BLTC Press Titles


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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett


History of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella

by William Hickling Prescott

Excerpt:

1495—1496.

Impolitic Conduct of Charles.—He plunders the Works of Art.—Gonsalvo de Cordova.—His Brilliant Qualities.—Raised to the Italian Command. —Battle of Seminara.—Gonsalvo's Successes.—Decline of the French. —He receives the Title of Great Captain.—Expulsion of the French from Italy.

Charles The Eighth might have found abundant occupation, during his brief residence at Naples, in placing the kingdom in a proper posture of defence, and in conciliating the good-will of the inhabitants, without which he could scarcely hope to maintain himself permanently in his conquest. So far from this, however, he showed the utmost aversion to business, wasting his hours, as has been already noticed, in the most frivolous amusements. He treated the great feudal aristocracy of the country with utter neglect; rendering himself difficult of access, and lavishing all dignities and emoluments with partial prodigality on his French subjects. His followers disgusted the nation still further by their insolence and unbridled licentiousness. The people naturally called to mind the virtues of the exiled Ferdinand, whose temperate rule they contrasted with the rash and rapacious conduct of their new masters. The spirit of discontent spread more widely, as the French were too thinly scattered to enforce subordination. A correspondence was entered into with Ferdinand in Sicily, and in a short time several of the most considerable cities of the kingdom openly avowed their allegiance to the house of Aragon.1

In the mean time, Charles and his nobles, satiated with a life of inactivity and pleasure, and feeling that they had accomplished the great object of the expedition, began to look with longing eyes toward their own country. Their impatience was converted into anxiety on receiving tidings of the coalition mustering in the north. Charles, however, took care to secure himself some of the spoils of victory, in a manner which we have seen practised, on a much greater scale, by his countrymen in our day. He collected the various works of art with which Naples was adorned, precious antiques, sculptured marble and alabaster, gates of bronze curiously wrought, and such architectural ornaments as were capable of transportation, and caused them to be embarked on board his fleet for the south of France, "endeavoring," says the Curate of Los Palacios, "to build up his own renown on the ruins of the kings of Naples, of glorious memory." His vessels, however, did not reach their place of destination, but were captured by a Biscayan and Genoese fleet off Pisa.'

Charles had entirely failed in his application to Pope Alexander the Sixth for a recognition of his right to Naples, by a formal act of investiture.' He determined, however, to go through the ceremony of a coronation; and, on the 12th of May, he made his public entrance into the city, arrayed in splendid robes of scarlet and ermine, with the imperial diadem on his head, a sceptre in his hand, and a globe, the symbol of universal sovereignty, in the other; while the adulatory populace saluted his royal ear with the august title of Emperor. After the conclusion of this farce, he made preparations for his instant departure from Naples. On the 20th of May he set out on his homeward march, at the head of one half of his army, amounting in all to not more than nine thousand fighting men. The other half was left for the defence of his new conquest. This arrangement was highly impolitic, since he neither took with him enough to cover his retreat, nor left enough to secure the preservation of Naples.4

It is not necessary to follow the French army in its retrogade movement through Italy. It is enough to say, that this was not conducted with sufficient despatch to anticipate the junction of the allied forces, who assembled to dispute its passage on the banks of the Taro, near Fornovo. An action was there fought, in which King Charles, at the head of his loyal chivalry, achieved such deeds of heroism, as shed a lustre over his ill-concerted enterprise, and which, if they did not gain him an undisputed victory, secured the fruits of it, by enabling him to effect his retreat without further molestation. At Turin he entered into negotiation with the calculating duke of Milan, which terminated in the treaty of Vercelli, October 10th, 1495. By this treaty Charles obtained no other advantage than that of detaching his cunning adversary from the coalition. The Venetians, although refusing to accede to it, made no opposition to any arrangement, which would expedite the removal of their formidable foe beyond the Alps. This was speedily accomplished; and Charles, yielding to his own impatience and that of his nobles, recrossed that mountain rampart which nature has so ineffectually provided for the security of Italy, and reached Grenoble with his army on the 27th of the month. Once more restored to his own dominions, the young monarch abandoned himself without reserve to the licentious pleasures to which he was passionately addicted, forgetting alike his dreams of ambition, and the brave companions in arms whom he had deserted in Italy. Thus ended this memorable expedition, which, though crowned with complete success, was attended with no other permanent result to its authors, than that of opening the way to those disastrous wars, which wasted the resources of their country for a great part of the sixteenth century.*

Charles the Eighth had left as his viceroy in Naples Gilbert de Bourbon, duke of Montpensier, a prince of the blood, and a brave and loyal nobleman, but of slender military capacity, and so fond of his bed, says Comines, that he seldom left it before noon. The command of the forces in Calabria was intrusted to M. d'Aubigny, a Scottish cavalier of the house of Stuart, raised by Charles to the dignity of grand constable of France. He was so much esteemed for his noble chivalrous qualities, that he was styled by the annalists of that day, says Brantome, "grand chevalier sans reproche." He had large experience in military matters, and was reputed one of the best officers in the French service. Besides these principal commanders, there were others of subordinate rank stationed at the head of small detachments on different points of the kingdom, and especially in the fortified cities along the coasts.*


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