Thursday, January 31, 2013

Charles V

The conquest of Lombardy made France the greatest power in Christendom; but its king was soon to find a mighty and active rival. The old hatred between France and Burgundy again awoke. Mary of Burgundy, the daughter of Charles the Bold, had married Maximilian, Archduke of Austria and King of the Romans, though never actually crowned Emperor.

Their son, Philip, married Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand, and heiress of Spain, who lost her senses from grief on Philip's untimely death; and thus the direct heir to Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands, was Charles, her eldest son. On the death of Maximilian in 1518, Francis proposed himself to the electors as Emperor, but failed, in spite of bribery. Charles was chosen, and from that time Francis pursued him with unceasing hatred. The claims to Milan and Naples were renewed. Francis sent troops to occupy Milan, and was following them himself; but the most powerful of all his nobles, the Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France, had been alienated by an injustice perpetrated on him in favour of the king's mother, and deserted to the Spaniards, offering to assist them and the English in dividing France, while he reserved for himself Provence.

His desertion hindered Francis from sending support to the troops in Milan, who were forced to retreat. Bayard was shot in the spine while defending the rear-guard, and was left to die under a tree. The utmost honour was shown him by the Spaniards; but when Bourbon came near him, he bade him take pity, not on one who was dying as a true soldier, but on himself as a traitor to king and country.

When the French, in 1525, invaded Lombardy, Francis suffered a terrible defeat at Pavia, and was carried a prisoner to Madrid, where he remained for a year, and was only set free on making a treaty by which he was to give up all claims in Italy both to Naples and Milan, also the county of Burgundy and the suzerainty of those Flemish counties which had been fiefs of the French crown, as well as to surrender his two sons as hostages for the performance of the conditions.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Campaigns of King Francis I

Louis left only two daughters, the elder of whom, Claude, carried Brittany to his male heir, Francis, Count of Angoulêine. Anne of Brittany had been much averse to the match; but Louis said he kept his mice for his own cats, and gave his daughter and her duchy to Francis as soon as Anne was dead.

Francis I. was one of the vainest, falsest, and most dashing of Frenchmen. In fact, he was an exaggeration in every way of the national character, and thus became a national hero, much overpraised. He at once resolved to recover Lombardy; and after crossing the Alps encountered an army of Swiss troops, who had been hired to defend the Milanese duchy, on the field of Marignano. Francis had to fight a desperate battle with them; after which he caused Bayard to dub him knight, though French kings were said to be born knights. In gaining the victory over these mercenaries, who had been hitherto deemed invincible, he opened for himself a way into Italy, and had all Lombardy at his feet.

The Pope, Leo X., met him at Bologna, and a concordat took place, by which the French Church became more entirely subject to the Pope, while in return all patronage was given up to the crown. The effects were soon seen in the increased corruption of the clergy and people. Francis brought home from this expedition much taste for Italian art and literature, and all matters of elegance and ornament made great progress from this time. The great Italian masters worked for him; Raphael painted some of his most beautiful pictures for him, and Leonardo da Vinci came to his court, and there died in his arms.

His palaces, especially that of Blois, were exceedingly beautiful, in the new classic style, called the Renaissance. Great richness and splendour reigned at court, and set off his pretensions to romance and chivalry. Learning and scholarship, especially classical, increased much; and the king's sister, Margaret, Queen of Navarre, was an excellent and highly cultivated woman, but even her writings prove that the whole tone of feeling was terribly coarse, when not vicious.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Holy League

It was an age of leagues. The Italians, hating French and Spaniards both alike, were continually forming combinations among themselves and with foreign powers against whichever happened to be the strongest. The chief of these was called the Holy League, because it was formed by Pope Julius II., who drew into it Maximilian, then head of the German Empire, Ferdinand of Spain, and Henry VIII. of England.

The French troops were attacked in Milan; and though they gained the battle of Ravenna in 1512, it was with the loss of their general, Gaston deFoix, Duke of Nemours, whose death served as an excuse to Ferdinand of Spain for setting up a claim to the kingdom of Navarre. He cunningly persuaded Henry VIII. to aid him in the attack, by holding out the vain idea of going on to regain Gascony; and while one troop of English were attacking Pampeluna, Henry himself landed at Calais and took Tournay and Terouenne.

The French forces were at the same time being chased out of Italy. However, when Pampeluna had been taken, and the French finally driven out of Lombardy, the Pope and king, who had gained their ends, left Henry to fight his own battles. He thus was induced to make peace, giving his young sister Mary as second wife to Louis; but that king over-exerted himself at the banquets, and died six weeks after the marriage, in 1515.

During this reign the waste of blood and treasure on wars of mere ambition was frightful, and the country had been heavily taxed; but a brilliant soldiery had been trained up, and national vanity had much increased. The king, though without deserving much love, was so kindly in manner that he was a favourite, and was called the Father of the People. His first wife, Anne of Brittany, was an excellent and high-spirited woman, who kept the court of France in a better state than ever before or since.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Campaign of Louis XII.

Charles VIII's cousin, Louis XII., married his widow, and thus prevented Brittany from again parting from the crown. Louis not only succeeded to the Angevin right to Naples, but through his grandmother he viewed himself as heir of Milan. She was Valentina Visconti, wife to that Duke of Orleans who had been murdered by John the Fearless.

Louis himself never advanced further than to Milan, whose surrender made him master of Lombardy, which he held for the greater part of his reign. But after a while the Spanish king, Ferdinand, agreed with him to throw over the cause of the unfortunate royal family of Naples, and divide that kingdom between them. Louis XII. sent a brilliant army to take possession of his share, but the bounds of each portion had not been defined, and the French and Spanish troops began a war even while their kings were still treating with one another.

The individual French knights did brilliant exploits, for indeed it was the time of the chief blossom of fanciful chivalry, a knight of Dauphiné, named Bayard, called the Fearless and Stainless Knight, and honoured by friend and foe; but the Spaniards were under Gonzalo de Cordova, called the Great Captain, and after the battles of Cerignola and the Garigliano drove the French out of the kingdom of Naples, though the war continued in Lombardy.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Campaign of Charles VIII. (1493)

From grasping at province after province on their own border, however, the French kings were now to turn to wider dreams of conquest abroad. Together with the county of Provence, Louis XI. had bought from King René all the claims of the house of Anjou. Among these was included a claim to the kingdom of Naples. Louis's son, Charles VIII., a vain and shallow lad, was tempted by the possession of large treasures and a fine army to listen to the persuasions of an Italian intriguer, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, and put forward these pretensions, thus beginning a war which lasted nearly as long as the Hundred Years' War with England.

But it was a war of aggression instead of a war of self-defence. Charles crossed the Alps in 1493, marched the whole length of Italy without opposition, and was crowned at Naples; while its royal family, an illegitimate offshoot from the Kings of Aragon, fled into Sicily, and called on Spain for help. But the insolent exactions of the French soldiery caused the people to rise against them; and when Charles returned, he was beset at Fornovo by a great league of Italians, over whom he gained a complete victory. Small and puny though he was, he fought like a lion, and seemed quite inspired by the ardour of combat. The "French fury," la furia Francese, became a proverb among the Italians.

Charles neglected, however, to send any supplies or reinforcements to the garrisons he had left behind him in Naples, and they all perished under want, sickness, and the sword of the Spaniards. He was meditating another expedition, when he struck his head against the top of a doorway, and died in 1498.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Provence and Brittany Under King Louis

Louis had added much to the French monarchy. He had won back Artois; he had seized the duchy and county of Burgundy; he had bought Roussillon. His last acquisition was the county of Provence. The second Angevin family, beginning with Louis, the son of King John, had never succeeded in gaining a footing in Naples, though they bore the royal title. They held, however, the imperial fief of Provence, and Louis XI., whose mother had been of this family, obtained from her two brothers, René and Charles, that Provence should be bequeathed to him instead of passing to René's grandson, the Duke of Lorraine.

The Kings of France were thenceforth Counts of Provence; and though the county was not viewed as part of the kingdom, it was practically one with it. A yet greater acquisition was made soon after Louis's death in 1483. The great Celtic duchy of Brittany fell to a female, Anne of Brittany, and the address of Louis's daughter, the Lady of Beaujeu, who was regent of the realm, prevailed to secure the hand of the heiress for her brother, Charles VIII.

Thus the crown of France had by purchase, conquest, or inheritance, obtained all the great feudal states that made up the country between the English Channel and the Pyrenees; but each still remained a separate state, with different laws and customs, and a separate parliament in each to register laws, and to act as a court of justice.

Friday, January 11, 2013

King Louis' Home Government

Louis's system of repression of the nobles went on all this time. His counsellors were of low birth (Oliver le Daim, his barber, was the man he most trusted), his habits frugal, his manners reserved and ironical; he was dreaded, hated, and distrusted, and he became constantly more bitter, suspicious, and merciless. Those who fell under his displeasure were imprisoned in iron cages, or put to death; and the more turbulent families, such as the house of Armagnac, were treated with frightful severity. But his was not wanton violence.

He acted on a regular system of depressing the lawless nobility and increasing the royal authority, by bringing the power of the cities forward, by trusting for protection to the standing army, chiefly of hired Scots, Swiss, and Italians, and by saving money. By this means he was able to purchase the counties of Roussillon and Perpignan from the King of Aragon, thus making the Pyrenees his frontier, and on several occasions he made his treasury fight his battles instead of the swords of his knights. He lived in the castle of Plessis les Tours, guarded by the utmost art of fortification, and filled with hired Scottish archers of his guard, whom he preferred as defenders to his own nobles.

He was exceedingly unpopular with his nobles; but the statesman and historian, Philip de Comines, who had gone over to him from Charles of Burgundy, viewed him as the best and ablest of kings. He did much to promote trade and manufacture, improved the cities, fostered the university, and was in truth the first king since Philip Augustus who had any real sense of statesmanship. But though the burghers throve under him, and the lawless nobles were depressed, the state of the peasants was not improved; feudal rights pressed heavily on them, and they were little better than savages, ground down by burdens imposed by their lords.