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princesses, is one for the most part rather to blush for than exult over --to excite grief and indignation rather than reverence or respect. Yet not without pure and bright passages are the leaves which bear the impress of the fightings, victories, perjuries, massacres, by which the Bourbon race distinguished themselves in an age when such things were accounted glorious or venial. Let us not, while glancing over histories which record many acts at which humanity shudders, forget to bear in mind that the world made withal great and real progress during the period in which these men and women reigned—that wonderful results were achieved in their time upon which our own higher civilisation is mainly based and reared. To dwell only upon the vices and failings of governments without looking to discover if there is no bright side to the dark and troubled picture, is only less absurd and disingenuous than the practice of carefully enumerating the persecutions and cruelties perpetrated in the name of outraged Christianity, while the overwhelming balance on the other side--the multitude of broken hearts it has bound up, the tears it has wiped away, the hopes it has kindled and purified, the lives it has redeemed and exalted, and the deaths it has soothed and sanctified—is ignored or overlooked.
The towering fortunes of the Bourbon family, like those of most other royalties, arose out of the natural working of the feudal system-a system which, originating in the necessities of conquest, fell naturally before the advancement of the great body of the people in knowledge and its consequence, power. The kings, or rather military chieftains, who reigned in Europe after the destruction of the Roman Empire, chiefly owed their continually-disputed supremacy either to their actual fame and prowess as warriors, or to their individual possessions in land and command over vassals holding directly from them by the tenure of military service. Private war being permitted, though strictly confined to possessors of fiefs on knightly tenure—contests by the great feudatories, sometimes against the crown, but chiefly among themselves, in conjunction with alliances by marriage, alternately elevated or depressed the relative power of the sovereign and the individual barons. The state was rather, in France and Germany especially, an aggregation of petty sovereignties, a federation of essentially independent despotisms, than a homogeneous kingdom. Every gentleman who held a fief on knightly tenure legally exercised the right of pillaging and imprisoning whomsoever was not sufficiently powerful to resist his authority; and even that of 'gallows tree,' held in strict legality to be a jewel of the royal or imperial crown, he not unfrequently usurped and exercised. The people, where they had a choice, generally sided with the monarch against the tyranny whose name was legion; and it is curious to remark how mainly king and people were aided in putting an end to the grosser enormities of the feudal system by the invention of such apparently-unpromising aids to civilisation as gunpowder and fire-arms. So long as knights and barons could issue from their castles, generally built in a naturally strong position, clothed in armour which the arrows of the serfs and common people could not penetrate, and their foray over, retire within their impregnable fastnesses, it seemed difficult to set limits to the duration of such knightly pastimes.
Combats of that period are recorded in which a few score knights routed and slew, without loss or danger to themselves, thousands of naked serfs and common people. But when the naked serf, possessing only the skill to point an iron tube, was placed upon a physical equality with the most redoubtable knight in Christendom, and cannon knocked the impregnable castles about the ancestral ears of the barons, it was time to think of other devices to secure or retain power, and of less violent means of livelihood; and, as Froissart pleasantly remarks, the baronage perforce ceased to rob on the highway (“Cessèrent de voler sur le grand chemin '). One of these great feudatories, with whom war was a pastime, and the attainment of extended power over the community an end which justified any and every species of fraud and violence, was Robert the Strong, Count of Paris, and Duke of France. He had gradually built up his ducal house till it overshadowed the dwarfed and sinking throne of the Merovingian kings of France; and Hugh Capet, his grandson, availing himself with skill and boldness of the feebleness and contempt into which the successors of Clovis had fallen, seized the crown, and by arms and policy so strengthened himself in his usurped seat, as not only to secure the regal authority to himself and immediate descendants, but to transmit it through the Valois and Bourbon branches of his house to our own time-the sceptre of France having been continuously wielded by his posterity, with the exception of less than a quarter of a century which elapsed between the death of Louis XVI. and the accession of Louis XVIII., till the Revolution of 1848. Hugh Capet was crowned at Rheims on the 3d of July 987. The Valois line of his house succeeded to the throne on the 1st of April 1328; the eldest Bourbon branch on the 2d of August 1589; and the younger Bourbons on the 9th of August 1830.
Neither the race of kings in direct line from Hugh Capet, nor those of the Valois branch of the royal house, who descended from a brother of Philip the Fair, need detain us long. Their histories for the most part are chiefly records of fightings, treacheries, intrigues, of no possible interest to the present reader. One great name, however, gleams out of the crowd of mediocrities, and claims a passing notice. We, unimaginative peoples of the north, have, it is well known, a constitutional objection to saints, insisting upon their being strictly confined to the primitive age of the church; and this may perhaps be the reason why the name of St Louis has been so depreciatingly treated by certain English writers, for it cannot be seriously or justly denied that St Louis was in every sense a great monarch, and a wise, enlightened man, ruling his people with a courage, sagacity, firmness, and gentleness of which the world has seen but few examples. Louis XI., too, of whom Sir Walter Scott in his 'Quentin Durward' has stamped so vivid and revolting an impression upon the reading world, however individually hateful or contemptible, was a great monarch: he governed France wisely and well; and spite of his Plessis - les - Tours atrocities, and his wretched superstitions, must ever be accounted one of the ablest, as unquestionably he was one of the most popular, kings that ever ruled the destinies of the French people. The nobles, it is true, detested him; for he curbed their insolence, and restrained and curtailed their privileges. Louis XI. not only disliked, and, as much as possible, avoided war, but refused to allow the Seigneurs of France the unlimited right of chase over everybody's grounds,
to which they held themselves entitled by right of birth! 'A terrible state of things,' remarks Philip de Comines, 'for men who knew only how to hunt and fight.' No marvel the king should only esteem himself safe from such gentry within his castles, and surrounded by his Scottish guards ! His life, amidst all his gloomy grandeur, was, as one might expect, a most unhappy one. 'I knew him,' writes Comines,' and served him in the flower of his age, and in his great prosperity, yet never saw I him free from toil of body and trouble of mind.' It may be doubted if governing, to any man really capable of it, and of estimating its terrible responsibility, can be other than a burthen to him—his diadem but a crown of thorns, his life an unceasing, thankless martyrdom! Louis XI., on whom the title of 'Most Christian King' was first conferred by the Pope, was succeeded by Henry VIII., a boy so imbecile that his father declared he should be satisfied if his son could only attain such a degree of learning as would enable him to translate and rightly comprehend the Latin sentence, qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare. Anne, the young king's eldest sister, and the wife of the Sire de Beaussu, who afterwards succeeded to the titles and estates of the Duke of Bourbon, governed the kingdom with remarkable ability during Henry's minority; not as regent, for the states-general, summoned to decide between her and Louis of Orleans, who had married Jeanne, Louis XI.'s youngest daughter, right to that office, did not confer the title on her; but 'Madame,' as she is called, remained possessed of, and exercised with great benefit to the people, the royal authority.
The chief efforts of the sovereigns of France, it may be briefly stated, were directed during many years to fuse the disjointed feudalities, duchies, of the realm, into one compact and harmonious whole. They gradually succeeded. Normandy was broken into subjection to the French crown, and ultimately all the independent jurisdictions of Brittany, Burgundy, Bourbon, and others, were annexed to the monarchy. The pretensions of the English kings to the diadem of France, spite of the dazzling efforts of our Edwards and Harries, the names of whose 'glorious' victories still survive in song, and the sacrifice of innumerable 'vulgar' lives, for whom Fame has no trumpet, not even a wooden one, were finally set at rest; and at the accession of Francis I., contemporary with our Henry VIII., Calais alone remained to England of all that had been so dearly purchased, and, as we now perceive, so fortunately lost. Very sacred and precious in the eyes of the English people seems to have been this slight trophy of persevering and stupendous folly; for it may be doubted if the persecutions of Mary, in whose reign it was regained to France, contributed to her unpopularity in any degree like the loss of that place—the gate of France, as it was called. So keenly did the impressionable heart of Mary feel the stroke, that she declared the name of Calais would at her death be found written on it!
The reign of Francis I. is mainly remarkable in the eyes of the observant student of history for the spectacle it exhibits of the almost total absorption of the feudal, by the process we have previously glanced at, in the monarchical power. Standing armies raised by the authority of the king now first constituted the chief force of the realm, instead of the more or less independent levies of the barons. Charles V., king of Spain and emperor of Germany, successfully pursued the same policy. Francis still holds a somewhat conspicuous place in the galaxy of French kings; but warlike, rash, volatile, he left slight beneficial impress upon the nation he was called to govern. It was in this reign that the branch of the royal house with which in these pages we are more immediately concerned came into especial notice. This branch, that of Bourbon, was descended from Robert, Count de Clermont, sixth and youngest son of St Louis, who married Beatrice of Burgundy, heiress of John of Burgundy, Baron of Charalois, and Agnes, Lady of Bourbon, daughter of Archambault, Sire de Bourbon. The great accession of property acquired by this marriage, together with his appanage of Clermont, rendered him the most powerful feudatory in the kingdom. The family name of Bourbon he assumed as the patronymic of his race. Louis, the eldest son of Robert, was the first who bore the title of Duke of Bourbon, which figures so prominently in the annals of France. Peter, the sixth duke in descent from Louis, dying without male issue in 1503, the estates devolved, by virtue of the original entails, on Charles, Count de Montpensier, head of the collateral line of Bourbon - Montpensier, then only fourteen years old. It had been the object of the deceased duke to get these entails modified in favour of his daughter Susannah, who was betrothed to the Duke d'Alençon-a prince of the blood in close proximity to the throne ; but after his death, to avoid the disputes that would have ensued from conflicting claims, his widow, Anne of France, gave Susannah in marriage to the young Montpensier, who immediately assumed the style and dignity of Duke of Bourbon. This is the celebrated Constable Bourbon, who, living in an age crowded with memorable events—the disruption of the papal power by Luther; the gigantic efforts of Charles V. to bring the continent of Europe under his sway—made himself heard and felt for a brief space amidst all the din and tumult of the world. His military talents were of a high order, and these were devoted to the service of France as long as its rulers sufficiently rewarded the devotion of the successful soldier. But when the king-instigated, as some have it, by his mother, the Duchess d'Angoulême, whom Bourbon, we are told, treated slightingly--dismissed him from his command, and otherwise injured him, the celebrated hero turned his sword against his country, and helped Charles V. to win the battle of Pavia, in which Francis I. was made prisoner, suffering afterwards a long confinement at Madrid. But the action which shines with the greatest brilliancy of war-tinsel in this Constable of Bourbon's history, was his march through the Apennines upon Rome, at the head of a large army of ruffians of various nations—Germans, Italians, Spaniards (* Bourbon's Black Banditti')--after plundering and desolating other parts of Italy. Arrived before the walls of a city incapable of successful defence, and of which the weakness, if not its great memories, ought to shield from violence, the chivalrous Bourbon ordered an assault, which was successful, though himself was struck down by a musket-shot as he ascended a scalingladder. The instinct of conquest could only in him be extinguished with life; and fearing his soldiers might be dispirited if they heard of his fall, he ordered a cloak to be thrown over his body, so that his death might be concealed. Murder, pillage, every species of violence and outrage, followed the storming of the city of Rome—the last and greatest exploit of the renowned' and illustrious' Constable of Bourbon. The science of proper names, there can be no doubt, is as yet in its infancy. Lord Byron in his 'Deformed Transformed' makes a hero of this Charles de Bourbon. One of the dramatis persone, Arnold, says the Constable 'o'erlooked the world, and saw no equal;' while the devil, who, in the disguise of the deformed Cæsar, is another of the noble poet's personages, says 'Goodnight, Lord Constable; thou wert a man!'-and one, we should think, very much after the speaker's own heart.
Of all the branches of the royal family, time had only respected those of Valois, Alençon, and Bourbon; and at the death of the great Constable, Charles, Duke of Vendôme, who had married one of the co-heiresses of the Duke d’Alençon, became the head of the House of Bourbon. From his eldest son, Antoine de Bourbon, descend the Bourbons of France, Spain, and Naples, including the Orleans branch; and from his youngest son Louis, first Prince of Condé, the now extinct line of Condé and Conti.
Antoine de Bourbon espoused Jeanne, daughter and heiress of Henry d'Albret, king of Navarre, and a Huguenot or Calvinist. A son was the issue of this marriage, who, after many years of desolating warfare, became, by the extinction of the male line of Valois, and his own solemn renunciation of the reformed faith in which he had been reared, Henry IV. of France, and the first of the Bourbon kings. The memory of this monarch, one can hardly tell why, is still held in some respect in France, and not solely by Legitimists. The present titular Henry V. invokes the memory of his ancestral namesake much more frequently than he does that of St Louis; and the famous air of the once national song, Vive Henri Quatre,' was greatly relied upon by the restored family to keep alive the fainting loyalty of the troops sent to oppose the advance of Napoleon on his return from Elba. The success of the exertions of the regimental bands was not, as we are all aware, commensurate with their zeal and industry. One verse of this same song gives the character of Henri Quatre very pithily
• Ce diable à quatre
Et d'être le vert galant!' Of such stuff were the heroes made whom France, in the sixteenth century, delighted to honour. If, however, the life of this king was chiefly spent in drinking, fighting, and courting, he had the sagacity to discern and employ an able minister—the illustrious Sully—whose administration of the business of the kingdom was marked alike by moderation, energy, and
prudence. For upwards of thirty years previous to Henry IV.'s accession in 1589, France had been the theatre and prey of anarchy and strife : Catholic and Protestant warred with each other in the desecrated name of One who ever returned cursing by blessing, and who never stretched forth His hand but to heal and save! This was the era of the war of the Leagueof the massacre of St Bartholomew, one of the darkest spots in the annals of France. The personages who stand out most prominently in the foreground of the hideous hurly-burly, are Catherine de Medicis, the Guises, the king of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV., Coligny, and the Prince of Condé; and twice we discern the graceful form and beautiful face of Mary, Queen of Scots, flit across the troubled scene-once in her bridal robes as