Cathari and Waldensians
Well, let's see... we have learned where the Waldensians, the Lutherans, the Calvinists and a few others came by their names, but several names have shown up along the way without explanation. ergo..
Back in the 1200's, a group of folks in southern France were causing all sorts of trouble for the Church. They were not the run of the mill heretical group, these folks were pre-Christian, non-Christian, and anti-Christian all at the same time. The Cathari rejected everything you can come up with having to do with the Church except converting people and building churches. They had six churches in Italy, six in Constantinople (of all places) and most importantly, four in France.
They also didn't believe in kings and such, no regular authority at all in fact. And thought the only true Baptism was the laying on of hands by one of them at the time of death. Oh, the only approved way to die was by your own hand so they could arrange for the Baptism. They really liked starving to death.
In 1239, the kindly folks of Montwimer (Champagne) took some 180 witches out and burned them to death. "Many" were Cathari, but the exact number is not known. What is known is that the person behind it was Robert le Bougre, a Cathari who was converted back to Christianity and later on became a Dominican.
But their essential message is reflected in their name which comes from the Greek katharos, pure. Ah, the simple life. As you can imagine, folks flocked to their door, leaving the Church with a dearth of bottoms to fill the pews. Can't have that! So the Church sent down this Spanish fellow (c1170-1216) to get them back into the fold.
He and a small group of like-minded monks went in and started to convert these Cathari by the use of persuasive logical arguments into... like-minded monks... He convinced them to live in poverty and to survive by begging and preaching the Word...like him. Mmmm.
The Church did away with a bunch of those pesky Cathari folks, but wound up with a lot more that were more like the monk, Dominic. But having a bunch of *Dominicans* wasn't too bad. ( the Pope named him Master of the Sacred Palace or the Pope's Theologian and that post is still held by a member of the order to this day ) Still, there was a ton of people running around not wanting to sit in the Church and tithe on schedule. While the Dominicans wandered around the future stomping grounds of Nostradamus, converting people with the power of rational (?) thinking and a gift of gab, someone else was getting on the road with a more emotional appeal.
This was another sort of fellow altogether, more like the well-to-do merchant, Waldo, who started the Waldensians. This guy was living the life of easy wealth in Assisi when he decided the road to salvation was to live like Christ, in poverty and travelling around teaching the Word. But his appeal was to the spiritual nature of man, not the logical side. The Dominicans were respected, but those who followed St. Francis of Assisi, the *Franciscans*, were loved When he died in 1226, some 5,000 had been ordained and another 1,000 were working on it.
By the time Nostradamus got on the scene, the Dominicans and Franciscans were firmly established, highly thought of, and had a 'place' in society. Both had room for women in their philosophy and set up orders of nuns, which was a boon at a time when women often had no where to go but to the grave or gutter. One thing is clear, the idea of living in poverty appealed to a lot of people throughout history. Uh, not me...
It always gets back to Lyons.
Well back in the olden days, a well to do merchant in Lyons got more interested in the Bible than most. Waldes (or Waldo) asked some of the locals to let him actually read the book and oddly enough, he was able to acquire a number of histories, translations of the Gospels, and some others writings.
Perhaps being wealthy eased the process. At any rate, he got hot on the subject. Finally one unsuspecting (and unspecified) cleric pointed out : "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor." (Matt., xix, 21).
Hah! It seemed just what he was looking for. He gave away some money to his customers and suppliers, much to their surprise. He liquidated assets and set his wife up quite nicely, then carried his two young daughters to the nuns of Fontevrault, gave them some money and his daughters. No report on what his wife and daughters thought of that, by the way.
Then on the day of the feast of the Assumption, 1176, he gave everything else to the poor and took a vow of poverty. My Goodness, indeed. The people of Lyons were agog that this well known man putting his money where his mouth was, so to speak, but he made a fatal mistake...he didn't give anything directly to the Church.
People were impressed enough that he gradually built up a following and he and they began preaching the very simple life to anyone who would listen. As this was a time of turmoil and uncertainty, many listened and his following grew, finally, the Archbishop of Lyons decided that they weren't getting the story straight and were leading *his* flock astray and ordered him to cease and desist, get back into the Church and start making money again.
They said they owed obedience to God instead of the Church and kept up their preaching and expanding their influence. Another fatal mistake. It got kicked way upstairs and Pope Lucius III added them to the list of heretics and signed their death warrant with the Bull of excommunication at Verona in 1184. The die was cast.
But before the Church could really get its act together, the sect had spread beyond southern France into Spain and Italy. The Church tried to kill and imprison as many as they could and even set up a competing order within the Church, the Poor Catholics, but it was all for naught. By the late 1400's, they seemed to be everywhere, preaching the simple life while the Church built huge buildings and gathered in money in just about every form they could think of.
By the time of Nostradamus, they had entire villages of followers. Enough was finally enough. Even though the Waldensians had been systematically killed in small groups here and there, the Church felt an example had to be made. (speaking of examples, this is still another example of the Church *not* doing a very good job of killing off all these anti-Church folks...but they did try).
The blow fell in 1545. Some 22 villages were burned to the ground in Provence. About 4,000 people were killed on the spot. The more lucky ones, about 700, were sent off to be galley slaves. Provence was literally cleared of Waldensians. But they still hung on elsewhere. In the areas of Italy where Nostradamus travelled, they were generally free to preach as they wished. The Poor Men of Lombardy were well known. They actually prospered (if that is the right word) in the western Piedmont valleys and were tolerated in the Papal States and in Central Italy. Did he ever meet one, get preached at by one? I have no idea. If he did, it didn't take.
Today, the Poor Men of Lyons are spread around the world, proving that you just can't keep a good idea down. And as near as I can tell, they have perhaps the closest thing to old time Christianity that you can get. Some of their ideas are strange, like chastity and not killing people, but by and large, they seem to understand that the closer you are to the basics of life, the closer you come to knowing what 'life' is all about. As one of my lifelong heroes said while living at a place with an odd name:
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."
Some trouble from the East and ... in the West
During the 1200's, the five hundred year Jihad ran into bad times. The 'Abbasid empire had been riding high for centuries and their capital, Baghdad, was truly a sight to behold. But they had attracted the attention of the Golden Horde and in 1258 the grandson of Genghis Khan, Hulagu, dropped by for a visit. He didn't much care for all of the finery and hoopla, but thought the town would be nice for his troops if the locals weren't in the way. So he hauled al-Mustassim, the last real 'Abbasid caliph, outside the city to a large plain.
There he brought together as many of the population as he didn't need to fetch and carry for his troops and massacred them in front of the Caliph. When that was over, he killed his family, servants, assorted animals and finally the Caliph himself. Just another family fun night for the Khans. From Spain to Iraq, the star-and-crescent flags came down. At about the same time, the young son of a Turkish tribal leader called Ertogrul was growing up in Sugut, near the Sea of Marmara. The Turks at the time were pagans, animists, but would shortly become Muslims and step into the void left by the 'Abbasids. Young Othman didn't know it at the time, but Hulagu had done him a big favour. More about him in a day or so. Excerpts from:
In the thirteenth century still another threat to the Muslim world appeared in the land beyond the Oxus: the Mongols. Led by Genghis Khan, a confederation of nomadic tribes which had already conquered China now attacked the Muslims. In 1220 they took Samarqand and Bukhara. By mid-century they had taken Russia, Central Europe, northern Iran, and the Caucuses, and in 1258, under Hulagu Khan, they invaded Baghdad and put an end to the remnants of the once-glorious 'Abbasid Empire.
The ancient systems of irrigation were destroyed and the devastation was so extensive that agricultural recovery, even in the twentieth century, is still incomplete. Because a minor scion of the dynasty took refuge with the Mamluks in Egypt, the 'Abbasid caliphate continued in name into the sixteenth century. In effect, however, it expired with the Mongols and the capture of Baghdad. snip Politically and economically, the Mongol invasions were disastrous. Some regions never fully recovered and the Muslim empire, already weakened by internal pressures, never fully regained its previous power. The Mongol invasions, in fact, were a major cause of the subsequent decline that set in throughout the heartland of the Arab East.
In their sweep through the Islamic world the Mongols killed or deported numerous scholars and scientists and destroyed libraries with their irreplaceable works. The result was to wipe out much of the priceless cultural, scientific, and technological legacy that Muslim scholars had been preserving and enlarging for some five hundred years.
As you can see, this was a major setback to the reservoir of science and culture that the Arab world held. But during this period, the empire had managed to spread via trading posts to such places as India, the Philippines, Malaya, the East Indies, and China.
It would be left up to Othman and the Mongol leader Ghazan Khan Mahmud to bring the message of Allah to Europe by separate routes and different ways. A long siege on the town of Bursa, just south of the Sea of Marmara, gave Othman I the power base he needed. Begun in 1317 and ended nine years later, Bursa became the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. His son, Orkhan I took charge of the baby empire and began to build his army into a force to be feared. Byzantine Emperor John VI (John Cantacuzene asked Orkhan for his help in holding off the aspirations of John V to the throne. The Jihad crossed the Dardanelles into Europe, 1345. After collecting a wife to add to his harem (the 16 year old daughter of John VI), the sixty year old Orkhan headed back to Bursa. But only four years later, they were asked back...this time to stay. They are still there.
In 1353, they established their first permanent settlement in Europe on the Gallipoli peninsula and called it Galipolu. In 1915, the Aussies and New Zealanders called it hell on earth. The second reason for our attention to Orkhan I was his idea to take young men captive at the rate of one thousand per year, send them to Constantinople to be heavily indoctrinated in Islam, cut off from friends and family, taught to be loyal to the Sultan to the death, and finally trained to be the finest fighting force of the age. He called them Yani Sharis or recruits. We call them Janissaries. They were the best identifiable unit of fighting men for almost three centuries. So as the flag of Islam fluttered to the ground in Spain, it was being raised in the east. Adding the Greek area of Thrace, between Constantinople and Salonika, to his young empire, Orkhan I turned control over to his son, Murad I in 1359.
Murad took a long look at the rest of Europe and liked what he saw. The Jihad was on the move again. Ah, the heady days of the Crusade. In 1366, a group of some twenty thousand Serbians and Hungarians set forth to stem the tide of Turkish Islam from the east. They had a variety of adventures, but it wasn't until 1371 that they met the main body of the Ottoman army. Led by Amadeus of Savoy and Louis of Hungary, the Crusaders were headed for Adrianople and paused to camp at Cenomen, on the Marizza River. A mixed group of Catholics and Orthodox, they nevertheless enjoyed a drink or ten. That night, they were well into their cups and having a fine time when the Turks fell upon them with a vengeance.
Murad I personally led the Islamic army. They were dressed in billowing clothes, wore huge turbans, wielded long, heavy curved scimitars and used lances with great skill. On this night of September 26, the Janissaries made their entrance into military history that would span five centuries. Sweeping through the camp at a full gallop, the Turks completely demoralized the Crusaders. Vukasin, the king of the southern Serbian lands, and his brother John Ugljesa, the despot of Serres (modern Sérrai, Greece) were killed during the battle along with thousands of Christian troops. Before the night was over, Murad I destroyed the camp and scattered the survivors to make their way home as best they could. For about eighteen years afterward, the Balkans were unwilling vassals of the Ottoman Empire. Murad I turned his eyes and his army to Greece. After the conquest of Sofia in 1385, Greece fell under Turkish rule and remained that way for some 500 years afterward. Only a few years later, Serbs, Bosnians, and Bulgarians combined to hand Murad I a rare defeat at Plocnik. Little has been recorded of this battle, but it encouraged the King of Serbia, Lazar I to form a second coalition of Serbs, Bulgars, Bosnians, Wallachians, and Albanians to confront Murad I at The Field Of The Blackbirds, which we know today as Kosovo...June 15, 1389.
It was to be a major turning point in history, some 50,000+ fighting men arrayed in formation as the sun rose weren't thinking of history, but of survival. Many would die on this day, as would two Kings. June 15, 1389. Some 50,000 men face each other across the small river of Schinitza below the Kosovo mountains, between Bosnia and Serbia. The majority are a mixture of Slovs: Serbians, Bosians, Albanians and others; brought together to stop the spread of Islam into eastern Europe. They are under the command of the King of Serbia, Lazar I. Facing the Christians are the forces of Allah under the hand of Murad I. The Christians outnumber the Islamic army 3 to 2.
The King of Serbia held the middle of his line with the King of Bosnia on one wing and Lazar's nephew, Yuk Bankowich leading the other wing. Across the stream, the middle (and the Janissaries) is led by Murad, with his sons Yakub and Bajazet to each wing. The battle begins with first light. By early morning, the Christians are beating back the Anatolians under Prince Bajazet. The whole line begins to waver, fall back. Bajazet charges into the weak spot with his personal guard and rallies his men, who soon begin to push the Christians back. Seeing this, King Lazar's son in law, Milosch Kabilovitch, spurred his horse across the battlefield shouting 'I'm a friend'. The Turkish ranks opened to allow the knight passage and he was brought before Murad. Kneeling before him in homage, Kabilovitch drew a dagger and stabbed Murad in the stomach. The Janissary guard cut him to pieces. But the damage was done, Murad lay dying. Murad summoned his strength and saw that his commanders were shocked into silence.
Gazing toward the battlefield, Murad waved his hand and ordered them to send in the reserves. With the Janissaries at the fore, the reserve forces mounted on horses and camels and charged the Christians. Some reports say one area ran first, other reports lay the blame elsewhere, but soon the army of Lazar was in full rout. Lazar was captured and brought to the dying sultan's tent where Murad had him decapitated. Murad died shortly afterward. Standing beside his body, his eldest son, Bajzet, commanded that his brother, Yakub, be seized and strangled to death. (can't have rivals, especially heroes, just standing around, you know) This was an amazing precedent. For hundreds of years after this event, many of the sultans would ascend the throne and order the deaths of all possible rivals at the same time. Surveying the battlefield, the new sultan was stunned by the number of soldiers of Islam that lay dead. Screaming for vengeance, he ordered the execution of *all* of the Christian captives.
Using professionals attached to the royal household, the slaughter began with prisoners being tied together so to save the number of strokes to decapitate all of them. When they still faltered under the task, they began to slit throats or cut off a group of hands bound together to allow the prisoners to simply bleed to death. Thousands died that day, their heads piled in huge pyramids. Thus the Field of Blackbirds as ravens covered the battlefield, pecking at torn flesh in the waning daylight. Today, the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo is a day of mourning in Serbia. At the time, it was the beginning of hundreds of years of the Serbs and others being vassals of the lowest caste to the Turks. The new King of Serbia, Stephen Lazarevitch, gave his sister, Despoina, to Sultan Bajazet and she became his favourite wife. But this was merely the end of the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan looked west, to Hungary, and he wanted it as well.
I don't have the words to describe how bitter the Christians of the area are against the Islamic Turks. Suffice to say that the wound has been bleeding from the day of this dramatic battle. It has not healed yet. We see the depth of the feeling of fifty years of bitterness in the Palestinians. Yet we had no concept of their history when 'we' went into Kosovo to stop the killing there. "Geez, folks, get over it!" didn't work there and it will not work in Jerusalem.
King Sigismund of Hungary was a nervous man in the spring of 1395. After the loss of the Serbs to the Turks at Kosovo, He could feel the lustful gaze of Sultan Bajazet upon his kingdom. Feeling the need for reinforcements, he dispatched a bishop and a few knights to France for help. France was in a lull of fighting the English and might feel the need for an adventure or two. Thus the little group set off for the dukedom of Burgundy to plead his cause. Sure enough, the Duke thought it was a fine idea and assembled an army under the command of his son, Jean de Nevers. The Pope got word of the expedition and sent his blessings and called it a Crusade. Later, it would take the name of the Crusade of Nicopolis. Still, it was something to do for the knights.
Several worthies such as Jean de Vienna, Admiral of France and Lord Enguennard de Coucy joined up, adding the wealth of their battle experience. Perhaps the noblest of the noble knights of the age, Marshal Jean Boucicaut came along for the fun and glory. All in all, some 10,000 armoured knight, pike men, archers and infantry set off from Dijon on April 30, 1396 to save Catholic Hungary and Europe from the turbaned followers of Allah. The French army crossed the Rhine and spent five months having a great time of pillage and rape across Bavaria before meeting King Sigismund at Buda, his capital (later Budapest). They were in fine mettle, loaded with loot and girls...but no heavy siege weapons. No problem, they claimed, they would defeat that silly sultan and his light cavalry in the field. The king was not impressed. Leaving Buda, the French knights and the Hungarian army had a brief tussle or two with small groups of Turks and overran the town of Rachowa. Not wanting to leave any knights behind, the French murdered all of their prisoners. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Marching on, they came to Nicopolis on September 12th.
Nicopolis (Nikopol) was a small trading town on the Danube in northern Bulgaria. It was built on sheer cliffs with steep, easily defended roads. With no heavy weapons, the French and Hungarians settled back to enjoy the fishing and some of their live loot. Meanwhile Bajazet was approaching with less than 30,000 troops to go against 40,000 Hungarians and 10,000 French soldiers. The French met a Turkish scouting force outside the city. A thousand French lancers simply slaughtered them. Aroused by this easy victory over a much weaker force, the French decided to defeat the Turks in one fell swoop. Ah, those French... September 25, 1396...the Turks had established a formation on some gentle hills outside of Nicopolis. Some six thousand French knights and lancers on armoured horses charged them. These were the original 'shock troops' of later fame.
The French broke through the elite Janissaries, then the light cavalry of the Turks, Spahis, were brushed aside. Thousands of Turks lay dead and dying in their wake. Far behind, way too far behind, Sigismund's Hungarian army struggled to catch up. The French drove on but Bajazet had set a trap. Tens of thousands of pointed stakes had been driven across their path. Unable to advance, they dismounted to stand and fight until Sigismund could relieve them...they were doomed. A knight on foot is a formidable foe for infantry, Bajazet set twenty thousand Cavalry against them. Sigismund saw that the French were surrounded and lost. He took his army and went home. The French fought bravely, but after some three thousand were killed, including the Admiral, Jean de Vienna, De Nevers surrendered. Bajazet I was not an overly even tempered man.
Surveying the thousands of soldiers of Islam that littered the field--many, many more than the French losses, and mindful of the massacre at Rachowa, he had all of the remaining royal knights (about two dozen) brought before him. He and they arrayed themselves slightly away from the main battlefield on the morning of September 26th. Bajazet had some three thousand of the cream of French knighthood beheaded as they watched. It took all day. The heads were piled in hills of gore, the bodies lay as they fell. The royals were ransomed off to France, leaving Bajazet with loot, booty, fame...and Bulgaria. So it would remain until 1878. But the good times were over for Bajazet I. As Europe lay awaiting before him, another potentate threatened. The world of Islam was not big enough for both of them.
France, troubled by the Islamic Arabs for centuries, now felt the threat of the Islamic Turks. Thousands of Catholics were dead; Not the Orthodox Serbs they cared nothing about, but French Catholics. Even as they turned their attention back to the English, the spectre of Islam weighted heavily upon them. Richard II of England and Charles VI signed the Truce of Paris in 1396. It was designed to give both countries a breather in the hostilities for 30 years. Oh, well. It sounded nice. Richard II didn't understand that he was in power at the sufferance of the nobility. He had already gotten a severe spanking by the nobles at the battle of Radcot Bridge in 1387, but some people just can't seem to learn from experience. In 1397, he seized absolute power for a while, but finally Henry of Bolingbroke took over the throne in 1399 as Henry IV. This didn't exactly suit the French. They were kindly pleased to see the English squabbling among themselves while Richard was around. Seeking to get something stirred back up, the Orleanists (primarily) sent a few boat loads of troops over to Scotland in 1402.
The Scots and the French invaded England under the Earl of Douglas and got their butts kicked by Lord Henry (Harry 'Hotspur') Percy at the Battle of Homildon Hill on September 14th. When that didn't work, the French raided various ports along the Channel during 1403 and 1404, while waiting for something new to develop. Finally, they decided to help out one Owen Glendower in his revolt. Glendower was fighting Henry in the Welsh hills where his tactics of ambush and surprise gave the English fits. He even managed to beat a force under Sir Edmund Mortimer in an semi-open battle at Pilleth in 1402. The following year, Percy decided to join him and headed south with 4,000 seasoned troops.
Henry IV got between him and Glendower with 5,000 troops and soundly defeated him at the Battle of Shrewsbury on July 21, 1403. Hotspur was killed and his father took the bended knee, but revolted again and had to be defeated and killed at the Battle of Brahmam Moor in 1408. Thinking Glendower had the hot hand, the French forces landed in Wales in 1405, but basically got bored and went home soon after. So that didn't work either. Well, what is one to do when going on adventures can't keep the troops busy? The Orleans and Burgundians got together and began operations against the English in Vienne and Calais. This was fun for a while, but on November 24, 1407, the Burgundians just couldn't stand it and assassinated Duke Louis of Orleans.
The plot doesn't thicken, but it starts to get confusing as to who is who. The Orleans faction, often called the Royalists and sometimes the Valois, got the Count Benard of Armagnac involved, so they were also called Armagnac. At any rate, both sides asked Henry IV to give them a hand in 1411. Nothing was done at the time and his son, Henry V took over in 1413. This Henry had the right stuff. Brilliant, brave, and politically wise, he threw in his lot with the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless. John had his hands full with Charles IV, but the worse part was the streets of the city of Paris. Simon Caboch and others had roused the population and started the Cabochian Revolt (1413-14) which had the royals and the court just terrorized.
John basically told Henry to come on in and he would do nothing about it. Henry V invaded France at Normandy on August 10, 1415 with some 12,000 men, mostly armed with the famed English longbow. Henry V moved from the coast inland, fighting and winning along the way until he finally reached Harfleur on August 13. He remained there until the city fell on September 22. Then he did something very mysterious. He decided to march from Harfleur to Calais. The result, as 'they' often say, was history. Getting bored with laying around the palace in Edirne, Murad II decided to ride over to Hungary and see if anyone wanted to convert to Islam, die, or pay some gold to live in servile squallor. Things went fairly well for a while, but the King of Hungary, Ladislaus called upon his friend, the governor of Transylvania, Janos Hunyadi to take an army and put an end to Murad's summer vacation. Hunyadi met a small group of Turks at Semendria in 1441 and easily defeated them. All along the way, Hunyadi heard of grevious things being done by Murad's followers so he was not in a good mood when he relieved the city of Hermansdat from the siege by general Mezid Bey (1442).
Some 20,000 men came face to face with Allah that day, but not all in battle. Hunyadi caputured Bey and his sons, had them cut into small pieces and fed to the pigs by his highly amused officer corp. Later on at the victory dinner, things were getting a bit slow. Mr. All Work and No Play hadn't brought any entertainers along with his army, so to liven things up, he had prisoners executed one by one to bolster the diner's spirits and appetite. Hunyadi was declared the White Knight of Hungary for all of this and the king decided to get in on the act. Ladislaus gathered a very small army of Hungarians, Poles, Serbs, Wallachians, Bosnians, Germans and even a few French and an Italian papal legate, one Cardinal Julian Caesarini. This was no longer a war, it was now a Crusade! Murad's brother-in-law, general Mahmoud Tchelebi marched to meet the Christians with a slightly larger army. No matter. Ladislaus and Hunyadi soundly trounched them at Nissa, close to the Morava river. Thousands of Turks were killed and the rest routed. Ladislaus then proceeded to cross the Balkan mountains with his army and smashed the Islamic army at Sanim (Kustinitza) in 1443. The Ottoman Empire was prostrate before him. No credible force lay between the Christians and Edirne. So Ladislaus offered Murad II a peace tready, which he was more than happy to sign.
Now history doesn't detail why the Hugarian King thought that was a good idea, but subsequent events prove it to be just plain stupid. [Gulf War, anyone?] The Cardinal was in a constant state of lividity. The thought of all of those UnBelievers ready to meet Allah was more than he could stand. Finally, he was able to convience Ladislaus to lead another army against Murad, but then ran into another problem. Breaking the tready before the ink was dry offended the honor of Hunyadi, he just wouldn't do it. After some time of appealing to his Christian nature, Ladislaus came up with the promise to make him King of Bulgaria if he would come along. Well, honor is one thing, but a crown is another. Ladislaus, Hunyadi and a resupplied, refreshed army crossed into Bulgaria in July of 1444.
They arranged for the Venetians to send a fleet to Varna on the Black Sea at the mouth of the Danube with more supplies and reinforcements. On the first of September, Murad II headed back across the straits to Europe with a massive army perhaps four times the size of the King's. Meanwhile, Ladislaus crossed the Danube and captured Varna. Then he sat back to wait for the Venetian fleet. It never came. 'So what!' Hunyadi said, 'Let's attack'. Geez. The Battle of Varna began on November 10, 1444. Hunyadi led the Hungarian knights and French crusaders under the Cardinal in an charge against the Muslim left flank of Tartars and Mongols. The Asians broke and ran. The Wallachians on their right flank were making mincemeat of the Turkish troops. King Ladislaus and his Hungarian army advanced in the center to meet Murad and his Janissary calvary. There, things went badly from the start. The King had his horse killed out from under him an a Janissary severed his head from his body on the spot. Carrying it on the end of a pike, they demoralized the Christians. Cardinal Caesarini fell dead from a scimitar stroke and his troops broke.
The Battle of Varna was over with thousands dead and dying on the field, Christians fleeing in all directions, hotly pursued by the Janissaries. The Turkish Gaza had soundly defeated the Christian Crusade. It would be the last true Crusade...but Hunyadi lived on and would come back to haunt Murad II. On October 10, 1415, Henry V left Harfleur and headed for Calais with no heavy baggage, no artillery, few support troops, only 900 knights and 8,000 archers. His purpose of doing this with an army depleted by disease and casualties is a historical mystery. France was a sodden mess. He and his men kept a hard pace, moving 14 miles a day in torrential rains and heavy mud over poor roads. Meeting resistance at Blanchetaque, Henry moved eastward, up the Somme River looking for an uncontested crossing. But bridges were down or defended, fords were flooded and impassable. Finally on October 19th, he found a suitable crossing at Athies, less than a dozen miles from Peronne.
The French had been following his progress with interest and more importantly, a sizable army. Charles d'Albret, the Constable of France, took up postition blocking the main road to Calais near the ancient castle of Agincourt with 30,000 men. Henry met them there in the afternoon of October 24 with a tired, weak, and hungry army one third their size. The French nobles wanted to attack at once, but Charles waited. The next day, Henry drew up his small force in three groups. In the center were his best archers, backed by the knights on foot. To each side were lines of archers. Row upon row of thick stakes were driven into the ground amongst the archers as traps for mounted knights. He waited. Charles waited. Finally, Henry moved his center forward perhaps 2,000 yards, reformed the troops and reset the stakes.
The wings edged into a wooded area for greater protection from archers and horsemen. They waited. Charles had dismounted knights in the center, backed by the mass of infantry. Mounted knights were far to the rear and he also had bowmen on each flank. Charles gave the order to advance and the entire body began to move. The armored men at the fore were literally wading through viscous mud of a freshly plowed field. The infantry was doing no better following them. But, ah, those French. In a familiar maneuver, the mounted knights drove headlong through both groups, throwing them into disarray, and poderously labored towards the English bowmen. Naturally, the English enjoyed the target practice and cut them to ribbons. What few survived the first volley of arrows retreated back through the weary knights slogging across the field of goo. Charles himself led the men on foot. They could not turn back. By sheer will, they advanced through the hail of arrows and engaged Henry's front line. Henry called for his flanks to close and they fell upon the French from the sides and rear. It was a bloodbath. The remaining forces finally made the scene and joined by the regrouped knights made a fight of it. But then Henry called in his shock troops and 900 fresh, mounted knights went through the French like a scythe. It was over. Charles D'Albert was killed.
The Duke of Orleans and famous Marshal Jean Bouciquaut were captured. Most of the cream of the Orleans-Armagnac faction were wiped out in the first reckless charge. Henry had swept the field of opposition to the Burgundians, leaving them with easy pickings. The battle cost France some 5,000 to 6,000 men of noble birth, some ten per cent were of high nobility. It was a severe blow. Henry claimed to have only lost a few hundred men, but that is dubious. At any rate it was a lopsided victory for the English that is much studied to this day as an example of strategy overcoming superior force. Henry thought he had had a pretty good day, so he took his army and went home. But not for long. Henry V spent 1416 attending to matters in England. In addition to preparing to reinvade France, Henry built up the fleet and drove the Genoese, a key ally of France, from the channel. Many point to this as the establishment of the Royal Navy.
He also gained the promise from Emperor Sigismund of the Holy Roman Empire, another ally of France, that he would remain neutral. This allowed Henry to feel secure to his rear and flank. Indeed, when Henry came back to France in 1417, he was able to consolidate Normandy in three campains over the next two years without outside interference. During this period, Jean Sans Peur, the Duke of Burgundy...also known as John the Fearless...was busy. The remnants of the Orleanist faction was still strong enough to finally drive him out of Paris. Perhaps they should have left well enough alone. On May 29, 1418, the Duke returned to Paris and massacred as many of the Oleanist and Armagnac leadership as he could lay his hands on. He did a fair job, but allowed the Dauphin, the future Charles VII to escape.
Geez, Christians never learn that you have to kill them *all*. However, John the Fearless was scared to death of Henry, so he decided to strike a truce with Charles so they could present a united front to the English. The two met on a bridge at Montereau September 10, 1419 with each bringing along ten trusted aides. John would have been better off with some bodyguards because Charles had him killed on the spot. As the Turks learned early, two princes are one too many. But this backfired on the Dauphin. Philip the Good and Queen Isabella still had control of Paris and the loony Charles VI. After he got through with the fairly light opposition in Normandy, Henry marched into Paris, to get the Tready of Troyes in his pocket along with the right to be the heir of Charles VI. For all practical purposes, Henry become the ruler of France.
He could have spent a year or two seeing the sights and checking out the royal wine cellars, but Henry seemed to actually enjoy leading troops, so off he went to hunt down every follower of the Dauphin in Northern France before taking him on directly to the south. Sure enough, he spent the winter of 1421 and the spring of 1422 at a siege of Meaux and got sick. So sick, he died on August 31, 1422. His nine month old son, Henry VI became King of England and heir to France. Not to be outdone, Charles VI up and died two months later on October 21. Thus Henry VI also became King of France and John, Duke of Bedford was his regent. The other contender for the role, Thomas, the Duke of Clarence had foolishly gotten himself killed by a French raiding party on March 21, 1421 at Bauge in southern Normandy. The Dauphin didn't like all of this, and felt a bit left out, so ten days later, he proclaimed himself Charles VII. No one knows why he chose October 31st to do that, but he did. During 1422 - 1428, the Duke of Bedford completed the consolidation of northern France, largely by winning battles against French forces that out numbered him at the Battle of Cravant in 1423 and the Battle of Verneuil in 1424. If the average reader suspects that undisciplined charges of French knights against disciplined English bowmen had something to do with those victories...well, it *is* hard to restrain the vaunting French spirit, you know. In September of 1428, the Duke sent the Earl of Salisbury off to the south, to Orleans, a quiet little town on the Loire that had some decent wine and was the key to Charles's strength.
Salisbury only took some 5,000 men even though Jean, Count of Dumois (called the 'Bastard of Orleans') held the town with a much larger force. The Earl started off by taking a fortified French bridgehead on the Loire, but was killed by a cannon shot from across the river. Some folks have no luck at all. Perhaps even less lucky, the Earl of Suffolk took over and settled down to a long seige of Orleans. Little did he know what lay in store for him, but who would have guessed that one of the boats slipping past his guards on the Loire was carrying Holy Cargo to Orleans. The Earl of Suffolk took over the siege of Orleans on October 24, 1428 with a very small fighting force of some 5,000 men. The Count of Dunois held the town with a numerically superior army, but was content to sit and wait out the siege. The Earl could not deploy enough men to seal the Loire river and the countryside, so supplies continued to make their way into Orleans. By and large the French were simply afraid of the English, but they still made some forays. On one of few such raids, the Count of Clermont attacked an English supply convoy carrying salted herrings to the Earl. The convoy was commanded by Sir John Fastolf ( the model for Falstaff) and they easily beat off the attack which became known as the Battle of the Herrings, February 12, 1429. But this would change. On April 27, 1429, a deeply religious peasant girl of a mere 17 years of age lead an army of more than 3,000 men from Blois accompanied by the Duke of Alencon. They slipped through the river guards and relieved the garrison at Orleans.
Much has been written about Joan of Arc, so I will skip the details of her achievements. What was really important about her was how she was responsible for a dramatic change in the perception of the war by the French and English men at arms. At this point in time, the French had little stomach for fighting the English. They had lost a number of battles to be sure, but the way they lost was the key. The French still 'raised' armies when they were needed. Training was concentrated upon individual skills of the armored men, afoot and mounted. Little was done to instill a will to fight in the common soldier. It was considered enough to be, well...French. Many of the 'officers' had never been in large scale combat or had any idea of strategy in the placement of their forces or in choosing their terrain. None of this was helpful when facing ranks of well trained archers. Time and again, all through northern France, small forces of the English defeated larger French forces. Perhaps the most stunning was at the Battle of Verneuil, on August 17, 1424 when the French tried to out flank the English, only to be beaten off by the archers of the *baggage* guard. The second factor was the loss of so many nobles in each battle. At Verneuil, the Earl Archibald of Douglas was killed and the Duke of Alencon was captured, for example. Many of the common people were primarily fighting for their lord of the manor. When they were killed or captured, not only did the fighting men lose heart, but the all important non-fighting people of their area did as well. These two things resulted in the French cowering at Orleans while a pitifully small group of English relaxed in the surrounding countryside. Joan of Arc would change all of that. During the period of 1429 to her death in 1431, Joan gave France a higher ideal to fight for than some noble they mostly knew by name. And fight they did, both the common foot soldier and those in their command. The people of the towns and villages waged a partisan war that was probably more harmful to the English than the pitched battles.
They didn't care that Burgundian and Armagnac leadership was corrupt and inept. They were fighting for France, for God, for Joan. Indeed, for all practical purposes, after the death of Joan of Arc, neither leadership had much to do with the continuing war. In 1436, the people of France drove the English out of Paris and in 1444, the English signed the Truce of Tours. Nationalism had won the day. Over the next five years, the French established a standing army of 15 compagnies d'ordonnance, comprised of 600 men each. They later expanded this to 20. Jean and Gaspard Bureau established a permanent artillery organization which became far superior to any at that time. This group of professionals re-established order in the country and within a few short years had swept the English from France. This was the end of the Middle Ages and the start of modern warfare. And it all began with a young girl who *believed* and those who *believed* in her. Martin Luther is given credit for getting the Reformation started. Historians fairly well agree on that. Just about everything else about him is clouded over by religious bias of one sort or another.
False documents, outright lies, and distortions of events are mixed in what is actually 'known' about what he did, what he said, and why he did the things he wanted to do. Not much different from the histories of other controversial people of the day. Here are two versions of his early years and his home environment. The first is from 1549 and is quite uplifting.
"The name of Luther is widely spread throughout the ramifications of an ancient family within the Lordship of the illustrious Counts of Mansfield, but the parents of Martin Luther originally resided in the town of Eisleben, where he was born, subsequently they removed to Mansfield, where his father, John Luther, filled the office of magistrate, and for his integrity of character, was valued and beloved by all good men. In his mother, Margaret Luther, was found a fair assemblage of domestic virtues; and a peculiar delicacy of mind was conspicuous in her character, accompanied by the fear of God and the spirit of prayer, so that many excellent women found in her a bright example of Christian virtues.
Her reply to questions which I have occasionally put to her, respecting the time of her son's birth, was, that she clearly remembered the day and the hour, but that she was doubtful as to the year; she said, however, that he was born on the 10th of November, after eleven o'clock at night; and that the name of Martin was given to the infant, because the following day on which, by baptism, he was initiated into the church of God, was dedicated to Saint Martin. But his brother James, a man of uprightness and integrity, was accustomed to say, that the opinion of the family, respecting Luther's age was, that he was born in the year of our Lord 1483. When be had attained an age at which be was capable of receiving instruction, his parents diligently accustomed their son Martin to the service and fear of God, in connection with the performance of' social and family duties; and, as is usual with good persons, they took care that he should receive literary instruction, so that whilst yet quite young his education was entrusted to the care of the father of George Emilius, who, as he is still living, can bear witness to the truth of this relation. At that time the grammar-schools of Saxony were not in a flourishing condition, and on this account, when Martin had entered his fourteenth year, he was sent to Magdeburg, accompanied by John Reineeke, whose character was afterwards of a shining order, and the influence which he obtained in that neighbourhood consequently great. The affection which subsisted between Luther and Reinecke, whether arising from a natural accordance of mind, or from their companionship in youthful studies, was both ardent and lasting. Luther, however, did not remain at Magdeburg longer than twelve months.
During four succeeding years, passed in the school of Eisenach, he had an opportunity of hearing a preceptor who illustrated grammatical studies with greater accuracy and ability than he could have met with elsewhere; for I remember to have heard his talents commended by Luther, who was sent to this town from the circumstance of his mother's descent from an ancient and honorable family in those parts.. Here he completed his grammatical studies. The powers of his intellect being of a gigantic order and peculiarly adapted to the science of eloquence, he speedily surpassed his contemporaries, both in the copiousness of his language as a public speaker, and in prose composition; whilst in poetry, be with ease excelled his competitors in the course of learning." Isn't that nice. Sounds like the ideal All-Germany childhood. Here is another view, equally biased the other way.
His father, Hans, was a miner, a rugged, stern, irascible character. In the opinion of many of his biographers, it was an expression of uncontrolled rage, an evident congenital inheritance transmitted to his oldest son, that compelled him to flee from Mohra, the family seat, to escape the penalty or odium of homicide. This, though first charged by Wicelius, a convert from Lutheranism, has found admission into Protestant history and tradition. His mother, Margaret Ziegler, is spoken of by Melancthon as conspicuous for "modesty, the fear of God, and prayerfulness" ("Corpus Reformatorum", Halle, 1834). Extreme simplicity and inflexible severity characterized their home life, so that the joys of childhood were virtually unknown to him. His father once beat him so mercilessly that he ran away from home and was so "embittered against him that he had to win me to himself again." His mother, "on account of an insignificant nut, beat me till the blood flowed, and it was this harshness and severity of the life I led with them that forced me subsequently to run away to a monastery and become a monk."
The same cruelty was the experience of his earliest school-days, when in one morning he was punished no less than fifteen times. The meager data of his life at this period make it a work of difficulty to reconstruct his childhood. His schooling at Mansfeld, whither his parents had returned, was uneventful. He attended a Latin school, in which the Ten Commandments, "Child's Belief", the Lord's Prayer, the Latin grammar of Donatus were taught, and which he learned quickly. In his fourteenth year (1497) he entered a school at Magdeburg, where, in the words of his first biographer, like many children "of honorable and well-to-do parents, he sang and begged for bread - panem propter Deum" (Mathesius, op.cit.). " Chuckle. History is usually written by the winners, but in this case, both sides survived so things do get muddled.
All sides agree on a few things about Luther. He was extremely dogmatic, which is not a bad thing when going against an established religion. He was intelligent and well educated, a hard worker who often did marathons of writing, reading, and translating. He had little respect for those in authority and a keen eye for where they were weak in their positions, primarily morally. He was a good to excellent speaker and had a killer instinct for which way the mood was swinging among the common people of the day. Most importantly, he was the right person at the right time in the right place to start a revolution. I use that word dilibertly because that is what he did. Germany at the time was going though a long period of recovery from war, plague, food shortages, terrible weather and just general bad times. For the man on the street life was hard and looked to be going downhill. About all he had to rely upon was his religion and *that* was suspect. Witches were being hunted, Jews being persecuted, and heretics were under too many beds. To top it all off, the Church and State had decided that a 'good' way to raise needed funds was to charge people to forgive their sins.
The theory was that a person could commit some 'sin', go down to the street corner, drop a coin into the pot, and get a piece of paper called an indulgence which would yank his soul from hell back on the road to heaven while the coin was rolling around. This did raise money, but was on the way to dramatically changing how doing something bad was thought of. Now think about it. For centuries a core method of keeping the faithful in line was the threat of going to hell for evil deeds. That was still there, but now you could get out of it pretty easily. It was the classic loophole.
I suggest that any parent think about laying down the law to a teenager, then saying if they don't do what they are told, it will cost them a small, but not trivial, amount of money. Pretty soon they are coming home at dawn and leaving some loose change on the kitchen table to make up for it. Well. The very fabric of authority was being torn. Then comes the story of The Indulgence. The selling of indulgences has been going on for centuries, but it just got out of hand in Germany. (other accounts are less kind) From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
"Albert of Brandenburg was heavily involved in debt, not, as Protestant and Catholic historians relate, on account of his pallium, but to pay a bribe to an unknown agent in Rome, to buy off a rival, in order that the archbishop might enjoy a plurality of ecclesiastical offices. For this payment, which smacked of simony, the pope would allow an indemnity, which in this case took the form of an indulgence. By this ignoble business arrangement with Rome, a financial transaction unworthy of both pope and archbishop, the revenue should be partitioned in equal halves to each, besides a bonus of 10,000 gold ducats, which should fall to the share of Rome. John Tetzel, a Dominican monk with an impressive personality, a gift of popular oratory, and the repute of a successful indulgence preacher, was chosen by the archbishop as general-subcommissary.
History presents few characters more unfortunate and pathetic than Tetzel. Among his contemporaries the victim of the most corrosive ridicule, every foul charge laid at his door, every blasphemous utterance placed in his mouth, a veritable fiction and fable built about his personality, in modern history held up as the proverbial mountebank and oily harlequin, denied even the support and sympathy of his own allies -- Tetzel had to wait the light of modern critical scrutiny, not only for a moral rehabilitation, but also for vindication as a soundly trained theologian and a monk of irreproachable deportment. It was his preaching at Juterbog and Zerbst, towns adjoining Wittenberg, that drew hearers from there, who in turn presented themselves to Luther for confession, that made him take the step he had in contemplation for more than a year. It is not denied that a doctrine like that of the indulgences, which in some aspects was still a disputable subject in the schools, was open to misunderstanding by the laity; that the preachers in the heat of rhetorical enthusiasm fell into exaggerated statements, or that the financial considerations attached, though not of an obligatory character, led to abuse and scandal. The opposition to indulgences, not to the doctrine -- which remains the same to this day -- but to the mercantile methods pursued in preaching them, was not new or silent. Duke George of Saxony prohibited them in his territory, and Cardinal Ximenes, as early as 1513, forbade them in Spain."
Ha! Was Luther just pissed at his flock thinning out and those that came had little to confess? No, he seems to be the real article. What the Church was doing was wrong and he wanted it fixed. Luther's case was taken up by the press at the time and he got the necessary support from the gentry. Soon enough, the Church was being openly questioned and that was not good for those in power. Before long protesters and reformers had names in capital letters and the stage was set for Calvin, et al to guide Europe on still another path.
The Castle Church in Wittenberg still stands and the famous door is now made of bronze with the questions engraved in it. His Most Christian Majesty King Francois I of France thought it would be a good idea to see his enemy Charles V get preoccupied with the Turkish threat from the east. He sent Suleiman a nice note to that effect and got the response: "that he has laid his petition before the throne which is the refuge of the world, he no longer need fear the enemy who has threatened and ravaged his dominions and made him captive." So much for good ole Catholic unity against the evils of Islam. Suleiman prompty headed for Catholic Hungary with some 300,000 men to see what he could do about helping those devout Christians to meet their maker. He frankly didn't care what Francois thought or wanted, what *he* wanted was all that mattered. And He wanted blood. King Louis II of Hungary was a staunch ally of Charles V, but Charles didn't feel the urge to send any help.
Thus Louis set off to stop the Turks with his personal army of 4,000. Uh, that *is* the correct number... The real bigshot in Hungary was John Zapolya and he rounded up about 40,000 men to watch over *his* best interests. Louis was able to gather 22,000 additional men during his march and on August 29, 1526 he met the forces of Islam on the field of Mohacs, near the Danube. Louis had about 12,000 cavalry and about 14,000 infantry. He was a bit dubious about fighting an army that was a tad bigger than his, but the Archbishop Tomori, a great warrior in his own right, assured him that the correct God would take the day. Oh, well. Meanwhile Zapolya took notice of the numbers in the two armies and decided to sit this one out. The field was a great place for a cavalry battle. Louis drew his men into three groups of infantry with the cavalry between the groups and in reserve.
The infantry had a number of arquebusiers, but only 20 cannon. As we have seen before, Suleiman had cannon by the hundreds. The battle began late in the day with the Hungarians seeming to be making camp to fight the next day. On Suleiman's left, his commander, Ibrahim, who was also responsible for the baggage train, took note and decided to have his men do the same. Seeing this, Louis's right flank commander, Batthyani, ordered his knights to charge. We have seen this before. They did indeed break the Turkish line and Louis belatedly ordered the center and left flank to advance. The right flank had been quick, but the left flank was slow.
Louis was in big trouble in the middle and called for relief from Batthyani. But he was in worse trouble...his men had dismounted and were looting the baggage train. Bad timing. By the time he could get them back into the fight, Suleiman had unleashed his cannon, taking a terrible toll. About two hours into the hand to hand fighting, Suleiman sent in the Janissaries by the thousands. It was all over. Accounts have Louis fleeing the scene when he and his horse fell into a stream where he was drowned. Seven Bishops and Archbishops, including Perenyi died in battle. Most of the nobility Louis had brought were also among the dead. 10,000 infantry and 5,000 of his cavalry were killed over a span of some three hours. Two thousand were beheaded during the night and their heads displayed on pikes amongst the Turkish tents. Turkish losses were probably higher, but not reported. It took Suleiman three full days to round up his men and restore some sort of order. Before the battle, Bishop Perenyi is recorded as saying: " Today is the feast of St. John the Martyr. Let us rename the this day the Feast of twenty thousand Magyar martyrs." He was prophetic or knew how to count beyond his fingers and toes. This battle marked the end of Hungary as a major player for centuries. Under Turkish rule, the population would fall by half from about four million to about two million. The country was broken three ways, one for the Turks, one for Charles's brother, Ferdinand of Hapsburg, and one for that hero of self interest, John Zapolya. Suleiman took 100,000 assorted slaves, a massive load of booty, and headed back home.
His men were free to loot, rape, kill and so on en route. Many stayed and became rich and powerful. Others went home wealthy and full of stories about the glories of Gaza. It was a high water mark for Islam. Unsated, Suleiman looked to Vienna. He swore to make the Danube as Islamic as the Nile, the Tigris, the Indus, and the Euphrates. It would run red with the blood of Christians. Vienna. The center of trade and commerce for middle Europe for centuries, was also a political center of Charles V's Holy Roman Empire. He had taken a loose confederation of Germanic states and turned it into a major power, ruling territories as far reaching as those of Charlemagne.
This was the First Reich (962-1806) that Hitler was so fond of and the historical basis for much of his claims to Austria, et al. Suleiman I didn't know, understand or care about any of this. Charles was standing in his way and calling himself an emperor to boot. Well, there is only room in Suleiman's world for one emperor...Charles had to go. On May 10, 1529, Suleiman took off for Vienna with a hundred thousand or so of his closest friends, some three hundred heavy siege cannon, perhaps a quarter of a million draft animals, horses, camels, goats, sheep and so on, but no pigs. Along the way, he and his men laid waste to the various cities and towns, raping, looting, burning; all the things they had come to expect on these vacations.
At Buda, for example, he spent a day during the first week of September having his men comb the town to make sure ever person in the small garrison had been massacred. This trip was true scorched earth going and coming. Not only did they take a terrible human toll, but the herds did so much damage that the food supply for the area took decades to recover. But Vienna was the goal. Guarded by Charles's brother, Ferdinand of Hapsburg, and less than 17,000 soldiers, Vienna shouldn't be much of a problem for the conqueror of Rhodes. When Suleiman reached Vienna on September 23, word came that King Ferdinand had decided he had pressing business elsewhere and was gone. His German general in command was Nicholas, Count of Salm, along with Philip, Count Patatine of Austria and Marshal William von Roggendorf. Able men all, but no one that Suleiman had ever heard of. Still, they had done what could be done to defend the city. Trenches had been dug, food and water stored, flamable roofs removed, and the outer area cleared. Their few cannon were positioned and as many of the population as possible was armed...they knew the fate of losers to the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.
The weather was worse than vile. Rain and mud were as much a problem as the defenders. Suleiman literally was unable to effectively deploy his cannon. What he could get into position, pounded the city day after day. He sent his army and cavalry against the city several times, but the efforts were tentative. Bolstered by this, Nicholas sent out sorties in the driving rain on September 29, October 2 and 6 and managed to demoralize the artillery positions. And by this time, it was getting plum cold. Between the cold feet of his men, the rain, the mud, and the hot blood of the defenders, Suleiman declared victory and cut for home in the third week of October...in a snowstorm. He did take the time to kill every male prisoner he had though... accounts vary, but there were at least 2,000 and possibly ten times that many. The roads were impassable to the wagons and carts.
Thousands littered the area where they were abandoned. The cannon were loaded on a flotilla that had accompanied them on the Danube and the army slogged toward home on foot, camel, and horse with what they and their slaves could carry. It was not fun. All along the way, they were harassed by the Austrians and the flotilla suffered severe damage as it passed by the fortifications at Pressburg, where Kings had been crowned, and would be famous for the Tready of Pressburg, on December 26, 1805 when another Emperor would be recognized. But this emperor was beaten. The toll at Rhodes had simply been too much. Suleiman would make another haphazard run north from Belgrade in 1532, but it was over. He would sign a peace tready with the hated Ferdinand in 1533. The expansion into Europe was at an end. Suleiman turned his attention to the south and to the Mediterranean. And they would not like it at all. Milan...Milan...Milan. Those French kings. When they get the wind up about something, they don't let go. Just as soon as Francis I took over the throne, he spent some time making alliances with Henry VIII and Venice and declared war on everyone else. As quick as he could, he gathered 30,000 men of various military ability and headed for Milan. He took the hard, high road through the Argentiere Pass, just up the mountain from Chamonix-Mont-Blac. That, at least, was unexpected, but he had the aid of the turncoat Spanish engineer Pedro Navarro whom we mentioned before. Francis wasn't a complete fool. He sent an emissary ahead with a few trunks of gold and got 10,000 of the Swiss mercenaries in Lombardy to head for home. That left some 15,000 Swiss waiting for him. On September 14, 1515, Francis was taking a break at Marignano, about ten miles from Milan.
The Swiss made a forced march for his camp and without breaking stride, attacked. The French were taken by surprise and completely demoralized. (geez, how many times does this same battle happen) Unable to get his artillery in position, Francis ordered a cavalry attack, but the Swiss swept through it into the camp. Francis mounted and with Chevalier Pierre Terrail de Bayard at his side, personally lead a counterattack. Four to five hours of hand to hand combat carried into the night. Both sides quit when they no longer could tell friend from foe in the dark. At dawn, the Swiss attacked again, but Francis had spent the night positioning his artillery.
It took a heavy toll on the Swiss, but they pressed forward and again it was hand to hand. Towards mid-day, a Venetian relief column approached the Swiss rear position and they broke off fighting and withdrew in good order. A remarkable feat given the conditions. When the column arrived, Francis had 5,000 troops dead on the field; the Swiss had left 6,000. No matter, Milan belonged to France...again. The Swiss immediately sued for peace, a situation that would hold until the French Revolution. The Pope did too, but we know how long those things last. On August 13, 1516, Charles of Spain swapped claims to Milan for possession of Naples, then on December 4, Emperor Maximilian made peace as well. Lots of peace for only 11,000 brave men dead. Things were quiet around Milan for a while until General Prosper Colonna snuck up on Marshal Odet de Lautrec with a Spanish- German-Papal army and scared him out of town. The Marshal regrouped with some Swiss mercenaries and Venetians and came back with 35,000 men. But he was slow to pay the Swiss and they threatened to boycott the battle.
He told them the gold was in the post, so they decided on one more fight. Not wanting to wait for the mail, Lautrec attacked. Meanwhile Colonna had dug in until only his plume showed. The men in the trenches had the new arquebusier hand cannon and knew how to use them. While Lautrec moved his artillery to an fro to get the best shot, the Swiss got impatient and charged the trenches. Bad move. Of 8,000 crack Swiss pikemen, 3,000 were killed in half an hour. The Swiss learned their lesson. The premiere pikemen of the age *never* attacked against hand cannon again. Lautrec saw the handwriting on the trench and decided to go back to France. Milan was gone. Again. Man, Francis was pissed. Francis wanted to go back to Milan, but he had to stay around the palace and deal with the traitor Prince Charles of Bourbon (another story), so he sent the worthy Admiral of France William de Bonnivet down there with a nice sized army. But things went wrong from the start. Colonna out maneuvered him and Bonnivet got trapped in Novara. Winter set in and the French army settled down. In March, the Viceroy of Naples, Charles de Lannoy came in a routed the encamped French. He caught up with them at Sesia on April 30, 1524 and wounded Bonnivet in the fighting. The army made its way back to France in poor order. Worst of all, perhaps one of the ten finest French Warriors of the age, Bayard died leading a counterattack. The chevalier sans peur et sans reproche had led a legendary life, so much so that fact and fiction are hard to tell apart. His reputation was so high that *twice* he was captured and released without ransom, purely out of respect. It was a fitting way to end his career. Well, this just would not do.
Francis rounded up 40,000 troops and headed for Milan. Little did he know the most dangerous enemy of them all awaited him there...plague. Francis I really lusted after Milan. Weary of the city being won and lost, he headed there with 40,000 troops and again entered Italy via the Argentiere Pass in early October, 1524. When he got to Milan, he found the city undefended. Charles de Lannoy, Viceroy of Naples, had taken his troops south when plague broke out in the city. Francis was furious. Leaving a small garrison outside of the city, he headed after Lannoy to work off a little anger. Stopping at Pavia, Francis divided his force and sent 15,000 men led by John Stuart, Duke of Albany, to conquer Naples. Now most military people just naturally keep their forces united and on guard against attack from unknown forces when in a strange country. Not Francis. He didn't even do the patrol thing...again. Lannoy had joined up with a group led by the Marquis of Pescara, gotten reorganized and resupplied and headed for Pavia with 20,000 men. Francis was dug in and when he arrived Lannoy did as well. Both armies sat in their trenches, cold, wet and generally miserable in the Italian winter. The Swiss got bored (again) and 6,000 took off for home with the stated intention of opening up a supply line.
This left Francis with slightly less of a force than Lannoy. During the night of February 23, 1525, Lannoy moved his main force to the French left during a driving rainstorm. Well! When the French woke up the next day, Lannoy was drawn up in battle order 90 degrees away from all that fine artillery. Francis knew he was doomed if he didn't do something to buy time for the artillery to be swung around. Leading knights and light cavalry with many of the infantry straggling along behind, Francis led the charge. Several times, he was beaten back, regrouped his heavy cavalry and charged again. Meanwhile, the infantry was slogging sloooowly up to reinforce him. Not waiting, Lannoy counterattacked, driving the cavalry back into the oncoming foot soldiers. Some two hours of hand to hand combat took place, but the French didn't really have a chance. The Spanish arquebusiers dominated the field. Francis had few guns of any kind and only a small group of men armed with crossbows. The day might have been different, but a third of Francis's army under Duke Charles of Alencon decided that they had had all the fun they could stand and headed back for France. Mmmm.
Prince Louis de La Tremoille was killed and Francis was wounded and captured when his horse was slain. 8,000 Frenchmen lay dead among only 1,000 of the army of Lannoy. It was over. Held prisoner in Madrid, Francis signed a tready giving up all claims to Italy and turning over Burgundy, Artois and Flanders to Charles V. This tready lasted all the way back home. Francis spent the next four years getting his army kicked around, more nobility killed and lost more territory. He allied with the Pope, but didn't bother to do much when Spanish and German mercenaries decided to visit Rome on May 6, 1527. (It was not fun for the men of the cloth.) The next year, his best army in the field was decisively defeated at Londriano and a revolt in Genoa, led by Andrea Doria, cost him his best base in Italy. It was grim. In 1531, Francis finally...finally...decided to reorganize his army more along the lines of his fine artillery organization. He set up infantry legions as standing units.
Pikemen and arquebusiers were trained and supplied. In a few more years, he had a core of four legions with 6,000 men each ready to fight the 'new' warfare. So naturally, he headed for Milan. A number of important works on the changes in warfare were written during this time. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527) wrote The Prince and The Art of War which many of us have read. But Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528) wrote extensively on the theory of fortifications and Niccoleo Tartaglia (1500 - 1557) wrote on the science of gunnery. All three were heavily read by the nobility of Europe. Later on would come Political and Military Discourses by Francois de la Noue (1531 - 1591), a brilliant series of thoughtful observations on strategy. The nobility was taking a terrible loss of life and many began to try to fight smarter. Not a bad thing at all. This was the beginning of officers who led by birth, natural skill, ability to raise armies, *and* educated in the history of battles similar to ones they would actually fight in. It made a difference. At the same time Milan was suffering from the plague, Nostradamus was still on his wandering tour in the general area.
In 1529, he dropped by Montepellier ( later to become a Huguenot stronghold), less than a hundred miles from Marseilles. War and rumors of war, plague, deaths of noblemen and commoners were the topics of the day. Perhaps the movement of armies to the east convienced him to go west to Agen, on the Garonne River. We may never know. But it is interesting to note that Agen later became a key member of the Catholic League *against* the Huguenots, was the location of an inquisition tribunal at one time and the widely known home of prunes for all time. Suleiman I had pretty much gotten weary of seeing his dead soldiers stacked in piles next to Christians. In a way, he may have been glad to hear that the Shah of Persia, Tahmasp, had been inciting the Shi'ites to revolt and had taken an army and gone about the general area pushing out Suleimans light garrisons. Now this was something to get the Sultan's blood up. Killing Shi'ites was one of his favorite things... He sent Ibrahim Pasha down with a small army of mostly light cavalry and Pasha took Tabriz on July 13, 1534 without much trouble. Suleiman joined him in December with the main army and they moved into Mesopotamia and retook Baghdad with almost no opposition.
However, Kurd and Persian guerrillas harassed him all the way, inflicting major losses to men, equipment and morale. While Suleiman was sight seeing around Baghdad, Tahmasp moved into Tabriz. Geez. In April, the Sultan left Baghdad and went to Tabriz, but Tahmasp went out the back way as he came in the front. Suleiman marched his army after him, but the Shah had no intention of having a head to head battle. Finally, the Turks marched back to Tabriz and leveled the place. Well, he *had* to do *something*. Amongst the rape and ravaging, he did leave untouched the Blue Mosque and an even older citadel. He wasn't all bad after all. Disgusted, Suleiman packed up a few rugs and slaves and went home. On March 30, 1536, Suleiman had Ibrahim Pasha assassinated. Many say one of his wives, Roxelana, talked him into doing it for reasons of her own, but others think it was just his way of venting about the wasted excursions into Persia. Who knows. At any rate, he didn't go back for another decade...and it was inconclusive. So he waited another decade. This time, he just concerned himself with scorching the earth, killing a few thousand civilians here and there, raping, looting and just not being very nice to the Shi'ites. He finally gave up on the whole thing in 1555.
While all of this was going on, Suleiman was keeping up a running sea battle from one end of the Mediterranean to another. After the fall of Rhodes, he felt he should rule the sea and was not pleased at all that he didn't. A brief note about the naval tactics of the day. Frankly, they hadn't changed a bit since the Punic Wars. The ships certainly hadn't. They were a basically a sail and oar powered barge for carrying troops. Many had a small cannon or two in the bow, but they all had a large reinforced ram, sometimes with a metal beak. Their main purpose was to get close to a ship, ram them, board them and fight the messy hand to hand stuff with 300 to 400 men on each ship. Think about it. War at sea was war at land on a small scale. Suleiman was lucky in a way. He had picked Khair ed-Din to be his Admiral and it turned out that he was one of the top two galley commanders of all time. Suleiman was unlucky though that the other top commander was in the employ of the Holy Roman Empire. Admiral Andrea Doria had already cost France its best base in Italy and he was the dagger at the throat of Islam in the Roman Lake. It was the end of the era of the galley as the new galleon of Spain and England would take over the seas. But these two would slug it out for years in the old standby galley. Andrea Doria, the Genoese Admiral for Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Khair ed-Din, the Dey of Algiers and Kapitan Pasha for Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire would write an end to the reign of the galley in a long series of bloody, brilliant, and historic battles.
It all began in Morea, the old Peloponnese, when Doria took Patras in NW Greece and Khair took it right back again in 1533. Patras was completely destroyed by the Turks during the Greek War of Independence three hundred years later, but it got off light this time. Not so for other coastal fortified ports. The War At Sea was on. When Suleiman I decided to take over the Mediterranean, he looked around for an Admiral. He had plenty of Generals, but the men running his fleet left a lot to be desired. He finally settled on one Khair ed-Din, a masterful pirate who had a personal navy of 35 galleots (single masted galleys) engaged in raiding from his base in Algiers. It was a stroke of luck or genius, as Khair--better known as Barbarossa--turned out to be one of the all time best Admiral of galleys in history. Not only that, he had been doing the stuff of legends since he took over the small fleet in 1518. Records are sparce, but he was certainly the leading supplier of white slaves for the North African coast and the way he got them made Suleiman's eyes water. Barbarossa dearly loved to go into coastal towns and spend days raping, plundering and casually killing Christians. The lightly armed trading vessels he ran across were brought to port awash in blood. The Sultan thought he was a fine fellow. Barbarossa was called to Turkey by the Sultan to refit, reorganize and take charge of his navy in 1533, which he did. After some time doing that *and* god only knows what in the palace with literally thousands of women at his disposal, he took the main fleet out on a shake down cruise.
The first place of substance he shook down was Tunis. In 1534, he kicked out the local ruler, one Mulai-Hassan, and settled back to enjoy the local entertainment. Hassan hied himself off to Europe and got the ear of Charles V. Charles took a liking to him as it seems that when Hassan took over Tunis, he had 44 of his 45 brothers and half brothers strangled. (they never located the other one.) He also kept two harems, one of some 400 young boys and another of about an equal amount of women. Charles was so fond of him that he personally lead 30,000 troops and a fleet of perhaps 400 ships against Barbarossa at Tunis in the summer of 1535. Andrea Doria, the other truly great galley admiral, held off the Muslim fleet while Charles took the city, reinstated Hassan, and made Tunis a Spanish protectorate (1535-1574).
Charles V was by all accounts a vile man, but in Tunis he turned the troops loose to massacre, rape and plunder on a scale rarely seen in Christian Europe. It made the sacking of Rome in 1527 look like a Boy Scout Jamboree. Suleiman no doubt nodded his head in respect when he heard the account. Oh, well, fun is where you find it. In early spring of 1536, His Most Catholic Majesty Francis I allied with Suleiman to the extreme outrage and horror of Christian Europe. This didn't mean much to Suleiman, but it was a big deal to Barbarossa as we shall see. After getting his fleet back in shape in Algiers, he headed for the Spanish Balearic Islands and literally devastated Minorca, the central island and then headed back to Istanbul for new orders. By this time, Suleiman was mad at Venice so he had Barbarossa make the rounds of Venician islands and ports to see what havoc he could wrought. It was quite a bit. While he was doing that, Suleiman sent an army to the Albanian coast opposite Corfu, a prime island fortress near the heel of Italy while his fleet blockaded its supply from the sea. But Doria came to its rescue with a larger fleet and the Turks withdrew in September, 1537. Left to his own devices, Barbarossa raided his way around the coast of Italy in the company of a few French ships and officers. He finally stopped at Toulon with their blessing and spent the winter on the French Riviera.
Now *that* is what allies are for. As might be imagined, the Riviera was a bit worse for wear when the fleet left. Barbarossa spent 1538 simply ravaging Venician ports, sending thousands of slaves back to Turkey and more thousands of Christians to meet their god. He did a good job of it. Venice finally sued for peace and gave up to the Ottoman Empire all of the places it had occupied and was left with Corfu, Zante, Crete, and Cyprus. From 1539 to 1544, the Mediterranean was largely a Muslim sea. Christians seemed safe only when under the direct protection of Andrea Doria. Now this did not set well with Charles V. On October 20,1541, Charles landed east of Algiers with 21,000 men and the cover of Doria at sea....just in time for one hell of a storm to hit the area. The fleet was a mass of wreckage. The Islamic forces attacked his landing site while the storm still raged. Charles managed to cripple back to europe with only 14,000 men and a ruined fleet on the 27th. Doria took the fleet back to Geona and Charles turned his attention to matters closer to the throne. With the coast clear, so to speak, Barbarossa took a French fleet along with him and raided Catalonia and sacked Nice.
Then took another winter vacation on the coast of Provence. But Francis pulled the rug out from under him when he unexpectedly signed a peace tready. Barbarossa went back to Istanbul and later died in 1546...it had been a good life for the old Muslim Admiral. None have been his match to this day. Doria and the Turks sparred back and forth for several more years. The new admiral, Torghoud, gained ground in North Africa and Doria made them pay dearly elsewhere. It seemed the largely inconclusive battles had to be leading up to something. They were. Malta. 1565.
The second *rock* of the Mediterranean. During this period of the 1540's, Nostradamus left Agen and wound up in Marseille in 1544. More or less the same time Barbarossa was also in the area. Nosty was no doubt concerned with the plague, but he had to be aware of the Islamic admiral just a few miles away. We can only speculate on the tales he heard, but the Moslem pirate from Algiers had to be a topic of conversation. Barbarossa was a large man for the day with an impressive 'Red Beard' as he was called by the Italians, and his exploits would have been blown up even larger. The sudden peace signed by Francis left the area more peaceful than before and Doria was standing to in Genoa. It is probably just an accident of time and place, but after returning to Salon and getting married, Nosty traveled down to Venice and Genoa in 1548 and seems to have gone to Milan and possibly Florence. I am not at all sure that he would have done this two year walk-about if the fleet of Barbarossa would have still been active. It is even more curious that the trip seemed to be tour of war centers as well as centers of art and literature. I know that many believe that he was well versed in the classics, and I feel that he was indeed familar with them; but it is just human nature that the tales he heard with his own ears and the sights he saw with his own eyes weighed more heavily when he chose the words to describe what he saw of the future. Francis I ran right back to northern Italy as soon as he got his standing army organized. He was dead set on getting Milan. What a guy.
But the forces of Charles V bogged down his foray. Charles attacked him twice, once via Provence and again via Picardy. The whole affair was just a mess and both sides finally decided to take some time off and signed the Peace of Nice. Francis had wasted a lot of men, material, and money and only had a foothold in Italy. There was some flurries back and forth, but not much changed on the ground during 1536-1543. Francis never set foot in Milan again. On April 14, 1544, imperial forces under the Spanish Marques del Vasto met the French army south of Turin. Francis of Bourbon (Prince of Enghien) had about 4,000 Swiss pikemen/infantry, 7,000 French infantry with some hand cannons, 2,000 Italian infantry of dubious skill and the usual 1,500 French (and some Italian) heavy and light cavalry. Vasto had 7,000 German pikemen, 6,000 Italian infantry of more or less the same skill level as those of those of the Prince, 5,000 Spanish infantry skilled with the use and tactics of hand cannons, and about 1,000 mixed cavalry. Neither side had much artillery at all, perhaps 3-4 dozen guns all told.
One thing I haven't mentioned...these different groups of mercenaries stayed together as units. Thus when the battle began, Vasto's German pikemen fought the Swiss pikemen supported by the French cavalry and the French infantry fought the balance of the Spanish forces while the Italians on both sides more or less mixed it up. For several hours, they fought hand to hand with the arquebus troops standing back and picking off pikemen and horsemen in the melee. Finally, in a brilliant move, the Prince pulled his cavalry out of the main battle, swung around to the flank of Vasto and carried the day with his knights leading the light cavalry through the rear of the infantry. Vasto left the field leaving some 6,000 dead and over 3,000 prisoners. The French lost about 2,000. Once again, it was proven that cavalry could no longer best infantry supported by adequate hand cannon in a straight battle. Only by his flanking attack was the Prince able to disorganize and demoralize the men on foot. Back in Paris, Francis was pleased for a week or two but then Charles invaded eastern France in May.
Charles got delayed a bit at St.Dizier by a stout defense and Francis was able to call back some men from Italy to Harry Charles while the regular army set up to defend Paris. Henry VIII had allied himself with Charles V and decided to invade France as well. In July he entered France via Calais with an army of 40,000 English bowmen mixed with a variety of mercenaries, mostly German. Henry really wasn't all that eager for a fight, though, so he laid siege to Boulogne and they finally let him in on September 15, 1544. This seemed like a pretty good spot to stay, so he did. This did *not* sit well with Charles. He thought Henry was going to help him take Paris, not just lounge around seeing the sights of Boulogne and Calais. Disgusted, Charles signed the Peace of Crepy with Francis and went home. This suprised Henry no end, so he went home as well. Geez, what a boring war. Henry wasn't stupid, though. He left a hefty fighting force in Boulogne and Calais, so when Francis sent some men up there in October, they were driven out of the area by the English. For two more years, they fought along both coasts and in the Calais area, but to no avail. Finally Francis signed a tready with Henry giving him the area he was holding. Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547.
Francis I died on March 31 of the same year. Both were unpleasant men even by the standards of their day and they each caused a tremendous amount of grief and loss of life during their rule. But it wasn't over...the last Valois-Hapsburg War was about to begin. During this time, several things were going on that would have a lasting effect. One worthy of note was the events caused by Pope Paul III. (Cardinal Alessandro Farnese) The following is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia: "When the Treaty of Crespi (18 Sept., 1544) ended the disastrous wars between Charles and Francis, Paul energetically took up the project of convening a general council. Meanwhile it developed that the emperor had formed a programme of his own, quite at variance in some important points with the pope's. Since the Protestants repudiated a council presided over by the Roman pontiff, Charles was resolved to reduce the princes to obedience by force of arms. To this Paul did not object, and promised to aid him with three hundred thousand ducats and twenty thousand infantry; but he wisely added the proviso, that Charles should enter into no separate treaties with the heretics and make no agreement prejudicial to the Faith or to the rights of the Holy See. Charles now contended that the council should be prorogued, until victory had decided in favour of the Catholics. Furthermore, foreseeing that the struggle with the preachers of heresy would be more stubborn than the conflict with the princes, he urged the pontiff to avoid making dogmas of faith for the present and confine the labours of the council to the enforcement of discipline. To neither of these proposals could the pope agree. Finally, after endless difficulties (13 Dec., 1545) the Council of Trent held its first session.
In seven sessions, the last 3 March, 1547, the Fathers intrepidly faced the most important questions of faith and discipline. Without listening to the threats and expostulations of the imperial party, they formulated for all time the Catholic doctrine on the Scriptures, original sin, justification, and the Sacraments. The work of the council was half ended, when the outbreak of the plague in Trent caused an adjournment to Bologna. Pope Paul was not the instigator of the removal of the council; he simply acquiesced in the decision of the Fathers. Fifteen prelates, devoted to the emperor, refused to leave Trent. Charles demanded the return of the council to German territory, but the deliberations of the council continued in Bologna, until finally, 21 April, the pope, in order to avert a schism, prorogued the council indefinitely.
The wisdom of the council's energetic action, in establishing thus early the fundamental truths of the Catholic creed, became soon evident, when the emperor and his semi-Protestant advisers inflicted upon Germany their Interim religion, which was despised by both parties. Pope Paul, who had given the emperor essential aid in the Smalcaldic war, resented his dabbling in theology, and their estrangement continued until the death of the pontiff. Paul's end came rather suddenly. After the assassination of Pier Luigi, he had struggled to retain Piacenza and Parma for the Church and had deprived Ottavio, Pier Luigi's son and Charles's son-in-law, of these duchies. Ottavio, relying on the emperor's benevolence, refused obedience; it broke the old man's heart, when he learned that his favourite grandson, Cardinal Farnese, was a party to the transaction. He fell into a violent fever and died at the Quirinal, at the age of eighty-two. He lies buried in St. Peter's in the tomb designed by Michelangelo and erected by Guglielmo della Porta. Not all the popes repose in monuments corresponding to their importance in the history of the Church; but few will be disposed to contest the right of Farnese to rest directly under Peter's chair. He had his faults; but they injured no one but himself.
The fifteen years of his pontificate saw the complete restoration of Catholic faith and piety. He was succeeded by many saintly pontiffs, but not one of them possessed all his commanding virtues. In Rome his name is written all over the city he renovated. The Pauline chapel, Michelangelo's work in the Sistine, the streets of Rome, which he straightened and broadened, the numerous objects of art associated with the name of Farnese, all speak eloquently of the remarkable personality of the pontiff who turned the tide in favour of religion. If to this we add the favour accorded by Paul to the new religious orders then appearing, the Capuchins, Barnabites, Theatines, Jesuits, Ursulines, and many others, we are forced to confess that his reign was one of the most fruitful in the annals of the Church." More on the Council of Trent at:
Suleiman I had removed the thorn in the side of Islam when he took Rhodes as a young man. Now almost 70, he turned his thoughts to the knife at the throat of Islam: Malta. Those pesky Knights were using the second rock of the Mediterranean Sea to pillage and harass Islamic shipping with more vigor than they had from Rhodes. But they had finally gone too far. The Provencal Mathurin d'Aux de Lescaut Romegas, a French Knight of Malta, had inadvertently captured a Turkish ship in the Ionian islands, near Corfu and took it back to Malta. Oops. It belonged to the harem's chief eunuch, one Kustir-Aga and was financed by the Sultan's daughter, Mihrmah, and just a whole gaggle of concubines. Not good news for Suleiman. His financial advisors and military leaders had been after him for decades to take care of Malta, but it was the wrath of the women that made up his mind. (those married men reading this can nod their heads) Suleiman watched the fleet leave in April of 1565. The main body was thirty galliots with another 150 galleys.
They carried 40,000 fighting men and a large number of support people. Included were 6,000 Janissaries and 4,000 Layers, an elite corp of Janissaries known for their religious zeal. Mustapha Pasha was in charge of the troops and Piale was in command of the fleet. Another 20,000 troops were to be sent later as reinforcements along with the ships from Alexandria and Algiers. This was to take a fortress defended by some 700 knights, of which a quarter were old, veterans of Rhodes, four decades previously... The Knights of Malta had about 13,000 other troops and perhaps ten thousand supporters within the various fortifications, all under the command of Jean Parisot de la Valette, now over seventy years old.
When the Islamic fleet was sighted on May 18, Valette decided to allow the fleet to land troops unopposed and make his stand within the many forts around the port. Seeing the fleet hove to off the southeastern coast at Marasirocco, he sent a small force of knights to the fort of St. Elmo, between the landing beachhead and the main harbor. The fort of St. Elmo was commanded by the Italian knight, Luigi Broglia, with the Spanish knight Don Juan de Guaras his second. The French knight Pierre de Massuez Vercoyran joined them, along with 64 knights from St. Angelo who had volunteered for the post. Pasha landed thousands of troops and began the battle with an artillery assault. Their main guns were one that fired a 160lb ball, ten that fired 80 pounders, and two 60 pounders. They had three dozen more of lesser size. They began firing on May 24. One of the knights who died in the barrage noted in his diary that between six and seven thousand rounds were fired at the fort each day. Dubious numbers, but no doubt there were a lot of cannon balls in the air every day. On June 3, the Turks attacked in force. (wonder if they knew when the feast day for St. Elmo was?)
The knights fought back with Greek Fire (appropiate) and other weapons, but the Janassaries managed to get a foothold in the outworks. As the days dragged on, the Turks were unable to advance any closer. Thousands of followers of Islam lay dead about the fort. Strangely enough, at night, a few boats brought more knights, food and weapons to the fort without challenge. On June 16, the Layers, high on hashish, with their mullahs and imams swarmed across the narrow moat and up the walls. The knights met them with boiling oil and arquebus, stones and spears. It was a slaughter. The dead formed a long slope down from the walls when the day was done. On June 19, the Spanish knight Captain de Miranda sent a message to Valletta: "Every new reinforcement sent into the fort is lost; it is cruelty to send any more men to die here." The fort of St. Elmo fell on June 23. There were no survivors.
The Turks impaled the heads of Miranda, the French Massuez and Spanish de Guaras on pikes and placed them where they could be seen across the bay. Their bodies were nailed to crosses and floated to the main fort. Valletta went mad. All Turkish prisoners were killed and their heads fired from cannon at Pasha's army. Pasha ordered all of the hearts torn from the bodies of the knights and had them thrown into the sea. Folks, these Knights and Turks fought some interesting wars, unlike the French, English, et al. Piale brought his fleet into the bay of Marsamuscetto now that the fort was in Islamic hands. In safe harbor, with control of a beachhead, the Turks planned their next move. But they had lost their wisest warror in the battle, the 80 year old Dragut, the Greek pirate, and their plans suffered. Still, the forts of St Angelo and St. Michael were next on their list and attack they did.
"Valletta was the brainchild of Grand Master Jean de la Valette. When the knights agreed, although reluctantly, to make Malta their headquarters, de la Valette quickly realized that they needed a defensible city to protect the island against the Turkish hordes that had driven them out of Rhodes and had followed them all the way to Malta. At the Grand Master's request, the Pope sent his own architect and Michelangelo's assistant, Francesco Laparelli, to Malta to help with the building of Valletta. Arriving in Malta on December 28th, 1565, he had the plans for the city drawn within three days. On March 28th, the new city was officially born. The inauguration ceremony was held on the site of the Porta Reale (the site of the entrance gates to Valletta) and the city was christened Valletta after the Grand Master. The bastions surrounding the city are impressive indeed but were never tested. Perhaps the Turkish generals realized that they were no match against the fortified city. The Grand Harbour is virtually lined with a string of bastions. Fort Sant' Elmo and Fort Ricasoli (the largest fort in the Commonwealth) protect the entrance to the harbour.
Fort St. Angelo and the walls of Birgu and Senglea across the harbour shield its flank. The Grand Master died before the city was finished. Towards the end of 1568, the Maltese architect and engineer, Gerolamo Cassar, took charge of the building of the city when Laparelli left for active service in Crete, where he died. Cassar and Laparelli laid out the street plan for the city. The first building that went up in the city is the Church of Our Lady of Victory, which commemorates the lifting of the Great Siege. Cassar designed all the auberges, the Magisterial Palace, the Conventual Church of St. John, the parish church of St. Paul, the churches of St. Mary of Porto Salvo, Carmine, St. Augustine and St. Mary of Jesus, and numerous other buildings and houses for the members of the order. Cassar died in 1586." On July 15, 1565, the Islamic forces of Suleiman I under the command of Pasha attacked the fort of St. Michael on the second rock of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta.
The Dey of Algeria, Hassem, the son-in-law of Dragut, led the Algerian warriors. Three boatloads of chanting imams were in the first wave. At the same time, ten boatloads full of Janissaries headed for Fort St. Angelo. The Knights of Malta opened fire on the boats as soon as they came into range. Those headed for St. Michael only lost a few boats and immediately attacked. They were met with boiling oil, stones, spears and hand cannon fire. Unable to breach or scale the walls, the Algerians withdrew. Close by, the cannons of St. Angelo sank nine of the ten boatloads of Janissaries. The last boat returned to their base at Fort St. Elmo. Some three thousand met Allah on that day including hundreds of Christian galley slaves who went down with their ships, chained to the oarlocks. Mustapha Pasha was furious. He decided to take personal charge of the St. Michael battle and put Piale in command of the St. Angelo forces. Candelissa, the deputy of Hassem, took over naval operations. All of the cannon were brought to bear on the two forts and they averaged a thousand rounds a day for nine weeks. Inbetween barrages, the Turks attacked again and again.
On the 18th of August, they breached a wall in a separate fortification held by the Spanish Knights Of Malta, and raised the banner of the Sultan. Towards the end of six hours of hand to hand fighting, the Grand Master himself joined the beleaguered knights. In full armor, weilding a pike, he led a counterattack. The Islamic troops were demoralized by the vigor of the rallied knights and fell back. Though injured in one leg, he would not leave the battle "so long as those banners still wave in the wind", pointing to the star and crescent flags. But the battle was over. Meanwhile, the Viceroy of Sicily, Don Garcia had dispached a fleet containing some eight thousand fighting men and perhaps half that in support troops to relieve the Knights of Malta. On September 6, they began an unopposed landing on the north of the island.
It was the end of hope for Pasha. He decided to have one last try for appearances sake. On the next day, he attacked a small group at St. Paul's Bay, where the apostle, shipwrecked, had actually strode upon the sand they fought on. And fought they did. This was a battle against sacrilege. The locals, the Knights and soldiers converged upon the spot. Hours passed of hand to hand battle of scimitar vs sword. Finally the Turks retreated. By the end of September 8, 1565, Piale had all of Pasha's remaining troops aboard and they headed back to the unpleasant job of telling Suleiman that they had failed. And failed they did. Between 24,000 and 30,000 Soldiers of Islam were left dead and dying. All of the artillery was left. Much of their camp supplies were left. Their pride was left. Five thousand soldiers were killed, five thousand islanders were killed. Three thousand injured men, women and children clogged the buildings when Garcia's men reached the fortifications.
Half of the Knights of Malta were dead or gravely wounded...but Malta had held. The tide had turned. The city of Valetta was built on the ruins of the Fort of Saint Elmo. Some 1,000 of Suleiman's men died for each Knight killed.
Some scholars think Malta has been inhabited for at least 7,000 years, others think it may be as much as 8,000. Hard to tell. It is a puzzle as to how the people got there, how they built the stone structures and so on. The cart ruts are very intreguing and a discussion of them is at:
Suleiman I died on September 7, 1566.
In 1560, the Guises were the self-proclaimed leaders of the Catholic militants and the two princes of the house of Bourbon the leaders of the militant Protestants, more or less by default. King Francis II was the foil of the Guises while the queen-mother seemed to actually enjoy playing one against the other, while leaning on the side of the Guises. That year, the meeting of the states-general had been transferred from Meaux to Orleans for a variety of reasons, but the Guises saw it as their best chance to trap the King of Navarre and the Prince of Conde. On August 30 of that year, Francis wrote to the brothers and said that they should attend the meeting and ..."being able to assure you that whereinsoever he refuses to obey me I shall know perfectly well how to make it felt that I am king." Well! This direct order left the King of Navarre and the Prince of Conde with only the choices of going into obvious danger or starting a war. There was little choice.
They were simply too poor to raise, arm and support a major war. In fact the mother-in-law of the Prince had just morgaged her castle in Germany to the constable De Montmorency for a thousand gold crowns, something that would have an unexpected benefit later on. The decision was made: the rams would enter the lions den. On October 30, the pair and their entourage reached Orleans. The duke of Aumale, Francis de Lorraine, recorded the event in great detail: "Not one of the crown's officers came to receive the princes; no honor was paid them; the streets were deserted, silent, and occupied by a military guard." "The King awaited the princes in his chamber; behind him were ranged the Guises and the principal lords; not a word, not a salutation on their part. After this freezing reception, Francis II conducted the two brothers to his mother, who received them, ... 'with crocodile's tears.'" When the Prince of Conte referred to the King's word of honor "the king, interrupting him, made a sign; and the two captains of the guard, Breze, and Chavigny [familar name?] entered and took the prince's sword."
Lewis de Conte was imprisoned in a house nearby and his brother was led off to an apartment and placed under constant supervision. Events moved rapidly from there. A quick trial, and the Prince of Conte was sentenced to death on the 26th of November, 1560, with the deed to be done on the 10th of December. The Duke of Guise's mother-in-law had arrived and had a prophecy for him: "You have just opened a wound which will bleed a long while; they who have dared to attack persons of the blood royal have always found it a bad job." How true. But the Guises paid no heed. In fact they cooked up a scheme to have Francis (?) kill one himself. The plot was for the king to send for Anthony de Bourbon, the King of Navarre, meet him, and stab him in the heart with a dagger. Catherine de Medici didn't like the smell of it and sent the duchess of Montpensier, Jacqueline de Longwy, to warn Navarre. All of this is very plainly recorded, but what happened next is not. Either the two kings met and nothing happened or Navarre declined the invite.
Another event muddied the accounts somewhat. On November 17, 1560, Francis was mounting a horse to go for a hunt and fell off in a faint. He fainted again on the 29th and later died on the 5th of December, probably from an ear abscess. He died in the arms of his wife, Mary Stuart and attended by Admiral de Coligny. Things quickly changed. Charles IX became King Of France at the tender age of ten. Catherine was still the queen-mother and made a pact with Anthony. Shortly afterward, the states-general recognized her as guardian, without the title of regent and named Anthony Lieutenant-General of France to assist her. She also had a slush fund of 300,000 francs a year... Meanwhile, the Guises were out in the cold trying to figure out how to get hot again. Catherine sent word to the Conde that he was free, and after some wool- gathering, he took her up on it.
Over the next few months, everything went his way and finally on the 24th of August, 1561 at Saint Germain he met with the King, Catherine, assorted royality, the kings court *and* the Duke of Guise. The Duke reportedly said "that he had not, and would never have desired to, put forward anything against the prince's honor, and that he had been neither the author nor the instigator of his imprisonment." Then they hugged and did that French kissy-face thing. Good thing too. Outside, the son of the Constable de Montmorency had just arrived with a *large* group of armed men. It seems the Constable had arranged all of this and his son, Marshal Francis de Montmorency, was going to make damned sure it happened. However, before the night was over, the Constable joined ranks with the Duke of Guise and Marshal de Saint Andre. Marshal Francis got together with the Bourbons. Catherine was faced with the two groups that would cause her and France pain and anguish for years to come.
Nostradamus died on July 2, 1566. He probably never heard of the defense of Malta. I do think he heard of Rhodes and of the movement of the Knights to Malta where they continued to harass Suleiman's pirates. It would have been as much a topic of conversation for the tradesmen and travelers as the activities of the pirates.
Remembering the work of Ted Johnson by Mario Gregorio