« AnteriorContinuar »
French king were not less powerful. Charles had no army, properly speaking, but merely some straggling bands and militia forces that were with difficulty collected together, and never amounted to any great effective body, being also without order, and void of discipline; added to this, upon receiving the least check, and above all, when pay and pillage were wanting, they returned without opposition to their respective homes; so that it was scarcely possible to enter upon a campaign, until the Scotch had supplied their auxiliary troops.*
• James J., king of Scotland, was captured on board a vessel, in 1407, and detained against the law of nations, (for a truce then existed,) being conveyed to England, and there kept a prisoner until the year 1423 ; but the regency of his kingdom was not less zealous in espousing the cause of France. It was certainly the interest of Scotland to prevent France from becoming subject to England; besides, Charles loaded the Scotchmen with honours and benefits. These assertions are fully confirmed by referring to the treasury of Charters, (Melanges, vol. ix. Art. Scotland,) where are found : · 1st. Two confirmations of ancient treaties between Scotland and ce, dated from Perth and Stirling, the 6th January, 1407, and the 6th October, 1428 (ibid. Nos. 19 and 20, page 392). — 2d. Two procurations for their renewal, dated from St. Jean, the 12th July, 1428 (ibid. Nos. 22 and 23).
--3d. A treaty concluded at Chinon, the 10th November, 1428, whereby Charles VII., in the event of his recovering his kingdom, through the means of James I., solemnly bound himself to give that prince the duchy of Berri and the county of Evreaux (ibid.
The English, on the contrary, possessed a numerous and well disciplined army; desertion was of little detriment to their cause, since the sea served as a barrier to prevent deserters from regaining their country. If Charles had to boast some captains of tried valour and experience, the English were by no means deficient in that respect; and what tended still more to give advantage to the latter, were those distinguished and able generals intrusted with the command of the army, the duke of Bedford, the earls of Salisbury, Suffolk, Somerset, Warwick, Arundel, and the lord Talbot; while Charles had only Santrailles, La Hire, and the bastard Dunois, to oppose them.
It will be obvious from the statement made of the situation of France, and particularly of the southern provinces, that what is esteemed the very nerve of governments, did not exist to establish the equilibrium in favour of Charles VII. Some imposts badly collected, a portion of which was retained by those exacting payment; together with the precarious benefit derived from raising and depreciating the value of money, were the only
No. 27, page 393). Finally, Dutillet, in his Rec. des Traités, pages 358, 359, 361, and 362, inserts a number of treaties, acts, gifts, &c. that passed between the same monarchs from 1422 until 1428.
sources for enriching the treasury.*. It was certainly difficult for the allies to derive more benefit from the north of that kingdom, equally drained and plundered; but Great Britain and the Low Countries, sheltered from the scourge of war, and the two states of Burgundy, the frontiers of which had scarcely been approached, afforded sources of abundant succours in every point of view.
The necessaries thus furnished to the enemies of Charles, as well as their forces and their finances, were managed by very skilful hands. The duke of Burgundy was accounted one of the most able, and the duke of Bedford one of the greatest generals of his time. Nor was the latter less conspicuous as an active, enterprising, and indefatigable statesman: he was never absent, whether in the council or the field; upon all occasions where the presence of the chief was requisite, Bedford never failed to show himself.
From this cursory view of the situation of affairs,
* Many very striking instances are extant of the distress to which Charles VII. was reduced. The chaplain who assisted at the baptism of Louis XI., in July, 1423, was obliged to procure the silver vases employed upon that occasion; forty liores, however, which had been borrowed upon these articles, were not paid until the end of the year.-See Villaret, xiv. p. 285. In 1429, when it was found necessary to victual the city of Orleans, the treasurer of the queen had only four crowns left in the money chest. See Laverdy, page 314.
it is apparent how powerful were the enemies of the French king; and yet we have not mentioned his most dangerous opponent, which was no other than himself. At the very dawn of adolescence, Charles had manifested symptoms of personal energy, and displayed some interest in regard to his own affairs; he also assisted frequently at political conferences, and attended expeditions in person ;* but having attained the age of twenty, and being invested with the regal dignity, he became estranged, as it were, to every thing but his pleasures, his mistresses, and his favourites. While his warriors were prodigal of their blood and their fortunes, in order to maintain him on his throne, he was only occupied with banquetings, masquerades, and balls. He abandoned the revenues of his provinces to the plunder of his ministers and confidential favourites, permitting them to impoverish and persecute his most loyal subjects, to make use of the forces he possessed against his own generals,
In 1418, at the sieges of Tours and the town of Azay, near that city; in 1419 and 1420, (see Chronicle of France, pages 324 and 325,) at those of Nismes and St. Esprit ; and in 1421, at the attacks of Beziers and of Sommière, near Nismes; as well as at the siege of Chartres, and some other places in Perche and its environs; and also at the investment of Cosne, in 1422. From the latter period, however, until the expedition for the purpose of the coronation, in 1429, it does not appear that Charles ever showed himself to his army.
and even sometimes approving of their crimes. He almost uniformly selected his friends from among those who were conspicuous for their vices* and paucity of talent; and he was so deficient in that species of firmness which should be the most prominent virtue in a king, particularly when troubles oppress the state, that he permitted the murder of his own friends, within the confines of his palace, and even in his presence, without undertaking either to defend or to avenge them.
Such, however, is a correct portrait of the monarch to whom historians have given the surname of The Victorious. If he proved triumphant, it was owing to the devotion of his warriors and his subjects, as well as to propitious and unexpected occurrences, but never to his own labours or individual exploits; in fact, he recovered his kingdom in opposition to himself, and in despite of his own insensate mode of proceeding.
During ten years, Charles VII. had for superintendent of the province of Languedoc, from whence he derived the greater part of his resources, one Guillaume de Champeaux, bishop of Laon, whom he was obliged to displace on the 31st December, 1441. This ecclesiastic appropriated for his own benefit from six to seden hundred thousand crowns, a most enormous sum for that period; and not contented with these pilferings, he committed various other crimes, even conspiring against the king; and notwithstanding the royal commands several times reiterated, he nevertheless retained his functions for a considerable period. - See Lettres de Destitution, in Vaissette, vol. iv. page 461.