Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
The King Punishes the Parisians
Although Ghent still holds out, since winter has come on, the king returns from Flanders to Paris, where the loyalty of the people is still uncertain.
Book II, ch. 128. The king having left Senlis for Paris, ordered his officers to make ready the Louvre, where he intended to dismount. His three uncles did the same, sending their servants to prepare their hôtels, as did other lords. This they were advised to, by way of precaution; for the king and his lords had been counselled not to enter Paris suddenly, as the Parisians were not to be depended on, but to observe what countenance they would show, and what preparations they had made against the king's return. The king's officers, and the servants of the other lords, were ordered, if any questions were asked about the king, and if he were coming, to reply, "Yes, truly: he will be here instantly."
The Parisians, on hearing this, resolved to arm themselves, and show the king, on his entrance into Paris, the force that was in the city armed from head to foot, ready for him, if he pleased, to dispose of. It would have been better fro them to have remained quiet in their houses, for this display cost them dearly. They said they had done it with good intentions, but it was taken in an opposite sense.
The king lodged at [the town of] Louvres, and from thence went to Bourget: it was immediately reported in Paris, that the king would be instantly there: upon which, upwards of twenty thousand Parisians armed themselves and took the field, and drew up in a handsome battalion between St. Ladre and Paris, in the side of Montmartre. Their cross-bowmen had large shields and mallets, and all were prepared as if for instant combat. The king was still at Bourget, with his lords, when this news was brought them, and an account of the state of Paris. "See," said the lords, "the pride and presumption of this mob! what are they now making this display for? if they had thus come to serve the king when he set out for Flanders, they would have done well; but their heads were only stuffed with prayers to God, that none of us might return."
To these words some, who would have been glad to have gone further and attacked the Parisians, added, "if the king be well advised, he will not put himself into the hands of such people, who meet him fully armed when they ought to have come in all humility, with a procession, ringing the bells of Paris, and returning thanks to God for the grand victory he has been pleased to give u in Flanders."
The lords were somewhat puzzled how to act: at last, it was determined that the constable of France, the lord d'Albreth, the lord de Coucy, Sir Guy de Trimouille and Sir John de Vienne should go to speak with them, and demand the reason why they had come out of Paris in such a body, armed from head to foot, to meet their king; for that such a proceeding had never before been known in France. These lords were prepared to answer, whatever might be their reply to this question; for they were fully capable to manage a business, had it been of ten times the importance.
They set out from the king unarmed, and, to give a pretext to their mission, they took with them three or four heralds, whom they ordered to ride forward, saying, "Go to those people and demand from them a passport fro our coming to them and our return, as we are ordered to parley with them, and tell them the king's commands." The heralds, sticking spurs into their horses, soon came up to the Parisians. When the Parisians saw them coming, they never thought they were ordered to speak with them, but that they were going to Paris, like men who wished to get there beforehand.
The heralds, who had their emblazoned tabards on, asked, with a loud voice, "Where are the chiefs? where are the chiefs? Who among you are captains? because it is to them our lords have sent us." These words made some of the Parisians perceive they had acted wrong, and, bowing their heads, replied, "There are no chiefs here: we are but one, and under the command of our lord the king. Speak, in the name of God, what you have to say."
"My lords," answered the heralds, " our lords (naming them) have sent us hither; for they cannot conceive what are your intentions,; and to require that they may peaceably and without peril come hither and speak with you, and return to the king with such an answer as you shall give them; for otherwise they are afraid to come."
"By my troth," replied those to whom this speech had been addressed, "there was no need to say this to us, unless it came form their noble minds; but we think you are laughing at us."
"We have told you nothing but the truth," said the heralds.
"Well then," replied the Parisians, "go and tell them they may come hither in perfect safety; for they shall have no harm from us, who are ready to obey their commands."
The heralds returned to their lords and related what you have just read. The four barons then advanced, attended by their heralds, to the Parisians, whom they found drawn up in very handsome battle-array. They were upwards of twenty thousand. As these lords rode by them, examining and praising, in their own minds, their handsome appearance, and the constable, addressing them, said with a loud voice, "You people of Paris, what can have induced you thus to quit your town in such array? It would seem that, thus drawn up, you were desirous of combatting the king, your lord, you who are his subjects."
"My lord," replied those who heard him, "under your favour we have no such intentions, nor ever had. We have come out in this manner, since you please to know it, to display to our lord the king, the force of the Parisians, for he is very young and has never seen it; and, if he should not be acquainted with it, he can never know what service he may draw from us should there be occasion."
"Well, gentlemen," answered the constable, "you speak fairly: be we tell you from the king, that at this time he does not wish to see it, and what you have done has been sufficient for him. Return, therefore, instantly to Paris, each man to his own house, and lay aside your arms, if you wish the king should come thither."
"My lord," replied the Parisians, "we will cheerfully obey your orders."
The Parisians upon this marched back to Paris, and each went to his house to disarm himself. The four barons returned to the king, and reported to him and his council the words you have heard. It was then ordered that the king and his uncles, with the principal lords, should enter Paris with some men at arms, but that the main body should remain near the city, to keep the Parisians in awe. The lord de Coucy and the marshal de Sancerre were ordered to take the gates off the hinges from the principal gates of St. Denis and St. Marcel immediately on the king's entrance into Paris, so that the gates might be open day and night for the men at arms to enter the more easily, and master the Parisians should there be any necessity for it. They also commanded the chains which were thrown across the streets be taken away, that the cavalry might pass through the streets without danger or opposition. These orders were punctually obeyed.
The king made his entrance into Paris and lodged at the Louvre, and his uncles with him: the other lords went to their own hôtels, at least those who possessed any. The gates were taken off the hinges, and the beams which had been laid under the tower of the gates, with the chains from the streets, were carried to the palace.
The Parisians, seeing this, were in great alarm, and so fearful of being punished that none dared to venture out of doors, nor to open a window; they remained in this situation for three days: in great fright lest they should receive more harm than they had done.
It cost them several large sums; for those whom they wished to mark, were sent for one at a time, to the council chamber, where they were fined; some six thousand, others three, others one; so that they exacted from the city of Paris, to the profit of the king, his uncles and minister, the sum of four hundred thousand francs. They never asked any but the principal persons as to their means of payment, who thought themselves happy to escape with only a fine. They were ordered to carry their armour in bags, each man his own, to the castle of Beauté, which is now called the castle of Vincennes, where they were thrown into the great tower, with the mallets.
In this manner were the Parisians punished, as an example to the other towns of the kingdom of France. In addition, they were taxed with subsidies, aides, gabelles, fouages, with the twelfth and thirteenth penny, and many other vexations. The flat country was also completely ransacked.