Archive for March, 2010


I think that it has been amply demonstrated that the Christian sanctuaries of the Middle Ages, and even later than that, housed parodies of religious ceremonies, inspired by pagan festivals.

The Church tolerates them more than it actually encourages them.  From time to time, it tries to severely condemn the authors and perpetrators of these disorders, but it publishes bullae and orders without much success.  It meets with resistance which it is unable to overcome.  Two canons of Evreux are hung on the cathedral bell-tower by the clerics, for having wanted to oppose these burlesque festivals.

As well as obstinate critics of these lewd festivals, the Church also contains fanatic partisans of them.

While Gerson, the great reformer of ecclesiastic discipline, is sounding off against these sacrilegious buffooneries, an  Auxerre doctor maintains, from the pulpit, that the Fools’ Festival is as healthy as the Festival of the Conception of Notre-Dame.  Like a good disciple of Rabelais, he cries, in joyful, epicurian terms:  “Wine barrels would burst, if the bunghole or the drain wasn’t sometimes opened to give them air.  We are old vessels and barrels badly bound, that the wine of wisdom would break, if we leave it the way that it is, to boil by continual devotion to divine service.  It is for this reason that we give ourselves a few days of joy and buffoonery, so as to return afterward, with more fervour, to the study and the service of religion.”

From the point of view of religion, what are the consequences of these pious extravagances?    For certain members of the protestant clergy, they weaken religious sentiment and give to the people the occasion to lack respect for the men of the Church.  The depravation of these festivals should perhaps not be exaggerated.  In spite of the mockery heaped on the clergy during these days of celebration, the population remains extremely religious and respectful of the institutions.

However, for some, the dignities conferred on them during the Festival of the Innocents and the Fools’ Festival, are not always fleeting.  Even if they have only one day of triumph and absolute power, they do not disappear back into the anonymous ranks of choir boys or vicars the very next day.  They conserve certain prerogatives and probably do not give up their titles until the end of the year, when a new election gives them a successor.  However, once the festival is over, nearly all of the actors go back to their places in society.  In the end, the people are disciplined and ask only a few days of fun, during which to forget life’s labours and worries.

Gradually, the burlesque is no longer shown only by religious parodies.  The festival extends outside the churches.  Carnaval then takes to the streets.

Hunted from the temple, the Fools continue their demonstrations in the town.  Because of this, the Fools’ Festival will not disappear before the XVIIth Century.  Once the processions take to the towns, their principal actor, the donkey, is no longer to be seen.  From then on, the band of Fools will receive at court and in the town, the hospitality refused it by the Church.

The Festival finds a welcome at court, well before being expulsed from the sanctuary.  History students will remember the terrible accident which caused the insanity of King Charles VI.  A gentleman, admired for his inventive spirit, had imagined a distraction for the monarch.  Known as The Mummery of the Ardents, a ballet of wild men, in which the King led five lords on a leash, all of them, including the King, dressed in long fibres of hemp and flax, caught on fire.  Only the King and Lord de Nantouillet were saved.  The King by the Duchess of Berry, who enveloped him in her train.  Nantouillet by running to throw himself into a vat of water in the room we would today call the Bar.

Seventh part tomorrow.

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Some of these festivals seem to be so excessive that we could be pardoned for thinking that the historians may have exaggerated somewhat.  However, abundant, unquestionable reports from a variety of regions, some of them very distant from each other, are there to prove otherwise.

A further proof in favour of the authenticity of these ecclesiastic Saturnalia was given by Dr Rigollet at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The doctor found a certain quantity of lead “money” (or mereaux) where “piety and folly form a strange alliance”.  Engraved on them are the name, the coat-of-arms (real or imaginary), the date of the election, and often riddles or puerile allusions to the brief reign of the dignitaries of these carnavalesque festivals.  The existence of these metallic coins is another argument in favour of the pagan origin of these festivals, because these coins are an imitation of those used by the Romans during the Saturnalia.  It is presumed that the Bishops of the Fools or of the Innocents distributed this money to the people, upon their entry into the cathedral.

In some monasteries in Provence, the Festival of the Innocents is celebrated by ceremonies just as fantastic and as bizarre as the pagan festivals.

A friend of the philosopher Gassendi wrote to him in 1645:  “Neither the religious priests nor the guardians go to the chancel on this day;  the lay brothers, the cabbage cutting brothers, who go begging, those who work in the kitchen, the kitchen boys, those who do the gardening, take their places inside the church and say that they do a service suitable for such a festival, when they play the fool and the furious and that they are so, really.  They dress themselves in sacerdotal ornaments, but all torn, if they find them, and turned inside out;  they hold in their hands upside-down and back-to-front books, from which they pretend to read with glasses from which the glass has been removed and to which they have attached orange peels, which makes them so deformed and so frightening that it has to be seen to be believed, particularly after having blown into the censers, which they hold in their hands and which they swing with derision, they make the ashes fly onto their faces, and cover each other with it.

“In this accoutrement they sing neither hymns, nor psalms, nor ordinary Mass, but they mumble certain confused words and cry out as foolishly, as disagreeably and as discordantly as a herd of growling pigs:  so much so that the brutish animals would do the service no worse than they on this day.”

We have seen before that the donkey is honoured in certain towns, but other animals also participate in some festivals.

Pierre Gregoire of Toulouse reports that in 1243, a priest of Soissons, counselled by a witch, administered baptism to a toad, adhering to all of the ceremonial attached to this sacrement.  The witch was condemned to be burnt.

This baptism is probably not an isolated incident because Abbot Thiers, in his Traite des superstitions, consecrates a whole chapter to baptisms of dogs, cats, pigs and toads.  Some time after the assassination of Henri III, the ligueurs even obliged parish priests, by putting a knife to their throats, to baptise calves, sheep, lambs, pigs, greyhound puppies, kids, hens and capons, and to give them the names of pikes, carps, red mullets, trout, soles, turbots, herrings, etc..  The case is not even an isolated one.

Women also played their part in these mystical comedies.  Like the monks, nuns celebrated the Innocents.  They had their Abbesses of the Fools, their mascarades, their licentious dances.

From 1212, the Paris Council forbade nuns from celebrating the Fools’ Festival.  Some thirty years later, an archbishop of the diocese of Rouen complained that the virgins consecrated to the Lord are giving themselves up to indecent pleasures, during the Festival of the Innocents, Saint John’s Festival and the Magdalene Festival.  The prelate said:  “We forbid you these amusements, of which you have custom.”  It is also forbidden for them to dress in profane clothing, to sing bawdy songs, to dance with seculars.

The public is admitted to the show which is put on, in some abbeys, on the Day of the Innocents.  A “Little Abbess” is elected and she assumes her function at first Vespers.  The real abbess leaves her throne at the verse of the MagnificatDeposuit potentes de sede.  The Little Abbess takes her place and her crozier, continues the service and the following day, celebrates Vespers up to the same verse.

At the beginning of the XVIIIth Century, the nuns of Artois and Cambresis still wore masks inside their cloisters, as well as men’s clothing, so as to divert themselves “honestly and dance secretly among themselves”.  As it happens, one of the principal crimes of which Joan of Arc was accused, in letters from the Duke of Belfort, and for which she will be condemned to the stake, is precisely that of having worn men’s clothes, “abominable thing to God”.

In many places, Fool Bishops and Fool Abbesses visit each other.

On 29 December, the Day of Saint-Trophyme, the Archbishop of the Fools goes to the Abbey of Saint-Cesaire d’Arles, where there is an Abbess of the Fools.  It is agreed that the Abbess of the monastery will give six groats in silver, one hen, six loaves of bread, six pots of wine, and wood to make a fire in the refectory, to the Abbess of the Fools on the Day of the Innocents, so that she can receive the Archbishop with a meal.

If the Day of the Innocents is a Friday, the Abbess gives three groats of silver on top of the other six, instead of a hen, but if the Archbishop of the Fools does not come to the monastery with his Fool company for a meal, the Abbess is not obliged to give anything.  It is easy to imagine the indecencies arising from this meeting of debauched clerics and partying nuns.

In some places, notably at Troyes, in Champagne, at Florence and Pistoia in Italy, a strange (to say the least) ceremony takes place, upon the entry of bishops into their dioceses.  The bishops sleep in the convent, in a richly decorated bed, and put a ring on the finger of the abbess.  However, they do not always content themselves with only simulating a marriage.

Sixth part tomorrow.

The Festival of the Apostles is celebrated in the same Sens church as the Donkey Festival, and is a variant of it.

Twelve tradesmen are chosen to represent the twelve apostles, each carrying the instruments of his martyrdom.  A young girl, more cleanly dressed, is mounted on a donkey, and represents the Holy Virgin.  The apostles go through the principal streets of the town, in procession, singing the appropriate hymns and receiving offerings from the faithful.  After the procession, the twelve actors sup and dance in the company of the Virgin and her suite of female attendants.

This festival lasted until 1634, when an unfortunate incident abruptly ended it.  The young Virgin is suddenly taken with such an urgent need, that the apostles are obliged to take her off her donkey and hide her behind a well.  She is booed so much that she is too afraid to remount.  In the end, however, she gives in to the insistance of the apostles Peter and Paul.  To make matters worse, Saint John, having drunk too much, beat up his wife very badly, as soon as he arrived home.  This was too much, and never again was the Festival of the Apostles seen in Sens.

In Paris, the Fox Festival delighted the contemporaries of Philippe le Bel.

According to Sauval, a fox, covered with a sort of surplice made to its size, wearing a mitre and a tiara on its head, is installed in the middle of the clergy.  As a barbarous refinement, poultry is placed within its reach.  The naturally voracious animal leaps on the hens and devours them, giving no heed to the multitude surrounding it, which rejoices noisily at this spectacle.  The King, himself, takes great pleasure in this distraction, claiming that the fox is the image of the Pope, whose avidity is equal to that of the animal.  As for the clergy, it lends itself to this parody, without suspecting the malice of it.

In the North, the South, the East and the West, these strange festivals are celebrated, with the tacit agreement of the Church.  By an Act of 5 December 1533, the Chapter of the Amiens Cathedral allows the celebration of the Festival of the Innocents, but on the condition that no masks are worn, that no trumpets are blown, and that no-one gallops through the town on horseback.

In Vienne, in Dauphine, the archbishop is obliged to give three florins to the Bishop of the Innocents.  This “Saint Maurice money” is accompanied by a measure of wine, and wood for two years.  Each canon also gives the Bishop a load of wood.

At Chartres, whose Chapter is directly attached to the Holy See, the Papi-Fol (or Pope of the Fools) Festival is celebrated.  It takes place during the first four days of the year.

At Senlis, a Pope of the Fools is also elected.  On this day, the canons not only change places in the chancel, they also change their clothes, choosing to wear the most extravagant ones possible.  When the real bishop wanted to abolish this mascarade, he found his Chapter divided into two camps.  Some asked that the old customs be continued, that is to say, the festival inside the church.  Others consented to have it moved outside the sanctuary.  No-one agreed to abolish it altogether.  Chaplains and vicars are, in the end, authorised to do whatever they want outside, and they are even accorded ten setiers of wheat for the feast.

At Noyon, Amiens, Senlis and Lucon, it is also a Pope who is elected, instead of a King of the Fools.  It is said, in one of the Chapter’s deliberations, that the assembly allows the King of the Fools and his companions to perform their acts the day before Epiphany, as long as no infamous songs are sung, that no injurious and lewd words are pronounced, that no obscene dances are danced in front of the great door, as they were at the preceding Festival of the Innocents.  This mascarade will be totally abolished at Noyon in 1721.  It is said that it is because of the high cost of the food.

At Beauvais, it is above all the Donkey Festival which is celebrated in great pomp.  The canons precede the donkey up to the church door, a bottle and a glass in hand.  As well as this festival, there is another, where, representing the flight into Egypt, a young girl is placed on a donkey, with a baby in her arms.  She goes, in procession, from the Cathedral to the Church of Saint-Etienne, and installs herself, with her donkey, near the altar.  This procession takes place on 14 February.

At Metz, Troyes and Besancon, the Fools’ Festivals have no notable particularity.

The Bishops of the Fools at Viviers are obliged to feed their clergy.  A cleric having refused to submit to the charges of his new dignity, an arbitrary tribunal is called, composed of three canons who, after a long debate, condemn the reluctant Bishop to pay for the meal.

The ceremony of the Bishop of the Innocents is very solemn at Bayeux.  In the inventory of the treasure of the cathedral of this town, drawn up in 1476, we find mentioned:  two mitres, for the little bishop, the pastoral baton, the mittens of the little bishop, plus four little copes of vermillion satin, for the use of the choir boys.  The “little bishop” of Bayeux is paid by the principal monasteries of the town of Caen.  The Abbot of Saint-Etienne gives him twenty sous and the Abbess of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity will continue, up until 1546, to pay him “five sous for his provision, as is the custom”.

At Dijon, the Fools’ Festival is marked by a particularity which is found nowhere else.  A sort of farce is performed, on a theatrical platform, raised for this purpose, in front of the Church of Saint-Etienne.  The Precentor of the Fools has his beard publicly shaven off, the shaving of the beard and hair being a distinctive sign of fools and strolling players.  For the same reason, the vicars publicly shave themselves at the doors of the church, and also shave their Precentor, sometimes completely, sometimes on only one side of his face.  Then, they run through the streets of the town, to the sound of fifes, drums and other instruments, shaving people, by force if necessary, thereby increasing the number of those who wear their grotesque uniform.

Fifth part tomorrow.

What were the different aspects of these festivals during the Middle Ages?

At the end of the XIIth Century, on Christmas Day, after Vespers, the deacons dance in the church while singing an antiphon in honour of Saint Etienne.  The priests do the same thing on Saint Etienne’s Day, but in honour of Saint John the Evangelist.  The choir boys and the junior clerics, on Saint John the Evangelist’s Day, perform in honour of the Innocents.  On the day of the Innocents, the subdeacons honour the day of the Circumcision or of the Epiphany.

In the churches, bishops and archbishops play dice, real tennis, bowls and other games, dance and jump with their clergy in the monasteries and in the episcopal houses.  Like the Saturnalia, the valets take the place of the masters.  In the same way, the junior clerics, the deacons and the subdeacons officiate publicly and solemnly.  This custom is observed notably in the archdiocese of Reims.  However, these are simple little amusements compared to what happens elsewhere.

In certain cathedrals, a Bishop or an Archbishop of the Fools is elected.  After which, he is made to officiate pontifically, going as far as giving a public benediction to the people.  Like the real prelates, he bears a mitre, a crozier and even the archiepiscopal cross.

In the churches more immediately attached to the Holy See, a Pope of the Fools is elected.  He is made to wear the papal ornaments and officiates like the Holy Father.  On these days, clerics and priests attend the ceremonies in fancy-dress and comical costumes.  Some have their faces covered by grimacing or mournful masks.  Others are dressed as persons of the opposite sex or as mimes.  All of them dance in the chancel, where they enter, singing obscene songs.  The deacons and subdeacons bring pork products, which they eat on the altar, transformed into a feasting table, under the nose of the celebrating priest, who also eats his share.

After Mass, “each person ran, jumped and danced around inside the church before becoming so impudent that a few people were not ashamed to indulge in all sorts of indecencies and to take off their clothes completely;  then, they had themselves pulled through the streets in tip-carts full of garbage;  while they took pleasure in throwing it on the population which assembled around them.  They stopped and used their bodies in lascive movements and postures, which they accompanied with lewd words.  The most libertine among the secular people mingled with the clergy, to also make a few Fool characters of monks and nuns in ecclesiastic clothes.  In the end, it was the abomination of the devastation of the holy place and of the people of the holiest state.”

It is principally during the January calends that most of the disorders are committed.  This day is named, in France, the Festival of the Subdeacons or the Festival of the Drunken Deacons.  This Festival of Fools, of Subdeacons, of the Innocents, is the strangest and the most incredible particularity of France’s ecclesiastical history.  Even stranger is the fact that it was able to survive several centuries, without giving rise to any protests capable of bringing it to abolition.  Even so, for the bishops and theologians, these festivals are only “horrible abominations, shameful and criminal actions, mingled with an infinity of madness and insolence”.

In his history of Reims, Dom Marlot evokes this Fools’ Festival.  He speaks of a custom which was visible in almost all of the cathedrals, on the day of the Innocents, and which rapidly degenerated into a sacrilegious display.  A child with a mitre, a cope, gloves, a crozier, and the other episcopal ornaments, is led into the chancel.  In this dress, he gives the benediction to the people.  From the church, he is taken through the town, with indecent games and buffooneries.

On Ash Wednesday, all of the clergy goes to Saint-Remi for a Station of the Cross.  The canons, preceded by the Cross, walk two by two, and all of them pull behind them a herring attached by a ribbon.  Each of them is busy trying not to walk on the herring in front of him, while at the same time, saving his own from the person behind him.

At Noyon, it is a very ancient custom that every service on the Day of the Innocents be sung by the choir boys, to whom the ecclesiastic dignitaries give up their places.  The canons replace the choir boys in all of their functions.

At Sens, an odd custom is practised.  The last admitted canon must receive several buckets of water on his body.  In the capitulary register at Sens, it is indicated that it is forbidden to throw more than three buckets of water on the Precentor of the Fools.  At the Donkey Festival, which is celebrated in this town, several buckets of water are poured onto some naked men, at Matins, independently from those received by the Precentor of the Fools.  Later on, it will be forbidden to lead them into the church on Christmas morning.  They will be led only to the cloister well, and will receive only one bucket of water.

During this festival, the donkey, an animal usually the subject of ridicule, is celebrated.  It is introduced into the chancel, its back covered by a magnificent cope.  The Archbishop of the Fools receives it with great seriousness and then begins the Fools’ service.  This ceremony is particular in that the Alleluia which is said after Deus in adjutorium is cut by twenty-two words placed like this:

Alle [resonent omnes Ecclesiae,

Cum dulci melo symphoniae,

Filium Mariae Genetricix piae,

Ut nos septiformis gratiae,

Repleat donis et gloriae,

Unde Deo dicamus] luia.

The resulting frightful cacaphony can be imagined.  It is presumed that all of these chants, were also accompanied by a lot of drinking.  In the middle of the service, the Fools surround the donkey and sing to him:

Hey Lord Donkey, because you sing;

Beautiful mouth you grimace,

You will have a lot of hay

And oats to plant [lots].

This Donkey Festival, which is very popular, is celebrated by several Chapters, notably Rouen and Autun.

Fourth part tomorrow.

The arrival of Christianity did not suppress Greco-Roman polytheism.  The cult of the Cross and paganism lived side by side for a long time.  They assimilated each other, inter-penetrating.  Christianism absorbed the pagan cult, recuperating certain elements of it.

Paganism, sensual and poetic, was able to satisfy all of the weaknesses of the flesh and of the imagination, with astonishing variety.  The Church, destined to replace it, at first displayed an inexorable austerity.

It permitted, on certain days, that demonstrations of gaiety, songs and satires be mingled with the masculine mournfulness of penitence and the chaste chanting of virgins and martyrs.

The acceptance of the popular joys of the ancient Saturnalia into the heart of the Christian Church, introduced a mixture of buffoonery and profanity, libertinage and impiety, typical of pagan distractions.

However, all of these exaggerated pleasures contain deep symbolism.

Within the Saturnalia, in spite of all of the disorders which they provoke, there is the basic idea that the rich should not always be at the top of the tree when it comes to honours and power.  The poor, the weak, should someday have their compensation.

In several churches, the festival is renamed the Deposuit Festival, in allusion to the words of Mary’s song, Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles, that everyone sings joyfully on the day that their superiors, stripped of their honours, abandon the symbols of their dignities.

Apart from this laudable egalitarian idea, it was also a frenzy of pleasure, a hurricane of madness which swept into the churches and shook the arches of the immense cathedrals.

These extravagances were not just limited to France.  England also shook the bells of folly.  The inventory of the ornaments of York Church (1530) mentions a little mitre and a ring for the Bishop of the Fools.  However, France seems to have been more passionate about these burlesque parodies than other nations.

It has often been written that, on this day, people sang off-key (literally “false” in French).  This could have been a misinterpretation of the words in falso which should be translated by singing in fauxbourdon, or drone, which seems to show that the Fools’ Festival music was not as discordant as has been said.

The whole church service was performed backwards.  Instead of incense, old shoes were burnt.  The officiants drank and gambled on the altar cloth, and parodied everything which commands respect.  These grotesque people were named Fools.

It would be unjust to say that these festivals were tolerated by an ignorant, superstitious clergy, so as to court the favour of a people who loved good entertainment.  In reality, on many occasions, serious souls showed their aversion for these absurd, sometimes obscene, practices.  Saint Augustin complained of certain excesses committed during his time.

The Fools’ Festival was organized by the ecclesiastic powers from the beginning of the XIIth Century.  Pierre, Cardinal-Deacon of Sainte-Marie, legate of the Holy See, “considering that the Fools’ Festival gave place to so many indignities and infamies that the sacred home of the Virgin was soiled not only by obscene words, but usually also by the shedding of blood,” advised the Bishop, the Dean and other dignitaries of the Church, “to reform the service of this festival, and to remove everything which was hurting ecclesiastical dignity and respect for religion”.

In obedience to this injunction, Bishop Eudes de Sully and the Chapter, draw up in 1198, the details of the service, and forbid songs, performances and personifications.

The low clergy, whose members came mostly from the people, were possibly the only ones to encourage these sacrilegious buffooneries.  What would they have gained by fighting these customs, so deeply embedded in society, that they subsisted, almost with no modification, for centuries?

Less than two hundred years ago, the choir boys in the Diocese of Sens, were still perpetuating, through their games, some of the ceremonies which gave joy to their ancestors of the Middle Ages.

On the day of the Holy Innocents, thanks to a sum of money accorded to them by the Chapter, they performed a sort of repetition of former festivals, playing at being the Archbishop, and celebrating  Mass.  The least intelligent among them was chosen to be the Archbishop.

The festivals of the Middle Ages were therefore only a softened imitation of the Roman Saturnalia.  The Saturnalia, as they were celebrated in Rome, at the time when they were introduced among the Christians, giving birth to the first Carnaval, are only a combination of all of the similar festivals transmitted by the Greeks to the Romans.

The Carnaval belongs equally to all of these festivals, although it appears to be directly derived from the cult of Saturn.  The time of the opening of the Carnaval accords perfectly with the celebration of the last Saturnalia.

During the first centuries, the Carnaval opens on 25 December, and the Festival of Christmas gives the signal for celebrations, which continue for several weeks.  In parallel to this, the Saturnalia, at first of a determined length, were extended by different ceremonies, which were added one after the other.

In this way, the old superstitions are regenerated with the imprint of the new beliefs.  The spirit of licentious practices remains, only the name is changed.  Here is an example.

At the time of the pagans, there were Lupercalia, instituted by King Evandra, and celebrated in the month of February.  Their name was derived from the luperces, priests of the god Pan, who ran, completely naked, through the streets, hitting women with a goatskin, with the intention of making them fertile, or to make them give birth more easily.  Only grown men could take part in these festivals.  The young men “with no beard” and children were carefully excluded from them.

In the XVIth Century, we see a revival of the Lupercalia among the Franconians.  Only, this time, young girls and boys participate in the disorder.

Groups composed of clerics and people of all conditions, men, women, children, the elderly, gather in the churches, dance in a circle around the altar, where a fake new-born baby is on display.  By their cries while they dance, they copy the performance of the Corybanths, writhing and screaming on Mount Ida, around the cradle of Jupiter.

As scandalous as these ceremonies were, they do not indicate that the members of the clergy were impious or sacrilegious.  They were only following old superstitions.

Third part tomorrow.

Populations have always felt the need to relax, to let off steam, so as to forget an often difficult existence.  Stemming from a liberty of acts and of words, which sometimes became frenetic, diverse carnavals were born throughout History.

From 17 to 23 December, the Romans celebrated Saturn, the god of the Golden Age, “the happy time, when men did not yet know hierarchies of rank, nor the yoke of servitude and misery”.

Originally, the Saturnalia lasted only one day.  Augustus authorised them for three days.  Caligula added a fourth.  Later, their length was extended to one week.

So, for one whole week, the slave dressed like a free man, and played the role of the master, while the master dressed in his valet’s clothes, and even received blows in his place.

It was a sort of compensation for the violence, the injustice which may have been committed by the stronger to the detriment of the weaker.  A symbolic image of the equality of all human creatures.  A precept often forgotten in the intoxication of fortune and power.

During these days of unlimited liberty, the people respect nothing.  They impose no restraint on their instincts, and revel in their excesses.

During these days, the great hear hard truths from mouths closed for too long, and that fear of punishment had prevented from speaking.  This December liberty is one of those popular prerogatives which no man, however powerful, would even think of trying to abolish.

Apart from the god Saturn, the Romans also celebrated the god Bacchus, for his fertile strength, his victories over the Titans, his mythological expeditions to India.

The Bacchanalia went from Egypt to Greece, then later, to Rome.  Originally, they were religious mysteries.  Initially, only men were able to take part.

Some Bacchants (priests) disguise themselves as Pan, Silenus, or Satyr, then women appear, and that is the beginning of legendary orgies.

The women, dressed in short outfits of tiger and panther skins, crowned with ivy, carrying thyrses (batons entwined with grape bearing vine branches), run everywhere calling out the Carnaval cry of Antiquity:  “Evohe!  Evohe!  Bacche!”

After a noisy parade through the town, both male and female Bacchants arrive at the place of sacrifice, and there, still in honour of the god Bacchus, incite each other to enter into orgy.  The men open up wine sacks.  The women scream, exciting themselves to delirium, and generally give themselves up to outrageously uncontrolled actions.

These strange amusements, rooted in ancient cults, last into the heart of the Christian era, with almost no alteration, then pass from being religious activities, into public and private life.

Second part tomorrow.

Not a great deal is known about the childhood of Henri IV’s other children.

During the illness of one of his daughters, Christine or Chretienne, doctors had been called from Paris.  They were unable to agree on the nature of her illness or on the treatment to prescribe and were sent away.

Marie de Medicis was displeased that Chretienne was so often on horseback.  She felt that, as her daughter was so young, this exercise could spoil her figure.

More delicate and frailer than Chretienne and Elisabeth (who married the future Philippe IV of Spain) Henriette was, according to Malherbe, “one of the kindest princesses in the world”.  Louis XIII cherished her even more because she was weaker, and he advised Mme de Montglat to watch over her as she would over himself.

Louis only had a marked aversion for his illegitimate brothers and sisters.  He was still a very young child when he answered his governess, who was rebuking him for having mistreated Mr de Vendome, one of the royal bastards:  “Oh well!  But he isn’t one of Mummy’s sons!”.

Later on, he never forgot that his illegitimate brothers had the same father as himself, and that, because of this, he owed them support and assistance.  He did not abandon any of his father’s children.

He was even on friendly terms with one of them.  She was a nun at Fontevrault and coadjudicator of the monastery.  Her name was Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon, daughter of Charlotte des Essarts, Countess of Romorantin.

Louis took care of her health.  If an epidemic was declared at Fontevrault, he would advise her to leave that convent for somewhere healthier.

However, he established distinctions.  If he showed preferences for some of the bastards, he also knew how to keep them at a respectful distance, and never permitted them to stray from their rank.

In these circumstances, he showed, as he did in many others, that he had a strong will, and that he was, and intended to remain, the King.

As the second Duke of Orleans was born on a 25 April, there was some discussion about whether or not to name him Louis, after Saint Louis, who was also born on 25 April.  Henri IV wanted him named Gaston, in memory of the valorous prince of the House of Foix.  Jean-Baptiste was added to please the Queen, who believed that this would put her third son under the protection of the saint of Florence, her home.

The Queen had also voiced the wish that he receive the title of Prince of Navarre.  But as this title could designate him as presumptive heir to the kingdom of Navarre, and permit someday certain pretensions unfavorable to the State, another title was chosen.

He became the Duke of Anjou, in memory of the famous House whose princes had been Kings of Jerusalem and of Sicily.  It was only on his marriage to Mlle de Bourbon that Gaston exchanged his title of Duke of Anjou for that of Duke of Orleans because the duchy of Orleans was given to him on this occasion.

Marie de Medicis had immediately shown a preference for this son.  She worries about finding a good nurse for this pampered child, insists on finding out if her milk is good, and if she has enough of it, if she likes wine, the quality and condition of her parents, and if there is anything which can be said against her.  She tells those charged with this mission, “if she is as she should be, dress her immediately, so that she is tidy and clean and ready when I send for her”.

The child grows, and like his brothers and sisters, is subject to the diseases of childhood.  Like Louis XIII, he catches smallpox, and his mother shows her anxiety.  She writes to Mme de Montglat:  “Doubtless this illness must follow its course and I have hope that the child will soon be cured”.  She tells her to bring “all the care and assistance which can be brought” to this end.

The patient is installed at Saint-Germain, in the King’s own bedroom.  The windows are opened “so as to ventilate it”, and a “good fire” is lit, on which is put ” juniper wood, so that the room remains without the slighest whiff of bad air”.

When the little prince is completely cured, the Queen is not opposed to him being shown to the people of Paris, so that it sees him “healthy and strong”, but “he mustn’t stop anywhere, because of the bad air and the illnesses which are there”.

So, he was taken out twice in Paris, but the second time, he started a temperature on his way back in the evening.  It was for this reason that he was left at the Louvre.

The Queen then came from Fontainebleau to see the Duke of Anjou, whom she found less ill than she had feared.  However, he refused to take the medicines presented to him.

The Queen wanted him to take an enema in her presence.  This was a drama.

To bring the child around to it, his mother told him that she had come to Paris to take him back with her to Fontainebleau, and that he needed to be strong to undertake the trip.  There was nothing better to contribute to this than his taking “a little broth”.  He agreed to take it.

“The Queen then told him that he had to take it from behind, and that , if he took it, she would give him a little silver pendant, which she showed him.  He immediately recognized what the Queen meant and said to her:  “I well see what it is, your broth to be taken from behind.  It’s an enema in disguise.  I don’t want it.  I don’t care about Fontainebleau or pendants.””

Surprised by this resistance, Marie de Medicis threatened him with the whip.  “These threats had no effect, force was necessary.  She therefore had him held down by three or four people, rendering him immobile.  Seeing the position he was in, he decided to accept what she wanted.”

After that, he was given “a little syrup”, and soon afterwards, he was found “running and playing, in the best mood that anyone could wish”.

Later, he had other indispositions.  There were worms and stones, “three grains like pin-heads, joined together, not smooth, but rough”.

He had adenoid growths, like his brother Louis XIII.  His mouth was constantly open, he had a dazed expression, with his lower lip hanging down.

He also had facial tics, which showed him to be “in a perpetual state of anxiety”.

Seventh and last part tomorrow.

The second son of Marie de Medicis caused her less worry than Louis XIII did.  Mainly because he died at an early age.

He was born in the night of 19 to 20 March 1607, around 2 a.m..  His birth was accompanied by a strange phenomenon.

Two sentinels, one French, the other Swiss, made a report to the King the following morning.  They had “seen, coming from underneath the Queen’s bedroom, the form of an eaglet, surrounded by a great light, which passed over the garden, near the clock, with a great bang, like from a thunderbolt or from a cannon”.

Certain conclusions were drawn from this.  Some said that “this eagle was a prediction of the future greatness of this little prince, to whom the heavens seemed to promise the Empire, and that his name, like a thunderbolt, would explode throughout all the universe.  Others made diverse predictions, not less favorable.”

However, “the end showed well that we shouldn’t be sure of these or similar signs and meteors, for the fourth year and six months of his age, the little Duke of Orleans died at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.  And if we make any judgement on such a sign, it would be more obvious to say that, like a flash of lightning and a thunderbolt, this royal eaglet passed promptly from this life to the next”.

His brief existence gave continual alerts.  The doctors didn’t know what remedies to try.  Baths succeeded cauteries.  Goat’s milk was tried.  All with no result.

In November 1611, the patient’s health worsened.  On 14, he was almost in a coma-like state, with a few light convulsions.  He raised himself on his bed to answer his brother, who had come to visit him.

“Good evening, my brother,” the King said to him.

“Good evening, my little Papa (as he called him)”, replied the patient, painfully.  “You honour me too much by taking the trouble to come to see me.”

The King started to cry, left and didn’t come back.

The next day, Louis XIII asked his governor for news.

“Isn’t there any way to save him?”

“Sire”, replied Mr de Souvre.  “The doctors are doing what they can, but you must pray to God for him.”

“I am very willing to do that”, answered the child-king.  “Isn’t there anything else that can be done?”

“Sire, you should dedicate him to Our Lady of Lorette.”

“I am very willing to do that.  What should I do?  Where is my chaplain?”

The chaplain came and said to the King:  “You must make a silver image as high as he is.”

“Send to Paris straight away.  Hurry up”, said Louis, quickly.

And then “he prayed to God, with tears in his eyes”.

The next day, he woke at midnight to ask about the state of Monsieur, his brother.  Then, he went back to sleep.  Almost at the same moment, the Duke of Orleans died, “between midnight and one o’clock”, says Heroard.  “By falling asleep, with a few convulsions.”

All these symptoms rather resemble a meningeal illness, particularly as the child is described to us as “endowed with an enormous head on a squeletal body”.  The autopsy does not infirm this hypothesis.

On 18, “was opened the body of the late Mr Duke of Orleans, in presence of Mr Antoine Petit, First Doctor of the late King, and Mr Jean Houltin, doctor of Paris, by Elie Bardin, surgeon of Paris, and Simon Berthelot, his surgeon”.  The brain was found to be “filled with catarrhs and all spoilt, full of black water, and the cerebellum fell apart in the fingers in handling it”.  A few days later,  the royal child’s body was transported to Saint-Denis.

Marie de Medicis felt violent grief to begin with, but her affliction didn’t last long.  There remained, to console her, the second Duke of Orleans, born one year after the prince whom she had just lost.

Sixth part tomorrow.

The Dauphin didn’t like any lack of respect for his person.  His governess having accidentally turned her back to him, he says to her, in a very authoritive tone:  “You must not turn your arse to Monsieur Dauphin.”

Heroard also tells us of a dispute between Henri IV and his son.

“The King says to him:  “Take off your hat.”  He has trouble removing it.  The King takes it off for him, and he gets angry about it.  Then the King removes his drum and drumsticks, which is even worse.  “My hat!  My drum!  My drumsticks!”  The King, to upset him even more, puts the hat on his head.  “I want my hat!”  The King hits his head with it, and he is really angry and the King against him.  The King takes him by his wrists and lifts him in the air like stretching his little arms on a cross.  “Hey!  You are hurting me!  Hey!  My drum!  My hat!”  The Queen gives him back his hat, then his drumsticks.  It was a little tragedy.  He is taken away by Mme de Montglat, he is dying of anger.  Carried to the bedroom of Mlle Nurse, where he cries for a long time without being able to calm down, he doesn’t want to be kissed or hugged by Mme de Montglat, doesn’t say sorry to her, except when he feels his clothes being pulled up;  in the end, whipped, not punished… ”

Other passages from Heroard lead us to believe that when the Dauphin is whipped, it is on top of his dress.  When he is punished, it is naked.  It is more often the latter method which is employed by the King.  Henri IV was convinced that it was the best method of education, as is shown in the following letter, which he sent to Mme de Montglat, on 14 November 1607:

“I complain of you because you haven’t written that you have whipped my son;  for I want and command you to whip him every time that he is obstinate or does something wrong;  knowing myself that there is nothing in this world which will profit him more than that;  because I recognize by experience that it has been good for me;  for, at his age, I was often whipped.  That is why I want you to do it and that you make him understand.”

But people have different temperaments, and what might have been successful for the father, could harm the child.

The King didn’t hold back either, if we believe this exclamation from the Dauphin, one day that he had received a good hiding:  “Mamanga!  Papa has broken my thigh!  Put some ointment on me!”  You can’t always believe him, because he often pretended to feel great suffering in order to obtain a pardon.

It is astonishing, however, that an excessively sensitive child was submitted to these multiple beatings.  His sensitivity was sometimes displayed in attacks of a clearly morbid character.

His irritablity was even stronger because he hadn’t had a bowel movement for a long time.  His constipation could therefore be responsible for this state of excessive sensitivity which didn’t last very long.  One of the most conscientious historians writing about the childhood of Louis XIII shares this opinion.  Mr Louis Batiffol writes:

“With children, the following phenomena are produced:  at any given moment, the mood becomes dark, irritable, nervous;  they suffer, they are listless for several days, whitefaced.  Gradually, the abdominal pains become sharp, and the irritability grows extremely.  Then, suddenly, a violent emptying is produced, and the patient is cured.”

His entourage never suspects, of course, that these fits of anger could have a pathological cause.

Sometimes , the child was so enraged, that he fell into fainting fits.  The Queen understood that more gentleness was needed.  She wrote to the governess “that the whip be given with circumspection so that the anger which could take hold of him, does not engender any illness”.

Believing, rightly or wrongly, that the beatings presented more risks in the hot season, she recommended that everything be done before coming to the extremity of the whip.  The Dauphin benefited from this belief, but only for a short time.

He had just been proclaimed King when he was again birched.  His governor having reluctantly whipped him by formal order of his mother, the regent, the young sovereign entered the room where she was.  Obeying etiquette, Marie de Medicis rose and made a beautiful curstey to her son.  This drew the remark from Louis XIII:  “I would rather have fewer curtsies made to me and not be whipped!”  Those present smiled.  The Queen, although uncomfortable, did the same.

Richelieu reports that Henri IV once said to the Queen:  “I can assure you of one thing, that, knowing your temperament the way that I do and forseeing what his [the Dauphin’s] will be, you all of one piece, not to say stubborn, you will absolutely have some horn-locking with each other.”

Fifth part tomorrow.

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