Monday, June 22, 2009

Burgundians and Armagnacs

Matters grew worse after the death of Duke Philip in 1404; and in 1407, just after a seeming reconciliation, the Duke of Orleans was murdered in the streets of Paris by servants of John the Fearless. Louis of Orleans had been a vain, foolish man, heedless of all save his own pleasure, but his death increased the misery of France through the long and deadly struggle for vengeance that followed. The king was helpless, and the children of the Duke of Orleans were young; but their cause was taken up by a Gascon noble, Bernard, Count of Armagnac, whose name the party took. The Duke of Burgundy was always popular in Paris, where the people, led by the Guild of Butchers, were so devoted to him that he ventured to have a sermon preached at the university, justifying the murder. There was again a feeble attempt at reform made by the burghers; but, as before, the more violent and lawless were guilty of such excesses that the opposite party were called in to put them down. The Armagnacs were admitted into Paris, and took a terrible vengeance on the Butchers and on all adherents of Burgundy, in the name of the Dauphin Louis, the king's eldest son, a weak, dissipated youth, who was entirely led by the Count of Armagnac.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Insanity of Charles VI

The Constable, Clisson, was much hated by the Duke of Brittany, and an attack which was made on him in the streets of Paris was clearly traced to Montfort. The young king, who was much attached to Clisson, set forth to exact punishment. On his way, a madman rushed out of a forest and called out, "King, you are betrayed!" Charles was much frightened, and further seems to have had a sunstroke, for he at once became insane. He recovered for a time; but at Christmas, while he and five others were dancing, disguised as wild men, their garments of pitched flax caught fire. Four were burnt, and the shock brought back the king's madness.

He became subject to fits of insanity of longer or shorter duration, and in their intervals he seems to have been almost imbecile. No provision had then been made for the contingency of a mad king. The condition of the country became worse than ever, and power was grasped at by whoever could obtain it. Of the king's three uncles, the Duke of Anjou and his sons were generally engrossed by a vain struggle to obtain Naples; the Duke of Berry was dull and weak; and the chief struggle for influence was between Philip of Burgundy and his son, John the Fearless, on the one hand, and on the other the king's wife, Isabel of Bavaria, and his brother Louis, Duke of Orleans, who was suspected of being her lover; while the unhappy king and his little children were left in a wretched state, often scarcely provided with clothes or food.