Italian War of 1551–1559

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Italian War of 1551–1559
Part of the Italian Wars
Scannagallo Vasari.jpg
The Battle of Scannagallo in 1554 by Giorgio Vasari, in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence
See § Territorial changes

Pavillon royal de la France.svg  Kingdom of France

Bandera de Siena.png Republic of Siena

Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1517).svg Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders

The Italian War of 1551–1559, sometimes known as the Habsburg–Valois War and the Last Italian War, began when Henry II of France, who had succeeded Francis I to the throne, declared war against Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the intent of recapturing Italy and ensuring French, rather than Habsburg, domination of European affairs. Historians have emphasized the importance of gunpowder technology, new styles of fortification to resist cannon fire, and the increased professionalization of the soldiers. [1]

Henry II of France King of France

Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536.

Francis I of France King of France

Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and Lord of the Netherlands as titular Duke of Burgundy from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Austrian hereditary lands and the burgundian Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".



Mediterranean campaigns

Henry II remitting the Order of Saint-Michel to Marshall de Tavannes after the Battle of Renty, on 13 August 1554 Bataille de Renty.jpg
Henry II remitting the Order of Saint-Michel to Marshall de Tavannes after the Battle of Renty, on 13 August 1554

Henry II sealed a treaty with Suleiman the Magnificent in order to cooperate against the Habsburgs in the Mediterranean. [2] This was triggered by the conquest of Mahdiya by the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria on 8 September 1550, for the account of Charles V. The alliance allowed Henry II to push for French conquests towards the Rhine, while a Franco-Ottoman fleet defended southern France. [3]

Franco-Ottoman alliance Unprecedented alliance between the Kingdom of France and the Ottoman Empire

The Franco-Ottoman alliance, also Franco-Turkish alliance, was an alliance established in 1536 between the king of France Francis I and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Suleiman the Magnificent. The strategic and sometimes tactical alliance was one of the most important foreign alliances of France, and was particularly influential during the Italian Wars. The Franco-Ottoman military alliance is said to have reached its peak around 1553 during the reign Henry II of France.

Suleiman the Magnificent Sultan of the Ottoman Empire

Suleiman I, commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the West and Kanunî Sultan Süleyman in his realm, was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566. Under his administration, the Ottoman state ruled over at least 25 million people.

Andrea Doria Italian admiral

Andrea Doria was an Italian condottiero and admiral of the Republic of Genoa.

The 1551 Ottoman Siege of Tripoli was the first step of the all-out Italian War of 1551–59 in the European theater, and in the Mediterranean the French galleys of Marseille were ordered to join the Ottoman fleet. [4] In 1552, when Henry II attacked Charles V, the Ottomans sent 100 galleys to the Western Mediterranean, [5] which were accompanied by three French galleys under Gabriel de Luetz d'Aramon in their raids along the coast of Calabria in Southern Italy, capturing the city of Reggio. [6] In the Battle of Ponza in front of the island of Ponza, the fleet met with 40 galleys of Andrea Doria, and managed to vanquish the Genoese and capture seven galleys. This alliance would also lead to the combined Invasion of Corsica in 1553. The Ottomans continued harassing the Habsburg with various operations in the Mediterranean, such as the Ottoman invasion of the Balearic islands in 1558, following a request by Henry II. [7]

Siege of Tripoli (1551)

The siege of Tripoli occurred in 1551 when the Ottomans besieged and vanquished the Knights of Malta in the fortress of Tripoli, modern Libya. The Spanish had established a fort in Tripoli in 1510, and Charles V remitted it to the Knights in 1530. The siege culminated in a six-day bombardment and the surrender of the city on 15 August.

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 870,018 in 2016. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after those of Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.

Calabria Region of Italy

Calabria, known in antiquity as Bruttium, is a region in Southern Italy.

Land campaigns

On the Continental front, Henry II allied with German Protestant princes at the Treaty of Chambord in 1552. An early offensive into Lorraine was successful, with Henry capturing the three episcopal cities of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, and securing them by defeating the invading Habsburg army at the Battle of Renty in 1554. However, the French invasion of Tuscany in 1553, in support of Siena attacked by an imperial‐Florentine army, was defeated at the Battle of Marciano by Gian Giacomo Medici in 1554. Siena fell in 1555 and eventually became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany founded by Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. [8]

Treaty of Chambord

The Treaty of Chambord was an agreement signed on 15 January 1552 at the Château de Chambord between the Catholic King Henry II of France and three Protestant princes of the Holy Roman Empire led by Elector Maurice of Saxony. Based on the terms of the treaty, Maurice ceded the vicariate over the Three Bishoprics of Toul, Verdun, and Metz to France. In return, he was promised military and economic aid from Henry II in order to fight against the forces of Emperor Charles V of Habsburg.

Metz Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Metz is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. Metz is the prefecture of the Moselle department and the seat of the parliament of the Grand Est region. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, the city forms a central place of the European Greater Region and the SaarLorLux euroregion.

Toul Subprefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Toul is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.

A treaty in Vaucelles was signed on 5 February 1556 between Charles V and Henry II of France. [9] After Charles' abdication in 1556 split the Habsburg empire between Philip II of Spain and Ferdinand I, the focus of the war shifted to Flanders. However, the truce was broken shortly afterwards. Pope Paul IV was displeased and urged King Henry II to join the Papal States in an invasion of Spanish Naples. On 1 September 1556, King Philip II responded by preemptively invading the Papal States with 12,000 men under the Duke of Alba, but French forces approaching from the north were defeated and forced to withdraw at Civitella in August 1557. [10] The Spanish attempted to blockade Rome by occupying the port of Ostia but were driven back by the Papal armies in a surprise attack. However, when French troops were unable to come to their aid, the Papal armies were left exposed and were defeated, with Spanish troops arriving at the edge of Rome. Out of fear of another sack of Rome, Paul IV agreed to the Duke of Alba's demand for the Papal States to declare neutrality. Emperor Charles V criticized the peace agreement as being overly generous to the Pope. [11]

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor Major monarch of the Habsburg Monarchy, younger brother of Charles V

Ferdinand I was Holy Roman Emperor from 1556, king of Bohemia and Royal Hungary from 1526, and king of Croatia from 1527 until his death in 1564. Before his accession, he ruled the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs in the name of his elder brother, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Also, he often served as Charles' representative in Germany and developed encouraging relationships with German princes.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Philip, in conjunction with Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, defeated the French at St. Quentin. England's entry into the war later that year led to the French capture of Calais, and French armies plundered Spanish possessions in the Low Countries. Nonetheless, Henry was forced to accept a peace agreement in which he renounced any further claims to Italy. [12]

Savoy Cultural-historical region between Western and Central Europe

Savoy is a cultural-historical region in Europe. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south.

Battle of St. Quentin (1557)

The Battle of Saint-Quentin of 1557, was a decisive engagement, during the Italian War of 1551–1559, between the Kingdom of France and the Habsburg empire at Saint-Quentin in Picardy. A Habsburg Spanish force under Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy defeated a French army under the command of Duke Louis Gonzaga and Duke Anne de Montmorency.

Calais Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Calais is a city and major ferry port in northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's prefecture is its third-largest city of Arras. The population of the metropolitan area at the 2010 census was 126,395. Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England. The White Cliffs of Dover can easily be seen on a clear day from Calais. Calais is a major port for ferries between France and England, and since 1994, the Channel Tunnel has linked nearby Coquelles to Folkestone by rail.

The wars ended for other reasons, including the Double Default of 1557, when the Spanish Empire, followed quickly by the French, defaulted on its debts. In addition, Henry had to confront a growing Protestant movement at home, which he hoped to crush. [13]

Military technology

Oman (1937) argues[ citation needed ] that the inconclusive campaigns which generally lack a decisive engagement were largely due to an effective leadership and lack of offensive spirit. He notes that mercenary troops were used too often and proved unreliable. Hale emphasizes the defensive strength of fortifications newly designed at angles to dissipate cannon fire. Cavalry, which had traditionally used shock tactics to overawe the infantry, largely abandoned them and relied on pistol attacks by successive ranks of attackers. Hale notes the use of old-fashioned mass formations, which he attributes to lingering conservatism. Overall, Hale emphasizes new levels of tactical proficiency. [14]


In 1552 Charles V had borrowed over 4 million ducats, with the Metz campaign alone costing 2.5 million ducats. Shipments of treasure from the Indies totalled over two million ducats between 1552 and 1553. By 1554, the cash deficit for the year was calculated to be over 4.3 million ducats, even after all tax receipts for the six ensuing years had been pledged and the proceeds spent in advance. Credit at this point began costing the crown 43 percent interest (largely financed by the Fugger and Welser banking families). By 1557 the crown was refusing payment from the Indies since even this was required for payment of the war effort (used in the offensive and Spanish victory at the battle of St. Quentin in August 1557). [15]

French finances during the war were mainly financed by the increase in the taille tax, as well as indirect taxes like the gabelle and customs fees. The French monarchy also resorted to heavy borrowings during the war from financiers at rates of 10–16 percent interest. [16] The taille was estimated in collection for 1551 at around six million livres.[ citation needed ]

During the 1550s, Spain had an estimated military manpower of around 150,000 soldiers, whereas France had an estimated manpower of 50,000. [16]

Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559)


The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559) consisted of two treaties: the first one was signed between Elizabeth I of England and Henri II of France on April 2; the second one was signed between Henri II of France and Philip II of Spain on April 3. [17] The two treaties also defined the conclusion of the Imperial-French wars, and therefore the end of the Habsburg-Valois conflict as a whole, with the approval of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and the ratification at a Diet in Augsburg. [18] [19] The four monarchs did not meet in person; they were represented by ambassadors and delegations. [20] Some Italian states also attended the conference. [21]

The peace was facilitated by the abdication of Charles V in 1556 and the division of the Habsburg empire between Spain and Austria: Philip II of Spain received the kingdoms of Spain, southern Italy (Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia) and the colonies in the Americas; and Ferdinand of Austria became ruler of the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy, with suo jure control of the Danube monarchy. The Duchy of Milan and the Habsburg Netherlands were left in personal union to the King of Spain while continuing to be part of the Holy Roman Empire. With the end of the personal union of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain ("Habsburg encirclement"), France was open to peace talks. A truce was reached in Vaucelles around 1556, but it was broken shortly after. The condition of economic and religious turmoil in which the war resumed forced the parties to make peace in 1559. [22]

By the terms of the treaties, France ended military operations in the Spanish Netherlands and the Imperial fiefs of northern Italy bringing an end to most of the French occupation in Corsica, Tuscany and Piedmont. England and the Habsburgs, in exchange, ended their opposition to French occupation of the Pale of Calais, the Three Bishoprics, and a number of fortresses. For Spain, despite no new gains and the restoration of some occupied territories to France, the peace was a positive result as it confirmed its control of the Habsburg Netherlands, the Duchy of Milan, and southern Italy (Sardinia, Naples, Sicily). Ferdinand I had lost the three Bishoprics, but the Netherlands and most of northern Italy remained part of the Holy Roman Empire in the form of imperial fiefs. Furthermore, his position of Holy Roman Emperor was recognized by the Pope who had refused to do so as long as the war between France and the Habsburgs continued. England fared poorly during the war, and the loss of its last stronghold on the continent damaged its reputation. [23]

At the end of the conflict, Italy was therefore divided between viceroyalties of the Spanish Habsburgs in the south and formal fiefs of the Austrian Habsburgs in the north. The imperial states were ruled by the Doria in Genoa, the Medici in Tuscany, the Spanish Habsburgs in Milan, the Farnese in Parma, the Estensi in Modena, and an Italianized House of Savoy in Piedmont. The southern Kingdoms of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia were under direct rule of the Spanish Habsburgs. This situation continued until the European wars of succession of the 18th century, when northern Italy passed to the Austrian house of Habsburg-Lorraine and the south passed to the Spanish Bourbons. The Papacy in central Italy maintained major cultural and political influence during the Catholic Reformation initiated by the conclusion of the Tridentine council (resumed by the terms of the treaty). [24]


Map of Italy in 1559 after the Treaties of Cateau-Cambresis Italia - Fin dei Guerras d'Italia (1559).png
Map of Italy in 1559 after the Treaties of Cateau-Cambrésis

According to the treaties signed in Le Cateau-Cambrésis:


Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy married Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry, the sister of Henry II of France. Philip II of Spain married Elisabeth, the daughter of Henry II of France. [32] Henry died during a tournament when a sliver from the shattered lance of Gabriel Montgomery, captain of the Scottish Guard at the French Court, pierced his eye and entered his brain. The death of Henri II led to a status of political instability that ultimately led to the French Wars of Religion, which were to jeopardize the mixed results of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis.[ citation needed ]

See also

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