1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles VIII. (King of France)

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CHARLES VIII. (1470–1498), king of France, was the only son of Louis XI. During the whole of his childhood Charles lived far from his father at the château of Amboise, which was throughout his life his favourite residence. On the death of Louis XI in 1483 Charles, a lad of thirteen, was of age, but was absolutely incapable of governing. Until 1492 he abandoned the government to his sister Anne of Beaujeu. In 1491 he married Anne, duchess of Brittany, who was already betrothed to Maximilian of Austria. Urged by his favourite, Étienne de Vesc, he then, at the age of twenty-two, threw off the yoke of the Beaujeus, and at the same time discarded their wise and able policy. But he was a thoroughly worthless man with a weak and ill-balanced intellect. He had a romantic imagination and conceived vast projects. He proposed at first to claim the rights of the house of Anjou, to which Louis XI. had succeeded, on the kingdom of Naples, and to use this as a stepping-stone to the capture of Constantinople from the Turks and his own coronation as emperor of the East. He sacrificed everything to this adventurous policy, signed disastrous treaties to keep his hands free, and set out for Italy in 1494. The ceremonial side of the expedition being in his eyes the most important, he allowed himself to be intoxicated by his easy triumph and duped by the Italians. On the 12th of May 1495 he entered Naples in great pomp, clothed in the imperial insignia. A general coalition was, however, formed against him, and he was forced to return precipitately to France. It cannot be denied that he showed bravery at the battle of Fornovo (the 5th of July 1495). He was preparing a fresh expedition to Italy, when he died on the 8th of April 1498, from the results of an accident, at the château of Amboise.

See Histoire de Charles VIII, roy de France, by G. de Jaligny, André de la Vigne, &c., edited by Godefroy (Paris, 1684); De Cherrier, Histoire de Charles VIII (Paris, 1868); H. Fr. Delaborde, Expédition de Charles VIII en Italie (Paris, 1888). For a complete bibliography see H. Hauser, Les Sources de l’histoire de France, 1494–1610, vol. i. (Paris, 1906); and E. Lavisse, Histoire de France, vol. v. part i., by H. Lemonnier (Paris, 1903).