Born: Jean Baptiste Rousscau, French poet, 1669, Paris; James Mill, historian and political economist, 1773
Died: Richard I (Coeur-de-Lion), King of England, 1199, Foutevrand; Laura de Noves, the subject of Petrarch's amatory poetry, 1348, Aviguon; Sauzio Raffaelle, painter, 1520; Albert Mixer, artist, 1528, Nurenberg; Sir Francis Walsingham, statesman, 1590, London; David Blonde, French historical writer, 1655, Amsterdam; Dr. Richard Busby, teacher, 1695, Westminster; William Mehnotb, the elder, author of The Great importance of a Religions Life, 1713, Lincoln's Inn, London; Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador at Naples (work on Vesusius), 1803.
Feast Day: St. Sixtus, pope, martyr, 2nd century. Hundred and twenty martyrs of Hadiab in Persia, 345. St. Celestine, pone, 432. St. Prudentius, bishop of Troyes, 861. St. Colsus, archbishop of Armagh, 1129. St. William, abbot of Eskille, confessor, 1203.
The outlines of the history of Richard I are tolerably well known to all readers. After a very turbulent youth during the reign of his father, Henry II, Richard succeeded to the throne of England on the 6th of July 1189, though he was only crowned on Sunday, the 3rd of September following, when his reign is considered as beginning. On the 11th of December he started for the Holy land, and spent nearly two years on the way, engaged in a variety of adventures in the Mediterranean. At length he joined the King of France in Syria, and they took the city of Acre on the 12th of July 1192; but the two kings soon quarrelled, and Philip returned home, while Richard remained, performing marvellous exploits against the Saracens, until the latter end of September, when the King of' England made a truce with Saladin, and embarked on his return to his own dominions. He was wrecked near Aquilcia, and fell into the hands of his enemy, the Duke of Austria, who sent him prisoner to the Emperor; and the latter, as we all know, kept him in close confinement until the beginning of February 1191, when Richard's subjects paid an immense ransom for his release. The remainder of his reign was occupied chiefly in profitless wars with France; and at last, on the 6th of April 1199, this brilliant hero perished in a paltry squabble with a continental feudatory, who, having found a treasure in his own lands, refused to give more than half of it to his suzerain, who claimed the whole.
Richard Coeur-de-Lion had spent no more than a few months in his own kingdom, and he had never been anything but a burthen to his subjects; yet, for some cause or other, perhaps partly from comparison with his still more worthless brother John, the strange brilliance of his exploits, and particularly his efforts to wrest the Holy Land from the infidels, his tyranny and vices have been thrown into oblivion, and he takes the place of an imaginary hero rather than of an ordinary king. He furnishes us with the example of a king whose whole history actually became a romance within half a century after his death.
The romance of Richard Coeur-de-Lion is supposed to have been composed in French, or Anglo-Norman, towards the middle of the thirteenth century, and a version of it in English verse was composed about the end of the same century, or at the beginning of the fourteenth. From this time we frequently find, even in the sober chroniclers, the incidents of the romance confounded with those of history.
This romance furnishes us with a curious instance of the case with which history becomes perverted in popular tradition. Richard is here a mythic personage, even supernatural by his mother's side; for his father, King Henry, is represented as marrying a sort of elf-woman, daughter of the King of Antioch (of course an infidel prince), by whom he has three children, named Richard, John, and Topias, the latter a daughter. As was usual with such beings, the lady was unable to remain at the performance of Christian worship; and one day, when she was obliged to be present at the sacrament, she fled away through the roof of the church, taking with her youngest son and her daughter, but John was dropped, and broke his thigh by the fall. Richard, the eldest son, was no sooner crowned, than he proclaimed a tournament, where he jousted with his knights in three disguises, in order to discover who was the most worthy, and he selected two, named Sir Thomas Multon and Sir Fulk Doyly, as his companions, and engaged them to go with him in the guise of palmers to see the Holy Land, preparatory to his intended crusade. After wandering through the principal countries of the East, they returned overland, still in their disguise, and one day, on. their way, they put up at a tavern, and cooked themselves a goose for their dinner.
When they had dined, and 'had well drunken,' which appears to have been their habit, a minstrel presented himself, and offered them minstrelsy. Richard, as we know, was himself a poet and loved minstrelsy; but on this occasion, perhaps through the effect of the drinking, the king treated the minstrel with rudeness, and turned him away. The latter was an Englishman, and knew King Richard and his two knights, and, in revenge, he went to the King of Almayn (Germany), who is here named Modard, and informed him who the three strangers were. Modard immediately seized them, and threw them into a loathsome prison. The son of the King of Almayn, who was an insolent fellow, and thought himself the strongest man in the world, insulted the King of England, and challenged him to fight with fists, and Richard struck him down dead with the first blow.
The king, enraged at the loss of his son and the heir to his kingdom, condemned his prisoner to be put to death, but Richard was saved by the king's daughter, the Princess Margery, with whom he formed an illicit intercourse. King Modard discovered by accident the disgrace done to him in the person of his daughter, and was more firm than ever in his resolution to put the King of England to death; and a powerful and ferocious lion which the king possessed was chosen as the executioner, was kept three days and nights without food to render him more savage, and was then turned into the chamber where Richard was confined. Richard fearlessly encountered the lion, thrust his arm down his throat, tore out his heart, and killed him on the spot. Not content with this exploit, he took the lion's heart into the hall where King Modard and his courtiers were seated at table, and dipping it in salt, ate it raw, 'without bread!' Modard, in astonishment, gave him the nickname of Richard Coeur-de-Lion, or Richard Lion's-heart:
I' wis, as I undyrstande can,
This is a devyl, and no man,
That has my stronge lyoun slawe,
The harte out of hys body drawe,
And has it eeten with good wylle!
He may be callyd, be ryght skylle,
King icrystenyd off most renoun,
Stronge Rychard Coer-de-Lyoun.
Modard now voluntarily allows Richard to be ransomed, and the latter returns to England, where he immediately prepares for the crusade, which occupies the greater part of the romance, in the course of which Richard not only kills innumerable Saracens with his own hand, but he cooks, eats, and relishes them.
Such is a very brief outline of the earlier part of the romantic history of Richard Coeur-de-Lion, which was extremely popular through the middle ages of England, and exercised a wide influence on the popular notions of history.
We know well that Richard's nickname, if we may so call it, of Coeur-de-Lion, was intended merely to express his characteristic bravery, and that it meant simply the Lion-hearted; but the old legendary explanation continued to be received even as late as the time of Shakspeare, and still more recently. In the second act of King John, the dauphin Louis speaks of 'Richard, that robb'd the lion of his heart; and the bastard Faulconbridge describes King Richard as one:
Against whose fury and unmatched force
The aweless lion could not wage the fight,
Nor keep his princely heart from Richard's hand.
He that perforce robs lions of their hearts
May easily win a woman's.
But perhaps of all the romantic incidents of Richard's life, the one which has remained most strongly impressed upon people's minds, is that of the discovery of his place of confinement by his favourite minstrel Blondel. The story has been very differently told, and has been altogether discredited by some, while other historians have looked upon it as authentic. We are enabled to give, from a manuscript of the thirteenth century, in the British Museum (MSS. Addit. No. 7103), the earliest version of this story which has yet been published. We trans-late from the old French:
'We will now,' this narrative proceeds, 'go on to tell you more of King Richard, whom the Duke of Austria held in his prison; and nobody knew what had become of him, except the duke and his counsellors. Now it happened that the king had bred up from his childhood a minstrel, who was named Blondel; and it came into his mind that he would seek his lord through all lands until he obtained intelligence of him. Accordingly, he went on his way, and wandered so long through strange countries that he had employed full a year and a-half, and still could obtain no satisfactory news of the king. And he continued his search so long that, as chance would have it, he entered Austria, and went straight to the castle where the king was in prison, and he took his lodgings at the house of a widow woman. And he asked her whose castle that was, which was so strong and fair, and well-placed. His hostess replied that it belonged to the Duke of Austria.
'Ah! fair hostess,' said Blondel, 'tell me now, for love, is there no prisoner within this castle?'
'Truly,' said the good dame, 'yes, there has been one this four years, but we cannot by any means know who he is. And I can tell you for truth that they keep him close and watchfully; and we firmly believe that he is of gentle blood and a great lord.'
And when the good Blondel heard these words, he was marvellously glad; and it seemed to him in his heart that he had found what he sought; but he was careful not to let his hostess perceive his joy. That night he was much at his ease, and slept till day; and when he heard the watch proclaim the day with his horn, he rose and went straight to the church to pray God' to help him. And then he return the castle, and addressed himself to the castellan within, and told him that he was a minstrel, and would very gladly stay with him if he would.
The castellan was a young and joyous knight, and said that he would retain him willingly. Then was Blondel very joyful, and went and fetched his viol and his instruments, and served the castellan so long that he was a great favourite with him, and was much in favour in the castle and household. Thus he remained at the castle all the winter, but without getting to know who the prisoner was.
And it happened that he went one day at Easter all alone in the garden which was near the tower, and looked about, and thought if by any accident he might see the prison. And while he was in this thought, the king looked through a loophole, and saw Blondel, who had been his minstrel, and considered how he should make himself known to him. And he bethought himself of a song which they had made between them two, and which nobody in that country knew except them, and he began to sing the first verse loud and clear, for he sang right well. And when Blondel heard it, he then knew for certain that it was his lord; and he had in his heart the greatest joy that ever he had in his life. And immediately he left the garden, and went to his chamber where he lay, and took his viol and began to play a note; and in playing he rejoiced for his lord whom he had found.
Thus Blondel remained from that time till Pentecost, and kept his secret so well that nobody suspected him. And then came Blondel to the castellan and said to him: 'For God's sake! dear sir, if it pleased you, I would willingly return to my country, for it is a long time since I have had any intelligence thence.'
'Blondel, dear brother, that you will not do, if you will believe me; but, continue to dwell here, and I will do you much good.'
'In faith,' said Blondel, 'I will remain on no terms.'
When the castellan saw that he could not retain him, he gave him leave with great reluctance. So Blondel went his way, and journeyed till he came to England, and told King Richard's friends and barons that he had found his lord the king, and told them where he was.'
Richard was slain by a quarrel from a cross-bow, shot by Bertram de Gordon from the castle of Chalun, in Aquitaine, which the king was besieging in order to put down a rebellion. He was buried at Fontevrault, at his father's feet, whom he confessed he had betrayed. His heart was buried in Rouen, in testimony of the love he had ever borne unto that city, for the stedfast love he always found in the citizens thereof, and his bowels at the foresaid Chalun.'-Stow.
The visitor of the cathedral of Rouen sees a recumbent full-length statue of the lion-hearted King. An English gentleman informs us, in the work quoted below, that, on his visiting the Museum of Antiquities at Rouen, in 1857, he 'observed a small portion of dust, having a label attached, marking it to be the dust of the heart of Richard Ceur-de-Lion from the cathedral.'
That lion heart now transformed into 'a little dust,' exposed in a paper with a label, in a Museum, for the gratification of the curious!
The case; however; is not unexampled. In the last century, a stone coffin was dug up in front of the mansion-house of Eccles, in Berwickshire. 'As it had been buried above two hundred years, every part of the body was reduced to ashes. As the inside of the stone was pretty smooth, and the whole portrait of the person visible (though in ashes), Sir John Paterson had the curiosity to collect the whole, and (wonderful to tell!) it did not exceed in weight one ounce and a-half.'
LAURA DE NOVES
This far-famed woman was long held to be nothing more than an imaginary personage, satisfactory information established the facts of her actual history. The angel upon earth, clothed in ideal grace, and only fit to live in the seventh heaven, of whom we catch such bright glimpses in Petrarch's poems, was imaginary enough; but there was a Laura of real flesh and blood.
When Petrarch first saw her he was twenty-two, and she not yet twenty, though already married; and from that minute to her death, upwards of twenty years after, he bestowed on her a poet's devotion, making her the theme of that wonderful series of sonnets which constitutes the bulk of his poetical writings; raving of her beauty, her gentleness, her many admirable qualities, and yet so controlled by her prudence that the history of Laura de Noves is as pure as it is interesting.
It fully appears that her life could not have been one of the happiest. Though it must have bred a proud delight to be the subject of such verse and the talk of all Italy, the relation was one full to her of embarrassment, and most probably even sorrow. The sonnets of Petrarch added jealousy to her lord's natural moroseness; and even without any such pretext, there is little ground for thinking that he cared much for her. For when, after a life entirely faithful to her marriage vow, as there is every reason to believe, after putting up with his unkindness more than twenty years, and bearing him ten children, she died of the plague, this husband married again within seven months of her death.
In his manuscript copy of Virgil-a valuable relic, afterwards removed from Italy by the French -Petrarch is discovered to have made the following marginal note:
The sainted Laura, illustrious for her virtues, and for a long time celebrated in my verses, was first seen of me in my early youth on the 6th of April 1327, in the church of St. Clara, at Avignon, at the first hour of the day; and in the same city, in the same month of April, ou the same sixth day, and at the same hour, in the year 1348, this light disappeared from our day, when I was then by chance at Verona, ignorant, alas! of my calamity. The sad news reached me at Parma, by letter from my friend Ludovico, on the morning of the 19th of May. This most chaste and beautiful lady was buried on the same day of her death, after vespers, in the church of the Cordeliers. Her soul, as Seneca says of Africanus, returned, I feel most assured, to heaven, whence it came. These words, in bitter remembrance of the event, it seemed good to me to write, with a sort of melancholy pleasure, in this place ' (that is, in the Virgil) 'especially, which often comes under my eyes, that nothing hereafter in this life may seem to me desirable, and that I may be warned by continual sight of these words and remembrance of so swiftly-fleeting life,-by this strongest cord broken,-that it is time to flee from Babylon, which, God's grace preventing, will be easy to me, when I think boldly and manfully of the fruitless cares of the past, the vain hopes, and unexpected events.
Petrarch contrived to survive the loss of Laura twenty-six years; yet his was a strange passion. It is hard to decide how much he really feels, ordoes not feel, in his enamoured laments. A poet will write according to the habit of his time; and the fact that Petrarch has clothed his sorrows in a fanciful garb of cold conceit and whimsical expression, does not disprove the existence of real feeling underlying them. Although it may have been kept alive by artificial means; though there may have been pleasure mixed with the bitterness-the pleasure of making verses, of winning fame-there must have been a solid substratum of real passion for this one theme to have en-grossed a long life. We may quote a fragment of Petrarch's correspondence as an interesting comment on these remarks: 'You are befooling us all,' writes the bishop of Lombes from Rome to Avignon, where Laura resided, and from whence, now nine years after his first meeting with her, the poet still continued to pour forth his sonnets, and it is wonderful that at so tender age' (his age was thirty-one) 'you can deceive the world with so much art and success.. .. Your Laura is a phantom created by your imagination for the exercise of your poetry. Your verse, your love, your sighs, are all a fiction; or, if there is anything real in your passion, it is not for the lady Laura, but for the laurel, that is, the crown of poets.' To which Petrarch answers: As to Laura, would to heaven she were only an imaginary personage, and my passion for her only a pastime! Alas! it is a madness, which it would be difficult and painful to feign for any length of time, and what an extravagance it would be to affect such a passion! .. . How often have you yourself been witness of my paleness and sufferings. I know very well that you speak only in irony '
The reader must believe this passion real, however reluctantly. Perhaps he would like a specimen of the poems themselves.
First, a piece of absurd conceit, written when Laura was in danger of death, a specimen of the worst:
How Laura, if she dies, will certainly
enjoy an exalted position in Heaven.
This lovely spirit, if ordained to leave
Its mortal tenement before its time,
Heaven's fairest habitation shall receive,
And welcome her to breathe its sweetest clinic.
If she establish her abode between
Mars and the planet-star of beauty's queen,
The sun will be obscured, so dense a cloud
Of spirits from adjacent stars will crowd
To gaze upon her beauty infinite.
Say that she fixes on a lower sphere,
Beneath the glorious sun, her beauty soon
Will dim the splendour of inferior stars-
Of Mars, of Venus, Mercury, and the Moon.
She'll choose not Mars, but higher place than Mars;
She will eclipse all planetary light,
And Jupiter himself will seem less bright.
Now a specimen extremely beautiful, of the best:
Depicts the heavenly beauty of his lady, and vows
to love her always.
Time was, her tresses, by the breathing air,
Were wreathed to many a ringlet golden bright.
Time was, her eyes diffused unmeasured light,
Tho' now their lovely beams are waxing rare;
Her face methought that In its beauty showed
Compassion, her angelic shape and walk,
Her voice that seemed with heaven's own speech to talk.
At these, what wonder that my bosom glowed!
A living sun she seemed -a spirit of heaven!
Those charms decline; but does my passion? no!
I love not less-the slackening of the bow
Assuages not the wound its shaft has given.
The above are Thomas Campbell's translations.
ADVENTURES OF TIE KOH-I-NOOR
Large diamonds, like first-class pictures, have a European reputation, because they are few in number, are not susceptible of reproduction, are everywhere prized, and can only be bought by the wealthy. Only six very large diamonds (called paragons) are known in the world. The standard here in view is a minimum weight of one hundred carats (a carat being about 3 1/3 Troy grains, or 100 carats equal to 2/3rds of a Troy ounce).
The 'Koh-i-noor,' in its present perfected state, weighs 102 carats; the 'Star of the South,' 125; the Regent, or Pitt diamond, 137; the great Austrian diamond, 139; the Orloff, or great Russian diamond, 193; while the largest known. in possession of the Rajah of Maltan, in Borneo, weighs 367 carats, but this in the uncut state.
A romantic history is attached to every one of these jewels, owing chiefly to the eagerness of wealthy persons to gain possession of them. The Rajah of Maltan, it is said, was once offered by the Governor of Batavia a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, two large warbrigs, and a complete store of guns and ammunition, for his diamond; but he refused the offer. A portion of this eagerness is attributable to a belief on the part of Orientals in certain mystical and medical properties in the diamond.
The Koh-i-noor, which left India on the 6th of April 1850, to pass into the hands of Queen Victoria, has had an especially notable history. It was found in the mines of Golconda. How many ages this was ago no one can tell; but the Hindoos, who are fond of high numbers, say that it belonged to Kama, King of Anga, three thousand years ago. Viewed within more modest limits, the diamond is said to have been stolen from one of the Kings of Golconda by a treacherous general named Mininzola, and by him presented to the Great Mogul, Shall Jehan, father of Aurungzebe, about the year 1610. It was then in a rough uncut state, very much larger than at present. Shah Jehan employed a Venetian diamond-worker, Hortensio Borgis, to cut it, in order to develop its brilliancy: this was done so badly that more than half of the gem was cut away, and the rest very imperfectly treated.
The Mogul, in a rage, fined the jeweller ten thousand ducats, instead of paying him for his misdirected labours. When Tavernier, the French traveller, was in India, about two hundred years ago, he saw the Koh-i-noor, and told of the intense wonderment and admiration with which it was regarded in that country. After his time, the treasure changed hands frequently among the princes of India, generally by means either of fraud or violence; but it is not worth while to trace the particulars. Early in the present century the possessor was the Khan of Cabul. From him it was obtained in an audacious way by the famous chief of Lahore, Runjeet Singh:
'Having heard that the Kan of Cabul possessed a diamond that had belonged to the Great Mogul, The largest and purest known, he invited the unfortunate owner to his court, and there, having him in his power, demanded the diamond. The guest, however, had provided himself against such a contingency, with a perfect imitation of the coveted jewel. After some show of resistance, he reluctantly acceded to the wishes of his powerful host. The delight of Runjeet was extreme, but of short duration: the lapidary to whom he gave orders to mount his new acquisition pronouncing it to be merely a bit of crystal. The mortification and rage of the despot were unbounded. He immediately ordered the palace of the Khan to be invested, and ransacked from top to bottom. For a long while, all search was vain. At last a slave betrayed the secret; the diamond was found concealed beneath a heap of ashes. Runjeet Singh had it set in an armlet, between two diamonds, each the size of a sparrow's egg.'
When the Hon. W. G. Osborne was at Lahore some years afterwards, and visited the great Sikh potentate, 'the whole space behind the throne was crowded with Runject's chiefs, mingled with natives from Candahar, Cabul, and Afghanistan, blazing with gold and jewels, and dressed and armed with every conceivable variety of colour and fashion. Cross-legged in a golden chair sat Runjeet Singh, dressed in simple white, wearing no ornaments but a single string of enormous pearls round the waist, and the celebrated Koh-i-noor, or 'Mountain of Light,' upon his arm.' Sometimes, in a fit of Oriental display, Runjeet decked his horse with the Koh-i-noor, among other jewels.
After his death, the precious gem passed into the hands of his successors on the throne of Lahore; and when the Punjaub was conquered by the English in 1850, the Kohi-noor was included among the spoil. Colonel Mackesan and Captain Ramsay brought it to England in the Medea, as a present from the East India Company to the Queen.
The Koh-i-noor, when examined by European diamond merchants, was pronounced to be badly cut; and the Court jeweller employed Messrs. Coster, of Amsterdam, to recut it-a work that occupied the labours of thirty-eight days, of twelve hours each. This is not really cutting, it is grinding; the gem being applied to the surface of a flat iron plate, moistened with oil and diamond powder, and rotating with great velocity, in such a way as to produce new reflecting facets. The late Duke of Wellington gave the first touch to this work, as a sort of honorary amateur diamond-cutter. The world-renowned gem has since been regarded as far more dazzling and beautiful than at any former time in its history.