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THE MAD KING
 IN the summer of 1885 Charles VI., who was not sixteen
years of age, married
Isabelle of Bavaria, a selfish and cruel princess.
Three years later the king began to rule his kingdom
himself, dismissing his uncles
from the court, yet thanking them graciously for the
trouble they had taken to rule
the realm. Their nephew's kind words did not soothe the
Lily Princes, who were very
angry with the king for sending them away.
His uncles being gone, Charles recalled many of the old
ministers who had served his
father. But the king's greatest trust was in the
Constable Clisson, whom he both
loved and admired.
For a time the new government pleased the people, for
justice was restored and taxes
were lowered. This change lasted only for a short time,
for Charles was fond of
feast and tournament, and he spent such enormous sums
on his amusements that the
treasury was soon empty, and once again the taxes had
to be raised.
But the king loved war as well as amusements. He began
to collect an army to fight
against England, and at the same time he ordered a
wooden town to be built. This
town he intended to carry to England, and set up as a
fortress upon her shore.
When his fleet at length set sail, it got no farther
than two miles out to sea, for
a storm arose and drove it back. As no one save the
king had much faith in the
 it was not again attempted. But
before the orders to unload the
fleet and place it in a safe port had been carried out,
the English sailed down upon
the French, taking many of their ships and the
provisions stored up in them. Thus
even the king was forced to give up his hope of
All this time the king's uncles were nursing their
anger at the government being
taken out of their hands. They hated the constable, as
well as the king's other
advisers, many of whom were of humble birth. These the
Lily Princes, in their scorn,
called Marmousets, which means "Monkeys."
It is said that they did more than give those they
disliked nicknames. But whether
or no it was the doing of the dukes, it is certain that
one night Clisson was
attacked in the streets of Paris, and wellnigh killed.
Charles, who, as I told you, loved the constable, was
very angry when he heard what
had happened. He was preparing for bed when tidings of
the attack reached the
palace, and the king at once insisted on going to see
the wounded man.
Clisson was faint but conscious when the king reached
him. He whispered to Charles
that it was a servant belonging to his brother, the
Duke of Orleans, who had
The king at once determined to punish the assassin, who
had fled to the Duke of
Brittany for protection. If the assassin were not given
up he would make war on
In August 1392 the king therefore set out for the
duke's domains with an army. His
uncles were with him, although they had no wish to see
the assassin given up to
Charles himself was not well. He had had fever, and his
physicians had forbidden him
to go out in the hot days of August.
Nevertheless, the king would go. He was dressed in a
tight velvet jacket, while on
his head he wore a scarlet
 cap, adorned with
pearls. His clothing was not
suited for the heat, which was intense.
Behind Charles rode two pages, the army being some
distance off, so that the dust
they raised as they marched might not reach the king.
Just as Charles entered a thick forest, a tall man,
dressed in a white smock, with
bare head and bare feet, dashed out from behind a tree,
and, seizing the king's
horse by the bridle, cried, "Go no farther! Thou art
The king was startled, as well he might be, by this
strange, wild-looking man, yet
he determined to go on.
As the heat grew more intense, one of the pages fell
half asleep as he rode slowly
along behind the king. Suddenly the lance he carried
slipped from his grasp, and
fell with a crash against the helmet of the other page.
Charles started, and looked wildly around him. Then,
drawing his sword, he set spurs
to his horse and dashed forward, crying, "Treason!
treason!" He then turned
furiously upon his pages, chasing them backwards and
forwards. His uncles and lords,
hearing the king's voice, hastened up, but before
Charles could be secured he had
killed four of his escort.
The heat and the fight had made the poor king mad. His
people carried him home, and
at first his physicians thought that he was dead, so
quiet and still he lay. But
after a time his body grew strong again, although his
mind was never again really
well, save for some few short intervals.
Sometimes, usually in spring, the poor king's madness
having passed away, he would
try to do some good to his people, to put some wrong
right. And his subjects, full
of compassion for the misery of their king, called him
Charles the Well-beloved, and
wished that he would live for ever.
But again and again his brain grew weary, and he was
forced to leave his kingdom and
his people to the care of his uncles, the Lily Princes.
Yet for thirty long years,
 from 1892 until 1422, the crown of France still
rested upon the head of the
poor mad King Charles VI.
Isabelle, the king's wife, cared nothing for Charles's
suffering, and left him alone
to the care of his attendants, by whom he was for a
time terribly neglected. His
children, too, took no notice of their father.
But Valentina, the beautiful Duchess of Orleans, his
brother's wife, was always kind
to the poor king, who called her "his fair sister,"and was always a little happier
on the days that he saw her.
Sometimes the king was able to be amused by a game of
cards. The game was little
known in France at this time, though Philip of Valois
had learned it in his day. The
play, where the scenes were usually taken from Bible
stories, also interested
Charles. These sacred plays were called "Mystery
At first the Dukes of Burgundy and Berri were sorry for
their nephew. And, indeed,
to see him was a piteous sight. But soon they could not
help being glad that they
would once again be able to govern France.
They put aside the claim of the king's brother, the
Duke of Orleans, and made
themselves regents of the kingdom. Often they would
persuade the poor mad king to
sign measures which they wished to become law, but
which Charles, had he known what
he was doing, would never have signed.
Yet the people never lost their trust in their king.
They continued to call him the
Well-beloved, and believed that were he but able to
rule, justice would again be
done in the land.