Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 3
Francis, on his return to Paris, received from his mother the most extraordinary disclosures regarding the treason of the Duke of Bourbon, Constable of France. Bourbon was one of the most distinguished and influential nobles of the kingdom, and circumstances had occurred betwixt Francis, his mother, and him, which made him a very dangerous man to have been left behind. By birth he was very near the throne itself. Handsome, brave, popular, strongly and extensively allied, the richest man in the realm, not a breath of suspicion of disloyalty had ever been raised against him. But Louise, the mother of Francis, though no longer young, was deeply enamoured of him, and proposed that he should marry her. Bourbon was as haughty and vindictive as he was otherwise generous and agreeable, and from this temperament had acquired the name of Charles the Impatient. He received the overtures of the Duchess Louise with disdain, and with some severe strictures on her gallantries. He intimated that he was by no means inclined to marry a woman old enough to be his mother; and the despised princess, who had been a beauty in her day, conceived the most implacable spirit of revenge for the insult. She had unbounded influence over her son; and, complaining to him that the constable withheld lands in the name of his deceased wife from her to whom they had now justly fallen, Francis had entered into her views with such warmth, that great animosity had arisen betwixt him and the constable. This grew to such a pitch, that the constable was treated with the most open discourtesy at Court, and in his turn absented himself from it. But this did not shield him from the undying resentment of the slighted Louise. At her instigation, Francis commenced a suit against him for the recovery of the great estates which Louise demanded from him. The constable, on the other hand, insisted on the repayment of large sums of money which he had disbursed in the Italian campaigns; these were insultingly refused; his salaries were stopped, his offices and trusts withdrawn, and the baton of constable taken from him.
These impolitic persecutions drove the proud duke into a condition of the most violent resentment, and when at length the Parliament of Paris decided the process against him, which made over to the woman whom he had made an enemy by his contemptuous rejection, a formidable proportion of his fiefs and estates, his anger knew no bounds, and he was just in the temper of mind to listen to the temptations of the enemies of France. This circumstance had not been neglected, and both Charles Y. and Henry of England had entered into a secret treaty with the disaffected prince, to betray his sovereign and his native country. The transaction was a disgraceful one to all parties concerned. In Bourbon; notwithstanding his grievous wrongs, it was a base as well as an impolitic deed; in Henry and Charles, it was one destructive of the security of the throne, and of every principle of honour which should guide the counsels of kings. Henry felt the vileness of the proceeding, but endeavoured to justify it až a fair retaliation for that Francis had tampered with his Irish subject, the Earl of Desmond. What salve Charles provided for his conscience does not appear.
The Lord of Beaurain had been employed as the secret agent of the emperor; and Sir John Russell - this being one of the first public notices of the Russells in history - that of Henry. A private treaty was concluded, of which the substance was as follows: - The emperor and the King of England were to invade the kingdom simultaneously, the one in the north, the other in the south, whilst Bourbon himself was to excite a rebellion in the heart of the kingdom, supported by all the connections of his family, whom he calculated at 200 knights and gentlemen, with their retainers. The attempt was to be made the moment Francis had crossed the Alps; and when the conquest of France was complete, Bourbon, in addition to his appanage of the Bourbonnais and Auvergne, was to receive Provence and Dauphiny, which together were to constitute a kingdom for him. He was, moreover, to receive the hand of the emperor's sister, Eleanor, Queen-Dowager of Portugal. The emperor was to have as his share of the spoil, Languedoc, Burgundy, Champagne, and Picardy, and Henry VIII. the rest of France.
Such was the traitorous scheme which was now opened up to the astonished gaze of Francis. Had he crossed the Alps before he received the intelligence, it might have been fatal. He had received some dark hints of mischief to be apprehended from Bourbon previously; and, on his way south, he had suddenly presented himself at the duke's castle, and called upon him to accompany the expedition to Italy; but the duke made it appear that the state of his health rendered that impossible. Francis, not by any means satisfied, set a strict but secret guard upon his castle, and proceeded to Lyons; but there the news reached him that the pretended sick man had managed to escape in disguise, and was on his way, through the intricacies of the mountains of Auvergne and Dauphiny, to join the emperor's army in Italy.
The powers of England and the Netherlands appeared, in pursuance of the secret treaty with Bourbon, on the soil of France about the same time. The Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, the commander of the English army, landed at Calais on the 24th of August, and, joining to his troops those collected from the garrisons of Calais, Hams, and Guisnes, found himself at the head of 13,000 men. He marched on the 19th of September, and the next day fell in with the imperial troops from the Netherlands, under De Buren. The allies now amounted to 20,000; but instead of marching to join the imperial forces coming from Germany, they remained under the walls of St. Omer, debating whether they should do this, or invest Boulogne. After having wasted a precious month, they decided to leave Boulogne, and endeavour to form a junction with the Germans. But they had now allowed Francis ample time to thwart all their objects. He had sent a strong detachment, under the Duke of Guise, to throw themselves in the way of the Germans; whilst the Dukes of Vendome and Tremouille kept a sharp watch over the movements of the allied army, Suffolk and De Buren traversed Artois and Picardy, crossed the Somme and the Oise, and alarmed Paris by pitching their tents near Laon, within twenty miles of the capital. They had stopped by the way to invest Bray, Montdidier, and some other small places, and now confidently expected the arrival of the German army.
But the Germans by this time were in full flight before the Duke of Guise, and Vendome and Tremouille manoeuvred more menacingly on the front and flank of the allies. Tremouille, in particular, grew more and more audacious, beat up their quarters with his cavalry, harassed them by frequent skirmishes, and intercepted their convoys. The position of the allied troops became every day more critical. They were threatened with a growing force in their rear, drawn from the garrisons of Picardy, and there was danger of their supplies, which were all derived from Calais, being cut off. The troops were become sickly, and discontented with their situation. It was high time to retrace their steps, and they commenced their march by way of Valenciennes. But the weather was very rainy, the roads were almost impassable, cold and frost succeeded, and the sickness and murmurs of the troops augmented every clay. Numbers perished on the march; all were eager to reach their homes; and, as the Flemings drew near their frontiers, they deserted in shoals. The armies then separated, and Suffolk reached Calais in December, with his forces greatly reduced, and all in miserable condition.
Henry, who had calculated most confidently on the effect of this concerted scheme, was highly enraged at the failure of the Duke of Suffolk; who, though he was a very handsome and gallant man at a tournament, had shown himself thoroughly destitute of the talents of a general. The duke, though he was so nearly allied to the king, yet dreaded so justly his resentment, that he prudently remained at Calais till the fury of it abated, and it required all the address of the cardinal to restore him to Henry's good-will. The emperor had scarcely effected anything during this campaign, and thus allowed Francis more completely to baffle the invasion in the north. It Was long before he could prevail on the Cortes to grant supplies for the payment of the German auxiliaries: the arrival of the troops was retarded by other difficulties, when the want of money had been obviated; and when they did come, it was so late in the season, that the Spanish lords refused to entangle themselves in the wild fastnesses of the Pyrenees, on the march towards Guienne, in the depth of winter. Charles could only compel them to follow him by the exertion of his authority, and they accomplished nothing but the reduction of Fontarabia.
The troops which Francis had sent into Italy under Bonivet had effected considerable service. Descending from Mount Cenis, Bonivet poured his army of French, Germans, and Swiss over all the north of Lombardy. Asti, Alexandria, and Novara fell into his hands. But he lost time in manoeuvring by the river Ticino; and when he arrived before Milan, he found it put into so complete a state of defence by Prospero Colonna, that it resisted all his efforts to take it, either by storm, or by the slower process of famine. The inhabitants, who had already experienced the tyranny of French conquerors, were enthusiastic in their maintenance of it; and in November the weather became so severe that Bonivet was compelled to retire into winter quarters at Rosate and Biagrasso.
On the 14th of September, whilst Bonivet was investing Milan, and the Duke of Suffolk was advancing on Paris, an event occurred which arrested the attention of Cardinal Wolsey even more than the engrossing moves on the great chess-board of war. This was the death of the Pope Adrian. He had occupied the papal chair only about twenty months; and so impatient were the Italians of the Flemish pope and his strict economy, that they styled the doctor who attended him in his last sickness the saviour of his country. Wolsey lost no time in putting in his claim; and wrote to Dr. Clark, the English ambassador at Rome, telling him. to spare neither money nor promises, for that it was by command of the king, who would undoubtedly see all his engagements performed. This time Wolsey was put in nomination, and obtained a considerable number of votes; but there was no real chance for him, for the Italians were clamorous to have no more ultramontane, or, as they styled them, barbarian popes. Charles V., spite of all his promises to Wolsey, not only did net move a finger in his favour, but threw all his influence into the scale to carry the election of Giulio dei Medici; whilst the French cardinals, to a man, were Opposed to Wolsey as the most dangerous enemy to their sovereign. The conclave mot in October, and the discussion was continued through six stormy weeks. The election at length was seen to lie betwixt Jacovaccio Romano and Giulio dei Medici. Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, who held the most decisive influence in the conclave, threw his weight into the scale for Romano, and the balance hung undecided; but all at once it gave way. Colonna, who hated the Medici, gave up his opposition, and Giulio dei Medici was unanimously elected. The causes of this sudden change were supposed to be entreaties from Prospero Colonna, who was in the interest of Charles V., and the offer to make Cardinal Pompeo Colonna vice-chancellor of the papal court - a most lucrative office, with the use of the superb palace of San Giorgio.
Wolsey, to all appearance, bore this second disappointment with the equanimity of a philosopher; yet we may justly imagine that it produced a deep change in his feelings towards the emperor, and led to a hostile policy against his interests and those of Queen Catherine, his aunt, in England. But Wolsey had prepared for either event, his election or rejection; and the moment the latter became certain, the whole of the influence of the English Government was employed in favour of the election of Giulio dei Medici. On the strength of this, the English ambassadors congratulated Giulio on his elevation, and solicited the continuance of the legative commission to Wolsey. The Pope, who assumed the name of Clement VII., not only renewed the commission, but granted it for life, with augmented powers; and added to it a commission to reform or suppress certain religious houses in England. This was a dangerous power, and as Wolsey, in 1525 - only two years afterwards - by this authority suppressed a number of monasteries, it is by no means improbable that it led Henry to think of those more sweeping changes of the same kind which he afterwards effected. The money thus procured was devoted, notwithstanding the necessities of the state, to the erection of colleges, where both Wolsey and his master declared they were anxious to educate able men in order to oppose effectually the fast-growing heresies of Martin Luther.
The campaign in Italy opened in the spring of 1524, with wonderfully increased difficulties for the French. Charles Y. had appointed the renegade Duke of Bourbon his generalissimo in that country against his own sovereign and compatriots. Henry of England engaged to furnish 100,000 crowns for the first month's pay of the duke's army, and to make a diversion by invading Picardy in July. The emperor promised to defray the cost of the Italian army for the remainder of the campaign, and to invade Languedoc at the same time. Thus supported, Bourbon took the field early in the spring; the genius of Bonivet paled before him, and by the end of May the duke had completely freed Italy of his countrymen, and driven them across the Alps. The losses of the French iii this, retreat were dreadful, and perhaps the greatest calamity was the death of the famous Chevalier Bayard, the knight "sans peur et sans reproche," who was killed as he was protecting the rear of the army, on the banks of the Sesia.
Bourbon, ardent and impatient to secure the kingdom which had been promised him in France, as well as thirsting with desire to take the utmost vengeance on Francis I., entreated the emperor to allow him to quit Italy and enter France with his victorious army. The emperor consented, and the imperial forces soon found themselves descending from the Alps. Unfortunately, Charles had divided the command of this expedition betwixt Bourbon and the Marquis of Pescara, and the certain result was divided councils. Bourbon urged to push forward to Lyons, calculating on his friends and dependants in France flocking to him there; but Pescara had probably different instructions, and accordingly advised that they should descend on Provence, and lay siege to Marseilles. This was palpably the suggestion of the emperor, for he was ambitious of securing Marseilles, and holding it as a key to the south of France, as Calais was to the north, in the hands of the English. Thither, therefore, they marched, entered Provence on the 2nd of July, and on the 19th of August they sat down before Marseilles with an army of 16,000 men.
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