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

Death of Louis XII.

The French were obliged to retire a second time from southern Italy, and all the vast expenditure of men and money had again been in vain. Discouraged, Louis XII sought the alliance of Austria, and signed the treaty of Blois, whereby he pledged his daughter in marriage to the Emperor's grandson Charles, promising to give her as dowry both Brittany and Burgundy. This treaty greatly pleased Anne of Brittany, who foresaw that her daughter would thus sometime rule over most of western Europe; but it greatly alarmed the French people. At the request of the States-General, assembled at Tours (1506), the king retracted this promise, and immediately pledged his daughter's hand instead to his cousin and heir, Francis of Angouleme, thus making sure that Brittany should always form part of France.

It was because Louis XII thus yielded to the wishes of the people—annulling a treaty which threatened to destroy national unity—that his grateful subjects first called him "Father of the People," a title which he deserved, besides, for the care with which he watched over their interests. In fact, he was frequently taxed with doing too much for them, to which he invariably replied, "A good shepherd cannot fatten his flock too much." When derided, also, on account of the rigid economy he practiced, this monarch once shrewdly remarked, "I had rather make the courtiers laugh on account of my stinginess, than have my people weep on account of my extravagance!"

Louis XII was ably seconded in all he tried to do in the line of reform by his prime minister, George of Amboise, in whom he had such implicit confidence, that he was in the habit of answering complaints by the words, "Let George manage that,"—an expression which has since become proverbial (Laissez faire a Georges).

Although by the treaty of Blois Louis XII formally renounced all claims to Naples, he maintained his hold upon Milan and Genoa, and when the latter city revolted, showed himself quite merciful toward the inhabitants,—a most unusual proceeding in those revengeful days. Then, joining the Pope, the Emperor, and the King of Spain in the League of Cambrai, he suddenly turned against the former allies, the Venetians, whom he soon defeated (Agnadello, 1509). But this move proved unwise, for his new friends deserted him before long, and Louis thus found himself forced to send fresh troops into Italy to defend his possessions there against powerful Venice.

The king's nephew, the gallant young Gaston de Foix, greatly distinguished himself in this war by saving one city and retaking another (Brescia) with Bayard's help. In the final assault of this city, the gallant Bayard, sorely wounded, had to be carried into the house of a widow. She and her daughters tenderly cared for him, and in return a company of his soldiers guarded the house and protected its inmates. Before Bayard left them, he further showed his gratitude for their care by refusing the money they offered as the usual ransom for their lives, and by generously providing for their future safety and welfare.

His wound having healed at last, Bayard hastened on to rejoin his daring young leader at Ravenna, where a terrible battle was fought, and where Gaston is said to have plunged into the fray, crying, "Let him that loves me follow me!" But, although he again won a brilliant victory, it was this time at the cost of his life, his corpse being found on the battlefield, pierced by twenty-two wounds. Bayard, and all the army, mourned this young prince sorely, declaring that there was no telling what he would have accomplished had he not been cut off thus when still a mere boy, for his years scarcely equaled the number of honorable wounds beneath which he succumbed. After the death of this hero, the fortunes of France in Italy waned rapidly, and when the Swiss joined her enemies, Louis soon lost his last hold upon the country.

Meantime, the English allies of the Italians, hoping to create a diversion, invaded France and won a battle (Guinegate), derisively known in history as "The Battle of the Spurs," because so many French knights fled on this occasion. Bayard, who took part in this engagement and did not know how to flee, was made prisoner and so had to be ransomed. But it was mainly because the Swiss were threatening France on the east and the Spaniards on the south, that the king deemed it proper to make peace.

By dealing separately with his various foes, Louis XII succeeded in obtaining fairly good terms. He was, however, compelled to relinquish all rights to Italy, and Anne of Brittany having died, to cement peace with the English by marrying Mary Tudor, a young sister of Henry VIII. We are told that this gay young princess consented to marry such an old king, only upon condition that she would, at his death, be allowed to espouse any one she pleased, for she was already deeply enamored with a young nobleman at her brother's court.

When she came to France, a merry damsel, the old French king was obliged to attend so many festivities and to keep such late hours, that his already weak health gave way, and thus Mary soon found herself free to follow her heart's choice. After a very brief period of mourning, therefore, Mary Tudor married her first lover, being twice a bride in the short space of six months. Her romantic story is entertainingly told in a novel entitled, When Knighthood was in Flower which young people generally like to read.

Although Louis XII married again late in life for political reasons, he was none the less faithful to the memory of Queen Anne of Brittany; for he is said to have begged with his dying breath to be laid in her tomb, one of the finest to be seen in the Abbey of St. Denis, the royal mausoleum just outside of Paris.

Statue of Louis XII


Louis XII is the first Capetian king whose portrait invariably figures upon his coins. France also dates her first real navy from the reign of this wise king. He was greatly beloved by the people, whose industries he fostered, and whose rights he stanchly upheld. In fact, after he had passed away, his subjects were often heard to sigh, "Would that we were back again to the times of good Louis XII!

The Italian Wars under Louis XII, disastrous as they were in some respects, proved very advantageous to France in others. The Italian Renaissance had begun nearly a century before, and all manner of new ideas and of works of art were brought to France by the returning warriors. Architects, sculptors, and painters were also imported, the Castle of Amboise arose on the Loire, churches and cathedrals were erected or embellished, and a tremendous impetus was given to all branches of art, science, and literature.