Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The French King seized by Madness
By Sir John Bourchier, Lord Berners (c. 14671533)
THE KING passed forth, and about twelve of the clock the king passed out of the forest, and came into a great plain all sandy: the sun also was in his height and shone bright, whose rays were marvellously hot, whereby the horses were sore chafed, and all such persons as were armed were sore oppressed with heat. The knights rode together by companies, some here and some there, and the king rode somewhat apart because of the dust: and the Duke of Berry, and the Duke of Burgoyne, rode on his left hand talking together, an acre breadth of land off from the king; other lords, as the Earl of March, Sir Jacques of Bourbon, Sir Charles dAlbret, Sir Philip dArtois, Sir Henry and Sir Philip of Bar, Sir Peter of Navarre, and other knights, rode by companies; the Duke of Bourbon, the Lord Coucy, Sir Charles dAngers, the Baron dIvry, and divers other, rode on before the king, and not in his company; and they devised and talked together, and took no heed of that fell suddenly on the chief personage of the company, which was on the kings own person: therefore the works of God are marvellous, and his scourges are cruel and are to be doubted of all creatures. There hath been seen in the Old Testament, and also in the New, many figures and examples thereof; we read how Nebuchadnezzar, King of Assyrians, who reigned a season in such triumphant glory, that there was none like him, and suddenly in his greatest force and glory, the sovereign King, our Lord God, King of heaven and of earth, former and ordainer of all things, apparelled this said king in such wise that he lost his wit and reign, and was seven year in that estate, and lived by acorns and mast that fell from the oaks, and other wild apples and fruits, and had taste but as a boar or a swine; and after he had endured this penance God restored him again to his memory and wit; and then he said to Daniel the prophet, that there was none other God but the God of Israel: now the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons in one God, hath been, is, and ever shall be as puissant to shew His works as ever He was, wherefore no man should marvel of any thing that He doth. Now to the purpose why I speak all these words. A great influence from heaven fell the said day upon the French king, and as divers said, it was his own fault: for according to the disposition of his body, and the state that he was in, and the warning that his physicians did give him, he should not have ridden in such a hot day, at that hour, but rather in the morning and in the evening in the fresh air; wherefore it was a shame to them that were near about him, to suffer or to counsel him to do as he did. Thus as the French king rode upon a fair plain in the heat of the sun, which was as then of a marvellous height, and the king had on a jack covered with black velvet, which sore chafed him, and on his head a single bonnet of scarlet, and a chaplet of great pearls, which the queen had given him at his departure, and he had a page that rode behind him, bearing on his head a chapeau of Montaban, bright and clear shining against the sun: and behind that page rode another bearing the kings spear, painted red, and fringed with silk, with a sharp head of steel; the Lord de la River had brought a dozen of them with him from Toulouse, and that was one of them: he had given the whole dozen to the king, and the king had given three of them to his brother, the Duke of Orleans, and three to the Duke of Bourbon; and as they rode thus forth, the page that bare the spear, whether it were by negligence, or that he fell asleep, he let the spear fall on the other pages head that rode before him, and the head of the spear made a great clash on the bright chapeau of steel: the king (who rode but afore them), with the noise suddenly started, and his heart trembled, and into his imagination ran the impression of the words of the man that stopped his horse in the forest of Mans, and it ran into his thought, that his enemies ran after him to slay and destroy him: and with that abusion he fell out of his wit by feebleness of his head, and dashed his spurs to his horse, and drew out the sword, and turned to his pages, having no knowledge of any man, weening himself to be in a battle enclosed with his enemies, and lift up his sword to strike, he cared not where, and cried and said: On, on upon these traitors! When the pages saw the king so inflamed with ire, they took good heed to themself, as it was time; they thought the king had been displeased because the spear fell down: then they stepped away from the king. The Duke of Orleans was not as then far off from the king. The king came to him with his naked sword in his hand; the king was as then in such a frenzy, and his heart so feeble, that he neither knew brother nor uncle. When the Duke of Orleans saw the king coming on him with his sword naked in his hand, he was abashed, and would not abide him; he wist not what he meant, he dashed his spurs to his horse and rode away, and the king after him. The Duke of Burgoyne, who rode a little way off from the king, when he heard the rushing of the horses, and heard the pages cry, he regarded that way, and saw how the king with his naked sword chased his brother, the Duke of Orleans, he was sore abashed and said: Out, harrow,1 what mischief is this? the king is not in his right mind, God help him; fly away, nephew, fly away, for the king would slay you. The Duke of Orleans was not well assured of himself, and fled away as fast as his horse might bear him, and knights and squires followed after: every man began to draw thither: such as were far off, thought they had chased an hare or a wolf, till at last they heard that the king was not well in his mind. The Duke of Orleans saved himself. Then men of arms came all about the king, and suffered him to weary himself, and the more that he travailed the feebler he was: and when he struck at any man they would fall down before the stroke: at this matter there was no hurt, but many overthrown, for there was none that made any defence. Finally, when the king was well wearied, and his horse sore chafed with sweat and great heat, a knight of Normandy, one of the kings chamberlains, whom the king loved very well, called William Martell, he came behind the king suddenly and took him in his arms, and held him still: then all other approached, and took the sword out of his hands, and took him down from his horse, and did off his jack to refresh him: then came his brother, and his three uncles, but he had clean lost the knowledge of them, and rolled his eyes in his head marvellously, and spake to no man. The lords of his blood were sore abashed, and wist not what to say or do. Then the dukes of Berry and of Burgoyne said, It behoveth us to return to Mans, this voyage is done for this time; they said not as much as they thought, but they showed it right well, after when they came to Paris, to such as they loved not, as ye shall hear after.