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Title: The End of the Middle Ages
Author: Robinson, A. Mary F. (Agnes Mary Frances)
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_. Superscripts,
e.g. the abbreviation for ‘folio’, are indicated as ‘f^o’ or ‘f^{os}’,
where there are more than one character.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any issues encountered during its preparation.

Footnotes, which appeared at the bottom of the page, have been moved to
appear after the paragraph in which they are referenced. They have been
renumbered sequentially for uniqueness.

                               THE END OF
                            THE MIDDLE AGES


                          A. MARY F. ROBINSON
                      (_Madame James Darmesteter_)

                             T FISHER UNWIN
                         26 PATERNOSTER SQUARE




MY DEAR MR. SYMONDS,—_I send you a little book; different from the many
volumes, plump with documents and the dignity of History, which I
intended for you long ago. But, since I have no better thing to offer,
take—dear Master—these rough and scattered pages. For to whom, if not to
you, should I dedicate the book? When I look back, I see you at my side
in all my studies; for the last ten years, there is not one of them
which has not been confided to you, and, most of all, my dreams of
History. So that whatever I write belongs in some sort to you; but
especially this little volume of which we talked so much in your study
at Davos two years ago. Do you remember how you guided me through the
innumerable pages of Litta and of Muratori in quest of the secret of the
French Claim to Milan? We did not find much of that, but we found so
many better things; and, best of all, the happy hours which you
illuminated! Hours in which you evoked for me, as we plunged deeper and
deeper into your Chronicles, the great figures of the Past. At first
they rose before me, pale and mute—silent and immaculate as the white
recesses of your Alps; but, at the touch of your wand, they assumed
their ancient colour and consistence—the very smile, the gait, the
accent, the passions, that had moved them once beneath this sun that has
survived them; their voices magically issued out of the silent yellow
pages; the sound of their battles clashed anew along your windless
valleys and eagle-haunted mountain tops. And, once alive, they remained
alive for me._

_As I sat and wondered, a new desire awoke in me, an eager wish to seize
these brilliant apparitions, to strip them of their faded purple, to
strip them of their form and colour, to lay them bare to their innermost
tissue and catch the reason and the secret of their being._

_And, first of all, to understand exactly what they did, and when, and
why. Our beautiful chronicles were not always quite precise. I began to
see that what I wanted must be sought in manuscripts and foreign
archives. And, half afraid, I told you of my project for exchanging a
cheerful holiday in Switzerland against a week or two of dull research
in Paris. Since then I have worked long and hard, in Paris, in London,
in Florence, and the writing of dead hands has grown familiar to me; but
I have never forgotten that it was first in the solitude of your lofty
valley, that my task grew plain before my mind. And now to whom, if not
to you should I offer these scattered ruins of the thing undone—these
first ineffectual sketches of that_ History of the French in Italy,
_which still I mean to write? From Davos they took their flight; let
them seek the nest again!_

_If I had better profited by your lessons and your example, it would not
have been a mere sheaf of fragments that I should have offered you
to-day, but a Book, a solid and coherent whole consistently animated, in
all the complexity and the unity of its subject, by an epoch, an idea, a
man, or an event. Nothing else is really durable, permanently useful. It
is true that I have tried (and may the candour of this avowal excuse its
weakness!)—yes, I have tried, after the manner of essayists, to give an
apparent unity to my fragments by means of a title, large and
comfortable as the cloak of charity which covers in its vague expanse a
host of strangers._

_For, after all, what has Schwester Katrei to do with Charles VIII., or
Isotta of Rimini with Mechtild of Magdeburg? Shall I avow that the
volume is really the fragmentary essays towards two unwritten
histories—one of the house of Hohenstaufen, the other of the French in
Italy? Also I can imagine you remarking that, from the thirteenth
century to the sixteenth, my Middle Ages take long a-dying:_

           “_Les gens que vous tuez se portent assez bien._”

_And you might add that in a book on the end of the Middle Ages, it is
strange to find not a line on the Loss of Constantinople, and not a
chapter on the invention of Printing or the Discovery of America._

_What can I do but acknowledge my incompleteness? Nay, I will even
confess to you that I have my private doubts whether the Middle Ages are
over yet—whether any period comes to an end at a given epoch, but does
not rather still subsist, diminished yet puissant, stealing in unnoticed
currents along the vast veins and secret fabric of the world. In many a
turn of thought and habit, in many a disregarded constitution—in May Day
and Manor Court, in the Land laws and the Judenhetze—the Middle Ages are
not over yet. Here and there they reappear and startle us in unexpected
corners. That form of Nature which we know as History is, like every
other evolution of Nature, too complex to be accurately fixed in words.
Words only give the vague surroundings; they are the ill-fitting,
ready-made clothes of a thought._

_Therefore, despite their official end, we may doubt whether we be done
with the Middle Ages. And yet you will agree with me that the personages
of my essays belong no longer wholly to the age in which they lived.
Something came to an end then; something slowly began. Race of Cain and
race of Abel, mystics lost in ecstasy, or captains of prey and
plunder,—yet Eckhart, the forerunner of Hegel, and the sinister
Giangaleazzo dreaming in a different fashion the dream of Count Cavour,
was each unconsciously a precursor of the Modern Age._

                  *       *       *       *       *

_The Beguines, bringing the dissolvent of mysticism to the authority of
Rome; the Pope, in quitting his true capital for Avignon; the Cardinals
by opening the Schism: these, between them, have invented the
Reformation.... Giangaleazzo Visconti, when he made his daughter of
Orleans his heir, prepared the battles of Marignano and Pavia, and
condemned Francis I. to his captivity in Spain. Even as the Feud of
Orleans and Burgundy began the long rivalry of Francis and the Emperor,
the great descendants of those angry houses.... Meanwhile the numerous
invasions of Italy under the Dukes of Orleans, and still later, the
triumphal journey of Charles VIII., brought back to France the splendour
of the Renaissance. Thus Hallam closes the Middle Ages with the taking
of Naples, in 1494. However this be, if you are indulgent, dear Master,
you may consider my essays a very humble and inadequate Introduction to
the study of your Sixteenth Century._

_Perhaps I am the only reader who will have learned anything from the
little book. And, after all, I am contented that it should be so. It is
so much pleasanter to learn than to instruct; and in learning one meets
with so many friends and helpers. I cannot tell you here of all who have
befriended me, but I must at least mention to you the names of Canon
Creighton, unfailing critic and sympathizer; of Mr. Bryce, who reached
out an experienced hand to me and spared me several more mistakes in
Feudal Law; of Mr. H.F. Brown of Venice, who procured me my Venetian
transcripts; of Professor Villari and Professor Paoli of Florence (it
was the latter who taught me Palæography); and of Comte Albert de
Circourt of Paris, in whom I have found a quite invaluable adviser and
correspondent,—for probably no historian in Europe is so familiar with
the Lombard schemes of Louis d’Orléans as he._

                  *       *       *       *       *

_To you I owe the largest debt of all. It is not only for the writing of
a book I thank you here--_

                                     _Ever sincerely yours_,

                                             A. MARY F. DARMESTETER.




 In 1180, Lambert of Liége founds the first Beguinage; the             8
    rapid spread of the Order; invention of the kindred
   guild of the Beghards or Fratres Textores

 In 1216 the invention of the Tertiary Orders of St. Dominic          12
      and St. Francis supplies a monastic equivalent for

 Beguinism is awhile preserved from decadence by the prestige         14
       of Mechtild of Magdeburg

 After her death, heresy and mysticism swiftly undermine              24
   the Beguine Orders

 Opinions of the Beguines                                             25

 The Church resolves on their suppression                             29

 The plague of the Wandering Orders                                   30

 The Beguines are absorbed into the Tertiary Orders                   31

 The Beguines of Strasburg join the Dominican Order                   32

 And heresy begins to appear among the Dominicans of                  33

 Meister Eckhart and his doctrines                                    33

 Swester Katrei                                                       34

 The Beguines are suppressed; but their ideas, stealthily             38
   kept alive in quiet places, burst out again in the XVI.

                        THE CONVENT OF HELFTA. >

 Religious distinction of Thuringia in the 13th century               45

 Gertrude of Helfta enters the Convent of Rodardesdorf                46
   about 1234; arrival of her sister Mechtild

 Life in the Convent                                                  48

 In 1251 Gertrude is elected Abbess                                   55

 And removes the Convent to her Castle of Helfta                      56

 Mechtild of Magdeburg enters the Convent, 1265                       57

 The miracles of St. Gertrude                                         61

 Death of Mechtild of Magdeburg                                       67

 Illness of St. Gertrude                                              68

 Her death                                                            71

                     THE ATTRACTION OF THE ABYSS. >

 The science of Mysticism                                             74

 The bottom of the Soul                                               75

 The Soul and God alone real, the world non-existent                  75

 The bottom of the Soul is Nothingness                                 8

 God is the supreme Non-Existence                                     82

 And created Matter _purum nihil_                                     84

 The world is Nothing                                                 85

 Superiority of the position of the Mystics to the position           87
   of     Theologians

                              THE SCHISM. >

 The Pope comes to Avignon. The Popes remain there                    95
   seventy years. In 1377 the Pope re-enters Rome

 Changed aspect of Rome                                               96

 Robert of Geneva leads the Papal armies against the Italians         97
       on revolt

 Death of Gregory XI. The Conclave in Rome                            97

 Bartolommeo Prignano is elected                                      97

 Triumph of the Italian party                                         98

 The unpopularity of Prignano as Urban VI.                            99

 The rumour grows that his election was invalid. In                  100
   September,     1378, Robert of Geneva is elected Pope at
     Fondi as Clement VII.

 The Schism                                                          100

                          VALENTINE VISCONTI. >

 Birth of Valentine Visconti, 1366                                   102

 Her parentage and childhood                                         103

 The rise of her father, Giangaleazzo                                104

 Description of Valentine                                            107

 Conquests of Giangaleazzo                                           110

 Valentine Visconti is betrothed to Louis, only brother of           111
    Charles VI. of France

 Reasons for the marriage                                            112

 The dowry of Valentine                                              113

 Antagonism of Prince Louis to his uncle of Burgundy                 115

 Burgundy resists the marriage                                       116

 Valentine arrives at Court                                          118

 Description of the King and Orleans                                 119

 Mediæval Paris                                                      122

 Ascendancy of Valentine over the King                               127

 Her husband acquires the Duchy of Orleans, 1391                     128

 The King goes mad                                                   129

 The people suspect Orleans                                          131

 And say the Duke of Orleans is a wizard                             133

 Madness of the King                                                 134

 People say that Valentine is a witch, and that she and her          137
     husband compass the King’s madness

 Reasons for popular irritation against Valentine                    138

 Rivalry of France and Visconti in Genoa                             139

 Visconti and Orleans play into each other’s hands                   140

 The Kingdom of Adria                                                145

 Death of Clement VII.                                               146

 France checkmates Orleans and Visconti in Genoa                     147

 There is talk in France of a Lombard campaign                       149

 But the disaster of Nicopolis compels the French to keep            150
   friends with Milan

 Nicopolis                                                           151

 Tyranny of Orleans in France                                        156

 Death of Giangaleazzo Visconti                                      162

 Orleans leads an army into Lombardy                                 164

 And suddenly returns to Paris                                       165

 The King bestows on him the royal claim to Pisa                     165

 The Florentines take Pisa                                           167

 And Orleans turns his ambition towards Luxemburg, to the            169
   detriment of Burgundy

 Orleans is murdered in Paris                                        170

 Burgundy avows the deed                                             173

 Valentine struggles to vindicate her husband’s memory               174

 She dies broken-hearted                                             178

                      THE FRENCH CLAIM TO MILAN. >

 Valentine Visconti brings the Milanese succession into the          181
     House of Orleans

 Her marriage contract provides that on extinction of male           184
    descent she shall inherit Milan

 The Duke of Milan thus disposes of an Imperial fief                 186

 Ambiguity of his conduct and intention                              189

 He intends to secure himself equally against France and             190
   against the Empire

 Unsubstantiality of Imperial power                                  192

 The will of Giangaleazzo Visconti confirms the French claim         193
      to Milan

 Fate of the children of Valentine                                   196

 Orleans and Angoulême, in 1441, send Dunois to Milan to             197
   demand the restitution of Asti from their uncle Filippo
    Maria Visconti

 Illness of the Duke of Milan                                        199

 The rival claims of his heirs                                       200

 He talks of adopting the Dauphin Louis                              202

 Meanwhile Louis and Savoy plan the conquest of Milan                203

 League between the Dauphin and the Duke of Milan                    205

 Death of the Duke of Milan                                          206

 His will                                                            207

 The French prepare to assert the rights of Orleans                  209

 Raynouard du Dresnay begins the campaign                            210

 The Duke of Orleans arrives at Asti, October 17, 1447               213

 He sends an embassy to Venice asking aid                            215

 The Venetians procrastinate                                         217

 Intrigues of Savoy                                                  220

 The Venetians determine to assassinate Francesco Sforza             221

 Suddenly the Milanese accept Sforza                                 229

 His position as regards Orleans, and before the feudal law          231

 The Venetians again determine to assassinate him                    233

 Efforts of Sforza to legalize his position                          237

 The Dauphin promises the Venetians to invade Italy, and             240
   dispossess Sforza

 In December, 1453, Venice incites the Dauphin to seize              241
   the Milanese and expel Sforza—She professes her
   readiness to aid him with men or money; or she will     do
   as much for the Duke of Orleans in the same undertaking.
     (A note quotes Venetian documents to show     how, about
   the same time, Genoa, Milan, Venice, and     Florence were
   taking measures to secure Italy against     invasion.)

 In April, 1459, Venice makes peace with Sforza                      242

 Opposite policy of Charles VII. and the Dauphin                     243

 Death of King Charles VII.                                          245

 Louis XI. becomes the firm ally of Sforza, but discards             245
   Savoy, Orleans, Dunois, and Anjou

 In December, 1463, Louis XI. cedes to Sforza the French             245
   claim to Genoa

 Death of Charles, Duke of Orleans                                   246

 Death of Louis XI., August 30, 1483                                 247

 January 16, 1484. Venice sends to Charles VIII. and to              250
   the young Duke of Orleans pointing out the French
   claim to Venice and to Naples

 The Embassy is renewed in February; but a new peace in              251
   Italy and the struggles of Orleans for the Regency in
   France postpone any further plans for a French invasion

 The invasion of Italy by Charles VIII. takes place in 1494          252
     at the instigation, not of Naples, but of Milan

 Illness detains Orleans at Asti, within a league or two of          252
     Lodovico Sforza at Milan

 Venice and Florence begin to intrigue with Orleans, and             254
   suggest that the French take Milan instead of Naples

 Giangaleazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, dies in prison                  257

 Rights of the Regent, Lodovico il Moro                              257

 A diploma from the Emperor declares him Duke                   256, 257

 The relation between the French and Lodovico Sforza                 258
   become strained

 In March, 1495, Venice, Milan, the Emperor, Castile, and            260
   Arragon unite in a league to expel the French, unless
   they retire without offence

 In June Orleans takes Novara                                        263

 The blockade of Novara. Orleans is released by composition          264

 Peace between France and the League is concluded in                 265
   October, 1495—The French evacuate Italy

 Florence entreats Orleans to invade Italy, and insists upon         266
      his rights to Milan, 1497

 Orleans refuses to leave France                                     266

 Death of Charles VIII.                                              267

 Orleans becomes King of France as Louis XII.                        267

 Louis XII. conquers Lombardy, 1499                                  268

 The Emperor confirms his victories, and annals the                  269
   privileges     bestowed on Lodovico Sforza

 Rights of Louis XII. and of Francis I. to Milan                     269

 The French lose Milan at the Battle of Pavia                        270

 Efforts to regain Milan, 1527-1536                                  271

 The treaty of Crépy                                                 271

 The death of Charles II. of Orleans leaves Milan to the             272

                      THE MALATESTAS OF RIMINI.  >

 Carlo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, being childless, adopts his        274
       dead brother’s three natural sons in 1427

 And procures their legitimation before his death in 1429            275

 He is succeeded by the eldest, Galeotto, a visionary ascetic        276

 In 1430 Gismondo, his younger brother, drives back the              279
   Papal armies and delivers Rimini, being at the time
   twelve years of age

 Galeotto expels the Jews                                            279

 And dies                                                            280

 Gismondo succeeds, drives back the armies of Urbino and             281
   Pesaro, betroths himself to the daughter of Carmagnola,
    and marries Ginevra of Este, 1432

 He rebuilds the Rocca, and becomes acquainted with Isotta           284
    degli Atti

 Character of Isotta                                                 285

 In 1440 the wife of Gismondo dies suddenly—In 1442 he               287
   marries, not Isotta, but the daughter of Sforza

 He rebuilds the church of Rimini in honour of Isotta                287

 Architecture and decoration                                     287-294

 Sudden death of Polissena Sforza                                    294

 Triumphs and treacheries of Gismondo as a captain                   295

 He deserts from Arragon to Anjou                                    296

 His reverses begin                                                  296

 At this moment his enemy, Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, is             296
   elected Pope, 1453

 The effigy of Gismondo is buried in the streets of Rome, and        297
   he is excommunicated

 He seeks help in vain of the Angevines at Naples                    297

 He marries Isotta, and leaves her as Regent in Rimini               297

 He hires himself to the Venetians, conducts the campaign            298
   of the Morea, and brings home the bones of Gemisthus
   Pletho in 1465

 Ruin and death of Gismondo Malatesta                                299

                         THE LADIES OF MILAN. >

 Murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1476                             300

 The Duchess Bonne and her children leave the conduct of             300
   affairs to Cecco Simonetta, secretary of the late Duke
   and of his father, the great Francesco Sforza

 Simonetta exiles the brothers of the late Duke                      301

 He falls out with the favourite of the Duchess, who                 302
   persuades     her to recall her brother-in-law, Lodovico
   il     Moro

 Lodovico returns secretly to Milan; beheads Simonetta               303

 And shuts his two little nephews in the Tower                       303

 He rules Milan by the title of Regent, and exiles the               304

 His nephew, Giangaleazzo Sforza, marries Isabel of Arragon,         305
      granddaughter of the King of Naples

 Lodovico Sforza marries Beatrice d’Este, daughter of the            306
   Duke of Ferrara

 Jealousies of Beatrice and Isabel                                   306

 Isabel appeals to Naples, and induces her father and                306
   grandfather     to declare war on Lodovico in defence of
   the     rights of Giangaleazzo

 Lodovico invites the French to invade Italy in support of           307
    the French claim to Naples, 1494

 Death of the Duchess Beatrice, January, 1496                        309

 Sforza and Visconti portraits                                       312

                   THE FLIGHT OF PIERO DE’ MEDICI.  >

 Charles VIII. invades Italy, 1494                                   315

 Enthusiasm of the people and of Savonarola for the              315-319

 Savonarola                                                          319

 Piero Capponi                                                       320

 Piero de’ Medici                                                    321

 His light-minded and frivolous government leaves Florence           322
    at the mercy of the French

 Piero secretly leaves Florence and goes to make terms with          325
     Charles VIII.

 Assents to the extravagant demands of the King                      331

 Indignation of Florence                                             335

 Piero is expelled the city                                          337

                         THE FRENCH AT PISA.  >

 Gabriel’ Maria Visconti, Lord of Pisa, declares himself the         340
      vassal of the King of France, 1404

 Marshal Boucicaut is sent as French Governor to Genoa,              341

 Character of Boucicaut                                              341

 His schemes for capturing a town in Lombardy                        341

 But his allies, the Florentines, are too busy in laying             342
   siege     to Pisa

 Louis of Orleans marches towards Lombardy, 1403                     343

 And suddenly returns to France                                      343

 Boucicaut having accepted Visconti as the vassal of the             345
   King for Pisa

 The King transfers to Orleans all the royal rights on Pisa          345

 Florence remonstrates with Boucicaut, her ally, asserting         345-8
    that she has more right than the French have to Pisa

 Meanwhile the Pisans expel Gabriel’ Maria Visconti, who             350
   takes refuge at Genoa, and demands succour of the
   French King, his liege lord

 Boucicaut attempts to arrange affairs _a l’amiable_                 351

 The Pisans refuse to accept Gabriel’ Maria, but offer to            351
   give themselves directly to France, even as Genoa had
   done before

 Boucicaut induces Gabriel’ Maria to accept a compensation,          352
     and sends a French garrison and a galley of provisions
     to Pisa

 The Pisans seize the crew of the galley, cast them into             352
   prison, and provision the city for a long resistance at
    Boucicaut’s expense

 Visconti sells Pisa to the Florentines                              353

 Boucicaut persuades the King of France to accept the                354
   Florentines as his vassals for Pisa

 The King agrees and signs a treaty to that effect; yet in           365
    the next year he declares Burgundy and Orleans Lords
   of Pisa, and bids Boucicaut help them against the
   Florentines. Boucicaut refuses

 The Florentines take Pisa. Anger in France. The Duke     of
   Orleans casts the Florentine ambassadors into     prison:
   they are released by his widow after his death

 Seventy years of slavery for Pisa                                   367

 But when, in 1494, Charles VIII. of France invades Italy            368

 He undertakes to maintain the Pisans in their liberties             369

 The Pisans expel the Florentines, and constitute themselves         369
      a Free Republic

 Divided opinions in the camp of Charles                             370

 Charles solemnly swears to Florence that he will restore            371
   Pisa on his return from Naples

 The Pisans send an advocate to the King in Rome, beseeching         373
      him not to deliver them to Florence

 Louis de Ligny—Luxemburg, with other adherents of the               376
   party of Orleans, favours the Pisans’ cause

 Savonarola meets the King at Poggibonsi, and summons     him        378
   to return by Florence

 But the King returns by Pisa, and does not yield the city,          380

 The King promises to let the Florentines know his decision          385
     so soon as he arrives at Asti

 Meanwhile he leaves Entragues with a French garrison in             385

 The King, arrived at Turin, summons Entragues to yield              388
   Pisa to the Florentines

 Entragues refuses                                                   390

 He treats with the Pisans                                           391

 Pisa becomes nominally a Free Republic                              393

 Distress of the French in Naples                                    394

 Distress of Florence                                                395

 Milan and Venice intrigue for Pisa                                  396

 And Pisa never forgives the French her liberty                      396

                      THE BEGUINES AND THE WEAVING


With the approach of the thirteenth century, the world awoke from its
long and dreamless sleep. Then began the age of faith, the miraculous
century, starving for lack of bread and nourished upon heavenly roses.
St. Louis and St. Elizabeth, Dominic the eloquent and the fiery
Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas and Francis the _glorioso poverello di Dio_,
proclaim the enthusiastic spirit of the age. It is an age of chivalry no
less in religion than in love, an age whose somewhat strained and
mystical conception of virtue is sweetened by a new strong impulse of
human pity. The world begins to see; and the green growth of the earth,
the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, become clear and noticeable
things in the eyes of the saints. The world awakes and feels. Jean de
Matha and Félix de Valois, gentlemen of Meaux, visit the prisons of
France, and redeem many hundred captives from Morocco. On all sides men
begin to love the sick, the poor, the sinful; even to long for sickness
and poverty, as if in themselves they were virtuous; even to wonder
whether sin and evil may not be a holy means for mortifying spiritual
pride. To rescue the captive, to feed the hungry, to nurse the leper, as
unawares Elizabeth of Hungary tended Christ in her Thuringian city—this
is the new ideal of mankind. And this age of feeling is no less an age
of speculation, of metaphysical inquiry, of manifold heresies and
schisms. No new Bernard stops with his earnest dogma the thousand
theories which everywhere arise and spread.

Footnote 1:

  The principal sources for this and the two following articles are as
  follows:—Mosheim, “Institutiones Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ;” Dr.
  Schmidt’s “Strasburger Beginen-häuser im Mittelalter” and other pages
  by this master of mediæval religious thought; Dr. Preger’s “Geschichte
  der deutschen Mystik im Mittelalter;” the volume on “Le Panthéisme
  populaire au Moyen Age” of M. Auguste Jundt; Stockl’s “Geschichte der
  Philosophie: Meister Eckhardt;” the writings on the School of
  Alexandria of M. Vacherot and M. Barthélemy Saint Hilaire; Mr.
  Vaughan’s “Half-Hours with the Mystics;” and last, not least, the
  sermons of Eckhardt, the poems of Mechtild of Magdeburg, and the
  meditations and lives of Saint Gertrude and Saint Mechtild of Helfta.

The modern age has begun. The saints of the preceding years had been men
of a more militant or monastic turn, dogmatic minds like Bernard of
Clairvaux, Norbert, Thomas à Becket. The era of charity and speculative
thought begins when the twelfth century is drawing near the close.

From the last year of the eleventh century until the Christians were
finally driven out of Syria in 1291, there had been scarcely a break in
the continual crusade. Throughout the twelfth century this enthusiasm of
pity for the dead Redeemer left in the hands of infidels was maintained
at fever heat. Later it was softened and widened by the new spirit of
charity towards ailing and erring humankind. But during the first
hundred years of the Holy War it absorbed all that was holiest and
purest, most ardent and noblest in European manhood. All went to fall
upon the fields of Palestine, or to return strangely altered after many
years. France, England, Germany, and Flanders, each in her turn
commanded the pious host; but just as these countries were glorious in
the East were they barren and empty at home. Whole districts of corn
land and pasture lapsed again into moss and marsh. Whole countrysides
were thinned of their hale and active men. A vast distress and indigence
spread over Europe. Those were hard years for desolate women. Their
spinning and broidery could not buy them bread, and bitter was the
effort to live until their bread-winners returned. Even when the armies
came back from Palestine there were many who did not return: many had
died of strange Asiatic pestilences, many had not survived the long
journey; the bones of some were bleached on the desert sand, and others
whitened in the sea. And some of them had gained the crown which every
pious soul then strove and yearned to win. They had fallen, as Mechtild
of Magdeburg wished to fall, their heart’s blood streaming under the
feet of heathen. And when the thinned and feeble ranks of the survivors
came to their own country, a very dreadful cry went up from all the
destitute widows in Europe.

Cruel indeed was their condition. Some, truly, sought for rest and quiet
in the cloister; but in those days the cloister was death to the world.
The charitable orders of Francis and Dominic were as yet undreamed of.
Only the great meditative orders offered absolute renunciation and
absolute seclusion. Timid and clinging hearts could not so utterly
forego their world; many busy energetic spirits felt no vocation for the
dreamy quiet of the cloistered nun. And for these the world was hard.
They must beg the bread which their labour could very seldom earn. One
dreadful trade indeed, which the desires of men leave ever open to the
despair of women, one trade found many followers. But there were pure
and holy women, and venerable women, and dying women, who could not live
in sin. And there might be seen in every market-place miserable and
hungry petitioners, crying, “For God’s sake, give us bread; bread for
the love of Christ!”

_Swestrones Brod durch Got._ Sisters of bread for the sake of God. The
name often strikes us in later writing. The singular title has become
familiar. For when we read of piteous uncloistered piety, and when we
read of humble merit rebuking the sins of arrogant Churchmen, and in the
account of strange mystical heresies, and in the lists of interdicts and
burnings, we shall often meet in the monkish Latin of Germany and
Flanders that outlandish phrase: we shall hear again of the _Swestrones
Brod durch Got_.


In the year 1180, there lived in Liege a certain kindly, stammering
priest, known from his infirmity as Lambert le Bègue. This man took pity
on the destitute widows of his town. Despite the impediment in his
speech, he was, as often happens, a man of a certain power and eloquence
in preaching. His words, difficult to find, brought conviction when they
came. This Lambert so moved the hearts of his hearers that gold and
silver poured in on him, given to relieve such of the destitute women of
Liege as were still of good and pious life. With the moneys thus
collected, Lambert built a little square of cottages, with a church in
the middle and a hospital, and at the side a cemetery. Here he housed
these homeless widows, one or two in each little house, and then he drew
up a half-monastic rule which was to guide their lives. The rule was
very simple, quite informal: no vows, no great renunciation bound the
_Swestrones Brod durch Got_. A certain time of the day was set apart for
prayer and pious meditation; the other hours they spent in spinning or
sewing, in keeping their houses clean, or they went as nurses in time of
sickness into the homes of the townspeople. They were bidden to be
obedient; and to be chaste so long as they remained of the sisterhood,
but they might marry again at will with no disgrace. If rich women chose
to join the new and unsanctioned guild, they might leave a portion of
their riches to any heir they chose. Thus these women, though pious and
sequestered, were still in the world and of the world; they helped in
its troubles, and shared its afflictions, and at choice they might
rejoin the conflict.

Soon we find the name _Swestrones Brod durch Got_ set aside for the more
usual title of Beguines, or Beghines. Different authorities give
different origins for this word. Some, too fantastic, have traced the
name to St. Begge, a holy nun of the seventh century. Some have thought
it was taken in memory of the founder, the charitable Lambert le Bègue.
Others think that, even as the Mystics or Mutterers, the Lollards or
Hummers, the Papelhards or Babblers, so the Beguines or Stammerers were
thus nicknamed from their continual murmuring in prayer. This is
plausible; but not so plausible as the suggestion of Dr. Mosheim and M.
Auguste Jundt, who derive the word Beguine from the Flemish verb
_beggen_, to beg. For we know that these pious women had been veritable
beggars; and beggars should they again become.

With surprising swiftness the new order spread through the Netherlands
and into France and Germany. Every town had its surplus of homeless and
pious widows, and also its little quota of women who wished to spend
their lives in doing good, but had no vocation for the cloister. The
Beguinage, as it was called, became a home and refuge to either class.
Before 1250 there were Beguines, or Begging Sisters, at Tirlemont,
Valenciennes, Douai, Ghent, Louvain, and Antwerp in Flanders; at all the
principal towns in France, especially at Cambray, where they numbered
over a thousand; at Bâle and Berne in Switzerland; at Lübeck, Hamburg,
Magdeburg, and many towns in Germany, with two thousand Beguines at
Cologne and numerous beguinages in the pious town of Strasburg.

So the order spread, within the memory of a man. Lambert may have lived
to see a beguinage in every great town within his ken; but we hear no
more of him. The Beguines are no longer for Liege, but for all the
world. Each city possessed its quiet congregation; and at any sick-bed
you might meet a woman clad in a simple smock and a great veil-like
mantle, who lived only to pray and to do deeds of mercy. They were very
pious, these uncloistered sisters of the poor. Ignorant women who had
known the utmost perils of life and death, their fervour was warmer,
fonder, more illiterate than the devotion of nuns; they prayed ever as
being lately saved from disgrace and ruin and starvation. Their quiet,
unutterable piety became a proverb, almost a reproach; much as, within
our memories, the unctuous piety of Methodists was held in England. When
the child Elizabeth of Hungary fasted and saw visions in the Wartburg,
the Princess Agnes, her worldly sister-in-law, could find no more cruel
taunt than this: “Think you my brother will marry such a Beguine?” This
is in 1213, only eight-and-thirty years since Lambert built the first
asylum for the destitute widows of Liege.


The success of the Beguines had made them an example; the idea of a
guild of pious uncloistered workers in the world had seized the
imagination of Europe. Before St. Francis and St. Dominic instituted the
mendicant orders, there had silently grown up in every town of the
Netherlands a spirit of fraternity, not imposed by any rule, but the
natural impulse of a people. The weavers seated all day long alone at
their rattling looms, the armourers beating out their thoughts in iron,
the cross-legged tailors and busy cobblers thinking and stitching
together—these men silent, pious, thoughtful, joined themselves in a
fraternity modelled on that of the Beguines. They were called the
Weaving Brothers. Bound by no vows and fettered by no rule, they still
lived the worldly life and plied their trade for hire. Only in their
leisure they met together and prayed and dreamed and thought. Unlettered
men, with warm undisciplined fancies, they set themselves to solve the
greatest mysteries of earth and heaven. Sometimes, in their sublime and
dangerous audacity, they stumbled on a truth; more often they wandered
far afield, led by the will-o’-the-wisp of their own unguided thoughts.
In the long busy hours of weaving and stitching they found strange
answers to the problems of human destiny, and, in their leisure,
breathless and eager, discussed these theories as other men discussed
their chance of better wage. Such were the founders of the great
fraternity of Fratres Textores, or Beghards as in later years the people
more generally called them. And their philosophy is so strangely
abstract and remote that we could not explain it, did we not know that
from time to time some secular priest or wealthy and pious laymen joined
the humble fraternity. And the priest would bring, to their store of dim
wonderings, the Alexandrian theories of the pseudo-Dionysius, then, in
all the monasteries of Christendom, deemed the very corner-stone of
sacred philosophy. We can imagine how eagerly these simple folk would
seize the hallowed fragments of Erigena and of the Areopagite, and how
they would treasure them as holy secrets in the depth of their tender
and mystical souls. We know that now and then a consecrated priest would
join the unsanctioned but pious order of the Beghards; it is no great
stretch of fancy to suppose that from time to time, some Crusader, fresh
from the East, would bring them his memory of Eastern theories; that
some scholar would add a line from Avicenna or Averroes. Through some
channel, it is evident, the Beghards received the last feeble stream of
Alexandrian theory. Their vague, idealistic pantheism is but an echo of
Plotinus and his school. From the monasteries, from the Arabian
commentators on Aristotle, or directly from the East, these fragments of
neoplatonist philosophy must have reached them; and out of them there
should be evolved, first of all, the great metaphysical heresies of the
Middle Ages; and, later on, the habit of mind that should produce the
German Reformation.


While the Beghards and the Beguines were slowly, imperceptibly nearing
the great abyss of heresy, the creation of two new orders at Rome
insidiously took from them the greater part of their prestige. Until the
Franciscans and Dominicans obtained the sanction of the Pope, the
beguinage had seemed the natural mean between the life of the cloister
and the life of the world. But the new charitable orders had all the
activity, the beneficence of the Beguines, and therewith the friendship
and protection of Rome. For some time longer the Beguines flourished,
still orthodox and reputable; but the order had received its death-blow
on the day when Francis and Dominic obtained the Papal sanction for
their Tertiary Orders of Penitence.

The tertiary orders of Dominic and Francis were a new departure from the
exclusive theories of Roman monasticism. They were invented for men and
women of holy life, married and still living in the world, who wished
for some nearer association with the Church than belongs to the ordinary
member of a congregation. They took their part in worldly joys and
sorrows, triumphs and failures; but they prayed longer than other
worldly folk, did more good works, looked more for heaven. The
institution of these orders was a wide breach in the barrier which
divides the cloister from the world, the sacred from the profane. They
were, in fact, as the reader has perceived, merely an hierarchic version
of those fraternities which the unconsecrated poor had made among
themselves: Beguines and Beghards protected by the Church.

Thus the idea of the secular beguinage was transformed into a sacred
thing. The example of the Beguines had been followed by the Church, who,
in consecrating these new orders, made an immense reform in the old
exclusive monastic ideal, a tremendous concession to the new democratic
spirit inspiring all men. Hitherto the cloister had been a refuge and
asylum from the noisy nations without. It had been as an ark, floating
over the stormy waters, offering safety indeed to those inside it, yet
not concerned with the clamorous multitude that drowned and struggled
beyond it in the increasing flood. The aim of Francis and of Dominic was
to quit this aloof and lofty shelter, to go and reprove the erring and
rescue the ignorant, to be the friend and brother of sinners and
publicans, of Magdalens and lepers, to revert, in fact, to the old
democratic ideal of the Christian Church. They were to be poor among the
poor, armed only with the armour of faith. They were to be in the world
the heralds of God. The sisters of the orders were to be humble women,
the brothers mendicant friars. At first they took no more from the world
than the wandering Beguines took in later days—only water, bread, and a
garment. But this strict rule of absolute poverty was soon removed, and
the Dominicans, at all events, were never destitute.

Each order had its different mission. The Dominicans, the preaching
brothers, should persuade the hard of heart, strengthen the failing,
console the desolate, warn the erring, and exterminate the heretic. Yet,
singularly enough, this most orthodox order, these watch-dogs of the
Lord, were to become in Germany a centre of mystical heresies. The order
of St. Francis, the Lesser Brothers, had a more tender and ecstatic
ideal. They went begging through the world, tending the sick, loving the
helpless, preaching to the birds and the fishes, full of a quaint
compassionate unworldliness, a holy folly. There were few hearts so hard
that, though unshaken by the storms of Dominic, they did not melt before
the sweet Franciscan sanctity. And so the two orders traversed the
world, twin forces and voices of pity. But the chivalrous and militant
pity of Dominic, eager to avenge the outraged Christ continually
crucified by infidels, too often took the form of wrath and burnings,
while Francis loved the erring with a simple human pity. In return the
world bestowed, and still bestows, upon him something of the wondering
compassionate reverence which Eastern nations give to the Pure Fool, the
man unsoiled by the wisdom of the world and still wrapped round with the
simplicity of God. Between them, the two orders were to divide the
Christian world. Sanctioned in the same year and under the same
hospitable rule of Augustine, they went out triumphantly upon their
different missions. Inspired, it is most probable, by the example of the
Beguines, they would soon absorb the secular order into their mighty
forces. And the real decline of Beguinism begins, not in 1250, when
first the secular fraternities became conspicuous for heresy, but on
that day of the year 1216 when the learned Dominic and the visionary
Francis met and embraced each other in the streets of Rome.


At first the external position of the Beguines and the Beghards appeared
in no danger and no disadvantage. Their fraternity had always been a
secular fraternity; their condition of pious laymen was one which
offered sanctity with independence. The beguinages still thrived and
multiplied. In the Low Countries especially, and in Cambray, Strasburg,
and Cologne,—places where mysticism has ever been dear, and
ecclesiastical authority never a welcome yoke—Beguinism grew apace. But
there is no doubt that one great cause which for thirty years averted
the ruin of the secular fraternities was the presence in their midst of
one of the most remarkable women of her century; a woman who, to the
Beguines, was all that St. Elizabeth was to the Franciscans, or that
Catherine of Siena should become to the order of St. Dominic. This
gifted and singular creature was the prophetess Mechtild of Magdeburg.

We do not know the name of the castle where, in the year 1212, Mechtild
of Magdeburg was born. It cannot have been very far from the city which
was to be her refuge, and whose name she bears. The title of her father
is also lost; but it is certain she came of noble and courtly stock. Her
family were probably religious people, for we know that her brother
Baldwin became one of the Dominicans of Halle.

Mechtild was, as she herself recalls, the dearest of her parents’
children; and these courtly and pious Thuringian nobles seem to have
been as proud as they were fond of their little daughter. She received a
liberal education. Her book on the flowing light of Godhead is written
with an energy, sweetness, and variety of style strongly in contrast
with the Gertrudenbuch and the Mechtildenbuch of Helfta. The music of
her verse proves her familiar with the lyrics of the Minnesingers. They
may no doubt have visited her father’s castle. But the little Mechtild
did not dream of poetry and of knights-at-arms. It was later that she
would deplore the poor vain minstrels who in hell weep more tears than
there are waters in the sea.[2] Her thoughts in childhood were all for
the saints in heaven. When she was twelve years old, the little girl was
(as she records it) visited by the Holy Spirit; and from that moment she
desired to quit the world.

Footnote 2:

  “Der viel arme Spielmann der mit hohem Mŭthe sündliche Eitelkeit
  machen kann, der weint in der Hölle mehr Thränen denn alles Wassers
  ist in dem Meer.” I like to give the reader a line of Mechtild’s
  book—from what I have read of it, that is to say, in the pages of Herr
  Preger and elsewhere—to show him the musical lilt of her style, the
  emotional charm (foreshadowing Heinrich Suso), and a certain easy
  lightness of heart I remember in no other mystical book, except in the
  exquisite Fioretti di San Francesco.

It was a moment of intense spiritual exaltation, this year 1224. Close
at hand in the Wartburg the seventeen-year-old Landgravine Elizabeth was
exciting the wonder of her people by her pieties and sweet austerities.
The bread miraculously turned into heavenly roses, the leper whom she
tended transformed into the shining Christ, the stories of her visions
and her scourgings would certainly be familiar to the little Mechtild.
The Emperor Frederic II. was already collecting his nobles for his
ill-starred and heretic crusade. On Monte Laverna, in this very year,
St. Francis received the stigmata. Blanche of Castile and the child St.
Louis were ruling Paris as King Arthur might have ruled his court at
Camelot, by the authority of love and gentleness. At the same time the
ghastly prevalence of leprosy and pestilence, of war and hideous famine,
made the world as dreadful as heaven was desirable. Those who recall the
condition of Eisenach, as revealed by the life of St. Elizabeth, may
imagine the sights of human suffering which little Mechtild must have
encountered every day. And close by, in the vast woods of Prussia, dwelt
heathen folk who knew of nothing better than this cruel world. In that
very year some of the crusader knights had set out to conquer that pagan
kingdom. Thus with on one hand holy Thuringia and with heathen Prussia
on the other, with war, famine, and pestilence frequent petitioners at
her gates, it is not surprising that the little Mechtild shared the
spiritual fervours of her time, and longed to give herself to Heaven.

But she did not, like Gertrude and Mechtild of Hackeborn, enter a
convent in her infancy. Most likely she yielded to the entreaties of her
family, “of whom she was ever the dearest.” Year after year passed on,
and Mechtild still dwelt in her father’s castle. Yet, after that one
childish moment of ecstacy, the sweetness and honour of the world were
to her as vain and perishable things. And still she was not visited
again with trance or vision. She was no dreamer, this eager Mechtild,
but a vigorous and healthy girl, in the flower of her beautiful and
lusty youth, alert, passionate, with a mind awake to all the questions
and interest of the world around her. Such a nature is not by instinct a
mystical nature; but the strange contagion of the time had touched her,
and worked slowly through her innermost being. Stronger and stronger
grew the strenuous unworldly prompting: “_without sin, to be disgraced
before the world_.”

For eleven years the desire waxed and strengthened; for eleven years did
Mechtild combat this desire. Daily it grew more impelling, more
subduing. At last, in the year 1235, the year of the canonization of
Elizabeth, when Mechtild was twenty-three years old, she secretly left
her father’s house, and fled to Magdeburg. She left all behind
her—brothers and sisters, father and mother, “of whom she was the
dearest,” and the courtly honourable life, and the quiet happiness of
love and safety. _Frau Minne, ihr habt mir benommen weltlich Ehre und
allen weltlichen Reichthum!_ Everything indeed she left, to follow the
goading impulse of Sacred Love.

When she reached the strange city, when she had left far behind her the
distant home where even now her kinsmen would wonder, and miss her, and
make a search, when the night fell on her in Magdeburg, Mechtild desired
a shelter. Weary with her flight, she resolved to ask some nunnery to
lend her its asylum. Within those holy walls she could more truly yield
herself to God.

She knocked at a convent door, and begged for shelter, saying she
desired to become a nun. But the quiet sisters distrusted this
beautiful, travel-stained young woman of three-and-twenty, without
means, or friends, or reference, alone at night in the turbulent city
streets—this girl who, by her own confession, had fled her father’s
house. Soon those doors were closed against her. There were, however,
many convents in a great archiepiscopal city such as Magdeburg. To
convent after convent went the despairing girl, finding at each, no
doubt, rest for the limbs and food for the body, but in none of all of
them a home. For no religious house would admit this unfriended and
suspicious creature into its pure community. When the last doors had
closed upon her, Mechtild stood in the street, alone in Magdeburg. It
must have come upon her then, I think, that at last her great desire was
granted—_Without sin, she was disgraced before the world._

When Mechtild left her parents’ castle, she had chosen Magdeburg to be
her hiding-place, because in that town there lived a friend of her
family. She had thought to stay her heart upon the thought of this
unvisited friend, who might be her last resource in case of extremity.
But now the need was felt, Mechtild did not seek him. He would, she
knew, endeavour to persuade her from the path that she had chosen, and
Mechtild was in need of all her courage.

So, unfriended, alone, she stood in the streets of Magdeburg. Then she
bethought her of another shelter, humble indeed, but safe. And she had
left home only to be humbled. What humiliation would there have been in
entering, like the dear St. Elizabeth, the holy order of St. Francis? Or
what abasement had she, like her brother, embraced the rule of Dominic,
“dearest to me,” she avers, “of all the saints”? Here there was no
spiritual sacrifice. And what sacrifice of life, of social habit, of
esteem could she have made had she entered one of the great Cistercian
or Benedictine convents, where the nobles of Saxony and Thuringia were
proud to send their daughters? Mechtild was glad that they had rejected
her; it seemed to her that at last, pure of pride, free of weak desire,
she saw her own will made plain and the directing will of God.

She moved now; she knew what to do and where to go; she was no longer
unguided and alone. She went to the beguinage, the home of mendicant
widows, the almshouse of the holy poor who gave themselves to God. At
that door, which debarred no one from the outer world, Mechtild knocked.
A poor woman opened to her, clad in a plain smock and a great mantle
covering head and shoulders. Such another gown and cloak was lying by,
ready for the welcome Mechtild. She entered the house.

That night Mechtild stood in her little cell. It was much like any
convent cell; but it was without a convent’s restrictions or its
privileges. Mechtild might quit those walls this year, next year, any
year. She might marry and have children. She had, after all, offered up
no sacrifice of her own body; she was not dead to the world, but was to
live and labour in it more nearly now than in her father’s castle. No
great barrier should stand henceforth between her soul and sin. The
battle was not over; it was but just begun.

Far easier had been the greater sacrifice, done once and done for ever!
Far more peaceful the quiet nunnery, hallowed to rapture and seclusion!
Mechtild was now the servant only, and not the bride of Christ. She was
a Beguine, not a nun. The accomplished daughter of nobles, she was the
companion of the destitute and lowly. It was better thus, better to be
lowly and despised, even as Christ was despised. All these thoughts of
dismay, rapture, weariness, and exaltation, rushed and clashed through
the tired breast of Mechtild. Then, for a second time, the trance crept
over her, and she sank unconscious into the ever-present arms of God.

Then, in a vision, Mechtild saw how henceforward her life should be
doubly glorious and doubly beset with peril. For she beheld the angel
and the devil, who to this moment had been permitted to guide her and
assail her, each miraculously changed into twain. Now at her right there
stood a cherub, with gifts and holy wisdom on his azure wings, and a
seraph bearing her a heart of love. But on the left two devils watched
her—two devils who, in all times, have lain in wait for the mystic and
the solitary visionary. And the name of the one was Vain-Glory, and that
of the other Vain-Desire.


From the night of that vision begins the career of Mechtild and the
history of her visions and her prophecies. At first, indeed, occupied in
conquering her strong and lusty youth, the visions of Mechtild of
Magdeburg are little different from those of any convent saint. Angels
and devils, the beautiful manhood of our Lord, fragments from the Song
of Solomon, the rapture of the Spiritual Nuptials—such are the
inevitable themes. But this woman, we feel, is no mere Gertrude or
Mechtild of Hackeborn. The whole world interests her, and the destinies
of the world. In reading the book in which she wrote her visions, the
book of the flowing light of Godhead, we soon pass over this initial
stage to a second and wider phase.

                     “Ich habe gesehen ein Stat;
                     Ihr Name ist die ewige Hass.”

These pregnant words begin Mechtild’s “Vision of Hell.” The plan of this
great vision, which beholds, built in succeeding and widening terraces,
the habitations of sinners, with fire and darkness, stench and cold, and
pain in the bottommost pit, no less than the scheme of the poem, which
lashes many a prevalent sin of the Church, both alike recall a far
greater poet yet unborn, one who should also explore the depths of hell
and the heights of heaven, one who should accept as his guide towards
Paradise a certain mysterious Matilda,

                   “Cantando come donna innamorata,”

in whom the learned Herr Preger has recognized our earnest minstrel of
heaven, the loving and singing Mechtild of Magdeburg.

The form of Mechtild’s visions did not make her popular among the
churchmen of her city. The people caught up the lilting, dancing
measures of her songs. The pious sang her visions. And girls, to whom a
nun had ever seemed a cold and sacred being, could understand the happy
verses of the fearless love of God, in which Mechtild claims for herself
an impulse as natural, as irresistible, as any maiden’s love of her

             “Das ist eine kindische Liebe,
             Dass man Kinder saüge und wiege;
             Ich bin eine vollgewachsene Braut,
             Ich will gehen nach meinem Traut.

             “Ich stürbe gerne von Minnen
             Seine Augen in meine Augen,
             Sein Herz in mein Herze,
             Sein Seele in meine Seele
             Umfangen und umschlossen.

             “Der Fisch mag in dem Wasser nicht ertrinken,
             Der Vogel in den Lüften nicht versinken,
             Das Gold mag in dem Feuer nicht verderben;
             Wie möchte ich denn meiner Natur widerstehn?”

In the convents of Helfta and Quedlinburg these songs spread and
furthered the great renown of Mechtild. Heinrich von Halle, the famous
Dominican, went to see her, and became her friend. But the secular
priests did not love her, this Beguine reformer, this new unsanctioned
Abbess Hildegard, who saw so clearly and bewailed so explicitly the many
corruptions which had crept upon the Church even in that age of faith,
even in the century of St. Francis and St. Dominic, of King Louis and
Elizabeth of Hungary. Some of these secular priests tried to burn her
book; thereupon Mechtild saw a vision and heard the voice of God crying
aloud: “_Lieb’ meine, betrübe dich nicht zu sehr, die Wahrheit mag
niemand verbrennen._”

Profound and touching phrase, motto of all martyrs and of every cause:
No one can burn the Truth! Had the world but learned by heart this one
poignant sentence, uttered in the very age which began the persecution
of heretics, how many wars, deaths, angers, cruelties, centuries of
remorse and hatred had not the world been spared! All honour to this
woman, who, six centuries ago, perceived how vain it is to hunt, slay,
burn, exterminate an idea. This sentence should be immortal.

Mechtild continued to speak what seemed to her the most necessary truth.
“Pope and priests,” she cries, “are going the road to hell. Unless they
quit their sensuality, their spiritual negligence, their temporal greed,
fearful disasters will overwhelm them.” “In this book,” she says, “I
write with my heart’s blood.” She is no unfilial antagonist threatening
the power of Rome, but a daughter striving to lead her parent back into
the holy way. She has a vision, and sees perverted Christendom lying,
“like an impure virgin,” far from the throne of God. She takes it in the
arms of her soul, and strives to lift it nearer. “Leave hold!” cries the
tremendous voice of God; “she is too great a weight for thee.” And
Mechtild looks up and smiles. “Eia, my Lord!” she cries; “I will carry
her to Thy feet with Thine own arms that Thou didst outspread upon the
cross for her!”

Such is the aim of Mechtild: to bring the over-powerful and worldly
Roman hierarchy back to the primitive and democratic ideal of
Christianity. She has the courage of her intention, and shrinks not from
rebuking error, however high its place. She, the Beguine, the sister of
the poor, wrote to the Dean of Magdeburg censuring the notoriously idle
and voluptuous lives of his clergy. “Let him sleep upon straw, and his
canons take and eat it for their fodder!” Perhaps it is not wonderful
the clergy of Magdeburg did not love the prophetess.

Also she wrote to the Pope, to Clement IV., whose tolerance of the
murder of Conradine had lost him many loyal German hearts, whose lax and
irreligious court was Gomorrah in the sight of Mechtild. And these
priests and prelates, this all-powerful Pope, if they do not reform and
obey, yet listen they humbly to the words of this unsanctioned nun, this
secular sister of Magdeburg.

Never again have the Beguines attained so fine, so pure an eminence.
They are indeed still poor, still lowly, still unrecognized, still
Beguines. But these negations are become their glory and their
distinction. Which life is nearer the ideal life of Christendom, the
life of a great prelate or the life of the Beguine? The priests hear and
listen, for the moment abashed because of their splendour and their
power. The Beguines are poor, unlettered, unprotected; but they are
nearer the simplicity of God, that _reine heilige Einfalt_ which the
Beguine Mechtild well knows how to praise.

So for thirty years Mechtild preached against error and prophesied
punishment, sang of the love of God, and saw visions of a hell where
wicked ecclesiastics burn for persecuting the innocent. For thirty years
she lived, in her beguinage, the strenuous, earnest, indignant life of
the reforming seer, the life of Dante, the life of Savonarola. And then
the vigorous frame wore out. In her fifty-third year even Mechtild saw
that an end must be put to this unrelaxed endeavour. Fain would she have
gone, like Jutta von Schönhausen, into the wild woods to preach to the
heathen Prussians. But this could not be; the body was too weak. She
retired to the Cistercian cloister of Helfta, the home of the great
Abbess Gertrude, and of her sister, the younger Mechtild. But even there
she did not rest. “What shall I do in a cloister—I?” she demanded in
agonized prayers. “Teach and enlighten,” answered a heavenly voice. And
so for twelve years longer Mechtild lives, and teaches the cloister of
the great world beyond its walls, and finishes her book on the flowing
light of Godhead, till, honoured and loved by all, she ends her eventful
life in the year 1277.


_Reine, Heilige Einfalt_; such is the phrase in which Mechtild praised
her God. _Pure, holy simplicity_; it is the praise of the Beguines and
the Mystics, the beginning of pantheism. But Mechtild is no pantheist;
she strenuously believes in the personality of the soul, the reality of
Christ, the existence of the world, and in heaven and in hell. She is an
orthodox and Catholic Christian; yet she is stirred by the spirit of her

“God,” she says, “is pure simplicity; out of the eternal spring of Deity
I flowed, and all things flow, and thence shall all return.” These
earnest phrases of mystical pantheism escape her lips, though they do
not touch her heart. She does not consider all that they imply; for if
all things, having arisen in the Deity, flow back to their source when
life is over, how can Evil have a real existence, how can sinners be
punished for ever in the city of Eternal Hate? If God be the one thing
real, there is no evil and there is no hell. If all souls released from
existence return to that pure and holy simplicity, there is no personal
immortality either for bliss or for bale. Mechtild did not perceive the
bearings and the consequences of her phrase; but the Beguines pushed the
meaning to its term. The pantheism of Alexandria, the pantheism of the
suppressed Almarician heresy, stirred and quickened in the thoughts of
pious and schismatic Beguinism. And pantheism, with its two extremes of
austerity and sensualism, increased and deepened in the sect.

Mystical pantheism, which asserts that God is all and matter nothing;
the spirit all, the body but a transitory veil; thought and mind
eternal, sense and sensuous pleasure of no account for evil or for good;
this doctrine is capable of two interpretations. It may be the religion
of Plotinus and pure souls. It may absolutely ignore the body; it may
mean the life of the mind and the soul carried always to the highest
possible pitch. Or it may be, and too often is, the excuse of the basest
sensualism. There is a page of psychology in the changed meaning of the
word Libertine. Since, neither for sin nor for sanctity, the body can
affect the soul, since sensuous pleasures are quite independent of the
spiritual existence, the lower pantheism may excuse debauch as a
permissible relaxation not affecting the spirit. And this is what it
generally does come to mean among communities of undisciplined and
ill-educated enthusiasts.

This is gradually what it came to mean among the Beghards and the
Beguines, or at least among a large proportion of them. Some, indeed,
praying to the Pure and Holy Simplicity, endeavoured to live only in the
pureness of their souls, and thus to become one with that inspiring
spirit. Such were the Beguines of Strasburg. And a section of the
secular communities, dreading these continual inroads of heresy,
entrenched themselves in Catholic orthodoxy, and enlisted in the third
orders of Dominic and Francis. But the great remainder was absorbed by a
vague mystical pantheism, which, placing the soul too high to be
affected by the matters of the flesh, made this opinion an excuse for a
complete independence of the moral law.

Towards the close of the life of Mechtild the prestige of Beguinism had
seriously declined. Innocent IV. and Urban IV. had taken the secular
order under their peculiar protection, but in 1274, Pope Gregory X.
renewed against it the sentence of the Lateran Council and declared the
Beguines unrecognized by Rome. Following this official condemnation, the
blame of lesser men came thick and fast; and by the end of the
thirteenth century the secular fraternities were popular only among the
poor, only among the laymen and the people. They were discredited and
heretic among the clergy.

For thirty years before the sentence of Gregory complaints of the
Beguines and the Beghards had been sent to Rome from the prelates of
Germany and Flanders. The two demons foreseen by Mechtild, the demon of
vainglory and the demon of sensual sin, had entered in among these quiet
homes of prayer. Already in 1244 there were scandals among the younger
sisters, and the Archbishop of Mayence decreed that the beguinages of
his diocese should receive no women under forty years of age. Already in
1250 Albertus Magnus at Cologne had met with heretic Beghards, men whose
vague pantheism was to grow and spread among the order, until all
distinction should be lost between the Beghards and the heretic Brothers
of the Free Spirit. Already they had returned to their old habits,
wandering through the streets, ragged as an Eastern fakir, praying aloud
and begging of the passers-by: “Bread, for the sake of God!” Too much
ignorance with too much liberty had gone far to destroy and pervert the
real uses of the order. The great moment of Beguinism, its time of
independent poverty and secular piety, the time of Mechtild of
Magdeburg, was past and gone. The third stage of vagabondage and heresy
had begun.

That period, we must remember, was one which, in the Church itself, was
a period of corruption and of schism. There is no charge brought against
the secular order, which might not equally be brought against the
regular monks and nuns. The long wave of pantheism which preceded the
Reformation engulfed the ignorant Beguines in a hundred perversions of
an idea ill explained, misunderstood; but that same wave overwhelmed
Master Eckhart and the Dominican Mystics. Only the Roman Church, jealous
of the unrecognized order, was swift to hear the low voice of the
Beguines murmuring, “_God is all that exists._”

This one phrase caught, repeated, whispered, half understood,
misunderstood, often not understood at all, spread with the swiftness
and authority of gospel among the Beghards and the Beguines of Europe.
Soon in Italy, the vagrant sect of Apostolici, the followers of
Segarelli, and the Franciscan Fraticelli in France, and the Beghards and
Beguines of Northern Europe, all were murmuring together that one
phrase, that key-word of pantheism, “_Deus est formaliter omne._”

It is not easy to prevent the growth of an idea among a community so
widely spread, so constantly changing. Segarelli was burned at Parma all
in vain. His doctrines had percolated everywhere. Inspired by the
example of the mendicant orders, many of the Beghards and Beguines had
returned to the vagabond life. Pious vagrants all in rags, staffless,
scripless, they wandered through the country from beguinage to
beguinage, begging for their food along the way. It was a change indeed
from the early habits of the order, so busy, so hard at work, so pious,
so responsible. But in the hearts of the lowest classes the secular
fraternities were never so dear, never so much revered as now. In 1295
the Council of Mayence forbad them to wander through the streets,
exciting public pity and crying, “_Brod durch Got!_” and Guillaume de
St. Amour lamented that the people were blinded by the rags, the hunger,
the false piety of these vagrants. This, of course, is the view of
churchmen who did not entertain such strict opinions with regard to the
merit of Franciscan mendicants. Indeed, much of the ill-favour with
which the Church regarded the wandering Beghards and Beguines of these
later days may be set down to a jealousy lest the piety of these
irregular brothers should defraud the begging orders of their due. From
one cause or another the thunders of the Church began to fall heavy and
frequent upon the secular fraternities.

In 1310 the Council of Treves disposed of the pretensions of the
Beghards in what appeared a sufficiently decisive manner. The Beghards
were called an imaginary congregation, idle fugitives from honest
labour, false interpreters of Scripture, mendicant vagabonds
unsanctioned by the Church.

In 1311, at the Council of Vienna, Clement V. decreed the total
suppression of Beguinism. But the sentence was severe. Too many innocent
must suffer with the guilty. In the same year the Pope revoked his
sentence, and allowed the orthodox and irreproachable among the Beguines
to live “according to the inspiration of the Lord.”

But from this time Beguinism as an institution was at an end. The
“orthodox and irreproachable” were Beghards and Beguines who had joined
the Tertiary Order of Francis or of Dominic. The secular order was no
longer secular; the aim of the Beguines was falsified and changed.


In the year 1328 nearly fifty Libertines or Brothers of the Free Spirit
were publicly burned at Cologne.

The persecution of the wandering Beguines and Beghards had thoroughly
begun. In the history of the time, in the chronicles of any town along
the Rhine or in the Low Countries, we may meet the dolorous little
entry: On such a day so many Beghards were burned or imprisoned in
perpetual _In pace_. A special German Inquisition was instituted against

It is the old cruel war of intolerance and heresy, the vain and shameful
struggle with which six centuries are full. But there was here a more
than usual excuse for the excessive severity of Rome. Europe was fast
being ruined by these mendicant wanderers. Begging friars of St.
Francis, Carmelites, Dominicans, numerous new orders which flourished
for a while, and died, and are forgotten, all these flooded the country
with pious vagrants for whom the impoverished laymen must provide. And
in addition to all these orthodox idlers, there was now a countless
horde of wandering Beghards, no less ignorant, no less incapable of
warfare or of labour, and, in addition, pestilent heretics. Such was the
view of the Church.

Fifty years before, Gregory X. had tried to reduce “the unbridled throng
of mendicants, who are a heavy burden alike on Church and people;” but
his efforts had been in vain. The poor of every nation and of every time
are quick to ascribe piety to those who, ragged and homeless, assert
that the life to come shall repay them for their sufferings here. Half
starved, down-trodden, little better than slaves, the peasants of
Germany would share their squalid meal thankfully with the wandering
friar. It was little less than sacrilege to refuse a portion to the holy
man. This was the natural attitude of the people. They gave, and did not

They gave, and the friars took, and the Beghards took, and still the cry
was “Give.” The Fratricelli, Apostolici, Beghards, Beguines, Brothers of
the Free Spirit, overran the whole of Europe. These all must be fed no
less than the orthodox fraternities. And year by year the number of the
mendicants increased. The careless wandering life without responsibility
or consequence, the absence of ties or of toil, the prestige in
idleness, attracted the vagabond and lazy. And many of the pious really
believed it the noblest human life. Since the idea of Divinity was
simplicity, mere simplicity, then the more the saint was simplified and
the less heed he took for apparel or for food the nearer he was to
heaven. These men and women, strange descendants of the spinning sisters
and the Fratres Textores, were like the lilies of the field inasmuch as
they toiled not, neither did they spin. They thus fulfilled the popular
ideal of piety. Year by year labour and forethought grew more
discredited, as it was discovered that, if you did not feed yourself, a
more worldly person would always feed you; until in 1317 we read in the
sentences collected by Johann von Ochsenstein that no exterior motive,
_not even the desire of the kingdom of heaven, should tempt a good man
towards activity_.

It was in vain for even the Pope to preach, for Guillaume de St. Amour
to attack all mendicants alike, for councils and bishops to thunder
against the indolence, the mendicancy, the lax morals and loose opinions
of these men. The mendicants grew more and more. The nations groaned
under the holy burden. Then, about 1310, unable to contain her
displeasure any longer, the Church bursts forth into interdicts and
persecution. Fifty Beghards are burned at Cologne. At Magdeburg some
Beguines are cast into prison. At Strasburg, at Constance, at Mayence,
the Beguines and Beghards are punished unless converted within three
days. It is war to the knife against the wandering heretics.


Under the pressure of a displeasure so severe, the greater number of the
Beghards and Beguines accepted the rule of the tertiary orders. The
mother became submissive to her children. The larger party of the
fraternity, including all the Flemish beguinages, accepted the
Franciscan rule; but the Beghards and Beguines of Strasburg, the most
suspected of any, joined the Tertiary Order of Dominic. Thus the heresy
of Beguinism appeared for a while overcome.

But at the same time a strange mystical pantheistic tendency became
noticeable in many sermons and lessons of the Church herself. All this
multitude of heretic Beguines, suddenly made orthodox within three days,
all this vast accession of vague Almarician piety was not without an
influence on the conquering faith. Among the Dominicans of Strasburg the
mystical bent grew more decided year by year. These much-admired doctors
and magisters were lights of the Church, men of influence and learning;
but the mysticism which was orthodox in them was really identical with
the neoplatonist theories of the Beghards. And, indeed, these
men,—Eckhart, Tauler, Rulmann Merswin—went further in the way of
pantheism than the heretic brotherhood had gone before.

It is impossible to exterminate an idea. It must live its course, grow,
flourish, and die. Be it wise or foolish, orthodox or heterodox, let it
but have some new aspect of truth in it; let it but be fresh, profound,
and striking; let it be truly and verily an idea: it will live its life
before it dies its natural death.

Thus the idea of the Beguines, arbitrarily suppressed, yet flourished
only the more. Like a brier budded on a rose tree, it brought out its
wild and fragile blossoms among the ordered beauties of the
ecclesiastical garden. In the great Dominican mystics of Strasburg the
central thought of heretic Beguinism (“_Deus est omnia_”) flourished
more completely than before.

God is all: the world is nothing. This is what the mystics of Strasburg
and the mystics of the Netherlands now began to preach to the world.


From the year 1312 until 1320 Master Eckhart, the great Dominican
preacher, was living in Strasburg. His deep and original mind, which so
vastly was to influence the speculation of his time, was now itself
brought under the influence of Beguinism. From 1312 to 1317 he preached
and visited in the Dominican beguinages of Strasburg. Always a mystic
and a neoplatonist, before that date he was not suspected of heresy. The
theories of the Dominican Beguines agreed perfectly with the convictions
of this singular being, who preached in accents of strenuous sincerity
the doctrine of the unreality of matter.

Among the Beguines of his diocese was one whom Eckhart adopted to be his
spiritual daughter. But the relation of the Beguine Sister Katrei to the
great Vicar-general of the Dominican order was scarcely that attitude of
submission which we expect from a penitent to her confessor. She leads
him on to new audacities of faith, suggests new penances, refuses all
restraint. She shows him how an earnest nature can reduce to practice
his special tenet that the world is nothing, that God alone exists.

Katrei was the daughter of worthy Strasburg townspeople. Not necessity,
but an enthusiasm for self-humiliation drove her to the beguinage. Ever
in doubt of her own salvation, she multiplied her fasts and penances
till even her director beseeched her to take some pity on her starved
and shattered body. But Katrei would not be persuaded; not yet, she
declared, was the old Adam slain in her; not yet was she “dead all
through.” As Mechtild of Magdeburg is the great active type of the
order, so Katrei represents the passive Beguinism. She had no reforming
zeal; she belonged to the later school, to those who said: “Not even the
desire of the kingdom of heaven must tempt a good man towards activity.”

To free herself from the world and the claims of the world, to leave
behind the flesh and all the needs and desires of the flesh, this was
the overmastering preoccupation of Swester Katrei. She left the
sheltering beguinage, the faces too familiar to be easily forgotten, the
neighbourhood of father and of mother, and set out alone upon the
wandering Beguine’s life. With her she took neither staff nor scrip.
“All that I ask of the world,” she said, “is a spring, a crust, and a
garment” (_brunnen, brod, und ein rock_). So for many months she went,
absorbed in her own soul, forgetting men and women, earthly pleasure,
earthly love, and earthly duty, and at last returned to Strasburg to be
known by no one there.

She was not yet satisfied. Her ideal was not yet reached. “Not yet,” she
persisted, “am I dead all through.” “Nay,” answered the confessor
(behind whose cowl we see the face of Eckhart), “not so long as thou
rememberest who was thy father and who thy mother; not so long as thou
shalt care if thy priest refused to confess thee or absolve thee; not so
long as it shall disturb thee if thou mayest not taste the body of God;
not so long as thou shalt grieve when none will shelter thee, and all
despise thee; not until then, my sister, canst thou know the real death
unto self.” Then again, Katrei retired into the wilderness, and for a
long time she wandered to and fro across the face of the earth. When she
returned she was strangely changed; even her confessor did not know her.
At last, her cataleptic trances growing daily longer and more profound,
she being permanently raised into a strange hysteric insensibility to
pain or hunger, she lay the whole day long without food or drink or
movement in a corner of the great cathedral. Now she was dead to outer
things. “Now,” she said, “I am God.” Her father and her mother came and
cried to her, half abashed at her holiness, half agonized at her
condition. But Katrei did not know them now. She no longer recognized
what she looked upon; the world and all within it was a blank to her.

At last, one day, the trance deepened; she ceased to breathe. Some
people of the church, thinking her dead, took her away to bury her. But
when they returned to the church with Katrei on the bier, her confessor,
approaching, perceived she was not really dead. “Art thou satisfied?” he
demanded; and she answered, “I am satisfied at last.” She would have let
them bury her.

Quietism can go no further than this. When this singular woman died,
between 1312 and 1320, though the Church already began to censure the
mystical errors of Beguinism, yet her piety was deemed so great that
Meister Eckhart wrote a memoir of her life as an example and an
exhortation to the pious. She is the saint of the later Beguinism, even
as the vigorous Mechtild of Magdeburg is the patron of the older style.


But sister Katrei had too many followers, and gradually the sense of the
religious world revolted from this numb and dead ideal. Already, in the
writings of Suso (1335), of Ruysbrock, and Rulmann Merswin, men whose
idealist mysticism was little different from the Beguine heresy, the
quietism of these “false freemen” is utterly condemned. Suso, in his
Book of Truth, recounts how he met on a journey one of these wandering
Beghards, who, to all his questions, responded much as Parsifal responds
to Gurnemanz. Whence he came and whither going, the wanderer does not
know. He is called the Nameless Savage. He is Nothing abysmed in the
Divine Nothingness. Without will or desire he obeys his natural
instincts, since any conflict with them would destroy the quiet of his
soul. Such is the latest type of the secular brotherhood; but this,
unlike Sister Katrei, meets no approval from the marvelling Church.

Indeed, the Beghards and the Beguines, with their lax morals, their
mendicant insolence, had become an insupportable burden. So, in despair,
in 1328 the Church, as we have said, delivered fifty of them to the
secular arm, and these were burned, as an example, in Cologne. The
persecution was now steadfast and continuous; but still in secret
places, and by strange underground channels, the pantheist idea spread
on unseen—pantheism which now was no longer vague and veiled. “_We do
not believe in God, and we do not love Him, and we do not adore Him, and
we do not hope in Him, for this would be to avow that He is other than
ourselves._” Thus speak these heretics of the fourteenth century. So far
have they pushed the phrase, God is all that exists.

From this time the cohesive force of Beguinism rapidly diminishes. In
1365 Pope Urban V. still speaks of the “children of Belial, Beghards and
Beguines,” but their name slips gradually out of the chronicles of
edicts and of councils. Or it is applied to any new sect of heretics. In
1373 we hear of “the Beghards or Turlupins,” and in the next century
Beghard is frequently synonymous with Lollard. The great heresy of the
Free Spirit was divided into a hundred unimportant divisions. By the
middle of the fifteenth century, the Beghards and Beguines were either
orthodox communities of some tertiary order, or scattered hermits,
living in woods and forests, and stealthily keeping red the few embers
left of pantheistic heresy. It seemed as if the movement were really
stamped out. But the phrase of Mechtild was not so easily confuted. No
man can burn an idea.

We hear no more, it is true, of the Beguines or of the Weaving Brothers;
but in the sixteenth century, when at Wittenberg and at Strasburg, at
Basle and at Meaux, the great idea of the Reformation simultaneously
awoke, in that period of spiritual ferment, the pantheism of the secular
fraternities flamed out again, and more fiercely than before. The
libertines, the anabaptists, and familists of the sixteenth century
preserved in a coarser form the persecuted tradition of the Beghards and
the Beguines.

                         THE CONVENT OF HELFTA.

The great ideals of the world save themselves by strange disguises.
Though the advance of progress threaten their existence, none the less
they perpetuate themselves in unsuspected shelter. If to-day we see
religion mask itself as devotion to humanity, it is but the reversal of
the great masquerade of the Middle Ages, when whatever impulse of
good-will to man was destined to survive assumed for safety’s sake the
garb of the Church. Benevolence, science, logic, philosophy, and all the
arts put on the hood and cowl. And the time came when love also entered
religion. Indeed, the convent was the one safe place of refuge in a
struggling, dark, chaotic world—a world for which centuries of careful
nurture had ill-fitted the sentiment of love. The Middle Ages had
existed, one might say, for its development. During the century
succeeding the invention of the Immaculate Conception (1134), the cultus
of the Virgin became dominant in the Church, and, _pari passu_, the
position of women grew nobler in the world—was, indeed, elevated and
spiritualized to a dangerous artificial beauty. Then a thousand devices
were discovered to hide from the yet imperfect man and woman the
brutality of the one and the meanness of the other. The Courts of Love,
where no husband might be the lover of his wife, the gross and strained
devotion of the minnesingers, the worship of Mary and the saints, were
expedients unreal or ugly in themselves, but they imposed on mere
brutish passion a beautiful sentiment of reverence and service. For they
showed the woman beloved as a creature aloof and apart, separated from
the disenchantment of possession by the distance of heaven or the
barriers of earth.

Thus through the Middle Ages love grew and flourished; a plant delicate
yet and scarcely acclimatised, but watered and tendered and sheltered.
Without this care it could not grow, being still young and not
well-rooted. Then in the thirteenth century a terrible convulsion
disturbed the world, and the fate of all tender, exquisite things hung
for a while in awful balance. For in that eventful century, which rounds
the old world and begins the new, the long-gathering jealousy of pope
and emperor burst into a fearful storm. The tempest of over twenty years
which destroyed the empire of the house of Hohenstaufen left Rome,
though victorious, none the less a prey to her own champion, Charles of
Anjou. For three years he would not suffer the election of a pope,
holding the keys of Peter in his unrelaxing clutches; and even when the
papal see was nominally filled, the Angevine adventurer guided its
counsels and prompted its decrees. One shipwreck engulfed both papacy
and empire, nor could any foresee that from those wrecks far nobler
vessels should be built. The hierarchic and feudal order of things had
fallen, and the spirit of law and federation was yet unknown. All over
Europe spread darkness and confusion: Rome was paralysed, France crazed
with superstition and communistic panic, Italy a mere disorganised prey
for the next comer; and Germany, most piteous of all, with the convert’s
earnestness and the loyalty of a serf, not yet fit for the sudden
withdrawal of the hierarchy and the feudalism to which she clung for
support, Germany reeled heavily. It seemed that the end of the world was
at hand; and truly, in this terrible interregnum, the whole fabric of
the Middle Ages began to crack and gape in ominous ruin.

Now that the Courts of Love were wasted, his tournaments battle-fields,
his minstrels shouting battle-cries, what had become of Love? Where
should his ladies, sung so long and honoured, look for their knights?
They are gone to fight for God and the king; they are gone far away, but
no longer to the Holy Sepulchre; they are gone to ravage and ruin
distant cities, or to lay low the power of Rome. Many never return; some
after years—ten, fifteen, twenty years—come home again, tanned and
grey—swearing troopers, whose talk is all of battle, whose camp jests
and lewd stories fall like filth into the pure fountain of a woman’s
soul. What knight is this for a delicate lady to love! She must change
the very nature of her love if this shall satisfy her heart. The frail
ideal, nourished so long with care and patience, must die, so it seems.
But, as in ancient legends, where the lustful lover pursues a pure
nymph, gaining hold upon her, stretching out his hands for the prize, to
find them empty, to find her out of reach, safe in the inviolable
greenness of the laurel, even so the tender spirit of love, with one
violent effort, set itself beyond the lusts of the imbruted world,
sheltered, transformed into the mystical love of God.

A natural impulse was given to religion by the divisions and disasters
of society. We have shown by what channels the mystical spirit of
Alexandria permeated the religion of the West. The knight from his
captors or his captives, the scholar from his studies, the monk from his
perusal of the most popular of saintly authors, might all become imbued
with a like spirit. Throughout the West there spread, partially, indeed,
and not to all alike, a scorn of science and understanding, and a sense
of mystery, an aspiration to ecstasy, a desire to merge all personality
in the infinite. Such influences did not create, they did but direct the
movement. They were—as M. Vacherot has shown us—a source of inspiration,
a reserve of tradition for a natural instinct which, even without them,
must have satisfied itself. Owing partly to these semi-religious
influences, partly to the external condition of affairs, the
movement—which might have established another School of Alexandria,
might have believed in astrology or the philosopher’s stone, might have
merely ended in jugglery and witchcraft—instead of this became a school
for visionaries and ecstatics. How strong the movement was may be
inferred by the length of its duration, and by our finding in its ranks
not merely hysteric virgin saints, not merely the two priors of St.
Victor, not merely the poetic Suso, the fervid Ruysbrock, the
contemplative Tauler, but the wide intellect of Albertus Magnus, the
strength of Eckhart, the practical wisdom of Gerson.

The doctrines of Neoplatonism, received through the medium of a saint,
were translated into another sense by men of less intellect and stronger
affections than the Alexandrines. Science is little to these later
mystics, the inward spring of peace is much; they question with
Bonaventura not doctrine but desire, not the human mind but heavenly
grace. Not light they ask, but fire. By ecstasy they seek to unite
themselves not only with the abstract wisdom, but with a supreme love.
For ecstasy is to them the _ars amandi_, and to them the one thing
needful not intelligence, but feeling. “Amor oculus est,” says Richard
of Saint Victor, “et amare videre est.” To behold with this eye the
things that are hidden from earthly vision; to die to the world, in
order to live to Christ; to lose one’s soul; to drown self, conscience,
reason, virtue, feeling, in a flood of ecstasy, this had become the
ambition of the nobler spirits of the world.

In this apotheosis of ecstasy, this contagion of love, the feminine
element naturally predominated. The movement, which the gracious and
pathetic figure of Elizabeth of Hungary announced, was to be, above all,
a movement of women. Far beyond the glory of Eckhart and Gerson, above
the eminence of thinker and teacher, shone, in this strange hierarchy of
dreamers, the beatitude of the visionary and prophetess. Prophets of God
some, others prophets of evil; so the Church decided. But it is hard to
divide the spiritual abnegation of Bridget, of Catherine, of the two
German Elizabeths, of Mechtild of Magdeburg, Gertrude and Mechtild von
Hackeborn, from the heresy which declared that to the soul lost in God
the sins of the body are as naught. That heresy is but the others’
holiness, pushed to its logical consequence.

The saints were chiefly women—women of vague, imperious, unsatisfied
emotion, sick of a world given over to rapine, interdict, and slaughter,
where no choice was left between disloyalty and damnation; women young
and active, living for the most part the passive, temperate eventless
life of the convent; women who imposed on themselves long fasts and
vigils, whose tender flesh was bruised with the stone flags of the cell
where they would lie of winter nights for penance, and torn with the
lashings of the self-inflicted scourge. In this life no hope for them;
in this world no love, no happiness, no possessions. As starving people
dream of delicious feasts and banquets, they found in a vision the
things withheld from them awake.

_Amor rapit, unit, satisfacit_: the practical Gerson lets fall the fiery
phrase. Each of these virgin visionaries had said as much. Open the
books of their exercises, their revelations; the dusty pages exhale a
violence and tenderness of passion that the minnesingers never caught,
the troubadors never felt, in their earthly singing. For these saintly
visions are all of love—love which ravishes; nay, love which drowns,
annihilates, swallows up. Love in a dream, and yet the one real thing in
a cramped and narrow life; love which fills every interstice and cranny
of a void and aching heart; love unseen, untouched, unheard, for which
the visionary waits hour by hour, in an anguish of tense devotion, waits
till the muttered monotony of her prayers, the fixed, unvaried straining
of her eyes, shall have lulled the body to a death-like trance, shall
set free the soul to show her the mirage of her own unsatisfied desire.


Throughout the thirteenth century Thuringia continued the centre and
stronghold of German sanctity. The life of St. Elizabeth at the Wartburg
had gone up from its midst like a purifying altar-flame to heaven. When
she died in 1231, hundreds of men and women came in tears to honour the
wasted body wrapped in its worn Franciscan cloak, lying dead in the poor
little house at Marburg. From the memory of her life, from the
pilgrimages to her tomb, a tradition and ideal of saintliness spread
among the people. Fifteen years later, it was in Thuringia that the Pope
found his champion. Even his oppression, and the defeat and death of
that ill-starred defender of the faith did little to abate the popular

The convent of Rodardesdorf, near Eisleben, and the great princely
convent of Quedlinburg, gave an especial religious distinction to
Thuringia; but not until about the year 1234, when the rich and noble
Freiherr von Hackeborn of Helfta placed at Rodardesdorf his little
five-year-old daughter Gertrude, was the specially illustrious future of
that house decided. Rodardesdorf was a convent of Cistercians, a
thoughtful and peaceful place. The little Gertrude was happy there. She
was a serious and earnest child, “not content,” says the chronicle,
“with childish innocence, but, even when a babe, gifted with a constant
gravity and prudence of demeanour.” Indeed, that childish head was
troubled with many things, for the little girl was passionately eager to
learn all that came in her way: science, liberal arts, grammar,
theology. So that she became no less honoured for her acquirements than
beloved for her docility and modesty of bearing.

But the convent was to acquire another infant saint. The mother of
Gertrude again visited the convent, and on one occasion brought with her
her younger daughter, Mechtild, then seven years of age, and as many
years younger than her sister. “They came for honest diversion,” says
the chronicle, probably to see little Gertrude, and certainly with no
thought of leaving Mechtild behind. But the child was so delighted with
the strange place, the large rooms, the little cells, the chapel with
its altar lights, the children in the garden, the nuns who made much of
her, that she declared she would willingly remain there for ever. Nor
would she leave, though her mother bade her come. Then the sisters,
delighted with so much holiness so young, instantly beseeched the mother
to leave her little girl in their company for awhile, and to this she
consented. Poor mother, did no pang go through her heart when the
convent doors shut on both her children? It was for ever; no prayers, no
commands could bring her back her wilful, loving, eager little Mechtild
any more, for the _Vita_ relates, “after this holy and blessed embrace
her parents could never withdraw her from that place for all the
caresses and endearments that they knew how to make.” With bruised ties
and bleeding hearts the career of saintliness begins. “Only he,” runs
the Scripture that child would often hear, “that hateth father and
mother can become my disciple.”

Of the daily routine of life in the convent we may gain an idea from
Abelard’s directions to the nuns of the Paraclete, and, setting against
the difference of date the difference of culture in the two countries,
we may not unfairly suppose the Thuringian Cistercians of 1250 to have
followed much the same rule of life as the Benedictines of Heloise
adopted a century earlier.

According to the code of Abelard the convent was divided into six
functions, all alike subject to the direction of the abbess. The
sacristan was responsible for the convent treasury; she kept the keys,
and had the care of the church plate and sacred vessels; and it was her
duty to set the virgin sisters to prepare the wafers for the Host, which
must not be made by widows. The chantress taught singing and reading,
had care of the choir and of the library, to which she was expected to
add by copying and illuminating manuscripts. The head of the infirmary
had charge of the sick. Another sister was mistress of the wardrobe, and
responsible not only for all the spinning, weaving, and sewing necessary
for the convent, but also for the tanning and cobbling. The cellarer had
in her charge the wines for the altar and the sick, the provisioning of
the table, and the management of whatever the convent possessed in
orchards and garden-land, flocks and herds and hives, trout streams and
mills. Lastly, the doorkeeper, who was especially chosen for courteous
manners, judgment, and trustworthiness, was responsible for the keeping
of the gate, the entertainment of guests, and the distribution of

Life in the convent was not hard, but monotonous, eventless beyond
description—a perpetual alternation of broken sleep, repeated tasks, and
prayer. In the middle of the night the sisters rose for Matins, and the
office over, trooped back through the darkness to the dormitory. There
they slept till Lauds, which are sung at the break of day; in summer,
when Lauds are early, the sisters slept again till Prime. At Prime they
left the dormitory, having first washed their hands, and taking their
books repaired to the cloister to read and sing until the office should
begin. Service over, they all assembled in the chapter-house, where a
lesson out of the Martyrology was read to them and expounded. On leaving
the chapter each nun was sent to fulfil her allotted task—singing or
sewing, nursing or baking—until the hour of Tierce, when mass was said.
They then resumed their work till noon, the sixth hour, which was the
convent dinner-time, except on fast-days, when it was postponed till
Nones, or in Lent, when nothing was eaten till after Vespers at four.
The convent fare was simple and spare. Save for the sick, no wine; stale
bread of coarse flour; roots and greens, and at discretion of the abbess
a portion of unflavoured meat on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. From
the autumn equinox till Easter, on account of the shortness of the days,
this one meal was considered sufficient for all save the infirm.

After dinner, in summer-time, the sisters slept till Nones; in the two
hours between that office and Vespers they were set to finish their
task, but at four the day’s work was done. Between the spring and autumn
equinoxes the sisters were permitted a light refreshment after Vespers.
It was the only time when fruit might be eaten. This light supper over,
Compline began. Then they all sought the dormitory again. On Saturday
evenings they were a little later, as then the sisters were enjoined to
purify themselves—that is to say, to wash their hands and feet, a
function which the abbess or lay-sisters were specially directed to
supervise. This done, they slept till the midnight matin-bell should
clang them from their beds.

Out of such a life of dreary monotony, the same task day by day, or
another exactly like it, the same prayer, the same lesson, always of
saints and martyrs; out of this life of forced privation, this
half-starved life of chants and broken dreams, who can wonder that
(Μορφή μία) visions, mysteries, scandals, witchcraft continually arose.
The two little children prospered in the convent which was at first
merely a school for them, and an excellent school. Gertrude, the silent,
studious, ambitious scholar, found there more books and better teachers
than she could have had at home; and, so long as her soul was set on
learning and studying, the homage paid her as a child set apart for God
only served as a spur to her ambition. “She ever would increase her
natural beauty of soul by saintly customs, adding to it the splendour
and the sweetness of all manner of flowered virtues, so that she should
be more pleasing in the eyes of every one,” says the chronicle in which
after her death the nuns of Helfta embalmed her virtues. But while
little Gertrude laboured so hard to make herself desirable, Mechtild,
quite simply and without effort, won all hearts to herself. Although she
was not so learned nor so grave as her sister, though once she had told
a lie (the one lie of her life), boasting to her companions that she had
seen a thief in the court, where thief was none; though, judging from a
later vision, she had sometimes looked back from the plough and longed
for her mother’s love: ay, though no early holiness had, as with
Gertrude, foretold the saint, and only after her entrance to the convent
had manifested itself in her; despite all this, Mechtild was the loved
one. While Gertrude in the library was toiling hard at grammar that her
mind might be worthy of God and the love of her companions, Mechtild
standing in the garden was surrounded with listeners, hanging on the
words of her fanciful allegories as she expounded the message of God.
While Gertrude was making extracts from the Fathers and compiling
treasuries of Scripture to help the souls of the sisterhood, Mechtild,
like a little mother, was going among the sick, speaking, ministering to
each, giving help and comfort to all in affliction. As they grew older
it was still the same—Gertrude putting her soul into her studies,
Mechtild into her life; Gertrude absorbed and wise, with no one friend
preferred to any other; Mechtild every one’s darling, beset with every
one’s confidences “to the impediment of the sweet quiet of her soul.”
Gertrude the humanist, Mechtild the human.


So far all was right and fair. Each child naturally selected the
education fitted to its wants, and became wise or loving as the need
was. But when they came to full girlhood they did not quit this school
whose teaching they had outgrown. These girls were, since their
childhood, cloistered nuns dedicated to God. But only when their
childhood was over could they appreciate the meaning of their vow. To
Mechtild it did not greatly matter; her life in the world might have
been fuller and richer, in the convent it was not wasted. She was so
easily interested in others, so gifted to soothe the sick and suffering,
so naturally humble and unselfish, that even the consciousness of
sanctity could not injure her nature; in her visions, even, she rarely
announces her own glory. It is Gertrude that she sees in the bosom of
the Father, and she hears the Divine Voice proclaim, “Gertrude is far
greater than this Mechtild.” More often her visions are messages of
consolation to those she has pitied and laboured for awake. She sees the
dead baby of a certain sorrowing mother clad in scarlet and gold, and
greatly glorified in heaven. She beholds God and the Virgin standing by
the bed of one of the sisters who is sick unto death; or else her
visions are tender and poetic fancies. She sees the Father giving all
the saints to drink of the Fountain of Mercy. She sees the Heart of God
burning like a lamp; or, again, she beholds the sacred rose that blooms
in the Heart of God; or, lastly, her visions supply the needs of her
maimed and stinted life. Kneeling on the floor of her cell, this loving
woman, with no natural ties, often sees God come to her as a little
child of five years old, and, in a dream, God gives her His love, at
last, to be her mother, “to care for her and lead her as a mother her
child.” Or she dreams, this woman with her love of colour and beauty, of
beautiful women in splendid raiment. Mary comes to her in a gown the
colour of air, sewn all over with tiny flowers of gold, and embroidered
round the neck and sleeves with the holy monogram of Jesus. Or she comes
in a pale green cloak, latticed over with gold, with the head of Christ
in every lattice. St. Catherine of Alexandria appears in dull crimson,
covered over with gold embroidery of little wheels, fastened at the
breast with a clasp of two meeting hands of gold. Christ appears young
and beautiful, in rose-coloured silk, stiff with gold and jewels, “yet
not to be thrown away because so heavy, but rather ennobled,” as the
soul with the heavy gems of grief. Or she sees the least saint in
Paradise, a youth of middle height, wonderfully lovely, most fair of
face, his hair crisply curling, of a colour between green and white,
clad all in green. Never, out of Meister Stefan’s pictures, were there
such deep colours, such quaintly-patterned gowns and mantles, such
jewels and embroideries as figure in the visions of this poor little
sallow saint, asleep herself in her darned serge and yellowed linen, and
always clad, by her own choice, in the worst clothes of the convent,
torn and patched in all corners.

The real dangers of mysticism have little power over a soul so sweet and
naïve as this. But it was otherwise with Gertrude. She was a woman of
passionate intensity of imagination, of an ever-active and ambitious
mind. During her childhood this had been wisely exercised in study. Had
she gone then into the world life and learning would have employed it
for her. Had she been a secular sister like Catherine of Siena, a
wandering preacher and prophetess, like Mechtild of Magdeburg, or an
avowedly learned and reforming abbess, like Heloise or Teresa, she
would, perhaps, have been most useful and happiest of all. But, when she
grew up, when she perceived the real aim of her cloistered life, her
learning became odious to her. What had the vain lore of this world to
do with the appointed spouse of Christ? “While this virgin was
continuing the study of the humanities,” relates the _Vita_, “she became
aware that this study was a region too remote from the similitude of
Christ, perceiving that too hungrily she had longed after human
learning, for which reason she had not until that moment disposed her
heart to receive Divine illumination. She knew then (and not without
passionate sighs coming from the heart) that until this time she had
been deprived both of the consolations and of the illuminations of
Divine wisdom, since she had remained intent on human things.”

A terrible conflict, a terrible temptation. With Gertrude’s earnest
nature there could be but one end. She cut off from her the hungry and
passionate love of human learning as she would have cut off a limb or
plucked out an eye to enter, maimed but holy, into Paradise. With tears,
and anguish, and bitter agony of prayer, she maimed her soul. But not
always does the mutilated member heal. Woe to those whom nature punishes
for their temerity with mortification, with numb and creeping death.

Now that Gertrude had, of her own will, shut off from herself all her
former means of progress and employment, how should she spend her time?
She was not, like Mechtild, by nature a sick-nurse and a confidant; she
had not, like Mechtild, a beautiful voice which she could cultivate for
the service of God; and to her dominant eager nature it was necessary to
do something and to do it better than any one else. The one remnant of
all her studies which she permitted herself was the translation of Latin
prayers into German for the benefit of more ignorant sisters, and at
this she would persevere the whole day long. But this oft-repeated,
almost mechanical employment could not fill her mind, could open no
vista to her ambition. There was, indeed, only one road that she could
follow; all the circumstances of her life converged to the same
vanishing point.

When she remembered, in the long vacant hours of sleeping or copying,
the books she used to read, what thoughts would they naturally suggest
to her? She had, we may be sure, read no books that would give her
visions of the world outside—poems of Virgil the magician, or the
minnesingers. To her the humanities were themselves books of theology;
the writings of the fathers of the Church, a tract of St. Bonaventura’s
it may be, or one of the sermons of Eckhart or of Albertus Magnus (then
at the prime of their renown), certainly the works of Dionysius
Areopagita. What would they have taught her, these books which she had
given up to imitate the lowliness of Christ? They told her, one and all,
how much more desirable was feeling than reason, ecstasy than care for
others, faith than works; how far above all natural tenderness of human
charity was the _virtus infusa_, the theological virtue, the love of
God. Every hour of her life must have repeated the lesson. The eight
offices of the day, the lesson from the _Martyrology_, which was all the
food this hungry and active mind was given to fast upon; the daily task
of copying prayers; the long, weary misery of being no one, in no true
position. All these things must have spoken to this earnest,
self-preoccupied Gertrude, who had toiled so long to make herself
pleasing in the eyes of every one; and, now, knowing so well what was
necessary, would she not strive in prayer for this last, dearest gift?
Would she not set herself to learn this one thing needful? Most likely
she had not long to pray, nor ever consciously began to learn, before
the gift was granted, the science acquired, the strong mind weakened and
perverted, the student an ecstatic.


From that first moment of vision the fame of Gertrude grew so high and
so rapidly, that when in 1251 the abbess of Rodardesdorf expired, this
girl-ecstatic of nineteen was elected her successor. It is strange that
the duties of her new position, the great responsibilities of so famous
a convent, did not draw her from her visions; but the influence of the
time was strong, and the abbess of Rodardesdorf was beset by no
imperious need for reform. There was no cleansing work of righteousness
to be performed in that well-ordered house of high-born mystical ladies.
All that Gertrude could do was, seven years after her nomination, when
the springs of Rodardesdorf dried up, to remove the convent to her own
castle of Helfta, an act which naturally increased her own position in
the convent, and tripled her glory of abbess, benefactress, and
ecstatic. Gertrude, however, was not the only saint in Helfta. Besides
her sister, the sweet, fanciful Saint Mechtild, there was Gertrude the
Nun,[3] sometimes confounded with the abbess, who in all probability
wrote the concluding book of the _Vita_, certainly finished after St.
Gertrude’s death. The two daughters of the Count of Mansfeld were also
professed in the convent, and were gifted disciples of its mystical
doctrines. Sophia spent her life in enriching the already valuable
library of Helfta, and Elizabeth painted, probably in the chapel.

Footnote 3:

  Herr Preger, notwithstanding the authority of other scholars, and the
  entire tradition of the Church, maintains the _Gertruden-buch_ to be
  the work not of Gertrude von Hackeborn, but of a certain Gertrude the
  Nun, living at the same time in the same convent. He also, in an
  argument of great ingenuity, separates Mechtild the chantress from our
  Mechtild von Hackeborn, to whom, however he leaves the authorship of
  her works; but as in the Venetian edition of the _Vita_ (1583 and
  1605), I find the words, “Now Gertrude, with her sister Mechtild the
  chantress, managed all the affairs of the convent,” with constant
  indications of the identity of Gertrude the abbess and Gertrude the
  saint; and as Lansperg, the earliest chronicler, expressly states them
  both to be the daughters of the Graf von Hackeborne, I have decided in
  this one matter not to accept the dictate of a scholar, to whom all
  students of the subject must remain indebted.

In 1265 the convent, already the high school of ecstasy in the north of
Germany, received a more famous woman than any of these. This was our
Mechtild of Magdeburg, whose earnest faith and flashing, passionate
eloquence, whose songs inspired with a wild, strange tenderness, whose
life of hardship and adventure for the love of Christ, had rendered her
one of the noblest and most endearing figures of her age. She chose
Helfta to be the home of her declining years, and added another glory to
the convent of St. Gertrude and St. Mechtild.

Such a house, it may be supposed, did not exhaust the spiritual energies
of a nature so full of force and so ambitious as that of its young
abbess. Her surroundings were but an added incentive to her aspiring
soul. She worked hard, it is true, aided by her sister Mechtild. Every
day she visited the infirmary and saw that the sick were well and
cleanly treated. She ruled her nuns with thought and care; but when the
hours of leisure came, the many daily periods set apart for prayer and
meditation, then her old ecstasy overpowered her with a strength and
vividness the more forcible for the obstacles it had to overcome. More
passionate, more personal become her revelations as she lies abandoned
to trance and vision in the arms of the spiritual Lover. So strong, so
hot, so fierce, so tender are the words that fall from her lips, that we
cannot bear them now unmoved. Ah me! what vain and fruitless passion
this dreaming love of the saint for a dream!

It was not until nine years after the bestowal of the “singular grace of
divine familiarity,” says the _Vita_ that Gertrude wrote down the
description of her visions. But the visions, themselves recorded in the
five books of her revelations, seem to have begun almost immediately
after her renunciation of human learning. “From that time she began to
hold as vile all visible and external things, and verily not without a
cause, for from that time the Lord opened to her the ways of Mount Zion,
a place of joy and consolation. Leaving the study of grammar, in which
she was greatly instructed, she turned to theology, that is to say, Holy
Scripture and the lives of the saints, using them with infinite

And soon the saint herself began to speak from the mount, in her own
language. None of the tender consolations and quaintly pictured fancies
of Mechtild are here. The revelations of Gertrude manifest the ambition,
the activity, the emotion of a crushed and passionate nature forced into
an unnatural channel. Tragic and miserable spectacle: the strong
passion, the earnest will so sorely wanted in the world outside, are
spent vainly, vilely, in inducing terrible disease. The saint grows
weaker as her visions increase in force; her mind, warped and broken,
can bend but one way. And that way is towards inertia, madness, and
annihilation. An old tale, oft-repeated, yet needed, perhaps, in these
days of mesmerism and spiritual _séances_. An old tale, well-known to
the Yogis of India, to the monks and nuns of mediæval Europe, to all who
have deliberately made themselves the victims of catalepsy and hysteria.
For deliberately they did it. Many of the receipts have come down to us:
the absolute cessation from practical affairs, the emptiness of mind and
heart; the regulated diet, neither too little nor too much; the lack of
sleep; the quiet, which no joy or woe of others may disturb, when,
seated or kneeling in his cell, at an hour when digestion is well over,
sighing lugubriously in deep, regular sighs, the eyes are fixed on one
point too high or too low for perfect comfort, the arms are to beat the
breast in monotonous routine, as Gerson and other mystical doctors
prescribe, until a heavy trance involves the body, until the brain
becomes deranged by this appalling and stultifying monotony, and
creeping death or madness end the vision.

“It happened once,” says the _Vita_, “that by reason of sickness,
Gertrude was prevented from attending vespers; and, longing for these,
and feeling sick at heart, she turned to the Lord, and said: ‘O my
Master, were it not more praiseworthy that I should now be singing in
the choir with my other companions and hearing the prayers and the other
regular exercises than to be lying in this weakness, in which I consume
in negligence so many hours?’ To which He answered: ‘Oh, dost thou
believe the bridegroom holds his bride less dear, when he stayeth at
home to taste the familiarity of his domestic pleasure, than when he
glories to lead her forth, well adorned, before the gaze of the crowd?’
from which speech she understood that, in the divine service, the soul
appears as a bride going forth; but, when heavily laden with bodily
infirmities, then as a bride sleeping in the secret chamber; for the
more that man is weak, shorn of all pleasures of the sense, destitute
and impotent, the more is he made to delight the Lord.”

Such a theory was naturally productive of fasts and vigils, nor, if the
favour of her Lord depended on the sickness of her body, could it ever
have been far from this poor ailing and anæmic girl. A revolting amount
of suffering is naïvely and incidentally revealed in her works of
spiritual grace. Scarce a chapter but opens, “Being again sorely weak
from want of sustenance,” “Lying again in bed helpless with sickness,”
“Being sorely oppressed with a burning of the liver,” or with some
similar avowal of the connection between her revelations and the
weakness of her health. Often she piteously implores the Lord to restore
her to her former soundness and well-being, but the answer is always the
same. “Thy sickness is a dance and a festival for me,” responds the
Celestial Spouse; nor ever is there any hope given her of a cessation to
her pain. In her wandering senses the poor tormented saint dimly guessed
that her spiritual gifts were dependent on the utter prostration of her
body and her mind.

The spectacle of her suffering convinced the whole convent of Gertrude’s
sanctity. They believed her in daily communication with their unseen
Head. It was natural, therefore, that they should bring their sorrows to
her and entreat her intercession, as men ask a minister to counsel the
king, or a steward to remedy the carelessness of the absent master, or a
favoured mistress to beg that, for her love’s sake, a piece of justice
may be granted that otherwise were withheld. It was natural, also, that
Gertrude should believe herself capable of guiding the will of God;
natural that the strange vanity of the visionary and the hysteric should
obscure the eyes of her mind, and lead her further on the road she had
chosen. After visions, miracles.


Miracles exist in the mind of the witnesses. “Le miracle,” said
Lamennais, “existe quand on y croit.” To the latter-day sceptic, the
marvels which procured the canonization of Gertrude are such natural
trifles that it is difficult to imagine they could ever have filled a
whole countryside with rapture and thanksgiving. A sudden downfall of
rain, the ceasing of a shower, the finding of a needle—such are her
miracles. But hear with what pomp and circumstance the chronicler
narrates them.

“One evening when the nuns had finished supper, they went into the court
to finish a certain piece of work that they were set to do, and it
happened that at this time the sun still shone, notwithstanding that in
the sky there were several clouds which threatened rain; wherefore she,
sighing, began heartily to converse with the Lord, I hearing all she
said, as follows: ‘O Lord God, Creator of everything, I do not wish that
thou, as if compelled, should obey the will of me unworthy; none the
less would it be very dear to me, if pleasing to Thee, if Thy most
liberal goodness shouldst prevail against Thine honest justice to retard
a little, for my sake, this rain. None the less, Thy will be done.’ She
said these latter words resigning herself into the hands of God, not
thinking of aught but the fulfilment of His good pleasure; a marvellous
thing it must certainly be accounted, that scarcely had she finished
speaking when lightning, thunder, and great drops of rain burst forth
with great fury; for which cause, moved with pity for the other sisters,
she remained altogether filled with fear, and again she said to the
Lord, ‘Let Thy goodness, O most clement God, last at least so long as
while we finish our appointed task.’ At these words the most clement
God, to show how in everything He was pleased to grant her prayer, held
up the rain until the nuns had finished the task they were at work upon;
which done, they returned to the convent, and scarcely had they reached
the gate when there began a tempest of rain and thunder and lightning,
so that some of the sisters who had lingered behind could not enter the
door before they were soaked to the skin.”


Gertrude was the saint of the convent, and yet her ambition cannot have
been wholly realized. She, who ever since her childhood had laboured
hard to acquire “all manner of flowered virtues in order to please the
eyes of every one,” she, the favoured of God, was nevertheless in the
convent less beloved than simple Mechtild. The fact is revealed
unconsciously in every page of her life, in all the numerous revelations
when God declares that notwithstanding the convent’s suffrage, Gertrude
is greater than Mechtild. And greater she was—more passionate, strong,
and earnest, suffering anguish and burning with great desires that her
sweet and happy sister could not conceive. Love was necessary to her,
love and approbation. They were the very food of her soul. Reading side
by side her revelations and her life, one easily comprehends how in
proportion as she failed to gain the love and tenderness of her
companions, her visions become erotic and passionate. To give such a
nature respect, esteem, awe, as a reward for its sacrifice, is in
bitterest truth to give a stone to the child crying for bread. Gertrude
being hungry dreamed of a feast; phantasmal banquets which nourish not,
but madden.

As time went on, Gertrude transferred all her earnestness, all her
powers of feeling, from the outer world to this dream-born inner life.
Censorious, abstracted, caring little for physical suffering, she was
tender and anxious to the last degree in all matters that concerned the
soul. And this without any interest in the personality of the creature
she longed to save. She had, says her biographer, not one friend so dear
that to save her she would by so much as one word commit an offence
against perfect justice, and would declare that rather would she consent
to the injury of her own mother than harbour an evil thought against an
enemy. Her conversation was in heaven, and the things of the world were
as dust to her. Nay, as poison. She was as careful as Pascal[4] by no
word of hers ever to draw to herself the heart of any person; it was not
for her who was beloved of God to unite herself in earthly friendship,
and as one would fly a person stricken with a pestilent disease, she
fled from any one who sought her affection. Never now could she endure
to hear a word of earthly love; rather would she remain deprived of the
services and the goodwill of all the world than ever consent that, by
reason of human favour the heart of any should be joined to hers.

Footnote 4:

  “La vraie et unique vertue et donc de se haïr. Il est injuste qu’on
  s’attache à moi, quoiqu’on le fasse avec plaisir et volontairement. Je
  tromperais ceux à qui j’en ferais naître le désir; car je ne suis la
  fin de personne et n’ai pas de quoi les satisfaire:” Pascal told his
  married sister she ought not to caress her own children or suffer them
  to caress her.

So says the chronicle. Yet with all this bitter indifference, this love
turned sour in her heart, she kept a great tenderness for erring or
tormented souls, praying and watching for them, warning and consoling;
and though the sinner proved obdurate, not yet would she relax her care;
nay, when the sisters besought her not to afflict herself for the sins
of the ungodly, she would answer that she would rather suffer death than
console herself for the misery of those who would only understand their
own perdition when at last they should stand in face of the eternal
expiation. So great was her compassion, that did she only hear of any
one sick in spirit, be he never so far away, she could not rest without
endeavouring to console his sorrow. And as men laid low with fever exist
from day to day in the hope of recovery, watching themselves to see if
they are not a little better, so she longed and watched from hour to
hour that the Lord might console the mourner and ease him in his

Strange and pathetic this zeal for the indefinable and impersonal soul,
concerning itself nowise with character or feeling, with mind or
physical well-being. Strange and awful this transmuted love, this
transformed humanity and kindness, which deal with unrealities while all
around a world sickens and dies. Yet not so strange if we remember that
to exchange the reality for the shadow, the thought for the dream, and
truth for a phantasm, is the principle of mysticism.


Meanwhile Mechtild, a mystic by doctrine and circumstance, but not by
temperament, concerned herself, even in the convent, chiefly with the
affairs of reality. She was, as we have seen, every one’s friend, nurse,
and confidant, and but slenderly concerned with saintly glories for
herself. She never wrought any miracles, nor did God ever tell her that
she was His most favoured among women. It was Gertrude’s glory that she
declared. The saintly acts that are recorded of her have a pathetic
human grotesqueness never to be found in Gertrude’s doings or sayings.
For instance, out of a great pity for the sins of the mummers and
dancers at carnival, she filled her bed full of potsherds and broken
glass, and rolled in them till she was a mass of cuts and sores, begging
God to accept her suffering as a set-off to the merry-making of the
world outside. This is not the true mystical temper, which ignores all
but the union of the soul with God. Mechtild sought no advancement for
her own soul, she sought to palliate the offences of the guilty and to
save them from punishment rather than bring them to repentance; moreover
she felt herself responsible for their errors. The true ecstatic, lost
in God, abjures human responsibility. Nevertheless, even in the convent,
Mechtild, with her merry patience in suffering, her care for the sick
body no less than the sick soul, her humility and lovingness, was
naturally dearer than her austere, abstracted sister-saint. And, none
the less, the sisterhood was aware that Gertrude not Mechtild was their
real title to honour.

As the mystical life spread like a contagion through the convent, many
of the younger sisters, underfed, deprived of air and exercise, had not
strength to support the abnormal existence of the visionary. Sickness
was frequent in this convent of ecstatics, and whether at Rodardesdorf
or at Helfta its mortality was excessive. The nuns died young of
undefined diseases. We are always meeting allusions to their short,
dream-visited lives, to their early and inexplicable dying. They perish
of anæmia, before the acknowledgedly consumptive sisters; and the nuns
can find no reason for their death unless it be that God was anxious to
remove so much sweetness to flourish perpetually in His presence. The
diseases of the convent are such physical ills as are induced by mental
strain and by bodily inanition—consumption, hysteric convulsions, or
paralysis, disturbances of the liver. Such as cannot die—such as, like
Gertrude herself, have too strong a fibre to perish in girlhood—linger,
tormented by sickness, prematurely old and useless. All they have to
console them is the phrase, vouchsafed by her heavenly bridegroom to
Gertrude in vision, “Lo! ye that fain would hasten into my presence, ye
are as a spouse that bare and unadorned would venture into the nuptial
chamber; know, that after this death which ye so much desire, no further
grace can accrue to the soul, nor can it suffer any more for God’s

Mechtild of Magdeburg, Dante’s Matilda, was the first of the greater
saints to succumb. A long life of hardship, of energetic striving with a
guilty world, years of Beguine Prophecy, much labour of writing and
preaching, and the pain of bodily weariness, had worn her out. At the
age of sixty-seven the strongest and sweetest of all the German
women-mystics departed from a world which she had not shrunk to face,
which even from her cloister she had striven to ennoble. The strong,
reforming spirit was stilled at last. The one woman in the convent of
Helfta who knew the world as it is, its sins and aspirations, its
generosities and crimes, was dead. A window was shut in that house, a
window showing the world beyond the chapel walls, and letting in upon
the heavy smell of flickering candles and swinging censers the free
breath of the wind. Henceforth there was no reminder of the larger
world, the purer air outside: Mechtild of Magdeburg was dead.


No such release was appointed for Gertrude; the easy death of the body
was not for her, though for death she prayed by day and by night,
finding that her prayers for health and strength were never granted.
Nailed to her mattress by exceeding weakness, she watched the younger
nuns die, one by one, “admitted to the celestial marriage-chambers,”
while she, faint, palsied, useless, lingered on. “O, my God,” she cries,
“could I not serve Thee better with my old strength than thus?” And ever
the soul-heard answer comes, that the more humbled the body, the poorer
the proud intellect of man, so much the dearer to God is his spiritual
essence. Thus dragged on year after year, and the great abbess filled
her five books of revelations and her eight books of spiritual
exercises. Her life was spent and she was old. The later hagiographers
relate of Saint Gertrude that she died of a languor of Divine love.
Modern science would call by another name this long palsy of the body
through the prostration of the mind. But no diagnosis, saintly or
scientific, can add to the sense of misery and waste with which we
recall that strong life so early broken, those twenty-five years of
strained nerves and aching limbs, that six-months-long daily death of
hysterical paralysis.

“This elect of God,” relates the _Vita_, “full of the Holy Spirit and
worthy to be embraced by the arms of Divine charity, Gertrude, most
benign abbess, all-praiseworthy, having laboured for forty years and as
many days in the honour and praise of God, ruling her abbey wisely and
with much prudence, sweetly, and with much discretion, being by reason
of all these virtues flowery as a fresh rose in this world, and
marvellously gracious and worthy to be loved, not by God only, but by
mankind as well, at last, after forty years and forty days, fell into a
grievous sickness, which is known as minor palsy, a form of apoplexy.”

The narrators of the life, who knew Gertrude and had often seen her, say
no word, it will be perceived, of the celestial love-sickness which a
more sentimental taste gave out afterwards to be the cause of her death.
And, indeed, such a superstition could not rise, even round so great a
saint, while the physical details of her last weakness remained fresh in
the minds of the nuns of Helfta. They mourned her truly, and believed
that never a holier saint had been translated to those pleasant fields
of heavenly green for which she had so often longed. But, with an
admirable _naïveté_, even while they believed that God had drawn her
miraculously from her sick bed into His arms, they knew that she had
died of palsy. To them there was nothing incongruous in the two ideas;
they had no thought of concealing—they would rather display—the
degradations and infirmities of the mere human body which had so long
enchained the heavenly soul. At first her senses remained to her, only
she could not move her limbs, could not stir the wasted hands that once
had been so swift to sew, to write, to put in order whatever was out of
place. She could lie still and dream, the poor, dying mystic.

For she had given to her now, as a gift that should not be taken away,
that perfect quiescence and immobility of body which she had practised
so often, so patiently, by day and night, in times gone past. And soon
she was to be granted that other wing of ecstasy, complete abstraction
of the mind from all human thoughts and affairs. So heavy became the
burden of her infirmity that she could no longer order the affairs of
the household, no longer care for others. At last she could not speak,
she could not pray, she could not think. She was perfected in the
mystical way; annihilated, stultified, palsied, she had attained the
summit of her desire. Never moving, never changing, dead-alive, she lay
there month by month, a helpless burden upon the community. Worshipped
as one indeed highly favoured of the Lord by those whose feet were all
set on the same sterile and deadly road, she could give utterance to no
other words but these, “My soul!” And this phrase she repeated over and
over again, finding it marvellously ample and sufficient to express all
the movements of the spirit. O pitiless ideal, O cruel and revolting
doctrine, is it to this you would reduce the living, thinking, active
human mind? Is the end of such continued sacrifice, such years of
hourly, daily labour nothing but this—a palsied useless body, a dumb,
numb soul, with no thought and no desire beyond itself? At length the
hour of dissolution was at hand, the night in which no man shall work;
and in waiting for this the days of life had gone by fruitless and
wasted; in hoping for this the sun had risen and set in vain, the
seasons had changed unnoticed; in preparation for this soul and heart
and mind and physical powers had deliberately hamstrung their noblest
faculties; and now the long-awaited night was at hand, the night in
which all mistakes are forgotten, all cares and anguish set at rest.

The last time that Gertrude spoke these two all-sufficing words, “My
soul!” was one evening when Compline was at an end. Then began her
passage to the other life. At this time, fables the author of the end of
the _Vita_, in quaint allegorical eulogy, not only the chamber of the
dying abbess, but the whole of the monastery, was crowded and thronged
to excess, since among the praying and weeping sisterhood knelt all the
virgin company of heaven.

“At length the happy hour was come when the Celestial and Imperial
Spouse should receive His beloved in His house of love, finally, after
so much longing, set free of the prison of the world.” The nuns knelt
round praying and weeping; the watching sisters saw angels kneeling too.
And we, do we not see the ghosts of stillborn pity, and joy, and love,
and help, standing white-eyed and shadowy there? Yet wherefore should
all or any weep? The end is at hand; the labour is over and gone, and
soon she will rest so well that, even if she could, she would not quit
her quiet bed. Well may she sleep, poor, troubled soul, mistaken and
most noble in its errors; well may she sleep who, being dead, yet speaks
with a clearer and surer voice than she spoke with on earth, telling of
patience and sacrifice borne willingly for love’s sake, of faithful
endurance through pain and toil, teaching an example and a warning in
one word. And in the middle of their praying none heard at what moment
the sleeping spirit went. The abbess was dead; but the convent went on
as though she had been still alive. Another abbess took her place;
another nun saw visions and worked miracles in her stead, a lesser saint
but of the same quality. Even after Mechtild’s death some years after,
the old life went on—the old routine of sleep and prayer, or of forced
wakeful nights and baneful ecstasy; and the old life of insufficient
food and insufficient thought begot the old aberrations and diseases.
The fever had not yet run its course.

We standing here, safe, as we imagine, from the deadly epidemic,
curiously studying these eight hundred closely printed pages as records
of morbid hysteria, may feel our hearts melt with a melancholy regret
for the shipwreck of so many noble lives. For the worst of this malady
was that it attacked the loftiest spirits, as phylloxera the oldest and
most fruitful vines. We may pity and praise them in a breath; we may
give a kindly wonder to their belated love and say that, but for them,
the sentiments that fills our hearts to-day would have been less
patient, less tender, less exalted. And this is well, that we should
honour the best in them. But let us take care that we ourselves are free
and whole; let us not deem ourselves too safe, but place a quarantine on
our own souls lest the sweet and fatal poison of mysticism penetrate
thither unawares.

                      THE ATTRACTION OF THE ABYSS.


As an island is surrounded by water, as night surrounds the stars, and
air the globe, so beyond the region of the known there stretches an
illimitable space of darkness and of silence. All minds know that it is
there; to many of us it is a background of repose to the busy scene of
life; to some the hidden tract has its chart of faith or dogma. But
there are others to whom that vast and dark Unknown is more present than
the small and shining certainty of the Universe. They are sucked into
the eddy of its vastness and its darkness. These natures turn from the
substance to dream of the shadow, they leave the narrow fields of
science and go out boldly over those unsounded waters beyond. Souls such
as these are never quite at home in life: the dark, the undreamed of,
the infinite has enchanted them. They are drawn by the attraction of the

                  *       *       *       *       *

Mysticism allures different men by different methods. It draws by
various lines the passionate heart, the broken and humbled will, the
heated fancy, the indignant spirit wroth at the hardness and evil of the
world. It draws no less the reasoning and metaphysical mind, repelled by
dogma and yet desirous of the Deity. For Mysticism is not only an affair
of dreams, of miracles, and visions, it is not only a satisfaction to
disordered imaginations, to diseased and stunted passions; it includes a
system of philosophy so logical that who accepts the first easy thesis
arrives without negation or amazement at the last. The Mystics have, in
fact, made a science of the soul, an elaborate system of abstractions,
quite logical in itself, although in contradiction to the truths of
physical nature. No one, indeed, is readier to admit this contradiction
than the Mystic himself, for the soul, he says, is exactly the contrary
of the body. It is therefore natural that as bodily life rises in the
scale from simple to complex, so the soul’s existence should be purest
when least differentiate. For the soul and the body meet on one level
for a moment, but they come from different positions. The human body is
the highest evolution of the animate world; the human soul, the Mystics
assure us, is the lowest and last descent of Infinite Being. In fact,
the soul of man is to Divinity in the same relation as the zoophyte is
to us. Only, unfortunately for the simile, in this strange supernatural
cosmos the zoophyte is higher than the man. Let us rather say that man,
having progressed from the zoophyte to humanity in body, must now in
soul ascend from the man to the zoophyte. For the soul, we must
remember, is divinest when most simple. It is the last descent of God,
and God (the Mystics say) is absolute unity and simplicity. “God,” says
Meister Eckhart, “is the simplest essence of existence; and who,
thinking of God, sees any distinction from utter simplicity, be sure he
seeth not God.”


“But how” (we can imagine one of Eckhart’s audience exclaiming), “how
can the absolutely simple be the manifold? God, you say, is the Simple
and the One; and yet you say that every soul descends from God. If God
is absolutely simple and single, He cannot divide Himself into many
souls.” Eckhart here, we may be sure, would smile and praise the
discretion of his assailant; for this objection brings us to the central
theory of Speculative Mysticism, the dearest dogma of Plotinus, of
Dionysius, of Scotus Erigena, as of Master Eckhart.

Spirit is everywhere one. Spirit is in the Godhead and indivisible. The
Godhead exists, our Mystics tell us, above and beyond all Divine
theophanies; the Godhead exists as a vast and unfathomable ocean,
rolling its seas of emptiness and silence from pole to pole. But
everywhere the ocean is bordered by the land; and its waters, in the
circle of their tides, wash over a hundred shores, and fill a thousand
bays and creeks and little rocky pools. Even as the deep sea sends its
shallower waters over the sands, and then withdraws them into its
eternal and unfathomable fulness, so the waters of God flow into every
soul. And when the sea withdraws its tide, it withdraws not merely the
contents of this pool and yonder creek, but the sea itself, eternally
undivided, though for the space of a tide it filled the limits and the
hollows of the shore.

But not all the strand, is washed by the sea; above a certain line the
sands grow their rank, stiff grass, and grey-green thistles; the sands
are almost land. And not the whole of the soul is visited by the Divine
simplicity; only the water-line, the arid depth of the soul, is swept
over and filled by the infinite being of God. “There is something in the
soul,” taught Meister Eckhart, “uncreated and uncreatable; there is
something in the soul which is beyond the soul, Divine, simple, an utter
nothingness; there is a place in the soul where God inhabits, and this
base of the soul is one with the base of God. And to reach this obscure
retreat of the Eternal and Divine, where the unconscious Godhead
dwells—this is the supreme and final goal of all created things.”


And how shall the Mystic reach this obscure and inner depth, this
silence where the soul is one with God? By sinking into himself. For the
Mystic there exists no exterior world. Since God is within us, what
value is there in the world without? “Omnes creaturæ sunt purum nihil,”
formulates Master Eckhart. For the Mystic the body is only a prison, a
distortion, a hindrance; its senses, its experience cannot teach him.
“Being freed from the folly of the body,” said Plato, “we shall of
ourselves know the whole real essence.” “Matter,” says Plotinus, “is the
principle of individuation, and who would seek the one must quit the
things of matter.” Without the body, then, we were no longer personal,
no longer separate; we were all One and all God. It is the body which
determines our character; there is no personality in the soul. We must
conceive it as pure water poured into a coloured vase, which becomes
red, or blue, or green, according to the colour of the vase. The colour
is not a principle of the water, and does not affect the water. So the
soul poured into the body appears to take a note and colour of its own,
but, poured out again, is seen to be unaltered. The first aim of the
true Mystic is to purify his spirit from this extraneous and earthly
tint; to make the vase, if he can, as colourless, as simple and uniform
as that infinite Being, of which, in Erigena’s phrase, the Soul is the
last descent.

Since the soul is God the world is nothing. No more than the eye can
taste or the ear handle, can the created comprehend the Divine. “If we
are to know anything purely,” we read again in Plato, “we must be
separate from the body.” And Plotinus adds that he who enters in quest
of the One must ascend to the First Principle of his own nature. The
First Principle of Plotinus is the same as Meister Eckhart’s Foundation
of the Soul. It is the One. Intellect may be a means to reach it, but it
is certainly not an end. The Mystic philosopher thinks himself into an
ecstasy; and the ecstasy, not the thought, is his goal.

Our Mystic has therefore abandoned the world, and abandoned his own
experience in the endeavour to attain to God. He must be quite still,
passive, dumb; the mystic should be as a new-born child who has not yet
smiled in his mother’s face. He must not even _will_ to be made one with
God. “He must have no seeking for himself more than has a corpse,”
writes Eckhart. “Let him be as one dead,” counsels Suso. “He must not be
satisfied with any deed or virtue,” adds the Flemish Ruysbroch, “but
only in the Abyss.” And Tauler rises to a passionate eloquence: “Sink
thou into thy Depth and thy Nothingness, and let the tower and all its
bells fall down upon thee; yea, let all the devils in Hell storm out
upon thee; let Heaven and Earth with all their creatures assail thee,
yet shall they all but marvellously serve thee.... Sink thou only into
thy Nothingness, and the better part is thine.”


Death in life is the aim of the Mystic, and his consolation is the
thought of his annihilation. There is not any rest for him, and no
solace save in that which Suso calls “the desolate wilderness and deep
chasm of unsearchable Deity.” To us of a later age to whom the greatest
and most alluring promise of religion is the hope of Personal
Immortality, it is hard to realize a fact which must strike every
student; namely, that throughout the Middle Ages the most passionate
motive of a hundred passionate sects, the dearest thesis of the deepest
thinkers in the Church, was this intense desire of personal
annihilation. As a fact, this frenzy after Nothingness cost the Church
more heresies than any corruption in herself. The very doctors of the
Church were tainted with it. The lowest of the people—poor, starved, and
hunted fanatics—formed themselves into bands and brotherhoods to preach
this comforting gospel of extinction. The books of Dionysius the
Areopagite carried the Alexandrian theories of the One into every
monastery in Europe. The Almaricians, the Vaudois, the followers of
Ortlieb, the Beguines, the brothers and sisters of the Free Spirit, and
many other sects of poor and wandering people, spread their fantastic
corruptions of the same, throughout the working classes. From the
twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, the desire of many a mystical saint
was identical with the despair of atheists to-day. It was the extinction
of the personal soul. The whirligig of time brings strange revenges.

Mysticism throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries occupied,
in the thinking and religious world, a position almost identical with
that of Spiritualism in our day. Like its modern offshoot, mediæval
Mysticism could be superimposed on any cult or habit; like Spiritualism,
it lent itself equally to a grossly sensual, or an abstract and idealist
interpretation. And Mysticism, therefore, appealed to an immense
audience; to the ignorant and pretentious, dissatisfied with the
Church’s authority, merely because it was authority; to the pure
reformers, anxious to preserve religion and quit the formal and
corrupted shows of it; to tender, pious, and dreaming souls, with no
great hold upon the world of fact; to the abstract reasoner, eager to
preserve his faith while letting untenable dogma slip away. The
authorized religion occupied a singular position towards these Mystics,
who formed, as it were, a Church within the Church. Afraid to quite
disown them or, indeed, to openly disapprove, lest she might thereby
weaken her own hold, yet conscious all the while that these theories of
her children were scarcely less subversive of her own supremacy than
those of any heretic or atheist, the Church burnt one Mystic and
canonized another, with an impartiality born of vacillation. The
influence of the Mystics was indeed immense, and too serious to be
lightly regarded. They promised to destroy the prison, the canker, the
disease of _Self_—to let the freed soul loose from the body, to vanish
for ever in the Divine darkness of the unimaginable Abyss; they made the
comfort of many a dreaming soul, tortured by the ineradicable memory of
human sin. They offered to the tired thinker, the starved and weary
labourer, the broken nun, the harassed townspeople, an attraction which
the Church herself dared not openly afford; and many who had wandered
away from the hard-and-fast, strict-and-narrow fold of Rome, found a
refuge in Mysticism, who might else have thrown aside all claim to
faith. Even as to-day, many are Spiritualists who otherwise would
certainly be Agnostics. For Spiritualism insists on none of the bonds or
dogmas of religion, and offers a palpable proof to its believers of that
which religion only promises; that is to say, the Immortality of the
Soul, that golden mirage-fountain of our thirsty modern world. This was
precisely the position of mediæval Mysticism, only, as we know, it was
Rest, not Life, that she offered; extinction, and not continuance; not
Paradise, but the Abyss.


That a great many people everywhere at one time ardently desire one
thing is certainly no proof that their desire shall be satisfied; but it
shows a real want in the heart of man—a want which may be stopped by
altered conditions, if not by the actual things desired. As many people
longed for extinction in the harassed Middle Ages as pine for
immortality to-day. I do not mean to say they formulated this desire,
for most of them were fervent Christians. But life was bitter then, and
they hoped to extinguish their weary and craving souls in the
unconscious Godhead. When life is bitter now, we say “Eternal Justice
owes us a happier experience to discharge our sufferings here.” But in
both attitudes the same one fact remains, that so long as life is
bitter, men will crave and will complain. No modern preacher has spoken
more fervently of the joys of immortality than these medieval Mystics
spoke of the Abyss. Each to each has been the final and immeasurable
recompense for all the wrongs that ever there were in the world. By many
ardent Churchmen, and many saints, and many thinkers in the Middle Ages,
God was chiefly worshipped as the Abyss. He was the Supreme
Annihilation. The soul must plunge, says Eckhart, into pure Nothingness.
The soul must sink, says Tauler, in the Divine Darkness, into the secret
place of the Divine Abyss. “There is no safety,” says Guillame
Briçonnet, “save in the Abyss” (“l’abysme qui abysme en désabysmant”).
Adventitious reward, says Suso, may come in the consciousness of having
conquered evil and done good; but true reward, essential reward, is only
in the wild waste and deep abyss of inscrutable Deity, in the union of
the soul with sheer impersonal Godhead. This Godhead, says Eckhart, is a
simple stillness without quality or distinction. God is neither this nor
that. Who can distinguish and say, “This is good, sees not God; for all
that is in the Godhead is absolutely one, and formless, and void, and
interminable, and passive.” And the names under which God is chiefly
worshipped show this strange impersonal attitude. The Divine Dark, the
Obscure Night, the Desert, the Abyss, the Unimaged Nakedness, the
Infinite Essence, the Hidden Darkness, the One, the Supreme Nothing:
these are the names of this remote, abstract Jehovah of the mediæval


To lose themselves in this unconscious beatitude was the religious ideal
of a thousand souls. To lose themselves, to drown, extinguish, break
through and beyond the hateful imprisoning Ego—this was the motive of
their mood. But what, we may ask, remains of a man after he has lost
himself so utterly? How can he distinguish the bliss of which he dreams?
How can he even know he is resting? We are suspicious that these Mystics
did not quite realize their own desires, that they meant some residue of
themselves to remain and enjoy the sensation of their own Nirvana. And
so we ask of them what they mean by the Abyss. “Thereof,” says Eckhart,
“we cannot speak. It is the simplest essence of existence, it is
unknown, and must ever be unknown. It is the simple darkness of the
silent waste. It is the utmost term.”

But yet we are unsatisfied and persist in questioning. How can the
spirit of man, deprived of virtue, cognition, will, personality and
life, remain immortal? Still more, how can he enjoy such immortality?
The dim feeling of such eternal rest we all can understand, who have
gone suddenly from a lighted room into the vast night, and have felt our
souls suddenly invaded and possessed by a sense of mystery and silence.
We have felt this; but in his final beatitude the Mystic must not feel:
“He must be as one dead.” We also can understand the dizzy rapture of
unwinding abstraction from abstraction, till we weave a net that seems
to hold the heaven and all its stars. But the Mystic may not think. “He
must see neither distinction nor difference.” And the passionate upward
spring of the soul towards a God, unseen, unknown, in which it still
believes; thus might we pray. But the Mystic does not pray. “So long as
a man desires to do the will of God, so long he is not truly fit; he who
may seek the Godhead, he neither wills, nor knows, nor cares.”

What then, we ask again, what is the satisfaction that draws your souls
so firmly towards the Abyss? Will no one answer? And Tauler, the great
Mystical Dominican, replies, “There remains to a man, the fathomless
annihilation of himself; and an absolute ignoring of his personal
self—of all aims, of all will, heart, purpose, use, or way.”


It is not, then, a personal delight that awaits the Mystic in the abyss;
it is the sense of absorption in his Deity. It is hard to define the
character of this Godhead for which the man so gladly lays down his soul
and his life. Since it is identical with the foundation of the soul (and
this, Eckhart assures us, is not only Divine and simple, but an Utter
Nothingness), it is difficult to lay hold of the idea of its divinity—or
indeed of its difference from created matter which is also _purum
Nihil_, and it is easy to see how, by this path of negation, Mysticism
always diverges into Pantheism.... The essence of the Mystical Divinity
appears to be its very incomprehensibility; and it would be rash and
vain indeed to form an idea thereof. But we may at least attempt to
understand what that divinity appeared to its worshippers.

“The One,” begins Plotinus, “is neither substance, nor quality, nor
reason, nor soul, neither moving, nor at rest, not in place and not in
time; neither is it of any sort or kind.” Thus we learn what things were
not intrinsic to the Deity; we learn that we must conceive a bodiless,
unqualified, impersonal, interminable Void; an eternal, undifferentiate
essence of existence; an infinite Being not to be approached by reason
or by soul. Eckhart goes a step further, and affirms not only what the
Godhead is not, but even what it is. “There is a Godhead,” he says,
“above God. The Godhead neither moves nor works.... It is a simple
Stillness, an eternal Silence.”

If this were all we might comprehend the longing for quiet, the
passionate desire for rest which made the wearied and the
trouble-harried of all times deify silence and repose. Mysticism has
ever flourished best in starved or stormy ages. It is the shrinking of
the soul from a perplexed and hideous outer life; it is in some the
desire for love and peace, in some the desire for rest, in some for
immortality elsewhere. But in logical and speculative minds it is more
than this; the God of the Speculative Mystics is not merely Sleep, not
merely Dreams, not merely Stillness. They carry their reasoning
fearlessly to its natural conclusion, and this is worthy of all praise
in them; but that they should worship that conclusion is surely
strange—for “God is non-being,” writes Scotus Erigena; and, Eckhart adds
that when the soul penetrates the pure uncreate essence of the Godhead,
then Nothingness is at last in the presence of Nothingness.


God, then, is Nothing; Erigena has given us the phrase, for _Nihilum_,
he says, is the infinite essence of God. The soul is Nothing; “a
fathomless annihilation of self,” in Tauler’s words, “an utter
nothingness,” in Eckhart’s sentence. And, lastly, the world is nothing,
_purum Nihil_, and as unreal as the rest. Already, in the close of the
twelfth century, David of Dinant had declared that Everything is at the
same time Spirit, Matter, and God. The later Mystics added a new line to
his Thesis: All is One and All is Nothing.

Such is the result of this strange Idealism, which sacrifices from first
to last the idea of personality to the conception of God. These are the
dogma of this singular phase of thought and feeling; a phase which
unites all that is cold and formal in philosophy with all that is
unreasoning, perfervid, and hysterical in a Religious Revival. The
doctors and preachers of Speculative Mysticism, have trances no less
real than those of Saint Francis; but what they contemplate with rapture
is not the idea of Infinite Love. It is Infinite Nothing which fills
them with ecstasy. And these Mystical thinkers are as precise and as
liable to become the mere pedants of a system, as any follower of Kant
or Comte. And yet, though they seek to use only their reason, they
despise reason. These philosophers look upon reason as the humble
handmaiden of ecstasy. And that divine ecstasy is excited by the thought
of a Nihilum.

This indeed appears almost an absurd position; and yet the position of
the Mystics was honourable and intelligent. They attempted to answer
questions which even to-day the theologians elude (see Newman, “Grammar
of Assent,” p. 210). “Whence comes Evil?” Evil, they reply, is not
created by God, but, so to speak, the blanks and spaces not filled up by
His creation. Evil and pain have no Real Existence; they are but a
deficiency of vitality; they are negative and temporary qualities
unrecognized by an unconscious God innocent of inflicting them. “Why are
we created responsible beings without our own consent?” Our bodies are
not created by God and we are not responsible to Him for their errors.
They are the expressions of our Eternal souls—their own expressions at
their own desire as a _modus vivendi_ in the world. “How can God need
our action if He is omnipotent? If omnipotent, how tolerant of Evil? If
permitting suffering, sin, and Hell, how then All-loving? If All-loving,
how Just?” These questions are all answered by the mystical conception
of God as a Divine Passivity, an unconscious Fund of Existence. All that
is impossible and absurd in the theories of the Mystics is caused by
adapting them to religious ideas. They had to explain the immortality of
the soul, ... and they spoke of eternal absorption into an Infinite
Nothing. They had to explain a good and omnipotent God creating an evil
and impotent humanity. They made the one nothing and the other nothing.

                              THE SCHISM.

In the year 1377 the Pope was at Avignon. Seventy years ago a Pope had
come there, as the guest of the Count of Provence, in order to arrange
with the King of France the iniquitous extermination of the Templars. He
had come to Avignon in the hour of Papal triumph; for in the tragic ruin
of the Hohenstaufens, the prestige of the empire was destroyed at last.
But in reality this fatal victory had left the Pope no longer the
arbiter between France and Germany, but the dependent of the sole
surviving Power. The attraction of successful France drew the Pope from
Rome to Avignon.

At Rome the Pope had left his Vatican, his authority, his tradition. At
Avignon, a chance guest, hastily lodged in the Dominican monastery, he
was little better than the Political Agent of Philippe-le-Bel. Yet he
showed no hurry to return. Clement was a Frenchman of the South, a
Gascon, at home in Provence but cruelly expatriated among the
dissensions, the enthusiasms, the treacheries of foreign Italy. Year
after year found him still at Avignon, and there he died in the year
1315. His successor, John XXI. or XXII., was another Gascon; and
Benedict XII. (1334-1342) and Clement VI. (1342-1352) were Frenchmen
also. They built a mighty palace at Avignon, immense, with huge square
towers, and walls—four metres thick—scarce broken by the rare small
pointed windows rearing their colossal strength high into the air. The
great golden-brown palace was less of a palace than a prison, less of a
cloister than a castle. It was, in fact, a baron’s fortress of the
feudal age; for the Pope had almost forgotten that he was Pope of Rome;
he was the Count of Venaissin and Avignon.

He was rich; he was a great lord; he lived luxuriously within those
frowning gates. His rooms were full of money-brokers, weighing and
counting out their heaps of gold; and there arose no Christ to drive
them from the Temple. France, England, Germany, Italy, groaned in vain
beneath the exactions of the unscrupulous financial ability that
furnished the Court of Avignon with its soft living, its delicate
manners, its attention to the Arts. In the beautiful house upon whose
walls Simone Memmi had painted a host of his sweet and melancholy
angels, men forgot the trumpet clang of the name of Hildebrand; and when
the officers of Clement VI. dared to remonstrate with him upon the
Oriental magnificence of his palace, deprecating an expenditure beyond
that of any of his predecessors—“None of my predecessors knew how to be
a Pope,” replied the Count of Venaissin. The Papal ideal had changed.

Yet it would be wrong to regard the Popes at Avignon as Oriental satraps
dreaming away, among enchanted reveries, a life of luxury. They were
above all things French and very French; active, keen, humane, with a
genius for prosperity, a natural quickness for organization. They had a
practical piety, of which they made a good income, not without an honest
expenditure of pains. Their missions were established in Egypt, India,
China, Nubia, Abyssinia, Barbary, and Morocco. Yet, though so eager to
convert the heathen, they kept no rancour in their hearts against the
unconverted. Cruel they were sometimes, for their age was cruel, but
often they were amazingly humane. John XXII. launched Bull after Bull in
defence of the unhappy Jews, massacred by Christian greed, and the
perverted pity of Christian superstition. “As Jews they are Jews, as men
they are men,” said the Pope. “Abhor their doctrines, respect their
lives and their wealth.” And Clement VI., when France and Germany
tortured and expelled the abominated nation, threw open wide the gates
of Avignon, and at the knees of the Vicar of Christ, he made a momentary
sanctuary for the Wandering Jew.

Clement was followed by Innocent VI., another Frenchman, equally content
with Avignon. When he died it was nearly sixty years since any Pope had
trodden the holy stones of Rome. But his successor, Urban V., for all
his Gallic blood, revolted against the position of St. Peter as chaplain
to the King of France. He saw that the Church lands in Italy were
slipping continually from the Pope’s control, while Papal vicars
established themselves as hereditary masters of their fiefs, and city
after city declared itself with impunity no longer the vassal of St.
Peter, but a free Republic.

In Germany the doctrines of Marsiglio and Occam had enduringly ruined
the prestige of the Pope. For they declared the Bishop of Rome a simple
bishop, subject to the law, subject to the Council, subject to
deposition at the hands of the faithful; his thunders were pronounced
illegitimate and harmless since no priest, but only a Council General,
could excommunicate or even interdict a nation or a king. In Germany the
Reformation had begun, as it was to continue, upon the lines of theory
and dogma; in England it was already a political revolt, a declaration
of national independence. In 1365 England refused to pay the tribute of
1,000 marks which John had promised to the Pope as to his lawful
suzerain. England at that moment was triumphant. Ten years ago the
battle of Poictiers had secured her hold on France. The French king had
died a captive in the Savoy in London, and Europe was not yet aware that
the new king of France was Charles the Wise.

At that moment, indeed, France, in reality so near the top of the wheel
of fortune, appeared at her lowest. Nations and men forget how quick
that wheel revolves; and the Pope, beholding France his sole protector
against the world, and France the prey of England, felt himself no
longer safe at Avignon. In 1361 a company of freebooters had defeated
the Papal troops at the very gates of the Papal city; the Pope had
bought them off with a ransom, and had redoubled the fortifications. But
he had realized his insecurity. It was evident that the real interests
of the Church demanded the return of the Pope to Rome.

Urban made a courageous, a heroic effort. He dragged his reluctant Court
of luxurious French Cardinals across the seas to Rome. But in that black
and savage haunt of robbers, the Pope remembered Avignon too well. He
came home at Christmas time in 1379; but it was only to die in the
beautiful familiar palace; and, out of France, the faithful called his
death the judgment of the Lord upon him who looks back from the plough.

A brighter epoch opened for his successor, Gregory XI. The genius of
King Charles and his brothers, the Dukes of Anjou and Burgundy, had
restored the fortunes of France; and Anjou, at any rate, was aware of
the advantage which the House of France might reap from the partnership
of a Pope at Avignon. For the Pope, of course, was a Frenchman and
willing to assist in the triumph of his country, a triumph he could best
assist by remaining at Avignon to further and inspire the policy of his
king. Every tie, indeed, united to detain Gregory in Provence. He was no
ascetic, indifferent to glory or to comfort; but an affectionate,
natural man, loving his ease, loving his family, loving the land where
he was born. At Avignon he dwelt among his friends, his kinsmen, his
father the Comte de Beaufort, his mother, his four sisters. The stories
of his Cardinals could only add to his own horror of that distant Italy
whose language he could not speak. He was ill, and he dreaded the miasma
of Rome; he needed the comforts of that Court whose luxurious memory
should long survive in France. “You should have come to Europe a few
years ago, before the Schism,” writes the anonymous author of Maître
Jehan de Meun—

                  “N’a pas longtemps mourût Gregoire
                  Je te dis que toute la gloire
                  Du plus hault seigneur terrien
                  Vers son estat n’estoit plus rien.
                  Là ne falloit ne pompe ne mise
                  Que herault sceult à devise,
                  Richesse du tout surmontant
                  Tout prince que lors fut vivant.”[5]

Footnote 5:

  Paris: Bib. Nat. Français, 811; No. 7203; “L’Apparicion de Jehan de

Yet it was Gregory the Eleventh who was to restore the Papacy to Rome.

It was no longer so easy to return as it had been in the days of Urban.
That Pope had not removed to Rome until the energy of Gil Albornoz had
reduced the princes of Italy into submission. But now Albornoz was dead,
and Italy was more than ever tumultuous and discordant, for the French
Governors whom Urban had left behind him had filled the Papal states
with horror of the French Pope. Petrarch also was dead, whose pen no
less than the sword of Albornoz had been a potent instrument for the
return of Urban. The times were changed, and Italy, who had mourned so
long the Papal tiara fallen from her forehead, was no longer willing to
receive it. After seventy years of exile the Papacy had become a foreign
power, and by many of the Italian princes the restoration of Gregory
seemed little less than a French invasion. Of all the Papal states only
Orvieto, Ancona, Cesano, and Jesi remained true to him. Florence, of old
so faithful to the Church, was now united against her with the
Ghibelline Viscontis of Milan; and the Arch-Guelf clasped with a mailed
hand her new crimson banner written in golden letters with the one word

The Italians seemed as capable of shaking off the Pope as they had been
capable of shaking off the Emperor. Only a few voices still lamented the
exile of St. Peter. Gregory knew very well that the return to Rome meant
strife and bitterness, and that he must re-enter his dominions bringing
in his hand not peace, but a sword. This prospect inspired him with
disgust and fatigue; while every principle of habit, affection,
patriotism, loyalty, and selfish interest conspired to keep him in
Avignon. All this in one scale; but there lay in the other the
conscience of the Pope and the voice that inspired that conscience. It
was the voice of a young Italian nun. Europe, distracted with wars,
perplexed, unguided, heard at last one voice that proclaimed the will of
God, and acknowledged her conscience in St. Catherine of Siena.

The letters of St. Catherine came frequently to Avignon, and with them
came other letters from the French Governors telling of the increasing
difficulty of keeping together the little that was left of the patrimony
of St. Peter. Gregory became visibly disturbed. His conscience urged him
to return to Rome. In July the Duke of Anjou[6] came to Avignon to
dissuade the Pope from an enterprise so disastrous, as he believed, to
the future of France. Of all the royal princes Anjou was the one
specially concerned with Italian policy. He was a man handsome,
impressive, with a breadth of view and a force of ambition that made him
many followers. This son of St. Louis could not fail to influence the
Pope. He made it harder to go from Avignon; but the persuading voice of
Catherine would not be stilled. The Pope was ill and afraid, a timid
man; his sisters and his parents clung to him, entreating him to stay;
his Cardinals opposed him; his king commanded: yet on the 13th of
September he quitted Avignon. Evil omens added to the discouragement of
his spirit; his horse stumbled under him at starting, and fearful
tempests delayed him on the sea. But on January 17, 1377, the Pope
re-entered Rome.

Footnote 6:

  July 17, 1376.

The seventy years which had made the beauty of Avignon had ruined Rome.
No longer the pilgrims brought her the custom of foreign countries; the
Court of the Vatican no longer gave an impetus to trade; the prestige of
the Pope had ceased to make of Rome the centre of Europe; and the
deserted city had realized her intrinsic poverty. Thirty years ago
Rienzi had proclaimed her a cave of robbers rather than the abode of
decent men. The churches were in ruins,[7] many of them wholly roofless;
and in St. Peter’s and the Lateran the flocks nibbled the grass of the
pavement up to the steps of the altar. Row after row of ruined
dwelling-places gave way to wild fields and heaths—scars of desolation
upon the depopulated enclosure of Aurelian. If mediæval Rome lay in
ruins, the Rome of antiquity was yet more ruthlessly destroyed, and the
temples and theatres of the pagans were used as a quarry or a limekiln
by their savage and impoverished successors. For with prosperity, peace
and order had deserted Rome. The fierce clans of Colonna and Orsini
terrorized the starved and fever-stricken populace; and there was no law
beyond their tyranny. Murder was frequent, vendetta an honoured custom,
and the Eternal City the shambles of unpunished bloodshedding.

Footnote 7:

  Pastor, “Geschichte der Päpste,” i. 63, after Gregorovius.

In such a place decency, quiet, or even safety were naturally strangers.
The Cardinals, unwilling martyrs, mourned day and night for Avignon. The
Pope himself became disenchanted, ungentle, and embittered. But he was
resolved not to quit this odious Italy until the patrimony of St. Peter
was regained. Albornoz was dead, it is true; but in the Cardinal of the
Twelve Apostles the Pope found a spirit no less militant, resolute and
cruel to lead his armies against the revolted cities and to re-establish
in Italy the vanished prestige of Rome.

Robert of Geneva, Cardinal of the Twelve Apostles, was, like the Pope
himself, a Frenchman of good family and aristocratic prejudice. His
father was the Count of Geneva, his mother Mahault of Auvergne and
Boulogne. In his eyes the revolt of subjects was a crime beyond excuse;
and when, as in the present case, there was added to the denial of the
divine right of sovereigns a heretic apostasy from the dominion of the
Church, his indignation dried the founts of pity in his heart. The
history of his whole life proves the Cardinal to be not naturally cruel,
nor even vindictive; but his campaign in Italy was terrible. With the
Frenchman’s distrust of the Italians, Robert refused to engage Italian
condottieri; he knew that these companies, changing masters continually,
were gentle to the enemy of the moment, the brother-in-arms of yesterday
and to-morrow. The Cardinal, fiercely in earnest, engaged the Breton
Jehan de Malestroit who had cried, “Where the sun can enter, I can
enter!” and the Englishman, Sir John Hawkwood, with his White Company
the most terrible of the day. Supported by these pitiless auxiliaries,
Robert of Geneva quenched in blood the fierce resistance of Florence,
Bologna, Cesena, Faenza, and other rebellious cities. Massacre after
massacre, sack and pillage innumerable marked his progress; but the
voice of the Churchman was never heard to cry for mercy. He had no
admiration for the obstinate courage of the besieged; they were rebels,
and beyond pity. “I will wash my hands in their blood!” he cried at
Bologna and at Cesena there were 5,000 slain. These things made the name
of the young Cardinal an abomination in Italy. But they secured in one
campaign the submission of the Italians.

The laurels of Robert of Geneva still were green when, on March 27,
1378, Gregory the Eleventh died at Anagni. The Pope had been on the
point of returning to Avignon; and the necessity of their prolonged
residence in savage Rome, and the fact that the Conclave must be held
there, fell with the weight of misfortune upon the impatient Cardinals.

It was the first Conclave that had been held in Rome for fifty-seven
years, and the Roman populace clamoured in the streets for a Roman Pope.
But among the sixteen Cardinals of the Conclave, eleven were French.
They might easily have carried the necessary majority of two-thirds had
they been of one mind among themselves; but the hatred of North and
South did not merely divide the French from the Italians; it divided the
Frenchmen among themselves. Gregory and Clement had both been Limousins,
and the majority of the French Cardinals decided to continue this
tradition. The remnant, however—the Gallicans, as they called
themselves—preferred even an Italian to a Limousin; and their spokesman,
Robert of Geneva, made overtures to the Trans-Alpines. The result was
the election of a man of no party, a man who was not even a Cardinal.
Bartolommeo Prignano, Archbishop of Bari, was an Italian; but he was
something more than an Italian; he was a Neapolitan, a subject of Queen
Giovanna, and therefore presumably in favour of the French. He had lived
at Avignon, and was familiar with French customs and French policy. It
was hoped that he might prove a bond of union. Scarcely was his election
accomplished, in haste, amid the noises of the shouting mob outside,
when the impatient Romans burst into the Conclave, clamouring for a
Roman Pope. The Cardinals dared not confess their choice of a
Neapolitan, and in their terror they lied, imposing on the people the
Cardinal of St. Peter’s, a Roman born. This fraud, together with the
constraint put on the Conclave by the violence of the mob, were a few
months later alleged against the validity of the election of Prignano.

But at first no conscience was troubled by this irregularity. For six
months the Archbishop of Bari wore an undisputed tiara, and Urban VI.
succeeded quietly to Gregory. Urban was zealous for reform, passionately
determined against simony, pure in his life, energetic, resolute; but
virtue has seldom been manifest in so unlovable an Avatar. The man was a
Neapolitan peasant: short, squat, coarse, and savage. He flung rude
words and violent speeches like mud in the faces of his elegant French
Cardinals. “Fool!” “Blockhead!” “Simoniacal Pharisee!”—such were the
hard nails with which he studded the ever unpalatable word Reform; and
one day, had not Robert of Geneva caught the holy father by the sleeve,
he would have struck a Cardinal in the assembled Consistory.

Robert of Geneva was thirty-six years old; he was tall, commanding, with
a handsome face and fine manners. His aristocratic urbanity veiled a
nature that did not scorn to do and dare. There could be no greater
contrast to the Pope than he, and he became the idol of the Cardinals,
although, in fact, he, the Arch-Gallican, was the distant cause of the
election of Urban. His reputation for ferocity in battle added a
prestige to his pleasant courtliness: it was he who should have been the
Pope! He would not have kept the College, throughout the sweltering
summer, in Rome where the detested Urban declared that he would live and
die. Something must be done, and at once, for Urban threatened to create
a majority of Italian Cardinals. One by one the Cardinals left Rome for
their health. Their resort was first Anagni, thence they went to Fondi.
It was an open secret in Rome wherefore they found the air so good
there. Urban got wind of their conferences, and on the 18th of September
he created twenty-eight Italian cardinals. Two days later there was a
great ceremony in the church at Fondi. The French Cardinals announced to
the world that at last a legitimate Pope had been elected in succession
to Gregory. He was, of course, a Frenchman; he was Robert of Geneva; he
was Clement VII., the first Antipope of the great Schism.

The Church was terribly divided by this news—Clement, elected by all the
French, was not repudiated by the Italian Cardinals, who, playing the
waiting game of their nation, remained neutral. Yet the contest was a
contest not of persons, but of nationalities. “The significance of
Urban’s election lay in the fact that it restored the Papacy to Rome,
and freed it from the influence of France.”[8] Catharine of Siena
clearly perceived this significance, and wrote of Clement, who was to
undo her sacred mission, as “a devil in the shape of man.” In the North
of Italy the campaign of Clement in the previous year persuaded the
decimated cities of the truth of this opinion; but the South was not
firm for Urban, and Naples openly declared herself the champion of his
rival. The confusion was not only in Italy. The Church everywhere was
shaken to its foundations. In many bishoprics there were two bishops;[9]
there was a terrible doubt in the minds of the Faithful, for of the two
Popes, one must be Antichrist, his followers heretics, and consigned to
eternal damnation. It is not too much to say that the authority of the
Church never recovered from this long and terrible questioning. The
minds of the pious turned from the Church to God; Mysticism and heresy
consoled the uncertain; and false prophets were common in the land.

Footnote 8:

  Creighton, “History of the Papacy,” vol. i. p. 64.

Footnote 9:

  Especially in Germany—Mayence, Breslau, Constance, Metz, Loire,
  Breslau, Lübeck, &c. See Pastor., _op. cit._, book ii. p. 108, _et

Confusion in the Church was echoed by confusion in the State. England,
because of the war with France, was passionate for Urban. The Empire
also was for Urban; and Brittany, and all whose hand was against the
French. “France desires not merely the Papacy, but the universal
monarchy of the globe,” wrote Urban to the Emperor.[10] But among the
smaller states France had still her supporters; Scotland, Savoy, Naples,
Leon, and Castile followed in her wake, and declared for Clement. There
was great joy in France. Louis of Anjou, perhaps the first of European
princes to send in his adhesion to the Antipope, was consoled for the
departure of Gregory; and when the news was brought to the king, he
exclaimed, “I am Pope at last!” But the joy was the joy of princes, not
the joy of the people. The nation mourned the confusion that had fallen
on the Church, and the University of Paris wrapped itself in a
melancholy neutrality.

Footnote 10:

  Sept. 6, 1382. _Vide_ Pastor., p. 108.

                          VALENTINE VISCONTI.


Valentine Visconti, greater than Helen as the cause of battles, was born
in the Abbey of Pavia, in the year 1366. Her grandfather, Galeazzo
Visconti, had left Milan rather suddenly, being ill with gout and
“temendo la severità” of one so skilled in the use of succession-powders
as Bernabò his brother, co-tyrant with him of Lombardy. He had designed
a safe and splendid castle for himself in Pavia. While it was still
unfinished Valentine was born in the hospitable old Certosa there.[11]

Footnote 11:

  At the same time there dwelt in Milan another little Valentine
  Visconti, daughter of Bernabò, in after years the widowed Queen of
  Cyprus, and herself an interesting and pathetic figure.

Galeazzo Visconti had taken with him from Milan his wife, Blanche of
Savoy, his little daughter Iolanthe, and his married son Giangaleazzo,
with his wife Isabelle. These last were the parents of Valentine. When
she was born her mother was sixteen and her father fifteen years of
age.[12] At her nativity there were, we are told, incredible rejoicings;
for the pride of Galeazzo Visconti was gratified by the birth of a
grandchild who was no less the grand-daughter of a King of France.

Footnote 12:

  Corio on different pages puts the date of the birth of Giangaleazzo as
  1352 and 1343. The first date, 1352, agrees with the account of
  Galeotto del Caretto and the Deed of Majority in Corio.

The mother of Valentine was that little French princess who, six years
ago, had been sold into Lombardy to help to raise the golden millions of
her father’s ransom. John the Good had received for his daughter the sum
of five hundred thousand golden florins, a sort of inverse marriage
portion, the price of a royal alliance. But Galeazzo had not paid for
barren honour only: Isabelle had brought her husband the county and the
title of Vertus in Champagne. Though the little girl had gone weeping
into Italy, her tears were soon dried. She had left a devastated and
ruined country; she came into a land of sumptuous tyranny, of riches and
magnificence. Life was easy at Milan and at Pavia, where Galeazzo was
busied with his new university, where Giangaleazzo—a timid,
intellectual, orderly creature—spent day after day in his study full of
enormous parchment ledgers, directing the staff of secretaries who
copied into them his accounts, his memoranda, and duplicates of his
correspondence. Priests and friars from the old Certosa, professors of
law and learning from the new college, poets also—the English poet,
Master Geoffrey Chaucer, and the prince of poets himself, Messer
Francesco Petrarca,—learned men like Philippe de Mézières, visitors from
so far away as England, France, or Cyprus—these were the guests of the
palace. Gradually the stately home echoed with children’s voices.
Valentine was born in 1366. One brother grew strong and playful at her
side; another died in babyhood. When the third was born, in 1373,
Isabelle died, and a few months afterwards her baby followed her.

The immense castle of Pavia was very quiet now. Iolanthe, the girl-widow
of the Duke of Clarence, had married, in 1372, the Marquis of Monferrat.
There were only the old Visconti and his wife, and the studious young
Count of Vertus and his two little children. It was quieter still when,
in 1378, Galeazzo Visconti died. He had been a terrible old man: cruel,
unscrupulous, scholarly. It was he who obtained from the Emperor,
Charles IV., in 1361, the privilege to found the University of Pavia,
and he who protected it by an edict threatening with heavy punishments
the Milanese who dared to study in another school. And he it was, also,
who threw alive into a fiery furnace two priests who came to him on an
unwelcome message; and he who, with his brother Bernabò, had poisoned a
third brother, co-heir and co-tyrant with them in Lombardy. They had
divided his share, Galeazzo taking Piacenza, Pavia, the west to Novara,
and as far as Como in the north; while Bernabò possessed the rich
province of the east. Both ruled alike in Milan. Both should have been
equally powerful. But Galeazzo had left all his share to the sole Count
of Vertus, and he, too, had only one son to follow him, whereas the
signory of Bernabò was strengthened and divided by eleven turbulent and
violent young sons.

Valentine’s father remembered the fate of his uncle. He kept very quiet,
surrounded himself with priests and guards, ate of no dish before a
score of stewards tasted of it, and dissimulated his ambition. This he
did so well that the timid Count of Vertus became a by-word and a
laughing-stock in the house of Bernabò. Although the young man had taken
care to obtain from the Emperor investitures which conferred upon him
_absolute_ authority;[13] although by his judicious protection of the
people he made himself the desired deliverer of the unhappy Milanese,
still Bernabò and his children could not take their kinsman seriously.
And the better to lull their suspicions, in 1380 the young Count of
Vertus came a-courting to the noisy Castello di Porta Giovio, where
Bernabò kept house with such of his nine-and-twenty children as still
remained in Milan. It was a great riotous house full of voices, full of
splendid young men in armour (Palamedes, Lancilotto, Sagramoro), full of
beautiful women and fair young girls with lovely names (Achiletta,
Verde, Damigella), and not less radiant for their easy familiarity with
evil. One of these dangerous maidens, Caterina, the Count of Vertus took
to be his second wife. In the next year, in 1381, on the 4th of October,
his boy, Astorre, died.

Footnote 13:

  Tu, spectabilisque Azo, natus tuus ... auctoritate, bayliâ, nec non
  Regiæ Potestatis plenitudine, tam ordinariâ quam absolutâ, &c., Feb.,
  1380. Luenig. De Ducatu Mediolanense, in the “Codex Italiæ
  Diplomaticus,” No. xxvii. See also Investiture of Asti, 1383, to
  Giangaleazzo (vos et heredes vestri) in the Archives Nationales, K.
  53, dossier 22.

Valentine was now his only heir, for during the first eight years of
their marriage Caterina Visconti had no children. Valentine was fifteen
years old, of an age to be dowered and married. Her father, however,
kept her at home with him, teaching her many things—too much, some
people said, for they thought her as wise as Medea. She could invent
posies; she could read not only Italian books, but Latin, French, and
German. Into whatever court she might hereafter marry, she would be not
only the daughter of the Duke of Milan, but his diplomatic agent. I do
not know if she could speak English, but in those years of warfare the
English were often at Milan, and Valentine when a little girl had seen
(a brilliant, sudden vision) her English uncle of Clarence, who had died
so strangely at Alba, and was buried at Pavia. She was a scholarly
maiden, possessing of her own no less than eleven books; more than her
grandfather, King John, had ever owned in his royal library at Paris.
And she could write as well as read—a clear, excellent hand, of which
the signature still exists in the Paris archives. Froissart in later
days remarked on the frequent letters that she wrote to her father:
“Madame Valentine wrote him all she knew.”

I do not know if Valentine was beautiful. A line in “Le Pastouralet”
speaks of her as

                      “Maret, qui le miex dasoit,”

and mentions the courtesy of “la touse mignotte”—the dainty dame. This
conveys an impression of nothing more positive than elegance and grace.
We can fill up the frame with a couple of portraits which still exists
in the Bibliothèque Nationale: small grisaille illuminations adorning a
manuscript poem[14] in defence of Valentine. There is nothing very
distinctive in either portrait—no accent of striking personality or
resemblance. They represent the same young and slender woman, rather
tall, with a long neck and slim arms, and a bust both full and delicate.
The head is small, the hair parted from ear to ear across the middle of
the head, the back locks being tied in a Greek knot, the front ones
divided again in the middle and looped in pendant braids above the ear.
Under this severe coiffure we discern a serious gentle placid face—long
narrow eyes, a high forehead, a full mouth with pretty pursed lips; a
face too closely following the mediæval ideal for it to impress us very
strongly as a likeness. Valentine is clothed in a low-cut, tight gown
girdled round the hips, with long, tight sleeves descending to the
knuckles of the slim and delicate hands—over this she wears a very ample
trained surtout, also low in the neck, falling in rich folds to her feet
and buttoned down the front to the hips, where it is sewn together, but
split up at the arms in immense wide sleeve-holes, a yard long,
revealing the under dress. If the young duchess was not precisely
beautiful, yet certainly she was beautifully attired. The catalogue of
her gala-dresses is a thing to wonder on: scarlet, and silver, and cloth
of gold, and rich embroidery; cloths of peacock-green and mulberry
colour; tissues of netted pearls. And she had as many pearls, diamonds,
sapphires, and balass-rubies as any princess in a fairy-story. She wore
them sewn all over her caps, round her girdles, encircling her young
throat, and showered broadcast across the brocades and embroidery of her
gowns. With all this, at sixteen, and with the subtle sweetness of the
natural Lombard grace, it is not necessary to be beautiful.

Footnote 14:

  “L’Apparicion de Maistre Jehan de Meun,” Fr. ii., 7203. MSS. Bib. Nat.


In 1382 certain guests came to Milan, who marvelled at the magnificence
of these Viscontis, who talked much with Valentine’s father, and who
spread abroad the tale of his daughter’s wisdom and her splendour. They
must also have impressed on the mind of this young girl the strength,
the beauty, and the wealth of France. And they must no less have spurred
the silent and vigilant ambition of her father; for in the late May of
1382, along the roads of Lombardy, four thousand men rode together to be
the guests of Milan. They were all mounted on beautiful chargers
caparisoned in silk and precious metals; they were all clad in suits of
burnished armour; light aigrettes floated from their helmets. “They
seemed the army of Xerxes,” wrote the Monk of St. Denis; “their beasts
of burden went slowly under loads of gold and treasure. Those that
beheld them, astrologers and prophets, read in the future the records of
their fabulous glory.” In truth, they were a host of heroes. Knights
like the Count of Savoy and the Count of Polenza went in the ranks. At
their head rode a tall, square-shouldered man, with fair locks beginning
to grizzle, and a handsome countenance. He was magnificent in his cloak
of woven gold and lilies. This was Louis of Anjou, King of Sicily,
setting out for Naples to conquer his new kingdom.

A kingdom in Italy! It was the dearest vision of the age. The kingdom of
Adria, a dream never realized; the kingdom of Naples, a phantom eluding
for two hundred years the eager grasp of France. In the subtle mind of
Giangaleazzo Visconti, a third, a vaster kingdom, was already taking
shape—a kingdom dead and buried for near five hundred years—the kingdom
of Italy!

But to gain Italy it was necessary to be secure in Milan. While his
guests rode on triumphantly to famine and disaster, the Count of Vertus
elaborated his plan. When the King of Sicily, wrapped in a remnant of
homespun daubed with painted yellow lilies, lay dead in his unconquered
kingdom, defeated in his grave at Bari, Giangaleazzo Visconti ruled
supreme in Lombardy.

He had plotted so well that one sole death secured this change. On the
6th of May, 1385, Giangaleazzo, apparently _en route_ for the shrine of
our Lady of Varese, passed by the gates of Milan. His uncle and his
cousins went out to meet him, smiling at the immense guard which ever
attended the timid Hermit of Pavia. But now Giangaleazzo dropped the
mask. In an hour Milan was his, his cousins his prisoners, and his
uncle, with his _dilettissima amante_, fast in the Castle of Trezzo.
Giangaleazzo, no less skilled in poisons than his father, had him
poisoned there, and buried him in Milan in a sepulchre of splendid
marble. But he showed no wanton cruelty. His cousins escaped, destitute
indeed, but unharmed. No unnecessary pain attended the murder of the
tyrant Bernabò, decently executed by a well-cooked dish of vegetables.
Ambition, not revenge, nor the blood-mania of his race, was the master
passion of the new Lord of Lombardy. If any questioned his proceedings,
he could produce the investiture of Wenzel, granting him absolute
authority and final judgment. The children of Bernabò were stupefied and
did not rebel; most of the sons went to fight in the ranks of Sir John
Hawkwood; and the people of Milan hailed the Count of Vertus as a
deliverer. He taxed them heavily, indeed, but without disorder; and his
police were so excellent that he used to smile and say, “I am the only
robber in my provinces.” Giangaleazzo was now master of a great domain,
immensely rich, three-and-thirty. He meant to go far. In 1386 he sent to
Pope Urban, demanding the title of _King of Italy_.

Urban refused, and in future the Ghibelline Count of Vertus addressed
his requests to the Emperor, or else to the Anti-Pope at Avignon, who
asked nothing better than to make himself a party in Italy. But first of
all, Giangaleazzo began to conquer his kingdom. Verona, Padua, Pisa,
Siena, Perugia, Assisi, Bologna, Spoleto, fell like ninepins before his
gathering force. Florence began to tremble. Foreign countries began to
talk of this new conqueror, of his force, his wealth, his one young
daughter. Clement the Pope of Avignon, among others, perceived that with
Anjou in the south and Visconti in the north, a great Gallic party might
be formed in Italy. Clement was at once the creature and the patron of
the kings of France. In the winter of 1386-87, while the Milanese
messenger still were in the saddle arranging a marriage between
Valentine and the Emperor’s brother, suddenly the Governor of Vertus
arrived at Pavia. He brought a message from the King of France, the
young Charles VI. The King demanded the hand of Valentine for his only
brother, Louis.

This was an important step. The two first children of the King of France
had died as soon as they were born, and Louis was still the heir to the
Crown. Valentine, six years after her father’s second marriage, was
still his only child. It was current in France that the Count of Vertus
turned to his daughter and said, “When I see you again, fair daughter, I
trust you will be Queen of France.”


This proposal, which came as a surprise to Europe and almost as an
outrage to the Emperor, was no surprise to the Lord of Milan. Months
before Giangaleazzo had laid his plans. There exists at Paris in the
Archives Nationales (K. 554, No. 7) the summary of a Project of Marriage
between Louis and Valentine, dated the 26th of August, 1386.

It is interesting to note that in this early draft there is no thought
of any possible French claim to Milan. Valentine is dowered with Asti
and its revenue—for which her husband was never to be constrained to pay
homage; she was also to bring her husband 450,000 golden florins, and to
come to him “bien joyellée et aornée de joyaulx.” And, only after the
death of her father, she was to succeed to the county of Vertus in

This was a great deal, but this was not enough. There was in France a
strong party so hostile to the Lord of Milan, that riches, and mere
riches, were not enough to overpower their opposition. Visconti desired
above all things a Royal alliance. He saw that the Guelf—the national
party—in Italy was strong and was unrepresented. He would be Head of the
Guelfs, until he secured something better, and his best title to that
Headship was a French alliance. Moreover, self-preservation, no less
than ambition, rendered the marriage desirable. Isabel of Bavaria,
granddaughter of the murdered Bernabò Visconti, was Queen of France. How
could Giangaleazzo suffer that his exiled cousins should possess so
tremendous an advantage over him? He may have felt himself insecure in
his usurped sovereignty, so long as France was united by blood and
interest only to the Disinherited. If Valentine married Louis, Milan was
safe from France. So at Christmas, 1386, Giangaleazzo offered the
husband of Valentine the county of Vertus, in his lifetime as well as
after his death, and included in the marriage contract the astounding
clause of the succession of Valentine to Milan.

Even without this, Valentine was a very wealthy heiress; she brought
back to France her mother’s dowry, the county of Vertus in Champagne. In
addition to this she took into the kingdom 450,000 golden florins, a
freight of golden ornaments and jewels, furniture to the amount of
70,000 florins, gold and silver plate, and the county of Asti in
Lombardy, with a yearly income of nearly 30,000 golden florins.[15]

Footnote 15:

  This was the estimate of Giangaleazzo. The actual revenues proved to
  be a little less, and an arrangement _à l’amiable_ was made between
  him and his son-in-law (Arch. Nat., K. 554, dossier 6).

The county of Asti comprised a whole province of towns, villages, and
castles. Thirty signories were in its fief; forty-eight villas paid
homage to the Count of Asti; Brie and Cherasco, two large towns in
Piedmont, belonged directly to him. In the politics of those times few
things are more striking than the singular lightmindedness with which a
king of France bestows upon a Lombard adventurer a county in the very
heart and centre of his own kingdom; or the confidence with which an
Italian conqueror hands the key of his position to a wealthy neighbour.
The situation of the French at Asti turned out to have the very gravest
political consequences. It assured them Savona, Genoa, Pisa for a
moment, and a century of wars about the Milanese. For this secure
footing in Lombardy gave a point of reality to their vision of an
Italian kingdom, and made the subtraction of Italy from the Empire
appear not only desirable but possible. On the other hand, it
familiarized Italy with the French. Henceforth the Italian princes, in
any dispute among themselves, would call in the protection not only of
the King of France but of their French neighbour, the powerful Count of

But at first the Lombards did not like it. “I Lombardi,” says Corio,
“furono di mala voglia.” What they really dreaded was the succession of
Valentine and her French husband to Milan. This is too complicated and
intricate a question to dispose of here. I will only say that the
Italians believed that in some fashion Giangaleazzo had secured Milan to
his daughter, in case he should have no sons, or (as actually happened)
in case all his sons should die childless. But the question of the
French claim to Milan deserves a history to itself.


In April, 1387, Valentine of Milan was married by proxy and parole to
Louis, Duke of Touraine. The bride was twenty-one, the bridegroom just
sixteen; but, as Juvenal des Ursins remarked, “Assez caut, subtil et
sage de son aage.” But not until the 3rd of June, 1389, did the Lord of
Milan send his married daughter to her home in France.

For in France a powerful faction opposed the marriage. The king
was little more than a lad; entirely—or, of late, _almost_
entirely—submissive to his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. When the
wise King Charles expired in the autumn of 1380, he left the
custody of his two children to this younger brother of his, who in
all his battles and adventures had been his right-hand man. But
the King left the Regency of the Kingdom to the elder of his
brothers, the Duke of Anjou. In every sense the brothers were
rivals and antagonists; the interests of Anjou lay to the South,
the interests of Burgundy to the North. Anjou was a man of
culture, made by nature to be the head of a society of nobles;
while Burgundy, the Captain, was the champion of popular rights.
In nothing were they at one. When Anjou left the kingdom to
conquer Naples, and when the news came to France that he would
nevermore return, the supremacy of Burgundy appeared secure. But
Anjou had left behind him a successor—not his son, the child-king
of Sicily. No, the real successor to his aims and policy was his
nephew, the Prince Louis, the younger of the two sons of the dead

Little harmony between this lad and his uncle of Burgundy! At ten years
old the child fights like a hero at Rosebecque; but the old captain, his
tutor, keeps all his smiles for the other nephew, the docile and amiable
king. He feels in Louis a spirit of danger, a breath of insubordination.
And, in truth, one after the other, the ancient counsellors and
servitors of Anjou take shelter in the household of the prince. Burgundy
feels that Louis is Anjou Redivivus—he must be kept low. And for this
the testament of Charles V. gives ample warrant: for that king,
well-named the Wise, feeling that the danger of France lay in the
greatness of her princes, had conquered his fatherly heart and decreed
that his younger son should have no more than a pension of 12,000 livres
a year. But this was not to be. As time went on, and the Regency came to
an end, Louis stimulated his placid brother to a sense of independence.
And the young king, less Roman than his father, and glad perhaps to feel
in the kingdom another power than that of Burgundy, began to enrich his
only brother, giving him the counties of Valois and Beaumont, lands in
Cotentin, Caen, Champagne, and Brie: then the Duchy of Touraine; the
promise of the inheritance of the old Duchess of Orleans; finally, this
rich marriage with Valentine Visconti.

Burgundy resisted with might and main. Not only would this marriage make
Louis too strong, but of all brides Valentine was the bride least to his
mind. For Burgundy had married two of his own children into the House of
Bavaria, and had given a Bavarian princess—the vivacious Isabel—as wife
to the young king. Now all these Bavarians were the grandchildren of
Bernabò, murdered by the father of Valentine. Also the niece of
Burgundy, Béatrix d’Armagnac, “la gaie Armagnageoise,” had married in
1382. This Carlo Visconti, Lord of Parma, heir of Bernabò, had been
stripped of all his goods by Giangaleazzo and Beatrice, no longer
laughing, had returned to eat the bread of exile in her brother’s house.
Thus the Queen, and Burgundy, and Armagnac, and Berry (the other brother
of the dead king) were bound by every instinct of natural anger and
honourable vendetta to look upon Giangaleazzo as the spoiler of their
kinsmen—of mother, children, niece, or husband—and in their eyes the
riches of Milan were the price of blood. Not one of these but hoped to
oust the usurper and restore the rightful line. And so for two years
they contrived to defer the marriage.[16]

Footnote 16:

  See Comte Albert de Circourt, “Le Duc d’Orléans, frère du roi Charles
  VI.: ses entreprises au dehors du royaume.” Paris: Victor Palmé, 1887.

Meanwhile the influence of Burgundy weakened, that of Prince Louis
increased, with the king. In the autumn of 1388 the disastrous “Voyage
d’Allemagne” deeply discredited Burgundy, its author. In their tent at
Corenzich, far from Queen and Court, the two brothers held long
colloquies. Not in vain did Louis plead for his bride. In the summer of
1389, Philippe de Florigny was sent into Lombardy to bring her home.

Valentine took away with her an escort of knights, a burden of gold and
gems, the possession of Asti, and the promise of Milan. She had in her
caskets three hundred thousand pearls of price, beside the pearls upon
her gala-dresses. Her plate was valued at more than one hundred thousand
marks Parisis. Her jewels, ornaments, and tapestries were estimated at
nearly seven hundred thousand golden florins.[17] Giangaleazzo had found
nothing too costly or too radiant for his only daughter. When at last he
let her go, he rode with her out of the gates of Pavia, saying never a
word of farewell, looking not once into her beloved face, lest he should
fall a-weeping. In the saddest hour of her tragic life, Valentine
remembered with tears that silent parting.

Footnote 17:

  The florin, the Venetian ducat, and the French franc were
  interchangeable coins worth about nine-and-eightpence of our money.
  They are the equivalent of our half-sovereign, the French crown that
  of our half-guinea; the Burgundian noble being, I think, the only coin
  that reached the value of the modern guinea. See the tables for
  1384-1394 in De Wailly.

It was the 17th of August, 1389, according to the dates of the Monk of
St. Denis, when Valentine rode into Melun to meet her bridegroom. The
King was there as well as all the Court—a Court full of kinsmen for
Valentine. The Viscontis counted their alliances with the kings of
France back into those mythical ages when Æneas, ancestor of either
House, founded the city of Angleria. Valentine found plenty of more
recent connections. The King and her husband were both her first
cousins, and so was the young King of Sicily; the Dukes of Burgundy and
Berry were her uncles. She was also, as I have said, first cousin once
removed to the King’s young wife, Isabel of Bavaria. She was cousin also
to Madame de Montauban, cousin by marriage to Madame d’Armagnac. But
these three kinswomen looked on her with horror, and all her splendour
seemed to them unholy spoil fresh from the unclean hands of her father,
the triumphant assassin of his kinsmen.

The jealousy and suspicion of the Queen must have been the earliest
greeting of Valentine at Melun. Queen Isabel was the idol of the Court.
Radiantly beautiful, eighteen years old, she was not satisfied with the
devotion of her husband. Charles VI. was a gentle, kind-hearted,
stalwart young man, at two-and-twenty already rather bald, clear of eye
and cheek, generous, slow-witted, unapt to State and dignity. He was
lovable and sweet in temper; “he emitted, like an odoriferous flower,
the ingenuity of his perfect character,” writes the anonymous Monk of
St. Denis. But at his side, more brilliant and more eloquent than he,
rode the first knight of chivalry, the King’s only brother, Louis, Duke
of Touraine. This young man was eighteen years old, extremely handsome,
so witty and so wise that in the University of Paris there were no
doctors who were proof against his _bonne memoire et belle loquelle_.
Often at night, in the Hôtel de Saint Paul at Paris, he and the young
Marshal Boucicault would sit into the grey hours of the morning,
devising and arguing the nature of the soul, or making rondels, songs,
and ballads. Other days and nights were spent in less innocent
amusements; for the beautiful Duke of Touraine was so irresistible a
lover that popular fancy endowed him with a magic wand and an enchanted
ring, making him absolute master of all women. None the less—though in a
knight it were more noble to succour than to enslave fair ladies—the
Duke was considered (a woman has pronounced it) “the very refuge and
retreat of chivalry.” And the charm of his youth and beauty, of his
rhetoric and laughter, of his gentle manners and brilliant knightliness,
still exhales from the dusty pages of Christine de Pisan and Juvenal des
Ursins. These two loved him. But the hostile Monstrelet, the critical
Monk of St. Denis, the unenthusiastic Froissart—even these assure us of
his enchanting presence.

According to Burcarius the King was handsomer than his young brother;
but we must allow for a natural Burgundian hostility to Louis, and a
natural Burgundian preference for force and valour, fresh colour, sweet
temper, good humour, and all vigorous northern qualities, in preference
to the subtler charms of their enemy. The stalwart Fleming thinks the
King the finest man at Court, and handsomer than any there, far
handsomer than his wife, “jolie et avenante,” indeed, but “basse et
brunette”: fatal defects in the eyes of a Fleming! Her indisputable
empire over men he ascribes not to her face, but to her lively manners.
“Folle et légère,” was she:

                     “Touse n’y avoit tant jonette
                     Plaine de sy grant gaiété
                     Ny de sy grant joliveté
                     Sy amoureuse, ne sy lie,
                     Que cette Bergère jolie.”[18]

Footnote 18:

  Le Pastoralet. A Burgundian satire, in the form of a Pastoral, written
  by one Burcarius in the first half of the fifteenth century, and
  published of late years in the Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove’s collection
  of Belgian chronicles.

As for Louis, the Burgundian has no word in favour of this melancholy
free-lover, this _Tristifer_ (for such is the name he goes by among
shepherds) who sins with no pleasure in sin; who spends his days in the
pursuit of love, yet keeps a heart of iron; whose joys are such as are
not to be found in the real world, but the fantastic joys of art,
repugnant to the Philistine:

                   “Tristifer, tristièce portant.
                   ... Et tout fut-il jolis,
                   Trop sembloit-il mirancolis;
                   Qui le coer a plus dur que fer.

                   .    .    .    .    .    .   \.

                   Bien nouvelette chanson
                   S’en va tout chantant à hault son,
                   Qu’il avoit, par un soir bruyant
                   Et bel, rimoié en riant.”

Thus the Burgundian ... unaware that this portrait of his enemy is the
only one that awakens curiosity and stimulates the fancy. And, by way of
adding a blacker touch than all, he tells us that this singing Tristifer
is the paramour of the gay Queen Belligère.

I have said that Louis was held to possess an unearthly ring, a magic
wand, of desire. For a perfect knight it was said that he had put them
to strange uses. He had fascinated with his wand, he had bewitched with
the circle of his ring, the young wife of his brother, the beautiful
Queen Isabel. And he was the bridegroom of Valentine Visconti. Queen
Isabel was at Melun to greet her new kinswoman. We can imagine with what
critical eyes she ran her over. Valentine, though not beautiful, was a
novel and irradiating vision in her veil of gems. She was wise too; she
could talk with her husband over the poems he made, the verses of Lord
Salisbury and Maître Eustache Deschamps, the romances of Wenzel of
Luxembourg, or of Maître Jean d’Arras, all the literature of the Court.
She could argue with him, this subtle Lombard, in the tenuous and
fanciful dissertations that he loved. Queen Isabel could not endure to
see this stranger, by reason of her splendour and her novelty become the
centre of attraction. The marriage festival was scarcely over when
Isabel persuaded her husband to ordain a greater festivity for herself.
She had been married four years, she was known by sight to every clerk
in the Rue St. Denis, yet the King, obedient to her behest, proclaimed
the Royal Entry of the Queen into Paris.


This Paris that Valentine entered as a stranger was a beautiful city.
The streets and bridges had been largely rebuilt by her uncle, Charles
the Wise. Between the new Bastille and the river he had raised an
immense royal palace, the Hôtel de St. Paul. Close at hand stood the
Palais de Tournelles, the great hotel of the King of Sicily, the Hôtel
Clisson, and the Hôtel de Behaigne, where the husband of Valentine
sometimes lived. A little farther off (in the Rue de Turbigo) the castle
of the Duke of Burgundy still rears its out-dated menace. On the left
bank of the Seine another group of palaces surrounded Nôtre Dame. At the
extremity of the city stood the Louvre. Rebuilt by Charles the Wise, it
was endowed by him with a library of nine hundred and ten volumes
(chiefly illuminated missals, legends, miracles, and treatises on
astrology). There a silver lamp burned always day and night in the
service of students, to whom the library was ever open.

Paris was a beautiful city; but it seemed a paradise upon the occasion
of the royal entry. The Rue St. Denis was draped from top to bottom in
green and crimson silk scattered with stars. Under the gateway angels
sang in a starry heaven, and to the sweet sound of instruments little
children played a miracle. There were towers and stages raised along the
streets, where the legend of Troy-town and other pleasant matters were
enacted. There were fountains also, flowing with milk or flowing with
claret. Maidens, in rich chaplets of flowers, stood beside them and out
of golden cups they gave the passers-by to drink, and sang melodiously
the while; up and down this magic city went the citizens’ wives and
daughters in long robes of gold and purple. The citizens themselves were
clad in green, the royal officers in rose colour. But all these
splendours paled and dwindled when the royal procession came in sight.
In the middle, in an open litter, sat the Queen, the beautiful, smiling
idol of the feast; she was dressed in a gown of silk, sewn over with
French lilies worked in gold. Behind her, in painted cars, went the
great ladies of the Court. Only the Duchess of Touraine had no litter;
Valentine rode on a fair palfrey, marvellously caparisoned; she went on
one side of the Queen’s litter among the royal dukes. The people of
Paris, says Froissart, were as anxious to see the new Duchess as the
Queen, whom indeed they had often seen. For Madame Valentine was
immensely rich, the daughter of a great conqueror, and she had only just
come out of Lombardy, a mysterious country where wonderful things came
to pass. What impression did Valentine make on the people of Paris,
pressing and craving to see the foreign duchess?

Which of her gala-dresses did she wear? The scarlet one sewn thick with
pearls and diamonds, with a cap of pearls and scarlet for her dusky
hair? Or the robe of gold brocade with sleeves and headdress of woven
pearls? Or the flashing crown of balasses and sapphires, and the dress
of scarlet sewn with jewels and embroidered with pale blue borage
flowers? In any of these this splendid Italian stranger must have
appeared to the burghers of Paris as a vision of Southern luxury, of
mysterious outlandish enchantment. At least it is certain that never
after they looked upon her as a mere mortal woman. Just at that season
every one was reading the “Mélusine” of Maître Jean d’Arras. Valentine
of Milan with her fairy splendours, her subtle wisdom, her Lombard
traditions—Valentine, with the Visconti snake on her escutcheon—must
have seemed to these Parisians much such another mysterious
serpent-woman, another Mélusine. For the Italian character, never
fanatic and yet so prone to spiritual passions; seldom bestial, yet so
guilty of unnatural vices—Italy has ever been a mystery, a hateful
enigma to the practical French; and of all Italians the Lombards, the
border people, are most unlike their Gallic neighbours. A century later,
when the French poured into Italy, no blazing mountain of Vesuvius, no
wonderful Venetian city swimming in the seas, no antique and glorious
ruins of Rome, so much astonished the foreign soldiers as the learned
and subtle ladies of Lombardy. Those later chroniclers who have been in
Italy relate with wonder their fables of ecstatic virgins, and gifted
women wiser than their sex; they have seen one Anna, a woman forty years
of age, who never eats, drinks, or sleeps, and who bears on her body the
mystical wounds of Christ, breaking out and bleeding afresh on every
Friday. In Milan, a demoiselle Trivulce, “de son grant jeune aage,“
wrote letters in Latin and was eloquent in oratory; “elle estoit aussi
poeticque” (adds the author of La Mer des Chroniques) “et scavoit moult
bien disputer avecques clercs et docteurs.” And also she was virtuous,
so that her holy life seemed a thing to marvel on. At Venice, Maître
Nicole Gilles encountered a certain Virgin Cassandra, the daughter of
Angelo Fideli, a maiden expert in the seven liberal arts and in
theology, all of which matters she expounded in public lectures. At
Quiers, near Asti, a “jeune pucelle,” the daughter of Maître Jehan
Solier, received the king with a public and most eloquent oration.
Learned and subtle and virtuous as these Lombard ladies were,
enthusiastic and spiritual as were many of their countrymen, yet this
strange Italy, where the women taught the men, where Jesus Christ in
Florence was the official head of the Republic, inspired a secret dread
and horror in the French. Like men in an enchanted country, they feared
what might lurk behind the shows of things. Above all, the French could
never rid themselves of a haunting suspicion of poison—poison and
sorcery, underhand and terrible weapons, such as these frank and
passionate Gauls associated with the subtlety and wisdom of the people
they had conquered. “And yet,” says Commines, “I must here speak
somewhat in honour of the Italian nation, because we never found in all
this voyage that they _did_ seek to do us harm by poison, and yet, if
they had chosen, we could hardly have avoided it.”

This attitude of suspicion towards Italy, of reluctant admiration,
characterized the French of 1494. Minus the admiration, it is quite as
significant of the French to-day; and in 1387 the same distrust was
there, but sharper, more anxious, and the same wonder, but intensified.
Valentine the Italian, seemed to these alert, honest, practical
Parisians a marvel of strangeness and wisdom; but to them these
attributes suggested chiefly a fatal potency for evil.

And, in truth, there was in Italy a wickedness such as for another
hundred years should not penetrate into France. The Italians were a
nation of secret poisoners; and the French bourgeois vaguely guessed
that this splendid young lady was acquainted with a world terribly
different from their ingenuous and turbulent Paris. No need for
turbulence in Italy. Valentine’s father poisoned the uncle who, for his
part, had, poisoned his own brother. And Giangaleazzo, who, as Corio
relates, had been nearly poisoned by Antonio della Scala, disposed of
that enemy by the self-same means. The Florentines[19] (but theirs is
the evidence of an enemy) said he paid his official poisoner a hundred
florins monthly. These it was murmured were the traditions of the new

Footnote 19:

  Lamansky: “Secrets de l’Etat de Venise,” pp. 157-159. Also “Archivio
  di Firenze,” Signori Legazione Commissioni, &c. Filza 28, folio 7 t.

Thus, after all, Queen Isabel played but the second part in the pageant
of her entry. Soon, however, she forgot her jealousy of the Italian—a
jealousy which on that holiday kept her sick in her chamber, while
Valentine danced with Touraine and the King in the royal ball below. But
Valentine was no rival of the beautiful, bright little Queen: she was a
persistent, ambitious, and devoted woman, never vain and never timid.
From the first she lavished on her boyish husband that passionate
devotion of an elder woman which asks no return from the radiant young
creature she adores. She did not grudge Louis the love of Isabel, if,
indeed, that love was his. A stranger thing happened: Valentine united
with her rival to push the fortunes of Touraine. These two women were
ever together, ever scheming, and planning the welfare of the unfaithful
husband of the one, whom an unbroken tradition has regarded as the
criminal lover of the other. An unnatural league; but it served to
strengthen Touraine.

For Valentine and Isabel alike had the ear of the King. Charles VI., a
little slow, a little dull, neglected in his Court, betrayed by his wife
for his more brilliant brother—this gentle, kindly, unimportant creature
was irresistibly drawn to his sister-in-law. Of all her royal kinsfolk
in France, the King was the only one who from the first had welcomed
Valentine. “My dear sister, my beloved sister,” the words were ever on
his lips. Valentine, like him, was set aside; like him she suffered.
She, too, was patient and gentle; but she was strong, she was prudent.
The King of France was a great heavy lad, over-boyish for his years,
loving jests and disguises, hating ceremony, and only very dimly feeling
the wrongs that perplexed him; he sought from the sweet and quiet
Italian her protection no less than her compassion.

In 1390, at Montpellier, the King could not support his absence from
her. “I am too far from the Queen and Madame Valentine,” he said to his
brother. “Let us ride post haste to Paris.” Unaccompanied and for a
wager, they rode all the way, four nights and nearly five days in the
saddle.... A little later the physicians said that such violent
exercises as this had unsettled the feeble reason of the King.


In 1391, the young Duke of Touraine acquired the succession of the
Duchess of Orleans. He was now as rich as he was ambitious. Could the
old king, his father, have seen his eminence and his ambition, he would
have risen from his grave, and have returned to the salvation of France.
But the dust was in his ears and eyes, and it was not to be so.

For some time the King had been ailing with a hot fever. He was, says
the Monk of St. Denis, strange, languishing, and bewildered. When, in
the summer of 1392, the French invaded Brittany, the Dukes, his uncles,
conjured him to remain at home. But Charles was not to be persuaded. He
started with them upon the long, fatiguing journey.

On the 5th of August, near the town of Mans, after some hours of riding
in armour under a beating sun, the royal party passed the
Lepers’-village. A beggar, a leper, dressed in rags, the outcast of the
world, the lowest human thing, came out and accosted the young King of
France: “Go no farther, noble King, they betray you!” The King was
startled, and though the Royal Guards interfered they could not at once
shake off the loathsome prophet. Clinging to the King’s bridle, the
leper cried again, “Go no farther, noble King, they betray you!”... They
betray you! Louis and Isabel, his nearest and dearest, what else did
they? The King said nothing.

About an hour afterwards, suddenly, the King set upon his brother, his
spear a-tilt, as hunters hunt a stag.... The more distant of the royal
party thought the King had spied a hare or a hart in the forest....
Then, as the truth dawned, there was a dreadful scene. Cries, wounds,
men falling from their horses, and a fanatic madman who none the less
was still a sacred and irresistible presence! The King of France was
furiously and murderously mad.

Four men were slain, others saved themselves by simulating death.
Orleans fortunately was not hurt at all. For four days the King’s frenzy
lasted, with fits of delirium and lapses into death-like exhaustion. The
most cruel part of his sickness was the evident anguish of his spirit.
“Will no one pluck out of my heart the dagger that my fair brother of
Orleans has planted there?” the poor mad youth would cry; and he would
mutter to himself, “I must kill him! I _must_ kill him!” It was useless
to instruct the people that there is no reason in the sick hatred of a
distempered mind. Nor would they find sufficient motive in the rumoured
unfaithfulness of Isabel with Louis. They sought a darker, a more subtle
explanation, and their suspicions were fostered, for political ends, by
the enemies of Orleans—the faction of his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy.

For when the King recovered from his frenzy, his mind remained weak and
disabled. It was necessary to hand over to his uncles for a while the
direction of affairs. This made the strongest of them, Philip, Duke of
Burgundy, more than ever strong; he was in fact, though not in form, the
regent. Against his rule one voice was ever raised in protest, the voice
of the young ambitious brother of the King.

Louis of Orleans was now twenty-one years of age; through his marriage
and the gifts of the King he had become formidably rich; through the
weakness of the King he was formidably powerful. He was the nearest to
the throne and he desired the regency. But the people suspected Orleans;
he had too much to gain by the death or the incapacity of his brother.
The people, in their passionate pity for the gentle monarch they adored,
began to hate and fear the Queen and Orleans. In later days they did not
scruple to declare their misgivings, but at first they dared not
directly accuse the Queen, they would not directly accuse the young,
beautiful Louis, their pride from his childhood, eloquent, religious,
gay, slow to anger. With Juvenal they found him “beau prince et
gratieux;” and, like Christine, they accounted him, “en ces jeunes faiz
et en toutes choses très-avenant ... car il aime les bons ... nul
fellonie ni cruauté en luy.” But he was young; he had been led away
(Juvenal finds the phrase for them) “_by the means of those who were
near to him_.... He had strange youthful follies that I will not
declare.... _There were those about him_, young people, who induced him
to do many things he had better have left undone.” This vague and
mysterious excuse is the veil of a terrible accusation. The people began
to say that the Duke of Orleans was a sorcerer.

The King mad; the King’s brother a wizard! There was a contagion of
horror in France. “Many nobles and poor people,” writes the Monk of St.
Denis, “began to change and sicken with the same strange malady that had
attacked the King.” The fanatic terror of supernatural evil spread and

Things, at that critical season, fell out unfortunately for Orleans. On
the 29th of January, 1393, there was a wedding festival at the Hôtel de
St. Paul for one of Queen Isabel’s German maids of honour. The bride was
a widow, and thrice a widow; therefore a subject for the grotesque
licence of the age. At night, in the great hall among the dancers,
suddenly there burst in a company of six satyrs dressed in tight linen
vests, with flakes of tow fastened with pitch upon their backs. These
hideous merry-makers sprang and danced about the bride, with leaps and
gestures, in a sort of diabolic frenzy. Five of them were chained
together, the sixth disported loose. The sixth was the King. Stung by
some unlucky madcap prompting, Orleans took a flaming torch from its
bearer, and held it close to the face of one of the maskers to see who
he was. A flake of fire from the torch dropped among the tow and pitch.
Up and down the hall, dancing a wilder and more terrible saraband, the
flaming satyrs went. Two were burned to ashes, two died of their burns
in agony, one saved himself by leaping into a water-butt. The King was
rescued by the Duchess of Berri, who wrapped him in her mantle. But the
danger and the fearful spectacle had upset his tottering reason. The
King was mad again.

The people were furious against Orleans. Had Charles been burned, his
brother’s life must have answered for it; for the people loved the King.
The party of Burgundy—the popular party—did not hesitate to accuse the
unfortunate young Duke of a fiendish plot to murder his brother. It was
in vain that Louis raised a magnificent chapel of marble in the Church
of the Celestines, to expiate his involuntary guilt. The people murmured
that the Duke of Orleans went too often to the Celestines. It was said
he went there every day. So much devotion was uncanny in so wild a

Charitable souls like Demoiselle Christine declared in vain—“C’est
impossible que son âme et ses mœurs n’en vaillent mieux.” Charitable
souls are rare. The mass of the people did not hesitate to say that
Louis visited the Celestines the better to conspire with a certain monk
there—an old counsellor of his father’s—one Sire Philippe de Mézières.
This person was acknowledged to be wise, experienced, able, and a man of
science, according to the age. “Cestui vieil solitaire” for forty years
had been the counsellor of princes. For thirty years he had been the
life and soul of the policy of Cyprus, of Rhodes, of the Christian East.
Then disgraced by an ungrateful king—Pierre II. de Lusignan—he took
refuge in France, bringing to the service of Charles V. his enthusiasm,
his political wisdom, his minute and extensive acquaintance with the
Courts of Italy and the East. In 1379 he entered the Convent of the
Celestines in Paris; not too secluded to remain the trusted counsellor
of Charles V., and in his turn, of his son Louis of Orleans. But though
the good Sire was a monk, the crowd doubted of his religion, for it was
common rumour that he said there was no truth in sorcery. Let him say
it! Sire Philippe de Mézières was none the less no judicious companion
for the Duke of Orleans. The Sire had lived too long in Lombardy: “a
country,” as Juvenal describes it, “where they practice magic and the
casting of spells.”

About the same time a malignant rumour grew in France concerning the
father of Valentine. People said the Seigneur of Milan had asked the
French Ambassador for news of the King. “He is very well,” replied the
Frenchman. Whereupon Visconti grew pale, and staggered. “He is the
Devil!” he said, with great admiration; or, according to another
version, “Diabolicum recitas et quod est impossibile—You tell me a
diabolic thing, and one that is impossible! _The King can not be well!_“

Now, it was generally known in Italy that the Duke of Milan, like every
other successful prince or Signory, was a secret poisoner. But in France
a more terrible and a yet more hateful accusation was rumoured against
him. The people began to whisper that the Duke of Milan was a wizard.


The King was mad again; he had fallen into the first of innumerable
relapses. Henceforth, for thirty years, any moment of too poignant
feeling would throw him back in agony and madness. At such times he
suffered much. It would happen (says the Monk of St. Denis), that as he
sat in his council chamber, receiving his ambassadors and discoursing
with sense and clearness, a sudden shudder would pass over him, the
actual world would drift into oblivion. Again the forest near Mans, the
leper’s warning, would rise on his tormented vision. He would shriek out
for help against his enemies, and yet, poor king, be still aware these
enemies were phantasms. At such moments he would cry and wail and sob,
till all the Court fell a-weeping to hear him. “O not madness. Death,
any pain, anything but madness!” and joining his hands he would look
eagerly in face after face of his kinsmen. “I pray you, for the love of
Christ, if any of you be party to this magic, then let me die at once
and end it.” But no prayers avail, and as the fantastic world of lunacy
gradually eclipsed the receding truth, the King’s last entreaty showed
the unaltered sweetness of his tormented nature. “Keep away all the
knives,” he would cry. “I had rather die than hurt any one.” For no
lapse of time, no suffering effaced in his gentle character the stamp of
that terrible moment of Mans when he had awoken to find his innocent
hands stained henceforth for ever with innocent and loyal blood.

While the King wailed in desperate protest against his oncoming madness,
all the Court wept with him. But, once that eclipse accomplished, the
Court forgot the King. Part of the royal palace of St. Paul’s had been
turned into a safe asylum. There the King lived, sometimes for many
weeks unwashed, eaten with filth and vermin, suffering no attendant to
approach him. He was then a mere wild beast, tormented with canine
hunger, fierce, suspicious, and sometimes wild with fear. Then he would
pace from end to end of his apartments, fleeing his imaginary pursuers,
until he dropt exhausted in senseless lethargy.

But more often, and especially in the first years of his illness, he was
not sunk so low as this. He was then an aimless, laughing, boyish
imbecile. He was no longer the King even in his own fancy; he had
forgotten himself as others had forgotten him. Did he see his own arms
or the Queen’s emblazoned anywhere upon the walls, he would smear out
that heraldry, laughing the while and dancing in a burlesque, unseemly
fashion. “These are not my arms. I am not King Charles. My name is
George,” he would cry, “and my arms are a lion pierced with a spear.”
The poor King was himself transfixed with that intangible spear his fair
brother of Orleans had planted in his heart for ever. But in his
madness, his jealousy had undergone a subtle change. Sometimes he could
not endure the sight or mention of the Queen and Orleans, but more often
he utterly forgot them. Once they brought Isabel into his presence. He
shook his head and swore he did not know the lady.

There was in all the world one only creature whose presence shed a
little balm and solace on his unhappy lunacy. This was his
sister-in-law, Madame Valentine. She was the only person he ever fully
recognized. Absent and present he called upon her, “Oh, my dearest
sister! Oh, my beloved sister!” and if Valentine left him a single day
unvisited, the poor king would wander up and down for hours in aimless
regret and complaining.

Valentine was kind and pitiful. Although at this time she was ailing
(her second son was born in August, 1393), she did not fear to bring her
delicate magnificence into the filth and peril of the mad king’s
presence. For hours she would sit with him, playing at cards: those
painted Saracen Naibi which Covelluzzo noticed at Viterbo (the first
known in Europe) in 1379. Perhaps Valentine had brought them out of
Italy; they were the only pastime of the haggard king; and for hours the
painted images of Death, Love, Fortune, Madness, and the Angel, would
silently fall from the hands of these two unhappy people, keeping each
other melancholy company in the dismantled chambers of the barred and
altered palace.

Valentine was ill herself; she was a woman; and yet she was not afraid
of this tall, broad-shouldered young man of twenty-five, subject to
violent mania, who in one fearful paroxysm had slain four men in armour.
His attendants dared not come too near. But Valentine seemed to bear a
charmed life, she did not even tremble. This unnatural courage of hers,
this fascination, this mastery which she exercised upon their king ...
all this was terribly explicable to the people of Paris.

Who was this lady?—Valentine of Milan. “Now,” says Juvenal, “her father
was the Duke of Milan,[20] who was a Lombard, and in his country they
practise magic and the casting of spells.” “The common people,” says the
Monk, “declared the King was bewitched. They accused the Duke of Milan,
and in confirmation of this ridiculous proposition they said the Duchess
of Orleans was the only person the King recognized or cherished in his
sickness. They did not scruple to say she was a witch, though that so
generous a lady should commit so great a crime is a fact that never has
been proved.” “The King’s physicians, arioles, and charmers,” says
Froissart, “affirmed the King was poisoned or bewitched by craft of
sorcery; they said they knew it by the spirits that had showed it to
them. Of these diviners, arioles, and charmers, certain were burned at
Paris and at Avignon. They spake so much, and said the Duchess Valentine
of Orleans, daughter to the Duke of Milan, had bewitched the King.”

Footnote 20:

  Giangaleazzo in 1395 obtained the title and investiture of the Duchy
  of Milan from Wenzel, King of the Romans, for 100,000 florins.

In those days the accusation of sorcery was terrible and ominous. To
bewitch the King was the most damnable of crimes, for witchcraft in
itself was treason against God. It was indeed no less than taking out of
heaven the tremendous issues of life and death, apportioning them with
profane and mortal hands, and breaking the heavenly order of the
universe. God was mocked. This side of sorcery excited the horror of
theologians, but it was not this that infuriated with helpless terror
the shuddering populace. We know how the Polynesian islanders will die
to-day of a fatal langour if they believe their enemy has prayed against
them. The citizens of Paris in the Middle Ages died as easily.
“Throughout the kingdom,” says the Monk of St. Denis, “many nobles and
poor people are attacked with the same strange malady as the King’s.” A
contagion of fear paralysed the sources of life. “For they can bewitch
you,” said, in 1407, Maître Jean Petit, a very learned doctor in
theology; “and they can bewitch the King, and make him die in a very
subtle manner, quite unapparent, by the casting of a spell.” “A word is
enough,” said two Augustine friars who suffered for sorcery in 1397, “a
word, a touch; it is no natural malady.” To those who suffered, and saw
their near and dear ones suffer of this incurable, inexorable
enchantment, there was no death too cruel for the wizard.

The Duke of Milan was a very powerful magician. By spells and sorcery
he, the weakest of his clan, had made himself the most astute and potent
of all the princes of the West; by spells and sorcery he would make his
daughter queen of France. “Il n’y avait qu’une bouche à clore,“ said
Jean Petit. Valentine, the people thought, was helping her father, for
the Duchess of Orleans was a witch.

The powers of the Prince of the Air were in high places. Valentine was
not only protected by Satan—not only served by Hermas and Astramin the
two livid demons of Montjoy that obeyed the House of Orleans—she was
also sheltered by the effulgence of the throne. Every power, every
protection was hers. Hell and earth obeyed her, and heaven smiles upon
the sins of princes. Yet with the cruel heroism of pity the people of
Paris rose against her, pouring down the streets, reaching out their
fanatic hands to tear in pieces no omnipotent demon in a violent aureole
of flame, but a pale neglected foreign woman far from home. They
determined to save the King, and at last the peril of the duchess grew
so great that Marshal Sancerre and many other nobles advised her husband
to send her out of Paris. So in great pomp, nowise abashed, but with all
the splendour of a royal progress, Valentine left the city. She went to
a fair castle of her husband’s near Pontoise, and then to Neufchatel
upon the Loire. She went alone, for Orleans was kept by State affairs in
Paris. There was a subtle political reason for the irritation of France
against the Milanese. In the complex recesses of the human heart an
actual terror of supernatural evil, a crusader’s passion to avenge the
honour of God, may co-exist with the most sordid calculations of a
worldly advantage to be gained. It was not only for the love of God that
the Jews and Moors of Spain, the Protestants of Flanders, the
monasteries of England, were made to enrich their persecutors. It was
not entirely for thirty pieces of silver that Judas delivered a heretic
to the secular arm. And it was the easier to condemn the Duke of Milan
that he was not only a wizard, but the political rival of France for the
rich suzerainty of Genoa.


The French had counted upon Giangaleazzo Visconti rather as a captain
than as a rival. Visconti had looked upon the French as the tools of his
ambition, and not as serious competitors. In reality each was in pursuit
of the same thing; each desired to be supreme in Italy.

Visconti had easily acquired the direction of his son-in-law’s policy.
It is not surprising. A lad of eighteen, poor, kept under,
systematically neglected, Orleans before his marriage had known little
of power, nothing of supremacy. He was nominally Duke of Touraine; but
his estates were administered by the King. Until a few months before his
marriage he had not even a house of his own, but lived with his retinue
in a corner of his brother’s palace. In February, 1389, he appeared for
the first time at the Royal Council. Valentine brought him wealth,
consideration, and ambition; for, with the possession of Asti, and under
the guidance of his father-in-law, the young Duke began to dream of
battles and signiories in Italy.

Visconti was very willing to adopt his daughter’s husband in place of
the clever and valiant son he should have had. His own son was a baby at
the breast. And Orleans brought him not only a clear young mind, a fresh
and eager will and the courage that the great Visconti never had, but
also the influence of France. Thus the great Ghibelline saw within his
reach the support of the Guelfs. To reconcile all parties for his own
interest was ever the aim of this unrivalled statesman, as magically
gifted to make peace as to foment a discord. Ghibelline and Guelf,
Emperor and King of France, Pope and Antipope, aye, even Orleans and
Burgundy, should join hands to fight his battles.

His first move was a whisper of ambition in the ear of his son-in-law.
And Louis forgot his love-making and ballad-making, his jousting and
feasting, and turned to other thoughts. Asti was his; Asti should be the
centre of his operations, and in swiftness and silence a French army
gathered in Asti.

In 1389, the very year of Orleans’ marriage, there was peace with
England; hence, leisure in Court and camp; hence troops of riders and
men-at-arms infesting every countryside, preying on the ruined peasants,
and loitering hungry for another war. Nothing easier than to enlist a
company! In 1389 Orleans sent to his new county François, Seigneur de
Chassenage, as governor with twenty men-at-arms and two chamberlains,
each with twenty men-at-arms and thirty archers. Fifty-five other
men-at-arms and as many archers were added to these, and formed the
nucleus of a rapidly increasing army. By the end of June more
men-at-arms and squires joined the service. Enguerrand de Coucy,
Lieutenant of the Duke and Captain-General _ès parties d’Italie_, went
to keep his state at Asti in July.[21]

Footnote 21:

  Arch. Nat. (K K. 315 f^{os}. 9-52): “Notes à compter faiz à certaines
  gens d’armes et archiers retenus par Monsieur le Duc à son service
  avant la venue de M. de Coucy ès parties d’Ytalie.”

From this moment, long pages of the manuscript account book of
Chassenage are filled with lists of captains, men-at-arms, and archers.
Archers under Braguet, archers, under Viezville, a concentration of
devoted Orleanists, once Angevines, in Italy. Italian names, also, begin
to crop up in the French harvest: Messire Othe Tusque, des parties
d’Italie, Messire Jehan Visconti, escuier, Messire Aloyset de Plaisance,
also Luquin Rusque, Francesquin Martin demourant à Pavey, Hannibal
Lommelin of Genoa and his troop, others from as far as Florence and
Venice. Then a great name, commander of many others, a name that means
business: _Messire Facin Can and his company_.

The red towers of Asti—still here and there existing, a bouquet of
wine-red stems slenderly streaking the pale and radiant Lombard sky—the
red towers of Asti, innumerable then, grew home-like and familiar to
many a French lord. No dreary exile this—large houses, wine-red also
(“non hanno acqua ma vino per impetrargli,“ laugh the men of Alba),
beautiful churches, a rich plain, streaked with the wide Tanaro, and
girt with hills. At night, the Alps come out, invisible by day; they
appear at sundown even as a rose-red heavenly wall divinely dividing the
Lombard country from the unseen land of France.

Yet here are the French and quite at home. Plenty of wine, red and
white; beautiful women; plenty of money. Orleans pays fifteen francs a
month to every man-at-arms (but a man-at-arms, we must remember, is more
than a man, being at least the soldier himself, his page and his
varlet), eight francs a month to every archer; two hundred francs a
month to Chassenage and the chamberlains; four hundred and fifty to
Enguerrand de Coucy. All this serves at least to bring wealth and custom
to Puielhez, mine host of the Cross of Asti, who supplies the wine. But
for what other purpose does Orleans thus dissipate his new-got treasure?
The “Dance of Fools,” sculptured on a wall in the market place, by some
gay ironic band not long dead then, looks down with silent bells and
silent laughing lips that answer not.

In August, Orleans sends one of his men (Blaru), on a secret embassy to
his father-in-law at Milan, another (Craon) to the Antipope Clement.[22]
They have scarcely gone when he sends another (Garancières) to Pavia. In
February of the next year (1390) there is much prate at Court of a
voyage to Italy—voyage being then the polite name for an invasion—in
order to establish Pope Clement in his see of Rome.

Footnote 22:

  De Circourt, _op. cit._, p. 48.

And now, little by little, the great plan disengages itself—audacious,
simple, as befits the brain of Visconti. Orleans and Burgundy themselves
start for Pavia, and arrive there in March, 1391. Brilliant Visconti, to
have persuaded Burgundy that the expansion of Orleans in Italy will
leave him free to extend his grasp at home! Great things also, as we
know from a passage in Walsingham,[23] are vaguely held out to Burgundy.
As for Orleans, there are no bounds to his ardour; he defrays the entire
expense of the journey, 60,000 francs, lavished magnificently to astound
his new ally and his subjects of Asti. The Royal Dukes remain but a week
in Lombardy, and then return—recalled by rumours of Armagnac’s
disturbance. But the week was long enough.

Footnote 23:

  Walsingham, “Historia Anglicana,” vol. ii. p. 201.

The first step of the affair was to persuade Giangaleazzo Visconti to
give in his adherence to the Antipope Clement. The Lord of Milan was
still in name an Urbanite; but he had suffered the Antipope Clement to
arrange the marriage of his daughter and to grant the dispensation that
made it lawful; and his wife Caterina was a devoted Clementine. Visconti
gives it to be understood that he will fight for Clement if it be made
worth his while. Meanwhile the king takes fire:—honest, practical,
religious, the idea of thus forcibly putting an end to heresy and schism
greatly commends itself to him. There were three Royal visits to Avignon
that year. The Antipope suggests to Charles VI. an Imperial Crown for a
second Charlemagne.[24] Froissart hears of the royal intention, “de
mener notre Saint Père à Rome,“ and on the 23rd of February, 1391, the
King signs a quittance of 2,000 francs, “pour nous aider à abiller et
mestre est estat pour aller en la compagnie d’icelui seigneur au voyage
qu’il a intencion de faire au païs de Lombardie.”

Footnote 24:

  Clairambault. sceaux, vol. cxiii. p. 8821. See De Circourt, _op. cit._

But nothing can be done without the indispensable Visconti. What is his
plan? At first he holds back, loving by nature the attitude of suspense.
But in 1392 the moment came to decide. Armagnac at that moment was
invading Italy in defence of the rights of his sister Beatrice and the
elder branch of Visconti. He suffered defeat, indeed, and death at the
hands of Milan, but not before he had inflicted so severe a check upon
his victor that Giangaleazzo no longer saw his triumph clear. Nay,
unwelcome as the ghost of Banquo at the board of Macbeth, the pale
figures of the dead Armagnac, the once laughing Beatrice, the poisoned
Bernabò, intrude themselves between him and his end. Do not such sights
as these clamour for revenge?—and Armagnac and Beatrice have a living
brother; Bernabò Visconti has left a troop of sons. Milan may yet be
snatched from his grasp. He is not safe in Lombardy, and he would fain
be King of Italy. But how to obtain that crown? Already Armagnac has
forced him to restore Padua to the Carraresi. And Florence, the
irreconcileable enemy, is grouping round her a league of hostile states.
In August, 1392, Florence, Padua, Faenza, Ravenna—a little later the
Malatestas and Forli—are united against Visconti. He is not safe in
Milan till he wear the crown of Florence too.

Then he sends to the Pope and to the King of France and announces his
plan. How did the Lord of Milan hear of the secret Adrian project? Did
Anjou, passing through Pavia, drop a word? Did one of the many Angevines
sheltered in the house of Orleans, familiar with Asti and Milan, broach
the plan? We know not, but this was the scheme of Visconti: _Naples for
Anjou_; _Rome for the Frenchman Clement VII._; _Adria_, that is to say
the centre of Italy from Spoleto to Ferrara, and from Massa to Ancona,
_Adria for Orleans, the North for Visconti_. That is to say, Italy for
the father of Valentine and his allies.[25] As Walsingham tells us
Visconti secured for himself the double crown of Tuscany and Lombardy.
But in the very moment when the reluctant Pope (less hasty and less
egoistic now than at Sperlonga), had promised thus to alienate the
Church lands as the price of his restoration, a Divine Hand, as it must
have seemed, interposed to save the Church. On the 28th of August, 1394,
Pope and Cardinals had approved the Schedule of Orleans. A fortnight
later, on the 16th of September, suddenly, Clement VII. died at Avignon.

Footnote 25:

  For all this question of the kingdom of Adria, too vast for this
  incidental line, see the excellent paper of M. Paul Durrieu in the
  “Revue des Questions Historiques” for July, 1880; also the scarce
  volume of Champollion-Figeac, “Louis et Charles, Ducs d’Orléans,”
  Paris, 1844; and especially the box of Manuscripts in the Paris
  National Archives labelled Carton J. 495. I may also indicate an
  interesting passage in Walsingham’s “Historia Anglicana,” vol. ii. p.
  201, communicated to me by Comte Albert de Circourt, “Item Dominus
  Papa significat Regi per prædictum nuncio, qualiter Rex Franciæ et
  Antipapa pacta inierunt hinc inde: Videlicet quod idem Rex, per
  fortitudinum Ducum (Burgundiæ et Turoniæ, poni faciat Antipapem in
  Sedem Petri et Antipapa promisit Regem Imperio coronare, et Duci
  Burgundiæ) magnalia et investiet Ducem Turoniæ de omnibus terris
  ecclesiæ in partibus Italiæ, et _quendam alium_ coronare Regem Tusciæ
  et Lombardiæ, et Ducem Andexaciæ (Andegaviæ) firmare in Regno
  Siciliæ.” The passage in brackets exists only in the Brit. Mus. MS.

His successor was less able; and the scheme of Adria was abandoned.
Valentine would never reign as Queen of Adria. Yet, as Duchess of Genoa,
she would be nearer home. Then in all manner of subtle and secret ways
Orleans and Visconti immediately manœuvred to secure the Ligurian
province. Armies in the field, diplomats in the Cabinet, worked for one
end alone. In November, 1394, Savona had submitted to Orleans. Now Genoa
must be gained. The young Duke had already a strong faction in his
favour. The Lomellini, Spinole, Flischi, figure in the rolls of Orleans’
army.[28] But, at the same time, they were intriguing with an
unsuspected enemy.[29] In August, 1395, the Doge of Genoa sent to Paris
offering to Charles himself the suzerainty of Genoa. There was in France
a strong current of popular opinion running in favour of Italian
colonization. Why should Orleans have Genoa?—asked the people. Why not
the King? Why not all of us? Why not France? The King, as we know, was
never a very solid creature. Honest, but feeble, he let himself be
dominated by the nearest influence. The Duke of Burgundy was in Paris,
and he, it is probable, persuaded Charles[26] to abandon his brother and
to accept the gift of the Doge. In October, Genoa was united to the
Crown of France. In December the King bought from Orleans his rights in
Savona and Genoa.[27] This was checkmate both to Orleans and Visconti.

Footnote 26:

  “Arch. Nat.,” K K. 315.

Footnote 27:

  “Arch. Nat.,” J. 497, No. 15. February, 1392, Lomellini, Flisco, and
  other nobles of Genoa sign an instrument offering Genoa to the King of

Footnote 28:

  Paul Durrieu, “Le Royaume d’Adria.” See also an important passage,
  “Religieux de St. Denis,” t. ii. p. 402.

Footnote 29:

  “Arch. Nat.,” K. 54, No. 37. December 12, 1396: “Comme depuis que
  nostre très-cher et très amé frère le Duc d’Orleans eut, pour les
  causes et les concideracions qui le meurent, entrepriz d’avoir la
  Seigneurie des cité, pays et territoire de Gennes. Et tant fait pour
  venir à son entencion.... Savoir faisons que pour contenter et
  deffraier nostre dit frère des trés-grans fraiz missions et despenses
  par luy en plusieurs manières faiz et soustenuz ... nous avons avec
  nostre dit frère traicté et accordé sur de et pour ces choses et leurs
  dependances la somme de trois cents mile frans d’or pour une foiz.”

Burgundy and the Queen were triumphant. The Queen wrote to the
Florentines that affairs were going well, that her enemy and theirs was
fallen in disgrace, and on the 29th December the King joined the
Florentines against his late ally. For there was now great irritation in
France against Visconti, who, furious at the treachery which had
outwitted his plans for Genoa, played a double game with France. Signing
with one hand a fraternal alliance with King Charles,[30] with the other
he stirred up the Genoese to rebel against his yoke. But the Genoese
suspected his counsels, and revealed the whole intrigue to the Court of
Paris. Hence fury among the nobles, an ardent desire to punish the false
friend.[31] Hence among the populace the best will in the world to
believe the Duke of Milan a wizard and his daughter a witch, an infernal
spirit bringing death and madness upon the beloved King.

Footnote 30:

  August 31, 1395. Lünig Codex Italiæ Diplomaticus, i. col. 421.

Footnote 31:

  “Religieux de St. Denis,” ii. p. 436, _et. seq._


Thus the machinations of Milan served to exasperate the French. And the
indignity and insult offered to Valentine were as great a cause of
irritation to Visconti. He and his daughter, with their Lombard
indifference to superstition, could have nothing but contempt for the
panic of the French. “Et l’une des plus dolentes et courroucées qui y
fust, c’estoit la Duchesse d’Orleans,“ writes Juvenal des Ursins. Twice
or thrice the Duke of Milan sent his ambassadors to the King of France,
offering to find a knight to fight at outrance with any man who would
accuse Madame Valentine of any treason. So sore and angry were the
father and the brother-in-law of Valentine that there was a talk of a
Milanese invasion. Great counter preparations were made in France, and
the League was signed with the Florentines against Milan. The King,
being in good health then, went to Boulogne to celebrate the marriage of
his daughter Isabel, a child of seven, with Richard II. of England, a
man some years older than himself. Richard was very bitter against
Milan. He offered to send an English contingent to the King’s aid, if he
invaded Lombardy. He warned the King again and again against the spells
and sorceries of Lombardy; and he produced so strong an impression upon
the enfeebled mind of Charles, that on the 29th of October, as the two
kings were sitting together at dinner, the King of France perceiving
among the heralds one with the Serpent of Milan on his shield, had him
stripped of his arms, menaced with death, and chased out of the royal
presence. The Duke of Milan retaliated with the famous Investiture of
1396, which excludes the children of Valentine of Orleans from the
succession to Milan. With things at this pitch of hostility, war seemed
imminent, and the route was made out for the invasion of Lombardy. But
that war never took place. “And that journey,” says Froissart, “took
none effect; for the discomfiture of the battle before Nicopoly in
Turkey, and the death and the taking of the Lords of France. And also
they saw well that the Duke of Milan was in favour with the Great Turk,
Lamorabaquy; wherefore they durst not displease him, so let him alone.”
It became immediately necessary to make peace with Milan,[32] the one
power in Europe that could mediate with Turkey. The ambassadors of the
King, Burgundy, Orleans, and the Sultan, caused a continual come-and-go
in Milan. Visconti took his position of peace-maker in good part. In
March, 1397, he procured a third and less hostile investiture. The talk
of magic was hushed for a while, and Valentine returned in peace to

Footnote 32:

  “Delaville Le Roulx. La France en Orient,“ vol. i. p. 290-304.

Yet now, perhaps, for the first time the French people, not
unjustifiably, might have heaped their odium on Valentine. For her
latest historian supports a theory suggested long ago by Froissart.[35]
While the French were projecting their invasion of Lombardy—while the
son of that Burgundy who had advised the King in the affair of Genoa was
leading against the Turks a French Crusade which might easily return
homewards _viâ_ Lombardy and Milan—Giangaleazzo, furious and humiliated,
sought any means of salvation and revenge. He, like many another
Italian, was in correspondence with the Turk; and an idea, successfully
practised by many another Italian,[34] may not unnaturally have
suggested itself to him. If France joined the Florentine League then
adieu for ever to the hopes of Visconti. And Burgundy, as he knew, was
in favour of Florence. And the son of Burgundy was captain of the French
army. Small hope here; yet, if the French army could be destroyed in
Turkey, Milan would be safe! Then the astute Visconti would smile to
think of his daughter in France. Valentine who wrote him everything—also
told him doubtless (as the author of Maistre Jehan de Meun tells us[33])
of the vain young aristocrats, ruined by free living and fine carousing,
who were starting on that terrible journey, thinking of nothing more
serious than the elegant spectacle of their departure:

                    “Mais que le partir soit joly
                    Vous ne regardez point la fin!”

Gay young gallants, unfit for privation, who, when they reach Palestine,
will be too weak to strike three strokes with the magnificent swords so
much too heavy for their hands.

                    “Les Sarrazins s’arment légier;
                    Sy c’est bon courage et fier.”

But the panoply of these splendid youths—these _gens de paraige_—was for
decoration rather than for battle. Valentine, the confidant of her
father—who in the long afternoons of exile would turn with the expansion
of relief to her one kinsman, her staunch protector—would tell him of
the weakness that underlay the glory of this martial going-off. She
would write to him the plan of campaign, the route decided on, the means
of attack and defence. She would inform him not only of the quality but
of the number of the army. And Giangaleazzo was aware that these details
transmitted to the Turks would ensure the disaster of the French, and
draw away the gathering storm that threatened to break on Milan.

Footnote 33:

  _Vide_ “Jean sans Peur, Duc de Bourgogne, Lieutenant et
  Procureur-général du Diable cès parties d’Occident,” par M. Paul
  Durrieu, Paris, 1887.

Footnote 34:

  For example Carlo Zeno in 1403, Gattilusio in 1399, each of whom
  informed the Turks concerning the plan of campaign of a Christian

Footnote 35:

  “L’Apparicion de Maistre Jehan de Meun.” Bib. Nat. Fr. 811, No. 7203.
  This is an illuminated manuscript in defence of Valentine of Orleans,
  and dedicated to her.

The Duke of Milan was not scrupulous; he was “moult bien” in the
friendship of the Turk. The Turk gained a singular acquaintance with the
disposition of the French army. No need to dwell here on the terrible
disaster of that unforgotten battle: the twelve to twenty thousand dead;
the rare fugitives stealing homewards, dukes and barons, in the dress of
beggar-men; the harder lot of those taken by the Turks, sold into
slavery, or massacred in vengeance for the Faithful slain at Christian
hands; of the heartsick waiting of the few—a very few, of the richest
and noblest—set aside for ransom. One of these, Jacques de Heilly, was
sent by the Sultan on parole to France, to inform the King of the
disaster and to bring back the news of their intentions with respect to
ransom. He was bidden to pass by Milan[36] in order to convey to
Giangaleazzo Visconti the salutations of the Sultan. On Christmas night
he arrived in Paris; the Court were feasting and dancing. In the prison
of the Châtelet, hungry and cold, there were men who spent their
Christmas in a dungeon for having spread false news, as it was said, of
a great defeat in Turkey. But the tale of D’Heilly told, all that was
changed: the prisoners were freed, the Court was in tears. The bells
rang in all the churches for the dead. The universal thought was how to
redeem the flower of France from a savage captivity. On the 20th of
January, 1397, a French embassy was sent to Milan. A few days earlier
Jacques de Heilly, laden with propitiatory gifts, had returned to the
Sultan. Nothing was spoken of but mediation and reconciliation. And
Valentine—so long the innocent scapegoat of her party—was recalled to
favour in the very hour when all men might have suspected her as the
involuntary origin of misery.

Footnote 36:

  “Delaville Le Roulx. La France en Orient,” Paris, 1886, vol. i. p.


Actual war with Milan was averted; but the rumours against the King’s
brother continued still in France.

On the 24th of March, 1403, Ives Gilemme, a priest; Demoiselle Marie de
Blansy, Perrin Hémery, a locksmith, and Guillaume Floret, a clerk, were
publicly burned for sorcery. And still the King was mad. Were those who
bewitched _him_, the head of the State, to keep their immunity? There
_was_ such a crime as witchcraft, and people legally suffered for it.
The King was bewitched: who was the wizard?

To this incessant question Burgundy ever helped to point the answer. Who
was the person who profited most by the sickness of the King?

The Duke of Orleans had become very powerful. In January, 1393, an
ordonnance had promised him the Regency in case of the death of the
King.[37] His prestige, his wealth, his faction increased with every
year. This young man who, in 1385, possessed no more than 12,000 livres
a year, was Duke of Orleans (1391), Count of Valois and Count of
Beaumont (1386), Count of Asti and Count of Vertus (1387), Count of
Soissons (1391), Count of Blois (1391), Count of Dreux, Count of
Angoulême (1394). In 1394 he was very nearly King of Adria. He was Count
of Perigord in 1398. He was Seigneur of Savona (1394), Seigneur of Coucy
(1391); he possessed both lands and castles in Hainault, at Pierrefonds,
and at Ferté-Millon (1392). The Duchy of Luxembourg (1402), the Duchy of
Aquitaine (1407) lay immediately before him.

Footnote 37:

  “Ordonnances des rois de France,” t. vii. p. 535. The Duke of Orleans
  was never Regent, despite the line of the Monk of St. Denis which
  assures us that in 1402 the King made his brother Lieutenant-General
  of the Kingdom. During the frequent relapses of Charles VI. the
  kingdom was governed by a Council. There was no Regency before the
  year 1415.

The princes of Europe appealed to the Duke of Orleans as to an
independent sovereign. The Duke of Guelders concluded a separate
alliance with him (1401). The King of the Romans offered him for his son
the heiress of Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland (1397). Henry of Lancaster,
an exile in Paris (1399), paid more court to him than to the King of
France. And in 1405 the Venetians sent two secret ambassadors to
Orleans, who in return despatched a certain Pierre de Scrovignes with
private despatches to the Signory of Venice. Since 1401 the Venetians
had never sent a message to the King. Burgundy began to fear that
Orleans would induce the new Antipope at Avignon to depose Charles VI.
in his own favour.

There is, I think, no evidence of such an intention, and yet the
suspicions of Burgundy may not impossibly have been correct. In 1400 the
Germans deposed their drunken Wenzel, in 1398 the English had deposed
their incapable Richard. Why should not France depose a king continually
lapsing into madness? In the year 1399 the king had six relapses.
Orleans may have been no less ambitious than his sworn friend and
brother, Henry of Lancaster, who had so lately conquered for himself the
throne of England.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Orleans and Burgundy turn by turn usurped the direction of affairs.
Vainly King and Queen and Court attempted to assuage their rivalry. On
the 14th of June, 1401, the Queen of France (the King being mad), the
King of Sicily, the Dukes of Berri and Bourbon, made a League “pour
apaiser les Ducs d’Orlèans et de Bourgogne.”[38] In vain. The King
himself was powerless, and could only bid his subjects—as in 1405 he
bade the Bailly de Caux—to stand aside and take no part nor lot in the
discord existing between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy.[39] This
impartiality was only apparent. The growing influence of Burgundy was
dreaded by Berri and the Queen, no less than by Orleans himself. And in
the winter of 1405, these three persons joined themselves together in an
“Alliance défensive et réciproque, pour se maintenir au pouvoir.”[40]
Thus, if Burgundy had the nation on his side, the authority of the
Queen, the influence of Valentine (all-powerful with the King), was with
Orleans. In 1404 Philip of Burgundy died, and his faction gained new
vigour with the accession of his son, a man less temperate, less
aristocratic than his father. The blood of his Flemish mother worked in
the veins of the young man, restless, violent, demagogic as a burgher of
Ghent. The young Duke of Burgundy had no woman to work for him; it was
even rumoured that the portrait of his own wife hung in that locked
chamber where Orleans kept the pictures of his mistresses. But
Jean-sans-Peur did not need any feminine advocate. He was young, he was
rich. In 1404 his father’s death bequeathed him Burgundy, next year his
mother died and left him Flanders. A small ugly man, alert, blunt,
brutal even, serving public interests to reach his own ends,
Jean-sans-Peur of Burgundy was the hero of the people. “Brun et barbu et
bien aimé,“ writes Burcarius.

Footnote 38:

  Arch. Nat. K. 55, No. 16, June 14, 1401.

Footnote 39:

  Arch. Nat. K. 55, No. 39, Aug. 21, 1405.

Footnote 40:

  Arch. Nat. K. 55, No. 36, Dec. 1, 1405.

Meanwhile the people groaned under the tyranny of Orleans. _Jugum
intollerabile plebis._ And Orleans, sceptical and embittered, had no
respect and no pity for the ignorant populace that reviled him, that
menaced his virtuous wife, that mocked the death of his little child
with cruel and insulting calumnies. The people to him were odious, or,
at best, indifferent; a cup to drain, a fruit to squeeze and throw away
the rind. In 1403 he laid upon them an impost of three hundred thousand
crowns. Out of this he builded for himself two famous castles,
Pierrefonds and Ferté-Millon, beautiful as the towers of heaven in a
picture by Van Eyck.

In 1407, not content, he levied a new tax. The money thus gained
enriched the State far less than him, and great personages accused him
and the Queen of leaving no single florin to rattle in the empty
treasury. When Orleans suggested the new impost, Jean-sans-Peur opposed
him in the royal council: “I ask pity of the poor people. It is tyranny
to aggravate their intolerable yoke.” Jean-sans-Peur declared that, in
_his_ domains at least, the impost should not be collected; rather would
he forfeit the entire amount himself. Struck by this generosity, the
young Duke of Brittany volunteered to postpone his wife’s dowry until
the treasury was full again.

The tax was levied all the same. It was a war levy, and really
necessary. Every man and woman in France was mulcted according to the
value of his goods. In this way a vast sum was raised—twenty-seven
millions. It was lodged in a tower of the Louvre. One night, when the
town was quiet, Orleans, with a band of armed men, entered this tower
and carried off at least two-thirds of the treasure.

When the people heard of it—the people who (the Monk assures us) had
sold the straw of their beds to pay the levy—they prayed publicly in
every town and hamlet: “Jesus Christ in heaven, send thou some one to
deliver us from Orleans!”

Orleans smiled no less bitterly than when he had heard the public
whisper accuse him of sorcery and devil-worship. He proclaimed that
whosoever did not pay the taxes should be cast into prison; to prevent
assassination, no man was to carry another knife than he used for his
eating; a fourth of the provisions of the royal household was to be
supplied daily, without payment, by the people of Paris. These
provisions, as the people knew very well, did not go to feed or clothe
their beloved King. He, in his palace, was as poor, as suffering as
themselves. The Dauphin was no richer: “in penury and want,” says the
Monk, “if such words may be used for so great a personage.” The
insatiable Orleans, the avid little Queen, grasped and kept everything.
“Jesus Christ in heaven,” prayed the people, “send some one to deliver
us from the Duke of Orleans.”

Orleans should have listened. The air was full of warnings to tyrants.
Richard and Wenzel had fallen miserably. The Duke of Milan had died of
the plague; in six months his vast kingdom had fallen into ruins.
Tyranny is, so often, a personal accident—a possession, not an
inheritance. Was it worth while? The King himself added to the list of
these monitions. In August, 1404, he married his eldest son to
Burgundy’s daughter, his daughter to the son of Burgundy.

In the year 1405, on Ascension Day, the people found a voice. An
Augustine monk, Jacques Legrand, preached then before the Court. The
Queen, Valentine, and Orleans were present, but not the King. “O Queen!
O Duke!” said the monk, “you are the curse and derision of your people.
Do you not believe me? Go into the streets and hear them!

“_Tua curia, Domina Venus solium occupans_, thy court, O Queen! where
Lady Venus fills the throne, thy Court, by day and night, is the scene
of debauch and drunkenness. Dissolute dances do honour to the goddess.
Frequent bathing enervates your bodies. Fringes to your sleeves, and
long sleeves to your garments; yet are ye clothed upon with the sighs
and tears of the poorest of your people. Your hearts are corrupt and
your minds are all unmoved: _Domina Venus solium occupat_.”

There was a flutter of indignation in the Court. The monk’s sermon was
reported to the King, but to the surprise of all, Charles answered that
he was glad of it. On Whit-Sunday Legrand was commanded to preach again,
and in the royal presence. The monk repeated his sermon, but with larger
reference to a certain noble duke, “once good and dear, but hated now
for his oppression and his vice.” The King left his chair and sat down
face to face with the monk, listening earnestly, who can tell with what
cruel suspicions, what resolutions for inquiry and reform, in his dim
and altered mind. When the sermon was over, the King spoke to Legrand
for some moments. He thanked him earnestly.

Charles was deeply impressed with the words of the Augustine friar.
Struggling against continual relapses, he made a brave effort to do the
best he could for his disordered kingdom. When Orleans asked for the
government of Normandy, for the first time he was refused. Another day
the poor King called the Dauphin to him. “How long, my lad, is it since
your mother kissed you?”

“Three months,” the boy replied.

The King was much affected. His children were evidently pinched,
neglected, uncared for. He called the boy’s nurse to him, and gave her a
gold cup. “Look after my son when I am ill. If God grant me life I will
reward you later.”

This was in July, 1405. Burgundy was absent on his own estates. The King
wrote to him and implored him to return to Paris.

Orleans and the Queen were at St. Germains. They paid no heed to any
warning. On the 13th of July there was a fearful storm; torrents of
rain, eddies of wind. The Queen and Orleans were riding in the forest
when they were overtaken by the tempest. The Duke took refuge in the
Queen’s litter, but the frightened horses nearly drowned them in the
Seine. The people declared that it was the judgment of heaven upon
tyrants, and Orleans himself appeared impressed. He sent a herald to
Paris, and proclaimed that whosoever of his creditors should come on
Sunday next to the Hôtel de Behaigne should have his debt discharged in
full. On Sunday the halls and anterooms of the ducal palace were crowded
with eager burghers. Many, tired and anxious, had travelled from the
provinces. The Duke’s stewards laughed in their face and shut the doors.
This was the final touch to the exasperation of the people.

All this while Jean-sans-Peur was travelling to Paris. He came at the
head of six thousand men-at-arms. The King was mad again, and could not
support him; but none the less the Queen and Orleans feared an
insurrection in Burgundy’s favour. They decided to flee secretly away
into Luxembourg with the royal children. Valentine was with them; and
they had got as far as Pouilly when the troops of Burgundy suddenly
surrounded the litter of the Dauphin, some hours’ journey to the rear.
The boy was delighted; he embraced his father-in-law, and was carried in
triumph back to Paris. Isabel, with Valentine and Orleans, fled to the
Castle of Melun. Civil war seemed eminent; but when the two armies were
actually in the field, peace was arranged, and on the 15th of October
the Queen and Orleans re-entered Paris.

Orleans had learned nothing by his lesson. He was more than ever
arrogant, more than ever secure in his tyranny. Early in the next year
his young son Charles was married to the King’s daughter Isabel, the
widowed Queen of England, a girl of sixteen. In the first months of 1407
the King gave his brother the rich duchy of Aquitaine. Orleans began to
think again of the governorship of Normandy. He was richer and stronger
than the King.

And yet, if Valentine, if Orleans, had really read the future as the
people thought they did, or had they even cared to read the present,
they might well have paused. In that age the fate of tyrants was not
prosperous. The King of England was a leper. The King of France was mad.
The little Duke of Milan was mad also, with a furious Italian hemomania.
The King of Scotland was a prisoner in the hands of his enemies. There
were two Popes, things for scorn and laughter, held in derision of all
nations, and a song to the people all day long.

Already, in 1380, Miles de Dormans, Chancellor of France, had declared
“A government has no force save in the obedience of the people, for
kings only rule by the suffrage of their subjects: _Nam et si centies
negent, reges regnant suffragio populorum_.”

The judgment of heaven, the liberties of man, seemed to conspire alike
against the rule of tyrants.


Notwithstanding his deceptions in the affair of Genoa, and in spite of
his supremacy in France, Orleans still cherished designs on Lombardy;
and perhaps the chief cause why his Italian enterprises are less
noticeable in the fifteenth than in the seventeenth century is due, not
so much to his engrossment with affairs at home, as to the fact that in
Benedict XIII. he found an ally infinitely less subtle and less
brilliant than he had known in Clement VII. Benedict was little more
than a captive in the hands of Orleans;[41] Clement had been an

Footnote 41:

  “Arch. Nat.” Carton K. 55, No. 10: “Lettres par les-quelles le Roi
  commect la garde du Pape Bénoist 13 au Duc d’Orléans, au-quel il donne
  cent hommes de sa garde. No 14 bis: Lettres du Roy Charles VI.
  déclaratrices que loin de tenir le Pape Bénoist XIII. prisonnier, il
  l’a pris sur sa sauve garde et que pour plus grande sûreté de sa
  personne et de ses biens il a établi son frère le Duc d’Orléans pour
  en avoir garde.”

A greater than Clement failed him a little later. In the autumn of 1402,
in the very flush and zenith of victory, Giangaleazzo Visconti died. A
score of his captains soon were fighting for his kingdom. That vast
territory, whose coherence existed only in the brain of one man, fell
rapidly into fragments: city after city threw off the unwilling yoke of
union, and what had almost begun to be a national Italy reverted in a
few weeks to the old conditions of fragmentary independence. His two
sons ruled in a narrowed Lombardy, and with no vista, as it seemed, on
the ambitions of their father. In the very same year that the great
Visconti died, Charles VI. sent to Genoa a small, restless, quixotic man
of much ability, who to some extent filled the empty place of the dead
Giangaleazzo. But if Marshal Boucicaut had much of the ambition, and all
the audacity of the late Duke of Milan, he possessed nothing of his slow
wise mind, of the deep and subtle duplicity that Machiavelli may have
envied, or of the powers of combination, the cool tenacity to a grand
idea, which foreshadowed the genius of another North Italian, Count
Cavour. Moreover, while such share as Visconti meant to allow the French
in Italy was destined by him for his son-in-law of Orleans, Boucicaut
worked for the King. Thus, for the second time in his experience, the
Frenchman found his greatest rival in France.

Of the two legitimate sons of the great Duke of Milan—one was a handsome
young Nero, blood-mad, inept, given over to passion and cruelty; the
other an astute child, timid, unscrupulous, who later should develop a
trace of the genius of his father. At first their hold on their
inheritance was so slight that Orleans determined on invading Lombardy,
whether to defend or to supplant his nephews, who shall say? In October,
1403, he started for Lombardy, accompanied by 13 knights-banneret, 43
knights, 212 squires, 28 archers, 20 crossbow-men, and other
soldiers.[43] On the way south he passed by Beaucaire, and had an
interview with his charge, the Antipope Benedict. He took into his
service the famous captain of adventure, Bernardon de Serres. He made
friends with another mighty captain—an ancient enemy—the Count of
Armagnac.[42] Vast and serious appeared his project of invasion, but, on
the very verge of the Alps, suddenly, on January, 1404, he abandoned the
prosperous enterprise, turned right about, and faced home for Paris.

Footnote 42:

  Communicated by Comte Albert de Circourt from transcripts in his

Footnote 43:

  See M. Paul Durrieu, “Les Gascons en Italie,” p. 214.

What is the meaning of this sudden change of course, unexplained, and
perhaps inexplicable? What was the object of the Lombard invasion? What
was the cause which so unexpectedly suppressed it? Orleans believed
himself to have a certain claim on Pisa, bequeathed by the great
Visconti to his bastard son Gabriello-Maria. Gabriello Visconti was ill
at ease in Pisa. A little later, in 1404, as we know, he offered his
unruly city first to France, then to Florence. It is possible—it is even
from the nature of things a necessary hypothesis—to suppose that in 1403
Gabriello had come to terms with Orleans, and that the rights on Pisa
which Orleans vaunted as his own through Valentine Visconti were
supported by some cession of the actual lord, her half-brother. But
Orleans was not the only Frenchman capable of adventure and practice in
Italy. By the time his army reached the frontier he found himself
outwitted by a higher bidder, nearer at hand.

Jehan le Meingre, Marshal Boucicaut, Governor of Genoa, had intrigued
with Gabriello and procured the city of Pisa for the King. A few months
later, on the 15th of April, 1404,[44] a deed was drawn up declaring
Pisa henceforth a fief of France.

Footnote 44:

  Dumont, Corps Diplomatique. II. ccxvii. and ccxxxi.

At the first word of the matter Orleans had turned his back on his
contemplated campaign and marched back to Paris, fury in his heart.
Probably behind the interference of Boucicaut he divined the inspiration
of Burgundy, his enemy;—Burgundy who, as events should prove, had
unsuspected designs of his own upon the State of Pisa. Back in wrath
marched Orleans: stalked indignant into Paris his men at his heels:
found the King in his senses, and docile as was his wont. From him, on
the 24th of May, Orleans extracted the deed which we append,[45] a deed
that repudiates the action of Boucicaut, and transfers all the rights of
France in Pisa to Orleans, who henceforth shall meet with neither let
nor hindrance in his projects.

Footnote 45:

  Avd Nat. K. 55, No. 11, bis July 26, 1404. À tous ceulx qui ces
  présentes lettres verront, Guilles, Seigneur de Tignonville,
  chevalier, conseiller, chamberlain du Roy nostre seigneur et garde de
  la prévosté de Paris, Salut! Savoir faisons que nous l’an de grace
  1404, ce Mercredi 26 jour du mois de Juillet, vismes une lettre du Roy
  nostre seigneur scellée de son grant scel sur double couronne, des
  quelles la teneur s’ensuit:

  Charles par la grace de Dieu Roy de France, à tous ceulx qui ces
  lettres verront, Salut! Savoir faisons que après la supplication et
  requeste à nous faictes par nostre très-cher et très-amé frère Loys
  Duc d’Orléans, contenant que comme à cause de nostre très chère et
  très amée soeur, sa femme, fille du feu nostre oncle le Duc de Milan,
  plusieurs villes terres et seigneuries situées es parties d’Italie et
  de Lombardie, entre lesquelles est et doit estre la ville et cité de
  Pise avec toutes ses appartenances, la seigneurie de laquelle nostre
  dit frère dit estre et appartenir au dit feu Duc de Milan auparavant
  qu’il alla de vie à tres-passement appartiennent et doivent appartenir
  à iceluy nostre très-cher frère. Il nous a exposé et il ait entendu de
  nouvel que la dicte ville et cité de Pise et aucuns chasteaulx
  appartenant d’icelle, par certains moyens sont à nous acquis et venues
  en nostre main. Et ont été bailliz pour nous par nostre très-féal
  Chevalier Chambellan et conseiller Jehan le Meingre dit Boucicaut,
  Maréschal de France, et Gouverneur pour nous de nostre cité et
  seigneurie de Jennes, pour quoy il nous a requis en tout le droit que
  nous avons et pouvons avoir de la dicte ville et cité de Pise et ès
  aultres cités et appartenances qui furent au dit Seigneur de Milan,
  nous veuillons bailler et délaisser. Et tout empeschement mis de par
  nous en la dicte ville et cité de Pise et ès dictes chateaulx et
  aultres appartenances d’icelles, veuillons faire oster et cesser, sans
  y plus procéder, ny faire procéder, en sa préjudice. Nous voulons
  toujours condescendre au justes requestes de nostre-dit frère, comme
  raison est. Qui avons baillie et délaissié de une certaine science par
  ces présentes tout le droit et seigneurie par nous acquis de nouvel et
  que nous avons et pouvons avoir en dicte ville et cité de Pise et ès
  aultres chasteaulx et appartenances d’iceulx. Et voulons et ordonnons
  par ces présentes que l’empeschement mis par et en nostre nom en la
  dicte ville, cité et Seigneurie de Pise et ès chateaulx et aultres
  appartenances d’icelles, soit osté. Si donnons en mandement par ces
  présentes et envoyons très-expressement au dit gouverneur de nostre
  dicte cité de Jeunes et à tous nos aultres justiciers et conseillers
  ou à leurs lieutenants et à chaseur d’eulx, si que di luy appendra,
  que de nostre bailli et délaissements dessus ditz faient, sueffrent et
  laissent jouer et user paisiblement nostre diet frère. En mectant au
  délivrement de luy ou à ses ditz gens officiers commis et députés de
  par lui tous les ditz droit et seigneurie par nous acquis de nouvel ès
  ditz ville cité et chasteaul dessus ditz. Et en ostant tout
  l’empeschement qui en iceulx a esté mis de nostre part. En tesmoing de
  ce nous avons fait mettre à ces lettres nostre scel. Donné a Paris le
  24 jour de May l’an de grace mil quatre ans et quatre et le 24 de
  nostre règne. Aussi signées par le Roy en son rayson. Messigneurs les
  Ducs de Berry et de Bourbon, le Connestable, le Comte de Tancarville,
  le grand maistre d’ostel et aultres.

  Et nous a ce présent transcript in tesmoing de ce que usismes le scel
  de la dicte prévosté de Paris l’an et jour dessus promis et dietz.

The deed was granted in Council, the King being then in his senses, and
assisted by Berri, Bourbon, Tancarville, and others. The reader will
remark the noteworthy absence of Burgundy. He will remember also that
Berry, in 1405, will join Orleans in a defensive league against
Jean-sans-Peur. It is possible that Burgundy knew nothing of the deed
drawn up behind his back.

But it was too late for Orleans to profit by the King’s good-will. The
Florentines were in Pisa, and an invasion against so powerful an enemy
could not be undertaken.

For a moment Orleans was obliged to pause in his Italian policy—to pause
only, not to abandon it, since in 1406[48] he still reclaimed authority
on Pisa, and in the very year of his death was taking an active part in
the affairs of Lombardy.[47] That pause was filled in a manner
disastrous, fatal, yet natural enough in a man suffocating under a sense
of bitter indignation and revolt. Burgundy had interfered with Orleans
abroad. Very well; Orleans would interfere with Burgundy at home.
Already the first steps were taken. In 1401, Orleans had married his
cousin Mary Harcourt to the Duke of Gueldres, the enemy and the
neighbour of Burgundy, with whom his rival now concluded an alliance and
a league. In 1402, Orleans purchased from the King of the Romans the
Duchy of Luxembourg. In 1405,[46] he assembled at Melun the entire
strength of his faction, sending even to Asti for the Governor and his
men. In 1405 also he allied himself with Berri and the Queen against
Jean-sans-Peur. With the Court on one hand, and on the other Gueldres,
the most reckless captain of his age;—with an army at his heels, and
(through the county of Soissons, and down the banks of the Oise and the
Marne), an uninterrupted passage through his own possessions into his
new Duchy of Luxembourg: Orleans was a deadly enemy to Burgundy. A
glance at the map will show the reader how, like a wedge or like a
rivet, Luxembourg must split apart or hold together the domains of the
Netherlands and the provinces of Franche Comté and Burgundy. In the
hands of Orleans, Luxembourg was a wedge; and the domains of Burgundy
were no longer a compact and formidable territory, but two
principalities with Brussels for the capital of the one, and Dijon for
the capital of the other. Should Orleans march an army into Luxembourg,
should Gueldres come to his aid with an armed force, the suppression of
the Dukedom of Burgundy would fall within the range of practical

Footnote 46:

  A strange document in the Carton K. 55 Arch. Nat., under date July 27,
  1406, in the form of a letter from the King in Council (Tancarville
  “et autres” being present), notifies that that day the King has
  received conjointly the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, who have made
  him their united homage for Pisa. In 1407 the Signory of Florence,
  having taken Pisa (a French fief), sent to the King, Orleans, and
  Burgundy to justify their conduct. Orleans seized the Florentine
  ambassadors and cast them into prison—a high-handed proceeding which
  he probably considered warranted by his position as suzerain of the
  captive city. In so doing Orleans probably meant to underline the fact
  that _he_, not the King or Burgundy, was lord of Pisa, though all had
  claims to suzerainty. There is a long correspondence on this subject
  (Archives of Florence, filza xviii. della Signoria. Cancelleria 27).

Footnote 47:

  It is in 1407 that the Italian projects of Orleans appear in vigorous
  renascence. On the 6th of October he proclaimed himself Protector of
  his nephews, Giovanni Maria, Duke of Milan, and Filippo Maria, Count
  of Pavia, “frères de Dame Valentine épouse du Duc” (Arch. Nat. K. 56,
  No. 16). He made the Governor of Asti their guardian, and appeared to
  meditate an armed intervention. Was this conduct purely and merely
  disinterested? Did Orleans in October at Beauté-sur-Marne contemplate
  a great French protectorate in Lombardy of which he should be the soul
  and centre? A month later a tragic silence suddenly interrupted any
  answer to these questions.

Footnote 48:

  See “Arch. Nat.” K K. 267 fo. 97. Also the chapter on Bernardon de
  Serres in M. Paul Durrieu’s valuable work, “Les Gascons en Italie.”

Henceforth, between these two princes the struggle for power should take
on a new character and become the very struggle for existence. And while
the people, abject, all in tears, prayed to Heaven: “Jesu Christ, send
thou some man to deliver us from Orleans,” the hero of the people,
Jean-sans-Peur the Belovèd, was urged by every motive of self-interest,
every instinct of self-preservation, and with the assurance of popular
immunity, to interrupt for ever the fatal progress of the tyrant.


One Wednesday evening—it was St. Clement’s day, the 23rd of November,
1407—Orleans was supping with the Queen. Isabel was ill and dispirited.
Ten days ago her new-born baby had died at its birth, and she sorrowed
for this child and loved it as she had never loved her other children.
Isabel was away from her husband in her new Hôtel de Montaigu, near the
Porte Barbette. It was here that Orleans came every day to see her, and
here they “supped right joyously together,” says the Monk of St. Denis.
Orleans had been ill all autumn at his Castle of Beauté, and had only
recently come back to Paris. Valentine, with her four children and the
Princess Isabel, was still in the country.

As these two persons, both ill, both weary, forgot their troubles for a
while in each other’s company, a page came to the door with a feigned
message: the King earnestly beseeched his brother to come and see him at
the palace of St. Paul. Orleans arose at once and left the Queen. He had
at least six hundred men of his own lodged that day in Paris, as
Monstrelet informs us. Orleans, however, took none of them with him. He
leapt on his mule and rode away with two squires on horseback at his
side. Two or three footmen with torches ran after him. No gentleman
could go more simply than the King’s brother in his plain suit of black
damask, riding with no more than five attendants, quickly and gaily down
the frosty street. It was the coldest winter ever known, and muffled in
their cloaks the little party rode briskly ahead, looking neither to the
right or left. Orleans was singing softly to himself and playing with
one of his gloves. He feared no enemies. Last Sunday he had taken the
Sacrament with Burgundy, and yesterday they two had dined together.

It was eight o’clock. All was dark and silent in the Rue Vieille du
Temple, then an outlying and quiet district. Orleans and his two squires
rode along so fast that the runners with the torches were left some way
behind. At last they came to a wider place in the street where there was
a well. As the three horsemen passed the Hôtel de l’Image de Notre-Dame,
seventeen or eighteen men sprang suddenly out of the shadow of the
house. One with an axe chopped off the bridle hand of Orleans. The
King’s brother gave a cry of surprise and pain. “I am the Duke of
Orleans!” “It is he we seek.”

In another moment the Duke was beaten off his mule on to the frozen
paving-stones. Seventeen axes were aimed at him; blow after blow fell
heavily; his head was cloven, his brains gushed out into the street. His
servants had all fled and left him there, save one of his squires who
had been his page (a German, says Monstrelet; a Fleming, says the Monk),
who, more constant than Orleans’ compatriots, flung himself upon the
body of his master, and was pierced and slaughtered there. When both
were murdered the assassins dragged the body of Orleans across the
street, propped it up against a heap of mud that was standing frozen
there, and lighting a torch of straw, they looked to see if he were
really dead. A woman, a cobbler’s wife, looking from a garret window,
saw it all, and set up a shriek of “Murder, murder!” “Peace, harlot,”
cried the armed men in the street, and began to shoot their arrows at
the open casement. At that moment a man with a scarlet hood drawn well
over his face, came out of the house opposite, and struck the dead body
with his club. “Put out the light. He’s dead. Let us go.” The eighteen
assassins rode away in great merriment, sowing caltrops after them; but
before they left they set fire to the house where, for the last
fortnight, Jean-sans-Peur had kept them hidden. The flames of the
burning Hôtel de l’Image streamed up through the darkness of the night,
awakening the city, and shedding a strange light on the murdered body of
Orleans, still propped up in a sitting posture, his wounded head hanging
on one side. Just then a nephew of Maréchal de Rieulx, whose great Hôtel
stood opposite, a young man, one of Orleans’ squires, rode up as he left
his uncle’s house, and saw his master sitting thus dead, the left hand
off, the right arm hanging by a thread. A little distance off, on the
stones of the street, lay the page, dying in his faithful youth,
murmuring still in his German language, “Ach, my master!” At his side,
on the ground, was a white hand severed from the wrist. Close by there
lay a fallen glove. The young squire gave the alarm and the dead bodies
were carried into the Hôtel de Rieulx.

There was wailing and mourning in the house of Orleans, grief and horror
in the house of the King. The deed was soon known, though as yet it was
only surmised that one Raoul d’Actonville, a dismissed steward, had
wreaked in this ghastly fashion his spite against his master. The next
day the royal princes, all in black, with a great multitude of the
people of Paris, brought the murdered Duke to the church of St.
Guillaume, close at hand. He who had ever loved the good through all his
wickedness, lay now among the watching friars, who sang psalms and
repeated vigils day and night for his soul; there he lay until they took
him to be buried in his own chapel of the Celestines, which is called
the Blancs-Manteaux to-day. The people followed him with torches,
remembering only his gay and gracious qualities, his capricious
generosity, his gentle raillery, his rhetoric and eloquence, how he had
loved learning, and that he had often lived as a monk for days among the
Celestines. All Paris wept, those also who had prayed Jesus Christ in
heaven to deliver them from Orleans; even Burgundy went in the funeral
procession, all in black, weeping also. But when the funeral was over
Jean-sans-Peur took Berri and the King of Sicily aside: “I had it done.
I slew him. It was an inspiration of the demon’s.”


There were two women, who were not at the burial, to whom the death of
Orleans came nearer than to any mourner there. When Isabel heard that
Orleans was slain she went in terror of her life. Ill as she was, she
had herself carried in a litter to St. Paul’s, taking shelter there in
the arms of her mad husband, and so soon as she was fit for travel the
poor, light, beautiful, little Queen went out of Paris, far away from
Burgundy, far, too, from that maimed and slaughtered body lying in the
chapel of the Celestines. Terrified, indifferent, she could think of
nothing but her own imaginary danger.

The mistress and the wife took the matter in a very different spirit. At
first, in her transports of sorrow, Valentine could not act. She tore
out her hair and shred her garments; she sobbed so much, that for weeks
afterwards her voice was hoarse. But when the first paroxysm was over
her strong Italian character centred itself upon one fixed idea—justice,
vengeance for her murdered husband. Valentine had no thought of her own
safety. She sent her two elder sons and her girl into Blois, and then,
with the Princess Isabel and little John, her youngest child, on either
hand, the Duchess of Orleans set out from Château-Thierry for Paris.

Travelling was slow that terrible winter. It was not till the 10th of
December that Valentine entered the capital. She, her children, her
servants, were all dressed very plainly and roughly, and, of course, in
black. The King of Sicily and the Duke of Berri came out to meet them.
When they reached the palace Valentine threw herself upon her knees
before the King, demanding justice. The poor Charles (_azzez subtil pour
lors_) raised her up and kissed her, while they both wept together. He
promised strict justice upon Burgundy. Again, ten days later, he
declared, “What is done to my only brother is done to me.” Valentine and
her children, satisfied of vengeance, retired to their great hotel in
the Marais.

The King fell ill again so soon as Valentine had left him. “They say,...
but I affirm nothing,” suggests the Monk. Valentine the witch stayed on,
however, among the people who had murdered her husband. One thing that
we learn of Valentine at this moment shows us how profound, how selfless
was her love of Orleans. She sought out his bastard—the little John,
afterwards Count of Dunois, the son of Mariette de Canny—and brought him
up with her own children. It even seemed as though she loved him more
than the others. Glancing from the poetic Charles, the delicate Philip,
the child John, to his determined and eager little face, she exclaimed,
“None of your brothers is more fit than you to avenge your father.
Nature has cheated me of you!”

To avenge your father! This had become the unique preoccupation of
Valentine. But that promised vengeance tarried long. On the 8th of March
a learned doctor of theology, the chosen advocate of Burgundy, a certain
Maître Jean Petit, excused the murder of Orleans before the King. “_Il
est licite d’occire un Tyran._”

It was not only of tyranny that the Burgundians accused their victim.
The tremendous accusation of Jean Petit (which every student of the past
has read in Monstrelet) enumerates attempted regicide, and secret
poisoning, sorcery, necromancy, charms, incantations. “Sorcery, high
treason against God, and regicide, high treason against the King. There
is also tyranny,” says Maître Jean Petit. It was of course for this
third cause, treason against the people, that Orleans’ murder was
condoned in Paris.

For the people never hid their support of Jean-sans-Peur. Those who had
wept at the funeral of Orleans were ready now to cry again the cry of
Burgundy. The King, whose mind was again overcast, although he was not
actually mad, the King himself on the 9th of April, 1408, signed letters
patent granting pardon to Jean-sans-Peur. “Our very dear and
well-beloved cousin of Burgundy, _who for the public good and out of
faith and loyalty to us, has caused to be put out of this world our said
brother of Orleans_.” This was the last insult to his memory. Valentine
would not brook it; she rallied to the charge. Though she herself had
been seriously implicated in the tissue of villainy which his murderers
had woven about the memory of her husband, Valentine had no thoughts to
spare for her own safety. All through July and August she kept agitating
against Burgundy. Bringing her children with her she sought the King and
cried on her knees for justice. Twenty years’ exile for Burgundy! Her
two advocates, Sérisi and Cousinet pleaded eloquently for her; refuting
the vile accusations of poison and sorcery with a candour, a logic, a
fine and modern spirit worthy of the intellect of the dead man they
defended. It was all no use. “The Parisians,” says Monstrelet, “loved so
well this Duke of Burgundy; because they believed that if he undertook
the government, he would put down throughout the kingdom all salt taxes,
imposts, dues, and subsidies which were to the prejudice of the people.”
Though nearly all the royal Princes were openly on the side of
Valentine, the King did not _dare_ avenge his brother. The Court was
impotent against the people.

In the early autumn Valentine left Paris. Life was over for her. “Rien
ne m’est plus. Plus ne m’est rien,” ran her melancholy motto. Anger and
bereavement and hopeless sorrow had worn her to a shadow. She took the
little Dunois with her children to the Castle of Blois. There were four
of them, Charles, the Poet, who should be the father of King Louis XII.;
and little John, the grandfather of Francis I.; Philip, Count of Vertus;
and Margaret, in later years the grandmother of Anne of Brittany. These
children, three of whom should be the grandparents or great-grandparents
of Henri II., Valentine ceaselessly instructed. All her contemporaries
bear witness to her untiring vigilance over them. “They are marvellously
good, and well-instructed for their years,” says Monstrelet: “Moult
notablement conduits et indoctrinés.” But there was one lesson, dearer
than the others, that Valentine perpetually taught her sons. “Avenge
your father,” she continually cried.

These children, so different in character and destiny, were the dearer
to their mother that she felt she had not long to love them. Valentine
was dying of a broken heart, “of anger and mourning,” writes Juvenal;
“of anger and impotent vengeance,” says Monstrelet. Her eyes were quite
dim with useless tears, and still she resented the very grief that
drained her life; for she did not want to leave her little children and
her unaccomplished task. “It was pitiful,” says Juvenal, “before she
died to hearken to her regrets and her complaints, so piteously she
regretted her children, and a bastard, called John, whom she could not
suffer out of her sight, saying none of her children was fitter to
avenge their father.”... “Since the tragic end of her husband,” says the
Monk, “this Duchess spent her days in tears, and many say the bitterness
of her heart induced that unhealthy languor of which she died.”

This was in November. Upon St. Clement’s day, upon that heart-sickening
anniversary of her husband’s murder, Jean-sans-Peur rode into Paris. It
was a triumph. As he passed the people, and their little children cried,
“Noel, noel au bon Duc.”

It was near a week before the news came down to Blois. When she heard
it, Valentine felt that all was over. No vengeance was possible. On the
4th of December the unhappy woman died, with her last breath entreating
her little children never to forget their father’s murder. But these
children were only children, and they were orphans. The death of
Valentine seemed to secure the triumph of her enemy. Jean-sans-Peur did
not seek to hide his rejoicing: “Car icelle Duchesse continuoit moult
asprement et diligemment sa poursuitte.“ But already Retribution at her
grindstone was sharpening the fatal battle-axe of Montereau.

                               TO MILAN.

Let us recapitulate.

When, on September 16, 1380, Charles V. of France expired, he left
behind him two young sons. One was twelve years old, tall, stalwart,
healthy, amiable; the other was a lad of nine, less regularly handsome
than his brother, slighter, darker, more agile, more acute, and more

Charles V. had left his younger son no more than the pension of a
private gentleman; the elder was the king of France. The dying monarch,
a man of many brothers, had seen the dangers that arise when royal
princes are too rich. But he had died before his time; and of his two
heirs the king was gentle, dull, and generous; the gentleman, brilliant,
grasping, and ambitious. The result was calculable. Twenty years later
the younger son was king in all but name; he was rich, puissant,
terrible, and hated; while his brother, impoverished and neglected,
starved on the throne, the best-beloved man in France. Circumstances had
made the rise of the younger son singularly easy. In his twenty-fourth
year King Charles VI. became violently mad, and henceforward till his
death there were long regencies (the subject of angry contests between
his uncle and his brother) interrupted by periods of lax and kindly
government. His younger brother, Louis, Duke of Orleans, became, as
first prince of the blood, more powerful than the king. He was too
powerful; and his arrogance and his extortions raised many enemies
against him. On November 23, 1407, he was cruelly murdered as he was
riding by night through the streets of Paris. He had made himself so
terrible that even the brother who loved him did not seek to avenge him,
but praised the murderer “who, for the public good and out of faith and
loyalty to us, has caused to be put out of this world our said brother
of Orleans.” No one mourned the murdered man absolutely and completely
except his devoted widow and his orphaned children.

A year and a week later the duchess died. Her three sons, her one
daughter, with Dunois, the natural son of Orleans, whom his widow had
adopted, were left fatherless and motherless in a kingdom full of
enemies, where their father’s murderers triumphed. They entered the
world as a battlefield; but, though so young, they entered armed and
mounted. From their father they inherited the duchies of Orleans,
Luxembourg, and Aquitaine, the counties of Valois, Beaumont, Soissons,
Blois, Dreux, Périgord, and Angoulême, with the seigneuries of Coucy and
Savona. Through their mother they acquired the county of Vertus in
Champagne, the county of Asti in Lombardy, and certain pretensions to
the ducal crown of Milan.


In the year 1387 their father, Louis of France, not yet the Duke of
Orleans, had been contracted to the Duke of Milan’s only daughter,
Valentine Visconti, whom two years later he espoused. In relation to the
established monarchs of his time, the father of Valentine stood in much
the same situation as afterwards the great Napoleon, in the first years
of his empire, towards the kings of Germany. He was rich, too powerful
to be safely opposed, a conqueror of whom the end was still beyond
prediction; hence a man to conciliate and appease. Yet in their hearts
they despised him as a parvenu and an adventurer, and deplored and
deprecated the moral flaws that marred the beauty of his prosperity.

Giangaleazzo, first Duke of Milan, was the only son of Galeazzo
Visconti, who, in conjunction with Bernabò, his brother, swayed the city
of Milan and the greater part of Lombardy. They had murdered their own
brother, and divided his inheritance between them—Bernabò, the elder,
holding his state in Milan, Galeazzo in the city of Pavia.

Bernabò had no less than nine-and-twenty children. Galeazzo had but two,
but for these he was ambitious. He married his daughter to the son of
the King of England; his son he married to the daughter of the King of
France. This was in 1360. The bride and bridegroom were still of
childish age. Six years later their eldest child was born. It was a
girl, Valentine. The three brothers who followed her died in their
minority; but Valentine flourished, grew to womanhood, and brought into
the house of Orleans the tangled question of the Milanese succession.

At her birth and during her childhood her father was but one of several
rulers in Milan. The Visconti ruled as a clan rather than as an
organized dynasty. They were the descendants of a certain Captain
Eriprando, who, in the year 1037, defended Milan against the Emperor
Conrad. Notwithstanding this beginning the Visconti were eminently
Ghibelline, and depended for all their subsequent fortunes on the
emperor. In 1277 they chased the Guelfs from Milan, and made themselves
masters of the state. They became lords or _domini_ in Milan, lords of
an imperial fief, but with no pretence to an imperial investiture. The
emperor recognized them only as his captains, his viscounts, or his
imperial vicars.

In 1372 the Emperor Charles IV., alarmed at the pretensions of the
Visconti clan, deprived them of their office. The rich tyrants, not
afraid of a distant emperor beyond the Alps, paid little heed to this
punishment. The emperor died, and his son succeeded—the dissolute
Wenzel, who was to do so much for Milan. Almost his first act was to
create the youthful father of Valentine Imperial Vicar of the Milanese.

This taste of power whetted the ambition of the young man, left
fatherless now to confront the faction of his uncle Bernabò and his
numerous children. Lax and irregular forms of government favour a
violent ambition. By one bold stratagem Giangaleazzo took his uncle
prisoner, dispossessed his cousins, and established himself as lord of

Milan was not enough. Fire and sword cleared the way before him, and his
territory stretched to the Apennine ridges. Florence, on the other side,
trembled for her independence. The Lombard kingdom was alive again, and,
though the Pope refused the indomitable conqueror the title of King of
Italy, in 1395 the Emperor Wenzel invested him with the duchy of Milan.

Meanwhile, in 1389, Valentine Visconti had gone to her husband in
France. When she left Milan she was no longer her father’s only child. A
few months before, her stepmother, Caterina Visconti, had given birth to
a son. A little later a second son was born. The greatest conqueror of
his age could now divide his possessions between two sons born in
wedlock, a bastard boy named Gabriello, and his only daughter Valentine,
the child of his first wife, the Princess Isabelle of France. The first
question that confronts us is this: What provision did Giangaleazzo
Visconti make for his daughter Valentine of Orleans?

For many centuries there has been much debate concerning the claim of
Orleans to Milan. Much argument and little evidence has confused the
question; it is only the evidence that we shall examine here. In the
National Archives of Paris[50] there exists the original
marriage-contract of Valentine Visconti. A copy of this document is
contained in a brown leather folio, stamped with the Visconti serpent,
existing in the British Museum.[49] It is an instrument granted by the
Antipope, Clement of Avignon, on January 27, 1387, in favour of Louis of
Orleans and Bertrand de Guasche, Governor of Vertus, as representing the
father of Valentine. To the marriage contract are appended a
dispensation (Louis and Valentine were cousins), a deed of transfer for
the bride’s dowry of Asti and its dependencies, and a declaration of her
right to succeed her father in Milan, in case his direct male line
should become extinct. The clause which chiefly concerns us runs as
follows: “_Item est actum et in pactum solempni stipulatione vallatum et
expresse deductum quod in casu quo præfatus dominus Johannes Galeas
vicecomes, comes Virtutum, dominus Mediolanensis, decedat sine filiis
masculis de suo proprio corpore ex legitimo matrimonio procreatis, dicta
domina Valentina, nata sua, succedat et succedere debeat in solidum in
toto dominio suo presente et futuro quocumque, absque eo quod per viam
testamenti, codicillorum, seu alicujus alterius ultimæ voluntatis, aut
donatione inter vivos, ipsa aliquid faciat seu facere possit in
contrarium quovis modo._”

Footnote 49:

  J. 409, No. 42. Contrat de Mariage. 42 _bis_, Vidimus du Contrat et
  Acte de la remise d’Asti. Pavia, April 8, 1387. 42 _ter_, Confirmation
  du Contrat par Clement VII. à Avignon. For further documents on the
  subject see Carton K. 553.

Footnote 50:

  Additional MSS., No. 30,669, fo. 215.

The husband of Valentine was for many years the tool with which the
astute Visconti hoped to assure his own supremacy in Italy. In 1393 and
in 1394 Visconti had no dearer scheme than that Clement, the Antipope at
Avignon, should make the Duke of Orleans king of Adria. With Clement at
Rome, Anjou at Naples, Orleans ruling the centre from Spoleto to
Ferrara, Visconti beheld the annihilation of Venice and the Tuscan
republics—a united Italy north of Rome. Doubtless he intended the
kingdom of Adria and the kingdom of Lombardy to lose themselves in one
monarchy: but whether that result was to be attained by the subsequent
spoliation of Orleans or by his adoption as heir to Milan, was a
question which probably depended on the living or dying of the sons of
Giangaleazzo. Orleans, however, though so young, proved himself no
facile instrument. He had no intention that Adria and Lombardy should
unite to his own disadvantage; and silently he contemplated another
scheme—to secure the docility of Lombardy by bounding it on the south by
Adria and on the north by another French principality, to be formed by a
fusion of Asti and Genoa. Orleans, therefore, determined to begin by the
conquest of Genoa; and for three years he displayed so much ability that
Giangaleazzo began to suspect this count of Asti and seigneur of Savona,
whom the Genoese implored to become the governor of the Ligurian
republic. Then came the scandal of the acquisition of Genoa by Charles
VI., to the detriment of his brother. From 1395 to 1397 there is a
moment of division between the interests of Orleans and Visconti; but,
as we shall see, the last act of Visconti was to enforce the claims of
Orleans to Milan, and the Duke of Orleans in his will[51] expressly
bequeaths to his eldest son “_la comté d’Ast et autres terres que j’ay
et puis avoir au pays de Lombardy et d’outre les monts_.” As far as
Orleans and Visconti could decide, there is no doubt of the claim of
Orleans to Milan. But it is more difficult to decide by what right
Giangaleazzo Visconti disposed of the emperor’s fiefs of Milan; for
although, when Visconti signed his daughter’s marriage-contract, he was
simply the illegal despot of Milan, eight years later the emperor made
him duke and received tribute at his hands. The lands which Visconti had
gained by succession, by fraud, and by conquest, which he had ruled by
force and national custom, were now indubitably his by feudal right. But
in order to acquire the security of this legality, the Duke of Milan, in
theory at all events, had sacrificed a certain portion of his

Footnote 51:

  Champollion-Figeac, “Louis et Charles ducs d’Orléans,” p. 253. The
  will is dated Oct. 17, 1403: Pisa was probably counted in the “autres
  terres que puis avoir.”

The first investiture was granted him on Sept. 5, 1395. From this date
he held his duchy of Milan as an imperial fief. But as what manner of
fief? And which class of fiefs admits a woman to be her father’s heir?

These questions, seemingly simple, are in reality difficult to answer,
because feudal law was quite indefinitely modified by provincial custom.
It was chiefly custom which decided if an hereditary fief could be
inherited by a woman in default of males. Thus in France the provinces
of Burgundy and Normandy were strictly masculine fiefs; but Lorraine,
Guienne, and Artois descended to daughters in default of sons; and the
duchy of Brittany, the kingdoms of Cyprus, Navarre, and Naples (a Papal
fief), will occur to every mind; while in Germany itself, in the
stronghold of feudalism, the duchy of Mecklenburg descended to daughters
on extinction of the masculine branch; many fiefs in Swabia, Zutphen,
Pomerania, and Saxony, followed this example.

In the North of Italy the distinction between legitimacy and
illegitimacy had become so trivial a thing, that sons, born in or out of
wedlock, were generally forthcoming in sufficient numbers to distance
any feminine claim; and the Imperial investiture—save in the case when
it carried with it the Imperial Vicariat—was rather a rose in the
buttonhole of the tyrant than a necessary legalization of a tyranny
stronger than the law. Yet the marquisate of Montferrat was brought into
the house of the Palæologi through a feminine succession; and in 1387
Valentine Visconti brought the country of Asti (no less than Milan an
Imperial fief) unquestioned to her husband, and with only the Pope’s
investiture. A century later Caterina Sforza ruled in Pesaro. The custom
in Italy, then, though dubious, various, and full of irregularities and
confusions was, on the whole, the same as the custom in Mecklenburg,
Pomerania, Swabia, Hungary, Brittany, Navarre, and other places: on
extinction of the male descent a woman might succeed. If her succession
were provided for by the terms of the investiture; or, in other cases,
unless she were deliberately excluded.[52]

Footnote 52:

  In the ordinary imperial fiefs, which, even so late as the end of the
  fourteenth century, still in many cases preserved their original idea
  of military service granted in return for territorial possessions, a
  woman could not succeed without direct and especial mention of this
  fact in the investiture, or in some subsequent privilege. But in a
  purchased fief daughters were admitted to the succession in default of
  males. Milan was an imperial fief, derived directly from the emperor,
  and held by the peculiar sort of tenure known as _Fahnlehen_, from the
  homage of a banner or standard paid by its possessor to his feudal
  lord; it was destined, even if not explicitly reserved, for masculine
  operation only. Giangaleazzo Visconti paid the enormous price of
  100,000 florins (about £50,000 sterling) for the title and
  investiture, but I am not aware whether this is or is not sufficient
  to grant the fief the looser privileges of a _feudum emptum_.

In the investiture of 1395 which made Giangaleazzo duke of Milan there
is no mention of Valentine, but neither is there any direct mention of
the sons of Giangaleazzo. The duchy of Milan is bestowed on him, _sui
heredes et successores_. Now this term in Italy, where the Pandects were
still the model of civil law, might be held to include _all_ the
children of the possessor; and, on failure of the male line, the
daughter would be entitled to put in her claim. I am not aware how much
was implied in Germany at this date by the employment of this term; but
probably there also it was at least ambiguous, since, under the
Hohenstaufen emperors, Roman law had made a great advance through
Germany, and since, later on, it was found necessary to formulate a
special clause that the use of the expression _sui heredes_ should not
be considered sufficient to authorize females to claim succession to a
masculine fief.

Any ambiguity was dispelled the following year. There was then a
possibility of war between France and Milan, grievously estranged at
that date by the presence of the French in Genoa, and by the rumours of
witchcraft which defamed the reputation and endangered the safety of
Madame Valentine in France. At this juncture Giangaleazzo, probably
alarmed at the terms of his daughter’s marriage-contract, procured a
second imperial investiture,[54] distinctly limiting the succession to
male heirs. But this was not the end. In 1396 news came to Paris of the
battle of Nicopolis, which necessitated an immediate _rapprochement_
with Milan; for Giangaleazzo Visconti, feared and hated because of his
friendship with the Turk, was at this juncture the one necessary man,
capable of mediating between the French and the East. Great court was
paid to him, and he accepted the French advances. Peace and amity being
restored between the two countries, on March 30, 1397, he obtained a
third and last investiture from Wenzel,[53] which restored the
conditions of inheritance to their original footing, and bestowed the
duchy of Milan on Giangaleazzo Visconti, _descendentes et successores

Footnote 53:

  “Ann. Med.,” in Muratori, “Rer. Ital. Script.” xvi.

Footnote 54:

  Dumont, ii. clxxxix.

This ambiguity of phrase may possibly have been designed. The fact that
the fief was a _pm corr 189.17 Fahnlehn Fahnlehen>_, directly dependent
on the emperor, and that (so far as I can discover) no special Imperial
privilege had been granted to Madame Valentine, would in Germany itself
appear as strong evidence in favour of a solely masculine succession as
even the second investiture could afford. But in Italy, by the custom of
the country and the authority of contract and testament, the children of
Valentine would be included among the heirs and descendants of her
father; and, in case the whole race of his sons expired, the vague terms
of the investiture would allow the line of Orleans to put in a claim
which would prevent so important a part of Italy from relapsing to the
foreign emperor. Such at least, as it appears to me, must have been the
design of the duke in obtaining this last investiture, a two-edged
weapon in the hands of him who has been described as the wisest and the
most astute among all the princes of the west.

His position, therefore, seems to have been as follows. To secure
himself against any inconvenient pretensions of the French, he had the
restrictions of the feudal law; and yet he was equally protected against
the encroachments of the empire. He had the sanction of local custom,
the ambiguity of the terms of investiture; and, in addition to this, a
papal privilege, conceding to Valentine the right to succeed her
brothers or her nephews in the state of Milan.

The right of a Pope to dispose of an Imperial fief appears upon the face
of it a very questionable matter, even when the Empire be really vacant.
When Valentine Visconti was contracted to her husband, Clement VII. had
merely declared an interregnum in the empire, on account of the
adherence of Wenzel, King of the Romans, to the faction of Urban the
Pope at Rome. Such was the supremacy of the Church over Imperial affairs
at this period, that, notwithstanding the absurdity of this plea and the
fact that Clement was an Antipope, none was ever found to question the
legality of the French claim to Asti, which was not granted to Orleans
by any Imperial privilege until the investiture of 1413. An intriguing
adventurer anxious to consolidate a new and unpopular dynasty by every
legal claim, Giangaleazzo cultivated Emperor, Pope, and Antipope. Urban
and Clement and Wenzel were all in turn solicited to confirm the tenure
of Visconti. Corio appears to believe that the succession of Valentine
to Milan was granted by Urban, who was certainly in Lombardy in the year
1387. But Urban had denied to Giangaleazzo the coveted title of king of
Italy; and there are as yet no documents discovered which prove the
alluring hypothesis that the astute Visconti held in his possession a
decree of the Pope no less than a decree of the Antipope granting the
succession to Milan to his daughter.

Enough, however, remains to show by what a cunning opposition of France
to Germany, and Germany to France, the Duke of Milan strove to secure
Italian independence. If the Germans, then but the shadow of a power,
chose to assert their over-lordship, the claim of the French was strong
enough to insure them two enemies instead of one; and _vice versa_:—as,
indeed, a later century too adequately proved. Hoping to hold each
neighbour in check and fear of the other, Giangaleazzo meant to insure a
period of quiet growth for his own principality of Lombardy.

Thus the contract securing Milan to Valentine by a papal transfer made
for France; the second investiture was absolute for Germany: the first
and third were so worded that they conveyed a different meaning on
either side of the Alps. Besides papal privileges and imperial
investitures there is, however, a third way of conferring property: I
mean the way in which Naples was transferred to Anjou—the way of

But, the reader will exclaim, can a feoffer dispose of a fief without
the written consent of his feodary? Here, as in the question of feminine
succession, the matter was chiefly decided by the custom of the
province. In certain countries—as, for example, Nassau, Friedland, Ober
Lausitz—a feoffer might dispose of his possessions by will, although a
contrary law held good in other countries.

But whatever the local law, the tendency was strong, even in feudal
Germany, to diminish the rights of the empire to the advantage of the
feudatory powers. As Menzel puts it, “the emperor grasped but a shadowy
sceptre ... the princes increased in wealth and power, while the emperor
was gradually impoverished. Imperial investiture had become a mere form,
which could not be refused except on certain occasions; and the
pfalzgraves, formerly intrusted with the management of Imperial allods,
had seized them as hereditary fiefs.” What was done with impunity in
Germany, was done with audacity beyond the Alps. And the Duke of Milan,
who had received his principality as a vassal, intended to dispose of it
like an hereditary monarch. If we impeach his right to pursue this
course, it is not only the claims of the Visconti, but of almost every
noble family in Italy, Germany, or Flanders that must submit to be
denied or censured.

Yet claiming and acting upon his own authority to dispose of Milan,
Giangaleazzo Visconti involved his testament in the same web of intrigue
and counter-intrigue which characterized his earlier policy. No less
than three wills, entirely different, are open to us; and as the most
important of these is only known in an undated copy, it is difficult to
decide which was his final disposition of affairs. The first, familiar
enough to the student of Corio, was drawn up in 1397, and was modified
in 1401; it makes no provision at all for Valentine. The second (No.
ccxxiii in the first volume of Osio’s documents), undated, but probably
composed in 1397, confirms her _in all possessions previously bestowed_,
but grants her nothing else, unless she should fall into a state of
poverty or widowhood, in which case she was to have sufficient and
princely nurture in her brother’s home at Milan, with a dowry in case
she should contract a second marriage. This is all, yet this is enough
to confirm the contract of 1387. But it is the latest-found of the
testaments of Giangaleazzo Visconti which is most important to the
student of the French claim to Milan. This will, discovered in 1872 by
Signor Luigi Osio in the Milanese Archives, gives an entirely new force
to the pretensions of Orleans. Yet it exists only in copy and in
extract—like a passage of Sappho saved by some unconscious
grammarian—quoted by a Sforzesco advocate in a letter of warning
addressed to Lodovico il Moro on Jan. 10, 1496.

At this date, the usurper Lodovico (possessed by the family conviction
that at some time his grandfather, Filippo Maria Visconti, must have
made a will bequeathing Milan to Lodovico’s mother) had entrusted his
friend and kinsman Giason del Maino _elegantissimo et celeberrimo
legista_, (if we may trust the verdict of Corio) with the task of
searching the Milanese Archives to this end. Del Maino discovered
nothing concerning Madonna Bianca; but instead he found two highly
compromising copies of the will of Giangaleazzo Visconti, which had come
to light in the house of Messer Giovanni Domenico Oliari, notary of
Pavia, son of Andriano Oliari (an obstinate and honest servant of the
Visconti dukes), of whom my readers will hear more upon a future page.

“As for these copies,” wrote Messer Giasone, “though they are only
copies, and by no means according to the terms, I entreat you to have
them seized at once, as well as three other copies which I have reason
to believe are in the possession (1) of the brothers of the Certosa of
Pavia, (2) of Manfredo da Ozino, and (3) of the Signore della Mirandola.
You will do well to keep them safe, for they would be of the greatest
value to the Duke of Orleans, since this testament and fidei-commissio
provides that, should the sons of Giangaleazzo die without male heirs,
one of the sons of Madonna Valentine shall succeed to Milan. And, though
I could find it in my heart to maintain that the Duke of Orleans has no
right to obtain anything, as to Milan, from you or your illustrious
children, none the less you will do well to keep these copies safe.”

Lodovico took the hint. Of the five copies mentioned not one exists
to-day. Only the forgotten letter remains to show the intention of
Giangaleazzo Visconti. Sudden death and swift oblivion rudely damaged
his dexterous intrigues—so much here for France, so much there for
Germany—an even balance held neatly in a steady hand. The plague numbed
that cunning hand for ever in the autumn of 1402. Murder soon removed
the elder son of the great duke; and the bastard Gabriello died on the
executioner’s scaffold in hostile Genoa. Both died childless, and Milan
fell to their younger brother, Filippo Maria. He ruled in peace and
splendour for more than thirty years in Milan. But two marriages brought
him no sons; only one daughter, and she illegitimate, cheered his
magnificent palace. As the Duke grew old, men began to ask each other
who should succeed him in Milan: his natural daughter, married to the
great captain Francesco Sforza? or his nephew, his sister’s son, the
Duke of Orleans? or his wife’s relations of Savoy? or, after all, must
Milan return, a lapsed fief, into the foreign hands of the German


Meanwhile a melancholy fate had pursued the French heirs to Milan, the
children of Valentine and Orleans. This is not the place to explain how
their young dissensions with their father’s murderers summoned the
English into France; or how the youngest, John of Angoulême, was sent to
England, a mere child, in 1412, as a hostage for his brother’s debt; or
how, three years later, the defeat at Agincourt sent Charles of Orleans
to join him there. The sons of Valentine remained in prison all their
youth. When, in 1440, the son of their father’s murderer, the gentle
Duke of Burgundy, ransomed the Duke of Orleans out of bondage, Charles
was a man of forty-six,[55] who returned home to find his estates half
ruined by disastrous wars; his brother Philip dead; his half-brother a
hero—Dunois, the restorer of his country. It was late to regain his
position in this altered world, but at least he lost no time. In the
same month of the same year (November, 1440) Charles married a niece of
Burgundy, Mary of Cleves. In 1445 his brother, John of Angoulême, newly
released from England, married a neighbour of his sister’s—Marguerite de
Rohan, to whose elder sister he had been contracted in his youth. The
two princes were determined to recover their inheritance, to raise up
children, and restore the ancient dignity of their house. Much of
Angoulême and much of Orleans and much of the inheritance of Bonne
d’Armagnac was still in the hands of the English. The estates of Orleans
in France were grievously diminished. And outside France Asti had been
lost also.

Footnote 55:

  He was born 24th of November, 1394. See for the release of Orleans the
  excellent chapter in the Marquis de Beaucourt’s “Histoire de Charles
  VII.” t. iii., Paris, 1885.

In the year 1422, when Charles of Orleans had lain already seven years,
and John ten years, in an English prison, when Philip of Vertus was
dead, when France was paralysed, and Henry VI. of England crowned the
king of France in Paris, the county of Asti, in great fear of the
English (those Goths of the Riviera) and of the nearer jealousies of
ambitious Montferrat, sent to Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, and
begged him to receive Asti under his guardianship and protection[57]
until such time as either of his nephews should be released from
England. The Duke of Milan consented willingly. Asti was the Calais of
Italy, and from the Italian point of view it appeared intolerable and
unnatural that this one county should remain a little island of France
in Lombardy, a _pied-à-terre_ across the mountains for invading Gaul.
And now, after twenty years of undisturbed possession, the Duke of Milan
turned a deaf ear to his nephew’s reminder that he was home again and
ready to reassume his inheritance. As a fact the Duke did not dare to
restore Asti. In 1438 he had made Francesco Sforza his lieutenant there;
and he was afraid of Sforza. It was in vain sending letters and
requisitions; so in the beginning of the year 1441 the princes of
Orleans sent Dunois to Milan.[56]

Footnote 56:

  See M. Leopold Delisle, Collection Bertrand d’Estaing, a long note
  about F.M. Visconti’s protection of Asti, and secret instruction of
  Orleans to Cousinot, p. 135-40.

Footnote 57:

  “The Bastard came with this requisition in the year 1442 to Milan,
  where I, Secundinus Ventura, saw him” (“Memoriale Secundini Venturæ”).
  Dunois went twice, February, 1441, and in 1451. In spite of Ventura’s
  line, the date is fixed by a document communicated to me by Count
  Albert de Circourt (Pièces Originales Fontanieu, dossier 1185, No.
  38): “Payez 200 écus d’or à nostre comis et féal frère le bastard
  d’Orléans sur ung voiage qu’il a fait pour nous au pais de Lombardie
  partant de nostre dicte ville de Blois au dict mois de Fébrier dernier
  passé.” Blois 22nd Mai 1441.

There were other matters more important even than the restitution of
Asti, upon which it was well that a man so wise, so experienced, so
persuasive as Dunois should confer with the uncle of his half-brothers.
The Duke of Milan had no sons, one daughter only, and she was
illegitimate. Therefore the princes of Orleans considered themselves the
heirs to Milan. But they were not alone in expecting this inheritance.
The Emperor pointed to the clause in the investiture of 1396 which
declared that, in default of males, Milan should revert to the empire.
Jacopo Visconti, a distant cousin of the Duke’s, brought forward some
pretensions of his own. Sforza, the husband of the Duke’s natural
daughter, thought of the house of Este and of other Italian houses where
more than once a bastard, if courageous and beautiful, had succeeded to
his father before legitimate heirs; and as to the fact that Madonna
Bianca was a woman, had not Giovanna I. of Naples succeeded to King
Robert, even in defiance of a Salic law? Meanwhile the princes of Savoy
remembered that when the Duke of Milan had married the Savoyard princess
he had made, upon receipt of her dower, a promise to her father and her
brother that if no children sprang from this union, he would bequeath
the titles of Milan to Savoy. It is significant of the strange confusion
of the laws of inheritance in Italy that all these princes believed in
the right of a Duke of Milan to bestow by testament, or deed or gift, or
marriage-contract, that which was, in fact, a fief of the Holy Roman
Empire. But the rights of the empire had fallen into long disuse across
the Alps, where a strange confusion of kinship, bequest, investiture, or
election by the people regulated the succession to Papal and Imperial
fiefs. Some princes succeeded in one way, some in the other. To the eyes
of contemporaries they all appeared justifiable alternatives, giving
some shadow of right to that which a strong hand meant to grasp and
meant to keep. “Most of the princes in Italy,” wrote Commines fifty
years later, “hold their lands by no title unless it be given them in
heaven, which we can but divine.”

Thus eyed suspiciously by rival heirs, Dunois, as the representative of
Orleans, crossed the Alps in 1441 and came to Milan, both to require the
restitution of Asti, and also, as Ventura remarks, to confer on other
matters with the Duke. The Duke of Milan was a sad, timid, indifferent
man, old at five-and-fifty and harassed by an almost lunatic suspicion
of danger from his friends. As he grew older his fears and doubts grew
stronger, and he saw no motive for any sort of conduct beside the desire
to succeed him in Milan. Oppressed by hypochondria, corpulent to
deformity, fatigued by the weight of his body, and exhausted by the
heaviness upon his spirits, this timid and sceptical Volpone of Lombardy
found his sole amusement in weaving into a complicated perplexity the
expectations of his heirs. Sitting immovable in his corner at Milan,
like some huge spider spinning in the dusk, he crossed and recrossed,
twisted and confused, in his dreary web, the hopes of Sforza and of
Orleans, of Savoy and of the bastard cousins of his house.

No one could be sure of the succession. Sforza, the object of his senile
fondness, was the object also of his insane suspicion. The Duke had
tried a score of times to shuffle out of a promise to give him his
natural daughter; and the very week that he had finally consented to
their marriage, he sent a private messenger to Lionello d’Este, offering
_him_ the hand of Madonna Bianca. Nevertheless, in 1441 Sforza married
Bianca, a mere girl, but bringing in her dowry the Signories of Cremona
and Pontremoli, in addition to his lieutenancy of Asti. After the
marriage he was no more sure of the Duke of Milan than he had been
before. The uncertain seesaw of the Duke’s caprices continued as
unsteady as of old. On the one hand, the Duke was aware that Sforza,
though the son of a peasant, was the most remarkable Italian of his day,
courageous, frank, spirited, kind of heart, and cunning. His immense
strength of will both attracted and repelled the vacillating and
suspicious Visconti. He admired Sforza, and Sforza was the husband of
his only child. Still more, Sforza was secretly supported by Agnese del
Maino, the mother of Bianca, the sole woman whose influence had ever
touched the indifferent and preoccupied heart of Filippo Maria. On the
other hand, the Duke was afraid of Sforza—and to fear, in timid natures,
is to hate.

When fear and suspicion sank the scale, Visconti inclined to his wife’s
relations of Savoy, who, having no right at all except such as he chose
to give them, presented no cause for fear. Or he encouraged the claims
of Jacopo Visconti. Osio, in a note, informs us that this Jacopo
Visconti was the son of Gabriello, the bastard of Giangaleazzo, and had
this been the case Jacopo Visconti would have had a certain claim. But
Gabriello left no children, and Jacopo must have been the son of one of
the numerous children of Bernabò. Nevertheless he considered himself to
have pretensions. When all these had been weighed in the balance and
found wanting, there remained the princes of Orleans.

In early life the Duke of Milan had been inclined to France; and he had
been a suitor for that Princess Marie d’Anjou, who afterwards married
King Charles VII. From 1420 to 1427 the pages of Osio abound in messages
and treaties. Then the vexed question of Asti began to embitter his
relations with France, and to increase that fatal suspicion which ever
made him turn with sudden loathing from his former friends. While his
discontent with Anjou was still undecided, the Genoese handed into his
custody the enemy of Anjou, the prince of Arragon, taken prisoner at
sea. In their suzerain Visconti, the ally of Anjou, the Genoese imagined
that they had found a sure custodian for Arragon. But they had not
reckoned upon the personal charm of Alfonso the Magnanimous, nor upon
the capricious indifference of Visconti. Young, handsome, engaging,
fearless, their chivalrous captive won the heart of his timid jailer,
and easily turned his fluctuating policy from Anjou towards Arragon.
Visconti suddenly deserted his own subjects, released Alfonso without
consulting the Genoese, and supported him upon the throne of Naples.

With some thought in his heart, doubtless, of the success of Alfonso,
Dunois turned his steps to Milan. He also was handsome, persuasive,
rhetorical; and if no longer young, his comely head was encircled by the
aureole of heroic victory. But Dunois lacked the enthusiasm, the
spontaneity, that, in Arragon, had warmed for a moment the numb and
chilly heart of the Duke of Milan. Dunois was as cold, as sceptical, as
wise, as worldly as himself. His flowers of speech made no real effect
upon the weary Duke, who, to get rid of him, made, doubtless, some
magnificent promise for the future; for Dunois did not insist on his
demand for Asti, but returned almost immediately to France, hoping to
settle matters by the friendly intervention of the Emperor Frederic; but
at that time the customary _malentendu_ as to the occupation of Alsace
estranged France and Germany, and Frederic declined to interfere with
the projects of the Duke of Milan.

Dunois had not impressed the Duke, who was impressed only by youth,
fearlessness, and a never-daunted will. He thought he perceived these
qualities in the young Dauphin, half in disgrace on his estate in
Dauphiné. Him also Visconti determined to drag into the tangled web of
the Milanese succession; and about this time negotiations with the
Dauphin Louis began to complicate the difficulties of Transalpine

Already in the spring of 1445[58] a minute in the Archives of Milan,
transcribed by Signor Luigi Osio, records the willingness of the Duke of
Milan to further the Dauphin in his plan of an Italian invasion,
provided that Louis agree to help the friends and not the enemies of
Visconti. Asti should be confided to a person equally trusted by Orleans
and Milan, and after the expiration of a given term should be freely
handed back to the eldest son of Valentine. Notwithstanding this
fair-spoken scheme, Visconti finds it necessary to caution his young
ally against certain persons on the French side of the Alps who use
threats and menaces towards the Crown of Milan. By these it is clear
that he intends his nephews of Orleans. He has no friendship for them.
_Noluit restituere_, briefly remarks Secundino Ventura.

Footnote 58:

  Feb. 23 (The Milanese began the year upon Dec. 25). Osio, vol. iii.

The negotiations with Louis proceeded briskly, and in May the Milanese
ambassador arrived in Paris, where he found _grande garra e divisione_
between the restless Dauphin and King René of Sicily, who he remarks (to
our unfeigned surprise) _è quello che governa tucto questo reame_.
Meanwhile Louis, young as he was, had already learned a maxim as true in
policy as in almsgiving: he let not his right hand divine the secrets of
his left; and while on the one side he treated with the Duke of Milan,
on the other he practised with Savoy. According to the latter plan Savoy
and the Dauphin, aided by Montferrat and Mantua and Ferrara, were to
conquer between them the north of Italy; France was to take Genoa, the
Lucchese, Parma, Piacenza, Tortona—all south of the Po and east of
Montferrat; Savoy was to gain Milan and keep the Riviera; Alessandria
was to be handed over to Montferrat, and the Duke of Ferrara and the
Marquis of Mantua were, _for the present_, to keep their actual
possessions; but this significant phrase was followed by one more
significant still: “All future conquests are to be divided at the rate
of two shares to France and one share to Savoy.”[59]

Footnote 59:

  B. de Mandrot. See also MSS. of Bib. Nat., Lat. 17779, fos. 53-56; and
  for the correspondence of Pope Felix with his son, Duke Louis of
  Savoy, upon this subject, an exhaustive article by M. Gaullier in the
  eighth volume of the “Archiv für schweizerische Geschichte.”

An intimate acquaintance with documents inspires little confidence in
the rectitude of human nature. Of all these personages, Charles of
Orleans, a simple lyric creature, kept fresh and wholesome in arrested
youth behind his prison bars, and Sforza, an honest, grasping and
ambitious soldier, alone inspire respect or sympathy. This old duke,
conscious that in a few months his immense possessions will have
dwindled to a single grave, amusing the last hours of his sceptical,
indifferent existence by juggling the expectations of a dozen heirs;
this child-prince, without an impulse or an illusion left of youth,
successfully deceiving a couple of enemies who each believes himself his
sole ally—these unfortunately are no exceptions to the rule of the game.

Savoy, in the act of drawing up this project of conquest, was
encouraging the Milanese to trust him to secure them a free republic on
the death of the Duke. Montferrat and Mantua, pledged on the one hand to
conquer Italy with the Dauphin, were as deeply pledged to Venice[60] to
oppose the invader and preserve the peace. Each had been careful to risk
something on every possible event, so that no sudden turn of the wheel
of Fortune could bring about complete disaster.

Footnote 60:

  Feb. 14, 1447. Reg. 17, fol. 106, Secreta, Venice. This document
  records the dismay of Florence and Venice upon learning the league of
  France and Milan. These two cities with Montferrat, Mantua, Angleria,
  and the other Lombard powers, joined in a solemn convention to oppose
  the common enemy and to preserve the peace.

On the 9th of February, 1447, an indiscreet French squire, riding to
Rome upon a message, let out to the Florentines that a league had been
formed between the Dauphin of France and the Duke of Milan.[61]
According to this report Visconti had offered to aid the lad to recover
Genoa, and had volunteered, in defiance of the rights of Orleans, to
make him lord of Asti. A document in Osio (t. iii. ccclxxiii.) dated the
20th of December, 1446, and a series of letters in the Bibliothèque
Nationale,[62] confirm this remarkable statement, which, if it spread
horror throughout Italy, caused no less indignation among the heirs of
Valentine. Strangely enough it was Sforza, at that time the Milanese
governor of Asti, who advocated the cause of the Dauphin. “Give him
Asti, and he will do you excellent service. Pay him well; and yet
contrive it in such a way that none but your Highness shall be cock or
hen in this country.” This advice was rendered still more unpalatable to
the Italians and to the house of Orleans by a rumour that the Duke of
Milan intended to adopt the Dauphin as his heir. Before the month was
out the north Italian princes formed themselves into a counter-league
against France and Milan, and Orleans and Dunois had despatched to Milan
the baillie of Sens, a certain Reynouard du Dresnay, with a demand for
the immediate restitution of Asti. This time they would brook no
refusal, they would be tempted by no future benefits. Indignant and
disenchanted, they instructed their lieutenant to press the matter home;
and on the 4th of May, Asti again returned to France. The conditions of
the surrender were peculiar. The county was not directly given back to
Orleans, but yielded to Du Dresnay as the lieutenant of the king, so
long as the said king should preserve the good will and consent of
Charles of Orleans, _directus dominus ipsius civitatis et patriæ_.

Footnote 61:

  Desjardins, “Nég. dipl. avec la Toscane,” t. i. p. 60.

Footnote 62:

  Bibl. Nat. MSS. Ital. 1584, Nos. 21 and 84, quoted by the Marquis de
  Beaucourt in the “Revue des Questions Historiques” for October, 1887.

In this matter at least the shifty Duke of Milan was outwitted. Asti had
slipped from his grasp; France had again her hand upon the key of
Lombardy. Much of his interest in the game was gone. As the summer waxed
and waned, the Duke grew more than ever heavy, indifferent, and
lethargic. He was not seriously ill, but, as I have said, his interest
in the game was over. In August his health, always feeble, sank in the
great heat of the summer. Immense in his unwieldly corpulence, the Duke
sat in a darkened chamber of his palace brooding over his unfinished
testament. He suffered no physician near him, and his illness—a low
fever—was kept a secret. But the faint heart of Filippo Maria could no
longer animate the weight of his body. On the 13th of August, 1447, he
died—less of his illness, it was said, than of utter indifference, as
one who, weary of the spectacle of existence, left his seat and retired
whence he came.

Above the corpse, scarcely yet cold, the rival heirs, in eager
expectation, gathered to the reading of the will. The Duchess-dowager
represented Savoy; Madonna Bianca appeared for the absent Sforza;
Raynouard du Dresnay came to Milan on behalf of Orleans; while, at a
distance, Montferrat and Jacopo Visconti looked to their own interests;
the Venetians had hopes of their own; the Milanese, as we know, intended
to inaugurate a republic; the emperor, serene above these petty
quarrels, declared that by feudal law Milan had already devolved to him.
Absent or present, there was not one of these, save him, but had some
promise of Filippo Maria’s in his mind when at length the testament was
opened. The will was dated August 12th,[63] the day before the death of
the Duke. There was no mention in it of his daughter, Madonna Bianca,
none of his wife, none of any of his nephews or kinsmen. He left Alfonso
of Arragon his universal heir.

Perhaps, as Guicciardini suggests, love of his people induced the dying
Duke to leave his city to a distant tyrant; perhaps, in his suspicion of
his present friends, his fancy turned with pleasure to the good bright
youth who had been his captive long ago; perhaps his defeat at Asti made
him like to think of the evil turn that once he had done the French in
Naples; or, it may be, the mere desire of outraging the detestable
_cohue_ of his quasi-legal heirs proved irresistibly fascinating to the
sceptical old man. At least so it was. Every right was outraged;[64] the
King of Naples was left the Duke of Milan. “Nevertheless come here as
soon as you can,” wrote Antonio Guidoboni to Sforza[65] on the 14th;
“once on the spot and half the game is won.”

Footnote 63:

  “Archivio Storico Lombardo,” Anno iii. fasc. iv.

Footnote 64:

  Osio, ii. note to p. 2. In the hour of his death, on August 14th, the
  Duke drew a codicil leaving everything to Alfonso. Two days before he
  had left Alfonso _erede universale_, and Bianca _erede particolare_.
  Of course in either case she remained mistress of Cremona and

Footnote 65:

  Osio quotes this letter, which exists in the Archives of Milan: _Fece
  el Re d’Arragona erede del tutto, non facta mentione veruna di M.B.
  [Madonna Bianca] ne de la mogliere ne d’altri.... Vegnate pur voi via
  senza veruna dimora; zonto siate qua lo mezo del giocho e vincto._


It was at this moment that for the first time the French claim to Milan
became a question for practical politics. Frederic the Pacific was not
the man to press the rights of the German Empire in Italy, rights which
at this time were continually disregarded, and which nothing less than a
military occupation could enforce. Even the Ghibellines in Lombardy
declared, not for the Emperor Frederic, but for Count Francesco Sforza.
Yet the Emperor Frederic was, so far as the legal and abstract side of
the matter was concerned, the one really serious rival of the Duke of

For Alfonzo of Arragon showed no inclination to take up arms in defence
of his unexpected bequest. Although, in the city of Milan itself, he had
a considerable party in his favour, at this time neither Alfonso nor his
rivals appear to have regarded the will of the late duke in any serious
spirit. The story ran in Milan that, in the week before his death, when
that astounding testament was made, Filippo Maria had smiled and said,
“It will be good to see how it will go to pieces when I am dead.” A
cynical pleasure in aggravating as much as possible this imminent ruin
must, I think, have prompted the Duke to leave Milan to Alfonso. And if
his detached, amused, malevolent soul could really from any
extra-mundane point of vantage have watched the events which quickly
followed his decease, he would have found the spectacle as exciting and
as novel as he wished. The Milanese at once declared themselves a free
republic, governed by various Princes of Liberty. Whereupon all the
subject cities announced that if Milan was a republic, so was each of
them, for they would not submit to bear the yoke of a city no nobler
than the rest. Hereupon such of the cities as were not strong enough to
stand alone gave themselves, some to the Venetians, some to Savoy, some
to Genoa, some to Orleans, some to Montferrat, some to Ferrara; and all
these powers sent armies into Lombardy to protect their rights. Matters
were still further complicated by the dissensions of the Bracceschi and
Sforzeschi, the Guelfs and Ghibellines. In Pavia alone, for instance,
the Guelfs declared, some for Venice, some for Orleans, some for the
King of France, some for the Dauphin; the Bracceschi declared for
Alfonzo of Arragon; Savoy and Montferrat each had a faction at their
service, but the great body of the Ghibellines were in favour of Count
Francesco Sforza, to whom finally the city submitted. This was a blow to
the free republic of Milan next door; but in the miserable state of
their dominions, the unfortunate Princes of Liberty did not dare to
remonstrate with their too potent commander, and Count Francesco,
sovereign at Pavia, continued to be the servant of the Milanese

So soon as the news of the death of the Duke of Milan came to France,
the French prepared to assert the rights of Orleans. On September 3rd
Charles VII. wrote from Bourges to Turin, recommending the rights of
Orleans to Savoy:—

“_Nostre tres-cher et très-amé frère, le Duc d’Orléans, à présent Duc de
Milan_ [asserts the king] _par le décès du feu Duc son oncle, qui est
naguères allé de vie à trespas, comme son plus prochain hoir, nous a
bien exprès faict dire et remonstré le bon droict qu’il ha au dict Duché
de Milan._”[66]

Footnote 66:

  This letter is quoted in M. Gaullieur’s interesting collection of
  documents from the correspondence of Duke Louis of Savoy, published in
  the eighth volume of the “Archiv für schweizerische Geschichte.” Also
  in M. de Beaucourt’s “History,” _op. cit._

And Savoy, in all his further proceedings to obtain the protectorate of
Milan for himself, excepts the French claim, against which he avows
himself powerless to protest. This claim, theoretically so strong, had
also in its favour the devotion—the veneration, says Corio—which the
royal name of France inspired in the Guelfs of Lombardy; and in this
moment of revolution the Guelfs, the democratic party, were
exceptionally powerful. The governor of Asti, Raynouard du Dresnay,
infected by the ardour of the times, could no longer await the coming of
his master, but on September 22nd, furnished with 3,300 golden ducats of
Asti, at the head of a little force of 1,500 men-at-arms, sallied out to
plant the royal lilies of Orleans upon the soil of Milan.

Almost at once the inhabitants of Felizzano, Solero, Castellaccio, and
Bergolio yielded to his arms. So many of the fortresses in the
Alessandrino followed suit that Alessandria and all the country round
were filled with fear. The force of Raynouard was very small, but
inspired with so much fury, such fervour and cruelty of battle, that the
softer Italians did not dare resist him. The smaller cities opened at
his knock, and even in the larger cities there was a party which, afraid
of his vengeance, and fascinated by the prestige of France, would have
welcomed him with open arms. Yet there were many, hating the stranger
and his barbarian ferocity, who sent messenger after messenger to
Sforza, bidding him arrive and deliver them. “Patience!” said Count
Francesco. “In the first onslaught the French are more than men. Soon
they will weary, and then we will attack them.” But meanwhile, with
undiminished energy, day after day the victories of Raynouard proceeded,
and further and further into Lombardy advanced the banners of the king
of France.

On October 1st an embassy from the unhappy republic of Milan arrived in
Venice requesting aid and counsel. This, of a truth, was seeking
sweetness in the jaws of the lion; for Lodi, Codogno, and other cities
had already revolted to the Venetians, who hoped in time, by skilful
management, to possess the greater part of Lombardy. But the bewildered
Princes of Liberty knew not in whom to place their trust. Venice and
Florence were leagued together, and each hoped to obtain something from
the dismemberment of the territories of Milan; Montferrat, Mantua,
Savoy, Genoa, and France, in open arms, were spoliating the corpse of
their neighbour—for a corpse indeed it seemed—and of the captain-general
of their own forces these heads of the republic were more profoundly
suspicious than of any open foe. Too many of the nobles in Milan were
secretly in favour of this adventurer. Only the people, the Guelfs,
sustained their republican ardour with violent rhetoric, and declared
that they would rather be the servants of the Turk, or of the Devil,
than of Count Francesco Sforza.

There was this in favour of Venice, that she detested Count Francesco
(who had left her service for the Duke of Milan’s) as bitterly as any
Guelf in Lombardy. And Venice, the most aristocratic of oligarchies, was
for complicated political reasons greatly favoured by the Guelfs.
Therefore, not without hope in their hearts, the delegates of Milan
awaited the answer of the Venetian senate. Three practicators, or
agents, were deputed by the Ten to confer with the ambassadors
concerning the proposed alliance between Milan and Venice; but these
agents were secretly bidden in no way to commit or bind the Venetian
government (_nichil obligando nos_); for the conference really was to be
only a means of extracting information as to the true condition of
affairs in Milan.[67] And it would be as valueless to us, as to the
hapless, bamboozled Milanese, were it not that here we get, I think, the
first evidence of the Venetian inclination to pronounce for France.[68]

Footnote 67:

  Secreta, Reg. 17, fol. 171, tergo.

Footnote 68:

  _Sed si in colloquiis fieret mentio per ipsos oratores de serenissimo
  Rege Francorum, et de Januense, qui occupassent de locis que fuerant
  quondam ducis, in hoc casu, praticatores ipsi iustificare debeant, in
  modesta et convenienti forma verborum, factum præfati Regis, et
  Januensis; videlicet, quod per nos, contra eos, honeste et
  convenienter fieri non possit._

There was no help here from the violence of Raynouard. Venice especially
declared that against France and Genoa she would do nothing. And every
day recorded the conquests of the French. The Milanese ambassadors
returned very sadly, “despised by the Venetians,” says Corio, “and
treated as perniciously as possible.” In vain they bade Francesco Sforza
give battle to the audacious little force of Raynouard. Count Francesco,
who had ever been favourable to France, pursued his waiting game,
although Bosco Marengo, closely besieged by the French, was almost at
the end of possible resistance, and the fall of Bosco meant the loss of
Alessandria. At last the Milanese succeeded in scraping together about
fifteen hundred soldiers, and these, under Coglioni, they sent to
Alessandria to harass the enemy. The French were taken between two
fires—on the one side Coglioni, on the other the Alessandrian
reinforcements; yet at first they gained the day, but so furious was
their anger, and so long they dallied in the slaughter of their enemies,
that before they had despatched the last, a further reinforcement of the
Milanese, and a successful sally on the part of the besieged,
intercepted their return. Raynouard was taken prisoner with many of his
men; the cities which had revolted to him returned to the allegiance of
the Milanese republic; and the royal troops, leaderless and disbanded in
the very hour of victory, fled home as best they might to Asti.

This was on Oct. 17, 1447. Twelve days later the Duke of Orleans himself
arrived in Asti. There he made a solemn entry on Oct. 26th, riding under
a däis borne by the notables of the city robed and hooded all in white,
_pro majori letitia adventus ipsius domini ducis_. Charles of Orleans
was now a man of fifty-seven, amiable and sanguine. Something of the
charm and of the inefficiency of youth appeared to linger around this
aging poet, who, taken captive a youth of twenty-four, issued into the
world again almost a man of fifty. Those intervening years had held for
him none of the serious business of life: and his experience was still
the experience of charming, ardent, and unhappy youth. Since Agincourt
he had counted his years by lyrics, not by battles; and now perhaps one
of the serious things to him in this contentious Lombardy was his
friendship with Antonio Astesano, professor of eloquence and poetry at
Asti, himself no inconsiderable versifier, and author of a poetic
epistle on the victories of the Maid of Orleans, which in 1430 he had
sent to the Duke in his English prison. Charles, with his serene
unpractical temper, his interest in literature, his inexperience of
life, hoping all things, doing nothing, appears a strange figure in that
distracted Lombardy: a garlanded maypole stuck in the front of battle.

At first the arrival of the Duke of Orleans appeared an event of
immeasurable importance. The Guelfs in every Lombard town, who at first
had thought only of Venice, began, more loudly even than during the
campaign of Raynouard, to declare for France. The Duke came armed with
promises from France, from Burgundy, from Brittany, from England. There
were no bounds to the magnificence with which he declared himself about
to take the field. But perhaps it would not be necessary to take the
field at all. The Duke sent a deputation to the Milanese republic; the
lord of Cognac, one of the nobles of Ceva, Caretti (whose family all the
while were practising none too secretly with Montferrat), Secondino
Natti, Antonio Romagnano, and Francesco Roero, requested the Milanese to
submit to the allegiance of their lawful duke. But the Milanese were all
too well aware of the hateful consequences of tyranny. Men were still
alive whose brothers and whose children had been torn to pieces, limb by
limb, by the hounds of Giammaria Visconti, the uncle of this man. The
suspicion, the cunning, the timid fear of Filippo Maria had succeeded to
that oppression. “This time,” said the people of Milan, “we will
preserve ourselves a free republic.”

A show of force would at least be necessary to induce them to change
their minds; and in December, 1447, Charles of Orleans sent an embassy
to Venice,[69] requesting the Council to enter into an arrangement with
him, and to furnish him with troops. He repeated his assurances of aid
from France, England, and Burgundy; and if such aid as this were really
forthcoming, Venice, animated by a limited Venetian and not by a
national Italian patriotism, would certainly hesitate to cross his path.
So bitter was the hatred of Venice towards Sforza, that any other
candidate appeared preferable to him; and this douce, unready Charles
would be easier to manage than a man of that heroic and ambitious type.
Yet in a matter so important it was, before all things, necessary to be
circumspect; and the Venetians put off the Duke of Orleans with many
assurances of their devoted adherence and affection, many warnings
against the cunning and the machinations of Sforza, while they wrote to
their allies of Florence requesting an opinion. At this instant Sforza
was so dreaded in Italy, and his victory appeared so imminent, that if a
few of the promised battalions had appeared in Piedmont the Venetians
would gladly have espoused the cause of Orleans. But Sforza, left almost
without money, with no ally that he was really sure of except his
valiant wife, found the situation untenable. He had not a friend in
Italy, nor a friend across the mountains. Peace, if only the feint of
peace, was imperative while he collected his unvanquished forces for a
further struggle. Early in January he wrote to Florence, proposing
peace. The Florentines and the Venetians were bound in so close a league
that peace with the one meant truce with the other; and though, at least
twice, in solemn terms, the Council of Ten warned the Florentine Signory
that there was no substance in this matter, for peace was contrary to
the real interests of Count Francesco, yet in the end Venice agreed to
accept this peace for what it was worth, using the hour of respite to
further her stratagems in other quarters.

Footnote 69:

  Reg. 17, fol. 194, tergo. Dec. 30, 1447.

The peace was not worth much. On May 9th Andriano Ricci of Asti arrived
in Venice with a message from the Duke of Orleans.[70] “The French
reinforcements will soon be here,” said the sanguine Duke; “will you
also be my auxiliary?” The Venetians, though still cautious, replied in
terms of alacrity—

“We are ready to grant you all possible aid and favour, and there is no
other prince on earth whom we so warmly desire to be our neighbour in
Milan. Hasten the King of France, for if any good effect is to follow
our endeavours, the troops should come at once. And rely upon it, so
soon as your French auxiliaries are in readiness, we also will provide a
satisfactory contingent to help in the conquest of Milan. And we are the
readier to do this, since the peace which we had begun to treat with the
Milanese republic is already broken, and we at this moment are in open
war with Milan.”

Footnote 70:

  Reg. 17, fol. 221, tergo.

                  *       *       *       *       *

But, just at the instant when it would have given most pleasure to
Venice to support the claims of Orleans, she began to feel grave doubts
as to the solidity of his pretensions. Those promised armies of France,
England, Burgundy, and Brittany, which had been on the road ever since
last December, would they never cross the Alps? As yet not a single
soldier had appeared. How far could Venice trust the assertions of the
fanciful and sanguine Orleans? A strain in him of the Visconti
shiftiness mingled with the rhetoric of his father, and for all his
amiable simplicity Charles of Orleans was not a man to inspire
conviction. The Venetians were, however, aware that Burgundy was really
in his favour. It was Burgundy who had paid the ransom of Orleans, and
Burgundy had twice sent his ambassadors to Venice, entreating the Ten in
favour of his cousin. There was a great friendship between the good Duke
Philip and the gentle Duke Charles; it seemed as if, having overcome the
tremendous barrier of an hereditary vendetta, these two men, whose
fathers had each been murdered to satisfy the feud, entertained for each
other an affection that had gained by the obstacles it had surmounted.
If Burgundy, the richest duke in Europe, supported Orleans, it might be
well to aid him even in the absence of France, England, and Brittany.
But it would be disastrous to support the inefficient duke alone against
such mighty odds. Yet some aid against Sforza was immediately desirable.
To the Venetians, to have two strings to your bow was the first axiom of
policy; and on May 20, 1448, the Ten despatched to Asti a secret
messenger, one Messer Bernardo Neri, who was to interview the Duke,[71]
to obtain all possible information as to his army and his auxiliaries,
and then, in the utmost privacy, to proceed to Savoy in order to judge
in which direction it best would suit the Venetian cat to jump.

Footnote 71:

  Reg. 17, fol. 220. Secreta del Senato, MS.

Messer Bernardo stayed over a fortnight at Asti, although his commission
was only for five days; and from this we may suppose that at first he
really had expectations of the success of Orleans. But on June 10th[72]
he left, ostensibly to return to Venice in order to receive the answer
of the Senate; but in reality he went only a little way on the Venetian
road and turned aside at once into Savoy, for at Turin he knew he should
find further instructions from the Senate. He could only spend a day or
two over his negotiations with the Duke there, for he had to return to
Asti on the day when an answer might reasonably be expected to reach
that place from Venice. But his interview with Duke Louis was evidently
satisfactory, for it is the first of a long series of negotiations.

Footnote 72:

  Reg. 18, fol. 3, Secreta del Senato, MS.

Meanwhile Orleans in Asti found his affairs did not progress at all. The
Venetians, though so prodigal of offers of assistance, declined to come
forward until he had an army at his back. The Milanese refused to
recognize him. Worst of all, the French appeared to have forgotten him.
It seemed best to return to France and collect his forces. So on Aug.
10th, after a stay of nine months in Asti, Charles of Orleans with all
his household went home again across the mountains. The Duke took back
with him his friend Antonio Astesano, and ever afterwards he retained a
strong affection for the country of his mother. The visit of Charles of
Orleans to Asti was important as an introduction of Italian fashions,
Italian architecture, Italian arms, jewels,[73] and vestments into
France. It caused a pure whiff of Italy to breathe across the Gothic
style of Charles VII. But it made little or no effect on the furthering
of the French claim to Milan.

Footnote 73:

  Viollet-le-Duc, “Mobilier Français,” iv. 454.

Orleans had scarcely crossed the Alps before he was as completely
disregarded as though he had never seemed the most dangerous pretender
to the throne of Milan. Savoy had taken his place. The claim of Savoy
was quite childish and ridiculous. He pretended that, on the payment of
his sister’s dowry to the late Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria had promised
to leave his duchy, in default of sons, to the Duke of Savoy.[74] It was
evident that the Duke had done nothing of the sort; he had left his
throne to Arragon. Besides, it is difficult to see how his testament
could dispose of property which, by his father’s will and his sister’s
marriage contract, was entailed on his nephews of Orleans, and which, by
feudal law, must return to the Holy Roman Empire. But, however shadowy
his claims, the Duke of Savoy was a great person to the Milanese. He was
loved by them and he was feared by them; and had he hazarded a bold
stroke instead of counteracting his own efforts by a perfect maze of
petty intrigues, he might easily have made himself, if not the Duke of
Milan, at any rate protector of the Milanese republic.

Footnote 74:

  Olivier de la Marche, “Mémoires,” livre i. chap. 17.

But Duke Louis was afraid to hazard all his chances on any single throw.
In 1446 he had intrigued with the Dauphin to divide the Milanese with
France; on the 3rd of May, 1448, he drew up a secret and solemn contract
with the Milanese to protect their republic, in consequence of which, a
few months later, the grateful city privately elected him her chief. In
June, 1449, he was arranging with the King of Arragon to conquer the
estates of Milan with this ally, and divide them at the rate of
three-fifths for Arragon and two-fifths for Savoy;[75] and in the autumn
of the same year he was making a very similar proposal to the Venetians.
In the pains he took to win something, however little, Savoy effectually
safeguarded himself from winning all. Yet at one time he appeared to
have great chances in his favour.

Footnote 75:

  Secreta del Senato, Reg. 18, fol. 106, MS.

In the summer and early autumn of 1448, both Venice and the Milanese
believed that a republic under the joint protection of Venice and Savoy
might flourish in Milan, were it not for the undying energy and
resolution of Count Francesco Sforza. To be rid of this man was to be
rid of war; and twice in August and once in September the Ten wrote to a
certain Lorenzo Minio, captain of the Brescia, that they accept a
certain proposal he had made: “If the person he suggests will in truth
deal death to Count Francesco we shall be his debtors.”[76] According to
the discretion of Minio they offered his candidate from ten thousand to
twenty thousand ducats; or, should he be of the sort that stoops not to
money, he should have the captaincy of a regiment, of from two hundred
to four hundred lances. “But,” they proceeded, “let not the matter stick
for a trifle—cheer him and inspirit him so that his resolution come to a
good effect, and that speedily; put him in heart with his work and let
it be done well.” The plain English of these phrases means that the
Venetian Council was willing to pay a great sum of money to any one who
would undertake to poison Count Francesco Sforza.

Footnote 76:

  Lamansky, “Secrets d’Etat de Venise,” p. 160.

But before the proposal was carried out, a second message, five months
later, bade the friend of Minio stay the destruction in his hand. “Count
Francesco having entered into good and faithful relations with the
Senate, we withdraw the order for his death.” As suddenly as before and
for as short a time an alliance was declared between the Venetians and
the Milanese.

This alliance, as before, was merely an occasion for the resumption of
intrigues. Arragon and Savoy, Savoy and Venice, Venice and Milan were
secretly determining an arrangement which should exclude Francesco
Sforza. It seems scarcely worth while to have countermanded the order
for his death, since by some means or another to be rid of this
adventurer was the aim and end of all this policy. The Guelfs of Milan
sent to Venice a certain Arrigo Panigarola, who throwing himself upon
his knees before the Ten, with tears and prayers implored the Venetians
to defend his hapless city from Count Francesco. The Council was
impressed, but decided to reserve its answer for a little while.

A few months after the arrival of Panigarola, the Duke of Savoy sent an
ambassador to Venice upon a similar errand. How was it possible that the
Venetians, so respectable a state, could support a wearisome adventurer
like Count Francesco? Savoy gave the Venetians to understand that if
they continued to supply soldiers to the camp of Sforza he should reckon
his behaviour on their part a _casus belli_. How much better it would be
if the Venetians would acquiesce in an honourable peace between the
Milanese republic and Savoy and Venice! This threefold league would
effectually crush Francesco Sforza, and would establish plenty and
security in devastated Lombardy; whereas if the present dissensions
continue, both Orleans and Arragon would certainly come across the
mountains to seek their profit here, and so should a great fire be lit
in Italy which much effusion of blood would never quench. The Savoyard
ambassador waxed really eloquent over the blessings of peace; for at
this very time his master was writing to his father the Antipope at
Lucerne: “The Milanese have secretly elected me chief, but what am I to
do with Italy for Sforza, Germany for the emperor, and France for
Orleans?” All indeed that he could do was _faire entretenir les Milanais
par tous moyens, sans avoir dict encore ne_ non, _ne_ ouy; _et, d’aultre
part, envoyer à Venise, et aussi envers le Comte François, et aultres où
il est nécessaire practicquer quelque bons moyens par voye
d’accord_.[77] Of all these various plots the most successful for Savoy
would have been a peace strong enough to set at naught Francesco Sforza,
to restore prosperity to Lombardy, and to enable the Milanese to elect
him, with apparent spontaneity, protector of their state. The first step
was to secure peace with Venice; and he found the Venetians in an
acquiescent mood. The important city of Crema had followed the lead of
Lodi and Codogno, and had declared itself the subject of Saint Mark; and
the Venetians, who could not keep Crema and continue to ally of Count
Francesco, suddenly came to terms with Panigarola, declared themselves
the champions of the Milanese republic, and offered the Duke of Savoy
not merely a friendly neutrality but an offensive alliance.[78] They
resumed their negotiations for the assassination of Count Francesco,
and, “without a thought,” says Corio, “of the league or law divine,”
despatched him a message informing him that they, his comrades in arms
of yesterday, should become to-morrow his enemies upon the field of

Footnote 77:

  Gaullieur, _op. cit._

Footnote 78:

  Reg. 18, fol. 83. April 21, 1449. Secreta del Senato, MS.

Count Francesco received the news with great gravity, without a sign of
anger, or sorrow, or displeasure; although his situation was becoming
really desperate; for, as the Venetian legate maliciously informed him,
the Venetians were negotiating alliances with Savoy, with Arragon, and
with the Pope. As to Savoy, Sforza forestalled them; for he forthwith
despatched a messenger to Turin with terms so advantageous to Duke Louis
that that unstable personage put the Venetians out of mind and settled
into peace with Sforza: who, enabled to turn his entire force against
Venice, drove his late allies back beyond the Adda, defeated them
utterly at Caravaggio, made peace with them as a victor with success
before him, and in the middle of October turned his arms against the
Milanese republic.

Sforza had disarmed Savoy and conquered Venice; but he had not yet come
to an end of his enemies. In November, 1447, Charles of Orleans
seriously resumed his intentions of a Milanese campaign. Already in
July, Burgundy had rewritten to the Venetians entreating them to favour
Orleans; and the council had replied[80] that though their _acts_ of
late may have appeared hostile to the cause of Orleans, yet nothing but
the instinct of self-preservation had ever induced them to make peace
with Francesco, and their _sentiments_ were still most loyal to the
house of France. Nothing appeared more likely than a French invasion;
Savoy already had warned the Venetians of it. On the 14th of November
the Duke of Orleans wrote to the city of Asti,[79] saying that he was
now positively certain of the alliance with Brittany and Burgundy, and
that before Christmas, his army, under Jean Focaud, would arrive in
Lombardy. This letter, written in a tone of the cheerfullest high
spirits, was followed a week later by one equally sanguine and happy:
_Dei gratia, omnia negotia Lombardie ad nos spectantia sunt in his
presentibus optime disposita_. Jacques Cœur has pronounced himself
favourable to the affair. And on the 4th of December Orleans writes that
the companies of Foix and Bourbon are on the point of departure; and
that John of Angoulême is arranging with the king for the reinforcement
from the royal troops.

Footnote 79:

  Secreta del Senato, MS. Reg. 10, fol. 93. July 3. 1449.

Footnote 80:

  These four letters are quoted by M. Maurice Faucon from the Milanese
  Archive in his report of his two missions in Italy in the years 1879
  and 1880, pp. 35-37.

But Christmas came, and the phantom armies of the expectant Orleans
remained as visionary as before. Yet on the 7th of January he writes,
still sanguine, still bent on conquering his castle in the air: “The
army will be larger than we thought; for all the French princes will
lend their aid. Burgundy is sending great sums of gold and abundant
troops into Lombardy.” The Duke is as full as ever of his schemes and
hopes. But this is the last of his letter; and before his messenger
could bring an answer home from Asti, Milan had found a master among the
ranks of Italy.

For famine and weariness and civil discord had broken the spirit of the
Milanese republic. Even Savoy, even Venice, were seized with pity, and
murmured to each other that almost any change would be desirable, _ut
hec afflicta et misera Lombardia, dudum guerrarum disturbijs lacessita,
aliquando quiescere possit; tot populis, tot calamitatibus, totque
oppressorum vocibus compatiendum et miserandum erat_. Anything short of
the success of Count Francesco would be a happy alternative to such
disaster. And in Milan itself the discontent was as pronounced. The
Guelfs still vociferated against Francesco, but the Ghibellines, the
party of the nobles, grew slowly and strongly in favour of the Count.
All parties at last were out of conceit with this miserable liberty,
which was but another name for civil disunion and ruin. Some were for
the Pope, and some for Charles of France, and these were the Guelfs.
Some were for Savoy, some for the King of Naples. But all these princes
lived a long way off; they had no armies ready to combat the Venetians,
whom each and every faction dreaded now and hated worse than famine.
When one day Gasparo de Vimercato rose up in public conclave, and
suggested that Milan should give herself to Count Francesco Sforza, it
was incredible how suddenly the whole mind of the city turned towards
the Count. The Count was the son-in-law of the late duke. The city was
familiar with him. He was known to be humane and generous and strong.
Should the city elect him, in one day he could dissipate the famine, the
battles, the fear of enemies, and the suspicion of treachery, which for
thirty months had made the misery of Milan. Leonardo Gariboldo, Aloigi
Trombetta, and Gasparo da Vimercato were sent at once to acquaint Count
Francesco, that by the free voice of the people he had been elected lord
of Milan.

Among the innumerable conspirators, intriguing diplomatists, and
successful tradesmen who filled the high places of the Italy of that
day, Francesco Sforza appears at least a man. Simple, direct, and brave,
no sudden honour and no reverse of fortune took from him that natural
dignity of a balanced mind which is one of the finest attributes of the
Italian. Good sense and kindness made a moral force of this captain of
adventure. He disciplined his troops, erected a court-martial, and
punished offences of rape and violence by death; so that while the
miserable populations of Lombardy had everything to fear from the other
armies that occupied their soil, gradually they learned to feel
themselves secure in the rough, mailed hands of Count Francesco. Among
the soldiers his reputation was more than mortal. We have to leap over a
dozen generations before the prestige of the Little Corporal present an
analogy to such devotion. But Count Francesco was loved and respected
even by his enemies; and there is a story of him which has ever struck
me as among the most charming in military history. It was at the siege
of Como, in that very February of 1450, when, unknown to him, the
Milanese who had so long and so furiously resisted him, were crying,
“Sforza! Sforza!” in an ecstasy of hungry enthusiasm in the great
piazza. Meanwhile Sforza and his men were occupying Monte Barro; by
means of a little hill in front, overlooking the Adda, and fortified by
five bastions, they kept in check the troops of Venice and Milan, ranged
in impotent lines along the further side of the river. The bulwarks of
the little hill were but slight, improvised in a few days for the
occasion, and the poor Italian artillery of the fifteenth century,
wrought no great destruction; yet such was the spell of Sforza’s name,
that the two armies across the Adda never ventured to try the place by
assault. One night, however, it leaked out that Count Francesco was not
in the fort; he had gone up the mountain to arrange a fresh disposition
of his troops upon the summit of Monte Barro. In his absence it was
decided to attack the hill, and in the late February dawn the Venetians
and Milanese poured under the slender bulwarks, armed with artillery,
which silenced that of the fort, and, planting their scaling ladders
against the ramparts, they soon were in possession of the place. Now, as
it happened, unknown to either army, late at night Count Francesco had
returned home, and hearing the clamour in the place, he started out of
sleep and strode at once to the ramparts, ignorant that the enemy had
taken the place by surprise and that his soldiers, unaware of his
presence in their midst, had already given the sign of surrender.
“Defend yourselves, for I am here!” rang out the clear voice of the
Count; and at that moment he perceived that he stood alone in the midst
of his foes. But the mere fact of his presence was a better defence to
his bastions than a world of soldiers. The assailants, like chidden
children, withdrew from their positions, dropped the guns and pieces
they were carrying away, and with uncovered heads made for their
scaling-ladders. As they passed the Count, standing alone there, they
made for his hand—kneeling, crowding to touch it. “Father and ornament
of Italian arms we salute you,” cried the soft Venetian voices; and in
little knots and groups, as quickly as they might, they dropped over the
walls into the moat again, leaving Count Francesco the master of his
ramparts. It was to this man, so eminently the hero of his hour, that
the three Milanese delegates brought their news of the submission of the

On Feb. 25, 1450, Count Francesco Sforza rode into Milan. He rode at the
head of his troops, and he had taken care that his future subjects
should welcome the army; for every soldier was hung all over, from
corslet, from waist, from shoulder, and from arm and hand, with loaves
of bread—great clustering rolls and loaves that hid the armour
underneath, as much as every man could carry. It was fine, wrote Corio,
to see how the famished Milanese fell upon the troops, avidly tearing
the longed-for food from neck and arm, and falling to at once (_con
quanta ingordigia!_) upon the delicious bread. “Sforza! Sforza!” cried
the citizens, a thousand times more eagerly than before. Some of them
cried out in the words of the Psalms _Hæc est dies, quam fecit Dominus;
exultemus et lætemur in ea_! Sforza was in the city; his troops and his
bread had effectually secured his future. The Venetians might brew
another poison. Charles of Orleans at Chauny might return that loan of
men and gold which his cousin of Burgundy had lent him. Louis of Savoy
wrote to his father at Lucerne: _Le Comte François a obtenu ceste ville
par intelligence, déceptions et pratiques et non mie par force de
guerre_. All these pretenders, who had felt the bird already in the
hand, must dissemble as best they might their disappointment. But
Genoa[81] and Florence welcomed the chance of peace, and in November,
1451, joined in a defensive league with Milan against the Dauphin, King
of France, the Duke of Savoy, and the Venetians. Lombardy was no longer
the devastated battlefield of doubtful victory. Count Francesco Sforza
was effectually the master of Milan.

Footnote 81:

  Archives of Genoa. Materie Politiche, mazzo 12, 3. See also Charavay’s
  “Report on the Italian Letters of Louis XI.,” 1881.


It is one thing to have a thing by might, another to hold that thing by
right. The theory that might is right appears sufficient in the hour of
conquest, yet it is but a slender basis for future government; and
Francesco Sforza, safely lodged in Milan, hedged round with troops,
greeted as duke by the very citizens who had so long repulsed him, was
none the less aware that men regarded him merely in the light of a
successful usurper. Even in Milan there were many who regretted the loss
of a legitimate dynasty; there were those who looked to the King of
Naples, the adopted heir of the late duke; and there was a party anxious
to proclaim the suzerainty of the Emperor; and a larger party still who
placed their faith in Charles of Orleans, the legitimate descendant of
the great Giangaleazzo. In the eyes of such men as these what claim had
Captain Francesco Sforza, _soi-disant_> Duke of Milan? He was merely a
successful soldier, the husband of the late duke’s bastard daughter,
unmentioned as heir to Milan in any testament or codicil, who by force
and famine had succeeded in imposing himself, as the alternative to
starvation, upon the miserable Milanese. In the sight of the Emperor,
Francesco Sforza had compromised whatever shadow of right he might once
have had by accepting from the illegal hand of the people the imperial
gift of his duchy.

Before the feudal law Francesco Sforza was merely a usurper, and a
compromised usurper. To Orleans he appeared the representative of the
illegitimate branch defrauding the legal heirs of their just claims. To
Arragon, Sforza was the man who pockets treasure bequeathed expressly to
another. The humiliation of this position is apparent. Yet Sforza, with
much magnanimity, refused to ruin his subjects with taxes in order to
buy the imperial investiture—a purchasable commodity, as his successors
and his predecessors knew, and one which would have legalized his
situation. At first, in the triumph of success, he appears to have
enjoyed his illegal honours, his glory as a popular hero; and he
affirmed that he preferred to rest his claims upon the people’s voice.
On March 25, 1450, they pronounced him Duke of Milan.

Sforza made a good ruler. Under him Milan ceased to be the prey of
miserable dissensions and disorder, and the streets no longer ran with
the cries of Guelf or Ghibelline. The soldier proved an excellent
despot; not harsh or selfish, as might have been expected from a man
sprung from so little and taught in so rude a school. He governed the
people for the good of the people, making his own gain but an accident
of their advantage; and that magnanimous and disastrous impulse which
made him refuse to tax the poor in order to purchase his investiture is
characteristic of the man.

Yet even in Milan there were many ill content to thrive under the
orderly government of this benevolent usurper. Many voices that famine
had silenced soon began to whisper—Republicans, Orleanists, Guelfs,
Ghibellines were alike jealous and ill at ease under the military
dictatorship of Sforza. Another party in the city headed by the
Dowager-duchess still kept alive the pretensions of Savoy, and he was
able to write to Lucerne that on the whole the news from Milan was not
bad, for the people were already beginning to dislike Francesco Sforza,
and that Madame de Milan proved herself an efficient supporter of his

But if there was discontent in Milan, outside the walls the success of
Sforza was regarded with unqualified hatred and desire for vengeance.
Savoy wished to oust him from his seat. France and Orleans and Arragon
and Germany thought it sufficient for the present to brand him as
usurper. But the hatred of the Venetians for the man who once had been
their servant was of a deeper kind, and they did not shrink from
plotting his murder. On April 22, 1450, they had already decreed his
death, and by August 26th the plan was in full train. The Council had
heard through that gentleman and soldier, Ser Giacobo Antonio Marcello
of Crema, that Vittore dei Scoraderi, the squire of Francesco, _est
contentus occidere Comitem Francescum; et sicut omnes intelligere
possunt, mors illius comitis est salus et pax nostra et totius Italiæ_.
Nothing was to be sent in writing to this person which might compromise
the Venetian Senate, but Marcello was instructed to offer him ample
terms. Further injunctions were despatched on September 2nd, and early
in December we hear again of a candidate, _una persona intelligente et
discreta_, not a Venetian subject, who promised to despatch Count
Francesco with _aliqua venenosa materies_.[82] To this intelligent
assistant the Council recommended the use of certain little round
pellets which, thrown upon the fire, exhale a most sweet and delectable
odour; but before they were despatched for experiment on so illustrious
a subject a secret trial was to be given them in Venice on the person of
a prisoner condemned to death for larceny. In May, 1451, the Council
added three other persons to the conspiracy, and by June the proffered
reward had grown to the extravagant sum of 5,000 ducats, with a yearly
revenue of 1,000 ducats in addition, and liberty to recall four exiles.
In return for so much munificence it is expected that Count Francesco
“shall by your industry be despatched before the end of October.” But in
August an extension of leave was granted until December. Then the
messages became frequent; and it is easy to divine that the noble person
who is to despatch the Count is none other than Innocentio Cotta, a man
of one of the great Guelf houses of Milan, who, despite his blue blood,
was the most ardent champion of popular rights, and who is familiar to
the readers of Corio’s history as the head and front of that little
group of _nobili audacissimi_, who in 1459, unbroken by famine and long
misery, spurred the people of Milan on to resist the arms of Sforza, and
plundered the party of the Ghibellines for money to furnish troops to
defend the city. The success of Count Francesco had added ruin to the
chagrin and hatred of this man, and one of the conditions that Cotta
demanded of the Venetians was that he should regain _quelle forteze,
terre e possessioni mie chio goldeva al tempo de la felice memoria del
duca passato_. To this man, even as to the Council, it appeared that the
death of Count Francesco could only be useful and fertile in good
(_practica non potest esse nisi utilis et fructuosa, quum ex ea nullum
damnum sequi potest_), and with the sentiments less of an assassin than
of a lofty classic tyrannicide—a character ever dear to the
Italians—Innocentio Cotta received, in his Brescian exile, the little
round and perfumed pellets of poison.

Footnote 82:

  See the documents in Lamansky, “Secrets d’Etat de Venise,” 161, 14,

No less than eighteen times between the August of 1448 and the December
of 1453 did the Venetian Council instigate their assistant to the deed.
Poisons were despatched to him and apparently administered. But the
venom of the Venetians was more odious than fatal. Their poisons,
sublimated from an irrational medley of volatile substances, had no
regular chemical action, and the receipts of them which remain exhibit
an incoherent confusion of mercury, sal-volatile, copperas, cantharides,
burned yeast, salts of nitre and arsenic, from which, after the endless
simmerings and powderings of their preparation, the most deadly
qualities had evaporated, and which left (according to the analysis of
Professor Boutlerow) a comparatively harmless combination of ammoniacal

The sedative prescription made no perceptible effect upon the iron
constitution of the _soi-disant_ Duke of Milan. He probably remained in
total ignorance of the poison so frequently administered in the unbroken
Venice glasses; but he could not remain equally unaware of the distaste
and suspicion which environed him, and he grew to desire some superior
show of legality. The troops and bread, with which he had convinced the
Milanese, were admirable agents, but they could not do everything.
Francesco Sforza had six young sons, and in his heart there increased
that invincible longing to found a dynasty which has overcome so many
conquerors. Somewhere in the Archives, he began to think, in some
unfound testament or neglected codicil, there must be surely some
mention of his wife, the late Duke’s only child. With possession already
in its favour, the slightest mention in the old Duke’s will would serve
to legalize the dynasty of Sforza. But nowhere in will or codicil was
there any last reversion in favour of Madonna Bianca. The searchers only
brought to light the testament of Giangaleazzo, which bequeathed Milan,
failing direct male heirs, to the sons of his daughter Valentine.

Still, if Francesco Sforza could not legalize his own succession, he
could at least secure himself against the raising of better-founded
claims. On February 19, 1452,[83] Count Francesco wrote to Andriano
Oliari of Pavia (the Oliari were a family of notaries to whom for
generations the Archives of Milan were entrusted) commanding him to come
at once to Milan and to bring with him to the palace the original will
of Giangaleazzo Visconti,

        “for [he explained], because of certain matters
        which fall out at present, it is necessary that we see
        the testament made by the illustrious quondam duke
        the first.... Thou must come to-morrow, Sunday,
        the twentieth of the present month, here, to our
        presence, and bring with thee the said original will....
        And we advise thee, that for the viewing of the
        said will we will deal with thee according as thou

Oliari and his father before him had been servants of the legal Dukes.
Something in the tone of Sforza’s letter, its awkward mingling of the
menace and the bribe, gave pause to the faithful notary. He had no mind
to render up so sacred a deposit to the tender mercies of this blunt old
soldier, who signed himself “Cichus” (Frank), and who was wholly without
the dignity of the legitimate tyrants. Oliari wrote back and said that
he believed a copy of the original will would be found to answer every

Footnote 83:

  Ghinzone, in the “Archivio Storico Lombardo,” Anno ix, Fasc. 2, 1882,
  quotes the original documents from the Milanese Archives, Reg. Miss.
  N. 12, foglio 40. The letters are all of the greatest interest.

The so-called Duke of Milan was irate, and despatched a curt letter to
the suspicious and insubordinate lawyer, and by the same messenger he
sent a line to the Castellan of Pavia, informing him that Oliari had not
come, and bidding him despatch the notary at once, _cum dicto testamento
et non cum la copia_. But neither the Duke nor the constable of the
castle could induce Oliari to go back from his decision. “I really
cannot come,” he replied to Sforza on February 24th, “for I have neither
money nor horses.” Now Pavia is not so long a journey from Milan, but
that, to serve a sovereign, a man might borrow his neighbour’s hackney.
The same day, the 24th, the Duke replied in anger, both to Oliari and to
the castellan, that he could not conceive why it should be so difficult
to come at the said testament. “And forasmuch as you hold dear our
favour, and under pain of rebellion, you must be here with us to-morrow
with the said will, for if you dost not come we will make you repent
it.” Oliari dared not hold out against so ominous a command. He made in
secret five copies of the precious document, and then we may suppose
that he took the original to Sforza, for no more letters require it from
his custody. Thus the original will of Giangaleazzo Visconti was

But while Sforza was stooping to a crime in order to protect himself
against the rivalry of Orleans, as a fact that pretender was less
dangerous than he had been before. However good his claim might be, his
inefficiency was a terrible counterpoise. When,[85] at the new year of
1454, Alfonso the Magnanimous wrote to Venice requesting the government
to continue their relations with Orleans, the Venetians replied that
Orleans was too far off and too unready. They were as desirous as
Arragon to get rid of the usurper. A month before they strove to enlist
Arragon in favour of their novel candidate, they had written to
Savoy,[84] asking Duke Louis to join with them in requesting the Dauphin
of France to invade Italy and suppress Francesco Sforza. They proposed
that the Dauphin should conquer the Ticinese and Piacenza for himself,
and the Duchy of Milan for the Duke of Orleans. In case the Duke was not
minded to go to this expense and danger for a cousin’s sake, the
Venetians let it be understood that any French prince would be agreeable
to them upon the throne of Milan.

Footnote 84:

  Reg. 20, fol. 1. Secreta del Senato, MS. January 3, 1454.

Footnote 85:

  Reg. 19, fol. 232. Secreta del Senato, MS. December 11, 1453.


The House of Orleans had no more dangerous enemy than the royal house of
France. Matters had greatly changed since, immediately after the
liberation of Orleans, Charles VII. had seconded his claim to the
Milanese. The reduction to insignificance of the great feudal houses in
general, and particularly the reduction of Orleans, was now the policy
of the French crown; and at that moment the policy of the already
inscrutable Dauphin appears to have been the conquest of a kingdom which
should comprise the Dauphiny, the Ticinese, Asti, the Piacentine angle
of the Emilia, and the entire stretch of Liguria. To the restless
contriver of a plan so bold the claims of Sforza and of Orleans came
equally amiss; and, in secret, the chief enemy of either credulous
pretender was the Dauphin.

Sforza, however, had little to fear from Orleans, and less from the
French. In fact, in King Charles he found at this difficult period his
ablest friend. The records of the Archives of Milan, from the year 1452
until the death of King Charles, abound in friendly letters, and are
evidence of the cordial relations existing not only between the Duke of
Milan and the King of France, but between the House of Sforza and the
royal Governor of Asti. In 1459 the King besought Francesco to ask the
hand of the little Princess Marie d’Orléans for his only son; but we may
presume that Orleans would not consent to so much recognition of the
usurper, for the negotiation came to nothing. Yet with the Court of
France Francesco continued on terms of affectionate friendship and
mutual respect.

In 1453 the Dauphin still had designs on Italy, and offered to the
Venetian Signory his aid in Italy to combat Count Francesco.[86] It was
arranged that he should come with from eight to ten thousand men,
dispossess Sforza, and conquer for himself a Duchy of Milan to extend
from Adda to Ticino, from Padua beyond Piacenza. Or, if the King and the
Dauphin would guarantee the army, Venice professed herself willing to
aid the Duke of Orleans in the same undertaking. But while these princes
were arranging their future conquests, a spirit stronger than they was
making these conquests impossible—a spirit which, a score of years ago,
had begun to draw together Scotland and England, those ancient enemies,
to the alarm of France; a spirit which had estranged Burgundy and
Brittany from their English companions in so many battles, and which was
leading them to the feet of the long-despised and outraged King of
France; a spirit which now should reconcile Venice with Sforza, Florence
with Milan, and make, for a brief moment of millennium, those immemorial
foes at peace together; a spirit which awoke in these middle years of
the fifteenth century—aroused Heaven knows whence or how—and strangely
changed the world it breathed across: I have named the spirit of

Footnote 86:

  “Secreta,” tome (_sic_ Reg?) xix. fol. 211, under date August 31,
  1453, quoted M. Étienne Charavay in his “Rapport sur les Lettres de
  Louis XI. conservées dans les Archives d’Italie.” The following
  documents from the Venetian Archives—as yet, I believe,
  unpublished—form the natural sequel to this interesting letter:

  “Senato” I., Reg. 19, fol. 232, under date December 11, 1453.—The
  Venetians send Venier to ask Savoy to join with them in requesting the
  Dauphin to invade Italy: “Venier must ascertain the views of the Duke
  of Savoy as to Sforza, since King René comes into Italy. Let him
  clearly understand that Sforza is a most ambitious man, and that if he
  continue to prosper as he does he will certainly turn his thoughts
  towards Savoy. Venice not only intends to secure her own estate, but
  for the sake of her friends and allies will as much and as resolutely
  as possible repress the said Count Francesco Sforza, who may become
  the Common Enemy. And to this end Venice has determined to request the
  aid of France, and among others the aid of the Dauphin, asking the
  said Dauphin for the common good to invade Italy with a force of from
  8,000 to 10,000 men. And we of Venice entreat Savoy to send a suitable
  ambassador along with ours to persuade the said Dauphin to this
  undertaking. And our intention is to grant the said Dauphin a suitable
  subvention in money and whatsoever he may conquer from Adda to Ticino,
  and from Padua to Piacenza, except the domains of Savoy and
  Montferrat.... Let Venier then discover how many men and of what sort
  and when Savoy could supply to the field.... And if my Lord Dauphin
  stand out for the consent of his father, you shall offer on our part
  to implore it and procure it for him. And if he wish you to go to the
  King you shall go, and, as best you can, procure his consent.... And
  if the said King or Dauphin say to you this undertaking regards the
  Duke of Orleans, say it is true that on the death of Filippo Maria he
  sent to us notifying his claims (and fain would we see a prince of the
  house of France on the throne of Milan!), and saying he expected
  supplies from France, and we assured him of our delight and pleasure;
  and if indeed the King or the Dauphin, at your instance, will supply
  the said Lord Duke with an army of from viii. thousand to x. thousand
  men, we will aid and assist him upon the same terms and conditions as
  my Lord the Dauphin. And go then to the Duke of Orleans and persuade
  him to the enterprize.”

  Reg. 20, fol. 26, July 23, 1454.—This document concerns a League meant
  to secure Italian peace by means of an offensive and defensive
  alliance, against all breakers of the peace, to be made between
  Venice, Milan, Florence, and Naples. Florence desires an exception in
  favour of the house of France. At this Milan, much alarmed, desires
  Venice by a secret and separate agreement to sign the First Clause at
  least with him. Venice sends ambassadors to Florence and to Milan,
  pointing out that the First Clause is absolutely necessary, since,
  without it, there is no reason why the King of Arragon should enter
  the League. Indeed if an exception be made in favour of France, it
  will only and justly irritate him, and thus the alliance would bring
  rather discord than peace into the Peninsula. No specific mention need
  be made of the house of France, to which Venice entertains the most
  friendly feelings. But if the First Clause were signed and Arragon
  induced to enter the League Italy might look forward to many years of
  peace and tranquillity.

  Reg. 20, fol. 103, October 8, 1456.—The Marquis of Varese, ambassador
  to the Duke of Milan, informs the Venetians that the Doge of
  Genoa—notwithstanding his open alliance with France and apparent
  subjection to her—has made a second and secret alliance with Arragon
  and Milan, in which Venice is prayed to join, against the French. The
  Venetians reply that, owing to the mutability and diversity of Genoese
  affairs, it is impossible to give any solid advice.

  Reg. 21, fol. 21, October 10, 1465.—The descendants of Valentine
  Visconti—_i.e._, the Dukes of Orleans and Brittany and the Count of
  Angoulême—sent secret ambassadors to Venice to treat concerning the
  recovery of the Duchy of Milan from the hands of Count Francesco
  Sforza. Venice replies with compliments, but expresses herself
  desirous to keep the peace.

  Reg. 22, fol. 176, July 28, 1466.—French ambassadors have been
  received at Venice from Louis XI., King of France. Venice assures him
  of her excellent disposition towards the new Duke of Milan as well as
  of her “antiqua benivolentia” towards his father. Venice believes a
  resumption of the Italian League is not at that moment necessary,
  extols King Louis for his intention to proceed against the Turk, and
  congratulates him on the quiet of his realm.

  The Latin originals of these documents will be included in the volume
  of “Pièces Justificatives,” for my History of the French in Italy,

At Christmas-time in 1453 the Venetians spared neither pains nor prayers
nor promise to induce the Dauphin to come and suppress Count Francesco
Sforza. In April of the next year[89] they sent to tell him, as
delicately as possible, that they had no further need of his services (a
refined way of informing him that they would oppose him), since they had
made peace with the man whom four months ago they had called the Common
Enemy of his countrymen, and whom they had so many times endeavoured to
assassinate. And probably the Dauphin was not sorry. For the spirit that
animated these Italians inspired him also. Already it had touched his
intelligent and sensitive spirit. Already, in 1447,[88] he had laughed
for joy when the French lost Genoa, and had declared “le Roy se
gouvernoit si mal qu’on ne pouvoit pis.” In the five years between 1445
and 1450 the Dauphin had passed from the friendship of Orleans to the
friendship of Burgundy, and his ideal had changed. He raged to see the
King prefer Italy to the north, and amuse himself with taking Genoa and
securing Asti when he should have set to conquering Normandy. He said
aloud that the true place for such a King as that was in such a
Hermitage as the Duke of Savoy’s. He plotted to seize the government of
affairs himself, and leave the King, in prosperous desuetude, to amuse
himself with his Belle Agnès and his pleasures. As we know, the plot
fell through, and the impatient Dauphin, a discomfited fugitive, was
himself the one to seek a hermitage at the Court of Burgundy. There he
spent five years of chafing exile and mortification while his father
ruled France, not unsuccessfully, after his own fashion, pursuing
shadows indeed in Italy, yet at home administering affairs and inventing
a regular army with no less zeal and skill for this extraneous ambition.
Louis was still at the Court of Philip of Burgundy when, in 1461, he
heard the news of his father’s death. And the prince who, of all others,
should do most for the reintegration of his country ascended the throne
of France.[87]

Footnote 87:

  Reg. 20, fol. 17, April 26, 1454.—“Ordre à Francesco Veniero de
  prévenir le dauphin, avec tous les ménagements possible, qu’ils ont
  faiz la paix avec Francesco Sforza et qu’ils n’ont plus besoin de ses
  services” (Charavay, _loc. cit._).

Footnote 88:

  Quoted by the Marquis de Beaucourt, iv. p. 244, from the “Procès de

Footnote 89:

  “Procès de Mariette” in the Preuves de Matthieu d’Escouchy, p. 290.
  See Marquis de Beaucourt, “Histoire de Charles VII.,” pp. 207 _et

As we know, the law of historic necessity required that the Dauphin
should renounce his ambition of a North Italian state—he had, in fact,
already renounced it; that he should abandon his early visions and his
early friends, and adopt for his counsellors the very men who once had
ruined him. Henceforth he must bend the whole strength of his spirit to
the furthering of that policy which he had so long, and at so great a
sacrifice, resisted and attempted to destroy. The interests of the time
required that France should forego all ambitions foreign to herself in
order to consolidate herself; that she should sacrifice the south in
order to insure the north; that she should also sacrifice the
aristocracy to the people; and Louis XI., who, as a prince, had paid so
dear for his adherence to the rights of the nobles, became the monarch
who more than any other was governed by men of low and base
condition—who more than any other oppressed and resisted the pride of
feudalism. Those who had been his friends became his enemies; those
likewise who had been his enemies became his friends. Francesco Sforza,
from whom he had been so eager to take his duchy, became the one man
alive whom he admired and respected. Yes, this successful captain of
adventure, who for years had prevented him in Milan, in Naples, and in
Genoa, who once had been the chief stumbling-block in the path of the
Dauphin, became the corner-stone of the policy of the King. Like
Catherine de’ Medici, like Rodrigo Borgia, like most unscrupulous
rulers, there was something oddly magnanimous in the moral indifference
of Louis IX. Sforza never suffered for his enmity of yore. The new King
of France was a being as destitute of rancour as devoid of gratitude.

With Savoy, Orleans, Dunois, and Anjou the new king was ill-disposed to
treat. He had learned the secret of their intrigues and their ambitions.
On May 10, 1463, he wrote to Sforza that he was content to come to an
understanding with Milan, if Milan would utterly disavow Savoy. This
conspirator, versed since boyhood in all the dismal ins and outs of
treachery, was too well aware of the tricks of his confederates.[90] It
still might be possible that his enemies were honest. They at least were
the only people he could trust; and more than any other he confided in
Francesco Sforza. In December, 1463, he made to the _de facto_ Duke of
Milan the significant cession of the French claim to Genoa.[91] He also
arranged for the cession of Savona. Negotiations were even begun for
yielding Asti to Francesco Sforza; but the inhabitants declared that
they would stand by the house of Orleans.

Footnote 90:

  March 14, 1451, Amédée of Savoy had promised to assist the Dauphin
  against all, “even against the King of France” (Charavay, _l. c._ p.
  34). This had a different aspect after Louis’ coronation.

Footnote 91:

  Dumont, iii. ccxxviii.

At first the cousins of the King could not believe that he had actually
abandoned them—he who had begun his career as the pupil of Dunois, and
had suffered so long as the champion of the nobles. So late as October
10, 1465, the descendants of Valentine Visconti sent a very secret
embassy to Venice[92] to propose to the Ten a league between their
government and the Duke of Orleans, the Count of Angoulême, and the Duke
of Brittany, for the purpose of ousting the usurper, Count Francesco,
and delivering the Duchy of Milan to Charles of Orleans. This league,
which could not be confirmed by the Pope, a political adversary, might,
it was suggested, be headed by the King of France. Probably the
Venetians were better informed as to the real intentions of Louis XI.
Certainly they knew that it was too late or too early to dream of
dislodging the Sforzas from Milan. They replied that they loved the
house of France, but that peace also was dear to them: they begged to be
excused from attacking Count Francesco.

Footnote 92:

  Secreta del Senato, MS. Reg. 21, folio 21.

After this for many years the house of Orleans ceased to struggle.
Before the year was out Charles of Orleans was dead, and the French
pretender to the crown of Milan was only an infant, three years old.
Before the child was six Dunois was also dead. Dunois—who had not
suffered the children of his adoptive mother to be cheated of their
inheritance in Asti—would, had he lived, have instructed his nephew in
the details of his claim to Milan. But Louis II. of Orleans, born in his
father’s seventy-second year, was naturally doomed to lose in infancy
his father’s contemporaries. As the child grew up every link was severed
that might have bound him to the past, and he knew little or nothing of
the pretensions of his house. His mother, who had a romantic worship for
the memory of Valentine Visconti, related to her son many a legend of
the quasi-royal power which during the last century his ancestors
possessed. But that supremacy seemed at an end for ever. In France, in
Italy, the star of Orleans suffered a long eclipse. By his own
experience in rebellion Louis XI. was aware how dangerous to the Crown
and how disastrous to the kingdom was the power of the great feudal
houses. Alençon and Armagnac and many another he diminished by
confiscation and captivity; Dunois, Bourbon, Saint-Vallier, Sancerre, he
attached to the Crown by royal marriages. Kinship in subjection,
independence in imprisonment: these were the two alternatives presented
by the King to the nobles of France. Among the most unfortunate of those
who accepted the former gift was the young Louis d’Orléans. Louis XI.
had decided that with this young man the house of Orleans should end;
and when its representative was eleven years of age, the King married
him to Jeanne of France, a gentle girl, deformed, incapable of
offspring, and so ugly that when she was brought to court for her
wedding the king himself exclaimed: _Je ne la croyais pas si laide_. To
this bride the young duke was married in 1473. “They will have no
expense with a nursery,” wrote the malicious King to Dammartin: _ils
n’auraient guères à besoigner et nourrir les enfans qui viendraient du
dit mariage: mais toutefois se feroit-il_.

Meanwhile the six sons of Sforza had grown to manhood; and the eldest
ruled in Milan, accepted, by the mere fact of his unchallenged
succession, as the lawful inheritor of his father’s duchy.


When Louis II. of Orleans had reached the age of twenty he was the best
archer, the most dexterous horseman, the most adroit and brilliant
man-at-arms about the Court of France. He was handsome, fond of the
arts, and well instructed. He had an engaging manner, gentle, gracious,
and benign. A brave and eager cavalier, he was ready for adventures; but
a strong hand kept him down, a hand whose cruel restraint was never
lifted from that audacious brow. Suddenly the pressure ceased: the hand
was gone; on August 30, 1483, King Louis died.

He was succeeded by a child of fourteen, an ugly, ignorant youth, who
had grown up neglected in the castle of Amboise, far from the Court,
alone with his gentle forsaken mother, Charlotte of Savoy, who had
taught him the only thing she knew, the plots of innumerable romances of
chivalry. For Louis XI., partly afraid of injuring the delicate
constitution of his only heir, and partly remembering his own dangerous
and rebellious childhood, denied any solid education to his son. He
never saw the boy, leaving him for years at a time to grow up as best he
might alone with his mother at Amboise. “Let the body grow strong
first,” said the King; “the mind will look to itself.” And, according to
tradition, the sole food that he provided for the eager mind of his son
was one single Latin maxim: _Qui nescit dissimulare nescit regnare_.
This was all the Latin that was taught to Charles VIII., and on this
solitary morsel of classic attainment he was never known to act. Louis
XI., for all his subtlety, had forgotten that by simply withholding one
sort of education you cannot insured vacuity. The child at Amboise knew
nothing of history, nothing of geography, nothing of the classics. But
his mind was stuffed with the deeds of Roland and Ogier, and the beauty
of _La belle dame sans merci_. Suddenly one summer day, unwonted
messengers knocked at the gates of Amboise; they fetched the child away
to see an old, misshapen, suspicious man, whom he did not know—who was
his father. The next day Charles VIII. was king of France under the
regency of his married sister, Anne de Bourbon. Madame Anne inherited
her father’s dislike and distrust of Orleans; but her sister was his
wife and adored him, and her brother, the king, admired him. She did her
best to repress Orleans in France; but her hand, though firm, had not
the solidity of her father’s. Orleans grew and expanded.

Just at this moment Venice was in sore distress. Almost every power in
Italy was against her, and she turned for help to France. On January 16,
1484, she sent Antonio Loredan to Charles VIII., complaining of the
aggressions of Naples, Milan, and Ferrara, and desiring a resumption of
the Franco-Venetian league of Louis XI. That league had been a very tame
and passive piece of policy; the Venetians hoped a bolder favour from a
younger king. Loredan was bidden to insist upon the suggestion that the
kingdom of Naples occupied by Ferdinand of Arragon, belonged in fact to
France.[95] “Nor content with that,” run the instructions of the Senate,
“this king it was who instigated Lodovico Sforza to the usurpation of
Milan.” Lodovico il Moro,[94] the fourth son of Count Francesco Sforza,
had, as a matter of fact, usurped the position of his nephew in 1481,
and, though nominally regent, conducted himself as Duke of Milan. But
this intrusion was not the seizure which now the Venetians meant to
blame. They wished to suggest, as the lawful claimant, not the young son
of Galeazzo Sforza, but the Duke of Orleans.

“Express to the Duke of Orleans in secret our desire for his exaltation
[run the instructions given to Loredan], and explain to him how good is
the opportunity for him to recover the Duchy of Milan, which belongs to
him by right; and how his claim would be favoured by the differences and
dissidences at present existing between ourselves and Milan, as also by
the discontent of the Milanese with their tyrants. Inform the Duke that
Lodovico Sforza aspires to seize the sovereignty for himself, amid the
murmurs of his people, and that he will certainly massacre all who
uphold the claim of the Duchess Bona. Inflame and excite as best you can
the Duke of Orleans to pursue this enterprise, ... and if the French
should choose to make good their claim to Naples as against the tyrant
Ferdinand, they could not find a better time than now.”[93]

Footnote 93:

  MSS. Secreta del Senato, Reg. 31, fol. 123, tergo.

Footnote 94:

  Many reasons have been given for the assumption of this surname. As a
  fact it appears to have been a baptismal name. In February, 1461,
  Bianca Maria Sforza sent to the shrine of the Santo at Padua the
  silver image of a child, _ex voto_ for the recovery of her fourth son,
  Ludovicus Maurus, _filius quartus masculus_, aged five years.
  (“Archivio Storico Lombardo,” Anno xiii; Caffi on B.M. Sforza.)

Footnote 95:

  Reg. 31, fol. 131, tergo.

This is the programme of the great invasions of 1494 and 1500; but the
times were not yet ripe. On February 4th the Ten despatched a second
missive to the Duke of Orleans,[96] instigating him to the speedy
conquest of Milan, and offering him the entire Venetian army for this
service. The young Duke appears to have taken these proposals very
seriously, and the project created some disturbance and quarrelling at
Court. But the Venetians were incapable of any sustained policy in
foreign affairs; to serve Venice in the way that at the moment appeared
most advantageous was their only aim, and thus their attitude was one of
constant unrest. In August they made peace with Naples and Milan, and
sent word to Orleans that they were glad to hear that all disunion was
at an end between him and the King. The same thing had happened in
Italy. Peace had set in under the happiest auspices, and a fraternal
affection united the King of Naples and the Regent of Milan with the
Venetian Senate.

Footnote 96:

  Reg. 32, fol. 87.

So ended the project for a French succession. Louis of Orleans, thwarted
of his foreign ambition, strove for greatness at home, and contested the
regency with Anne of Bourbon. The civil war, the flight into Brittany,
the pretensions of Louis to the hand of his beautiful cousin (the
heiress to that duchy), the defeat of the Orleanist troops at
Saint-Aubin on July 28, 1488, and the three years’ captivity of the
Duke, are matters of common knowledge. But as Charles VIII. grew out of
the tutelage of his sister, more and more he grew to favour his
imprisoned cousin. There was little to fear from him now that the King
was a major, and Anne of Brittany the Queen of France. In 1491 the Duke
was released; and when in 1494 Charles at the head of his troops invaded
Italy, Louis of Orleans preceded him across the mountains, chief in
command, master of the fleet, destined to drive the Neapolitans from
Genoa, and thence to lead the fleet of France into the port of Naples.


The invasion of Italy by Charles VIII. appeared, even to contemporaries,
a miracle. The young King, ill advised, without generals, without money,
with the impromptu army of a moment’s whim, traversed hostile Italy as
glorious as Charlemagne. Charlemagne, in fact, was the true leader of
his forces: for that glorious phantom marched before him, filling with
dread the hearts of the enemy, and blinding them to the actual penury of
the invader. With the events of that romantic campaign we have no
business at this moment, for, notwithstanding his commission to lead the
fleet to Naples, the Duke of Orleans did not go south of Lombardy. While
Orleans was gaining the battle of Rapallo, suddenly the King arrived at
Asti. It was Sept. 9th, a malarious season. Across the wide plain, the
marshy fields of Lombardy, Orleans galloped, fresh from victory, to a
council with the King. He had scarcely arrived at Asti when Charles fell
ill of the small-pox. The attack was slight, and within a fortnight he
recovered. But the very day the King began to mend, Orleans sickened of
a quartan ague, and when his cousin was well again and ready, on Oct.
6th, to set out for Naples, Orleans was still unfit to take the road. He
sent his company south with the royal troops, and with a handful of
squires and servants remained behind in his hereditary county of Asti,
among the subjects who had loved his father, and who had served himself,
far-off, unseen, through years of peril and intrigue, with as devoted
and chivalrous a spirit of loyalty as ever the highlanders of Jacobite
Scotland dedicated to an absent Stuart.

Sforza and Orleans were now the nearest neighbours, bound to each other
by their interest in the King. Fate has seldom brought about more ironic
complication. When Lodovico Sforza, out of revenge and anger towards
King Ferdinand, had revived the French claim to Naples, and had
instigated Charles to enter Italy, he had not foreseen the accident that
left the Duke of Orleans within a league or two of Milan. Charles VIII.
entered Italy as the friend and guest of Lodovico il Moro, the Regent of
Milan. To the external and uninitiated world the French claim to the
duchy appeared about as actual as the claim of the English kings to
France. Lodovico il Moro, familiar with the France of Louis XI., knew
that the claims of Orleans were not likely to be countenanced by the

The present is never clear to us. Its Archives, its Secreta, are not
given over to our perusal. Lodovico il Moro was probably uninstructed in
that secret policy of the Venetian Senate which, in 1483, had so
strongly urged the half-forgotten rights of Orleans. But we, familiar
with those silent manuscripts, are not surprised to find that no sooner
had the King gone south than Venice and Florence began to interfere with
Orleans. The very day the King left Asti,[97] a secret messenger from
Piero de’ Medici entered the city. His errand was to Orleans. In their
desire to stop the progress of Charles VIII., and in their hatred of
Lodovico who had invoked the stranger, the Italian princes proposed to
offer Milan to the French in place of Naples. Orleans himself suggested,
unknown to his chivalrous young cousin, that the King would be satisfied
if Ferdinand would pay him homage for Naples, and, besides a war
indemnity, a yearly pension such as the kings of France pay to England.
For himself, and as a just fine on Lodovico, he intimated that the Duchy
of Milan might be divided between the houses of Orleans and Sforza. But
as time went on, and the arms of France were everywhere successful, he
grew bolder in his demands, and “Milan for the heir of the Visconti” was
his cry.

Footnote 97:

  The messenger left Florence Oct. 3, 1494. See for further details of
  these schemes the first vol. of Desjardins’ “Nég. dip. dans la

But Charles, ignorant of the intrigues of Orleans and Florence, of
Venice and of Sforza (who also for his private ends wished the King to
keep this side the Apennines), crossed the southern range as he had
crossed the Alps, and by the new year he was in Rome. Then, afraid of
the French success, the Italians began to draw back from their
conspiracy with Orleans. They had wished the French to take Milan
instead of Naples, but Milan as well as Naples was too much.


When the French had entered Italy, Orleans had had no legal rival to his
claim, unless, indeed, the Emperor be called his rival. To the people of
Lombardy, oppressed by taxes, hating their tyrant, he appeared as the
rightful heir, the last of the Visconti. Round the history of a past not
yet remote there had grown a mist through which all things appeared of
vague, heroic, and mysterious proportions, of which the King Arthur, the
legendary glory, was the first duke—“Saint Giangaleazzo,” as one of the
brothers of Pavia called him in the presence of Commines. “This saint of
yours,” cried the amused historian, “was a great and wicked, though most
honourable, tyrant.” “That may be,” said the brother; “we call him saint
because he did good to our order.”

This was also the feeling of the Milanese, for whom Giangaleazzo had
invented security and peace, for whom he had conquered immense
possessions. They forgot his sins, his crimes, and the first duke became
the hero of the place. To be the last descendant of this man seemed in
itself a claim to inherit his possessions, to sit in his place, to expel
the usurper. While this was their feeling, in October the usurper died.

Giangaleazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan, a youth of five-and-twenty, kept in
prison by his uncle, the Regent Lodovico, died no less suspiciously than
the little princes in the Tower. He left behind him a son four years
old, his legitimate successor. But, with ominous prevision, a year
before this time, Lodovico the regent had negotiated with the Emperor to
obtain the reversion of the duchy. He had admitted that his father, his
brother, his nephew were no more than illegal usurpers: moreover they
had prejudiced the rights of the empire by receiving their titles only
from the people. Thus the infant son of Giangaleazzo was the son, not
merely of a usurper, but of a man who had forfeited whatever rights he
originally had. Conceding this, Lodovico besought the Emperor, of his
free grace and bounty, to bestow the duchy on himself and his
descendants, even as once before an emperor had bestowed Milan upon a
man who had no legal claim—namely, on Giangaleazzo Visconti. Maximilian
consented, and on Sept. 5, 1494, the Imperial letters of promise[98]
were despatched from Antwerp, letters for which the Regent paid the sum
of 100,000 ducats.

Footnote 98:

  The copy is to be found in Corio, 457-59. I do not know where to find
  the original document, but MSS. copies, evidently from the Archives of
  Pavia, are to be found among the British Museum documents, Additional
  MSS., 30, 675. Giovio mentions a report that after the death of
  Francesco Sforza II., Count Massimiliano Sforza found the deed and
  restored it to the Emperor. Lodovico il Moro ever insisted that he
  received Milan, not by succession, but direct from the Emperor. He
  called himself the fourth, and not the seventh, duke.

This document, kept in the deepest privacy, can have arrived in Milan
but a few days before Giangaleazzo died. Every one believed that the
young man had died of poison. It was a piteous thing. But the son of the
murdered man was only four years old; and the French were in
Lombardy—the guests of Lodovico. “To be short,” says Commines, “Lodovico
had himself declared Duke of Milan, and that, as I think, was his only
end in bringing us across the mountains.” Terrorised by the presence of
the French, the people hailed the Regent as their duke, “and crying
_Duca! Duca!_” (wrote Corio), “and having robed him in the ducal mantle,
they set him on horseback, and he rode to the temple, the men of his
faction proclaiming him the while, and they set the joy-bells ringing,
while all this time the dead body of Giangaleazzo was lying still
unburied in the great cathedral.”

Conscious of the secret diploma in his pocket, Lodovico could enjoy the
pleasure of this ceremony with a feeling of security. Yet his crown did
not sit quite smoothly on his brows. Orleans in Asti was assuming an
intolerable air of patronage. And behind that thin row of partisans
shouting with their hired voices, “_Duca! Duca!_” there was a sullen,
silent crowd. Those, and the rest of Italy, believed that Lodovico had
poisoned the father in order to usurp the inheritance of the child,
Francesco. Of the three pretenders, by far the most popular was the
unconscious infant, who bore so quaintly in his mother’s arms the
beloved and redoubtable name of his grandfather, the great condottiere.
“Nearly all the Milanese,” wrote Commines, “would have revolted to the
King had he only followed Trivulzio’s advice and set up the arms of the
child-duke.” But Charles refused to injure the claims of his cousin of

Meanwhile the relations between the French and Lodovico were growing
difficult and strained. The presence of Orleans in Asti, the miraculous
success of Charles, inspired the Duke of Milan with the bitterest regret
that ever he had called his allies across the mountains. He had used
them as a weapon, and now their use had passed. When, on Feb. 27, 1495,
he heard the news that the French had entered Naples, he simulated every
sign of joy. But while the bells were still ringing in the steeples, he
drew aside the Venetian envoy. “I have had bad news,” he whispered.
“Naples is lost. Let us form a league against the common enemy.”

This was in the end of February. During the next month there was much
secret business in the diplomatic world. Ever since the entry of the
French into Rome the great powers had looked unkindly on the triumph of
Charles VIII. The Emperor beheld with dismay the alliance of Ghibelline
Milan and the Ghibelline Colonna with the King of France. The Pope
believed with reason that France, the Colonna, and the Savelli might
depose a pontiff so unpopular as Alexander VI. Ferdinand and Isabella
declared that the intention of Charles was nothing less than to make
himself the king of Italy and then proceed to conquer Spain. So likely
did it seem that this ungainly, limping, ill-instructed youth might
justify the name he had assumed—_Carolus Octavus, Secundus Magnus_.

At Venice in the dead of the night the secret council used to meet.
There, with the Venetian Senate, the ambassadors of Germany, Castile and
Arragon, and Milan conferred together. They were negotiating a league to
expel the French from Italy. On March 31st, while Charles was still shut
in the Neapolitan trap, the quintuple alliance was proclaimed. The last
name among the allies was the name of the man who had called Charles
into Italy, now given for the first time among his equals his new
dignity of Duke of Milan. Lodovico hastened to legalize this official
recognition. In May the Imperial privilege, formally promised in the
preceding autumn, arrived at Milan. In presence of the Imperial envoys
the privilege was read aloud at Lodovico’s solemn coronation.


Lodovico had sprung a disagreeable surprise upon the Duke of Orleans,
for his title, derived directly from Maximilian, was now as good as that
of Giangaleazzo Visconti himself. To conquer Milan by arms, to force the
Emperor into revoking the privilege of 1495, to induce him to grant a
new one confirming the Visconti succession—this was the only course that
remained to Orleans.

Secret as the Council had been at Venice, it had not escaped the notice
of Commines, who wrote in March to Orleans bidding him look to the walls
of Asti, and sent a messenger to Bourbon in France bidding him despatch
a reinforcement to the scanty force of Orleans. The young Duke at Asti
was not sorry to receive the message. He had now been six months in
Lombardy; he had done nothing; and he was eager to come to battle with
Lodovico. To all the French, by this time, Il Moro appeared a traitor
and a secret poisoner. To Louis of Orleans he appeared all this and also
the usurper of his inheritance.

Great were the pomp and beauty of Milan in the year 1495, humbled as yet
by no centuries of foreign servitude, ruined by no battles and untouched
by time. Wonderful in the fresh whiteness of its stately cathedral;
delicate with the unblurred beauty of the new frescoes by Lionardo; rich
with statuary, broken now and lost for ever; gay with the clear fine
moulding of its rose-red palaces, Milan in the rich plain was a fountain
of wealth to its possessor. When Orleans beheld this earthly paradise of
the Renaissance, his claim to Milan, which had been at first but a
shadowy pretension, took certainty and substance in his mind. And as the
attention of the young man was drawn to his Visconti ancestors, and to
the marriage of his grandfather with the daughter of the Duke of Milan,
he and his counsellors began to reconstruct the half-forgotten title
that he had to Milan.

No one was very clear as to the point. The ducal secretaries found
themselves compelled to suppose, to invent. Nicole Gilles, the chief of
them, declared that Filippo Maria Visconti had married Madame Bonne,
daughter of King John of France (a lady who had she existed, would have
been a good forty years older than her husband), by whom he had two
girls, Valentine, who married the Duke of Orleans, and Bonne, who
married the lord of Montauban in Brittany. Besides these he had a
bastard child, Bianca Maria, the wife of Sforza.

This is perhaps the clearest of these singular genealogies _pour rire_.
Louis was glad to escape from their confusion and bewilderment to the
plain issues of the field of battle. There seemed a good chance for him.
Lodovico was so hated by his subjects[99] that they would welcome almost
any change. Almost at the same moment that Piacenza offered herself to
King Charles if he would undertake to support the child Francesco, the
cities of Milan, Pavia, and Novara were secretly practising with
Orleans, and Commines declares he would have been received in Milan with
greater rejoicings than in his town of Blois.

Footnote 99:

  “Era molto odiato dai popoli a cagione dei denari.”—“Bello Gallico,”
  i. p. 176.

On April 17th Lodovico il Moro insolently summoned Orleans to quit Asti
and cross the Alps again with all his men. Thanks to the warning of
Commines, Orleans already had fortified the town.

“This place,” he replied,[100] “and its dependent castles are a part of
my inheritance, and to put them in other hands, and to go away and leave
my own possessions, is a thing that I never meant to do. Tell your
master,” he added to the messenger, “that he will find me ready for
combat, either waiting for him here or going forth to meet him on the
field of battle. I have received a commission from the King, and it is
my intention to fulfil it.”

Footnote 100:

  For this letter, and for the letters of Orleans to Bourbon, quoted
  from the Library of St. Petersburg, _vide_ vol. ii. of Cherrier’s
  “Histoire de Charles VIII.,” p. 184, _et seq._

Unfortunately, the real commission that Orleans had received from his
cousin was to keep quiet and on no account to break the peace (for the
league was defensive, and did not menace the royal troops if they
retired without offence) until Charles and his diminished army had
arrived at Asti. They would be in imminent peril if any rash act of
Orleans should let loose upon them, amid the bewildering passes of the
mountains, the eager concourse of their vigilant enemies. But Orleans
did not remember this. He was burning for personal conflict with his
rival, indignant at his treachery, and persuaded that he could easily
secure the whole of Lombardy to France. Thrice in April he wrote to
Bourbon entreating succour. “Only send me the reinforcements at once,
and I think I shall do the King a service that men will talk of many a
year.” The forces came; and Orleans saw himself the master of 5,000
foot, 100 archers, 1,300 men-at-arms or thereabouts, and two fine pieces
of artillery.[101] He was aware that Lodovico was so out-at-elbows that
he could not pay his army. He knew the discontent of Lombardy. He felt
himself so much older and wiser than the King that he found it hard to
obey his commands. His secret practice with the nobles of the Lombard
cities informed him that all was ripe for a sudden stroke. On the last
night of May, in the safety of the dark, twenty men-at-arms under Jean
de Louvain rode out from Asti across the Lombard plain, until at
daybreak on June 1st they reached the gate of San Stefano at Novara. The
gate was opened to them by the factors of the Opicini, two nobles of the
place; the citizens ran out to meet the French; the handful of Sforzesco
troops within the town barred themselves in the citadel. By June 13th,
Orleans, with the flower

Footnote 101:

  This is the Venetian estimate. Guicciardini says, 300 lances, 3,000
  Swiss, and 3,000 Gascons.

No sooner was he there than, first Pavia, then Milan, offered to receive
him. He ought to have gone at once, before the armies of his enemies
could encircle him in Novara. But his whole soul was invaded by a deep
distrust of the Italians. It seemed safer to temporise until the royal
troops came up. Long before these could possibly arrive, on June 22nd,
the Venetians protected Milan with 1,000 Grecian stradiots, 2,000 foot,
1,000 cuirassiers.[102] It was now impossible to take Milan, which a
little boldness might easily have gained. It was impossible even to
evacuate Novara. And when, after many difficulties heroically overcome,
the little army of Charles arrived in Asti on July 27th, sorely in need
of rest and of refreshment, a new and arduous task awaited it; for
Orleans and his soldiers were perishing of hunger in besieged Novara.

Footnote 102:

  This is the Venetian estimate. For the figures of Giovio and Corio,
  see Cherrier, ii. 197.


Commines has set dramatically before us the division between the army
and the council of the King. He himself warmly espoused the cause of the
army, which frankly declared a battle impossible against such
overwhelming odds: unless reinforcements arrived from Switzerland,
Orleans must be released by composition from Novara. But the council
insisted on an immediate engagement. The soldiers commonly said that
Orleans had promised Briçonnet an income of 10,000 crowns for his son,
if Milan should still be gained and the siege of Novara raised. The
Swiss did not come; the army was too small. In September there began to
be a serious talk of peace. On the 26th of that month, Orleans and his
army were released by composition from Novara. Over 2,000 of them had
died of hunger, and many fell by the roadside from sheer weakness and
died there as they lay. (Commines found fifty of them dying in a garden,
and saved their lives by a timely mess of pottage.) Most of those who
lived to reach the camp perished of the dangerous abundance. More than
three hundred of their wasted corpses were cast upon the dunghills of

This was a heavy price to pay for one man’s disobedient ambition. All
the harder did it seem to buy nothing with so great expense. There were
many who were still unwilling for peace. Orleans had endeared himself to
his troops by his conduct during the hunger of Novara, where he had
fared and fasted like any common man-at-arms, setting aside the ducal
mess for the use of the sick in hospital. His mess-fellows were willing
still to die for him. By an ironic turn of fate, on the very day on
which the army evacuated Novara, 20,000 Swiss came to the relief of the
king. With such a reinforcement as this, cried Orleans, Ligny, D’Amboise
and their men, Charles might not only conquer Milan, but make himself
master of the whole of Italy. But the negotiations for peace already
were begun; Novara was lost; the French soldiers were few and much
enfeebled; and it was rumoured that the Swiss meant no less than to
capture King Charles with all his nobles, carry them off into the
impregnable fastness of the Alps, and then exact a fabulous ransom for
their liberty.

The King thought it best to dismiss at once these dangerous allies, and
take his homesick soldiers back to France. On Oct. 10th peace was
concluded. The king promised—on condition that Lodovico Sforza renounced
all claim to Asti, made no obstacle to the relief of the French in
Naples, and paid to Orleans a war indemnity of 50,000 ducats—not to
sustain his cousin’s right to Milan. Orleans was enraged and
disappointed. In secret he negotiated for the support of the Swiss
captains, and with these and with 800 of his men-at-arms he meant to
march from Vercelli upon Milan. But the night before he was to leave,
when all was ready, suddenly he demanded the consent of the King.
Charles refused to sanction this breach of the peace, and bade his
cousin join the army in marching back to France. By Nov. 7th Orleans,
none the richer for his endeavours, was with the King at Lyons.

A little more than a year after this the King would gladly have sent his
cousin of Orleans to conquer Milan: it was the Duke who made excuses and
would not go. For soon after the French returned to France, the Dauphin
died. Charles, who had inherited that terrible distrust of his own
children from which he had suffered in his father, did not greatly
mourn, or so at least Commines assures us. But if the quickness of a
little child of three—his own son—had given him concern, much more did
he dread his new heir, the Duke of Orleans. The queen, bewailing the
loss of her child, had fallen into a lamentable melancholy, and Charles,
with an absurd idea of cheering the poor mother, ordered a masque of
gentlemen to dance before her. Orleans was among them, and he danced to
such purpose, with such lightness of heart and heel, such buoyancy and
gladness, that the sorrowing queen was seriously offended; and Charles
himself determined, if possible, to send his cheerful heir a little
further from the throne.

An opportunity soon offered. Florence, faithful against all the world to
France, sent to the King at Amboise, asking him to come and uproot the
Sforza out of Milan. She offered to furnish 800 men-at-arms and 5,000
footmen at her own cost. The cardinal of St. Peter in Vinculis, the
Orsini, Bentivoglio of Bologna, Este of Ferrara, Gonzaga of Mantua, all
had promised to hire their forces to the King. Genoa was to be conquered
by Trivulzio while Orleans marched on Milan. The plan of campaign was
settled, the troops were all drawn up, Trivulzio had already entered
Italy with 6,000 infantry and 800 men-at-arms, when, on the very night
of his departure, Orleans suddenly abandoned his post. On his own
private quarrel, he declared, he could not and he would not go; as the
King’s lieutenant, and at his express command, he was ready to
depart—not otherwise. “I would never force him to the wars against his
will,” exclaimed Charles, and, though for many days the Florentine
ambassadors besought him to exercise the authority of the throne, he
refused to interfere with Orleans. “Thus was the voyage dashed,” relates
Commines, “spite of great charges and all our friends in a readiness.
And this was done to the King’s great grief, for Milan being once won,
Naples would have yielded of itself.”

What, then, had happened to change the mind of Orleans—Orleans,
disobedient at Novara, and disobedient again to-day for so opposite a
reason? “He shunned this enterprise,” continues our historian, “because
he saw the King ill-disposed of his body, whose heir he should be if he
died.” “He would not go,” relates Guicciardini, “for he saw that the
King was ill, and to himself belonged the succession of the crown.”

Just a year after this, on the morning of Palm Sunday (April 8, 1498),
Louis of Orleans, fallen into a sort of undetermined half-disgrace, was
standing at a window in his house at Blois, when he saw in the street
some soldiers of the royal guard, running quickly. “God save the King!”
they cried; “Vive le roi Louis XII.!” This was the first King Louis
heard of the sudden death of his cousin. The day before, Charles VIII.
had fallen down, suddenly stricken to death, as he and his wife were
watching a game of tennis from the gallery at Amboise.


The French claimant to Milan was now the King of France. From this
moment the pretensions of Orleans became a factor in European history.
The plans of the first Duke of Milan went so grievously astray, that,
instead of France and Germany each holding the other in check, for half
a century their armies occupied the soil of Lombardy, nor, when they
withdrew, was the land left at peace, but, baffled and paralyzed, the
helpless prey of Spain.

This Iliad is too important to be contained within the slender limits of
an essay. We can but briefly indicate the events which developed and
then extinguished the right of the French to Milan. Conquered in 1499,
by Louis XII. of France, Lombardy remained for five and twenty years an
intermittent province of that kingdom, continually revolting,
continually reconquered. During this time several privileges and
investitures, extracted from the Emperor, confirmed the victories of
France, and annulled the claims of Lodovico Sforza. These investitures
are worthy of at least our brief consideration, since, from the moment
of their bestowal, the French claim to Milan, already emphasised by the
rights of heredity, testamentary bequest, and contract, received the
final sanction of the feudal law.

The first of these Imperial investitures was bestowed on King Louis XII.
by the hand of Maximilian on April 7, 1505.[103] It secured the Duchy of
Milan (_non obstante priore investitura illustri Ludovico Sfortia prius
exhibita_) to the King of France and to his sons; or, in default of
males, to his daughter Claude. At this time, through the influence of
Queen Anne, Claude was most unnaturally betrothed to the permanent enemy
of her country, the future Charles V., and in this document he is
mentioned as her husband and co-heir—a fact he did not allow to slip.
But fortunately the heiress of Brittany, Orleans, and Milan, was not
allowed to marry the great rival of France. On June 14, 1509, a second
investiture confirmed the inheritance of Claude, and associated with her
therein her future husband, Francis of Angoulême, her cousin, equally
with herself the offspring of Valentine and Orleans.[104] This Imperial
document explicitly admits the right of feminine succession to a Lombard
fief,[105] for Claude, it affirms, is the heiress to Milan through her
father, the grandson of Madame Valentine. But it says nothing of the
descent of Francis of Angoulême, although it provides that if Claude
should die in childhood, and the King have no other children born to
take her place, then Francis of Angoulême shall be recognized as in his
own right Duke of Milan because he is the heir of the King of France.

Footnote 103:

  Luenig, sectio ii. classis i.: “De Ducato Mediolanesi,” xliv.

Footnote 104:

  See in Luenig, June 14, 1509, No. xlv., and also, with some
  unimportant variations of text, Bib. Nat. Paris, MS. 2950, Ancien
  Fonds Français.

Footnote 105:

  _Præfatus rex ex ducibus Mediolani originem trahit, medio illustris
  quondam dominæ Valentinæ aviæ suæ, filiæ quondam illustris Johannis
  Galeatii Mediolani ducis._

These are the rights of Francis I. to Milan, rights absolute and
impregnable. But it was only by continual conquest that the French could
keep their hold upon the Milanese. For the tendencies of ages go to show
us that there is a natural right more potent than the claims of blood,
succession, testament, adoption, or investiture. The French dukes of
Milan were, in their own dominions, foreigners. And, as the wise
Commines foresaw—

“There is no great seniorie but in the end the dominion thereof
remaineth to the natural countrymen. And this appeareth by the realm of
France, a great part whereof the Englishmen possessed the space of four
hundred years, and yet now hold they nothing therein but Calais and two
little castles, the defence whereof costeth them yearly a great sum of
money. And the self-same appeareth also by the realm of Naples and the
Isle of Sicily, and the other provinces possessed by the French, where
now is no memorial of their being there, save only their ancestors’

It was the fatal battle of Pavia which really lost her Italian
dependencies to France. The treaty of Madrid, extorted by compulsion,
which proved so powerless to restore to the Emperor Burgundy (already
become an integral part of France), resigned to him for ever the
dominions of the French in Italy; not, however, without a struggle. No
sooner was Francis released from Madrid than he declared that extorted
contract void. He despatched protest after protest[106] to all the
courts in Europe: but what availed to retain his hold on Cognac, proved
vain to regain him the Milanese.

Footnote 106:

  See for example “Protestations de François 1^{er},” Bib. Nat. MS.

Immediately after the battle of Pavia, Charles V. had invested Francesco
Sforza II., the son of Il Moro, with the duchy of his fathers. But what
should happen on the death of Francesco Sforza, a childless man?
Foreseeing this event, the hopes of the king of France were not
extinguished; and the ten years between 1530 and 1540 are filled with
the various endeavours, menaces, persuasions, by which he strove to
obtain from the emperor the Duchy of Milan for the second son of France.
Since it was evidently impossible to induce Charles V. to let Milan be
an adjunct to the French Crown, the ambition of the king persevered upon
a lower level, and a French Duke of Milan became the sum of his desires.
At two different moments the realization of this scheme appeared
possible. In 1535, after the death of Francesco Sforza II., negotiations
were set on foot to obtain the Milanese for Orleans. A document still
existing in the National Library at Paris[107] proves how lively and how
sanguine at this moment was the hope of Francis I. to recover Milan. The
king offered a promise never to unite this duchy to the Crown of France,
and declared himself ready to expend an immense sum on its investiture.
But the Venetians,[108] aware of the danger to themselves which a great
French state must create in Italy, temporized and manœuvred so well that
the matter came to nothing; for Charles V. was in a humour to credit
their assertions, that any time was better than time present. The
affairs of Italy were dull and dead to him. All his energies were fixed
upon the idea of the crusade against Algiers. It was proposed that
Orleans should join him in this enterprize,[109] and that, hand to hand
in this holy fight, emperor and prince might consent to forget the
bitter memory of bygone days. But in 1536 the eldest son of Francis
died, and Orleans became the Dauphin of France. The schemes, the policy
which during several years had endeavoured to secure for the husband of
Catherine de’ Medici an Italian principality, collapsed before that
unexpected stroke of fate. Orleans was not to be the head of an Italian
kingdom reaching from the Alps to Rome, and in 1540 Charles V. invested
his own son, Philip of Spain, with the Duchy of Milan. Yet France could
not acquiesce in this alienation of her transalpine inheritance, and in
1544 the disastrous treaty of Crépy provided that, in two years from
that date, either Milan or the Netherlands should be bestowed upon the
third son of Francis. But before the time of the engagement had expired,
Prince Charles was dead, and Milan fast in the grasp of the Spaniards.

Footnote 107:

  Bib. Nat. MS. 2846, No. 57: _Instruction baillée au Seigneur
  d’Espercieu après la mort du duc de Milan, Sforce, &c._

Footnote 108:

  Ibid.: _Les Vénitiens ont practiqué bien avant cette mattière et
  laissent, ce semble, le dict Sieur de Granvelle entendre qu’ils
  parlent autrement que le roy, par aventure, ne pense; l’ambassadeur
  parle assez publiquement de diviser le dict estat en plusieurs

Footnote 109:


                       THE MALATESTAS OF RIMINI.

                           NOTES AND DETAILS.

It is a centre for many memories, this little town of Rimini, set in the
plain by the Adriatic. Here ruled and ravaged the Mastin Vecchio of
Dante. The eyes of Francesca and her lover remember eternally these
yellow sands. Here Parisina left her innocence. Here dwelt Gismondo,
prince of traitors. And there are older memories than these. Yet in the
city whence Cæsar crossed the Rubicon, whence Augustus began the great
Flaminian Way, we remember, not Cæsar or Augustus, but that strange,
brave, cruel, perfidious race of petty despots, whose encroaching
personality and whose genius for architecture has left an enduring trace
on the cities of Romagna.

Pesaro, Fano, Cesena, Verruchio, and many another town owned the unquiet
sway of these Malatestas, and found them a perverse and twisted race,
shot with opposite qualities. They were a race of wrongheads, as their
surname tells us. Criminal often and yet not merely vicious, having some
great thought in them mostly, some fine intention still manifest through
the error of their lives, many of their vices were due to circumstance.
A dominant, courageous race of princelings, mostly illegitimate, never
sure of their tenure, it was only by unquestioned autocracy and a
never-relaxed grasp that they could secure their state from inner and
outer ravage. Their hand was against every man, and every man’s against
them. Not only the Pope anxious to enlarge his Venetian frontier, and
Venice eager for another province on the Adriatic seaboard; not only the
Duke of Urbino, the hereditary foe, perched like an eagle on the hills
above, watching the unguarded moment to pounce upon his prey: not only
these, and Sforza and Arragon, but every brother or cousin of the house,
from his petty stronghold in the plain, was ready to snatch from the
lord of Rimini, his dearly held supremacy.

Such absolute power in the present, with such uncertain future, is above
all things dangerous to heady natures. The Malatestas grew mad sometimes
with their unrestrained indulgence, mad with cruelty and wild debauch;
but we repeat they were not merely vicious. They were strong, cunning,
brave unto death, ambitious; they knew how to make their subjects love
them; they left their little seaside village a monument of art, and made
their few miles of plain a power in Italy.

In 1427 there was no lawful heir to this long-enriched possession. Carlo
Malatesta, twice married, lived in childish state at Rimini: Pandolfo of
Fano, dying in 1427, left no heir from his three brides; but, in
bequeathing to his brother Carlo his estate of Fano, he also sent to him
three natural children, still young boys, for whom both uncle and father
had in vain attempted to obtain a bull of legitimation. Powerful enemies
stood in their path. By excluding these children, Malatesta of Pesaro on
the one hand, and Frederic of Urbino on the other, hoped to succeed to
Rimini and Fano; and for long they persuaded the Pope to their own
interests. But Carlo Malatesta was not easily thwarted.

This Carlo was in many ways the most honourable of his race; a
righteous, moral, pious soldier and captain, much such another as those
who saved England under Cromwell. It is recorded of him that, entering
Mantua in triumph on the morning of Virgil’s birthday, he found the
great irregular square there full of revellers, dancing and singing and
crowning with wreaths of flowers the statue of the poet. Whereat,
incensed at such worship paid to a vain heathen idol, he led up his
soldiers to the pedestal and bade them throw the statue into the Mincio;
which being done, or reported to be done, such a chorus of blame and
indignation rose throughout the humanistic Hellenist Italy of that day
as not one of the orgies, crimes, brutalities, and lusts of Carlo’s
kinsmen had ever wakened. All this gave little discomfiture to Carlo,
himself in his way a connoisseur of art and letters, and the first
patron of the young Ghiberti, whom he employed to decorate the Gattolo
at Rimini. Seldom indeed was Rimini so enviable as during the long and
prosperous reign of Carlo. But in 1429 Carlo died.

Just before his death he had procured the legitimation of his nephews.
He was succeeded by Galeotto, the eldest, a lad of seventeen, who found
a heavy load in the much-battered helmet and sheath left empty for him.
Many hungry eyes adverse to him were fixed already on that jacent helm;
Frederic of Urbino and the faithless cousin of Pesaro were ranked close
beneath the city gates; the more ready to snatch his inheritance because
Eugene IV., the newly elected Pope, discussed with much dislike and
doubt the legitimation granted to Carlo by his predecessor. The Pope,
represented by Urbino, claimed Rimini as devolving to the See; Sforza
and Pesaro, each for himself, were ready to contest it with him. What
chance against such tremendous odds had Galeotto, seventeen years old,
weak in health, illegitimate, with no great ally to enforce his claims?

A more inadequate champion the mind cannot imagine. No David eager to
fight the giant, this Galeotto Malatesta, but a wan, emaciated youth,
half-crazed, half-saint. In the middle of the panic, with the horror of
a triple sack maddening the miserable Riminese, this prince left the
city to dwell in the monastery of Arcangelo, outside the gates. There he
passed his days serene, scathless in the midst of peril; neither for
himself nor his kingdom taking any thought.

So strange this spectacle, so awful, that the very enemies of Rimini
stopped in their onslaught amazed. The lion, it is said, will not attack
a sleeping prey. Eugene, the Pope (in his temporal character the deadly
foe of Rimini), wrote to its lord, bidding him remember the imperative
duties of his position. The letter reached that “magnificent man and
potent prince” in the monastery at Arcangelo, where clad in the coarse
robes of a Franciscan friar, he led an ascetic, starved, and mutilated
life. What was the magnificence of earth to him? So harsh were his
self-inflicted penances that the wounds on his body never ceased to
bleed. What had he to do with rule and governance? The brothers of the
monastery, and the young virgin wife who drooped and paled at his side,
were all of mankind he knew or saw; and he himself the chief of sinners.
Neither Pope nor armies could force him back to earth. Thus friends and
foes alike failed to touch him; there was no pity in the heart of
Galeotto the Saint.

Or rather—common, yet tragical transmutation of the Middle Ages—his pity
took a retrospective turn; dead and dry to the present woes it might
relieve, it rushed back in a mighty impotent tide to the foot of that
sacred and awful Cross, whose divine tragedy was the continual spectacle
of the saintly life. Pity for the dead Christ—throbbing, yearning,
helpless, and indignant pity for the agonized Saviour—this surely lay at
the bottom of all crusades, tortures, persecutions, inquisitions of the
Middle Ages. Living ever with the crucifix in sight, dwelling ever and
solely in presence of that dread expiation-such fanatics as Galeotto
forgot the example of the life of Christ in the terror and pity of
Golgotha. Vengeance on the enemies of God! vengeance on the traitors who
still stab and crucify the ever newly sacrificed God and Victim! so ran
the tenor of mediæval piety. And the contagion of this fanatic sentiment
slaughtered the armies of the East, tossed Albigensian babies on to
lance-points, and roasted before a ribald soldiery the pious Vaudois
women; the martyrs of Saint Bartholomew and the martyrs of Smithfield
were hewn and burned by the strength of it; and from its armoury the
Inquisition drew its deadliest weapons.

Thus Galeotto, unmoved by the misery of the people who, owing allegiance
to him, died, starved, and sorrowed for his sake, was nevertheless, not
without his private schemes of sanctity and militant devotion. High
thoughts were born in that narrow mind, as in the intervals of penance
and office the lord of Rimini paced the monastery garden. Monk as he was
by life and feeling, he too had his ambition; he too had his work to
fulfil. And here solved that the Jews should be cast out from Rimini.

Months went on, and the details of his scheme matured in the brain of
the cloistered prince; but, meanwhile, his foes pressed closer and
closer round him, and there was no leader to lead the few forlorn troops
out to battle; yet ruin stared upon the city nearer every day, and now
or never must the decisive step be taken. Still Galeotto prayed and
dreamed in his cell at Arcangelo. But an unsuspected deliverer was in
Rimini. One autumn night in 1430, secret to most of the citizens, a
desperate sally was made from the gates of the town. A short, brisk
uncertain conflict in the terrifying darkness, and the surprised armies
were driven back, ignorant of the small number of their assailants. And
as in the dawn, the conqueror led his troops back inside the gates,
flushed and triumphant, the people crowded out into the streets to look
at him and bless him, crying that the great days of Carlo and of
Verruchio had returned; and behold this saviour of the city was the
brother and heir of Galeotto—was the boy Sigismond, or Gismondo,
Malatesta, not yet thirteen years old!

Whether the Pope and the oncoming armies perceived that at last they had
a substantive enemy to deal with, or whether touched with compassion by
so much youthful daring, they concluded a peace with Rimini only a few
days after the successful sally. A ruinous peace indeed; forfeiting many
broad lands and territories in return for the acknowledgment of the true
right to Rimini, Fano, and Cesena of these legitimized Malatestas. But
the people were thankful for any peace, and Galeotto easily yielded,
seeing here the needed opportunity to prove his piety. He signed the
treaty on consideration that the Holy Father would authorize him to
expel the Jews from Rimini.

It was a cruel step. This plain by the Adriatic had long been a refuge
to the outcast nation, who brought thither their genius for wealth,
their industry, and their abundance. It was represented to Galeotto that
the fortunes of Rimini were bound up with the presence of these patient
and long-enduring exiles. They had given no cause for just offence; they
had, indeed, offered to defray the heavy amnesty exacted by the Pope;
and to banish them would yet further enfeeble the war-shattered city.
The Pope, indeed, perceived these thing; but neither gratitude, policy,
nor compassion, weighed with the fanatic Galeotto. “Better starve,”
thought he, “than favour the enemies of Christ.” So the law went forth,
and when the winter made doubly dreary the wide sandy war-ravaged
plains, a melancholy train of miserable outcasts set out from the city
they had enriched; banished and ruined for no fault of their own, with
no home before them, and leaving behind them, uprooted and strengthless
as it seemed, the fortunes of the little town.

So the edict ran, and many went out in exile scarcely was the exodus
completed when Galeotto died. His fasts and scourgings, his
long-continued vigils had worn out his life at twenty years of age. No
hermit of the Thebaid had lived more sparsely or hardly than this prince
of the pagan renaissance. He was borne to his grave in the monastery
churchyard as simply as any other brother; four monks of the order bore
his bier, holding flaming torches. They laid him to rest the poor
half-mad, self-absorbed visionary. And all the people mourned him,
forgiving his injuries because he was a saint; and also, it may be, for
some endearing quality in his thwarted nature which does not reach us
across the gulf of years. For his virgin widow Margaret of Este loved
him and mourned him through all the days of her long life, never
marrying again, and praying on her deathbed to be buried at his feet;
and the city was proud of Galeotto the Saint. Nevertheless, life
appeared more possible now that he was dead.

Galeotto was scarcely buried when new troubles burst upon the city.
Urbino and Pesaro laid siege to Lungarino, one of the fiefs of the
Riminese. Grief and fear again awoke in the harassed and impoverished
town; but in this trouble Sigismond saw his opportunity. He had chafed
and fumed and wasted under the regency of the two widows, his
sister-in-law and his aunt. He, a conqueror at thirteen, was surely at
fifteen able to rule a city. A daring scheme presented itself to the
impatient boy; a scheme which, chance what might, would he knew but
increase his favour with the people, however the Ladies-Regent might
bewail it. He escaped in disguise from Rimini, and having given notice
to his old adherents, collected them outside the walls, and gaining new
battalions as he marched towards Lungarino, won a tremendous victory
there—a victory which utterly routed Urbino and Pesaro, and proved
Sigismond Malatesta one of the most valiant champions in Italy.

After this there could be no question of petticoat-government. At home
and abroad this lad of fifteen had established his right both to govern
and to combat. In this same year (1432) he reconciled Rimini with the
Pope, and concluded an alliance with Venice. In his new friendship with
the great sea-city he engaged himself to the daughter of Carmagnola,
receiving a portion of the dowry in advance. But quickly on this
betrothal followed the disgrace and execution of Carmagnola, and it is
characteristic of Gismondo (no less perfidious than brave, grasping than
lavish), that, refusing to ally himself with a traitor’s daughter, he
equally refused to restore her dowry.

A better-omened betrothal, as it seemed, followed this next year, when
Sigismond engaged himself to Ginevra, the sister of Margaret, his
brother’s widow, and daughter of his friend and ally the powerful
Marquis of Este. There was high festival both at the betrothal and the
marriage; Sigismund the Emperor stayed the same year in the town; it was
an occasion of much pageantry. New and better days seemed dawning on
Rimini; and when the Pope gave the seventeen-year-old Gismondo the
command of the troops of the Church, and restored some of his
confiscated territory, it was evident that good fortune was secure.

Gismondo knew how to be generous and prudent. Before departing on his
campaign he bestowed the city and lands of Cesena on his brother
Domenico, premising that, in any imminent battle where both were
concerned, Domenico should range himself with the powers opposed to
Gismondo, so that in any case fortune should not desert the Malatestas.
A prudent, balanced tactic, well worthy of those slow-moving Condottiere
battles, when war was as much a game as chess, and to keep the rules of
the game as important as to win. Leaving his city, therefore, with a
beneficed protector close at hand, Gismondo set out on his career as a
soldier of fortune.

For three years he fought almost continuously, gaining great glory for
himself in the cause of the Church, besides in his own cause opposing
the Duke of Urbino. And in 1438, having at last the leisure to sit at
home for a while in peace, he found a new labour ready to his hand.
Built for a palace rather than as a fort, the Gattolo of the Malatestas
offered them little security in case of war. Gismondo, no less active as
military engineer than as captain or art-patron, determined to have it
down and build in its stead a Rocca from his own design, to rank among
the strongest in Italy. Calling to his aid Roberto Valturio, the great
military engineer of Romagna, Sigismond began that famous Rocca of which
to-day only a tower remains, mellowed and faded by the sea winds of
centuries, grown over with lichen and sprouting wallflowers: only a
tower in the sand, disfigured and insulted by the modern prison built
against it, and of which it forms a part.

For the Rocca soon outlived its purpose. By some strange want of
foresight, some hapless piece of amateurish ignorance, this great pile,
the first built in Italy since the invention of artillery, was planned
with no regard to the changed conditions of warfare. Not till sixty
years after did some wiser engineer invent the system of bastions; so
that, for all its strength, the mighty Rocca of Sigismond was to some
extent a waste of labour. Yet by the building of it hangs a tale;
through it we approach the greatest influence of Gismondo’s life; a
memory imperishably united with his own.

While the Gattolo, or palace of the Malatestas, was being levelled to
make way for the new fortress, Sigismond removed his household to the
Palazzo Roelli in the Via Sta. Croce. Besides his servants and his
secretary, he brought with him his miserable wife. Constantly outraged
by his infidelities, Ginevra d’Este had cause not only for grief, but
for fear. One child had died, and Gismondo had no heir by the woman whom
he had married to unite his still unstable house with the powerful lords
of Ferrara. He chafed at her presence, useless and undesired.

Close to the Palazzo Roelli stood the Palazzo del Cimiero, where
Francesco degli Atti, a merchant of noble birth, lived in sufficient
state and splendour with his young son and his motherless daughter

A strange girl this neighbour of Sigismond’s. Not beautiful, according
to the busts and medals that record her features—an imperious, resolute,
tenacious creature, imposing her personality like a yoke upon all who
knew her. Hard-featured, long-necked, and thin, with perhaps in the
large eyes burning under the tense raised eyebrows, a certain feverish,
eager beauty to excuse the general panegyric of her contemporaries. An
expression of patience, of great constancy, and endurance in the
long-lipped, close-shut mouth, with the strong lines round it, in the
long square of the face, in the beautiful resolute chin. The face
expresses character rather than genius; we behold in it far-seeing
resolve, and patience. The reputation of great learning remains with
Isotta, despite the modern authorities who, on somewhat insufficient
evidence, assure us that she could not write. By some means, at all
events, by reading and writing, or by learned conversation and lonely
thought, this Isotta gained an eminence among the women of her age for
learning and talent, for prudence, and the faculty of government.

_Fœmina belligera et fortis_: thus the chronicle of Rimini describes
her. A nature not immoral, but unscrupulous, a woman in whom will,
passion, and intellect were strong enough each to balance the other.
Isotta gained an influence over the perverse, defiant, passionate
Gismondo which raised her to a position in the state far superior to
that of the lawful wife; a position in which the lax morality of her age
saw little disgraceful or revolting.

That Isotta felt it there is ample evidence. Taking Battaglini’s date
(1438) as the true commencement of her relations with Gismondo she must
have been young, certainly under twenty, when she took the first fatal
all-involving step on that road of dishonour she was so long to tread.
Young in age, she was younger probably by circumstance; this silent,
sequestered, thoughtful girl, with neither mother nor sister to confide
in. Her father raved and stormed, and then forgave her: I think,
remembering a certain beseeching, miserable, unfortunate letter of hers
written fifteen years later, that she did not forgive herself. Not the
public union of her cipher with Gismondo’s, not the corps of courtly
poetasters occupied in chanting _Isottæ_ to her glory, not the medals
struck in her honour, nor the eternal monument prepared, could make this
stern proud woman forget that she was her lover’s mistress only, after
all. Nay, would she not silently, bitterly resent in her inmost heart
this blazoning of her shame? “Voliatte avere chompasione a mi poveretta,
diate vero spozamento piui presto che viui posette—Take pity on me, poor
me,” she cries; “give me true marriage as quickly as you can. Ah, put an
end to this thing, which always keeps me enraged. Sempre me tene
arabiatta.” So she cries in her flat, soft dialect; and must cry long
enough, poor Isotta.

Yet he was in his fashion faithful to her. He always returned to her,
trusted her, counted on her service and her sacrifice. There was none
could govern the city so well in his absence, counsel him, give up all
for him—jewels, safety, honour itself. And in return he summoned great
artists to do her honour, and instituted the elegiac _Isottæ_, strained
and fanciful praises, according to the fashion of the time, of which
none are so pregnant, so full of meaning as those of this fierce,
unfaithful, constant-lover himself. Through the quaint out-dated garb we
catch here and there a glimpse of the man’s own nature—of his defiant
will, his acute and painful sensibility to beauty, his almost sublime
self-preoccupation and intensity. We discern that he is a man who ever
felt the eyes of posterity upon him, and yet a fierce, passionate,
shameful man; suddenly falling into crime, sceptical of punishment, yet
inherently superstitious; vibrating through and through with passion,
tainted through and through with hereditary perfidy; half mad, yet with
a touch of genius and greatness in this chaotic mass of wickedness and

Suddenly an end came, for the moment, to this rhyme-repentance. A
fearful crime stopped for a day or two the verse-making and recitations.
On the 8th of September, 1440, the poor ineffectual Ginevra d’Este died,
having taken (so the rumour went) her fatal draught of poison from her
husband’s hands.

Sigismond was now free to marry a wife who would bring him legal heirs;
Isotta cannot have doubted that she would be that woman. But Gismondo,
the ardent lover and writer of verses, was not of the character to throw
away so valuable a chance of alliance. He possessed Isotta already, and
she had no powerful supporters. In 1442 he married Polissena Sforza, the
natural daughter of Francesco Sforza, that magnificent soldier of
fortune, already on the alert to seize (when death should offer him the
chance) his father-in-law’s rich Duchy of Milan.

The chance was to come soon enough; but for a year or two after
Gismondo’s marriage old Visconti lingered on, and Polissena’s father
held his peace. Meanwhile, war being slack, Gismondo progressed
admirably in his work of remodelling Rimini. In 1446 the Rocca was at
length complete; and in the same year he began a yet bolder and more
splendid undertaking. The old church of San Francesco, a Gothic building
of no great beauty, displeased his Hellenicized humanistic culture. To
him it represented nothing—that simple Gothic church raised by the monks
to God. Gismondo resolved to convert it into a temple, a temple still
dedicated nominally to St. Francis, but in reality to become an eternal
monument of Sigismondo and Isotta.

Gismondo called to his aid some of the greatest artists of this time:
Matteo da Pasti, the medallist, to execute the great marble medallions
of himself, to be set up everywhere in the holy place; Ciuffagni for the
statutes (a miserable choice), Simone Ferrucci for the bas-reliefs of
playing children, Agostino Duccio, that exquisite draughtsman in marble,
to carve in low relief the yellow-white plaques with allegorical
figures, whose flowing lines of floating and twisted drapery, small
well-poised heads, wonderful grace of attitude, and refined exotic type,
recall the late Greek bas-reliefs rather than the solid, somewhat squat
forms of Donatello and his school, or the angular delicacy of Mino. Over
all these Gismondo set Leon Battista Alberti, a man almost as universal
in his attributes as Leonardo himself. Alberti was to be the architect,
and assign with Matteo’s aid their several parts to each of his
co-operators. No easy task, this of Alberti’s; for Gismondo—with a flash
of the native superstition which shot so strangely athwart his
paganism—refused to destroy the consecrated walls of the older building.
The architect must build his Hellenic temple on to the framework of a
thirteenth-century Gothic church. Fortunately, the form of the early
edifice, its wide nave and simple sanctuary not greatly differing from
the Roman Basilica, rendered the conversion within the limits of
possibility, and Alberti appears to have enjoyed the difficulty of his
task. Perhaps he saw in this endeavour to fuse into one splendid whole
the opposite characters of Gothic mediævalism and Greek antiquity, the
opportunity to immortalize the spirit of his time—and the result was
success. It is built, this temple of Rimini, of Roman stones from
Classis, antique slabs from Greece, and of the Adriatic clay fused long
ago by pious hands. Augustan arches rise without, sheltering the
sarcophagi of philosophers, and within, the light from mediæval windows
falls on the altar of a Christian saint. A pagan church, with pointed
Gothic arches raised on sculptured classic pillars, a splendid anomaly,
chiefly original by its combination of opposing elements, it is a type
of the Italian Renaissance.

Finding it impossible to turn the Gothic front with its deep porch and
rosace to any classical account, Alberti resolved to inclose it in a
marble casing, distant at all points by nearly four feet from the
original structure. He was now free to plan his façade, singularly
simple in design, yet solemn, beautiful, and stately in its plainness.
From a breast-high plinth, giving a noble base to the whole structure,
start three engaged arches, the central one larger than the others and
higher in relief; the span of all three is extremely wide, their
proportions being borrowed from the Roman arch of Augustus close at
hand. At the corners of the façade and on either side of the central
arch stand four fluted columns with florid capitals; rising from the
plinth they support a heavy, deep-shadowed cornice. Sculptured votive
wreaths, six in all, are hung between the capitals of the columns and
the spandrel of the arches. From the deep cornice above rises the
pediment, unfinished and irregular, its supporting columns incomplete.
Above this again should have sprung a cupola, vaulting the entire church
in its wide span; but in its stead a temporary roof still patches the
never-finished masterpiece.

In the hollow space between the façade and the old brick fronting is
placed the tomb of Sigismond, accessible from the interior. But on the
lateral fronts there is no such space, for here the round wide arches
are not merely in relief, but detached: and in the recesses great stone
sarcophagi are placed, standing on the red-cornered plinth. In these
repose the bones of the humanists and philosophers of Gismondo’s court.
When the temple was built there was made room for fourteen sarcophagi to
stand there to inclose the most honourable ashes in Italy; but the fate
of incompletion which has overtaken the temple has not spared this
grandiose design. Only seven tombs stand upon the plinth, seven other
empty arches keep no illustrious dead.

Passing through the low door under the central arch of the façade we are
amazed by the rich and strange impression of the interior—doubly
impressive after the severity outside. The nave is furnished with eight
side chapels inclosed by a high balustrade; there are four on each side,
the two central ones being in double bays, while a considerable wall
space divides the first and last on either side from these. The wall
between the arches, divided by slender columns, is tinted alternately
with pale sea-green and the lightest red; the frieze bears the same
tints; across it are swung heavy festoons of yellow-white marble. The
sculptured pillars and railings of the chapels are also tinted with like
delicate colours. Ferrucci’s bas-reliefs of playing children stand out
against a ground of palest, unglazed, greenish-blue, and below these the
balustrade is simply white, while beneath Agostino’s delicate untinted
low-reliefs the railing is of the richest deep-red breccia, elaborately
sculptured with double-headed elephants. Behind Ciuffagni’s rude figures
the background is of dull gold, while here and there on all sides a
tinge of gold faintly lines and splashes the yellowish marble. On the
frieze, on the shields of the putti, over the doorways, on the columns
and the tombs, above the very heads of the saints in their chapels, we
find the double cipher of Sigismond and his mistress. The saints
themselves are not safe. Isotta wears the robes and wings of St.
Michael. Over the chapel balustrades flourishes her rose, and the image
of Sigismond is carved upon the pillars. So that from pedestal to
cornice the whole great church is one memorial of the passion that
defied it.

Many great artists worked to complete the beauty of Sigismond’s temple;
but until quite lately the name of the sculptor of the most perfect of
these panels was undetermined.[110] M. Yriarte has told us that we owe
them to a certain Florentine cutpurse, Agostino di Duccio. The fact is
patent. Never having read M. Yriarte’s learned and precious volume, I
came to Rimini straight from Perugia, straight from Duccio’s wonderful
façade of San Bernardino. That façade, those figures so admirable in
their poise, that sweeping drapery full of intricate line and harmony,
those heads, small, and graceful, with the exotic beauty and rapture of
expression, had produced on me the strongest, the most durable
impression. A few days after, finding in the decorations of two chapels
at Rimini the same strange poetic grace, the same exquisite attitude,
the same wavy lines, low relief, and classic feeling, I could not but
recognize the master. And so, no doubt, has many another chance
traveller, such as I, lacking authority without M. Yriarte and his
documents—though without documents the fact itself is surely clear. For
the existence of two monuments so strikingly original and singularly
alike as the San Bernardino of Perugia and the Cappella di San Gaudenzio
at Rimini must surely be due to one hand. The very details of the
ornament, the characteristic round sweeps of drapery, like a wind-blown
scarf; the exceeding lowness of relief, almost as if drawn on the stone;
the type of head, with inspired glance and lips frequently apart are all
the graces—the mannerisms even—of one master. That master one would,
from the strange beauty of expression in these figures, have judged to
be a Sienese, were not the authorship of San Bernardino graven across
its front: Opus Augustini Florentini Lapicidæ, MCCCCLXI. It is difficult
to imagine how a Florentine, a pupil of Donatello’s, could acquire that
tall and ripely-slender severity of form, that exquisite freedom of
hand; nor does he take his style from the school of the Robbias. In its
distinguishing characteristics his manner is unlike any of the great
Italian masters. By a bold hypothesis we might account for it with
satisfaction by supposing that among those many slabs and lids of marble
which Gismondo brought from Greece for the building of the temple there
may have been some precious fragment of classic bas-relief not
overlooked by the keen-eyed cutpurse and sculptor; who thence-forwards
proved himself a master among the masters of his day, first at Rimini
and later at Perugia.

Footnote 110:

  I take this occasion of expressing much indebtedness to M. Yriarte’s
  charming and elaborate volume, “Un Condottiere du XV. Siècle, Gismondo

The subjects of these designs of Duccio’s have troubled many
generations. In the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the planets, the
twelve signs of the Zodiac, and a series of animals magnificently
treated, form the decoration. In the Chapel of San Gaudenzio, the
subjects are the Muses, Virtues, and other allegorical figures. M.
Yriarte has proved that this strange assemblage illustrates a long
passage in one of Gismondo’s poems to Isotta; and it appears likely that
Alberti, himself an author, gave the passage to Duccio for a text. Of a
series of thirty-six exquisite bas-reliefs it is impossible to give much
description here; but I would advise all lovers of Renaissance sculpture
to procure, at least, Alinari’s photographs of the _Diana_, the
_Agriculture_, the _Medicine_, the _Botany_, and the _Poetry_ from
Rimini, and to compare these with the exquisite designs of a woman
catching together at the knees the folds of her wind-blown mantle, from
the façade of San Bernardino.

Sigismond compelled haste from the artists who served him. This temple,
of which the corner-stone was laid in 1446, was, by his most earnest
desire, to be fit for service and consecration in 1450, the great
Jubilee year at Rome. And this in fact was done; the dome was not yet
planned, and a flat wooden roof crowned the building; the transept was
scarce begun; the façade broken off almost at the base of the pediment;
but the nave with its bays was finished, a wonder of sculpture and
colour. And as it was opened in 1450 so we behold it to-day.

A strange ceremony it must have been, that Jubilee service in the
newly-opened temple. The prelates and great dignitaries of the church
meet, appalled, in that splendid shrine to Diva Isotta, which a little
later the Pope should adduce as absolute and sufficient proof of the
paganism of its founder. From door to transept, from pedestal to
cornice, no memento of Christ; only everywhere the I.S. of Isotta and
her lover mocking the sacred monogram; and the rose of the prince’s
mistress where there should have been the crown of thorns. Diva Isotta
herself would be there in all her glory; she had furnished from her
private purse the funds for her chapel of St. Michael, where her
likeness filled the robes of the saint, where, shadowed with the blazons
of Sigismond and standing on the Malatestan elephants, her sarcophagus
stood ready. There, also, must have been the hapless Polissena,
condemned to witness this triumph of her rival, condemned to praise the
chapel in Isotta’s honour, while seeing nowhere in all that splendid
church a corner dedicated to herself, nor any memorial of the dead

Hapless Polissena! Even then her husband was treating with the Pope to
legitimize his children by Isotta. She had no children. Even before that
ominous festival her husband had made the war of succession at Milan
against her father. Her claims on him were breaking, one by one. And
when the peace was made, and the Pope gave Sigismond, with Sinigaglia,
the legitimation of his children, she must have thought bitterly of
Ginevra’s end. Indeed a few weeks afterwards she too died suddenly,
terribly. Not poison this time, the rumour went. Gismondo, they said,
had strangled her with a napkin.

None dared accuse him then. He was at the height of his power and
formidable triumph—at the summit, the climax, beyond which is no ascent.
Yet even then he had made a deadly enemy, scorned at present, but who
knew how to wait. Not Sforza, who seems to have taken the loss of his
daughter with strange indifference. It was the perfidy and not the
violence of Sigismond that wrought his ruin. Engaged to fight for
Arragon in the war of the Milanese succession, he had received in
advance a large portion of his pay. Then the Florentines sought to tempt
him from his allegiance. With true Tuscan shrewdness they chose for
their agent no Medici, no magnificent money-bag or puissant general—but
Gianozzo Manetti the Humanist. Him and his rare manuscripts they send
into Gismondo’s camp; and as the scholar treats with the great captain,
he shows him such-and-such a precious Greek fragment, or a perfect copy
of Virgil—or the Platonists, pointing without too obvious intention the
superior culture of Florence to barbarous Arragon. Gismondo, fascinated,
stepped into the snare. The next day he deserted to Florence, refusing,
moreover, to restore the immense wage he had drawn from the Duke of
Arragon for services never to be rendered. Nor at the time was there any
redress for that prince; but the time of vengeance was to come.

Meanwhile, incautious, believing that he could compass heaven and earth
between his courage and his perfidy, Sigismond earned yet more of the
traitor’s wages. Scarcely was the peace of Lodi signed (in 1454), than
he hired himself and his troops to the Republic of Siena in their
quarrel against the lord of Pittigliano. Again he deserted to the enemy,
thinking to make a better bargain with him. The Sienese sent him his
demission, “in terms of great courtesy and haughtiness,” but denounced
his treachery to all the great powers with which they were allied,
including Arragon. He, perceiving in this double proof of treachery,
sufficient cause for a quarrel, sent Piccinino, the greatest soldier of
fortune of his day, against the wall of Rimini. Yet all was not lost;
for Sforza came to the aid of his son-in-law. Had Sigismond stuck to his
sword all might have gone well; but of late he had become perilously
adept in the traitor’s cunning trade. He despatched a secret message to
René, king of Anjou, offering—in return for present help—to invade the
kingdom of Naples, oust Alfonso of Arragon and restore it to the
Angevines. René accepted, and landed at Genoa, but only in time to learn
the sudden death of Alfonso. Sforza, learning all the details of the
scheme, withdrew his forces from Rimini, alienated once and for ever
from the traitor who would call the French to settle his quarrels; for
Sforza, as we know, had reasons for wishing the kinsman of Charles of
Orleans well on the other side the Alps. At this moment the succession
of a Sienese, Æneas-Sylvius Piccolomini, to the papal throne under the
title of Pius II., left Gismondo without a friend in Italy, five years
after his triumphs in war and in peace of the glorious year 1450.

Little time now for temple-building. Gismondo, before Siena, had amused
himself with drawing out plans for the dome in intervals of battles and
traitorous despatches. He now found enough to do in keeping Piccinino at
bay. The Angevines were of no service; they had but estranged the
sympathies of Italy from his cause. He tried even, it is said, to tempt
the universal enemy of Christendom, the Grand Turk himself, to espouse
his cause. There is no knowing to what lengths he would not go in his
lonely, impotent, swift despair, and defiant ruin; and it is possible
that he may have remembered the examples of Carlo Zeno and the great
Visconti. One good and wise thing, at least, Gismondo did in these
terrible years of friendless battle. He married the faithful Isotta, who
proved herself a right valiant defender and regent of his city.

Meanwhile the Pope had enrolled himself among the active enemies of
Sigismond. Siena was avenged. Amid great state and ceremony the effigy
of Gismondo Malatesta was burned in the streets of Rome; interdict and
excommunication were pronounced against him. Parricide, murderer of old
men and innocent women, committer of adultery and incest, prince of
traitors, enemy of God and man: so ran the terms of this tremendous
accusation. But the Pope was not contented merely to accuse. He
threatened not only Gismondo with his anathema, but whatsoever nation or
army should arise to help him. Having thus disabled his enemy, he sent
his forces against Rimini.

Sigismond, maddened and desperate, looked vainly round for an ally.
Siena, Arragon, Florence, Milan, all were hostile, or at best neutral.
Yet help must be found. Almost alone, facing a hundred perils, Gismondo
trudged across the Apennines to the kingdom of Naples in search of his
fatal friends the Angevines. But from them he got no help, not a promise
even. Back to Rimini, desperate, baited, hurried the miserable
Sigismond. Finding the towns still held out, he took to the sea, and
went to Venice—praying in his abject extremity for succour, for
protection. And the Venetians, bound to him by old ties, did indeed
afford him a slender assistance. By the aid of this he escaped death and
flagrant ruin. The Pope made peace with him, though only on condition
that he and his brother Domenico should make public penance for their
misdeeds at Rome, resigning all their possessions save their capitals
and a few castles, which also must devolve to the Holy See after the
deaths of their present lords. And to these terms he consented. Nothing
but his sword and his city were now left to the once triumphant
Sigismond. Leaving Rimini to the staunch Isotta—_fœmina belligera et
fortis_—he hired himself to the Venetians, to conduct their forces
against the Turks in the Morea. Here a faint shadow of his former glory
played for a while around him; and in 1465 Gismondo returned to Rimini,
enriched, and bringing with him as his dearest possession the bones of
Gemisthus Pletho, the Platonist, to place in the first sarcophagus of
the temple.

Within the year Pius II. died, and Paul II. reigned in the Vatican. The
new pontiff called Sigismond to Rome, and there concluded with him what
seemed a most favourable treaty. But Gismondo was no sooner back in
Rimini than the Pope, jealous of Venice, proposed to him to cede his
city to Rome, in exchange for Spoleto and Foligno. When Sigismond
comprehended this proposal a veritable madness seemed to seize him.
Resign Rimini, the city he had saved at thirteen, had fought for ever
since, had spent his whole life and fortune in embellishing! He and
Isotta and his sons go into exile in the marshes of Foligno! Rimini,
with the Rocca and temple of his building, with the tombs of centuries
of ancestors—Rimini, with its salts and its seaboards—yield _that_?
Sigismond sent no answer to the Pope; but mad, in a burning fever, he
journeyed by day and night to Rome. His attendants noticed that he never
slept, that he clutched under his coat a dagger, never relaxed. Arrived
at Rome, he went instantly to the Vatican, demanding a private audience;
but the Pope, warned, it may be, appointed a meeting for the morrow.
Then he received the lord of Rimini, guarded by a great concourse of
princes and cardinals. Sigismond had not foreseen such a reception.
Gazing wildly, and clutching still the ineffectual hidden dagger which
he could not use, he made what terms he could, since revenge was
impossible. The right to remain in Rimini was finally conceded him, but
under the pretext of a captainship of troops the Pope kept him far from
home, employed in petty guerilla warfare. A year later the fever had
gained a fearful hold upon him. He dragged himself back to Rimini, to
Isotta. Impoverished, friendless, powerless, the city was at least his
own to die in. His last thoughts were for Isotta and her children, left
friendless in an unkind world. Thus he died, the great Malatesta.

                          THE LADIES OF MILAN.

                          “CHERCHEZ LA FEMME.”

When Galeazzo Maria, Duke of Milan, was murdered in church at Christmas
by a band of heroes, his brothers, the Duke of Bari and Lodovico il
Moro, were absent on an embassy in France. The head of affairs was Cecco
Simonetta, since many years the secretary and minister, first of Count
Francesco, and later of his son. Having lived so long in the family,
Simonetta was aware how much his dead master’s children had to fear from
their uncles. With one stroke of the pen he banished the Duke of Bari
and Lodovico il Moro.

This was in 1476. For three years all went well in Milan. Simonetta had
so long guided the course of affairs that the death of the Duke made
little difference to the external policy of the state. Galeazzo Maria
had called himself a Ghibelline, Cecco Simonetta dared at last to avow
himself a Guelf; but under one as under the other, the course of Milan
continued Liberal and French. Inside the city there were a few less
murders,—less ominous stories than were told in the lifetime of the
handsome, cruel, dilettante Duke. His widow, the Duchesse Bonne, had the
wardship of her children, and lived a pleasant life in her beautiful
palace, where Commines remembered to have seen her in great authority.
She had two little boys and a girl; she had excellent counsellors, a
court full of admirers, beautiful clothes, and a devoted lover.

Yet the Duchess was not satisfied. Bonne de Savoie was an empty pate,
vain and restless, as was the temper of her house. There was in the
palace a young man who carved before her at table, Antonio Tassino, an
adventurer from Ferrara, “of very mean parentage,” not handsome, but
with a certain grace and air in the way he wore his cloak. This was the
Duchess’s lover, and there was no matter of state (says Corio) but she
consulted her carver before she allowed it to pass. It is not surprising
that Simonetta—an old statesman, tenacious of dignity, in spite of his
Liberalism, was scandalized at the importance of Tassino. It is equally
easy to imagine how the successful Ferrarese was irritated by the
disdain of Simonetta. So it fell out; and rather out of spite than from
conviction, Tassino constituted himself the chief of the Ghibellines in
Milan, merely intending to procure the fall of Simonetta. So great was
his influence over the Duchess, that he persuaded her at last to privily
recall her husband’s brother, Il Moro—a Sforza, and therefore presumably
a Ghibelline—who was at that moment engaged in the war at Genoa.

All that follows sound like a passage in some ancient novel of
adventure. The Duchess sends to Genoa to Il Moro, who, coming at night
to Milan, is secretly admitted by the Duchess and her lover through the
garden gate of the palace. Lodovico returns not alone; Bari is dead but,
in place of the lost brother, Roberto di Sanseverino a great captain,
dare-devil, incorrigible, comes at his heels: a man whom Simonetta had
exiled with the sons of Francesco Sforza, a Ghibelline _à l’outrance_, a
personal enemy of Cecco. These were the men whom Bonne, weary of her
ancient counsellor’s respectability, called home, “through great
simplicity,” as Commines declares, “supposing they would do the said
Cecco no harm, and the truth is that so they had both of them sworn and

When Sanseverino and Il Moro were safe in the palace, the Duchess sent
for Simonetta and told him all she had done. She must have been alarmed
to see the horror and consternation on the faithful secretary.[111]
“Duchessa Illustrissima,” said the man, with the quiet of despair, “he
will cut off my head, that is all; a little time more and he will send
you packing!” The Duchess probably remembered these words when, the
third day after their return, Il Moro and Sanseverino caused the man who
had signed their exile to be carried through the streets of Milan in a
wine barrel, and then—still in this ridiculous tumbril—taken to the
fortress at Pavia. There was Simonetta imprisoned; but once inside the
gates his lot appeared to mend. Lodovico il Moro frequently rode across
to Pavia to take counsel with the wise old statesman and learn his views
of the world. He went indeed so often that the people of Milan began to
murmur and to say that Lodovico, recalled by a Ghibelline _coup d’étât_,
was a Guelf in disguise. To reassure them on that head, in the month of
October, 1480, Lodovico intimated to Simonetta—not without many
apologies—that, in deference to popular prejudice, he must even consent
to lose his head. And in that very month, the first part of the
secretary’s prophecy came true.

Footnote 111:

  “Cecco ed i suoi colleghi oltra modo d’animo furono consternati”
  (Corio, book vii.).

The second half was for a while delayed. Duchess Bonne found no reason
to regret the step which had relieved her of an inconvenient old
servant. “They used the lady very honourably in her judgment, seeking to
content her humour in all things,” said Commines, who knew them all.

“But all matters of importance they two despatched alone, making her
privy but to what pleased them; and no greater pleasure could they do
her than to communicate nothing with her. For they permitted her to give
this Anthony Tassino what she would; they lodged him hard by her
chamber; he carried her on horseback behind him in the town; and in her
house was nothing but feasting and dancing.” The Duchess had never led a
happier life; but all that jollity endured but half a year. One day
Lodovico took out his little nephews to walk in Milan; children are ever
interested in things of warfare; he took them to the Rocca—the
impregnable fortress—he took them inside; he did not bring them home.

English readers know what to expect when an ambitious uncle, in the
Middle Ages, leaves two little Princes in the Tower. But no midnight
assassin cut short the days of Giangaleazzo and his brother Ermes. They
were more useful to their uncle, living—at least until he had made his
own position surer: for at present he only ruled in Milan as Tutor and
Regent of the little Duke. But, by whatever title, he ruled effectually,
and soon he rid his palace of the tearful and frivolous presence of
Madame Bonne, whom he exiled from her duchy “for immorality,” and who
carried her inept remonstrances and her tarnished honour to find a none
too chivalrous asylum at the court of her brother-in-law, Louis XI. of
France, a man impatient of unsuccessful women.

Meanwhile Lodovico il Moro flourished in Milan. Under his cultured and
dignified rule it became a magical city, a capital of masterpieces.
There in 1483, Leonardo da Vinci took up his abode, cast his bronze
statue of Francesco Sforza, painted pictures, and founded a school of
Lombard painters, little less exquisite, mysterious, and sensual than
himself. The Choir of Singers, whom Galeazzo Maria Sforza had brought
across the Alps, increased, and the singing and playing of Milan became
a thing of note. Temples and palaces sprang up as by enchantment; and
learned humanists—grave Romans, bearded Greeks, astute Orientals—from
all the centres of knowledge in the world, came to lecture on law,
science, and the classics, in brilliant Milan. Nor was the Court of
Venus, says Corio, less distinguished than the Court of Minerva. “All
were willing to concede their best and fairest to the Court of Cupid;
fathers their daughters, husbands their wives, brothers their sisters.”
And the laxity of Lombard manners which had scandalized the very Court
of Lorenzo de’ Medici, in 1471, was not less abandoned, not less
luxurious, although more natural and freer from cruelty under the
sceptre of the Regent Lodovico who appears at the head of this princely
retinue, a man majestic, suave, omniscient, as any Duke of Shakespeare’s

And yet the real Duke was seldom seen, seldom heard. It was polite to
suppose him still a child. None the less every one knew he had been born
in the year 1469, amid incredible rejoicings; and many had seen the
great Lorenzo de’ Medici when he came to the christening, and had looked
on the magnificent necklace of diamonds which he had given the Duchess.
“Ah, you shall be godfather to all my children!” the Duke Galeazzo Maria
had cried with cordial _naïveté_. And now—ah, Time’s revenges!—the Duke
was murdered, the Duchess in exile, and the babe whom all men had
welcomed—a prisoner rather than a ward in the hands of the ambitious

Men began to murmur, and when Giangaleazzo was about eighteen his uncle
found himself unable any longer to defer his marriage. Years ago the
child had been betrothed to Isabel of Arragon, the granddaughter of the
King of Naples. She came to Milan in 1487. A little later Lodovico
himself married a young wife, Beatrice, daughter of Ercole d’Este, Duke
of Ferrara.

So long as there had been no woman at the head of the Court of Milan,
there had been no discord. The young Duke, half a captive, had a doglike
docile affection for his tyrant; he was content to yield his place and
keep his title; and Lodovico was satisfied to have the place without the
name. But Isabel of Arragon was a Neapolitan and a Spaniard—a nature
passionate, arrogant, intense. In vain she urged her husband to assert
his rights. He promised what she would, and then confessed their
conversation to his uncle. When her child was born, and still the bride
of Lodovico sat on the throne which should have been her throne—Isabel
would no longer possess her soul in patience. This time she did not
appeal to her husband—a beautiful youth, soft as silk, innocent as
flowers, incapable of revenge or determination; she wrote to her father
and her grandfather at Naples, men as different from him as men can be.
She asserted her rights (“essendo giovane di grand’ animo”); she told
them of the intolerable yoke of Lodovico—of her husband, a grown man and
a father, yet kept in tutelage. She told them doubtless by her messenger
(no word of personal complaint appears in her letter) what Corio tells
us: that amid all the luxury of Milan, the Duke and the Duchess procured
with difficulty the bare necessities of life. There was much indignation
in her old home, and Alfonso wrote to Il Moro demanding the throne and
government of Milan for his son-in-law. “You make a laughing-stock of my
daughter—shall we endure to see our blood despised?”[112] Lodovico, as
his manner was, returned a soft answer. And a year or two went by in
procrastination and recrimination; but in 1493 the house of Naples, in
defence of the young Duke, declared war upon the Regent of Milan.

Footnote 112:

  Corio, book vii.

In another place I have spoken of the dismay and terror of that hour;
the still rage of Lodovico—a rage not unmixed with joy and with the
presentiment of success; the anger of his young wife, determined not to
quit her throne, determined to take at last from the detested Isabel
that one fine thing which as yet she had not dared to take from her: the
title of Duchess. My readers know how, on the one hand, Lodovico sent to
the Emperor admitting the illegal nature of the Sforza claim, and
entreating him (for a consideration) to bestow it on him anew; how, on
the other hand, he sent into France reminding Charles VIII. of the
French claim to Naples; and how the French crossed the Alps in
September; and how, in September also, very secretly, the Emperor’s
Investiture arrived in Milan; and how on the morrow after the French
left Milan the young Duke died (Teodoro di Pavia discovering in his body
the evident signs of poison); and how the people, overawed by the
neighbourhood of the French, were taught to acclaim Lodovico,
consecrated thus alike by Imperial privilege and popular voice; so that
he ruled at last as Duke in Milan.

Meanwhile Isabel and her little son had wandered about in exile, vainly
seeking supporters. Success smiled on her rival, Beatrice, the mother of
two sons who each, after many adventures, should rule as Duke of Milan.
In September, 1496, while Isabel, her child in her arms, was discovering
the futility of resistance, Beatrice at Vigevano was entertaining
Maximilian. The great Emperor was at that time a man of thirty-seven,
with long whitening hair, dressed in a long black velvet coat, a black
woollen French cap, black stockings and sleeves; he wore no ornament
save a little gold chain with the order of the Golden Fleece. He was
under a vow to wear nothing but black until he could boast a Turkish
victory. But, melancholy and grizzled Don Quixote as he appeared,
Maximilian was no less an Emperor; and the Diary of Marino Sanuto shows
us the splendour with which the Duke and Duchess of Milan made him

That splendour was very costly. Not only did it compel the Duke to levy
grievous taxes (_grandissime exstrusione a li so populi_) on his
subjects, so that they were like desperate men, desiring any change. If
the expense of this entertainment was paid in tears, no less a price
should be exacted for its fatigue. In September the Duchess Beatrice was
pregnant: Marino Sanuto will conclude the story.[113]

Footnote 113:

                                     “Nuove del mexe de Zener. 1497 O.S.

  “Chome a Milano nel Castello a dì 3, la duchessa, moglie dil ducha
  presente Lodovico, chiamata Beatrice, figlia dil ducha di Ferrara, poi
  parturido uno fiol morto; etiam la era morta 5 hore dopo el puto. Di
  la qual morte el ducha steva in gran mesticia, serade le fenestre in
  una camera a lume di candela. Et è da saper, come vidi una lettera,
  che detta Duchessa morite a dì 2 zener, a hora 6 di note, et che in
  quel zorno era stada di bona voglia in carretta per Milano, et fatto
  ballar in Castello fin hore 2 di note. Et lassò do soli figlioli, uno
  chiamato Maximiliano ch’è Conte di Pavia e l’altro, Sforza, di anni 3.
  La qual morte el Ducha non poteva tolerar, per il grande amor le
  portava et diceva non si voller più curar ne de figlioli, ne di Stato,
  ne di cossa mondana; et apena voleva viver. Stava in una camera per
  mesticia tutta di panni negri, et cussi stete per 15 zorni. Et che in
  questa notte instessa in che la Duchessa morite, caschò a terra li
  muri dil suo zardin, non essendo sta ni vento ni terra moto; el qual
  da alcuni fu tolto per mal augurio.”

                         “Diarii di Marino Sanudo, January 9, 1496.”

                        “News of the month of January, 1496 (Old Style).

“How at Milan, in the castle, on the third day of the month, the
Duchess, wife of the reigning Duke Lodovico, Beatrice by name, daughter
of the Duke of Ferrara, was delivered of a still-born son; _etiam_ she
herself was dead five hours after the child. And the said death hath
plunged the Duke in heavy sorrow, so that he keepeth his room, the
shutters closed and candles lit in daytime. And ’tis also reported—as I
saw it set down in another letter—that the said Duchess died on the
second day of the month, at six o’clock after noon; and that very day
she had gone riding in her carriage through the streets of Milan, and
had held a ball at the castle until two o’clock after dinner. And she
hath left only two children behind her, boys—the one, Maximilian, Count
of Pavey; the other, Sforza, three years of age. And the Duke cannot
suffer the sorrow of this loss, for the great love he bore to his wife;
and he saith he hath no heart for his children, nor his State nor for
aught under the sun; so that almost is he weary of his life. And, out of
sadness, he keepeth his chamber, which is hung all in black; and there
for a fortnight he hath shut himself in. And ’tis said that, in the
selfsame night the Duchess died, the walls of her garden fell crashing
to the ground, and yet was there neither tempest, wind nor earthquake;
which thing was held by many for a sign of very evil omen.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Last year I was in Lombardy, and, as a faithful adherent of the
Viscontis, I stayed a little in Pavia. I found it a rather gloomy little
Lombard town, white-washed and paven. Here and there a wine-coloured
wall or tower broke the pallid monotony of the streets. The famous
fortress, where Isabel of Arragon eat her heart in bitterness so many
years, still exists, much rebuilt and altered indeed, but always a mass
of fine red colour. In Pavia, however, there was nothing so interesting
to me as those phantoms of vanished Viscontis and long-supplanted
Sforzas that seemed so strangely out of place in this sad little sordid
university town. And among these ranks of tragic shadows, the least
forgiven, the least beloved, was always the Duchess Beatrice.

I had known her too long, the youthful and charming Lady Macbeth of
Lombardy. I knew her as well as one can know a person, familiar through
the gossip of acquaintance, although unseen and distant. I had heard of
her as a haughty and ambitious woman, accepting with a smile the crimes
that placed the crown of Milan on her head. She appeared as some
Herodias of Luini’s, exquisite and sinister. And yet I knew she had been
dearly worshipped in her lifetime and long lamented in her tomb. There
are such Sirens, heartless and chill themselves, but capable of seizing
an honest love with the same hands that grasp at a blood-stained
treasure. Such, in my eyes, was the adored and evil wife of Lodovico il

It was Christmas-time and cold; with difficulty I roused myself to visit
the Certosa. It is six miles, I suppose, from Pavia. The wretched
carriage slowly dragged along through the muddy country; and from the
whitened window one felt rather than saw the immense desolation of the
view. On either hand of the raised road, a sluggish canal, and beyond a
monotonous landscape of brown marshy pastures and bright green rice
fields flecked with water, across which the scant snow drifted. The road
seemed to extend for ever in front, unbroken, unturning. Suddenly in the
middle of the country the carriage stopped; I walked a few steps up a
muddy lane. To the right over a wall there appeared a great dome, with
rose-red minarets, with spires of pale red, ivory and marble, among
innumerable shaft-like towers tipped with cream-white columns. It is the

At another season and in better health I should have found much to
linger over in the great façade of the Certosa, fantastic, incoherent as
a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Every inch of the front is covered thickly
with ornament in high relief—Roman emperors and paladins of chivalry,
eagles with praying angels on their outspread pinions, exquisite maidens
floating full-length on a dolphin’s back, Sirens suckling their
unearthly babes, hippogriffs, Prophets of Israel: strange, unexpected as
the visions of delirium, they are assembled there. But, alone, in the
bitter wind, I glanced at it all for a moment and entered the vast
foundation of Giangaleazzo Visconti. Great halls, enormous, cold,
spoiled as much as may be by the seventeenth century; a few good
pictures by Borgognone, many bad ones; posthumous portraits of the great
Viscontis: it was not so interesting as I had supposed.

Still I wandered on, making reflections on the difference of type in the
Sforza and Visconti heads: the older tyrants keen-faced, refined with
delicate, bone-less oval faces, and thin firm lips ridged out in a
narrow line. There is something wolf-like in the long pointed noses, the
pointed chins, low foreheads, as well as in the keen eyes, narrow and
high in the head; altogether an interesting type, subtle, cruel,
intellectual, and fierce. The Sforzas with their Wellington noses, their
strongly marked eyebrows, prim-pursed lips and rounded chins, seem a
square-faced kindly race of captains. Lodovico il Moro himself is there,
with the fat face and fine chin of the elderly Napoleon, the delicate
beak-like nose of Wellington; a small querulous neat-lipped mouth, and
immense eyebrows, stretched like the talons of an eagle across the low
forehead, complete the odd, refined physiognomy of the man. I looked at
him with interest for a moment. But there, straight before me, stood the
tomb of the wife he lost so young, the Duchess Beatrice.

To think that she is dead, and to think she was a woman! Impossible. She
is a lively child, fallen asleep in playtime: motionless, but full of a
contained vivacity. Her tumbled curls hang loosely round her shoulders,
and stand up in a little frizz above the rounded childish forehead. As
she lies there, a look of infantine candour is diffused over the soft,
adorable, irregular features. She has straight, brief eyebrows like a
little girl, but her closed eyelids are rounded like the petals of a
thick white flower, and richly fringed with lashes. The little nose is
of no particular shape—not quite a straight nose, but certainly not a
snub; it is the prettiest nose at Court, with a rounded end like a
child’s. The cheeks, too, are round apple-cheeks, not in the least like
the Herodias of Luini; and round is the neat bewitching chin. But her
chief beauty is her mouth—a mouth with the soft-closed lips of a dear
child pretending to be asleep, yet smiling as if to say, “Soon I shall
jump up and throw my arms round your neck, and you will be so

The round head rises from a long plump throat. The small figure too is
slender and plump at once, and very small, full of life still, it seems,
under the pretty tight silk dress, with the slashed and purfled sleeves,
and the long train of brocade, so lovingly, so carefully arranged not to
encumber nor hide those little pattened feet, that were so fain of
dancing and seem so ready to awake and dance again. This, then, is the
famous Beatrice!—I looked and looked, at last I understood not only her,
but the love of Lodovico: “And so, dear child, thou canst not live
without a crown?—Ah well! What shouldst thou know of murder, dishonour,
and the ruin of great states? Thou wilt never understand these gloomy
things, and I shall pay the price—Ah God in heaven, I thank Thee for the
gift of an immortal soul, since I may lose it for the pleasure of this

Perhaps it was in this way that Lodovico reasoned; or perhaps it may be
that at heart Macbeth is no less ambitious than his wife. Who knows? The
wife, at least, must stand for something. At least, some share in the
ruin of their country must be accorded to these three women—Bonne, who
recalled Lodovico to Milan; Isabel, who inspired the war of Arragon and
Sforza; and Beatrice, whose ambition urged her husband to invite the
French to Italy.

                    THE FLIGHT OF PIERO DE’ MEDICI.

                       (OCTOBER-NOVEMBER, 1494.)

When, in the October of 1494, the King of France marched south from
Asti, a torpor of stupefaction fell upon the princes of Italy. For the
last three years there was no one of them but had coquetted more or less
with France; there was no one of them but was the enemy of that arrogant
house of Arragon which had lost Scutari to Venice, and which had dared
reprove the usurpation of Milan by Lodovico Sforza. Charles was coming
into Italy to dethrone these evil and malignant princes, “fathers of all
treason,” as the author of “De Bello Gallico” has called them; “tyrants
by whom I think that Nero himself would seem a saint.” But now that the
French were actually in Lombardy, it struck the Italian despots with
ominous force that he might not be content with only Naples. Few of them
had any just title to their possessions; none of them, save Venice,
could resist the power of France. “The princes of Italy,” wrote the
Venetian secretary, “aghast at this passing of the mountains, tried to
arrange that the King should pass no farther south, each one doubting
for his own estate, and doubting most of all the enthusiasm of his own
subjects.” For if the tyrants of Italy dreaded the advent of the French,
the populace—the poor, starved, degraded slaves of these illegal
despots—welcomed their coming with open arms. “They were so called and
cried upon,” goes on our author, “so invoked by all the populace of
Italy, that there was none who could withstand them, for all the people
said _Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini_.”

Sorely he was needed, that _Flagellum Dei_, of whom the inspired voice
of Savonarola prophesied daily in the great Cathedral of Florence.
Sorely he was required. For that autumnal Italy which at their coming
the Frenchmen found so fair, was no more than a waving green enchanted
garden full of poisons—poisons for the body, swift or slow, used without
scruple by Venice and Milan as a means to power, by Rome as an easy way
to wealth, by Naples for the vile gratification of cruel passions. The
terrible pages from the “Secreta Secretissima,” published by Lamansky in
1884, the folios of Marino Sanuto’s “Diaries,” the chronicles which fill
the “Archivio Storico,” are full of tragic murders, the more tragical
because so commonplace; and the quiet, impartial voice of Philippe de
Commines falters when he speaks of “les pitiez d’Italie.”

Not only poison for the enviable, slavery for the conquered, famine and
cruelty for the poor, and treachery among the princes of the earth; for
all alike there was a corrupt and horrible dissolution of moral
restraints. “There is no city in Italy,” records the Venetian, “not Rome
or Naples, not Bologna, Florence, Milan, or Ferrara, not my own Venice
even, that is holier than the Cities of the Plain.” Milan, with the
frescoes of Leonardo fresh upon the walls; Venice, where the
girl-madonnas of Giovanni Bellini were not yet all begun; Florence,
peopled with the saints of Botticelli, with the angels of the aged
Gozzoli upon the walls of Piero de’ Medici’s palace; Ferrara, where the
youthful Ariosto dwelt—these homes of the brightest and the fairest art
were morally no better than the Rome of the Borgias or the Naples of
Ferdinand and Alfonso. They were vile dens of corruption. And yet the
painted angels of Florence, the saints of Lombardy, were _not_ a mere
external fashion, a refined hypocrisy; they were the expression of a
movement in Italian hearts deeper than even this permeating evil—pure
underneath the mask of their perversion. When the French came into
Lombardy they found a contagion of spiritual enthusiasm among the
people; they encountered holy women who neither ate, drank, nor slept,
but dwelt in a continual ecstasy; and as they went along the roads the
poorer inhabitants came out to meet them, bearing palms in their hands,
and having on their pale and haggard faces a strange exalted smile.
“Blessed is he,” they sang, “who cometh in the name of the Lord;” for
the people were eager to be quit of the sin that hemmed them round. They
embraced the knees of their conquerors, and suffered willingly a great
deal of hardship at their hands, glad to be purified for ever by the
Scourge of God.

Had it not been for the welcome that they met, the French could never
have penetrated into Italy. They came ill-provided, without good
generals, without money. “There’s not a penny in the treasury,” wrote
Orleans to Ridolfi, in October, “and I have spent four thousand ducats
of my own to pay the troops.” The Italian despots trusted that this lack
of means would cause the French to retire before the winter, and Orleans
was in secret treaty with them to this end. Milan, says this interested
advocate, would be enough to satisfy the honour of France—Milan and a
yearly homage paid by Naples to the Crown of France.[114] But these
designs were frustrated by the enthusiasm with which the French were
received in the invaded provinces. The women brought their jewels to pay
the troops; the men threw open the gates of the cities; every difficulty
was overridden, for, says Commines, touched with the grave exaltation of
Italy, “God was Himself our leader: _Dieu monstroit conduire

Footnote 114:

  See Desjardins I., “Négociations diplomatiques dans la Toscane.”

“At our first arrival,” he goes on, “the people honoured us as saints,
supposing all faith and virtue to be in us; but this opinion endured not
long.” The rude French soldiery—Gascons, Normans, Swiss, and German
mercenaries—pathetically ignorant of the fancied aureole playing round
their weatherbeaten faces, marched through Italy as through any other
conquered country. At Rapallo they put the town to the sword; they took
Fivizzano by a murderous assault; they shed much blood at Pontremoli;
for they could not understand that they seemed the Elect of Heaven, and
they sought by fierce reprisals to keep up a military prestige. But if
in Lombardy, in Lunigiana, the rude passage of the troops had to some
extent dispelled the illusions of the people—where the army had not yet
arrived the cities with open gates awaited it in holy awe. Arragon
retired from point to point without a battle fought. The subjects of
Catarina Sforza threatened her with rebellion if she refused submission
to the French; Bologna, against the will of Bentivoglio, insisted on
making peace with Charles. And in the Duomo of Florence, where
Savonarola preached of the Purifying Scourge of God, the people shouted,
“Franza, Franza!” where they were only used to sob in bitter patience,
“Misericordia.” And to these enthusiasts, impatient of Medicean luxury,
it was no drawback that the King, their deliverer, was a mere ugly
youth, “more a monster than a man,” as Guicciardini plainly states,
quite uncultured, and knowing neither Greek nor Latin. “In fact,” as the
Milanese Corio remarked, “an uninstructed person, though none the less
able to address his soldiery in telling terms, so that for love of him
they dash upon the enemy, shouting, ‘Alive or dead!’” In the autumn of
1494 this ugly, bright-eyed youth had inspired an equal devotion in the
populace of Florence.

The people were led by the monk Savonarola; but many of the old
Florentine families (the Nerli, Gualterotti, Sonderini, Capponi) were no
less anxious than the people to banish their _parvenu_ tyrant. Out of
all the crowd of monks, enthusiasts, bankers, patricians, and
politicians which made up the popular party, two _silhouettes_ stand
strongly forth. One is the preacher Savonarola—a man of middle height,
of dark complexion, and sanguine, bilious temperament. At forty-two his
face is lined with seams and wrinkles—a harsh, strong face with a sweet
expression, like Samson’s honey in the lion’s mouth; eyes that flash and
flame from under shaggy black eyebrows and shed their spiritual gleam
over the heavy Roman nose and the large mouth with the loose, thick lips
of the orator firmly closed and drawn into a painful smile; a kind,
noble, spiritual, tragic face, with something mad in it, or something at
the least that must pass for mad in this uninspired and transitory

This was the man who for a good four years was virtually the ruler of
Florence; this was the man who, more than any other, helped on the cause
of France in Italy. “A man of holy life,” says Commines, who knew him.
And Guicciardini describes him: “Full of charity, of natural goodness,
and religion—so clever in philosophy, one would think he himself had had
the making of it; without a trace of lust or avarice; but if he had a
vice it was simulation, the prompting of a proud ambition.” One more
voice arrests us: “A treacherous friar, worthy the end of the wicked.”
But it is Marino Sanuto who speaks, the political enemy of Savonarola
and a personal stranger to his qualities.

Behind the strong profile of the friar we note another head, also worthy
of remark. This is Piero Capponi, a man of old Florentine family,
republican by descent. Sturdily built and square, with brilliant eyes,
he has a certain air of a courser sniffing battle; brief and resolute in
speech, vigorously mature in age, he seems the very embodiment of virile
energy. He is rich, for an astrologer at his birth having foretold his
death in battle, he was persuaded by his father to devote himself to
commerce. The man worked at money-getting with the restless, dominant
force he put into everything he did, and made his fortune in a sort of
fury. Then he threw up his career, having enough, and entered public
life at thirty years of age. A republican, his restless need of activity
made him accept the Medicean service. He had been ambassador in France,
and was as French as Savonarola. “See them near, like ghosts,” he used
to say, “and there is nothing to be afraid of in these French.” Although
at this time the right arm of the Republic, his patrician birth, his
acquaintance with the magnificence of princes, made him recoil from the
extremer measures of the monk. A man of the greatest spirit, the
staunchest energy, the very width of his views and his natural love of
change made him a danger to a peaceful but imperfect Government. Born to
be a great captain, he loved, above all things, a difficult campaign;
and he spent his life in fighting alternately his enemies and his
friends, until at last the astrologer’s prediction, true in spite of
human prudence, set a bridle on his martial soul.

These two men represent the two parties who chiefly desired the advent
of the French—the enthusiasts, the poor, the children of Savonarola, and
the powerful burghers, as rich and may be better born than Piero de’
Medici, who resented their tyrant’s views on the republic, who resented
almost more his alliance with the detested Spanish autocrats of Naples.
On the other side—the side of the Orsini, of Cardinal Bibbiena, of
Bernardò del Nero, and the aristocratic party, there is but one man that
can arrest us as Capponi or Savonarola must arrest us, and that is Piero
de’ Medici himself.

Piero and the King of France were mortal enemies; the King of Naples had
no more resolved ally than Medici, though the French inclinations of the
city prevented him from showing the true colour of his opinions. He was,
in fact, “immoderately bound up with Arragon, and determined to chance
the same fortune,” as Guicciardini tells us; since in return for this
alliance he had arranged that Ferdinand of Naples should support him in
turning his old republic into a new monarchy. Naples in those days
represented in Italy the kingdom as distinguished from the Signory; it
was the natural pole-star of the aristocrat. And Piero was drawn to the
south as much by sentiment as by inclination; his mother Clarice, his
young wife Alfonsina, both came of the Roman family of Orsini.

In 1494 Piero de’ Medici was about four-and-twenty years of age. He was
beautiful in person and very vigorous. He was clever at games and
sports; he had a charming way of pronouncing his words, a winning voice,
and a great facility in making impromptu verses. But this handsome,
graceful personage was not popular in Florence. He was haughty and
arrogant beyond expression, subject to furies of animal anger, proud,
and cruel. He would have men waylaid at night in the street and beaten
violently by private bravos. He was so absolute, that even in matters he
did not pretend to understand, he would govern all according to his
fancy. And this aristocrat of a free republic was as fiery, vain,
careless, and impatient as he was presumptuous. While the people
murmured “Franza” with white excited faces; while Savonarola was
thundering his prophecies of the _Flagellum Dei_; while news of the
massacres and the irresistible advance of France struck a religious
terror into Tuscany—the young head of the state left the garrisons
unprovided and unguarded; not a week’s provisions in Sarzana or Pietra
Santa; not a handful of infantry in the fastnesses of the hills. While
winds of rebellion, war, and outrage swept the city, he, the one man
unmoved, was to be seen as usual playing _pallone_ in the public
streets, a light-minded aristocrat, full of a certain easy and handsome
bravado, caring for no one’s safety, not even for his own.

But even Piero, as he knocked the tennis-ball against the palace front,
must now and then have felt a certain twinge of anxiety. For every day
brought news of the farther retreat of Arragon, and only success, and
brilliant success, could justify the Arragonese alliance in the eyes of
the Florentines. Already that aristocratic alliance had touched the
mercantile republic in a sensitive point: in June the King of France had
expelled the Florentine bankers and merchants out of his kingdom. This
meant ruin to many honourable families, and decided the burghers to join
the party of Savonarola, so weakening the Medicean faction that people
whispered it was Capponi who had thus advised King Charles, in order to
disgust the impoverished merchants with their tyrant. But the documents
published in Desjardins contradict this supposition. It was from
Lodovico il Moro, the determined enemy of Florence and of Piero, that
King Charles accepted this happy suggestion.

The burghers were all for France, in order to regain their commerce. The
people, under Savonarola, the Republican families under Capponi, desired
nothing more than the advent of King Charles. The very cousins of Piero
himself had become so French, that a year ago he had exiled them to
their country villas, where they lived in comfortable durance,
surrounded by the light of popular martyrdom. To resist all these varied
forces, Piero, on his side, could count a few old friends of his father,
such as Bernardò del Nero and his secretary Bibbiena, an ambitious
priest, and his wife’s brother, Pagolo Orsini, captain of the forces of
the republic.

The situation was grave indeed, but he took it lightly, with a facile
temerity that would not condescend to prudence. On the 3rd of October
his ambassador at Milan wrote that the French spoke of wintering in Pisa
and Sarzana. Yet not a single fortress had a week’s provisions. So late
as the 22nd of October, in answer to a last appeal from France, he sent
the Bishop of Arezzo to King Charles with a vague, exasperating,
indecisive answer. The same week the two cousins of Piero escaped from
their villas, and rode post-haste to the French camp. “Sire,” they cried
to Charles, “be not angry with Florence. The tyrant is against you, but
you have the faithful devotion of the people.” The King was well
inclined to believe the two young men with whom he had often practised,
and who had suffered a year’s imprisonment for his sake. “We do not
confuse the people of Florence with the governor,” answered the Council.
“The last alone is the King’s enemy.” And, departing from Piacenza, the
armies of France marched on the Florentine territories.

In a few days they were on the Tuscan border. At Fivizzano and
Pontremoli they had so avenged a slight resistance that the gates flew
open at their approach. Who dare resist the Scourge of God? Terror and
awe bent every head before them. In Florence the populace surged along
the narrow streets, and declared they would not resist the King of
France. Three days after Piero had sent off the Bishop of Arezzo, a
popular tumult seemed ready to burst at any moment.

What could he do? The French were now within fifty miles of Pisa, and
though the mountain fortresses ought to have kept them at bay all the
winter long, Piero remembered too late that he had forgotten to
provision them; that he had neglected to call the Pisan hostages into
Florence, and that Pisa hated her cruel mistress, and was certain to
revolt to France. Only one course suggested itself to the desperate
young man, and this course was so adventurous, romantic, and unusual,
that it captivated at once his unsteady imagination. Many years ago,
when Arragon had worsted Florence on the battlefield, Lorenzo de’ Medici
had gone as his own ambassador to Naples, running, it is true, a great
risk of steel or poison, but by his fascinating address making a devoted
friend of an exasperated enemy. Piero determined to follow the example
of his father. On the 26th of October he heard that the French were
arriving before Sarzana, within two days’ march of Florence. On the
evening of that day the tyrant of Florence secretly escaped from his own
palace, left the city in the dusk of evening, and rode through the chill
autumn night as far as Empoli.


                                             “EMPOLI, _26 Oct., 1494_.

            “_Piero de’ Medici to the Signory of Florence._

“Because I believe I ought not to suffer imputation or reproach for that
which, according to my mind and feeble judgment, appeared to me the most
salutary remedy to preserve my menaced country, I depart from you to
offer myself to the most Christian king, and to turn on to my own head
the storm that menaces my native land. Nor is there any consequent
punishment, but I would rather suffer it in my own person than behold it
inflicted on this republic.

“After all, I am not the first of my house to go on such an enterprise;
and since there is no fatigue, hardship, cost, nay not even death
itself, but, endured for any one of you, it would appear to me a
benefit, how much more do I not welcome these rude chances for the sake
of the universal city!

“Be sure, if I return it will be to bring good tidings to you and to the
city; either this, or I shall leave my life in the camp of the enemy.

“To you, in this extreme moment, I recommend my brothers and my
children. And, for the faith and affection you bare to the bones of
Lorenzo my father, I pray you be content to pray to God for me.”[115]

Footnote 115:

  “Négociations diplomatiques dans la Toscane,” vol. i. p. 587, _et


                                                    “EMPOLI, _26 Oct_.

                    “_Piero de’ Medici to Bibbiena._

“Comfort, dear Bibbiena, my little household troop till I return; and,
above all things, be good to Alfonsina and to poor little Lorenzio[116]
who has none of the blame to bear. All of you, pray to God for me and
for the city.”

Footnote 116:

  His infant son, born 1492, in after days the father of Catherine de’


                                                 “PISA, _27 Oct., 1494_.

                    “_Piero de’ Medici to Bibbiena._

“I arrived in Pisa this evening, very weary with the road, with my own
thoughts, with the rain that has rained the live-long day, and with the
uncomfortable bed I had last night.... ’Tis but a line I send you, only
that you may assure my magnificent Messer Marino (the Neapolitan
Ambassador) of the complete devotion that I bear his master... A
devotion which to day _traho ad immolandum_! Perchance it is my fault I
did not earlier discover the desertion of the Florentines, the want of
money, arms, and credit that I had; but ’tis so difficult to doubt in
such a city as our Florence. Let me be excused before His Majesty, since
I am not the first sick man who has gone to death’s door before he has
discovered he was mortal. In short, tell him this, that even unto hell I
will keep my faith to His Majesty King Alfonso (_insino all’ Inferno
conserveró la fede mia al Signor Re Alfonso_). And perhaps in my present
low and humble state, I may serve him better as a private gentleman in
the camp of France than I served him as the first in Florence.”


                                              “PIETRA SANTA, _29 Oct_.

                    “_Piero de’ Medici to Bibbiena._

“I beg you ask the Signory to send here at once 500 foot. With so much
aid we might hold out, at least until I have made good terms.... There
is not much to eat, ’tis true, but there is always something. And send
off the men-at-arms to Pisa.

“I wrote to the Duke of Milan when I was at Pisa. I believe him to have
reached Sarzana.... Arrange all these matters that there be no hitch.”


                                                     “_30 Oct., 1494._

                    “_Piero de’ Medici to Bibbiena._

“Last night the French lords came here to Pietra Santa, and were most
honourably received. The Bishop of St. Malo tells me the King will be at
Florence _viâ_ Pisa in four or five days.

“It is to fetch _me_ they have come. The King’s herald is with them, I
am just off to Sarzana with St. Malo and two other gentle lords. Rejoice
with me at the honour they have done me. These lords were sent here on
purpose to receive me! Tell the Eight! Tell Alfonsina! Tell
Monsignore.[117] Tell Giuliano!”

Footnote 117:

  The boy-cardinal, Giovanni de’ Medici, Piero’s brother, afterwards Leo


Piero de’ Medici set out for the French camp from Pietra Santa on the
30th of October. Although the winter was afterwards so mild, the autumn
had been severe, and the roads were marvellously deep with snow. All
round Sarzana there extends a barren country, desolate, and full of
little hills. At last a long ride of thirty miles brought the tired
horsemen in sight of the French camp. The tents were pitched all round
the frontier-fortress, a strong place in bad repair, which had cost the
Republic fifty thousand florins not many years ago. Sarzana was guarded
by Sarzanello, a fort surrounded by great towers built on a steep hill
above the town. When Piero arrived the French were beginning to bombard
Sarzanello with that strange, improved artillery of theirs which caused
such panic in Italy. The young man, alone in the midst of an enemy he
had done his best to ruin, assailed by visions of death and prison, was
exhausted with fatigue, with restrained terror, and with the novelty of
his position. The French lords led him at once to the tent of Charles.
Contrary to his expectations, the King—a young man of his own
age—received him kindly, even benignly. They were not going to kill him
after all. In the exquisite relaxation of his dread, Piero sank upon his
knees before the King, stammered an excuse, and hung his handsome head.
“I will do everything your Majesty may require!”

Where was now that devotion to Arragon, which (as he told Bibbiena with
so proud a swagger) _traho ad immolandum_? Where was that loyalty,
“which I shall preserve in hell itself”? They had vanished to that dim
limbo of generous resolutions where they would meet his fealty to the
Republic, his love of country, and his self-sacrificing affection for
his people. All these golden sentiments had completely vanished from the
mind of Piero. The warm tent, after the long snowy ride, the kind
reception, so different from his terrified previsions, the amiable
friendliness of the French lords, who showed no humiliating surprise at
his visit, all combined to fill him with a sense of genial relief. After
all, Capponi was right: “Look at these French near, and there is nothing
to be afraid of.” Piero, if he was afraid at all, was only filled with
that pleasant awe which the reverential _parvenu_ experiences when
received on kindly terms in aristocratic society. He had not quite
recovered yet from the honour that the French had shown him in sending
St. Malo and the King’s herald to receive him. Perhaps on the rack Piero
might have kept his word an hour or so. It vanished quite out of
remembrance as soon as he felt the soft influence of royal converse.

And this was the King, the second Charlemagne, the marvel of nations,
the terrible _Flagellum Dei_! Piero, accustomed to the kind voice,
raised his eyes, and beheld a very small man of four-and-twenty,
unusually youthful in aspect, with high shoulders, a sickly air, and
extraordinarily thin long legs. He looked not quite grown up; and he was
certainly very ugly, with his large head, long nose, wide mouth, and
timid, delicate appearance. His ugliness was, however, redeemed by a
pair of singularly beautiful and shining eyes, whose intelligent, kind,
straightforward glance promised a liberal and honest nature. The King
was, in fact, both liberal and honest; a simple, inconsequent,
honourable creature, too nonchalant to make himself obeyed, and too
incapable of dissimulation to win by art what he could not gain by
force. He was, we learn from Commines, “the gentlest creature alive; of
no great sense, but of so good a nature it were impossible to find a
kinder creature; a youth but newly crept out of the shell.” This
description does not promise a very terrible monarch, or an insidious
diplomatist, but all the duplicity of Lodovico il Moro could not have
gained a greater triumph than the careless good-nature of Charles
achieved over the flattered Florentine.

The King sat like a quaint elfin child in his tent among his splendid
counsellors. These polite and courtly people had rather a more decided
smile than usual about their pleasant lips as they glanced towards
Piero. The young Florentine was submerged, drowned, in his satisfaction
with the King and with his own reception. He was on the best terms with
his friend, the King of France. Charles, who did not quite understand
the situation, asked a great deal more than ever he hoped to obtain from
penitent Florence, thinking he would have to abate his demands (a few
weeks in Italy had taught him how to bargain), especially when dealing
with a mercantile person like Piero de’ Medici. He put forward in fact
an extravagant requisition: the Florentine troops were all to be
dismissed (the troops that Piero had ordered yesterday), the fortresses
of Sarzana, of Sarzanello, Librafatto, Pisa, Leghorn, and Pietra Santa
were to be delivered to the King; his army was to have free passage, and
he was to receive a loan of 200,000 ducats. Now the French party of
Florence were prepared to allow the King to lodge in Pisa, and to grant
him a free passage, but more than this had never been dreamed of by
Savonarola or Capponi. Piero, however, when he heard the King’s demand,
did not abate a jot of it. Who was he to contradict the King? (“I go,”
he had said; “I go head down in front of peril to bring you back a
welcome message, or else to leave my bones in the camp of the enemy!”)
He immediately agreed to grant the whole, yielding the entire force and
estate of Florence into the power of France. “Those that negotiated with
the said Peter,” says Commines, “have often told me, scoffing and
jesting at him, that they wondered to see him so lightly condescend to
so weighty a matter, granting more than they looked for.” And
Guicciardini adds: “There was no Frenchman there that did not greatly
marvel that Piero so easily consented to matters of so great importance,
because without a doubt the King would have accepted very far inferior
conditions.” But Piero, the hero of fidelity, the new Lorenzo, did not
think of this. “I require the six fortresses, the dismissal of your
army, free passage, and a loan of 200,000 ducats,” repeated the slow,
stammering, timid voice of the King. “I agree,” said Piero.

There was a silence in the tent, half-amused, half-painful, a feeling as
if they had overreached a little child.


Piero de’ Medici was not the only Italian tyrant who had come to visit
the camp of Charles before Sarzana. The day after Piero had arrived,
Lodovico il Moro of Milan, who had been called home from Piacenza by the
most timely death of his nephew, returned this time as Duke of Milan, to
the tents of his allies. He had not expected to encounter there the ally
of Alfonso, the tyrant of Florence, and the meeting was not pleasant.
Lodovico had an especial dislike to Piero de’ Medici; firstly, because
Florence possessed the forts of Pietra Santa and Sarzana, which used to
belong to the Genoese, of whom Lodovico was the suzerain; secondly,
because Piero was the staunchest ally of Arragon in Italy; and lastly,
because on one occasion that charming fool had actually outwitted the
wise Lodovico himself. On this occasion Piero, suspecting Lodovico of a
Janus face that turned different fronts to Florence and to France, had
hidden the French ambassador behind a screen in his audience-chamber,
while he made Lodovico’s ambassador protest that Charles had no surer
enemy than his master. The French envoy had been very properly
scandalized, but instead of preserving a quiet distrust of Milan, King
Charles had proclaimed his wrongs from the house-tops; Lodovico had
persuaded him they were inventions of the enemy, and henceforth had
vowed an eternal hate to Piero.

Thus there was a personal coolness between the Duke of Milan and the
head of the Florentine Republic; but on political grounds their meeting
was still more awkward. Lodovico il Moro was a man who loved to fish in
troubled waters. He had sown dislike and distrust between the French and
Florence; he had meant the Florentines to keep the troops of Charles all
the winter imprisoned in the fastnesses of their hills. And when in the
spring, the King, disgusted with the Neapolitan enterprise, should
return to France, he had hoped to obtain for himself whatever places the
French had gained from Tuscany. Lodovico had gained the great object
which had made him call the French into Italy; he was Duke of Milan. He
now wished no farther progress for Charles. He hoped that the King might
winter in Tuscany, and then retire to France, having handed over to
Milan Sarzana and Pietra Santa, and leaving behind an intimidated
Naples, a plundered Florence, a triumphant and victorious Milan. Judge
of his immense displeasure when he discovered that, in the few days of
his absence, Piero de’ Medici had delivered to the King the passes of
the Apennines.

Lodovico was of that far-sighted order of politicians who, when a
cherished project fails, have ever an under-study ready to supply its
place. It was an unfortunate fact that nothing now prevented Charles
from making himself the lord of Italy; but at any rate Milan might gain
possession of the towns in the Lunigiana. Lodovico went to Charles, and
asked him for the six fortresses which Piero had yielded yesterday. But
Charles, though a very simple and youthful person, was not a fool; he
would not close himself in a trap in the South of Italy with all the
passes homeward shut behind him. He answered Lodovico that he preferred
to keep the fortresses, at least until after his return from Naples. The
Duke of Milan was a grave and modest man, quiet in manner and majestic,
never irascible or angry; he feigned to agree with his ally the King of
France. Yes, it would certainly be wiser for Charles to keep the passes;
and, to add a point to his conciliation, he remembered that Milan owed
the King the 30,000 ducats due for the investiture of Genoa.

But, notwithstanding his beautiful manners, the Duke of Milan did not
smile when, in the King’s camp, he encountered the man who had spoiled
all his well-considered policy. He had left Milan at an awkward moment
in order to get the promise of Sarzana and Pietra Santa. The King had
promised him nothing; had got beyond his reach, had just cost him 30,000
ducats; and all this was the fault of Piero. The young Florentine saw
the look of irritation on Lodovico’s face, and in his eternal
self-preoccupation he thought it due to the fact that he had received no
official welcome into Tuscany.

“I rode out to meet you yesterday,” cried Piero, “but I could not find
you anywhere. You must have missed the way!”

“It is true, young man,” said Lodovico, in his grave, sinister voice;
“it is true that one of us has missed the way. But it is possible that
_you_ may be the man.”

Charles—looking on, understanding little, thinking far more of the
falcon on his wrist than of the manœuvres and intrigues of these
Italians—Charles was no match for either of these men. And yet, in
coming to his camp, each of them had missed the way. Had the merciful
curtain of the future been for a moment lifted on that evening, either
had swooned with terror to see to what end that mistaken path should
lead them. What is this? An old French street, surging with an eager
mob, through which there jostles a long line of guards and archers; in
their midst a tall man, dressed in black camlet, seated on a mule. In
his hands he holds his biretta, and lifts up, unshaded, his pale,
courageous face, showing in all his bearing a great contempt of death.
It is Lodovico, Duke of Milan, riding to his cage at Loches.

And there, in the rapidly running Garigliano, where the French soldiery
are struggling in their all too hasty flight, that dead, comely face,
swirled here and there by the dark, washing waters—that is the face of
Piero de’ Medici.


But the end is not yet; a little longer the cunning Lodovico and the
empty-headed Medici have still their parts to play, and for the next few
days the part of Piero is no easy one. He has to answer to Florence for
having delivered her, without her own consent, into the hands of the

For the Signory were still in ignorance of this sad disposal of their
fate. So soon as they discovered the flight of Piero they sent off seven
envoys to the camp of Charles to treat with the King, “with Piero or
without Piero,” and to express the thanks of Florence for his honourable
welcome accorded “to our fellow-citizen, Piero de’ Medici.” When the
seven Florentine negotiators arrived at the French camp they found the
French had been three days already in Sarzana and Sarzanello; they found
that their fellow-citizen had dispossessed them of all that they had
gained in a hundred years or more—of Sarzana, their frontier town;
Pietra Santa, which had cost them 150,000 ducats and a two months’
siege; of Leghorn and Pisa—her seaports, the two eyes of
Florence—without which her commerce were impossible: and he had
promised, in the name of the Republic, the extravagant subsidy of
200,000 ducats!

Before the bad news could reach home the Signory had sent off a second
embassy of five: Tanai dei Nerli, Savonarola, Capponi, and two other
staunch Republicans, Guelfs and democrats, the leaders of the French
party. They arrived to discover in their late opponent a more disastrous
friend, so French that he had ceased to be Florentine at all. Capponi
then and there determined to prevent the continuance of the Medici in
Florence. Savonarola spoke words of tragic warning to the astonished
King: “If thou respect not Florence, God shall whip thee with His whips
and scourges.” But no eloquence and no resolve could change the fact
that the French were in the fortresses.

So the twelve ambassadors mournfully set their faces homewards; and
Piero also returned to Florence—Piero, brilliant, presumptuous, arrogant
as ever. There was no sign of shame or sorrow about him; but even he
could notice the cold reception of the people. Every man frowned upon
him as he passed along the streets; they murmured together and talked of

It was the 8th of November when he came home to Florence. On the morning
of the 9th he rode to the Piazza with his ordinary guard to announce the
King’s coming, but when he knocked at the gate of the Palazzo Vecchio,
young Nerli refused to let him in unless he sent away his soldiery.
Piero, indignant at this behaviour, rode home again and sent a message
to his wife’s brother, Pagolo Orsini, captain of the horse, to bid him
lead the troops at once to Florence. Meanwhile, in the streets the
ominous cry of “Liberty, liberty!” gathered and grew. All the
adventurous temper of Piero de’ Medici was roused. Without waiting for
the troops, he armed himself and a few servants, and rushed cavalcading
along the hostile streets, crying out the rallying cry of his family,
“Palle! Palle!” But everywhere he was met with sullen silence—silence
that gradually broke into a roar of disapproval, a shout of “Libertà!”
By the time Orsini and the soldiers came, Piero was glad of their
assistance, not to quell the disaffected Florentines, but to escape from
a town in open mutiny. They left the women behind in the great house in
Via Larga, and, accompanied by a few cavaliers, the three young Medici
fled from their city. Piero rode in the middle, disguised as a monk. It
was the second time in fourteen days that he had secretly escaped from

When the sun rose on the 10th of November, Florence was in deed, as well
as in name, a republic. Piero was a fugitive in reproachful Bologna, a
price of 5,000 ducats on his head. Nor ever again, in the ten remaining
years of his life, did he re-enter Florence; and when his brothers,
seventeen years after, were readmitted to their ancient home, it was
through the blood of Prato that they waded into Florence.

Florence would brave any danger rather than receive the Medici. When
King Charles, a few days after the escape of Piero, made a brave stand
for his guest of Sarzana, the Florentines threatened him with open war.
“You can sound your trumpets,” said Piero Capponi; “I will ring my
bells.” Charles looked out of the window at the narrow streets, at the
solemn, strong-walled city that, at the sound of the tocsin, became a
mysterious and terrible ambush, raining death from every window,
shooting unsuspected sallies along the tortuous streets. He understood
that a plain French soldier could not deal with such an enemy as this.
“Take off the price upon his head,” he declared, “and I will say no

Nevertheless, had Piero gone at once to Charles instead of to Bologna,
the King might have forced him back on Florence. But the young man fled
from Bologna to Venice; and when King Charles sent him a message and
bade him come to his camp, Piero refused to stir. Piero Capponi, he
said, had told him the French King meant only to betray him. Piero
Capponi was at least resolved that his namesake should no more betray
the city, and by his persuasions the Medicean Piero remained at Venice.
“There I often saw him,” wrote Commines, “and he discoursed to me at
large of all his misfortunes, and I, as well as I could, comforted him.
Methought him a man of no great stuff or sense.”

                          THE FRENCH AT PISA.

In the eleventh century the King of Tunis asked of the Pisan merchants
at his Court: “What are the Florentines?” “They are our Arabs of the
desert,” replied those prosperous tradesmen. “They are our poor!”

But in the next century these Arabs of Tuscany proved themselves
formidable rivals to their neighbours; though for another hundred years
Pisa, with diminishing resources, retained a superior prestige. That
superiority of hers became the occasion of her final ruin; for in 1197
when Volterra, Lucca, Florence, San Miniato, Arezzo, and Siena united in
the Great Guelf League of Independence, Pisa alone stood out resolutely
Ghibelline, isolated in the dignity of her Imperialism. This abstention
of Pisa, then the first of the Tuscan cities, gave to Florence the front
place in the League, and made her the head of the Guelfs in Central

Thenceforth, for centuries Florence gloriously flourished, while the
fame of Pisa dwindled to a mere proverb, an old tale but half believed.
First she lost her supremacy, then her wealth, then her renown, and at
last her independence. A family of despots arose in her midst. Soon she
was to regret this comparative liberty, for in 1397 Giangaleazzo
Visconti conquered the city, and left it, on his death in 1402, to his
mistress, Agnese Mantegazza, and to their son, Gabriello Maria Visconti.
But Messer Gabriel’ Maria was not strong enough to keep Pisa single
handed against his envious neighbours of Florence, Genoa, and Lucca; so
on April 15, 1404, he agreed to hold the city as a fief of France.


Few of the details of history are more involved, perplexed, or dependent
on the revelations of unpublished archives than the delicate intrigues
of France for the possession of Pisa. A Mediterranean seaport, a link in
the precious chain that ran (Marseilles, Genoa, Pisa, Naples) from
Provence to Sicily, she was an invaluable supporter of the Angevines in
the south; and holding the passes of the Apennines, she was scarcely
less necessary to Orleans in Lombardy, glad indeed of an ally among the
Tuscan republics, so irreconcilably inimical to the Visconti. But, as we
have already seen, the plans of Orleans were liable to suffer from the
counter plans of France; and as at Genoa in 1395 so it was at Pisa in

The great Visconti died in September, 1402; and in the same year Marshal
Boucicaut was sent as Governor to Genoa. Boucicaut was an enemy of
Milan,[118] a hater of the Turk, a man who saw in the Visconti the
secret allies of the Sultan, a man who had been a captive at Nicopolis.
A pure, devoted, honourable spirit, yet officious, yet impatient:—a
restless hero working persistently in a nervous and unquiet fashion the
thing that he believed to be the Will of God—Boucicaut is a figure as
unusual among the factions and intrigues of fifteenth-century history as
Gordon among the small surroundings of to-day. The Marshal was sent to
Genoa because that jealous and unaccountable people (“qui n’aime pas
qu’on aille leur desbauscher leurs femmes”) would no longer endure his
predecessor. They found in him the man they had prayed to have, a
sterner master. Boucicaut was as rigid as he was simple: a man soon
deceived, but swift and inflexible in the punishment of treachery. His
immaculate life, his proved authority, his skill in regulating and
organizing commercial traffic, gave him a great position in Northern
Italy, made him the man of men there, the central figure, even as before
him had been Giangaleazzo Visconti. For one reason, these two men, so
unlike in every detail, were alike in the great fact that they were
thinkers, men with a mission, inspired by an idea that ruled their lives
and to which they subordinated every consideration. The Duke of Milan
dreamed of a great United Italian Confederation, of which he should be
the head, and of which the Pope should be merely the ornament and crown:
his dream was the dream of the Emperor Napoleon III. Boucicaut, a
crusader by nature and tradition, above all things a religious spirit,
dreamed of ending the Schism, of gaining state after state to the
adherence of the true Pope at Avignon, and, _pari passu_, of extending
the dominions of his lord the King of France. The ambition of Boucicaut
was all spiritual loyalty and feudal devotion; the ambition of Visconti,
stained with crimes, was directed only to self-aggrandizement: different
stars were theirs, shining from different poles. But the men who see a
star and follow where it leads them, though they go as far apart as Hell
and Heaven, have more in common than the mere human bond which ties them
to the obscure multitude of their fellows, swaying hither and thither,
devoid of purpose, will, or way.

Footnote 118:

  On October 30, 1403, he wrote to Florence and offered to take one of
  the finest cities of the Milanese between Milan and Piedmont if
  Florence would afford him (as indeed she offered to do) an aid of 200
  lances (Florence Archives, Filza II. dei Dieci 3). Nothing appears to
  have come of this arrangement, which appears to have been quite
  uncountenanced by the King.

Almost the first act of Boucicaut at Genoa was to write to Florence
inviting her to assist him in capturing from the young Visconti (the
Serpent-brood) one of the finest cities between Milan and Piedmont. The
Florentines shared to the full the distrust of Boucicaut for the
children of him whom they had called “the self-dubbed Count of Virtues
(Vertus), the veritable Count of Vice.” And they consented to the
enterprise, but yet did not pursue it. For, at that moment, they had
other work to hand. There was another Visconti than the Lords of Milan
and Padua whom they must subdue. They were laying siege to Pisa “e chi
la tiene”: her master Gabriel’ Maria Visconti.

At the same moment, as we know, Orleans beyond the Alps was mysteriously
advancing southwards; his aim, no less than that of the Florentines, the
reduction of Pisa. For through his wife, Valentine Visconti,[119] he
had, as he considered, a prior claim on Pisa, and indeed on all
possessions of the dead Duke not included in the heritage of the two
legitimate sons. Gabriel’ Maria, the bastard, supported only by his
mother, besieged by the Florentine allies of France, threatened by his
brother-in-law the puissant brother of the King of France,—what hope had
he? None indeed, save in the disquiet which the news of Orleans’ coming
might inspire among his neighbours. For was it only on Pisa intent that
so great a lord was advancing on Lombardy? At this moment the young
Visconti of Milan were at open war with Boucicaut, and had declared
their intention to drive him out of Genoa and to obtain for themselves
the rich province of which the French had baulked their father. Did
Orleans also remember with rancour that disappointment of ten years ago?
Did he intend to join his brothers-in-law of Milan, take Genoa first and
Pisa afterwards? It might be; and yet it were difficult to be at once
the ally of the Milanese Visconti, and the usurper of their
half-brother’s possessions. Was it possible that the King’s brother
intended to unite his army to that of the King’s lieutenant, defeat the
young Visconti before Genoa, drive them from Lombardy as well as out of
Pisa, and make for himself a great territory (Milan, Asti, Pisa)
alongside of the French protectorate of Genoa? Boucicaut was an ancient
and intimate companion of the Duke of Orleans; it was rumoured that
Orleans had frequent interviews with Pope Benedict at Beaucaire; it was
possible that the three had come to an understanding.

Footnote 119:

  See the preceding chapter on Valentine Visconti.

And Orleans marched south. And Florence assailed Pisa. So late as April
17, 1404,[120] the Florentines believed that by diplomacy, if not by
force, they might secure their prey. But in the end of February or the
beginning of March the Duke of Orleans turned north in high dudgeon,
indignantly marching on Paris. And in April it was commonly known that,
on the 4th of that month, Messer Gabriel’ Maria Visconti had been
acknowledged a vassal of the Crown of France; he was “homme du Roy” and
the King’s men henceforth would support him in Pisa.

Footnote 120:

  See a manuscript letter, I believe imprinted, in the Florence
  Archives, Dieci di Balia, Classe x. dist. iii. No. 2, f^o. 56:
  _Istruzione data a Pierotto Fidini_: “Andrai a Pisa e sarai con
  Madonna Agnese e dicele che tu ciai (ci hai) referito quello chella ta
  detta (ch’ella ti ha detta) e, uditolo, noi siamo contenti seguitare
  il ragionemento, cioè di contrarre con lei buona pace e sicura si che
  tra lei e noi non abbia da essere guerra. Ma che, per fare contento il
  nostro popolo, e mostrargli come cosa sia sicura che guerra non gli
  sia fatta a noi, è bisogno chella metta nelle mani del Comune nostro
  quatro Castella colle loro forteze, di quelle del Terreno di Pisa che
  per noi si nomineranno et vogliendo ella fare questo noi verremo alla
  pace e alla concordia realmente.

  “Se ella dinegasse questo volere fare, avendo tu prima provato e
  riprovato chella il consento, et ella dicesse di volere mettere le
  dette castelle colle forteze loro in mano di terza persona fidata a
  lei ed a noi, dirai in ultimo che noi siamo contenti. E se questo ella
  non movesse a te ma stessesi pure in su la negativa—di non ci volere
  dare le dette castella—allora moverai tu a lei dicendo che, poi che
  non le dia piacere mettere le dette castella nelle mani nostre, chella
  le metta nelle mani di terza persona di lei e di noi fidata. E che a
  questo ella consente e volere che tu nommassi le castella, dirai
  Livorno, Librafacta, Casena e Ponteacra. E se d’alcuni di questi ella
  dicesse non potere fare, saprai quali. E in scambio loro dirai Palaia
  e Marti se fossino più d’uno. Se ella ti venisse a domandare chi noi
  porremo per terza persona, dirai che tu non ne sei informato ma che tu
  ci lo riferirai, e se ella te ne nominasse alcuno, tiengli a mente. E
  poi ne vieni subito alla presentia nostra, bene informato d’ogni cosa.
  Et eziandio d’ogni novettà e cosa che sentire puoi” (April 17, 1404).

Great was the wrath of Orleans, loud the remonstrance of Florence.
Orleans had scarcely arrived in Paris before the King transferred to him
all the Royal rights to Pisa (as I have already shown the reader in the
chapter on Valentine Visconti), and formally disowned the conduct of
Boucicaut, forbidding him in future to put any obstacle in the path of
his brother. Censured at home, Boucicaut was not less fervently
condemned by his allies in Italy. The Signory of Florence addressed a
most indignant letter to him,[121] accusing him of a dishonest action in
seizing from the King’s faithful allies the prey they had hunted so
long, now, in their very grasp, to be wrested from them by a friend.
“Questa non era honesta cosa.” The Florentines could easily have reduced
Pisa, but against the fief of France, their ally, they could do nothing.
They withdrew from the siege, protesting and with many murmurs.

Footnote 121:

  Dieci di Balia, Classe x. distinzione iii. No. 2, f^o. 58. I translate
  the whole of this interesting letter, hitherto, I believe,

  “_Istruzione data a Bonaccorso di Neri Pitti ... di quello che abbia
  fare a Genova._ April 28, 1404: Andrai a Genova. E sarai al
  Governatore Messer Giovanni Bouciquaut, Luogo tenente del Re. E lui
  saluterai affetuosamente per parte del Comune nostro.

  “Di poi gli dirai come di questo mese egli manda al nostro comune suo
  Ambasciatore Maestro Piero di Nantrone, suo secretario. Il quale, per
  sua parte, ci notifica come egli aveva ricevuto per vasallo e
  feudatorio del serenissimo Re di Francia Messer Gabriello Maria di
  Visconti colla città di Pisa e col suo terreno che possedea. Et aveva
  presa la sua difesa. E che darà per censo al detto Re ogni anno uno
  cavallo e uno falcone pellegrino. Secondaria, ci prega che ci piacesse
  per lo avvenire non offendere la città nil (ne il) terreno di Pisa
  predetto, per rispetto del Serenissimo Re predetto. Et agli aveva
  preveduto che di quelli di Pisa non sarebbe fatta alcuna offesa nel
  nostro terreno.

  “Tertio disse che noi possiamo colle nostre mercatantie usare et
  trafficare a Pisa sicuramente come a Genova e in qualunque altra terra
  del Re di Francia.

  “Al quale Ambasciatore fu risposto in effecto che noi ci maravigliamo
  et dolevamo, come essendo noi in guerra colla dicta città di Pisa e
  con chi la teneva—et essendo noi al disopra per liberare la detta
  città di tirannia et avendo rispetto quanto noi siamo sempre frati, e
  siamo servidori della detta Corona di Francia; et egli aveva presa la
  difesa loro contro a noi; e che questa non era honesta cosa.

  “Alla seconda parte—di non offender—egli fu detto, che in ciò noi
  terremo tali modi come vedessimo convenirsi e che non gli darebbero

  “E alla terza parte, diciamo che l’usare in luogo dove avesse a fare
  alcuno dei Visconti di Milano non ci fu mai sicuro, non potrebbe
  essere, considerati le inimicitii e odii antichi stati da detti
  Visconti al comune nostro; Conchiudendo che sopra le dette cose noi
  faremo risposta più pienamente al detto Signor Boucequaut per nostri

  “E poi gli direte che—se mai noi avevamo maraviglia di alcuna cosa—noi
  abbiamo dello avere gli, in nome del Serenissimo Re di Francia, presa
  la difesa di Pisa e di quello che gli possiede, contro a noi, figludi
  devotissimi della corona di Francia stati sempre, in favore dei Pisani
  che sempre sono stati inimici della detta Corona. Et maximamente
  essendo noi in guerra con Pisa e con chi la tiene, non di nascosa ma
  pubblicamente e non di guerra hora cominciata ma durata lungamente. Et
  essendo noi con nostro esercito in punto et in ordine per esser
  intorno alla città di Pisa, sperando in brevissimo tempo liberarla
  della Tirannia dei Visconti. E per poter meglio e con maggiore forza
  cosa fare, abbiamo fatta grandissima spesa nello apparecchio di
  questo, il quale possiamo dire per cagione sua avere tutta perduta. E
  con lui di questo vi direste amichevolmente, subiungnendo che noi ci
  rendiamo certi che quando il Serenissimo Re di Francia e suo Consiglio
  sapranno questo, essi n’avranno dispiacere come di cosa non honesta et
  iniusta. Il che non fu mia usanza della Corona di Francia fare, et
  come di cosa fatta contro a i suoi figluoli e divoti in favore di un
  Tiranetto e d’una città stata sempre nemica della Corona di Francia. A
  presso gli direte, che, per riverentia della Maestà Reale la quale
  egli rappresenta (come che duro e malagevole ci paresse per le ragioni
  di sopra assegante) già sono più di passati, noi facciamo
  commandamento a tutta nostra gente d’arme e subditi: Che nel terreno
  di Pisa non dovesseno fare alcuna offesa o cavalcata, e così è stata
  observata: la qual cosa fare grava molto il nostro popolo per gli
  rispetti scripti di sopra. E mai non si sarebbe creduto per nessuno
  Fiorentino che Messer Bouciquaut il quale abbiamo reputato a noi e
  reputiamo amico singolarissimo avesse mai fatta tale cosa contra a noi
  ma pensiamo che questo sia proceduto da altri con velati colori che
  gli le hanno dato a dividere; ma veramente questo che fatta ha non è
  cosa punto honesta ne iusta ne utile ne honorevole per la Maestà
  Reale. E per tutto il pregherate che gli piaccia, veduta la verità del
  fatto, renonciare questo che ha ordinato in questa materia, ed essere
  contento che noi possiamo seguitare contro a Pisa, e chi la tiene, la
  nostra impresa. E questo sarà a lui honore et a noi, figluoli della
  Corona, singolarissimo piacere.

  “Alla parte del trafficare et usare a Pisa i nostri cittadini e
  mercatanti colle loro mercatantie, direte che niuno cittadino se ne
  fiderebbe mai ne vorebbero trafficare, essendo Pisa nella mani
  d’alcuno dei Visconti, come ella è. E non che ivi—ma in alcuna terra
  dove alcuno dei Visconti avesse a fare, per che essi sono antichi
  nostri nemici e molte volte lanno (l’hanno) dimostrato—e romperci la
  fede e pace e tregua; e bene lo vedevamo dove, essendo colligati colla
  Serenissima Corona di Francia, il Conte di Vertus ci ruppe la Pace e
  manifestò tradimento contra Dio a vergogna della detta Corona, si che
  in modo alcuno non ci potremo mai fidare in luogo done alcuno di loro
  avesse a fare.”

  Here the document leaves politics to defend the quarrel of private
  Florentine merchants in Genoa, to complain of the conduct of the
  Pisans who have made a raid on to the lands of Messer Gherardo
  d’Appiano, feudatory of Florence, and to complain of the sequestration
  of the goods of certain Florentine merchants of Genoa. The Ten also
  state that they are sending Messer Rinaldo Gianfigliazzi and Messer
  Filippo Cosimi on an embassy to France to state their case to the
  King. F^o. 60 instructs us that Boucicaut liberated the sequestered
  goods and that a truce was signed between Florence and Pisa for so
  long as Pisa should continue subject to the King of France.

What indeed was the motive of Boucicaut? The Florentines with some
reason suspected an unseen hand pulling the strings that worked this
sudden action; “pensiamo che questo sia proceduto da altri, con velati
colori.” But what man save the King, who disowned the business, was
strong enough to dare to oppose the will of Orleans? Was Burgundy
jealous of those Italian prospects of his rival which freed him from his
neighbourhood at home? Or was it possible that the Antipope Benedict,
ill-contented with Orleans after their interview at Beaucaire, had
privately summoned Boucicaut “ce bon Chrestien” to hold Pisa in the
King’s name and not in the name of his too powerful guardian? Mysteries!
It is as likely, perhaps more likely, that Boucicaut, ever hot-headed,
wilful, and officious, asked no permission save his own to accept this
new vassal for the King of France. His brain was fired by the thought of
converting Pisa to the true obedience; and he feared that she would fall
to heretic Florence ere Orleans could pass the Alps.

Gabriel’ Maria Visconti and his mother were ill at their ease in Pisa.
He, an elegant, faithless, persuasive _Tiranetto_ (as the Tuscans called
him), was often at the Court of Boucicaut, making various negotiations,
among others handing over the Tower and Fort of Leghorn to France.[122]
Boucicaut was in high spirits notwithstanding his half disgrace; he had
persuaded the Genoese to accept the authority of Benedict XII., “the
greatest deed,” writes his biographer, “that has been done in Italy
these 200 years.” He hoped soon to convert Leghorn and Pisa; and, in
time, to induce Italy to renounce the heinous Italian Antipope.

Footnote 122:

  Brit. Museum MSS. 30, 669, f. 238; a treaty between the King of France
  and G.M. Visconti, Lord of Pisa. The Tower and Fort of Leghorn are to
  be given to the French, the King promising that no one shall be
  allowed to enter Leghorn against the will of Gabriele Maria Visconti.
  Also _quod absit_ should the Castle of Leghorn be taken by the enemies
  of the said Gabriele Maria, or should it in any way rebel against him,
  the King and his Lieutenant bind themselves to allow free passage to
  any army the said Gabriele Maria may send for its subjection. The King
  explicitly promises that if any of Gabriele Maria’s possessions be
  lost by the treachery of guards or other means, he will make war upon
  the fraudulent possessors and attempt their recovery. The King invests
  Gabriele Maria, with a gold ring, in all his possessions save the
  Tower and Fort of Leghorn.

Suddenly his hold over Pisa ominously slackened.

The Pisans cared little for Pope or Antipope; they were fanatic for
liberty. They detested Agnese Mantegazza and her bastard with a Tuscan
hatred for the Visconti, treacherous alike to God and man. One day in
1405, while Messer Gabriel’ Maria was absent in Genoa, some Florentine
soldiers made a raid on Pisa. The citizens, not without reason,
suspected their tyrant of selling them to the Florentines,—old
neighbours and rivals yet more odious than the Milanese. They rose as
one man fighting for death or liberty in the streets. No sooner had they
driven back the Florentines than they rushed on the Fortress, surging
through the narrow corridors, till, in the heart of the palace, they
came on Madonna Agnese. A man raised his harquebuss and shot her through
the heart. Her son was absent in Genoa. For the moment the Pisans were
quit of the Visconti.

The news of the revolt of Pisa flew swiftly to Genoa. The bereaved
Tiranetto dispossessed and orphaned, repaired to Boucicaut as to the
Lieutenant of his liege-lord, the King of France, asking aid because, as
the Chronicle reminds us, “seigneur doibt au besoing secourir son vassal
qui le requiert à son aide.”

Boucicaut was dismayed at this first result of his new acquisition. To
reduce Pisa by arms would be a ruinous affair. The Marshal comforted as
best he could the vassal of his master, and promised to go and reason
with the rebels. Forth, therefore, he went from Genoa to a very
beautiful place called Porto Venere, in the neighbourhood of Pisa. There
a deputation of the insurgents awaited him, and for a long while he
harangued them as to the virtues of the dead Madonna Agnese and the
merits of the kind and amiable young man whom they had banished.

The Pisans listened respectfully while “moult leur dict de belles
paroles,” but when the sermon was over they replied that never should
Messer Gabriel’ be their lord again, rather would every man of them be
hewn in pieces; but, they went on to say, the Marshal Boucicaut himself
should be welcomed and honoured by all the citizens of Pisa, if he would
accept her as his fief. “Never,” cried the Marshal, “could I draw such a
profit from a friend’s misfortune” (“car ce n’est mie l’usaige des
François d’user de tels tours”). And he fell again to praising Messer
Gabriel’, but all in vain, for the last word of the Pisans was that, if
the Marshal himself would not accept the city for his own, then they
prayed him to meet them at Leghorn another day, and there they would
give themselves directly to the King of France, accepting a French
governor for their waiter, even as the Genoese had done ten years

Boucicaut went home, sore perplexed between his duty to his liege and
his duty to his vassal. He had gone to Porto Venere to plead the cause
of Gabriel’ Maria: and he had supplanted the young man, as it seemed. On
the other hand, since it was clear that the Pisans would never re-admit
their Tiranetto, and since the city was the fief of France, how could he
honourably forbid them to give themselves entirely to their lawful
suzerain? And the vision grew in him of a great Mediterranean State,
French, supporting French interests in the East—a terror to the Saracens
and the men of Barbary, a lamp of Christendom, faithful to the True
Obedience, reclaimed for ever from the heresy of the Elect of Rome.

Arrived in Genoa he sent for Messer Gabriel’, and told him the case; “de
quoy feult moult dolent Messire Gabriel,” who doubtless wished that he
had sent to Porto Venere, a spokesman less eloquent and less engaging.
But Boucicaut persuaded him that since he could not hope to leave the
city for himself, ’twas better to entrust it to the King of France—who
would recompense so generous a vassal with lands as good elsewhere—than
to let it fall into the power of an enemy or a neighbour. Gabriel’ Maria
agreed—as he must perforce agree—and Boucicaut set out again to meet the
rebels at Leghorn.

But the Pisans had never meant to give themselves another master. To
gain time, they had played with Boucicaut and had flattered his weak
side. They said that on second thoughts they preferred that, before they
gave themselves to the King of France, the men of Messer Gabriel’, who
were still in the strong places of Pisa, should be expelled the city,
and a garrison of French and Genoese sent thither in their stead. The
request appeared the less unreasonable as Gabriel’ Maria was himself the
King’s vassal, and the Pisans might suspect that their mutual suzerain
would only confirm the power of the rejected _Tiranetto_. Boucicaut
agreed, returned to Genoa, and arranged for the exchange of garrisons.

This done the Pisans sent to say the Fortress needed revictualling.
Boucicaut, eager to ingratiate his new subjects, despatched his nephew,
some gentlemen of his household, with many gentlemen and citizens of
Genoa; and a great galley heaped with provisions. The ship sailed down
the coast and up the Arno into Pisa; at the quay the embassy descended.
They were immediately overpowered by an ambush of Pisans, who seized
upon the welcome cargo of the ship, and carried off the crew and the
passengers into a dark and villainous prison, using their sufferings as
a means to extract higher ransom from the King’s Lieutenant.

Thus amply provisioned at Boucicaut’s expense, the Pisans began to feel
secure of liberty. They sent to Florence, offering her four of their
castles if she would help them to regain Leghorn, where at the moment
Boucicaut and Gabriel’ Maria were esconced, and to revenge themselves on
both these men. But the Florentines returned a dilatory answer, for they
were, in truth, pursuing a more fruitful negotiation.

Florence in 1405 was in the very hey-day of her wool trade, but she had
no outlet for her tides of commerce, no port from which to ship her
goods to Provence or to Barbary. It was not four Pisan castles, but Pisa
herself and the mouth of the Arno that she required. At the same time
that the Pisans proposed their bargain to the Florentine Ten, that
august body had received an ambassador from Gabriel’ Maria Visconti
offering to sell them not only Pisa, but also the frontier castles of
Sarzana and Librafatto, which, from the fastnesses of the Apennines,
guard the plain in which Pisa and Florence lie. It was worth a great
price to secure not only a port, but a fortified frontier in case of an
invasion from the north. Florence remembered her ancient terrors when
she had lain almost at the mercy of the Duke of Milan. She agreed to pay
Messer Gabriel’ the sum of four hundred thousand florins for his rights
over his revolted signory. They stipulated, however, that Boucicaut must
be acquainted with the transaction, and give it his sanction, otherwise
no bargain.

When the persuasive Gabriel’ Maria broke the news to his host, at first
the Marshal “qui toujours y avoit la dent,” emphatically refused to
consent to the alienation of a Royal fief; he even sent to Pisa to
acquaint the rebels with the designs of their ex-tyrant, hoping by this
means to induce them to declare themselves the subjects of the King. But
the Pisans went on shouting “Libertà.” Meanwhile Gabriel’ Maria and the
Florentines set the matter before the Marshal in another light. For
Messer Gabriel’—a clever person—advised the Florentines to become
vassals to the Crown of France for the fief of Pisa. The Florentines
fell in with the suggestion, which carried visible weight with the
Boucicaut. And the Marshal was left to consider the matter.

The Florentines asked Leghorn as well as Pisa, but Boucicaut was
obstinate in his hold on the nearer port. He could not yield Leghorn
without grave prejudice to Genoa. But Pisa was his only in name. Could
he not keep Leghorn, the substance, and as the price of Pisa, the
shadow, exact the fealty of the Florentines to France and to the true
Pope? Illuminated by this bright idea Boucicaut proposed the following
terms to Florence:

1. The Florentines shall have Pisa and all its lands except the Castle
of Leghorn; but they must swear not to interfere with the carrying trade
of Genoa, nor to make traffic by sea in any other ships than those of

2. A month after the reduction of Pisa the Florentines must declare
their adhesion to Pope Benedict XIII., and charge themselves with the
conversion of Pisa.

3. If, six months after the said reduction of Pisa, the Elect of Rome
still persist in his error, the Florentines, the French, and the Genoese
shall all make war on him together.[123]

Footnote 123:

  So far I have no documentary evidence for these articles, which are to
  be found in the “Livre des faicts du Marischal Boucicaut,” part iii.
  chap. 10. I give them and I believe in them, because in every instance
  I have found the documents of Archives to confirm or explain the
  assertions of this particular chronicle; because the articles breathe
  the very spirit of Boucicaut; and because I think it is to this
  agreement that the Florentines refer in the letter quoted further on
  (Spoglio del Carteggio i. ii. fo. 221), under date 15th of August,
  1406. The act by which the Florentines constitute themselves vassals
  of France for Pisa is well known. It is printed in Dumont.

4. That the ratification of King and Council shall be asked for this

The Florentines agreed, and messengers were despatched to France, where
there was great joy in Council at thus receiving two Signories for one.
The King confirmed the agreement (it is said) by letters-patent, which
were sent to Genoa and Florence. The Ten paid certain sums (as we learn
from a later letter), to Gabriel’ Maria, and other moneys to Boucicaut;
and then in earnest the Florentines resumed the siege of Pisa.

Famine fought with them and pestilence; yet valiant Pisa proved
irreductible. Month after month sped on in fruitless heroism, and a year
after the resumption of the siege the Florentines were still
indefatigably attacking, the Pisans heroically defending. Then the
beleaguered city sent by privy ways a messenger to Ladislas, King of
Naples, offering herself to him if he would defend her. The King
promised, but did nothing.

After a month or so the Pisans smuggled out a second messenger, this
time to France, who offered the city to the Duke of Burgundy on the same
terms. Mindful of the agreement of last year which assigned Pisa to
Florence, Burgundy hesitated; and, perceiving his perplexity, the Pisan
envoys “qui assez sçavoient le tour de leur baston,” addressed
themselves to certain of the Councillors of Orleans, and promised the
city to him; whereupon the said Councillors induced Orleans and
Burgundy, enemies as they were, to go hand in hand to the poor
bewildered King and beseech him to grant them leave to accept the homage
of Pisa. Charles, doubtless, was not quite in his right mind. The deed
granting Pisa to Burgundy and Orleans[124] is signed “For the King” by
the Count of Tancarville and other princes. An ancient dependence upon
Burgundy, a blind affection for Orleans (“rien n’eut refusé à son
frère”), united with his perplexed and feeble memory, to obliterate the
treaty of last year. The King forgot his new vassals, forgot the Pope,
the schemes of Boucicaut, the money that had been paid him by the
Florentines on account of the agreement. He granted Pisa to Burgundy and
Orleans, who wrote to the Florentines that they must raise the siege at
once, and sent to Boucicaut bidding him assist the Pisans.

Footnote 124:

  “Arch. Nat.”, Paris, Carton K. 55, No. 11, prèce 8; July 27, 1406:
  ”Charles par la Grâce de Dieu Roy de France, à nos amés et féaulx gens
  de nos comptes et trésoriers à Paris et à tous nos aultres justiciers
  et officiers ou à leur lieutenant, Salut et dilectation!

  “Savoir vous faisons que nos très-chers et très-amés frère et cousin
  les Ducs d’Orléans et de Bourgoigne, nous ont au jour dit fait foy et
  hommaige lige des ville terre et Seigneurie de Pise et de toutes
  terres appartenans et appendans quelconque, à eulx appartenir
  communément. Auquel hommaige nous les avons reçus sauf notre droit et
  l’autrui. Vous mandons, et à chacuns de vous sicomme à luy
  appartiendra que, pour cause du dit hommaige à nous faict, vous ne
  faictes ou souffrey nos ditz frère et cousin ne aulcun d’eulx estre
  molestez, troublez ou empeschez ès dictes ville terre el seigneurie de
  Pise ni es terres appartenans et appendans en aucune manière. Mais si
  pour la dicte cause elles estoient empeschées mettez les leur ou
  faictes mettre a plaine delivrance. Donné a Paris le 26 jour de
  Juillet, 1406, et de nostre regne 26. Pour le Roy, le Comte de
  Tancarville et aultres princes.”

The previous difficulties of Boucicaut had been as nothing compared to
this dilemma. How could he refuse his service to the King, his lord and
suzerain? How, on the other hand, could he break his plighted word? The
vassal and the man of honour struggled together in his breast; and from
that long and cruel duel the man of honour emerged triumphant. So
Boucicaut refused to desert his Florentine allies, refused to assist the
Royal fief of Pisa.

As the Florentines pressed closer and closer round the beleaguered city,
the Pisans for the third time contrived to smuggle out a messenger who
was to make his way as best he could to Asti (the city of Orleans), and
thence to France to beseech the King to send a messenger and
reinforcements.[125] But the Pisan envoy was discovered in the
Florentine camp, and Capponi, the General, drowned him in the sea.

Footnote 125:


So that when the news of his interception came to Paris, it was too late
for aught but indignation. “The Florentine merchants had to suffer for
it,” says Corio; and Desjardins (in his introduction to the Tuscan
Statipassers), expresses his astonishment at the obstacles laid in the
way of Florentine trade by Marshal Boucicaut that year. For human nature
is not consistent, and though Boucicaut had indignantly refused to
desert his allies of Florence, none the less he was wrath at their
success, which meant the injury of France.

For on the 10th of October, 1406,[126] a Florentine army marched into
Pisa, garrisoned the citadels, established their government, and marched
back with many hostages to Florence. Pisa was honourably lost to
France.[127] Pisa was lost, and great was the sting and smart of it.
Railing and bitter names flung at Boucicaut, detention of the Florentine
Ambassadors by Orleans,[128] wrath of the King himself, were each and
all wholly unavailing. Florence was the King’s ally and too great a
power to be rashly assailed; and Florence was firm in Pisa.

Footnote 126:

  “Filza xxii. della Signoria”: see f^o. 283, Spoglio del Carteggio,
  October 10, 1406, a Florentine army enters Pisa: “La città di Pisa si
  rende al comune di Firenze: l’esercito vi entra vittorioso nel di
  senza commettere alcune violenza e prende il possesso di tutte le
  Fortezze.” On the 14th of October a certain number of Pisans were sent
  as hostages into Florence; arms of offence and defence were taken from
  all the Pisans. On the 12th of November a further number of hostages
  to the amount of one hundred of the Pisan citizens, “dei più atti alle
  fazioni,” were ordered to be sent into Florence. Civil order was
  established under the government of a Magistrate and eight Priors.

Footnote 127:

  “Spoglio del Carteggio,” i. ii., f^o. 221 (Filza xx. della Signoria),
  15th of August, 1406: “Lettera della Signoria responsiva a quella del
  Re di Francia in commendazione dei Pisani ai quali si annunciava di
  aver’ data un Signore. _Si lamenta la Signoria di questa procedere
  dopo che l’acquisto di quella città fatto della Signoria per compta
  era stato confermato del Re con figlio e già erano state pagate
  diverse somme a Gabriel’ Maria Visconti e a Giovanni Le Meingre_
  (Boucicaut) _Luogotenente Generale della Corona e Governatone di
  Genova_.” A replica of this is sent to Orleans, Burgundy, and Berry.

Footnote 128:

  There are a number of documents concerning this detention of the
  Florentine Ambassadors to be found: “Signori Cart. Miss.” Reg. 1.
  Cancelleria 27, f^o. 26 _et seq._, in the Florence Archives, under
  dates 10th of May, 3rd of June, 25th of June, 11th of July. The
  letters are too long to publish here, see also “Spoglio del
  Carteggio,” f^o. 286, for summary of an embassy sent by the Signory to
  the King of France, Orleans, and Burgundy, in justification of the
  purchase of Pisa and the siege. The Ambassadors “erano stati spogliati
  e ritenuti dal Duca d’Orliens, per el che, seguito l’acquisto della
  detta città, si spedisce ivi Bonaccorso Pitti.” Pitti was to join
  Alberto degli Albizzi already in France, and, going by Avignon, they
  were to interview the Antipope, to treat of the union of the Church,
  to expound to him the policy of the Republic, and to obtain from him
  commendatory letters to the Court at France. But the Antipope was a
  less formidable ally than in the days of Clement.

  It is curious to observe that the Signory instruct their ambassadors,
  if they cannot obtain from the King the liberation of the imprisoned
  Ambassadors, to appeal finally to the Parliament. This is assuming
  that the Parliament was stronger than the King or even than Orleans—a
  piece of trans-Alpine provincialism.

Had Orleans lived, he might indeed have undertaken an expedition into
Italy. But in the middle of his disappointment he was murdered as we
know. Messer Gabriel’ Maria went to Milan, where he lived half a
captive,[129] half a traitor for some while; and then took refuge again
in Genoa. But in the year 1409 being detected by Boucicaut in a plot of
singular treachery against the French, he was ruthlessly beheaded. Three
years later, in 1412, after Gabriele’s death that plot succeeded.
Boucicaut and the French were expelled from Genoa; and the wars of
Burgundy and Armagnac, the woes of Agincourt and the long invasion of
the English, for thirty years diverted the French from their endeavours
to colonize beyond the Alps.

Footnote 129:

  “Archives of Florence: Spoglio del Carteggio universale della
  Repubblica Fiorentina dell’ anno, 1401-1426,” tome 2, f^o. 273:
  “Ricuse la Signoria di pagare la rata dovuta a Gabriel’ Maria
  Visconti, non essendo egli in sua libertà, ma in poter’ del Duca di
  Milano, che serbava convertire il denaro in suo servigio.” _Vide_
  “Filza II de’ Dieci,” f^o. 170. June, 1406.


The Florentine conquest was the beginning of ninety years of slavery for
Pisa—a terrible slavery, heavy with exaggerated imports, bitter with the
tolerated plunder of private Florentines, humiliating with continual
espionage. Ruin fell upon the lovely city; and as the waters of the sea
crept slowly back over the reclaimed Maremma, they sapped the
foundations of her fairest palaces. Malaria and decay went hand in hand
along the streets; though round the ruined town, the only whole thing
there, the strong forts of Florence, proclaimed the wealth and power of
the oppressor. It was not that the Florentines were avaricious; they
spent abundantly and lavishly on fortifications and garrisons for their
soldiers; on a university in Pisa for their sons; and they paid the most
imaginative of living Florentine painters to put his frescoes on the
walls of the Pisan Campo Santo. But they spent their money in the
Master’s way, declaring and sustaining the glory of Florence rather than
alleviating the miseries of Pisa. And the Pisans themselves were unable
either to supply the omissions of Florence, or to direct and advise a
more efficient expenditure. They had descended into a nation of poor
artizans, for all their ancient trades were now forbidden to them.
Florence had secured the first place for her own manufactures, by
absolutely prohibiting the wool-weaving, silk-spinning, ship-building,
in which the Pisans had for so many centuries excelled. Moreover no
Pisan might barter merchandise by land or sea. Restricted to the
commonest handicrafts, they lost the resource of wealth; deprived of
public office, denied the most ordinary civil rights, they sank into a
mute and long-enduring slavery, secretly nourishing a spark of flame in
their rebellious hearts.

Pisa was the Ireland of Florence, captive and yet unvanquished. Ever
ready to revolt, never for an hour forgetful of her antique superiority.
By means of the many exiles that Florence expelled from home, she kept
continually in touch with the enemies of Florence. Men expelled for
private crimes—the meanest of the Pisans—turned patriots in exile and
dedicated the best of their souls to the service of an unhappy country.
The Florentines, prosperous and successful, were divided among
themselves into half-a-dozen different factions; and patriotism for them
meant largely a pious self-satisfaction dashed with party principles.
But the magic of an unfortunate glory, the pathos that hangs over the
place of one’s birth when it has once been great and is fallen into
ruin—this personal and omnipotent sentiment inspired every rank and
every kind of Pisan. There was none of them that would have shrunk from
any heroism, or (as it seemed to the Florentines) from any treachery, in
order to reinstate his country in her ancient grandeur.

It was with Venice and with Milan that the Pisans held especial
practice. It mattered little to them that at heart these two powers were
deadly enemies; that ever since the death of Filippo Maria Visconti the
Venetians had been plotting with Orleans to destroy the house of Sforza;
that Lodovico il Moro left no chance unchallenged to limit the
pretensions of his Adriatic rival. The Pisans were of neither party;
their one political tenet was hatred of their conquerors, and (as a
little later they declared) of the two, they preferred the Devil to the

Such patience as theirs, ceaselessly labouring underground, never
wearied, militant but not aggressive, does not fail to meet an
opportunity. At last a favourable chance was offered to the Pisans. The
King of France who in 1483 had disregarded the invitation of the
Venetians, accepted, ten years later, the persuasions of Lodovico of
Milan; and in the autumn of 1494, the armies of Charles VIII. poured
into Italy.

It had been the custom of the Florentines, in times of war and danger,
to call the heads of every Pisan household into Florence, as hostages
for the good behaviour of their families and fellow citizens.

But in the autumn of 1494, Piero de’ Medici who forgot everything, who
had forgotten to garrison his frontier, forgot to call the Pisan
hostages to Florence, although the French were steadily advancing on
Tuscany and the Pisans eager to rebel. Every Pisan household was intact
at home on that memorable 30th of October when, in the snowy camp of the
French outside Sarzana, Piero de’ Medici handed to the King of France
the keys of the Tuscan fortresses. It was of course provided that
Charles should restore the cities to the Florentines on his return from
Naples: but many things might happen in those troublous times that would
outweigh the value of an oath. In the advent of King Charles, the Pisans
found the opportunity, so long, so patiently, so ardently desired; and
the French army and the hope of liberty entered the unhappy city hand in


It was the 8th of November, and a Sunday evening towards sunset, when
the army of Charles VIII. arrived in Pisa. The slanting rays of the
autumn sun lit up a brilliant spectacle, bathed in the soft aërial
richness of the miraculously warm St. Martin’s summer which, in 1494,
succeeded to the rigours of the earlier months. Tired with their march
across the wintry Apennines, the foreign soldiers found in Pisa a city
full of friends. Tables were laid in the streets where all might sup on
wine and meat and enjoy the hospitality of the city. Under foot the
branches of pine and boughs of autumn roses exhaled their fresh aroma;
and the ruined walls of the cracked and damp-stained palaces were hidden
by the great squares of pale-crimson silk, gold brocade, and Turkey
carpets that were hung from every window.

Along these altered streets, embellished for the festival, a train of
priests, in stole and chasuble, carrying their holiest relics, went out
to meet the King. But this, the arranged and official feature of his
reception, faded, on the event, into absolute unimportance. All took
place at first as had been designed. The great motley travel-stained
crowd of the French army came trampling down the boughs of pine and
roses; the priests met the soldiers; and finally the King came riding on
his great black horse, Savoy, under the blue-silk canopy sustained by
the nobles of Pisa: but when the people caught sight of this little
young man, with the large head, bright eyes, thin legs, high shoulders,
and quaint amiable air of elfin ugliness, then they forgot the dignity
of an official reception. This was the King of France! This was the
all-potent power which, at different moments of history had stretched
its invited and benevolent ægis over Asti, Genoa, Savona, nay, even over
Naples and haughty Florence, to shelter them from the cruelty of a
tyrannic neighbour. But instead of the dread magnificent symbolic
monarch they had expected to behold, lo, a benevolent, rather grotesque
little youth, with the most shining and enthusiastic eyes, a kind ugly
face, engaging rather timid manners, and a total lack of that anti-human
splendour which these enslaved republicans had expected in a king. A
great wave of love, of anticipated gratitude swept through the hearts of
all these people: he was, he must be, their hero, their deliverer. It
was with tears of passion streaming down their cheeks that men, women,
even little children, rushed into the ranks of the astonished soldiery,
seeing round each weather-beaten face the shimmer of an aureole,
pressing, hurrying, thronging towards the King—crying all together in
their sobbing voices “Libertate, Libertate!” while such as could master
a word or two of French, stammered in their soft lisping Pisan accent,
an appeal in the language of his distant country: “Liberté, liberté,
cher Sire!” There was no affectation in this outburst of enthusiasm,
nay, almost of idolatry. Any man who was stronger than Florence was a
possible hero to the Pisans. The great motley army of Charles proved his
force, and in the rugged amiable faces of master and of men the Pisans
recognized the faculty of sympathy.

The Pisans had been to some extent prepared to find this virtue in the
French by the correspondence of the Pisan exiles with Lodovico of Milan,
whose trump-card was to secure if possible the liberation of Pisa by the
French, and then, after their return to France, to offer himself as
protector to the abandoned city. This plan was so well-contrived that,
if only the first impulse were given, the machine must go on of itself;
for the Pisans would certainly accept their liberty, if the French could
be moved to grant it them; and, equally certainly, the French, after
their return to France, could not afford to hold Pisa against not only
Florence, but Milan, Venice, Genoa, and Lucca, who would none of them
submit to hand a Mediterranean port to Charles. Lodovico was convinced
that the Pisans would prefer the untried yoke of Milan to the hated
bonds of Florence. The great thing was to give the first impulse.

To this end the Duke of Milan, when he had quitted the French camp the
previous Tuesday, had left behind him Galeazzo di San Severino, the
brilliant young husband of his natural daughter. Galeazzo had
instructions to do his utmost in every way to induce the French to
protect the Pisans in a rebellion against Florence. He did not waste so
excellent an opportunity. No sooner were Charles and his nobles in the
Medici palace and the uncouth French soldiers housed like sons and
brothers in the homes of Pisa, than the adroit young San Severinesco
called a private council of the chief Pisan nobles. He advised them, as
a son of Milan, and as a friend and well-wisher of their own, to throw
themselves at once and utterly upon the generosity of France. This was a
tempting counsel; yet there were some, and among them the warlike Giulio
della Rovere, Cardinal of Saint Peter ad Vincula, that were for
patience. “What shall we do when France has left the city?” they asked
of one another. “Milan will protect you!” cried Messer Galeazzo, with a
burst of inspiring confidence.

The Pisans hesitated only for a moment. From Venice or from Milan they
had always hoped to gain their liberty at last, or at the least a change
of masters. France, backed by Milan, seemed the most desirable
deliverer: the ancient suzerain of the city supported by its latest
friend. It was difficult at that moment to imagine a stronger
conjunction in Italy; for in 1494 Charles was spoken of as the second
Charlemagne, and no one ventured to set a bound to the triumphs of
Lodovico of Milan. “All that he desires,” the Venetian secretary was
writing almost at this very time, “all that he desires, Fortune has
conceded him, and all his plans come true.” For France and Milan to
protect Pisa against the rest of Italy in 1494, was as if Russia and a
stronger Servia to-day were to join their forces to secure Bulgaria
against the anger of the other Balkan States.

Venice for a brief moment had sunk into the shade. She, who had
manœuvred so deeply to unseat Arragon and Sforza by the help of France,
beheld, to her immense chagrin, Charles VIII. following her own
suggestions as to the enterprise of Naples with Lodovico Sforza as his
mentor and ally. Milan had taken the place of Venice in the French
Council; Milan, which the French should have conquered as their earliest
prey. “It is extraordinary how that man succeeds,” wrote Marin Sanuto.
“Yet it may chance that he outwit himself at last. Please God, he come
to a good end! But I for one do not believe it!”

At Pisa Lodovico registered a new success. It was in vain that Vincula
(for the first time in his life, says Guicciardini, the author of quiet
counsels) represented to the assembled nobles the danger of the step.
They were beside themselves with the hope of liberty; and indeed, all
the French agree in telling us that their condition was truly desperate.
“Piteous, and lamentable,” says Desrey, and Commines, a staunch
Florentine in principle, allows that they were handled as cruelly as
slaves. To men in such a plight, and counselled by a person so important
as San Severino, no risk appears too great to run that leaves a chance
for liberty.

And so that very night the Pisans, still in their gala-dresses, but with
torn hair, faces of mourning, clasped hands and streaming eyes, thronged
into the council-chamber of the astonished King. “It was lamentable,”
writes an eye-witness, “to hear them tell the wrongs and grievances they
endured.” It was as if, in the middle of their gala, one of them, with a
significant irony, had raised the corner of the pale silk gala-hangings
and had revealed the mouldering stone, the unsightly ruin underneath. As
the Pisans exposed the real degradation of their slavery, the facile
rash humanity of the French was touched to tears; and when Messer Simone
Orlandi (an accomplished gentleman who could express himself in French)
had finished his recital, it was not only the Pisans who, pale with
indignation and with pity, turned to the King of France on the throne
seated of Medici, and cried out to him, “Liberté, liberté, cher Sire!”

At this point an accomplished Legist, a Counsellor of the Parliament in
Dauphiné, named Ribot, who also was a Master of Requests at Court,
turned to the King and said: it was indeed a lamentable case, and that
never, for sure, were any other men so hardly used as these. The King
himself—touched to the heart, as were all these frank and simple
Frenchmen, by the unsuspected misery beneath the gold brocades of this
fantastic Italy, and not quite understanding (as Commines suggests) what
it was the Pisans meant by this word Liberty—answered vaguely that he
would be content they should enjoy it. This at least is the mild version
of Commines, who was absent in Venice at the time; but Pierre Desrey,
actually present at the scene, puts a stronger warrant in the mouth of
Charles: “Il les assura de les conserver dans leurs franchises.”

That night the Florentines in Pisa—men in office, judges, merchants, and
soldiers of the garrison—were driven at the sword’s point out of the
rebellious city. The statue of Marzocco on the bridge was hurled in a
thousand pieces into the muddy Arno; the standard of Florence was
dragged and trampled in the mire; and bonfires until morning hailed the
discomfiture of the King’s allies. On the morrow after noon Charles left
the city. He had placed a garrison of three hundred French soldiers in
the new citadel; he had appointed three commissioners to superintend
affairs; but he had taken no steps to impose the least restraint of
civil order upon this impassioned and suddenly enfranchised people.
Fortunately the nobles of the town took the matter into their wiser
hands. Twenty-four hours after the entry of the French, Pisa was a free
Republic governed by a Gonfalonier, six Priors, and a Balia of Ten, with
a new militia of its own, and, for the first time in eight and eighty
years, a Pisan garrison in the ancient citadel.


If we ask, What right had the King of France to set at liberty the
subjects of his allies, lent to him in his need as a temporary gage? we
find the question difficult to answer. To statesmen like Commines or
Briçonnet there was something shocking and dishonourable in the
liberation of Pisa by the King, something that the tenderest palliation
for generous youth and inexperience could not attempt to justify. On the
other hand, to fresh enthusiastic spirits, such as Ligny or the King
himself, there was a degree of inhumanity in leaving the Pisans to their
obvious slavery which no code of political honour could extenuate.

These two parties, and these two counsels, marched with the King out of
Pisa into Empoli, where he slept that Monday night—doubtless in the same
bad inn that had so poorly housed the adventurous Medici just fifteen
nights ago. When, on the Tuesday, the King arrived at Signa he heard
that the city of Florence was in revolt. Florence and Pisa, unknown to
one another, had each regained their liberty upon the selfsame day. For
when the King of France came in sight of the group of domes and towers
along the Arno, his young guest at Sarzana, so recently the lord of all
this beauty, was escaping to Bologna across the mountains in disguise
with a price upon his head.

Charles, the pupil of the Duke of Milan, was not well inclined to
Florence; and he was not propitiated by the fact that Piero de’ Medici
had been expelled the city on account of the great concessions he had
made to France at the time of his fugitive visit to Sarzana. A month ago
the King had declared that Piero alone was his enemy, and that the city
was his friend; since the 30th of October he had changed his mind it was
the pliant Medici who now appeared his friend, and his anger was against
rebellious Florence.

Yet what had Florence done more audacious than that which Charles
himself had sanctioned in the Pisans? Florence had expelled the Medici;
Pisa the Florentines, almost at the selfsame hour. But the fact that the
Florentines condemned the loan of the fortresses hardened the heart of
the King, conscious that by the liberation of the Pisans he had
justified the greatest of their fears. This was, in fact, the direst
harm with which an enemy could threaten Florence; and Charles had done
it despite his name of friend. It was only natural that he should
nourish a grievance against the ally whom he had injured; and when on
the 17th of November the French entered Florence, it was remarked that
the King rode through the streets, lance on thigh, with the bearing of
an offended conqueror. His mind was as haughty as his mien, and he was
prepared to claim from the Republic the independence of Pisa and the
restoration of Piero to the chief place in the government.

But the Florentines were no less resolute than Charles. Capponi made his
famous threat, and the King, after ten days of vain parade of force,
swore a solemn treaty with the Florentines upon the 25th of the month.
By the terms of this convention it was arranged that Pisa and Leghorn
were to be left in the hands of the King till his return from Naples,
and then given back to Florence; the King was to decide between Genoa
and Florence as to the final disposal of Sarzana and Pietro Santa; the
King was to say no more till March concerning the restoration of the
Medici, when the Signory, if he desired, would reconsider the matter,
and meanwhile, by Royal request, the price was taken off the tyrants’
heads, and the wife and child of Piero were permitted to remain in
Florence. The Signory agreed to pay the King, in three terms, the sum of
120,000 ducats towards the expense of the campaign; but, for us, the
most important proviso of this treaty (which the student may consult in
the first volume of Desjardin’s “Négociations”) is one that secured a
complete amnesty for Pisa. Moreover Florence promised, in favour of the
King, to rule that city in the future with a more liberal and a gentler

It was not three weeks since Charles had promised to maintain the Pisans
in their liberty, and those unhappy patriots who could not penetrate
(Commines declares that no Italian ever could) the shifting confusion of
the Court, did not know, and would have little cared to understand, that
Beaucaire and Ligny had held the balance yesterday, but Gannay, Gié, and
Briçonnet to-day. The only consolation that they could have found in
this unstability of favour was the chance that their advocates might
soon again succeed to power, and as a fact they had made a great point
in securing the sympathy of Ligny (the King’s cousin) and Piennes—two
young gentlemen of the King’s own age who were his inseparable
companions, wore armour like his own and the Royal colours. These two
gallants counted on their side the Seneschal of Beaucaire, one of the
King’s two especial counsellors. But the other, Briçonnet, supported the
Florentine party. The elder and more diplomatic statesmen, such as, Gié,
Gannay, and Commines, were all on the side of Florence.

Such was the position of the Court when, in the January of 1495, the
Pisans sent to Rome, as a last desperate advocate of their extremity, a
gentleman of their city, skilled in French, one Messer Burgundio Legolo,
or Lolo as the slurring Pisan voices gave the name. The King received
the ambassador graciously, but in the presence of the Florentine envoys;
and the party of pity, and the party of honour (if so we may name the
factions of Ligny and of Briçonnet) were both assembled when the Pisan
advocate began to address the King:

“Now for nearly ninety years,”[130] began Burgundio Lolo, “the city of
Pisa, once the greatest in Italy, once carrying her Empire into the
recesses of the East, has suffered the yoke of an intolerable servitude.
The cruel avarice of Florence has brought our city into so great a depth
of desolation that her streets are almost empty of inhabitants, for the
most of her citizens, unable to endure this grinding slavery, have gone
into a voluntary exile abandoning their native land. Those that remain,
incapable of plucking from their hearts the love of country, have indeed
renounced all else that renders life endurable. The acerb and cruel
exactions of foreign taxes, the insolent rapine of private Florentines,
the injustice that forbids us by art or trade or public office to
recruit our fallen fortunes, have left us an empty life, plundered of
all enjoyment: nay, dangerous even and deadly, for the clayey marshes
that our ancestors kept with exact and pious diligence, are now so
little drained, so long neglected that the waters of Maremma sap our
fairest palaces and our churches, our houses, our public buildings fall
into ruins while the miasma of those stagnant waters breeds a grievous
fever in our midst. And where shall we turn to forget our misery and our
dishonour? we, who are denied an outlet to our energy and our ambition?
As we pass the void hours of our leisure in the ruined streets of our
once glorious city, shall we not feel the pity of the ruin? shall we
look unmoved upon the dishonoured remnant of the magnificence of our
ancestors? Nay, since it is no shame to Pisa, after a long renown to be
fallen in decay—because in all the eminence of this world there is
inherent this fatality of corruption—were it not wiser, even for her
conquerors, in musing on her ancient greatness to turn their hearts to
pity, rather than to use so cruel an advantage over a city in whose
decadence they should, in truth, behold the inevitable presage of their

Footnote 130:

  See the speech—true, we may suppose, in fact if not in phrase—as
  reported in Guicciardini’s “History.”

“Alas, so cruel, so insatiable, so impious has been the Florentine
dominion that, rather than return to that slavery, we would forfeit life
itself. And now at last a hope—a dear hope of liberty—has dawned upon
us; and we beseech you, O King of France, with tears—not only these few
visible tears of mine, but, invisible and ample, the lamentations of all
the distant city—here at your feet, O King, I beseech you to remember
what justice, what piety, what clemency of a magnanimous prince would
shine for ever round your name should you choose to be the Father and
Deliverer of Pisa, rather than the Minister of the slavery of Florence.”

There was a little silence. In these accents men seemed to hear an echo
of that natural law that lives immutable behind the convenience of
nations—νομὶμα ἄγραπτα κᾶσφαλὴ θεῶν. The King’s face glowed; and the
enthusiasm of Ligny and Piennes was reflected in the demeanour of
Beaucaire, a rash and low-born person moved by pity, moved by Pisan
money also (if we are to believe Guicciardini), moved certainly by
rivalry of Briçonnet. The other party waited somewhat anxiously for the
Florentine ambassador to answer Lolo. Soderini, Bishop of Volterra, was
a practical and eminent statesman, but on that excited audience his
words fell without wings to reach their hearts.

Florence, he said, had bought Pisa with good money. She had been kinder
than she need have been, for when the wilful Pisans yielded, half-dead
with famine, she had brought more victuals than firearms to finish their
subjection. She had the right to use her chattel as she would, and had
she been a thousand times more harsh who should come between a man and
his own? It was ridiculous to prate of the ancient grandeur of Pisa—God
had made an end of that long before the Florentines, and she had been a
poor bargain to Florence ever since the hour of her purchase.

So spoke the hard-headed Bishop of Volterra. But even as reported by a
Florentine historian these arguments do not make any great effect; and
it was quite clear, as he avows, that the Pisan advocate had made a far
deeper impression on the King. And as, that very week, Briçonnet was
sent to Florence upon a diplomatic mission, the party of Pisa remained
triumphant in the camp where with (Commines in Venice and Briçonnet in
Tuscany) Beaucaire and Ligny and Piennes held for the moment the whole
of Royal favour.


Louis de Ligny-Luxembourg, Grand Chamberlain of France, cousin of the
King through his Savoyard mother, was the son of that unfortunate Comte
de St. Pol decapitated by Louis XI. He was not only one of the great
nobles of France, but one of the first gentlemen in Europe, for his
house was ancient and illustrious by descent and especially fortunate in
marriage. Nevertheless the young man was poor; yet owing to his charming
manners, his courage and adroitness, he was a most important factor not
only in the Court of the King but in the Court of Orleans. The Count of
Ligny, chivalrous, amorous, and pitiful, flits, for a brief moment, like
the figure of Youth in an allegory—across the serious stage of the
Italian wars; and his tragic childhood and his melancholy marriage seem
to throw out with a brighter lustre the intrinsic brilliance of that
scintillating presence.

He was, say the French chroniclers, “prince gentil vaillant, adroit et
généreux,” a pattern for nobles and the beloved of ladies. Guicciardini,
looking from another point of view, calls him juvenile, inexperienced,
and light. To quote a final authority, Commines briefly gives the reason
for our dwelling on him: “Above all others,” says he, “this young
gentleman especially favoured the Pisans’ cause.”

Ligny had ever been a politician of Orleans’ party, that earlier faction
so long stimulated by intriguing Venice, which aimed not only at the
conquest of Naples, but also at securing Milan. With these two great
possessions at either end of Italy, it was clear that Pisa would make an
excellent half-way house. Pity for the Pisans was probably the essential
motor of Ligny’s action, yet there is no doubt he desired to further the
policy of Orleans. And before the winter was over, Ligny’s marriage gave
him a personal interest in the game.

In the early spring of 1495, Charles VIII. had arrived in Naples. With
that fatal lack of policy which was destined to frustrate a more than
mortal triumph, he began to lavish the possessions of the Neapolitan
aristocracy upon his favourites and countrymen. A wiser King would have
conciliated the native barons and wedded their interest to his own, so
that when he came to leave the country he should leave behind him a
whole nobility of viceroys. But Charles only thought of rewarding his
favourites of the hour. The daughter of the Prince of Altamura, the last
of her house, the heiress of immense possessions, was reserved for

Madonna Lionora was a young princess of more than common interest, the
last Altamura in the direct line, the last of that race which claimed to
be descended from the Three Kings of the East. It was easy to make the
Count of Ligny virtually the Prince of Altamura by marrying him to this
young girl. This was done, but Ligny was barely seven days the
bridegroom of his lovely Mage when the King, alarmed at the preparations
of the League, determined to march northwards. Ligny of course went with
him, leaving his bride behind him in a convent. And on the long road
northwards the desire to be near his young wife and his new possessions
gave a keener zest to the scheme of a Central Italian French dependency
of which Ligny himself should be made the governor. When the army
reached Siena, though the city was a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, and
therefore implicated in the Anti-Gallic league, none the less the
Republic declared for France, demanding Ligny for her governor. The
young man left a garrison there under Gaucher de Tinteville, and went
with the King, hoping to pursue a like policy in Pisa.

The King had not yet decided whether he would halt in Pisa or in
Florence. On the eve of Corpus Christi, Wednesday, the 17th of June, the
French reached Poggibonsi where the roads divide. Here they halted for a
day to keep the festival, and here the King was met by no less a
personage than Savonarola, accompanied by fifty notables of Florence.
This at the moment must have appeared terribly against the plans of
Ligny, for if there was a man in Italy whom the French regarded with a
curious, half-superstitious respect, it was this authoritative friar,
with the harsh sweetness in his voice, the saturnine head, the asper and
loving expression in his painful smile, who, as one authorized of
heaven, had foretold their advent before they were persuaded to the

Poggibonsi, as I have said, is the last considerable town before the
ways divide that lead to Pisa and to Florence. At such a cross-road was
also the mind of Charles. Which turning should he take? “Keep your vows,
restore the cities, respect Florence, lest ye incur the awful judgment
of God, whose name, unless ye keep your oath, ye took in vain upon the
altar of St. John in Florence!” So thundered Savonarola; and there were
many things in favour of this plan; firstly, the strong personal
influence of the prophetic Ferrarese; secondly, the fact that Charles
was sore in need of ready money, and hoped to borrow it in Florence;
thirdly, at Poggibonsi he had heard that war was begun, that Orleans was
in Novara, and, therefore, he himself and his handful of troops in
desperate need of the Florentine army. A little persuasion and no doubt
the King would have gone to Florence; but Savonarola scorned to
persuade, he menaced. The city, he said, was armed to the teeth; she
would receive the King rather as a prodigal than a conqueror. If he
wished to conciliate her, let him keep his word; then, but only then,
she would shower her benefits upon the elect of God.

This accent was not so moving to the King as the entreaties of Burgundio
Lolo. Pisa, as Charles knew very well, would receive him as a hero and a
deliverer—but Pisa had neither men nor money.

In these uncertainties two days went by; the King alternately assuring
Savonarola that he would keep his word to Florence, and protesting that
he had not the heart to break that earlier promise given to the Pisans.
Out of this hobble there was no way except by broken vows and treachery.
It was a delicate question for a chivalrous prince, nourished, like
Charles, on Amadis and Arthur: for to keep faith with the Pisans would
be to ruin his ally; and to keep faith with Florence to hand over to
slavery a people who had solemnly placed themselves under his
protection. Nor were the political advantages quite easy to decide.
Florence, of course, offered men and money sorely needed; but Pisa
offered an asylum in case of reverses further north, or in case the
Florentines should prove as faithless as the rest of the Italians. For
Pisa was not merely a friendly city, but a city actually in the hands of
France. This was certainly an argument—“nevertheless,” says
Guicciardini, “I doubt if anything so logical could influence the King.
Much more potent with such as he were the tears, and entreaties of the
Pisans.” Those tears, invisible and ample as the waters of life,
Burgundio Lolo had quoted to the King at Rome; and after all these
months the memory of the Pisan advocate pleaded successfully against the
actual influence of Savonarola.

At last a straw decided the unsteady balance. At a village called
Campana, or Cassino, near to Florence, the King heard of a cruel raid
committed by the Florentines upon the Pisan town of Pontevalle. There
had been French soldiers in the fort; but when the French archers came
up to the rescue they found the little place untenanted save by dying
men, wheeling birds of prey, and corpses. The King was furious against
the Florentines; yet it was with the lightness of heart that follows the
taking of a difficult decision that he set his back against the town,
“et gaiement s’en alla dedans Pise.”


History is not decided by oratory. The eloquence of Lolo, the menaces of
the Friar, had conspired with a momentary distress and anger, to lodge
the French in Pisa. It still remained to see what Charles would do. The
first move promised little; in order to guard against a second surrender
to the impulse of the moment Charles sent a messenger to Florence, and
promised to speak the final word, only when he should have arrived in

But if history is in fact decided by Necessity—that grim and resolute
Anankê who cuts the most different characters to her pattern, making of
a Louis XI., and a Henry V., so individual as princes, no more, when
once the coronation day is over, than able continuers of the policy she
imposes; if Necessity and the slow evolution of ideas control the
individual, and leave him scarce more independent than the nail, which
moves indeed, but only moves to follow the control of the attracting
magnet; yet it is not merely by the unbroken sequence of Law that the
world progresses. Comets and cataclysms, plagues and earthquakes, and in
the moral world, sudden, fierce contagions of enthusiasm or ecstasy
interrupt and modify their course.

Driven by a momentary resentment, a gust of pity and remembrance, into
Pisa, Charles was no sooner in the city than the King resumed his empire
over the Man. He sent, as I have said, an embassy to Florence,
reassuring as best he could the potent and wealthy city, putting off his
answer, and asking meanwhile for an instalment of money and three
hundred lances. The Florentines sent no money and only eighty lances,
and Charles perceived that the least extra strain would break the
slender thread that still bound her to the French. Henceforth he steeled
his royal heart against impolitic pity. It was in vain that he looked on
the statue of himself upon the bridge, embellished in sculpture,
resolute, heroic, Saviour of the City, trampling underfoot the Lion of
Florence and the Viper of Milan. It was in vain, that, at the entrance
of the army, the little children of Pisa dressed in white satin sown
with _fleur-de-lis_ rushed to the gates to meet the soldiers, crying in
their high, sweet, confident voices, “Viva Francia!” It was in vain
that, in the early morning, as the King returned from the intenerating
Sacrament of the Mass, he met in the streets the fairest ladies of the
town, barefoot, dishevelled, dressed like slaves in coarse mourning
garments, who dropped before him on their knees, sighing and wailing for

The most that Charles could do was to defer, to temporize, to vacillate;
he could not be brought to pledge himself to more. He, with a remnant of
his army, was alone in an inimical country, subject at any moment to
encounter the forces of Venice, Milan, Spain, the Emperor and the Pope;
meanwhile Florence was his one efficient friend. Florence to him had
been a leal and honest ally; dare he desert her? ought he to repay her
sacrifice with ruin? And yet this faithful Florence had behaved to Pisa
in a fashion cruel and anti-human beyond words. And Pisa also had
trusted him; Pisa was tenderly his friend. Could he fling the wounded
hare which had taken refuge under his royal mantle to the fierce eyes
and gaping jaws of the hound which served him?

The question wrung the conscience of the man. But, for the King, the
matter was easily decided. His first duty was to his country and his
troops; Florence could help him to reach the forces of Orleans in safety
and with some degree of glory; but Pisa could furnish no active aid at

Meanwhile, the army had become fired with entirely different
convictions. Suddenly King Charles, the adored conqueror, the second
Charlemagne, the unlettered and ugly little captain whose soldiers’
devotion so amazed the Milanese, beheld himself in the midst of his
troops almost without authority. The army, like one man, rose and spoke
on behalf of the Pisans.

Insulated in this shelter of Pisa, with the offended Florentines
continually harassing his outposts, with in front the fastnesses of the
Apennines, and (God alone knew where) the five-toothed Trap of the
League into which his little force must fall—in this terrible
complication Charles beheld himself menaced by no less than the mutiny
of his own army. And for what? Not on account of the light head and
imprudent heart that had brought this handful of soldiers to fight such
fearful odds. This rebellion was inspired purely by the pity inspired by
men whose situation was certainly less hazardous than the peril of their
indignant champions.

But all day long the army surged in front of the palace clamouring
“Liberty! liberty!” in more virile voices than the Pisans’. The army
infected the Court; and one day, when the King sat playing draughts
alone with M. de Piennes, forty or fifty gentlemen of the Royal
household with their partisans forced their way into his chamber and
declaimed the woes of Pisa. Charles was indignant, and spoke so roughly,
that they took their persuasions and menaces elsewhere. Even the poor
archers, says Commines, moved by pity for the tears and lamentations of
the Pisans, threatened those whom they believed persuaded the King to
keep his oath at Florence. A private archer menaced Briçonnet; others
used rude language to Marshal de Gié; and for three nights President
Gannay durst not sleep in his lodgings. The Frenchmen infected the
Swiss; and these ferocious giants, who a few days later should massacre
man, woman, and child at Pontremoli, proved themselves as passionate in
their apology for liberty. “Do you want money?” cried young Sallezart
their paymaster. “Is it mere money that leads you to this infamy? Take
rather our collars, our buckles, and our silver ornaments; stop our
wages and spend the sum of our arrears. We will pay you as well as
Florence! only set the Pisans free!”

In front of such enthusiasm Charles dared not avow a contrary decision.
It was in vain that Briçonnet and his party urged instant fidelity to
Florence. It was useless for Commines to observe that keeping faith with
Florence did not preclude a sentiment of tenderest concern for Pisa,
though after all, as the excellent diplomat observed, “Divers cities in
Italy that be in subjection are as evil-entreated as she”—_Sie ist nicht
die Erste_. Charles would promise nothing to Pisa, nothing definite; but
also he would make no vows to Florence. He knew that the task before his
little army was of the sternest and of the severest, physically
impossible to discouraged and disaffected troops. Therefore he wrote to
the Florentines saying that he would give his answer, not at Lucca, but
at Asti; and while, in his heart, as we shall see, he meant to make the
best of terms for Pisa, and then restore her to the Florentines, he left
for the nonce, a French garrison in the city, three hundred picked men,
difficultly spared, under the governorship of Robert de Balzac Seigneur
d’Entragues. Thus, by a judicious temporizing, Charles hoped to untie
the Gordian knot. By turning his back on the difficulty he thought he
had suppressed it. And yet, were these three hundred men left behind in
Pisa, likely to become more obedient to an absent monarch? Was
Entragues, a man of Orleans’ household, Ligny’s candidate, likely to
carry out the views of Commines or of Briçonnet against the avowed
policy of his master and his patron? Charles, it may be supposed, did
not ask himself these questions. He bestowed on Entragues, not merely
the governorship of Pisa, but the command of the frontier castles, and,
without further hesitation, left the town.

Robert de Balzac, Seigneur d’Entragues, was, says Commines, a very
ill-conditioned fellow. But a similar opinion has been entertained by
many historians for the most successful of their political opponents.
Robert de Balzac was the son of Jean d’Entragues and his wife the sister
of the famous Comte de Dammartin. Robert was a very young man when the
accession of Louis XI. brought about the disgrace and exile of his
all-powerful uncle. Every student of history is familiar with the legend
of that great disgrace: how the estates of the unhappy minister were
divided among the favourites at Court; how his wife with her suckling
child was left destitute and hunted out of all her castles; how forsaken
by all her friends, she wandered like an excommunicated woman along the
lanes of Dammartin begging for her bread, until a poor day-labourer,
Anthoine Le Fort, took the abandoned Countess to his hovel and sheltered
her and her baby, eighteen months old, the starving little godson of the
Duke of Bourbon. Jeanne was still in the peasant’s hut; her husband had
fled for his life to Germany; when, as a last effort, Robert de Balzac,
the Count’s nephew, was sent to Court to plead his cause. It was no
light task to undertake. Men had been banished or odiously imprisoned
for entreating the pardon of Dammartin, and many well-meaning friends
would have dissuaded the young man. But he went his way, arriving at
Court about the end of 1466, and pleaded so well that, after several
audiences, the King recalled his uncle and placed him high in favour.

Such was the man—about forty years of age, rhetorical, impulsive, brave,
generous, and audacious whom the King had left in command at Pisa.


The little army of Charles, dragging its artillery with lacerated hands
across the Apennines, cutting its way through the Venetian forces at
Fornovo, arrived at last in Asti; and, when August came, the prospect of
peace began to brighten before them. The King had come to terms with
Florence; and—granted the inevitable treachery of the situation—the
Treaty of Turin was not unkind. It is true that the King agreed to
restore the city of Pisa, with the other Tuscan fortresses, to his ally
of Florence; but on the express proviso of not merely an amnesty for the
Pisans. Henceforth they were to trade by sea and land on equal terms
with Florence, they were to enjoy the same civil rights, their ancient
arts of navigation and ship-building were to be released from embargo,
and their sequestered property was to be given back to their possession.
Charles had put his muzzle on the hound; Pisa, though restored to her
immemorial energy, should henceforth be protected by the chief ally of

It was, in fact, a comparative equality that Charles proposed. Still
remaining an intrinsic part of the Florentine territory, as indeed the
safety and prosperity of that Republic demanded, henceforth the
admirable commercial situation of Pisa was not to be turned merely to a
Florentine profit, nor were the Pisans to be entirely governed for
Florentine ends and by a Florentine Council. In their government
henceforth the Pisans themselves should have a place and a right; and
the only exclusive advantage which the Florentines should retain would
be that superior dignity, that reserve of power, with which a powerful
mother-country inevitably controls her colonies and her dependencies.
Henceforth in law, in all that can be assessed by franchise and by
jurisdiction, the Pisans should stand on an equal footing with the

This decided, Charles, satisfied he had been unfair to nobody, on August
16th, wrote from Turin a letter to Entragues, signed with his own
signature and countersigned by Orange, Vincula, Briçonnet, Gié, De la
Trémouille, Commines, and (somewhat to our surprise) Piennes. This list
of names is eloquent of the triumph of the diplomatic party; Ligny is
not there, nor D’Amboise nor Étienne de Beaucaire, though these were
among the nearest of the Royal counsellors. It was, in fact, necessary
that something should be done at once. Orleans and his men were still
starving in beleaguered Novara; Montpensier and the army were fighting
at desperate odds in Naples. Peace with Florence would immediately place
in the hands of the King 70,000 ducats and 250 men-at-arms;[131] besides
releasing the soldiers in Pisa, Murrone, Leghorn, Sarzana, Pietra Santa,
and Librafatta, who with the Florentine contingent would be an efficient
succour to Montpensier. But Florence would not pay the money until the
fortresses were in her hand.

Footnote 131:

  A man-at-arms was a varying quantity of soldiers, from five in France
  to three or sometimes one in Italy.

The King’s letter to Entragues arrived in Pisa on the 29th of August.
“You may feel,” the letter ran,[132] “_on account of your oath_, a
certain difficulty in placing the new Citadel of Pisa in other hands
than ours, but we absolve and discharge you of that oath, and command
you, so soon as you receive this letter, incontinent to deliver the said
Citadel of Pisa into the hand of the Commissioners of Florence, provided
that one or any of our Councillors assure you that the Government of
Florence have accorded and agreed to our Articles.”

Footnote 132:

  Archives de Florence, No. 52, quoted by Cherrier, ii. 294.

“A cause du serment que vous avez fait, vous pourriez différer de ne
mettre la dicte Citadelle neufve de Pise en aultres mains que les
nostres.” This phrase conveys the suggestion that on leaving Pisa,
Charles had promised a permanent French protection to the city. At least
it seems clear that Entragues had sworn to yield his position only to
the French.

These three months Entragues and his men had lived as the saviours of
Pisa with the Pisans, feted by the citizens, lodged not only in the
citadel but in the palace of the Medici upon Lung’ Arno; no longer an
insignificant portion of the motley hosts of France, but the beloved
guests and masters of this exquisite Southern city. They had the
advantage of the port from which to ship a succour to or from the armies
in the South; they enjoyed the great pine-woods of the sea, full of game
for hunting; they had grown to love the wide, soft views of fertile
plains bounded by a dim line of blue mountains where their comrades held
the frontier castles. The position of the French in Pisa was not only
felicitous, but strong; and they were required to abandon it into the
hands of the Florentines, allies, it is true, of their king, but to them
desperate and deadly enemies with whom, in defiance of the truce, they
had continually waged an aggravated and embittering guerilla war of
raids and plunder. And these three months, which had increased the
original suspicion and dislike which the French army entertained of
Florence, had been spent in befriending and helping the Pisans, for whom
even at the first they had felt so divine a rage of pity, and whom they
were now commanded to betray. Most of the men had probably made
relations in the town. Entragues as we know from Guicciardini, was much
in love with, and probably deeply influenced by, the daughter of Messer
Luca del Lante; and a little later he married either this or some other
Pisan lady, for Marin Sanuto speaks of San Cassano, the Pisan Ambassador
at Venice, as “el cugnato d’Andrages.” Thus passion, no less than
resentment, and the sense of well-being as well as compassion bound
Entragues to Pisa. Add to this, incredible as it may seem, the sentiment
of loyalty; for long as was the reign of Louis XI., it had not been long
enough to extirpate the feudal idea, and Entragues, although the subject
of the King, felt himself in a far more intimate degree the vassal of
Orleans, and the lieutenant of Ligny. Now, as I have said, the names of
Orleans and Ligny are conspicuously absent from the signatures below the
letter of the King. To yield Pisa would have been to reverse their
policy; and it is possible (to Commines, Guicciardini, Giulini, Porto
Venere, and other contemporaries, it appeared quite certain) that
Orleans or Ligny wrote to Entragues, and bade him resist the decision of
the King. This much at least is sure: _Entragues refused to yield the

Vainly the King reiterated his urgent letters—imploring letters, still
preserved in the Florence Archives under the dates of the 29th and 31st
of August, the 25th of September, the 1st and 22nd of October—letters,
beseeching, commanding the evacuation of the garrisons, but all in vain.
Not only Pisa, but Sarzana, Pietra Santa, Librafatta, and Murrone,
obstinately held out against the royal mandate; only the Governor of
Leghorn, on the 17th of September, yielded to the entreaties of his
sovereign. Meanwhile in Naples, in Gaeta, Taranto, and Atella, in all
the desolate villages of the wild Abbruzzi, the famished and abandoned
army looked northwards, in vain, day after day across the mountains.
Winter began to whistle shrilly across the windy hills; blue mists and
subtle fevers rose out of the marshy valleys; corn failed, and a cruel
famine began to devastate the land; and still the promised
reinforcements never came. Of that gallant army nearly every soldier
should perish by hunger, shipwreck, or malaria; for the troops that were
to bring them a succour out of Tuscany never left the cities where they

On the 18th of September, Entragues drew up a formal treaty with the
Signory of Pisa. If in three months the King did not re-enter Tuscany,
he bound himself to evacuate the citadel, and leave it in the hands of
Pisa. Meanwhile they were to supply him every month with the two
thousand ducats necessary to pay and provision the garrison; and on his
abandonment of the fortress they were to purchase his artillery and to
give him the sum of 20,000 (or as Sanuto has it, 30,000) ducats for
himself. These terms were not excessive: the Florentines a few years ago
had cheerfully paid 150,000 ducats as the price of Pietro Santa, a less
important place. It was, however, as much as Pisa could pay: and to
raise the sum the ladies of Pisa cheerfully sold the brightest of their
jewels. And the Pisans in their gratitude for the staunchness and
moderation of Entragues awarded him a large estate, newly confiscated
from the Florentines, and a palace in the city. “It cannot be for money
that he did it,” remarks Guicciardini, “for certainly the Florentines
would have given him twice as much.” It was probably out of friendship
and pity, out of a genuine enthusiasm, out of an antiquated sentiment of
feudal devotion, combined with a desire to make a profit, that Entragues
committed this fatal and disastrous error.


The Florentines were indeed in a peculiarly evil case; for Charles, who
was their ally, found himself powerless to procure them the restitution
of Pisa; and the Italian cities were resolved that, at no risk, must
Pisa pass to the ally of Charles. That post, in the hands of the friends
of France, would mean not merely a door always open from Marseilles into
Tuscany, but a continual supply of help to the French garrisons in
Naples. It was certain that Pisa must be kept, yet Pisa was too weak to
stand alone; plot and counter-plot darkened the decision as to which
great State the port of Pisa should belong.

From the 16th of September to the 14th of December, Captain Fracassa,
the Duke of Milan’s captain, held the town, dogged by the jealous
surveillance of a Venetian commissary, while Entragues and his Frenchmen
shut themselves inside the citadel. A few months later the Sienese,
Lucchese, and Genoese, united in a secret league with Pisa against the
Florentines. Milan and Venice wove a ceaseless web of intrigue around
the place. And it is quite possible that by persisting in the citadel,
Entragues may have been animated by a lofty and heroic disobedience,
hoping by his presence to maintain Pisa in fidelity to France, and to
prevent it from strengthening the hands of the deadly enemies of his

Be this as it may, on the 1st of January, Entragues, having some days
ago assisted at the expulsion of Fracassa, placed the citadel in the
hands of the Pisan Signory. Great was the joy. Before the falling of the
night, the hated fortress, built by the Florentines to dominate the
town, was a shapeless heap of ruins. New money was struck, bearing the
head of Charles VIII.; and salvo on salvo of artillery rang right across
the plain to the very walls of Florence, announcing with a threat the
dawn of the New Year, which had begun with liberty in Pisa.

Entragues himself, rich in the price of the gems of Pisan beauty,
retired for a month or two to Lucca, to conclude his traffic on the
fortresses. Pietra Santa he sold to Lucca, Sarzana to Genoa. He did a
good turn to Pisa, distributing them, for a round sum, among her allies.
But if he hoped that Pisa would maintain her independence by the
protection of these humbler friends he must easily have been deceived:
it was no later than the 26th of January when Messer Gianbernardin del
Agnolo was sent to Venice with a humble message, entreating the august
protection of that city for the young Republic. It was Venice, rather
than Milan, to whom the Pisans turned—Venice preponderate now in the
Peninsula, sheltering in secret Pisa and Taranto under her wide-reaching
ægis. During thirteen years from this date the shifting fortunes, the
greeds and jealousies of the great Italian cities, fostered an
artificial liberty in Pisa. Thrown like a ball from Milan to Venice,
Venice to Maximilian, Max again to Venice, and thence to Cæsar Borgia,
the unhappy Republic described the whole circle of desperate hope,
agonized courage, misery, poverty, cunning, and betrayal. But with the
anguish of her heroic vicissitudes we have, at this moment, no concern.
The conduct of Entragues is our affair.

From that New Year’s Day all hope was over for the French in Naples.
Gaeta, Taranto, Atella, Ostia fell; Montpensier died of heartbreak, the
troops of fever; the great Guelf kingdom, the vision of so many
centuries, disappeared like fairy gold as soon as the French had grasped

In France, the Count of Ligny, Entragues’ patron, was banished from the
Court in disgrace. “He is gone to his estates in Picardy,” wrote Antonio
Vincivera, “like a desperate creature. The King has disgraced him
because of the affair of Pisa.” Thus Entragues, in the most effectual
manner, had ruined his master’s chances: and though in time Ligny was
pardoned by the King, it was not in the lifetime of his bride. In
February, 1498, the daughter of the Mages expired, far from the arms of
Ligny, in her Nunnery at Naples.

But if the action of Entragues proved unfortunate to his friends, it had
a more deadly consequence to his enemies in Florence. The party of
Savonarola never recovered that failure of the French to give back Pisa.
For some time, amid famine, pestilence, and ruin, they kept a weakening
hold upon the city: “And still they stand in hope of the things above,”
mocks Maron Sanuto, in the spring of 1497, “and still they expect the
coming of the King.” A year later, in the May of 1498, Savonarola
expiated that delusion by the flaming penance of the stake. “Questa è la
fine dei cattivi!” ejaculates the Venetian Secretary.

Of all the actors in this complicated drama, the one person who suffered
not at all was that dishonoured liberator, Entragues himself. He went
back to live in Pisa where he seems to have displayed an eminent and
almost official dignity. Twice in moments of difficulty it was proposed
that Entragues should be sent as envoy to Venice, in place of his
brother-in-law; but the necessity passed away. He remained in comfort
and splendour in Pisa, where we read of his receiving the Lucchese
ambassadors and conducting the diplomacy of the Republic. Pisa
herself—unhappy devotee of liberty!—grew poorer and ever poorer, a
humble pensioner on Venetian bounty: “They adore us,” remarks Sanuto
with some fatuity, “and, of a verity, they would starve without us.”
But, shorn of all her territories as she was, Pisa housed her liberator
in a palace, and little did it matter to this voluntary exile that his
King declared a readiness to decapitate him with royal hands. Meanwhile
he remained the natural centre of all dignity in Pisa. Here we catch a
last glimpse of him in that sinister spring of 1498 which witnessed in
Florence the martyrdom of Savonarola and in France the sudden death of
Charles VIII. The whirlwind that destroyed these mighty vessels allowed
the idle straw to float unharmed. “Entragues is back in Pisa,” writes
Sanuto, “which city is very poor now, having lost all her lands and
subsisting only on that which we afford her. He has returned some time
from his visit to Jerusalem. He lives with certain families in Pisa. He
has money of his own, and gives himself his pleasures.”

Five years later, when the eminence of Venice was dangerously threatened
by Italian jealousy, the Pisans began to look about for a new Protector.
“We will offer ourselves to the Devil,” they declared, “rather than to
Florence.” As a matter of fact they offered themselves to Cæsar Borgia.
They made very few conditions: two of them are noteworthy in view of the
present history:

“The Pisans will bestow themselves upon Il Valentino if neither he nor
the Pope will ever make peace or truce with Florence.

“The new Duke must promise the city never to make any peace or league
with France.”


                      =The Gresham Press=,
                            UNWIN BROTHERS,
                         CHILWORTH AND LONDON.


                           Transcriber’s Note

The footnotes are moved to follow the paragraph within which they are
referenced, and are sequenced numerically for uniqueness.

Hyphenation of compound words can be variable. Where it occurs on a line
break, the most commonly used form is assumed. Many footnotes contain
extended transcriptions in 14th or 15th century Italian, and it is
difficult to ascertain their correctness. With a few exceptions, noted
below, the text is printed verbatim.

The name of the Convent of ‘Roderdesdorf’ in the Contents is everywhere
given in the text as ‘Rodardesdorf’. The Contents’ entry has been
corrected to facilitate searches.

The page references in the Contents direct the reader to the indicated
topics. Be forewarned, however, that those references to the chapter on
‘The French at Pisa’ go astray after p. 354, and one entry is missing
entirely, but is most likely referring to p. 358.

Obvious printer’s errors or printing flaws have been corrected, and are
noted here with their resolutions. The corrections are indicated by page
and line number, or, where the correction is to a note, by note and line
number within the note.

 iv.8       and, half afraid, [ /I] told you               Restored.

 viii.1     the Convent of Rod[e/a]rdesdorf>               Replaced.

 n1.3       Beginen-häuser [i]m Mittelalter                Restored.

 n1.5       Geschic[h]te der deutschen Mystik              Added.

 8.29       the [the ]Alexandrian theories of the          Removed.

 14.1       the poor vain min[s]trels                      Added.

 33.28      suspected of her[se/es]y.                      Transposed.

 37.17      the panth[ie/ei]st idea                        Transposed.

 38.3       By the middle of the fifteenth century,        Replaced.
            [T/t]he Beghards

 59.27      so many hours?[’]                              Added.

 64.19      for the sins of the ungo[l]dly                 Removed.

 61.17      thanksgi[v]ing                                 Added.

 82.21      this unconscious bea[u]titude                  Removed.

 n5.1       Bib. Nat. Fran[c/ç]ais                         Replaced.

 120.9      Que cette Bergère jolie.[’/”]                  Replaced.

 148.17     supers[ti]tition                               Removed.

 149.21     “And that journey,” say[s] Froissart           Added.

 n41.7      pour en avoir garde.[”]                        Added.

 182.28     of his uncle Berna[d/b]ò>                      Replaced.

 193.27     [(]if we may trust the verdict of Corio)       Added.

 n57.6      (Pièces Originales Fontanieu, dossier 1185,    Added.
            No. 38[)]

 200.13     the Duke was afraid of Sforz[o/a]              Replaced.

 207.16     proved irres[is]tibly fascinating              Added.

 221.5      resolution of Count Francesco Sforz[o/a].      Replaced.

 n90.1      promised to assis[t] the Dauphin               Restored.

 262.25     1,300 men-at[ /-]arms                          Replaced.

 277.3      What was the magnificence of earth [ ] to him? _sic_: ‘to

 282.23     he fought almost contin[u]ously                Added.

 294.4      mocking the sacred mon[o]gram>                 Added.

 302.30     to take counsel with the wise old              Replaced.
            statesm[e/a]n and learn his views

 n113.13    et diceva non si voller p[ui/iù] curar ne de   Replaced.

 309.21     he weary of his life[.]                        Added.

 326.1      and to poor [l]ittle Lorenzio                  Restored.

 321.24     in making improm[p]tu> verses                  Added.

 330.25     with the said Peter[./,]>” says Commines       Replaced.

 335.20     Pietra Santa, which [which ]had cost them      Removed.
            150,000 ducats

 340.15     A Medite[rannean/rranean]> seaport             Replaced.

 n120.9     guerra non gli [f/s]ia fatta a noi             Replaced.

 n120.24    di questi ell[ /a]                             Restored.

 n121.17    la citt[a/à] nil                               Replaced.

 n121.18    del Seren[e/i]ssimo Re predetto.               Replaced.

 n121.62    Che nel terreno di Pisa non dovess[o/e]no fare Replaced.

 n122.12    he will make war upon the fra[u]dulent         Added.

 358.13     detention of the Florentine Ambassadors by     Added.

 n129.2     della Repubb[l]ica> Fiorentina                 Added.

 368.2      writes an eye-witness,[” to/ “to] hear them    Replaced.

 369.30     could not attempt to justify[-/.]              Replaced.

 388.4      Gi[e/é]                                        Replaced.

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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.