Charles VIII of France, who was known by his subjects as Charles the Affable. For me he is the Monarch of the morbus gallicus, the Sovereign of syphilis, the prince of pox.
In 1494 on the death of his relative he exercised his “right” to the throne of Naples. In a swift campaign he swept through Italy and seized Naples (on this day in 1495) without a siege. On the way through Italy his French and Swiss troops deported themselves in the usual manner of invading soldiers and raped their way down the peninsula.
The Italians rapidly formed the League of Venice, or the Holy League in 1495 with support mainly from the Neapolitans, Milan, Venice, the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdoms of Spain.
There is a “pre-Columbian” theory that syphilis was present in Europe in some form before this point, but it is also known that it was in the New World. The popular theory is that the Spanish contingent contained some soldiers and sailors who had been with Columbus in the new world. Or perhaps they shared the same brothels as the Sailors of Columbus before they departed for Italy.
Whatever the origination there is no doubt that the full blown and virulent explosion of syphilis into Europe can be traced to the war in Naples.
In 1495 the French and Swiss were driven out of Italy by the Holy League, but they brought the disease with them. They raped and pillaged their way back through Italy to France and then brought the disease home. It spread throughout the world and was initially a highly virulent disease that resulted in early death. This supports the theory that it came from the New World for the Europe of the 15th Century had no immunity to the illness.
England had the misfortune to join the League of Venice in 1496. By 1497 the disease had reached England and Scotland.
To this day it remains one of the most horrible and contagious diseases in existence. Modern antibiotics kept it in check for the last 60 years, but now it is having a resurgence in a world of relaxed sexual mores, anti-biotic resistant strains and low immune conditions such as Aids.
The disease recedes in times of peace, but resurges every time there is a major war. War is the friend of the Sexually Transmitted Disease.