« PredošláPokračovať »
king, who had seen her when she was quite a girl, could not have been deceived by such a lame evasion, and it is incredible that Laval should have thought of putting it forward. Another version has it that Laval gave his wife one half of a ring and kept the other half, charging her not to obey any order purporting to come from him unless this half should be delivered to her with the message. This ring incident is a threadbare one which we meet with in a number of romances and comedies, and if Laval had been foolish enough to do as is said he would have richly deserved the lot which awaited him. Nothing could be better calculated to arouse a woman's curiosity and lead her to fathom the reasons for such a precaution. At all events, it is beyond doubt that the Countess de Châteaubriant did go to court, and soon fell under the fascinating influence of the king.
That Laval, who was bravely fighting in Italy or busy with the embellishment of his old fortress in Brittany, had from the outset some knowledge of what was going on can scarcely be questioned. Yet for such a proud knight he seems to have been but little disturbed by it. Of course, we must not look upon those times with our modern eyes. The prestige of royalty was then considerable and intact, and François I. was regarded by the nation, small and great, as a superior being incapable of wrong-doing and able to impose any sacrifice. This historic truth is often overlooked by modern writers. Victor Hugo is a striking example. The famous Saint-Vallier scene in Le Roi s'amuse is not merely contrary to all likelihood dramatically, but is at manifest variance with the facts and with the spirit of the period.
During the ten years which elapsed between the victory of Marignan and the disaster at Pavia, the king's liaison with the beautiful countess was disturbed only by transient infidelities on the monarch's part. It would have been surprising if, at a gay court, mothing had ever arisen to cloud the serenity of an affection which we have every reason to believe was sincere and disinterested. Françoise was gentle, docile, and free from personal ambition. By her grace and pleasantness she gained an unquestionable influence over the king's mind, but it is impossible to discover in all her life a single act or a single thought which did not aim at making her royal lover a hero. Therein lay her pride. One cannot say as much of her fair successor. Françoise has been blamed for having raised her family to the highest honours. But her three brothers, Odet de Foix (Lautrec), Lescun, and Lesparre, were elevated to the chief dignities at court and in the army much more on account of their own merits than through their sister's influence. In all France there were no braver captains nor greater military spirits. It is true that they were not always successful on the battlefield, but all three shed their blood in the service of their country. The first, Lautrec, left for dead at the battle of
Ravenna, afterwards distinguished himself at Marignan, was vanquished at La Bicoque through the fault of Louise of Savoy in withholding the pay of the Swiss, and died of fever near Naples. The second, Lescun, was killed at Pavia with Bonnivet. The third, Lesparre, figured like his brothers in every fight, and at Pampeluña had his head broken by mace-blows. He would be an ill-advised man who would reproach their sister for having pushed them to immolate themselves in furtherance of the political aims of the king!
Louise of Savoy, clinging tenaciously to her power, became uneasy at the ascendency acquired over her son by this gentle and beloved woman. She worked to destroy the influence which Françoise exercised, perhaps undesignedly, and she would doubtless have succeeded if she had been able to find the least fault with her conduct. It has been stated that Françoise had a love intrigue with Bonnivet. But Louise disliked Bonnivet, and would not have failed to ruin them both had she seen any way of doing it.
When she took the reins of power, on account of the king's captivity, she seized the chance to send Françoise back to her husband.
According to Varillas, a precious manuscript by a certain Councillor Ferrand contained an account of what became of her. The Count de Châteaubriant imprisoned his wife in a tower of the old castle, with her seven-year-old daughter. To judge by the ruins, her stay there cannot have been very agreeable. Then, when the rumour spread that the king was about to recover his liberty, an infernal thought germinated in the mind of the rude soldier. The little girl, of whom nobody seems ever to have heard, had died, and there was no longer any necessity to keep up appearances. One day the ferocious husband entered his wife's chamber, accompanied by six men, and told her that her last hour had come. Neither her despair nor her entreaties could move that iron-bound heart. The men seized their victim, while Laval stood by dry-eyed, with a sinister smile on his lips. Françoise abandoned her limbs to her executioners, who then opened a vein in each, and her life-blood flowed upon the stones to the feet of the count, who stood enjoying his vengeance. Slowly the body of Françoise sank to the ground, and her eyes became glazed in death.
This account, to which romance-writers afterwards added various details drawn from their imaginations, has received from serious historians a stamp of genuineness which it would not be prudent to dispute in the good town of Châteaubriant, where it is regarded as an established fact that Françoise de Foix was bled from her four limbs and put to death by Jean de Laval, her husband, for having been unfaithful to him. No precise date is given to the event, but as it occurred during the king's captivity it must have been between
February 1525 and the 18th of March 1526, so that the beautiful Françoise must have been thirty-one years old at her death.
The foregoing story, taken up and amplified by romancists such as Lescouvel, has survived in spite of the refutation attempted in the seventeenth century by a learned barrister of Rennes, named Pierre Hévin. And in order that we should not retain the least doubt as to the truthfulness of Ferrand's narrative, which was unearthed by Varillas, maintained by Lescouvel, and embellished by their imitators, we are shown to this day at Châteaubriant the chamber where Françoise underwent her torture, and the traces of her blood on the flagstones. Yet this tale has not a word of truth in it. Is it quite certain that Jean de Laval was the hard, cruel man that he is represented to have been? Is it proved that he killed his wife as a punishment for having been the king's mistress? The chroniclers tell us that he was · prudent, discreet, and very magnificent, having a knowledge of letters and even showing an ingenious mind.' He passed for a man original in all things, a good courtier, familiar with court life, and of easy morals. The poet Clément Marot dedicated to him a book of epigrams. He was the friend and companion in arms of Lautrec, one of the countess's brothers. When the king returned from captivity, Laval went to visit him, accompanied by his wife, which is a proof that she was not dead. Anne de Pisseleu then took possession of the king's heart, to the satisfaction of Louise of Savoy, and discord arose between the two former lovers. They reproached each other in verses which have come down to us and which afford an insight into both their characters.
The young king had given Françoise various articles of jewellery on which he had had engraved beautiful devices composed by his sister Marguerite, authoress of the Heptaméron. At the instigation of his new mistress he recalled these presents, doubtless in order to mark clearly that the rupture was complete. Françoise naturally felt hurt: she had the ornaments melted into ingots, and caused these to be delivered to her royal lover, accompanied by a letter in which she declared that the beautiful and loving inscriptions were written on her heart and would never be obliterated. The king understocd the lesson, and sent back the ingots, a species of alms which the Dame de Châteaubriant had not expected.
Upon his return to the conjugal abode Jean de Laval fell sick, and believed that his end was near. His first thought was to secure his fortune to his widow in case of his death, and to do this he was obliged to evade the laws and customs in order to frustrate his collateral heirs, the only ones he had, the young daughter mentioned in the legend being as chimerical as the Ferrand memoirs themselves, whence Varillas evolved her. Here the demonstration becomes piquant. This heartless husband, who has bled Françoise de Foix to death, this Bluebeard of the nursery story, executes a deed of gift transferring all his large fortune to a stranger; by a second instrument he annuls the first if this stranger should have legitimate children, and by a third deed he conveys the donation, with the free consent of the said stranger, to his wife, Françoise de Foix, Dame de Châteaubriant. These deeds bear the date of June 1525, and the stranger is none other than Lautrec, Odet de Foix, brother of Françoise. These deeds, which assured a considerable fortune to the Countess, were executed just at the time when, according to the historian Varillas, her blood was trickling upon the stained flagstones which are to-day still pointed out to us. It should be noted that the third deed, which has been published in Curiosités de l'Histoire de France, contains this passage: 'En considération du grand amour et dilection, obéissance et loyauté que ladite dame et bonne femme et loyale épouse lui a porté et lui porte, et des bons et commendables services, traitements et plaisirs qu'icelle dame lui a faits et continue de lui faire pendant le temps de leur mariage, bien qu'il n'a plu a Dieu lui donner aucuns enfants et avoir lignée ensemble jusques ici.'
Previous to starting for Italy, where he perished the following year, before Naples, this same Lautrec appointed the Count de Châteaubriant one of the guardians of his children. Would he have bestowed such a mark of confidence upon his sister's murderer? In the same year Jean de Laval went to carry succour to Lautrec. In 1530 he was created a knight of the royal orders and lieutenantgeneral of Brittany. He presided over the States-General in 15?2. He presided again at the coronation of the Dauphin. Three years later he married his nephew, the young Count de Laval, to Claude de Foix, daughter of Lautrec, Françoise being present at the ceremony.
The king paid several visits to Châteaubriant. In 1532 he made a two months' stay and signed a number of ordinances there. He entrusted the count with several confidential missions. Finally, when Françoise died, in 1537, Marguerite, the king's sister, who happened to be at the château at the time, wrote her brother a letter describing the poignant grief of the count, and she draws such a vivid picture of his sorrow that one begins to doubt whether there ever existed between him and his wife the slightest cause of discord or coldness. And yet there was such cause, as both Marguerite and Clément Marot bear witness. They both consider Françoise as badly married, whatever that may mean. Undoubtedly there were disputes in the household. But if this brave and courteous knight was sufficiently noble and sufficiently magnanimous to pardon his wife's fault, would any one dare to consider it a crime on his part ?
The Dame de Châteaubriant was mourned for when she died. The poets sang her virtues, beauty, and kind-heartedness; Clément Marot composed her epitaph, and the king himself praised her in verses that breathe affection and gratitude.
ALPHONSE DE CALONNE.
IRELAND AND THE NEXT SESSION
At about this time last year I ventured, in the pages of this Review, to discuss the then newly announced policy of Killing Home Rule by Kindness,' to state the attitude towards it of my parliamentary colleagues and myself, and to suggest to the Government what they ought to do in the direction of carrying it out, if they meant to achieve even the minor success of removing certain Irish grievances and securing a fair field for the making of their experiment. The session which ensued was not wholly unfruitful in beneficial measures. A Land Bill was passed into law, the actual working of which so far has unquestionably proved it to be a very useful measure which it would have been absolutely folly from the Irish tenants' point of view to reject. A Light Railway Bill became law, under which half a million of Imperial money-or, as I would prefer to put it, Irislı money in the Imperial Treasury-was made available for the further improvement of the means of internal communication in Ireland, and which is not unlikely to lead to the expenditure of twice that sum from local sources on the same object. A Labourers Bill and a Bill for rendering workable the Housing of the Working Classes Act also passed, the effect of which will be to hasten to a considerable degree the provision of dwellings for the working community in town and country. Such a record of work done is not, on the whole, a bad one, and at any rate it is a better one than that left behind it by the last Liberal Government after its three years of power. But, of course, the work of last session affecting Ireland is at the same time small in comparison with what was needed, and most certainly such trifling efforts to remove the grievances of Ireland and to promote its material interests would never have the effect of Killing Home Rule,' even if Irish Nationalists could possibly be bribed by material considerations into abandonment of the national faith. Of the measures passed for Ireland which have just been enumerated the Land Act is the most important, and although that measure is a larger one in some respects than had been expected, it falls short in two or three vital particulars of what was demanded by Irish public opinion, and has consequently failed to close even temporarily the Irish agrarian controversy. In the article in this Review to which