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Reign of Henry VII page 6

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But Charles had come to the secret conclusion, in order to secure the Duchess of Brittany, to pounce down upon the duchy. Maximilian, meantime, was resolving to marry the duchess, and was seeking to strengthen himself with England. Henry of England was scheming to make all the money he could, and therefore, for the present and the greater part of the next year, he was publicly making treaties with Spain and Maximilian to repress the power of France, and collecting all the money he could from his subjects under the same pretence. His 75,000, through the determined opposition of his subjects, had diminished to merely 25,000; but Parliament the next session granted him a tenth and fifteenth, which he carefully collected and deposited in his coffers.

The three contracting monarchs, like many others both before and since, were each trying how much he could deceive the other; and meantime Charles was stealing a march on them all. Maximilian was hoping to regain through this alliance his lost territories in the north of France, and to obtain Brittany by wedding the duchess. The King of Spain was aiming at the restitution of Roussillon, which he had formerly mortgaged for 300,000 crowns; and Henry of England was revelling in the idea of obtaining a good round sum from Charles of France, for holding back the allies from Anne of Brittany, for the payment of his troops; and from his own subjects, for the continuance of the war, in which he should continue to profess everything and spend nothing.

Maximilian made the first move. His generous support of the interests both of the late Duke Francis and of Anne, had made him a favourite; and when he sought the hand of the young duchess, it was promptly accorded. But in Maximilian's case, the old proverb of "Faint heart never won fair lady " was only too well verified. The seditious spirit of his Flemish subjects, and the fear of falling into the hands of enemies at sea, deterred him from going to Brittany and accomplishing his marriage in person. The Prince of Orange married Anne by proxy. To make the engagement as binding as possible, the proxy, baring his leg to the knee, put it into the bed where the young duchess was lying. This singular marriage took place in the month of April, 1491, No sooner did it reach the ears of the rude discarded suitor, the Count d'Albert, than he informed the King of France; and he engaged to betray the city of Nantes to the French.

No time was lost by Charles in his endeavours to defeat this fancied success of Maximilian. He sent his agents to the Court of Brittany, who, by many and great promises, soon corrupted the chief persons about Anne. The Count Dunois, who possessed great influence in Brittany, the Duke of Orleans, the Prince of Orange - so late the proxy of Maximilian, and cousin-german to the Duchess - the Marshal de Rieux, Montalban, the Chancellor of the Duchy, and all the great ladies of the court, were very soon in the French interest. They were taught to believe that the union with France was the only means of securing peace and prosperity to the country. Thus the young duchess, who regarded herself as the wife of Maximilian, and had assumed the title of Queen of the Romans, was wholly surrounded by people bent on marrying her to the King of France.

When the subject was broached to Anne, she repelled the proposal with scorn and indignation. Besides considering herself the actual wife of Maximilian, she was proud of her country, and was anxious to preserve its independence. She hated Charles and the French as the enemies of her father, of her country, and as the authors of all its calamities. Charles, though of a more suitable age than Maximilian, was ugly and illiterate, whilst Anne was eminently handsome and highly educated, possessing a knowledge of Latin and Greek. But while she was treating the representations of her ladies and courtiers with unmeasured scorn and rejection, Charles was steadily marching upon her capital, through a betrayed country. Before the end of the year she found herself invested by the French army in Rennes; and rather than fall a helpless and humiliated captive into the hands of Charles, she consented to marry him, having not a single soul left to stand by her in her resolute opposition. She was married to Charles on the 13th of December, 1491, at Langais, in Touraine, was crowned in the abbey church of St. Denis, and made her entrance into Paris amid the acclamations of the multitude, who regarded this event as one of the most auspicious which had ever happened to France.

So artfully had the French Court kept concealed the real design of securing the duchess, that to the last Margaret of Flanders was treated in Paris as the queen, and fetes were celebrating in her honour at the very time that Charles was forcing Anne of Brittany to wed him. The farce and the insult were conducted to such a pitch, that an order was Issued permitting Anne of Brittany a safe-conduct through France to join her husband, Maximilian. Instead of that, the deluded King of the Romans found his own daughter sent back to him, and Anne, his wife, proclaimed the wife of Charles, and Queen of France.

The rage of Maximilian may be imagined. He now cursed his folly in not going himself and consummating his marriage in Brittany. He had lost that province, his daughter had lost the throne of France, and he was duped and insulted in the most egregious manner before all Europe. He made his complaints ring far and wide, but they were only echoed by the laughter of his enemies, and he proceeded to vow revenge by the assistance of Spain and England.

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