Friday, November 20, 2015

He Thought He Was King

In the post on short-lived reigns, I mentioned John I of France, sone of Louis X and Clémence of Hungary, who reigned five days because he only lived five days. That was in November of 1316. He was buried in St. Denis, and succeeded by his uncle, Philip V (the Tall).

Tomb of the infant John I
In 1354, a merchant in Siena named Giannino di Guccio received a summons that told a different story. Giannino was told that his mother had been a wet-nurse for the infant John I, and when her own child died, she switched the babes. France mourned, thinking that the heir to the throne was dead, and the wet-nurse, Marie, raised John I as her own child Giannino. The boy grew up in ignorance of his true heritage, until the senator of Rome, Cola di Rienzo, contacted him to tell him of the truth of his parentage.

That is how a merchant of Siena was convinced that he was the heir to the throne of France.

Cola di Rienzo's source was the record of a Friar Giordano, to whom Marie confessed her actions at the end of her life. Long before this, Marie had sent her son to live with his father, and she had lost all track of him. Friar Giordano made it his quest to find the boy, eventually asking Cola di Rienzo for help.

Tales of royal babes switched at birth were not a new thing, but it was new for Giannino to be told that he himself was one such babe. Also, given French law, John I was, as the son of the last king, more legitimate than his uncle. If it were accepted that he was, in fact, John I, then the throne should go back to his lineage.

It is generally accepted that this whole affair was masterminded by di Rienzo, who would use the revelation of the try King of France to elevate his own status in Rome. Unfortunately for Giannino and di Rienzo (but probably fortunately for history), di Rienzo was assassinated shortly after, and so was unable to see his plan through. Giannino tried to follow up, visiting the court of Louis I of Hungary, the nephew of Clémence of Hungary, who accepted him as his relative.

The rest of Europe, however, was not willing to play along, although he did manage to amass a small number of troops and financing for a takeover. Coincidentally, while France and England were negotiating peace in late 1360 to wrap up that phase of the Hundred Years War, there was a "stray element" trying to assert his claim to the throne of France. In January of 1361, he was taken into custody and held comfortably in Aix-en-Provence. After an escape, he wound up in Naples under less favorable conditions. Before he died in 1363, he was able to write a memoir, from which we derive much of the knowledge of his actions, since historians did not deem his story worthwhile.

No comments:

Post a Comment