Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Commynes et Les Italiens: Lettres Inédites Du Mémorialiste

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Commynes et Les Italiens: Lettres Inédites Du Mémorialiste

Article excerpt

Joël Blanchard, Commynes et les Italiens: Lettres inédites du mémorialiste (Paris: Klincksieck, 1993). 96 pp.; 15 plates. ISBN 2-252-02899-82. F. Fr. 115.

Seven previously unpublished letters, complemented by freshly edited documents drawn from a wide variety of state and city archives, provide the sources for Joël Blanchard's penetrating study of Philippe de Commynes's Italian connections in the twin spheres of diplomacy and financial speculation, which, he argues convincingly, offer a new perspective from which to read the Mémoires. Whenever possible, throughout the last quarter of the fifteenth century, Louis XI and his successors employed the seigneur d'Argenton to oversee alle cosse de Italia spetialmente. Blanchard shows how Commynes's close involvement with French diplomacy relating to the Italian city-states was already a feature of his statesman's career by 1476. Louis XI was as mistrustful of 'permanent' ambassadors as he was of the ceremonial of diplomacy, and we discover here to what extent Commynes's finesse, understanding of Italians and Italian affairs, and sheer savoir-faire qualified him to serve the king as his most trusted confidant and spokesperson in such matters - without losing the high regard in which he was held by those ambassadors from Milan or Mantua required to tender their letters of accreditation to him personally. When they arrived at court, it was Commynes who welcomed them, informing them of current developments, providing them with judicious advice before they entered the presence, and if necessary smoothing out any unnecessary divergences of opinion before negotiations commenced. This emerges clearly from Blanchard's opening chapter on Commynes's supervision of secret discussions between France and the duke of Milan in which the latter's skill in the art de ne pas choisir was employed to maximum effect in maintaining a precarious balance between his own interests and those of the French and Burgundians. The second chapter examines Commynes's especially close relations with Florence, for speculative as well as diplomatic purposes, and reasons of personal affinity. …

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