1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aubusson, Pierre d'

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AUBUSSON, PIERRE D’ (1423-1503), grand-master of the order of St John of Jerusalem, and a zealous opponent of the Turks, was born in 1423. He belonged to a noble French family, and early devoted himself to the career of a soldier in the service of the emperor Sigismund. Under the archduke Albert of Austria he took part in a campaign against the Turks, and on his return to France sided with the Armagnacs against the Swiss, greatly distinguishing himself at the battle of St Jacob in 1444. He then joined the order of the knights of Rhodes, and successfully conducted an expedition against the pirates of the Levant and an embassy to Charles VII. He soon rose to the most important offices in the order, and in 1476 was elected grand-master. It was the period of the conquests of Mahommed II., who, supreme in the East, now began to threaten Europe. In December 1479 a large Turkish fleet appeared in sight of Rhodes; a landing was effected, and a vigorous attack made upon the city. But in July of the next year, being reinforced from Spain, the knights forced the Mussulmans to retire, leaving behind them 9000 dead. The siege, in which d’Aubusson was seriously wounded, enhanced his renown throughout Europe. Mahommed was furious, and would have attacked the island again but for his death in 1481. His succession was disputed between his sons Bayezid and Jem. The latter, after his defeat by Bayezid, sought refuge at Rhodes under a safe-conduct from the grand-master and the council of the knights. What followed remains a stain on d’Aubusson’s memory. Rhodes not being considered secure, Jem with his own consent was sent to France. Meanwhile, in spite of the safe-conduct, d’Aubusson accepted an annuity of 45,000 ducats from the sultan; in return for which he undertook to guard Jem in such a way as to prevent his design of appealing to the Christian powers to aid him against his brother. For six years Jem, in spite of frequent efforts to escape, was kept a close prisoner in various castles of the Rhodian order in France, until in 1489 he was handed over to Pope Innocent VIII., who had been vying with the kings of Hungary and Naples for the possession of so valuable a political weapon. D’Aubusson’s reward was a cardinal’s hat (1489), and the power to confer all benefices connected with the order without the sanction of the papacy; the order of St John received the wealth of the suppressed orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St Lazarus. The remaining years of his life d’Aubusson spent in the attempt to restore discipline and zeal in his order, and to organize a grand international crusade against the Turks. The age of the Renaissance, with Alexander Borgia on the throne of St Peter, was, however, not favourable to such an enterprise; the death of Jem in 1495 had removed the most formidable weapon available against the sultan; and when in 1501 d’Aubusson led an expedition against Mytilene, dissensions among his motley host rendered it wholly abortive. The old man’s last years were embittered by chagrin at his failure, which was hardly compensated by his success in extirpating Judaism in Rhodes, by expelling all adult Jews and forcibly baptizing their children. In the summer of 1503 he died.

See P. Bouhours, Hist, de Pierre d’Aubusson (Paris, 1676; Hague, 1793; abridged ed. Bruges, 1887); G. E. Streck, Pierre d’Aubusson, Grossmeister, &c. (Chemnitz, 1873); J. B. Bury in Cambridge Mod. Hist. vol. i. p. 85, &c. (for relations with Jem).