The Italian Wars and the balance of power in Medieval Europe

The Italian War cannot be described as a civil war on the Italian mainland, which it was certainly not. Neither can it be seen as a state of belligerence between the Spanish kingdoms of Castile, the Valois  kings of France and their foes the Habsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Sicilian/Naples dynasties. Monarchs in the Middle Ages especially during the High Tide Mark of Medieval Europe, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Roman Catholic Church, made their mark on the alliances, decisions and actions that sparked feudal usage of central European kingdoms.

Alliances between Monarchs, the creation of oligarchies with power bases and the messy hierarchy of the Holy Roman Empire, would be the catalyst that would eventually lead to the many Wars of Coalition in Europe. These feudal periods would destroy and build Empires. They would even define countries borderlines for the future in Europe. The Italian wars were a wider conflict from 1494-1559, which included Spain.

The Italian Wars and the balance of power in Medieval Europe

The Italian Wars and the balance of power in Medieval Europe

Also Read: Cyrus The Great: Birth, Relationships, and his Victories

Mainland Italy would become the Battle setting for wider historical events involving the Valois Kings of France, The Habsburgs in the Holy Roman Empire, England, Spain both to a small extent, the Ottoman Empire in phases and the Italian kings.

The Italic League was set up in 1445. The Duchy of Milan and Republic of Venice were involved in a long-standing conflict, the Pazzi Uprising and the War of Ferrara of 1454 concluded by the signing of the Treaty of Lodi  finally bringing an end to the conflict. The Italic League was formed after the end of hostilities on mainland Italy. Geographically, Northern Italy did not always take the lead of Rome and the Italian mainland in its early history, as it had been annexed during the Byzantine Empire and the invasions of the Germanic tribes, the invasion of the French Angiven Dynasty over time. The region also became part of the Holy Roman Empire.

Forty years of stability followed within the League, the only exceptions were the 1479-1481 Pazzi Conspiracy and the 1482-1484 War of Ferrara. The conflict of Pazzi was an attempt by the Pazzi family to remove the Medici family under Lorenzo de’Medici, from power in Renaissance Florence. This was defeated by Lorenzo De’Medici as ruler of Florence. His motivation having ended the uprising, was to drum up support to encourage the exclusion of France and the Holy Roman Empire from the Italian mainland.

The War of Ferrara was fought between papal forces of Pope Sixtus IV and the Venetian (city of Venice) malcontents, against that of the Ecole I’d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.  Papal forces were mustered by Pope Sixtus IV, and his Venetian allies, a personal nemesis of the duke. Ecole l’d’Este was devoted to the Naples kingdom. Relations between the Duke and the Vatican were poor at best and efforts by the pope to remove noblemen not favorable with papal political ambitions, were considered a threat to the pope’s alliances, which included the combined French House of Anjou - Alois.

After the failure of the Pazzi uprising in 1481, Lorenzo de’Medici had brokered a peaceful settlement through diplomacy with Ferdinand I, king of Naples, who was at that time a champion of the pope. This came as a surprise to the pope and his Venetian allies. Venice in turn had been at war with the Ottoman Empire which ended with the Treaty of  Constantinople in 1479.

Elements of Venetian society and from within the Vatican under Pope Sixtus IV plotted to end the influences between the Medici family in Florence, Venice and Rome and consequently destabilize the position of the Italic League.


The Renaissance (15th – 16th Century)

The Renaissance was a period of new enlightenment and change from the Medieval period into modernity, its centre occurred in the Italian city of Florence, promulgated by the highly influential Medici family in the city. Lorenzo de ’Medici was a banker and noblemen, a leader of the Renaissance in Florence, but a leader who sought to exclude France and the Holy Roman Empire from the Italian mainland.

The Renaissance was a movement primarily of the Reformists. Changes in society were championed for the emancipation of the rights of ordinary citizens, and the development of interest in the sciences, art, and culture. Self-actualization amongst ordinary man and the worth of human rights among men and women was championed. The reform of the Church. In this the Medici family became at first central to the start of the Renaissance movement.

Lorenzo de’Medici died in 1492, whereupon the influence of the Italic League became weaker, at the time that France was seeking expansion in Italy, an expansion that would be the beginning of 300 years of French domination in Europe, 1570-1871.

The French king Louis XI inherited the County of Provence from his cousin Charles IV  of Anjou, of the House of Anjou, but more interestingly, laid claim to the Kingdom of Naples through the French Angevin, (the House of Valois-Anjou). These were noblemen who served as monarchs of Naples and several other territories in their turn. Provence being seeded to the French crown and  mainland by Charles VIII in 1486, in so doing making the ports of Marseilles and Toulon open to direct access of the Mediterranean Sea which suited future French territorial ambitions perfectly.

In the period just before the start of the Italian wars, Charles VIII signed a series of treaties with foreign nations to ensure neutrality. The agreement with Henry VII of Tudor England in the Peace of Etaples is an example of one of such agreement in this cause, as was Emperor Maximilian Ist and the Treaty of Barcelona in 1493.


The Italian Wars of 1494 – 1499

Many states of conflict within Medieval Europe during the High Tide Mark of the Middle Ages, were commonly provoked by opposing monarchs. The signing of ‘agreements and treaties of neutrality by intent’, including trade links and other agreements that would be used several times in central Europe into the late 19th century between belligerent kingdoms and monarchs.

Ludovico Sforza Regent of Milan in 1494, persuaded Charles VIII of France to invade the Italian mainland, using the pretext of the Angevin claims to the throne of Naples. The rivalries of Ludovico Sforza’s wife Beatrice d’estra and Ludovico’s nephew Gian Galeazzo who was son to Isabella of Aragon, Spain. Gian was side-lined and  exiled by his uncle to Pavia in South western Lombardy, Northern Italy in 1481, despite his hereditary rites to the Dukedom of Milan.

Both Beatrice and Isabella were intent on securing their children’s rights to the Duchy. When Alfonso II became regent of Naples in Jan 1494, Isabella approached him in helping the heir apparent’s rights to their accessions, Isabella was not successful.

Charles VIII invaded the Italian Peninsula in September on the pretext that Naples would be an ideal base in his war with the Ottoman Empire. Ludovico became of Duke of Milan in October after the death of his nephew, Gian Galeazzo Sforza, whom he allegedly poisoned. The French landed and marched through Italy almost completely unopposed, taking Pisa in November, Rome and Florence in December.

Charles was supported by Girolamo Savonarola, with the provision in doing so of creating a theocracy in Florence which he did, it was short lived. Pope Alexander VI allowed the French force freedom of passage through the Papal states, a fait a’compli of his support for the Angiven invasion.

The French on reaching Monte San Giovanni Campano in the Kingdom of Naples in February 1495, sent envoys to the walled battlements of the Campano to offer terms to the Neapolitan garrison there. The Garrison commanders enraged by French audacity, murdering the envoys, and sent their mutilated bodies back to their own lines. On the 9th of February the French attacked in full force with siege guns and entered the Campano castle fortifications, killing all inside. This incident became known as the ‘Sack of Naples’.

From the start out of the French occupation forces actions of the previous year and now the destruction of Monte San Giovanni Campano in Naples, which enraged the Italian people, anti-French sentiment among the populace, led to the formation of the ‘League of Venice’.

The League was joined by Spain, the Republic of Venice, Milan and the Holy Roman Empire. Florence would later join the League after the defeat of Savonarola, the papal states of Mantua, isolating  Charles from his French bases. With Ludovico’s changing sides, Louis de’Orleans, Charles’s cousin tried to take advantage with a view to annexing Milan, which he would claim through his grand mother Valentina Visconti.

Louis d’Orleans captured Novara when the garrison defected, moving on to Vigevano some 40kms from Naples. Here he would be stopped, Ludovico would be absent due to either a stroke or a nervous breakdown at this critical point, his troops were on the verge of mutiny having not been paid. His wife Beatrice d’Este took control of her husband’s responsibilities, kept Novara in Ludovico’s hands, and forced Louis to surrender as a bargaining chip for his freedom.

Charles having replaced Ferdinand II with a pro-French government, turned north on 6th July, but came up against the League at Fornovo di Taro. The encounter became known as the Battle of Fornovo di’Taro, where Charles was able to push their adversaries across the river Taro, continuing further but leaving much of their supply’s behind, heading for Asti. Charles would claim victory as would the Italian forces, but Charles forces were not defeated nor were they forced into a stalemate.

The League had higher casualties and did not force a defeat or retreat of Charles’s army. The French had the upper hand and many academics state in their findings that Charles forces were the better advantaged of the conflict that the league had started to defeat the French forces or at least push them back.


The Wars of 1499 – 1504

The conflicts next phase, centered on the long-standing feud between Florence and the Republic of Pisa. Pisa being annexed in 1406, taking advantage of the confusion of the French invasion to declare Pisa independent in 1497 from the kingdom of Florence. Suspicion of Florence’s power, from Genoa, Venice and Milan remained, despite Charles VIII retreat, all siding with Pisa.

The selfishness and autocracy of internal politics in Europe would surface once again when Ludovico Sforza tried to consolidate his power by inviting an external power to get involved in internal affairs. In this case contact with Emperor Maximilian I, moved to protect or more directly bolster the Kingdom of Venice which was an obstruction to French intervention.

The Florentines however refused to accept his support and were convinced Maximilian was more supportive of Pisa. Confirmation of Maximilian I intensions were proven when he attacked the Florentine city of Livorno. The excursion was not successful, and he had to withdraw citing a lack of supplies and men from July - September 1496.

Charles VIII died in 1498, Louis XII used the vacuum to attempt a seizure of Milan, he extended his ambitions by using his predecessors claim to the kingdom of Naples. Louis was aware of hostility in Italy towards French intentions and intervention on the mainland, he countered by renewing the Treaty of Etapes with England and a new treaty confirming the French borders with Burgundy.

A further treaty was signed in August of 1498 with Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Treaty of Marcoussis, but did not address all the territorial disputes between the two countries. The leading phrase of the Treaty became ‘have all enemies in common except the pope’.

The Treaty of Blois was signed by Louis in 1499, a military alliance between the Venetians against Ludovico. A French army of 27,000 men was mustered after the signing of the Treaty and commanded under the Milanese Exile Gian Giacomo Trivulcio, invading Lombardy. Trivulcio was an accomplished commander who was successful in his campaigns.

The siege of the fortifications was as always breached by the French siege Artillery and the interior entered and captured. Louis in typical fashion as before ordered all the Lombardian garrison slaughtered with their senior administrators. To avoid the same fate, the garrisons of the Milanese strong points, gave up to the French force without opposition. Ludovico, his wife having died in early January 1497, fled the region with his children and was given shelter by Maximilian I.

On the 6th  October 1499, Louis made a triumphant entry into Milan. Florence had asked Louis for assistance in attacking Pisa, but he was not motivated to respond as he saw fit to ignore Florence much as the Florentines had not assisted him on his campaign during the capture of Milan.

Louis being initially occupied with preventing Ludovico from regaining his duchy, Ludovico was eventually captured at Novaro in 1500, spending the rest of his life in a French jail.

After Milan, Louis needed to maintain good relations with the Florentines, whose territory needed to be crossed to reach and conquer Naples. A joint Florentine-Franco force besieged the castle fortifications of Pisa, using the usual French siege artillery, a breach was made in the walls, but the attacking infantry were held back several times by the defenders, the assault being abandoned on 11th July, 1500.

Louis returned to France leaving the Florentines to encircle the Pisa fortifications. The siege finally broke through in 1509 with the surrender of the Pisa garrison. Louis was keen to complete the conquest of Naples, he signed the Treaty of Granada with Ferdinand II of Aragon. It was an agreement to divide the kingdom of Naples between the two in the alliance. Ferdinand had been complicit in the expulsion of the French forces from Naples in 1495.

Louis hoped the concessions of the Granada Treaty would allow him to keep much of the Naples kingdom without a further expensive war.  His actions were criticized by contemporary historians such as Niccolò Machiavelli, a well-respected historian and writer of the time and other academics. Louis, it was argued had received more than enough via the 1499 Treaty of Marcoussis. Inviting Spain into the Naples kingdom would only work towards his detriment.

Louis’s final gambit was to be the 1501 French army siege of Capua. The defences and defenders of Frederic of Naples were strong, but to no avail as the fortifications were broken and the forces defeated after a short engagement.

The community was sacked, women were mass raped and between 2000-4000 citizens killed, extensive material damage was caused to add to the destruction. The sacking and actions of the French reached a new low, revulsion was felt throughout Italy.

Resistance crumbled as Louis’s coalition moved through the towns, who wanted to avoid the same fate. On 12th October Louis appointed the Duke of Lemours as his viceroy in Naples. The Treaty of Granada did not cover the Neapolitan territories leaving them undecided, disputes between the two parties of the alliance on this matter left the association poisoned. A further war in late 1502 ensued between the now broken alliance, this time the French once again were defeated at Cerignola in April 1503 and at Garigliano in December of the same year, being expelled from Naples.

By 1503 most conflicts were initiated by French incursions in Lombardy and Piedmont on the Italian mainland, but they were unable to establish annexation rites permanently. The Empire and France were both dogged by internal division over religion by 1557.


The League of Cambrai

As the wars and treaties between the houses of the French, Florentines, Venetians, Naples and Sicily and the sitting popes, changes happened within the Vatican itself. Pope Pius III was replaced by Pope Julius II. Julius as a ruler of the Papal states, became concerned by the power of the Venetians in Northern Italy.

The Genoese, home of Julius II joined in the concern, being  resentful of their expulsion from the Po Valley, Maximillian I acquisition of Gorizia in 1500, in turn was under threat by the Venetian occupation of the neighboring Friuli. Julius would draw the Duchy of Ferrara into the enclave of concerns and united the disparate interests by forming The Anti-Venetian - League of Cambrai, which was signed on 10th December 1508.

Gorizia and Friuli were independent states in proximity in North-Eastern Italy, were a part of the Holy Roman Empire, had their own people, culture and history. Friuli had other smaller states and called their people Friulians’. Louis XII had destroyed a Venetian army at Agnadello in May 1509. Maximilian failed to capture Padua and withdrew from Italy.

French interests on the peninsular were not to abate, Louis XII was seen by Pope Julius II as the greatest threat in February 1510, if he could not be decisively beaten in the field and strong political and military alliances joined in unison to prevent revived incursions, then further coalitions would have to strengthen resistance against the ambitions of the possibility of an entire French hegemony of the Peninsula without match.

Julius made peace with Venice and in March was in contact with the Swiss Cantons. On 6000 Swiss mercenaries were hired on agreement. A year of violent conflict ensued by end of which Louis XII controlled much of the Papal States. In 1511, Julius II formed the anti-French Holy League which included Henry VIII of England, and Maximilian of Spain.  

At the Battle of Ravenna of April 1512, the Spanish were defeated by a French Army under the noted nobleman, Gaston De Foix . The Battle was part of the war of The League of Cambrai. Although entirely victorious, the French army would lose their commander De Foix, killed in battle.

The Swiss mercenaries would recapture Milan and restored Ludovico’s son, Massimiliano Sforza to the throne. The league itself would be mired in disagreements among its members about sharing of the spoils. The death of Pope Julius II in February 1513, would leave an effective leadership vacuum within the League.

France and Venice would form a new alliance but somehow the League was able to muster some cohesion, between July and September 1513 with victories in Guinegate in Flanders, Flodden in England and Novara and La Motta in Lombardy.

The better position the League found itself in, did not end the conflicts on the Peninsula of Italy. Louis XII of France died in February and was succeeded by his son-in-law Francis I, who picked up on his predecessors cause by defeating the Swiss at Marignano.

The unpopularity of Massimiliano Sforza having lost the support of the Swiss by the defeat to Francis I in Milan, allowed Frances 1, to take the Duchy of Milan for himself, in response, the League would dissolve and both Spain and the new Pope Leo X saw no benefit in further conflicts. The Treaty of Noyon to ratify the status, was signed on 13 August 1516. Charles I of Spain acknowledged Francis I as the Duke of Milan. Francis reciprocated by ‘passing’ his own claim to Naples onto Charles I. Maximillian in Spain, felt isolated, in deference he signed the Treaty of Brussels, a confirmation of acknowledgement.


The Third Italian War(1521-1526)

After the death of Maximillian I in January 1519, the German  princes endorsed Charles I of Spain as the new Holy Roman Emperor, placing his authority over Spain and the low countries, (Belgium, Holland and the states of Germania). The new alliance was a Holy Roman Empire hierarchy, excluding France and placing a so called ‘Ring of Habsburgs’ in front of France.

The ‘Battle lines’ would be drawn as the mishaps and excesses of France with little quarter on the Italian Peninsula since 1459, were not to be sanctioned with the same treaties and alliances in central Europe after the Treaty of Brussels and the consequences of French aggression under the new monarch.

France was considered a threat to the HRE and all its states including the British Isles. Although Francis I was a contender as Emperor to the Imperial throne being a rival to Charles of Spain.  Francis planned an offensive against Habsburg for their possessions in Navarre and Flanders, first solidify his place in Italy with an alliance with Venice.

As pope Leo had endorsed his entitlement to the Imperial throne, Leo changed his mind as he decided to support Charles of Spain, his focus having turned to the rise of Protestantism and the reforms to the Roman Catholic Church in central Europe under Martin Luther in Germany.

By November 1521, an Imperial-Papal army under the Marquis of Pescara and Prospero Colonna, was mustered in a successful campaign to capture Milan, placing Francesco Sforza back on the throne as Duke of Milan. Pope Leo X died in December 1521, his successor Adrian VI having just become pope on 9th January 1522, was witness to the defeat of the French in a campaign to take Milan at Bicocca by a Papal-Spanish army on 27th April.  

England under Henry VIII joined the Imperial alliance in May 1522, declaring war on France. Venice in kind now probably drained by the continuous hostilities on the peninsula and the growing conflict in central Europe withdrew from the war in July 1523. Pope Adrian VI died in November 1522. Pope Clement VII succeeded him, his efforts to end the conflict amenably were unsuccessful.

France had lost ground in Lombardy and had been invaded by the England, the Imperial and Spanish armies and the English were successful but could not co-ordinate their advantage properly due to differing objectives. Papal policy was to prevent France or the Empire from becoming too powerful. Pope Clement VI secretly aligned himself with Francis I in late 1524, supporting another offensive in Milan by Francis’s forces.

The attack of 24th February 1525 was an unmitigated disaster for the attacking French with their defeat at Pavia, where Francis was captured and imprisoned in Spain. Frantic diplomatic manoeuvres were used  to broker his release.  The Ottoman Emperor at the time, Sulieman the Magnificent, was consulted to seek his intervention, he avoided involvement this time, however his powerful Ottoman fleet in the Mediterranean, would solidify a long-standing Franco-Turkish relationship in the future. The association would remain  largely unacknowledged.

Francis was eventually released in March of 1526 but had to sign the Treaty of Madrid, thereby relinquishing all French claims to Artois, Burgundy and Milan.


The Italian War of 1536 – 1538

The Treaty of Cambrai, reinstalled Francesco Sforza as Duke of Milan. Being childless, the Duchy would be inherited by Charles V of France, on Francesco’s death which happened on 1st November 1535. Francis refused to accept the provisions of the Treaty, he argued that he was entitled to the Duchy of Milan, Genoa, and Asti, in so stating he opted to prepare for war.

Pro-Valois elements in April 1536, removed the Imperial garrison in Milan, a French army attacked under the command of Admiral Philippe de Chabot, taking Turin but failing to reach Milan. The Spanish response was rapid but ill-advised, a Spanish army attacking Provence, capturing Aix in August 1536. A campaign that had little value as the forces withdrew without further objectives, Spanish resources would have been better positioned to give support in Spain where the situation was dire.

In the same year the French and Ottoman-Turks signed another Franco-Ottoman treaty on wide ranging diplomatic and commercial matters. The French requested Ottoman assistance for a joint campaign to annex  Genoa, using an Ottoman fleet and French land forces. Genoa had over the interim taken the opportunity of reinforcing its defences, in the event French land forces could not breach the Genoese fortifications, so the centre of their attacks moved to Piedmont, occupying Pinerolo, Cheiri and Carmagnola. The Ottoman fleet continued with harassing attacks on the Naples coastline raising fears in Italy of an invasion.

Pope Clement was replaced by Pope Paul III in 1534, he moved immediately to bring the war to an end, bringing the two sides to an agreement in Nice in May 1538. The Treaty of Nice or a truce in this case, called for a ten-year cessation of hostilities, but gave France  possession of Piedmont, Savoy, and Artois as bounty.


The Italian War of 1542-1546

The peace of 1538 did not end the underlying arrogance of the French under Francis, who still claimed Milan, Charles of Spain in response, insisted he accept the provisions of the Treaties of Madrid and Cambrai. Their relationship by 1540 collapsed, Charles placing his son Philip on the thrown of Milan. The appointment of Philip Duke of Milan ensured that no French claims of Milan, would be possible in the future.

Charles made a tactical mistake by attacking the Ottoman stronghold at the Port of Algiers, thus severely weakening his forces. Suleiman the magnificent in the aftermath, took the necessary precautions in reaffirming the Franco-Ottoman alliance. Francis again formed a joint Franco-Ottoman coalition with another military excursion in July 1542, initiating war with the holy roman empire, the Italian War of 1542-1546.

In August French land forces attacked the Spanish border at Perpignan, Flanders, Artois and Luxembourg, a Valois possession of pre-1447. Imperial resistance was stronger than expected and by 1553, Henry III of England agreed to join Charles in his campaign in Flanders.

Flanders for the combined English-Spanish forces was not to be easy as the alliance did not make much progress. A combined Franco-Ottoman fleet under Hayreddin Barbarossa, captured Nice and besieged the Citadel there on 22nd August. Winter would forestall progress and with the presence of a Spanish fleet, the Franco-Ottoman fleet were forced to withdraw. The possibility of a joint Christian-Islamic force attacking a Christian town was abhorrent, especially as Barbarossa had been offered anchorage by Francis in Toulon as a winter base.

Francis, Count of Enghien, carried out a campaign against Imperial forces at Ceresole in April of 1554 defeating them there, but the victory was of little effect as they failed to make further gains elsewhere in Lombardy. The Imperial forces bolstered their strength in June at Serravale, this was fortuitous as they met and dispersed a mercenary force under the command of the exile Piero Strozzi, whilst on their way to meet Francis of  Enghien.

An Imperial force advanced to within 100 kilometres of Paris, whilst an English army captured Boulogne. The Imperial army’s treasury was depleted at this stage, with concerns too of the threat posed by the intact Ottoman fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Treaty of Crepy was accepted and signed between Charles and Francis, restoring the position that had prevailed, pre-1542. The treaty excluded Henry VIII as he was still at war with France, an agreement being concluding between England and France in 1546, allowing Henry to keep Boulogne.


The Italian War of 1551- 1559

Francis, of Enghien died in March of 1547, his son Henry II of France succeeding him. A monarch who continued the tradition of fulfilling his predecessors’ goals of restoring the French position in Italy. Exiles from Italy encouraged him, his cousin Francis, Duke of Guise claiming the throne of Naples through his grandfather, Rene II the Duke of Lorraine. Henry strengthened his diplomatic position by rekindling the Franco-Ottoman alliance and assisted the Ottomans in capturing Tripoli North Africa, in August of 1551.

Once again, the monarchical fixation with personal territorial goals during their reign, would be used for personal gains, although a devout Catholic and persecutor of the Huguenot ‘heretics’ at home, Francis signed the Treaty of Chambord in January of 1552, ironically with several Protestant princes of the Holy Roman Empire and in so doing gained the Bishoprics of Toul, Verdun and Metz. The association with the Protestant Princes did not reward Charles V as he had envisioned. The Protestant German princes revolted against him, led by elector Maurice of Saxony.

The Second Schmalkaldic War of the Protestant princes, against the Catholic Charles V broke out in 1552. The war was never clearly concluded, some academic reports mention a conclusion with the Peace of Passau in August of 1552 or the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. In another move by Henry II of France as a catholic, he supported the Protestant princes, seeking to expand his territorial opportunities in Lorraine. After the Schmalkaldic Wars, French troops would seize the three bishoprics and entered Lorraine.

In 1553 another Franco-Ottoman alliance captured the island of Corsica a Genoese territory, led by Henry’s wife, Catherin de ’Medici. Tuscan exiles supported by the French seized Siena, this brought Henry into conflict with Cosimo de’ Medici ruler of Florence.

Cosimo defeated a French army at Marciano on 2nd August 1554. Siena would hold out until April 1555 and was absorbed by Florence eventually becoming part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

In June of 1554 Philip II of Spain became king of England through his marriage to Mary I, also known as Mary of Tudor. In November he would also receive the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily from his father who reconfirmed him as Duke of Milan. His brother Ferdinand would be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in receipt.

Charles would formally abdicate as Emperor in January 1556, splitting his possessions, with Spain and its overseas territories, with The Spanish Netherlands going to Philip and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand. Over the next century Naples and Lombardy would become the centre of supply of men and the funding of materials to the Spanish in Flanders during The Eighty Years War (1568-1648).

England entered the war in 1557, with the focus being on Flanders. The Spanish army of Flanders defeated the French at St. Quintin. The French would in turn reverse and take Calais from England, which they had held since 1347. Thionville was also captured in June. Peace negotiations during the conflict had already begun in June, Henry VIII being pro-occupied with internal strife which led to the The Religious Wars of 1562.

French indecisiveness and lack of will as of these events, would lead to the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis in 1559, ending the Italian Wars, which largely expelled France from northern Italy. Corsica was returned to Genoa, while France retained Calais and the three Bishoprics once part of the Holy Roman Empire. Emmanuel Philibert Duke of Savoy re-established the Savoyard State, to northern Italy as an independent state. The provisions of agreement in Northern Italy, were basically returned to the conditions of 1551.

Henry II and Philip II approached Pope Pius IV, as Ferdinand I could not be accepted as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire without the popes blessing and investiture by a pope which was required by Holy Roman Empire law.



The Italian Wars were an interesting period of Medieval European History that followed on from Spain’s own wars and struggles. Italy’s experience was somewhat different in certain aspects and very similar in others.

Firstly, the Italian Peninsula from 1445 onward, was never fully occupied by a single power, the Roman Catholic Church, the popes and their ties to Catholic noblemen and Emperors, efforts to resist Catholic Church reform, the use of papal forces to persecute and eradicate ‘heretical’ Christian movements outside of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant movement in the peninsula and in France, were a driving element that would encourage conflict in the Italian Peninsula.

Secondly, French ambitions for expansion on the Italian mainland, the bloody conflicts to achieve and maintain control, monarchical inheritance rights by right of family bloodlines and agreements resurfacing over time.

The Holy Roman Empire, anti-French alliances in Italy, the influences of the ‘Habsburg circle’, claims that Spain had in Italy, not as direct and as powerful as the French and Franco-Ottoman invasions on the peninsula, but an aftermath of the Cateau Cambresis peace treaty. The period after Cateau Cambresis, finally ending the Italian wars of 1494-1559, and the periods up to the peace treaties acceptance, would change the balance of power in Europe.

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