Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/208

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guilds; in the new constitution no reforms bettered the condition of her extensive territory.

Charles VIII had left Italy never to return, but the autumn of 1496 witnessed another flying royal visit. The King of the Romans had been induced by Milan and Venice to enter Italy in favour of the League. He came, however, as little more than Ludovico Moro's condottiere; he had few troops and less money; "he had sailed," as the saying went, "with a short supply of biscuit in his galley." His wider schemes shrank to the relief of Pisa. In welcoming a King of the Romans the Pisans felt a glow of their old Ghibelline enthusiasm. They had thrown the Florentine lion from their bridge into the Arno, and a statue of Charles VIII was reigning in its place; they now served the French king as they had served the lion. From Pisa Maximilian sailed to take Leghorn; its capture must have sealed the fate of Florence, for it was her last port, the last gate open to her French allies. But Leghorn was stoutly held. From the village of Impruneta was brought to Florence the sacred figure of the Madonna, and, as it reached the Ponte Vecchio, a horseman brought the news that a storm had scattered Maximilian's ships, and that a French squadron with supplies had broken the blockade. To Florentine imagination, kept at fever-heat by prophecy, this seemed a miracle wrought by Savonarola's intercession; and the belief became a certainty, when it transpired that the French had left Marseilles on the very day on which the Florentines had sent to Impruneta. The French alliance recovered its popularity; Maximilian hurried back to Tyrol, leaving Italy to wonder or to laugh.

Savonarola's fame was doubled by the salvation of Leghorn, and the close of the year 1496 was perhaps its zenith. In the previous spring a group of aristocrats of secondary importance had formed an electoral ring to reject all opposition candidates. This in Florence was a criminal offence; they were condemned by the Eight, and appealed to the Council without success, while their leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment. Then died Piero Capponi, shot before a paltry fortress in the Pisan hills. So fierce was faction that the people rejoiced at Capponi's death. Yet he was the hero of 1494, a passionate champion against French and Medici, the most, perhaps the only, capable soldier and statesman in the city. Nor was he an uncompromising opponent; he had cooperated with Savonarola in saving the Mediceans, and his attitude towards the Friar had not been consistently unfriendly. But marked character and high ambitions the Florentine love of equality could not brook; the ideal was a citizen who did everything that he was asked to do, and nothing very ill or very well.

Capponi's death disorganised his party, and the year closed with triumph for the Piagnoni, for Francesco Valori was elected Gonfalonier for January, 1497. In the long run Valori's leadership was no blessing to his party, but as yet he was the people's darling. One of the few