Military Deterrence in History: A Pilot Cross-Historical Survey

By Raoul Naroll; Vern L. Bullough et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21 THE GOLDEN SWORD1476-1485: Conspicuous State, Swiss Confederation; Conspicuous Rival, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

PART 1: SKETCH OF HISTORICAL SETTING (Chiefly after Kirk)

IN THIS REPORT we are concerned with the manner in which Louis XI, king of France, persuaded the Swiss Cantons to fight their ally Charles, the duke of Burgundy, and thereby to destroy the most powerful French adversary. Louis cleverly set these two allies against each other. He paid the Swiss enough gold so that they forgot their old ties of friendship with Burgundy. They destroyed Charles, and with him, the power of Burgundy.

Louis XI has been called the Spider King. Historians are fond of picturing him spinning a web of intrigue so tangled that his victims could not extricate themeslves. The events of the randomly chosen decade from 1476 to 1485 in Europe reveal how Louis caught Charles of Burgundy in his web and entangled him so thoroughly that he perished. Louis XI knew Burgundy well. As the dauphin he had lived at the Burgundian court for several years, enjoying the protection and the lavish hospitality of Duke Charles the Bold's father. But the young Charles was never comfortable while Louis was there. He did not understand Louis and resented his presence. It was a great relief to him when Louis was able to return to France.

If Charles did not understand Louis, Louis understood Charles only too well. He knew Charles's vanities, his weaknessess, and his dislike of facing reality. If it was clear that these ambitious men would clash, it was also clear that Louis would win. He was prepared to maneuver, to bribe, and to deceive to get what he wanted. Louis involved the Holy Roman Emperor, the Swiss Confederates, Sigismund of Austria, and René of Lorraine in his affairs. He

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