Arthur Chevalier – What France Can Learn from Charles V
LDoes France live up to its reputation? This country, where modesty is not a joke but a strategy, where treason is the proof of our independence, and which cultivates its loneliness without isolation, derives its strength from the satisfaction it derives from a provocation stronger than it. This country is the only country in Europe, with England, where the ideas of Machiavelli and Clausewitz have neither an outlet nor an echo. Is this singularity part of the collective dream? Nourished and stimulated by the masterpieces of literature, by official and serious historiography, by the never-deconstructed national novel?
With his new book The shattered dream of Charles V, Guillaume Frantzwa demonstrates that caring about others sometimes means caring about oneself. His brilliant reading of the reign of Charles V gives him the opportunity to speak of Francis Ier From the perspective of his best enemy, how is this book both a reflection and a mirror of genius? The disaster of Pavia By Jean Giono. The hero of the Habsburg dynasty is the last head of state who managed to rebuild the Western empire, or almost. This apparently meaningless phrase points to a fantasy full of charm, the continuity of the Roman world, rebuilt and brought together by the unity of Christians, and the symbol of the pope in all peace. The historian demonstrates to the forgetful that the ambition of Charles V, like all forms of imperialism, had only a peace-making cause, a method. The winner of Pavia tried everything to reunite Europe through diplomacy, betting on the well-understood interests of each state, with one motto: why go to war when you can make money? And, for the most part, it worked pretty well. With one exception: Francis Ier.
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The king of France, who was not chosen to lead the Holy Roman Empire, never allowed the Habsburgs to fulfill their destiny. After the Battle of Pavia, the kingdom would never be able to compete with the empire either militarily or economically. Cunning, lies, cancellation of alliances, sabotage were used to block Charles V’s imperial campaign. The turn of events is sometimes funny and very French. Francis I imprisoned in Madrider he promises to treat him, swears that he has nothing but admiration for his conqueror, begs and bows. The case succeeds: he is released. The border was barely crossed, let him know that he would have nothing on Charles V! Francis Ier he cheerfully perjured himself. And the debate continues with renewed vigor.
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The king of France himself believed in the unity of Christendom, but on the condition that he be its leader. Pride, honor, and dignity made him carry off his genius like a booty, unbearable, unpredictable, but determined. For the sake of independence and the glory of the kingdom, the king, as we know, more or less convincingly allied himself with Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and broke the Christian alliance. The conqueror of Marignan wanted to hear about the Pope, the Church, and even Catholicism, but he returned to what he had obtained from France under the monarchy, provided he did not sacrifice his opinion of himself. The vices of our provinces turn into virtues under the influence of history.
A born manager
Following the work of Didier Le Four, Guillaume Frantzwa evokes the barbarism and superstition of an era, the Renaissance, summed up in Italian painters, enchanted palaces and humanist writers. In 1534, for example, Dutch migrants of the Anabaptist faith bought the city of Münster, because they were convinced that it was one of the cities of the Apocalypse. This millennial utopia is therefore foolish, leading to beheadings and the establishment of polygamy. “Therefore, the capital of this kingdom of God’s New Age appears to the neighboring principalities as an infernal parody of the heavenly Jerusalem. It took over a year and a half to see a quiet return and the Anabaptists purged… And one wonders if there is a line between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
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Charles V Charles was a born ruler, calm, pragmatic, diplomatic, clearly capable of winning a war, but the manner in which he wielded power showed that they saw conflict as the opposite of strength. Francis Ier he was a knight, a knight of sometimes archaic values, galloping from one end of the kingdom to the other in the service of France, solving as many problems as he set before him, and probably doing all this for the amusement of this apparent frivolity. . Seriousness has its share of comedy; reason has limits; style sometimes achieves its goals by influencing content. France laughs when empire roars.
Guillaume Franzwa, The shattered dream of Charles VParis, Perrin, 2022.
John Giono, The disaster of PaviaParis, Gallimard, 1963.