Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The King Overawes the Towns of France

Following his successful entrance into Paris, the king and his council continue to punish those he considers troublemakers, both in the capital and in other towns.

Book II, ch. 129. The king and his council arrested and threw into prison whatever persons they pleased. Many were drowned; but, in order to calm the fears of the others, proclamation was made in the king's name in all the streets and squares of Paris, that no one, under pain of death, should hurt the inhabitants, nor pillage their houses. This proclamation greatly appeased the Parisians.

There were, however, carried to execution several of the inhabitants who had been condemned to death for having stirred up the people; but it was with great astonishment that John des Marêts was seen among the number; he was considered as a wise and upright man; and some say he was condemned unjustly, for he was always known to have acted with the utmost prudence, and was above all one of the greatest and wisest members of the courts of law. He had served king Philip, king John and king Charles, with so much credit, that no fault was found in him; nevertheless, he was condemned to be beheaded, with twelve others in his company.

As they were conducting him to his execution, seated in a cart high above the others, he called out, "Where are those who have condemned me? Let them come forth, and justify, if they can, the cause and reason why and wherefore they have judged me guilty of death." He then harangued the people, and those who were to suffer with him, which made all pity him, but they dared not speak out.

How was carried to the market-place in front of the town-house, where all who accompanied him were beheaded before his eyes: in the number was Nicholas Flamand, a draper, for whose life forty thousand francs had been offered in vain.

When the executioner came to behead John des Marêts, he said to him, "Master John, beg for mercy of the king, that he may pardon you your crimes." Upon which he turned and said, "I have served his great-grandfather king Philip, king John, and king Charles his father, faithfully and loyally; and never did these three kings find fault with me, nor would this king have done so, if he had arrived at the wisdom and age of manhood. I firmly believe that, in my condemnation, he is not any ways culpable. I have not, therefore, any cause to beg his mercy; but from God alone shall I beg it, and that he would forgive all my sins."

Upon this he took leave of al the people, who, for the greater part, were in tears; and thus died John des Marêts.

In like manner were several executed in the city of Rouen, and many fined, in order to intimidate the people. At Rheims, Châlons, Troyes, Sens and Orléns, similar scenes passed. The towns were heavily fined because they had been disobedient at the commencement of this reign. Immense sums were thus raised throughout the kingdom, and all went to the dukes of Berry and Burgundy, for the king was under their management. However, to say the truth, the constable and marshals had great part of it to pay the men at arms who had served in the expedition to Flanders. The lords and great barons of France...had granted to them assignments on the royal domain, to raise as much as the king owed them for their services in Flanders, and to pay their men.

I know not how these lords were paid their assignments, for very shortly new taxes were imposed on these lands by orders from the king. Most commonly the king's tax was insisted on being paid first, and the lords were obliged to wait for their arrears.

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