The Cambridge Modern History - Vol. 2

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
HABSBURG AND VALOIS (I).

THE secular struggle between the Houses of Burgundy and Valois reaches a new stage in the era of the Reformation. The murder of the Duke of Orleans in the streets of Paris in 1407 involved at first only a junior branch of the French royal House in the blood feud with Burgundy. The alliance of Orleans and Armagnac in 1410, and of both with Charles the Dauphin in 1418, swept in the senior branch, and led to the retributive murder of John of Burgundy at Montereau in 1419. Steadily the area of infection widens. A relentless Ate dominates all the early years of Philip the Good, and then, laid for a while to sleep at Arras ( 1435), reappears in the days of Charles the Bold. Not only political and national aims, but an hereditary dynastic hatred might have inspired Louis XI in his campaigns of war and intrigue until the crushing blow at Nancy. The grandson of Charles the Bold, Philip the Fair, seemed, in his jealousy of Ferdinand and his devotion to the interests of the Netherlands, to have forgotten the ancestral feud. But his son and heir, whom we know best as Charles the Fifth, inherited, together with the inconsequent rivalries of Maximilian, and the more enduring and successful antagonism of Ferdinand, the old Burgundian duty of revenge. Thus the chronic hostility between the Kings of Valois-Angoulême and the united line of Burgundy, Austria, Castile, and Aragon has a dramatic touch of predestined doom, which might find a fitting counterpart in a Norse Saga or the Nibelungenlied.

But greater forces than hereditary hate drove Europe to the gulf in which the joy of the Renaissance was for ever extinguished. The territorial consolidation of the previous age in Europe, though striking, had been incomplete. The union of the French and Spanish kingdoms had gone on natural lines. But Italy had been less fortunate. At the death of Ferdinand her fate was still uncertain. The Spaniards stood firm in Sicily and Naples, the French seemed to stand secure in Milan. Venice had withstood the shock of united Europe. Florence seemed strengthened by the personal protection of the Holy Father. But so long as two rival foreign Powers held their ground in Italy, consolidation had gone

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