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a gp\;in.t defence. Terouenne was the sole conquest of Henry. The Swiss at the same time had burst into Burgundy; La Tremouille had no forces to oppose them, and he was soon besieged in Dijon. He offered to treat; and they demanded the most exorbitant conditions. In the present distressed state of the monarchy, La Tremouille thought deceit warrantable: he promised the Swiss all their demands, aware that the king would afterwards disavow them; and at the same time offered a large sum, at which the Swiss greedily caught, and decamped to their mountains. Never did a more fearful storm menace France; happily, however, it blew over. Fortunately too for Europe, at that time when ambition reigned uncontrolled by any maxim of either justice or prudence, the means of warlike defence were so much superior to those of offence, that conquests were never permanent, unless where they were salutary and natural extensions of territory or empire.
In January, 1514, Louis lost his queen, Anne of Britany, to whom he was tenderly attached. She was a woman of distinguished beauty, though she limped in her gait. She possessed great influence over Louis; was proud, independent, and obstinate,—qualities characteristic of the Bretons. Anne was at the same time a pious, chaste, and exemplary queen. It was through her influence and importance that the female sex, hitherto excluded, were introduced into society: she formed a court, and collected around her the principal youngladies of rank in the kingdom, whose manners and principles she loved to form. Unfortunately, the successor of Louis saw in this collection of beauty but a prey for his licentiousness; and Francis thus speedily corrupted an institution intended by its virtuous patroness to purify as well as adorn society. The establishment of a court, that is, of a court in which woman's presence was allowed and her influence felt, was, trifling as it may seem, the most important innovation of the age.
Louis, attached as he had been to Anne, did not long delay to fill up the place by her left vacant. Policy joined with other reasons to prompt this step. As the seal of a reconciliation and alliance with Henry VIII., Louis espoused that monarch's sister Mary, a princess then in the flower of her age. The gay habits of a bridegroom did not suit the constitution of the king, then turned of fifty-four. In a few weeks after his marriage he was seized with a fever and dysentery, which carried him off at the palace of the Tournelles, in Paris, on the first day of the year 1515.
Never was monarch more lamented by the great mass of his subjects than Louis XII. He was endeared to them prin
15i5„ CHARACTER OF LOUIS XII. 151
cipally by his economy and forbearance in levying- contributions, and by his strict administration of justice, so different from the sanguinary executions which characterized the reign of Louis XL, when no man could be certain of life. He reduced the taxes more than one third in the early part of his reign, and even in his distresses preferred selling the crownlands to any of the usual expedients for exaction.* Hence Louis earned the appellation of Father of his people. His popularity was much greater with the middling than with the higher classes. The latter called his economy parsimony, and his sympathy with the commons forgetfulness of his rank. Writers of the reigns of Louis XIV. and XV. seek to depreciate the character of Louis XII. and to elevate that of his successor. Louis XII. they consider as the roi rolurier, the plebeian king; Francis as the aristocratic and chevaleresque. The nobility certainly do not appear prominent in this reign. New names arise and become illustrious, as in the time of Charles VII. The lesser noblesse or gentry were in fact treading on the heels and taking the places of the higher aristocracy. The latter rallied or were re-created in the days of Francis, but these tendencies were as much the effect of opposite states and circumstances, as of the opposite characters of the two monarchs.
The writers of the Revolution reverse the system of favoritism: they choose Louis, the father of his people, to be their hero, and they depreciate the kingly Francis. A living author of this school, Rcederer, has seen every perfection in Louis XIL, and he considers that the commons of France were in possession of perfect constitutional freedom during his reign: history, however, does not present this view of the question. Although Louis did seem to allow in the parliament a power of examining and objecting to his edicts, yet the assembly of states in his reign was far from assuming or being allowed aught like a constitutional control. The very virtues and moderation of Louis were inimical to political freedom, since, by rendering the commons contented, they took from them, with the wish, the right of remonstrance. Had a prodigal and an unpopular king* been reduced to the same distress as Louis was in the latter years of his reign, the commons of France might opportunely have made a stand for their privileges, and at least kept alive their traditions of freedom; but nothing that took place during this reign can induce us to retract the opinion, that in the period of Charles the Wise and of John, French constitutional freedom had reached its zenith, from whence it declined and sank, until every ray was lost in the night of despotism.
* The imposts on the accession of Francis I. were as follows:—
1. The laille, amounting to 1,075,000 livres.
2. The gabelle,.beir)g one fifth of the value of salt superadded to it.
3. The aides, a tax (of Spanish origin) on the sale of wine, wood, fish and meat. This was a sou per livre, or one twentieth on* the gross sale, and one third in addition on the retail.
Francis increased the gabelle, by one half; the taille was also augmented. "His levying of the aides,''' says Roederer, "destroyed the vineyards of France for two centuries, and was one of the causes of the revolution of 1798." We should add to this the sale of offices by Francis, a lunative source of revenue to him.
FRANCIS THE FIRST.
We have hitherto traversed the early centuries of French history with a hurried step, our pages necessarily from their brevity affording more information than interest. Yet, as the remote ages of a foreign country must occupy but a limited space in our memory, we have perhaps not been too brief for Englishmen. To follow closely the progress of those political institutions, fortunately not our own, which were doomed to perish and merge in mere despotism, would have been an ungrateful and needless task; while to give a lively picture of chivalrous personages and times would have required the space and leisure, with the simplicity and detail, of the ancient chroniclers. The idlest student too may give an hour to Froissart, wThilst few there are who can devote time and thought to the study of Guicciardini and De Thou.
For this reason greater space has been assigned to the period we now enter upon. It may be called the frontier line of modern history: it is the horizon which bounds our historical view; all within it stretching in continuance up to the very present, separated only by three centuries,—an interval which, however great it may seem to us, is in reality no very extended portion of time. To this epoch may be traced the different political systems and fortunes of the European states. They had then, each of them, attained their national limit? Nations, like men, when they arrive at maturity of growth, seek to exert their force externally. To encroach upon, tc conquer, to reduce their neighbors, is the natural impulse of the many as of the few. Laws and civilization have restrained the froVardness of man: it is to be hoped that a still greater degree of enlightenment may yet equally tame the envious and ambitious spirit of nations; and that man in theaggregate may at length be taught the moral wisdom and forbearance which have been forced upon the individual.
1515. ACCESSION OF FRANCIS I. 153
At that time aggrandizement was the only aim that policy could propose to itself. Unfortunately the same maxim, however refuted, is far from being exploded; although the great lesson of modern history is the hopelessness of pushing conquests beyond geographical limits. What quantities of blood were spilt in vain attempts of English kings to seize part of France !—in the efforts of French princes to hold portions of Italy! If it was the mad policy of one nation to conquer, it became that of the other to defend, and of the third to interfere in favor of the weakest. Hence the great principle of the balance of power, first acted upon by the Italian states, and from them extending, in this period, until it became the policy of Europe. It began to be understood and to prevail at the very time when monarchs, growing universally despotic, and wielding the mature powers and resources of their kingdoms, felt themselves naturally inclined and urged to conquest. This great principle neutralized their efforts; and by rendering universal dominion impracticable, completed the final demarcation between ancient and modern times.
Francis I. ascended the throne at the age of twenty-one: he was tall, handsome, robust. Reared in retirement at Amboise under the care of his mother, Louisa of Savoy, a gallant dame, he received the education of a knight rather than that of a monarch. While young Charles, his future rival, was made to study history and political science under an active statesman, Francis was merely taught the accomplishments of chivalry, garnished with such lighter studies as romance and rhyming story, and the feats of classic heroes told in, modern fashion. He thus ascended the throne with no more solid principles than a love of pleasure and of glory. Francis was, however, of a kind and friendly nature. For his mother he ever entertained the most obsequious regard; and his piety in this respect was unfortunate: it was her influence that displayed itself in the first appointments of the new reign. Duprat was made chancellor; and the duke of Bourbon, a young man of handsome person but austere manners, was nominated constable. An agreeable exterior was equally the passport to the favor of Francis and to that of his mother. Bonnivet, the future favorite and admiral, was the handsomest man of his time. The family of Foix were equally distinguished for personal attractions: the three brothers, one of whom was Lautrec, were advanced to the command of armies, and their sister became the mistress of the young monarch.
It is singular, that almosl the first political act of both Francis and of Charles, then but count of Flanders, was to enter into a mutual treaty: Charles promised to restore Na varre when he should succeed to the throne of Spain; which succession Francis, on the other hand, guarantied to him. Charles was so gratified with the conduct of his ambassador, Henry of Nassau, upon this account, that he asked and obtained for him from Francis the hand of Claude de Chaion, sister of Philibert prince of Orange. It was this marriage that transported the title and estates of Orange to the house of Nassau.
The first thought that naturally occurred to a young monarch like Francis was to reconquer the Milanese, and avenge the defeat of his predecessor. Alliances were the first consideration, and the French ministers used every art to lessen the number of their enemies. The projects of invading Italy were kept a profound secret, and the fears of the Italian princes were allayed by the peaceable declarations of the French envoys. The learned Budseus was the ambassador sent by Francis to pope Leo on this occasion. The Swiss, enraged at the nonperformance of the stipulations accepted at Dijon by La Tremouille, threatened France with an invasion. Francis grasped at the pretext to raise and assemble an army in Burgundy. This alarmed Ferdinand of Spain, as well as Maximilian of Austria, and his namesake Sforza, then in possession of Milan. The revolt of Genoa to the French at the same time betrayed their views upon Italy. And the Swiss accordingly, instead of invading Burgundy, poured down into Piedmont, and occupied all the known passes of the Alps.
In raising funds for the equipment of his army, Francis already displayed his reckless and imperious character. He shrunk from assembling the states, which had usually been the first act of a new reign. At the same time he feared to commence by the unpopular measure of augmenting' the taille. As an expedient, Duprat proposed to render the offices of the judicature venal. A new chamber of twenty counsellors was created, and the seats were put up to auction. There had been previous instances of principal offices being purchased, but' Francis was the first king that appointed judges in parliament for money. Strange it is, that a corruption so gross and so revolting* had an effect rather beneficial. • It increased the independence of French judges, and gave them politically much greater weight than they had before possessed; while sentiments of honor, traditionally cherished and observed by the great families of the robe, enforced of course with a due reverence for public opinion, proved sufficient to keep the source of justice pure—even