DECLINE OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY

CHAPTER XIII.

FRANCE: ARMAGNACS AND BURGUNDIANS

(1380-1422)

 

The last twenty years of the fourteenth century and the opening years of the fifteenth provided for France, if not a rest, at least a respite between the two great crises of the Hundred Years’ War. But if this period was one of inaction as far as the English war was concerned, it was full of incident for France: popular disturbances, political strife and adventure, the dissipation and luxury of the court life and the king losing his reason therein, the strife of the princes resulting in the gradual disruption of the kingdom. And finally, from 1415 onwards, civil war brought back foreign war again, and with it the direst disasters. Such was, from its opening to its close, the long reign of Charles VI.

Charles was a boy of twelve, of amiable disposition and gracious bearing, but unstable and weak-willed; and anyhow, by reason of his age alone, incapable of governing by himself. Around him there was no lack of princes ready to monopolise power: his four uncles—the Dukes of Anjou, Berry, Burgundy, his father’s brothers, and the Duke of Bourbon, his mother’s brother. Charles V with his usual foresight had ingeniously provided for the division between them of the government and the guardianship in case of regency, but his dispositions were not respected. There arose at once in the minds of the princes the desire, almost openly avowed, to do away with everything that might recall or continue the previous regime. The Provost of Paris, Hugues Aubriot, was sacrificed to the hatred of the University and was thrown into prison; the chancellor, Pierre d’Orgemont, had to go into retirement. It was at once decided that Charles VI should reign without a regency, and should be crowned as soon as possible. It was only until the day of his coronation that the Duke of Anjou held the title of regent, but this sufficed for him to appropriate a large part of the treasure left by Charles V. The coronation took place at Rheims on 4 November 1380, and at it were revealed in full the jealousies of the princes. On returning to Paris, the administration of Languedoc was entrusted to the Duke of Berry; thus South France was handed over to a pleasure-loving spendthrift. Olivier de Clisson, a great Breton noble, was made Constable. As Charles VI was in fact incapable of directing the affairs of the kingdom, the chief power was put into the hands of a Council of Twelve, presided over by the Duke of Anjou; but in less than a year he had gone off to seek adventure in Italy, and it was the Duke of Burgundy whose influence dominated in the Council.

This government of the princes had a critical situation to face. The people were everywhere in a state of unrest; they refused to bear any longer the burden of the taxes laid upon them to support the war and the pomp of king and princes. Formerly the taxes had been temporary; now they had been continuously imposed for more than ten years. Since 1378 disturbances had begun in Languedoc, where the Duke of Anjou, as royal governor, had shown himself both harsh and rapacious. The distress was so great that Charles V, not satisfied merely with multiplying ex­emptions and remissions, had for the time at any rate abolished the hearth-tax. This act of mercy was to create nothing but difficulties; for what the people wanted was, not merely the abolition of the hearth-tax, but of all the taxes. In October and November 1380 there were outbreaks of violence at Compiègne, Saint-Quentin, and Paris. The States General had been summoned to provide a substitute for the hearth-tax, and assembled on 14 November. Alarmed by fresh popular demonstrations at Paris, the royal Council suppressed everything—hearth-tax, aids, salt-tax. The people of Paris in their joy rushed to pillage the shops of the Jews, with shouts of “Noel, Noel!” The royal government, however, was at its wits’ end, and proceeded at once to summon numerous local and general assemblies in order to raise money; it was only able to obtain the grant of a meagre subsidy, and this was definitely allocated to the provision of the array and was administered by the States.

The agitation was not confined to France. Since 1379 it had been manifest in Flanders also, where the count was always in need of money. In consequence of a new tax, Ghent revolted; Bruges, on the other hand, remained faithful. Once more appeared the “white hood” of the days of Artevelde. Gradually the revolt spread, and became at last a kind of civil war. But it was in England that the gravest happenings took place. The Peasants’ Revolt had economic and social causes behind it, which will be described elsewhere. The immediate cause was the levy of a new poll tax; within a few days, at the beginning of June 1381, a formidable insurrection broke out, starting in Kent and Essex, and the rebels got possession of London, which was the scene of pillage and massacre.

Examples like this only added fuel to the agitation at Paris and in France generally. In February 1382, on the occasion of a repetition of the aid granted in the previous year, a rising, “La Harelle”, broke out in Rouen and lasted for three days. There were disturbances also at Amiens, Saint-Quentin, Rheims, and Laon. A new tax was also the cause of the outbreak of insurrection at Paris which started on 1 March, when the people armed themselves with the leaden mallets stored in the town-hall by Hugues Aubriot, and were known in consequence as Maillotins. Jews and tax-farmers were hunted down; houses were pillaged. The king was at Saint-Denis, and the princes attempted negotiations; but the people continued their violence and opened the prisons of the Chatelet. Meanwhile the wealthy and more moderate party among the citizens intervened, with Jean des Mares at their head, an aged and popular attorney who could recall the days of Etienne Marcel; and the University followed suit. The taxes were again abolished; but the ringleaders were arrested and for the most part put to death, amid the angry mutterings of the populace, who had expected a pardon. Executions also took place at Rouen, and the king went there in person to abolish the commune; yet another riot broke out in the town because of a tax granted by the States of Normandy. The king then returned to Paris, on 1 June 1382; he had obtained a considerable sum of money, but dared not re-impose the aids. At the same time there were similar disturbances in the South, where the arrival of the Duke of Berry provoked a riot at Beziers. A new hearth-tax caused a storm of protest, and Carcassonne, which had shut its gates against the duke, had its territory ravaged. Elsewhere the poor in the towns and in the open country united in bands and devastated the countryside; these “Tuchins,” as they were called, had systematically to be hunted down.

The solution of this state of disorder was to be found in Flanders. Ghent maintained an obstinate resistance to the count, who had his headquarters at Bruges. The distress at Ghent was great, and the people, worked upon by skilful suggestion, turned to James van Artevelde’s son Philip, who accepted the post of captain-general. Philip was harsh and autocratic like his father. He instituted a regime of terror, putting to death all who resisted or opposed him, demanding money from the rich, keeping the town under severe and gloomy restraint; everyone had to resume work. Negotiations with the count having failed, Artevelde, faced by the alternatives of victory or death, led an expedition against Bruges. An attack by the count in the open country was repulsed, and Bruges was taken, the count making his escape with great difficulty. All Flanders joined in the revolt, which spread as far as Liege.

The Count of Flanders had a natural resource in his son-in-law and heir, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who induced Charles VI, in spite of opposition in the Council, to intervene. The proposal was a tempting one for a young man who delighted in action. Besides, the Flemings were wholly on the side of the Pope of Rome, and so, from the royal point of view, schismatics; and again, a blow aimed at them would indirectly strike all the malcontents in the kingdom. Not until 18 November 1382 was the royal army, 40,000 strong, ready to start; and already the weather conditions had become atrocious. The crossing of the Lys was effected by surprise. Artevelde entrenched himself on a small hill at Roosebeke. On 27 November the Flemings in close formation attacked “like a maddened wild boar”. But the French knights, closing in upon them on both sides, smothered and overpowered them, with no more pity “than if they had been dogs.” 25,000 Flemings perished, and Artevelde was among the dead. Bruges at once submitted to the count, the king, and the Pope of Avignon. Charles VI did not make an entry into the town, nor did he attack Ghent. The count was not anxious for the French to remain longer in Flanders, and it was the depth of winter. So the royal army returned to France.

The king came back with the prestige of victory, and his government could without fear proceed to punishment. Further, Paris had been on the point of revolt during the campaign; Charles’ return was like the entry of a conqueror. Several hundred citizens, those who had interposed as mediators as well as those who had taken part in the riots, were arrested. All intervention was fruitless: every day “they cut off heads, three or four at a time”; thus died, with a proud courage, Jean des Mares. All the aids were re-established and with no limit of time. The gates of the town were thrown down. The office of Provost of the Merchants was abolished, and its jurisdiction given to the royal provost. There was to be no more organisation by wards, no more masters elected by the mysteries, no more assemblies of crafts or confraternities; even the University had to bend the knee. At Rouen, fresh penalties were imposed. Everywhere enormous fines aggravated the loss of privileges and threw commerce into confusion. Languedoc had to pay 800,000 francs, and this completed its ruin. In England, the Peasants’ Revolt had been more quickly repressed; but it had been done by process of law and with the exercise of moderation.

Peace came about at last in Flanders, where Artevelde, like his father, had turned to England. But the moment was unfavourable, and it was not until 1383, after the Flemish defeat and Artevelde’s death, that English intervention arrived, and then in peculiar circumstances. It took the form of a crusade, led by the Bishop of Norwich, in the name and at the expense of the Roman Pope, Urban VI. The most curious fact was that this Urbanist crusade operated from Dunkirk to Ypres in a country firmly Urbanist. It came to a halt in front of Ypres, on the approach of a French army led by the king himself. Both camps were full of priests and monks. The bishop prudently beat a retreat and went back to England. The French also retired, and a truce was signed between France and England. For the attention of the Duke of Burgundy was absorbed by a matter of grave moment, since the Count of Flanders died at the beginning of 1384. Philip the Bold, who through his wife was the count’s heir, displayed himself from town to town and entered into possession of the county; he refrained, moreover, from handing over the three towns of Lille, Douai, and Orchies, whose restitution had been promised to Charles V at the time of the Burgundian-Flemish match. There remained Ghent, which had received a tardy succour from the English. Thanks to this reinforcement, the Captain of Ghent, Ackerman, was able to seize Damme, the port and mart of Bruges. At this moment great preparations were being made in France for a descent upon England. They were all diverted to Damme, which the king himself came to capture. But the ravages of the French led to a general desire for peace. Ghent could no longer hold out against its new master, and Philip for his part realised that these expeditions were ruining his fair county and were likely to alienate it from him. So peace was concluded at Tournai at the end of 1385. It was not made burdensome on anyone; everything was done to wipe out former hatreds and to further the restoration of industry and commerce. But it was too late, and indeed the government of the Dukes of Burgundy was to put an end to the municipal constitutions. Flanders never completely recovered from a generation of disturbance and political anarchy.

The “Marmousets

For nearly twenty years, from 1385 to 1404, the history of the king­dom of France loses its unity of sequence and coherence and becomes fragmentary. Until 1388 the Duke of Burgundy was the real head of the royal government, and, setting the example of selfish policy to be regularly pursued by the house of Burgundy, he primarily directed it to serve his own interests. But in 1388 Charles VI, at a solemn council at Rheims after his return from an expedition to Germany, influenced undoubtedly by his young brother Louis, Duke of Touraine, after expressing his thanks to his uncles announced his intention of governing henceforward by him­self. Actually it was the old counsellors of Charles V—Bureau de la Riviere, Jean le Mercier, Jean de Montagu (the “Marmousets”, as they were called)—backed by the Constable Clisson and above all by the king’s young brother, Louis of Touraine, who held all the power in their hands. A general reform was ordered; the Parlement, the Chambre des Comptes, the Council were all purged. Excellent ordinances, inspired by those of Charles V, effected the reorganisation of the administration. The members of the Parlement and the judicial officials were henceforward to be chosen in the Council or the Parlement itself. The office of Provost of the Merchants was detached from that of the royal provost and was put in the charge of an advocate of sound sense and upright character, Jean Jouvenel. Further, the king went himself to Languedoc to reform the abuses and extortion of the Duke of Berry’s administration; the principal financial agent of the duke, Betizac, was condemned and executed under the curious pretext of heresy.

This painstaking government of the “Marmousets” was brought to sudden disaster by a catastrophe that occurred in 1392. The king had run through a surfeit of pleasures and excesses of every kind. In the spring he was seized with “a fever and a burning sickness”. At this juncture, an old quarrel between the Duke of Brittany and the Constable Clisson flared up again; for, in spite of the concord established between them from time to time, there had been no change of heart. In June, Duke John IV tried to get Clisson assassinated by a knight of high birth but blemished reputation, Pierre de Craon. Though Clisson was only slightly wounded, the king, who was devoted to his Constable, swore to avenge him. The Duke of Brittany refused to surrender the assassin, and an expedition, led by the king himself, set out in August. On a boiling day, the king was riding through the forest of Le Mans, oppressed with the weight of his velvet doublet; suddenly a man threw himself at his horse’s head, striving to turn him back. This shock was followed by another when, a few minutes later, a lance accidentally fell and clashed upon a steel helmet close to the king. Charles went at once into a fit of raging madness; only with difficulty could he be controlled. Everything was done to cure him, but in fact his case was incurable; doctors, devotions, pilgrimages, sorceries were of no avail. The madness was intermittent; but the lucid intervals each year became shorter and shorter.

The madness of the king brought about great changes in the govern­ment. At Le Mans, the evening after the king’s collapse, the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy dismissed all the royal counsellors. Public opinion, scandalised by the riches lavished on these men by the two kings, was definitely hostile to them, and was further alienated by their aloofness and pride. Clisson fled; the Sire de la Riviere and Jean le Mercier were thrown into prison. In time, however, they were all released and pardoned. But most of them retired into obscurity; only Clisson recovered his place at court. The government was again in the hands of the princes; and Philip the Bold, in accord with Duke John of Berry, became all-powerful once more. The king’s brother Louis, recently created Duke of Orleans, laid claim to the leading place in the Council, and this gave rise to stormy scenes. At first he could not make headway against his two powerful uncles; but by degrees, as time went on, he grew bolder and assumed more importance at court, and his resources were augmented by royal grants. He gradually adopted a more aggressive policy. When the king recovered his sanity, or when the Duke of Burgundy was in his own domains, the Duke of Orleans, with the king’s partiality and affection to support him, appeared as master, and the finances and the disposal of favours were at his command. So there was constant vicissitude in the government of the kingdom.

At any rate, there was a lull in the war with England. There had, indeed, been great schemes on foot in 1386 and 1387. On the morrow of the Peasants’ Revolt, England was in a disturbed condition: the absolutist tendencies of Richard II brought him into conflict with Parliament; the war with Scotland dragged on; the Duke of Lancaster used the royal resources in vain in his endeavour to conquer Castile. The Duke of Burgundy thought it a favourable moment to attempt a descent upon England, which would at once enhance his own glory and put a stop for the future to English intervention in Flanders. Enormous preparations were made on the Flemish coast in the accumulation of ships, men, and provisions, and in the actual building of a wooden town to serve as an entrenched base. But it was all to no purpose. In 1386 the Duke of Berry delayed his arrival until it was too late; the days were already “short and dull” when he reached Sluys at last in October. In 1387 the Duke of Brittany brought everything to an end by causing Clisson to be seized and imprisoned just as the Constable was about to bring the Breton fleet to join the rest of the expedition. Some fighting went on still at sea, and spread as far as Spain, where French detachments came to the support of Don Henry against the Duke of Lancaster. But, from August 1388 onwards, the practice of long truces became the rule.

These truces developed into a kind of peace. Active negotiations began in 1391, and the question of an interview between Charles VI and Richard II was mooted. The project failed in 1392, and at the conference held at Amiens the Dukes of Lancaster and York were the English representatives. But it was resumed again in a more definite form after the king’s outbreak of insanity. Since his military schemes had failed, the Duke of Burgundy now wanted peace, which was necessary for the prosperity of his Flemish domain. And there were some altruistic minds who believed that peace would make possible the unity of Christendom against the infidel—against the Turks, in fact, who were conquering the Eastern Empire. Official pourparlers were opened in July 1395 for a definitive settlement and to arrange the marriage of Richard II with Charles Vi’s daughter Isabella, who was then a mere child. The betrothals were celebrated at Paris on 12 March 1396, and at the same time the truce was prolonged for twenty-eight years. On 27 October the two kings met between Ardres and Calais; their interview was characterised by lavish display and formal ceremony. Two months later a settlement of the question of Brittany was similarly arranged by means of a marriage of another daughter of Charles VI with the heir to the duchy; and Brest, the last English stronghold in Brittany, was restored to the King of France. It seemed that the old legacy of war had in this way been almost definitely liquidated.

The conclusion of this last peace was the occasion of an outburst of feasting and luxurious display. Before his collapse, Charles VI had been a passionate devotee of violent exercise, jousting, feats of horsemanship, dances, and all-night revels. Reckless and gay, unable to curb his desires, he set his court the example, which was eagerly followed, of frivolous and fantastic conduct. In April 1385 he went to Cambrai to attend the double wedding of the son and daughter of the Duke of Burgundy, and the festivities lasted for five days. The king and the princes lent jewels, tapestries, and plate; the dresses of the ladies were such as to bring a blush to the cheeks of ecclesiastics; Charles himself rode nine courses in the lists. There too was arranged his own marriage with Isabella of Bavaria; this was celebrated quite simply at Amiens, for the king dis­played the impatience of a spoilt child. As soon as he took over the government, there was a dizzy round of pleasure. In May 1389, on the occasion of the knighting of the sons of the Duke of Anjou, four days and four nights were spent in jousting and revelry at Saint-Denis. A few days later came the marriage of the Duke of Orleans at Melun, and in August the solemn entry of the young queen into Paris, which in costumes, spectacles, jousts, banquets, and stately ceremony outdid everything that had gone before; the rejoicings lasted for five days. During the following winter, the journey of the king to Languedoc was one continuous festival, at Lyons, Avignon, Montpellier, Toulouse; solemn entries, processions, banquets, concerts, masquerades followed one another almost every day. The return journey, from Bar-sur-Seine to Paris, took the form of a wild race all the way between the king and the Duke of Orleans. In the succeeding years there was a constant succession of jousts, tournaments, dances, and nightly festivals. Even after the king’s madness, this frenzied round of pleasure went on at court and among the princes. One episode in the early days of 1393 has remained famous. Some young lords organised a masquerade dressed as savages, in which the king was to take part. While this was in progress, the Duke of Orleans arrived, preceded by torch-bearers. He seized a torch so as to look closely at the savages; one of the costumes, which were made of tow and pitch, caught fire, and five lords were burned to death. The king was only saved by the presence of mind of the Duchess of Berry.

The Court of Charles VI

The ladies ruled the court. The queen, Isabella of Bavaria, a dark lively little woman, displayed a great zeal for pleasure and extravagance. More beautiful and more cultured was the Duchess of Orleans, Valentine Visconti, who rivalled the queen in luxury and in the pursuit of novel fashions. The headdresses were extravagantly devised, of complicated pattern and ridiculous height and size. “The ladies, young and old”, said Juvenal des Ursins, “kept great and excessive state; their horns were marvellously tall and wide”. The dresses were made of costly stuffs, streaked with varied colours, tricked out fantastically, and covered with gilt and jewelry and devices. As always where luxury and pleasure are the rule, morals were lax; moreover, the king and his brother had hardly any sense of decorum. Hence there were frequent intrigues and scandals, and disturbing crises at court. So it was that one day, in 1390, Valentine Visconti fell a victim to the jealousy of the queen and the calumnies that were disseminated against her, and was exiled to Blois. The natural brutality of the time was, withal, masked under a veneer of elegance and poetry. Princes and lords were as fond of witty phrases and sentimental subtleties as of boisterous pleasures; many of them practised impromptu versification and exchanged affected and intricate ballades. At the court itself was organised a Court of Love, where everything was debated and regulated in ballades and rondeaux. Equally did they delight in the mystery-spectacles, in minstrels’ songs, jugglers’ tricks, and tableaux vivants, which were given as interludes between the courses of a long banquet. And yet this society, enervated with pleasure and enjoyment, was very changeable and impressionable, hopelessly credulous and super­stitious, always ready to listen to impostors and magicians, incapable of generous ideas or sturdy virtues.

Pleasant as it was, this life was not by itself sufficient to satisfy the princes and nobles; nor did the war with England any longer provide them with occupation. Through ambition, through desire for adventure, and in order to please the ladies, they went off continually on distant expeditions, of war or pilgrimage. Some, like the Duke of Bourbon, went to Spain to give assistance in their wars to the Kings of Castile, the allies of France. The Scots, also allies of the French King, were waging war continually with England; and to their succour went Jean de Vienne, Jacques de Heilly, and others, at the head of small bands of French knights, who found the country most uncomfortable and whose conquering airs were little to the liking of the austere Scots. Italy was full of attraction for French adventurers, Gascon and Breton, and Popes and Italian princes had always need of their services; so to Italy went Bernardon of Sens, Olivier du Guesclin, Raymond of Turenne, John III of Armagnac, Enguerrand de Coucy. But what tempted them most, and gave them most prestige in the eyes of the fair sex, was the war against the infidel. A large number of nobles were drawn to make the journey to Prussia against the still pagan Lithuanians. To the East departed regular armies of knights: in 1390 the Duke of Bourbon led 1500 knights to Barbary (Tunisia). There was a fresh crusade in 1396 led by John, son of the Duke of Burgundy, through Hungary, which ended in disaster at Nicopolis. Shortly afterwards, Boucicault, the model of a knight-adventurer, went to the help of the Eastern Emperor, ravaged the coast of Syria, and attempted a descent upon Alexandria. Others, too, went to the aid of the relics of the Latin settlements in Achaia and Cyprus, or made as simple pilgrims the dangerous journey to the Holy Places; while Jacques de Heilly even fought on the side of the Turks against the Egyptians, and Jean de Fay won distinction in the army of Tamerlane. Lastly, two French knights achieved the conquest of the Canary Islands.

It was all to the advantage of this state of affairs that the princes who usually governed on behalf of Charles VI, especially the Dukes of Anjou and Burgundy, and later the Duke of Orleans, were able to lay hands on the finances of the kingdom and to pursue a policy in their own interests; and as they had little opportunity of increasing their territorial power within the kingdom, it was to the service of their external ambitions that they applied the resources and the prestige of royal authority. In the case of the Duke of Anjou, this was of short duration. The French Pope, Clement VII, in order to obtain an ally who could restore him to Rome by force of arms (“the way of deeds,” as they called it), promised him a kingdom to be carved out of Central Italy and further assured him of the succession to the old Queen Joanna, ruler of Naples and Provence. Urban VI, for his part, supported another competitor for the throne of Naples. After Joanna had been strangled in 1382, the Duke of Anjou came himself to conquer the kingdom of Naples, with the aid of the money he had extracted from the royal treasury of France. But he died, in September 1384, while still engaged in the work of conquest.

After the departure of the Duke of Anjou, Philip the Bold of Burgundy was in command. Full of energy and busy schemes, fond too of display, he had the air of a sovereign. When he was unsuccessful in his plans for a descent upon England, he did not persist in a policy that could yield no results. Henceforward, Germany attracted his attention, and at first he pursued a policy of marriage alliances. A neighbour in Alsace of the house of Austria, and in the Low Countries of a branch of the house of Bavaria, he married one of his daughters to Leopold of Austria, another to William of Bavaria, heir to Hainault, Holland, and Zeeland; and, further to consolidate this last very important marriage, his eldest son John, the heir to his domains, was wedded to the sister of William of Bavaria. Finally, he put the crown on his work by effecting the marriage of Charles VI to another princess of the house of Bavaria, Isabella, daughter of Stephen III the Fop. Nor was he content with peaceful measures alone. His aunt, the Duchess of Brabant, was at war with the Duke of Guelders. In spite of the accord between this prince and the King of France, Philip the Bold in 1388 drew Charles VI into an expedition against the duke, in defiance of the real interests of the kingdom. The expedition, which took place in the autumn, came to a halt at Godersheim, and they had to be satisfied with a pretended submission. It was after this expedition that the king took over the power from his uncles.

When, from 1388 to 1392, the administration was in the hands of the “Marmousets”, the general policy of the kingdom was inspired by the king’s young brother Louis, Duke of Touraine and afterwards of Orleans. Endowed with only a meagre appanage, he too had soaring ambitions, and these Philip the Bold had allowed to have free course in Italy. In 1387 the Duke of Touraine had married Valentine, daughter of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan. He thus acquired the county of Asti and an eventual claim on the duchy of Milan. But therein lay a grave danger, for Queen Isabella was the grand-daughter of Bernabò Visconti, who had been dispossessed of Milan by his nephew Gian Galeazzo; so there was a cause of permanent ill-feeling, which was soon to create hostility between the queen and the Duchess of Orleans, and to provide a centre for intrigue. In consequence of his marriage, the king’s brother worked with all his might to give an objective to the energy of Charles VI by directing it towards Italy. Florence, Gian Galeazzo, and Clement VII each in turn made most tempting propositions. Clement, in particular, offered to enfeoff Louis of Touraine with a portion of the States of the Church, to be known as the kingdom of Adria. At the same time, he gave his support to Louis II of Anjou, who, renewing his father’s attempt, sent Otto of Brunswick to occupy Naples, and himself entered the town in August 1390. Then a great scheme was set on foot: Charles VI was to come down into Italy, to make good the establishment of his brother in the kingdom of Adria and of Louis of Anjou in the kingdom of Naples, and finally to instal Clement VII at Rome. But the intrigues of the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, and pressing negotiations for peace with England, interrupted the whole design. And then came the king’s first attack of insanity.

The Duke of Orleans, however, did not abandon his efforts. Clement VII seemed to have lost faith, but Gian Galeazzo partly resumed the papal project. One circumstance was in their favour. Genoa was seeking for a protector, in order to escape from the anarchy of popular government; and some of the Genoese nobles applied to the King of France. The Duke of Orleans seized the opportunity; he sent the Sire de Coucy to introduce a garrison and to fly his banner in Savona, a neighbouring town to Genoa. But the queen, the Duke of Burgundy, and Florence, the enemy of the Visconti, united in a coalition to wreck the ambition of the Duke of Orleans; and the doge himself offered the overlordship of Genoa to the King of France. Charles, under the influence of his wife and uncle, accepted. In November 1396 a French governor came to take possession of the great city; while the Duke of Orleans had to renounce his dreams and abandon Savona. The French domination of Genoa lasted until 1409.

The Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans

Throughout all this political activity, among all these ambitions, these schemes, and these undertakings, were to be seen the first symptoms of a troublesome rivalry between the Duke of Burgundy and the Duke of Orleans. Louis of Orleans had too much ambition to be satisfied with an intermittent authority, liable to suffer eclipse in the presence of the Duke of Burgundy, and especially during the king’s frequent fits of madness. By dint of persistence and patience he had greatly increased his domains and resources; to the duchy of Orleans had been added by royal bounty, by inheritance, or by purchase Périgord, the counties of Valois, Dreux, Blois, and Angouleme, and several places elsewhere. It must be borne in mind, however, that the most important of these territories were scattered about in the heart of the kingdom; they might be useful as a rallying-point for resistance, but not as a base for operations abroad. When in charge of the government, the king’s brother employed to his own advantage a large part of the revenue derived from aids and taxes. Louis was a gracious prince, eloquent and witty; frivolous and pleasure-loving, while at the same time very devout; a lover of sports, festivals, and hunting, a connoisseur of jewelry and of sumptuous and strange attire. People criticised him for his luxury and his continual need of money; his irony intimidated them; and, finally, they watched with anxious eyes his attitude towards the situation in the Church, in Italy, and in Germany, where, in close touch with the house of Luxemburg, his policy pursued an unsteady and at times a risky course.

While Louis of Orleans at the beginning of the fifteenth century was only twenty-eight years of age, the Duke of Burgundy had almost reached his sixtieth year. To the authority of age he added that of experience, of coolness of judgment, and of semi-regal dignity. Above all, his power was to be feared: master of the two Burgundies, of the counties of Charolais and Nevers, of domains in Champagne, of Artois and the county of Bethel, and finally of Flanders, he was the greatest noble in the kingdom and a prince of the Empire. Brabant, Limburg, Hainault, and Holland were later to revert to his house. His resources were enormous, and yet for his splendour and his aims they were insufficient. He was in direct relations, dynastic, political, or economic, with England, the Bavarian houses, Lorraine, Austria, Savoy, numerous German princes, the Swiss, Florence, and other powers. He spent vast sums on pensions and gifts, on embassies and dispatch services. He could not, any more than the Duke of Orleans, dispense with the royal revenues, and he used his authority to draw huge sums from the receipt of aids. The necessity for both princes to draw from the same source was still further to heighten their rivalry.

While Philip the Bold was alive, this rivalry did not degenerate into violence or civil war. But all the circumstances of the time made it manifest and aggravated it. First of all came the question of the Great Schism. Christendom was divided between the Pope of Rome and the Pope of Avignon. Both of them, and especially the violent and obstinate Benedict XIII, the Avignon Pope, refused all means of reconciliation or of ending the schism, in spite of the passionate endeavours of the Uni­versity of Paris supported by the Duke of Burgundy. Exasperated by the resistance it encountered, the University, at a great assembly held at Paris in May 1398, achieved with some difficulty the proclamation of the withdrawal of obedience from both Popes. This, they said, was the restoration of the old liberties of the Church, which was now freed from the control and exactions of the Pope and recovered its right to dispose of benefices. The only result was profoundly to disturb religious life, the more so because even in France there had not been unanimity for withdrawal. The Duke of Orleans, in particular, was unfavourable to this radical solution of the University and the Burgundian party. He did not appear at the assembly at which it was proclaimed, and only gave his adhesion to it with reluctance. As the withdrawal, far from healing the evil, only made it worse, Benedict XIII would not give way and suffered siege at Avignon. Soon a strong opposition was revealed, against the withdrawal and in favour of Benedict. The Duke of Orleans put himself at the head of it; he made himself the champion of the persecuted Pope, helped in his rescue, visited him at Avignon, obtained the most splendid promises from him, and finally, in May 1403, effected the restoration to him of the obedience of the Church of France. Benedict XIII, however, kept none of his promises.

In England and Germany there were violent changes of government, the effect of which was felt even in France. Richard II had become quite unpopular at his court and with the people at large, and in the course of a few weeks (July-September 1399) he was dethroned by his cousin Henry of Lancaster and then mysteriously disappeared. Henry IV, in order to make good the succession, at once encouraged the anti-French sentiments which were then widespread in England. At the same time, there was a profound feeling of indignation at the French court; Louis of Orleans, who had given a warm welcome to the Duke of Lancaster during his exile in France, was now one of the most bitter against him. No open change took place in the relations between the two kingdoms so long as negotiations were in progress for the return of the little queen, Isabella of France. But after she had been handed over to the Duke of Burgundy, the situation became strained and war threatened once more. The Duke of Burgundy pursued a peaceful policy: he caused the twenty­-eight years’ truce to be renewed, cleverly got into his hands the guardian­ship of the children of the late Duke of Brittany, in order to prevent fresh English attempts in that quarter, and by special conventions safe­guarded Flanders in the event of a renewal of hostilities. But the Duke of Orleans adopted a provocative attitude: he posed as the avenger of Richard II, offered to Henry IV practically to fight a duel, and sent him a formal challenge in 1403.

Germany was no less disturbed at the beginning of the century; the house of Luxemburg, which held the imperial throne, was in a dangerous position. Wenceslas, aloof in his Bohemian forests and addicted solely to hunting and drinking, had endangered, and even himself directly dimi­nished, imperial rights in Italy and on the French frontier. He was closely associated with the Duke of Orleans, whose ambition gave rise to alarm; and he was suspected in Germany of wishing to support the French Pope. The threat of deposition did not move him. Then, in August 1400, the Diet declared him deposed, and Rupert of Bavaria, Elector Palatine, was elected King of the Romans. Wenceslas did not yield to this decision; there were accordingly two Emperors in the Empire, as there were two Popes in the Church. Both turned their eyes to France: Rupert counted on the queen and the Duke of Burgundy, Wenceslas on the Duke of Orleans. This troubled situation and the difficulties of the house of Luxemburg provided scope for the new ambitions of the king’s brother. As he had been obliged to give up Italy, he turned his energies towards Germany: he acquired at an enormous price the domains of the heiress of the Sires de Coucy; he bought the homage of the Duke of Guelders; he got Wenceslas to recognise him as governor of the duchy of Luxemburg. By virtue of La Fere, Chauny, and the county of Porcien, which he already possessed, and of his new acquisitions of Coucy and Luxemburg, his possessions were now thrust in as a wedge between the two great groups of Burgundian territories and into the Empire itself. It was said that Louis had visions of the imperial dignity. Burgundian policy sought to rouse Germany against him, and at the end of 1402 the Diet took steps to check this invasion.

To these conflicts of policy was added domestic strife. In the spring of 1401 there was a regular plot hatched at court by the queen and the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy against the Duke of Orleans. Towards the end of the year warlike preparations were being made by both sides. In April 1402, during the absence of Philip the Bold, the Duke of Orleans got himself made controller of the aids and gave orders for the raising of a heavy tax. The Duke of Burgundy returned and protested at once against this levy, declaring that he had refused 100,000 crowns offered to him as the price of his assent to it, and thus won great popularity for himself. The king, for the sake of peace, made them joint controllers of the aids, but was soon obliged owing to their maladministration to revoke the appointment. Such were the circumstances, with crisis looming on every side, when Philip the Bold, the founder of Burgundian greatness, died in April 1404. He was buried with great pomp at the Chartreuse at Dijon, where, to perpetuate his glory, Claux Sluter was already at work upon his tomb.

When John the Fearless succeeded Philip the Bold, the situation developed into tragedy. The new duke, Louis’ senior by a bare year, was small in stature, with no grace or majesty, and deficient in eloquence. He possessed both intelligence and curiosity, and could be brave when need be; but he had a restless ambition, a distrustful and cunning nature, and little continuity of purpose. In 1396, to make him known to Christendom and especially in the Empire, his father had him put at the head of a crusade against the Turks. John was not able to avoid the fearful disaster of Nicopolis, and for several months was a prisoner among the Turks.

While the new Duke of Burgundy was entering into possession of his states, the Duke of Orleans was supreme in the government. The queen had now come over to his side, Valentine Visconti still remaining in exile. The intimacy of the queen with the king’s brother, their zest for pleasure, the luxury and licence which they paraded at court, all tended to alienate opinion from them. The finances were in disorder; the coinage was de­based; and a new tallage was ordered. Then the Duke of Burgundy appeared; he had given out that the new aid would not hold good in his territories, and he arrived in arms. The queen and Orleans took to flight. John at once became master of Paris; he denounced the bad government and talked of reforms. At the end of two months, however, there was a hollow reconciliation between the two princes. Actually at this time hos­tilities had recommenced between France and England; piracy at sea had already begun, and French knights had gone to join the Welsh. The Duke of Orleans, full of self-confidence, wished to make his mark in the war, and John the Fearless would not play second fiddle. In the autumn of 1406 Louis was conducting a regular campaign in Guienne, and John threatened Calais, at a respectful distance; each accused the other of having spoiled his undertaking. Certainly the hatred between them was growing at a great rate, in spite of touching scenes of reconciliation.

In the evening of 24 November 1407, the Duke of Orleans was returning from a visit to the queen. As he was riding along on his mule in the rue Barbette humming a tune, he was attacked by a band of armed men, who disappeared leaving him dead upon the ground. He was given a solemn funeral, at which all the princes were in tears. The investigations of the provost of Paris soon arrived at the truth. John the Fearless, feeling that discovery was near, confessed to the Duke of Berry and the King of Naples (the Duke of Anjou) that “through suggestion of the devil” he had caused this deed to be done. The princes requested him not to appear again in the Council, and he took horse and galloped off to Artois. This assassination not only removed from the scene a prince who, in spite of his youthful levity and the somewhat vain character of his ambition, might with his mental qualities have rendered great services to the kingdom in times of crisis, for he was a true Frenchman; it also created mortal hatreds, and for more than thirty years it delivered up France to civil war at the very time that war with the foreigner was starting afresh.

Armagnacs and Burgundians

For three years there were remarkable fluctuations before the struggle properly broke out. Charles, the new Duke of Orleans, was only fourteen years of age. His mother, Valentine Visconti, in vain laboured for the punishment of the murder; the king and the princes were profuse in promises to her, but the Duke of Burgundy was too formidable. He reappeared in Paris at the end of February 1408, and was greeted quite courteously by the princes. Already, at Amiens, they had come to terms with him, and on 8 March he was able at a solemn sitting to have a justification of his crime pronounced by the Norman theologian, Jean Petit, who developed at length and in scholastic terms the most specious arguments for the duke and the most odious charges against his victim; no one spoke in opposition. Six months later, when John the Fearless had been recalled to the north by a revolt at Liege, Valentine Visconti reappeared at Paris, and, at an assembly no less solemn and before the same princes, an eloquent reply to Jean Petit was delivered by the Abbot of Cerisy. But, though severe measures were announced and a great deal of noise was made, nothing was done; the disconsolate widow died in disillusionment at the very time that John the Fearless, victorious at Liege, was returning to Paris, to be received as before with honour. The Orleans party twice had to agree to reconciliations of a rather humiliating nature, at Chartres in March 1409 and Bicêtre in November 1410.

From that time the kingdom seemed torn between the Burgundians and the supporters of Orleans, or Armagnacs as they were called. As his second wife the Duke of Orleans married the daughter of Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac, who brought to his son-in-law the formidable Gascon contingents; hence the name Armagnacs. The Duke of Orleans soon had on his side the princes, Berry, Bourbon, and Brittany; his chief support came from the west and centre of the kingdom, from a part of Languedoc, and from Gascony. John the Fearless was supported by his brothers, the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Nevers, by the leading nobles of Artois and Picardy, by the Flemings, and by German princes and nobles; he could count too on the people of Paris and the chief towns of the north, and on the University of Paris. In spite of these popular sympathies, it could not be said that the Burgundian party was the more democratic and the Armagnac the more aristocratic; the popular sympathies of John the Fearless were only a matter of policy. But the Armagnac party had fewer foreign elements in it and was less swayed by foreign interests. Between the contending parties the enmity was from the beginning profound. On all sides bands of armed men made their appearance. At Paris, the excommunications hurled by Urban VI against the Grand Companies were published from the pulpits against the Armagnacs. Mansions and castles were pillaged, and murders were of frequent oc­currence; “they had no more pity in killing men than if they were dogs.”1 In other towns most violent measures were adopted. Both parties had their badges, and the very statues in the churches were decorated with them. But, what was much more serious, each party called in the English to its aid: first of all John made mysterious proposals and in 1411 actually received English reinforcements in Paris; then it was the turn of the Armagnac princes, who in 1412 promised Henry IV the whole of the ancient Aquitaine and arranged a meeting with an English army at Blois.

Civil war began in earnest in 1411. In July the Duke of Orleans sent an insulting challenge to the Duke of Burgundy; the battle took place in the autumn outside Paris, and the Armagnacs were with difficulty repulsed by the Burgundians and English. In May 1412 the Duke of Burgundy took the king and the dauphin with the Oriflamme to besiege the Duke of Berry at Bourges. After a fruitless siege and an informal congress of princes at Auxerre, a peace of a kind was patched up; while the Duke of Orleans had to pay the English, though they arrived too late, a high price to depart. All these troubles had brought great disorder into the machinery of government, especially finance and justice. The princes, to satisfy their personal ambitions and quarrels, had laid hands on the resources of the kingdom and had multiplied the taxes. The leading officials, who in most cases were their retainers, had no security of tenure, and so built up as quickly as possible fortunes that were a scandal; the staff of the Chambre des Comptes and the finance ministers set the example. In the Parlement all the old traditions were forgotten, and a few families divided a large number of posts among themselves. The court was still as frivolous and extravagant as ever, and the queen had constant need of money for her luxury and her pleasures, and in order to enrich her household. The poor sick king was usually neglected, and was left in a pitiful condition by his greedy and indifferent attendants. The people became restless and agitated in this state of disorder. Especially at Paris, the populace was liable to rapid change of mood; it was at the same time both suspicious and childishly credulous. There was much murmuring, and, after 1407, the town was in a condition of unrest and disturbance. This was especially the case with the butchers of Sainte-Genevieve and the Markets, who were joined by the tripe-dealers, the skinners, and the tanners. They took command of the streets, which they were able to barricade with strong chains. Everybody went about armed. The office of Provost of the Merchants and the échevins were revived again in their old form, and the wards regained their individual organisation. Finally, the Duke of Burgundy took this discontented and turbulent element under his protection; he had a regular following of citizens, butchers, and skinners. He gave them presents and salaries, and above all left them a free hand. A powerful Burgundian coalition was soon in command of Paris.

Attention had already been called to the danger. The Augustinian Jacques Legrand, in a vehement address to the court, and Jean Gerson, in moving sermons, had in the presence of the princes denounced the disorders of the court and the distress of the realm, and had demanded a reform of government and morals. In 1409 there was an attempt in that direction; but it only resulted in the execution of one of the richest royal officials, Jean de Montagu, and the spoils fell to the princes. At the end of 1412 a more favourable opportunity presented itself. With the prospect of an English invasion, as the royal treasury was empty, it was found necessary to assemble the States General; it would have been too dangerous to impose new aids and taxes without their concurrence, as had been done for the past thirty years. The meeting was not numerously attended, but it spoke its mind clearly. A Burgundian abbot, in the name of the ecclesiastical province of Lyons, delivered a violent diatribe against the royal officials, denouncing them and de­manding their punishment. After a colourless speech on their behalf, the University and the town of Paris presented a long list of grievances, in which all the abuses were stated and the culprits mentioned by name; they demanded the reduction of the number of offices, the deposition of the existing officials and the confiscation of their property, and a general reform of the administration of the kingdom; in this way the necessary money could be found. Most of the officials of justice and finance were in fact suspended, and a great commission of reform was immediately set to work.

As the task was a long one and no result seemed forthcoming, rioting broke out in Paris. All sorts of reasons were adduced: the gifts to Lewis of Bavaria, the queen’s brother, the fetes given by the dauphin, the return of suspended officials who were feared and detested by the people of Paris. The first rioting started on 27 April 1413; its leader was the skinner Caboche, who has given his name to this period of disorder. The crowd besieged the Bastille, which capitulated the next day. Then the dauphin’s residence was invaded, and a hunt was set on foot against the nobles and officials who were the objects of popular distrust; they were caught and shut up in the Chatelet and the Louvre. The Duke of Burgundy, adopting a non­committal attitude, took no steps to prevent all this. The rioting was renewed on the following days. On 22 May it was the royal palace that was invaded; the king had recovered his sanity, and the people wished to explain to him what had happened. Then the crowd again proceeded to hunt down suspects and to get hold of them; among its hostages were fifteen ladies of the court. The tardy and embarrassed intervention of John the Fearless was quite ineffective.

It was then decided to publish the work of the commission of reform. The so-called Ordonnance Cabochienne” was read solemnly before the king in the Parlement on 26 and 27 May; the reading lasted for three lengthy sittings. It was in fact a long and detailed reform in 258 articles of the whole of the royal administration, a vast compilation from previous ordinances. But the whole was elaborately framed and provided with safeguards. The political administration was to be directed by the Council, the judicial by the Parlement, the financial by the Chambre des Comptes; in them everything was to be deliberated, decided, and controlled. And even in the local administration the most important business was to be deliberated by councils of officials and notables. All offices were to be conferred as the result of election in the Council, the Parlement, or the Chambre des Comptes; so too the local officials were to be elected by the local councils, which were to comprise the seneschals and bailiffs. The conception, re­markable at a time of rioting and civil strife, was of a monarchy tempered by royal officials and by a species of local self-government.

But the moment was not suitable for reform of this kind. On the day after the promulgation of the “Ordonnance Cabochienne”, rioting began again. The butchers had got out of control, and nothing could stop them; there were more imprisonments and executions, and scenes of brutality even in the dauphin’s mansion. The princes of the Armagnac party, gathered round the Dukes of Orleans and Berry at a distance from Paris, had collected their forces and were returning full of threats. Conferences were held at Vernon between the princes of both parties, and an agreement was arrived at: there was to be a general amnesty, the disbanding of troops, and the suppression of the revolutionary government which had dominated the court. The leading citizens of Paris, led by Jean Jouvenel, put them­selves at the head of the movement of reaction, and made themselves responsible for the enforcement of the peace which was concluded at Pontoise on 28 July. The people were weary of disturbances which had lasted for over three months; on 2 and 4 August they ranged themselves definitely on the side of the moderates, and the dauphin, escorted by the populace, went to release the prisoners. The Cabochien leaders fled in all directions. Soon, however, the movement passed from reaction to violence. The frightened Parisians seemed all to have become Armagnacs, and the party badge was openly displayed. The Duke of Orleans and the Arma­gnac princes made a solemn re-entry into Paris; the official personnel was restored; and on 8 September, at a solemn bed of justice at the Parlement, the “Ordonnance Cabochienne” was torn up. Prosecutions, imprisonments, banishments, and executions became the order of the day.

The Duke of Burgundy had been speedily left in the lurch by this swift and general reaction. Abandoning his partisans, he had first tried to carry off the king, and then had suddenly departed to Lille. In February 1414 he reappeared before Paris, accompanied by a strong escort of armed men; the town made no move, and he had to retire. The Armagnac princes caused him to be banned and declared a rebel, and a great expedition with the Oriflamme was organised against him. This meant the open renewal of civil war. But the campaign, directed against Compiegne, was of no importance; negotiations were opened, and peace was concluded at Arras in February 1415. There were a few upheavals at Paris; and then all disturbance seemed to die away.

Renewal of war with England

Just at the time that these troubles began in Paris, the King of England, Henry IV, was dying. His chief anxiety had been to make good his dynasty on the throne; he suffered besides from ill-health, and so he had shown no enthusiasm for war with France. His son Henry V, now twenty­seven years of age, was austere, self-important, and of unlimited ambition. He wished for his own advantage to bring to life again the claims of Edward III to the crown of France, to renew the victories of the previous century, and, if God would grant his aid, to revive the crusade. Circum­stances were in his favour, for no agreements could definitely extinguish the embers of civil war in France. Since the end of 1413 it was easy for Henry to obtain the alliance of the Duke of Burgundy; and this was actually done in May and again in August, by the conventions of Leicester and Ypres. Henry and John were to be associated in war against the Armagnacs; as regards the king and the dauphin, the Duke of Burgundy was to maintain neutrality, but he was to receive his share of the royal domain and, in the event of the English King achieving the conquest, to do liege homage to him. At the same time he assured Charles VI that he was under no engagement to the English. Henry was very much emboldened by this pact: in August 1414 he claimed the kingdom of France from Charles VI and demanded the hand of Catherine of France. A great French embassy, composed of 600 persons, actually came to Henry V at Winchester and solemnly offered him the king’s daughter in marriage together with a large dowry and some land in Aquitaine. But the King of England shewed himself entirely unreasonable in his demands; sharp words were exchanged which made a breach inevitable; and Henry told the ambassadors to go, and that he would soon be after them.

These negotiations were in fact a sham, for the invasion of France had been in course of preparation for several months. A fleet, an army, and full provisionment were all ready. On 13 August 1415 Henry cast anchor near the mouth of the Seine, at Cap de la Hève, and his army, his artillery, and his siege-engines were drawn up on the plateau of Sainte-Adresse. Harfleur was immediately besieged; there were no ships in the harbour and only a few hundred soldiers in the town. No help could be brought, and Harfleur had to capitulate on 22 September. The King of England made his entry with many signs of pious devotion; a careful inventory was made of the booty; and the English took in hand the permanent occupation of the town, to be a second Calais for them. Henry proclaimed that he had come “into his own land, his own country, his own kingdom”. Then as winter was approaching, he departed for Calais, crossing the Somme at Nesle; and it was only on his arrival in the plains of Picardy that he at last found himself face to face with a French army.

Henry V had appeared in France in the middle of August, but it was not until October that the French army assembled at Rouen. It was mainly composed of nobles and knights, who would not associate with townsfolk and seemed to have learnt nothing since Crécy and Poitiers. As for John the Fearless, he was treacherously negotiating with both kings. In pompous language he offered his services to the government of Charles VI; they thought that he was aiming at getting the chief power into his hands, and declined his offer. He immediately ordered the nobles on his territories in Picardy and Artois to hold aloof. In spite of this defection, an army of 50,000 faced Henry's 13,000 English on 24 October 1415 at Agincourt. The Duke of Berry in vain counselled against fighting. The French position was a bad one; it had rained all night, and the men-at-arms had remained on horseback in the ploughed fields until daybreak. In order to fight they had to dismount, and the weight of their armour was enormous. They were drawn up in three battles, huddled together in ranks thirty or forty deep in the slippery mud. The English had passed the night in silence and prayer; they formed up in a long line of little depth. The action commenced, at the late hour of eleven, with heavy and well-directed volleys from the English archers. Shaken already by these volleys, the serried mass of French knights were anxious to attack, but only the front ranks could do any fighting. The English then attacked this helpless human wedge with cold steel, “and it seemed as though they were striking blows upon an anvil.” It was merely massacre and rout, and all was over by four o’clock. The English were encumbered with prisoners, and put many of them to death. On the French side, 7000 men-at-arms were killed or mortally wounded, among them the Duke of Brabant and the Count of Nevers, who had not been willing to follow the example of their brother, the Duke of Burgundy; and the Duke of Orleans was taken prisoner. The English lost only 500 men. Henry V, who believed himself to be chosen of God, went at once to Calais, and from there to England.

The kingdom’s worst days now began. The king was in a wretched state, almost continuously insane; the queen, obese and gouty, was as frivolous as ever, and she was exiled to Tours as the result of scandalous happenings in her palace. Two dauphins died, the first in December 1415, the second in April 1417; Charles, the next in succession, was only thirteen years of age. The actual master of the king’s government was the Duke of Orleans’ father-in-law, the Constable Bernard of Armagnac, a fearless and stubborn Gascon, who surrounded himself with bands of Gascons. By them the suburbs of Paris were ravaged, and within the city there was a virtual reign of terror. All the prisons were full of suspects; in three weeks, during the summer of 1417, 800 persons were banished; and a period of famine set in. No serious military operations were attempted against the English; negotiations were undertaken, but with no success. In May 1416 the Emperor Sigismund came to Paris on the question of the Schism. He proved to be exceedingly parsimonious, and boorish in manner; but, as he was going on to England, he was counted on for his mediation. Sigismund was won over by the magnificent reception accorded him by Henry V, and was dominated by the conqueror’s personality. Henry proposed a truce for three years only; he refused to give up Harfleur; and he claimed the restoration of the territories ceded by the Treaty of Calais. Finally, the Emperor made an alliance with Henry, saying: “My relatives are in France, but my friends in England.” On the top of this, John the Fearless, who had approached Paris during the winter of 1415-16 to make good his position there but had gained nothing in spite of promises and threats, came to a closer understanding with Henry V: the Burgundian domains benefited by a special truce, and the duke’s subjects were forbidden to take up arms on behalf of the King of France. During a whole week, in October 1416, the King of England and the Duke of Burgundy were in conference at Calais. It is possible that John made more serious engagements still, and that he promised Henry V to recognise him as King of France and to recommence hos­tilities in concert with him. Anyhow, in August 1417 Henry landed with an army at Trouville, and John the Fearless marched on Paris.

Henry’s intention was to make a systematic conquest, and he com­menced with Lower Normandy. He kept his troops under strict discipline, shewing particular respect for the personnel and property of the Church; as a result, the great abbeys of Caen opened their gates to the English. The town of Caen attempted resistance, but in vain. Henry started there the introduction of an English administration, after 25,000 persons had been forced to migrate. Bayeux, Argentan, Alencon, and Falaise capitu­lated. Everywhere an English government was introduced with rigid particularity. All who would not submit were banished in set form; but, since security had taken the place of disorder, submission was the general practice. The neighbouring princes, the Duke of Brittany and the Duchess of Anjou, sought special truces for themselves. By the spring of 1418 the conquest of Lower Normandy had been achieved; the English were established at Évreux and Avranches, and only Cherbourg and Mont Saint-Michel still held out. In June Henry advanced into Upper Normandy, and on 29 July 1418 he encamped in front of Rouen with 45,000 men.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Burgundy had been equally fortunate. He came with his army in the guise of a liberator, promising the suppression of all the taxes. Arrived in front of Paris, he fetched the queen from her exile at Touts and established her, in the capacity of regent, at Troyes. The moment was a propitious one: at Paris people had grown weary of the tyranny of the Armagnacs, and refused to continue the payment of taxes. There was a dearth of everything, and the wildest stories were abroad. Negotiations undertaken by two cardinals in May 1418 gave rise to hopes; it was thought that peace was certain, but the Constable of Armagnac dashed all these hopes to the ground. Then, during the night of 20-21 May, an ironmonger, Perrinet Leclerc, opened the Saint-Germain gate to a Burgundian captain, the Sire de l’lsle Adam, and 800 men-at- arms. At once the old sympathies awoke. Everyone wore the Burgundian cross and shouted “Peace! peace! Burgundy!” The crowd went to fetch the king and brought him on horseback through the streets. The Duke of Burgundy should have intervened to maintain order, but he had gone off to hunt in his duchy; so Paris was delivered over to extreme disorder. On 12 June bands of wild men, led once more by butchers and especially by the hangman Capeluche, went to seek out the prisoners and put them to death with every refinement of cruelty; there were 1600 victims, and even women were murdered without pity. At last the Duke of Burgundy decided to put in an appearance. He arrived with the queen on 14 July 1418, and compelled a reorganisation of the government including a complete change of personnel, both in finance and justice. But John the Fearless was no longer master of Paris. On 20 and 21 August rioting began again, more violent and more savage than before; there were fresh massacres, as horrible as the preceding ones. This brought things to a head. As soon as the disturbances had quietened down somewhat, Capeluche was made prisoner and executed forthwith, and several other leaders of bands suffered the same fate; all violence was forbidden. In addition to all this, Paris was decimated by a severe epidemic. Many other towns gave in their submission, and the greater part of the South adhered to the Burgundian cause. In return, on 1 October the aids were abolished.

While Paris was opening its gates to the Burgundians, Rouen was resisting the English with all its might. In its industry and commerce this town was almost the equal of Paris, and, now that refugees had flocked into it from the whole of Normandy, its population had risen to more than 300,000. It was defended by a circuit of substantial walls; the captain, a Burgundian, had 5500 soldiers under him; and, thanks to the strenuous activity of Alain Blanchart and to assistance from refugees and from Paris, the town could put into the field a militia amounting to nearly 20,000 men; finally, the walls were furnished with a powerful artillery of about a hundred cannon. Sorties from the town were frequent. Accordingly the English completely invested it; English ships were posted on the Seine both above and below the town, and the river was barred with iron chains. From the beginning of August to the end of December the Norman capital held out. During this time it might have received assistance, but the Duke of Burgundy, “slower than ever at his business,” did not budge. An old priest was sent from Rouen and in the king’s presence he “raised the great haro of the Normans”; but nothing was done in response to this call for help except to hold useless negotiations through the medium of a cardinal. In November, John the Fearless did make a start, bringing with him the king preceded by the Oriflamme, but he got no farther than Pontoise and Beauvais. At Rouen the misery and famine became extreme. Henry V refused to allow 12,000 women, children, and old men to pass through the lines, and they had to live during the month of December in the ditches on refuse and grass. Every attempt at a sally came to nothing, and a last appeal to the Duke of Burgundy elicited the reply that “they should treat for the best terms they could get”. Negotiations for surrender were difficult; the people of Rouen were too haughty in their language and would not surrender at discretion. At last Henry V, whose interest it was to conquer without destroying, gave way on 13 January 1419: the town had to pay a ransom of 300,000 crowns, hand over nine hostages, and recognise itself as subject to the King of England. On 20 January Henry made his solemn entry, and went to the cathedral to give thanks to God. One man was made the scapegoat, Alain Blanchart; he was hanged. The town was not, however, at an end of its sufferings: a severe epidemic broke out; and the payment of the ransom was only completed in 1430. English government was organised there at once. At last the conquest of the whole of Normandy was achieved, though it was not until the end of 1419 that Chateau Gaillard capitulated; after that Mont Saint-Michel alone remained French.

Assassination of John the Fearless

Meanwhile, one centre of resistance was being formed within the kingdom. After the entry of the Burgundians into Paris, a Breton noble, Tanguy Duchastel, had carried off the Dauphin Charles and made his escape with him. The dauphin, then sixteen years of age, became the real head of the Armagnac party. Further, in 1417, the king had appointed him lieutenant-governor of the kingdom with full powers. The authority of the dauphin was recognised between the Loire and the central plateau, as far as Lyons and the Dauphine; besides this, the Armagnacs held numerous points north of the Loire and even north of Paris. In virtue of his powers, the dauphin organised a regular government, with a Council, though not a very adequate one, attached to his person, a Parlement at Poitiers, and a Chambre des Comptes at Bourges; local governors and lieutenants administered the districts that remained loyal, and provincial estates voted him subsidies. Finally, in October 1418, he proclaimed himself regent.

But neither the dauphin nor the Duke of Burgundy was disposed to fight. Hence incessant negotiations, which seemed as if they must have a result, but which were always brought to nought at the last moment by John’s lack of decision or by his excessive demands. Peace was almost concluded between the dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy in September 1418 at Saint-Maur. Then John turned again to the English, without, however, breaking off negotiations with the dauphin. To Henry V he offered the fulfilment of the Treaty of Calais, the acquisition of Normandy, and the hand of Catherine of France; these were terms that could not be refused, but an interview between the queen, the Duke of Burgundy, and the King of England near Mantes had no result except to leave everything in suspense. This failure brought John back to the dauphin again. On two occasions in July 1419 the two princes met, first at Pouilly, then at Corbeil. At the second interview they swore friendship, exchanged the kiss of peace, and bound themselves to unite for the expulsion of the English; peace seemed to be well and truly made. At this point the English captured Mantes, Meulan, Pontoise, and threatened Paris. The Duke of Burgundy with his troops turned tail, and removed the king to Troyes. Meanwhile, it had been settled that he should hold a third interview with the dauphin at Montereau to complete their accord. Still he hesitated, and adopted all manner of subterfuges; the dauphin’s party began to be suspicious of him. The appointed day passed by; at last, on 10 September, at five o’clock in the evening, they met on the bridge at Montereau each accompanied by a few followers. The conversation, however, became bitter, and violent words were exchanged. Then the dauphin retired; but some of his companions threw themselves upon John the Fearless and pierced him through several times with their swords. This murder, which was certainly unpremeditated, upset everything and revived all the old hatreds. In the light of the circumstances, it appears more excusable than that of the Duke of Orleans; but it was to have still more melancholy results.

There was an immediate outburst of anger from the Burgundians, the people of Paris, and the University. The only talk was of vengeance, and the English were declared to be preferable to the Armagnacs. The new duke, Philip, in spite of his youth—he was only twenty-three—was of a discreet nature though proud. After assembling his family and his chief partisans, he decided to make “treaty and alliance” with the King of England, and to pursue vengeance with all his might. Negotiations began at once, and at Christinas the alliance with England against the dauphin was concluded. Then a treaty was prepared at Troyes between the King of England and the King of France. Henry V himself arrived there in May 1420. His marriage with Catherine of France was at once settled and arranged, and on 21 May the Treaty of Troyes was signed. Charles VI declared that Henry V had become his son; he and the queen disowned their son Charles, “the so-called dauphin.” The King of England was recognised as heir to the King of France; and even in Charles Vi’s life­time he was to retain Normandy and the rest of his conquests, and to share the government with the Duke of Burgundy. This meant the an­nexation of France by England. Moreover, to speak ill of the treaty was forbidden and was made an act of treason.

On 2 June Henry V married Catherine, and the next day was off on campaign once more. Sens, Montereau, and Melun (which held out for four months) were captured. Before that, he had been careful to garrison Vincennes, the Bastille, and the Louvre with his own men. On 1 December he made his entry into Paris with Charles VI, and received a magnificent reception from clergy and people, in spite of the famine which was still very severe. The States General and the University swore to observe the treaty. Henry held great state at the Louvre, while Charles VI lived wretchedly at Saint-Paul; Paris had become “a second London.” Soon afterwards, the King of England returned to his own country.

All, however, was not settled by the Treaty of Troyes. There was always the dauphin to be considered, and he seemed to be making sensible pro­gress. He had traversed Languedoc, which had abandoned the Burgundian cause to rally round him, and in May 1421 his troops won a real success at Beauge; the Duke of Brittany also came over to his side; and he himself went to besiege Chartres. Immediately, in June 1421, Henry reappeared; in two campaigns he made a complete sweep of the neighbourhood of Paris, and recaptured several places. The dauphin beat a retreat, and seemed to have abandoned the cause. But, at the end of the spring of 1422, Henry fell dangerously ill. He returned to Vincennes, and had just time to give his last instructions: he impressed on his brother and his uncle the importance of the alliance with Burgundy; he begged them never to make peace without at least ensuring the retention of Normandy; above all he was concerned to arrange the regency for his son, who was only ten months old. Then he rendered up his soul to God most devoutly on 31 August. He was a great king, for he had a strong will and was a relentless administrator of justice. At the same time Charles VI lay dying too. His end, which came on 21 October, was a pitiful one; around him he had only a few officials and servants of the palace. One prince alone accompanied his body to Saint-Denis, the Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V and regent for Henry VI. Under the vaulted roof of the old French abbey rang the cry of the King-of-Arms: “God grant long life to Henry, by the grace of God King of France and England, our sovereign lord.”

Such was the result of forty years of fruitless changes and disorder in the government, of rival ambitions and royal insanity, of princely intrigues and mortal hatreds. But this result was too unnatural, too violent a break with the past, too contrary to the feelings to which the war itself had given rise. It could not endure.

 

 

CHAPTER XIV

ENGLAND: EDWARD I AND EDWARD II