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Froissart, then, is neither an accurate transcriber
nor a philosophic interpreter of the events of the time.
He errs in matters of detail, and he comel great artist. . . ..
pletely misses the import of vast social and constitutional changes. "Je suis historien," he says of himself; but there is a disposition on the part of critics not therefore unfriendly, to contest this claim. One calls him a "troubadour," another a "chronicler," but, perhaps, it would be more reasonable to style him a great "prose-poet." He is almost without rival in word-painting, and though he may confound one village with another, he brings before us in torrents of colour the broad features of the age. It is true that he deals mainly with the superficial aspects of contemporary life, with courts and camps, with fightings and feastings, that he is fairly absorbed by pride and pomp, by beauty and gallantry; but this limitation should not be made a reproach to him. His onesidedness gives a sort of unity to his work. Whether he favours French or English, he is always, as regards principles and criteria, himself. Froissart is the finest exponent the world has ever had of the chivalrous idea as it shaped itself in practice; and therefore his Chroniques possess general truth which it would be folly, were it possible, to barter for trustworthy particulars. As to these, Froissart was perfectly versed in the arts and the usages, in the thousand and one minutiae, of that side of life he undertook to depict.
And he is a faithful witness. In all history probably no incident has ever impressed the imagination of childhood more than the devotion of the six citizens of Calais, who offered themselves hart au col to the tender mercies of Edward III.
The incident we owe to Froissart, and though he does not express any sympathy for the "great merchants" in their hour of trial, he narrates the story so fully and explicitly that we can supply our own commentary. The peaceful character of the proposed victims, the strong emotions of their neighbours—all Calais seemed to be in tears—intensify our sense of the barbarity of the command, for there is no doubt that Edward meant to execute the entire party. He "moult haissoit les habitans de Calais," says Froissart; and when they appear, "il commanda qu'on leur coupast tantost les testes." The admirable courtesy exhibited by the Plantagenets to King John is not extended to his subjects, and it is only the compassion of Queen Philippa, and perhaps her imminent maternity, that saves these sheep from the slaughter.1 So far as Edward is concerned,
1 The passage is worth citing in full, and it will lose none of its effect if given in the fine old version made by Lord Berners. When Sir Walter Manny, we are told, "presented these burgesses to the king, they kneeled down and held up their hands, and said, 'Gentle king, behold here, we six, who were burgesses of Calais and great merchants, we have brought to you the keys of the town and of the castle, and we submit ourselves clearly into your will and pleasure, to save the residue of the people of Calais, who have suffered great pain; sir, we beseech your grace to have mercy and pity on us through your high nobless.' Then all the earls and barons and other that were there wept for pity. The king looked felly on them, for greatly he hated the people of Calais for the damages and displeasures they had done him on the sea before. Then he commanded their heads to be stricken off. Then every man required the king for mercy, but he it is pardonable to conclude that Froissart considered him above criticism. Master of the situation, he had a right to be barbarous. To us, on the contrary, such conduct reveals the utter hollowness—in the last days, if not in the first—of chivalrous professions. Froissart, however, is so in love with the martial and magnificent that he is prepared to condone anything but cowardice and obscurity. The Count de Foix had murdered his own son, yet Froissart terms him, complacently enough, "excellent prince." He is a warm admirer of Du Guesclin, and so, when that intrepid
would hear no man on that behalf. Then Sir Walter of Manny said, 'Ah, noble king, for God's Bake, refrain your courage; ye have the name of sovereign nobless, therefore do not a thing that should blemish your renown, nor to give cause to some to speak of your villainy; every man will say it is a great cruelty to put to death such honest persons, who by their own wills put themself into your grace to save their country.' Then the king wried away from him, and commanded to send for the hangman, and said, 'They of Calais had caused many of my men to be slain; wherefore these shall die in like wise.' The queen, being great with child, kneeled down, and sore weeping, said, 'Ah! gentle sir, sith I passed the sea in great peril, I have desired nothing of you: therefore now I humbly require you, in the honour of the son of the Virgin Mary, and for the love of me, that ye will take mercy of these six burgesses.' The king beheld the queen, and stood still in a study a space, and then said, 1 Ah, dame, I would ye had been as now in some other place; ye make such request to me that I cannot deny you; wherefore I give them to you to do your pleasure with them.' Then the queen caused them to be brought into her chamber, and made the halters to be taken from their necks ; and caused them to be new clothed, and gave them their dinner at their leisure; and then she gave each of them six nobles, and made them to be brought out of the host in safe-guard, and set at their liberty." (The translation undertaken by Bourchier Lord Berners "at the high commandment" of Henry VIII. was reprinted in 1812 by E. V. Utterson, in two quarto volumes, and is accessible, with some omissions, in a cheap edition by G. C. Macaulay.)
soldier commits an act of perfidy by conniving at the assassination of Don Pedro, Froissart raises no note of indignation.
The same episode is described in the chronicle of Froissart's Spanish contemporary, Pedro Lopez de
A Spanish Ayala, and in much the same way Ayala
version. also is completely impassive, and records the ghastly affair with business-like precision. While he states with reference to "Mossen Beltran" that Don Pedro put himself deliberately in his power, he recognises no obligation as resting on Du Guesclin, and it is one of Du Guesclin's knights that says to King Enrique, " This is your enemy," thus inaugurating the bloody scene. It is evident that, with both Froissart and Ayala, treachery and cruelty are commonplaces so familiar that it would be ridiculous to exclaim about them. Don Pedro, no doubt, met with his deserts. Surnamed "the Cruel," he had, it is said, put many persons to death in his realm, "por lo qual le vino todo el dano que aveys oido," and so his untimely end was a nemesis.1 But this, it is needless to observe, is no excuse for Du Guesclin's breach of honour, or for the way justice was done on the unworthy monarch.
In using these terms of a king who had killed, among others, his five brothers and his wife, I might seem to be on perfectly safe ground, and only setting down the unanimous verdict of humanity. But just
1 The same remark applies also to Trastamara. Chaucer, in his Monies Talc, naturally sides with King "Petro," as an ally of the Black Prince.
as there has been a disposition of late to "white"white- wash" Henry VIII. of England, so in the washing." seventeenth century there is visible a reaction in favour of this monster, for whom Moreto and Calderon in their dramas put forth brilliant, but ineffectual, apologies. In our own age this process of "white-washing" has been revived, and litterateurs with pronounced democratic sympathies have done their best to elevate Don Pedro into a popular hero, a champion of the poor against the oppressions of the grandees. But facts are stubborn things. The character of Don Pedro is of importance for Ayala in two ways. The historian was originally his follower, but when, in 1366, Pedro left Spain and sought an asylum at the English Court at Bordeaux, Ayala went over to the side of his rival Trastamara, who made him his chancellor, and whose successors he continued to serve during several reigns. In the second place, it is to be noted that Ayala's penetrating analysis of the character of Don Pedro is a new phenomenon in Spanish historical literature. Ayala, having thus described the life and morals of Pedro the Cruel, was himself described with equal impartiality by his nephew Fernan Perez de Guzman, and it is interesting to observe that his kinsman, in his generally laudatory account, censures him for a frailty which Ayala attributes, though without censure, to Pedro. "Fue mucho amador de mugeres," says the Crdnica; "Amo mugeres, mas que a tan sabio caballero como el convenia," say the Generaciones y Semblanzas. Perhaps the sense of personal imper