Imágenes de páginas

suffer your daughters to wear tails, do you believe then that people go into paradise with such dresses ?»*

The general character of the costume became more refined in the reign of Louis XII., who ascended the throne of France in 1498. Our cut represents this monarch with leis first queen, Anne of Britany, and their daughter the Princess Claude. It is given

[graphic][merged small]

by Willemin, from a large illuminated manuscript of a translation into French of Petrarch's Latin treatise De remediis utriusque fortunæ, executed in Rouen in 1503, and now preserved in the Imperial Library at Paris. It will be seen at a glance that we have

* Et vous, mesdames les fardées, qui portez la queue troussée, et vous, messieurs qui souffrez que vos filles portent des queues, croyez-vous donc qu'on entre en Paradis avec une pareille toilette.

here in both figures costumes entirely different from those which we þave contemplated during the feudal period. The king wears a gown of yellow damask, his sleeves are black, lined with dark fur, and he has violet stockings. His hat is black, Anne is dressed in the costume which she herself introduced into the court of France. She wears on her head the small flat hood, à la mode de Bretagne, which was called the cape Bretonne. Her robe is black, with very spacious sleeves, lined with brown fur, of the fashion which was termed à la grand' gorre, which we may, perhaps, translate, of the first style. Her robe is hollowed square on the breast, and ungirt, or merely furnished with a loose girdle resting on the hips. The whole of the costume represents strictly the beginning of the sixteenth century. Still, at this period, it appears that even a queen did not think it beneath her dignity to nurse her child. The Princess Claude was at this time about three years of age.

In our next cut, we see Anne of Britany again, attended by the ladies of her court. Jean Desmaretz was one of the literary men of the day, who is not unknown to fame. He wrote a book on the victory of Louis XII. over the Genoese in 1507, a copy of which he is here represented as presenting to the queen, Our çut is taken from an illumination in the identical manuscript of this book which the queen thus received from its author, and which is now preserved in the Imperial Library in Paris. Her cape Bretonne is here adorned with pearls, and she wears a sort of girdle which was called a Cordelière, because it resembled that of the Cordeliers, or Franciscan friars.

As I have already stated, the feudal system was broken down, and the different nationalities which composed it were separated and scattered, to follow their own fortunes, form their own national sentiments and character, and, as far as circumstances led them, assume their own costume. The struggle between the old and the new, under which feudalism expired, differed more or less in each of these nationalities, according to the characters of the peoples. In France, vanity, and the love of display were the national characters, and the aristocracy there were proud, and excessively extravagant and licentious. There was no respectable middle class between them and the populace to hold them in check, for the action of the burghers hardly extended beyond their own towns, and their strength was chiefly expended in the defence of their own walls, or of their own municipal privileges, and that strength was exhausted in the spoliations and massacres of the civil wars of the fifteenth century. Thus the only two rival powers in France were

the crown and the aristocracy, and the personal imbecility and folly of the kings during this period gave the easy mastery to the nobles. But these weakened and demoralized themselves by their own license and extravagance, and they were not united, but displayed a continual tendency to separate and act against one another. They seemed to be actuated in their relations to one another by no

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

other motive than individual selfishness. They hung to the wasted shadows of feudalism, and talked loudly of chivalry, but they only meant by it wild, exaggerated extravagance, which left them exhausted. It was a thing displayed in great feasts and tournaments, in which one of the great nobles would spend at once the

collective amount of his income for several years. To 'supply this, he was obliged to borrow and plunder, in which the king and the nobles followed exactly the same course ; thus both they and the people who depended upon them became hopelessly impoverished. Although eventually, after a long period of social debasement, the country recovered itself, a national character was left upon society in France, which endured to a very late period. In those melan . choly times, as it has been remarked, every one seemed to be trying to prove who could ruin himself first. The court which, in this respect, rivalled most closely that of France, or perhaps, exceeded it, was that of Burgundy. The prodigality of Duke Philippe was so extraordinary, that though he was by his own territory the richest prince in Europe, besides the immense sums he had realized by plundering the treasury of France, when he died in 1404, left a debt so vast that all the goods he possessed were quite insufficient to pay it. As was customary in such cases, his duchess, with the due formalities, and in the presence of a notary, placed upon the coffin of her husband her girdle with the gipcière, or purse, and the keys attached to it, a ceremony by which she was understood to surrender his goods, said to be of inestimable valae, to his creditors.

The case was otherwise in England, where the struggle with feudalism had been of a different character. Here the crown had never been overcome by feudalism, and, on the other hand, from the earliest times, the English barons had always possessed a greater amount of public spirit and of popular sympathies than was ever shown by their brethren in France. Society was different in our country, and from a rather early period there was gradually forming a middle class of landed proprietorsperhaps we may call it a lesser aristocracy—which was becoming more and more independent, and which was finally represented by the country gentleman. In that interesting monument of our old English society, the “ Paston Letters,” we contemplate the English gentleman as he existed and lived in the fifteenth century, and we are struck with the bold, straightforward honesty of his character, no less than with the intelligence, purity, and good sense of his wife and daughters. They were the women of the manor house, who were to take the place of the women of the castle. The independent power of the English gentleman, as a class, was not yet very great, for his position placed him still, more or less, a dependent on his feudal saperior. The great mass of the land in England was then possessed in very large portions by two classes of landlords,

-the old feudal barons and the monastic orders. Feudalism at this time no longer existed, except in some of its forms, but the landed property, and, of course, the influence, of most of the great nobles was immense, and when, in the vicissitudes of the civil wars, or for any act of treason or rebellion, it was confiscated, it was, in most cases, only to be regranted to another individual of the same class. But another and far greater confiscation was approaching, which I cannot but look upon as one which conferred a greater benefit on our English society than any other event we know. Henry VIII. dissolved the monasteries, and seized into the hands of the crown the whole of their possessions, the total amount of which had become enorinous. Instead of giving back these lands to the great barons from whom they had been originally taken, Henry distributed them among the middle class of landed proprietors, and thus raised them as a balance to the power of the great barons, securing at the same time the safety of the crown and the tranquility of the country, Feudalism had now entirely disappeared in England, and it had not, as in France, left a broad noxious shadow behind it. At present I leave the English woman of the manor to another chapter.

To these different processes of formation, no doubt, we owe the difference of tone and character which distinguished French from English society after the fall of feudalism. In the earlier ages of feudalism the difference was, probably, not so apparent, but the feudal barons in England never, except in particular and individual cases, ran into the same license and extravagance as in France. One of the influences of feudalism on society may, perhaps, still be traced. It has been remarked on a former occasion, that, under feudalism in its flourishing period, the outward forms of society were nearly uniform through all the countries which belonged to it. France was the acknowledged centre of feudalism, and was looked to as the model for its forms and institutions to the rest; and there can be no doubt that, at a distance from the centre-in England, for example--every form was considered more perfect the nearer it resembled the model. English men and English women of the feudal class sought the fashions of their furniture, of their dress, from France, and this feeling was continued long after feudalism had lost its power. We seek our fashions in France at the present day, and we no doubt did the same at the end of the fifteenth century. MM. Lacroix and Seré, in their great work, “Le Moyen Age et la Renaissance,” have given a plate of figures of this period, which they profess to have taken from English sources, and of which I give three in the accompanying cut. Though their costume can hardly

« AnteriorContinuar »