Gonzalo and Ferrantino at Atella. The chief part of the French prisoners, including Montpensier, succumbed to the climate and to disease. Aubigny gave up the struggle in Calabria. On the death of Ferrantino, October 6, 1496, Federigo, his uncle, succeeded. Soon after (November 19) Gaeta> the last important stronghold of the French, surrendered. The king of France still meditated another expedition, and concluded, towards the end of 1497, an alliance with Aragon for a joint conquest. Five months later an accident cut short his life. The only son of his marriage with Anne of Britanny had died in infancy. His successor, Louis of Orleans,, inherited his plans of conquest, but with a difference.
The fear of a new French invasion, increased by the league concluded with France in 1496 by the majority of the Swiss Cantons, worked upon Italian nerves. The restless Ludovico first took the alarm, and approached the Venetian Signoria. It was agreed to call in the King of the Romans, who responded to the call. Maximilian agreed, like a mere condottiere, to take the pay of the league, which was composed as in 1495,, with the addition of Henry VII of England. In July, 1496, a conference was held at Mals in the Tyrol near the frontier. The members of the league gave diplomatic support, but none were ready to give material help, except Milan and Venice; and even these doled out their pittance with a chary hand. Maximilian had a name to sell, but few men and less money to back it. The imperial Estates and the much discussed imperial subsidy afforded no help. However some Swiss were enrolled,, and Maximilian raised a few horsemen from his own subjects and personal adherents. By the "fend of September a small army had collected around the Roman King at Vigevano in the Milanese.
The league, such as it was, still lacked a plan. The Duke of Milan was anxious to secure the north-western frontier. Gian Giacomo Tri-vulzio was at Asti with 700 French lances threatening Milan. Savoy under its new duke, Philippe de Bresse, was intimately linked with France. Montferrat was governed in the same interest. The Marquis. of Saluzzo was a French vassal. To conquer Asti, to coerce the other north-western powers, great and small, and so to secure the Alpine passes, was an intelligible plan, though it carried risks and difficulties. But Venice, by this time reassured against the fear of an immediate invasion, was unwilling so far to strengthen her neighbour and ally. Her real wish was that Maximilian should retire. Failing that, there was one enterprise that Venice could, tolerantly though not cordially,, support. Florence alone of the Italian powers was still friendly to France. Florence was at war with Pisa, where Venice had troops, and on which she had designs. Against Florence the blow must be directed, aided by Venetian galleys and Genoese ships. Maximilian readily fell into this plan, which he further enriched with fantastic additions, scheming to capture the vessels returning from Naples with the French prisoners, to invade Provence, and join hands with a Spanish force from Roussillon,