Thursday, June 09, 2011
Bal des Ardents
On 29 January 1393, at the behest of the king, a grand party was organized to celebrate the wedding of one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting at the Hotel de Saint Pol. At the suggestion of a Norman Squire, Huguet de Guisay, the King and four other lords dressed up as wild men and danced about chained to one another. They were "in costumes of linen cloth sewn onto their bodies and soaked in resinous wax or pitch to hold a covering of frazzled hemp, so that they appeared shaggy & hairy from head to foot". At the suggestion of one of the "wild men," Yvain de Foix, the king commanded – in view of the obvious danger of fire – that the torch-bearers were to stand at the side of the room. Nonetheless, the King's brother, Louis of Valois, Duke of Orléans, who had arrived late, approached with a lighted torch in order to discover the identity of the masqueraders, and he accidentally set one of them on fire. Alternatively, it may have been a plot to kill the mentally deficient king. In any case, there was panic as the fire spread. The Duchess of Berry, to save a dancer who had come near her to intrigue and tease her, threw the train of her gown over him, and it was soon revealed to her that the life she had saved was the king's. Several Knights who tried to put out the flames were severely burned on their hands. Four of the wild men perished: Sir Charles de Poiters son of the Count of Valentinois, Huguet de Guisay, Yvain de Foix and the Count of Joigny. Another, Jean son of the Lord de Nantouillet, saved himself by jumping into a dishwater tub. This incident became known as the Bal des Ardents (the "Ball of the Burning Men").