Italian Wars 10.10 - The 15th Century - Prelude2

Italian Wars 10/10 – The 15th Century – Prelude

It’s 1535. Francesco Sforza, the ailing Duke of Milandies without an heir. He had been married to the Emperor’s niece,so now the Duchy reverts to Charles. After their previous defeat in the War ofthe League of Cognac, no Italian state dares to speak out against this.

The only one to protest is Francis I, kingof France. He still claims to be the rightful heir toMilan. Additionally he has a number of other claims. The King asserts that the Duchy of Savoy is rightfully his as an inheritance from his mother. The recently vacated duchies of Saluzzo and Montferrat are also claimed by France. These lands have mostly escaped the war until now, however with the imperialists firmly in control in Milan; these border region shave become increasingly important. In 1536 Francis decides that if he can’t have Milan, he will at least have Savoy,

Saluzzo and Montferrat. As the French take over most of Italy westof Milan, Charles is heading north. He had just taken Tunis from the North Africanpirates and privateers who are allied with the Ottomans. On his way north, Charles meets with the Pope,but Paul III insists that he will remain neutral. As the French are fighting around Turin,

Charlesgathers his forces and crosses over to France. His plan is to force the French to retreat,and shift the war into French territory. Instead the French are reinforced by 10.000 Italians who have gathered in the anti-imperialist stronghold of Mirandola. Together they march on Genoa and try to takethe city. Meanwhile an Ottoman fleet is sailing northto assist the French.

Francis had been courting the Ottomans forsome time, now this is their first combined operation. But Genoa proves to be resilient, and thecity is soon relieved. The Emperor is desperate to avoid a war multiplefronts against the French and the Ottomans, so he offers a reasonable peace to Francis. Both sides can keep what they already hold,and there will be a truce of 10 years. Francis accepts, as this means he will havea foothold in Italy While peace with France persists, Charlescontinues his fight against the Ottomans. In 1538 a combined fleet of Spain,

Genoa,Venice the Papal States and the Knights Hospitaler suffers a defeat at Preveza from an Ottomanfleet commanded by Hayreddin Barbarossa. Charles refuses to give up, and in 1541 hepersonally leads a fleet to capture Algiers. As they sail there, a severe storm wrecks the fleet, and Charles has to admit defeat again. Meanwhile Francis prepares to make war again.

To strengthen his vital alliance with the Ottomans, he sends his ambassador Antoine de Rincon to Istanbul. Rincon however is murdered as he tries tocross Habsburg territory. Francis claims the Emperor is responsible,and that he must wage war to correct this terrible injury. The French immediately launch two assaults. One against Spain, and the other against Luxemburg.

In the Habsburg Netherlands, war is already under way. William of J├╝lich-Cleve-Berg is fightingwith the Emperor for the possession of the Duchy of Gelders. William had allied with Francis, in the hopeof getting help from France. French forces however become bogged down insieges around Luxemburg, and the Gelders are occupied by Habsburg forces. Further south, armies begin to gather in Italy. Initially there is little action except forsieges and raids, the French hoping to draw out the imperialists for a decisive battle.

Meanwhile Barbarossa is sailing north with large Ottoman fleet, plundering everything in his wake. In 1543 the combined Ottoman and French fleet lays siege to Nice, almost capturing the city. Such cooperation between a Christian nation and the Ottomans is a huge scandal to begin with, but Francis adds to the outrage by inviting the Ottoman fleet to France itself.

The people of Toulon are asked to leave tomake room for the Ottomans, and Barbarossa settles in with his fleet for the winter. They leave in 1544, again plundering the whole coast of western Italy, carrying away entire towns into slavery. Meanwhile more and more reinforcements arrive in northern Italy. The French already hold most of the Duchy of Savoy, so the imperialists must go on the attack. The two armies of around 15.000 each meeton the 11th of April, 1544 at Ceresole.

The French choose a featureless plain forth battle that might advantage their superior cavalry. Both armies form up into three battles, with banners of cavalry between the infantry pike & shot blocks. The battle opens with 4 hours of skirmishing between musketeers and artillery. The first to make a move is the French light cavalry. They rout the Italian light cavalry on the imperialist left. As a result, the Italian infantry is slowed down, and becomes confused. Meanwhile the rest of the imperial army advances.

The Lands knechts on the left are met by French Infantry, while the Lands knechts on the right are confronted by the Swiss. By this time all infantry on both sides isintegrated into mixed pike and shot formations. Both infantries fire from close range, andthe carnage is immense. As a push of pikes develops, more casualtiesare inflicted. The Spanish heavy cavalry attacks the Swiss,but they are repulsed.

The French heavy cavalry times its attackcarefully, and manages to break the Landsknechts. The Germans in the center flee, as the Swisspursue them cutting down every man they can catch. In the north there is a different situation. Spanish infantry and Landsknechts prove superiorto the Swiss and Italian infantry on the French left. As the French light cavalry chases away theimperialist Italian cavalry, a body of French heavy cavalry is left alone to hold the line. The French make several heroic charges,

loosing most of their men. But by this time the Swiss and the French cavalry wheel around, and surround the imperialist right. The Landsknechts and the Spanish are annihilated,only the lucky ones manage to surrender. This is a resounding defeat for the imperialists;however they still manage to hold on to Milan,

pulsing an Italian contingent coming randomization. The French fail to press their advantage,because Francis discovers he has bigger fish to fry. The English have landed in the north, andthe Emperor also plans a massive invasion of France. Francis had for a long time courted HenryVIII to become an ally. Henry was seen as a heretic for his breakwith Rome, therefore he was an unlikely match for the Emperor who is seen as a representative of Catholics. However Francis’s attitude towards Scotlandmade a Franco-English alliance impossible.

After the King of Scotland’s death, Mary,his 6 month old daughter inherits the throne. James V of Scotland was married to Mary ofGuise, a high ranking member of the French court, and an ardent Catholic. As the regent of Scotland, she intends tokeep the country firmly Catholic and in alliance with France. Henry VIII on the other hand would like tounite England and Scotland by marriage, and also to reform the church there.

These differences with the French drive Henryinto an alliance with the Emperor. Charles and Henry agree to invade France simultaneously with 40.000 soldiers each, outnumbering the French almost 2 to 1. In 1544 the imperialists attack from the Palatinate,and the English attack from Calais. All the French can do is to defend. In this they are greatly aided by the numerous towns and cities along the border that have been fortified in the new style of star forts,or Trace Italienne. Both armies get bogged down,

and their greatsize becomes a hindrance rather than an advantage, as supplies are hard to come by, and transporting them overland becomes a logistics nightmare. As both advances stall, Charles realizes thatwar with his Protestant subjects has become inevitable. When the fighting season ends, the Emperorconcludes peace with France, leaving the English in a bit of a lurch.

By this time Henry’s men had captured Boulogne,and are now holding it firmly. To dislodge the English, the French assembles huge fleet and attempt to invade England. The 1545 Battle of the Solent ends up costingthe taxpayer dearly, but not achieving anything else, both countries losing their flagshipsto accidents. By 1546 England and France are headed towardsbankruptcy, therefore the two kings decide to make peace. Meanwhile the Emperor already battles theLutheran princes of the Schmalkaldic League,

whom he decisively defeats one year later. After the costliest campaigns of the ItalianWars, little was achieved, and Europe returns to the status quo before the war. In 1547 both Francis I and Henry VIII die. Henry’s son, Edward VI becomes King of England,and the country takes a decidedly Protestant turn. All this is reversed in 1553 when his eldersister, Mary becomes queen. Mary wants to commit England to the Catholiccause, so much so that she marries Philip II, the Emperor’s son. France’s young monarch,

Henry II views thisHabsburg-Tudor alliance as a grave danger to France. He would also like to continue his father’swar in Italy. To further his plans, he relies foremost onhis allies and agents. The Franco-Ottoman alliance is renewed, andin 1551 an Ottoman fleet accompanied by French ships besieges and captures Tripoli. Next the Ottomans raid along the western coastof Italy and defeat a smaller Genoese fleet.

In the north Henry forms an alliance withthe Protestant League headed by Maurice of Saxony. In 1551 as the Protestants attack Tyrol, theFrench occupy the three border bishoprics of Metz,Verdun and Toul. The imperialists launch two attacks in 1552and 1554, but both are repulsed, and France retains the bishoprics. In 1552 another French ally, the Republicof Siena rebels against the emperor.

French soldiers and French sympathizers quickly flood into Siena and take over the cause. Cosimo de Medici, the Duke of Florence volunteers to help the Emperor crush Siena. The Florentines are reinforced by German andSpanish contingents, and a massive siege and counter-siege operation develops around the city. To break the stalemate, the French and the Ottomans invade Genoese controlled Corsica. They capture half of the island, however thetwo allies fall out over the conduct of the Ottomans. Being pirates and privateers, they insiston their right to plunder and enslave. The French however prohibit this, since theyare concerned for their standing in Italy.

As the Ottomans drift away from the French,the Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria gains the upper hand at sea. Meanwhile the French and the Sienese makea desperate dash into Florence, but are defeated in 1554 at Marciano. In the north of Italy the French make betterprogress, slowly grinding down their imperialist enemy, and gaining a lot of ground. By this time Philip II, the Emperor’s sonis in effective control in Italy,

as the elderly Charles prepares to hand over power. With the prospect of the Habsburg Empire being divided into two lesser monarchies, Henry II is more inclined to compromise. In 1556 a truce is signed between the Emperor and the French. Charles wants peace, as he prepares to abdicate and split up his empire between his son Philip, and his brother Ferdinand. But peace only lasts for a while.

The new pope, Paul IV intends to form an anti-Habs burgleague. When Philip finds out, he orders a preemptive invasion of the Papal States. The French have no other choice but to helpthe Pope, however in 1557 their relief force is defeated. Anxious to avoid another sack of Rome, Paulhas to sue for peace and promises to remain neutral. Now the war shifts from Italy to Flanders with England’s entry into the war in 1557. The same year Calais is captured by the French,however they are decisively defeated when a French army tries to relieve St. Quentin. Next year the French are again decisively defeated when they get caught between a Spanish army and an English fleet at the Battle of Gravelines. By this time 3 decades had been wasted onextremely costly wars by France, the Habsburgs and the English. All sides realize that this must end. Therefore talks are begun and in 1559 theTreaty of Cateau-Cambresis is signed.

France will be allowed to keep Calais and the 3 bishoprics; however Henry must renounce all his claims in Italy. Spain will retain Naples, Milan, Burgundy,Luxemburg, the Netherlands, as well as all the colonial possessions of the Habsburgs. Ferdinand and his descendants will have thereat of the Empire, as well as the title of Holy Roman Emperor.

In Italy the Duke of Florence is granted Siena,thus forming the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Parma and Piacenza are detached from Milanand given to the Farnese. The vacant Duchy of Montferrat is given tithe Gonzaga dukes of Mantua. Italy quickly recovers, and again becomes center of wealth and culture, as Northern Europe becomes embroiled in religious wars.

As part of the celebrations of peace, Henry II decides to participate in a joust. A random piece of a broken lance enters his helmet and penetrates his brain. As the king dies, France descends into a civilwar. Further north Protestants in the Low Countries are on a collision course with their counter-reformation Spanish king. Elizabeth I, England’s Protestant queen starts out neutral, but quickly becomes involved. As one war ends, two other wars begin.

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