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Louis XI

Louis XI. was born in 1423, and succeeded his father, Charles VII., in 1461. While Dauphin he strongly opposed the influence of Agnes Sorel (q.v.), and lived the life of a practically independent prince in Dauphine. His reign is divisible into two periods, the one preceding and the other following the year 1472. The first period saw a struggle against the great vassals, calling themselves the League of the Public Weal, aided by Charles the Bold of Burgundy, who set up against Louis his brother Charles. By the Treaty of Conflans in 1465 Louis was obliged to give up Normandy to the latter, and to restore to Burgundy certain towns on the river Somme. He recovered Normandy soon after; but in 1468, having placed himself in the power of Charles the Bold at Peronne, was only released on condition of ceding Champagne to his brother and of putting down in person the rebel Liegeois, whom he had incited to revolt against Burgundy. He was saved from further humiliation by the death of his brother, between whom and the daughter of Charles the Bold a marriage had been projected by the enemies of Louis. The French king from henceforth took the offensive, stirred up the Emperor and the Swiss against Burgundy, and on the death of Charles the Bold seized his daughter Mary's dominions. An indecisive war ended with the adding of Burgundy and Artois to the French crown by the marriage of the Dauphin with Margaret, daughter of Mary. Roussillon was also acquired by Louis from Aragon; and Edward IV. of England was bought off in 1475 by a pension and the empty title of King of France. Louis XI. died in 1483. The three chief aspects of his character - his cunning, his superstition, and his bonhomie - are well depicted in Scott's Quentin Burward and in Banville's Gringoire.