Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 6
Hating and loathing the monster who had thus extracted from him in his captivity things more precious than his life's-blood, Francis set out for the frontiers under strong guard; and in a ship moored in the middle of the river Bidassoa, which separates France from Spain, Francis was permitted for a moment to embrace his two sons, who were going into captivity, that he might come out shorn to the quick. No sooner did he land in his own territory, than he mounted a Turkish horse, and shouting in transport, "I am a king again!" he galloped forward to St. Jean de Luz, and thence to Bayonne, where his subjects thronged out and welcomed him with the most enthusiastic delight. Can any one doubt what were his feelings towards his intended brother-in-law of Spain at that moment?
Henry VIII. was one of the first amongst princes to send ambassadors to congratulate Francis on his restoration to freedom, and to urge him to break every article of the infamous terms which had been forced upon him. Sir Thomas Cheney was sent from England to meet Dr. Taylor, the English ambassador at Paris; and together they proceeded to Bayonne, and were introduced to Francis, who told them he greatly felt the friendship of Henry, who had, indeed, remonstrated with Charles on his behalf, though Charles had not paid much respect to the intercession. There was no need of any arguments from the two English casuists -to induce Francis to break the engagements he had entered into. He had never meant to keep them. Before signing the document, he had protested, before two notaries and a few confidential friends, that he acted under restraint, and that he should hold himself bound to observe none of the conditions that were not just and reasonable.
Two ambassadors had attended him from Spain to take his signature of the treaty, when he was free and on his own soil, as a ratification of it, which he had engaged to give; but when the ambassadors presented themselves for this purpose, Francis declined, affirming that he could not enter into any such engagements without the advice of his council and the approbation of his subjects. Ho assured them, however, that he would immediately summon an assembly of the notables at Cognac, and requested them to attend him thither, to learn the decision of the assembly. This body met at that place in June, and declared, with one voice, that the king had no right or power to sever Burgundy from the kingdom without their consent, and such consent they would never give. The Spanish ambassadors were present when this decision was pronounced, and they said that the king, not being able to fulfil his contract, was bound to return to his captivity, and they called upon him to obey. Instead of a direct answer to this demand, a treaty betwixt the King of France, the Pope, the Venetians, and the Duke of Milan, which had been secretly concluded a few days before, was produced, and published in their hearing. As this was tantamount to a declaration of war, the ambassadors demanded their passports, and returned to Spain. The Pope, on entering into this league, absolved Francis from all the forced oaths that he had sworn.
This confederacy of Francis and the Italian princes and states against the emperor, bound the allies to raise and pay an army of 30,000 foot and 3,000 horse, with a certain number of ships and galleys. The King of France was to be put in possession of the county of Asti and the lordship of Genoa; and Francis Sforza, Duke of Milan, engaged to pay him 50,000 crowns annually. Naples was to be wrested from Charles, and its crown placed at the disposal of the Pope; but the king that he appointed was to pay an annuity of 75,000 crowns to the King of France. Henry of England, though he declined to take any active part in the league, but consented merely to be nominated its protector, was to have a principality in Naples, with 36,000 ducats a year; and the cardinal, who always came in for his share of spoil, was to have a lordship worth 10,000.
Though the league was formed expressly against the emperor, yet, to give it an air of justice and fairness, he was invited to become a party to it, provided he approved of the arrangements designed for Italy, dropped his demand on Burgundy, and consented to liberate the sons of Francis for a liberal ransom. If he declined the terms, as they well knew that he would, the confederates bound themselves to assist the King of France in enforcing them. The completion of this treaty was duly notified to the emperor by the ambassadors of the different confederates. Charles received the information with extreme anger. He severely upbraided the Pope for his part in it, when he knew that he had been the chief means of placing him in the Papal chair, though a bastard; and as for Francis, he denounced him as a thoroughly perjured prince, who had violated every article of the Treaty of Madrid, and he challenged him to justify his conduct by a direct appeal to single combat.
Francis not only replied, but published his reply in every court of Europe, in an able and eloquent defence, drawn up by Duprat, the Chancellor of France. He, in his turn, upbraided Charles with his selfish, grasping, and dishonourable conduct, when the fortune of war put him into his power; stating that he had broken the treaty of Noyon by retaining the kingdom of Navarre; had induced the Duke of Bourbon and his adherents to rebel, and had extorted terms and oaths from him by violence, whilst lie Was his prisoner, in the most cruel and Ignominious manner; that all the world held such oaths and engagements to be utterly void, and that, when they were forced upon him, he had told him that they were void, and could not be kept; that he knew very well that he had no power to surrender Burgundy, but that he was quite willing to pay a just amount of money in lieu of it, and another for the ransom of his children.
Charles replied in a strain of great bitterness, and he did not confine himself to words; he put his troops in motion, and, in the first place, advanced to punish the Pope, and break up the Italian confederacy. The Spaniards, from the kingdom, of Naples, advanced on one side, and the German and Spanish subjects of the emperor, from Lombardy, Parma, and Piacenza, on the other: there was no French prince to support him, and Clement was speedily compelled to sue for peace. Moncada, the Governor of Naples, signed a treaty with him; and a month afterwards, in a most perfidious manner, in concert with the family of Colonna, surprised the city of Home, plundered the Vatican, and compelled the Pope to seek refuge in the Castle of St. Angelo. This took place on the 21st of September, 1526; and Moncada and the Colonna princes, finding they could not reach the person of the Pope, made a new treaty with him, and withdrew. No sooner was Clement at liberty, than he declared all the conditions forced from him, by the perfidy and violence of his enemies, were void; and to protect himself, he invited the Count of Vaudemont, who had claims to the throne of Naples, to bring troops from France, and assert his right. To avert this mischief, Lannoy, the Viceroy of Naples, marched a body of troops against Rome; but this time the Pope was prepared for his reception, having obtained reinforcements from his Italian allies. These allies, chiefly the Florentines and Venetians, repelled Lannoy, entered the Neapolitan states with an army of 6,000 men, and made themselves masters of the greatest part of the Abruzzi and of the city of Aquila, the capital of the province.
So closed the year 1526; and the new year opened with preparations for still more terrors for devoted Italy. The Emperor Charles had no money to maintain the troops necessary for the extensive domination that he aimed at, and he therefore allowed the mercenary troops in his employment, rather than in his pay, to indemnify themselves by the plunder of the wretched inhabitants of the countries where they were collected. These troops consisted of a mob of vagabonds, outlaws, and marauders, from every country in Europe, who, by their long course of licentious freedom, were become utterly callous to the sufferings which they inflicted. Freundesberg, a German soldier of fortune, was at the head of 15,000 of these adventurers, consisting of Germans, Spaniards, and Swiss; and Bourbon, at the head of 10,000 more half-starved and half-clad mercenaries, was in possession of the whole duchy of Milan, but with no means of supporting his position. These two ferocious hordes having formed a junction under his banner, clamoured for their pay. Bourbon told them he had no money, and that Milan had been so repeatedly overrun and ravaged, that it was destitute of all means of supporting them; but that he would lead them into the enemy's country - into the richest cities of Italy - where they might amply indemnify themselves for all their past sufferings. Animated by these assurances, they swore to follow him whithersoever he might lead them.
On the 30th of January, 1527, lie marched out of Milan, with this army of hungry desperadoes. They directed their course to the opulent cities of Piacenza, Bologna, and Florence; but the allied army made a rapid movement, and succeeded in covering those towns. But this rush of the allies northward left Rome exposed, and Bourbon pushed forward to seize the advantage. It was time, for his lawless troops, disappointed in their expectations of plundering the cities mentioned, were growing furious, and it required all the authority of Bourbon to keep down the mutiny. Their hopes raised again by his promises, they rushed on in rapid march towards the Eternal City, where they were met by Lannoy, the Viceroy of Naples, who informed them that he had besieged Rome, and compelled the Pope to make peace, on condition that he prevented the troops of Bourbon approaching the city. At this declaration the clamour in the invading army became terrible. They refused to listen to Lannoy; they threatened to murder him, and called on Bourbon to lead them forward. Bourbon, who was now the sole commander, for Freundesberg had fallen sick, and was left behind at Ferrara, assured Lannoy that it was not possible for him to arrest the march of his troops, for he had no means of satisfying their demands but by the sacking of Rome. The Germans in his army were chiefly Lutherans, and were equally on fire with a desire of destroying the Pope and Rome, and with the hope of the spoil of that ancient seat of pagan and of Christian power. To them it was a holy crusade, made sweet - like all crusades - by the mingled feelings of avarice and fanaticism. They marched on, and on the 5th of May they encamped in the fields of the Eternal City. Bourbon rode amongst them, exclaiming, "Behold yonder churches and palaces, the receptacles of the wealth of the Christian world. Repose yourselves to-night, and to-morrow all that affluence shall be your own!"
With the first light of morning this wild and savage host was on foot, eager to seize the hoarded opulence of ages. A thick fog covered their approach, and they rushed to scale the walls with all the fury of a famishing and sanguinary host. But the walls were well manned, and on every side they were repelled and flung back with such slaughter, that they began to waver and lose heart. Bourbon, perceiving the ominous impression, seized a scaling-ladder, and planting it against the wall, began to mount, calling on his soldiers to follow his example. But a shot from an arquebuse struck him in the groin as he was ascending, and he fell into the ditch. Perceiving that his wound was mortal, he bade those about him to throw a cloak over him, to conceal his death, and to advance and avenge it. The death of their commander, however, could not be concealed. It flew like wild-fire through the host, and, infuriated at the news, they rushed forward with dreadful shouts of, "Bourbon, blood, and slaughter!"
On every side they clambered the walls like maniacs, fighting hand to hand for four hours, and seeing a thousand of their comrades fall around them. In the afternoon they were in entire possession of the suburbs, burst their way across the Sistine bridge, and were in the city. To describe the horrors that followed, would be to reiterate the catalogue of every crime, cruelty, and abomination that men perpetrate on such occasions. For five days the city was given up to the licence and plunder of this demoniac soldiery. The savage and maddened vagabonds ran through the streets, crying, "Blood! blood! Bourbon! Bourbon!" Every building, public and private, was burst open and plundered and desecrated. Churches, palaces, private houses were stripped of everything valuable, and the miserable people were treated with every imaginable horror, insult, and indignity. The Pope again escaped into the strong Castle of St. Angelo, but several of the cardinals and bishops fell into the merciless hands of the barbarian soldiers. All the writers of the time agree in the statement that the horror of this sacking of the capital of Christendom by a Christian army, transcends everything of the kind in history. For months the city was in the hands of this terrible concourse of savages.
The news of the sacking of Rome, and the imprisonment of the Pope, excited the most lively sensations of horror and indignation throughout the Christian, and especially the Catholic world. None appeared more affected than the emperor, by whose troops the sacrilegious deed had been perpetrated. He put himself and his Court into the deepest mourning, forbade all rejoicing for the birth of his son, and commanded prayers to be offered in all the churches throughout Spain for the liberation of His Holiness. No one could play off a piece of solemn hypocrisy more solemnly than Charles V.
Francis and Henry, who were making a fresh treaty of alliance, were at once affected with real or pretended horror. They agreed immediately to invade Italy with 30,000 foot, and 1,000 horse, to join the confederate army there, and drive out the troops of Spain, and liberate the Pope. Sir Francis Pointz was dispatched as ambassador to the emperor in Spain, and Cardinal Wolsey proceeded to France to concert with Francis the plans of the two kings. Wolsey travelled with his usual kingly pomp attended by a retinue of nobles, and of 1,200 horse. He was met on the frontiers of France by the Cardinal of Lorraine, also with a splendid attendance of prelates, nobles, and gentlemen, and conducted through the different towns with processions, pageants, and all the homage that could be paid to a monarch. The King of France, as a mark of his especial favour, granted him the privilege of setting at liberty all the prisoners in the towns through which he passed. Wolsey remained at Abbeville a few days to rest, and then proceeded to Amiens, where he was received by the king and the whole Court on the 4th of August. There the cardinal remained for fourteen days, more for a show of amity betwixt France and England than for any real business, which had been already settled; one article of which was that Francis' son, the Duke of Orleans, should marry Mary, the Princess of England.
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