Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Summer 1505 to Spring 1506 AD

Following his defeat outside the walls of Turin, the Duke retreated into his province of Como.  His engineer was only able to rescue one of the great batteries that had been ensconced behind earthworks on the battlefield.  Hastily, the Duke used his battered army to reinforce the principle fortress that would bar the French armies advance into his realm.

The French commander enjoyed his triumph in Turin and it was the summer before he resumed his onslaught against Milan.  Utilising the cannon captured from the Duke the besieging French quickly destroyed the defending walls of Como and launched an assault that put much of the garrison and the remaining army to the sword.  With a few of his supporters and his ever valuable engineer, the Duke escaped to salvage what he could from the campaign behind the walls of Milan.

The Duke had been in constant correspondence with the Emperor for some months but had been reluctant to seek his aid.  The Duke had sought to maintain an independent position hoping to defeat the French, dominate northern Italy and secure an equal partnership with the Emperor.  The French victory had ruined this plan and the Duke was now forced to plead for Imperial help.  The cost was the immediate secession of Modena which now gave the Empire a valuable stronghold in the strategic centre of Italy.

The French army was in a weakened condition by the autumn, but spurred on by Paris and unsure whether the Duke had any further forces to deploy, the French army marched cautiously against the city of Milan.  However, the Imperial army had quickly marched to the Duke's aid.  The Emperor was determined to prevent French dominance in Italy and had been keen to intervene for some time.

As the Imperial army aggressively sought an action against the French, the French commander decided on a withdrawal to Como for the winter and consolidate for the following years campaign.

Meanwhile, the Pope and Florence were busy subduing rebellions in 1505.  Securely protected by their alliance with Spain they brooked no opposition from their overtaxed subjects and looked on at events in the north.

Venice was also awaiting events.  The Duke of Milan was bitterly disappointed with his Venetian alliance.  The Doge had sent him nothing but excuses and by the autumn the Duke had renounced their alliance.  The Emperor had been pleased as he still demanded Friuli from Venice and the Venetian alliance had weakened his influence with the Duke.  The Doge was fearful of French might and Imperial demands and was now reliant on the vague assurances of Spain for some support.  He weakly proffered tribute for Bari and promised eternal friendship as the Venetian senate looked on at events in Milan with trepidation.

By the spring of 1506 the French army had recovered its strength and was determined to hold Como against the Duke and Emperor.  The Imperial army marched out of Milan and by May was aggressively engaged in raids and skirmishes with the French.

Meanwhile, the Pope had been in regular  correspondence with the Spanish Viceroy and had been able to negotiate the deployment of the main Spanish army at Ferrara.  The Duke of Ferrara was keen to see both his liege lords deploy their strength in support of his realm as he remained fearful that Venice might use the ensuing battle between France and the Empire as cover to take his Duchy.  The Viceroy was concerned at French success in the previous year and felt it desirable to parade his strength near the theatre of war.  At the same time the city of Mantua rebelled against their Venetian overlords; there were many who suspected that the diplomacy of the Pope was behind this uprising.

The Venetian army was well placed to put down the rebellion in Mantua but the prescence of the Pope, the Spanish Viceroy and the Duke of Ferrara across the border made the Senate fear a trap.  As ever, the Doge decided to do nothing and await events.  However, the Pope boldly moved against Modena with his forces.  The Imperial garrison was new to the city and the commander put up a poor defence against the sudden descent of the Papal army.  All Italy was surprised but the Emperors anger knew no bounds.  The Spanish Viceroy wrote immediately to his royal master that he had known nothing of the Pope's intentions and sent a personal ambassador to the Emperor imploring his innocence in the "Modenese Affair".

The Emperor had to accept these Spanish apologies whilst he concentrated against his main foe the French.  He quickly sent a note to the Pope demanding the return of Modena before turning his attention to the imminent battle.

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