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Italian Wars

Italian Wars

The Italian Wars were not over pizza and pasta, but for the control of Italy! These wars were mostly fought between the French and Spanish families of Valois and Habsburg. Other nations throughout Europe were involved, such as England and Switzerland, as well as the Papal States in Italy. Let's look at how the Italian Wars affected European politics and the relation with the Protestant Reformation.

Italian Wars Timeline

The Italian Wars spanned a long 65 year period, with various conflicts and changes of power and territories.

DateEvent
1494First Italian War (1494-5).Charles VIII, King of France, invaded Italy and took Naples.Pope Alexander VI formed the League of Venice with Papal States, Venice, Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I against Charles VIII to drive him out of Naples.
1498Louis XII ascended to the throne of France.
1499Second Italian War. (1499-1503).Louis XII invaded Italy, took Genoa, Milan, and Naples.
1503Ferdinand V (King of Spain) drove Louis XII out of Naples.
1508Third Italian War (1508-16).League of Cambrai (Emperor Maximilian, Pope Julius II, Louis XII, Ferdinand II) formed and attacked Venice - War of the League of Cambrai (1508-1510).
1511Holy League (Emperor Maximilian, Spain, Venice, England and Switzerland) formed and drove Louis XII out of Milan - War of the Holy League (1510-1514).
1512Switzerland assumed control of Milan.Henry VIII launched an invasion into France.
1513Pope Julius II died and Pope Leo X took over.England's invasion of France forced peace treaties to be made between Pope Leo X, Maximilian I, and Henry VIII.
1515Francis I became King of France, invaded Italy and was victorious at the Battle of Marignano, securing Milan for France - Francis' Invasion of Italy.
1516Charles I became the King of Spain.Spain and France reach peace agreement that Spain would have Naples and France would have Milan.
1519Charles I is elected to Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V.
1521First Habsburg-Valois War (1521-1525).Francis I and Charles V reignite their rivalry over Italy.
1526Second Habsburg-Valois War (1526-30).Francis I was captured and forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid (1526)When released, Francis I joined the League of Cognac (with Pope Clement VII, Florence, Venice, Milan) against Charles V.
1527Lutheran Imperial troops rebelled against Charles V and sacked Rome. Pope's authority was challenged, and he was now subject to Charles V.
1529Treaty of Cambrai - Francis I gave up claims to Italy.
1536Third Habsburg-Valois War (1536-8).Francis I invaded Savoy.
1542Fourth Habsburg-Valois War (1542-44).Francis I formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire, and proceeded to attack Habsburg areas.
1547Francis I died and was succeeded by Henry II.
1550Pope Juilius III was elected to the papacy, and supported Charles V.
1551Fifth Habsburg-Valois War (1551-9).France invaded Savoy again.
1555Pope Paul IV was elected to the papacy.
1556Charles V abdicated his thrones. His brother, Ferdinand I, assumed the title of Holy Roman Emperor and Philip II became King of Spain.
1559Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis ended the Italian Wars.

Italian Wars Armies

The Italian Wars were mostly fought between France and Spain whilst engaging with the Italian territories. The Papacy switched between supporting sides throughout the conflicts. Let's take a look at the combatants of the Italian Wars.

Spain

The united Spanish crown belonged to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile from 1479. Their daughter, Joanna Trastámara married Maximilian I of Habsburg's son Philip I in 1496, which placed Spain under the Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburgs had accumulated vast amounts of European territories such as Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and The Netherlands through strategic marriages.

Italian Wars Titan portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V StudySmarterFig. 1 - Charles V. When he was born, he inherited many kingdoms due to the strategic political marriages of the Habsburg family

Furthermore, Frederick III was the first Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor in 1452, which he passed to his son Maximilian I in 1459. When Joanna and Philip I's son, Charles I, was born in 1500, he was set to inherit the large swathes of Europe due to his particular family backgrounds.

In 1519, Charles I became the Holy Roman Emperor, henceforth known as Charles V, and controlled the Imperial forces as well as the armies of his other territories. Charles V was determined to centralise his territories and create a universal monarchy, much like the original Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, to create a power to rival that of the Papacy.

France

France had been ruled by the Valois family since 1328, and hence had almost two centuries of control of the region when the Italian Wars began. Throughout this time, the Habsburg dynasty had expanded through Europe which led to tension with France on its borders.

Italian Wars Portrait of Francis I StudySmarterFig. 2 - Francis I came to power in 1515 and developed a fierce personal rivalry with Charles V. In particular, he was threatened by the Habsburg territories that surrounded France

Francis I ascended the French throne in 1515. When Charles V inherited much of Europe and became Holy Roman Emperor in 1516, the Valois-Habsburg rivalry intensified as Francis I felt France was threatened by the Habsburg territories, which now surrounded the country.

Francis I attempted to be elected as Holy Roman Emperor at the 1519 elections but failed, and his drive for Italy was to secure French power in Europe and topple Charles V's dominion.

Italy

At the advent of the Italian Wars, Italy was divided into independent sovereign states, the seven main territories included:

  • Republic of Venice

  • Republic of Genoa

  • Republic of Florence

  • Duchy of Milan

  • Kingdom of Naples

  • Kingdom of Sicily

  • Papal States

These states grew economically because of their control of the trading routes of the Mediterranean, which had flourished during the Age of Exploration as valuable resources were imported from colonies.

Italian Wars Map of Italy in 1494 showing sovereign states StudySmarterFig. 3 - At the start of the Italian Wars in 1494, Italy was divided into many independent states and was growing in power due to their control of trade routes in the Mediterranean

In particular, the Republic of Venice was expanding its territories onto the mainland through its economic growth. The Papal States were particularly threatened by Venice's expansion as they had been invaded multiple times, and other countries were threatened because Venice had a stranglehold over trade into their empires.

How did the Papal states rise to power?

The Papacy controlled much of central Italy in the 15th century, and had helped to create a Renaissance movement out of Italy.

As the Catholic authority in Europe, the Papacy was frequently involved in international wars between Catholic Kings. This led the Papacy to develop a strong political and military presence throughout Europe as well. Using their religious and political authority, the Papacy commanded signficant power in the Italian Wars.

In 1494, the King of Naples, Ferrante I died. Both the Valois and Habsburg families held distant claims to the throne. This led to the French invasion of Italy in the same year, instigating the Italian Wars.

List of Italian Wars

There were 10 wars during the Italian Wars. Most were fought between Spain and France, but many other nations were brought into the conflicts.

  • First Italian War (1494-5)
  • Second Italian War (1499-1503)
  • Third Italian War (1508-1516)
    • War of the League of Cambrai (1508-10)
    • War of the Holy League (1510-4)
    • Francis' Invasion of Italy (1515-6)
  • Fourth Italian War/First Habsburg-Valois War (1521-5)
  • Second Habsburg-Valois War/War of the League of Cognac (1526-30)
  • Third Habsburg-Valois War (1536-8)
  • Fourth Habsburg-Valois War (1542-4)
  • Fifth Habsburg-Valois War (1551-9)

The papacy switched sides throughout the conflicts depending on their interests. Let's look at the key alliances that were made during the Italian Wars.

League of Venice

After France's invasion of Italy in 1494, Pope Alexander VI created the League of Venice to rebuke France's advances. The allies included the Papal States, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice. The Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, took advantage of the League to arrange the marriage of his son, Philip I, to Ferdinand II's daughter Joanna Trastámara in 1496 - the fateful connection of the Habsburg family which would produce Charles V.

League of Cambrai

This alliance was formed in 1508 between the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire, France, and Spain . The League of Cambrai attacked the increasingly powerful Republic of Venice. Much of Venice was divided up between the allies over the 2 year period of the War of the League of Cambrai with varying degrees of success.

Holy League

Following the League of Cambrai, Pope Julius II became increasingly concerned with the aggression of the foreign allies to take Venice. As a result, he formed the Holy League to remove the French dominance in Italy. Initially, the alliance was between the Papal States and the Republic of Venice in 1510, but by 1512 the allies included Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England (ruled at this time by Henry VIII) and Switzerland.

Italian Wars Portrait of Pope Julius II StudySmarterFig. 4 - Pope Julius II was instrumental in organising the alliances in the first part of the Italian Wars. His switching of sides demonstrated the Papacy's desire for political power in Italy

The Holy League successfully drove France out of Milan with the decisive Battle of Novara in 1513 between Switzerland and France. However, once Francis I became King of France, he began another invasion of Italy in 1515 and successfully resecured Milan from the Swiss in the Battle of Marignano.

League of Cognac

When Charles V was elected as Holy Roman Emperor in 1516, the Habsburg-Valois rivalry erupted with the First Habsburg-Valois War in 1521. As Charles V's domination in Europe grew, the new pope Clement VII founded the League of Cognac in 1526. The allies included the Papal States, France, Duchy of Milan, Republic of Venice, and Republic of Florence.

Italian Wars Painting of the Sacking of Rome 1527 StudySmarterFig. 5 - The Sack of Rome in 1527 was a demonstration of how the Protestant Reformation affected the Italian Wars as Lutheran Imperial troops rebelled against Charles V to intimidate the pope

Charles V's Imperial armies began advancing through Italy, establishing dominance after the Battle of Pavia in 1525 against the French. In 1527, some Lutheran rebels in the Imperial army instigated a Sack of Rome, eventually leading to Pope Clement VII's surrender. He agreed to hand over a large amount of Papal territories to Charles V.

Did you know? Although Charles V's Imperial troops had rebelled with the Sack of Rome in 1527, the pope's surrender and terms were to his advantage. Despite the embarrassment of the Holy Roman Empire holding the Pppe to ransom, Charles gladly accepted the new territories after the sacking of the city.

After signficant French losses, peace was agreed between Charles V and Francis I with the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529. With the pope in his back pocket, Charles V had accumulated even more power in Europe and forced the Pope to crown him officially as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1530.

Peace lasted until 1536, when Francis I attempted to regain parts of Italy with the Third Habsburg-Valois War. Conflicts over Italy continued with another two Habsburg-Valois Wars (Fourth in 1542-4, Fifth 1551-9) in a wider theatre of Europe and involving the Ottoman Empire with a French alliance in 1542. Eventually, the wars resulted in the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559, with Charles V's successor, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, gaining control of most of Europe.

England in the Italian Wars

England became a player in the Italian Wars due to its alliances with the warring countries, its own expansion plans, and for personal motivations. Henry VIII came to power in 1509 and that same year married Catherine of Aragon, Charles V's aunt. This strengthened an Anglo-Spanish alliance and England joined the Holy League against France in 1511.

In 1512, Henry VIII invaded France, causing France to engage in wars in Italy and on its northern borders. Francis I attempted to ally with England in 1520 at the Field of Cloth of Gold, but failed. However, by 1525, Henry VIII began seeking an annulment for his marriage due to the lack of male heirs. The case went before Pope Clement VII, however, after the Sacking of Rome in 1527, Charles V pressured the pope not to grant the annulment as Catherine of Aragon was his aunt.

In 1527, Henry VIII and Francis I signed the Treaty of Westminster whereby England supported the French invasion of Rome. This was unsuccessful and resulted in Henry VIII breaking away from the Catholic Church, marrying Anne Boleyn in 1533 and forming the Church of England in 1536. The subsequent Habsburg-Valois Wars were mainly disputes between France and Spain over control of Europe. England continued to fight France in its Northern territories, allying with Charles V in 1544, and continuing fighting in 1549.

In 1554, England's new Queen Mary I married the Habsburg Philip II of Spain and proceeded to declare war on France once again in 1557. This kept France's King Henry II distracted during the Italian Wars, but ultimately led to English withdrawal. Elizabeth I became the English monarch in 1558, removing the Habsburg influence and England no longer engaged in the Italian Wars, which ended in 1559.

Italian Wars and The Protestant Reformation

The Italian Wars provided a distraction to the Protestant Reformation occurring at the same time throughout Europe. Whilst the Italian Wars resulted in the weakening of the Papacy's political influence, the Protestant Reformation reduced the Pope's religious authority as well.

The Sack of Rome in 1527 saw the direct results of the Protestant Reformation as Lutheran rebels held Pope Clement VII hostage in Rome. This allowed Charles V to control much of the Papal territories and the pope himself. In England, the preoccupied Pope delayed negotiations for Henry VIII's annulment, and he went on to begin the English Reformation.

Italian Wars Painting of the Council of Trent in 1545 StudySmarterFig. 6 - The Italian Wars allowed Charles V to control the pope. He thus called the Council of Trent in 1545 in an attempt to resolve the matter of the Reformation. This started the Catholic Counter Reformation but failed to quell the rise in Protestantism

As Charles V was distracted with the Italian Wars, his solution to the Protestant Reformation was simply to call a council to debate and resolve the matter. The Pope had refused at this point, but the sacking of Rome allowed Charles to push the council through. Eventually this resulted in the infamous Council of Trent in 1545, which began the Catholic Counter Reformation.

Italian Wars - Key takeaways

  • The Italian Wars were mostly fought by France and Spain over control of the wealthy Italy. They began in 1494 after the death of the King of Naples; both France and Spain had distant claims over Naples, so France invaded Italy.
  • The Habsburgs used strategic marriages to control most of Europe. The most significant marriage of the Spanish crown to the Habsburg Philip I resulted in the birth of Charles V, who would inherit a vast amount of territory and become the Holy Roman Emperor in 1516. Habsburg territory surrounded France, leading to the Valois Francis I to further the rivalry with further Italian Wars.
  • The Papacy controlled the central territories of Italy, but was concerned for the growing power of other independent states such as the Republic of Venice.
  • The Sack of Rome in 1527 upset the Papal authority, with Charles V gaining control of the Papal states and the pope. This turned the tide with Charles controlling Italy. Further Habsburg-Valois Wars ensued over Italy and on France's European borders.
  • The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed in 1559 after both Spanish and French kingdoms were economically bankrupt from the continuous Italian Wars. The result was the Habsburg dominance of Europe and a reduced French power. Both Italy and the Papacy suffered from the Italian Wars as Spain consolidated its power throughout Europe.
  • The Protestant Reformation was aided by the Italian Wars as the leaders were distracted by the European warfare. Charles V was eventually able to convene the Council of Trent in 1545 to instigate the Catholic Counter Reformation, but at this point Protestantism had spread widely across Europe.

References

  1. Fig. 3 Map of Italy in 1494 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Italy_1494_AD.png) by MapMaster (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MapMaster) licensed by CC BY SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
  2. Fig. 6 Painting of the Council of Trent (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Concilio_Trento_Museo_Buonconsiglio.jpg) by Laurom (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Laurom) licensed by CC BY SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Frequently Asked Questions about Italian Wars

Ultimately Spain was the victor of the Italian Wars as Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II emerged from the wars as controlling most of Europe, including Italy, and the French opponents had their desire of expansion quashed. The Italian Wars were mostly a battle of dominance between the Habsburgs and Valois, with the former coming out on top.

Henry VIII was involved in some of the politics of the Italian Wars as he primarily supported the Habsburgs against England's historic enemy of France. However, he switched sides momentarily after the Sacking of Rome by supporting the French invasion to capture the Pope so he could have an annulment. After this failed, Henry VIII's daughter, Mary I, continued fighting the Italian Wars in Northern France due to her marriage to Philip II of Habsburg. 

After the Sacking of Rome, Charles V had control of the Papal states and the Pope, giving him control of most of Italy. However, France continued to disrupt the status quo by continuing to fight the Habsburgs as they were territorially surrounded. The Habsburg-Valois Wars continued until 1559, by which point both sides were bankrupt and the Habsburgs had assumed control of most of Europe. The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed in 1559 to conclude the Italian Wars as the belligerent countries started focussing on domestic issues created by the Protestant Reformation.

Initially, the king of France was Charles VII in 1494. This was passed to Louis XII in 1498. The Habsburg-Valois rivalry intensified when Francis I ascended the French throne in 1515. After Francis' death in 1547, Henry II assumed the throne, and did so until his death in 1559 at the end of the Italian Wars.

The Italian Wars allowed Henry VIII to invade France on several occasions throughout the warfare. Furthermore, the sacking of Rome in 1527 brought the Pope under Charles V's control. As Henry VIII could not gain an annulment for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Charles V's aunt, he broke from the Catholic Church and began the English Reformation. 

Final Italian Wars Quiz

Question

Which event started the Italian Wars in 1494?

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Answer

The death of the King of Naples, Ferrante I.

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Question

When did Charles I become Holy Roman Emperor Charles V?

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Answer

1519.

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Question

Which French king instigated the Italian Wars?

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Answer

Charles VII.

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Question

Which two families were the primary combatants of the Italian Wars?

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Answer

Habsburgs.

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Question

Which Italian independent state particularly threatened the Papacy and other European powers?

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Answer

Republic of Venice.

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Question

How many key wars made up the 65-year-long Italian Wars?

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Answer

Ten.

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Question

In which alliance in 1510 did Pope Julius II unite against French domination in Italy?

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Answer

Holy League.

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Question

Which two family leaders were in power for the First Habsburg-Valois War in 1521?

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Answer

Francis I.

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Question

Which significant event of the Italian Wars led to Charles V's control of the majority of the Papal States and the Pope himself?

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Answer

1527 Sack of Rome.

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Question

How did the rebels of the Sack of Rome in 1527 demonstrate the significance of the Protestant Reformation?

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Answer

They were Lutheran.

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Question

Which Peace treaty ended the Italian Wars in 1559?

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Answer

Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis.

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Question

Why did Henry VIII sign the Treaty of Westminister in 1527 with France?

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Answer

In order to secure the Pope for an annulment.

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Question

What measure did Charles V introduce in 1545 to attempt to resolve the Protestant Reformation?

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Answer

Council of Trent.

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Question

How many Habsburg-Valois wars were there during the Italian Wars?

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Answer

Five.

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Question

Who succeeded Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor?

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Answer

Ferdinand I.

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