The Mad War (La Guerre folle in French), also known as the War of the Public Weal, was a late Medieval conflict between a coalition of feudal lords and the French monarchy. It occurred during the regency of Anne of Beaujeu in the period after the death of Louis XI and before the majority of the young king Charles VIII. The war began in 1485 and ended in 1488.
The principal lords involved were Louis II of Orléans, the cousin of the king (and future Louis XII of France); Francis II of Brittany; René II, Duke of Lorraine; Alain d'Albret; Jean de Châlon, Prince of Orange; Count Charles of Angoulême. Other leading lords supported the revolt, among them Jean de Lescun, "the Bastard of Armagnac", Philippe de Commines and governor of Guyenne and Commines.
As a revolt against French royal authority it was supported by the foreign enemies of the King of France: England, Spain and Austria. Its principal outcome was the absorption of Brittany into the French kingdom.
Name and extent
The derogatory expression "mad war" to designate this struggle of major feudal lords against royal power was coined by Paul Emile, in his Histoire des faicts, gestes et conquestes des roys de France published in 1581.
There is some dispute about the extent to which the events can be defined as a single war. It followed a long succession of conflicts between royalty and the great lords of the kingdom in the second half of the 15th century, following the foundation of the League of the Public Weal. As part of these power struggles, in 1484-1485, Louis II of Orléans, supported by Francis II of Brittany and a certain number of lords, attempted to depose the regent, Anne de Beaujeu. Mostly by a mixture of diplomacy and shows of force, Anne succeeded in breaking the revolt without a major battle. On November 2, 1485, the peace of Bourges suspended the hostilities.
According to some historians, this ended the first phase of the "Mad War". The second phase of the conflict, from June 1486 to November 1488, is sometimes called the War of Brittany. Other commentators, mainly Breton nationalists, distinguish this second phase from the first, making it into a Franco-Breton war, or even a Breton war of independence, sometimes by connecting it to the earlier Breton War of Succession.
At the beginning of the reign of Charles VIII, Louis II of Orléans tried to seize the regency, but was rejected by the States General of Tours (January 15 to March 11, 1484). In April, Louis of Orléans left for Brittany to join its Duke, Francis. He also sent a request to the pope to annul his marriage, so that he would be free to marry Anne of Brittany, Francis's heir. On November 23 he signed a treaty which envisaged his marriage with Anne. Returning to the royal court, Louis of Orléans tried to take the king into his custody, but Anne de Beaujeu prevented him by force. She stopped some lords of the royal guard, and placed the Duke of Orléans under house arrest at Gien.
Having escaped from Gien, on January 17, 1485, Louis tried to invest Paris, but failed. He managed to escape on February 3 to Alençon, and made amende honorable on March 12. Royal troops placed around Évreux prevented him from joining Brittany, and he was locked up in Orléans. At the same time, the roused Breton nobility was brought back to order by the royal troops.
On August 30, Louis of Orléans launched a proclamation against the regency. The royal army went to Orléans, but Louis escaped to Beaugency, from where he was dislodged by the young Louis II de La Trémoille in September. On August 9, Francis II of Brittany also agreed to a truce. The truce was agreed for one year, and is known as the Peace of Bourges, signed on November 2, 1485.
With the end of the truce, the rebellion again erupted. Already in June 1486, Maximilian I of Austria had invaded the north of France, but then retreated; in November, the rebel François de Dunois seized the castle of Parthenay. On January 11, 1487, Louis of Orléans escaped from the castle of Blois and, pursued by royal archers, took refuge again in Brittany. The royal army left from Tour at the beginning of February and began its offensive in the south-west. At Bordeaux on March 7 Odet d’Aydie, the pro-rebel governor of Guyenne, was deposed and replaced by Pierre de Beaujeu. As the royal army suppressed the rebels in Guyenne, Count Charles d'Angoulême surrendered on March 19, 1487 and later married Louise of Savoy. The royal army set out from Bordeaux on the 15th, to take Parthenay on the 30th, Dunois managing to join Louis of Orléans in Nantes. The royal army then proceeded towards Brittany. With the Treaty of Chateaubriant, most of the Breton nobility came to an accommodation with the king. Royal forces agreed that the Duke would not be threatened by the army, which would leave Brittany as soon as the two rebels (Orléans and Dunois) were captured.
Meanwhile in the north, the Marshal de Esquerdes successfully pushed back Maximilian I of Austria, who had shortly before been elected Holy Roman Emperor. In the south, the Lord de Candale beat Alain d'Albret, a leading rebel, at the Battle of Nontron. d'Albret had intended to join the rebels in the North, but was forced to give up hostages. In Brittany, the allies of the royal party directed by the Viscount de Rohan held the north of the duchy, and took Ploërmel.
In April, Duke Francis II's attempt to mobilize Breton military forces (nobility and urban militia) failed due to widespread resentment of the corruption of his government. At the same time, the royal army advanced into Brittany. It was accommodated favorably in Châteaubriant, Vitré, Ancenis and Clisson. It besieged Nantes, but Cornish allies of Brittany helped by foreign mercenaries, broke the siege. At the same time, Norman corsairs blockaded the Breton coast to stop further pro-Breton forces arriving from Britain and elsewhere.
On January 20, 1488, the Dukes of Orléans and Brittany were both declared rebels at the Parlement of Paris. They and their associates were no longer regarded as vassals, but rather as subjects, and thus guilty of lèse-majesté. In the spring, the Duke of Orléans renewed the struggle for his ally, taking Vannes, Auray and Ploërmel, and forcing the Viscount of Rohan to capitulate.
On April 24, a judgment of confiscation was declared against all the goods of Louis of Orléans. Meanwhile, Alain d'Albret had obtained a subsidy from the court of Spain, and thereupon joined the Duke of Brittany with 5000 men. Maximilian I of Austria also sent 1500 men to him. The English leader Lord Scales also successfully landed with reinforcements. Despite this concentration of forces the Breton alliance was still outnumbered. It was further weakened because Maximilian I was diverted by a rebellion in Flanders, which was being supported by Marshal de Esquerdes. The various lords supporting the Duke of Brittany were also in dispute with each other for the hand of Anne of Brittany: Louis of Orléans, Alain d'Albret and Maximilian I all being candidates.
The French royal general Louis II de la Trémoille gathered his forces on the border of the duchy, preparing to attack. On July 12, royal forces captured Fougères, then Dinan. Soon, the main Breton and French armies met at the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier on July 28, 1488. The Breton forces, led by Marshal de Rieux, were decisively beaten by the French. The defeat put an end to the war. The Duke of Orléans was captured and Duke Francis II was forced to accept a treaty which greatly diminished his power.
Francis II died on September 9. Anne of Brittany became duchess in January of the following year. An amnesty was granted to Lescun, Dunois, and the majority of the combatants. Louis of Orléans was locked up in a fortress, but eventually pardoned by Charles VIII when he reached his majority three years later. Louis later succeeded Charles as king and married Anne.
- Didier Fur. Anne of Brittany. Bookshop Guénégaud Edition: Paris, 2000.
- Beck, Sanderson. "France in the Renaissance 1453-1517". Retrieved 2010.