Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Jacquerie
John II (The Good) [1350-1364]

The French King and his youngest son were taken prisoner to England, and the Dauphin Charles became Regent of France. He was only nineteen, and although he was clever he had as yet no knowledge of how to rule. Indeed the misery of the land was such that it would have needed a very wise man to bring it to peace and content. As it was, the country drifted toward civil war. It was a war between Prince and nobles on one side, and commons on the other.

The Dauphin had no money, and in order to get some he called the States-General together. Very many came, especially of the commons. They soon showed that they meant to have a real share in the ruling of the country. They formed themselves into a sort of league, choosing red and blue for their colors. This soon showed how powerful the commoners had become, for red and blue caps were to be seen all over Paris. Knowing their strength they refused to let the Prince have money until he had granted them certain privileges in return.

The Dauphin was helpless, and he granted all they asked. But secretly he sent to his father begging him to refuse his consent. This King John did. Although a captive he believed that he had nothing to do but send an order to his people to have it obeyed. He was mistaken. It was a signal for war.

The leader of the commons was a Paris merchant named Stephen Marcel. He was provost of the city, an office somewhat like that of the Lord Mayor of London.

Marcel and his followers decided that the Prince's counsellors gave him bad advice, and that these evil counsellors must be removed. So in a great company, all wearing hoods, half blue and half red, they set out for the palace.

On the way they met one of the Prince's advisers whom they believed to be one of their chief enemies. At the sight of the great crowd he was afraid, and took refuge in a baker's shop. But the angry citizens followed him there, and killed him without mercy. Leaving him dead they went on to the palace.

Right up to the Prince's chamber marched Marcel. Bitter words he spoke. As bitterly the Prince replied. Then suddenly Marcel put an end to the angry talk.

"My lord," he cried, "do not be alarmed at the thing that you shall see, for so it must be." Then turning to his followers, "Do quickly what you have come to do," he added.

Immediately those about him drew their swords, and seizing upon two of the Dauphin's friends killed them on the spot. So near were they to the Prince that his robes were bespattered with their blood.

At the sight all the gentlemen about the Dauphin fled. Thus left alone he was in much fear lest he too should be killed.

"Sire," said Marcel, seeing his fear, "you are in no danger." But he took off his red and blue hood and gave it to the Prince. For he knew that any one who wore the red and blue hood was safe from peril, for it was the badge of their party. Upon his own head he placed the Prince's cap of black velvet fringed with gold. The bodies of the two slain nobles were then dragged out into the courtyard, and there they lay all day as a warning to the nobles, no man daring to touch them till night fell. Marcel meanwhile went to the town hall, and there spoke to the people.

"What is done," he said, "is done for the good of the realm. For those who are slain were false and wicked traitors."

"We acknowledge the deed, and will support it," cried the merchants and work-people who had gathered to listen to him.

Marcel was now master of Paris. But he did not know how to use his power. He allowed the Dauphin to leave the city and go to Champagne. There many nobles gathered round him ready to fight the rebel merchants of Paris.

But while the merchants and the nobles were making ready to fight each other, war burst forth from another quarter. The peasants rose in rebellion. This rebellion was called the Jacquerie, from Jacques Bonhomme, or James Goodfellow, which is the name given to French peasants, just as John Bull is given to Englishmen.

All through the terrible wars which had made France a desert it was the peasant who had suffered most. And no one cared. They were there to be made use of, to bear burdens. "Jacques Bonhomrae," it was said, "has a broad back. He can stand anything."

But Jacques Bonhomme had been tried too far, and now he brok out into wild and terrible rebellion. Suddenly one day peasants armed with scythes, pruning hooks and heavy sticks rushed to the castle of Beauvais. They killed the lord and lady and all their children in the most cruel manner. Then they plundered and wrecked the castle.

A second and a third castle were treated in the same way. The peasants were crazy with long suffering, mad with hopeless misery, and thirsting for revenge. Now in their madness they had no mercy. They killed their victims in the most cruel ways, sparing neither women nor children. Often enough had their wives and little ones suffered, now it was the turn of the fine ladies with their spoilt lordlings. Often enough had their cottages gone up in flames, now it was the turn of the castles.

Like wildfire the revolt spread. And wherever the maddened peasants passed they left a track of blood and ashes behind. Never was there insurrection more terrible and savage.

Even if he would Marcel could do nothing to stop the fearful slaughter, for he himself was hard pressed by the Dauphin and the nobles. So he helped and encouraged the peasants, for he thought they were working for him in slaying the nobles.

But at length the mad career of the Jacques was stopped. Before the town of Meaux they were utterly defeated by a small army of nobles. Seven thousand were slain, and when the soldiers grew tired of slaughter they drove the wretched peasants into the river, where thousands of them were drowned.

After this terrible defeat the rebellion fell to pieces at once. The peasants were cowed, and the nobles took an awful revenge. They hanged and burned and hunted the unfortunate rioters like wild beasts. "The nobles of France," says a writer of the time, "did in those days such evil that there was no need for the English to come to destroy the country. In truth those deadly enemies of the realm could not have done what was done by the nobles at home."