Page images
[ocr errors]

soldier, that there never before was a king who lost his kingdom so merrily.'' He then departed for the wars.

Orleans, La Hire, and all the other captains did their devoirs with skill and spirit, and rescued Montargis from the grasp of the English.” But this was an isolated success; all again went wrong. We will not venture into the labyrinth of details. Charles and his favourite marred everything undertaken for the royal cause; and so much had La Tremoille gained the ascendency, that he not only filled the mind of his master with the most unjustifiable suspicions of the Constable, but induced him to banish Richmond altogether from his presence, and not to suffer him to come even near the court.

It is only by referring to contemporary writers that anything like a picture of the miserable state of France at this period can be obtained. The social edifice seemed as if shaken to the very foundation, and ready to topple down. Laws, religious, moral, or politic, were treated with contempt unless upheld by the sword. All those signs,' says Henri Martin, which are the avant couriers of the death of nations, seemed to announce that the end of France was at hand. The monarchy, exhausted by years of madness, seemed incapable even of dying with glory.' The most worthy of the nobility were either dead or in captivity; and those who remained were suffering defeat after defeat, in many instances the consequence of their own caprice, pride, and oppression. Many

1 Mémoires de la Pucelle d'Orleans, p. 59. 2 Monstrelet.

[ocr errors]



half century.

had fallen into a state of discouragement, fatal alike to themselves and their country. The clergy had been oppressors, and now they were the oppressed. They had been robbed and spoiled by the foreigner; and that with so little respect for the sacredness of their order, that the Duke of Bedford and his Council attempted to seize for the exchequer of the child King Henry all the revenues that had been given to the Gallican Church for the last

But though he obtained large sums, this wholesale spoliation was cut short by the obstacles thrown in his way, and the determined resistance of the University of Paris. 1

Bedford's troops had begun to plunder even on the highway, and others were not slow to follow their example; whilst assassination, and sudden stabbing in moments of passion, were crimes of daily occurrence, more especially in Paris. The most worthy among the clergy (and there were many truly pious and charitable) preached and refused absolution to the dissolute; but their influence was gone with the generality of the people. The poor looked to the clergy in vain for help, for they had little wherewith to help themselves. More than once the King had appealed to them for assistance, but they could afford him nothing but their prayers.

The citizens, oppressed in turn by the rival kings and their partisans, harassed by wars in which they found no result but in imposts on their property and the ruin of their industry, lost much of their patriotism, and began to think of their individual safety, and to care little for that of their country. But the greatest of all the sufferers were the women and the poor. The former during these horrible wars had been fearfully treated,-made to do the work of men, and to toil worse than the slaves in the galleys. Even the harmless and devout inmates of the convents had not been spared in the hour of victory; they had suffered all that the unbridled licence of men could effect, ‘in whom was combined the fierceness of the tiger and the spirit of the demon.' The poor peasantry died by hundreds from want, pestilence, and famine.

1 Monstrelet, vol. vi. p. 233.

What a state was this for a nation! Again to quote a modern French writer, when speaking of his country at this period : 'The mission of a great people that had nurtured chivalry in its infant state ; had followed the cross to the crusades; had cherished poetry,—the rising arts, and the civilisation of the Christian world, was that now to be abandoned, or to pass to another people? Was the mission of France at an end amongst the nations? England had proclaimed it was, and Europe began to credit the assertion.''

i Henri Martin, vol. vi. p. 423.


Bedford bent on the Conquest of France—Salisbury sent to the English

Troops--Orleans to be subdued-Siege to be commenced-Advance of the English to the Loire-Help sent to Charles from Poitiers and Rochelle-Jealousy of Richmond-Siege commenced -The Forts called Bastilles, the Tournelles --State of the be. leaguered City–Salisbury killed—Succeeded by Suffolk-Severity of the Winter-Exchange of Courtesies—The famous John Talbot sent to assist the Siege-Summons Orleans to surrenderClermont and Falstoffe—The Battle called the Herrings—Dissatisfaction in Orleans—The Citizens appeal to the Duke of Burgundy -Sir William Gladsdale in command for the English Host-Orleans shows great Spirit-A Fierce Engagement—Orleanists retire within their Walls—Charles's Affairs desperate-Proposes to retire to Dauphiné or Scotland—Lull in the Storm of War before Orleans.

[ocr errors]

IN 1428 everything was still against France.

Pope Martin v. having declared the marriage of Jacqueline with the Duke of Glou

cester void, and the Duke of Brabant her rightful husband, the cause of anger between Burgundy and England ceased, and once more they became allies. This matter being settled, Bedford resumed a purpose which, though interrupted, he had never renounced, that of conquering for Henry all the realm of France. At his solicitation the Earl of Salisbury came over seas


thousand men,

with six thousand troops. A great levée was also enforced, amounting on the whole to no less than ten

-a formidable army for the days of which we write.

The Regent's plan was to possess himself of the course of the Loire, afterwards to invade the provinces of the South; so driving Charles that he must seek refuge amongst its desolate mountains and scattered towns.

The report of the vast preparations made by Bedford to carry out this plan spread far and wide, and even reached, within prison walls, that gallant Duke of Orleans who, since his fall at Agincourt, had mourned in the Tower of London more than fifteen years' captivity. In vain had he offered an enormous ransom; but the aggressive and ungenerous spirit of Henry v., wishing if possible to be rid of all the princes of the blood royal, so that none might be in the way of his infant son's pretensions to the Crown of France, had induced him, even on his death-bed, to advise that Orleans should be held perpetually a prisoner. Like James the Scottish King, Orleans had consoled his lonely hours by throwing his thoughts into poetry, with a delicacy of feeling and expression not unworthy the literature of a more refined age.

On hearing that Salisbury was about to depart and leading a strong force to carry on the war, with the privilege which chivalry gave to knights of soliciting favours of one another, even when enemies, on occasions of moment,

« PreviousContinue »