With One Thrust He Bursts The Swollen Paunch Of Florence

City of Florence
ROSSELLI, Francesco
'I see a time, not very long from now,
that brings another Charles away from France
to make himself and then his kin more known.
'He comes alone, armed only with the lance
that Judas used to joust. And with one thrust
he bursts the swollen paunch of Florence.
'From this he shall acquire, not land,
but sin and shame, so much the heavier for him
the lighter he considers such disgrace.
Purgatorio Canto xx
The historical account of the above canto is taken from Toynbee:
Charles, count of Alençon and Valois (1285), and of Anjou (1290), commonly known as Charles of Valois, third son of Philip III of France (by his first wife, Isabella of Aragon), brother of Philip IV, and father of Philip VI; he was born in 1270; in 1284, when he was only 14, he was nominated by Pope Martin IV to the crown of Aragon, which the latter had declared vacant upon the excommunication of Peter III in the previous year, and some years later he made an unsuccessful attempt to take possession of the kingdom, in spite of the undertaking which had been given by Charles II of Naples to Alfonso, son and successor of Peter III, that his claims should be abandoned; he married (in 1290) Margaret of Anjou, eldest daughter of Charles II, in whose right he became count of Anjou and by whom he had two sons (the elder of whom was subsequently king of France as Philip VI) and four daughters; he died Dec. 16, 1325.Charles is mentioned by Hugh Capet (in Circle V of Purgatory), who refers to him as un altro Carlo (to distinguish him from Charles I of Anjou, previously mentioned), and foretells his coming into Italy without an army, but armed only with 'the lance of treachery', wherewith he would 'burst the paunch of Florence', and gain for himself not land (in allusion to his nickname 'Sanzaterra'), but disgrace and remorse, [Purg. xx. 70-78] (see below); some think he is alluded to by Ciacco (in Circle III of Hell), who foretells the return to power of the Florentine Neri by the help of tal che testè piaggia, i.e. one who is hanging off the shore, lying to ('scilicet Karoli sine terra, qui nunc stat ad plagiam, quasi dicat, qui nondum est in motu, nec in procinctu veniendi', says Benvenuto), Charles being at that time (1299) at war in Flanders on behalf of his brother, Philip the Fair ({Villani, viii. 32}), [Inf. vi. 69]; others take this reference to be to the duplicity of Boniface VIII who, while ostensibly trying to mediate between the Bianchi and Neri, was in reality favouring the latter, the ultra Guelphs, and thus brought about the ultimate triumph of that party ('dicesi appo i fiorentini colui piaggiare, il quale mostra di voler quello che egli non vuole', says Boccaccio); Charles is alluded to by D., under the title of Totila, with reference to his expulsion of the Bianchi from Florence, and his fruitless expedition to Sicily in 1302, [V.E.II.vi. 5] (eiecta maxima parte florum de sinu tuo, Florentia, nequicquam Trinacriam Totila secundus adivit) (see below); some commentators believe that D.'s mention of the cross in the sky at Florence (a phenomenon mentioned by Dino Compagni, ii. 19) is an allusion to the entrance of Charles into the city, [Conv. II. xiii. 22]. In the year 1300 Charles of Valois was summoned to Italy by Boniface VIII for the twofold purpose of helping Charles II of Naples in his war against Frederick II of Aragon in Sicily, and of making peace between the contending factions of the Bianchi and Neri in Tuscany, the pope promising in return to secure his election as emperor. Charles arrived in Florence on All Saints' Day, 1301, having been allowed to enter the city unopposed, on the faith of his promise to hold the balance between the two parties, and to maintain peace. No sooner, however, had he obtained command of the city than he treacherously espoused the cause of the Neri, armed his followers, and threw the whole of Florence into confusion. In the midst of the panic Corso Donati, the exiled leader of the Neri, made his way into the city, broke open the prisons, and released the prisoners, who, together with his own adherants, attacked and pillaged the houses of the Bianchi during five days, Charles of Valois meanwhile, in spite of his promises, making no attempt to interfere. Finally, in the following April, the Bianchi were expelled from Florence, D. being among those who were condemned to be exiled. The secret object of his mission to Florence having thus been fulfilled, in accordance with the designs of Boniface VIII, Charles of Valois left Tuscany (April 1302) and proceeded to Naples to make preparations for a campaign against Sicily. Accompanied by Robert, duke of Calabria, eldest surviving son of Charles II, he landed in Sicily with a large force; but the guerilla warfare carried on by Frederick II, and the ravages of the climate, soon reduced him to such extremities that he was forced to conclude an ignominious peace. Without the knowledge of Charles II he agreed that Frederick should marry Eleanor, the second daughter of the former, and should be confirmed in the possession of Sicily. In Nov. of the same year he returned to France, the barren result of his expedition having earned him in Italy the nickname of Carlo Sanzaterra (Lackland). Charles died at Nogent in 1325, leaving a son, Philip, who afterwards (in 1328) became king of France as Philip VI, being the first of the Valois line. His countrymen remarked of Charles that he was 'fils de roi, frère de roi, oncle de trois rois, père de roi, et jamais roi'; he having unsuccessfully aspired to no less than four crowns, viz. those of Aragon, of Sicily, of Constantinople (through his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Philip Courtenay, titular emperor of Constantinople), and of the Empire.


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