Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Knight Without Fear and Without Reproach
Louis XII (Father of the People) 1498-1515]

Charles VIII had four children, but they all died as mere babies. The Dauphin alone, whom he named Roland after his favorite hero, lived to be three, but died before his father. So the next heir to the throne was Louis, Duke of Orleans, who had been taken and held prisoner for three years by Anne of France.

Now many who had been his enemies in those days feared him. But Louis bore no malice. "It would not become the honor of the King of France to avenge the wrongs of a Duke of Orleans," he said. From being a gay and frivolous prince, Louis became a just and merciful King. His old enemy Anne was loaded with gifts. La Tremouille, the famous general who had taken him prisoner, far from being punished, was honored. He had been one of Charles VIII's greatest generals, and had earned for himself the name of the Knight Without Reproach. He now became Louis's greatest general, and made himself so famous in the Italian wars that an Italian writer called him "the greatest captain in the world."

Anne of Brittany, now that her husband was dead, went back to her duchy. She was far more proud of being Duchess of Brittany than of being Queen of France, and it seemed as if France and Brittany would once more be separated. True, when Anne had married Charles she had promised that when he died she would marry his successor. But Louis was already married to Jeanne, the good, little, deformed daughter of Louis XI. She was good and gentle, but Louis had never loved her, and now he asked leave of the Pope to put her away and marry Anne of Brittany.

The Pope of the time was the wicked Alexander VI. He wanted Louis to help his son Caesar Borgia, and so he consented. Louis made Caesar Borgia a duke, and gave him a large sum of money, and in return the Pope allowed Louis to put away his wife.

So poor little Jeanne went away to end her days in a convent. Once more Anne of Brittany became Queen of France, once more Brittany was joined to France, this time forever.

Louis XII was a good and kindly King. He spent little money on himself, he lightened the taxes, and did what he could to make his people happy, so that he was called the Father of the People. But unfortunately, like Charles VIII, he loved adventures and war. Like Charles VIII, Louis XII wanted to be King of Naples. He also claimed to inherit the Duchy of Milan from his grandmother. So he resolved to conquer Milan first, and thus gain a foothold in Italy before venturing upon the long march right down the peninsula to Naples.

Louis had some splendid generals and knights in his army. La Tremouille, called the 'Knight Without Reproach', was one of them. Bayard, called the 'Knight Without Fear and Without Reproach', was another.

So Louis conquered Milan. The Duke, an unruly scoundrel, was taken prisoner to France. There he remained for fourteen years in miserable exile, eating his heart out in desire for freedom. But he never gained it, for when at length he was told he might go free the shock was too great and he died.

Having conquered Milan, Louis next desired to conquer Naples. But Ferdinand of Spain also desired Naples. He was powerful, and he was crafty. Louis dared not fight him, so he made a bargain with him, and they agreed to seize Naples and divide it.

Ferdinand had pretended to be the King of Naples's friend, and the King had opened his gates to the Spanish troops. But when he asked for help against the French he found himself betrayed. Unable to fight two such powerful kings he yielded. Feeling that he would rather yield to an open enemy than to a false friend he set sail for France and gave himself up to Louis. Louis received him kindly, gave him some land and money, on condition that he should not try to leave France. And there he lived quietly until his death, nearly four years later.

But now Louis was to learn with what a wily rascal he had to do. For no sooner had Naples been conquered than the two allies began to quarrel over the division of it, and war broke out between France and Spain. During this war the knight Bayard gained for himself great fame. Upon the banks of the river Garigliano a battle was fought in which the French were utterly defeated and all their baggage fell into the hands of the enemy, together with many prisoners. The splendid courage alone of Bayard saved the defeat from being utter disgrace.

The Spaniards were making for a bridge over the river. Had they gained it it would have meant total destruction to the French army. Seeing the movements of the enemy, Bayard said to a friend who was near, "Go quickly and get help to guard the bridge; otherwise we are lost. Meanwhile I will amuse these folk until you return. But be quick."

The friend went, and Bayard, lance in hand, took possession of the end of the bridge, upon which the Spaniards already were. Seeing only one man to oppose them they continued to advance. Four men at once attacked Bayard. But he overcame them. Two he slew, and two fell into the river and were drowned. Another and another followed, but all fell beneath the blows of Bayard's sword. Like a hungry tiger he crouched at the end of the bridge, and so mighty were the blows of his sword that the Spaniards doubted whether it was a man or a demon with which they had to do.

Well and long Bayard kept the bridge, until at length his friend came galloping back with a hundred men behind him. They put the Spaniards to flight and chased them for a good mile. Then said Bayard, "Sirs, we have done enough to save the bridge; let us return in as good order as we can."

But in spite of Bayard's bravery, and the bravery of many another famous knight, the war ended in disaster, and Louis lost again all the kingdom of Naples.

Louis's grief and wrath were great.

"Twice has Ferdinand deceived me!" he cried.

"What?" said Ferdinand when he heard it. "The King of France complains that I have deceived him twice? He lies, the fool; I have deceived him ten times and more."