The first two Italian Wars marked the start of nearly seventy years of wartime across the full length of the Italian peninsula. Although the wars were triggered by a French attempt to conquer Naples, the main winners were the Hapburgs, who ended up as Dukes of Milan and king of Naples. The big losers were the independent Italian powers most of which disappear during this period, and the French ended up with nothing to show for their efforts.
At the start of these wars Italy was divided into a series of independent states, mostly ruled by Italian noble families or republics, with Milan in the north-west ruled by the Sforza, Florence and Venice by Republics, the Papal States by a mix of church figures and various Italian nobles. In the south the Kingdom of Naples was ruled by an offshoot of the ruling house of Aragon, but it was a combination of the rivalry between the kings of Naples and the regent to the young duke of Milan, and the ambitions of Charles VIII of France that triggered the wars. At the end of these wars most of the independent Italian powers were gone – Milan and Naples were both Hapsburg possessions, the Florentine Republic had gone, and Italy would remain divided and mainly in foreign hands until the 19th century!
One of the key lessons from both of these wars is that your objectives need to be realistic. In both wars the French proved able to conquer Naples with no real problems, but entirely incapable of actually defending the kingdom. Likewise Cesare Borgia was perfectly capable of conquering large parts of the Romagne when his father was Pope, but his power collapsed almost immediately once one of his family’s enemies took the Papal throne.
One of the interesting themes throughout this book is how warfare was changing in this period. One of the most famous French combatants was Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayad, known at the time as ‘the good night’ and after his death as the ‘knight without fear and beyond reproach’. His life reads like a story book tale of chivalry, and to a certain extent that was probably the point of many of his actions. However his gallantry and chivalry had no real impact on the actual wars, and even his most famous exploits often came on the losing side (holding a bridge at the battle of the Garigliano for instance). The medieval knight was becoming obsolete in this period, as the more organised infantry armies of Spain began to dominate the battlefield.
This is a fascinating, detailed look at these crucial wars, placing the military campaigns in their political context – the world that inspired the writings of Machiavelli, and you can see where he got his inspiration from!
1 – Medieval Winter, Renaissance Spring
2 – King Charles VIII’s France
3 – The Collapse of Lorenzo’s Peace
4 – Charles VIII Invades Italy
5 – The March South to Rome
6 – The Holy League Arises to Fight King Charles
7 – The Battle of Fornoso
8 – King Charles’s Italian Adventure Ends
9 – King Louis XII
10 – King Louis XII take Milan
11 – Lodovico Strikes Back and Fails
12 – Cesare Borgia: The Impresa Begins
13 – Cesare Borgia: The Second Impresa
14 – King Louis XII in Italy
15 – Cesare Borgia: The Third Impresa
16 – King Louis and his Campaign for Naples
17 – The Condottieri Conspire
18 – The Borgia Collapse
19 – War in Southern Italy
20 – Battle on the Garigliano
Author: Julian Romane
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military