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Bayard: The Good Knight Without Fear And Without Reproach by Christopher Hare

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those treacherous spies always serve one better than the other, and this
one hoped for the most gain from the Venetian.

So one day Manfroni said to him: "You must go to Verona and let Captain
Bayard know that the Council of Venice wish me to be sent in command of
Lignano, a fortified town on the Adige, as the present governor is ordered
to the Levant with a number of galleys. Tell Bayard that you know for
certain that I start to-morrow at dawn with three hundred light horsemen,
and that I shall have no foot-soldiers with me. I am sure that he will
never let me pass without a skirmish, and if he comes I trust he will be
killed or taken, for I shall have an ambush at Isola della Scale (about
fifteen miles south of Verona) of two hundred men-at-arms and two thousand
foot-soldiers. If you manage for him to meet me there I promise on my faith
to give you two thousand ducats of gold."

This precious scoundrel readily promised that he would not fail to do so.
He went off straight to Verona, and to the lodging of the Good Knight,
where he was admitted at once, for all the people there believed him to be
entirely in the service of their master. They brought him in as soon as
Bayard had finished supper, and he was warmly welcomed. "Well, Vizentin, I
am glad to see you. You do not come without some reason; tell me, what news
have you?"

[Illustration: Seizure of the Spy.]

"My lord, I have very good news, thank God!" was the reply. The Good Knight
at once rose from table and drew the spy on one side, to learn what was
going on, who repeated the lesson he had learned. Bayard was delighted at
the prospect before him, and gave orders that Vizentin was to be well
feasted. Then he called together the Captain Pierre du Pont, La Varenne,
his flag-bearer du Fay, and a certain Burgundian captain of "landsknechte,"
Hannotin de Sucker, who had fought with him in most of his Italian wars. He
told these friends what he had heard from the spy, and how Manfroni was
going to Lignano on the morrow with only three hundred horsemen. Then he
added that, if his good companions would join him, these Venetians would
not finish their journey without a little fighting, but the matter must be
seen to at once.

It was settled that they should start at daybreak and take two hundred
men-at-arms. Hannotin de Sucker had his lodging at the other end of the
town, and while he was on his way home he chanced to see the spy coming out
of the house of a man who was known to be on the Venetian side. The
Burgundian captain at once suspected treason; he seized Vizentin by the
collar and asked him what he was doing. The man, taken by surprise, changed
colour and prevaricated so much that the captain at once took him back to
Bayard's lodging. He found his friend just going to bed, but the two sat
together over the fire, while the spy was carefully guarded.

Hannotin explained why he felt sure that there was something wrong. Bayard
at once sent for the spy, of whom he inquired his reason for going to the
house of Messire Baptiste Voltege, the suspected person. In his fright the
spy gave five or six different explanations; but the Good Knight said to
him: "Vizentin, tell the truth without hiding anything, and I promise, on
the word of a true gentleman, that whatever it may be, even if my death has
been conspired for, I will do you no harm. But, on the other hand, if I
catch you in a lie, you will be hung to-morrow at break of day."

The spy saw that he was caught, so he knelt down and begged for mercy,
which was again positively promised him. Then he told the whole story from
beginning to end of the proposed treachery; how Manfroni would have an
ambush of two hundred men-at-arms and two thousand foot-soldiers to make
sure of Bayard's destruction. The spy owned that he had been to the house
of Baptiste to tell him of this enterprise, and to advise him to find means
some night to have one of the city gates opened to the Venetians, but he
added that Baptiste had refused to do this.

When he had made an end of his confession the Good Knight said to him:
"Vizentin, my money has certainly been wasted upon you, for you are a bad
and treacherous man ... You have deserved death, but I will keep my promise
and you shall be safe with me, but I advise you to keep out of sight, for
others may not spare you."

The spy was taken away to be closely guarded, and Bayard said to his
friend, the Burgundian captain:

"What shall we do to this Captain Manfroni who thinks to take us by a
trick? We must pay him out, and if you do what I ask you we will carry out
one of those splendid adventures which were done a hundred years ago." "My
lord, you have only to command and you will be obeyed," was the simple

"Then go at once to the lodging of the Prince of Hainault, and with my
compliments tell him the whole story. Then you must persuade him to send us
to-morrow morning two thousand of his 'landsknechte,' and we will take them
with us and leave them somewhere in ambush. If something wonderful does not
result you may blame me!"

Hannotin de Sucker started at once and went to the quarters of the Prince,
who was asleep in bed. He was roused immediately and soon heard all that
his visitor had to tell. This courteous Prince, who loved war better than
anything else, was also such a devoted admirer of the Good Knight that he
could have refused him nothing. He replied that he only wished he had heard
of this sooner, as he would have joined the party himself, but Bayard could
dispose of his soldiers as if they were his own. He instantly sent his
secretary to four or five of his most trusted captains, who, to make a long
story short, were ready at daybreak to meet the men-at-arms who had known
of the expedition overnight. They all met at the city gate and set forth
from the city towards Isola della Scala, and the Good Knight said to
Hannotin: "You and the 'landsknechte' must remain in ambush at Servode (a
little village two miles from Isola), and do not be uneasy for I will draw
our foes under your very nose, so that you will have plenty of honour
to-day if you are a gallant comrade."

All was carried out as arranged, for when the men in ambush were left
behind, all the rest of the brave company galloped on to Isola, as if they
knew nothing of what awaited them. They were in an open plain, where there
was a good view from all sides, and presently they saw the Captain Manfroni
riding towards them with his small company of light horsemen. The Good
Knight sent forward his standard-bearer, du Fay, with some archers for a
little skirmish, while he rode after them at a good pace with the
men-at-arms. But he had not gone far when he saw, coming briskly out of the
town of Isola, the Venetian foot-soldiers and a troop of men-at-arms. He
made a show of being surprised, and bade the trumpeter sound to recall his
standard. When du Fay heard this, according to his orders, he began to
retire with his company, which closed up round him, and pretended to be
going straight back to Verona, but really went slowly towards the village
where their "landsknechte" were hiding. An archer had already been sent on
to tell Captain Sucker to make ready for the fight.

Meantime the men of Venice, with their combined troops, charged the small
company of Frenchmen, making such a noise that thunder would not have been
heard, for they felt quite sure that their prey could not escape them. The
French kept well together and skirmished so cleverly that they were soon
within a bow-shot from Servode, when the "landsknechte" of the Prince of
Hainault rushed forth in close ranks from their ambush, and at the word of
command from Bayard charged the Venetians, who were astounded. But they
were good fighting men and made a bold stand, although many were borne to
the ground by the terrible long spears of their enemies. Manfroni made a
splendid resistance, but he could do nothing to help his foot-soldiers,
who could not escape by flight, as they were too far from any refuge; and
he was compelled to see them cut up and destroyed before his eyes. The
Venetian captain soon saw that his only chance was to retreat or he must be
killed, if not taken prisoner, so he galloped off at full speed towards San
Bonifacio. He was followed for some distance, but the Good Knight then
caused the retreat to be sounded, and the pursuers returned, but with great
spoils of prisoners and horses.

The loss of the Venetians was very great, for none of the foot-soldiers
escaped, and there were about sixty prisoners of importance who were taken
to Verona, where the successful French, Burgundians, and "landsknechte"
were received with the utmost joy by their companions, whose only regret
was that they had missed the fray. Thus ended this gallant adventure which
brought great honour and praise to the Good Knight. When he returned to his
lodging he sent for the spy, to whom he said:

"Vizentin, according to my promise I will set you free. You can go to the
Venetian camp and ask the Captain Manfroni if the Captain Bayard is as
clever in war as he is. Say that if he wants to take me he will find me in
the fields."

He sent two of his archers to conduct the spy out of the town, and the man
went at once to San Bonifacio, where Manfroni had him taken and hung as a
traitor, without listening to any excuse.

_from the portrait by Raphael Sanzio_.]


When war began again in Italy at the close of the year 1510, Louis XII.
found that he had no allies except the Duke of Ferrara and some Swiss
mercenaries. Pope Julius II. had joined forces with the Venetians in his
eager desire to drive the French out of Italy, and he was also extremely
wroth with Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. He sent word to the widowed Countess
of Mirandola that she should give up her city into his hands, as he
required it for his attack upon Ferrara.

When at length the brave defenders had been compelled to yield their
citadel, Pope Julius refused to take possession of the conquered city in
the usual way by riding in through the gate; he had a bridge thrown across
the frozen moat and climbed in through a breach in the walls. It must have
been a gallant sight to look upon, when he politely escorted the angry
Countess of Mirandola out of the home she had so bravely defended, while
she held her head high and boldly spoke her mind, with pride and assurance
as great as his own.

When news of the fall of Mirandola reached the Duke of Ferrara he expected
that the next move would be an attack on Ferrara itself. He therefore
destroyed the bridge which he had made across the Po, and retreated with
all his army to his own strong city. The Castello of Ferrara, in the very
heart of the city, standing four-square with its mighty crenellated towers,
was one of the most famous fortresses of Italy and was believed to be
impregnable; only by famine could it be taken.

The Pope's wisest captains and his nephew, the Duke of Urbino, pointed out
that Ferrara was thoroughly fortified, well provided with artillery of the
newest make, and was defended by an army of well-tried soldiers, amongst
whom was the French company commanded by Bayard. One noted Venetian captain
thus gave his opinion: "Holy Father, we must prevent any provisions
arriving at Ferrara by the river, and also from Argenta and the country
round, which is very rich and fertile. But this we shall scarcely
accomplish unless we take La Bastida, a place about twenty-five miles from
Ferrara; but if once this fortress is in our hands we can starve out the
city in two months, considering what a number of people are within its

Pope Julius saw the point at once and exclaimed: "Certainly, we must have
that place; I shall not rest until it is taken."

We may imagine the dismay of the governor of La Bastida when he saw a
formidable army arrive, for it happened at the time that he had only a weak
garrison. He instantly sent off a messenger to Ferrara, before the castle
was surrounded and the artillery set in position, pointing out the extreme
peril and the absolute need of immediate help. The trusty man made such
haste that he reached Ferrara about noon, having taken hardly six hours on
the way. It so chanced that he met Bayard at the city gate, and on the Good
Knight asking what news he brought, he replied:

"My lord, I come from La Bastida, which is besieged by seven or eight
thousand men, and the commander sends me to tell the Duke that if he does
not receive help he will not be able to hold the place until to-morrow
night if they try to take it by assault ... for he has only twenty-five men
of war within the walls...."

Bayard at once hastened with him to the Duke, whom he met riding in the
market-place with the lord of Montboison. They thought at first that a spy
had been taken, but soon learnt that he was the bearer of bad news. As the
Duke read the letter which the commander had written he turned pale, and
when he had finished he shrugged his shoulders and said: "If I lose La
Bastida I may as well abandon Ferrara, and I do not see how we can possibly
send help within the time mentioned, for he implores assistance before
to-morrow morning, and it is impossible."

"Why?" asked the lord of Montboison.

"Because it is five-and-twenty miles from here, and in this bad weather it
will be more than that," replied the Duke. "There is a narrow way for about
half a mile where the men will have to go one after the other. Besides,
there is another thing, for if our enemies knew of a certain passage twenty
men could hold it against ten thousand, but I trust they will not discover

When the Good Knight saw how distressed the Duke was, he said:

"My lord, when a small matter is at stake we may hesitate; but when we are
threatened with utter destruction we must try any means. The enemies are
before La Bastida, and they are quite confident that we shall not dare to
leave this city to raise the siege, knowing that the great army of the Pope
is so near us. I have thought of a plan which will be easy to carry out, if
fortune is with us.

"You have in this town four or five thousand foot-soldiers, well hardened
and good soldiers; let us take two thousand of them with eight hundred
Swiss under Captain Jacob and send them this night in boats up the river.
You are still master of the Po as far as Argenta; they will go and wait for
us at the passage you spoke of. If they arrive there first they will take
it, and the men-at-arms who are in this town will ride by the road all this
night. We shall have good guides and will so manage as to arrive by
daybreak and thus join the others; our enemies will have no suspicion of
this enterprise. From the passage you spoke of it is three miles or less to
La Bastida; before they have time to put themselves in order of battle we
will attack them sharply, and my heart tells me that we shall defeat them."

The Duke, delighted, replied with a smile: "Upon my word, Sir Bayard,
nothing seems impossible to you! But I believe that if the gentlemen who
are here agree with you, we shall indeed win...." No one made any
difficulty; on the contrary, the captains of the men-at-arms were so
delighted that, as the chronicler says, "they thought they were in
Paradise." The boats were all prepared as quietly and secretly as possible,
for in the city there were known to be many friends of the Pope.

Fortunately it was the dead of winter, when the nights were long. As soon
as it was dark the foot-soldiers embarked in the boats, which were provided
with trusty and experienced boatmen. The horsemen, led by the Duke in
person, also set forth as soon as the twilight came; they took good guides,
and had a safe journey notwithstanding the stormy weather. Thus it
happened that half an hour before dawn they arrived at the narrow passage,
where all was lonely and quiet, at which they rejoiced greatly. They had
not been waiting half an hour before the boats arrived with the

The men landed and then marched slowly by a narrow path until they reached
a very deep canal between the Po and La Bastida, where they had to cross a
little bridge so narrow that they had to go one after the other. This took
a whole hour to cross, so that it was now quite daylight, which made the
Duke anxious, more especially as, hearing no sound of artillery, he feared
the fortress had been taken. But just as he was speaking about it there
thundered forth three cannon shots, at which all the company was delighted.
They were now only a mile from the enemy, and the Good Knight said:

"Gentlemen, I have always heard it said that he is a fool who makes light
of his foes; we are now close to ours, and they are three to one. If they
knew of our enterprise it would be very bad for us, as they have artillery
and we have none. Besides, I believe that on this occasion all the flower
of the Pope's army is before us; we must take them by surprise if possible.
I would propose sending du Fay with fifteen or twenty horsemen to sound the
alarm on the side from which the enemy came, and Captain Pierre du Pont
with a hundred men-at-arms should be within a bow-shot to support him, and
we will also send him Captain Jacob with his Swiss. You, my lord," he said
to the Duke, "with my lord of Montboison, my companions and myself, we will
go straight to the siege, and I will go in front to give the alarm. If du
Fay is first in position and they attack him, we will go forward and
enclose them; but if our party is first, Captain Pierre du Pont and the
Swiss will do so on their side. That will astonish them so much that they
will not know what to do, for they will think we are three times as many
men as we are, and especially when all our trumpets sound forth at once."

No one had anything better to suggest, for indeed the Good Knight was so
great an authority in war that all were glad to follow where he led.

The attack was thus made on both sides, du Fay giving such a tremendous
alarm on the outer side of the camp that the enemies hastily began to put
on their armour, to mount their horses, and go straight towards where they
heard the trumpets. The foot-soldiers set about arranging themselves in
battle order, but fortunately this took so long that meantime the
assailants of du Fay were attacked and driven back by Pierre du Pont, while
the Swiss poured down upon the foot-soldiers, whose number would have
overwhelmed them had not the men-at-arms rode down upon the papal infantry
from the other side.

The Duke and the French company, with two thousand foot-soldiers, who had
arrived under the walls without being observed, now joined in the fray from
the other side, to the utter confusion of the enemy, who were completely
surrounded and cut to pieces. Some of the horsemen of the papal army made a
desperate attempt to rally, but Bayard and another captain called their
ensigns and rode straight at them, with the cry of: "France! France! The
Duke! the Duke!" and charged them with such vehemence that most of them
were brought to the ground. The fighting went on for a good hour, but at
last the camp was lost and those escaped who could, but they were not many.
This battle cost the Pope about three thousand men, all his artillery and
camp furnishing, and was the salvation of the duchy of Ferrara. More than
three hundred horses remained in the hands of the conquerors, besides many
prisoners of importance.

Indeed, we do not wonder that so much stress is laid upon this victory by
the chronicler of Bayard, as it was solely due to his energy and
resolution. The battle took place on February 11, 1511.

It was at the siege of Brescia that the fame of Bayard reached its highest
point. His splendid courage in volunteering to place himself in the
forefront of battle and face the dreaded hand-guns of the arquebusiers is
the more striking as he had a special hatred of these new arms which were
coming more and more into use. All this gunpowder business was detestable
to the great knight, who had been trained in the old school of chivalry,
where gentlemen showed their skill in the use of arms, and fought bravely
against each other, while a battle was a kind of glorified tournament. "It
is a shame," he used to say, "that a man of spirit should be exposed to be
killed by a miserable stone or iron ball against which he cannot defend

Bayard always seems to us singularly free from the superstitions of his
day, but we cannot forget that an astrologer had foretold his death from
one of these new machines of war.

When all preparations had been made for the assault of the city, the Duke
of Nemours said to the captains of the army: "My lords, there is one thing
that for God's sake we must consider. You know that if this town is taken
by assault, it will be ruined and pillaged, and many will be put to death,
which seems a great pity. We must try once, before they put it to the
touch, whether they will surrender."

This was agreed to, and the next morning a trumpeter was sent forth from
the citadel, who marched down to the first rampart of the enemy where the
Doge, Messire Andrea Gritti, and his captains came to meet him. The
trumpeter asked if he might enter the town, but was told that he might say
what he liked to those present who had the authority to answer him. Then he
gave his message, saying that if they would give up the city they should
all be free to go forth and their lives would be safe, but if it were taken
by assault they would probably all be killed.

The answer they gave was to bid him return, for the town belonged to the
Republic of Venice, and so would remain, and they would take good care that
no Frenchman should ever set foot within.

The trumpeter brought back his answer, and when it was heard, there was no
more delay for the men were already in battle order.

"Well, gentlemen, we must all do our best.... Let us march," said Gaston de
Foix, Duc de Nemours, "in the name of God and my lord St. Denis." Drums,
trumpets, and bugles sounded an alarm. The enemy replied with a burst of
artillery, and the attacking party from the citadel began their descent
down the hill, where the ground was very slippery, for there had been rain
in the night. The general and many other knights took off their broad,
plated shoes to gain a firmer hold with the felt slippers worn under the
armour, for no one wished to be left behind. At the first rampart there was
a fierce conflict, for it was splendidly defended, and while the Good
Knight's company cried "Bayard! Bayard! France!" the enemy replied with
"Marco! Marco!" making so much noise as to drown the sound of the
hand-guns. The Doge, Andrea Gritti, encouraged his followers by saying to
them in the Italian tongue: "Hold firm, my friends, the French will soon
be tired, and if we can defeat this Bayard, the others will never come on."

But in spite of all his encouragement his men began to give way, and seeing
this the Good Knight cried: "Push on, push on, comrades! It is ours; only
march forward and we have won." He himself was the first to enter and cross
the rampart with about a thousand men following after him, and so with much
fighting the first fort was taken with great loss of life to the defenders.

But in the very moment of victory the Good Knight was wounded, receiving
the blow of a pike in his thigh, which entered in so deeply that the iron
was broken and remained in the wound. He believed himself stricken to death
from the pain he suffered, and turning to his friend, the lord of Molart,
he said: "Companion, advance with your men, the city is gained; but I can
go no further for I am dying." He was losing so much blood that he felt he
must either die without confession, or else permit two of his archers to
carry him out of the melee and do their best to staunch the wound.

When the news spread that their hero and champion was mortally wounded the
whole army, captains and men alike, were all moved to avenge his death, and
fought with fierce courage. Nothing could resist them, and at length they
entered pell-mell into the city, where the citizens and the women threw
great stones and boiling water from the windows upon the invaders, doing
more harm than all the soldiers had done. But the men of Venice were
utterly defeated, and many thousands remained in their last sleep in the
great piazza and the narrow streets where they had been pursued by the
enemy. Of that proud army which had held Brescia with bold defiance, such
as were not slain were taken prisoners, and among these was the Doge of
Venice himself. Then followed an awful time of pillage and every form of
cruelty and disorder, as was ever the way in those days when a city was
taken by storm. The spoils taken were valued at three millions of crowns,
and this in the end proved the ruin of the French power in Italy, for so
many of the soldiers, demoralised by plunder, deserted with their
ill-gotten gains and went home.

Meantime the wounded Bayard was borne into the city by his two faithful
archers and taken to a quiet street from whence the tide of battle had
passed on. Here they knocked at the door of a fine house whose master had
fled to a monastery, leaving his wife in charge. The good lady opened it at
once to receive the wounded soldier, and Bayard, turning to his men, bade
them guard the house against all comers, being assured that when they heard
his name none would attempt to enter. "And rest assured that what you lose
in the matter of spoil I will make good to you," he added. The lady of the
house led the way to her guest-chamber, whither the Good Knight was
carried, and she threw herself on her knees before him, saying: "Noble
lord, I present to you this house and all that is in it, for it is yours by
right of war, but I pray you to spare my honour and my life and that of my
two young daughters...." She had hidden away the poor girls in an attic
under the hay, but Bayard soon set her mind at rest, and gave her his
knightly word that her house would be as safe as a sanctuary. Then he asked
if she knew of a surgeon, and she went to fetch her own doctor, under the
escort of one of the archers. When he arrived he dressed the wound, which
was very deep and jagged, but he assured his patient that he was in no
danger of death, and would probably be on horseback again in less than a

Great was the joy of the Duc de Nemours and of all the French army when
this good report reached them, and the general, who remained in Brescia for
about a week, paid him a visit every day. He tried to comfort him by the
prospect of another battle before long against the Spaniards, and bade him
be quick and get well, for they could not do without him. The Good Knight
made reply that if there should be a battle he would not miss it for the
love he bore to his dear Gaston de Foix and for the King's service; rather
he would be carried thither in a litter.

Before leaving, when he had placed the hapless city in some kind of order
and government, Gaston sent the Good Knight many presents and five hundred
crowns, which he at once gave to his faithful archers. The Duke had,
indeed, no choice about his movements, for he received most urgent letters
from the King of France, who wanted the Spaniards to be driven out of
Lombardy as soon as possible, for France was threatened on every side, by
the King of England and by the Swiss.

The Good Knight was compelled to remain in bed for nearly five weeks, to
his great annoyance, for he received news from the French camp every day,
and there was constant talk of an approaching battle. So he sent for the
surgeon who attended him and told him that all this worry was making him
much worse, and that he must be allowed to join the camp. Seeing what kind
of warrior he had to deal with, the good man replied that the wound was not
closed but was healing well, and that there would be no danger in his
sitting on horseback, but the wound must be carefully dressed night and
morning by his barber. If any one had given Bayard a fortune he would not
have been so delighted, and he settled to start in two days' time. On the
morning when he was to leave after dinner, the good lady of the house came
to speak to him. She knew that by the laws of war she, her daughters, and
her husband (who had long since returned from the monastery where he had
taken refuge) were all prisoners of this French knight, and all that was in
the house belonged to him. But she had found him so kind and courteous that
she hoped to gain his favour by a handsome present, and she brought with
her one of her servants bearing a steel casket containing 2500 ducats. On
entering the Good Knight's chamber she fell on her knees before him, but he
would not suffer her to speak a word until she was seated by his side. Then
she poured out all her gratitude for his knightly courtesy and protection,
and at last offered him the casket, opening it to show what it contained.
But Bayard put it aside with a friendly smile, and replied:

"On my word, dear lady, I have never cared for money all my life! No riches
could ever be so precious to me as the kindness and devoted care which you
have shown to me during my stay with you, and I assure you that so long as
I live you will always have a faithful gentleman at your command. I thank
you very much for your ducats, but I pray that you will take them back...."
However, the lady was so much distressed at his refusal that he at length
accepted the casket, but begged her to send her daughters to wish him
good-bye. When they came and would have fallen on their knees before him,
he would not suffer such humility, but thanked them for all their kindness
in cheering him with their lute and spinet and singing during his illness,
and begged them to accept the ducats contained in their mother's casket,
which he poured out into their aprons whether they would or not. Overcome
by his courteous persuasion, the mother thanked him with tears in her eyes:
"Thou flower of knighthood to whom none can compare, may the Blessed
Saviour reward thee in this world and the next." When the Good Knight's
horses were brought round at mid-day, after dinner, the two fair maidens
brought him some presents of their own needlework, bracelets made with hair
bound with gold and silver threads, and a little embroidered purse, which
he gallantly placed in his sleeve, and the bracelets on his arms, with many
thanks, to the great delight of the girls. Thus with friendly words and
courtly farewells he took his leave, and rode away with a goodly company of
friends towards the camp near Ravenna, where he was welcomed with the
greatest joy and honour by all the French army.

When Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours, arrived at the camp before Ravenna he
assembled all the captains together to consider what was to be done, for
the French army began to suffer very much on account of the scarcity of
provisions, which could only be obtained with great difficulty. They were
very short of bread and wine, because the Venetians had cut off the
supplies from one side and the Spanish army held all the coast of Romagna.

There was also another reason for haste, which was not yet known to the
French leaders. Maximilian had long been uncertain and vacillating in his
alliances, but had now definitely decided to join the side of Pope Julius
and the King of Spain. As usual there were companies of German and Swiss
mercenaries both in the Italian army and also with the French, and these
owed some kind of allegiance to the sovereign of their land. Thus it was
that the Emperor had sent word to the companies of German "landsknechte"
that they were to retire home at once and were not to fight against the
Spaniards. Now it so happened that this letter had only been seen by the
Captain Jacob, who commanded these mercenaries in the French army, and he,
being a great friend of Bayard, privately asked his advice, first telling
him that having accepted the pay of the French King he had no intention of
thus betraying him in the hour of battle. But he suggested that it would be
well to hurry on the impending battle before other letters should come from
the Emperor and give the men an excuse for retiring. The Good Knight saw
how urgent the matter was and advised him to declare it to the general, the
Duc de Nemours.

Duke Gaston, who had now heard of the Emperor's letter, said that they had
no choice, and also that his uncle, the King of France, was sending
constant messengers to hurry on war operations as he was in sore straits.
Bayard was asked to give his opinion, and he modestly replied that he had
only just arrived and others might know more, but as far as he could learn,
the besieged were promised that a large army from Naples and Rome would
come to their help in a few days, certainly before Easter, and this was
Maundy Thursday. "And on the other hand," he added, "our men have no
provisions and the horses are reduced to eating willow leaves, so that each
day's delay makes it worse for us. You see, too, the King our master writes
to us every day to hasten our movements, therefore I advise that we give
battle. But we must use all caution for we have to do with brave and good
fighting men, and we cannot deny the risk and danger. There is one comfort:
the Spaniards have been in Romagna for a year, fed like fish in the water
till they are fat and full, while our men, having undergone much hardship,
have longer breath. Remember that to him who fights longest the camp will

At this every one smiled, for Bayard always had such a bright and pleasant
way of putting things that men loved to hear him. His advice was followed
and all was made ready for a determined assault on the city next day, which
was Good Friday. The captains and their men set forth in gallant mood, as
though they went to a wedding, and so fierce was the attack of the
artillery that before long a small breach was made in the fortification,
but the defenders fought so well that it was not possible to break through
and at length the retreat was sounded. This was really a fortunate thing,
as if the soldiery had begun pillaging the place the coming battle would
certainly have been lost, and the relieving army was now within two miles
of Ravenna.

It would be too long to follow the whole story of that fierce and desperate
conflict, where both sides fought with the utmost skill and valour. The
Spaniards certainly carried out their usual tactics of constantly taking
aim at the horses of the French riders, for they have a proverb which says:
"When the horse is dead the man-at-arms is lost." Their war-cry was:
"Spain! Spain! St. Iago!" to which the other side replied by another
furious onslaught to the shouts of "France! France!" And wherever the Good
Knight passed, "Bayard! Bayard!" was the clarion note which cheered on his
company, ever in the forefront of battle. The French artillery was used
with great success, and as for the young general, Gaston de Foix, he led
forward his men again and again with splendid success. It was late in the
day and already the tide of victory was on the side of the French, when the
Good Knight, who was riding in pursuit of the flying enemy, said to the
Duke: "Praise be to God, you have won the battle, my lord, and the world
will ring with your fame. I pray you to remain here by the bridge and rally
your men-at-arms to keep them from pillaging the camp. But do not leave, I
entreat, till we return." It would have been well, indeed, if he had
remembered this, but some time later, in the tumult and confusion, he saw
some Gascons being driven across the canal by a few Spanish fugitives, and
with his usual impetuous chivalry, Gaston threw himself to their rescue,
without waiting to see who followed him.

He found himself hemmed in between the canal and a deep ditch, attacked by
desperate men with pikes; his horse was killed and he fought on foot with
only his sword. His companions, who had quickly seen his danger, were
trampled down or thrust into the water, and in vain his cousin, de Lautrec,
shouted to the Spaniards, "Do not kill him; he is our general, the brother
of your Queen" (Germaine de Foix). The gallant young Duke fell covered with
wounds, and de Lautrec was left for dead, before their assailants turned
and continued their flight to Ravenna. It so chanced that some distance
farther the Good Knight met them, and would have attacked them, but they
pleaded humbly for their lives, which could make no difference now the
battle was won. Bayard let them go, little knowing that they had done to
death his dear lord and beloved friend, Gaston de Foix.

The Good Knight wrote to his uncle on April 14, 1512:

"Sir, if our King has gained the battle I vow to you that we poor gentlemen
have lost it; for while we were away in pursuit of the enemy ... my lord
of Nemours ... was killed and never was there such grief and lamentation
as overwhelms our camp, for we seem to have lost everything. If our dear
lord had lived to his full age (he was but twenty-four) he would have
surpassed all other princes, and his memory would have endured so long as
the world shall last.... Sir, yesterday morning the body of my lord
(Gaston de Foix, Duc de Nemours) was borne to Milan with the greatest
honour we could devise, with two hundred men-at-arms, the many banners
taken in this battle carried trailing on the ground before his body, with
his own standards triumphantly floating behind him.... We have lost many
other great captains, and amongst them my friend Jacob of the German
foot-soldiers ... and I assure you that for a hundred years the kingdom of
France will not recover from our loss....--Your humble servitor, BAYARD."

The brilliant victory won outside the walls of Ravenna was the last
successful engagement of the French army which, threatened on every side,
was soon "to melt away like mist flying before the wind." The day after the
battle Ravenna was pillaged by the French adventurers and "landsknechte"
with the usual unfortunate result, that they forsook their masters and
returned home with their booty.

This gallant young prince was indeed a terrible loss both to his friends
and to his country. His uncle, Louis XII., is said to have exclaimed, on
hearing of the death of the Duke of Nemours: "Would to God that I had lost
Italy, and that Gaston and the others who fell at Ravenna were still

It was difficult to fill his place, but Chabannes la Palisse was chosen to
the command of the army, as Lautrec had been grievously wounded and was now
at Ferrara, where he ultimately recovered.

The French army was already weary and dispirited when the troops of the
Pope and his allies bore down upon them in great numbers; and after several
attempts at resistance they were compelled to retire to Pavia, which they
hoped to defend. However, they had barely time to fortify the various gates
before the enemy was upon them, two days later. By the advice of Bayard, a
bridge of boats was made across the river as a way of retreat, for the
stone bridge was sure to be guarded by the enemy, and, as we shall see,
this proved to be of immense value. By some means, the Swiss managed to
enter the town by the citadel and advanced to the market-place, where, on
the alarm being sounded, they were met by the foot-soldiers and some
men-at-arms, amongst whom were the Captain Louis d'Ars, who was Governor,
La Palisse, and the lord of Imbercourt. But, above all, the Good Knight did
incredible things, for with about twenty or thirty men-at-arms he held all
the Swiss at bay for about two hours in a narrow passage, fighting the
whole time with such desperate energy that he had two horses killed under

It was now that the bridge of boats came into use, and the artillery was
first preparing to cross when Captain Pierre du Pont, Bayard's nephew, who
was keeping a watch on the enemy, came to tell the company fighting in the
market-place: "Gentlemen, retire at once; for above our bridge a number of
Swiss are arriving in little boats, ten at a time, and when they have
enough men they will enclose us in this city and we shall all be cut to

He was so wise and valiant a leader that his words were obeyed, and the
French retreated, always fighting, as far as their bridge, hotly pursued,
so that there was heavy skirmishing. However, the horsemen passed over
safely, while about three hundred foot-soldiers remained behind to guard
the entrance of the bridge. But a great misfortune happened, for when the
French had just succeeded in taking across the last piece of artillery, a
long "culverin"[1] (cannon), named _Madame de Forli_,[2] which had been
re-taken from the Spaniards at Ravenna, was so heavy that it sank the first
boat, and the poor soldiers, seeing they were lost, escaped as best they
could, but many were killed and others drowned.

[Footnote 1: Cannon of 5-1/2 inches bore; weight of the shot 17-1/2 lbs.]

[Footnote 2: Named after the famous Catarina Sforza, the warlike Lady of

When the French had crossed the bridge they destroyed it, although they
were no longer pursued, but a great misfortune befell Bayard. He was, as
usual, in the place of danger, protecting the retreat of his company, when
he was wounded by the shot from the town of a small cannon called a
"fowler." It struck him between the shoulder and the neck with such force
that all the flesh was torn off to the bone, and those who saw the shot
thought he was killed. But although he was in agony and knew that he was
seriously wounded, he said to his companions: "Gentlemen, it is nothing."
They tried to staunch the wound with moss from the trees, and some of his
soldiers tore up their shirts for bandages, as there was no surgeon at
hand. It was in this unfortunate condition that the Good Knight accompanied
the French army on that sad retreat from place to place, until at last they
reached Piedmont and crossed the Alps.

Less than three months after the victory of Ravenna the triumphant allies
had re-taken Bologna, Parma, and Piacenza without a blow; had encouraged
Genoa to assert her independence; and Italy, with the exception of a few
citadels, had escaped from French rule.

Bayard, who suffered much from his wound, was carried to Grenoble, where
his good uncle the Bishop, who had first started him in his career of arms,
received him with the greatest affection. He was warmly welcomed and made
much of in his native land, and possibly the excitement, combined with his
serious wound, was too much for him, as he fell ill with fever and for more
than a fortnight his life was despaired of.

Prayers and supplications were made for him throughout the whole country,
especially in all the churches of Grenoble itself, and, as the chronicler
remarks, "there must have been some good person whose prayers were heard,"
for the Good Knight gradually grew better, and before many weeks he was as
well and as gay as ever. Never was any one more feasted and entertained
than he was during the three months when he remained with his uncle, the
Bishop of Grenoble. A very interesting letter has been preserved which this
good prelate wrote to the Queen of France at this time. He thanks her for
her great kindness in sending her doctor, Maitre Pierre, whose skill has
had so much effect in curing his nephew. He also informs Her Majesty that
he has spoken to Bayard about the marriage she suggests for him, but with
all due gratitude he does not find himself in a position to marry, and has
never given the subject a thought....

This is exactly what we might have expected from the good Anne of Brittany.
She had such a passion for match-making that she had obtained from the Pope
a "portable" altar, which always travelled with her, that she might have a
marriage solemnised at any time.

[Illustration: Bayard presented to the King of England.]

_from the portrait by Hans Holbein_.]


The next war in which Bayard was engaged was that in which Louis XII. was
attacked by the King of Spain in Navarre. Henry VIII. was at the same time
preparing to invade the north of France, landing near Calais, and the Swiss
were already pouring into Burgundy.

As we may expect, Bayard was not long without being sent on some perilous
adventure. He was at the siege of Pampeluna with the deposed King Jean
d'Albret of Navarre and the lord of La Palisse, when they told him there
was a certain castle about four leagues off which it would be well for him
to take, as the garrison was a constant annoyance to the French. The Good
Knight at once set off with his own company, that of Captain Bonneval, a
certain number of adventurers, and two troops of "landsknechte." When he
arrived before the fortress, he sent a trumpeter to proclaim to those
within that they must yield it to their rightful sovereign, the King of
Navarre, in which case they would save their lives and goods, but if the
place had to be taken by assault they would have no mercy.

The Spaniards were valiant men and loyal subjects of the King of Spain,
and they made reply that they would not yield the fortress and still less
themselves. Upon this Bayard put his artillery in position and made such
good use of it that a breach was soon made in the walls, but it was high up
and not easy to make use of. The Good Knight then sounded the order to
assault and commanded the "landsknechte" to advance. Their interpreter said
that it was their rule, when a place was to be taken by assault, that they
should have double pay. The Good Knight would have nothing to do with their
rules, but he promised that if they took the place they should have what
they asked for. But not a single man of them would mount the breach.
Thereupon Bayard sounded the retreat, and then made an attack with the
artillery as though he wished to enlarge the breach, but he had another
plan. He called one of his men-at-arms, by name Little John, and said to
him: "My friend, you can do me a good service which will be well rewarded.
You see that tower at the corner of the castle; when you hear the assault
begin take ladders, and with thirty or forty men scale that tower, which
you will find undefended." So it turned out, for all the garrison went to
defend the breach, while Little John and his men mounted the tower unseen
and cried out, "France! France! Navarre! Navarre!" The defenders, finding
themselves assailed on every side, did their best; but the castle was soon
taken, and the whole place was pillaged and left in charge of the King of
Navarre's men.

In this year, 1513, died Julius II., the great warrior Pope, a constant foe
to the French, and he was succeeded by the Cardinal dei Medici, Pope Leo X.

Louis XII., having most reluctantly withdrawn his troops from Italy, now
prepared to meet an invasion of Picardy by the English. He sent a large
body of troops to the assistance of the lord of Piennes, Governor of
Picardy, commanded by the finest captains of the kingdom, and amongst these
was Bayard. In the month of June 1513 a large army had landed with Henry
VIII. near Calais; a most convenient place for the invasion of France, as
it was in possession of the English. A strong force was sent on to besiege
the town of Therouanne in Artois, but the King himself remained behind at
Calais for some tournaments and festivities. When he set forth, a few weeks
later, to join his army he had a very narrow escape of being taken prisoner
by Bayard, who met him on the way.

It happened that the English King was accompanied by about 12,000
foot-soldiers, of whom 4000 were landed, but he had no horsemen, while
Bayard commanded a detachment of nearly 1200 men-at-arms. The two armies
came within a cannon-shot of each other, and Henry VIII., seeing his
danger, dismounted from his horse and placed himself in the middle of the
"landsknechte." The French were only too eager to charge through the
foot-soldiers, and Bayard implored the Governor of Picardy, under whose
orders he was, to allow him to lead them on. "My lord, let us charge them!"
he exclaimed; "if they give way at the first charge we shall break through,
but if they make a strong stand we can always retire, for they are on foot
and we on horseback." But the lord of Piennes only replied: "Gentlemen, the
King my master has charged me on my life to risk nothing, but only to
defend his land; do what you please, but for my part I will never give my

The Good Knight, brought up in strict military discipline, was not one to
break the law of obedience, and he yielded with bitter disappointment in
his heart. The timid caution of the Governor of Picardy had thus lost him,
in all probability, the chance of a splendid adventure, for the capture of
King Henry VIII. at the very beginning of the war might have changed the
whole history of Europe.

As it was, the King was suffered to pass on his way, but Bayard obtained
leave to harass the retreating army, and with his company took possession
of a piece of artillery called _Saint John_, for Henry VIII. had twelve of
these big cannons, to which he gave the name of "his twelve apostles."

The King of England reached the camp outside Therouanne in safety, and a
few days later was joined by the Emperor Maximilian, who was welcomed with
much feasting. Their combined forces are said to have amounted to 40,000
men, and they soon began a vigorous bombardment of the city, which was
bravely defended with a strong garrison, who did their best with the
limited means at their disposal. Therouanne was a strongly-fortified city,
but the massive walls, which had formerly been impregnable, could not stand
against a long siege with this new artillery.

The besieged city was very short of provisions and the great object of the
French was to supply these; indeed Louis XII., who had advanced as far as
Amiens, was sending constant orders that this must be done at any risk. At
the same time he was very anxious to avoid a general engagement as his army
would be no match for the combined English and Burgundian forces. French
historians tell us that this was the cause of that disastrous encounter
which, to their great annoyance, has been called the "Battle of Spurs."
They point out that the troops were not sent to fight, but only to
revictual a besieged place, and that the King's orders were that, if
attacked, "they were to retreat at a walk, and if they were pressed, go
from a walk to a trot, and from a trot to a gallop, for they were to risk

This was the French plan to send provisions for the beleaguered city, a
very difficult enterprise on account of the immense army which surrounded
it. It was arranged that the cavalry should make a feigned attack on the
side of Guinegaste, in order to draw the enemy in that direction, while
eight hundred "stradiots" (light horse, chiefly Albanians in the service of
France) were to make a dash on the other side, gallop through the defending
force, reach the moat and throw in the bundles of provisions which they
carried on the necks of their horses. This we are told the Albanians
actually succeeded in doing, and it seemed as if this bold stroke would be
successful, for the besieged, under cover of night, would be able to fetch
in the much-needed provisions.

The French men-at-arms, meantime, had advanced to the attack and, after
some skirmishing with the English and Imperial troops, were beginning to
retreat somewhat carelessly, when they suddenly saw a number of
foot-soldiers with artillery appearing on the top of the hill of
Guinegaste, preparing to bar their way. Only then did they become fully
aware of the imminent danger in which they were, and understood that, by
some treachery, their plans had been made known to the enemy, who had thus
made all preparations for their destruction.

King Henry VIII. had heard of the plan of relief, and before daybreak had
placed ten or twelve thousand English archers and four or five thousand
German foot-soldiers on a hillock with eight or ten pieces of artillery, in
order that when the French had passed by, his men might descend and
surround them, while in front he had ordered all the horsemen, both English
and Burgundian, to attack them. When the French soldiers found themselves
caught in this ambush, and the retreat was sounded by the trumpeters, they
turned back, but were so hotly pursued that the gentle trot soon became a
wild gallop and they fled in disorder, notwithstanding the cries of their
captains: "Turn, men-at-arms, turn, it is nothing!" The Good Knight's
company was hurried along with the others, but again and again he rallied
them, until at last he was left with only fourteen or fifteen men-at-arms
on a little bridge only wide enough for two horsemen to pass at a time,
while the stream was too deep to ford as it was dammed up to turn a mill.
Here Bayard came to a stand and cried to his companions: "My friends, we
can hold this bridge for an hour, and I will send an archer to tell my lord
of La Palisse that we have checked the enemy and this is the place to
attack them."

We can picture to ourselves how gallantly he fought, for he loved nothing
better than to defend a narrow bridge, but the pursuing army proved too
overwhelming, for a company of horsemen went round beyond the mill and
attacked the brave little party of defenders from behind. When Bayard saw
that their position was desperate, he cried: "Gentlemen, we yield
ourselves, for our valour will serve us nothing. Our horses are done up,
our friends are three leagues away, and when the English archers arrive
they will cut us to pieces." One by one the knights yielded, but Bayard saw
a Burgundian gentleman on the bank who, overcome by the great heat of that
August day, had taken off his "armet" (helmet) and was too exhausted to
think about taking prisoners. The Good Knight rode straight at him, held
his sword at the man's throat and cried: "Yield, man-at-arms, or you are
dead." Never was man more surprised than this Burgundian, who thought that
all the fighting was over, but with the cold steel threatening him there
was nothing for him but surrender. "I yield, as I am taken in this way, but
who are you?" he asked.

"I am the Captain Bayard and I also yield myself to you," was the reply.
"Take my sword, and I pray you let me go with you." So he was taken to the
English camp and well treated by the gentleman in his tent; but on the
fifth day Bayard said to him: "Sir, I should like to return to my own camp
for I grow weary of this." "But we have said nothing about your ransom,"
exclaimed the other. "My ransom?" said the Good Knight. "But what about
yours, for you were my prisoner first? We will fight out the matter, if you
like." But the gentleman had heard of Bayard's fame and was by no means
anxious to fight, surprised as he was at this new point of view. But he was
a courteous gentleman, and offered to abide by the decision of the
captains. Meantime the rumour spread that the great Bayard was in the camp,
and there was much excitement. The Emperor Maximilian sent for him and
feasted him well, expressing great delight at meeting him again. After much
pleasant talk he remarked: "In the days when we fought together it seems to
me that we were told Bayard never fled." "If I had fled, sire, I should not
be here now," he replied.

Presently the King of England arrived and desired that the Good Knight
might be presented to him, as he had always wished to make his acquaintance.
Then they began to talk about the French defeat, and both Henry and
Maximilian made some severe remarks, upon which the Good Knight exclaimed:
"Upon my soul! the French men-at-arms were in no wise to blame, for they
had express commands from their captains not to fight, because our force
was not to be compared with yours, for we had neither foot-soldiers nor
artillery. And indeed, high and noble lords, you must know that the
nobility of France is famous throughout the world. I do not speak of

"Indeed, my lord of Bayard," said the King of England, "if all were like
you I should soon have to raise the siege of this town. But now you are a
prisoner." "I do not own to it, sire, and I will appeal to the Emperor and
yourself." He then told the whole story in the presence of the gentleman
with whom he had the adventure, and who answered for the truth of it. The
Emperor and the King looked at each other, and Maximilian spoke first,
saying that Bayard was not a prisoner, but rather the other knight; still,
all things considered, he thought that they were quits, and that the Good
Knight might depart when it seemed well to the King of England. To this
suggestion Henry VIII. agreed, but required that Bayard should give his
word to remain for six weeks without bearing arms, after which time he
could return to his company. Meantime he should be free to visit all the
towns of Flanders. For this gracious permission the Good Knight humbly
thanked both the princes, and took leave of them after a few days, during
which he was treated with great honour. Henry VIII. made secret proposals
to Bayard that he should enter into his service, offering him high position
and great possessions. But this was labour lost, for, as the chronicler
says, "he was a most loyal Frenchman."

Therouanne, whose walls had been constantly bombarded with much destruction,
was soon compelled by famine to capitulate. The garrison were to march out
freely, with all their arms and armour; but the fortifications were
destroyed and the town partly burnt.

[Illustration: FRANCIS _the_ FIRST KING _of_ FRANCE
_from the portrait by Titian Vecelli_.]


The next year, 1514, brought many changes in France. First came the death
of the good Queen Anne of Brittany, who was greatly lamented by her husband
and mourned by all her people. The next notable event was the marriage of
the Princess Claude, her daughter, to the young Duke of Angouleme, who was
to succeed to the throne under the name of Francis I.

He had not long to wait for his inheritance as Louis XII., having made an
alliance with England, was induced for political reasons to marry the
Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII. The poor King was already in
ill-health, and he only survived his wedding three months, dying on New
Year's day, 1515. He had a splendid funeral at St. Denis, which was
scarcely over before all the great nobles of the realm put off their
mourning and hastened in splendid magnificence to Rheims to the coronation
of the new King, Francis I., a gay and handsome youth of twenty.

The young King at once set about carrying out the desire of his heart--the
conquest of Milan. Charles de Bourbon was made Constable of France, and a
great army was collected at Grenoble. But secret news was received that the
Swiss were guarding on the other side the only passes which were then
thought possible for the crossing of armies. One was the Mont Cenis, where
the descent is made by Susa, and the other was by the Mont Genevre.
Bourbon, however, heard of a new way by the Col d'Argentiere, and meantime
sent several French generals and the Chevalier Bayard to cross the
mountains by the Col de Cabre and make a sudden raid upon Prospero Colonna,
who with a band of Italian horsemen was awaiting the descent of the French
army into Piedmont. The gallant little company rode across the rocky Col,
where cavalry had never passed before, descended by Droniez into the plain
of Piedmont, crossed the Po at a ford, where they had to swim their horses,
inquired at the Castle of Carmagnola and found that Prospero Colonna and
his company had left barely a quarter of an hour before.

The captains considered what they should do: some were for advancing,
others hesitated, for if Colonna had any suspicion of their plan he
would call the Swiss to his help, for there was a large force in the
neighbourhood. It was Bayard who settled the question by saying: "Since we
have come thus far, my advice is that we continue the pursuit, and if we
come across them in the plain, it will be a pity if some of them do not
fall into our hands."

All cried that he was quite right, and that they must start as soon as
possible, but first it would be well if some one were sent on in advance,
in disguise, to find out the exact position of the enemy. This duty was
given to the lord of Moretto, who carried out the inquiry very quickly,
bringing back word that Colonna and his escort were preparing to dine at
Villafranca in full security.

They next settled the order of their match: Humbercourt was to go in front
with one hundred archers; a bow-shot behind him Bayard would follow with
one hundred men-at-arms, and then Chabannes de la Palisse and d'Aubigny
would bring up the rest of their men.

Prospero Colonna had good spies, and he heard from them as he was going to
Mass at Villafranca that the French were in the fields in great numbers. He
replied that he was quite sure it could only be Bayard and his company,
unless the others were able to fly over the mountains. As he was returning
from Mass, other spies came up to him with the news: "My lord, I have seen
close by more than a thousand French horsemen, and they are coming to find
you here." He was a little taken aback, and turned to one of his gentlemen,
to whom he said: "Take twenty horsemen and go along the road to Carmagnola
for two or three miles, and see if there is anything to alarm us."

All the same he commanded the Marshal of his bands to have the trumpet
sounded, and to start for Pignerol, where he would follow when he had eaten
a mouthful. Meantime the French were marching forward in haste, and were
about a mile and a half from Villafranca, when, coming out of a little
wood, they met the scouts sent by the lord Prospero to find them. When
these caught sight of the approaching enemy they turned straight round and
galloped off as hard as they could go. The lord of Humbercourt and his
archers pursued them at full speed, sending word to Bayard to make haste.

The French knights rode at such a pace that they reached the gate of the
town at the same time as the Italians, and with their cry of "France!
France!" they managed to keep the gate open until the arrival of the Good
Knight and the rest of their company, when after some sharp fighting it
was strongly held. They also secured the other gate of the town, but two
Albanians managed to escape and carry news of the disaster to a company of
four thousand Swiss about three miles off.

Prospero Colonna was surprised at dinner, and would have defended himself,
but when he saw that defence was hopeless he yielded himself most
reluctantly to this Bayard, whom he had vowed "that he would catch like a
pigeon in a cage." As he cursed his ill-fortune in having been thus taken
by surprise, instead of meeting the French in the open field, the Good
Knight with his usual courteous chivalry tried to comfort him, saying: "My
lord Prospero, it is the fortune of war! You lose now, and will win next
time! As for meeting us in the open field, it would be a great pleasure to
us French, for if you knew our men when they are roused to battle you would
not find it easy to escape...." The Italian lord replied coldly: "In any
case I should have been glad to have the chance of meeting!"

Besides Colonna, several great captains were taken prisoners, and the place
was found to be full of rich spoils, gold and silver plate, splendid
equipments, and above all in value, six or seven hundred valuable horses.
Unfortunately for the French they were not able to carry away all this, for
news arrived of the approach of the Swiss troop which had been summoned;
indeed they entered Villafranca at one gate as the French rode out with
their prisoners on the other side, but there could be no pursuit as the
Swiss were all on foot.

The chief military advantage of this wonderful raid was that it kept all
these Italian horsemen away from the coming battle at Marignano.

Francis I. was delighted to hear of Bayard's success, and finding that the
Swiss were retreating towards Milan he followed in pursuit of them, took
Novara on the way, and advanced with his army as far as Marignano.

A terrible melee followed, for as the light failed confusion increased. We
hear of a most striking adventure which befell the Good Knight Bayard late
in the evening. His horse had been killed under him, and the second which
he mounted became so frantic when his master charged the Swiss lances that
he broke his bridle and dashed into the midst of the enemy until he became
entangled in the vines trained from tree to tree. Bayard kept his presence
of mind, and in order to escape instant death, slipped gently from his
horse, cast off his helmet and the thigh-pieces of his armour, and then
managed to creep on hands and knees along a ditch until he reached his own
people. The first man he met was the Duke of Lorraine, who was much
surprised to see him on foot, and at once gave him a wonderful horse which
had once belonged to the Good Knight himself, and had been left for dead on
the field of Ravenna, but was found next day and brought back to Bayard,
who cured him. This was a most unexpected piece of good fortune, and he was
able to borrow a helmet from another friend and so return to the fight,
which continued for a while by moonlight.

We have a vivid account of the weird and strange night which followed, when
the trumpets of France sounded the retreat and the Swiss blew their
cowhorns, as is their custom, and the two armies, with neither ditch nor
hedge between them, awaited the coming day within a stone's-throw of each
other. Those who were mounted sat on their horses with only such food or
drink as they chanced to have with them ... "and it is the firm belief that
no man slept during all those hours." In the King's letter to his mother,
Louise of Savoie, he says "that he remained on horseback with his helmet
on, until he was compelled to rest for a while on a gun-carriage, under the
care of an Italian trumpeter ... when the young King asked for water, it
could only be obtained from the ditch close by."

When the morning broke, the battle began again with fresh vigour on both
sides; thousands of brave men fell, and the noblest names of France were
amongst the slain on that fatal field. In the end the victory remained with
the French, and the survivors of the vanquished Swiss retreated in good
order, for the King, who never knew when he might need their services, gave
orders that they were not to be pursued. When all was over, on the Friday
evening, Francis I., who had fought throughout with gallant spirit and
valour, requested the honour of knighthood from the noble Bayard. In this
the young King showed his just appreciation of his most gallant subject,
the very flower of French chivalry, the hero of so many battles.

The French army now continued its victorious march to Milan, which
surrendered at once, and the King, after leaving Charles de Bourbon as his
Lieutenant-General, went to meet Pope Leo X. at Bologna and soon after
returned to his own land. Bayard was left in Milan and did good service
when it was attacked later by the Emperor Maximilian.

In 1519 the Emperor Maximilian died, and was succeeded in his dominions by
his grandson, Charles V., already King of Spain. It was a great blow to
Francis I., who had used every effort to obtain this honour himself; and
the rivalry then started continued all his life. As Mezieres was in danger
of being attacked, Francis I. immediately issued orders that Bayard should
be sent to defend it, as there was no man in his kingdom he would sooner
trust for so important an enterprise.

This city was of immense importance at that moment, if it could be held
against the might of the Emperor until the French army should be made up to
its full strength and reach the frontier, where the Germans had arrived,
commanded by two great captains, the Count of Nassau and the famous
_condottiere_, Franz von Sickingen.

Bayard most gladly obeyed the King's command and lost no time in making his
way to Mezieres with certain young nobles, amongst whom was the young lord
Montmorency, and with a goodly company of men-at-arms. When he arrived he
found the place in a very poor condition to stand a siege, and he at once
set to work with his usual enthusiasm to improve the fortifications. He
worked himself as hard as any day labourer to encourage the others, and
there was never a man-at-arms or a foot-soldier who did not eagerly follow
his example. The Good Knight would say to them: "It shall not be our fault
if this place is taken, seeing what a fine company we are. Why, if we had
to defend a field with only a four-foot ditch round it, we would fight a
whole day before we should be beaten. But, thank God, here we have ditches,
walls, and ramparts, and I believe that before the enemy enters many of
their men will sleep in those ditches."

In short, such was the magic of his eloquence, that all his men thought
they were in the strongest place in the world. This was soon put to the
test when it was besieged on two sides, from beyond the River Meuse and
from the land. Count Sickingen had about fifteen thousand men, and the
other captain, Count Nassau, more than twenty thousand. A herald was sent
to Bayard to point out to him that he could not hold Mezieres against their
arms, that it would be a pity for so great and famous a knight to be taken
by assault, and that they would give him excellent terms. And much more of
the same flattering nature.

When the Good Knight had heard all the herald had to say, he asked no
man's advice, but replied with a smile: "My friend, I am surprised at
these gracious messages from your masters, whom I do not know. Herald,
you will return and say to them that as the King has done me the honour
to trust me, I hope with God's help to keep this frontier town so long
that your captains will be more tired of besieging it than I shall to be
besieged...." Then the herald was well feasted and sent away. He bore to
the camp the Good Knight's reply, which was by no means pleasant to my
lords, and there was present a captain who had seen service under Bayard in
Italy. He assured the company that so long as the Good Knight was alive
they would never enter into Mezieres; that when cowards fought under him
they became brave men, and that all his company would die with him at the
breach before the enemy set foot in the town ... and that his mere presence
was of more value than two thousand men....

This was not pleasant to hear, and the Emperor's captains made a furious
attack with their artillery on the ramparts, which continued during four
days. The Good Knight noticed that special damage was done to the walls
from the camp of Count Sickingen, and considered by what means he could be
induced to go back the other side of the river. So he wrote a letter to the
lord Robert de la Marck, who was at Sedan, in which he hinted at a rumour
he had heard that the Count might be persuaded to become an ally of the
King of France. Bayard added that he desired nothing more, but Sickingen
must lose no time, for his camp would soon be hemmed in by the approaching
Swiss and by a sortie well timed from the town. This information was to be
kept quite private....

The letter was written giving other particulars, and was then given to a
peasant with a crown and the order to take it at once to Sedan from the
Captain Bayard. The good man set off with it, but, as Bayard had foreseen,
he had not gone far before he was taken and gave up the letter to save his
life. This message greatly troubled Count Sickingen, who was already
suspicious of the other general, and was not slow to imagine that he had
been betrayed and left in the post of danger. The more he thought of it the
more his rage increased, and at last he gave orders to sound the retreat
and cross the river, to the dismay and indignation of Count Nassau, who saw
that this was practically raising the siege. Angry messages passed between
the two generals, until at length they were on the point of actual

The Good Knight had been watching all this from the ramparts to his great
amusement, and he now thought it time to add to the confusion by a
well-aimed attack of artillery, which so added to the nervous alarms of the
besiegers that next morning they packed up their tents and camp equipment,
and the two Counts went off in different directions, while it was a long
time before they became friends again. Thus it was that Bayard kept at bay
the overwhelming forces of the enemy for three weeks, until the King of
France himself arrived with a great army. We see how it was that enemies of
the Good Knight could never get over a kind of supernatural terror both of
his splendid valour and his endless resources. King Francis sent for Bayard
to his camp, and on his way thither the indomitable captain retook the town
of Mouzon. He was received with the greatest honour by the King, who
bestowed on him the famous order of St. Michael and the command of a
hundred men-at-arms. He also made many promises of future greatness, and
both he and his mother, the Queen Louise, praised Bayard to the skies. But,
unfortunately, the only results of all this praise were a few empty honours
and an immense amount of jealousy and ill-feeling amongst the courtiers.
Indeed, we find that after this time Bayard never had any important charge
given to him, and never attained the position, which he so richly deserved,
of commander in time of war. It is very interesting to notice that the
"Loyal Servitor"--that faithful chronicler who followed Bayard through all
his campaigns, and probably often wrote at his dictation--never allows us
to suspect that the Good Knight felt any bitterness at this neglect. Not
one word of complaint is ever heard; he never murmured, he asked for
nothing; his only anxiety was to serve his country and his king.

If Bayard was not rewarded with the prizes of his profession he was
certainly always chosen when any dangerous or wearisome business was on

The Good Knight was not recalled to Court, and it is supposed that, besides
the jealousy which his brilliant deeds had awakened, he was also in
disgrace on account of his warm friendship for Charles de Bourbon, who was
now being driven to despair and ruin through the hatred of Louise de

Bayard having been made lieutenant of the Governor of Dauphine in 1515, it
was easy to keep him at a distance from Paris at his post, and with his
keen and devoted interest in all matters that concerned his country, these
years in a far-off province were a veritable exile. Several of his letters
written during this period have been preserved, and we have also a friendly
note from the King, written in December 1523, when he had settled to make
another expedition to Italy to recover his former conquests there and to
restore his prestige. It is evidently written in answer to an urgent appeal
from Bayard to be allowed to join him, and, probably in a moment of
impulse, he warmly agrees to employ his bravest captain; but, alas for
France! it was not to be in the position of command and responsibility
which his splendid talents and courage demanded. It was to be his last
expedition, with a hero's death as his only guerdon.

In the beginning of the year 1524 the King of France sent an army into
Italy under the command of the lord of Bonnivet, his admiral, who had no
qualifications for his high post beyond personal courage. He was a man
of narrow views, wilful and obstinate, and from these faults in a
commander-in-chief great disasters followed. A strong Imperial party,
supported by Charles de Bourbon and Giovanni dei Medici, held the city of
Milan, and the French camp was at a little town called Biagrasso, when
Bonnivet said to the Good Knight: "My lord Bayard, you must go to Rebec
with two hundred men-at-arms and the foot-soldiers of de Lorges, and so
find out what is going on in Milan and check the arrival of their
provisions." Now the Good Knight never murmured at any command given him,
but he saw at once what a wild and foolish scheme this was, and replied:
"My lord, the half of our army would scarcely be sufficient to defend that
village, placed where it is. I know our enemies, they are brave and
vigilant, and you are sending me to certain shame; I pray you therefore, my
lord, that you consider the matter well." But the Admiral persisted that it
would be all right, for not a mouse could leave Milan without his hearing
of it, until, much against his own judgment, Bayard set forth with the men
given to him. But he only took two of his own horses, for his mules and the
rest of his train he sent to Novara, as though foreseeing the loss of all
he had with him.

When he had reached this village of Rebec he considered how he could
fortify it; but there was no means of doing so except by putting up a few
barriers, for it could be entered on every side. The Good Knight wrote to
Bonnivet several times, pointing out what a dangerous place it was and that
he must have reinforcements if he was to hold it long, but he received no
answer. Meantime the enemy in Milan had learnt through spies that the Good
Knight was at Rebec with a small company, and greatly rejoiced, for it was
decided to go and surprise him by night. This was exactly what Bayard
feared, and he always placed half his men on the watch, and himself
remained on the look-out for several nights, until he fell ill and was
compelled to remain in his chamber. However, he ordered the captains who
were with him to keep a good watch on all sides, and they went, or
pretended to do so, until there came on a little rain, which sent them all
back except a few archers.

It was this very time which the Spaniards and Italians had chosen for their
attack. They marched on through the night, which was very dark, and in
order to recognise each other they all wore a white shirt over their
armour. When they arrived near the village they were amazed to see no one,
and began to fear that the Good Knight had heard of their enterprise and
had retired to Biagrasso. A hundred steps farther on they came upon the few
poor archers on the watch, who fled, crying, "Alarm! Alarm!" But they were
so hotly pursued that the foe was at the barriers as soon as they were.

The Good Knight, who in such danger never slept without his steel
gauntlets and thigh-pieces, with his cuirass by his side, was soon armed,
and mounted his horse, which was already saddled. Then, with five or six of
his own men-at-arms, he rode straight to the barrier, and was joined by de
Lorges and some of his foot-soldiers, who made a good fight. The village
was already surrounded, and eager search was made for Bayard, who was the
sole object of the expedition, and there was much shouting and confusion.
When the Good Knight at the barrier heard the drums of the enemy's
foot-soldiers, he said to the Captain Lorges: "My friend, if they pass this
barrier we are done for. I pray you, retire with your men, keep close
together and march straight for Biagrasso, while I remain with the horsemen
to protect your rear. We must leave the enemy our baggage, but let us save
the men." Lorges at once obeyed, and the retreat was carried out so
cleverly that not ten men we're lost. The Emperor's people were still
seeking for the Good Knight when he had already reached Biagrasso and
spoken his mind to the Admiral. Bayard was quite broken-hearted at the
misfortune which had befallen him, although it was certainly not his fault,
but there is more chance in war than in anything else.

Still, there was more than chance in these disasters of the French in
Italy. They had quite miscalculated the strength of their enemies, amongst
whom was now the famous general, Charles de Bourbon, late Constable of
France. The young French King, at a time when Spain, England, and Italy
were all against him, had most unwisely deprived Bourbon of the whole of
his vast estates by means of a legal quibble; and his greatest subject,
driven to desperation by this ungrateful treatment, had passed over to the
service of Charles V., and was now in command of the Spanish army. It was
he who urged the immediate pursuit of the French when Bonnivet, discouraged
by ill success and sickness in his camp, retreated from his strong position
at Biagrasso. He made one blunder after another, for now that it was too
late he sent a messenger to raise a levy of six thousand Swiss to join him
by way of Ivria.

According to his usual gallant custom, as the army retired with forced
marches towards the Alps, Bayard took command of the rear-guard, and as the
Spaniards followed day by day he bore all the brunt of the constant
skirmishing which took place. It was a most perilous office, for the enemy
was well provided with artillery, and when the Good Knight made a gallant
charge with his company and drove back the men-at-arms, he would be
attacked by a shower of stones from the arquebusiers. He seemed to bear a
charmed life, though ever in the post of danger, for others were wounded or
killed while he escaped unhurt until a certain fatal day when the
retreating French army had reached the valley of the Sesia beyond Novara.
Here it was that Bonnivet saw his expected troop of Swiss allies on the
opposite bank of the river, and at once sent word to them to cross over and
join him. But what was his dismay when the Swiss captains replied that the
King of France had not paid them or kept his word, and they had come to
fetch away their comrades who were in the French army. Worse still, when
this became known, all the Swiss mercenaries in his camp rose in open
rebellion against Bonnivet, and lost no time in crossing the river,
overjoyed to leave a losing cause and go back to their homes with so good
an excuse.

The unfortunate French commander was in despair and hoping to hide the
catastrophe from the pursuing enemy, he ordered a brisk skirmish, in which
he took part with plenty of courage and was severely wounded in the arm.
The Good Knight Bayard did prodigies of valour, driving back a whole
company of arquebusiers, but in the moment of triumph he was struck by the
stone from an arquebus and received mortal injury. Raising the hilt of his
sword in the sign of the cross, he cried aloud: "Miserere mei, Deus
secundum magnam misericordiam tuam!" He refused to be taken away, saying
that he had never turned his back on his enemy, and his faithful steward
Jacques Jeffrey and his squire lifted him from his horse and placed him
with his back to a tree, still facing the foe with a brave countenance.

We have a most pathetic and touching account of this last scene, in which
the Good Knight without Fear and without Reproach died as he had lived,
bearing himself with humble devotion towards God and loving care and
thought towards all men. His friends would have borne him away, but he
implored them to leave him and seek their own safety, for he was in such
terrible pain that he could not endure to be moved. He sent his last
salutations to the King his master, and to all his companions, and took an
affectionate leave of his heart-broken friends, who obeyed his command, all
but the one faithful attendant who remained with him to the end. This was
his steward, Jacques Jeffrey, and we are told of the poor man's grief and
despair, while his master sought to comfort him with brave and noble words.
"Jacques, my friend, cease your lament, for it is the will of God to take
me away from this world where by His grace I have long dwelt and received
more good things and honours than I deserve. The only regret that I have in
dying is that I have failed in my duty ... and I pray my Creator in His
infinite mercy to have pity on my poor soul...."

Nothing could exceed the consternation and sorrow which spread through the
French camp when the news reached them that Bayard was wounded and in
mortal agony. The same feeling was shared by his enemies, for to them the
name of Bayard represented the most perfect knight in all the world, the
pattern of chivalry whom every true man sought to imitate from afar.

In sad procession the captains of Spain and Italy came to do honour and
reverence to the dying hero. Amongst them the Marquis of Pescara (the
husband of Vittoria Colonna) found noble words to speak the praise and
admiration which filled the hearts of all. "Would to God, my gentle lord of
Bayard, that I had been wounded nigh unto death if only you were in health
again and my prisoner; for then I could have shown you how highly I esteem
your splendid prowess and valour ... since I first made acquaintance with
arms I have never heard of any knight who even approached you in every
virtue of chivalry.... Never was so great a loss for all Christendom....
But since there is no remedy for death, may God in His mercy take your soul
to be with Him...." Such were the tender and pitiful regrets from the
hostile camp for the cruel loss to all chivalry of the Good Knight without
Fear and without Reproach.

They would have tended him with devoted service, but Bayard knew that he
was past all human help, and only prayed that he might not be moved in
those last hours of agony. A stately tent was spread out above him to
protect him from the weather, and he was laid at rest beneath it with the
gentlest care. He asked for a priest, to whom he devoutly made his
confession, and with touching words of prayer and resignation to the will
of his heavenly Father, he gave back his soul to God on April 30, 1524.

With the greatest sorrow and mourning of both armies, his body was carried
to the church, where solemn services were held for him during two days, and
then Bayard was borne by his own people into Dauphine.

A great company came to meet the funeral procession at the foot of the
mountains, and he was borne with solemn state from church to church until
Notre Dame of Grenoble was reached, and here all the nobles of Dauphine and
the people of the city were gathered to do honour to their beloved hero
when the last sad rites were performed. He was mourned and lamented for
many a long day as the very flower of chivalry, the Good Knight without
Fear and without Reproach.

[Illustration: The Death of Bayard.]

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