France History – The Wars of Italy and the Struggle for Hegemony in Europe Part I

France History – The Wars of Italy and the Struggle for Hegemony in Europe Part I

Yet a new crisis now appeared to threaten the building of Louis XI. Although he had not arranged for a regency, a de facto regency was assumed by his daughter, Anna, and by her husband Peter of Beaujeu; but the party of princes immediately arose against the Beaujeu, headed by Louis, Duke of Orleans and the Duke of Bourbon, and with many consensus among the feudal nobility. The princes tried to take advantage of the States General, summoned in Tours on January 5, 1484, to attract the majority of the deputies, but the plan failed; and the wishes expressed by the states of Tours – more of a financial and fiscal nature – were then kept in little or no account by the Beaujeu. The latter, having thus overcome the first difficult period of the regency, instead resumed the program of Louis XI. To Louis d’Orléans, beaten on the legal ground of the States, there was nothing left but to resort to violence: he tried to have the young Charles VIII kidnapped; then, after the attempt failed, he openly declared himself against the regency (Nantes manifesto). Thus began the mad wars, which quickly ended with a complete victory of the royal troops (Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, 1488). Feudal particularism was again defeated. And, to crown her work, Anna of Beaujeu shortly after succeeded in marrying Charles VIII (6 December 1491) Anna of Brittany, preventing her from marrying Maximilian of Austria: Brittany, the last of the great independent fiefs, was thus reunited, albeit only by means of a personal union for the time being, to the crown of France. At that time, Charles VIII directly assumed the government of a state well suited to bear the weight of a far-reaching foreign policy.

What the objectives of this policy should be, was the question. Louis XI had succeeded, above all, in undoing the Burgundian power. With Charles VIII, on the other hand, France would have turned exclusively to Italy where it would have fought until the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. And this would have been, according to many, a big mistake: France would have collected nothing but smoke from Italian politics, instead of wisely continuing its expansion towards the east and north-east. It is not true, it is asserted, that France necessarily had to turn towards Italy, almost led there by historical precedents: the Angevins in Naples, the Orléans heirs of the Visconti rights in the Milanese area, Louis XI in Genoa. The beginning of Italian politics would therefore only be due to the inexperience and ambition of Charles VIII. This thesis is undoubtedly excessive and determined, more than anything else, by the fact that later French politics had its maximum center of development in the countries of the east and north-east; and neglects the advantages that France derived from its Italian policy, if only that increase of influence in the peninsula, which then allowed the kings of France, during the conflict with Charles V, to gather around them the Italian governments discontented with the dominance of the Habsburgs. But it is certain, in any case, that the enterprises in Italy were prepared and conducted with great lightness and with little or no political sense. From 1490 to 1515 especially, French foreign policy was an almost continuous series of errors.

According to, the initiator of Italian politics was Charles VIII. From the house of Anjou, he had inherited not only Provence, but the claims on the kingdom of Naples and even on Cyprus and Jerusalem; and he planned a final crusade against the Turks which would show him the descendant of St. Louis. But first it was certainly necessary to stop in Naples; and in Naples he turned his sights.

The Italian situation was such as to favor the designs. The collision between Ferrante d’Aragona and Ludovico il Moro, worsened immediately after the death of Lorenzo de ‘Medici; the election of Alexander VI, closely linked with the Sforza side, and the conflict that arose between the pope and the king of Naples over Virginio Orsini; the general sharpening of the contrasts in the peninsula offered an easy way out to the aims of Charles VIII. In the French court there were many Neapolitan exiles who excited the French to move against the Aragonese; from Italy itself, tempting voices began to arrive. But if Ludovico il Moro, Ercole d’Este, Alexander VI thought they could use the French bugbear to intimidate the king of Naples, they didn’t think that the king of France would actually go down, and here was their greatest mistake. However, it was not without contrast that Charles VIII decided to take the big step. At court the opinions were conflicting: the old advisers of Louis XI, above all the Commynes, and the Beaujeu were opposed to the expedition; instead, the new favorites of the king, Étienne de Vesc, Briçonnet, were in favor. And above all, it was first necessary to make sure against the hostility of Maximilian of Austria, a very enemy of France, of the king of England, who in 1992 had landed on French soil to besiege Boulogne, and of Ferdinand the Catholic, king of Aragon.. But the Italian dream made the king of France lose the sense of reality, inducing him to sacrifice the purchases of Louis XI for a hypothetical advantage: the Roussillon and the Cerdagne were ceded to the Catholic (Treaty of Barcelona, ​​January 19, 1493); Maximilian recovered Artois, Franche-Comté and Charolais (treaty of Senlis, May 23, 1493); Henry VII of England was satisfied with a good sum.

The Wars of Italy and the Struggle for Hegemony in Europe 1