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

Misrule in France

During one of Charles VI's brief intervals of lucidity. Queen Isabella once gave a fancy dress ball to amuse him. The king and five companions were dressed in tights, upon which great bunches of flax had been sewed to make the wearers look like wild men or monkeys, and they came into the hall chained together, executing a fantastic dance.

Wishing to see their faces, so as to recognize the mummers, the king's brother seized a torch and approached so close that he set fire to their inflammable costumes. Thanks to the presence of mind of a court lady, who promptly wrapped her cloak around the king, his life was spared; but four of his companions died in awful torture, and the fifth escaped only by plunging into a tub of water, or fountain, nearby.

This tragic event brought back the king's illness, so for a while his wife and his uncle Philip of Burgundy managed things to suit themselves. Then the Burgundian uncle—who had so distinguished himself at Poitiers, but who seems never to have done anything very praiseworthy after that—passed away, leaving his son, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy in his stead.

The new Duke of Burgundy and the king's brother—the Duke of Orleans—now became rivals, not only for the first place at court, but also for the favor of the queen, who smiled now on one and now on the other. To please this wicked woman, both dukes spent lavishly, and, in order to do so, wrung money out of the poor people in various ways, refusing meanwhile to pay their just debts.

Queen Isabella's vanity, love of pleasure, and lack of principle, were the more shameful because she was the mother of twelve delicate children, who would have been far better off had they received motherly care and attention. We are told that one boy after another died, until the fifth became Dauphin and at length succeeded his father. One daughter, Isabella, was married at the early age of seven to Richard II of England and became his widow at twelve, only to marry a second time, at fifteen, a son of the Duke of Orleans, and die at twenty!

The quarrels between the two dukes for the queen's favor and for the control of the state led meanwhile to a dastardly crime. One night when the Duke of Orleans—with whom the Duke of Burgundy had pretended to be fully reconciled—was riding home through the unlighted streets of Paris, hired assassins suddenly pounced upon and slew one of his men (1407). The Duke of Orleans, thinking he had to deal with footpads only, called out his name, whereupon the murderers cried that he was the very man they were seeking, and speedily finished their evil work by killing him, too. A moment later, a man was seen coming out of a house near by to ascertain that the right victim had been secured. This man was the Duke of Burgundy, in person, who at first tried to deny having any share in the crime, but who finally boasted openly of having rid himself of a dangerous rival.

As the king's council did not seem inclined to view the murder leniently, the Duke of Burgundy hastily fled to his own estates. Then he sent a preacher to Paris, to demonstrate, in a series of eloquent sermons, that his master had done a most praiseworthy deed in ridding the country of the Duke of Orleans, now accused of every imaginable crime. Strange to relate, these accusations were believed by many people, but the duke's widow defended him stanchly as long as she lived, and brought up his children to consider the murdered man a martyr, and to bear constantly in mind that they were to avenge his death as soon as the right moment came.

As the children of the murdered duke were too young and inexperienced to head any party, the father-in-law of the new Duke of Orleans headed it at first, and as this nobleman was Count of Armagnac), his partisans all assumed that name. During the next fifteen years, the bitter quarrel between the Armagnacs and Burgundians occasionally smoldered, but often broke out into open, violent warfare.

First one party, then another, became master of Paris. Once the Duke of Burgundy armed the butchers, stirring them up to massacre ruthlessly all the Armagnacs they could find. Then, in their hatred for each other, both parties in turn tried to win the ear of the crazy king in his lucid intervals, or sided with their old foes, the English.

At last the Parisians, weary of this highly uncomfortable state of affairs, recalled the fourth Dauphin, who once, during the sway of the Burgundians, had been snatched from his bed and carried safely out of the city in a bale of hay by a devoted servant. But this prince had no sooner returned to the capital and patched up a peace with the Burgundians, than he learned that the English, under Henry V, were again preparing to invade poor France (1415).

An immense army was immediately collected, and sent out to meet the English, who, after besieging one of the coast cities for a month, were in a pitiable condition, most of their soldiers being ill. The French, thinking it would be easy to win a brilliant victory over these foes, rashly refused to take the usual precautions. Driven to bay, the English doggedly awaited the attack at Agincourt. Here the French cavalry, restricted in space, and unable to maneuver, owing to rain-drenched, plowed fields, was utterly defeated in the third great battle of the Hundred Years' War (1415).

Owing to a rumor that the French were attacking their rear, the English on this occasion put to death most of their prisoners, thus carrying off only a few princes and noblemen to England. But among the former was the Duke of Orleans, a talented young man, who had first married the widowed Queen Isabella of England, as already mentioned, and had then married a daughter of the powerful Count of Armagnac.