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Germany in the 15th century


Suleyman I
Suleyman I

In 1494 the French had invaded Italy, and Europe’s two most powerful dynasties—the Habsburgs and the Valois, the French ruling family—engaged in a series of military conflicts aimed at dominating the continent. At first, Maximilian and the Habsburgs only joined leagues of Italian cities in fighting the Valois and supplied arms and troops to the Italians. After the battle of Marignano in 1515, though, the Valois ruler Francis I resumed expansionist policies in Italy and in 1519 even presented himself as a candidate for Holy Roman emperor.

When the Habsburg Charles was elected instead, lingering resentment over Burgundian territory now in Charles’s possession led to the first Habsburg-Valois war, from 1521 to 1526. In a decisive battle at Pavia in 1525, Francis was captured and forced to renounce all claims to Milan, Naples, Genoa, and the duchy of Burgundy.

Alarmed by Charles’s growing power, Pope Clement VII and Henry VIII of England joined Francis in the League of Cognac, leading to the second Habsburg-Valois war. After two years of disastrous consequences for all participants, little had changed, except that Charles gave up Burgundy. In 1535 the house of Valois once more made a claim on Milan and marched into the duchy of Savoy. Charles counterattacked in southern France, thus initiating the third Habsburg-Valois war, which ended in a stalemate three years later.

Tensions continued during the next 20 years, with further outbreaks of war in 1542, 1551, and 1557. Finally, in 1559, both sides were financially and psychologically exhausted and sued for peace. The resulting Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis gave the Habsburgs control over Italy, the free county of Burgundy, and most of the Netherlands. The Valois maintained the duchy of Burgundy, most of Piedmont (Piemonte) and Savoy, and parts of the Rhineland.

Wars with the Ottoman Empire


Under the ambitious sultan Süleyman I, the Ottoman Empire in the 1520s began to expand into the eastern Habsburg holdings in Austria and Hungary. After Süleyman’s armies defeated imperial forces at Mohács in 1526, they moved on to besiege Vienna. The same year, Charles made concessions to Protestant princes at the imperial diet in Speyer to gain their support for a counteroffensive. The Ottomans were temporarily checked, but by 1532 they once again threatened Vienna, forcing Charles to make another truce with Protestant rulers in return for their military assistance. After three years of fighting, Charles succeeded in capturing Tunis and halting the Ottoman advance for the time being.

Meanwhile, Francis I signed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and made plans to reopen an offensive while the emperor was occupied in the Mediterranean. A truce was reached in 1545, but for the next 25 years imperial and Ottoman troops skirmished in southern Europe until the imperial troops achieved a smashing defeat of the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. While all European rulers, particularly the Habsburgs, remained concerned about the Ottoman threat for the next century, Ottoman advancement had been halted. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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