Henry II

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© Bob Denton 2014

Henry II, 1547 – 1559

[Architecture – more]

Italian Wars

In 1547 Francis had been succeeded by Henry II of France. Henry immediately set about renewing conflict with the Habsburg power base, Italy in particular. He declared war against Charles and agreed a new alliance with Suleiman to renew the Italian Wars (1551-1559).

While Henry pressed toward the Rhine in the north, Suleiman’s fleet defended southern France. Suleiman took Tripoli in 1551 and attacked the Italian Calabrian coasts to take Reggio. Later in the campaign he invaded Corsica in 1553 and the Balearics in 1558.

Henry relieved the siege of Metz in 1552, but his invasion of Tuscany in 1553 failed. In 1554 at the Battle of Renty, in the north of France, he defeated Charles’s forces. Perhaps little wonder that Charles abdicated the next year. Philip II inherited the crown and sought a resolution, signing a treaty with Henry II in 1556; but it didn’t last.

The antagonism sparked again in Flanders where significant Spanish victories against the French were achieved in 1557 at St Quentin in Picardy and in 1558 at Gravelines, near Calais.

But Philip had inherited an annual budget deficit of 1m ducats and debts of 36m ducats. He had little choice but to default on a loan in 1557, the lenders powerless to take action against him as he was an absolute monarch. The same year France too had to default on its debts.

Some historians suggest that it was this ‘Double Default’ that brought the Italian Wars to an end.

In fact defaults became a regular feature in Spain with Philip and his successors defaulting on ten separate occasions across the next seven decades and this meant the 17th century would see a steady decline in Spain’s power. Spain’s 2010s economic problems then are nothing new!

Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, (3 April 1559), this agreement agreed an end to the 65-year (1494–1559) struggle between France and Spain for control of Italy, and built upon the 1529 Treaty of Cambrai. It established Habsburg Spain as the dominant Italian power for a hundred-and- 150 years. In the last phase of the war, fought mostly outside of Italy, France was beaten at the battles of Saint-Quentin (1557) and Gravelines (1558). It was these two defeats, the religious problems emerging between Roman Catholics and Huguenots in France, and the financial disarray of both nations that led to the peace.

Henry II of France restored Savoy and Piedmont to Spain’s ally, Emmanuel-Philibert of Savoy; Henry restored Corsica to Genoa and renounced his hereditary claim to Milan. Although France gave up its claims to Italian territory it retained five fortresses, including Turin, and retained the three bishoprics of Toul, Metz, and Verdun, captured from the Habsburg emperor Charles V in 1552. France had also recovered Calais from England in 1558.

In 1564 France attempted a North America settlement as Fort Caroline, close to today’s Jacksonville, Florida. Founded by René Goulaine de Laudonnière and Jean Ribault and was intended as a haven for Huguenots. However it was sacked by the Spanish on 20 September 1565 and re-established as St Augustine.

Forward to Charles IX – Back to Francis I
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014