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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

TheButterflyComposer

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Well, that is a strong Italy in the Med now. Strong enough to fight for control of Africa and the Holy Land, if only for trade posts? With spain, england and france doubling down in the new world, it might be better for italy to look to other areas for expansion if they want to keep their allies.
 

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What a war, the coalition of the pope, the Habsburgs, Italy, and France was a definitely too much for the Iberians to handle on their own. While it is a sizeable victory, it doesn't seem to be the end of Italian-Spanish conflicts.

Despite all the Islands that were annexed, the Gibraltar strait remains an issue, allowing the Spanish to cut the empire from it's colonies, and the newly acquired Canary islands. This fact alone makes it interesting for other major powers to enlist the help of Spain if they ever build an alliance to expel Italy from the new world and divide the Italian colonies amongst themselves. Keeping the bulk of the Italian Navy trapped in the Med would allow a combined enemy navy to achieve local naval superiority in the Atlantic. I also second @TheButterflyComposer 's assessment. To avoid the above-described scenario, agressive expansion in the new world should be avoided.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Despite all the Islands that were annexed, the Gibraltar strait remains an issue, allowing the Spanish to cut the empire from it's colonies, and the newly acquired Canary islands. This fact alone makes it interesting for other major powers to enlist the help of Spain if they ever build an alliance to expel Italy from the new world and divide the Italian colonies amongst themselves. Keeping the bulk of the Italian Navy trapped in the Med would allow a combined enemy navy to achieve local naval superiority in the Atlantic. I also second @TheButterflyComposer 's assessment. To avoid the above-described scenario, agressive expansion in the new world should be avoided.
Not just to avoid stepping on the rest of Europe's toes should the east be focused on rather than amercia. Put simply, the reason why europeans went west at all was because the ottomans blocked most overland and sea trade east. Taking over the former eastern roman empire as italy, restoring the holy land to Christian control and getting fabulously wealthy in the process should earn Italy nothing but respect and aid from the rest of Europe.
 

Casko

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Another Great update, and a great read.
Those acts of violence and cruelty towards cities that do not surrender easily is also equally entertaining as they are grim.

Not just to avoid stepping on the rest of Europe's toes should the east be focused on rather than amercia. Put simply, the reason why europeans went west at all was because the ottomans blocked most overland and sea trade east. Taking over the former eastern roman empire as italy, restoring the holy land to Christian control and getting fabulously wealthy in the process should earn Italy nothing but respect and aid from the rest of Europe.
Heck, no need to even take Holy Land, starting from Tunisia-Tripoli regions alone would do wonders to help Italy push its "defender of faith" and to continuously push for its historical birthright of "Mare Nostrum".
If Spanish call themselves Defenders of the Faith for their deeds in Reconquista, why not start your own Tunisian Expedition?
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Heck, no need to even take Holy Land, starting from Tunisia-Tripoli regions alone would do wonders to help Italy push its "defender of faith" and to continuously push for its historical birthright of "Mare Nostrum".
If Spanish call themselves Defenders of the Faith for their deeds in Reconquista, why not start your own Tunisian Expedition?
It would be interesting to see Italy start their own empire again in Africa and the Middle East, and try to stay out of Western European affairs as much as possible. The other options, taking out iberiaor the HRE, or reuniteing the old roman empire, have been done before. Don't think anyone's done an AAR where Italy tries to take over all of Africa and then build an eastern empire?
 

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It would be interesting to see Italy start their own empire again in Africa and the Middle East, and try to stay out of Western European affairs as much as possible. The other options, taking out iberiaor the HRE, or reuniteing the old roman empire, have been done before. Don't think anyone's done an AAR where Italy tries to take over all of Africa and then build an eastern empire?
well, Taking over all of Africa is maybe a bit too much. after all, this AAR is the history book type innit? That said I could see a the Old Roman provinces of Africa taken fit in the scale of this AAR. After all, taking over all of Africa is more Vicky and HoI style goal :p
 

Crimson Lionheart

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Another fantastic victory for Italy. She's truly become a world power now, for better or worse.

Also, long time reader and lurker for this AAR. I'm amazed with how much this has progressed within the last few years, especially with the realism and immersive world built around an ambitious family from Florence. This AAR is actually a major inspiration of mine and had actually encouraged me to write my first AAR. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story @JerseyGiants88 , you've created something special :D
 

TheButterflyComposer

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well, Taking over all of Africa is maybe a bit too much. after all, this AAR is the history book type innit? That said I could see a the Old Roman provinces of Africa taken fit in the scale of this AAR. After all, taking over all of Africa is more Vicky and HoI style goal :p
It's more finding something to do in EUIV thst isn't kill everyone in europe or colonise everywhere.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Well, that is a strong Italy in the Med now...it might be better for italy to look to other areas for expansion if they want to keep their allies.
Taking over the former eastern roman empire as italy, restoring the holy land to Christian control and getting fabulously wealthy in the process should earn Italy nothing but respect and aid from the rest of Europe.
Heck, no need to even take Holy Land, starting from Tunisia-Tripoli regions alone would do wonders to help Italy push its "defender of faith" and to continuously push for its historical birthright of "Mare Nostrum".
There will be a healthy amount of crusading in the near future. Stay tuned.

Despite all the Islands that were annexed, the Gibraltar strait remains an issue, allowing the Spanish to cut the empire from it's colonies, and the newly acquired Canary islands. This fact alone makes it interesting for other major powers to enlist the help of Spain if they ever build an alliance to expel Italy from the new world and divide the Italian colonies amongst themselves. Keeping the bulk of the Italian Navy trapped in the Med would allow a combined enemy navy to achieve local naval superiority in the Atlantic. I also second @TheButterflyComposer 's assessment. To avoid the above-described scenario, agressive expansion in the new world should be avoided.
I actually considered going for Gibraltar as part of the peace instead of the Canaries but the cost was too high and would have required me to drop demands for another one of the Mediterranean islands (probably Malta) instead, which I was not willing to do. At the end of the day, based on the game mechanics, whether or not I control the province of Gibraltar isn't as crucial as it might be in real life. One, I figured it would be almost impossible to defend if Spain decided to declare war on me again. Two, it would be of only marginal benefit as far as keeping the straits open is concerned. I went with the Canaries instead to allow me to project more into the Atlantic and figured, if necessary, I could just ram my navy through the Straits and dare the Spanish to stop me. With how handily I was able to dominate their fleet in the war, I thought this to be the more efficient route.

well, Taking over all of Africa is maybe a bit too much. after all, this AAR is the history book type innit? That said I could see a the Old Roman provinces of Africa taken fit in the scale of this AAR. After all, taking over all of Africa is more Vicky and HoI style goal :p
There will be plenty of focus on Africa in future updates, but it will be (in my opinion) a lot more interesting than just painting the continent green. I'll put in this teaser: by the end of the 17th Century, there may be a Medici sitting on the throne of a major African kingdom and it will not be the result of conquest or military action.

Another fantastic victory for Italy. She's truly become a world power now, for better or worse.

Also, long time reader and lurker for this AAR. I'm amazed with how much this has progressed within the last few years, especially with the realism and immersive world built around an ambitious family from Florence. This AAR is actually a major inspiration of mine and had actually encouraged me to write my first AAR. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story @JerseyGiants88 , you've created something special :D
Thank you! I will make sure to check your AAR out as well. Looking forward to it.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Well, that is a strong Italy in the Med now...it might be better for italy to look to other areas for expansion if they want to keep their allies.
Taking over the former eastern roman empire as italy, restoring the holy land to Christian control and getting fabulously wealthy in the process should earn Italy nothing but respect and aid from the rest of Europe.
Heck, no need to even take Holy Land, starting from Tunisia-Tripoli regions alone would do wonders to help Italy push its "defender of faith" and to continuously push for its historical birthright of "Mare Nostrum".
There will be a healthy amount of crusading in the near future. Stay tuned.

Despite all the Islands that were annexed, the Gibraltar strait remains an issue, allowing the Spanish to cut the empire from it's colonies, and the newly acquired Canary islands. This fact alone makes it interesting for other major powers to enlist the help of Spain if they ever build an alliance to expel Italy from the new world and divide the Italian colonies amongst themselves. Keeping the bulk of the Italian Navy trapped in the Med would allow a combined enemy navy to achieve local naval superiority in the Atlantic. I also second @TheButterflyComposer 's assessment. To avoid the above-described scenario, agressive expansion in the new world should be avoided.
I actually considered going for Gibraltar as part of the peace instead of the Canaries but the cost was too high and would have required me to drop demands for another one of the Mediterranean islands (probably Malta) instead, which I was not willing to do. At the end of the day, based on the game mechanics, whether or not I control the province of Gibraltar isn't as crucial as it might be in real life. One, I figured it would be almost impossible to defend if Spain decided to declare war on me again. Two, it would be of only marginal benefit as far as keeping the straits open is concerned. I went with the Canaries instead to allow me to project more into the Atlantic and figured, if necessary, I could just ram my navy through the Straits and dare the Spanish to stop me. With how handily I was able to dominate their fleet in the war, I thought this to be the more efficient route.

well, Taking over all of Africa is maybe a bit too much. after all, this AAR is the history book type innit? That said I could see a the Old Roman provinces of Africa taken fit in the scale of this AAR. After all, taking over all of Africa is more Vicky and HoI style goal :p
There will be plenty of focus on Africa in future updates, but it will be (in my opinion) a lot more interesting than just painting the continent green. I'll put in this teaser: by the end of the 17th Century, there may be a Medici sitting on the throne of a major African kingdom and it will not be the result of conquest or military action.

Another fantastic victory for Italy. She's truly become a world power now, for better or worse.

Also, long time reader and lurker for this AAR. I'm amazed with how much this has progressed within the last few years, especially with the realism and immersive world built around an ambitious family from Florence. This AAR is actually a major inspiration of mine and had actually encouraged me to write my first AAR. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story @JerseyGiants88 , you've created something special :D
Thank you! I will make sure to check your AAR out as well. Looking forward to it.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Double post
 

Corvo1431

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Have been reading for quite a while and I have to say I'm loving your work. Keep it up, really hoping to see this through to the end!
Also, as a sidenote, your inclusion of "Pippo" and "Andrea Cavalcanti" did not go unnoticed. Clever, that.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 54: A Time of Plenty, 1653-1659

Italy’s victory in the Iberian War sent a wave of confidence through Italian government and society. The common people suffered little as the war barely touched Italy itself. Unlike the previous conflict with Spain, no fleets blockaded the coast and no armies marauded through the countryside. Instead, aside from some months of requisitions and shortage early on, the economic life of the country largely returned to normal within the first year of the war and remained thus for the remainder of the conflict. Furthermore, the addition of agriculturally fertile Sicily in the ensuing peace only enhanced Italy’s food security, leaving her in an even more enviable position vis-a-vis her European neighbors and rivals. Even the casualties in the war had been relatively light, both in battle and from the more mundane, but equally deadly, attrition that occurred in all early modern armies. Thus, at war’s end, an abundance of young, able-bodied men returned home to their farms and families further increasing agricultural output and efficiency.

For the ruling class and the aristocracy, stability returned after some years of turbulence during King Gian Gastone’s extended absence while on campaign. The monarch, buoyed by the confidence and prestige of a great military victory, re-asserted himself in the capital. He also seemed to tone down many excesses of his pre-war days. The king began by purging his inner circle of many of the
ragazzi with whom he previously enjoyed cavorting. He expelled his mistresses from the Palazzo Pitti, began appearing regularly at court beside the previously scorned Queen Consort Carlota Luisa, and stopped hosting and attending lavish balls and banquets. By all appearances, the long campaign with his army had changed the monarch. He now seemed to prefer spending his time visiting the garrison fortresses along the northern frontier, huddling with his generals for war games and strategy sessions, and playing brutal games of Calcio Fiorentino to show off his physical prowess despite his steadily advancing age. The king remained an avid hunter, leaving the capital for long treks into the Apennines in search of game.

Chief among those removed from power was Filippo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, whose pride and arrogance while handling the regency angered the king. After being removed from power by Enzo Boncompagni in 1651, the duke had spent some time under house arrest. By late 1653, Gian Gastone decided to be rid him definitively. The duke and his family were cast down, expelled from Florence, and stripped of their ducal title. Montefeltro’s sister, Adelaide and her son Filippo (whose father was the king), were also expelled, though the child continued to receive the traditional stipend and allowance given to illegitimate sons of monarchs.

The Duchy of Urbino was instead awarded to Carlo Grimaldi, the general who helped the king overrun Spain. “Too long has your family served Florence without proper recognition,” the king is reported to have said in the ceremony naming the general a duke, “but from this day forth, you and your children and grandchildren shall have their rightful due.” The king’s words reflected the reality that the Grimaldis, despite being one of the most successful and influential Florentine families going back to the days of the republic, had never risen as high as some of the other houses. Thus, Grimaldi became the first non-Montefeltro ruler of Urbino since 1213, and the first ever from a different family to hold the title of duke. After an early period of friction between Grimaldi and the king, their renewed partnership would continue to bear fruit for the Italian army.


To replace some of his old self-indulgent interests, Gian Gastone’s tastes became more esoteric. Unlike his predecessor, Alberto I, this king did not devote himself to religion, but to rather more eclectic studies. Among other things, he began to collect curiosities from around the world, both living and dead. He also continued his support and patronage for key figures of the so-called pan-European “Republic of Letters”. In addition to the already celebrated philosophers and scientists of the
Accademia del Cimento, such as Torricelli and Viviani, the king patronized natural philosophers such as the naturalist Giacinto Cestoni, and the astronomers Giovanni Battista Odierna and Niccolò Zucchi, who both attended his court. Odierna compiled a catalogue of comets and other celestial objects containing some 40 entries, including at least 19 real and verifiable nebulous objects that might be confused with comets. He was one of the first astronomers to develop such a catalog. Gian Gastone also attracted some of the best sculptors and scientific instrument makers of the time, such as a young Filippo Caffieri, Orfeo Boselli, and Tito Livio Burattini. They had direct contact with the court astronomers and, through the financial support of the monarchy, they were economically independent and able to develop scientific instruments and manufacturing techniques. Continuing the king’s habit of elevating women to high places, the poets Maria Antonia Scalera Stellini and Margherita Costa were also part of his court and wrote numerous odes to him and to Florence and Italy. Even the great Danish scientist, Nicolas Steno, had a sojourn at the Accademia to study fossils and geological discoveries. These important figures in philosophy, the arts, and the sciences had various levels of official affiliation with the Accademia del Cimento, but their names lent prestige both to that institution, and Florence more generally. They kept the Italian capital on par with cities like Paris, London, and Leipzig as centers of European learning and wisdom.


The logo of the Accademia del Cimento

Gian Gastone also kept a menagerie of exotic animals, botanical gardens, and Europe's most extensive “cabinet of curiosities” incorporating “the three kingdoms of nature and the works of man”. It was housed at the Palazzo Pitti, spilling out into the Boboli Gardens. A lion and a tiger were allowed to roam the castle, documented by the account books which record compensation paid to survivors of attacks, or to family members of victims. In addition to the animals, his collection of non-living things included artifacts from Italian possessions around the world. Objects from North America, Africa, and the Caribbean were on display in the galleries of the Medici and Pitti palaces, both as objects of interests in themselves, as well as symbols of Italy’s growing power, prestige, and globe-spanning empire.

The king was not totally unconcerned with religion. Gian Gastone also developed a fascination with a controversial Catholic figure of the period: Joseph of Cupertino. Born Giuseppe Maria Desa in the village of Cupertino in Apulia, Joseph began to experience ecstatic visions as a child, which were to continue throughout his life, and made him the object of scorn. After a number of rejections, he was finally accepted by the Capuchin friars, but was soon dismissed when his continued ecstasies made him unfit for the duties required of him. After a prolonged period of drifting, he pleaded with the Conventual friars near Cupertino to be allowed to serve in their stables. After several years of working there, he had so impressed the friars with the devotion and simplicity of his life that he was admitted to their Order.

Sometime in the mid-1640s, the occasions of ecstasy in Joseph's life began to multiply. It was claimed that he began to levitate while participating in Mass or joining the community for the Divine Office, thereby gaining a widespread reputation of holiness among the people of the region and beyond. He was deemed disruptive by his religious superiors and Church authorities, however, and eventually was confined to a small cell, forbidden from joining in any public gathering of the community. As the phenomenon of flying or levitation was widely believed to be connected with witchcraft, Joseph was denounced to the Inquisition. It was even rumored the Inuisition meant to burn him at the stake, but the paperwork was lost or misplaced, thus delaying the execution until it ended up being forgotten. Instead, at their command, he was transferred to a Franciscan friary in Assisi, where he lived with and under the supervision of the friars. It was here that he came to the attention of the King of Italy. As Assisi was not too far from Florence, the king reached an agreement with Church authorities to allow Joseph to come to the capital, where he would take up residence in the Conventual friars’ convent attached to the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Joseph practiced a severe asceticism throughout his life, usually eating solid food only twice a week, and adding bitter powders to his meals. After allowing Joseph to settle in Florence for some time, the king ordered the friar brought to him so that he may “learn the truth of these strange and wonderful stories.” Upon arriving at the Palazzo Pitti, following New Year’s Day of 1654, the king introduced the friar to the court and then retired with the man to a private room. With only the king and a handful of trusted advisors in attendance, Joseph of Cupertino allegedly did levitate. After the session, the king wrote to Pope Pius III that, “the man is truly a living saint. I have seen his miracle with my own eyes, and desired to bring to your attention this paragon of Christian holiness.” Stories of the levitation were spread far and wide in the Italian countryside. Finally, on 9 July 1654, Joseph was allowed to return to a Conventual community in Osimo, where he soon died. Gian Gastone, so impressed by what he saw, campaigned fervently to have him made into a saint, though Joseph was not canonized by the Church until the 1760s.



King Gian Gastone I was a supporter and patron of Joseph of Cupertino, later canonized as a saint.

Gian Gastone I did not spend all his time marveling over curiosities or entertaining levitating Franciscans. He also put his stamp of approval on meaningful, important reforms. Though these were not usually of his own making, he at least had the foresight and inclination to listen to his advisors.

Perhaps no reform of this era had a greater long-term impact than the one spearheaded by the king’s Interior Minister, Elena Cornaro Piscopia. The celebrated scholar was imbued with a strong love of learning, one she wanted to spread across Italy. Because she was born the illegitimate daughter of a Venetian nobleman and a peasant woman, Cornaro recognized that her access to education, which granted her all the success she had enjoyed in her life, was essentially made possible by chance. “When I think of all the knowledge I have acquired over the years,” she wrote in a letter to the king, “be it in literature, natural sciences, arithmetic, etc, I make note that it was possible only for my father’s dogged determination to see me educated. Had he cared less, some other less illustrious fate would have awaited me. Perhaps as a simple farmer living with my mother’s family in the Veneto.” This realization led her to conclude that the education of as many children as possible was not only the morally correct thing to do, but advantageous to Italy as a whole on many levels.


At the time, the idea of educating mass numbers of common-born children was unheard of. The offspring of noblemen were educated, as were the children of the
borghesia who could afford it. However, approximately 95 percent of families in Italy were neither noble nor wealthy enough to afford to educate their children. The economic realities of day to day life, whether in the countryside or in the cities, meant that children had to begin working from an early age. Cornaro’s vision of the new schools was to have them convene only one day per week. This would not turn the children of peasants into scholars, but it could at least teach them basic reading and arithmetic, skills that could be extremely helpful in a time of low literacy.

Cornaro’s proposal was met with opposition at first, both on financial grounds as well as moral ones. The former argument was simple enough: the schools cost money which could be better spent elsewhere. There were few people in Italian ruling circles that considered the education of peasant children to be necessary. The latter argument hinged on a conception of “the natural order of things”, i.e. the lower classes serve a purpose and ought to remain in their position for society to function smoothly. However, Italy’s history of high urbanization and republican traditions, a history filled with common men ruling over states and occupying other high places of power, weakened such a position. Cornaro got around the financial opposition by partnering with the Catholic Church.

Cornaro reached out to Cardinal Camillo dé Medici, at the time serving in Rome, who backed the idea so long as the schools’ primary purpose was religious education. The two made a formidable political pairing, with the cardinal gathering support among the curia and other high Church officials, while Cornaro encouraged the heads of Italy’s main universities to write the king in support of the initiative. Not all of the university leadership was on board, but the backing of Pietro Mengoli from the University of Bologna, Gaetano Genoino of the University of Naples, and Carlo Rinaldini, her old tutor who had moved up to head the University of Padua, among others, were enough to tip the balance.

Together, Cornaro and Cardinal dé Medici were able to convince King Gian Gastone to adopt the measure. It helped that Italy was in a period of economic expansion, and thus the treasury could more than afford it. The king signed the decree establishing Sunday Schools on 10 January 1654. The king refused to bend, however, on one issue near and dear to Cornaro’s heart: the education of girls. Both the king and the Church refused to countenance educating young women, thinking the idea simultaneously too radical and too costly. This left a bittersweet taste in Cornaro’s mouth. On the one hand, she had successfully willed a potentially revolutionary new institution into being. On the other, she failed to put women in a position to reap the benefits.


The establishment of Sunday Schools was one of the first attempts at widespread education in Europe.

The schools would be rolled out over an extended period of time, beginning in the major cities and slowly working their way out into the countryside. In this regard, the partnership with the Catholic Church proved crucial. Because the schools would be attached to and administered by, their respective local parishes, there was little to no need to hire new teachers. Parish priests, nuns, and friars would serve as instructors, teaching the lessons to the children. It is important to note that there were few standards uniting the curriculum in any given school. The same went for mandates to participate. Some parishes required all male children to attend, going so far as to threaten to withhold communion from parents of children who were not enrolled or were excessively absent. In other locations, there was little to no supervision, children came and went as they pleased, and parents suffered no consequences if they kept their children home to work instead. Some of the schools even educated girls, despite the ostensible ban on such practices. The same was true of what was actually taught. The subject matter and methods of instruction were largely in the hands of parish priests. Considering the high levels of illiteracy even among the clergy, it is likely that many schools focused almost exclusively on religious education, lacking the knowledge and expertise to teach other subjects. Unsurprisingly, some of the best schools were those located in the vicinity of monasteries and convents, where the friars and nuns tended to be more literate than their ordained colleagues. This turned into a mutually beneficial situation, as the various monastic orders were able to identify the most promising young scholars, and put them in a sort of pipeline into their own orders. The Jesuits also took a great interest in opening and operating schools, particularly in the countryside. The order even offered particularly promising students fully paid scholarships to study at the
Collegio Romano in Rome, founded by Ignatius of Loyola.


The Collegio Romano was the destination for some of the most precocious young students in Jesuit schools

In foreign policy, Italy was beginning to act more and more like a true, globe-spanning imperial power. The lack of a war in Europe led some of the king’s ruling circle to turn their eyes further afield. In particular, they looked to Africa. Italy’s foothold on the continent was the rich but tiny colony of Bonny. Though Bonny was highly populated due to its location at the mouth of the Niger River, the growing demand for slaves from Italy’s Caribbean colonies was taking a serious toll on the population. Already, slave merchants from the
Compagnia della Guinea, which had a state-sanctioned monopoly on the trade in human flesh, were being forced to pay the agents of the sultanates of Air and Bonoman for the importation of additional slaves from the interior. That the Guinea was already the most profitable Italian trade company, a significant achievement, mattered little to those who ran it, as they wanted to further increase their profits. Paying finder’s fees to Islamic slave merchants seemed a waste of resources when Italy could simply march an army in and take the land, and the people living on it, under their direct control.


Local people in the Niger Delta
The two Muslim states to the north of Bonny were territorially large and economically wealthy but militarily weak. Inhabited mostly by the Akan people, Bonoman was ruled by the 29-year-old Sultan Osei Bonsu I, a studious, quiet leader whose main concerns were with internal reform. A combination of economic crises and rebellion had whittled Bonoman’s army down to nearly nothing, and left them woefully unprepared for any invasion, particularly one from a major European power. Still, the state was rich, having been created some time in the 1100s as a trading state and a major destination for the trans-Saharan caravans originating in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant. The Sultanate of Air, on the other hand, was inhabited by Berbers, mostly of Tuareg extraction. Air was a more traditional monarchy, but was going through a violent succession crisis. Following the death of his father in 1653, a regency council ruled for the new Sultan, al-Mu’min I, for two years until he came of age. On 6 June 1655, he was crowned sultan, over the objections of his older cousin, Mikitan Kel Gharous. Air’s army was large, but it was entirely focused on combating the threat posed by Gharous, who had cleaved his own force from the military and threatened to march on the capital. Agents from the Compagnia della Guinea had been working to destabilize both states going back to the mid-1640s, and their efforts were finally bearing fruit. In particular, they had helped fund and organize the pretender’s troops. The rise of a rebel ruler left Air extremely vulnerable both without and within. Thus, they became targets for Gioachino Gori, Andrea Cavalcanti, and Giovanni Pietro Carnesecchi. These three men were at the height of their power and influence at court and had the king’s ear.

By the summer of 1655, Gori, Cavalcanti, and Carnesecchi had prevailed upon King Gian Gastone I to back their expedition. As an added sweetener for the government, the
Compagnia della Guinea offered to foot fifty percent of the cost of the expedition. The trio also talked up the increased prestige the King of Italy would enjoy by going to war with two large Islamic states. He was, after all, Defender of the Catholic Faith.

The war was not without its opponents. Many in both the army and the navy opposed the expedition, led by their respective senior leaders: Carlo Grimaldi and Enzo Boncompagni. The latter, an ardent opponent of slavery, threw in with the Mediterranean faction of merchants, who also opposed the war, arguing that removing such a large number of ships from the Mediterranean would weaken Italian influence in the sea as well as reduce the fleets’ abilities to run effective anti-piracy patrols. Grimaldi and the army leadership, on the other hand, had their eyes on Germany. In particular, their contacts in the allied Polish army kept them informed on the continued and ongoing tension between their king, Jan IV, and the ailing Holy Roman Emperor, Vladislav II. Sensing that a war in the heart of Europe was imminent, they too argued against such a large expedition so far away. Gian Gastone did not listen to them. Instead, he insisted on the importance of expanding Italian power in Africa, particularly in light of recent territorial gains there by Portugal, France, and England. Perhaps out of spite, or perhaps because he did consider them his top two military men, Gian Gastone named Boncompagni and Grimaldi, respectively, the leaders of the sea and land portions of the campaign. Grimaldi grudgingly agreed, but Boncompagni chose to resign in protest instead. “I have served Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s navy faithfully for 28 years,” the admiral wrote his king, “but I cannot and will not participate in this monstrous endeavor.”

Gian Gastone instead promoted Carlo Andrea Doria, a forty-six-year-old Genovese naval officer from a prominent trading family, to head the fleet going forward. Undeterred by the resignation of his childhood friend, the King of Italy gave the go ahead to launch the expedition. Grimaldi departed Italy with 21,000 men for the long journey through the Straits of Gibraltar, around West Africa, and into the Gulf of Guinea. They landed in Bonny on 29 July 1655, at which point Grimaldi dispatched messengers to the capitals of the two African sultans to present them with declarations of war.


The arrival of the African Expeditionary Force in Bonny

The campaign would not take very long, despite the vast distances the army had to cross. The 21,000 men Grimaldi had with him were drawn almost exclusively from the
Armata del Sud, the same army he had used to conquer Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, and Andalusia during the Iberian War. A large proportion of his force was made up of battle-hardened veterans, fiercely loyal to their beloved commander. Grimaldi’s troops were highly trained, motivated by the prospect of vast riches to be pillaged from Africa, and ready to do whatever was asked of them. Air and Bonoman never stood a chance. Grimaldi’s campaign was simple. He marched north with one main body of about 17,000 men, with four 1,000 man regiments pillaging along his flanks. Once these smaller contingents were engaged by the Africans, the main body would come crashing down upon their foes, obliterating them. The Africans, for their part, understood their disadvantage, and gave the Italian advance a wide berth initially. However, internal political circumstances forced the allies’ hand, particularly in Air. Mikitan Kel Gharous was gathering more and more supporters by arguing that Sultan al-Mu’min was a child and too scared to do anything. After the Italians burned several villages along the Kaduna River and enslaved their inhabitants, the sultan had no choice but to act. His enemy was heading straight for the important trade depot of Zazzau and had to be stopped. He ordered his senior commander, al-Dani Kel Taghlit to engage. Unfortunately for Taghlit and his men, they walked straight into Grimaldi’s trap. Though the armies were evenly matched in terms of numbers, 18,000 Italians against 21,000 Tuareg and allied soldiers, but the Battle of Zazzau quickly turned into a rout. Within about two hours, the Tuareg army was nearly destroyed, leaving behind 13,000 dead at the cost of about 1,000 Italians.


The Battle at Zazzau proved the armies of the Sultan of Air were no match for the Italians

From his base in Rano, about 215 kilometers to the northeast of Zazzau, Mikitan Kel Gharous, gloated over the crushing defeat dealt to his political rival. However, he would soon meet an even worse fate than Taghlit and his men. Unifying his army, Grimaldi marched his force north immediately following Zazzau, using captured Tuareg soldiers as scouts and guides. Grimaldi offered not only freedom, but substantial pay, to any man who helped him destroy the pretender sultan. He threw in the added incentive that if the Italians successfully destroyed Gharous, the scouts would be relieved of their duties. Therefore, they would never be asked to actually fight against their own sultan, preventing them from being labelled traitors. With such a good offer, his scouts proved enthusiastic and motivated, helping the Italians move quickly and undetected. They fell upon Gharous and his army at Rano on 25 November 1655. To call the attack at Rano a battle would be an overstatement. It was, for all intents and purposes, a massacre. In half a day, the pretender sultan and his army, the greatest internal threat to the Sultan of Air in living memory, were wiped off the map. Gharous and his senior leaders were caught, killed, and decapitated. Grimaldi presented the severed heads of the rebel leaders to his Tuareg scouts for them to return to their sultan as proof they had remained loyal despite their service in the Italian army.


The pretender sultan fared worse than his loyalist counterparts, seeing his army destroyed before being beheaded

A little over a month later, Grimaldi smashed another Tuareg army, this one a loyalist force, under the command of Dimani Adiyiah at Kebbi on 27 December. That battle essentially ended the war. For the next year, the Italians rampaged across the two sultanates, looting, burning, and enslaving their way to the capital of Bonoman: Denkyira. The city, with the sultan personally leading the defense, resisted for 202 days before finally surrendering. Grimaldi was impressed by the defenders’ resolve and Sultan Osei Bonsu’s dignity and honor. Thus, he spared the city from a sacking, allowing the garrison to keep their weapons and prohibiting his soldiers, on pain of death, from molesting the population. He also presented the Sultan of Bonoman with a number of gifts including a matching set of gilded flintlock pistols, a woolen overcoat lined with cloth of gold, a set of drinking cups made in the Venetian glass shops of Murano, and five pounds of American-grown tobacco. Reflecting on his meeting with the sultan, Grimaldi wrote back to his king: “I arrived at Denkyira expecting to meet a savage, I departed having met a cultured man possessed of deep wisdom.”


Still, when it came time to present peace terms, the Italian general did not hold back. He carved six provinces out of the two sultanates, vastly increasing the size of Italy’s African possessions. In just over a year, Italy had acquired a resource-rich chunk of land roughly the size of the
Val Padana with minimal loss of life among her soldiers. As agents of the Compagnia della Guinea swarmed over the territory, exploiting and enslaving the population, Grimaldi’s African expedition prepared to return home.


The court of Sultan Osei Bonsu after the Surrender of Denkyira


The Treaty with Bonoman and Air greatly expanded Italian control in West Africa


West Africa after the Niger War

As Grimaldi returned to Italy with his men, he wrote his wife on his experiences in Africa: “I did my duty, but I took no pleasure in it as I have never taken pleasure in killing the weak. We fought and killed to fatten the pockets of the slavers. I am proud of my men, but not of myself. I pray only that God can forgive us for what we have done here.” As happened in Bonny a decade earlier, the people of the newly conquered lands were soon subjected to the terror of the
Compagnia della Guinea’s slaver regime. However, as in earlier times, they did not take it lying down. A large revolt in Benin in late 1657 followed closely by a rising in the newly colonized region of Calabar in early 1658, challenged the Italian colonial position. Both rebellions were ruthlessly put down by the Guinea’s private army, but they continued to show the Africans’ spirit of resistance and defiance against their Italian oppressors.





The triumvirate of Cavalcanti, Gori, and Carnesecchi was reduced to a duo when the last of these three men died shortly after the conclusion of the Niger War. The steady but largely uninspiring Carnesecchi had minimal military experience and largely owed his position to his personal friendship with the king. He was replaced by another controversial figure, though one who did not lack in experience. Gian Gastone I took the unprecedented step of elevating a woman, Ginevra Toscani, to be the new Minister of War. Toscani had first come to the king’s attention as a survivor during the Cypriot Insurrection in 1644. She had then served as the king’s aide-de-camp during the Iberian War, following the monarch across France, Spain, and Portugal while picking up valuable military knowledge. Though Toscani had little command experience, she possessed a thorough understanding of the logistical needs of early modern armies. In many respects, this was more valuable for a Minister of War than actual tactical mastery. Toscani’s portfolio was mainly concerned with ensuring the armies were ready to fight, while leaving the actual strategic and tactical decisions to men like Grimaldi. With Toscani’s appointment, two of the three most powerful seats on the king’s council were occupied by women.



Ginevra Toscani’s appointment was initially controversial, but she would prove a capable and forward-thinking military administrator

The king’s Foreign Minister, Gioacchino Gori, had succeeded Enzo Boncompagni in 1647. Gori was the scion of a prominent merchant family from Livorno and was initially hailed by the merchants and
borghesia as one of their champions. However, over time, they came to view him with growing suspicion. It began with his support of the king’s Iberian War, which most merchants initially opposed. However, this initial dislike waned over the next few years, as the Italian navy’s quick and decisive victories in the war kept the sea lanes open and Italian trade flowing. Ironically, the trade companies should have thanked Enzo Boncompagni, whom they despised, for building the powerful fleet that protected their trade routes. This gratitude was never to materialize for the Lord Admiral. Gori, however, once again earned the scorn of many Italian traders by favoring the establishment of stronger mercantilist policies in Italy. Namely, the foreign minister favored a tighter governmental grip on trade.

Italian merchants generally enjoyed a rather positive reputation around Europe and in the Mediterranean. They were considered reliable to deal with, and the considerable wealth of the Italian state and its merchant companies meant there was high faith that any debts would be promptly repaid. The Italians, and the Venetians in particular, were also considered among the best insurers of international shipping.
Assicurazioni Generali di Venezia, the premier Venetian shipping insurance company, had major offices in Livorno, Amsterdam, Marseilles, London, Alexandria, Ragusa, and Hamburg, in addition to the company’s principal headquarters in its home city.

Despite the success of Italian trade in the Mediterranean, Gori remained focused on the Atlantic trade routes. He was influenced by three late 15th-early 16th Century Italian political economists: Bernardo Davanzati Bostichi, Giovanni Botero, and Antonio Serra. The last of these was particularly influential. His lengthily titled
Breve Trattato delle Cause che Possono far Abbondare li Regni d'Oro e d'Argento dove non sono Miniere was one of the first treatises to analyze the causes of the shortage of coin. However, Alberto I had been in favor of free trade and a hands-off approach to mercantile activities during his reign. That continued on during the early portions of Gian Gastone’s reign as well, but Gori was soon able to change the monarch’s mind.

The Italian merchant community was split on the matter of mercantilism. The dividing line generally fell along geographical lines. Ever since the establishment of trade charters in the 1570s, by Grand Duke Filippo I, two factions of merchants had evolved. Those whose trade was focused on the Mediterranean and the Near East tended to be in favor of free trade. They had a competitive advantage over many of their foreign rivals and many had long standing traditional agreements that allowed them to continue doing business even within the Ottoman and Tunisian empires, who otherwise often excluded European merchants. The Venetian trading houses, with their ancient and extensive networks in Egypt, the Levant, and Anatolia, fell into this camp after
La Serenissima’s annexation by Italy. Many of the other, non-Venetian Mediterranean trade companies were based out of cities like Lucca, Rimini, Taranto, Ancona, and Pisa. These companies were flexible and imported and exported a wide range of goods. Their business practices also brought in a wider range of society. For instance, many did not own their own ships, contracting with local ship captains and crews to move their goods. They were a part of the fabric of the port cities they were based in, hiring locals to load and offload goods and investing heavily in their communities. Even in cases where these smaller companies did own their own vessels, they opened them up to investment from locals with the money to do so. In many cases, these investments were affordable and, potentially, quite profitable for more humble members of the borghesia. Since there were no rules explicitly barring women from investing, these enterprises offered one of the few avenues wherein women, often widows, were able to invest and grow money they inherited or acquired by other means.

On the other hand, the Atlantic trade, connecting Italy with her West African and the New World colonies, was dominated by larger companies often focused on one or two major commodities. They tended to own their own trade fleets, wherein captains and crews were their employees rather than independent men. In particular, the highly lucrative trade in slaves was the exclusive domain of the Atlantic traders, leading to major disputes between the two factions. The conquest of large swaths of West Africa in the Niger War only served to enhance the power, wealth, and prestige of the Atlantic traders. The highly profitable
Compagnia della Guinea, benefitted greatly, expanding its control over sources of ivory, gold, and, of course, human beings to enslave. These Atlantic companies tended to be centered in Florence, Livorno, and Genoa and often had greater influence at court.


Gioacchino Gori was the most influential mercantilist thinker in Italy in the mid-Seventeenth Century

Gori, and his principal political ally, Andrea Cavalcanti, who happened to be the principal controller of the
Compagnia della Guinea, hailed from the Atlantic faction of merchants. Thus, they favored a more mercantilist approach to trade, convinced that this would lead to greater profits while granting the Atlantic traders the dominant upper hand. However, in the post-war years, the king enjoyed renewed support from both sides of the argument, and thus was reluctant to come down strongly one way or the other.

However, several events conspired to give Gori and Cavalcanti the opening they needed to convince Gian Gastone of the need for a tighter mercantilist policy. A series of bad storms in the Mediterranean coupled with a renewed Ottoman campaign in eastern Persia and the Caucuses conspired to do more damage to Italian-Near East trade than the entirety of the Iberian War period. To make matters worse, numerous ships were lost, and a freeze on exports by Sultan Ahmet II crippled many of the smaller Italian trading houses. Furthermore, the Mediterranean trade crisis had second-level effects on banks and shipping insurance providers. It was easy enough for the government to look the other way when small-time insurance men in ports went bankrupt, but when the
Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and the Banca del Monte di Bologna, two of the largest and most important banks in Italy, suddenly found themselves on the precipice of collapse, intervention became necessary. Gori and Cavalcanti swooped in to guide the process of “saving” the banks and preemptively shoring up the others in the kingdom. Among other things, the pair appealed to the king’s vanity by adding a clause into the deal in which Monte dei Paschi di Siena was forced to sell back to the Medici their 50 percent ownership stake in the Medici Bank. These shares were first acquired as part of a deal struck between the Sienese bank and Girolamo dé Medici in 1525 in order to get the former to back the latter in his ques to be made Grand Duke of Tuscany. This returned to the Medici full control over their eponymous bank.

The rest of the trading houses were won over with monetary support and relief from the debts incurred by their mishaps. Venerable institutions like the
Compagnia dell’Elba, Compagnia Adriatica, and Compagnia San Pietro, among others, were kept alive strictly as a result of royal largess. This earned their (often unwilling) loyalty and blunted any further critiques of mercantile policy. The Atlantic companies, larger and better able to weather lost vessels, went right along profiting off of their various trades. It would not be until years later, when the Mediterranean companies regained more stable financial footing, that they would reassert themselves as political opponents to mercantilism.


In the end, mercantilism benefitted the trans-Atlantic trade, particularly in slaves, while hurting the overall competitiveness of Italian merchants in the East. It was a tradeoff that the crown was willing to make at the time, though Gian Gastone eventually made permanent the financial support for the Mediterranean merchants, that Gori and Cavalcanti initially intended to be temporary. Thus, the mercantilist pair was thwarted in their efforts to cut the Mediterranean faction down to size. However, Italy’s trade with the Orient did decline slightly over several decades, until Gian Gastone’s pro-free trade successor took over and reversed the course.


Governmental support for merchants kept many of the most venerable Italian trade companies alive

Still, despite the internal tumult and changes in trade policy, Italian merchants in the Mediterranean remained highly respected, both in the New World and in the Mediterranean Basin. The quality of good coming out of Italy kept imports from the peninsula in high demand. Their situation improved even further after Sultan Ahmet II’s son, Mahmud I took the throne in Istanbul in the summer of 1657. The new sultan lifted the trade restrictions on the Mediterranean, allowing foreign merchants back into Ottoman ports. The ever-fearsome intra-Italian competition among merchants gave a certain advantage to their foreign business partners in the sense that there were always other options to choose from. If a customer had a bad experience with a Genovese merchants, there were always others from Rimini or Livorno or Venice to deal with instead. Thus, the various cities’ traders were forced to maintain good relations with their business associates or risk seeing their money go to a rival. The competition also ensured that no one was able to get complacent. Much like their German cousins in the Hanseatic League, the Italian merchants were able to flow rather freely between heated competition and constructive cooperation. This kept the Italians near the top of the Mediterranean trade world, despite its government’s ever-increasing focus on the Atlantic and the New World.



Italian merchants remained among the most trusted and respected in the world

In 1656 a new scandal made its way to the king’s court. This one involved the prestige of the Medici dynasty itself. The king, on his mother’s side, was descended from the pirate-turned-naval hero Sabir al-Din Leta. Leta was ennobled following the Tuscan naval victory against Venice in 1553, in which he distinguished himself for bravery and tactical acumen. The newly minted aristocrat settled in the Romagna, purchased a handsome country estate, and took the last name Cuordelmare. He married soon afterwards, to a young woman known only as Lucrezia of Gradara prior to her marriage, at which point she became known as Lucrezia Cuordelmare. Gradara was a prominent castle on the border between the Marches and the Romagna that had fallen into disrepair and was purchased by Cuordelmare from the Malatesta rulers of Rimini. At the time, the marriage passed as little more than a brief curiosity, being the union of a recently converted pirate and someone thought to be a petty, rustic noblewoman.

However, over a century later, an unknown person did some digging in Gradara’s archives and uncovered a new bit of information: namely, that there was no baptismal record in the area for any aristocratic woman named Lucrezia. Instead, another set of records also came to light that recorded a large sum of gold paid by a farmer outside of Florence, near the village of Pratolino, to Sabir Cuordelmare about two weeks before the marriage was recorded in the parish church at Gradara. The marriage was the first recorded evidence of such a person existing in Gradara. Thus, the evidence seemed to indicate that the “aristocratic” Lucrezia was actually a peasant.

Suspicion as to the source of the revelation fell upon the Montefeltros. They had the motivation, due to the recent humiliations they suffered at the hands of the king. Additionally, their heavy presence in the Marches meant they were quite familiar with Gradara and its environs and history. However, in a surprise move, the king made no attempt to deny the revealed facts. Instead, he embraced the “scandal”, following in the footsteps of prior Medici rulers. The dynasty, despite its extreme wealth and centuries-long presence on the throne of Tuscany and then Italy, deployed its “rustic” roots whenever it was politically feasible. Once again, a Medici ruler turned an apparently damaging link to peasant roots to their advantage. Gian Gastone and his supporters used the “scandal” to garner support among the peasantry, claiming that there was no better evidence of the king’s love for his humblest subjects than the fact that he could point to a peasant woman among his ancestors. Even middling noble families often considered themselves too good to marry a commoner (even in cases where said commoner may have been wealthier, materially, than the nobles), yet here was the royal family proudly pointing to a peasant ancestor. It was a clever maneuver, one that would the king sympathy among the lower classes without having to make any material or political concessions. The plot to shame the Medici king backfired, with reactions among most of Gian Gastone’s subjects ranging between uncaring shrugs to outright celebration.



The revelation that Gan Gastone’s great-grandmother was the daughter of a lowly farmer outside Firenze was a major scandal in the Italian capital, though the king turned it to his advantage

Militarily, Italy did not rest on her laurels following the Iberian War. While some of the army was busy overrunning African kingdoms, the main force was in Italy preparing for the future. Carlo Grimaldi, now firmly established as the top general after his success in Africa, continued the tradition of his predecessors of codifying lessons learned from the past as well as implementing innovative new ideas.


Chief among military innovations of this period was the bayonet. Though likely first used in China in the first years of the Seventeenth Century (they are first mentioned in the Chinese military treatise
Binglu published in 1606), Italy became one of the first European countries to issue them on a large scale. During the Iberian War, this distribution was still incomplete, due to limited numbers available and the training required to use them. The bayonets of the mid-Seventeenth Century were still in the “plug” style, meaning they fitted into the barrel of the weapon. This meant that soldiers could not fire their muskets while the bayonet was inserted, requiring them to be well trained and instantly responsive to drill orders to ensure the weapon could be used successfully. Thus, during the conflict against Spain, only elite regiments like the Fiore, the Grimaldi, and the San Marco were outfitted with them. However, when they did take the field, the new innovation proved devastatingly effective. Since all musketmen could double as pikemen with the bayonet inserted, this eliminated the need for the latter, turning every soldier in a square into a musketeer. This significantly improved infantry firepower without losing any defensive capabilities, at least in theory, when charged by enemy cavalry. These elite regiments converted into “line infantry”, proved their worth many times over on the battlefields of Spain. The development of the bayonet and the line infantry spelled the final doom for the legendary Spanish tercios, who were repeatedly bested by the superior fire and maneuver of their Italian enemies. Following the war, Grimaldi and the other Italian commanders moved to further incorporate this new weapon and accompanying tactical advantage throughout their ranks.


The development of the plug bayonet and the line infantry gave Italy a significant advantage in firepower and mobility.


An example of a 17th Century plug bayonet with leather scabbard

In order to successfully employ the bayonet however, troops needed to be trained on when to insert them and when to remove them. The timing of a bayonet order could be the difference between fending off a cavalry charge or being overrun. Thus, Italian officers from Grimaldi on down began to further emphasize the importance of the drill. The Duke of Urbino and two other key senior commanders, Prospero Gonzaga and Giambattista Bentivoglio, co-wrote a new drill manual for distribution to all officers of the army. Standard books of military doctrine had existed in Italy going back to General Carlo Ulivelli’s
Tattiche del Esercito Fiorentino, first published in 1525, but this became a more regular practice in the second half of the 1600s. This standardized training and orders system helped turn the Italian infantry into a highly efficient machine of war, something that would be deployed to devastating effect in Germany in the following decade.


The standardization of drill orders and training further enhanced the effectiveness of the Italian army.

It would not take long for Italy to have a chance to implement its new innovations in the field. The simmering tension between Poland and Bohemia would soon boil over, causing another European war. The Poles saw an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to their hated rivals with a young, inexperienced Emperor taking the throne in the person of Karel VII. Emperor Karel was a not even a teenager, still only twelve years old when he was elected Emperor in January of 1657. He was perceived by many to be sickly, weak, and under the thumb of his mother and numerous other court elites. Furthermore, the new Emperor’s support among the German princes was tepid at best. This set the stage for a new war between Prague and Warsaw, one that would drag Germany into a new disaster.


By this point in his reign, Gian Gastone was largely free to do as he pleased in foreign policy. The peasants and the lower classes in the cities had little reason to dislike their king. He was presiding over the greatest period of plenty in living memory. Whether or not the king deserved credit was beyond the typical thinking of the average person in the 1650s. All they knew was that under Gian Gastone’s reign, they enjoyed stability and peace (at home) and rarely faced extended famines or shortages of essential goods. The poor were still poor, but many of the privileges earned under prior Medici kings were maintained, despite some initial worries they would be rolled back. In early 1657, Gian Gastone issued another decree rebuking so-called “robber barons” engaged in profiteering at the expense of the peasantry. It was also true that the typical person in Italy still identified themselves more along local lines (i.e. as a
Fiorentini, Bolognesi, Veneziani, Napoletani, Calabresi, etc.) than as Italians, but that mattered little. The Seventeenth Century remained a time when most people’s concerns were focused almost entirely on day-to-day survival. The king was a far-off figure, almost incomprehensible to people who, in most cases, rarely if ever travelled more than a day’s journey from the place they were born. Political discontent was hard to find in a time when most of the inhabitants of the peninsula enjoyed better quality of life than most of their peers across Europe. Things remained quiet even in fiercely independent Sicily, where the post-annexation years saw little to no revolt. Especially when compared to the difficulty Florence had in bringing the mainland Mezzogiorno to heel, the Sicilians’ acceptance of Italian overlordship can largely be credited to the economic plenty that came with it.


The king’s measures against rapacious landlords, particularly in the Mezzogiorno, won him support among the peasantry
 
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roverS3

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Interesting to see the king mature somewhat, throw out his drinking buddies, acknowledge his descent from peasantry, even if he did support the slavers with that African expansion war. Even the trade policy makes some sense within the context. Weekly education for every male in the kingdom is a great investment as well. It is a time of plenty indeed.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 55: The German Tragedy, 1659-1662

The War of the Religious Leagues of 1570-76 appeared to usher in an era of Protestant triumph and ascendancy in Europe. The Evangelical Union captured Vienna, defeated every Catholic League army sent against them, and, most importantly, seized control of the Holy Roman Empire. Germany remained a collection of small principalities, but when they combined their powers, the new Holy Roman Empire was as formidable as any state on the continent. However, the Catholic powers proved more resilient than the victorious Evangelical Union initially believed. In the century since the end of that war, the Catholic League, led by Italy and Austria, slowly but surely rolled back Protestant gains on numerous fronts.

As time wore on, divisions within the Lutheran camp began to manifest themselves. The Bohemian House of Podebrad continued to hold the imperial crown, but unity among the German princes of the Empire was fracturing. Particularly damaging was the ongoing schism between Brandenburg and Saxony, the two main German powers. A brief but bloody war between the two Electors (1652-54) only made things worse. The conflict resulted in a stalemate between the two, though Saxony claimed the preponderance of battlefield victories. Bohemia refrained from becoming directly involved, but their clear favoritism for Brandenburg caused a break with Prince-Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony, who then mounted a challenge to Bohemian control of the Empire following the death of Emperor Vladislav II. Only Friedrich August’s own death in 1657 ended the run for the imperial crown, leaving the faction led by Brandenburg and Prince Johann I of Nassau free to elect the teenaged Karel VII of Bohemia Emperor.

To the east, Polish ambition became the biggest threat to German power and influence in the late 1650s. The thirty-six-year-old King Jan IV Poniatowski saw an opportunity to expand his kingdom’s lands and deal a crushing blow to the hated Bohemians. With an Emperor still in his minority and a fractured political consensus within the Empire, the time seemed right for a bold strike. In February of 1659, the Polish Sejm, meeting in Krakow, enthusiastically supported the war, voting to approve a large war fund for the endeavor and marshaling armies for the king. In addition to their own forces, Jan IV and his diplomats were able to put together an impressive coalition, joining Poland’s historical partner Lithuania with their Catholic League allies Italy and France.



Poland called for Italy’s assistance in its war against Bohemia and the German princes

In Italy, Gian Gastone received the Polish call to arms with enthusiasm. Still riding high off his decisive victory over Spain, the King of Italy saw another opportunity to strike at a major rival and to enhance his
gloria, or glory. The rest of the Italian ruling class largely favored the war as well. Even some of the more traditionally anti-war trade companies were at worst neutral on the matter. None of the Imperial powers possessed a navy capable of standing up to the Italian fleets, let alone threaten their trade in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic. Furthermore, the major German merchant states, like Hamburg, Oldenburg, and Brabant were skeptical of the teenage Emperor and remained emphatically out of the conflict. Thus, in the coming years, as Italian armies rampaged across the German interior, Italian merchants were still doing brisk business with the port cities on the North Sea.

The Italian plan for war called for campaigns in two separate theaters. The king would take an army through the Valtellina and the Austrian Alps to strike into the underbelly of Germany. The Catholic Archbishopric of Salzburg was his first target. Carlo Grimaldi, Duke of Urbino, would take his army through France and attack north along the Rhine. The two armies were renamed and restructured for their new mission. Instead of the normal, peace time North-South distinction, the armies were named after the areas in which they meant to campaign: the
Armata del Reno (Army of the Rhine) and the Armata delle Alpi (Army of the Alps).

The summer of 1659 saw most of the fighting occur in the east. The Polish and Lithuanian armies were led by the tough and capable Grand Hetman of the Crown, Mariusz Korycki. Korycki was a wealthy magnate who owned extensive lands in the Polish-ruled sections of Ukraine and had made a name for himself fighting Cossack and Tartar raiders in the steppes. As an added benefit, he spoke fluent Genovese learned from years of campaigning alongside the merchant republic’s soldiers in the Crimea and in the Caucuses. Despite decades of steppe-culture infusion, Genovese remained mutually intelligible with Florentine Italian. This language skill would allow the Grand Hetman to coordinate well with his allies later in the war.



Mariusz Korycki, Grand Hetman of the Crown of Poland
Opposing Korycki and his Poles and Lithuanians, was the Imperial Army under the command of Ernst von Quernheimberg. Despite originally hailing from a minor aristocratic of Saxon extraction, Quernheimberg found success in the service of the House of Podebrad, and quickly rose in the ruling regency council’s esteem. Even with his homeland’s ruler now alienated from the Prague, Quernheimberg remained favored at court and found his way to a command position. Despite having a reputation as a court dandy more interested in young women and fine music than soldiering, he would prove a competent, if unspectacular, commander.

Quernheimberg’s reputation, or lack thereof, may have contributed to his first victory. He made the bold move of taking the initiative, launching an invasion of Poland in mid-July at the head of an army more than 130,000 strong. Advancing to the northeast, he closed in on and captured Breslau on 16 August, pausing to take stock of the strategic situation. Meanwhile, Korycki took his 85,000-man army southwest, looking to meet his foe in battle and drive them from Poland. However, he was unaware of the size of the imperial force. On 27 August 1659, he and his men met the imperial army outside of Breslau on the east bank of the River Oder. Quernheimberg used his cavalry to lead the Poles into an ambush, drawing in the legendary winged hussars and supporting infantry before countering with a double envelopment which made the most of the imperial advantage in manpower and nearly swallowed the enemy center. Only the cool-headed responses of the Grand Hetman and his officers prevented an allied catastrophe, as they successfully withdrew after suffering heavy losses (including over half of their cavalry strength). Unfortunately for the imperials, Quernheimberg became suddenly cautious after Breslau, letting the enemy withdraw and regroup without seizing the initiative for himself.



The Battle of Breslau was the first major engagement of the war and a major imperial victory

To the southwest, a more amicable sort of war was going on. The Archbishopric of Salzburg had long maintained strong ties to the Emperor, even after the imperial crown fell to the Protestants in 1576. Thus, even in this war, the city ended up on the Protestant side despite Archbishop Michael I’s lamentations about having to fight Catholic states. Fortunately for the city, the hated and feared Austrians remained out of the war. Therefore, the army that came to lay siege to Salzburg was not sent from Vienna, but from Florence. The Italian army arrived outside the walls on 23 July 1659 and established their siege lines. This was not, however, a typical standoff between a city and an invading army. The leaders of the sides, Archbishop Michael and King Gian Gastone met and exchanged gifts in the early days of the blockade, and the Archbishop even heard the monarch’s confession. The Italians allowed the defenders to “expel useless mouths” (i.e. women, children, and the elderly) and guaranteed them safe passage and food. This was a privilege the Italians would conspicuously
not extend to the Protestant cities they besieged later in the war. It was a win-win for both sides. The Salzburgers were subjected to a more humane siege, and the Italians remained occupied, and thus could claim they were meaningfully participating in the war, while risking little in return.

None of the pleasantries present at Salzburg were to be found in the Italian campaign along the Rhine. A sort of minor rivalry had existed between the House of Nassau and the House of Medici ever since Giuseppe Terreni and the Tuscan army had ravaged the former’s lands in the winter of 1572-73. Carlo Grimaldi was an admirer of Terreni and the officers who had fought under him, which included men like Carlo Cerignani and his own ancestor, Paolo Grimaldi. Now, the general and a new generation of officers sought to achieve the same success and renown as their forebears. The Principality of Nassau was little prepared for what was about to hit it.

Nassau was ruled by the forty-six-year-old Johann I. The House of Nassau was very wealthy and highly influential within the Empire, with Johann considered the most important imperial prince behind the electors. In addition to being Prince of Nassau, Johann was also Count Palatine of the Rhine, charged with defending the western frontiers of the Empire from French or Italian invasion. A man of culture and patron of the arts, the Prince was little suited to the task. When war came surging up the Rhine, his state was to be found woefully unprepared for the onslaught.



Johann I, Prince of Nassau
The Armata del Reno entered Germany in early September and spent the month sweeping over Mannheim, Worms, and Darmstadt before heading north and investing Frankfurt on 7 October. Johann panicked at the sudden invasion and ordered his armies to withdraw north. He sent urgent requests of help to the Dutch Republic, itself facing threats of a French invasion at the time. While the main body of his army maintained the siege lines around western Germany’s wealthiest and most important city, Carlo Grimaldi sent his cavalry on extensive raids into the countryside, stockpiling food for the coming winter while leaving the peasantry in mortal danger of starvation and creating a huge exodus of refugees into Cologne and the German Papal States.

In late October the first Bohemian ally capitulated. Facing a potentially devastating invasion from Lithuania, Ryazan sued for peace and quickly accepted favorable terms to leave the Empire’s side. This was a sign of things to come. The Empire’s war effort had already peaked at Breslau in August. The rest of the conflict was to be a steady stream of defeats and disappointments for the German-Bohemian cause. The tide began to turn as soon as 1660 dawned. From his base at Łódź, Korycki gathered a massive army, with the addition of 50,000 Frenchmen to his already sizable Polish-Lithuanian force. With over 200,000 soldiers under his command, the Grand Hetman prepared to wield his army like a hammer, smashing all imperial presence in Poland. Quernheimberg had inexplicably split his army, sending one force under Jan Petr z Polzic to besiege Krakow in the south while he took the rest of the men north to besiege the great Polish fortress at Kalisz. This would prove a grave error. Marching through harsh winter conditions, the allied army arrived at Krakow unexpectedly on 26 January 1660, catching Polzic’s army completely off guard. Outnumbered more than six to one, the imperials crumbled almost immediately, the ill-fated Siege of Krakow abruptly over. From there, the Grand Hetman marched north and struck at Quernheimberg at Kalisz. With nearly 100,000 men of his own, the imperial commander attempted to hold his ground, his men fighting stubbornly and forcing the allies to pay dearly for any success. Still, they were eventually forced to relent in the face of sheer numbers despite inflicting almost three times as many casualties as they suffered. At the very least, the imperials’ resolve forced the allied army to stop for the time being and recover, delaying the eventual invasion of Bohemia for some months.




An infusion of French soldiers turned the tide in the east, resulting in a major Coalition victory at Kalisz


Back in the west, the Siege of Frankfurt finally came to an end on 23 April 1660, but not without some dramatic moments. Frankfurt had only come under the rule of the Prince of Nassau in 1627 and its people retained a spirit of independence. Even when food was close to running out, the prince’s representatives and the garrison meant to continue holding out. However, the Frankfurt burghers were of a different mind. They had no wish to die in the service of the House of Nassau. As a major center of commerce, Frankfurt had a community of Italian merchants living there. One of these, Aldo Donadoni, snuck out of the walls with a message from the city council: they would open the gates for guarantees on the safety of their property and persons. Grimaldi readily agreed, eager to end the siege and continue his campaign. That night, 23 April, the gates opened as promised and the garrison woke up to their foes marching in through the gates. With all hope for resistance wiped out, the garrison promptly threw down their weapons and surrendered. The Siege of Frankfurt also represented the first military engagement for a precocious young officer with a famous name: Francesco dé Medici, Prince of Naples. The seventeen-year-old crown prince carried on the Medici tradition of going on campaign to learn military life and tactics firsthand at a young age. The war was an important learning experience for the future king.



The Fall of Frankfurt put the most important German city on the Rhine in Italian hands


Equestrian portrait of the 17-year-old Francesco dé Medici, Prince of Naples

From Frankfurt, Grimaldi marched his men north at a leisurely pace, covering the 90 kilometers between Frankfurt and Nassau in five days. On 28 April, the prince’s capital was put under siege, though Johann himself had already evacuated. Once again, Grimaldi maintained his siege while sending his cavalry to raid the countryside with impunity. He meant to force the prince to send an army against him, but when the foe never materialized, the Italians were happy to simply devastate the lands along the Rhine. By August, Nassau too was ready to surrender, agreeing to terms with the Italians on the sixth of that month.



The situation along the Rhine after the Italian capture of Nassau in August of 1660

The fall of his capital forced the prince’s hand. Johann I suddenly began sending dispatches to his general, Stefan von Winzingerode, ordering him to make a stand. The prince was being humiliated and now demanded a victory from his top commander and the overmatched army. He also continued to send urgent requests for assistance from the Dutch Republic. The Dutch, wary of overcommitting to what looked to be a lost cause, nevertheless sent 10,000 men under Paul Stuyvesant. The goal was to link up with the army of Nassau and present a more comparable foe to the Italians. However, Stuyvesant was slow to depart and agents from Italy’s ally, the Duchy of Holland, tipped Grimaldi off to the coming relief force. The Duke of Urbino struck quickly. On 17 August he attacked and encircled Winzingerode’s army at Neuhäusel. Making quick work of their foe, the
Armata del Reno wiped Nassau’s army off the map. The mass of prisoners, including Winzingerode himself, were sent to Frankfurt for safekeeping, though their captivity would turn out to be short. Without losing time, Grimaldi turned north to intercept the oncoming Dutch. Using a similar tactic as he did against Nassau, and taking full advantage of his overwhelming numerical superiority, Grimaldi encircled the Dutch and destroyed their army as well. The large numbers of prisoners joined their allies from Nassau in Frankfurt.


The “Scouring of the Rhine”, in August-September of 1660, knocked Nassau out of the war and fatally crippled the Dutch Republic
With all hope of help or relief lost, the Prince of Nassau sued for peace. On 1 October 1660, he met with the Duke of Urbino and the representative of the King of Poland: the Voivode of Malbork, Stanisław Działyński. Działyński, whose main interest was simply in forcing Nassau out of the war, offered relatively light terms, demanding only a war indemnity to be paid to Poland and Italy. With his mission accomplished on the Rhine, Grimaldi was faced with a choice: go north and attack the Dutch Republic or go east and join the fighting in Bohemia and along the Polish frontier. With the French already poised to campaign in the Low Countries, Grimaldi opted to go east.


Nassau was offered relatively lenient terms when they sued for peace


The Italian army’s march across Germany toward Bohemia

In the autumn of 1660, Gian Gastone I and the
Armata delle Alpi finally finished the long, drawn out siege of Salzburg. On 28 October, the city surrendered, and the besiegers entered the gates in good order. Dressed in his deep red vesture, which he was allowed to wear despite not being a Cardinal thanks to the privilege of the title Legatus Natus (“born legate to the Pope”), Archbishop Michael I met King Gian Gastone in Salzburg Cathedral. The pair hammered out an agreement by which Florence would guarantee the Archbishopric’s independence in any future negotiations to end the war in Germany. Afterwards, Michael heard the king’s confession and then presided over a Mass for the victorious soldiers of the Armata delle Alpi. He also blessed the Madonna di Salisburgo (Salzburg Madonna), a golden statue of the Virgin Mary the Bishop Eberhard V had bestowed upon the Italian army after they had protected the city from a Bohemian attack in 1596. However, the Italians did not tarry in Salzburg. By that point, the king had sent a vanguard force ahead toward Prague, to join the imminent coalition siege of the imperial capital. That force arrived outside the city on 4 November, rendezvousing with Polish, Lithuanian, and French troops, who also arrived around the same time. By the end of the week, the rest of the Armata delle Alpi departed to join their allies.


After holding out for more than 15 months, Salzburg finally surrendered to the Italians

After conquering most of eastern Bohemia, the coalition army had made for Prague, led by the Polish general Korycki. The defeated Imperials attempted to regroup in the north, in the lands of the Elector of Brandenburg. By the end of the first week of November, the imperial capital was surrounded on all sides as the attackers settled in for a lengthy siege. In late November, Gian Gastone I and his
Armata delle Alpi completed their journey from Salzburg to Prague and joined the siege lines.

By early December, their foes were ready to resume operations as well. The Imperial army was made up of men from Bohemia, Brandenburg, Pomerania, and the Dutch Republic and commanded by the indefatigable Quernheimberg. Moving south from Potsdam, they covered the last leg of the trip on the west bank of the Vltava River seeking to attack the weakly defended western side of the siege positions. However, the coalition army had an advantageous position here on the “White Mountain” (actually a low plateau) and had time to set up defensive works. When a detachment of Polish Hussars informed the King of Italy that this was, in fact, the full Imperial army, Gian Gastone ordered all but a token force to shift from the east to the west banks of the Vltava. This was now to be the decisive moment of the war, and the King of Italy meant to capitalize on another chance at
gloria. On the morning of 21 December 1660, approximately 80,000 Imperials faced down 120,000 coalition troops. Quernheimberg, for his part, knew that the odds were stacked against him: his men were outnumbered three to two, were suffering from the early winter cold more than their better-equipped adversaries, and would have to fight an enemy occupying the better terrain. Still, they had little choice. Both the Emperor and the Elector of Brandenburg were convinced that the only way to turn the tide of the war was to stop Prague from falling into Catholic hands.

Quernheimberg arrayed his forces on a line running roughly from southeast to northwest, with the Bohemian contingent in the center, his elite Dutch veterans on the left anchoring the line along the Scharka, and the Germans (Brandenburgers and Pomeranians) on the right. Gian Gastone deployed with the large Polish-Lithuanian force in his center, the French on his right to face the Dutch, and his own Italian troops on the left to attack the Germans. The Polish Winged Hussars, who had achieved legendary status in Italy following their heroic actions in the Battle of Florence, were also on the left, which was where Gian Gastone meant to launch his decisive strike. The battle opened with a thunderous artillery barrage from the coalition guns across the line. The Polish-Italian cavalry swung around the imperial right flank, seeking to reach the Scharka and then ride up the rear of the enemy force. On the other side, the French were supposed to use their numbers to overwhelm the Dutch, unmoor them from the banks of the stream, and turn the imperial left. The goal was to isolate and destroy the enemy. However, unlike the flawless and decisive cavalry charge Gian Gastone witnessed as a child enduring the Siege of Florence, this attack quickly foundered. The German cavalry, believed to be weak and demoralized, held their own, and the coalition horsemen were soon at risk of being cut off. Eager to save his mounted force, Gian Gastone ordered a general advance by the infantry. The Bohemian troops in the center began to wilt under the immense pressure of numbers by the Polish and Lithuanians, but the Dutch held firm, repelling repeated French advances. As the Bohemians crumbled, the Poles advanced so far that they suddenly found their own right side exposed to withering and disciplined Dutch fire. This caused panic and confusion in the center of the line, made worse when it appeared as if the Bohemians too were regrouping. Only Korycki’s personal intervention, riding among his troops and shouting exhortations to them in Polish, saved the coalition from a potential disaster. With the line steadied, Gian Gastone and his commanders regained their poise and confidence. From there, they applied greater patience, and settled in for a battle of attrition. In the end, though the imperials seemed to be fighting as well as they had in any battle since their initial victory at Breslau, they could not overcome their numerical deficiency. Seeing no clear path to victory by sundown, Quernheimberg conceded the field and ordered a withdrawal to the northwest. His army had nearly broken through and turned the tide of the war against all odds, but it was not meant to be. With the solstice already upon them, the imperial army retreated to winter quarters. At the end of the battle about 24,000 imperials and over 35,000 coalition troops lay dead or wounded. The allies had been bloodied, but the Siege of Prague continued and there was more success to come in the new year.




The climactic Battle of the White Mountain smashed all remaining hope for the Imperial cause


King Gian Gastone I in the aftermath of the Battle of the White Mountain

1661 dawned quietly in Germany. The coalition was content to maintain their siege of the imperial capital and otherwise fan out across the Czech-speaking lands. For all intents and purposes, the Crown of Bohemia ceased to have any control or authority in its territories. The Emperor and his court were guests of Joachim IV, Elector of Brandenburg in Berlin, bracing themselves for the loss of their prized city. The city of Amberg had also been under siege since Christmas Day of 1660 when Grimaldi’s
Armata del Reno arrived outside the gates.

The imperial side did finally get some luck back in late winter of 1661. A 115,000 strong Lithuanian and French army, commanded by Crown Prince Jogaila Jagiellon of Lithuania was marching on Berlin, the home-in-exile of fourteen-year-old Emperor Karel VII and his regency council. Quernheimberg was still doggedly pushing forward and his 75,000 imperial soldiers were still willing and able to fight for the ruling family. They took up prepared positions in and around the town of Seelow, where the high ground helped them gain advantageous positions for their artillery. Quernheimberg ordered an attack before Prince Jogaila’s massive and strung out army completed its crossing of the Oder. Despite their numerical superiority, the relentless imperial attacks never let up, and the allied army was at risk of falling apart until the prince was finally convinced to pull his men back across the river. As a result of the decisive defeat, allied efforts to knock Brandenburg out of the war were delayed for some time.



The Battle of Seelow was the final serious Imperial attempt to turn the tide of the war

This time, Quernheimberg sought to exploit the situation and invaded Poland once again, seeking to keep up his momentum through the summer. However, by late spring, the small bust of hope for the Protestant cause was beginning to dim again. The
Armata del Reno captured Amberg on 18 June. With the siege lost, the Italians could now threaten the imperial supply lines into Poland and the very rear of the army itself. Meanwhile, with Grand Hetman Korycki back in command, a smaller but better trained and motivated allied army prepared to strike back. On 27 June, the two sides once again met a Kalisz. In the Second Battle of Kalisz, the Polish commander was able to outshine even the success of the first engagement. This time, Korycki was able to isolate a wing of the imperial army and surround it, using the River Prosna as a trapping feature. Quernheimberg was able to keep his army intact but with heavy losses. The second imperial invasion of Poland was over less than three months after it began.

Only three days later, Prague fell, surrendering on 29 June 1661 after 237 days of siege. Gian Gastone gave his soldiers three days to loot the city, one of the cultural and intellectual capitals of the Reformation. Though most of the Bohemian Crown Jewels had been spirited off when the royal family fled the city, King Gian Gastone came into possession of the Sword of Saint Wenceslas, which he would later ransom back to the House of Poděbrad in the peace negotiations. This humiliating loss was only the beginning of a wretched summer for the imperial cause. In July, Korycki once again defeated the imperials in Pomerania, forcing them to retreat further back into Germany. On 28 August, the King of Italy and his
Armata delle Alpi caught up with and destroyed the remnants of that army. The allies were free to finish mopping up what little resistance remained in Bohemia, a job they completed by the end of October, and prepared to invade Brandenburg the following year.



The Fall of Prague was a humiliating moment for the Empire and the Protestant cause

To make matters worse for the Protestant cause, on 8 November 1661, the Habsburgs threw their considerable weight into the fight. Austria had remained neutral in the Germanic War, but that did not mean they failed to gain from it. In addition to weakened rivals in Germany and Bohemia, the Dutch Republic was now more vulnerable than it had ever been. The Dutch had been too kind to their allies, too dedicated to the Protestant cause. They had exhausted their armies in battles against the Catholic League and had precious few men left to defend their own lands. Sensing an opportunity to finally crush a persistent nuisance, Vienna declared war on Ghent and the United Provinces on 8 November 1661. Invading from the Austrian Netherlands, the Austrians struck quickly, seeking to avoid giving the Dutch a chance to open their sluice gates and flooding their lands. Desperate Dutch appeals to their ostensible ally, James II, King of Great Britain, went unanswered. The British armies stayed on their islands, abandoning their continental allies and co-religionists to their fates.



Austria’s declaration of war was the beginning of the end for the Dutch Republic

With Bohemia all but defeated and the Dutch on the brink of suffering a similar result, the allies’ attentions turned to Brandenburg. The Electorate had largely avoided the devastation visited upon its neighbors, but that would soon change. Gian Gastone, Jogaila, Korycki, and Denis d’Estrées, commander of the French army in Germany, agreed to move into the enemy land in late autumn. The goal was explicitly one of annihilation. Their armies were to enter the Brandenburger lands, confiscate all the food and supplies they could, and then make winter quarters in a suitable location. This would deprive the peasantry of sustenance and cause widespread death and suffering or, alternately, force floods of refugees into the city, making them less prepared and more vulnerable to later sieges. When Poland and Lithuania had attempted the first invasion of Brandenburg in the early months of 1661, the imperial army managed to fight them off. That army was now destroyed, and the meager defenses Prince-Elector Joachim IV still had at his disposal were woefully inadequate. The allies moved into Germany in force in November of 1661 and quickly set out to ravage the countryside.

The combined allied armies, operating in a separate but coordinated manner, numbered nearly 200,000 men. The toll this put on the countryside was devastating. While there are no accurate records of the number of peasants and small-town burghers who died in the horrific winter of 1661-62, town registers give glimpses into the scale of suffering.

Pestilence of several kinds raged among combatants and civilians as many features of the war spread disease. These included troop movements, the influx of soldiers from foreign countries, and the rapidly shifting locations of battle fronts. In addition, the displacement of civilian populations and the overcrowding of refugees into cities led to both disease and famine. Information about numerous epidemics is can be found in local chronicles, such as parish registers and tax records. During the siege of Cotbus, civilians and soldiers succumbed to typhus and scurvy. Bubonic plague continued to be a factor as well, with several outbreaks reported across Brandenburg. This spread beyond just the armies’ areas of operation, as Dresden, Munich, and smaller German communities such as Oberammergau recorded large numbers of plague casualties. In addition to disease, records recall in harrowing detail tales of people starving in huge numbers and even reports of cannibalism.

The most terrifying of all dangers, however, were the armies themselves. The Catholic invaders showed little mercy toward their Lutheran victims, burning their homes and farms, raping women, and murdering men for even the slightest perceived insults. When the Poles overran Frankfurt an der Oder, they may have slain as many as half the city’s population. As the armies marched largely unopposed, Emperor Karel VII and Prince-Elector Joachim IV fled westward with their courts. By 20 February, the Italians had surrounded Berlin and settled in for another siege. For the rest of the winter and through spring and summer, the allies looted and pillaged wherever they went. When the Italians captured Cotbus in June, the carried off all the women they could find, regardless of whether they were young girls or old ladies and forced them to become camp followers and prostitutes for their soldiers. Berlin fell on 9 July, and the King of Italy rewarded his men with three days of pillage. Countless artifacts and works of art were taken and shipped south across the Alps. One third of Berlin’s houses were damaged or destroyed, and the city lost half of its population. The Poles did much the same when they captured Stolp, capital of the Duchy of Pomerania, on 14 August. When a combined Italo-French army captured Magdeburg in September, they burned much of the city to the ground. Those who survived were nevertheless forced to flee as refugees to other towns, as the lands surrounding the city were similarly ruined. In a census taken several months later, only 449 people remained in Magdeburg out of an original population of well over 25,000 inhabitants. Much of the city remained rubble for decades, and it would not fully recover for over a century.



The Sack of Magdeburg


The Rape of Brandenburg, Summer, 1662


Soldiers Looting a Farm

The devastation wrought upon both Bohemia and Brandenburg finally convinced the two rulers to give up. They agreed to peace talks in Dresden, under the supervision of Heinrich V, Elector of Saxony. The allies had all of the leverage and bargaining power and made sure to exact a heavy toll. Poland annexed the Bohemian provinces of Budapest, Érsekúljvár, Ratibor, Breslau, Moravia, Pozsony, and Somogy. The Bohemians were forced to grant independence to Wurzburg and, in maybe the most insulting concession, even hand over the province of Vogtland to Saxony as Heinrich V’s reward for remaining neutral in the fight.



The ratification of the Peace of Dresden


The Peace of Dresden eviscerated Bohemian power in Central Europe
For the cause of Protestantism, the war was an unmitigated disaster. In a matter of 39 months, the Catholic League had utterly destroyed imperial power in Germany. Bohemia was reduced to a shell of its former self. The House of Podebrad maintained their grip on the imperial crown only because of the bitter enmity between the German princes. The Holy Roman Empire proved to be little more than a paper tiger when it came to military power. Germany could not stand against the combined might of the Catholic powers that surrounded it. To make matters worse, the Dutch Republic, once a beacon of Protestant ascension and resistance, was being overrun by Austria. By the end of the following year, that state was extinguished, a once promising experiment relegated to the dustbin of history. Saxony was the only Protestant state to benefit, emerging from the Peace of Dresden with their army intact and more territory. The Saxons also saw their level of prestige within the Empire rise. Suddenly, Saxony found itself as the main power in Germany. This led to even further conflict and fracture within the tottering Holy Roman Empire when, in the summer of 1664, war broke out again between Brandenburg and Saxony for dominance in Germany. The humiliated and crippled Bohemians had no influence or power to stop the conflict, further eroding imperial prestige and influence and crippling nascent German efforts at reconstruction. The Lutheran and Calvinist faiths would continue to endure long after the end of the war, but the Reformation as a political project was dead. Mere survival, not expansion, became the main priority in the coming decades.

On the other side, the war was another major victory for Europe’s Catholic powers. The triumvirate of Poland, Italy, and France proved they could bring unrivalled combat power to bear against any enemy they faced. The victory was so overwhelming that the it influenced Pope Pius III’s decision to declare an end to the Counter-Reformation a few months later, in December of 1662. Despite the “official” end of the Counter-Reformation, the pressure against Lutherans and the other reformed religions remained significant. The Catholic powers had penned in the troublesome Germans in a ring of steel. With France to the west, Italy and Austria to the south, and Poland to the east, the Protestants were cowed and beaten. The victory in Germany set the stage for the Catholic League to turn its attention to the east.



The Catholic victory in the Germanic War was so decisive it convinced Pope Pius III and the leading Church authorities to declare an official end to the Counter-Reformation


Europe after the Germanic War


Austria’s Rekonquista of the Dutch Republic


The progress of Italian ideas






 
Last edited:

TheButterflyComposer

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Sensing an opportunity to finally crush a persistent nuisance, Vienna declared war on DUTCH CAPITAL
Thst sounds ominous...

The Catholic powers had penned in the troublesome Germans in a ring of steel.
Thing is, even though poland and france can get on because there's lots of german between them, the austrians are bound to make trouble with one of them before long, as will italy given that it wants some more austrian and french lands.

Poland is looking scarily powerful. If they manage a union now with Lithuania, they could be the great power for the next few decades.
However, can't discount the british who've nearly finished their conquest of the isalnds and must be looking for targets elsewhere, as well as standing as a religious threat to france and the rest of Europe.
As ever, the ottomans remain a worry too.

So the reformation seems to be over...but some massive wars are brewing away in europe.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Thst sounds ominous...



Thing is, even though poland and france can get on because there's lots of german between them, the austrians are bound to make trouble with one of them before long, as will italy given that it wants some more austrian and french lands.

Poland is looking scarily powerful. If they manage a union now with Lithuania, they could be the great power for the next few decades.
However, can't discount the british who've nearly finished their conquest of the isalnds and must be looking for targets elsewhere, as well as standing as a religious threat to france and the rest of Europe.
As ever, the ottomans remain a worry too.

So the reformation seems to be over...but some massive wars are brewing away in europe.
I fixed it. I promise I did read it over before posting it.

And you are correct, Poland does become an issue in the not too distant future. In game I have played up to 1685. I had previously reached 1713 but something messed up the save files. So I have a bit more ground to make up there. Not that I'm complaining.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Catholics 'winning' removes most of the reason for the big boys in europe to play nice together so there should be plenty of scrapping before long. Presumably italy next needs to figure out whether it wants to be allies with france or austria again, unless poland really boobs and declared war on everyone really quick.
 

Casko

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Another great update, and the sheer detail as ever is simply astonishing.

Catholics 'winning' removes most of the reason for the big boys in europe to play nice together so there should be plenty of scrapping before long. Presumably italy next needs to figure out whether it wants to be allies with france or austria again, unless poland really boobs and declared war on everyone really quick.
I for one, feel that Austrians are a far more trusted and loyal ally for Italians, as French are far too opportunistic and have been taking too many notes of realpolitik into their choice of alliances in the past. Certainly French have helped with the Spanish question in the past, but it'd be downright silly to give up on Austrians with the Osmanoğlu looming as the ever dreaded sword of Islam towards Europe, and the Large Berber state of Tunisia in Africa.
 

Crimson Lionheart

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France is becoming too much of a wild card for Italy to maintain its alliance with. Vienna looks like a promising ally to safeguard Catholic interests across the Alps and could probably be a trustworthy brother in arms against the Ottomans should they push further into the Balkans.