Étienne de Vesc
Étienne de Vesc was a courtier
A courtier is a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage. Historically the court was the centre of government as well as the residence of the monarch, and social and political life were often completely mixed together...

 of Louis XI of France
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

 and a formative influence on Charles VIII
Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII, called the Affable, , was King of France from 1483 to his death in 1498. Charles was a member of the House of Valois...

, whom he strongly encouraged in the French adventure into Italy in the First Italian War
First Italian War
The First Italian War , sometimes referred to as the Italian War of 1494 or Charles VIII's Italian War, was the opening phase of the Italian Wars...



Étienne de Vesc's forbears originated in Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

, appearing since the eleventh century, as modest seigneurs of Comps, Dieulefit, Béconne, Montjoux and Espeluche, with some experience in the Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

; the chronicler Philippe de Commines
Philippe de Commines
Philippe de Commines was a writer and diplomat in the courts of Burgundy and France. He has been called "the first truly modern writer" and "the first critical and philosophical historian since classical times"...

, an enemy of Vesc, belittled his background. He spent his youth in the Dauphiné
The Dauphiné or Dauphiné Viennois is a former province in southeastern France, whose area roughly corresponded to that of the present departments of :Isère, :Drôme, and :Hautes-Alpes....

, not part of France until 1486, finishing a courtly training in the household of the Dauphin at Plessis-les-Tours, where he served as valet de chambre
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

 from the age of seventeen, about 1462. In 1470, Louis XI, looking for persons who would prove affidés et sûrs made Vesc the governor of the household at Amboise
Château d'Amboise
The royal Château at Amboise is a château located in Amboise, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France.-Origins and royal residence:...

 of Charles, the future Charles VIII, who remained attached to Vesc and to the château d'Amboise the rest of his life. The education he provided his young charge was largely derived from fanciful romans courtois the romances of chivalry
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

; his services to the King included some embassies, as far away as Spain. In 1475 he took a wife, from a rich family of bourgheois background, whose late father had been an avocat au parlement de Paris
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

and whose mother had remarried into a family of goldsmith
A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Since ancient times the techniques of a goldsmith have evolved very little in order to produce items of jewelry of quality standards. In modern times actual goldsmiths are rare...


His devoted attendance during a long illness of the young prince and other services were well rewarded by Louis, and he took part in the dauphin's wedding, July 1483. After his attendance at the king's deathbed later that year, Vesc was a member of the council of regency. Among his duties was an embassy to Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

 to diplomatically check the ambitions of the Cardinal Legate Giulio Della Rovere, nephew of the late Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...


In the entourage of Charles, Vesc had doubtless made the acquaintance of Jean II de Châlons, prince of Orange, seigneur de Caromb, which Vesc purchased in 1484 for the very considerable sum of 10,000 livres and made into an important center of the Comtat Venaissin
Comtat Venaissin
The Comtat Venaissin, often called the Comtat for short , is the former name of the region around the city of Avignon in what is now the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France. It comprised roughly the area between the Rhône, the Durance and Mont Ventoux, with a small exclave located to the...

, which remained a papal enclave within France until 1792. Pope Innocent VIII
Pope Innocent VIII
Pope Innocent VIII , born Giovanni Battista Cybo , was Pope from 1484 until his death.-Early years:Giovanni Battista Cybo was born at Genoa of Greek extraction...

 confirmed his rights as seigneur in what was papal territory in 1489, and Vesc constructed a grand château, completed in 1486. In addition to the outright purchase, Jean de Châlons granted him fiefs as well, securing part of Vesc's allegiance as his vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

. Vesc scarcely had time to reside in his château; he was appointed sénéchal of Carcassonne
Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the former province of Languedoc.It is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century,...

, then of Beaucaire and Nîmes, largest in extent in France, positions of great importance.

In the Italian campaign

The extinction of the House of Anjou in the person of René, count of an independent Provence and King of Naples (1480), rendered Charles VIII the heir to Angevin titles to the Kingdom of Naples. According to Commines' chronicle, Étienne de Vesc was among the most ardent proponents of a chivalrous adventure to recapture the rights of the King of France to Naples, and to gain some duchies in the south, pressed by his own ambition, thirsty for grandeur and titles. Commines reflected on Vesc's naivety in matters of war. The preliminary arrangements for the entry into Italy were in Vesc's hands.

Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

 and Asti
Asti is a city and comune of about 75,000 inhabitants located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, about 55 kilometres east of Turin in the plain of the Tanaro River...

 welcomed the French; Milan was theirs; Piero de' Medici opened the gates of Florence, 17 November: a few days later Charles declared that he was the very champion of Religion against the Turks. Pope Alexander VI had cooled to the too-triumphant French; Vesc arranged for safe passage for French forces across the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

, and even for some strongholds left in French hands to assure their safe return passage: the treaty was signed on 15 January. Welcomed as they proceeded, the French troops were in Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 by 19 February, and Charles was able to make his triumphant entry three days later, Alphonso having fled, abdicating his crown to his son. Invested with territories, including the duchy of Nola
Nola is a city and comune of Campania, southern Italy, in the province of Naples, situated in the plain between Mount Vesuvius and the Apennines...

 and made chamberlain, put in charge of the kingdom's finances, Vesc was also in charge of the fortress of Gaeta
Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 km from Rome and 80 km from Naples....

, commanding a major port. After arranging some festive jousts, the king decided to return to France in April 1495, his Neapolitan kingdom securely won, leaving a small occupation force under Louis II, Count of Montpensier
Louis II, Count of Montpensier
Louis de Bourbon, Count of Montpensier was the son of Gilbert, Count of Montpensier and Claire Gonzaga. He was Count of Montpensier and Clermont-en-Auvergne and Dauphin d'Auvergne from 1496 to his death....

 as viceroy, but taking the major force to face the league that was assemblinmg against him in the north. On 20 May, however, the Neapolitan populace was up in arms, the experience of a rapacious, ill-paid occupying army loosely organized under captains having proved more onerous than expected. A revolt at Gaeta also had to be repressed. When Ferdinand of Aragon
Ferdinand I of Naples
Ferdinand I , also called Don Ferrante, was the King of Naples from 1458 to 1494. He was the natural son of Alfonso V of Aragon by Giraldona Carlino.-Biography:...

 disembarked at Naples, with nine galleys and some thirty Spanish caravels, he was welcomed by the Neapolitans: Vesc on 6 July had scarcely time to shut himself up in the Castello Nuovo: Charles, at the battle of Fornovo
Battle of Fornovo
The Battle of Fornovo took place 30 km southwest of the city of Parma on 6 July 1495. The League of Venice was able to temporarily expel the French from the Italian Peninsula. It was the first major battle of the Italian Wars.-Antecedents:...

 the same day, was forced to abandon his rich baggage train laden with booty from Naples and return to France. Expected reinforcements never arrived in Naples. Vesc, with the viceroy M. de Montpensier and the rest of the French who remained, embarked in a small flotilla laden with booty and artillery for Salerno
Salerno is a city and comune in Campania and is the capital of the province of the same name. It is located on the Gulf of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea....

 on 25 October, leaving Naples to the Neapolitans and Ferdinand.

In March 1496 he was sent back to France to organize rescue efforts, loading the contents of a warehouse of butin sacré et profane. In May he was once again with the young king, who was already planning a return engagement. Vesc was reimbursed for his expenses defending Gaeta and placed in charge of sending required materials to the garrisons, who were being forced out of one fortress after another in the Kingdom of Naples. Gaeta, the last French toehold in the Regno, capitulated, 19 November 1497, and the last of the expedition was over, an expense of two and a half million francs.

Vesc continued to be enthusiastic about a return to Italy, but the royal council was against it. In February 1498 a treaty reassigned Naples to the Aragonese.

In April Charles VIII died. Étienne de Vesc was retained in his posts of concierge du Palais and Sénéchal of Beaucaire by Louis XII
Louis XII of France
Louis proved to be a popular king. At the end of his reign the crown deficit was no greater than it had been when he succeeded Charles VIII in 1498, despite several expensive military campaigns in Italy. His fiscal reforms of 1504 and 1508 tightened and improved procedures for the collection of taxes...

. In September Vesc was charged with negotiations with the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, and he contributed a fully fitted-out galleasse for Louis XII's brief expedition to Naples.

His magnificent late Gothic
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 tomb is to be found in the church of Caromb, Drôme
Drôme , a department in southeastern France, takes its name from the Drôme River.-History:The French National Constituent Assembly set up Drôme as one of the original 83 departments of France on March 4, 1790, during the French Revolution...


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