Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Beginning of Louis XI's Reign.

The first years of Louis XI's reign were far from prosperous, for when he tried to put down the nobles and rule supreme, they openly rebelled against him, forming what is known as the League of the Public Weal. But although thus opposed by nearly all the aristocracy, Louis intrigued cleverly against them. He bribed some of the nobles to side with him, coaxed others to be neutral, and managed to intimidate the rest. His methods, which were always sly and underhand, show that he was an adept at kingcraft, while they won for him the curious surname of "the universal spider."

Still, although Louis avoided open conflict as much as possible, he was no coward, for he boldly took the field against the foes whom he could neither bribe nor frighten. Once, quite near Paris an indecisive battle was fought, mainly against his former friends, the Burgundians. Shortly after this encounter, the king, ever ready to make concessions in words and on paper, signed a treaty with the rebellious nobles (1465), and henceforth, profiting by the experience he had gained, proceeded more cautiously but none the less surely to effect the reforms he had planned.

During most of his reign, his main foe and rival was Charles the Bold, the fourth duke of the second house of Burgundy, who, owning all Burgundy and the main part of what is now Belgium and Holland, dreamed of forming a middle kingdom extending from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, by purchasing or conquering the estates necessary to round out his own. As he was already master of the richest towns in Europe (Dijon, Liege, Ghent, Bruges, etc.), and as his wealth was greater than that of any other sovereign of his time, Charles felt confident of ultimately attaining his goal. No sooner, therefore, had his father (Philip the Good) passed away than he began to carry out these ambitious plans, by marrying a sister of the King of England so as to secure an important alliance.

Of course, so clever a monarch as Louis XI soon became aware of Charles the Bold's ambitious schemes, and naturally brought all his sagacity into play to outwit the duke, who was already far too powerful a vassal to suit him. The king foresaw that if the duke should extend his territories in an unbroken line from sea to sea, and assume the regal title, he would soon outshine and over-power even a King of France.

Louis XI's chief counselor. Cardinal La Balue, advised him to secure his ends by diplomacy, and suggested that he meet the duke at Peronne. So the King of France betook himself thither, with a small escort; but the negotiations thus begun were not concluded as speedily as Louis had hoped. Fearing lest they might not turn out in the end as he wished, Louis had meantime sent secret agents to Liege, to bribe the inhabitants of that rich merchant city to rebel against their lord, the Duke of Burgundy.

Unfortunately, the rebellion broke out before the interview at Peronne was concluded, and the duke, suddenly discovering the treacherous part Louis had played, was greatly enraged. It seemed at first as if he would either kill or imprison for life the foe who had so imprudently ventured into his clutches. Louis, however, perceiving the danger, was pliant and conciliatory, readily promised to sign a humiliating treaty, and even proposed to march northward with Charles to subdue Liege; so that a temporary peace was patched up between them.

As soon as it was concluded, king and duke marched in concert upon Liege, and took the city after eight days' siege. Imagine how indignant the inhabitants were when they discovered that the very man who had encouraged them to revolt was now fighting against them! When it was all over, and the French king was safe once more within his own boundaries, he showed how keenly he felt his humiliation, it is said, by publishing an edict that all parrots, magpies, etc., be confiscated or slain, whose vocabulary included the word "Peronne," or any allusion to the fact that on this occasion the "biter had been bitten."

Next, he assembled the States-General at Tours (1470), to make them cancel the treaty he had signed under compulsion at Peronne. Then, to avenge himself upon La Balue for the bad advice he had given, the king had him shut up in a narrow iron cage, a species of torture which La Balue himself had devised for the punishment of criminals.

It was at this juncture that Louis's brother, who had sided with the League and with the Duke of Burgundy, suddenly died, an event which was very pleasing to the king, who now cheerfully annexed this brother's province of Guienne to the crown lands. But while he was thus adding to his territories, and releasing himself from inconvenient pledges, his rival, the Duke of Burgundy, marched southward with an army, and proceeded to besiege Beauvais, to punish Louis for his treachery.

Women defending Beauvais


This town resisted heroically, and when the duke tried to storm the walls, the women, led by a heroine named Jeanne Hachette, bravely defended the ramparts, so that they succeeded in repelling the powerful foe.

Ever since this siege, women have been given the precedence in processions at Beauvais, in public recognition for their services on this occasion. Charles the Bold, thus obliged to retreat, next tried to join the Duke of Brittany, but Louis cleverly won over the latter, and made a treaty with the King of England, thereby outwitting his rival at every turn.