Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/268

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Ferrante's government, and were without sufficient intelligence to appreciate the wisdom and care for the public welfare which largely compensated it, hastened to acclaim Charles, and Ferrantino retired with touching dignity. Within two months the Neapolitans became as weary of, Charles as they had ever been of Ferrante, and a dangerous League was formed in Italy behind his back. Ludovico Sforza had come to perceive how great a fault he had committed in inviting the French King; for the claims of the Duke of Orleans to Milan were at least as substantial as Charles's pretensions to Naples. Maximilian and Ferdinand were no less perturbed at the rapidity of the French conquests; the Pope's sentiments were no secret; and even the cautious Venetians saw the necessity of interference. Between these five Powers a League was concluded (March 31, 1495), whose object was veiled in generalities, but which clearly contemplated the expulsion of the French from Naples. The menace sufficed; on May 20, eight days after his solemn coronation as King of Naples, Charles quitted it, never to return. He did indeed leave a garrison, which was soon dislodged by Spanish troops sent from Sicily, aided by a popular rising, and the young King, so lately deserted by all, was welcomed back with delight. Charles, meanwhile, had proceeded towards Rome, professing an unreciprocated desire to confer with the Pope. Alexander withdrew first to Orvieto, then to Perugia. Charles, after a short stay in Rome, renewed his march northwards. On July 5 an indecisive engagement with the forces of the League at Fornovo, near Parma, insured him a safe retreat, and he was glad to obtain even so much. Notwithstanding the inglorious termination of an expedition which had begun so brilliantly, it forms an epoch in the history of Italy and Europe. In revealing the weakness of Italy, the decay of her military spirit, the faithlessness and disunion of her princes and republics, it not only invited invasion, but provided Europe with a new battlefield. It set up an antagonism between France and Spain, and, while alluring both Powers with visions of easy conquest, ruined the latter State by imposing sacrifices upon her to which she would in any case have been unequal, just at the time when her new acquisitions in America taxed her to the uttermost. It preserved Europe from France by diverting the energies which, wisely exerted, would easily have subdued the Low Countries and the Rhine provinces. Most important of all, the condition of general unsettlement which it ushered in greatly promoted all movements tending to the emancipation of the human intellect. Great was the gain to the world in general, but it was bought by the devastation and enslavement of the most beautiful region of Europe.

The close of Charles's expedition is also an eventful date in the history of Alexander VI. Up to this date he appears the sport of circumstances, which he was henceforth in some manner to shape and control. It was to his credit not to have been seduced into conduct incompatible with