The Italian Wars were a series of wars in Italy which lasted off-and-on from 1494-1559 and involved most of Europe’s major powers.

The First Italian War started in 1494 when the Duke of Milan, seeking an ally against his enemy, the Republic of Venice, invited the King of France, Charles VIII, to invade Italy. Charles happily accepted, due to his own claim on the throne of Naples. Charles marched into Italy and then sacked Naples, proclaiming himself king. However, the northern Italian States formed the League of Venice to stop king Charles from returning to France. In 1495, Charles and his French army escaped to France after the Battle of Fornovo, but the true king of Naples, Ferdinand II, reclaimed his throne.

Charles VIII died in 1498, and his cousin Louis XII ascended the French throne. Meanwhile, Pisa and Florence were having a dispute in Italy, so Florence invited France to conquer Pisa. Louis XII happily complied, and in 1499 seized the Duchy of Milan. Louis failed, however, to take Pisa, and concluded the Treaty of Granada, allowing the Spanish and the French to split the kingdom of Naples between them. It was a terrible mistake on Louis’s part, for he had victory already in his grasp and did not need Spanish interference. But Spain came anyway, and expelled the French from Italy when the French started hoarding Italy. Yet again, France was humiliated, but it still held on to Milan.

Meanwhile, Pope Julius II was very concerned about the growing power of Venice, and formed the League of Cambrai (which included the Holy Roman Empire, the Duchy of Ferrerra, the Papal State, and Spain) in 1508 against Venice. In 1509, the League destroyed the Venetian army, but France then decided to revive its claim of the throne of Naples and changed sides, allying with Venice against the League. At the Battle of Ravenna in 1512, the French decisively defeated the Spanish, but were forced to flee from Italy after the Swiss conquered Milan, re-installing the rightful duke. Louis invaded again, but was again defeated at the Battle of Novara in 1513. In 1513, Julius II died, and Louis XII died in 1515, his throne passing to his nephew, Francis I. After a string of victories, the French then regained Northern Italy from the League.

In 1526, after another war, Francis I was captured by the Spanish and forced to renounce his claims to Italy, returning to France empty-handed yet again. He would be defeated again in the war of the League of Cognac against the Spanish. Further wars did little to change the map of Italy, and in 1559, the king of France finally conceded defeat. Italy was to remain independent of France.

What do you think about The Italian Wars? Was it all worth it?