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List Of Contents | Contents of Joan of Naples, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
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far more than he had expected: When he kneeled before the sovereign
pontiff, His Holiness bent affectionately towards him and helped him
to rise, saluting him by the title of king.

Two days later, another prelate, the Archbishop of Aix, came into the
queen's presence,--

"Most gracious and dearly beloved sovereign, permit the most humble
and devoted of your servants to ask pardon, in the name of your
subjects, for the painful but necessary measure they have thought fit
to take concerning your Majesty.  When you arrived on our coast, your
loyal town of Aix had learned from a trustworthy source that the King
of France was proposing to give our country to one of his own sons,
making good this loss to you by the cession of another domain, also
that the Duke of Normandy had come to Avignon to request this
exchange in person.  We were quite decided, madam, and had made a vow
to God that we would give up everything rather than suffer the
hateful tyranny of the French.  But before spilling blood we thought
it best to secure your august person as a sacred hostage, a sacred
ark which no man dared touch but was smitten to the ground, which
indeed must keep away from our walls the scourge of war.  We have now
read the formal annulment of this hateful plan, in a brief sent by
the sovereign pontiff from Avignon; and in this brief he himself
guarantees your good faith.

"We give you your full and entire liberty, and henceforth we shall
only endeavour to keep you among us by prayers and protestations.  Go
then, madam, if that is your pleasure, but before you leave these
lands, which will be plunged into mourning by your withdrawal, leave
with us some hope that you forgive the apparent violence to which we
have subjected you, only in the fear that we might lose you; and
remember that on the day when you cease to be our queen you sign the
death-warrant of all your subjects."

Joan reassured the archbishop and the deputation from her good town
of Aix with a melancholy smile, and promised that she would always
cherish the memory of their affection.  For this time she could not
be deceived as to the real sentiments of the nobles and people; and a
fidelity so uncommon, revealed with sincere tears, touched her heart
and made her reflect bitterly upon her past.  But a league's distance
from Avignon a magnificent triumphal reception awaited her.  Louis of
Tarentum and all the cardinals present at the court had come out to
meet her.  Pages in dazzling dress carried above Joan's head a canopy
of scarlet velvet, ornamented with fleur-de-lys in gold and plumes.
Hand some youths and lovely girls, their heads crowned with flowers,
went before her singing her praise. The streets were bordered with a
living hedge of people, the houses were decked out, the bells rang a
triple peal, as at the great Church festivals. Clement VI first
received the queen at the castle of Avignon with all the pomp he knew
so well how to employ on solemn occasions, then she was lodged in the
palace of Cardinal Napoleon of the Orsini, who on his return from the
Conclave at Perugia had built this regal dwelling at Villeneuve,
inhabited later by the popes.

No words could give an idea of the strangely disturbed condition of
Avignon at this period.  Since Clement V had transported the seat of
the papacy to Provence, there had sprung up, in this rival to Rome,
squares, churches, cardinals' palaces, of unparalleled splendour.
All the business of nations and kings was transacted at the castle of
Avignon.  Ambassadors from every court, merchants of every nation,
adventurers of all kinds, Italians, Spaniards, Hungarians, Arabs,
Jews, soldiers, Bohemians, jesters, poets, monks, courtesans, swarmed
and clustered here, and hustled one another in the streets.  There
was confusion of tongues, customs, and costumes, an inextricable
mixture of splendour and rags, riches and misery, debasement and
grandeur.  The austere poets of the Middle Ages stigmatised the
accursed city in their writings under the name of the New Babylon.

There is one curious monument of Joan's sojourn at Avignon and the
exercise of her authority as sovereign.  She was indignant at the
effrontery of the women of the town, who elbowed everybody
shamelessly in the streets, and published a notable edict, the first
of its kind, which has since served as a model in like cases, to
compel all unfortunate women who trafficked in their honour to live
shut up together in a house, that was bound to be open every day in
the year except the last three days of Holy Week, the entrance to be
barred to Jews at all times.  An abbess, chosen once a year, had the
supreme control over this strange convent.  Rules were established
for the maintenance of order, and severe penalties inflicted for any
infringement of discipline.  The lawyers of the period gained a great
reputation by this salutary institution; the fair ladies of Avignon
were eager in their defence of the queen in spite of the calumnious
reports that strove to tarnish her reputation: with one voice the
wisdom of Andre's widow was extolled.  The concert of praises was
disturbed, however, by murmurs from the recluses themselves, who, in
their own brutal language, declared that Joan of Naples was impeding
their commerce so as to get a monopoly for herself.

Meanwhile Marie of Durazzo had joined her sister.  After her
husband's death she had found means to take refuge in the convent of
Santa Croce with her two little daughters; and while Louis of Hungary
was busy burning his victims, the unhappy Marie had contrived to make
her escape in the frock of an old monk, and as by a miracle to get on
board a ship that was setting sail for Provence.  She related to her
sister the frightful details of the king's cruelty.  And soon a new
proof of his implacable hatred confirmed the tales of the poor
princess.

Louis's ambassadors appeared at the court of Avignon to demand
formally the queen's condemnation.

It was a great day when Joan of Naples pleaded her own cause before
the pope, in the presence of all the cardinals then at Avignon, all
the ambassadors of foreign powers, and all the eminent persons come
from every quarter of Europe to be present at this trial, unique in
the annals of history.  We must imagine a vast enclosure, in whose
midst upon a raised throne, as president of the august tribunal, sat
God's vicar on earth, absolute and supreme judge, emblem of temporal
and spiritual power, of authority human and divine.  To right and
left of the sovereign pontiff, the cardinals in their red robes sat
in chairs set round in a circle, and behind these princes of the
Sacred College stretched rows of bishops extending to the end of the
hall, with vicars, canons, deacons, archdeacons, and the whole
immense hierarchy of the Church.  Facing the pontifical throne was a
platform reserved for the Queen of Naples and her suite.  At the
pope's feet stood the ambassadors from the King of Hungary, who
played the part of accusers without speaking a word, the
circumstances of the crime and all the proofs having been discussed
beforehand by a committee appointed for the purpose.  The rest of the
hall was filled by a brilliant crowd of high dignitaries, illustrious
captains, and noble envoys, all vying with one another in proud
display.  Everyone ceased to breathe, all eyes were fixed on the dais
whence Joan was to speak her own defence.  A movement of uneasy
curiosity made this compact mass of humanity surge towards the
centre, the cardinals above raised like proud peacocks over a golden
harvest-field shaken in the breeze.

The queen appeared, hand in hand with her uncle, the old Cardinal of
Perigord, and her aunt, the Countess Agnes.  Her gait was so modest
and proud, her countenance so melancholy and pure, her looks so open
and confident, that even before she spoke every heart was hers.  Joan
was now twenty years of age; her magnificent beauty was fully
developed, but an extreme pallor concealed the brilliance of her
transparent satin skin, and her hollow cheek told the tale of
expiation and suffering.  Among the spectators who looked on most
eagerly there was a certain young man with strongly marked features,
glowing eyes, and brown hair, whom we shall meet again later on in
our narrative; but we will not divert our readers' attention, but
only tell them that his name was James of Aragon, that he was Prince
of Majorca, and would have been ready to shed every drop of his blood
only to check one single tear that hung on Joan's eyelids.  The queen
spoke in an agitated, trembling voice, stopping from time to time to
dry her moist and shining eyes, or to breathe one of those deep sighs
that go straight to the heart.  She told the tale of her husband's
death painfully and vividly, painted truthfully the mad terror that
had seized upon her and struck her down at that frightful time,
raised her hands to her brow with the gesture of despair, as though
she would wrest the madness from her brain-and a shudder of pity and
awe passed through the assembled crowd.  It is a fact that at this
moment, if her words were false, her anguish was both sincere and
terrible.  An angel soiled by crime, she lied like Satan himself, but
like him too she suffered all the agony of remorse and pride.  Thus,
when at the end of her speech she burst into tears and implored help
and protection against the usurper of her kingdom, a cry of general
assent drowned her closing words, several hands flew to their sword-
hilts, and the Hungarian ambassadors retired covered with shame and
confusion.

That same evening the sentence, to the great joy of all, was
proclaimed, that Joan was innocent and acquitted of all concern in
the assassination of her husband.  But as her conduct after the event
and the indifference she had shown about pursuing the authors of the
crime admitted of no valid excuse, the pope declared that there were
plain traces of magic, and that the wrong-doing attributed to Joan
was the result of some baneful charm cast upon her, which she could
by no possible means resist.  At the same time, His Holiness

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