Wishing Upon A Star: King John, the Order of the Star, and Politics

Wishing Upon A Star: King John, the Order of the Star, and Politics

Bessen,  David M.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 3 (1986)


Within a few months after King John ascended the French throne, the political and social relationships of the king and the aristocracy of France were severely strained. While the coronation on 26 September 1350 and the royal entry into Paris on 11 November were enveloped in that special enthusiasm and support reserved for new monarchs, the summary execution of the Constable of France, Raoul, count of Eu and Guines, on 19 November brought a startling end to the joyousness of the new reign. Raoul had been a prisoner of the English since 1346, and his captors had allowed him to return temporarily to France in order to raise a ransom for his release. When Raoul went to the royal palace to deliver his greetings to the new king, this man, “who was so polite and so amiable in every way [that he was] loved and esteemed by great seigneurs, chevaliers, dames and damoiselles, and by all the people in England as well as in France,” was arrested and beheaded. The Crown never provided clear reasons for the sudden execution of this highly regarded and well-placed nobleman, although rumors circulated of an amorous affair with the queen, of his intention to surrender Guines to the English, and of the inability of the count or the king to pay the required ransom. In Les Grandes Chroniques, the official chronicle of the Crown, the execution was vaguely attributed to the “very great and evil treasons, which [Raoul] had done and committed against King John.” Politically, this summary execution established an atmosphere of distrust, caution, and uneasiness especially among the nobility of Normandy, who had highly regarded the late peer.

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