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Chapter 16: Reach the sky and see the death in the face (1515-20)

In the second half of the 1510s Maria’s reign enters a new period of thrill, very similar to that experienced at the beginning of her rule. A big change has occurred in the meantime: the friendship between France and Austria has deteriorated, to the point that their alliance is finally terminated in March 1511. This occurrence unlocks the status quo which has endured for roughly one century in Central Europe: strong of his predominant role in the Holy Roman Empire, Franz von Habsburg often interferes in the clash between the Catholic Popes of Bremen and the Protestant and Reformist movements spreading across Germany and Northern Europe. King Carlos of Spain is the other ultra-catholic champion, more facilitated in the task by the lack of significant heretic communities in his holdings. Paradoxically, Christianity is splitting in blood after having achieved a great result against the Muslims, driven out of Iberia and stiffly contained in the Balkans, where the Ottomans exercise control only on the southeastern part.

Eager to take profit of the apparently quiet situation, in 1515 Queen Maria declares war on the Byzantine Emperor, Demetrios II, with a grand target: the majestic city of Constantinople. Cut off from the Greek holdings of the Eastern Roman Emperors, Constantinople is no more their official capital; nevertheless its prestige remains untouched and it continues to be the most important trade hub of the region. The Sicilian expeditionary force, sailed from Taranto among great hopes, achieves a complete naval superiority during spring, so that the summer landings can be executed in safety. Both Constantinople and other main Greek cities are soon besieged. It is just a matter of time before the unconditional surrender of Emperor Demetrios II comes: Constantinople falls in July 1516, Thessaloniki one month later.

But in November 1516, it comes abruptly the news that Franz I von Habsburg has crossed the border to reclaim the former imperial city of Ferrara: Sicily is now at war against both Emperors. That’s really a shocking and unexpected event which finds unprepared all defenses. In six days the Holy Roman Emperor reaches Ferrara, while the Sicilian General Luigi Ruffo arranges a first line of defense at Ancona with 20.000 men, partly called back from Greece.


State of affairs in 1516
Unfortunately, Austrian forces are overwhelming and Ruffo cleverly refuses the engagement: in early 1517 Emperor Franz reaches Bologna while the Sicilian General orders a withdrawal from Ancona to the safer town of Perugia, just before the fall of Ferrara in April. Thanks God the Austrian advance slows down in the following months and Ancona surrenders only in autumn. Therefore Ruffo has enough time to strengthen the defense line at Perugia and is firmly convinced that he will fend off the enemy. The pitched battle of Perugia takes place in mid-October and sees 20.000 Sicilians defeated by 32.000 Austrians under Emperor Franz’s command.


A severe defeat at Perugia
The rout of Perugia has dramatic consequences on the morale of both troops and people. Sicilian casualties total about 5.000, but one of the two groups in which Ruffo’s army splits is completely annihilated near Ancona on October 30 (other 5.000 men lost). The bulk of the army manages to reach Naples, but only to move back to Calabria and then Sicily. Within year-end Perugia capitulates, followed by Abruzzi and Rome in March and May 1518, respectively.

If the situation in the Italian peninsula is ruinous, the war against the Byzantines proceeds definitely well. In 1517 the Thessalian cities have been captured, and the last remnants of Demetrios’ forces are crushed in the first half of the following year. Therefore on June 17, 1518 the peace treaty establishes the transfer of Constantinople under Sicilian ownership.


The Byzantines cede the city of man’s desire!
With the war on Greece now over, all Sicilian and allied force can now concentrate against Austria. Spanish efforts already give some results, as the Habsburg holdings in and around Franche Comte have already been occupied by an army sent by Aquitaine. In May 1518, in an attempt to open another front the Sicilian diplomacy signs an alliance with Bavaria and drags the German state in the conflict, but the outcome does not match expectations as the new allies would be soon thrashed by the Austrians. In Italy hostilities remain critical: Spanish landings fail everywhere but Ragusa, while the Austrians occupy Foggia and Apulia in autumn. Franz von Habsburg presents outrageous, unacceptable peace offers but actually nobody can stop him, as the ranks have been seriously reduced after the rout of Perugia. Naples the capital, surrenders on March 8, 1519 followed two months later by Calabria. Bologna, heroically enduring Austrian sieges for more than two years, is the last Sicilian continental bastion that surrenders, on July 20.

Queen Maria knows that the realm cannot sustain such stress for long and gets in touch with Karl, the new Emperor (his father Franz has died during in Southern Italy in June). Negotiations for a decent truce drag on for several months, but finally an agreement is signed on March 7, 1520 by the Austrian ruler, Queen Maria and the young king of Spain, Luis. Sicily has to pay a tribute of 325 ducats and restore the full sovereignty of the former satellite states of Albania and Athens.


The harsh terms of the truce with Austria
At least you got the city of man's desires...
Yeah, but the loss of two vassals (ready for diplo-annexation, 3 provinces in total) hurts.
But above all it hurts seeing the Austrians ravaging every province from the Po River (the border) to the southernmost tip.
Only my fleet has avoided that they also marched to Sicily and the Greek domains... which would have been a total disaster and resulted in an outrageous peace deal.
I am out of play during Christmas holidays, therefore little chance to update the AAR, which will come back in 2014.
Have all a nice break!
Hastu Neon
Chapter 17: The second Austrian Invasion (1520-26)

Recovery from the blow suffered in the so-called First Austrian Invasion is long and tough, particularly for the army which needs to be replenished – new levies are drafted in Italy and Greece – and deeply rethought: the introduction of battlefield commissions should serve the purpose of increasing coordination and performance of Sicilian regiments during combat.

Major troubles for post-war Sicily arise from confessional and nationalistic diversities. In March 1520 (just after the armistice with Karl von Habsburg) Queen Maria passes an act of indulgence in an attempt to relieve tensions with spreading religious minorities, but strife does not lessen. Therefore, two years later a more muscular approach in dealing with people sampling new religions is adopted and slowly situation comes under control.

Another sign of weakness shows up in 1521, when Florence presses a boundary issue and claims ownership of Bologna, an affront which would have been dearly paid in different times! But now, with such a huge impending Austrian force, any intervention is out of question.

However, there are also some good developments: Maria’s crown is now enriched by the precious jewel of Constantinople with its burgeoning marketplaces and new practical buildings – workshops, courthouses and training fields – erected by the Sicilian administration. What remains of the Byzantine Empire is so flattened that every pretext, even the discovery of a spy, is good to declare war on them. In June 1523 hostilities resume with an overwhelming superiority of the Sicilian side. The war is mainly fought by allies that quickly invade enemy lands. In less than two years the “Emperor” is forced to surrender Bitola to the Albanians, pay an indemnity of 25 ducats and renounce his claims to Constantinople and Morea.

When the situation seems recovered, it comes suddenly the news that Karl von Habsburg is repeating the sneak attack already tried by his father 9 years before. Ferrara is immediately under duress; in April 1525 the Austrians fail to take it by assault but the Sicilian relief army is forced to retreat by the impressive morale and discipline of the Habsburg corps.

While on the seas there is no match, land forces are almost the same: Spain and Sicily can put on field more than 90.000 men (56.000 and 36.000, respectively) whereas the Habsburgs alone count on the fourth biggest army in the world (80.000 units). The biggest issue is coordination among allies: both Spain and Albania focus on the Austrian port of Ragusa and on Montenegro, the most loyal Habsburg ally in the Balkans. Thus Sicily and Bavaria are left alone to confront the Austrian behemoth: the German state is instantly occupied and humbled before autumn ends. To counter this, in early December comes the downfall of Montenegro, forced to annul its treaties with Austria and Croatia, acknowledge the suzerainty of Sicily and pay a tribute of 225 ducats.

Good reports are short-lived as the Austrians advance in the peninsula: Ferrara and Bologna fall in a row around the turn of the year, Perugia follows in May 1526. An unhoped-for victory occurs near Rome in July – the Austrians are not invincible! – but the illusion lasts only a moment as the next encounter at Naples records one of the bloodiest routs for the Sicilian arms, in which 28 regiments are lost.


The carnage of Naples, 3/4 of the Sicilian army annihilated
Despite immediate measures taken to restock the army with new soldiers drafted in the safe areas of Sicily and Epirus, the enemy offensive cannot be countered and both Foggia and Abruzzi surrender. It is time to negotiate an honorable and enduring peace before the situation deteriorates further: on October 2, 1526 – about six years after the previous truce – Queen Maria meets again Karl von Habsburg and offers to bring Ferrara back to independence, release the just-acquired Montenegrin vassal ad pay war reparations for 125 ducats. The deal is pitiful and the cessation of Ferrara a kick in the teeth, however having a cushion between Sicily and Austria could be seen as a necessary evil to be left in peace.


Another callous peace with Austria
Chapter 18: You want more wars, don’t you? (1527-31)

The realm is in desperate need of peace, but only come upheavals and conflicts. Revolts occur in the usual places (Central Italy and Epirus) but are quickly repressed. Then, in September 1528, Louis XI of France attacks Spain to reclaim Aquitaine profiting from a temporary deficiency in Iberian defenses. Louis’ aggressive stance results in widespread condemnation and unleashes a powerful coalition made of Spain, Portugal, England and Sicily, that gets embroiled in the fight again. Queen Maria's generals opt for a trivial land commitment while the Sicilian fleet patrols the seas and blockades French Mediterranean ports. Occasionally Sicilian ships would be involved together with allied vessels in some victories which result in the annihilation of the French navy. Under the leadership of the young king of Spain Fernando VII, the coalition makes considerable progresses after the initial disadvantage and soon recovers lost ground.

When everything seems to go smoothly, in June 1530 it comes the sneak attack of the Ottomans against the Sicilian ownership of Constantinople. The city garrison has been already in trouble since the previous year because of general discontent (probably fed by outsiders) finally erupted into open violence. Thus, with Christianity divided the Turks see a chance to launch a Jihad and gain the imperial city.


State of affairs in 1530
With the war subsidies received from Hungary – not precisely an ally, yet very interested in the containment of the Ottoman menace – a new army can be drafted in Southern Italy and soon drilled with new tactics introduced along the model of the Spanish tercio and the German horse riders, now armed with fire weapons. As the Turks represent a serious threat for all Sicilian Eastern holdings, the fleet needs to be relocated in the Aegean Sea but the memorable battle in the Sea of Marmara (circa 150 ships involved, almost equally split between the two enemies) results in the loss of 12 galleys and 5 transports for the Sicilian navy. So the Turks can easily begin the siege of Constantinople, actually started on August 2, 1530.

In addition to the allied assistance and the Hungarian subventions, another help for Queen Maria comes on October 25, when Pope Urbanus VII calls for a Crusade against the Turks. Altogether, these occurrences and a row of serious naval setbacks suffered by the Ottoman navy in the open seas during the remainder of the year induce the Sultan to desist from his aims and lift the siege of Constantinople on June 8, 1531 after precisely one year of hostilities. In the following couple of years the Ottomans would focus their efforts against easier targets like Albania and Montenegro, crushing them completely. Five days after the peace with the Turks, also France capitulates and signs the degrading Treaty of St. Anthony with Spain. By its terms, Limousin, Roussillon, Toulouse and Rouergue are transferred to the Spanish crown.


Borders in 1531 after the Peace of St. Anthony
Chapter 19: Maria (I) is dead, viva Maria (II)! (1532-42)

The wars against France and Ottoman Turkey are the last significant events in the very long reign of Maria (just as a reminder, it started with the 1465 regency). In August 1532 the 72-year old queen falls into a catatonic state and another regency takes over the government in preparation for the next sovereign. But Maria’s fiber is strong and she survives almost four years in such a comatose state, until she is finally released on March 4, 1536. Absent any surviving son, the order of succession dictates the crown goes to the queen’s granddaughter Maria (II), just 7 years old.


The regency for Queen Maria II
Also Parma, now a vassal state ruled by the heirless Ottavio Naro (son of Queen Maria’s defunct favorite), faces similar issues and upon Ottavio’s death in 1537 the title of Duke passes to a young cadet member of the House of Durazzo, Ranuccio.

During the 7-year regency there are not many events to report. Despite the focus on land forces and defense improvements (in continuity with the last ruling period of Maria I), peace and lenience contribute to soften the nerve of the army, and only with the appointment in December 1538 of the great army reformer Giuseppe Spinola the trend begins to reverse.

On a different note, during the regency there is a wide spread of a new institute, the counting house, a sort of administrative and financial seat where public officials can perform locally their duties. Also thanks to the proceeds of an extraordinary sale of Church estates and functions (500 ducats), counting houses are built in almost every continental province and in Constantinople.

Towards the end of the regency period, a new chapter of the Sicilian colonial adventures begins, favored by technical improvements in shipbuilding and navigation. The background sees major European powers – Spain, England, Portugal – engaged in the forceful subjugation of the Golden Empires in Central and South America; minor countries – Denmark, Sweden, Denmark – busy in the peaceful colonization of the cold Northern American shores; Genoa (the only Italian state together with Sicily able to enter the colonization game) focused on the African route particularly after the conquest of the Kingdom of Benin in 1536.

Like many other Europeans, by now Sicilians have knowledge of the naval routes that lead to the New World but also to the coasts of India and China (… waiting for the 1552 discovery of Japan by Spanish sailors). Yet, the government capitalizes on the island of Madeira as a springboard to launch westward its new ships suitable for oceanic navigation, the carracks. Their target is the Antillean archipelago, overlooked by major powers concentrated on the gold-rich mainland. The first new charter is assigned in September 1542 to a group of colonists directed to Martinique, but also Dominica, St. Lucia and Antigua will be settled later, altogether the original nucleus of the Sicilian Antilles. In the following years, the establishment of coffee and cotton plantations and the peacefulness of the natives will prove that those islands are not less valuable than the American mainland.


New colonial ventures in the Sicilian Antilles!
Is there a colonial names generator? Just think it's kinda weird for Sicily to have St. Kitts and Dominica. ;)
I would love this feature and some mods include it (Magna Mundi for instance).

I believe you can change the "colonial city" name, but without modding you cannot change the province name shown on the map.
At least Dominica, Antigua are neolatin names and make some sense but St. Kitts is terrible, would be San Cristoforo in Italian...
Actually you can change province names, at least in vanilla. I do it a lot.
Chapter 20: The Italian Wars (1543-57)

Maria II comes of age in early 1543 and soon she proves to be a stalwart ruler with very clear ideas and no patience for the complexities and intricacies of diplomacy. During the long reign of her grandmother Sicilian foreign policy has not been much focused on Northern Italy, and Maria II wants to reverse this trend. Her quarrels with several republics and principalities in the area will last for years and cause a chain of local conflicts which finally will leave both Sicily and Austria with an increasing influence over small and divided countries.

It is trivial to go through each and every skirmish of the Italian Wars, let’s just outline key events:

War against Venice (1543-45): probably the easiest one, it is triggered by Doge Alfredo Mocenigo’s meddling with the Sicilian sphere of influence. Responsible for main operations is Admiral Gaetano Asmondo, who leads the fleet with 20.000 men in the memorable amphibious assault on Venice while a second Sicilian contingent occupies Naxos after few months of siege. Despite starving and diseases, Venetian resistance is epic and the blockade lasts for almost two years, during which the main concern for Maria II comes from another noble revolt in Central Italy. Mocenigo’s death in April 1545 finally induces the besieged to surrender. The terms of the peace signed on May 24, 1545 include the cessation of Naxos, with its important trade center, and a tribute of 900 ducats.


Venice surrenders Naxos trade center to Maria II
The counter effect of this struggle is that a weakened Venice is a tempting target for Emperor Johann of Austria, who actually attacks the city just after the peace with Sicily. The intervention in defense of Venice of a numerous league of Italian states (Savoy, Sardinia, Siena, Mantua, Aquileia) could seem encouraging, but the imperial troops can quickly overwhelm the minute contingents that the Italian allies can field.

Reconquest of Ferrara (1547-51): while the Austrian invasion of Venice and its surroundings is ongoing, the Sicilian generals draft an additional army of 10.000 in Central Italy fearing a surprise assault like those suffered under Maria I. Luckily the attack does not occur, but the army comes in handy to profit from the fact that Ferrara – the city released after the 1526 Sicilian defeat by Austria – is no more protected by the imperials. The mere re-annexation of Ferrara is not a complex affair and it is smoothly accomplished by end of May 1547, but the Sicilian attack to the small city-state has triggered the intervention of a league composed by Milan, Genoa, Switzerland and other German states.

Therefore a small skirmish becomes a major conflict taking place not only in Northern Italy but also in West Africa, where the Spanish and Sicilian forces have to deal with the local Genoese presence, supported by a sizeable navy. In the second half of 1547 both Sicilian offensives towards Milan and Genoa are halted by overwhelming enemy forces, decisively supported by the Swiss, but at least the landing in Corsica proceeds successfully. Except for the capitulation of the Genoese garrison in Corsica, there are no major campaigns in Italy in the following year, during which the main war theater is West Africa. A series of successful Spanish raids against the Genoese posts on the African continent and the Sicilian occupation of Cape Verde (January 1549, two years later seized and subsequently populated with Neapolitan colonists) virtually close the colonial section of the war. In the Mediterranean the great Genoese admiral Andrea Doria remains a thorn for a couple of years, until on March 27, 1551 a final peace agreement is signed, by the terms of which Genoa cedes Corsica to Sicily, pays a tribute of 1000 ducats and releases the previously annexed Kingdom of Benin.

War of the Austrian-Tuscan League (1555-57): before giving an account of the third – and riskier – episode of the Italian Wars, it is useful summarizing the recent achievements of Johann of Austria in Northern Italy. During his impressive campaigns spanning around mid-century he has managed to incorporate the former Archbishopric of Aquileia, reduced to vassalage both Venice and Mantua and finally taken advantage of the Duke of Savoy’s death to form a personal union with that state.

Useless to say that this row of events has dramatically escalated tensions between Queen Maria II and the Austrian Emperor, while the finding of Florentine spies and the longstanding Sicilian ambitions on Siena open another crisis with the Tuscan cities. Sicilian war preparations (including the upgrade of forts and a new alliance with Cyprus) take some years, until the declaration of war is delivered to the Florentine leader Filippo Buti in 1555.


State of affairs in 1555
This final war is relatively short (just a couple of years) but not eventless and sees Sicily, Spain, Parma, Athens and Cyprus opposed to five Italian independent states (Florence, Siena, Pisa, Modena, Sardinia), Austria and its three Italian dependencies (Savoy, Venice, Mantua): basically each and every one in Italy except Genoa and Milan that have been defeated by Maria II just few years before…

Sicilian operations are led by two brothers, General Claudio and Admiral Gaetano Asmondo and are mainly directed against Siena and the Tuscan and Sardinian ports, in order to blockade and induce smaller adversaries to desist from fight. In March 1555 the first Sicilian siege of Siena fails due to the interposition of an Austrian reinforcement strong of 32.000 men. With all forces concentrated on the Tyrrhenian side, only bad news can come from the Adriatic coast. When the Florentines occupy Bologna Maria II rapidly manages to seal an easy deal with them (July 1555) offering a tribute of 25 ducats and the exclusion of Modena from the Sicilian sphere of influence.

Only Austria and Siena remain at war with Maria II and all renewed land efforts can again be devoted to siege the Tuscan trade node. In the second year of war Austrian forces push down into the Italian peninsula along the Adriatic coast and actually gain ground without finding any opposition (the bulk of Maria II’s army being in Tuscany). One after the other many provinces surrender to the Emperor’s troops but General Asmondo keeps on sieging Siena with the Sicilian army still untouched. Incapable to win a decisive victory and fearful of the menace of Spanish landings behind his lines, the Austrian Emperor repeatedly offers white peace to Maria II who firmly refuses any deal despite the fact that in the second half of 1556 the Austrian hordes ravage the whole motherland. Only after the 1557 subjugation of Siena (plus the payment of a tribute of 425 ducats and the obvious annulment of its treaty with Florence), Maria II is ready to conclude a status quo peace with Austria.
Chapter 21: Golden years and death of Maria II (1557-72)

Without doubt these years represent the golden age of Maria II’s reign, and nothing exemplifies this better than her travel to Greece in 1558. The previous year the Duke of Athens has already pledged allegiance to the almost 30 year-old Queen, but nobody could expect what happens when she visits Constantinople: among splendid feasts and warm reception, the city’s representatives swear loyalty – for them and all the Greek subjects of the Sicilian kingdom – to Maria II in exchange for her acceptance of the Hellenic cultural heritage. The 1551 troubles of Naxos, during which the Sicilian garrison was massacred by the angry population, seem like a distant memory. The concession of autonomy to the archipelago, a more federalistic approach and the provision of public works in Epirus has been the right recipe to reconcile the Greek subjects with the crown.

Economic development has continued during the Italian Wars: in the motherland it has been mainly focused on new textile manufacturing techniques and facilities, like those of Perugia; in the Sicilian Antilles many island settlements have grown to the size of small colonial cities, while new plantation colonies are established in Guadeloupe (1559), Barbados (1566) and St. Martin (1568). Their trading importance is increasing so much that more and more galleons must be built at the royal shipyard of Taranto in order to maintain the transoceanic shipping routes active and protected from piracy.

_ _ _

Bells of war ring again in early 1560 when Fernando VIII of Spain declares war on the excommunicated King of France, Francois I, initiating a conflict which would last for decades and witness an escalating Sicilian involvement. At first Maria II’s land forces are on the defensive, but gradually they gain initiative thanks to the naval superiority achieved in the Mediterranean Sea by the combined Spanish-Sicilian fleets. A first Sicilian expedition occupies Provence but has to retreat before year end, while the Duke of Athens, vassal of Maria II, takes Trieste. A second attempt to break French defenses in the area takes place in 1562 and brings more considerable results since Francois I is also forced to pour more and more men against the Spanish advance from Aquitaine: Cuneo, Provence and Avignon are in Sicilian hands within December.

  • First interlude, the subjugation of Tripoli: the Sicilian effort against France is temporarily suspended when an assorted coalition of African countries attacks Benin in July 1563. There is little Sicily can do in West Africa, but the involvement of Tripoli in the enemy alliance can be a good chance to extend the sphere of influence over the large but weak potentate on the southern Mediterranean coast. Maria II orders a massive redeployment of land and naval forces against the Muslims – allowing the French to get back the losses suffered in 1562 – and the disparity of strength results in a speedy, straightforward occupation of the Libyan string: the campaign is so successful that by August 1564 Tripoli is a Sicilian tributary state.
Hostilities against France resume just after the end of the campaign on the Libyan shores and Cuneo is captured again in March 1565. This time the Sicilian participation does not limit itself to few amphibious landings along the Mediterranean coasts, but sees a more active role in the main campaign fought on the French homeland. This second stage resembles more a war of looting rather than a regular conflict, and generally records French routs (particularly those suffered in the Midi during autumn 1566) and occasional wins, even bloody like the slaughter of a Sicilian contingent in May of the same year.

When also Portugal joins the Spanish side, the positions of Francois I begin to weaken and then collapse. The first effect is the French retreat from the Balkan dependencies acquired over time (following a first partial withdrawal already occurred twenty years before with the evacuation of Serbia): in 1568 all the Danubian lands are returned to Hungary and three years later Croatia defects to independence. The death of Fernando VIII does not stop the Spanish advance, as his daughter Isabel II is equally resolute to conclude victoriously the deadly fight: Berry is annexed in 1567 and the gates of Northern France are open wide to allied troops. Just limiting ourselves to Sicilian gains, the list embraces Armor, Valais, Provence, and Lyon. Francois I offers 450 ducats to establish a truce, but Maria II refuses any deal. Then the Sicilian army takes the lead of the siege of Paris and with the assistance of Spanish troops overruns the local garrison on March 6, 1568.


Paris falls, France is in shambles!
  • Second interlude, fending off the Turks: few days after the triumphal entrance into Paris of the Sicilian expeditionary force, it suddenly comes the news of Ottoman attacks against Sicilian border positions in Greece. Taken by surprise, the Queen commands the evacuation by sea of the army stationed in Epirus and during summer also Constantinople comes under grave threat. Reluctant to employ troops in a difficult theater against a superior adversary (while the campaign in France is still continuing), Maria II begins peace talks with the Sultan and in December agrees to restore the full sovereignty of Athens.
Going back to France, both Cambray and Valenciennes fall in Sicilian hands in early 1569 but Francois I stubbornly declines the fair truce offers advanced by Maria II, who just requires the cessation of Cuneo. Only on February 2, 1572 France capitulates giving up Cuneo, Armor (later sold to Brittany for 280 ducats) and paying a colossal tribute of 1.315 ducats. Six months later, at the apex of her glory, Queen Maria II dies, leaving the crown to her beloved son Ferdinando.


The gifted Ferdinando becomes King of Sicily
Chapter 22: A male ruler after 107 years, Ferdinando (1572-79)

On August 5, 1572 Ferdinando (aged 26) ascends to the throne after more than a century of female leaders, the two Marias. He resembles Ferrante, so far the first and last King of Sicily, not only in the name but also in the character. Ferdinando is truly a mastermind compared to all his Durazzo predecessors and also the hereditary prince, the young Francesco, promises to be even more brilliant…

Ferdinando is genuinely a peace lover, interested in growing his international reputation, but not weak or ineffective with the various constituencies of the nation. After few months since the coronation he revokes the autonomies of Siena, thus incorporating directly the Tuscan center of trade in the royal domains. Siena and Naxos essentially monopolize trade of the Sicilian holdings in Italy and Greece, respectively, whereas the commercial attractiveness of Constantinople – too distant and isolated – gradually declines.


State of affairs in 1572
Fallen in love with Syracusa, the new king elects this splendid and ancient Sicilian city as new national focus, endeavoring the construction of a road to better connect it with the rest of the realm. From there, Ferdinando would spend over time a lot of resources to fight the entrenched sense of independence and localism of the islanders, much like his precursor Ferrante did with the Neapolitans. This influential sovereign hosts enlightened philosophers (as Giordano Bruno), promotes “commedia dell’arte” performances but also deals with administrative issues: for instance, Ferdinando institutes a national bank to regulate money circulation and declares a statute of monopolies to encourage free trade and economic efficiency. Outside of the motherland, he supports the building of marketplaces – but also forts against the privateers – in the colonial towns of the Sicilian Antilles, the construction of a naval equipment manufactory in Madeira and the launch of new settlements in St. Kitts (1578), St. Barthelemy (1582) and St. Thomas (1584), where profitable plantations grow all kinds of tropical produces (tobacco, cotton, coffee). With these latest establishments, all Lesser Antilles except Trinidad are in Sicilian hands.

During Ferdinando’s first years of rule foreign affairs do not play a major role. Yet, in this period an event occurs which will have a material impact later and represent a pain in the neck for a dozen years: the involution of the Milanese crisis. The last Visconti Dukes of Milan have been remarkably ineffective and the most recent one, Lodovico Maria, is not an exception to the trend. A popular revolution ousts him in 1576 and establishes a republic under the leadership of head of the rebels, Bonifacio Ruga. Unfortunately the man is notorious for his anti-Sicilian views and activities and in the subsequent years Milanese spies would flock into Naples to perform any kind of criminal mission.

Yet, for now Ferdinando prefers not to intervene and instead decides to reap the sweet fruits of his cautious strategy: Duke Antonio III of Athens accepts to swear allegiance again to Sicily and few months later, in 1578, an alliance pact is stricken with Modena. Yet this year will be more remembered for another event, which is Ferdinando’s decree that puts the clergy firmly under the control of the head of state. Despite the Church’s criticism, the law represents a wonderful opportunity to increase central authority and give more prestige to national institutions; but no doubt that Sicily remains deeply in the Catholic field, and accordingly heretical believers continue to be reduced to silence.


Ferdinando does not love to be restrained by anyone
Where is the papacy for that matter?
Strange choice, but understandable, considering that Italy will be mine!
Chapter 23: The Austrians will never prevail, the Milanese will bow (1580-88)

In November 1580 King Ferdinando must fend off another Austrian invasion, but this one has different features which need explanation: roughly 20 years ago the Archdukes of Austria have lost their quasi-hereditary imperial titles to the Elector of Brandenburg and more recently even the Habsburg line has ended, replaced by the House of Welf. The first Welf ruler of Austria is Karl, whose main attainment is the absorption in his domains of the lands formerly belonging to the Duchy of Savoy, already ruled in personal union by the Archdukes.

With the death of Karl (1578) his warmongering son Leopold VIII Johann ascends the Austrian throne. His first victim is France, just on the verge of being humbled and dismembered again by Spain with the loss of Calais and Picardie, the release of Normandy, Provence and Dauphine and the payment of a colossal tribute. Hostilities against such a pitiful enemy are trouble-free and in October 1580 Leopold VIII acquires the province of Champagne. Conceited by the victory, the Austrian ruler passes into Italy to “chastise the mock kings of Sicily” with contingents offered by his closest allies (Poland, Lithuania, Brandenburg) and Italian tributaries (Venice and Mantua).

The very first operations occur around the now Austrian port of Nice and Ferrara, as always in the uneasy position of being the gate to the Sicilian heartland. Later on, in January 1581, a Sicilian expedition lands at Venice while the bulk of the army prepares to defend the mainland from the attacks of Leopold VIII. Ferrara surrenders in March, but from elsewhere come only good news. In April the Austrian fleet that has dared to venture out of its ports is destroyed in the Gulf of Tobruk, later the Sicilians tutored by the Gran Captain Filippo Ruggiero in the new technique of caracole cavalry fighting perform well and annihilate the Polish and Lithuanian contingents attached to the Leopold’s expedition.

There is also a small colonial part of this conflict, limited to Sicilian raids against the Austrian colonies in Africa (Kisarna) and Brazil (Sao Tomè and Espirito Santo). In the following years Leopold VIII continues to push into Central Italy, even with some successes as the capture of Bologna (1581) and Ancona (1582), but gradually it becomes clear to him that the Austrians cannot win this war: Ferdinando’s army is holding ground firm and unscathed, the seas are barred by the Spanish-Sicilian fleet and in the meantime the Iberian forces are successfully advancing into Central Germany. Thus in 1583 a status quo peace is signed.

_ _ _

After fending off Leopold VIII, Ferdinando can dedicate time and effort into two different endeavors: the reform of the government and the subjugation of the Republic of Milan.

On the way to the plains of Lombardy, Ferdinando stops over at Parma where he holds a diet to issue three edicts: the first establishes a more modern system of administrative monarchy by eliminating certain feudal structures; the second sanctions the annexation of the hosting city to the royal domains and third confirms that the most recent additions (Cuneo, Parma, Siena) are no more part of the Holy Roman Empire.

With everything left in good order, Ferdinando leaves Parma. On June 21, 1583 the declaration of war is dispatched to the emissaries of the Milanese leader, Bonifacio Ruga. The protests of Emperor Johann Friedrich II are hopeless, as the mighty Sicilian army is already crossing the Po River. Less than one month later 20.000 Milanese soldiers are massacred by Ferdinando’s army. Unfortunately a very long siege – at times broken by the imperial allies of Milan – follows such a short and successful campaign, and it takes four years and half to witness the capitulation of the Lombard city. Only with the disappearance in January 1588 of the hawkish Bonifacio Ruga there is a chance for peace, as his reasonable successor Demetrio Mancini wants to avoid the complete ruin of Milan. Thus on February 1, 1588 the Milanese council accepts Ferdinando’s terms: the republic becomes a Sicilian vassal state, renounces to any claim on Parma and pays a tribute of 250 ducats.


Milan finally subjugated in 1588
I hope, but difficult. I need to grab few other provinces and except for Tuscany and Genoa, the rest is under Austrian direct or indirect rule.
Diplo-annexing Milan will help towards reaching the required number of provinces.

But then I need to core them: in D&T coring requires 40 instead of 50 years, which helps.

Yet, if not by 1648, I don't think Italy will wait for too long.
Chapter 24: See Florence and then die (1588-98)

Conflicts do not end with the subjugation of Milan, as Ferdinando of Sicily finds himself embroiled in a fight against Mamluk Egypt originated by a distant clash between Spain and Mali. A fleet is dispatched to prepare an invasion, but both Alexandria and the towns of the Levant are too strongly defended for any attempt to be made. Nevertheless, Ferdinando’s ships would remain in the area for years to blockade the Mamluk ports.

A diversion opportunity comes in September 1588, when Ferdinando goes to war against the pathetic (and excommunicated) King of France, Francois I, and his Cypriot allies. The Sicilian fleet is already cruising in the Eastern Mediterranean and therefore the island can be quickly occupied and reduced to vassalage (February 1589). One month later the abject Francois I goes to hell, succeeded by his son, Henry II. Desperate of preserving his crown and shrinking lands, the just-made King of France hurries to accept Ferdinando’s honorable peace offer which implies the renounce to any claim on Cuneo and reparations for a total of 1550 ducats. The sum is so big that a new treasury has to be built in the capital city of Naples to contain it (spoiling of enemy’s coffers will be a distinctive trait of Ferdinando’s war strategy and – together with the sale of titles – a useful source of funding for public works and missionary activities).

Another brief period of peace ensues, during which a new wine refinery is built in Palermo and Ferdinando profits from his charismatic leadership on aristocrats to crack down a little more on centralized authority. In the meantime, the king prepares his next strike, this time against Florence. When France attacks Liege, dragging in the war imperial Brandenburg and its allies, the conditions for a Sicilian coup arise and on June 2, 1592 Ferdinando’s generals invade Tuscany, with Florence supported only by the arms of Pisa and the useless protests of Emperor Johann Friedrich II.

The operations are speedy and by the end of June both Florence and Pisa are under siege. Pisa falls after 13 months of blockade, accepting to surrender its sovereignty to the King of Sicily, together with a tribute of 675 ducats and the denunciation of the alliance with Florence. Unfortunately the Florentines oppose a stronger resistance to the besiegers’ artillery, and in June 1594 it comes the bad news that the Austrian archduchess Maria Theresia von Welf has ordered an expeditionary army to invade Italy in aid of the Tuscan city (thus supplementing the worthless measures of the Brandenburgian Emperor).

But even with this support the fate of Florence is sealed, while Austria immediately loses its Brazilian colonies to Spain and the small sugar outpost of Puerto Rico (circa 300 settlers) to Sicily. In Northern Italy the campaign has mixed results: Maria Theresia’s generals focus on Lombardy with some success, then move forward on Cuneo and capture it in early 1595, later followed by Parma. A Sicilian contingent occupies Verona and Treviso; in the middle of these events, two pitched battles take place at Ferrara (May) and Brescia (June), in which approximately 30.000 Austrians are killed. Conversely, 12.000 Sicilian casualties result from another encounter in Veneto later this year.

Hostilities cease in early 1596, after Austria has lost its only remaining colonies in Africa, Kisarna and Benguela, both burnt to the ground by Sicilian raiders. The noble republic of Florence submits on January 22, 1596 with an indemnity of 875 ducats and the renounce to any claim outside its provincial borders. Roughly one month later Maria Theresia gives up fighting and agrees to cede the wealthy city of Verona to Ferdinando, also relinquishing Austrian claims to Ferrara and paying 100 ducats as war reparations (she will relieve her pain two years later grabbing Savoie, Bourgogne and Orleanais from France). With the removal of the cordon on the Mamluk ports decided by Ferdinando in August 1597 – also motivated by trade crisis that has ensued because of the blockades – the Kingdom of Sicily returns in peace. The only drawback of the retreat of the Sicilian navy is that Mamluk Egypt can easily gobble the puny tributary state of Tripoli.


Austria cannot dictate anymore peace terms
Chapter 25: A new ruler for a new century (1599-1610)


Francesco Durazzo takes power on Ferdinando’s death
Ferdinando suddenly dies on a cold day of February 1599, at the age of 53. Thus on the brink of a new century his son Francesco inherits the royal title plus the indirect rule over the four Sicilian vassal states of Pisa, Florence, Cyprus and Athens (the latter is even governed by the same House of Durazzo). The prince has been grown in the luxury of the court of Naples and does not excel in military prowess, but he is a genius in diplomatic and administrative ability, as shown by the prompt annexation of Lombardy to Sicily. With this incorporation, Milan (860.000 inhabitants) becomes the kingdom’s biggest city, followed by Naples (692.000) and Constantinople (622.000).


Sirs, here is Sicily’s new biggest city
The new century begins with a quick and successful subjugation to Sardinia: having discovered a spy ring backed by Federigo III of Sardinia, King Francesco orders an expedition that lands almost 28.000 soldiers on the island. Any resistance is expeditiously overcome and by October 1600 the Sardinian leader has to pay homage to the Sicilian King, renounce claims on Corsica and disburse over 1.000 ducats. After this short skirmish comes a relatively protracted period of peace – and military complacency – during which the only notable warfare is another blockade of Mamluk ports.

Thus King Francesco can keep on promoting centralization (in relation to this, Modena voluntarily accepts to pledge alliance to Sicily in 1603) and economic development, policies already implemented under the rule of his predecessors. A truly new feature is the fact that in early XVII century Sicily resembles a sort of thalassocracy spanning from the Antilles to Eastern Mediterranean.

The old colonies in the Lesser Antilles are now big, fortified towns with markets and churches. But expansion does not stop: from Puerto Rico (recently stolen to Austria) pioneers settle new outposts on the near island of Santo Domingo: Barahonas, Tortuga and Les Cayes thrive with the plantations and exports of tobacco, coffee, sugar – produces valuably sold by Sicilian merchants in the trade centers of Campeche, on the mainland. An obstacle to Sicilian supremacy emerges when Scottish settlers the westernmost islands of the Caribbean archipelago: Turks Island, Jamaica and above all the bountiful Cuba. Nothing changes when a Swedish expedition supplants the Scottish rule in the first years of the new century, but commercial tensions among colonists remain high.

As a thalassocracy cannot breathe without ships, huge efforts are dedicated to improve the navy: a new naval equipment manufacturing, in addition to the one in Madeira, opens at Bastia on the island of Corsica. More and more big ships are built in the enlarged, grand shipyard of Taranto, since long the most secure Sicilian naval base and now the most suited for operations in Eastern Mediterranean against the Mamluks. With the annexation of Sardinia in November 1610 (ten years after the subjugation of that island) an equally strong position is gained for the control of trade and navigation in the Western Mediterranean.


King Francesco’s European holdings and dependencies in 1610
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Europe in 1600 (political and religious)

Europe around 1600 shows the following trends:

  • Spain and more recently Austria have continued to grab lands from the faltering French monarchy. Also the French territories in the Balkans have gone, recaptured by previous owners or released to independence.

  • The clash between England and Scotland goes on, despite the two kingdoms have even been briefly united in personal union around 1540 under the House of Lancaster (but religious and civil disorder has soon prevailed again).

  • Austria and – to a lesser extent – Bohemia and Pomerania represent the big boys in the Holy Roman Empire despite the imperial title is now held by the weak ruler of Brandenburg.

  • Out of the four previous Eastern major powers, only Lithuania has remained relevant. Poland has initially overextended its reach and then been partitioned in the last decades of XVI century by its neighbors; Hungary has been diminished by Austria and Prussia (successor state of the Teutonic Order) by Lithuania.

  • Muscovy absorbed the republic of Novgorod in 1538 and since then has grown enormous to the south and east.

  • The Muslim menace has waned somewhat: the Turks have gained little in the Balkans before being repelled by the Austrians, Mamluk Egypt is still relevant but on the defensive. Christian superiority at sea cannot be contended.

  • On a different note, the spread of heretical movements in Northern Europe has been contained by the Catholic Counter-reformation (probably the relocation of the Popes to Bremen has played a positive role…) Only England and Denmark, among the biggest countries, profess an heterodox belief.