JACQUELINE OF HOLLAND: THE GIRL OF THE LAND OF FOGS, A.D. 1414.
Count William of Hainault, of Zealand and Friesland, Duke of Bavaria and Sovereign Lord of Holland, held his court in the great, straggling castle which he called his "hunting lodge," near to the German Ocean, and since known by the name of "The Hague."(1)
(1) "The Hague" is a contraction of the Dutch's Gravenhage—the haag, or "hunting lodge," of the Graf, or count.
Count William was a gallant and courtly knight, learned in all the ways of chivalry, the model of the younger cavaliers, handsome in person, noble in bearing, the surest lance in the tilting-yard, and the stoutest arm in the foray.
Like "Jephtha, Judge of Israel," of whom the mock-mad Hamlet sang to Polonius, Count William had
"One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well;"
and, truth to tell, this fair young Jacqueline, the little "Lady of Holland," as men called her,—but whom Count William, because of her fearless antics and boyish ways, called "Dame Jacob,"(1)—loved her knightly father with equal fervor.
(1) Jaqueline is the French rendering of the Dutch Jakobine—the feminine of Jakob, or James.
As she sat, that day, in the great Hall of the Knights in the massive castle at The Hague, she could see, among all the knights and nobles who came from far and near to join in the festivities at Count William's court, not one that approached her father in nobility of bearing or manly strength—not even her husband.
Her husband? Yes. For this little maid of thirteen had been for eight years the wife of the Dauphin of France, the young Prince John of Touraine, to whom she had been married when she was scarce five years old and he barely nine. Surrounded by all the pomp of an age of glitter and display, these royal children lived in their beautiful castle of Quesnoy, in Flanders,(1) when they were not, as at the time of our story, residents at the court of the powerful Count William of Holland.
(1) Now Northeastern France.
Other young people were there, too,—nobles and pages and little ladies-in-waiting; and there was much of the stately ceremonial and flowery talk that in those days of knighthood clothed alike the fears of cowards and the desires of heroes. For there have always been heroes and cowards in the world.
And so, between all these young folk, there was much boastful talk and much harmless gossip how the little Lady of Courtrai had used the wrong corner of the towel yesterday; how the fat Duchess of Enkhuysen had violated the laws of all etiquette by placing the wrong number of finger-bowls upon her table on St. Jacob's Day; and how the stout young Hubert of Malsen had scattered the rascal merchants of Dort at their Shrovetide fair.
Then uprose the young Lord of Arkell.
"Hold, there!" he cried hotly. "This Hubert of Malsen is but a craven, sirs, if he doth say the merchants of Dort are rascal cowards. Had they been fairly mated, he had no more dared to put his nose within the gates of Dort than dare one of you here to go down yonder amid Count William's lions!"
"Have a care, friend Otto," said the little Lady of Holland, with warning finger; "there is one here, at least, who dareth to go amid the lions—my father, sir."
"I said nothing of him, madam," replied Count Otto. "I did mean these young red hats here, who do no more dare to bait your father's lions than to face the Cods of Dort in fair and equal fight."
At this bold speech there was instant commotion. For the nobles and merchants of Holland, four centuries and a half ago, were at open strife with one another. The nobles saw in the increasing prosperity of the merchants the end of their own feudal power and tyranny. The merchants recognized in the arrogant nobles the only bar to the growth of Holland's commercial enterprise. So each faction had its leaders, its partisans, its badges, and its followers. Many and bloody were the feuds and fights that raged through all those low-lying lands of Holland, as the nobles, or "Hooks," as they were called—distinguishable by their big red hats,—and the merchants, or "Cods," with their slouch hats of quiet gray, struggled for the lead in the state. And how they DID hate one another!
Certain of the younger nobles, however, who were opposed to the reigning house of Holland, of which Count William, young Jacqueline's father, was the head, had espoused the cause of the merchants, seeing in their success greater prosperity and wealth for Holland. Among these had been the young Lord of Arkell, now a sort of half prisoner at Count William's court because of certain bold attempts to favor the Cods in his own castle of Arkell. His defiant words therefore raised a storm of protests.
"Nay, then, Lord of Arkell," said the Dauphin John, "you, who prate so loudly, would better prove your words by some sign of your own valor. You may have dared fight your lady mother, who so roundly punished you therefor, but a lion hath not the tender ways of a woman. Face YOU the lions, lord count, and I will warrant me they will not prove as forbearing as did she."
It was common talk at Count William's court that the brave Lady of Arkell, mother of the Count Otto, had made her way, disguised, into we castle of her son, had herself lowered the drawbridge, admitted her armed retainers, overpowered and driven out her rebellious son; and that then, relenting, she had appealed to Count William to pardon the lad and to receive him at court as hostage for his own fealty. So this fling of the Dauphin's cut deep.
But before the young Otto could return an angry answer, Jacqueline had interfered.
"Nay, nay, my lord," she said to her husband, the Dauphin; "'t is not a knightly act thus to impeach the honor of a noble guest."
But now the Lord of Arkell had found his tongue.