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by her successor Nicephorous. With both these sovereigns (in imitation of his predecessor Pepin's policy), the Frankish monarch had maintained a friendly intercourse by means of embassies, and nothing could have been better calculated to excite the interest of the royal barbarian, than the materials of a game which had recently been brought to the knowledge of Western Europe.
One thing is certain, that these Chessmen, from their size and workmanship, must have been designed for no ignoble personage, and from the decided style of Greek art visible in the figures, it is a more natural inference to suppose them presented to Charlemagne by a sovereign of the Lower Empire, than that they came to him as an offering from the Moorish princess of Spain, or even from the Caliph Haroun Al Raschid, whose costly gifts to the Emperor of the West, are detailed so minutely by the German historians. The value also attached to them at that period, is testified by their having been placed, together with the most costly ornaments of the state, in the abbey of St. Denis, where they were preserved till the time of the Revolution. It is possible, also, that this transaction may have given rise to the passage above quoted, of a similar donation by King King Pepin to the monastery of Maussac."1
The difficulty respecting these Chessmen to which I have alluded, is this. In the first place, we find a Queen conspicuous among the pieces. This proves at once that
1 With due deference to Sir Frederic, I must confess I see no solid ground for this assumption. The passage quoted in p. 215., respecting King Pepin's gift, is to the full as worthy of our belief as the common tradition regarding the Chessmen in the Abbey of St. Denis. It is quite possible that both accounts may be true; but if there be any imitation or borrowing in the case, I hold it much more likely that Pepin's gift to the monastery of Maussac may have given rise afterwards to the tradition respecting Charlemagne's donation to the Abbey of St. Denis. It is merely a question which of the two stories bears the oldest date among medieval writers; though, after all, that of itself is not sufficient to prove the case either way.-F.
they are not of Saracenic manufacture;1 and consequently could not have formed part of the presents sent to Charlemagne by Harun Al Rashid. Again, the costume is that of the Lower Empire of the eighth or ninth century; we must then conclude that the Chessmen are of Grecian manufacture, and that they were most probably presented to Charlemagne by the Empress Irene, who reigned from 797 to 802. This conclusion is much strengthened by the following passage from Michelet.2 Viz., "On the festival of Christmas, the last year of the eighth century, whilst Charlemagne [then at Rome], is absorbed in prayer, the Pope places on his head the Imperial Crown and proclaims him Augustus. The emperor is astonished, and regrets the imposition of a burden beyond his strength -a puerile hypocrisy which he belies by adopting the titles and ceremonies of the court of Byzantium. For the perfect restoration of the empire one thing more was necessary, to marry the aged Charlemagne to the aged Irene, who reigned at Constantinople, after murdering her son." Now, although this "marriage de convenance" did not take place, for Irene was far too shrewd to accept of a master, yet we may safely conclude that numerous presents and compliments passed between the courts of the two imperial and royal personages in the course of the negotiation. I think then we may safely come to our conclusion that the St. Denis Chessmen and board were presented to Charlemagne by Irene in the first or second year of the ninth century.
1 The Musalman people have never adopted the Queen on their Chess board-even to this day what we call the Queen, is by them called the Wazir, or Farz, or Farzin.
2 History of France, by M. Michelet; London: Whittaker & Co.; Royal 8vo., p. 82. N.B.-This work is published without date, a vile custom that ought to be scouted without mercy. To be sure the public have a very simple remedy in their own hands, that is-never on any account to buy a new work that wants the date-the omission savours strongly of humbug.
In the second place it will be asked, since the pieces are of Byzantine manufacture, how came they to have an Arabic and not a Greek inscription? We can account for this only on the supposition that the carver, unquestionably an Arab, was a man of high reputation in his art; and that he, very naturally, stamped them with his own name as written in his own language. We may even suppose that he was specially sent from Bagdad by Harun for this very purpose, at Irene's request; and that this set of Chessmen was carved by the empress's direction in the Byzantine and not the Saracenic style.
Lastly, how are we to account for the existence of the Chess Queen at so very early a period? This, I confess, is difficult to answer with satisfaction; but there she is― an indubitable fact, which, by the way, completely upsets the ingenious theory of recent etymologists about the Ferz, Vierge, Dame, &c., &c. For example, Major Jaenisch says, "We know the very extraordinary etymology of the Queen of the game of Chess, an etymology which has only latterly been clearly made out. From the primitive Persian word Ferz, the ancient French have first made Fierce, then Fierche, then Vierge, which they afterwards replaced by the Queen!" Now if, instead of “Queen," the Major had said " Dame," Donna, or Dama, he might have been right, for ought I know, otherwise the whole theory falls to the ground.
I would here venture a conjecture of my own, which
1 Chess Player's Chronicle for 1852, already cited.
2 It is quite superfluous to observe that the Byzantine Queen could not have possibly been derived from the French Vierge; nor is it probable that the corruption of the Oriental word Ferz had proceeded so far as to become Vierge till some centuries after the introduction of the game into Europe. This last point can be settled only by ascertaining the earliest occurrence of the term Vierge to be found in the writings of our older medieval chroniclers, whether in prose or rhyme. It is quite evident, however, that what M. Jaenisch calls the extraordinary etymology of the Queen is altogether an imaginary affair.
I beg the reader to accept merely for whatever it may be worth. I think it probable that the Queen was for the first time introduced among the Chess pieces in this very set, presented to Charlemagne ; and that it was done partly out of compliment to Irene, and partly as a symbol of the union then under consideration between the two great sovereigns of Christendom. For ought we know, it may have been intended as a hint from Irene to her amorous admirer, that in case the match took place she had no intention of being a mere sleeping partner in the concern. Be this, however, as it may, the two terms, "Ferzia" and "Regina," the former adopted from the Saracens, and the latter from Charlemagne's imperial Chess-board, came to be used as synonymous for some centuries afterwards.
Modern Oriental Chess.-Chess in Abyssinia.-Chess in Syria and Arabia.-Chess in Chess in Egypt.-Chess in
Persia.-Chess in Hindūstān.
I HAVE now, to the best of my abilities, endeavoured to trace the History and Progress of Chess from the early invention of the Royal Game on the Banks of the Ganges, till the period of its establishment on the Banks of the Thames, in the tenth century of the Christian æra. The outlines of several of the preceding chapters appeared in the "Illustrated London News," in the years 1854 and 1855, when I was interrupted by more serious engagements from continuing the task. I then addressed the following brief notice to the Editor, viz. :
"It was my intention to have drawn up a few chapters more on Oriental Chess; but I am prevented by other occupations from doing the subject (which is by no means exhausted), that degree of justice which I think it deserves; and I am, besides, unwilling any longer to retard the disquisition by Sir Frederic Madden and Mr. Staunton upon the Progress of Medieval Chess in Europe. The matters which I leave untouched are—1st, a chapter on the 'Art of Playing without Seeing the Board,' 1
1 The chapter on Blindfold Play I have incorporated with Chapter XII., to which it naturally belongs.