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Henry the Seventh by James Gairdner (pub. 1899)




WE have said that on his way southward to London, in the autumn of 1487, Henry received an embassy from Charles VIII. of France, sent chiefly to explain his attack on the duchy of Britanny. The independence of that duchy had long been threatened. It was the last of the feudal lordships subject to the French Crown which retained its old independence, and Charles and his Council were fully bent on completing the policy of Louis XI. by annexing it. The feeble condition of the duke favoured the design, and a fair pretext for interference was found in the asylum given by him to Louis, Duke of Orleans, heir-presumptive to the French throne, who, having laid claim to the government during Charles's minority, had taken up arms against the regent, Madame de Beaujeu, and attempted to make Britanny a basis of operations against France. The duke also allied himself with Maximilian, King of the Romans, who aspired to marry Anne, the heiress of the duchy. But Maximilian was easily held in check by the Estates of Flanders, which refused him supplies, so that Britanny had no efficient protector. And apart from Henry's own personal obligations to the duke, there was a strong feeling in England against allowing such an important province to be added to the French Crown. For it was clear that if France commanded all the harbours on the south side of the Channel, the danger to England in any future disputes might be very considerable; and English men, who had been accustomed to look upon France almost as if it was their rightful property -- as a country to be invaded and ravaged at pleasure whenever their king could make up his mind to an expedition against it -- could not look without some dismay at the consolidation of the power of a great rival, and their own seeming exclusion from a happy hunting-ground for evermore.

The French had not only entered Britanny, but had besieged the duke in Nantes. They had been compelled, however, to raise the siege shortly before they sent their embassy to England; and this perhaps served to quiet apprehensions to some extent. Henry too, for his part, did not wish to break with France. As he was person ally indebted to the French king as well as to the duke, he sought rather to mediate, and in the spring of 1488 he sent ambassadors to both parties commissioned to use their utmost efforts to bring them to accord. He could not, however, have been blind to the fact that it would suit the interests of France very well to encourage negotiation while pressing on her preparations for further action; and it is clear that the necessity of armed inter ference suggested itself strongly to some of his Council. But while the Council were deliberating, Lord Woodville, Governor of the Isle of Wight (a brother of the queen-dowager and uncle to Henry's own queen), crossed, against positive orders from the king, with a body of men to Britanny, and put himself at the duke's commands. This naturally caused great exasperation in France, where it is said even the English ambassadors were hardly safe from outrage. But Henry disowned the act, and the French Court was only too glad to accept his apology and keep up negotiations, especially when events soon gave them a great advantage which completely neutralised the unrecognised aid that Britanny had obtained from England. On the 14th of July Henry signed at Windsor a renewal of the truce with France, which would naturally have expired on the 17th of January following (i.e. 1489), to the 17th of January 1490. How far he had succeeded in persuading himself that Britanny was safe in the meanwhile it is difficult to say. The truce itself made no stipulation about the duchy, and Henrywas probably unwilling to interfere in its behalf single-handed, or with no other ally than Maximilian, King of the Romans, whose resources were not equal to his valour. He appears, however, to have been waiting for some definite offer from Ferdinand of Spain, who was very anxious, for his own purposes, to drag him into a war with the French on any pretext whatever. But while the powers interested in checkmating France were each looking to the other to see who would begin, France had dealt a decisive blow at Britanny. The power of the duchy was in fact completely crippled, just a fort night after the truce was signed at Windsor, by the disastrous battle of St. Aubin, fought on the 28th of July. The Duke of Orleans was taken prisoner, ovith a number of other eminent captains besides, and not less than 6000 men are said to have been slain, among whom were included Lord Woodville and nearly the whole of his English followers. The loss of Dinan and St. Malo immediately followed, and though Rennes still refused to surrender, the Duke of Britanny was obliged to make peace on the 21st of August. He died within three weeks afterwards.

England was now seriously alarmed. The question remained whether the duchy could even yet be saved from complete absorption; but the right of interference seemed barred by the truce. English blood, however, had been actually shed in Britanny, and while there was a natural desire in England to avenge defeat, there was in France a no less natural feeling of resentment at the interference that had already taken place. Peace was evidently difflcult to preserve, but Henry took means to tide matters over till he was sure of his ground. The Duke of Britanny had left no son, but only two daughters, of whom the elder, Anne, was now duchess and not qute twelve years old. Maximilian, as we have already said, was a suitor for her hand; but Henry, seeing little help to be looked for from him, proposed a marriage between her and the young Duke of Buckingham, son of the duke beheaded by Ricllard III., and sent an ambassador to Britanny upon the business. He also commissioned the Spanish ambassador to write about it to Ferdinand and Isabella, as he was desirous to act in concert with Spain. The Spanish sovereigns replied that they wished to favour it for Henry's sake, but suggested reasons against it which Henry himself no doubt foresaw. There was a danger of alienating not only Maximilian but also the Sieur d'Albret, who was another suitor for the duchess's hand, and the cause of Britanny would be weakened rather than strengthened. In deference to the Spanish sovereigns, Henry withdrew his proposal; which, however, had practically served its purpose in showing the Duchess Anne that she had still a prospect of powerful support; for its very withdrawal made it evident that Spain as well as England was anxious that the duchy should not be lost. Indeed, some time after persuading him to withdraw the suit of the Duke of Buckingham, Ferdinand obtained the King of England's consent to a proposal that his own son, Don Juan, the Infant of Spain, should marry the duchess. But the project, as it turned out, was conceived a little too late.

Henry was preparing for war, but did not meditate any act of aggression. He had already tied his hands by the truce with France, which he had no intention to violate while it lasted. But the duchess made a strong appeal to him for defensive aid, and there was a fair case for interference to that extent. On the death of the duke, Charles had sent her an embassy declaring his intention to observe the treaty signed in August; but as her feudal superior he claimed her wardship, and told her she must forbear calling herself duchess till the question of her right to the duchy had been settled by competent judges. Anne informed him in reply that she would call the Estates of the duchy to ratify the treaty, and meanwhile she invoked the help of England to maintain her in her rights. Henry called a Great Council together at Westminster in November to consider what was to be done. Immediately afterwards, that is to say, on the 11th of December, he despatched embassies to Charles VIII., the Duchess Anne, Maximilian, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and John II. of Portugal, all on the same day. What message he sent to each of these princes we do not precisely know; but we know that he had determined to secure the duchess, if possible, against further aggression without violating his truce with France; and he at once sent out commissions to raise archers and muster men in defence of Britanny, for which purpose Parliament in February following granted him a liberal subsidy.

Meanwhile the French had re-entered the duchy and summoned Guingamp to surrender. They took it on the 18th of January 1489. But on the 10th of February Henry's ambassadors concluded a treaty with the duchess at Redon, which he confirmed on the 1st of April following. By this treaty, in consideration of an immediate loan of 6000 armed men, to be used strictly for defensive purposes till the feast of All Saints following, the duchess engaged at any future time when it pleased Henry to call upon her after his truce with France should have expired in 1490, to aid him to recover Normandy and any other of the old English possessions in France. This loan of men, however, was not to be made without very sufficient security for their expenses; for it was expressly stipulated that a number of them, not to exceed 500, were at once to be put in possession of certain towns and castles, which were to be delivered to Henry in pawn. The English soldiers, moreover, were to be sent back to their native country at the expense of the duchess, and the money in repayment of their expenses was to be conveyed over sea at her risk and the repayment made in England. Thus, if the resources of the duchy were crippled by invasion, the English soldiers would remain in command of the most important strongholds.

It was, however, comparatively an easy thing to strengthen Britanny against external attack; the difficulty was to strengthen her against internal weakness. The young duchess had been left under the guardian ship of Marshal de Rieus:, with whom the English very naturally entered into negotiations. De Rieux unhappily favoured the proposal of a marriage between her and D'Albret, who, being a powerful lord of Gascony and father to the King of Navarre, would undoubtedly have been able to give her very efficient support. Of course it made no difference, from a mere political point of view, that he was a widower who had been married seven years before she was born; but the young lady herself had no mind for such a union, and protested she would sooner be a nun. De Rieux, as well as D'Albret, was thus alienated, and the duchess gave all her confidence to Count Dunois and her Chancellor, Philip de Montauban. De Rieux accused them of favouring the interests of the French, and refused the duchess herself admittance into Nantes unless she would enter privately, leaving her friends in the suburbs. She withdrew to Rennes, where she was received with devoted loyalty, and endeavoured to dissuade all her allies from having anything to do with the marshal.

Meanwhile the French king, having received plain warning from Henry of the steps he was taking to assist the duchess, sent over to England Salazart, Archbishop of Sens, who arrived there in March and sought a private audience of the king; but Henry refused to see him except in public. On the subject of Britanny Henry was willing to name commissioners to discuss matters; but he gave the archbishop distinctly to understand that in the opinion of Englishmen the French had no business there. The archbishop soon found that his mission was practically useless, and returned to his master at Chinon. About the time he reached the French Court the stipulated body of 6000 Englishmen landed in Britanny, led by Lord Willoughby de Broke, steward of the household, and Sir John Cheyney, master of the horse. On their landing, the French evacuated and burned Guingamp, but not without laying the inhabitants under tribute and taking hostages of them for the payment. The English immediately occupied the place.

In May Marshal de Rieux sent the Seigneur de Sourdeac to England to represent to the king that, if D'Albret were made master of Britanny by marrying the duchess, he could give the English effectual aid to recover Guienne, tho loss of which six-and-thirty years before still rankled in the English breast. It is not likely that Henry was much influencod by such a prospect; but he continued to negotiate with De Rieux as Anne's proper guardian, much to the displeasure of Anne herself, or at all events of Dunois and Montauban, who caused her to send remonstrances to Henry against showing him any countenance. The duchess in fact demanded Henry's help to recover Nantes out of De Rieux's hands; for he was appointing and dismissing offcers against her will and raising the revenues of the duchy to her prejudice. Henry sought in vain to promote a reconciliation between them. Meanwhile he did something to aid Britanny by active support of her ally Maximilian in Flanders.

Shortly after Easter he had received important embassies in return for those he had sent in December to Maximilian and to the King of Portugal. The former was then in urgent need of assistance. Son of the penurious Emperor Frederic III., his high-sounding title, King of the Romans, did little to make him powerful. What influence he had in the affairs of Europe had been owing to his marriage with his late wife, Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, whose wealthy patrimony he now administered as far as the independent spirit of the Flemings would allow him to have the rule. The men of Ghent and Bruges, however, acknowledged only the authority of his son and heir, Philip, a lad at this time nearly eleven years old, whom they had recognised as Duke of Burgundy from the time of his mother's death, when he was a mere infant. They took possession of his person, used him freely as a puppet, and ignored entirely the authority of his father. Maximilian endeavoured to reduce them by force, but they appealed for aid to the French king, who sent an army under Philip de Creve coeur, Sieur d'Esquerdes (or Lord Cordes, as the English called him), to their support. Maximilian then sought to win over Bruges by conference with some of its principal citizens. But the result was that he allowed himself to be lured into the town, where, after several of his friends had been beheaded, he himself was called to answer for having interfered with their liberties and disregarded the treaty which they and the men of Ghent had made with France. By a gentle answer he contrived to mitigate their resentment, and after swearing to pardon all offences, he was allowed to depart at liberty, much to the discontent of the men of Ghent, who would have delivered him prisoner into the hands of the French.

The theory that the people have a right to rule, and that the sovereign is a mere ornamental figurehead, was in those days the exclusive property of the Flemings. It certainly was not the received view in England for more than a century after, and while Europe was ringing with the indignity shown to an emperor's son in depriving him of his rights alike as father and as guardian of their prince, the English people were more indignant than others. Maximilian seems to have kept his oath, but the Emperor Frederic made war on the rebellious towns to avenge the affront. The Lord of Ravenstein, however, who was a leading member of Maximilian's Council and had taken the oath along with him -- either to keep faith with the Flemings, or, as it is said, won over by France -- deserted the cause of his master and took Ypres and Sluys, which he fortified and victualled against the power of Maximilian. The Sieur d'Esquerdes sent 8000 Frenchmen into the Low Countries to besiege Digmude, and there was some danger of Calais being completely surrounded by a circle of French garrisons. Lord Morley was accordingly sent thither with a body of 1000 men, who at first were reported to have come only to strengthen the English pale. But one night, joining with a picked company from the garrisons of Calais, Guines, and Hammes, under the command of Lord Daubeney, the Lieutenant of Calais, they secretly entered Flanders, and, with a body of 600 Germans who met them at Nieuport, came next morning through Dixmude upon the camp of the besiegers, which they soon completely broke up. It was a splendid victory, the spoils taken were magnificent, and the English were naturally elated. They carried their wounded and their booty to Nieuport, and drove out a body of French men from Ostend. But the safety of Calais was not yet completely secured. For the Sieur d'Esquerdes, who was at Ypres burning to revenge defeat, laid siege to Nieuport while there were few to defend it but the wounded, Lord Daubeney having returned to Calais. The wounded men, however, manned the walls, and were animated to the fight even by the women of the town till a body of fresh English archers arrived by sea from Calais. D'Esquerdes then found it necessary to raise the siege, and giving up at last his ardent hope of winning Calais, retreated southward to Hesdin.

This must have been very grateful news to Henry, who had found little respite yet from anxiety from tho commencement of his reign. Although the line of policy he had pursued in the dispute between France and Britanny was studiously just and moderate, and although it failed to satisfy the more ardent among his own subjects, it nevertheless was a cause of trouble within the kingdom itself. In accordance, no doubt, with the determination of the Great Council in November, Parliament had met in January, and in February had granted the king a subsidy, as we have already seen. Every man was to contribute "the tenth penny of his goods," or rather, of the annual value of his lands, for goods and chattels were to be assessed at the rate of twentypence for every ten marks of their actual or whole value. The assessment was to be made before Easter, and one-half the sum due was to be levied before the 1st of May. The object was to raise an army of 10,000 archers "against the ancient enemies of this realm," as set forth in the Act; and the tax imposed turned out to be inadequate after all. But, however willing men were to fight for Britanny, they were not equally ready to supply the necessary funds; and north of the Humber the commissioners met with an amount of resistance that compelled them to complain to the Earl of Northumberland. The earl immediately in formed the king, who on the 10th of April sent a commission to the Archbishop of York, the earl himself, the Abbot of St. Mary's, and a number of others, to search out the promoters of disturbances, and commit them at once to prison to await their trials. But matters had already gone too far to be so easily dealt with. A number of the earl's own tenants openly refused to obey the Act of Parliament, and the earl mustered a company to seize their persons. They, on the other hand, gathered their friends, and a regular battle took place between them and the earl's company, in which the earl himself and many of his servants were killed not far from Thirsk on the 28th of April.

The king was at Hertford, receiving the embassies already referred to, when this news reached him. He determined to stay there no longer than was necessary to give them a sufflcient hearing on the important affairs on which they had come to him; and on the 22d of May he departed northwards to see to the peace of the country himself. The insurrection had been meanwhile prolonged under one Sir John Egremont, a man of Yorkist sympathies; for the old feeling towards the House of York was still strong in the north of England. But the rebels had no fighting power, and presently took to their heels. Sir John Egremont fled to the Lady Margaret of Burgundy; and the king, on his return from the north, established a Council for the better government of those parts, placing at the head of it Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, a man on whose chivalrous sense of honour, though he had fought for Richard III. at Bosworth, Henry rightly judged that he could rely to keep the country in tranquillity.

Thus Calais was safe, and the north of England in a fair way to be pacified. Moreover, France was for the time checkmated and tired of war. For the efforts of England and Maximilian had been supplemented by those of Ferdinand of Spain, who about the same time made an attack on Roussillon. Charles, however, had by no means given up his designs on Britanny, and only sought by diplomacy to separate the allies. There could be no doubt which of them to begin with. Maximilian was not only weak in his resources but unstable in his policy. Seven years before, when Louis XI. began the game of intriguing with his rebellious subjects, he had been compelled by the treaty of Arras to sign away the inheritance of his own son Philip in the counties of Artois and Burgundy, and appoint them as a dower for his daughter Margaret, whom it was agreed that Charles, at that time dauphin, should marry when he came of age. To this treaty Charles now appealed, and addressing Maximilian as his father-in-law, expressed a desire for a settlement of all their differences. He found Maximilian no less amicably disposed than himself. Only a month after the battle of Dixmude, while a diet was held at Frankfort, which had been convoked by the Emperor Frederic with the view of getting support for his son from Germany, ambassadors arrived from the French king, between whom and Maximilian peace was effectually made on the 22d of July 1489. The details of the settlement were for the most part left to be arranged at a personal interview between the two princes; but it was a positive stipulation that the Duchess Anne should be put in possession of all the strongholds held by her father, provided she would bind herself to turn the English out of Britanny.

The war in the duchy, however, was at that moment going on as vigorously as ever. De Rieux was endeav ouring to besiege Brest by land and sea, while the English were blockading Concarneau. The French in August poured fresh troops into the country, and sent a fleet which broke up the siege of Brest. The English also about the same time sent reinforcements, but apparently they could effect little, and in November the duchess, pressed hard by Charles, thought it best to accept the treaty of Frankfort. The peace was immediately proclaimed both in France and in the duchy.

This could scarcely have been agreeable news either to England or to Spain. The treaty, however, was utterly futile without their consent to it; for both English and Spanish troops held important positions in the country, and as neither De Rieux nor D'Albret could easily acquiesce in a settlement which would have placed them as rebels in the power of France, it was easy enough with their aid to invalidate what had been done. This Ferdinand at once set himself to do, and presuming that Henry would see the matter in the same light, gave immediate orders to his captains in Britanny to act in closer unison with the English than they had done hitherto. Henry, for his part, seems to have taken things more calmly. His truce with France vvas just about to expire. If it had been allowed to do so the gain to Charles would, to say the least, have been extremely doubtful, and his agreement with the duchess little better than waste paper, seeing that she was absolutely powerless to make the English quit her shores. The French king, therefore, twice sent over a solemn embassy, consisting of Francis, Lord of Luxemburg; Wallerand, Lord of Marigny; and the celebrated French historian and orator, Robert Gaguin, General of the Trinitarian Friars in France, to persuade Henry to acquiesce in the Frankfort settlement and make a firm peace, withdrawing his troops from Britanny. They had been in England in the autumn, when they were briefly dismissed and sent back. The second time they came about Christmas, and dined with the king on St. John's day, the 27th of December; but not all the eloquence of Gaguin could prevail on Henry to comply with their master's demands. Some slight extension of the truce they seem to have procured (although there is no distinct record of the fact), as negotiations were still kept up, and a return embassy sent to France after the date when it should have expired. But this proved for Henry's advantage, not for that of Charles; for in February 1490 -- little more than two months after her acceptance of the treaty of Frankfort -- the Duchess Anne sent her Chancellor, Montauban, to England, commissioned virtually to tell the king that she threw herself entirely on his protection, and that she would never marry any one without his consent.

The French ambassadors were obliged to return again to their own country, having completely failed in the main object for which they were sent. Somewhat later, after still further efforts for peace had broken down, the oratorical Gaguin revenged himself for his repeated ineffectual missions in a bitter epigram against the English, to which a host of poetasters on Henry's side wrote replies. But in the meanwhile Henry sent, as already mentioned, a return embassy to France, not apparently with any great hope of peace, but to explain definitely to the French king and his Council on what terms he was prepared to treat with regard to the duchy of Britanny. On their way to the French Court they met at Calais a new messenger of peace proceeding to England, who could not but be listened to with deference. Lionel Chieregato, Bishop of Concordia, papal nuncio, had been at the Court of France for about a year when he received orders to proceed to England in the Pope's name and endeavour to compose matters between the two kingdoms. The king gave him, by his own request, a public audience at London on the 29th of March, when he spoke earnestly of the necessity of peace among Christian princes in view of the advances of the Turk, who had not only within that generation made alarming conquests in Greece, Hungary, and the Crimea, but had even ravaged the coast of Italy and the States of the Church. The Pope, he said, was anxious that all European powers should lay aside their differences and combine against the common enemy. One great piece of good fortune encouraged him to believe that an effectual blow might now be struck for the deliverance of Christendom. The Turkish empire had been for some years divided against itself, and Zizim, the rebellious brother of Bajazet II., having sought alliance with the knights of Rhodes, had been delivered by them into the Pope's hands. The fact, indeed, was not quite so interesting to a sovereign in the west of Europe as it was to the Pope himself, and the disputes between England and France must be considered upon their own merits. But the general tenor of his address greatly pleased the king, who desired Archbishop Morton to reply to him. Afterwards he had conferences apart both with the king and with the Chancellor, and from his own report to the Pope we know precisely the attitude which Henry and his councillors then assumed.

That Henry himself, as a sovereign, was always peacefully inclined, is a fact not only admitted by all historians, but confirmed by all historical testimony. Indeed it was so manifestly against his interests to involve himself in needless wars, that it is simply inconceivable that he did not wish to avoid them by every means that would have satisfied the honour and the susceptibilities of the nation. But, disputes arising on this unhappy question of Britanny, it was impossible not to connect them with the old-standing, and it might seem antiquated, claims of the Kings of England to the realm of France. And when it is considered that the pretensions of the Kings of England to be Kings of France were not formally renounced even by a refugee King of England at Versailles two hundred years after this date, we need not wonder that the most peaceful of English kings felt it necessary to uphold them in the end of the fifteenth century. Indeed the assistance given to Henry himself when in exile by the French Government, by means of which he was enabled to attain the English Crown, only put him in a position soon after his accession to make a truce between the two countries, which had since been twice renewed; and if there was to be a permanent peace, some settlement must be arrived at concerning the long-standing claim. On this point, however, there was a pretty easy way out of the difficulty. Edward IV. had invaded France, and then agreed to waive his claim to the kingdom for a pension of 50,000 crowns from Louis XI., which he was pleased to call a tribute. If a permanent peace were talked about, Henry was willing to compromise the matter in the same fashion; but for the credit of the kingdom he could not afford to take one shilling less than the amount which had been so readily conceded by King Louis.

Chieregato, who had other pressing business committed to him by the Pope in France, and had promised to return in May, soon found that it was hopeless to negotiate at once anything like a permanent peace; but after long and earnest consultations with Archbishop Morton, the terms of a three years' truce were agreed to, which it would seem that he had been authorised by the French to propose, on the understanding that the matter of Britanny should be the subject of a separate arrangement. On his return he drew up at Tours, in concert with the English ambassadors there, a protocol for a seven months' truce between France and Britanny; and next month he repaired to a congress, which had been arranged to take place between ambassadors of both powers, at Boulogne and Calais, with a view to a final settlement. The prospect really looked favourable on all sides, except in the matter of Britanny; and here the English at least had shown themselves perfectly reasonable. All that they required was repayment by the Duchess Anne herself of the expense they had been put to in assisting her; on receiving which they were ready to evacuate the duchy even before the French did the same. They did not object even to the French king lending her the money to redeem the places they held as securities. Meanwhile, however, a pacification had been going on within the duchy itself, which un fortunately did not help the general settlement. For through the mediation of England the Duchess Anne was now reconciled to the Marshal de Rieux, who had agreed no longer to press upon her the objectionable marriage with D'Albret, and was now exerting himself in her service as strenuously as he possibly could. The result was that, under new advice, the duchess demanded some alterations, which, however, in the end were conceded. But when all else had been arranged, the French king sent away the ambassadors of Britanny at his Court with an absolute refusal to restore the places occupied by his troops.

The truce of Britanny thus fell through; and though the sittings of the congress were continued from June to August, nothing like a settlement could be arrived at. Charles had insisted that the English should evacuate Britanny before the castles taken by the French in the duchy were restored; after which he was willing to submit his right to the duchy to a judicial investigation at Tournay. Now the English, as we have seen, were quite willing to have withdrawn their forces even before the French, and delivered the castles they held into the hands of the duchess on receiving payment for their expenses, and they did not object even to France advancing the money; but they would only deal with the duchess herself. It does not appear, therefore, that the obstacle to peace arose on the side of England. Henry had done all that was reasonable, but distrusting the result, he prepared to put a garrison into Nantes, offering pledges to the duchess and also to De Rieux that they would evacuate the town in three months, or even in six days, after being requested to give it up. The state of Britanny at the time was very miserable, and the peasantry, finding their country to be a mere bone of contention between France and England, rose in some places in revolt, refusing to pay the hearth money imposed by the duchess. They declared that they would choose a duke and duchess of their own, and obey no foreign masters. A regular pitched battle took place between them and the English on the lands of the Lords of Rohan and Quintin, in which 400 villeins were killed and 300 taken. But of course this did not mond matters. A country must have a settled government, and a strong government, before citizens can live in peace; and the evils of a hostile occupation can hardly be mitigated by the antidote of a peasant war. The question who was to rule the duchy remained yet to be decided, but it was nearer solution than men thought.

As the conferences at Boulogne and Calais gave no hope of a favourable result, the king sent fresh troops to Britanny under the command of Lord Daubeney, and a fleet under that of Lord Willoughby de Broke. As a pledge for the repayment of his expenses, he bargained that the town of Morlaix should be put into his hands, and the duchess agreed to pay him 6000 crowns a year for the privilege of levying the gabelles and customs as usual during his occupation of it. The result seems to have been that, though the sittings of the congress were broken off as hopeless, the French for a time forbore to molest Britanny further. Charles, indeed, assembled a great army and drew near to the confines of the duchy; but on a careful survey of the situation he desisted from a new invasion. Leaving the strongholds he had gained well garrisoned, he withdrew his other forces on the 15th of August and agreed to an armistice; while on the other hand Henry made a treaty with Maximilian (llth September) for the defence alike of Britanny and of Burgundy against any attack on his part.

The prospect of vindicating successfully the indepen dence of the duchy had in fact considerably improved. De Rieux and the duchess now fully understood each other; and a sense of common interest had drawn together England, Spain, and Burgundy to support them more effectually than they had done hitherto. Henry sent the Garter to Maximilian, advising him to press on his marriage with the Duchess Anne; and Ferdinand and Isabella, beginning to doubt the feasibility of marrying her to their son, also expressed themselves in favour of the match. And as the duchess herself was willing to accept him, it was not long before the knot was tied, or seemed to be so, to all intents and purposes. Maximilian, it is true, found a difficulty in leaving the Low Countries, and part of his design seems to have been to act with secrecy. He determined to marry the duchess by proxy, and sent Count Nassau to Britanny to act in his stead. The marriage was not only celebrated in this manner, but was even considered to have been consummated by the strange ceremony of the ambassador inserting his leg, stripped naked to the knee, between the sheets in presence of witnesses; so that the duchess, who had not even yet completed her fourteenth year, was now to be regarded as the actual wife of Maximilian. For a time the fact was carefully concealed; but early in the year 1491 Anne publicly assumed the title of Queen of the Romans.

The King of the Romans was a king without a kingdom, and though his son's duchy of Burgundy and earldom of Flanders were, even since the days of Charles the Bold, almost as good as the kingdom of France, he had practically little command over their resources. Anne, on the other hand, had been hitherto little better than a duchess without a duchy; and the marriage was even more a nullity, as the reputed husband and wife had not yet even seen each other. But the fact that it had taken place put matters on a new footing entirely; for unless it could be annulled before the parties came together, it must be held practically valid. And while the dominions of the husband and the wife lay too far apart to be of great assistance to each other against the common enemy which lay between them, England, having the command of the sea, could strengthen both, and through them could easily harass France on both sides. Spain too, if it saw fit, could make a diversion at the same time in the south; so that France would be surrounded by enemies. Charles VIII. and his Council were fully alive to the danger; and though he had so lately found it necessary to pause in his aggressive policy, and in fact had made a truce with Britanny, he now made secret arrangements to violate his engagement and fall upon the duchy by surprise.

The weak point in the pacification by which De Rieux had been reconciled to the duchess was that the Sieur d'Albret was practically thrown over. When his proposal to marry the duchess was no longer supported even by De Rieux, it was clear that he could only be trusted, at the utmost, to stand neutral. And this he apparently did until the date of the marriage with Maximilian; for he was such an old enemy of France in these matters that he could not easily ally himself with Charles VIII. against the cause of Breton independence. But besides disappointment at the duchess's marriage with Maximilian, he cherished a fancied claim by in heritance to one-third of the duchy, from which he saw himself effectually barred under the new state of matters. And thus he lent himself as a ready tool to King Charles, who, it was surely no secret, had been another of his rivals in seeking to become Anne's husband; for alike in claiming rights of wardship and in invading her country Charles had apparently all along intended to secure his interests there in the last resort by marriage, notwith standing his engagement, under the treaty of Arras, to marry Maximilian's daughter.

D'Albret accordingly made a secret bargain with the French king to deliver up to him the important city of Nantes, the old and favourite residence of the Dukes of Britanny. The terms which he exacted for this service were costly enough to Charles, but the latter had no difficulty in accepting them, undertaking that, as soon as the city was delivered, it should be placed in the hands of the Duke of Bourbon until D'Albret's demands were satisfied. D'Albret fulfilled his compact to the uttermost. He got a garrison on whom he could rely introduced into the castle, and Charles having sent thither the Duke of Bourbon, the place was surrendered to him. Having satisfied D'Albret, he next went thither himself, took the submissions of the town and castle on the 4th of April, remained there a week, and after putting in a garrison, returned into Touraine.

An almost incredible statement occurs in a letter written at this time to the Pope by the Bishop of Concordia from Tours. "The French," he writes, "are informed that the King of the Romans, on hearing of the capture of Nantes, did not much care about it, and that he wishes for peace with his son-in-law (Charles VIII.), and to return to Hungary." He had, indeed, involved himself in too many matters to be of much assistance to Britanny; for in the preceding year he had been a candidate for the Crown of Hungary, and was now at war with the candidate actually elected, Ladislaus, King of Bohemia. But he did write to his father, the emperor, and other princes of Germany for aid in the recovery of Nantes, and at a diet held at Nuremberg 12,000 lance knights were granted to him for the purpose. Further, he sent to England to ask aid of Henry or promise to repay expenses. Britanny, however, was practically lost already. Maximilian could not go thither himself. The duchess was thinking of going to him. Arrangements for the pay of auxiliaries were breaking down. The French took Redon, won Concarneau from the English, and proceeded to besiege Rennes, the only town that was able to offer them anything like effective resistance; and towards the close of the year, on the 15th of November, while Charles himself lay in the suburbs with his army, the duchess was compelled to make a temporary arrangement with him, by which she agreed that the city should be made neutral and placed in the hands of the Prince of Orange to keep, pending some final decision by arbitrators appointed to examine the whole controversy between them.

On this Charles withdrew his army, all but the men left to garrison the different towns, and retired into Touraine. But fifteen days later Anne went to meet him at Langeais, and there, on the 6th of December, repudiating her unreal union with Maximilian, she married him and became Queen of France. A papal dispensation had been procured beforehand, not to annul the ceremony of the "bootless calf" or the precontract of Charles himself with Maximilian's daughter, but simply for the matter of consanguinity between the parties; and even in this respect it was inadequate to meet the case. But a new dispensation, granted on the l5th of December, supplied all that was wanting, and it was vain to protest against an accomplished fact. From that time forward the duchy of Britanny was merged in the Crown of France.