Andrea Doria, 1466-1560

Andrea Doria (1466-1560) was one of the most successful Italian leaders of the long-running Italian Wars and was a very able naval leader who ended his life as ruler of Genoa.

Doria was born into a powerful Genoese family, but his career began while his family was out of favour in the city. His first employer was Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492). He was then hired by Ferdinand I of Naples (r.1458-94) and Alfonso II of Naples (r.1494-95). He also spent some time working for Genoa, helping his uncle Domenico put down a Corsican revolt in 1503-6. In 1510 he was appointed captain-general of the Genoese galleys.

After this Andrea went to sea, at first in command of a fleet of eight galleys. He fought against the Barbary pirates, and enhanced his reputation with an impressive victory over the Ottoman Turks at Pianosa (1519).

In 1522 Charles V sent the Marquis of Pescara to conquere Genoa. In response Doria entered the service of Francis I of France (First Habsburg-Valois War, 1521-26) and was appointed admiral of the French Mediterranean Fleet. In 1524 Imperial forces invaded Provence and besieged Marseilles. Doria attacked the Imperial supply lines, and in August the Imperials were forced to lift the siege.

After Francis was captured at Pavia (1525) Doria entered the service of Pope Cement VII, but he returned to the French service after Francis was freed in 1526.

At this point Genoa was in Imperial hands, but Doria and the French were able to recapture it. The French then alienated Doria, who switched sides, entering the service of Charles V. Doria was able to take the Genoese fleet with him, withdrawing it from a blockade of Naples. Doria and Charles then drove the French out of Genoa. Doria made a triumphal entry into his home city in September 1528, while Charles made him Prince of Melfi and Grand Admiral of the Imperial Fleet.

Doria was now the effective ruler of Genoa. He set up an oligarchic republic, with power shared between the main aristocratic families and designed to try and prevent the bitter factional fights that had plagued the city. Doria himself remained captain general of the galleys, but his influence remained supreme.

Doria also took his post as Imperial Admiral seriously, fighting in Charles V's wars against the Ottomans. He took Coron/ Koroni and Patris/ Patrai in 1525, and was involved in the capture of Tunis in 1535. In 1537 he lifted an Ottoman siege of Corfu.

Doria wasn't unbeatable at sea. On 27 September 1538 he was the commander of a joint Imperial, Venetian and Genoese fleet that was defeated by Khair-ed-Din (Barbarossa) at the battle of Préveza. His political rivals claimed that Doria had deliberately lost the battle in order to spite the Venetians, but Barbarossa was a very capable admiral and more than capable of winning without any such plotting. The defeat did have an impact of Venice, which was forced to abandon hits last footholds in the Aegean.

In 1541 Doria took part in Charles V's unsuccessful invasion of Algiers, and played a major part in the escape of most of Charles's army.

In 1544 the fourth and final war between Francis I and Charles V ended. Doria remained in power in Genoa, although he had to put down a number of plots against his power.

In 1547 the Fifth and final Habsburg-Valois War broke out. At first Doria's main concerns were at home, where he had to suppress a revolt led by Giovanni Luigi Fiesco (son of one of Doria's closer friends and a leader of the pro-French camp in Genoa) in 1547 and a second revolt in 1548, suggesting that his attempts to squash the factional fighting in Genoa hadn't been as successful as he might have hoped. The first revolt came very close to success - on 2 January the rebels took control of the fleet, and Doria was forced to flee the city, but Fiesco drowned during the attack and with his death much of the heart went out of the revolt. Doria was able to return two days later, and took his vengeance on the surviving members of the Fiesco family.

In 1550 he took part in a punitive naval expedition against the Barbary pirates that achieved very little.

Doria's last campaign was in Corsica. The island had been ruled by the Genoese bank of San Giorgio, but was captured by the French. Doria spent 1553-55 fighting on Corsica, winning some successes.

Doria retired in 1555 and died in Genoa on 25 November 1560. His naval command and his estates passed to his grand nephew Giovanni Andrea Doria.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 October 2014), Andrea Doria, 1466-1560 ,

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