Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

We must now refer to the younger sister of the Countess Jane, Margaret, whom her father had left under the guardianship of her uncle, Philip, Count of Namur, and of Bouchard d' Avênes.

When Margaret grew up, Bouchard was still in the prime of life, and was handsome, graceful, and accomplished; he had conciliated the Countess Jane by his political services; he had won the heart of her sister by his personal advantages, and by his abilities he had gained the respect of the people. Encouraged by his popularity, by the favours of the Countess, and by his own noble birth, he asked, and obtained, the hand of Margaret in marriage. They had two sons, John d' Avênes and Baldwin. In some time after the birth of these children, (and before the appearance of the ill-fated stranger) the Countess Jane discovered that Bouchard had formerly been educated for the priesthood, had received the tonsure, and had been Archdeacon of Orleans, but on coming into Flanders he had concealed these facts, and had consequently married without obtaining the necessary dispensation from his vows of celibacy. Jane was incensed at the insult offered by Bouchard to an illustrious house by contracting an informal marriage with one of its daughters, and her wounded pride inspired her with a deadly hatred of her brother-in-law. Instead of using her interest to procure a dispensation for him from Rome, and a ratification of her sister's marriage, she exerted herself to ruin him, and to separate him from his wife for ever. She took measures to arrest him; but he avoided her snares, and hastened to Rome, to seek from the Pope absolution for his fault, and the confirmation of his marriage. The Pope refused the boons, pronounced him divorced, and enjoined him, as a penance, and under pain of excommunication, to repair to Palestine, there to fight against the Saracens during a certain number of years, and at the expiration of the period (if he survived) to retire to a monastery for life. Bouchard was obliged to submit, and proceeded to the Holy Land; where he performed many gallant exploits in battle, seeking every opportunity of distinguishing himself, in the hope that he might thus earn the indulgence of the Pontiff (who was especially interested in the Holy Wars), and might be permitted to rejoin his wife and family.

The time of his ordeal passed; covered with well merited laurels he returned to Europe bearing letters of the strongest recommendation from many leaders and nobles addressed to the

principal Cardinals, entreating their favour and interest for him. He reached Flanders in safety, and found means, despite the Countess Jane, to visit his wife and children. In this interview he felt so deeply the influence of the domestic affections, that he declared he would be torn to pieces before he would consent to relinguish them for a cloister. With renewed eagerness he set out for Rome, to urge his suit, and had the happiness to find the Pope propitiously disposed to him, for the sake of his military prowess. He at length obtained absolution, and the promise of a dispensation to confirm his marriage, and, full of hope and joy, he speeded back to Flanders.

But alas! for human hope and human joy! the Countess Jane was resolved that the half severed bonds between d' Avênes and his wife should never be re-united. She envenomed Margaret's feelings against him by exaggerating what she termed his treachery to a young and noble maiden, and inspired her with an abhorrence of her once beloved Bouchard, an abhorrence of such an unnatural description, that Margaret extended it even to her innocent children because they were his. In this perverted state of mind, she acquiesced in the designs of the Countess to destroy her husband. The latter, on his journey to Flanders, was seized by the myrmidons of Jane, and was seen no more. The mode of his death was never clearly ascertained; but it was generally believed that he was hanged in his dungeon by the order of his savage sister-inlaw, whose inhuman conduct was subsequently remembered to her prejudice on the execution of him who had asserted himself to be her father.

Margaret contracted a second alliance, taking for her husband a Burgundian named William de Dampierre, a knight of noble lineage. The offspring of this marriage consisted of three sons, William who died at an early age childless, though married; Guy, and John. The small share of regard she testified for any one was now wholly reserved for her second family; the blameless sons of the wretched Bouchard she spurned and ill-treated for the sake of their father. From a feeling of pity, Florent the Fourth, Count of Holland, took the eldest, John d'Avênes, and brought him up in a manner suitable to his birth; the younger son, Baldwin, less fortunate, remained within the shadow of his mother's frown.

In 1243 Margaret buried her second husband, and in the following year her sister, who dying childless was succeeded

by Margaret as Countess of Flanders and Hainault:* she associated her son, Guy de Dampierre, with her in the government, regardless of the claims of her elder children, the two d'Avênes. Her sway was still more tyrannical than that of her sister Jane, and was still more detested by the Flemings. She was so dark, stern, and unbending, so wholly without evidence of ordinary human feeling, that she was called by her subjects" The Black Lady". She chose to consider her children by Bouchard as illegitimate; and delighted in sowing dissension between them and the Dampierres. Her unnatural conduct brought many calamities upon her country; the jarring pretensions of her sons created factions, and fostered party feeling.

Some powerful interposition was necessary. In 1249 the Pope (Innocent III.) sent his Commissioners, the Bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne, and the Abbot of Leté, to enquire into the case of the d'Avênes. After long deliberations, these ecclesiastics decided, that although the marriage of Bouchard d'Avênes with Margaret of Flanders, was irregular for want of a dispensation, yet, as it had been solemnized with all the due rites of the Church, the children of that union were legitimate. This verdict gave position to the young men. The eldest, John D'Avênes, received from his patron, Florent, Count of Holland, the hand of his daughter Adelais (or Alix), and the King of France, Louis the IX (St. Louis,) decreed as Suzerain of Flanders, that John d'Avênes should succeed his mother as Count of Hainault; and that Flanders should be the heritage of Guy de Dampierre: a provision was also made for Baldwin d'Avênes.

In 1253, Guy and John de Dampierre attempted, at their mother's instigation, to wrest part of Zealand from the Count of Holland, whom she hated for his kindness to John d'Avênes. In a battle fought at West Kapellen, in Zealand, between the Dampierres on one side, and the Count of Holland andhis sonin-law on the other, the Flemings were defeated with an immense loss, and the two Dampierres were among the prisoners. John D'Avênes wrote to his mother, imploring her to listen to the long unheeded voice of nature, and to let the captivity of

On the death of the unfortunate Ferrand, Jane had married Thomas of Savoy (son of Thomas 1st, Count of Savoy) called Count of Flanders while his wife lived.

She is the subject of one of T. C. Grattan's "Legends of the Rhine," called the Curse of the Black Lady, in which her hatred of her first husband is ascribed (by the license of fiction) to jealousy.

her younger sons have a softening effect upon her heart. To his earnest and tender appeal she wrote in reply, "that he was welcome to be the hangman of his two brothers, and that he might, if he chose, boil the one, roast the other, and eat them both!" It seems incredible, yet it is gravely affirmed by a respectable historian, the continuator of Matthew Paris, that this atrocious language was used by a lady of high rank, a mother, Margaret, Countess of Flanders.

After existing as the bane of her family and her country, (which she involved in a war with England) the "black lady" died in 1279, and was succeeded (as arranged) in Flanders by Guy de Dampierre, and in Hainault, by John d'Avênes. The latter left four sons, of whom John, the eldest, succeeded his father; the other three devoted themselves to the priesthood; William became Bishop of Cambray, Bouchard, Bishop of Metz, and Guy, Bishop of Utrecht. It is to be remarked that Bouchard d'Avênes and his evil-minded wife Margaret, were direct ancestors of an amiable and beloved Queen of England, Philippa of Hainault (wife of Edward III), who was fourth in descent (through John d'Avênes and Adelais of Holland) from that unhappily wedded pair.*

The tragical story of Baldwin and his children surpasses in gloom even that of King Lear and his daughters: it is of the same dark cast as "the old tales of Thebes and Pelops' line," whose guilt and anguish the Ancients ascribed to the decrees of inexorable Nemesis. The dramatic material begins at Baldwin's defeat and fate; but Le Rousseau has unwisely "commenced at the commencement," at the preaching of the Crusade by Foulque de Neuilly; and all the details drag their" slow length along" through a period of twenty-six years: these are the transactions at Venice, the reigns of Isaac Angelus, Alexius, and Murzufle, the two sieges of Constantinople, the election of Baldwin, &c., &c., down to the execution of Bertrand de Rains, whom Le Rousseau, like ourselves, believes to have been Baldwin. It is a mere chronicle in dialogue, divided into five parts, we cannot call them acts when there is no acting; it is in prose, prosy; no striking point is made, no situation well wrought out; there is nothing

• The descent runs thus: John, eldest son of Bouchard and Margaret, was succeeded by his eldest son John, whose second son, William (heir on the death of his elder brother) was father of Queen Philippa.

of solemnity, energy, or pathos. It is impracticable (we should say) for the theatre: the spectator could not follow the thread of the narrative from scene to scene and from place to place, nor could he distinguish between all the personages, French, Flemish, Venetians, Greeks, and Bulgarians that encumber the stage. It is as difficult to be read as to be performed; the attention is worn out before the interest commences. Among the dramatis personæ we have the Countess Jane, who might have been made interesting by the tempest of conflicting feelings; but she is commonplace-the Queen of Bulgaria, without the fire that might have given force to the scene, she is tame enough, and embued with French sentimentality; and Mary of Champagne, the wife of Baldwin, appears, towards the conclusion, merely to rave in madness, and to recognize Baldwin when her testimony is unavailing. We have ook ed all through this so-called drama in search of one scene, one passage to transcribe, but we can find none that we could think the reader would care to see.

The "First French Emperor of Constantinople" has been unfortunate in France: Nepomucene Lemercier essayed a tragedy on the same subject, and the representation was attempted at two theatres in Paris, but it proved wholly unsuccessful. We have not seen or read it; but Le Rousseau speaks of it very disparagingly in the preface to his "Baldwin:" if Lemercier's drama be more effete than Le Rousseau's, it must, indeed, be a "Curiosity of Literature."

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »