Faint the din of battle bray'd
Distant down the heavy wind;
War and terror ded before,
Wounds and death were left behind.
Arthur, left alone, and desirous perhaps to cover the retreat of Count Albert, rode towards the approaching body of Burgundian cavalry, who were arrayed under the Lord Contay’s banner.
“Welcome, welcome,” said that nobleman, advancing hastily to the young knight. “The Duke of Burgundy is a mile hence, with a body of horse to support the reconnoitring party. It is not half-an-hour since your father galloped up, and stated that you had been led into an ambuscade by the treachery of the Stradiots, and made prisoner. He has impeached Campo-Basso of treason, and challenged him to the combat. They have both been sent to the camp, under charge of the Grand-Marshal, to prevent their fighting on the spot, though I think our Italian showed little desire to come to blows. The Duke holds their gages, and they are to fight upon Twelfth-Day.”
“I doubt that day will never dawn for some who look for it,” said Arthur; “but if it do, I will myself claim the combat, by my father’s permission.”
He then turned with Contay, and met a still larger body of cavalry under the Duke’s broad banner. He was instantly brought before Charles. The Duke heard, with some apparent anxiety, Arthur’s support of his father’s accusations against the Italian in whose favor he was so deeply prejudiced. When assured that the Stradiots had been across the hill, and communicated with their leader just before he encouraged Arthur to advance, as it proved into the midst of an ambush, the Duke shook his head, lowered his shaggy brows, and muttered to himself, — “Ill will to Oxford, perhaps — these Italians are vindictive.” — Then, raising his head, he commanded Arthur to proceed.
He heard with a species of ecstasy the death of Rudolph Donnerhugel, and, taking a ponderous gold chain from his own neck flung it over Arthur’s.
“Why, thou hast forestalled all our honors, young Arthur — this was the biggest bear of them all-the rest are but suckling whelps to him! I think I have found a youthful David to match their huge thick-headed Goliath. But the idiot to think his peasant hand could manage a lance! Well, my brave boy — what more! How camest thou off? By some wily device or agile stratagem, I warrant.”
“Pardon me, my lord,” answered Arthur. “I was protected by their chief, Ferrand, who considered my encounter with Rudolph Donnerhugel as a personal duel; and, desirous to use fair war, as he said, dismissed me honorably, with my horse and arms.”
“Umph!” said Charles, his bad humor returning; “your Prince Adventurer must play the generous — Umph — well, it belongs to his part, but shall not be a line for me to square my conduct by. Proceed with your story, Sir Arthur de Vere.’
As Arthur proceeded to tell how and under what circum stances Count Albert of Geierstein named himself to him, the Duke fixed on him an eager look, and trembled with impatience as he fiercely interrupted him with the question — “And you — you struck him with your poniard under the fifth rib did you not?”
“I did not, my Lord Duke — we were pledged in mutual assurance to each other.”
“Yet you knew him to be my mortal enemy?” said the Duke~ “Go, young man, thy lukewarm indifference has cancelled thy merit. The escape of Albert of Geierstein hath counterbalanced the death of Rudolph Donnerhugel.”
“Be it so, my lord,” said Arthur, boldly. “I neither claim your praises, nor deprecate your censure. I had to move me in either case motives personal to myself.-Donnerhugel was my enemy, and to Count Albert I owe some kindness.”
The Burgundian nobles who stood around were terrified for the effect of this bold speech. But it was never possible to guess with accuracy how such things would effect Charles. He looked around him with a laugh — ” Hear you this English cockerel, my lords-what a note will he one day sound, that already crows so bravely in a prince’s presence!”
A few horsemen now came in from different quarters, recounting that the Duke Ferrand and his company had retired into their encampment, and the country was clear of the enemy.
“Let us then draw back also,” said Charles, “since there is no chance of breaking spears to-day. And thou, Arthur de Vere, attend me closely.”
Arrived at the Duke’s pavilion, Arthur underwent an examination, in which he said nothing of Anne of Geierstein, or her father’s designs concerning him, with which he considered Charles as having nothing to do; but he frankly conveyed to him the personal threats which the Count had openly used. The Duke listened with more temper, and when he heard the expression, “That a man who is desperate of his own life might command that of any other person,” he said, “But there is a life beyond this, in which he who is treacherously murdered, and his base and desperate assassin, shall each meet their deserts.” He then took from his bosom a gold cross, and kissed it, with much appearance of devotion. “In this,” said he, “I will place my trust. If I fail in this world, may I find grace in the next — Ho, Sir Marshal!” he exclaimed — “Let your prisoners attend us.”
The Marshal of Burgundy entered with the Earl of Oxford, and stated that his other prisoner, Campo-Basso, had desired so earnestly that he might be suffered to go and post his sentinels on that part of the camp intrusted to the protection of his troops, that he, the Marshal, had thought fit to comply with his request.
“It is well,” said Burgundy, without further remark-” Then to you, my Lord Oxford, I would present your son, had you ~of already locked him in your arms. He has won great los and honor, and done me brave service. This is a period of the year when good men forgive their enemies; — I know not why — my mind was little apt to be charged with such matters — but I feel an unconquerable desire to stop the approaching combat betwixt you and Campo-Basso. For my sake, consent to be friends, and to receive back your gage of battle, and let me conclude this year — perhaps the last I may see — with a deed of peace. ”
“My lord,” said Oxford, it is a small thing you ask me, since your request only enforces a Christian duty. I was enraged at the loss of my son. I am grateful to Heaven and your Grace for restoring him. To be friends with Campo-Basso is to me impossible. Faith and treason, truth and falsehood, might as soon shake hands and embrace. But the Italian shall be to me no more than he has been before this rupture; and that is literally nothing. I put my honor in your Grace’s hands; if he receives back his gage, I am willing to receive mine. John de Vere needs not be apprehensive that the world will suppose that he fears Campo-Basso.”
The Duke returned sincere thanks, and detained the officers to spend the evening in his tent. His manners seemed to Arthur to be more placid than he had ever seen them before, while to the Earl of Oxford they recalled the earlier days in which their intimacy commenced, ere absolute power and unbounded success had spoiled Charles’s rough but not ungenerous disposition. The Duke ordered a distribution of provisions and wine to the soldiers, and expressed an anxiety about their lodgings, the cure of the wounded, and the health of the army, to which he received only unpleasing answers. To some of his counsellors, apart, he said, “Were it not for our vow, we would relinquish this purpose till spring, when our poor soldiers might take the field with less of suffering.”
Nothing else remarkable appeared in the Duke’s manner, save that he inquired repeatedly after Campo-Basso, and at length received accounts that he was indisposed, and that his physician had recommended rest; he had therefore retired to repose himself, in order that he might be stirring on his duty at peep of day, the safety of the camp depending much on his vigilance.
The Duke made no observation on the apology, which he considered as indicating some lurking disinclination, on the Italian’s part, to meet Oxford. The guests at the ducal pavilion were dismissed an hour before midnight.
When Oxford and his son were in their own tent, the Earl fell into a deep reverie, which lasted nearly ten minutes. At length, starting suddenly up, he said, “My son, give orders to Thiebault and thy yeoman to have our horses before the tent by break of day, or rather before it; and it would not be amiss if you ask our neighbor Colvin to ride along with us I will visit the outposts by daybreak.”
“It is a sudden resolution, my lord,” said Arthur.
“And yet it may be taken too late,” said his father. “Had it been moonlight, I would have made the rounds to-night.”
“It is as dark as a wolf’s throat,” said Arthur. “But wherefore, my lord, can this night in particular excite your apprehensions?”
“Son Arthur, perhaps you will hold your father credulous But my nurse, Martha Nixon, was a northern woman, and full of superstitions. In particular, she was wont to say, that any sudden and causeless change of a man’s nature, as from license to sobriety, from temperance to indulgence, from avarice to extravagance, from prodigality to love of money, or the like, indicates an immediate change of his fortunes — that some great alteration of circumstances, either for good or evil (and for evil most likely, since we live in an evil world), is impending over him whose disposition is so much altered. This old woman’s fancy has recurred so strongly to my mind, that I am determined to see with mine own eyes, ere to-morrow’s dawn, that all our guards and patrols around the camp are on the alert.”
Arthur made the necessary communications to Colvin and to Thiebault, and then retired to rest.
It was ere daybreak of the first of January, 1474, a period long memorable for the events which marked it, that the Earl of Oxford, Colvin, and the young Englishman, followed only by Thiebault and two other servants, commenced their rounds of the Duke of Burgundy’s encampment. For the greater part of their progress they found sentinels and guards all on the alert and at their posts. It was a bitter morning. The ground was partly covered with snow, — that snow had been partly melted by a thaw, which had prevailed for two days, and partly congealed into ice by a bitter frost, which had commenced the preceding evening, and still continued. A more dreary scene could scarcely be witnessed.
But what were the surprise and alarm of the Earl of Oxford and his companions, when they came to that part of the camp which had been occupied the day before by Campo-Basso and his Italians, who, reckoning men-at-arms and Stradiots, amounted to nigh two thousand men — not a challenge was given — not a horse neighed — no steeds were seen at picquet — no guard on the camp. They examined several of the tents and huts — they were empty.
“Let us back to alarm the camp,” said the Earl of Oxford; “here is treachery.”
“Nay, my lord,” said Colvin, “let us not carry back imperfect tidings. I have a battery an hundred yards in advance covering the access to this hollow way; let us see if my German cannoniers are at their post, and I think I can swear that we shall find them so. The battery commands a narrow pass, by which alone the camp can be approached; and if my men are at their duty, I will pawn my life that we make the pass good till you bring up succors from the main body.”
“Forward, then, in God’s name!” said the Earl of Oxford.
They galloped, at every risk, over broken ground, slippery with ice in some places, encumbered with snow in others. They came to the cannon, judiciously placed to sweep the pass, which rose towards the artillery on the outward side, and then descended gently from the battery into the lower ground. The waning winter moon, mingling with the dawning light, showed them that the guns were in their places, but no sentinel was visible.
“The villains cannot have deserted!” said the astonished Colvin — ” But see, there is light in their cantonment. — Oh that unhallowed distribution of wine! Their usual sin of drunkenness has beset them. I will soon drive them from their revelry.”
He sprung from his horse, and rushed into the tent from whence the light issued. The cannoniers, or most of them, were still there, but stretched on the ground, their cups and flagons scattered around them; and so drenched were they in wassail, that Colvin could only, by commands and threats, awaken two or three, who, staggering and obeying him rather from instinct than sense, reeled forward to man the battery. A heavy rushing sound, like that of men marching fast, was now heard coming up the pass.
“It is the roar of a distant avalanche,” said Arthur.
“It is an avalanche of Switzers, not of snow,” said Colvin.
— “Oh, these drunken slaves! — The cannon are deeply loaded, and well pointed — this volley must check them if they were fiends, and the report will alarm the camp sooner than we can do.-But, oh, these drunken villains!”
“Care not for their aid,” said the Earl; “my son and I will each take a linstock, and be gunners for once.”
They dismounted, and bade Thiebault and the grooms look to the horses, while the Earl of Oxford and his son took each a linstock from one of the helpless gunners, three of whom were just sober enough to stand by their guns.
“Brovo!” cried the bold Master of Ordnance, “never was a battery so noble. Now, my mates-your pardon, my lords, for there is no time for ceremony — and you, ye drunken knaves, take heed not to fire till I give the word, and were the ribs of these tramplers as flinty as their Alps, they shall know how old Colvin loads his guns.”
They stood breathless, each by his cannon. The dreaded sound approached nearer and more near, till the imperfect light showed a dark and shadowy but dense column of men, armed with long spears, pole-axes, and other weapons, amidst which banners dimly floated. Colvin suffered them to approach to the distance of about forty yards, and then gave the word, Fire But his own piece alone exploded; a slight flame flashed from the touch-hole of the others, which had been spiked by the Italian deserters, and left in reality disabled, though apparently fit for service. Had they been all in the same condition with that fired by Colvin, they would probably have verified his prophecy; for even that single discharge produced an awful effect, and made a long lane of dead and wounded through the Swiss column in which the first and leading banner was struck down.
“Stand to it yet,” said Colvin, “and aid me if possible to reload the piece.”
For this, however, no time was allowed. A stately form, conspicuous in the front of the staggered column, raised up the fallen banner, and a voice as of a giant exclaimed, “What, countrymen! have you seen Murten and Granson, and are you daunted by a single gun? — Berne — Uri — Schwytz — banners forward I Untetwalden, here is your standred! — Cry your war — cries, wind your horns; Unterwalden, follow your Landamman!”
They rushed on like a raging ocean, with a roar as deafening, and a course as impetuous. Colvin, still laboring to reload his gun, was struck down in the act. Oxford and his son were overthrown by the multitude, the closeness of which prevented any blows being aimed at them. Arthur partly saved himself by getting under the gun he was posted at his father, less fortunate, was much trampled upon and must have been crushed to death but for his armor of proof. The human inundation, consisting of at least four thousand men, rushed down into the camp, continuing their dreadful shouts, soon mingled with shrill shrieks, groans, and cries of alarm.
A broad red glare rising behind the assailants, and putting to shame the pallid lights of the winter morning, first recalled Arthur to a sense of his condition. The camp was on fire in his rear, and resounded with all the various shouts of conquest and terror that are heard in a town which is stormed. Starting to his feet, he looked around him for his father. He lay near him senseless, as were the gunners, whose condition prevented their attempting an escape. Having opened his father’s casque, he was rejoiced to see him give symptoms of reanimation.
“The horses, the horses!” said Arthur. “Thiebault, where art thou?”
“At hand, my lord,” said that trusty attendant, who had saved himself and his charge by a prudent retreat into a small thicket, which the assailants had avoided that they might not disorder their ranks.
“Where is the gallant Colvin?” said the Earl; “get him a horse, I will not leave him in jeopardy.”
“His wars are ended, my lord,” said Thiebault; “he will never mount steed more.”
A look and a sigh as he saw Colvin, with the ramrod in his hand, before the muzzle of the piece, his head cleft by a Swiss battle-axe, was all the moment permitted.
“Whither must we take our course?” said Arthur to his father.
“To join the Duke,” said the Earl of Oxford. “It is not on a day like this that I will leave him.”
“So please you,” said Thiebault, “I saw the Duke, followed by some half-score of his guards, riding at full speed across this hollow water-course, and making for the open country to the northward. I think I can guide you on the track.”
“If that be so,” replied Oxford, “we will mount and follow him. The camp has been assailed on several places at once, and alt must be over since he has fled.”
With difficulty they assisted the Earl of Oxford to his horse, and rode as fast as his returning strength permitted, in the direction which the Provencal pointed out. Their other attend ants were dispersed or slain.
They looked back more than once on the camp, now one great scene of conflagration, by whose red and glaring light they could discover on the ground the traces of Charles’s retreat. About three miles from the scene of their defeat, the sound of which they still heard, mingled with the bells of Nancy, which were ringing in triumph, they reached a half-frozen swamp, round which lay several dead bodies. The most conspicuous was that of Charles of Burgundy, once the possessor of such unlimited power — such unbounded wealth. He was partly stripped and plundered, as were those who lay round him. His body was pierced with several wounds, inflicted by various weapons. His sword was still in his hand, and the singular ferocity which was wont to animate his features in battle, still dwelt on his stiffened countenance. Close behind him, as if they had fallen in the act of mutual fight, lay the corpse of Count Albert of Geierstein and that of Ital Schreckenwald, the faithful though unscrupulous follower of the latter, lay not far distant. Both were in the dress of the men-at-arms composing the Duke’s guard, a disguise probably assumed to execute the fatal commission of the Secret Tribunal. It is supposed that a party of the traitor Campo-Basso’s men had been engaged in the skirmish in which the Duke fell, for six or seven of them, and about the same number of the Duke’s guards, were found near the spot.
The Earl of Oxford threw himself from his horse, and examined the body of his deceased brother-in-arms, with all the sorrow inspired by early remembrance of his kindness. But as he gave way to the feelings inspired by so melancholy an example of the fall of human greatness, Thiebault, who was looking out on the path they had just pursued, exclaimed, “To horse, my lord! there is no time to mourn the dead, and little to save the living — the Swiss are upon us.”
“Fly thyself, good fellow,” said the Earl; “and do thou, Arthur, fly also, and save thy youth for happier days. I cannot and will not fly farther. I will render me to the pursuers; if they take me to grace, it is well; if not, there is ONE above that will receive me to His.”
“I will not fly,” said Arthur, “and leave you defenceless; I will stay and share your fate.”
“And I will remain also,” said Thiebault; “the Switzers make fair war when their blood has not been heated by much opposition, and they have had little enough to-day.”
The party of Swiss which came up proved to be Sigismund, with his brother Ernest, and some of the youths of Unterwalden.
Sigismund kindly and joyfully received them to mercy and thus, for the third time, rendered Arthur an important service in return for the kindness he had expressed towards him.
“I will take you to my father,” said Sigismund, “who will be right glad to see you; only that he is ill at ease just now for the death of brother Rudiger, who fell with the banner in his hand, by the only cannon that was fired this morning; the rest could not bark; Campo-Basso had muzzled Colvin’s mastiffs, or we should many more of us have been served like poor Rudiger. But Colvin himself is killed.”
“Campo-Basso, then, was in your correspondence?” said Arthur.
Not in ours — we scorn such companions-but some dealing there was between the Italian and Duke Ferrand; and having disabled the cannon, and filled the German gunners soundly drunk, he came off to our camp with fifteen hundred horses, and offered to act with us. But ‘No, no!’ said my father, ‘traitors come not into our Swiss host;’ and so, though we walked in at the door which he left open, we would not have his company. So he marched with Duke Ferrand to attack the other extremity of the camp, where he found them entrance by announcing them as the return of a reconnoitring party.”
“Nay, then,” said Arthur, “a more accomplished traitor never drew breath, nor one who drew his net with such success.”
“You say well,” answered the young Swiss. “The Duke will never, they say, be able to collect another army?”
“Never, young man,” said the Earl of Oxford, “for he lies dead before you.” 28
Sigismund started; for he had an inherent respect, and somewhat of fear, for the lofty name of Charles the Bold, and could hardly believe that the mangled corpse which now lay before him was once the personage he had been taught to dread. But his surprise was mingled with sorrow when he saw the body of his uncle, Count Albert of Geierstein.
“Oh, my uncle!” he said — “my dear uncle Albert! has all your greatness and your wisdom brought you to a death, at the side of a ditch, like any crazed beggar? — Come, this sad news must be presently told to my father, who will be concerned to hear of his brother’s death, which will add gall to bitterness, coming cn the back of poor Rudiger’s. It is some comfort, however, that father and uncle never could abide each other.”
With some difficulty they once more assisted the Earl of Oxford to horseback, and were proceeding to set forward, when the English lord said — “You will place a guard here, to save these bodies from farther dishonor, that they may be interred with due solemnity.”
“By our Lady of Einsiedlen! I thank you for the hint,” said Sigismund.
“Yes, we should do all that the Church can for uncle Albert. It is to be hoped he has not gambled away his soul beforehand, playing with Satan at odds and evens. I would we had a priest to stay by his poor body; but it matters not, since no one ever heard of a demon appearing just before breakfast.”
They proceeded to the Landamman ‘s quarters through sights and scenes which Arthur, and even his father, so well accustomed to war in all its shapes, could nor look upon without shuddering. But the simple Sigismund, as; he walked by Arthur’s side, contrived to hit upon a theme so interesting as to divert his sense of the horrors around them.
“Have you farther business in Burgundy, now this Duke of yours is at an end?”
“My father knows best,” said Arthur; “but I apprehend we have none. The Duchess of Burgundy, who must now succeed to some sort of authority in her late husband’s dominion, is sister to this Edward of York and a mortal enemy to the House of Lancaster, and to those who have stood by itfaithfully. It were neither prudent nor safe to tarry where she has influence.”
“In that case,” said Sigismund, “my plan will fadge bravely. You shall go back to Geierstein, and take up your dwelling with us. Your father will be a brother to mine, and a better one than uncle Albert, whom he seldom saw or spoke with, while with your father he will converse from morning till night, and leave us all the work of the farm. And you, Arthur, you shall go with us, and be brother to us all, in place of poor Rudiger, who was, to be sure, my real brother, which you cannot be: nevertheless, I did not like him so well, in respect he was not so good-natured. And then Anne — cousin Anne — is left all to my father’s charge, and is now at Geierstein — and you know, King Arthur, we used to call her Queen Guenover.”
“You spoke great folly, then,” said Arthur.
“But it is great truth — For, look you, I loved to tell Anne tales of our hunting, and so forth, but she would not listen a word till I threw in something of King Arthur, and then I warrant she would sit still as a heath-hen when the hawk is in the heavens. And now Donnerhugel is slain, you know you may marry my cousin when you and she will, for nobody hath interest to prevent it.”
Arthur blushed with pleasure under his helmet, and almost forgave that new-year’s morning all its complicated distresses.
“You forget,” he replied to Sigismund, with as much in difference as he could assume, “that I may be viewed in your country with prejudice on account of Rudolph’s death.”
“Not a whit, not a whit; we bear no malice for what is done in fair fight under shield. It is no more than if you had beat him in wrestling or at quoits — only it is a game cannot be played over again.”
They now entered the town of Nancy; the windows were hung with tapestry, and the streets crowded with tumultuous and rejoicing multitudes, whom the success of the battle had relieved from great alarm for the formidable vengeance of Charles of Burgundy.
The prisoners were received with the utmost kindness by the Landamman, who assured them of his protection and friendship. He appeared to support the death of his son Rudiger with stern resignation.
“He had rather,” he said, “his son fell in battle than that he should live to despise the old simplicity of his country, and ~ink the object of combat was the gaining of spoil. The gold of the dead Burgundy,” he added, “would injure the morals of Switzerland more irretrievably than ever his sword did their bodies.”
He heard of his brother’s death without surprise, but apparently with emotion.
“It was the conclusion,” he said, “of a long tissue of ambitious enterprises, which often offered fair prospects, but uniformly ended in disappointment.”
The Landamman farther intimated, that his brother had apprised him that he was engaged in an affair of so much danger that he was almost certain to perish in it, and had bequeathed his daughter to her uncle’s care, with instructions respecting her.
Here they parted for the present, but shortly after, the Landamman inquired earnestly of the Fan of Oxford what his motions were like to be, and whether he could assist them.
“I think of choosing Bretagne for my place of refuge,” answered the Earl, “where my wife has dwelt, since the battle of Tewkesbury expelled us from England.”
“ Do not so,” said the kind Landamman, “but come to Geierstein with the Countess, where, if she can, like you, endure our mountain manners and mountain fare, you are welcome as to the house of a brother, to a soil where neither conspiracy nor treason ever flourished. Bethink you, the Duke of Bretagne is a weak prince, entirely governed by a wicked favorite, Peter Landais. He is as capable — I mean the minister — of selling brave men’s blood, as a butcher of selling bullock’s flesh; and you know, there are those, both in France and Burgundy, that thirst after yours.”
The Earl of Oxford expressed his thanks for the proposal, and his determination to profit by it, if approved of by Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Richmond, whom he now regarded as his sovereign.
To close the tale, about three months after the battle of Nancy, the banished Earl of Oxford resumed his name of Philip son, bringing with his lady some remnants of their former wealth, which enabled them to procure a commodious residence near to Geierstein; and the Landamman’s interest in the state procured for them the right of denizenship. The high blood, and the moderate fortunes, of Anne of Geierstein and Arthur de Vere, joined to their mutual inclination, made their marriage in every respect rational; and Annette with her bachelor took up their residence with the young people; not as servants, but mechanical aids in the duties of the farm; for Arthur continued to prefer the chase to the labors of husbandry, which was of little consequence, as his separate income amounted, in that poor country, to opulence. Time glided on, till it amounted to five years since the exiled family had been inhabitants of Switzerland. In the year 1482, the Landamman Biederman died the death of the righteous, lamented universally, as a model of the true and valiant, simple-minded and sagacious chiefs, who ruled the ancient Switzers in peace, and headed them in battle. In the same year, the Earl of Oxford lost his noble Countess.
But the star of Lancaster, at that period, began again to culminate, and called the banished lord and his son from their retirement, to mix once more in politics. The treasured neck lace of Margaret was then put to its destined use, and the produce applied to levy those banks which shortly after fought the celebrated battle of Bosworth, in which the arms of Oxford and his son contributed so much to the success of Henry VII. This changed the destinies of De Vere and his lady. Their Swiss farm was conferred on Annette and her husband; and the manners and beauty of Anne of Geierstein attracted as much admiration at the English Court as formerly in the Swiss Chalet.
28 Note F. Charles the Bold.
The following very striking passage is that in which Philip de Commines sums up the last scene of Charles the Bold, whose various fortunes he had long watched with a dark anticipation that a character so reckless, and capable of such excess, must sooner or later lead to a tragical result:—
“As soon as the Count de Campo-Basso arrived in the Duke of Lorrain’s army, word was sent him to leave the camp immediately, for they would not entertain nor have any communication with such traitors. Upon which message he retired with his party to a Castle and Pass not far off, where he fortified himself with carts and other things as well as he could, in hopes, that if the Duke of Burgundy was routed, be might have an opportunity of coming in for a share of the plunder, as he did afterwards. Nor was this practice with the Duke of Lorrain the most execrable action that Campo-Basso was guilty of; but before he left the army he conspired with several other officers (finding it was impracticable to attempt anything against the Duke of Burgundy’s person) to leave him just as they came to charge, for at that time he supposed it would put the Duke into the greatest terror and consternation, and if he fled, he was sure he could not escape alive, for he had ordered thirteen or fourteen sure men, some to run as soon as the Germans came up to charge ’em, and others to watch the Duke of Burgundy, and kill him in the route, which was well enough contrived; I myself have seen two or three of these who were employed to kill the Duke. Having thus settled his conspiracy at home, he went over to the Duke of Lorrain upon the approach of the German army; but finding they would not entertain him, he retired to Conde.
“The German army march’d forward, and with ’em a considerable body of French horse, whom the King had given leave to be present at that action. Several parties lay in ambush not far off, that if the Duke of Burgundy was routed, they might surprise some person of quality, or take some considerable booty. By this everyone may see into what a deplorable condition this poor Duke had brought himself by ~is contempt of good counsel Both armies being joyn’d, the Duke of Burgundy’s forces having been twice beaten before, and by consequence weak and dispirited, and ill previded besides, were quickly broken and entirely defeated: Many saved themselves and got off; the rest were either taken or kill’d; and among ’em the Duke of Burgundy himself was kill’d on the spot. One Monsieur Claude of Bausmont, Captain of the Castle of Dier in Lorrain, kill’d the Duke of Burgundy. Finding his army routed, he mounted a swift horse, and endeavoring to swim a little river in order to make his escape, his horse fell with him, and overset him: The Duke cry’d out fo” quarter to this gentleman who was pursuing him, bat he being deaf, and not hearing him, immediately kill’d and stripp’d him, not knowing who he was, and left him naked in the ditch, where his body was found the next day after the battle which the Duke of Lorrain (to his eternal honor) buried with great pomp and magnificence in St George’s Church, in the old town of Nancy, himself and all his nobility, in deep mourning, attending the corpse to the grave. The following epitaph was sometime afterwards ingrav’d on his tomb:
I saw a seal ring of his, since his death, at Milan, with his arms cut curiously upon b sardonix that I have seen him often wear in a ribbon at his breast, which was sold at Milan for two ducats, and had been stolen from him by a rascal that waited on him in his chamber. I have often seen the Duke dress’d and undress’d in great state and formality, and attended by very great persons; but at his death all this pomp and magnificence ceas’d, and his family was involved in the same ruin with himself, and very likely as a punishment for his having delivered up the Constable not long before, out of a base and avaricious principle but God forgive him. I have known him a powerful and honorable Prince, in as great esteem, and as much courted by his neighbors (when his affairs were in a prosperous condition), as any Prince in Europe, and perhaps more; and I cannot conceive what should provoke God Almighty’s displeasure so highly against him, unless it was his self-love and arrogance, in appropriating all the success of his enterprises, and all the renown he ever acquir’d, to his own wisdom and conduct, without attributing anything to God. Yet, to speak truth, he was master of several good qualities: No Prince ever had a greater ambition to entertain young noblemen than he, nor was more careful of their education: His presents and bounty were never profuse and extravagant, because he gave to many, and had a raind everybody should taste of it. No Prince was ever more easie of access to his servants and subjects. Whilst I was in his service he was never cruel but a little before his death he took up that humor, which was an infallible sign of the shortness of his life. He was very splendid and curious in his dress, and in everything else, and indeed a little too much. He paid great honors to ali ambassadors and foreigners, and entertain’d them nobly: His ambitions desire of fame was insatiable, and it was that which induced him to be eternally in wars, more than any other motive. He ambitiously desired to imitate the old Kings and Heroes of antiquity, whose actions still shine in History, and are so much talked of in the world, and his courage was equal to any Prince’s of his time.
“But all his designs and imaginations were vain and extravagant, and turn’d afterwards to his own dishonor and confusion, for ’tis the conquerors and not the conquer’d that purchase to themselves renown. I cannot easily determine towards whom God Almighty show’d his anger most, whether towards him who died suddenly without pain or sickness in the field of battle, or towards his subjects who never enjoy’d peace after his death, but were continually involv’d in wars, against which they were not able to maintain themselves, upon account of the civil dissentions and cruel animosities that arose among ’em; and that which was the most insupportable, was, that the very people, to whom they were now obliged for their defence and preservation, were the Germans, who were strangers, and not long since their profess’d enemies. In short, after the Duke’s death, there was not a neighboring state that wish’d them to prosper, nor even Germany that defended ’em. And by the management of their affairs, their understanding seem’d to be as much infatuated as their masters, for they rejected all good counsel, and pursued such methods as directly tended to their destruction; and they are still in such a condition, that though they have at present some little ease and relaxation from their sorrows, yet it is with great danger of a relapse, and ’tis well if it turns not in the end to their utter ruin.
“I am partly of their opinion who maintain that God gives Princes, as he in his wisdom thinks fit, to punish or chastise the subjects; and he disposes the affection of subject to their Princes, as he has determin’d to raise or depress ’em. Just so it has pleas’d him to deal with the House of Burgundy; for after a long series of riches and prosperity, and six-and-twenty years’ peace under three Illustrious Princes, predecessors to this Charles (all of ’em excellent persons, and of great prudence and discretion), it pleased God to send this Duke Charles, who involv’d them in bloody wars, as well winter as summer, to their great affliction and expense, in which most of their richest and stoutest men were either killed or utterly undone. Their misfortunes continu’d successively to the very hour of his death; and after such a manner, that at the last the whole strength of their country was destroy’d and all kill’d or taken prisoners who had any zeal or affection for the House of Burgundy, and had power to defend the state and dignity of that family; so that in a manner their losses were equal to, if not over-balanc’d their former prosperity; for as I have seen those Princes heretofore puissant, rich, and honorable, so it fared the same with their subjects; for I think I have seen and known the greatest part of Europe; yet I never knew any province, or country, tho’ perhaps of a larger extent, so abounding in money, so extravagantly fine in furniture for their horses, so sumptuous in their buildings, so profuse in their expenses, so luxurious in their feasts and entertainments, and so prodigal in all respects, as the subjects of these Princes, in my time; but it has pleased God at one blow to subvert and ruin this illustrious family. Such changes and revolutions in states and kingdoms, God in his providence has wrought before we were born, and will do again when we are in our graves; for this is a certain maxim, that the prosperity or adversity of Princes are wholly at his disposal.” — Commines, Book V. Chap. 9.
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