Louis XII, king of France, the eighth of the house of Valois, born in Blois in 1462, died Jan. 1, 1515. The son of Duke Charles of Orleans, and great-grandson of Charles V., he was left an orphan when scarcely two years old, and was educated under the supervision of Louis XL, whose second daughter Jeanne he was constrained to marry in 1476. He disputed the regency of Anne of Beaujeu during the minority of Charles VIII., and succeeded in having himself appointed lieutenant general of the kingdom by the states general held in 1484. Afterward resorting to arms, he formed a powerful league among the nobles, and even secured an alliance with Richard III. of England; but he was defeated at St. Aubin-du-Cormier in 1488, and imprisoned in the castle of Bourges, where it is said he was confined at night in an iron cage. At the end of three years he was released by Charles VIII., and proved a faithful servant to his liberator. In 1494 he accompanied Charles in his expedition to Italy, and was put in command at Asti. He rashly took advantage of this circumstance to enforce his claims to the duchy of Milan, in right of his grandmother, Valentina Visconti; but Ludo-vico Sforza defeated his plans and besieged him in Novara. The return of Charles VIII. from Naples and the victory of Fornovo (1495) extricated him from his difficult position, and he returned to France with the king.
The latter dying without issue in 1498, the crown devolved by right upon Louis, now 36 years of age. On his accession, he generously declared that " the king of France would not avenge the wrongs done to the duke of Orleans," and welcomed even those who had previously opposed him. He gave his confidence to George of Amboise, a well-meaning but short-sighted minister; and while their common efforts tended to promote the internal welfare of France, their foreign policy was injurious to it. Louis, having in 1499 obtained a divorce from his first wife, married Anne of Brittany, the widow of Charles VIII., thus securing the reunion of that duchy to France. He was now in close alliance with Pope Alexander VI., who had granted the divorce, and he undertook to make good his claims upon Milan. At the head of his army, he achieved the conquest of the duchy in a few weeks, took Ludovico Sforza and sent him a prisoner to France, and assisted the pope and his son Cesare Borgia in their territorial aggressions. He concluded in 1500 a secret treaty at Granada with Ferdinand of Aragon, and, sending his army to Naples, shared that kingdom with his ally.
But quarrels soon arose between the conquerors, and Gonsalvo de Cordova defeated the French at Seminara, Cerignola, and on the Garigliano (1503), finally expelling them from southern Italy. In 1504 Anne of Brittany, availing herself of Louis's illness, concluded with Maximilian a treaty at Blois, by which she engaged to give her daughter Claude to the emperor's grandson (afterward Charles V.), with a dower consisting of not only the claims of the French king to Milan and Naples, but the two rich provinces of Brittany and Burgundy. Louis on his recovery broke off this treaty, and, yielding to the wishes of the states general at Tours, betrothed Claude in 1506 to her cousin Francis of Angouleme, heir apparent to the crown. In 1507 he severely chastised the city of Genoa, which had asserted its freedom, and in 1508 formed an alliance with Maximilian, Ferdinand of Aragon, and Pope Julius II., knowm as the "league of Cambrai," to crush the republic of Venice. The Venetians, conquered by him at Agnadello (1509), were on the verge of ruin, when the pope suddenly went over to their side, and brought about the " holy league," to which Maximilian, Henry VIII. of England, and Ferdinand adhered, in order to expel the French from Italy. The latter, under the command of Gaston de Foix, were at first successful, Gaston gaining three victories in three months; but his death at Ravenna in 1512 arrested their success, and being finally defeated at Novara in 1513, they lost all they still held in Italy. Louis had seduced the Venetians from their allies; but the other confederates made a league at Mechlin, and invaded France; the English routed the French gendarmerie at Guinegate (1513); and Louis, being moreover threatened by the Swiss and the Spaniards, offered terms to his enemies, and the pacification was settled at Orleans (1514). The king, to secure his arrangements with England, consented to pay a pension of 100,000 crowns to Henry VIII., and to marry that king's sister Mary. A few months later he breathed his last, amid the universal sorrow of his nation, by whom he was styled the "father of the people."