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“Le Gendre, in his critical examination of the French historians, repeats the same thing, but in more words. “Monstrelet,” he writes, “too plainly discovers his intentions of favouring, when he can, the dukes of Burgundy and their friends.” Many authors have adopted some of these opinions, more or less disadvantageous to Monstrelet; hence has been formed an almost universal prejudice, that he has, in his work, often disfigured the truth in favour of the dukes of Burgundy.
“I am persuaded that these different opinions, advanced without proof, are void of foundation; and I have noticed facts, which, having happened during the years of which Monstrelet writes the history, may, from the manner in which he narrates them, enable us to judge whether he was capable of sacrificing truth to his attachment to the house of Burgundy.
“In 1407, doctor John Petit, having undertaken to justify the assassination of the duke of Orleans by orders from the duke of Burgundy, sought to diminish the horror of such a deed, by tarnishing the memory of the murdered prince with the blackest imputations. Monstrelet, however, does not hesitate to say, that many persons thought these imputations false and indecent. He reports, in the same chapter, the divers opinions to which this unfortunate event gave rise, and does not omit to say, that “many great lords, and other wise men, were much astonished that the king should pardon the Burgundian prince, considering that the crime was committed on the person of the duke of Orleans. We perceive, in reading this passage, that Monstrelet was of the same opinion with the ‘other wise men.”
“In 1408, Charles VI. having insisted that the children of the late duke of Orleans should be reconciled to the duke of Burgundy, they were forced to consent.—“Sire, since you are pleased to command us, we grant his request; and Monstrelet lets it appear that he considers their compliance as a weakness, which he excuses on account of their youth, and the state of neglect they were in after the death of their mother the duchess of Orleans, who had sunk under her grief on not being able to avenge the murder of her husband. “To say the truth, in consequence of the death of their father, and also from the loss of their mother, they were greatly wanting in advice and support.' He likewise relates, at the same time, the conversations held by different great lords on this occasion, in whom sentiments of humanity and respect for the blood-royal were not totally extinguished. “That henceforward it would be no great offence to murder a prince of the blood, since those who had done so were so easily acquitted, without making any reparation, or even begging pardon.' A determined partisan of the house of Burgundy would have abstained from transmitting such a reflection to posterity.
“I shall mention another fact, which will be fully sufficient for the justification of the historian. None of the writers of his time have spoken with such minuteness of the most abominable of the actions of the duke of Burgundy: I mean that horrid conspiracy which he had planned in 1415, by sending his emissaries to Paris to intrigue and bring it to maturity, and the object of which was nothing less than to seize and confine the king, and to put him
death, with the queen, the chancellor of France, the queen of Sicily, and numberless others. Monstrelet lays open, without reserve, all the circumstances of the conspiracy: he tells us by whom it was discovered: he names the principal conspirators, some of whom were beheaded, others drowned.—He adds, “However, those nobles whom the duke of Burgundy had sent to Paris returned as secretly and as quietly as they could without being arrested or stopped.’
“An historian devoted to the duke of Burgundy would have treated this affair more tenderly, and would not have failed to throw the whole blame of the plot on the wicked partisans of the duke, without saying expressly that they had acted under his directions and by his orders contained ‘in credential letters signed with his hand.’ It is rather singular, that Juvénal des Ursins, who cannot be suspected of being a Burgundian, should in his history of Charles VI. have merely related this event, and that very summarily, without attributing any part of it to the duke of Burgundy, whom he does not even name. “The impartiality of Monstrelet is not less clear in the manner in which he speaks of the leaders of the two factions, Burgundians or Armagnacs, who are praised or blamed without exception of persons, according to the merit of their actions. The excesses which both parties indulged in are described with the same strength of style, and in the same tone of indignation. In 1411, when Charles VI., in league with the duke of Burgundy, ordered by an express edict, that all of the Orleans party should be attacked as enemies throughout the kingdom, “it was a pitiful thing,’ says the historian, “to hear daily miserable complaints of the persecutions and sufferings of individuals.’ He is no way sparing of his expressions in this instance; and they are still stronger in the recital which immediately follows:—‘Three thousand combatants marched to Bicêtre, a very handsome house belonging to the duke of Berry (who was of the Orleans party), and from hatred to the said duke, they destroyed and villanously demolished the whole, excepting the walls.’ “The interest which Monstrelet here displays for the duke of Berry agrees perfectly with that which he elsewhere shows for Charles VI. He must have had a heart truly French to have painted in the manner he has done the state of debasement and neglect to which the court of France was reduced in 1420, compared with the pompous state of the king of England: he is affected with the humiliation of the one, and hurt at the magnificence of the other, which formed so great a contrast. ‘The king of France was meanly and poorly served, and was scarcely visited on this day by any but some old courtiers and persons of low degree, which must have wounded all true French hearts.” And a few lines farther, he says, “With regard to the state of the king of England, it is impossible to recount its great magnificence and pomp, or to describe the grand entertainments and attendance in his palace.' “This idea had made such an impression on him that he returns again to it on occasion of the solemn feast of Whitsuntide, which the king and queen of England came to celebrate in Paris, in 1422. ‘On this day, the king and queen of England held a numerous and magnificent court, but king Charles remained with his queen at the palace of St. Pol, neglected by all, which caused great grief to numbers of loyal Frenchmen, and not withou cause.' “These different traits, thus united, form a strong conclusion, or I am deceived, that Monstrelet has been too lightly charged with partiality for the house of Burgundy, and with disaffection to the crown of France. “I have hitherto only spoken of the two first volumes of the Chronicles of Monstrelet; the third, which commences in April 1444, I think should be treated of separately, because I ocarcely see anything in it that may be attributed to him. In the first place, the thirteen last years, from his death in 1453 to that of the duke of Burgundy in 1467, which form the contents of the greater part of this volume, cannot have been written by him. Secondly, the nine preceding years, of which Monstrelet, who was then living, may have been the author, seem to me to be written by another hand. We do not find in this part either his style or manner of writing : instead of that prolixity which has been so justly found fault with., the whole is treated with the dryness of the poorest chronicle: it is an abridged journal of what passed worthy of remembrance in Europe, but more particularly in France, from 1444 to 1453, -in which the events are arranged methodically, according to the days on which they happened, without other connexion than that of the dates. “Each of the two first volumes is preceded by a prologue, which serves as an introduction to the history of the events that follow : the third has neither prologue nor preface. In short, with the exception of the sentence passed on the duke of Alençon, there are not in this volume any justificatory pieces, negotiations, letters, treaties, ordinances, which constitute the principal merit of the two preceding ones. It would, however, have been very easy for the compiler to have imitated Monstrelet in this point, for the greater part of these pieces are reported by the chronicler of St. Denis, whom he often quotes in his first fifty pages. I am confirmed in this idea by having examined into the truth of different events, when I found that the compiler had scarcely done more than copy, word for word, sometimes from the Grandes Chroniques of France,—at others, though rarely, from the history of Charles VII. by Jean Chartier, and, still more rarely, from the chronicler of Arras, of whom he borrows some facts relative to the history of Flanders". “To explain this resemblance, it cannot be said that the editors of the Grandes Chroniques have copied Monstrelet, for the Grandes Chroniques are often quoted in this third volume, which consequently must have been written posterior to them. There would be as little foundation to suppose that Monstrelet had copied them himself, and inserted only such facts as more particularly belonged to the history of the dukes of Burgundy. The difference of the plan and execution of the two first volumes and of this evidently points out another author. But should any doubt remain, it will soon be removed by the evidence of a contemporary writer, who precisely fixes on the year 1444 as the conclusion of the labours of Monstrelet. “Matthieu d'Escouchy, or de Couci, author of a history published by Denis Godefroy, at the end of that of Charles VII. by Chartier, thus expresses himself in the prologue at the beginning of his work: “I shall commence my said history from the 20th day of May, in the year 1444, when the last book which that noble and valiant man Enguerrand de Monstrelet chronicled in his time concludes. He was a native of the county of the Boulonnois, and at the time of his death was governor and citizen of Cambray, whose works will be in renown long after his decease. It is my intention to take up the history where the late Enguerrand left it, namely, at the truces which were made and concluded at Tours, in Touraine, in the month of May, on the day and year before-mentioned, between the most excellent, most powerful, Charles, the well-served king of France, of most noble memory, seventh of the name, and Henry king of England his nephew.’ “These truces conclude the last chapter of the second volume of Monstrelet: it is there where the real chronicles end; and he has improperly been hitherto considered as the author of the history of the nine years that preceded his death, for I cannot suppose that the evidence of Matthieu de Coucy will be disputed. He was born at Quesnoy, in Hainault, and living at Peronne while Monstrelet resided at Cambray. The proximity of the places must have enabled him to be fully informed of everything that concerned the historian and his work. “If we take from Monstrelet what has been improperly attributed to him, it is but just to restore that which legally belongs to him. According to the register of the Cordeliers of Cambray, and the Mémoriaux of Jean le Robert, he had written the history of the war of the Ghent-men against the duke of Burgundy. Now the events of this war, which began in the month of April, 1452, and was not terminated before the end of July in the following year, are related with much minuteness in the third volume *. After the authorities above quoted, we cannot doubt that Monstrelet was the author, if not of the whole account, at least of the greater part of it: I say “part of it.’ for he could not have narrated the end of this war, since peace between the Ghent-men and their prince was not concluded until the 31st July, and Monstrelet was buried on the 20th. It is not even probable that he would have had time to collect the events that happened at the beginning of the month, unless we suppose that he died suddenly; whence I think it may be conjectured that Monstrelet ceased to write towards the end of June, when the castle of Helsebecque was taken by the duke of Burgundy, and that the history of the war was written by another hand, who may have arranged the materials which Monstrelet had collected, but had not reduced to order. “There seems here to arise a sort of contradiction between Matthieu de Coucy, who fixes, as I have said, the conclusion of Monstrelet's writing at the year 1444, and the register of the Cordeliers, which agrees with the Mémoriaux of Jean le Robert; but this contradiction will vanish, if we reflect that the history of the revolt of Ghent, in 1453, is an insulated matter, having no connexion with the history of the reign of Charles VII., and that it cannot be considered as forming part of the two first volumes, from which it is detached by a space of eight years. Matthieu de Coucy, therefore, who may not perhaps have known of this historical fragment, was entitled to say that the chronicles written by Monstrelet ended at the year 1444. “The continuator of these chronicles having reported the conclusion of the war between the Ghent-men and their prince, then copies indiscriminately from the Grandes Chroniques, or from Jean Chartier, with more or less exactness, as may readily be discovered on collating them, as I have done. He only adds some facts relative to the history of Burgundy, and carries the history to the death of Charles VII. This part, which is more interesting than the former, because the writer has added to the chronicles facts in which they were deficient, is more defective in the arrangement. Several events that relate to the general history of the realm are told twice over, and in succession;–first in an abridged state, and then more minutely; and sometimes with differences so great, that it seems impossible that both should have been written by the same person +. “This defect, however, we cannot, without injustice, attribute to the continuator of Monstrelet; for it is clearly perceptible that he only treats of the general history of France in as far as it is connected with that of Burgundy, and we cannot suppose that he would
* The following is the result of M. Buchon's comparisti, of the additions to Monstrelet with various chronicles, given in his edition of 1836.
From 1444 to the war of Ghent, in April 1453, the cditor has servilely followed the Grandes Chroniques, sometimes disfiguring them and awkwardly transposing the order of the chapters. Here and there a few interpolations from the chronicle of J. du Clercq.
From 1453 to 1466, the text of Du Clercq is followed, but unutilated, and confused in the order of chapters and dates.
With 1467 an addition comprehending the reign of Louis XI. commences, founded on the Chronicle known as “The Scandalous Chronicle.’’
From 1482 to 1497, including the reign of Charles VIII. is a mere copy of the Chronicles of Desrey.
“For the reign of Louis XII.,” says M. Buchon, “from 1497 to 1524, I have been unable to discover what chronicle has furnished materials for the editor's scissors." The compilation concludes with a few pages upon the affairs of 1514 to 1516, the two first years of the reign of Francis I.
* From chapter ccxvii. to ceXxxvi. in the translation, Hungary, the duke of Burgundy's entry into Ghent,th-id volume, 4to. the proceedings against the duke of Alençon,-the account
* “The capture of Sandwich by the French has been of what passed at the funeral of king Charles VII.” twce told; and also the account of the embassy from
repeat twice events foreign to the principal object of his work. It is much more natural to believe that the abridged accounts are his, and that the first copiers, thinking they were too short, have added the whole detail of these articles from the Grandes Chroniques, or from Jean Chartier, whence he had been satisfied with merely making extracts. “From the death of Charles VII., in 1461, to that of Philip duke of Burgundy, we meet with no more of these repetitions. The historian (for he then deserves the name) leaves off copying the Chronicles, and advances without a guide: consequently, he is very frequently bewildered. I shall not attempt to notice his faults, which are the same with those of Monstrelet, and I could but repeat what I have said before. There is, however, one which is peculiar to him, and which pervades the whole work: it is an outrageous partiality for the house of Burgundy. “We may excuse him for having written, under the title of a General History of France, the particular history of Burgundy, and for having only treated of that of France incidentally, in as far as it interested the Burgundian princes. We may, indeed, more readily pardon him for having painted Charles VII. as a voluptuous monarch, and Louis XI. sometimes as a tyrant; at others, as a deep and ferocious politician, holding in contempt the most sacred engagements. But the fidelity of history required that he should not have been silent as to the vices of the duke of Burgundy and his son, who plunged France into an abyss of calamities, and that his predilection for these two princes should not burst forth in every page. “The person who continued this first part of the Chronicles of Monstrelet has been hitherto unknown; but I believe a lucky accident has enabled me to discover him. Dom Berthod, a learned Benedictine monk of the congregation of St. Vanne, having employed himself for these many years in searching the libraries and ancient rolls in Flanders for facts relative to our history, has made a report, with extracts from numerous manuscripts, of which we had only vague ideas. He has had the goodness to communicate some of them to me, and among others the chronicle of Jacques du Clercq.", which begins at 1448, and ends, like the continuator of Monstrelet, at the death of the duke of Burgundy in 1467. In order to give a general idea of the contents of the work, D. Berthod has copied, with the utmost exactness, the table of chapters composed by Jacques du Clercq himself, as he tells us in his prologue. I have compared this table and the extracts with the continuation of Monstrelet, and have observed such a similarity, particularly from the year 1453 to 1467, that I think it impossible for any two writers to be so exactly the same unless one had copied after the other. “As we do not possess the whole of this chronicle, I can but offer this as a very probable conjecture, which will be corroborated, when it is considered that Jacques du Clercq and the continuator of Monstrelet lived in the same country. The first resided in Arras; and by the minute details the second enters into concerning Flanders, we may judge that he was an inhabitant of that country. Some villages burned, or events still less interesting, and unknown beyond the places where they happened, are introduced into his history. In like manner, we should discover without difficulty (if it were otherwise unknown) that the editor of the Grandes Chroniques was a monk of the abbey of St. Denis, when he gravely relates, as an important event, that on such a day the scullion of the abbey was found dead in his bed,—and that a peasant of Clignancourt beat his wife until she died.
* “The copy of this chronicle, whence D. Berthod notice another copy in the abbey of St. Waast, at Arras made his extract, is (or perhaps rather was) in the royal This must be the original ; for D. Berthod told me that library at Brussels. Père le Long and M. de Fontette the one at Brussels was a copy.”