CHARLES VIII. (1470-1498), king of France, born in 1470, succeeded in 1483 to the power acquired by the astute policy of his father Louis XL His sister, Anne of Beaujeu, though only twenty-two, by the firmness and craft which she inherited from her father, gained the supreme authority as regent. She was opposed by the duke of Orleans and Count Dunois, who were supported by the duke of Brittany and the emperor Maximilian ; but Dunois was defeated in Guienne ; and in the battle of St Aubin the duke of Orleans was routed and taken prisoner. One important internal reform took place under the government of Anne,a change was made in the mode of election of the States-General. In the first place, members were no longer called as feudatories of the king, even barons and bishops appearing not by right of title but as representatives of the gentry and the clergy; and secondly, the right of voting for members of the tiers-état was given even to the peasantry. In 1490 Anne's authority came to an end, for the king released Orleans, and entered into the most familiar friendship with him, and also took Dunois as his chief adviser. Under his influence he broke off the contract of marriage with the daughter of Maxi-milian, and took as his wife Anne of Brittany, to whom Maximilian had been betrothed. In consequence a war broke out, in which England and Spain took part against France ; but Henry VII. was bought off by a gift of money, and in the treaty of Senlis, Spain was persuaded to make peace by the surrender of Roussillon and Cerdagne, and Maximilian by the restoration of Franche-Comté and Artois.
Charles was now at liberty to attempt the realization of his dream of founding an Eastern empire. His father had purchased the claim of the House of Anjou to the throne of Naples, and he himself bought the title of Andrew Palaeologus, the nephew of the emperor of Constantinople. Having made a treaty with the Pope, Charles in 1495 entered Naples unresisted. But he showed no favour to the Neapolitan nobility, and gave all offices to his own soldiers. In cousequence much discontent arose, and a league was formed against him by the Pope, the emperor, Spain, and Venice. With 5000 men he defeated at Fornova an army greatly outnumbering his own; but the victory merely enabled him to reach France. Naples soon fell into the hands of Ferdinand of Spain ; and Charles died at Amboise, through an accident, at the age of twenty-eight, before he could carry out his intention of returning to Italy (1498).