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The Struggle for Mastery of Europe

The first Italian War, 1494-98, was caused by Ludovico Sforza of Milan, seeking an ally against the Republic of Venice. He found an ally, Charles VIII of France, and convinced him to invade Italy. In 1494, Ferdinand I of Naples died, and thus Charles VIII invaded Italy, starting at the peninsula with 25,000 men. From there onwards the French took Italy unopposed — until their taking of Naples, which provoked a reaction, and thus the League of Venice was formed against them, cutting off Charles’ army from France. In the Battle of Fornovo, Charles was forced to withdraw back to France, and Ludovico, having betrayed France in Fornovo, retained his throne, only until 1499, when Louis XII of France (Charles’ successor) invaded Lombardy and seized Milan. By 1500, just a year after, Louis XIII of France and Ferdinand I of Spain agreed to become abettors, and thus, started marching south from Milan. By 1502, French and Spanish forces had seized control of the kingdom. However, disagreements arose about the terms of partition, and this led to a war between Louis and Ferdinand. By 1503, Louis having been defeated at the Battle of Cerignola, and Battle of Garigliano was forced to withdraw from Naples, and is now left under the control of the Spanish viceroy, General Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba.Meanwhile, Pope Julius II, being concerned with expanding the territory of the Republic of Venice, that the League of Cambrai was formed in 1508. This was the agreement of France, the Papacy, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire to restrain the Venetians. By 1509, the League destroyed most of the Venetian Army, but it failed to capture Padua. The Pope, now seeing France as a greater threat, left the League and joined arms with Venice. For the following year, the Veneto-Papal alliance was repeatedly defeated, so the Pope proclaimed a Holy League against the French, which rapidly grew to include England, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire.The French, having their leader Gaston de Foix killed in 1512, was forced to withdraw from Italy by the Swiss who invaded Milan, and reinstated Maximilian Sforza to the ducal throne. The Holy League was powerful, yet only until the death of Julius, who, when he died, left the league with no effective leadership. Then, Charles, I of Spain was elevated to Holy Roman Emperor, causing a fit with Francis I (Louis’ successor), who wanted that position.

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