Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period
Paul Lacroix

Part 2 out of 8

than on the rest of Europe. In those favoured provinces where Roman
organization had outlived Roman patronage, it seems as if ancient
splendour had never ceased to exist, and the elegance of customs
re-flourished amidst the ruins. There, a sort of urban aristocracy always
continued, as a balance against the nobles, and the counsel of elected
_prud'hommes_, the syndics, jurors or _capitouls_, who in the towns
replaced the Roman _honorati_ and _curiales_, still were considered by
kings and princes as holding some position in the state. The municipal
body, larger, more open than the old "ward," no longer formed a
corporation of unwilling aristocrats enchained to privileges which ruined
them. The principal cities on the Italian coast had already amassed
enormous wealth by commerce, and displayed the most remarkable ardour,
activity, and power. The Eternal City, which was disputed by emperors,
popes, and barons of the Roman States, bestirred itself at times to snatch
at the ancient phantom of republicanism; and this phantom was destined
soon to change into reality, and another Rome, or rather a new Carthage,
the lovely Venice, arose free and independent from the waves of the
Adriatic (Fig. 34).

In Lombardy, so thickly colonised by the German conquerors, feudalism, on
the contrary, weighed heavily; but there, too, the cities were populous
and energetic, and the struggle for supremacy continued for centuries in
an uncompromising manner between the people and the nobles, between the
Guelphs and the Ghibellines.

In the north and east of the Gallic territory, the instinct of resistance
did not exist any the less, though perhaps it was more intermittent. In
fact, in these regions we find ambitious nobles forestalling the action of
the King, and in order to attach towns to themselves and their houses,
suppressing the most obnoxious of the taxes, and at the same time
granting legal guarantees. For this the Counts of Flanders became
celebrated, and the famous Heribert de Vermandois was noted for being so
exacting in his demands with the great, and yet so popular with the small.

[Illustration: Fig. 34.--View of St. Mark's Place, Venice, Sixteenth
Century, after Cesare Vecellio.]

The eleventh century, during which feudal power rose to its height, was
also the period when a reaction set in of the townspeople against the
nobility. The spirit of the city revived with that of the bourgeois (a
name derived from the Teutonic word _burg_, habitation) and infused a
feeling of opposition to the system which followed the conquest of the
Teutons. "But," says M. Henri Martin, "what reappeared was not the Roman
municipality of the Empire, stained by servitude, although surrounded with
glittering pomp and gorgeous arts, but it was something coarse and almost
semi-barbarous in form, though strong and generous at core, and which, as
far as the difference of the times would allow, rather reminds us of the
small republics which existed previous to the Roman Empire."

Two strong impulses, originating from two totally dissimilar centres of
action, irresistibly propelled this great social revolution, with its
various and endless aspects, affecting all central Europe, and being more
or less felt in the west, the north, and the south. On one side, the Greek
and Latin partiality for ancient corporations, modified by a democratic
element, and an innate feeling of opposition characteristic of barbaric
tribes; and on the other, the free spirit and equality of the old Celtic
tribes rising suddenly against the military hierarchy, which was the
offspring of conquest. Europe was roused by the double current of ideas
which simultaneously urged her on to a new state of civilisation, and more
particularly to a new organization of city life.

Italy was naturally destined to be the country where the new trials of
social regeneration were to be made; but she presented the greatest
possible variety of customs, laws, and governments, including Emperor,
Pope, bishops, and feudal princes. In Tuscany and Liguria, the march
towards liberty was continued almost without effort; whilst in Lombardy,
on the contrary, the feudal resistance was very powerful. Everywhere,
however, cities became more or less completely enfranchised, though some
more rapidly than others. In Sicily, feudalism swayed over the countries;
but in the greater part of the peninsula, the democratic spirit of the
cities influenced the enfranchisement of the rural population. The feudal
caste was in fact dissolved; the barons were transformed into patricians
of the noble towns which gave their republican magistrates the old title
of consuls. The Teutonic Emperor in vain sought to seize and turn to his
own interest the sovereignty of the people, who had shaken off the yokes
of his vassals: the signal of war was immediately given by the newly
enfranchised masses; and the imperial eagle was obliged to fly before the
banners of the besieged cities. Happy indeed might the cities of Italy
have been had they not forgotten, in their prosperity, that union alone
could give them the possibility of maintaining that liberty which they so
freely risked in continual quarrels amongst one another!

[Illustration: Fig. 35.--William, Duke of Normandy, accompanied by
Eustatius, Count of Boulogne, and followed by his Knights in
arms.--Military Dress of the Eleventh Century, from Bayeux Tapestry said
to have been worked by Queen Matilda.]

The Italian movement was immediately felt on the other side of the Alps.
In Provence, Septimanie, and Aquitaine, we find, in the eleventh century,
cities which enjoyed considerable freedom. Under the name of communities
and universities, which meant that all citizens were part of the one body,
they jointly interfered in the general affairs of the kingdom to which
they belonged. Their magistrates were treated on a footing of equality
with the feudal nobility, and although the latter at first would only
recognise them as "good men" or notables, the consuls knew how to make a
position for themselves in the hierarchy. If the consulate, which was a
powerful expression of the most prominent system of independence, did no
succeed in suppressing feudalism in Provence as in Italy, it at least so
transformed it, that it deprived it of its most unjust and insupportable
elements. At Toulouse, for instance (where the consuls were by exception
called _capitouls_, that is to say, heads of the chapters or councils of
the city), the lord of the country seemed less a feudal prince in his
capital, than an honorary magistrate of the bourgeoisie. Avignon added to
her consuls two _podestats_ (from the Latin _potestas_, power). At
Marseilles, the University of the high city was ruled by a republic under
the presidency of the Count of Provence, although the lower city was still
under the sovereignty of a viscount. Perigueux, which was divided into two
communities, "the great and the small fraternity," took up arms to resist
the authority of the Counts of Perigord; and Arles under its _podestats_
was governed for some time as a free and imperial town. Amongst the
constitutions which were established by the cities, from the eleventh to
the sixteenth centuries, we find admirable examples of administration and
government, so that one is struck with admiration at the efforts of
intelligence and patriotism, often uselessly lavished on such small
political arenas. The consulate, which nominally at least found its origin
in the ancient grandeur of southern regions, did not spread itself beyond
Lyons. In the centre of France, at Poictiers, Tours, Moulin, &c., the
urban progress only manifested itself in efforts which were feeble and
easily suppressed; but in the north, on the contrary, in the provinces
between the Seine and the Rhine, and even between the Seine and the Loire,
the system of franchise took footing and became recognised. In some
places, the revolution was effected without difficulty, but in others it
gave rise to the most determined struggles. In Normandy, for instance,
under the active and intelligent government of the dukes of the race of
Roll or Rollon, the middle class was rich and even warlike. It had access
to the councils of the duchy; and when it was contemplated to invade
England, the Duke William (Fig. 35) found support from the middle class,
both in money and men. The case was the same in Flanders, where the towns
of Ghent (Fig. 36), of Bruges, of Ypres, after being enfranchised but a
short time developed with great rapidity. But in the other counties of
western France, the greater part of the towns were still much oppressed by
the counts and bishops. If some obtained certain franchises, these
privileges were their ultimate ruin, owing to the ill faith of their
nobles. A town between the Loire and the Seine gave the signal which
caused the regeneration of the North. The inhabitants of Mans formed a
community or association, and took an oath that they would obtain and
maintain certain rights. They rebelled about 1070, and forced the count
and his noble vassals to grant them the freedom which they had sworn to
obtain, though William of Normandy very soon restored the rebel city to
order, and dissolved the presumptuous community. However, the example soon
bore fruit. Cambrai rose in its turn and proclaimed the "Commune," and
although its bishop, aided by treason and by the Count of Hainault,
reduced it to obedience, it only seemed to succumb for a time, to renew
the struggle with greater success at a subsequent period.

[Illustration: Fig. 36.--Civic Guard of Ghent (Brotherhood of St.
Sebastian), from a painting on the Wall of the Chapel of St. John and St.
Paul, Ghent, near the Gate of Bruges.]

We have just mentioned the Commune; but we must not mistake the true
meaning of this word, which, under a Latin form (_communitas_), expresses
originally a Germanic idea, and in its new form a Christian mode of
living. Societies of mutual defence, guilds, &c., had never disappeared
from Germanic and Celtic countries; and, indeed, knighthood itself was
but a brotherhood of Christian warriors. The societies of the _Paix de
Dieu_, and of the _Treve de Dieu_, were encouraged by the clergy in order
to stop the bloody quarrels of the nobility, and formed in reality great
religious guilds. This idea of a body of persons taking some common oath
to one another, of which feudalism gave so striking an example, could not
fail to influence the minds of the rustics and the lower classes, and they
only wanted the opportunity which the idea of the Commune at once gave
them of imitating their superiors.

They too took oaths, and possessed their bodies and souls in "common;"
they seized, by force of strategy, the ramparts of their towns; they
elected mayors, aldermen, and jurors, who were charged to watch over the
interests of their association. They swore to spare neither their goods,
their labour, nor their blood, in order to free themselves; and not
content with defending themselves behind barricades or chains which closed
the streets, they boldly took the offensive against the proud feudal
chiefs before whom their fathers had trembled, and they forced the nobles,
who now saw themselves threatened by this armed multitude, to acknowledge
their franchise by a solemn covenant.

It does not follow that everywhere the Commune was established by means of
insurrection, for it was obtained after all sorts of struggles; and
franchises were sold in some places for gold, and in others granted by a
more or less voluntary liberality. Everywhere the object was the same;
everywhere they struggled or negotiated to upset, by a written
constitution or charter, the violence and arbitrary rule under which they
had so long suffered, and to replace by an annual and fixed rent, under
the protection of an independent and impartial law, the unlimited
exactions and disguised plundering so long made by the nobility and
royalty. Circumstanced as they were, what other means had they to attain
this end but ramparts and gates, a common treasury, a permanent military
force, and magistrates who were both administrators, judges, and captains?
The hotel de ville, or mansion-house, immediately became a sort of civic
temple, where the banner of the Commune, the emblems of unity, and the
seal which sanctioned the municipal acts were preserved. Then arose the
watch-towers, where the watchmen were unceasingly posted night and day,
and whence the alarm signal was ever ready to issue its powerful sounds
when danger threatened the city. These watch-towers, the monuments of
liberty, became as necessary for the burghers as the clock-towers of
their cathedrals, whose brilliant peals and joyous chimes gave zest to the
popular feasts (Fig. 37). The mansion-houses built in Flanders from the
fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, under municipal influence, are
marvels of architecture.

[Illustration: Fig. 37.--Chimes of the Clock of St. Lambert of Liege.]

Who is there who could thoroughly describe or even appreciate all the
happy or unhappy vicissitudes relating to the establishment of the
Communes? We read of the Commune of Cambrai, four times created, four
times destroyed, and which was continually at war with the Bishops; the
Commune of Beauvais, sustained on the contrary by the diocesan prelate
against two nobles who possessed feudal rights over it; Laon, a commune
bought for money from the bishop, afterwards confirmed by the King, and
then violated by fraud and treachery, and eventually buried in the blood
of its defenders. We read also of St. Quentin, where the Count of
Vermandois and his vassals voluntarily swore to maintain the right of the
bourgeois, and scrupulously respected their oath. In many other localities
the feudal dignitaries took alarm simply at the name of Commune, and
whereas they would not agree to the very best arrangements under this
terrible designation, they did not hesitate to adopt them when called
either the "laws of friendship," the "peace of God," or the "institutions
of peace." At Lisle, for instance, the bourgeois magistrates took the name
of _appeasers_, or watchers over friendship. At Aire, in Artois, the
members of friendship mutually, not only helped one another against the
enemy, but also assisted one another in distress.

[Illustration: Fig. 38.--The Deputies of the burghers of Ghent, in revolt
against their Sovereign Louis II., Count of Flanders, come to beg him to
pardon them, and to return to their Town. 1397--Miniature from Froissart,
No. 2644 (National Library of Paris)]

Amiens deserves the first place amongst the cities which dearly purchased
their privileges. The most terrible and sanguinary war was sustained by
the bourgeois against their count and lord of the manor, assisted by King
Louis le Gros, who had under similar circumstances just taken the part of
the nobles of Laon.

From Amiens, which, having been triumphant, became a perfect municipal
republic, the example propagated itself throughout the rest of Picardy,
the Isle of France, Normandy, Brittany, and Burgundy, and by degrees,
without any revolutionary shocks, reached the region of Lyons, where the
consulate, a characteristic institution of southern Communes, ended.

From Flanders, also, the movement spread in the direction of the German
Empire; and there, too, the struggle was animated, and victorious against
the aristocracy, until at last the great system of enfranchisement
prevailed; and the cities of the west and south formed a confederation
against the nobles, whilst those in the north formed the famous Teutonic
Hanse, so celebrated for its maritime commerce.

The centre of France slowly followed the movement; but its progress was
considerably delayed by the close influence of royalty, which sometimes
conceded large franchises, and sometimes suppressed the least claims to
independence. The kings, who willingly favoured Communes on the properties
of their neighbours, did not so much care to see them forming on their own
estates; unless the exceptional position and importance of any town
required a wise exercise of tolerance. Thus Orleans, situated in the heart
of the royal domains, was roughly repulsed in its first movement; whilst
Mantes, which was on the frontier of the Duchy of Normandy, and still
under the King of England, had but to ask in order to receive its
franchise from the King of France.

It was particularly in the royal domains that cities were to be found,
which, although they did not possess the complete independence of
communes, had a certain amount of liberty and civil guarantees. They had
neither the right of war, the watch-tower, nor the exclusive jurisdiction
over their elected magistrates, for the bailiffs and the royal provosts
represented the sovereign amongst them (Fig. 39).

[Illustration: Fig. 39.--Bailliage, or Tribunal of the King's
Bailiff.--Fac-simile of an Engraving on Wood in the Work of Josse
Damhoudere, "Praxis Rerum Civilium." (Antwerp, 1557, in 4to.).]

In Paris, less than anywhere, could the kings consent to the organization
of an independent political System, although that city succeeded in
creating for itself a municipal existence. The middle-class influence
originated in a Gallo-Roman corporation. The Company of _Nautes_ or "the
Corporation of the Water Trade," formed a centre round which were
successively attached various bodies of different trades. Gradually a
strong concourse of civic powers was established, which succeeded in
electing a municipal council, composed of a provost of merchants, four
aldermen, and twenty-six councillors of the town. This council afterwards
succeeded in overstepping the royal influence at difficult times, and was
destined to play a prominent part in history.

There also sprang up a lower order of towns or boroughs than these
bourgeois cities, which were especially under the Crown. Not having
sufficient strength to claim a great amount of liberty, they were obliged
to be satisfied with a few privileges, conceded to them by the nobles, for
the most part with a political end. These were the Free Towns or New Towns
which we have already named.

However it came about, it is certain that although during the tenth
century feudal power was almost supreme in Europe, as early as the twelfth
century the municipal system had gained great weight, and was constantly
progressing until the policy of the kingdom became developed on a more and
more extended basis, so that it was then necessary for it to give up its
primitive nature, and to participate in the great movement of
consolidisation and national unity. In this way the position of the large
towns in the state relatively lost their individual position, and became
somewhat analogous, as compared with the kingdom at large, to that
formerly held by bourgeois in the cities. Friendly ties arose between
provinces; and distinct and rival interests were effaced by the general
aspiration towards common objects. The towns were admitted to the states
general, and the citizens of various regions mixed as representatives of
the _Tiers Etat_. Three orders thus met, who were destined to struggle for
predominance in the future.

We must call attention to the fact that, as M. Henri Martin says, by an
apparent contradiction, the fall of the Communes declared itself in
inverse ratio to the progress of the _Tiers Etat_. By degrees, as the
government became more settled from the great fiefs being absorbed by the
Crown, and as parliament and other courts of appeal which emanated from
the middle class extended their high judiciary and military authority, so
the central power, organized under monarchical form, must necessarily have
been less disposed to tolerate the local independence of the Communes. The
State replaced the Commune for everything concerning justice, war, and
administration. No doubt some valuable privileges were lost; but that was
only an accidental circumstance, for a great social revolution was
produced, which cleared off at once all the relics of the old age; and
when the work of reconstruction terminated, homage was rendered to the
venerable name of "Commune," which became uniformly applied to all towns,
boroughs, or villages into which the new spirit of the same municipal
system was infused.

[Illustration: Fig. 40.--Various Arms of the Fifteenth Century.]

Private Life in the Castles, the Towns, and the Rural Districts.

The Merovingian Castles.--Pastimes of the Nobles; Hunting,
War.--Domestic Arrangements.--Private Life of Charlemagne.--Domestic
Habits under the Carlovingians.--Influence of Chivalry.--Simplicity of
the Court of Philip Angustus not imitated by his Successors.--Princely
Life of the Fifteenth Century.--The bringing up of Latour Landry, a
Noble of Anjou.--Varlets, Pages, Esquires, Maids of Honour.--Opulence of
the Bourgeoisie.--"Le Menagier de Paris."--Ancient Dwellings.--State of
Rustics at various Periods.--"Rustic Sayings," by Noel du Fail.

Augustin Thierry, taking Gregory of Tours, the Merovingian Herodotus, as
an authority, thus describes a royal domain under the first royal dynasty
of France:--

"This dwelling in no way possessed the military aspect of the chateau of
the Middle Ages; it was a large building surrounded with porticos of Roman
architecture, sometimes built of carefully polished and sculptured wood,
which in no way was wanting in elegance. Around the main body of the
building were arranged the dwellings of the officers of the palace, either
foreigners or Romans, and those of the chiefs of companies, who, according
to Germanic custom, had placed themselves and their warriors under the
King, that is to say, under a special engagement of vassalage and
fidelity. Other houses, of less imposing appearance, were occupied by a
great number of families, who worked at all sorts of trades, such as
jewellery, the making of arms, weaving, currying, the embroidering of silk
and gold, cotton, &c.

"Farm-buildings, paddocks, cow-houses, sheepfolds, barns, the houses of
agriculturists, and the cabins of the serfs, completed the royal village,
which perfectly resembled, although on a larger scale, the villages of
ancient Germany. There was something too in the position of these
dwellings which resembled the scenery beyond the Rhine; the greater number
of them were on the borders, and some few in the centre of great forests,
which have since been partly destroyed, and the remains of which we so
much admire."

[Illustration: Fig. 41.--St. Remy, Bishop of Rheims, begging of Clovis the
restitution of the Sacred Vase taken by the Franks in the Pillage of
Soissons.--Costumes of the Court of Burgundy in the Fifteenth
Century.--Fac-simile of a Miniature on a Manuscript of the "History of the
Emperors" (Library of the Arsenal).]

Although historical documents are not very explicit respecting those
remote times, it is only sufficient to study carefully a very small
portion of the territory in order to form some idea of the manners and
customs of the Franks; for in the royal domain we find the existence of
all classes, from the sovereign himself down to the humblest slave. As
regards the private life, however, of the different classes in this
elementary form of society, we have but approximate and very imperfect

It is clear, however, that as early as the beginning of the Merovingian
race, there was much more luxury and comfort among the upper classes than
is generally supposed. All the gold and silver furniture, all the jewels,
and all the rich stuffs which the Gallo-Romans had amassed in their
sumptuous dwellings, had not been destroyed by the barbarians. The Frank
Kings had appropriated the greater part; and the rest had fallen into the
hands of the chiefs of companies in the division of spoil. A well-known
anecdote, namely, that concerning the Vase of Soissons (Fig. 41), which
King Clovis wished to preserve, and which a soldier broke with an axe,
proves that many gems of ancient art must have disappeared, owing to the
ignorance and brutality of the conquerors; although it is equally certain
that the latter soon adopted the tastes and customs of the native
population. At first, they appropriated everything that flattered their
pride and sensuality. This is how the material remains of the civilisation
of the Gauls were preserved in the royal and noble residences, the
churches, and the monasteries. Gregory of Tours informs us, that when
Fredegonde, wife of Chilperic, gave the hand of her daughter Rigouthe to
the son of the Gothic king, fifty chariots were required to carry away all
the valuable objects which composed the princess's dower. A strange family
scene, related by the same historian, gives us an idea of the private
habits of the court of that terrible queen of the Franks. "The mother and
daughter had frequent quarrels, which sometimes ended in the most violent
encounters. Fredegonde said one day to Rigouthe, 'Why do you continually
trouble me? Here are the goods of your father, take them and do as you
like with them.' And conducting her to a room where she locked up her
treasures, she opened a large box filled with valuables. After having
pulled out a great number of jewels which she gave to her daughter, she
said, 'I am tired; put your own hands in the box, and take what you find.'
Rigouthe bent down to reach the objects placed at the bottom of the box;
upon which Fredegonde immediately lowered the lid on her daughter, and
pressed upon it with so much force that the eyes began to start out of the
princess's head. A maid began screaming, 'Help! my mistress is being
murdered by her mother!' and Rigouthe was saved from an untimely end." It
is further related that this was only one of the minor crimes attributed
by history to Fredegonde _the Terrible_, who always carried a dagger or
poison about with her.

Amongst the Franks, as amongst all barbaric populations, hunting was the
pastime preferred when war was not being waged. The Merovingian nobles
were therefore determined hunters, and it frequently happened that hunting
occupied whole weeks, and took them far from their homes and families. But
when the season or other circumstances prevented them from waging war
against men or beasts, they only cared for feasting and gambling. To these
occupations they gave themselves up, with a determination and wildness
well worthy of those semi-civilised times. It was the custom for invited
guests to appear armed at the feasts, which were the more frequent,
inasmuch as they were necessarily accompanied with religious ceremonies.
It often happened that these long repasts, followed by games of chance,
were stained with blood, either in private quarrels or in a general
_melee_. One can easily imagine the tumult which must have arisen in a
numerous assembly when the hot wine and other fermented drinks, such as
beer, &c., had excited every one to the highest pitch of unchecked

[Illustration: Fig. 42.--Costumes of the Women of the Court from the Sixth
to the Tenth Centuries, from Documents collected by H. de Vielcastel, in
the great Libraries of Europe.]

Some of the Merovingian kings listened to the advice of the ministers of
the Catholic religion, and tried to reform these noisy excesses, and
themselves abandoned the evil custom. For this purpose they received at
their tables bishops, who blessed the assembly at the commencement of the
meal, and were charged besides to recite chapters of holy writ, or to
sing hymns out of the divine service, so as to edify and occupy the minds
of the guests.

Gregory of Tours bears witness to the happy influence of the presence of
bishops at the tables of the Frank kings and nobles; he relates, too, that
Chilperic, who was very proud of his theological and secular knowledge,
liked, when dining, to discuss, or rather to pronounce authoritatively his
opinion on questions of grammar, before his companions in arms, who, for
the most part, neither knew how to read nor write; he even went as far as
to order three ancient Greek letters to be added to the Latin alphabet.

[Illustration: Fig. 43.--Queen Fredegonde, seated on her Throne, gives
orders to two young Men of Terouanne to assassinate Sigebert, King of
Austrasia.--Window in the Cathedral of Tournai, Fifteenth Century.]

The private properties of the Frank kings were immense, and produced
enormous revenues. These monarchs had palaces in almost all the large
towns; at Bourges, Chalons-sur-Saone, Chalons-sur-Marne, Dijon, Etampes,
Metz, Langres, Mayence, Rheims, Soissons, Tours, Toulouse, Treves,
Valenciennes, Worms, &c. In Paris, they occupied the vast residence now
known as the _Thermes de Julien_ (Hotel de Cluny), which then extended
from the hill of St. Genevieve as far as the Seine; but they frequently
left it for their numerous villas in the neighbourhood, on which occasions
they were always accompanied by their treasury.

All these residences were built on the same plan. High walls surrounded
the palace. The Roman _atrium_, preserved under the name of _proaulium_
(_preau_, ante-court), was placed in front of the _salutorium_ (hall of
reception), where visitors were received. The _consistorium_, or great
circular hall surrounded with seats, served for legislation, councils,
public assemblies, and other solemnities, at which the kings displayed
their royal pomp.

The _trichorium_, or dining-room, was generally the largest hall in the
palace; two rows of columns divided it into three parts; one for the royal
family, one for the officers of the household, and the third for the
guests, who were always very numerous. No person of rank visiting the King
could leave without sitting at his table, or at least draining a cup to
his health. The King's hospitality was magnificent, especially on great
religious festivals such as Christmas and Easter.

The royal apartments were divided into winter and summer rooms. In order
to regulate the temperature hot or cold water was used, according to the
season; this circulated in the pipes of the _hypocauste_, or the
subterranean furnace which warmed the baths. The rooms with chimneys were
called _epicaustoria_ (stoves), and it was the custom hermetically to
close these when any one wished to be anointed with ointments and aromatic
essences. In the same manner as the Gallo-Roman houses, the palaces of the
Frank kings and principal nobles of ecclesiastical or military order had
_thermes_, or bath-rooms: to the _thermes_ were attached a _colymbum_, or
washhouse, a gymnasium for bodily exercise, and a _hypodrome_, or covered
gallery for exercise, which must not be confounded with the _hippodrome_,
a circus where horse-races took place.

Sometimes after the repast, in the interval between two games of dice, the
nobles listened to a bard, who sang the brilliant deeds of their ancestors
in their native tongue.

Under the government of Charlemagne, the private life of his subjects
seems to have been less rough and coarse, although they did not entirely
give up their turbulent pleasures. Science and letters, for a long time
buried in monasteries, reappeared like beautiful exiles at the imperial
court, and social life thereby gained a little charm and softness.
Charlemagne had created in his palace, under the direction of Alcuin, a
sort of academy called the "School of the Palace," which followed him
everywhere. The intellectual exercises of this school generally brought
together all the members of the imperial family, as well as all the
persons of the household. Charlemagne, in fact, was himself one of the
most attentive followers of the lessons given by Alcuin. He was indeed the
principal interlocutor and discourser at the discussions, which were on
all subjects, religions, literary, and philosophical.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.--Costumes of the Nobility from the Seventh to the
Ninth Centuries, from Documents gathered by H. de Vielcastel from the
great Libraries of Europe.]

Charlemagne took as much pains with the administration of his palace as he
did with that of his States. In his "Capitulaires," a work he wrote on
legislature, we find him descending to the minutest details in that
respect. For instance, he not only interested himself in his warlike and
hunting equipages, but also in his kitchen and pleasure gardens. He
insisted upon knowing every year the number of his oxen, horses, and
goats; he calculated the produce of the sale of fruits gathered in his
orchards, which were not required for the use of his house; he had a
return of the number of fish caught in his ponds; he pointed out the
shrubs best calculated for ornamenting his garden, and the vegetables
which were required for his table, &c.

The Emperor generally assumed the greatest simplicity in his dress. His
daily attire consisted of a linen shirt and drawers, and a woollen tunic
fastened with a silk belt. Over this tunic he threw a cloak of blue stuff,
very long behind and before, but very short on each side, thus giving
freedom to his arms to use his sword, which he always wore. On his feet he
wore bands of stuffs of various colours, crossed over one another, and
covering his legs also. In winter, when he travelled or hunted on
horseback, he threw over his shoulders a covering of otter or sheepskin.
The changes in fashion which the custom of the times necessitated, but to
which he would never submit personally, induced him to issue several
strenuous orders, which, however, in reality had hardly any effect.

He was most simple as regards his food and drink, and made a habit of
having pious or historical works read to him during his repasts. He
devoted the morning, which with him began in summer at sunrise, and in
winter earlier, to the political administration of his empire. He dined at
twelve with his family; the dukes and chiefs of various nations first
waited on him, and then took their places at the table, and were waited on
in their turn by the counts, prefects, and superior officers of the court,
who dined after them. When these had finished the different chiefs of the
household sat down, and they were succeeded lastly by servants of the
lower order, who often did not dine till midnight, and had to content
themselves with what was left. When occasion required, however, this
powerful Emperor knew how to maintain the pomp and dignity of his station;
but as soon as he had done what was necessary, either for some great
religious festival or otherwise, he returned, as if by instinct, to his
dear and native simplicity.

It must be understood that the simple tastes of Charlemagne were not
always shared by the princes and princesses of his family, nor by the
magnates of his court (Fig. 45). Poets and historians have handed down to
us descriptions of hunts, feasts, and ceremonies, at which a truly Asiatic
splendour was displayed. Eginhard, however, assures us that the sons and
daughters of the King were brought up under their father's eye in liberal
studios; that, to save them from the vice of idleness, Charlemagne
required his sons to devote themselves to all bodily exercises, such as
horsemanship, handling of arms, &c., and his daughters to do needlework
and to spin. From what is recorded, however, of the frivolous habits and
irregular morals of these princesses, it is evident that they but
imperfectly realised the end of their education.

[Illustration: Fig. 45.--Costumes of the Ladies of the Nobility in the
Ninth Century, from a Miniature in the Bible of Charles the Bold (National
Library of Paris).]

Science and letters, which for a time were brought into prominence by
Charlemagne and also by his son Louis, who was very learned and was
considered skilful in translating and expounding Scripture, were, however,
after the death of these two kings, for a long time banished to the
seclusion of the cloisters, owing to the hostile rivalry of their
successors, which favoured the attacks of the Norman pirates. All the
monuments and relics of the Gallo-Roman civilisation, which the great
Emperor had collected, disappeared in the civil wars, or were gradually
destroyed by the devastations of the northerners.

The vast empire which Charlemagne had formed became gradually split up, so
that from a dread of social destruction, in order to protect churches and
monasteries, as well as castles and homesteads, from the attacks of
internal as well as foreign enemies, towers and impregnable fortresses
began to rise in all parts of Europe, and particularly in France.

[Illustration: Fig. 46.--Towers of the Castle of Semur, and of the Castle
of Nogent-le-Rotrou (Present Condition).--Specimens of Towers of the
Thirteenth Century.]

During the first period of feudalism, that is to say from the middle of
the ninth to the middle of the twelfth centuries, the inhabitants of
castles had little time to devote to the pleasures of private life. They
had not only to be continually under arms for the endless quarrels of the
King and the great chiefs; but they had also to oppose the Normans on one
side, and the Saracens on the other, who, being masters of the Spanish
peninsula, spread like the rising tide in the southern counties of
Languedoc and Provence. It is true that the Carlovingian warriors obtained
a handsome and rich reward for these long and sanguinary efforts, for at
last they seized upon the provinces and districts which had been
originally entrusted to their charge, and the origin of their feudal
possession was soon so far forgotten, that their descendants pretended
that they held the lands, which they had really usurped regardless of
their oath, from heaven and their swords. It is needless to say, that at
that time the domestic life in these castles must have been dull and
monotonous; although, according to M. Guizot, the loneliness which was the
resuit of this rough and laborious life, became by degrees the pioneer of

"When the owner of the fief left his castle, his wife remained there,
though in a totally different position from that which women generally
held. She remained as mistress, representing her husband, and was charged
with the defence and honour of the fief. This high and exalted position,
in the centre of domestic life, often gave to women an opportunity of
displaying dignity, courage, virtue, and intelligence, which would
otherwise have remained hidden, and, no doubt, contributed greatly to
their moral development, and to the general improvement of their

[Illustration: Fig. 47.--Woman under the Safeguard of Knighthood,
allegorical Scene.--Costume of the End of the Fifteenth Century, from a
Miniature in a Latin Psalm Book (Manuscript No. 175, National Library of

"The importance of children, and particularly of the eldest son, was
greater in feudal houses than elsewhere.... The eldest son of the noble
was, in the eyes of his father and of all his followers, a prince and
heir-presumptive, and the hope and glory of the dynasty. These feelings,
and the domestic pride and affection of the various members one to
another, united to give families much energy and power..... Add to this
the influence of Christian ideas, and it will be understood how this
lonely, dull, and hard castle life was, nevertheless, favourable to the
development of domestic society, and to that improvement in the condition
of women which plays such a great part in the history of our

[Illustration: Fig. 48.--Court of Love in Provence in the Fourteenth
Century (Manuscript of the National Library of Paris).]

Whatever opinion may be formed of chivalry, it is impossible to deny the
influence which this institution exercised on private life in the Middle
Ages. It considerably modified custom, by bringing the stronger sex to
respect and defend the weaker. These warriors, who were both simple and
externally rough and coarse, required association and intercourse with
women to soften them (Fig. 47). In taking women and helpless widows under
their protection, they were necessarily more and more thrown in contact
with them. A deep feeling of veneration for woman, inspired by
Christianity, and, above all, by the worship of the Virgin Mary, ran
throughout the songs of the troubadours, and produced a sort of
sentimental reverence for the gentle sex, which culminated in the
authority which women had in the courts of love (Fig. 48).

We have now reached the reign of Philip Augustus, that is to say, the end
of the twelfth century. This epoch is remarkable, not only for its
political history, but also for its effect on civilisation. Christianity
had then considerably influenced the world; arts, sciences, and letters,
animated by its influence, again began to appear, and to add charms to the
leisure of private life. The castles were naturally the first to be
affected by this poetical and intellectual regeneration, although it has
been too much the custom to exaggerate the ignorance of those who
inhabited them. We are too apt to consider the warriors of the Middle Ages
as totally devoid of knowledge, and as hardly able to sign their names, as
far as the kings and princes are concerned. This is quite an error; for
many of the knights composed poems which exhibit evidence of their high
literary culture.

It was, in fact, the epoch of troubadours, who might be called
professional poets and actors, who went from country to country, and from
castle to castle, relating stories of good King Artus of Brittany and of
the Knights of the Round Table; repeating historical poems of the great
Emperor Charlemagne and his followers. These minstrels were always
accompanied by jugglers and instrumentalists, who formed a travelling
troop (Fig. 49), having no other mission than to amuse and instruct their
feudal hosts. After singing a few fragments of epics, or after the lively
recital of some ancient fable, the jugglers would display their art or
skill in gymnastic feats or conjuring, which were the more appreciated by
the spectators, in that the latter were more or less able to compete with
them. These wandering troops acted small comedies, taken from incidents of
the times. Sometimes, too, the instrumentalists formed an orchestra, and
dancing commenced. It may be here remarked that dancing at this epoch
consisted of a number of persons forming large circles, and turning to the
time of the music or the rhythm of the song. At least the dances of the
nobles are thus represented in the MSS. of the Middle Ages. To these
amusements were added games of calculation and chance, the fashion for
which had much increased, and particularly such games as backgammon,
draughts, and chess, to which certain knights devoted all their leisure.

From the reign of Philip Augustus, a remarkable change seems to have taken
place in the private life of kings, princes, and nobles. Although his
domains and revenues had always been on the increase, this monarch never
displayed, in ordinary circumstances at least, much magnificence. The
accounts of his private expenses for the years 1202 and 1203 have been
preserved, which enable us to discover some curious details bearing
witness to the extreme simplicity of the court at that period. The
household of the King or royal family was still very small: one
chancellor, one chaplain, a squire, a butler, a few Knights of the Temple,
and some sergeants-at-arms were the only officers of the palace. The king
and princes of his household only changed apparel three times during the

[Illustration: Fig. 49.--King David playing on the Lyre, surrounded by
four Musicians.--Costumes of the Thirteenth Century (from a Miniature in a
Manuscript Psalter in the Imperial Library, Paris).]

The children of the King slept in sheets of serge, and their nurses were
dressed in gowns of dark-coloured woollen stuff, called _brunette_. The
royal cloak, which was of scarlet, was jewelled, but the King only wore it
on great ceremonies. At the same time enormous expenses were incurred for
implements of war, arrows, helmets with visors, chariots, and for the
men-at-arms whom the King kept in his pay.

Louis IX. personally kept up almost similar habits. The Sire de Joinville
tells us in his "Chronicles," that the holy King on his return from his
first crusade, in order to repair the damage done to his treasury by the
failure of this expedition, would no longer wear costly furs nor robes of
scarlet, and contented himself with common stuffs trimmed with hare-skin.
He nevertheless did not diminish the officers of his household, which had
already become numerous; and being no doubt convinced that royalty
required magnificence, he surrounded himself with as much pomp as the
times permitted.

Under the two Philips, his successors, this magnificence increased, and
descended to the great vassals, who were soon imitated by the knights
"bannerets." There seemed to be a danger of luxury becoming so great, and
so general in all classes of feudal society, that in 1294 an order of the
King was issued, regulating in the minutest details the expenses of each
person according to his rank in the State, or the fortune which he could
prove. But this law had the fate of all such enactments, and was either
easily evaded, or was only partially enforced, and that with great
difficulty. Another futile attempt to put it in practice was made in 1306,
when the splendour of dress, of equipages, and of table had become still
greater and more ruinous, and had descended progressively to the bourgeois
and merchants.

It must be stated in praise of Philip le Bel (Fig. 50) that,
notwithstanding the failure of his attempts to arrest the progress of
luxury, he was not satisfied with making laws against the extravagances of
his subjects, for we find that he studied a strict economy in his own
household, which recalled the austere times of Philip Augustus. Thus, in
the curious regulations relating to the domestic arrangements of the
palace, the Queen, Jeanne de Navarre, was only allowed two ladies and
three maids of honour in her suite, and she is said to have had only two
four-horse carriages, one for herself and the other for these ladies. In
another place these regulations require that a butler, specially
appointed, "should buy all the cloth and furs for the king, take charge of
the key of the cupboards where these are kept, know the quantity given to
the tailors to make clothes, and check the accounts when the tailors send
in their claims for the price of their work."

[Illustration: Fig. 50.--King Philip le Bel in War-dress, on the Occasion
of his entering Paris in 1304, after having conquered the Communes of
Flanders.--Equestrian Statue placed in Notre Dame, Paris, and destroyed in
1772.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut from Thevet's "Cosmographie Universelle,"

After the death of the pious Jeanne de Navarre, to whom perhaps we must
attribute the wise measures of her husband, Philip le Bel, the expenses of
the royal household materially increased, especially on the occasions of
the marriages of the three young sons of the King, from 1305 to 1307.
Gold, diamonds, pearls, and precious stones were employed profusely, both
for the King's garments and for those of the members of the royal family.
The accounts of 1307 mention considerable sums paid for carpets,
counterpanes, robes, worked linen, &c. A chariot of state, ornamented and
covered with paintings, and gilded like the back of an altar, is also
mentioned, and must have been a great change to the heavy vehicles used
for travelling in those days.

Down to the reign of St. Louis the furniture of castles had preserved a
character of primitive simplicity which did not, however, lack grandeur.
The stone remained uncovered in most of the halls, or else it was whitened
with mortar and ornamented with moulded roses and leaves, coloured in
distemper. Against the wall, and also against the pillars supporting the
arches, arms and armour of all sorts were hung, arranged in suits, and
interspersed with banners and pennants or emblazoned standards. In the
great middle hall, or dining-room, there was a long massive oak table,
with benches and stools of the same wood. At the end of this table, there
was a large arm-chair, overhung with a canopy of golden or silken stuff,
which was occupied by the owner of the castle, and only relinquished by
him in favour of his superior or sovereign. Often the walls of the hall of
state were hung with tapestry, representing groves with cattle, heroes of
ancient history, or events in the romance of chivalry. The floor was
generally paved with hard stone, or covered with enamelled tiles. It was
carefully strewn with scented herbs in summer, and straw in winter. Philip
Augustus ordered that the Hotel Dieu of Paris should receive the herbs and
straw which was daily removed from the floors of his palace. It was only
very much later that this troublesome system was replaced by mats and

The bedrooms were generally at the top of the towers, and had little else
by way of furniture, besides a very large bed, with or without curtains, a
box in which clothes were kept, and which also served as a seat, and a
_priedieu_ chair, which sometimes contained prayer and other books of
devotion. These lofty rooms, whose thick walls kept out the heat in
summer, and the cold in winter, were only lighted by a small window or
loophole, closed with a square of oiled paper or of thin horn.

A great change took place in the abodes of the nobility in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries (Fig. 51). We find, for instance, in Sauval's
"History and Researches of the Antiquities of the City of Paris," that the
abodes of the kings of the first dynasty had been transformed into
Palaces of Justice by Philip le Bel; the same author also gives us a vivid
description of the Chateau du Louvre, and the Hotel St. Paul, which the
kings inhabited when their court was in the capital. But even without
examining into all the royal abodes, it will suffice to give an account of
the Hotel de Boheme, which, after having been the home of the Sires de
Nesles, of Queen Blanche of Castille, and other great persons, was given
by Charles VI., in 1388, to his brother, the famous Duke Louis of Orleans.

[Illustration: Fig. 51.--The Knight and his Lady.--Costumes of the Court
of Burgundy in the Fourteenth Century; Furnished Chamber.--Miniature in
"Othea," Poem by Christine de Pisan (Brussels Library).]

"I shall not attempt," says Sauval, "to speak of the cellars and
wine-cellars, the bakehouses, the fruiteries, the salt-stores, the
fur-rooms, the porters' lodges, the stores, the guard-rooms, the
wood-yard, or the glass-stores; nor of the servants; nor of the place
where _hypocras_ was made; neither shall I describe the tapestry-room, the
linen-room, nor the laundry; nor, indeed, any of the various conveniences
which were then to be found in the yards of that palace as well as in the
other abodes of the princes and nobles.

"I shall simply remark, that amongst the many suites of rooms which
composed it, two occupied the two first stories of the main building; the
first was raised some few steps above the ground-floor of the court, and
was occupied by Valentine de Milan; and her husband, Louis of Orleans,
generally occupied the second. Each of these suites of rooms consisted of
a great hall, a chamber of state, a large chamber, a wardrobe, some
closets, and a chapel. The windows of the halls were thirteen and a half
feet[A] high by four and a half wide. The state chambers were eight
'toises,' that is, about fifty feet and a half long. The duke and
duchess's chambers were six 'toises' by three, that is, about thirty-six
feet by eighteen; the others were seven toises and a half square, all
lighted by long and narrow windows of wirework with trellis-work of iron;
the wainscots and the ceilings were made of Irish wood, the same as at the

[Footnote A: French feet.]

In this palace there was a room used by the duke, hung with cloth of gold,
bordered with vermilion velvet embroidered with roses; the duchess had a
room hung with vermilion satin embroidered with crossbows, which were on
her coat of arms; that of the Duke of Burgundy was hung with cloth of gold
embroidered with windmills. There were, besides, eight carpets of glossy
texture, with gold flowers; one representing "The Seven Virtues and the
Seven Vices;" another the history of Charlemagne; another that of St.
Louis. There were also cushions of cloth of gold, twenty-four pieces of
vermilion leather of Aragon, and four carpets of Aragon leather, "to be
placed on the floor of rooms in summer." The favourite arm-chair of the
princess is thus described in an inventory:--"A chamber chair with four
supports, painted in fine vermilion, the seat and arms of which are
covered with vermilion morocco, or cordovan, worked and stamped with
designs representing the sun, birds, and other devices, bordered with
fringes of silk and studded with nails."

Among the ornamental furniture were--"A large vase of massive silver, for
holding sugar-plums or sweetmeats, shaped like a square table, supported
by four satyrs, also of silver; a fine wooden casket, covered with
vermilion cordovan, nailed, and bordered with a narrow gilt band, shutting
with a key."

[Illustration: Fig. 52.--Bronze Chandeliers of the Fourteenth Century
(Collection of M. Ach. Jubinal).]

In the daily life of Louis of Orleans and his wife, everything
corresponded with the luxury of their house. Thus, for the amusement of
their children, two little books of pictures were made, illuminated with
gold, azure, and vermilion, and covered with vermilion leather of Cordova,
which cost sixty _sols parisis, i.e. four hundred francs. But it was in
the custom of New Year's gifts that the duke and duchess displayed truly
royal magnificence, as we find described in the accounts of their
expenses. For instance, in 1388 they paid four hundred francs of gold for
sheets of silk to give to those who received the New Year's gifts from the
King and Queen. In 1402, one hundred pounds (tournois) were given to Jehan
Taienne, goldsmith, for six silver cups presented to Jacques de Poschin,
the Duke's squire. To the Sire de la Tremouille Valentine gives "a cup and
basin of gold;" to Queen Isabella, "a golden image of St. John,
surrounded with nine rubies, one sapphire, and twenty-one pearls;" to
Mademoiselle de Luxembourg, "another small golden sacred image, surrounded
with pearls;" and lastly, in an account of 1394, headed, "Portion of gold
and silver jewels bought by Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans as a New Year's
gift," we find "a clasp of gold, studded with one large ruby and six large
pearls, given to the King; three paternosters for the King's daughters,
and two large diamonds for the Dukes of Burgundy and Berry."

[Illustration: Fig. 53.--Styli used in writing in the Fourteenth Century.]

Such were the habits in private life of the royal princes under Charles
VI.; and it can easily be shown that the example of royalty was followed
not only by the court, but also in the remotest provinces. The great
tenants or vassals of the crown each possessed several splendid mansions
in their fiefs; the Dukes of Burgundy, at Souvigny, at Moulins, and at
Bourbon l'Archambault; the Counts of Champagne, at Troyes; the Dukes of
Burgundy, at Dijon; and all the smaller nobles made a point of imitating
their superiors. From the fifteenth to the sixteenth centuries, the
provinces which now compose France were studded with castles, which were
as remarkable for their interior, architecture as for the richness of
their furniture; and it may be asserted that the luxury which was
displayed in the dwellings of the nobility was the evidence, if not the
resuit, of a great social revolution in the manners and customs of private

At the end of the fourteenth century there lived a much-respected noble of
Anjou, named Geoffroy de Latour-Landry, who had three daughters. In his
old age, he resolved that, considering the dangers which might surround
them in consequence of their inexperience and beauty, he would compose for
their use a code of admonitions which might guide them in the various
circumstances of life.

[Illustration: A Young Mother's Retinue

Representing the Parisian costumes at the end of the fourteenth century.
Fac-simile of a miniature from the latin _Terence_ of King Charles VI.
From a manuscript in the Bibl. de l'Arsenal.]

This book of domestic maxims is most curious and instructive, from the
details which it contains respecting the manners and customs, mode of
conduct, and fashions of the nobility of the period (Fig. 54). The author
mostly illustrates each of his precepts by examples from the life of
contemporary personages.

[Illustration: Fig. 54.--Dress of Noble Ladies and Children in the
Fourteenth Century.--Miniature in the "Merveilles du Monde" (Manuscript,
National Library of Paris).]

The first advice the knight gives his daughters is, to begin the day with
prayer; and, in order to give greater weight to his counsel, he relates
the following anecdote: "A noble had two daughters; the one was pious,
always saying her prayers with devotion, and regularly attending the
services of the church; she married an honest man, and was most happy. The
other, on the contrary, was satisfied with hearing low mass, and hurrying
once or twice through the Lord's Prayer, after which she went off to
indulge herself with sweetmeats. She complained of headaches, and required
careful diet. She married a most excellent knight; but, one evening,
taking advantage of her husband being asleep, she shut herself up in one
of the rooms of the palace, and in company with the people of the
household began eating and drinking in the most riotous and excessive
manner. The knight awoke; and, surprised not to find his wife by his side,
got up, and, armed with a stick, betook himself to the scene of festivity.
He struck one of the domestics with such force that he broke his stick in
pieces, and one of the fragments flew into the lady's eye and put it out.
This caused her husband to take a dislike to her, and he soon placed his
affections elsewhere."

"My pretty daughters," the moralising parent proceeds, "be courteous and
meek, for nothing is more beautiful, nothing so secures the favour of God
and the love of others. Be then courteous to great and small; speak gently
with them.... I have seen a great lady take off her cap and bow to a
simple ironmonger. One of her followers seemed astonished. 'I prefer,' she
said, 'to have been too courteous towards that man, than to have been
guilty of the least incivility to a knight.'"

[Illustration: Fig. 55.--Noble Lady and Maid of Honour, and two Burgesses
with Hoods (Fourteenth Century), from a Miniature in the "Merveilles du
Monde" (Manuscript in the Imperial Library of Paris).]

Latour-Landry also advised his daughters to avoid outrageous fashions in
dress. "Do not be hasty in copying the dress of foreign women. I will
relate a story on this subject respecting a bourgeoise of Guyenne and the
Sire de Beaumanoir. The lady said to him, 'Cousin, I come from Brittany,
where I saw my fine cousin, your wife, who was not so well dressed as the
ladies of Guyenne and many other places. The borders of her dress and of
her bonnet are not in fashion.' The Sire answered, 'Since you find fault
with the dress and cap of my wife, and as they do not suit you, I shall
take care in future that they are changed; but I shall be careful not to
choose them similar to yours.... Understand, madam, that I wish her to be
dressed according to the fashion of the good ladies of France and this
country, and not like those of England. It was these last who first
introduced into Brittany the large borders, the bodices opened on the
hips, and the hanging sleeves. I remember the time, and saw it myself, and
I have little respect for women who adopt these fashions.'"

Respecting the high head-dresses "which cause women to resemble stags who
are obliged to lower their heads to enter a wood," the knight relates what
took place in 1392 at the fete of St. Marguerite. "There was a young and
pretty woman there, quite differently dressed from the others; every one
stared at her as if she had been a wild beast. One respectable lady
approached her and said, 'My friend, what do you call that fashion?' She
answered, 'It is called the "gibbet dress."' 'Indeed; but that is not a
fine name!' answered the old lady. Very soon the name of 'gibbet dress'
got known all round the room, and every one laughed at the foolish
creature who was thus bedecked." This head-dress did in fact owe its name
to its summit, which resembled a gibbet.

These extracts from the work of this honest knight, suffice to prove that
the customs of French society had, as early as the end of the fourteenth
century, taken a decided character which was to remain subject only to
modifications introduced at various historical periods.

Amongst the customs which contributed most to the softening and elegance
of the feudal class, we must cite that of sending into the service of the
sovereign for some years all the youths of both sexes, under the names of
varlets, pages, squires, and maids of honour. No noble, of whatever wealth
or power, ever thought of depriving his family of this apprenticeship and
its accompanying chivalric education.

Up to the end of the twelfth century, the number of domestic officers
attached to a castle was very limited; we have seen, for instance, that
Philip Augustus contented himself with a few servants, and his queen with
two or three maids of honour. Under Louis IX. this household was much
increased, and under Philippe le Bel and his sons the royal household had
become so considerable as to constitute quite a large assemblage of young
men and women. Under Charles VI., the household of Queen Isabella of
Bavaria alone amounted to forty-five persons, without counting the
almoner, the chaplains, and clerks of the chapel, who must have been very
numerous, since the sums paid to them amounted to the large amount of four
hundred and sixty francs of gold per annum.

[Illustration: Fig. 56.--Court of the Ladies of Queen Anne of Brittany,
Miniature representing this lady weeping on account of the absence of her
husband during the Italian war.--Manuscript of the "Epistres Envoyees au
Roi" (Sixteenth Century), obtained by the Coislin Fund for the Library of
St. Germain des Pres in Paris, now in the Library of St. Petersburg.]

Under Charles VIII., Louis XII., and Francis I., the service of the young
nobility, which was called "apprenticeship of honour or virtue," had
taken a much wider range; for the first families of the French nobility
were most eager to get their children admitted into the royal household,
either to attend on the King or Queen, or at any rate on one of the
princes of the royal blood. Anne of Brittany particularly gave special
attention to her female attendants (Fig. 56). "She was the first," says
Brantome in his work on "Illustrious Women," "who began to form the great
court of ladies which has descended to our days; for she had a
considerable retinue both of adult ladies and young girls. She never
refused to receive any one; on the contrary, she inquired of the gentlemen
of the court if they had any daughters, ascertained who they were, and
asked for them." It was thus that the Admiral de Graville (Fig. 57)
confided to the good Queen the education of his daughter Anne, who at this
school of the Court of Ladies became one of the most distinguished women
of her day. The same Queen, as Duchess of Brittany, created a company of
one hundred Breton gentlemen, who accompanied her everywhere. "They never
failed," says the author of "Illustrious Women," "when she went to mass or
took a walk, to await her return on the little terrace of Blois, which is
still called the _Perche aux Bretons_. She gave it this name herself; for
when she saw them she said, 'There are my Bretons on the perch waiting for

We must not forget that this queen, who became successively the wife of
Charles VIII. and of Louis XII., had taken care to establish a strict
discipline amongst the young men and women who composed her court. She
rightly considered herself the guardian of the honour of the former, and
of the virtue of the latter; therefore, as long as she lived, her court
was renowned for purity and politeness, noble and refined gallantry, and
was never allowed to degenerate into imprudent amusements or licentious
and culpable intrigues.

Unfortunately, the moral influence of this worthy princess died with her.
Although the court of France continued to gather around it almost every
sort of elegance, and although it continued during the whole of the
sixteenth century the most polished of European courts, notwithstanding
the great external and civil wars, yet it afforded at the same time a sad
example of laxity of morals, which had a most baneful influence on public
habits; so much so that vice and corruption descended from class to class,
and contaminated all orders of society. If we wished to make
investigations into the private life of the lower orders in those times,
we should not succeed as we have been able to do with that of the upper
classes; for we have scarcely any data to throw light upon their sad and
obscure history. Bourgeois and peasants were, as we have already shown,
long included together with the miserable class of serfs, a herd of human
beings without individuality, without significance, who from their birth
to their death, whether isolated or collectively, were the "property" of
their masters. What must have been the private life of this degraded
multitude, bowed down under the most tyrannical and humiliating
dependence, we can scarcely imagine; it was in fact but a purely material
existence, which has left scarcely any trace in history.

[Illustration: Fig. 57.--Louis de Mallet, Lord of Graville, Admiral of
France, 1487, in Costume of War and Tournament, from an Engraving of the
Sixteenth Century (National Library of Paris, Cabinet des Estampes).]

Many centuries elapsed before the dawn of liberty could penetrate the
social strata of this multitude, thus oppressed and denuded of all power
of action. The development was slow, painful, and dearly bought, but at
last it took place; first of all towns sprang up, and with them, or rather
by their influence, the inhabitants became possessed of social life. The
agricultural population took its social position many generations later.

As we have already seen, the great movement for the creation of communes
and bourgeoisies only dates from the unsettled period ranging from the
eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, and simultaneously we see the
bourgeois appear, already rich and luxurious, parading on all occasions
their personal opulence. Their private life could only be an imitation of
that in the chateaux; by degrees as wealth strengthened and improved their
condition, and rendered them independent, we find them trying to procure
luxuries equal or analogous to those enjoyed by the upper classes, and
which appeared to them the height of material happiness. In all times the
small have imitated the great. It was in vain that the great obstinately
threatened, by the exercise of their prerogatives, to try and crush this
tendency to equality which alarmed them, by issuing pecuniary edicts,
summary laws, coercive regulations, and penal ordinances; by the force of
circumstances the arbitrary restrictions which the nobility laid upon the
lower classes gradually disappeared, and the power of wealth displayed
itself in spite of all their efforts to suppress it. In fact, occasions
were not wanting in which the bourgeois class was able to refute the
charge of unworthiness with which the nobles sought to stamp it. When
taking a place in the council of the King, or employed in the
administration of the provinces, many of its members distinguished
themselves by firmness and wisdom; when called upon to assist in the
national defence, they gave their blood and their gold with noble
self-denial; and lastly, they did not fail to prove themselves possessed
of those high and delicate sentiments of which the nobility alone claimed
the hereditary possession.

[Illustration: Fig. 58.--Burgess of Ghent and his Wife, in ceremonial
Attire, kneeling in Church, from a painted Window belonging to a Chapel in
that Town (Fifteenth Century).]

"The bourgeois," says Arnaud de Marveil, one of the most famous
troubadours of the thirteenth century, "have divers sorts of merits: some
distinguish themselves by deeds of honour, others are by nature noble and
behave accordingly. There are others thoroughly brave, courteous, frank,
and jovial, who, although poor, find means to please by graceful speech,
frequenting courts, and making themselves agreeable there; these, well
versed in courtesy and politeness, appear in noble attire, and figure
conspicuously at the tournaments and military games, proving themselves
good judges and good company."

Down to the thirteenth century, however rich their fathers or husbands
might be, the women of the bourgeoisie were not permitted, without
incurring a fine, to use the ornaments and stuffs exclusively reserved for
the nobility. During the reigns of Philip Augustus and Louis IX., although
these arbitrary laws were not positively abolished, a heavy blow was
inflicted on them by the marks of confidence, esteem, and honour which
these monarchs found pleasure in bestowing on the bourgeoisie. We find the
first of these kings, when on the point of starting for a crusade,
choosing six from amongst the principal members of the _parloir aux
bourgeois_ (it was thus that the first Hotel de Ville, situated in the
corner of the Place de la Greve, was named) to be attached to the Council
of Regency, to whom he specially confided his will and the royal treasure.
His grandson made a point of following his grandsire's example, and Louis
IX. showed the same appreciation for the new element which the Parisian
bourgeoisie was about to establish in political life by making the
bourgeois Etienne Boileau one of his principal ministers of police, and
the bourgeois Jean Sarrazin his chamberlain.

Under these circumstances, the whole bourgeoisie gloried in the marks of
distinction conferred upon their representatives, and during the following
reign, the ladies of this class, proud of their immense fortunes, but
above all proud of the municipal powers held by their families, bedecked
themselves, regardless of expense, with costly furs and rich stuffs,
notwithstanding that they were forbidden by law to do so.

Then came an outcry on the part of the nobles; and we read as follows, in
an edict of Philippe le Bel, who inclined less to the bourgeoisie than to
the nobles, and who did not spare the former in matters of taxation:--"No
bourgeois shall have a chariot nor wear gold, precious stones, or crowns
of gold or silver. Bourgeois, not being either prelates nor dignitaries of
state, shall not have tapers of wax. A bourgeois possessing two thousand
pounds (tournois) or more, may order for himself a dress of twelve sous
six deniers, and for his wife one worth sixteen sous at the most." The
sou, which was but nominal money, may be reckoned as representing twenty
francs, and the denier one franc, but allowance must be made for the
enormous difference in the value of silver, which would make twenty francs
in the thirteenth century represent upwards of two hundred francs of
present currency.

[Illustration: Fig. 59.--The new-born Child, from a Miniature in the
"Histoire de la Belle Helaine" (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century,
National Library of Paris).]

But these regulations as to the mode of living were so little or so
carelessly observed, that all the successors of Philippe le Bel thought it
necessary to re-enact them, and, indeed, Charles VII., one century later,
was obliged to censure the excess of luxury in dress by an edict which
was, however, no better enforced than the rest. "It has been shown to the
said lord" (the King Charles VII.), "that of all nations of the habitable
globe there are none so changeable, outrageous, and excessive in their
manner of dress, as the French nation, and there is no possibility of
discovering by their dress the state or calling of persons, be they
princes, nobles, bourgeois, or working men, because all are allowed to
dress as they think proper, whether in gold or silver, silk or wool,
without any regard to their calling."

At the end of the thirteenth century, a rich merchant of Valenciennes went
to the court of the King of France wearing a cloak of furs covered with
gold and pearls; seeing that no one offered him a cushion, he proudly sat
on his cloak. On leaving he did not attempt to take up the cloak; and on a
servant calling his attention to the fact he remarked, "It is not the
custom in my country for people to carry away their cushions with them."

Respecting a journey made by Philippe le Bel and his wife Jeanne de
Navarre to the towns of Bruges and Ghent, the historian Jean Mayer relates
that Jeanne, on seeing the costly array of the bourgeois of those two rich
cities, exclaimed, "I thought I was the only queen here, but I see more
than six hundred!"

In spite of the laws, the Parisian bourgeoisie soon rivalled the Flemish
in the brilliancy of their dress. Thus, in the second half of the
fourteenth century, the famous Christine de Pisan relates that, having
gone to visit the wife of a merchant during her confinement, it was not
without some amazement that she saw the sumptuous furniture of the
apartment in which this woman lay in bed (Fig. 59). The walls were hung
with precious tapestry of Cyprus, on which the initials and motto of the
lady were embroidered; the sheets were of fine linen of Rheims, and had
cost more than three hundred pounds; the quilt was a new invention of silk
and silver tissue; the carpet was like gold. The lady wore an elegant
dress of crimson silk, and rested her head and arms on pillows, ornamented
with buttons of oriental pearls. It should be remarked that this lady was
not the wife of a large merchant, such as those of Venice and Genoa, but
of a simple retail dealer, who was not above selling articles for four
sous; such being the case, we need not be surprised that Christine should
have considered the anecdote "worthy of being immortalised in a book."

It must not, however, be assumed that the sole aim of the bourgeoisie was
that of making a haughty and pompous display. This is refuted by the
testimony of the "Menagier de Paris," a curious anonymous work, the author
of which must have been an educated and enlightened bourgeois.

The "Menagier," which was first published by the Baron Jerome Pichon, is a
collection of counsels addressed by a husband to his young wife, as to her
conduct in society, in the world, and in the management of her household.
The first part is devoted to developing the mind of the young housewife;
and the second relates to the arrangements necessary for the welfare of
her house. It must be remembered that the comparatively trifling duties
relating to the comforts of private life, which devolved on the wife, were
not so numerous in those days as they are now; but on the other hand they
required an amount of practical knowledge on the part of the housewife
which she can nowadays dispense with. Under this head the "Menagier" is
full of information.

After having spoken of the prayers which a Christian woman should say
morning and evening, the author discusses the great question of dress,
which has ever been of supreme importance in the eyes of the female sex:
"Know, dear sister," (the friendly name he gives his young wife), "that in
the choice of your apparel you must always consider the rank of your
parents and mine, as also the state of my fortune. Be respectably dressed,
without devoting too much study to it, without too much plunging into new
fashions. Before leaving your room, see that the collar of your gown be
well adjusted and is not put on crooked."

[Illustration: Fig. 60.--Sculptured Comb, in Ivory, of the Sixteenth
Century (Sauvageot Collection)]

Then he dilates on the characters of women, which are too often wilful and
unmanageable; on this point, for he is not less profuse in examples than
the Chevalier de Latour-Landry, he relates an amusing anecdote, worthy of
being repeated and remembered.

"I have heard the bailiff of Tournay relate, that he had found himself
several times at table with men long married, and that he had wagered with
them the price of a dinner under the following conditions: the company
was to visit the abode of each of the husbands successively, and any one
who had a wife obedient enough immediately, without contradicting or
making any remark, to consent to count up to four, would win the bet; but,
on the other hand, those whose wives showed temper, laughed, or refused to
obey, would lose. Under these conditions the company gaily adjourned to
the abode of Robin, whose wife, called Marie, had a high opinion of
herself. The husband said before all, 'Marie, repeat after me what I shall
say.' 'Willingly, sire.' 'Marie, say, "One, two, three!"' But by this time
Marie was out of patience, and said, 'And seven, and twelve, and fourteen!
Why, you are making a fool of me!' So that husband lost his wager.

"The company next went to the house of Maitre Jean, whose wife, Agnescat
well knew how to play the lady. Jean said, 'Repeat after me, one!' 'And
two!' answered Agnescat disdainfully; so he lost his wager. Tassin then
tried, and said to dame Tassin, 'Count one!' 'Go upstairs!' she answered,
'if you want to teach counting, I am not a child.' Another said, 'Go away
with you; you must have lost your senses,' or similar words, which made
the husbands lose their wagers. Those, on the contrary, who had
well-behaved wives gained their wager and went away joyful."

This amusing quotation suffices to show that the author of the "Menagier
de Paris" wished to adopt a jocose style, with a view to enliven the
seriousness of the subject he was advocating.

The part of his work in which he discusses the administration of the house
is not less worthy of attention. One of the most curious chapters of the
work is that in which he points out the manner in which the young
bourgeoise is to behave towards persons in her service. Rich people in
those days, in whatever station of life, were obliged to keep a numerous
retinue of servants. It is curious to find that so far back as the period
to which we allude, there was in Paris a kind of servants' registry
office, where situations were found for servant-maids from the country.
The bourgeois gave up the entire management of the servants to his wife;
but, on account of her extreme youth, the author of the work in question
recommends his wife only to engage servants who shall have been chosen by
Dame Agnes, the nun whom he had placed with her as a kind of governess or

"Before engaging them," he says, "know whence they come; in what houses
they have been; if they have acquaintances in town, and if they are
steady. Discover what they are capable of doing; and ascertain that they
are not greedy, or inclined to drink. If they come from another country,
try to find out why they left it; for, generally, it is not without some
serious reason that a woman decides upon a change of abode. When you have
engaged a maid, do not permit her to take the slightest liberty with you,
nor allow her to speak disrespectfully to you. If, on the contrary, she be
quiet in her demeanour, honest, modest, and shows herself amenable to
reproof, treat her as if she were your daughter.

"Superintend the work to be done; and choose among your servants those
qualified for each special department. If you order a thing to be done
immediately, do not be satisfied with the following answers: 'It shall be
done presently, or to-morrow early;' otherwise, be sure that you will have
to repeat your orders."

[Illustration: Fig. 61.--Dress of Maidservants in the Thirteenth
Century.--Miniature in a Manuscript of the National Library of Paris.]

To these severe instructions upon the management of servants, the
bourgeois adds a few words respecting their morality. He recommends that
they be not permitted to use coarse or indecent language, or to insult one
another (Fig. 61). Although he is of opinion that necessary time should be
given to servants at their meals, he does not approve of their remaining
drinking and talking too long at table: concerning which practice he
quotes a proverb in use at that time: "Quand varlet presche a table et
cheval paist en gue, il est temps qu'on l'en oste: assez y a este;" which
means, that when a servant talks at table and a horse feeds near a
watering-place it is time he should be removed; he has been there long

[Illustration: Fig. 62.--Hotel des Ursins, Paris, built during the
Fourteenth Century, restored in the Sixteenth, and now destroyed.--State
of the North Front at the End of the last Century.]

The manner in which the author concludes his instruction proves his
kindness of heart, as well as his benevolence: "If one of your servants
fall sick, it is your duty, setting everything else aside, to see to his
being cured."

It was thus that a bourgeois of the fifteenth century expressed himself;
and as it is clear that he could only have been inspired to dictate his
theoretical teachings by the practical experience which he must have
gained for the most part among the middle class to which he belonged, we
must conclude that in those days the bourgeoisie possessed considerable
knowledge of moral dignity and social propriety.

It must be added that by the side of the merchant and working
bourgeoisie--who, above all, owed their greatness to the high functions of
the municipality--the parliamentary bourgeoisie had raised itself to
power, and that from the fourteenth century it played a considerable part
in the State, holding at several royal courts at different periods, and at
last, almost hereditarily, the highest magisterial positions. The very
character of these great offices of president, or of parliamentary
counsel, barristers, &c., proves that the holders must have had no small
amount of intellectual culture. In this way a refined taste was created
among this class, which the protection of kings, princes, and lords had
alone hitherto encouraged. We find, for example, the Grosliers at Lyons,
the De Thous and Seguiers in Paris, regardless of their bourgeois origin,
becoming judicious and zealous patrons of poets, scholars, and artists.

A description of Paris, published in the middle of the fifteenth century,
describes amongst the most splendid residences of the capital the hotels
of Juvenal des Ursins (Fig. 62), of Bureau de Dampmartin, of Guillaume
Seguin, of Mille Baillet, of Martin Double, and particularly that of
Jacques Duchie, situated in the Rue des Prouvaires, in which were
collected at great cost collections of all kinds of arms, musical
instruments, rare birds, tapestry, and works of art. In each church in
Paris, and there were upwards of a hundred, the principal chapels were
founded by celebrated families of the ancient bourgeoisie, who had left
money for one or more masses to be said daily for the repose of the souls
of their deceased members. In the burial-grounds, and principally in that
of the Innocents, the monuments of these families of Parisian bourgeoisie
were of the most expensive character, and were inscribed with epitaphs in
which the living vainly tried to immortalise the deeds of the deceased.
Every one has heard of the celebrated tomb of Nicholas Flamel and Pernelle
his wife (Fig. 63), the cross of Bureau, the epitaph of Yolande Bailly,
who died in 1514, at the age of eighty-eight, and who "saw, or might have
seen, two hundred and ninety-five children descended from her."

In fact, the religious institutions of Paris afford much curious and
interesting information relative to the history of the bourgeoisie. For
instance, Jean Alais, who levied a tax of one denier on each basket of
fish brought to market, and thereby amassed an enormous fortune, left the
whole of it at his death for the purpose of erecting a chapel called St.
Agnes, which soon after became the church of St. Eustace. He further
directed that, by way of expiation, his body should be thrown into the
sewer which drained the offal from the market, and covered with a large
stone; this sewer up to the end of the last century was still called Pont

[Illustration: Fig. 63.--Nicholas Flamel and Pernelle, his Wife, from a
Painting executed at the End of the Fifteenth Century, under the Vaults of
the Cemetery of the Innocents, in Paris.]

Very often when citizens made gifts during their lifetime to churches or
parishes, the donors reserved to themselves certain privileges which were
calculated to cause the motives which had actuated them to be open to
criticism. Thus, in 1304, the daughters of Nicholas Arrode, formerly
provost of the merchants, presented to the church of St.
Jacques-la-Boucherie the house and grounds which they inhabited, but one
of them reserved the right of having a key of the church that she might
go in whenever she pleased. Guillaume Haussecuel, in 1405, bought a
similar right for the sum of eighteen _sols parisis_ per annum (equal to
twenty-five francs); and Alain and his wife, whose house was close to two
chapels of the church, undertook not to build so as in any way to shut out
the light from one of the chapels on condition that they might open a
small window into the chapel, and so be enabled to hear the service
without leaving their room.

[Illustration: Fig. 64.--Country Life--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in a folio
Edition of Virgil, published at Lyons in 1517.]

We thus see that the bourgeoisie, especially of Paris, gradually took a
more prominent position in history, and became so grasping after power
that it ventured, at a period which does not concern us here, to aspire to
every sort of distinction, and to secure an important social standing.
What had been the exception during the sixteenth century became the rule
two centuries later.

We will now take a glance at the agricultural population (Fig. 64), who,
as we have already stated, were only emancipated from serfdom at the end
of the eighteenth century.

But whatever might have been formerly the civil condition of the rural
population, everything leads us to suppose that there were no special
changes in their private and domestic means of existence from a
comparatively remote period down to almost the present time.

A small poem of the thirteenth century, entitled, "De l'Oustillement au
Vilain," gives a clear though rough sketch of the domestic state of the
peasantry. Strange as it may seem, it must be acknowledged that, with a
few exceptions resulting from the progress of time, it would not be
difficult, even at the present day, to find the exact type maintained in
the country districts farthest away from the capital and large towns; at
all events, they were faithfully represented at the time of the revolution
of 1789.

[Illustration: Fig. 65.--Sedentary Occupations of the
Peasauts.--Fac-simile from an Engraving on Wood, attributed to Holbein, in
the "Cosmographie" of Munster (Basle, 1552, folio).]

We gather from this poem, which must be considered an authentic and most
interesting document, that the _manse_ or dwelling of the villain
comprised three distinct buildings; the first for the corn, the second for
the hay and straw, the third for the man and his family. In this rustic
abode a fire of vine branches and faggots sparkled in a large chimney
furnished with an iron pot-hanger, a tripod, a shovel, large fire-irons, a
cauldron and a meat-hook. Next to the fireplace was an oven, and in close
proximity to this an enormous bedstead, on which the villain, his wife,
his children, and even the stranger who asked for hospitality, could all
be easily accommodated; a kneading trough, a table, a bench, a cheese
cupboard, a jug, and a few baskets made up the rest of the furniture. The
villain also possessed other utensils, such as a ladder, a mortar, a
hand-mill--for every one then was obliged to grind his own corn; a mallet,
some nails, some gimlets, fishing lines, hooks, and baskets, &c.

[Illustration: Fig. 66.--Villains before going to Work receiving their
Lord's Orders.--Miniature in the "Proprietaire des Choses."--Manuscript of
the Fifteenth Century (Library of the Arsenal, in Paris).]

His working implements were a plough, a scythe, a spade, a hoe, large
shears, a knife and a sharpening stone; he had also a waggon, with harness
for several horses, so as to be able to accomplish the different tasks
required of him under feudal rights, either by his proper lord, or by the
sovereign; for the villain was liable to be called upon to undertake
every kind of work of this sort.

His dress consisted of a blouse of cloth or skin fastened by a leather
belt round the waist, an overcoat or mantle of thick woollen stuff, which
fell from his shoulders to half-way down his legs; shoes or large boots,
short woollen trousers, and from his belt there hung his wallet and a
sheath for his knife (Figs. 66 and 71). He generally went bareheaded, but
in cold weather or in rain he wore a sort of hat of similar stuff to his
coat, or one of felt with a broad brim. He seldom wore _mouffles_, or
padded gloves, except when engaged in hedging.

A small kitchen-garden, which he cultivated himself, was usually attached
to the cottage, which was guarded by a large watch-dog. There was also a
shed for the cows, whose milk contributed to the sustenance of the
establishment; and on the thatched roof of this and his cottage the wild
cats hunted the rats and mice. The family were never idle, even in the bad
season, and the children were taught from infancy to work by the side of
their parents (Fig. 65).

If, then, we find so much resemblance between the abodes of the villains
of the thirteenth century and those of the inhabitants of the poorest
communes of France in the present day, we may fairly infer that there must
be a great deal which is analogous between the inhabitants themselves of
the two periods; for in the chateaux as well as in the towns we find the
material condition of the dwellings modifying itself conjointly with that
of the moral condition of the inhabitants.

[Illustration: Fig. 67.--The egotistical and envious Villain.--From a
Miniature in "Proverbes et Adages, &c.," Manuscript of the La Valliere
Fund, in the National Library of Paris, with this legend:

"Attrapez y sont les plus fins:
Qui trop embrasse mal estraint."

("The cleverest burn their fingers at it,
And those who grasp all may lose all.")

Another little poem entitled, "On the Twenty-four Kinds of Villains,"
composed about the same period as the one above referred to, gives us a
graphic description of the varieties of character among the feudal
peasants. One example is given of a man who will not tell a traveller the
way, but merely in a surly way answers, "You know it better than I" (Fig.
67). Another, sitting at his door on a Sunday, laughs at those passing by,
and says to himself when he sees a gentleman going hawking with a bird on
his wrist, "Ah! that bird will eat a hen to-day, and our children could
all feast upon it!" Another is described as a sort of madman who equally
despises God, the saints, the Church, and the nobility. His neighbour is
an honest simpleton, who, stopping in admiration before the doorway of
Notre Dame in Paris in order to admire the statues of Pepin, Charlemagne,
and their successors, has his pocket picked of his purse. Another villain
is supposed to make trade of pleading the cause of others before "Messire
le Bailli;" he is very eloquent in trying to show that in the time of
their ancestors the cows had a free right of pasture in such and such a
meadow, or the sheep on such and such a ridge; then there is the miser,
and the speculator, who converts all his possessions into ready money, so
as to purchase grain against a bad season; but of course the harvest turns
out to be excellent, and he does not make a farthing, but runs away to
conceal his ruin and rage. There is also the villain who leaves his plough
to become a poacher. There are many other curious examples which
altogether tend to prove that there has been but little change in the
villager class since the first periods of History.

[Illustration: Fig. 68.--The covetous and avaricious Villain.--From a
Miniature in "Proverbes et Adages, &c," Manuscript in the National Library
of Paris, with this legend:

"Je suis icy levant les yeulx
Eu ce haut lieu des attendens,
En convoitant pour avoir mieulx
Prendre la lune avec les dens."

("Even on this lofty height
We yet look higher,
As nothing will satisfy us
But to clutch the moon.")

Notwithstanding the miseries to which they were generally subject, the
rural population had their days of rest and amusement, which were then
much more numerous than at present. At that period the festivals of the
Church were frequent and rigidly kept, and as each of them was the pretext
for a forced holiday from manual labour, the peasants thought of nothing,
after church, but of amusing themselves; they drank, talked, sang,
danced, and, above all, laughed, for the laugh of our forefathers quite
rivalled the Homeric laugh, and burst forth with a noisy joviality (Fig.

The "wakes," or evening parties, which are still the custom in most of the
French provinces, and which are of very ancient origin, formed important
events in the private lives of the peasants. It was at these that the
strange legends and vulgar superstitions, which so long fed the minds of
the ignorant classes, were mostly created and propagated. It was there
that those extraordinary and terrible fairy tales were related, as well as
those of magicians, witches, spirits, &c. It was there that the matrons,
whose great age justified their experience, insisted on proving, by absurd
tales, that they knew all the marvellous secrets for causing happiness or
for curing sickness. Consequently, in those days the most enlightened
rustic never for a moment doubted the truth of witchcraft.

In fact, one of the first efforts at printing was applied to reproducing
the most ridiculous stories under the title of the "Evangile des Conuilles
ou Quenouilles," and which had been previously circulated in manuscript,
and had obtained implicit belief. The author of this remarkable collection
asserts that the matrons in his neighbourhood had deputed him to put
together in writing the sayings suitable for all conditions of rural life
which were believed in by them and were announced at the wakes. The
absurdities and childish follies which he has dared to register under
their dictation are almost incredible.

The "Evangile des Quenouilles," which was as much believed in as Holy
Writ, tells us, amongst other secrets which it contains for the advantage
of the reader, that a girl wishing to know the Christian name of her
future husband, has but to stretch the first thread she spins in the
morning across the doorway; and that the first man who passes and touches
the thread will necessarily have the same name as the man she is destined
to marry.

Another of the stories in this book was, that if a woman, on leaving off
work on Saturday night, left her distaff loaded, she might be sure that
the thread she would obtain from it during the following week would only
produce linen of bad quality, which could not be bleached; this was
considered to be proved by the fact that the Germans wore dark-brown
coloured shirts, and it was known that the women never unloaded their
distaffs from Saturday to Monday.

Should a woman enter a cow-house to milk her cows without saying "God and
St. Bridget bless you!" she was thought to run the risk of the cows
kicking and breaking the milk-pail and spilling the milk.

[Illustration: Fig. 69.--Village Feast.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut of the
"Sandrin ou Verd Galant," facetious Work of the End of the Sixteenth
Century (edition of 1609).]

This silly nonsense, compiled like oracles, was printed as late as 1493.
Eighty years later a gentleman of Brittany, named Noel du Fail, Lord of
Herissaye, councillor in the Parliament of Rennes, published, under the
title of "Rustic and Amusing Discourses," a work intended to counteract
the influence of the famous "Evangile des Quenouilles." This new work was
a simple and true sketch of country habits, and proved the elegance and
artless simplicity of the author, as well as his accuracy of observation.
He begins thus: "Occasionally, having to retire into the country more
conveniently and uninterruptedly to finish some business, on a particular
holiday, as I was walking I came to a neighbouring village, where the
greater part of the old and young men were assembled, in groups of
separate ages, for, according to the proverb, 'Each seeks his like.' The
young were practising the bow, jumping, wrestling, running races, and
playing other games. The old were looking on, some sitting under an oak,
with their legs crossed, and their hats lowered over their eyes, others
leaning on their elbows criticizing every performance, and refreshing the
memory of their own youth, and taking a lively interest in seeing the
gambols of the young people."

The author states that on questioning one of the peasants to ascertain who
was the cleverest person present, the following dialogue took place: "The
one you see leaning on his elbow, hitting his boots, which have white
strings, with a hazel stick, is called Anselme; he is one of the rich ones
of the village, he is a good workman, and not a bad writer for the flat
country; and the one you see by his side, with his thumb in his belt,
hanging from which is a large game bag, containing spectacles and an old
prayer book, is called Pasquier, one of the greatest wits within a day's
journey--nay, were I to say two I should not be lying. Anyhow, he is
certainly the readiest of the whole company to open his purse to give
drink to his companions." "And that one," I asked, "with the large
Milanese cap on his head, who holds an old book?" "That one," he answered,
"who is scratching the end of his nose with one hand and his beard with
the other?" "That one," I replied, "and who has turned towards us?" "Why,"
said he, "that is Roger Bontemps, a merry careless fellow, who up to the
age of fifty kept the parish school; but changing his first trade he has
become a wine-grower. However, he cannot resist the feast days, when he
brings us his old books, and reads to us as long as we choose, such works
as the 'Calondrier des Bergers,' 'Fables d'Esope,' 'Le Roman de la Rose,'
'Matheolus,' 'Alain Chartier,' 'Les Vigiles du feu Roy Charles,' 'Les deux
Grebans,' and others. Neither, with his old habit of warbling, can he help
singing on Sundays in the choir; and he is called Huguet. The other
sitting near him, looking over his shoulder into his book, and wearing a
sealskin belt with a yellow buckle, is another rich peasant of the
village, not a bad villain, named Lubin, who also lives at home, and is
called the little old man of the neighbourhood."

After this artistic sketch, the author dilates on the goodman Anselme. He
says: "This good man possessed a moderate amount of knowledge, was a
goodish grammarian, a musician, somewhat of a sophist, and rather given to
picking holes in others." Some of Anselme's conversation is also given,
and after beginning by describing in glowing terms the bygone days which
he and his contemporaries had seen, and which he stated to be very
different to the present, he goes on to say, "I must own, my good old
friends, that I look back with pleasure on our young days; at all events
the mode of doing things in those days was very superior and better in
every way to that of the present.... O happy days! O fortunate times when
our fathers and grandfathers, whom may God absolve, were still among us!"
As he said this, he would raise the rim of his hat. He contented himself
as to dress with a good coat of thick wool, well lined according to the
fashion; and for feast days and other important occasions, one of thick
cloth, lined with some old gabardine.

[Illustration: Fig. 70.--The Shepherds celebrating the Birth of the
Messiah by Songs and Dances.--Fifteenth Century.--Fac-simile of an
Engraving on Wood, from a Book of Hours, printed by Anthony Verard.]

"So we see," says M. Le Roux de Lincy, "at the end of the fifteenth
century that the old peasants complained of the changes in the village
customs, and of the luxury which every one wished to display in his
furniture or apparel. On this point it seems that there has been little
or no change. We read that, from the time of Homer down to that of the
excellent author of 'Rustic Discourses,' and even later, the old people
found fault with the manners of the present generation and extolled those
of their forefathers, which they themselves had criticized in their own

[Illustration: Fig. 71.--Purse or Leather Bag, with Knife or Dagger of the
Fifteenth Century.]

Food and Cookery.

History of Bread.--Vegetables and Plants used in
Cooking.--Fruits.--Butchers' Meat.--Poultry, Game.--Milk, Butter,
Cheese, and Eggs.--Fish and Shellfish.--Beverages, Beer, Cider, Wine,
Sweet Wine, Refreshing Drinks, Brandy.--Cookery.--Soups, Boiled Food,
Pies, Stews, Salads, Roasts, Grills.--Seasoning, Truffles, Sugar,
Verjuice.--Sweets, Desserts, Pastry.--Meals and Feasts.--Rules of
Serving at Table from the Fifteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries.

"The private life of a people," says Legrand d'Aussy, who had studied that
of the French from a gastronomic point of view only, "from the foundation
of monarchy down to the eighteenth century, must, like that of mankind
generally, commence with obtaining the first and most pressing of its
requirements. Not satisfied with providing food for his support, man has
endeavoured to add to his food something which pleased his taste. He does
not wait to be hungry, but he anticipates that feeling, and aggravates it
by condiments and seasonings. In a word his greediness has created on this
score a very complicated and wide-spread science, which, amongst nations
which are considered civilised, has become most important, and is
designated the culinary art."

At all times the people of every country have strained the nature of the
soil on which they lived by forcing it to produce that which it seemed
destined ever to refuse them. Such food as human industry was unable to
obtain from any particular soil or from any particular climate, commerce
undertook to bring from the country which produced it. This caused
Rabelais to say that the stomach was the father and master of industry.

We will rapidly glance over the alimentary matters which our forefathers
obtained from the animal and vegetable kingdom, and then trace the
progress of culinary art, and examine the rules of feasts and such matters
as belong to the epicurean customs of the Middle Ages.


Bread.--The Gauls, who principally inhabited deep and thick forests, fed
on herbs and fruits, and particularly on acorns. It is even possible that
the veneration in which they held the oak had no other origin. This
primitive food continued in use, at least in times of famine, up to the
eighth century, and we find in the regulations of St. Chrodegand that if,
in consequence of a bad year, the acorn or beech-nut became scarce, it was
the bishop's duty to provide something to make up for it. Eight centuries
later, when Rene du Bellay, Bishop of Mans, came to report to Francis I.
the fearful poverty of his diocese, he informed the king that the
inhabitants in many places were reduced to subsisting on acorn bread.

[Illustration: Figs. 72 and 73.--Corn-threshing and
Bread-making.--Miniatures from the Calendar of a Book of
Hours.--Manuscript of the Sixteenth Century.]

In the earliest times bread was cooked under the embers. The use of ovens
was introduced into Europe by the Romans, who had found them in Egypt.
But, notwithstanding this importation, the old system of cooking was long
after employed, for in the tenth century Raimbold, abbot of the monastery
of St. Thierry, near Rheims, ordered in his will that on the day of his
death bread cooked under the embers--_panes subcinericios_--should be
given to his monks. By feudal law the lord was bound to bake the bread of
his vassals, for which they were taxed, but the latter often preferred to
cook their flour at home in the embers of their own hearths, rather than
to carry it to the public oven.

[Illustration: Fig. 74.--The Miller.--From an Engraving of the Sixteenth
Century, by J. Amman.]

It must be stated that the custom of leavening the dough by the addition
of a ferment was not universally adopted amongst the ancients. For this
reason, as the dough without leaven could only produce a heavy and
indigestible bread, they were careful, in order to secure their loaves
being thoroughly cooked, to make them very thin. These loaves served as
plates for cutting up the other food upon, and when they thus became
saturated with the sauce and gravy they were eaten as cakes. The use of
the _tourteaux_ (small crusty loaves), which were at first called
_tranchoirs_ and subsequently _tailloirs_, remained long in fashion even
at the most splendid banquets. Thus, in 1336, the Dauphin of Vienna,
Humbert II., had, besides the small white bread, four small loaves to
serve as _tranchoirs_ at table. The "Menagier de Paris" mentions "_des
pains de tranchouers_ half a foot in diameter, and four fingers deep," and
Froissart the historian also speaks of _tailloirs_.

It would be difficult to point out the exact period at which leavening
bread was adopted in Europe, but we can assert that in the Middle Ages it
was anything but general. Yeast, which, according to Pliny, was already
known to the Gauls, was reserved for pastry, and it was only at the end of
the sixteenth century that the bakers of Paris used it for bread.

At first the trades of miller and baker were carried on by the same person
(Figs. 74 and 75). The man who undertook the grinding of the grain had
ovens near his mill, which he let to his lord to bake bread, when he did
not confine his business to persons who sent him their corn to grind.

[Illustration: Fig. 75.--The Baker.--From an Engraving of the Sixteenth
Century, by J. Amman.]

At a later period public bakers established themselves, who not only baked
the loaves which were brought to them already kneaded, but also made bread
which they sold by weight; and this system was in existence until very
recently in the provinces.

Charlemagne, in his "Capitulaires" (statutes), fixed the number of bakers
in each city according to the population, and St. Louis relieved them, as
well as the millers, from taking their turn at the watch, so that they
might have no pretext for stopping or neglecting their work, which he
considered of public utility. Nevertheless bakers as a body never became
rich or powerful (Figs. 76 and 77). It is pretty generally believed that
the name of _boulanger_ (baker) originated from the fact that the shape
of the loaves made at one time was very like that of a round ball. But
loaves varied so much in form, quality, and consequently in name, that in
his "Dictionary of Obscure Words" the learned Du Cange specifies at least
twenty sorts made during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and amongst
them may be mentioned the court loaf, the pope's loaf, the knight's loaf,
the squire's loaf, the peer's loaf, the varlet's loaf, &c.

[Illustration: Fig. 76.--Banner of the Corporation of Bakers of Paris.]

[Illustration: Fig. 77.--Banner of the Corporation, of Bakers of Arras.]

The most celebrated bread was the white bread of Chailly or Chilly, a
village four leagues (ten miles) south of Paris, which necessarily
appeared at all the tables of the _elite_ of the fourteenth century. The
_pain mollet_, or soft bread made with milk and butter, although much in
use before this, only became fashionable on the arrival of Marie de
Medicis in France (1600), on account of this Tuscan princess finding it so
much to her taste that she would eat no other.

The ordinary market bread of Paris comprised the _rousset bread_, made of
meslin, and employed for soup; the _bourgeoisie bread_; and the _chaland_
or _customer's bread_, which last was a general name given to all
descriptions which were sent daily from the neighbouring villages to the
capital. Amongst the best known varieties we will only mention the
_Corbeil bread_, the _dog bread_, the _bread of two colours_, which last
was composed of alternate layers of wheat and rye, and was used by persons
of small means; there was also the _Gonesse bread_, which has maintained
its reputation to this day.

The "table loaves," which in the provinces were served at the tables of
the rich, were of such a convenient size that one of them would suffice
for a man of ordinary appetite, even after the crust was cut off, which it
was considered polite to offer to the ladies, who soaked it in their soup.
For the servants an inferior bread was baked, called "common bread."

In many counties they sprinkled the bread, before putting it into the
oven, with powdered linseed, a custom which still exists. They usually
added salt to the flour, excepting in certain localities, especially in
Paris, where, on account of its price, they only mixed it with the
expensive qualities.

The wheats which were long most esteemed for baking purposes, were those
of Brie, Champagne, and Bassigny; while those of the Dauphine were held of
little value, because they were said to contain so many tares and
worthless grains, that the bread made from them produced headache and
other ailments.

An ancient chronicle of the time of Charlemagne makes mention of a bread
twice baked, or biscuit. This bread was very hard, and easier to keep than
any other description. It was also used, as now, for provisioning ships,
or towns threatened with a siege, as well as in religious houses. At a
later period, delicate biscuits were made of a sort of dry and crumbling
pastry which retained the original name. As early as the sixteenth
century, Rheims had earned a great renown for these articles of food.

Bread made with barley, oats, or millet was always ranked as coarse food,
to which the poor only had recourse in years of want (Fig. 78). Barley
bread was, besides, used as a kind of punishment, and monks who had
committed any serious offence against discipline were condemned to live on
it for a certain period.

Rye bread was held of very little value, although in certain provinces,
such as Lyonnais, Forez, and Auvergne, it was very generally used among
the country people, and contributed, says Bruyerin Champier in his
treatise "De re Cibaria," to "preserve beauty and freshness amongst
women." At a later period, the doctors of Paris frequently ordered the use
of bread made half of wheat and half of rye as a means "of preserving the
health." Black wheat, or buck wheat, which was introduced into Europe by
the Moors and Saracens when they conquered Spain, quickly spread to the
northern provinces, especially to Flanders, where, by its easy culture and
almost certain yield, it averted much suffering from the inhabitants, who
were continually being threatened with famine.

It was only later that maize, or Turkey wheat, was cultivated in the
south, and that rice came into use; but these two kinds of grain, both
equally useless for bread, were employed the one for fattening poultry,
and the other for making cakes, which, however, were little appreciated.

[Illustration: Fig. 78.--Cultivation of Grain in use amongst the Peasants,
and the Manufacture of Barley and Oat Bread.--Fac-simile of a Woodcut in
an edition of Virgil published at Lyons in 1517.]

Vegetables and Plants Used in Cooking.--From the most ancient historical
documents we find that at the very earliest period of the French monarchy,
fresh and dried vegetables were the ordinary food of the population. Pliny
and Columella attribute a Gallic origin to certain roots, and among them
onions and parsnips, which the Romans cultivated in their gardens for use
at their tables.

It is evident, however, that vegetables were never considered as being
capable of forming solid nutriment, since they were almost exclusively
used by monastic communities when under vows of extreme abstinence.

A statute of Charlemagne, in which the useful plants which the emperor
desired should be cultivated in his domains are detailed, shows us that at
that period the greater part of our cooking vegetables were in use, for we
find mentioned in it, fennel, garlic, parsley, shallot, onions,
watercress, endive, lettuce, beetroot, cabbage, leeks, carrots,
artichokes; besides long-beans, broad-beans, peas or Italian vetches, and

In the thirteenth century, the plants fit for cooking went under the
general appellation of _aigrun_, and amongst them, at a later date, were
ranked oranges, lemons, and other acid fruits. St. Louis added to this
category even fruits with hard rinds, such as walnuts, filberts, and
chestnuts; and when the guild of the fruiterers of Paris received its
statutes in 1608, they were still called "vendors of fruits and _aigrun_."

The vegetables and cooking-plants noticed in the "Menagier de Paris,"
which dates from the fourteenth century, and in the treatise "De
Obsoniis," of Platina (the name adopted by the Italian Bartholomew
Sacchi), which dates from the fifteenth century, do not lead us to suppose
that alimentary horticulture had made much progress since the time of
Charlemagne. Moreover, we are astonished to find the thistle placed
amongst choice dishes; though it cannot be the common thistle that is
meant, but probably this somewhat general appellation refers to the
vegetable-marrow, which is still found on the tables of the higher
classes, or perhaps the artichoke, which we know to be only a kind of
thistle developed by cultivation, and which at that period had been
recently imported.

About the same date melons begin to appear; but the management of this
vegetable fruit was not much known. It was so imperfectly cultivated in
the northern provinces, that, in the middle of the sixteenth century,
Bruyerin Champier speaks of the Languedocians as alone knowing how to
produce excellent _sucrins_--"thus called," say both Charles Estienne and
Liebault in the "Maison Rustique," "because gardeners watered them with
honeyed or sweetened water." The water-melons have never been cultivated
but in the south.

Cabbages, the alimentary reputation of which dates from the remotest
times, were already of several kinds, most of which have descended to us;
amongst them may be mentioned the apple-headed, the Roman, the white, the
common white head, the Easter cabbage, &c.; but the one held in the
highest estimation was the famous cabbage of Senlis, whose leaves, says an
ancient author, when opened, exhaled a smell more agreeable than musk or
amber. This species no doubt fell into disuse when the plan of employing
aromatic herbs in cooking, which was so much in repute by our ancestors,
was abandoned.

[Illustration: Fig. 79.--Coat-of-arms of the Grain-measurers of Ghent, on
their Ceremonial Banner, dated 1568.]

By a strange coincidence, at the same period as marjoram, carraway seed,
sweet basil, coriander, lavender, and rosemary were used to add their
pungent flavour to sauces and hashes, on the same tables might be found
herbs of the coldest and most insipid kinds, such as mallows, some kinds
of mosses, &c.

Cucumber, though rather in request, was supposed to be an unwholesome
vegetable, because it was said that the inhabitants of Forez, who ate much
of it, were subject to periodical fevers, which might really have been
caused by noxious emanation from the ponds with which that country
abounded. Lentils, now considered so wholesome, were also long looked upon
as a doubtful vegetable; according to Liebault, they were difficult to
digest and otherwise injurious; they inflamed the inside, affected the
sight, and brought on the nightmare, &c. On the other hand, small fresh
beans, especially those sold at Landit fair, were used in the most
delicate repasts; peas passed as a royal dish in the sixteenth century,
when the custom was to eat them with salt pork.

Turnips were also most esteemed by the Parisians. "This vegetable is to
them," says Charles Estienne, "what large radishes are to the Limousins."
The best were supposed to come from Maisons, Vaugirard, and Aubervilliers.
Lastly, there were four kinds of lettuces grown in France, according to
Liebault, in 1574: the small, the common, the curled, and the Roman: the
seed of the last-named was sent to France by Francois Rabelais when he was
in Rome with Cardinal du Bellay in 1537; and the salad made from it
consequently received the name of Roman salad, which it has ever since
retained. In fact, our ancestors much appreciated salads, for there was
not a banquet without at least three or four different kinds.

Fruits.--Western Europe was originally very poor in fruits, and it only
improved by foreign importations, mostly from Asia by the Romans. The
apricot came from Armenia, the pistachio-nuts and plums from Syria, the
peach and nut from Persia, the cherry from Cerasus, the lemon from Media,
the filbert from the Hellespont, and chestnuts from Castana, a town of
Magnesia. We are also indebted to Asia for almonds; the pomegranate,
according to some, came from Africa, to others from Cyprus; the quince
from Cydon in Crete; the olive, fig, pear, and apple, from Greece.

The statutes of Charlemagne show us that almost all these fruits were
reared in his gardens, and that some of them were of several kinds or

A considerable period, however, elapsed before the finest and more
luscious productions of the garden became as it were almost forced on
nature by artificial means. Thus in the sixteenth century we find
Rabelais, Charles Estienne, and La Framboisiere, physician to Henry IV.,
praising the Corbeil peach, which was only an inferior and almost wild
sort, and describing it as having "_dry_ and _solid_ flesh, not adhering
to the stone." The culture of this fruit, which was not larger than a
damask plum, had then, according to Champier, only just been introduced
into France. It must be remarked here that Jacques Coythier, physician to
Louis XI., in order to curry favour with his master, who was very fond of
new fruits, took as his crest an apricot-tree, from which he was jokingly
called Abri-Coythier.

[Illustration: Fig. 80.--Cultivation of Fruit, from a Miniature of the
"Proprietaire de Choses" (Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, in the
Library of the Arsenal of Paris).]

It must be owned that great progress has been made in the culture of the
plum, the pear, and the apple. Champier says that the best plums are the
_royale_, the _perdrigon_, and the _damas_ of Tours; Olivier de Serres
mentions eighteen kinds--amongst which, however, we do not find the
celebrated Reine Claude (greengage), which owes its name to the daughter
of Louis XII., first wife of Francis I.

Of pears, the most esteemed in the thirteenth century were the
_hastiveau_, which was an early sort, and no doubt the golden pear now
called St. Jean, the _caillou_ or _chaillou_, a hard pear, which came from
Cailloux in Burgundy and _l'angoisse_ (agony), so called on account of its
bitterness--which, however, totally disappeared in cooking. In the
sixteenth century the palm is given to the _cuisse dame_, or _madame_; the
_bon chretien_, brought, it is said, by St. Francois de Paule to Louis
XI.; the _bergamote_, which came from Bergamo, in Lombardy; the
_tant-bonne_, so named from its aroma; and the _caillou rosat_, our
rosewater pear.

Amongst apples, the _blandureau_ (hard white) of Auvergne, the _rouveau_,


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