Tales from Froissart
edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University
Paris Rebels against the King
At the same time that the war between Ghent and the earl of Flanders is renewed, Paris rises in revolt.
Book II, ch. 83. At this period, the Parisians rose up in rebellion against the king and his council, because they wanted to introduce generally through the kingdom those taxes, impositions, and excises which had been raised during the reign of king Charles, father of the present king. The Parisians opposed them, by saying, the king of happy memory had acquitted them from these payments during his lifetime, and that the present king had confirmed this grant at his coronation at Rheims.
The young king and his council quitted Paris, and went to reside at Meaux in Brie. No sooner had the king left Paris than the inhabitants rose, and, having armed themselves, slew all who had been assisting in proposing or collecting these taxes. They broke into the prisons and different houses in the town, taking whatever they could find. They went to the palace of the bishop of Paris, and, having broken open his prisons, set at liberty Hugh Aubriot, who had been governor-general of the police during king Charles's reign, and had been condemned to the dungeons for several bad actions which he had done or consented to, many of which were deserving of the stake: to this man the mob gave liberty, which he owed solely to their insurrection. He immediately set out from Paris, for fear of being retaken, and went into Burgundy, whence he came, and related to his friends his adventures.
The Parisians, during their rebellion, committed many outrages; but fortunately it was not general: had it been so, affairs would have been bad indeed. The king resided all this time at Meaux, attended by his uncles of Anjou, Berry and Burgundy, who were much alarmed and vexed at this rebellion.
They resolved to send the lord de Coucy, who was a prudent knight, to treat with and endeavor to appease them; for he knew better how to manage them than any other. The lord de Coucy, whose name was Enguerrand, came to Paris simply attended by his household. He dismounted at his hôtel, and sent for those who had been the most active, and remonstrated with them wisely and prudently on the wickedness of their conduct in killing the officers and ministers of the king, in breaking open his prisons, and setting those who were confined in them at liberty; for all which, if the king willed it, they would dearly pay. But this he was not desirous of doing; for the king much loved the town of Paris, because he had been born in it, and also from its being the capital of his kingdom: he was therefore unwilling to destroy its well-intentioned inhabitants.
He told them, his reasons for coming to Paris were to endeavor to make up matters between them, and that he would entreat the king and his uncles mercifully to pardon them their evil deeds.
They answered, that they wished not any harm to the king their lord, nor though make war against him, but that these taxes should be repealed as far as related to Paris: and that, when exempted from such, they would assist the king in any other manner.
"In what manner?" demanded the lord de Coucy. "We will pay certain sums into the hands of a proper receiver every week, to assist with the other cities and towns in France in the payment of the soldiers and men at arms." "And what sum are you willing to pay weekly?" "Such a sum," replied the Parisians, "as we shall agree upon."
The lord de Coucy managed them so well, by handsome speeches, that they consented to tax themselves, and pay weekly into the hands of a receiver whom they would appoint ten thousand florins. Upon this, the lord de Coucy left them and returned to Meaux in Brie, to lay before the king and his uncles the propositions they had made.
The king was advised to accept this offer of the Parisians, as the best thing he could do; for from this beginning, though small, all the other towns would follow the example, and when times should alter they might then change their measures. The lord de Coucy returned to Paris, and brought with him the king's pardon to the Parisians, on condition of their observing the propositions they had made.
This they promised, and appointed a receiver, to whom was paid, every week, the fixed sum in florins; but it was not to be carried from Paris, except for the payment of those men at arms who should be in actual service, and neither the king nor his uncles were to have any concern with it, nor was it to be otherwise employed. Affairs remained thus for some little time, and the Parisians were quiet: but the king did not return to Paris, which much displeased the inhabitants.
Rouen was likewise in a state of rebellion, and from the same cause: the populace rose, killed the king's governor and all those who had any concern in the collecting or valuing these taxes.
The king, on hearing this, during his residence at Meaux, was much angered, and his council were doubtful if all the other towns would not follow this example. The king was advised to march to Rouen, which he did, and appeased the commonalty, who were very riotous. He also pardoned them the death of the governor, and whatever else they had done. They appointed a receiver from among themselves, to whom they were to pay a certain sum in florins every week; and, on this being settled, they continued quiet.
Now remark the great evils that were beginning to disturb France: all took rise form the conduct of the men of Ghent; for the common people said everywhere publicly, they were good men, who so valiantly maintained their liberties, and for which they ought to be loved and honoured by the whole world.