the convent over which her husband had established her, and
here she died, on the 16th of May, 1164. Her body was buried beside that
of her husband in the cemetery of the Paraclete, and a touching legend
relates that when, according to the order given by herself, her body was
deposited in the tomb of her husband, "Abélard stretched out his arms to
receive her and closed them in a last embrace." Through all the
centuries love has guarded their remains; though often shifted, their
resting place is still known: in the famous Cimetière de L'Est, Père
Lachaise, at Paris, the traveller still sees the tomb of Abélard and

It is not her learning that has made Héloïse famous; it is the accident
of her connection with Abélard which has served to keep her name alive.
It is not because she was learned or because she was loved by Abélard
that we admire her. Her greatness is a moral greatness rare in her time,
and not due to her intellect or to the tragic circumstances of her life.
The remarkable thing is that, overwhelmed in the ruin of her lover,
forced into a convent at twenty, where she obeys him and imitates him,
she yet does not change in her heart, she does not suffer the mystic
death of the cloister; of her love she never repents, though she does
repent of her faults; to the law of monastic asceticism her conscience
refuses to submit, let Abélard preach as he will, for she vaguely feels
that asceticism is in violation of some higher law of life. The great
love in her heart knew no faltering; so much like devotion was it that
one feels that she meant no name but that of Abélard to be associated
with the words of a dirge attributed to her:

        "With thee I suffered the rigor of destiny;
        With thee shall I, weary, sleep;
        With thee shall I enter Sion."



GUILHELM--or William--X., Duke of Aquitaine, remorseful because of the
ravages committed in Normandy by himself and his allies in 1136, started
on an expiatory pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint-James of Compostella.
Before going he willed to Louis the Fat, King of France, the
guardianship of his daughter, "la très noble demoiselle Eléonore," sole
heiress of his extensive dominions, including Poitou, Marche, the
Limousin, Auvergne, Gascony, and Guienne. This Eléanor was to be the
brilliant and passionate Queen of England, mother of Richard of the Lion
Heart and of John Lackland. But we will not anticipate her story, for
sixteen years of her life precede the time when she became the queen of
Henry II.

The youthful heiress had been left as the feudal ward of King Louis, who
lost no time in securing her domain for the crown of France. Duke
Guilhelm died in the church of Compostella April 9, 1137-1138. Eleanor,
now Duchess of Aquitaine, was but sixteen years of age, but she was not
long to remain unmarried. Prince Louis of France, accompanied by a
gorgeous company of five hundred knights, under command of the Count
Palatine, Thibaud de Champagne, came as her suitor,--a suitor whom she
could not refuse. She was married, and crowned as future Queen of
France. On their way back from Bordeaux to Paris the young couple met
the news of the death of Louis the Fat. Eleanor was thus Queen of France
indeed, but there was more of the south, of Toulouse and Bordeaux and
the troubadours in her nature than was quite good for one who was the
wife of the correct, devout, narrow-minded, though not stupid or unkind
Louis VII.

She came of a race notorious for reckless love of pleasure, for
sparkling wit, for vehemence of temper and strong passions, for utter
disregard of the merely decorous, the sober commonplace rules of either
morals or society. We have seen some of the pranks of her grandfather,
William of Poitou. Her father was not less high-tempered, though less
brilliant than his troubadour predecessor. His fits of extravagance were
followed by fits of penitence in whose sincerity one may place some
faith, whereas the troubadour was certainly never sad for long, and
apparently not much imbued with religious ardor, even if he did go to
the Holy Land as a pious crusader. Eleanor inherited her grandfather's
temper and his love of literature, music, fighting, and all that made
life worth living, according to the standards of her native land. Let us
look at this land of the troubadours, from which Eleanor came, and try
to picture the environment to which she was accustomed and which she
abandoned to live with the sober, monkish, unlovely French king, whose
court and whose city of Paris did not compare with the gay capital of
Bordeaux, where her father and her grandfather had gathered the most
brilliant poets and musicians of Provence.

While the northern and western portions of France, including even that
muddy _Lutetia Parisorum_ which has become the modern Paris, were for
but a short time, comparatively, under Roman rule, there was a portion
of France, between the Rhone and the Swiss Alps, which was so
distinctively and peculiarly a part of the great empire that it was
called _Provincia_, "the Province," or, as we know it, Provence. It was
in this beautiful land, the French Riviera, that the Roman legions
established their first posts, long before there was a Roman Empire.
Here they found a civilization ready to their hands, for in the centre
of their new Provincia was the famous port of
Massillia--Marseilles--established long before by Greeks and
Phoenicians. To the present day one finds at Aries, at Mimes, at
Avignon, titanic ruins bearing witness to the Roman civilization. It was
a fertile country, glowing with rich fruits and flowers, and favored
with a climate which has made it famous since the days of Rome. While
the north of France was hopelessly barbarized by Teutonic inroads and
long years of barbaric warfare, the civilization of Provence was rather
checked than destroyed. Marseilles was still a port, and the commerce of
the east, of the Mediterranean, of Rome, came through Marseilles, not
only for Gaul but for Britain. The influence of this constant
intercourse, no less than the large infusion of Latin or Hellenic blood,
kept the people of Provence from relapsing into the primitive state of
the people further to the north. They were, moreover, a gay and
pleasure-loving people by nature, and probably always less savage and
rough than the Franks. We may remember that even at the beginning of our
story the court of the pious King Robert, according to the monkish
chronicles, was hopelessly corrupted by the attendants of his Provençal
bride, Constance, with their scandalously fashioned costumes and their
ungodly minstrelsy. The rich clothing, the minstrelsy, the more gracious
manners, were always characteristic of the southerners, from the very
first moment we hear of them until the end.

During the eleventh century, while the kingdom of France was just
beginning to gain something like an ascendancy over the other provinces
which were eventually to constitute a real power under one rule, the
riches and the power of the Mediterranean district came to full flower.
We speak of this whole territory as Provence, although in reality
Provence proper was but a small portion of the whole. It would be,
perhaps, better to confine one's self to the old distinction between
north and south France, based on the difference in dialect. Dante,
distinguishing between three groups of the tongues derived from Latin,
says: _Alii Oc, alii Oil, alii Si, affirmando loquuntur:_--"For the
affirmative, some use Oc (Provençal) some use Oil (French), some use Si
(Italian)." The langue d'oc was the tongue used in that part of France
south of a line drawn from the south of the Garonne to the Alps,
including not only Provence but Guienne, Gascony, Languedoc, Auvergne,
etc. The people and the language, however, throughout this whole
territory, were generally named from that Provincia which, as we have
said, was the most fertile and the most favored. Thus, in ordinary
speech, a citizen of Beziers, Toulouse, or even Bordeaux was as much a
Provençal as one from Aries or Aix.

Among the other influences to which Provence owed part of its culture
one must not forget that of Spain. At the time of which we write a large
part of the richest lands in Spain was in the possession of a race more
cultured, more intellectual, more refined, despite their warlike nature,
than any race with which western Europe had yet come in contact. The
story of the Saracen empire in Spain, its rise, its glorious struggle,
its almost fabulous luxury, and its pathetic fall, is one of the most
fascinating in history. Arab songs, Arab singers, Arab instruments
became known among the Spaniards, and even in the face of continual
warfare some little of infidel arts and sciences and refinements
penetrated and softened the rougher-mannered civilization of the

On Spain itself this Oriental influence was, of course, strongest; but
the relations between Spain and the south of France were at all times
close, and the relations between Provence and Spain were made still more
intimate when, in the early part of the twelfth century, the crown of
Provence passed to Raymond Bérenger, Count of Barcelona, who had married
Douce de Provence.

Under these influences the nobility of Provence developed a culture
perhaps purely artificial and exotic, but certainly far in advance of
that prevailing in any other part of France. With their civilization
came, of course, a knowledge of the gentler arts and a feeling for the
beautiful. At a time when French literature consisted of a few fragments
of documents, chronicles, or dull legends of the saints, Provence had
developed a literature of most astonishing richness and delicacy. The
surprising thing about this literature of Provence is that it has no
beginnings, no childhood, but is almost as perfect in artistic finish,
in the careful handling of most intricate rhymes and stanzas, when the
first troubadour sings as it became during the two hundred years of its
life. There were songs or poems in stanzas of varying structure and
lines of varying length, some really lyric, and some epic. The most
distinctive forms of the lyric poetry were probably the dirge or
_planh_; the contention or _tenson_, a poem in which two or more persons
maintain an argument on questions of love, or chivalry, etc., each using
stanzas terminating in similar rhymes, somewhat like the style of poem
long after known in Scottish literature as a "flyting;" and the satiric
poem or pasquinade, the _sirvente_, often a fierce war song in which the
poet lashed his foes and urged his men on to battle.

The social conditions of France during this period were such as to make
caste distinctions very marked. That a _roturier_, a plain peasant, or
even a tradesman, should become the social equal of a noble was a thing
unheard of. But in Provence--curiously enough when one remembers the
excessive refinement of luxury encouraged in this land of flowers--the
society was much more democratic. Perhaps it would be more accurate to
say that among a people who had already discovered that literature and
music were arts the artist was welcomed, talent was recognized and
rewarded, no matter in what class it was found. Yet the troubadours as a
class belong to the nobility. That this was almost necessarily so one
can easily understand, for the troubadour was expected to live a life of
gay extravagance in his own chateau and to travel about the country
during favoring weather, accompanied by a little band of retainers who
must be trained musicians, and who at the castles they visited sang or
performed pieces of their master's composing.

We can imagine what a flutter there must have been in the breasts of the
ladies, always the prime object of the troubadour's songs, when the gay
cavalcade approached, heralded by the song of the _jongleurs_: "We come,
bringing a precious balsam which cures all sorts of ills, and heals the
troubles both of body and mind. It is contained in a vase of gold,
adorned with jewels, the most rare. Even to see it is wonderful
pleasure, as you will find if you care to try. The balsam is the music
of our master, the vase of gold is our courtly company. Would you have
the vase open, and disclose its ineffable treasure?"

The troubadour himself must go in knightly panoply, and he and his
musicians or jongleurs were usually provided with rich clothing. Gifts,
of course, might be accepted from a sovereign, but no pecuniary
recompense; the knightly minstrel disdained to sing for hire; it was
pure love of his art that inspired him, and the idea of making it a
lucrative profession never occurred to him. The troubadour, therefore,
had to live upon his patrimony--until he squandered it in riotous
living--and only a gentleman could afford to do that. Of the scores of
troubadours whose names are known to us, the great majority are nobles,
though not always belonging to the higher nobility; but the artist, the
musician who "found" enchanting melodies, was almost _ex officio_ a
knight, a chevalier, the terms troubadour and chevalier being
interchangeable, and knighthood was considered so essential that one of
the well-known troubadours was accused of having conferred the dignity
upon himself, since no one else would knight him. Among the number of
the troubadours one can count a score or more of reigning princes,
"counts and dukes by the dozen,... many princes of royal blood, and
finally four kings." Yet beside the royal troubadour, and associated
with him in a perfect freemasonry of art, one finds the troubadour of
humble birth. Bertrand de Born, the petty baron, was on terms of perfect
equality with the sons of Henry II.: Geoffrey, he called by the nickname
of _Rassa_, Henry was _Marinier_, and Richard was _Richard Oc e No_
(Richard Yea and Nay). Pierre Vidal, the most eccentric of all the
_genus irritabile_, was the son of a furrier of Toulouse, and yet, being
a poet, was the friend of princes, notably of Alphonso, the troubadour
king of Arragon. Bernard de Ventadour, who ventured, unrebuked, to send
love songs to haughty Queen Eleanor, was the son of the baker of the
chateau de Ventadour. There was, therefore, much greater freedom of
intercourse in Provence than in the north of France, where feudalism had
taken deeper root, where the warrior was merely a hard hitter, not a
musician who went about equally prepared to fight or to sing.

The grace and polish of Provençal society was, of course, only relative.
At best, it was merely a surface polish in many cases; and to us the
manners of the troubadours might seem as coarse as their morals were
corrupt. The very extravagance of the troubadour's life, with its
constant demands for large expenditure in travel or in fantastic
entertainments and revels at his chateau, the persistent thirst for
excitement and pleasure in themselves would have been sufficient to
foster licentious habits. Prodigality reduced many a troubadour to the
rank of a mere jongleur or hired musician. A mediaeval moralist remarks,
for the benefit of _la cigale_,--who probably paid no attention
whatever, but went on singing,--_Homo joculatoribus intentus cito
habebit uxorem cut nomen erit paupertas, ex qua generabitur filius cui
nomen erit derisio_ (He who devotes himself to minstrelsy will soon have
a wife named Poverty, of whom will be born a son named Ignominy.) But
whether or not the troubadour made a sinful waste of his fortune, his
one business in life was understood to be making love.

Every troubadour chose some lady to whom he devoted his talents, seeking
to make her

        "Glorious by his pen, and famous by his sword."

Like a true knight-errant of music and poetry, he travelled over the
land, singing the praises of his lady-love and upholding the superiority
of her charms in the lists, in battles with the infidel, or in any
chance adventure on the road. After enduring in her honor whatever
fortune might send him, and singing to her in songs of triumph or in
plaintive love songs, he would return to claim his reward. So far, all
is romantic and innocent enough. One can indulge in lovely sentimental
fancies concerning this world of gentle singers and fair ladies and
poesy and sunshine. But in sober fact the loves of the troubadours were
neither so romantic nor even so innocent as one would gladly think. In a
certain class of modern novels, the hero rarely experiences a _grande
passion_, as it is charitably called, except for some other man's wife;
so the lady to whom the troubadour devotes himself, to whom he pours out
his passion with all the cunning and warmth that art can devise, and of
whose favors he sometimes most ungallantly boasts, is almost invariably
a married woman. Fortunately, despite the fact that poets are given to
proclaiming that truth and poetry are almost synonyms, most of us do not
take them _au pied de la lettre_. "Most loving is feigning," says a good
authority, and certainly most of the protestations in erotic poetry are
hardly to be taken at their face value. So we may safely assume that the
intercourse between the troubadours and the ladies to whom their songs
are dedicated was generally quite innocent; and the burning desire, the
tragic despair, or the exultant passion, of the poems was also largely
figurative, mere squibs and crackers of love. Certainly, if it were
otherwise, the husbands of Provence were most unselfish patrons of art.

Yet, making all the allowances that common sense or charity may warrant,
we have to admit that there is only too much evidence of deplorable
moral laxity in the days of the troubadours. The very first troubadour
of note, Count William of Poitou, Eleanor's grandfather, was notorious
for his contemptuous attitude toward the Church and for his
licentiousness. In fact, the poems of William are coarse and almost
brutal in their tone, utterly lacking in the superfine gallantry, the
preciosity, which is characteristic of the love poetry of his troubadour
successors. There is in the poems a sort of bold laughter and wit, and
the technical part of the work shows a most surprising artistic finish,
but nothing that speaks of chivalrous ideals. It is with some wonder,
therefore, that we read in the old Provençal biography of this first of
the troubadours that "the Count of Poitou was one of the most courteous
men in the world, and a great deceiver of ladies; and he was a brave
knight and had much to do with love affairs; and he knew well how to
sing and make verses; and for a long time he roamed all through the land
to deceive the ladies." According to all accounts, William was very
successful in this gallant undertaking. It was the troubadour's
business, openly avowed, to "deceive the ladies," and among a people so
susceptible as those of Provence many must have been the domestic
tragedies brought on by these erotic knights-errant.

When love making, or the writing of love songs, becomes a profession one
need not be surprised to find that there is a great deal of pure
conventionality. The love of beauty is not supreme in all hearts, even
in those of poets, and so the love poetry of the troubadours is as
artificial, as overstrained and oversweetened as a panegyric of an
Elizabethan poet upon that very questionable beauty of the "vestal
throned in the west." What was the actual standard of beauty among the
ladies of Provence is hard to determine, for they are all much the same
in the songs of the troubadours. The lady has skin whiter than milk,
purer than the driven snow, of tint more delicate than the pearl. Upon
her cheeks the roses vie with the lilies, the delicate color mounting at
the sound of her praises and melting away in danger or distress. A
wealth of flaxen hair, of silky texture, crowns her head, and a pair of
soft blue eyes gaze languishingly upon the lover; and when they close,
the sun is gone from the face of nature, so dark does the world seem to
him. But when she walks abroad in smiling beauty, the very birds stop
their own love making to chant of her loveliness, and the flowers turn
to look at her. With all this delicacy of physical beauty goes a
constitution as delicate, for she faints at the news of disaster or
danger to her troubadour. When the monkish chroniclers are so very cold
in their descriptions of personal charms, we are left to the poets. It
may be, then, that, in troubadour eyes at least, Eleanor herself was of
the type we have described.

It was from a society formed of such elements, and from the very home of
music and poetry, that the young Queen of France came to Paris, at that
time no doubt a very dismal place, inhabited by people who, however
superior as Christians, must have seemed to her uncultured barbarians.
The details of her life during the first ten or fifteen years after her
marriage are obscure, and certainly of little historic interest. We can
feel sure only that her union with Louis VII. must have been distinctly
and increasingly irksome to both parties. With the best will in the
world, historians can say no more of him than that he was a safe and
conservative ruler, never achieving any marked success, and yet never
incurring serious disaster. As a man he was cold, personally
unattractive and unsympathetic, possessed of unquestioned physical
courage, and yet at times fatally timid and irresolute; easily
influenced,' especially by the one power which one might fancy most
distasteful to Eleanor, the Church, for he was devout to the point of
superstition. If Eleanor had been a mere sybarite, a nerveless devotee
of pleasure, she might have lived in obscurity and borne with the
puritanism of her husband. But her blood was too hot for that; she was
full of ambition and of energy and relentless determination to realize
that ambition. As Queen of France there was no great rôle for her to
play. She was young, and for the moment Louis and his counsellors
governed France, while she was satisfied with less ambitious
occupations. One of these occupations was, no doubt, keeping up her
connection with the troubadours of her native land, with whom her family
and her ducal court of Bordeaux were traditionally associated. The exact
dates of her friendship with various troubadours we do not, of course,
know; but we do know that she made rather frequent trips to her beloved
Bordeaux during these years, and that she was commonly recognized as a
patroness of the troubadours.

We next hear of Eleanor in a rôle not altogether in keeping with her
troubadour affiliations: one does not think of the daughter of William
of Poitou as a defender of the Cross, yet it is as a crusader that
Eleanor first makes a stir in history. Much has been made by historians
of the influence of the Crusades; here we are concerned to remark only
that the spirit of adventure spread even to the women, and that many a
dame went to the Holy Land, some even in panoply of war. It was a
wonderful step forward in the freedom of women, if we recall the
conditions existing a generation before. Our great Provençal queen was a
typical representative, not only of the chivalry and love of adventure
of Provence, but of the spirit of greater independence prevailing among
women. When her grave and devout husband began his preparations for the
Second Crusade, in 1147, Eleanor determined to accompany him.

A woman of her energy could not, of course, be content with the
_fainéant_ rôle of spouse and consoler. Accordingly, she organized a
regular band of Amazons among the great ladies of France, including the
Countesses of Toulouse and Flanders and other noble dames. The costume
of this troop was the most notable thing about them. The gay and
extravagant queen had devoted much time and thought to the devising of a
dress sufficiently showy for herself and her ladies, and, according to
the accounts of the chronicler William of Tyre, to whom we are indebted
for most of the details of her crusading exploits, Eleanor and her
companions presented a gorgeous spectacle. Accompanied by bands of
troubadours and musicians, with much flaunting of gay banners and
glittering of spangles, Queen Eleanor, clad man-fashion, in glittering
spangle armor, and her ladies rode in the van of the army. Their
discarded distaffs these martial ladies sent to recreant knights who had
preferred staying at home to crusading.

The saintly Bernard of Clairvaux, the most powerful religious influence
of his time, one whose inspired preaching could move vast audiences to a
perfect frenzy of religious exaltation, had been induced, almost
compelled, to preach the crusade for that loyal son of the Church, Louis
VII. Saint Bernard himself confessed to serious misgivings about the
righteousness of this crusade, and would not be a second Peter the
Hermit to lead the vast host of the Cross. One can imagine that the
doings of Louis's queen must have filled the soul of Saint Bernard with
misgivings still more serious. Eleanor, indeed, was incapable of
religious feeling of sufficient depth to sympathize with the purer
motives of fanaticism that inspired the best of the crusaders. For her
it was a pleasure jaunt, a glorious opportunity to enjoy all the pomp
and circumstance of being a queen, and at least the show of power.
Louis, perhaps, would have been glad to leave his rather too theatrical
and frivolous consort behind, for the crusade was to him a serious
business; but it is likely that the large contingent of Gascons and
Poitevins, devoted to their troubadour duchess, were hardly so eager
about following the King of France.

The crusade, whose history we need not dwell upon, was like a triumphal
procession as far as Constantinople. To be sure, there were misery and
sickness and death among the hordes of poor camp followers and pilgrims
who had sought the protection of the great army as they journeyed to
that Holy Land whose mere sight, they fancied, would be as a balm to
their seared consciences; but Queen Eleanor and her princesses
experienced nothing but the vain excitement of it all, the wonders of
the Greek civilization, the glitter and splendor. Warned by the
disastrous experience of the Germans who had preceded him, Louis elected
to follow the coast route along the shores of Asia Minor, and he and his
army were safely transported across the straits by the Greeks.

In the march that followed, the vain and headstrong Eleanor more than
once jeopardized herself and the whole army. She insisted on leading the
van, and her too complaisant husband consented. The result was that
Eleanor, with utter disregard of strategy and of ordinary military
precautions, conducted her forces as if the expedition were merely a
party of pleasure, selected her camps and her route according to the
beauty of the landscape, and all the time flirted in the most
irresponsible fashion with anyone who attracted her. It was said that
she had a most shameful intrigue with a handsome young emir, accepted
gifts from Sultan Noureddin, and spoke of her husband with increasing
flippancy, disrespect, contempt. The army was saved in the mountain
passes by a knight from Eleanor's native land, one Gilbert, of whom
really nothing is known, but who has been made the central figure in a
romance in which Eleanor also plays her part.

From Satalia, on the Gulf of Cyprus, the king and Eleanor, with the more
well to do among their followers, took ship for Antioch, abandoning the
mass of poor followers to the mercies of the perfidious Greeks and the
fierce Turks. In Antioch, Eleanor was received too kindly by her uncle,
Raymond, Prince of Antioch, said to have been the handsomest man of his
time, and as licentious as Eleanor's own grandfather had been. Despite
their relationship, Eleanor's conduct with Raymond made Louis wildly
jealous. She was already talking of a separation from Louis. The
daughter of William of Poitou certainly could not, as she proclaimed,
put up with a monk for her husband; but it is rather amazing to find her
pretending that she wishes her marriage dissolved for reasons of
conscience, since she and her husband are related within the degrees
prohibited by that Church of which she has always been so devout a
daughter. Louis carried her off, willy-nilly, from Antioch, and we hear
nothing more but complaints from him and soothing counsel from his
friends until after he and Eleanor returned from this disastrous
crusade. Eleanor's caprice and haughty temper had almost driven Louis to
despair, and perhaps it was this constant domestic irritant which
exacerbated his temper and caused those quarrels with the Emperor Conrad
which resulted in the miserable failure of the Christian arms at the
very gates of Damascus.

Eleanor returned to France, and continued to give her husband cause of
complaint not only by her conduct but by her tongue. Yet the
ill-assorted pair lived in marital relations until the winter of
1151-1152. During a journey to Aquitaine, however, a violent rupture
occurred. Louis appealed to the Council of Beaugency for a divorce,
declaring openly that he did not trust his wife, and could never feel
sure of the legitimacy of her issue. But Eleanor, as usual, had been
beforehand with him. She, too, appealed for divorce, and her appeal was
in the hands of the Council before that of her husband. Less frank and
more politic than Louis, Eleanor sought for an annulment of the marriage
on the ground that she and Louis were cousins--they were related in the
sixth degree. The Council, which might have been seriously embarrassed
by discussing and recognizing such a plea as that of Louis against one
of the most powerful princesses of Christendom, discreetly granted
Eleanor's plea, and annulled the marriage, March 18, 1152. Louis lost a
wife who despised him, and whom he dreaded for her violence and her
sharp tongue. France lost all those rich provinces which had come as
Eleanor's dower.

The divorced queen, now reigning Duchess of Guienne, was at once pursued
by a number of suitors. With all the romance and sentiment said to be
characteristic of southern France in her day it is hard to reconcile
facts like those that follow. Thibaud de Blois was bent on capturing the
rich duchess, and when she refused him, he plotted to capture her, to
imprison her in his castle of Blois, and to force her to marry him.
Fortunately, Eleanor was warned of the plot and escaped to her own
frontier; but here young Geoffrey of Anjou, aged eighteen, laid an
ambuscade for her on the Loire, intending to marry her himself. Again
she escaped, this time to her own county of Poitou. Into Poitiers she
was followed almost at once by Geoffrey's elder brother, Henry
Plantagenet. Handsome, masterful, brilliant, Henry was of the very type
to captivate Eleanor. It is altogether probable that she had had a
previous understanding with him, and had conducted the proceedings for
divorce on his advice. At any rate, they were married at Bordeaux on the
1st of May, 1152, in spite of the opposition of Louis as Henry's feudal
lord. Two years later Henry succeeded King Stephen, and Eleanor was
Queen of England.

A troubadour queen was certainly no fit mate for Louis VII.; and now
that Eleanor has secured her divorce from Louis, and has married a man
of temperament somewhat similar to her own, let us step aside from the
story of her career in history to tell something more of her relation to
the troubadours, and of the troubadours themselves.

Not inheriting any of her grandfather's talent as a singer, Eleanor yet
made her court a haven for troubadours. Unfortunately, we know but
little of her personal relations with her troubadour courtiers, though
tradition has conjectured that they were by no means always platonic. It
was after her marriage to Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy, that she
became the special protectress of a forlorn troubadour lover, Bernard de
Ventadour. He was, as we have noticed, of very low birth, the son of a
baker in the Château de Ventadour; but he had risen in his lord's favor
by reason of his poetic powers. The fair young Viscountess de Ventadour,
a perfect angel of beauty in the eyes of the poet, delighted to listen
to his songs of love. At first these songs did not distinctly refer to
her; but the allusions became more unequivocal, and the songs became
warmer, till one day, as they sat under the shade of a pine tree,
Bernard singing to her, the viscountess suddenly kissed her minstrel.
The poet tells us in a song that so great was his bliss and ecstasy that
the winter landscape seemed suddenly to blossom with all the flowers of
spring. And now he sang more openly of love, and at length put the fair
lady's own name in his songs as the object of his passion. The viscount
could no longer overlook his wife's conduct; so the viscountess was shut
up in a tower and Bernard was driven out of the Limousin.

Eleanor gave the banished troubadour a kindly welcome. She listened to
his songs, heard his plaintive story, and consoled him. Eleanor was
unquestionably a beautiful woman, and at that time she was still in her
prime. It is no wonder that the soft heart of the troubadour soon forgot
its grief for the lost Lady de Ventadour in the new love for his
gracious protector. Both Eleanor and the troubadour were probably really
in love, for she was as susceptible as he, though neither was capable,
perhaps, of lasting affection. At any rate, Bernard wrote for her songs
full of love and longing, declaring that her image dwells with him
always, that in her absence he cannot sleep, and that the mere thought
of her is sweeter far than sleep. Henry II. was not himself
irreproachable as a husband, and perhaps he thought it wise not to look
too closely into what his wife was doing. Just at this time, however,
Henry became King of England, and there was no need to urge Eleanor to
hasten across the channel to become queen; her vanity was sufficient for
that. The new queen and her troubadour were parted, and, says his
biographer, from that time Bernard remained sad and woeful. He writes
her that, for her sake, he will cross the channel, for he is both a
Norman and an Englishman now; but we do not know that the intimacy
between them was renewed.

This story is the only one of any detail showing the direct relations
between Eleanor and the troubadours. There are, however, a score of
other anecdotes which serve to show the relation of other women of her
class--not all princesses, but at least of the higher nobility--to the
troubadours. As illustrative of the position of women in Provence at
this time we may select a story as famous in troubadour annals as that
of Francesca da Rimini.

The Lady Margarida de Roussillon, says the Provençal biography, was the
"most beautiful lady of her time, and the most prized for all that is
praiseworthy, and noble, and courteous." She lived in happiness with her
husband, the powerful Baron Raymond de Roussillon. But in her suite was
a page, Guillem de Cabestanh, poor, but of noble birth, with whose
handsome face and gracious ways the Lady Margarida fell in love. "Love
kindled her thoughts with fire," till at last the passion so
overmastered her that she said to Guillem one day: "Guillem, if a lady
were to love you, could you love her?" "Certainly, my lady," replied the
young man, "if I thought she loved truly." "Well spoken! Tell me, now,
can you distinguish true love from counterfeit?"

These questions roused the smouldering love in Guillem's heart, and he
gave vent to it in "stanzas graceful and gay, and tunes and canzos, and
his songs found favor with all, but most with her for whom he sang."
Margarida, indeed, knew that he loved her and that the songs were
inspired by her, though Guillem had not as yet ventured to name her in
them or to speak to her. Once again she spoke to her timid lover, and he
confessed his love. Then began the love story, the troubadour pouring
out his sweetest songs and trusting fondly that, because he did not name
her, no one would guess their love. But the gossips began to talk of
them, till at last the scandal came to the ear of Sir Raymond. "He was
ill pleased and hot with rage through having lost the friend he loved so
well, and more because of the shame of his spouse." Instead of taking
summary vengeance, however, he bided his time till the guilty pair could
be self-convicted.

One day when Guillem had gone off hawking alone Margarida saw Raymond
hide his sword under his cloak and follow after Guillem. She waited in
fearful anxiety till they returned, Raymond apparently in good humor
with Guillem and all the world. Raymond told her that he had discovered
who was the lady of Guillem's songs. Margarida's terror may be imagined.
"I knew," said Raymond, "that no one could sing so well unless he loved.
When I conjured him, by his faith, to tell me whom he loved, he evaded
me at first, but at length confessed that it was your sister, Lady Agnes
de Tarascon." He then told her that it was all true, moreover, for he
had ridden to the Château de Tarascon with Guillem, and that, after some
hesitancy, the Lady Agnes had admitted that Guillem was her lover.
Margarida was at first dumfounded, and completely incredulous; but her
husband's statements were so exact that she was finally convinced of
Guillem's faithlessness.

At their first private interview she taxed him with his ingratitude, and
would scarcely listen to his denials. Guillem told her that, seeing
himself forced into a corner by Raymond's persistent questions, he had
named the Lady Agnes in desperation, to prevent immediate discovery and
death. The Lady Agnes and her husband, whom she had told of the
intrigue, soon confirmed the lover's story. Lady Agnes had seen the
distress in Guillem's countenance when Raymond brought him to Tarascon
and asked her, in his presence, who was her lover. To save Guillem and
her sister, Lady Agnes had admitted that Guillem was her lover, and she
and her husband had done all in their power to convince Raymond of this
fact. One need hardly remark on the social conditions or the general
laxity of morals implied in the naïve recital of such an incident.

To continue Margarida's story, the lovers were reconciled and Guillem
celebrated the reconciliation in a song. Unfortunately he had grown
rash, and alluded too openly in this song to the very circumstances of
their case. "No man," he sang, "suffers greater martyrdom than I; for
you, whom I desire more than aught in this world, I must disavow and
deny, and lie as if no love were in my heart. Whate'er I do through fear
of my life, you must take in good faith, even though you do not see why
I do it." This song, some portions of which were violently amorous, came
to the hands of Raymond. He guessed the truth at once, and planned an
awful vengeance.

Some days later, as the husband and wife were seated at dinner, the Lady
Margarida commented on the delicacy of a bit of deer's heart which she
had eaten. "Do you know," said Raymond, "what you have been eating?"
"No, but I found it delicious." "This will show you," he said, raising
before her the bloody head of Guillem Cabestanh. "Behold the head of the
man whose heart you have just eaten!" The lady fainted at the horrible
sight, and when she recovered screamed aloud that the heart she had
eaten was so good and savory that never more would she eat meat. The
maddened husband rushed at her with drawn sword, and she, to escape
death at his hands, cast herself out of a window and was dashed to

The story has a little sequel, not less instructive and enlightening in
its way. "The news of the deed spread rapidly, and was received
everywhere with grief and indignation; and all the friends of Guillem
and the lady, and all the courteous knights of the neighborhood, and all
those who were lovers, united to make war against Raymond." King
Alphonso of Arragon invaded Raymond's dominions, took him prisoner, kept
him in captivity the rest of his days, and divided his property among
the relatives of the murdered lovers. The unhappy pair he caused to be
buried in one tomb, and erected over them a sumptuous monument, whither
once a year came all the knights and all the fond lovers of Roussillon,
Cerdagne, and Narbonnais, to pray for the souls of Guillem Cabestanh and
the fair Lady Margarida. In the glamor of romance, morality and common
decency are apt to be lost sight of. The romancer enlists all our
sympathies for the guilty Paolo and Francesca of this story, while
Raymond, the miserable husband, meets with captivity and the loss of his
property. We may add that the main facts of this story are confirmed,
even to the episode of the heart, by several accounts in manuscripts,
though imagination is doubtless responsible for certain details.

In the loves of the troubadours one is constantly encountering stories
not less immoral though less tragic than this one, as we may see in the
story of the Lady de Miravals. The wife of Raymond de Miravals, a rich
baron and famous troubadour, being neglected by her husband, had formed
a secret attachment for a knight called Bremon. She was pining in secret
for her lover when, to her delight, Raymond threatened to divorce her,
because he himself had tired of her and was in love with another lady
who insisted that he should divorce his wife. Seeing in the threatened
divorce a chance of perfect liberty in her relations with Bremon, the
Lady de Miravals pretended extreme grief and indignation. Such treatment
from an ungrateful husband she would not stand, she said. She would send
for her parents and relatives to see justice done or to take her away.
To this Raymond, apparently, made no very determined resistance. The
lady, with great show of wrath, sent a messenger to summon her family,
secretly directing him to go to Bremon and tell him that she was ready
to marry him if he would come. Bremon came with alacrity, accompanied by
a troop of his knights, and halted at the gate of the castle. The
expectant Lady de Miravals, seeing her lover ready, announced to Raymond
that her friends had come for her, and that she would be pleased if he
would allow her to leave at once. Raymond consented; in fact, he was so
pleased at the prospect of being rid of his wife that, with unwonted
courtesy, he himself conducted her to the castle gate. Seeing that her
little plot was working so well, the runaway wife could not forbear
adding one more touch to this lovely little deception. "Sir," said she
to Raymond, "since we part such good friends, with no regrets, would you
not be good enough to give me, no longer your wife, to this gentleman?"
Nothing was easier to Raymond than unmarrying a wife of whom he was
tired. With ready courtesy he gave her to Bremon, who, receiving her
from her husband's hands, put the ring on her finger and rode off, in
high glee, with his lady-love.

We do not know whether the Lady de Miravals and her new husband found
the course of their love smooth or rough; but the too complaisant
Raymond met with very bad luck, which he most richly deserved. As soon
as his wife was gone, he posted off to tell his lady-love that her
commands had been obeyed and that he had now come to marry her. But this
lady, who seems to have cared nothing for the foolish troubadour except
to have the honor of having him make a fool of himself for her, said:
"It is well done, Raymond; you have sent away your wife to please me.
Now go and prepare for a magnificent wedding at your castle, and let me
know when you are ready to receive your bride in fitting style." The
troubadour rushed home, spent weeks and squandered his substance in
preparations for his bride, and went back to claim her. Alas! this very
sensible lady had married another man--we hope not a troubadour--on the
very day after she had sent Raymond on his fool's errand.

With all his protestations of undying devotion, it not infrequently
happened that the troubadour did not continue to devote himself to one
lady. Sometimes the lady found a more acceptable lover, or became tired
of the love rhapsodies of her troubadour. But it was dangerous to
dismiss one of these violent poets without good excuse, for he might
turn from love songs to _sirventes_, and satirize her whom before he had
extolled as a paragon. One of the most amusing of the anecdotes of the
troubadours is that telling how Marie de Ventadour got rid of the
attentions of Gaucelm Faidit.

The beautiful Countess Marie de Ventadour was, says the old Provençal
historian quoted in Mr. Rowbotham's _The Troubadours and Courts of
Love_, to which we are indebted for many of the facts here used, "the
most esteemed lady in the province of Limousin; the lady who prided
herself most on doing whatever was right and good, and who best
preserved and defended herself from all evil; who always shaped her
conduct by the rules of reason, and never at any time committed an act
of folly." Her charms were celebrated by many a troubadour, but her most
devoted admirer was Gaucelm Faidit. Gaucelm, the son of an artisan of
Uzerche, had been raised from his low estate by the favor of the
troubadour Richard Coeur de Lion, and his talent had assured his
position in what one might call the best society. Marie, like other
ladies of her time, was rather vain of her troubadour admirers, and did
not disdain the brilliant but lowborn Gaucelm Faidit. But she told him
that, if he was to win her love, he must show himself worthy of it by
prowess in battle, and suggested that he accompany her husband--whom we
neglected to mention before--on the third Crusade, just then being
organized. The poet, though not very fond of fighting, took the Cross,
went to the Holy Land, sent home to his lady-love most ferocious poems
telling of the perils he was encountering or escaping, and then made his
way back to the Château de Ventadour as soon as he could find a decent
excuse for doing so. Marie, however, was not so gracious to him as he
had hoped; she did not love him for the dangers he had passed, or for
his telling of them. She was, in fact, decidedly cold to him. Gaucelm,
in a rage, left the chateau, saying: "I shall never see you again! But
perhaps I can find another lady who will treat me with more
consideration." Marie was rather glad to be rid of her poet's
tempestuous love; but she was afraid of his sharp tongue; he could write
most bitter _sirventes_: what if he should avenge himself on her by
turning against her all his satiric powers?

In this dilemma she resorted to a stratagem which her friend, Madame de
Malamort helped her to put in practice, Madame de Malamort sent a
message to the troubadour asking: "Which do you prefer, a little bird in
the hand, or a crane flying high in the air?" Gaucelm's curiosity was
piqued; he came to ask her to unravel this riddle. "I am the little
bird," said she, "whom you hold in your hand, and Marie de Ventadour is
the crane who flies far above your head. Am I not as beautiful as she?
Love me who love you, and let this haughty countess find out, as she
will, what a treasure she has lost." The vanity of the troubadour,
incensed by what he thought unjust treatment, could not withstand this
artful attack. He consented to be off with the old love, and the new
love required that he take leave of the old love, not in any violent
sirvente, but in a poem relentless, stern, yet calm and dignified; after
which he might begin to sing as he pleased about the new love. Too proud
of his new conquest to suspect the trick being played on him, Gaucelm
bade farewell to Marie de Ventadour in a formal and very dignified
fashion. When he turned now to sing of joy and spring and the like to
Madame de Malamort he found his attentions very coldly received; and the
lady soon gave him to understand that, having got her friend out of a
difficulty, she cared not a fig for any troubadour. Gaucelm was nicely
trapped; he could not indulge in abuse of either lady without danger of
having the whole foolish tale told at his expense. He became a heretic
toward love, and satirized women in general; but he soon recovered from
this, and lived to be consoled by other ladies, and to be fooled by one
more. This one, Marguerite d'Aubusson, pretending the most devoted and
innocent romantic love for Gaucelm, used to meet her real lover under
cover of Gaucelm's roof.

Though not at all essential to the story, it is a fact worth mentioning
that Gaucelm Faidit himself was married while the romance with Marie was
in progress. The wife of a troubadour, indeed, was not allowed to
interfere with any really serious business of his career, such as a love
affair with another man's wife. That this was so, in theory at least,
can be seen in the story of the lives of many of the troubadours; and
that the general attitude of Provençal society, as represented by this
particular phase of its literature, was unfavorable to matrimony, can be
seen most clearly when we look at those curious institutions called
Courts of Love. It is not yet quite certain whether the Courts of Love
are altogether or only partly mythical.

This century of ours is a Sancho Panza among the centuries; like that
stout and excellent squire, we have unlimited faith in things material,
visible, tangible, and especially eatable and no faith in things
romantic, such as windmills, and knights-errant, and chivalry. Looked at
from the Panzaic point of view, which we are fain to admit is also the
common-sense point of view, it seems inherently most improbable that any
set of people should waste their time upon anything so fantastic as the
Courts of Love. Yet Panza should be asked to remember that there are and
have been things in heaven and earth that surpass the limits of his
philosophy; that the race among whom such institutions are alleged to
have flourished was notoriously sentimental, or poetic, if you like a
more respectful term; that, for a parallel, he has only to go to a
famous French romance, published less than two centuries ago, which
contained a grave description and map of the Country of Love, a _Carte
du pays de Tendre_, with minute directions as to how the amorous
traveller might proceed safely on his journey to the city of true love;
and that Molière's _Précieuses Ridicules_, however overdrawn for comic
effect, presents a picture of what really existed. Reason is,
undoubtedly, opposed to the possibility of the existence of the Courts
of Love; but, as we have said, we cannot always refuse to believe what
seems to us preposterous. The historical evidence for the existence of
the Courts of Love is unquestionably very scanty. Mr. Rowbotham, who
believes firmly in their existence, is forced to rely upon the testimony
of one contemporary witness, of very uncertain date (Andrew the
Chaplain, "who lived probably about the end of the twelfth century"),
and two very obscure allusions to courts and trials in the poems of the
troubadours. The chief sources for our knowledge of the Courts of Love
are writers long subsequent to the events, notably Jean de Nostredame,
who, in 1575, published a book entitled _Les Vies des plus célèbres et
anciens poetes provensaux_. But the tradition is so well established,
and above all so intimately associated with Queen Eleanor, that we shall
give a little sketch of the courts and their doings.

The _tensons_ of the troubadours were poetic disputes on points of love
and on lovers' conduct. If, says Jean de Nostredame, the disputants
"could not come to an agreement they referred the matter for decision to
the illustrious lady presidents who held open and plenary court at the
Castle of Signe, and other places, and these gave judgments which were
called the judgments of Love." If a lady treated her troubadour lover
unfairly, or if a lover were guilty of any dereliction or crime in love,
or if, for the guidance of future generations of lovers, a decision on a
mere point of gallantry were sought, all such cases came before the
Courts of Love, which had a regular code of laws, thirty-one in number,
upon which decisions were based. The court, composed of a jury of the
most beautiful, accomplished, and celebrated ladies of the neighborhood,
and presided over by some lady of special distinction, heard the pleas
on both sides, and gave judgment, which depended upon a unanimous vote
of the jury. There were several of these courts, the most famous being
those of Queen Eleanor of England, of her daughter, Marie de Champagne,
of the Viscountess of Narbonne, and of the Countess of Flanders. The
code under which these fantastic tribunals are said to have given their
judgment is a very curious document. The statutes of love are hardly so
rigorous as might be expected; some of them are merely proverbial bits
of wisdom, with here and there a hint very far from romantic:

IV. Love never stands still; it always increases--or diminishes.

X. Love is always an exile where avarice holds his dwelling.

Some seem so distinctly suggestive of a smirk beneath all this affected
seriousness that one can hardly take them seriously.

XV. Every lover is accustomed to grow pale at the sight of his

XVI. At the sudden and unexpected sight of his lady-love the heart of
the true lover invariably palpitates.

XX. A real lover is always the prey of anxiety and malaise.

XXIII. A person who is the prey of love eats little and sleeps little.

This last is, of course, a rule not only venerable, but universal. One
recalls Chaucer's Squire, "as fresshe as is the moneth of May," who
"coude songes make, and wel endite;... so hote he loved that by
nightertale he slep no more than doth the nightingale." Others of the
troubadour statutes are frankly suggestive of that moral laxity, not to
say obliquity of vision, of which we have spoken before.

I. Marriage cannot be pleaded as an excuse for refusing to love.

XI. It is not becoming to love those ladies who love only with a view to

XXVI. Love can deny nothing to love.

With this little group of laws in mind one can but reflect that, pushed
to their logical conclusion, they are suggestive of moral laxity. We are
not, however, left to guessing. According to Andrew the Chaplain, the
court of the Countess of Champagne was asked, on April 29, 1174, to
decide this question: "Can real love exist between married people?" The
countess and her court decided "that love cannot exercise its powers on
married people," the following reason being given in proof of the
assertion: "Lovers grant everything, mutually and gratuitously, without
being constrained by any motive of necessity. Married people, on the
contrary, are compelled as a duty to submit to one another's wishes, and
not to refuse anything to one another. For this reason it is evident
that love cannot exercise its powers on married people. Let this
decision, which we have arrived at with great deliberation, and after
taking counsel of a large number of ladies, be held henceforward as a
confirmed and irrefragable truth."

Quite in line with this judgment is one reported from the court of Queen
Eleanor. A gentleman, the complainant in the suit, was deeply in love
with a lady who loved another. Taking compassion on him, however, she
promised that, if ever she should lose her first lover, the complainant
should be received as his successor. The lady shortly after married her
lover. Thereupon the complainant, citing the decision of the Countess of
Champagne, demanded her love. The lady refused, denying that she had
lost the love of her lover by marrying him. Wherefore the complainant
humbly sued for judgment, we presume it might be called a writ _mandamus
amare_. The honorable court handed down a decision for the complainant,
declaring that the solemn decree of the court of the Countess of
Champagne was of force in the present case, and issuing the writ
_mandamus amare_ as prayed for: "We order that the lady grant to her
imploring lover, now the complainant before this court, the favors which
he so earnestly entreats, and which she so faithfully has promised."

One other decision of the gay Queen Eleanor is so righteous that we
cannot forbear repeating it. A gentleman brought suit because a lady of
whom he was enamored had accepted numerous handsome gifts from him and
yet persistently denied him her love. We are not altogether sure whether
the gentleman was not really bringing suit to recover his presents; but
Queen Eleanor gave judgment: "A lady who is determined to be inflexible
must either refuse to receive any gifts which are sent with the object
of winning her love, or she must make compensation for them, or she must
be content to be classed as a courtesan."

In all this world of love and song were the women merely objects of the
troubadour's song, or merely patronesses of the troubadour? Were there
no poetesses? The names of fourteen ladies who may be called troubadours
by reason of their own works are all of whom we have record, and even of
these fourteen not one was really a professional troubadour; in most
cases it is but one song, or even one part of a _tenson_, which gives
the lady a right to be named among the poets. We find Clara D'Anduse,
the beautiful love of the troubadour Uc de St. Cyr, remembered for but
one song; and but little more remains of the work of Countess Beatrice
de Die, who loved Rambaut d'Orange, and who tells of how this troubadour
loved her, and grew cold to her, and finally was faithless, forsaking
her for another; but she and her sister troubadours are shadowy figures:
the time had not come for woman to take a permanent place in literature.

In our attempt to present the literary and artistic side of Eleanor's
life, and to tell something of the brilliant society of Provence in
which she played no small part, we have neglected the facts of her
career in England. As Queen Eleanor of England, however, we shall not
have much to say of her. Even now she does not play a very prominent
part in history, and the development of her character is quite in line
with the moral training one would acquire in the Courts of Love. It does
seem as if there were such a thing as reaping the whirlwind.

Eleanor was eleven years older than her new husband. She had despised
Louis because he was too austere, too cold, too plain in mind and in
morals. Her new husband soon gave her ample cause to develop a new
passion jealousy. She learned to hate him for vices the very opposite of
Louis's colorless virtue. She herself had been notoriously a coquette,
and not an innocent one. She felt the eleven years of difference between
herself and Henry. The gossips said she could hardly expect to retain
Henry's affection, she who was so much older, and who had been, it was
rumored, the mistress of Henry's own father. Despite the gallant
principles she had professed in her own Court of Love, despite the
latitude to which she had thought herself entitled, she became furiously
jealous of Henry. There was, indeed, much reason for jealousy. Young,
hot-blooded, passionate, as greedy of pleasure as of power, Henry lost
no time in giving her numerous rivals. No means were too vile or too
violent when Henry wished to gratify his passions. It is said that he
even dishonored the young Princess Alice of France, betrothed to his son
Richard, and for that reason would never allow Richard to marry her.
There we're fierce quarrels between Eleanor and Henry, and tradition has
ascribed to her the murder of Fair Rosamond Clifford, whom she is said
to have pursued into the labyrinth of Woodstock and stabbed with her own

Finding it impossible to avenge herself in any other way, Eleanor
stirred up her sons against their father. They were all turbulent
enough, and needed little encouragement. The eldest living son, Henry,
injudiciously crowned king by his father's desire, persuaded himself
that he must be king in deed, and was spurred on by his mother and by
her friend, the restless troubadour Bertrand de Born. Raymond of
Toulouse, who had been sought by them as an ally, revealed the plot of
the queen and her sons to Henry. Young Henry and his brothers fled to
France, where they were received by Louis with royal honors. Eleanor was
imprisoned in her own duchy, and in prison she remained during Henry's
lifetime. The troubadours, devoted to their duchess, sang dolorous songs
upon her captivity, and voiced their hatred of her jailer, Henry, in
burning _sirventes_. But Henry went on relentlessly in the intermittent
struggle with his sons, conquered Bertrand de Born, and kept his
rebellious subjects in check. Not till he died, cursing Richard and
John, who had again been in revolt against him, was the queen released.

Hardly had Richard been crowned before he departed for the Crusade,
leaving Eleanor as regent. Even against her own son the old queen
intrigued; yet it was partly her indignant intervention which later
helped to release Richard from the German prison where the emperor,
instigated by Philip Augustus, would have kept him. The son whom she
loved best, John, loved and trusted her no more than did Richard. In the
struggle between Philip Augustus, championing Arthur of Brittany, and
John, Eleanor seems to have kept faith with her son, and to have given
him shrewd if cruel counsel. We hear of her but once or twice more in
active affairs. In 1200 she was sent by John into Spain to bring back
his niece, Blanche de Castille, who was betrothed to Prince Louis of
France by one of the terms of a treaty just concluded between John and
Philip Augustus. On her return, when passing through Bordeaux, a mob set
upon and killed one of her party, the detested Mercader, captain of
Richard's Brabançon mercenaries. Eleanor, old, and sick with fatigue and
fright at this scene of horror, could proceed no further, and stayed in
the abbey of Fontevrault, sending Blanche on with the Archbishop of
Bordeaux. She rallied from this illness, however, and two years later
had a narrow escape from being captured by her grandson, Arthur. She was
besieged, and very hard pressed, in the Château de Mirebeau, when Arthur
and his followers were surprised and captured by John. This episode of a
grand-mother besieged by her own grandson is quite in line with the
traditions of the family. "It is the fate of our family that none should
love the other," said Geoffrey Plantagenet.

In the midst of the triumph of Philip Augustus over her miserable son
John, old Queen Eleanor died, in the convent of Beaulieu, in 1204. The
miseries of her declining years make us more charitable toward her; but
it is impossible to respect a character such as that of England's
troubadour queen. One sometimes finds her praised for a splendid virtue,
that of impulsive generosity; but there was no generosity in her nature;
she was merely lavish in spending for her own pleasure. In keeping with
what a great historian has said of her son Richard Coeur de Lion, one
may say that she was a bad wife,--to two husbands,--a bad mother, and a
bad queen. There was in her nature none of the tenderness which alone
can ensure domestic love, nor yet enough force to enable her to make
herself a great queen.

Even before the death of their patroness the glories of the troubadours
were fading. There was an angry murmur, growing ever stronger, against
the immorality of the troubadours, and particularly against a new and
formidable heresy which had gained ground rapidly in the south of
France. With the doctrines of the Albigenses we are not concerned; it is
difficult to discover the exact truth about them, since we must rely
chiefly upon the testimony of their enemies. It is sufficiently well
established, however, that the Albigenses believed in a form of
Manichseism which asserted the existence of two Eternal powers,
equipotent, the one a power of Good, the other a power of Evil. Since
Evil ruled the world on equal terms with Good, might not man feel
utterly relieved of moral responsibility? Certainly, such is the
tendency of this species of Dualism.

Whether the Albigensian heresy be responsible or not, it is
unquestionable that the troubadours were in nearly all cases
indifferent, and in very many cases sceptical or utterly rebellious, in
their attitude toward the Church and its teachings. Among the nobility
the sacrament of marriage, so carefully hedged about by the canons of
the Church, could hardly have been regarded with much respect, since a
venal clergy was ready to sanction a union which their own Church
pronounced incestuous or to dissolve one which their own Church
pronounced indissoluble. Political and racial antipathy, the old
ineradicable and inexplicable hatred of north for south, helped on the
religious quarrel. Count Raymond of Toulouse, who seems to have been
merely an easy-going man, inclined rather to religious liberty and
freedom of conscience than to positive heresy, was assailed as a monster
of vice. At length, in 1208, Pope Innocent III. authorized the
Cistercian monks to preach a crusade against the Albigenses: "Arise! ye
soldiers of Christ! exterminate this impiety by every means that God may
reveal to you. Stretch forth your arms and smite the heretics, making
upon them war more relentless than upon the Saracens." So ran the papal
letters. The new crusade was preached far and wide over France, Germany,
and Italy, and a host of crusaders, promised greater indulgences than
those who went to the Holy Land, assembled to destroy Provence. Among
their leaders were two recreant troubadours, Izarn, who leaves us his
version of the fall of Provence, and Folquet, now Bishop of Toulouse,
who is so cruel, so bitter, so treacherous in the cause of Christ that
one enjoys hearing him called by the troubadour nickname "Bishop of
Devils." More terrible than Folquet, because more sincere, was one
Domingo, canon of Osma, a man of almost puritanic habits of mind, famous
in history as the founder of the order of _Fratres Predicatores_, the
Dominican Preaching Friars, and of an institution not less well
known--the Inquisition. The military leader who really broke the back of
the resistance in Provence was Simon de Montfort. The siege and capture
of Beziers, where a number of those accused of heresy had taken refuge,
will serve to show in what spirit the whole war was conducted. When
Beziers was taken the soldiers asked Abbot Arnold, of Citeaux, who
represented the Church of Mercy: "How shall we distinguish the faithful
from the heretics among the people of the town?" The priest answered:
_Caedite eos, novit enim Dominus qui sunt ejus_: "Kill them all, for the
Lord will know His own." In this spirit the Albigensian war continued,
with occasional respites, for more than thirty years. Over the land of
the troubadours brooded the menacing figure of the Inquisition; and fair
women no less than men knew the sinister meaning of "_La Question_" the
inquisition by torture, by scores of devices of ingenious cruelty, of
which the "rack" and the iron "boot" are best remembered. The brilliant
life of the south was extinguished. We hear the piteous wail of the fast
disappearing singers: "Oh! Toulouse and Provence, land of Agen, Beziers,
and Carcassonne; as I have seen you, and as I see you now!"

While Provençal literature was thus perishing miserably, that of France
was gradually unfolding; and we find here and there some _grande dame_
named as a patroness of literature. Most of them are but names, yet we
find that the Countess Marie de Champagne, Queen Eleanor's daughter,
encouraged the great _trouvère_ Chrestien de Troies. She made him
introduce into his romances the notions of love and chivalry fostered in
the Courts of Love, and gave him the theme of his romance of _Lancelot_,
or _Le conte de la Charrette_ (about 1170). For Blanche de Navarre was
made a prose translation of saints' lives. A poet named Menessier
completed, about 1220, for the Countess Jeanne de Flandre a poem on
Perceval and his search for the Holy Grail.

One French woman of this period, moreover, won for herself an abiding
place in literature. Of her personality we know nothing, and we are even
ignorant of the dates of her birth and death. Gathering her materials
from Welsh and Breton traditions and popular songs, she wrote a number
of _lays_, as she called them. These lays are short poems, in verse of
eight syllables, recounting some little romantic tale or adventure.
There are about twenty of them, of which fifteen, at least, are ascribed
to Marie. From another of her works we glean the few facts that follow,
substantially all that we know of her:

"At the end of this work, which I have translated and sung in the
Romance tongue (French), I will tell you something of myself. Marie is
my name, and I am of France. It may be that several clerks might take it
upon themselves to claim my work, and I wish none to say it is his: who
forgets himself works to no purpose. For the love of Count William, the
most valiant man in this kingdom, I undertook to write this book and to
translate it from English into Romance. He who wrote this book, or
translated it, called it Ysopet. He translated it from Greek into Latin.
King Henry (some manuscripts say Alfred), who loved it greatly, then
translated it into English, and I have turned it into French verse as
accurately as I could. Now I pray to God Almighty that I may be given
strength to do such work that I may give my soul into His hands, that it
may go straight to Heaven above. Say Amen, all of you, that God may
grant my prayer."

This conclusion of one of the fables in the book called _Ysopet_, which
we have translated freely, shows us that Marie was of French birth, but
that she had, probably, lived for a time in England. Who was Count
William? We are free to guess, but there seems no chance of confirming
the guess. Some have supposed him to be William Longsword, the reputed
son of Henry II. and Rosamond; while Henry, the king who loved the book
so well, might be Henry Beauclerc. But as the English book from which
Marie translated is lost, there is again no chance of confirmation. It
is now generally agreed, however, that Marie lived and wrote about the
end of the reign of Henry II.

_Ysopet_, or _Ysope_, as it is sometimes spelled, is nothing more than
the name of our dear old Æsop, whom childhood loves and whom folklore is
proving a myth. The term came to be the generic one in Old French for
collections of fables on the model of Marie's. Marie's fables cannot
compete with those of her great French successor, La Fontaine; and yet
one is always insensibly comparing them with his. The literary value of
her works is not great; the recital is too cold and impersonal; there is
too much of the apologue and none of that delightful individuality, the
reflection of his own mind, which La Fontaine manages to impress upon
his creatures; the writer shows no sympathy with the "little people" of
her fables.

The lays are decidedly more entertaining, and show considerable
narrative power, as well as an unconscious appreciation of the romantic
beauty of the incidents, many of which have to do with fairies and
enchantment. They are tales of love and adventure, full of marvels. One
meets King Arthur and Tristram, and a host of knights and ladies
transformed by the fairies. We may mention the pathetic _Lai de Frene_,
a story related to the famous one of _Patient Grissel_; the story of
_Guingamor_, a tale of a knight who lives three days in fairyland and
comes back to find that three hundred years had passed on earth; and the
story of the werewolf Bisclavret, which we may give as a specimen of
this very interesting portion of Old French literature interesting, at
least, to those who love literature in its infancy.

"When I set out to write lays," says Marie, "I would not forget
Bisclavret. In Breton he is called Bisclavret, while the Normans call
him _garwalf_ (werewolf)." We have heard often enough, she continues, of
men who became werewolves and lived in the forest. The werewolf is a
savage beast, and when he is in a rage he devours men and does much
damage. After this little preface, the tale goes on to tell of a knight
of Brittany, courteous, rich, beloved by all his neighbors. His wife,
however, was piqued by unreasoning curiosity about one thing, which was
quite enough, indeed, to arouse the curiosity of any wife. This was the
fact that for three days out of 'the week her husband disappeared, no
one knew whither. At length, she asked her husband where he went, and,
in spite of his reluctance to tell,

        "tant le blandi e losenia
        Que s'aventure li cunta,"

that is, she wheedled and coaxed him till he told her that on three days
of the week he must be a werewolf; that, going to the forest, he
stripped himself and hid his clothing carefully, and then was turned
into a wolf. He besought her not to reveal the hiding place of his
clothing; for if, when the three days were over, he should come back in
wolf form and find them gone, there would be no hope for him: he must be
a wolf for the rest of his days. Now, the wife, as usually happens in
such tales, was a wicked wife, anxious to rid herself of her werewolf
husband and marry a knight who had long been her lover:

        "Un chevalier de la cuntrée,
        Qui lungement l'aveit amée...
        E mult dune en sun servise."

To him she sends at once, and the guilty pair steal away the clothes of
the poor werewolf at the very first opportunity. And thus was Bisclavret
betrayed by his wife, who married him who had loved her long. The
werewolf is condemned to continue in wolf form; but one must remember
that there are disenchantments as well as enchantments in fairy stories,
and that justice, of a kind which is frequently _sui generis_, is
generally meted out to the guilty. The giant, it is true, gobbles up
people and behaves horribly for a season, but there is always a giant
killer in training for him. And so here, it is only for "one whole year"
that Bisclavret remains transformed; for the king goes hunting in the
forest, and his hounds pursue Bisclavret till the poor wretch runs
straight to the feet of the king, kisses his feet, and asks mercy in
such pitiful and almost human dumb show that the king orders him spared.

Bisclavret, taken under royal protection, accompanies the court
everywhere, till, on the occasion of a special assemblage of the barons,
the man who had married his wife comes into his presence. Straight at
his throat leapt the wolf-man, and would have torn him to pieces on the
spot had not the king interfered. The obvious hatred of the wolf for
this particular man aroused the king's suspicions, and these suspicions
were still further intensified when, not long after, the wolf manifested
the same violent hatred toward his former wife, now the wife of the
knight, biting her and scratching her face in spite of all that could be
done. Then, upon the advice of an old knight who remembered the
mysterious disappearance of Bisclavret and who knew something of Breton
legends, the king put the false wife to torture, and forced from her the
confession of the truth. Bisclavret, shut up in a room with the clothes
he had worn as a man, is transformed into a man once more and reinstated
in his possessions. The unfaithful wife, accompanied by her paramour, is
driven from the land, and, as a further retribution, several of her
children were born without noses, the wolf having bitten off her nose.
As Marie concludes, with triumphant rejoicing in the punishment of the
wicked even unto the third and fourth generation, "'tis true, indeed,
noseless were they born, and noseless did they live."

This paraphrase of Marie's work can, of course, give no idea of its
literary value; but the tale itself will serve as a sample of what the
first woman in French literature wrote. We have from her also a
translation of the famous legend of _Saint Patrick's Purgatory_, of how
a knight journeyed into the lower regions and came back to warn the
world of the punishments in store for the wicked. Marie represents but a
beginning--and yet it is a beginning--of the writing in their mother
tongue, which was to make famous many women as well as men of France. In
her day, indeed, it was a distinction to write in the mother tongue, for
among the classes which we should call literary Latin was considered the
only proper vehicle for their wisdom. Long after her day, indeed, Latin
still kept French from its birthright, and it will be two centuries
before we come to another woman who writes in French. Though the great
Héloïse and her letters, written not long before Marie's time, take
their place in literature, it is in the literature of scholastic Latin,
not of old French.



WHILE romance has preserved many memories, and history not a few facts,
of Eleanor of Guienne, the records concerning two other notable women,
her contemporaries, are very scanty. Whatever her faults, Eleanor was a
great and commanding personality, one that could not be overlooked
because, whether for good or ill, she was always powerful. The two
unhappy queens of Philippe Auguste, Ingeburge de Danemark and Agnes de
Meranie, though they were the innocent causes of much distress in
France, are yet hardly known to us as personalities.

The first queen of Philippe Auguste was Isabelle de Hainault; after her
death he sought the hand of a Danish princess, Ingeburge, sister of Knut
IV. The marriage was one contracted for political reasons; Philippe was
at the time engaged in his lifelong struggle against the power of the
Plantagenets, and desired an ally against Richard Coeur de Lion. At
Amiens, on Assumption eve, 1193, Ingeburge was married to the King of
France; the next day she was crowned Queen of France by the Archbishop
of Rheims. During the ceremony, says a chronicler of Aix, "the King,
looking on the Princess, began to conceive a horror of her; he trembled,
he grew pale, he was so greatly troubled in spirit that he could hardly
contain himself till the end of the ceremony." For some unknown reason
the fair stranger seems to have awakened in him unconquerable
repugnance; and from that moment he began to devise means of getting rid
of her.

Ingeburge, according to the testimony of those who had no special reason
to favor her but every reason to justify the king, was of a gentle
disposition, sensible, affectionate, and endowed with considerable
beauty of the type usually associated with Danish women. She was a
defenceless stranger, not even acquainted with the French language, and
there were but few in France to champion her cause in the painful
complications that followed. Philippe's aversion could by no means be
accounted for; in the Middle Ages what could not be accounted for, if of
evil nature, was the work of the devil or of his vicegerents on earth,
the witches; so it was promptly reported that the King of France was
bewitched, though it is not exactly apparent that the real force of the
enchantment fell upon him it was Ingeburge who suffered.

Philippe began proceedings to obtain an annulment of the marriage,
which, he asseverated, had never been consummated. This was denied by
Ingeburge, and we are inclined to take her word rather than that of the
unscrupulous king, who, though a successful ruler, was not at all averse
to falsehood where falsehood served his turn. The pair separated almost
at once, and Philippe tried by ill treatment to make Ingeburge consent
to a legal separation. After three months of the utmost unhappiness the
young queen had the shame of hearing her marriage declared null and
void. The council which rendered this decision consisted wholly of
French prelates, presided over by the very Archbishop of Rheims who had
pronounced the nuptial benediction over the pair. Ingeburge was at
Compiègne, where the council met, and was present at the session at
which her marriage was annulled on the frivolous pretext of a kinship,
not between Philippe and Ingeburge for even the ingenuity of mediaeval
genealogy could not trace out that but between the late Queen Isabella
and Ingeburge. The unfortunate Danish lady could not understand what
these priests were saying in the strange tongue of the land to which she
had come to be a queen; when the purport of the proceedings was
explained to her through an interpreter, she exclaimed, in tears: _"Male
France! Male France!_ Rome! Rome!"

[Illustration 3:
From a water-color by S. Baron, after a description by Viollet-le-Duc.
The decorated fireplace, between two windows, was wide enough to hold
logs eight or ten feet long. Two large benches were at right angles, one
with a movable back, the other being double-seated. The table was fixed
to the floor, the master's chair being elevated, other diners sat on
stools. The tablecloth was used for wiping fingers and lips. The buffet,
with cups and goblets on top, was used as to-day. Generally, the beds
were narrow and displayed great luxury: the wood was carved, incrusted,
or painted; the coverlets had fringes and embroideries; curtains formed
an alcove, and a night lamp was hung at the foot. The room contained an

In the rear were the kitchen, etc, and on the upper floors were sleeping
and other chambers.]

She did indeed appeal from "wicked France" to Rome, and the appeal was
not without ultimate good effect. In the meantime she refused to
prejudice her cause by returning to Denmark, and the heartless Philippe
confined her, almost as a criminal, in a convent at Cisoing, in the
Tournois; he did not even have the decency or the humanity to provide
suitably for her actual needs.

The appeal to Rome was pushed by Ingeburge's brother, Knut IV., and the
Pope, Celestine III., at length granted the appeal, on March 13, 1196,
reversing the decree of the council of Compiègne. The papal power was
then in very weak hands, and it was fear of offending the great King of
France that had occasioned the long delay in rendering justice to
Ingeburge. That something more than a mere papal decree would be needed
to subdue Philippe was apparent when, in June, 1196, he married Agnes de
Meranie, the lovely daughter of a German prince who, under the title of
Duke of Meranie, ruled the Tyrol, Istria, and a part of Bohemia. The
papal menaces had not deterred the king from this insolent act of
disobedience; and Pope Celestine made no attempt to coerce him by resort
to more rigorous measures. Ingeburge continued to live in confinement,
while Philippe enjoyed the love of his new wife, against whom no one
could lay the guilt of her husband's licentious conduct.

In January, 1198, Pope Celestine was succeeded by Innocent III., one of
the greatest of the occupants of the chair of St. Peter. He was of an
inflexible character, not to be turned aside by any considerations of
policy or of humanity from what he conceived to be his duty; and his
duty it was, and his right, according to his idea, to dominate the world
and the kings thereof. When the friends of Ingeburge called her case to
his attention, Pope Innocent wrote letter after letter of remonstrance
to Philippe Auguste, "the eldest son of the Church," summoning him to
return to the paths of duty and relinquish his "concubine", Agnes de
Meranie. He urged Philippe's spiritual adviser to bring him to reason by
pious exhortation. All else failing, he sent Cardinal Pierre of Capua as
a special legate, with injunctions to present the Church's ultimatum to
the king: he must either take Ingeburge back at once, with all honor, as
his lawful consort, or the entire kingdom would be put under interdict.
The legate pleaded and threatened in vain; after a year of exasperating
evasion the king was still not obedient. The legate at last summoned a
council and pronounced the interdict, all the prelates receiving
stringent orders to observe it under pain of suspension. From December,
1199, to September, 1200, France was under a general interdict.

In the case of Bertha and Robert, the ecclesiastical censures had
affected only the guilty couple; in the case of Bertrade and Philippe
I., only the places inhabited by them had been smitten. But the Church
had now grown stronger; now the whole kingdom was to suffer because of
the recalcitrant king. Everywhere religious services ceased, for the
clergy were in sympathy with or afraid of the vigorous statesman now in
the papal chair. The churches were closed, the altars dismantled, the
crosses reversed, the bells silent, as during the solemn days in memory
of Christ's Passion. The accustomed religious exercises ceased; but that
was only a small part of the horror, for no more sacraments, save
extreme unction and baptism of infants, could be celebrated. There were
no marriages: when the king wished to marry his son to the young Blanche
de Castille he was obliged to go into Normandy, into English territory,
to have the ceremony performed. There were no more funerals, for the
Pope forbade burials, whether in hallowed or in unhallowed ground: the
air was filled with the pestilential stench from unburied corpses. The
voice of the people rose in wrath against their impious king; it was he
who was bringing all this woe upon the land. Philippe and Agnes lived
on, she happy in the love of her king, and in her children, Philippe and
Marie, he stubbornly resistant. He deprived bishops of their sees and
sequestered their goods; he punished even laymen for daring to take the
side of the Pope. But at last he must yield, for his people would endure
no more.

Ingeburge was taken back as wife and queen, being at last released from
the chateau of Etampes where she had been confined. But the king, deeply
in love with Agnes, declared that this recognition of Ingeburge was only
provisional, since he meant to appeal once more to Rome for an annulment
of the marriage. The fair Agnes, the victim of these unfortunate
circumstances, did not long survive the separation from Philippe, whose
passionate love she returned. A few weeks later she died at Poissi,
giving birth to a short-lived son named Tristan, the pledge of his
mother's sorrows. She had given Philippe two children before this, and,
though her union with the king had been stigmatized as immoral by the
Church, the Pope recognized the legitimacy of the offspring in November,
1201. It was her son Philippe, surnamed Hurepel, who became Count de
Boulogne, and played no pleasing rôle under Blanche de Castille.

The death of Agnes de Meranie did not tend to soften Philippe's feelings
toward Ingeburge. She was imprisoned anew, and treated with every
indignity that could be devised, short of calling down again the wrath
of Pope Innocent. For eleven years she was treated in this way, and was
constantly urged, by entreaties and threats, to take the veil, while
Philippe was continuing his efforts to have the marriage annulled. In
1212, however, Philippe had need of the friendship of Rome. Ingeburge
was again taken from her prison at Etampes and received at court: the
victory of the Pope was complete, as far as the letter of the law was
concerned. There was never any love between the royal pair, and could
not be; for between them stood the sad ghost of Agnes de Meranie to
incite Ingeburge to jealousy and Philippe to fresh aversion.

Ingeburge could never have been happy with Philippe, though he treated
her more considerately and fairly during the last years of his life.
When her husband died, in 1223, and his son Louis VIII. came to the
throne, Ingeburge was nearer peace than she had been since she left her
native land. We hear, henceforth, almost nothing of her; there was no
role for a dowager queen, especially one who was a foreigner associated
with most distressing events for France. We do find her name as one of
the notabilities in the solemn procession which, on August 2, 1224, went
from the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Abbey of St. Antoine, to ask of
the Lord of Hosts for a victory for the arms of Louis VIII. at Rochelle.
Now and again her name occurs in the accounts of the royal household
while that careful economist, Blanche de Castille, is governing France.
She is called "la reine d'Orléans," because she lived at Orléans, part
of the domain reserved to her as Queen Dowager. Here she lived quietly,
and let us hope not unhappily, till her death in 1237. She lived in the
midst of great events in which she could take no part; and only her
sorrows have preserved for us this fragment of her story.

Before we begin the history of the greatest queen France had yet seen,
Blanche de Castille, it might be well to note some of the changes in
social conditions since the age of the early Capetians. These changes
were, fortunately, all in the direction of amelioration; for the
civilization of France, of Europe, was taking long strides during the
eleventh and twelfth centuries, and an advance in civilization involves
an improvement in the condition of women. Historians usually look at the
matter from the point of view of man; it must be our endeavor to treat
of social conditions and their causes rather from the point of view of

Glancing at the history of France for a moment, it is easy enough to
distinguish certain causes or motive forces in the advance in
civilization. Because it is usually quite overlooked, we shall name
first the influence of contact with that very society of Provence which
France was bending her energies to bring to utter ruin. Unquestionably
the _trouvères_ of northern France owed something of their art to the
_troubadours_ of southern France, even if the former were more than mere
imitators. The softening effect of the musical and literary arts
professed by these poets need not be dwelt upon, but we might remark
that it was to the ladies of France, in most cases, that the _trouvères_
sang, and that this conversion of the bard, singing the glories of his
chief, into the minstrel, still singing of battles but also of fair
ladies and for the ears of fair ladies, is a fact not lacking
significance. Woman was no longer the mere toy of the warrior; it is no
longer Aude, barely mentioned in the _Chanson de Roland_, but Nicolette,
that fairest, sweetest of the mediæval heroines of romance, who is of
more interest than Aucassin in the story. And this little _chantefable_,
as it is aptly called, of _Aucassin et Nicolette_, is so nearly
Provençal that Provence has claimed it; it lies on the borderland
between the manner of the troubadours and that of the _trouvères_. A
woman is here distinctly a heroine, no longer a mere foil to the hero;
and the lovely little tale is manifestly intended to please an audience
of ladies as well as of knights.

We have spoken of this Provençal influence and sought to illustrate what
may be the method of its working, through the minstrel in the lady's
bower, but we do not care to lay too much stress upon it, because it may
not be entirely distinct from a still greater and kindred influence.
When the hosts of Peter the Hermit, crazed with religious fanaticism
such as the world sees but once in a great while, straggled back from
their crusade it might have been thought that they brought with them
nothing but the memory of their sufferings, or the precious memory of
those holy places they had journeyed so far and endured so much to see.
But their crusade had been a success; they had won the holy places from
the infidel, and after they had achieved their success they had had time
to look about them upon the new civilization with which they found
themselves in contact. When they come back to their homes they bring
enthusiastic memories of the glories of the East, and soon the spirit of
sheer adventure replaces, almost insensibly, religious feeling, and
crusade follows crusade, till we find one that does not even pretend to
go to Palestine, but devotes itself to the conquest of Constantinople,
full of riches and luxuries undreamed of in France. When Geoffrey
Villehardouin gives a glowing description of the magnificence of
Constantinople we see that already there is appreciation of things that
the first crusaders would have scorned or ruthlessly destroyed. The
influence of the Crusades in introducing higher standards of domestic
comfort, greater luxury, greater refinement, has been too often dwelt
upon to need further notice here.

The cause of woman and of civilization was helped in another way by the
Crusades. While the warlike barons found a vent for their surplus
fighting blood in smiting the infidel and robbing the Greek, there was
peace at home, for private wars and feuds ceased. The barons, moreover,
needed money to continue their sojourn in the army of Christ; and we
hear that in the splendor of the preparations for that Crusade in which
Eleanor took part the nobles of France vied with each other till they
were almost ruined. To get this money they sold freedom to their slaves,
immunity from vexatious feudal rights to their serfs, privileges and
charters to their burgesses. While they themselves were spending their
money and acquiring expensive tastes and refined ideas in contact with
the Greeks and Saracens, their subjects were acquiring a greater degree
of freedom, and their king, if he were a wise one, was consolidating his
kingdom and girding up his loins for more effective resistance to their
turbulence. The strength of the monarchy increased as the power of the
independent baronage decreased, and the strength of the monarchy meant
greater tranquillity, greater respect for law, and the fostering of
conditions favorable to the growth of commerce.

Manners were still rough and cruel, for the Crusades had not tamed the
ferocity of the European heroes. We hear that, when Saladin refused to
pay the enormous ransom demanded for the town of Acre, Richard Coeur de
Lion put to death the two thousand six hundred captives whom he held as
hostages, and the Duke of Burgundy did likewise with his captives. But
in France there was getting to be less and less opportunity for the
display of wanton cruelty toward the lower orders of society. The
seigneur still believed in the truth of the old proverb:

        "Oignez vilain, il vous poindra;
        Poignez vilain, il vous oindra."

(Stroke a villain, and he will sting you; sting a villain, and he will
stroke you); but the number of serfs was constantly diminishing. The
great communal movement emancipated the bourgeois of the towns; whole
villages bought their freedom; the monarchy favored enfranchisement and
gave the example in freeing serfs here and there, till, in 1315, all the
serfs of the royal domain were set free, and the great doctrine was
proclaimed: _Selon le droit de nature, chacun doit nattre
franc_--"according to the law of nature, everyone should be born free."

The general improvement in conditions affected more visibly the
bourgeois class. We find, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, that
the members of this class are beginning to build large, solid houses of
stone, with ogival windows, and sometimes with lofty towers and
crenelated battlements. As a class they become richer and obtain
recognition. When Philippe Auguste contemplated paving some of the
streets of Paris--they had been mere roads of mud--he sent for the rich
citizens to ask their assistance. One of these, Richard de Poissi, is
said to have contributed eleven thousand marks in silver. Then the
guilds of the tradesmen become wealthy and exercise considerable
political power. It is in the reign of Saint Louis that the trade guilds
of Paris become so numerous that Etienne Boileau compiles a _Livre des
métiers_, containing the statutes of the greater number of them.

In the dress of all classes above the abjectly poor there was a tendency
toward greater show, vainly repressed during part of the thirteenth
century, but continuing to increase even under repression. The standard
costume during the whole period of the Crusades was indeed plain, and
very similar for men and for women. On their heads ordinary women wore
only a sort of coif, or the cowl attached to the long robe or gown,
though there were a few ladies of fashion who scandalized the community
by wearing tall, pointed bonnets, sometimes cone-shaped, sometimes with
two horns, and with a veil hanging from the tip to form a sort of
wimple. The chief article in the dress of both sexes was the garment
called a cotte-hardie, consisting of a long robe reaching to the feet
and confined at the waist by a girdle. The sleeves of the cotte-hardie
were, among sober-minded dames, rather close fitting and plain; fashion
had them made absurdly large, flaring at the wrist to many times the
dimensions of the upper part, and sometimes so long as not only to cover
the whole hand, but to trail upon the ground. Over the _cotte-hardie_
was worn the _surcot_, a sort of tunic, shorter than the undergarment,
and either without sleeves or with elbow sleeves. On grand occasions a
handsome mantle was worn, but the use of this was generally restricted
to noble ladies. The shoes were usually simple, lacing higher on the leg
than what we now call shoes; sometimes, however, they were made of gaily
colored leathers, richly embroidered, or even of cloth of gold, damask,
or the like. The days of high heels had not yet come, and women's shoes
seem never to have been quite so outrageous as those long pointed shoes
worn by the dandies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

It was at the other end of the costume, the headgear, that women
displayed their extravagance. Fearfully and wonderfully were the
headdresses made, judging from the pictures in manuscripts and from the
indignation of the satirists. The modest bonnet sprouted horns of
alarming shape and proportions. "When ladies come to festivals," says a
thirteenth century satirist, "they look at each other's heads, and carry
_bosses_ like horned beasts; if any one is without horns, she becomes an
object of derision." Not content with having betrayed man by her
flirtation with Lucifer in Eden, Eve must now wear on her head the very
mark of the beast. No text served as the basis for sermons with more
frequency or more delight than one attacking the horns of the ladies.
One preacher advised his hearers to cry out: _Hurte, bélier!_--"Beware
the ram!" when one of these horned monsters approached, and promised ten
days' absolution to those who would do so. "By the faith I owe Saint
Mathurin," exclaims the monkish satirist, "they make themselves horned
with platted hemp or linen, and so counterfeit dumb beasts; they carry
great masses of other people's hair on their heads." The author of the
_Romance of the Rose_ describes with great unction the gorget, or
neckcloth, hanging from the horns and twisted two or three times around
the neck. These horns, he says, are evidently designed to wound the men.
"I know not whether they call those things that sustain their horns
gibbets or corbels,... but I venture to say Saint Elizabeth did not get
to heaven by wearing such things. Moreover, they are a great encumbrance
(owing to the hair piled up, etc.), for between the gorget and the
temple and horns there is quite enough room for a rat to pass, or the
biggest weasel 'twixt here and Arras."

Neither ridicule nor threats of eternal damnation, however, made any
impression on the daughters of Eve, and the horns continued to adorn
their fair heads. The other parts of the costume, as we have said, were
usually simple. The robe, or _cotte-hardie_, and the _surcot_ were
generally of plain cloth of solid color; but as wealth increased, the
use of expensive materials became more and more common, and silk, cloth
of gold, and velvet appeared on various parts of the dress, as well as a
profusion of jewels. A short passage from the description of the costume
of the queen in Philippe de Beaumanoir's _La Manekine_ may serve to show
the utmost that imagination could devise in the way of dress, for, of
course, the costume of the heroines of romance is always some degrees
more elegant than that to which the fair readers are accustomed.

"The queen arose early in the morning, well dressed and richly jewelled.
(Her costume) was laced with a thick gold thread, with two big rubies to
every finger's breadth: no matter how dark the skies, one could see
clearly by the light of these jewels. She clothed her beautiful body in
a robe of cloth of gold, with fur sewn all about it. So fine was the
cloth of her girdle that I can scarcely describe it. There were upon it
many little platines of gold linked together with emeralds beautiful and
costly, and one sapphire there was in the clasp, worth full a hundred
marks in silver. Upon her breast she wore a brooch of gold set with many
precious stones. Over her shoulders and about her neck she had fastened
a mantle of cloth of gold, no man ever saw more beautiful. Her furs were
no common, moth-eaten things, but sable, which makes people look
beautiful. At her girdle she wore a purse, in all the world there is
none more elegant. Upon her head rested a crown whose like was not to be
found; for one gazed at it in wonder and admiration of the beautiful
stones in it, stones of many virtues: emeralds, sapphires, rubies,
jacinths,... never was a more beautiful one seen."

Though the number of jewels is probably magnified, the essential
features of the costume correspond to what a lady of fashion would have
liked to wear in the year 1250. The mantle, being regarded as suitable
for full dress occasions, was much ornamented. In the _Roman de la
Violette_ (about 1225) we find this description of a lady's mantle: "She
wore a mantle greener than the leaves and trimmed with ermine. Upon it
were embroidered little golden flowerets, cunningly worked; each one had
attached to it, so hidden as to be invisible, a little bell. When the
wind blew against the mantle, sweetly sounded the bells. I give you my
word that nor harp nor rote nor vielle ever gave forth so sweet a sound
as these silver chimes."

Not all ladies, of course, were so gorgeously attired, and even among
the noble ladies of the land the delicacy of manners did not always
match the elegance of the attire. To get some idea of what a fine lady
did, we may look at some of the things she is warned against doing in a
sort of book on deportment, of the thirteenth century,--Robert de
Blois's _Chastiement des dames._

        "Cest livre petit priseront
        dames, s'amendées n'en sont;
        por ce vueil je cortoisement
        enseignier les dames comment
        eles se doivent contenir,
        en lor aler, en lor venir,
        en lor tesir, en lor parler."

(Ladies will think but little of this book if they are not improved by
it; therefore will I politely teach the ladies how they should conduct
themselves, in their goings, in their comings, in silence, and when
talking.) This last item, he remarks, requires much care. "Do not talk
too much," he continues, "especially do not boast of your love affairs;
and do not be too free in your conduct with men when playing games, lest
they be encouraged to take liberties with you. When you go to church,
take good care not to trot or run, but walk straight, and do not go too
far in advance of the company you are with. Do not let your glances rove
here and there, but look straight ahead of you; and salute courteously
everyone you meet, for courtesy costs little. Let no man put his hand
upon your breast, or touch you at all, or kiss you; for such
familiarities are dangerous and unbecoming, save with the one man whom
you love. Of this lover, too, you must not talk too much, nor must you
glance often at men, or accept presents from them. Beware of exposing
your body out of vanity, and do not undress in the presence of men. You
must not dispute and get in the habit of scolding, nor must you swear.
Above all, eschew eating greedily at the table, and getting drunk, for
this latter practice is fraught with danger to you. Unless your face is
ugly or deformed, do not cover it in the presence of gentlemen, who like
to look at the beautiful." One can guess that this rule was rigidly
obeyed; those succeeding touch upon matters still more delicate. "If
your breath is bad, take care not to breathe in people's faces, and eat
aniseed, fennel, and cummin for breakfast. Keep your hands clean, cut
your nails so that they be not permitted to grow beyond the tip of the
finger and harbor dirt. It is not polite to gaze into a house when you
are passing, for people may do many things in their houses that they
would not have seen; it would be well, therefore, when you go into
another person's house, to pause a moment on the sill and cough or speak
loud, so that they may know you are coming."

Before we give Robert de Blois's directions for table manners it may be
well to say a few words about the table. Among the common people the
table itself was little more than a rude board on trestles, with benches
or stools along the side and with places scooped out to hold the portion
of food allotted to each person. Among the more well-to-do classes,
however, the table was a more ornamental piece of furniture. The benches
or stools still remained, but the rest was more civilized. The food,
consisting of vegetables, roast fowls, boiled meats, and fish was served
in large earthenware platters. There were no forks, but spoons and
fingers were freely used as well as knives, each guest frequently using
his own knife or dagger. As the guests had to help themselves, often
with their fingers, out of the common serving platters, there was some
reason in the ceremony which preceded each meal; this was the washing of
hands, for which the trumpeter sounded a call. Every gentleman had the
right to _faire corner l'eau_, as it was called, that is, to have his
trumpeter sound the call for washing hands. When this call sounded the
pages of the establishment bore the ewer to the ladies, and servants of
less pretension did likewise for the gentlemen. Napkins were provided
for drying one's hands after this, but the time had not yet come when
there were regular table napkins; instead, each wiped his hands or mouth
upon the tablecloth, and his knife upon a piece of bread. The company
sat at the table in couples, a gentleman and a lady together. This means
more than may be apparent at first sight, for one must remember that
there was usually but one drinking cup for each couple and that they ate
from a common plate. The plate, as we ventured to call it, was regularly
a large piece of bread, flat and round, which served to hold the food
and absorb the gravy. At the end of the meal this bread, called _pain
tranchoir_, was given to the poor, with the other scraps from the table.
It took a careful hostess properly to pair off the couples, for it must
have been very embarrassing for either lady or gentleman to have to
_manger à la même écuelle_ (eat out of the same porringer) and drink out
of the same cup with one personally distasteful. In the romance of
_Perceforest_ we find the description of a banquet where there were
eight hundred knights, "and there was not a one who did not have lady or
maiden to eat from his porringer." There was great profusion if not
great delicacy upon the table; we shall content ourselves with echoing
what Philippe de Beaumanoir says: "If I undertook to describe the dishes
they had I should stop here forever.... Each had as much as he wished
and whatever he wished: meats, fowls, venison, or fish cooked in many

[Illustration 4: LADIES HUNTING.
After the painting by Henri Génois.
Sometimes brawls followed the too free use of wine, as one romance tells
us "you might see them throw at each other cheeses, and big
quartern-loaves, and hunks of meat, and sharp steel knives." But
sometimes the ladies strolled off into the gardens and played
games--blindman's-buff, or frog-in-the-middle, or the like--or sang to
the harp, or sewed. A great deal of time, indeed, was spent out of
doors, not only in the gentler field sports, such as hawking, in which
ladies participated, but also in the mere routine of daily life. In the
romances many a scene of revelry as well as of love making takes place
under the trees; and the ladies are not always idling away their time,
either; for we find them spinning, embroidering, or at least making
garlands of flowers.]

Upon a table so appointed and served we can understand that some of the
cautions of Robert de Blois to the ladies would be most useful. "In
eating you must avoid much laughing or talking. If you eat with another
(out of the same _écuelle_), turn the nicest bits to him, and do not
pick out the finest and largest for yourself, which is not good manners.
Moreover, no one should try to devour a choice bit which is too large or
too hot, for fear of choking or burning herself.... Each time you drink,
wipe your mouth well, that no grease may go into the wine, which is very
unpleasant to the person who drinks after you. But when you wipe your
mouth after drinking, do not wipe your eyes or nose with the tablecloth,
and take care not to get your hands too greasy or let your mouth spill
too much." The really well-bred lady, then, must be like Chaucer's

        "At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle;
        She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle,
        Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.
        Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
        Thatte no drope ne fell upon hire brest.
        In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest.
        Hire over lippe wiped she so clene,
        That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
        Of grese, when she dronken hadde hire draught.
        Ful semely after hire mete she raught."

One might almost fancy that old Dan Chaucer, the first humorist of
modern times, was copying from and slyly poking fun at our friend Robert
de Blois and his fine lady.

        "Quant mengie eurent, si laverent.
        Li menestrel dont en alerent
        Cascuns à son mestier servir."

(When they had eaten, they washed their hands; then the minstrels began,
each doing that which he could do best.) The tables cleared, the guests,
the ladies not excepted, watched the tricks of the jugglers and
tumblers, listened to the minstrels, or told tales, nearly all of which
were horribly coarse. Sometimes brawls followed the too free use of
wine, as one romance tells us "you might see them throw at each other
cheeses, and big quartern-loaves, and hunks of meat, and sharp steel
knives." But sometimes the ladies strolled off into the gardens and
played games--blindman's-buff, or frog-in-the-middle, or the like--or
sang to the harp, or sewed. A great deal of time, indeed, was spent out
of doors, not only in the gentler field sports, such as hawking, in
which ladies participated, but also in the mere routine of daily life.
In the romances many a scene of revelry as well as of love making takes
place under the trees; and the ladies are not always idling away their
time, either; for we find them spinning, embroidering, or at least
making garlands of flowers. We have a pretty picture in the _Roman de la
Violette_ of a burgher's daughter "who sat in her father's chamber,
working a stole and amice in silk, with care and skill, and embroidering
upon her work many a little cross and star, singing the while this
spinning song (_chanson à toile_)."

With all this romance and poetry there went a freedom of intercourse
between the sexes that not infrequently led to serious immorality. Not
only did the ladies play rather rough games and listen to very vulgar
stories with the men, but they received visits from men in their
bed-chambers, _tête-à-tête_. More surprising still, ladies sometimes
visited men in this way, without its being considered a serious breach
of etiquette, as one can see in the fashionable romance of _Jean de
Dammartin et Blonde d'Oxford_. The ladies, when they really fell in
love, did not attempt to conceal the passion from any feeling of shame
or delicacy; nay, they were commonly very forward, and became ardent
suitors sometimes, with less of restraint in word and deed than was
shown by the chivalrous knight under similar circumstances. Indeed, the
knight had need to be a veritable Joseph to withstand temptation, if
there were many scenes in real life like that described, for example, in
the romance of _Amis et Amiles_, where the good knight is pursued by a
demoiselle who positively insists on loving him.

The hours of the lady's day were regulated, we may suppose, by the
proverb which says:

        "Lever à cinq, diner à neuf,
        Souper à cinq, coucher à neuf,
        Fait vivre d'ans nonante et neuf."

(Rising at five, dining at nine, supping at five, sleeping at nine,
makes one live to ninety-and-nine.) Sometimes, instead of rising at five
and dining at nine, it is rising at six and dining at ten, supping at
six and to bed by ten; but we are not, in this case, promised the
ninety-and-nine years of life. Dinner between nine and ten, and other
meals at suitable hours, seems to have been the rule in France even
until the sixteenth century. Breakfast was a very uncertain meal (think
of breakfast before a nine o'clock dinner!), but supper was almost as
elaborate as dinner. As candles and lamps were very expensive, being
regarded as almost a luxury, there was some reason in the early hours
for meals. For the same reason, in summer, when there were no fires to
supply light, most people went to bed as soon as it grew dark. The lady
of the house is told, in a French housekeeper's book of the fourteenth
century, to see that the candles are not wasted. She must go around to
see that all fires are out and the house properly closed and that the
servants are in bed. These latter are to place the candle allowed them
on the floor, at a safe distance from the bed, and the lady must take
care "to teach them to put out their candle with the mouth, or with the
hand before getting in bed, and not by throwing their chemises over
it"--servants, mistress, and all, be it remembered, slept naked.

The kind of life we have been describing, the washing of hands, the
plentiful food, the wine, the amusements, the rich costumes--all these
are things belonging to the lady. The woman of the poorer classes, the
laboring woman, had no such comforts; lucky was she, indeed, if she had
enough of coarse food and coarse clothing for herself and children. The
mediaeval moralists noted the inequality of the classes, and one of them
compares the fare of the rich, which we have mentioned, with that of the
poor: "There was not one among them, great or small, who did not have a
fine appetite for dry (black) bread, and garlic, and salt; nor did they
eat anything else with these, neither mutton, nor beef, nor a bit of
goose or young spring chicken. And after the meal they took up the basin
with both hands, and drank water." Having attempted to give some idea of
the life of a lady of the time, we may now turn to the life of Blanche
de Castille, the first lady of France in the second quarter of the
thirteenth century. For the first time we shall find a woman whose
history will include a large part of the history of France during her
period. As a late biographer, Elie Berger, _Histoire de Blanche de
Castille_, says: "Her life, during a great part of the thirteenth
century, is the life of France itself, the France to which she gave
peace; her history is the history of the power of the throne, of the
monarchy, outside of which there was then no France, no _patrie_."



IN a preceding chapter we saw how old Queen Eleanor was despatched into
Spain to bring her granddaughter, Blanche de Castille, as a bride for
Louis of France, and how Eleanor fell ill on the way, and handed over
her charge to Elie de Malmort, Archbishop of Bordeaux. The child whom
Eleanor was bringing back as a sacrifice to peace between John and
Philippe Auguste was then but a little over twelve years of age. Blanche
was born in the early part of the year 1188, at Palencia. Her father, a
good man and a brave warrior, was Alphonso VIII., surnamed the Noble,
King of Castille; and her mother was Eleanor of England, daughter of
Henry II. and Eleanor of Guienne. Fortunately, this latter lady seems to
have inherited none of the bad traits of her mother and namesake; at
least contemporary accounts call her "chaste, noble, and of good
counsel." The family of the young Princess Blanche was large and of
illustrious connections. We need not note those of the direct
Plantagenet line, which are sufficiently familiar, but on her father's
side we may mention her eldest sister, Berengère, who, married to her
cousin, the King of Leon, had been forced to separate from him in spite
of their love, in spite of their children, in spite of important reasons
of state. Queen Berengère was of a character, it appears, very much like
that of her sister, and there was much love between the two. Another
sister, but a year older than Blanche, married Alphonso of Portugal,
whose brother was that Count Ferrand de Flandre defeated at Bouvines by
Philippe Auguste and kept in captivity for many years. Of this sister a
curious story is told.

It appears that, in the negotiations between John and Philippe Auguste,
the name of the Princess of Castille who should become the wife of
Prince Louis had not been specified. The King of Castille had two
unmarried daughters, Urraque and Blanche. When the ambassadors of France
came, accompanied by Queen Eleanor, the two princesses were brought
before them. They chose Urraque, as the elder and the more beautiful;
but when they heard her name they protested that would never do, it was
too hard for the people of France to learn to pronounce; and so the
choice fell upon Blanche.

After being conducted to Normandy, where was the court of her uncle,
John, the little princess was married immediately. The treaty for whose
ratification and observance she was a sort of pledge was signed on May
22, 1200. John ceded nearly all that Philippe could ask, and bestowed
twenty thousand marks sterling upon the young husband. The next day the
ceremony was performed at Portmort, on the right bank of the Seine, by
the Archbishop of Bordeaux, in the presence of a great assemblage of
barons and ecclesiastics. The young prince and his bride could not be
married on French soil by reason of the interdict then in force against
his father for repudiating Ingeburge; hence the choice of Norman soil
and of such an out of the way place. The prince, aged only twelve years
and six months, proceeded with Blanche direct to Paris. There is no
record of the usual festivities accompanying a royal marriage, despite
the accounts of some modern historians, who claim that there were grand
tourneys, and that Louis was wounded in one of them.

In one so young as Blanche it is useless to look for the traits of the
grown woman; we might conjecture much, but it would be in the light of
after events. To those about her at this time Blanche seemed a beautiful
girl, deserving of the flattering play upon words which her name
suggested. She was _la princesse candide_ not only in looks but in
conduct, and won the devoted love of her boy husband, who seems to have
been himself of a lovable disposition. It was at his request that Hugh
of Lincoln, at that time in great repute, visited Blanche, whom he found
in tears and managed to console. But the times were troublous, and we
may well suppose that there was little chance for the fostering of quiet
domestic virtues when one had been forced to marry merely for reasons of
state. It is rumored, though not positively confirmed, that the crafty
King of France made use of his young daughter-in-law to solicit from
King John another slice of Normandy, which John dared not refuse.
Whether this be true or not, it is at least certain that neither
immediately nor ultimately did the marriage of Blanche de Castille help
the English Plantagenets. For John quarrelled with Alphonso, Blanche's
father, and the two were at war with intervals of truce, between 1204
and 1208, the subject of dispute being Gascony. Blanche naturally sided
with her father rather than with her uncle, and when she bore heirs who
might inherit the crown of France, made stronger by the accession of the
Norman lands which had been taken from John and given to her husband, it
is easy to see that her sympathies would be with her adopted country.

Blanche's first child a daughter, who lived but a short time, and whose
name is not known was born in 1205. On September 9, 1209, she gave birth
to a son, hailed as the heir to the crown, and named Philippe, in honor
of his grandfather. But this child, too, lived only a few years, dying
when between eight and nine. In the interval, on January 26, 1213,
Blanche had borne twins, Alphonse and Jean, who did not live long. Other
domestic joys and sorrows were coming to the young princess. Her father
won a great victory over the Moors, at Las Navas de Tolosa, July 16,
1212, and her sister Berengère wrote her the glad news: "It is my
pleasure to inform you of joyful news; thanks be to God, from whom all
good comes, our king, our lord, our father has vanquished on the field
of battle the Emir Almounmenim, by which, I think, he has won very great
honor; for until this time it has never happened that a king of Morocco
has been defeated in a pitched battle." Within two years after this the
gallant Alphonso was dead, and one month later his wife Eleanor followed
him to the tomb.

Father and mother had thus both been taken from Blanche, while she was
far from them, in a strange land. But her new country was winning a hold
upon her heart; in the war then waging between her Uncle John and her
father-in-law, all her interests and all her affection were on the side
of France. And now another son was born, on Saint Mark's day, April 25,
1215, at the royal residence of Poissy. The child was named Louis, and
his birth seems to have created but little interest, as was natural,
since the older brother, Philippe, was still living. But this child
became the famous Saint Louis, and pious legends must needs gather
around his birth and his infancy: it was at the special intervention of
Saint Dominique, whose prayers Blanche had asked, that this son was
born; then, at the time of his birth, the pious queen learned that, out
of consideration for her, the bells of the church of Poissy had been
silenced, so she had herself removed, though then in childbed. The piety
of Blanche was sincere but never exaggerated; it is easy to see in such
a legend the art of those who thought it fitting that a saint, even
before birth, should allow nothing to interfere with the services of the
church. In like manner Blanche's extreme jealousy in regard to her baby
is a fiction that has been often repeated. Louis was given to a nurse,
Marie la Picarde, and there is no truth in the story which represents
Blanche as snatching him from the breast of one of her ladies and
forcing the infant to disgorge the milk of the stranger.

The little Louis was not two years old when the English barons, in
revolt against John, called his father to their aid and promised him the
throne of England, to which he had no claim except through Blanche.
Louis went to England, in spite of the anathemas of the Pope against all
who dared oppose John. Successful at first against the English king, the
French prince began to suffer serious reverses when the hated John was
succeeded by his son, Henry, against whom the English barons had no just
cause of complaint. Philippe Auguste had been from the beginning too
politic to lend his son open assistance, or even to sanction his
enterprise. The task of collecting and sending him reinforcements
devolved upon Blanche. For the first time the full energy of her
character is displayed. A chronicler, almost contemporary, records an
alleged interview between her and Philippe Auguste, who, deaf to his
son's entreaties for help, had declared that he would do nothing, and
that he did not care to risk excommunication. "When Madame Blanche (it
is by this title that she is referred to even when queen) heard of this
she came to the king and said: 'Would you let my lord, your son, perish
thus in a strange land? Sire, for God's sake, remember that he is to
reign after you; send him what he needs, at least the revenues of his
own patrimony.' 'Certes,' said the king, 'I will do nothing, Blanche.'
'Nothing, sire?' 'No, truly.' 'In God's name, then,' replied Blanche, 'I
know what I will do.' 'And what will you do?' 'By the holy Mother of
God, I have beautiful children by my husband; I will put them in pledge,
and well I know some who will lend me on their security.' Then she
rushed madly from the king's presence; and he, when he saw her go,
believed that she had spoken but the truth. He had her called back, and
said to her: 'Blanche, I will give you of my treasure as much as you
would have; do whatever you wish with it; but rest assured that I myself
will send him nothing.' 'Sire,' said Madame Blanche, 'you say well.' And
then the great treasure was given to her, and she sent it to her lord."

The details of this conversation may not be absolutely accurate, but the
facts seem to have been correctly recorded. Blanche went to Calais and
there established headquarters for collecting provisions, munitions, and
a small army for her husband. She despatched an expedition to his aid,
the army being under command of Robert de Courtenay, the fleet under
that of the famous pirate and freebooter Eustache le Moine. But the
fleet was destroyed by the English off Sandwich, August 24, 1217, and
there was no other course open to Louis than to make the best terms he
could with Henry III. and return to France. Blanche had displayed an
energy that elicited the admiration of her contemporaries, but for the
next few years she had no part in the larger events of history.

Domestic duties, domestic sorrows, indeed, must have absorbed a good
deal of the energy of this devoted wife and mother. In September, 1216,
her son Robert had been born. In 1218 she lost Philippe, her oldest son.
Three other children came in rapid succession: John (1219); Alphonse
(1220); Philippe Dagobert (1222). Of these only Alphonse was destined to
live to manhood. The anxious mother, having lost so many of her
children, would make vows for their recovery when any of them fell ill.
Fearing that she might have forgotten to fulfil some of these vows,
often made under stress of anguish, she sought and obtained from the
Pope (1220) permission to perform charities in place of trying to fulfil
her vows in all cases.

In her native land, too, there were events to claim her attention. Her
brother, Henry, having been accidentally killed after a short reign,
Queen Berengère was the next heiress; but she refused the crown for
herself, placing it upon the head of her son, Ferdinand III., whom she
continued to counsel and assist very much as Blanche was later to
counsel her son. It is reported that the discontented subjects of
Ferdinand offered the crown to Blanche. Whether this be true or not, she
would never have taken sides against her sister Berengère.

On July 14, 1223, the great King Philippe Auguste died, and on August
6th Queen Blanche and King Louis VIII. were crowned with solemn
ceremonial. The Abbot of Saint-Remi, escorted by two hundred knights,
brought the sacred ampulla to the cathedral of Rheims, and the
archbishop anointed the royal pair. The king's sword was borne in the
procession by his half-brother, Philippe Hurepel, son of Agnes de
Meranie and Philippe Auguste. There were great festivities, lasting
eight days, and the new king and queen manumitted serfs and showed mercy
upon prisoners and captives. Queen Blanche still remains in the
background during the brief reign of Louis VIII.; but we may note that
she used her influence to secure the liberation of Ferrand de Portugal,
Count of Flanders, who had been in captivity since the battle of
Bouvines. Released from prison in 1227, Ferrand lived to become one of
Blanche's most steadfast and useful allies.

Louis VIII. died in November, 1226, leaving Blanche with eight children
to care for; in addition to those already mentioned there were Isabelle,
Etienne, and Charles, all born since the accession of Louis. The king,
who had forced the submission of Languedoc during the expedition on
which he died, made his barons swear to be true to his son Louis.
Realizing that his devoted wife could not reach him before his death, he
provided as best he could for her. With perfect confidence in her, a
confidence fully justified by the event, he declared that Prince Louis,
his heir, as well as the whole kingdom and all the rest of his children
should be under the tutelage of Queen Blanche until they came of age; to
this important portion of the king's will some of the great barons and
high church dignitaries were witnesses.

Blanche and her husband had loved each other tenderly and faithfully,
and at first the widowed queen was looked upon with compassion. She was
on her way to Louis's bedside, the younger children in a carriage and
Prince Louis riding ahead, when she was met by the news of his death.
Her grief was pitiable; but her sense of duty toward her children and
her realization of the difficulties and dangers of her position gave her
courage. She was not the kind of woman to succumb under grief for the
loss of a well-loved husband or anxiety at finding herself obliged to
govern a kingdom whose king was yet a boy.

At first the old retainers of Louis were around her and faithful to her.
She was politic enough to win the support of the only prince of the
blood, Philippe, surnamed Hurepel, on account of the great mat of shaggy
hair he had inherited from his father, Philippe Auguste. Ferrand, Count
of Flanders, was her friend, and she could rely upon the support of most
of the clergy, and especially upon that of the papal legate, Romain
Frangipani, Cardinal of Saint Angelo. Her surest allies, however, were
the immediate servants of the crown: the chancellor, Guerin, who was
unfortunately not to live long; Archambaud de Bourbon, Count Amaury de
Montfort, the chamberlain, Barthélémy de Roye, and the noble constable,
Mathieu de Montmorency. With the aid of such friends, Blanche began her
duties as regent.

How long this regency was to last, how long it really did last, are
matters not altogether easy to determine. In the first place, there were
precedents, in the royal line as well as in feudal annals, for
considering the age of majority as fourteen years; but there seems to
have been authority equally as good for holding to the age of
twenty-one. Louis was in his twelfth year when his father died. Blanche
continued to act as regent for about ten years, and there was no protest
based on the pretext that the young king should have been considered a
major at fourteen years.

As soon as possible, Blanche had Louis crowned, a ceremony which did not
imply that he was to be considered out of her tutelage, but which did
give him a certain amount of prestige and consequent protection. The
coronation, which took place on November 29, 1226, at Rheims, was but
poorly attended by the nobles. Already there was discontent, and the
great house of Dreux, led by the crafty and unscrupulous Pierre
Mauclerc, Count of Brittany, was at the head of the disaffected. Count
Thibaud de Champagne, son of Blanche's first cousin, would have come to
the coronation, but Blanche ordered the gates of Rheims closed against
him; for it was currently rumored, though the rumor was entirely without
justification, that Louis VIII. had died very suddenly because of poison
administered by Thibaud. But, with or without the presence of the great
barons, Louis IX. was crowned, and Blanche made for herself and her son
such friends as she could.

In England Henry III., always restive under the thought of the losses
sustained by his father in France, was continually scheming to regain
the lost territories. He formed alliances with some of the chief lords
of Poitou, entered into negotiations for the hand of Yolande, daughter
of Pierre Mauclerc, and made abortive, but nevertheless startling,
preparations for a descent upon the coast of France. His allies among
the discontented French nobility took up arms, inspired in part by the
jealous Isabelle d'Angoulème, who had been the queen of John Lackland
and was now Countess of Marche. Blanche promptly summoned the ban royal
to assemble at Tours, whither she went with Louis in February, 1227.
Count Thibaud de Champagne had been in treaty with the rebels and was
marching with his forces as if to join them in Poitou. Tradition says
that he was diverted by a secret message from Blanche; at any rate, he
suddenly turned in his march and came to Tours, did homage to the boy
king, and was graciously received by the queen regent. The defection of
Thibaud upset the plans of the rebels, who quarrelled among themselves.
Many of them came, one by one, to submit to Louis IX., and hostilities
were suspended between the French and Richard of Cornwall, brother and
representative of Henry III.

During the truce which followed, Blanche was enabled to prosecute the
unfinished war in Languedoc against Raymond VII. of Toulouse and the
Albigensian heretics. One is surprised to find that certain churches in
France refused at first to grant the king subsidies to conduct this
crusade, and that it was only by the vigorous measures of Cardinal
Remain that they were at length compelled to yield.

The turbulent barons could not endure being governed by a woman. If
Blanche had been a weak ruler the indignity of bearing her rule would
have been atoned for by the laxity of that rule; but she was strong, and
could control the barons, who accordingly hated her. Pierre Mauclerc and
his party declared that France was not meant to be ruled by a foreign
woman; they called her "Dame Hersent," like the she-wolf in the _Roman
du Renart_; they circulated odious calumnies against her. The most
noteworthy of these calumnies is that which connected her name with that
of Thibaud de Champagne as an adulteress. They said that Blanche had
been his paramour even during the life of her husband; nay, that she had
connived at the murder of her husband, poisoned by Thibaud. They alleged
that she was, moreover, secretly sending the royal treasure into Spain;
that she was so vile that one lover did not suffice; that she had
illicit relations with Cardinal Remain. It is needless to say that there
is no foundation for these tales; they are the tax that a good woman
paid for being at the same time great.

The malcontents plotted to separate the king from his mother, and
determined to carry him off by force. Blanche and Louis were near
Orléans when warned of the danger. Hastening toward Paris, they were
forced to take refuge in the strong castle of Montlhéry, for the rebels
were assembled in force at Corbeil, between them and Paris. Blanche
appealed to the citizens of Paris to safeguard the king's approach.
There could not have been a better testimonial to the popularity of the
royal family and, incidentally, to the good government enjoyed under
Blanche than the response made by these _bourgeois_. The militia of the
surrounding country having been gathered in Paris, the combined forces
of the city and country marched to Montlhéry, deploying along the route.
Long after this Saint Louis used to tell Joinville of his triumphal
entry: "He told me," says this chronicler, "that from Montlhéry, the
road was filled with men with arms and men without arms, up to the gates
of Paris, and that all shouted and called upon the Lord to grant him
long and happy life, and to guard and protect him against his enemies."
The nobles were balked, and retired from Corbeil.

The barons, though temporarily disheartened, were by no means reduced to
peaceful submission. England was still in a threatening attitude; while
the long and relentless war against the Albigenses was dragging on, with
success now on this side, now on that. Blanche had need to fortify
herself as wisely as she could. She sought the support of the bourgeois.
The citizens of Limoges and of Saint-Junien in the Limousin, in charters
granted in 1228, swore fealty to the queen as well as to the king.
Cardinal Remain, at Blanche's instance, came back to France as legate;
she found his advice, and the prestige of the papal authority, of
material assistance. After some negotiation, the truce with England was
renewed for a year, from July, 1228, to July, 1229.

Philippe Hurepel, who had been faithful for a time to the interests of
his sister-in-law and her son, displayed discontent, and now went over
to the side of the rebels. It is said that he even had an eye on the
throne, and that the barons had some notion of trying to set up
Enguerrand de Coucy as king that Coucy who was the head of the house
with the famous motto:

        "Je ne suis roi, ne due, ne prince, ne comte aussi:
            Je suis le sire de Coucy."

Before actual hostilities began, Blanche had required and received new
oaths of fealty from the communes of the royal domain north of the
Seine, as far as Flanders. Magistrates of Amiens, Compiègne, Laon,
Peronne, and a host of other places, swore to defend the king, Queen
Blanche, and her children. The barons had arranged that Pierre Mauclerc
should begin hostilities, and that when Blanche summoned the feudal army
to march against him each should come, but come with only two knights,
which would make a force so small that Mauclerc would have nothing to
fear. Once more Thibaud de Champagne came to the rescue. He gathered all
the troops he could, and came with over three hundred knights, these
being, when joined to the contingents from the loyal communes of the
royal domain, enough to save Blanche. In January, 1229, Blanche marched
into the domains of the refractory Mauclerc--who had refused to appear
when summoned to the court--and laid siege to the strong castle of
Bellême. In a few days, though the stronghold was considered
impregnable, the garrison was forced to surrender. The actual military
operations of this successful siege were conducted, of course, by
Blanche's general, Jean Clément, the marshal of France; but she herself
looked after the comfort of her army. It was intensely cold; she ordered
the soldiers to build great bonfires in the camp, promising pay to those
who would fetch fuel from the forests; by this means, men and horses
were kept warm.

After the capitulation of the garrison of Bellême, Mauclerc's power was
temporarily broken, and Blanche marched back to Paris with Louis, who
had accompanied her. The barons had not received the support on which
they had counted from Henry III., whose weakness and vacillation kept
him from taking advantage of what would have been a splendid opportunity
to weaken the power of France.

In her precarious situation Blanche needed the support of all classes;
it was now her misfortune to incur, for a time, the ill will of the
students of the University of Paris. These students had, from long
custom and by royal favor, been allowed all sorts of privileges and
immunities, since the University added no little to the prestige of
Paris. They were a turbulent set, frequently engaged in brawls with the
citizens. On Shrove Monday, 1229, some students went to an inn at
Saint-Marcel, outside Paris, where they ate and drank, and then engaged
in a violent quarrel with the innkeeper when the bill was presented. The
quarrel at first seemed rather comic; after a wordy battle they came to
blows and pulling of hair, till the students were driven ignominiously
from the field. But next day, February 27th, they returned in force,
armed with sticks and stones, and even swords. In a spirit of
undiscriminating revenge, they wrecked the first inn they came across
and beat the people in the streets, women as well as men. Word was sent
at once to the authorities of the University, who appealed to Queen
Blanche through Cardinal Romain. The prefect of Paris, with his
soldiers, was ordered to proceed to the scene of the rioting and restore
order, which he did with rather too good a will, for in the process
there was bloodshed; several students were killed, and the complaint was
made that those whom the prefect and his men attacked were not the
guilty ones. The authorities of the University were up in arms against
the queen. As she declined to make the reparation they demanded--which
would have left the students more lawless than ever for the
future--teachers and students scattered, to Rheims, to Angers, to
Orléans, and many returned to their native land. The concessions which
Blanche then made could not bring back all who had gone away. Though her
policy may have been mistakenly severe one can but grant that she had
cause for being severe. All our sympathies are with the woman whom the
students did not hesitate to vilify, reviving the calumny about the
relations of Blanche and Cardinal Romain, who had given her able support
in this affair. Such currency did this vile story gain that one
chronicler tells us that the queen submitted to an examination to
disprove it.

The first real victory for France in the long war of the Albigenses came
with the treaty of Paris, sometimes called the treaty of Meaux, April
12, 1229. It is, perhaps, fortunate for the reader's good opinion of
Blanche that we omit to chronicle the horrors of this war, though most
of those horrors were committed before she became ruler of France.
Raymond VII., Count of Toulouse, the head and front of the resistance in
Provence, was Blanche's cousin, and she had always shown herself mindful
of family ties, so that we may charitably suppose that she did the best
she could for the ruined Raymond. We do not know that she assisted at
his humiliation,--barefooted, and in his shirt, he was led to the door
of Notre Dame and made to swear absolute submission to the Church--but
we cannot go wrong in assuming that some of the wise provisions of the
treaty of Paris were of her suggesting. The provisions were very wise
indeed, securing to the French crown almost everything that could be
hoped; in our wildest moments of enthusiasm, however, we could not
accuse Blanche of having tempered policy with mercy. As a summary of the
situation, we may state that Raymond contracted to' surrender to Louis
Beaucaire, Nimes, Carcassonne, and Beziers, with other territories on
the Mediterranean to the west of the Rhone; that Toulouse and its
territory must revert to his daughter Jeanne, who was to be espoused by
one of the brothers of Louis IX.; that the dominions remaining to him
should also revert to Jeanne, in failure of other heirs of his body.
Failing heirs of Jeanne, the domains acquired as her dower were to
revert to the crown of France. More complete ruin for Raymond could
hardly have been compassed. It was the end of Provence both as a
political and an artistic entity.

We have alluded several times to the famous Thibaud IV., called _Le
Chansonnier_, Count of Champagne. His relations with Blanche of Castille
are matter both of history and of legend; it behooves us to try to sift
the one from the other and to present some account of the loves of
Blanche and Thibaud.

Thibaud's mother, Blanche de Navarre, Countess of Champagne, had to play
a role not unlike that of her cousin Blanche de Castille; she acted as
regent in the name of her son, and it was due to her good management
that he was allowed to inherit his patrimony. This was surely an age of
woman, with Berengère ruling in Castille, Queen Blanche in France, and
another Blanche, of the same family, in Champagne. Thibaud was of a
gallant temperament, priding himself upon his knightly accomplishments,
but not less upon his talent as a poet; for he was one of those
imitators of the troubadours whom we might almost class with the
troubadours themselves. Of his gifts as a poet we shall not speak here;
in the histories of French literature will be found the record of many
of his chansons. As a man, it is altogether probable that Thibaud did
not suffer from an over-scrupulous conscience; we have knowledge of his
acting in very bad faith on several occasions. But these manifestations
of bad faith were almost always to the advantage of Blanche de Castille.
The rebel barons would enter into league with Thibaud, and he would
agree to betray his queen, and would even consider seriously the
question of marrying the daughter and heiress of Pierre Mauclerc. At the
critical moment comes a missive, nominally from the boy king: "Sir
Thibaud de Champagne, I have heard that you have promised to take to
wife the daughter of the Count Pierre de Bretagne; I bid you, by all
that you hold most dear in this kingdom, that you do not so. The reason,
you know full well;... for never have I had one who wished me more ill
than this same count." The impulsive Thibaud reads the note, and he and
his knights turn aside to support the fair lady who was the real author
of the missive. It was this sort of thing which made the barons hate and
distrust Thibaud and which gave some color to the reports they
industriously circulated, alleging that Blanche was the mistress of
Thibaud. The latter had already been accused of poisoning Louis VIII.;
it was now added that this crime had been connived at by his paramour,

That Thibaud really loved Blanche, there can be no reasonable doubt. His
amorous songs were probably inspired in part by this devotion to one
whom he might well admire and love, the fair, and good, and great Queen
Blanche, whom he could proudly claim as a cousin. In one of his songs he
alludes to her, it seems to us, very distinctly:

        "Trop est ce trouble, et s'aveis si cler nom."

(Troubled was your life, and yet your name so clear.) The chronicles of
the time abound in allusions to Thibaud's passion. It is said that, on
one occasion, after a momentary revolt, he came to make his submission,
and was severely reproached by the queen for his ingratitude. "Then the
Count looked upon the Queen, who was so good and so beautiful, till her
great beauty overcame him, and he stood all abashed. Then he answered
her: 'By my faith, Madame, my heart and my body and all my lands are
yours; there is naught that could please you that I would not do
willingly; and never again, please God, will I go against you or yours.'
And he departed all pensive, and often into his thoughts would come the
memory of the sweet look, of the lovely countenance, of the queen. Then
his heart was filled with sweet and loving thought. But when he
remembered that she was so great a lady, and so good and pure that he
could never win her love, his sweet thought of love turned into great
sadness. And seeing that deep thought engenders melancholy, he was
counselled by some wise men to take lessons in _biaus sons de viele et
en douz chanz delitables_ (in sweet violin music and in soft and
pleasing songs). And so he and Gace Brusle made between them the most
beautiful, the most delightful, the most melodious songs ever heard,
either in songs or in violin music. And he had them put in writing in
the hall of his chateau at Provins and in that of Troyes; and they are
called the songs of the King of Navarre."

The chronicler who tells us this assigns the incident to the year 1236,
when Blanche would have been forty-eight years of age. The date is
obviously wrong, or rather the story of many years has been crowded into
one. Thibaud's love for Blanche must have begun when she was young and
really beautiful; one can hardly imagine a burning passion conceived for
a lady of middle age, the mother of twelve children. His devotion, then,
dates from an earlier period; indeed, we find definite record of it in
the calumnies circulated by the barons before 1230; and one chronicler
tells us that, during the war of that year, when the barons were
ravaging Champagne, Count Thibaud, dressed as a common stroller and
accompanied by one companion as miserably attired as himself, went
through the country to find out what his people were saying about him.
Everywhere he heard but ill of himself. "Then said the Count to his
_ribaud_ (vagabond companion), 'Friend, I see full well that a penn'orth
of bread would feed all my friends. I have none, indeed, I verily
believe, not a one whom I can trust, save the Queen of France.' She was
indeed his loyal friend, and well did she show that she did not hate
him. By her the war was brought to an end, and all the land (Champagne)
reconquered. Many tales do they tell of them, as of Iseut and Tristan."

The love of Thibaud was not to be doubted, but it is a delicate matter
to determine how far his sentiments were reciprocated by Blanche. On the
one hand, the party of the barons openly and violently accused her of
adultery; on the other hand, we know that no evil woman could have
reared Saint Louis and have been beloved and revered by him. If Blanche
was a good and pure woman, as we firmly believe, we shall again have to
disappoint the lovers of romance, for there must be some explanation
other than the purely erotic for her conduct toward Thibaud de
Champagne. Alas for the romance! the common-sense explanation is not far
to seek, and not difficult of acceptance when we remember the whole
career of this remarkable woman. Blanche de Castille was an astute
politician; otherwise she would never have been able to maintain her
position, with everything against her: the fact that she was a woman,
the fact that she was a foreigner, alone comprise many difficulties. We
do not know of a single instance in which she allowed her
feelings--love, hate, family affection, mere feminine weakness--to sway
her or interfere with the settled policy which she had determined upon
for the good of her kingdom and of her children. Indeed, as we shall see
later, one serious defect in her character was her inflexibility of
purpose, her resolute suppression of the tenderer feelings. That she
liked and perhaps admired the brilliant poet-knight who proclaimed his
devotion to her in "songs the sweetest ever heard," we need not doubt;
but she never responded to his ardent passion. Surrounded by enemies
domestic and enemies foreign, she took advantage of the romantic
devotion of a poet to win the very effective support of one of the most
powerful barons of France. Flattering Thibaud's vanity now and then,--it
was no small thing to be reputed the lover of a queen,--she adroitly
kept him in leash. As a sovereign, too, she was careful to retain his
good will by services of the utmost value, nay, of imperative necessity.

The truce with England was to expire on July 22, 1229. Just at this
time, when it might be supposed that the queen's energies would be
required in defending or at least in watching the western frontier,
threatened by Pierre Mauclerc and his English allies, the Duke of
Burgundy and the Count of Nevers prepared to invade Thibaud's country.
Marching into Champagne, they devastated the country and reduced Thibaud
to a very precarious condition. The pretext of this war was, first, that
Thibaud was a traitor and the assassin of Louis VIII.; secondly, that he
was a bastard, and that the real ruler of Champagne was Alix, Queen of
Cyprus, granddaughter of Thibaud's uncle, Henry II. of Champagne. The
claims were both, of course, preposterous, merely trumped up to hide the
real motive of the attack, which was aimed at Blanche de Castille and
through her at the power of the crown. Alix de Champagne, as the barons
called her, was herself of illegitimate descent, a fact recognized by
the Church itself.

Like a faithful sovereign, Blanche hastened to the defence of her
vassal. Ordering Ferrand de Flandre to create a diversion by an attack
upon the county of Boulogne, she summoned her vassals and commanded them
to desist from their attack upon Thibaud. They refused to obey; she
forthwith put herself at the head of her army and marched to Troyes. The
barons were compelled to accede to a truce.

During this truce Thibaud managed to secure several allies, and the
civil war broke out again, even before the nominal expiration of the
truce. Villages and towns were burned by the partisans on both sides;
Philippe Hurepel, it is said, besought Blanche to be allowed to fight a
duel with Thibaud to avenge the alleged murder of Louis VIII.--a sort
of appeal to the judgment of God. Wider and wider spread the flames of
civil war, till Blanche was almost at the end of her resources, and in
real peril. At this juncture a danger from without caused a temporary
cessation of hostilities against Thibaud de Champagne.

Pierre Mauclerc, now insolently styling himself Duke--not Count--of
Brittany, and adding an English title, Count of Richmond, had written to
Louis IX. announcing the withdrawal of his homage. He was to be
henceforth a vassal of the crown of England. Henry III. was preparing in
earnest for a descent upon France; and Blanche sought allies, or at
least friends, among her vassals, while the barons leagued against
Thibaud agreed to a truce. Collecting what forces she could, the queen,
accompanied by Louis, marched toward Angers against Pierre. Meanwhile,
with much pomp and ceremony and rich clothing and luxurious baggage,
Henry III. landed at Saint-Malo, on May 3, 1230, where he had an
interview with Pierre. Henry was full of splendid plans; fortunately for
Blanche, he was incapable of putting them into execution. The time was
frittered away in petty encounters, and in debauchery on Henry's part,
while Blanche continued to negotiate with any who seemed disposed to
favor her cause. She won in this way the support of some Breton and
Poitevin nobles, and held together her uncertain feudal army. As soon as
the legal forty days of their service were done, the more discontented
of the vassals in her army withdrew, and the king had to follow them in
order to prevent their renewing their attacks upon Champagne. Instead of
profiting by the embarrassment of his enemies and overwhelming the
French, Henry marched to and fro in Brittany, through Poitou and to
Bordeaux, returning thence to Brittany. His army was exhausted without
fighting; there was much sickness among men and animals; his provisions
were giving out. Tired of the fruitless expedition, he sailed back to
England, abandoning to the chances of war the Breton nobles who had
deserted France under promise of protection from England. Before the
joyful news of his departure could reach her, however, Blanche was again
in trouble in her attempts to protect Thibaud de Champagne.

A coalition stronger than before had been formed against Thibaud. He had
put forth his entire resources in his preparations for defence; but in a
pitched battle under the walls of Provins his forces were defeated and
routed, and the count himself fled to Paris with the pursuing victors at
his heels. All seemed lost, and his enemies were marching about as they
pleased over Champagne, when Queen Blanche arrived with her army, which
was large enough, fortunately, to intimidate the rebels. She would not
talk of terms with armed rebels, but demanded the evacuation of
Champagne. After some little parleying, in which the queen held firm,
the rebellious barons submitted. Reparation was agreed to on both sides,
and the chief of the malcontents, Philippe Hurepel, Count of Boulogne,
was satisfied by large indemnities granted him for the damage inflicted
by Ferrand de Flandre while he was making war, in defiance of his
sovereign, upon the Count of Champagne. Truly, mediaeval dispensations
are sometimes amazing.

By the end of 1230 the barons were at peace, and Blanche was at liberty
to turn her attention to Brittany and Pierre Mauclerc. Louis and his
mother marched upon Brittany in the early summer of 1231; but a truce
was made with England, and soon after with Pierre Mauclerc, to last
until June 24, 1234. The most critical period in Blanche's regency was
now passed. Her son, now nearing his majority, was firmly established on
his throne; for the great ones of the land had not been able to subdue
the spirit of his mother. Their wars had devastated a considerable
portion of France, but the common people knew who was to blame for the
havoc wrought; they had seen their queen a peacemaker, resorting to arms
in defence of loyal and oppressed subjects, but always endeavoring to
further the interests of the kingdom by preserving order within rather
than by seeking conquests without. She had shown herself a ruler full of
energy and resource; the great vassals of the crown, little by little,
recognized their inability to destroy her power, and abandoned the

Two formidable enemies still threatened her, however, in the persons of
Henry III. and Pierre Mauclerc. While warlike preparations were going
forward, in anticipation of the expiration of the truce, domestic
sorrows fell upon Blanche; she lost two of her sons, John and Philippe
Dagobert, the first of whom died certainly in 1232, the second perhaps
in the same year, perhaps not till 1234. In the midst of great events,
those griefs which touch most nearly a woman's heart pass unnoticed by

In order to be prepared for the expiration of the truce, Pierre Mauclerc
was seeking to gain such allies as he could. Even in the early part of
1232 he began negotiations with Thibaud de Champagne,--who had lost his
second wife, Agnes de Beaujeu, in the year preceding,--in order to bring
about his marriage to Yolande de Bretagne. We have seen how Blanche
checkmated this move of her wily adversary. Thibaud married, in
September, 1232, Marguerite, the daughter of the loyal Archambaud de
Bourbon. In the next year died one who had been a dangerous power in
France, Count Philippe Hurepel; his death removed one more of Blanche's
difficulties, for he had been restless and pugnacious, when not actually
in rebellion. In 1234 Blanche was enabled to do another good turn to
Thibaud, who now, by the death of his uncle, had become King of Navarre.
The old question of the succession in Champagne and the claims of Alix
had never been satisfactorily determined. Blanche now summoned Alix to a
conference, where, realizing that her party was no longer in the
ascendant, the latter renounced all claim to the counties of Champagne
and Blois.

From the south of France, that land of the troubadours, now laid waste
in the name of religion, Blanche had nothing to fear in the way of
active resistance. Her cousin, Raymond VII. of Toulouse, was completely
overcome and was intent only on making his peace with the Church. Prince
Alphonse of France was to wed Raymond's daughter, Jeanne, and the
restoration of some degree of prosperity in a land which might ere long
become a part of France was a matter which Blanche was too wise to
neglect. Never forgetting the political interests she had to serve, she
did all in her power to protect Raymond from petty annoyance and
spoliation, to soothe his feelings, and to get the Pope to return to him
the marquisate of Provence, taken away by the treaty of 1229. Meanwhile,
the royal power was being more firmly established over the domains ceded
to France.

Louis IX. was nearing manhood; it was time to seek a suitable alliance
for him. The initiative in this matter probably came from Blanche, who
decided everything for her son, with his unquestioning approval. In
1233, when Louis was nineteen, she consulted with her friends and
decided upon the daughter of Raymond Bérenger, Count of Provence, as the
most suitable wife for her son. Though the King of France could have
commanded a more brilliant alliance, the marriage with Marguerite de
Provence was a happy one, and not impolitic, for it assured the
friendship of the Provençals, and through the mediation of the queen
peace was re-established between the Counts of Provence and Toulouse.

An embassy was despatched to escort the young princess, who, as became a
daughter of Provence, came with a numerous suite, in which there were
minstrels and musicians. Louis went to meet his bride, accompanied by
most of the members of the royal family, and the marriage ceremony was
performed at Sens, by the Archbishop, on May 26 or 27, 1234. Adequate
preparations consonant with the dignity of the occasion had been made by
Blanche, but there was no extravagance, no vain display. We hear of a
gold crown made for the young queen; of jewels purchased for her; and of
a ring formed of lilies and _marguerites_, with the inscription _Hors
cet and pourrions nous trouver amor?_--"Without this ring, can we find
love?" presented to the bride by Louis. A handsome wardrobe was provided
for the king, and to the lords and ladies of the court were given furs,
handsome robes, many of silk, and other presents. Tents were erected to
accommodate the crowd, which was too great to find housing in Sens, and
there was a leafy bower, made of green boughs, where the king's throne
was set up and where, doubtless, the minstrels played. Then there were
distributions of money among the poor, whom Blanche and her son never

Marguerite was young, lovely, and, what was more important still in one
who must be the wife of a saint, had been carefully educated and reared
in piety. She was of gentler stuff than Queen Blanche, and so we shall
not find her playing any great role in history; but she was courageous,
and a devoted wife. She won her husband's love, and probably exercised
some influence over him; but of her married life and of her treatment by
Queen Blanche we shall not speak at present.

War with England was threatening again when, on June 8th, Louis returned
to Paris with his bride; for the truce with England could not be
renewed. Blanche de Castille had provided against the evil day, and the
vindictive cruelty of Pierre Mauclerc had helped on her projects. He
punished so severely those of his vassals who had been loyal to France
that it became easier for Blanche to detach one here and there as an
ally. She did not wait for the expiration of the truce to begin her
operations, but summoned her army and marched upon Brittany with
overwhelming forces. Pierre, who had had but small aid from Henry III.,
was compelled to submit, and a truce was agreed to for three months, to
terminate on November 15th. The delay had been sought by Pierre in the
hope of extracting, by entreaties or threats, more active assistance
from the miserable Henry III. Finding his appeals here in vain, Pierre
returned to France to submit to Blanche and Louis. It is said that he
came into the presence of the king with a halter about his neck, pleaded
for mercy, and abandoned to Louis all Brittany. While this is doubtless
an exaggeration, we know that he submitted absolutely, in November,
1234, to the will of his sovereign, and promised to serve faithfully the
king and his mother. It was not long after this that he went to the Holy
Land, leaving the government of Brittany in the hands of his son.

The most bitter, the most crafty, the most dangerous of her enemies
having been reduced to subjection, there remained but one task for
Blanche to accomplish in order to crown the work she had undertaken for
her son. In the course of the year 1235-1236 negotiations were
undertaken with England that resulted in a truce for a term of five
years. Blanche was about to hand over the more active control of affairs
to Louis; it was no bad beginning for him to find his realm at peace
within and without, with a prospect of the continuance of these



As the regency of Queen Blanche had begun without formality, so it
ceased insensibly. There was no set day upon which she formally
relinquished the reins to Louis; and so one can but determine an
approximate date. On April 25, 1234, Louis may be considered to have
attained his majority. Though we find the name of Blanche figuring in
royal acts after this date, it becomes less frequent: her share in the
government is growing less, though throughout her life she never ceased
to stand by her son and act with or advise him. At the very close of her
regency we find her once more the central figure with that unaccountable
person Thibaud de Champagne. It must be remembered that he was now King
of Navarre, a dignity which brought with it less of real power in France
than one might suppose; for the French and the Spanish dominions,
Champagne and Navarre, were separated. His elevation to the throne may
have momentarily turned the head of the poet-king; at any rate, he began
to show dissatisfaction and to demur about fulfilling some of the
conditions incident to the settlement of the claims of Alix de
Champagne. In defiance of his duty as a vassal he gave his daughter,
without the king's consent, to Jean le Roux, son of Pierre Mauclerc. He
formed alliances with Mauclerc and with others of the old league; the
hostile intent could not be mistaken. The king mobilized his forces and
went to meet those of Thibaud. As the latter had not had time to effect
a junction with his Breton allies, the royal forces were overwhelming,
and he was compelled to find some way out of his difficulty other than
fighting. Remembering that he had assumed the Cross, and was, therefore,
under the protection of the Church, he persuaded the Pope to enjoin
Louis from attacking him, declaring that his person and his lands were,
on account of his crusading vow, under the protection of the Church.
Even this intervention might not have saved him from severe punishment
at the hands of his incensed sovereign; but when he sent to make
submission and to ask mercy, Queen Blanche, to whom he especially
appealed, summoned him to her presence and promised to obtain fair terms
for him. The terms, indeed, were not hard, nor were the reproaches
unduly severe which Blanche is said to have made in her last interview
with Thibaud: "In God's name, Count Thibaud, you should not have taken
sides against us; you should have called to mind the great goodness of
my son, the king, when he came to your aid to protect your county and
your lands from all the barons of France, who would have burned
everything and reduced it to ashes." Then came the courteous reply of
the gallant and contrite Thibaud: "By my faith, madame, my heart and my
body and all my lands are yours; there is naught that could please you
that I would not do willingly; and never again, please God, will I go
against you or yours."

The romance of this scene, almost pathetic, is ruthlessly disturbed by
the scene that is said to have followed, yet we must tell of this also.
The young Prince Robert, always of a violent temper, took it upon him to
insult the vanquished King of Navarre. He had the tails of the latter's
horses cut off a--shameful insult to a knight--and as Thibaud was
leaving the palace Robert threw a soft cheese on his head. Thibaud
returned to Blanche indignant at the insult offered him despite her safe
conduct; and she was preparing to punish the offenders summarily when
she discovered that the ringleader was her own son.

During the ten or twelve years that now intervened before Blanche was
again to take the regency during Saint Louis's crusade, her role in
public life is of less importance; there will be a fact in history to
note here and there, but most of that which we shall say concerns the
woman, the mother, rather than the queen. Though eminently fitted in
intellect and temperament for exercising the powers of an active ruler,
Blanche never forgot that she was only the king's mother, and that she
held the royal power in trust for him. In all her acts--they were really
done on her own responsibility--she sought to associate the name of her
son, as if she would keep for him the honor. In that speech to Count
Thibaud she does not reproach him for ingratitude to her; it is, "you
should have called to mind the great goodness of my son, the king." Her
whole life was devoted to the service of this son, whom she loved with a
love painfully intense, cruelly jealous.

When she was left a widow, there was entrusted to her not merely the
ruling of a kingdom but the rearing of a large family of children. To
this latter task Blanche devoted herself with as much energy and as much
good sense as she displayed in larger affairs. She reared with
particular care the son who, though not the eldest, had become the heir
to the crown. She tried to make of him a good man. It was certainly not
her training or her example that taught him excessive devoutness; for,
though a good Christian, she was not a devotee. When he was a boy she
gave him over to the care of masters who were to instruct him in all
things. There was physical exercise and recreation as well as study; the
young prince was not even exempt from discipline: according to his own
testimony, one of his masters "sometimes beat him to teach him
discipline." His days were regularly portioned off into periods of work,
of play, and of religious devotion; in the midst of his teachers, most
of whom were Dominicans, the little prince led a very sober life. He was
of a quiet and docile disposition, and received instruction willingly
and readily, and became a man of considerable learning. From his youth
he manifested a tendency to extreme piety, going daily to church, where
he entered into the services with strange fervor; he sang no songs but
hymns, and led a pure and temperate life. It is said that a religious
fanatic, who had listened to some of the calumnies circulated against
the queen, one day came to her and rebuked her bitterly for encouraging
her son to live a life of licentiousness, in the society of concubines.
She corrected his mistaken impression, and said that if her son, whom
she loved better than any creature living, were sick unto death she
would not have him made whole by the commission of a mortal sin. Saint
Louis never forgot this saying of his mother's, which he was fond of
repeating to Joinville, and by which he sought to regulate his conduct.

Another of Blanche's children was of the same disposition as Saint Louis
in regard to religion. This was the Princess Isabelle, whom her mother
had trained as carefully as Louis. On one occasion, when the family was
going on a journey and there was much noise of preparation in the midst
of the packing, Isabelle covered herself up in the bedclothes in order
to pray undisturbed. One of the servants, occupied in packing, picked up
child and bedclothes together, and was about to put her with the rest of
the baggage, when she was discovered. Even as a child she would take no
part in games, and as a young girl shunned all the gayeties of the
court, devoting herself to study, to reading the Scriptures, and to
devotional and charitable works, leading a life of the utmost austerity.
It is pleasant to know that this timid, pious little lady was not forced
into a distasteful union and passed her days in the pursuits she liked

Blanche's devotion to her son Louis was repaid by the greatest deference
and affection. Her ascendency over him lasted as long as she lived, and
was responsible, no doubt, for much unhappiness to his wife. Blanche's
love was full of jealousy; she would brook no rival; she must always be
first in the affections of her son. And one cannot deny that the great
queen was selfish even to the point of positive cruelty in her treatment
of Marguerite de Provence. A mere child when she came to the court of
France, Marguerite was made to feel that she was not to be first there,
though her position as the wife of Louis gave her a claim to first
place. She was not of masculine temperament, like Blanche, and she did
not seek even the show of power; but Blanche grudged her even the love
of her husband, though we have no evidence that Marguerite ever
reproached Saint Louis with excessive filial devotion or sought to
detach him from his mother. Many stories have come down to us of how
"the young queen" was treated by the one whom all France continued to
call "the Queen." From the testimony of those intimate with the habits
of the royal family come to us details of espionage, petty malice, and
cold-heartedness on the part of Blanche: we could not believe these
things if they came from less competent witnesses. They are not to the
credit of Blanche, for they show the worst side of her nature. The
confessor of Saint Louis says: "The queen mother displayed great
harshness and rudeness towards Queen Marguerite. She would not permit
the king to remain alone with his wife. When the king, with the two
queens, went in royal progress through France, Queen Blanche commonly
separated the king and the queen, and they were never lodged together.
It happened once that, at the manor of Pontoise, the king was lodged in
a room above the lodging of his wife. He had instructed the ushers in
the anteroom that, whenever he was with the queen and Queen Blanche
wished to enter his room or the queen's, they should whip the dogs to
make them bark; and when the king heard this he hid from his mother."
Imagine the King of France, the man whose peculiar piety won for him the
name of a saint, dodging about like a guilty urchin to keep his mother
from finding him in the company of his wife!

The honest old Sieur de Joinville, who feared not to tell his master
when he thought him in the wrong, tells us that on one occasion, when
Marguerite was very ill after the birth of a child, Louis came in to see
her, fearing she was in danger of death. Blanche came in, and Louis hid
himself behind the bed as well as he could, but she detected him. Taking
him by the hand, she said: "Come away, for you are doing no good here."
She led him out of the room. "When the queen saw that Queen Blanche was
separating her from her husband, she cried out with a loud voice: 'Alas!
will you let me see my husband neither in life nor in death?' And so
saying she fainted away so that they thought she was dead; and the king,
who thought so too, ran back to her and brought her out of her swoon."
There is nothing in these stories to the credit of Blanche or of her
saintly son.

Let us turn from this unpleasant picture to glance at some of the facts
in the domestic economy of the royal household. The expenditures of the
court were not great; the household was kept on a scale befitting its
rank, but there was no vain display. Besides the queen's children there
were always a number of dependents, ladies and gentlemen in waiting,
etc., and the expenses for the whole establishment were kept in a common

Blanche de Castille loved her native land, which she never saw again
after she left it to become the wife of Louis VIII., and she kept up as
active relations as possible with her relatives, particularly with Queen
Berengère; but she had too much good sense to flood her court with
Spanish dependents and Spanish customs, and, therefore, we do not find a
great number of Spaniards occupying important posts in the court. A
certain number of her special attendants appear to have been Spaniards;
we may note a lady in waiting called Mincia, who is often mentioned in
the accounts, and who is granted money and horses for a journey into
Spain. Then there are two Spaniards to whom gifts of clothing and the
like are made at the time of the coronation of Queen Marguerite. But
these and other Spaniards whose names one can pick out belonged to the
personal suite of the queen, and had nothing to do with politics. There
was nothing like the incursion of foreigners which, the people
complained, Italianized France in the time of the Medicis.

Among the legitimate expenditures of the court, but rather surprising in
the household of a saint, are certain sums set down for the payment of
minstrels. Prince Robert of France loved to give presents to minstrels,
and when he was knighted, in 1237, more than two hundred and twenty
pounds went to the payment of these singers. The horses and their
furnishings form no small item in the expenses, since most of the
travelling had to be done on horseback, and a numerous retinue of
mounted attendants must be provided. Common pack horses were not costly,
but the easy-riding palfrey and the war horse ranged in price from
thirty to seventy-five pounds. There were carriages and other vehicles
also, though the carriages were few. The state of the roads, indeed,
often precluded their use; we find Blanche de Castille excusing herself
from going to Saint-Denis because the state of her health forbids her
going on horseback: the roads were probably impassable; or, perhaps, it
was in attempting this little journey that her carriage suffered the
damages recorded in a bill of repairs of 1234, when it seems the unlucky
vehicle needed new wheels. There was a carriage for _la jeune reine_
Marguerite, too, and a new one was purchased in 1239.

Aside from the money expended in the actual maintenance of her family,
Blanche herself spent, and taught Louis to spend, considerable sums in
charity. With the miserable economic conditions prevailing in the Middle
Ages, poverty must have been far more general and far more distressing
than it has ever been since those days. During Blanche's regency the
kingdom had been repeatedly ravaged in the course of the wars of the
nobles, and there is record of famine, notably in the southwest of the
kingdom, where one chronicler asserts that in 1235 he saw a hundred
bodies buried in one day in a cemetery at Limoges. On their frequent
journeys throughout the country, Blanche and Louis did what could be
done to alleviate the condition of the unfortunate, who gathered on the
wayside in crowds. There were regular officers to allot the alms
properly, and considerable sums were distributed, usually at every stage
on the journey. At home, in Paris, there was a regular distribution of
money and of bread, with occasional special bounties on the feasts of
the Church. One special charity of Queen Blanche's deserves notice. When
a girl was to be married, one of the first questions was, and still is,
in France, what dower her parents could give with her; if the dower were
insufficient, the poor girl ran a serious risk of not being married at
all. Blanche often came to the aid of deserving girls so situated, and
her gifts were not confined to her immediate attendants and their
families; for example, a poor woman from Anet, a stranger to the court,
received one hundred sous parisis for the marriage of her daughter; and
while on her way back from Angers, Blanche met a young girl of Nogent,
to whom she gave fifteen pounds for her marriage.

Blanche had always been respectful in her attitude toward the Church,
and pious in her habit of life; but she was never servile in her
attitude toward churchmen, whom she would no more allow to interfere
with her rule than the greatest of the barons. The higher clergy, as a
body, were faithful to her; but, here and there, bishops and archbishops
arrogated to themselves powers not theirs, or refused to recognize the
rights of the crown, whereupon Blanche did not hesitate to join issue
with them. One celebrated case is that of the riots at Beauvais, in
1233, when, under Blanche's direction, Louis restored order and asserted
the royal power in spite of the objections of the bishop, and continued
to sustain the position taken, even after an interdict had been
proclaimed in Beauvais.

During the period between her two regencies, Blanche continued to reside
at the court; her jealousy of Marguerite would in part account for her
preferring this to retirement to some one of the chateaux belonging to
her private estate. At the time, it must be remembered, the queen of
Philippe Auguste, Ingeburge, was living in this way at Orléans. Queen
Blanche, indeed, enjoyed a considerable revenue from her estates, which
she generally intrusted to the care of the Knights Templars, the
financial agents of many a crowned head in Europe. Part of her estates
she administered in person. As a further occupation, she devoted herself
to various charities. In 1242 the famous abbey of Notre Dame, generally
known as Maubuisson, at Pontoise, was completed, thanks to the queen's
munificence and to her careful supervision. Maubuisson, with its many
dependencies, its beautiful gardens and buildings, became one of the
most splendid monastic institutions in France. It was frequently visited
and enriched with new gifts by its foundress and her son, and noble
ladies chose it as the place to take the veil. One of these ladies,
Countess Alix de Macon, became abbess of another convent, Notre Dame du
Lys, near Melun, founded by Blanche de Castille.

The management of her estates and the foundation of convents did not,
however, monopolize the queen's time and energies; she was always the
careful mother, looking out for the interests of her children, and
always the queen, ready to act or to decide promptly and firmly in the
affairs of the kingdom. She arranged the marriages of her sons, Robert
and Alphonse. The former married, in 1237, Mahaut, daughter of the Duke
of Brabant, and there were magnificent festivities at Compiègne in honor
of the event, the young prince being knighted and made Count of Artois.
Alphonse, betrothed to the daughter of Raymond of Toulouse, was married
in 1238. The next year Blanche provided a rich and most desirable bride
for her nephew, Alphonse de Portugal, who had been reared at the French
court. He married the widow of Philippe Hurepel, Mahaut de Boulogne, and
was a faithful vassal of France until he became King of Portugal in
1248. For each of these weddings Blanche saw that there was suitable
provision in the way of new and elegant clothes and entertainments in
keeping with the occasion.

After the painting by Moreau de Tours.
Aside from the money expended in the actual maintenance of her family,
Blanche herself spent, and taught Louis to spend, considerable sums in
charity. With the miserable economic conditions prevailing in the Middle
Ages, poverty must have been far more general and far more distressing
than it has ever been since those days. On their frequent journeys
throughout the country, Blanche and Louis did what could be done to
alleviate the condition of the unfortunate, who gathered on the wayside.
At home, in Paris, there was a regular distribution of-money and of
bread, with occasional special bounties on the feasts of the Church.]

In the larger world, Louis IX. still sought the counsel of his mother:
"He sought her presence in his council, whenever he could have it with
profit or advantage." In judicial proceedings particularly, we still
find her acting in her sovereign capacity; and she continued to keep an
eye upon those who had formerly been the rebel barons, her name being
associated with that of Louis in various acts concerning the shifty
Pierre Mauclerc. For her unfortunate cousin, Raymond of Toulouse, she
still exerted her influence with the Pope to obtain some relief from the
obligation which he had been forced to assume of spending five years in
the Holy Land. It was at his mother's instance, too, that Louis IX.
bought from the young Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople those most holy
relics, the Crown of Thorns and the large portion of the true Cross, to
receive which Louis built the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle. The purchase
was really arranged as an excuse for contributing largely to the
depleted treasury of the Christian Empire of the East, whose emperor was
doubly related to Saint Louis through his father and through Blanche de
Castille. The Crown of Thorns, indeed, had been in pawn to Venice. Louis
and Blanche went to meet the sacred relic, which was escorted to its
resting place in Paris by great crowds singing hymns and displaying
every mark of the utmost reverence. For the piece of the Cross, bought
three years later, in 1241, the same elaborate ceremonial was observed;
and in the great procession which accompanied Saint Louis as he bore the
Cross on his shoulders through the streets of Paris walked Blanche and
Marguerite, barefooted.

When the Tartar hordes of Ghenghis Khan overran Poland and Hungary, the
whole of Christian Europe trembled with fear and horror. If these
barbarians could not be checked, and they continued to pour in
resistless floods over the land, what was to become of Christendom?
"What shall we do, my son?" cried Blanche; "what will become of us?"
"Fear not, mother," replied the brave king; "let us trust in Heaven."
And then he added that famous pun which all his biographers repeat: "If
these Tartars come upon us, either we shall send them back to Tartarus,
whence they came, or they will send us all to Heaven."

Out of this threatening of the Tartars grew a religious persecution, in
which Blanche took a part not discreditable to her. When things went
wrong in the Middle Ages, it was the fault of the weak and oppressed; if
it was not the witches, it was the Jews who had brought misfortune upon
the land, and who must be punished before God would be pleased again. In
this case it was the Jews, who were accused of lending aid to the
Tartars. The popular odium incurred by this accusation encouraged the
prosecution of an investigation, ordered by Pope Gregory IX., into the
doctrines of the Talmud. France appears to have been the only country
where the investigation was actually made. Several Jewish rabbis were
haled before the court, presided over by Blanche, to explain and answer
for their books. The fairness with which Blanche presided is indeed
remarkable when one remembers the severity of the common judicial
procedure of the time. The chief rabbi, Yehiel, appealed to her several
times against the injustice of being forced to answer certain questions,
and she sustained his plea. When Yehiel complained that, whatever the
court decided, he and his people could not be protected from the blind
rage of the populace, Blanche replied: "Say no more of that. We are
resolved to protect you, you and all your goods, and he who dares to
persecute you will be held a criminal." When he protested against taking
an oath demanded by his persecutors, because it was against his
conscience to swear, Blanche decided: "Since it is painful to him, and
since he has never taken an oath, do not insist upon it." She reproved
the Christian advocates, the learned doctors of the Church, for the
unseemly violence of their language, and sought in every way to maintain
some sort of impartiality, or at least of decency, in the trial. If she
had conducted the trial to the close, there might have been a different
sentence from that which condemned the Talmud and ordered it to be
committed to the flames.

It was through an agent of Blanche, apparently a burgess of Rochelle,
that Saint Louis obtained most valuable and timely information in regard
to the rebellious preparations of Hugues de Lusignan, Comte de la
Marche. This Hugues de Lusignan was the vassal of Alphonse, brother of
the king. He had always been inclined to revolt, and this inclination
was not lessened by the incitement of his wife, the haughty,
high-tempered Isabelle d'Angoulème, widow of King John of England. To
have started as Queen of England, on an equal footing with her
contemporary, Blanche de Castille, to have seen her miserable husband
gradually lose his rich possessions in France, and to find herself now
merely a countess and compelled to do homage to a son of her
rival,--this must have been the very wormwood of bitterness for
Isabelle. The secret agent of Queen Blanche writes a very elaborate
account of the conduct of Isabelle and Hugues in 1242.

Hearing that Hugues had received King Louis and his brother, Alphonse,
in her absence, Isabelle carried off part of her property and
established herself in Angoulème. For three days she refused to admit
her husband to her presence, and when he did appear she lashed him with
her tongue in furious fashion: "You miserable man, did you not see how
things went at Poitiers, when I had to dance attendance for three days
upon your King and your Queen? When at last I was admitted to their
presence, there sat the King on one side of the royal bed and the Queen
on the other.... They did not summon me; they did not offer me a seat,
and that on purpose to humiliate me before the court. There was I, like
a miserable, despised servant, standing up in front of them in the
crowd. Neither at my entry nor at my exit did they make any show of
rising, in mere contempt of me and of you, too, as you ought to have had
sense enough to see." After scenes of this kind in the bosom of his
family it is not surprising that the unfortunate Comte de la Marche
sought the more peaceful atmosphere of the camp, and engaged in a revolt
against his sovereign. Louis, however, had little difficulty in bringing
him to reason and obtaining another victory over England, whom the
rebels had enlisted on their side. "And it was no marvel," says
Joinville, writing of this campaign of Saint Louis's, "for he acted
according to the advice of the good mother who was with him."

One of the severest trials in the life of this _bonne mère_ was
approaching. Louis, always of a delicate constitution, had contracted a
fever during the campaign against the Comte de la Marche, and the
effects lingered with him until, at the close of 1244, he had a violent
recurrence of the attack, accompanied by dysentery. In spite of the
tender care of Blanche, his life was despaired of. He lost consciousness
and, says Joinville, to whom we shall leave the telling of the story,
"was in such extremity that one of the ladies watching by him wished to
draw the sheet over his face, and said that he was dead. And another
lady, who was on the other side of the bed, would not suffer it, but
said that there was still life in him. And as He heard the discussion
between these two ladies, Our Lord had compassion on him, and gave him
back his health. And as soon as he could speak he demanded that they
give him the Cross; and so it was done. Then the queen, his mother,
heard that the power of speech had returned to him, and she showed
therefore as great joy as she could. And when she knew that he had taken
the Cross, as he himself told her, she showed as great grief as if she
had seen him dead."

Blanche's grief was not without cause, for nothing short of the death of
this well-beloved son could have caused her the pain that she must
endure if he went on the crusade. Not only her age, but the knowledge
that he would wish her to stay behind and guard the kingdom for him,
precluded all thought of her accompanying him. It meant separation from
him on whom she had all her life lavished an affection little short of
idolatry. How bitterly must she have regretted encouraging that fervent
piety that now led to a sacrifice, in the name of his religion, of all
that the king, the son, the husband ought to hold most dear. At a time
when, under the persistent efforts of his grandfather, his father, and
his mother, the power of the crown had just begun to be firmly
established, Louis must reverse all this policy, or rather must make use
of it not to the profit of his kingdom but to that of fanatical
religious ideals. Blanche was too good a politician not to understand
this, and too sensible not to deplore it. Louis's duty lay in France; he
had everything to lose, nothing to gain, in a crusade; though Blanche
knew too well the relentless doggedness with which he would cling to
what he conceived to be his duty to God, nevertheless she pleaded with
him to give up the idea of going on the crusade.

The pleading of his mother and of his wife could not turn Saint Louis
from his design, nor was the advice of his councillors more effective.
For three years, however, other matters occupied his attention, though
the preparations for his holy war were not forgotten. When these
preparations began to be undertaken with more vigor a fresh attempt was
made to dissuade him. The Bishop of Paris one day said to him: "Do you
remember, sire, that when you received the cross, when you made suddenly
and without reflection so momentous a vow, you were weak and troubled in
spirit, which took from your words the weight of truth and
responsibility? Now is come the time to seek release from this
obligation. Our lord, the Pope, who knows the needs of your kingdom,
would gladly give you a dispensation from your vow." And then he pointed
out the peculiar danger of undertaking such an enterprise in the
existing disturbed state of Europe. Blanche was present, watching with
anxious countenance the effect of this subtle appeal. "My son, my son!"
she said, "remember how sweet it is to God to see a son obedient to his
mother; and never did mother give her child better counsel than I give
you. You have no need to trouble yourself about the Holy Land; if you
will but stay in your own land, which will prosper in your presence, we
shall be able to send thither more men and more money than if your
country were suffering and weakened by your absence." Louis listened
silently, thought earnestly a moment, and then replied: "You say that I
was not myself when I took the cross. Very well, since you so wish, I
lay it aside; I give it back to you." With his own hand he took the
sacred symbol from his shoulder and surrendered it to the bishop. Then,
while those present had hardly recovered from their delight and
astonishment, he spoke again: "Friends, now surely I am not lacking in
sense, I am not weak or troubled in spirit; I demand my cross again; He
Who knows all things knows that no food shall pass my lips until the
cross is placed once more on my shoulder."

There was no turning aside a man of such character; the preparations for
the crusade went on, and Saint Louis raised the Oriflamme at Saint-Denis
on June 12, 1248. We shall not tell of the crusade or of Louis's
characteristic conscientiousness in seeing, before he left, that
reparation was made for every act of injustice done in his kingdom, for
which purpose he sent out a commission charged with holding an inquest
in all parts of France. The inevitable day of separation came, the day
to which Blanche looked forward as the last upon which she would see her
son. She accompanied him for the first three or four days of his
journey, which lay through southern France to Aigues-Mortes, and at
Corbeil she received the regency, with power to act in the government
through what agents she pleased and in what way she pleased. The
guardianship of his children, too, Louis left to Blanche. At Cluni came
the scene of final separation; the grief of Blanche can be imagined, and
words would fail to help us to a realization of its intense sincerity.
Her premonition was well founded; she was not to live to see Louis

Once more was Blanche de Castille regent of France, a heavy burden for
one who had lived a life of no easy indulgence and who was now sixty
years of age. Instead of peace and rest in her declining
years--perchance she had hoped to retire to her own convent of
Maubuisson--she must undertake the cares of government. Truly, Saint
Louis was sacrificing his mother for an ambition, albeit not a vain or
selfish ambition, and whatever service he may have rendered God by
killing some hundreds of Mohammedans in Egypt, there is no question
about the service Blanche was rendering to him and France.

To aid Blanche in her government, and also to collect an additional
force for the crusade, Louis had left in France his brother, Alphonse de
Poitiers, who was of real assistance to his mother. The other sons,
however, Robert d'Artois and Charles d'Anjou, had sailed with the
crusaders for Egypt. Blanche's first anxiety came from Henry III., who
chose this opportunity to make warlike preparations, after he had
refused to renew the truce with France, and who had been besieging Saint
Louis with preposterous demands for the restoration of his lost
provinces. But Henry contented himself with preparations, being perhaps
held in check by fear of the Church, which threatened an interdict on
all England if he ventured to attack France while the king was away
fighting in her behalf. Relieved of this anxiety, Blanche was free to
concentrate her efforts in procuring assistance for Saint Louis. But the
worldly-minded Pope Innocent IV. was so busily engaged in his contest
with the Emperor Frederick II. that he had little but prayers and
blessings to bestow upon the crusading king; while Frederick was either
unable or unwilling to contribute more than a mere pittance. At the
close of the summer of 1249, Alphonse de Poitiers embarked on his voyage
to lead to his brother the considerable army he had been able to
collect. This was a new separation for Blanche, and one that involved
her, almost at once, in the conduct of new and rather complex political

Scarcely a month after the departure of Alphonse de Poitiers, his
father-in-law, Count Raymond of Toulouse, died, leaving as his only heir
his daughter's husband. Blanche immediately took steps to secure to her
son the succession, even before she was requested to do so by a message
from him. Under the terms of the treaty of 1229, she took possession of
the estates of the count, and appointed commissioners to receive the
homage of the vassals on behalf of Alphonse.

Meanwhile, good news had come from Louis, who had landed in Egypt and
had taken Damietta. Frequent letters passed between the queen and her
son; but letters were slow in reaching their destination, and the queen
was still rejoicing over the good news when Saint Louis and his army
were in desperate plight. At last came the letter telling of the
disastrous battle of Mansourah,--a victory in name, but as costly in its
consequences as a defeat,--February 8, 1250, and of the death of the
impetuous Robert d'Artois. His army was reduced by disease and incessant
skirmishes with the infidels and Saint Louis himself fell sick. There
was no Blanche de Castille, no tender mother, no wife there to nurse him
back to health.

We have mentioned the wife of Saint Louis, and it may be as well to
complete here her part in this story. She had accompanied her husband on
the crusade, but had been left behind in Damietta with a strong garrison
when Louis marched on to Mansourah. When the king was captured by the
infidels, Marguerite lay ill in Damietta, hourly expecting the birth of
her child. When the first messengers came with the news of the captivity
of her husband she refused to believe them, and, it is said, had the
unfortunates hanged as the bearers of false news; but there was soon no
doubt that disaster had overtaken the Christian arms. Marguerite was
half crazed with pain and fear; even in her sleep she fancied that the
room was full of Saracens bent on killing her, and she would cry out
pitifully, "Help! help!" She made an old knight, over eighty years of
age, keep guard at the foot of her bed. Before the birth of her child
she called this old man to her, sending everyone else from the room, and
threw herself on her knees before him, begging him to grant her one boon
she would ask. "Sir knight," she said, "I enjoin you, by the faith you
have sworn to me, that, if the Saracens should take this town you will
cut off my head before they can capture me." And the good knight, with a
sternness characteristic of the age, replied that he would surely do as
she bid him, for he had already resolved to kill her rather than see her
become a Saracen captive.

A son was born to the queen; in memory of the misery of these days she
named him Jean Tristan. On the very day of the child's birth she learned
that the Genoese and Pisan sailors, and some of the garrison, were
preparing to abandon Damietta. It was a serious danger; for, the fleet
once gone, what chance of rescue, or even of return to France, was there
for the king and his army? In the midst of her pain Marguerite acted
with a promptitude and decision far greater than one could have hoped
for from the rather colorless, yielding woman who had so long submitted
to the domination of her mother-in-law. She sent for the ringleaders,
and besought them for God's sake not to imperil the safety of the king
and the whole army: "Have pity, at least, upon this poor woman, lying
here in pain, and wait but till she can get up again." Then, learning
that they had just cause of complaint in that they could not get food,
she took the responsibility of purchasing what provisions could be had
and of feeding the sailors at the king's expense. Her prompt action
saved the fleet for Louis. Even as it was, Damietta had to be evacuated,
as one of the conditions of his being released, and Queen Marguerite was
compelled to sail for Acre before she had entirely regained her health.

Once released and safe at Acre, Saint Louis was urged to return at once
to France, whither the dreadful news of his disaster had already gone to
distress Blanche de Castille; but he had left a large part of his
followers prisoners in the hands of the infidels, and under such
circumstances it was useless to urge this truly noble monarch to
consider his own wishes, or his own interests. He called a counsel of
his barons, and announced to them: "I have come to the conclusion that,
if I stay, my kingdom is in no danger of going to destruction, for
Madame the Queen has many men to defend it with." He had good reason to
rely upon _Madame la reine_, who had kept his heritage for him when he
could not have kept it for himself. Sending back to France his brothers,
Alphonse de Poitiers and Charles d'Anjou, Saint Louis lingered on in

Blanche continued to rule France and to make every effort to succor her
son in his perilous position. The death of Frederick II., in December,
1250, gave a momentary hope of obtaining assistance from the empire or
from the Pope. But this hope was soon dashed, for Innocent IV. was bent
on continuing his quarrel with Frederick's successor, Conrad. Blanche,
moreover, was seriously ill in the early part of 1251 so ill that the
Pope wrote to discourage her from attempting to journey to Lyons to see
him. "Your life," he wrote, "is the safeguard of so many people that you
should use every endeavor and take every care to preserve or to recover
the health which means so much to all." With all the benedictions and
affectionate solicitude contained in this letter, the Pope was not
disposed to give material assistance to Saint Louis. On the contrary, he
ordered the preaching of a crusade, even in Brabant and Flanders,
against the Christian emperor who was his political rival, and promised
greater rewards to those who would engage in it than to those who were
fighting the infidels. Blanche called a council of her vassals, who
broke forth in violent wrath against the selfish and un-Christian
conduct of the head of the Church. No doubt Blanche shared their
resentment, and it is even reported that she ordered the confiscation of
the goods of those who ventured to engage in the Pope's crusade against
the emperor, saying: "Let those who are fighting for the Pope be
maintained by the Pope, and go to return no more."

While the affairs of the Church were in this state a new and dangerous
movement of the common people, a movement half religious in nature, came
to disturb France. A strange man, of wonderful eloquence, and exercising
a powerful influence upon the peasantry, made his appearance in northern
France. In a few weeks he had gathered veritable armies of the peasants,
the _pastoureaux_, as they were called, who marched about the country
after their mysterious leader, known only by the name of "the Master of
Hungary," proclaiming that they would go to the aid of their good king.
At first they committed no damage, but, growing bolder and becoming
contaminated by a certain mixture of the more dangerous elements of the
population, they began to manifest a peculiar unfriendliness toward
priests, and soon passed to actual acts of violence. The Master of
Hungary arrogated to himself powers almost miraculous, and the people
believed in him. At Amiens, the first large town entered by the
Pastoureaux, people sought out this man and knelt before him as if he
had been a holy personage. But the priests circulated all sorts of
stories about him: he was a magician in league with the devil; he was an
apostate Christian, an infidel, nay, an emissary of the sultan of Egypt,
charged with delivering into the hands of the Saracens a host of
Christian prisoners. But, impostor or no impostor, the people had faith
in him, and it was in vain for the priests to repeat or to concoct tales
of his being an infidel: the very people of the most Christian nation in
Europe were sullenly murmuring against Christ Himself. When the begging
friars asked for alms the people snarled a refusal at them and, calling
the first poor person in sight, gave alms, saying: "Take that; in the
name of Mohammed, who is greater than Christ."

The Master of Hungary and his satellites, preaching against the clergy
and inciting to acts of violence, performing all the functions of
priests and even claiming to perform miracles, advanced with their
hordes of ignorant or vicious followers to Paris. What attitude would
Blanche take? She had always had a heart to feel for the woes of the
common people, and she well knew that the priests were not by any means
always the friends of the poor, for she was not so blinded by
religiosity as to think that the clerical habit alone could make a mere
man something more than a man. At this particular time, too, she had
reason to feel vexed with the clergy; was it not the Church itself that
was most niggardly of funds to carry on the war in defence of the holy
places? She was far too sensible a woman to look for any material help
from this rabble which vowed to go to the rescue of the good king; but
she was not disposed to interfere with them until she had definite proof
of their wrongdoing. One can but suspect that she did not credit all
that the priests reported to her of them; she herself had known and in
some ways liked Raymond of Toulouse, whom the priests made out an arch

When the Pastoureaux approached Paris, therefore, she gave orders that
they should not be interfered with. Sending for the Master of Hungary,
she treated him with respect, asked him questions, and sent him back
with some presents. The man lost his head with vainglory at this
reception. Returning to his followers he announced that he had so
thoroughly enchanted the queen and her people that she would approve of
anything they did, and that they might kill priests with impunity. In
episcopal robes, the mitre on his head, he preached in the church of St.
Eustace. Riots were precipitated by his followers, and the vast army
moved on to the south, growing more and more outrageous every day.
Blanche saw that it was time to act; she had made a mistake in supposing
these people to be harmless, misguided peasants or religious
enthusiasts. Orders were given to pursue and exterminate them. Scattered
bands were overtaken here and there and dispersed, and the leaders were
summarily hanged. But the final catastrophe was to take place at or near
Bourges. The Pastoureaux having entered this town, engaged in looting
and rapine, and the royal officers, thinking to confine them in the
town, shut the gates; but the Pastoureaux broke these down, and poured
out of the town, pursued by the enraged citizens. They were overtaken
and brought to bay, and a veritable massacre, rather than a battle,
ensued, for most of the Pastoureaux were poorly armed. The Master of
Hungary was slain and torn in pieces, while his forces were dispersed.
In a few weeks the country was quiet again. Only a few of the
Pastoureaux really received the cross from those who had proper
authority to give it, and went to the aid of Saint Louis.

During these years we find Queen Blanche acting very frequently in a
judicial capacity, presiding over the court of Parliament and over the
council; she seems to have continued to take an active part in all the
affairs of her government. And, strange to say, we do not find the name
of any one counsellor exalted above the others, as a greater favorite or
as more relied on by the queen; she has her ministers, but so little
part do they seem to play that France is really ruled by the queen, not
by the ministers. We comment upon this because it is remarkable,
especially when we remember that, even with great kings, the names of
the ministers are not often utterly obscured.

The most interesting of the queen's activities at this time are those
connected with the Church; there are numberless little quarrels in which
she had to intervene and hold out for the rights of the crown, but the
two examples that follow will suffice to show the sort of thing with
which she had to contend. The clergy of France had accorded to Saint
Louis a tax of one-tenth on their property, in view' of his crusade.
Though this tax had been long due, the Abbey of Cluni, one of the
richest and one of the most favored by the royal family, allowed month
after month to elapse without making any move to pay. At length, in the
early part of 1252, while the abbot was away in England, the royal
bailli of Ma'am seized the chateau of Lourdon, belonging to the Abbey of
Cluni. There was a tremendous uproar in the clerical camp; the Pope
himself wrote to protest against this outrage upon the servants of God,
and demanded of Blanche the restitution of the sequestered chateau. At
the same time he instructed the Archbishop of Bourges to launch an
interdict against all those who continued to hold, to guard, or to
inhabit the chateau of Lourdon, with special exception of the queen and
her family. Blanche had not, it appears, given the bailli any orders
with regard to the collection of the tax, but, since he had acted, she
sustained him; there was no persuading her to return the property of the
abbey until the abbot had satisfied her just claims. The Pope and the
abbot were compelled to accept defeat for the present; but after Blanche
was dead a claim was made for indemnity, which we can only hope Saint
Louis did not grant.

Another instance in which Blanche intervened is even more to her credit,
since it was pure humanity, not the jealous safeguarding of the rights
of the crown, that moved her. The inhabitants of the villages of Orly,
Chatenay, and some others were serfs of the canons of Notre Dame. Being
unable to pay some tax imposed by their masters, the men of the
villages--we mean not a few, but _all_ the able-bodied men--were seized
and imprisoned in the chapter house. The horrors of the Black Hole of
Calcutta have been made familiar to all English readers; there are few
who realize that jails as horrible, and jailers as inhuman, were not
infrequent in many a period of the world's history. The condition of the
prisons of France when the courageous and devoted philanthropist John
Howard visited them, at the close of the eighteenth century, was such as
to beggar description: how much worse must have been a prison of the
thirteenth century! The unfortunate peasants, with insufficient food,
water, and air, were so crowded in the prison that several of them died.
News of the affair coming to Queen Blanche, she humbly prayed the canons
to release their victims, and said that she would investigate the
matter. The canons replied that it was none of her affair, that she
should not meddle with their serfs, "whom they could take and kill and
do such justice on as seemed good to them." To emphasize these rights
and to revenge themselves upon the talebearers who had reported to Queen
Blanche, they seized the wives and children of their prisoners, and
thrust them into the same overcrowded prison. The suffering was, of
course, intensified; many of the miserable wretches died. The historian
tells us that Blanche "felt great pity for the people, so tormented by
those whose duty it was to protect them." We do not need to be told
that; but Blanche was not of the milk-and-water kind that would have
wasted time in _fainéant_ compassion when there was suffering which her
activity could relieve. She summoned a body of knights and citizens,
gave them arms, marched straight to the prison, and ordered the doors to
be broken down, herself striking the first blow, that all might see that
she was not afraid to assume the responsibility for the act. Nor did her
beneficent activity cease with the release of the prisoners; for she was
determined that there should be no repetition of such tyranny if she
could help it. She took the serfs under her special protection and
confiscated the goods of the chapter of Notre Dame, which she held until
such time as full satisfaction had been rendered. The serfs were
enfranchised in consideration of an annual tax. But so far was she from
wishing to wrong the canons, or even to interfere with their rights, if
they had any, that she ordered the bishops of Paris, Orléans, and
Auxerre to hold a special investigation to determine whether or not the
people of Orly had owed the tax. With a woman of her character the
canons vainly resorted to their favorite threat of excommunication. If
they had excommunicated her, she would, in the light of history at
least, have been given an absolution more purifying than any they could

For the common people the great queen had always a tender heart. It was
a rough and cruel age, especially for those in bondage. "And since this
Queen," says an anonymous chronicler, "had great pity for such as were
serfs, she ordered, in several places, that they be set free in
consideration of the payment of some other dues. This she did partly
because of the pity she felt for the girls in this condition, because
people would not marry them, and many of them went to ruin thereby."

The last days of Blanche de Castille were drawing to a close amid sad
and fruitless longing to see her son. Her health was failing; one after
another of those dear to her fell ill or passed away; the dearest of all
lingered in the Holy Land, leading a forlorn hope and deaf to the
entreaties of his mother that he would return. She was at Melun when, in
November, 1252, she became so ill that she hastened to return to Paris.
She put her affairs in order and left instructions that those whom she
had unwittingly wronged should be indemnified out of her private
fortune. All worldly thoughts were now put aside, and she summoned the
Bishop of Paris, took the Holy Communion, and was admitted, by the
prelate's decree, into the Cistercian order, becoming a nun of her Abbey
of Maubuisson. Clothed in the simple garments of the sisterhood, the
noble queen passed, not many days later, from the scene of her useful
labors, murmuring in her last moments the words of the prayer for those
in extremis: _Subvenite, saticti Dei_.

It was on November 26th or 27th, in her sixty-fourth year, that Blanche
died. Over her nun's habit they placed her royal robes, and on her head
the crown; thus clothed, and placed upon a bier ornamented with gold,
she was borne by her sons and the great nobles through the streets of
Paris to the Abbey of Saint-Denis. The next day, after a mass for the
dead, the body was carried in procession to Maubuisson, where another
service was held. Here, in the choir of the chapel, the body of the
queen was buried, and a tomb, bearing her effigy in nun's habit, was
erected. The other convent founded by her wished to have the honor of
guarding her heart, which, in March of the following year, was taken to
Notre Dame du Lys by the abbess, Countess Alix de Macon.

Let us pause awhile by the tomb before we attempt to review the
character of Blanche de Castille; and meanwhile we may see how the news
of her death was received by Saint Louis. He was at Jaffa when, after a
long delay, the intelligence reached him. At the very first ominous
words of the papal legate who had come to break the tidings to him Saint
Louis gave way to uncontrollable emotion. Consolation was unavailing;
even the clergy seemed to realize that it would have been but an
impertinent aggravation; and for two days no one ventured to speak to
him. Then, rousing himself from the depths of his grief, he sent for
that best and sturdiest of his friends, the fearless, honest, blunt Sire
de Joinville, Seneschal of Champagne, who leaves us an account of what
followed. When Joinville came into the presence, the king rose, and,
stretching out his arms to him, cried in simple grief: "Ah! Seneschal! I
have lost my mother!" Joinville replied: "Sire, I do not marvel at it,
for she had to die; but I do marvel that you, a wise man, should mourn
so deeply; you know that in the words of Wisdom it is said that,
whatever grief a man have at his heart, none of it should be seen in his
countenance; for he who does so (_i. e._, shows his grief) rejoices the
heart of his enemies and brings sorrow to his friends." As all
consolation would have been inadequate to the magnitude of the loss, we
do not know that anyone could have spoken better than Joinville. The
Seneschal continues: "Madame Marie de Vertus, a very good and pious
woman, came to tell me that Queen Marguerite, who had rejoined the king
a little before, was in great grief, and prayed me to go to her and
comfort her. When I arrived I saw that she was weeping, and I said to
her that he spoke truth who maintained that one ought not to believe
women; for she who is dead was the person in the world whom you most
hated, and yet you display such grief for her. And she told me that it
was not for the Queen that she wept, but for the suffering and the grief
of the King, and for her little daughter, now left in the care of men."

There is no quality more to be admired in one who attempts to write a
life of some great man or woman than fearless frankness; the passages we
have given are characteristic of the _Vie de Saint Louis_, by the Sire
de Joinville, whose straightforward bluntness of speech is an amusing
but also a valuable quality. We shall keep Joinville in mind while
concluding, in brief, the story of Saint Louis's return and of the
subsequent career of Marguerite.

More than a year of misery and futile battling intervened between the
time when the news of his mother's death reached Louis and the time when
he set sail for France. There was no hope of succor from Europe: there
was no Queen Blanche to husband the resources of France that her son
might continue his fight for the faith. On April 25, 1254, Saint Louis,
accompanied by Marguerite, their little son Jean Tristan, and the
remnant of the crusaders, embarked at Acre. The sea was rough, and when
they were off the coast of Cyprus the vessel bearing the royal family
ran on a sand bank. The nurses rushed frantically to arouse the queen,
and asked her what they should do with the children. Marguerite,
thinking all would be lost in the violence of the storm, said: "Neither
waken them nor move them; let them go to God in their sleep." Saint
Louis, urged to transfer himself and his family into another vessel,
refused to do so, resolving to take the risk with those who had to
remain and might be forced to land in Cyprus: "If I leave this vessel,
there are on it five hundred men, each one of whom loves his life as
much as I love mine, and who may have to stay in this island, and they
may never return to their own country. That is why I had rather place in
the hands of God my person, my wife, and my children, than cause such
great suffering to the many people in this ship."

Joinville narrates another accident during this voyage, one which will
recall the instructions for extinguishing one's candle given in a
previous chapter. It seems that one of the queen's ladies, having
undressed her, carelessly threw over the little iron lantern in which
the candle was burning an end of the cloth she had used to wrap up the
queen's head. The cloth caught fire, and in its turn set fire to the
bedding, which was all ablaze when the queen awoke. Jumping out of bed
_toute nue_, she seized the blazing stuff and threw it overboard, and
put out the little fire which had started in the wood of the bed. The
cry of fire arose, however, and Joinville tells us that he went to keep
the sailors quiet, and later asked Marguerite to go to the king, who had
been disturbed and excited by the noise.

We hear little more of Marguerite after this crusade. In spite of his
affection and respect for her, and in spite of his gratitude for her
conduct during his first crusade, Saint Louis did not think his wife
capable of playing the rôle of Blanche de Castille, to which some say
she unwisely aspired. When he was preparing for his second crusade, in
1270, he not only did not leave her the regency, although she was to
remain in France, but he took unusual care to regulate her expenditures
and to hedge about her prerogatives. He forbade her to receive any
presents for herself or her children, to meddle with the administration
of justice, or to choose any person for her service without the consent
of the council of regents. That his precautions were not altogether
without excuse, we see when we learn that Marguerite was already
thinking about securing her position, in case of her husband's death, by
making her son Philippe promise under oath that he would remain in
tutelage until he was thirty years of age; that he would take no
councillor without her approval; that he would inform her of all designs
hostile to her influence; that he would make no treaty with his uncle,
Charles d'Anjou; and that he would keep these engagements secret. The
young Philippe had himself absolved from his oath by the Pope. The
ambition of Marguerite, however, died with the husband whom she had
loved and whom all Europe mourned. The good King Louis is a figure so
heroic in some of its aspects that one must pause and take thought
before venturing on any criticism: his motives cannot be impugned, and
it were an ungrateful task to find fault with his deeds in any

Marguerite lived on long after her husband in the convent she had
founded in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel, which she gave to the nuns in
perpetuity, reserving only a life interest for her daughter, Blanche. It
was here that she was living when she had the joy of hearing proclaimed
the canonization of Louis IX., the saintly King of France. This was just
before her death in 1295.

There are figures in history which have become woefully distorted in the
disfiguring mists of centuries, and others which have been not less
wronged by prejudice, partisanship, or conscious or unconscious
misrepresentation. These--at least some of these--have been in part
indemnified and set right before the world: Louis XI. in France, and his
contemporary Richard III. in England; Cleopatra, Catherine de Medici,
Mary of England, all these and a host of others, we are told now and
then, have been misunderstood by the world; nay, in this century of
universal charity, this century which is undertaking the task of
righting all the wrongs accumulated from the past, one can find
apologists for the enemy of mankind himself. The moral of this homily
is--it may be apparent to some of my readers--that if you are either
very good or very bad you get much talked about in history: there will
be some to defend you no matter how bad you are, and some to denounce
you no matter how good you are. But if you simply do your duty, without
fear and without advertisement, little will be said of you; history, at
least in traditions still partly ruling, does not dignify with the
epithet "great" the steady day-laborers who go about their task and
complete it in silence. This, I would imply, is partly the reason why
Blanche de Castille has never been heralded as great, and why her work
in the upbuilding of the French monarchy is taken as a matter of course,
and not praised like, for example, the more brilliant exploits of the
"Grande Monarque" who was to do so much to undermine the power of that

The fame of the mother is eclipsed by the peculiar glory of the son; but
would it not be fair to ask how much of the excellence of Louis the man,
how much of the glory of Louis the king, was due to Blanche de Castille?
It cannot be questioned that she found France in a condition most
perilous, threatened with the loss of all that two reigns had won for
the royal power. A glance at the history of her career will show that
she not only averted this danger, but that the crown was stronger when
she began to relinquish her authority than it had been under Louis VIII.
She reduced her rebellious vassals to submission; she more than held her
own against England; she ended the war against Raymond of Toulouse, and
reserved for France the control, immediate or ultimate, of the greater
part of his dominions; and these things she accomplished, not merely by
force, but by wise and patient policy. Louis IX. owed his crown to
Blanche's care as regent; it is not improbable that he owed her as much
during the years when he himself was on the throne and she but a
counsellor. History is silent on many points in this connection, but it
might be noted that it was through disregard of her earnest advice that
he entered on the crusade which resulted so disastrously. She knew that,
even if it had been successful from the point of view of the Church, it
could but be dangerous, perhaps even ruinous, for France. This is one
case in which we know Saint Louis rejected his mother's guidance, and
what came of it is matter of history; might there not be many another
act of his, more successful in its issue, for which the credit should go
to Blanche?

As a queen, Blanche de Castille was more than capable; it is only the
absence of great battles, great social, religious, and economic
movements, during her ascendency, that hinders our calling her, without
reservation, a great queen. When we look at Blanche the woman, we are
confronted with a like difficulty. Shall we say she was a saint? Her
son, the son whom she bore, whom she reared with unexampled care, whom
she watched over all her life, has been called a saint, and there is no
one to say him nay. Shall we say that the mother of a saint is, _ex
officio_, or even by courtesy, also a saint? We cannot claim sanctity
for Queen Blanche: there was in her a touch of the temper of her
grand-mother, Eleanor of Guienne of wicked memory, or mayhap a trace of
the Plantagenet. It is interesting to note that the best qualities of
the vigorous Henry II. tempered the woman's nature of this daughter of
Spain and gave her the stamina, the unconquerable spirit, which alone
could save her. This Plantagenet temper is under excellent control in
Queen Blanche; so excellent, indeed, that under some circumstances she
seems cold. She is not cold, she is cool, a very different thing; no
danger, no excitement, no sudden gust of resentment at an insult, can
make her lose her head and act rashly. She is a thorough politician,
making her feelings, her emotions, subservient to her will, and even, as
we have hinted, playing the lover for the sake of controlling an amorous
and uncertain vassal. Danger nerves her to action, and she acts with
promptitude and firmness. At the defects in her character we have
already hinted in part; the fundamental one, when we consider Blanche
the woman, was her love of power. Ambitious she was; and yet, when we
say this, we must not forget that she sought power not for herself, but
for her son. How quietly she relinquishes her authority, and how ready
she is, even when that authority is at its height, to tell Thibaud de
Champagne that he owes his preservation to "the great goodness of my
son, the King, who came to your aid"! But it was her jealousy of
Marguerite de Provence that was the great blemish on Blanche's
character. It was a meanness unworthy of a nature so generous and so
faithful; we can attempt no defence, we can only express regret. Her
personality exerted a powerful influence over those with whom she came
in contact, and from all the best men of her time she received due meed
of praise. Compare her with other women of her day, and there is none
who can be placed beside Blanche _la bonne reine_, or Blanche _la bonne



BESIDE such a figure as that of Blanche de Castille, the women of whom
we might next speak would seem pale ghosts, mere masks and shadows; and,
even then, not always pleasing ones. There are, in fact, no immediate
successors of Blanche and her daughter-in-law in the history of France;
there is an interregnum, so to speak, of good, great, even of notorious
women; in this inter-regnum, therefore, let us see how chivalry and
literature were treating woman, what was the ideal, and what was the
real woman in the artistic world at this time.

Between the tenth and the sixteenth centuries Europe saw the birth, the
growth, the culmination, the decay, and finally the displacement of
those ideals and those customs which we associate with the word
"chivalry." The subject of chivalry, interesting in itself, is also one
of peculiar interest for us, since chivalry affected in no small degree
the condition of women; but with its primal origin we shall not attempt
to deal: we shall dig up no roots, but only do our best to describe the
glorious tree itself and the soil in which it flourished. We shall find
that chivalry, like all other earthly things, has its leprous spots,
which one must keep out of sight if one would pour forth genuine and
unchecked enthusiasm; yet the good and the bad alike must be understood
if we would have a just conception of the whole.

We have seen in the case of the troubadours something of the nature of
the extravagant amorous devotion avowed for his lady by the knightly
poet. Though this exaggerated passion and romance is one of the
concomitants, it is not the fundamental idea or the best part of
chivalry. Originally, perhaps, a mere association for mutual defence and
support, the order of knighthood soon came to have a deeper and a better
purpose, a wider significance; it assumed the sanctity of a religious
institution, for which long years of careful preparation were deemed
necessary, and which imposed serious duties.

To defend the weak and the oppressed was what the soldier of God swore
to do; and first in the list of those needing his defence were women.
The knight was not only the sworn defender of woman from all physical
wrong and oppression, but he must guard the honor of her name. Courteous
and gentle he must be toward women himself, and from others less gentle
he must compel at least outward respect. In the statutes of many an
order of knighthood we find provisions like those set forth by Louis de
Bourbon when, in 1363, he established the order of the Golden Shield:
"He enjoined (the knights) to abstain from swearing and blaspheming the
name of God; above all, he enjoined them to honor _dames et
damoiselles_, not submitting to hear ill spoken of them; because from
them, after God, comes the honor men receive; so that speaking ill of
women, who from the weakness of their sex have no means of defending
themselves, is losing all sense of honor, and shaming and dishonoring
oneself." It was also about this time that Marshal Boucicaut established
the order of the Knights of the Green Shield, fourteen in number, whose
special purpose was the defence of women, and on whose shields was a
blazon representing a woman clothed in white. This same sentiment we
find persisting even in Brantôme: "If an honest woman would maintain her
firmness and constancy, her devoted servitor must not spare even his
life to defend her if she runs the least risk in the world, whether of
her honor or of evil-speaking; even as I have seen some who have stopped
all the wicked tongues of the court when they came to speak ill of their
ladies, whom, according to the devoirs of chivalry, we are bound to
serve as champions in their affliction."

The devotion to woman which we find becoming the dominant feature of the
chivalrous ideal rises at times to sheer extravagance, mere moonshine
madness. A knight vows devotion to his lady-love; to prove that he is
the truest lover in the world and she the fairest dame, he wears a patch
over one eye and engages in mortal combat with anyone who ventures to
smile at this absurdity. Another takes his station on the highway and
compels every passing knight to joust with him, because he has vowed to
break three hundred lances in thirty days in the honor of his lady. Or
there is Geoffrey Rudel, who falls in love with the Countess of Tripoli
on hearsay; they say she is the most beautiful and lovable woman in the
world; therefore he loves her, and therefore he goes on a crusade that
he may see the lady. On the voyage he falls ill, and lands in Tripoli
sick nigh unto death. The lovely countess, touched by the tales of his
devotion, comes to his bedside; at once the glow of health returns to
the dying lover, who praises God for preserving his life long enough to
permit him to see his lady. When he died, soon after,--for the sight of
the lady did not effect a permanent cure,--the countess had him buried
in the church of the Templars, while she herself took the veil.

But if there is moonshine madness in the ideals of chivalry, there are
also better things. Devotion to woman rises to the point of adoration;
why should it not, when at its base is really the fervor of worship, the
mystic worship of her whom the Middle Ages delighted to honor, Mary, the
Mother of God? Let us content ourselves here with what Lecky has so well
said in his _History of European Morals_: "Whatever may be thought of
its theological propriety, there can be little doubt that the Catholic
reverence for the Virgin has done much to elevate and purify the ideal
of woman, and to soften the manners of men. It has had an influence
which the worship of the Pagan goddesses could never possess, for these
had been almost destitute of moral beauty, and especially of that kind
of moral beauty which is peculiarly feminine. It supplied in a great
measure the redeeming and ennobling element in that strange amalgam of
religious, licentious, and military feeling which was formed around
women in the age of chivalry, and which no succeeding change of habit or
belief has wholly destroyed."

The fact that this love of the Virgin finally became a recognized force
is a proof of how much stronger are love and romance than theology and
dogma; for the strict religious theory of the Church had always been
opposed to the elevation of women to a very high plane of adoration.
While the Fathers of the Church praised and practised chastity as the
highest virtue, and in consequence honored virgins above all others,
they never forgot that it was the sin of woman which had "brought death
into the world and all our woe"; they never forgot to twit the daughters
of Eve with this fact, and to call them _vas infirmius_--"the weaker
vessel." All through the ages when Christianity was struggling to
maintain its own, the saints and martyrs, the holy hermits, in whom the
Church delighted, fled the very sight of woman, and shuddered at her
touch as at a contamination. Yet, in spite of this, or along with this,
there was growing the adoration of a woman, the mother of Him whom the
world called the Son of God. Little was known about her; so much the
better for the pious hagiologists, who thought they did no wrong in
piecing out scant fact with abundant legend. A regular cult of the
Virgin arose, reaching such proportions that the Church had to do
something to recognize it. Numerous festivals were established in her
honor, some with the sanction of the Church, some without that sanction,
some celebrated throughout Christendom, some only locally: the
Annunciation, the Visitation, the Purification, the Assumption.

The mystic worship, the tendency to find hidden meanings in things of
the most ordinary appearance to the lay eye, the extravagant symbolism,
were at their height in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The
scholastic theologians and sermon writers applied their fantastic
methods to all phases of the religious life; so we must not be surprised
to find them treating even the Virgin in this way. One of the
extraordinary instances which we can give occurs in a sermon delivered
in Paris by the Chancellor of the university, Stephen Langton, later
Archbishop of Canterbury. His name, by the way, is Latinized for us as
_Stephanus de Langeduna_, whence it was easy and flattering to deduce
_Stephanus Linguæ tonantis_. As a text the preacher takes nothing more
nor less than a popular song, _Bele Aalis main se leva_, of which the
following is the sense: "Sweet Alice arose in the early morn, dressed
herself and adorned her fair body, and went into the garden. There she
found five flowrets, of which she made a chaplet covered with roses. By
my faith, therein has she betrayed thee, thou who lovest not." It is a
little love song; and the author, whoever he may be,--probably some
forgotten strolling minstrel who saw the girl go into the garden and
wrought the incident to suit his fancy,--certainly had no religious
intent. But Stephen Langton endeavors to make a mystic application of
the song to the Virgin, and, as he says, "thus to turn evil into good."
Let me quote a few lines of the sermon to show how this _tour de force_
was accomplished. _"Videamus quæ sit_ Bele Aeliz.... Cele est bele Aeliz
_de qua sic dicitur: Speciosa ut gemma splendida ut luna et clara ut
sol, rutilans quasi Lucifer inter sidera_, etc.... _Hoc nomen Aeliz
dicitur ab a quod est sine et lis litis, quasi sine lite, sine
reprehensione, sine mundana fæce._" It may be of interest to translate
this as a specimen of the sermon of the first quarter of the thirteenth
century: "Let us now see who is Bele Aeliz.... She is bele Aeliz of whom
it is said: Beautiful as a jewel, shining as the moon and brilliant as
the sun, glistening as Lucifer among the stars, etc.... This name Aeliz
is formed from a, which means without, and _lis, litis_, which is as
much as to say without dispute, without blame, without mixture of the
dregs of the world." The worthy theologian then proceeds to what is
undoubtedly the most difficult problem of his interpretation to
demonstrate the connection of the garden, the chaplet, and the five
flowers with the Virgin. "Who are these flowers? Faith, hope, charity,
humility, virginity. These flowers did the Holy Ghost find in the
blessed Virgin Mary..." The closing verses are, he says, directed
against pagans, heretics, blasphemers, whom he scripturally addresses
thus: "Depart, ye accursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the
devil and his angels."

The enthusiasm of the clergy in behalf of the Virgin was matched by that
of the people. Nothing was more popular than the hymn to the Virgin,
scarcely distinguishable, in the ardor of some specimens preserved to
us, from the contemporary love songs to women of flesh and blood. Clerks
and laymen composed these songs, vying with each other in the fervor of
the sentiments they expressed, writing in Latin, in French, in mixed
Latin and French, praising the mere physical beauty and grace of her
whom they called _rose des roses et fleur des fleurs_. One can read
these things without shock only when one remembers that there was
nothing but devotion of a purely spiritual kind intended by them, a fact
of which it is sometimes hard to persuade oneself. As an example, and
not an extreme one, it might do to substitute merely the name _Marie_
for that of _Aalis_ in the song used for Langton's sermon.

Besides these songs there were plays representing miracles ascribed to
the Virgin, and legends without end grew up in which she was the
intercessor for poor mortality. She becomes almost identified with the
attribute of Mercy assigned to the Godhead, and some of the souls
alleged to have been saved by her are not always worth the saving,
according to modern standards of morality. A legend, repeated in many
forms, tells us, for example, of a clerk of Chartres (presumably a clerk
in the cathedral), "proud, vain, rude, and so worldly and licentious in
his habits that he could not be restrained." With all his rakish ways,
however, there was one thing that this man of God never omitted to do:
"He would never pass before the image of Our Lady... without kneeling;"
and once on his knees, "his face wet with tears, he saluted her many
times most humbly, and beat his breast." Now the clerk was killed by an
enemy of his, and then the world began to speak ill of him, and, on
account of his notorious bad habits, they buried his body in a ditch
outside Chartres. Thirty days, or nights, afterward, "she from whom
springs all pity, all mildness and sweetness and love, and who never
forgets her servants," appeared in a dream to one of the other clerks
and reproached him bitterly for the dishonor done her servitor, of whose
piety she then told him. The clergy of the city marched out to the grave
of the clerk; and when it was opened they found "a flower in his mouth,
so fresh and full of bloom that it seemed as if it had just blown
there"; while the tongue with which he used to praise the Virgin was
preserved from corruption, "as clear as is a rose in May." The moral of
this story, one would think, would be anything but salutary; it is only
when one recognizes the simple, unsophisticated piety which inspired it,
and reflects upon its teaching of greater gentleness, greater charity in
judging others, that one can admire it.

To the mediaeval mind, indeed, the Virgin was not very unlike a heroine
of romance, and it was no disrespect to deck her out in fancy as
gorgeously as some fair Elaine or Iseut. The story of this latter
heroine, whose name no two will spell alike,--Iseut, Ysoult, Isolde,
Isout, Ysolt,--is one typical of the age of romance and chivalry, and
one which we shall give, despite its familiarity. By way of preface it
may be well to remark that the story has been told so often that the
variations introduced by this or that reviser are not to be
distinguished from the original.

The mother of Tristan was Isabelle, sister of King Mark of Cornwall,
who, dying when her son was born, asked that he be called Tristan, or
Tristram, "that is as much as to say, sorrowful birth." The boy was
hated by his uncle, King Mark, who tried to make away with him; but the
youth escaped to France, where he won the love of King Faramond's
daughter, and was in consequence compelled to flee again to Cornwall,
where a temporary reconciliation with Mark was effected. Then there came
out of Ireland a knight, Sir Morhoult, to claim tribute due to the Irish
king by King Mark. Tristan fought with the stranger, wounded him unto
death, and was himself wounded by the poisoned lance of his adversary.
Only in the country where the poison was brewed was there hope of succor
for the wounded hero; and accordingly Tristan set out for Ireland, in a
boat without sails and without rudder, albeit well victualled. The
helpless boat, however, bore its precious burden safely to Ireland.

The wounded knight, who concealed his real name, was kindly received by
the Irish king, who gave him into the charge of his wife and his
daughter, La Belle Iseut, both skilled leeches. The latter, fair and
golden-haired, altogether lovely, became the special attendant of the
wounded knight: "And when she had searched his wound, she found in the
bottom of his wound that there was poison, and within a little while she
healed him, and therefore Tristan cast great love to la Belle Iseut, for
she was at that time the fairest lady in the world, and then Sir Tristan
taught her to harp, and she began to have a great fantasy unto Sir
Tristan." Unfortunately the mother of Iseut discovered by chance that
Tristan was the slayer of her brother, Sir Morhoult. Tristan must leave,
and nothing but the love of Iseut and the honor of the king saved him
from the wrath of the queen and enabled him to escape unmolested.

For long years we hear no more of la Belle Iseut in Tristan's life,
which is wholly devoted to winning himself a place at the Round Table
and putting to shame his wicked uncle, King Mark. But he had never
forgotten Iseut, and praised her so enthusiastically that King Mark
conceived a desire to have her for his wife. Tristan, despatched to
Ireland to fetch Iseut to be his uncle's bride, was kindly received on
account of his honorable mission, and of the great renown he had won. He
made a formal demand for the princess: "I desire that ye will give me la
Belle Iseut, your daughter, not for myself, but for mine uncle King
Mark, that shall have her to wife, for so have I promised him." "Alas,"
said the king, "I had liever than all the land that I have ye would wed
her yourself." "Sir, an I did, then were I shamed for ever in this
world, and false of my promise."

All was made ready for the voyage, and la Belle Iseut was committed to
the care of Tristan: "a fairer couple or one more meet for marriage had
no man seen." She was accompanied into the strange land by her
gentlewoman, dame Brangian, to whom the Queen of Ireland had given a
powerful love philtre to be administered to the husband and wife on the
wedding day: whoso drank of that philtre with another, should love that
other with a love that knows no ending. By a fatal error, it was to
Tristan and Iseut that the philtre was given during the voyage; and from
that time an invincible passion drew them toward each other. Love so
overmastered Tristan that he was false to his knightly vows, false to
the trust imposed, and yet happy in his guilty love for the betrothed of
King Mark. And Iseut returned his love, and moaned at the thought of

When they reached the court of Cornwall some stratagem must be devised
to prevent the King from discovering that his bride had been unfaithful;
but it is always easy for the romancer to extricate himself from
entanglements that seem to the ordinary mind hopelessly involved, and
the solution generally suggests fresh complications. In this case it was
arranged that the lady-in-waiting, Brangian, should personate the bride
at night, trusting that King Mark, fuddled with wine and sleep, would
not discover the fraud. The scheme was entirely successful; King Mark
suspected no wrong. But la Belle Iseut, that gentle lady whom all loved,
determined to leave no witness to the shame of herself and Tristan,
hired two murderers to slay the faithful Brangian! More pitiful than
Iseut, the murderers were smitten with compassion and merely carried off
their victim and left her bound fast to a tree, from which she was
rescued by the gallant Saracen knight, Sir Palamedes. Palamedes, indeed,
was also one of Iseut's lovers, and had loved her in Ireland before she
met Tristan. But Iseut scorned him now as she had scorned him then: her
whole heart was given to Tristan, for Tristan was a knight of greater
prowess than he. Iseut loved Tristan, and not her husband; the husband
at length grew suspicious, and the lover was forced to flee for his

Many adventures befell him, but his heart was still with la Belle Iseut.
Wounded once more by a poisoned arrow, he could no longer return to
Iseut to be cured, and bethought him of his cousin, Iseut de la Blanche
Main, a lady skilled in surgery, who lived in Brittany. To Iseut of the
White Hand, then, went Tristan, and a new and most curious episode in
the love story began. For the new Iseut cured Tristan, but fell in love
with him, and loved him passionately. He could not return her love, for
he had not forgotten la Belle Iseut, but out of gratitude he married
her; and Iseut of the White Hand, not knowing that she had not all her
husband's love, was happy in what she had.

Tristan made a confidant of his wife's brother, Peredor, telling him
such marvels of the beauty of la Belle Iseut that Peredor was half in
love by hearsay, and quite in love when he and Tristan journeyed into
Cornwall and saw the lady. She seemed for a moment flattered by the new
love, and played the coquette till Tristan, driven to madness, wandered
off into the forest; and the heart of Iseut was sad and sick of longing
and regret. Here he dwelt, till one day he was captured by King Mark,
who failed to recognize his nephew in the naked madman, and confined him
within the high walled garden. But la Belle Iseut came forth to see the
man, and Tristan, knowing her even in his madness, turned away his head
and wept. Then a little dog that Iseut had always with her, smelt
Tristan, and knew him, and leapt upon him; for this dog had Iseut kept
by her every day since Tristan gave her to Iseut in the first days of
their love. And thereupon Iseut fell down in a swoon, and so lay a great
while; and when she might speak, she said: "My lord Sir Tristan, blessed
be God ye have your life! And now I am sure you shall be discovered by
this little dog, for she will never leave you; and also I am sure that
as soon as my lord King Mark shall know you he will banish you out of
the country of Cornwall or else he will destroy you. For God's sake,
mine own lord, grant King Mark his will, and then draw you unto the
court of King Arthur, for there are ye beloved."

King Mark banished Tristan forever, and to the court of King Arthur went
Tristan, winning there ever fresh fame, until finally King Mark himself,
moved by jealousy and envy, came to destroy Tristan. But the good Arthur
reconciled uncle and nephew, and Tristan went to free Cornwall from a
horde of invading Saxons. The intrigue with Iseut was renewed, and Mark
confined Tristan in a dungeon, whence he was released only by an
insurrection of Mark's oppressed subjects. Iseut eloped with him, and
the two wandered in the forest like true lovers, this fair lady and her
bold knight, and were finally received at Joyeuse Garde by the gallant
Lancelot, where they dwelt till a fresh reconciliation with King Mark
brought about the restoration of Iseut to her husband.

We must not forget the other Iseut, the white-handed lady whom Tristan
married and left behind in Brittany. The fact of her existence came
again to his recollection now, and he returned to her. She was in dire
distress and longing for her husband; but from her caressing arms he
fled again to put down a rebellion in his dominions. Once more sorely
wounded, once more he was cured by the white hands of his wife, whom he
nevertheless soon afterward abandoned to renew the intrigue with the
rival Iseut in Cornwall. But he was again discovered and put to flight
by the jealous husband. The spirit of restlessness would not let him be
quiet with his wife, the knight must be up and doing; and while he
engaged in a reckless adventure he was grievously wounded, so grievously
that death seemed nigh and not to be put off by the ministrations of
Iseut of the White Hand. Tristan sent a messenger in haste for la Belle
Iseut: "Come with all speed, if you love me! And that I may know you are
on the ship let the sails be white; if you cannot come, let the sails be
black." Iseut hastened toward her lover, with feverish impatience,
blaming winds and waves and slow messengers. Meanwhile, the neglected
wife, Iseut of the White Hand, discovered the truth and grew wildly
jealous. Tristan lay on his bed in agony, waiting for news of the ship
bearing la Belle Iseut. The jealous wife, too, kept watch, and when the
white sails of the vessel told her that her rival was coming, was almost
at hand, jealousy got the mastery: "I see the ship," she cried to
Tristan. "What color are her sails?" asked he. "Black, all black," she
cried. The sick knight fell back upon his bed, moaning out reproaches
upon the Iseut who had forsaken him in his need:

        "Amie Yoslt! treis fez a dit,
        A la quarte rent l'esperit."

(Iseut, my love! three times he cried, at the fourth he rendered up his

"Iseut is come out of the ship; in the street she hears the
lamentations.... An old woman told her: 'Lovely lady, so help me God, we
have here a sorrow greater than men ever had before: _Tristan li pruz,
li francs, est mort_ (Tristan the brave and noble is dead).'... All
dishevelled went Iseut through the streets and into the palace where the
body lay. Then she turned her to the east and prayed for him pitifully:
'Tristan, my love, when I see you lie dead, I should live no longer. You
are dead because of my love, and I die, ami, of grief because I could
not come in time.' Then she lay herself beside him, embraced him,... and
in that same moment yielded up her spirit."

The reader will note almost at once the similarity of this tale to one
famous in Greek legend, that of Theseus and the Minotaur; and there are
several details, necessarily omitted in the summary we have given, which
tend to make this similarity still more marked. But the matter in which
we are more interested is the character of the heroine. One might remark
that there are certain features in la Belle Iseut not very unlike those
of Andromeda, so readily consoled by Dionysius. The lady Iseut is a
typical heroine of the romances, and as such we may comment upon those
of her characteristics which seem most noteworthy.

The love motive of the romance is, to begin with, as strong as the
motive of pure adventure; it is, indeed, the love story which serves as
the thread to bind the whole together. This shows a marked change in the
importance of women in the eyes of those who wrote to please the world.
But the relations of the heroine to the hero are most amazing. Not only
is Iseut very forward, more than ready to confess her love and to give
full response to that of Tristan, but she is all this with the full
consciousness that she is doing wrong. The poet, realizing that the
moral of his story might be brought in question, the love potion: being
under the spell of enchantment the lovers are not responsible.

Whether we shall acquit the lovers at the bar of romantic justice or
not, we cannot forget that their entire story is based upon guilty
passion, which seems to have a peculiar fascination for the romancer: it
is the same, to cite but one example out of the many that could be
adduced, in the story of Lancelot and Guinever, with the episode of
Elaine. To be sure, in both cases we have mentioned, the highest honor
is denied the hero: it is not for the guilty Tristan, false to his
knightly oath, nor yet for the chivalrous but guilty Lancelot to win the
Holy Grail; and we are not teft in doubt, we are told that only the pure
in life could win that honor. And then for Iseut, though she is fair and
much beloved, there is a pathetic end, an end that brings no crowning
happiness, no reward; but punishment.

One trait in the character of Iseut is disconcerting to those who
cherish romantic ideals: her cruelty. We could forgive her the love for
Tristan, and we learn to feel for her, as we read the romance, some part
of the passion that instilled itself into Tristan's veins with the love
draught; but what shall we say when she deliberately plans the murder of
a defenceless woman, and one who had performed service unexampled in its
fidelity and sacrifice?

If Iseut represented the poetic ideal in the age of chivalry, was the
real woman of that age like Iseut? We can answer, unhesitatingly, no.
The conditions of life in the romances were very highly idealized, and
certain forms in the romance became purely conventional. The heroine
must always be more beautiful than tongue can tell, and she must, in the
end, win her lover, or be merciful to him, according as she began in
disdain or in love sickness. Numerous adventures, wildly fantastic in
character, preceded this consummation; but readers even in that day got
to such a point that their jaded palates could no longer be tickled even
by the choicest extravagances. Men knew that in real life they did not
love in that way; and women knew it, too, though they were perhaps
slower to confess it. At any rate, the reaction from the extreme type of
romantic idealization of woman began even while the romance of chivalry
was trying to persuade its readers that all women were like Iseut,
Guinever, Elaine, and that these were angels.

The reaction against the ideal of chivalry in literature took two main
directions, the one, more purely comic or realistic, representing the
woman of the middle classes, the other, more intellectual and satiric,
representing woman in general but especially the lady. The first is
represented, we may say, by the great _Roman du Renard_ and those short
popular tales which strolling minstrels were wont to recite, the
_Fabliaux_. The second we find chiefly in the _Roman de la Rose_ and its
numerous progeny.

Renard is, of course, the central personage in the gigantic beast epic,
but we hear not a little of his wife Hermeline or Erme, of madam wolf,
Dame Hersent, and of Harouge, the leopardess. They play before us a
little game, which we know is the game of life as women lived it in the
days when Renard was still a famous personage. To give but one episode,
from _Renard le Nouveau_, by Jacquemart Gelée, end of the thirteenth
century, Renard becomes the confidant of Noble (the lion), and learns of
his amour with Dame Harouge; forthwith the subtle Renard begins to
intrigue, until at last Harouge becomes his mistress. Besieged in
Maupertuis by Noble, Renard sends a flattering love letter to each of
his old flames, the lioness, the wolf, and the leopardess. The three
ladies are delighted with the proposals of the charming Maitre Renard.
They draw lots to see which shall possess forever the affections of the
irresistible Lothario; the lot falls to Dame Hersent, and the three
ladies write a joint letter to inform Renard of their choice, a choice
not very pleasing to Renard, who is, moreover, provoked because they
have exchanged confidences. His revenge is at once planned. Going to
court dressed as a charlatan, he gives to Noble a precious talisman by
means of which, he says, any deceived husband can learn of his wife's
infidelities; and Noble, Isengrin (the wolf), and the leopard are eager
to test the virtues of the talisman. The ensuing dreadful revelations
may be imagined. The guilty wives, well beaten by their wrathful
husbands, flee from the court and are kindly received by crafty Renard,
who forthwith establishes a harem. It is a pleasantly humorous story,
and the conditions of real life are distinctly reflected, while the
satiric intent is not enough to distort the reflection.

In the _Fabliaux_, however, woman is even more clearly portrayed as she
really was, or at least as she seemed to the men. A large part of Old
French literature, as one critic has remarked, is devoted to exposing
and discussing, the misfortunes of marriage; and in these relations the
deceived husband is, we might say, clown paramount. The authors of the
_Fabliaux_--which were written to amuse the bourgeois as well as the
knight--"invented or discovered anew talismans that revealed their
misfortunes (as husbands): the enchanted mantle which grows either
longer or shorter suddenly when put on by an unfaithful wife, the cup
from which none but happy husbands can drink.... Our tellers of tales
invented a whole cycle of feminine tricks and ruses.... The women of the
Fabliaux shrink from no stratagem: they can persuade their husbands, one
that he is covered by an invisible cloak, another that he is a monk, or
a third that he is dead." Contending with them or seeking to outwit them
is of no avail, says the author of these tales, for _mout se femme de
renardise_,--many a foxy trick does woman know,--and _fols est qui femme
espie et guette,_--he is a fool who spies upon a woman.

The story of one of these triumphs of beauty over wisdom will illustrate
the best type of the _Fabliaux_; it is called the _Lai d'Aristote_. When
Alexander had conquered India, he rested in shameful sloth, a slave to
love for a young Hindoo princess. Aristotle, master of all wisdom,
reproved his quondam pupil for this neglect of grave matters; and the
Hindoo girl, perceiving Alexander's unhappy frame of mind, discovered
what had produced it. She will be revenged on the crabbed old scholar;
ere noon of the next day she will make him forget grammar and logic, if
Alexander will only allow her free scope, and he shall see Aristotle's
defeat if he will watch from a window opening on the garden. In the
early morn, while the dew was on the grass and the birds were just
beginning to sing, she tripped out into the garden, her corsage loosely
fastened, her golden hair waving wildly down her neck; and as she picked
her way hither and thither among the flowers, her petticoat daintily
lifted, she sang sweet little songs of love. Master Aristotle, at his
books, heard the singer, and "such a sweet memory she stirred in his
heart that he shut his book." "Alas," he said, "what is the matter with
my heart? Here am I, old and bald, pale and thin, and a philosopher more
sour than any yet known or heard of." The damsel gathered flowers and
wove a garland for herself, singing the while so sweetly, so enticingly,
that the sour philosopher gave way, opened his window, and talked to
her, nay, came out to her and courted her like a very lover, offering to
risk for her sake body and soul. She asked not so much by way of proof
of his devotion. "It is merely a little whim of mine," she said, "if you
will gratify me in that, I might love you." The whim is, that he should
let her ride about the garden on his back. "And you must have a saddle
on: I shall go more gracefully." Love won the day, and there was the
foremost scholar in the world prancing about on all fours like a colt,
with a saucy girl on his back, when Alexander appeared at the window.
The pedagogue was not dismayed; with the saddle and bridle upon him, he
looked up at the king: "Sire, tell me if I was not right to fear love
for you, in all the ardor of youth, since love has harnessed me thus, I
who am old and withered! I have combined precept and example: it is for
you to profit by them."

Sometimes the poet of the Fabliau pauses to describe his heroine and her
costume; now it is a lively country maiden, barefooted, with her clothes
all wet from the armful of water-cress she has gathered; now it is a
coquette finishing her toilette before the mirror, which she makes a
little page hold while she binds up her tresses and flirts with him; and
now it is a party of ladies seated in some castle bower, embroidering
heraldic devices on the banners of their knights. Then there is a jolly
story of three _commères_ of Paris, the wife of Adam de Gonesse, her
niece Marie Clipe, and Dame Tifaigne, milliner, who tell their husbands
that they are going on a pilgrimage, oh! a pious pilgrimage, on the
feast of the Three Kings of Cologne. They evade their watchful but too
credulous spouses, and here they are seated at an inn table, where one
gets "as good wine as ever grew; it is health itself; 'tis a wine clear,
sparkling, strong, fine, fresh, soft to the tongue, and sweet and
pleasant to swallow." The good cheer begins with much eating of fat
goose, fritters, onions, cheese, almonds, pears, and nuts, while the
trio joins in singing:

        "Commères, menons bon revel!
        Tels vilains l'escot paiera
        Qui ja du vin n'ensaiera."

(Gossips, let's revel and frolic to our heart's content! The poor devil
who has never put away wine will pay the score.) And then, the meal
over, they come "out of the tavern into the street," not a little
exhilarated, one may fancy, by this famous wine, and away they go
singing to the fair.

Not all the pictures of women are as innocently amusing or mirthful as
this one; on the contrary, the general attitude of the authors of the
_Fabliaux_ is distinctly unflattering, not to say hostile. Sometimes it
is merely one of the infinite variations on the idea of the scarcity of
virtuous wives; it is Chicheface, the cow who feeds on virtuous wives,
and who is all but starved to death, while Bigorne, with less rigorous
ideas as to the morals of her food, is choked, fit to burst. But in
general the notion prevails, as one writer himself puts it, that "woman
is of too feeble intellect; she laughs at nothing, she cries at nothing;
she will turn from love to hate in a moment. The strong hand alone can
control her; and yet, beating is useless, for her faults are inherent;
nature made her captious, obstinate, perverse; she is an inferior
creature, by nature degraded and vicious."

But slightly different from this is the sentiment of the _Roman de la
Rose_, when we take this huge work in its complete and most influential
form. The _Roman de la Rose_, to rehearse a few well-known facts, was
composed between 1225 and 1275 by two poets, one writing later than the
other and under somewhat different inspiration. The story is
allegorical, and its main thread has to do with the adventures of a
young man, at once the hero and the poet, in his attempt to pluck a
beautiful rose, which he finds hedged about with thorns in a garden full
of marvels. In his attempts to reach the rose the lover is alternately
aided and hindered by various allegorical personages, whose names
suggest the part they play, such as Kindly Greeting and Modesty and
Vanity and Pity. To the poet who first undertook the telling of this
marvellous allegory, Guillaume de Lorris, woman is a superior being,
almost an angel; and love is a divine thing. Love is the theme of his

        "Ce est li Romanz de la Rose
        Où l'Art d'Amours est toute enclose."

(This is the Romance of the Rose, wherein is all the art of love.) And
it is real love that he teaches; for the God of Love himself commands
the lover: "It is my wish and my command that you centre all the
devotion of your heart in one place." His lover is gentle and courteous;
we are in an atmosphere not very different from that of the romances of

When Jean de Meung undertakes, some fifty years later, to complete the
romance left unfinished by Guillaume, we find that woman is for him the
incarnation of all vices; that love is a wicked thing, the root of all
evil; that the art of deceiving women, not of loving them, is worth
learning. Nay, the utmost libertinage is sanctioned; there is no such
thing as fidelity in love, for it is contrary to the law of nature,
which designed _toutes pour touz et touz pour toutes_--all women for all
men, and all men for all women. Jean de Meung has absorbed all that the
most cynical libertines of antiquity could teach him, and to that he has
added his own rancor against woman. It is Ovid's _Art of Love and Remedy
of Love_ revised for mediaeval use. Anything further from the gallantry
of the romances of chivalry could hardly be found. And yet this cynical
attitude was, as we have attempted to show, but an outgrowth of
gallantry run mad; for in the beginning, gallantry, says Montesquieu,
"is not love, but it is the delicate, the light, the perpetual pretence
of loving."



THE household of the kings of France, so lately under the wise control
of Blanche de Castille or the pure influence of the good but weak
Marguerite de Provence, was the scene of a court scandal which
threatened serious consequences under the son of Saint Louis, that
Philippe misnamed "le Hardi." The central figure in this unpleasant
episode, Marie de Brabant, is otherwise of so little note that we shall
not tell more of her than is necessary to the understanding of the
little intrigue of which she was accused.

Isabelle d'Aragon, the first wife of Philippe III., had died under
tragic circumstances. She accompanied her husband and Saint Louis on the
latter's second crusade, and returning with the body of the saintly
king, was thrown from her horse while crossing a stream in Calabria, and
died a few days later (January, 1271), giving birth to a child who did
not long survive. In 1274, Philippe married Marie de Brabant, sister of
Duke Jean de Brabant. The new queen was young, beautiful, and
_excellente en sagesse_, increasing each day in favor with the king. The
favorite of Philippe at that time was Pierre de la Brosse, who had begun
life, so his enemies said, as barber-surgeon to Saint Louis, but who was
really of more respectable origin. He had now arrived at such a pitch of
fortune as to excite the envy of the nobles; since there was a clique
against him, he was resolved to use every means to secure his power, for
the loss of his power, as he well knew, would almost certainly involve
the loss of his life.

The queen, Marie, had probably manifested dislike of this favorite and
perhaps sympathy with the attempts to overthrow his power. An
accident--we do not hesitate to affirm that it was an accident--gave
Pierre, now her enemy, a chance to ruin her. In 1276, Prince Louis,
Philippe's eldest son by Isabelle, died suddenly, or at least under
mysterious circumstances. The days of poisoning were not by any means
past, and poisoning was at once suggested to account for the mysterious
death. Pierre de la Brosse industriously circulated the rumor that the
queen had committed the crime and was prepared to do the like by the
three remaining children of Isabelle, in order that the crown might
descend to her children. There was, of course, much evil talk in the
court, as well as plots and counterplots between the friends of the
queen and the friends of the favorite. Philippe was half distracted
between his love for Marie and his suspicions of her, and the latter
Pierre de la Brosse took pains to keep alive. Finally things came to
such a pass that resort was had to the supernatural to satisfy the
doubts of the king,--no unusual method of settling difficulties in the
days when the belief in things occult was still rife.

At the instance of one of the parties,--it is not absolutely certain
which,--Philippe decided to refer the matter of the death of this son to
the decision of a learned and devout nun, or Beguine, of Nivelle in
Brabant, reputed to have the gift of second sight and mysterious
knowledge of things past, present, and to be. It is not impossible that
the oracle was tampered with by the enemies of Pierre de la Brosse; but,
however that may be, she returned an answer that set Philippe's heart at
rest. He was told to credit no ill against his good and loyal wife.
Marie was thereby saved from a most dangerous position; but she could
not fail to harbor resentment against the instigator of the attack upon

Though, in spite of the intrigues of the queen and the nobles led by her
brother, for two years Pierre de la Brosse continued in favor, his fate
was preparing; and in the spring of 1278 it overtook him, when letters
written by him or forged by his enemies were put into the hands of the
king. There was treason in these letters, alleged to have been taken
from Pierre's correspondence with Spain. He was arrested and confined in
Vincennes, and a court of nobles, dominated by the Dukes of Burgundy and
Brabant and the Count of Artois, held a sort of trial and condemned him.
The nobles lost no time in disposing of the fallen favorite, whom they
conducted at once to the scaffold, while the people of Paris, convinced
of the fact that Pierre had been a good minister and that he was being
unjustly condemned, indulged in serious riots. There was a popular
belief, indeed, voiced by a Parisian chronicler, that Pierre was
sacrificed to the hatred of the queen and the nobles: "Against the will
of the King, as I believe, was he hanged.... He was destroyed more by
envy than by guilt." The insinuations against the queen were no doubt
one of the main causes of his downfall.

History has never been able to determine whether Marie was really guilty
of some attempt upon the life of the children of her husband's first
wife. There is a very curious letter written by Pope Nicholas III. to
Philippe and Marie that leads one to think that he at least credited the
queen with some of the evil charged against her. After begging Philippe
not to search deeper into the affair, since Pierre de la Brosse is dead,
he fills his letter to Marie with rhetorical questions of a most
disquieting nature: "What could possibly have provoked you to inflict a
death so cruel upon an innocent child (Prince Louis) whose tender years
could give no just grounds for hate?" If Marie was guiltless, it is hard
to believe that the Pope thought her so, when one reads phrases so
equivocal. She certainly had everything to gain for her own offspring by
the death of Isabelle's children; but there is no proof that she even
harbored evil designs, and the whole course of her rather quiet and
obscure life gives the lie to the evil insinuations. She was gentle,
pious according to the habit of the day, and had received a careful
education which left her not without some appreciation of arts and
letters, for we find her the patroness of a poet from her native
Brabant, Adenet le Roi, called "king of minstrels." The real facts in
the case, however, we can never know; and Marie hardly appears again in
history, though she lived on in apparent wealth and fair renown until
1321, when her death occurred.

Before Marie de Brabant died many other queens had come and gone in
Paris, during the reigns of Philippe le Bel and his sons, Louis le
Hutin, and Philippe le Long. But not one of these is of sufficient fame
or notoriety to merit extended comment; instead, we may centre our
attention upon a typical _grande dame_ of the period, a woman who was a
direct vassal of the crown and who played no small role in the affairs
of her own domain, this is the Countess Mahaut d'Artois.

Mahaut, or Matilda, was one of the high nobility, illustrious in her
birth and in her relationship to persons of some note in history, being
great-niece of Saint Louis, cousin of Philippe le Bel, grandmother of a
Duke of Burgundy and of a Count of Flanders, and, greater still, mother
of two unhappy Queens of France, the wives of Philippe V. and Charles
IV. She lived an active and a useful life, and is a character not
unpleasant to consider. From the days of her impetuous grandfather,
Robert d'Artois, brother of Saint Louis, her family had been fond of the
battlefield, on which many of them had died. Robert, first Count of
Artois, was killed at Mansourah; Mahaut's father, Robert II., had fallen
in the great massacre of the French nobility at the battle of Courtrai;
and her brother, Philippe, had fallen in another battle with the sturdy
burghers of Flanders, in 1298. The death of this brother left Mahaut the
heiress of Artois, and she succeeded to her heritage when, as we noted
above, her father was slain at Courtrai, in 1302.

At that time Mahaut was already a matron and a great lady in the land;
for, in 1285, she had married Otho, Count Palatine of Burgundy. Her
husband was far older than she, being then forty-five, while Mahaut had
scarcely reached womanhood; moreover, Otho had been a comrade of her
father, and was as proud, as chivalrous, as lavish in his expenditures
as any prince of his time. This habit of extravagance made Otho an easy
victim for the rapacious money-lenders; and when he was in the hands of
these Philistines the cautious King Philippe le Bel knew how to help him
just enough to keep him a grateful and obedient vassal of the crown. As
early as 1291 was born Mahaut's first child, a daughter named Jeanne,
who was followed by a second daughter, Blanche (about 1295), and then by
two sons, Robert, and John, the latter dying while still in infancy. The
ruinous excesses of Count Otho had brought him to such a pass that, in
1291, Philippe le Bel made a most advantageous bargain with him: the
infant daughter Jeanne, it was agreed, was to marry the eldest son of
the king and thus bring Burgundy under the power of the crown; but it
was stipulated that, in the event of the birth of a son to Otho,
Burgundy should revert to this son and Jeanne should marry the second
son of the king. This, in fact, was what happened, for Otho had two
sons. Again, in 1295, when the count was in the hands of the usurers,
Philippe le Bel paid his debts, and granted him a pension and a
continuance of this or part of it to his children, in return for which
Burgundy was placed in the king's hands, together with the guardianship
of the children until they should reach the age of seventeen.

What the Countess Mahaut thought of these arrangements, so largely
affecting the future of her children, we cannot tell, for we have little
information in regard to her life previous to the death of her husband.
This event occurred in the early part of 1303, when Otho, like so many
others of Mahaut's family, was killed in battle with the Flemings; and
it cannot be denied that his death was a gain rather than a misfortune
for Mahaut and her children. As a widow she enjoyed the right to special
protection from the crown, with which the relations of her family and of
her husband had been most intimate and fortunate; and as a widow she was
free to devote herself to the task of recouping the losses incurred
through the bad management of her domains by Otho. As the feudal ruler
of Artois and Bourgogne she would have much to occupy her time, even if
her affairs had been in the best order and she had been left to manage
them in peace; but this was not to be, for she had to contend for her
rights during the greater part of the years that remained to her.

Before we enter upon her career as Countess of Artois, let us conclude a
part of the more intimate life of Mahaut, a part full of shame and
sorrow for the mother. Her son, Robert, was the object of much
solicitude on the part of Mahaut, who sought in every way to give him an
education not only suited for the high station in life he would be
called upon to occupy, but calculated to make him a useful and a happy
man. As early as 1304, when he could have been no more than seven or
eight years of age, Mahaut provided him with a separate establishment,
or _hotel_, under the government of two worthy gentlemen, Thibaud de
Mauregard and Jean de Vellefaux. There was provided a little comrade for
Robert, Guillaume de Vienne, his playmate, who was treated with as much
consideration and kindness as was Robert himself. Then there was a
retinue of some seven or eight servants, and two knights, old servants
of Mahaut's father, to assist in the military training of the young
gentlemen; and there was also a certain Henri de Besson, the pedagogue
charged with the education of Robert. The child, of course, was not left
solely to these attendants by his mother, who passed a considerable part
of the time with him. Games and fashionable amusements were not
forbidden by the fond mother, and, as early as 1308, we find Robert
losing his money in play at the court, and spending his gold on horses
and tourneys like other young gentlemen of the day.

In 1314 he was already able to wear knightly panoply of war, and in the
following year he accompanied the royal army in an aimless expedition to
Flanders, while his mother stayed at home and had prayers recited for
the safety of her son. But that son, whom she loved so devotedly, and
whom she was doing so much to please and amuse, did not live to manhood,
for he died in the early part of September, 1317, before he had received
the final dignity of knighthood. From all the Church dignitaries of
Artois, from all the great relatives of Mahaut, came letters of
condolence upon the death of the heir of Artois, which for two days was
publicly proclaimed by servants of the countess through the streets of
Paris, in which city generous alms were distributed to the poor; while
pilgrims were despatched at once to Saint-James of Compostella, to
Saint-Louis of Marseilles, and to other shrines, to intercede for the
soul of the dead. A few weeks later Mahaut ordered a sculptor, Jean
Pépin de Huy, to erect a tomb for the _très noble homme monseigneur
Robert d'Artois, jadis fiuz (fils) de ladite comtesse_. This tomb, of
white stone, bears a recumbent figure of the young count, clothed in
armor, with long, flowing hair about the handsome, beardless face; it is
now preserved in the Abbey of Saint-Denis, having been moved from the
church of the Cordeliers, where it originally rested over the grave of
Mahaut's son.

Long before the death of Robert, the Countess Mahaut's daughters had
played their brief and disastrous parts in the French court. In January,
1307, in accordance with the treaty agreed to by Count Otho in 1291, the
eldest daughter, Jeanne, was married to Philippe de Poitiers, second son
of King Philippe le Bel. The next year, Blanche, a great deal younger
than Jeanne, but already renowned for her unusual beauty, married
Charles le Bel, Count de la Marche, the youngest of the three sons of
Philippe le Bel, Louis le Hutin, the eldest, having married Marguerite,
sister of Hugues de Bourgogne. After their marriage to the princes of
France, we hear little more of Jeanne and Blanche in the accounts of
their mother, though both were guests at her mansion rather frequently,
and presents of various sorts were exchanged between mother and
daughters, until in 1314 came the great catastrophe.

For some time there had been scandalous rumors at the court about the
conduct of the three young princesses, and in the spring of 1314 the
evil report received such confirmation that the old king, Philippe le
Bel, gave the order to arrest them on charges of having been openly and
scandalously unfaithful to their marriage vows with two young knights of
their suite. Marguerite and Blanche were confined in rigid imprisonment
at the famous Château Gaillard, built by Richard of the Lion Heart. They
were stripped of all the glory of fine attire, and their heads were
shaved. Meanwhile, their accomplices in adultery, Philippe and Gautier
d'Aulnai, two Norman knights, were put to the torture, and confessed
that during three years they had sinned many times with the princesses.
The right of trial by battle, for which the knights first asked, had
been sternly denied them; there was but the rack, and after that a
shameful death for those who had dared to bring shame upon the royal
family. With the ingenuity of the Middle Ages in devising exquisite
torments, the two young men were publicly flayed alive, cruelly
mutilated, and tortured as long as life could be kept in their miserable
bodies. There were other accomplices in the disgrace of the princesses;
these, too, when they were not of rank sufficiently high to protect
them, were tortured, sewn up in sacks, and cast into the Seine. An
unfortunate Dominican monk, accused of having debauched the princesses
by compounding love philtres and otherwise exercising the black art, was
delivered over into the hands of the Inquisition; he was never heard of

The confessions of their lovers left no doubt as to the guilt of Blanche
and Marguerite. The former, still but a girl, had been led into her evil
ways by Marguerite, and pitifully owned her sin, pleading for
forgiveness in accents of such sincere repentance that all who heard her
were moved. But her husband was inexorable; and she remained in prison
until 1322, when Charles, having become king, obtained a dissolution of
the marriage on the ground that Mahaut had been his godmother and that
this established a spiritual relationship for which he had forgotten to
ask a dispensation when he married Blanche. Then Charles married Marie
de Luxembourg, and his unhappy divorced wife was compelled to retire to
a nunnery.

It was said that in her prison of Château Gaillard she had suffered
violence from her jailer; it is more charitable to suppose that this is
so than to assume, as some do, that she was so depraved in morals as
voluntarily to abandon herself to debauchery; and one must always
remember that it was to the interest of the court party to represent her
in colors as dark as possible. The belief in her guilt, nevertheless,
cannot be avoided; and even her mother gives silent proof of her belief
in it, for after the disgrace of her daughter, that daughter's name
appears no more in the accounts of Mahaut's household. Blanche retired
to the convent of Maubuisson, where she took the veil in 1325, and died
in the next year. Under "a large white stone, much carved and decorated
with roses, without any inscription, and bearing a figure representing a
nun," lay the body of the unhappy Blanche, once Queen of France in

Her companion in debauchery, Marguerite de Bourgogne, met a fate more
suddenly tragic, though surely not more pathetic. Her marriage with
Louis le Hutin could have been dissolved, of course, on the score of
adultery; but Louis preferred less public methods. Having become king,
on the death of his father, not many months after Marguerite's disgrace,
he desired to find another wife; so Marguerite was put to death in the
Château Gaillard, being smothered, it is said, between two mattresses.

The third of the daughters-in-law of Philippe le Bel, the Countess
Jeanne de Poitiers, was more fortunate than her sister and Marguerite.
When the three had been arrested she was separated from the other two
and sent to Dourdan. Her character seems to have been better formed than
that of Blanche, and she had not indulged in the excesses proved against
Blanche and Marguerite. Mahaut was from the first firmly convinced of
her innocence, and sent frequent messages of consolation and sympathy to
her during her confinement in Dourdan. Although she had been aware of
the evil practices of her sister and her sister-in-law, it could hardly
be held an unpardonable crime for her to have refrained from
talebearing. In one of the rhymed chronicles, which gives a graphic
account of this tragedy, Jeanne is represented as confessing her small
share in the wrong and pleading for mercy before Philippe le Bel: "Sire,
for God's sake hear me! Who is it that accuses me? I say I am a good
woman, without guilt, without sin or shame." She demanded an
investigation, and the king granted her request. While she was confined
a strict inquiry was held into her conduct, and the result was that, at
Christmastide, 1314, she was adjudged innocent, and came back to her
husband, "whereof there was great joy throughout France." She was to
become Queen of France not long afterward, and then to be widowed; but
during the rest of her life there was no blot on her good name, and no
interruption in the affectionate relations existing between herself and
her mother. As Countess of Poitiers, as Queen of France, and as dowager
Queen and Duchess of Burgundy, she visited Mahaut frequently,
accompanied her in journeys, and exchanged gifts with her.

The scene of the orgies indulged in by Blanche de la Marche and
Marguerite de Bourgogne was long pointed out in Paris and became an
object of peculiar horror--one of those places of evil association
which, without our knowing why, always arouse a feeling of repulsion and
of dread. It was in the dark old Tour de Nesle, on the bank of the Seine
opposite the Louvre, that, said the Parisian horror-mongers, the wicked
queens had held high revel. The legend was not only enduring, but, like
most legends, endowed with the faculty of gathering new matter as the
years went by. Francois Villon, that great repository of the quaint
beliefs of the people of the purlieus of the Sorbonne, tells of the
great queen "who had Jean Buridan cast in the Seine in a sack" from the
high walls of the Tour de Nesle. Brantôme, in his _Dames galantes_,
records the same popular story of a queen "who dwelt in the Hotel de
Nesle, at Paris, and lay in wait for passers-by; and those who pleased
and suited her best, whatever class of people they might be, she had
them summoned and made them come to her by night; and after she had had
her pleasure of them she had them cast into the water from the top of
the high tower, and had them drowned." Other historians are even more
definite in their statements--which, nevertheless, are
unfounded,--naming the queen who is said to have been the Parisian
Messalina and to have given a tragic end to the celebrated legist, Jean
Buridan; she was, they say, Jeanne de Navarre, wife of Philippe le Bel.

Jeanne, who died in 1307, was a violent and savage woman, but there is
no proof that she was at all immoral. She it was who manifested such
savage virulence against the Flemish women during the revolt of 1302:
"When you kill these Flemish boars," she said to the soldiers, "do not
spare the sows; them I would have spitted;" and she it was who did her
best to ruin the minister Guichard, who had incurred her enmity by
saving an unfortunate creditor whom she was resolved to destroy. She
pursued Guichard with such relentless fury, indeed, that he had resort
to the black art, seeking at first to win back the queen's favor by his
enchantments, then seeking to compass her death by the favorite method
of constructing a waxen image, representing his enemy, and causing it to
melt slowly away, in the belief that she would waste as the image
wasted. But Jeanne did not die of witchcraft, though Guichard was
imprisoned and long persecuted as a sorcerer. We have given these few
facts about her to show that she was a person of ill repute, which will
partly account for the substitution of her name for the names of
Marguerite and Blanche in the tales of the Tour de Nesle.

Because of the misfortunes which overtook her daughters, Countess Mahaut
was compelled to be very circumspect in her own conduct. She had been an
indulgent and affectionate mother to both; but her own political
situation was at this time top precarious to admit of her attempting to
defend them with a high hand. After the death of her father, in 1302,
Mahaut and her husband had been invested with the county of Artois, and
she had continued to govern it unmolested after Otho's death until 1307,
when we first hear rumors of a claim affecting the validity of her
title. Mahaut had inherited the county as being nearest of kin to Robert
II., the Salic law not applying under the customs of Artois. At the time
there was living a son of Mahaut's brother, Philippe; and this young
Robert de Beaumont, calling himself Robert d'Artois, was the person who,
instigated by his mother, now attacked Mahaut's title, appealing for
judgment to the king and the court of peers. Robert demanded the
recognition of his rights to the countship of Artois, or, failing that,
to an indemnity of considerable amount. This latter had been already
provided for by a convention between his grand-fathers at the time of
the marriage of Philippe d'Artois and Blanche de Bretagne, and Robert
was perfectly justified in demanding its payment. When the cause was
tried before Philippe le Bel, October, 1309, he rendered fair judgment,
confirming Mahaut in the possession of Artois and granting certain lands
and a large sum of money to Robert.

But mediæval politics were very uncertain; what one king did or said
might well be reversed by his successor; and so the death of Philippe le
Bel (1314) was the signal for a renewed attempt to dispossess Mahaut and
her children. At this time there was much disquiet over all the kingdom,
and Mahaut had the dreadful shame of her daughter to harass her; it
seemed, therefore, a peculiarly opportune time to begin the attack upon
her. Robert addressed a most insolent letter to his aunt: _A très haute
et très noble dame, Mahaut d'Artoys, comtesse de Bourgogne, Robert
d'Artoys, chevalier_. But we will translate: "Since you have wrongfully
denied me my rights to the countship of Artois, at which I have been and
still am greatly troubled, and which I neither can nor will longer
suffer, therefore I notify you that I shall take counsel to recover mine
own as soon as may be." Not content with this formal claim, which he
pushed before the king, Robert resorted to most unworthy weapons in his
contest with Mahaut, stirring up the vassals and communes of Artois,
inciting them to acts of violence against her and her children, and
circulating rumors most dangerous in an age when people were but too
ready to credit accusations of the sort that Mahaut had employed sorcery
against her son-in-law, Philippe le Long, and had poisoned the King,
Louis X.

We have had occasion to mention now and again this subject of
witchcraft; it may be permissible, therefore, to give some few details
brought out in the investigation, in 1317, of the charges of evil
practices brought against Mahaut d' Artois. The belief in witchcraft was
almost a cardinal article of faith throughout many centuries, even among
the educated classes, and one might say that the cynical author of the
second part of the _Roman de la Rose_, Jean de Meung, is almost a unique
exception in his scepticism regarding the power of sorcery. Many a
miserable old woman had suffered horrible tortures at the hands of
justice or had been hounded to her death by superstitious neighbors who
credited her with causing diseases of men and cattle, dearth, drouth,
storms, or any other untoward misfortunes; and many a monk, devoting
himself to rational study of the phenomena of nature, to chemistry,
astronomy, medicine, or any other science, had incurred suspicion of
damnable traffic with the devil, like the Guichard mentioned above, and
like Gerbert himself, who lived to become Pope. The Church authorized
the belief in evil spirits and provided forms of exorcism to rid the
land, the cattle, the house, the body, of the demons that possessed
them; while the mediaeval books of medicine show us that that science
relied largely upon charms, peculiar times and seasons, and
incantations, for the compounding of the drugs that were to effect
cures. The witch and her hellish brews maintained a perfect reign of
terror over the ignorant and the superstitious.

Instigated doubtless by Robert d'Artois or his emissaries, a certain
Isabelle de Ferieves, reputed a witch in her own country of Hesdin,
testified that Mahaut d'Artois had come to her and asked her to compound
a sort of philtre or potion to restore the love of Count Philippe de
Poitiers for her daughter Jeanne, then imprisoned at Dourdan under the
charge of adultery. Isabelle required Mahaut to procure for her and
deliver to her, in secret, some blood from Jeanne's right arm, which she
mingled with three herbs, vervain, liver-wort, and daisy, pronouncing
over the mixture a mystic incantation. Placing it then upon a clean new
brick, she burned it by means of a fire fed with oak wood, and pounded
up the paste so produced into a powder, which was to be administered to
Philippe in his food or drink or cast upon his right side. For this
Isabelle received a substantial price, seventy _livres parisis_, and was
given a similar order for a philtre to recover the affections of the
Count de la Marche for his wife Blanche. Moreover, she asserted that
Mahaut, well pleased with the efficacy of these decoctions, asked for a
poison to envenom arrows, which she pretended that she desired to use
upon nothing more than the deer of her forests. The enchantress set to
work again, with an adder's tail and spine and a toad dried in the open
air, which she pounded up into a powder and mingled with wheat flour and
incense. The sorceress was painfully lacking in imagination, else we
should have had something to rival:

        "Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
        Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
        Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
        Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,
        For a charm of powerful trouble,
        Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

But perhaps the report of unsympathetic historians and lawyers has been
unjust to her, and has toned down the horrors of her "charm of powerful
trouble," which she alleged the Countess Mahaut gave to Louis X.,
thereby procuring his death and the accession of her son-in-law,
Philippe V.

The king conducted a serious and searching investigation, to which
Mahaut declared herself more than ready to submit, provided that the
court were properly constituted and that her cause in the matter of the
succession in Artois be in no wise prejudiced. Witnesses on both sides
were examined, including the widow of the late King Louis X. and the
officers of his household, and on October 9, 1317, a solemn verdict of
acquittal resulted for Mahaut. There need be no doubt that the
accusations against her had been entirely groundless, merely trumped up
in the hope of prejudicing her cause in the eyes of the court. It was
only a few months later that Philippe V., after a careful and impartial
reexamination of the allegations on both sides, gave judgment in
parliament confirming the finding of his father and establishing
Mahaut's right to Artois, and ordering that "the said parties (Mahaut
and Robert) should desist from all hate and all felonious acts,... and
that the said Robert should love the said Countess as his dear aunt, and
the said Countess the said Robert as her dear nephew" which both swore
to do.

While Mahaut was forced to contend in the courts for her authority over
Artois, the rebellion of the nobles on the death of Philippe le Bel had
not been without serious results in Artois, where she had found it no
easy task to maintain any sort of hold upon her vassals. Her chief
counsellor, and a faithful servitor he proved, was Thierry d'Hirecon,
whom the vassals of Artois hated as a parvenu foreigner he was from the
Bourbonnais. In 1314 her vassals began complaining to Mahaut of abuses
in the government; but they soon passed from peaceful and legitimate
remonstrance to active outrages upon the servants and the property of
their countess. In all this Robert d'Artois was no doubt the hidden
instigator. One of Mahaut's officers, Cornillot, bailli of Hesdin, who
had incurred the enmity of the Sire de Créqui by interfering with his
hunting over field and forest without regard for the rights of others,
was set upon by a mob of villains who hanged him to a tree; when the
weight of his body broke the limb and brought the poor wretch to the
ground, they buried him in the earth up to his neck, cut off his head,
and carried it as a trophy to the Sire de Créqui. Mahaut despatched her
son with a considerable force to arrest two of the rebel vassals in the
act of going to war; they were taken to prison, but unwisely released by
the intervention of the king, and on the very steps of the prison
proclaimed their intention of going over to Mahaut's enemy, Robert. Some
of the nobles came upon the young count and his sister, Jeanne, in a
country house, insulted them grossly, and even threw mud in the face of
the defenceless Jeanne and her brother, who had with them but three
knights. Jeanne fled to Hesdin, where Mahaut was at the time, and on the
road her carriage was surrounded by a mob of knights, who terrified her
by their insults and their threats. At last both she and Mahaut were
forced to abandon Artois till quieter days should come, leaving the
officers and armies of the king to restore order, a task not completed
until July, 1319.

The rebels committed so many outrages, and the public peace was so
frequently disturbed by their quarrels, that the better element was
ready to welcome Mahaut as a deliverer when she came back, fortified by
the recent decree of the king in her favor. At Arras a sort of triumphal
procession was arranged to welcome her, and "she entered seated upon a
chariot, preceded by thirteen banners, accompanied by the Constable of
France, by Thierry d'Hirecon,--who, like his mistress, had been driven
to flight,--and, more wonderful still, by many bold knights who had long
sworn to destroy her." The next day the countess gave a splendid
banquet, at which were present "the Constable, all the knights, the
burgesses and notables (of Arras), and besides many ladies." The towns
in particular were glad to have their countess once more in power;
indeed, all the towns except Arras had remained faithful to her,
resisting the enticing proposals of Robert d'Artois and the rebel
nobility, for well the burgesses knew that only a strong hand could
protect them and their goods from the rapacity of nobles who were always
in want of money and always ready to take the first that came to hand.
To two of the emissaries of the rebels the citizens of Saint-Omer gave
answer that their countess "was a good guardian of their law and their
privileges, and if she were not they should make complaint to none but
the King;" while they told the emissaries of Robert d'Artois, who dared
not affirm that the king had decided in favor of their patron, "then we
are not makers of any Count of Artois."

Though severe in her administration of justice and strict in the
maintenance of order within her dominions, Mahaut appears to have been
just, even kind, and hence able to command the respect of her subjects.
With the citizens of Arras she exchanges courteous greetings and gifts;
cloths, wine, fish, come to her from the townspeople; and she invites to
her table the burgesses and their wives. When she is ill, they send to
inquire solicitously after her health, and she replies: "Mahaut,
Countess d'Artois, etc.... to our beloved and faithful _échevin_ and
twenty-four burgesses of Arras, greeting and love. We are much pleased,
and heartily do we thank you for that you sent to inquire concerning our
health.... Therefore we wish you to know that on the day when this
letter was written we were in good bodily health, thanks be to God....
Give greeting in our name to all our good subjects, and be assured that
as soon as we shall be able we will journey into that part of the
country. Our Lord have you in His care. Given at Bracon, the thirteenth
day of August." What a quaint and yet dignified and kindly letter is
this, showing us at once the great feudal lady and the woman really
grateful for kindly sympathy.

Another episode, immediately preceding her triumphant reentry into
Artois, reveals again the feminine nature, and we are rather surprised
to find that this energetic, courageous Mahaut can be, at need, such a
very woman. The royal troops had restored order in Artois, and the
vassals of Mahaut, leagued against her authority, had been reduced to
submission and had consented to a peaceful settlement of their alleged
grievances and to the return of their lawful countess. On July 3, 1319,
the royal commissioners came to her mansion in Paris to read her the
treaty, in the presence of her counsellors. She protested that the
treaty violated her privileges, and declared she would not listen to the
reading of an agreement in which she could not alter a word. Tears
flowed, and the excited lady now would, now would not, listen to the
reading; and that, too, when she admitted that she, like the nobles of
the league, had sworn to submit their differences to the arbitration of
the king, and that she would keep her oath! Summoning her notary to draw
up a formal act of protest,--"all that she might say or swear would be
said or sworn against her will and her conscience, and in the fear of
losing her county of Artois,"--she hurried to Longchamp, into the
presence of the king. Philippe assured her that all had been done in
good faith to safeguard her rights, and that it was merely for form's
sake that he would require her to swear to observe the treaty. Presto!
the doubts and the tears disappear: "I swear it!" And the countess went
out in apparent peace of mind. But now she was met by two of her
relatives, her nephew and her cousin, who pointed out to her that her
oath was insufficient, because she had not specified exactly what it was
that she swore; an oath so vague might have serious consequences, and so
they implored her to return to the presence. More tears, more angry
refusals to swear at all, and finally the countess once more yielded and
went before the king. The chancellor held out the Bible for her to swear
that she would observe the stipulations of the treaty; Mahaut turned
toward the king: "Sire, do you wish me to take this oath?" "I advise you
to do so." "Sire, I will swear, provided you guard me against all
deception." "So help me God, it shall surely be done." "Then, I swear,
as you have said," and once more Mahaut went out.

One can forgive her exasperation at finding that the persistent
relatives were still not satisfied; poor woman, she felt that all she
possessed and all her children possessed was somehow at stake, and she
helplessly ignorant, like too many other women, of the technical points
of the law. Again, feeling that her counsellors were probably in the
right in protesting against the conditional oath she had taken, Mahaut
went into the royal presence. The Sire de Noiers, marshal of France,
protested that everyone was acting in good faith by her, and that the
king merely wished her to take the oath without equivocation or
reservation: "Sire de Noiers, I am here, as you can see, without
counsel; some of the king's councillors have so intimidated mine that
they dared not appear before you; God alone inspired me to say what I
did say; have I not several times sworn as my lord commanded? What is
there so amazing in the king's promising to succor me, a widow, in case
of deception? Does he not owe this same protection to every widow in his
kingdom? What I have sworn should suffice." Another councillor protested
that her conditional oath was an insult to the King's councillors; there
was crimination and recrimination, till at length the badgered countess,
sighing deeply, appealed to Philippe: "Ah! dear Sire, have pity upon me,
a poor widow driven from her heritage, and here without counsel! You see
how your people besiege me, one barking on my right, another at my left,
till I know not what to answer, in the great trouble of my mind. For
God's sake, give me time to deliberate upon this matter.... I am willing
to take any oath you wish." Then, when the chancellor again held out his
Bible and required her to swear fearlessly and without conditions, she
broke forth in tears: "Many times have I sworn already! I swear again, I
swear, I swear, may evil come upon my body if I swear not truly!" And
she rushed out and hurriedly left for Paris, in spite of all
remonstrances. It was not till the next day that, her advisers succeeded
in persuading her to take the oath in proper form, as the king wished it

One may think that this quibbling, this Jesuitical swearing with a
mental reservation to be bound only so far as seemed good to herself,
was unworthy of Mahaut; it was, as a matter of fact, but the poor
defence of the weak in an age when trickery was but too common. Mahaut
knew that, although the king was her son-in-law, policy might have won
him to the side of her nephew, the claimant of her county. Even if
Philippe were above a miserable deception of the kind, there was no
telling to what tricks the crafty lawyers, perhaps in the pay of Robert
d'Artois, might have recourse. She could not conquer chicanery by force,
she could not meet it with chicanery, hence her nervousness and her
hesitation and suspicion.

When the countess felt herself strong in her own right and sure of
proper support from her servants, she was by no means the tearful and
vacillating woman whom we have seen in the preceding page or two. The
officers of her government in the various bailiwicks of Artois were
usually well chosen and reliable. Appointed and paid by the countess and
holding office at her pleasure, these baillis, recruited from the ranks
of the petty nobility and the bourgeoisie, had every incentive to
honesty and faithful service. They were at once administrators,
justices, and financial agents, and in the latter capacity had to make
reports, at Candlemas, at Ascension, and at All Saints, to the chief
financial officer, the receiver-general, who in turn submitted his
accounts to Mahaut. She was not infrequently in dire need of money, for
the expenses of her household were always large, and she was burdened by
the debts left by Otho, but these she did at last manage to pay.

With the aid of her officers, upon whom she kept a close watch, Mahaut
was prompt enough to repress any unruly vassal who went beyond the
limits of law. Sometimes force was necessary, as when the Sire d'Oisy
overran and ravaged the lands of certain monasteries under Mahaut's
protection and slew the peaceful inhabitants. Summoned by the bailli to
appear before her court, the sire at first refused to admit the bailli,
then did admit him and kept him a prisoner. "Not a stone of his chateau
shall be left standing," declared Mahaut, and she despatched a little
army that soon brought the Sire d'Oisy to reason. The punishments
inflicted upon recalcitrant vassals were sometimes most severe and
sometimes fantastic. The seigneur himself is sometimes put to death when
his crimes have been too much for the patience of the countess and her
people; or he is expelled and deprived of his fief; or he is heavily
fined and ordered to perform a penitential pilgrimage. It is thus that
Jean de Gouves is condemned, in 1323, to undertake a pilgrimage to the
shrine of Saint-Louis of Marseilles, to the tomb of the Apostles in
Rome, and to two other Italian shrines; while, to avoid possibility of
deception on the part of this pious pilgrim, he is required to bring
back a certificate from each of the places visited.

If the punishments inflicted on rebellious vassals were severe, what
epithet shall we reserve for the punishments of the criminal code? The
rack and the stake are not unheard of during the reign of Mahaut, and
these are the milder forms of punishment: counterfeiters boiled in oil,
women guilty of theft or of marital infidelity buried alive, miserable
lepers put to the torture,--these are but a few of the ingenious and
barbarous punishments of which we find record. But it is to be noted
that Mahaut was not wantonly cruel or vindictive; the forms of execution
we have mentioned were the established practice of the day, with which
no one dreamed of interfering; so far from being heartless, Mahaut
reduced the severity of the fines and penalties in some cases and
provided for the widows and orphans of some who were sent to the
gallows, while she was always endeavoring to restrain the grasping
proclivities of her tax-gatherers and holding investigations whenever
complaint of injustice reached her ears.

With the minor matters of her household economy we need not deal, since
enough has been said of the manner of life of a mediaeval lady of rank.
Suffice it to say that the _hôtel_ of the Countess of Artois was famous
for its hospitality and that many of the great ones of the earth sat
down to her table. With the fashionable world, the world of the court,
Mahaut maintained very close relations, since she was, in one way or
another, related to most of the royal family and to the great nobles.
Whenever there was a marriage in these circles, there came a rich
present from "Madame la Comtesse d'Artois"; sometimes, as in the case of
the daughter of her minister, Thierry d'Hirecon, it was practically a
whole trousseau: "One scarlet robe, another of deep green cloth, both
lined and bordered with fine furs; a mantle and a _cotte_ of cloth of
gold, the former lined with fur; a robe of Irish woollen; a coverlet of
green cloth; a counterpane of _cendal_ (meaning usually a heavy and
strong stuff, but sometimes silk); four green carpets and fifty ells of
linens for sheets." Truly a present of which any bride might be proud,
though not so expensive, it appears, as the _nef_ (an ornament for the
table, shaped like a ship, and used to hold spices, extra spoons, etc.),
and costing one hundred and fifty pounds, given to "our niece, Marie
d'Artois, on the occasion of her marriage to Jean de Flandre, comte de
Namur." Then, if her sovereign requires her presence at court, Mahaut
equips herself and all her suite, gives presents to friends and
dependents, and goes up, it may be, to Rheims, as when Philippe le Long
is to be crowned if he can persuade enough of the Peers of France to
attend, and where few do attend, so that our Countess Mahaut, a Peer of
France, has the privilege of holding the royal crown over the head of
her son-in-law. Or mayhap the countess, wishing to keep friends with the
great, sends a mess of fine herrings to the powerful favorite,
Enguerrand de Marigny, or to her own daughter, Queen Jeanne; or a
magnificent jewel of enamelled silver, adorned with rubies and
sculptured to represent a little king and queen, and costing one hundred
and thirty _livres parisis_, to be delivered to the real king and queen;
or a little statuette in enamelled silver, sustaining a shrine, to be
presented to the widow of Philippe le Hardi, Marie de Brabant, "de par
la comtesse d'Artois et de Bourgogne."

Mahaut spent in this way a considerable amount, besides purchasing for
herself and her children various _objets d'art_, statuettes, paintings,
illuminated missals and other books, handsome cups and the like for her
table, and jewels and rich clothing in profusion. She was evidently a
lady of taste, but also of rather extravagant habits and fond of
travelling; for she had carriages or vehicles of some sort in plenty,
and travelled on horseback when the state of the roads would not permit
the use either of carriage or litter. With her retinue of servants and
her carts loaded with baggage and provisions, the countess could yet
make the trip from Arras to Paris in three or four days.

But the time was drawing nigh when all her journeyings would be at an
end; and as she neared the end of her earthly pilgrimage fresh troubles
came to disturb her in the lawful enjoyment of her heritage. After the
last decree rendered by Philippe V., Mahaut and her nephew were
reconciled and lived on good terms--at least so one would fancy from the
exchange of courtesies and hospitality which took place in the years
ensuing. But Robert was evidently only biding his time; and now an
accident supervened to revive his hopes of better fortune in a new
hearing before the royal court. Of course, there was a woman in this
case, one who does not play a very creditable part. In 1328, Thierry
d'Hirecon had been elected to the episcopal see of Arras, but had died
in a few months after his election. After his death, which was a serious
loss to Mahaut, the episcopal palace was cleansed, by her orders, of the
presence of Thierry's infamous concubine, Jeanne de Divion, who had fled
to the arms of the unscrupulous old churchman from the indignant
vengeance of an outraged husband. Jeanne de Divion, finding herself
driven forth by Mahaut, and forgotten in the will of Thierry, from whose
senile infatuation she had hoped great things, resolved to be avenged on
Mahaut. She fled from Arras to the service of the ambitious and
unscrupulous Jeanne de Valois, sister of Philippe VI., and wife of
Robert d'Artois.

Jeanne de Divion was full of vague tales of the valuable papers
belonging to the county of Artois which she had seen in the possession
of Thierry, and the two women soon saw that some capital could be made
for the claims of Robert d'Artois. Robert himself seems to have been
reluctant, at first, to have any dealings with the degraded paramour of
Thierry d'Hirecon; in place of vague asseverations of what she had seen
among the papers of Thierry he demanded the documents themselves, if
there were any. It is probable that at the time there were no documents;
but Jeanne de Divion was resourceful and not too nice in regard to
matters of conscience. Going to Arras to search among the papers of
Thierry, she returned with an alleged treaty negotiated in 1281 between
the paternal and maternal grand-fathers of Robert, under the terms of
which the customs of Artois were set aside and the succession guaranteed
to Philippe d'Artois's children, of whom Robert was the representative.

Robert's scruples were laid at rest when this very questionable
document, of which nobody had ever heard a word, was put into his hands.
He wrote to his brother-in-law, now King of France, to demand a new
investigation of the claims to Artois. Meanwhile, the Countess Mahaut
set about collecting testimony in rebuttal, aiming especially to show
the falsity of the alleged document containing the treaty. She arrested
two servants of Jeanne de Divion, who testified, in the presence of
several witnesses and of a notary who took down the depositions, that
the treaty in question had been written by one Jacques Rondelet, clerk
of Arras, at the dictation of Jeanne de Divion, on her recent visit to
Arras. Moreover, the countess had the wisdom to get these witnesses to
testify that they had not been coerced by her but testified of their own
free will and accord. Then she interrogated Jacques Rondelet, who
confirmed all that the servants had said, adding that he had written at
dictation, and under oath of secrecy, from a document which Jeanne de
Divion would not let him see.

The proofs of the forgery, one would think, were sufficient before the
cause came to trial; yet, after a statement of the principal allegations
on both sides, the king adjourned the hearing to another day. But that
day was not to dawn for Mahaut. On November 23, 1329, the countess was
at Poissy, where she dined with the king, going on to the convent of
Maubuisson to pass the night, and thence to Paris next day. Here she
fell suddenly ill; and her own physician, Thomas le Miesier, was sent
for in all haste from Arras. The crude or dangerous remedies of the
medicine of the day were powerless to relieve Mahaut; phlebotomy and
purgatives probably served but to exhaust her already depleted strength,
and the physicians recognized that her end was at hand. Couriers rode in
haste from the Hotel d'Artois in Paris to Queen Jeanne, to the Duke of
Burgundy, to the Count of Flanders, on the 26th, and as many as three to
the king next day, bearing news of the great countess's peril. Jeanne
came to her mother with all speed, but the end had come before she could
reach Paris; the good Countess of Artois breathed her last on November

She who had expended considerable sums in the pomp of funerals, tombs,
and effigies for others was buried very simply, at her own request, in
the Abbey of Maubuisson, where her grave was marked at first by a plain,
flat copper plate, hardly raised above the level of the pavement. In
accordance with a custom not unusual in her day, the body was opened and
the heart taken to the Franciscan Church in Paris, where it was
interred, as she had directed, _juxta sepulturam Roberti carissimi filii
mei_--"beside the grave of my very dear son Robert."

Judging from the features of a statue representing Mahaut, which was
formerly in a church in Arras and was copied in miniature by an artist
of the seventeenth century, the countess was a woman of large and
commanding figure, with features rather masculine and strongly marked in
their regularity. If one may say so, the sculptor has drawn for us
Mahaut's character as well as her features; she was of the masculine
type, strong and energetic rather than lovable. For a woman who would
hold her own in those days, the qualities she possessed were, in fact,
essential; to rule Artois in the fourteenth century there was need of an
amazon rather than of a lovely, fragile, soft-hearted daughter of love.
We do not mean that Mahaut was cold, heartless, merely a politician; she
was far better both in morals and in kindness of heart than the average
lady of her time. She was generous, and yet not a hopeless spendthrift;
she was pious and devoted to the glorious memory of her great-uncle
Saint Louis, whom she must have seen when a child, and yet not a narrow
bigot, displaying her religious feeling rather in acts of charity than
in acts of pure devotion. No niche awaits her among the heroines of
France, for she is a figure neither heroic nor romantic; but she lived
her life, the full, healthy, and useful life of a stirring and good lady
of the manor in the fourteenth century.



WE are now coming to a period in the history of France when woman,
though she may not play a part either more prominent or more honorable,
will be a centre of universal interest to the subjects of France and of
England. Much ink and much fluid of a brighter hue and a more precious
quality will be shed in the war between the lawyers and the soldiers of
France on the one hand, and those of England on the other; and all to
establish the legal status of woman in the eyes of the French law. The
great question is: Shall the succession to the crown of France be
governed by the laws and customs prevailing in many other countries and
in a large part of France itself, whereby women are entitled to inherit
equally with men; or shall the ancient law of the Salian Franks apply,
the _Loi Salique_, "let no part of the Salian land pass into the hands
of a woman"? Since the question has been argued by many a scholiast and
many a historian and settled for all time by the arms of Frenchmen
defending their right to rule France as seemed best to them, we shall
give but small attention to the niceties of the legal argument; but an
exposition of the principal facts seems essential.

The argument of the French lawyers was that the Salian land was now
represented by domains of the crown; and since the protection of the
Salian land necessitated the guardianship of a man, _a fortiori_ must
the guarding of the kingdom demand the power of the sword rather than
the gentler distaff. Feeling that we owe some apology for clothing in
figurative language the simple statement that no woman could wear the
crown of France, none more apt can we find than a literal transcription
of one of the arguments used by the French lawyers, which suggested the
unfortunate distaff. It ran thus: In the Gospel of Saint Matthew (6: 28)
one reads: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil
not, neither do they spin: And yet 'I say unto you, That even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." Now France was the
kingdom of the lily, witness the _fleur-de-lis_ upon the royal arms;
lilies, according to Scripture, are gloriously arrayed, though they
cannot spin: _ergo_, the kingdom of the lily should never pass to the

There were of course arguments of more weight than this, which we have
ventured to present merely for the sake of its quaintness,
characteristic as it is of the day when tireless pedants were wont to
debate in this fashion all things in heaven and on earth. Closer study
of the Salic law itself, nevertheless, was not reassuring to the
adherents of France; for there they found one of the formulas of Marculf
proving that, from the days of the Merovingian kings, the _terre
salique_, the allodial land, could be inherited by a woman. This ancient
act reads: "To my dear daughter: It is among us a custom ancient but
impious that sisters shall not share with their brothers in the heritage
of the paternal land. I have considered that you all came to me alike
from God, that you should therefore find an equal share of love in me,
and, after my death, enjoy equally the heritage of my worldly goods. For
these reasons, my sweet daughter, I constitute you by this letter a
legitimate and equal co-heir with your brothers in all my estate, in
such sort that you shall share with them not only the acquired property
but the allodial land." In the abstract, therefore, as much could be
said for as against the claims of a woman to succeed to the crown of
France. There could be no question, however, that the long established
custom of the kingdom had excluded women, and that this exclusion had
operated to the great profit of the kingdom, by keeping it under the
stronger rule of men, and more still by preventing it from passing under
the control of foreign princes who had married French princesses. As a
French constitutional lawyer has remarked: "France is the only one of
the great states of Europe where we see the crown remaining for more
than eight centuries in the same family.... It is to the Salic Law that
France owes the long persistence of the Capetian dynasty."

In the first half of the fourteenth century it was a danger of exactly
the kind alluded to above that menaced the kingdom of France: a foreign
prince claimed the throne as his heritage through his mother. In order
to understand the absolute futility of the claim made by Edward III. of
England, based on the alleged rights of his mother, Isabelle de France,
daughter of Philippe le Bel, it is necessary only to recall that both
Isabelle's brothers, Louis le Hutin and Charles le Bel, had left
daughters who would have had prior rights if any woman could have
inherited. The potent reasons of public polity which would also have
absolutely excluded Isabelle and Edward III. have been mentioned above,
and are stated in a different way by Froissart. He says that after the
death of Charles IV., "the twelve peers and all the barons of France
would not give the realm to Isabel the sister (of Charles IV., Louis X.,
and Philippe V.), who was queen of England, because they said and
maintained, and yet do, that the realm of France is so noble that it
ought not to go to a woman, and so consequently not to Isabel, nor to
the king of England her eldest son: for they determined the son of the
woman to have no right nor succession by his mother, since they declared
the mother to have no right: so that by these reasons the twelve peers
and barons of France by their common accord did give the realm of France
to the lord Philip of Valois, nephew sometime to Philip le Beau king of
France." Then, as all the world knows, ensued the great wars between
France and England of which Froissart tells with such evident enjoyment
of deeds of valor and splendid martial pageants; for, he says, "sith the
time of the good Charlemagne, king of France, there never fell so great

The history of the Hundred Years' War is quite beyond the scope of this
volume; but let us be humble camp followers of the great armies that
march across Froissart's pages, where perchance we may find some women
as amazons, as heroines, or as pitiful victims in this sanguinary and
ruinous conflict.

The first woman whom we note in this period, Jeanne de Montfort, was a
veritable heroine of the wars, one known to us, through the enthusiastic
record of Froissart, as an amazon, but hardly known at all as a woman.
The only really interesting part of her career is that occurring during
the wars in Brittany, and so we shall begin her history with these
events. Marguerite, or Jeanne,--as she was called, perhaps because her
husband's name was Jean,--de Montfort, wife of the Count de Montfort,
was sister to the Count of Flanders. The countess, whom we shall call
Jeanne, was already a matron when events in her husband's native
Brittany called for his and her presence there. For generations,
Brittany had been ruled by a line of princes who were regarded by the
native population with far greater affection and respect than any king
of France could inspire; for they were of an ancient house, associated
with all the poetic legends of the land which, poets tell us, had been
of the domain of the noble King Arthur. Half of Brittany was rather
inclined to sympathy with France, owing to admixture of French blood,
while the other half, _Bretagne bretonnante_, clung to the Celtic
traditions and to those of England, the land once dominated by their
race across the channel; but Bretons of any part of Brittany were
Bretons first and always; the allegiance to their dukes was paramount;
that to the King of France was quite an afterthought.

When John III., Duke of Brittany and a descendant of that Pierre
Mauclerc who caused such serious trouble to Blanche de Castille, died
without issue in 1341, he left the succession to his duchy in a very
uncertain state. He himself had intended that the ducal crown should go
to his niece, Jeanne de Penthièvre, the wife of Charles de Blois, rather
than to Jean de Montfort, who was only a half-brother on the mother's
side. To the ordinary mind it would seem that Jean de Montfort had at
least a reasonable claim; but the Count de Blois was a nephew of
Philippe VI., who would therefore throw all his influence against the
family of Montfort, long allied in one way or another with England.

Both Montfort and his wife realized that if the succession were left to
the adjudication of the French Court of Peers, their claim would receive
no consideration. Supported in his bold act by the ambitious and
courageous Jeanne, the Count de Montfort, immediately after his
half-brother's death, "went incontinent to Nantes, the sovereign city of
all Bretayne," where his liberal promises and general fair conduct won
him the confidence of the citizens, so that "he was received as their
chief lord, as most next of blood to his brother deceased, and so (they)
did to him homage and fealty. Then he and his wife, who had both the
hearts of a lion, determined with their counsel to call a court and to
keep a solemn feast at Nantes at a day limited, against the which day
they sent for all the nobles and counsels of the good towns of Bretayne,
to be there to do their homage and fealty to him as to their sovereign

While the new duke and duchess were waiting and hoping for a large
accession of Breton knights on the day appointed for doing homage, the
duke heard of a large treasure collected by the late duke and stored at
Limoges. Leaving Jeanne at Nantes, he took a small body of knights and
went to Limoges, where he was favorably received, and secured the
treasure, with which he returned to Nantes in time for the appointed day
of homage. But the Breton nobles were not at all inclined to flock to
his banner and hail him as rightful duke, only one knight, Hervé de
Leon, appeared to do homage; and though seven out of nine bishops, and
the burgesses of Nantes, Limoges, and some other towns, had declared for
Montfort, his position was by no means secure. Nevertheless, he and
Jeanne held their little court with what state they could, and
determined to use the treasure taken from Limoges to pay for the defence
of their duchy, hiring mercenaries, "so that they had a great number
afoot and a-horseback, nobles and other of divers countries." With the
aid of these forces,--not always required, for some places were quite
ready to receive him as their lord,--Montfort took certain towns and
fortresses, such as Brest, Rennes, Hennebon, and Vannes.

Charles de Blois, baffled by the promptness and activity of Montfort and
appalled at the rapidity with which the latter was making himself actual
if not rightful Duke of Brittany, appealed to the King of France,
presenting the claim of his wife, Jeanne de Penthièvre. Montfort,
summoned to appear before the French court, went first to England and
did homage to Edward III. for Brittany. Returning to France, he obeyed
the summons of Philippe, and went to Paris with a splendid retinue, says
Froissart, of four hundred horse, leaving his countess to keep watch for
him in Brittany. The show of force with which Montfort presented himself
before the king did not have the effect of intimidating the latter, if
it had been so intended, and Montfort moderated his tone in the
interview with Philippe, denying positively that he had sworn fealty to
Edward III., and merely urging his rights as nearest of kin to the late
Duke of Brittany. Philippe appointed a day for the meeting of the Court
of Peers to sit in judgment on the claims of the two heirs, and forbade
Montfort to leave Paris during the next fifteen days. Montfort saw, from
the reception accorded him by the crafty Philippe, that his case was
already judged; "he sat and imagined many doubts"; if he remained in
Paris and the verdict of the Peers went against him there was the
certainty of arrest and imprisonment until he should have made an
accounting for the treasure seized at Limoges and delivered up all the
towns he had captured. Therefore he determined upon the course that
would at least give him a chance of active resistance if the worst came
to the worst; he fled from Paris secretly, and was with his wife in
Nantes before the king was aware that the bird had flown. The event
justified his distrust, for on September 7, 1341, the Court of Peers
adjudged the duchy of Brittany to Jeanne de Penthièvre and Charles de

By the aid and counsel of his wife Montfort gathered his forces and
garrisoned the towns he had taken, while Charles de Blois led a French
army against him and soon had him beleaguered in Nantes. The events of
this siege would not concern us, since the Countess Jeanne was not in
Nantes, were it not for the peculiar interest attaching to certain
episodes and the light they throw upon the remarkable character of
Charles de Blois. This man was reputed a saint in his own day, so much
so that, under Pope Urban V., an inquiry was held and a favorable report
made but never acted upon for a formal canonization. We learn some most
curious things from _The Life and Miracles of Charles, Duke of Brittany,
of the House of France_, in regard to what was in those days considered
evidence of saintliness. "He confessed himself morning and evening, and
heard mass four or five times daily.... Did he meet a priest, down he
flung himself from his horse upon his knees in the mud.... He put
pebbles in his shoes." When he prayed he beat himself in the breast till
he turned black in the face. Next his skin he wore a coarse garment of
sackcloth, and "he did not change his sackcloth, although full of lice
to a wonder; and when his groom of the chambers was about to clean the
said sackcloth of them, the lord Charles said: 'Let be; remove not a
single louse;' and said they did him no harm, and when they stung him he
remembered his God." Truly, at such a price salvation would seem dear to
many of us! Yet the history of the early Church is full of saints whose
fanaticism assumed this extraordinary type, the predilection for bodily
filth. With all this piety, Charles de Blois was unrelentingly cruel and
even immoral; for he began the siege of Nantes by cutting off the heads
of thirty knightly partisans of Montfort and throwing them over the
walls, and when he himself lay dead on the battlefield "a bastard son of
his, called Sir Jean de Blois, was slain by his side."

Nantes was treacherously captured and Montfort treacherously seized and
imprisoned by the holy Charles de Blois, who sent his rival to be
confined in the tower of the Louvre at Paris. But the war was not over
because the count was captured; there was still the countess to deal
with, that lady, who, according to the enthusiastic Jean Froissart, "had
the courage of a man and the heart of a lion. She was in the city of
Rennes when her lord was taken, and howbeit that she had great sorrow at
her heart, yet she valiantly recomforted her friends and soldiers, and
showed them a little son that she had, called John, and said: 'Ah! sirs,
be not cast down because of my lord, whom we have lost: he was but one
man. See here my little child, who shall be, by the grace of God, his
restorer (avenger) and who shall do well for you. I have riches in
abundance, and I will give you thereof and will provide you with such a
captain that you shall all be recomforted.' When she had thus comforted
her friends and soldiers in Rennes, then she went to all her other
fortresses and good towns, and led ever with her John her young son, and
did to them as she did at Rennes, and fortified all her garrisons of
everything that they wanted, and paid largely and gave freely, whereas
she thought it well employed."

Jeanne herself was no mean strategist and captain, and she selected for
herself and her young son the strong castle of Hennebon, on the coast of
Brittany, where they passed the winter, she keeping up her connection
with the various garrisons and making preparations to resist Charles de
Blois when he should have reduced Rennes. The siege of this latter place
was not ended until May, 1342, when the citizens surrendered the town
and did homage to Charles de Blois, who was then left free to undertake
the capture of Jeanne de Montfort and her son. "The Earl being in
prison, if they might get the Countess and her son it should make an end
of all their war." Accordingly, the French army laid siege to Hennebon,
establishing as complete a cordon around it as they could by land, the
sea side necessarily remaining open, since they had no fleet to blockade
the port.

This siege of Hennebon is one of those romantic episodes of history
learned or absorbed almost unconsciously in childhood, which lingers as
a precious memory in the hearts of all who love the brave days of old.
Even France could but forgive the fair and gallant Countess Jeanne,
fighting so valiantly for the heritage of her husband; and whether in
French or in English histories, we find a page or two reserved for
Jeanne de Montfort, a picture of her, maybe, and all because the genius
of Froissart has left us such a vivid narrative of the events at
Hennebon. We shall tell the story, familiar to most of our readers, as
nearly as possible in the style of Froissart.

"When the countess and her company understood that the Frenchmen were
coming to lay siege to the town of Hennebon, then it was commanded to
sound the watch-bell alarm, and every man to be armed and draw to their
defence." After some preliminary skirmishes, in which the French lost
more than the Bretons, Charles's army encamped for the night about
Hennebon. Next day the siege began with minor attacks, followed on the
third day by a general assault. "The Countess herself ware harness on
her body and rode on a great courser from street to street, desiring her
people to make good defence, and she caused damosels and other women to
tear up the pavements of the streets and carry stones to the battlements
to cast upon their enemies, and great pots full of quicklime."

"The Countess de Montfort did here a hardy feat of arms, and one which
should not be forgotten. She had mounted a tower to see how her people
fought and how the Frenchmen were ordered (_i. e._, disposed for the
assault) without. She saw how that all the lords and all other people of
the host were all gone out of their field to the assault. Then she
bethought her of a great feat, and mounted once more her courser, all
armed as she was, and caused three hundred men a-horseback to be ready,
and went with them to another gate where was no assault. She and her
company sallied out, and dashed into the camp of the French lords, and
cut down tents and fired huts, the camp being guarded by none but
varlets and boys, who ran away. When the lords of France looked behind
them and saw their lodgings afire and heard the cry and noise there,
they returned to the camp crying 'Treason! treason!' so that all the
assault was left.

"When the Countess saw that, she drew together her company, and when she
saw that she could not enter again into the town without great damage,
she went straight away toward the castle of Brest, which is but three
leagues from there. When Sir Louis of Spain, who was marshal of the
host, was come to the field, and saw their lodgings burning and the
Countess and her company going away, he followed after her with a great
force of men at arms. He chased her so near that he slew and hurt divers
of them that were behind, evil horsed; but the Countess and the most
part of her company rode so well that they came to Brest, where they
were received with great joy by the townspeople."

The astonishment and chagrin of the French knights upon hearing that the
whole scheme had been conceived and actually carried out by a woman may
well be imagined. They moved their scorched finery into other huts made
of boughs, and prepared to capture the countess if she should return;
but Jeanne was too good a captain to fall into the trap. Her faithful
garrison in Hennebon, not knowing that she had reached Brest safely,
were tormented by the misrepresentations of the besiegers, who told them
they should never see her more. Five days of anxiety passed in this way,
without any tidings of Jeanne. "The Countess did so much at Brest that
she got together five hundred men, well armed and well mounted. And then
she set out from Brest, and by the sunrising she came along by the one
side of the host, and so came to one of the gates of Hennebon, the which
was opened for her, and therein she entered and all her company, with
great noise of trumpets and cymbals." Too late aware of the return of
the valiant lady, the French nevertheless delivered another determined
assault upon Hennebon, in which they lost more than did the defenders.
Seeing the folly of confining all of his men to the siege of Hennebon,
Charles de Blois drew off with part of his army and laid siege to Auray,
while Louis of Spain and Hervé de Leon, now on the side of the French,
were left in charge of the operations at Hennebon.

The besiegers had several large and powerful catapults, with which they
so battered the walls of the town that the citizens "were sore abashed,
and began to think of surrender." Among those in high place within
Hennebon was the Bishop Guy de Leon, uncle of Hervé de Leon, who now
held a parley with his nephew and agreed to use his influence toward
bringing about a surrender. "The Countess was suspicious of some evil
design the moment the Bishop returned to the castle, and she prayed the
lords of Brittany not to play her false and abandon her, for God's sake;
for that she was in great hopes that she would have succor from England
before three days. Howbeit the Bishop spake so much and showed so many
reasons to the lords that they were in a great trouble all that night.
The next morning they drew to council again, so that they were near of
accord to have given up the town, and Sir Hervé was come near to the
town to have taken possession thereof. Then the Countess looked down
along the sea, out at a window in the castle, and began to smile for
great joy that she had to see the succors coming, the which she had so
long desired. Then she cried out aloud and said twice: 'I see the
succors of England coming.' Then they of the town ran to the walls and
saw a great number of ships great and small coming towards Hennebon."

We heave a sigh of relief with Jeanne de Montfort; for our sympathies
are always with those who fight the good fight. And all the poetry of
chivalry is suggested in the scene that followed, a scene in whose
enthusiasm and half hysterical joy we can partly sympathize, for we know
that the siege of Hennebon will be raised and that the lady and her son
will go free. The ships in the offing were, indeed, the long delayed
reinforcements which Amaury de Clisson had gone to fetch from England
and which contrary winds had kept at sea sixty days. Bishop Guy de Leon,
in a rage because the surrender he had arranged was not to take place,
at once left the castle, and went over to the enemy: not an irreparable
loss, one would fancy, that counsellor who was ready to treat with the
countess's enemies behind her back.

The departure of a lukewarm adherent could not mar the joy of the loyal
defenders of Hennebon. "Then the Countess dressed up halls and chambers
to lodge the lords of England that were coming, with much joy, and did
send to meet them with great courtesy. And when they were a-land she
came to them with great reverence and feasted them the best she might,
and thanked them right humbly, for great had been her need. And all the
company, knights and squires and others, she caused to be lodged at
their ease in the castle and in the town, and the next day prepared a
sumptuous feast for them."

The leader of the English forces which came to the relief of Hennebon
was that chivalrous Sir Walter de Manny, known and loved by all admirers
of Froissart and the Black Prince. This bold and doughty knight had no
sooner tasted of the Countess Jeanne's good cheer than he began looking
about him for some adventure that might profit her and her beleaguered
garrison. The huge catapults erected by the French were still doing
damage to the town, and one of these Sir Walter determined to put out of
action. With the aid of some of the Breton knights a rapid sally was
made, and the "engine" was pulled to pieces, there being but a handful
of men in immediate proximity to defend it. But when the French knights
saw what was happening and hurried to the rescue it behooved the English
knights to beat a retreat. Nevertheless, Sir Walter de Manny cried: "Let
me never more be loved by my dear lady, if I have not one bout with
these fellows." So he and some others rode full tilt at the French
knights, and then, says Froissart, with his love of a fight and of the
comic, there "were several turned heels over head... and many noble
deeds were done on both sides," till Sir Walter drew off his men and
retired to the shelter of the castle walls. "Then the Countess descended
down from the castle with a glad cheer and came and kissed Sir Walter de
Manny and his companions, one after another, two or three times, like a
valiant lady."

Neither the lady nor Sir Walter shall we blame for this kiss, given with
no thought of unfaithfulness to the husband for whom she was fighting;
it was sheer mad joy that inspired her, and the little incident is
typical of the character of this good lady, so full-blooded, so staunch,
so sturdy a warrior.

Temporarily worsted at Hennebon, Charles de Blois retired from before it
and went to besiege and capture other places in Brittany. Jeanne de
Montfort had not sufficient troops to make head against him in these
enterprises, and had to look on from Hennebon while he took Dinan,
Vannes, Auray, and other places, in spite of the diversions created by
Sir Walter de Manny and the English allies. After the capitulation of
Carhaix, Charles de Blois returned to the attack upon Hennebon, where he
was joined by his lieutenant, Louis of Spain, disgruntled by a recent
defeat at Quimperle inflicted by Walter de Manny. The siege was again
fruitless, and, during a truce agreed upon between the combatants, the
countess obtained a chance to enlist more active assistance.

Jeanne hurried over to England to implore more aid from Edward. At that
time the great king was unworthily occupied in his pursuit of the
Countess of Salisbury, in whose honor tournaments were held and
magnificent feasts given in London. In these gayeties the Countess de
Montfort must have shared with but a sad heart; for that heart was set
upon securing aid to win back her husband's patrimony in Brittany, now
all overrun by the adherents of Charles de Blois. At length Edward did
grant her plea, and she set sail for Brittany with a force of men at
arms under command of Robert d'Artois.

Louis of Spain, with a fleet of Genoese ships, was waiting for the
English off the coast of Guernsey, where a great naval battle was
fought. As the ships neared each other, the Genoese crossbowmen hailed
arrows upon the English, who hastened to grapple. "And when the lords,
knights, and squires came near together, there was a sore battle. The
countess that day was worth a man; she had the heart of a lion, and in
her hand she wielded a sharp glaive, wherewith she fought fiercely." The
English had the better of this hand-to-hand contest, but both sides were
glad to draw off in the night. The elements roused to battle, and a
great tempest wrought much havoc among the ships. After having some of
their stores captured and ships wrecked, the English "took a little
haven not far from the city of Vannes, whereof they were right glad."

The first task of the countess and her allies was the capture of Vannes,
which was accomplished without serious loss. Leaving Robert d'Artois
with a garrison to hold this city, Jeanne and Walter de Manny went to
loyal Hennebon, while English forces under the Earls of Pembroke and
Salisbury laid siege to Rennes. But Hervé de Leon and Olivier de
Clisson, that rough and sturdy knight called "the butcher," recovered
Vannes, during the defence of which Robert d'Artois was sorely wounded.
He came to Hennebon to recover from his wounds, but grew worse, and
finally returned to England, where he died. This ally of the Countess de
Montfort was the same Robert d'Artois who had sought to deprive the
Countess Mahaut of her heritage. He was a man of most unhappy character,
and rested under the cloud of charges of forgery and other malpractices.
To conclude briefly the part of his story which connects him with Mahaut
d'Artois, we may recall the claim he made upon Artois just before
Mahaut's death, based upon documents forged for him by the wicked Jeanne
de Divion. When Jeanne was brought up to be interrogated, her whole
story broke down the attempts to employ the black art against the king,
which she ascribed to Mahaut, and the documents she had pretended to
discover in the archives of Thierry d'Hireçon--all was shown to be but
puerile fabrication. It was in vain for her to protest that she had
acted in these things at the instigation of the wife of Robert d'Artois;
she was burned as a witch and a forger. Robert, terrified by the
unmasking of his complicity in the forgery, did not await his trial, but
fled to Flanders and thence to England, while his wife, Jeanne de
Valois, although she was the king's sister, was banished to Normandy. It
was the utter wreck of the fortunes of the pair. We regret to find the
name of Jeanne de Montfort linked with that of this pitiful, disgraced
knight, whom people did not hesitate to accuse of having poisoned his
aunt, Mahaut d'Artois, and her daughter, Jeanne, both of whom had died
suddenly within a few months of each other.

The war was now to assume proportions far greater than had been at first
contemplated; it was become a war between the two kingdoms, and in this
greater drama we all but lose sight of Jeanne de Montfort. Michelet
remarks that, with curious inconsistency, Philippe VI. was upholding in
Brittany the right of the female line, while he denied that right in his
own kingdom, and Edward III. espoused the right of the male line in
Brittany and maintained that of the female in France. The inconsistency
mattered not to either monarch; in each case merely a pretext was sought
for increasing the dignity of his own crown.

Jean de Montfort, in whose behalf his countess had been conducting the
war in Brittany, escaped from his prison in the Louvre in the spring of
1345, and made his way to England. Furnished with an army by Edward, he
returned to Brittany, but was repulsed before Quimper, and died at
Hennebon, in September, leaving his claims to his young son and their
prosecution to his heroic widow. With the aid of the English, Jeanne
continued the struggle, and had the usual fortunes of war, now victor,
now vanquished, in a strife that came to be known as the war of the
three ladies. The three ladies were Jeanne herself, Jeanne de Clisson,
and Jeanne de Penthièvre. Jeanne de Clisson and her boy fled from the
French to the Countess of Montfort, after Philippe VI., in 1345, had
treacherously seized and executed Olivier de Clisson; Jeanne de
Penthièvre was left, like Jeanne de Montfort, to support her own claims,
for Charles de Blois, her husband, coming into Brittany and laying siege
to the fortress of La Roche-Darien, had been surprised and captured by
the Countess de Montfort at the head of her English troops. While he was
held prisoner in England, Jeanne de Penthièvre made herself the head of
her party, a leader in field and in council not unworthy to rival Jeanne
de Montfort.

Fortune favored the cause of the house of Montfort, and Jeanne had the
pleasure of seeing her son win first a temporary advantage, then a
complete victory over the house of Blois. At the battle of Auray Charles
was slain, and the treaty of Guerande, negotiated soon after (1364),
finally recognized the young Jean de Montfort as Duke of Brittany, while
Jeanne de Penthièvre had to content herself with the county of
Penthièvre and the viscounty of Limoges. Brittany was weary of the war
which had desolated the land from 1342 to 1364, and the battle of Auray
had been the decisive struggle, in which both sides had determined to
win or lose all.

Of the private character of Jeanne de Montfort we cannot speak with any
degree of assurance, since the information we possess is very slight.
Hume has ventured to characterize her as "the most extraordinary woman
of the age," which is in some respects true enough. In those qualities
admired by chivalry she was unquestionably an extraordinary woman;
courageous and personally valiant, with a head to plan daring exploits
and a heart to conduct her through the thick of the danger, impulsive
and generous, a free-handed ruler, and an admirer of those deeds of
chivalrous daring in others which she was only too ready to share
herself. No Eleanor of Guienne have we here, masquerading in tinsel
armor at the head of a troop of stage amazons, but a gallant lady
charging her foes sword in hand. One cannot read her story without
enthusiasm; and yet one would gladly know more of the woman before
bestowing unreserved praise upon the countess "who was worth a man in
the fight," and "who had the heart of a lion."

With all the brilliance and the heroism of these wars between England
and France, the glory is not untarnished; for the very patterns of
chivalry were too often guilty of most atrocious cruelties. Charles, the
saintly Count of Blois, cutting off the heads of the Breton knights and
throwing them over the walls of Nantes; Philippe VI. inviting the
Bretons to a tourney, and then seizing and executing them; the Count de
Lisle hurling from a catapult, over the walls of Auberoche, the
miserable servant who had ventured to bear letters from the garrison
through his lines; these, and more than these, are the sort of things
one finds even in the pages of Froissart, who was so careful to conceal
the unpleasant and to bring into the light of genius the chivalrous
episodes in his chronicle of the wars. For the weak and the fallen there
is little of pity; a word as some brave knight falls, a word of the
sorrow of those dependent upon him, and on we go to fresh fields, fresh
knightly exploits and pageants. Though the very spirit of chivalry is in
the air, how little thought is given to woman! It is only the rare
masculine qualities of a Jeanne de Montfort that can win her grudging
notice from Froissart.

When such is the spirit animating the great chronicler of the age, it is
rather remarkable that we find even three or four women winning such
fame as to be remembered. The great war will in time bring forth the
greatest heroine of France; yet it may be questioned whether Jeanne
d'Arc would have received even fair treatment at the hands of Froissart,
if the knight-chronicler had lived to see the glory of this wonderful
peasant girl illumine all France. We may guess that Jeanne the saint,
even Jeanne the valiant warrior (he loved warriors better than saints),
would have been for him but Jeanne the peasant, the miserable child of
some more miserable Jacques Bonhomme, to whom the courtly chronicler
would have referred with contempt, scorn, or brutal hate.

The horrors of war are not allowed on the scene in the chronicles from
which we draw most of our information about Jeanne de Montfort; but it
is pleasant to find in these same pages at least one recognition of the
higher and better role of woman, as intercessor for the distressed. We
allude, of course, to the famous and beautiful story of Philippa of
Hainault saving the citizens of Calais, a story which we shall venture
to sketch once more, in order to bring before our readers a famous
character and a famous scene in history.

For eight months the English army had lain before Calais, while the king
stubbornly persevered in his determination to reduce the town and the
garrison as stubbornly determined to resist to the death. Edward had
built for his camp a regular town about Calais, and starvation had at
last reduced the citizens to the point of submission. Jean de Vienne,
the commander of the garrison, parleyed with Edward's representatives,
but no terms could be obtained; the absolute surrender of the entire
garrison was demanded, with the threat of death for the bravest of them,
or Edward would go on with the siege till there should be absolute
necessity of yielding. To these terms Jean de Vienne nobly refused to
consent. Walter de Manny and other knights pleaded with the king to be
more merciful, if not out of kindness of heart then at least out of
policy, for fear of reprisals on the part of the French. The peculiarly
harsh and puerile conditions then proposed by Edward are well known:
"Sir Walter de Manny, say then to the captain of Calais that the
greatest grace that he and his shall find in me is that six of the chief
burgesses of the town come out to me bareheaded, barefooted, and
bare-legged, and in their shirts, with halters about their necks, and
with the keys of the town and the castle in their hands. With these six
will I deal as pleases me; the rest I will admit to mercy."

Jean de Vienne announced the terms to the citizens, and even he wept
that he should have to bring them such cruel terms. "After a little
while there rose the most rich burgess of the town, called Eustace de
St. Pierre, and said openly: 'Sirs, great and small, great mischief it
should be to suffer to die such people as be in this town, by famine or
otherwise, when there is a means to save them.... As for my part, I have
so good trust in our Lord God, that if I die in the quarrel to save the
residue, that God would pardon me of all my sins; wherefore to save them
I will be the first to put my life in jeopardy.'"

Beside the quiet heroism of this rich merchant of old Calais, what
tinsel seems the glory of the best of Froissart's favorite knights!
"King Edward may have been the victor,... as being the strongest, but
you are the hero of the siege of Calais! Your story is sacred, and your
name has been blessed for five hundred years. Wherever men speak of
patriotism and sacrifice, Eustace de Saint-Pierre shall be beloved and
remembered. I prostrate myself before the bare feet which stood before
King Edward. What collar of chivalry is to be compared to that glorious
order which you wear? Think,... how out of the myriad millions of our
race, you, and some few more, stand forth as exemplars of duty and
honour." Well does Eustace de Saint-Pierre merit the enthusiastic
phrases which we have copied from one who was no historian, but a great
man with a great heart William Makepeace Thackeray! For "greater love
hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Heroism was contagious in those days as for all time, and the example of
Eustace de Saint-Pierre was speedily followed by five of his fellow
townsmen. Let us now pass to the heroine of the story, Queen Philippa.
When the six burgesses, in their humble state, were led to the feet of
the haughty and relentless Edward, all pleas were vain to save them, the
king turning away in wrath even from the faithful Walter de Manny and
commanding that the hangman be summoned. "Then the Queen, being great
with child, kneeled down, and sore weeping said: 'Ah, gentle sir, sith I
passed the sea in great peril I have desired nothing of you; therefore
now I humbly require you in the honour of the son of the Virgin Mary and
for the love of me that ye will take mercy of these six burgesses.' The
King beheld the Queen and stood still in a study a space, and then said:
'Ah, dame, I would ye had been as now in some other place; ye make such
request to me that I cannot deny you. Wherefore I give them to you, to
do your pleasure with them.' Then the Queen caused them to be brought
into her chamber, and made the halters to be taken from their necks, and
caused them to be new clothed, and gave them their dinner at their
leisure; and then she gave each of them six nobles, and made them to be
brought out of the host in safeguard and set at their liberty."

A noble picture is this of the clemency of a woman where the prayers of
men availed not; and we join Jean Froissart in honoring his royal
patroness and mistress, "the most gentle Queen, most liberal and most
courteous that ever was Queen in her days, the which was the fair lady
Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England and Ireland." But it was not for
her mercifulness alone or even in chief that Froissart admired her; he
chiefly praises her because she was a woman warrior almost as determined
and successful as Jeanne de Montfort, and had come to Calais fresh from
her victories over the Scots, of which Froissart gives a careful and
glowing account.



THAT France which had known queens good and bad, from Constance in the
tenth to Blanche of Castille in the thirteenth century, was delivered
over, toward the close of the fourteenth, to the hands of one of the
worst women in her history. The woes of France under the rule of the mad
King Charles VI. would have been enough to bear; but the Court of France
was led in a veritable saturnalia by the licentious Queen Isabeau de
Bavière. Once more, in Isabeau, we find a woman whose life-story cannot
be told without at the same time telling much of the history of France;
but it is not because the queen does anything good that we must tell of
the government of the kingdom during her ascendancy; she does nothing
but indulge her vulgar tastes for pleasure and debauchery, to satisfy
which she would pawn France itself.

In 1380, died the wise though unlovely Charles V., leaving the kingdom
temporarily free from the English and in just that nice state of balance
between recuperation and ruin when a little thing would suffice to turn
the scale either way. His son and heir was a boy of twelve, already
madly fond of pleasure, already filling his weak head with fantastic
tales of chivalry and romantic devotion to such sturdy warriors as Du
Guesclin, whom he could never hope to rival. His reign begins in a
dream--a dream of his meeting a fantastic flying hart, which he took for
his emblem. The dream goes on, in mad festivities encouraged by Philippe
le Hardi, Duke of Burgundy, who had chief charge of the boy. This
Philippe--that same brave son of King John whom we see at Poitiers
fighting by his father's side--was a great man, though not lovable; he
was too acute a politician to be altogether admirable. In one of the
grand shows arranged for the boy king on the occasion of the double
marriage of the son and the daughter of Philippe de Bourgogne to the
daughter and the son of Duke Alberic of Bavaria, the Duchess of Brabant,
whom Froissart calls a woman "full of good counsel," suggested to the
king's uncles that it would be well to find a wife for the young king in
the same powerful family now allied to the house of Burgundy. Nothing
could have better suited the plans of Philippe de Bourgogne, who
accordingly sent portrait painters to reproduce the charms of the
respective candidates for the hand of the king, and from the portraits
selected Isabeau de Bavière, daughter of Etienne II. and a princess of
the great Italian family of Visconti.

The young Isabeau, whose portrait showed her to be the most beautiful of
the princesses to be chosen from, was brought into Brabant by her uncle,
under pretext of a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint John of Amiens,
while the Duke of Burgundy at the same time found an excuse for
conducting Charles to Amiens, without giving him the slightest hint of
the purpose of the journey. Isabeau was presented to the king by the
Duchesses of Brabant and Bourgogne, and kneeled low before him, lifting
up her sweet girlish face to him in lieu of speaking in a tongue as yet
unknown to her. Then Charles took her by the hand, raised her and looked
at her pensively; "and in this look the sweet thought of love did enter
into his heart." After the ladies had withdrawn from the royal presence,
the Sire de la Rivière, an old minister of Charles V., asked the king:
"Sire, what think you of this young lady? shall she remain with us?" "By
my faith, yes," replied Charles, "we wish no other, for she pleases us."
There was no tarrying for elaborate ceremonies, fond as the king was of
them; Charles insisted on an immediate wedding. He and the young German
princess were married on July 17, 1385, four days after this first
interview. The bride was but fourteen, and the groom not quite
seventeen; it was one of those infamous child marriages of which the
history of Europe is too full.

Isabeau de Bavière was already of a slothful habit, to be roused only by
her love of amusement, to purchase which neither she nor her young
husband would spare anything. Luxury and wild extravagance in dress, in
entertainments, even in funerals, was characteristic of the age; the
whole kingdom gave itself up to extravagance and debauchery; existence
was one mad revel, with no thought of who should pay the piper; all must
dance and caper as if bitten by the tarantula. The very costumes are
wild: "Here (we see) men-women comically tricked out, and effeminately
trailing on the ground robes twelve ells long; there, others, whose
figures are distinctly defined by their short Bohemian jackets and tight
pantaloons, though with sleeves floating down to the ground; here,
men-beasts, embroidered all over with animals of every kind; there,
men-music, pricked all over with notes, from which one could sing before
or behind; while others placarded themselves with a scrawl of signs and
letters, which, no doubt, said nothing good.... Rational beings did not
hesitate to disguise themselves in the satanic, bestial shapes which
grin down upon us from the eaves of churches. Women wore horns on their
heads, men on their feet the peaks of their shoes were twisted up into
horns, griffins, serpents' tails. The women, above all, would have made
our spirits (of the age of Saint Louis) tremble; with their bosoms
exposed, they haughtily paraded high above the heads of the men their
gigantic hennin (the peaked and horned headdress) with its scaffolding
of horns, requiring them to turn sideways and stoop as often as they
went in or out of a room."

With all this outlandish fashion of dress the young queen was in perfect
accord; and the life of the court was one succession of brilliant
entertainments, wicked in their sensuality no less than in their waste
of the revenues of a kingdom already impoverished by long wars. During
the early years of her presence--we cannot call it her rule--in France,
Isabeau took no part in politics; neither did her husband, for that
matter, since he left the government in the hands of his uncles, chief
of whom was Philippe de Bourgogne. We shall therefore have little to
record at first beyond some of the more noteworthy of the doings at the

The first of these, and one of the most scandalous, occurred in May,
1388; and the occasion which it was intended to celebrate merits some
attention from those who would appreciate the utter incapacity of
Charles VI. even at this period. To understand the circumstances we must
go back to the time when Charles V. lay dying, and his brother, Louis,
Duke of Anjou, waited in an adjoining room till the breath should be out
of the king's body. When the king was really dead, out came Louis to
seize upon the plate and other movables of value. Hearing that Charles
had concealed a considerable treasure in the walls of his palace at
Melun, and being unable to discover the hiding place, this affectionate
brother sent for the treasurer of the late king, and uttered the grim
threat: "You will find that money for me, or off goes your head." The
executioner was there with his ax--the treasure was found; and Louis
carried it off to squander it in prosecuting his claims to the throne of
Naples. Now he was dead, and his two sons were about to leave France to
continue the fight for Naples. So far from remembering with resentment
the enormous sums formerly stolen from him by this very family, Charles
VI. must needs squander more in a splendid show to celebrate the
knighting of the princes of Anjou.

That ceremony in which the young soldier of God swore to defend the
right, with all the solemn and impressive ritual that the Church could
devise to sanctify and dignify his act, was to be turned into a vile
debauch. In the ancient abbey of Saint-Denis, beside the tombs of the
great dead who had glorified France, were lodged "the Queen and a bevy
of illustrious ladies." Monastery or no monastery, the monks must harbor
these fair guests, whom all the rules of their order would have rigidly
excluded. Says the chronicle of a monk of Saint-Denis: "To gaze on their
exceeding beauty you would have said it was a meeting of the heathen
goddesses." And so they were, heathen goddesses, with a lawless Venus at
their head. But the festival, be it remembered, was a religious one; we
go "to hear mass every morning." The religious services over, the day
was given up to magnificent tourneys and rich banquets, and the nights
to balls, masked balls, "to hide blushes." For three days and three
nights was this revel maintained, the mad Bacchanals scrupling not to
defile even the most sacred places by their orgies, which the presence
of the king and queen rather encouraged than checked. It was the queen
herself, indeed, who loved all this. One does not wonder that people
began to whisper that she had already shown more than decorous affection
for her brother-in-law, the brilliant Louis d'Orléans; in the
_pervigilium Veneris_, the "wake of Venus," as they called the balls at
Saint-Denis, who could say what might have happened?

The king attained his majority; in a sudden fit of impatience, he threw
off the control of his uncles, till now the rulers of France, and set up
his own government. The royal princes had not been good governors; each
one was too intent upon his own interests to consider those of France;
and accordingly France hated them, and hoped for better things from the
young king and his sober government of humble counsellors. But Charles
needed excitement; in lieu of war there were fetes, upon which he
squandered money till the people groaned and the councillors trembled.
Any excuse was sufficient for holding a fête. Of a sudden, Charles and
Isabeau remembered that the queen had never been crowned and had never
made a royal entry into Paris. The city was ordered to make unexampled
preparations to receive Isabeau as queen; she had been living in Paris a
good part of the time during the four years since her marriage, but that
did not do away with the necessity for a formal introduction to the
capital of her dominions.

With his usual love of the spectacular, Froissart gives us an account,
covering many pages, of the reception of Isabeau. The Parisians dressed
themselves in gay costumes of scarlet, and green, and gold, each vying
with his neighbor and rivalling, as far as he dared, the gorgeousness of
the courtiers and nobles. The fountains ran wine and milk, the balconies
and windows were festooned with flowers and crowded with eager
spectators, while musicians played before the doors of many houses and
miracle plays were given on the street corners. On August 22nd, the
young queen, hailed at every step by the acclamations of the throngs in
the streets, and accompanied by a crowd of noble ladies borne in
sumptuous litters, passed from Saint-Denis to Paris. At the Porte
Saint-Denis there was a canopy representing "heaven, made full of stars,
and within it young children apparelled like angels," and an "image of
Our Lady herself," holding the infant Saviour. Two of the angels, let
down from heaven by ropes, placed a golden crown upon Isabeau's head,
singing: "Sweet lady amid the _fleur-de-lis_, are you not from heaven?"

"Then when the Queen and the ladies were passed by," having greatly
admired this "high heaven richly apparelled with the arms of France, the
device of the king," they proceeded along the street till they came to a
place where was a fountain, "which was covered over with a cloth of fine
azure, painted full of flower-de-luces of gold.... And out of this
fountain there issued in great streams spiced drinks and claret, and
about this fountain there were young maidens richly apparelled, with
rich chaplets on their heads, singing melodiously: great pleasure it was
to hear them. And they held in their hands cups and goblets of gold,
offering and giving to drink all such as passed by; and the Queen rested
there and regaled herself and regarded them, having great pleasure in
that device, and so did all other ladies and damosels that saw it."

Passing onward to where stood the Church of Saint James, "all the street
of Saint-Denis was covered over with cloths of silk and camlet, such
plenty as though such cloths should cost nothing. And I, Sir John
Froissart, author of this history, was present and saw all this and had
great wonder where such number of cloths of silk were gotten; there was
as great plenty as though they had been in Alexandria or Damascus; and
all the houses on both sides of the great street of Saint-Denis were
hanged with cloths of Arras of divers histories, the which was pleasure
to behold."

At the "bridge of Paris," hard by Notre-Dame, fresh wonders awaited the
queen. A master tumbler, from Genoa, "had tied a cord on the highest
house of the bridge of Saint-Michael over all the houses, and the other
end was tied on the highest tower in Our Lady's church. And as the Queen
passed by, and was in the street called Our Lady's street, because it
was late, this said master with two burning candles in his hands issued
out of a little stage that he had made on the height of Our Lady's
tower, and singing he went upon the cord all along the great street, so
that all saw him and had marvel how it might be." This tumbler, dressed
as an angel, gave another crown to Isabeau, and then mounting skyward
disappeared through a slit in the canopy over the bridge, as if he were
returning to heaven.

In the great Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Isabeau was crowned, saying, says
Froissart,--not without an equivocation of which he himself was
doubtless quite unconscious,--"what prayers she pleased." But the
festivities were not over; we have omitted many a detail given by
Froissart plays and dumb shows presenting indiscriminately the sacred
histories of Scripture and the legends of French heroes, castles full of
mock monsters, representations of the entire heavenly hierarchy and of
the dream which had suggested to Charles the emblem of the flying hart.
With gay balls at night and jousts and miracle plays by day, the
celebration was continued for several days. The merchants of Paris
presented to the queen and to Valentine Visconti, the new Duchess of
Orléans, most costly jewels, rich sets of plate, in gold and silver,
cups, and salvers, and dishes of gold, "whereat everyone marvelled
greatly," and the royal pair were greatly pleased.

Who was to pay for all the display in this entry of the queen? The
citizens of Paris had fondly hoped that, what with their show of loyal
joy and their presents,--aggregating some sixty thousand crowns in
gold,--the king would be pleased to remit certain oppressive taxes. On
the contrary, it was the citizens of Paris who were compelled to pay for
all this fine foolery. Charles departed from Paris a few days after the
conclusion of his fête, leaving behind him an increased tax and an
ordinance prohibiting, under penalty of death, the use of certain silver
coins of small value; this latter restriction, which was intended to
favor the circulation of his new and debased coinage, inflicted peculiar
hardships upon the poor. Thus, Isabeau was already inflicting much
misery upon the poor of that capital which had lavished so much upon
her; and before we bestow our commiseration upon the miserable king in
after days, it is well to remember the miseries of his subjects.

Life had been as yet but a dream for Charles and his queen; though
France was rapidly going to ruin under their extravagant and heedless
rule, could they not chase away care in revels surpassing any that
France had yet seen? But the dream was soon to become a nightmare, the
hideous nightmare of insanity, for this heedless monarch.

It was not until three years after the coronation of Isabeau that her
unfortunate husband had the first attack of what was, unmistakably,
insanity, though to any reasonable creature the behavior of the whole
court would have seemed mad enough from the beginning. One of those acts
of lawless private vengeance which were so soon to become dreadfully
familiar in France first excited the king almost to the point of frenzy.
A certain Pierre de Craon, a noble who had already distinguished himself
by robbing the late Duke of Anjou, was driven from Paris by the Duke of
Orléans, to whose wife he had imprudently revealed some of the
infidelities of her too licentious husband. He fled to Jean de Montfort,
who persuaded him that the person chiefly responsible for his disgrace
was the renowned Olivier de Clisson, Conétable of France. Secretly
returning to Paris, Pierre de Craon lay in wait for the constable one
night and fell upon him with a band of bravoes. The brave De Clisson was
seriously wounded, and the villains fled, thinking him slain. Charles,
who favored De Clisson, was furious at the outrage, and breathed
vengeance against Craon. As Jean de Montfort constituted himself the
defender of this wretch, and refused to deliver him up to justice, the
lands belonging to Craon were devastated, his wife and children were
driven forth, and war was declared upon Brittany.

The king had always had a passionate love for the more theatrical side
of war, and, as soon as the constable was able to ride, the king and his
forces marched upon Brittany. We may pass over the earlier part of his
campaign, taken up in aimless marches and as aimless parleying. On
August 5, 1392, during a spell of intensely hot weather, Charles marched
out of Mans. He had been suffering from a fever, was much weakened, and
had for days been greatly harassed by the heat and the baffling of his
delayed vengeance; he was moody, and "his spirits sore troubled and
travailed," when, as he rode through the forest of Mans, there suddenly
rushed to his horse's head a wild figure, half clothed, and manifestly
mad. Seizing the king's bridle, the apparition exclaimed, with that
strange earnestness so often noticeable in those whose reason is
unbalanced: "Sir King, ride no further forward, for thou art betrayed."
The servants hastily drove away the poor madman, and sought to restore
the king's peace of mind, more seriously disturbed than ever by a
happening that might well have startled even a person in strong health.
On rode the cavalcade, out over the open plains, where a blazing sun
beat full upon the king's head, protected only by a thin cap. Suddenly
Charles started, checked his horse, drew his sword, and charged upon the
pages who rode beside him, crying, as if in the heat of battle: "On, on!
down with these traitors!" Madly pursuing the pages, he put to flight
even the Duke of Orléans, and was not overpowered and disarmed until he
and his horse were quite exhausted.

He recognized none of those about him, and only physical weakness
prevented him from becoming again a frantic lunatic. The poor weak
brain, over-excited and worn-out by the long years of debauchery, was
hopelessly overthrown; though sane at times, and even for considerable
periods, Charles VI. was evermore incapable of ruling, being a mere
helpless and unhappy tool in the hands of the heartless people who could
win sufficient power to rule what was left of France.

The queen was no Blanche de Castille, able to rule a kingdom, and the
king's uncle, Philippe de Bourgogne, was at first the real power in
France. He was opposed by Isabeau de Bavière and her paramour and
brother-in-law, Louis d'Orléans, brother of the king; and the history of
the next few years is largely a record of shameless intrigues between
these people to obtain control of the mad king, in whose name many an
odious thing was done. The regency should, by rights, have devolved upon
the king's eldest brother, Louis d'Orléans, who was twenty-one years of
age at the time of Charles's madness; but the Dukes of Burgundy and
Berri set him aside for "his too great youth." There might have been
found some precedent for recognizing Isabeau as regent; but there is no
evidence that she ever made any serious efforts to establish her claim;
for she was content with that which the Duke of Burgundy was quite
willing to allow her, viz., the squandering of money--not his money--in
her pleasures. Isabeau was nominally associated in the council that
exercised the powers of regency, but she was really under the control of
the Duchess of Burgundy, whom the chroniclers call "a haughty and cruel

With such care as the doctors of the period were likely to give him,
there was not much hope of the permanent restoration of the king's
reason. One learned physician, however, did have the correct idea as to
the cause of Charles's malady and prescribed a moderate diet and a quiet
life for him. Under this wise treatment Charles soon recovered as much
reason as he had ever had; but the regimen imposed by the physician's
orders was as distasteful to the king as it was to Isabeau. The queen,
under pretext of furnishing diversions for him, began again the wild
life of debauchery which had been the prime cause of Charles's insanity.
It was at one of these festivals that occurred the famous "dance of
savages" that so nearly deprived France of her mad king.

The chronicler of Saint-Denis says that "it was an evil custom of the
time in many parts of France to indulge unreproved in all sorts of
indecent follies at the marriage of a widow, and to assume with their
extravagant masks and disguises the liberty of making all sorts of
obscene remarks to the bride and bridegroom." It was at a sort of
charivari held one night (January 29, 1393) in celebration of the
marriage of one of Isabeau's German waiting women, a widow, that Hugues
de Guisay, one of those panders to the follies of the rich and
extravagant who plan their "amusements" for them, undertook to divert
the mad king, the queen, and the whole court. He devised "six coats made
of linen cloth covered with pitch and thereon flax like hair." Charles
put on one of these, and he and his five satyr-like companions, much
delighted with their resemblance to things of horrid form, pranced in
among the other revellers. The five were linked together by a chain, the
king, fortunately, being loose and preceding them. As the wretched
Charles, in his disgraceful costume, was trying to fulfil the part of a
satyr indeed by teasing and exchanging coarse jests with the young
Duchess of Berri, Louis d'Orléans came into the room. Wishing to
discover who it was so disguised--we refuse to credit the account which
says he acted in mere heedless desire to see what would happen--he held
a torch too near one of the tow-clad gallants. In an instant the whole
five unhappy victims of folly were in a blaze. "Save the King! save the
King!" cried one of them as he burned. Fortunately the Duchess of Berri,
guessing that it was the king who stood by her, covered him with her
cloak and prevented his costume from catching fire. Four of the others,
whom not a soul in this gay assemblage seems to have made serious
attempts to rescue, were burned to death, one escaping by jumping into a
large tub of water in the pantry. Among those who died was the wanton
deviser of this foolish and dangerous amusement; and as his body was
borne to the tomb through the streets of Paris the people cursed him and
called out after him, as he had been wont to speak to the poor when it
pleased him to amuse himself with them: "Bark, dog!"

Wonderful to relate, this scene of horror at the dance of savages does
not appear to have occasioned an immediate relapse on the part of the
king. Isabeau, who had manifested extreme terror and sympathy at the
moment of her husband's peril, joined him in making virtuous resolutions
to lead a more regular and sober life. But the love of pleasure was too
firmly rooted; there were renewed debauches, and Charles became more
violently mad than before, knowing neither his wife nor his children,
and even denying his own identity. And so it continued throughout his
life: following the regimen of his doctors, Charles would have a lucid
interval; then he chased the doctors from the palace and went back to
debauchery and to madness. Astrologers were sent for to enlist the
sidereal powers in his behalf; one astrologer brought a book which he
affirmed the Lord had sent to Adam by the hand of an angel; what good it
had done to Adam appeareth not, but it certainly did not relieve the
king. Then there were two Austin friars (!) who made a draught of
powdered pearls and enlisted all the forces of sorcery in the king's
behalf; but the king did not recover, and the friars were handed over to
the Inquisition, condemned, and decapitated.

Meanwhile any affection that Isabeau may have felt for her husband had
passed away. She had found the Duke of Burgundy at last unendurably
parsimonious; Louis d'Orléans was far more liberal with the money of the
kingdom; besides, he was a handsome rake, whom all the women loved; it
was inevitable that Isabeau should ally herself with the man who was
willing not only to share her wanton pleasures but to squeeze out of the
people the money required for them. The people, particularly the people
of Paris, hated the Duke of Orléans because he was always imposing more
taxes, and loved the Duke of Burgundy because he was politic enough to
pretend to reduce taxes. It is therefore not surprising that we have so
many accounts of the outrageous conduct of Isabeau de Bavière and Louis
d'Orléans; for if the people are long-suffering, they yet do not forget.

In order to meet some part of the expenses incurred by the prodigality
of the court, Louis d'Orléans and the queen, in 1405, imposed a new tax.
The prisons were soon crowded with poor wretches who could not pay the
impost even by selling all their belongings, to the very straw of their
beds. While the queen amused herself the people cursed. Not knowing what
could become of the great sums raised and squandered by the worthless
pair, the people said that Isabeau sent cartloads of gold into Bavaria
and that Louis wasted it in magnificent structures on his domain at
Couci and at Pierrefonds.

The wild accusations of a maddened people, however, were not without
excuse. This miserable wanton who was Queen of France left her husband,
the poor, good-natured madman, and her children to the care of servants
whose wages, in the midst of all this waste of the public money, she
forgot to pay. The servants neglected both children and husband; the
King of France was allowed to remain in filth and rags, covered with
vermin that made repulsive sores upon him, while the little dauphin was
but a half starved ragamuffin. One of the physicians discovered in what
state Charles was: he had refused to bathe or to change his clothes for
five months, and there was danger of his dying from sheer filth.
Disguising some of his attendants in fearful costumes, the physician
sent them into the mad king's den, where they terrified him into
passivity and managed to bathe him, dress his sores, and change his
clothes before the fit of terror passed away. When Charles next had a
lucid interval he learned of the neglect of Isabeau, thanked those who
had been more tender than his wife, and gave one lady, who had tried to
care for the dauphin, a goblet of gold.

The indignation of the people was great; all classes united in
abhorrence of this shameless wife and mother. An Austin friar, bolder
than the rest, preached a sermon before Isabeau and openly reproved her
wantonness: "At your court reigns dame Venus, and her waiting maids are
Lechery and Gormandise." The queen and her idle and vicious courtiers
wished him punished for his effrontery; but Charles, hearing what he had
said, declared that he liked such sermons, sent for the preacher,
listened with interest and attention to his recital of the woes of the
kingdom, projected reforms--and went mad again.

While the fit of reform was on, Louis d'Orléans, terrified by a storm
that had overtaken him and Isabeau in one of their pleasure-jaunts,
vowed to repent and pay his debts. At these glad tidings over eight
hundred creditors assembled; but the clouds rolled away, and with them
went Louis's desire to be honest. He laughed at the creditors and gave
secret orders to debase the coinage.

The poor king was just sane enough to realize that things were going
wrong; he appealed for help to the Duke of Burgundy. The vigorous and
pitiless Jean Sans Peur, who had succeeded Philippe le Hardi in
Burgundy, came down upon Paris, and Isabeau fled with Orléans to Melun,
abandoning Charles, but planning to carry off next day the royal
children and those of the Duke of Burgundy. Jean de Bourgogne, however,
overtook the children and brought them back to Paris, where he now
(August, 1405) established himself in the Louvre.

So outrageous had been the spoliation under Isabeau and Louis that the
Parisians welcomed Jean as a deliverer. The queen, under cover of a
pretended right to appropriate goods for royal uses, had systematically
not only taken the necessaries of life, provisions and the like, but had
seized merchandise, jewels, money stored away by the owners, and
furniture, plundering even the hospitals, and storing these stolen goods
with the intention of selling them at auction. Greed was her
predominating trait, and so we are not surprised to find her hatred of
Jean Sans Peur increasing to the point of virulence when she was
deprived of the opportunity of robbing unmolested. Unfortunately for
her, Orléans was not a man of ability or energy sufficient to cope
successfully with Jean de Bourgogne, and the struggle between the two
dukes merely exhausted the resources of Orléans without seriously
impairing those of his opponent. Isabeau, moreover, was not
bloodthirsty; both her indolence and her interest impelled her to favor
the peace between the two dukes which was brought about in the closing
months of 1407.

Louis was ill; in mere kindness his cousin of Burgundy visited him, and
a reconciliation was effected. As soon as Louis was recovered from his
indisposition the two, accompanied by the old Duke de Berri, who was
anxious to promote peace, heard mass and took communion together,
swearing fraternal love for each other. This was on Sunday, November 27,
1407. On the next Wednesday evening Louis d' Orléans went as usual to
sup with Isabeau at the Hotel Barbette, and was in particularly high
spirits, attempting to divert the queen, who had been much distressed at
the birth of a stillborn child, a love child, as people said. About
eight o'clock in the evening, a message, apparently from the king,
summoned Louis, and as he went in response to the summons, accompanied
by but a few pages and servants, he was set upon and hacked to pieces in
the streets of Paris by a gang of ruffians under one Raoul d'Octonville.

The assassins made good their escape before people knew what had
happened. When the death of the king's brother was discovered, great was
the consternation; for all knew that such a crime had not been committed
by an obscure scoundrel, and the question was asked, what great man had
hired the assassins? In a few days Jean de Bourgogne, in a mood between
terror and impudent bravado, confessed that he was guilty of the foul
murder of the man to whom he had so recently sworn amity in the sight of
God. Fearing that even his rank could not sufficiently shield him from
punishment for this shedding of the blood royal, Jean fled from Paris to
his own dominions.

The dead man had been neither a good brother nor a good prince; with all
of those facile graces which might have made him lovable to all men and
did make him fascinating to most women he had combined no sterling
qualities. He was not cruel; that is the only relatively good trait--and
even that but negative--that we can set over against his reckless
frivolity and licentiousness, his shameless infidelity and disregard of
oaths and the most sacred obligations. He was not mourned in Paris,
which was shocked but not grieved at his death; he was not sincerely
mourned by the infamous queen whom he had led away from her duty to her
pitiful, insane husband; but he was mourned by the woman whom he had
most deeply wronged--his wife.

This wife was the lovely Italian, Valentine Visconti, daughter of the
Duke of Milan, who had married Louis in 1389 and was a sharer in the
splendors of the gorgeous entry of Isabeau de Bavière into Paris. From
the first she had just cause of complaint--and yet never complained--of
the infidelity of a husband whom she loved with her whole heart, but
whose love she could not retain. Froissart, who was no friend of hers,
tells us a most curious and extraordinary story of one of Valentine's
rivals, whom Louis had preferred to his wife as early as 1392. It
appears that Louis d'Orléans had rashly confided the details of an amour
to that Pierre de Craon whom we have mentioned before, and this knight
revealed them to Valentine. The young duchess sent at once for the lady
to whom Louis was devoting himself: "Wilt thou do me wrong with my lord,
my husband?" The woman was abashed, and in her confusion confessed her
guilt. Then said Valentine: "Thus it is: I am informed that my lord
loveth you, and you him, and the matter is so far gone between you that
in such a place and at such a time he promised you a thousand crowns of
gold to be his paramour; howbeit, you did refuse it as then, wherein you
did wisely, and therefore I pardon you; but I charge you on your life
that you commune nor talk no more with him, but suffer him to pass and
hearken no more to his commanding." From the treatment he received at
the next meeting with his lady-love, Louis discovered that something was
amiss, and she finally told him of the interview with Valentine. Louis
then went home to his wife, "and showed her more token of love than ever
he did before," finally wheedling her into telling him who had been the
talebearer. The sequel we know: how Craon was driven from court, and
returned to attempt the assassination of De Clisson.

But if her husband did not love her, the king manifested a real and
innocent affection for Valentine, his "dear sister," remembering her and
asking for her when, in his madness, he knew no other. Yet even out of
this there was to come evil for Valentine; for the Duchess of Burgundy,
fearing the growth of the Orléans influence over the king, spread evil
reports about the innocent relations between Charles and Valentine.
Adding to these insinuations an accusation far more dangerous than that
of adultery would have been in such a court, the Burgundians asserted
that the king's insanity was produced and continued by the power of
witchcraft; and this accusation, fastened upon Valentine, obtained such
credit that her husband had to remove her from court to a sort of exile
in his own dominions. We find even worse accusations credited by the
unsympathetic Froissart, who reports that she had unwittingly poisoned
her own child in an attempt to poison the dauphin, for "this lady was of
high mind, envious and covetous of the delights and state of this world.
Gladly she would have seen the Duke her husband attain to the crown of
France, she had not cared how."

Through good report and evil report the poor duchess had lived on,
loving her husband and leading a life at least far more regular than
that of the court, though she possessed the Italian love of the artistic
and the beautiful and was very extravagant. The king, now often idiotic
when he was not raving, had been turned completely against her. To amuse
and distract him, and also to strengthen the Burgundian influence, the
Duke of Burgundy provided him with a fair child as playmate and
mistress. To the sway once held by Valentine over Charles there now
succeeded Odette. She was little more than a child, but she became
mistress as well as playfellow of the mad king. Of humble origin (_filia
cujusdam mercatoris equorum_ daughter of a certain horse dealer), she
wears in court history a name better than that she was born to, Odette
de Champdivers; and the people, indulgent of the sin of the mad king,
called her "la petite reine." She was happy, it seems, and kind to the
king, amused him, was loved by him; and, more true to him than was quite
pleasing to the Burgundians, did not play false to France in later years
when Burgundy and England were leagued together, but is said to have
used her influence over the king rather for France than for Burgundy. Of
her we know little more than that she died about 1424, leaving a
daughter whose legitimacy was recognized by Charles VII., and who was
honorably married to a petty gentleman of Poitou.

When the handsome, elegant, but unfaithful Louis was murdered, Valentine
was at Blois with her children; the eldest was but sixteen, old enough
to feel the loss, but not old enough to avenge it. But Valentine
determined to avenge her husband; her grief gave her energy. She came at
once to Paris with her youngest son and her daughter-in-law, that
Isabelle de France who was already a widow from the death of Richard
II., and now affianced to the young Duke d'Orléans. The king, sane at
the time, was inexpressibly shocked by the murder of his brother, and
was moved to tears when Valentine came before him to demand justice upon
the murderer. He promised to act, and probably really meant what he
said, but his mind was not capable of sustained effort. Jean de
Bourgogne was making active preparations for a descent upon Paris with a
retinue so formidable in numbers as to be an army; and Valentine retired
to Blois, to bide her time. Jean, hardly opposed by Isabeau or any of
the few who might be supposed either to exercise some authority or to
sympathize with the Orléans faction, came to Paris, boldly hired lawyers
and quibbling theologians to justify the "death which he had inflicted
upon the person of the Duke d'Orléans," and made the poor madman who was
king issue letters patent declaring that he, the king, "took out of his
heart all displeasure against his very dear and well-beloved cousin of
Burgundy for having put out of the world his brother of Orléans."

Isabeau, who had shown herself utterly incapable of action in this
crisis, remained at Melun until the arrogant and dangerous Duke of
Burgundy had forced matters in this way and had been called away to
repress a rebellion of Liège. Then she and her allies, with three
thousand troops, entered Paris (August 26, 1408). Valentine came next
day, and with her the young Charles d'Orléans, destined to become famous
as one of France's sweetest poets, although kept a prisoner in England
for twenty-five years. The king being once more incapacitated, it was
decided that Isabeau should preside at the hearing of the formal
complaint of the Duchess of Orléans. When the mourning widow and the
youthful Duke of Orléans came before the council to demand a hearing,
their plea was readily granted, for the menacing figure of Jean Sans
Peur was no longer there to intimidate Isabeau and the friends of his
victim. The next day, before the young Duke of Guyenne, who acted in the
place of the king, the legal and ecclesiastical dignitaries employed by
Valentine exerted themselves to exculpate Louis d'Orléans from the
charges of sorcery and tyranny and to show that Jean de Bourgogne should
be punished for the murder. The arguments of the Orléans advocates were
far superior to the shallow, sophistical, utterly shameless harangues
which had been delivered in defence of Jean. The legal advocate asked,
on behalf of Valentine and her children, that Jean be compelled to come
humbly to the Louvre and there to apologize to the king and to the widow
and her children; that his houses in Paris be razed; that he be ordered
to expend great sums in founding churches and convents, in expiation of
his crime; and that he be banished beyond seas for twenty years, and,
after his return, be not suffered to approach nearer than one hundred
leagues to the queen and the Orléans princes.

But Valentine, though she prevailed on the queen and the princes of the
council to agree to summon Jean de Bourgogne to trial before the Court
of Parliament, was impotent to prosecute her cause. For Jean, after a
ferocious suppression of the rebellious citizens of Liège, came boldly
back to Paris, was received as a victor and a friend by the people of
Paris, and so overawed the other members of the council that the Orléans
sympathizers dared not even dream of prosecuting the trial of this
unabashed murderer.

Valentine de Milan and her sons retired to Blois, fearing even further
outrages from the triumphant Burgundians. Well might she now have
justified the pathetic motto which she had assumed at her husband's
tragic death: _Rien ne m'est plus, plus ne m'est rien,_--"There is
nothing more for me, nothing matters more." This inscription, which she
caused to be placed in the Franciscan Church at Blois, must have borne
an added bitterness to her heart when she saw the selfish Isabeau making
friends with the murderer of Louis. The wretched queen and the impotent
members of the council were glad to make peace with Jean; they accepted
his hospitality and cowered before him. Isabeau, caring nothing for the
power of the crown, caring nothing for her husband or her children,
caring indeed for but one thing, money, eagerly accepted that from the
hands still red with the blood of the man she had loved.

With her children about her, Valentine languished at Blois for a year.
She had sought out one of Louis's natural sons, for whom she manifested
affection and who, she used to say, was her own by rights, and more
fitted to avenge his father than any of the other children. Valentine
was in this a good judge, for the spirited, ardent lad whom she loved
for his father's sake was none other than Jean, Comte de Dunois,
afterward famous among the martial heroes of France as "Le Batard
d'Orléans." Valentine died on December 4, 1408, and well might they say
that she had died of a broken heart; for the one great emotion of her
life had been the passionate devotion to one of the most despicable men
that ever had a faithful wife--a devotion generous enough, indeed, to
excuse even follies and infidelities.

It was well for Valentine that death came when it did, for it saved her
from still further sorrows and humiliations. Four months after her
death, her unhappy sons were led to Chartres to go through the forms of
a solemn reconciliation with their father's murderer. The duke expressed
his contrition for "the fact of the murder committed upon Louis
d'Orléans, howbeit this was done for the good of the king and the
kingdom, as he was ready to prove, if desired." With such insulting
phrases the sons were compelled to be satisfied, and they were forced to
swear, with tears that they could not restrain, to harbor no ill
feelings against their dear cousin of Burgundy, for whom the king, the
queen, and the princes of the blood all interceded.

In this shameful mockery of a peace, ratified in the great cathedral of
Chartres, Isabeau de Bavière had acted for the Duke of Burgundy. She was
soon to give still further proof of her heartlessness and ingratitude,
when Jean de Bourgogne arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and executed Jean
de Montaigu, superintendent of finances, who had been an old servant of
the queen, who had even given her that splendid Hotel Barbette in which
she had last supped with Louis d'Orléans, and who had drawn up the
treaty of reconciliation between the houses of Burgundy and Orléans.
Isabeau might have interceded in his behalf, and did make some move to
do so; but a promise that her son should share in the confiscated wealth
of Montaigu was enough to purchase her consent to the latter's death.

Isabeau was at this time busying herself less and less about affairs of
state; since she had leagued herself in secret with Jean de Bourgogne
she had no cares but those attendant upon providing pleasures and
amusements for herself. Her son, the dauphin, following in Isabeau's
footsteps, was scandalizing all Paris by his orgies. At last, the people
of Paris rose in one of their occasional sincere but futile attempts to
reform the manners of a corrupt court. We shall not deal with the
horrors of this outburst, one of the many little wavelets of popular
indignation presaging, but presaging only to heedless revellers, the
great tidal wave that was to envelop and bear down the just and the
unjust alike some four hundred years later. The butchers and bakers and
honest workingmen, led chiefly by a surgeon, Jean de Troyes, came by
thousands to reform the morals of the dauphin. This miserable debauchee,
as well as the rest of the court, trembled before them, and willingly
conceded anything that could be asked. Even the poor mad king, whom the
people loved and did not blame, had the white hood, emblem of the
commune, placed upon his head, and smiled pitifully at his rough but
well-meaning subjects. Forthwith, Isabeau equipped her head with a white
hood, and so did all the court, the judges, and even the learned doctors
of the University. But Isabeau's white hood was not wide enough to cover
the scandalous horns of her headdress. Rising to the point of fury upon
hearing that the dauphin, probably at the instigation of his mother, had
been in communication with the Orleanist forces to induce them to march
upon Paris, the Cabochiens, as the communists called themselves, in May,
1413, invaded the palace itself and arrested Louis de Bavière, the
queen's brother, and as many as fifteen of the ladies of her suite
probably such as had made themselves peculiarly conspicuous and
offensive by the extravagance and the indecency of their costumes.
Isabeau wept, and pleaded vainly for a respite for her brother, then on
the eve of his marriage; the stern moralists from the markets of Paris
were inexorable and Louis went to jail unmarried, while Isabeau went to
bed sick with childish fury.

For a moment turning our attention from the queen, let us advert to the
political conditions in France. From the time of the assassination of
Louis d' Orléans there had been civil war, with rare and brief intervals
of peace, between the partisans of Burgundy and those of Orléans, now
led by Bernard d'Armagnac, whose daughter Charles d'Orléans had married
after the early death of his first wife, Isabelle de France. While civil
war in itself would have caused misery and ruin enough, its horrors were
enhanced by the crafty policy of Henry IV. of England, who, when he was
not able to intervene in person, responded to the solicitations of first
one party and then the other, and thus caused Armagnacs and Bourguignons
to exhaust themselves in fruitless strife. It was the craft of Henry IV.
and the folly of France that prepared the way for Agincourt, that
crushing victory of the great Henry V., who in the presence of the
overwhelming French army proclaimed, in Shakespeare's paraphrase of his

                                         "We are enow
        To do our country loss; and if to live,
        The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
        God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more!"

The event justified King Harry's boastful confidence: the chivalry of
France found itself discredited, dead, or in captivity. And yet, even in
the hour of France's distress, the indolent Isabeau could hardly be
prevailed upon to take any action in behalf of her son, the dauphin,
Louis de Guienne who, in fact, lived but a little over two months after
Agincourt, and was succeeded by Jean de Touraine. In two years more
(1417) Jean de Touraine was dead, poisoned, it was said, by Bernard
d'Armagnac; the new dauphin, Charles, was a boy of but fourteen years.

This Charles, one of the most uncomfortably cold and contemptible
personages in history, had been reared by the queen and the Armagnac
party with sentiments of the bitterest hatred against the Burgundians.
Determined to win complete control of Charles, Bernard d'Armagnac sought
to discredit Isabeau with her son and with the king. There was no
difficulty in finding pretexts, for the sober-minded Juvenal des Ursins
tells us that in the chateau of Vincennes, whither Isabeau had retired
to revel more at ease, "many shameful things were done" by the queen and
her troop of rakes and gaudily dressed ladies; but indecency in dress
was not the only scandal that Bernard revealed to the king, who was at
the time in better mental condition than for years.

As he rode back from the chateau one evening the king met Loys de
Boisbourdon, whom he knew to be one of Isabeau's associates. Suddenly
suspicious and resolved to know the whole truth, Charles had him
arrested and put to the question (_i.e._, tortured). Such horrors were
revealed by this unlucky sharer of the queen's pleasures that Charles
deemed them not fit for further circulation, and accordingly Loys de
Boisbourdon carried his secrets with him into a sack, which was
inscribed: _Laissez passer la justice du roi_, "Make way for the justice
of the king," and the waters of the Seine covered the sack and the
sinner. The mad king's justice, of which we read with a certain joyful
sympathy, was not ended, for he sent the queen and the duchess of
Bavaria to Blois, and later to Tours, where they were compelled to live
under surveillance and in salutary simplicity. The dauphin seized some
moneys belonging to Isabeau, who henceforth cherished the most
unrelenting hatred for her own son, accusing him of being responsible
for her exile. The real grief to her, we may feel sure, was the loss of
her money.

From this time, we find Isabeau intriguing with the Duke of Burgundy. As
Jean was marching upon Paris he came into the neighborhood of Tours. The
pious Isabeau was suddenly filled with a desire to hear mass at a
particular convent some distance outside the walls. While she was
engaged in her devotions the troops of Burgundy, in ambush, surrounded
the convent and "captured" Isabeau and her guardians. The queen and her
ally, styling themselves governors of France, established a parliament
at Amiens, sent out decrees by authority of the "council of the queen
and the duke," and fought the dauphin on paper and in the field. When in
June, 1418, the Parisians, provoked beyond endurance by the exactions
and the arrogance of the Armagnac nobles, massacred every Armagnac that
they could find, Isabeau stood too much in awe of these fierce men of
the common people to enter Paris. Had she not seen their violence
before, merely because she lived in luxury while they starved? She
waited for the arrival of Jean de Bourgogne, and the two entered Paris
together on July 14th. The dauphin, the sole hope of France, fled before
the armies of his mother.

As early as May, 1419, the queen had been in negotiation with the
English to disinherit her son, when the sudden death of Jean Sans Peur,
who was assassinated at a conference with the dauphin in September,
1419, interrupted her plans; but she was determined at all hazards not
to fall into the hands of her son. She wrote a letter of condolence to
the widowed Duchess of Burgundy, and promised the new duke, Philippe le
Bon, to assist him in punishing the dauphin. Philippe, like all this
race of Burgundian dukes, was a man of action, a man of strong
character, slightly more scrupulous than his father, and yet not
entirely without inclination to sacrifice honor to policy. It is not to
be wondered at that, justly indignant at the treacherous murder of his
father, he should have sacrificed the interests of France to satisfy his
resentment against the dauphin.

The queen, the Duke of Burgundy, and the unhappy king, a mere tool in
their hands, treated at once with Henry V. It was stipulated in the
preliminaries that Henry should aid them and be aided by them in war
upon the dauphin. The selfish mother who thus enlisted even foreigners
in her war against her son was capable of yet worse things. It was
agreed that Henry should marry Catherine de France, the youngest
daughter of Isabeau, and should at once receive control of the entire
kingdom, in consideration of the incapacity of Charles VI.

Isabeau de Bavière was merely a wanton, an idle, vain, shallow-hearted
seeker after pleasure, utterly incapable of taking seriously her role as
Queen of France. With such love as her heart was capable of feeling, she
loved Catherine, while her mean nature could never forgive the son who
was the heir of France. We need not be surprised, therefore, to find her
signing and causing the king to sign a treaty which violated every
principle of patriotism and honor. By the treaty signed at Troyes on May
21, 1420, Charles, Duke of Touraine, Dauphin of France, was
disinherited; the very principles of the Salic law were set at naught;
and the heritage of Charles was bestowed, not even upon one of his elder
sisters, but upon that Catherine of France, the youngest child, now
Queen of England, and, in failure of heirs of her body, upon her
husband, Henry V. of England. The two nations were to be merged, each
retaining its distinctive laws, but both were to be under the rule of
English sovereigns, and Henry was to aid in restoring peace and in
destroying "the rebels" under Charles, "called the Dauphin." One of the
bribes paid to Isabeau for selling the kingdom of her son was a pension;
for we find an ordinance of Henry, "heir and regent of France," granting
to the queen the sum of two thousand francs per month.

Isabeau's enjoyment of her pension was not destined to be of long
continuance. The brilliant Henry V. died on August 31, 1422; and less
than two months later died Charles VI., _le bien aimé_. During thirty of
the forty-two years of his reign he had been incapacitated by madness or
by idiocy, and in the intervals France had been worse misgoverned than
ever before in her history; so that, with wars foreign and domestic and
with the shameless extravagance of the court, the kingdom had been
reduced to a deplorable state, scores dying in the streets of Paris of
sheer hunger while the English king was spending his first triumphant
winter in that city. For all these evils and miseries the people placed
the blame where, in good truth, it belonged, on the queen and the royal
princes. For the mad king there was nothing but a compassionate love, a
tender sympathy; the people pitied this kindly unfortunate, abandoned by
his wife, used as a tool by first one set of princes and then another.

At the funeral of Charles VI. not a single prince of France was present;
the English Bedford conducted the whole sad affair. "As the body of the
King was put in the sepulchre beside his predecessors, the heralds broke
their rods and cast them into the grave... And then the Berri
king-at-arms, accompanied by several heralds and pursuivants, cried out
over the grave: 'May God have mercy upon the very noble and very
excellent Prince Charles, sixth of the name, our lawful and sovereign
lord!' And after this the aforesaid king-at-arms cried out: 'May God
grant long life and prosperity to Henry, by the grace of God King of
France and of England, our sovereign lord!' And then the heralds raised
aloft their truncheons with the fleur-de-lis, crying: _'Vive le roi!
Vive le roi!'_ And some of those present answered _Noël_ (the ancient
salutation to the King); but there were some who wept."

Thus the wretched Isabeau's work was, it seemed, complete, her son being
a fugitive before the arms of the foreigner, while her infant grandson
was King of France. From this time she disappears completely from the
scene of action, drawing her meagre pension from the hands of the
English, who treated her with deserved contempt, and cursed by all
France for the memory of her evil deeds. We catch but a fleeting glimpse
of her, living in obscurity at the royal palace of Saint-Pol. When on
December 2, 1431, the young King Henry VI. made his solemn entry into
his capital of Paris, the royal procession passed by the windows of the
palace, and the boy king, looking up, saw an old woman in faded finery,
surrounded by a bevy of women attendants. They, told him it was his
grand-mother, the frivolous and once beautiful Isabeau de Bavière, and
he doffed his cap, while Isabeau bowed to him and turned aside to weep.
Did she weep from sincere contrition, or merely from regret of the
departed luxury and extravagance of her life? She was not to live many
years longer; but it was long enough to know that France had survived
even her treachery and that her son was at peace with the Duke of
Burgundy. So far from rejoicing, it is said that she died of regret that
the treaty of Troyes had come to naught, her death occurring on
September 24, 1435. She died with outward show of piety, and was buried
as meanly, says a contemporary, as if she had been a humble
_bourgeoise_, but four persons being present at the graveside.

The very portraits of Isabeau de Bavière, and of other women of her
court, suggest sensuality. They are fat, and of the earth, earthy,
suggesting lives led in indolence and the pursuit of pleasures not of
the highest. As Michelet says, "Obesity is a characteristic of the
figures of this sensual epoch. See the statues at Saint Denys; those of
the fourteenth century are clearly portraits. See, in particular, the
statue of the Duke de Berri in the subterranean chapel of Bourges, with
the ignoble fat dog lying at his feet." As was the epoch, so was the
queen; she was not actively bad, except where interference with her
pleasures was threatened; she was merely a vain and utterly incapable
woman of low tastes and cold heart who was called upon to be Queen of
France in the most disastrous period of the history of that land. We
need not think her a second Fredegonde, as some historians have tried to
represent her; for her follies and her vices were such as to cause
abhorrence by their puerility or their bestiality rather than to stir
the deeper feelings of fear and hate excited by the greater among the
bad women of history.



                "SEULETE suy et seulete veuil estre,
                Seulete m'a mon doulz ami laissiée,
                Seulete suy sans compagnon ne maistre,
                Seulete suy dolente et courrouciée,
                Seulete suy en langueur mesaisiée,
                Seulete suy plus que nulle esgarée,
                Seulete suy sans amis demourée."

       (Alone am I in the world, and alone would I remain,
       Alone has my dear love left me,
       Alone am I, a poor lone woman, without companion or master,
       Alone am I, stricken with sorrow and anguish of mind,
       Alone am I, and ill at ease,
       Alone am I, more lonely than one who has lost her way,
       Alone have I been left without friends.)

This complaint of one who has lost her lover, or been betrayed and
forsaken by him, might well have been the lament of France, betrayed by
Isabeau de Bavière and left naked to her enemies. But the author of the
lament, though one ready enough to find matter for her pen in the
condition of her adopted country, had no thought of France in this case;
for the little _ballade_ was composed by Christine de Pisan with no
other reference than to her own life.

The age of the mad king and the bad queen would not have been, one would
think, favorable to the advancement of literature; and yet some of the
best literature of medieval France was composed while Isabeau de Bavière
was still alive. We shall allude at this time to but two writers,
Froissart, of whom we have already said something, and Christine de
Pisan, both of whom were writing between 1380 and 1400. Christine, the
first professional authoress in France of whose life we have record, is
well worthy of study both as an authoress and as a woman.

The fourteenth century was the heyday of the astrologer as it was of the
witch, and the wise Charles V., "le Salomon de la France," was not alone
in his superstition when he placed his reliance upon the predictions of
the learned doctor, Thomas of Pisa, whom he had summoned from Italy to
be court astrologer. We are told that the nobles and great ones of the
earth at that time "dared do nothing new without the commands of
astrology; they dared neither build castles, nor churches, nor begin
war, nor even so much as put on a new robe, undertake a journey, nor go
out of their houses without the consent of the stars." Whether or not
this be somewhat of an exaggeration, there is no question that Thomas de
Pisan occupied, at the court of Charles V., a position not only
lucrative but dignified. Established in the Louvre itself, the Italian
scholar sent for his wife and daughter to make their home in France. The
daughter, then (1368) but five years of age, was already a precocious
little lady, and was presented to the king when she arrived in France.
Charles was pleased with the graces of the child, and made her his
especial protegée, promising that she should have as good an education
and place at his court as any _demoiselle_ of noble birth. Charles was
himself a scholar and capable of appreciating the nobility of
intelligence; and in this case he had not judged amiss.

It is from the works of Christine herself--_La Vision de Christine_, in
prose, _La Mutation de Fortune_, and _Le Chemin de Long Estude_,--in
verse that we learn most of her story, which was happy and uneventful up
to her fourteenth year. At this time she had already acquired, under her
father's careful tuition, a remarkable familiarity with the classic
authors of Rome, and could turn off as neat Latin verses as any boy in
the schools, and could also write French verse. It was most fortunate
for her that her father, "not thinking girls any more unfit for learning
than boys," allowed her to "glean some straws of learning." Before she
was fifteen Christine was married to a notary, Etienne Castel, a Picard
gentleman of good birth and excellent character, whom she loved

The prosperity of her family was first threatened in 1380, when her good
patron King Charles died. Then her father, who had lavishly expended a
large part of the handsome stipend he received as astrologer, found
himself suddenly reduced almost to poverty, and he did not long survive
his royal patron. The earnings of her husband not being sufficient to
maintain the family, Christine cast about for a means to put to use the
education she had received, and had already begun, by some small works,
her career as an authoress, when the sudden death of her husband,
carried off by the plague in 1389, left her alone and without resources,
and under the necessity of providing some sort of support for her mother
and her three children.

She never ceased to mourn for her husband, and the pages of her works
are filled with poems which, like the little _ballade_ that heads this
chapter, hold tender allusion to her loss. Though to modern ears the
perpetual repetition of this strain of mourning grows monotonous, some
of the sweetest of her poems are those inspired by this sentiment,
expressed with a directness and a simplicity that must appeal to any
lover of truth and poetry. "He loved me," she sings, "and 'twas right
that he should, for I had come to him as a girl-bride; we two had made
such wise provision in all our love that our two hearts were moved in
all things, whether of joy or of sorrow, by a common wish, more united
in love than the hearts of brother and sister."

She too might have wished to die, she says, in order to follow the loved
one, but that there were the children and the mother whom she alone
could care for. The energy of her character at last saved the fortunes
of her family. Her first task, the saving of some last remnants of the
property of her father and her husband, was rendered more difficult by
the almost interminable delays of the courts and the dishonesty of
advocates and opponents who had more influence with the "blind goddess"
than the daughter of the old astrologer. She herself gives an
interesting picture of her difficulties, all bravely met for the sake of
her children, and in time overcome. Not the least of her worries was the
determination to conceal from her friends the desperate state of her
fortunes; she was too proud to appear poor: "There is no sorrow equal to
this, and no one who has not experienced it can know what it means....
Under a furred mantle and a cloak of scarlet, well saved, but not often
renewed, there was many a shiver, and in a bed properly appointed with
all things of comfort, many a sleepless night. But our meal was always a
simple one, as befits a widow."

But from the more sordid cares, the covering of her poverty under
threadbare finery that did not keep out the cold, and the vulgar
loungers who would ogle her and leer at her as she went about the
courts, there was a refuge in the pursuits which were to earn her bread.
At first Christine sang of her lost husband, and the grace and
earnestness of these poems pleased the fashionable public of the day.
Her style was the result of long and careful preparation, and her mind
almost unconsciously reflected the things which she had read and admired
in classic literature; and thus she transmitted to her readers much
information, not in itself new or original, but strange to them, and
therefore interesting. Some of the great personages of the court still
remembered the little Italian protegée of Charles V., and asked her to
write for them poems of love, in less lugubrious vein. We have seen that
the troubadours thought it almost a truism: "Without love, no poesy,"
for love was their only theme; but here we find a woman who frankly
admits that she has loved and loves no more, and who yet undertakes to
write love poems for a price, and does write some exquisite ones. Poetry
made to order can never seem spontaneous after we know that the poet has
found inspiration not at the shrine of Phoebus but at that of Plutus;
but many of the poetic masterpieces have been composed under stress of
dire poverty, of which we are fortunately not always aware when reading
them. And so, among the six or seven score little _ballades_ and _jeux_
which in Christine's works are marked _à vendre_--for sale--there are
many that we could read with more sincere pleasure if we did not doubt
the genuineness of the sentiment expressed. These little poems, many of
them really graceful and charming playthings of a moment, lose so much
in translation that I shall not attempt to render into English their
ephemeral charm. The French of five hundred years ago is not "Frenshe of
Paris" to most of us: rather is it of the school of "Stratford atte
Bow," or of some other school we have never attended, and therefore I
have chosen to give, with some changes in orthography, one of the
simplest of Christine's _jeux à vendre_. It is a lover's song in praise
of his lady beautiful and good:

        "Je vous vens la rose de mai?
        Oncques en ma vie n'aimai
        Autant dame ne damoiselle
        Que je fais vous, gente femelle,
        Si me retenez à ami,
        Car tout avez le coeur de mi (moi).
        Je vous vens l'oiselet en gage?
        Si vous êtes faulx, c'est dommage,
        Car vous êtes et belle et doulx,
        Si n'ayez telle tache en vous,
        Et digne serez d'être aimée,
        Belle et bonne et bien renommée."

In other poems written for her courtly admirers Christine does not
hesitate to voice sentiments quite out of keeping with the manners of
her patrons. It is thus that she says: "If true honor is to be
reapportioned, many do I know who will have but a little share in it,
despite their thinking that they have all that wealth, beauty, noble
birth, and fine clothes can give, and that therefore they are very
princes. But however noble he be in outward show, no man is noble who
lends himself to evil deeds or evil words. Thus some there are in whose
boasting there is not one word of truth, who will tell you that the
fairest ladies in the land have honored them with love. Good Lord! what
gentility! How ill it becomes a noble man to lie and tell false tales of
women! Such fellows are but villains, pure and simple; and should there
be a redistribution of honors, theirs should be cut down."

Not infrequently, alas, the pride of learning mars her verse; it is
overloaded with pedantic allusions, stiff with learning, and too
manifestly the product of a learned head rather than of an overflowing
heart. Where these faults appear less, or not at all, is in the poems
inspired by genuine feeling for her loved ones; there the real heart of
the woman, bravely struggling to bear up and smile before the world, is
laid bare to us in sudden glimpses of unpremeditated poetry. It is an
old theme, but one of pathos ever fresh, that we find in the following

        "Je chante par couverture (_i. e._, contenance),
        Mais mieux pleurassent mes oeil (yeux),
        Ne nul ne sait le travail
        Que mon pauvre coeur endure.
        Pour ce (je) muce (cache) ma douleur
        Qu'en nul je ne vois pitie.
        Plus on a cause de pleur (pleurer),
        Moins on trouve d'amitié.
        Pour ce plainte ne murmure
        Ne fais de mon piteux deuil.
        Ainçois (plutôt) (je) ris quand pleurer veuil (veux),
        Et sans rime et sans mesure
        Je chante par couverture."

It is, you see, the old _motif_, in melodramatic pathos that of the
harlequin Dorkins, who must play his part in the pantomime even though
his child lie dying, in tragedy that of Lady Macbeth, who must play the
queen by day and suffer the torments of the murderess at night. It is
not the novelty but the universality and truth of the idea or sentiment
that makes Christine's verses rank as poetry.

But love songs alone could not support a family of five; the Church, so
often the refuge of forlorn women, might have offered Christine a
refuge, but not support for those dependent on her, since she had not
sufficient influence to assure herself of any office of dignity and
emolument in the convents of the proud and wealthy. Her pen must be her
resource; and thus Christine de Pisan became not merely an authoress,
but the first authoress to support herself by her pen. For some of her
shorter poems she received not inconsiderable sums; but longer works,
works of more permanent value must be undertaken, and Christine
valiantly set to work.

Her first task was to secure a patron, for only some great lord could
afford to pay sums sufficient to enable her to live: there was no eager
public of thousands, educated by the printing press to expect, to
welcome, to demand fresh intellectual food. One of her patrons was the
great Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Hardi, to whom she dedicated a very
long and partly autobiographical poem called _La Mutation de Fortune_.
She tells her story with rather too much display of the fact that she
knows all the famous apologues and anecdotes that might apply to her
case; still, it is an earnest and in some ways interesting account of
how she had been compelled to take up a profession not then regarded as
befitting a woman how,--as she says, she had turned herself "from woman
to man." She read this work to Philippe de Bourgogne in that same palace
where she had once been a familiar inmate, where she had played as a
child, where she had learned to know the famous men through whose aid
Charles V. had well-nigh regenerated France. It is not surprising that
Philippe de Bourgogne should think of her as specially fitted to
undertake a task requiring intimate knowledge of that king and his time.
The duke, sending for her one day as she sat in the midst of a pile of
books, pen in hand, asked her to undertake the writing of a life of his
great brother.

With ready devotion she set about writing the life of Charles V., of the
king who, "when I was a child, gave me my bread." In due time her book,
_Le Livre des faits et bonnes moeurs du roi Charles V._, was completed;
but he for whom she had written it had died in 1404, before half was
done. The loss of her generous friend and protector was a serious blow
to the poetess. Her mother had also died; while Christine must plod
wearily on, though "her heart was filled with joy when she remembered
that the day was not very far off when she herself would go to join the
loved ones."

The history of Charles V. is a work of which one hardly knows what to
say. As history, it is manifestly a failure, for Christine had either no
wish or no opportunity to present facts in a narrative at once accurate,
detailed, and clear; her work lacks both the accuracy and the breadth of
view of genuine history; it is rather, as one critic remarks, an
_éloge_, a eulogy upon Charles V.--which, indeed, had been what Philippe
desired. The book is in prose, and though the style lacks the clearness
and vividness to which we are accustomed in such men of genius as
Villehardouin, Joinville, and her own contemporary, Froissart, we must
remember that these men had reached the high-water mark of French style,
not to be equalled, in sober truth, till the Renaissance, the "New
Birth," had regenerated the fallen life and literature of Europe. As
prose of the early fifteenth century, Christine's work is better than
any other then written, except that of Froissart; and not a little of
his charm comes less from the style than from the matters of which he
chose to write. There is in Christine's book little of the gorgeousness
of chivalry: was not the king in whose praise she wrote a king who won
his battles at the council table, while Du Guesclin, upon the field of
battle, gave the hard knocks which his sovereign, weak and sickly, could
neither give nor take? Where Christine does succeed is in her portraits
of the king and his courtiers, whose characters she knew perfectly and
whose good and bad traits she does not scruple to depict with such even
justice as she may. To quote the words of one of her most recent
critics, who does not fail to call attention to the awkward Latinisms of
her diction and the lopsided Ciceronian periods in her attempts at
elevation or eloquence: "No one has made us feel more distinctly the
winning grace of the Duke d'Orléans, brother of Charles VI., nor has any
one better depicted the physical aspect of Charles V.; clearly do we see
the long face, the broad forehead, the prominent eyes, and the thin
lips; the beard is very thick, the cheekbones high and prominent, the
skin brown and pale, the whole countenance thin to emaciation; it is the
face of an ascetic, tempered by the gentleness of the expression and
something staid and thoughtful in the whole look. Nor is there mere
banality and commonplace in the moral portrait of the king; if she
praises his chevalerie (chivalry), she does not conceal the fact that,
weak and sickly, his hand never drew the sword from the day of his
accession to the day of his death."

The mere list of Christine's works would fill much space, and in the end
we should not be much edified thereby; for she was a voluminous writer,
really a hack writer, and therefore turned out a huge pile of
ill-considered stuff, in prose and in verse, which she well knew would
win no fame for her it were sufficient could it but win bread for her
children! Much of this work is mere paraphrase of Latin authors of great
repute and much read in the Middle Ages, though now all but forgotten:
the moral Seneca, the martial Vegetius and Frontinus, Valerius Maximus,
and honest Plutarch (whom critics praise, and only unfortunate boys
read). It is from these and the like of these that she gleaned much of
such works as _L'Epître d'Othéa à Hector_, on the training of a prince;
_Le Chemin de Long Estude_, a long moral poem (1402); _Le Livre de
Prudence; Le Livre des Faits d'armes et de chevalerie; Le Livre de
Police_ (political economy). With such compilations, doubtless both
useful and interesting when there were fewer books of general
information, encyclopedias and the like, Christine filled many a
manuscript, and much of her work still remains in manuscript, though the
_Société des anciens textes français_ is slowly reprinting her works,
which will fill four large volumes with verse alone and overflow into
several more with prose.

With the great mass of the work left by Christine de Pisan we shall not
even attempt to deal; but the presentation of one of her favorite
enthusiasms will prove, we hope, of some interest. Though forced to earn
her own bread and so to compete with men, Christine never forgot that
she was a woman; neither in conduct nor in her writings did she ever so
behave or so write as to forfeit that dearest of her privileges as a
woman, the respect of men. Not only did she respect herself, but she was
determined that men should respect her, and moreover that they should
not with impunity malign woman. We have shown in a previous chapter how
outrageous was the literary attitude toward the fair sex, whom the
satirists, big and little, were never tired of belaboring as the authors
of all the evil in the world. Marriage and love are, of course, fertile
subjects of satiric humor, as when the groom is told, in the _sermon
joyeux_ on the _Maux de mariage_ (Misfortunes of Marriage), that, from
the very wedding day: "all his money will take wings and fly away, but
his wife will stay," and stay, and stay, until he is dead and buried,
and then, as the church bell tolls his knell his dear wife will be
thinking of how she can manage to marry his servant. "Verily," says
another, speaking of the pilgrimage of marriage, "'tis a road to which
there is no end till the weaker of the two be dead." It was this
attitude against which Christine entered a vigorous protest, and she got
into a little war of words with two of her contemporaries.

In several of the minor poems noted above there are allusions to the
wrong of boastfulness, mendacity, and evil speaking about women; but in
the _Épître au Dieu d'Amour_ (properly the Epistle _of_, not _to_, the
God of Love), she brings upon the scene Love himself, who complains of
and ridicules tale-telling and blabbing gallants, always ready to
recount imaginary conquests of any woman whose name is mentioned. What
honor is there, she asks, in deceiving a woman? This was in May, 1399,
and it was not many years before she began to assault the chief citadel
of the scorners of womanhood, the great _Roman de la Rose_. Her _Dit de
la Rose_ is dated on a day of all others most propitious to lovers,
Saint Valentine's day, in the year 1402. Her poem contains the graceful
conception of an order of chivalry whose symbol shall be the rose (so
long fraught with evil associations through the influence of ungenerous
clerks), and the chief of the vows exacted of the good knights shall be,
never to be licentious, in word or in deed, with regard to women. The
gauntlet thus thrown down before the admirers of the satirist one might
almost say misogynist Jean de Meung, was not long in finding those
willing to take it up. Two secretaries of Charles VI., Jean de Montreuil
and Gonthier Col, assumed the defence of the _Roman de la Rose_, and
various letters, sometimes couched in terms of good-humored raillery,
sometimes sly and cutting, were exchanged between them and Christine.
Which side, considered merely as debaters, really had the better of the
literary duel we need not care; for the common-sense and the moral point
of view was certainly not that which justified general condemnation of
woman as an inferior and wicked creature, and also justified the
degradation of the noblest emotions to mere sensuality. Christine,
however, thought that she had made out such a good case for maligned
femininity that she collected her letters and the answers, and dedicated
the whole correspondence to Isabeau de Bavière. It would be a pleasant
relief to the gaudy colors in the picture of that unworthy queen if we
could feel that she appreciated the delicate compliment thus paid her,
or in any way encouraged the worthy defender of her sex.

This collection of prose and verse was not the only plea Christine made
for women. She composed two other works, in prose, whose dominant notion
is the rehabilitation of honest womanhood. The first of these, called
_La Cité des Dames_, is one of those compilations descending in the main
from Boccaccio's Latin work, _De Claris Mulieribus_, "Concerning Famous
Women," of which Chaucer's _Legend of Good Women_ and Tennyson's _Dream
of Fair Women_ are the greatest examples: the present work itself,
indeed, is a record of this nature. But that which Chaucer and Tennyson
treat poetically, imaginatively, with all the art of minds supremely
artistic, Christine treats in a rather matter-of-fact way; that is, she
is concerned to tell such anecdotes of famous women as will support her
thesis of the essential nobility of the feminine character. In this way
she has accumulated a considerable amount of evidence showing the
patience, the devotion, the fidelity, the heroism of which women are
capable under all circumstances of life. The heroines of antiquity are
not alone in eliciting Christine's praises; for she devotes some
attention to the patterns of virtue in her own day, to princesses, and
to simple bourgeoises, and to one Anastasia, who is of peculiar interest
to us because she was a fine illuminator, and may have been the artist
who executed the beautiful illuminations in the manuscripts of
Christine's own works.

The second of the prose works in behalf of women is the _Livre des Trois
Vertus_, or _Trésor de la Cité des Dames_, a book of sage counsel to
women of all classes and full of information most valuable for the
historian of manners. It is from this book that one receives the best
impression of the fine moral character and catholicity of view of this
woman living a life of hardship and struggle in the dark days of the mad
king. She is no prude, but simple and charitable in her conception of
the problems of life. Though herself a literary woman, she does not
place too great stress upon learning for her sex: "This woman in love
with scholarship intends, to be sure, that woman should acquire
learning; but it must be for the purpose of developing her intelligence,
of raising her heart to higher things, not of widening her field of
ambitions, dethroning man and reigning in his stead."

The prodigious activity of this authoress can best be appreciated by
reference to her own statement that, by the year 1405, she had "produced
fifteen works of importance, without counting other special little
_dittiés_, which together fill about seventy sheets of large size." The
chief part of her work was already done; for the disturbed condition of
the kingdom after the murder of Louis d'Orléans (1407) interrupted her
labors. She had thoroughly naturalized herself in her adopted country,
and this fervent patriot, who grieved that she was helpless to save
France, must have suffered intensely during the dark years that
followed. In 1410, she wrote a _Lamentation_ upon the horrors of civil
war, and two years later, after the overthrow of the communist
government of Paris, the Cabochiens, she wrote a _Livre de la Paix_,
full of harsh but just criticisms upon those butchers and bakers who
would reform the whole world if first allowed to destroy it. Then came
the greater sorrows of Agincourt and the English conquest. Christine
fled from Paris, no longer the home of those princes who had favored
her, and found refuge in a convent, probably the convent at Poissy to
which her daughter had already retired. It was the breaking up of her
little family, her two sons going back to Italy to seek a more favorable
field for their peaceful talents, and the mother remaining in seclusion
for eleven years.

It was probably not long before her death, of which we do not know the
precise date, that the good lady heard in her cloister the glad news of
the coming of the Maid of Orléans and of the consecration of the king at
Rheims. All her love for her dear land of France welled up in her heart,
and in gladness and wonder she sang the _Dittié de Jeanne d'Arc_, the
praise of this "girl of sixteen years... before whom enemies fly, not
one dare stand.... Oh! what honor to our sex! our sex, that God loves,
it would seem." We cannot better conclude this account of a pure and
noble woman--of one who loved her husband, her children and her country,
and who, above all, preserved respect for herself and for her womanhood
in an evil age--than in the words of her triumphant song of joy which
proclaims that France is saved, and that it is a woman who saves France:

        "Chose est bien digne de mémoire
        Que Dieu par une vierge tendre
        Sur France si grand' grâce estendre.
        Tu Johanne, de bonne heure née,
        Benoist (Béni) soit (le) Ciel qui te créa,
        Par miracle fut (elle) envoyée
        Au roi pour sa provision;
        Son fait n'est pas illusion,
        Car bien a été éprouvée....
        Par conseil en conclusion
        A l'effet la chose est prouvée,
        Et sa belle vie, par (ma) foi,
        Par quoi (laquelle) on ajoute plus (de) foi
        A son fait, quoi qu'elle fasse,
        Toujours en Dieu devant la face....
        Hée! quel honneur au féminin
        Sexe! que Dieu l'aime, il appert!"



_Cettelle ne vient pas de la terre; elle est envoyée du ciel._ Thus it
is that a contemporary, a great politician and satirist, Alain Chartier,
expresses his convictions regarding the Maid of Orléans. To Christine de
Pisan, too, she seemed, as we have seen, a messenger from God. It was a
time when all good patriots wept, when the fair land of France was a
prey to the spoiler, when Armagnac, Bourguignon, and hated Saxon roamed
at will over the land and laid it waste. In one of Alain Chartier's
political satires, _Le Quadriloge invectif_, the three estates of the
realm nobles, clergy, commons are in turn appealed to by La France, to
"have pity of their common mother." The commons, or _Peuple_, replies:
"It is the labor of my hands that feeds and clothes these cowardly
loafers, and they oppress me with famine and the sword.... They live
upon me, and I am slowly dying under them.... The banners of the host
are raised, they say, against our enemies, but no deeds are done except
against me." It was a complaint but too true, as was that in Chartier's
_Livre de I'Espérance_: "The nights are too short for the shameless
pleasures (of the gentlemen at court), and the days too short for
sleeping.... It would seem that noble estate means no more than license
to do wrong and yet go unpunished."

In this disregard of the moral law as well as of patriotic duties the
dauphin himself led the way. One hardly knows what verdict to pass upon
this man, for his character was a blend of qualities that might have
made greatness and that yet resulted in nothing but meanness, littleness
of soul, and ingratitude. It is not the acid meanness of Louis XI, his
son, for that had a purpose; what in Louis XI was true vinegar, sharp
and biting, had not yet gone through the full process of fermentation in
Charles VII. and was simply a fluid evil to the taste, with no useful
properties. Reared at a court where pleasure was the only law, under the
evil influence of Isabeau de Bavière--whenever she thought to trouble
herself about him--and, later, of the savage and unscrupulous Bernard
d'Armagnac, who wished to retain power for himself and hence debauched
the young prince, it is not surprising to find Charles a libertine, and
one easily controlled by any favorite who happened to be in the
ascendant. As a boy of sixteen he had been made an accomplice, whether
constructively guilty or not of the actual crime, in the murder of Duke
Jean de Bourgogne. At nineteen he was proclaimed King of France by his
handful of followers, while the victorious English were proclaiming
Henry VI. in Paris (1422). Defeat followed defeat for his armies, owing
partly to the demoralization of the troops, partly to the inability of
the leaders to maintain any sort of discipline among the bands of half
savage men at arms from Gascony, Brittany, Scotland, and even Italy and
Spain. Yet for most of the disasters, Charles himself was to blame,
since he continued to lead a life of slothful pleasure, making no
serious efforts to control himself or to take an active part in the
affairs of his ruined kingdom.

The salvation of France was to come from a woman, one as nearly a saint
as mortal can be; but some part of the preparation for the coming of
that saint was made by other women, not by any means saintly. The wife
of Charles VII. was Marie d'Anjou, who, with her husband, was under the
domination of her mother, Yolande d'Aragon, one of those active, able,
but unscrupulous women who rule by intrigue, who are content to let
others claim the glory so long as the real secret of power is theirs.
Queen Yolande, anxious to preserve the dignity of the house of Anjou for
her son Rene, needed the support of France, and she hated England. She
gained a remarkable ascendency over Charles VII., and used this most
wisely for the good of France, though some of her methods may seem of a
sort to disconcert prevailing opinions.

Seeing that Charles was by nature a libertine, she determined to make
use of that side of his character, although at the expense of her own
daughter. It was she who presented to Charles that famous and lovely
_Dame de beauté_, Agnes Sorel. The rôle played by this mistress of the
king is truly admirable as well as remarkable. Agnes was no vulgar
woman, but an Aspasia of her time, of noble birth, beautiful, and of a
character gentle as well as essentially good. It is no paradox to
pronounce her good, though she led a life condemned by moral laws; for
the laxity of the age must be considered, as well as the methods of the
mistress herself. Even the wife of her royal lover respected Agnes
Sorel, and there was friendship between them. So far from seeking to
surround herself with idle and vicious companions and encouraging
Charles in offending useful friends or wise counsellors, she used her
influence, in conjunction with Yolande, to establish the credit of the
Constable de Richemont, the most useful of Charles's allies at this

Legend has gilded her portrait for us, and much that is told of her is
not susceptible of proof, but the tendency of her influence is shown by
one little incident. Charles, unable to win back his kingdom, unable to
maintain himself in it north of the Loire, unable to find money to pay
his troops, was yet able to build a chateau at Loches for Agnes Sorel.
Here he was basking in her smiles and heedless of the distress of
France, when accident gave Agnes a chance to rouse his nobler feelings.
Charles had, to amuse the passing hour, called a fortune teller to the
chateau, and stood by while the man told the fortune of his well-beloved
Agnes. The mountebank, with the cunning of his kind, thought to flatter
this vain and lovely lady by prophesying: "Some day thou shalt be the
wife of the greatest king on earth." Agnes, with ready wit, rose at once
to her occasion. "If that be my true fortune," said she to the dauphin,
"I must leave you this instant and go marry the King of England; for I
see that, in the sloth that confines you here, you will not long be King
of France." The shot told, and Charles was stung into momentary
activity. Throughout her life Agnes continued to exert a salutary
influence upon him; and when she died,--poisoned, it was said, by the
then dauphin, afterward Louis XI,--evil favorites soon replaced the wise
counsellors at the king's board, and his last years were as full of
misery as had been those before Jeanne came mysteriously out of the east
and gave him his crown.

It was not Charles, the miserable, ungrateful voluptuary whose character
we have attempted to show, that was loved and saved by Jeanne d'Arc; it
was France, represented to her in the person of the dauphin. For her,
Charles was a symbol, a mere incarnate _patrie_ for whose salvation she
was commissioned by the Lord of Hosts; the man himself was nothing; in
her simple peasant's heart, she hardly thought of him as a man, rather
as a sort of divinity that could do no wrong, that must be worshipped,
that must first of all be saved and set up safely in its tabernacle of
Rouen. Unworthier idol never was created than this insensible thing
called the dauphin, with as little care for the victims crushed beneath
him as if he had been in very truth a mere wooden Juggernaut or Mumbo
Jumbo; but all of us worship unworthy idols and are quite unconscious of
their unworthiness. And, as in the case of Jeanne, if worship and
worshipper be pure, what matter if the idol be a little unsteady on the
pedestal to which our blind devotion has raised it?

The worship of Jeanne for the dauphin had begun in very childhood, when
this dream-guided little maid of Lorraine hardly knew what "king" or
"kingdom" meant. Writers have remarked, as De Quincey and Michelet, upon
the fact that Jeanne was born in a border land, on the marches of
Lorraine and Champagne, in the debatable land between the great parties
of Orléans and Burgundy; but the mere situation of this little village
of Domremy upon the great Franco-German highway is a geographical fact
that could be conned over and over, and then forgotten, without our
being one whit the better or the worse. The dead fact is nevertheless a
fruitful seed of thought, if we but allow it to come to germination. We
may recall that in the present day the most enthusiastic of those
patriots of France who are ever clamoring misguidedly for war are the
people of this one-time border of France. However misguided may be the
demonstrations of the crowds who annually drape in mourning the statue
of Strasbourg on the Place de la Concorde, an enthusiastic patriotism is
their inspiration. "The outposts of France, as one may call the great
frontier provinces," De Quincey says, "were of all localities the most
devoted to the Fleurs de Lys. To witness, at any great crisis, the
generous devotion to these lilies of the little fiery cousin (Lorraine)
that in gentler weather was forever tilting at the breast of France,
could not but fan the zeal of France's legitimate daughters; whilst to
occupy a post of honour on the frontiers against an old hereditary enemy
of France would naturally stimulate this zeal by a sentiment of martial
pride, by a sense of danger always threatening, and of hatred always
smouldering.... The eye that watched for the gleams of lance or helmet
from the hostile frontier, the ear that listened for the groaning of
wheels, made the highroad itself, with its relations to centres so
remote, into a manual of patriotic duty."

Nursed in an atmosphere of patriotism, therefore, the little Jeanne had
the horrors of war brought vividly before her when a band of brigands,
nominally English or Burgundian partisans, rushed down upon Domremy,
sacked the town, burned the church, and drove many of the inhabitants,
including Jeanne's family, into temporary exile. The family came back
again, and the immediate ravages of the soldiers were repaired, but
Jeanne never forgot, and told in after years how she would shiver with
horror and then weep from sheer pity at seeing her village friends come
back wounded and bleeding from some affray with the English.

Jeanne, the daughter of one who is described as a _simple laboureur_
(which may mean that he was an independent farmer in a small way, not a
mere laborer), was born in 1412, and was therefore old enough to see and
to appreciate the worst of the miseries of France and to understand the
tales of war and of English outrages brought to her father's door by
many a traveller on the great highway that passed through Domremy; and
her heart was filled with pity for the poor dauphin, repudiated by his
own mother, exiled from his kingdom by the English, wandering aimlessly
from province to province where the arms of his enemies made it safe for
him to pass. The child's mind could but be stirred and filled with those
vague, generous dreams of sacrifice, of heroism, of impossible
achievements, which, like other visions, fade "into the light of common
day" with most of us. Not so with Jeanne, in whom from the start there
was something mystical, something that set her apart from other

With her work-a-day life we are not concerned, nor with those members of
her family who stand for none of the things of the spirit for which she
was to serve. Her father, of whom even tradition has been able to make
neither a monster nor a hero, was merely a commonplace peasant,
apparently amiable and kindly, but manifestly incapable of sympathy with
things ethereal and supernatural; we need not go so far as De Quincey
and deny him patriotism: "He would greatly have preferred... the saving
of a pound or so of bacon to saving the Oriflamme of France." And so
with her brothers, Jean and Pierre; though ennobled by the king, and
though doubtless very good fellows, they were certainly very far from
being noble in spirit, or in any way comparable to their sister. For
Jeanne's nobility was based upon no accident of birth or favor of a
prince: it was the gift of God.

The life of Jeanne d'Arc was probably not essentially different from
that of other girls of her class, at least up to her fourteenth or
fifteenth year. From the testimony of those who recalled the childhood
of the heroine long after she had become a heroine we must turn with
some distrust; for motives the most diverse may have induced, and
doubtless did induce, them to conceal or even to misrepresent many
things in this simple story. But there seems to be no doubt that Jeanne
tended sheep, like her sister and other children of the neighborhood,
that she learned all the simple little domestic arts, and "was a good
girl, diligent at her work"; she herself refers with pride to her skill
as a needlewoman: "My mother taught me so well that I could sew as well
as any woman in Rouen," and Rouen was one of the centres of fine work;
but of reading and writing, even the rudiments of education, she knew
nothing. Of one other thing, too, there is no doubt, though the
legend-mongers have doubtless colored the picture a little here also;
this is that the child was pious, manifesting greater devoutness than
was common among her class. And in this devoutness, too, a thing more
significant still, she manifested a diffidence, a desire to withdraw
herself and her prayers from the profanation of vulgar and inquisitive

Much has been made of the mysterious associations of forests
fairy-haunted, of trees where the children danced and hung garlands in
honor of some fairy queen, whom the good _curé_ of the village devoutly
exorcised every spring. What community in a land neighbored by mountains
but has its "little people," whether fairies, hobgoblins, or gnomes? The
learned doctors at Jeanne's trial were trying to fasten upon her some
preposterous charge of witchcraft and association with the powers of
evil; it was their business to drag in the fairies and to show that
Jeanne knew more of such things than was good for the glory of God; and
ever since, the biographers have seized upon what scanty ravellings of
childish legend Jeanne could recall upon her trial, and have woven of
them fine cobwebs of filmy pattern, to show how the whole soil of
Domremy, more than any other particular spot in France, produced
mushroom crops of fairies, and that a very miasma of enchantment was in
the air. The mass of fanciful and sometimes exquisite rhetoric on this
theme in the lives of Jeanne would surely have convicted her of
witchcraft in the fifteenth century. In good truth, Jeanne probably had
as firm belief in fairies as you and I once had in Hop-o'-my-Thumb and
Red Ridinghood; but those were childish things, in no way connected with
her mission.

That which is of importance to note is that she was always a gentle and
tender-hearted girl, ready to nurse the sick or to play with the
children. "Well do I know it," says an aged peasant who testified for
her memory years after she was dead, "I was then but a child, and she
nursed me." But most important of all is the knowledge that her enemies
could not find in Domremy one witness to testify against her; there was
in her native village no envious wretch, no Ascalaphus, who could
concoct a probable tale of any sort to the injury of one who had as a
child led a life so pure, so good, but likewise so uneventful.

At what time Jeanne began to see visions we cannot tell exactly; it is
probable that the dreams of childhood, long indulged, merged at first
unconsciously into visions that seemed to her as real as things seen
with the bodily eye. By her own account, it was some six or seven years
after she first felt called by the heavenly voices before she found
courage to attempt the apparently impossible things they commanded. One
vision she remembered all her life long, because it was kept constantly
before her mind by the great passion of her life. She herself tells of
this one, and neither persuasions nor ridicule nor the terrors of the
prison could shake her absolute faith in its reality. "Long had she
heard celestial voices, sometimes counselling her to be a good girl,
sometimes specially recommending to her the practice of piety and the
careful guarding of her virginity, sometimes echoing in unison with her
own thoughts as they told her of the woes of France and the groans of
the people. One day as she sat working and musing in the garden next to
the church wall, there came a bright and blinding light, a heavenly
effulgence stronger than the midday sun; then out of this glory came the
voice, soft, yet commanding, of a man, whose glorious winged figure she
could see dimly, saying: 'Jeanne, arise! go to the succor of the
Dauphin, and thou shalt restore his kingdom to him.' The poor girl, all
abashed, fell upon her knees: 'Messire, how can I do this, since I am
but a poor girl, and know not how to ride or to lead men-at-arms?' But
the voice insisted: 'Thou shalt go to the Sire de Baudricourt,
commanding for the King at Vaucouleurs, and he will conduct thee to the
Dauphin. Fear not; Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine will aid thee.'"

Jeanne was in tears, for the fear of the thing, not daring as yet to
confide in anyone. But the voices continued to importune her, and again
she saw the angel, him whom in her simple fashion she described as
_moult prudhomme_ (a very noble man), and whom she now recognized to be
the very Saint Michael whose image she had seen in her church,
triumphing over the dragon. And with him came fair women, all in white,
with lights and troops of angels all about them, the holy and brave
virgins Margaret and Catherine. They had come, as Saint Michael the
Archangel had promised, to be her spiritual guides and comforters; and
their blessed forms were never far from her, and their voices whispered
to her to be of good cheer, for that through her and her alone France
would be saved.

Tortured by doubts and fears, she revealed these visions to her mother,
from whom she had learned her _Ave, Pater, Credo_, the sweet and simple
faith that meant so much to her. Her mother was half inclined to believe
in Jeanne, and was at least sympathetic; but her father could see in
these visions but childish nonsense that would lead his daughter astray.
For him there was no faith in such things; can one blame him if he
thought them but the silly moonings of a child, and dealt with that
child sternly in the hope of saving her? He declared that he would drown
Jeanne with his own hands rather than see her ride off with men-at-arms
into that France of which he and she knew nothing but that it was from
end to end given over to war and pillage. Thinking that marriage might
dispel her illusions about saving France,--as indeed it would,--they
persecuted her to marry a young villager who had fallen desperately in
love with her and claimed that she had promised to marry him. With a
courage that must have surprised even herself, she went before the
ecclesiastical court of Toul and told her story so frankly that the
judge dismissed the desperate lover. Not for her were the joys and
sorrows of a wife and mother.

With all her determination and masculine contempt for those things that
are terrors to most women, Jeanne loved her home. In after years she was
ever sighing for the quiet life of her father's cottage, where she might
sit and spin with her mother, or wander forth over the fields with her
sister to tend the sheep. What a piteous struggle must there have been
in her breast! On the one hand, an angry father, whom she loved, a
mother whom she loved better, a safe home, and in it all that her simple
heart desired; on the other, the great and terrible world, the armies of
rough men, the dissolute courtiers, the long journeys over an unknown
country, for one who had hardly stirred out of sight of Domremy church
tower. Love of home, so strong in the hearts of all women, so precious
to the peasant woman of France above all others, must be renounced for
love of country. There have been no better or more determined patriots
than women, as Cæsar found when the women of Gaul cheered their husbands
on to the contest with his legions; but these women were fighting at
home, as it were upon the threshold; they did not go forth to lead
armies in offensive warfare; theirs was the steady courage of
desperation, not the active courage which must sustain itself, keep its
own fires alive, instead of relying upon the stimulus of impulse and a
desperate crisis. All the fears and heartbreakings of the struggle in
Jeanne's mind have been hidden from us, for she speaks not of them;
having fought out this battle with herself and decided that France needs
her more than does her mother, she does not allow herself to turn back,
and we get but a plaintive reminiscence here and there, since she has
locked up this grief in her heart.

The opportunity to attempt the execution of the commands imposed by her
voices was long in coming; she had become a subject of common talk in
her village; everywhere she met discouraging incredulity, if not
ridicule. It was not that there was lack of belief in marvels, for the
land was filled with stories of portents and wonders in which the people
did not hesitate to believe. There was the holy peasant whom the great
captain, Xaintrailles, brought before the court to display upon his
hands and feet the very marks of the cross, the stigmata, and who was
said to sweat blood upon the day of the Passion. There was Catherine de
la Rochelle, who saw visions of angels and who proclaimed herself
commissioned to discover treasures for the dauphin. In these and the
like the people of Domremy may have believed; but not in their own
little peasant girl; for had they not known her when she was but like
the rest, a simple shepherdess?

In one member of her family Jeanne found faith, and to him she turned
for help. This was her uncle, whose wife she was sent to nurse and whose
spark of faith she kindled during this stay till, what with her urging
and that of his wife, the good man' went to Vaucouleurs and carried
Jeanne's message to Baudricourt. Is it any wonder that the seigneur
smiled derisively at this foolish peasant who came to him with a message
from a girl declaring that he must give her soldiers to accomplish that
which the best captains of France could not accomplish? He was not
unduly harsh, merely contemptuous in his rebuff: "Whip the girl well,
and send her home to her father." There are so many with "missions" in
this world, missions that are but vain imaginings, profiting naught; the
more experience one has had in the world the more one learns to distrust
these missions; and beyond a doubt the chastisement suggested by the
Sire de Baudricourt would, in nine cases out of ten, have ended the
mission and cured the hysterical enthusiast.

We say nine cases out of ten, or ninety-nine out of a hundred, or any
further multiples you please, with careless assurance that there is no
tenth case, and that fate will not take our wager and prove us fools, no
matter what the odds we offer. But there is that tenth case, and the
world is caught, the wise world, as here in the case of the peasant lass
of Lorraine, at whom all in Domremy smiled indulgently, whom all in
France were soon to worship.

It was the month of February, 1429, when the eyes of all France were
fixed upon one city, Orléans. To the shattered French party it was the
last hope of their dauphin; to the English it was the barrier which shut
them off from the south of France. Since October the siege had been in
progress, and England had given the command of her besieging forces to
the best captains, while Dunois held out for France and for his
half-brother, that Charles d'Orléans who had been a prisoner in England
ever since Agincourt. But neither the skill of Dunois nor the gay
courage of the citizens could cope with famine; it looked as if Orléans
must fall, and all France mourned in advance the fate of the gallant
city. Charles, the dauphin, wept at Chinon, and was without hope or
counsel. In the heart of the daughter of Domremy one fervent prayer
replaced all others: that Orléans might be saved! Her voices grew more
and more importunate, crying to her ceaselessly that it was for her to
save Orléans. With this more definite and immediate aim in mind she
found courage to make another appeal to Baudricourt. She persuaded her
uncle to accompany her, and the two trudged on foot to Vaucouleurs,
where Jeanne was lodged with a wheelwright, her mother's cousin.

Impatient at the persistence of this mad girl, Baudricourt nevertheless
consented to see her, probably thinking that he would thus more easily
rid himself of her. In her simple peasant's dress of red cloth the young
mystic stood before him. She was not tall, but was well proportioned and
sturdy; in her features there was nothing remarkable, merely a
regularity that failed of absolute beauty by being commonplace; still,
it was a comely face, and even the sceptic Baudricourt could not fail to
note the honesty and gentleness of the expression, or the deep and
dreamy eyes, the sole feature that revealed some gleams of the great
spirit within. Without hesitation or embarrassment and yet without
effrontery she answered his questions, and uttered her message to the
dauphin: "My lord, I come to you in the name of God, bidding you enjoin
the dauphin to hold firm and to set no day of battle with the enemy at
this time, for God will send him aid about Mid-Lent. The kingdom is not
his alone, but God's. Nevertheless, the Lord meaneth that he shall be
King, despite his enemies; and it is I who shall lead him to be crowned
at Rheims."

Baudricourt could not surrender at once to the faint belief aroused in
him by Jeanne's earnestness, but the faint belief was already there, and
he dismissed her kindly to reflect upon what she had said. The _curé_ of
the parish was called into consultation, and the knight and the priest
agreed that it was quite possible that Satan might have a hand in all
this, and the two visited Jeanne, the priest exorcising the evil spirit,
whereat Jeanne did not fly away or disappear with a flash and a bad
smell of powder and brimstone. Her simple piety satisfied and touched
the priest.

Meanwhile, rumors of her wonderful visions and of her sanctity began to
be current among the people and to find credence. Had it not been
prophesied by the mighty Merlin that France should be lost through a
wicked woman and saved by a pure virgin? Who could the wicked woman be
other than Isabeau de Bavière, who had sold France and disinherited and
denied her own son? And here was Jeanne, a pure child, come to redeem
France. It was criminal in Baudricourt to doubt, to reject the
assistance thus sent by God himself. Crowds of people, gentles and mere
laborers, visited Jeanne, and all were sure of one thing at least, that
she was a good girl, while many went away firm believers in her mission.
A gentleman, Jean de Metz, thinking to jest with her, said: "Well,
sweetheart, then we must all turn English, since the King will be driven
out of France." But there was no thought of jest in her, as she
complained of Baudricourt's refusal to send her to the dauphin: "And yet
they must get me to the Dauphin before Mid-Lent, were I to wear out my
legs to the knees walking there. For no one in this world, kings, nor
dukes, nor daughter of the king of Scotland, can win back the kingdom of
France; and there is for him no other help save in me, albeit I should
far rather stay beside my poor mother and spin.... For this is not my
work, fighting battles; but I needs must go to do that which is
commanded, for my Lord so wills it."

Baudricourt hesitated to assume the responsibility of any action in the
matter. He took Jeanne to see the old Duke de Lorraine, his feudal
superior. Duke Charles, at that time under the domination of a mistress,
Alison du May, of great wit and beauty, was ill, and thought the
miraculous maiden of Domremy might restore him to health and the arms of
Alison. Jeanne, very wisely and frankly, told him to put away his
paramour and take back his wife and lead a decent life. She was no
worker of vulgar miracles to profit a worn-out old roué.

Coming back to Vaucouleurs, she found the authorities more ready to give
her a hearing, for the situation in Orléans had become desperate, and
the gallant citizens, who had entered into the siege with as much
eagerness as if it had been but play, found enthusiasm very exhausting
and food supplies very scant. Jeanne had predicted the date and the
disastrous result of the battle of Rouvray, "the battle of the Herrings"
(February 12, 1429), and the people of Vaucouleurs believed in her.
Grudgingly and half-heartedly, the Sire de Baudricourt was compelled to
yield to her request and to despatch her to the dauphin. Some citizens
of the town subscribed a sum to equip her with horse and armor, and the
Sire de Baudricourt himself gave her a sword. For the long journey
through a rough country the poor girl, with no woman companion, could
not retain her simple gown, but must be dressed as a man-at-arms. On the
very eve of her departure, she was subjected to another severe trial to
her feelings: her parents, hearing of her determination, sent to
implore, to command, her not to go; and Jeanne, unable to write, had to
dictate a letter asking their forgiveness for her disobedience.

Her little troop, consisting of two gentlemen and a few men of their
following, had to traverse part of the country where the Burgundian
interest was strong, for the dauphin was then holding his court at
Chinon, near Tours. And the dangers of the road infested by hostile
troops were not the only dangers, for among her own companions there
were many misgivings: they knew not whether to reverence her as a saint
or to destroy her as a witch. The latter course, indeed, they were very
near pursuing; but the innocence and the harmless, hopeful, confident
demeanor of the girl moved their hearts to pity.

She arrived at Chinon on February 24th, and sent word to Charles that
she had much to tell him that would comfort his heart, and that she had
come one hundred and fifty leagues to see him; but Charles had no will
of his own, and his councillors wrangled about what should be done.
There was a strong party opposed to Jeanne, but her friends, headed by
Queen Yolande, carried the day, and she was admitted to see the king,
or, as she continued to call him until after the consecration at Rheims,
the dauphin. The story of how this country maiden was introduced into
the throng of dazzling courtiers and left to divine which was the chosen
of the Lord has been too often told, and too generally credited, to need
either retelling or defence; the whole story of Jeanne d'Arc is so
little short of what we would call miraculous that it seems a petty
thing to balk at this one detail. Whether by divine inspiration, or by
mere luck, or by the friendly and secret guidance of her followers,
Jeanne did discover Charles, and spoke without fear as she knelt at the
feet of this unworthy prince whom she had come so far to save: "Gentle
Dauphin, I am called Jeanne la Pucelle; the King of Heaven sends you
word by me that you shall be consecrated and crowned in the city of
Rheims, and that you shall be his lieutenant in France. Give me,
therefore, soldiers, that I may raise the siege of Orléans and take you
to Rheims to be consecrated. It is God's will that your enemies, the
English, shall go back to their own land; and woe be unto them if they
do not go; for the kingdom shall be and remain your own."

The dauphin could but be struck by these words, uttered with such
directness and earnestness; but he still doubted of the divine mission
of the peasant girl. Might she not be an impostor, hired by his enemies?
Might she not be, if nothing worse, merely a poor demented creature? His
mind had been much tormented by doubts of his own legitimacy. The
English openly proclaimed him no son of Charles VI.; his mother's
intimacy with Orléans was too notorious and too recent a scandal to be
concealed, and he had been born at the very moment when that intimacy
was at its height, while she who was his mother had acted as if there
were good reason why he should not inherit the crown; is it any wonder
that the wretched young prince himself half believed the allegations of
his foes? He desired reassurance on this point, and it was doubtless to
ask some question of the kind that he now led Jeanne d'Arc aside and
seemed to converse with her in low tones. All that passed between them
has never been told, since Jeanne refused to reveal it; but the
courtiers saw his countenance light up, and it was known that she had
told him good news, and this much she confessed to having said: "I am
sent from God to assure you that you are the true heir of France, the
son of the King."

The dauphin may have been momentarily converted to faith in Jeanne la
Pucelle; but he was vacillating, and some of his wisest councillors,
including the chancellor, would not believe in her. She must first be
proved no witch and a pure virgin. To both these tests Jeanne submitted
willingly and courageously, and from both she came out vindicated. As
they prepared to take her to Poitiers, where some half dozen learned
doctors of the church were to focus their wisdom upon this poor child,
she said: "Well do I see that many a hard trial awaits me in Poitiers;
but God will aid me. Let us go, then, with stout hearts." During the
interrogation to which she was subjected by the theologians, the one
dominant characteristic of the girl--not of the saint--was strongly
brought out: her common sense. Her answers, though naive and utterly
unsophisticated, by their frankness and good sense frequently
discomfited the most adroit catechists. One of the doctors objected: "If
God wishes to deliver the people of France he has no need of
men-at-arms." With readiness and rational, half-humorous shrewdness,
Jeanne replied: "Ah! my God! the men-at-arms will fight, and God will
give the victory." Then Brother Seguin, "a very sour man," with a strong
twang of his native Limoges, would fain know "what tongue these Heavenly
visitors spoke?" "A better than thine," replied Jeanne. "I did not come
to show signs or work miracles in Poitiers; the sign I shall give you
will be to raise the siege of Orléans. Give me soldiers, few or many,
and I will go."

Confident of coming out scathless from the examination of the doctors,
Jeanne grew weary of the long delay and dictated a letter to the English
regent, Bedford, announcing to him that "the Maid has come from God to
drive you out of France." Finally, the representatives of the Church
gave it as their opinion that it would be lawful to employ this maid, if
in very truth she were a maid, "for the hand of God works in mysterious
ways!" Her purity of life and of body were more easily established than
her orthodoxy, and now there remained nothing but to grant her prayer
and let her march on to Orléans. For Orléans, too, had heard of its
advocate, and the gallant Dunois sent entreaty after entreaty that they
would send the maid to him.

A little retinue was provided as her personal escort, under command of a
staunch and staid old knight, Jean Daulon, with a page, two heralds, a
steward, two valets, and Jeanne's brother, Pierre d'Arc. Clothed in pure
white armor--white as symbolizing the purity of the heroine--and mounted
upon her black horse, glorious must have been the sight of the sweet
maid, a very _sursum corda_ to every loyal heart in France. One can see
through the mists of years the seraphic smile of tender triumph with
which she looked up at her banner, the holy banner that was of white
with _fleurs-de-lis_ upon it, and on one side the Lord of Hosts Himself,
with angels by His side, holding the world in His hands. And then she
waved aloft the sacred sword of Saint Catherine with its five crosses,
which she had discovered hid behind the altar of Saint Catherine de
Fierbois; the word was at last: "On to Orléans!"

No greater contrast could have been than that here set before the eyes
of wondering France: on the one hand, the chaste, kindly, simple-hearted
Jeanne; on the other, leaders and soldiers brutalized by long years of
desultory civil war. Think of a Sire de Giac, who gave poison to his
wife and then, setting her astride a horse, made her gallop till she
died. When he was brought to justice he prayed that his right hand,
vowed to the service of the devil, might be cut off before his
execution, lest the astute ruler of Hades seize the said hand and drag
the whole body along with it. Or think, again, of Gilles de Retz, the
Marquis de Laval, whose murders of children (to the number of one
hundred and sixty, some say) were so atrocious that he was at last
seized, tried, condemned to death at the stake and to eternal, if
mistaken, association with that nursery horror, Bluebeard. Think of him
riding beside Jeanne la Pucelle, nay, standing beside her at the
coronation in Rheims and fetching the sacred ampulla! What an associate
for her was even that brave and loyal friend Etienne Vignoles, nicknamed
Lahire (the Barker), who was wont to say, in extenuation of the
universal practice of plundering and brigandage among the so-called
soldiers, "Were God to turn man-at-arms, He too would pillage!" It was
he who prayed before a battle, with less reverence but surely not with
less fervency than some other pious soldiers: _Sire Dieu, je te prie de
faire pour Lahire ce que Lahire ferait pour toi, si tu étais capitaine
et si Lahire était Dieu_ (Sir God, I pray thee to do for Lahire what
Lahire would do for thee, if thou were a soldier and Lahire were God).
It is a most excellent and comprehensive prayer, good to prefer when one
has not time to remind the Deity of each little thing He should do.

With an army composed of such men, Jeanne d'Arc set out for Orléans; but
she sadly doubted if her saints would be coadjutors to such unrepentant
sinners. Accordingly, she insisted that the morals of the camp be
reformed. Lahire must swear no more dreadful, soul-blasting oaths; he
obeyed, but the good-hearted girl, seeing him at a loss for unseasoned
speech, relented so far as to permit him to swear "by his baton." But
the reform did not end with puerile matters; the Pucelle would have no
loose women about the camp; all her soldiers must go humbly and confess
their sins before they dared to follow her sacred banner; in the open
air upon the banks of the Loire she raised an altar, and all must take
communion with her. No need of the dauphin's order to Dunois,
Xaintrailles, Lahire, Boussac, and the other captains to respect the
person and obey the commands of Jeanne la Pucelle; the enthusiasm
inspired by her innocent face, the patriotism of her unselfish heart,
that mysterious power which, sometimes and only sometimes, the good and
pure and utterly defenseless exert upon evil natures these were far
stronger motives than the commands of a prince so weak that he could not
maintain his own in half of France. It was a crusade upon which this
fair young saint was leading them; and something of the old ardor of the
crusaders inspired her followers.



WHILE the army of Jeanne d'Arc, starting with but four or five thousand
men and gathering numbers from every side as it goes, is marching toward
Orléans, let us look at the military situation of that town and of the
English cause in France. To begin with, the force of the besiegers had
never been large; during the long siege it had been reduced by disease,
by loss in battle, by defections, till the English army itself was
almost in as great straits as the garrison. Moreover, in order to secure
themselves, the English had constructed a dozen or more small forts, or
_bastilles_, on both sides of the Loire, and the garrisons of these
places had no sure means of intercommunication. It is true that plans
were on foot for reinforcing the besiegers, but the political conditions
in France and England were such as very seriously to handicap Bedford.
There was never hearty cooperation between him and the all-powerful
Cardinal Winchester; the Duke of Gloucester was wrangling with
Winchester, and had not long ago seriously offended Bedford's most
important ally, Philippe de Bourgogne, by marrying Jacqueline of
Flanders and espousing her cause against the Burgundians. Though
Gloucester had since married another lady--bigamy was but a small
matter--and had patched up matters with Philippe de Bourgogne, the
latter was showing distinct signs of estrangement from the English. Much
depended therefore on the successful termination of the siege of
Orléans, and the English power, apparently at its climax, needed but a
slight check to start it on the decline.

All this must lead us to ponder upon the achievements of that force now
collected under the white banner of Jeanne, and to ask ourselves, were
those achievements indeed so marvellous, from a military point of view?
When the chemist has evaporated his solution of a salt almost to the
point of crystallization, and yet it will not crystallize, a mere
splinter cast into the dish will suddenly gather to itself the
hesitating particles, and the crystals form as if by magic. The figure
will help us to understand the condition of the dauphin's cause and the
kind of influence exerted by Jeanne d'Arc. She was the nucleus, lacking
which the French forces might have continued mere floating and helpless
bands, without a leader, without a common cause; above all, without hope
or enthusiasm. There was no lack of valiant soldiers on the side of the
dauphin, the Constable de Richemont, Dunois, Xaintrailles, Lahire,
Gilles de Retz, Armagnac; all these were either in Jeanne's army or in
Orléans. It was her presence, her influence, that enabled them to
combine successfully. She was essential to them, no doubt; but had she
herself not said wisely and well: "The men-at-arms will fight, and God
will give the victory "?

The captains of the dauphin's army thoroughly appreciated the value, the
inestimable value, of the enthusiasm aroused by the Maid, and they made
shrewd use of it; but they had no intention of trusting the whole
campaign to spiritual direction, whether of saints or devils; and some
of them were not a little inclined to view Jeanne as hardly better than
a witch. It might have been better for France had they trusted to the
guidance of the heroine. She would have marched up to Orléans on the
side of the river held most strongly by the English and have defied
them, be the risk what it might. By a deception she was led to cross the
Loire, and was indignant when, on reaching Orléans, she discovered that
the river lay between her and the town.

Dunois, commander-in-chief in Orléans, seeing her from the ramparts,
crossed the river at once and came to give her reverent and joyful
greeting. After reproaching him and the other captains for placing more
reliance upon human prudence than upon Divine behests, she said: "I
bring you the best succor that ever knight or city had; it is the succor
of the King of Heaven, and comes not from me, but from God." It was the
29th of April, and that same evening, at eight o'clock, Jeanne entered
Orléans with provisions and an escort, the main body of the army
retiring to Blois to cross the Loire.

Orléans went mad with joy at the advent of its heaven-sent deliverer. As
she rode through the streets the crowds blocked her way, and eager
admirers rudely jostled each other in the struggle but to touch the
horse that bore her. With sweet kindliness, she thanked them, losing
none of her humility, and exhorting them to thank not her, but God and
the dauphin. For that night and the rest of her stay in Orléans she was
lodged with the wife of the treasurer of Charles d'Orléans, and slept
with one of the daughters of the house. Sturdy and healthy as she was,
the unaccustomed rough life of the camp, sleeping with her armor on and
none but men about her, had occasioned her great fatigue.

The operations of the siege had been suspended by the English, who
sullenly kept to their _bastilles_. Jeanne insisted upon an immediate
attack, and during the week that followed she was with difficulty
restrained from rash enterprises. Indeed, she could not always be
restrained, and her rashness was not infrequently rewarded with
unexpected success. Warned of the approach of English reinforcements
under Sir John Fastolf, she conjured Dunois to let her know without
delay of his coming. She suspected Dunois of intending to engage Fastolf
without her, and in her nervous eagerness to be up and doing for France
she precipitated a successful attack upon the bastilles. She had retired
to rest for a few hours in the middle of the day when the noise of a
tumult in the streets aroused her; the cry was that the French were
being slaughtered at one of the gates. Leaping from her couch, and
hardly taking time to have half of her armor buckled on, she mounted her
horse and, seizing her banner as it was reached to her from a window,
galloped toward the gates. On the way, she met the wounded and her heart
was moved at the sight of blood. Without the authority of Dunois the
garrison had undertaken an assault upon the _bastille_ of Saint-Loup,
which stood most directly across the path of those who would bring
supplies into Orléans. The French had been beaten back, but with the
arrival of Jeanne hope and courage returned. Jeanne in person led a
fresh assault, while Talbot, the English commander, vainly strove to
rally his men and dissipate their fears of "the witch." The English were
forced to retire, and the fort fell into the hands of Jeanne, who,
lapsing at once from warrior into woman after this first experience of
an actual battle, wept over the slain, cared for the wounded, and did
her best to protect the English prisoners from her own savage followers.

The military success was not great, but the mere fact of success in this
first active enterprise enhanced Jeanne's credit in the eyes of her own
party. Nevertheless, the military chiefs hesitated to trust her, perhaps
because they were jealous of her; and while she was spending Ascension
day in fasting and prayer they held a council at which it was determined
to attack the principal English fort under cover of a feint upon one on
the other side of Orléans. She was told only of the feigned attack, but
Dunois later confessed the truth, refusing, however, to allow her to
proceed to the assault in person. As she watched the battle from afar,
saw the French carry and burn one fort, and then saw them repulsed from
before another, her impatience could no longer be restrained. Crossing
the river with a few followers, she rallied her people, who followed her
charmed standard and captured the fort, which Jeanne fired with her own

Once more the wisdom or the expediency of her seemingly rash counsels
had been vindicated; but still the leaders hesitated, and determined to
await reinforcements before attacking the fort of Les Tournelles, in
which the English had now concentrated a considerable part of their
forces. "Nay," said Jeanne, "you have been at your councils, but I have
been at mine. Know that the counsel of my King and Lord shall prevail
over yours." She ordered her chaplain to be ready to attend her at break
of day: "For I shall have much to do, more than I have done any day yet.
Blood shall issue from my body, for I shall be wounded." With the
English daily awaiting reinforcements, it is difficult to comprehend
what could have induced experienced military leaders to meditate delay
instead of pursuing the advantage already gained; yet they shut the
gates next morning to keep Jeanne in, and her host, Milet, begged her to
remain quietly to sup with him. "Keep your supper," she said; "I shall
bring back some _Goddems_ to eat it with us." The national oath, which
Figaro was to consider sufficient for all conversation in English, was
manifestly familiar and characteristic three centuries before his time.

In spite of the orders of their chiefs the men-at-arms followed their
idol, forced the gates, and charged upon the English fort. As the sun
rose over the Loire the desperate struggle began, the English defending
themselves with determination and driving back column after column till
the dead and wounded lay in heaps beneath the walls of Les Tournelles.
Sword in hand, La Pucelle placed a ladder against the wall, and as she
mounted an arrow pierced her shoulder. As she fell fainting to the earth
the English sallied forth to capture her, but she was rescued by the
Sire de Gamaches, who had been one of those who refused to serve as a
captain in an army dominated by "a mere girl, who may have been God
knows what." Though sceptical of her mission, he was a gallant soldier,
and succeeded in removing the wounded heroine to a place of safety.

If the pain of the wound and the sight of her own blood had unnerved
Jeanne, the spectacle of their wounded deliverer completely demoralized
her soldiers. They pressed about her offering to dress the wound, to
remove the arrow, to charm away the pain by magic incantations. She
would have none of the works of Satan for her healing. Praying to her
saints for strength, she rallied her courage, pulled the arrow out with
her own hands, and had the wound dressed with oil. It was nearly dark,
and the captains were for retiring, but Jeanne's spirits inspired her to
continue the fight. The Sire de Daulon, her knight, rushed back to the
fosse of the fort to recover the sacred banner, dropped there in the
confusion of the fray. As he raised it to the breeze its folds were
opened, and the disheartened French soldiers charged again. "If my
banner but touch the walls," said Jeanne, "the fort will fall." Wounded
as she was, she mounted her horse and rode toward the fort. Panic seized
the English at what seemed to them a miraculous restoration to life of
one whom they thought dead, and their excited imaginations saw the
heavenly hosts, led by Michael, fighting on the French side. Attempting
a hurried evacuation, the English captain, Glasdale, was precipitated
into the Loire from a frail bridge on which he was crossing; the fort
was taken, and the remnant of its defenders put to the sword.

[Illustration 6:
After the painting by Jean J. Scherrer.
Orléans went mad with joy at the advent of its heaven-sent deliverer. As
she rode through the streets the crowds blocked her way, and eager
admirers rudely jostled each other in the struggle but to touch the
horse that bore her. With sweet kindliness, she thanked them, losing
none of her humility, and exhorting them to thank not her, but God and
the dauphin. For that night and the rest of her stay in Orléans she was
lodged with the wife of the treasurer of Charles d'Orléans, and slept
with one of the daughters of the house. Sturdy and healthy as she was,
the unaccustomed rough life of the camp, sleeping with her armor on and
none but men about her, had occasioned her great fatigue.]

The last of the English defences south of the Loire was destroyed, and
the next day, May 8, 1429, Talbot and Suffolk led their army in retreat.
As it was Sunday, Jeanne let them depart unmolested, but ere the last of
the English columns had disappeared an altar was raised in the plain and
the holy maid was joined by her army and by the people of Orléans in a
Mass to celebrate their deliverance.

It had taken nine days only for this courageous and resolute girl to
undo months of work on the part of the English. Her steadfast faith in
herself, her refusal to be turned aside from her duty, had worked the
miracle; and for it all she thanked God, and prayed for support in what
yet remained to do. To France, indeed, she seemed a miracle herself; and
learned doctors of the Church undertook to prove, forsooth, that what
she had done was of God, not of the devil, while Frenchmen who had held
aloof from the despised and discredited heir of France began to ask
themselves whether, after all, he were not the lawful ruler of France,
since God had sent this inspired leader of his armies.

Sweet is the savor of triumph; to all who are touched with ambition the
mere joy of victory, with the homage of men and the flattery that follow
in the train of victory, is so sweet that in vainglory they forget what
yet remains to be done. But in Jeanne there was no ambition; she
rejoiced and gave thanks to God that through her he had saved Orléans;
but the glory was God's, not hers. Orléans, too, was but the first stage
in her career, of whose brief duration she warned her friends, and of
whose tragic end her earnest heart may already have had some
forebodings. "You must use me quickly," she said, "for I shall last but
one year." In that brief year there was much to be accomplished: yet for
long she was compelled to rest, or to fret, while timid or selfish
advisers held back the dauphin from granting her prayer to be allowed to
march at once to Rheims. With practically all the intervening country in
the hands of the English, such a march seemed the extreme of folly. It
would be risking too much for the empty ceremony of consecrating the
dauphin at Rheims. But to Jeanne that consecration was the one thing
needed to complete her share in the rehabilitation of France, the one
thing which her celestial guardians now insisted on her undertaking, and
for which they promised her their support. Moreover, the English were
already demoralized, filled with fear of this "witch," for whom they had
nothing but words of contempt that only veneered their hearty dread of
her. Whether witch or mere woman, they feared the influence of this
Jeanne upon French imagination; and as aliens in the land, they
exaggerated the danger of a sudden wave of national feeling that would
sweep them from France, while they saw disaffection on all sides. All
this the French captains could not, of course, have known; but they
should have appreciated the importance of following up the advantage won
at Orléans and of using the enthusiasm kindled by La Pucelle before
there should be time for it to cool. It was only after much wrangling,
and fresh ecclesiastical debate as to the sources of her inspiration,
that Jeanne's counsel at length prevailed and she was allowed to set out
for Rheims.

Before this decision was reached, however, other victories had come to
crown Jeanne's banner and to make the approach to Rheims less of a
military hazard. Suffolk had retired to Jargeau, on the Loire, and this
place must be reduced before the French could venture northward. Jeanne
led in the assault, and narrowly missed death from a huge stone that
crushed her helmet. Nevertheless, Jargeau fell, and Suffolk himself was
among the prisoners. De Richemont and his Bretons came to join the
forces of the dauphin, and they went in search of the second English
army, under Talbot and Fastolf, encamped no one knew where in that
Beauce which the war had rendered almost a desert. As the French army
moved cautiously forward in the wilderness, the vanguard started a deer,
which ran straight into the English lines. Warned of their presence by
the cries of the English soldiers, the French were enabled to come upon
them suddenly, and the bloody victory of Patay (June 18th) was won: two
thousand Englishmen were left dead upon the field and Talbot was carried
off a prisoner.

No longer could the enthusiasm of her followers be quelled; and though
old captains shook their heads, the dauphin and the court were forced to
yield to the popular clamor for an immediate attempt to reach Rheims.
Marching around Paris by way of Auxerre, only Troyes blocked the way,
and its garrison, panic-struck, evacuated the town after a show of
resistance. On July 9th Charles entered Troyes, where, with
characteristic selfishness, he would have let the English march away
with their prisoners but for the intervention of Jeanne. Less than a
week later he entered Rheims in triumph, with Jeanne beside him. She it
was, we would fain think, whom the people welcomed with transports of
joy, not the dauphin whom she was to make a king. Well might the people
crowd about her, hold up their infants for her to bless, and beg but to
touch the hem of her garment; for kings in plenty shall the earth know,
while there may be but one Jeanne d'Arc. On July 17th Jeanne stood in
the cathedral, with her blessed banner, while the ancient ceremonies of
the consecration were performed, and the dauphin, now anointed from the
sacred ampulla, was King of France in name and in right, let the English
proclaim Henry VI. as they would.

In that gathering of the nobles and chief priests of France what one was
there who considered the ceremony with such unselfish purity of heart as
this peasant girl of Lorraine! To some it was merely an idle spectacle,
a court function like another; to some it was a political event full of
promise, from which they themselves might hope for advantages more or
less selfish; to Jeanne d'Arc it was the sacred fulfilment of that which
God had promised her. Her task was completed now; how gladly would she
have left the scene, without a thought of worldly advancement, content
to have been Jeanne la Pucelle, through whom France was to be saved,
content to be once more merely Jeanne the shepherdess.

When the crown was placed on the dauphin's head Jeanne knelt before him,
and wept as she embraced his knees. "O gentle king," she said, "now is
fulfilled the will of God, who was pleased that I should raise the siege
of Orléans and should bring you to your city of Rheims to be crowned and
anointed, in proof that you are true king and rightful possessor of the
realm of France." She herself felt that her mission was accomplished,
and besought the king to allow her to return to her home, "to my father
and mother, to keep their sheep for them, as was my wont." But Jeanne
was too useful to be allowed to retire, and though she no longer heard
the call of her divine monitors Charles insisted on her remaining to
help him to win back his kingdom; but "all that was to be done she had
now accomplished; what remained was--to suffer."

As she rode through the streets of Rheims she exclaimed: "O why can I
not die here!" "And where, then, will you die?" asked the archbishop. "I
know not; it will be where God pleases. I have done what my Lord
commanded me to do. Now I would that it might please Him to send me back
to keep my sheep with my sister and my mother." Her courage was as high
as ever, the brave heart faltered not, but it was no longer inspired.
"She began to hear those voices, no longer from heaven, but from the
hearth, those voices that vainly call disheartened man, sick of ambition
and glory, to the home of his earliest affections, to the humble
occupations of his childhood, to the obscurity of his early days."
Hearken to those voices, Jeanne, and strive no longer to awaken faint
echoes of thy heavenly voices:

                   "The oracles are dumb,...
        No nightly trance or breathed spell
        Inspires the pale-eyed priest from the prophetic cell."

This portion of Jeanne's life has always seemed to me the most pitiful,
the period when "her God had forsaken her," when her heart warned her
that her divine task was done, and when yet that heart yearned to do
more for France. In the hour of supreme trial strength came to her with
the thought that her suffering was the will of God; but now what was the
will of God? In vain she prayed for guidance; there was nothing but the
timidity and the yearning for rest of this girlish heart on the one
hand, and the pleading of the king and the courtiers on the other. It
was not to be expected that Jeanne, always willing to sacrifice herself,
should do anything else than consent still to be, as she had been for
three glorious months, the leader of France, the bodily representative
of national feeling. With or without inspiration, she could serve.

Disaster followed upon disaster in her brief subsequent career; but
always she was the same honest, hopeful, pure girl, striving her utmost
to discipline her army, to restrain the cruelty of her soldiers, to win
for the dauphin a reconciliation with his cousin of Burgundy. Some of
her biographers have noted, or pretended to note, a lamentable change in
her character at this time. It is said that she became less scrupulous
of shedding blood, less careful in enforcing moral and religious
discipline among her followers, above all, less gentle and patient in
temper. But Jeanne had never been able to compel absolute obedience from
soldiers little better than banditti, and when the notion of her
sanctity began to fade away as the men saw her in the daily life of the
camp, and saw her a mere human creature, fallible like themselves, her
strongest hold on them was loosened. She had never been, since her
mission was assumed, a mere dainty, meek, unresisting heroine of
romance, a paragon of grace and beauty for whom knights risked their
lives while she sat by and smiled and dressed the wounds of the victor
after the fight. She had definitely and from the first taken an active
part in the real business of fighting, had on more than one occasion
displayed her prowess in the field. A generation after her death, when
all France had come to regard her as a martyr, a priest testified that
"she would not use her sword, nor would she slay anyone"; but this
testimony is certainly at variance with all that we know of the actual
behavior of Jeanne in battle, and seems sufficiently contradicted by her
own statement that the sword she used at Compiègne was "excellent,
either for cutting or thrusting." She made the statement frankly,
without any suspicion of its apparent inconsistency with her professions
of a divine mission. We have no doubt that Jeanne delivered many a good
stroke in deadly earnest, and we do not respect her the less for it. We
need not even sorrow, but rather rejoice, at that display of honest
indignation against the unruly and immoral in her camp, when she broke
her sword of Saint Catherine over one rascal's head.

Town after town had thrown open its gates at sight of the white banner
and the Maid of Orléans; but Paris still remained in the hands of the
English. Jeanne was averse to making any attack upon Paris; her heart
misgave her, but she yielded to the will of the king. The assault that
followed (September 8, 1429), in which she behaved with desperate but
hopeless courage, fighting on in spite of a severe wound, resulted in a
disastrous repulse, the French losing heavily. Jeanne, who had opposed
making the attack, was nevertheless held responsible for the result.
Faith in her was rudely shaken, and even those courtiers who had fawned
upon her now said that her impiety--they, of course, were qualified to
pronounce upon such a point--had been fitly rebuked in this defeat: had
she not ventured to deliver the assault upon the anniversary of the
Nativity of Our Lady? "The Armagnacs," says the journal of a pious
citizen of Paris, "were so filled with wickedness and unbelief, that, on
the word of a creature in the shape of a woman with them, called La
Pucelle (what it might be God alone knows!), they conspired on the
anniversary of the Nativity of Our Lady... to attack Paris."

Jeanne, utterly disheartened by her defeat, and half believing that she
had merited this rebuke from heaven, humbled herself before God and
before the king, and renounced her arms, laying her sword upon the altar
of Saint-Denis. But though willing to shift the blame for failures upon
her, Charles was not willing to dispense with her services if there was
anything more to be hoped from them. She was induced to take up arms
again; but we will pass over in silence the details of her later valiant
but hopeless service and speak only of her last feat of arms.

The Burgundians, though their duke was already in secret correspondence
with Charles, had laid siege to Compiègne. Jeanne, with a small body of
troops succeeded in forcing her way into the town, and that same day
(May 23, 1430) led a sortie that at first drove back the besiegers. The
Burgundians rallied, however, and Jeanne's troops were beaten back into
the town. As she herself, bringing up the rear in the retreat, turned to
drive back a band of the pursuers that her troops might reach the gates
in safety, she was left alone; and the drawbridge of Compiègne rose,
cutting her off from rescue or from escape. Surrender, Jeanne, there is
no hope for thee; France is weary of thee; for hast thou not done all
that France could hope from thee? Jeanne herself had said that she
feared nothing but treachery. Whatever the immediate motive of those who
raised the drawbridge at Compiègne, whether they were bribed by the
Burgundians or merely exasperated because the heroine had not performed
miracles, the act was clear treachery, and the pitiful little moat of
this town was the impassable barrier that shut Jeanne d'Arc out of that
France she had saved.

An archer of Picardy was her immediate captor, and he delivered her, for
a price, to his commander, Jean de Luxembourg. A great prize was this
witch who had all but ruined the English cause in France, and proud must
have been her captor: his prisoner was a girl of eighteen. But had she
not fallen into good hands? Jean de Luxembourg was not only a member of
one of the most distinguished families of Europe, but he was a knight, a
leader in that grand organization of chivalry whose first object and
proudest boast was protection of the weak, and gentleness and courtesy
toward women. As Michelet remarks: "It was a hard trial for the chivalry
of the day." The age of chivalry was already gone, though the name was
on the lips of all: chivalry, even if it could have withstood the
phenomenal progress in the condition of the lower orders of
society,--have we not said that the peasant brothers of Jeanne were
ennobled by royal letters patent?--and the invention of firearms, which
tended to equalize all men on the field of battle, could not have
withstood the debasing influence of years of guerrilla warfare. The
knight had not only lost his physical superiority on the battlefield,
but he had lost something infinitely more precious--his lofty ideals.
Knightly orders continued to be founded, but they were the amusements of
dilettanti in honor and ancient custom. Furthermore, even had chivalry
not faded from its theoretic brilliancy, it is entirely possible that
Jeanne would have been deemed beyond the pale of its protection. As the
leper was shunned, as the Jewish usurer was persecuted by mediaeval
society, so was the witch outlawed by public sentiment; and it was as a
witch that the English were resolved to treat the deliverer of Orléans.

Confined at first in the camp at Margny, near Compiègne, Jeanne was
subsequently removed to the Château de Beaulieu, near Loches, the very
place from which Agnes Sorel took her title of Dame de Beaulieu. The
Maid was removed again to Beaurevoir, and it is pleasant to record the
kindly sympathy displayed by the ladies of Jean de Luxembourg's family,
who ministered to her comfort, provided her with women's clothes, and
did whatever charity suggested to calm her distressed mind. But nothing
could reconcile Jeanne to captivity; she felt that she was in danger of
falling into the hands of the English, and she yearned for an
opportunity to succor Compiègne. In one of her attempted escapes she
threw herself from a high tower, though her conscience warned her
against the sin of self-destruction. Hurt in the fall, she was unable to
make good her escape, and was taken and nursed back to health by the
ladies of Luxembourg.

Meanwhile, the great ones of the earth were haggling over the price
which should be paid for their victim, and Charles VII. made no effort
to save her. Jean de Luxembourg sold her to Philippe de Bourgogne, and
he treated with the English representative. This representative has had
heaped upon his head the contemptuous anathemas of historians, both
French and English; nor is he undeserving of the most severe phrases yet
coined to express reprobation. Pierre Cauchon--it is a wonder so few
have thought of the swinish suggestiveness of the very name--was merely
a time-serving priest whose shameless policy of intrigue had already got
him made Bishop of Beauvais, and would soon, he fondly hoped, give him
the archbishopric of Rouen. In furtherance of his ambitious projects he
had become thoroughly English, and fawned upon the rich Cardinal
Winchester; but though Winchester nominated him to the archbishopric,
neither the Pope nor the cathedral chapter of Rouen would consent to
receive him as archbishop. Cauchon, as Bishop of Beauvais, claimed the
right to try the heretical sorceress who had been captured on the
borders of the diocese. In the same document in which he preferred this
claim he made offers, on behalf of the English, to buy his victim. A
king's ransom, ten thousand livres in gold, was offered for Jeanne, and
as refusal would have involved not only the loss of this sum, but the
loss of English friendship, the Duke of Burgundy sold his captive, who
was delivered up to the ecclesiastical authorities and the English party
in November, 1430.

Under the barbarous customs then in vogue it would not have been
impossible for the English to put her to death under military law; the
inviolability of prisoners of war was by no means an established
principle among the nations. But La Pucelle's death alone would not
suffice; she must first be discredited in the eyes of the world; it must
be shown that the consecration of Charles VII. had been effected with
the aid of one condemned by the laws of God and of the Church, that the
consecration was, in fact, but an impious mockery of religious rites,
because a sorceress had led him to the altar. For this reason it was
determined to deliver Jeanne to the mercies of the ecclesiastical
courts. Cauchon was rector of the University of Paris, and could command
the assent of that body to whatever seemed to him expedient; the
representative of the Inquisition, who seemed decidedly averse to having
anything to do with the proceedings, was likewise overawed by Cauchon
and by the English cardinal. All that remained to do was to constitute
the court and to bring the accused before it for trial.

Rouen was to be the scene of the trial, and here Cauchon began his
proceedings early in January, 1431. The charge against Jeanne was to be
the working of magic; but the acute and punctilious Norman lawyers
picked so many flaws in the paltry charges and in the documents
presented in their support, that Cauchon was compelled to change his
intention, and substituted the charge of heresy. It was under this
preposterous indictment that the pious Jeanne was brought face to face
with her judges on February 21st. For months she had been kept in close
confinement, loaded with fetters, and kept under the guardianship of
men. The sturdy girl had lost much of her vigor, as, indeed, had been
the intention of her captors. But though the body was weakened, the
spirit was yet unbroken; and Jeanne met the accusing judges, whom she
knew to be already resolved upon her destruction, with the same firmness
and untutored practical sagacity that had marked her bearing in the
first encounter with those who sought to entangle her in the subtleties
of metaphysics and theology. Of metaphysics and theology she knew not so
much as the names, but she had a clear head and a thorough understanding
of the fundamental principles of justice and of faith. So long as her
physical strength lasted, the most adroit and insinuating queries of the
prosecution could not trap her into compromising answers. Counsel for
the defendant there was none; her own wit must defend her in the contest
with judges who were at the same time prosecutors.

Being admonished by the insidious Cauchon to answer truly and without
evasion or subterfuge whatever should be asked, she checkmated this move
at once: "I do not know what you mean to question me about; you might
ask me things which I would not tell you." She would speak the truth on
all things, she said, and the whole truth, except on those things
concerning her king or concerning her visions. Not till she had been
brought before them for the third time, worn out by their persistence
and by the increasing horrors of imprisonment, did she modify this so
far as to consent to tell what she knew, but not all that she knew, and
to answer unreservedly on points of faith. Never would she consent to
testify against herself on the points which she saw that they wished to
establish: "It is a common saying, even in the mouths of children, that
people are often hanged for telling the truth." Complaining of the
hardship of being kept in irons, she was told it was because she had
attempted to escape. "It is true, and it is allowable for any prisoner."
Asked to repeat those divinely sincere and simple prayers which
constituted the main part of the faith she had learned as a little
child, she pronounced herself quite willing to repeat the Lord's Prayer
and the Hail Mary, if Bishop Cauchon would first hear her in confession,
an office which he declined.

Throughout the tedious, soul-racking trial, lasting, in various
forms,--now before the whole court, now in her prison, now in private
inquests,--from the end of February till the end of May, the same
steadfastness and caution prevailed in her answers. She told them freely
of her visions, for now her saints had come back to her and inspired
her, as she said, to answer boldly. If she came from God, they asked,
did she think herself in a state of grace, incapable of committing a
mortal sin? "If I am not in a state of grace," she replied, "may God be
pleased to receive me into it; if I am, may God be pleased to keep me in
it." Not one of the theologians present could have devised an answer
more truly orthodox, more truly Christian in spirit, or more
discomfiting to the casuists. On this occasion the judges were struck
dumb, and very prudently adjourned the court for that day. Not
hesitating at any meanness, one of her persecutors asked whether Saint
Michael appeared to her naked? She answered him in the very spirit and
almost in the very words of the Scriptures, as we learn from the record:
"Not comprehending the vile insinuation, Joanna, whose poverty suggested
to her simplicity that it might be the _costliness_ of suitable robes
which caused the demur, asked them if they fancied God, who clothed the
flowers of the valleys, unable to find raiment for his servants." Again
and again, questions were put to her, in answering which, if she had
been tainted with the least suspicion of imposture, she would have been
tempted to pretend to powers greater than she had: "Do Saint Catherine
and Saint Margaret hate the English?" "They love what our Lord loves,
and hate what He hates."

Proof of her guilt, in the legal sense, there was none, and so much even
the lawyers of Rouen recognized; but out of her own answers the
ministers of the God of Justice were enabled, after months of juggling,
to torture proof sufficient to convict her in their own eyes. When the
wolf in Æsop's fable, seeks a pretext for devouring the lamb, we know
from the beginning that that pretext will be found: "You have muddied
the stream," cries the wolf, as he raises his head from drinking. "Nay,
good sir, I am lower down the stream than you are." "If it was not you,
it was one of your family." There was no hope for this lamb of France.
"Never from the foundations of the earth," says De Quincey, "was there
such a trial as this, if it were laid open in all its beauty of defence
and all its hellishness of attack. Oh, child of France! shepherdess,
peasant girl! Trodden under foot by all around thee, how I honor thy
flashing intellect, quick as God's lightning, and true as God's
lightning to its mark,... confounding the malice of the ensnarer, and
making dumb the oracles of falsehood!... 'Would you examine me as a
witness against myself?' was the question by which many times she defied
their arts. Continually she showed that their interrogations were
irrelevant to any business before the court, or that entered into the
ridiculous charges against her."

In the midst of the proceedings, about Palm Sunday, the poor girl fell
ill, and there was some fear that through death she might escape the
exemplary punishment they were preparing for her against the anticipated
conviction. Her illness may have been chiefly mental and nervous
exhaustion, helped on by what would have been to her one of the most
severe trials, homesickness. This is the impression left upon our minds
by Lamartine and by Michelet as well as by De Quincey: "A country girl,
born on the skirts of a forest, and having ever lived in the open air of
heaven, she was compelled to pass this fine Palm Sunday hi the depths of
a dungeon." In the general rejoicing of Easter, while the bells of Rouen
steeples rang forth the glad tidings of salvation for all, of relief
from pain and sorrow, there lay in the castle dungeon a peasant girl,
sick in body, sick in mind, dreaming of the fresh green fields, and the
forests just now beginning to put forth their tender leaves, hearing the
bells of her own far-away church in Domremy, and the homely talk of old
friends as they plodded by on their way to that church. She woke in the
morning with the sound of the bells in her ears, and on that holy
morning, as oh many another for many weary weeks, there were the double
chains upon her limbs padlocked to a transverse beam at the foot of her
rough bed. And in the room, watching every move and torturing her with
coarse jests or terrifying her with yet more cruel threats, were four or
five soldiers, no woman near to minister to her wants or to shield her
modesty. With such torture, with the added mental torture of almost
daily cross-questioning whose object was to force her into the jaws of
death, is it any wonder that Jeanne was ill, well-nigh reduced to the
frenzy of despair? Yet this forlorn creature, even when confronted with
the threat of actual torture, never made an admission that would
seriously conflict with the simple statement of her faith and of her
mission which she had volunteered at the very beginning. Refusing to
retract anything, she yet signified her willingness to submit to the
authority of the Church. This was all that Cauchon had been able to
accomplish after more than two months' labor. A highly theatrical
ceremony was arranged to dignify what they called her formal abjuration.
Two scaffolds were erected in the cemetery of Saint-Ouen. On one sat
Cardinal Winchester, Cauchon, and the other dignitaries. On the other,
chained hand and foot and fastened at the waist to a post, surrounded by
clerks who might take down any chance words and by the ministers of
torture with their dread instruments, stood the poor child whom they had
dragged from the prison. After a tedious and impious harangue by a
famous preacher, whose false statements she would not listen to in
silence, Jeanne consented to sign an abjuration which did not affect the
validity of her claim. When the notary presented the pen to her
unpractised fingers she smiled and blushed a little at her ignorance and
awkwardness. She drew a circle upon the parchment at the place
indicated, and then, the notary guiding her hand, made a cross within
the circle. Then the Church admitted her to its _grace_, and the
sentence was read to her: imprisonment for the rest of her life, "on the
bread of grief and the water of anguish."

And so, being now received into the mercy of the Church, she was
conducted back to her prison. It is a relief, in the midst of this cruel
scene, to hear some expressing compassion and imploring her to sign the
abjuration to save herself, though some there are who clamor loudly:
"Let her be burnt!" The test of her sincerity in the new penitence was
to be her willingness to wear garments befitting her sex. She had clung
to her man's attire as the best, and indeed the only, safeguard to her
honor, constantly threatened by her keepers and even attempted, we are
told, by one brutal knight. Relying upon the good faith of her
ecclesiastical custodians, now that she had done what they asked, Jeanne
consented to put on the women's clothes they gave her. But Cauchon had
no intention of allowing her to escape the last punishment. His judges
had assured the English, who complained that Jeanne would not be burned
after all: "Do not fear, we shall soon have her again."

On May 24th she had signed her act of submission and had put aside the
costume forbidden by the Church. On the morning of the 27th, when she
wished to rise and dress herself, the guard had taken away her robes and
left but the old forbidden garments. She expostulated, and at first
refused to get up; but being at length constrained to do so, she put on
the man's apparel. The wolf had made good and sufficient pretext for
devouring the lamb; technically, Jeanne might be considered to have
relapsed, and with the old dress to have resumed the old faults
reprobated by Holy Church.

The judges were at once notified of Jeanne's disobedience, and Cauchon
rejoiced that "she was caught." The next day, being Monday after
Trinity, he returned to interrogate the prisoner upon the matter of the
change of dress. Her courage had returned with the realization that they
had not dealt fairly with her and meant to find pretexts for her
destruction. She would neither excuse herself for again assuming her
warrior garments nor consent to return to those prescribed by custom for
her sex. As long as she was guarded by men, she said, it was more seemly
and more safe that she should be dressed as a man; if they would put her
in a safe and proper prison, she would submit to whatever the Church
decreed. But Cauchon knew that her death was deemed requisite by his
English friends, and he was determined to give her no such fair
opportunity. On Tuesday a fresh tribunal was hastily constituted to pass
upon the deplorable relapse into error of one for whom, to shield her
from death, the Church had done all that in it lay. Needless to say,
this tribunal, a mere mockery of a court, decided on the evidence
submitted that Jeanne was guilty of fatal disobedience to the Church and
that she must suffer death as a heretic. It was to be but a step from
passing sentence to the execution of that sentence, for Cauchon's
masters were already impatient at the long delay.

The next morning a priest was sent to Jeanne to notify her of the
sentence. One sudden burst of feeling, half fear, half indignation, for
a moment overwhelmed the courage of the girl. She wept bitterly when
told that she must prepare herself to die by fire that very day: "Alas!
will they treat me so cruelly and horribly! Must my body, pure as from
birth, never corrupted or soiled in sin, be this day consumed and
reduced to ashes! Oh, oh! I had rather be beheaded seven times over than
burnt on this wise.... Oh! I appeal to God, the great Judge of all, for
the wrongs and injuries done me!" And then this heretic, this sorceress,
asked that she be allowed to confess and to receive the Communion, that
holy symbol of the universal brotherhood of the followers of Christ.
Cauchon did not, perhaps dared not, deny her this; but he wished to
divest the ceremony of part of its pomp. When the Eucharist was brought
to him without stole and without lights, the courageous monk Martin
l'Advenu refused to administer it thus, and sent a complaint to the
cathedral; whereupon the chapter, always ready to spite Cauchon, sent an
escort of priests and acolytes, who chanted litanies as they passed
through the streets and conjured the kneeling people to pray for Jeanne.

By nine o'clock the victim had received the Communion, and was dressed
in female attire and placed on a cart, ready to start for the place of
execution. Brother Martin and the merciful Austin friar Isambart
accompanied her on that dreadful journey of the cart through the streets
of Rouen to the old fish market. If there had been any tendency to
sympathetic manifestations on the part of the crowd, the guard of eight
hundred English soldiers would have sufficed to suppress them; and
Jeanne, who had now given up hope of deliverance, of succor from her
king, from her divine guardians, was heard only to ejaculate: "Rouen,
Rouen! must I then die here?" In the market place had been erected two
platforms, one for the cardinal and dignitaries, the other for the
prisoner, the bailli, the judges, and the preacher who was to enhance
the bitterness of death by rehearsing the particulars of her guilt. But
what is that lofty scaffolding of wood and plaster standing apart? It is
the altar upon which the sacrifice is to be offered, built high that all
may see the tortures of an innocent maid as the flames mount rapidly up
its flimsy mass. A sermon began the proceedings, the eloquent Master
Nicholas Mildy outdoing himself upon the text: "When one limb of the
Church is sick, the whole Church is sick." After him came that pitiful
tool, the Bishop of Beauvais, who exhorted Jeanne to repentance and to
forgiveness of her enemies. There was small need of this, for Jeanne
knelt and prayed so humbly, so earnestly, so pitifully, that all were
moved to tears, while she asked the priests to pray for her soul and to
say a Mass for her. Then Cauchon, in spite of his tears, read to her the
act of condemnation, concluding: "Therefore, we pronounce you to be a
rotten limb, and as such to be lopped off from the Church. We deliver
you over to the secular power, _praying it at the same time to mitigate
its sentence, and to spare you death_, and the mutilation of your
members." The unblushing hypocrisy of this recommendation to mercy, with
the pyre already reared in full sight of all, could only be surpassed by
that of the diabolical fiction of ecclesiastical law as administered by
the Inquisition; viz., that Holy Church executed no capital sentence,
merely handed its victim over to the "secular arm."

So now Jeanne, no longer under the merciful protection of the Church,
was delivered over to the civil authorities and conducted to the top of
the pyre. She asked for a cross; a tender-hearted Englishman handed her
two sticks which he had hastily fashioned into a rude cross, and Jeanne
kissed the simple emblem and put it in her bosom. But Isambart fetched a
crucifix for her from the very altar of the neighboring church of
Saint-Sauveur, and this she kissed passionately, desiring him to hold it
aloft where she might see it to the last as the smoke and flame mounted.
Isambart ascended the pile with her, and the executioner fastened her
body to the post in the centre. With her eyes fixed upon the image of
Him who died for the world, mayhap she did not note the lying placard
above her head: "Heretic, relapser, apostate, idolater." In this hour of
supreme trial no moment of fatal weakness came to deprive her of our
absolute admiration. She spoke no word of deserved reproach against her
rude executioners, against the soldiers who had hustled her across the
market place, against the miserable Charles for whom she suffered all
these tortures and who had abandoned her. "Whether I have done well, or
whether I have done ill, my King is not to blame; it was not he who
counselled me." Even the miserable Cauchon was greeted, as he hovered
about the foot of the pile to catch her last words, with nothing more
bitter than: "Bishop! Bishop! I die through you!... Had you confined me
in the prisons of the Church, this would not have happened."

While the good monk lingers by her side, pouring into that saintly ear
such words of comfort and hope as faith may suggest, the executioner
applies his torch and Jeanne sees the flames rush upward. "Jesus!" she
cries, then exhorts the monk, "Fly, father! and when the flame shall
cover me hold aloft the crucifix, that I may see it as I die, and repeat
for me your holy words until the end." She thought of others, not of
herself, even in this hour: who shall impugn her courage, or say she
knew not how to die as nobly as she had lived? In the first spasm of
pain, as the flames touched her body, she shrieked. After this but a few
broken sentences came to the ears of those at the foot of the pile,
sometimes appeals to the saints who had guided her, sometimes a
despairing cry of anguish not to be suppressed. And then in the midst of
the gathering flames they saw her head fall forward on her breast as she
moaned, "Jesus!"

The voice that had aroused France from her lethargy was hushed forever;
the great spirit of Jeanne d'Arc had gone to God, whence it came. Shall
we stand by the smoking pyre till the last embers turn gray and cold,
till Winchester orders the handful of ashes that remained to be swept
into the Seine? Or shall we turn away, sick with horror, filled already
with vain regret of the deed done, as did many in that dense crowd of
her enemies? "We have burnt a saint!" cries one. "I saw a dove fly from
her mouth and wing its way to heaven!" avers another.

Those who are actors in what the world learns to designate as great
historical crises seldom realize the magnitude of the events of which
they are immediate witnesses. In spite of the superstitious terror of a
few and the pity of many, it is probable that not one in the great crowd
hurrying away from the scene of Jeanne d'Arc's martyrdom realized that
she was a martyr or that the cause for which she had died was near its
hour of triumph. Their fear was but of one whom they deemed a favored
ally of the powers of evil; their pity was but for one whom they deemed
a simple girl, and for whose anguish they grieved as they would have
grieved for that of their own daughters or sisters. The pity of it, that
one so young, so gentle, so innocent of worldly taint should suffer this
cruel death! After all, 'this is the truest compassion, dispensed with
even justice, without regard to person or rank, without thought as to
whether the sufferer be the repentant thief or the Divine Master upon
the Cross, the nameless woman taken in adultery or this girl of Lorraine
who was to be acknowledged as the greatest woman in French history. Yet
for us the knowledge that heartless political schemers had tortured to
the death a woman becomes knowledge of far more moment when we know that
Jeanne d'Arc was the woman, and our indignation against her persecutors
is enhanced in proportion to our estimate of the greatness and the
goodness of the heroine.

In the course of our narrative we have taken occasion, from time to
time, to present estimates of the character of Jeanne d'Arc; perhaps it
may be well, now that her meteoric career has ended in the flames of the
market place of Rouen, to consider once more the character of this
heroine in its main features. The results of her activity in French
history, though not in all cases immediately apparent, were so
marvellous that our judgment may well be unduly influenced. On the one
hand, in our desire to emphasize the extraordinary nature of her deeds,
we may tend to depreciate the actual abilities of Jeanne; on the other,
the glory of the deeds may blind us to the shortcomings of the woman.

In her own day, and especially after her death, her contemporaries in
France had begun to regard her as a saint, and a veritable cult of
Jeanne d'Arc soon grew up, encrusting the simple facts of her story with
endless and fantastic arabesques of legend. Charles VII., who had
abandoned the woman in her hour of need, who had made no earnest effort
to succor the leader to whom he owed his crown, entered with
considerable energy and enthusiasm into the cult of the saint. It was
due to his initiative that, in 1455, Pope Calixtus III. gave order that
Jeanne's trial be revised. It was at best but cold and tardy gratitude
on Charles's part, this rehabilitation of the memory of the girl whom he
had used and then dropped when she was no longer serviceable; but we
must in justice say that he in every way furthered the investigation
into the facts of an episode in his life which he must have now regarded
with poignant regret and shame, more poignant as the glory of the lost
heroine was brought into full light. In this exhaustive inquiry into the
career of Jeanne d'Arc witnesses from far and near were examined and
documents rescued from oblivion, and at the end of the eight months'
proceedings the new court, with a mass of testimony before it which
fills volumes, reversed the partisan decision of the court of Rouen,
acquitted the heroine of the false charges brought against her, and not
only vindicated her honor, but pronounced favorably upon her claims to
sanctity. Jeanne was already canonized in popular imagination, and
though the official sanction of Rome was long in the granting, in the
hearts of all France she had a veneration far more precious than any
ever vouchsafed to a saint.

Jeanne d'Arc did not regard herself as a saint, nor was she free from
human faults of temper and of conduct that accord but ill with sanctity.
Her outbursts of wholesome wrath, some one or two of which we have
noted, mark her as that which she was, no patient martyr, but a strong,
healthy woman, normal in many things, and blessed with much practical
sense, in spite of her visions. It was this very fact in Jeanne's life
that enabled her enemies to seize upon the manifestations of her
likeness to other women of her class and time and to draw Jeanne as but
a common, coarse, immodest woman. In the disgusting Joan of
Shakespeare's _Henry VI._ (if it be his), and in the shameless wanton of
Voltaire's _Pucelle d'Orléans_ there is just this much of truth to life,
that the true Jeanne was a peasant lass and, in all things not directly
connected with her great deeds, spoke and acted as one of her class
would have acted and spoken, with far greater freedom than would be
consistent with modesty in a more cultured society. We do not mean to
say that there is the least justification or excuse for these attempts
to defame Jeanne d'Arc; to condemn her as a common virago because she
sometimes uttered her commands with too little regard for propriety in
speech would be like condemning Washington because he could and did, on
occasion, swear a good round oath. But the proper defence of Jeanne
d'Arc against Shakespeare and Voltaire is neither to vilify them nor to
obscure the human side of her character and exalt her to something
altogether faultless and divine, something altogether "too bright and
good for human nature's daily food."

With or without the poetic praises of biographers, Jeanne d'Arc deserves
her place as, all things considered, one of the most remarkable figures
in the world's history. In spite of human defects, she is "the one pure
figure which rises out of the greed, the lust, the selfishness and
unbelief of the time." How can we draw our sketch to a conclusion better
than in the words of a great Englishman, himself in some things the
arch-prophet of divine enthusiasm? In his comment upon Schiller's
_Jungfrau von Orléans_, Carlyle says: "Feelings so deep and earnest as
hers can never be an object of ridicule: whoever pursues a purpose of
any sort with such fervid devotedness is entitled to awaken emotions, at
least of a serious kind, in the hearts of others. Enthusiasm puts on a
different shape in every different age: always in some degree sublime,
often it is dangerous; its very essence is a tendency to error and
exaggeration; yet it is the fundamental quality of strong souls; the
true nobility of blood, in which all greatness of thought or action has
its rise. Quicquid vult valde vult is ever the first and surest test of
mental capability. This peasant girl, who felt within her such fiery
vehemence of resolution that she could subdue the minds of kings and
captains to her will and lead armies on to battle, conquering, till her
country was cleared of its invaders, must evidently have possessed the
elements of a majestic character.... Jeanne d'Arc must have been a
creature of shadowy yet far-glancing dreams, of unutterable feelings, of
'thoughts that wandered through eternity.' Who can tell the trials and
the triumphs, the splendors and the terrors, of which her simple spirit
was the scene!... Hers were errors, but errors which a generous soul
alone could have committed, and which generous souls would have done
more than pardon. Her darkness and delusions were of the understanding
only; but they make the radiance of her heart more touching and
apparent; as clouds are gilded by the orient light into something more
beautiful than azure itself."

Great and pure and noble was thy faith, Maid of Orléans! And of a truth
it wrought miracles, for thy brave and steadfast heart divined what was
to be done and faltered not by the wayside. And yet, adoring thee as a
saint, let us love thee as a simple girl, "Jehanne la bonne Lorraine"!

        "Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys
        Harembourges, qui tint le Mayne,
        Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine
        Qu'Anglois bruslèrent a Rouen:
        Où sont-ilz, Vierge Souveraine?
          Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?"



HISTORIANS, having a predilection for exactness, are concerned to find
dates not only for kings and queens and battles and treaties, but for
those great changes in the manners and morals of mankind which begin
unconsciously, are wrought out in silence, and present themselves to the
historian as accomplished revolutions before he is at all aware that
anything of moment is going on. A revolution of this kind was in
progress throughout Christendom in the fifteenth century; and its
results are so astonishing, so bewildering in their magnitude and in
their infinite ramifications that we resort to figurative language and
call the movement the Renaissance, the Revival of Learning. It is,
indeed, a new birth, a new life, rather newer and altogether more
astonishing than any mere return of the learning of the ancients could
have been; but the leaven in the decaying mass of feudalism operated
slowly, and did not come to full power until long after the period which
must be a limit for this book; therefore, we can but note certain
significant facts in the mighty process which was to transform the
feudal lady of the chateau into the lady of the court and of the
brilliant literary salon, to substitute a Catherine de Medicis, or a
Marguerite de Navarre, or a Madame de La Fayette, for an Eleanor of
Guienne, a Mahaut d'Artois, or a Christine de Pisan. As nearly as can be
determined, the age of feudalism ends in the fifteenth century; but the
soul of the old civilization leaves its body imperceptibly and enters
into that of the new: it "melts, and makes no noise,

        As virtuous men pass mildly away,
          And whisper to their souls to go,
        Whilst some of their sad friends do say
          Now his breath goes, and some say no."

Jeanne d'Arc herself, we have said in the preceding chapter, was no
product of chivalry, found no chivalry to shield her. The old was
already in her time yielding place to the new; for during the fifteenth
century feudalism as well as chivalry was going to its death in France
and in nearly all Europe. In France the civil wars had not only
demoralized chivalry, they had also served to sever the intimate ties
that bound the feudal lord and his family to the soil of their fief
almost as rigidly as the villain was bound. Some families were utterly
destroyed, some sought new lands, and found them in parts of the country
far distant from their ancient holdings. With all his theoretically
arbitrary power, the old baron, reared amid the peasants he was to
govern, felt a certain kinship with them, and was often regardful of
their time-honored customs and privileges, forgoing in their favor what
arbitrary despotism or caprice suggested. No such ties bound the new
nobles to their new vassals; the hold of the feudal lord upon his
vassals was weakened, as was their influence upon him. Many new families
had risen into prominence, and kings no longer hesitated to ennoble
parvenus, a sure sign that the solidarity of the ancient nobility of the
soil was broken. This had come to pass in France by the time the great
Louis XI. ascended the throne, not a generation after Jeanne d'Arc, and
the same process was going on in England through the Wars of the Roses.
Louis was the determined enemy of feudalism, which he would have
uprooted utterly. Much he did uproot; more he would have done, had he

In the midst of this generation of struggles between the king and the
faltering remnants of feudalism there are two or three instances in
which the women as well as the men of the middle class deserve mention.
Before we deal with the short and sad career of the last of the great
house of Bourgogne, Marie, daughter of Charles le téméraire, we may
glance at the simple story of a woman who defended Beauvais from this
same Charles.

The danger from England had passed; there was no longer need of a Jeanne
d'Arc to drive out the insolent _Goddems_; but a new enemy was found for
France in the person of that great Duke of Burgundy whom modern history
has named Charles the Bold, more properly Charles the Rash, or, as his
contemporaries first called him, the Terrible, "that wild bull wearing a
crown, that wild boar who rushed straight ahead, his eyes shut." In the
spring of 1472, while Louis XI was intent upon reducing to submission
the rebellious Duke of Brittany, Charles le téméraire, impatient at the
tricky diplomacy which baffled him, declared war upon France and marched
at once into Picardy with a great army, ravaging and burning as he went.
Louis, unwilling to be diverted from his attempt upon the Duke of
Brittany, whom he was holding fast in his grip, could spare few troops,
and gave orders that the small towns be abandoned and resistance be
concentrated in the larger cities. The brave little town of Nesle was
the first to offer a determined but hopeless resistance to the enraged
Burgundian: Nesle was carried by assault, its defenders put to the sword
or mutilated by the lopping off of their right hands. The very church
ran with blood as Charles rode into it, commending the savage butchery
of the inhabitants by his soldiers.

Beauvais was the next place of importance in his path, and the terrible
news of the slaughter and the burning at Nesle was enough to inspire
terror among its citizens. Yet these honest citizens, who had enjoyed
liberal charters from France, were moved by a spirit of patriotism that
is the best testimony to the fair treatment they had received from the
subtle Louis. The fortifications of the town were antiquated, in no wise
adapted to resist the powerful artillery that Charles was bringing with
him, even had they been in good repair; as it was, they were going to
ruin. And even had their walls been good and strong, the citizens had no
garrison to help them to defend the town, and no munitions of war. A
general meeting of the citizens debated the question of absolute
submission, or of a resistance which, after the fate of Nesle, they felt
must be to the bitter end. The vote was unanimous for resistance; they
would do their duty and hold out for the king, though the last man
should perish beneath the ruins. At once they began repairing the walls,
closing up gates and posterns, and barricading the streets.

On the 27th of June, the bell of the great cathedral sounded the tocsin:
the Burgundian army was in sight. And against this great army of
disciplined soldiers must stand the volunteer defenders of the city. The
assault began at once, after the Burgundian herald had summoned the
town: "In the name of the Duke, I summon the captain and the inhabitants
of the city to submit humbly to his pleasure."

Upon the walls the citizens had piled stones to hurl upon the
assailants, and pots of hot oil and hot water were at hand to be emptied
on their heads. Foremost in this work were the women of the town, while
the men were left free to use their crossbows, arquebuses, axes. One
figure stands out prominently in this band of heroic women; it is that
of a young girl of eighteen, who constitutes herself leader, marshals
her companions, and drives from their homes timid maids and matrons,
urging them on to bear stones to the ramparts, if they will do no more.

Like the great savior of France, this girl is named Jeanne; like her,
too, she is of lowly birth, a good, honest girl of the people. Jeanne
Laisné, daughter of a simple artisan, Mathieu Laisné, was born about
1454, in Beauvais. She was a wool-carder, one used to earning her own
bread, and hence full of the energy and courage born of independence,
not yet broken by years of severe toil. She was comely, too; perhaps an
indispensable requirement in one who would win the unrestricted praise
of the historians of a gallant race. Whether beautiful or not, Jeanne
was a very Deborah of her class, inspired with that fervent love of
home, of _patrie_, which is innate in every good woman, and which is
sometimes strongest in those who have to thank the _patrie_ for no
favors of fortune. No heavenly spirits guided her, no prophecies proceed
from her; her sole inspiration was courage and the determination to help
in the defence of Beauvais. It would have been so easy for her to assume
the role of a Jeanne d'Arc; she might even have pretended to be La
Pucelle come to life again, as did several impostors who had recently
won temporary credit, notably one who was brought to Charles VII.,
pretended to recognize him by divine inspiration, and confessed her
imposture only when the king received her in good faith and referred to
"the secret between me and thee." It is to the credit of this new Jeanne
that she made no false pretensions, but simply served her native city
and lived her life as merely the Jeanne whom all had known, and whom all

Of her deeds during the siege there is not much to tell in detail,
though it was her spirit and energy that insured the coöperation of
other women. At first she and her band of amazons aided the men so
effectually that the Burgundians were repulsed with heavy loss. But
Charles was bent upon carrying the town by assault. His soldiers were
urged on to the attack day after day, and still they saw the women of
the town battling against them and were driven back from the walls,
which the artillery, short of ammunition, could not breach. They carried
one of the gates; Jeanne and her fellow townsmen fired it, and the fire
burned so fiercely that for a week approach on that side was cut off.

On the 9th of July, says the Canon of Beauvais, Jean de Bonneuil, "the
Burgundians began the assault upon the gates of the Hotel-Dieu and of
Bresle, in which assault the women bore (around the walls) the body of
Saint Agadresme, patron saint of Beauvais." But the repulse of this
assault was not to be due to the miraculous intervention of Saint
Agadresme; it was again Jeanne Laisné, now surnamed Hachette, from the
ax she wielded, who saved the city. "It is not to be forgotten,"
continues the chronicler, "that in the said assault, while the
Burgundians were setting up their ladders and mounting upon the walls,
one of the said women of Beauvais, called Jeanne Laisné, did, without
other aid or arm, seize and snatch away from one of the said Burgundians
the standard which he bore and carry it to the church of the Jacobins,
where was the shrine of Saint Agadresme." Jeanne had remained on the
ramparts while the enemy came on to the assault; and as the standard
bearer planted the Burgundian flag in a breach, she smote him with her
ax, so that he fell back into the fosse. Others hurried to her aid, and
repelled once more the disheartened assailants.

Meanwhile, succor had come for Beauvais; at first only a handful of
men-at-arms from Noyon, then at last a large body of troops under the
best leaders in France effected an entrance into the town, and enabled
it to withstand an assault lasting from dawn until noon, in which the
duke sacrificed scores of his men to no purpose. Not till he found his
army too much depleted and discouraged for further offensive operations,
however, did Charles retire from before Beauvais, burning and pillaging
as he marched toward Normandy. On July 22nd the besiegers were gone.

The heroism of Jeanne Hachette, as everyone now called her, had proved
contagious: "All the women of the town, high and low, showed themselves
to be so valiant during this siege that they surpassed in boldness the
men of other towns." It was to the women, so all were willing to admit,
that the preservation of Beauvais had been due; and now it was for
Louis, as well as for the citizens, to make some visible and worthy
acknowledgment of the debt. Louis, who, says Michelet, "in his devout
speculations... often took the saints and Our Lady for partners, keeping
an open account with them, and trading for profit or loss, (thinking) by
charities... by petty sums in advance, to secure their interest for some
capital stroke," Louis had vowed a whole "town of silver" for the safety
of Beauvais, and abstention from all flesh until the vow should be
fulfilled. With all his superstition, and all his meanness and harshness
to the nobles, he would do unexpectedly generous things to reward and to
encourage the commons, whom he loved and on whom he relied when noble
lords might play him false. In the present instance he granted special
privileges to the women of Beauvais; and his ordinances to that effect
are curious in that they attempt to propitiate Saint Agadresme--who
might be useful in connection with the "open account" mentioned
above--and at the same time to offer more substantial rewards to the
wives of Beauvais.

The first of these ordinances, dated 1473, establishes an annual
procession in honor of Saint Agadresme and of the deliverance of the
city, and specially exempts the women of Beauvais from the operation of
the sumptuary laws. After rehearsing the most dramatic incident of the
siege, and praising the _très grande audace, constance et vertu,...
oultre existimation du sexe féminin_, the text of the edict continues:
"(The King) decrees that every year a procession be held, at the cost of
our receipt and domains in the said city; and we order that henceforth
forever the women in this procession shall precede the men and march
immediately after the priests upon that day; and furthermore, they (the
women) may, upon the day of their weddings or at any other times that it
may please them, wear and adorn themselves with any raiment, ornaments,
or jewels (that they may desire), without being subject to question,
reproof, or prosecution, no matter of what rank of life they may be."

More interesting to us, because more directly concerning the heroine
herself, is the edict from which we learn of the special favors granted
her. Beginning with a recital of the brave deeds done at Beauvais, and
especially of the _bonne et vertueuse résistance_ of _notre chière et
amée Jeanne Laisné, fille de Mathieu Laisné_, the king's edict proceeds:
"For these reasons, and also because of and in favor of the marriage of
Colin Pilon and (Jeanne), which marriage was, by our help, arranged for,
agreed upon, and celebrated, and also for divers other reasons and
considerations, we have granted and now do grant, by special grace, in
these present letters, that the said Colin Pilon, and Jeanne, his wife,
each one of them, shall be and remain for life exempt and free from all
taxes that are and that may be in the future imposed and exacted in our
name throughout our kingdom, whether for the maintenance or keep of our
armies and soldiers or for any other cause whatsoever, and (they shall
also be exempt) from the duties of watch and ward, wheresoever in our
kingdom they may take up their abode. Given at Senlis, this 22nd day of
February, in the year of grace one thousand four hundred and

It will be seen from this that Jeanne was already married, and that the
king himself had taken some sort of personal interest in her case,
supplying the very necessary _dot_ for the bride. She had not sought an
alliance out of her own class, for Colin Pilon was a simple man-at-arms,
who did not live long to enjoy either the love of his wife or the favor
of the king, for he fell at the siege of Nancy, in 1477. A few years
later, Jeanne married a cousin, one Fourquet, a soldier of fortune, at
one time in the personal guard of the king. Henceforth nothing more is
known of her, not even the date of her death. But popular fancy
associated her so intimately with the siege of Beauvais that, be her
real surname what it might, she was always Jeanne Hachette; and even in
the nineteenth century a certain Pierre Fourquet d'Hachette, claiming
descent from the humble heroine, received a pension from Charles X. In
Beauvais, too, her name and the memory of her good service were kept
alive not only by the annual parade on the festival of Saint Agadresme,
but also by a faded, ancient standard, borne by the young girls in the
procession, at other times carefully guarded among the treasures of the
city. It was a standard of white damasked cloth, bearing figures and
mottoes in gilt and colored paints. Even now one can decipher the
haughty device of Charles le téméraire: _Je l'ay emprins_ (I have
undertaken it), and beside it the emblems of the great order of the
Golden Fleece. It is the very standard that the girl snatched from the
Burgundian soldier more than four centuries ago.

The story of Jeanne Hachette is but an episode, of course; but in
reading it we should remember that, however small the part she played in
the great history of the world, she had one rare trait, a trait often
distinctive of the best figures in history, though not always of the
most notable--modesty. Like Jeanne d'Arc, her task once accomplished she
was content to be what she had been before; more fortunate than that
other Jeanne, she lived to see herself honored, and was not spoiled
thereby any more than Jeanne d'Arc was spoiled by her far greater

If Jeanne Hachette was a representative of that class now about to
assume greater importance in the life of France, namely the artisans,
the unfortunate daughter of Charles le téméraire was, in her character
as well as in the events of her life, as surely representative of
disappearing feudalism and chivalry. Marie de Bourgogne was all her life
but the plaything of a court that would use her in its pageants and in
its schemes of aggrandizement with utter disregard of what might be her
personal preferences. Reared amidst surroundings that suggested the pomp
and glory of chivalry and were eloquent of feminine dependence if not of
feminine inferiority, she was suddenly left to cope with one of the
ablest and one of the most unscrupulous politicians in history.

Marie de Bourgogne was born at Brussels in 1457, being the first child
born of the union of Isabelle de Bourbon and the haughty young Count de
Charolais, who had been most unwilling to espouse this bride of his
father's choice and who yet made a devoted and faithful husband. When
Marie was born she was still but the daughter of the Count de Charolais,
for ten years more of life remained for the worn out old Philippe le
Bon. Still, she was prospective heiress of the great duchy of Burgundy,
though none could yet foresee that she was the only hope of the great
family that had made itself, in the hundred years of its existence, the
most dangerous enemy, the most indispensable ally of France, nay, even
the rival of France among the great powers of Europe.

The little countess was but eight years of age when her mother died,
scarcely old enough to appreciate the loss, except perhaps to grieve
that she must be reared by a great lady of her grandfather's court, the
Countess of Crèvecoeur. Three years more, and she had to take part in
the greeting given to her father's second wife, Margaret of York. Little
could Marie have understood of the political significance of this union
which united the fortunes of the house of Burgundy with those of a
family whose brief ascendency was marked by almost continual war and by
political crimes of the darkest hue: the brothers of her stepmother were
the handsome voluptuary, Edward IV., "false, fleeting, perjured
Clarence, that stabbed" young Edward of Lancaster "in the field by
Tewkesbury," and the dark-minded Richard of Gloucester. It was a union
of sinister omen for Charles, and one that had been opposed by his
father: no good did or could come of it for Charles, and yet, to spite
France, he persevered in his design, and brought Marie to take her small
part in the brilliant reception accorded Margaret at Bruges. Marie must
have witnessed and enjoyed the great show, and the famous tournament of
the _perron d'or_ (golden beam), in which her father condescended to
break a lance or two in honor of his bride; but she is hardly mentioned
in the glowing accounts of these festivities, in which the ancient
glories of chivalry were revived and surpassed. She was but a daughter,
and though her father loved her it was only natural that he should yet
hope for a son who might wear his ducal coronet.

But the years passed, and still there was no son: Mademoiselle de
Bourgogne seemed fated to wear that ducal coronet. Charles grew in
power, in arrogance, in ambition; it was to be no longer a mere coronet,
but a crown; he would found a new dynasty that would eclipse that of the
elder branch of the Valois; at one time the very crown was made ready
and exposed to the admiring yet fearful eyes of his future subjects.
Marie, who had grown into a handsome if not beautiful girl, carefully
trained in all the accomplishments that befitted her rank, became a
personage of great importance in the ambitious schemes of her father.
According to the custom of princes, her name was used as a lure in
securing desirable alliances; and her wishes were but little regarded in
the selection of her future husband. She was merely a sort of asset to
be reckoned among the other properties of which Charles might dispose to
the highest bidder in furtherance of his projects. Her charms would
naturally be set forth to the best advantage, therefore, in the pages of
loyal Burgundian chroniclers, and in the midst of the diplomatic
bargaining we forget not only that Marie was a girl, with at least some
girlish fancies and preferences and romantic dreams, but we fail to
distinguish the actual features of the girl. If one may judge from the
portraits, Marie could not have been really a beauty; though there are
upon the face the indefinable marks of high breeding, its lines are too
heavy, moulded too obviously on the pattern of the features of her
redoubtable father; above all, there is that heavy lip and protruding
jaw, so very noticeable in her descendants as to become a distinguishing
family mark, albeit they call it Austrian, not Burgundian. But she was a
comely girl; besides, would suitors hang back because the richest
heiress in Europe was not at the same time a Venus?

Charles met with no difficulty in finding suitors for his daughter's
hand; there was merely the embarrassment of choice among so many who
might be considered or who considered themselves eligible. At length, in
1473, Marie was betrothed to Nicholas of Calabria. But Nicholas died,
and Marie was again to be disposed of; the betrothal had been too
absolutely a matter of politics to justify any delay in seeking a new
husband now that death had removed Nicholas. It happened that just at
this time Charles was very eager to propitiate the empire, in
furtherance of those schemes of monarchy that now began to assume
definite shape in his imagination. The Archduke Maximilian, though
somewhat more than three years younger than Marie, and though poor, was
nevertheless the son of the emperor, and might be considered useful to
Burgundy. The negotiations were conducted quietly; Charles did not, it
appears, wish to show himself too anxious; perhaps he was thinking that
circumstances might change, and therefore did not wish to commit himself
to this match beyond the power of recall.

For the present, however, the noble lovers, who had never met, were both
rather young; there was no need to hurry matters, since Charles himself
was still in the prime of life. The disastrous campaign of the great
duke in Switzerland has been described many a time, by historians
friendly and unfriendly, and by a great romancer who loved all chivalry
and who yet could not withhold his admiration from the intrepid Swiss
freemen who bore down the power of Burgundy at Granson, at Morat, and at
Nancy. Yet, whether we consider Charles a great ruler and leader or a
mere military ruffian, no one can look without pity upon that
snow-covered battlefield of Nancy, where a generous foe and the
heartbroken servants of "the pride of chivalry" must look in vain for
two days for the body of Charles; none could surely tell how he had
fallen; and when they found his frozen body the dogs had eaten half of
one cheek, and the wounds on the head rendered it almost unrecognizable.

Mademoiselle de Bourgogne, as she was now to be known in earnest, was
far away in Ghent when the fatal news of her father's death was brought.
Before it could reach her it had reached the crafty old king. For Louis
it was the sweetest news he could have heard; his greatest foe was
providentially removed, and as his adversary in Burgundy there was now
but a girl scarcely grown, a girl whose selfish advisers he well knew
how to bribe or to ruin, as suited his interest. Well may we believe
that when the news of Charles's death reached that French court where so
many of the nobles had felt him to be their only help against the
anti-feudal policy of Louis, "not one ate half he could at dinner," as
the shrewd Comines says; now that the pillar of independent baronage was
gone, who could tell what the king might do?

Marie de Bourgogne was almost a prisoner among her too devoted subjects,
the burghers of Ghent. She and her counsellors realized from the first
that the real danger was to come from Louis XI, who would now seek to
re-annex to the crown those large portions of the Burgundian domain that
had originally come from France. Perhaps the letter of the feudal law
was on the side of the king, who claimed the right of wardship over his
female vassal; but Marie knew full well that this claim was but the
first of a long series that would culminate in the actual seizure of
French Burgundy as soon as Louis should feel himself strong enough. But
though Louis was the ultimate and the greater danger, he could be put
off, it was thought, by conciliatory messages; an immediate danger lay
in turbulent Flanders, which even the strong duke could not master, and
which now, in the midst of much exuberant devotion for mademoiselle,
kept her in a state of constant uneasiness. Something must be done to
quiet the Flemings.

Marie, in imitation of all new-made sovereigns whose crowns are none too
secure, began by granting most liberal charters and privileges to her
loyal subjects in Flanders. For the most part, the liberties thus
granted had been ancient liberties, temporarily denied under the
Burgundians, and now resumed by the people with or without the official
consent of their duchess. The Ghenters at once exercised their right of
being their own judges, and arrested the magistrates who had dared to
surrender the city's liberties to Charles and had governed in his name.
But neither the granting of privileges to Flanders nor the grateful
affection of the Ghenters could defend from Louis Picardy and the
coveted towns on the Somme; money must be had, and the generous commons
of Flanders were appealed to. This congress of the estates of Flanders,
Artois, Hainault, Brabant, and Namur met at Ghent on February 3, 1477,
less than a month after the death of Charles. Marie repeated to the
delegates her assurances, her oaths, her promises, and granted the
"Great Privilege," a sort of Magna Charta and Bill of Rights in the
history of Holland. The special privileges enumerated in this grant are
not novel; the grant was intended merely as a formal restatement--to be
formally ratified by the sovereign--of those inalienable and
indefeasible rights of the subject which were not recognized in most
countries for many a decade to come. "It was a recapitulation and
recognition of ancient rights, not an acquisition of new privileges. It
was a restoration, not a revolution." The nature of the rights asserted
by the subject and admitted by the sovereign may be easily gathered from
a glance at one or two. "Offices shall be conferred by the duchess upon
natives alone; and no man shall fill two offices. No office shall be
farmed out. The great Council and Supreme Court of the provinces shall
be re-established.... No new taxes may be imposed but by consent of the
estates. No war, whether offensive or defensive, shall be begun by the
duchess or any of her successors without the consent of the estates....
No money shall be coined, nor shall its value be raised or lowered,
except by consent of the estates." If the principles here enunciated
could have been made good in practice, the liberties of Marie's subjects
would indeed have been secure; but much of this Great Privilege, as well
as of the similar charters granted to other provinces, was pure theory,
and Marie no more meant to abide by her oath of ratification than King
John had meant to observe the provisions of Magna Charta. For the
present, however, she must feign to be right well pleased, though her
cautious and devoted subjects had not granted her the aid she wanted, to
be used as she saw fit. All negotiations would be conducted in her name,
of course, but in dealing with Louis she must be guided by the counsel
of the estates; and the estates would levy an army of a hundred thousand
men for her--when it suited them to do so. That was the sum and
substance of all that Marie could cajole them into granting.

Meanwhile, Louis was making ready to seize Burgundy and Picardy,
advancing now one pretext, now another, for his acts, seeking to give
every seizure the appearance of legality, but bent on seizing, right or
wrong. Marie despatched two of her father's oldest advisers, the
chancellor Hugonet and the lord of Humbercourt, as ambassadors to Louis,
to delay his proceedings. Though faithful to the interests of their
duchess, Hugonet and Humbercourt were no match for the crafty king. He
had already tampered with other servants of Burgundy, and had found few
who could not be made to see that French gold or French titles were
better worth considering than any favors received from a master who
could no longer reward. Of this class was the Lord of Crèvecoeur, whose
mother had been the guardian of the young duchess when she had no
mother, and to whom one of the most important charges in Burgundy had
been deputed, the governorship of Picardy and of the towns on the Somme.
Crèvecoeur was a knight of the Toison d'Or, and had received countless
other favors from Charles, whose daughter he was now willing to betray.
What Louis most desired was Arras; this my Lord of Crèvecoeur held for
Burgundy; might there not be found some legal subterfuge or quibble
authorizing him to hold it for the king? Louis cajoled, entreated,
almost menaced, the Burgundian envoys, till they, thinking he would have
Arras anyway, yielded so far as to issue an order to Crèvecoeur, signed
by the chancellor, Hugonet, authorizing him to open the gates of the
town to the king. Louis entered Arras on March 4th, and Marie soon found
that her troubles had but just begun.

When the news of the surrender of Arras reached Ghent the citizens were
furious, and demanded satisfaction from those who had betrayed the
public trust. A fresh embassy went, from the States this time, to meet
Louis, who was advancing through Picardy. Marie had to consent to this
embassy, and doubtless thought that little harm would come of it; but
the unscrupulous Louis knew how to deal with the burghers, and no
considerations of honor hindered him from using any means in his power
to sow the seeds of suspicion between the burghers and their duchess.
When the embassy remonstrated with him for the desire to despoil the
young heiress and told him that "there was no harm in her, that they
could answer for her prudence and good faith, since she had publicly
sworn to be guided by the Council of the States in all things," Louis
assumed an injured air. "You are deceived," he said, "your mistress
means to be guided by the advice of persons who do not desire peace."
The envoys, thinking that Marie had been perfectly sincere and frank,
refused to credit ill of her. Then Louis showed them a private note, in
Marie's own hand, telling him that she would be guided solely by the
advice of the court party and of Hugonet and Humbercourt in particular,
and begging him to keep this secret from the envoys of the States.

Enraged and mortified by this scandalous duplicity the burgher envoys
returned hastily to Ghent. The duchess received them in solemn audience,
seated upon her throne and surrounded by her courtiers. With great show
of indignation she denied the allegations of the king. "Here is your own
letter," said the chief of the envoys, drawing it forth from his bosom.
Marie was overwhelmed with confusion, and knew not what to say. She
trembled even for her own safety, now that this royal personage, in
defiance of the comity of princes, had betrayed her to her own subjects.
The duplicity of which she had been guilty was not so reprehensible as
it seems to us; the blame of it rests more upon her advisers than upon
her, and she was but a weak girl, encompassed by selfish intriguers and
plotters who sought to rob her of that which she had been taught to
regard as her unquestioned right.

The most conspicuous of her counsellors, though not by any means the
ones solely responsible for this unfortunate letter, were Hugonet and
Humbercourt, who, feeling that the Ghenters would take vengeance upon
them, threw themselves into a monastery immediately after the fatal
audience, but were dragged out of the sanctuary that very night. Marie,
faithful to those who had been faithful to her, would gladly have saved
them, but upon the mere rumor that the prisoners would be allowed to
escape the Ghenters flew to arms, congregated in the Friday market
place, and, asserting their ancient right of permanent assembly in time
of danger, camped there day and night till the two envoys were tried and
executed. Marie might have claimed that the unhappy victims, being ducal
officers, should be delivered over to the Grand Council for trial; but
in view of the excited state of popular feeling even that was not to be
thought of. And when she nominated a commission in which thirty out of
thirty-six were citizens of Ghent, that too was insufficient assurance
that the accused would be convicted; the citizens would have the whole
affair in their own hands; their privileges had been tampered with, and
they alone should punish the offenders. Marie did not even yet relax her
efforts on behalf of Hugonet and Humbercourt; her determined fidelity to
what she considered a sacred duty the protection of those who had risked
themselves in her service is the best trait in her character. The
gratitude of princes is not usually a burdensome obligation to them; but
the best principles of chivalry had been instilled into Marie, and, like
her rash but generous father, she would risk all on a point of honor.
She sent representatives of the nobles to sit with the burgher's court,
though they could take no part in the proceedings, and must be mere
spectators of a judgment already resolved upon. When the supreme moment
approached, Marie herself went to implore mercy for her servants.
Dressed as a simple Flemish maiden, with the citizen's cap upon her
head, she went on foot and unattended by guard or courtier or even so
much as a lady of her suite, through the angry crowd in the market place
to the Town Hall, where the court sat.

But the judges themselves were more overawed by the relentless crowd
whose angry murmurs penetrated to them than by the presence of their
lady. Pity her they did; but as one of them said, pointing to the crowd:
"We must satisfy the people." Not daunted by this failure, Marie went
among the people themselves, those loving yet terrible subjects who had
gathered to see that their will was carried out. In Friday market place
she went from one to another, weeping, with clasped hands imploring them
not to punish servants who had merely obeyed her commands. The sight of
this defenceless girl, braving dangers in such a cause and venturing
among a people whom she had offended, moved many to hearken to her plea.
The men began to separate into two parties, those who could hear and see
their lady inclining to her side, those farther off, removed from the
direct influence of her presence, clamoring for justice upon the
accused. Pikes were ranged against pikes, and there was imminent danger
of a conflict; but the partisans of the duchess were in the minority,
and their enthusiasm in her cause waned when they realized the danger of
a civil broil. Marie's courageous appeal served only to hurry on the
trial, since the judges were determined not to risk another scene
fraught with such dangers.

Hugonet and Humbercourt were put to the torture, and confessed what was
enough to convict them, though it was what everyone already knew: that
they had surrendered Arras. Humbercourt, a knight of the Toison d'Or,
appealed to that body, which alone had jurisdiction over its members;
but legal forms could not be respected in this crisis. When the court
presented the confessions and the sentence to the young duchess, a
formality with which, in all their disregard of legal forms, they
thought it necessary to comply, she protested again, wept, entreated.
All was vain: "Madam," said they, "you have sworn to do justice not only
upon the poor, but upon the rich."

The two nobles were placed in the condemned cart--where, on account of
the injuries received in the torture, they could not stand--and led to
execution. The people had succeeded in destroying those who had dared to
disregard their wishes; the sovereign of Burgundy was completely in
their power. They declared themselves her most fitting guardians and
counsellors, deprived her of the comfort of having even members of her
family about her, and proposed to find a husband for her more suitable
than any suggested by the nobles.

To all of this Marie was forced to submit with what grace she could; but
upon the matter of a husband she was resolved to have something to say
for herself. No less than six suitors had some sort of claim to her,
besides the one to whom her father had betrothed her in 1473. There was
the dauphin, a mere boy of eight, for whom Louis was intriguing; there
was, at the other extreme, the worthless and worn-out profligate,
Clarence, whom Margaret of York hoped to establish in this new and rich
nest; there was the fierce and cruel Adolphus of Guelders, who had ended
a career of crime in prison, and whom the Ghenters meant to take out of
prison that he might be their duke and leader: then there were the
English Lord Rivers, brother of England's queen, and the son of the Lord
of Ravenstein, and the son of the Duke of Cleves. In the whole list
there was not one whom the poor girl could have considered with anything
but aversion. The worst of all, both politically and personally, was the
dauphin; the idea of contracting a marriage with a mere child, and that
child the son of her most dangerous enemy, was revolting to Marie's
feelings, so lately excited by the death of her two servants, betrayed
by Louis. At her very court she was surrounded by spies, who, pretending
to sympathize with her and console her, reported to Louis or to the
emperor all the intimate confidences of the poor girl.

The interest of Austria finally seemed to be in the ascendant, for now
Margaret, despairing of making Clarence acceptable either to the young
lady or to her subjects or even to Edward IV., had thrown her influence
on the side of Maximilian, and the influence of France in the Burgundian
councils had been ruined by the manifest determination of the king to
absorb all French Burgundy, all Flanders, if he could get it. There had
not been sufficient time for the growth of real national feeling in the
ill-assorted and scattered provinces of the duchy; but the non-French
parts of Burgundy, at least, by no means relished the idea of losing
their identity and becoming parts of France.

Personal reasons also inclined Marie to favor the Austrian suitor.
Maximilian had been in some sort the choice of her father, and this
alone would have some weight with her. Besides, he was young; report
said he was handsome: "The hairs of his august head are, after the
German fashion, golden, lustrous, curiously adorned, and of becoming
length. His port is lordly." And report spoke no ill of this fair young
golden-haired Teuton; he might be some three years younger than
Mademoiselle de Bourgogne, but he was already a man and a bold hunter,
though as yet he had had no opportunity of showing whether he were
capable of leading armies, a very necessary accomplishment in one who
would undertake the care of Mademoiselle and her much coveted heritage.
He was poor: but was not she rich enough to make up the deficiency? On
the whole, Mademoiselle was so favorably impressed with what the
Austrian advocates could tell her that she determined to receive the
embassy then on the way to present the formal claim of Maximilian.

The Duke of Cleves, who had hopes for his own son, did his best to delay
the ambassadors, and, failing that, to make Marie promise to give them
an audience and then send them about their business. She had already had
enough of diplomatic experience to make her cautious. The Duke of Cleves
was not taken into her confidence, but was permitted to hope that
Mademoiselle would not settle the matter with the Austrian envoys.

The envoys came, and were received in public audience, where their chief
rehearsed the details of the negotiations between the late duke and
emperor, and ended by presenting a letter written by Mademoiselle
herself in acknowledgment of the betrothal, and a diamond sent by her as
a token. Then Marie, to the utter dismay of the intriguers, quietly
replied, of her own accord: "I wrote that letter by the wish and command
of my lord and father, and sent that diamond; I own to the contents."

Marie and Maximilian were formally married on April 27th, and the
people, weary of the state of uncertainty in which they had been kept,
seemed content to make the best of the marriage. The prince was a
German, did not speak their language or understand their customs; but
then he was prepossessing, and would doubtless make as good a defender
of their liberties as could be found. With the marriage, Marie
practically ceased to appear as a direct participant in political
affairs. Her new husband was devoted to her, and for a time things
looked more encouraging for this last scion of a great race. True, Louis
sent his barber-surgeon, Olivier, to protest, in the name of the
suzerain, against the marriage of his feudal ward without his consent.
But the Flemish nobles and their lady laughed at the barber, who really
came more to spy than in the hope that this mediaeval protest would
avail aught. Later, in his first battle, Maximilian completely defeated
the French army under the traitor Lord Crèvecoeur, at Guinegatte, August
7, 1479.

Meanwhile, a son had been born to the young couple, and their domestic
happiness was unclouded. Fortune was not to smile on them long, however,
for the Flemings were constitutionally rebellious, now refusing to grant
Maximilian supplies necessary for defence, till he actually had to pawn
his wife's jewels, now blaming all their misfortunes on this foreigner,
now distracting his attention from the still encroaching French king by
riots and revolts. In the unequal contest the French were destined to
win; and ere Marie had been married five years an accident cost her her
life and left Maximilian almost as helpless in the hands of the Flemings
as she had been. She had been hunting, a sport of which both she and
Maximilian were passionately fond, when her horse threw her. The
injuries might not have proved fatal if medical aid had been resorted to
in time; but Marie, with pitiful false modesty, refused to submit to the
examination of the surgeons, and died, after lingering three weeks,
March 26, 1482. Her infant son, Philippe le Beau, remained as the
nominal heir of Burgundy; but the guarding of the duchy was a hopeless
task when a regency must control affairs, and so with Marie passed away
the last independent ruler of the house of Burgundy, whose greatness was
to be transmitted to and surpassed by the son of this Philippe, the
great Emperor Charles V.

The brief and troubled life of Marie de Bourgogne affords but little
opportunity for an estimate of her capabilities. She was reared under
conditions the most unfavorable to the development of independence,
self-reliance, and capacity for practical affairs; for feudalism, even
at its best, as we have seen, produced but few women who were capable of
ruling a nation, and the spectacular chivalry of the Burgundian court
found no place for woman but as an angelic, gracious, beautiful
spectator of its great shows, one infinitely removed by every detail of
her education and of her social life from the sordid cares of life and
of politics. Marie was not of that rare type that might, even under such
conditions, rise to power; she was not strong enough of will to mark out
a policy of her own and bend men and conditions to serve that policy. In
not one of her public acts as duchess can we find that she was
uninfluenced by those around her; she was indeed swayed first by one set
of counsellors, then by another, the natural result being inconsistency,
duplicity, and inefficiency. But where the mere woman appears, where
there is room for the operation of impulses purely personal, as in the
case of Hugonet and Humbercourt and in the selection of her husband,
Marie displays nobler feelings; and though the cause of civilization was
to be advanced by the dismemberment of the heterogeneous Burgundian
duchy and the annexation of the greater part of it to France, our
sympathy is not with the spider who sat spinning his meshes of intrigue
in the den at Plessis-lez-Tours, but with the generous, impulsive young
ruler whom we know he will fatally entangle. With Marie in Burgundy, as
with the passionate and unhappy Marguerite of Anjou in England, we are
inclined to forgive the ruler who could not rule, or who resorted to
infamous means in her struggles to rule, when we remember that both were
women brought face to face with tremendous problems and made the sport
of crafty, cruel, unscrupulous foes and faithless friends.



_C'est la moins folle femme du monde, car, de femme sage il n'y en a
point_ (she is the least foolish woman in the world; there are no wise
ones). The cynical old king, Louis XI., sums up for us in this epigram
his estimate of the daughter whom he loved and trusted more than any
other person of his own blood. This daughter, Anne de France, was but a
young woman when her father died, but the tortuous policy and the
sagacious aims of Louis XI. had become familiar to her as a mere girl,
and she lived to continue and in some sort to carry to successful
terminations the principal schemes cherished by her father.

Almost from her very birth, Louis had used her in his intrigues,
proposing her marriage now with this prince, now with that, according as
the needs of the moment suggested. When the chief of his enemies,
Charles le Téméraire, lost his first wife, Louis proposed that he marry
the princess Anne, at that time a child of two years, and offered as her
dowry Champagne, if Charles would agree that Normandy should revert to
the Crown without question. Yet, a year later, 1466, when Louis had
obtained possession of Normandy and had no further immediate need of
Charles, he offered Anne to the son of the Duke of Calabria. Neither
bargain was meant to be kept; but Charles, partly out of anger at the
king's bad faith, married Margaret of York. Seven years later, when
Louis had made up his mind to conciliate the house of Bourbon, Anne was
betrothed to Pierre de Bourbon, Sire de Beaujeu; and as no new alliance
presented itself as desirable, Anne de France became Anne de Beaujeu.

Anne was enough like her father in the hardness and crafty resoluteness
of her character to win his confidence. We see her intrusted with the
care of one of the most important of those noble wards whom Louis loved
to bring to his court and keep under tutelage, Marguerite, the little
daughter of Maximilian and Marie de Bourgogne. When the fear of
assassination had driven the king to immure himself in
Plessis-lez-Tours, and to hedge himself about with such fantastic and
intricate defences that none but his favored lowborn servants could
enter with ease and hope of return, he would sometimes admit this
favored daughter. And when, in the imminence of death, he determined
that the silly dauphin, jealously guarded at Amboise, should learn
something and should know that the power of the sceptre was soon to pass
to him, it was Anne de Beaujeu again on whom he relied. He enjoined the
dauphin Charles to keep about him the faithful servants who had made
France; especially did he recommend "Master Oliver," without whom, he
said, "I should have been nothing." But, before all others, the dauphin
was to honor and obey his wise sister, Anne de Beaujeu, the least
foolish woman in the world.

In spite of astrologers; in spite of liberal doses of that expensive
panacea, potable gold, administered by his insolent physician, Jacques
Coictier; in spite of a second anointing from the sacred _ampulla_,
brought from Rheims for that special purpose; in spite of all the silver
saints stuck on the rim of his cap the spirit went out of the body of
Louis XI, and France welcomed his death as a deliverance. In his zeal
for the destruction of feudalism and the upbuilding of a national
government, he had become a tyrant. But the work he had begun must go
on, if France was not to step back fifty or a hundred years in progress.
The new king, Charles VIII, was but a boy of fourteen, and deplorably
immature. He could hardly read and write, nor did natural intelligence
supply the defects of education; for he was weak in mind, weak in body,
and easily influenced for good or for ill. With such a tool ready for
the hand of any ambitious noble who would destroy France, the outlook
was not cheering. But it was the good fortune of France to find a ruler
who could and did control the king till such time as the fruits of the
wise despotism of Louis could be safely gathered; and this ruler was a

As Charles had already attained the legal majority prescribed for the
heir to the throne, there could be no regency. But Anne de Beaujeu and
her husband had been named by the late king as the tutors of Charles, to
the exclusion of Louis d'Orléans, who, as first prince of the blood
royal, had a prescriptive right to the guardianship. And just as Blanche
de Castille, under different conditions and by different means, had
managed to displace Philippe Hurepel, so Anne now managed to outwit and
supplant Louis d'Orléans.

She had already laid the foundations of her influence by making friends
of the best counsellors and captains of the late king. And her brother,
to whom she was a divinity to be worshipped and feared, was already so
accustomed to submission to her will that it did not occur to him to
resist her authority now. In default of a regent, there was a royal
council, and in this council Anne managed to assure herself of a
powerful following. To be sure, at first there was nothing to fear,
since Louis d' Orléans, young and fond of pleasure, was engaged in
satisfying his tastes after the long and irksome restraint to which he
had been subjected by Louis XI; and so, in place of politics, he took
pleasure, availing himself of every distraction that could help him to
forget the terrible days of the old king, or the ugly face and crooked
body of the king's daughter, who was his wife. Nevertheless, Louis
d'Orléans was the natural leader of the opposition to the control of
Anne de Beaujeu, and the latter lost no time in securing for herself,
through her husband, a majority in the council, a body composed of such
diverse elements, and so uncertain of its own mind, that it was easy for
a determined leader to carry her policies through its divided and
hesitating ranks.

Anne was only twenty-two, but already there was coming to be a special
significance attached to her sobriquet, _Madame la Grande_; for the
imperious will, the boldness and shrewdness combined, the restless
energy, the constant watchfulness of the woman made itself felt
throughout that government in which she had no legal standing. Her
governing was done under constitutional forms, in the name of the king,
in the name of the council; but people knew that she had dictated to the
king what he should do, and had imposed her will upon the council. Until
the States-General had met, voted supplies, been promised reforms, and
then dissolved, Anne was very guarded, very conciliatory in her policy;
the unjust acts of Louis XI were set right--where it did not cost too
much to do so--and certain obnoxious persons, such as Olivier le Daim,
were sacrificed to popular hatred. As soon as the States-General had
been disposed of, however, the two parties in the council began to
assume a more hostile attitude toward each other, and the charge that
Madame la Grande was meddling in things that concerned her not was
raised by the Duke of Orléans. His cousin, Dunois, and other persons
anxious for the restriction of the royal power, persuaded Louis
d'Orléans that it was an outrage that a woman should reduce him to the
second place in the national council, and make herself virtually queen
of France. Incited by these plotters, Louis determined to loosen the
hold of Anne upon the young king.

Violating a solemn oath he had taken, under Louis XI, to abstain from
compromising relations with the enemies of France, he began to seek
allies against the Beaujeu faction, and turned first to Brittany. But a
temporary eclipse of the Breton favorite, Landois, who had ruled his
master almost as Olivier had ruled Louis, made the visit of Orléans a
fruitless one, and he returned to Paris to resort to means more in
conformity with his tastes. The young king was intensely fond of
brilliant festivities; romantic love of the spectacular side of chivalry
was his ruling passion; and therefore Louis sought to alienate him from
Anne by providing him with amusements. Jousts and tourneys, balls,
masquerades, all as brilliant and attractive as Louis could make them,
filled the two months after Charles's royal entry into his "well beloved
city of Paris" (July 5, 1484). Charles was beginning to think that his
"fair cousin of Orléans" was a very delightful companion, and so much
more obliging than that high tempered and dictatorial sister whom he had
been obeying; besides, what right had she to dictate to him: was he not
a king? Before the danger grew acute, before these vague questionings in
the royal head assumed definite shape, Anne picked up her precious
sovereign and carried him away from gay Paris and the temptations of the
fascinating Louis. Then it was that Louis left the court, resolved not
to return until he had overthrown the Beaujeu party.

The great nobles of the land were ready enough to unite in opposition to
the arbitrary rule of a woman, and of a woman who had not the shadow of
a constitutional right to rule. But though discontent was general among
the nobles, they yet lacked energy and direction, while the commons took
but little interest in a mere squabble among their rulers. Perhaps the
general opinion was somewhat like that of the University of Paris, to
which Louis had appealed, namely, that the power was in the hands best
fitted to wield it. Undoubtedly, the Parliament of Paris was of this
opinion; for when Louis presented a long petition reciting his
grievances and protesting against the usurpation of Madame de Beaujeu,
who held in unlawful subjection the person of the king, who intended to
keep the said king in tutelage until his twenty-first year, who had
unlawfully levied taxes, and who meditated the destruction of the
petitioner,--when Louis presented these charges, and besought the
Parliament to command that the king be brought back to Paris, the
president very prudently gave answer that the court of Parliament was a
court of law, and had nothing to do with administrative matters, and
that no one had a right thus to appear before the court to remonstrate
against the administrative acts of the sovereign. There was little
comfort in all this for Louis; and while he was still hesitating in
Paris, Anne sent a troop of men-at-arms to arrest him. A hasty flight
alone saved him, and he at once repaired to Alencon, where the duke
received him as a friend in distress; while Anne, hastening back to
Paris, deprived Orléans and his accomplices of their honors and military

The forces of the discontented princes would have been superior to those
at the disposal of Anne, if they could have been brought together; but
their domains were scattered, and they themselves were vacillating,
jealous of each other, reluctant to resort at once to foreign aid. With
her usual promptness, Anne intercepted their communications, seized and
executed summarily their spies, and herself negotiated with Brittany and
with the Flemish towns; while Dunois and Orléans were surprised and
captured in Beaugency by La Trémoille, commanding for Anne. For the
moment, the rebellion had been put down without serious loss. Dunois was
exiled to Asti, and Louis of Orléans, who had not even been able to win
the support of his own city, came back to court in October, 1485.

A new danger, however, threatened Anne's supremacy during the next
spring, when Maximilian of Austria, now titular King of the Romans,
invaded Artois. Jubilant at the prospect of securing such an ally
against Madame la Grande, a new league of the great nobles signed a
secret treaty with Maximilian in December. With the Dukes of Orléans,
Brittany, Lorraine, and Bourbon, the Counts of Dunois, Nevers,
Angoulème, and a host of others thus leagued against her, the situation
of Madame de Beaujeu was most precarious. Besides actual warfare, she
had to fear continual plots having for their object the capture of the
young king. The great Philippe de Comines, along with Louis d'Orléans,
was implicated in one of these plots, and was seized by the watchful
Anne, while Louis fled to Brittany and urged its duke to invade France.

Anne did not hesitate as to her course, but marched into southern
France, taking the king, the warrant of her authority, with her. This
sudden diversion disconcerted the nobles, and one town after another
opened its gates to Charles VIII., till, in March, 1487, he entered
Bordeaux in triumph, and the old Duke of Bourbon and the Count of
Angoulème made their submission. The Breton nobles, angry at the
interference in their affairs by the rebellious French princes, who had
completely won the confidence of the weak Duke Francois II., resolved to
expel the foreigners, and appealed to Anne to help them. She responded
by despatching a force of twelve thousand men into Brittany and
besieging the duke and Louis d'Orléans in Nantes. But the town having
received reinforcements from Maximilian, the royal army raised the siege
and occupied strategic points in Brittany. While the season forbade
military operations, Anne returned to Paris with her king, and had
resort to law in her contest with the rebels. She issued a summons to
the Dukes of Orléans and Brittany to appear before the court of
Parliament. Upon their failure to appear, however, another summons was
issued; but no sentence was passed, since Anne did not care to push
matters to extremes in the case of these great personages, whom she
hoped to conciliate; but Dunois, Comines, and others of the rebels were
condemned for contumacy, their goods were confiscated, and, if their
persons could be laid hold of, they were imprisoned. Comines, historian
and scholar as he was, and favorite of Louis XI, had a taste of
imprisonment in one of those famous iron cages of which his old master
had been so fond.

In the spring of 1488 the power of the house of Beaujeu was increased by
the death of the Duke of Bourbon, to whose duchy Anne's husband was
heir. Nevertheless, fortune was not favoring Anne in all things; for the
Breton nobles, having repented of their rebellion against their own
duke, and beginning to suspect that Madame Anne meant to keep her troops
in Brittany, now changed sides, and expelled the French garrisons from
some of the towns. In retaliation, Anne's general, Louis de La
Trémoille, began a vigorous campaign in Brittany early in April, which
culminated in the decisive victory of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier (July
27th). The Breton army was completely routed, and the rebel nobles,
including Louis d' Orléans and the Prince of Orange, fell into the power
of Anne. Louis, her most dangerous enemy, was confined in the tower of
Bourges, where he might meditate, without endangering the public peace,
upon the injustice of allowing a woman to govern France. Within a month
after the battle, Francois II., humbly suing for peace to his
"sovereign" Charles VIII., signed a treaty in which he promised to
exclude from his court and dukedom the enemies of France, and to
negotiate no marriage for his daughters without the advice and consent
of Charles. In the name of Charles, as usual, all this was done; but it
was really a signal triumph for Anne de Beaujeu. The pride of her Breton
adversary was broken, and he did not long survive the treaty; some have
declared that he died of chagrin at being no longer able to betroth his
daughters first to one suitor and then to another. Whether of chagrin or
of some more ordinary complaint, he died in September, 1488, and it then
developed that his eldest daughter, Anne, a girl of not quite twelve,
had indeed been promised to three parties simultaneously.

Out of the confused situation in Brittany it was Madame de Beaujeu's
task to make profit for France. The eldest daughter and heiress of the
late duke, Anne de Bretagne, was enjoined by the royal council from
assuming her title of duchess until authorized to do so by the king, who
claimed not only the feudal wardship of the heiress of Brittany, but her
very coronet itself, under the terms of a treaty between the Crown and
certain of the great barons of Brittany, including Marshal de Rieux,
then guardian of Anne de Bretagne. This treaty, dating from 1484, had
recognized the claims of the king as superior to those of the female
heirs in Brittany, as in other fiefs where the court was endeavoring to
enforce the _Loi Salique_. But Marshal de Rieux and his friends had now
changed their views, seeing that the pretensions of the crown would
result in the extinction of Brittany as a distinct and independent
province; they preferred governing the province through the young
duchess to being governed by Madame la Grande.

Madame la Grande was well aware that her claims on behalf of the king
would not be peaceably admitted; she was prepared to encounter armed
resistance, and probably foresaw her opportunity in the quarrels that
would inevitably break out among the Bretons as to who was to control
the heiress, and, above all, as to who was to marry her. The ducal court
of Brittany soon became the hotbed of intrigue, where divided counsel
prevailed, and where alliances were made on all sides and adhered to on
none. With the aid of Maximilian, of the Spaniards, and of the
English,--all of whom were more or less concerned, and more or less
willing to support Brittany against France,--the Bretons could have
offered successful resistance to the French armies. But the jealousies
of the Breton nobles, the craft and ability of Anne de Beaujeu, and the
feminine caprice of Anne de Bretagne, made ineffective the best efforts
of France's enemies. The Sire d'Albret, a man of hideous aspect, of
detestable character, and very nearly four times as old as the bride he
claimed, affirmed that Anne de Bretagne had been promised to him.
Marshal de Rieux, Anne's guardian, upheld the claims of D'Albret, and in
behalf of his protege resorted to fraud, in fabricating proofs of the
alleged betrothal, and to force. Meanwhile, the enterprising Dunois
formed a plot to kidnap the duchess and carry her off to France. Seeking
to escape these two dangers, the poor girl fled to Nantes, where,
however, De Rieux had the gates shut against her. Rennes, more
compassionate and more patriotic, offered her a refuge till the
immediate danger was passed. But there was no rest or safety for her as
long as she remained unmarried. The Sire d'Albret was loathsome to her;
therefore, under the temporary influence of other advisers, she gave her
hand to the ambassador of Maximilian, and was secretly married to this
proxy-husband, with every form and ceremony that could be thought of to
make the strange compact binding.

A secret of such momentous consequence could not, in the nature of
things, remain a secret for any long period. The mock marriage had taken
place in the summer of 1490. Within a few months, the bride, bursting
with the importance of her new dignity, was actually signing decrees as
"Queen of the Romans," and the troubles in Brittany began with renewed
violence on the part of the disappointed aspirants to the control of the
duchy. Anne de Beaujeu, never dismayed, even by complications that might
to others seem hopeless, at once took advantage of the resentment of
D'Albret and De Rieux, secured the alliance of the latter and bought
outright that of the former, and so was soon able to regain military
supremacy in Brittany, and to begin her plans for breaking off the
marriage between Anne de Bretagne and Maximilian. Had the latter been a
native Burgundian, or had he concentrated his resources for the
attainment of one capital object, the whole history of France might have
been changed: we might have seen a second Burgundian power, now
strengthened by the rugged and yet unsubdued Brittany, hemming France in
on the east, on the west, on the north, and utterly stunting the growth
of that national unity which was to make France a great and homogeneous
power. But Maximilian was busy patching up the power of his Austrian
dominions, and trying to keep on reasonably good terms with his Flemish
subjects; meanwhile, he thought his bride might look out for herself,
and was not aware that Anne de Beaujeu was preparing a coup that would
deprive him forever of Brittany.

The influence of Anne de Beaujeu was already showing signs of a decline;
and it therefore behooved her to work while it was yet day, for the time
was fast coming when her boy king would no longer submit to sisterly
tyranny. Charles was in his twentieth year when, in the spring of 1491,
he made his first independent move, with a prospect of still more
dangerous manifestations of independence. One evening he left Plessis,
as if to go hunting, and rode toward Bourges. He had secretly given
orders that Louis d'Orléans should be released, and went to meet and be
reconciled with this dangerous adversary of his sister. Louis, who had
been sobered by his confinement, was overjoyed at his release, and met
the king with every manifestation of loyal devotion and respect.
Fortunately, Louis cherished no feelings of resentment against the house
of Beaujeu, and willingly acceded to the formal reconciliation proposed
by the king, signing, with Pierre de Bourbon, a treaty of amity and
fraternal love, in which all past wrongs and differences were to be
forgotten. Louis was faithful to the spirit of this agreement, and
France had no longer to fear his factious activity. And when Dunois,
always ready to plot, always ready to undo his own plots, also agreed to
a reconciliation, the personal power of Anne in the royal council may
have been weakened, but the ultimate triumph of the principles for which
she had contended was assured. Though no longer dominant in all things,
she could yet shape the policy of the kingdom and contrive the ruin of
Maximilian's ambitious schemes.

To unite France and Brittany had been the dream of the French kings, but
again and again had the dream proved a delusion. Louis XI, always awake
to every possible chance of advantage, had bought the claims of the
heiress of the ancient line of Charles de Blois and Jeanne de
Penthièvre; but no opportunity of profiting by these claims had been
vouchsafed his greedy soul. Now the coveted province seemed more
hopelessly alienated than ever. For Anne de Bretagne was married to
Maximilian, and the young King of France was solemnly betrothed to the
daughter of Maximilian, Marguerite, who had actually been reared at the
French court on purpose to fit her for the post of queen, and who had
already received, by courtesy, the titles and honors of her station,
though her youth still precluded the consummation of the marriage. How
to rob Maximilian of his bride and dispose of his daughter was a problem
that might well have seemed hopeless of solution. But Madame de Beaujeu
was not hopeless, nor was she over-scrupulous.

Before Maximilian could bring his Austrian-Hungarian war to a
satisfactory conclusion, the French armies had established almost
complete control of Brittany. The young duchess, none too pleased at the
neglect of this treaty-husband, was easily persuaded that the marriage,
contracted against the will of her feudal lord, and never consummated by
a husband who seemed more absorbed in politics than fired by passion,
was not really a religious compact, but a treaty that could be abrogated
like any other treaty. She consented to break off the match with her
King of the Romans, but, having once borne the title of queen, neither
count nor duke would she have for a husband, only a king. Anne de
Beaujeu promptly suggested that the heiress of Brittany should replace
the daughter of Maximilian, and marry Charles VIII. On November 15th
Charles entered Rennes. To Maximilian and the rest of Europe this seemed
but the honest fulfilment of the terms of the treaty of peace extorted
from unwilling Brittany; no one outside of the trusted friends of the
duchess and of the king had the least suspicion that, three days later,
the pair had had an interview, and that, in the presence of Louis
d'Orléans, of Anne and Pierre de Bourbon, of the chancellor of Brittany,
and of a few others, they were formally betrothed.

Secrecy was essential to the success of the plan. This secret was well
kept, particularly as the time of repression was short, for Anne de
Beaujeu was wise enough to conclude the matter as soon as possible.
Within a month, Charles went to the château of Langeais, in Touraine,
whither Anne de Bretagne followed him. Before the world knew what was
intended, they were married and were on their way to Plessis-lez-Tours,
where the gloomy old den of Louis XI was enlivened by brilliant royal
festivities. The ghost of the old king, however unfriendly to mirth and
jollity, must have looked on approvingly and grinned with joy at the
thought of the splendid and long-coveted dowry that his wise daughter
had won for France. He, too, would have taken a malicious pleasure in
the very means Anne had used to hoodwink and cheat Maximilian.
Duplicity, the most boldfaced trickery, had been resorted to, to lead
Maximilian off the true scent. While the marriage articles that would
rob him of his Breton bride were being arranged, Anne de Beaujeu was
keeping him occupied with the details of an arrangement that would grant
free passage to his bride when she saw fit to repair to the husband who
could not find time to come to her. And while he was carrying on this
negotiation, in good faith, came the news that Charles had robbed him of
his bride and was sending back his daughter. It was a double insult, and
one that might have cost France dearly had Maximilian's power equalled
his anger and resentment. Nothing but "diplomacy" could have
accomplished the union of France and Brittany, that sort of diplomacy
which in a private individual would be condemned by every ethical law,
but which often results most advantageously for the state, and hence is

With this marriage the great role of Anne de Beaujeu ceases; for though
she continued to advise, she could no longer command, and the government
of France was left to Charles VIII. Anne was one of those counsellors
who raised their voices in unheeded protest against the impolitic
rashness of Charles's campaign in Italy, a campaign whose mad
extravagance and disastrous results fully justified all that Anne had
said to dissuade her brother. But in this, as in other matters of less
moment, it was evident that Anne's day of usefulness had passed. By the
time her old rival, Louis d'Orléans, became Louis XII. she had
completely retired from politics, and continued to govern nothing but
her husband, in spite of the generous confidence shown in her by the new
king. Louis XII. cherished no resentment for the injuries inflicted upon
the young Louis d'Orléans by Madame la Grande, and gratefully
acknowledged how important had been her services to the crown. But
Madame la Grande intervened no more in public affairs, though she lived
on until 1522.

The wisdom and foresight of this great daughter of the hated tyrant of
Plessis may be appreciated more fully if we will but consider for a
moment the history of that Anne de Bretagne whose heritage she had
secured for the crown of France. The early history of this princess has
been already sketched in the preceding pages. She was but fifteen when
Madame la Grande brought about the marriage with Charles VIII. Already,
however, she had manifested traits that accorded but ill with the
character of her royal mate. For she was not only handsome, spirited,
and naturally independent and intelligent, but fond of intellectual
pursuits, almost a scholar, knowing Latin and Greek, that new tongue
that was just becoming the fashion in Europe, the tongue whose rich and
deep literature, so long misunderstood or unknown during the Middle
Ages, was to be most fruitful of inspirations for the Renaissance.
Imagine her yoked with a prince of frivolous disposition, lacking even
in ordinary intelligence, so ignorant that he could scarcely read and
write, and interested chiefly in the idle shows of that chivalry in
whose ranks he could not shine because of his awkward and weak frame.
With admirable appreciation of her duty, Anne sunk the woman in the wife
and queen, subordinating her own personality to that of a man whom she
could not have respected, whom it seems impossible she could have loved.
She resigned into his hands the administration of her own province of
Brittany, and sought no share in the determination of the policy of the
kingdom. Leaving politics to the king and his councillors, she devoted
herself to the petty affairs of her court, regulated its accounts,
decided its points of etiquette, kept its atmosphere pure and healthy,
just as any little Breton housewife would have governed and made
comfortable the home of her husband. Whether she loved Charles or not,
she always treated him with respect.

The seven years of their married life were passed without a sign from
her that the union had proved anything but the happiest in the world. On
April 7, 1498, Charles, walking hurriedly through a dark corridor of the
Château d'Amboise, where his father had kept him in confinement little
different from imprisonment, struck his head against a scaffolding
carelessly left in place by the workmen who were repairing the chateau,
and died a few hours later. Anne made becoming show of grief, refused to
be consoled, would not, it is said, touch food for three days, and
insisted on wearing black in token of her grief, though as queen she was
entitled to wear white. Grief, she said, had unfitted her for the life
at court; she must return to her native Brittany and seek in the
administration of its affairs to banish the memory of the lost husband.

The wisdom of Anne de Beaujeu had united Brittany to France; it now
seemed as if the good results of her diplomacy were to be lost. There
had been a stipulation, it is true, in the contract of marriage between
Anne de Bretagne and Charles, that, in case of the death of the king,
his widow could marry none but the successor or the heir presumptive to
the crown of France; but this stipulation now seemed about to prove
unavailing. For the heir presumptive at the time of Anne's widowhood was
the little Count Francois d'Angoulème, a boy not yet out of the nursery,
while the successor of Charles VIII. was already married to Jeanne,
sister of the late king. It was a dilemma as serious as that solved by
Anne de Beaujeu seven years before. But, as has been shown in this case,
"be there a will, and wisdom finds a way," or if not wisdom, the
hocus-pocus of diplomacy. In the present case it was soon apparent that,
on both sides, there was a will; and though the way lay directly over
the bleeding heart of a good woman, that way was found and followed by
Louis XII.

Before the death of Charles, no one had suspected that Louis cherished
any sentiments but those of loyal respect for Anne de Bretagne. When he
saw her go away, taking with her the dowry that had cost so dear, the
court discovered that the new king was hopelessly enamored of the
mourning Breton widow. Anne was, it is true, personally attractive, and
Louis was known to be not only susceptible to feminine charms but
deplorably unhappy with his own wife; nevertheless, one cannot accord
unquestioning faith to the genuineness of an affection that was so
obviously politic, whether genuine or counterfeit. Anne, too, despite
her widow's weeds and her tears, could not help showing that she left
the court with regret. In justice to her, it cannot be said that she had
betrayed her willingness to return Louis's sentiments; yet he must have
felt reasonably sure of his standing in her heart before he undertook to
make room for her by his side.

Almost the first scene of our history has to do with just such an
instance of shameless quibbling about sacred things as that we must now
record. Louis's wife, Jeanne de France, was a good, gentle, loving
woman, who had clung with despairing affection to a husband who despised
her, who was unfaithful to her, who was now to humiliate her. The poor
creature was unfortunately ugly, and deformed, and twenty-two years of
unfailing devotion it was in great part owing to her incessant appeals
that the young Charles VIII. had liberated Louis from Bourges--had not
reconciled the ungrateful husband to the marriage. He now bethought
himself that this marriage had been contracted when he was but a youth,
under threat of death from Louis XI, that Jeanne had borne him no
children, and that they were related within the degrees prohibited by
the Church. He appealed to the head of the Church, the notorious
Alexander VI., to annul an incestuous union that was a burden to his
conscience. Needless to say that, in the corrupt papal court of that
period, the appeal was supported by arguments more weighty than
honorable. Needless to say that, in spite of the heartbroken protests of
Jeanne, Alexander, and his son Cæsar Borgia, having received their
price, granted a decree annulling the marriage.

Having disposed of his wife, Louis sought the disconsolate widow in
Brittany. Anne made some show of reluctance, of inconsolable grief, and
of scruples moral and sentimental. As a matter of fact, however, she had
consented to marry Louis before the divorce from Jeanne had been
secured, and within four months from the death of Charles. The decree of
divorce, brought by magnificent Cæsar Borgia himself, was published in
December, 1498, and the marriage of Anne and Louis XII. was celebrated
at Nantes in January, 1499.

Anne had profited by her sojourn at the French court; the new contract
of marriage was far from being as favorable to France as that imposed by
Anne de Beaujeu. It was now stipulated that she should retain in her own
hands the administration of Brittany, and that the administrative
offices and the ecclesiastical benefices should be filled by natives of
Brittany only and with the consent of the duchess; that the ancient
rights and privileges so dear to the Bretons should be respected; and
that the province should descend to the second child of the marriage, or
to the second child of her child, if there should be but one born to her
and Louis, or to her own heirs next of kin, in case the marriage should
prove childless. But little hope was left in this contract that the
dearest wish of Anne de Beaujeu should be gratified, and that Brittany
should remain French.

A complete change of character and of policy in a woman of twenty-three
is very remarkable; and we are therefore surprised to find that the Anne
who returned to Paris as the queen of Louis XII. was a very different
person from the meek lady who had submitted to the ignorant and
light-headed Charles. Not only did she insist upon and exercise her
authority in Brittany, but she made the weight of her will felt in the
affairs of the whole kingdom, pursued with ungenerous vindictiveness
those who thwarted or opposed her, was jealous of her husband, of Madame
de Bourbon, and of Louise de Savoie, mother of the young prince who one
day was to be King Francois I. For her second husband, a man infinitely
more worthy of respect than Charles, she appeared to have little
tenderness. He was always considerate and good humored, admiring her and
loving her even when she was domineering and almost insolent in her
attitude toward him and toward his favorites. Her prudence and her
regard for the decencies of life, too apt to be forgotten in the
dissolute life now fostered by increased luxury and culture, were the
only traits of Queen Anne that could be considered admirable. Her
patronage of art, and of letters to a certain extent, her liberality to
her favorite Bretons, had endeared her to a small circle; but neither
France, which she hated, nor the best counsellors of the king, whom she
thwarted and discomfited by her absolute ascendency over the king, had
any cause to regret the early death of the queen, in 1514. It was
fitting that, according to her wish, her heart should be buried in
Brittany, while the body rested in Saint-Denis; for that heart had been
unwaveringly Breton. To Louis she was _ma Bretonne_; and Breton she was
in the most marked traits of her character; a woman of more than usual
intellect and ability, with appreciation for art and literature, with a
high sense of domestic virtue, and yet always hard, cold, shrewd, and

The contrast between the two Annes who fill so large a place in the
closing years of the fifteenth century is as complete as it is striking.
Both were so placed by the accident of birth and fortune as to have much
power, for good or for ill, in the destiny of France. But while Anne de
Bretagne showed herself merely a woman, ruled by personal motives,
jealous of power in small things and blind to or unconscious of the
far-reaching results that might spring from the exercise of that power,
Anne de Beaujeu had the broad mind, the far-seeing and calculating
intellect of the statesman. Her intellect, indeed, was essentially
masculine: "Madame de Beaujeu," says a contemporary historian, "would
have been worthy to wear the crown, by her prudence and by her courage,
if nature had not excluded her from the sex in whom the right to rule
was vested." Anne de Bretagne was self-willed and obstinate, seeking the
gratification of mere caprice; Anne de Beaujeu was inflexible and
tenacious of purpose, but that purpose had in view the consolidation of
an empire, not the gratification of some whim or of some petty spite.
One is tempted to compare the daughter of Louis XI. with that other
great woman whose firm hand guided France through a perilous crisis in
the second quarter of the thirteenth century. Blanche de Castille, too,
had to rule and consolidate a kingdom menaced by feudal anarchy during
the minority of the sovereign. But she had constitutional right to
support her regency; Anne de Beaujeu had no such right, and the
difficulties with which she had to contend, though sooner ended, were
more serious in themselves, perhaps, than those domestic intrigues and
rebellions which Blanche could face without having to guard her
frontiers from powerful and hostile neighbors. By her political
achievements Madame la Grande merits comparison with the mother of Saint
Louis. And yet it is in the very success of her tortuous, unscrupulous,
dishonest policy that we find witness against the character of Anne.
Political trickery, political duplicity, however beneficent in its
results, leaves us with a strong aversion to the trickster; even as we
have an unconquerable distrust of and contempt for the spy, howbeit he
has risked life and honor for love of country, even so we grudge our
praise to those who, like Louis XI and his daughter, seek and attain
great ends by despicable means, sacrificing truth, honor, sentiment, to
win for the nation the provinces of a Marie de Bourgogne, who does not
know how to govern them, or the bride of a Maximilian, who does not know
how to keep hold of her.

Great has been the change in France since Constance came from fair
Provence to scandalize the monkish Robert's court; since Eleanor
d'Aquitaine and her romantic troubadour friends taught France how to
love gracefully and sing of love sweetly; since Mahaut d'Artois was a
_paire de France_, with feudal power in her domain not to be questioned
even by the sovereign; since Jeanne de Montfort, at the head of her
knights, charged the mailed hosts. Provence has ceased either to
scandalize or to enliven and instruct, for there is no more Provence
save in name; no more gay and immoral troubadours; peers of France, you
too are gone with "the snows of yesteryear," for when Charles VIII. was
crowned at Rheims, the only lay peer, Philippe de Flandre, was not
represented, the ancient domains of the other five having been annexed
to the crown; and "the knights are dust." The little duchy of France,
hedged about by vassals subject only in name, has grown into a great and
almost unified kingdom, where provincial boundaries will soon be but
imaginary lines on the map, a kingdom so rich and powerful, thanks to
Louis XI. and Anne de Beaujeu, that it can afford to let a childish
Charles VIII. dissipate its forces and its treasure in Italian wars,
bringing back nothing more precious than the memory of the culture, the
art, the restless new learning that make Florence, Venice, Milan
glorious in this day of Renaissance. And France will cherish these
memories of Italy, will kindle with enthusiasm for all these new
_cinque-cento_ marvels, will emulate and eclipse Italy. The monarchy is
now the central power, the unquestioned power, in France, for which
blessed consummation France must thank some of the women whose stories
we have told no less than her kings. For without Blanche de Castille, no
Saint Louis; without Jeanne d'Arc, no Charles VII.; without Madame de
Beaujeu, no Charles VIII. Soon the state will be the king, long before
boastful Louis XIV. thunders forth, _L'état, c'est moi_ Already the eyes
of all France are drawn to the court. There power resides, there
literature and the arts will flourish, no longer leading a troubled and
precarious existence. At the most brilliant court in Christendom a
Francis I. no longer will indite Latin hymns, like the good Robert, but
a cynical _souvent une femme varie_, while his sister, _La marguerite
des marguerites de Navarre_, will rival Boccaccio with her fashionable
tales of gallant and amorous gentlemen and ladies.

The age of blood and iron passes away, and with it must pass away the
type of woman we have seen in the pages of this book. In our haste we
might say that the passing age had not been one favorable to the
development of feminine character, and that the new age will give the
world women not only more cultivated and morally better, but also
greater and of more potent influence upon the life of the world; and yet
we must not forget that the very conditions of the Middle Ages most
oppressive to women in general did of necessity bring to the fore women
of strong character. A feudal chatelaine, if she were a Mahaut d'Artois,
could rule, could make her mark in history; a queen of France, in an age
when physical strength seemed essential in warfare, could subdue her
enemies and make herself a great queen, if she were a Blanche de
Castille. Under the new order, however, woman's activities and talents
will be directed into channels more appropriate to her sex; in
literature, in art, in social life, in diplomacy, woman will now play
her part, more quietly, perhaps, but not with less far-reaching
influence on the history of France than if she actually controlled the
armies of France. The really great women from this time forth will be
found not on the throne but in the salon. In writing of Catherine de'
Medici we should have to tell a great deal of the history of France, in
writing of Anne d'Autriche, less; in writing of Madame de Maintenon,
still less; but the life of such a woman as Blanche de Castille is the
history of France, and in the life of such a woman as Jeanne d'Arc is
the very spirit and soul of the nation.





List of Illustrations

Odette de Champdivers and Charles, by Albrecht de Vriendt.
Le droit du seigneur, by Lucien Mélingue.
Domestic interior in France, twelfth century, by S. Baron.
Ladies hunting, by Henri Génois.
Blanche of Castille, mother of Saint Louis, by Moreau de Tours.
Jeanne d'Arc, by Jean J. Scherrer.

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