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Charles VIII of France and Italy


Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis
Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis

Charles VIII of France invaded Italy in 1494 at the invitation of the pope. The French invasion marked the beginning of Italian Wars that continued with interruptions until 1559. Italy experienced many disasters in those years, including the sack of Rome in 1527 by the armies of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Despite the invasions, however, Italy’s prosperity and its artistic and cultural vitality flourished until the end of the 16th century.

The invasions that started in 1494 resulted in large part from major changes in European politics. Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella had united Spain and competed with Portugal and Venice for trade with Atlantic and Mediterranean centers. Southern Italy already belonged to Spain, but Venice began to view Spain as a valuable ally after Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople (now ?stanbul)in 1453 and threatened Venetian trade. Charles I (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) inherited the Spanish throne in 1516. Three years later he inherited Habsburg territory in central Europe from his German grandfather. Spain’s ambition to extend its power in the Mediterranean derived from long-standing ambitions of the German emperors.

The invasions also stemmed from rivalries between and within the Italian states. In 1494 Pope Alexander VI, a member of the Borgia family, encouraged French king Charles VIII to invade Italy to contest the crown of Naples. The duke of Milan, a Sforza, supported the French invasion. Both wished to reduce the power of their rivals, the Medici of Florence. Although the Medici briefly lost power, the army of Charles VIII was defeated. The rivalry between Francis I of France and emperor Charles V led to a second unsuccessful French invasion of Italy in 1524.

At the Peace of Cambrai in 1529 the French monarchy renounced its claim to territory in Italy. In a final attempt to dislodge the Spanish from southern Italy, Pope Paul IV persuaded French king Henry II to invade in 1557. After Henry’s defeat the Spanish viceroy in Naples forced the pope to accept humiliating terms.

The Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559 brought a temporary halt in the struggles between the French and the Habsburgs, and their Italian allies. The Habsburgs were the clear winners at this stage. Southern Italy was incorporated into the Spanish Habsburg empire, and when the last of Milan’s Sforza rulers died in 1535, Emperor Charles V added the duchy of Milan to Spain’s empire. Both the southern kingdom of Naples and Sicily and the duchy of Milan remained Spanish possessions for almost 200 years. In Florence, Charles V restored the Medici family to power, and they ruled as grand dukes of Tuscany until the early 1700s. Venice, Genoa, and the Papal States remained independent, but the importance of the small Duchy of Savoy, which acted as a buffer between the two rivals, France and Habsburg Austria, began to increase. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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