Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 68, No. 417, July, 1850

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 68, No. 417, July, 1850


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Scotland — Periodicals
England — Periodicals
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 68, No. 417, July, 1850




No. CCCCXVII.     JULY, 1850.     Vol. LXVIII.


The House of Guise, 1
My Peninsular Medal. By an Old Peninsular. Conclusion, 20
Chateaubriand’s Memoirs, 33
The Green Hand—A “Short” Yarn. Part XI., 48
The Jew Bill, 73
The Pictures of the Season, 77
The Year of Sorrow.—Ireland—1849, 93
London and Edinburgh Chess Match, 97
The Industry of the People, 106

To whom all communications (post paid) must be addressed.



No. CCCCXVII.     JULY, 1850.     Vol. LXVIII.


Upon the page of history are inscribed the names of many great men, uncrowned, but more illustrious than most kings, whose biography essentially involves the records of their country and times. The cases are very rare in which this occurs of an entire lineage; when through several successive generations the same extraordinary qualities are transmitted, and the hero or statesman who perished yesterday, to-day and to-morrow seems to start again to life in the persons of descendants who rival and even eclipse his fame. These remarkable and most unfrequent instances are exemplified in the house of Guise, those puissant nobles of Lorraine, immigrant into and naturalised in France, who for eighty years led the armies and directed the councils of their adopted country. Great warriors, bold and profound politicians, unscrupulous and interested champions of Rome, alternately defenders of and competitors for thrones, they upheld their power and pretensions by the double lever of religious enthusiasm, and of skilful appeals to the sympathy of the people. Rich in glory, in wealth, in popularity, they were alternately indispensable and formidable to their sovereigns, and were virtually the last representatives of that energetic, able, and arrogant aristocracy, whose services to the state were often limited by the jealousy their power inspired, and whose patriotism was not unfrequently tarnished by their factious temper and unbounded ambition. From an early period of the sixteenth century, the influence of Guise was felt in France, for the most part paramount to that of royalty itself; until the might and glory of the house sank and disappeared beneath the daggers of assassins, and before the conquering sword of the Fourth Henry.
The history of France during the sixteenth century necessarily comprises the public acts of the family of Guise, and the memoirs of the time abound in personal details of the members of that renowned house; but a work especially devoted to them was still a desideratum, until the appearance of that which M. Réné de Bouillé has just produced. One of the chief difficulties of his task must have been to avoid including the history of the century in that of the extraordinary men so intimately connected with its chief events. Whilst confining himself as much as possible to his immediate subject, he has yet, as he himself says, found his horizon of necessity extensive. And in order to assemble in one frame the various members of that celebrated family, he has been compelled to admit with them a host of other personages, who in their turn have brought a retinue, and have insisted on at least a corner of the canvass being allotted to their deeds. The manner in which M. de Bouillé has treated this great historical picture, whose magnitude and difficulty must have deterred a less zealous and persevering artist, is most judicious. “I have been as sparing as possible of discussion,” he says, “prodigal perhaps, on the other hand, of cotemporary evidence, of faithful quotations, of such details as bring facts into a stronger light, exhibit the actors on the stage in a more animated manner, and display and make known, of and by themselves, the personages, parties, manners and spirit of the times, and the character of the situations.” M. de Bouillé claims, as a matter of justice, credit for conscientious application, and declares his whole aim will have been attained if his work be admitted to possess historical interest and utility. No impartial critic will refuse it these qualities. It is at once substantial and agreeable; valuable to the student, and attractive to those who consider histories of the Middle Ages as fascinating collections of strange adventures and romantic enterprises.
Réné the Second, reigning duke of Lorraine—the same who fought and conquered with the Swiss at Morat, and defeated Charles the Bold at Nancy—desired to see one of his sons settled in France. He selected the fifth, Claude, to whom he left by will his various lordships in Normandy, Picardy, and other French provinces, causing him to be naturalised a Frenchman, and sending him at a very early age to the court of France, where he was presented as Count de Guise, a title derived from one of his domains. The young count found immediate favour with Louis XII., to the hand of whose daughter Renée he was considered a likely aspirant. But he fell in love with Antoinette de Bourbon, daughter of Count de Vendôme, (the great-grandfather of Henry IV.,) asked and obtained her in marriage, and celebrated his wedding, when he was but sixteen years of age, in 1513, at Paris, in presence of the whole French court. The following year another wedding occurred, but this time youth was on one side only. In his infirm and declining age, Louis XII. took to wife the blooming sister of Harry VIII. of England, and honoured Guise by selecting him to go, in company with the Duke of Angoulême and other princes of the blood, to receive his bride at Boulogne. The wedding was quickly followed by a funeral, and Francis I. sat upon the throne. This chivalrous and warlike monarch at once took his young cousin of Guise into high favour, to which he had a fair claim, not only by reason of his birth, and of his alliance with the house of Bourbon, but on account of his eminent capacity, and of the martial qualities whose future utility Francis doubtless foresaw. To his triumphs in the field, Guise preluded by others less sanguinary, but in their kind as brilliant, in the lists and in the drawing room. His grace and magnificence were celebrated even at a court of which those were the distinguishing characteristics, thronged as it was with princes and nobles, most of them, like the king himself, in the first flush of youth, and with keen appetites for those enjoyments which their wealth gave them ample means to command. He gained great credit by his prowess at the jousts and tournament held at Paris on occasion of the coronation, and his conduct in another circumstance secured him the favour of the ladies of that gallant and voluptuous court. “One night,” says his historian, “he accompanied Francis I. to the queen’s circle, composed of those ladies most distinguished by their charms and amiability. Struck by the brilliancy and fascination of the scene, unusual at a time when custom, by assigning to women a sort of inferior position, or at least of reserve, interdicted their mingling in the conversation, and to a certain extent in the society of men, Guise communicated his impression to the king, who received it favourably, and at once decided that, throughout the whole kingdom, women should be freed from this unjust and undesirable constraint.” It will easily be conceived that such an emancipation insured Guise the suffrages of the fair and influential class who benefited by it. From his first arrival at the French court he seems to have made it his study to win universal favour; and he was so promptly successful that, at the end of a very few months, he had conquered the goodwill of both nobility and army. He took pains to study and adapt his conduct to the character of all with whom he came in contact, thus laying the foundation of the long popularity which he and his successors enjoyed in France.
But courtly pleasures and diversions were quickly to be succeeded by the sterner business of war. At his death, Louis XII. had left all things prepared for an Italian campaign; and Francis, eager to signalise his accession by the recovery of the Milanese, moved southwards in the month of August 1515, at the head of the finest troops that had yet crossed the boundary line between France and Italy. His army consisted of fifteen thousand excellent cavalry, twenty-two thousand lansquenets, fourteen thousand French and Gascon infantry, besides pioneers and a numerous artillery. The Constable of Bourbon led the van, the Duke of Alençon commanded the rear; Francis himself headed the main body, accompanied by Duke Anthony of Lorraine, (eldest brother of Guise,) with Bayard for his lieutenant, and by the Duke of Gueldres, captain-general of the lansquenets, whose lieutenant was the Count de Guise. If the army was good, none, assuredly, ever reckoned greater warriors amongst its leaders. Guise, during the passage of the Alps—accomplished by extraordinary labour, and which completely surprised the enemy—made himself remarkable by his constancy and activity, by the wisdom of his counsels, and by his generosity to the soldiers, thus further augmenting the affection they already bore him. Bayard and other illustrious officers formed his habitual society; and in him they found the most cordial and affable of comrades, as well as the most zealous advocate of their interests with the king. Devoted to his sovereign, Guise, when Francis somewhat over-hastily promised the Swiss an exorbitant sum of money as the price of the Milanese, nobly offered to contribute to it to the extent of all he possessed. The treaty, however, was broken by the Swiss. Steel, not gold, was to settle the dispute; and the plains of Marignano already trembled at the approach of the hostile armies. At the age of eighteen, Guise found himself general-in-chief of twenty thousand men. The Duke of Gueldres, having been recalled to his dominions by an invasion of the Brabanters, transferred his command to his young lieutenant, at the unanimous entreaty of the lansquenets, and in preference to all the French princes there present. In the quickly ensuing battle, Guise showed himself worthy of his high post. In the course of the combat, when the Swiss, with lowered pikes and in stern silence, made one of those deadly charges which in the wars of the previous century had more than once disordered the array of Burgundy’s chivalry, the lansquenets, who covered the French artillery, gave way. Claude of Lorraine, immovable in the front rank, shamed them by his example; they rallied; the guns, already nearly captured, were saved; the battle continued with greater fierceness than before, and ceased only with darkness. Daybreak was the signal for its resumption, and at last the Swiss were defeated. After breaking their battalions, Guise, over eager in pursuit, and already twice wounded, had his horse killed under him, was surrounded, overmatched, and left for dead, with twenty-two wounds. Nor would these have been all, but for the devotedness of an esquire, whose name Brantôme has handed down as a model of fidelity. Adam Fouvert of Nuremberg threw himself on his master’s body, and was slain, serving as his shield. After the action, Guise was dragged out from amongst the dead, and conveyed by a Scottish gentleman to the tent of the Duke of Lorraine. He was scarcely recognisable, by reason of his wounds; he gave no sign of life, and his recovery was deemed hopeless. He did recover, however, thanks to great care, and still more to the vigorous constitution and energetic vitality which distinguished all of his house, and without which the career of most of them would have been very short. Scarcely one of the prominent members of that family but received, in the martial ardour of his youth, wounds whose severity made their cure resemble a miracle. A month after the battle of Marignano, Guise, although still suffering, was able to accompany Francis I. on his triumphant entry into Milan, “as captain-general of the lansquenets, with four lieutenants, all dressed in cloth of gold and white velvet.” One of his arms was in a scarf, one of his thighs had to be supported by an esquire, but still, by his manly beauty and martial fame, he attracted the admiring gaze of both army and people. Francis, in his report to his mother of the battle, named Guise amongst the bravest, as well he might; and thenceforward his great esteem for the young hero was testified in various ways—amongst others, by intrusting to him several important and delicate diplomatic missions. At Bologna, on occasion of the interview between Francis and Leo X., the Pope addressed to Guise the most flattering eulogiums. “Your holiness,” replied the ardent soldier, in a prophetic spirit, “shall see that I am of Lorraine, if ever I have the happiness to draw sword in the Church’s quarrel.”
Master of the Milanese, Francis I. returned to France and beheld his alliance courted by all the powers of Europe, when suddenly the death of the Emperor Maximilian (15th January 1519) proved a brand of discord. Francis and Charles were the only serious candidates for the vacant dignity. Guise, with a secret view, perhaps, to the crown of Jerusalem for himself, strained every nerve, exerted all his influence, on behalf of the French King. But Charles, the more skilful intriguer, prevailed; and Francis, deeply wounded and humiliated by his failure, revolved in his mind projects of war. In these the king did not lose sight of the great assistance he might expect from Guise, brave, skilful, and prudent as he was; and the esteem in which the young chief was held at court increased so greatly, that the French nobles came to consider him almost the equal of the members of the royal family. Guise, on the other hand, by reason of his enormous fortune and high birth, and in his quality of a foreign prince, spared no effort to place himself on the footing of an ally rather than of a subject of the King of France.
Pretexts for hostilities were not wanting; and soon we find Guise, at the head of his lansquenets, fighting victoriously over the very same ground upon which, in our day, French armies contended with very different results. Maya, Fontarabia, and the banks of the Bidassoa witnessed his prowess; he himself, a half-pike in his hand, led his men through the river, with water to his armpits, dislodging the enemy by the mere terror his audacity inspired. When he returned to Compiègne, where the court then was, the King hurried forth from his chamber to meet him, embraced him warmly, and gaily said, “that it was but fair he should go out to meet his old friend, who, on his part, always made such haste to meet and revenge him on his enemies.” His summer triumphs in the Pyrenees were followed by a winter campaign in Picardy, where he succeeded in preventing the junction of the English and Imperialists, besides obtaining some advantages over the former, and harassing their retreat to the coast. He thus added to his popularity with the army, and acquired strong claims to the gratitude of the Parisians, deeply alarmed by the proximity of the enemy to the capital, and who viewed him as their saviour.
The year 1523 opened under menacing auspices. Germany, Italy, England, were leagued against France, whose sole allies were Scotland, the Swiss, (the adhesion of these depending entirely on regular subsidies,) and the Duke of Savoy, whose chief merit was that he could facilitate the passage of the Alps. Undeterred, almost foolhardy, Francis, instead of prudently standing on the defensive, beheld, in each new opponent, only a fresh source of glory. Unhappily for him, at the very moment he had greatest need of skilful captains, the Constable of Bourbon, irritated and persecuted in France, courted and seduced by the astute Charles V., entered into a treasonable combination with the Imperialists. It was discovered; he fled, and effected his escape. Out of France, he was but one man the less, but that man was such a leader as could hardly be replaced, and Charles gave him command of his troops in the Milanese. The Constable’s misconduct brought disfavour on the princes of the house of Bourbon, (of that of Valois none remained,) and this further increased the credit and importance of the Count of Guise. He was already governor of Champagne and Burgundy, provinces the Emperor was likely to attack. This command, however, was not the object of his desires; he would rather have gone to Italy, and applied to do so; but the King, rendered suspicious by the Constable’s defection, began to consider, with some slight uneasiness, the position acquired by the Count of Guise; and it was probably on this account only that he would not confer on the Lorraine prince the direction of the Italian war. The glory of Guise lost nothing by the refusal, although that of France grievously suffered by the army of Italy being confided to the less capable hands of Admiral Bonnivet. Fortune soon afforded the younger general one of those opportunities of high distinction, of which no leader ever was more covetous or better knew how to take advantage. A large body of Imperialist infantry having made an irruption into Burgundy, he assembled the nobility of the province and about nine hundred men-at-arms, with which force he deemed himself able to keep the field against the twelve thousand lansquenets that Count Furstemberg led to meet him. By an odd accident, he had no infantry, his adversary no cavalry. By dividing his horsemen into small parties, and maintaining an incessant harassing warfare, Guise prevented the Germans from foraging; and at last, compelled by famine, they prepared to recross the Meuse, abandoning two forts they had captured, and carrying off a large amount of spoil. Thus encumbered, and vigorously pursued, their rearguard was cut to pieces, and their retreat converted into a rout. “With a feeling of chivalrous gallantry,” says M. de Bouillé, “Guise desired to procure the duchess his sister-in-law, Antoinette de Bourbon, and the ladies of the court of Lorraine, then assembled at Neufchâteau, the enjoyment of this spectacle, (the battle), to them so new. Warned by him, and stationed at windows, out of reach of danger, whence they looked out upon the plain, they had the pastime, and were able to recompense, by their applause and cries of joy, the courage of the troops whom their presence animated.”
But such partial successes, however glorious to him by whom they were achieved, were all insufficient to turn the tide of disaster that had set in against the French arms. The defeat of Bonnivet, the invasion of Provence by the Constable, were succeeded by that terrible day before the walls of Pavia, when Francis I., vanquished, wounded, made prisoner by a rebellious subject, beheld his army destroyed, and the battle-

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Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 68, No. 417, July, 1850
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