Ladislaus, King of Naples
Ladislaus, King Of Naples (A.D. 1386-1414), succeeded to the throne on the violent death of his father, Charles III. Born in 1376, he was ten years old at the time of his accession to the disputed crown. Louis of Anjou, to whom queen Joanna, the predecessor of Charles III, had bequeathed the kingdom, was his competitor. Ladislaus and Louis were of nearly the same age. Each was left under the guardianship of a widowed mother, and each had on his side the authority of one of the two rival popes, between whom Christendom was divided, and whose mutual excommunications, extending to their respective adherents, were the scandal of the age.
The reign of Ladislaus is historically important from its intimate connection with the great events of the time in Church and State. At an early age he developed that restless energy and that unscrupulous ambition which made him a model for Machiavelli's "Prince." When but sixteen years old, his mother Margaret committed him to the barons of her party to make his first essay in arms. His marriage with the richest heiress of Sicily put into his hands an immense dowry, which he employed to prosecute his designs, securing, when it was expended, from the venal pontiff a divorce from his wife, whom he bestowed upon one of his favorites.
By means of the papal sanction and his own energy he recovered Naples from the Angevin party (1400). The faction opposed to him felt the full weight of his vengeance. His security was increased bv a second marriage, which the pontiff, Boniface IX, proposed. His ambition was excited by the tempting offer of the Hungarian crown, made by those who, dissatisfied with Sigismund (subsequently emperor), had seized and imprisoned him. His expedition proved unsuccessful, and his absence from Naples inspired anew the hopes and efforts of the Angevin party. His prompt return (1403) defeated their attempts. The most powerful of the disaffected nobility felt the weight of his vengeance. Many were thrust into prison. Numbers were strangled. Others fled. Wholesale confiscation enriched the royal treasury. A reign of terror prevailed throughout the kingdom.
Jealous of his powerful ally, Boniface IX showed himself no longer disposed to co-operate with the tyrant; but at this juncture he died. In spite of letters from the king of France deprecating a new election, that Christendom might be united under one pontiff (the French prelates supported as rival pope Benedict XIII, q.v.), the cardinals chose Innocent VII (q.v.) as his successor. Ladislaus, whose policy was opposed to the reunion of Christendom, hastened to Rome to congratulate him upon his accession. He had designs, moreover, upon Rome itself, torn by Guelph and Ghibelline factions. Dissembling his purpose, he proposed himself as mediator, and secured a strong hold upon the government of the city, while his royal title was solemnly confirmed.
Turning from Rome, he led his army to Southern Italy (1406), but was repelled by the valor of the Ursini. The new pope already regarded him with mistrust. At his instigation the Roman factions were brought into collision. Alarmed for his safety, the pope fled. Ladislaus ordered his generals to take possession of the city, but they were repulsed. The citizens, inclining to favor the exiled pontiff, recalled him to Rome. Ladislaus, whose attention had again been diverted to Southern Italy, where a marriage with the widow of Raymond de Ursini had accomplished more than arms, now advanced in open hostility, resolved to regain his control of the city. He was embittered against the pontiff, who resented his unscrupulous spoliation of churches and monasteries, as well as other revenues of the Church, and who complained, moreover, of his conspiracy and treason against himself. The charges against the king were drawn up in sixteen articles, and on the ground of these he was declared to have forfeited his kingdom, as well as the fiefs which he held of the Church, and was excommunicated by the Church. Ladislaus, however, succeeded in calming the papal resentment, and a treaty was effected which restored him to his former power and privileges; but as he evaded all the provisions which conflicted with his ambition, the excommunication would have been renewed had not Innocent died suddenly (Nov. 6,1406).
Gregory XII, successor of Innocent VII, pledged himself on his election to promote the unity of the Church. His disinclination to meet his rival in conference was encouraged by Ladislaus, who assured him of protection. The unscrupulous proceedings of the king stood in need of the papal sanction, and he was willing to make some efforts to secure a pope for himself. Gregory XII disappointed the expectations of his cardinals. Alarmed by the sedition at Rome, he fled to Viterbo (August 3, 1407), and afterwards to Sienna and Lucca. Ladislaus seized the occasion to make inroads upon the States of the Church. Gregory complained of his conduct, and menaced him with the thunders of the Church. He found himself forced, however, to accept the plausible excuses of the king, whose support he needed. Ladislaus now resolved to prosecute his long-cherished desire of possessing himself of Rome. By means of force and treachery he succeeded in his project. On the 25th of April, 1408, Rome opened its gates to him, and the tyrant of Naples was welcomed by the shouts of the people.
Gregory exulted in the king's success. He hoped himself to be able now to return to Rome. He was encouraged to refuse his assent to the appointment of the council proposed to be held at Pisa, which he justly feared might prove fatal to his claims. Meanwhile Ladislaus prosecuted his ambitious plans. He hoped to secure possession of Sienna and Florence. For several months he prosecuted his plans by diplomacy and threats; but the cautious resistance of the republics, and the hostile attitude of the Pisan Council, which was now (March, 1409) in session, disconcerted him. The new pontiff, Alexander V, elected by the council, favored the pretensions of Louis of Anjou, the rival pretender to the throne of Naples. The latter, followed by an army, and surrounded by his partisans, entered Italy and secured a lodgment in Rome. Ladislaus, in the height of his passion, swore to annihilate the authors of his calamity. He provided for the security of Gregory, who had been holding a council in Aquileia, rival to that of Pisa, and ordained his recognition as pontiff throughout the kingdom. He then proceeded in force to Rome, of which he quickly regained poesession.
Alexander V, indignant at the king's course, made up a catalogue of his crimes, and ordered Ladislaus before him to hear the sentence which pronounced his forfeiture of his throne. Regardless of the summons, Ladislaus prosecuted his measures of violent rapacity, amassing the means to continue the war. But at this juncture he lost possession. of Rome. With treachery within and the forces of Balthasar Cossa without, the city yielded to the allies, and the papal authority was re-established within its walls.
The sudden death of Alexander V (May 3,1410) opened the way to the election of Balthasar Cossa himself, the sworn foe of Ladislaus, under the title of John XXIII. Leaving Bologna, which he had ruled as a despot under the title of legate, lie advanced in triumph to Romn . Ladislaus was now confronted by all Italian pope and a French army under Louis. 'The sentence of excommunication wlas pronounced against him, but, reckless of spiritual terrors, he marshalled his forces and prepared for the conflict. 'he battle took place May 19, 1411, near Ponte-Corvo, and, after a desperate contest, the forces of Ladislaus were defeated. Instead of being disheartened by reverse, however, he exerted himself successfully to bring into the field a new army largely composed of the fragments of the old. In a short time, by a liberal use of money, he had greatly profited by the respite which his enemies, too sluggish to pursue their advantage, allowed him. Retracing his disasters, he said that on the first day his crown and personal liberty were endangered, on the second, he feared only for his kingdom; on the third, his foe could only waste himself.
John XXIII had exulted in the defeat of his foe. The joy at Rome was expressed by pageants and processions; but the popes soon discovered that he had been too precipitate in his demonstrations. He encouraged the hopes of Louis, but declined to aid him by arms. He contented himself with sending Ladislaus (August 11, 1411) a summons to appear before him as a heretic and favorer of schism, and with publishing a crusade against him. But the withdrawal of Louis from Italy left Ladislaus without a competitor, and of a sudden the pope saw himself almost helpless in the hands of Ladislaus, and in constant fear of his ravages and assaults. Anxious fur peace, he proposed a compromise with Ladislaus. The latter was to abandon the anti-pope, Gregory XII, and drive him from the kingdom. The pope was to confirm the king in possession of his dominions, to which other possessions were to be added, and was to be appointed gonfalionere of the Church, and to be paid specified sums of money. Thus John XXIII sacrificed his ally to his foe, and Ladislaus did the same. The noble ingratitude and treachery were endorsed by the public recognition of the legitimacy of the pontiff on the part of Ladislaus, who ascribed his new and more correct apprehensions to the instruction of the Father of light. Gregory was forced to flee to Rimili, and a man interview between Ladislaus and the pope, the latter received from the former marks of profound homage.
To this hollow compromise mutual distrust succeeded. The pope sought to recover his ol allies, -Ie exculpated himself to Louis, sand again denounced the king of Naples. The latter responded by hostile demonstrations. The council which the pope had meanwhile convoked at Rome was considered bv him as depending on the appointment and authority of that of Pisa, and, as hostile to his interests, he hoped to disperse it. The prospect of gaining some advantage over his old foe, Sigismund of Hungary, now elected emperor, was also kept in view. Gathering his forces, he approached Rome. The faithlessness and feebleness of the papal forces facilitated its capture. The pope and cardinals fled. From place to place they wandered, yet even Florence dared not entertain them from fear of the vengeance of Ladislaus. John XXIII besought help of Sigismund, which was finally granted on the stipulation that the pope should immediately convoke a General Council. SEE JOHN XXIII.
Ladislaus meanwhile gave full scope to his vengeance. Rome trembled with terror. Some of her most distinguished citizens were sacrificed to his revenge. The States of the Church came into his hands. Sienna and Florence felt themselves threatened. John XXIII fortified himself at Boulogne, and gathered forces about him. Even here he (did not feel himself safe. His cardinals prepared for flight, and some deserted him. The citizens sought to hide their treasures, and fled, some to Venice, or other places not yet threatened.
There appeared no longer hope of effectual resistance to the advance of Ladislaus. All Italy seemed about to be forced to submit to his sway. But at this juncture, while lingering at Perusia, he was smitten by a mortal disease. A slow fever wasted his strength, but (lid not subdue his thirst for vengeance. He had destined the Ursini, who had obstructed his capture of Rome, and whom he had promised to spare, as victims. They visited him in his sickness, and were thrust into prison by his orders. This gross violation of faith excited general indignation. The murmurs of the soldiers constrained him to pause in his purpose of vengeance. As his disease progressed his passions became more fierce. Returning by way ,of Ostia to Naples, the officers who accompanied him were on the watch to prevent him from ordering the Ursini to be cast overboard into the sea. When he reached his capital he was no longer master of himself. Every word that escaped him was an order for some fatal arrest. He charged his sister, the princess Joanna, to see that Paul de Ursini be put to death. For the last three days of his life his mind was occupied only with thoughts of vengeance. With fearful cries he was heard to ask, "Is Paul dead?" sometimes calling for his dagger that lie might stab himself. He could only be calmed for the moment by his sister's treacherous assurance that his orders should be executed.
In the midst of his paroxysms Ladislaus died, Aug. 6 or 8, 1414. Naples was relieved of a tyrant and Italy of a terror that had disquieted her for years. History may account Ladislaus a modern Herod. All that was unscrupulous, cruel, and depraved seemed to be incarnate in him. He alternated between private lust and public violence. In his own age he was the most notorious representative of the vigor and craft of the Italian "prince." SEE NAPLES.
See, for notices more or less extended of the deeds or career of Ladislaus, Van der Iardt, A Monstrelet's Chronicles; Niern, Life of John XXIII ; Poggi, Braccioliei's Writings. Also the works of the earlier as well as the later Italian historians, including Sismondi and Proctor. The most extended and connected account of his life, perhaps, is that given by d'Egly, Wistoire des Rois des Deux Siciles. He seems to have carefully sifted his authorities, and le devotes over 200 pages of his second volume almost exclusively to Ladislaus. (E.H. G.)