Saturday, 28 September 2013

When Good Kings Go Bad

When Charles VI of France was approached by a leper screaming "Ride no further, noble King!Turn back! You are betrayed!" we can imagine it disturbed him a spot.  For his friends though, it was a calamity. 

  Charles hadn't been feeling too well of late.  Things had been getting rough.  A chap called Pierre de Craon had attacked a one-eyed friend of Charles', by the name of Olivier de Clisson, down a dark Parisian alleyway.  Olivier had survived, but not before being knocked out by a bakery door.  This had worried young Charles.  If chaps could go about assaulting one-eyed people with door frames, then nobody was safe?  They'd be after the King next!

  Seized with panic, Charles summoned his army and told them he wished to visit Pierre's house where he intended to throw some furniture about.  His friends complied, but they were nervous.  Charles was not himself.  He was pacing about with fervour and speaking total nonsense which nobody could make head or tail of.  They all just nodded thoughtfully at their King, for it is a tricky thing to know exactly how to go about telling ones Monarch that they are talking utter bilge.

  “Let us just amuse him.” the courtiers no doubt said to each other anxiously.  “We shall all head to Brittany, and perhaps the walk will do him some good.” proffered others.  And off the went, hoping for the best.  The procession moved on slowly through the forest of Le Mans, the summer air broken only by the sound of the King spouting garbage and whinging about delays.

Charles slugging the Bastard of Poligny - Wikipedia

  It was at this moment when the aforementioned leper popped up and began declaring his message of doom and betrayal.  Charles believed it immediately.  Here was a fellow who saw eye-to-eye with him. His friends, on the other hand, gasped in horror and bundled the wretch into the nearest hedge.  The atmosphere was tense. Charles was silent and saw ambushes in all quarters.  Then a squire dropped a lance which clunked against a helmet.  This was the last straw for Charles.

  “Forward against the traitors!” he cried “They wish to deliver us to the enemy.”  And he began chopping and slicing with his sword.  There was no little confusion.  Some people ducked behind trees, one or two possibly sniggered at the King's looniness, and Charles' friends no doubt held their heads in their hands.  

  We can only guess at the reaction of the knight for whom Charles had reserved particular attention.  He was from south-easterly area of France and was known to all as the Bastard of Polignac.  One imagines that, with a name like that, life had not always been breezy.  Now, as he saw his Regent making towards him with sword held aloft, he probably grumbled to himself “Oh bother!  Why me again?”  

  What to do?  That was the question of the moment.  Is one allowed to biff one's monarch in self-defence?  I have checked Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and can assure you that it is mute on this point.  The Bastard of Polignac was stymied.  He could only meet Charles' blows with manful remonstrations of “Steady on my Lord!”  Others tried to get involved.  They eventually got Charles laid gently on the ground, where he promptly fell into a coma.  When attention was turned to the  poor Bastard of Polignac, he was found to be riddled with dents.  He was dead too.

  All of this served to take the gloss off the outing and it was decided upon to go back home.  Everybody was awfully embarrassed with the King's behaviour.  It just doesn't portray ones country in a good light to have a King who is potty.  But things were to get much worse.

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