The second phase of the Habsburg-Valois wars, 1529-44

The Peace of Cambrai, which brought to an end the first stage of the wars between the Habsburg dynasty (which ruled most of Europe), and the Valois dynasty of France, had been largely punitive to the French King, Francis I. His contemporaries expressed extreme surprise at him having accepted it, and it wasn't long before he sought to avenge his honour.

However, it could be argued that the ways in which he went about this were most dishonourable. The supposed "Most Christian King" of Europe was soon flirting with the Protestant princes of Germany and even the Ottoman Turks! Although in reality the Franco-Ottoman alliance rarely bore fruit because it was scandalous for both sides and because of conflicting interests, there was always a threat to Charles V. In 1541, prior to the disastrous Battle of Algiers, the French provided Barbarossa (a Turkish pirate) with vital information regarding Charles' preparations.

The Italian Wars (a subset of the Habsburg-Valois conflict, really) were sparked off again in in 1535 when the last duke of Milan died and Charles decided to move in and take control. Francis was furious, and he had vowed

"to recover that which plainly belongs to me and my children, and has been usurped by the Emperor"
The French moved in Savoy and Piedmont, and from here launched an attack on Milan. He was repelled, but Charles counter-attack of 60,000 troops could achieve little either. This pattern continued until 1538, when a deadlock had obviously been reached and, as before, the Pope and Queens of the two monarches urged a truce. A treaty was signed at Nice and a ten-year truce agreed upon. However, it was not to last, and after the murder of several French envoys in 1541 a similar pattern of battles followed in 1542-44.

Things were really starting to turn against the French on the international scene. The "unholy alliance" between France and Islam was leading to even the Lutheran Princes of Germany to give money to the Catholic Emperor in the fight against the French, and Henry VIII of England had now turned against his erstwhile ally as well. In 1544 the English and Charles launched a joint attack on France, but as it transpired both sides went after its own goals rather than working together. The English concentrated on Boulogne1 and Charles' attack crumbled because he could not pay his men.

Both sides once more exhausted and with Charles wishing to take action against the Protestants in Germany, the Peace of Crepy has soon signed. It ended the French alliance with the Ottomans, asserted Charles' dynastic rights over Italy, and established a policy of non-intervention from the French towards Germany. Charles was able to win battle against the Protestant German Princes in 1547 thanks to the Peace. Again, the French public felt unhappy and dishonoured towards this treaty, but it brought the middle phase of the wars to an end.

Phase 1 | Overview | Phase 3

~ Notes ~

1. Boulogne was actually of almost zero strategic importance to the English, and cost them a lot of money to keep garrisoned. Its capture is put down to Henry VIII's instability at this part of his reign.

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