Louis XI of France
Louis XI the Prudent (French: Louis XI le Prudent) (July 3, 1423 – August 30, 1483), also informally nicknamed l'universelle aragne (old French for "universal spider"), or the "Spider King," was King of France (1461–1483). He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the Valois Dynasty, grandson of Charles VI and Isabeau de Bavière and one of the most successful kings of France in terms of uniting the country. His 22-year reign was marked by political machinations, which earned him his nickname.
He was born at Bourges, Cher, during the period when English held northern France and the Dauphin (or "crown prince," his father) held only the centre and south. Louis despised his father (regarding him as a weakling) and attempted to depose him on several occasions. Louis was the grandson of the strong-willed Yolande of Aragon, the princess who was the driving force in saving France from the English. However, it was only on his father's death in 1461 that he was able to take the throne. He then pursued many of the same interests as his father had done less successfully. He justified this as sheer Realpolitik: it was now in his best interests, since he was now the king. He suppressed many of his former co-conspirators, who had thought him their friend. He became extremely fiscally prudent, whereas he had previously been lavish and extravagant.
His marriage on June 24, 1436 to Margaret of Scotland, daughter of King James I of Scotland, gave Crown Prince Louis an interest in English affairs, and he later schemed to restore King Henry VI of England and his Lancastrian heir to the throne, partly because his arch-enemy, Charles the Bold of Burgundy was allied with the Yorkists. Louis gained the upper hand in his feud with Charles the Bold, and brought about his death in 1477. A candid account of some of Louis' activities is given by the courtier, Philippe de Commines, in his memoirs of the period.
Crown Prince Louis, 27, married strategically a second time on February 14, 1451 to eight-year-old Charlotte of Savoy (1443- December 1, 1483). Their marriage would not be consummated until she was fourteen and their children were:
- Anne of France, (April, 1461 – November 14, 1522) became Duchess of Bourbon
- Jeanne (April 23, 1464 – February 4, 1505) became Duchess of Orleans
- Charles VIII of France (June 30, 1470 – April 8, 1498)
By war, by cunning and with sheer guile, Louis XI overcame France's feudal lords, and at the time of his death in the chateau at Plessis-lez-Tours, he had united France and laid the foundations of a strong monarchy. One year before his death, his cousin Charles IV of Anjou, the exiled pretender of Naples, had died, leaving his Italian claims by testament to Louis, who was senior male-line descendant of Charles II of Naples's eldest daughter. These rights in Italy resulted later, in the time of Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I, in efforts to subjugate much of Italy. Charles' death also resulted in the crown receiving the vast fiefs of Provence and Anjou.
Louis XI was a superstitious man who surrounded himself with astrologers. Interested in science, he once pardoned a man sentenced to death on condition that he serve as a guinea pig in a gallstone operation.
|King of France
July 22, 1461–August 30, 1483