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Wars of Italy ( Spain, France, Italy)

10082008 [web E10] Oxford Online Dictionary

Can no longer live and die in extreme poverty and disease → Crusades → Conquest → Trade→ Dreams→ Realization→ Renaissance → War Mentality → Rise of Western Civilization → Unprecedented Prosperity → Reaction to Guilt of Comfort (21st Century). –Michael Johnathan McDonald.

 Wars of Italy

by  Gordon Campbell ( See Endnotes for full description of source(s).) This reproduction is for pedagogical purposes only.

Wars of Italy (1494–1559). Italy was the main theatre of the series of wars sometimes described in a wider European context as the Habsburg–Valois Wars. The chief protagonists were Spain, France, the Holy Roman Empire, the Swiss Confederation, England, and the various states of Italy, and in the later stages Denmark, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire became involved. At the heart of the conflicts there were dynastic rivalries between the Habsburgs and the Valois and territorial disputes between France and the duchy of Burgundy over Flanders, Artois, and the Netherlandish territories of the duchy, between France and the Empire over Milan, and between France and Spain over the kingdom of Naples, Roussillon, and Cerdagne. The reason that Italy became the main theatre of the wars was that the fragile comity of its principal states (Milan, Venice, Florence, Genoa, Savoy, the Papal State, and the kingdom of Naples) was destroyed by territorial ambitions that were often advanced by calling on the assistance of other European states.

War was endemic in Italy, but the Peace of Lodi (1454) had restricted hostilities to local disputes such as the War of Volterra (1472), the War of Ferrara (1482–4) and the war waged by Naples and the Papal State against Florence (1478–80). The term ‘Wars of Italy’ is used to refer to the renewal of national and international conflict that began with the invasion of Italy by King Charles VIII of France in 1494 and concluded with the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559.

In 1494 Charles VIII invaded Italy with a view to implementing the Angevin claim to the throne of Naples; he was invited to do so by Ludovico Sforza, despite the claim of the related House of Orléans to the duchy of Milan. The French army marched through Sforza, Florentine, and papal territory without encountering significant resistance and captured Naples without a battle on 22 February 1495. After being crowned as king of Naples, Charles withdrew, leaving the kingdom garrisoned. The French occupation of Naples united the enemies of France, including the pope ( Alexander VI), the emperor ( Maximilian I), and the king of Spain ( Ferdinand II), who, together with Milan and Venice, formed a Holy League, which was constituted in Venice on 31 March 1495. On 6 July 1495 an attempt was made by the army of the League to block the French retreat at a battlefield near Parma; both sides claimed victory after the ensuing battle of Fornovo, but King Charles was able to resume his march homeward. In the kingdom of Naples, however, Spanish troops under the command of Gonzalo de Córdoba overcame the French garrisons and restored the throne to Ferdinand II of Aragon.

In 1499 Louis XII of Orléans, the new king of France, invaded Italy in support of his family's claim to the duchy of Milan, which originated in the marriage of his grandfather (Louis I, duke of Orléans) to Valentina Visconti, daughter of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, duke of Milan. The French army and its Venetian allies captured Milan on 6 October 1499 and went on to occupy Genoa. Ludovico Sforza retook Milan on 5 January 1500, but his army was defeated at Novara on 8 April 1500; Ludovico was taken as a prisoner to France, where he died eight years later. Milan was an imperial fief, and its occupation by France was sanctioned by the Emperor Maximilian in the Treaty of Blois (September 1504), as part of a projected arrangement in which King Louis's daughter Claude would marry Maximilian's grandson, the future Charles V. King Louis and King Ferdinand then partitioned Naples in the Treaty of Granada (1500), but a boundary dispute renewed hostilities; the Spanish army was victorious in the battles of Cerignola (28 April 1503) and Garigliano (29 December 1503), and in a second Treaty of Blois (1505) King Louis renounced his claim to Naples, leaving the kingdom in the control of King Ferdinand.

On 10 December 1508 King Louis and the Emperor Maximilian joined forces in the League of Cambrai, and, together with the forces of Pope Julius II, invaded the Veneto. The victory of the League at the battle of Agnadello on 14 May 1509 was followed by the occupation of the entire Venetian terraferma (except for Treviso). The Venetians quickly recaptured Padua and in October 1511 formed the Holy League, which consisted of Venice, the Empire, Spain, Pope Julius II (who had changed sides), and Henry VIII of England. At the battle of Ravenna on 11 April 1512, the French lost their initial advantage when their commander Gaston de Foix was killed, and the French army had to retreat. The following year, a French army intent on dislodging Massimiliano Sforza from Milan was defeated by the Swiss troops protecting him at the battle of Novara on 6 June 1513. By this time members of the Holy League had begun to attack France itself: in 1512 an Anglo-Spanish force attempted to invade Aquitaine and Ferdinand's army occupied Navarre, and the following year Henry VIII invaded northern France, defeating a French army at the battle of the Spurs near Thérouanne (Artois) on 16 August 1513, and the Swiss Confederation, which had entered the fray when it was forced out of Lombardy, invaded Burgundy as far as Dijon.

In 1515, Francis I, the new French king, invaded Milan, defeating the Swiss protectors of Massimiliano Sforza at the battle of Marignano on 13 /14 September 1515, after which Massimiliano ceded the dukedom of Milan to King Francis. The defeat at Marignano drove the Swiss out of Italy, and Francis consolidated his control of the region by persuading Maximilian to withdraw his imperial garrisons from the Venetian terraferma, which enabled Venice to regain its mainland territory. French success was crowned by the Concordat of Bologna, in which Pope Leo X ceded considerable ecclesiastical powers to the French crown, and by the Treaty of Noyen (August 1516), in which the new king of Spain, Charles I (later the Emperor Charles V), acknowledged the legitimacy of the French claim to Milan.

These settlements signalled a suspension of hostilities that lasted until the death of the Emperor Maximilian; in Italy, independent states separated the Spanish-controlled south from the French-occupied north-west, an arrangement that gave the peninsula a moment of unhappy stability. This balance was upset when Charles I was elected king of the Romans (i.e. emperor elect) on 28 June 1519, because Spain and the Empire suddenly had a common ruler, and between Charles's German and Spanish positions lay French-controlled Genoa and Milan, which impeded communications and gave his opponents a base from which to strike at Charles's possessions in Burgundy and the Netherlands. From the perspective of Francis I, his Italian territories assumed an importance far beyond his ancestral claims, because they constituted the last barrier to complete encirclement on his land frontiers from Provence to Artois. Spanish, imperial, and French security all hung on the possession of north-west Italy. For the next 40 years, from the accession of Charles V in 1519 to the battle of Saint-Quentin in 1557, Europe was to live with the bloody consequences of the rivalry between Charles V and Francis I.

Francis declared war on 22 April 1521, and Charles V, with the assistance of King Henry VIII and Pope Leo X, captured Milan on 19 November 1521 and defeated the French at the battle of Bicocca on 24 June 1522. By 1523 the French had been expelled from Genoa and the Milanese. The imperial army, commanded by the disaffected duc de Bourbon, invaded Provence as far as Marseille; on failing to take the city (September 1524) it retreated. The French invaded Italy in 1523 and the following year returned under the command of King Francis. The French army retook Milan on 26 October 1524, but was comprehensively defeated at the battle of Pavia, at which Francis was captured and dispatched to Spain as a prisoner. He eventually secured his release by signing the Treaty of Madrid (January 1526), which made four important concessions: in the north, Francis surrendered his claims to Flanders and Artois; in Italy, he surrendered his claims to Milan, Genoa, Asti, and the kingdom of Naples; he surrendered Burgundy to Charles V; he agreed to restore to the duc de Bourbon his lands and titles.

In April 1526 Francis was released. and he promptly repudiated the Treaty of Madrid on the grounds that he had signed under duress. The following month he formed the League of Cognac (22 May ), an anti-imperial pact between France, Venice, the papacy (Pope Clement VII), and Francesco Sforza of Milan. In the war that followed, the imperial army, commanded by the duc de Bourbon, perpetrated the Sack of Rome (May 1527–February 1528). A French army dislodged the imperial garrison in Genoa and forged an alliance with Andrea Doria, the commander of Genoa's navy. The Genoese fleet blockaded Naples, but in July 1528 Andrea Doria changed sides, aggrieved that the French had given commercial privileges to Savona at the expense of Genoa. The effect of his defection to the Empire was the lifting of the French siege of Naples, partly because of the death of their commander Odet de Lautrec on 16 August , but also because the end of the blockade would allow Spanish reinforcements to gain access to the beleaguered garrison. Andrea Doria returned to Genoa, evicted the French garrison, and established a semi-independent republican state under Spanish protection. The final blow in this stage of the Habsburg–Valois struggle was delivered on 21 June 1529, when the French army in Milan was defeated at the battle of Ladriano. In the Treaty of Barcelona and its successor the Peace of Cambrai (3 August 1529), France acknowledged the Spanish claim to Naples and withdrew its claim to Milan, which was returned to the new duke, Francesco II Sforza, under the watchful eye of the emperor. These concessions in effect reinstituted the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, except that Charles V renounced his claims to Burgundy, Provence, and Languedoc.

On 1 November 1535 Francesco Sforza died without leaving an heir, and Charles V promptly installed an imperial governor in Milan. Francis retaliated by forming an alliance with the Ottoman Emperor Süleyman and the Protestant princes of Germany and mounting an invasion of Savoy and Piedmont, capturing Turin on 3 April 1536; Charles responded with an unproductive counter-invasion of Provence. Peace was restored by the intervention of Pope Paul III, who negotiated the Truce of Nice in June 1538 and the following month arranged a meeting of Francis and Charles at Aigues-Mortes (in the Camargue); the pope's arrival in Nice was marked by the erection of a marble cross, after which the quartier known as Croix de Marbre is named.

The truce was intended to last for ten years, but in 1542 hostilities recommenced on a European scale when King Francis formed an alliance with Cleves (a Protestant duchy since 1533), Denmark, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire, and attacked Luxemburg, Brabant, Roussillon, and Navarre. A combined French and Ottoman fleet captured Nice (then part of the duchy of Savoy) on 6 September 1543; the Ottoman commander, Barbarossa (see Barbary pirates), was allowed to sack the city and enslave 2,500 of its inhabitants. In the same month the French garrison evacuated Toulon (which was already an important naval base) to enable the Ottoman fleet to winter there until February 1544. The empire struck back through the alliance between Charles V and Henry VIII, whose forces attacked France simultaneously. Imperial troops advanced on Paris, reaching Soissons on 12 September 1544, and English troops captured Boulogne on 18 September 1544. Francis dealt separately with these two invaders. On 18 September 1544 Francis signed with Charles the Treaty of Crépy-en-Laonnois, which reaffirmed the territorial concessions of the Treaties of Madrid and Cambrai, proposed conciliatory Habsburg–Valois marriages, and committed France to assist the Empire to repel the Ottoman invaders on its eastern flank; the treaty also contained secret clauses in which Francis undertook to assist Charles in his efforts to bring the Protestants of Germany back into the Catholic Church and to persuade the pope to convene a general council of the Church. Two years later, in June 1546, Francis made peace with Henry VIII in the Treaty of Ardes (or Guines), according to which Boulogne would revert to France in 1554 on payment of 2 million crowns.

One again treaties secured a temporary peace in Europe, and Charles was able to concentrate his efforts on the conquest of Germany: In the campaign of 1546–7 known as the Schmalkaldic War, Charles inflicted a decisive defeat on the Protestant princes at the battle of Mühlberg on 24 April 1547. In January 1552, Henri II, the new French king, signed the Treaty of Chambord with Maurice of Saxony (who represented the Protestant princes), pledging financial help to the German Protestants in return for French acquisition of the imperial bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Charles tried to recapture Metz (November 1552–January 1553), but the renewed strength of the Protestant forces sapped his will to continue the campaign. Hostilities ceased in Germany with the signing of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555.

The war continued in other theatres. In 1552 the Sienese expelled the imperial troops which had been garrisoned in Siena by Charles to ensure secure communications between Naples and Milan, and called on France to ensure that the city was not reoccupied. In 1555, Duke Cosimo I de' Medici retook Siena, nominally on behalf of the Empire but in fact for his own benefit. In northern Europe, Charles supplemented the weapons of war by marrying his son Philip (the future Philip II) to Queen Mary I of England on 25 July 1554, so gaining the alliance of England; he then renounced his suzerainty of the Netherlands (October 1555) and Spain (January 1556) in favour of Philip. In February 1556 Philip signed the Truce of Vaucelles with Henri II. The following year King Henri violated the truce by forming an alliance with Pope Paul IV and dispatching a force commanded by François de Guise to invade Italy and reconquer Naples for the French crown. Spanish forces in the Netherlands responded with an invasion of France, and defeated a French army at the battle of Saint-Quentin on 10 August 1567; the duc de Guise was thereby forced to withdraw his troops from Italy. He was redeployed to Calais, which he captured on 7 January 1558. Domestic pressures meant that neither Henri nor Philip had the will to continue the wars, which were finally concluded by the two-part Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis: on 2 April 1559 a treaty with England allowed France to keep Calais for eight years (in the event it was never returned); the following day, a treaty with Spain acknowledged Spanish supremacy in Italy by reducing the military presence of France to a garrison in Saluzzo and a few fortresses while allowing Spain control of Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and Milan; Duke Cosimo was also obliged to relinquish the strategic Sienese dependencies of Orbetello, Talamone, and Porto Ercole, which were thereafter garrisoned by Spain; Corsica was returned to Genoa. France was allowed to retain the imperial bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun (all of which are still in France), but was obliged to surrender the sovereignty of Piedmont and Savoy to Emanuele Filiberto, who created an independent buffer state (see Savoy) between France and the Spanish territories in Italy.

The wars left Italy, both north and south, dominated by foreign powers; the physical and psychological ravages of the wars found their greatest historian in Francesco Guicciardini.[1]


[1] "Wars of Italy," in The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance, Gordon Campbell. © Oxford University Press 2003, 2005. The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. UC - Berkeley Library. 8 October 2008 http://www.oxford-renaissance.com/entry?entry=t175.e3726. bold script mine.

  

 

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