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 Battle of the Spurs
Louis XII (Father of the People) 1498-1515]

Having lost Naples, Louis desired more than ever to make safe and to enlarge his Duchy of Milan. So he entered into a league called the League of Cambrai with the Pope (now Julius II) , with the Emperor, and with his late enemy Ferdinand against Venice. This was a very foolish thing to do. For the Venetians were friendly with Louis, and had more than once helped him in his wars. But Louis was so anxious to increase his territory that he forgot all else, and gathering his army marched across the Alps.

The Venetians, too, made ready, and at Agnadel a great battle took place in which the French were victorious. This battle decided the fate of the Venetians. After it town after town yielded to Louis. And he who was so good to his own people that he gained for himself the name of the Father of the People, proved himself pitilessly cruel to the Venetians, and those who fell into his hands were slaughtered without mercy.

The spoils were divided among the conquerors, the Pope receiving the towns of Romagna as his share of Venetian territory. That was all he wanted of the League. He had used Louis as a cat's-paw to win these towns. Now having got what he wanted he made up his mind to drive the French and all "Barbarians," as he called them, out of Italy. So he made a new League which he called the Holy League.

This was much the same as the League of Cambrai with Louis left out, and instead of being formed against the Venetians it was formed against the French.

At first the French were victorious. They won a great victory at Ravenna on Easter Sunday, 1512. But in the very moment of victory their gallant leader, Gaston de Foix, was killed. He was only twenty-two, but he was, said an Italian writer, "A great captain before he was a soldier. With him vanished all the strength of the French army."

"I would fain," said Louis, when he heard of Gaston's death, "have no longer an inch of land in Italy, if I could by that price bring back to life my nephew Gaston and all the gallants who died with him. God keep us from often winning such victories."

After this young leader's death things went badly for the French. And before Julius II died he saw his desire fulfilled and Italy delivered from them. But it was only freed from the French to be given over to the Spaniards. It was not true freedom, but only a change of masters.

But in spite of all defeat and disaster Louis could not yet give up his wish to conquer Italy. So when Julius II died he made peace with the Venetians and once more sent an army to conquer Milan. La Tremouille, the aged general, was the leader of this expedition, and as soon as he appeared many of the Italians flocked to join him. Almost without striking a blow the whole of the Duchy was reconquered. La Tremouille was triumphant. But his triumph was short lived. Fortune changed once more. The French were defeated and at last driven out of Italy. After thirteen years of war Louis had gained nothing. He had lost many splendid soldiers, and brought sorrow and suffering to many of his people.

Now that the French were utterly defeated in Italy, other enemies attacked them. Louis's old and wily enemy, Ferdinand of Spain, aided by Henry VIII of England, invaded France.

Henry landed and began to lay siege to the town of Terouenne, and there the Emperor of Germany joined him, for he too wished to crush Louis. The French marched to relieve the town, and the two armies met near Guinegate. But hardly had the battle begun when the French were seized with panic and fled madly in a Indirect ions.

The knight Bayard and several other brave generals tried to rally the men. "Turn, men at arms!" they cried. "Turn; it is nothing!" But it was all in vain. Nothing could stop the mad flight.

This battle, if so it might be called, was named the Battle of the Spurs. For that day spurs were of more use than swords.

Bayard, however, disdained to flee. With forty or fifty brave men about him he fought gallantly. But they could do nothing against a whole army, and he and many other brave knights were taken prisoners. When the Emperor heard that Bayard had been taken prisoner he sent for him. "Sir Bayard, my friend," he said, "I have great joy in seeing you. Would to heaven I had men like you. If I had I should in very short time avenge all the bad turns your master the King of France has played me. But it seems to me," he continued, smiling, "I had heard that Bayard never flees."

"Sire," replied Bayard proudly, "had I fled I should not be here."

As they two thus spoke together King Henry entered. "Do you know this French gentleman?" said the Emperor.

"I' faith no," said Henry.

"You have often heard him spoken of," replied Maximilian. "He is the most famous of Frenchmen, more hated and feared by the Spaniards than any other."

Then said King Henry, "Sir, I believe it is Bayard."

"Right, brother," said the Emperor, "you have guessed well this time."

The King then embraced Bayard as if he had been a prince. "Sir," he cried, "I am right glad to see you. But I would for your honor and profit it had not been as prisoner."

Thus Bayard was received and treated with great honor. The Emperor, it is said, would himself have paid his ransom, but as soon as Louis heard that his knight was a prisoner he sent money in haste to free him.

Louis was at length tired of wars by which he gained nothing, and he made peace with all his enemies. Henry VIII at first was unwilling to make peace, but at length he too yielded. And as Anne of Brittany had died, Louis married Princess Mary, King Henry's sister.

She was a girl of sixteen, Louis a gray man of fifty-three. He had for some years been in bad health, and therefore had to live very carefully. In the simple ways of the time he used to dine at eight in the morning, and go to bed at six. Now to please his gay young wife Louis gave up his simple ways of life. He went to tournaments, balls and parties, dined at the fashionable hour of twelve, and often sat up till midnight. His feeble health could not stand it, and in a few months he died.

When one morning the bell ringers went through the streets of Paris ringing their bells and crying out, "The good King Louis, the father of his people, is dead!" the whole city was filled with mourning and tears. Never for the death of any King had there been such grief.

For apart from his foolish wars Louis had been a good King. Within his kingdom he had done all he could to make his people happy. He had made good laws, and seen that they were kept. In spite of his wars, which cost him a lot of money, he had taken away many of the taxes, for he spent little on empty show and pomp.

"I would rather have you laugh at me for my stinginess," he said to his courtiers, "than have my people weep because of my extravagance."

So, free from grinding taxes, and free from civil war France grew wealthy. Trade and agriculture flourished. Never at any time had France been so prosperous. And the poor people, who had been used to princes who looked upon them as mere beasts of burden, loved the King who brought them wealth and ease.

In all his wise ruling, Louis was helped very much by his minister, Cardinal Georges, and the people were grateful to him too. They trusted him. "Let Georges alone," they said, for they knew he would advise the King well.