Category: sexuality


The Count of Saint-Germain.

The Count of Saint-Germain was Rose-Croix, like Descartes, Willermoz, or Goethe.  He dreamed, like all Rosicrucians of the epoch, of organizing a European government.  Which explains the zeal that he displayed in serving the kings, but not for just any old job.  This is what distinguishes him from someone like Casanova, to whom he is often wrongfully compared.  He is nothing like the seductive rascal, busker, cheat and chaser of skirts.  Saint-Germain is, on the contrary, an Initiate of high rank, with immense culture and uncontestably endowed with paranormal powers.

***

In 1774, Saint-Germain is placed in the presence of Marie-Antoinette.  He tells her that the Encyclopaedist Party wants power and that soon the Catholic Religion and the Magistrature will be abolished.  The Queen replies:

“So, Royalty will be the only thing left!”

“Not even that!  But a Republic whose sceptre will be the executioner’s axe!  From all parts of the Kingdom will surge men avid for vengeance.  They will destroy everything in their way and civil war will break out with all its horrors.  You will then regret not having listened to me….”

***

This prediction comes to us from one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, Madame d’Adhemar.  It is in conformity with what we know about Saint-Germain, who is endowed with fulgurant intuitions and knowledge which allow him to deduct, from facts that had scarcely any significance for his contemporaries, future realities.  This is doubtless the essence of all prophetism…

***

The cover of a strange manuscript on alchemical symbolism attributed to the Count of Saint-Germain. This work, which has not been entirely decoded, is in the Troyes Library.

It is certain that great culture – and that of Saint-Germain was truly encyclopaedic – confers a sort of immortality.  In the measure that it allows us to make events that we have not known live again and draw lessons from them and project them into the future…

***

Apart from a prodigious memory, the Count was supremely clever in making people curious without satisfying their curiosity.  By letting people believe a little and showing them a lot, he must have ended up suggesting even more.  He succeeded in this for twenty years with Louis XV, who was nothing like a naive man…

***

As a high, Rosicrucian dignitary, Saint-Germain was very rich, and could have substituted some precious stones for others of a lesser value…  Still with a disinterested aim, because he was sincerely monarchist and, kept informed by his Rosicrucian Brothers of all that was in preparation in France, he wanted, in this way, among others, to save Royalty, despite the King.  By amusing him firstly, to capture his trust and bring him later to make the indispensable reforms.

***

We are fairly sure that Saint-Germain practised complete sexual abstinence.  This is confirmed for example by a letter of 1745 from Horace Walpole, the English Prime Minister, who knew him well.  The Count surely used chastity to produce paranormal phenomena.

If he wanted to approach women, it was because they were the obligatory intermediaries for arriving at the thrones where his political and moral actions could be put in motion…  As for the famous elixir, he very honestly said that it could only retard inevitable ageing.

***

Madame de Genlis assures that he had found, thanks to his deep knowledge of chemistry, a liqueur appropriate for his temperament”.   However, this admirer of the Count emitted a theory that was very new for her time:  she said that

“without his passions and his intemperance, Man’s age would be one hundred, and a very long life, one hundred and fifty or one hundred and sixty”.

Saint-Germain and the gerontologists of today do not say anything different.  As for the Baron de Gleichen, the Ambassador of the Margrave of Bayreuth who had known him very well, he describes the Count

“living on a great diet, never drinking while he eats, and purging himself with follicles of sene.  That’s all that he advises to his friends who question him on what they should do to live a long life”.

We can see that, in the domain of disciplined life-style, Saint-Germain was also very much ahead of his time.  This surely allowed him to appear younger than his age for a very long time.  He had, in fact, invented what we call dietetic and biochemistry…  Two hundred years before Niehans or Messegue…

***

Saint-Germain’s fortune was perhaps exaggerated…  By Gleichen in particular who, according to Madame du Deffand,  had this unfortunate habit.  He also lets people believe, in his Souvenirs, that the Count knew how to make precious stones.  Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, thinks that this should be taken in its symbolic Rosicrucian alchemical sense…

***

As for the fault in the diamond, it is easier to remove a fault than to manufacture a diamond.  Saint-Germain had very extensive chemical knowledge and is the author of a good twenty inventions in the domains of dyes and metal alloys.  He knew the principal stone cutters of Amsterdam.  Not to mention that, in two weeks, he could have made the round trip to Holland to bring the King a stone that he could have exchanged there…  Louis Pauwels thinks that his fortune, which was real, came to him from his Brotherhood and perhaps also from his family…

***

It was said that he was the son of a Jewish doctor from Strasbourg, or of a textile merchant from Moscow.  Of a Princess who had been Louis XV’s mistress, too.  The favour which he enjoyed with many sovereigns allows us, in fact, to think that he was of noble extraction.  This is Paul Chacornac’s thesis, which seems, to Louis Pauwels, to be the most probant:  Saint-Germain might have come from the princely Hungarian Rakoczi Family, the declared enemies of the House of Austria.  His father could be Franz II Rakoczi, proscrit in 1711, at the moment of the Szatmar Peace, who had found refuge at the Court of Louis XIV.  A weighty witness to confirm this version is the Countess de Genlis, to whom Saint-Germain delivered part of the truth.  He revealed to the Preceptress of the Orleans children:

“When I was seven, I roamed in the middle of forests with my Governor and my head had a price on it.  My mother, whom I was never more to see, attached her portrait to my arm.”

The Count showed this portrait, painted on a bracelet which never left his wrist, to Madame de Genlis, whose Memoires are a precious testimony on the end of the Old Regime…

***

It has been established that the only princely family to fill the conditions mentioned in the confidence that he made to Princess Amelie was the masculine Wittelsbach line.  A tragic line, marked by folly, one of whose last descendants is Louis II of Bavaria, who drowned [or had a heart-attack] in Starnberg Lake.  But this hypothesis is less satisfactory, for if Saint-Germain had been a Wittelsbach, why would he only have made an allusion to his mother’s origins?…

On the other hand, what is certain is that he was related to the Hesse Family, and it was  near the throne of the Prince de Hesse-Cassel, grandson of George II of England, that he ended his days…  temporarily.

***

In the comany of the Prince of Hesse, Saint-Germain made dyes which nothing could alter.

The Prince, who was a Mason of high rank, became his disciple, and together, they launched themselves into the manufacture of dyes which they produced in a factory installed on the Baltic.  Dyes that nothing, neither acid, nor air, nor sun, nor rain could alter, it seems.  The Prince of Hesse managed it on his master’s instructions for more than thirty years, and the German industry took certain techniques from it, of which it is still today very proud…

***

The Count made a mystery of his life because he had sworn it to his Rosicrucian Brothers and this corresponded to the sensitivity of an epoch where, to accede to those in power, you must not only have convictions and competences, but also a sense of the marvellous, wit, and be gifted in the performing arts to interest them while amusing them.  He consented to it to make his Masonic and alchemical ideal come true.  Not to make gold, but to study the processes of the transmutation of matter, which for the Rose-Croix, would permit, if they were known, to give to the whole of Humanity “health, riches, omniscience and ubiquity”.

This ideal, Saint-Germain was one of the only ones to push it so far, while living his own terrestrial and spiritual adventure to the hilt.

This is also his immortality.  It is in any case what Frederic II, King of Prussia, meant when, speaking as a connaisseur of men, he said of Saint-Germain:

“This man should never die!…”

***

Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

The young girl, Don Miguel’s half-sister, is rapidly conquered by this beautiful Andalusian man who says that he is a friend of her half-brother.  But at the moment of celebrating their clandestine marriage, by a devilish refinement, he reveals his identity to her.  What a victory if the lovely lady had accepted to lose her soul, and what savour the taste of mortal sin would have added to the thing!…  But the young girl pushes him away and, having slapped him, alerts the household.  The lord of the place arrives, Don Miguel kills him and, while fleeing, also kills a domestic who was pursuing him.

This first defeat marks the beginning of a series of events which would vividly impress the young libertine.

On his way one night to a convent with his equerry to kidnap a nun – who was consenting, by the way – (this type of sacrilege was still missing from his collection), he hears some mortuary psalms being chanted inside a church.  Intrigued, he enters.  The church is empty.

Don Miguel fought many duels. He was a clever swordsman and killed the husbands whose wives he had taken...

He has scarcely taken a few steps when a violent blow to the back of his neck throws him to the ground unconscious.  His companion brings him round and they both distinctly hear a lugubrious voice crying out:

“Bring the coffin, he is dead!”

Terrified, they rush home and renounce the kidnapping.

From this moment on, the hallucinations continue to occur.  Called by a pretty girl who is dreaming on her balcony, he climbs up via a silk ladder and finds an empty bedroom draped in black, where a skeleton is lying surrounded by four candles.

He is on the verge of folly when he meets the only woman that he would ever love:  Dona Jeronima.  He marries her and lives happily with her for thirteen years.

The whole of Seville marvels.  Don Juan has calmed down.  Don Juan is faithful.  To tell the truth, Don Juan has found the love that he has been passionately seeking…

Suddenly, Dona Jeronima dies, and Don Miguel, crushed with pain, again suffers hallucinations, appalling hallucinations which make him ill.  To find peace again, he wants to enter a convent.  His Confessor opposes this:

“You need to be active.  The contemplative life is not suitable for you.”

And Don Miguel puts his fortune at the service of the poor, founds hospices, collects money for charity, cares for the sick, directs the convent of the Caridad with the same passion which formerly pushed him to debauchery.

At the end of his life, Don Miguel lived like Saint Vincent de Paul.

Doing in Spain what Saint Vincent de Paul does in France, he exhausts himself at the task and dies at 52, surrounded by the respect of his peers and the admiration of the whole of Spain.

He is buried inside the convent’s chapel, underneath a plaque on which he had asked that these words be written:

Here lie the bones and ashes

of the worst man who was ever in the world.

Pray for him.

Soon, miracles take place near his tomb.  When Guy Breton was writing this text, the Congregation of Rites was studying the dossier for the canonisation of Don Miguel.  It is possible that he is now, or soon will be, a saint in the Roman Catholic calendar.  This atheist, criminal libertine could have his statue in churches.

***

Don Miguel had many visions.  One evening, on his way out, he passes a group of men who are walking rapidly carrying a stretcher.  He stops and asks the bearers why they are going so fast.  They tell him that Don Miguel de Manara is dead.  He rushes to the stretcher and glimpses a cadaver which he recognizes…  He is the one being carried away…

A few days later, he meets a procession which is coming out of a street and advancing noiselessly without displacing the slightest breath of air.  Penitents are following in long rows, holding lighted candles…  And he notices that the flames of these candles are rigorously motionless despite the walking.

This nightmare cortege literally turns him icy cold.  He then asks which saint is being honoured.  He receives the reply that they are carrying Don Miguel de Manara to his burial…

Don Miguel bursts out laughing.  A nervous laugh which stops suddenly for he perceives a bier covered in black velvet and supported by monks.  Behind them, the penitents are walking slowly.  Don Miguel insists:

“What are you carrying there?”

One of the monks looks at him through glassy eyes and tells him that they are going to bury Don Miguel de Manara.

The cortege continues on its way and enters San Isodoro Church.  Don Miguel follows it.  He hears lugubrious chants and attends a Mass for the Dead.  When it is over, he dares to approach the coffin placed in the centre of the nave and snatches off the black velvet covering it.  He then sees in horror that the dead man’s face is once more his own.

He faints.  He is discovered, unconscious, in the early hours of the morning, lying in the church.

***

All of his hallucinations were just as morbid as these.  Here is a third example among dozens of others.  One day when he is going to see a businessman about a farm destroyed by fire, he notices a woman who seems to have exactly the same body and is walking in exactly the same way as his dear Jeronima.  He follows her.  The unknown woman walks faster and faster and he is almost obliged to run so as not to lose her.  She enters a church.  He enters too and approaches her.  He is about to touch her when she turns around.  Under the mantilla, Don Miguel sees in terror a jeering skeleton looking at him…

***

These hallucinations were well-known in Seville.  Everyone was talking about them…

***

If he had been the only one to have seen these things, a psychiatrist could probably explain them by the disgust that he felt for his former life, for his sinning with his body and even for the human body itself.  But often, friends – sometimes high-ranking people in Seville – shared his visions.  So these phenomena are inexplicable.

***

His mourning for his wife does not explain the hallucinations that he had before his marriage, the authenticity of which is certified by witnesses.

***

These appalling visions finally changed him.  He founded a hospice and completely devoted his life to the poor.  This lasted eighteen years.  In Seville, he was called the Father of the Poor…  His only distraction was to busy himself with the roses that he had had planted in the garden of the hospice.  In 1678, the plague struck Andalusia, attacking thousands of people.  Don Miguel devoted himself without counting to help the victims and died of exhaustion in 1679, after having cared for hundreds of sick people…  Seven months later, his body was exhumed to be transferred.  It was noted that it was intact.  The face was smiling, and underneath the perfectly healthy flesh, people had the impression that blood was still circulating…

As for the roses that he had planted, they continue to flower every year, for more than three centuries now.

***

The Don Juan saint

Don Miguel de Manara, better known as Don Juan.

On 27 July 1680, the city of Seville and the Brothers of Charity, along with numerous Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, monks, laymen, great lords and Masters of the University, introduced into the Court of Rome a request for the canonisation of Brother Don Miguel de Manara, who had died one year earlier in odour of sanctity at the convent of the Caridad.  The enquiry undertaken by the eminent Doctors of the Congregation of Rites was long and minutious.  It lasted ten years and permitted the discovery that the person proposed for judgement in the Court of Rome had had a particularly edifying life.  In faith of which the Pope signed the decree making Don Miguel de Manara a Venerable, the first sanctification grade before beatification.

Immediately, the monks of the Caridad went to work so that the Vatican would take interest in the miracles which were taking place near the tomb of their former Brother and would decide to accord him the title of Blessed.

When Guy Breton wrote this text in the XXth Century, the Congregation of Rites was studying the canonisation dossier of Don Miguel de Manara.

But who is this holy man possessing such remarkable virtues that Rome was considering granting him a halo?

Seville in the XVIIth Century.

He was a Sevillian who lived in the XVIIth Century and was better known by the name of Don Juan…  That’s right:  Don Juan, the lover of a thousand and three women, rapist, adventurer, assassin!…  However, this very real character must not be confused with the legendary Don Juan created by Tirso de Molina and taken up by Moliere.

Born in Seville in 1627, Don Miguel has the revelation of his vocation of seductor when he is only fourteen years old.  Having attended a performance of Burlador by Tirso de Molina, he leaves the theatre declaring with tranquil assurance:

“I will be Don Juan!”,

as another child would say:  “I will be a sailor!”

And straight away, he tries to gain some experience.  As a member of a noble family, he needs, as a true conquistador, brilliant beginnings.  And, for a trial run, it is indeed brilliant:  he becomes the lover of the Archbishop of Seville’s mistress.  He draws from this first contact some lessons that a long apprenticeship with a commoner lady would not have given him.

Don Miguel seduced marquises, servant-girls, washerwomen, nuns, duchesses, middle-class women, sales-girls and princesses.

Then he turns to the married women whom he charms by his words, marvels by his audacity and sends into ecstasy by a very knowledgeable technique…

When a husband, learning of his misfortune, displays any threatening contrarity, Don Miguel draws his sword and kills the interferer.

Wanting to equal his model by any means, he backs away from no peril.  One evening, he arranges to meet a young girl in a hunting pavillion and alerts the lady’s brother.  The brother, thinking that it is just boasting, goes to the bedroom door and listens.  Recognizing his sister’s voice, he insults Don Miguel, but has to remain on the landing and await the end of the duet, a few characteristic sounds of which permit him to follow the different stages.  After which, Don Miguel comes out with raised sword, kills the brother and calmly goes home.

All of these exploits do a lot for his reputation, as can be imagined.  Soon, he has the nickname that he wants.  The whole of Seville calls him “Don Juan”.  It is said of him that he attracts women more than a magnet attracts iron.

But one evening, just like the Don Juan of the legend, while he is in a young girl’s bedchamber – her name is Dona Teresa – the father appears, a torch in his hand.  Don Miguel leaps from the bed, seizes his sword and, in the dark corridor, engages in a terrible duel.  The elderly man, who has drawn his sword, fights furiously, but Don Miguel kills him with a thrust to the heart and flees.

This time, the business is too serious for the parents of the young man to arrange.  Dona Teresa’s father being the head of a powerful Andalusian family, the King himself orders that he be pursued in Justice.  Don Miguel has to flee, to leave Spain, to take refuge in Italy, then in the Netherlands where the charm of the beautiful Flemish ladies soon contains no secrets for him.

Engaged in a Spanish regiment which is warring against Holland, he displays exceptional bravery which merits him being mentioned in Army dispatches.  His brilliant conduct is quickly known in Seville and, by royal decision, the judiciary pursuits are abandoned.  Don Miguel can return home.

He has barely arrived, when he finds a new way to fascinate the beautiful Spanish women:  he participates in corridas and displays, there again, extraordinary dexerity.

One day, he falls seriously ill.  All the husbands of Andalusia rejoice, but Don Miguel recovers, despite expectations.  It is said of him:

“He even beats death!”

It would be wrong to think that this eternally dissatisfied man was a brainless butterfly without method.  Don Miguel kept his accounts.  He possessed a complete list of his “victims” with, opposite, a list of the husbands or lovers he had fooled according to their professions.  All social classes were represented.  At the top of the masculine column, the Pope’s name could be read…  During his stay in Italy, Don Miguel had in fact seduced a beautiful Florentine to whom, it was said, His Holiness had accorded his favours…

Then came an Emperor.  His principal biographer, Mrs Esther Van Loo says:

“The enumeration continued, brutal, direct, precise.  It was an astounding pele-mele of Bishops, of reigning Princes and Dukes, of Marquis, of Counts, of Knights, of bourgeois or of modest tradesmen.”

One evening, while reading over his strange “accounting”, he noticed that he had not yet tasted incest.  His sisters being nuns in a convent, the severe Rule of which forbade all hope, he was going to resign himself to abusing one of his aunts, when he remembered the existence of a half-sister, the bastard daughter of his father, who lived in Corsica.

The following day, Don Miguel embarked.

To be continued.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria with Shadow, her faithful Irish Airedale.

The exhausted Empress cannot accompany Emperor Franz-Josef  of Austria to Varsovia, where he must meet the Tsar.  Upon his return, he finds her even worse, shaken by spasms of coughing, still following her severe diet and physical exercise.  At the end of October 1860, her state alarms the whole Court.  After an Homeric struggle, Doctor Seeburger is replaced by a more intelligent doctor, Doctor Skoda, a lung specialist.  Upon examining her, he notes that the strong bouts of fever are due to an inflamation of the lungs.  At the Court, the fatal word “tuberculosis” is whispered.  Laryngitis?  Of course not.  It’s much more serious!  Doctor Skoda’s diagnosis and, above all, the remedy that he proposes, will be laden with consequences.  The doctor suggests that the Empress stay in a sunny country without delay.  A voyage!  The word has a miraculous effect…  She announces that she is going to leave as soon as possible.  Where can one be sure of finding sunshine in November?  Franz-Josef talks about the Adriatic, an Austrian sea thanks to Venice.  But Sissi declares that she wants to go to a foreign land, and chooses, we don’t know why, the island of Madera.

To be able to understand the rapidity of this decision, we must also examine the intimate relations between Elisabeth and Franz-Josef at this period.  Among her gymnastics, her diet and her mental state, Sissi does not have much room for physical love;  she is more romantic than sensual.  Certainly, the couple is in love, but their exigencies are no longer in harmony.  Sissi has “migraines”, and fears another pregnancy that she feels she would be unable to bear.  Three children in four years is a lot, and the last birth has exhausted her.  On his side, Franz-Josef is possibly tired of being the perpetual arbiter between his wife and his mother, and tired of the fantasies of an Empress who refuses to grow up.  Such a reaction is doubtless understandable.  In the course of the Summer, an insidious rumour traverses the Palace walls.  The Emperor, distressed and lonely, and whose fidelity has been exemplary up until now, may have found comfort with a beautiful Polish aristocrat.  Elisabeth can only feel wounded by this indiscretion.  And, added to her health, it is an excellent reason to want to leave Vienna.

The astounded population learns that the Empress is seriously ill, and that she is going to leave Vienna.  The idea of her departure has transformed Sissi.  Gay, joyful, she busies herself with the choice of her wardrobe and the organization of her route.  The departure is fixed on 17 November.  Elisabeth and Franz-Josef board the imperial train which rolls towards the North of Bavaria and stops at Bamberg.  The moment for goodbyes has come.  Franz-Josef knows that Sissi will stay away for a long time.  He has given her her presents for her birthday and Christmas, and Archduchess Sophia, making a great show of sadness, has done the same.  The Emperor has made arrangements for Sissi to lack nothing.  At twenty-three, the Empress is traversing a crisis.  Her departure leaves a distressed Emperor on the quay.  He is worried, but does not yet sense how much his life is about to become a solitary road.

No Austrian boat being able to welcome the Empress aboard, it is Queen Victoria who puts one of her magnificent yachts at her disposition, and it is waiting for her at Anvers.  She is welcomed there by the King of the Belgians, Leoplold I.  A gesture of courtesy and family relations;  the Belgian sovereign is the father of Sissi’s sister-in-law, Charlotte.

The crossing is appalling and the passengers are wobbly.  Revitalized, the Empress takes pleasure in the tempest.  For six years, she has been suffocating.  She is finding her breath again.  Sissi’s liberty is one thousand kilometres to the South-West of Lisbon, and five hundred kilometres from Africa.  Liberty is faraway from Vienna.

***

The British royal yacht Osborne drops anchor in the bay of Funchal, the capital of Madera.  The warm climate has fashioned the island into a subtropical garden.  The white, several-storeyed houses have layers of bougainvillea and hortensia flowing down their walls, mixed with the perfumes from orange trees.  As soon as she arrives, Sissi feels calmer.

A curious crowd gathered on the breakwater worries her, but, at the same time, comforts her.  Unknown faces can only be friendly.  A letter is handed to her in the name of King Pedro V, who welcomes her onto Portugese territory.

Sissi settles into the old Palace of Quinta Vigia, from whence the gaze embraces the port and the town in the form of an amphitheatre.  She is seduced by the banana trees, the tile rooves, the windows wide open to the sky.  She arranges to lead the least official existence possible.  Sissi is interested in all the flowers that surge among the bubbling water sources in the basalt, lives surrounded by birds, collects butterflies, adopts a giant toad, launches herself into amusing duos with the parrots.  She usually goes on solitary outings, sometimes on horseback, more often in a little carriage drawn by white ponies;  she has rented eight.  When clouds cover this paradise’s brightness, Sissi plays cards, perfects her Hungarian, listens, fascinated, to the stunning Traviata of Mr Verdi, badly handled by the little Barbary organ sent to her by Franz-Josef.  If only her husband and children were at her side…  To Gisela, she writes:

“I shall bring you back some pretty birds in an aviary and a tiny little guitar.”

But melancholy lies permanently in wait for her, and the first Christmas, three thousand kilometres away from her family, is difficult for her.

So, at the beginning of 1861, if the Empress’ physical health appears to be stabilised, her psychological health is worsening.  A mixture of remorse and anxiety torments her.  She becomes anguished thinking of her sister Maria, Queen of Naples, still under siege at Gaete.  The city will fall on 13 February, and Sissi will learn, with relief, that the Queen and her husband have taken refuge in Rome, where they have asked the Pope’s protection.

A new companion arrives for her from England, a big, white dog, a stiff-haired terrier of the Irish Airedale race.  Sissi calls him Shadow, a well-chosen name, for he will follow her everywhere, and will pose beside her on many photographs.  The photos of the time also show the Empress and her ladies-in-waiting dressed in sailor suits with matching hats.  The document will circulate in Vienna, provoking comments which are not always kind.  It is beginning to be said that the ill from which the Empress is suffering might be essentially connected to her character.  And, while the monarchy is living its most difficult hours with Hungary, Austria is deprived of its Empress, and the Emperor is deprived of his spouse.

To be continued.

Louis XV.

Sometimes called a carpenter’s daughter, sometimes a young cowherdess, sometimes the daughter of the Du Barry’s Intendant or of the gardener of her Louveciennes property, the mythical child infected by smallpox, who is supposed to have given the disease to the King while in his bed, was written about by multiple authors, who did not hesitate to heap blame onto the guilty King.  He is supposed to have received the smallpox, transformed into a punishment from Heaven, from his innocent victim, at the same time, giving her the big pox [syphilis].  Louis XV is even suspected of purposely trying to give his own pox to young, healthy organisms with the aim, as ignoble as it is illusionary, of debarrassing himself of it.  This is how Touchard-Lafosse, the author of the Chroniques de l’Oeil-de-Boeuf, explains very seriously that

“the gift of the King’s illness to young, robust persons, lively and in good health, appeared the only appropriate means for enticing His Majesty’s morbifical [“morbifique” (sic)] humours out of him, and rejuvenating his person”.

For all those who are seeking to make him look dirty, it is therefore the King’s immoderate taste for debauchery that is supposed to be his downfall.

***

Louis XV.

For two weeks, the King’s illness mobilises the Court’s complete attention, without anyone being careful about contagion.  Around fifty cases will be declared at this time, and ten patients will die from it, some of whom had scarcely approached the King’s bed.  No preventive measures were taken and the monarch’s sheets were left on the sill of the window which opens onto the Dauphin’s and the Dauphine’s garden, as well as onto the apartments of the Count de Provence, the future Louis XVIII.  The risk is considerable, except for Marie-Antoinette who was innoculated in 1768, while she was still an Austrian Archduchess.  On 29 April, when “the King’s smallpox has not yet declared itself”, the Dauphin and his young spouse go to their grandfather’s bedside, which will have dramatic consequences.  The three daughters that still remain to the sovereign, Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie, even relay each other at his bedside and contract the illness, but without any serious consequences.  Madame Adelaide does not even hesitate, on 2 May, to take her father’s hand, covered in terrible blisters, while he, himself, is ignorant of the exact nature of his illness.

Several high Court people, including the Prince de Conde and the Dukes d’Aiguillon, de Belle-Isle and de Croy, remain at the patient’s bedside, in spite of the risks.  Political risks as much as sanitary risks:  if Louis XV dies, they will not be able to approach the person of the new King for forty days.  On the other hand, a cure would put them in a most favourable position with the sovereign.  The Duke de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt does not even bother to hide his thoughts on the subject:

“I decided to watch beside him…  I saw it as being in my interest to do so, for I would acquire the right to take up my ordinary way of life after his recovery, if I had an assiduous comportment during his malady, and after ten nights spent at his bedside.”

A lot of people gamble on the monarch’s survival and, in spite of the risks, they squabble over the places in the royal bedchamber.  The Dukes d’Aumont and de Bouillon multiply their courtier words and actions, which is also reported to us by La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt:

“They both gave themselves up to tenderly loving the King.  Their conversation was interrupted by tender and deep sighs, by sobs, by moans, and sometimes also by moments of sleep for, fortunately, their anxiety did not remove all faculty for sleep from them… “

In the same register, the Duke de Bouillon explains to the surgeon, La Martiniere, while sobbing, that he would be ready to sacrifice his two arms to save the monarch’s life…

Louis XV the Bien-Aime.

Besides the courtiers, doctors and apothicaries occupied in force the royal bedchamber.  For the Diafoirus [a doctor in one of Moliere’s plays] of the times, the aim was “to expulse the morbid humours”.  In this sense, suppuration and sudation constitute favourable signs.  The patient suffering from a strong fever must be “refreshed”.  His sheets must be changed frequently while waiting for a fall in temperature, the sign that the organism has vanquished the terrible illness.  If the suppuration and the perspiration slow down, while the temperature remains high, the prognosis is going to become fatal, for the illness “is turning inward” and the patient is engaging in the mortal phase of “redoubling”.  The Court therefore lives in wait for about ten days, until 8 May which will see the beginning of “the secondary fever”, announcing the end.

***

 On 3 May, the patient understands that he is suffering from smallpox.  A third blood-letting is renounced and they content themselves with applying cataplasms which are supposed to facilitate suppuration.  There is also recourse to vomitives and enemas whose therapeutic effects are, of course, very limited.  In the night of 8 to 9 May, an English innoculator, Robert Sutton, is called.  He is the inventor of a secret remedy susceptible of saving the dying man.  Jealous of his authority, Lemonnier refuses that a medication, whose composition is unknown to him, be administered.  Therefore, Sutton leaves, but he is called back again in the afternoon of 9 May.  He is, however, unable to convince the doctors, which soon gives birth to a rumour, according to which, the official doctors have taken the risk of sacrificing the King’s life, rather than ceding to a rival.

***

To be continued.

Rasputin

On 30 December 1916, a man was dying, slain like a dragon, a man with serpent eyes who blessed crowds, announced Christ’s return and deflowered nuns, pretexting that he was exorcising them.  A man who resisted potassium cyanide and revolver bullets, who paralysed people by the power of his gaze, who opened locked doors, and whose death was accompanied by inexplicable perturbations.

This person of malefic charm was called Gregory Efinovitch, but he is better known by the name of Rasputin.  The son of a drunken moujik, he was born in 1871 in Pokrovskoi, a village in West Siberia.  Having shown his evil instincts fairly early, he had received from his companions the nickname of Rasputnik, which means:  debauchee, rake.  At twenty, he enters the famous sect of the “Flagellants” whose orgies take on a sacred character.  During nocturnal meetings in an isba or a clearing lit by hundreds of candles, the “faithful” try to obtain religious ecstasy at the same time as erotic delirium.

After invocations and hymns, everyone starts to turn in a mad circle, while the head of the sect whips the dancers whose strength weakens.  Soon, there are only frenzied couples on the ground…  According to the sect’s theory, to repent well, you must have sinned…  For God only cares about lost sheep…

Rasputin surrounded by his usual court of women of the world.

Rasputin, whom these sorts of mystico-sadistic practices particularly please, has a house built especially to receive the sect’s meetings.  But a scandal having erupted, the young “flagellant” has to leave his village.  Then, pushed by a mysterious force, this peasant with no instruction goes to visit the principal Russian monasteries with the aim of acquiring a reputation for holiness.  He studies the sacred texts, speaks, preaches, sometimes delivers himself up to fantastic orgies, but astounds the crowds by the penances that he inflicts on himself afterwards.  At Saint Petersburg, he is received at the convent of Saint Alexander Nevski by the Superior who, completely mesmerised, thinks that he discerns in Rasputin “a spark of God”.

This success marks the beginning of his career.  Little by little, the lower clergy, then the archpriests, are full of consideration for him.  His reputation for sainthood grows each day.  He is presented as a prophet.  However, his lubricity is known:  after he has passed through a convent, very few nuns are still virgins, and his worshippers see him leave a brothel, pushing before him a naked girl whom he is whipping with a belt.  But everyone thinks that these are probably lessons that you must be able to understand…  And then, practically all the women are for him.  He only has to appear and plant his eyes into the eyes of a chaste wife for her to become an hysterical Bacchante…

Tsarine Alexandra Feodorovna, the wife of Nicolas II, was completely under Rasputin's control.

In 1906, he is presented to the Archmandrite Theophane, Rector of the Theological Academy of Saint Petersburg and Confessor to the Tsarine.  Immediately welcomed at the Court, he soon exercises considerable influence there.  This uneducated moujik stamps his boots across the Palace floors, rudely insulting the Princes and the Grand Dukes.  The sovereigns, completely subjugated, pardon him everything.  Further, he makes prophecies which come true and everyone is afraid of him.  At last, according to certain historians, he manages to do with the Tsarine what he does with all women…  From this day, it can be said that it is he who governs Russia…

Naturally, Rasputin has enemies;  many people at the Court would like to get this demoniacal being away from Nicolas II and Empress Alexandra.  He gets in first by telling the Tsarine:

“I know that there are nasty people who lie in wait for me.  Don’t listen to them.  If you abandon me, you will lose your son and your throne within six months…”

The Tsarevitch is, in effect, ill, and Rasputin, who has already saved his life in a mysterious way, possesses this sure means of pressuring the Empress.  She, completely subjugated, has sent away or deported any person who permits himself the slightest criticism of the “prophet”.  Further, she tells him all the State affairs, even the most secret ones.  It is 1915, and Russia is at war with Germany.

Prince Felix Yussupov, the Tsar's nephew, decided to assassinate Rasputin.

A few aristocrats, understanding the danger that Rasputin represents for their country, decide to kill him.  Among these is the Tsar’s own nephew, Prince Felix Yussupov, aged twenty-eight.  But the “prophet” is well protected.  Before anything can be attempted, the Prince must make Rasputin’s acquaintance in a normal way, allay his fears, pretend to be his creature and find out about his habits.  Afterward, a trap can be laid…

The meeting takes place through a mutual lady friend, who is a fervent admirer of the “holy man”.  She is very far from guessing what is being prepared in her salon.  But the acquaintance must be continued.  Prince Yussupov has an idea.  He complains about suffering from something that the doctors cannot cure.  Rasputin’s face lights up.  He tells him:

“I will cure you, for I treat in God’s way, with divine remedies, and not with common drugs…”

From then on, the Prince can regularly visit his “healer”;  but the facility with which his subterfuge has succeeded worries him a bit.  One day, he even lives through a few anguishing minutes and thinks that his project has been guessed.  The scene is impressive:  Rasputin, with the pretext of treating him, makes him lie down on a couch and, looking him fixedly in the eyes, places his hands on his forehead while murmuring a prayer.  Their faces are very close and Yussupov can see only Rasputin’s eyes.  Terrible eyes full of hate which hypnotise him.  For a long time, the two men remain like that without moving.  Then the “prophet” rises in one leap and begins to make passes over the Prince, who later recounts:

“I felt that a force was penetrating me and that it was spreading a hot current in all my being.  At the same time, a general torpor was invading me;  my body was growing numb.  I was trying to speak, but my tongue was no longer obeying me and I was sliding little by little into a half-sleep, as if someone had administered a strong narcotic to me.  Only Rasputin’s eyes were shining before me:  two phosphorescent rays which were melting into a great circle of light which kept closing in on me then moving away from me.  I heard his voice, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying;  I remained in this state, without being able to cry out nor move.”

To be continued.

Gilles de Rais

The real mystery of the Gilles de Rais case is in the depth of Christian sentiments which change a story of Hell into a manifestation of Grace.  Louis Pauwels writes:

“Nothing seems to me to be more moving than the short dialogue between the Bishop of Nantes and the accused, after the Bishop has veiled the Christ’s face.

“And nothing seems to me to be more beautiful – and farthest away from our mentality of today – than the crowd of parents of the victims praying for this soul’s salvation.  That is spiritual nobility.”

***

The original manuscripts of the trial, in Latin, are in the Archives of the Prefecture de Nantes.  The Acts of the ecclesiastical trial and of the civil trial are at the Bibliotheque de Nantes.  Louis Pauwels thinks that the best use of these documents, in modern times, has been by Michel Bataille for his work consecrated to Gilles de Rais.

***

The estimation of around one thousand victims is the one usually retained.  But there has been some controversy about it.  According to some historians, including Pierre de Sermoise, Gilles de Rais did indeed commit a few sexual and diabolical crimes, but only a small number of them.  And the trial (at a time when one did not bring a High Lord to Justice for having raped and killed a few peasant children) would have been political, inspired by jealousy and personal interest.  Gilles de Rais, short of money, had sold part of his possessions to Jean, Duke de Bretagne, and to Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (who owed him large sums of money).  But he had sold, “a remere”, which means with the possibility of buying back.  If he managed to restore his fortune (through acts of war, the King’s friendship, or alchemy), it would be a bitter disappointment for his buyers.  The two Jeans are said to have built the case, bought witnesses, and obtained confessions, by torture, from the two people closest to Gilles de Rais, his valets Henriet and Pontou, executed with him.  This is, however, a very doubtful thesis.

***

One curious thing!  Prelati, the Florentine alchemist who was the probable instigator of the human sacrifices, was not executed.  He was “forgotten” in prison.  And Rene d’Anjou came to get him out and make him his personal alchemist.  Justice was done, however, a little while later, but in another circumstance.  Prelati, a few years later, was arrested and executed for forgery.  He had taken the ducal seal to establish false Acts for his own profit.

***

Although Gilles de Rais was a companion of Jeanne d’Arc, he was neither the only, nor the most illustrious Captain at her side.  He is not as present as Dunois, La Hire, or Xaintrailles.  Although he follows Jeanne to Paris, he is hardly to be seen in the army afterwards.  Although he is made Field-Marshal of France, it is mostly because of his family’s prestige.  A family to which La Tremoille belongs.  But his feelings for Jeanne are sincere.  The cult that he devotes to her is real.  As the historian, Jean Pesez, says:

“There remains in him the tenacious memory of the time when he followed Jeanne, of that parenthesis of Light in his life of blood and shadows.”

***

All of Gilles de Rais’ possessions are not confiscated after his execution.  His niece, Marie de Croizil, who is later the sole heiress of the Houses of Rais and Laval, marries, in 1516, Sieur Joachim Foucher, bringing him in her dowry the Barony of Rais and the Seigneury of Machecoul.

***

For his judges, as well as for the families of the children he has killed, Gilles de Rais suddenly ceases to be a person convicted of dreadful crimes.  Or rather, he ceases to be only that.  He is the image of a man who is the Demon’s prey, is fighting for the salvation of his soul, and needs the whole of Christendom to participate in the communion of the Faith, so that he can present himself before God.  There is no longer an atmosphere of vengeance.  Human justice has been done.  But, over and above the guilty man who is going to pay with his life, there is a soul who is asking for salvation, and it has to be helped to this salvation.  Which is also connected to the salvation of each individual.  An old Christian writer, Bernanos, said that if only one man is cold from despair, the whole world’s teeth chatter.  Gilles must not feel despair as he climbs to the gibbet.  That is why this crowd, who has been so odiously plunged into grief by him, kneels in prayer for him…

***

Gilles de Rais has sometimes been identified with Bluebeard.  In fact, this character in Perrault’s tale seems to have existed in oral tradition before the XVth Century, as certain specialists have shown.

***

Gilles de Rais' trial in Nantes. The Bishop is in the centre on the left.

Is this the same man?  He is unrecognizable.  He is no longer wearing any insignia, jewels, or ermine collar.  He no longer has that air of haughtiness.  He is dressed like a villager.  He has put on the tunic of the people, which is ordinarily of red cloth.  This modesty envelops him in the colour of blood.

He is calm.  In peace.  Almost radiant.  And, however, at the entire disposition of the Duke de Bretagne, who has already taken for himself a good part of his possessions, of the Bishop of Nantes, who owes him too much money to have an impartial mind, of the civil judges, who will punish the crimes, of the ecclesiastical judges, who will punish the sacrileges, and of the People who demands vengeance for the children raped, tortured, their throats slit, their bodies cut into pieces.  He has nothing left, only self-loathing and senseless hope in divine misericord.

He rises:

“There is no-one in the world who knows or is able to understand all that I have done in my life.  There is no-one, on this planet, who is able to do it in this way…”

Then he begins the confession of all his crimes:

“It is very true, my lords, that I have ravished children from their mothers.  These children, I have killed them or had them killed, either by slitting their throats with dagger or knife, or by separating the head from the body with axe, or by breaking the skull with stick or hammer, or by splitting their chest, or by opening their belly.  Sometimes, by attaching them with a cord to an iron hook, other times by burning them…  These diabolical ideas came to me eight years ago.”

He is asked how many children.

“The count would be long, and I recall less their names than their heads before and after death.  In truth, the demon tormented me often.  And I confess to having invoked him many times.  But before doing it, I heard Mass and confessed myself, so that the devil could not bite into my soul.”

How many children?

“Around six twenties each year.”

Which makes nearly a thousand.

He gives so many horrible details, that he stops, exhausted.  In this silence, the old Bishop rises, stretches up on his toes, and puts his mantel over the crucified Christ, to veil it.

Gilles is crying.

The Bishop descends towards him, and places the weeping man’s head on his own shoulder.  Very moved, he says to him:

“Cry.  Cry so that your tears can cleanse the churning charnel house of your soul.”

And Gilles replies through his tears:

“I, who was the instrument of my downfall, may I be, by my repentance, the instrument of my salvation.”

An extraordinary moment, when the crowd of parents also cries over the tragedy of this perdition and this repentance.  When these people, who have Christ in their simple hearts, pass over horror and vengeance, to join misericord.

The Bishop returns to his place.  The trial is drawing to its end.

Before judgement is pronounced, Gilles asks that the Christ be unveiled, and, his eyes fixed on the Saviour’s face, declares in a strong, firm voice:

“My lords, and you, good people who are in this place, hear my last confession and interest yourselves in the salvation of my poor soul as a reward for my admissions.  I have merited an exemplary punishment both by men and by God, which punishment I accept with patience as the expiation of my sins and preparation for eternal life.”

When the sentence is pronounced – cord and fire – he again asks to speak:

“I, detestable sinner, thank God for having had me condemned according to my merits.”

He asks to be executed at the same time as his accomplices so as to be able to exhort them and show them the example of dying well.

“Request accorded, My Lord, and, because of your contrition, I again accord you that, the execution over, your body is to be removed from the fire before it starts to burn, and carried into the church of your choice.”

Gilles again asks to speak.  Extraordinarily, he addresses himself to the clergy, to celebrate the greatness of God who has maintained his soul above the demon.  He invites the auditory to venerate the Holy Church thanks to which, in spite of the Beast, he dies reconciled with his soul.  Extraordinarily, he begs the parents present, who still have children, to raise their progeniture severely, so as to keep it from the idleness and greediness which were his downfall.  And he implores the parents of the victims to pardon him and pray for him.

And what happens next, in this tribunal room, a chapel emptied for the circumstance, is incomprehensible and sublime:  the tribunal and the crowd all fall to their knees with hands joined in prayer, all of them imploring the salvation of this inhuman, torn, repentant soul, who is about to appear before God.

***

Gilles de Rais' execution in the presence of the parents of his victims.

The following day, at eleven o’clock in the morning, in the prairie of Biesse, on the bank of the Loire, mounted on the gibbet’s estrade, Gilles chants the De Profundis.  The prelates, the executioners and the human tide, respond.  He mounts the ladder, and passes the cord around his neck, himself:

“Good people who are here present to see what will be my end, I remind you that I am your Christian brother.  Therefore, pray for me.  I entreat the fathers and mothers of the children that I have killed, to please forgive me and pray God for me in memory of the Passion of Our Lord.  Do not be more inflexible toward me than God, please!  When my soul leaves my body, may My Lord Saint [the Archangel] Michael receive it and present it to God.”

He kicks the ladder over.  The cord tightens.  He dies.  He is thrown onto the fire, just the time necessary for the flames to lick him.  Then six veiled women, dressed in white, remove him, and place him in a coffin which is carried to the Carmelite convent.

At its passage, people kneel and pray.  At the passage of the remains of a very luxurious demon, so that the soul of a poor sinner can repose in peace.

***

To be continued.

Gilles de Rais, Field-Marshal of France and a companion of Joan of Arc.

Gilles de Rais is strong and dexterous with weapons, redoubtable in tournaments.  At seventeen, he laughs as he transpierces his first man, an English Captain who is looking for a fight.  He is beautiful, intelligent, gay, cultured, valiant, artistic.  His grandfather, proud Jean de Craon, has taught him the loftiness and the liberty of great men.  His inheritance is considerable.  Castles, immense lands, millions in revenues.  Whole provinces are to come to him:  Anjou, Maine, Poitou.  His library is famous, known even to the Great Khan of Moscow.  His collegiate church, which is greatly admired by the Roman Cardinal Gaffarillo, shelters eighty magnificently adorned incumbents, the same number as for a cathedral.  His stables serve as a model for King Henry [VI] of England.  He maintains an army to watch over his possessions.  His taste for music is equal to his taste for weapons.  He recrutes the best balladeers, jugglers, troubadours, musicians, singers.  He possesses several organs, one of which is mounted on a cart which accompanies him in his travels.  He can afford anything, and denies himself nothing.  But his dreams are greater than his fortune.  At twenty, he is already borrowing against his lands and raises crushing taxes on his peasants.

Is he rushing to disaster?  No.  War saves him.  War against the English.  This prodigious and refined young man, who has his honey sent from Greece and his perfumes from Arabia, is also an heroic knight.  When Jeanne d’Arc appears, he lends her his sword.  They ride spur to spur.  He loves Jeanne with pure love:  she is sent by God, a Virgin figure.  In Reims, he has the honour of carrying the holy phial kept in the Saint-Denis Abbey, the holy oil with which the Kings of France, starting with Clovis, are annointed.  On the day of the Coronation [17 July 1429], the King [Charles VII] names him Field-Marshal of France.  He is twenty-four.  What would his destiny have been without the fall of Jeanne, her martyrdom, her execution?  Perhaps he would have entered a convent.  Perhaps he would have figured in the calendar of the saints.  Instead of which, he throws himself into Hell and leaves us the memory of the greatest criminal of all time, and the legend of Bluebeard.  The flames which consumed a saint, will consume a demon.  Jeanne’s companion, he is also her reflection in the Devil’s dark mirror.

He returns to his lands, after a few expeditions and pillages, and retires to his Tiffauges Castle.  At thirteen, his grandfather had married him to a rich heiress, Catherine de Thouars.  Having given her a daughter, Marie, his wife no longer interests him.  Neither do other women.  Disdained, Catherine goes with her child to Pouzauges.  As for him, putting into aesthetism the passion that he applied to war, he lives surrounded by cupbearers who serve him half-naked, and by the “beautiful children” with the angel voices of his chapel.  He possesses the most admirable choir of his time, and when his favourite Alma Redemptus Mater is heard in seraphic chants, he falls into ecstasy.  In memory of Jeanne d’Arc, he has written, and performed at great expense in Orleans, a Mystere, whose six hundred participants change costumes at each performance.

Luxury, the Arts, voluptuousness precipitate his ruin.  He has to sell part of his lands to Jean, Duke de Bretagne [Brittany], and Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes.

Then, without renouncing the Arts, he delves into the greatest ambition of all the cultured minds of his time:  the capture of the ultimate secret of Nature, forcing matter to metamorphosis, obtaining the powder of projection which changes vile metals into alchemical gold.  Does he have to conclude Devil’s pacts in exchange for the philosophical stone, like Georg Sabel who, half a century later, in Germany, will take the name of Faustus, and give birth to the myth of Faust?  In his homes of Tiffauges and Champtoce, magicians, necromancians, sorcerers take the place of engravers, goldsmiths, scholars, singers, musicians, dancers, poets.  To force the alchemical secrets, they resort to malefic invocations.  They sacrifice white cocks, doves, lambs.  But that isn’t enough.  At great expense, Gilles de Rais has brought from Florence a young, dodgy alchemist:  Prelati.  He is now surrounded by sombre people:  a Poitevin, named Lariviere;  a Breton witch, Perrine Martin, known as La Meffraye.  When Prelati claims human victims for his magical operations, Gilles is fascinated by the black gulf.  Nothing troubles him more than innocent flesh.  Nothing will exalt him more than the victims’ blood.  He is homosexual.  Alchemical folly, satanic folly and sexual folly combine into sadistic folly.  La Meffraye, dressed in black, a veil over her face, combs the countryside, talking to little boys.  Paid “receivers” seize them.  In the sombre Tiffauges fortress, children suspended on iron hooks scream in anguish.  Gilles pretends to free them, coaxes them, then bleeds them as he pollutes them.  Their entrails are offered to the Devil, attempts are made to make their decapitated heads speak.  How many victims?  Roughly a thousand perhaps.

“Lost at Saint-Etienne-de-Montluc, the son of Guillaume Brice, who was a poor man and went begging.”

“Disappeared at Machecoul, the son of Georget le Barbier, who was seen a certain day picking apples and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Lost at Thonaye, the child of Martin Thouars, the said child aged about twelve.”

“At Chanteloup, Pierre Badieu, haberdasher, says that he saw in the countryside of Rais two children aged nine, who were brothers and children of Robin Pavot, and no-one has seen them nor knows what has become of them since.”

Etc.

The rumour swells, although the common people do not dare to speak out.  However, the Bishop of Nantes, Jean de Malestroit, receives complaints during a pastoral visit.  Then, two enquiries are set up.  One of them for magic, by the ecclesiastical authority.  The other for kidnappings and murders of children, by the civil authority.  Discrete enquiries, for it concerns a very high lord.

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.

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