BAYARD HOLDS THE BRIDGE ALONE
 NAPLES was now in the hands of Louis and Ferdinand, and
before long the two kings
began to quarrel over the division of the kingdom. As
Ferdinand had never meant to
share it with Louis, war soon broke out between France
A battle was fought on the banks of the river
Garigliano where the French were
defeated, and, but for the bravery of Bayard, would
have been utterly destroyed.
Here is the brave knight's story.
Hour after hour the Spanish troops had tried to cross a
bridge over the river
Garigliano, which was gallantly defended by the French.
But all their efforts were
One of the Spanish captains then made up his mind, that
if he could not take the
bridge by force he would take it by a trick.
Ordering his men to withdraw from the river, he, with
about a hundred horsemen,
succeeded in crossing the Garigliano by a ford. Then,
stealing into the French camp,
the Spanish captain and his men raised a great shout.
The French heard the enemy in their camp, and, thinking
that the Spaniards no longer
meant to attempt to take the bridge, they forsook their
post by the river, and
rushed to the camp, thinking to save it from the
Only the good knight Bayard, with a soldier named La
Basque, glanced across the
bridge, and there in the distance was a body of about
two hundred Spanish soldiers,
riding gaily toward the river. It would be easy, they
 thought, to take the
bridge, now that the French had gone to defend their
camp. Bayard saw what the
Spanish soldiers meant to do, and, turning to La
Basque, he said, "Go quickly and
seek some of our men to guard the bridge, or we are all
ruined. I will endeavour to
hold the bridge until you come back, but make haste."
So La Basque, leaving Bayard alone, galloped off to
bring the French soldiers back
to the bridge.
Then the knight grasped his spear, and rode quickly to
the end of the bridge, to
which the Spaniards had already drawn near.
"Like a furious lion he charged the troop which was in
the very act of crossing, so
that three or four staggered, whereof two fell into the
water and never rose more,
the stream being large and deep. That done, much work
was cut out for him, he being
so fiercely assaulted, that without exceeding good
horsemanship he could not have
"But, like a chafed tiger, he threw himself against the
rail of the bridge, that the
enemy might not get behind him, and defended himself so
well with the sword, that
the Spaniards were confounded and thought that he must
be a fiend, not a man."
In this way Bayard by himself actually held the bridge
until La Basque returned with
a troop of soldiers, who forced the enemy from the
bridge, and chased them for more
than a mile.
From this chase Bayard, as you will easily believe, was
the last to turn back. He
was weary now and rode but slowly, whereupon twenty or
thirty Spanish soldiers,
seeing his condition, hastened back and surrounded the
knight, crying, "Surrender!
surrender!" There being nothing else to do, Bayard
The French soldiers, riding quickly back to the bridge,
did not at first notice that
Bayard had been left behind. No sooner, however, did
they miss him than, without a
moment's delay, they turned, and set out in pursuit of
 enemy, who were
carrying off their good knight, "the flower and
perfection of all gentility."
Soon, so fiercely did they ride, they overtook the
Spaniards. Shouting, "France,
France! Turn, Spaniards, turn! you shall not thus carry
off the flower of
knighthood," they fell upon the Spanish troop and threw
many of them to the ground.
Bayard was still fully armed and needed only a steed,
his own being exhausted.
Seeing La Basque had dismounted, the knight was quickly
astride his horse, saying,
"France, France! Bayard, Bayard, whom you have let go!"Now the Spanish soldiers who
had captured Bayard had not known that their prisoner
was the noble knight without
fear and without reproach. His name struck terror to
their hearts, and those who
were still mounted put spurs to their horses and
"The French," says the servitor who wrote the good
knight's life, "returned in high
glee to their camp, where for a full week they never
ceased talking of their fine
adventure, in particular of the prowess of the good
So far King Louis had gained little from his Italian
wars. In 1508, however, France,
Austria and Spain, the three great powers of Europe,
formed a league called the
League of Cambrai. The object of the league was to
crush the Venetians and plunder
their rich city. Venice was so rich and proud that she
was called the "Queen of the
Adriatic," the Adriatic being the sea on which she
The Pope, too, was on the side of the league, and to
help it to do its cruel work he
pronounced an interdict against the republic of Venice
and her inhabitants.
Louis was the first of the great powers to invade
Venice. In fifteen days he had
done all he had hoped to do, having in May 1509
defeated the Venetians with terrible
slaughter, near a village called Agnadello. After this
victory many towns opened
their gates to the French, and the proud Venetians were
left with little save Venice
 Spain soon followed France, and took her share of
the spoil, while Austria and
the Pope claimed some important cities which they had
Louis now went back to France, leaving troops to hold
the towns he had won. The
following year his great minister, George of Amboise,
died, and Louis missed his
wise guidance in the days to come.
Meanwhile, the League of Cambrai came to an end. The
Pope, having won from Venice
the towns he wished, was pleased again to become her
friend, and removed the
interdict which had helped to ruin her. He then joined
the Swiss, Ferdinand of
Spain, Venice, and Henry VIII. of England, in the Holy
League, the object of which
was to turn the French out of Italy.
Undaunted by the great powers now arrayed against him,
King Louis at once sent his
nephew Gaston de Foix, whom he dearly loved, to take
command of the French troops in
Led by this gallant prince, the French troops defeated
the soldiers of the Holy
League again and again, and at last won the great
battle of Ravenna, on Easter
At the moment of victory, however, Gaston de Foix,
seeing two companies of Spanish
soldiers marching off the battlefield in good order,
could not resist falling upon
them, with a mere handful of men, and he and his
followers were slain.
His soldiers loved their brave young captain, and when
they found that Gaston was
dead they sobbed aloud, caring little now for their
Louis, when he heard of his nephew's death, cried, "I
would fain have no longer an
inch of land in Italy, and be able at that price to
bring back to life my nephew
Gaston, and all the gallants who perished with him. God
keep us from often gaining
After the death of Gaston de Foix the French were
 defeated again and again,
until at length the Holy League had accomplished its
object and driven them out of
The Italian wars were for the time ended, but Louis was
now threatened with danger
nearer home; for in 1513 Henry VIII. of England invaded
France, landing at Calais
with twenty thousand men.
Louis gathered an army together, but in autumn he was
surprised by the English near
Guinegate. The French fled almost without striking a
blow, and because they used
their spurs more than their swords, this battle was
named the "Day of Spurs." Among
the prisoners was the valiant Bayard.
In the following year Louis's wife. Queen Anne, died,
and the king, weary of war,
made peace with Henry VIII.
But before the English king would sign a treaty of
peace, he made Louis promise to
marry his sister, Mary Tudor, a young and beautiful
King Louis was now fifty-two years old, and for years
he had lived a simple life,
eating plain food, and, when it was possible, going
early to bed. But after he
married the English princess, to please his young bride
he began to live more gaily,
to sit up late, to go to dances, banquets, tournaments.
His doctors warned the king that he was not strong
enough to enjoy such gaieties,
but he would not listen. Before he had been married to
Mary three months he took
ill, and died on New Year's Day 1515.
That was a cold and dreary New Year's Day in France.
The ringers wandered through
the streets of Paris, ringing their bells and crying
slow and sad, "The good King
Louis, Father of his People, is dead." And as they
listened to the words of the
bell-ringers, the people wept.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics