First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII (1494-95)

First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII (1494-95)

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First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII (1494-95)

The First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII (1494-96) was an unsuccessful French attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples, and helped trigger over half a century of warfare in Italy, which ended with Spain as the dominant power (Italian Wars, 1494-1559).

The Kingdom of Naples was the mainland half of the earlier Kingdom of Sicily. Sicily had been lost to Peter III of Aragon in 1282, and the Angevin rulers of the kingdom had moved to the mainland, where they ruled until 1442 when Alfonso V of Aragon conquered the mainland, reunited the two halves of the kingdom. After his death in 1458 the kingdom was split once again. Sicily continued to be ruled by Aragon, while the mainland Kingdom of Naples went to Alfonso's illegitimate son Ferrante.

In 1494 Ferrante died, and the throne passed to his son Alfonso II of Naples. Charles VIII decided that this was the ideal opportunity to press his own claims to Naples (although preparations had been going on for some time). He also received support from Ludovico Sforza, then busily establishing himself as Duke of Milan. Alfonso had some claim to Milan himself, and this may have helped convince Ludovico to support the French.

In the spring of 1494 Charles VIII began to gather his army. He wanted 11,400 French cavalry, 6,000 Italian cavalry and 22,000 infantry, including 6,000 Swiss pikemen, and his eventual army didn’t fall much short of this. The naval element of the force began to gather at Genoa in the spring. The Neapolitans attempted to trigger an uprising at Genoa, but the attempt failed, and part of this expeditionary force was defeated on land at Rapallo on 8 September. By this point Charles had crossed the Alps and was at Asti.

Once the French began to move south they advanced rapidly. Charles entered Florence on 17 November (where he overthrew Pietro de Medici, replacing him with a constitutional republic), and Rome at the end of December. Pope Alexander VI temporarily came to terms with the French, recognising their overwhelming force.

As the French advance guard approached his borders Alfonso lost his nerve, and on 21 January 1495 he abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand (or Ferrantino). Alfonso entered a monastery, and died in Messina on 18 December 1495.

Ferdinand attempted to defend his new kingdom. He tried to hold the line of the River Liris, but the French captured the fortress at Monte San Giovanni in a few hours, crossed the river, and threatened to outflank him. Ferdinand retreated to Capua, but his short-lived rule was undermined by the rapid progress of the French. On 22 February Charles entered Naples, and for a short period it looked as if he had achieved his aims.

Charles's rapid advance triggered the formation of an alliance against him. The League of Venice included the Emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Venice and even Milan. The new league was officially a defensive alliance, but it was clear that it was aimed against Charles, and on 21 May he decided to leave Naples and return to the north of Italy. He took 7,200 French cavalry, 4,000 Swiss pikemen and 2,000 Gascon crossbowmen with him, leaving the rest of his army in Naples with Gilbert, Duke of Montpensier, his regent.

The key moment of the retreat north came in early July. The League army had taken up a position on the right bank of the River Taro at Fornovo, where they hoped to prevent Charles from crossing the Apennines. The French were badly outnumbered, but Charles managed to get his men across to the left bank of the river. This disrupted the League plans and the resulting battle of Fornovo (6 July 1495) was a narrow French victory. Both sides later claimed victory - the French because they had successfully fought their way past the League, the League because they had inflicted more casualties.

On 15 July Charles returned to Asti. He found the situation in the north of Italy had turned against him. An attempt to retake Genoa failed, and the French fleet returning from Naples was captured. Louis, Duke of Orleans, was forced to surrender at Novara. Some of his advisors wanted Charles to continue the war against Milan, but the king was uninterested in the war in the north, and he agreed a general peace with Ludovico. On 15 October Charles re-crossed the Alps. Once back in France he began to prepare for another expedition to Naples, but died in 1498 before he could return. The French throne passed to Louis of Orleans, who would soon renew the French involvement in Italy (Second Italian War/ Italian War of Louis XII (1499-1503).

In the south Ferdinand of Naples landed with a Spanish army led by Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba. This army suffered an initial defeat at Seminara (28 June 1495), but the French were unable to prevent Ferdinand from returning to the city by sea. He was welcomed by the citizens and the French defenders quickly withdrew. Montpensier remained at large until July 1496, when he finally surrendered, and the last French stronghold in Naples, at Gaeta, didn't fall until November. By this time Ferdinand had died - having married his half-aunt Joanna in August the new couple moved to Somma-Vesuvius, where Ferdinand died of an illness on 7 September 1496. The crown passed to Frederick IV, the brother of Alfonso II.

Frederick didn't enjoy his throne for long. In 1500 Ferdinand of Aragon and Louis XII of France made a secret agreement to divide Naples between them. Frederick was very quickly deposed (Second Italian War/ Italian War of Louis XII, 1499-1503), but the temporary allies soon fell out and the main fighting was between France and Spain.

Strategy game

The Italy of the fifteenth century bears little similarity to the Italy of today. Instead of a single political unit, Italy was divided up into many city states, similar to those of ancient Greece. A multitude of city states existed, but there were five main ones: Venice, Florence, the Papal States, Naples, and Milan.

Venice, located on the northeast side of the Italian peninsula, was probably the richest of the enormously wealthy Italian cities. Its economy relied upon shipping primarily, but it would later become a manufacturing powerhouse. Naples wielded little power or significance due to its relative poverty and dispersed rural population. The Papal States, located in the center of Italy, were the direct temporal holdings of the Pope. Milan, in north central Italy, was the strongest land-based power in the area. Florence, on the west side of the Italian peninsula, north of the Papal States and south of Milan, was one of the wealthier Italian states. Its economy was driven by banking and industry, as well as a massive wool trade. All of these states would be pushed to the brink, and forced to band together against a French invasion during the Italian war of 1494-98.

This invasion was only possible in the first place because Milan allowed it. The French King Charles VIII sought to pursue by force, a distant claim to the throne of Naples. Milan, worried about the growing power of Naples, encouraged Charles to invade Naples. In order to enter Italy, Charles would have to pass through territory ruled by Milan. Milan allowed Charles’ armies to march south into Italy.

Charles’ initial campaign was wildly successful. He marched through Italy virtually unopposed. Those cities that did resist him, he attacked, conquered and sacked. When Charles approached Florence, the “in all but name” dictator of Florence, Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici fled the city. This allowed a wildly popular Dominican preacher, Girolamo Savonarola to size a position of power. Savonarola, then with other Florentine nobles, negotiated with Charles to leave Florence alone. After a brief, but uneventful occupation of Florence, Charles did exactly that. When he finally arrived in Naples, the city state quickly capitulated.

However, it swiftly became obvious that Charles was far from finished. His phenomenal success now poised so great a threat that the city states of Italy, even Milan who previously had supported Charles, were forced to unite against the French. Florence, now under the rule of the fanatical Savonarola, refused to join the anti-French league of Venice. Still with most of Italy, as well as the Holy Roman Empire, and the kingdom of England united against him, Charles left a regent in charge of Naples, and started a retreat up the Italian peninsula. Neither side ended up a decisive victor in this Italian war. The league of Venice forced Charles to abandon the spoils and land he won in Italy. Despite having a massive numerical superiority, the league was unable to decisively defeat Charles, or cut off his retreat to France.

While the rest of Italy fought with the French, Savonarola busied himself with the work of reform. Savonarola viewed the entire secular renaissance movement as immoral. He wanted to return to a simpler Christian society. He also championed church reform, declaring the clergy, and even the Pope to be corrupt. Despite his radical views, Savonarola was an electrifying preacher who attracted crowds in the thousands. This popularity put him in a position to take advantage of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici fleeing Florence. After grabbing power in Florence, Savonarola declared that the city would be the center of a worldwide reformation. He passed a variety of laws to force morality upon the people, and to attempt to undo the changes the Renaissance had brought.

Savonarola’s refusal to join the league of Venice greatly displeased Pope Alexander VI, who held a senior position in the league. The Pope, who had mostly ignored Savonarola’s actions in Florence, now ordered him to appear in Rome. Savonarola refused, claiming ill health. The Pope banned Savonarola from preaching in public. After obeying for several months, Savonarola, fearing his influence was weakening, continued preaching.

The Pope excommunicated Savonarola in May 1497 and ordered the people of Florence to turn him over. Savonarola by this time had ruled Florence for almost three years. The once dedicated Florentine people had grown tired of Savonarola. After forcing him to quit public life, the Florentine authorities arrested Savonarola and executed him in May 1498, only a month after Charles VIII had died in France while preparing to invade Italy again.

The first French invasion

Because the rulers of both France and Spain had dynastic claims in Italy, it was predictable that after the Hundred Years’ War in France in 1453 and the conquest of Granada by Spain in 1492 both powers would make Italy the battlefield of their conflicting ambitions. In the event, it was an Italian who called the foreigners into Italy. Prince (later King) Ferdinand of Naples, angry that his grandson-in-law, Gian Galeazzo, duke of Milan, was excluded from power, threatened the regent, Ludovico. In reply, Ludovico successfully urged King Charles VIII of France to vindicate the claims of the French royal house to Naples. Charles’s response was at first stunningly effective. He crossed the Alps in early September 1494 and marched south. At Florence, Lorenzo’s successor, his son Piero de’ Medici, had declared in favour of Ferdinand. But the rapid advance of the French forces demoralized him, and he sued for peace in November. Discredited by this failure, Piero was forced to flee from the anger of his fellow Florentines. Charles entered Rome on the last day of the year and Naples—which he conquered “with the chalk of his billeting officers”—on February 22, 1495. Yet his triumph was short-lived. Alarmed at this sudden increase in French strength, Ludovico, the emperor Maximilian I, the pope, and King Ferdinand II of Aragon came together in the League of Venice in March 1495 to combat Charles’s power. Faced by these forces, Charles, leaving behind some of his troops in garrison, decided to return home. Crossing the Apennines at Cisa Pass, he met the army of the league blocking his passage at Fornovo. After an indecisive battle, the French army broke through into Lombardy and passed back to France.

Three years later, when Charles died, his campaign may have seemed merely a passing incident of no importance. Yet by making Italy a battleground for foreign powers he had profoundly weakened the peninsular states, which now faced a series of invasions that subjected them to domination by “barbarians” (as the Italians were pleased now to call non-Italians). Florence, humiliated by defeat and weakened by the establishment of a new government, struggled to regain control of towns that had seized the occasion to throw off subjection. Naples, devastated by war, fell largely into the hands of Spanish troops. In Milan Ludovico now feared both domestic unpopularity and the accession to the French throne of Louis XII, who claimed to be heir to the Visconti. Venice, characteristically emerging with spoils from the imbroglio (the Neapolitan ports of Otranto, Brindisi, and Trani), was looking for new triumphs, while Pope Alexander VI was considering means to disrupt the peace of Italy on behalf of his son Cesare Borgia.

Italian War of 1494-98

In 1489, Pope Innocent VIII excommunicated King Ferdinand I of Naples due to his refusal to pay feudal dues to the Papal States, and he invited King Charles VIII of France to claim the throne of Naples for himself. Pope Innocent died in 1492, and Pope Alexander VI opposed French interference in Italy however, King Charles had already made plans to conquer Naples for France. King Ferdinand II of Aragon promised not to intervene in exchange for free rein in Roussillon and Cerdagne in the Pyrenees. The death of King Ferdinand I in 1494 led to Charles VIII invading Italy, and he was initially supported by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Charles invaded with 25,000 troops (including 8,000 Swiss mercenaries), and the French defeated a Neapolitan army at Rapallo in the lands of the Republic of Genoa on 5 September 1494 before the Franco-Milanese army conquered Mordano on 19 October 1494 and massacred its inhabitants. In mid-November 1494, King Charles' army approached Florence, and Piero de Medici was forced into exile and a republican government installed. Any city that attempted to fight against Charles had its walls and defenses blasted with huge cannon, and the populace was massacred by the French soldiers. The French carved its cruel way south after conquering several cities. In February 1495, Naples fell without resistance, and he appointed Gilbert, Count of Montpensier his viceroy.

However, Pope Alexander formed the "League of Venice" to oppose French expansion into Italy, and this alliance included European powers such as Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and, after 1496, England, as well as Italian states such as the Duchy of Mantua, the Duchy of Milan, and the Republic of Venice. Sforza played a key role in creating the alliance, as he feared that Charles would next seek to press his claims to the Duchy of Milan. In July 1495, the two alliances fought each other to a draw at the Battle of Fornovo, and Charles' army would ultimately survive its withdrawal into France. Charles' death in April 1498 brought an end to the war, as he was unable to mount another invasion of Italy.

Italian Wars

In 1492 the Reconquista in Spain was over, with the Muslims driven from their stronghold in Granada. The French monarchy was in search of further glory after having defeated England in the Hundred Years War. The Swiss pikemen had won respect with their dispatch of Charles the Bold's Burgundians in 1476. Many now needed work, and Charles VIII of France was only too happy to recruit them into his army. He was keen to revive the Angevin claim to the crown of Naples and Sicily. Pope Innocent VIII backed Charles, and Spain's king Ferdinand I agreed not to oppose him in return for a free rein in the Pyrenean provinces of Roussillon and Cerdagne. When, in 1494, King Ferrante I of Naples died, it seemed the moment Charles had been waiting for had come.

First Italian War (1494-1495)

When King Ferrante I of Naples died in January 1494, his son, Alfonso II, inherited the crow. Charles VIII saw this as an opportunity to advance his own Angevin claim on Naples by force. He was encouraged to do this by Duke Ludovico Sforza of Milan, whose right to hold his own duchy was disputed by the new king Alfonso. One of the characteristics of the Italian Wars was to be the ever-shifting tangle of enemies and alliances that helped shape the unfolding action on the gruound. The conflict began when Charles invaded Italy in October 1494: his forces, 25,000 strong, nu,bered 8,000 Swiss pikemen. Now sweeping southward, Charles's soldiers encountered armies commanded by condottieri, mercenaries contracted to individual cities. Some attempted to fight back but Charles made short work of them, besieging cities and blasting at the walls and defenses with huge cannon. His soldiers massacred the people inside - after decades of low-level tussling by condottieri armies, often more interested in taking prisoners for ransom than killing, Italy was getting a taste of "total war". Charles's army carved its cruel way south: by February 1495, he was on the throne of Naples.

Second Italian War (1495)

Ludovico now realized that Charles had his own designs on the Duchy of Milan. Pope Alexander VI added his authority to Ludovico's calls for an alliance against French aggression. The League of Venice was formed, its main purpose to force the French into leaving Italy. Francesco II Gonzaga, a condottiere and also the Marquess of Mantua, was assigned to take command. In July 1495, his Italians fought the French to a standstill at Fornovo. Forced to retreat back to the safety of France, Charles's army survived.

Third Italian War (1499-1512)

Charles's successor, Louis XII, invaded Lombardy in 1499 and took Milan. He deposed Duke Ludovico and continued south, agreeing with Ferdinand I of Spain to share the Kingdom of Naples. Soon, though, the two had fallen out. In April 1503, Louis's army was routed at Cerignola. Spanish commander, Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, found his army outnumbered four-to-one, but his men had firearms. In 1512, Gaston de Foix's French force met the Spanish at the battle of Ravenna. With up to 8,000 Landsknechts at its core, de Foix's army prevailed.

Swiss Invasion of Italy (1512-1515)

The French never saw the benefit, however - the Swiss would soon invade Italy, taking Milan. The French returned the year after but were beaten at Novara, their Landsknechts coming off decidedly the worse against the Swiss pikemen. In keeping with a feud between Swiss and Landsknechts that went back several decades, the Swiss killed hundreds of the captured German landsknechts. 

At Marignano in 1515, Louis's successor, Francis I, found the answer to the pike formations in artillery and heavy cavalry. However, he first had to get his forces across the Alps. The best known passes were closely guarded and so Francis had new roads especially built across less frequented - and arduous - back routes. That done, he organized the transportation of his heavy artillery of 70 cannon. The fighting lasted 24 hours and cost up to 20,000 lives. The landsknechts did their work, as did Francis's cannon. The French emerged the victors and occupied northern Italy.

Fourth Italian War (1519-1525)

In 1519 Francis was furious when Charles I of Spain became Emperor Charles V, as Francis had coveted that position for himself. He decided again on an invasion of Italy - but Francis's pikemen and cavalry were once again mauled by the tercios at Bicocca in 1522 and Sesia in 1524. A fresh invasion in 1525 was brought to a halt at Pavia. Francis's cannon tore great gaps in the Imperial lines but had to cease fire as the French cavalry surged forward. As both sides' landsknechts engaged, the Spanish arquebusiers could fire at will. Francis, his horse killed beneath him, fought on but was captured. He was forced to agree to humiliating terms in the Treaty of Madrid in 1526.

Sack of Rome (1527)

Charles's troops soon fell apart. Funds to pay their wages ran out and, enraged, 30,000 men marched on Rome. Charles was noted for his Catholic piety, but the pro-French pope, Pope Clement VII, was wary of Imperial power. Some of Charles V's 14,000 landsknechts had Lutheran sympathies, and this added a note of religious enmity to the sack of Rome. In May 1527 his German and Spanish troops inflicted an orgy of destruction in which the pope was forced to shelter, a virtual prisoner, in Castel Sant' Angelo.

War of the League of Cognac (1526-30)

The League of Cognac, led by France and the Papal States, was formed to attempt the removal of Spanish and Holy Roman empire interests from Italy. Much use was made of mercenaries. Mutiny and desertion resulted when troops were not paid afterward. The sack of Rome was soon followed by the declaration of independence by the Florentine Republic, who fought against the Imperial faction. An Imperial army besieged the city for ten months in 1529, and Florence finally surrendered when it became apparent that outside assistance would not be arriving.

Fifth Italian War (1536-38)

The death of the Duke of Milan Francesco II Sforza triggered another round of conflict over the duchy. French troops captured Turin, but were unable to take Milan, while an Imperial incursion into France ended inconclusively. Peace was settled in 1538, with France conquering Piedmont and Savoy.

Sixth Italian War (1542-46)

Further disputes over Milan brought about war between France, now allied with the Ottoman Empire, and Spain, the Holy Roman empire, and various allies. The outcome was inconclusive, despite the vast expense of the war.

Seventh Italian War (1551-59)

The final round of the Italian Wars saw fighting in several corners of Europe, before bankruptcy and internal problems forced both France and Spain to accept a settlement. Despite this, Spain remained the dominant power in Italy at the end of the wars.

Hapsburg-Valois War : 1551-1559

Five years of relative peace ensued before Henry II, who succeeded Francis I on the throne of France resumed hostilities. The issue, by this time, was no longer Italy, but rather, the French Empire versus the Hapsburg Empire. Charles V's holdings were so massive that France felt it needed to oppose the Hapsburgs at every turn. Henry's initial moves were therefore against Metz and Verdun in the Netherlands. When the French attacked Tuscany in 1553, however, they were soundly defeated at the Battle of Marciano by an army led by Giacomo Medici.

With the defeat of the French army in Italy, and the fall of France's ally Sienna, the war moved back to the Netherlands. The war at that point went generally in favor of the Imperial forces, led by the great hero of the Netherlands, Count Egmond. The French did eventually take Calais from the English, but were ultimately forced to sign a treaty repudiating the French claim to all Italian territories.

After 65 years of nearly constant warfare between France and Spain, control of much of Italy rested firmly in the hands of Hapsburg Spain.


HABSBURG-VALOIS WARS. The Habsburg-Valois Wars of 1494 – 1559 were for a long time crucially intertwined with the Italian Wars. The latter arose from the instability of the Italian peninsula, which was divided among a number of vulnerable powers, but also from a new willingness of outside rulers to intervene. Initially, the most important was Charles VIII of France (ruled 1483 – 1498), who invaded Italy in 1494, capturing Naples the following March. Charles's artillery particularly impressed contemporaries. Mounted on wheeled carriages, his cannon used iron shot, allowing smaller projectiles to achieve the same destructive impact as larger stone shot. This permitted smaller, lighter, and thus more maneuverable cannon.

Charles's initial success aroused opposition both in Italy and from two powerful rulers who had their own ambitions to pursue: Maximilian I (ruled 1493 – 1519), the Holy Roman emperor, who ruled Austria and the other Habsburg territories, and Ferdinand of Arag ó n (ruled Sicily 1468 – 1516 Aragon 1479 – 1516 Naples as Ferdinand III 1504 – 1516 Castile, with Isabella, 1474 – 1504). Ultimately, Maximilian's grandson, Emperor Charles V (ruled 1519 – 1558 ruled Spain 1516 – 1556 as Charles II), was to succeed to the Habsburg, Burgundian, Aragonese, and Castilian inheritances, creating a formidable rival to the Valois dynasty of France and ensuring that the wars are known as the Habsburg-Valois wars.

Ferdinand's forces intervened in southern Italy in 1495, while Charles VIII was forced by Italian opposition to retreat, although an attempt to cut off his retreat failed at Fornovo (6 July 1495) the Italian forces of the League of St. Mark had numerical superiority but were poorly coordinated. Charles VIII's successor, Louis XII (ruled 1498 – 1515), in turn invaded the Duchy of Milan in northern Italy in 1499, claiming it on the grounds that his grandmother had been a Visconti. Disaffection with French rule led to a rallying of support to Ludovico Sforza (1451 – 1508), but Louis was able to reimpose his power in Milan and to partition the kingdom of Naples with Ferdinand in 1500. They fell out in 1502, and the French tried to take the entire kingdom, only to be defeated by the Spaniards at Cerignola (28 April 1503). The French-held positions were then captured, and Louis XII renounced his claims to Naples by the Treaty of Blois of 12 October 1505.

Cerignola was the first in a series of battles in which a variety of weapons, weapon systems, and tactics were tested in the search for a clear margin of military superiority. The state of flux in weaponry entailed a process of improvisation in the adoption and adaptation of weapons and tactics. In addition, perceived "national" differences were linked to fighting methods. The Swiss and Germans were noted as pikemen, equally formidable in offense and defense, but vulnerable to firearms. The French put their emphasis on heavy cavalry and preferred to hire foreign pikemen.

Italy was increasingly dominated by France and/or Spain, the only powers with the resources to support a major military effort. In contrast, other powers, especially Venice, defeated by Louis XII, Milan, the Swiss, and the papacy, took less important and independent roles. Pope Julius II (ruled 1503 – 1513) had formed the League of Cambrai in 1508 to attack Venice, but it was France's role that was decisive in that war. The French defeated the Venetians at Agnadello (14 May 1509) and then overran much of the Venetian mainland. Italian rulers lacked the resources to match French or Spanish armies readily in battle. Instead, they adapted to the foreign invaders and sought to employ them to serve their own ends. Thus, there was no inherent conflict between these local rulers and foreign powers. Instead, the latter were able to find local allies.

At the same time, weaker powers could help affect the relationship between France and Spain. In 1511, Pope Julius II's role in the formation of the Holy League with Spain, Venice, and England to drive the French from Italy led to a resumption of Franco-Spanish hostilities. The French beat the Spaniards at Ravenna on 11 April 1512, but opposition to the French in Genoa and Milan helped the Spaniards to regain the initiative, as did Swiss intervention against France. The French retreated across the Alps, while Ferdinand of Arag ó n conquered the kingdom of Navarre, which was to be a permanent gain.

In 1513, the French invaded again, only to be defeated by the Swiss at Novara on 6 June the advancing Swiss pikemen took heavy casualties from the French artillery before overrunning the poorly entrenched French position. Left without protection, the French harquebusiers were routed.

Soon after coming to the French throne, the vigorous Francis I (ruled 1515 – 1547) invaded anew. He was victorious at Marignano (13 – 14 September 1515), the French cannon, crossbows, harquebusiers, cavalry, and pikemen between them defeating the Swiss pikemen, and occupied Milan until 1521, reaching a settlement with the future Emperor Charles V at Noyon in 1516.

However, the election of Charles as Holy Roman emperor in 1519 seemed to confirm the worst French fears of Habsburg hegemony, and in 1521 Francis declared war. The main theater of conflict was again northern Italy, although there was also fighting in the Low Countries and the Pyrenees. After their defeat at Bicocca (27 April 1522), the French position in northern Italy collapsed. In 1523 Venice felt that it had to ally with Charles. That year, however, invasion attempts on France from Spain, Germany, and England all failed to make an impact. In turn, Francis sent an army into northern Italy, which unsuccessfully besieged Milan before being driven out in early 1524 by the Habsburg forces.

In 1524 Charles again attempted to mount a concerted invasion of France with Henry VIII (ruled 1509 – 1547) of England and Charles, duke of Bourbon (1490 – 1527), a rebel against France. Such concerted invasions reflected the ambitious scope of strategic planning in the period although their lack of adequate coordination and failure testified to the limitations of operational execution.

In response, Francis invaded Italy again in October 1524, captured Milan, and besieged Pavia. The arrival of a Spanish relief army, however, led to the battle of Pavia (24 February 1525), in which the French were defeated and Francis captured. This was a battle decided by the combination of pikemen and harquebusiers, although it is not easy to use Pavia to make definitive statements about the effectiveness of particular arms. Even more than most battles, it was confused, thanks to the effects of heavy early morning fog in addition, many of the advances were both small-unit and uncoordinated, and the surviving sources contain discrepancies. As in most battles of the period, it would be misleading to emphasize the possibilities for, and extent of, central direction. Nevertheless, Spanish success in defeating repeated attacks by the French cavalry was crucial. Francis had attacked in a way that enabled the Spaniards to use their army to maximum advantage.

The captured Francis signed the Treaty of Madrid (14 January 1526) on Charles's terms, enabling Charles to invest his ally Francesco Sforza (1495 – 1535) with the Duchy of Milan. Nevertheless, once released, Francis claimed that his agreement had been extorted, repudiated the terms, agreed with Pope Clement VII (ruled 1523 – 1534), Sforza, Venice, and Florence to establish the league of Cognac (22 May 1526), and resumed the war. This led to the sack of Rome by Charles's unpaid troops in 1527, but repeated French defeats, especially at Landriano (20 June 1529), led Francis to accept the Treaty of Cambrai (3 August 1529), abandoning his Italian pretensions. Francesco Sforza was restored to Milan, but with the right to garrison the citadel reserved to Charles. The high rate of battles in this period in part reflected the effectiveness of siege artillery.

War that resumed after the death of Sforza in November 1535 led to a disputed succession in Milan. Francis invaded Italy in 1536, conquering Savoy and Piedmont in order to clear the route into northern Italy. However, the inability of either side to secure particular advantage led to an armistice in 1537, which became a ten-year truce in 1538. As this was on the basis of uti possidetis ('retaining what was held'), Francis was left in control of Savoy, while in 1540 Charles invested his son (later Philip II of Spain) with the Duchy of Milan.

The rivalry between Francis and Charles continued and was stirred by Charles's suspicion of links between Francis and the Ottomans. Francis, in turn, was encouraged by the failure of Charles's expedition against Algiers in late 1541. Francis attacked northern Italy the following year, beginning a new bout of campaigning. The French defeated the Spaniards at Ceresole in Piedmont (11 April 1544). As at Pavia, any summary of the battle underplays its confused variety. As a result of both the hilly topography and the distinct formations, the battle involved a number of struggles. Each side revealed innovation in deployment in the form of interspersed harquebusiers and pikemen, the resulting square formations designed to be both self-sustaining and mutually supporting, although it is probable that, as yet, this system had not attained the checkerboard regularity seen later in the century. Bringing harquebusiers into the pike formations drove up the casualties when they clashed. The French cavalry played a key role in Francis's victory.

Combined arms tactics are far easier to outline in theory than to execute under the strain of battle. The contrasting fighting characteristics of the individual arms operated very differently in particular circumstances, and this posed added problems for coordination. So also did the limited extent to which many generals and officers understood these characteristics and problems. The warfare of the period was characterized by military adaptation rather than the revolution that is sometimes discerned.

However, after Ceresole, a lack of pay made Francis's Swiss mercenaries unwilling to fight for Milan. Indeed, the Spaniards retained their fortified positions in Lombardy. Instead, the decisive campaigning, although without a battle, took place north of the Alps. An invasion of eastern France by Charles V led Francis to accept the Peace of Cr é py in September 1544. This success, and a truce with the Ottomans in October 1545, enabled Charles to turn on and defeat the German Protestants in 1546 – 1547. In this he was helped by French neutrality, a consequence of the secret terms of the Peace of Cr é py.

However, Charles was unable to produce a lasting religious settlement and this led to a French-supported rising in Germany in 1552. Francis I's successor, Henry II (ruled 1547 – 1559), exploited the situation to overrun Lorraine, while campaigning began in Italy. A truce negotiated in 1556 was short-lived, and conflict resumed in both Italy and the Low Countries in 1557. Spanish victories in the latter part of 1557 and 1558 at St. Quentin (10 August 1557) and Gravelines (13 July 1558) led Henry to accept the Treaty of Cateau-Cambr é sis in 1559, which left Spain and her allies dominant in Italy. The Habsburgs had won the Italian Wars.

As in earlier periods, the wars of the 1550s in Italy saw not only a clash between major powers, but also related struggles involving others. Thus, Spain fought Pope Paul IV (ruled 1555 – 1559), and also supported Florence in attacking the republic of Siena in 1554 after a ten-month siege, Siena surrendered, to be annexed by Florence. This was an example of the extent to which divisions within Italy had interacted with those between the major powers in 1552, Siena had rebelled against Spanish control and, in cooperation with France, seized the citadel from the Spaniards. Florence under the Medicis was, from the late 1520s, an ally of the Habsburgs.

The significance of the wars cannot be captured by a brief rendition of the fighting. The wars were more important for their political and cultural significance. They underlined the centrality of conflict in European culture and society and also helped ensure that Europe would have a "multipolar" character, with no one power dominant. The Habsburgs won, but France was not crushed. Thus Europe was not to be like China under the Ming and, later, the Manchu, or India under the Moguls.

See also Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) Charles VIII (France) Francis I (France) Habsburg Dynasty Habsburg Territories Italian Wars (1494 – 1559) Louis XII (France) Naples, Kingdom of Valois Dynasty (France) .

Charles VIII

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Charles VIII, (born June 30, 1470, Amboise, Fr.—died April 7, 1498, Amboise), king of France from 1483, known for beginning the French expeditions into Italy that lasted until the middle of the next century.

The only son of Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy, Charles showed no aptitude for government at the time of his accession: he was in poor health and of poor intelligence. Though he was legally of age, the government in the first years of his reign was in the hands of a regency comprising his sister Anne and her husband Pierre de Bourbon, seigneur de Beaujeu. After his marriage to Anne of Brittany in 1491, however, Charles was persuaded by his favourite, Étienne de Vesc, to free himself from the Beaujeus. By his Breton marriage Charles forfeited rights to Artois and the Franche-Comté that he had acquired by his engagement to Margaret of Austria, and he also agreed in the Treaty of Étaples (1492) to pay heavy compensation to King Henry VII of England for the abandonment of English interests in Brittany. Furthermore, in 1493, by the Treaty of Barcelona, he ceded Roussillon and Cerdagne back to Aragon.

The motive for these cessions was to free his hands for his grand enterprise, an expedition to Italy to assert the right to the kingdom of Naples that he had inherited from the Angevins. This absurd ambition inaugurated a series of Italian wars lasting more than 50 years and gaining the French kings only momentary glory in return for a vast outlay of men and money. Having borrowed money left and right to raise a great army, Charles crossed Italy unopposed in 1494 without suspecting that he was leaving enemies behind him. Charles entered Naples in triumph on Feb. 22, 1495, and was crowned there on May 12, but already the opposition of Milan, Austria, Venice, and the Pope was rallying against him. He escaped with difficulty from the Battle of Fornovo and had lost his conquests by the time he returned to France. He died while preparing for another expedition.


Charles' army received safe passage through Lombardy, and it was not before long that he was forced to come up against the fortified city of Lucca. Lucca had no intention of fighting in the war, and its envoys met the French envoy inside of the city. When the French envoy returned to the French army outside of the city and informed King Charles that Lucca was prepared to give them passage on the conditions of a few terms, Charles decided to order his cannon to fire to symbolize his "terms". The French heavy cannon, which had only recently been tested, proved devastating. Their chain shot breached even the most powerful walls, and the Luccan defenders found themselves overwhelmed by heavy fire. King Charles then ordered a charge, and the French troops engaged in the slaughter of both the defenders and innocent people. Charles ordered the plundering of the city, and even women and children were killed by the French knights. Charles was motivated to do so by his men's desire for the spoils of war and victory, and the city was thoroughly sacked. Lucca was the first of many Italian cities to suffer this horrendous fate at the hands of the ugly and cruel French monarch.

Discuss some of the significant aspects of the reign of Louis XI.

King Louis XI, was born from 1423-1483 A.D. He became a king from 1461-1483 A.D. He limited the powers of the dukes, and barons in France. He centralized France, and had conflicts with Burgundy and England.

Louis had some children and one of them was King Charles VIII. I have talked about him in the second topic in this essay, he became King of France until he died in 1498 A.D., when the first Italian War had ended.

For more info on Girolamo Savonarola click this link:

For more info on the Italian War from 1494-1498 click this link:

For more info on King Louis XI of France click this link:

This was my essay for Western Civilization 1 Lesson 170 I hope you enjoyed it.

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