Contents 
Front Matter The Druids The Patriot of Vercingetorix King Attila The First King of France The Three Little Princes The Sluggard Kings The Death of St. Boniface Roland Winds His Horn Louis the Good-Natured The Vikings The Vikings Besiege Paris Rollo's Pride King Robert and the Pope The Truce of God Peter the Hermit The Oriflamme The Second Crusade Arthur, Prince of Normandy The Battle of Bouvines The Vow of St. Louis St. Louis Is Taken Prisoner The Sicilian Vespers The Battle of the Spurs Pope Boniface Taken Prisoner The Salic Law The Battle of Sluys The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers The Rebellion of Jacques Sir Bertrand du Guesclin The Battle of Roosebek The Mad King The Two Lily Princes The Battle of Agincourt The Baby-King of France The Siege of Orleans Joan Sees the Dauphin Joan Relieves Orleans The Dauphin Led to Rheims The Death of the Maid League of the Common Weal Louis XI and Charles the Bold Death of Charles the Bold Madame la Grande Bayard Is Taken Prisoner Bayard Holds the Bridge Alone Field of the Cloth of Gold Death of Bayard The Reformers The "Gabelle" or Salt Tax The Siege on St. Quentin Prince of Conde Prisoner The Prince of Conde Killed Admiral Coligny to Paris St. Bartholomew's Day Henry IV Escapes from Paris The King of Paris The Prince of Bearn Ravaillac Stabs the King The Italian Favourite The Siege of La Rochelle The Day of Dupes The Wars of the Fronde The Diligent King Louis XIV and the Huguenots The Bread of the Peasants The Taking of Quebec Marie Antoinette The Taking of the Bastille The Fishwives at Versailles The Flight of the Royal Family Louis XVI Is Executed Marie Antoinette Is Executed Napoleon Bonaparte The Bridge of Lodi The Battle of the Pyramids The Great St. Bernard Pass "The Sun of Austerlitz" The Berlin Decree The Retreat from Moscow Napoleon is Banished to Elba The Batttle of Waterloo The Revolution of July The Brave Archbishop The Siege of Sebastopol "The Man of Sedan"

Story of France - Mary Macgregor




The Death of Charles the Bold

As long as Charles the Bold lived he was the enemy of the French king. He soon broke the new truce he had made with Louis, and persuaded Edward IV. to come over from England to invade France.

Edward landed at Calais, expecting to be met by the duke with a large army. But no one was there to greet him, and when at length Charles arrived, it was with only a handful of men, for he had been too busy with new schemes to give much thought to his ally. Directing the English king to advance on the northern towns, which the constable St. Pol had treacherously promised to surrender, Charles set off in another direction, hoping to meet Edward beneath the walls of Paris.

But when Edward IV. reached the fortresses held by St. Pol, the constable had changed his mind, and refused to deliver them to the English king. Indeed, he received the enemy with the roar of cannon.

Edward, feeling that the Duke of Burgundy had deceived him, was ready to make terms with Louis. The French king at once offered to pay a large sum of money to Edward every year, if he would take his army back to England. Before the Duke of Burgundy had time to interfere, peace was signed between France and England for nine years.

Once again there was nothing for Charles to do but himself to make a truce with Louis. One of the conditions of the truce was that St. Pol, who had fled to the duke for safety, should be given up to Louis. This Charles was willing enough to do, for the constable had proved a traitor to Burgundy as well as to France.

Although St. Pol was one of the richest and most powerful nobles in France, he was condemned to death as a traitor, and beheaded in Paris in 1475.

'That is a mighty hard sentence,' said St. Pol when he heard his doom. 'I pray God I may see Him to-day.'

Having made a truce with Louis, Charles, still bent on conquest, marched into Switzerland with an army, and early in 1476 laid siege to a little town called Granson.

The town held out bravely, but at length, trusting to Charles's promise that he would spare the lives of the citizens, it surrendered. The duke, however, broke his word, and the brave inhabitants were all either drowned or hanged.

But the people of Switzerland were so angry at the treachery of Charles, that they rose against him, and drove him out of the country. The Burgundians, indeed, fled before the sturdy mountaineers in a panic, leaving the duke's treasures in the hands of the Swiss, who had no idea of their value.

Silver dishes the mountaineers sold for a few pence, as though they were tin; precious stones they flung carelessly aside. 'There was nothing saved for the Burgundians but the bare life.'

Charles the Bold determined to punish the Swiss, so he gathered together a new army, and marched against his enemies.

But the Swiss were now reinforced by German soldiers, and were prepared to defy the duke. A great battle was fought at Morat in June 1476, and once again the Swiss were victorious.

Beaten and disgraced, Charles could neither eat nor drink. Yet, with a handful of men, he marched to Nancy. He had taken the town of Nancy from Rene, Duke of Lorraine, a year before, and had dreamed that it would be his capital when the war was over.

Duke Rene, however, had collected a large army, and was prepared to fight to the death with Charles, who was now in a desperate case.

The Duke of Burgundy had among his soldiers mercenaries who deserted him before ever they began to fight, and the wiser of Charles's counsellors begged him to yield to Rene, or to withdraw from Nancy while there was yet time.

But the Duke of Burgundy would neither yield nor withdraw. In January 1477 he attacked the powerful army led by Rene. His men were utterly defeated, and Charles himself was killed, his body being found a few days after the battle frozen in a swamp and covered with wounds.

Rene ordered the body of his enemy to be carried into the town of Nancy, and he himself was present at the funeral service of the hapless duke. 'Ah,' he cried, with tears in his eyes, 'may God be pleased to receive your soul. You have caused us many woes and sorrows.'

When King Louis heard that his lifelong foe had been found dead in a frozen pond, he was so much surprised with joy that scarcely could he contain his countenance.

His first act was to seize Burgundy and Artois, which now belonged to Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold, who was twenty years of age.

To secure these and also the duke's Flemish provinces, Louis proposed that Mary should marry his son the dauphin. Mary, however, had a will of her own, and she chose to marry Maximilian, the son of the German emperor.

Louis was not the king to allow himself to be thus easily thwarted. He at once sent an army into Flanders, hoping to win Mary's provinces from their allegiance to the house of Burgundy.

The French king, however, had not only to reckon with Mary, but with her husband Maximilian. He led the Flemings against the French army and defeated it. Content with his victory, and feeling that he was not strong enough to have Louis as an enemy, Maximilian then made a treaty with France, by which Louis gained possession of half of Charles the Bold's dominions.

About five years after her marriage, Mary of Burgundy was out riding when she was killed by a fall from her horse, leaving behind her two children, Philip and Margaret.

The children were too young to have any influence, and the burghers of Flanders refused to have anything to do with Maximilian. Instead they turned to the French king, begging him to make an alliance with them ; and to make the alliance enduring, they proposed that the little Princess Margaret should marry the dauphin.

Louis was, of course, well pleased with a proposal that would join so many provinces to the French kingdom. Margaret was accordingly sent to France to be brought up as the dauphin's bride. The marriage, however, as you shall hear, never took place.

King Louis had now gained all that he had hoped for when he began to reign. Burgundy was apparently secured for France; Edward IV., whom Louis had always feared as a rival, was dead. The nobles, whose power the king had resented, had either lost their power or were dead. Louis XI. reigned supreme.

But although the king had won the things on which his heart was set, he found, as other than kings have also often found, that he was not satisfied. Every day he became a more unhappy man. There was no need for any one to envy the king, so lonely, so sad he was, in spite of his great dominions and power.

Louis was only sixty years of age, yet he was already bent and paralysed like an old man. As he grew weaker his temper became more cruel, his distrust more quick.

So suspicious was he of every one, that although he was King of France, with beautiful palaces and grounds that were all his own, he chose to shut himself up in a castle that was as gloomy as a prison. Around this castle was a broad ditch, in which by the king’s orders iron spikes were placed. These spikes alone would have made it difficult to enter the king’s abode. But the castle was still more securely guarded, for on the walls, day and night, were sentinels, who had orders to shoot anyone who ventured within the castle grounds after nightfall. Even during the day no one might enter save by a little wicket gate, and then only with the king’s leave.

In other days Louis, you remember, had been used to dress more shabbily than any of his courtiers. But now, in his gloomy castle, it seemed to give him pleasure to clothe himself in rich robes of crimson, lined with fur.

The king’s only visitors were his daughter Anne and her husband, while a few couriers and his favourites, Olivier the barber, Tristan the hangman, were always with him. Louis’s doctor, tool, lived at the castle. He was a cruel man, who, knowing the king’s fear of death, would often pretend that his master was dying. Then the poor king would give him large sums of money that he might try the harder to save him.

During these years Louis was indeed so fearful of death that the word was forbidden to be uttered in his presence. When his end grew near his servants were to say to the king, 'Speak little, confess,’ and he would understand that death stood at the door.

But before death really came, Louis flung aside his fears and died, as a king, unafraid. In the quiet castle he had had time to think of all that people had suffered at his hands. 'They are in great desolation,’ he said to those who were with him. 'If God had been pleased to grant me life, I should have made it all right; it was my thought and my desire.’

But those kind thoughts came too late to be of any use to the people of France.

As he lay dying Louis asked for his son Charles, whom he had not seen for years, and whom he had left uneducated and neglected. As the prince stood by his bed, Louis gave him good advice, which alas, was of little use, for the dauphin had not been trained to understand or follow his father’s wishes.

On the last day of August 1483 Louis XI. died. His death, it is sad to tell, was a great cause of joy throughout the kingdom, and had been impatiently waited for as a deliverance and as the ending of so many woes and fears.

All over the country, indeed, from the nobles in their castles to the peasants in their huts, a great sense of freedom and hope awoke, for Louis XI was dead.