In the latter half of the fifteenth century Italy presented the appearance of comparative calm. Frederick III, in spite of the motto attributed to him, "Alles Erdreich ist Oesterreich untertan," took no step to assert imperial claims in Italy. Conciliar storms had blown over. The condottieri had been tamed; secure for the most part in their little tyrannies they drew the pay of some neighbouring State, and spent it on luxury, literature, and art. If war was on foot, its bitterness was mitigated, at any rate to the soldier, by every courteous device. The clash of party strife was seldom heard, for most cities had bought internal peace at the price of liberty.
Italy possessed her own State system, her own great powers, intent on preserving a balance of forces, her own alliances, triple or dual. At first the north Italian powers had their own league; later the alliance of Milan, Florence, and Naples, promoted and sustained by Lorenzo de' Medici, kept in check the vigilant ambition of Venice, still almost at the height of her power and pride. The smaller powers, Mantua, Ferrara, and the tyrants of the Papal States, in constant dread of their covetous neighbours, leant for support on one or other of the great powers, and did what in them lay to preserve the balance. After the brilliant raid of John, the Angevin duke of Calabria, Ferrante, the bastard of Aragon, ruled Naples in comparative peace. The revolt of his barons was stamped out, without regard for faith or mercy, as befitted a man of that age. The seizure of Otranto by the Turks in 1480 was a warning of external danger that may have assisted to preserve the peace, although all projects of united and offensive resistance to the advancing Mohammadans came to nothing. The equilibrium was unstable, but on the whole it was preserved.
The death of Lorenzo del Medici in 1492, soon followed by that of Innocent VIII, marks a turning-point in the history of Italy. It is easy to attach too much importance to such casual incidents, but they may at least delay or hasten the inevitable course of events. And in Lorenzo was removed the conscious guardian of the peace of Italy, while the successor of Innocent, Rodrigo Borgia, was neither fitted nor inclined to play a pacific part. This then is the moment to survey the scene of our drama, to name our chief dramatis personae, and to unfold our plot.
Three of our protagonists, Venice, Florence, the Holy See, have their own place for separate treatment in this volume. Nor is this the occasion to dwell on the petty politics of the many tyrants of the Romagna and central Italy. Naples, however, and Milan require some introduction.
The kingdom of Naples, though still styling itself kingdom of Sicily, had been separated from its island namesake since the Sicilian Vespers, when the Angevin successors of the Suabian kings were driven from the Trinacrian island. In 1435 this Angevin dynasty died out, and its inheritance fell to Alfonso of Aragon, the King of insular Sicily. On his death in 1458 the island kingdom had remained attached to Aragon, while Naples had been devised to his bastard Ferdinand or Ferrante. The political characteristics of the Neapolitan kingdom mark it off sharply from the rest of Italy. Here had survived, though in a debased form, the feudal economy which had long since disappeared further north. Here no elusive ideal of municipal liberty mocked, amid the realities of party strife, the citizens of independent cities. Great feudatories ground down their vassals with all the ingenuity that a new commercial and industrial wisdom inspired. The King, himself a feudatory and tributary of the Holy See, was master of Naples and its castles, and of certain royal dues and domains, but for the rest hung on the goodwill of a score of almost independent princes. Ferrante, greedy, capable, and ruthless, had done much to change all that. He had devised a system of commercial monopolies exercised for the royal benefit, which had considerably increased his revenues. The barons' war had restored to him by confiscation a part of the toll that his commercial partners had levied on his profits, and had crushed the greatest family of the kingdom, the princely house of San Severino. His relations to the papacy had been unfriendly, even warlike, but on the whole he had succeeded in withholding his tribute without losing his fief. But dangers now threatened him at home and abroad. At home, though feared, he was hated. His son Alfonso, the partner of his many cruel and treacherous acts, was equally detested. Zealous enemies were working against him, especially at the Court of France. The de facto ruler of Milan had wronged him in the person of his grand-daughter. The illegitimate son of an usurper, he held his crown by no hereditary right, and rumours came from beyond the Alps that a stronger claimant was astir.
The State of Milan, created by the vigour of the house of Visconti, and recognised as a duchy in 1395 by the Emperor Wenceslas, had fallen in 1450 to the house of Sforza, whose founder, the great con-dottiere, had risen from the plough. Francesco, the first Sforza duke, was succeeded in 1466 by his son Galeazzo Maria, who was assassinated in the Church of San Stefano in 1476, leaving a young son, Gian Galeazzo, then about eight years old. The government was carried on by his mother, Bona of Savoy, in the name of the infant and in her own. But dissensions soon arose between the regent and her brothers-in-law. In the first encounter Bona and her chief counsellor, Cicco Simonetta, were victorious, and the brothers of Galeazzo Maria were obliged to leave the city. But before long Ludovico, the ablest of the sons of Francesco Sforza, took advantage of the rivalry between Tassino, the favourite of the duchess, and Simonetta, to procure his own readmission. The fall and execution of Simonetta followed, and from 1479 the real government of Milan lay in the hands of Ludovico, whose power was further secured in 1480, when he seized the person of the young duke and the duchess was obliged to leave Milan. Henceforward the rule of Ludovico was not seriously challenged. The young duke was a prisoner, and Ludovico managed everything in his name. Nor was the condition of the unfortunate young man improved even after his marriage to Isabella, the grand-daughter of the King of Naples.
Thus at the time when our story begins, the whole force and policy of Milan was moved at the will of one man. Ludovico, called the Duke of Bari from the Neapolitan fief he owned, and known from his complexion as the Moor, made a great impression on the men of his time. He was a master of every political art as then understood by Italian statesmen. By his wisdom he had risen, and by it he aspired to dominate Italy. Mistakes he made, no doubt, as for instance in marrying his nephew to the Neapolitan princess. But his versatile and unscrupulous intelligence, well served by his agents with information from every Court, was never at a loss for an expedient to meet a difficulty. His weakness was partly the weakness of his school of statesmanship, in which good faith and consistency were not valued as political qualities. A more serious defect was the lack of courage and nerve which he showed under the stress of danger. His munificence towards artists and men of letters, his luxurious and noble ostentation, while they tended no doubt to diminish his unpopularity, proved a heavy burden on his finances, and increased the weight of his exactions.
The State over which he ruled was one of the richest of Italy. His annual revenue was estimated at 700,000 ducats, about the same sum as Ferrante raised from Naples. The Dukes of Milan, though frequently embarrassed, again and again surprise us by the enormous sums of which they disposed. Thus Ludovico was able to give to Maximilian with his niece, Bianca Maria, no less a sum as dowry than 400,000 ducats. Only Venice had more ample resources; and the fixed charges on the Venetian treasury were heavier than Milan had to bear. The Duke of Milan controlled Genoa and her navy, which, although no longer a match for that of Venice, could be employed with great effect on the western seaboard of Italy. Through the Genoese his influence extended over the chief part of Corsica, whence on occasion good foot-soldiers could be drawn. But the military strength of Milan, like that of the other Italian States, left much to be desired. While good infantry was scarce, the inferior infantry was very bad; and the brilliant troops of mercenary horse, on which principal reliance was put, were untrustworthy and unused to serious war. Moreover the old party animosities still survived in Milan; and, if policy prompted, Guelf could still be roused against Ghibelline. Again, the Sforza rule had not yet received imperial confirmation, and the claims of the Duke of Orleans were a permanent and a serious menace.
With full consciousness of their own weakness, and sincere mutual distrust, the Italian powers had watched the growth of France. French intervention in Italy was no new thing. While her strength was yet immature, France had given one race of kings to Naples, and had endeavoured to give another. Charles VII had driven the English from France, and before his death Genoa had asked and received French protection and a French governor. Louis XI found that Genoa had revolted, but was too wise to waste his resources on distant enterprises, and gave no material aid to the ill-fated quest of John of Calabria as a pretender to the kingdom of Naples. Louis devoted his whole energy to the union of France under his absolute rule; but he never lost sight of the affairs of Italy. The powers of Italy abased themselves before him in rivalry to win his favour. He answered them impartially with good words and maintained them in slavish expectation of good services. Thus the French King came to be more and more regarded as the arbiter of Italian fortunes. The presents made to his ambassadors and courtiers and their reception when they visited Italy assisted to foster the belief that Italy was rich, disunited, and helpless, an easy prey to a militant monarchy. There was no reason to believe that the successor of Louis would be hampered by his difficulties or inclined to his reserve.
The leagues formed among themselves by the Italian States served to prevent the undue aggrandisement of any one State at the expense of the others. But no such partial alliance could stand up against the French King, in view of the suspicion,—almost the certainty,—that the other powers would join the invaders, and that the members of the alliance itself could not be trusted. The union of Italy against a foreign foe was almost unthinkable. Charles VIII had hardly come to the throne when the Signoria of Venice approached his government with the proposal that the conquest of Milan and of Naples should be at once undertaken. This treacherous act, if treachery can be imputed where there is no mutual assurance of good faith, is explained by the position of Venice, then engaged in a single-handed struggle with almost the whole of Italy. But it proved, if proof was needed, that a French invasion, whatever its pretext, would find allies in the peninsula. Ludovico deserves the doubtful credit of having been the first to bring his goods to market. French ambition had two excuses for intervention in Italy. The first was the claim of Orleans to Milan, resting on the marriage of Valentina Visconti to the first Duke of Orleans, and on the marriage contract of Valentina, confirmed by Clement VII, in which her right to succeed to her father in default of male heirs was recognised. There seems also to have been a will of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, securing the succession to her male issue in default of the direct male line; but Ludovico alone knew of this and caused all known copies to be destroyed. Legal objections might be urged against all these grounds of claim, but they were good enough to support a dynastic war. Louis of Orleans had in 1491 recovered his favour at Court, and it was not impossible that Milan would be made the object of the French attack. Milan lay dangerously near to France, and strategically was much less difficult of access than Naples. On the other hand Charles might well be unwilling to aggrandise one of the most powerful of his nobles, a possible heir to the throne, who, though reconciled, had not long ago been in arms against his King. It was Ludovico's natural policy to endeavour to divert this danger from himself.
The second French pretext was the claim to Naples, resting on similar grounds, and similarly open to cavil. Joanna I, Queen of Naples of the first Angevin line, had no heirs of her body. The lawful heir was Charles of Durazzo, descended from the younger son of Charles II of Naples. Being at enmity with Charles of Durazzo, Joanna adopted her remote cousin Louis, Duke of Anjou by the second creation. Charles and his descendants had successfully defended their rights against Louis and his heirs, until their line also died out in Joanna II. The latter, in order to defend herself against the attacks of Louis III of Anjou, adopted Alfonso of Aragon as her heir. When later Alfonso wished to make himself master of Naples without waiting for Joanna's death, Joanna revoked this act of adoption, adopted Louis III, and on her death (1435) made his brother Rene her heir. Thus Alfonso, who seized the kingdom, was legally only a successful usurper; and all the claims which Louis I derived from the adoption of Joanna I, together with the claims of the house of Durazzo, were united in the person of Rene, who more than once tried to recover his heritage. The rights of Rene passed in 1481, through his nephew the Count of Maine, by will and also, though not so certainly, by succession, to Louis XI, and after him to Charles VIII. Sixtus IV, although he refused to consider the application of Charles du Maine for the investiture of Naples, in 1482, moved by different thoughts, urged Louis to undertake the conquest of the kingdom, "which belongs to him." At the beginning of the reign of Charles VIII there was some talk of putting forward Rene of Lorraine, a descendant through the female line of the house of Anjou, as claimant to the kingdom, but these proposals seem never to have been serious, and cannot be said to impair the rights of Charles VIII.'
Thus there were two paths open to the ambition of the French king, when freed from the prudent tutelage of his sister Anne. The head of the young monarch was filled with chimerical dreams. His domestic troubles had been satisfactorily composed. His standing force of cavalry, fitted alike for the shock of battle, for scouting and skirmishing, and for missile tactics, was full of military enthusiasm and wanted work. His artillery was far ahead of any other in Europe. His infantry was less satisfactory, but could be strengthened from abroad. He had himself but lately come to man's estate and was eager to prove himself a man and a king. At his Court were the Neapolitan exiles, especially the San Severino princes, eager to press on him a definite plan of conquest. He was estranged from the wise counsellors who had kept him so long in leading-strings. Supple courtiers and men of business, Etienne de Vesc, and Guillaume Briconnet, were at his side, ready to find means for the execution of any scheme that pleased their royal master, and promised to them incidental profits. The crown of Sicily carried with it the crown of Jerusalem, thus suggesting at once and facilitating an ulterior project of crusade; and Europe needed a crusade.
The Moor was probably the first among the Italian princes to see that French intervention in Italy, so often talked of, had at length become a real danger. He approached the King of France in 1491, and received from him in the name of his nephew the investiture of Genoa, which had been similarly granted to Francesco, his father, by Louis XI. In 1492 he obtained the renewal of the alliance formerly enjoyed by his father, thus recovering the position of favour which his elder brother had lost through his indiscreet leanings towards Charles the Bold.
The Milanese embassy of unusual magnificence that soon afterwards visited France had no compromising instructions. Its object was to win the French courtiers by presents, to make all vague assurances of general devotion, and to secure if possible the protection of the King for the Duke of Bari himself. In all this it succeeded. Whatever may have been spoken of in private—and Commines suggests that the most important topics were discussed—it is probable that no promises were made which Ludovico could not afterwards disavow. Yet it is clear that he desired to secure a safeguard for himself, not only against France, but also against Naples. For his relations with that country were less than cordial. The King of Naples could hardly acquiesce permanently in the humiliation of his grand-daughter, which Isabella herself deeply resented. Hitherto he had been hampered by war with the Pope, but peace was concluded at the end of 1491. Ludovico looked to France to protect him against Naples; he hoped to achieve this end without armed French intervention; but in any case, if invasion occurred, he was determined that Naples and not Milan or the Duke of Bari should be the victim.
The events of the next two years illustrate the unstable nature of Italian policy and Italian alliances. Lorenzo de' Medici died in April, 1492, while the Milanese embassy was at Paris. The choice before his son Piero was a difficult one. It was the traditional policy of Florence to keep up intimate, almost subservient, relations with France, where the commercial and financial interests of the Medici Bank were important, but on the other hand to prevent, if possible, active foreign interference in Italy. These two aims were probably now no longer to be reconciled; and Piero sacrificed the first without attaining the second. Following, as it seems, the counsels of Virginio Orsini, his wife's cousin, he drew closer to Naples, thus alarming and alienating Ludovico, who soon afterwards concluded an alliance with Venice and Rome. Piero rejected all overtures from France; and the opening campaign was preceded by the expulsion of the Medici agents from French territory.
The accession of Alexander VI in August, 1492, seemed at first a great good fortune for Ludovico; for his brother, the Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, was reputed to have supreme influence with the new pontiff. A little matter, the sale by Franceschetto Cibo, son of the late Pope, of two places in the Patrimonio, Anguillara and Cervetri, to Virginio Orsini, the friend of Piero and captain general of Naples, assisted the secret endeavours of Ascanio to animate the Pope against Naples and Florence. The league of the Pope with Milan and Venice, and an indirect encouragement of France in her plans against Naples, were results of this ill-feeling. But the dread of a General Council, of which Charles had rashly spoken, may have inclined Alexander to entertain the pressing solicitations of Ferrante, supported by the offer of an advantageous marriage for one of Alexander's sons to a Neapolitan princess. The Pope allowed his anger to be appeased, and in August, 1493, returned an evasive answer to the confident request of Perron de Baschi, the French envoy, for the investiture of Naples, with a free passage and the supply of provisions for French troops. After the death of Ferrante in January, 1494, Alexander confirmed the investiture to his son Alfonso, and in February he solemnly warned the French King against disturbing the peace of Christian Italy.
Leagued with Savelli, Colonna, and Orsini, the fiery Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, afterwards Pope Julius II, was consistent only in his opposition to Alexander. So long as the Pope was hostile to Naples, Giuliano supported Ferrante, and, retiring from Rome, he occupied his strongly fortified castle at Ostia, a standing menace to the city. When Naples was reconciled, he returned sulkily to Rome. But when the certainty of the invasion was established, he saw his opportunity for striking a blow, left Rome in April, 1494,and joined the King of France at Lyons, to urge upon him the necessity of a Council, with a view to the deposition of Alexander. Before the French King took the final step, it had been necessary for him to surmount serious difficulties. The marriage of Charles with Anne of Britanny had involved France in hostilities with a league of powers. On the north, Henry VII descended and laid siege to Boulogne. England was bought off, by the treaty of Etaples (November, 1492), with an exorbitant money ransom, which caused Henry VII to forget that he had ever felt himself threatened by the presence of the French in Britanny. On the south France was menaced by the recently consolidated and extended kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. Their neutrality was purchased (January, 1493) by the retrocession without indemnity of the counties of Roussillon and Cerdagne, on the northward slope of the Eastern Pyrenees, pledged in 1462 to Louis XI by John of Aragon for 300,000 crowns. Maximilian, King of the Romans, had not only been robbed of his Breton marriage, but had also a claim under the treaty of Arras to the restitution of Franche Comte and Artois, with some minor places, part of the heritage of Charles the Bold. Under that treaty these provinces had been given to France as the dowry of Maximilian's daughter, whom Charles had now repudiated. In the war which followed this double wrong Maximilian had achieved partial, though for him unusual, success. His honour was satisfied, moreover he was now deserted by his allies. He could the more willingly accept the terms of the treaty of Senlis (May, 1493), which gave him in effect almost all there was left to give. The opportunity offered by this reconciliation Ludovico was not slow to seize. With the consent of France he gave to Maximilian the hand of his niece, Bianca Maria, with her more than princely dowry. In the following year Maximilian, who had in the interval succeeded to the empire, redeemed his obligation by bestowing on Ludovico the investiture of Milan, a little before the opportune death of Gian Galeazzo.
The heavy price that Charles was paying for a free hand in Italy must have shown Ludovico that the expedition was probable, and by the end of the year he knew for certain that it was imminent. He could no longer hope to withdraw from the alliance he had sought. On the other hand his own position was extremely dangerous. By the end of 1493 it was clear that Florence, Rome, and Naples were against him. Venice maintained a watchful neutrality. A rapid advance on Milan or Genoa, or both, might have overthrown his precarious rule. It was his task to amuse his enemies with fair words, delusive proposals, and treacherous promises until the time for action was past. Meanwhile the French King delayed. Warlike preparations had been in progress since 1492. In 1493 Charles assumed the title of King of Sicily and of Jerusalem. Additional taxes and forced loans were exacted to raise the necessary funds, royal domains were sold, and the revenues pledged in advance. At the beginning of 1494 the Neapolitan ambassadors were dismissed. On the 6th of March Charles entered Lyons to press on the mobilisation in person. In the same month the composition of the proposed force was fixed. 1,900 French lances, six men to a lance, were to be supplemented by 1,500 Italian lances, four men to a lance, making with 1,200 mounted arblasters a total force of 18,600 horsemen, though a proportion of these were grooms and servants. The bailli of Dijon, Antoine de Bessey, was sent to raise 6,000 Swiss. French infantry, Picards, Gascons, Dauphinois, and infantry to be raised in Italy, with a few German Landsknechte, were to make up a total of 22,000 foot. Of this force, about one-fourth was to be transported by sea from Genoa, and orders were sent to prepare and' collect a sufficient naval armament. It is probable that ultimately the above estimate was nearly realised. But everything, especially the preparation of the fleet, was retarded for lack of money. In vain Ludovico, who had now thrown aside all hesitation, urged through his agents the need of haste. Inexperience, incompetence^ lack of goodwill in the royal surrounding, especially it would seem in Brifonnet, everything tended to delay. Toward the end of May a small instalment of troops crossed the Alps. The Duke of Orleans, appointed to the command of the fleet, was still detained at Asti, when a Neapolitan, squadron appeared at Genoa, with native exiles on board, in hope of exciting a rising. The stroke failed, but the danger had been real, and was not past. However, by the end of July a sufficient fleet had been collected; Alfonso's chance was gone. On the 19th of August, Louis of Orleans took up his command at Genoa, and on the 8th of September the first collision occurred. The Neapolitan fleet had occupied Rapallo,, and landed 4,000 men. On the advance of the French fleet the enemy, stronger in numbers, though weaker in artillery, sailed off. Their post on shore was attacked by land and cannonaded from the sea. The victory rested with the French and Genoese, and Italy was startled at a battle in which the shedding of blood had not been spared. The Swiss. in particular had shown themselves ruthless and bloodthirsty.
Meanwhile the King had actually crossed the Alps by the Mont Genevre, his heavy artillery being sent by sea to Genoa. In Savoy, subject to French influence since Louis XI, no courtesy or facility was denied him. The Marquis of Montferrat put himself and his lands at the King's service. At Asti, which belonged to Orleans, the Dukes of Bari and Ferrara greeted the King; and the news of the victory of Rapallo was brought. Here a mild attack of small-pox delayed the King for a short time, and the general disorganisation was increased by an access of fever which prostrated the Duke of Orleans. The King having recovered, it was determined that Louis should stay behind at Asti. In absolute lack of money the King had to raise a loan by the help of the credit of Ludovico, from whom much more liberal assistance had been expected.
The King of Naples had caused his army, strengthened by a papal contingent, to advance into the Romagna, where he could rely on Urbino and Cesena. The attitude of Bentivoglio at Bologna, and of Caterina Sforza at Imola and Forli was doubtful. These troops were opposed by Milanese under the Count of Caiazzo, and French under Aubigny; but, when Charles had decided to advance through Tuscany, the operations in Romagna lost their meaning and the allies withdrew. Charles passed through Pavia, where he visited Gian Galeazzo. At Piacenza he heard of the young duke's death. As far as Pontremoli he marched over Milanese soil. Thence, descending the Apennines, he advanced into Florentine territory and attacked Sarzana. Had Sarzana and Pietra Santa been strongly defended, the country at this point presented serious difficulties to an advancing army. The land on either side of the road was marshy, and the fortresses were well capable of defence. But Piero, unsupported and unprepared, had at length determined to give in. He knew that there were many in Florence who were favourable to France, and hostile to himself. Acting on his own responsibility, while Sarzana still held out, he came to the French camp at San Stefano and surrendered everything,—Sarzana, Pietra Santa, Pisa, and Livorno,—and promised the King a considerable loan. But his submission came too late. When he returned to Florence, he found the palace of the Signoria closed to him; the city rose against him, and he was obliged to fly with his brother, the young Cardinal Giovanni.
Nothing now remained to delay Charles' advance to Florence. Into Lucca the King made a triumphant entry. At Pisa he was received with acclamations, and in a hasty speech was understood to have restored its liberty to the city, where he left a small garrison. Finally, on the 17th of November, the King entered Florence with 8,000 horse and 4,000 infantry, in a martial array such as never had been seen before. The whole city received him with eager hopes and fervent affection. Before he had left, however, some change of feeling had set in. The behaviour of the French soldiers was not all that could be desired. Wages were in arrear, and they could not, if they wished, pay for all they needed. But to women it is admitted that they did no wrong; and, indeed, the conduct of the French towards non-combatants throughout these wars compares favourably with that of Italians, Spaniards, Germans, or Swiss. But there were other grievances. Charles had put off' all negotiations until after his entry. The deliberations that followed were not always peaceful. The King was suspected, and not wholly without cause, of wishing to restore Piero. His financial demands were considered excessive, and even after abatement still remained large. He insisted on retaining Pisa and Livorno, Sarzana and Pietra Santa, till the end of the campaign. But the freedom of Pisa was not among the stipulations. A French envoy was to be present at all deliberations of the Signoria. In the discussions which ensued bold words were used. The Florentine Capponi threatened to call the citizens to arms. But the King was the stronger, and finally his principal demands were accepted.
The whole French army was now moving on Rome. Aubigny brought his men across the Apennines into Tuscany. Montpensier had gone on with the troops from Genoa. The heavy artillery had been disembarked at Spezia, and was following the King. A small force with Giuliano della Rovere joined the Colonna who were holding Ostia. The position of the Pope was critical. Rumour ran that he had not hesitated to call in the Turk in defence of Rome and Naples. It was certain that he was the pensioner of Bayazid, and the gaoler of his brother, Jem. The simony by which he had gained the triple crown and the scandals of his private life were well known, and even exaggerated by report. His bitterest enemies were with the French. Could he resist, should he fly, should he await the King, and come to terms? For a time he meditated resistance. The Duke of Calabria, Ferrantino, afterwards king, led his army into Rome. Alexander arrested the cardinals Ascanio and Colonna. Then wiser counsels prevailed. The city was not defensible. Ferrantino was dismissed, the cardinals released, and on the last day of the old year Charles VIII entered Rome with the consent of the Pope. Even in the strong places of the Orsini, who served the King of Naples, he had found no resistance.
Reluctantly, sullenly, Alexander came to terms. The King was to Have the custody of Jem, who might be Used in the proposed crusade to stir up rebellion against Bayazid. The Cardinal of Valencia, Cesare Borgia, was to accompany Charles, nominally as legate, really as a hostage. The Pope promised no investiture; indeed, he had every reason to be satisfied with the moderation, perhaps with the simplicity, of his visitor. The hostile cardinals were bitterly disappointed.
On the 28th of January, 1495, the King left Rome. Meanwhile his lieutenants, advancing in the Abruzzi, had occupied Aquila. The Neapolitans, retreating, had laid waste the country before him. But Alfonso, conscious of his own unpopularity, and tortured, it is said, by remorse, had lost all courage. On the 21st of January he resigned in favour of his son Ferrantino, an amiable youth, free from all complicity in the crimes of his father and grandfather. At Velletri the King of France received his first warning. Envoys from Spain reproached him with the injuries done to the Holy Father, whereby they declared the treaty of Barcelona had been violated; and summoned him to desist from his enterprise, and to accept the mediation of the Catholic King. The same day the 'Cardinal of Valencia escaped from the French camp. The best answer to such indications of ill-feeling was success. Ferdinand lay at San Germane defending the line of the Liris. At Monte San Giovanni the strong fortress ventured to defy the French. In a few hours the place was taken by assault and sacked. The advanced guard of the French crossing the Liris then threatened the enemy's flank and rear. Ferrantino retreated to Capua. Gaeta surrendered; and, during the absence of the King at Naples, Gian Giacomo Trivulzio made overtures to give up Capua, which were accepted. At Nola, the Orsini captains, Pitigliano and Virginio Orsini, were captured. At Aversa and Poggio Reale embassies from Naples saluted Charles, offering submission. On the 22nd of February Charles entered Naples. Ferrantino, who had destroyed the chief part of his fleet, still held the detached Castel dell1 Uovo with five ships, and retired on the following day to Ischia, leaving garrisons in the fortresses. The last of these surrendered under the French fire on the 22nd of March.
Charles was thus master of the capital, and the more distant provinces showed willingness to accept his rule. He showed a praiseworthy desire to win the goodwill of his new subjects, remitting taxes, as he says, to the amount of more than 200,000 ducats. A general amnesty to those who had served the Aragon kings, restoration of property to the Angevin exiles, even the recognition of slavery as then existing, proved his desire to respect all rights. But impatient of business, given up to pleasure, indolently desirous to satisfy all petitioners, he not only squandered the royal domain, but created almost as many grievances as he bestowed favours. No serious attempt was made to settle the government on a firm basis.
The project of a crusade had received a grave blow in the death of Jem, which took place at Naples. The Archbishop of Durazzo undertook to organise a rising in Albania, but the project was frustrated by his accidental arrest at Venice. Charles' own position was too doubtful to allow any more determined effort. Since his refusal to confer Sarzana and Pietra Santa upon Ludovico, the latter had been intriguing against his ally. Ferdinand of Aragon had sent to Sicily the great captain Gonzalo de Cordova with a fleet, ostensibly for defensive purposes. Venice was arming, as she said, against the Turk. Maximilian was afraid that the successes of Charles in Italy might lead him to claim the Imperial Crown. Negotiations took place at Venice resulting in a league between the Pope, the Roman King, Ferdinand and Isabella, Venice and Milan, for the protection of the confederates against the aggression of other powers then possessing states in Italy. The league purported to be defensive, but was in reality offensive. Florence alone, still friendly to France and relying on her good offices to recover Pisa, was not a party to it. The transaction was communicated to Commines, French ambassador to Venice, on the 1st of April. Charles was soon informed of the danger rising in his rear, but did not leave Naples till the 21st of May.
Fortunately for the invader, Louis of Orleans was still at Asti with a handful of troops. In a few days he had collected 2,000 men. The Duke of Bourbon, the wise vicegerent of the King in France, was pressed to send aid, for the troops of Milan threatened an attack, if the place was not surrendered. But Ludovico, timid as usual, allowed the moment to pass. Reinforcements soon put Asti in a position for defence, and secured for the King his line of retreat. Meanwhile Ludovico was celebrating the investiture of Milan, which he had at length permission to proclaim. In June Louis was in a position to occupy the city of Novara by the invitation of the citizens; shortly after, the citadel surrendered. Ludovico was paralysed; it is thought that if the Duke of Orleans had marched on Milan he would have met no serious resistance.
Meanwhile the King had left Naples with some 1,200 French lances, 4,000 Swiss, and 2,000 Gascon arblasters. The other half of his army, partly Italians, was left with Montpensier, the viceroy, to deal with Ferrantino, who had recently landed in Calabria with Spanish aid. On reaching Rome, the King found the Pope had fled to Orvieto. Florence Charles avoided, since the Florentines claimed, and he was determined to refuse, the surrender of the fortresses, especially of Pisa. At Pisa he found himself equally unable to satisfy the Pisans. At Spezia, against all sound advice, he detached 500 horse and 2,000 foot to operate against Genoa with the aid of the fleet and the Genoese exiles. But he had the forethought to send on a force to occupy Pontremoli, which capitulated. The Swiss, violating the terms of the surrender, sacked and burned the place, destroying valuable stores.
The possession of Pontremoli gave the French access to the pass. Beyond the summit lay the army of the League. The chief part of the army, about 40,000 strong, was in Venetian pay, and commanded by the Marquis of Mantua. Beside men at arms there were some thousands of Stradioti, the ferocious light cavalry of Albania. The chief part of the forces of Milan was engaged in the siege of Novara, but a Milanese contingent was present. Over the steep pass the Swiss, in sign of penitence for their late excesses, dragged by hand the heavy cannon, each ordinarily drawn by thirty-five horses; and French nobles, notably la Tremouille, did not disdain to work beside them. At Fornovo the French vanguard came into touch with the Stradiot advanced posts, and halted. The rest of the army, coming up, encamped for the night in great lack of provisions. Negotiations were opened for a free passage, but came to nothing. The next day the French advanced.
At Fornovo the valley of the Taro is of moderate width. On the right bank were posted the allies and there was their fortified camp. The French resolved to cross the river, and to force their way along the left bank. The river had been much swollen by a thunderstorm during the night and rain was still falling. Thus the French army, having once successfully effected its crossing, which it did undisturbed, was partly protected. The vanguard was expected to bear the main weight of the attack, and included the bulk of the artillery, with 3,000 Swiss, and a strong body of men-at-arms. This body, moving on too fast, became separated from the rest of the army, and had only to sustain a trifling charge of the Milanese horse under the Count of Caiazzo. Little use was made on either side of the artillery. The main attack was made by the Marquis of Mantua. Though it was originally directed on the centre, the necessity to deviate for a ford made it really an attack on the rear under Louis de la Tremouille. The King's main battle then wheeled round and took up a position to the left of the rear guard, facing to the rear. Fortunately, the baggage, which was moving along the hills and away from the river, attracted the Stradiots, and diverted them from serious work. The Italian horse, who charged the King's rear and centre, were outflanked and soon put to flight, and were pursued to the ford from which they came. More than half the army of the allies never came into action, but the whole of it was thrown into confusion and many fled. The rout was partly stopped by the King's prisoners Pitigliano and Virginio Orsini, who escaped during the battle. But another attack was out of the question, and the French even thought of assuming the offensive. Perhaps a well-timed charge by the Marshal de Gie with the vanguard might have turned the defeat into a rout, but the French had every reason to be satisfied. They were able after a rest to march off" during the night, and reached Asti on the 15th of July practically unmolested. The Venetians claimed the victory, but the fruits of victory were with the French.
At Asti the King found things in forlorn case. The expedition against Genoa had failed. The French fleet was captured in Rapallo by a superior Genoese force and all the plunder of Naples was lost. The Duke of Orleans was besieged at Novara, and his garrison were at the last pinch. Bessey was sent in haste to raise a fresh force of Swiss, but by the time they arrived, 20,000 strong, Novara had capitulated on easy terms, and Ludovico showed himself inclined for peace. Louis of Orleans was anxious to use the Swiss against Milan, but Charles, perhaps disgusted with the shifting fortune of war, concluded at Vercelli a separate peace with Ludovico, and on the 15th of October he crossed the Alps.
Milan was left in statu quo, except that the Castelletto of Genoa was left for two years as a pledge of good faith to France in the hands of the Duke of Ferrara. Venice had profited by the trouble of Naples to acquire four ports, Monopoli, Trani, Brindisi, and Otranto, on the easterly coast of Apulia. Florence was by agreement to receive back her towns, but the corrupt disobedience of French lieutenants gave Pisa to the Pisans, Sarzana to the Genoese, and Pietra Santa to Lucca. In Naples the first descent of Gonzalo had not been fortunate. His army was defeated at Seminara by a band of Swiss. But Ferrantino, nothing daunted, presented himself at Naples with his fleet. Repulsed at first, a chance gave him the advantage, and his supporters gained the town. Montpensier, Yves d'Allegre, and Etienne de Vesc were shut up in the Castel Nuovo. The Provinces, North and South, rose against the French. The Colonna left them. Aubigny with difficulty held out against Gonzalo in Calabria. Montpensier in despair concluded a conditional capitulation, and, when Precy failed to relieve him, abandoned the city of Naples. In February, 1496, all the castles of Naples were in the hands of the Aragonese. The French still held Ariano, Gaeta, and a few other posts. In July Precy and Montpensier surrendered to Gonzalo and Ferrantino at Atella. The chief part of the French prisoners, including Montpensier, succumbed to the climate and to disease. Aubigny gave up the struggle in Calabria. On the death of Ferrantino, October 6, 1496, Federigo, his uncle, succeeded. Soon after (November 19) Gaeta> the last important stronghold of the French, surrendered. The king of France still meditated another expedition, and concluded, towards the end of 1497, an alliance with Aragon for a joint conquest. Five months later an accident cut short his life. The only son of his marriage with Anne of Britanny had died in infancy. His successor, Louis of Orleans,, inherited his plans of conquest, but with a difference.
The fear of a new French invasion, increased by the league concluded with France in 1496 by the majority of the Swiss Cantons, worked upon Italian nerves. The restless Ludovico first took the alarm, and approached the Venetian Signoria. It was agreed to call in the King of the Romans, who responded to the call. Maximilian agreed, like a mere condottiere, to take the pay of the league, which was composed as in 1495,, with the addition of Henry VII of England. In July, 1496, a conference was held at Mals in the Tyrol near the frontier. The members of the league gave diplomatic support, but none were ready to give material help, except Milan and Venice; and even these doled out their pittance with a chary hand. Maximilian had a name to sell, but few men and less money to back it. The imperial Estates and the much discussed imperial subsidy afforded no help. However some Swiss were enrolled,, and Maximilian raised a few horsemen from his own subjects and personal adherents. By the "fend of September a small army had collected around the Roman King at Vigevano in the Milanese.
The league, such as it was, still lacked a plan. The Duke of Milan was anxious to secure the north-western frontier. Gian Giacomo Tri-vulzio was at Asti with 700 French lances threatening Milan. Savoy under its new duke, Philippe de Bresse, was intimately linked with France. Montferrat was governed in the same interest. The Marquis. of Saluzzo was a French vassal. To conquer Asti, to coerce the other north-western powers, great and small, and so to secure the Alpine passes, was an intelligible plan, though it carried risks and difficulties. But Venice, by this time reassured against the fear of an immediate invasion, was unwilling so far to strengthen her neighbour and ally. Her real wish was that Maximilian should retire. Failing that, there was one enterprise that Venice could, tolerantly though not cordially,, support. Florence alone of the Italian powers was still friendly to France. Florence was at war with Pisa, where Venice had troops, and on which she had designs. Against Florence the blow must be directed, aided by Venetian galleys and Genoese ships. Maximilian readily fell into this plan, which he further enriched with fantastic additions, scheming to capture the vessels returning from Naples with the French prisoners, to invade Provence, and join hands with a Spanish force from Roussillon, and with Germans from the Rhine. Meanwhile a part of Maximilian's army and a Venetian contingent were needed to protect the north-west.
Delays were many, but at length the allied force moved from Genoa, partly by land, partly by sea. It was now October, and the autumnal gales imperilled and impeded the naval force. The land forces suffered equally from heavy rains. At length Maximilian reached Pisa. The united army reached the total of about 2,500 horse and 4,000 foot. With this inadequate power, ill-provided with heavy artillery, Maximilian, himself literally penniless, determined to undertake the siege of Livorno, the last outlet of Florence to the sea. The Venetian and Genoese fleet moved up and occupied the harbour, while Maximilian directed the land attack. The town was in evil case, supplies short, the garrison weak and demoralised. But aid was promptly sent from Florence, and on the 29th of October a French squadron sailed in, favoured by a stormy wind which prevented the allied fleet from offering opposition. A fortnight later, while the Genoese were disputing the orders of the King, the Frenchmen sailed out again, leaving 500 soldiers and abundant stores. The weather, rainy and cold, discouraged and incapacitated the besiegers. Discipline was bad, and nioney scarce. Maximilian therefore determined to raise the siege and discussed the chances of a direct attack on Florence; Soon that was also given up, and he left hurriedly for Lombardy, perhaps disturbed by rumours of an attack upon his line of retreat. By the beginning of December he was at Pavia. Here he heard that Ferdinand of Aragon had concluded a truce with France. Alarmed perhaps for his own hereditary dominions and for the empire, certainly disgusted with all he had seen and suffered in Italy, Maximilian hurried across the Alps, there to expend his desultory vigour in other plans, fruitless indeed and unpractical, but none more fantastic and fruitless than the enterprise of Pisa.
If Louis of Orleans had had his own way, the expedition of 1494! would have been directed against Milan. A year later he would have seized the welcome opportunity to punish Ludovico for his treachery. What the jealousy of Charles had perhaps prevented, Louis XII found himself in a position to carry out. On his accession he took the title of Duke of Milan in addition to that of King of Sicily; and a full year was spent in diplomatic and military preparations. The treaty with England was renewed. A treaty was concluded with the Catholic Kings of Aragon and Castile (July, 1498), in which no mention was made of the King of Naples. Though Louis could not secure the neutrality of Maximilian, he was able to win his son Philip, ruler of the Low Countries, by some concessions in Artois. With the Swiss the French King contracted a league (March, 1499), by which the cantons stipulated to supply the King with men at a fixed rate of pay, and received in return an annual pension of 20,000 florins, and a promise of pecuniary or other assistance in their own wars. The powers of Italy, except Milan and Naples, were individually approached, and Venice, already on bad terms with Milan over the question of Pisa, after long deliberations accepted in February, 1499, an agreement for the partition of Milan. Venice was to receive Cremona and the territories east of the Adda as her share, and promised a contribution of 100,000 ducats to the French expenses in the joint war. The Pope was seeking a rich marriage for his son Cesare, who had decided to lay down his dignity of Cardinal. Repulsed in Naples, he turned the more willingly to France. Louis purchased his divorce from Jeanne of France, and papal support in his war, by the gift to Cesare of the hand of Charlotte d'Albret, and of the duchy of the Valentinois. The marriage was celebrated in May, 1499, at Blois. Florence, aggrieved though she was by the Venetian support of Pisa, dared not promise aid to Milan, and secretly professed her friendship for France. The powers of the north-western frontier of Italy were all won for the invaders.
Meanwhile Ludovico had not been idle. At every court his envoys met the ambassadors of France, and fought an unequal diplomatic fight. Maximilian was friendly, but he was engaged during the crisis in unsuccessful warfare with the Swiss. He took Ludovico's money, but gave him no material aid. Naples, reduced to famine by the ravages of war, was benevolent but helpless. The smaller powers, Mantua, Ferrara, Bologna, jealous as they were of Venice, were yet more afraid. They gave willingly good words, but took no compromising step. The Marquis of Mantua indeed, after much haggling, accepted a condotta from Ludovico, but was careful not to carry out its obligations. One ally Ludovico had, or at least professed to have,—the enemy of Christendom, the Turk, who did much harm to Venice^during and after the war of Milan, and even raided Friuli, and the march of Treviso. But Ludovico was not to gain by this.
Thrown thus upon his own resources, he was in fact beaten before the war began. His frontier was long, and not naturally defensible. He had to fear attacks from every side. The spring and summer of 1499 were spent in feverish attempts to organise defence. A large number of infantry was raised in the Milanese, and distributed in the strong towns and on the frontiers. A few Swiss and Germans were hired. Efforts were made to collect mercenary horse, with moderate success; but the most important contingent, that promised from Naples under Prospero Colonna, was detained at home. Much labour was spent on the frontier fortresses. Alessandria in particular was thought to have been made very strong. The brothers San Severino, in whom the Duke had complete confidence, were put in the chief commands, and returned favourable reports to their master. The Duke flattered himself that his State could hold out for a time even against the overwhelming odds. If time were allowed, the powers of Germany might be set in motion.
Far more methodical and effective were the measures taken beyond the Alps. Louis had improved the administration of the finances, and there was money to spare. The companies of regular cavalry (ordonnances) were recruited, and in great part remodelled. Not less than 1,500 lances were at the King's disposal for the invasion, besides the forces employed in watching Burgundy and the other frontiers. Some 6,000 Swiss foot were enrolled. The total infantry reached the sum of 17,000. The artillery was finer, more numerous, and better equipped than that of Charles VIII. At length about the 10th of August this army was concentrated at Asti. The chief command was given to Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, a Milanese exile, who had left the service of the King of Naples for that of France. The Venetians were at the same time in readiness to advance on the eastern frontier.
The French, after capturing the strong place of Annone, where they massacred the garrison, occupied Valenza, Tortona, and some places of less importance, and then (August 25) closed in upon Alessandria, which was held in strength by Galeazzo San Severino. Galeazzo could not rely on his troops, inferior as they were, and ill-paid. His communications were threatened. Faithful himself, he could not trust his own brothers. On the fourth day after the invading army had encamped before the town, Galeazzo and his principal officers took to flight, and the city at once fell to the French. This was practically the end of the war. On the 30th of August there were some signs of disquiet in Milan. The Duke's treasurer Landriano was killed in the street. On the 2nd of September Ludovico quitted Milan with his treasure, still considerable, and made his way by Como and the Valtellina into Tyrol. The castle of Milan, entrusted by the Duke to his most trusted friend, Bernardino da Corte, was sold by him to the French for the equivalent of some 150,000 ducats. No further opposition was made. The duchy was occupied by the French on the west of the Adda, by Venice to the east. Beyond the Po, Parma and Piacenza, with their dependent territory, submitted without resistance to the French.
Louis now resolved to cross the Alps to take possession of his new acquisition. On the 6th of October he made his solemn entry into Milan, accompanied by a brilliant following of cardinals, princes, and ambassadors. After spending about a month in regulating the affairs of his duchy, he returned to France, leaving Trivulzio in supreme command. With him was associated a Senate consisting of the Chancellor and seventeen councillors, partly French, and partly Italian. Its functions were both administrative and judicial. The task of Trivulzio was difficult. He was himself the head of the Guelf party, and secure of Guelf support, but he had to keep on good terms with the Ghibellines, many of whom had deserted the cause of Ludovico, and accepted the new regime. The inhabitants of the duchy, impoverished by the exactions of Ludovico made for the war, hoped for some remission of taxation. But the expenses of the army of occupation were heavy, trade and industry were interrupted, and it was found impossible materially to reduce the imposts. The French soldiers were quartered on the inhabitants, discipline was seriously relaxed, and there were many grave causes of complaint. The arrogance of Trivulzio gave general offence; his administrative incapacity was conspicuous; his personal greed was notorious. Supported by the knowledge that Ludovico was approaching, the nobles and people of Milan armed, and before the end of January, 1500, Trivulzio's position was clearly untenable. On the 3rd of February he retired with the French army from a city barricaded and in open revolt, leaving a sufficient garrison in the castle under Saint-Quentin.
Meanwhile Ludovico in the Tyrol had succeeded in procuring a truce between Maximilian and the Swiss (September 22). With the aid of Maximilian, more valuable in the Tyrol than elsewhere, and by the expenditure of a part of his hoard, he gradually collected a force. 1,500 men at arms reached him from Burgundy; the mercenary Swiss accepted his pay; finally he beat up a motley army of some 20,000 men. While Ludovico advanced from Bormio, Galeazzo came by Aosta through Savoy with a considerable body of Swiss. Ligny attempted to resist at Como, but his strength was insufficient. Trivulzio ordered him to retreat on Milan. Thence the French retired to Novara, and Mortara, where they were joined (February 13) by Yves d'Allegre with the lances and infantry that Louis had lent to Cesare for the conquest of Imola and Forli. Other scattered forces having come in, the French could now hold their own until the arrival of reinforcements.
On the 5th of February Ludovico re-entered Milan, greeted by enthusiastic shouts of "Moro, Moro." His partisans showed some zeal in subscribing to replenish his partly exhausted treasury; but the most extreme measures were needed to supply the necessary funds. Even the treasures of the churches were not spared. Such resources could suffice for a time, but before the end of March they showed signs of failure. While vain efforts were made to reduce the Castle of Milan, Ludovico advanced with his army by Pavia to Vigevano, which he captured with its castle, and thence after some desultory warfare he moved against Novara (March 5), where was Yves d'Allegre with a sufficient garrison, still further strengthened a day or two later. But the inhabitants were hostile, and provisions scarce, so that the French were obliged to accept a favourable capitulation (March 21).
Here ended Ludovico's successes. On the 23rd of March la Tremouille reached Mortara with 500 men-at-arms and good artillery. Trivulzio was by this time not only hated but distrusted by his companions, and a new and trusted leader was worth as much as the new troops. On the 3rd of April a large body of Swiss joined the French under Antoine de Bessey. The French army was now, though perhaps not equal in numbers, superior in quality to that of Ludovico. In his army discontent caused by want of pay was general, and desertions were frequent. There were Swiss in both armies, and it was likely that they would refuse to fight against their countrymen. The French levy had official authority; the French chests were full. Thus when the French army moved forward against the Milanese at Novara, almost the whole ducal army abandoned him. Further resistance was impossible. Ludovico attempted to escape in disguise among the Swiss, but was detected and became a prisoner (April 10). His captivity was only terminated by his death. His brother Ascanio was captured by the Venetians and handed over later to the French. The sons of Ludovico were safe in Germany. The little son of Gian Galeazzo fell into the hands of France.
For the reorganisation of the duchy the King sent his own right hand, the Cardinal of Rouen, Georges d'Amboise. Trivulzio was superseded in the civil government by Charles d'Amboise, Seigneur de Chaumont, the Cardinal's nephew, and in the military command by Aubigny.
With the completed conquest of Milan French predominance in the peninsula was established. Venice was content to accept the situation for the present, and to make use of her powerful friend, who sent ships to cooperate in her war with the Turks during the years 1499-1501. The Pope was fain to lean on France. French troops assisted Cesare in the conquest of Imola and Forli and afterwards served him against Rimini, Pesaro and Faenza. His further conquests were limited by French sufferance. When he threatened Bologna or Florence, he was warned off by their august protector. In the enterprise of Naples, Cesare followed the French banner as a willing ally, almost as a subject. During the time of Ludovico's success several of the Italian States had given him help, or shown him goodwill. After his fall, the Duke of Ferrara, the Marquis of Mantua, Bentivoglio of Bologna, and others, were forced to pay compensation to France for their incautious actions. Florence reaped the reward of her more correct behaviour, when the King sent Beaumont with French troops to assist the Florentines against Pisa. The failure of the expedition brought Florence into temporary disgrace, but later she was allowed to buy her pardon. Thus in Lombardy, in Tuscany, in the Papal States, there was no power that did not accept as a fact the predominance of France.
It may be doubted whether Louis aimed at converting predominance into sovereignty. But he was determined to conquer Naples, and he hoped that an occasion would offer to establish the Cardinal of Rouen as pope. These ends achieved, he might be content with the substance, while the Emperor still enjoyed the shadow. Meanwhile no great effort would be required to keep Maximilian in check. But with regard to Naples Louis had in Aragon a more dangerous rival. Naples had been a part of the kingdom of Sicily, and Sicily was owned by Aragon. Moreover Alfonso of Aragon had been de facto King of Naples, and had established there the ruling race of kings. These claims were not convincing, but neither were Louis' claims beyond possibility of question. Nor could the King of Sicily remain a tranquil spectator, while his neighbour and relative was displaced by a new and aggressive power. Louis determined to compromise, and (November, 1500) concluded at Granada a secret treaty with Aragon for a joint conquest of Naples, conceding to Ferdinand a fair half of the kingdom, and, provisionally, the provinces of Apulia and Calabria.
Strengthened by this compact, Louis was free to move. In May, 1501, his army was ready in Lombardy. With the certainty of Spanish aid, 1,000 lances, 4,000 Swiss, and 6,000 French infantry were held sufficient. The command was divided between Aubigny, the Count of Caiazzo (Francesco di San Severino), and the Duke of Valentinois. A fleet under Ravenstein was operating on the coast from the convenient base of Genoa. Federigo relied on help from Sicily, where was the great Gonzalo, who had recently returned from a successful expedition against the Turks, and who, acting under orders, was careful not to undeceive him. The first news of the coalition came to Naples from Rome, where in June Alexander issued a bull depriving Federigo of his throne and confirming the partition already arranged between the Kings of France and Aragon. In July the French army reached Capua, which was held by Fabrizio Colonna with a sufficient force. But the French artillery soon made a practicable breach, and, while terms of surrender were being discussed, the French were admitted into the town, which they sacked with every circumstance of cruelty and outrage. There was no further resistance. On August 2 Federigo retired to Ischia, and after a time decided to accept the asylum offered to him by Louis, who provided him with a rich endowment and an honourable position in France. On August 4 French garrisons occupied the castles of Naples, and la Palice was sent to hold the Abruzzi. Louis d'Armagnac, duke of Nemours, was appointed viceroy of the newly acquired kingdom.
Meanwhile Gonzalo without difficulty occupied his master's share of the kingdom of Naples, and was joined by Prospero and Fabrizio Colonna, whose family was about this time expelled from their possessions in papal territory, while Cesare, their bitterest enemy, was leagued with the French. Only at Taranto was there considerable resistance. Here lay Federigo's son, Ferrante. The town was strong, but a siege by sea and land compelled it after a stout resistance to come to terms (March, 1502). Gonzalo promised his liberty to Ferrante, but the Spanish King disregarded the promise, and caused the young prince to be sent in custody to Spain.
The treaty of Granada had not been so carefully drawn as to exclude all possibility of doubt. France was to have the Abruzzi, the Terra di Lavoro, Naples, and Gaeta, while Spain received Apulia and Calabria. But nothing was said about the province of the Capitanata, lying between Apulia and the Abruzzi, about the Basilicata, lying between Calabria and Apulia, or about the two Principati, lying between the Basilicata and the Terra di Lavoro. Yet the clause stipulating that the incomes of the two shares should be approximately equal might, with a little goodwill, have pointed the way to an equitable settlement. The main difficulty turned on the question of the Capitanata. The inhabitants of the barren Abruzzi depended on the corn-lands of the Capitanata for their food-supplies. The flocks that wintered in the plains were driven in summer to the mountain pastures, from Apulia proper into the Southern Apennines, and from the Capitanata into the Abruzzi, toll (dogand) being taken from them on the way for the King of Sicily. The treaty settled that "the dogana of Apulia" should be collected by the commissaries of Spain and equally divided between the kings. The French, supported by recent administrative usage, denied that the Capitanata was part of Apulia, and claimed it as a necessary complement of their own share.
No satisfactory agreement was reached on these dangerous points,, although the question was referred to the kings for decision. At Troia in the Capitanata, at Tripalda in the Principato ultra, collisions took place. Finally, in July open war broke out. Louis about the same time visited the Milanese, and apparently purchased the neutrality or support of Cesare by giving him a free hand in the Romagna, and even against Bologna. Reinforcements were sent to the French, and the Spaniards were driven from Cerignola, and then from Canosa (August, 1502). Gonzalo was obliged to concentrate at Barletta on the northerly coast of Apulia, holding also Taranto. The indecision of the French leaders saved the great captain. While they were occupying unimportant places in Apulia and Calabria, and watching Gonzalo at Barletta, the time for a crushing blow went by. The Venetians sent provisions if not money to Barletta. Reinforcements were sent into Calabria from Sicily. In March, 1503, a fresh army reached Reggio from Spain. In April 3000 Landsknechte were sent by Maximilian from Trieste to Barletta. Gonzalo had already shown that he was to be feared, when he fell upon la Palice at Ruvo, defeated, and captured him. On hearing that Aubigny had been routed at Seminara in Calabria, he was able to take a vigorous offensive. He left Barletta with the chief part of his troops and seized Cerignola. The French generals decided to strike a despairing blow. They attacked Gonzalo's army in a fortified position at Cerignola, and were completely defeated, Nemours being killed. The news determined Allegre to evacuate Naples except the castles, and to retire to Gaeta. On the 16th of May Gonzalo entered the capital. Prospero Colonna was sent to subdue the Abruzzi, while the great engineer, Pedro Navarra, employed the newest resources of military art against the castles of Naples. In a short time they were made untenable. At Gaeta however the French, strengthened by reinforcements from Genoa, repulsed the conquerors; while Louis d'Ars still held Venosa with a remnant of the army defeated at Cerignola. At the very crisis of the war Louis had been entangled in a futile negotiation. Since the end of 1500 Philip, Archduke of Austria, had been busying himself with the double object of securing his dominions in the Netherlands against France, and of obtaining for his infant son, the Duke of Luxemburg, afterwards Charles V, additions by marriage to those vast possessions to which he was already heir presumptive. The outcome of these efforts was a contract of betrothal at Lyons (August, 1501) between Charles and Claude, the daughter of Louis XII: a provisional treaty at Trent between Maximilian and Louis (October, 1501) agreeing to this marriage, and stipulating the investiture of Milan for Louis: an interpretation of the same arranged between Philip and Louis in December of the same year at Blois, but never accepted by Maximilian: and finally a treaty concluded by Philip with Louis at Lyons (April 5, 1503), in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella, by which the whole of the kingdom of Naples was to be given to the infant pair. This last treaty was never ratified by Ferdinand and Isabella, who asserted that Philip had exceeded his powers, and Gonzalo paid no heed to it. But Louis showed less prudence. Relying on the treaty, he deferred, in the critical month of April, the despatch of a body of troops which he had ready in Genoa. It is true that the threatening movements of the Swiss, to whom Louis was obliged at this moment to cede Bellinzona, gave an additional reason for delaying what had been already too long delayed.
The disasters and humiliation of the year called for a great effort. The French raised three armies, one of which was directed on the Spanish frontier of Navarre and another against Roussillon, while the third was intended for the recovery of Naples. The Italian expedition was entrusted to la Tremouille. The northern powers of Italy remained to all appearance faithful. Ferrara, Mantua, Bologna, Florence furnished contingents. In August the French were beginning to move. The Pope and Cesare vacillated long between the parties, but at the crisis they were both stricken down by illness, and on the 18th of August the Pope expired. The ambassadors and the cardinals succeeded in freeing the town from the armed men of rival factions, Orsini, Colonna, Cesare; but Gonzalo was at Castiglione, and the French advanced guard at Nepi, so that the election took place as it were under the shadow of war. It wisely ended by giving the prize to neither of the foreign nations. The new Pope, Pius III (Francesco Piccolomini), treated Cesare with indulgence and left him in a position to bargain with both Spain and France. However, his final adhesion to the latter power proved to be of little value, while both Orsini and Colonna were thereby driven into the arms of Spain.
The French advance was delayed by the illness of la Tremouille, whose place was ultimately taken by the Marquis of Mantua. Finally they moved forward by the Latin Way, which was blocked by Gonzalo, holding San Germano, Aquino and Roccasecca. Joined by Allegre, from Gaeta, they attacked Roccasecca, but were beaten off and obliged to retire to Ceprano (October, 1503). They then determined to move southwards, along the right bank of the Garigliano, hoping to be able to advance by the Appian Way. On the Garigliano the two armies confronted each other for weeks. The French, vexed in the marshy land by rainy, wintry weather, deprived of supplies and of pay by the dishonesty of commissariat officers, were in bad case, but hardly in worse than their opponents. Having bridged but failed to cross the river, the French drew back a little, scattering themselves over a somewhat wide area for better provisioning. Discipline was bad, and the Marquis of Mantua, insulted by his troops, withdrew from the command. At length in the last days of December, the vigilance of the enemy being relaxed, Gonzalo crossed the Garigliano higher up, and fell upon the French, disunited and unprepared. A complete rout followed. The artillery was hurriedly embarked on boats and sent round by sea. The men fled in disorder for Gaeta, pursued to the gates of the town by the victorious Spaniards and Italians. During several days afterwards parties of fugitives were straggling into Rome, half naked and half starved. Some of the boats were swamped, and in one of them perished Piero de' Medici. The French captains in Gaeta soon surrendered; nor could Louis d'Ars in Apulia keep up the hopeless struggle. Such was the end of French lordship in Naples; where Gonzalo now held unquestioned sway, dispensing the royal bounty as if it was his own, and encouraging his soldiers to live at the expense of the inhabitants.
The fortune of war had decided against Louis. He was fain to heal his wounded pride by new treaties of marriage which recognised his rights and promised to enrich his offspring at the expense of France. By the treaty of Blois with Maximilian (September, 1504), Claude, already heiress of Britanny, was to receive Milan with Genoa and Asti, the duchy of Burgundy with Macon and Auxerre, and the county of Blois, as a dowry on her marriage with Charles. In return the King of the Romans conferred upon Louis the investiture of Milan for a cash consideration. A separate and secret treaty stipulated a joint attack on Venice. An arrangement made at Hagenau (April, 1505), between the same and Archduke Philip, contemplated the addition of Naples to this ample endowment. But in October of this year, at Blois, Louis preferred to give the kingdom of Naples as a dowry to his relative, Germaine of Foix, on her marriage with Ferdinand of Aragon; and Ferdinand so far recognised the rights of Louis that he promised a compensation of 1,000,000 ducats, and, in default of heirs of the marriage, the reversion of the kingdom to the Most Christian King. It was settled that an amnesty should be granted to the barons who had supported the Angevin cause, and that restitution of property should be made as far as possible. As a sign of restored amity, an interview took place at Savona, under circumstances of unusual trustfulness, between the sovereigns (June, 1507).
Gonzalo, who on this occasion received extraordinary marks of confidence and admiration from both the Kings, enjoyed his last and most memorable moments of good fortune. His master, who suspected his ambition, and disapproved of his methods of administration, enticed him by the promise of still higher honours to return with him to Spain. There he found himself deluded and disappointed. The wealth which he had accumulated in his master's service he was allowed to enjoy, but his days of public activity were over.
The arrangements mentioned above did not affect the actual position of Italian affairs. Indeed, all dispositions depending on the marriage of Claude and Charles were rendered void by the decision of Louis in 1506 to bestow his daughter's hand on the heir presumptive of France, Francis of Angouleme. The years following the disastrous wars of Naples were years of uneasy watchfulness, of bewildering arrangements and re-arrangements of unstable leagues and combinations, of mendacious protestations of friendship, and treacherous provocations addressed to jealousy and greed. The inheritance of the Duke of Valentinois was gathered in by his enemies, Orsini, Colonna, Venice, and Giuliano della Rovere, who as Julius II succeeded the short-lived Piccolomini. Cesare himself, a prisoner in Spain, added another to the list of those whose trust in Ferdinand proved their ruin. The war of Florence with Pisa continued, but barely interested any one besides the belligerents. Gradually, from an old man's passion, as from live fire hidden under blackened embers, infectious energy spread through Italy and through Europe. Cesare Borgia's conquests and fall had brought almost all of the Romagna and the March of Ancona under the I direct control of the Holy See. The ambition of Julius would be satisfied with nothing less than the whole of what had ever been claimed by the successors of Peter. Venice first earned his hatred by refusing to give up Faenza and Rimini, which she had occupied after the death of Alexander. The secret treaty of Blois gave Julius hopes of a speedy revenge. But that treaty remained without effect, and Julius had to wait, exercising a violent self-restraint, and evincing qualities, not natural in him, of patience, reticence, and duplicity. Practising simony and extortion on the grand scale, he slowly replenished the papal treasury, which had been plundered by Cesare Borgia on Alexander's death. Then (1506), reckoning that swift and sudden action might reach its effect before either Venice or France decided to offer opposition, he struck a rapid blow at two usurpers of St Peter's rights. At Perugia Giampaolo Baglione made complete submission. Against Bologna the French themselves sent troops to aid the Pope, unwilling, when they saw he was in earnest, to risk the loss of his friendship. Giovanni Bentivoglio and his sons, hopeless of successful resistance, took to flight. The Pope set up his own government in the town.
While still at Bologna, Julius heard unwelcome news. In Genoa French rule had not led to peace. Genoa had always been noted for the violence of its civic feuds, which had largely contributed to its defeat in the commercial race with Venice. These disputes had in the past centred about the two great plebeian families of Adorno and Campo-Fregoso. The quarrel, which now arose, was a quarrel of class against class. The nobles had been perhaps unduly encouraged by their aristocratic French rulers. At any rate it seems clear that they were guilty, on more than one occasion, of arrogant and injurious conduct towards the common people, many of whom were in their own esteem, as in their wealth, equal to the nobles. In June and July, 1506, matters came to a head. An attack was made on the nobles, especially on the powerful family of Fiesco. Neither Ravenstein the governor, nor his deputy Rocquebertin, showed much zeal or capacity in dealing with the trouble. Matters were allowed to go from bad to worse. At first the common people were content with the concession of two-thirds of the public offices, instead of the half share hitherto allowed to them. Then the artisans, as opposed to the rich plebeian merchants and bankers, more and more got the upper hand. Tribunes of the people were appointed, and finally an artisan, a dyer, Paolo da Novi, was elected to be Doge. Meanwhile the cities on the sea-coast were taken by force from their noble governors, and in November siege was laid to Monaco, which was held by the noble Grimaldi. Five months the siege lasted, while in Genoa the French garrison was obliged first to vacate the Palace and retire to the Castle, and finally carried on an active war of bombardment against the town. Monaco held out with conspicuous bravery against great odds, until relieved in March by Yves d'Allegre.
Julius was disturbed in the enjoyment of his victorious sojourn at Bologna by the news that the French King was coming in person with a large army to punish his rebellious city. Himself a native of Savona and a favourer of the popular party in Genoa, the Pope, while opposed to the coercion of Genoa, feared also ulterior designs of the French King. The ambition of the Cardinal of Rouen was well known, and it could only be satisfied at the expense of the existing pontiff. In alarm Julius withdrew to Rome, where he followed events in the north with anxiety. The King, with nearly 10,000 Swiss, and an army apparently disproportionate to his task, was at Asti on April 16, 1507. His troops at once moved on Genoa, by Buzalla. The command of the army was in the hands of Charles d'Amboise. On the $5th of April he began the attack, ordering the capture of a bastion planted on the highest point of the hills surrounding Genoa, and commanding the whole position. The access was very difficult, and the Swiss disliked the task. However, they were shamed into doing their duty by a troop of dismounted men-at-arms who advanced to the assault. When the place at length was reached the Genoese took to flight without further resistance, but many of the assailants were wounded on the way. After some scattered fighting, that night the army held the heights overlooking Genoa, The next day envoys were sent to treat, but while terms were being discussed warlike views prevailed within the town, and the whole force of Genoa came out to fight. They were enticed to attack the well-ordered mass of the French infantry, and driven back in panic to their walls. The next day the citizens accepted the King's terms of unconditional surrender. On the 28th he rode into the town with drawn sword, cancelled the city's privileges, imposed on them a fine of 300,000 ducats, ordered a new castle to be built, and pay for a garrison of 2,000 foot to be henceforth provided. While imposing on Genoa his will he was careful to preserve it from plunder or outrage. Paolo da Novi fled, but was shortly afterwards captured and put to death.
The fears that had disturbed Julius when he heard of the powerful expedition against Genoa proved vain. Nothing was attempted, if anything had been imagined, against the Holy Father. But the interview at Savona (June, 1507), which followed shortly, was calculated to cause him not less serious alarm. Ferdinand had sought, but had not received, the investiture of Naples, and had shown his resentment by avoiding an interview at Ostia, which the Pope had wished. We do not know what the Kings may have discussed at Savona; the secrecy observed at the time still baffles the curiosity of investigators. There was grave matter for deliberation. Maximilian, the inveterate enemy of Louis, and the rival of Ferdinand for the regency of Castile, was making serious preparations for a descent into Italy, with tha-ostensible purpose of obtaining the imperial crown, and the probable intention of driving the French from Milan. Common measures may have been considered against this common foe; joint action against Julius may also have been proposed. But the document from Simancas published by Maulde seems to prove that the Kings finally decided to attempt a league in which Julius and Maximilian should be included as friends. The careful exclusion of all other powers from the projected league seems to indicate an intended victim, to whose sacrificial feast all four could be invited, with the prospect, if not the certainty, of a favourable reply. The oath of Louis at Savona foreshadows the League of Cambray. Venice is not mentioned, but no other solution satisfies the conditions of the enigma.
Venice had indeed run up a long account with the powers of Italy and Europe. Since 1495 she had held Brindisi, Otranto, and other ports of Apulia, and thus mutilated Ferdinand's new acquisition. By treaty with France and by older conquest she held the eastern portion of the duchy of Milan. Against Julius she held Rimini and Faenza, as well as her earlier possession, Ravenna. There had also been acrimonious discussion about the right of collation to Venetian prelacies, such as Vicenza and Cremona. Maximilian's imperial rights were ignored in Padua and Verona, his hereditary rights in Friuli. She had recently refused to Maximilian free passage with his army through her territory for his coronation at Rome. She had declined to renew her league with France, declaring the old league sufficient. The day of reckoning was at hand.
If such a league as that of Cambray was projected at Savona, Maximilian's unconcerted action assisted the plan. Enraged at the repeated refusals of Venice to grant him a free passage, he attacked the republic in February, 1508. The fortunes of war were against him. The French stood by their ally. Pitigliano held his own in the Veronese, while Alviano in the east took Gorz and Trieste in the hereditary lands of the enemy and threatened a further advance. The "elected Roman Emperor," as he now called himself, was fain in June to conclude for three years a humiliating truce, by which Venice retained her conquests. In this truce the King of France was himself included, and he wished the Duke of Gelders, his own ally, and Maximilian's obdurate enemy, to be also comprised; but Venice, with unusual imprudence, allowed the wishes of her reputed friend to remain unsatisfied.
This inconsiderate conduct was an excuse, if not the reason, for the decided adhesion of France to the enemies of the Republic. We catch glimpses, during the eighteen months that followed the meeting of Savona, of the negotiations which led Maximilian to forget all the painful associations of slight or wrong connected with Milan, Burgundy, Gelders, and Britanny. His new rancour against Venice, the unsuccessful progress of the war in Gelders, the influence of his daughter Margaret, anxious to protect her nephew's dominions in the Netherlands, which were now entrusted to her charge, the secret and cautious instigations of the Pope,—all urged him towards the league at length concluded at Cambray in December, 1508, by Margaret and the Cardinal of Rouen. After a temporary settlement of the affairs of Gelders, a league was there secretly compacted, purporting to include not only France and the Empire, but also the Pope and Aragon. The Cardinal undertook to answer for the Pope; no one spoke for the King of Aragon, but it is probable that a secret understanding already existed. Each power was, by the united action of the league, to recover the places held against it by Venice. Thus Spain would recover Monopoli, Trani, Brindisi, Otranto; the Pope, Ravenna, Rimini, Faenza, and smaller places in the neighbourhood, a list which might be afterwards extended; Maximilian, Verona, Padua, Vicenza, Treviso, Friuli, and generally all places held or usurped by Venice from Austria or the Empire; while France was to receive Brescia, Bergamo, Crema, besides Cremona and the Ghiara d' Adda, ceded to Venice as her share of the spoils of Ludovico il Moro. The Italian powers were to open the war by the 1st of April, 1509, and Maximilian promised to join them within the space of forty days. The investiture of Milan was to be renewed to Louis for the sum of a hundred thousand crowns, still due under the earlier bargain. England and Hungary were to be invited to join the unwieldy coalition, and each contracting power was given four months for naming its allies.
Venice had long been aware that such a conspiracy would correspond to the Pope's inmost and deepest wishes, and that similar plans had frequently been discussed between France and Maximilian. She may, notwithstanding, have relied on the jealousies and hatreds of the powers for keeping them apart. Something of the truth, however, reached her soon after the meeting of Cambray. Early news of a more precise order came to her from the great Gonzalo, who offered his services to the Signoria. The results would have been interesting had this remarkable offer been accepted. While negotiations were carried on in the vain hope of detaching the Pope from the alliance, all preparations were hurried forward for resistance. France declared war on the 7th of April; on the 27th the Pope proclaimed his ban. The Venetians had more than 30,000 men on foot, Italian men-at-arms, picked infantry from Apulia and Romagna, with the excellent levies from the Val di Lamone under Dionigi di Naldi, Stradiots from Illyria and the Morea, Sagdars from Crete, and a considerable force of native militia. Of the allies, the French were first in the field, opposed on the Adda by the Venetians under Pitigliano and Alviano. The impetuous character of the latter was ill-yoked with the Fabian strategy of his colleague, and the policy of the Signoria was a compromise between the two. Alviano proposed to cross the Adda and take the offensive. This plan having been set aside, Pitigliano determined to recover Treviglio, which had given itself to the French. The place was captured and burned, but, owing to the delay thus caused, the Venetians were not ready to prevent the French from crossing the Adda at Cassano. The Venetian orders were to run no unnecessary risk. Thus the French were allowed to capture Rivolta undisturbed. But when (May 14) Louis began to move southwards towards Pandino, and threatened to cut off Venetian communications with Crema and Cremona, the Venetians hurried to anticipate him. The light horse were sent on to occupy Pandino and Palazzo, and the main force followed along the higher ground, while the French moved by the lower road parallel to the Adda. Between Agnadello and Pandino the French found an opportunity to attack the Venetian columns on the march. By this time the Venetian army was spread over some four miles of ground, the artillery was not at hand, and Alviano, who was not present when the fight began, was only able to bring into action a small portion of the heavy-armed horse and a part of the infantry. It is not certain whether he could have refused battle, it is certain that he did not expect it. Nor is it clear whether the French movement on Pandino was a feint, or whether their attack was an afterthought, when the movement on Pandino had failed. It is certain that the French were able to throw the whole weight of their force on a part of the Venetian army. Aided however by the higher ground and the vineyards which clothed the slope, the Venetians held their own for awhile, and even gained some advantage. But when the main battle of the French came up, while Alviano received no further support, the day was lost. The losses fell chiefly on the levies raised by conscription from the Venetian peasantry, who did well. Alviano's own band of infantry from Brisighella was almost annihilated. He was himself captured, fighting desperately. Pitigliano, with the main body of men-at-arms, was able to retreat in good order. But a great part of the army was broken and fled. Thirty-six pieces of ordnance were left behind and fell into the hands of the enemy. Pitigliano at Brescia endeavoured to collect and reorganise the remnant of his army. But the demoralisation was great, and the troops refused to remain with the colours, deserting in numbers as soon as they received their pay.
The first impulse of the proud Republic was to bow before the storm. France was allowed to occupy Bergamo and Brescia, Crema and Cremona, almost unopposed. The visdomino, whom the Signoria had some years before set up at Ferrara as a mark of suzerainty, was driven out. The restitution of the towns of Romagna and other concessions were offered to the Pope, and shortly afterwards the Romagna was actually evacuated. Verona, Vicenza, and Padua were allowed to give themselves up to emissaries, real or' pretended, of the Emperor. Treviso was still held, but the recent conquests to the east of Venice were given up. The towns in Apulia were abandoned. Meanwhile every effort was made to strengthen the narrower line of defence. Fresh troops were raised, and money and stores collected; while on the other hand attempts were made to open negotiations, with the allies severally, and especially with the Pope.
Maximilian had appeared at Trent in June; but as his forces were slow in collecting, the Venetians felt strong enough in July to re-establish themselves in Padua, which was made as strong as possible. Thus, when at length in August he was ready to move, the first thing necessary was the recapture of this fortress-city. Supported by 500 French lances under la Palice, and an army that seemed to contemporaries nothing less than prodigious, he sat down to besiege the town in the middle of August. The hostility of the peasantry, whose hearty loyalty furnishes the best testimonial to Venetian good government, caused him much difficulty, and his heavy guns were not in position till the middle of September. Dissensions arose among the allies. La Palice was on the worst of terms with Maximilian's chief military adviser, Constantin Areniti. A famous legend represents Bayard himself and the French men-at-arms as unwilling to go to the assault on foot unless accompanied by the German nobles and gentlemen, who declined to derogate so far. Finally the siege was given up on October 2. Soon afterwards the Emperor took his departure to the Tyrol; the French retired into the Milanese, and the Pope withdrew his men. Vicenza speedily returned to Venetian rule, and Verona alone of the more important places remained in imperial hands.
In February, 1510, the Venetians at length came to terms with the Pope. His conditions were hard, but they were accepted. Venice recognised in full the immunities of the clergy and the papal right to provide to all Venetian benefices, renounced all unauthorised treaties concluded with towns in the Papal States, abandoned all intention of appealing to a council against the papal bans, and conceded free navigation of the Adriatic to all papal subjects, among whom Ferrara was expressly included. In return, the Pope admitted the humble request of the Republic for pardon, and promised his good offices in future. The Venetians were allowed to recruit in the Papal States, where they engaged several famous condottierl, among others Giampaolo Baglione, and Renzo da Ceri. Thus the first aim of Julius was secured. He had humiliated the Queen of the Adriatic, and recovered all rights usurped by Venice from the Holy See. He was now at liberty to turn his attention to his second object, the expulsion from Italy of the "Barbarians"-in the first place of the French. For this purpose he hoped to win the aid of the Emperor and of Henry VIII. But abundant patience was needed before this could be brought about. The first effect of the Pope's change of policy was rather to increase the bitterness of Maximilian against the Venetians, so that he tried to induce the Turk to attack them. With the King of Aragon Julius was not at first much more successful. Ferdinand accepted the investiture of Naples, but showed no inclination to an open breach with the league. There remained the Swiss.
The Swiss were poor and ignorant, their general Diet ill-instructed and impotent, their leading men needy and venal, their common men ready to follow any liberal recruiting officer, and even the cantonal governments lacked coercive force. Thus the fine military qualities so often displayed by them in these wars had hitherto served only to win the mercenary's pittance. French victories would have been impossible without Swiss aid; French disasters had fallen mainly on the Swiss. But latterly they had risen to a higher sense of their own value; their arrogant behaviour and exorbitant demands had begun to fatigue the French paymaster. Relations, which had never been easy, had now become decidedly unfriendly; for the French King had refused the Swiss terms, and discharged his unruly levies, intending in future to draw his infantry from Germany, the Orisons, and the Valais. Moreover the ten years' treaty of 1499 had run to a close, and Louis showed no great eagerness for its renewal.
Already in 1506-7 the Emperor had tried to shake the Franco-Swiss alliance, and lavish expenditure had been needed to neutralise his influence. For the expedition against Imperial Genoa it had been necessary first to hoodwink, afterwards to ignore, the Swiss authorities. The Swiss who fought at Agnadello were illicit volunteers. It was the task of Julius to turn Swiss dissatisfaction to his own ends, and for this purpose he had an admirable instrument in Matthaus Schinner, Bishop of Sion. A man of energy and ambition, plausible and energetic, the enemy of France, Schinner was early in 1510 set to win the Cantons and the Diet for the Pope, and a defensive alliance was concluded. In July the Diet was asked to give effect to this agreement by assisting the Pope in the invasion of Ferrara, which persisted in hostility against Venice. To comply was an act of open hostility to France, the ally of Ferrara; moreover, Ferrara could only be reached through Milanese territory. However, the influence of Schinner prevailed, and 10,000 men set out. The Diet still hesitated; French gold was at work; Chaumont d'Amboise was prepared to resist any attack on the Milanese; the Swiss, without artillery and scant of victual, did not venture to advance beyond the land which lies between Como and the Lago Maggiore. In all their movements they were closely followed by the French, and finally they were forced to retire without having effected anything (September). During the winter negotiations proceeded between the Pope and the Swiss, the latter pressing in vain for the pay of the troops supplied. Meanwhile the offers of the King of France were met by the determined opposition of the Forest Cantons, whose antagonism to the French was growing, increased by measures directed against their trade with Milan. Maximilian, on the other hand, succeeded in concluding (February, 1511) a defensive treaty with a majority of the Cantons in favour of his duchy of Austria and his county of Burgundy. Thus the greatest powers of Europe were treating as equals with the league of peasants and burghers.
Meanwhile in the war France had held her own. An attack by sea and land on Genoa failed ignominiously. The efforts directed by Julius against Ferrara led only to the capture of Modena. Nor did Louis despise ecclesiastical weapons. A synod of French clergy at Tours (September, 1510) declared the King justified in making war on the Pope in defence of his States and his allies, and called for the summons of a General Council. Embarking on this plan with the support of the Emperor, the King was able to attract five cardinals to his side, who not long after issued an invitation to a General Council to be held at Pisa in September, 1511. Pressing on at the same time in arms, Chaumont d'Amboise threatened Bologna, where the Pope lay ill. The danger was extreme; but the unconquerable vigour of the Pope and opportune assistance from Venice averted the worst. Having repulsed the French, the Pope urged forward his schemes against Ferrara; taking the field himself in the snows of winter, he occupied Concordia, and besieged and took Mirandola (January, 1511). There his successes stopped. Trivulzio, who assumed the command after the death of Chaumont (February, 1511), recovered Concordia and Mirandola, and in May Bologna was abandoned to him. The Pope retired to Ravenna. Misfortune brought with it dissension. The Pope's nephew and commander-in-chief, the Duke of Urbino, charged by the Pope's favourite, Cardinal Alidosi, legate of Bologna, with the blame for the loss of that city, and unable to get support from his uncle, fell upon his accuser and slew him. The Pope's fortunes were at their lowest ebb, but his will was unshaken. Returning to Rome, he met the hostile summons to a General Council by summoning a Council of his own to meet at the Lateran in April, 1512. For material help he turned to Spain; but in the crisis of discussion fell sick almost to death. Baffling his enemies by a complete recovery, he fortified himself against them by concluding with Venice and Spain in October, 1511, the Holy League for the recovery of all papal territory. It was soon afterwards joined by Henry VIII.
The Swiss also aided the papal plans, while making war for the first time on their own behalf. The failure of 1510 still rankled, and the commercial hostility of the Forest Cantons together with the hope of Milanese booty predisposed not only the soldiers of fortune, but also the governments, to warlike action. ,A grievance of Schwyz having been lightly treated by Louis, the Schwyzers took up arms (November, 1511) and summoned their allies. The call was obeyed, and towards the end of the month troops were collecting on the old marshalling ground between the lakes. Venetian aid was solicited and promised. Gaston de Foix, now Governor of Milan, was menaced at the same time on the side of Parma and Bologna. With the scanty forces at his disposal he could only impede, not prevent, the advance of the enemy towards Milan. But there the Swiss successes ended. They were unable to undertake the siege of Milan. No help came from Venice or the Pope; and the invaders were obliged to retreat, which they did in great disorder.
In spite of this second rebuff, the opening months of 1512 saw once more the King of France and the other Powers competing for the favour of the Swiss. The King of France was unable to satisfy their inordinate demands. Yet his need of an ally was extreme. The English and the Spaniards were threatening an invasion of France. Brescia and Bergamo had been recovered by Venice (January, 1512). The forces of the Holy League were menacing Ferrara and Bologna. Maximilian was vacillating, and in April concluded a truce with the Pope and Venice. Momentary relief was brought by the brilliant and brief career of Gaston de Foix, duke of Nemours. Early in the year 1512, the young general repulsed a dangerous attack of the allied forces directed against Bologna, and, on hearing of the fall of Brescia, he at once withdrew from Bologna all the forces that could be spared, crossed the Mantuan lands without leave, met and defeated Giampaolo at Isola della Scala, and in nine days presented himself before Brescia, assaulted, captured, and sacked the city. But in view of Maximilian's change of front it was urgent to achieve some still more notable success, before the Germans serving in the French army might be withdrawn. Having in vain endeavoured to induce the Spanish viceroy, Ramon de Cardona, to give battle in the Romagna, Gaston marched against Ravenna, and assaulted the town. To save this important place the forces of the league approached, and entrenched themselves to the south of the Ronco. During the night of the 10th of April Gaston threw a bridge over the river, and on the following morning, Easter-day, he led his troops across and attacked the position of his enemies. They were strongly fortified. On the left they were protected by the river, while their front was covered by a line of armed waggons guarded by the infantry of Pedro Navarra. The engagement opened with an artillery duel, which lasted some time without conspicuous result, until Alfonso d'Este, seeing an opportunity, led round his excellent and mobile artillery and directed it against the enemy's flank. The fire proved so galling that the Italian men-at-arms left their breastworks to attack the French. After the hand-to-hand engagement had begun between the cavalry on both sides, the Germans attacked the Spanish infantry behind their waggon wall, and a desperate battle resulted in a French victory. The Italian men-at-arms were defeated and broken, and Fabrizio Colonna was captured; but the Spanish infantry withdrew in good order. The French commander, rashly charging with a few horsemen on a body of Spanish foot who were retreating along a causeway, was unhorsed and killed. Yves d'Allegre also perished in the encounter. Navarra was a prisoner. Ramon de Cardona escaped by flight. The complete victory, and the capture of Ravenna on the following day, were dearly bought by the loss of so vigorous a leader as Gaston de Foix. La Palice, who found himself by seniority in the chief command, was not qualified to make the most of a great victory, or to impose his authority on his motley army. The Pope amused the King with insincere negotiations, while pressing on the work of military reconstruction, and encouraging with Venetian help a fresh invasion of the Swiss. Unable to induce Venice to buy peace from the Emperor by the cession of Verona and Vicenza, Julius yet succeeded in procuring for her a truce. The Swiss, who began to move in May, were allowed free passage through Tyrol towards Verona. In May the adhesion of Maximilian to the League was proclaimed, though prematurely, by Julius, and in June the German infantry was ordered to leave the French army. The Council of Pisa had been a complete failure, and when removed to Milan fared no better. The Lateran Council, which met in May, 1512, though at first attended mainly by Italians, had far more of the appearance, and of the inner conviction, of authority. The pressure, which after Ravenna had appeared so urgent that there had been talk of bringing Gonzalo into the field as chief commander of the Holy League, was relaxing. The French were without a consistent policy. La Palice was first recalled to Milan, and then ordered into the Romagna to strike, if possible, a decisive blow. Part of his troops had been disbanded for financial reasons; others had been sent home. His enterprise in the Romagna could hardly have succeeded; but while yet on the way he was recalled for the defence of Milan.
The Swiss Diet had in April determined to act in concert with the League. The effort which followed was national and imposing. The Swiss army, not less than 20,000 strong, was mustered at Chur, and thence made its way by different paths to Trent, where Venetian emissaries welcomed them. The Spanish and papal army was advancing to occupy Rimini, Cesena, Ravenna, and threatening Bologna. The Venetian forces joined the Swiss at Villafranca in the Veronese, after Schinner had with difficulty dispelled the suspicions and satisfied the demands of these dangerous allies. La Palice had garrisoned the most important places, and lay in the neighbourhood ready to repeat the defensive strategy which had proved so useful in 1510 and 1511. But his forces were insufficient, and, on his retiring to Cremona, they were still further diminished by the loss of 4000 Landsknechte, withdrawn by the Emperor's command. Thence la Palice fell back to Pizzighetone, and again to Pavia, whence, a few days after the arrival of the enemy on the 14th of June, he again retreated, not without difficulty. Hereupon the French, abandoning all further resistance, made for the Alps. Meanwhile Trivulzio had evacuated Milan. Only the castles of Milan, Cremona, and Brescia, and the Lanterna of Genoa were still in French hands.
It remained to dispose of the conquered territory. Julius recovered without difficulty Ravenna, Bologna, and the rest of the Romagna. His commander, the Duke of Urbino, easily occupied Reggio and Modena, though Alfonso d'Este refused any settlement that would deprive him of Ferrara. The congress of allies which met at Mantua in August made over to the Pope Parma and Piacenza, to which he had at best a shadowy claim. The Emperor and Ferdinand would have been glad to give Milan to their grandson, Charles; but the Swiss were in possession and, supported by the Pope, made their will good. The duchy was given to Massimiliano Sforza, son of Ludovico, who in return ceded Locarno, Lugano, and Domo d1 Ossola to his Swiss protectors. The Venetian claims were left unsettled. Brescia still held out. The Swiss claimed Cremona and the Ghiara d1 Adda for the duchy. The Emperor demanded Vicenza and Verona. Florence, who in 1509 had ended her long war by the recovery of Pisa, was punished for her support of France by the restoration of the Medici, effected by the arms of Ramon de Cardona, and with the consent of the Pope. Julius1 policy had reached a point of triumph. Much had been done for Rome, and something for Italy; but much yet remained to do, before the barbarians could be expelled. The complicated problems had not been solved, and, before Julius' death in February, 1513, new difficulties had arisen. In order to secure the recognition of his Lateran Council by Maximilian, Julius had to make at least a show of sacrificing Venice, who obstinately refused to give up Vicenza and Verona. The new league of Pope and Emperor, compacted in November, 1512, was bound to suggest the reconciliation of Venice and France, and before the year was out overtures were made, which in March, 1513, led to a renewal of the Franco-Venetian league. On the other hand, the question of Ferrara was not decided, and imperial rights conflicted with papal pretensions in Parma and Piacenza, Modena and Reggio. The advance of the Spanish army into Lombardy, and its occupation of Brescia, threatened Italian freedom in every direction. The Swiss had been called into Milan as deliverers; they remained as masters. These problems were bequeathed by Julius to his successor, Giovanni de' Medici (Leo X).
During the period of the Swiss conquest of Milan Louis had been in great straits. The English had landed at Guipuscoa to join with the Spaniards in invading France, and although the only result was the conquest of Navarre, the danger had been serious. The retirement of the English, and a truce with Ferdinand on the Pyrenean frontier relieved the French King, and the Venetian alliance gave him strength. With the Swiss it was impossible to come to terms. But the dissatisfaction of the Milanese with the costly, oppressive, and disorderly rule of the Swiss, complicated as if was by the collateral authority of the Emperor's commissioners and of the Spanish viceroy, made the King hopeful of support in the duchy. In April the army of France, strengthened by a powerful force of Landsknechte, recruited in the Emperor's despite, was ready to cross the Alps, under Louis de la Tremouille and Trivulzio. The Guelf party rose to receive them. In May the Venetian army under Alviano, now at length released, began to advance and occupied the country to Cremona. The French party was set up in Genoa by the aid of a French fleet. Cardona remained inactive at Piacenza. At the end of the month only Novara and Como remained faithful to Sforza. On the third of June the French army lay before Novara, which was held by the Swiss. After a fruitless attack on the town, the French withdrew to Trecate, a place in the neighbourhood. Meanwhile Swiss reinforcements had reached Novara, and on the 6th of June the whole force swarmed out to attack the French. Advancing under cover of a wood they surprised the French outposts. When serious business began, the Swiss foot, unsupported by horse and artillery, carried the day by sheer force and fury. It is said that 8,000 fell on the side of the French, although the pursuit was ineffective for lack of horse. All the artillery and stores fell into the hands of the Swiss. Thus Milan was once more lost and won. The French retreated hastily by Vercelli, Susa, and the Mont Cenis. The power of Massimiliano, or rather of the Swiss, was easily restored throughout the duchy. The Venetians fell back, and their recent conquests were re-occupied by Cardona, and the imperial troops, who inflicted on them a serious defeat. But no combination of disasters could bend the Signoria to accept the Emperor's terms.
French prestige was low in 1513. Henry VIII routed the famous French cavalry at Guinegaste and captured Terouanne. The Swiss invaded Burgundy with imperial aid, and la Tremouille was forced to ransom the province and its capital, by the promise to surrender Milan and pay 400,000 crowns. The refusal of Louis to ratify this bargain hardly improved the situation. But towards the end of the year he recovered the papal friendship by recognising the Lateran Council, and abandoning the schismatic cardinals. The remainder of his reign, until his death in January, 1515, was spent in preparations, military and diplomatic, for the recovery of his lost position in Europe. Various marriage arrangements were mooted, of which only one came into effect, the third marriage of Louis, with Mary the sister of Henry VIII. The alliance with Venice was maintained; with the rest of the European powers a relation ensued of precarious hostility, tempered by more or less insincere offers of friendship.
Thus the accession of Francis of Angouleme found France prepared for war, and secured at least on the side of England. The gallant young King was eager for the paths of glory. His enemies made ready to receive him,—Ferdinand, the Swiss, and Maximilian with unequivocal hostility, the Pope prepared to accept a profitable compromise. But Francis could not pay Leo's price, which was nothing less than Naples for Giuliano de' Medici. Thus of the Italian powers Venice alone stood on his side.
The lack of Swiss foot-soldiers was supplied partly by German levies, partly by recruits raised by Pedro Navarra, who had entered French service, on the frontiers of France and Spain. The ordonnances were raised to 4,000 lances. Genoa was ready to join the French, and the Swiss, alarmed by rumours, sent a considerable reinforcement into Milan, which was employed to occupy Susa and the Alpine passes. In June and July a further and larger contingent entered the Milanese. Lack of pay and provision soon made itself felt, to the damage of discipline and goodwill. However the promise of papal and Florentine help eased the situation.
At length in August the French army, more powerful than any that had been hitherto raised in these wars, was ready to move. To avoid the passes held by the Swiss, Trivulzio led the bulk of the army by an unknown road over the Col d'Argentiere, while another force advanced by the Maritime Alps towards Genoa. The French vanguard surprised by their unexpected arrival a body of Italian horse under Prospero Colonna, whom they defeated and captured at Villafranca near Saluzzo. The Swiss, surprised and disconcerted, short of pay and provisions, mistrustful of their allies, determined to retreat by Ivrea to Vercelli and wait for reinforcements.
Here disunion and divergent counsels led to further undecided and unconcerted movements and left the way open to the French, who only at Novara met some slight resistance. But reinforcements came across the Alps; and at the beginning of September considerable bodies of Swiss lay at Domo d1 Ossola, Varese, and Monza, unable to agree on any plan for joint action or even for concentration. Meanwhile negotiations were in progress at Gallerate, the French showing themselves ready to make considerable money grants, and offering Sforza compensation in France. On the 9th of September an agreement was actually sealed. Foremost among the peace party were the towns of Bern, Freiburg, and Solothurn. But the army, now at length partly concentrated at Monza, was ill-satisfied with the terms, and especially the men of Uri, Schwyzt and Glarus. These determined to reject the treaty and move on Milan,, where the party favourable to France had recently been overthrown.
At this moment the distribution of the various forces was as follows. The French lay at Binasco, the Swiss at Monza; Alviano near Cremona; Cardona with the Spanish, and Lorenzo de1 Medici with the papal army, near Piacenza. Cardona and Lorenzo with good reason mistrusted each other, and were mistrusted by the Swiss. But the latter were at length determined by the influence of Schinner to reject all overtures for peace, and advance against the enemy. On the 10th of September the Swiss army was in Milan. Meanwhile the French army had moved to a position S.S.E. of Milan near Marignano', in order to be in easier touch with Alviano, who had occupied Lodi.
The Swiss were still undecided and discordant. Schinner and the enemies of peace built their hopes on the effects of a casual encounter, which actually took place on September 13 and precipitated a general engagement. The Forest Cantons led the way to the attack, the others followed, not altogether willing. The French lay encamped along the road from Milan to Marignano. The front lay near San Donato, the rear-guard between San Giuliano and Marignano. The camp was strongly fortified, and the land on each side of the road made difficult by irrigation canals. The attack began late in the day. The French vanguard, in spite of the damage caused by their artillery, was thrown into some confusion, and the Landsknechte were broken. Then the centre received the assault, but withstood it. Night fell upon the combatants, and the struggle was renewed with earliest dawn. Order had been in some measure restored. It was indeed a battle of the giants. The Swiss held their own before the repeated charges of the heavy-armed French horse, and had developed a formidable flank attack on the French rear-guard. Secure of victory they had sent a detachment to break down a bridge in the enemy's rear, when Alviano came up with a part of the Venetian horse, and, as much by the moral as by the material effect of his, arrival, restored the tottering fortunes of the French. Towards mid-day the defeated army withdrew in good order with its wounded towards Milan. The pursuit was not vigorous, for the victors were exhausted, and their losses, if not so heavy as those of the Swiss, were serious. Two days after the fight the Swiss started for home, since no money was forthcoming for their needs. They made their retreat by Como, harassed by Venetian Stradiots.
The success of Francis was complete. Cardona withdrew to Naples. The Pope began to treat. The Swiss, though the Forest Cantons were opposed to peace, were sick of a league which had left all the hard work to them and did not even supply the sinews of war. Sforza surrendered the castles of Milan and Cremona and became a pensioner of France. In December the Pope and King met in Bologna, and conditions were arranged which restored peace between the Holy See and the Most Christian King. But the claims of Venice still presented difficulties, and Maximilian could not acquiesce in the occupation of Milan. The Swiss League was seriously divided. Eight cantons were ready for a peace, even for a league with France, but five were eager to renew the struggle. With the aid of these latter Maximilian invaded Milan in March, 1516; but the Swiss were unwilling to fight against their countrymen in French service, and finally the imperial host broke up. In November the whole Swiss League concluded an everlasting peace with Francis. Early in the same year Ferdinand had died, and his successor, Charles, was not for the present ready to take up his heritage of hostility to France. So at Noyon it was arranged between Charles and Francis to dispose of Naples by way of marriage (August, 1516); and at length, in December, the Emperor made terms at Brussels, which closed the war of Cambray by a precarious truce. Soon after Verona was restored to Venice, who had in the interval conquered Brescia.
Here we may halt, while war is hushed awhile, to glance at the results of all these years of strife. France is established temporarily in Milan, Spain more lastingly in Naples. The extent of the papal possessions has been increased, and the papal rule therein has been made firmer and more direct. A close alliance between the Papacy and the interests of the Medici family has been established. Venice has recovered all her territory, though the sacrifices of the war and the shifting of trade-routes will prevent her from ever rising again to her former pride of place. The short-lived appearance of the Swiss among the great and independent powers of Europe is at an end. The international forces of the West have assumed the forms and the proportions that they are to retain for many years to come.
Little has been accomplished to compensate for all this outpouring of blood and treasure. The political union of the Italian nation is as far removed as ever. Misfortune has proved no cure for moral degeneration. Little patriotism worthy of the name has been called out by these cruel trials; the obstinate resistance of Pisa, the steadfastness and endurance of Venice, show local patriotism at its best, but Italian patriotism is far to seek.
Though almost every province of Italy has been devastated in its turn, though many flourishing cities have been sacked, and the wealth of all has been drained by hostile or protecting armies, literature, learning, and art do not appear at first to feel the blight. The age of the war of Cambray is also the age of Bramante, Michel Angelo, and Raffaelle. Julius II is not only the scourge of Italy, but the patron of art. The greatest or at least the most magnificent age of Venetian art is the age of her political and commercial declension. The vigorous vitality that had been fostered in half a century of comparative peace served to sustain the Renaissance movement through many years of war and waste. Peace multiplies wealth, and art is the fosterchild of wealth; but wealth is not its true parent. No statistician's curve can render visible the many causes of the rise and fall of art. The definite decline, which is perceptible after the sack of Rome, may be due in part to economic changes, and those to the influence of war, but its fundamental causes are spiritual and moral, and elude all material estimation.
As a chapter in military history the period is full of interest. The individual heroism of panoplied knights still plays its part amid the shock of disciplined armies at Novara or at Marignano. Yet in all the battles and campaigns we see the tactics and strategy of infantry working towards a higher evolution, in which Swiss and German and Spaniard each bears his part. Hand fire-arms, though constantly employed, seldom appear to influence results. On the other hand at Ravenna the skilful use of artillery determined for the first time the issue of an important battle. And the art of military engineers, especially that of mining, shows considerable advance.
War plays its part in promoting the intercourse of nations and in spreading the arts of peace. Captive Italy made her domination felt, not only in France, but also in Germany and Spain. But apart from this meagre and indirect result we look in vain for any of the higher motives or tendencies that sometimes direct the course of armies and the movement of nations. Greed, ambition, the lust of battle, the interests of dynasties, such are the forces that seem to rule the fate of Italy and Europe. Yet amidst this chaos of blind and soulless strife the scheme and equilibrium of the western world is gradually taking shape.