They insulted me and filled me with dread, but the Lord was at my side, like a mighty warrior (Vespers, Holy Tuesday).
Earlier today, I was reading a chapter from Léon Gautier’s work, Chivarly, on the life of of the medieval knight in his youth. Gautier asserts that the military calling was the vocation of noble blood. In the life of a noble youth, it was as though prowess and an inclination for the fight was built in, and burgeoned almost as soon as the boy could pick up a stick to wield it as a weapon.
The fighting spirit led Jesus to enter Jerusalem. His war was with the ancient dragon and He was not afraid to die. I quote at length a passage from Gautier’s Chivarly on the youthful Charlemagne, as an illustration of the noble fighting spirit:
Besides, all the damoiseaux had in this an example which they did not fail to reflect upon; incomparable knight, the records of whose youthful days were chanted in all the castles of Christian Europe, who could complain of having to endure a rough and rude existence in his youth, when that of Charlemagne himself–that of Charles “whose grandeur has penetrated his name “–had been neglected, solitary, painful?
Ah, they consoled themselves easily under all their troubles when they remembered the formidable obstacles which the great soul of the son of Pepin had overcome. Scarcely had his father died ere he became acquainted with grief. His father had been poisoned by two bastards who were equally desirous to get rid of the legitimate son, and there was little Charles in the power of those two traitors, whose names history has preserved to us–Hendri and Rainfroi. Unfortunately the child was not tall enough to fight with his brothers, and he had no other defence save his pride.
On one occasion his friends snatched him from the wretches who wished to do away with him, and found him a safe asylum with his own sister in the duchy of Angers. But the traitors, by duplicity and ruse managed to lay their hands again upon their victim, and proposed to make an end very quickly of the little king, the young lion, who so decidedly interfered with their ambitious views. It was easy enough to kill him outright, or to poison him was easy enough, but by so doing they perceived that their vengeance would be incomplete, for they wished to humiliate the true heir to the crown of France before their bastardy.
“You shall go with us,” they said, ” and wait on us at Table.”
Then all Charles’s blood mounted to his face: he seized a roast peacock and threw it with all his force at Rainfroi’s head. Then seizing a spit he brandished it as bravely as he subsequently wielded his sword. He thrust it at the bastard, who raged furiously, and attempted to cut his assailant’s throat on the spot. The whole palace was in an uproar, the repast was interrupted; cries of rage were mingled with shouts of victory and the clash of arms.
The youthful Charles, still very proud of his first exploit, but too weak to resist long, was literally carried away by the partisans of the legitimate sovereign, who departed at a gallop and placed him in a fortress at some distance from Reims. But Reims was in the vicinity of the bastards, and they were very powerful. So, in dire necessity, the youth was hurried away to a safer place of refuge.
It is a hard thing to say, but Christianity could not offer this refuge to him who was destined to wear the principal and the most beautiful of all Christian crowns ; and it was amongst the Infidels that the youth of their future implacable enemy was destined to be Passed.
They crossed the Pyrenees in haste, and arrived at Toledo, at the palace of the Saracen King Galafre. It was in such a place that Charles was obliged to hide as a criminal ; where, alas, he was con- strained to dissemble as regarded his birth and to conceal his name. He was no longer Charles but ” Mainet.” A few devoted friends watched over him in secret, and their principal trouble consisted in preventing this son of a lion from revealing himself as a lion Prematurely.
This royal “infant ” was eating his heart out! he thought of nothing but battles, and irritated his followers by his restlessness- angry as he was at being restrained by them. They were reserving him for the throne of France, they made him understand that and told him so repeatedly, but he was then too young to care for politics, and could not comprehend why they counselled prudence so continually.
It happened that the Pagan king who had received him so kindly, the good Galafre, was himself at war with his neighbours, and the son of Pepin desired nothing better than to show off his skill with the lance, and prove his knowledge of arms at the expense of his host’s Enemies.
At length the day arrived-and it had been long waited for– when ” Mainet ” like a young wild animal made his escape notwithstanding the vigilance of his keepers, and came into the midst of a battle in which his youthful courage had full scope. He fought, he overthrew, he slew his enemies.
At length the day arrived-and it had been long waited for–when “Mainet” like a young wild animal made his escape notwithstanding the vigilance of his keepers, and came into the midst of a battle in which his youthful courage had full scope. He fought, he overthrew, he slew his enemies. But it was the Emir Bruyant whom he wished to attack, for he was the mortal enemy of Galafre. “Mainet ” found him, rushed upon him and attacked him. The great duel then began but did not last long; and when the dust cleared off the spectators perceived a corpse, beheaded, horrible, and standing by it a damoiseau like to David, holding the bleeding head of his adversary.
This damoiseau was “Mainet” and the head was that of Bruyant the Emir.
However, the ” enfances ” and exploits of the son of Pepin were by no means ended; but the smiles of a young damsel soon came to console the conquerer for this his first exploit, and for many others of which the recital would be too long. The lady who thus appeared to console our hero was the amiable daughter of Galafre: we behold the smiling face and charming figure of Galienne who was so soon to become the wife of ” Mainet,” or to speak correctly, of Charlemagne.