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THE ROMANTIC HEROES OF HISTORY.
No character of the middle ages stands out in brighter relief than that of Bayard, the knight "sans peur et sans reproche." He was not, indeed, the first who bore this honorable designation. Another knight-Bon chevalier sans paour-had previously been distinguished by some such epithet, as the father of Sir Dynadan, one of the Knights of the Round Table; and Bayard has been equalled, if not surpassed, by our own Sir Philip Sidney-perhaps Sir Sidney Smith-and many modern successors. Neither was he conspicuous for any great achievement in arms; and in no great action, such as Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, was it his fortune to bear part. He also was concerned, either as principal or associate, in severa! incidents, which by no means realize our modern ideas of chivalry; and yet posterity, with one accord, concurs in his designation. Many loftier names are to be found in the contemporary history of France, and those countries with which he was associated; yet he, almost alone, of all the number, is now recollected-a circumstance which may, perhaps, be attributed to the general barbarity of those days, but must also spring from his own innate worth.
Pierre de Terrail-the patronymic designation of the chevalier-was the cadet or younger son of the knightly family of Bayard in Dauphine, and was born at the Chateau of that name, in the year 1476. The old chronicles inform us, that his ancestors had been distinguished for three generations, and three sons were born to the old knight of Terrail to inherit his progenitors' renown. The old gentleman had earned fame in the battle of Spurs; his father had fallen at either Agincourt or Poitiers. The former, however, lived to the age of eighty; and a short time before his death, according to the custom of those days, summoned the sons to his presence. In reply to the usual interrogatory, the eldest expressed his resolution to remain at home, and fight the bears, with which the country teemed; the castle and its appurtenances were consequently left to him the second preferred devotion to the church, a wealthy abbacy being in the family: but the third and youngest, our hero Pierre, then a youth of thirteen, was intent solely on war, and consequently soon afterwards was despatched to the court of the Duke of Savoy, to be instructed in the noble art of arms.
Warfare then was a very different game from at present. The recollection of the Grecian phalanx, and the Roman infantry, had gone out of date-if, indeed, the names of either Rome or Greece were known to the accomplished knights of the period-and cavalry alone was held in estimation. Foot soldiers were reckoned as so many "villains," and in
battle, accounted as nothing. The graceful horsemanship of young Pierre accordingly soon attracted attention; and high things were predicted of him, when, in the court-yard of the Duke, he kept his seat, notwithstanding all the efforts of an unruly steed to throw him. His mother called him aside, and bestowed on him her purse; an old uncle, a bishop, was in raptures: and a youthful boast from Pierre, that in six years he would bestride an animal over some field more perilous, drew forth greater admiration than if he had taught the churchman to spell the initiatory word of his breviary. In the household of the Duke of Savoy he soon acquired other distinctions; its reigning princes of those days being as conspicuous for honour and fidelity as they subsequently became for intrigue and faithlessness when, as it was remarked, the geographical portion of their dominions rendered it impossible that they should be morally honest. The reigning prince was a man, who, on being asked by some northern ambassador for his hounds, shewed him a long array of poor at his dinner-table, and said, "Voila mes chiens-the dogs by which I expect to chase and get hold of Paradise; and the Duchess, if we may believe report, was in every respect worthy of her lord. The troubadours of the period exhaust the language of eulogy, in describing the beauties of her person and the grace of her mind. She was in the flower of age when the young Bayard was entrusted to her care; and under so accomplished a personage, he soon became so conspicuous for his elegant and chivalrous demeanour, that the Duke, six, months afterwards, deemed him the most acceptable present he could make to Charles the Eighth of France, on meeting that sovereign at Lyons. With his horse, he was accordingly passed over to his Majesty's service, and obtained the name of Picquet, from the graceful manner in which he made his steed curvet in the King's presence. Charles quickly assigned him to a mentor of the house of Luxembourg, with whom he remained till his seventeenth year, when he made his first essay in
A noted Knight, De Valdré, of Burgundy, was his opponent. This chevalier, one of the boldest known, had then come to Lyons, and hung up his shield in defiance of all adventurers, whether on horse or foot. He had inspired such alarm, that none ventured to answer the challenge; and Piquet, in this emergency, being still in the service of the French King, from whom he received an annual allowance of three horses and three hundred francs, considered himself bound in honour to touch the shield-the usual mode of signifying acceptance. The King at arms expressed his astonishment and apprehension at the deed. Piquet, as yet, was a stripling, while de Valdré stood a stalwart man. But a far other source of perturbation existed in the mind of the youth his horses were not sufficiently caparisoned; he himself was destitute of the requisite armour; and the slender allowance of the French King could provide for neither. In these circumstances, by the advice of one Bellabré, an associate, he had recourse to the fat abbot, or rich bishop, his uncle. The brace set out on a tour, and after some little difficulty cajoled the gentleman at the abbacy. They returned home with a hundred crowns, to purchase the horses, and, what they valued more, an order on a merchant at Lyons, to furnish whatever else might be required. The holy man neglected to specify or hint the amount; and, observing this, the two hurried on to the city, with a view to profit by the inadvertency before it
should be recollected by the worthy father. It will detract, we fear, from the future knight's reputation, to add, that he considerably surpassed the abbot's expectations, and ran up a bill to the amount of eight hundred crowns ere a messenger arrived, panting, from the abbey, restricting him to a hundred and twenty-a march (stolen) which the ecclesiastical dignitary never forgave, though Piquet brought great honour on the family, by the manner in which he distinguished himself in the ensuing combat, where De Valdré exhibited all due courtesy and forbearance.
The chronicler, who narrates this feat, applauds Piquet's dexterity, in overreaching the bishop; but it may be questioned whether it entitled him to the designation of sans reproche, though it is an operation which has frequently been performed, both before and since. Picquet, on the fruits, set out for Aire in Picardy, where he announced a grand tourney, in the name of "Pierre de Bayard, gentleman and apprentice in arms.' The King of France had previously presented him with a caparisoned horse, and three hundred crowns on taking leave, counselling him to be brave to men, and to ladies, generous. "Generous," indeed, Bayard appears to have been to both; for the greatest part of the bishop's guerdon was already gone, and he invariably distributed his acquisitions as largeses amongst his attendants and adherents in arms, though in what way he obtained them is not distinctly known; they appear, however, to have been considerable.
Six-and-forty adventurers here presented themselves to contend for his prizes, conspicuous amongst whom were Bellabré, and one David, a Scot. "Fair ladies were also there, and highly extolled the courtesy of the bidding knight but he was quickly summoned from this mimic warfare to a sterner scene; the Lord of Ligny, to whose banner he was attached, having been sent to threaten Rome with five hundred lances, and two thousand Swiss, when Charles projected his ill-fated incursion to Italy. Here he soon learned how different are the customs of war from the maxims of chivalry; his commander, a cousin of Charles, having detained rigidly, as prisoners, four hundred men, who had surrendered on condition of receiving a safe conduct to another place. The plea for this infraction was, that although the agreement had been signed by the king, it wanted the countersign of his secretary; and with this subterfuge, the Italians were forced to remain contented. It inflamed their resentment, however, at the battle of Taro, which followed; and in this sanguinary action Bayard greatly distinguished himself, having had two horses shot under him in the course of the day. He captured one of the enemy's standards in the subsequent pursuit; and for his conduct on the occasion, received from Charles a present of five hundred crowns-the somewhat chivalrous coin with which it was customary in those days to reward valour. Five hundred Italians, and scarcely as many hundred French, fell in the course of this memorable day, which was long held remarkable as the first of the Italian medieval contests in which blood to any extent had been shed; the conflicts previous to this period having rather been the formal and comparatively innocuous array of squadron against squadron in the field than the sanguinary melée of battle. An Italian engagement previously, had, in fact, rather resembled a tournament; and the recollection of this action was consequently impressed so vividly upon their memory, that the progress of Charles for some time remained unimpeded. The folly of the popes contributed to the easy success of the
invaders; a contemporary writer remarking,—that amongst five of them. there was not one who possessed common sense. But a new pontiff succeeded-Alexander the Sixth, who, though restless, rapacious, and profligate, was a man of action as well as ambition. In martial affairs, he acted with energy and promptness; and though such spirit may seem incongruous in a priest, it had the result of causing Charles the Bold to lose his advantages in Italy, almost as rapidly as he had acquired them.
The French king spent the remainder of his life in the primitive duty of wandering up and down his dominions, dispensing justice to his subjects; but Louis the Twelfth, his successor, renewed the Italian inroads; and Bayard, who had been left in garrison in Lombardy, was consequently again called into action. In the interval he had held a tournay in honour of the Lady Blanche, widow of his first master; and also, it is said, of another lady, the Signora de Fluxas, who had in early life gained his affections, but subsequently bestowed her own upon another knight, when Bayard became less intent on love than war. From such amusements, however, he was summoned away by sterner realities. Sforza had rushed into the Duchy of Milan at the head of an irresistible German force; and Bayard having alone followed a body of his horse into Binasco with more courage than prudence, was captured before Sforza's headquarters. The knight is extolled by a chronicler for having satisfactorily hewn at heads and limbs" before the unlucky reverse; and his prowess only secured him more distinction at the hands of his foe. Having told the captor that there were fourteen or fifteen thousand men at arms, and a still greater number of plebeian foot ready to dispute for the prize of Lombardy, and lamented his own inability to take part in the expected encounter, Sforza generously liberated him with his horse and arms; and the knight ever afterwards professed his devotion, lamenting that the introduction of fire-arms, and the employment of mercenaries, were likely to put an end to such courtesies, as chivalry could no longer be expected when men barbarously fought on foot, and the principal strength of an army was to consist of a mercenary rabble." Yet the knights themselves, in this respect, were anything but pure, as they almost invariably gave their own services for "guerison," and cared little whether the cause in which they fought was right or wrong, provided they had their spoils or money. A circumstance which shortly afterwards occurred increased Bayard's repugnance to foot. Having himself captured Sotomayor, a Spanish knight, and relative of the celebrated Captain Gonzalo de Cordova, either he or his adherents by no means exhibited the generous courtesy he lately experienced, and the Spaniard was roughly handled for attempting to escape without ransom ; that on paying his thousand crowns he also sent a challenge to Bayard to fight him on foot. Bayard at this period was suffering from ague, and a knowledge of his illness is supposed to have prompted the peculiar choice of the other, who is loudly arraigned by a troubadour of Bayard's, though he seems to have had most cause to complain, as he was killed by a thrust in the throat at the first attack. A combat of thirteen followed, and such was the violence of the Spaniards, that eleven of the French horses were overthrown on the first encounter. Bayard and another French knight alone remained uninjured, and as these maintained the field throughout the day against their opponents,
they were in honour deemed the victors. Their companions having been driven beyond the lists, were pronounced hors de combat-a designation which in our day has received a different interpretation. They fell not, however, to the lot of their opponents, and hence no gain resulted from the conflict-a circumstance of considerable importance at that period, when warriors depended chiefly for subsistence on the ransom of their prisoners, and could not afford to contend solely for the ephemera of glory. Bayard, however, seems more free from reproach in this respect than most of his contemporaries; and one source of his popularity with his followers was, that he invariably divided the greater part, if not the whole, of the "guerison" amongst them. His "faithful servitera," who records this, indeed informs us that he distributed the whole; but as the knight, if he freely gave, seems as freely to have received, and maintained an expensive establishment without what, in modern phraseology, would be termed any " visible means of support," it may be inferred that the "servitor" is inclined to magnify the munificence of his master. Yet Bayard, amidst all his generosity, sometimes indulged in what would be considered something like highway robbery in our degenerate times. On one occasion, especially, he kidnapped a banker, or money-changer, en route to join Gonzalo de Cordova, and succeeded in appropriating the whole booty, fifteen thousand ducats, to himself, because another captain, who joined him in the enterprise, chanced to have taken up his position on another road from that the money-changer passed. With liberality, however, which seems no more than just, Bayard presented him with half the amount, after the other knights had decided that he was entitled to no part; though it does not raise the gentleman or his class much in our estimation, when it is added, that “he got down on his knees" (says the "faithful servitor") to Bayard, “ and, with tears in his eyes, exclaimed, 'My master, and my friend, what return can I make?'" And the joy of the chronicler is at its height when he adds, that "the good knight, with heart as pure as pearl," bestowed the remainder on his adherents.
From these private enterprises he was summoned by Louis to attend him in the relief of Genoa, and though still suffering from ague as well as a wound in the arm, Bayard deemed it his duty to attend, and greatly distinguished himself in the campaign that followed. Infantry being now the chief force, he commanded a thousand foot on the occasion, and they must have been ofa most interesting order; a contemporary bard describing them as "gentle as cats, humane as leopards, honest as millers, with fingers adhesive as glue, and innocent as Judas Iscariot." Such a graphic and comprehensive description has been surpassed by no professor of Billingsgate in our times; and it was, perhaps, some other feeling than modesty which induced Bayard to supplicate the king would entrust him with only half the number. The virtues of "those good old times" are in fact overrated. No modern annals exhibit wretches capable of vying with those miscreants, whether French or English. In the time of Edward the Third, the English at Beauvois, in France, regularly cast their unransomed prisoners into a burning pit, which they named L'Enfer ; and the Duke de Bourbon, with excusable resentment, threw the monsters into it when captured in turn. In Bayard's era they were but little improved, and great part of his reputation is due to the circumstance, that he, on all occasions, shewed a spirit superior to cruelty. He was next