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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Last Days of Louis XI.
By Philippe de Commines (c. 1447–1511)
 
From the ‘Memoirs of Philippe de Comines’

THE KING towards the latter end of his days caused his castle of Plessis-les-Tours to be encompassed with great bars of iron in the form of thick grating, and at the four corners of the house four sparrow-nests of iron, strong, massy, and thick, were built. The grates were without the wall on the other side of the ditch, and sank to the bottom. Several spikes of iron were fastened into the wall, set as thick by one another as was possible, and each furnished with three or four points. He likewise placed ten bowmen in the ditches, to shoot at any man that durst approach the castle before the opening of the gates; and he ordered they should lie in the ditches, but retire to the sparrow-nests upon occasion. He was sensible enough that this fortification was too weak to keep out an army or any great body of men, but he had no fear of such an attack: his great apprehension was that some of the nobility of his kingdom, having intelligence within, might attempt to make themselves masters of the castle by night, and having possessed themselves of it partly by favor and partly by force, might deprive him of the regal authority and take upon themselves the administration of public affairs; upon pretense that he was incapable of business and no longer fit to govern.  1
  The gate of the Plessis was never opened nor the draw-bridge let down before eight o’clock in the morning, at which time the officers were let in; and the captains ordered their guards to their several posts, with pickets of archers in the middle of the court, as in a town upon the frontiers that is closely guarded; nor was any person admitted to enter except by the wicket and with the King’s knowledge, unless it were the steward of his household, and such persons as were not admitted into the royal presence.  2
  Is it possible then to keep a prince (with any regard to his quality) in a closer prison than he kept himself? The cages which were made for other people were about eight feet square; and he (though so great a monarch) had but a small court of the castle to walk in, and seldom made use of that, but generally kept himself in the gallery, out of which he went into the chambers on his way to mass, but never passed through the court. Who can deny that he was a sufferer as well as his neighbors? considering how he was locked up and guarded, afraid of his own children and relations, and changing every day those very servants whom he had brought up and advanced; and though they owed all their preferment to him, yet he durst not trust any of them, but shut himself up in those strange chains and inclosures. If the place where he confined himself was larger than a common prison, he also was much greater than common prisoners.  3
  It may be urged that other princes have been more given to suspicion than he, but it was not in our time; and perhaps their wisdom was not so eminent, nor were their subjects so good. They might too, probably, have been tyrants and bloody-minded; but our King never did any person a mischief who had not offended him first, though I do not say all who offended him deserved death. I have not recorded these things merely to represent our master as a suspicious and mistrustful prince, but to show that by the patience which he expressed in his sufferings (like those which he inflicted on other people) they may be looked upon, in my judgment, as a punishment which Our Lord inflicted upon him in this world in order to deal more mercifully with him in the next;… and likewise, that those princes who may be his successors may learn by his example to be more tender and indulgent to their subjects, and less severe in their punishments than our master had been: although I will not censure him, or say I ever saw a better prince; for though he oppressed his subjects himself, he would never see them injured by anybody else.  4
  After so many fears, sorrows, and suspicions, God by a kind of miracle restored him both in body and mind, as is his divine method in such kind of wonders: for he took him out of this miserable world in perfect health of mind and understanding and memory; after having received the sacraments himself, discoursing without the least twinge or expression of pain, and repeating his paternosters to the very last moment of his life. He gave directions for his own burial, appointed who should attend his corpse to the grave, and declared that he desired to die on a Saturday of all days in the week; and that he hoped Our Lady would procure him that favor, for in her he had always placed great trust, and served her very devoutly. And so it happened; for he died on Saturday, the 30th of August, 1483, at about eight in the evening, in the castle of Plessis, where his illness seized him on the Monday before. May Our Lord receive his soul, and admit it into his kingdom of Paradise!  5
 
 
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