Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Second Italian War

Charles VIII's sons having all died in infancy, he was succeeded by his cousin and brother-in-law, Louis, Duke of Orleans, the first and only monarch of the Valois-Orleans branch. This Louis had married the second daughter of Louis XI, but the marriage was now annulled, and the new king proceeded at once to woo and wed Anne of Brittany, the twenty-one-year-old widow of his predecessor.

Meantime, Anne had quietly withdrawn to her estates, where, to show her grief, she donned black garments, although widowed French queens had hitherto always worn white in token of mourning, and were hence popularly known as the White Queens (les Reines Blanches).

Tradition relates that Louis XII had been in love with Anne previous to her marriage with Charles VIII, and gladly took advantage of her agreement to marry her husband's successor,—should Charles VIII die without children. He was also glad, of course, to re-annex Brittany to the crown.

The War in Italy, in which the nobility had eagerly taken part, had cost the lives of so many men, that Louis XII experienced no opposition from the nobles in taking possession of the throne, and at his coronation was surrounded mostly by children and foreigners. In fact, the only resistance opposed to him was on the part of the university, which, for eight months, refused to allow him to introduce wise and necessary reforms in its government.

Finding the royal coffers quite empty at his accession, Louis XII paid out of his private purse for the funeral of his predecessor. Some of the lords who had opposed him and had helped to imprison him when he rebelled against Charles VIII were afraid lest he might seize this opportunity to punish them; but he hastened to reassure them by publicly stating, "The King of France does not avenge the injuries of the Duke of Orleans!"—a generous statement for which he is noted. It was not in words only that Louis XII showed himself magnanimous and conservative, for he displaced none of the former king's servants, but proceeded to govern with a gentleness and wisdom which promised great things for the country.

Two years after coming to the throne, Louis XII deemed the time ripe to renew the conquest of Italy. Here, besides the right to Naples inherited from his predecessor, he also claimed Milan as heir of his grandmother. He began by persuading the Swiss, the Venetians, and the Pope to aid in making war upon the reigning Duke of Milan.

Having collected sufficient means for the campaign,—not by imposing new taxes, but by selling offices,—Louis XII assembled a large army at Lyons, crossed the Alps, and attacked the Duke of Milan, who, sorely pressed by the Venetians on the other side, was soon obliged to flee. In a twenty days' campaign, Louis thus became master of the whole duchy, and could enter Milan in triumph (1500).

Bayard holding the Bridge


His quickly achieved conquest was not, however, so easy to retain, for this king, who diminished taxes in France, proved very exacting in Italy. The heavily taxed Italians, feeling besides little respect for claims inherited from a woman, soon drove away his governor; but the duchy was promptly conquered by a second French army. The next move of the French was to secure Naples, which was done with the aid of the Spanish. The conquered territory was divided between the allies, after much disputing; but before long the Spanish seized nearly all of it. When Louis XII bitterly complained that for the second time his Spanish allies had tried to cheat him, their monarch impudently retorted, "No, it is the tenth!"

Another French army was sent to the rescue, but the Spanish defeated it at the Garigliano River. Indeed, the army might have been utterly destroyed if it had not been for the French hero Bayard, who, almost single-handed, held the foe at bay at a bridge over the river. There, after accomplishing such feats of valor that the Spanish began to wonder whether they were dealing with a man or with some supernatural creature, this brave knight was taken captive, a calamity which immediately spurred his followers on to rescue and escort him back to their own camp in triumph, loudly proclaiming as they did so, that they had recovered "their true banner of honor!"