« AnteriorContinuar »
Art. VII.-1. Histoire des Rois et des Ducs de Bretagne. Par
Mons. De Roujoux. Paris. 1828–9. 4 vols. 8vo. 2. Memoires de l'Académie Celtique. Paris. 1807— 10. 6 tom. 3, Mélanges sur les Langues, Dialectes, et Patois. Par Bottin.
8vo. Paris. 1831. There is within a few hours' sail of the south-western coast of England a part of the kingdom of France, the history of which is most closely interwoven with much that is deeply interesting in our own. It abounds with scenery of the most beautiful, as well as of the grandest kind.* Its southern division contains a people primitive, and therefore most curious in their customs; who do not speak the language of France in general, but one of the most ancient in Europe. Its antiquities, Celtic and Druidical, both in extent and number, are such as no other country can boast. Its churches contain specimens of architecture, equal in beauty to those of its sister province, Normandy. The remains of its feudal fastnesses are of such grandeur and magnificence as to astonish all who behold them. The wars, to preserve its freedom, gave rise to deeds of heroism, rarely if ever surpassed. Its history presents to our notice facts as full of interest as ever fiction feigned ; and it numbers among its warriors some of the greatest names in the records of France. And yet, notwithstanding these strong claims to our notice, if we speak of the subject, even to a tolerably well-informed Englishman, he knows but little either of the past or present condition of Britanny or the Bretons. What is the reason of this neglect we know not, but such is the fact. We shall now proceed to prove to our readers that this eulogy upon Britanny is not undeserved, and we have no doubt that they will not regret that the subject should again be placed before them. In our second number we very briefly noticed the History of Britanny by Mons. Daru; we shall in this article enter a little more at large upon the same subject, and shall touch upon some other points which could not with propriety have been introduced there.
The Breton historians are extremely anxious to satisfy themselves, and to prove satisfactorily to their readers, that their province was for a very long time perfectly independent of the crown of France; and that even for some centuries before its incorporation with that kingdom by the marriage of Anne of Britanny with Charles VIII., the homage which its dukes paid to the reigning king of France was more of a nominal than of a real character. This is no doubt true in the history of Britanny before the power of France became concentrated and settled. At that time powerful dukes, like those of Burgundy and Britapny, might laugh at the pretence of any real submission to their suzerain, though for political purposes they deemed it necessary to go through the form of doing homage for their territories. Like a feudal baron in the early parts of our own history, who did service indeed to the king, while he was fully conscious that whenever he pleased he could set his sovereign's power at defiance. So in the history of Britanny, we find that not only the nobles, but the clergy set at nought the authority of the duke, who was frequently obliged to make concessions; while he, in his turn, acted without any regard either to the wishes or the commands of the king.
* The neighbourhood of Clisson may be selected as a specimen of the former, while Concarneau and Douaruenez are unrivalled for wildness and sublimity.
† Mr. Trollope bas lately published his Travels in Britanny, but as that gentleman visited the province neither as antiquary nor historian, his book possesses but few charms. He missed indeed the places which were most worth seeing, and if he chanced to be where the historical associations were of great interest, he was either ignorant of them, or deemed them not worth notice,
The first account which we have of any intention on the part of the Bretons to put themselves under the power of the French, was in the reign of Clovis ; when the inhabitants of Nantes and its neighbourhood, and the western part of the province, anxious to protect themselves against the constant incursions from the porth, proposed an alliance. This was eagerly entered into by the French, who indeed, according to Lobineau, in his Histoire de Bretagne, made the first advances towards a union. The feeble remains of the Roman garrisons also surrendered themselves, stipulating only that they should be allowed to keep their own arms, their standards, their peculiar discipline, and that in battle they were to adhere to their own mode of fighting. This union was of a very uncertain and partial character; for in the reign of Childebert, who endeavoured to exercise some authority over the chiefs of Britanny, we find that they denied his power and refused him any allegiance. The state of the province in the middle of the sixth century may be easily deduced from the following portion of its history: Britanny had been divided between the five sons of Hoel, or rather we should say, between three sons, as two of them had entered upon a religious life. Canao, the eldest, had Rennes and the country northward to the sea. Waroch had the Comté de Vennes; and West Britanny was divided between Macliau and Budic. Canao* had already killed three of his brothers, and bad seized on Macliau, an ambitious and unscrupulous man, and had confined him in prison, fully determined to put him to death also. He was dissuaded from his purpose, though with very great difficulty, by the eloquent entreaties of Felix, bishop of Nantes. At the desire of his brother, Macliau swore fidelity to him, and declared that he would be content with such a proportion of his father's property as Canao might think fit to assign to him. No sooner, however, was he released, than he disregarded the oaths which he had taken, and fed for protection to Comor, Compte de Leon. Canao, on learning this, instantly sent to demand his surrender. Comor, unable to resist the power of Canao, had recourse to artifice to protect the fugitive. He caused a tomb to be built in which he secreted the living Macliau, leaving openings sufficient for the admission of air. On the arrival of the envoys he showed them the tomb.“ Macliau is no more,” said he, “ I cannot give him to you ; behold the spot where we have interred him. Tell Canao he has nothing more to fear from his brother.” The messengers were so delighted at his supposed death, that they ordered their food and wine to be placed upon the tomb, and ate and drank there. Soon after Macliau retired to Vannes, which had submitted to the French; and in order to be more safe from the attacks of his brother, he made a pretext of renouncing the world, cut off his hair, put away his wife, and took holy orders. So great was the influence of his assumed piety, that he was elected Bishop of Vannes. At his brother's death he threw off the mask, assumed the title and dignity of Comte de Cornuaille-kept possession of the bishopric without performing any one office of a bishop-laid aside his clerical dress, and lived again with his wife. He was excommunicated by the bishops of the province, but this gave him no concern. His brother Budic had made an agreement with him, that whichever of the two should survive, was to be the guardian of the other's children. Budic died first, and Macliau proclaimed himself the protector of his brother's son Theodoric, who, mistrusting the protection offered to hiin, made his escape. He was well received by the neighbouring princes, who assisted him with some troops, at the head of which he attacked Macliau and killed him.
* This Canao, from having destroyed several wives, is supposed to be the original Blue Beard. Part of a tower, the only remain of his chateau, near Nantes, is still called Blue Beard's Castle ; at least it was when we were there in 1832.
The history does not present much worthy of particular notice till we arrive at the thirteenth century. This period is remarkable for the increasing power of the popes, Innocent III. put the kingdom of France under an interdict, excommunicated Henry II. of England, and caused the crusade to be undertaken against the Albigenses. Honorius III. anathematised the Count of Toulon. Gregory IX. and Innocent IV. excommunicated Frederick II. four times, and distributed his possessions to others, who, however, dared not take them. Alexander IV. established
the Inquisition in France; and Urban IV. took the throne of Naples from the house of Suabia, and gave it to Charles of Anjou. The bishops imitated the head of the Church, put their dioceses under interdict, excommunicated their princes, and made use, without scruple, of the power and influence which their office gave them to carry out their own measures, and to enrich and aggrandise themselves and their friends. The bishops of Nantes, Dol, Quimper and St. Malo, were lords in their respective cities, and divided the power with the reigning sovereign ; they struck money, and gave letters of nobility. When required to abate somewhat from their pretensions, the invariable answer was, that they were merely servants of the court of Rome, and could not make the slightest concession without its authority. Pierre de Dreux, who was Duke of Britanny in 1213, endeavoured to curb the power of the different prelates of his province. He attacked successively the Bishops of Nantes, of Dol, aud of Rennes. His own nobles too united with him, as they were become fearful of a power which threatened to be greater than their own. The duke was excommunicated; this he heeded not. The province was then put under an interdict; the consequences of this were of a most appalling nature-no public prayers, no baptisms, no marriages, no prayers or offices for the sick, and no burials. In one place where the priest refused to bury, the duke sent a body of men, with strict orders that if the refusal should be persisted in, they were to inter the priest in the same grave with the body which he would not bury; which was immediately done. For this and for his continual contentions with his clergy, they surnamed him Mauclerc (mauvais clerc). All his resistance, however, was in vain; the paralysing effects of the interdict compelled him to yield. He was ordered by the pope to restore such of the clergy as he had deprived of their livings, and to rebuild or repair the churches which had been injured or destroyed.
The close of the fourteenth and the whole of the fifteenth centuries are full of interest. Johu IV. (better known to the readers of Froissart as Jean de Montfort), surnamed the Conqueror, from his having obtained the dukedom by the defeat and death of Charles de Blois, passed the thirty-four years of his reign in constant wars and troubles. Ungrateful to his best friends—unfaithful to his allies--twice compelled to leave the province-abandoned by both France and England -deprived of his dukedom by the judgment of his peers, and which deprivation would, in all probability, have been lasting, had not Charles V. endeavoured to introduce the gabelle into the province. This odious tax aroused the anger of the Breton nobles, who invited the duke to
vol. XXVII. NO. LIII.
return. He landed from England at St. Malo, made a treaty with the King of France, at the very making of which he protested secretly against it, and passed the remainder of his life amidst interdicts from the clergy and quarrels with the nobles,* and died at last pot without suspicion of having been poisoned. His widow married Henry IV. of England. His son and successor, John V. was only eleven years old at his father's death : in the following year, he made his public entry into Rennes, the chief city of the province. The form of his doing, and the mode of investiture, are thus related by Lobineau : On his approach to the gate by which the town was entered, he was met by the bishop and nobles ; the most holy relics were also brought, by which he swore “to defend the Catholic faith, and to maintain the church of Britanny in all its lawful rights—to preserve the counts, barons, and nobles of the country in the possession of all their liberties-to render justice to every one-to defend the prerogatives and royal privileges of Britanny--to restore what time had weakened, and to keep up what had been restored.” After this he entered the town, went directly to the cathedral, where he remained all night before the altar of St. Peter. The next day, before the celebration of high mass, he was knighted by Olivier de Clisson, the Constable of France; after which he performed the same ceremony to his brothers Arthur and Gilles. Before mass the duke was clad with the royal (this word is used in both places in the original) vestments, by the counts and barons in attendance; a circle of gold was also put upon his head, and a drawn sword in his hand, which he held during the whole service: after which he rode through the town, attended by all the nobles present. During his reign the battle of Agincourt was fought, in which his uncle, Comte de Richemont, afterwards Constable of France, was wounded and taken prisoner. The duke himself had been bribed by an offer of one hundred thousand francs, and the promise of the town of St. Malo, to send forces to the assistance of the King of France. Six thousand men were accordingly sent, but did not arrive till after the battle. The duke died in 1440, and was succeeded by his brother, Francis I., who married Isabella of Scotland. His memory is stained by his cruel and unjust treatment of his younger brother, Gilles, a prince of great talent, much esteemed by his uncle, the Constable of France, and by many of the most powerful pobles of Britanny. He was of a generous though hasty temper, and not free from the vices of his age. His history is so peculiar, that we shall give a little space to the detail of it. The first
* His treatment of Clisson is full of the liveliest interest, and well deserves perusal.