Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More History on Ramelli: A Work in Progress

I have set myself a significant task. I want to articulate and describe the life of Agostino Ramelli prior to his appearance at the siege of La Rochelle in 1572. I'll start the story with the Marquis de Marignano.

I've written about the Marquis in the past. His antics against the Switzers in the north of Italy ended in 1532, the year after Ramelli's birth. n 1532, Duke Sforza forced him to give up Musso and his other strongholds. He then entered the service of the Duke of Savoy in Piedmont where he served in the campaign against the French. After the death of Duke Sforza, he returned to Milan and was made Marquis de Marignano by Charles V. He then went to Spain and accompanied Charles in his fight against the Flemmings where he commanded the Spanish artillery in the siege of Landrecy.He was also involved in the Siege of Siena from 1554 to 1555.

Marignano engaged in Siena for the right to associate himself with the Florentine Medicis. The King of France chose Philip Strozzi to oppose him, a man who was deeply commited to removing the Medicis from Florence and returning it to republican rule. Cosimo de Medici viewed this appointment as a dire threat to his own existence while Strozzi was blind in his zeal to defeat the Medicis. The war was a grim one. Strozzi made the mistake of engaging with Marignano is open country at the battle of Marciano on August 5 1554. Strozzi's cavalry fled in cowardice and Marignano was able to deploy a battery of artillery against Strozzi's infantry.

The Sienese were determined to defend their home and they were supported in this effort by Monluc, commander of the French garrison. Monluc strengthened the town's defenses, trained the local population in the use of arms, and diligently rationed the stores. Marignano stormed the town on two different occassions but was repulsed both times. He was forced to starve the town into submission. The siege lasted ten months.

When Siena finally capitulated the citizenry were given very favourable terms. Many suspected treachory so a great number of citizens fled to outlying towns. In June 1555, Marignano acted on Cosimo's desires and invested Porto Ercole which quickly fell. He then had to respond to a request from the emperor to move his troops to Piedmont where the Duke of Alva was facing off against the Marechal Brissac. He was acknowledged by Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany at Florence and returned to Milan where he fell ill and died in November 1555. He was attended in his last moments by the Duke of Alba, Spanish governor of Milan.

Alba and Marignano certainly knew each other. They were both involved with the investment of Metz in 1552. Ramelli may also have been at Metz as a 21-year old engineer. It was a bloody affair. Ambroise Pare notes that the "Emperor attacked the town with forty double cannons, and the powder was not spared day or night." The siege was not successful for Charles V. Pare continues his narrative:

"That is how our dear and well-beloved Imperials went away from Metz, which was the day after Christmas Day, to the great content of those within the walls, and the praise of the princes, seigneurs, captains, and soldiers, who had endured the travail of this siege for more than two months. Nevertheless, they did not all go: there wanted more than twenty thousand of them, who were dead, from our artillery and the fighting, or from plague, cold, and starvation (and from spite and rage that they could not get into the town to cut our throats and plunder us): and many of their horses also died, the greater part whereof they had eaten instead of beef and bacon. We went where their camp had been, where we found many dead bodies not yet buried, and the earth all worked up, as one sees in the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents during some time of many deaths."

It's possible that Ramelli followed Marignano on his many expeditions and eventually travelled with Alba to the Low Countries in 1567. Indeed, it may have been the events leeding up Alba's disgrace in 1573 that drove Ramelli to French service.

Paris was not, however, as inviting as it may have at first seemed. Ramelli likely arrived just in time to witness the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, an extermination of Huguenots orchestrated by Charles IX and Catherine de Medici. Felice provides a somewhat colourful illustration of the aftermath:

"When the sun of the 24th of August rose upon Paris, all was tumult, confusion, and carnage; blood streaming in the streets; corpses of men, women, and children encumbering the doors; everywhere groans, blasphemies, cries of death and imprecations; the butchers by thousands insulting their victims before killing them, and then seizing their spoils; the dagger, lance, knife, sword, arquebus, all the arms of the solider and the brigand employed in the execrable massacre, and the vile populate running behind the butchers, giving the death-stroke to the Huguenots, mutilating them, dragging them in the mud with a cord round the neck, to have their part also in this festival of cannibals." (pg. 212)

The toll was terrible and perhaps 100,000 lost their lives. In certain towns, notably Lyons, the massacre amounted to butchery. The results were dramatic: "In France herself the consequences were, a detestable reign, that of Henry III; shameful and ferocious manners; dishonored laws; the fury of the League; twenty-five years of new civil wars." (pg. 221)

Heller notes that the massacre targeted Italians as well as Protestants. This event may explain one unexplained element of the forward to Ramelli's book. He thanks Henri III for helping to protect his son. This event may have occurred during the massacre.

A new round of battles emerged in the wake of the massacre. Ramelli may have served at Sancerre, at Livron in January of 1575, at Saint-Lo, Fontenay, Pouzin, or in the sieges of Lusignan.

The siege of La Rochelle was as gruesome as Metz or Siena.

Ramelli's involvement in bloody events didn't end after winning the patronage of Henri III. The year 1588 must have been bittersweet for Ramelli. It is the year his magnum opus was printed. It is also the year that his patron, Henri III, was chased out of Paris by supporters of the Catholic League. On 12th May 1588 Henry de Guise was brought to the Louvre. Henri III took flight while disguised as a peasant. Henry III had him assassinated on 23rd ofDecember. Catherine de Medici died 12 days later. This action united the leaguers--and all of Paris--against Henri. Henri then turned to Navarre for assistance and the two kings won a battle before the gates of Paris.

The knife of a Dominican monk renewed the League's spirits. Jacques Clement stabbed Henri III in the abdomen and he succumbed to his wounds on August 2nd 1589. He was the last of the Valois.

The entire state of the royal establishment was a shambles. Felice and Bonifas describe the situation: "Everywhere was a hideous melange of blood and superstition. The grand seigneurs kept hired assassins and duelists, who killed themselves for a pastime, without remorse, without pity, every day, two against two, four against four, a hundred against a hundred, and it was as easy to procure the address of a murderer or a poisoner, as it is at this day of an inn-keeper." (pg.252)

Henri IV invested Paris in May of 1590. The siege was another disaster but this time Ramelli was within the walls. Smedley notes: "It would be needlessly painful if we were to dwell upon the miseries suffered, during four months' blockade, by a city the supplies of which were calculated for its support through not more than a quarter of that period. When provisions began to fail, the Spanish ambassador distributed his useless pistoles among the starving population; the Sorbonne renewed its late ferocious decree; and the ecclesiastics arrayed procession, as so many expedients by which men's minds might be diverted from the direct contemplation of present evils." (247-248)

The investment was never complete. The king couldn't pay his soldiers so many raised funds by smuggling supplies into Paris. Regardless, the siege was disastrous. DeCormenin cites the Catholic historian de Thou, who notes:

"more than thirty thousand persons died of famine during this terrible blockade, which lasted for several months; that the Parisians made a kind of bread out of the bones of the dead, ground to flour, which was called the Montpensier bread, because it was believed that the princess had suggested the first idea of it. He affirms that he saw bands of famished soldiers traverse the streets chasing children, and disemboweling them to eat them, and that the mother disputed with these cannibals for pieces of the flesh to devour them."(pg. 269)

The siege was finally lifted when Parma came down from the Low Countries with a relieving army.

Other tidbits that I can't put anywhere:

Margaret of Valois. Married to Henri of Navarre who was confined to court following St. Bart's massacre. He fled in 1576. Margaret eventually followed and led a scandalous life by openly keeping lovers. Catherine starrted in July 1578 for the southern provinces with a group of 150 maids of honour. Returned to Henry III's court in 1582. 1580-1584 there was little open warfare.

Catholic league was established in 1576. The Cardinal of Lorraine had planned it at the Council of Trent. Pope Sixtus V, Jesuits, Catherine de' Medici, and Philip II were all involved. Henry III had it disbanded in 1577 but it rose up in 1588.

In the treaty of Nemours in 1585, Henri III made peace with Guise and rose against the Huguenots. The Huguenots and Catholic armies met at the battle of Coutras on October 20th 1587. The Catholics were routed despite an overwhelming advantage in numbers. The Day of the Barricades followed. Henri III and Navarre met on 30th April 1589 at the Chateau of Plessis-les-Tours and formed an alliance. The leaguers led by the Duc de Mayenne were beaten in several battles (such as Arques in September 1589) and they marched on Paris. The Battle of Ivry was fought on March 14, 1590 and led to the siege of Paris.


-- 1846. The Supplement to the Penny Cyclopedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Volume II. London: Charles Knight.

DeCormenin, Louis Marie. 1857. A complete history of the popes of Rome. vol.1. 1857. Philadelphia: Published by James L. Gihon

Felice, Guillame. History of the Protestants of France.

Robertson, William. 1817. The Works of William Robertson. Vol VII. London: Cadell and Davies.

Born 1531.