La Palice, Grand Marshal of France (1470-1525)

La Palice, Grand Marshal of France (1470-1525)

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Jacques II de Chabannes, Lord of La Palice, distinguished himself during the Battle of Marignan, which earned him the title of Marshal of France in 1515. He was killed on February 24, 1525 at the Battle of Pavia. He gave his name to the famous "the obvious ". Still, it wasn't much for him, all he had to do was die in the war for his soldiers to dedicate a song to him. The original said "alas, if he was not dead, he would still be envious" which turned into "alas, if he was not dead, he would still be alive" after an error in reading the text. 'old French.

The life of La Palice

Jacques II de Chabannes nicknamed Jacques de La Palice was born in 1470 in Bourbonnais. His grandfather Jacques Ier de Chabannes was a companion of Joan of Arc. Noble and great French soldier, La Palice obtained, among others, the titles of lord of La Palice, Pacy, Bort-le-Comte and Héron, then was made Marshal of France. Throughout his military career where he fought in all the wars in Italy, he served three kings of France: Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I.

At the age of 15, he entered the service of Charles VIII. Three years later, he took part in the battle of Saint Aubin du Cormier in July 1488, won by French troops against the Duke of Brittany, putting an end to the mad war. He had time to marry Jeanne de Montberon in 1492, before setting out to conquer the kingdom of Naples in 1494. The same year, he fought in the Duchy of Asti, then the Milanese. He then participated in the capture of Naples in February 1495 and the battle of Fornoue.

When the king died in 1498, he accompanied Louis XII to Milan which was taken in October 1499. Supported by his new king, he took several places in 1501, obtained the title of viceroy of Abruzzo in 1502, but was taken prisoner by Gonzaga of Cordoba, southern Italy. He was not released until two years later, unfortunately the same year his wife disappeared.

The Italian mirage

Between 1507 and 1513, the year when Louis XII’s Italian dream ended, La Palice did not stop: very seriously injured in Genoa, he left to fight against the Republic of Venice; he is from the siege of Treviso and obtains the command of the French troops in Lombardy. To help Emperor Maximilian I, he laid siege to Venice in 1509. In 1511, he succeeded Charles II of Amboise the viceroy of Lombardy as commander of the French troops. Thus, he obtained the highly prized office of Grand Master of France. He steps aside in front of Gaston de Foix Nemours, the king's nephew, and leaves him in command of the army. He seconded him and brought help to the Bolognese besieged by the Spaniards. In 1512, he fought during the Battle of Ravenna alongside Bayard and although it was a French victory, Gaston de Foix-Nemours died there.

La Palice thus resumed command of the armies. He did not have time to rest: first sent to the Pyrenees to help the King of Navarre, he had to leave for Artois to face Henry VIII. August 16, 1513, the "day of the spurs" also called the battle of Guinegatte is fatal for the Sieur La Palice, he is wounded and taken prisoner. This defeat, as well as that of Navarre in the Pyrenees, marked the end of Louis XII's Italian dream: the Treaty of Dijon was signed in September.

La Palice retired to his home and married Marie de Melun, Dame de Montmirail in February 1514.

His death in Pavia, origin of the "obviousness"

With the accession to the throne of Francis I, the friends of the king are gratified; also La Palice loses his position of Grand Master in favor of Gouffier de Boisy, but is elevated to the rank of Marshal of France from January 7, 1515. With this new king, La Palice has more functions such as adviser to the king in many treaties as well. than being admitted at embassy hearings. This same king also dreams of Italy and the war resumes. The army crossed the passes of Larche and Argentière, entered Piedmont and the avant-garde commanded by La Palice surprised the Swiss and the Italians, then took possession of Villefranche.

He advised the king during the Battle of Marignan and negotiated peace with Emperor Charles V in Calais at the Camp du Drap d´Or. He provided good advice during the Battle of Tournai in October 1521. After a visit to Italy to command the main line of the army at the Battle of La Bicoque in 1522, he left to supply Hondarribia in the Pyrenees. François I having problems with the Constable of Bourbon, sends his faithful emissary La Palice to raise the siege of Marseille at the end of September, then seizing Avignon. La Palice then heads for Milan with its army.

In October 1524, began the siege of Pavia defended by the Spanish. This is how the king finds the Constable of Bourbon who now joins the emperor's army. The battle itself takes place on February 24 and 25, 1525. The king's advisers wonder whether to attack or to wait. La Palice is the only one to urge the king to battle. However, we have to wait until the army is in place, but the king, too impatient to fight, cannot help but sound the charge. The knights stopped by the opposing arquebusiers dismount and must fight as well. La Palice is taken prisoner by an Italian captain, but killed by a Spanish arquebusier. His loyal soldiers then wrote a song in his honor to celebrate his courage, of which here is a stanza:

“Alas, La Palice is dead,

Died before Pavia;

Alas, if he was not dead,

He would still be envious ”.

And for a fault of French, were born the “obviousnesses”….

The castle of La Palice

Jacques Ier de Chabannes, the grandfather, bought the feudal design part in 1430. Jacques II the grandson, had the Renaissance part built at the beginning of the 16th century, with the famous pink bricks. This wing connects the fortified castle and the Gothic-style chapel built around 1460. The chapel served as a tomb for members of the family. In 1530, Marie de Melun had the tomb of La Palice built in this chapel. Unfortunately, like many funeral monuments, it was sacked during the Revolution. In 1830, Baron de Montfaucon discovered some pieces of the tomb, bought them and bequeathed them to the Calvet museum in Avignon.

During the visit of the castle, one discovers the furnished lounges sheltering many historical memories, the 15th century hangings, the coffered ceilings enhanced with gold and colors. Historical monument since July 1998, the park dates from the beginning of the 17th century. It is made up of a concierge, ponds, a garden with a bridge. During the walk, you can see the old stables and the riding school.

Thank you, Monsieur de La Palice, for making us smile with the "truisms" for more than 500 years! If you weren't born on a beautiful day in 1470, we wouldn't be talking about you!


- Life, death and transfiguration of the Lord of La Palice - Dante Zanetti

- Francis I and the Renaissance - Gonzague Saint Bris

- Curiosities and Riddles of French History - JP Colignon

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