France History – The Wars of Italy and the Struggle for Hegemony in Europe Part IV
According to Historyaah.com, the death of the Duke of Milan, Francesco II Sforza, reopened the struggle in Italy. With a coup de hand, the king of France had his troops occupy Bresse, Savoy and Savoyard Piedmont (March 1536), thus occupying the gates of Italy. Charles V’s expedition to Provence (July 1536) failed; Kheir ed-dīn Barbarossa reoccupied Biserta and threatened Spanish Italy. At Aiguesmortes, in July 1538, the two rivals concluded a ten-year truce on the basis of the uti possidetis. But it was only a respite. And Francis I, on 12 July 1542, reopened hostilities against Charles V by concentrating his efforts primarily on the Pyrenees; then, having failed this maneuver, again in Piedmont. Meanwhile, Kheir ed-dīn Barbarossa, ally of the king of France, bombed Nice, which remained under the Duke of Savoy, and spread terror on the Italian coasts. In Ceresole (13-14 April 1544), full French victory over the imperials. But in the north Charles V and Henry VIII of England, now allies again, entered Picardy and as far as Champagne, threatening Paris. And so there was a new peace, that of Crespy (15-16 September 1544), for which the marriage of the Duke of Orleans with the daughter of the emperor (who would bring the Milanese as a dowry) was stipulated, or, chosen by Charles, with a daughter of Ferdinand of Habsburg, that the Netherlands and Franche-Comté would have. The renunciation of France to Flanders and Artois was confirmed, as well as the abandonment of the Duchy of Savoy, and the renunciation of Spain to Burgundy. The war continued with the English until June 1546: the treaty of Ardres returned Boulogne to France, but only after payment of 800,000 scudi, to be carried out in eight years. The death of the Duke of Orleans, before Charles decided on marriage, however, invalidated the treaty of Crespy and reopened the question of the Milanese; and only the death of Francesco, March 31, 1547, avoided a new war for the moment. The war continued with the English until June 1546: the treaty of Ardres returned Boulogne to France, but only after payment of 800,000 scudi, to be carried out in eight years. The death of the Duke of Orleans, before Charles decided on marriage, however, invalidated the treaty of Crespy and reopened the question of the Milanese; and only the death of Francesco, March 31, 1547, avoided a new war for the moment.
To sum up, therefore, Francis I’s foreign policy had mainly taken place in Italy; but, this time, “Italian” politics had been in function of a wider contrast of interests between Valois and Charles V. In this sense it had been profitable with results, not only and not so much for the temporary purchase of Piedmont, as for the relations established with the Italian states in view of a common goal: the overthrow of the Habsburg power. Henry II, ascending to the throne, already found relations with Venice and especially with Pope Paul III – with the Farnese in general – which would then have been very useful to him from the first years of his reign.
For the policy of Henry II and his advisers was also, in part notable, Italian policy. It is true that under the new king the offensive towards the Rhine basin, to the east, and towards Flanders had a more vigorous impulse; It is true that the lasting conquests were not those made in Italy, but Metz, Toul, Verdun, Calais. But it would be wrong to believe that, with the advent of the new king, the Italian political orientation of Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I ceased. Indeed, in certain moments, there is even an intensification of action in the peninsula: and to ensure that the government of Henry II was always concerned with Italian issues, it was not so much the fact that the new queen, Caterina de’Medici, was Italian, because her political influence was then almost nil; not even the incitements of Italian exiles, of Florence, Milan and Naples (above all, the Strozzi are famous), because these were never lacking; as well as the accentuation of the anti-Spanish reaction in Italy, especially during the last years of the pontificate of Paul III and the entire pontificate of Paul IV, which was almost an invitation to France to continue stirring up intrigues in the peninsula.
French foreign policy did not therefore undergo a reversal. However, it became much more active towards the Rhine, in this favored by the German princes who, again rebellious to Charles V, increasingly sought to approach the king of France, especially since in Mühlberg, in 1547, Charles V had triumphed over the Smalcaldic League.: and here in 1550 a series of negotiations began that resulted in the agreement of Chambord (January 15, 1552), concluded between German princes who entrusted to Henry II, as vicar of the empire, Metz, Toul, Verdun and “other cities of the Empire, where German is not spoken “with the mission of protecting them against Charles V. And then, Henry II planned the German enterprise. On February 3, 1552, in Fontainebleau, the king issued a proclamation,; on April 10 the French entered Metz, then marched on Saverne, on Haguenau, reached the Rhine. But the German princes began their negotiations with Charles V on their own; and Henry II, fearing that he might find himself in a bad situation at any moment, withdrew, however still occupying Verdun. Metz was defended by the Duke of Guise against the offensive return of the imperials; and the German campaign thus ended with the acquisition of the three bishoprics.