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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

darkhaze9

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After about a month of reading whenever I have a moment, I'm all caught up on this wonderful AAR.

This is an absolutely fantastic piece of work; full of great writing, attention to detail, and historical tidbits. I eagerly await continued installments, and am glad to be following along the path of Italy.
 

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Chapter 51: The Cypriot Revolt, 1642-1645

One peculiarity of Alberto I’s coronation as King of Italy was the absence of Roman symbolism and imagery. Though he was very well read in the great works of classical antiquity, the first King of Italy considered their value academic and philosophical. His Catholic piety and personal asceticism led him to a distaste for what he considered the pagan and debauched culture of Rome. It was particularly odd for a ruler of Italy to avoid linking himself to the Roman Empire at a time when everyone from the Ottoman Sultan to the Russian Czar to the Khan of Nogai were trying to dream up fantastical links to Romulus and Julius Caesar. Indeed, to the north, some of the favorite figures at the court in Prague were noted for their “rigor” in creating family trees designed to create such a link for the Czech-speaking Holy Roman Emperors of the House of Poděbrad. Given their essentially made up quality, this was a rigor that could only be admired so far. Hector was the most important figure from whom to claim descent because of a series of wholly uncanonical (as in fabricated) stories about his sons. Loosely nodding toward the
Aeneid, these proposed that while Aeneis was founding Rome, a brother called Francio was excitedly heading further north with his children, settling on the River Main, and building the city of the Franks: Frankfurt. This stuff was valuable because it tried to give Germany equal prestige to Italy and to give Frankfurt a sacral value similar to Rome. That a Poděbrad “ancestor” was also the founder of Frankfurt and the forefather of the German people served to give them a more “Germanic” flavor and thus added legitimacy to their title of “King of the Germans” in addition to Holy Roman Emperors.

Alberto’s successor, Gian Gastone, did not share his uncle’s qualms with classical imagery. He fully embraced Italy’s Roman past. At his own coronation, the new king appeared in the full glory of Roman regalia, complete with a golden breastplate engraved with eagles, a purple cape, and a crown of laurels. There was even a crude and accident-prone chariot race held outside the walls of the city along the Arno. This imagery had the added benefit (for Gian Gastone at least) of annoying his rivals in Prague and Istanbul, both of whom claimed to be the “true” successor to Rome by virtue of their title and position.



The coronation of King Gian Gastone I was a lavish affair. The new king dressed as a Roman Emperor for the event

The new king began his reign surrounded by a group of friends and advisors who started out with him in Naples and now sought to help guide the kingdom or, at least, have fun at court. This group of young gentlemen held much sway with Gian Gastone and were known for their intemperate behaviors, rakish sexual lives, and general lack of principles. These men came to the capital with a mixed reputation. They were popularly called “
i ragazzi del ré” or simply “ragazzi”, a term that in Italian refers to teenaged boys. That it became widely applied to a group of men who were by then mostly in their 30s should provide a glimpse into the sort of shenanigans they engaged in. The salacious tales that came from the Medici court soon became bawdy legends in Tuscany and throughout Italy.

Not all of the
ragazzi were regarded poorly by the commons or by what remained of the old guard in the capital. Some, like the visionary naval strategist Enzo Boncompagni, had preceded Gian Gastone to Florence. He had been selected by Alberto I to succeed Folco de Roberti as Foreign Minister. By the time of Gian Gastone’s coronation, Boncompagni was well established in Florence and had a solid grasp of political life in the capital. Prior to his appointment to be Foreign Minister, Boncompagni had spent several years in Amsterdam at the eclectic court of Duke Willem VII of Holland. In 1626, he was appointed the official military attaché to the Duchy of Holland. The young naval officer studied shipbuilding and Dutch naval tactics by day and indulged in the bustling city's raucous nightlife by night. By the 1630s, Amsterdam had not only fully recovered from the brutal sack it endured in 1599 at the hands of the Catholic League army, but was thriving like never before. As a major center of European commerce, it was wealthy and diverse. Boncompagni would take many of the lessons he learned there and apply them to Italy with great success. In 1629, he returned to Italy and married Lucia, illegitimate daughter of the Black Prince, Alessandro dé Medici, and granddaughter on her mother’s side of General Carlo Cercignani. The couple was well regarded at court and the Foreign Minister was already the proud father of three sons and two daughters by the time his old friend ascended the throne.

Another highly respected member of the new king’s inner circle was Camillo dé Medici-Castellina, from the most senior cadet branch of the dynasty. Camillo was well-read and considered wise beyond his years. He too preceded his cousin to the capital when Alberto chose the young priest to be his confessor towards the end of his life. The 29 year old Camillo was made a Cardinal in 1641 by Pope Paul IV as a favor to the King of Italy. Before his death, Alberto implored the newly minted cardinal to provide steady spiritual guidance to his successor. This would turn out to be a job Camillo would find so frustrating that he would successfully petition the Pope for a position as Apostolic Nuncio to Poland and then France within a decade of Gian Gastone’s coronation.

Two of the more notable and colorful members of this group were actually Englishmen. One was Merryweather Pennyfarthing and the other was Percival Butterswell. These young men arrived claiming the respective titles of Duke of Surrey and Earl of Richmond, both of which were inherited from their since deceased fathers and recognized by the Italian court. Following the defeat, overthrow, and execution of King Edgar I of England, much of the English nobility that had remained loyal to him followed the former king’s surviving family into exile. The Lancastrian court-in-exile went first to France before settling in Rome, where they moved into the Palazzo Muti at the invitation of Pope Paul III in 1634. Some men, however, found their way to other courts. When the Duke of Surrey and the Earl of Richmond arrived in Naples offering their services to Gian Gastone, the then-Crown Prince quickly took them in. They would remain mainstays at court after following the king to Florence, and even accompanied the king on campaigns and trips abroad. They also kept the king intrigued in the possibility of supporting a Lancastrian restoration by placing Richard IV, grandson of King Edgar, on the throne. This was a popular position at the court in Florence as the pretender was a Catholic convert like much of his entourage.

Some of the others were neither well-regarded nor exotic foreigners. One in particular was Giovanni Pietro Carnesecchi, the man whom the king chose to be his new Minister of War. He hailed from a middling family of Florentine nobility but was ambitious to a fault. The handsome Carnesecchi became friends with Gian Gastone early on and the then-Crown Prince considered him a favorite companion when “hunting for fine women” during their years in Naples. This closeness with the monarch catapulted the thirty seven year old all the way to the top of the Ministry of War (despite very limited military experience) over the protests of many of the army’s senior officers. Few hated him as much as General Alessandro di Ferrari. The peasant-born, plain-speaking, short-tempered commander was the polar opposite of the wealthy, fashion-conscious, and witty younger man who was now technically his superior. For all his faults, Carnesecchi proved to not be adequate in his role, though he remained a far cry from some of the more illustrious men who had occupied his post previously, like his predecessor Pantaleone Gattilusio.


None of the
ragazzi were more infamous than Filippo “Pippo” Montefeltro. Born in Urbino in 1606, he was the son and heir of Duke Emmanuele of Urbino. He moved to Naples at the age of 22 to join the court of the Crown Prince. There he became, along with his brother-in-law Arturo Pallavicini, one of the Crown Prince's most notorious ragazzi. He carried on affairs with several prominent married women and was rumored to have an attraction to young men as well. In 1638, Pippo and Andrea Cavalcanti, another one of the ragazzi, disgraced themselves in the eyes of their Austrian hosts when, during a diplomatic mission to Vienna, they threw eggs and stones at the common people. The elderly Archduchess Maria Theresa penned a letter to scold her much younger Italian counterpart stating, “under Your Majesty’s predecessors, Vienna knew Italian gentlemen to embody the highest ideals of honor and chivalry. Yet today, they can see them as nothing but petulant brutes.” Shortly after this, Montefeltro lost an eye in a duel at Salerno, and had to wear an eyepatch from then on. The fact that he killed his opponent in this duel earned him the wrath of the Crown Prince’s mother, Livia, and got Pippo banished from Naples for a time. Then in 1640, Duke Emmanuele died, leaving Pippo to inherit his lands and titles. This allowed the opportunistic, newly minted duke to climb back to the top of the Crown Prince’s list of favorites when he returned to the Neapolitan court with his sister, Adelaide. Adelaide da Montefeltro would go on to become one of Gian Gastone’s favorite mistresses and a hated rival of Queen Carlota Luisa. From then on, Pippo remained highly influential, becoming one of the king's most favored companions and a key influence on his policies.

On 20 May 1642, the Queen gave birth to the royal couple’s third child and first son: Francesco. The successful pregnancy and birth of an heir should have solidified Carlota Luisa’s position at court and in the eyes of her husband. At 27 years old, she could claim three successful births of healthy children to only one miscarriage. In addition to Francesco were two surviving daughters, eight-year-old Maria Grazia and three-year-old Beatrice. The king, already 39 years old, rejoiced at the arrival of a male heir. However, his and the queen’s mutual dislike for each other would keep the father-son relationship distant and often cold.


To make matters worse, less than two months after Francesco’s arrival, Adelaide da Montefeltro gave birth to another son of the king’s, albeit an illegitimate one. This boy, named Filippo, was the third of the king’s illegitimate children, though he was the first boy and the first one conceived and born after his marriage to the queen. The two previous illegitimate children were girls, 17-year-old Ginevra and 12-year-old Sabrina. Carlota Luisa had gone so far as to embrace the two girls and welcome them and their mothers at court. In both cases, the mothers were from minor aristocratic families, had ceased their intimate relations with Gian Gastone before his marriage to the queen, and the girls did not represent any threat to the succession. Filippo and his mother were a different matter. Adelaide da Montefeltro hailed from one of the major noble houses of Italy, one of the
Case Grandi that governed their ancestral lands on the king’s behalf. Furthermore, Filippo could in theory one day challenge Francesco’s claims to the throne. Thus, as soon as mother and the baby were strong enough to travel, the Queen and Crown Prince left Florence and moved to the Medici Villa at Cafaggiolo, about 25 kilometers northwest of the capital. The official reason given was that Carlota Luisa desired to raise her children in the healthy air of the countryside. The real reason, well known at court, was that the queen despised the king and could not stand to be in his presence following the birth of Filippo.


The king’s favorite mistress, Adelaide da Montefeltro, with her son, Filippo

By the early 1640s, the booming sugar and tobacco plantations in the Italian Indies had a growing demand for slave labor. The colonial planter class had strong ties to the Italian merchant community and thus had influence at the court of Gian Gastone I. Unlike his uncle, whose moral abhorrence to chattel slavery caused him to keep the plantation owners at arm’s length, the current King of Italy was an enthusiastic supporter of slavery. Due to Alberto I’s unwillingness to embrace the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Italian Caribbean planters were forced to buy their slaves from the markets of other countries, particularly from the Spanish in New Granada and the English in Cuba. As a result, they had to pay higher prices for their enslaved laborers and they wanted to eliminate this price mark-up. The planters wanted their own source of slaves, and they wanted to copy the model of the other European colonial powers. The governor of the Italian Indies, Augusto Paleologi Monferrato, was a strong representative for planter interests and he lobbied the government in Florence extensively on this matter.


The king was very happy to oblige, seeing an opportunity to expand Italian territorial holdings and please an increasingly powerful and wealthy constituency. He ordered an expedition to the Coast of Guinea with the intent of establishing an Italian presence there to allow traders to capture or buy slaves directly in Africa. The king chose one of the “
ragazzi”, Andrea Cavalcanti, to lead the expedition. Italian merchants had been traveling to the Niger Delta to trade with the people there for years, dating back to Federigo Soderini’s first voyage to the region in 1601. However, this new expedition was different. It was not meant for commerce, but for conquest and domination.

What would become known as the Colony of Bonny was the small independent Kingdom of Ibani, ruled at the time of the Italians’ arrival by Perekule I. Cavalcanti had little regard for the natives and upon meeting the Ibani king, demanded fealty and subjugation. An enraged Perekule ordered the Italians to get out of his village and never to return. Cavalcanti complied with the first part, but only so he could return to the coast and gather up the rest of the army.



The Italian colonization of Bonny fundamentally changed the kingdom’s economics and relations with its colonies

The soldiers of the Italian expedition marched on the Ibane capital and quickly routed the native forces of King Perekule. The Ibani ruler was captured in the battle and along with his top advisors and they were subsequently all summarily executed by hanging. It was an ignominious end for a ruler who managed to preserve the independence of his small state against the encroaching power of the Sultanates of Air and Bonoman by a mixture of diplomacy and military readiness. Most of the survivors from the captured settlement were enslaved and put on ships to the Caribbean, destined for the brutal living and working conditions of the islands’ sugar cane fields. Nearly all of them would die within a year. For his efforts, Cavalcanti became Count of Macerata and the first governor-general of the newly created Italian colony of Bonny.


Following the defeat of Perekule and his Ibane Kingdom, Cavalcanti’s agents began working on destabilizing neighboring states. The Sultanates of Air and Bonoman were wealthy and Muslim. Conquering them would give the Italian slavers free reign over their respective populations, as Muslims were explicitly allowed to be enslaved even under the terms of the Papal Bull
Sublimis Deus, which forbade enslavement of Christians and pagans but made an exception for Muslims. By early 1645, the Governor-General’s agents had helped fund and support several bubbling revolts within Air that soon brought about a long and difficult.


The Italians under Cavalcanti sowed instability throughout West Africa in an effort to increase their influence in the region

Before long, however, Italy’s foreign policy focus shifted abruptly from West Africa to the Mediterranean. Following Italy’s conquest of the island in 1639, Cyprus was once again Christianity’s forward position in a Muslim sea. Isolated, fertile, hundreds of sea miles from Italy, it was both a provocation and a temptation to the sultans in Istanbul. “An island thrust into the mouth of the wolf,” one Venetian called it. It had always lived in the shadow of empires and holy wars. Beirut was less than 100 kilometers to the southeast, on a clear day the snowcapped mountains of Anatolia were visible to the north. It was too big, too fertile, and too close to ignore. Every power of significance in the Mediterranean had made a claim on the place and left their mark. The Assyrians, the Persians, and the Venetians, had come and gone. The island’s root population of Greek speakers had been converted to Islam from centuries of Arab rule. When Crusaders came from the West, they turned Cyprus into the mart and marshaling yard of Christian war. They built gothic cathedrals among the palm trees and transformed its inland capital, Nicosia, into a polyglot meeting place of diverse worlds. The blended mix of Greek, Frankish, Arab, and Turkish cultures was unique and enriching.

Even before the Italian conquest, Cyprus had been on the checklist of Ottoman expansion. The Lusignan dynsty had paid tribute to the sultan and bribes to his viziers to preserve their neutrality. Theirs was an undignified policy of appeasement, slipping ducats into complacent hands year after year. It was, on the whole, still more pragmatic and cost effective than trying to maintain war fleets that would likely never survive first contact with the mighty empire anyway. Then, the Italian war fleets appeared off the coast instead and erased centuries of Cypriot independence in the blink of an eye. The Cypriots’ queer alliance with the far off and rapidly declining Timurid Empire had not saved the island from the ambitions of Italy.

Since then, the relationship had been a one way trade. Italy gave nothing back. The downtrodden Greek and Arab Cypriot peasantry were ruled corruptly and taxed heavily. They were tremendously poor, and still obliged to pay to the state one third of their income or production. “There is yearly some tax or other imposed on them which left the people hardly with the wherewithal to survive,” wrote one Neapolitan merchant passing through the island on his was to Egypt. It was, all in all, a recipe for nervous occupation. The Cypriots would not reliably fight for their overlords. They slipped across the straits and made appeals to the Sultan. Two Cypriots appeared in Istanbul in 1642 with letters to Ahmet II that the serfs would welcome Ottoman rule of the island.


For eighteen months following annexation, the iron fist of Alessandro di Ferrari, Count of Maranello and military governor, ruled Cyprus. Already hated by all Cypriots for his brutal treatment of the population and the royal family during the conquest, he further blackened his reputation there by dealing ruthlessly with all acts of defiance and dissent, whether real or perceived. Thankfully, for the Cypriots, Ferrari was recalled to Italy following the death of Massimiliano del Rosso to take over as the top general of the Italian armies in March of 1641. Given the success of his cousin, Ercole di Canossa, on Crete, Gian Gastone I decided to go with another Medici family member to rule Cyprus. He also chose a cousin for this role: Marcantonio Strozzi, the 39-year-old son of Teodora dé Medici and Stefano Strozzi. Following the death of his father and older brother during the Siege of Florence in 1612, Marcantonio became the head of the senior branch of the Strozzi family, still one of the wealthiest and most powerful aristocratic houses in Florence. The governorship of Cyprus was viewed as a great honor. Strozzi was already in a powerful position, serving as president of the
Tribunale della Mercanzia. This tribunal was made up of representatives of the Arti maggiori, or guilds of Florence, to serve as an arbitrator or mediator during disputes and to set the rules for the various guilds’ activities. As its head, Strozzi’s influence and decisions had widespread consequences for the merchants of the capital. Still, being a royal governor was an upgrade in rank, and one the ambitious Florentine was eager to undertake.


Marcantonio Strozzi, Governor-General of Cyprus


Ercole di Canossa’s success in Crete influenced Gian Gastone I’s decision to appoint Marcantonio Strozzi governor of Cyprus
Strozzi would have to work against the obvious popularity of Sultan Ahmet II. Not only the Muslims, but also the Greek Orthodox population of Cyprus loved the “Grand Turk”. Still, the Ottomans were not prepared to move for open war with Italy and her allies. The unfortunate island and its people were thus caught between the wills of two great powers, never an enviable position. On the one hand, was the cruel and oppressive treatment they received from their Italian overlords, almost unique among that kingdom’s possessions. All the Cypriots had to do was look across the sea to Crete and Rhodes to discover that when the Italians wanted to, they could be open handed and generous rulers. The nakedly disparate treatment only served to drive the Cypriots further toward anger and despair. On the other hand, was the Turkish sultan, who at the moment was preoccupied more with his eastern frontiers, but was never one to miss an opportunity to score a victory on the cheap. This meant that even as his armies marched across Persia and his fleets flooded the Black Sea, Sultan Ahmet II was still willing to throw money and weapons at the cause. This gave the desperate and courageous Cypriots the belief that they could fight and maybe win. Furthermore, Turkish agents on the island reassured them that should they rise and find some success, the Sultan was sure to come to their aid. This was the recipe for tragedy on Cyprus.


Map of Cyprus

The man who became the leader and centerpiece for the great Cypriot Revolt was the perfect figure for the island’s diverse population to rally around. He was a wealthy, aristocratic gentleman named Matthaios Ducas. Ducas was the heir to an old and influential Cypriot family with ties to the deposed Lusignan dynasty and was a nephew to the exiled Queen Charlotte. Himself a follower of the Ibāḍi tradition of Islam like his aunt and most of the former royal court, he was married to a Sunni woman and on good terms with the Orthodox notables of his native Kolossi. He favored religious toleration and the emancipation of the Jews, thus making him popular among the island’s minority populations. He had a vague yet real enough claim to the throne to make him a legitimate claimant, especially in the face of the hated “Medici usurpers”. The upstanding and pious Ducas, kind to his peasants and loyal to his wife, contrasted sharply with the reputation developing around Marcantonio Strozzi.

The Italian governor was said to spend most of his days drunk, preying upon the innocent maidens of the island, be they Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. The veracity of these rumors are difficult to confirm, but it is clear that they were believed by enough of the islanders to help push them toward revolt. From a policy perspective, Strozzi was far from a monster, especially compared to his predecessor, Ferrari. Many of the treason laws enforced under Ferrari were ignored under Strozzi, and the number of political executions dropped precipitously in the first months after he took over and remained low throughout the thirty-three months that he served as governor. Still, the bad blood that carried over from the previous administration was too much to overcome. Strozzi may have been good at placating and negotiating with well-to-do merchants and guild masters in Florence, but he was ill suited to deal with a hostile aristocracy backed up by an incensed peasantry.

By the summer of 1643, Matthaios Ducas was gathering an army in the west of Cyprus, armed and partly paid by the sultans in Istanbul and Tunis. The core of the rebel army, its elite, was made up of the leftovers of the old Cypriot aristocracy, eager to avenge the honor of their kingdom and their families. The ranks of the infantry were made up of a mass of peasants, some armed with pikes and even muskets sent from Turkey, others carrying little more than clubs or sharpened sticks. All of these men were determined to expel the Italians and put an end to the nightmare of occupation. In early August, a flotilla of galleys arrived, bearing small and medium caliber field guns, gifts from Yusuf ibn Ali, Pasha of Tripoli and vassal of Sultan Abd-al-Aziz I of Tunis.

The revolt began slowly before it started to pick up speed. Whether it was neglect or an effort to appear benign, Governor Strozzi had stopped Ferrari’s policy of sending armed patrols into the countryside to gather intelligence on potential traitors and to serve as a show of force should any locals want to interfere with the Italian-appointed officials overseeing day to day administration on the island. Following the conquest, Ferrari had dispersed numerous of his military officers to act as mayors of Cyprus’s major cities and ensure compliance with the new regime. These men, hated above all for being tax collectors in addition to their other duties, were the revolt’s first targets. Throughout July and early August, angry Cypriots appeared at the officials’ houses in the night and drove them out. Most were not harmed, and those who were harmed suffered largely by accident. The usual ritual involved dragging the targeted man out of his home along with his family, stripping them naked, and then tying them to horses to be dispatched to Nicosia. Despite the obvious implications of such a gesture, Governor Strozzi laughed off the first few instances of naked officials appearing at his palace. It was only at the urging of his advisors that he began to even think of the problem seriously.



The Cypriot Revolt proved a major challenge to the Italian position in the eastern Mediterranean

By then, the early autumn of 1643, it was largely too late. Ducas and his army were ready to march and all Italian authority outside of Nicosia and the port of Famagusta was purged. The next step, beginning in late September, was for the rebels to begin intercepting and capturing food shipments from Famagusta to the capital. By late November, Ducas and his 11,000 strong rebel army had Nicosia surrounded and demanded the surrender of Strozzi and the small Italian garrison. The governor refused, convinced as he was that an Italian army would arrive imminently to save him. They did not arrive in time. In the early morning hours of 4 December, the Cypriots stormed the city and were able to capture two key gates. The first wave to get over the walls flung them open and the mass of the rebel army entered the city. The jubilant population immediately set about identifying the Italians to Ducas and his men. They were rounded up and assembled in the central Orduönü Square. There, the men were separated from the women in children. The latter group was promptly marched to the sea, where they were herded onto waiting Tunisian galleys for transport to the slave markets of Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers. The men were executed in the square. Governor Strozzi was kept for last, forced to watch his men put to the sword before being unceremoniously tossed to the Nicosia mob, which tore him limb from limb in rage.

With the capital and the entire island save Famagusta in their hands, the rebels had to decide what to do next. Some wanted to name Matthaios Ducas king. Ducas declined the honor, accepting instead the title of Lord Protector until such a time as Queen Charlotte and the royal family were returned to the island to resume their rule. The release and return of the royal family soon became a key demand of the rebels. The people of Famagusta also had to decide how to proceed. It was the only city in Cyprus with a majority Catholic population, thanks mostly to the large Venetian community living there since the days of the Crusades. The Venetians had little loyalty to the Italian regime, as most of them had been living on the island long before the Italians conquered and annexed their home city. Dying in the honorable service of the King of Italy hardly seemed an appealing route to take. Still, they wanted to avoid looking as if they joined the revolt outright in case Ducas and his followers were eventually defeated. To hedge their bets, the Venetian community of Famagusta sent envoys to the rebels with an offer. Famagusta would remain “loyal” to Italy but they also promised that should any rebel force march on the port city, they would promptly surrender and fling open their gates. Ducas detached a small force from his army which, along with the envoys, marched on Famagusta. As promised, the city leaders opened the gates and the city “fell” to the rebels. Ducas was now the undisputed master of the island and had a supportive population behind him.

When the news of the Cypriot Revolt reached Florence, King Gian Gastone flew into a rage. He demanded the wholesale massacre of the island’s inhabitants and ordered General Ferrari to launch an expedition to defeat the rebels immediately. The revolt represented a serious challenge to Italy’s ability to hold on to its overseas colonies. By February of 1644, the 10,000 man expedition was ready to depart, leaving from Naples with the full might of the Italian navy going along with it. They arrived off the coast of Cyprus near Kyrenia on 14 March 1644 and began shuttling men back and forth from the ships to the coast. Lord Protector Ducas received news of the landing almost immediately. He dutifully gathered his army and prepared to meet the invaders in open battle. This course of action was contrary to many of his top advisors and lieutenants, who thought the best way to deal with the invaders was to bleed them slowly. Ducas, however, wanted a dramatic victory to tip the scales in his favor and hopefully entice the Ottoman and Tunisian sultans into openly supporting them. Furthermore, the fact that it was, of all people, Alessandro di Ferrari leading the enemy made Ducas and many of his men hungry for vengeance. It was an all or nothing gamble. They departed Nicosia on 16 March and occupied tactically advantageous positions in the Kyrenia Mountains, with their line anchored on the ruins of the ancient Saint Hilarion Castle.


The Saint Hilarion Castle

Ferrari was also spoiling for a quick victory and he began marching his troops along the rugged road south from Kyrenia to Nicosia as soon as they had marshaled on shore. The troops moved slowly but soon were going through the mountains. Then, on the morning of 18 March, Ducas sprung his trap. The Cypriots were set up an in “L”-shaped ambush position and suddenly descended from two sides on the unprepared Italians. The first Cypriot thrust split the invaders’ column, isolating one third of the Italian strength on the north side of the mountain pass. Commanding from the Saint Hilarion Castle, giving him an excellent view of the proceedings, Ducas masterfully orchestrated a succession of attacks and tactical withdrawals that demoralized and confused the Italians. Isolated and strung out along a narrow road, there was little Ferrari’s men could do but hold their position and return fire. As the Italian units massed to counter Cypriot cavalry charges, the mounted aristocrats would withdraw and let their comrades’ artillery pieces shred the foe in place. A Cypriot cavalry contingent cut off the retreat of the Italians still north of the pass and soon cut them to pieces as well. Ducas ordered no quarter to be given and all of the Italian survivors of the battle were put to the sword, minus a handful who escaped into the mountains. The executions went on for several hours after the battle. To the rebels’ disappointment, Ferrari was among those who escaped their grasp. Still, nothing could tarnish the reality of what happened that day. The upstart rebels had annihilated and massacred the Italian expeditionary force. Ducas was instantly hailed as a genius and the “Hero of Saint Hilarion”.



The Battle of Saint Hilarion was one of the greatest military catastrophes in Italian history
The fallout from the Battle of Saint Hilarion was serious for Italy. The king immediately dismissed Ferrari from his position as senior general, “if that wretched peasant still draws breath.” More seriously, the Cypriot victory inspired a simmering revolt in Genoa to break out in full, with the rebels taking up arms and hoping to match the exploits of Ducas. The new king looked weak and confused and there appeared no better time to challenge his authority. The Sultan of Tunis was motivated to back the Cypriots more closely, and thus ordered his corsair fleets to launch their greatest series of raids in years, all targeted at Italy. Across Europe, the Italian army’s previously fearsome reputation was badly tarnished by the defeat.

King Gian Gastone I decided to take matters into his own hands. He ordered Enzo Boncompagni to prepare the navy for a second expedition to Cyprus. First, and despite having no previous military command experience, he decided to personally lead the
Armata del Nord against the Genovese rebels. The king passed this relatively easy first test, crushing the rebel army outside the gates of the city on 3 April 1644. From there, he wheeled his army back south and marched to Livorno, from where they took ship for the Cyprus. Despite its expansion in recent years under Boncompagni’s guidance, the navy still lacked the lift capacity to transport the full size of the 20,000 strong expeditionary army from Italy to Cyprus. To manage this, Gian Gastone determined to stage his force at Crete and then have the navy ferry them back and forth from that island to Cyprus. This plan was sensible but it also required the Italian navy to focus solely on this one campaign. This left the coasts of Italy vulnerable to piracy.

This was a vulnerability that the Sultan of Tunis and his corsair captains were only too eager to exploit. Beginning on 6 June 1644, the Barbary pirates began a series of large-scale raids against Italian coastal settlements. They struck all along the Tyrrhenian coast, taking slaves, gold, and goods in the provinces of Calabria, Cosenza, Salerno, Naples, Siena, Corsica, Pisa, Lucca, Albenga, and Genoa. Over the course of two months, over 1,300 Italians were captured and carried off by the corsairs, destined for the slave markets of North Africa. The “Raids of Terror”, as they came to be known in Italy, were yet another humiliating blow to Gian Gastone and his government.



The so-called “Raids of Terror” by Barbary corsairs out of Tunis and Algiers devastated the Italian coastline

By late August, however, the tables began to turn. On the 18th, the king and his expedition successfully landed on Cyprus. To send a message to Ducas, they landed near the rebel leader’s home town of Kolossi, and proceeded to sack it brutally. They even looted the Kolossi Castle, where the Ducas family kept its heirlooms and valuables. Unlike Ferrari, the king’s army outnumbered the rebels’ more than two to one. Still, despite it all, Ducas remained undaunted. “We shall have the chance to show our valor to the king in person,” he quipped to his commanders days before battle.

At the urging of his subordinate commanders, Gian Gastone marched east along the coast, avoiding a tough trek over the Troodos Mountains that dominated the center of the island. The plan was to march to Larnaca and its eponymous bay before turning north to march on the capital. This also kept the Italians from relying on land-based supply lines, which were vulnerable to attack from the hostile local population. Instead, Enzo Boncompagni’s ships could keep them constantly supplied by sea. While on the march, the Italian army also ran into pockets of survivors from the previous, destroyed expedition. Among them was Alessandro di Ferrari. The king ordered his general to be arrested and then kept on board one of the ships off the coast to await his judgment.

It was also on this march that the King of Italy met the nineteen-year-old Ginevra Toscani. She was the daughter of Felice Toscani, a minor Tuscan nobleman and an official in the administration of Marcantonio Strozzi. Felice was killed with most of the rest of the Italian male population of Nicosia when the city was sacked, and Ginevra watched her mother and younger brothers marched off to slavery. She, however, was not put on a corsair ship but instead given out as a prize by Matthaios Ducas to, Leonidas Anastasiades, one of his top lieutenants. This fate befell many of the Italian women captured at Nicosia, particularly ones in their teens or twenties who would make good concubines or wives for Cypriot officers. Toscani was bright, charismatic, and took much greater interest in military history and strategy than most women of her time and birth. Both Ducas and Anastasiades recognized her potential though she was reluctant to help plan for the Battle of Saint Hilarion. She did not intend to remain with Anastasiades, and she used the chaos of the battle to escape the rebel army, fleeing into the countryside. There, she chanced upon Ferrari and a few other survivors of the battle to scrape out an existence while hiding from rebel patrols. She participated in attacks against Cypriot troops and supply wagons, showing a high level of physical courage and quick thinking. Gian Gastone was immediately taken with the tall and intelligent young woman presented to him. Though she was by many accounts not traditionally beautiful, her quick wits and sharp mind more than made up for whatever she may have lacked in looks. In exchange for his favor, Toscani was able to provide crucial intelligence to the king and his commanders on the composition, disposition, and tactics for the Cypriot rebel army. Armed with this new knowledge, the king prepared to continue his campaign.


Ducas sought to head off the Italians, taking positions with his army between the towns of Troulloi and Avdellero. The two sides spotted each other on the evening of 23 August but only engaged in small skirmishes. The following morning, the true battle began. The Cypriots had a slight terrain advantage, with the Italians forced to attack up a gradual but rough slope. The following day began with a pitched clash between the two sides’ cavalry forces. The Italian horsemen outclassed their foes, with the
Cavalleria Parmigiana, led by the Duke of Parma, distinguishing itself by routing the Cypriot aristocrats, dispersing an infantry formation of peasants, and then capturing a number of rebel cannons. The shock of this attack caused the left flank of the rebel army to waver, and forced Ducas to commit his reserve to stabilize it. The King of Italy countered by using his own reserve, in particular, two of his best regiments, to strike at the rebels’ right flank. The Lance Lucchesi fixed the foe with a frontal assault while the Reggimento Grimaldi hooked around to the west and flanked the pinned down enemy soldiers. This caused the Cypriot left to crumble and the whole army began to collapse. Steady volleys of artillery fire devastated their ranks and demoralized them further.


The Battle of Troulloi spelled doom for the Cypriot cause

By the end of the day on 24 August, the Cypriot Revolt was largely defeated in the field. Ducas had lost over half his strength in the battle including almost all of his cavalry. With less than 5,000 men left, he limped back to Nicosia to await the inevitable. However grim the situation was for the Cypriots, the King of Italy’s recapture of Cyprus did not turn out to be as brutal as many anticipated. One key reason for this was the presence of Ercole di Canossa on the campaign. Canossa had shown himself to be a capable and perceptive governor, successfully managing the integration of Crete into the Kingdom of Italy during his time as viceroy there in the years 1640-44. Gian Gastone picked him to clean up the “Cypriot mess” and deferred to his cousin on many questions of how to deal with the locals. Among them were to be kind and conciliatory toward the peasantry. After the Battle of Troulloi, the king pardoned all non-noblemen who had participated in the revolt and promised better treatment for his Cypriot subjects in exchange for a new oath of loyalty. The nobles, however, got no such reprieve. Just like King Perekule I of the Ibani Kingdom, Ducas was executed by hanging like a common criminal. Much of the rest of the surviving Cypriot nobility was beheaded. One notable survivor was Anastasiades. His erstwhile wife, after being reassured that her marriage was not recognized by the Catholic Church, pleaded with the king for his life. The request was granted, and the very relieved Anastasiades was allowed to return to his home and live out his days in peace. Though no longer husband and wife, he and Toscani would carry on a friendly and illuminating correspondence until the former’s death in 1655.

Anastasiades aside, the almost complete liquidation of the Lusignan-era nobility in the years 1639-44 would have long reaching consequences for the island’s culture and society. Two groups moved in to take the spoils left behind by this class. The first was made up of impoverished Italian aristocrats who saw a more lucrative future in Cyprus than in Italy. The second was composed of opportunistic Cypriots who had the foresight (or lack of scruples) to convert to Catholicism to win favor with the new administration. This reality made Ercole di Canossa critically important for the future of the island, as he was able to distribute titles and lands on behalf of the king, thus shaping the future of the nobility and, more importantly, the economics of Cyprus.

The end of the Cypriot Revolt returned Italy to a new period of calm. The navy resumed its coastal patrols to protect the Italian peninsula from corsair raids. Despite the damage and suffering inflicted by the Raids of Terror in the summer of 1644, the Italian economy recovered in due time. The year 1645 in Italy was a prosperous one, and several military developments led to important advances both on land and at sea. On land, Italian military engineers remained at the forefront of fortification technology, developing the concept of the “killing grounds”. What this meant was the creation of forts that would channel attackers and besiegers into areas within which the defenders could maximize their firepower.

Italian engineers had realized for some time that the key method by which attackers could be repelled was not through high walls, but low, thick, reinforced walls set into the ground and appearing as part of the countryside. By this method, the fortress could be protected from cannon fire, and while they were not invincible, the walls would not tumble in the same manner as a Medieval-style castle. The next step to the improved defenses, was the contouring of the surrounding terrain to expose the attacker to as much fire as possible. This was done often by sloping the ground towards the fortress, by making it difficult to hide from the weapons of the defenders, and by ensuring that it would literally be an uphill battle to reach the fortress. This was pioneered in rudimentary form during the Siege of Florence of 1612, with earthen barriers used to channel the Spanish besiegers and pour cannon shot and musket fire onto them. This lesson was taken and applied to the purposeful construction of forts later on.

The change of fortress design from a traditional four-sided wall to a star shape was crucial. The idea was to remove any of the previously problematic dead space which enabled the attackers to manipulate the position of the defenders and exploit their shortcomings. From such dead space, the attackers could stage troops in preparation for assaults on the walls. By placing pointed defensive bastions on the top of fortresses, defenders had a wider field of vision, and since their position was elevated, both from the fortress and within the covered way, they could better defend their settlement from the enemy, giving said enemy, ideally, nowhere to regroup and plan the next step of the attack. This was the purpose of the “killing fields” concept. In their grim but effective pragmatism, the Italian engineers envisioned wide areas covered by volleys of relentless fire outside all the fortresses of northern Italy’s “Ring of Iron”. The more important fortresses added further to these designs by placing guns atop the walls, adding numerous trenches directly below them, or presenting a series of such fortifications before the fortress itself was even reached. Because the walls were thicker and deeper set than the older design, larger and larger guns were fixable to them, and the fire of such guns became so dangerous that they forced the attacker to adapt his strategy in turn.


Development of the “Killing Grounds” concept improved the survivability of Italian fortresses

Important advances were introduced for the navy as well. Enzo Boncompagni found himself highly favored at court and with the king following the fleet’s operational successes in transporting and sustaining the expedition to crush the Cypriot Revolt. Gian Gastone gave his friend a new, impressive sounding title: Lord High Admiral of the Navy. Boncompagni took advantage of his newfound status to advance some of his own pet projects. He advocated building the sturdiest and largest vessels possible, even while Italy lacked the equivalent Spanish and British capabilities to house and fit such vessels in their ports. So long as the Italian docks remained insufficient, other European powers would always hold the advantage and would be able to outlast their Italian foes on the seas. Boncompagni, however, was able to persuade Gian Gastone to invest enough resources in the improvement of the port systems, and add significantly to the capacity of the ports. As a result, Italian naval tactics no longer had to take it for granted that they would always suffer from the drawback of slower ship construction, a fact that previously made their naval officers by default more cautious, and explains why most Italian captains tended not to risk a great deal while at sea.


Improved Shipyards allowed the Italian navy to build larger, sturdier ships in shorter time

The second major initiative launched by Boncompagni involved personnel. Unlike the army, which had seen gradual but continuous professionalization over the previous century, the Italian navy remained a rather haphazard affair. While most, though still not even all, naval officers had a royal commission, the sailors that worked the rigging and the guns and operated the vessels were hired piecemeal whenever more men were needed. Thus the fleet kept an internationalist, motley appearance. Since the naval recruiters rarely asked any question about origin or history, all manner of escaped slaves, religious refugees, debtors, criminals, and the rest of the castoffs of Seventeenth Century society were able to join. The officer ranks were disproportionately filled with Jews, as they were eligible for commissions in the navy which they were denied in the army by law. This diversity was one of the navy’s greatest strengths, as it infused the ranks of sailors with differing knowledge bases and backgrounds drawn from around the world. However, it also meant that language barriers abounded, sailors often deserted in ports, and there were no training standards. The Italian navy had no tactical doctrine to speak of. The Lord High Admiral, an avid history student, believed that many of Italy’s failures at sea stemmed from these shortcomings. In particular, he wanted to prevent the fleet’s disastrous performance during the War of the League of Sevilla from ever happening again. In that conflict, Italy was decisively defeated at sea by smaller and older, but better trained and led navies. Boncompagni’s new policy sought to keep the best of both sides. He wanted it to remain easy for ship captains to recruit and hire men from around the world, but he also required that they sign two or three year contracts and submit to the new training regimen in place.


Naval professionalization was one of the key legacies of Enzo Boncompagni’s tenure as Lord High Admiral

The first years of Gian Gastone’s reign were chaotic and unstable. His court was undisputedly a more lively and scandal-riddled affair than that of his predecessor, and his estrangement from the Queen Consort only fueled more gossip and intrigue. Surrounded by mistresses, sycophants, and ne’er-do-well friends, the king nevertheless made some good decisions. He did place some of his most effective friends and associates in the most important positions. The two clearest examples of this were Enzo Boncompagni to run the navy and the foreign ministry, and Ercole di Canossa to administer Cyprus following the revolt.

Elsewhere, the greed and lust for power exhibited by him and some of his lesser companions caused untold human suffering. Before the end of the decade, Andrea Cavalcanti’s colony in Bonny would be kidnapping, enslaving, and transporting thousands of people from West Africa to the New World’s slave markets. Whatever fig leaf of respectability and Christian morality had remained in the Italian colonial project under Alberto I was stripped away by his successor. The Italians’ version of the slave trade would be every bit as cruel, brutal, destructive, and deadly as that of the Spanish, English, and French. He also made his own personal whims and grudges part of national policy unlike any previous Medici dynastic ruler. As a result of his dislike of his consort, Gian Gastone repudiated any good will with Portugal and alienated that kingdom for no reason other than to spite his wife’s family. He then decided to alienate Spain as well, thus once again driving Madrid and Lisbon back into each other’s arms. António I of Portugal was shocked and outraged over the unprovoked slights and insults coming from Italy. Queen Ana I of Spain was similarly dismayed that her efforts to normalize relations with Italy under Alberto I were now seemingly wasted as a result of this rash new king. Much of the diplomatic progress made in the latter years of Alberto I’s reign, focused on separating the Iberian kingdoms and getting them both on better terms with Italy, were undone in a fit of petulance. It would be another half decade before all sides involved had to reckon with these decisions, but the stage was set for another destructive war in the Mediterranean.
 

darkhaze9

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Very strange reading about rebels in Cyprus, as I was just there on holiday - in fact it's where I first started reading this AAR! :p
 

JerseyGiants88

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Very strange reading about rebels in Cyprus, as I was just there on holiday - in fact it's where I first started reading this AAR! :p
I've never been there, but it looks beautiful. It is definitely on my list of places to visit now.
 

darkhaze9

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I've never been there, but it looks beautiful. It is definitely on my list of places to visit now.
I couldn't recommend it more - it's a lovely country with incredible history. I visited Famagusta and the Troodos Mountains which were both wonderful.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Been exquisite reading so far. Great job!
 

JerseyGiants88

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Historical Vignette 26: Different Currents
3 July 1644

Lucia dé Medici fingered the necklace of alternating rubies and pearls that hung on a silver chain about her neck. It was her most cherished piece of jewelry, a gift from her aunt Margherita. The meaning it held for Lucia went beyond its material value. “I have but one son, and no daughters,” her aunt had said, “so I will pass my title to you.”

“What title is that?” Lucia had asked excitedly. She must have been about 14 or 15 years old at the time.

“The title of ‘Most Troublesome Woman in the Realm,’” Margherita told her with a smile, “wear it with pride.”

Since then, Lucia sought always to emulate the example set by the Princess of Canossa. Margherita was the last of the great Renaissance women in Italy: a rebel, a successful businesswoman, and a patron of the arts, the beloved muse of the greatest poets and playwrights of her era, from Torquato Tasso to Niccolò Barbieri. She was also a kind soul and devoted friend and to Lucia’s mother, through all the highs and lows of her own tumultuous life.


Today was not a day to be rebellious, however. Today was a day to play peacemaker. The king, her cousin, had asked Lucia to negotiate a truce in the bitter, endless war between Adelaide Montefeltro, his favorite mistress, and Queen Carlota Luisa, his wife. “Perhaps you can be useful to me for once,” the King of Italy had said, “instead of vexing me as you usually do.” Lucia suspected that the real reason he wanted the women pacified was that both relentlessly hounded him about his
other affairs. Adelaide did so because she was convinced she should be the king’s only lover. Carlota did so because every woman who shared the royal bed with His Majesty was an affront to her pious Catholicism. Now that Gianni was heading off to Cyprus, he wanted to ensure there would be no literal bloodshed between the women he left behind.

Lucia was sitting in the wing of the Pitti Palace reserved for the queen. It included Her Majesty’s bedroom, service rooms, private chapel, and dining room. The Grand Duchess Caterina da Montefeltro had redone the entirety of the wing during her time as regent for her son, Francesco Stefano. Caterina had played an important role in the cultural inheritance of Florence. As a part of the House of Montefeltro, dukes of Urbino, she brought with her to Tuscany an invaluable collection of paintings as part of her wedding dowry to Cesare dé Medici, including works by Titian and Raphael that were now part of the Medici collections. The ceiling of this particular room was in the process of getting a new fresco of its own. Carlota Luisa had commissioned Baldassarre Franceschini, better known as
il Volterrano, to paint five scenes. Based on what Lucia could tell, they were meant to celebrate the queen consort’s devotion and moral virtues.

Lucia wore a smooth, tight, conical satin bodice with a dropped shoulder. Her slashed sleeves were caught with jeweled clasps over voluminous chemise sleeves in green and gold. She wore her light brown hair in masses of ringlets that fell to the shoulders on both sides, and a pair of large pearl earrings.


The Queen arrived first, punctual as always. Her disdain for the pettiness of the court, such as making a lesser ranked person wait on her, won Carlota many friends and admirers, particularly among the women who did
not make it their goal every day to try and bed the king. Lucia rose and curtsied, “Your Majesty” she said.


Carlota Luisa, Queen Consort of Italy

The Queen looked at Lucia with her signature sad, weary smile. “Thank you, it is always a joy to see you Lucia,” she said quietly. Her Italian still bore a trace of Portuguese accent. She was a half-decade younger than Lucia but carried herself with a grace and dignity that gave her an air of wisdom beyond her years.


“Thank
you, Your Majesty,” replied Lucia, “the king asked me to try and find common ground between you and the Lady Adelaide."

The queen hesitated a moment, then sighed. “I have prayed for the strength to make it through this. If anyone else had asked me here today, I would have refused, even if the king, my husband, had ordered me. My very presence here lends this…woman an air of legitimacy. As if she were my equal. It is a notion I find detestable. I only agreed because of the respect and love I bear for you.”

That last statement made Lucia feel both flattered and guilty. She was honored that the queen considered her a trustworthy confidant and friend. She felt bad for subjecting Carlota to this spectacle. “How are the children?” Lucia asked, trying to change the subject.

That caused the queen to smile. “As you can see,” said the queen sweeping her hands over her black dress, “I still mourn the child I lost this past Autumn. I do not know if I will conceive again. But the others are well. Francesco, he is a strong boy. I hope he will make a good king.”


At least a better king than his father
, thought Lucia to herself. “I’m sure he will,” she said instead, putting her hand on the queen’s, “and your girls are just wonderful.” The queen’s daughters were sweet, vivacious children who were a delight to be around. “I also prayed for the soul of the baby you lost. Such sad news. I know what it is like to lose a child.”

“I was just happy that the child was taken
after his baptism. So now I know his soul is in heaven.” The two of them sat there quietly for a long while. The queen reached out and grabbed a book sitting on the large center table which she began reading quietly. Lucia, on the other hand, grew impatient. Adelaide presumes too much, she thought, if she was only making me wait, I would be irritated. To make the queen wait… That was beyond the pale. It was too presumptuous. Lucia got up from her seat and began to pace back and forth in the room, her skirts swishing with each step. She touched the necklace again. Finally, came a knock on the door.

“Enter,” said Lucia. The door swung open and the guard outside let in a plump, young girl of about seventeen. The girl curtsied before looking back and forth from Lucia to the Queen Consort with a sheepish, almost fearful look. Lucia’s heart sank.

“I beg My Maj—Her Majesty’s pardon,” the girl said in a quivering voice, “and…and my Lady’s pardon.”

“Well, as I am a Duchess, the style ‘Your Grace’ is traditionally used,” snapped Lucia, “but I see your mistress has failed to properly inform you of that.”

“Uh…yes…Your Grace…I beg pardon…The Lady Adelaide begs me to inform you that she will be unable to attend today. She has been called on other business.” When she finished speaking, the girl looked at Lucia with the eyes of a child that knows it is about to be beaten for some transgression.

“Thank you,” replied the queen, barely looking up from her book.


“What the
fuck?” replied Lucia with anger. Her hand found a beautiful, finely decorated ceramic bowl that she had a strong urge to smash on the ground.

“I…please…forgive…” the girl was stammering, scared.

“You may go, child,” said the Queen kindly, “the Duchess of Caserta is not angry with you, but with your mistress.”

“Th-thank you,” the girl managed to get through her lips. She went to curtsy in the queen’s direction again but stumbled.

For some reason, this made Lucia angrier. “Out! Out now!” she shouted, pointing menacingly toward the door. The girl, realizing that all need for protocol and formality ought to be disregarded in the face of this terrifying woman, turned and rushed out of the door. Lucia followed and slammed it shut behind her.

“It was not her fault,” said the Queen.

“I know,” replied Lucia, regaining her composure. “It just angers me to see you treated this way,” she said.


Carlota Luisa smiled and rose from her chair. “This is good,” said Carlota Luisa, “now I will not have to deal with this wretched woman until
after the king, my husband, returns from his war. She walked over to Lucia and kissed her forehead. “Every day I am in Florence, I wonder why anyone would want to live in such a place, in such a world. The treachery and backstabbing is endless. But then, I interact with women like you. There are few women of character at court, but you remind me that not all is rotten with this place. You are a good woman, Lucia dé Medici, do not waste any tears on me.”

It was only then that Lucia realized she did indeed have tears running down her face. “I’m sorry, I have had much on my mind, with Enzo leaving and…”

“Do not apologize, my dear,” said the queen, “I understand.”

“Perhaps you could—”

“I do not plan to stay in Florence for long,” the queen cut Lucia off, raising a hand, “His Majesty has not seen fit to appoint me regent in his absence so there is no reason to stay here now. Once he departs, I will retire to the countryside, and pray that His Majesty has left me with child again.” Lucia did not understand how the queen could take such joy from bearing the children of a man who detested her, but this was not the time or place to bring that subject up. “The interests of my children, and of my son in particular, are the only guide I have. All I do, I do for them.”

The Queen smiled. “Perhaps I am not quite as good as you think,” she said, “nor as helpless.”

“How do you mean?” asked Lucia, suddenly intrigued. She had only ever known Carlota as a quiet, pious, docile woman. She was like a kindly nun who just happened to be married to a king.

“Am I not allowed to keep secrets too?” the Queen asked with mock innocence. “Or are only the harlots entitled to secrets?” She touched Lucia’s necklace, examined it, then looked into her eyes. “You wear it well,” said the queen, “I know she would be proud of you. I hope she would be proud of me too. Princess Margherita was always kind to me. I know you think me quiet and submissive, but that is not all I am. I too have learned things at court. I learned from your aunt, and from others. I watch, and I wait. But one day, when the time is right, my enemies will remember their follies.”

That made Lucia shudder in spite of herself. Something about the way the Carlota said that sent a chill through her and Lucia counted herself lucky to be among the queen’s friends. The queen kissed her forehead one more time then took her leave. When Lucia was alone in the room, she spent a moment examining the frescoed ceiling one more time. It was clearly still a work in progress, but the scene above was one from classical antiquity, some sort of allegory, though Lucia could not place it.


After a short while, Lucia rose and left the room. She walked quickly through the halls toward the rear exit of the palace to catch a breath of fresh air. From there, she could reach the half-mile long Vasari Corridor that connected to the Palazzo Vecchio across the river in the center of the city. She could enter the corridor through the entrance just past the Grotto of Buontalenti. The hot, still air of the Florentine summer struck her immediately.
So much for fresh air. To her left she could see most of the city, with Brunelleschi’s Dome and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio most prominent.


The Boboli Gardens

Walking down along the
Meridiana, she passed a statue to some Greek or Roman god to her right. The road then curved back toward the palace as it continued its gentle descent. When Lucia turned back right toward the entrance to the corridor, she spotted a curious sight. Just before the Grotto of Buontalenti, stood a group of courtiers in a tight huddle. They broke off their whispered conversation to look at Lucia. She noticed Letizia Cavalcanti among the group. That is a gorgeous dress she is wearing, Lucia admitted to herself grudgingly as she looked at Letizia. She wore a white silk gown with a long tight bodice, flat skirt, wide double puffed sleeves, bare shoulders, and a deep cleavage. The dress was decorated with red ribbons and a red shawl fastened across the breasts. She wore a pearl necklace with her hair braided in a knot in the back, but worn in loose curls over her ears. Letizia was the sometimes-friend, sometimes-enemy of Adelaide Montefeltro. The pair were usually enemies when the former was getting fucked by the king, and friends when she wasn’t. Both of them hated the Queen Consort though, and Lucia could not help but think that the giggles of the group had something to do with the meeting that had just failed to occur.


The Grotto of Buontalenti

“Conspiring about something?” Lucia asked without a hint of warmth, “you’re too late. By now, the king has already picked his mistress for the day.” One or two of them gave nervous giggles. Whatever else they might think of Lucia, the women of the court knew she was not one to trifle with. “That must have been a delightful jest,” continued Lucia without a trace of warmth, “I should love to hear it.”

Letizia Cavalcanti, confidence buoyed by her brother’s newfound power and the family’s ever-increasing wealth, decided to take on the challenge. “I was just telling a delightful story my brother related to me about Africa,” she said sweetly, “he told me that the negresses there often leave one or both breasts exposed, even when they are formally dressed. Perhaps that can be the next great fashion to hit Florence.”

“The men would love it, for certain,” chimed in Angelica Tornabuoni with a giggle.

“Yes, and who better to introduce it than the Duchess of Caserta?” said Letizia.

“What is that supposed to mean?” asked Lucia in a cold tone. It would never do to get angry in front of the women such as these. That was what they wanted. Better to reply with cold menace than hot rage. “If you wish to insult me, have the courage to do so. Your innuendo is unbecoming.”

Letizia did her best to stifle her giggles and instead looked stricken. “My dear Lucia, I only meant—”


“If you would address me as ‘Your Grace’ that is preferred, there is no need for us to pretend we are friends.” Lucia watched the faces of the other women light up with barely stifled amusement.
This conversation will be the subject of much gossip tonight, I see.

“Indeed…Your Grace,” Letizia muttered. She took a breath then resumed her previous thought, “it is just that so many of the women of the court look to you for the latest fashion trends. We all use you as an example of what to wear."


At least I got a compliment out of this
, Lucia thought bitterly. She prided herself on always being with the latest fashions and carefully cultivated her relationships with the top dressmakers in Florence and Milan to ensure they sent her their best works first. “Well, my husband and my physician are the only men to whom I show my breasts. So I will be foregoing this fashion. But perhaps it is you, Letizia, who ought to wear such a dress. After all, your family now holds dominion over Italy’s little slice of Africa, so who better than you to introduce African fashions? Plus, most of the men at court have already seen your breasts, thus they won’t be as shocked by them and be better able to focus on the dress itself. That is, I assume, the point.”

Letizia gasped, her mouth open wide in shock. A few of her companions could not help but giggle despite themselves and, for Lucia, that marked this particular encounter as a victory.
Maybe getting called a whore in front of your little friends will dissuade you from mocking me in the future, Lucia thought triumphantly. She turned and briskly resumed her walk past the grotto, up the steps, and into the Vasari Corridor, an extra bounce in her step. She liked using this route, a literal corridor of power, between the dynastic and governmental seats of the Italian state. Out of the small windows, she could look down unobserved onto the streets below.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. Enzo’s secretary, a thin, nervous-looking youth of about nineteen, tried to yell some warning at her not to enter the office, but Lucia would have none of it. “A wife has the right to confront her husband when he doesn’t come home at night,” she shouted down the hall. He was too far to stop her anyway. When Lucia burst through the doors of the Admiralty office, she was met by a familiar sight. Three other man were inside, along with her husband. All of them were dressed in their naval uniforms, and all were captains of Italian naval vessels. Maps, papers, and empty bottles of wine covered a large wooden table in the center. Her husband stood before a map of Cyprus hanging on the wall. The map had detailed studies of the island’s various seaports, bays, and inlets, with notes and scribbles on each one. The three captains looked at each other and at Enzo, perplexed. They then rose and all bowed in Lucia’s direction. “May I speak with my husband alone, please,” she said as she curtsied in reply.

“Are you fucking serious?” asked Enzo, still in a state of shock at her sudden intrusion.

“Eh, we got your intent, sir,” said one of the captains. He looked to be the oldest of the three and sported a close-cropped beard and several prominent scars on his face. “Don’t want to keep a husband from his beloved longer than we have to. Especially if he’s heading out to sea.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Lucia.

“Pleasure, my Lady,” said the captain. All three of them bowed again and then departed.


When the door shut, Lucia turned her attention back to Enzo. “I should ask if
you are serious? The night before you leave you just—don’t come home?”

“I got busy, I fell asleep, I was working.” He
looked tired, his puffy red eyes showing he had slept little, if at all, the night prior. He was starting to look his age too with visible creases forming around the corners of his eyes.

“I know you were working,” she said with a sigh. “I do not envy women like the queen, whose husbands sleep with other women. But having a husband enthralled with his work is almost as bad as having a husband who loves whores. Maybe worse. At least whores only take up a few hours of your time, not the entire night.”

“So you’re saying I should work less and go whoring more?”


Lucia’s husband had recently turned 40 and was more than six years older than her. Still, he acted like such a
boy sometimes. “What I’m saying is maybe you should remember you have a wife and family from time to time.”

“We were making final preparations, adjustments.”

“For what?” she asked, irritated, “for some rabble of rebels?”

“That ‘rabble of rebels’ has already destroyed one expedition, may I remind you,” Enzo protested, “and this isn’t to determine who will win or lose that fight. We are going over things that are more detailed. The sort of things that may not tip the scales of a battle, but may make the difference between a ship running aground or not. Between delivering goods to the right or wrong part of the island. Decisions whose effects may be small but can still make the difference between some men living and dying.”

“Well perhaps things of such import ought not to be saved for the last minute.”

“Last evening a messenger arrived with the latest reports of the state of the harbor defenses of Famagusta and other ports on Cyprus.”

“You are not talking your way out of this.”


He let out an exasperated sigh. “Perhaps
we can discuss some logistics as well.”

“For Domenica?” she asked, preempting him. “Do not worry, I know what to do with that. Your sister is a much better communicator than you are and this is not the first time I’ve had to ensure the continuation of payments while you are away at sea.” Enzo and his sister had their own illegal game going on. Domenica, who lived on a Caribbean island named after her, ran a sort of depot for escaped slaves in the New World. She got them to the island and then arranged for them to stay there or be transported to the colonies at Weehawken or Paolo’s Hook where slavery was illegal. Enzo, in his role as admiral and foreign minister, contributed both gold and intelligence to the operation. With the Kingdom of Italy set to get into the slave trade, Domenica and her comrades would need all the help they could get.

That caused him to smile. “How am I so lucky to be blessed with such a wife?”

“Because my father realized that since you were half an orphan he wouldn’t have to pay much of a dowry to give me away.”

Enzo stroked her cheek. “It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

“You have a funny way of showing it.”

“We are well into the morning,” Enzo replied, changing the subject. He looked out of the window onto Piazza del Popolo. “Why not come earlier?”

“I was dealing with more pressing matters.”

“What can be more pressing than harassing your beloved husband?”

“The Queen, and that slut Adelaide Montefeltro.”

Enzo laughed. Lucia then recounted the morning’s events. She also described her run in with Letizia Cavalcanti. This turned Enzo more serious. “That family is a problem. Her brother Andrea in particular.”

“Yes,” Lucia agreed, “you ought to be careful. They enjoy a great deal of the king’s favor.”

“I know how to deal with them.”

“Oh, do you?” asked Lucia, unconvinced, “perhaps you should think about whom you choose to make an enemy.”

“I could say the same to you,” he said, frowning.

“No, no, do not compare me exchanging quips with some courtesan to what you are doing. Men do not take much interest in such things. When you threaten their money on the other hand…”

“I did not choose them as an enemy. They became my enemy when they took over the slave trade.”


She did not
want to rebuke him for that. Lucia grudgingly admired her husband’s hatred of slavery; she just wished he could find ways to fight it that were less threatening to their family. In truth, Lucia should hate slavery more than he did. Her own grandmother was a slave and her father had been dogged by comments and insults about his ancestry his whole life. Lucia was one-quarter Abyssinian, after all, and it was in Africa where the Cavalcanti planned to capture their prey. Still, few things drove men to violence faster than a threat to their incomes. And interfering with the birth and development of the Italian slave trade threatened many people’s money. “I just want you to think things through before you act. You do that when you plan for a naval campaign, but not with some of your more personal missions.”

“Personal missions?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, you should not let your passion projects interfere with the way you are perceived in your official duties. At the end of the day, you're more of a technician than a 'leader of men,' so to speak.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” he asked defensively.


“It means men follow you because they know you're smart and probably won't get them killed, not because you're some indomitable lion inspiring them to great feats of bravery.” Enzo looked hurt, so she immediately followed it up with an explanation. "I didn't mean that as an insult. Men who lead with their minds get less of their subordinates killed for the stupid reasons of vanity or glory. I'm just being realistic. It doesn't matter
why you succeed, as long as you're getting good results. I just bring it up to ask you: what do you think those men will think when you start acting stupidly?"

"Stupidly? How am I acting stupidly?"

"By sailing an Italian naval squadron to the equator to ambush Italian merchant ships?" She smiled at his reaction. "Darling," Lucia said, shaking her head, “you'll make a wretched spy if you leave your papers scattered about.”

"It was just idle talk in a letter, I did nothing."

"No, that is not 'idle talk'!” she snapped at him. His indifference to the dangers of these games made her angry. “That letter is addressed to John Owen in London. He may be your pen pal, but he is also a leading theologian of a heretic faith and a friend of Cromwell. So if Cavalcanti or Montefeltro or one of their cronies saw that, how hard would it be for them to convince my cousin to throw you in prison, or worse?"

"Oh calm down.”


“I will
not calm down,” Lucia said firmly, before lowering her voice, “you have asked me to join you in these…endeavors, but do not be reckless about it or ask me to be reckless. You aren’t a child anymore, you’re 40 and our family has too much to lose. We have five children for God’s sake. Never forget that you do not share the same faith as the king or most of the court. The fact that I do will only get you so far. Remember also that your father may have been friends with mine, and with my uncles, but that he came to Tuscany a hostage. Whatever warm feelings you may share with my cousin now, do not think those cannot vanish in an instant if he deems you are a threat to him or his gold or his slave trade or his glory.”

“I know ,” Enzo said softly. “I will be careful.”

“And don’t think my cousin forgets about your claim.”


“My
claim?”

“To the crown of Naples.”

Enzo scoffed. “Technically, I am like sixth or seventh in line to the throne. My cousin Alfonso would be first in line, then his younger brother, Edoardo and after him my uncle…also an Edoardo I believe, then his—”


“But you’re the senior Boncompagni
in Italy, aren’t you?” He was being stubborn. He knew what she was getting at.

“What of it?”

Lucia shrugged. “You know how paranoid Gianni can get, just keep it in mind.”

“I will.”

“Good,” said Lucia, “you may see him as a friend, but I see my cousin for what he really is: the most dangerous man in all of the world. I’d prefer not to end up a widow living in exile.” She gathered up her skirts. “Now,” she said firmly, “if you feel like fucking me one more time before you leave for God knows how long, I will be at home waiting for you.” She stuck her chin into the air, turned, and headed out the door.


_______________________________


22 August 1644


It was night, and the wine was flowing. Enzo Boncompagni looked about the king’s tent to find someone to talk to. Mostly, it was filled with the king’s favorite fancy lads. The full time professional soldiers were nowhere in evidence here. They had their regiments to attend to. The men in the tent were mostly from the king’s “military council”. What they actually did, aside from running the occasional message to a regiment, was unclear. That went for Enzo as well. His work in Cyprus was largely finished until the time came to carry the army back to Italy. For now, his ships lay at anchor off the coast, waiting for the land portion of the campaign to resolve itself and keeping a lookout should the Grand Turk decide to make a play for Cyprus in this time of turmoil. Thus, for the first time since arriving on the island, Enzo had a chance to familiarize himself with the land, and, at that moment at least, with the men who surrounded the king and influenced his thinking.


Enzo had known King Gian Gastone I from when they were children. After his own father died in the Battle of Florence, he had spent a great deal of time as a ward of Prince Giulio dé Medici, the king’s father. Thus, he and the king had spent much of their teen years together, and there were few men in the realm whom His Majesty trusted more. However, the king did not seem to actually
like spending time with Enzo. Instead, the king preferred to spend his leisure time with men such as these, who thought him a great wit and praised his prowess as a hunter.

Enzo remembered the drunken argument he’d had with Lucia, as he was leaving for Livorno in route to Cyprus. He remembered how he found her naked in their bedroom when he returned home from his office in the Palazzo Vecchio. They made love and drank wine the way they always did before he had to go to sea but the tension this time marred the atmosphere. She had never hidden her personal dislike for her royal cousin, going so far as to openly defy and mock him at court once. That had gotten Lucia thrown out of the Palazzo Pitti and banished from Florence for a time until her father intervened on her behalf. Lucia hated Gian Gastone for being a “pig”, for impregnating one of her friends and casting her aside (Lucia eventually talked the king into a modest stipend for the child), for disrespecting the queen consort, for being cruel to the common folk, and on, and on. Enzo agreed with his wife on all counts. Still, he was obliged to serve the realm and its king, for better or worse. Plus, Enzo wanted no parts of the Medici’s intra-familial squabbles. More than once in the past, that sort of thing had led to bloodshed.

“His Majesty will not forsake me,” was the statement that had started his wife on her tirade.

“His Majesty,” she had mocked him, “our fathers served a king worthy of such an honorific. What kind of a king do you serve?”


One who takes whatever woman he wants, by force if necessary. One who supports and celebrates the slave trade and its attendant horrors. One who thinks war is a game.
“The one who rules by the Grace of God and the Will of the People,” was all he replied.

Lucia scoffed at that and then met his eyes with a concerned look. “Listen to yourself, even you don’t believe any of that. You should resign, become a merchant. We can move to Amsterdam. My brothers will set you up. They like you.” The Black Prince had married a daughter of the Duke of Holland and established Lucia’s true-born half-siblings as a highly profitable Dutch auxiliary branch of the Medici family. They were doing quite well for themselves. The eldest son, Pietro, ran the Amsterdam branch of the Medici bank, while the middle son, Leo, had found a place among the senior leadership of the world’s foremost trade corporation: the
Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC. Enzo knew them well, having spent many years in the Low Countries when he was younger. Much of his naval expertise came from spending long days observing and talking to Dutch sailors, shipbuilders, and traders. Amsterdam in particular was a delightful, cosmopolitan port city where any and all manner of people were welcome. It was a wonderful place to live.

Still, Lucia’s was an unrealistic proposal. “You’re mad,” said Enzo dismissively.

“Sure,” she said, rolling her eyes, “insult me. But when the king gets you killed on some stupid whim of his, who will comfort me at night? Who will be a father to my children? Nothing positive can come out of your service to my cousin.”

“I serve Italy.”

“Good, remind yourself of that when you’re in Cyprus watching villages burn.” She did not speak to him for the rest of the night. Her farewell the following day was cold and abrupt. “Don’t get killed,” were her final words to him.


He
was still alive, though he had also watched two villages burn since setting foot on Cyprus. How many more before we leave this place? He did not want to speak with any of the men he saw. Still, he wanted a drink. He poured himself a glass of sour red from a pitcher on a small table and looked around.

Nearby, he spotted Andrea Cavalcanti, freshly returned from the Niger Delta insisting everyone call him “Governor-General”. He sat off to one side with Merryweather Pennyfarthing, Duke of Surrey. In truth, the so-called Duke was little better than a beggar, kept in Florence for the king's amusement along with a few other fops from the Lancastrian court-in-exile. He spent much of his time drinking and eating with the king and satiating his own well-known appetite for Italian women. Red faced and just a touch too plump for his clothing, the Duke was laughing at some joke Cavalcanti made. He was the commander of the
Reggimento Inglese, light cavalry led by exiled Englishmen but made up mostly of Italian and Croat horsemen. The regiment was partly paid for and supported by the Lancastrian claimant to the throne of England: “King” Richard IV. The troops of the regiment were decent enough, and there were even some capable English officers among the leadership, but the Duke of Surrey took precedence by noble rank and he had the favor of both Gian Gastone and Richard, so he commanded. He was inept and far from reliable with a tendency to panic when flustered. Against the rebels at Genoa, he had blundered into a particularly well dug-in group of arqubussiers who unloaded several heavy volleys into the Inglese. A few poor bastards went down with their horses and the rest of the regiment beat a hasty withdrawal. They were able to recover some honor by successfully charging a group of fleeing rebels later on in the day. All in all, he was pompous and irritating but as harmless as he was incompetent.

The Duke of Surrey's conversation partner was of greater interest to Enzo. Governor-General Cavalcanti, also bearing the title Count of Macerata, was a dear friend of the king and brother to His Majesty’s favorite mistress. He had ridden that affection to great prestige and, most lucratively, control of the newly established Italian colony of Bonny and the soon-to-be-booming Italian slave trade. He had already forced the Kingdom of Ibani to submit to Italian rule, but the people of that land had been left largely unmolested since. Cavalcanti and his newly formed
Compagnia della Guinea planned to change that. Once the campaign in Cyprus was over, the Governor-General planned on returning to his African domain and promptly enslaving the unsuspecting local population. This was all to happen with the happy blessing of a monarch who styled himself "the Defender of the Faith".

The Cavalcanti family was an ancient and prominent Florentine clan. Andrea’s most notable ancestor was Guido Cavalcanti, the Italian poet and troubadour who was friends with Dante and one of the creators of the
Dolce stil novo (Sweet New Style). Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, Guido’s father, was a philosopher and banker and one of their descendants was the poet Giovanni Cavalcanti. The current crop of the family, however, lacked their ancestors’ literary skill but made up for it by being obsessed with money and prestige. They were longstanding members of the Guelph party in Florence and one of the earliest Medici supporters. They had followed Girolamo dé Medici into exile after the rise of Savonarola and then backed his coronation as Grand Duke after the Dominican friar’s fall. As such, they had long enjoyed the support and friendship of the royal family.

Andrea noticed Enzo staring at him and stood up. He performed an elaborate bow.
At least he still knows he has to show me some respect, Enzo observed. Surrey, also a duke, was not obliged to give Enzo a bow, and made no movement to stand, though he did raise his cup. Enzo walked over to them.

"Your Grace," Cavalcanti said again, "we were just discussing the matter of the transportation of goods. You are undoubtedly a master of logistics, perhaps you have a taste for making some money as well."

"If you are referring to the transport of slaves," Enzo replied, "I have no interest. Though I congratulate you and your family on your new business.” The last bit came out grudgingly and the Count did not miss it.

“You do not like the slave trade, do you, Your Grace?”

“I do not,” replied Enzo matter-of-factly, “I find it disgusting and immoral.”

"You are being too grim," said Surrey dismissively, "they will be better off in the Caribbean. Good air and sun there." The Englishman had only the slightest trace of an accent.

"His Grace is correct," Cavalcanti agreed, with a titter, "they are treated better than you think. Not to mention that the transportation of Africans to the New World for work is endorsed and celebrated by His Majesty. Surely, you do not think the king is wrong."


His Majesty is wrong
. "His Majesty knows my position on this issue."

“Didn’t Machiavelli say that if it is good for the prince and his state to do something, then it is good?” asked Surrey with a smirk, “he
is your predecessor, isn’t he?”

Enzo shook his head. “That’s where you are mistaken, my dear Duke of Surrey. When Machiavelli advises the Prince to carry out the Machiavellian scheme of action, he invests those actions with no sort of morality or beauty. For him, morality is the same for all men, whether prince or peasant. All that he observes—and not without melancholy—is that morality can be incompatible with successful politics in certain cases. But for him evil, even if it aids politics, still remains evil. He was a realist, but being a man of the Renaissance, he was not consumed with a thirst and worship of power. He understood the pursuit of power, but he never thought that power for its own sake was inherently good. The modern realists are the true moralists of the realism my predecessor pioneered. For them, the act which increases the power and the glory of the state is invested with a moral character simply by the fact that it does so, no matter what the act may be. The evil which serves politics ceases to be evil and becomes good.”

“And what did your predecessor think of having advisors that disagreed with the prince?” asked Cavalcanti.

“Well,” replied Enzo, finally interested in the conversation for its own sake, “considering he often disagreed with Antonio Grimaldi, the Gonfaloniere at the time, he would probably say it was good. Machiavellie is misunderstood, he often counseled mercy and pragmatism with enemies and even rebels.”

“Well, I know some of us here are very happy about that mercy.”

“Say what you mean.”

“Is it not obvious?” Cavalcanti asked with an arched eyebrow, “your ancestors could have all been put to the sword, but the Medici spared them, and here you are now.”

“My father died fighting for the Medici,” Enzo said indignantly, “whatever you may think of my family’s history, I think our loyalty is beyond reproach now.”


“Insurrection of thought always precedes insurrection of arms,” said Cavalcanti, in a tone that indicated he meant for this to sound sagacious.
Insurrection!? Before Enzo could reply, Cavalcanti turned to Surrey. “His Grace’s wife has a bit of negro blood in her, I believe.” They both turned to look at Enzo, who clenched his fists as he felt his face flush with anger. Cavalcanti must have recognized the look. “Uh, I mean no offense of course; I was merely stating it as a matter of fact. As an explanation for why you may have tender feelings towards the negro.”

“Ah, yes, I am
quite familiar with the Duchess of Caserta,” said Surrey in a voice that can only have been meant to provoke Enzo. The admiral ignored the comment despite now having a sudden urge to put his dagger through the Englishman’s eye.

“My ‘tender feelings’ for those you intend to enslave ought not to be mistaken for some sort of weakness, Andrea,” he said instead, looking at Cavalcanti. “I serve the king, though I disagree with him. But I do not serve you, and you would do well to never mention my wife again.”


“My apologies, Your Grace,” said Cavalcanti, with another sly grin, "His Majesty prizes men of talent. You are of such great value to him that he tolerates your healthy dissent and your...faith." The last word he spoke with a sharper edge than the rest.
A blade dripping with honey.

The Duke of Surrey nodded along knowingly. “It takes a good king to manage different faiths, that’s why it is always best to just have one. Even that monster Cromwell has come to rue the day he let his Puritan underlings run wild. Now, he is beset by the Fifth Monarchy Men on one side and all manner of Barkers, Ranters, Levellers, and Quakers on the other. Vavasor Powell and his ilk run around talking about the coming end of the world. It’s all a mess.”

“Perhaps the Duke of Caserta will enter the service of the King of England one day,” said Cavalcanti with a chuckle.

Before Enzo could retort, Pennyfarthing cleared his throat. “Eh…Cromwell is no king…no matter what that rump of a parliament decides to call him. He’s a usurper.”


A usurper…and a better battle commander than anyone the Royalists put up against him
. Enzo had read extensively about the rise of Cromwell, the Parliamentarian “Roundheads”, and their New Model Army. They had successfully mowed down an entire generation of Lancastrian court fops and, judging by those dead men’s descendants (such as the the one sitting before him now), the chances of a Restoration were close to zero. All for the better, in Enzo’s opinion. He had a strong admiration for the Puritans as well as for Cromwell and his Parliamentarians. Cromwell resisted taking the title king until his people and his parliament all but forced it on him. He who deserved it more than most other men. Enzo could not help but contrast this to others who called themselves king, few of whom had ever shown a fraction of Cromwell’s skill, leadership, or humility.

Cavalacanti shrugged. Even he was unperturbed by the “error” of correctly referring to Cromwell as king.
When you are as soundly beaten and ignominiously exiled as the Lancastrians were, observed Enzo, even your ostensible friends have a hard time respecting your cause. “Sure,” the Count of Macerata said, “whatever you call him then.”

"My official duties do not bring me into conflict with your business,” said Enzo, returning the discussion to the matter of slavery. “However, we make it
our business to fight the slave trade in the Mediterranean. Believe it or not, the people of Italy do not like being kidnapped and carried off by corsairs from overseas."

The slightest trace of doubt flickered across Cavalcanti's face.
He finally realizes I am an enemy, Enzo thought, not merely some courtier with whom he can toy. The Count soon recovered his composure however. "And should His Majesty order you to protect one of my fleets?" The Governor-General now put on a mocking grin. He wants me to know that he is not afraid of me.

Enzo returned a cold stare this time.
I am the Duke of Caserta and High Admiral of the Italian Fleet, I owe no explanation to this monster. “Keep this in mind, Andrea: one day it might an Italian fleet that intercepts your slavers.” With that, he turned and walked away from the conversation and out of the pavilion. The night air was much cooler than the stifling heat inside. Enzo took a deep breath. In the morning he was meeting with the king, and none of the fools from tonight would be there, he hoped.

__________________________________________


23 August 1644

The water was everywhere.
I am drowning, Enzo realized. Then an arm wrapped about his chest and underarms. His shoulders and head jerked up and out of the water. Someone was carrying him, he could feel the person’s body straining against the current, but all Enzo could do was hang limply. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the heels of his feet scraped the muddy bottom of the river. The person carrying him dumped his body unceremoniously onto the bank. Enzo stared up for a moment, seeing nothing but a pale blue sky with a smattering of clouds. Then, a boy’s face smiled down at him.

“See, he’s fine,” said Gianni with a smile. A number of other children’s faces suddenly crowded into view, all looking down at him. “You saved him, Gianni, that was so brave,” said a girl’s voice.

“Do you not think it funny?” Gianni asked Enzo.

“Funny?” Enzo croaked, before coughing up some more water.

“My joke, you didn’t like it?” asked Gianni again. Enzo squinted a moment and suddenly he wasn’t looking at Gianni, the boy, but rather at Gian Gastone I, King of Italy and Defender of the Catholic Faith.


Enzo shook his head.
Where does my mind wander off to sometimes? “I apologize, Majesty, I was distracted by some thoughts.”

The king gave him a queer look. “I hope you’re thinking how we are going to load all of my dammed cargo back on your ships once this battle is over,” he said, “we have too many supplies. I never thought I’d criticize my admiral for being
too good at his job.” Enzo realized what the king was getting at. His Majesty had spent the day before last watching rowboat after rowboat shuttle supplies to shore from the Italian ships off the coast. “Too much shit,” the king had muttered.

“Your Majesty,” said Enzo, flipping his mind back to the work at hand, “we may have need of those supplies yet. Even after Your Majesty defeats the rebels tomorrow. The battle may not spell the end of the campaign.”

“Indeed,” chimed in Ercole di Canossa, helpfully, “even if Your Majesty takes the bulk of his men home, we will need to leave a garrison. And better a well provisioned one than one lacking in supplies.” Ercole was serving as the king’s “political advisor” for Cyprus. His successful stint governing Crete had convinced the king of to bring him along and then leave him behind in Cyprus to rule in his name once the fighting was over.

The king laughed. “Well I suppose you’re right. If Carnesecchi were here, he’d tell both of you to shut your mouths because it isn’t your money that you’re spending.” He shrugged. “But a king should not concern himself with petty expenses. Let my men be well provisioned, as you say. I have no wishes to return to this island to put down another rebellion. If that’s what it takes, it’s good with me.”


He may be a bastard, but at least he listens to counsel
, Enzo thought, when it suits him at least. Grudgingly, the admiral had to accept that the king had other qualities as well. He pursued policies that were profitable and beneficial for the Italian economy. This skill led him to a dark places, namely, the embrace of slavery, but it also meant benefits like greater food security for Italian peasants. His Majesty was also proving to be a capable commander, if results thus far were any indication. He had no “great victory” as of yet, but he clearly understood how the army worked, how it received and consumed goods, and how to organize its parts. For Admiral Boncompagni, logistics were the key to victory both at sea and on land, and his friend understood this.

Ercole cleared his throat before speaking. “Ehm, Your Majesty, there is still the matter of the general.”

Gianni frowned. “A king should not have to waste his time speaking to peasants.” He looked back and forth between Ercole and Enzo a moment. “Very well, bring him, let’s get this over with.” Ercole nodded and quickly stepped out of the tent.

Enzo looked at the king. “Did you want to tell me that joke?”


Gian Gastone studied him a moment, then smiled. “Forget the joke,
you make me laugh. You and Ercole both. When the two of you are speaking with me together, you’re all formality and courtesy. But get either one of you alone, and you both immediately start talking to me like we’re all children again. You ought to just drop the act when it is the three of us.”

“It isn’t an act,” Enzo protested, “but if you tell me I don’t have to keep pretending to kiss your ass when Ercole is around, I’ll take you up on the offer.” He greatly preferred Gianni, the childhood friend, over Gian Gastone, King of Italy. The former was friendly, even reasonable. The latter, whatever his practical skills, was a petulant, irritable, impulsive tyrant, liable to lash out and blame everyone and anyone.
In many ways, he was more mature as a boy than he is now.

The king looked around, as if to ensure no one else was in the tent. “I have enough people who kiss my ass,” he whispered, with a warm smile, “what I do not have is enough true friends.”

Words of affection from Gianni had become rare since he took up the mantle of kingship, but this made them all the more meaningful. It was also never far from Enzo’s mind that however much he may disapprove of the king’s policies or recoil from his behavior, the admiral owed the man his life for saving him from drowning in a river when they were children. Enzo wanted to think of a proper reply, something meaningful, but never had the chance.


“Alessandro di Ferrari, Count of Maranello,” Ercole announced, interrupting them as he re-entered the pavilion. The enormous general strode in behind him trailed by two soldiers bringing up the rear. Ferrari wore no armor, no marks of rank, just soiled peasants’ clothing and a long, wild black beard. He had not been given a chance to bathe or shave. He
looked like a peasant, which is surely what king was hoping for.

The king launched into a tirade immediately, dispensing with all pleasantries. All signs of the previous moment’s warmth and friendship were gone. Gian Gastone mocked Ferrari’s intelligence, his low birth, his defeat. There was no mention that after the battle Ferrari had organized the survivors and carried on a clandestine fight against the rebels. That he had never wavered in his devotion to duty.


“The Duke of Caserta gave you all the logistical support you needed,” the king was saying. The mention of his title caused Enzo to listen in. “You still failed.” Enzo looked at the ground. He did not want to meet the general’s eyes.
You do not always have to drag me into your squabbles, Gianni, the admiral pleaded silently. Enzo liked Ferrari despite his gruff demeanor and complete lack of social graces. He was tough as nails and willing to carry out any order without question.

For Enzo, Ferrari also represented one of the last links back to his own father’s generation, to the men of the era both the scholars and the poets now dubbed, “The Age of Heroes”. Most were dead or retired now, but in their primes, they were the men who forged the kingdom, and their stories had already passed into legend. There was the wise and noble King Alberto, the bold and fearsome “Black Prince” Alessandro, the stoic and dedicated Prince Giulio, the wily and determined Leo Gattilusio, and many more. Even the Polish Prince Karol Ferdynand and the Austrian General von Waldstein had found their way into the Italian mythos. Chief among them, even above the king, was Carlo Cercignani, “
il Generale d’Italia”, the Savior of Florence, the paragon of Italian soldierly virtue. Enzo’s father was in there too. Perhaps he was just a supporting character in the great epic, but even his name had found its way into stories, particularly in the south. Federico Boncompagni, descendant of the old Kings of Naples, killed by the last shot of the battle while leading the men of the Campania against their old Spanish oppressors. The Battle of Florence, even more so than Alberto I’s coronation as King of Italy, served as a symbol of Italian unity, perhaps the only true symbol. A Calabrese may have a manner of speaking, a culture, and a way of life vastly different from a Veronese, but at least they all had this story in common. Even as the statues to the king, the two Medici princes, and Leo Gattilusio were erected in Florence, other cities were putting up monuments to their own heroes. Modena dedicated one to Ferrari. In Lucca there was a monument to Guido Castracani. In Abruzzo, statues and stories abounded of Giustino di Casoli, the hunter-turned-simple-soldier who was said to have slain, among numerous other foes, two Grandees of Spain with his own hand. Enzo knew that all of these stories were embellished and romanticized. He knew it was very unlikely that his father had truly been slain by the last shot of the battle. Still, it all represented something bigger than the men involved. Watching one of those heroes receive a dressing down from a petulant king evoked the sort of feeling a boy experiences seeing his father suffer humiliation for the first time.

It took Enzo a moment to realize the king had stopped his haranguing. An uncomfortable silence filled the pavilion. Enzo glanced up and noticed Ferrari staring just above the king’s head, his eyes fixed on some point in the canvas siding of the great tent. Ercole was also staring at the ground. If Enzo knew his friend, Ercole’s mind had already moved on to his own coming “challenging conversation” with the king, wherein he would plead with His Majesty to
not put the entire population of Cyprus to the sword.

Did my father ever harbor doubts about his service? Did any of the others?
Enzo couldn’t picture it. Times just seemed simpler back then. Men did what they were told, and could do so comfortably, because they were led by a good and wise king and commanded by a brilliant and magnanimous general. And what do we have? Enzo looked at Gianni. Was he always like this? Were we only not scared of him back then because he was a child with no power? He certainly has the power now. The admiral chided himself for letting Gianni’s earlier compliment go to his head, like some silly courtier.

“Go away,” the king finally declared. Ferrari stood still, his expression had not changed the entire time he was in the tent. The old general bowed, took three steps back, and then turned to leave. The two young soldiers at the entrance, assigned to “guard” him, eyed their charge nervously as they turned to follow him out. Gianni watched Ferrari go, then he smiled. “What did you think of
that?” the King of Italy asked gleefully.

“Your Majesty was within his rights to question some of the general’s methods,” replied Ercole, trying not to sound awkward.


“Methods?” scoffed Gianni, “I questioned his very right to bear his titles. I would strip them from him right here and now, but I am sure I’d hear whining from the old timers and my regiments from the
Padania. But mark my words: he will never fight under my command again. Nor will he command anything more than a regiment. Peasants are not meant to lead their betters into battle.”

He helped save your life when they relieved Florence!
Enzo wanted to shout. Instead, he actually said, “a king should choose his commanders wisely.”

It did not matter, Gianni barely gave his words a thought. “So, Ercole,” he said, “tell me about this plan to win these rebels over to my side.”

“Thank you, Majesty,” replied Ercole, walking over to the large map hanging on the side of the tent. “I believe there is cause to punish many of the rebellion’s leaders, Ducas chief among them, of course. However, I caution against visiting any retribution upon the rank and file soldiers who took up arms for him. Show them mercy and magnanimity and they will give you loyalty in return. They will think of you as a good king, who heard their voices and—”


“Where is the girl?” Gianni interrupted suddenly.
The girl? It took Enzo a moment to realize whom the king was referring to. Then he remembered the high-born girl who escaped her imprisonment by the rebels to take up arms with Ferrari and the survivors of his expedition.

“Uhhh…yes Majesty,” replied Ercole, uncertainly, “she should be waiting outside.”


“Bring her in,” said the king, “I want to look upon this daughter of Italian nobility who fought so bravely.” As the king turned back to his map, Ercole shot an exasperated glance at Enzo. All the admiral could do was reply with a shrug.
What farce must we bear witness to next? Enzo wondered.

______________________________________


23 August 1644


Ferrari emerged from the king's pavilion with two nervous looking soldiers flanking him. Presumably, these were his escorts. The big man looked angry, but he seethed in silence. He marched away with barely a passing glance at Ginevra, his long strides easily outpacing those of his guards. Whatever had happened in there, the general had endured it without protest. All the while, Ginevra heard only one voice, and it was not the familiar growl of the Count of Maranello.

Another man emerged shortly after. He was finely dressed in bright silks; a crest featuring the Medici arms halved with those of a white dog gnawing a bone on a red field was embroidered on his doublet. He smiled kindly at her. "The king will see you now, child," he said softly.


Ginevra straightened herself up. She was very tall for a woman, and rather flat chested. To better hide these perceived shortcomings, she slouch unconsciously whenever she stood.
I must not slouch when I meet the king, she thought, and I must remember my manners and courtesies. As a young woman of noble birth, she had been taught all the right things to do and say when before her betters, up to and including the king. However, months of living with fugitive soldiers, sleeping outdoors, and eating raw meat and vegetables for fear of drawing attention with a cook fire had eroded many of the refinements that came along with her gentle birth. Survival had been the order of the day, and survival had been dirty, brutal, and desperate. If I can survive the rebels and the wilderness, surely I can endure a conversation with the king, she told herself.

Ginevra must have looked nervous, because the man noticed it too. "Have no fear," he said reassuringly, "His Majesty has never liked General Ferrari, but he treats women kindly. I am Ercole di Canossa, the soon-to-be-viceroy of this island.” He moved next to Ginevra and firmly but gently placed a hand on her back between her shoulders and walked her into the pavilion.

It took Ginevra's eyes a moment to adjust to the dark interior. The first thing she saw was a giant map of the island hanging along the left side. Then, she saw him. Gian Gastone I, King of Italy, resplendent in a white silk shirt embroidered with cloth of gold worn under a golden breastplate. He wore a sword on his right hip on a belt of fine black leather. His dark brown hair fell to his shoulders in soft, loose curls. He had olive skin and bright green eyes. In her nineteen years, Ginevra had never developed a romantic or erotic attraction to men, but she knew enough to know that the king had the sort of look most women considered handsome. She bowed deeply, “Your Majesty.”


The king turned to face her, his eyes going up and down her body. He took a few steps toward her then stopped again. Ginevra was taller than him, significantly so.
Could he beintimidated? she wondered suddenly. If His Majesty was intimidated, he covered it up with condescension. “Some said you were a beauty,” he said, “and others that you were a hideous hag.” He shook his head. “I see now that you are neither, just mostly unremarkable, so far as appearance goes.”

How do I respond to that
? she wondered. Even if Ginevra could remember all of her childhood lessons, nobody ever taught her how to respond to a king who insulted her looks.

“The Lady Ginevra is the daughter of Felice Toscani, a loyal servant of Your Majesty,” said the Lord of Canossa. It was only at that moment that Ginevra noticed a third man in the tent. This one was dressed in the manner of a sea captain of a military vessel. He was busy doing a detailed examination of the map of Cyprus, though he occasionally looked her way with curiosity. “She escaped the rebels’ captivity,” Canossa continued, “to heroically continue the loyal resistance with the men of Ferrari’s expedition.”

“Yes, yes I heard the story,” replied the king dismissively, without taking his eyes off Ginevra.

In the momentary reprieve offered by the other man’s words, she conjured something that sounded entirely proper. “Your Majesty does me a kindness,” she said, trying to sound grateful, “but all women must be unattractive when compared to the beauty of Her Majesty, the Queen Consort.”


At that comment, Gian Gastone I, by the Grace of God and the Will of the People, King of Italy and Defender of the Faith, began laughing giddily. “
That cold-hearted harpy?” he asked, amid giggles and snickers, “it would be more fun to fuck this cup.” He held the vessel aloft, as if contemplating whether his hyperbole was actually true. “No, no,” he continued, “between you and the Queen Consort, I’d pick you. At least with you I’d get to experience what it is like to fuck an Amazon.” He stepped closer again, the top of his head reached to about where Ginevra’s nose was. He ran his hand up her side, his finger lightly brushing her left breast as he did so. “You do have pretty eyes,” the king allowed, “perhaps I am being too harsh a judge. Cleaned up and dressed up, you may be decent enough to look upon.” Ginevra stood still, waiting to see what the king would do next. “One more thing,” he said finally, after a few awkward moments, “it is an error for you to feign modesty when you are talking to me.”

What have I done?
“I hope Your Majesty can forgive me,” Ginevra pleaded, “but I am still a young girl and I do not know how I have given Your Majesty offense. But I assure you it was not purposeful, and I will be pleased to fix my errors.”

That made the king smile, more benevolently this time. “People use humility when they wish to flatter me and win my favor,” he explained, “and I know that I am a vain king. So I prefer the company of so-called sycophants and lick-spittles.” His Majesty paused. “To tell the truth, I never understood why these words are pejorative. They are the best sort of company to keep around. What man does not want to spend his days hearing compliments? But when it comes time to do the ruling, I prefer men who can be honest. These two never cease to vex me,” he said indicating Canossa and the sea captain, “but even
I recognize they are worth a hundred fawning courtiers. I’ve never had need for an honest woman before, but I’ve never relied on a woman to rule. Something tells me you may be different.”

“Different how?” Ginevra asked shyly, “if His Majesty will permit me to ask.”

“I will,” said the king, “consider it a fit of curiosity. Most men will tell you a woman cannot withstand war. However, I have heard the stories of your time with Ferrari and his men. Ferrari may be a low-born brute, but any woman who can survive with him and his ilk must have some toughness in her. So, I decided I want to see if a young girl might know things my veteran commanders do not.”

“Would this cause a rift among your generals?” she asked, curiously.


“Now you go too far, child,” he said, “I like you, but I am not sure if I
trust you yet. And the state of morale in my army is not yet your business. However, if you impress me, I might make it your business.”

“Forgive me for being foolish, Your Majesty.”

“I cannot forgive you for foolishness,” he said, not unkindly, “but I may forgive you for being inexperienced. I forbid you to be a fool, however. I asked to see you because I have need of your intellect and cunning. If those qualities are lacking, then I have no need for you.” He studied her face a moment. “Now I want you to tell me about the weaknesses of my enemy. If you make me happy I may even invite you into my bed tonight.”

“I am a married woman,” Ginevra stated, vaguely hoping this might keep His Majesty’s pawing at a distance. It was not the most thought through response, and it failed anyway.

“That usually is of no concern to me,” he replied, bored. “Plus, your marriage was done by force in a heathen ceremony. It is not recognized by the Church, nor is it recognized by me. I doubt you had any true love for the man.”

She kept her eyes downcast, low enough to avoid His Majesty’s gaze, which meant that she had to stare at the king’s golden breastplate instead. It featured a majestic eagle perched atop a fleur-de-lis. Below that was an intricately wrought scene showing a brave knight mounted on a warhorse heroically charging into a group of men who looked to be Saracens. “I loved him not,” she replied, softly, “but he was no monster either. He is a young officer, only a year older than I am. He treated me kindly enough.”

“Not kindly enough for you to stay with him,” the king pointed out.


“No, not
that kindly, Your Majesty,” Ginevra agreed, “I was looking for something more than a comfortable life as a Cypriot nobleman’s wife.”

“And what is it you were looking for?” the king asked, as his right index finger stroked her left cheek, “to be the mistress of a king?”


Even for a king, he presumes too much
, she thought. But what she said was: “Your Majesty honors me with such—”

“I am not
honoring you, girl,” the king cut her off, his voice slightly raised, irritated now, “I told you not to play the shy humble maiden with me. Now, I am asking you a question.” His hand slid down and gripped her chin, lifting her head slightly to look at him, though she was still looking down. It was an odd feeling. “What do you want?” he asked again.

“Revenge for my family and for my comrades who died in the wilderness,” Ginevra replied, her eyes locked onto his this time, “and to make my own way, control my own life.”

“And how do you mean to do that?” the king asked, amused.

“I have no family left to me now. General Ferrari and the rest of the men I survived with are the closest thing I have left to family in this world. But I must need support myself now. I would do so by being a soldier,” she replied, putting some confidence into her voice. “I think I am pretty good at it.”


The king smiled at her answer. “That is the
second best answer you could have given me, but one I will happily accept, for it is what I want as well.” He paused and turned toward the map on the wall.

Ginevra looked at him for a moment, wondering what he meant now. Then the king turned to Canossa. “Bring in Grimaldi,” he said. The governor pivoted and exited the pavilion. The king turned back to Ginevra. “I know just how to use you,” he said with a smirk. Ginevra did what she could to hide her expression.
I must appear unperturbed. The king must have noticed this and chuckled.

“Not for
that,” he said, eying her up and down, “not right now, anyway. There is a war to fight.” He paused and took her hand in his. “No, my dear, I mean to use you to gain my victory. No offense, but there are many women in my orbit who are far prettier than you. I may flatter you and offer you my affection,” he said, lowering his voice, “but I don’t really want you for what’s between your legs. But you may possess three things that make you better than any other women I know right now: you are sharp, you know the lay of the land, and you have seen this rabble fight. That is how I plan to use you.”

“General Ferrari knows all those things as well,” Ginevra ventured, “why not have him assist you?”

“Ferrari’s incompetence and simple peasant mind are the reasons I am here to begin with. I have no more use for that oaf. Plus, while you may not be quite the paragon of beauty I am used to, you are still much more pleasant to look upon than he is. And do not forget the value for the artists!”

Ginevra was unsure what the king meant. “The artists?” she asked.

The king smiled. “Being a king is not just about skill, but about image. We have a battle to win and then, after, a story to tell. Serve me well, and I will have the greatest poets and singers in Italy telling your story: the innocent maiden who brought down a rebellion.”


Before Ginevra could think of something to say, they were interrupted by two men entering the pavilion. The first was Canossa, who returned to announce, “Colonel Grimaldi, of the
Reggimento Grimaldi.” Behind him entered another man, tall and lean with a hard face. He was dressed all in black and gray, with the exception of an enormous, garishly bright ostrich plume in his hat. He removed the hat and placed it on top of one of the small wooden tables and then he bowed. “Your Majesty,” he said, in a deep, smooth voice.

“Grimaldi,” said the king happily, “I have a gift for you.” The soldier did not reply, he simply shifted his eyes back and forth between the king and Ginevra. “Though she may not look the part, this is Lady Ginevra, and she will serve as a scout for your men tonight.”


______________________________________


26 August 1644

The king and his admiral stood on the mostly empty beach, watching several small boats row out to the frigates waiting offshore. Only two small rowboats, and a small clutch of sailors remained on the sand. “Unbelievable,” Gian Gastone said happily, “now
that is efficiency.” His Majesty no longer wore his armor, choosing instead a loose and airy silk shirt in a deep red, khaki riding pants, and fine black leather boots. Enzo was in his standard seafaring uniform: a dark green coat and matching pants over a white cotton shirt and some worn but comfortable brown boots. “I told you this was a good spot,” the king added.

The choice of this particular stretch of coastline, about a mile and a half
west of Dhekelia Bay, had been the king’s notion. Enzo originally counseled against the idea, as did several of the army commanders, since it seemed ludicrous to shuttle supplies back and forth by small craft when there was a perfectly suitable harbor so close by. It would triple the time it took to unload the ships and then load them back up again. Still, his reasons were cautious but sensible: it avoided keeping the ships tied up in a harbor with a still-hostile population living close by, it allowed the ships to provide defensive fire support to the supply depot, and the wide flat land along the coast made it harder for any enemies to sneak up unnoticed. Enzo was not going to begrudge a commander who put that much thought into the defense of his supplies.

The challenge for Enzo and his men was to get the supplies onshore and then back off as quickly as possible. The fact that they succeeded made the king happy. “I can always rely on you,” he said, “I don’t have to worry about you fucking it all up. Unlike some of the others…” Enzo liked the sound of that. Not all of His Majesty’s favorite
ragazzi had acquitted themselves well in the recent battle. “And that Pennyfarthing…” Gianni muttered, shaking his head.

The Duke of Surrey’s performance in the battle was underwhelming even by Enzo’s already low expectations of him. This was no indictment of the
Reggimento Inglese as a whole, of course. The duke’s cavalrymen had actually fought quite admirably, but that was part of the problem. Surrey got lost just as the battle was beginning and spent a good deal of time riding around aimlessly trying to find his men. In the meantime, the Inglese just sat around waiting for orders until a bolder and more tactically gifted English gentleman took command and ordered an attack which scattered an enemy infantry formation, took a key piece of high ground, and captured four rebel field guns. News of this successful cavalry charge arrived at the king’s position while Surrey was standing right next to His Majesty. The shocked look on the duke’s face gave the game away and hilarity ensued. By the end of the storm of laughter coming from the king and the other assembled officers, Surrey had been fired from leading the Inglese and “whomsoever happened to order that charge” had been promoted to regimental commander.

Surrey’s was the most spectacular failure of the day, but far from the only one. One of the king’s newer and younger favorites, Rodrigo Peruzzi, had also gotten lost trying to deliver a message to a Venetian regiment and was captured by the rebels. Another, Cosimo dé Bardi, accidentally marched his unit, the third battalion of the
Reggimento del Fiore, directly in front of an Italian artillery position. This prevented the guns from firing until frantic gunners ran down the hill to point out why the battalion’s position was less than optimal.

Cavalcanti, who mostly sat around the king’s command tent making jokes and smoking tobacco had no such opportunity to embarrass himself in the eyes of the king. On the other hand, he had no way of winning praise either.

“Did you hear about the girl?” the king asked suddenly.

“What girl?” Enzo asked, confused.

“The Toscani girl, the tall one we found with Ferrari’s men. She led Grimaldi’s men right to the wagons carrying the rebels’ powder so they could set them alight.”

“Oh,” Enzo replied, remembering the girl from the meeting she had with Gianni.


“I’ve asked her to come back to court,” the king declared, “I think she has some potential. I’m going to set her up as a lady in waiting for Adelaide. But I want
you to keep an eye on her. Make sure she doesn’t get caught up in any…frivolity.”

“Keep an eye on her?” Enzo gave the king a skeptical look.

“You may be surprised to hear this, but I am actually capable of thinking of women in ways that are not related to my own pleasure.”

“I’ve never had the temerity to call you a liar before, but this…”

“I’m serious. I believe she has the talent and boldness for high office. I want her groomed for it. You have a taste for logistics, start there. Then I mean to send her to a regiment, see how she does leading men.”

“If you weren’t the king, I would say you were mad.”

“But I am the king, so I’m not mad. I’m a visionary.”

“Have you thought of what your army officers might think of that?”

“Which ones? The ones who lose their regiments? Or the ones who march their men in front of our own guns?”

Enzo had to laugh at that. “Well I was thinking the more competent ones.”

“Careful, if you annoy me I’ll tell your wife that you tried to talk me out of supporting a strong and capable woman. Then maybe for the first time in our lives, she will like me more than you.”

Enzo put his arms up, simulating surrender. “I won’t touch that. It’s no skin off my nose.”

“Right. This is why you make an awful courtier. I’m happy with you right now. A smart person would just double down on the flattery, instead here you stand babbling to me. I rarely agree with my dear cousin Lucia, but she is right: you need to learn when to shut your mouth.”

“As you say, Your Majesty.”

“That’s more like it.” The king took a deep breath. “You were always a more diligent student of Machiavelli than me,” he said, “but didn’t he say that ‘the first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him’?”

“He did, Your Majesty.”

Gianni looked Enzo up and down. “Then I think I ought to be judged as quite intelligent.”

“Thank you, Majesty.”

“Shut up,” said the king. “Before we left, I sent a letter to Lucia. I mean to have your boy, the eldest, Federico, come to court as well.”

“For what, Majesty?” this made Enzo uneasy.

“I have not decided yet,” replied the king, “but it will be something good. Perhaps a squire, so I can make him into a good army officer.”

“As you say, Your Majesty.”

“I mean for this to be an honor,” said Gianni, with a curious look, “you don’t seem particularly enthusiastic.”

“I am honored, Your Majesty.”

“Whatever. I believe I will board my ship now. I shall see you again in Italy.”

Enzo bowed, “Godspeed on your voyage, Your Majesty.”

“Admiral,” Gianni replied and then turned to walk away. Before he’d gone ten paces, the king raised his finger without turning back and wagged it towards Enzo. “Prove me right, and don’t go doing anything stupid,” he called over his shoulder, “like trying to sink my slave ships.”


Enzo’s jaw dropped.
How can he know!? His mind raced. Lucia? That was impossible. Someone must have seen the letter at some point. He looked up and watched the king reach the crew of the dingy that was to take him out to his ship, the appropriately titled Maestà. The admiral’s own flagship, the Principessa di Napoli, bobbed at anchor offshore nearby. He stood there for a long while observing the ships and watching the king board the dingy and push off and out to sea. Slowly, he began walking down the beach to where his own boat, and the last three crewmen from the Principessa stood. I really do need to be careful now, he thought. The king’s information network went much deeper than he realized.

Still, he was a player in the game. If he could transport an army and all its materiel to the other side of the Mediterranean and back without a hitch, surely he could handle some court intrigue. Regardless, there was no choice. He had to play the game for all of those who couldn’t. His co-religionists, the natives of Africa and the Americas, the peasants of the
Mezzogiorno, and the rest of those who had no voice in the corridors of power. He pushed any doubts and uncertainties from his mind. In the end, he knew, good would prevail. It had to.
 

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Chapter 52: "A strange and Wondrous Succession of Changes", 1645-1650
The Seventeenth Century was a time of rapid and extreme change. New goods flowed across an ever more interconnected world. Ships from Italy and Spain and Britain plied the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. As an example of the state of global interconnectedness, by mid century, approximately two thirds of all the silver in Ming China originated in the Viceroyalty of Peru or French Mexico. Goods and food from across the globe became commonplace in European homes. Above it all, influencing the current of history in ways large and small, was the epoch-defining climatic event known as the Little Ice Age.

An examination of the Little Ice Age is necessary in order to understand what happened in the tumultuous 1600s. Sometime in the early years of the century, “a strange and wondrous succession of changes in the weather,” began around the globe. These would continue for almost a hundred years. Right around the middle of the century was when the Little Ice Age reached its coldest point. Though they did not conceive of it in such scientific terms, there was a perception by the people of the time that something was different. Northern Europe, and Germany, Scandinavia, and the eastern steppes in particular, were hit hard, and the century saw significant population loss in those areas. The lands around the Mediterranean felt the effects of the Little Ice Age as well, though they were much reduced. In 1621, the Bosporus froze over, cutting off ship transit between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In 1641, the Nile fell to the lowest level ever recorded while the narrow growth rings laid down by trees in Anatolia reveal another disastrous drought. Alpine glaciers advanced far below their previous (and present) limits, obliterating farms, churches, and villages in Switzerland and France. Frequent cold winters and cool, wet summers led to crop failures and famines over much of northern and central Europe.


The coldest period of the Little Ice Age
Italy was perhaps the luckiest country in Europe regarding the climactic effects of the era. The Little Ice Age and its erratic el niño/la niña cycles still inflicted greater hardship on the Italian population relative to earlier periods, but nowhere near what other regions felt. Crop failures and food shortages occurred, by they were rarely peninsula-wide, thus allowing the authorities to redirect food shipments from areas with a glut to those with more need for it. King Alberto I had determined during his reign that having starvation within the kingdom was unbecoming a state and a monarch who considered themselves a great power. Thus, on several occasions, and thanks to surplus crop production elsewhere in his realm, the king ordered the government to divert food to areas affected by shortages while the monarchy footed the bill. Typical of Alberto’s policy initiatives, this one was as pragmatic as it was magnanimous. It often wildly enriched the merchants who sold and/or shipped the food while the government allowed them to bill the treasury at extortionate rates. With the Italian coffers full of gold from the kingdom’s trade empire, this expense proved worth the cost. For Alberto, it was also a method for keeping the loyalty and support of the merchants, and gave him a carrot to wield to reward loyal or helpful behavior. Politics and economics aside, the policy saved countless lives in an era when food scarcity was a potent killer. Alberto’s nephew and heir, despite being an otherwise vain and self-obsessed ruler, nevertheless kept his predecessor’s policy in place, going so far as to proclaim “great joy” in feeding the hungry. By the late 1640s, this model of government-sponsored famine-prevention was in place in France, Great Britain (or, at least, within England), and, in a much more limited form, Poland.

Numerous historians have commented on the extent that climate played in the rise and decline of states during this period. There is little doubt that the relative climactic stability and warmth compared to much of the rest of the continent helped Italy. This streak of luck was particularly pronounced in light of the fact that the most densely populated areas suffered the greatest hardships. As the most urbanized state in Europe, Italy’s city-dwelling population could have been ravaged had the effects felt by some other European states been visited upon them.

In densely populated parts of the early modern world, whether sub-boreal, temperate, or tropical, most people relied on a single crop, high in bulk and in carbohydrates, known as a “staple”. Cereals (wheat, barley, and oats) formed the principal staples in Italy and its European territories (with some minor exceptions such as the Lower Po Valley, where rice was also common), while maize and millet predominated in the American colonies and West Africa respectively. The economic allure of staple crops was almost irresistible for farmers. An acre under cereals fed between ten and twenty times as many people as an acre devoted to animal husbandry. Furthermore, the same amount of money usually bought 10 pounds of bread but only one pound of meat. It was the only way for the lower classes to feed themselves and survive.


Cereal grain seeds clockwise from top-left: wheat, spelt, oat, barley.


Arborio rice, typical of the Po Valley
However, there were also significant risks. Cereal-dependence conditioned every phase of social life. Grain was the pilot sector of the economy; beyond its determinant role in agriculture, directly and indirectly grain shaped the development of commerce and industry, regulated employment, and provided a major source of revenue for the state, the Church, the nobility, and large segments of the commons. Because most people were poor, the quest for subsistence preoccupied them relentlessly. No issue was more urgent, more pervasively felt, and more difficult to resolve than the matter of grain provisioning. The dread of shortage and hunger haunted society.

In a normal year, an average European farmer sowed 50 acres with grain and harvested 10 bushels per acre, for a total of 500 bushels. Of this, he needed 175 bushels for animal fodder and seed corn and 75 bushels to feed himself and his family – a total of 250 bushels, leaving 250 for market. If bad weather reduced crops by 30 percent, the harvest would produce only 350 bushels yet the farmer still needed 250 of them for his immediate use, leaving just 100 bushels available for the market, a loss of 60 percent. If bad weather reduced crops by 50 percent, the harvest would produce only about 250 bushels, all of them needed by the farmer, leaving virtually nothing for market. This non-linear correlation explains why a 30 percent reduction in the grain harvest often doubled the price of bread, whereas a 50 percent reduction quintupled it. Thus, if the harvest failed for two or more consecutive years, starvation became almost inevitable.

All of those effects do not even take into account the large portion of peasants who were sharecroppers. Despite an ever-increasing array of rights previously denied them, anywhere between one fourth and one third of farmers in northern Italy, and between one third and one half in the south, fell into this category. This meant that, depending on the arrangement with the landlord, up to half or two thirds of the “market share” of the crops went directly to the landlord. The above-mentioned shortages rendered his situation even direr, up to including homelessness and destitution in addition to hunger.

In the middle of the century, a string of cold winters, late springs, and wet summers reduced the agricultural output of most of the Holy Roman Empire. In south Germany, in May 1626, hailstones the size of walnuts combined with a heavy frost that killed many crops; while the following year, according to the diary kept by Hans Heberle, “a great snow fell” just after New Year and covered the ground until Easter Day. “It was so harsh a winter that no-one could remember another like it,” and “only after Easter could the peasants go to their fields and begin to farm.” The autumn also saw heavy precipitation, and in 1628 some Alpine villages experienced snowfalls, sometimes heavy, every month. It proved to be the first “year without a summer,” to afflict Europe in the Seventeenth Century, but it would not be the last. In many areas, neither grain nor grapes ever ripened. Many sought scapegoats for this extreme weather: an unparalleled spate of witchcraft trials occurred, some involving the execution of hundreds of suspects at a time. Others, reverting to an ancient and dark European tradition, blamed the Jews. A popular print from mid-century Germany showed a Jew who has secured a monopoly of the wine harvest, with a series of political and extreme weather events in the background.


“The Wine Jew”, an anti-Semitic poster from mid-Seventeenth Century Germany. This poster features the devil guiding a Jewish merchant to hell.
France’s efforts to dominate Europe failed in part because extreme climatic events produced repeated economic crises. A sequence of unusually wet winters and summers between 1641 and 1647 (including a “year without a summer” in 1644) either reduced or destroyed crops, culminating in a famine that coincided with a plague epidemic. Lyon, France’s second city, lost half its population, and hundreds of thousands died in the countryside. The catastrophe also reduced the demand for industrial goods and paralyzed trade, making it far harder to mobilize the necessary human and material resources for war. This did not only affect the number of men available to the King of France, but their very height and appearance. The record cards (fiches) compiled for each of the thousands of men who enlisted in the French army in the middle decades of the century (circa 1640-70) reveal an average height of only 160 centimeters (five feet, three inches).

Thus, Italy’s continued and steady population growth and its long string of successful harvests gave her an advantage over rival and ally alike. It even lent the government of Gian Gastone I a steadier political climate at home. In a pleasant inverse of the usual adage that poor weather and harvests leads the populace to question whether their ruler had somehow offended God, the Italian population of this time was more likely to think their sovereign had somehow won the affection of Almighty. It seemed a reasonable explanation for their own good luck in light of a steady stream of reports of drought in Spain, poor harvests in France, and famine in Germany. Thus, the burden of taxes to fund the king’s armies and fleets did not cause the same level of hardship to the peasants of the Val Padana as they did to their cousins in Andalusia, the Vendee, or the Ruhr.

The King of Italy sat atop of large and complex pyramid of social classes, disjointed political processes, and profitable economic arrangements. At the bottom, and forming the bulk of the population, was the peasantry. Despite Italy’s high levels of urbanization, the peasants nevertheless remained the dominant class in terms of sheer numbers.

The peasantry were not, any more than the bourgeois or nobility, a homogenous class, but rather a hierarchy of sub-groups. For example, in the small village of Novellara in Emilia, the peasantry consisted of one or two contadini grossi, or large farmers; five or six medium laborers; twenty or so smaller peasants owning small parcels of land, renting some more, and doing industrial work of some kind; and twenty to fifty families of of lavoratori, often wool or linen weavers. This ratio was typical of most rural towns in Italy.

To begin at the top, the contadino grosso owned at least two horses and a plough; in other words, he could plough his own fields. On average, he owned about twenty-five acres and leased another farm of about the same size; and he probably would not possess more than eight cattle, five pigs, and thirty sheep. Some of the poorer contadini grossi took on a second occupation, such as butchery or haulage. On the other hand, a minority of them grew wealthy by becoming landlords, that is to say, by leasing properties of 200, 300, or 400 acres from noble or ecclesiastical landowners. An even smaller number grew extremely rich by becoming raccoglitori di tasse (tax and duty collectors) for the government.

While such wealthy contadini grossi might be difficult to distinguish from the nascent bourgeoisie, the poorer ones were difficult to sift from the medium-level peasants. The better off families in this lower group owned perhaps ten acres and rented ten more. Possessing no horses, they perhaps owned a mule, three or four cattle, two or three pigs, and ten or so sheep. Only in good years could they properly feed their families, while a mediocre or bad harvest brought indebtedness or starvation. For half the year, they had to make ends meet by weaving, tailoring, carpentering, and so on. The family of General Alessandro di Ferrari, for example, came from such an economic background.

Not counting the paupers and vagabonds, the poorest people in the village were the lavoratori, or laborers. These people possessed (or shared with another family) a one-roomed cottage with a loft, a little garden, and maybe two and a half acres of land, and leased about the same amount. They owned no livestock except a starved cow that grazed along the edges of their lands, four or five chickens, perhaps a pig, and usually three or four sheep. Depending on the region of Italy, when a peasant leased land additional to his own, he either rented it or became a sharecropper. This latter arrangement was especially prevalent in the Mezzogiorno, where the tenants gave half or a third of their harvest to the landlord.

This group, particularly in less bountiful years, also formed a sort of rural proto-proletariat. They were a general and often mobile labor force, hedging and ditching, carting, harvesting, grape-picking, hay-making, threshing, and generally performing the menial tasks for the contadini grossi or the aristocracy. It was a rare lavoratore who was not in debt to a contadino grosso who had ploughed his lot for him, lent him seed, wood, and so on; and the lavoratore paid his debts by hard work.

Above the peasant class was the bourgeoisie, or borghesia in Italian. The early borghesia was a miscellaneous collection of social groups and to give them all one name is probably misleading. Highest in status were the great bankers and financiers of Florence, Milan, Genoa, and Venice. They lent money to kings and states; funded the construction and maintenance of fleets; insured ships and shipments against loss; and generally lubricated the economic engines of Italy and Europe by managing its money. They were followed by the ship-owners and merchants of the great port cities and then the manufacturers of the Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, and the Veneto. After this strata came the ufficiali di governo (“government officers”, to distinguish them from military officers) who had not yet become members of the nobility. Close behind these were the members of the professions: lawyers, doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries, along with writers, painters, and architects, not to mention master-craftsmen of the guilds and corporations. Among them should be included not only the great farmers of the villages, who leased estates of three to four hundred acres from noble or ecclesiastical landlords and employed small armies of men to do the bulk of the manual labor, but also the main body of the clergy and the whole gamut of the piccola borghesia (petit-bourgeoisie). This last group included the holders of small offices in local government and the masters of the smaller workshops, which typically employed perhaps one or two journeymen and two to four apprentices. Taken together, the borghesia was a huge reservoir of talent and industry. Steadily fed at one end by constant streams of successful peasantry, it produced at the other end the statesmen and businessmen, the philosophers and artists, who made Italy into one of the greatest and most influential countries in the world. This strata of society was one of Italy’s great strengths, and historically also the Medici’s most solid bedrock of support.

At the base of the socio-economic pyramid lay the majority of the population: the vast army of artisans, laborers, and domestic servants in the towns and cities, and the numberless peasants of the countryside. At times, it was difficult to distinguish between those two groups. The streets of the towns were often filled with starving peasants, on the one hand, while, on the other, manufacturers in such centers as Milan, Lucca, Modena, and Bologna were using putout systems to turn hordes of small farmers into a semi-industrial proletariat. The relations between the working masses and their king were of the utmost simplicity. Aside from the rare case of desperate rebellion, the minds of the peasants and workers were exclusively concerned with the struggle for existence, for they were chronically in debt, permanently under-nourished, and now and then decimated by famine (though for most Italians, at least, large-scale famines became almost unheard of by the second half of the century). Still, despite consistent efforts by a number of Medici kings, the monarchy was unable to stamp out (and, indeed, often completely ignored) the terrible exploitation which the masses suffered at the hands of nature and their social superiors.

All of these hardships were visited even more harshly on women. In addition to working in the fields or workshops, women were expected to take the lead on maintaining the household. They of course also bore children, something that was both exhausting and very dangerous. An estimate of maternal mortality using death certificates and baptismal records indicated a maternal death rate between 24 and 30 per 1,000 baptisms. Childbirth, like everything else in society, was heavily influenced by social class. The upper classes were encouraged to reproduce as much as possible, and a woman who was pregnant or recovering from childbirth took time to rest while servants took care of her and the child. The lower classes worked right up to and soon following birth, as they had to work to eat.

In Seventeenth Century Italy, most women were married between the ages of 21 and 23 and often had five to ten children, depending on whether they survived childbirth. Childbirth was so dangerous that a woman would make out her will as soon as she found out she was pregnant. Poorer women, who were responsible for the nutrition of their own children, had an age-old method of birth control: breastfeeding. In addition to feeding the child, breastfeeding women were less likely to become pregnant and thus childbirth was spaced out in a more manageable way. However, among the upper classes, breastfeeding was left to wet nurses, which meant that the mother could soon be pregnant again.

Motherhood was even more frightening for those people who were enslaved. Infant mortality among African slaves in the Americas during the Seventeenth Century ranged between 28 and 50 percent, and mortality in children under ten was 40 to 50 percent, due to maternal malnutrition, overwork, disease, and lack of medical access. Slave owners blamed the mothers for infant deaths, and there is evidence that some babies were deliberately smothered by their parents to spare the child a life of slavery, but other factors contributed greatly to the infant death rate as well.

For the women of the time, an alternative to a life of toil and bearing children was the life of a nun. In Italy, by 1650, perhaps 70,000 women lived in nunneries, most of them in towns. Nunneries housed eight percent of the total female population of Bologna, nine percent in Ferrara, eleven percent in Florence, and twelve percent in Siena. Many nuns took the veil through a religious vocation; others did so because some disability placed them at a disadvantage in the outside world; others still sought temporary refuge in the cloisters from abusive husbands or while their husbands were away. A few, no doubt, felt attracted by the lavish lifestyle of certain convents, where servants and slaves made up half the population and in some nunneries even outnumbered the nuns. But a considerable number of young women in the Seventeenth Century entered convents against their will. Cassandra Ruffo, daughter of a Veronese patriarch, was one of them.

Her father sent her to a nunnery at age 13, claiming that, because of the economic depression, he lacked the money for appropriate dowry. Then she wrote several books—with titles like Innocence undone or the father’s tyranny and The nun’s hell—lamenting her lot. “Consider it a fact,” she thundered in one of them, “that more than one-third of nuns, confined against their will, find their senses opposing their reason, and subject themselves unwillingly and out of fear to the outrageous misfortune cruelly created for them by their fathers.”

Many convents also accepted foundlings. Indeed, some institutions installed a special “wheel of fortune” to make it easier for mothers to abandon their unwanted offspring: they could place their babies on the wheel outside anonymously and then rotate it inwards for collection within. At the Foundling Hospital of Milan, where desperate mothers left some 400 babies a year, use of the “wheel of fortune” (scaffetta) followed the fluctuations in grain prices with sickening regularity: in a year of food scarcity four or five infants might be placed on the wheel in a single night.

Most of those who entered a Foundling Hospital died there—for the simple reason that almost half of all foundlings were abandoned within their first week, and at that vulnerable age, without the immediate intervention of a wet nurse, they would die. Moreover, since “mortality tends to increase with admissions”, life expectations fell as admissions rose: in the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) in Florence, one-third of the 700 foundlings abandoned in the famine year of 1614 died on their first day; half died within a week; and almost two-thirds died within a month.

The wheel outside the Ospedale degli Innocenti upon which parents could deposit their babies

Even for most of the rest of the population, disease and death were always a threat. In many cases, want was the precursor to death by plague. The people of Florence, like those of other cities, followed with trepidation the news of the spread of disease in other places. Fear spread as the disease approached closer and closer and, despite the precautions, always arrived. When the epidemic exploded, victims died in the hundreds per day. And, for the most part, it was the “small people” who filled the communal graves. Malnourished and physically compromised by the backbreaking nature of their work, they were essentially pre-destined to die in cases of disease outbreak. It was not as if the plague made social distinctions, but the wealthy, who were better fed and lived above (often literally) the squalor of the commoners, to include the possibility of retreat to country villas, were better able to defend themselves.

Atop this pyramid, sat the king. Half a decade into his reign, Gian Gastone I was proving to be an enigma. He loved the luxurious lifestyle of the Florentine court but he also felt at home in the field with his army, as demonstrated during campaigns in Cyprus and Piedmont. He embraced the enslavement of Africans while also showing a genuine admiration for the natives of North America. He was a womanizer who kept a well-populated stable of mistresses, yet he also listened to the counsel of women he deemed capable and would go on to promote several of them to unprecedented positions of governmental power.

In 1647, Gian Gastone sponsored the founding of the justly celebrated Academia del Cimento (the Test), whose motto was Provando e Riprovando and whose emblem was a furnace with three crucibles. Their first meeting place was right at the Palazzo Pitti. It would go on to make important contributions to scientific knowledge and contribute heavily to the Europe-wide “Republic of Letters”. Gian Gastone, long fascinated with Galileo, took a real interest in the proceedings, composing its quarrels, signing its correspondence, and following closely the work of Evangelista Torricelli da Modigliana, inventor of the barometer. The men of the academia experimented with telescopic lenses and all manner of scientific instruments, and commissioning those thermometers, astrolabes, quadrants, hydrometers, calorimeters, and other ingenious mechanical devices, which visitors to the Pitti Palace saw displayed in great numbers. A little over a decade after its founding, two of the Academia’s leading scientists, Vincenzo Viviani and Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, conducted an experiment to test the speed of sound. They timed the difference between seeing the shot from a cannon and hearing the sound. Their calculated value of 350 meters per second was more accurate than that of 478 meters per second previously obtained by Pierre Gassendi. Successful experiments such as these greatly added to the Academia’s prestige and notoriety on the continent.



The great scientists Evangelista Torricelli (above) and Vincenzo Viviani (below)


The Academia del Cimento began meeting in the Palazzo Pitti
One of the great minds brought to the forefront under Gian Gastone’s reign belonged to Elena Cornaro Piscopia. Lady Elena was born in the Palazzo Loredan in Venice on 11 December 1616. She was the third child of Gianbattista Cornaro-Piscopia and his mistress Zanetta Boni. Her mother was a peasant and her parents were not married at the time of her birth. Lady Elena was therefore not technically a member of the Cornaro family by birth, as Venetian law barred illegitimate children of nobles from noble privilege, even if recognized by the noble parent. Worse for Zanetta's case, she was from an extremely poor peasant family. She had likely fled to Venice in order to escape devastation brought to Italy during the War of the League of Sevilla, and soon found herself the mistress of a member of one of the most powerful noble dynasties in the Republic. Gianbattista and Zanetta married officially in 1624, but their children were barred from noble privilege, which angered him.

As a young girl, Cornaro was considered a prodigy. Giovanni Fabris, a priest and friend of the family, recommended she begin classical education. She studied Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors, and became proficient in these languages, as well as French and Spanish, by the age of seven. She also mastered Hebrew and Arabic, earning the title of Oraculum Septilingue ("Seven-language Oracle"). Her later studies included mathematics, philosophy and theology. Coincidentally, she briefly met King Alberto I during a trip to Florence with other children of patrician Venetian families. They were there to present a gift to the King of Italy to honor the occasion of him being “elected” Doge of Venice.

Cornaro also became an expert musician, mastering harpsichord, clavichord, harp, and violin. In her late teens and early twenties, she became interested in physics, astronomy, and linguistics. Carlo Rinaldini, her tutor in philosophy, and at that point the Chairman of Philosophy at the University of Padua, published a book on geometry in 1638 and dedicated it to a twenty-two year old Elena. After the death of her old mentor, Fabris, she became even closer to Rinaldini, who took over her studies.

In 1639, she translated the Colloquy of Christ by the Carthusian monk Lanspergius from Spanish into Italian. The translation was dedicated to Gian Paolo Oliva, her close friend and confessor. The volume was picked up by the Medici Press, which issued in five editions between 1639 and 1642. She was invited to be a part of many scholarly societies when her fame spread and in 1640 she became president of the Venetian society Accademia dei Pacifici.

With the support and encouragement of Rinaldini, as well as Felice Rotondi, she applied to pursue a degree in theology from the University of Padua. She was initially met with resistance from Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo, bishop of Padua, on the grounds that she was a woman. At the time, the bishop of the city was free to veto any appointments or degrees handed out at the university, guarding the theology department particularly closely. However, he eventually relented after meeting Cornaro in person, with one condition. Rather than receive the degree in theology, she pursued one in philosophy instead. After a brilliant course of study, the degree was awarded on 25 June 1646, in a ceremony in the Padua Cathedral. The University authorities, the professors of all the faculties, the students, and most of the nobility of the city, together with many invited guests from the Universities of Bologna, Perugia, Rome and Naples were present for the event. Lady Elena spoke for an hour in Classical Latin, explaining difficult passages selected at random from the works of Aristotle: one from the Posterior Analytics and the other from the Physics. The assembled crowd listened with great attention and when she finished, she received a loud applause as Professor Rinaldini proceeded to award her the insignia of the laurea: a book of philosophy, a laurel wreath on her head, a ring on her finger, and an ermine mozzetta over her shoulders. She was proclaimed Magistra et Doctrix Philosophiae (“teacher and doctor in philosophy” thus becoming one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university, and the first ever to receive a doctoral degree in any field.


Elena Cornaro Piscopia was one of the great intellectual and scientific minds of her era
With her fame and success she had already earned, Cornaro soon found a place in the Gian Gastone’s inner circle. Lady Elena was accepted into the Academia in Florence and within several months, the king approached her with an offer to serve as his Minister of the Interior. At only 31 years old, Lady Elena became one of the youngest ministers to serve on the king’s council and also one of the most powerful women in Italy.

The king had a taste for fine and elaborate furnishings and decorations as well. Accordingly, scores of craftsmen were kept busily at work in this intricate manufacture, assembling ornaments and bas-reliefs and elaborately decorating furniture in marble, ivory, crystal, gold, brightly colored minerals, and semi-precious stones. To contain these works, and the family’s ever-increasing collection of paintings and sculptures, Gian Gastone was obliged to make extensive alterations to the Pitti Palace to provide it with suitable galleries. He adorned these with murals by some of the most accomplished artists of his time: Cirro Ferri, Francesco Furini, Pietro da Cortona, Giovanni da San Giovanni, and Baldassare Franceschini, better known as Il Volterrano. In the galleries thus decorated, visitors were able to inspect the latest additions to the royal collection.

Whatever his faults, Gian Gastone I and his council kept Italy in a position of relative stability. This was a stark contrast to the kingdom’s neighbor and ally to the northeast: the Archduchy of Austria. Archduchess Maria Theresa I had ruled her lands capably since 1593, but as she approached the final years of her reign, a series of religious, political, and dynastic disputes roiled the Habsburg monarchy and nearly toppled it.

A revolt of Protestant peasants in inner Austria broke out over the winter of 1645-46. The rebels had been hit hard by successive years of bad harvests and were outraged at reports that they were purposely being denied by from the Catholic monarchy. Led by a minor aristocrat and army veteran named Benno Steiger, they marched on Innsbruck but were met by a combined Austro-Italian army on 10 February 1646. They were quickly routed and the revolt was crushed.


An Austro-Italian army decisively defeated the Lutheran Revolt
On 1 April 1649, after reigning for 55 years, 8 months, and 30 days, Maria Theresa I of Austria died at the age of 70. The Archduchess had led Austria capably and effectively and restored Habsburg prestige following the family’s loss of the title of Holy Roman Empire following the War of the Religious Leagues. Though she had never married and died without issue, Maria Theresa had even worked to secure a stable succession. She had named her cousin and longtime governor of the Austrian Netherlands, Johann von Habsburg, Duke of Styria, as her heir. However, Johann died only four months before Maria Theresa, leaving his son, the 55-year-old Matthias von Habsburg, as the successor in theory. However, Matthias was never “officially” declared an heir to the throne. Thus, upon the Archduchess’s death, the door was left open for a potential pretender to step through.


The death of Archduchess Maria Theresa I after a 55-year reign marked the end of an era for Austria
This challenge to the succession came in the form of Viktor von Guttenburg, Duke of Tirol and son of the Archduchess’s younger sister, Maria Amalia. Though Matthias bore the Habsburg name, he was a more distant relation to the deceased Maria Theresa than Guttenburg was. The latter was the son of a sibling, the former the son of a cousin. Thus, the familial proximity added to Guttenburg’s legitimacy. Furthermore, his well-known support for policies of religious tolerance earned him strong support among Austria’s Lutheran and Calvinist minorities. However, this also earned him the nickname “Heretic Usurper” in pro-Matthias propaganda leaflets, despite the fact that Guttenburg was, and remained, a Roman Catholic.

Matthias was quickly crowned Archduke Matthias II in the Hofburg on 8 April. Meanwhile, Guttenburg gathered his supporters in Lienz, though by the end of April, he had yet to make any claim to the throne. Still, with more than 10,000 men assembled in the Drava Valley, Vienna could not help but take notice. Matthias sent a series of urgent messages to Florence, depicting Guttenburg and his supporters as a nascent Protestant rebellion similar to the one the two states jointly crushed in 1646. Gian Gastone I was only too happy to oblige and once again sent his army over the Alps. With the reassurance of Italian support, Matthias then declared Guttenburg and all of his followers to be rebels and heretics and issued warrants for their arrests.

When this news reached Lienz, Guttenburg was shocked. He had yet to make any declaration or claim to the throne. However, with Vienna prepared to destroy him preemptively, he quickly moved to have himself crowned. In a ceremony at Bruck Castle on 21 May 1649, he was crowned Archduke Viktor I by a gathering of his supporters. However, his time as a pretender would prove to be quite brief.


Bruck Castle outside Lienz, site of the coronation of Viktor von Guttenburg
By the beginning of June, a Habsburg army was closing in from the east as an Italian one approached from the west. The Austrians were led by the veteran commander Benno Steiger and under orders to give no quarter. With both enemy armies approaching along the south bank of the Drava, Guttenburg and his followers fled from Bruck Castle and the surrounding area and crossed the river to the north bank. While this bought them some time and an opportunity to defend the river crossings, it did allow the Italians and Austrians to join forces at Lienz. With a combined force of 76,000 men facing off against Guttenburg’s 11,000, Steiger could afford to take his time. He used his Italian allies to cut off retreat routes to the rebel army while his assault force would consist primarily of Austrians. By 10 June, Lienz and its environs were completely surrounded and Steiger decided to attack the following morning. Under heavy cover fire from their artillery, the loyalist infantry crossed the Drava in force. They quickly overwhelmed the determined but largely inexperienced rebel army. Within a few hours, Guttenburg’s followers were fleeing into the hills, only to be intercepted and cut down by Italian mounted patrols.

Guttenburg surrendered by late morning and asked Steiger to spare the rest of his men. The loyalist commander promptly rejected any pleas for mercy, and the wholesale slaughter of the pretender’s supporters continued for most of the day. Guttenburg was then brought back to Vienna in chains for a trial and execution. Matthias had his cousin beheaded and his limbs sent on road trips around the Habsburg lands to dissuade any further talk of supplanting the new Archduke’s rule. Fortunately for Matthias, he was spared any further need for kin slaying because Guttenburg’s two surviving children were both daughters. The two girls as well as Guttenburg’s grieving widow were promptly married off to Habsburg loyalists. This ended Guttenburg’s Rebellion, the most serious internal challenge to Austrian power since the late 1500s.


The pretender Viktor von Guttenburg was destroyed at the Battle of Lienz
In West Africa, another horrific drama was playing out. The formation of the Compagnia Africana represented the true beginning of the Italian slave trade. Andrew Cavalcanti, Count of Macerata and Governor-General of the Bonny Colony, was the leader of the endeavor, but countless well-to-do Italians would make their fortunes in the capture, purchase, and sale of human beings. Any and all anti-slavery sentiment in Italy, whether from priests and bishops or from noblemen who considered the business dishonorable, were quickly drowned in a flood of gold.

The first slave ship of the Compagnia della Guinea departed on 1 October 1646
Over the centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, around 12.4 million people were loaded onto slave ships and carried through a “Middle Passage” across the Atlantic to hundreds of delivery points stretched out over thousands of miles. By the mid-Seventeenth Century the horror and drama of this massed, forced human migration was already very well evident. Along the dreadful way, 1.8 million of them died, their bodies cast overboard to the sharks that followed the ships. Most of the 10.6 million who survived were thrown into the bloody maw of a killing plantation system, which they would in turn resist in all ways imaginable.

Yet even these extraordinary numbers do not convey they magnitude of the drama. Many people captured in Africa died as they marched in bands and coffles (human trains) to the slave ships, although lack of records makes it impossible to know their numbers. Depending on time and place, anywhere between one tenth and one half of captives perished between the point of enslavement and the boarding of the slave ship. Another fifteen percent, again dependent on time and place, would die within their first year of laboring life in the New World. From stage to stage—expropriation in Africa, the Middle Passage, initial exploitation in the Americas—roughly 5 million men, women, and children died.


Throughout this period, none of the victims of the slave trade stopped resisting. In some cases, this meant fighting against their captors and masters, in others it meant taking one’s own life, not only to end the suffering, but to deprive the perpetrators of their profits. However, once a person had been chained, their methods of resistance became weaker, nearly futile. Those who were still free, on the other hand, could resist more effectively.

In Bonny, a leader named Opuamakuba, formed a grand coalition of Ibibio, Ijaw, Efik, and Igbo-speaking clans to challenge the Compagnie della Guinea’s stranglehold on the lower Niger Delta. By early 1647, he had assembled a force of approximately 4,000 men. The Italians had 3,000 men in the Delta split between two locations. About 2,000 soldiers were in the recently formed settlement of Città Giardino, which despite its pleasant-sounding name (“Garden City”), was a massive slave depot. The remaining thousand were further downriver, at a fortress on the island of Bonny designed to control access up and down the river.


Faced with harsh treatment, kidnapping, and enslavement of the Cavalcanti regime, a coalition of Niger Delta groups revolted against Italian rule
Opuamakuba proved to be a capable commander, ambushing small Italian patrols and evading the main body of the colonial force sent out to capture him and his men. They outmaneuvered the Italians and reached the coast, where they sacked the coastal settlement of La Perla killing and burning everyone and everything they found. However, their good luck would soon run out. Moving in three separate columns, the Italians cornered the rebels on a peninsula just across a channel from Bonny Island. With nowhere to escape, the Africans mounted a desperate stand. Despite a determined effort to hold the line, Italian firepower won the day. What followed was a massacre horrific in scale. All of the revolt’s leaders, including Opuamakuba, were disemboweled and castrated while still alive and then left to die in the sun. The rest of his men were put in chains, marched to the coast, and quickly loaded onto waiting slave ships and sent across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The defeat was a disaster for the coalition, but it was not the last time the local people would seek to throw off the yoke of their oppressors.

Late in 1649, a second revolt erupted in Bonny. This time, most of those taking up arms had no illusions for victory. In the three years since Opuamakuba Revolt, the Compagnie della Guinea’s grip on the region had tightened significantly. This revolt was intended to kill as many of the enemy as possible and to die with honor. They were all in agreement to give no quarter, to show no mercy to any Italians they encountered; they expected none in return. Unlike Opuamakuba, the new revolt’s leader, Awusa, had no pretensions to kingship or independence. His was a campaign for vengeance and a dignified death as an alternative to submission to slavery.


The second major revolt in Ibani in four years
The rebels ambushed a few Italian patrols but most of the foreign population was now living within the protective walls of the Italian trade posts. Thus, their ability to actually inflict casualties on the Italians was limited. The garrison marched out once again and, upon finding the rebel host, fell upon them and killed them in great numbers. The captured rebels suffered the same grisly fates as their predecessors two years earlier. The defeat of the 1649 revolt cowed much of the remaining population for a long time going forward. The profits of the Italian slave trade continued to swell the pockets of merchants and kept the Italian treasury well filled even as its victims continued to die on ships and in the Caribbean plantations.

Back in Italy, Gian Gastone set his sights on another sort of conquest. The Duchy of Savoy remained as an independent state in the mountainous northwest corner of Italy. For some time, the state had survived as a buffer between Italy and France. This continued existence had more to do with both major powers hoping to avoid a massive war over control of Torino than it did anything else. However, with France experiencing a series of crises, both economic and dynastic in nature, the occasion was ripe for Italy. Furthermore, the long-reigning Duke Tomasso III was ill and feeble. After making the requisite diplomatic overtures toward Paris, Florence got the assurance from their ally that there would be no issue with an annexation of the Savoy lands.


Italian diplomatic skill was in full display during the Savoy Question
Still, the Italians needed a good pretext for invasion. They were rewarded when Duke Tomasso died on 5 December 1646, leaving his seventeen year old grandson, Girolamo, as the new ruler. Young and inexperienced, the new duke was the perfect victim for the King of Italy’s ambitions.

The Armata Reale marched into Piedmont on 12 January 1647, with the king leading the vanguard force. Gian Gastone’s desire for a “splendid little war,” was quickly fulfilled. On 26 January, the Savoyard army came out to meet him at Chieri. After a brief bout of fighting in the morning between the Piedmontese army and the King of Italy’s cavalry, the main body of Italians arrived and the former quickly surrendered. The king’s charge on the field at Chieri was even immortalized by the poet Mutatesia Leonelli in his poem, La Carica Reale. The road to Torino was open and the rest of the war was merely a formality.


The surrender of the Savoyard army ended the brief fighting of the Annexation of Piedmont
The Italians invested Torino and sat there. They made little effort to shell the city or tunnel under it. With the whole province other than the capital under de facto Italian control, there was little reason to delay the inevitable. With no hope of relief, Duke Girolamo I and his garrison surrendered on 13 April 1647. The garrison was allowed to depart peacefully under terms of a ceasefire agreement. One condition was that the Duke of Savoy travel immediately downstream along the Po to Pavia under the guard of a joint Italian-Savoyard escort. Gian Gastone instead stayed in Torino for six days, enjoying the fruits of his newest conquest. The city suffered relatively little physical damage during the siege and the King of Italy enjoyed making the rounds of the Torinese aristocrats’ palaces. He then took a leisurely ride down to Pavia on horseback, arriving there on 27 April.

The surrender of Torino marked the end of the Duchy of Savoy as a sovereign state
At Pavia Duke Girolamo signed the peace treaty, thus handing over his lands to Medici overlordship. In a reprisal of earlier Medici conquests in Italy, the House of Savoy was allowed to retain its ducal title, albeit as vassals of the King of Italy rather than sovereigns in their own right. Still, it was better than they could have reasonably expected. Still, the preservation of his ancestral title did not come cheap for Duke Girolamo.


The Kingdom of Italy annexed the Duchy of Savoy in the Treaty of Pavia. Duke Girolamo was nevertheless allowed to retain his title
There was a dark side to the Italian conquest of Piedmont, one that would prove dire for adherents of the Waldensian faith. Prior to the annexation, the House of Savoy’s embrace of Waldensianism had protected the people of that faith. The Piedmontese population was evenly split between Catholics and their Reformed fellow subjects, though the majority of the duke’s subjects coexisted peacefully. The Waldensian population had enjoyed tolerance and freedom of belief and conscience for centuries, with these provisions written down in several documents. The annexation radically transformed that.

Duke Girolamo and the rest of his family were forced to convert to Catholicism following the Treaty of Pavia. Only two months later, due to constant pressure exerted by Italy and the Church in Rome, the duke was compelled to issue the Edict of Suppression from his enforced exile in Florence. This was, for all intents and purposes, a religious expulsion order. It read that:

“Every head of a family, with the individuals of that family, of the reformed religion, of what rank, degree, or condition whatsoever, none excepted, inhabiting and possessing estates in the Duchy of Piedmont, should, within three days after the publication thereof, withdraw and depart, and be withdrawn out of the said places, and translated into the places and limits tolerated by his highness during his pleasure. And all this to be done on pain of death, and confiscation of house and goods, unless within the limited time they turned Roman Catholics.”

It is unknown how complicit Duke Girolamo was in going along with his new master’s demands or if he had means to resist such an order. Even the origin of the Edict of Suppression remains unclear. While Gian Gastone could have decided the Waldensians were a threat to his new conquest, as he later claimed, he had never shown much enthusiasm for suppressing religious minorities in his own lands. Most Waldensian refused to obey the Edict of Suppression, thus causing the government to send troops to plunder and burn their houses, and to station over 10,000 soldiers in their valleys. The Savoyard army consisted of local Piedmontese soldiers, as well as Italians under the command of the Duke of Urbino. These troops were of low quality, poorly disciplined, and led by an inexperienced commander.

On 21 April 1647, Easter Sunday, the atrocity that came to be known as “Piedmontese Easter” commenced: a massacre of thousands of Waldensian civilians (4,000 to 6,000 depending on the estimate) committed by ducal and Italian troops. The motivation behind such a harsh crackdown on a religious group that had been largely quiet in recent years remains a mystery. Some contemporaries believed that King Gian Gastone feared that any disunity within newly acquired Piedmont could tempt either the French or the Swiss to intervene there. Others were of the opinion that it was all a test of the Duke of Piedmont’s loyalty to his new liege.


Italian troops torture and murder a Waldensian woman, allegedly Anna Charboniere, during Piedmontese Easter.
Regardless of reason, the massacre caused an exodus of Waldensian refugees to the Valley of Perosa, and led to the formation of rebel groups under the leadership of Joshua Janavel, Jean Léger, and Bartolomeo Jahier. Several states, including Nassau and the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, attempted to intervene diplomatically and offered sanctuary to anyone who could reach their borders. Reports of the massacres spread quickly throughout Protestant Europe sparking outrage, especially in Britain. King Oliver Cromwell threatened Italy with war but London backed off after Vienna and Paris pledged their support to Florence. The English poet John Milton was inspired to write the sonnet “On the Late Massacre in Piedmont”. Within Italy’s government, the massacre led to the resignation of Gian Gastone’s Calvinist Foreign Minister, Boncompagni. While he did stay on as Lord High Admiral of the Navy, the Duke of Caserta’s departure from the foreign ministry opened the door for the more warlike Gioachino Gori to take over, shifting Italy’s priorities from peace and cooperation to war and profit in the coming decade.

Gori was a business partner and friend of Andrea Cavalcanti and a major investor in the budding slave trade. He financed the building of most of the Cavalcanti slaver fleet and was eager to use his new power to increase revenues for himself and his friends. Despite being openly in the job for his own profit, Gori proved a capable, if tough negotiator and kept the king happy by keeping trade as gainful as his predecessor but without troubling his master with Boncomagni’s moral qualms. He was a skilled trade negotiator with deep connections in the Italian mercantile community and helped increase Italy’s trade profits even more.


Gioachino Gori replaced Enzo Boncompagni as the king’s new foreign minister


Competitive Merchants increased Italian trade power
On 16 June, Duke Girolamo issued the Declaration of Mercy, which constituted a peace treaty between him and the Waldensians. This largely led to the subsidence of both internal and international tensions. The massacre of 1647 was the last major persecution of the Waldensians and over the coming decade, several of the major restrictions on their freedoms were relaxed.

The four-month long conquest of Savoy was the only time the Kingdom of Italy was at war with a foreign power through the decade of the 1640s. Italy, as a whole, remained largely peaceful and prosperous throughout this period. This did not mean, however, that the Italian army was not active. In addition to suppressing revolts in Genoa and Cyprus in the years 1643-44, a portion of the army was sent east to support the Kingdom of Poland in its “grand campaign” against the Ottoman Empire.

King Jan III of Poland desired to expel the Ottomans from the Balkans and felt that they were weakened enough to falter in the face of a determined Christian invasion. To boost his numbers he asked for support from the Italians without Italy actually entering the war on Poland’s side. This was perfectly acceptable to Gian Gastone, who wanted the glory of sending troops to fight the Turks while also limiting the negative impacts the war would have on Italian commerce.

The King of Poland personally requested Alessandro di Ferrari lead the expeditionary force. Gian Gastone agreed despite, or perhaps because of, the general’s spectacular defeat in Cyprus four years earlier. It was well known that the king despised his most senior military commander and, prior to the Polish request for support, was still considering sending Ferrari into exile. This opportunity saved the old general and gave him a chance to redeem himself after the humiliation of the Battle of St. Hillarion. For the king, this was an opportunity to get a commander he openly disliked out of Italy.

The Italian Expeditionary Force began assembling at Treviso in the spring of 1647. Italy did not send its best troops east. The elite regiments stayed home while the ones that did go were poorly equipped and trained or from the more heavily Protestant parts of the country. Thus, Ferrari had no Florentine units at his disposal, but had two full regiments each from the Protestant provinces of Ferrara, Cremona, and Brescia. Still, by the time the newly formed army was ready to march, Ferrari commanded 20,000 men broken into ten regiments of infantry, four of cavalry, and six of artillery. This was far from the full power Italy’s army could bring to bear against a foe, but it was nothing to ignore either. Only a fraction of the men had any combat experience and that number dropped even further if the brief and lopsided skirmish between the Italian and Savoyard armies in January 1647 was excluded. Considering the poor quality of the troops, Ferrari and his subordinate commanders did an admirable job whipping them into fighting shape.


The Italian Expeditionary Force under Alessandro di Ferrari joined the Poles in their war against the Turks
The army departed Treviso 5 December 1647 and slowly made its way through Austrian lands and into the Balkans. Meeting little resistance, they advanced along the Adriatic coast and took the strategic pot of Ragusa on 14 January 1648. Late in 1647, the Poles had suffered a number of key defeats and had been pushed back nearly to their own border. However, the arrival of the Italians as well as a force from Polish ally Circassia helped stabilize the front and put the allies back on the offensive footing. As the Christian advance continued, the Turks sought to stabilize their front along a line running from Salonika in the south on the Aegean coast and then north up to the Danube.

On 1 March, the Italians rendezvoused with Polish and Circassian forces to try to break through the Turkish line. Ferrari had overall command and he quickly prepared his newly reinforced army for battle. In a demonstration that his tactical and troop leading skills had not degraded, the Count of Maranello led his combined army to a series of spectacular victories that boosted Christian confidence and renewed the push toward Istanbul. On 7 March, they defeated a Turkish army led by the sultan’s son and heir, Prince Mahmut. Despite the defeat, the prince led his troops’ withdrawal in good order and prepared to try and stop the Italians again. However, instead of advancing east toward Istanbul, Ferrari pivoted his army and headed north. Moving quickly, they attacked another Turkish force commanded by Grand Vizier Ramazan Bali Pasha at Nikopol on the Danube. Ferrari mitigated his nearly two to one shortfall in infantry vis-à-vis his foe with expert placement of his artillery. The Christian guns effectively covered their infantry’s advance and repelled all Turkish efforts to force their own line. With that victory, the allies had turned both ends of the Turkish defensive line and then followed it up with subsequent wins over smaller Turkish forces at Kirkkilise on 6 May and at Silistra on 22 May. Over a period of 76 days, the allied army had won four decisive victories over their Turkish foes while covering a distance of over 1,250 kilometers.


Alessandro di Ferrari led the combined allied army to victory in several key battles
After Silistra, the Polish command, with Ferrari’s grudging consent, decided to split the army for the final advance on Istanbul. The Circassians, bolstered by Polish troops, would advance from the east along the Aegean coast, the Poles would advance in the center, and the Italians from the north along the Black Sea coast. Since the Italians were already located at their point of advance, they had to wait for the other two parts of the army to reach their start points. This overly complex plan, made worse by poor communication, would prove disastrous. The Italians departed much sooner than their allies and thus were nearing Istanbul while their comrades were still just starting out. The Turks, eager to avenge their previous defeats, threw their strongest army against Ferrari and the Italians. By mid-September, the general realized he was far ahead of his allies and decided to stop at Kırklareli. He sent scouts out ahead and tried to fortify his position. On 19 September, an advanced scouting party sighted the spires of Istanbul in the distance. This would be the furthest the Italians would advance in the war. These same scouts brought back reports of a massive Turkish army closing in on their position. On 22 September, it appeared and made camp south of the allied position. The next day, in a brutal, bloody battle, the Turkish army under Prince Mahmut inflicted a devastating defeat on the Italians. For the Turkish prince, the victory saved him in the eyes of the sultan, his father, and prevented his removal from the line of succession. Ferrari was badly wounded midway through the fighting and despite the heroic actions of several of his officers, the sheer weight of numbers and firepower rendered any hope of victory hopeless. By the end of the day, the Italians left behind over 9,000 dead on the field and were in full retreat. Only Mahmut’s cautiousness and limited pursuit saved the Italians from utter annihilation. In the first days after the battle, the once mighty Italian Expeditionary Force remained little more than a rabble.


The Italian Expeditionary Force got to within X miles of Constantinople as the vanguard of the allied army

Cardinal Angelo Battista, accompanying the Italians as a representative of Paul IV, wrote back to the Pope that, "the Italians had the advantage in skill, speed, grit, and guile, but in the end, only sheer numbers mattered." Granted, Cardinal Battista’s account was biased toward the Catholic side. It is difficult to doubt the valor of the janissary companies that hurled themselves into the center of a determined Italian defense in order to break the line, or that of the sipahi cavalrymen who charged uphill into a hail of cannon fire to capture Italian guns on high ground. Still, regardless of the immediate result of the battle, on a deep level, battles like Kirkkilise boosted the morale and resolve of the Christians all while chipping away at the confidence of the Ottomans. The latter, more used to facing Christians who broke and ran before them, now faced men who fought like demons, constantly pushing forward, sometimes firing in unison, sometimes picking individual targets. The Ottomans despised those who lacked the courage to fight like them, but these were soldiers who would close with them, driven it seemed by a divine anger, shouting and screaming “Gesù” and “Maria”, against the Ottoman cries of “Allah, Allah”.


The war, from a political and strategic perspective, would prove inconclusive and largely resulted in a return to the
status quo ante bellum. From a psychological perspective, it was a net positive for Christendom, despite the battlefield setbacks. For the first time, they went head to head with the Turks and matched them blow for blow. It would be another generation before the Catholic powers of Europe would win a decisive victory against their Muslim rival, but the seeds of later success were planted during King Jan’s War.

In the moment, however, it was difficult to ignore the magnitude of the defeat at Kirkkilise. The Italian Expeditionary Force could no longer sustain its operations. The damage done to the army's supply wagons by Ottoman looting after the battle was almost as harmful to the future of the campaign as the casualties. Italian logistics in the Balkans practically ceased to exist. Thus began a bleak, frigid, and miserable slog back to Italy in the middle of winter. The remaining 11,000 men were barely a cohesive force and attrition hit them hard in the coming months.


For most of the journey, Ferrari was a general in name only. Bedridden and forced to travel in the back of a rickety wagon due to a leg wound, he drifted in and out of fever dreams as he tried to recover from his battle injuries. Still, a rough sense of loyalty kept the various regiments in line to prevent the force from disintegrating entirely. If a hostile opposing force had confronted them, they almost certainly would have collapsed instantly, but the discipline and training among the men that remained was at least enough to complete a semi-orderly withdrawal. Unlike the king and court, who sneered at Ferrari's low birth and total lack of social graces, the common soldiers of the Italian Expeditionary Force had a dogged, albeit sometimes grudging, admiration and respect for their commander. To them, the nickname "General Peasant" was not an insult, but an honorific. On more than one occasion, a clique of officers plotted to mutiny but were thwarted by their troops' refusal to cooperate. Carlo Grimaldi, a Florentine nobleman and the descendant of a long and proud line of military men, was Ferrari’s staunchest supporter. During the periods when his superior was too ill or injured to do so, Grimaldi became the
de facto commander of the army. The thirty five year old officer commanded a new volunteer regiment formed specifically for the Balkans campaign. Grimaldi had distinguished himself years earlier during the fight against the Cypriot rebels and had won further accolades when he and his men turned the Ottoman flank at Salonika. He was also well connected: his father Maurizio commanded the Grimaldi’s Raiders. This gave him the basis from which he defended his commander and, likely, ensured that Ferrari returned to Italy alive.

Gian Gastone I was determined to not be welcoming or celebratory toward the returning army. Despite having full knowledge that men were suffering and dying during the retreat from the Balkans, the king refused several overtures from Admiral Enzo Boncompagni to dispatch an Italian fleet to pick up the expeditionary force from Ragusa or Split and ferry them back across the Adriatic. Ferrari and his men were in an impossible position with their sovereign. If they had been too successful, the king would have feared Ferrari upstaging him. With defeat, he instead heaped insults, scorn, and humiliation against “General Peasant” and the men who fought, suffered, and died under his command for the cause of Christendom.

When the army finally crossed back into Italy on 25 February 1649, they were ordered to Milan to be sorted back into the regular force. Ferrari, Grimaldi, and a number of the other officers were summoned to Florence to answer for their “offenses”. The king and his minister of war humiliated Ferrari before the whole court, listing his many “failures” and repeatedly mentioning his peasant birth. The general, still unable to stand without the use of a cane, took it all in defiant silence. The king concluded by summarily dismissing him from military service and banished him forever from Florence.


The fifty seven year old Count of Maranello promptly departed without protest. He returned to his ancestral lands in the
Val Padana to take up farming once again, though this time as an aristocratic landowner instead of a peasant toiling in the fields. However, after being there for only a few months, he found a new opportunity. Most likely to spite her husband, Queen Carlota Luisa offered Ferrari a well-paid job as military tutor to her seven year old son, Crown Prince Francesco. Ferrari would be the first of a series of skilled and experienced military officers to shape and sharpen the military mind of the future Francesco II. Even at his tender age, the Prince of Naples showed a keen interest in military strategy and history and had a knack for grasping concepts beyond those typically intelligible for a child his age. Ferrari was so content with his new pupil that he went so far as to abdicate his title of Count of Maranello to his eldest son, Carlo, so that he could remain in Naples. His wife and one of his daughters joined him there and the stubborn old commander was perhaps truly happy for the first time in his life. Ferrari remained military tutor to the Crown Prince until his death on 5 April 1652 at the age of sixty.

Carlo Grimaldi was stripped of his regimental command as well. In the words of Minister of War Giovanni Pietro Carnesecchi, he had “defied the advice of more sober and intelligent officers in order to protect a drunken and inept commander.” As a result, Grimaldi was forced to accept a position as a battalion commander back in his father’s regiment, a humiliating setback for an officer with his level of promise and ambition. Several of the other officers who had supported Ferrari through the Balkans retreat suffered similar fates while those who had attempted mutinies were praised and promoted.

Back in the Balkans, the long, bloody war between the King of Poland and the Ottoman Sultan finally came to an end. After a number of defeats, it looked as if the Turks were back to their old ways, driving back the Christians’ invasion and preparing to mount one of their own. Then, on 6 August 1649, Mariusz Korycki led 56,000 Polish troops against Prince Mahmut and his 50,000 strong army. They met east of the village of Dăbuleni, between where the rivers Jiu and Olt meet the Danube. Korycki’s hussars goaded the overeager prince into an attack by charging and withdrawing before the Ottoman center. The Turks and their commander feel for a tactic their own ancestors had successfully employed against Christians for centuries. Instead of waiting horse archers, however, the Turkish troops marched into the teeth of the Polish artillery’s kill zone. Losses were heavy on both sides, but the Ottomans bore the brunt and they were forced back across the Danube. This marked the last time the Turks would pass north of the mighty river for the remainder of the war. After the Battle of Dăbuleni, both sides were ready for peace.


The decisive Polish victory at Dăbuleni halted the Ottoman counter-offensive and caused both sides to favor a peace agreement

Back in the west, a new major conflict was brewing in the Mediterranean. The Spanish-Italian rivalry that first exploded in the War of the League of Sevilla in 1607-15, was about to heat up again. The two powers competed for preeminence from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and a second bloody war was all but inevitable. From the Florentine perspective, the Spanish were in decline, struggling with internal issues, and stretched too thin. Gian Gastone I was convinced that he could be the king to finally destroy such a hated enemy. As the 1640s gave way to the 1650s, a new war was about to be unleashed on Europe.
 
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JerseyGiants88

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Given how long it has taken me to add these updates, I have a double feature for today. I have added Historical Vignette 26 as well as the history book Chapter 52. The latter covers the period 1645-50 while the former is the first entry in the story line for the era of Gian Gastone I's rule. I got bogged down mostly with the vignette, as I had a ton of ideas of where I wanted to go with it so it took me a while to decide. I still I have Historical Vignette 25 to post so hopefully I can get that up soon. The next few chapters of the history book should be quite battle filled, so I tried to focus more on non-warfare related subjects in this last one. I hope everyone enjoys and thanks for reading and fro bearing with me.
 

darkhaze9

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Wow, what an incredible update. Full of information and wonderfully written as always.

Well worth the wait.
 

Idhrendur

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Your updates always prove to have been worth the wait.
 

Nikolai

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Marvelous as always. :)
 

roverS3

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Excellent. A new era for Italy, with new elements: Scientific research, the promotion of brilliant women to unseen levels of power and prominence, but also the start of the Italian Slave trade and all the horrors related to it. A great read, as always.
 

MrReaper182

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As always a great read but the parts on the slave trade made me cry. After reading all this I'm pretty sure you time travel, then go to an alternative universe, write about what you see then come back to our universe and time and rewrite what you saw on the Paradox forums because you really do make this sound like it all happened lol.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 53: The Iberian War, 1650-1654

The rivalry between Italy and Spain was the defining conflict in western Mediterranean in the first half of the Seventeenth Century. The two states were destined by history and geography to be rivals. On the one hand were Spain’s continuing claims on southern Italy and her hold on numerous islands surrounding the peninsula. Sardinia, Sicily, and Malta were viewed as serious threats in Florence as they gave Madrid the ability to blockade the Italians almost at will. Additionally, Spain’s position athwart the Straits of Gibraltar menaced Italy’s communication and trade with its colonies in the New World and in Africa. As the only European colonial power without any Atlantic coastline, Italy was most vulnerable to Spanish whims there.

On the other hand, Spain viewed Italy as an upstart usurper. The Italian kings’ title of Defender of the Faith angered the Spanish, who felt that their own exploits fighting Muslims dating back to the Reconquista privileged their ownership of the title. They had come tantalizingly close to victory in the War of the League of Sevilla (1607-15) under the leadership of King Fernando VII before being turned back at the gates of Florence by a coalition army that included French, Austrian, and Polish troops. The Florentine victory in that conflict, followed by the subsequent unification of the Kingdom of Italy under Alberto I had seemingly pushed the Italians ahead of their rivals for preeminence. Still, the Spanish were unwilling to relent and a heightened state of tension continued through the subsequent decades. Spain still possessed the larger and wealthier overseas empire and was thought to have the edge in the Mediterranean naval race.

Under the steady and wise rule of Queen Ana I, Spain had recovered from the instability and drift that followed her father’s death in Sicily following his failed campaign in Italy. Spain once again appeared to be ascendant. The gold and silver that flowed into Sevilla from her New World colonies kept her a serious power in Western Europe. The army was rebuilt and led by a number of competent, experienced commanders.



Queen Ana I of Spain

On the other side, King Gian Gastone I was ambitious and eager for
gloria, or glory. Having gotten a taste of battle fighting rebels in Genoa and Cyprus he was eager to lead his armies in a “real war,” as he called it. He also grew increasingly paranoid about Spanish designs against his kingdom. He wrote to his friend and advisor Enzo Boncompagni that, “we will not be a true world power until we have freed ourselves from the Spanish cage. Until we clear our enemies from Sardegna and Sicilia, we remain at their mercy at sea.”

Following the War of the League of Sevilla, Alberto I prudently realized that any future wars with Spain could be just as destructive and deadly as the one he had just survived. Having personally lived through the Siege of Florence, he sought to avoid a renewed war with Spain at all costs. Indeed, much of the the old king’s foreign policy in the latter portion of his reign was designed to de-escalate the Spanish-Italian rivalry. A key pillar of this was to break Portugal from Spain’s orbit and bring her onto the Italian side or at least leave them as a sort of neutral third party capable of mediating between the two major powers.

That Lisbon remained aligned with Madrid instead of Florence by the 1650s represented the failure-by-neglect of Alberto I’s policy, though through no fault of his own. Alberto had considered the marriage of his nephew and heir to Princess Carlota Luisa of the Portuguese Avis dynasty to be one of the greatest foreign policy achievements of his reign. If he had lived to see the birth of his grandnephew Francesco, the old king would have been even more pleased. Through his mother, the new Crown Prince was a nephew to the King of Portugal, a fact that should have easily shifted Lisbon’s interests in the direction of Florence.

The boy’s father, however, had other ideas when he succeeded to the throne. On the personal side, Gian Gastone’s relationship with his wife had always been cold at best and openly hostile at worst. In a particularly chilling incident, the king is rumored to have had his wife’s favorite singer, Domenico Baroni, killed late in 1649. Their enmity persisted despite the fact that by 1650 the Queen Consort had given the king six surviving children, three of them sons. This did not stop Gian Gastone from openly flaunting his many mistresses and even privileging his illegitimate children ahead of his trueborn ones. On the diplomatic and strategic side, the king coveted the Mediterranean islands that kept Italy contained. He Furthermore, Spanish-Italian competition in the Caribbean further inflamed tensions. However, the king regularly paired his saber rattling toward Spain with a similar attitude towards Portugal. On the occasions when Gian Gastone did try to win over António I of Portugal, he treated the king as a vassal and supplicant. António was used to being treated as a partner by Queen Ana I, and Gian Gastone’s failed overtures left any nascent Italian-Portuguese alliance stillborn.

To counteract this, however, Foreign Minister Gioacchino Gori dispatched diplomats to Paris, Vienna, and Rome in an effort to craft a coalition in the fashion of Macchiavelli. However, whereas Machiavelli’s coalition was meant to protect Florence from invasion, Gori’s was meant for offensive war. In the most significant diplomatic coup in the leadup to the conflict, Italian diplomats were able to secure Papal involvement in the war against Spain. The previous time the two powers fought, the Pope had stood with King Fernando and his troops repeatedly menaced Italy alongside their Iberian allies. The War of the League of Sevilla had taught the Papacy a hard lesson, however. After the war, Italy annexed Rome and forced the Pope into nearly a decade and a half of exile in Germany (1615-31). This time, Rome would not repeat the mistake, safely siding with the power that surrounded it on all sides. Winning the Holy Father to the Italian cause was a huge morale boost for the budding anti-Spanish alliance.

Archduke Matthias of Austria also replied that Austria stood ready to support Italy in any war against Spain. The Medici had backed his claim to the throne during the succession crisis after the death of Maria Theresa, and the new archduke understood that Austria’s continued success depended on a strong relationship with Italy. It was a reversal of the initial logic that Mahciavelli used when he forged the partnership between Florence and Vienna back in the 1490s. Now it was the latter who depended on the former to maintain its pre-eminent position in central Europe. Matthias also showed foresight. He realized that supporting Italy against Spain would gain him reciprocity as he attempted to assert a more muscular foreign policy within Germany.

Meanwhile, Charles VIII’s agents in Florence had kept the French king up to date on Italian diplomatic and military maneuvers. Eager to leverage his position, the monarch remained noncommittal on the war and instead took an army south and halted right at the border with Italy and waited, blocking passage through the strategically important Val di Susa. This caused consternation in Florence as they sought to understand what French intentions were. The stakes could not be higher. If France sided with Spain, or otherwise decided on launching its own war with Italy, the situation would become dire almost immediately.

Undeterred, Gian Gastone, Gori, and Minister of War Giovanni Pietro Carnesecchi pressed forward with war preparations. These did not pass without controversy however. A number of the king’s other advisors counseled against war and the merchant companies lobbied against it as well. Gori, who had replaced Boncompagni as foreign minister largely thanks to his support among the merchant classes, quickly saw his base of support evaporate when it came to light that he supported the king. Regardless, Gian Gastone and the rest in favor of the war pressed forward with their preparations.


To his credit, the King of Italy did not waste time. First, he ordered Carlo Grimaldi and the
Armata del Sud to march south from Naples and meet up with a fleet docked at Reggio Calabria. This would be the start of the so-called “island hopping campaign”, an impressive feat of combined arms and logistics that set a new standard for joint army-navy operations. Second, he set things in order for his extended absence. His decision here caused some friction, which would come to the forefront later on. He did not grant the regency to his wife, Queen Consort Carlota Luisa, on the grounds that since she was Portuguese she could not be trusted. Instead, he created a seven-member regency council, headed by his friend, the Duke of Urbino. The Queen Consort was only one part of this council. The king then departed Florence and went to Milan. There, he took command of the Armata del Nord and marched west to meet the French at the border. The two kings met and reached an agreement in a field then sat down for a feast at the abbey in the town of Novalesa on 8 May. There, after some further discussion, they reached a formal agreement on the division of the spoils that would come from a war with Spain. Gian Gastone promised his counterpart the Crown of Navarre as payment for French participation.

Charles VIII and his army departed the Val di Susa and marched across the south of France to the Spanish border. Gian Gastone waited with his force for about a week. Then, they began following the same route the French took. On 24 May, as agreed upon by the two kings, both Italy and France declared war on Spain. There was little surprise in Madrid and Lisbon. Both sides had been preparing for a potential conflict since at least the beginning of spring. By that point, Charles VIII and his army were beginning to cross the Pyrenees.


The first action of the war, however, did not occur in the west. Instead, the first aggressive move came from Italy’s
Armata del Sud. The Italian navy once again proved its mettle, transporting 25,000 men and all their supplies, animals, and food across the treacherous Strait of Messina with little incident. Immediately the army surrounded the great Spanish fortress city of Messina and began what would become a lengthy siege. They were commanded by the young and capable Carlo Grimaldi. The scion of a legendary Florentine military family, Grimaldi had earned the king’s enmity when he stood in defense of Alessandro di Ferrari following the brutal Italian retreat from the Balkans during the Polish-Ottoman War. However, his performance had earned him the praise and respect of senior army officers. He took over the unit previously commanded by his father, following the older Grimaldi’s death in early 1649. While commanding the illustrious Reggimento Grimaldi, he received a visit from Gian Gastone, who had a change of heart and appointed him commander of the Armata del Sud. His close working relationship with Lord Admiral Enzo Boncompagni ensured the beginning of the invasion went smoothly. This was an auspicious beginning to a war that would see Grimaldi earn great acclaim.


General Carlo Grimaldi, Commander of the Armata del Sud and a master of amphibious operations

The first major battle of the war took place on French soil and it did not go nearly as well for the allies as the invasion of Sicily had. Whether through poor communication or simple inertia, the other French army, under Gui de Bonnefoy, departed late from their base at Bordeaux and by the time they approached the Pyrenees, were confronted by a formidable Spanish force under Fernando Fernandez de la Cueva-Benavides, Marquis of Leganés. He was one of Spain’s most capable commanders and understood that a quick strike against France was necessary to blunt the momentum of any invasion attempt. Despite being outnumbered nearly two to one, Leganés used his troops’ superior training and experience to frustrate French efforts to move against him. After a long day of fighting, he managed to turn the French right flank and force them to retreat.



The situation in the Pyrenees, late summer, 1650

The Italians, instead of struggling over the center of the Pyrenees like the French were doing, took the route along the coast. Gian Gastone and Admiral Boncompagni wanted to recreate the success they had against the Cypriot rebels on a grander scale. They both were to prove up to the task. The
Armata del Nord crossed the Spanish border on 31 July and by 6 August invested the fortress at Roussillon, the gateway into the Spain.

By late summer, the situation along the Pyrenees was muddled. The allies’ success had been mild and largely as a result of a lack of opposition. The Spanish had won convincingly in the first major pitched battle. Queen Ana and her advisors in Madrid were confident that once their Portuguese allies arrived on the scene, they would easily push the invading armies back over the border.

Then, on 7 September, Madrid received news that helped push the course of the war in the allies’ favor and put Spain at a disadvantage. James II, King of England, declared war on the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada. Spain was thus dragged into a colonial conflict at the worst possible moment. While the English would never attempt their own invasion of Spain, and the efforts by their ally Brandenburg were minimal, the war would drain precious men and treasure and give the Italian navy the upper hand in the Mediterranean. Despite the seemingly much greater threat against the homeland, Spain had to remain almost equally committed to defense of her colonies. The silver and gold flowing from South America to Europe was the life blood of the Spanish Empire, and its loss could just as crippling as the loss of Catalonia or Andalusia.



The outbreak of the Colombian War forced Madrid to focus on two war efforts at once

At about the same time, a combined army from Austria and the Papal State crossed into Spain and joined the siege at Roussillon. Now, the full power of the alliance was on hand. The French had recovered from their defeat at Bearn and were ready to renew their offensive. Still, the Spanish had most of the Pyrenees passes blocked and had a strong defensive position in French territory. With the added manpower from the allied armies, Gian Gastone coordinated a daring plan with the Papal and Austrian commanders: Urbanus Ferme and Benno Steiger, respectively. Ferme was a member of the College of Cardinals and popularly known as the “Cardinal Commander”. A daring, if occasionally reckless, leader, he took 86,000 men and detached from the siege. In a sign of his maturation as a leader, Gian Gastone let the Papal general lead the attack against the Spanish while he stayed at Rousillon to supervise the siege. Marching north, the newly formed Army of the Pyrenees crossed back over onto the French side. They fell upon a Spanish army at the town of Dax in Aquitaine and dealt them a crushing defeat. The Battle of Dax turned the tide and momentum of the war. The Marquis of Leganés was forced to halt his march on Bordeaux and turn around, or else risk being cut off on the wrong side of the mountains as the allies continued to pour armies across them. Madrid was of the same state of mind. Queen Ana made one of her few personal interventions of the war, ordering her generals to return to Spain and establish a defensive line southwest of the Pyrenees. The strategy was prudent, if a bit cautious, but it had the downside of essentially abandoning Aragon to the Austro-Italian offensive.



The allied victory at Dax helped turned the tide of the war

In Sicily, the Spanish troops at Messina had surrendered by 20 December 1650, allowing the
Armata del Sud free to conquer the rest of the island. Splitting his army, Grimaldi took Palermo on 1 February 1651, and Siracusa five days later on the 6th. In Spain, the fortress at Roussillon resisted into the new year, but finally surrendered on 14 January 1651 following a 161-day siege. This opened the Spanish Mediterranean coast to allied invasion and plunder. Gian Gastone sent a vanguard force ahead to invest Valencia, the next major fortress city. They began a new siege on 11 February 1651. Meanwhile, the rest of the Armata del Nord began a steady, relentless advance down the coast. They took Girona on 24 February, Barcelona on 28 February, and Tarragona on 9 March before rendezvousing with the vanguard at the Siege of Valencia on 19 March. To the north, Charles VIII completed his conquest of Navarre on 26 February and began his own advance along the Atlantic coast, moving westward. More bad news came for Spain later in the month. The same army that had just conquered Sicily made landfall in Sardinia on 11 March, taking Cagliari on the 15th.


The capture of Messina opened the way for the conquest of Sicily


The taking of the fortress at Roussillon opened the way into Iberia


The Italian invasion of Sardinia

This list of places and dates makes the campaign seem like a simply march. What it hides is the devastation the allies wrought upon the people living in these conquered areas. Much of this was conscious and purposeful. In the countryside, soldiers were ordered to “lighten the logistical burden” on the Italian navy’s supply shipments by “living off the land.” This was ordered despite the fact that Admiral Boncompagni and other high-ranking naval officers were sending a steady stream of reports indicating there was a surplus, not a shortage, of supplies flowing into Spain. This was reflected on the ground by brutal attacks on the peasantry and gave a free hand to soldiers to steal everything from livestock to silverware, leaving the population destitute. Those who were “lucky” enough to avoid being simply murdered by rapacious troops were left behind to starve or die from disease. The lone exception to this was the
Armata del Sud, whose relatively benign operations in the Mediterranean islands were largely free of the large-scale atrocities practiced by the Italians and their allies in Catalonia and, later, in Andalusia.

Across the board, the Spanish situation suddenly looked quite dire. However, Queen Ana and her inner circle were not prepared to panic yet. They had preserved most of their military strength and hoped for the allies to exhaust themselves and overstretch their supply lines before launching a massive counter-offensive. The strategy was sound, but it failed to account for the allied armies’ ability to consistently resupply by sea in addition to what they were plundering from the countryside. This was true for the Italians in particular. The Spanish navy had failed to challenge them in the Mediterranean, and now they were shuttling men and materiel back and forth from Italy at will.

The Spanish made no serious effort to lift the Siege of Valencia, which fell on 20 June 1651 after a 129 day siege. From this followed yet another grim and horrific story. The Italians initially marched into the city in good order and, by all reports, looting was limited. However, for reasons lost to history, on 22 June Italian soldiers clashed with civilians, setting off an orgy of murder, rape, and looting. The Italian officers took their time re-instilling discipline, and the situation did not calm down until 26 June. By that time, nearly a third of the city’s population had been killed or driven from their homes. Previously the third wealthiest Spanish city, following Madrid and Sevilla, Valencia was left destitute, and would not recover its previous high status for many decades.


Leaving Valencia to its fate, the Spanish tried a riskier approach. The queen’s nephew and heir apparent, the
Infante Felipe was given overall strategic command of the war in August. His vision was to slow down the Italian campaign in the south and the French one in the north to buy time for the famed conquistador Fernando Fernandez de Cordoba to establish a defensive position around Madrid in order to defend the capital. Felipe’s plan involved sending a combined Spanish-Portuguese army under Diego Fernández de Castro to besiege Rousillon, take back the city, and cut off the Italians’ overland supply routes. A second army was to block the French as they drove westward into Galicia. However, in late August, the Portuguese notified their allies that they planned to withdraw their armies west to defend their own homeland from impending invasion. Deprived of significant numbers of troops, the already slim chance of Spanish success was reduced even further. Still, with few options remaining, Felipe ordered the operations to go ahead.


The fall of Valencia put an end to the Aragonese Campaign and forced Spain to adopt desperate measures

De Castro’s 15,000 man army slipped through the allied lines and began to lay siege to Rousillon when they reached the town on 21 September 1651. Their goal was to take the fortress and cut off their foes from overland supply lines and potential routes of withdrawal. Sensing the threat, Gian Gastone circled back north to lift the siege. His army arrived outside the fortress on 19 October and proceeded to give battle the following day. With the Italians holding a numerical advantage greater than two to one, the Battle of Rousillon quickly turned into a rout. Castro’s army was driven from the field, leaving behind 7,000 dead, at the coast of about 2,000 Italians. Things were no better in the north. The French avenged their earlier defeats at the hands of the Marquis of Leganés by crushing his army at the town of Cistierna, as the French closed in on Léon, which they eventually took in November. The Spanish counter-offensive,
Infante Felipe’s first major operation of the war, ended in disaster for his troops.


Gian Gastone led his army to victory at Rousillon, maintaining the allied supply lines back to France and Italy

In addition to the military defeats, the Spanish population suffered greatly as a whole during this period. To ignore the horrors this war visited upon the Spanish people, as rapacious armies from Italy, France, and Austria descended on their homeland, would be to make this simply of story of statesmen and generals, treaties and negotiations, and kingly ambitions. A responsible telling of this history requires a clear-eyed accounting of the many atrocities. There is no point in making this exercise comparative by attempting to cancel out the allies’ crimes against the Iberian peoples by citing the equally horrific acts carried out in Italy four decades earlier. It is only worth noting because many of Italy’s more senior commanders had been young officers during the last war against Spain and were consciously seeking vengeance. King Gian Gastone himself had lived through the brutal Siege of Florence as a child in 1612. The monarch grew up with a strong hatred of Spain and Spaniards as a result. He made sure to diffuse that hatred down through the ranks of his army. Throughout the Aragonese countryside and, to a lesser extent, later on in Andalusia, Italian reprisals and confiscations hit the peasantry especially hard. The Spanish armies, fleeing headlong from the land, could provide no protection or relief. Italian soldiers, along with their French, Austrian, and Papal allies, confiscated crops, stole livestock, raped women, and generally pillaged and burned wherever they went.

The story of a single rape or murder, committed in a Catalan or Andalusian village, may trouble the reader and be fixed in memory. Thousands of such crimes, spread over hundreds of villages, turn instead into numbers, and are likely to leave the reader cold. The imagination is not able to grasp the shape of terror in such quantities. It is always important also to keep in mind that in any given European army, approximately 60 percent of the soldiers came from humble rural and market-town stock. Thus, peasants in wartime were likely to be the victims, for the most part, of men who were much like themselves, adding further to the sense of horror and tragedy.


On 8 November 1651, Malta surrendered to Carlo Grimaldi and his army, thus bringing an end to the “island hopping campaign” in the central Mediterranean. With all the original target islands under Italian control, the
Armata del Sud was now free to join the ongoing campaign in Iberia, further tilting the balance of forces to the allies’ favor.


Italy captured Malta in November

After defeating the Spanish at Rousillon, Gian Gastone had swung his army around to the north. Coordinating with Charles VIII, the two kings advanced southwards against Madrid. They were joined by Benno Steiger and the Austrian army. To add to the already staggering advantage the allied enjoyed, Charles and Gian Gastone reached an agreement with the Brandenburg-Brabant army in the area, fighting on behalf of their English allies. With all the troops combined, this massive army was estimated at an absolutely staggering 240,000 men. Gian Gastone I won the right to have overall command of the battle in exchange for granting the “privilege” of besieging Madrid to Charles VIII. Fernando Fernandez de Cordoba and a Spanish army of about 63,000 men stood between the allies and the capital. The tenacious Cordoba had no illusions of victory. His sole purpose was to delay the allied advance and buy time for his queen and her court to safely evacuate the capital and continue the war .Outnumbered four to one, his men made a stand at the town of Torrelaguna. They fought bravely and ceded ground grudgingly. In the end, Cordoba managed to extract much of his army to continue the fight in the south. But Madrid was all but lost. The massive allied army was unsustainable and soon the constituent parts went their separate ways.



The victory at Torrelaguna was opened the road to Madrid

Following their defeat at Torrelaguna, Spanish resolve quickly began to collapse. There was no longer any hope for relief. Queen Ana and her court fled Madrid ahead of the advancing allied army. Their relocation to Sevilla moved them further away from the front, but only postponed the now inevitable outcome. Diplomatic overtures to Italian rival Bohemia fell on deaf ears. Emperor EDIT NAME had no interest in getting involved with what most Lutherans considered a Catholic conflict. He was more than happy to let the Italians and Spaniards exhaust each other in their mutual war.

While the war in Iberia seemed to be a foregone conclusion, a new source of drama cropped up back in Italy. In Gian Gastone’s absence, the kingdom had been ruled by a regency council, headed by Filippo Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. However, ongoing tension between the duke and the Queen Consort had left the council mostly dormant. The queen refused to attend council meetings in person, as she considered it disrespectful that a duke (especially a duke who happened to be brother to the king’s favorite mistress) should be appointed to head the group above her. Instead, she conducted all business by courier messages from the nearby Villa Medici at Careggi where she was staying with her children and household. Furthermore, the mental decline and eventual death of Prince Alessandro dé Medici caused more problems. The Black Prince was a stabilizing force on the council and often took up the Queen Consort’s causes in her absence. His death removed an obstacle to Montefeltro control.


Filippo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino

The personal and political came to a head on 13 March 1651. The Queen Consort and the royal family were in Florence for a visit. The Strozzi family, longstanding Medici allies, held an extravagant ball at their palace to honor the Queen Consort and the Crown Prince. However, tensions began to rise quickly. Adelaide da Montefeltro and her two children by the king arrived and words were exchanged by several groups of people. When the queen attempted to leave, the Strozzi begged her to stay and promised to expel Lady Adelaide instead. However, this led to a scuffle between Strozzi guards and the men of the Montefeltro household. Several fights broke out, including a sword duel. This all led to a number of injuries. According to some stories, Crown Prince Francesco got his hands on his half-brother Filippo, son of Adelaide, and the two children had a fight of their own. However, this story is likely an exaggeration. Late in the night, after a raucous ball, the parties went their separate ways without further incident. This was not the end of the Avis-Montefeltro feud, however.


Over the next several days, several clashes took place in the streets of Florence. On Tuesday 18 March 1651 things got even worse. The Queen Consort and her household, with the princes Francesco and Girolamo in tow, were departing the
Duomo after hearing mass on the feast of the Archangel Gabriel, a revered figure in Portuguese Catholicism. As the de Avis party were departing the cathedral, they encountered a group of men which included the Duke of Urbino’s son, sixteen-year-old Scipione da Montefeltro, and numerous members of their household. They began taunting the queen’s party, trying to goad them into further fighting. Though the exact series of events that followed remains mired in controversy, what is irrefutable is that by the end, two members of the queen’s household were dead, a number of others on both sides were seriously injured. The Duke of Urbino arrived on the scene and ordered the Queen Consort and her people arrested. In the ensuing chaos, the heir to the throne and his younger brother both disappeared in the chaos.

That night, as both sides scoured the city and surrounding countryside looking for the lost boys, Scipione and three of his companions were set upon by unknown assailants. The next morning, the bodies of the four men were found hanging from trees along the Via Cassia in the vicinity of the town of Galuzzo. Three of them, including Scipione, had been castrated and gutted. Rumors immediately began running rampant over who was behind the atrocious killings. The Duke of Urbino, enraged at the murder of his son and heir, swore vengeance. The Montefeltro faction also began spreading tales of the “Portuguese Plot”. According to this story, the Queen Consort and her Portuguese “hired knives” (i.e. guards) had allied with Jews and vengeful Waldensians to overthrow the king and place the allegedly pro-Lisbon, pro-Calvinist Crown Prince on the throne immediately. Considering Francesco was only nine years old, the implication was that Carlota Luisa wanted to seize power for herself.

The duke immediately ordered the arrest numerous of the city’s most prominent Jews as well as anyone who remained free among the “queen’s men”, those considered her political allies. Of the former group, several were expelled from the city. However, beyond that, most of Florence’s Jewish population was spared any further reprisals thanks to the intervention of a few their wealthy co-religionists, who essentially paid the Duke of Urbino and his allies to grant clemency. Many of the latter group would not be so lucky.

The king’s Calvinist Lord Admiral, Enzo Boncompagni, was also implicated in the plot by some. Though he was in Rome at the time to plan continued naval operations with the Papal fleet, he was recalled to Florence. Boncompagni refused to comply however, using the justifiable excuse that he was in Rome on direct orders of the king and thus immune from the regent’s call for him to return to the capital.


Others were not so lucky. Though the records are unclear, between fifteen and twenty people were executed in Florence on the orders of the Duke of Urbino between 12 and 19 April 1651. The Duke of Savoy, a
de facto Medici prisoner since the conquest of his duchy in 1647 was the most prominent victim. Accused of harboring Waldensian sympathies, he was linked to several pamphlets mocking the king and some of his ragazzi. Using it as an opportunity to flex his muscle, Montefeltro had Duke Girolamo hanged as a traitor. The executed duke’s younger brother, Amedeo, was living in Amsterdam at the time of his elder brother’s execution and stood to inherit the duchy. However, in an effort to guarantee that the king would not react harshly to such a high-profile execution, the regent ordered that the surviving members of the House of Savoy be stripped of all their lands, titles, and incomes, thus disinheriting Amedeo. Instead, Montefeltro ordered the title of Duke of Savoy abolished and replaced it with the newly made Duchy of Piedmont. To win favor with his king, and probably to argue he was acting on Gian Gastone’s behalf, Montefeltro named another of the king’s illegitimate sons, Cosimo, to the newly created title. Despite being a bastard, Cosimo had an impressive pedigree. On his father’s side he was a Medici while his mother, the widow of the recently executed Duke Girolamo of Savoy, was the Hohenzollern princess, Louise Charlotte.


Propaganda pamphlets critical of the king were used to justify the crackdown

The tide began to turn against the Montefeltros however, when the lost Crown Prince and his brother surfaced in Rimini under the protection of Enzo Boncompagni and the Adriatic Fleet, which was in the port city taking on supplies and preparing to resume its anti-piracy patrols in the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean. Montefeltro once again ordered Boncompagni back to Florence, but instead the admiral took ship for Spain where he delivered the boys to his king on 16 July. A grateful Gian Gastone then ordered the regency stripped from his erstwhile friend and gave it to Boncompagni instead and sent his admiral back to Italy with an infantry regiment to restore order in the capital. When he returned to Florence in late August, the admiral forced the Duke of Urbino and his supporters capitulated without much of a fight, ending their brief period of power. The queen consort was freed from her house arrest in the Villa Careggi and returned to Florence. This time she agreed to rule directly, as the regency council was dissolved, and she and Boncompagni ruled as co-regents. Thus, the so-called Crisis of 1652 went down as a colorful event with little overall impact on the course of the war of Italian politics in the long term.



The situation in Iberia, Spring 1652

Back in Iberia, the king and his commanders and allies were preparing to launch the final stage of the war. The king moved west alongside a massive Austro-Papal army to invade Portugal and eventually besiege Lisbon. Carlo Grimaldi finally got an opportunity to lead a land campaign. Fresh off his success in the Mediterranean, the young general was eager to test his mettle against the Spanish defending the last vestiges of their homeland.


Granada fell on 10 August and Cordoba on 17 November. The only saving grace for the Andalusian peasantry, especially compared to their Aragonese cousins, was that the enemy army was no longer as rapacious. Several factors combined to make this so. The average Italian soldier received plenty of food, supplied by the steadfast and reliable navy that ferried back and forth across the western Mediterranean, and he was well paid. Morale was high and by all reports the troops were well disciplined. The
Armata del Sud, compared to their comrades in the Armata del Nord, had also had an easier time in the war. They had conducted some sieges and endured some occasionally rough seas sailing around the Mediterranean but had been spared most of the hardships of the war. They had not faced any major pitched battle; they had avoided the arduous overland trek across southern France, over the Pyrenees, and through Aragon; and they were generally led by a younger crop of officers who had not been through the crucible of the first war against Spain. Thus, the treatment of the local Andalusian population by the Armata del Sud was an almost mirror image of the treatment received by the people of Aragon at the hand of the Armata del Nord. This is not to say there were no atrocities, but there were significantly fewer.

On 14 December the
Armata del Sud finally did get to fight their pitched battle. Fernando Fernandez de Cordoba and his army attempted a heroic final stand outside the de facto capital of Sevilla. The Spaniards held the numerical advantage in the battle, a rare case in the war, and were well dug in behind prepared defenses. Unfortunately for Cordoba, the terrain to the northeast of the city, from where the Italians were approaching, was not conducive to defense. The wide, flat plains lent themselves well to the fast moving, well-disciplined attackers. Though they had the most significant advantage in terms of artillery, the Spanish lacked any major high ground from which they could use their guns to maximum effect. Cordoba anchored his left wing on the east bank of the Guadalquivir River, hoping to use it as natural protection. The main problem for the Spanish however, was that the state of the armies was vastly different. The Italians were well supplied and well fed, better armed, and buoyed by the confidence of a long string of victories. Cordoba’s men, on the other hand, were starving, ill-equipped, riddled by disease, and low on morale. The Spanish held on for long enough to allow the queen and her court to flee Sevilla, but that was the best they could do. By late afternoon of a cold, crisp day, Cordoba ordered a withdrawal across the Guadalquivir at the town of La Algaba. Queen Ana, her court, and what was left of her army made a long, miserable, arduous march to Cádiz. They fought on out of sheer determination, but there was no plan, no hope.




Carlo Grimaldi’s Andalusian Campaign put an end to Spanish resistance in Iberia

The situation was no better for the Portuguese in the west. The allied armies crashed across their border, dividing the country into three sections. The French took the north, with the goal of taking Porto, the Austrians and the Papal State took the center, focused on the capital of Lisbon, and the Italians took the south. This did lead to some minor dramatics of its own, as King Gian Gastone had been determined to take Lisbon himself, but the Austrians refused to budge on the matter. With the war all but won, however, none of the belligerents seemed willing to escalate the matter further.

With the Queen of Spain cornered in Cádiz and Portugal under siege across its lands, the Iberian powers finally capitulated, agreeing to peace talks in Lisbon. These were attended by four of the belligerents’ monarchs: Gian Gastone I of Italy, Charles VIII of France, Ana I of Spain, and António I of Portugal. Two future kings were also in attendance, the ten-year-old Crown Prince Francesco of Italy and the fifteen-year-old Hereditary Prince Joao of Portugal. Archduke Matthias of Austria was represented by his chief diplomat, Philipp Ludwig Graf von Cobenzl, and Pope Pius III by the Papal Nuncio, Arrigo Colonna.

With all of Iberia at the mercy of the allies, the peace terms were harsh. The continuing war between Spain and England in the New World added even more pressure on Queen Ana to agree to terms. As long as Spain retained possession of the gold and silver mines of South America, she might recover, if those were lost to England, on the other hand, it could spell the final collapse of imperial Spain. The final price for peace was steep. Spain gave up Sicily, Sardegna, Malta, the Canary Islands, and the island of Fernando Po in the Bight of Bonny to Italy. The Kingdom of Navarre was handed over to France and Charlies VIII. Even the Papal State gained territory in Germany, receiving the province of Berg from Cologne. In addition, Spain had to pay huge sums in war reparations to the allied powers despite the fact that the latter had started the war. Curiously, nothing was demanded of Portugal in the peace. The Portuguese surely played a deft diplomatic game, but it is also likely that the personal intervention of Queen Carlota Luisa, on good terms with her husband for the first time following a successful regency in Gian Gastone’s absence, played a role. Regardless, the map of Europe was redrawn.



The Peace of Lisbon made Gian Gastone King of Sicily and Sardinia, Charles VIII King of Navarre, and left Italy as the undisputed master of the western Mediterranean

The stunning and decisive victory by Italy and her allies over Spain cemented Gian Gastone’s legacy in his time and for many future historians. Despite the many critiques of his reign, there can be no doubt of his skill as a military commander. Even the most optimistic pro-Italian observers could not have expected such a decisive victory in the war. While a number of factors conspired to pave the way to victory, the King of Italy used his skills as a tactician, logistician, and diplomat to build a winning coalition. As a result, his kingdom emerged as the undisputed Christian power in the Mediterranean, ready and willing to challenge the mighty Ottoman Empire for hegemony over the great sea.


For Italy, the victory represented another step up in the seemingly endless climb toward greater heights of power and prestige. Whatever hopes Spain may have still harbored to exercise influence and control over Italy were dashed. Triumphant Italian writers depicted the war as the final victory over “Iberian oppression” dating back to 1409 and the conquest by the Crown of Aragon. No writer would turn out to be more triumphant than the king himself, whose auto-hagiographical
In Conquestum Iberorum (The Conquest of Iberia) placed him at the center of all the events and depicted him as a flawless commander. In more practical terms, the copious literature that emerged from the conflict did further enhance the military traditions of both the Italian army and the navy.


The war ended any vestiges of Spanish ambitions in Italy or its surrounding islands

However, as the war ended, the armies marched home, and those civilians in Iberian cities and country villages started to rebuild, it is important to remember the human and moral cost of the war. This was, above all, a war of naked aggression. Gian Gastone I was ambitious and sought
gloria, but the price of these cannot be ignored. Everywhere his armies marched, villagers and townsfolk were assaulted, robbed, barked at, bloodied, raped, and murdered. This was true of all European wars of the time, but the horror stands out as particularly stark when the cause is one of vanity and lust for greater power. In the midst of such woe, the skills of generals lose their meaning. Knowledge of weapons and tactics fades into irrelevance. Dynastic rights and the “honor” of princes become legal abstractions and horrific indulgences. There is nothing sacrosanct about the decisions of princes and their ministers, and there is no reason under the sun to assume that they were guided by political wisdom. The Iberian War, and the near-total demolition of the Spanish homeland, signaled Italy’s arrival as a truly titanic power on the European continent and raised her ambitions to a truly global scale. It also drowned any remaining pretenses of her status as a scrappy underdog or “good actor” in a deluge of fire and blood. She was a world power, with all the gloria and moral damnation that accompanied such a status.
 

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As always a great read but the parts on the slave trade made me cry. After reading all this I'm pretty sure you time travel, then go to an alternative universe, write about what you see then come back to our universe and time and rewrite what you saw on the Paradox forums because you really do make this sound like it all happened lol.
First, thank you for the kind words. I write this stuff for my own enjoyment so it is always a very pleasant surprise when other people find it interesting and enjoyable. I really do appreciate it.

As for the parts about slavery, my goal was to make them as true to the real history as I could make them. Same goes for the descriptions of wartime atrocities in the chapter I just posted. I change the details to fit the story and the in-game events that it is based on, but the descriptions are all based on real history. The time period covered by EUIV is fascinating and it is probably my favorite to study and read about. But it was also brutal and dark and filled with human suffering. My goal is to make both aspects come through. I just couldn't bring myself to write about the Iberian War in Chapter 53 as some glorious jaunt through Spain, laying low a hated enemy. When the Spanish were invading Italy, they were the villains, bringing war to another people for their own aggrandizement. But if that was true, I would be a cheap storyteller if I didn't make the reverse true when the Italians invaded Spain. When I was playing this in-game, I had no real reason to issue a DOW on Spain other than that I was bored and wanted their islands. I thought the story should reflect that as well. Oh, and I wanted to get the mission achievement, can't forget that of course.

Speaking of story, I haven't posted a vignette in a while. The reason for that is that I have had tons of ideas but have not kept them under control. So instead of a couple of shot stories that I completed, what I have has kind of spiraled into a ton of different story arcs but they are all half finished. They are all focused on the events depicted in chapters 52 and 53 but I am not sure how I am going to bring them all together. I am also trying to bring in a more diverse cast of characters than just kings and ministers. I have long meant to highlight some of the more mundane parts of life in these times but largely I think I have fallen short, so I am trying to correct that too.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure how I am going to resume adding them in but I do plan to figure something out. Thanks again for reading, especially this non-story post I just rambled on.