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On the same night that the attack takes place at Notre Dame, King Louis XI arrives in Paris for a visit. He decides to stay in the Bastille, the famous prison. While he is there, his envoys bring him the news that an uprising is taking place at the great cathedral. He orders his troops to provide assistance in putting down the revolt.
When the Kingís men capture two of the revolutionaries, they are brought before the King. The first, identified as Geoffrey Pincebourde, says he is a gypsy who has joined the revolt out of boredom. The second man identifies himself as Pierre Gringoire. He lies and tells the King that he was not a part of the revolt. He claims merely to be a philosopher who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The King believes the story of Gringoire and releases him.
Some of the Kingís men return with the erroneous news that the revolt is really against the King. They also explain that the rioting mob wants the release of La Esmeralda, probably to hang her themselves. The King orders the troublemakers to be caught and hanged. He then orders that La Esmeralda be immediately executed as well, for causing the revolt.
As the novel heads towards the climax, Hugo draws the readerís attention to the politics of the time. King Louis XI is exquisitely and humorously drawn as a character filled with corruption, arrogance, and self-interest. Hugo even comments that "on his accession to the throne, he forgot to make arrangements for his fatherís funeral." When a prisoner is brought before him in a cage, begging for clemency, the King can only comment that the cage is much too expensive. Ironically, the royal doctor takes advantage of his influence to extort power and money from the King. When it comes to his own life and health, Louis XI must depend on a man as self-serving as himself.
This chapter is crucially important for the development of the plot because the King makes two decisions that shape the outcome of the novel. First, he believes Gringoire and lets him go free. Second, he commands that La Esmeralda be hanged.