Quentin Durward, by Walter Scott

Chapter 33

The Herald

Ariel. — Hark! they roar.

Prospero. Let them be hunted soundly.

THE TEMPEST

There was room made in the assembly, and no small curiosity evinced by those present to see the herald whom the insurgent Liegeois had ventured to send to so haughty a Prince as the Duke of Burgundy, while in such high indignation against them. For it must be remembered that at this period heralds were only dispatched from sovereign princes to each other upon solemn occasions; and that the inferior nobility employed pursuivants, a lower rank of officers at arms. It may be also noticed, in passing, that Louis XI, an habitual derider of whatever did not promise real power or substantial advantage, was in especial a professed contemner of heralds and heraldry, “red, blue, and green, with all their trumpery,” to which the pride of his rival Charles, which was of a very different kind, attached no small degree of ceremonious importance.

The herald, who was now introduced into the presence of the monarchs, was dressed in a tabard, or coat, embroidered with the arms of his master, in which the Boar’s Head made a distinguished appearance, in blazonry, which in the opinion of the skilful was more showy than accurate. The rest of his dress — a dress always sufficiently tawdry — was overcharged with lace, embroidery, and ornament of every kind, and the plume of feathers which he wore was so high, as if intended to sweep the roof of the hall. In short, the usual gaudy splendour of the heraldic attire was caricatured and overdone. The Boar’s Head was not only repeated on every part of his dress, but even his bonnet was formed into that shape, and it was represented with gory tongue and bloody tusks, or in proper language, langed and dentated gules, and there was something in the man’s appearance which seemed to imply a mixture of boldness and apprehension, like one who has undertaken a dangerous commission, and is sensible that audacity alone can carry him through it with safety. Something of the same mixture of fear and effrontery was visible in the manner in which he paid his respects, and he showed also a grotesque awkwardness, not usual amongst those who were accustomed to be received in the presence of princes.

“Who art thou, in the devil’s name?” was the greeting with which Charles the Bold received this singular envoy.

“I am Rouge Sanglier,” answered the herald, “the officer at arms of William de la Marck, by the grace of God, and the election of the Chapter, Prince Bishop of Liege.”

“Ha!” exclaimed Charles, but, as if subduing his own passion, he made a sign to him to proceed.

“And, in right of his wife, the Honourable Countess Hameline of Croye, Count of Croye, and Lord of Bracquemont.”

The utter astonishment of Duke Charles at the extremity of boldness with which these titles were announced in his presence seemed to strike him dumb; and the herald conceiving, doubtless, that he had made a suitable impression by the annunciation of his character, proceeded to state his errand.

“Annuncio vobis gaudium magnum 214,” he said; “I let you, Charles of Burgundy and Earl of Flanders, to know, in my master’s name, that under favour of a dispensation of our Holy Father of Rome, presently expected, and appointing a fitting substitute ad sacra 215, he proposes to exercise at once the office of Prince Bishop, and maintain the rights of Count of Croye.”

The Duke of Burgundy, at this and other pauses in the herald’s speech, only ejaculated, “Ha!” or some similar interjection, without making any answer; and the tone of exclamation was that of one who, though surprised and moved, is willing to hear all that is to be said ere he commits himself by making an answer. To the further astonishment of all who were present, he forbore from his usual abrupt and violent gesticulations, remaining with the nail of his thumb pressed against his teeth, which was his favourite attitude when giving attention, and keeping his eyes bent on the ground, as if unwilling to betray the passion which might gleam in them.

The envoy, therefore, proceeded boldly and unabashed in the delivery of his message. “In the name, therefore, of the Prince Bishop of Liege, and Count of Croye, I am to require of you, Duke Charles, to desist from those pretensions and encroachments which you have made on the free and imperial city of Liege, by connivance with the late Louis of Bourbon, unworthy Bishop thereof.”

“Ha,” again exclaimed the Duke.

“Also to restore the banners of the community, which you took violently from the town, to the number of six and thirty — to rebuild the breaches in their walls, and restore the fortifications which you tyrannically dismantled — and to acknowledge my master, William de la Marck, as Prince Bishop, lawfully elected in a free Chapter of Canons, of which behold the proces verbal.”

“Have you finished?” said the Duke.

“Not yet,” replied the envoy. “I am farther to require your Grace, on the part of the said right noble and venerable Prince, Bishop, and Count, that you do presently withdraw the garrison from the Castle of Bracquemont, and other places of strength, belonging to the Earldom of Croye, which have been placed there, whether in your own most gracious name, or in that of Isabelle, calling herself Countess of Croye, or any other, until it shall be decided by the Imperial Diet whether the fiefs in question shall not pertain to the sister of the late Count, my most gracious Lady Hameline, rather than to his daughter, in respect of the jus emphyteusis 216.”

“Your master is most learned,” replied the Duke.

“Yet,” continued the herald, “the noble and venerable Prince and Count will be disposed, all other disputes betwixt Burgundy and Liege being settled, to fix upon the Lady Isabelle such an appanage as may become her quality.”

“He is generous and considerate,” said the Duke, in the same tone.

“Now, by a poor fool’s conscience,” said Le Glorieux apart to the Count of Crevecoeur, “I would rather be in the worst cow’s hide that ever died of the murrain than in that fellow’s painted coat! The poor man goes on like drunkards, who only look to the ether pot, and not to the score which mine host chalks up behind the lattice.”

“Have you yet done?” said the Duke to the herald.

“One word more,” answered Rouge Sanglier, “from my noble and venerable lord aforesaid, respecting his worthy and trusty ally, the most Christian King.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the Duke, starting, and in a fiercer tone than he had yet used; but checking himself, he instantly composed himself again to attention.

“Which most Christian King’s royal person it is rumoured that you, Charles of Burgundy, have placed under restraint contrary to your duty as a vassal of the Crown of France, and to the faith observed among Christian Sovereigns. For which reason, my said noble and venerable master, by my mouth, charges you to put his royal and most Christian ally forthwith at freedom, or to receive the defiance which I am authorized to pronounce to you.”

“Have you yet done?” said the Duke.

“I have,” answered the herald, “and await your Grace’s answer, trusting it may be such as will save the effusion of Christian blood.”

“Now, by Saint George of Burgundy!” said the Duke, but ere he could proceed farther, Louis arose, and struck in with a tone of so much dignity and authority that Charles could not interrupt him.

“Under your favour, fair cousin of Burgundy,” said the King, “we ourselves crave priority of voice in replying to this insolent fellow. — Sirrah herald, or whatever thou art, carry back notice to the perjured outlaw and murderer, William de la Marck, that the King of France will be presently before Liege, for the purpose of punishing the sacrilegious murderer of his late beloved kinsman, Louis of Bourbon; and that he proposes to gibbet De la Marck alive, for the insolence of terming himself his ally, and putting his royal name into the mouth of one of his own base messengers.”

“Add whatever else on my part,” said Charles, “which it may not misbecome a prince to send to a common thief and murderer. — And begone! — Yet stay. — Never herald went from the Court of Burgundy without having cause to cry, Largesse! — Let him be scourged till the bones are laid bare.”

“Nay, but if it please your Grace,” said Crevecoeur and D’Hymbercourt together, “he is a herald, and so far privileged.”

“It is you, Messires,” replied the Duke, “who are such owls as to think that the tabard makes the herald. I see by that fellow’s blazoning he is a mere impostor. Let Toison d’Or step forward, and question him in your presence.”

In spite of his natural effrontery, the envoy of the Wild Boar of Ardennes now became pale; and that notwithstanding some touches of paint with which he had adorned his countenance. Toison d’Or, the chief herald, as we have elsewhere said, of the Duke, and King at arms within his dominions, stepped forward with the solemnity of one who knew what was due to his office, and asked his supposed brother in what college he had studied the science which he professed.

“I was bred a pursuivant at the Heraldic College of Ratisbon,” answered Rouge Sanglier, “and received the diploma of Ehrenhold 217 from that same learned fraternity.”

“You could not derive it from a source more worthy,” answered Toison d’Or, bowing still lower than he had done before; “and if I presume to confer with you on the mysteries of our sublime science, in obedience to the orders of the most gracious Duke, it is not in hopes of giving, but of receiving knowledge.”

“Go to,” said the Duke impatiently. “Leave off ceremony, and ask him some question that may try his skill.”

“It were injustice to ask a disciple of the worthy College of Arms at Ratisbon if he comprehendeth the common terms of blazonry,” said Toison d’Or, “but I may, without offence, crave of Rouge Sanglier to say if he is instructed in the more mysterious and secret terms of the science, by which the more learned do emblematically, and as it were parabolically, express to each other what is conveyed to others in the ordinary language, taught in the very accidence as it were of Heraldry.”

“I understand one sort of blazonry as well as another,” answered Rouge Sanglier boldly, “but it may be we have not the same terms in Germany which you have here in Flanders.”

“Alas, that you will say so!” replied Toison d’Or. “our noble science, which is indeed the very banner of nobleness and glory of generosity, being the same in all Christian countries, nay, known and acknowledged even by the Saracens and Moors. I would, therefore, pray of you to describe what coat you will after the celestial fashion, that is, by the planets.”

“Blazon it yourself as you will,” said Rouge Sanglier; “I will do no such apish tricks upon commandment, as an ape is made to come aloft.”

“Show him a coat and let him blazon it his own way,” said the Duke; “and if he fails, I promise him that his back shall be gules, azure, and sable.”

“Here,” said the herald of Burgundy, taking from his pouch a piece of parchment, “is a scroll in which certain considerations led me to prick down, after my own poor fashion, an ancient coat. I will pray my brother, if indeed he belong to the honourable College of Arms at Ratisbon, to decipher it in fitting language.”

Le Glorieux, who seemed to take great pleasure in this discussion, had by this time bustled himself close up to the two heralds. “I will help thee, good fellow,” said he to Rouge Sanglier, as he looked hopelessly upon the scroll. “This, my lords and masters, represents the cat looking out at the dairy window.”

This sally occasioned a laugh, which was something to the advantage of Rouge Sanglier, as it led Toison d’Or, indignant at the misconstruction of his drawing, to explain it as the coat of arms assumed by Childebert, King of France, after he had taken prisoner Gandemar, King of Burgundy; representing an ounce, or tiger cat, the emblem of the captive prince, behind a grating, or, as Toison d’Or technically defined it, “Sable, a musion 218 passant Or, oppressed with a trellis gules, cloue of the second.”

“By my bauble,” said Le Glorieux, “if the cat resemble Burgundy, she has the right side of the grating nowadays.”

“True, good fellow,” said Louis, laughing, while the rest of the presence, and even Charles himself, seemed disconcerted at so broad a jest.

“I owe thee a piece of gold for turning some thing that looked like sad earnest into the merry game, which I trust it will end in.”

“Silence, Le Glorieux,” said the Duke; “and you, Toison d’Or, who are too learned to be intelligible, stand back — and bring that rascal forward, some of you. — Hark ye, villain,” he said in his harshest tone, “do you know the difference between argent and or, except in the shape of coined money?”

“For pity’s sake, your Grace, be good unto me! — Noble King Louis, speak for me!”

“Speak for thyself,” said the Duke. “In a word, art thou herald or not?”

“Only for this occasion!” acknowledged the detected official.

“Now, by Saint George!” said the Duke, eyeing Louis askance, “we know no king — no gentleman — save one, who would have so prostituted the noble science on which royalty and gentry rest, save that King who sent to Edward of England a serving man disguised as a herald.” 219

“Such a stratagem,” said Louis, laughing, or affecting to laugh, “could only be justified at a Court where no herald were at the time, and when the emergency was urgent. But, though it might have passed on the blunt and thick witted islander, no one with brains a whit better than those of a wild boar would have thought of passing such a trick upon the accomplished Court of Burgundy.”

“Send him who will,” said the Duke fiercely, “he shall return on their hands in poor case. — Here! — drag him to the market place! — slash him with bridle reins and dog whips until the tabard hang about him in tatters! — Upon the Rouge Sanglier! — ca, ca! — Haloo, haloo!”

Four or five large hounds, such as are painted in the hunting pieces upon which Rubens220 and Schneiders221 laboured in conjunction, caught the well known notes with which the Duke concluded, and began to yell and bay as if the boar were just roused from his lair.

“By the rood!” said King Louis, observant to catch the vein of his dangerous cousin, “since the ass has put on the boar’s hide, I would set the dogs on him to bait him out of it!”

“Right! right!” exclaimed Duke Charles, the fancy exactly chiming in with his humour at the moment — “it shall be done! — Uncouple the hounds! — Hyke a Talbot! 222 hyke a Beaumont! — We will course him from the door of the Castle to the east gate!”

“I trust your Grace will treat me as a beast of chase,” said the fellow, putting the best face he could upon the matter, “and allow me fair law?”

“Thou art but vermin,” said the Duke, “and entitled to no law, by the letter of the book of hunting; nevertheless, thou shalt have sixty yards in advance, were it but for the sake of thy unparalleled impudence. — Away, away, sirs! — we will see this sport.”

And the council breaking up tumultuously, all hurried, none faster than the two Princes, to enjoy the humane pastime which King Louis had suggested.

The Rouge Sanglier showed excellent sport; for, winged with terror, and having half a score of fierce boar hounds hard at his haunches, encouraged by the blowing of horns and the woodland cheer of the hunters, he flew like the very wind, and had he not been encumbered with his herald’s coat (the worst possible habit for a runner), he might fairly have escaped dog free; he also doubled once or twice, in a manner much approved of by the spectators. None of these, nay, not even Charles himself, was so delighted with the sport as King Louis, who, partly from political considerations, and partly as being naturally pleased with the sight of human suffering when ludicrously exhibited, laughed till the tears ran from his eyes, and in his ecstasies of rapture caught hold of the Duke’s ermine cloak, as if to support himself; whilst the Duke, no less delighted, flung his arm around the King’s shoulder, making thus an exhibition of confidential sympathy and familiarity, very much at variance with the terms on which they had so lately stood together. At length the speed of the pseudo herald could save him no longer from the fangs of his pursuers; they seized him, pulled him down, and would probably soon have throttled him, had not the Duke called out, “Stave and tail! — stave and tail! 223 — Take them off him! — He hath shown so good a course, that, though he has made no sport at bay, we will not have him dispatched.”

Several officers accordingly busied themselves in taking off the dogs; and they were soon seen coupling some up, and pursuing others which ran through the streets, shaking in sport and triumph the tattered fragments of painted cloth and embroidery rent from the tabard, which the unfortunate wearer had put on in an unlucky hour.

At this moment, and while the Duke was too much engaged with what passed before him to mind what was said behind him, Oliver le Dain, gliding behind King Louis, whispered into his ear, “It is the Bohemian, Hayraddin Maugrabin. — It were not well he should come to speech of the Duke.”

“He must die,” answered Louis in the same tone, “dead men tell no tales.”

One instant afterwards, Tristan l’Hermite, to whom Oliver had given the hint, stepped forward before the King and the Duke, and said, in his blunt manner, “So please your Majesty and your Grace, this piece of game is mine, and I claim him — he is marked with my stamp — the fleur de lis is branded on his shoulder, as all men may see. — He is a known villain, and hath slain the King’s subjects, robbed churches, deflowered virgins, slain deer in the royal parks —”

“Enough, enough,” said Duke Charles, “he is my royal cousin’s property by many a good title. What will your Majesty do with him?”

“If he is left to my disposal,” said the King, “I will at least give him one lesson in the science of heraldry, in which he is so ignorant — only explain to him practically the meaning of a cross potence, with a noose dangling proper.”

“Not as to be by him borne, but as to bear him. — Let him take the degrees under your gossip Tristan — he is a deep professor in such mysteries.”

Thus answered the Duke, with a burst of discordant laughter at his own wit, which was so cordially chorused by Louis that his rival could not help looking kindly at him, while he said, “Ah, Louis, Louis! would to God thou wert as faithful a monarch as thou art a merry companion! — I cannot but think often on the jovial time we used to spend together.”

“You may bring it back when you will,” said Louis; “I will grant you as fair terms as for very shame’s sake you ought to ask in my present condition, without making yourself the fable of Christendom; and I will swear to observe them upon the holy relique which I have ever the grace to bear about my person, being a fragment of the true cross.”

Here he took a small golden reliquary, which was suspended from his neck next to his shirt by a chain of the same metal, and having kissed it devoutly, continued — “Never was false oath sworn on this most sacred relique, but it was avenged within the year.”

“Yet,” said the Duke, “it was the same on which you swore amity to me when you left Burgundy, and shortly after sent the Bastard of Rubempre to murder or kidnap me.”

“Nay, gracious cousin, now you are ripping up ancient grievances,” said the King. “I promise you, that you were deceived in that matter. — Moreover, it was not upon this relique which I then swore, but upon another fragment of the true cross which I got from the Grand Seignior, weakened in virtue, doubtless, by sojourning with infidels. Besides, did not the war of the Public Good break out within the year; and was not a Burgundian army encamped at Saint Denis, backed by all the great feudatories of France; and was I not obliged to yield up Normandy to my brother? — O God, shield us from perjury on such a warrant as this!”

“Well, cousin,” answered the Duke, “I do believe thou hadst a lesson to keep faith another time. — And now for once, without finesse and doubling, will you make good your promise, and go with me to punish this murdering La Marck and the Liegeois?”

“I will march against them,” said Louis, “with the Ban and Arriere Ban of France 224, and the Oriflamme displayed.”

“Nay, nay,” said the Duke, “that is more than is needful, or may be advisable. The presence of your Scottish Guard, and two hundred choice lances, will serve to show that you are a free agent. A large army might —”

“Make me so in effect, you would say, my fair cousin?” said the King. “Well, you shall dictate the number of my attendants.”

“And to put this fair cause of mischief out of the way, you will agree to the Countess Isabelle of Croye’s wedding with the Duke of Orleans?”

“Fair cousin,” said the King, “you drive my courtesy to extremity. The Duke is the betrothed bridegroom of my daughter Joan. Be generous — yield up this matter, and let us speak rather of the towns on the Somme.”

“My council will talk to your Majesty of these,” said Charles, “I myself have less at heart the acquisition of territory than the redress of injuries. You have tampered with my vassals, and your royal pleasure must needs dispose of the hand of a ward of Burgundy. Your Majesty must bestow it within the pale of your own royal family, since you have meddled with it — otherwise our conference breaks off.”

“Were I to say I did this willingly,” said the King, “no one would believe me, therefore do you, my fair cousin, judge of the extent of my wish to oblige you, when I say most reluctantly, that the parties consenting, and a dispensation from the Pope being obtained, my own objections shall be no bar to this match which you purpose.”

“All besides can be easily settled by our ministers,” said the Duke, “and we are once more cousins and friends.”

“May Heaven be praised!” said Louis, “who, holding in his hand the hearts of princes, doth mercifully incline them to peace and clemency, and prevent the effusion of human blood.

“Oliver,” he added apart to that favourite, who ever waited around him like the familiar beside a sorcerer, “hark thee — tell Tristan to be speedy in dealing with yonder runagate Bohemian.”

214 I announce to you a great joy

215 to the sacred office

216 a permanent tenure of land upon condition of cultivating it properly, and paying a stipulated rent; a sort of fee farm or copyhold

217 a herald

218 a tiger cat; a term of heraldry

219 The heralds of the middle ages were regarded almost as sacred characters. It was treasonable to strike a herald, or to counterfeit the character of one. Yet Louis “did not hesitate to practise such an imposition when he wished to enter into communication with Edward IV of England. . . . He selected, as an agentfit for his purpose, a simple valet. This man . . . he disguised as a herald, with all the insignia of his office, and sent him in that capacity to open a communication with the English army. The stratagem, though of so fraudulent a nature, does not seem to have been necessarily called for, since all that King Louis could gain by it would be that he did not commit himself by sending a more responsible messenger. . . . Ferne . . . imputes this intrusion on their rights in some degree to necessity. ‘I have heard some,’ he says, ‘ . . . allow of the action of Louis XI who had so unknightly a regard both of his own honour, and also of armes, that he seldom had about his court any officer at armes. And therefore, at such time as Edward IV, King of England, . . . lay before the town of Saint Quentin, the same French King, for want of a herald to carry his mind to the English King, was constrained to suborn a vadelict, or common serving man, with a trumpet banner, having a hole made through the middest for this preposterous herauld to put his head through, and to cast it over his shoulders instead of a better coat armour of France. And thus came this hastily arrayed courier as a counterfeit officer at armes, with instructions from his sovereign’s mouth to offer peace to our King.’ Ferne’s Blazen of Gentry, 1586, p. 161. — S.

220 Rubens (1577-1640): a great Flemish artist whose works were sought by kings and princes. He painted the history of Marie de Medicis in the series of colossal pictures now in the Louvre. He was knighted by Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England.

221 Schneiders, or Snyders: a Flemish painter of the seventeenth century.

222 a hunter’s cry to his dog. See Dame Berner’s Boke of Hawking and Hunting.

223 to strike the bear with a staff, and pull off the dogs by the tail, to separate them.

224 the military force called out by the sovereign in early feudal times, together with their vassals, equipment, and three months’ provision

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29