Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 11

CHARACTER OF CHARLES

To retrieve a disaster so shameful--to raise again spirits sunk so low--seemed to require the aid either of a hero or a prophet. Charles VII. was certainly not the former. He was then scarcely twenty-seven years of age, and had never yet evinced either statesmanlike decision or military ardour. Devoted to pleasure, he shunned the tumult of even his own cities for a residence, and preferred some lonely castle, such as Mehun-sur-Yevre, where he had received the tidings of his accession, or Chinon, where at this time he held his court, and willingly devolved the cares of state upon his ^uncil or upon some fevourite minister. Such a favourite, even when not selected by his own friendship, was always retained by his indolence and aversion to change. It had already more than once happened, that, on the murder of one minion, Charles had quietly accepted a new one from the hands of the murderer, and shortly become as devoted to him as to the last. He appears to have had the easy and yielding temper of our own Charles II.--a temper which mainly proceeds from disHke of trouble, but which superficial observers ascribe to kindness of heart. Yet his affable and graceful manners might often, as in the case of Charles II., supply in popular estimation the want of more sterling qualities. Once, when giving a splendid festival, he asked the opinion upon it of La Hire ,one of his bravest captains. "I never yet," replied the veteran, " saw a kingdom so merrily lost." Yet it seldom happened that the state of his exchequer could admit of such a taimt. On another occasion it is related, that when the same La Hire came with Pothon de Xaintrailles to partake of his good cheer, the High Steward could provide nothing for the Royal Banquet beyond two chickens and one small piece of mutton! The story is thus told by a quaint old poet. Martial of Paris, in his Vigiles de Charles le Septiesme:

" Un jour que La Hire et Pothon
Le veindre voir pour festoyement
N'avoit qu'une queue de mouton
Et deux poulets tant seulement.
Las! cela est bien auz rebours
De ces viandes delicieuses,
Et des mets qu'on a tous les jours,
En depenses trop somptueuses."

Charles himself was but slightly moved by such vicissitudes, enjoying pleasures when he could, and enduring poverty when he must ; but never as yet stirred by his own distresses, or still less by his pe Charles himself was but slightly moved by such vicissitudes, enjoying pleasures when he could, and enduring poverty when he must ; but never as yet stirred by his own distresses, or still less by his people's sufferings, into any deeds of energy and prowress. It is true that at a later period he cast aside his lethargy, and shone forth both a valiant general and an able ruler ; but of this sudden and remarkable change, which Sismondi fixes about the year 1439,* no token appears during the life of Joan of Arc.

* Histoire des Francais, vol. xiii. p. 344. He calls it a strange phenomenon in the human mind."

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