Page images
PDF
EPUB

reposed a long line of his kingly ancestors. The sermon was delivered by Thomas Midi, who preached to Jeanne before her burning; and the customary eulogium at the burial of a sovereign was pronounced on Charles by that Thomas de Courcelles who had been one of the most active agents to compass the death of the heroic Maid. The people wept and crossed their breasts as Thomas prayed Almighty God to pardon the sins and show mercy to the soul of the victorious Charles VII., King of France.

Charles has been considered by some historians as one of the great kings of France; but surely he did not merit that distinction. On the death of his father, more than half his kingdom was in the hands of foreigners; and his first coronation at Poitiers was accomplished in fear, almost in secrecy.

Nothing could be more forlorn than his own and his country's position for many years. Yet he made no vigorous effort to surmount it. He was rather like those persons who, we are told, have sometimes, when a ship is sinking, rushed to the spirit-room in order to drown their senses with liquor before the sea drowns them ; for he gave himself up to feasting and pleasure, so that La Hire could say of him, “Never before did he see a Prince who lost his kingdom so merrily.'

When we look back and endeavour to trace what germs of good appeared in him about that period, the best we can find sprang from an easy temper. He did not oppose

6

1 Monstrelet, vol. x. p. 100; Mémoires de Jean de Troye, p. 13; Henri Martin, vol. vi. p. 521; Histoire de France, p. 251.

CHARLES VII. AS A KING.

357

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

good advice, when it came from an agreeable quarter ; but he did not act upon it with a spirit and perseverance to make it effective. When almost in despair, he thought of abandoning for ever the land of his birth, and, by an inscrutable providence, a change was wrought to redeem him and his kingdom from utter ruin, he became rather the witness than the doer of great deeds. What human foresight could have anticipated the raising up of a Joan of Arc? Could the wisest counsellors have so planned Charles' affairs, that the sceptre which had passed into an alien's hand should be wrested from it by a shepherd Maid? The liberation of France was not accomplished by the King's policy.

France was at the lowest ebb, her enemies were powerful, but her defenders were of God! Joan of Arc, La , Hire, Dunois, Richmond, Saintrailles, Alençon, wrought wonders, not in obedience to, but in despite of Charles. At length he was roused from his apathy, and then he showed himself not wanting in that courage which is inherent in the French nation. By all accounts, he was roused by female persuasion; and the case affords an illustration of the power of woman's influence with man, and of its great value when well directed. Men, accustomed to attain their ends with comparative ease by the union of stronger intellect and greater physical power, are more easily discouraged by difficulty than women. A woman of good sense, ready resource, and delicate tact, being at the same time less sensitive to the wounded pride of defeat,

[ocr errors]

an

در متر

om

a to learn i there

le" : fime

what

he best

DO* 43779

7ng đế 231.

has more in her of real endurance than is usually found in the sex that is more highly endowed.

His wife's mother Yolande, his wife, and above all Agnes Sorel, roused Charles from his pleasure-loving indolence to a spirit of exertion. He headed his army, and proved himself, as has been said, brave as a man, though never great as a general. One of the worst features of his character was exhibited in his conduct towards his gentle wife, whose merits he acknowledged, but whose feelings he outraged. It might be said perhaps, by way of palliation, that his immoralities were so common to the age in which he lived, as scarcely to be considered criminal in a prince.

But what can be said to extenuate his ingratitude towards Joan of Arc, who placed the crown upon his head; to Jacques Caur, who, in laying at his sovereign's feet the wealth he had gained by the creation of a national commerce, was the principal means of enabling him to form the army which restored to France Normandy and Guienne? True that justice was rendered, though tardily, to the memory of both. But this did not arise from any remorse on the part of Charles. The force of public opinion, and the vindication of his own character from the imputation of having been served by a sorceress, led to the revision of the procès. Tardy indeed was the act

1 Marie of Anjou, Charles' Queen, survived him eighteen months. She died in November 1463, on her return from a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in Galicia, and was buried at the Abbey of Chastelliers in Poitou. Moreri's Dictionnaire Historique.

a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

CHARACTER OF CHARLES.

359

of justice which restored to the children of the unfortunate merchant some portion of the spoil so shamefully made of his property.

When the foreign foe was driven from the land, and there was leisure to amend what was amiss in the State, it must be remembered that the transformation of the army from a body of marauding ruffians into a well-disciplined soldiery was due to the genius and the exertions of Richmond; and that the improvement in the civil ordinances and the finance, together with the establishment of the liberties of the Gallican Church, arose from the wisdom and the perseverance of the Council, of which Jacques Cour for so long a period was one of the wisest and the most disinterested members. That Charles saw the necessity of these changes and reforms, and sanctioned them, deserves commendation; and as he was the head of the State, his subjects naturally ascribed to him the merit of them.

His abilities never rose above mediocrity. He found how much he was benefited by the services of able and devoted men, and he had the good sense to confide in them, and in some instances to reward them. But even in this, his weaknesses often neutralized his better deeds. Through his fondness for worthless favourites, Richmond was supplanted by an Antoine de Charbannes, and an Agnes Sorel by a Madame de Villequier. His son Louis was a perpetual thorn in his side, and he never had the resolution to chastise that troublesome Prince with firmness, when he had the power, as a rebel to the State and an ill example to the people. After duly weighing all his merits, the best perhaps that could be said of Charles as a King, was expressed by the short inscription on his tomb, that he was well served, and victorious.'

THE END.

MURRAY AND GIBB, EDINBURGH,

PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.

« PreviousContinue »