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There is contemporary authority for the salute which Henry bestowed upon Catherine, but time and place are mis-stated. It was given in the first interview at Meulan, and not in the presence of one lady in waiting only (as in Shakspeare), but before the two assembled courts; so publicly, indeed, as to cause her to blush deeply, and to be handed to her tent by the Duke of Burgundy.*
“Uncle Exeter,"† whom Shakspeare makes withdraw to negotiate with the French king, was in fact sent to him at Troyes, in company with the young Duke of Burgundy. At Troyes there was a meeting of all parties, being the second of the two which Shakspeare confounds; here the treaty was concluded, by which Henry was to succeed to the crown of France, after the death of Charles the Sixth, and the marriage was celebrated in June 1420.9
“ This play (says Johnson) has many scenes of high dignity, and many of easy merriment. The character of the king is well supported, except in his courtship, where he has neither the vivacity of Hal, nor the grandeur of Henry.
The lines given to the Chorus have many admirers, but the truth is, that, in them, a little may be praised, and much must be forgiven.
The great defect of this play is the emptiness and narrowness of the last act, which a very little diligence might have easily avoided.”
The remarks upon Henry are just, including the condemnation of the courtship scenes, which, as being imaginary, and not well imagined, I have not noticed. Henry the Fifth is justly painted as a brave and generous man, affable and of popular manners; though Sismondi deems otherwise of him, chiefly because he was peremptory in his language to the politic and shifty Duke of Burgundy. But Johnson scarcely does justice to the Chorus. Of the introduction to the fourth act, Tom Campbell says, “ The description of the night before the battle of Agincourt will be repeated by the youth of England, when our children's children shall be
age. I am afraid that my truly poetical friend describes what ought to be, not what is or will be.
There is a little enthusiasm too, and perhaps some want of precision, in what follows, from Frederic Schlegel.
“ The feeling by which he seems to have been most connected with ordinary men is that of nationality. He has represented the heroic and glorious period of English history, during the conquests in France, in a series of dramatic pieces which possess all the simplicity and liveliness of the ancient chronicles, but approach, in their ruling spirit of patriotism and glory, to the most dignified and effective productions of the epic muse." I
* Elm. 222 ; Monst., ii., 230. Tyler gives a full account of the meeting at Meulan, but no authority. See Sismondi xii., 572.
† Exeter is named by Holinshed (113) as well as Shakspeare, but his companions are different.
Shakspeare confounds father and son.
Sismondi, xii., 572.
GALLIC ANTIQUITIES. “NO. I.
THE KINGS OF YVETOT.
“ In the land, which • Caux' men call,
There were four abbeys royal,
Ancient Chronicle. “ There was once a king of Yvetot."-BERANGER.
The kingdom of Yvetot, the smallest of all small monarchies, the “ kingdom infinitely little,” as Voltaire designates it, has been so long and so often, even before the days of its poet Béranger, the subject of constant jest and merry mockery in France, that it is worth while to inquire into its origin and nature, and state what it is, and why it has always had one-half the talent of Falstaff, for, if not ity in itself, of which no author accuses the good town, it is at least the cause of wit in others.
Yvetot, then, which only a few years ago served as the groundwork for an imperishable, inexhaustible joke upon the persons of the King of all the Belgias and the fair Princess Louisa d’Orleans, his wife, at their marriage-Yvetot is a part of the district of Caux, a country of Normandy, and its existence, usages, and customs, were subjects of great research, discussion, and bitterness among the learned of a century ago. Erudition in those days was not remarkable for its politeness or tolerance, and nothing—no, not even the scurrilities of Milton, Talmasius, Scaliger, and Co.—could exceed the insolence vomited forth in bad French, worse Latin, and even in barbarous Celtic, among the learned French to prove or disprove the existence of the little kingdom of the district of Caux. All the historians of Normandy-and, Heaven knows, they are numerous enough—have dedicated some pages of their massy infolios to the history of Yvetot, and the Abbé Vertot has given a long dissertation upon the subject, in which he most barbarously treats one poor innocent chronicler as the vilest impostor, the most stupid ass, and the greatest liar that ever was nourished at the bosom of literature, only because the poor fellow has confounded the history of Yvetot with the legend of the country—a crime scarcely to be treated so harshly, we should think, by the imaginative author of “ The Siege of Candia," who seems determined to keep the privilege of inventing history to himself. “ The Mercure de France,” in 1725 and 1726, did more with less brutality; it took the trouble to search into the Annals of Yvetot for its history, and gave it to the public; and we, in our turn, struck by the singularity of its existence, and believing our readers will be obliged to ns for so doing, give all we have collected upon the subject, both as to the history and the legend; and, as it is the elder who has a right to precedence over her younger sister, we begin with the latter :
“ In the year 525 the Lord of Yvetot was a noble gentleman named Gaultier, chamberlain to Clotaire I., King of Soissons. He fell into disgrace with his royal master : nobody knew exactly why, though all have made guesses on the subject. Some say that the chamberlain had more talent and honesty than was agreeable to his fellow courtiers, whose
Oct.-VOL, LIV. NO. CCXIV.
merits were fairly eclipsed by his, and that, therefore, in default of existing crimes in Gaultier, they invented some for his exclusive service
-a maneuvre which has been practised in later times, and in more civilised countries than that of Soissons. The courtiers had all the success they desired from it. The Lord of Yvetot, knowing something of the irritable temper of his gracious master, thought it best to betake himself to travel; which he did without taking time to ask leave, or making long adieux, resolving not to return till the storm should blow over. He went then “ to distant lands,” says the legend, and fought his way nobly to fame in combating by sea and land against the enemies of his faith, giving his good sword no time to gather rust during a constant warfare of ten long years. At the end of these ten long years he began to grow aweary of so much glory, his heart yearned towards his native land, and thinking that the anger of King Clotaire must be calmed now, if ever it should be calmed at all, he obtained from our father the Pope a goodly letter of recommendation to the King, full of praise of his gallant conduct, and beseeching his royal favour towards him. Thus munitioned, the warrior set out on his journey to France.
It was on a Good Friday that the Lord of Yvetot arrived at Soissons, where King Clotaire held his court, and he augured most favourably to himself, both from the sanctity of the day and the sanctity of the employment of the monarch, who was devoutly assisting at mass in the great church of the city. He went forward meekly, but confidently, and, with a most penitential mien, entered the holy place, went up to his royal master, and, falling humbly at his feet, gave him the sacred letter, and besought his goodness for pardon and protection upon the strength of his good conduct and gallant deeds: but King Clotaire was a man of his word, and had besides an excellent memory. He called to mind what he had sworn to do unto his run-away chamberlain, if ever he should get hold of him; and therefore, without any regard to the sanctity of the place, the solemnity of the day, or the representations of the sovereign Pontiff, he drew out his long sword, and ran the unlucky Gualtier clean through the body, even upon the very steps of the altar. Great outcry, loud clamours, and much discontent, even among the flatterers of the King, at this sacrilege, for if they feared his majesty much, they feared the church still more ; and the Pope did not lessen their terrors when he threatened the King with expostulation, excommunication, expatriation, and another ation little known in those days, but with which, in more civilised times, sovereigns unfortunately have been made too intimately acquainted. But the Pope died before he had carried his menaces into effect, and then the courtiers took good care not to let the King see that they recollected such a trifle as the chamberlain's murder. But while their memories went to sleep the King's conscience awoke, and, less accommodating than his courtiers, tormented him terribly; remorse laid her griffin claws upon him, and clutched so tight, and clawed so hard, that his life became a burden to him. To get rid of this internal clamour, he resolved to confer a great and singular benefit upon the son of the unfortunate Gualtier. When he had become also King of Neustria (Normandy) he affranchised his domain from all dependence upon the crown, freed him and it from all taxes, service, obedience of all and every kind to any superior whatever, making him, in short, absolute master in his own little territory, depending upon no one. Such an affranchisement in those days was
equivalent to a kingdom, and since that time the Lords of Yvetot have always borne the title as well as exercised the authority of king.
The first person who reports this ancient and curious legend is a certain Nicholas Gilles, a chronicler of the fifteenth century. Now, without being quite so bitter as the Abbé Vertot, we must, nevertheless, remark, that, in recounting a fact so extraordinary nine hundred and fifty-six years after it happened, the good chronicler, whatever might be the force of his own conviction, could not reasonably expect to be believed upon his bare word. Again, Master Nicholas has not shown much talent in the act of legend-lying. He supposes the existence of hereditary fiefs in the sixth century, though they were not established till the ninth or tenth. He speaks of Gualtier's combats with the enemies of his religion, which is purely a reminiscence of the crusades, which did not take place till six hundred years after. Honest Gilles has thus perpetrated some very astounding anachronisms, which is unpardonably clumsy, for when an author invents history, he ought at least to make it probable : in our days these sort of inventors are not more scrupulous than Master Gilles on the score of lying, but they do it a little more dexterously.
From all which we have been able to discover we find that it was about the middle of the twelfth century, when France was already divided into innumerable sovereignties, that the lands of Yvetot were declared free of all tenure, homage, and obedience to their chiefs, the Dukes of Normandy, whose vassals, till then, they were. A Lord of Yvetot, called Walter, having rendered signal services to Henry Duke of Normandy, afterwards Henry II. King of England, was by that prince loaded with strong marks of his gratitude and magnificence, and by bim the lands of Yvetot were erected, not precisely into a kingdom, but into an independent territory, free from all kinds of duty and servitude. The proprietors exercised, as far as they could, all the privileges of royalty. They had, in their small capital, a free and public market, where the Castilians, Arragonese, and Portuguese came to exchange their merchandise against that of France: besides this they struck money, if round bits of leather, with a small nail having a copper or silver head driven through the centre, may be called so. They were unquestionably sovereigns in fact, and the distance between the reality and the appearance is so trilling that vanity can soon overpass it. The chief of Yvetot then declared himself King, and, in 1268, the Archbishop of Rouen gave him that title. In 1392 a decree of the Exchequer of Normandy solemnly confirmed the title of king to the Lords of Yvetot, who bore it quietly during two centuries, to the great glory of the country of Caux. În the fifteenth century, the English having mastered the best half of France, Henry V. King of England gave the domains to a knight named John Holland ; but he being a man who only cared for the positive, left crown, sceptre, and mantle royal to whoever would choose to fight for them, when he discovered that the whole revenues of the kingdom amounted but to 448 livres 12 sols 4 derniers, about 181., instead of 800 livres, 321., which he had been led to expect. This debate lasted till it was terminated by the English being driven out of France, and the royalty of Yvetot, with all its dignities and prerogatives, was bought in 1459 by the Sieur Guillaume Chenu, chamberlain to King Louis XI. Louis XI., as everybody knows, was not very fond of seeing his nobles
wear crowns in the teeth of his, or allowing any other kingdom to spring up in that of France, at a period, too, when his utmost policy was bent to the union of all France under his own authority, and the subjugation of all the great independent states either by money or by arms. He felt, therefore, a strong inclination to trouble his brother sovereign in the exercise of his royal authority, although his majesty of Yvetot allowed his majesty of France to sleep more quietly than did his “fair cousin ” Charles the Bold of Burgundy. He sent, therefore, his officers to the country of Caux to make inquiries into the rights, usages, and customs of the little royalty. Thirty-seven witnesses, all aged from 70 to 92 years, declared unanimously, in 1461," that the lands of Yvetot were free from all servitude and obedience—that the king of France had no right to demand any subsidies neither fourths nor tenths, nor force any taxes—that the merchants trading to Yvetot paid no customs, except to the Lord of Yvetot himself-that the judicial authority of Yvetot was quite independent of that of France—that King Charles V. one day hearing mass in the town of Yvetot, ordered his guards to lower their arms, saying, that there he was not the sovereign." In consequence of these, and sundry other declarations, Louis XI. confirmed the privileges of the Lords of Yvetot by letters patent in the year 1464; but as he did not choose that any other than himself should bear the kingly title, he would not consent to give more than the distinction of“ prince" to Guillaume Chenu, his chamberlain aforesaid.
Francis I. and the Bearnais were not so difficult. The former, in a letter which he wrote to the Parliament of Paris respecting a process between a lady of Montour and a lady of Yvetot, decorated this latter with the title of “ queen:” perhaps
andsome; in that case, it was an affair of pure gallantry on the part of the knightly King. He thought all handsome women might be called “ queens political consequence, and he had already crowned more than one in his own manner. As for the Bearnais, he loved a jest, and knew how to take as well as make one. In 1589, on the eve of a decisive battle against Mayenne and the Duke of Parma, Henry established his quarters at a mill in Yvetot, and, turning round to his companions, said laughing, “If I lose the kingdom of France, I shall be sure to keep that of Yvetot at least.” In 1610, at the coronation of Marie de Medicis in the Abbey of St. Denis, Henry, seeing that the grand-master of the ceremonies had not reserved a place for Martin du Bellay, Lord of Yvetot, said, “I insist that you find an honourable place for my little King of Yvetot according to the rank which he holds.''
These "little kings,” as Henry good humouredly called them, had afterwards to support long contestations against the parliament of Rouen, who would not permit them to be more than “ princes :" after this period, whether from the fear of ridicule, or by the action of a decree of the parliament, even the princely title disappeared, and the Lords themselves finally sank in the great shipwreck of 1789. The last of this royal house married the daughter of a forgeman in the department de l'Eure. As for the capital itself, at present existing, it possesses a post office, an under préfecture, a small free-school, one street a mile and lialf long, ten thousand inhabitants, and an immense number of cisterns, which, as they are generally empty, does not prevent this metropolis from being almost entirely without water during nine months in the year,
Vive le Roi !
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