Charles VIII of France


May 25, 2022

Charles VIII of Valois (Amboise, June 30, 1470 - Amboise, April 7, 1498) was king of France from 1483 to 1498 and briefly king of Naples, like Charles IV, in 1495. His unsuccessful descent into Italy in 1494, formerly known as "the descent of Charles", inaugurated the so-called wars of Italy (defined as "horrendous" by Machiavelli): a long series of eight conflicts with which the great European powers fought the control of the peninsula, which ended only in 1559 with the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, which profoundly changed the political geography of Italy.


The early years and internal politics

Charles VIII was born in France, in Amboise. When King Louis XI died on August 30, 1483, being the only one of his sons still alive, he inherited the throne. Ambitious, of poor health, considered by his contemporaries to be of a pleasant nature, but lacking in political intelligence and unsuitable for state affairs, from the age of thirteen to twenty-one Charles ruled under the regency of his elder sister, Princess Anne of Beaujeu, and of her husband her brother-in-law Piero di Borbone. Charles VIII directed his policy to consolidate and extend the territory of the kingdom. He obtained in different ways the annexation of the last two great duchies that still enjoyed a strong autonomy with respect to the French crown: the Duchy of Anjou (including Anjou and Provence) through a complex hereditary mechanism and the Duchy of Brittany through marriage , celebrated on 6 December 1491, with the heir, Duchess Anne of Brittany, in an elaborate ceremony at Château Langeais. With the marriage, Charles VIII got rid of the regency of his sister and the influence of his relatives: from then on he was able to manage the affairs of state according to his intentions. At court there was also a lively cultural life: among the poets the figure of the Italian humanist Publio Fausto Andrelini stands out. With the Treaty of Étaples in 1492 and with that of Barcelona in 1493, Charles normalized relations with England and the Kingdom of Aragon, albeit at the cost of expensive concessions. Also in 1493, with the treaty of Senlis, he put an end to the war with the Holy Roman Empire for the succession to the throne of Burgundy, managing to keep it at the price of renouncing Franche-Comté, Artois and part of Flanders, and annexing it definitively in the 1497.

The march on Naples

Having pacified relations with the European powers, Charles, who boasted through his paternal grandmother Maria d'Angiò (1404-1463) a distant hereditary right to the crown of the Kingdom of Naples, directed the resources of France towards the reconquest of that realm. Especially Ludovico Sforza, known as Il Moro (who was not yet Duke of Milan, but was only its regent), encouraged him in the enterprise, to take revenge on Alfonso II, his brother-in-law and king of Naples who, as soon as he ascended the throne, had him declared war, invading as the first act of hostility the city of Bari, of which Ludovico was duke. Even his advisers, Guillaume Briçonnet and Étienne de Vesc, strongly urged him to undertake the undertaking. The reconquest of the south of the peninsula, already ruled by the Angevin family during the thirteenth century, did not include Sicily in its plans. This last circumstance supports the thesis according to which Charles VIII did not simply intend to increase the dominions of his family, an ambition common to many ruling houses of the Central European or Anglo-Saxon area, but rather to make it the starting point for those Crusades whose echo was reinvigorated by the expulsion of the Arabs from the last Spanish possession, the Kingdom of Granada (1492), which took place precisely in those years. The political project of the Res Publica Christiana Pro Recuperanda Terra Sancta had still taken hold in the European ruling classes, despite the ruinous end that both the proponents of that project and those who had intended to carry it out well before, around the middle of the thirteenth century, had met. Charles