CHAPTER I. HENRY VII (i), 1485-92 - THE NEW DYNASTY
Lewis XI., the craftiest of kings, had died in 1482, leaving a tolerably organised kingdom to his young son Charles VIII., under the regency of Anne of Beaujeu. With the exception of the Dukedom of Brittany, which still claimed a degree of independence, and of Flanders and Artois which, though fiefs of France, were still ruled by the House of Burgundy, the whole country was under the royal dominion; which had also absorbed the Duchy of Burgundy proper. The daughter of Charles the Bold, wife of Maximilian of Austria, inherited as a diminished domain the Low Countries and the County of Burgundy or Franche Comté.
East of the Rhine, the kingdoms, principalities, and dukedoms of Germany owned the somewhat vague authority of the Habsburg Emperor Frederick, but the idea of German Unity had not yet come into being. On the south-east the Turks who had captured Constantinople some thirty years before (1453) were a militant and aggressive danger to the Empire and to Christendom; while the stoutest opponent of their fleets was Venice. Switzerland was an independent confederacy of republican States: Italy a collection of separate States - dukedoms such as Milan, kingdoms such as Naples, Republics such as Venice and Florence, with the Papal dominions in their midst. In the Spanish peninsula were the five kingdoms of Navarre, Portugal, the Moorish Granada, Aragon, and Castile. The last two, however, were already united, though not yet merged into one, by the marriage of their respective sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella. Sardinia and Sicily were attached to Aragon.
Finally we have to note that Maximilian, son of the Emperor, had married Mary of Burgundy; but on Mary's death the Netherlanders recognised as their Duke not Maximilian but his young son Philip - the father exercising only a very precarious authority as the boy's guardian; while the Dowager Margaret, the second wife of Charles the Bold, the lady whose hostility to the House of Lancaster has been already noted, possessed some dower-towns, and considerable influence. In 1486 Maximilian was elected "King of the Romans," in other words his father's presumed successor as Emperor.
[France and Brittany]
For the time, then, the consolidation of France was more advanced than that of any other Power; her desire was to complete the process by the absorption of Brittany. Spain, i.e., Castile and Aragon, had made considerable progress in the same direction, but for her the conquest of Granada was still the prime necessity.
The absorption of Brittany, however, was opposed alike to the interests of Maximilian, of the Spanish monarchs, and of England. To the former two, any further acquisition of power by France was a possible menace. To the last, France was traditionally the enemy, and if Breton ports became French ports, the strength of France in the Channel would be almost doubled. Henry personally was under great obligations both to France and to Brittany, especially to France; but political exigencies evidently compelled him to favour the maintenance of Breton independence.
During 1487 France had been carrying on active hostilities in Brittany, but the results had been small and a treaty had been signed. Lewis, Duke of Orleans, and others of the French nobility who were hostile to the regency of Anne of Beaujeu, were actively promoting the Breton cause within the dukedom; there was no longer an active French party there; and now that Henry in England had suppressed the Simnel rising France became anxious to secure English neutrality. But, if Henry could not keep clear of the complication altogether; if once the parties in the contest began appealing to him; he was liable to find himself forced to take part with one side or the other. Hence the necessity for calling upon Parliament to vote money for armaments.
[1488 Henry intervenes cautiously]
Thus in the opening months of 1488 we find Henry on the one hand fitting out ships, and on the other offering friendly mediation both to France and to Brittany: while his policy was not simplified by the unauthorised interposition of his queen's uncle Edward Woodville, who secretly sailed with a band of adventurers to support the Bretons. Henry repudiated Woodville's action, and extended the existing treaty of peace with France to January, 1490. In the same month (July, 1488) the Bretons suffered a complete defeat, and the Duke was obliged to sign a treaty on ignominious terms. Within a fortnight, however, the Duke was dead, and his daughter Anne, a girl of twelve, succeeded him.
The result was the renewal of war; since Anne of Beaujeu and the Breton Marshal de Rieux both claimed the wardship of the young Duchess, for whose hand the widower Maximilian was already a prominent suitor. Now up to this point Henry had refused to adopt a hostile attitude towards France, and had treated overtures from Maximilian with frigidity. But in six months' time he was concluding alliances both with Brittany and with Maximilian.
[England and Spain]