« AnteriorContinuar »
of sailing, and only waited for the duke of Berri, as first prince of the blood royal, to assume the command: he, however, did not think fit to join in due time, fearful lest Charles VI. should reap the honour of the enterprise ; and thus, the enormous preparations were rendered abortive.
To describe these princes, is to convey a faint idea of the sufferings which France experienced during the first eight years of the reign of Charles VI., which comprised the period of their administration: nor does it less tend to delineate what the country must have suffered even to the period of their deaths; when the king's extraordinary delirium left them at liberty to re-assume the sovereign authority, or to struggle and intrigue in order to acquire it. Notwithstanding this, it will scarcely be credited that France would have fared much better had Philip and John lived as well as the monarch; even supposing the latter had uniformly continued insane, and under their direction.
In the first place, the administration exercised immediately under the direction of Charles, during the four years that he estranged himself from them,
August, 1386, nine hundred transports were assembled at the port of Ecluse; Smollett computes them at twelve hundred. The duke of Berri did not arrive until the middle of the equinox; so that the tempestuous weather, conjoined with the English forces, destroyed the major part of this numerous fleet.
merely tended to place public affairs in the hands of new depredators ; since his ministers and courtiers proved more bold than the two princes who had preceded them; for it was their policy to enrich themselves as fast as possible, whereas the former were satisfied with the more ordinary course of ministerial rapacity. Charles, on the other hand, fiery and impetuous, without either character or application, full of phantasies and caprices, gave himself up entirely to their counsels, merely requiring that they would ease him of the burdens of state affairs, furnish food for his wavering mind, pamper his prodigality, (for he was not less extravagant than the dukes of Berri and of Burgundy,) gratify his love of pleasure, and constantly amuse him with chimerical projects. One of these courtiers, Oliver de Clisson, the successor of Duguesclin, in some respects praiseworthy, although, on account of his cruelty, surnamed the Butcher, carried this abuse of his credit to such a pitch, that he took upon himself to declare war against the duke of Brittany, under the mere suggestion that that prince had accorded an asylum, not to an enemy of the king, but one of his own opponents. *
* This was Pierre de Craon, who had endeavoured to procure the assassination of the constable; the duke, however, solemnly protested his ignorance respecting the retreat of Craon. See Laboureur's History, page 216; Choisy, page 162; Villaret, xii. 110, &c.
The dukes of Berri and of Burgundy, irritated at finding that the spoil of France, which they had been accustomed to regard as their own patrimony, had been consigned by the monarch to other hands, waited with impatience for the moment when they might vent their rage and avenge themselves.
Too soon did the evil genius of France present the favourable opportunity, -if, indeed, they themselves were not accessory to this event. The appearance of the pretended spectre * which first
* About the begioning of August, 1392, it was apparent that Charles, in his words and actions, became somewhat changed, at which period he expressed a desire of riding out armed in the open country; and in consequence he mounted on horseback, when, after proceeding some distance, there came to meet him an ill-looking man, in wretched attire, poor, and of miserable appearance, (some authors state he wore the garb of an hermit,) who, seizing the bridle of his palfrey, thus addressed the monarch: “King, where goest thou? proceed no farther, thou art betrayed, and it is intended to deliver thee into the hands of thine adversaries." Upon this Charles VI. immediately became frantic, running distractedly in all directions, and striking whomsoever he met; whereby four men were killed. Every effort was diligently pursued in order to secure the king, who was conducted to his chamber, and placed upon a bed, where he continued, neither moving hands nor feet, being apparently dead; and, upon the arrival of the physicians, they adjudged him to be gone past all hopes of recovery; every one wept and lamented; and in this state he was exposed to the view of those who wished to behold bim. This singular occurrence took place in the forest of Mans, which Charles was traversing, in order to go to the attack of the occasioned the mental derangement of Charles-that apparition which is said to have presented itself just as the expedition against Brittany was completed, a measure those princes had uniformly opposed, because the duke was their ally; the particular care they took in making no inquiry into this singular affair; the eagerness displayed in abandoning the expedition on resuming their authority; the immediate and active proceedings instituted against the ministers who might have unveiled the machinations connected with this apparition; every thing leads to a conjecture of their having been the primary agents in this mysterious occurrence.*
In whatsoever light, however, the event may be regarded, from the character of these princes, no one
duke of Brittany. Charles, however, recovered, and lived for twenty-two years afterwards, being frequently subject to these strange attacks; and died at the Hotel of Saint Pol, in the fiftythird year of his age.-See the History of Laboureur, p. 219; Choisy, p. 163; Villaret, xii. 117.
• Independent of this supposed spectre, history details the account of a grand ball, at which the fire caught the habiliments of the king, who wore the disguise of a satyr; which circumstance again turned his brain, the event having occurred at the end of the January following.–Laboureur, page 235; Juvenal, page 115. Some writers, however, conjecture that these accidents only tended to increase a disease which had its origin in the debaucheries that took place during the youth of this unfortunate prince.---Laboureur, page 326; Choisy, pages 165, 185.
will imagine that France acquired much additional prosperity ; because, having to make good the time lost during the reign of ministers and courtiers, it is but natural to suppose they adopted with redoubled ardour the means most expedient to facilitate their depredations, and augment their power. This line of conduct they uniformly pursued for the period of six years, during which they disposed of the kingdom just as suited their own convenience. Yet, however incredible it may seem, so wretched a state of affairs was nevertheless to give place to a still more deplorable order of things.
During this interval, Louis, duke of Orleans, the king's brother, and the queen, acquired the age of maturity. Louis possessed a very engaging exterior; he was affable, endearing, eloquent; and by obliging and generous manners, usurped an ascendency over the mind, and riveted the affections, before his real character could be ascertained : his conduct, however, soon unmasked the hidden duplicity of his soul and the depravity of his heart. He was ostentatious from taste, addicted to uncontrolled dissipation, not less audacious in rapine than his uncles; totally divested of the military talents of the one, and the faculties as an administrator possessed by the other; in short, he carried to an excess the vice of concupiscence, which was not imputed to either of them. Sacrificing every thing to his pre