It’s 1494. As King Charles VIII prepares his invasion,many in Italy ponder on the legitimacy and the utility of this. The Ottoman Turks had invaded Italy 14 years previously and Charles now plans a crusade against them. He intends to use the Kingdom of Naples asa base. In any case, he is the rightful heir to the throne of Naples, Ferdinand, the current king being a usurper. Or so he claims. Ferdinand would disagree.
To understand whose claim is the right claim,one must take a closer look at the history of Naples. Angevin Kings It’s 1382, one century before Charles’s invasion. Once a great kingdom, Naples is well pass edits glory. Sicily had been lost to Aragon leaving onlythe mainland and Provence to its Angevin rulers. The childless Queen Joanna I dies leaving the kingdom in disarray. Rather than bequeathing it to a cadet branchof the Anjou – the Anjou-Durazzo, she decides to leave it to a more distant claimant,
LouisI of the house Anjou-Valois. Both Anjou and Valois are proud descendantsof the ancient Capetian line of Frankish kings. The Valois rule France, and the Anjou ruleNaples. The Anjou-Valois are a hybrid of the two – LouisI being the second son of the King of France. His opponent is Charles III of the Anjou-Durazzoline. Charles presses his claim vigorously and managesto win the Kingdom of Naples. Louis and the Anjou-Valois are left with Provence.
Joanna II Charles is succeeded by his son Ladislaus,who in turn has to battle with Louis I’s son, Louis II. When he dies in 1414, his 41 year-old sisterJoanna II takes the throne. Like her previous namesake Joanna I,
she isalso childless. Alfonso V Wishing to avoid a war for succession, PopeMartin V who is the nominal feudal lord of the Kingdom of Naples (and no friend of Joanna)decides to invite Louis III, grandson of Louis I of the house Anjou-Valois to succeed her.
Joanna has other ideas, so she appeals forhelp to the powerful and ambitious King of Aragon, Alfonso V. Alfonso lands in Italyand expels Louis from Naples. The delighted Joanna names him as her heir,however after Alfonso kills her lover, she changes her mind. Fleeing to Louis, she declares her previouswill null and void, and names Louis as her rightful heir. At this point Alfonso has to return to Iberiato pursue a war with Castile.
In his absence, Joanna and Louis retake thekingdom by 1424. Alfonso decides to bide his time. Louis dies in 1434, Joanna one year later. In her final will she leaves her kingdom toRene of Anjou, Duke of Provence, and brother of Louis III. Rene tries to press his claim; however Alfonsooutmaneuvers and outfights him. Might is right; he takes possession of Naplesin 1442 after a 6 month siege, ending the 1.5 century rule of Angevin monarchs.
Not having any legitimate children, he leavesthe Kingdom of Naples to his illegitimate son, Ferdinand I (or Ferrante), and Aragonwith Sicily to his brother, John II. French Claim to Naples Being an illegitimate son at the head of anill gotten kingdom, it’s no wonder Ferdinand’s rule is challenged. His power is more a result of his opponent’sweakness rather than his own strength. Rene is far too impoverished to challengehim,
however when Rene dies, he has to face a far more capable enemy, the sovereign of the strongest country in Europe, the King of France. Charles being of the house Valois has an obvious claim to the throne that rightfully belongs to the Anjou-Valois. He himself has some Anjou blood, his grandmother being Marie of Anjou, the daughter of Louis II, son of Louis I. The same Louis to whom Joanna I had bequeathed Naples way back in 1382.
Furthermore, Charles’s father managed to coerce Rene to will his provinces and his claim to Naples to the French crown. Charles clearly has the better claim to Naples,but to get there he has to cross Italy, and the multitude of independent states that lye in his way. The 5 City States After the Wars in Lombardy that raged between and 1454, five leading city states emerged on the peninsula.
Venice being the victor of the war greatly expanded its territory. Augmented by its naval empire, it dominates trade in the Mediterranean, and thus possesses wealth rivaling that of the greatest kingdoms of Europe. Milan, a center of manufacturing is ruled by the Sforza. They are a family of former soldiers, self-mademen who took power after the old dukes of Milan, the Visconti died out. Florence is ruled by the Medici. Like the Sforza, they are also self-made men.
Their power comes from money – the Medicibeing the greatest bankers in Italy. They are capitalists, a new breed of men. They approach politics from the point of viewof business. War is bad for business, so the Medici desirepeace above all else. Between them and the Kingdom of Naples arethe Papal States.
The Papal State is a clerical land, but thisfact does not prevent its sovereign ruler, the pope from pursuing secular matters. The popes of this age are some of Italy’smost prominent secular rulers, signing treaties, doing politics, and waging wars. Peace of Lodi Italic League The peace of Lodi concludes the Wars in Lombardy instituting a regional balance of power. The five major states: Venice, Milan,
Florence,The Papal States, and Naples acknowledge that none could dominate the other. This ushers in 40 years of peace and prosperity,however it also prevents Italy from unifying under a single monarch, as had happened in France or in Spain. To remedy this, they form a mutual defensepact, the Italic League. All states agree to maintain status quo, andto not conclude any alliances with foreign powers. This was all good and well until some unforeseen events started to happen in Milan. Milan was ruled by Francisco I Sforza,
andthen by his son Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who was assassinated in 1476. Next in line is his 7 year-old son, Gian GaleazzoSforza. Due to his young age, he is assisted in governance by his uncle – the 4th son of Francisco I, Ludovico “Il Moro” Sforza. Thus Ludovico is the de facto ruler of Milan,and he grows to love power, so when the young duke comes of age, he decides to act. In the autumn of 1494 Gian Galeazzo dies under mysterious circumstances. Many say as a result of poison administeredto him by his uncle.
Gian Galeazzo was married to Isabella of Naplesand has a son, Francesco. He is the rightful heir to Milan, and Isabella’sfather Ferdinand I of Naples decides to press his claim. A Neapolitan invasion of Milan is imminent,Ludovico Must act. Enter Charles VIII claimant to the throneof Naples, the enemy of Ludovico’s enemy. An expedient solution to an imminent problem. The consequences? No one knows them yet, but they will soonfind out. Including Ludovico himself.
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