The Battle of Pavia by an unknown Flemish artist (oil on panel, 16th century).
|France, the Holy Roman Empire, the states of Italy (notably the Republic of Venice, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, the Papal States, the Republic of Florence, and the Duchy of Ferrara), England, Scotland, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, the Swiss, Saxony, and others|
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|History of Italy|
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Italian Wars or the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars or the Renaissance Wars, were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, most of the city-states of Italy, the Papal States, most of the major states of Western Europe (France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and Scotland) as well as the Ottoman Empire. Originally arising from dynastic disputes over the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples, the wars rapidly became a general struggle for power and territory among their various participants, and were marked with an increasing number of alliances, counter-alliances, and betrayals.
- 1 Prelude
- 2 The Italian Wars
- 2.1 The 1st Italian War of 1494–98 or King Charles VIII's War
- 2.2 The Second Italian War or King Louis XII's War (1499-1504)
- 2.3 War of the League of Cambrai (1508-1516)
- 2.4 Italian War of 1521–26
- 2.5 War of the League of Cognac
- 2.6 Italian War of 1536–38
- 2.7 Italian War of 1542–46
- 2.8 Italian War of 1551–59
- 3 Aftermath and impact
- 4 Arms and armies
- 5 Historiography
- 6 Citations
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
Following the Wars in Lombardy between Venice and Milan, which ended in 1454, Northern Italy had been largely at peace during the reigns of Cosimo de' Medici and Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence, with the notable exception of the War of Ferrara in 1482-1484.
The Italian Wars
The 1st Italian War of 1494–98 or King Charles VIII's War
Ludovico Sforza of Milan, seeking an ally against the Republic of Venice, encouraged Charles VIII of France to invade Italy, using the Angevin claim to the throne of Naples as a pretext. When Ferdinand I of Naples died in 1494, Charles VIII invaded the peninsula with a French Army of twenty-five thousand men (including 8,000 Swiss mercenaries), possibly hoping to use Naples as a base for a crusade against the Ottoman Turks. For several months, French forces moved through Italy virtually unopposed, since the condottieri armies of the Italian city-states were unable to resist them. Upon reaching southern Italy, Charles VIII made a triumphant entries into Pisa on November 8, 1494, Florence on Naples on November 17, 1494 Rome on December 31, 1494 Upon reaching the the city of Monte San Giovanni in the Kingdom of Naples, Charles VIII sent envoyus to the town and the castle located there to seek a surrender of the Neapolitan garrison. The Neapolitan garrison killed and mutilated the envoys and sent the bodies back to the French lines. This so enraged the French army that they reduced the castle in the town with blistering artillery fire on February 9, 1495 and stormed the fort and killed all within the fort. This was the famous "sack of Naples." News of the French Army's sack of Naples provoked a reaction among the city-states of Northern Italy and the League of Venice was formed on March 31, 1495.
The League was specifically formed to resist French aggression. The League rresulted from negotiations by Venice, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. However, the League consisting of the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, the Papal States, the Republic of Florence, the Duchy of Mantua and the Republic of Venice. This coalition, effectively, cut Charles VIII's army off from returning to France. After established a pro-French government in Naples, Charles VIII started to march north on his return to France. However, in the small town of Fornovo he met the League army.
The French army beat the League Army at the battle of Fornovo on July 6, 1495. The vicory was, however, a pyrrhic victory. The League forced Charles to withdraw to Milan but the League suffered higher casualities than the French and could not stop the French from crossing their lands as Charles VIII's army returned to France. Thus the regional states of Italy had been shown once and for all to be both rich and comparatively weak, which sowed the seeds of the wars to come.
Meanwhile in the Kingdom of Naples, after initial reverses, such as the disastrous defeat by the French at the Battle of Seminara on June 21, 1495, Ferdinand II, King of Naples, with the able assistance of the Spanish general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba eventually reduced the French garrison in the Kingdom of Naples. Thus, Charles VIII lost all that he conquered in Italy. King Charles VIII died on April 7, 1489 and was succeeded to the throne of France by his nephew--Louis II, Duke of Orléans, who became Louis XII of France.
The Second Italian War or King Louis XII's War (1499-1504)
Ludovico Sforza, having betrayed the French at Fornovo, when he suddenly joined the anti-French League of Venice or the Holy League in the middle of the battle, retained his throne in Milan until 1499, when Charles's successor, Louis XII of France, invaded Lombardy and seized Milan on September 17, 1499. Louis XII justified his claim to the Duchy of Milan by right of his paternal grandfather, Louis duc d'Orléans having married Valentina Visconti in 1387. Valentina Visconti was the heir to the Duchy of Milan in the Visconti dynasty. The marriage contract between Valentia Visconti and Louis, duc d'Orléans, guaranteed that in failure of male heirs, she would inherit the Visconti dominions. However, when the Visconti dynasty died out in 1447, the Milanese ignored the Orleans claim to the Duchy of Milan and re-established Milan as a republic. However, bitter factionalism arose under the new republic which set the stage for Francisco Sforza (father of Ludovico Sforza) to seize control of Milan in 1450.
Louis XII was not the only monarch outside of Italy that had ambitions in the Italian Peninsula. In 1496, while Charles VIII was living in France trying to rebuild his army, Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire invaded Italy, to resolve the ongoing war between Florence and Pisa, called the "Pisan War". Pisa had been at war almost continually since the early 14th century. In 1406 after a long seige, Pisa fell under the control of the Florentine Republic. When King Charles VIII of France, invaded Italy in 1494, the Pisans rose up against the Floretines and ousted them from Pisa and established Pisa as an independent republic again. When the King Charles VIII and the French Army withdrew from Italy in 1495, the Pisans were not left to fight the Florentines alone. Much of northern Italy was suspicious of the rising power of Florence. Already during 1495, Pisa had received arms and money from the Republic of Genoa. Additonally, they received horse soldiers and infantry from Milan and the Republic of Venice. I
This was part of the ongoing conflict between Pisa and Florence that Emperor Maximilian vowed to resolve in 1496. Just as Ludovico Sforza had invited Charles VIII into Italy in 1494, now in 1496, he invited Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire into Italy to resolve the conflict between Pisa and Florence. In the conflict beween the Florentines and the Pisans, Sforza had favored the Pisans. In the eyes of the Maximilian I and the Holy Roman Empire, the Pisan War was causing distractions and divisions within the members of the League of Venice. This was weakening the anti-French League and Maximilian sought to shore up the League by settling this war. The worst thing that Maximilian feared was more French involvement in Italian affairs. However, Ludovico Sforza invited Maximilian I and the Holy Roman Empire into Italy in order to strengthen his own position. When the Florentines heard about Maximilian's intention of coming to Italy to "settle" Florence's war with Pisa, they were suspicious that the "settlement" would be heavily inclined toward Pisa. Thus, the Florentines rejected any attempted settlement of the war by the Emperor until Pisa was back under Florentine control.
The Florentines knew that another option was open to them. They knew that the French, under their new king—Louis XII—were intent on returning to Italy. Florence chose to take their chances with the French rather than the Holy Roman Empire. They felt that France might help them re-conquer Pisa.
Louis XII was in fact intending to invade Italy to establish his claim over the Duchy of Milan. Louis was also entertaining an ambition to stake a claim to the Kingdom of Naples. This claim was even weaker than Louis XII's claim to Milan. The claim to the Kingdom of Naples was really King Charles VIII's claim. However, Louis demanded recognition of the claim soley because he, Louis, was the successor to Charles VIII. However, Louis was aware of the hostility that was developing among his neighbors, in regards to French ambitions in Italy. Consequently, Louis XII needed to neutralize some of this hostility. Accordingly, in August of 1498, Louis XII signed a treaty with Archduke Philip, son of Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire which secured the borders between the Holy Roman Empire and France. In July of 1498, Louis renewed the Treaty of Étaples of 1492 with Henry VII of England. In August of 1498, the Treaty of Marcoussis was signed between Louis XII and Ferdinand and Isabel. This Treaty resolved none of the outstanding territorial disputes between spain and France, but agreed that both Spain and France "have all enemies in common except the pope."
In July of 1499, the French Army left Lyon in France and invaded Italy with 27,000 men (10,000 of which were mounted on horseback and 5,000 of which were Swiss mercenaries). Louis XII placed Gian Giacomo Trivulzio in command of his army. In August of 1499, the French Army came across Rocca di Arazzo the first of series of fortified towns in the western part of the Duchy of Milan. Once the French artillery batteries were in place, it took only five (5) hours to open a breach in the walls of that town. After conquering the town, Louis ordered that the entire garrison and many civilians be put to death in a showy massacre to encourage the quick surrender of the other stongholds in western Milan. The bloody tactic worked and the campaign for the duchy of Milan was a relatively quick campaign. On September 5, 1499, terms were negotiated for the surrender of the city of Milan and on October 6, 1499, Louis made a triumphant entry into Milan.
Once Louis XII was installed in Milan, he came under real pressure from the Florentines to assist them in re-conquering Pisa. King Louis and his advisors were somewhat miffed at Florence. In their recent struggle to conquer Milan, the Florentines had maintained strict neutrality despite their long record of pro-French diplomacy. However, Louis was mindful that if he were to conquer Naples, he must cross Florentine territory on the road to Naples. Louis XII needed good relations with Florence. So finally, on June 29, 1500, a combined French and Florentine army laid seige to Pisa. Within a day the Frech guns had knocked down 100 feet of the wall around Pisa. An assault was made at the breach, but the French were surprized by the strong resistance thrown up by the Pisans. The French Army was forced to break off the seige on July 11, 1500 and retreat to the north.
As part of Louis XII's continuing attempt to pacify or neutralize his neighbors to prevent them from acting to obstruct his ambitions in Italy, Louis XII opened discussions with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. On November 11, 1500, Louis signed the Treaty of Grenada. The Treaty of Grenada memorialized Louis XII's agreement with Ferdinand II of Aragon, King of Spain, to divide the Kingdom of Naples between themselves. Then Louis set off marching south from Milan towards Naples. King Louis XII's agreement with Spain was heavily critized by contemporaries—including Nicolo Machiavelli in his masterpiece The Prince. Modern historians also criticize the Treaty of Grenada by calling it "foolish" on Louis XII's part. They allege, as does Machiavelli, that Louis XII did not need to invite Spain into Italy. Louis XII had achieved everything he needed in the Treaty of Marcoussis, that he had signed two years earlier (see above). The Treaty of Grenada did nothing but bind Louis XII's own hands. Once involved in Italian affairs, Spain would work to the detriment of France in Spain. Indeed, this is just what happened.
By 1502, a combined French and Spanish force had seized control of the Kingdom of Naples. Louis XII appointed Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours as viceroy at Naples. On October 12, 1501, the new viceroy took over administration of Naples. However, the new French viceroy proved to be more concerned with extending the French share of the kingdom than he was in ensuring that the Spanish received their share. This did much to aggravate relations between France and Spain. These disagreements about the terms of the partition led to a war between Louis and Ferdinand. By 1503 Louis, having been defeated at the Battle of Cerignola on April 28, 1503 and Battle of Garigliano on December 29, 1503, was forced to withdraw from Naples, which was left under the control of a Spanish viceroy, General de Córdoba.
War of the League of Cambrai (1508-1516)
Meanwhile, Pope Julius II, who had become pope upon the death of Alexander VI in August of 1503, was extremely concerned about the territorial expansion of the Republic of Venice in northern Italy. Pope Julius was not alone in his fear of Venician territorial ambitions. Being from Genoa and Pope Julius knew that the Genoese hated Venice for forcing all other states out the rich Po Valley as the Republic expanded her frontiers across northern Italy. Additionally, Emperor Maximilian was upset with the Venician seizure of Duchy of Friuli. Furthermore, King Louis XII of France had been firmly established in Milan since 1500. Louis XII now saw Venice as a threat to his position in Milan. Moreover, King Ferdinand of Naples resented the fact that Venice held a number of towns in southern Italy along the Adriatic coast.
Accordingly, Pope Julius found it rather easy to form the League of Cambrai on December 10, 1508, in which France, the Papacy, Spain, the Duchy of Ferrara and the Holy Roman Empire agreed to restrain the Venetians. Although the League destroyed much of the Venetian army at the Battle of Agnadello on May 14, 1509, it failed to capture Padua.
By 1510, King Louis XII was regarding Pope Julius II as a greater threat than Venice. Accordingly, France changed sides in the war and allied itself with Venice. In March of 1510, Pope Julius brokered a deal with the Swiss Cantons which brought 6,000 more Swiss troops into the war against the French. Following a year of fighting over the Romagna, during which the Veneto-Papal alliance was repeatedly defeated, the Pope proclaimed a Holy League against the French in October of 1511. This league rapidly grew to include England, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire.
French forces under Gaston de Foix inflicted an overwhelming defeat on a Spanish army at the Battle of Ravenna on April 11, 1512. Foix was killed during the Battle of Ravenna, and the French were forced to withdraw from Italy when the Swiss invaded and conquered Milan. The Swiss reinstated Massimiliano Sforza to the ducal throne of Milan. However, the victorious Holy League fell apart over the subject of dividing the spoils, and in March of 1513 Venice allied with France, agreeing to partition Lombardy between them.
Louis mounted another invasion of Milan, but was defeated at the battle of Novara on June 6, 1513. The battle of Novara would be the last battle in which the traditional Swiss tactic of charging in three columns would be used with success. The victory of the Holy League at Novara was quickly followed by a series of Holy League victories against the Venetians at La Motta on October 7, 1513, the French at Guinegate on August 16, 1513 and the Scots at Flodden Field on September 9, 1513.
Over shadowing all, however, was the death of Pope Julius II on February 20. 1513, which left the League without effective leadership. On January 1, 1515, Louis XII also died and was succeeded to the throne of France by his nephew, Francis I. Francis I continued Louis XII's war against the League of Cambrai in Italy by leading a French and Venician Army against the Swiss and routing the Swiss at Marignano on September 13–14, 1515. This victory over the Swiss decisively broke the string of victories that the Swiss had enjoyed against the against the Venicians and the French. Following the Battle of Marignano, the League of Cambrai or Holy League collapsed as both Spain and the new pope—-Leo X--gave up on the notion of placing Massiliano Sforza on the ducal throne of Milan. By the treaties of Noyon on August 13, 1516 and Brussels, the entirety of northern Italy was surrendered to France and Venice.
Italian War of 1521–26
After three years of relative peace, it was the elevation of Charles of Spain to Holy Roman Emperor on June 28, 1519 led to a collapse of relations between France and the Habsburgs. Francis I, himself had been a candidate for election as Holy Roman Emperor before Charles V was chosen. Francis' candidacy for Emperor had been supported by Pope Leo X. Pope Leo had a real fear of Charles V. Charles' empire included the Kingdom of Naples, the northern border of which was just forty miles from the Vatican.
The deterioration of relations between the Habsburgs and Francis I provided Francis I with a pretext for war with Charles. However, just when Francis I began to count on Pope Leo in a war against Charles V, Pope Leo suddenly made peace with the Emperor and sided with the Holy Roman Empire against France. Soon Francis I was surrounded by enemies. Not only was Charles V emperor, but he also remained King of Spain. Thus Francis I faced war from the east (the Holy Roman Empire) and the west (Spain). Then to make matters worse, Henry VIII of England joined the pope (Pope Leo X died in 1522 and was replaced by Adrian VI who lived a year until 1523 and then was succeeded by Clement VII) and the emperor in their war on France.
The French were outmatched by the Spanish arquebusier tactics, however, and suffered crippling defeats at Bicocca on April 27, 1522 and Sesia against Spanish troops under Fernando de Avalos on April 30, 1524. With Milan in Imperial hands, Francis personally led a French army into Lombardy in 1525, only to be utterly defeated and captured at the battle of Pavia on February 24, 1525. With Francis imprisoned in Spain, a series of diplomatic maneuvers centered around his release ensued, including a special French mission sent by Francis' mother Louise of Savoy to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent that would result in an Ottoman ultimatum to Charles—an unprecedented alliance between Christian and Muslim monarchs that would cause a scandal in the Christian world. Suleiman used the opportunity to invade Hungary in the summer of 1526, defeating Charles' allies at the Battle of Mohács on August 29, 1526. Despite all these efforts, Francis was required to sign the Treaty of Madridin January of 1526 in which he surrendered his claims to Italy, Flanders, and Burgundy, in order to be released from prison.
War of the League of Cognac
In 1526, Pope Clement VII, alarmed at the growing power of the Empire, formed the League of Cognac against Charles V, allying himself, the Republic of Venice, Republic of Florence, and a number of smaller Italian states with France. Venice, however, refused to contribute troops; with the withdrawal of French forces from Lombardy, Charles V proceeded to subdue Florence, and, in 1527, sacked Rome itself. Clement was imprisoned by Imperial troops, and offered no further resistance to Charles V. With the conclusion of the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529, which formally removed Francis from the war, the League collapsed; Venice made peace with Charles V, while Florence was placed again under the Medici.
Italian War of 1536–38
The third war between Charles and Francis began with the death of Francesco Maria Sforza, the duke of Milan. When Charles's son Philip inherited the duchy, Francis invaded Italy, capturing Turin, but failed to take Milan. In response, Charles invaded Provence, advancing to Aix-en-Provence, but withdrew to Spain rather than attacking the heavily fortified town of Avignon. The Truce of Nice ended the war, leaving Turin in French hands but effecting no significant changes to the map of Italy.
Italian War of 1542–46
Francis, allying himself with Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire, launched a final invasion of Italy. A Franco-Ottoman fleet under the command of Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa captured the city of Nice in August 1543, and laid siege to the citadel. The defenders were relieved within a month. Commanded by the Count d'Enghien, the French defeated an Imperial army at the Battle of Ceresole in 1544, but failed to penetrate further into Lombardy. Charles V and Henry VIII of England then proceeded to invade northern France, seizing Boulogne and Soissons. A lack of cooperation between the Spanish and English armies, coupled with increasingly aggressive Ottoman attacks, led Charles to abandon these conquests, restoring the status quo once again.
Italian War of 1551–59
In 1551, Henry II of France, who had succeeded Francis to the throne, declared war against Charles with the intent of recapturing Italy and ensuring French, rather than Habsburg, domination of European affairs. An early offensive against Lorraine was successful, but the attempted French invasion of Tuscany in 1553 was defeated at the Battle of Marciano. Charles' abdication in 1556 split the Habsburg empire between Philip II of Spain and Ferdinand I, and shifted the focus of the war to Flanders, where Philip, in conjunction with Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, defeated the French at St. Quentin. England's entry into the war later that year led to the French capture of Calais, and French armies plundered Spanish possessions in the Low Countries; but Henry was nonetheless forced to accept the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, in which he renounced any further claims to Italy.
Aftermath and impact
In France, Henry II was fatally wounded in a joust held during the celebrations of the peace. His death led to the accession of his 15-year-old son Francis II, who in turn soon died. The French monarchy was thrown into turmoil, which increased further with the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion in 1562. The states of Italy were reduced to second-rate powers and Milan and Naples were annexed directly to Spain.
The Italian Wars had a number of consequences for the work and workplace of Leonardo da Vinci; his plans for a "Gran Cavallo" big horse statue in 1495 were dropped when the seventy tons of bronze intended for the statue were instead cast into weapons to save Milan. Later, following a chance encounter with Francis I after the Battle of Marignano, Leonardo agreed to move to France, where he spent his final years.
Arms and armies
Infantry underwent profound developments during the Italian Wars, evolving from a primarily pike- and halberd-wielding force to a more flexible arrangement of arquebusiers, pikemen, and other troops. While the early part of the wars continued to see landsknechts and Swiss mercenaries dominate, the Italian War of 1521 demonstrated the power of massed firearms in pike and shot formations.
Heavy cavalry—the final evolution of the fully armored medieval knight—remained major players on the battlefields of the Italian Wars. Here, the French gendarmes were generally successful against mounted troops from other states, owing significantly to their excellent horses. The Spanish used light cavalry called Jinetes for skirmishing.
The Italian Wars saw artillery—particularly field artillery—become an indispensable part of any first-rate army. Charles VIII, during his invasion of Italy, brought with him the first truly mobile siege train: culverins and bombards mounted on wheeled carriages, which could be deployed against an enemy stronghold immediately after arrival.
The armies of the Italian Wars were commanded by a wide variety of different leaders, from mercenaries and condottieri to nobles and kings.
Much of the fighting during the Italian Wars took place during sieges. Successive invasions forced Italy to adopt increasing levels of fortification, using such new developments as detached bastions, that could withstand sustained artillery fire.
The Italian Wars are one of the first major conflicts for which extensive contemporary accounts from people involved in the wars are available, owing largely to the presence of literate—and often extremely well educated—commanders.
The naming of the component conflicts within the Italian Wars has never been standardized, varying among historians of the period. Some wars may be split or combined differently, causing ordinal numbering systems to be inconsistent among different sources. The wars may be referred to by their dates, or by the monarchs fighting them.
A major contemporary account for the early portion of the Italian Wars is Francesco Guicciardini's Storia d'Italia (History of Italy), written during the conflict, and advantaged by the access Guicciardini had to Papal affairs.
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- Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars: 1494-1559, p. 41.
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- Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars: 1494-1559, p. 120
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Italian Wars.|
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