Archive for January, 2011


Neglecting hereditary defects, mysterious microbes, hypothetical intoxications or improbable poisonings, XXth Century historians prefer to turn to psychology to explain the King’s illness.  It is easy to imagine the excesses to which the Freudian interpretation of events in Charles’ early childhood or supposed troubles in his sexuality, which, by the way, was totally fulfilling, can lead.  However, the strange relationship between Charles and his younger brother, Louis, whom he loves during his calm periods, and hates during his attacks, must be mentioned.

***

Away from all systems and theories, let us follow a path which has the merit of sticking to the established facts, and places them in the reconstituted social, psychological and spiritual environment of the epoch.  Without this, nothing about this royal tragedy can really be understood.  Francoise Autrand writes:

“It is better to stay with a simple description of the illness, without choosing among the different diagnoses which might have been suggested by medical science.  Instructed, however, by modern psychiatry, we know that science is not ashamed of being attentive to the words of the patient during an attack, and to the comments of his entourage.  We need not censure our sources, even if they report the most irrational words.  We can then, with science’s blessing, listen to this man from past times and his words, which better suits the historian than guessing at doubtful diagnoses.”

First evidence:  the King’s illness does not affect his physical health.  He conserves throughout his whole life, the robustness which was his at twenty.  Endowed with good eyesight, skilful in his gestures, the only other degradation suffered by him will be slight baldness.  At over forty years old, he remains capable of riding for hours.  At almost fifty, he participates in tournaments, which is a sign of solid health and excellent general condition.  As a hunter, he pursues his prey untiringly, and consecrates himself to this favourite activity until the eve of his death.  He plays chess and also cards;  tradition even credits him with the introduction of this divertissement into France.  These are all activities which necessitate a good intelligence and a sure memory.  Nothing in his signature indicates any alteration of his intellectual faculties.  If we exclude the attacks which affect his health, Charles is never ill.  None of the illnesses which normally accompany an individual’s existence – infections, indigestions, passing indispositions, benign fevers – seem to have affected him, if the information furnished by the Silver Accounts are to be believed.  These Accounts report the smallest purge or the use of the tiniest dressing…  We know only that in October 1422, the King goes to bed and dies a few days later, at almost fifty-four, doubtless from catching cold too brutally.  At an age which we can place very largely above the average life expectancy of the men of the time.

The King’s general health therefore appears to be satisfactory…  if we except the appearance at irregular intervals, of serious mental troubles.  At this moment, it is said that “the King isn’t well or is stopped by malady”.  Just as quickly, “he returns to health and again finds good sense and understanding”.  The attacks and remissions succeed each other very quickly sometimes, which bewilders both the entourage and the King, who can feel himself coming back from his attacks of “folly”.  For example, the King is ill during the first two weeks of July 1397.  Fully recovered, he relapses again after one week.  From Easter 1399 to Easter 1400, he has seven attacks.  The illness appears and disappears for inexplicable reasons.  The year 1402 is one of the most difficult:  affected in May, recovered in June, relapsed in July until 1 October, the poor man comes out of this state to plunge back into it two days later.  In 1398, it is from March to May that the King is ill, at the moment of the visit of the King of Germania, Wencelas de Luxembourg.  In 1405, the illness lasts six months, from July to December.

Doctor Brachet tried to establish a detailed calendar of the attacks, the remissions and the relapses, highlighting forty-three during the thirty years from the attack of Le Mans Forest to the sovereign’s death.  It is impossible to detect any sort of cycle for them.  The seasons, the cold, the heat do not seem to play any role…  Sometimes, long periods of calm separate the attacks.  In 1412 and 1414, Charles is able to spend the whole Summer in the country without being in any way affected by the fatigues of the adventure.

The length of the period during which the attacks were counted and described permits however to show a certain evolution in their manifestation.  The first attacks are a lot more violent;  Charles believes himself to be attacked by enemies.  He screams and hurls as if he is wounded, “as if he were stung by a thousand iron spikes”.  He attacks those present, stabs them with a knife – we have seen that, in Le Mans Forest, his attack costs the lives of four cavaliers who are accompanying him…  crockery, tapisteries, furniture suffers the effects of the royal fury.  This violence is accompanied by words about which the chroniclers of the time – for good reason – say little, as they directly blame the sovereign’s brother, Louis d’Orleans.  The Equerry, Pierre de Fenin, recounts the attack of Summer 1393:

“The truth is that this sad accident started in this way:  as he was hearing Mass, one of his servants came to give him a Book of Hours;  upon which, straight after looking inside it to read his prayers, he rose, becoming and appearing as if all troubled and out of his senses;  then he suddenly leaped in fury from his oratory and began to fight all those he met;  he even hit his own brother the Duke d’Orleans”…

like eleven months before in Le Mans Forest…

In 1408, Jean Petit reports the words uttered by Charles, in the throes of another attack:

“For God!  Take this sword which is piercing my heart away from me!  What has the beautiful brother d’Orleans done to me?  I must kill him.”

To be continued.

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If the people of France is shocked by the Bal des Ardents, it is because the charivari organized by Louis d’Orleans is a mortal sin.  The custom is tolerated and wide-spread, but the Church rigorously forbids these types of manifestations which constitute an insult to the sacrement of marriage.  As well as this, costumes which change men into animals appear as a challenge to divine authority;  to assimilate to an animal a creature made in God’s image and sanctified by baptism, is a serious offence.  The Hotel Saint-Pol ball therefore has a sacrilegious character to it.  It can only call down upon the kingdom the worst catastrophes.  And although the King’s survival has a miraculous tinge to it, that is not sufficient to avoid the malediction.

Charles, fully recovered from the illness which had attacked him in Le Mans Forest, keeps his wits about him at the moment of the drama.  Saved by the Duchess de Berry, his uncle’s young spouse, he is immediately preoccupied by Isabeau’s state, and accords his pardon to the Duke d’Orleans.  Nothing seems to indicate, therefore, that the Bal des Ardents corresponds to any aggravation of the royal malady, on the contrary.  The sovereign goes back to his normal activities;  he leaves for Picardie in Spring, to negotiate with the English enemy.

A new attack occurs in the middle of June 1393.  This time, it lasts until January 1394.  After a new recovery, another attack confirms the chronical character of the illness.  As early as 1396, the Monk of Saint-Denis speaks of “the King’s usual illness”.  The attacks come back regularly, followed by periods of remission.  They are of varying length, from a few days to several weeks, even several months in the most extreme cases.  Charles no longer recognizes those close to him, no longer knows who he is, succumbs to attacks of fury, during which he hits those who approach him.  He howls, breaks objects.  This violence is followed by long periods of prostration, marked by insomnia, lack of appetite and general melancholy which make the sick man incapable of undertaking anything at all.  The illness then disappears as rapidly and as mysteriously as it came, until the next attack.

If the contemporaries are incapable of giving the slightest explanation for the royal malady, the positivist and Republican scholars of the beginning of the XXth Century do not refrain from giving their interpretations…  all of them detrimental to the Royal Valois dynasty.  Their different researches, which are as confused as they are contradictory, reveal nothing serious on the subject.  The witness reports of former chroniclers are of course scrutinized by scientific criticism, and the facts are established.  However, by limiting themselves to the said “facts”, the “rational” and “materialistic” minds produced by the laic and progressist Republic, obviously condemn themselves to understanding nothing.  These redoubtable clinicians argue in vain about the identification of the illness, based on a pseudo-scientific debate that, in time, will doubtless be considered worthy of the elucubrations of Moliere’s Diafoirus.  It is probable that the abundant literature consecrated to Charles VI’s illness will mostly only serve to enrich future Historical – or Prehistorical – medical manuals.

However, everything in this research is not entirely useless.  It allows us to identify the illness from which the King was suffering upon his return from Amiens, in the 1392 Spring:  apparently typhoid fever.  The diagnosis of “infectious folly” however, imprudently advanced  to explain the attack of Le Mans Forest and its sequels, can only make us smile today.  Some evoke the King’s alcoholism, even though he lived at a time when the still was practically unknown in France, and in the absence of any particular taste for drink on the part of Charles VI…  The young King’s supposed gallantry excesses have made diverse commentators lean toward a venereal disease, but syphilis will only be known in Europe after the great discoveries of the New World.

The most famous of these imaginative doctors is Auguste Brachet.  He is the author of Pathologie mentale des rois de France which was published in 1903.  The collected documentation remains precious, and opens original perspectives, but the theory is afflicting.  Good Dr Brachet tries to demonstrate that Louis XI [Charles VI’s grandson] was mad, and that this madness finds its origin in the heavily flawed heredity leagued by his ancestors.  Our author, attached to the study of the transmission of defects, establishes an impressive catalogue of all the vices and all the weaknesses of the Valois.  With logic worthy of that of Zola tracking the thread of the heavy heredity of the Rougons throughout his works, Auguste Brachet presents a gallery of particularly disquietening portraits:  feeble-minded people, sexually obsessed ones, lymphatics, hypochondriacs, depressives…  The picture is such that France’s very existence, under such government, could pass for miraculous.  In the case of Charles VI, our self-appointed mental illness specialist gives a diagnosis which is as vain as it is definitive:

“The son of double defects, an authentic alienated person, suffering from an infectious heredity folly, with maternal vesanic heredity, and paternal arthritic heredity…”

Today’s psychiatrists smile when reading such affirmations, witnesses of an epoch in medicine when folly was seen as a transmissable disease, hereditary of course, completely outside of any approach through family and social context, without mentioning spiritual or religious environment.  Of course, it is impossible to deny the mental attack suffered by Jeanne de Bourbon, Charles VI’s mother, but this one and only manifestation cannot be sufficient to establish the existence of a defect running tragically from generation to generaton, throughout the whole Valois dynasty.

For good Dr Brachet, Charles VI’s  “infectious folly” is even more greatly aggravated by consanguinity.  His very superficial genealogical approach allows him to see that Saint Louis and Marguerite de Provence are placed three times among the ancestors of Charles, while Philippe III the Hardy and Isabelle d’Artagon are there twice.  Henri V de Luxembourg and Baudoin d’Avesnes are also there twice.  Very distant relations however, and if Brachet had taken the trouble to establish Charles VI’s quarters, that is to say, identify all the ancestors up to the fifth generation, he would have been able to see that, out of the sixty-four ancestors whom such a reconstitution theoretically produces, only seven of them figure several times, which gives a very weak consanguinity…

To be continued.

On 6 August 1392, the day after the King’s attack, the Duke de Bourgogne decides to disperse the army assembled at Le Mans, not without generous pay “so that each one returns gently and courteously to his hotel, without wreaking any violence on the countryside”.  He takes the responsibility of removing the unhappy sovereign’s bad counsellors.  Bureau de la Riviere, le Mercier and Montaigu are sent away.  At the same time, a close guard of perfectly sure knights are installed at the sick King’s bedside, among them Guillaume Martel who had managed to restrain the King, several hours beforehand.  Officially, it is said that “the King is not very well”.  By attenuating the gravity of the sick man’s condition, the uncles, Bourgogne, Bourbon and Berry want, above all, to prevent dangerous rumours spreading about the patient being poisoned or bewitched.  The uncles have, however, rapidly started an enquiry.  An investigation into what the King had eaten before his departure for Le Mans sets the ball rolling:  the cup-bearers who had tasted his wine immediately offer to drink what is left in the bottles, and they are rapidly cleared of suspicion.  But, as Froissart reports,”you can’t forbid people talking” and the rumour swells.

Back on his feet after a few days at Le Mans Abbey, Charles returns to Paris by small stages and is installed at Creil Castle, on the banks of the Oise, guarded by his brother and his uncle Bourbon.  They wonder about the appropriate treatment for the patient, and a Laon doctor, Guillaume de Harcigny, is called.  For him, things are simple:  the King’s sudden attack of madness is accidental, doubtless connected to the subject’s great nervous fatigue at the moment of the attack, but there is also a congenital origin – the mental illness, which had temporarily affected Jeanne de Bourbon, the sovereign’s mother, in 1373, is mentioned.  Guillaume de Harcigny is however optimistic and thinks that calm and rest will suffice to bring the patient back to health.

Charles gets better fairly fast;  his appetite returns and so does sleep, which had partially deserted him since April.  He now recognizes the people who come to see him, but remains frail.  He accomplishes his religious duties again and has Masses said for the poor victims of Le Mans Forest.  The doctor encourages him to gradually start riding again, to consecrate himself to hunting, to profit from the fresh air of these lovely September days.  Once he is cured, Guillaume de Harcigny warns the princes that overwork must be avoided.

The King’s recovery does not however supply any answers to the questions asked, or calm the rumours.  Some sort of sorcery is feared, or a divine vengeance which will perhaps, in turn, make the kingdom suffer.  Just about everywhere, prayers and processions accompany the sovereign’s convalescence, notably in the towns which had revolted against his authority – or more precisely against that of his preceptors – ten years before.  The 1392 Summer episode is scarcely forgotten than a new drama comes to upset the Court and shock the people of France.  It is the sadly famous Bal des Ardents.

At the sadly famous "Bal des Ardents", Charles VI is saved from the flames by the quick thinking of the Duchess de Berry who protects him with her train.

Perfectly recovered, Charles has come back to settle in Paris near the Queen, at Hotel Saint-Pol.  The long Winter evenings are traditionally the occasion for numerous festivities.  In this way, the wedding of Catherine, a lady-in-waiting of Isabeau of Bavaria, is celebrated on Tuesday, 28 January 1393.  The Lady is a widow, and this marriage is a second marriage – a circumstance which, in the Middle Ages, is the occasion for a customary “charivari”, a sort of grotesque and impertinent mascarade, strongly tinted with paganism.  The whole Court has spent the day in festivities and banquets and everyone is preparing to participate in the ball planned for the evening.  The musicians have begun to play when the mascarade begins:  six men disguised as savages, hairy like animals, irrupt into the middle of the dancers.  They are dressed in tightly-fitted costumes covered in flax and hemp fibres, and are masked.  They growl, leap and run, pretending to frighten the guests.  Among them is the King, himself, as joyful and facetious as usual.  This curious saraband unfolds in the shadows for, by Charles’ order, the torches have been moved away, as they risk setting fire to the costumes.  Apart from the King, there are behind the masks Count de Joigny, Baron de Nantouillet, Yvain de Foix – a bastard of Gaston Phoebus – Charles de Poitiers – a son of Count de Valentinois – and Hugues de Guisay.  Louis d’Orleans, Charles’ brother, arrives, accompanied by his guards carrying torches.  This is when the tragedy occurs.  Louis seizes one of these torches and approaches it to the face of one of the “savages”… to see him better.  Immediately, the costume of the unfortunate man goes up in flames and, in an instant, the fire spreads to his companions.  The scene is horrible.  Four of the “savages” burn alive in front of the guests.  A fifth, Nantouillet, rushes to the kitchens and plunges into water.  The Duchess de Berry has the reflex of wrapping Charles in her long train to suffocate the fire:  he is safe.  Isabeau, three months pregnant, faints, but when she comes to, the King has already had time to dress in his habitual clothes and is beside her to reassure her.  The four other “savages” are dead from their burns.

As soon as the news is known, Paris grumbles:  the sovereign had been very close to being among the victims.  The Dukes of Bourgogne and of Berry are furious.  They give Louis d’Orleans, the organizer of the mascarade and clumsy causer of the drama, a severe dressing-down.  The next day, everyone goes to Notre-Dame to hear Mass;  the King’s brother will have an expiatory chapel built in the church of the Celestins, where Masses will be celebrated every day for the memory of the four victims of this sad adventure.

To be continued.

Charles VI was stopped by a mysterious messenger, while riding through the forest of Le Mans. Shortly afterwards, the King went mad and killed four of his men.

We know how Michelet recounted the famous episode which marks the beginning of the royal “madness”.  Now, let us consult the King’s contemporaries.  The Monk of Saint-Denis, the monarch’s official historian, attenuates that which could tarnish the sacred character of the royal function.  Juvenal des Ursins remains very discrete on the unfolding of the facts out of fidelity to the memory of his father, one of the famous marmosets responsible for having encouraged the expedition.  Froissart repeats public opinion, and the Italian de Prato, whom the King of France’s misfortunes do not concern, simply reports the facts brought to his knowledge.  These different tales are the ones we need to study in an attempt to better understand what happened over the course of this fatal 1392 Summer day.

The identity of the mysterious tramp who came to speak to the King is unknown.  Abjectissimum virum according to the Monk of Saint-Denis, “a nasty man, badly dressed, poor and vile person” if we are to believe Juvenal des Ursins, “a man with his head uncovered and bare feet, dressed in a poor tunic of white sackcloth and who better showed that he was mad than wise”, in Froissart’s opinion.  A strange figure in any case, but doubtless fairly common in this XIVth Century.  The tradition of Holy Hermits is still alive and the misfortunes of the times have thrown a mass of society’s rejects onto the roads.  Care is taken not to push away the Illuminated, for they are often seen as prophets whose warnings should not be imprudently ignored.  Did this curious person approach the King on his own initiative or is the incident a result of manipulation?  Froissart remains perplexed.  He is surprised that no-one thought to stop this individual, to interrogate him to find out “if he was naturally mad or wise, and who gave him such words to say, and where they came from”.  The identity of this frightening, “disfigured” messenger remains a mystery.  And what are we to think of the words addressed to the King:  “Don’t go any farther, noble King, for you are betrayed.”  That is how the Monk of Saint-Denis reports them, while Juvenal des Ursins transmits a slightly different version:  “King, where are you going?  Do not pass farther for you are betrayed.”

The formulation reported by Froissart is almost identical to the two preceding ones:  “King, do not ride farther ahead, but return, for you are betrayed.”  The Chronique des quatre premiers Valois remains more vague:  “King, if you enter the forest, you will have a misadventure…  if you go any farther ahead, you are dead.”  For the Monk, this unforseen intervention “caused the King a strong terror, for the man whom we were unable to chase away by menaces or by terror…  clamoured in a terrible voice”.  For Froissart, these words “entered into the head of the King who was weak”.  Then the chronicler of the Quatre premiers Valois says that “the King wanted to get rid of the madman by hitting him with his sword”, it is again Froissart who furnishes the most details about the following moments.

The group of riders arrives in a clearing at midday, when the sun is at its highest.  There is no shade, just a vast open expanse, where the horses advance with difficulty on sandy soil, raising a lot of dust.  A page dozes off, the lance that he is carrying goes to hit the helmet of one of his companions, “which made the steels ring loudly one upon the other”.  This sudden metallic sound, evokes the rattling of weapons.  Does Charles believe that he is the target of an attack?  The one announced by the man whom he had met?  In any case, it is at this moment that the “attack of fury” – according to the Monk – the “frenzy” – according to Juvenal des Ursins – is unleashed.

For the first of these two chroniclers, “the King lost his mind”.  De Prato reports that “his brain turned”.  All the texts which give an account of the event agree on the words then pronounced:  “They want to deliver me to my enemies…  I am betrayed.”  The poor demented man believes himself to be encircled and attacked by adversaries who want to kill him, and it is to defend himself that he unsheaths his sword and rushes at the nearest riders;  he kills four of his companions.  The attack lasts nearly an hour, until the King’s horse, exhausted, finally stops.  A knight then succeeds in grabbing the unfortunate man, who is disarmed, taken from his horse and lain down.  He then loses consciousness.

Who then is this “enemy”, this “traitor”, against whom Charles thinks to defend himself?  The Italian from Avignon, de Prato, makes no bones about designating Louis d’Orleans…  The French chroniclers cannot write it, but Froissart suggests it when he insists on the fact that the sovereign doesn’t recognize anyone any more;  it is in fact precisely at Louis that Charles rushes, crying out:  “Attack these traitors!”  The Duke de Bourgogne, himself, encourages his “beautiful nephew d’Orleans” to flee for his brother evidently “wants to kill him”.  Louis effectively flees, and after an hour of the infernal skirmish, which sees the knights charged by the King let themselves fall successively to the ground to avoid his blows, the Norman, Guillaume Martel, manages to control the sick man.  Lain on a cart which leaves in the direction of Le Mans, Charles does not recognize his uncles, or his brother who has come back beside him.

At the same time, messengers carry to the different contingents which make up the royal Host, the order to fall back.  The Brittany expedition has just come to a surprising end.  Four men have been killed, the Duke of Orleans’ life has been threatened by the King, who is suffering from a strange illness, and is perhaps going to die, to everyone’s consternation.  While Charles is being transported to Le Mans Abbey, where he remains completely prostrated, it is the Duke de Bourgogne, Philippe the Hardy, who takes things in hand.  The patient’s heart is beating normally but he remains for a long time unconscious and motionless.  The doctors are quite incapable of formulating a diagnosis and, prudent, content themselves with reminding everyone that they had advised against this Brittany expedition, after the King’s fever in Spring.

To be continued.

The twenty-year-old King is presented by Olivier de Clisson in a letter to a Breton baron, as “most agreeable and of good spirits, and young and hearty prince”.

“He is robust and sportive, good with bow and arrows, and good rider.  Five military companions have trained him in outdoor life.  He fears neither bad weather, nor the sea.”

Froissart recounts that he does not suffer from sea-sickness and that he boasts about it to Clisson at the Ecluse camp:

“Connetable, I have already equipped my vessel, I enjoy it very much and believe that I shall be a good sailor;  the sea does not make me sick.”

The Monk of Saint-Denis notes that he is affable and has easy manners.  He has a memory for faces and names.  As well as a memory for both the good and the bad done to him.  He rarely gets angry, speaks gently and in moderation.  The Monk deplores his too great interest in women but adds that the King “never causes scandal nor insult, in his love affairs.”

Seeing him at work, via Froissart, we can add that he knows perfectly the words and gestures of diplomacy and that, in the presence of the Dukes of Brittany and of Gueldre, who reluctantly come to show their submission to him, he knows how to watch and keep quiet.  The portrait of Charles shown in the pages of Songe du Vieil Pelerin – which Philippe de Mezieres writes in 1388-1389 when the King is twenty-years-old – gives us other details.  Charles “has a lovely human form, healthy, beautiful, strong, straight and light”.  He is well-endowed with memory and intelligence, he doesn’t swear but allows those close to him to swear too much in his presence “sans frein et sans vergogne” – that refers to Connetable Olivier de Clisson.  He is not very interested in astrology, sorcery, magic but needs to be wary of them – that refers to his brother Louis.  His fault is to spend the night feasting and dancing, after his day of hard work, and to miss sleep.  He is already suffering from insomnias.  And then, there are the women.  Philippe keeps advising him to “drink the water of his own tank, and to get saintly drunk at Isabeau’s beautiful breasts”, Charles likes the company of other women too much, and the old teacher has to repeat to him that, in this delicate affair, “victory is in flight”.  A portrait where there is no annunciating sign of the drama which will unfold, less than four years later, in Le Mans forest.

***

The grand festivals given in Paris in the Spring and Summer of 1389, the pacifying voyage effected by the sovereign in Languedoc during the following Winter, bode well for the new phase of the reign begun in November 1388.  Unfortunately, things quickly go badly.  An expedition led against the Barbary lair of Mahdia results in defeat.  Then, a project of descent into Italy to install the Avignon Pope, Clement VII, on the pontifical throne and chase from Rome the “usurper” Boniface IX, has to be abandoned:  the King of England, Richard II, is threatening to enter into war against France.  Then, the Duke de Bretagne [Brittany] refuses to recognize the pre-eminence of the King’s Justice.  Only the birth of Isabeau’s little Charles in Hotel Saint-Pol, on 6 February 1392, compensates for the defeats and deceptions of the preceding months.

In March, the meeting which brings to Amiens the King of France, his brother and his three uncles to attempt to negotiate peace with Richard II, comes to nothing.  Certain discouragement prevails when Charles VI leaves the banks of the Somme, on Easter Monday.  Without a real Anglo-French peace, it appears impossible to rapidly restore the unity of the Church, and engage a crusade against Turkey.  The King even falls ill – perhaps typhoid fever – to the point of having to stop for two weeks, in April, at the home of Bishop de Beauvais.  Recovered, he goes to Gisors and immediately goes hunting in the Lyons forest, before returning to Paris in May.

In June of the same year, Connetable Olivier de Clisson is attacked and seriously wounded by Pierre de Craon’s men.  Pierre de Craon seeks refuge with the Duke de Bretagne.  The Royal Council cannot tolerate the offence.  The attack against the Connetable, an officer of the sovereign, is a crime of lese-majeste.  The refusal of the Duke de Bretagne to deliver Craon must therefore be considered as treason.  Louis, Charles’ younger brother, pushes for firmness, for he hopes to recuperate Craon’s possessions, to expand in the direction of Maine and Anjou, the domain that he is starting to constitute for himself in Val-de-Loire.  The marmosets are also partisans of an exemplary punishment, but the uncles engage the King to renounce a costly and disproportionate expedition.  Charles, himself, wants to venge the wounded Connetable.

The royal army therefore begins assembling in Le Mans.  Although not yet completely recovered from the fever which had affected him in Beauvais in April, the sovereign absolutely wants to join the Host.  His uncles’ warnings have no effect on him, even when they mention a well-informed letter which leads them to believe that the guilty Craon is not with the Duke de Bretagne, but in Barcelona.  Convinced that it is his duty to chastise the Duke de Bretagne, and encouraged by the firmness of his faithful counsellors, Charles VI rides toward his destiny on the morning of 5 August 1392…

***

To be continued.

Could the two brothers have been able to conjugate their energies in the service of the Crown?  It didn’t happen, for the wariness of the elder will find an echo in the jealousy of the younger.  Louis is a brilliant, scheming talker whose personality already announces the one given by Machiavelli to his Prince.  As for Charles, at the end of this XIVth Century, he maintains the luminous spirit of traditional chivalry.  He possesses the affability, the generosity and the joyful disposition which is typical of the knights of the epoch.  Charles VI is gay, even facetious.  He loves jousts, farces, tournaments.

An anecdote paints him as an impatient young man, lively, with irresistable charm.  On the solemn day of the Queen’s entry into Paris, the ritual dictates that he await his spouse, away from the festival, in the company of elderly family members.  The festivities are described to him as they unfold with the progression of the cortege in the streets.  Suddenly, he can’t wait any more.  He begs his Chamberlain:

“Mount your horse, I’ll mount behind you, and we shall dress in such a way that we shall not be recognized, and we’ll go to see my wife’s entry.”

The Chamberlain gives in to the young seventeen-year-old sovereign’s will.  Off they go into the crowd, disguised.  But the disorder is great, and the sergeants who have the task of containing the sightseers hit hard.  Charles will come back with his shoulders covered in welts.

The adventure does not displease him:  he will recount it over and over again that evening at the banquet, to make the ladies laugh.  Soon, it will be repeated everywhere as a charming example of the King’s extreme gallantry.

***

The young King inherits a reasonably healthy France.  However, the successes against the English cannot prevent war restarting.  The problem of Guyenne, which is still English, is a source of persistent discord.  As well as that, although its financial state is satisfactory, the kingdom has suffered the shock of the mortalities connected with the Black Plague and military ravages.  Agricultural production is lower, the countryside is emptying and the towns are getting poorer.  In these conditions, rejection of the tax stirs up several revolts against the authority of young Charles VI and his uncles.  In February 1382, it is the Rouen “Harelle”, which explodes when the re-establishment of the war aids [taxes], imprudently abolished by Charles V shortly before his death, is announced.  A few days later, in March, the insurrection of the “Maillotins” unites the little people of Paris against the royal tax collectors.  The movement reaches other towns, notably in Languedoc where the Duke de Berry’s government unites everyone against him.  Only severe repression – followed however by judicious measures of appeasement – will bring this anti-fiscal agitation to an end.

Less than three years later, on 17 July 1385, the young King’s marriage to Isabeau of Bavaria is celebrated at Amiens.  One condition – rare at the epoch, when it concerns a prince of seventeen and a princess of fifteen – was made for the conclusion of the marriage:  that the young girl “be in the King’s pleasance”, in other words, that he love her.  Charles sees Isabeau, and can’t take his eyes off her.  Isabeau of Bavaria, who has a big nose and little eyes, is however attractive.  Her dark hair is very beautiful, her round body is appetising, and her timidity excites Charles VI.  When he is asked if the young lady is to remain and become Queen of France, Charles replies:

“Faith yes!  We want no other!”

So the marriage celebrations are happy and courteous, in honour of an amorous and terribly impatient husband.

“The ladies put the bride to bed, then the King went to bed…  you can believe that they had pleasure…”

***

The climate is tense when, on 3 November 1388, at Reims, Charles thanks his uncles for the trouble and work that his person has caused them, in other words, he takes the decision to do away with his tutors.  The Dukes of Burgundy and of Berry are very “discontent” to go back to their respective principalities, but the uncles’ government is finished:  Charles has really taken power, eight years, day for day, after his Coronation.

New men are now associated with the throne, mostly former collaborators of Charles V, Bureau de la Riviere, Jean le Mercier, Pierre Aycelin de Montaigu, Cardinal de Laon, or Connetable Olivier de Clisson, a brilliant war lord but also a devoted servant of the State.  Later, these counsellors will be called the “marmosets”.  Behind this change is the will to give priority to internal politics – we would say today, to gestion.  Although certain people said the contrary, it is truly the King’s will which is at the origin of this change:  this twenty-year-old sovereign is not a simple Knight-King, frivolous and warrior-like.  Charles judges that the time is right to emancipate himself from his uncles’ tutelage, principally that of Philippe of Burgundy, even if the Duke had more than honorably played his role.

A strange episode also partly explains the new direction taken by the King.  A hermit from Languedoc says that he has had visions during which the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael appeared to him and told him to carry a message to the sovereign which is to put an end to the kingdom’s sufferings by lightening taxes.  The pilgrim’s words strongly impress the King, and his counsellors are even more easily able to convince him to give a new direction to his politics.  This is not the reaction of a weak mind, as some have said.  In a time when religious mystery and miracles continue to “enchant the world”, the young Knight-King can be only attentive to advice coming to him from Heaven, carried by one of the humblest of his subjects.

To be continued.

Right from the day of the Coronation, Anjou and Bourgogne dispute the first place at the King’s side.  Ambitious and devoid of scrupules, Anjou dreams of a crown;  he will disappear in Italy four years later, in a vain attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples.  Soon, an accord is finally concluded between the rivals for the organization of the Council, presided over by the Duke of Anjou.  He has already taken advantage of the two-month Regency which followed the death of Charles V, to seize the King’s secret treasure, which the new sovereign will only be able to build up again at the price of an over-heavy fiscality, badly supported by his subjects.

Throughout his childhood, Charles receives lessons from his preceptor, Philippe de Mezieres.  Although he is drawn to jousting and physical exercises, he also has a brilliant mind, and is not the idiot that a certain historiography, written afterward, will do its best to describe, so as to track down in his early years traces of the “folly” to come.  Francoise Autrand, the author of a brilliant biography, underlines that he knows, “at twenty, enough Latin to be able to read and follow, without getting lost, the interminable speeches that the crisis of the Church inspires to the masters of the University of Paris”.  But, like his father, he understands that everyone around him is not at his level and, when the discourse is finished, he doesn’t hesitate, before the perplexed expressions of some of his counsellors, to ask the orator for a translation into French…  When he takes power and begins his personal reign, Philippe de Mezieres establishes for him an appropriate library, and he will form his ideas on government with the Bible, antique philosophy, Aristotle, Seneca and Boerce, with Titus Livus and Valerus Maximus for the History of Christian emperors, of Charlemagne and of the Crusades…  He reads also the political treatises of Jean de Salisbury and Gilles de Rome, as well as Saint Augustin’s Cite de Dieu…  A reading programme which is not destined for a light mind, as can be seen.  At the other end of the spectrum, the preceptor – and this reveals his pupil’s tastes – advises him not to waste his time reading stories of chivalry.  Pious, Charles attends Mass every day, especially honours the celebration of Epiphany, maintains a particular devotion to the Virgin and lives very intensely the memory of Christ’s Passion, at Easter.  Like numerous princes of his time, he dreams of crusades.  Robust and fond of physical exercises, he is drawn to war and hunting at an early age.  As a child, he already declares “to prefer harnesses” to riches and, his father asking him one day “if he would prefer to be crowned king of the crown or have the basinet and be subject to the perils and fortunes of war”, he replies that he chooses the basinet, “from which those present saw that he would be chivalrous”.

That is how the child learns his job of king, by becoming a strong and clever warrior, a courteous prince in a luxurious court, a knight devoted to the Cross…  The criticisms addressed to the sovereign by Christine de Pisan, by the Monk of Saint-Denis and by Philippe de Mezieres in his Songe du Vieil Pelerin, can be explained like this:  at this time, there are two models of the ideal prince, that of the clerics, lengthily demonstrated in the books of certain critics by Charles V the Wise, the King of lawyers and intellectuals, and that of warriors, dear to young Charles VI, who resembles the heroes of chivalry stories.  If the thinkers prefer the qualities of a “wise” king, the people are passionate about kings who are knights, and give them surnames such as Beautiful, Hardy, Good – that is to say brave – or Fearless…

***

The future King has received the affection of his parents during his early childhood, and nothing, at this time, permits to forsee the later “madness”.  However, his mother suffered from a mental illness – although it is impossible today to identify either its nature or its seriousness – during the year 1373, when Charles was only five:

“The Queen of France was ill through poisoning, so that she lost her good sense and her good memory.  The King, who loved her much made her make many pilgrimages, and, thanks to Our Lord, she came back in good health and in good sense.”

A breakdown or a “depression” which we must be careful not to interpret in the light of the strange disease which would attack her son later on.  Charles is raised with his brother Louis, with whom he remains inseparable all through his childhood.

The King’s only brother, three years younger than he, Louis doesn’t leave him and receives the same education.  No advice is given to the King that is not given to Louis, too.  Not one gift is made to the first that is not made to the second.  At Mardi Gras, a candle is painted for Charles and another for Louis.  Knives, combs, musical instruments are bought in pairs.  It is in the same piece of material that the same piece of clothing is cut twice, and even the embroidery and the ornaments are identical.  When one was aged eighteen and the other fifteen, they were still dressed the same…  Was this intimacy desired, or was it forced upon them?

At first, Count of Valois, Louis will become the Duke of Orleans in 1392, by his brother’s wish.  On the day of Charles VI’s Coronation, Louis, aged eight, walks in front of his brother.  He is given the task of carrying upright the sword of Charlemagne:  his destiny, decreed by his uncles, is to be a military chief, the sovereign’s sword arm.  But the child is as delicately built as his brother is solid.  He likes to read and discuss things.  He’s a good talker.  He also likes the sciences, but, at the time, sciences also meant astrology, and, sometimes, occultism, magic, herbs…  For Christine de Pisan, who finds in this prince “so wise in his young age” the portrait of his father Charles V, Louis is a typical example of an intellectual.

To be continued.

It was the middle of Summer, in the burning, heavy heat of August.  The King was buried inside a black velvet outfit, with a scarlet hat, also in velvet, on his head.  The princes slyly trailed behind, leaving him alone, so as not to cover him in dust, they said.  Therefore, it was alone that he travelled through the boring forests of the Maine, small woods with little shade, the suffocating heat of the clearings, the blinding mirages of the sand at noon.

Charles VI was stopped by a mysterious messenger, while riding through the forest of Le Mans. Shortly afterwards, the King went mad and killed four of his men.

“As he traversed the forest in this way, a sick-looking man, wearing only a white tunic, suddenly threw himself at the bridle of the King’s horse, crying out in a terrible voice:  “Stop, noble King, don’t go any farther, you are betrayed!”

“He was made to release the bridle, but they let him follow the King and cry out for half an hour.

“It was midday, and the King left the forest and entered a sandy plain where the sun was striking heavily.  Everyone was suffering from the heat.  A page who was carrying the royal lance went to sleep on his horse, and the lance, in falling, went to hit the helmet that another page was wearing.  At this sound of steel, at this flash of light, the King starts, draws his sword, and, spurring his horse, he cries:  “Attack!  Attack the traitors!  They want to deliver me!”  He runs like this, with his naked sword, on the Duke of Orleans.  The Duke escaped but the King had the time to kill four men before he could be stopped.  They had to wait until he was tired;  then one of his knights came and seized him from behind.  He was disarmed, he was taken down from his horse, he was gently lain on the ground.  His eyes were rolling strangely in his head, he recognized no-one and said nothing…”

It is in these terms that Michelet recounts the episode of Le Mans forest, an episode which has remained famous because it marks the beginning of the “madness” of King Charles VI of France.  The History books say that after this fatal day, the sovereign would have attack upon attack, sometimes delirious and dangerous, sometimes prostrated and withdrawn.  A tragic and mysterious illness, resurgence of hidden hereditary defects, the “madness” of Charles VI would haunt half a century of History, throw the kingdom into chaos for thirty years, and bring the country to the verge of complete disappearance.

Such is, at least, the version retained by generations of public school pupils.  Forged by the historians and school teachers of the laic and positivist IIIrd Republic, it discredited obscurantist royalty and gave a simplistic interpretation of a strange reign, where the “marvellous” was inextricably mixed with politics.

Apart from the image of a poor, crowned madman, haggard, scruffy, manipulated by the evil souls of his entourage, who was the real Charles VI?

***

Charles is twelve years old when he is taken to Reims, in the middle of a cortege of princes and knights, to receive the crown.  He is a beautiful, blond child whose face is strewn with freckles, and is tall for his age.  He holds his place in the vast cathedral without weakness, at the centre of an imposing, even grandiose troup.  The following Sunday, Charles makes his entry into Paris, transformed for the circumstance into a theatrical scene.  Tapisteries are spread at the windows.  Fountains of wine and of milk have been set up in the squares.  Little scenes have been organized by the town’s middle-classes, along the young King’s route.  The crowd acclaims the child, in whom it has placed its hopes of peace and prosperity:  “Noel!  Noel!”

Feasts, dances, jousts end this beautiful day, and doubtless Charles goes to sleep with a smile on his face – he has a reputation for having a happy character.

***

Charles is the son of Charles V the Wise and of Queen Jeanne de Bourbon.  Born on 30 December 1368, he is called to succeed his father in 1380.  He is then only twelve years old:  his forty-two year reign will be one of the longest in France’s history and, if it has left the memory of unhappy times, it begins under quite reassuring auspices.  The “repairing” reign of Charles V and reconquest brought about by Connetable Du Guesclin have in fact largely redressed the critical situation left by the first two Valois.  The defeats suffered by the French knights at Crecy and Poitiers, the horrors of the Jacquerie, the revolt of the middle-classes and the people of Paris, the manoeuvres and treasons of the King of Navarre, Charles the Bad, are all in the past.  Apart from Cherbourg, Calais and in Guyenne, the English have finally been kicked out of France.

After the “moult belle chose” (most beautiful thing) which was, according to Juvenal des Ursins, the Reims Coronation, on 11 November 1380, the King makes his entry into his capital where his subjects reserve an enthusiasic welcome for him.  They have in fact been frustrated by not having seen him at his father’s funeral;  the Dauphin and his young brother Louis, had been left at Melun, because of the plague which was affecting Paris.  Only their uncles had followed the mortal remains of the dead King.  Uncles called to play an important political role because of the new King’s youth, but ready to tear each other apart to acquire power at the heart of the Council.  Who are they?  There is the maternal uncle, Louis II de Bourbon, the brother of the dead Queen.  He is the eldest and descends from Saint Louis [Louis IX] through Robert de Clermont, a faraway sprig of the royal House who, with Henri IV, will succeed the Valois branch, in a distant future.  Meanwhile, his quality of maternal uncle obliges him to efface himself before the three brothers of Charles V.  The eldest of these is Louis d’Anjou.  He intends to impose himself, but the youngest, Philippe de Bourgogne, is the most powerful of the three:  through his marriage he has received Flanders, Artois and Franche-Comte.  Philippe is therefore the master of the imposing territorial principality of the Grand Dukes of the West, from the banks of the North Sea to Switzerland.  Plus, the ancient Duchy of Bourgogne [Burgundy] traditionally gives its Duke the title of First Peer of the Realm.  As well as that, he is reputed to have won his surname of “Hardy”, at the age of fourteen, fighting beside his father Jean the Good at the Battle of Poitiers…  Jean, Duke of Berry, the second brother, is master of Berry, Auvergne, Poitou and Languedoc.  He therefore has authority over almost one third of the kingdom.

To be continued.

Gerard Croiset

If, one day, you go to Utrecht, you can ask the first person you see to indicate Gerard Croiset’s house.  This man is known to all Dutch people, but also to all the police forces in the world for the thousands of pieces of information he has given on missing persons and objects.

He retained his youthful vanity and sometimes could be heard to say:

“I am Croiset the Great”.

But he could also be very down-to-earth.

“Everyone has the same gifts as I have.  With me, they are only a bit more developed.  Everyone is in contact with other people, I just feel these contacts a bit more intensely.”

He was not without humour either, and he loved to laugh.  In 1958, he was coming back from Milan by air with Professor Tenhaeff.  The aeroplane was supposed to land in Amsterdam.  But, because of fog, it was announced that it would be landing in Bruxelles.

In his seat, Croiset bursts out in great guffaws of laughter.  His neighbour, thinking that he has gone mad, shrinks away from him.  He says to her:

“Don’t worry, Madam…  Do you know who I am?   I am the Great Croiset!”

The lady is suitably impressed.

“You are the famous Dutch clairvoyant?”

“I am, Madam.  And, this evening, the Great Croiset was not capable of forseeing that we weren’t going to land in Amsterdam!”

***

Professor W. H. C. Tenhaeff (left) of the University of Utrecht, studied the case of Gerard Croiset (right).

Holland’s Institute of Parapsychology is one of the best in the world.  Situated in Utrecht, it maintains permanent relations with the principal organisms which, in diverse countries – above all America – deal with extra-sensory perception.

It possesses several thousands of dossiers on Croiset’s clairvoyances, and thousands of attestations from police forces in Holland, Germany, the United States, etc.  The man who is at the origin of the Institute’s great prestige, and whose works are probably a generation ahead of those of his collegues, is Professor W. H. C. Tenhaeff.  This scholar who is, with Doctor Rhine of Duke University in the United States, the greatest specialist in the world of extra-sensory phenomena, devoted the latter part of his life to the Croiset case and participated in all of the Dutchman’s clairvoyancy seances, in particular the famous chair tests.

***

The chair test is an experiment which, because it is renewable, permitted Tenhaeff to realise certain essential progress in the knowledge of extra-sensory faculties.  It is in fact the possibility of repetition which is the first condition of scientific proof.

The number of a seat in a room where there is to be, in the future, a public meeting of some kind, is chosen at random.  The seats are never reserved and sometimes Croiset does not even know the town where this meeting is to be held.  Infallibly, he manages to guess, up to twenty-six days ahead, who is going to sit on this seat when the time comes, with many details which go from the complete physical description of the spectator to the relation of more or less important incidents in his personal life.  For example, he will say:

“This will be a young, slim man, in a dark suit, with short hair, like a crew-cut.  He has a little handkerchief showing from his breast pocket and has fallen on his left leg where he has a scar on the knee.  On his left, a middle-aged woman is seated.  She has a son who wears a sailor’s uniform.  This woman has lost a member of her family in a torpedoing off the Atlantic coast…”

The chair test has been repeated and verified hundreds of times, with an extremely low margin of error.

***

Over seventeen years of experimentation with Croiset and the chair test, this “precognition” which has nothing to do with telepathy, which simplifies the problem, indicates that real “secret gulfs” exist in the human mind.  If official science wanted to sound them, the extra-sensory gifts of primitive races – prescience of certain dangers, communication without words, capacity to heal, etc. – could be understood, and these gifts restored in the mechanised, diminished man of today.

This could then be used to accede to a greater knowledge of the Universe, of this hidden world, which, for the moment, is not accessible to our known senses.  A world where time and space are abolished and where thoughts and memories would have their own reality.

***

In the last period of his research, Einstein was more and more interested in extra-sensory perception…

***

Gerard Croiset

On 27 May 1950, the partially unclothed body of a young girl, aged seventeen, is found near Arnhem, the city on the Rhine that was the theatre of one of the greatest Allied disasters of the Second World War.

The autopsy of the cadaver permits to establish that, not long before dying, she had had sexual relations.

As, after two and a half months of investigations, the police still haven’t found the killer, Gerard Croiset is contacted.  On 5 August, at Arnhem police headquarters, the clairvoyant is put in the presence of clothes and diverse objects having belonged to the young girl.

Naturally, any mention of the fact that she is dead, or the conditions surrounding her death, has been carefully avoided.

Croiset places his hands on the clothes and starts immediately:

“I see a young girl…  She is blonde.  Her hair falls onto her shoulders…  She seems to me to be a pupil in a secondary school…  I see her sitting near the window.  From her desk, she can see the movements in the street.”

To the surprise of everyone present, Croiset suddenly lies down on the floor.

“She was found lying in a little wood…  Near her hand, there is a little stake…  I am breathing with more and more difficulty, did someone strangle her?   Now, I see a bicycle and a man’s straw hat…  The man could well be an artist and work in shows…  Now, I see the girl again.  She hasn’t been out with this man for a long time.  He is wearing a kaki shirt.  He detests stiff collars…”

At this point in his story, Croiset loosens his collar.

“This girl likes going out with boys.  She troubles them sexually, but, at the last minute, she refuses herself…  This time, she went further than usual.  Has she been ill?  I see the man again now.  It’s strange, he seems to have a particularly big genital organ…  I also have the impression that he limps slightly…”

A few hours after this meeting, Croiset, Professor Tenhaeff and the police officers go to the place where the cadaver was discovered.  While they are on their way, Croiset says:

“That’s where she saw her father for the last time…  It’s curious, I hear people singing…”

Once they have arrived at the place, the clairvoyant disappears into the wood.  He comes back fairly rapidly and announces to the people who have accompanied him that he has located the spot where the body had been found.

Close by, there is a stake with a panel indicating the limit of the province.  At police headquarters, he had been told that this stake did not exist and, in fact, the detectives had not noticed it.  The clairvoyant is very proud of this precision, which, like all the others he had given, turned out to be correct.  The murder suspect was a young man who was a member of a theatrical troupe.

The people who were singing?  A choir directed by the young girl’s father, headmaster of a school;  he had seen his daughter and the young man who accompanied her for the last time, when they had stopped where he was rehearsing.

The young man’s genital organ?  There, Croiset made a mistake.  In fact, it was…  a big red syringe which was regularly used by the young man, who was a cook, to baste his roasts.

In fact, nearly all of the details given by Croiset were correct.  Except the way in which the girl died.  She hadn’t been strangled, but had succumbed from a heart attack while she was making love.  Croiset, however, had felt that she was ill:  it was true that she was being treated for cardiac problems which were to become fatal…

***

These few cases of clairvoyance are not any more exceptional than innumerable others performed by the clairvoyant over fifty years.  His exploits are almost daily occurrences.  What could be their origin?  The circumstances which set off such extraordinary gifts?

Croiset the Clairvoyant, as he is known in Holland, is born on 10 May 1909, of Jewish parents.  His father is an actor and his mother works in Wardrobe.  Throughout the whole of his childhood, Croiset, sickly, rachitic, undernourished, will be bundled from one home to another.

He suffers a lot from the successive disappearances of his father and, at ten, he has already been entrusted to six different couples.  One of his adoptive fathers attaches his foot to a stake, from whence doubtless comes his particular sensitivity for everything which resembles this object.  Often alone, he takes refuge in day-dreaming and imagination.  It is these types of comportment which permit the very early revelation of his paranormal gifts.

One day, he answers a teacher who has just called him “little, crazy stupid”:

“I can see things happening kilometres away.”

A few days later, the teacher is absent…  When he returns, the boy tells him:

“I know why you didn’t come to class yesterday.  You went to see a blonde woman who wore a red dress.  You are going to marry her.”

This first paragnose noted by Science in relation to the Dutch phenomenon was of course perfectly correct…

Later on, he worked at diverse little jobs, got married and opened a grocery shop which he sent into bankruptcy a few months later.  He is on the verge of suicide but his paranormal powers strengthen and he dips into spiritism.  With a lot of success, since he is able to relate entire chapters on their childhoods to the participants of his seances, with details that they, themselves, had forgotten…

He forsees the Second World War and, shortly afterwards, his arrest by the Nazis, who release him thanks to false papers that his friends have sent to him.  By his intuition, he later manages to save numerous Jews whom the Germans were about to arrest.

But the decisive meeting occurs in December 1945.  At the end of a parapsychological conference, Pr Tenhaeff, Director of the Institute of Parapsychology in Holland, who already knows him by reputation, offers him a real association.

There are a few storms at first – Croiset is as aggressive as he is vain – but these two men complement each other and have succeeded in collecting an enormous stock of irrefutable experimentations.

For many scholars who are starting to show interest in parapsychology, their perfectly renewable character “reverses the barriers of space-time and asks delicate questions of all the scholars who wish to properly examine the facts without condemning a priori their validity” as Doctor B. E. Schwartz of Monclair, New Jersey, says…

***

To be continued.

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