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The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor

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LOUIS XI VISITS CHARLES THE BOLD

[230] LOUIS had been forced to sign the Treaty of Conflans, but he meant to win back all that the treaty had yielded as soon as possible, either by force or craft.

His first move was to persuade the parliament of Paris to disown the agreement. This left the king free to march into Normandy, which by the treaty he had given to his brother Charles, and, wresting it from him, to join Normandy again to the kingdom of France.

By the death of Philip, in 1467, Charles the Bold became Duke of Burgundy. He found his hands full, quelling the rebellions which continually broke out among his subjects.

These rebellions, as perhaps Charles guessed, were stirred up and encouraged by King Louis. The French king was growing more powerful than Charles liked. He determined, therefore, to make an alliance with Edward IV. of England, and persuade him to invade France.

As King Louis had a large and well-trained army, he might easily have marched at once against the Duke of Burgundy, and crushed his plans in the bud. But, urged by Cardinal Balue, he determined, instead of fighting, to try to make terms with Charles the Bold.

Nor would the king be persuaded to send an ambassador to arrange matters with his enemy. His vanity whispered to him that his was the only brain that could outwit the duke; and some of his counsellors, more especially Balue, [231] knowing that it would please the king, assured him that it was indeed so.

In due time. therefore, the king sent to ask his enemy for a safe-conduct, to which Charles answered, "My lord, if it is your pleasure to come to this town of Peronne for to see us, I swear to you and promise you, by my faith and on my honour, that you may come, remain, sojourn, and go back safely . . . at your pleasure, as many times as it may please you."

King Louis, having received this letter, set out for Peronne, taking with him, to the dismay of his subjects only a small escort of his Scottish archers and sixty men-at-arms. When the wiser of his counsellors spoke of peril Louis laughed. Had he not with him the duke's letter of safe-conduct?

As the king approached Peronne, Charles came to the entrance of the town to meet his guest, and bareheaded they embraced one another. Then together they walked through the streets of the town, Louis's hand resting in friendly fashion on the duke's shoulder.

The king was taken to a comfortable house, within sight of the tower of Peronne, where once, said Charles grimly, "a King of France lay prisoner."

It nowise disturbed Louis to hear of the royal prisoner of past years, but when he found the royal prisoner of past years, but when he found that his guards were to be lodged at the other end of the town he liked it little Still less was he pleased when, looking out of a window he saw some of his bitterest enemies riding through the streets,

Turning to the duke, he begged that he might be lodged in the castle, for Louis felt that he would be safer under the same roof as his host.

Charles at once gave orders that the king should be moved to the castle, at the same time assuring him that he had no cause for doubt.

The next day King Louis and the duke were discussing [232] terms of peace, when they were interrupted by tidings from Liege that roused Charles to fury.

Before Louis had gone to Peronne he had foolishly sent two men to this very town, which belonged to the duke, bidding them encourage the citizens to revolt against their lord. They were to promise the citizens the help of the King of France in their rebellion.

The trouble between the duke and his subjects at Liege was chiefly concerned with the bishop, who was under Charles's protection. He had lately been sent to a town called Tongres, to be safe from the dislike of the citizens of Liège, and was there under the care of a nobleman.

But now the people of Liège, urged by Louis's ambassadors, rose in a body, rushed to Tongres, and (so ran the story which was brought to the duke) killed both the bishop and the nobleman.

Charles had little doubt that it was the King of France who had encouraged the citizens of Liege to revolt. For three days, so great was his anger, he shut himself up in his own rooms, striding up and down in his rage, and crying, "So the king came here only to deceive me! It is he who by his ambassadors excited these bad folk of Liege, but by St. George they shall be severely punished for it, and he himself shall have cause to repent."

For a time it seemed that Louis was hardly likely to leave the castle alive. Orders were given to close the gates of the town as well as every entrance to the castle.

At the end of three days Charles went to see King Louis, who had been kept more or less as a prisoner in his room.

Louis had already tried to appease the angry duke by offering, through Charles's courtiers, to accept any conditions of peace that the duke should propose.

Meanwhile Charles, finding himself in the presence of the king, found it impossible to conceal his anger, [233] As he spoke his voice trembled with rage and his words were harsh.

"Brother," said Louis, dismayed at the duke's manner, "I am safe, am I not, in your house and your country?"

"Yes, sire," answered Charles, making a violent effort to control his temper; "yes, sire, so safe that if I saw an arrow from a bow coming towards you, I would throw myself in the way to protect you."

The duke then laid a treaty before Louis, asking him if he were willing to sign it.

Louis did not dare to anger his host anew by refusing. But, although he solemnly swore upon a piece of the true Cross, he was no sooner safe in Paris than he did all he could to evade the treaty he had been forced to sign at Peronne.

But there was further penance than signing a treaty before Louis ere he was free to go home. Charles the Bold was going with an army to Liege to punish his rebellious subjects, and he blandly proposed to Louis that he also should go to help him.

You can imagine how unpleasant this would be to Louis. The citizens of Liège had been promised his help, had hung his banners from their walls.

However, the French king could not afford to displease Charles, and he agreed to accompany him.

As they approached the walls of the town, Louis saw his own banners waving in the air, heard his own battle-cry, "Viva France!" ringing in his ears; while the citizens, to their surprise and dismay, saw the false king riding against them with their angry lord.

There was no mistake. The townsfolk looked again. Yes, there was Louis, side by side with Duke Charles; in his hat the Cross of St. Andrew of Burgundy. They not only saw, they heard, for Louis was shouting valiantly, "Hurrah for Duke Charles! Hurrah for Burgundy!"

Surprise was soon lost in indignation, for the citizens [234] knew that without Louis's aid they were helpless in the hands of their angry master.

The duke was in no mood to show mercy. He first pulled down the walls of the city, and then put many of the inhabitants to death. Only when Liege lay in ruins did Charles allow the King of France to go home.

Louis got safely back to Paris, but he was downcast and disappointed. His journey to Peronne had been a failure.

Cardinal Balue, who had urged the king to visit Charles, had all the while been in the pay of the duke. This Louis had discovered while he was in Peronne, and now that he was safely home again he speedily wreaked his vengeance on his former favourite. He ordered the cardinal to be imprisoned in a cage which he had himself invented. When Balue heard his sentence he knew that it would be hopeless to think of escape. He had planned the cage too skilfully for that to be possible. For ten long years the unfortunate man was thus "snared in the work of his hands," and only when Louis was old and ill was he released by the request of the Pope.

In 1470, about a year after Louis had been at Peronne, he ordered an assembly of notables to meet him at Tours. These notables were all lawyers and magistrates whom the king himself had chosen.

Before these men the king declared that the Duke of Burgundy had not kept his side of the Treaty of Peronne, whereupon the notables said that since the duke had broken faith, he, the king, might well evade his part of the treaty.

Thereupon Louis sent his constable St. Pol to seize some of the duke's border towns. Among these was Amiens. Many other towns also, frightened by Charles's severity to the inhabitants of Liège, seemed inclined to go over to the French king.

Charles the Bold, seeing that in the meantime the king had got the upper hand, was forced to lay aside his pride, and sign a truce with Louis at Amiens in 1471.

[235] The constable St. Pol meanwhile, bent on gaining more power for himself, tried to form a new league against the king. He and the Duke of Brittany even encouraged Louis's enemy, Charles the Bold, to give his daughter Mary to the king's brother, the Duke of Guienne.

To protect himself from the league, Louis turned to the Pope for help. He also ordered that the bells of all the Paris churches should be rung at noon, that men might pray each day for peace. He even offered splendid terms to the Duke of Burgundy, if he would promise not to give his daughter to the Duke of Guienne.

During these months, while Louis did all he could to defeat his foes, his brother, who had never been strong, grew gradually worse, and in May 1472 he died.

The king had watched, with an eagerness he did not try to hide, for the news of his brother's death, knowing that it would spoil his enemies' plans.

When at length the tidings he wished arrived, he sent his soldiers into Guienne, and speedily dismissed the ambassadors from Burgundy.

Charles the Bold saw that his league with St. Pol and the Duke of Brittany was likely to be useless now that the king's brother was dead. In his rage he at once broke the truce of Amiens and crossed into France, burning towns and villages wherever he went.

At length, having been beaten by the king's troops, Charles marched into Normandy, hoping that the Duke of Brittany would join him.

But Louis invaded Brittany and kept the duke busy defending his own possessions, until at length he was glad to give up his alliance with Charles, and make peace with the king.

The Duke of Burgundy, finding that the lords who had joined the league were all either dead or beaten by Louis, hastened back to Burgundy with his army, and in November 1472 he again signed a truce with the King of France.


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