Timeline of the Italian Wars

Timeline of the Italian Wars.

Initial invasions

Charles VIII of France invaded Italy (Taylor, 1993).

Italian War of 1494–98



Charles VIII seized Naples without effort (Feb), and forced his opponent – Ferdinand of Naples – to flee to Sicily (Oman, 1987; Taylor, 1993). Subsequently Spain, the Holy Roman emperor, the pope, Venice signed a treaty in Venice (31 March) to force Charles out of Italy again. With only a French garrison at Asti in Piedmont, and the pro-French, but faction ridden city of Florence in support, Charles was obliged to retire.


Battle of Fornovo (6 Jul) (Oman, 1987).


With the French gone, the descendents of Alfonso the Magnanimous were restored to the throne of Naples (Oman, 1987).

Italian War of 1499–1504


Louis XII of France – successor to Charles VII – occupied Milan and Genoa (Taylor, 1993). Ludovico Sforza, betrayed by this Swiss mercenaries, is sent a captive to France (Oman, 1987).


After securing the consent of Pope Alexander VI, Louis XII of France and Ferdinand V of Aragon signed the treaty of Granada, whereby they agreed to the conquest and partition of Naples (Oman, 1987, Taylor, 1993). Frederic of Naples is sent as a pensioned captive to France.


Disagreement over division of the spoils between the Spanish and the French, however, flared into open warfare (Taylor, 1993).


Spanish under the Great Captain defeat the French at the battle of Garigliano (29 Dec) (Oman, 1987).


Spanish capture French held Gaeta (1 Jan) (Oman, 1987).

With the treaty of Lyon (25 Feb) Louis XII was forced to resign his half of Naples ot the Spanish (Oman, 1987), but kept Milan and Genoa for himself (Taylor, 1993).

Shifting alliances

War of the League of Cambrai (1508–16)


Pope Julius II formed an alliance – the Legue of Cambray (Dec) – against Venice with France, Spain, and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (Oman, 1983; Taylor, 1993).

A French army crossed the Alps (April) and proceeded to take possession of the Venetian territory (Oman, 1983).


After much maneuvering, the French beat the Venetians at Agnadello (14 May) (Oman, 1983; Taylor, 1993). The Venetians, under the Count of Pitigliano and Bartolo de Alviano, tried to hold a strong position but were edged out by threats to their flank and then crushed in the open. Francis of France subsequently took all the Venetians western cities – Bergamo, Brescia, Peschiera, Crema, and Cremona, and the German Emperor Maximilian took Vicenza, Verona, and Bassano. Padua was the only Venetian possession remaining outside the lagoon.


Pope mJulius made peace with Venice and began to form the Holy League in order to expel the French “barbarians” from Italy (Taylor, 1993).


At the close of the year Gaston de Foix took command of the French army (Taylor, 1993).


The Swiss stormed Milan, which they nominally restored to the Sforzas (Taylor, 1993).

Battle of Ravenna (11 April) (Oman, 1987).


Swiss routed the French at Novara (6 June), and as a consequence took control of Lombardy (Oman, 1987; Taylor, 1993).


With his victory at Marignano (13 Sept) Louis’s successor, Francis I, ended the Swiss domination of Lombardy (Oman, 1987; Taylor, 1993).


Peace of Noyon: Naples remained in Spanish hands and Milan was returned to France (Taylor, 1993).


Charles V of Spain becomes Holy Roman Emperor (Taylor, 1993).

Italian War of 1521–26


Warfare erupts again in Italy – between Spanish and French (Taylor, 1993).


Battle of Bicocca (27 April) (Oman, 1987).

Subsequently the French Army retreated to the doubtful sanctuary of Venetian territory (Oman, 1987). An Imperialist force (Pescara) made a dash for Genoa and with the help of anti-French party surprised and destroyed the small garrison (Pedro Navarro – ex-Imperialist general). Hearing of this, Lescun evacuated the remaining French forces in Italy.


With the French cause in tatters, the Venetians made peace with the Emperor, depriving Francois of his only Italian ally (Oman, 1987). Giovanni dei Medici (aka Giovanni della Bande Nere) followed suit and took service with the Emperor. Charles de Bourbon conspired with the Emperor, was discovered, and fled to Italy.

Guillaume de Bonnivet, the Admiral of France, led an army of 1800 lances and 30,000 foot into Italy (Oman, 1987). The army included 10,000 Swiss and 6,000 Landsknecht. The French found the Imperialists ill prepared with scattered forces. A small Imperialist force (Prosper Colonna) was out flanked on the Ticino and was forced back to Milan, allowing the French to capture Novarra without resistance. The invaders then took strategic positions around Milan (Monza, Chiaravalle, and San Cristofano), cut off the aqueducts and settled in for a siege. By November, however, the French besiegers were as hungry as the besieged and withdrew into winter quarters some miles back. Most of Swiss melted away, and Bonnivet discharged as useless many French Infantry. Colonna died in November of an illness he had contracted sometime before, but was replaced by Charles de Lannoy, Viceroy of Naples, who had brought up much needed reinforcements from the south. Simultaneously, the Duke de Urbino lead a mercenary army in Venetian employ against the French, and Charles de Bourbon brought 10,000 Landsknecht south of the Alps in the Emperor’s name.


The now larger Imperialist army marched out of Milan and attacked Bonnivet in his cantonments (March) (Oman, 1987). The scattered French made little resistance and were forced out of Italy following the ‘Rout of Sesia’ (30 April) where their largely Swiss rearguard was cut to pieces, most of the artillery captured, Bonnivet himself wounded, and the legendary Bayard killed.

An Imperialist army under Bourbon pursued and after some successes floundered against the walls of Marseilles (Oman, 1987). By October Francois was approaching with a relief force of 40,000, and Bourbon retreated along the coast road to Italy. Francois let him go and turning east, slipped across the Alps to Saluzzo. Lannoy, commanding only a small army in Lombardy, could not stop French and was forced back from Asti to Milan. Bourbon’s force was still on the road – the Spanish at Pavia under Pescara, but the Landsknecht further back under Bourbon himself – so with nothing holding him up Francois himself reached Milan on 24 Oct. But Milan had plague at the time Lannoy abandoned the city (but not the castle) to the French and took his Italo-Spanish force to Pavia, before moving on. The French pursued and on 28 Oct Francois reached Pavia.

The French guns briefly battered Pavia’s walls before an unsuccessul assault was launched (Oman, 1987). The French then spent November trying to divert the water of the main stream of the Ticino – which formed the only defence on the south side of the city – into the minor stream 500 m away. This plan was wrecked by a storm one night in December which washed away the French dam. The French then reverted to a traditional blockade. Against the advice of his generals, Francois continued the siege through the winter until 24 Feb the following year. Throughout the siege the Imperialist commander – Antonio de Leyva – managed to keep his Spanish and German soldiers, despite the lack of food and pay.

Clement VII was elected Pope (Sep) and in October promised the French aid from the Papal States, Florence and perhaps Venice, a promise that subsequently led to a treaty (12 Dec) (Oman, 1987).

1525: Battle of Pavia

Having received much wanted reinforcements – 6,000 Swiss from the Grisons, 2,000 from the Valais, plus Giovanni dei Medici and his Bande Nere – Francois promptly sent a third of his force south toward Rome with the old aim of taking Naples (Oman, 1987). The detached army, under John Stuart, Duke of Albany, consisted of 600 lances, 10,000 foot, 300 light horse, and 12 guns. Albany picked up another 3,000 foot at Lucca – men who had been landed from the French fleet at Pisa. He also expected further levies in Rome. Delayed by bad roads and Papal politics, Albany made little progress, and was side tracked to eject a Pro-Spanish government out of Siena. By late February he and his nearly 15,000 men, had only just reached the Tiber.

Ignoring Albany’s advance on Naples, the Imperial Generals gathered at or behind Lodi and Cremona (Oman, 1987). Charles de Bourbon brought 500 Netherland horse (‘Burgundians’ in comtemporary accounts) and 6,000 Landsknechts under old George Frndsberg across the Alps in January. Despite still being much inferior in number – 1,000 men-at-arms and 17,000 foot – the Imperials concentrated at Lodi and set out to distract Francois from his siege (25 Jan). They first threatened Milan with an advance to Marignano on the Lodi-Milan road, but when the French did not stir they served south and besieged the 1,000 French paid mercenaries at Castel St. Angelo halfway between Lodi and Pavia. It fell after only one day of battering, and the Imperialist advanced cautiously westward toward Pavia. Francois reacted by moving his army into a better defensive positions on the west bank of the Vernacula (a stream leading into the Tricina). As the French still had not stirred the Imperialists advanced and entrenched on the opposite bank of the stream, only 40 metres away. Three weeks of sporadic artillery fire followed as each side waited to see how much the enemy artillery would deteriorate through the deprivations of the campaign. Giovanni dei Medici was wounded when repelling a sortie from the west side of the town (17 Feb) and within a few days two thirds of his Bande Nere had evaporated. Similarly, when news of the Milanese (under Sforza) capture of the town of Chiavenna – on the main route from the Grisons to Italy – reached the French camp, all 6,000 Grisons marched home (20 Feb), despite the fact they were not suffering an arrears of pay. Within three days the French had lost 8,000 men, leaving 1,300 men-at-arms, 4,500 Landsknechts, 5,000 Swiss, and perhaps 9,000 French and Italian infantry. The enemy forces were now fairly comparable.

On the night of 23-24 Feb the Imperialist artillery opened up along the line of the Verncula, but this was merely a distraction as the majority of the army silently filed out of camp to the north. The plan was to cross the stream higher up when it was no longer an obstacle and attack the French positions from the north-east through the walled enclosure called the Park of Mirabello.

Spanish thoroughly defeat the French at the Battle of Pavia (24 Feb) and capture Francis (Oman, 1987; Taylor, 1993).

War of the League of Cognac (1526–30)


Francis was forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid, by which he renounced his Italian claims and ceded Burgundy (Taylor, 1993). This he repudiated, as soon as he was liberated, by forming the League of Cognac with Pope Clement VII, Henry VIII of England, Venice, and Florence.


To punish the pope, Charles V sent Charles de Bourbon against Rome, which was sacked for a full week (May) (Taylor, 1993).

Meanwhile the French, in a new invasion, had an early success at Genoa but were eventually forced to abandon their siege of Naples and retreat (Taylor, 1993).


A Genoese fleet under Andrea Doria forces the French under Lautrec to abandon their latest invasion of Naples (Oman, 1987).


The war ended with the Treaty of Cambrai and the renunciation of Francis’s claims in Italy (Taylor, 1993).

Habsburg against Valois

Italian War of 1535–38

Italian War of 1542–46


War breaks out again in Italy (Taylor, 1993).


The French defeat at Ceresole (Cerissoles) (11 April) ends the lasted bout of Italian conflict (Oman, 1987).


The German Civil Wars – Battles of Mühlberg and Sievershäusen (Oman, 1987).


Francis died in 1547, having renounced Naples (for the third time) in the Treaty of Crépy (Taylor, 1993).

Italian War of 1551–59


More warfare in Italy leads to a French defeat (Taylor, 1993).


The French defeat at St. Quentin (10 Aug) brings to an end the latest bout of Franco-Spanish conflict (Oman, 1987).


Fall of Calais (7 Jan) (Oman, 1987).

Battle of Gravelines (13 Jul) (Oman, 1987).


Complete Spanish supremacy in Italy was obtained by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (2 Apr), which gave the Two Sicilies and Milan to Philip II (Oman, 1987; Taylor, 1993).


Oman, C. (1987). A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Greenhill Books. Originally published 1937.


Phipps, J. (1994). The battle of Pavia: The Story of a demonstration game. Wargames Illustrated, 80, pp. 38-40.

Stevenson, P. (1991). The battle of Ravenna 11th April 1512. Wargames Illustrated, 46, pp. 11-14.

Taylor, F. (1993). The art of war in Italy 1494-1529 (originally published 1921). Essex, UK: Partizan Press.

Wikipedia: Italian Wars

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