Read Louis XI, the Universal Spider by Paul Murray Kendall Online


The enthralling and little-known story of the ugly, fat, paranoid, and ruthless king known as "the universal spider" for his incessant machinations. In the year Louis XI was born, just after the 100 Years' War, England still ruled much of France. Unifying the land became his idée fixe, and through Louis' wiliness, network of spies, and willingness to forge alliances when nThe enthralling and little-known story of the ugly, fat, paranoid, and ruthless king known as "the universal spider" for his incessant machinations. In the year Louis XI was born, just after the 100 Years' War, England still ruled much of France. Unifying the land became his idée fixe, and through Louis' wiliness, network of spies, and willingness to forge alliances when needed, he succeeded in pulling the country out of anarchy and achieving his goal....

Title : Louis XI, the Universal Spider
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ISBN : 9780393053807
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 464 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Louis XI, the Universal Spider Reviews

  • Marita
    2018-11-13 16:46

    First let me point out that the GR blurb for this book is incorrect. Louis XI was born during the Hundred Years' War with France. He was born in 1423 which was prior to the great battle of Verneuil in 1424 and the siege of Orléans years later (as a child he met Joan of Arc). In fact the war lasted until 1453 when he was an adult. However, his reasonably long reign started in 1461 after the end of the war.Paul Murray Kendall states in the preface that he had laboured for thirteen years over this biography. It proved to be worth the effort. PMK also mentions that fortunately Louis's life is very well documented. From the pages of this excellent biography emerges a very interesting person.From an early age Louis had a very problematic relationship with his father, Charles VII of France. They had very different personalities, and they clashed almost continuously. Charles VII of France may after all have been the legitimate son of Charles VI, but he certainly seemed to have been a bastard in the other sense of the word - in any case, to his son the Dauphin Louis.Louis had a very simple, unpretentious upbringing, and later in life he continued to live that way. He tended to wear simple clothing and he spent a lot of time on the road, during which time he worked and hunted. He loved animals and he took his menagerie of horses, birds and dogs with him wherever he travelled, and he was regarded as a dog connoisseur. He was disdainful of dandies, he "made fun of the pomposities of priests", and he "gibed at ambassadorial suavities". It is quite amusing to compare him with the impressively turned out Duke of Burgundy with whom he sought refuge from his father. This was the Duke at Louis's coronation: "Then came an imperial figure, the lord of pageantry, mounted on a horse trapped in black satin crusted with gold and gems - the Duke of Burgundy, in a black velvet cloak winking with rubies and diamonds and pearls. The jaunty brim of his hat displayed an array of precious stones reported to be worth 400,000 crowns; and on a helmet borne ceremoniously after him flashed the Ruby of Flanders,..." Fortunately Louis also dressed up for that occasion. And another time: "As the splendid Duke of Burgundy and his meanly dressed companion passed through the village street lined with onlookers, bewildered queries rose on the air. "Where's the King? Which one is he? That one?" When the villagers realized that "that one" was indeed the King, they could not conceal their astonishment." Louis was non-conformist and eschewed pomp and ceremony.He was parsimonious, probably due to the manner in which he had to eke out a living when he was young, but he rewarded others well. Loyal himself, he demanded strict loyalty from others. Louis had a knack for defusing volatile situations and for extricating himself from perilous plights. In fact, Louis's sharp (and often devious) mind seemed to work best when he was cornered or his resources were stretched. He was not in favour of jousting. His view was that while nobles were jousting the English were pillaging. Regarding the English, Louis managed to meddle in both sides of the Wars of the Roses. First he negotiated with Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who acted for the Yorkists, and then later he sheltered Margaret of Anjou, the erstwhile Lancastrian Queen of England, and encouraged her to "infiltrate agents into England". Before long Yorkist King Edward IV of England invaded France but Louis once again managed to wheel and deal and soon a treaty was signed by which Edward would receive seventy-five thousand crowns in cash to leave with his army and return to England. There were other conditions including an annual subsidy to be paid to the English, but deal done and much dining and wining to follow. In addition the five year old dauphin was betrothed to Princess Elizabeth of York. Later Louis quite simply married the dauphin off to someone else.He was also unconventional in the manner in which he governed, and he seriously annoyed several of the nobles to the extent of revolt. There is a thrilling account of the battle at Montlhéry, and I laughed out loud when I read how he negotiated with the members of the League of the Public Weal and brought them to his will. He conceded territory to some of them, and then he watched the lords of Brittany and Normandy fight like dogs over a bone. Within two months he recouped half of that territory. Soon "The League of Public Weal was no more." Louis could always be relied on to do the unexpected.I have barely scratched the surface of what this fascinating biography offers and of the webs that Louis spun. "He came to the throne of a feudal realm racked for a century by invasions, civil strife, popular upheavals, princely ineptitude, plague. He handed on to his successors a national monarchy. To the twentieth century, perhaps his most startling accomplishment is that, as a means of destroying the mortal enemy of his crown, he invented cold war." Not for nothing is he called "The Universal Spider". Highly recommended.

  • Lawrence Manzo
    2018-11-07 18:45

    One of the best history books I've read. 15th Century France & England strike you as "Medieval" with guys running around in armour and Chivalry, etc., but they had a real Renaissance mindset. The challenge of dealing with the unconquered Edward IV in England and Charles the Bold of Burgundy are a fascinating story. Louis XI wins out in the end, and re-creates the map of Europe! What a great story, and no one knows it. The French think of him as a Gothic Dracula-type figure who tortured his victims and ran a cruel police state. He gets little recognition for having finally ended the threat of the 100 Years War, which appeared at times to have completely annihilated the kingdom of France.

  • Shari
    2018-10-26 12:21

    A good book intruded upon by the holidays, LOUIS XI delivers--or more to the point, Kendall delivers, a fascinating read. A man before his time, who brought a taste of the modern world to the governing of France in the 15th century, Louis XI was a one-of-a-kind ruler, coming to the throne in 1461, well before the concentrated push to early modern Europe rose in the mid-16th century. A man of common interests but exceptional intelligence, Louis recognized the place that trade and industry could have in raising the livelihood of the people and filling the royal coffers. He instituted a larger government, creating such departments as a corps of engineers, and others, that looked after the infrastructure that increased industry would demand. He intended to rule his realm without the interference of the feudal lords, striving to strengthen his hold on government and to change the rules that the feudal system operated under, and which gave the lords of the land a sense of individual sovereignty and left them operating within their own spheres attempting to win themselves more land and honors. This left the realm in a state of continuing chaos that overlooked the commons and created factions among the lords.Louis XI changed the face of war by orchestrating scenarios that set people on edge, played off their fears, and kept them guessing, expecting the worst. He ascribed to peace because he wanted to build the economy of his realm by trade and industry, but he kept it almost in thrall by the means mentioned above. Today we would call it "cold war." He believed in making friends outside his realm, perhaps recognizing that in order to succeed in industry and trade you need to have trustworthy networks working with you from outside. He could be ruthless if he was forced to it, but he preferred to negotiate. If war was inevitable, he also had military savvy and talents. His reign was an early look at what the push toward absolutism would look like in the 16th century, and toward a weakening of feodality. He dressed plainly, did not live sumptuously but preferred to withdraw to out-of-the-way lodges and castles to hunt and think how to proceed. He was a man of simpler tastes than the French were used to seeing in their king, and this confused them. He was a new breeze blowing through the land, too soon to bring lasting changes, a man born out of time.

  • Ned
    2018-11-01 17:17

    I really liked this. Louis XI isn't well known at all nowadays but he was such a great leader for France and all of Europe at a time when everything was changing: culture, politics, security and the means for furthering and maintaining these things as well. He saw far ahead what was needed and took slow careful steps in those directions in a world of complete upheaval without worrying about being 'popular' or for most of his life, even well dressed. Not only would he wear the coarsest of common clothes, but spent much of his time when he could hunting in the wild by himself all over France, for instance. He would ride into a small town and ask for dinner at the simplest inn, dine alone and leave before anyone would know who he was. He would conduct negotiations between countries only when he knew he would get the outcome he wanted, meanwhile working strings behind the scenes, winning over advisors for the opposite camp thru direct personal intervention. He quickly realised the king of England loved to spend money, so found a way to force Edward IV into accepting a huge 'ransome' so as not to fight, 'this time' thereby making Edward dependent on him for that money and stayed out of England's famous 'Wars of the Roses'. Louis knew so long as the money kept coming Edward would spend his time fighting elsewhere, so as not to worry about France and Louis could turn to quelling his own hothead cousin Charles Duke of Burgundy. In the end, Louis overcame them all and consolidated France to it's farthest extent ever and left the stores full and prosperous markets as well and more secure in its defenses and treaties than France had ever really known. He met Joan of Arc as a child, managed to avoid battle with Maximillian, became lifelong friends with Francesco Sforza and Lorenzo de Medici. A generation later, Macchiavelli would write about statecraft with such a clear-eyed view to the motivations of people, and how to work them, you'd think for sure he took lessons from Louis XI.The author knows all the maddening details of this time so well that he is able to make it real. The telling anecdote, the dating of documents, the shipment of goods, the formation of soldiers, sieges and conspiracies all fleshed out with the french countryside, the need for fresh horses, an honest messenger, the details of the curiosities of the day. The best kind of history.

  • Jeanette
    2018-11-15 13:45

    Outstanding 13 year work filled with intricate and researched detail about this King who truly was an aberration for his time, role, and preferences. Called the Universal Spider for his concocting ability to balance the power scales and turn webs of change and transference from both old systems of feudalism and medieval cognitive mindsets. France becomes different. A nation amongst other changes. Excellent historical work which reads well and deserves many hours to absorb all the nuance of European change and focus within Renaissance flowering.

  • Susan Abernethy
    2018-11-03 15:44

    Link to a full review of this book: reading this out-of-print book. Paul Murray Kendall took 13 years to write this book and it shows. He really has the knack for making Louis' personality shine through. It has a lot of great detail but in a good way and Kendall writes with a wry sense of humor. The description of the battle of Montlheury is riveting! I highly recommend this book. I didn't know anything about Louis other than he was called the Universal Spider. This book explains it all.

  • Mark Desrosiers
    2018-11-11 20:30

    Kendall's knack for restoring the reputations of blackened monarchs (he's also written a bio of Richard III) is very impressive here. The book presumes some advanced knowledge of the post Hundred Years' War era (which I didn't have), but Kendall's rubbery, witty prose style carried me along anyway. In the end, he portrays the Universal Spider as a savvy quick-moving political operator rather than a vicious superstitious tyrant (the standard view). Not so much a product of his times, but a brutal beacon of the future.

  • Tim Robinson
    2018-10-16 16:30

    The secrets of success in statecraft are persistence, pragmatism and not to be too squeamish. Louis XI of France had all these qualities. But it also helps to be a great warrior, and this Louis was not.Louis inherited a France ruined by war, surrounded by enemies and organized as a loose federation of powerful nobles. From this he built a larger, richer and more centralized state. And he did it without winning any notable battles.He got off to a bad start and provoked a baronial revolt that he was too weak to suppress. But eventually he learned that enemies could be bought off, hostile alliances split and reluctant allies mobilized by money. It was economic means that brought him his victories.Louis has had a raw deal in the public imagination, perhaps because he lacked the flair and bravado of England's Edward IV or Charles the Bold of Burgundy. But he bought off the former and financed the alliance that would beat the latter and ultimately kill him. Louis was effective without being heroic in the accepted sense, so many people assume he must somehow have cheated.Louis did what Machiavelli insists is impossible: he won a kingdom with gold, not steel. A lesson that is relevant to many states today.

  • Nateglissmeyer
    2018-10-23 12:25

    I found this to be the best of Kendall's books. Partly because the story of Louis XI is like a historical version of Clavell's _Shogun_ with so many near misses in being elevated to power and then the "sword of Damocles" that follows him throughout all of his various adventures. If the 100 years war and dealing with England vs. France is interesting to you, this will be a really fascinating "bridge period" to the Reformation and 30 Years War and how bigger European national politics comes to replace kings. At least that is how I saw it.

  • Gerry Germond
    2018-10-25 15:34

    Before there was Bismarck, before there was Metternich, before there was Richelieu, there was Louis XI of France, “the universal spider.” Much like those other guys, he wove a diplomatic web of alliances, funding (“bribery” is the more accurate term), and fast-talking to isolate his foes, mainly the powerful Duke of Burgundy and gather in the spoils when they fell (the Duke in war with the Swiss). He became king when France was just starting its recovery from the disastrous Hundred Years War with England; when he died, he left it a powerful and wealthy nation. The great kingdom of Louis XIV was birthed by Louis XI. King Louis is not too well known this side of the Atlantic; indeed, the great majority of the author’s sources are French. This biography was published in 1971 and Goodreads doesn’t list many in English since. The book does a good job describing Louis’s successful diplomacy and its results against his neighbors, what was less easy to follow for me was how he kept his own feudal nobility in its place, which he did. He was a patron of the rising middle class and towns, which overtook the feudality of the times. There are a lot of French names and titles to try to follow, not easy, and more detailed maps of France would have helped as Louis was constantly in motion. If you’re willing to take the trip, this is a good story of a fascinating individual and his success, often in spite of himself. Sometimes his mouth overloaded his ***, but he recovered; today, he’d be a great statesman or used car salesman.

  • Deedee
    2018-11-01 17:19

    King Louis XI of Franceborn 3 July 1423 – died 30 August 1483