Today’s installment concludes Burgundy’s Zenith,
our selection from The Reign of Lewis XI by Paul Ferdinand Willert published in 1876.
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Previously in Burgundy’s Zenith.
Place: Péronne, France
On the next day the King arrived, and soon after took up his quarters close to those of the Duke. He showed himself to the men, who had placed their trust in him, wearing the St. Andrew’s cross, the badge of Burgundy, and replying “Vive Bourgogne!” to their cries of “Vive France!” That night there was a great and sudden alarm. The Duke of Burgundy, though brave, was sometimes wanting in presence of mind, and on this occasion appeared more troubled in the King’s presence than pleased his friends. Louis took the command, giving his orders with great coolness and prudence. Even as a general he gained by comparison with his rival. He was indeed not less anxious than Charles that the Burgundian army should suffer no reverse. He feared everything that might arouse the ready suspicion and ungovernable temper of the Duke. On the evening of the 29th a few hundred men, colliers and miners from the mountainous district of Franchemont, led by the owners of the house in which the King and Duke were sleeping, made a desperate attempt to surprise the princes in their beds. They would have succeeded had they not delayed to attack a barn in which three hundred Burgundian men-at-arms were posted. Only a few followed their guides straight to the quarters of the sovereigns. They were unable, therefore, to overcome the resistance of the guard before the noise of the conflict had aroused the camp. The assailants were overwhelmed by numbers, and fell fighting to the last. The assault had been ordered for the next day, but this bold and unexpected attack so surprised and disconcerted the Burgundians that the King thought he might be able to persuade the Duke to agree to a capitulation, or at least to postpone the assault. He only obtained a contemptuous request that he should consult his own safety by retiring to Namur. This reflection on his courage stimulated him to greater ostentation of zeal. He could scarcely be restrained from leading the assault.
The citizens were worn out by guarding an open town against a powerful army for more than a week; they imagined that as it was a Sunday they would not be attacked till the morrow. The assailants entered the town with little or no resistance. Yet the fury and license of the soldiery could not have been greater had their passions been excited by an obstinate and bloody struggle. The horrors of the sack of Dinant were surpassed, although many of the citizens were able to escape across the Meuse. The deliberate vengeance of the Duke was more searching and not less cruel than the lust and rapine of his army; all prisoners who would not pay a heavy ransom were drowned. Although the cold was so intense that wine froze, and that his men lost fingers and toes from frost-bites, Charles did not shrink from the labor of hunting down those who had fled to the mountains, and burning the villages in which they had sought a refuge. He had previously taken leave of the King.
Four or five days after the occupation of Liège, Louis had expressed a wish to depart. If he could be of any further use, his brother might command his services; but he was anxious to see that their treaty was registered by the Parliament of Paris, without which it could not be valid. The Duke seemed unwilling to let his prey escape, but could find no pretence for his detention. Next year, said the King, he would come again and spend a month pleasantly with his dear brother in festivities and good cheer. The treaty, now drawn up in its final shape by the Burgundian lawyers, was read over to Louis, in order that he might object to any article of which he disapproved. But he readily ratified all that he had promised at Pèronne. It had seemed useless to require him to bestow Normandy on Charles of France; nor is the question of his appanage mentioned in the treaty itself. But the King was compelled to promise to invest his brother with Champagne and Brie. These provinces, lying between Burgundy and the Low Countries, would, in the hands of an ally, serve to consolidate the Duke’s dominions, and could be easily defended in case the King attempted to resume his concessions. Just before the princes departed, Louis said, as if the thought had suddenly occurred: “What do you wish me to do if my brother is not content with the appanage I offer him for your sake?” Charles answered carelessly: “If he will not take it, I leave the matter to you two to settle; only let him be satisfied.” The King considered the thoughtless admission into which he had tricked his rival most important, since he fancied that it released him, so far as his brother’s appanage was concerned, from the fearful obligation of his oath.
But notwithstanding this last advantage, we cannot doubt that Louis felt bitterly disappointed and ashamed. Although all songs, caricatures, and writings reflecting on the perfidy of the Duke of Burgundy, and by implication on the folly of the King, were forbidden under severe penalties, and even all manner of talking birds which might be taught the hateful word “Peronne” had been seized by the royal officers, he had not the heart to visit Paris. The parliament was summoned to meet him at Senlis. He ordered it to register the treaty without comment, and hastened southward to hide his mortification in his favorite castles of Touraine.
This ends our series of passages on Burgundy’s Zenith by P.F. Willert from his writings. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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