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A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

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Louis XI. had by the queen his wife, Charlotte of Savoy, six children;
three of them survived him: Charles VIII., his successor; Anne, his
eldest daughter, who had espoused Peter of Bourbon, Sire de Beaujeu; and
Joan, whom he had married to the Duke of Orleans, who became Louis XII.
At their father's death, Charles was thirteen; Anne twenty-two or
twenty-three; and Joan nineteen. According to Charles V.'s decree, which
had fixed fourteen as the age for the king's majority, Charles VIII., on
his accession, was very nearly a major; but Louis XI., with good reason,
considered him very far from capable of reigning as yet. On the other
hand, he had a very high opinion of his daughter Anne, and it was to her
far more than to Sire de Beaujeu, her husband, that, six days before his
death, and by his last instructions, he intrusted the guardian-ship of
his son, to whom he already gave the title of King, and the government of
the realm. They were oral instructions not set forth in or confirmed by
any regular testament; but the words of Louis XI. had great weight, even
after his death. Opposition to his last wishes was not wanting. Louis,
Duke of Orleans, was a natural claimant to the regency; but Anne de
Beaujeu, immediately and without consulting anybody, took up the position
which had been intrusted to her by her father, and the fact was accepted
without ceasing to be questioned. Louis XI. had not been mistaken in his
choice; there was none more fitted than his daughter Anne to continue his
policy under the reign and in the name of his successor; "a shrewd and
clever woman, if ever there was one," says Brantome, "and the true image
in everything of King Louis, her father."

[Illustration: Anne de Beaujeu----264]

She began by acts of intelligent discretion. She tried, not to subdue by
force the rivals and malcontents, but to put them in the wrong in the
eyes of the public, and to cause embarrassment to themselves by treating
them with fearless favor. Her brother-in-law, the Duke of Bourbon, was
vexed at being only in appearance and name the head of his own house; and
she made him constable of France and lieutenant-general of the kingdom.
The friends of Duke Louis of Orleans, amongst others his chief confidant,
George of Amboise, Bishop of Montauban, and Count Dunois, son of Charles
VII.'s hero, persistently supported the duke's rights to the regency; and
_Madame_ (the title Anne de Beaujeu had assumed) made Duke Louis governor
of Ile-de-France and of Champagne, and sent Dunois as governor to
Dauphiny. She kept those of Louis XI.'s advisers for whom the public had
not conceived a perfect hatred like that felt for their master; and
Commynes alone was set aside, as having received from the late king too
many personal favors, and as having too much inclination towards
independent criticism of the new regency. Two of Louis XI.'s subordinate
and detested servants, Oliver de Daim and John Doyac, were prosecuted,
and one was hanged and the other banished; and his doctor, James Cattier,
was condemned to disgorge fifty thousand crowns out of the enormous
presents he had received from his patient. At the same time that she
thus gave some satisfaction to the cravings of popular wrath, Anne de
Beaujeu threw open the prisons, recalled exiles, forgave the people a
quarter of the talliage, cut down expenses by dismissing six thousand
Swiss whom the late king had taken into his pay, re-established some sort
of order in the administration of the domains of the crown, and, in fine,
whether in general measures or in respect of persons, displayed
impartiality without paying court, and firmness without using severity.
Here was, in fact, a young and gracious woman who gloried solely in
signing herself simply Anne of France, whilst respectfully following out
the policy of her father, a veteran king, able, mistrustful, and
pitiless.

Anne's discretion was soon put to a great trial. A general cry was
raised for the convocation of the states-general. The ambitious hoped
thus to open a road to power; the public looked forward to it for a
return to legalized government. No doubt Anne would have preferred to
remain more free and less responsible in the exercise of her authority;
for it was still very far from the time when national assemblies could be
considered as a permanent power and a regular means of government. But
Anne and her advisers did not waver; they were too wise and too weak to
oppose a great public wish. The states-general were convoked at Tours
for the 5th of January, 1484. On the 15th they met in the great hall of
the arch-bishop's palace. Around the king's throne sat two hundred and
fifty deputies, whom the successive arrivals of absentees raised to two
hundred and eighty-four. "France in all its entirety," says M. Picot,
"found itself, for the first time, represented; Flanders alone sent no
deputies until the end of the session; but Provence, Roussillon,
Burgundy, and Dauphiny were eager to join their commissioners to the
delegates from the provinces united from the oldest times to the crown."
[_Histoire des Etats Generaux_ from 1355 to 1614, by George Picot,
t. i. p. 360.]

We have the journal of these states-general drawn up with precision and
detail by one of the chief actors, John Masselin, canon of and deputy for
Rouen, "an eminent speaker," says a contemporary Norman chronicle, "who
delivered on behalf of the common weal, in the presence of kings and
princes, speeches full of elegance." We may agree that, compared with
the pompous pedantry of most speakers of his day, the oratorical style of
John Masselin is not without a certain elegance, but that is not his
great and his original distinction; what marks him out and gives him so
high a place in the history of the fifteenth century, is the judicious
and firm political spirit displayed in his conduct as deputy and in his
narrative as historian. [The Journal, written by the author in Latin,
was translated into French and published, original and translation,
by M. A. Bernier, in 1835, in the _Collection des Documents inedits
relatifs d l'Histoire de France._] And it is not John Masselin only, but
the very assembly itself in which he sat, that appears to us, at the end
of five centuries, seriously moved by a desire for a free government, and
not far from comprehending and following out the essential conditions of
it. France had no lack of states-general, full of brilliancy and power,
between 1356 and 1789, from the reign of Charles V. to that of
Louis XVI.; but in the majority of these assemblies, for all the
ambitious soarings of liberty, it was at one time religious party-spirit
and at another the spirit of revolution that ruled and determined both
acts and events. Nothing of that kind appeared in the states-general
assembled at Tours in 1484; the assembly was profoundly monarchical, not
only on general principles, but in respect of the reigning house and the
young king seated on the throne. There was no fierce struggle, either,
between the aristocracy and the democracy of the day, between the
ecclesiastical body and the secular body; although widely differing and
widely separated, the clergy, the nobility, and the third estate were not
at war, even in their hearts, between themselves. One and the same idea,
one and the same desire, animated the three orders; to such a degree
that, as has been well pointed out by M. Picot, "in the majority of the
towns they proceeded in common to the choice of deputies: the clergy,
nobles, and commons who arrived at Tours were not the representatives
exclusively of the clergy, the nobles, or the third estate: they combined
in their persons a triple commission;" and when, after having examined
together their different memorials, by the agency of a committee of
thirty-six members taken in equal numbers from the three orders, they
came to a conclusion to bring their grievances and their wishes before
the government of Charles VIII., they decided that a single spokesman
should be commissioned to sum up, in a speech delivered in solemn
session, the report of the committee of Thirty-six; and it was the canon,
Master John Masselin, who received the commission to speak in the name of
all. They all had at heart one and the same idea; they desired to turn
the old and undisputed monarchy into a legalized and free government.
Clergy, nobles, and third estate, there was not in any of their minds any
revolutionary yearning or any thought of social war. It is the peculiar
and the beautiful characteristic of the states-general of 1484 that they
had an eye to nothing but a great political reform, a regimen of legality
and freedom.

Two men, one a Norman and the other a Burgundian, the canon John Masselin
and Philip Pot, lord of la Roche, a former counsellor of Philip the Good,
Duke of Burgundy, were the exponents of this political spirit, at once
bold and prudent, conservative and reformative. The nation's sovereignty
and the right of the estates not only to vote imposts but to exercise a
real influence over the choice and conduct of the officers of the crown,
this was what they affirmed in principle, and what, in fact, they labored
to get established. "I should like," said Philip de la Roche, "to see
you quite convinced that the government of the state is the people's
affair; and by the people I mean not only the multitude of those who are
simply subjects of this crown, but indeed all persons of each estate,
including the princes also. Since you consider yourselves deputies from
all the estates of the kingdom, why are you afraid to conclude that you
have been especially summoned to direct by your counsels the commonwealth
during its quasi-interregnum caused by the king's minority? Far be it
from me to say that the reigning, properly so called, the dominion, in
fact, passes into any hands but those of the king; it is only the
administration, the guardianship of the kingdom, which is conferred for a
time upon the people or their elect. Why tremble at the idea of taking
in hand the regulation, arrangement, and nomination of the council of the
crown? You are here to say and to advise freely that which, by
inspiration of God and your conscience, you believe to be useful for the
realm. What is the obstacle that prevents you from accomplishing so
excellent and meritorious a work? I can find none, unless it be your own
weakness and the pusillanimity which causes fear in your minds. Come,
then, most illustrious lords, have great confidence in yourselves, have
great hopes, have great manly virtue, and let not this liberty of the
estates, that your ancestors were so zealous in defending, be imperilled
by reason of your soft-heartedness." "This speech," says Masselin, "was
listened to by the whole assembly very attentively and very favorably."
Masselin, being called upon to give the king "in his privy chamber,
before the Dukes of Orleans and Lorraine and a numerous company of
nobles," an exact account of the estates' first deliberations, held in
his turn language more reserved than, but similar to, that of Lord Philip
de la Roche, whose views he shared and whose proud openness he admired.
The question touching the composition of the king's council and the part
to be taken in it by the estates was for five weeks the absorbing idea
with the government and with the assembly. There were made, on both
sides, concessions which satisfied neither the estates nor the court, for
their object was always on the part of the estates to exercise a real
influence on the government, and on the part of the court to escape being
under any real influence of the estates. Side by side with the question
of the king's council was ranged that of the imposts; and here it was no
easier to effect an understanding: the crown asked more than the estates
thought they ought or were able to vote; and, after a long and obscure
controversy about expenses and receipts, Masselin was again commissioned
to set-before the king's council the views of the assembly and its
ultimate resolution. "When we saw," said he, "that the aforesaid
accounts or estimates contained elements of extreme difficulty, and that
to balance and verify them would subject us to interminable discussions
and longer labor than would be to our and the people's advantage, we
hastened to adopt by way of expedient, but nevertheless resolutely, the
decision I am about to declare to you. . . . Wishing to meet
liberally the king's and your desires, we offer to pay the sum that King
Charles VII. used to take for the impost of talliages, provided, however,
that this sum be equally and proportionately distributed between the
provinces of the kingdom, and that in the shape of an aid. And this
contribution be only for two years, after which the estates shall be
assembled as they are to-day to discuss the public needs; and if at that
time or previously they see the advantage thereof, the said sum shall be
diminished or augmented. Further, the said my lords the deputies do
demand that their next meeting be now appointed and declared, and that an
irrevocable decision do fix and decree that assembly."

This was providing at one and the same time for the wants of the present
and the rights of the future. The impost of talliage was, indeed, voted
just as it had stood under Charles VII., but it became a temporary aid
granted for two years only; at the end of them the estates were to be
convoked and the tax augmented or diminished according to the public
wants. The great question appeared decided; by means of the vote,
necessary and at the same time temporary, in the case of the impost, the
states-general entered into real possession of a decisive influence in
the government; but the behavior and language of the officers of the
crown and of the great lords of the court rendered the situation as
difficult as ever. In a long and confused harangue the chancellor,
William de Rochefort, did not confine himself to declaring the sum voted,
twelve hundred thousand livres, to be insufficient, and demanding three
hundred thousand livres more; he passed over in complete silence the
limitation to two years of the tax voted and the requirement that at the
end of that time the states-general should be convoked. "Whilst the
chancellor was thus speaking," says Masselin, "many deputies of a more
independent spirit kept groaning, and all the hall resounded with a
slight murmuring because it seemed that he was not expressing himself
well as to the power and liberty of the people." The deputies asked
leave to deliberate in the afternoon, promising a speedy answer. "As you
wish to deliberate, do so, but briefly," said the chancellor; "it would
be better for you to hold counsel now so as to answer in the afternoon."
The deputies took their time; and the discussion was a long and a hot
one. "We see quite well how it is," said the princes and the majority of
the great lords; "to curtail the king's power, and pare down his nails to
the quick, is the object of your efforts; you forbid the subjects to pay
their prince as much as the wants of the state require: are they masters,
pray, and no longer subjects? You would set up the laws of some fanciful
monarchy, and abolish the old ones." "I know the rascals," said one of
the great lords [according to one historian, it was the Duke of Bourbon,
Anne de Beaujeu's brother-in-law]; "if they are not kept down by
over-weighting them, they will soon become insolent; for my part, I
consider this tax the surest curb for holding them in." "Strange words,"
says Masselin, "unworthy of utterance from the mouth of a man so eminent;
but in his soul, as in that of all old men, covetousness had increased
with age, and he appeared to fear a diminution of his pension."

After having deliberated upon it, the states-general persisted in their
vote of a tax of twelve hundred thousand livres, at which figure it had
stood under King Charles VII., but for two years only, and as a gift or
grant, not as a permanent talliage any more, and on condition that at the
end of that time the states should be necessarily convoked. At the same
time, however, "and over and above this, the said estates, who do desire
the well-being, honor, prosperity, and augmentation of the lord king and
of his kingdom, and in order to obey him and please him in all ways
possible, do grant him the sum of three hundred thousand livres of Tours,
for this once only, and without being a precedent, on account of his late
joyful accession to the throne of France, and for to aid and support the
outlay which it is suitable to make for his holy consecration,
coronation, and entry into Paris."

On this fresh vote, full of fidelity to the monarchy and at the same time
of patriotic independence, negotiations began between the estates and the
court; and they lasted from the 28th of February to the 12th of March,
but without result. At bottom, the question lay between absolute power
and free government, between arbitrariness and legality; and, on this
field, both parties were determined not to accept a serious and final
defeat. Unmoved by the loyal concessions and assurances they received,
the advisers of the crown thought no longer of anything but getting
speedily rid of the presence of the estates, so as to be free from the
trouble of maintaining the discussion with them. The deputies saw
through the device; their speeches were stifled, and the necessity of
replying was eluded. "My lord chancellor," said they, at an interview on
the 2d of March, 1484, "if we are not to have a hearing, why are we here?
Why have you summoned us? Let us withdraw. If you behave thus, you do
not require our presence. We did not at all expect to see the fruits of
our vigils, and the decisions adopted after so much trouble by so
illustrious an assembly rejected so carelessly." The complaints were not
always so temperate. A theologian, whom Masselin quotes without giving
his name, "a bold and fiery partisan of the people," says he, added these
almost insulting words: "As soon as our consent had been obtained for
raising the money, there is no doubt but that we have been cajoled, that
everything has been treated with contempt, the demands set down in our
memorials, our final resolutions, and the limits we fixed. Speak we of
the money. On this point, our decisions have been conformed to only so
far as to tell us, 'This impost shall no longer be called talliage; it
shall be a free grant.' Is it in words, pray, and not in things, that our
labor and the well-being of the state consist? Verily, we would rather
still call this impost _talliage,_ and even blackmail (_maltote_), or
give it a still viler name, if there be any, than see it increasing
immeasurably and crushing the people. The curse of God and the
execration of men upon those whose deeds and plots have caused such woes!
They are the most dangerous foes of the people and of the commonwealth."
"The theologian burned with a desire to continue," adds Masselin; "but
though he had not wandered far from the truth, many deputies chid him and
constrained him to be silent. . . . Already lethargy had fallen upon
the most notable amongst us; glutted with favors and promises, they no
longer possessed that ardor of will which had animated them at first;
when we were prosecuting our business, they remained motionless at home;
when we spoke before them, they held their peace or added but a few
feeble words. We were wasting our time."

On the 12th of March, 1484, the deputies from Normandy, twenty-five in
number, happened to hold a meeting at Montils-les-Tours. The Bishop of
Coutances told them that there was no occasion for the estates to hold
any more meetings; that it would be enough if each of the six sections
appointed three or four delegates to follow the course of affairs; and
that, moreover, the compensation granted to all the deputies of the
estates would cease on the 14th of March, and after that would be granted
only to their delegates. This compensation had already, amongst the
estates, been the subject of a long discussion. The clergy and the
nobility had attempted to throw the whole burden of it upon the third
estate; the third estate had very properly claimed that each of the three
orders should, share proportionately in this expense, and the chancellor
had with some difficulty got it decided that the matter should stand so.
On the 14th of March, accordingly, the six sections of the estates met
and elected three or four deputies apiece. The deputies were a little
surprised, on entering their sessions-hall, to find it completely
dismantled: carpets, hangings, benches, table, all had been removed,
so certainly did the government consider the session over. Some members,
in disgust, thought and maintained that the estates ought not to separate
without carrying away with them the resolutions set down in their general
memorial, formally approved and accompanied by an order to the judges to
have them executed. "But a much larger number," says Masselin, "were
afraid of remaining too long, and many of our colleagues, in spite of the
zeal which they had once shown, had a burning desire to depart, according
to the princes' good pleasure and orders. As for us, we enjoined upon
the three deputies of our Norman nationality not to devote themselves
solely to certain special affairs which had not yet been terminated, but
to use redoubled care and diligence in all that concerned the general
memorial and the aggregate of the estates. And having thus left our
commissioners at Tours and put matters to rights, we went away well
content; and we pray God that our labors and all that has been done may
be useful for the people's welfare."

Neither Masselin nor his descendants for more than three centuries were
destined to see the labors of the states-general of 1484 obtain
substantial and durable results. The work they had conceived and
attempted was premature. The establishment of a free government demands
either spontaneous and simple virtues, such as may be found in a young
and small community, or the lights, the scientific method, and the
wisdom, painfully acquired and still so imperfect, of great and civilized
nations. France of the fifteenth century was in neither of these
conditions. But it is a crown of glory to have felt that honest and
patriotic ambition which animated Masselin and his friends at their
exodus from the corrupt and corrupting despotism of Louis XI. Who would
dare to say that their attempt, vain as it was for them, was so also for
generations separated from them by centuries? Time and space are as
nothing in the mysterious development of God's designs towards men, and
it is the privilege of mankind to get instruction and example from
far-off memories of their own history. It was a duty to render to the
states-general of 1484 the homage to which they have a right by reason of
their intentions and their efforts on behalf of the good cause and in
spite of their unsuccess.

When the states-general had separated, Anne de Beaujeu, without
difficulty or uproar, resumed, as she had assumed on her father's death,
the government of France; and she kept it yet for seven years, from 1484
to 1491. During all this time she had a rival and foe in Louis, Duke of
Orleans, who was one day to be Louis XII. "I have heard tell," says
Brantome, "how that, at the first, she showed affection towards him, nay,
even love; in such sort that, if M. d'Orleans had been minded to give
heed thereto, he might have done well, as I know from a good source; but
he could not bring himself to it; especially as he found her too
ambitious, and he would that she should be dependent on him, as premier
prince and nearest to the throne, and not he on her; whereas she desired
the contrary, for she was minded to have the high place and rule
everything. . . . They used to have," adds Brantome, "prickings of
jealousy, love, and ambition." If Brantome's anecdote is true, as one is
inclined to believe, though several historians have cast doubts upon it,
Anne de Beaujeu had, in their prickings of jealousy, love, and ambition,
a great advantage over Louis of Orleans. They were both young, and
exactly of the same age; but Louis had all the defects of youth, whilst
Anne had all the qualities of mature age. He was handsome, volatile,
inconsiderate, impudent, brave, and of a generous, open nature, combined
with kindliness; she was thoughtful, judicious, persistent, and probably
a little cold and hard, such, in fact, as she must needs have become in
the school of her father, Louis XI. As soon as the struggle between them
began, the diversity of their characters appeared and bore fruit. The
Duke of Orleans plunged into all sorts of intrigues and ventures against
the fair regent, exciting civil war, and, when he was too much
compromised or too hard pressed, withdrawing to the court of Francis II.,
Duke of Brittany, an unruly vassal of the King of France. Louis of
Orleans even made alliance, at need, with foreign princes, Henry VII.,
King of England, Ferdinand the Catholic, King of Arragon, and Maximilian,
archduke of Austria, without much regard for the interests of his own
kingly house and his own country. Anne, on the contrary, in possession
of official and legal authority, wielded it and guarded it with prudence
and moderation in the interests of France and of the crown, never taking
the initiative in war, but having the wit to foresee, maintain, and,
after victory, end it. She encountered from time to time, at her own
court and in her own immediate circle, a serious difficulty: the young
king, Charles, was charmed by the Duke of Orleans's brilliant qualities,
especially by the skill and bravery that Louis displayed at tournaments.
One day, interrupting the Bishop of Montauban, George of Amboise, who was
reading the breviary to him, "Send word to the Duke of Orleans," said the
king, "to go on with his enterprise, and that I would fain be with him."
Another day he said to Count Dunois, "Do take me away, uncle: I'm longing
to be out of this company." Dunois and George of Amboise, both of them
partisans of the Duke of Orleans, carefully encouraged the king in
sentiments so favorable to the fair regent's rival. Incidents of another
sort occurred to still further embarrass the position for Anne de
Beaujeu. The eldest daughter of Francis II., Duke of Brittany, herself
also named Anne, would inherit his duchy, and on this ground she was
ardently wooed by many competitors. She was born in 1477; and at four
years of age, in 1481, she had been promised in marriage to Edward,
Prince of Wales, son of Edward IV., King of England. But two years
afterwards, in 1483, this young prince was murdered, or, according to
other accounts, imprisoned by his uncle Richard III., who seized the
crown; and the Breton promise vanished with him. The number of claimants
to the hand of Anne of Brittany increased rapidly; and the policy of the
duke her father consisted, it was said, in making for himself five or six
sons-in-law by means of one daughter. Towards the end of 1484, the Duke
of Orleans, having embroiled himself with Anne de Beaujeu, sought refuge
in Brittany; and many historians have said that he not only at that time
aspired to the hand of Anne of Brittany, but that he paid her assiduous
court and obtained from her marks of tender interest. Count Darn, in his
_Histoire de Bretagne_ (t. iii. p. 82), has put the falsehood of this
assertion beyond a doubt; the Breton princess was then only seven and the
Duke of Orleans had been eight years married to Joan of France, younger
daughter of Louis XI. But in succeeding years and amidst the continual
alternations of war and negotiation between the King of France and the
Duke of Brittany, Anne de Beaujeu and the Duke of Orleans, competition
and strife between the various claimants to the hand of Anne of Brittany
became very active; Alan, Sire d'Albret, called the Great because of his
reputation for being the richest lord of the realm, Viscount James de
Rohan, and Archduke Maximilian of Austria, all three believed themselves
to have hopes of success, and prosecuted them assiduously. Sire
d'Albret, a widower and the father of eight children already, was
forty-five, with a pimply face, a hard eye, a hoarse voice, and a
quarrelsome and gloomy temper; and Anne, being pressed to answer his
suit, finally declared that she would turn nun rather than marry him.
James de Rohan, in spite of his powerful backers at the court of Rennes,
was likewise dismissed; his father, Viscount John II., was in the service
of the King of France. Archduke Maximilian remained the only claimant
with any pretensions. He was nine and twenty, of gigantic stature,
justly renowned for valor and ability in war, and of more literary
culture than any of the princes his contemporaries, a trait he had in
common with Princess Anne, whose education had been very carefully
attended to. She showed herself to be favorably disposed towards him;
and the Duke of Orleans, whose name, married though he was, was still
sometimes associated with that of the Breton princess, formally declared,
on the 26th of January, 1486, that, "when he came to the Duke of
Brittany's, it was solely to visit him and advise him on certain points
touching the defence of his duchy, and not to talk to him of marriage
with the princesses his daughters." But, whilst the negotiation was thus
inclining towards the Austrian prince, Anne de Beaujeu, ever far-sighted
and energetic, was vigorously pushing on the war against the Duke of
Brittany and his allies. She had found in Louis de la Tremoille an able
and a bold warrior, whom Guicciardini calls the greatest captain in the
world. In July, 1488, he came suddenly down upon Brittany, took one
after the other Chateaubriant, Ancenis, and Fougeres, and, on the 28th,
gained at St. Aubin-du-Cormier, near Rennes, over the army of the Duke of
Brittany and his English, German, and Gascon allies, a victory which
decided the campaign: six thousand of the Breton army were killed, and
Duke Louis of Orleans, the Prince of Orange, and several French lords,
his friends, were made prisoners. On receiving at Angers the news of
this victory, Charles VIII. gave orders that the two captive princes
should be brought to him; but Anne de Beaujeu, fearing some ebullition on
his part of a too prompt and too gratuitous generosity, caused delay in
their arrival; and the Duke of Orleans, who was taken first to the castle
of Sable and then to Lusignan, went ultimately to the Tower of Bourges,
where he was to await the king's decision.

It was a great success for Anne de Beaujeu. She had beaten her united
foes; and the most formidable of them all, the Duke of Orleans, was her
prisoner. Two incidents that supervened, one a little before and the
other a little after the battle of St. Aubin-du-Cormier, occurred to both
embarrass the position and at the same time call forth all the energy of
Anne. Her brother-in-law, Duke John of Bourbon, the head of his house,
died on the 1st of April, 1488, leaving to his younger brother, Peter,
his title and domains. Having thus become Duchess of Bourbon, and being
well content with this elevation in rank and fortune, Madame the Great
(as Anne de Beaujeu was popularly called) was somewhat less eagerly
occupied with the business of the realm, was less constant at the king's
council, and went occasionally with her husband to stay a while in their
own territories. Charles VIII., moreover, having nearly arrived at man's
estate, made more frequent manifestations of his own personal will; and
Anne, clear-sighted and discreet though ambitious, was little by little
changing her dominion into influence. But some weeks after the battle of
St. Aubin-du-Cormier, on the 7th or 9th of September, 1488, the death of
Francis II., Duke of Brittany, rendered the active intervention of the
Duchess of Bourbon natural and necessary; for he left his daughter, the
Princess Anne, barely eighteen years old, exposed to all the difficulties
attendant upon the government of her inheritance, and to all the
intrigues of the claimants to her hand. In the summer of 1489, Charles
VIII. and his advisers learned that the Count of Nassau, having arrived
in Brittany with the proxy of Archduke Maximilian, had by a mock ceremony
espoused the Breton princess in his master's name. This strange mode of
celebration could not give the marriage a real and indissoluble
character; but the concern in the court of France was profound. In
Brittany there was no mystery any longer made about the young duchess's
engagement; she already took the title of Queen of the Romans. Charles
VIII. loudly protested against this pretended marriage; and to give still
more weight to his protest he sent to Henry VII., King of England, who
was much mixed up with the affairs of Brittany, ambassadors charged to
explain to him the right which France had to oppose the marriage of the
young Duchess with Archduke Maximilian, at the same time taking care not
to give occasion for thinking that Charles had any views on his own
account in that quarter. "The king my master," said the ambassador,
"doth propose to assert by arms his plain rights over the kingdom of
Naples, now occupied by some usurper or other, a bastard of the house of
Arragon. He doth consider, moreover, the conquest of Naples only as a
bridge thrown down before him for to take him into Greece; there he is
resolved to lavish his blood and his treasure, though he should have to
pawn his crown and drain his kingdom, for to overthrow the tyranny of the
Ottomans, and open to himself in this way the kingdom of Heaven." The
King of England gave a somewhat ironical reply to this chivalrous
address, merely asking whether the King of France would consent not to
dispose of the heiress of Brittany's hand, save on the condition of not
marrying her himself. The ambassadors shuffled out of the question by
saying that their master was so far from any such idea, that it had not
been foreseen in their instructions.

Whether it had or had not been foreseen and meditated upon, so soon as
the reunion of Brittany with France by the marriage of the young duchess,
Anne, with King Charles VIII. appeared on the horizon as a possible, and,
peradventure, probable fact, it became the common desire, aim, and labor
of all the French politicians who up to that time had been opposed,
persecuted, and proscribed. Since the battle of St. Aubin-du-Cormier,
Duke Louis of Orleans had been a prisoner in the Tower of Bourges, and so
strictly guarded that he was confined at night in an iron cage like
Cardinal Balue's for fear he should escape. In vain had his wife, Joan
of France, an unhappy and virtuous princess, ugly and deformed, who had
never been able to gain her husband's affections, implored her
all-powerful sister, Anne of Bourbon, to set him at liberty: "As I am
incessantly thinking," she wrote to her, "about my husband's release, I
have conceived the idea of setting down in writing the fashion in which
peace might be had, and my said husband be released. I am writing it out
for the king, and you will see it all. I pray you, sister, to look to it
that I may get a few words in answer; it has been a very sad thing for me
that I never see you now." There is no trace of any answer from Anne to
her sister. Charles VIII. had a heart more easily touched. When Joan,
in mourning, came and threw herself at his feet, saying, "Brother, my
husband is dragging on his life in prison; and I am in such trouble that
I know not what I ought to say in his defence. If he has had aught
wherewith to reproach himself, I am the only one whom he has outraged.
Pardon him, brother; you will never have so happy a chance of being
generous." "You shall have him, sister," said Charles, kissing her;
"grant Heaven that you may not repent one day of that which you are doing
for him to-day!" Some days after this interview, in May, 1491, Charles,
without saying anything about it to the duchess, Anne of Bourbon, set off
one evening from Plessis du Pare on pretence of going a-hunting, and on
reaching Berry sent for the Duke of Orleans from the Tower of Bourges.
Louis, in raptures at breathing the air of freedom, at the farthest
glimpse he caught of the king, leaped down from his horse and knelt,
weeping, on the ground. "Charles," says the chronicler, "sprang upon his
neck, and knew not what cheer (reception) to give him, to make it
understood that he was acting of his own motion and free will." Charles
ill understood his sister Anne, and could scarcely make her out. But two
convictions had found their way into that straightforward and steady mind
of hers; one, that a favorable time had arrived for uniting Brittany with
France, and must be seized; the other, that the period of her personal
dominion was over, and that all she had to do was to get herself well
established in her new position. She wrote to the king her brother to
warn him against the accusations and wicked rumors of which she might
possibly be the object. He replied to her on the 21st of June, 1491:
"My good sister, my dear, Louis de Pesclins has informed me that you have
knowledge that certain matters have been reported to me against you;
whereupon I answered him that nought of the kind had been reported to me;
and I assure you that none would dare so to speak to me; for, in
whatsoever fashion it might, I would not put faith therein, as I hope to
tell you when we are together,--bidding you adieu, my good sister, my
dear." After having re-assured his sister, Charles set about reconciling
her, as well as her husband, the Duke of Bourbon, with her
brother-in-law, the Duke of Orleans. Louis, who was of a frank and by no
means rancorous disposition, as he himself said and proved at a later
period, submitted with a good grace; and on the 4th of September, 1491,
at La Fleche, the princes jointly made oath, by their baptism and with
their hands on the book of the Gospels, "to hold one another once more in
perpetual affection, and to forget all old rancor, hatred, and ill will,
for to well and loyally serve King Charles, guard his person and
authority, and help him to comfort the people, and set in order his
household and his kingdom." Councillors and servants were included in
this reconciliation of the masters; and Philip de Commynes and the Bishop
of Montauban, ere long Archbishop of Rouen, Governor of Normandy, and
Cardinal d'Amboise, went out of disgrace, took their places again in the
king's councils, and set themselves loyally to the work of accomplishing
that union between Charles VIII. and Anne of Brittany, whereby France was
to achieve the pacific conquest of Brittany.

Pacific as it was, this conquest cost some pains, and gave some trouble.
In person Charles VIII. was far from charming; he was short and badly
built; he had an enormous head; great, blank-looking eyes; an aquiline
nose, bigger and thicker than was becoming; thick lips, too, and
everlastingly open; nervous twitchings, disagreeable to see; and slow
speech. "In my judgment," adds the ambassador from Venice, Zachary
Contarini, who had come to Paris in May, 1492, "I should hold that, body
and mind, he is not worth much; however, they all sing his praises in
Paris as a right lusty gallant at playing of tennis, and at hunting, and
at jousting, exercises to the which, in season and out of season, he doth
devote a great deal of time." The same ambassador says of Anne of
Brittany, who had then been for four months Queen of France, "The queen
is short also, thin, lame of one foot, and perceptibly so, though she
does what she can for herself by means of boots with high heels, a
brunette and very pretty in the face, and, for her age, very knowing; in
such sort that what she has once taken into her head she will obtain
somehow or other, whether it be smiles or tears that be needed for it."
--[_La Diplomatic Venitienne au Seizieme Siecle,_ by M. Armand Baschet,
p. 325 (Paris, 1862).] Knowing as she was, Anne was at the same time
proud and headstrong; she had a cultivated mind; she was fond of the
arts, of poetry, and of ancient literature; she knew Latin, and even a
little Greek; and having been united, though by proxy and at a distance,
to a prince whom she had never seen, but whom she knew to be tall, well
made, and a friend to the sciences, she revolted at the idea of giving
him up for a prince without beauty, and to such an extent without
education, that, it is said, Charles VIII., when he ascended the throne,
was unable to read. When he was spoken of to the young princess, "I am
engaged in the bonds of matrimony to Archduke Maximilian," said Anne:
"and the King of France, on his side, is affianced to the Princess
Marguerite of Austria; we are not free, either of us." She went so far
as to say that she would set out and go and join Maximilian. Her
advisers, who had nearly all of them become advocates of the French
marriage, did their best to combat this obstinacy on the part of their
princess, and they proposed to her other marriages. Anne answered, "I
will marry none but a king or a king's son." Whilst the question was
thus being disputed at the little court of Rennes, the army of Charles
VIII. was pressing the city more closely every day. Parleys took place
between the leaders of the two hosts; and the Duke of Orleans made his
way into Rennes, had an interview with the Duchess Anne, and succeeded in
shaking her in her refusal of any French marriage. "Many maintain," says
Count Philip de Segur [_Histoire de Charles VIII,_ t. i. p. 217], "that
Charles VIII. himself entered alone and without escort into the town he
was besieging, had a conversation with the young duchess, and left to her
the decision of their common fate, declaring to her that she was free and
he her captive; that all roads would be open to her to go to England or
to Germany; and that, for himself, he would go to Touraine to await the
decision whereon depended, together with the happiness of his own future,
that of all the kingdom." Whatever may be the truth about these
chivalrous traditions, there was concluded on the 15th of September,
1491, a treaty whereby the two parties submitted themselves for an
examination of all questions that concerned them to twenty-four
commissioners, taken half and half from the two hosts; and, in order to
give the preconcerted resolution an appearance of mutual liberty,
authority was given to the young Duchess Anne to go, if she pleased,
and join Maximilian in Germany. Charles VIII., accompanied by a hundred
men-at-arms and fifty archers of his guard, again entered Rennes; and
three days afterwards the King of France and the Duchess of Brittany were
secretly affianced in the chapel of Notre-Dame. The Duke of Orleans, the
Duchess of Bourbon, the Prince of Orange, Count Dunois, and some Breton
lords, were the sole witnesses of the ceremony. Next day Charles VIII.
left Rennes and repaired to the castle of Langeais in Touraine. There
the Duchess Anne joined him a fortnight afterwards. The young Princess
Marguerite of Austria, who had for eight years been under guardianship
and education at Amboise as the future wife of the King of France, was
removed from France and taken back into Flanders to her father, Archduke
Maximilian, with all the external honors that could alleviate such an
insult. On the 13th of December, 1491, the contract of marriage between
Charles VIII. and Anne of Brittany was drawn up in the great hall of the
castle of Langeais, in two drafts, one in French and the other in Breton.
The Bishop of Alby celebrated the nuptial ceremony. By that deed, "if my
Lady Anne were to die before King Charles, and his children, issue of
their marriage, she ceded and transferred irrevocably to him and his
successors, kings of France, all her rights to the duchy of Brittany.
King Charles ceded in like manner to my Lady Anne his rights to the
possession of the said duchy, if he were to die before her with-out
children born of their marriage. My Lady Anne could not, in case of
widowhood, contract a second marriage save with the future king, if it
were his pleasure and were possible, or with other near and presumptive
future successor to the throne, who should be bound to make to the king
regnant, on account of the said duchy, the same acknowledgments that the
predecessors of the said Lady Anne had made." On the 7th of February,
1492, Anne was crowned at St. Denis; and next day, the 8th of February,
she made her entry in state into Paris, amidst the joyful and earnest
acclamations of the public. A sensible and a legitimate joy: for the
reunion of Brittany to France was the consolidation of the peace which,
in this same century, on the 17th of September, 1453, had put an end to
the Hundred Years' War between France and England, and was the greatest
act that remained to be accomplished to insure the definitive victory and
the territorial constitution of French nationality.

[Illustration: Meeting between Charles VIII, and Anne of Brittany----282]

Charles VIII. was pleased with and proud of himself. He had achieved a
brilliant and a difficult marriage. In Europe, and within his own
household, he had made a display of power and independence. In order to
espouse Anne of Brittany, he had sent back Marguerite of Austria to her
father. He had gone in person and withdrawn from prison his cousin Louis
of Orleans, whom his sister, Anne de Beaujeu, had put there; and so far
from having got embroiled with her, he saw all the royal family
reconciled around him. This was no little success for a young prince of
twenty-one. He thereupon devoted himself with ardor and confidence to
his desire of winning back the kingdom of Naples, which Alphonso I.,
King of Arragon, had wrested from the house of France, and of thereby
re-opening for himself in the East, and against Islamry, that career of
Christian glory which had made a saint of his ancestor, Louis IX.
Mediocre men are not safe from the great dreams which have more than once
seduced and ruined the greatest men. The very mediocre son of Louis XI.,
on renouncing his father's prudent and by no means chivalrous policy, had
no chance of becoming a great warrior and a saint; but not the less did
he take the initiative as to those wars in Italy which were to be so
costly to his successors and to France. By two treaties concluded in
1493 [one at Barcelona on the 19th of January and the other at Senlis on
the 23d of May], he gave up Roussillon and Cerdagne to Ferdinand the
Catholic, King of Arragon, and Franche-Comte, Artois, and Charolais to
the house of Austria, and, after having at such a lamentable price
purchased freedom of movement, he went and took up his quarters at Lyons
to prepare for his Neapolitan venture.

In his council he found loyal and able opponents. "On the undertaking of
this trip," says Philip de Commynes, one of those present, "there was
many a discussion, for it seemed to all folks of wisdom and experience
very dangerous . . . all things necessary for so great a purpose were
wanting; the king was very young, a poor creature, wilful and with but a
small attendance of wise folk and good leaders; no ready money; neither
tents, nor pavilions for wintering in Lombardy. One thing good they had:
a lusty company full of young men of family, but little under control."
The chiefest warrior of France at this time, Philip de Crevecoeur,
Marshal d'Esquerdes, threw into the opposition the weight of his age and
of his recognized ability. "The greatness and tranquillity of the
realm," said he, "depend on possession of the Low Countries; that is the
direction in which we must use all our exertions rather than against a
state, the possession of which, so far from being advantageous to us,
could not but weaken us." "Unhappily," says the latest, learned
historian of Charles VIII. [_Histoire de Charles VIII._, by the late M.
de Cherrier, t. i. p. 393], "the veteran marshal died on the 22d of
April, 1494, in a small town some few leagues from Lyons, and thenceforth
all hope of checking the current became visionary. . . . On the 8th
of September, 1494, Charles VIII. started from Grenoble, crossed Mount
Genevre, and went and slept at Oulx, which was territory of Piedmont. In
the evening a peasant who was accused of being a master of Vaudery
[i.e. one of the Vaudois, a small population of reformers in the Alps,
between Piedmont and Dauphiny] was brought before him; the king gave him
audience, and then handed him over to the provost, who had him hanged on
a tree." By such an act of severity, perpetrated in a foreign country
and on the person of one who was not his own subject, did Charles VIII.
distinguish his first entry into Italy.

[Illustration: Charles VIII. crossing the Alps----285]

It were out of place to follow out here in all its details a war which
belongs to the history of Italy far more than to that of France; it will
suffice to point out with precision the positions of the principal
Italian states at this period, and the different shares of influence they
exercised on the fate of the French expedition.

Six principal states, Piedmont, the kingdom of the Dukes of Savoy; the
duchy of Milan; the republic of Venice; the republic of Florence; Rome
and the pope; and the kingdom of Naples, co-existed in Italy at the end
of the fifteenth century. In August, 1494, when Charles VIII. started
from Lyons on his Italian expedition, Piedmout was governed by Blanche of
Montferrat, widow of Charles the 'Warrior,' Duke of Savoy, in the name of
her son Charles John Amadeo, a child only six years old. In the duchy of
Milan the power was in the hands of Ludovic Sforza, called the Moor, who,
being ambitious, faithless, lawless, unscrupulous, employed it in
banishing to Pavia the lawful duke, his own nephew, John Galeas Mario
Sforza, of whom the Florentine ambassador said to Ludovic himself, "This
young man seems to me a good young man and animated by good sentiments,
but very deficient in wits." He was destined to die ere long, probably
by poison. The republic of Venice had at this period for its doge
Augustin Barbarigo; and it was to the council of Ten that in respect of
foreign affairs as well as of the home department the power really
belonged. Peter de' Medici, son of Lorenzo de' Medici, the father of the
Muses, was feebly and stupidly, though with all the airs and pretensions
of a despot, governing the republic of Florence.

Rome had for pope Alexander VI. (Poderigo Borgia), a prince who was
covetous, licentious, and brazen-facedly fickle and disloyal in his
policy, and who would be regarded as one of the most utterly demoralized
men of the fifteenth century, only that he had for son a Caesar Borgia.
Finally, at Naples, in 1494, three months before the day on which Charles
VIII, entered Italy, King Alphonso II. ascended the throne. "No man,"
says Commynes, "was ever more cruel than he, or more wicked, or more
vicious and tainted, or more gluttonous; less dangerous, however, than
his father, King Ferdinand, the which did take in and betray folks whilst
giving them good cheer (kindly welcome), as hath been told to me by his
relatives and friends, and who did never have any pity or compassion for
his poor people." Such, in Italy, whether in her kingdoms or her
republics, were the Heads with whom Charles VIII. had to deal when he
went, in the name of a disputed right, three hundred leagues away from
his own kingdom in quest of a bootless and ephemeral conquest.

The reception he met with at the outset of his enterprise could not but
confirm him in his illusory hopes. Whilst he was at Lyons, engaged in
preparations for his departure, Duke Charles of Savoy, whose territories
were the first he would have to cross, came to see him on a personal
matter. "Cousin, my good friend," said the king to him, "I am delighted
to see you at Lyons, for, if you had delayed your coming, I had intended
to go myself to see you, with a very numerous company, in your own
dominions, where it is likely such a visit could not but have caused you
loss." "My lord," answered the duke, "my only regret at your arrival in
my dominions would be, that I should be unable to give you such welcome
there as is due to so great a prince. . . . However, whether here or
elsewhere, I shall be always ready to beg that you will dispose of me and
all that pertains to me just as of all that might belong to your own
subjects." Duke Charles of Savoy had scarcely exaggerated; he was no
longer living in September, 1494, when Charles VIII, demanded of his
widow Blanche, regent in the name of her infant son, a free passage for
the French army over her territory, and she not only granted his request,
but, when he entered Turin, she had him received exactly as he might have
been in the greatest cities of France. He admired the magnificent jewels
she wore; and she offered to lend them to him. He accepted them, and
soon afterwards borrowed on the strength of them twelve thousand golden
ducats; so ill provided was he with money. The fair regent, besides,
made him a present of a fine black horse, which Commynes calls the best
in the world, and which, ten months later, Charles rode at the battle of
Fornovo, the only victory he was to gain on retiring from this sorry
campaign. On entering the country of the Milanese he did not experience
the same feeling of confidence that Piedmont had inspired him with. Not
that Ludovic the Moor hesitated to lavish upon him assurances of
devotion. "Sir," said he, "have no fear for this enterprise; there are
in Italy three powers which we consider great, and of which you have one,
which is Milan; another, which is the Venetians, does not stir; so you
have to do only with that of Naples, and many of your predecessors have
beaten us when we were all united. If you will trust me, I will help to
make you greater than ever was Charlemagne; and when you have in your
hands this kingdom of Naples, we shall easily drive yon Turk out of that
empire of Constantinople." These words pleased Charles VIII. mightily,
and he would have readily pinned his faith to them; but he had at his
side some persons more clear-sighted, and Ludovic had enemies who did not
deny themselves the pleasure of enlightening the king concerning him. He
invited Charles to visit Milan; he desired to parade before the eyes of
the people his alliance and intimate friendship with the powerful King of
France; but Charles, who had at first treated him as a friend, all at
once changed his demeanor, and refused to go to Milan, "so as not to lose
time." Ludovic was too good a judge to make any mistake in the matter;
but he did not press the point. Charles resumed his road to Piacenza,
where his army awaited him. At Pavia, vows, harangues, felicitations,
protestations of devotion, were lavished upon him without restoring his
confidence; quarters had been assigned to him within the city; he
determined to occupy the castle, which was in a state of defence; his own
guard took possession of the guard-posts; and the watch was doubled
during the night. Ludovic appeared to take no notice, and continued to
accompany the king as far as Piacenza, the last town in the state of
Milan. Into it Charles entered with seventy-eight hundred horse, many
Swiss foot, and many artillerymen and bombardiers. The Italian
population regarded this army with an admiration tinged with timidity and
anxiety. News was heard there to the effect that young John Galeas,
nephew of Ludovic the Moor and lawful Duke of Milan, was dead. He left a
son, five years old, for whom he had at Pavia implored the king's
protection; and "I will look upon him as my own," King Charles had
answered as he fondled the child. Ludovic set out in haste for Milan;
and it was not long before it was known that he had been proclaimed duke
and put in possession of the duchy. Distrust became general throughout
the army. "Those who ought to have known best told me," says Commynes,
"that several, who had at first commended the trip, now found fault with
it, and that there was a great inclination to turn back." However, the
march was continued forward; and on the 29th of October, 1494, the French
army encamped before Sarzana, a Florentine town. Ludovic the Moor
suddenly arrived in the camp with new proposals of alliance, on new
conditions: Charles accepted some of them, and rejected the principal
ones. Ludovic went away again on the 3d of November, never to return.

From this day the King of France might reckon him amongst his enemies.
With the republic of Florence was henceforth to be Charles's business.
Its head, Peter de' Medici, went to the camp at Sarzana, and Philip de
Commynes started on an embassy to go and negotiate with the doge and
senate of Venice, which was the chiefest of the Italian powers and the
territory of which lay far out of the line of march of the King of France
and his army. In the presence of the King of France and in the midst of
his troops Peter de' Medici grew embarrassed and confused. He had gone
to meet the king without the knowledge of the Florentines and was already
alarmed at the gravity of his situation; and he offered more concession
and submission than was demanded of him. "Those who treated with him,"
says Commynes, "told me, turning him to scorn and ridicule, that they
were dumbfounded at his so readily granting so great a matter and what
they were not prepared for." Feelings were raised to the highest pitch
at Florence when his weaknesses were known. There was a numerous and
powerful party, consisting of the republicans and the envious, hostile to
the Medicis; and they eagerly seized the opportunity of attacking them.
A deputation, comprising the most considerable men of the city, was sent,
on the 5th of November, to the King of France with a commission to obtain
from him more favorable conditions. The Dominican, Jerome Savonarola, at
that time the popular oracle of Florence, was one of them. With a pious
hauteur that was natural and habitual to him, he adopted the same tone
towards Charles as towards the people of Florence. "Hearken thou to my
words," said he, "and grave them upon thy heart. I warn thee, in God's
name, that thou must show thyself merciful and forbearing to the people
of Florence, if thou wouldest that He should aid thee in thy enterprise."
Charles, who scarcely knew Savonarola by name, answered simply that he
did not wish to do the Florentines any harm, but that he demanded a free
passage, and all that had been promised him: "I wish to be received at
Florence," he added, "to sign there a definitive treaty which shall
settle everything." At these cold expressions the ambassadors withdrew
in some disquietude. Peter de' Medici, who was lightly confident,
returned to Florence on the 8th of November, and attempted again to seize
the supreme power. A violent outbreak took place; Peter was as weak
before the Florentine populace as he had been before the King of France;
and, having been harried in his very palace, which was given up to
pillage, it was only in the disguise of a monk that he was able, on the
9th of November, to get out of the city in company with his two brothers,
Julian and Cardinal John de' Medici, of whom the latter was to be, ten
years later, Pope Leo X. Peter and his brothers having been driven out,
the Florentines were anxious to be reconciled with Charles VIII. Both by
political tradition and popular bias the Florentine republic was
favorable to France. Charles, annoyed at what had just taken place,
showed but slight inclination to enter into negotiation with them; but
his wisest advisers represented to him that, in order to accomplish his
enterprise and march securely on Naples, he needed the good will of
Florence; and the new Florentine authorities promised him the best of
receptions in their city. Into it Charles entered on the 17th of
November, 1494, at the head of all his army. His reception on the part
of officials and populace was really magnificent. Negotiation was
resumed. Charles was at first very exacting; the Florentine negotiators
protested; one of them, Peter Capponi, "a man of great wits and great
courage," says Guiceiardini, "highly esteemed for those qualities in
Florence, and issue of a family which had been very powerful in the
republic," when he heard read the exorbitant conditions proposed to them
on the king's behalf, started up suddenly, took the paper from the
secretary's hands, and tore it up before the king's eyes, saying, "Since
you impose upon us things so dishonorable, have your trumpets sounded,
and we will have our bells rung;" and he went forth from the chamber
together with his comrades. Charles and his advisers thought better of
it; mutual concessions were made; a treaty, concluded on the 25th of
November, secured to the King of France a free passage through the whole
extent of the republic, and a sum of one hundred and twenty thousand
golden florins "to help towards the success of the expedition against
Naples;" the commune of Florence engaged to revoke the order putting a
price upon the head of Peter de' Medici as well as confiscating his
goods, and not to enforce against him any penalty beyond proscription
from the territory; and, the honor as well as the security of both the
contracting parties having thus been provided for, Charles VIII. left
Florence, and took, with his army, the road towards the Roman States.

Having on the 7th of December, 1494, entered Acquapendente, and, on the
10th, Viterbo, he there received, on the following day, a message from
Pope Alexander VI., who in his own name and that of Alphonso II., King of
Naples, made him an offer of a million ducats to defray the expenses of
the war, and a hundred thousand livres annually, on condition that he
would abandon his enterprise against the kingdom of Naples. "I have no
mind to make terms with the Arragonese usurper," answered Charles: "I
will treat directly with the pope when I am in Rome, which I reckon upon
entering about Christmas. I have already made known to him my
intentions; I will forthwith send him ambassadors commissioned to repeat
them to him." And he did send to him the most valiant of his warriors,
Louis de la Tremoille, "the which was there," says the contemporary
chronicler, John Bouchet, "with certain speakers, who, after having
pompously reminded the pope of the whole history of the French kingship
in its relations with the papacy, ended up in the following strain:
'prayeth you, then, our sovereign lord the king not to give him occasion
to be, to his great sorrow, the first of his lineage who ever had war and
discord with the Roman Church, whereof he and the Christian Kings of
France, his predecessors, have been protectors and augmenters.' More
briefly and with an affectation of sorrowful graciousness, the pope made
answer to the ambassador: 'If it please King Charles, my eldest spiritual
son, to enter into my city without arms in all humility, he will be most
welcome; but much would it annoy me if the army of thy king should enter,
because that, under shadow of it, which is said to be great and riotous,
the factions and bands of Rome might rise up and cause uproar and
scandal, wherefrom great discomforts might happen to the citizens.'"
For three weeks the king and the pope offered the spectacle, only too
common in history, of the hypocrisy of might pitted against the hypocrisy
of religion. At last the pope saw the necessity of yielding; he sent for
Prince Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, and told him that he must no
longer remain at Rome with the Neapolitan troops, for that the King of
France was absolute about entering; and he at the same time handed him a
safe-conduct under Charles's own hand. Ferdinand refused the
safe-conduct, and threw himself upon his knees before the pope, asking
him for his blessing: "Rise, my dear son," said the pope; "go, and have
good hope; God will come to our aid." The Neapolitans departed, and on
the 1st of January, 1495, Charles VIII. entered Rome with his army,
"saying gentlewise," according to Brantome, "that a while agone he had
made a vow to my lord St. Peter of Rome, and that of necessity he must
accomplish it at the peril of his life. Behold him, then, entered into
Rome," continues Brantome, "in bravery and triumph, himself armed at all
points, with lance on thigh, as if he would fain pick forward to the
charge. Marching in this fine and furious order of battle, with trumpets
a-sounding and drums a-beating, he enters in and takes his lodging, by
the means of his harbingers, wheresoever it seems to him good, has his
bodies of guards set, posts his sentinels about the places and districts
of the noble city, with no end of rounds and patrols, has his tribunals
and his gallows planted in five or six different spots, his edicts and
ordinances being published and proclaimed by sound of trumpet, as if he
had been in Paris. Go find me ever a King of France who did such things,
save Charlemagne; yet trow I he did not bear himself with authority so
superb and imperious. What remained, then, more for this great king, if
not to make himself full master of this glorious city which had subdued
all the world in days of yore, as it was in his power to do, and as he,
perchance, would fain have done, in accordance with his ambition and with
some of his council, who urged him mightily thereto, if it were only for
to keep himself secure. But far from this: violation of holy religion
gave him pause, and the reproach that might have been brought against him
of having done offence to his Holiness, though reason enough had been
given him: on the contrary, he rendered him all honor and obedience, even
to kissing in all humility his slipper!" [_Oeuvres de Brantome_ (Paris,
1822), t. ii. p. 3.] No excuse is required for quoting this fragment of
Brantome; for it gives the truest and most striking picture of the
conditions of facts and sentiments during this transitory encounter
between a madly adventurous king and a brazen-facedly dishonest pope.
Thus they passed four weeks at Rome, the pope having retired at first to
the Vatican and afterwards to the castle of St. Angelo, and Charles
remaining master of the city, which, in a fit of mutual ill-humor and
mistrust, was for one day given over to pillage and the violence of the
soldiery. At last, on the 15th of January, a treaty was concluded which
regulated pacific relations between the two sovereigns, and secured to
the French army a free passage through the States of the Church, both
going to Naples and also returning, and provisional possession of the
town of Civita Vecchia, on condition that it should be restored to the
pope when the king returned to France. On the 16th and 19th of January
the pope and the king had two interviews, one private and the other
public, at which they renewed their engagements, and paid one another the
stipulated honors. It was announced that, on the 23d of January, the
Arragonese King of Naples, Alphonso II., had abdicated in favor of his
son, Ferdinand II.; and, on the 28th of January, Charles VIII. took
solemn leave of the pope, received his blessing, and left Rome, as he had
entered it, at the head of his army, and more confident than ever in the
success of the expedition he was going to carry out.

[Illustration: Charles VIII----293]

Ferdinand II., the new King of Naples, who had no lack of energy or
courage, was looking everywhere, at home and abroad, for forces and
allies to oppose the imminent invasion. To the Duke of Milan he wrote,
"Remember that we two are of the same blood. It is much to be desired
that a league should at once be formed between the pope, the kings of the
Romans and Spain, you, and Venice. If these powers are united, Italy
would have nought to fear from any. Give me your support; I have the
greatest need of it. If you back me, I shall owe to you the preservation
of my throne, and I will honor you as my father." He ordered the
Neapolitan envoy at Constantinople to remind Sultan Bajazet of the
re-enforcements he had promised his father, King Alphonso: "Time presses;
the King of France is advancing in person on Naples; be instant in
solicitation; be importunate if necessary, so that the Turkish army cross
the sea without delay. Be present yourself at the embarkation of the
troops. Be active; run; fly." He himself ran through all his kingdom,
striving to resuscitate some little spark of affection and hope. He had
no success anywhere; the memory of the king his father was hateful; he
was himself young and without influence; his ardor caused fear instead of
sympathy. Charles kept advancing along the kingdom through the midst of
people that remained impassive when they did not give him a warm
reception. The garrison of Monte San Giovanni, the strongest place on
the frontier, determined to resist. The place was carried by assault in
a few hours, and "the assailants," says a French chronicler, "without
pity or compassion, made short work of all those plunderers and
malefactors, whose bodies they hurled down from the walls. The carnage
lasted eight whole hours." A few days afterwards Charles with his guard
arrived in front of San Germano: "The clergy awaited him at the gate with
cross and banner; men of note carried a dais under the which he took his
place; behind him followed men, women, and children, chanting this
versicle from the Psalms: 'Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini!
Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord!'" The town of Capua
was supposed to be very much attached to the house of Arragon; John James
Trivulzio, a valiant Milanese captain, who had found asylum and fortune
in Naples, had the command there; and thither King Ferdinand hurried.
"I am going to Naples for troops," said he to the inhabitants; "wait for
me confidently; and if by to-morrow evening you do not see me return,
make your own terms with King Charles; you have my full authority."
On arriving at Naples, he said to the Neapolitans, "Hold out for a
fortnight; I will not expose the capital of my kingdom to be stormed by
barbarians; if, within a fort-night hence, I have not prevented the enemy
from crossing the Volturno, you may ask him for terms of capitulation;"
and back he went to Capua. When he was within sight of the ramparts he
heard that on the previous evening, before it was night, the French had
been admitted into the town. Trivulzio had been to visit King Charles at
Teano, and had offered, in the name of his troops and of the Capuans, to
surrender Capua; he had even added, says Guicciardini, that he did not
despair of bringing King Ferdinand himself to an arrangement, if a
suitable provision were guaranteed to him. "I willingly accept the offer
you make me in the name of your troops and of the Capuans," answered
Charles: "as for the Arragonese prince, he shall be well received if he
come to me; but let him understand that not an inch of ground shall be
left to him in this kingdom; in France he shall have honors and beautiful
domains." On the 18th of February Charles entered Capua amidst the
cheers of the people; and on the same day Trivulzio went over to his
service with a hundred lances. On returning to Naples, Ferdinand found
the gates closed, and could not get into Castel Nuovo save by a postern.
At that very moment the mob was pillaging his stables; he went down from
the fortress, addressed the crowd collected beneath the ramparts in a few
sad and bitter words, into which he tried to infuse some leaven of hope,
took certain measures to enable the two forts of Naples, Castel Nuovo and
Castel dell Uovo, to defend themselves for a few days longer, and, on the
23d of February, went for refuge to the island of Ischia, repeating out
loud, as long as he had Naples in sight, this versicle from the Psalms:
"Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain!" At
Ischia itself "he had a fresh trial to make," says Guicciardini, "of his
courage and of the ungrateful faithlessness displayed towards those whom
Fortune deserts." The governor of the island refused to admit him
accompanied by more than one man. The prince, so soon as he got in,
flung himself upon him, poniard in hand, with such fury and such an
outburst of kingly authority, that all the garrison, astounded, submitted
to him and gave up to him the fort and its rock. On the very eve of the
day on which King Ferdinand II. was thus seeking his last refuge in the
island of Ischia, Charles VIII. was entering Naples in triumph at the
head of his troops, on horseback, beneath a pall of cloth of gold borne
by four great Neapolitan lords, and "received," says Guicciardini, "with
cheers and a joy of which it would be vain to attempt a description; the
incredible exultation of a crowd of both sexes, of every age, of every
condition, of every quality, of every party, as if he had been the father
and first founder of the city." And the great French historian bears
similar witness to that of the great Italian historian: "Never," says
Commynes, "did people show so much affection to king or nation as they
showed to the king, and thought all of them to be free of tyranny."

At the news hereof the disquietude and vexation of the principal Italian
powers were displayed at Venice as well as at Milan and at Rome. The
Venetian senate, as prudent as it was vigilant, had hitherto maintained a
demeanor of expectancy and almost of good will towards France; they hoped
that Charles VIII. would be stopped or would stop of himself in his mad
enterprise, without their being obliged to interfere. The doge, Augustin
Barbarigo, lived on very good terms with Commynes, who was as desirous as
he was that the king should recover his senses. Commynes was destined to
learn how difficult and sorry a thing it is to have to promote a policy
of which you disapprove. When he perceived that a league was near to
being formed in Italy against the King of France, he at once informed his
master of it, and attempted to dissuade the Venetians from it. They
denied that they had any such design, and showed a disposition to form,
in concert with the Kings of France, Spain, and the Romans, and with the
whole of Italy, a league against the Turks, provided that Charles VIII.
would consent to leave the King of Naples in possession of his kingdom,
at the same time keeping for himself three places therein, and accepting
a sum in ready money which Venice would advance. "Would to God," says
Commynes, "that the king had been pleased to listen then! Of all did I
give him notice, and I got bare answer. . . . When the Venetians
heard that the king was in Naples, and that the strong fort, which they
had great hopes would hold out, was surrendered, they sent for me one
morning, and I found them in great number, about fifty or sixty, in the
apartment of the prince (the doge) who was ill. Some were sitting upon a
staircase leading to the benches, and had their heads resting upon their
hands, others otherwise, all showing that they had great sadness at
heart. And I trow that, when news came to Rome of the battle lost at
Cannae against Hannibal, the senators who had remained there were not
more dumbfounded and dismayed than these were; for not a single one made
sign of seeing me, or spoke to me one word, save the duke (the doge), who
asked me if the king would keep to that of which he had constantly sent
them word, and which I had said to them. I assured them stoutly that he
would, and I opened up ways for to remain at sound peace, hoping to
remove their suspicions, and then I did get me gone."

The league was concluded on the 31st of March, 1495, between Pope
Alexander VI., Emperor Maximilian I., as King of the Romans, the King of
Spain, the Venetians, and the Duke of Milan: "To three ends," says
Commynes, "for to defend Christendom against the Turks, for the defence
of Italy, and for the preservation of their Estates. There was nothing
in it against the king, they told me, but it was to secure themselves
from him; they did not like his so deluding the world with words by
saying that all he wanted was the kingdom, and then to march against the
Turk, and all the while he was showing quite the contrary. . . . I
remained in the city about a month after that, being as well treated as
before; and then I went my way, having been summoned by the king, and
being conducted in perfect security, at their expense, to Ferrara, whence
I went to Florence for to await the king."

When Ferdinand II. took refuge in the island of Ischia, and Castel Nuovo
and Castel dell' Uovo had surrendered at Naples, Charles VIII.,
considering himself in possession of the kingdom, announced his
intention, and, there is reason to believe, actually harbored the design,
of returning to France, without asserting any further his pretensions as
a conqueror. On the 20th of March, before the Italian league had been
definitively concluded, Briconnet, Cardinal of St. Malo, who had attended
the king throughout his expedition, wrote to the queen, Anne of Brittany,
"His Majesty is using diligence as best he can to return over yonder, and
has expressly charged me, for my part, to hasten his affairs. I hope he
will be able to start hence about the 8th of April. He will leave over
here, as lieutenant, my lord de Montpensier, with a thousand or twelve
hundred lances, partly French and partly of this country, fifteen hundred
Swiss, and a thousand French crossbow-men." Charles himself wrote, on
the 28th of March, to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Bourbon, that he
would mount his horse immediately after Quasimodo [the first Sunday after
Easter], to return to France without halting, or staying in any place.
But Charles, whilst so speaking and projecting, was forgetful of his
giddy indolence, his frivolous tastes, and his passion for theatrical
display and licentious pleasure. The climate, the country, the customs
of Naples charmed him. "You would never believe," he wrote to the Duke
of Bourbon, "what beautiful gardens I have in this city; on my faith,
they seem to me to lack only Adam and Eve to make of them an earthly
paradise, so beautiful are they, and full of nice and curious things, as
I hope to tell you soon. To add to that, I have found in this country
the best of painters; and I will send you some of them to make the most
beautiful ceilings possible. The ceilings at Beauce, Lyons, and other
places in France do not approach those of this place in beauty and
richness. . . . Wherefore I shall provide myself with them, and bring
them with me for to have some done at Arnboise." Politics were forgotten
in the presence of these royal fancies. Charles VIII. remained nearly
two months at Naples after the Italian league had been concluded, and
whilst it was making its preparations against him was solely concerned
about enjoying, in his beautiful but precarious kingdom, "all sorts of
mundane pleasaunces," as his councillor, the Cardinal of St. Malo, says,
and giving entertainments to his new subjects, as much disposed as
himself to forget everything in amusement. On the 12th of May, 1495, all
the population of Naples and of the neighboring country was afoot early
to see their new king make his entry in state as King of Naples, Sicily,
and Jerusalem, with his Neapolitan court and his French army. Charles
was on horseback beneath a rich dais borne by great Neapolitan lords; he
had a close crown on his head, the sceptre in his right hand, and a
golden globe in his left; in front of this brilliant train he took his
way through the principal streets of the city, halting at the five knots
of the noblesse, where the gentlemen and their wives who had assembled
there detained him a long while, requesting him to be pleased to confer
with his own hand the order of knighthood on their sons, which he
willingly did. At last he reached the cathedral church of St.
Januarius, which had recently been rebuilt by Alphonso I. of Arragon,
after the earth-quake of 1456. The archbishop, at the head of his
clergy, came out to meet him, and conducted him to the front of the high
altar, where the head of St. Januarius was exhibited.

When all these solemnities had been accomplished to the great
satisfaction of the populace, bonfires were lighted up for three days;
the city was illuminated; and only a week afterwards, on the 20th of May,
1495, Charles VIII. started from Naples to return to France, with an
army, at the most, from twelve to fifteen thousand strong, leaving for
guardian of his new kingdom his cousin, Gilbert of Bourbon, Count de
Montpensier, a brave but indolent knight (who never rose, it was said,
until noon), with eight or ten thousand men, scattered for the most part
throughout the provinces.

During the months of April and May, thus wasted by Charles VIII., the
Italian league, and especially the Venetians and the Duke of Milan,
Ludovic the Moor, had vigorously pushed forward their preparations for
war, and had already collected an army more numerous than that with which
the King of France, in order to return home, would have to traverse the
whole of Italy. He took more than six weeks to traverse it, passing
three days at Rome, four at Siena, the same number at Pisa, and three at
Lucca, though he had declared that he would not halt anywhere. He evaded
entering Florence, where he had made promises which he could neither
retract nor fulfil. The Dominican Savonarola, "who had always preached
greatly in the king's favor," says Commynes, "and by his words had kept
the Florentines from turning against us," came to see him on his way at
Poggibonsi. "I asked him," said Commynes, "whether the king would be
able to cross without danger to his person, seeing the great muster that
was being made by the Venetians. He answered me that the king would have
trouble on the road, but that the honor would remain his, though he had
but a hundred men at his back; but, seeing that he had not done well for
the reformation of the Church, as he ought, and had suffered his men to
plunder and rob the people, God had given sentence against him, and in
short he would have a touch of the scourge."

Several contemporary historians affirm that if the Italian army, formed
by the Venetians and the Duke of Milan, had opposed the march of the
French army, they might have put it in great peril; but nothing of the
kind was attempted. It was at the passage of the Appennines, so as to
cross them and descend into the duchy of Parma, that Charles VIII. had
for the first time to overcome resistance, not from men, but from nature.
He had in his train a numerous and powerful artillery, from which he
promised himself a great deal when the day of battle came; and he had to
get it up and down by steep paths, "Here never," says the chronicle of La
Tremoille, "had car or carriage gone. . . ." The king, knowing that
the lord of La Tremoille, such was his boldness and his strong will,
thought nothing impossible, gave to him this duty, which he willingly
undertook; and, to the end that the footmen, Swiss, German, and others,
might labor thereat without fearing the heat, he addressed them as
follows: 'The proper nature of us Gauls is strength, boldness, and
ferocity. We triumphed at our coming; better would it be for us to die,
than to lose by cowardice the delight of such praise; we are all in the
flower of our age and the vigor of our years; let each lend a hand to the
work of dragging the gun-carriages and carrying the cannon-balls; ten
crowns to the first man that reaches the top of the mountain before me!'
Throwing off his armor, La Tremoille, in hose and shirt, himself lent a
hand to the work; by dint of pulling and pushing, the artillery was got
to the brow of the mountain; it was then harder still to get it down the
other side, along a very narrow and rugged incline; and five whole days
were spent on this rough work, which luckily the generals of the enemy
did not attempt to molest. La Tremoille, "black as a Moor," says the
chronicle, "by reason of the murderous heat he had endured, made his
report to the king, who said, 'By the light of this day, cousin, you have
done more than ever could Annibal of Carthage or Caesar have done, to the
peril of your person, whereof you have not been sparing to serve me, me
and mine. I vow to God, that if I may only see you back in France, the
recompense I hope to make you shall be so great, that others shall
conceive fresh desire to serve me.'"

Charles VIII. was wise to treat his brave men well; for the day was at
hand when he would need them and all their bravery. It was in the duchy
of Parma, near the town of Fornovo, on the right bank of the Taro, an
affluent of the Po, that the French and Italian armies met, on the 5th of
July, 1495. The French army was nine or ten thousand strong, with five
or six thousand camp followers, servants or drivers; the Italian army
numbered at least thirty thousand men, well supplied and well rested,
whereas the French were fatigued with their long march, and very badly
off for supplies. During the night between the 5th and 6th of July, a
violent storm burst over the country, "rain, lightnings, and thunder so
mighty," says Commynes, "that none could say more; seemed that heaven and
earth would dissolve, or that it portended some great disaster to come."
Next day, at six in the morning, Charles VIII. heard mass, received the
communion, mounted on horseback, and set out to join his own division.
"I went to him," says Commynes, "and found him armed at all points, and
mounted upon the finest horse I had ever seen in my life, called Savoy;
Duke Charles of Savoy (the Duchess of Savoy,? v. p. 288) had given it
him; it was black, and had but one eye; it was a middle-sized horse, of
good height for him who was upon it. Seemed that this young man was
quite other than either his nature, his stature, or his complexion
bespoke him, for he was very timid in speaking, and is so to this day.
That horse made him look tall; and he had a good countenance, and of good
color, and speech bold and sensible." On perceiving Commynes, the king
said to him, "Go and see if yonder folks would fain parley." "Sir,"
answered Commynes, "I will do so willingly; but I never saw two so great
hosts so near to one another, and yet go their ways without fighting."
He went, nevertheless, to the Venetian advanced posts, and his trumpeter
was admitted to the presence of the Marquis of Mantua, who commanded the
Italian army; but skirmishing had already commenced in all quarters, and
the first boom of the cannon was heard just as the marquis was reading
Commynes' letter. "It is too late to speak of peace," said he; and the
trumpeter was sent back. The king had joined the division which he was
to lead to battle. "Gentlemen," said he to the men-at-arms who pressed
around him, "you will live or die here with me, will you not?" And then
raising his voice that he might be heard by the troops, "They are ten
times as many as we," he said; "but you are ten times better than they;
God loves the French; He is with us, and will do battle for us. As far
as Naples I have had the victory over my enemies; I have brought you
hither without shame or blame; with God's help I will lead you back into
France, to our honor and that of our kingdom." The men-at-arms made the
sign of the cross; the foot-soldiers kissed the ground; and the king made
several knights, according to custom, before going into action. The
Marquis of Mantua's squadrons were approaching. "Sir," said the bastard
of Bourbon, "there is no longer time for the amusement of making knights;
the enemy is coming on in force; go we at him." The king gave orders to
charge, and the battle began at all points.

[Illustration: Battle of Fornovo----303]

It was very hotly contested, but did not last long, with alternations of
success and reverse on both sides. The two principal commanders in the
king's army, Louis de la Tremoille and John James Trivulzio, sustained
without recoiling the shock of troops far more numerous than their own.
"At the throat! at the throat!!" shouted La Tremoille, after the first
onset, and his three hundred men-at-arms burst upon the enemy and broke
their line. In the midst of the melley, the French baggage was attacked
by the Stradiots, a sort of light infantry composed of Greeks recruited
and paid by the Venetians. "Let them be," said Trivulzio to his men;
"their zeal for plunder will make them forget all, and we shall give the
better account of them." At one moment, the king had advanced before the
main body of his guard, without looking to see if they were close behind
him, and was not more than a hundred paces from the Marquis of Mantua,
who, seeing him scantily attended, bore down at the head of his cavalry.
"Not possible is it," says Commynes, "to do more doughtily than was done
on both sides." The king, being very hard pressed, defended himself
fiercely against those who would have taken him; the bastard Matthew of
Bourbon, his brother-in-arms and one of the bravest knights in the army,
had thrown himself twenty paces in front of him to cover him, and had
just been taken prisoner by the Marquis of Mantua in person, when a mass
of the royal troops came to their aid, and released them from all peril.
Here it was that Peter du Terrail, the Chevalier de Bayard, who was
barely twenty years of age, and destined to so glorious a renown, made
his first essay in arms; he had two horses killed under him, and took a
standard, which he presented to the king, who after the battle made him a
present of five hundred crowns.

Charles VIII. remained master of the battle-field. "There were still to
be seen," says Commynes, "outside their camp, a great number of
men-at-arms, whose lances and heads only were visible, and likewise
foot-soldiers. The king put it to the council whether he ought to give
chase to them or not; some were for marching against them; but the French
were not of this opinion; they said that enough had been done, that it
was late, and that it was time to get lodged. Night was coming on; the
host which had been in front of us withdrew into their camp, and we went
to get lodged a quarter of a league from where the battle had been. The
king put up at a poorly-built farm-house, but he found there an infinite
quantity of corn in sheaves, whereby the whole army profited. Some other
bits of houses there were hard by, which did for a few; and every one
lodged as he could, without making any cantonment, I know well enough
that I lay in a vineyard, at full length on the bare ground, without
anything else and without cloak, for the king had borrowed mine in the
morning. Whoever had the wherewith made a meal, but few had, save a
hunch of bread from a varlet's knapsack. I went to see the king in his
chamber, where there were some wounded whom he was having dressed; he
wore a good mien, and every one kept a good face; and we were not so
boastful as a little before the battle, because we saw the enemy near
us." Six days after the battle, on the 12th of July, the king wrote to
his sister, the Duchess Anne of Bourbon, "Sister, my dear, I commend
myself to you right heartily. I wrote to my brother how that I found in
my way a big army that Lord Ludovic, the Venetians, and their allies, had
got ready against me, thinking to keep me from passing. Against which,
with God's help, such resistance was made, that I am come hither without
any loss. Furthermore, I am using the greatest diligence that can be to
get right away, and I hope shortly to see you, which is my desire, in
order to tell you at good length all about my trip. And so God bless
you, sister, my dear, and may He have you in His keeping!"

Both armies might and did claim the victory, for they had, each of them,
partly succeeded in their design. The Italians wished to unmistakably
drive out of Italy Charles VIII., who was withdrawing voluntarily; but to
make it an unmistakable retreat, he ought to have been defeated, his army
beaten, and himself perhaps a prisoner. With that view they attempted to
bar his passage and beat him on Italian ground: in that they failed;
Charles, remaining master of the battle-field, went on his way in
freedom, and covered with glory, he and his army. He certainly left
Italy, but he left it with the feeling of superiority in arms, and with
the intention of returning thither better informed and better supplied.
The Italian allies were triumphant, but without any ground of security or
any lustre; the expedition of Charles VIII. was plainly only the
beginning of the foreigner's ambitious projects, invasions and wars
against their own beautiful land. The King of France and his men of war
had not succeeded in conquering it, but they had been charmed with such
an abode; they had displayed in their campaign knightly qualities more
brilliant and more masterful than the studied duplicity and elegant
effeminacy of the Italians of the fifteenth century, and, after the
battle of Fornovo, they returned to France justly proud and foolishly
confident, notwithstanding the incompleteness of their success.

[Illustration: CASTLE OF AMBOISE----308]

Charles VIII. reigned for nearly three years longer after his return to
his kingdom; and for the first two of them he passed his time in
indolently dreaming of his plans for a fresh invasion of Italy, and in
frivolous abandonment to his pleasures and the entertainments at his
court, which he moved about from Lyons to Moulins, to Paris, to Tours,
and to Amboise. The news which came to him from Italy was worse and
worse every day. The Count de Montpensier, whom he had left at Naples,
could not hold his own there, and died a prisoner there on the 11th of
November, 1496, after having found himself driven from place to place by
Ferdinand II., who by degrees recovered possession of nearly all his
kingdom, merely, himself also, to die there on the 6th of October,
leaving for his uncle and successor, Frederick III., the honor of
recovering the last four places held by the French. Charles ordered a
fresh army of invasion to be formed, and the Duke of Orleans was singled
out to command it; but he evaded this commission. The young _dauphin_,
Charles Orlando, three years old, had just died, "a fine child and bold
of speech," says Commynes, "and one that feared not the things that other
children are wont to fear." Duke Louis of Orleans, having thus become
heir to the throne, did not care to go and run risks at a distance. He,
nevertheless, declared his readiness to obey an express command from the
king if the title of lieutenant-general were given him; but "I will never
send him to war on compulsion," said Charles, and nothing more was said
about it. Whilst still constantly talking of the war he had in view,
Charles attended more often and more earnestly than he hitherto had to
the internal affairs of his kingdom. "He had gotten it into his head,"
says Commynes, "that he would fain live according to God's commandments,
and set justice and the Church in good order. He would also revise his
finances, in such sort as to levy on the people but twelve hundred
thousand francs, and that in form of talliage, besides his own property
on which he would live, as did the kings of old." His two immediate
predecessors, Charles VII. and Louis IX., had decreed the collation and
revision of local customs, so often the rule of civil jurisdiction; but
the work made no progress: Charles VIII., by a decree dated March 15,
1497, abridged the formalities, and urged on the execution of it, though
it was not completed until the reign of Charles IX. By another decree,
dated August 2, 1497, he organized and regulated, as to its powers as
well as its composition, the king's grand council, the supreme
administrative body, which was a fixture at Paris. He began even to
contemplate a reformation of his own life; he had inquiries made as to
how St. Louis used to proceed in giving audience to the lower orders; his
intention, he said, was to henceforth follow the footsteps of the most
justice-loving of French kings. "He set up," says Commynes, "a public
audience, whereat he gave ear to everybody, and especially to the poor;
I saw him thereat, a week before his death, for two good hours, and I
never saw him again. He did not much business at this audience; but at
least it was enough to keep folks in awe, and especially his own
officers, of whom he had suspended some for extortion." It is but
too often a man's fate to have his life slip from him just as he was
beginning to make a better use of it. On the 7th of April, 1498, Charles
VIII. was pleased, after dinner, to go down with the queen into the
fosses of the castle of Amboise, to see a game of tennis. Their way lay
through a gallery the opening of which was very low; and the king, short
as he was, hit his forehead. Though he was a little dizzy with the blow,
he did not stop, watched the players for some time, and even conversed
with several persons; but about two in the afternoon, whilst he was a
second time traversing this passage on his way back to the castle, he
fell backwards and lost consciousness. He was laid upon a paltry
paillasse in that gallery where everybody went in and out at pleasure;
and in that wretched place, after a lapse of nine hours, expired "he,"
says Commynes, "who had so many fine houses, and who was making so fine
an one at Amboise; so small a matter is our miserable life, which giveth
us so much trouble for the things of the world, and kings cannot help
themselves any more than peasants. I arrived at Amboise two days after
his decease; I went to say mine orison at the spot where was the corpse;
and there I was for five or six hours. And, of a verity, there was never
seen the like mourning, nor that lasted so long; he was so good that
better creature cannot be seen; the most humane and gentle address that
ever was was his; I trow that to never a man spake he aught that could
displease; and at a better hour could he never have died for to remain of
great renown in histories and regretted by those that served him. I trow
I was the man to whom he showed most roughness; but knowing that it was
in his youth, and that it did not proceed from him, I never bore him
ill-will for it."

Probably no king was ever thus praised for his goodness, and his goodness
alone, by a man whom he had so maltreated, and who, as judicious and
independent as he was just, said of this same king, "He was not better
off for sense than for money, and he thought of nothing but pastime and
his pleasures."

CHAPTER XXVII.----THE WARS IN ITALY.--LOUIS XII. 1498-1515.

On ascending the throne Louis XII. reduced the public taxes and
confirmed in their posts his predecessor's chief advisers, using to Louis
de la Tremoille, who had been one of his most energetic foes, that
celebrated expression, "The King of France avenges not the wrongs of the
Duke of Orleans." At the same time, on the day of his coronation at
Rheims [May 27, 1492], he assumed, besides his title of King of France,
the titles of King of Naples and of Jerusalem and Duke of Milan. This
was as much as to say that he would pursue a pacific and conservative
policy at home and a warlike and adventurous policy abroad. And, indeed,
his government did present these two phases, so different and
inharmonious. By his policy at home Louis XII. deserved and obtained the
name of Father of the People; by his enterprises and wars abroad he
involved France still more deeply than Charles VIII. had in that mad
course of distant, reckless, and incoherent conquests for which his
successor, Francis I., was destined to pay by capture at Pavia and by the
lamentable treaty of Madrid, in 1526, as the price of his release. Let
us follow these two portions of Louis XII.'s reign, each separately,
without mixing up one with the other by reason of identity of dates. We
shall thus get at a better understanding and better appreciation of their
character and their results.

Outside of France, Milaness [the Milanese district] was Louis XII.'s
first thought, at his accession, and the first object of his desire. He
looked upon it as his patrimony. His grandmother, Valentine Visconti,
widow of that Duke of Orleans who had been assassinated at Paris in 1407
by order of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, had been the last to
inherit the duchy of Milan, which the Sforzas, in 1450, had seized.
When Charles VIII. invaded Italy in 1494, "Now is the time," said Louis,
"to enforce the rights of Valentine Visconti, my grandmother, to
Milaness." And he, in fact, asserted them openly, and proclaimed his
intention of vindicating them so soon as he found the moment propitious.
When he became king, his chance of success was great. The Duke of
Milan, Ludovic, the Moor, had by his sagacity and fertile mind, by his
taste for arts and sciences and the intelligent patronage he bestowed
upon them, by his ability in speaking, and by his facile character,
obtained in Italy a position far beyond his real power. Leonardo da
Vinci, one of the most eminent amongst the noble geniuses of the age,
lived on intimate terms with him; but Ludovic was, nevertheless, a
turbulent rascal and a greedy tyrant, of whom those who did not profit
by his vices or the enjoyments of his court were desirous of being
relieved. He had, moreover, embroiled himself with his neighbors the
Venetians, who were watching for an opportunity of aggrandizing
themselves at his expense. As early as the 20th of April, 1498, a
fortnight after his accession, Louis XII. addressed to the Venetians a
letter "most gracious," says the contemporary chronicler Marino Sanuto,
"and testifying great good-will;" and the special courier who brought it
declared that the king had written to nobody in Italy except the pope,
the Venetians, and the Florentines. The Venetians did not care to
neglect such an opening; and they at once sent three ambassadors to
Louis XII. Louis heard the news thereof with marked satisfaction. "I
have never seen Zorzi," said he, "but I know him well; as for Loredano,
I like him much; he has been at this court before, some time ago." He
gave them a reception on the 12th of August, at Etampes, "not in a
palace," says one of the senate's private correspondents, "but at the
Fountain inn. You will tell me that so great a king ought not to put up
at an inn; but I shall answer you that in this district of Etampes the
best houses are as yet the inns. There is certainly a royal castle, in
the which lives the queen, the wife of the deceased king; nevertheless
his Majesty was pleased to give audience in this hostelry, all covered
expressly with cloth of Alexandrine velvet, with lilies of gold at the
spot where the king was placed. As soon as the speech was ended, his
Majesty rose up and gave quite a brotherly welcome to the brilliant
ambassadors. The king has a very good countenance, a smiling
countenance; he is forty years of age, and appears very active in make.
To-day, Monday, August 13, the ambassadors were received at a private
audience."

[Illustration: Louis XII----310]

A treaty concluded on the 9th of February, 1499, and published as signed
at Blois no earlier than the 15th of April following, was the result of
this negotiation. It provided for an alliance between the King of France
and the Venetian government, for the purpose of making war in common upon
the Duke of Milan, Ludovic Sforza, on and against every one, save the
lord pope of Rome, and for the purpose of insuring to the Most Christian
king restoration to the possession of the said duchy of Milan as his
rightful and olden patrimony. And on account of the charges and expenses
which would be incurred by the Venetian government whilst rendering
assistance to the Most Christian king in the aforesaid war, the Most
Christian king bound himself to approve and consent that the city of
Cremona and certain forts or territories adjacent, specially indicated,
should belong in freehold and perpetuity to the Venetian government. The
treaty, at the same time, regulated the number of troops and the military
details of the war on behalf of the two contracting powers, and it
provided for divers political incidents which might be entailed, and to
which the alliance thus concluded should or should not be applicable
according to the special stipulations which were drawn up with a view to
those very incidents.

In the month of August, 1499, the French army, with a strength of from
twenty to five and twenty thousand men, of whom five thousand were Swiss,
invaded Milaness. Duke Ludovic Sforza opposed to it a force pretty
nearly equal in number, but far less full of confidence and of far less
valor. In less than three weeks the duchy was conquered; in only two
cases was any assault necessary; all the other places were given up by
traitors or surrendered without a show of resistance. The Venetians had
the same success on the eastern frontier of the duchy. Milan and Cremona
alone remained to be occupied. Ludovic Sforza "appeared before his
troops and his people like the very spirit of lethargy," says a
contemporary unpublished chronicle, "with his head bent down to the
earth, and for a long while he remained thus pensive and without a single
word to say. Howbeit he was not so discomfited but that on that very
same day he could get his luggage packed, his transport-train under
orders, his horses shod, his ducats, with which he had more than thirty
mules laden, put by, and, in short, everything in readiness to decamp
next morning as early as possible." Just as he left Milan, he said to
the Venetian ambassadors, "You have brought the King of France to dinner
with me; I warn you that he will come to supper with you."

"Unless necessity constrain him thereto," says Machiavelli [treatise Du
Prince, ch. xxi.], "a prince ought never to form alliance with one
stronger than himself in order to attack others, for, the most powerful
being victor, thou remainest, thyself, at his discretion, and princes
ought to avoid, as much as ever they can, being at another's discretion.
The Venetians allied themselves with France against the Duke of Milan;
and yet they might have avoided this alliance, which entailed their
ruin." For all his great and profound intellect, Machiavelli was wrong
about this event and the actors in it. The Venetians did not deserve his
censure. By allying themselves, in 1499, with Louis XII. against the
Duke of Milan, they did not fall into Louis's hands, for, between 1499
and 1515, and many times over, they sided alternately with and against
him, always preserving their independence and displaying it as suited
them at the moment. And these vicissitudes in their policy did not bring
about their ruin, for at the death of Louis XII. their power and
importance in Southern Europe had not declined. It was Louis XII. who
deserved Machiavelli's strictures for having engaged, by means of
diplomatic alliances of the most contradictory kind, at one time with the
Venetians' support, and at another against them, in a policy of distant
and incoherent conquests, without any connection with the national
interests of France, and, in the long run, without any success.

[Illustration: Bayard----315]

Louis was at Lyons when he heard of his army's victory in Milaness and of
Ludovic Sforza's flight. He was eager to go and take possession of his
conquest, and, on the 6th of October, 1499, he made his triumphal entry
into Milan amidst cries of "Hurrah! for France." He reduced the heavy
imposts established by the Sforzas, revoked the vexatious game-laws,
instituted at Milan a court of justice analogous to the French
parliaments, loaded with favors the scholars and artists who were the
honor of Lombardy, and recrossed the Alps at the end of some weeks,
leaving as governor of Milaness John James Trivulzio, the valiant
Condottiere, who, four years before, had quitted the service of Ferdinand
II., King of Naples, for that of Charles VIII. Unfortunately Trivulzio
was himself a Milanese and of the faction of the Guelphs. He had the
passions of a partisan and the habits of a man of war; and he soon became
as tyrannical and as much detested in Milaness as Ludovic the Moor had
but lately been. A plot was formed in favor of the fallen tyrant, who
was in Germany expecting it, and was recruiting, during expectancy,
amongst the Germans and Swiss in order to take advantage of it. On the
25th of January, 1500, the insurrection broke out; and two months later
Ludovic Sforza had once more become master of Milaness, where the French
possessed nothing but the castle of Milan. In one of the fights brought
about by this sudden revolution the young Chevalier Bayard, carried away
by the impetuosity of his age and courage, pursued right into Milan the
foes he was driving before him, without noticing that his French comrades
had left him; and he was taken prisoner in front of the very palace in
which were the quarters of Ludovic Sforza. The incident created some
noise around the palace; Ludovic asked what it meant, and was informed
that a brave and bold gentleman, younger than any of the others, had
entered Milan pell-mell with the combatants he was pursuing, and had been
taken prisoner by John Bernardino Casaccio, one of the leaders of the
insurrection. Ludovic ordered him to be brought up, which was done,
though not without some disquietude on the part of Bayard's captor,
"a courteous gentleman, who feared that Lord Ludovico might do him some
displeasure." He resolved himself to be his conductor, after having
dressed him in one of his own robes and made him look like a gentleman.
"Marvelling to see Bayard so young, 'Come hither, my gentleman,' said
Ludovico: 'who brought you into the city?' 'By my faith, my lord,'
answered Bayard, who was not a whit abashed, 'I never imagined I was
entering all alone, and thought surely I was being followed of my
comrades, who knew more about war than I, for if they had done as I did
they would, like me, be prisoners. Howbeit, after my mishap, I laud the
fortune which caused me to fall into the hands of so valiant and discreet
a knight as he who has me in holding.' 'By your faith,' asked Ludovico,
'of how many is the army of the King of France?' 'On my soul, my lord,'
answered Bayard, 'so far as I can hear, there are fourteen or fifteen
hundred men-at-arms and sixteen or eighteen thousand foot; but they are
all picked men, who are resolved to busy themselves so well this bout
that they will assure the state of Milan to the king our master; and
meseems, my lord, that you would surely be in as great safety in Germany
as you are here, for your folks are not the sort to fight us.' With such
assurance spoke the good knight that Lord Ludovico took pleasure
there-in, though his say was enough to astound him. 'On my faith, my
gentleman,' said he, as it were in raillery, 'I have a good mind that the
King of France's army and mine should come together, in order that by
battle it may be known to whom of right belongs this heritage, for I see
no other way to it.' 'By my sacred oath, my lord,' said the good knight,
'I would that it might be to-morrow, provided that I were out of
captivity.' 'Verily, that shall not stand in your way,' said Ludovico,
'for I will let you go forth, and that presently. Moreover, ask of me
what you will, and I will give it you.' The good knight, who, on bended
knee, thanked Lord Ludovico for the offers he made him, as there was good
reason he should, then said to him, 'My lord, I ask of you nothing save
only that you may be pleased to extend your courtesy so far as to get me
back my horse and my arms that I brought into this city, and so send me
away to my garrison, which is twenty miles hence; you would do me a very
great kindness, for which I shall all my life feel bounden to you; and,
barring my duty to the king my master and saving my honor, I would show
my gratitude for it in whatsoever it might please you to command me.'
'In good faith,' said Lord Ludovico, 'you shall have presently that which
you do ask for.' And then he said to the Lord John Bernardino, 'At once,
Sir Captain, let his horse be found, his arms and all that is his.'
'My lord,' answered the captain, 'it is right easy to find, it is all at
my quarters.' He sent forthwith two or three servants, who brought the
arms and led up the horse of the good young knight; and Lord Ludovico had
him armed before his eyes. When he was accoutred, the young knight
leaped upon his horse without putting foot to stirrup; then he asked for
a lance, which was handed to him, and, raising his eyes, he said to Lord
Ludovico, 'My lord, I thank you for the courtesy you have done me; please
God to pay it back to you.' He was in a fine large court-yard; then he
began to set spurs to his horse, the which gave four or five jumps, so
gayly that it could not be better done; then the young knight gave him a
little run, in the which he broke the lance against the ground into five
or six pieces; whereat Lord Ludovico was not over pleased, and said out
loud, 'If all the men-at-arms of France were like him yonder, I should
have a bad chance.' Nevertheless he had a trumpeter told off to conduct
him to his garrison." [Histoire du bon Chevalier sans Peur et sans
Reproche, t. i. pp. 212-216.]

For Ludovic the Moor's chance to be bad it was not necessary that the
men-at-arms of France should all be like Chevalier Bayard. Louis XII.,
so soon as he heard of the Milanese insurrection, sent into Italy Louis
de la Tremoille, the best of his captains, and the Cardinal d'Amboise,
his privy councillor and his friend, the former to command the royal
troops, French and Swiss, and the latter "for to treat about the
reconciliation of the rebel towns, and to deal with everything as if it
were the king in his own person." The campaign did not last long. The
Swiss who had been recruited by Ludovic and those who were in Louis
XII.'s service had no mind to fight one another; and the former
capitulated, surrendered the strong place of Novara, and promised to
evacuate the country on condition of a safe-conduct for themselves and
their booty. Ludovic, in extreme anxiety for his own safety, was on the
point of giving himself up to the French; but, whether by his own free
will or by the advice of the Swiss who were but lately in his pay, and
who were now withdrawing; he concealed himself amongst them, putting on a
disguise, "with his hair turned up under a coif, a collaret round his
neck, a doublet of crimson satin, scarlet hose, and a halberd in his
fist;" but, whether it were that he was betrayed or that he was
recognized, he, on the 10th of April, 1500, fell into the hands of the
French, and was conducted to the quarters of La Tremoille, who said no
more than, "Welcome, lord." Next day, April 11, Louis XII. received near
Lyons the news of this capture, "whereat he was right joyous, and had
bonfires lighted, together with devotional processions, giving thanks to
the Prince of princes for the happy victory he had, by the divine aid,
obtained over his enemies." Ludovic was taken to Lyons. "At the
entrance into the city a great number of gentlemen from the king's
household were present to meet him; and the provost of the household
conducted him all along the high street to the castle of Pierre-Encise,
where he was lodged and placed in security." There he passed a
fortnight. Louis refused to see him, but had him "questioned as to
several matters by the lords of his grand council; and, granted that he
had committed nought but follies, still he spoke right wisely." He was
conducted from Pierre-Encise to the castle of Loches in Touraine, where
he was at first kept in very strict captivity, "without books, paper, or
ink," but it was afterwards less severe. "He plays at tennis and at
cards," says a despatch of the Venetian ambassador, Dominic of Treviso,
"and he is fatter than ever." [_La Diplomatic Venitienne,_ by M. Armand
Baschet (1862), p. 363.] He died in his prison at the end of eight years,
having to the very last great confidence in the future of his name, for
he wrote, they say, on the wall of his prison these words: "Services
rendered me will count for an heritage." And "thus was the duchy of
Milan, within seven months and a half, twice conquered by the French,"
says John d'Auton in his Claronique, "and for the nonce was ended the war
in Lombardy, and the authors thereof were captives and exiles."

Whilst matters were thus going on in the north of Italy, Louis XII. was
preparing for his second great Italian venture, the conquest of the
kingdom of Naples, in which his predecessor Charles VIII. had failed. He
thought to render the enterprise easier by not bearing the whole burden
by himself alone. On the 11th of November, 1500, he concluded at Grenada
"with Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castile and Arragon," a
treaty, by which the Kings of France and Spain divided, by anticipation,
between them the kingdom of Naples, which they were making an engagement
to conquer together. Terra di Lavoro and the province of the Abruzzi,
with the cities of Naples and Gaeta, were to be the share of Louis XII.,
who would assume the title of King of Naples and of Jerusalem; Calabria
and Puglia (Apulia), with the title of duchies, would belong to the King
of Spain, to whom Louis XII., in order to obtain this chance of an
accessary and precarious kingship, gave up entirely Roussillon and
Cerdagne, that French frontier of the Pyrenees which Louis XI. had
purchased, a golden bargain, from John II., King of Arragon. In this
arrangement there was a blemish and a danger of which the superficial and
reckless policy of Louis XII. made no account: he did not here, as he had
done for the conquest of Milaness, join himself to an ally of far
inferior power to his own, and of ambition confined within far narrower
boundaries, as was the case when the Venetians supported him against
Ludovie Sforza: he was choosing for his comrade, in a far greater
enterprise, his nearest and most powerful rival, and the most dexterous
rascal amongst the kings of his day. "The King of France," said
Ferdinand one day, "complains that I have deceived him twice; he lies,
the drunkard; I have deceived him more than ten times." Whether this
barefaced language were or were not really used, it expressed nothing but
the truth: mediocre men, who desire to remain pretty nearly honest, have
always the worst of it, and are always dupes when they ally themselves
with men who are corrupt and at the same time able, indifferent to good
and evil, to justice and iniquity. Louis XII., even with the Cardinal
d'Amboise to advise him, was neither sufficiently judicious to abstain
from madly conceived enterprises, nor sufficiently scrupulous and
clear-sighted to unmask and play off every act of perfidy and wickedness:
by uniting himself, for the conquest and partition of the kingdom of
Naples, with Ferdinand the Catholic, he was bringing upon himself first
of all hidden opposition in the very midst of joint action, and
afterwards open treason and defection. He forgot, moreover, that
Ferdinand had at the head of his armies a tried chieftain, Gonzalvo of
Cordova, already known throughout Europe as the great captain, who had
won that name in campaigns against the Moors, the Turks, and the
Portuguese, and who had the character of being as free from scruple as
from fear. Lastly the supporters who, at the very commencement of his
enterprises in Italy, had been sought and gained by Louis XII., Pope
Alexander VI. and his son Caesar Borgia, were as little to be depended
upon in the future as they were compromising at the present by reason of
their reputation for unbridled ambition, perfidy, and crime. The King of
France, whatever sacrifices he might already have made and might still
make in order to insure their co-operation, could no more count upon it
than upon the loyalty of the King of Spain in the conquest they were
entering upon together.

The outset of the campaign was attended with easy success. The French
army, under the command of Stuart d'Aubigny, a valiant Scot, arrived on
the 25th of June, 1501, before Rome, and there received a communication
in the form of a bull of the pope which removed the crown of Naples from
the head of Frederick III., and partitioned that fief of the Holy See
between the Kings of France and Spain. Fortified with this authority,
the army continued its march, and arrived before Capua on the 6th of
July. Gonzalvo of Cordova was already upon Neapolitan territory with a
Spanish army, which Ferdinand the Catholic had hastily sent thither at
the request of Frederick III. himself, who had counted upon the
assistance of his cousin the King of Arragon against the French invasion.
Great was his consternation when he heard that the ambassadors of France
and Spain had proclaimed at Rome the alliance between their masters. At
the first rumor of this news, Gonzalvo of Cordova, whether sincerely or
not, treated it as a calumny; but, so soon as its certainty was made
public, he accepted it without hesitation, and took, equally with the
French, the offensive against the king, already dethroned by the pope,
and very near being so by the two sovereigns who had made alliance for
the purpose of sharing between them the spoil they should get from him.
Capua capitulated, and was nevertheless plundered and laid waste. A
French fleet, commanded by Philip de Ravenstein, arrived off Naples when
D'Aubigny was already master of it. The unhappy King Frederick took
refuge in the island of Ischia; and, unable to bear the idea of seeking
an asylum in Spain with his cousin who had betrayed him so shamefully,
he begged the French admiral himself to advise him in his adversity. "As
enemies that have the advantage should show humanity to the afflicted,"
Ravenstein sent word to him, "he would willingly advise him as to his
affairs; according to his advice, the best thing would be to surrender
and place himself in the hands of the King of France, and submit to his
good pleasure; he would find him so wise, and so debonnair, and so
accommodating, that he would be bound to be content. Better or safer
counsel for him he had not to give." After taking some precautions on
the score of his eldest son, Prince Ferdinand, whom he left at Tarento,
in the kingdom he was about to quit, Frederick III. followed Ravenstein's
counsel, sent to ask for "a young gentleman to be his guide to France,"
put to sea with five hundred men remaining to him, and arrived at
Marseilles, whither Louis XII. sent some lords of his court to receive
him. Two months afterwards, and not before, he was conducted to the king
himself, who was then at Blois. Louis welcomed him with his natural
kindness, and secured to him fifty thousand livres a year on the duchy of
Anjou, on condition that he never left France. It does not appear that
Frederick ever had an idea of doing so, for his name is completely lost
to history up to the day of his death, which took place at Tours on the
9th of November, 1504, after three years' oblivion and exile.

On hearing of so prompt a success, Louis XII.'s satisfaction was great.
He believed, and many others, no doubt, believed with him, that his
conquest of Naples, of that portion at least which was assigned to him
by his treaty with the King of Spain, was accomplished. The senate of
Venice sent to him, in December, 1501, a solemn embassy to congratulate
him. In giving the senate an account of his mission, one of the
ambassadors, Dominic of Treviso, drew the following portrait of
Louis XII.: "The king is in stature tall and thin, and temperate in
eating, taking scarcely anything but boiled beef; he is by nature miserly
and retentive; his great pleasure is hawking; from September to April he
hawks. The Cardinal of Rouen [George d'Amboise] does everything;
nothing, however, with-out the cognizance of the king, who has a far from
stable mind, saying yes and no. . . . I am of opinion that their
lordships should remove every suspicion from his Majesty's mind, and aim
at keeping themselves closely united with him." [Armand Baschet, _La
Diplomatic, L'enitienne_, p. 362.] It was not without ground that the
Venetian envoy gave his government this advice. So soon as the treaty of
alliance between Louis XII. and the Venetians for the conquest of
Milaness had attained its end, the king had more than once felt and
testified some displeasure at the demeanor assumed towards him by his
former allies. They had shown vexation and disquietude at the extension
of French influence in Italy; and they had addressed to Louis certain
representations touching the favor enjoyed at his hands by the pope's
nephew, Caesar Borgia, to whom he had given the title of Duke of
Valentinois on investing him with the countships of Valence and of Die in
Dauphiny. Louis, on his side, showed anxiety as to the conduct which
would be exhibited towards him by the Venetians if he encountered any
embarrassment in his expedition to Naples. Nothing of the kind happened
to him during the first month after King Frederick III.'s abandonment of
the kingdom of Naples. The French and the Spaniards, D'Aubigny and
Gonzalvo of Cordova, at first gave their attention to nothing but
establishing themselves firmly, each in the interests of the king his
master, in those portions of the kingdom which were to belong to them.

But, before long, disputes arose between the two generals as to the
meaning of certain clauses in the treaty of November 11, 1500, and as to
the demarcation of the French and the Spanish territories. D'Aubigny
fell ill; and Louis XII. sent to Naples, with the title of viceroy, Louis
d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, a brave warrior, but a negotiator inclined
to take umbrage and to give offence. The disputes soon took the form of
hostilities. The French essayed to drive the Spaniards from the points
they had occupied in the disputed territories; and at first they had the
advantage. Gonzalvo of Cordova, from necessity or in prudence,
concentrated his forces within Barletta, a little fortress with a little
port on the Adriatic; but he there endured, from July, 1502, to April,
1503, a siege which did great honor to the patient firmness of the
Spanish troops and the persistent vigor of their captain. Gonzalvo was
getting ready to sally from Barletta and take the offensive against the
French when he heard that a treaty signed at Lyons on the 5th of April,
1503, between the Kings of Spain and France, made a change in the
position, reciprocally, of the two sovereigns, and must suspend the
military operations of their generals within the kingdom of Naples.
"The French general declared his readiness to obey his king," says
Guicciardini; "but the Spanish, whether it were that he felt sure of
victory or that he had received private instructions on that point, said
that he could not stop the war without express orders from his king."
And sallying forthwith from Barletta, he gained, on the 28th of April,
1503, at Cerignola, a small town of Puglia, a signal victory over the
French commanded by the Duke of Nemours, who, together with three
thousand men of his army, was killed in action. The very day after his
success Gonzalvo heard that a Spanish corps, lately disembarked in
Calabria, had also beaten, on the 21st of April, at Seminara, a French
corps commanded by D'Aubigny. The great captain was as eager to profit
by victory as he had been patient in waiting for a chance of it. He
marched rapidly on Naples, and entered it on the 14th of May, almost
without resistance; and the two forts defending the city, the Castel
Nuovo and the Castel dell' Uovo surrendered, one on the 11th of June and
the other on the 1st of July. The capital of the kingdom having thus
fallen into the hands of the Spaniards, Capua and Aversa followed its
example. Gaeta was the only important place which still held out for the
French, and contained a garrison capable of defending it; and thither the
remnant of the troops beaten at Seminara and at Cerignola had retired.
Louis XII. hastened to levy and send to Italy, under the command of Louis
de la Tremoille, a fresh army for the purpose of relieving Gaeta and
recovering Naples; but at Parma La Tremoille fell ill, "so crushed by his
malady and so despairing of life," says his chronicler, John Bouchet,
"that the physicians sent word to the king that it was impossible in the
way of nature to recover him, and that without the divine assistance he
could not get well." The command devolved upon the Marquis of Mantua,
who marched on Gaeta. He found Gonzalvo of Cordova posted with his army
on the left bank of the Garigliano, either to invest the place or to
repulse re-enforcements that might arrive for it. The two armies passed
fifty days face to face almost, with the river and its marshes between
them, and vainly attempting over and over again to join battle. Some of
Gonzalvo's officers advised him to fall back on Capua, so as to withdraw
his troops from an unhealthy and difficult position; but "I would
rather," said he, "have here, for my grave, six feet of earth by pushing
forward, than prolong my life a hundred years by falling back, though it
were but a few arms' lengths." The French army was dispersing about in
search of shelter and provisions; and the Marquis of Mantua, disgusted
with the command, resigned it to the Marquis of Saluzzo, and returned
home to his marquisate. Gonzalvo, who was kept well informed of his
enemies' condition, threw, on the 27th of December, a bridge over the
Garigliano, attacked the French suddenly, and forced them to fall back
upon Gaeta, which they did not succeed in entering until they had lost
artillery, baggage, and a number of prisoners. "The Spaniards," says
John d'Auton, "halted before the place, made as if they would lay siege
to it, and so remained for two or three days. The French, who were there
in great numbers, had scarcely any provisions, and could not hold out for
long; however, they put a good face upon it. The captain, Gonzalvo, sent
word to them that if they would surrender their town he would, on his
part, restore to them without ransom all prisoners and others of their
party; and he had many of them, James de la Palisse, Stuart d'Aubigny,
Gaspard de Coligny, Anthony de la Fayette, &c., all captains. The French
captains, seeing that fortune was not kind to them, and that they had
provisions for a week only, were all for taking this offer. All the
prisoners, captains, men-at-arms, and common soldiers were accordingly
given up, put to sea, and sailed for Genoa, where they were well received
and kindly treated by the Genoese, which did them great good, for they
were much in need of it. Nearly all the captains died on their return,
some of mourning over their losses, others of melancholy at their
misfortune, others for fear of the king's displeasure, and others of
sickness and weariness." [_Chroniques of John d'Auton,_ t. iii.
pp. 68-70.]

Gaeta fell into the hands of the Spaniards on the 1st of January, 1504.
The war was not ended, but the kingdom of Naples was lost to the King of
France.

At the news of these reverses the grief and irritation of Louis XII.
were extreme. Not only was he losing his Neapolitan conquests, but even
his Milaness was also threatened. The ill-will of the Venetians became
manifest. They had re-victualled by sea the fortress of Barletta, in
which Gonzalvo of Cordova had shut himself up with his troops; "and when
the king presented complaints of this succor afforded to his enemies, the
senate replied that the matter had taken place without their cognizance,
that Venice was a republic of traders, and that private persons might
very likely have sold provisions to the Spaniards, with whom Venice was
at peace, without there being any ground for concluding from it that she
had failed in her engagements towards France. Some time afterwards, four
French galleys, chased by a Spanish squadron of superior force, presented
themselves before the port of Otranto, which was in the occupation of the
Venetians, who pleaded their neutrality as a reason for refusing asylum
to the French squadron, which the commander was obliged to set on fire
that it might not fall into he enemy's hands." [_Histoire de la
Republique de L'enise,_ by Count Daru, t. iii. p. 245.] The determined
prosecution of hostilities in the kingdom of Naples by Gonzalvo of
Cordova, in spite of the treaty concluded at Lyons on the 5th of April,
1503, between the Kings of France and Spain, was so much the more
offensive to Louis XII. in that this treaty was the consequence and the
confirmation of an enormous concession which he had, two years
previously, made to the King of Spain on consenting to affiance his
daughter, Princess Claude of France, two years old, to Ferdinand's
grandson, Charles of Austria, who was then only one year old, and who
became Charles the Fifth (emperor)! Lastly, about the same time, Pope
Alexander VI., who, willy hilly, had rendered Louis XII. so many
services, died at Rome on the 12th of August, 1503. Louis had hoped that
his favorite minister, Cardinal George d'Amboise, would succeed him, and
that hope had a great deal to do with the shocking favor he showed Caesar
Borgia, that infamous son of a demoralized father. But the candidature
of Cardinal d'Amboise failed; a four weeks' pope, Pius III., succeeded
Alexander VI.; and, when the Holy See suddenly became once more vacant,
Cardinal d'Amboise failed again; and the new choice was Cardinal Julian
della Rovera, Pope Julius II., who soon became the most determined and
most dangerous foe of Louis XII., already assailed by so many enemies.

The Venetian, Dominic of Treviso, was quite right; Louis XII. was "of
unstable mind, saying yes and no." On such characters discouragement
tells rapidly. In order to put off the struggle which had succeeded so
ill for him in the kingdom of Naples, Louis concluded, on the 31st of
March, 1504, a truce for three years with the King of Spain; and on the
22d of September, in the same year, in order to satisfy his grudge on
account of the Venetians' demeanor towards him, he made an alliance
against them with Emperor Maximilian I. and Pope Julius II., with the
design, all three of them, of wresting certain provinces from them. With
those political miscalculations was connected a more personal and more
disinterested feeling. Louis repented of having in 1501 affianced his
daughter Claude to Prince Charles of Austria, and of the enormous
concessions he had made by two treaties, one of April 5, 1503, and the
other of September 22, 1504, for the sake of this marriage. He had
assigned as dowry to his daughter, first the duchy of Milan, then the
kingdom of Naples, then Brittany, and then the duchy of Burgundy and the
countship of Blois. The latter of these treaties contained even the
following strange clause: "If, by default of the Most Christian king or
of the queen his wife, or of the Princess Claude, the aforesaid marriage
should not take place, the Most Christian king doth will and consent,
from now, that the said duchies of Burgundy and Milan and the countship
of Asti, do remain settled upon the said Prince Charles, Duke of
Luxembourg, with all the rights therein possessed, or possibly to be
possessed, by the Most Christian king." [_Corps Diplomatique du Droit
des Gens,_ by J. Dumont, t. iv. part i. p. 57.] It was dismembering
France, and at the same time settling on all her frontiers, to east,
west, and south-west, as well as to north and south, a power which the
approaching union of two crowns, the imperial and the Spanish, on the
head of Prince Charles of Austria, rendered so preponderating and so
formidable.

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