History Today strip by R.Fresson
January 3, 2019
Illustrator R.Fresson creates a monthly column for History Today Magazine - for the Januaury the magazine briefed Ruby to illustrate the story behind the 'Ball of the Burning Men' from 1393. Here's the unfortunate background:
In the first week of 1393 the French court decided to celebrate the upcoming third marriage of one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting with a party at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. The entertainment was to be a charivari, a wild and raucous performance by six senior knights of the court, dressed as wild men of the woods. Such events were encouraged as a means of distracting the mentally unstable Charles VI of France, known to posterity as Charles the Mad, and his wife,
Isabeau of Bavaria went to great lengths to surround him with exotic fashions and entertainments.
For this charivari costumes were made of linen soaked in pitch onto which were stuck frayed flax strands, making the dancers look appropriately hairy and wild.Similarly ‘hairy’ masks covered their face, the great game being to guess who the dancers were. What few in the audience knew was that one of the dancers was King Charles himself.
Due to the highly flammable nature of the costumes it was decreed that no candles or torches were to be brought into the room during the performance but sadly the message did not reach the king’s brother, Louis, Duc D’Orléans, who
appeared late and drunk with his entourage carrying lighted torches.The result was grimly inevitable. So upset were the people of Paris that the King;s life had been risked in so trivial a fashion that the entire Court was forced to do public penance. The event went down in history as the Bal des Ardents – the ‘Ball of the Burning Men’.