« AnteriorContinuar »
PRINCES CONTROLLED BY ASTROLOGERS.
sonages kept astrologers in their service. Not only did these men of science exercise their art on behalf of their employers, they discharged the highest functions as their representatives at home and abroad. Astrology and divination of all kinds took an intimate part in the different events of life. Not a hero was there whose history was not foretold. A nun read on the hand and in the features of Bertrand du Guesclin that he would one day be the saviour of France, predicting the fact when he had scarcely quitted his cradle. A necromancer of Toledo had often announced that Henri de Transtamare would become king of Spain long before the thought entered his head. And yet nothing was more futile than these predictions. Everything was divined beforehand, without anything being prevented. It was as if the people that were threatened by prophecies did their best to prevent their accomplishment. An old sorceress of Grenada predicted to Peter the Cruel that he would murder his excellent wife, and in consequence lose his crown. He remembered the words only when too late. Driven from his throne, he again had recourse to divination; and the learned clerk whom he consulted told him, after a magical operation, that he would recover his kingdom, that he would not amend his life, and that he would lose his dominions again. So it came to pass.
The credit of astrology was not lessened during the reign of the successor of Charles V. Scarcely had he returned from his expedition into Flanders, when an English knight, named Peter de Courtenay, reputed for bravery, and who stood high in the graces of the king of England, came into France and defied its chivalry by challenging Guy de la Trémoille to single combat. With permission from the king, de la Trémoille accepted the challenge; but wishing to put the chance on his side, he consulted the court astrologers. Having consulted the heavens, according to the rules, they fixed the day for the duel, promising that the Englishman would be defeated, and promising also a radiant sun to throw splendour on the occasion. The time came; but the sun
FATAL AND FUTILE PREDICTIONS.
did not appear for even a moment. Instead, torrents of rain descended on the ground, so as to make the encounter impossible. Not always were the astrologers so unfortunate. Jacques de Tortona, physician and astrologer of Charles the Bad, declared to that prince that he would die from excess of heat. He did die from excess of heat, being burnt alive in a sheet steeped in brandy, in which he had been enveloped in order to restore his exhausted strength. The cause was a candle imprudently put too near the patient.
Louis Delangle, physician and astrologer to Charles VII., besides other things, predicted his own death. It was to take place in a fortnight. He spent the interval in preparatory religious services. He died on the last day of the appointed time. Similar facts are on record in the history of astrology. The famous Jerome Cardan, having announced his death for the 21st of September, 1576, took leave of his friends during the three previous days, and then, at the time appointed, let himself, at the age of seventy-five, die of hunger to fulfil his own prediction. This great mathematical genius was so beset by the falsities of his day, that, believing in astrology, he, as others of his time, believed in the devil as its source, for he fancied he himself had a famulus or imp at his side. Astrology was so much in repute, that woe to him by whom it should be denied! If any one dared to protest in favour of reason, he was forthwith overwhelmed by the clamour of the multitude. The celebrated Jean Gerson had a bitter experience in this matter. Having attempted to discredit "The Book of Nativities" by Jean de Meun, and thus to check the ruling passion, in a modest treatise which he entitled Astrologie selon Théologie (Astrology according to Theology), he drew around his head such a storm of abuse, as to be beaten down and confounded. One charge against him was, that he was daring enough to withhold belief in his master, the celebrated Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly, who, conjointly with Rutilianus, and after the example of Albert le Grand, had ventured so far as to draw the horoscope of Christ him
THE JEWS OBTAIN RELIEF BY ASTROLOGY.
self, in order, by so signal an example, to prove the certainty of astrological science. Those learned personages had found in the aspect of Mars and Jupiter, who, they said, presided at the birth of the Lord, the exact number of demons that he would expel, and discovered the kind of death he was to die.
Charles VIII. shared his father's weakness in regard to astrology. He paid two hundred crowns for a celestial sphere constructed by Guillaume de Carpentras. Accordingly, in an ordinance which he put forth against diviners and sorcerers, he did not mention astrologers. These, practising what was thought a respectable art, given up to profound studies and learned speculations, proudly disdained all contact with magic, and when, at a later time, the Church condemned their books and their predictions, felt equal surprise and indignation.
Whilst astrology thus disturbed and beclouded all the relations of life, when it did not lead to deadly crimes, it occasionally did some good service. No outcasts were so oppressed and injured in the middle ages as the Jews. Always driven away, they always came back. Even so early, they had in a measure become bankers to society. The power of the purse, when aided by the power of astrology, obtained for them sometimes a mitigation of their hard lot. Their business brought them into close relations with the higher nobility, whose luxury made pecuniary assistance very welcome; and so the sons of Israel became possessed of secrets which they well knew how to turn to account.
If Louis XI., who deceived everybody, deserved to be made a dupe in his turn, the credit belongs to an astrologer. The wise man predicted the death of a lady to whom the prince was strongly attached. The event justified the prediction. The outraged king sent for the astrologer, and said, “Thou knowest a great deal; dost thou know when thou shalt die ?" Yes," he firmly replied; "three days before your Majesty." A science which, having no solid ground, was often falsified by events, was led to employ processes and forms of speech by which its patrons could, in appearance, prove themselves
VILE PRACTICES OF ASTROLOGERS.
right, whatever the prediction and whatever the event. Hence astrology became as false in spirit, aim and practice, as were the oracles of Greece. A series of equivocations, evasions and deceptive interpretations ensued, which deluded the deceived and sustained the deceivers. Their phraseology became equally obscure and pompous. They introduced into their professional jargon comets, eclipses, atmospheric fires. Hence a crowd of false impressions and groundless terrors, the reign of which has not yet come to an end. Still, with the multitude, celestial phenomena are a source of ignorant wonder or secret alarm. An aurora borealis of imposing dimensions or unusual brilliancy portends good or evil according to the prepossessions or the momentary disposition of the observer. In former days, these illusions were far more formidable than now. The Queen Louise de Savoy, walking in the forest of Romovantin on the night of the 28th of August, 1514, perceived a comet in the western part of the sky. Immediately she exclaimed, "The Swiss! the Swiss!" concluding that her son was then in conflict with them. The battle of Marignan verified her second-sight. Of course she became a firm believer in astrology. In 1531, three days before her death, she was so smitten with fear at the sight of another comet, that she could not be tranquillized, and fell beneath a slight indisposition that might else have been easily removed. "It is," said she, "a sign which God gives, not for low people, but for us the great. It is there for me; I must prepare." She died of fear.
The spirit of the age was undergoing change. The subtleties and craft of the astrologers begat suspicion or disbelief in really superior minds. The magnanimous son of Louise de Savoy, François I., despised astrology as much as Charles V., his adversary, held it in repute. Astrology was then fashionable in Spain. Charles loved astrologers and paid them well. He did not always receive his reward. It was in virtue of an astrological prediction that his great captain, the famous Antony de Lève, induced him to undertake the expedition into
ASTROLOGY BECOME THE FASHION.
Provence which proved so disastrous to Spain. It was also in virtue of another astrological prediction that the Marquis de Saluces abandoned the cause of France to follow that of the emperor, and lost his Marquisate.
After the signature of the treaty of Madrid made between these two potentates, the French court sent the king's two sons as hostages into Spain. Charles treated them with the same rigour as the lowest criminals. Scarcely could a ray of light make its way into their dungeon. François deputed his gentleman usher Bodin to ascertain the facts. Arrived on the spot, Bodin found the dauphin grown, and wished to take his measure. He was refused. He was not to touch the prisoners. No; nor was he allowed to put on them the velvet trousers he had brought for the purpose. The court even went so far as to send him back by another road, without carrying with him anything Spanish. Why these precautions? Charles feared lest his prisoners should fly away. German astrologer had offered François to bring him his boys back through the atmosphere. Annoyed and distressed though the king of France was, he replied derisively, "I am not sure that that road is quite safe." However, this high-minded and scornful prince had infused into his court, and through it into France, so much disdain for astrology and sorcery of all kinds, that it would have been all over with their practitioners had not his queen, the Italian Catherine de Médicis, succeeded in restoring its prestige for a moment. On entering France, she brought in her suite a great number of magicians and astrologers, among whom was the too famous Ruggieri, a Florentine, whom she honoured with her protection in spite of his crimes, or perhaps on account of them, and to whom she gave the Abbey de Saint Mahé in Brittany, to recompense him for the annoyance of an imprisonment which he had undergone for having made waxen images, in order to bewitch Charles IX. and Queen Margaret. Catherine erected l'hôtel de Soissons and built an observatory, on the summit of which she followed the courses of the stars during the night, in order