Friday, 6 January 2017

French King, Louis XI

Louis XI (3 July 1423 – 30 August 1483), called the Prudent (French: le Prudent), was a monarch of the House of Valois who ruled as King of France from 1461 to 1483. He succeeded his father Charles VII. Louis was a devious and disobedient Dauphin of France who entered into open rebellion against his father in a short-lived revolt known as the Praguerie in 1440. The king forgave his rebellious vassals, including Louis, to whom he entrusted the management of the Dauphiné, then a province in southeastern France. Louis's ceaseless intrigues, however, led his father to banish him from court.

From the Dauphiné, Louis led his own political establishment and married Charlotte of Savoy, daughter of Louis, Duke of Savoy, against the will of his father. Charles VII sent an army to compel his son to his will, but Louis fled to Burgundy, where he was hosted by Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, Charles' greatest enemy.
In this painting by Jean Fouquet, Louis's father Charles VII is depicted as one of the three magi, and it is assumed that Louis XI, then Dauphin, is one of the other two.
 When Charles VII died in 1461, Louis left the Burgundian court to take possession of his kingdom. His taste for intrigue and his intense diplomatic activity earned him the nicknames the Cunning (Middle French: le rusé) and the Universal Spider (Middle French: l'universelle aragne), as his enemies accused him of spinning webs of plots and conspiracies.

In 1472, the subsequent Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, took up arms against his rival Louis. However, Louis was able to isolate Charles from his English allies by signing the Treaty of Picquigny (1475) with Edward IV of England. The treaty formally ended the Hundred Years' War. With the death of Charles the Bold at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, the dynasty of the dukes of Burgundy died out. Louis took advantage of the situation to seize numerous Burgundian territories, including Burgundy proper and Picardy.
Jean Fouquet

Without direct foreign threats, Louis was able to eliminate his rebellious vassals, expand royal power, and strengthen the economic development of his country. He died in 1483 and was succeeded by his son Charles VIII. At the same time that France and Burgundy were fighting each other, England was experiencing a bitter civil conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Louis had an interest in this war, since the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, was allied with the Yorkists who opposed King Henry VI.

When the Earl of Warwick fell out with the Yorkist King Edward IV, after helping Edward attain his throne, Louis granted Warwick refuge in France. Through Louis's diplomacy, Warwick then formed an alliance with his bitter enemy Margaret of Anjou in order to restore her husband Henry VI to the throne. The plan worked, and Edward was forced into exile, but he later returned to England. Warwick was then killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. King Henry VI was soon murdered afterwards.

Now the undisputed master of England, Edward invaded France in 1475, but Louis was able to negotiate the Treaty of Picquigny, by which the English army left France in return for a large sum of money. The English renounced their claim to French lands such as Normandy, and the Hundred Years' War could be said to be finally over. Louis bragged that although his father had driven the English out by force of arms, he had driven them out by force of pâté, venison, and good French wine.

Just as his father had done, Louis spent most of his reign dealing with political disputes with the reigning Duke of Burgundy, and for this purpose he employed the Swiss, whose military might was renowned. He had admired it himself at the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs. War broke out between Charles and the Swiss after he invaded Switzerland. The invasion proved to be a tremendous mistake. On 2 March 1476, the Swiss attacked and defeated the Burgundians at Grandson. On 5 January 1477, the duke was actually killed at the Battle of Nancy, an event that marked the end of the Burgundian Wars.
Coin of Louis XI, struck ca. 1470
Louis thus was able to see the destruction his sworn enemy. Other lords who still favored the feudal system gave in to his authority. Still others, such as Jacques d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, were executed. The lands belonging to the Duchy of Burgundy as constituted by Louis's great-great-grandfather John II for the benefit of his son Philip the Bold reverted to the crown of France

Louis developed his kingdom by encouraging trade fairs and the building and maintenance of roads. Louis XI pursued the organization of the kingdom of France with the assistance of bourgeois officials. In some respects, Louis XI perfected the framework of the modern French Government which was to last until the French Revolution. Thus, Louis XI is one of the first modern kings of France who helped take it out of the Middle Ages. Louis XI was very superstitious and surrounded himself with astrologers. Interested in science, he once pardoned a man sentenced to death on condition that he serve as a guinea pig for a gallstone operation.

Through war, cunning, and sheer guile, Louis XI overcame France's feudal lords, and at the time of his death in the Château de Plessis-lez-Tours, he had united France and laid the foundations of a strong monarchy. He was, however, a secretive, reclusive man, and few mourned his death. Despite Louis XI's political acumen and overall policy of Realpolitik, Niccolò Machiavelli actually criticized Louis harshly in Chapter 13 of the The Prince, calling him shortsighted and imprudent for abolishing his own infantry in favor of Swiss mercenaries.

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