« PreviousContinue »
a much more difficult enterprise, than the legate and the crusaders had expected. The city was strong, both from its situation, and from a double inclosure of walls; the population was pumerous, and well provided with arms and warlike machines ; they knew all the dangers to which their resistance exposed them; and the fate which awaited them if they should happen to fall. But they relied upon the goodness of their cause, and the protection of the emperor Frederic 11, to whom Louis hastened to write to justify his aggression;" and the love of liberty redoubled the bravery of its defenders. “They returned,” says Matthew Paris, “ stones for stones, arrows for arrows, beams for beams, spears for spears, they invented machines to destroy the effect of those of the besiegers, and they inflicted mortal wounds upon the French."4
Although the siege of Avignon lasted three months, we have no other account, than that contained in these few words, of the various battles which were fought around the walls of that city. We only know that they were very destructive to the army of the crusaders, and that the two podestats of Avignon, William Raymond, and Raymond de Rial, who took, at the same time, the title of bailiffs or representatives of the count of Toulouse, shewed themselves worthy of the con
3 Preuves à l'Hist. de Languedoc, No. 171, p. 310.
fidence of the people and the prince. The fall of the wooden bridge, at the time that the crusaders were crouded upon it, precipitated a great number into the river; many more were slain in the assaults, or by the sorties of the besiegers; but the greatest loss which the army of Louis experienced, was caused by disease and famine. Provisions, and especially forage, failed, in that burning climate, in the midst of summer, to the most numerous body of cavalry that had ever been assembled in France. Louis was obliged to send foraging parties to a great distance, but they almost all fell into the hands of Raymond VII, who, avoiding a battle, still hovered on the flanks of the besiegers. The camp was soon surrounded, in every direction, with the carcases of horses which had died either from privation or fatigue. Their stench produced maladies amongst the soldiers, and it is asserted that the large flies which were nourished by their putrified flesh, and which afterwards attacked the men, propagated the contagion by their stings. Guy, count of Saint Paul, the bishop of Limoges, and two hundred knightsbannerets sunk under the destructive fever which attacked the army; and Matthew Paris makes the number of the crusaders, of all ranks, who perishaed in this siege, amount to twenty thousand men.
5 Preuves à l'Hist. de Languedoc, No. clxix, p. 308.
6 Matt. Paris Hist. Ang. p. 281. Hist. gén. de Languedoc, liv. xxiv, ch. xvii, p. 358.
But the army of the crusaders had not all remained under the walls of Avignon ; detached parties, profiting by the terror which they inspired, received the submission of the neighbouring lords, cities, and castles. The city of Nismes planted on its walls, on the 5th of June, 1226, the king's standard, and from that epoch it has remained in the immediate domain of the crown; those of Puilaurens and of Castres followed the example in the days following. Carcassonne and Albi sent their deputies, after the 16th of June, to the camp before Avignon to deliver the keys of their fortress. The number of the lords who capitulated was greater. Raymond VII, though still beloved by his subjects, was abandoned at the same time by the barons and the communes.
It is true that Louis VIII began also at this time to see some of his vassals withdraw from his army. Thibaud IV, or the Posthumous, count of Champaign, set them the example. This prince, at that time twenty-six years of was reckoned amongst the best poets of the new French language, who called himself the knight of the queen Blanche, and who pretended to be in love with her, though she was more than forty years of age, was, nevertheless, not so blinded by gallantry, as to be indifferent to the subjugation of the great feudatories. It is believed that he
-358. Preuves, No.
gén. de Languedoc, liv. xxiv, ch. xiii, p. 35 174, p. 314. Histoire de Nismes, liv. iii, p. 294.
concerted with Peter Mauclerc, count or duke of Brittany, and with Hugues de Lusignan, count of Marche and Angoulême, to save the count of Toulouse from utter ruin.8 When he had finished the forty days to which he was bound by his feudal service, he demanded of Louis VIII leave to retire. Louis refused him on the ground that he was in the service of the church, whose laws superseded those of the realm. Thibaud was incensed; the king threatened to ravage his domains; to this threat the count of Champaign paid no regard and quitted him. The altercation between them was, however, so violent, that when Louis died, a short time after, there was a report current, that this great lord, the lover of his wife, had caused him to be poisoned.'
During these proceedings, the citizens of Avignon, after having caused infinite loss to the army of the crusaders, consented, at last, on the 12th of September, to capitulate. Matthew Paris relates that they only engaged to receive, within their walls, the legate and the high lords of the army, but that these being introduced into the city wi their attendants, took possession of the gates in
s Histoire de Languedoc, liv, xxiv, ch. xvii, p. 358. Lobineau, Histoire de Bretagne, liv. viii, ch. xlv, p. 218.
9 Matt. Paris, p. 281. Gesta Ludov. regis, p. 308. Chroniq. de SaintDenys, p. 421.
i Father Lobineau says, it is sufficiently certain that Louis VIII died by poison, but it remains uncertain by whom that poison was given. Hist. de Bretagne, liv. vii, ch. xlviii, p. 219.
contempt of the capitulation. Neither the king nor the legate thought themselves, in conscience, obliged to keep any faith with excommunicated heretics, but they owed some regard to Frederic II, and it was probably on his account that they contented themselves with requiring three hundred hostages, as a guarantee for the submission of the citizens to the commands of the church and the legate; with imposing on the city a warlike contribution; with throwing down parts of its walls and towers; and with putting to the sword the Flemings and the French who were found in the garrison. It is probable that, but for the recommendation of the emperor, all the inhabitants would have been put to death.”
Louis remained a short time at Avignon with his army. Fifteen days after he had taken the city, a terrible inundation of the Durance covered all the space which had been occupied by the French camp. If the soldiers had not taken their quarters within the walls, they would all have been swept away by the water, with their tents and baggage. At this epoch Louis confided the government of Beaucaire and of Nismes to a French knight, who, from that time took the title of sene
i Matt. Paris, p. 281. According to the Chronique de Tours, t. xviii, p. 317, the citizens referred themselves to the arbitration of the legate, not expecting so severe a sentence.
2 Guil. de Podio Laur. cap. xxxv, p. 687. Præclara Francor.facin. p.774. Bern. Guid. Vit. Honor. III, p. 570. Bouche Hist. de Provence, liv. ix, $ ii, p. 221. Raynaldi Annal. Eccles. 1226 et 40, p. 365.