The Italian Wars Portal
The Italian Wars
were a series of conflicts from 1494 to 1559 that involved, at various times, all the major states of western Europe (France
, the Holy Roman Empire
, the Republic of Venice
, the Papal States
, and most of the city-states of Italy
) 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 degree of alliances, counter-alliances, and regular betrayals.
Warfare in the Italian Wars was a complicated and ever-changing art. Much of the period saw revolutionary developments in formation, equipment, and tactics as the great powers of Europe attempted to gain a decisive advantage against each other.
The Italian War of 1521–26
, sometimes known as the Four Years' War, was a part of the Italian Wars
that pitted Francis I of France
and the Republic of Venice
against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
, Henry VIII of England
, and the Papal States
. The conflict arose from animosity over the election of Charles as Emperor in 1519–20 and from Pope Leo X
's need to ally with Charles against Martin Luther
The war broke out across western Europe late in 1521 when the French invaded Navarre and the Low Countries. Imperial forces overcame the invasion and attacked northern France, where they were stopped in turn. The Pope, the Emperor, and Henry VIII then signed a formal alliance against France, and hostilities began on the Italian peninsula. At the Battle of Bicocca, Imperial and Papal forces defeated the French, driving them from Lombardy. Following the battle, fighting again spilled onto French soil, while Venice made a separate peace. The English invaded France in 1523, while Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, alienated by Francis's attempts to seize his inheritance, betrayed Francis and allied himself with the Emperor. A French attempt to regain Lombardy in 1524 failed and provided Bourbon with an opportunity to invade Provence at the head of a Spanish army.
Francis himself led a second attack on Milan in 1525. While he was initially successful in driving back the Spanish and Imperial forces, his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Pavia, where he was captured and many of his chief nobles were killed, led to the end of the war. While imprisoned in Spain, Francis signed the Treaty of Madrid, surrendering his claims to Italy, Flanders, and Burgundy. Only a few weeks after his release, however, he repudiated the terms of the treaty, starting the War of the League of Cognac. Although the Italian Wars would continue for another three decades, they would end with France having failed to regain any substantial territories in Italy.
Instead of the peace and tranquillity that many hoped must result from it, the truce gave rise to endless calamities among the Italians and even bloodier and more devastating wars than in the past. For although there had already been, for fourteen years in Italy, so many wars and so many changes of state, yet because these things often ended without bloodshed, or else the killings took place, for the most part, amongst the barbarians themselves, the people had suffered less than the princes. But now the door opening to new discords in the future, there followed throughout Italy, and against the Italians themselves, the cruelest accidents, endless murders, sacking and destruction of many cities and towns, military licentiousness no less pernicious to their friends than to their enemies, religion violated, and holy things trampled under foot with less reverence and respect than for profane things.