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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Ganbarenippon

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This is an astonishing piece of work. It's so obvious that you love your subject matter from the level of detail and how you turn even minor events into intricate, but never boring, plot points. I've read aars all over the place, and even written a few myself, and I always prefer details and a historical angle to the writing but this has blown me away. Fantastic work! I won't just be following but will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.
 
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JerseyGiants88

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Ganbarenippon, thanks for that high praise, I really appreciate it. I am trying to add some depth to events other than war so that the chapters when I'm at peace aren't just space fillers waiting for the next conflict to start up.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 11: A Revolution in Military Affairs, 1475-1484

By the late 15th Century, cannons had been in use in European warfare for over a century, with reports of their use dating back at least to the English siege of Calais in 1346. Over the following decades cannons continued to see use during sieges. The Ottoman Turks led the way with advancements in cannon technology. They shocked the world during the Siege of Constantinople of 1453 with their giant bombards, most notably the “Great Turkish Bombard” which required an operating crew of 200 men and 70 oxen, and 10,000 men to transport it.


Ottoman soldiers using a giant bombard during the Siege of Constantinople

However, the drawback of these weapons was that they were extremely heavy and unwieldy. The Turks led the way once again, with the development of the bronze cannon in 1477. The new bronze pieces were built smaller, making them more portable and allowing armies to use them on the battlefield. The Turks first unveiled their new bronze cannons in June of 1477, setting off a panic among European military commanders.



The Ottomans’ development of new bronze cannons set off an arms race in Europe

In Florence, General Bonaventura Vassari was eager to acquire field artillery pieces of his own. He considered them a necessity if Florence was to maintain its qualitative edge in Italy. He pressed the craftsmen and artisans of Florence into service, providing generous contracts in return, to develop both the actual bronze cannons themselves and also a new vehicle with which to transport them. The result, first unveiled in December of 1473, was the the Cannone Firorentino. The new artillery piece was made of bronze, lighter than traditional siege pieces, and mounted on a limber that could be towed by horses. This meant that the cannons were far more maneuverable and easy to deploy. Vassari was thrilled with the design and immediately ordered two infantry regiments to be converted to field artillery regiments and be trained to deploy and use the new weapons.


The invention of the limber ushered in a new era in European warfare


Illustration of the Cannone Fiorentino

Vassari planned to put these cannons to use alongside the new Florentine expedition to the Iberian Peninsula. Castile was still at war with England and Vassari wanted to send another contingent of troops with the cannons accompanying them to try and tilt the balance in their ally’s favor. However, before they could arrive, on 1 February 1478, Castile and England reached a peace agreement, with England relinquishing the provinces of Labourd and Gascogne to the Castilians. The Florentine general would have to wait to test out his new assets.

Vassari was quick to realize that having strong and well trained artillery forces was going to be key to successful military operations in the future. Therefore, he assigned some of his best officers to command the new artillery regiments and some of the most promising young officers for subordinate commands there. In addition to his personnel, Vassari needed to ensure that Florence had the raw materials necessary to produce all the cannons they would need. He approached Gonfaloniere Traballesi about appointing a special trade company to have exclusive rights to buy and sell bronze in the Republic of Florence. Traballesi, who knew little about artillery but trusted his top military commander, agreed and on 27 July 1478 the Compagnia del Bronzo Fiorentino was founded. To head it, Traballesi appointed Francesco Bizzelli, an influential and wealthy merchant from Lucca.


The Compagnia del Bronzo Fiorentino was the first ever Florentine Monopoly Company

In foreign policy, Luigi Montefeltro continued to pursue his dream of a confederation of Italian republics. With Parma already under Florence’s protection, the foreign minister next moved to secure a strong bond with the newly independent Modena. The Modenesi had founded their own republic after the Este were kicked out in 1475 and elected Umberto Maranello as Doge. Eager to expand his union of Italian republics, Montefeltro offered an alliance to the Modenesi, which they accepted on 20 September 1478


The Florentine alliance with Modena was part of Luigi Montefeltro’s vision of a union of Italian republics

As much as the artistic portion, the philosophical and intellectual sides of the Renaissance contributed greatly to the movement toward the Age of Enlightenment. Renaissance Thought in the political realm was a combination of humanism and realism, and along with becoming a center for art and architecture, Florence was also becoming a capital of political philosophy. Montefeltro himself contributed greatly to this. Aside from just implementing policy as the foreign minister he also wrote and lectured throughout the republic. In addition to him, a number of philosophical schools sprang up in Florence and its provinces, centered primarily on the University of Florence and the University of Siena, two of the oldest educational institutions in Europe. The advancement of math and science was considered very important as well, and the Florentine universities were brimming with highly intelligent students and professors. The two schools produced a number of important political and mathematical thinkers. Two in particular began to make a name for themselves during this period.


Political philosophy and humanist advanced alongside mathematics and science to form the intellectual backbone of the Renaissance

One such professor, at the University of Siena, was the mathematician and Franciscan friar Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli. Pacioli held the first chair in mathematics at the university and, in 1480, would publish his first great work, Summa de arithmetica, geometria. Proportioni et proportionalita. Among the many areas of interest for Fra Pacioli was chess, a subject on which he would write the book De ludo scacchorum (On the Game of Chess).


The great mathematician Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli

One student more than any other began to make a name for himself at the Univeristy of Florence for his incisive and strident criticisms of the politics of Italy. That student’s name was Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was an admirer of Luigi Montefeltro’s vision of a unified Italy and formed La Banda Italiana (the Italian Gang), a pro-Italian unification club, at the school to promote the idea. Italy was, to many people on the peninsula, little more than a geographic reference, having no actual political relevance. Machiavelli and his comrades wanted to change that. The young philosopher met Montefeltro in 1481, when Machiavelli was 20 and the foreign minister hired the precocious student as his personal secretary. Their collaboration and later conflict between these two men would shape the future of Florentine foreign policy for years to come.


The seals of the Universities of Florence (left) and Siena (right)

Debates about international relations were put aside however when, on 20 October 1479, Switzerland called on Florence’s assistance in its war against Baden. Milan was allied with Baden and the Swiss needed the Florentines’ help in covering their southern flank against Milanese attack. Montefeltro was torn about whether or not to enter the war. Switzerland was a friendly republic and had an alliance with Florence that dated back to 1447. However, since the Ambrosian Revolution of 1469, Milan had been a republic as well. Though the Milanesi were hostile to Florence and had ambitions of recapturing Lucca, Montefeltro saw them as a natural and important part of the confederation of Italian republics. However, the army was heavily in favor of supporting the Swiss as was Trabellesi. Without Florence’s help the Swiss would be crushed and Milan would gain strength, something Florence could not allow to happen.


Switzerland asked for Florence’s assistance in its war against Baden and Milan

General Vassari was eager to finally test the new Florentine artillery in battle and he would soon get his chance. On 3 December, at the Battle of Cremona, a combined army of troops from Florence, Parma, and Mantua met the Milanese on an open field. The new Florentine cannons tore hole after hole through the Milanese lines and was decisive in the allies’ victory. The same thing repeated itself a month later at the Battle of Milan, where Vassari’s army crushed a combined force of troops from Milan and Salzburg. The Florentine artillery lived up to expectations, and Vassari could now proudly count himself among the military innovators of his time. He may not have reached the level of greatness of Pietro Leopoldo del Rosso, but his ability to quickly learn how to integrate the fires of his artillery with his infantry and cavalry tactics was excellent. On 28 December 1481 Vassari’s troops took Milan and two weeks later the Milanesi sued for peace. While the war to the north of the Alps would last another year and a half, Florence’s part in it was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Despite overseeing a relatively prosperous and peaceful period in Florence’s history, Pietro Traballasi was not a very popular leader. He was not the consummate politician like Cosimo de’ Medici who had an instinct for reading public opinion and responding to it, nor was he a war hero like Raniero Buti. He ran an efficient administration but his unwillingness to engage with controversy eventually caught up with him. By the end of 1481, most of his Black Guelph party had grown disillusioned with him. They feared that Florence’s brief but impressive performance in the war with Milan could whip the public back into a hawkish mood, which would favor the White Guelphs. For their part, the White Guelphs tried to get the best of both worlds out of their candidate.

They nominated the 33 year old Vitale Cybo-Malaspina. Cybo-Malaspina grew up dreaming of a military career and joined the army when he was 15 in 1464. He served as a squire, training to be an officer. He fought at the Battle of Karnburg where, by the end of the day's fighting, he was the only officer left in his unit and found himself in command. The war left Cybo-Malaspina disillusioned with the army and he left it in 1468. He decided to go to work for the government and began as a collector of customs duties in the Florentine ports. He quickly rose through the ranks and became governor of Lucca in 1476, where he gained notoriety for reforming the tax collection system in the province as well as undertaking a project to overhaul the docks. He was considered one of the most capable administrators in the republic.

The Black Guelphs feared that Traballasi would lose and quickly found someone to rally around: Francesco Bizzelli. As the president of the Compagnia del Bronzo Fiorentino, the formerly apolitical merchant had quickly mastered the art of politics. He was also strongly supported by the now 90 year old Carlo Spadolini, who finally saw a chance to get a candidate of his choice placed in firm control of the party. Unfortunately for Spadolini however, he died shortly before the election, on 6 May 1482.

The election was a close one between Bizzelli and Cybo-Malaspina. However, the merchants, seeing a chance to put one of their own in the top position in the republic defected en masse from the White Guelphs to support Bizzelli in the voting. The politically hapless Traballasi, abandoned by his own party, finished fourth in the voting, trailing even the Ghibelline candidate Paolo Colomini.



Francesco Bizzelli was elected Gonfaloniere of Florence in 1482

Bizzilli, however, quickly became unpopular and the Black Guelphs would come to regret their decision of turning on Traballasi. He wanted to turn Florence into a mercantile republic on the same model as Venice. He began to dress similarly to the Venetian Doges, which angered many Florentines who were proud of their own traditions. He also revoked Raniero Buti’s decree requiring merchants to favor Florentine buyers over foreigners. Bizzelli’s extensive experience as a merchant, including numerous years spent on trade ships, reinvigorated the navy and the mercantile fleet.


Portrait of Gonfaloniere Francesco Bizzelli wearing Venetian-style clothing

The maintenance costs of their ships was one of the primary overhead costs for any merchants operating their own vessels. Bizzelli, at his own firm, had been plagued by this issue repeatedly and was eager to help his old business partners change the situation. He pushed the Florentine shipbuilders through a combination of badgering and generous subsidies to come up with a solution. In December 1484, the shipbuilders in Livorno unveiled their new creation: copper bottoms for ships. This increased the amount of time they could stay at sea as well as their survivability in battle.


The invention of copper bottoms for ships greatly improved the durability of vessels

The Barbary Pirates of North Africa had been raiding the European Mediterranean coast for centuries, plundering gold, taking slaves, and generally causing chaos and terror. While Florence had largely been spared these nightmarish attacks, a marked increase across the northern Mediterranean in pirate raids caused Gonfaloniere Bizzelli to take proactive measures to protect against them. He ordered the Florentine navy to begin actively hunting pirates in the adjacent seas. Along with protecting against the pirates, these missions gave the Florentine war fleet, neglected for years, something to do. This led to general improvements in the morale of the navy as well as its ability to recruit sailors.


The Florentine Navy patrolling the Barbary Coast

The development of cannons combined with Bizzelli’s new vision for the Florentine Navy signaled a new era for both sides of Florence’s military. The future of battle in Europe on land would be shaped, in large part, by which countries could deploy and effectively employ their artillery pieces. On the seas, it would be the need for continued innovation and improvement to drive the great naval powers of Europe. In 1484, Florence was still far from being a naval power, but at least the rise of a merchant to Gonfaloniere gave them a chance to dust off the cobwebs.
 

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Chapter 12: The Triumvirate Rises, 1484-1490

Following their third consecutive electoral defeat in the elections of 1482, the White Guelphs went into a long period of internal debate and discussion to decide how to regain power. In December of 1484, they held a major party summit to determine a new platform and establish a consensus candidates for the next election, which would take place in June of 1486.


The Palaggio di Parte Guelfa, where the White Guelphs held their party council

The party congress was opened by Luigi Montefeltro’s personal secretary and advisor, the 24 year old Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli had been assigned the task of presenting the party’s new foreign policy platform. He declared that Italy, to include Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, was a coherent entity. He followed up by saying that it ought to be the position of the White Guelph party that Italy be a united . He stopped, however, from specifying how that unification would be achieved or what form it would take. In this way, he avoided offending any Florentine allies in Italy, principally Venice, and left open the possibility that Italian “unification” could be achieved by a confederation of autonomous independent states. This also served to avoid offending his mentor Montefeltro. The two had begun having serious disagreements as to the means of achieving Italian unification. Montefeltro still held on to his belief in a confederation of Italian republics. Machiavelli, on the other hand, believed that this could never be achieved and that that the various bickering states of the peninsula could only be united by a single, strong state under a strong leader. However, for the sake of party unity, this dispute was put aside for the time being.

Machiavelli was followed by another young, enthusiastic White Guelph supporter. He was a 26 year old engineer and businessman named Girolamo Rospigliosi de’ Medici. The son of the disgraced Piero de’ Medici and grandson of the legendary Gonfaloniere Cosimo de’ Medici, he had been slowly but surely testing the waters to see how the return to politics of a member of the Medici family would be received. He joined the White Guelphs because he did indeed subscribe to their political positions but also out of personal motivation. He felt that the Black Guelphs, now led by men historically belonging to the anti-Medici camp, would be hostile to anyone bearing the family’s name. Girolamo de’ Medici’s speech was an impassioned defense of the republic’s virtue and of Florentine traditions. His speech was well received at the party meeting.

The main purpose of the convention was to select a candidate for Gonfaloniere. For this role, the White Guelphs chose a 44 year old army officer named Antonio Grimaldi. The handsome and charismatic Grimaldi had gained notoriety as a daring and courageous (some said reckless) commander during the War of the League of Verona. Grimaldi was a strong advocate for Italian unification in foreign policy and was a member of the White Guelphs’ reformist wing when it came to domestic politics. Grimaldi also came from a well known and influential merchant family which led to the majority of merchants returning to the White Guelph party as their disappointment with Francesco Bizzelli continued to grow. Grimaldi had strong political allies in Montefeltro and another White Guelph heavyweight, Vitale Cybo-Malaspina. The party rallied around the three and began referring to them as “the Triumvirate”. With their party united and confident, the White Guelphs began looking forward to the 1486 elections.

When the elections did come around, the White Guelphs, with their war hero candidate and popular platform, trounced their Black Guelph rivals. Grimaldi won 64% of the vote compared to just 25% for the incumbent Francesco Bizzelli. Upon taking office, Grimaldi kept Montefeltro as foreign minister and appointed Cybo-Malaspina as his chief tax collector and economic minister. The three men set out to transform Florence.



Antonio Grimaldi, Gonfaloniere of the Republic of Florence


Portrait of Vitale Cybo-Malaspina


Portrait of Luigi Montefeltro


Vitale Cybo-Malaspina and Luigi Montefeltro were influential advisors for domestic and foreign policy respectively

In the domestic realm, the intrepid governmental reformer Vitale Cybo-Malaspina established a body of advisors to seek improvements and innovations in ways to govern the republic. One of the greatest innovations they brought to government was double entry bookkeeping. This system required a corresponding and opposite entry of data to a different account for all documents. It had been in existence for some time, primarily among merchants and banks. One of the pioneers of this system was Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, father of Cosimo de’ Medici. Using records from the Medici Bank along with the work of the Ragusan economist Benedetto Cotrugli and his treatise Della mercatura e del mercante perfetto, they introduced it to government. This allowed the government to keep better track of tax payments, land titles, and income and expenditure. The efficiency of the Florentine government was increased markedly.


Vitale Cybo-Malaspina’s innovations in governance increased the republic’s efficiency

In foreign policy, Montefeltro and his deputy, Machiavelli, agreed that their alliance with Castile was no longer worth maintaining, although for different reasons. Montefeltro was wary of giving any outside power increased influence in Italy and felt that maintaining the alliance with Castile risked bringing the Castilians increased power on the peninsula. The Iberian kingdom was on the brink of war with its rival, Aragon and Montefeltro believed that getting involved in that conflict would only mean trading one foreign ruling power in southern Italy for another. Machiavelli, on the other hand, harbored a deep dislike for both of the Iberian powers, but more importantly wanted to create an alliance between Florence and France. The alliance with Castile was a huge obstacle toward this end, as the Franco-Castilian enmity meant that France would refuse to sign a pact with an ally of their rival.

On 8 January 1487, Florence dissolved its alliance with Castile. The timing turned out to be impeccable. In December of that year, Castile and Aragon finally went to war. While Castile appeared to be winning that conflict, the French then declare war on them in August of 1489. Unable to fight both powerful adversaries, Castile was handily defeated and forced to give up a great deal of territory. Florence, had they joined the war, would likely have suffered a similar fate, and potentially risked increased Aragonese territory and influence in Italy.


Florence dissolved its alliance with the Kingdom of Castile in January of 1487

However, a much more momentous event occurred on 31 January 1490. The influence of the Holy Roman Empire had been waning in Italy for some time. By the start of the last decade of the 15th Century, the Italian states belonged to the Empire in name only. The original reason of existence for the Guelphs, before anything else, had been to oppose Imperial influence in Italy. The White Guelphs had developed over the years as the most rabidly anti-Imperial of the parties, even more so than their Black cousins. The idea of formally abandoning the Empire had been in circulation for a long time, but began to pick up steam over the summer and fall of 1489. A number of prominent Florentines, including Montefeltro and Machiavelli, made public speeches, both in the streets and in the Assembly, denouncing the Emperor and advocating for an independent Florence.

Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi, a staunch opponent of the Emperor himself, decided to pursue this policy. However, both he and Montefeltro agreed that if Florence did it alone, they risked the wrath of the Emperor and an invasion of Italy. They decided to try and convince the other Italian states still in the Empire to withdraw along with them. Luigi Montefletro traveled throughout Italy in late 1489, even to the states hostile to Florence, such as Milan and Ferrara, to make the case. Everywhere he went, he found support for the idea. Montefeltro invited each leader to travel to Florence in January of 1490 for a council to discuss the matter. Every leader agreed to attend.

The Council of Florence was a contentious and occasionally bitter affair. However, despite all their differences and hatreds, the Italian leaders all concluded that independence from the Empire was the best and most logical road. They agreed that if, and only if, Emperor Leopold VIII Wilhelm declared war for the purposes of restoring Imperial authority in Italy, they would band together to defeat him. On 31 January 1490, Florence, Milan, Savoy, Genoa, Venice, Modena, Ferrara, and Parma voted unanimously to leave the Holy Roman Empire and signed the Proclamation of Florence. It was an enormous political victory for Grimaldi and Montefeltro. For the first and only time in his life, the old foreign minister had achieved some measure of unity in Italy.


Florence left the Holy Roman Empire in 1490

To celebrate the Proclamation of Florence, and to thumb their nose at Emperor Leopold, the Florentines threw a grand ball to honor, “our brave and noble Italian brothers.” All of the Italian heads of state who had come to Florence attended and the event, just like the previous Grand Ball in 1468, became a wild, rowdy, and scandalous affair. It was the talk of all of Italy for the rest of the year and gave the Republic of Florence even more prestige and notoriety. However, the Italian “brotherhood” on display that night would soon disappear. A new master of foreign policy was about to take the reigns in Florence and, unlike the genial Montefeltro, he was not there to make friends.


The Grand Ball of 1490 was a splendid and rowdy public event
 

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Nice couple of updates! I'm really enjoying the emergence of Machiavelli and the conflict you've written between him and his mentor about and Italian empire of federation, very original!
 

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Historical Vignette 3: A Grand Old Party, 1 February 1490
Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze


The Palazzo Vecchio

Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi sat in the middle of the Grand Hall in the Palazzo Vecchio. The party was finally starting to taper down a bit and, much to his satisfaction, he felt quite drunk. Maddalena, his wife, was busy chatting away with Alfonsina Priuli, wife of the Doge of Venice, Tomasso Priuli, who was passed out from drinking too much wine. Despite the slight decrease in the energy of the party, Maddalena was still as full of pep as ever. The dance floor, though not as crowded as it was earlier, still held a good amount of revelers.

Off in a nearby corner, Bianca di Gonzaga was sitting on the lap of some young fellow, her husband nowhere in sight. Grimaldi recognized the young man as Massimiliano Lessi. Lessi and his two brothers, Luigi and Antonio, were already making names for themselves as ambitious troublemakers and, unsurprisingly, Massimiliano was living up to his reputation. Although the Duchess of Mantua wasn’t doing much to help, as one would think she had mistaken the youthful Signor Lessi for her husband Duke Federico I of Mantua.

Grimaldi felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around. It was Luigi Montefeltro’s deputy, Niccolo' Machiavelli. The Gonfaloniere smiled, he had always liked Machiavelli’s sense of humor and sarcasm. “Pardon the interruption, my Gonfaloniere,” he said respectfully, “but I wanted to introduce you to Signorina Marietta Corsini.” Grimaldi stood up, “a pleasure Signorina Corsini.” He bowed his head and she curtsied in return.

“Niccolo' tells me you are the finest ruler in all of Italy,” she said.

“In all Italy?” asked Grimaldi throwing a glance at Machiavelli who shrugged bashfully in response, “don’t say that too loudly in here my lady, one of these others might become offended.”

“Oh I am no lady,” said Marietta matter of factly, “my father was a butcher and my mother a seamstress.”

“That is of little importance tonight,” replied the Gonfaloniere, “we are all just here to celebrate.” He looked over her finely made, obviously expensive dress and jewelry, “and you certainly look like a lady this evening.” She was a quite good looking young woman he thought, which was surprising considering Machiavelli wasn’t particularly handsome.

Over her shoulder Grimaldi noticed Bianca di Gonzaga trying to stealthily slip out of the hall with Massimiliano Lessi trailing behind her, his arm in her grip.


Bianca di Gonzaga, Duchess of Mantua

“Well I am lucky to have found a well employed man to take care of me,” said Marietta throwing a big smile at Machiavelli.

“Indeed,” said Grimaldi, “oh may I introduce Maddalena, my wife.” He tapped Maddalena on the shoulder. She turned and stood up. “My love,” he said to her, “may I introduce Signorina Marietta Corsino and Signor Niccolo' Machiavelli.” The two women curtsied to each other and Machiavelli bowed toward Maddalena Grimaldi.

“And this,” Grimaldi went on indicating Alfonsina, “is the Dogaressa Alfonsina Priuli, and the tired gentleman behind her is the Most Serene Doge of Venice, Tomasso Priuli.”


Most Serene Doge Tomasso Priuli of Venice

“Excuse my husband,” said Alfonsina, “he has certainly had too much wine. It has made him a bit too serene I am afraid.”

Marietta giggled. “Come dear, join us,” said Alfonsina to her, “let the men talk about intrigue or murder or whatever.” Marietta blew a kiss at Machiavelli and walked around him and Grimaldi to sit with Maddalena and Alfonsina.


Marietta Corsino-Machiavelli

“Well have a seat, have some wine,” said Grimaldi to Machiavelli.

“I was just here to say hello Gonfaloniere," he replied, "I did not intend to interrupt you but Marietta is--”

“Relax my friend,” said Grimaldi, “this is a party not a meeting of the Assembly. We can dispense with formalities.”

“Oh yes, very good sir,” said Machiavelli sitting down awkwardly.

“It seems like you have found yourself quite a woman,” said Antonio.

“Yes she is,” replied Machiavelli, “I am very lucky.”

“Will you be married soon?”

“Yes, in May.”

“May?” replied Grimaldi with an accusing look, “but I have not yet received an invitation.”

“I did not know you would have any desire to attend sir,” said Machiavelli apologetically, “I will have one made for you at once. My apologies.”

Grimaldi laughed. From what he had seen and heard, Machiavelli could be quite witty in more public forums, but in one on one conversation he seemed a bit shy and awkward. “I was joking,” said Antonio, “but since now you have made the invitation, I will accept. Signorina Corsini seems like the kind of lady who would appreciate her wedding being a big event. And what better way to make it so than to have the Gonfaloniere in attendance.”

“It would be an honor for you to be there sir,” replied Machiavelli graciously, “she will be so happy when she hears.” He turned to get Marietta’s attention but Grimaldi grabbed his shoulder.

“Why don’t you wait to tell her,” he said, “perhaps later tonight when you two are alone, it will be more special that way.” Then he added, “you can thank me tomorrow.”

Machiavelli looked happily over at Marietta chatting with her two new friends. “You seem like you are truly in love Niccolo,” said Grimaldi, “but I also understand that when it comes to politics you are not quite as romantic.”

“Sir?” asked Machiavelli with curiosity.

“Luigi complains about you a lot, did you know that?”

“No sir? Does he say I have done anything wrong?”

“No, it doesn’t have to do with any of your work. He is always happy with that. It has to do with your opinions. He thinks you are too cold hearted. And he also believes that you secretly think his grand idea of a union of Italian republics is a load of shit.”

“No sir, I would never think anything like that,” replied Machiavelli quickly.

“You wouldn’t?”

“No sir?”

“Well I do think it,” said Grimaldi. He went on as he noticed Machiavelli’s expression change from one of concern to one of interest, “Luigi is a great diplomat and a solid strategist. Sometimes though I think he is too idealistic. I do not think his confederation will ever work. What do you think?”

“I am hesitant to criticize Signor Montefeltro in public. He has been a great friend to me, I owe him a great deal, and I have the utmost respect for him.”

“I understand that, and I am not asking you to criticize the man, just the idea.”


Niccolo' Machiavelli

Machiavelli took a deep breath. “Well sir,” he began, “sometimes a voluntary, loose union or league can work, as it just did in the Italian states' departure from the Empire. But in this case all of the Italian states had an interest in banding against the Emperor. What Signor Montefeltro is hoping to achieve is entirely different. ‘Unity,' in its proper sense, cannot be achieved by a confederation. By definition a confederation is a weak form of government. Sometimes it is necessary to grant some autonomy, but in a confederation everything is voluntary. In the past the Italian states have unified temporarily to beat this or that threat, like the Lombard League coming together to expel Frederick Barbarossa. But it was always temporary, fleeting.

“Let us say we were successful in creating some sort of union, that would be wonderful. But what happens when, say, the Neapolitans and their Iberian overlords decide to come invade north? Some of us, of course, will have to fight. Florence, Mantua, Ferrara, Parma, some states would be inherently threatened by an expansive Naples. But what of Savoy? What of Venice or Genoa with their trading empires? What happens if one of them refuses to commit their armies to the fight? Would they be expelled? If so, then it just means the confederation was a waste, a figment of the idealists’ imagination. If not, then it means that ‘common defense’ is just a phrase with no real power. Either way, the first war would likely tear it asunder. And offensive war would be even more impossible to coordinate.”

Grimaldi listened closely. Then, once Machiavelli finished, followed up with another question: “so how is unity achieved for Italy?”

The younger man paused, formulating an answer. "To be honest sir,” he began, “I do not know if it is truly possible. It is the thing I would most want to see. I believe that Italy should be one, unified realm, like France. Imagine the power a united Italy would wield. I think, however, there are just too many obstacles, too many bickering states, too much foreign interest in keeping us divided.”

Grimaldi was surprised by the answer. Wasn’t Machiavelli one of the prime proponents of unification? “I expected you to be more optimistic.”

“Sir, optimism doesn’t make allies, defeat enemies, take provinces, or earn money,” replied Machiavelli, “optimism is nothing but a dangerous illusion. I try to be a realist, to the extent that one can ever truly block out one's personal opinion, biases, and emotional ties. That being said, if Italy is ever to be unified permanently, the only way to do it is under a strong, hereditary regime. It would need to have the strength to simultaneously bring the other Italian states to heel while also fending off rapacious foreigners. Ultimately, that ruler would have to pick one threat or another to focus on. He would either have to ally with the foreigners against the other Italians or with the Italians against the foreigners. And the state would need to be hereditary because, as you know of course, republican politics even in a state the size of our own is a complicated, messy affair. Now extend that to the entire peninsula. The struggles of the Black and White Guelphs would pale in comparison to the political chaos the influx of new parties and political currents would bring.

“Historically, the Republic of Florence has always allied with Italians against foreigners,” he said nodding his head toward the still passed out Tomasso Priuli, “this, I believe is a mistake.”

“Why?” asked Grimaldi.

“Because if one does the opposite, yes there is a risk that a foreign power will come to dominate Italy. But, on the other hand, if it is played correctly, that will not be the case. There just need to be enough factors to make holding territory or influence in Italy more costly than not. It is a dangerous game, yes, but I believe one worth playing. Allying with other Italian states on the other hand means that Italy will never be unified, because those states will always be there. As long as the Republic of Venice or the Duchy of Mantua exist, as long as Milan is not in the ruler’s hands, Italy cannot be unified. So why ally with them? If, at the end, the leader fails and Italy comes to be dominated by some foreign power, to who does it really matter? Only to his own class of rulers. But at least he will have dared greatly. For the peasants and the poor of the cities, whether their oppressors are from Italy or enter from outside of it, their lives do not change significantly. Only we will really care if we fail or succeed.”

“Niccolo' come, let us dance,” interrupted Marietta appearing behind Grimaldi’s shoulders.

“Marietta,” replied Machiavelli angrily, “I am speaking with the Gonfaloniere.”

She looked hurt and he immediately regretted it but Grimaldi saved him. The Gonfaloniere smiled at Marietta and turned back to Machiavelli, “go on, dance with your bride to be, enjoy the evening....or morning I guess. Why don’t you stop by my office in, let’s say, two days. We can discuss the matter further.”

“Why thank you sir, thank you greatly,” said Machiavelli, “I look forward to it.” He turned to Marietta who kissed him and dragged him to the dance floor. Grimaldi sat there, pondering the conversation he had just had and wondering if he had the courage to, what had Machiavelli said? Dare greatly. Yes, that was it.

Poalo Centurione, Doge of Genoa was sitting nearby, clearly enjoying some more of the roast that had been served for dinner. “Still hungry?” shouted Grimaldi to him.

“It’s here,” replied Centurione waving a piece of roast, “no need to let it go to waste. I am just enjoying this wonderful Florentine hospitality.”

“I’m glad,” said Grimaldi laughing, “keep that in mind the next time one of your merchant companies rips off some of my citizens.”

Centurione wagged a finger at him, “the Doge of Genoa does not interfere in business, that is for the market and the wisdom of businessmen to take care of.”

“If you say so,” said Grimaldi, “then at least invite me to Genoa for a feast in return.”

“Now that,” said the Genovese, “is something that the Doge can arrange.”

Grimaldi suddenly heard a woman clear her throat behind him. It was Maddalena.

“Well Gonfaloniere?” she asked, “are you not going to dance with your wife?”


Maddalena Grimaldi

“Of course,” he replied standing up and getting back into party mode, “I would be honored.”

The two walked toward the dance floor. Grimaldi noticed a gaggle of women around Duke Carlo Emmanuele I of Savoy, who was considered one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors.

“Those silly girls think that he’ll marry one of them,” said Maddalena shaking her head, “they will be sorely disappointed.”

“Maybe they’re not looking to get married,” replied her husband, “just to have some fun.”

“He is quite handsome,” replied Maddalena, “and a duke. Maybe I should be over there too, now that you mention it.”

Antonio squeezed her hard on the hip.

“Ouch,” she said wincing, “that hurt. Now I’ll definitely go talk to the duke, I’m sure he wouldn’t squeeze me like that.”

“Now that would be quite the scandal,” replied Grimaldi chuckling, “the wife of the Gonfaloniere with the Duke of Savoy, it might even start a war.”

“Oh would it?” asked Maddalena jokingly, “I could be just like Helen of Troy.”

“Maddalena of Florence doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.”

“I guess it doesn't, it would still make for a good story though” she said.

“Speaking of scandals," said Antonio in a half whisper, "did you see Bianca di Gonzaga leave with that young man earlier?”

“I did, she was trying to be sneaky but half the party saw I think.”

“Which means the other half likely knows by now.”

“Do you think that will start a war?”

“No, I’d gladly hand over Massimiliano Lessi for Duke Federico to torture, and I’d throw in his two obnoxious brothers for free as well.”

“Why? Who are they?” asked Maddalena.

“Just some rich young troublemakers with too much ambition for their own good.”

“Sounds like someone I know.”

“Well unfortunately I’m not young anymore.”

“There are times,” she said giving him a seductive smile, “when you can make me forget that.”

He looked into her eyes and was thinking of something good to say in response when his thoughts were interrupted by a commotion nearby.

“You will show me respect!” bellowed a voice. Grimaldi looked to see where it was coming from. He saw Luchino di Carde’, Lord Protector of Milan, draw his sword. Standing across from him, as the surrounding crowd gasped, was a hapless and terrified looking teenager. Carde’ pointed his sword menacingly as he stumbled, clearly struggling to keep his balance.

“Let me go deal with this,” said Grimaldi to his wife.

“Be careful, that idiot looks very drunk,” she replied.

“That idiot,” he said, “is the Lord Protector of Milan.” He turned and started walking over to where the scene was going on. Several men were trying to talk di Carde’ into putting his sword away.

Grimaldi stepped into the circle of people. “Luchino,” he said loudly getting the Lord Protector’s attention, “what are you doing?”


Luchino di Carde’, Lord Protector of the Ambrosian Republic of Milan

“This--this servant boy, he has humiliated me,” he replied angrily. The teen was just standing there, petrified.

Grimaldi sighed and shook his head, "and what did he do?"


"He struck me!" yelled Carde' in response.

"He struck you?" asked Grimaldi with an exaggerated, sarcastic tone. More than likely the drunken fool had been the one to stumble into this terrified boy. “And now you want to kill him?”

“It would be the proper thing to do to avenge the Lord Protector’s honor,” said one of the men behind him. The man wore the colors of Milan, with the crest of the Ambrosian Republic on his shirt. Clearly some sort of soldier or bodyguard, thought Grimaldi. “And who are you supposed to be? I wasn’t aware I was speaking to you” said the Gonfaloniere of Florence, shifting his tone from one of sarcasm to one of contempt, “if I had wanted your opinion I would have scraped it off the bottom of my boot.” The soldier looked at him angrily but said nothing more.

“Please Luchino,” pleaded his wife Paola, “he meant nothing bad, he’s just a boy.”

“Listen to your wife Luchino,” said Grimaldi.

“Don’t you tell me what to do Gonfaloniere,” he spat pointing his sword at Grimaldi.

“You're dunk Luchino," said the Gonfaloniere, his voice steady, "you should go home before you embarrass yourself." He kept his gaze fixed on the Lord Protector as he slowly let his hand creep toward his sword hilt. This didn't seem like a situation that needed to be resolved by violence, but it was better to be careful. Carde' was notorious for his temper, and with alcohol added on there was no telling what he would do.

Carde’ glared at him, then looked around at the crowd. He spat at the ground between them. Then he grabbed his wife by the arm. “Let us leave this filthy city,” he bellowed to his men, “these fools aren’t worth our time.” With that he stormed off, three other men following behind him.

The crowd surrounding Grimaldi let out a collective sigh of relief then gave a loud cheer. He even got a few pats on the back. He relaxed his arm and walked over to the petrified servant. “Relax my friend,” he said handing him his wine glass, "enjoy that glass of wine, and the rest of the party.” The teen gave him a thankful smile, “thank you my Gonfaloniere.”

He turned and saw Maddalena standing right behind him. “What a night,” he said shaking his head.

“What a night indeed,” she replied, looking more than a bit relieved, “what do you say we go home and avoid any further risk of an international incident.”

“Sounds like a great idea,” said Grimaldi putting his arm around her as they walked toward the exit, “sounds like a great idea.”
 
Last edited:

Nikolai

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Haha, I wonder who that boy was. Some random young guy, or a person to look out for in the future?
 

JerseyGiants88

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Nikolai said:
Haha, I wonder who that boy was. Some random young guy, or a person to look out for in the future
No in this case I have no plans for him, just a random guy.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 13: Machiavelli Goes to Work, 1490-1496

On 13 March 1490, just six weeks after the Proclamation of Florence, arguably his greatest achievement, foreign minister Luigi Montefeltro died. The old diplomat was given an extravagant farewell. Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi gave the eulogy and the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Portelli was the celebrant for the mass. The Assembly commissioned a statue for Montefeltro and named a piazza after him. Given his successful career in the service of Florence, these accolades were well deserved.

Despite the justly earned praise, Montefeltro was about to be eclipsed as a foreign policy thinker by his protege, Niccolo Machiavelli. Upon the foreign minister’s death, Grimaldi promoted Machiavelli to the position, and in the mind of the citizens he became the “third triumvir”. The Gonfaloniere liked and respected Montefeltro and heeded his advice. However, the brash former battle commander much preferred the outlook of the old man’s deputy. Unlike his mentor, who wanted to unify Italy peacefully and through an alliance of republics, Machiavelli wanted to do it by any means necessary.




Portrait of Niccolo Machiavelli, foreign minister of Florence

It quickly became obvious that Machiavelli was more than up to the task of being the foreign minister and top diplomat for Florence. He was a long term thinker and a brilliant negotiator. After Grimaldi was re-elected in June of 1490, he pushed the Gonfaloniere to increase funding for the army. Machiavelli believed that all foreign policy and all diplomacy had to be backed up by the threat of force and their adversaries’ belief that it would be used. Accordingly, a strong army was necessary to ensure that Florence could deploy it any time it needed to.

Machiavelli aside, the army continued its own technological progress and innovation. General Bonaventura Vassari had seen the effectiveness of combined arms when he was able to get his artillery to work in sync with his infantry and cavalry. This led him to decide to incorporate the same concept within infantry regiments. Since the development of the arquebus, armies had a cheap and readily available way to arm their infantry with firepower. However, the inaccuracy of the arquebus and its low rate of fire left formations that wielded the weapon vulnerable to determined enemy charges. However, Vassari adopted the tactic of mixing units of arquebusiers with pikemen, which meant that those with firearms could fire until an enemy charge was incoming then retreat behind the rows of pikemen who would provide deadly defense in close quarter battle.


The creation of mixed units of arquebusiers and pikemen made the Florentine infantry more deadly and tactically flexible

General Vassari was, above all, focused on artillery. He believed that it was the future of warfare and that it, more than any other aspect of war, would decide the fate of countries. Accordingly, he focused heavily on not just having better cannons, but to maximize their effectiveness and lethality. Initially, Vassari would deploy his cannons dispersed along his entire line, to provide firepower evenly and to ensure that an effective charge would not cause him to lose a great number of field pieces at once. However, over time and through training, he realized that he could make his artillery far deadlier by massing it. While that would leave it vulnerable, it just meant he would need to allocate infantry forces to protect the artillery.

He organized his artillery regiments into subordinate batteries, giving them greater autonomy from the parent unit but still allowing them to mass. The advantages of massed fire were numerous. First, it made up for the lack of accuracy of the early cannons. Second, it allowed his batteries to better coordinate their fires as their pieces were closer together thus easing command and control. Third, it made the psychological terror of coming under fire from artillery increase exponentially. Instead of one cannon ball coming at one's portion of the line, massed fires could effectively destroy entire formations of troops within minutes.



The massed artillery battery was an important tactical development

Beyond just innovation and technology, from General Vassari on down, the leadership of the Florentine army was convinced of the necessity of training and maintaining quality troops. Florence did not have the manpower reserves of the European major powers. However, over the years they had proven that an emphasis on quality through rigorous training could overcome a great deal of the republic’s numerical disadvantages.


The high quality of Florentine soldiers was known throughout Italy and beyond

Machiavelli was not the only member of the triumvirate making a name for himself in this period. His counterpart on the domestic side, Vitale Cybo-Malaspina, was busy at work as well. Though his administrative reforms lacked the flair of Machiavelli’s diplomatic maneuvers, they were nevertheless important. One of his crowning achievements was the reform of the Florentine judicial system. Although Cybo-Malaspina’s official title was chief tax collector and economic minister, Gonfaloniere Grimaldi gave him a great deal of latitude to deal with domestic affairs more generally.

While the courts in Florence proper were generally well administered, in the countryside and the provincial cities, the local nobility and other powerful figures either ran the courts explicitly by appointing themselves judges or they did so in a de facto manner, through bribes and manipulation. Cybo-Malaspina considered the courts to be an extension of the government and wanted to take away the power of the local signoria to control them. On 14 March 1495, he brought a proposal before the Assembly which would require all judges in courts throughout the Republic to be approved by the Assembly and then given the consent of the Gonfaloniere. Cybo-Malaspina sold the potentially divisive bill to the legislative body as a way to increase their own influence. This gave the Assembly greater control over things that happened outside of the city of Florence itself and, in this case, put them on an equal level of power with the Gonfaloniere. To add to that, the Assembly was overwhelmingly made up of men from the city of Florence itself, who had no interests at all in maintaining the system of courts as it already existed. Therefore, potential opposition was muted. Cybo-Malaspina had his judicial reform, and the Republic of Florence took another step toward greater centralization.


Vitale Cybo-Malaspina’s judicial reforms were extremely important for the development of Florentine government

Niccolo Machiavelli had quickly dispensed with his deceased mentor’s dream of unity through friendship. While he respected Luigi Montefeltro to his death, Machiavelli believed that the dream of a republican confederation was impossible. Instead, Machiavelli wanted Florence to conquer and intimidate her way to dominance. Accordingly, he identified the Most Serene Republic of Venice as the biggest obstacle toward that end. As long as Venice held the provinces they had on the peninsula, then unification remained unattainable. Furthermore, the foreign minister believed that the Venetians would never have a vested interest in a united Italy either, gaining too much from their own trade.

For decades, it had been Florentine policy to always favor other states in Italy over foreign powers. This had been established clearly by Montefeltro. Machiavelli wanted to change that. After all, the foreign powers were just that, foreign. The Italian states on the other hand, stood between Florence and her goals. On 8 May 1491, the Florentine ambassador to Venice, an old Machiavelli associate named Giulio Moroni presented the Doge with a letter of dissolution of the alliance. The old Doge, outraged, ordered Moroni to leave the city immediately, not even giving him time to gather his possessions. Those possessions were eventually dumped into the Grand Canal.


The breaking of the Florentine-Venetian alliance caused the two strongest states in northern Italy to become enemies

On 13 June 1491 King Louis XII took the throne of France. The French looked like a rising power and were well on their way to crushing Castile in the War of Navarre. The new king was an admirer of Florentine art and culture and believed the Tuscan state was the most civilized and respectable in all of Italy. Louis despised the Venetians, seeing them as a rival to his kingdom. Machiavelli had learned of this through correspondence with friends of his in the French court and he managed to get his contacts to set up a meeting between him and the king. In September Machiavelli travelled to Paris to meet Louis XII. The two men got along wonderfully during their conversations together. They talked of art and literature and, when the conversation turned to politics, found that many of their opinions and interests aligned. Machiavelli asked the French King if he would join an alliance with Florence and, he put it bluntly, asked if he would go to war in Italy in the near future. King Louis said yes to the alliance and agreed to give military backing to Florence as soon as France finished the war with Castile. Florence had gained a very powerful ally and Machiavelli had his first great diplomatic victory.


Louis XII, King of France and Navarre


The Kingdom of France and the Republic of Florence signed a treaty of alliance on 21 October 1491

Machiavelli returned to Italy in November of 1491 to continue his maneuvering. With a strong army and powerful war partner, Machiavelli’s next task was to choose who to go to war with. The other Italian states were in a surprising state of political calm. It appeared as if the Proclamation of Florence had actually contributed not just to Italian unity on the question of leaving the Empire, but spread a certain tranquility along with it as well. Machiavelli sought to shatter that. However, he needed a pretext. This he would find a few years later in Modena.

The foreign minister was not, however, only concerned with ways to make war. He was, after all, supposed to be Florence’s chief diplomat. Indeed, he was focused on establishing permanent diplomatic ties with a number of powers, both friendly and hostile. To do this, he created a permanent diplomatic corps to be ambassadors to a select group of countries. These diplomats, many from among his fellow alumni of the University of Florence’s Banda Italiana, would go live in whatever country they were assigned to and serve solely as ambassador to that court, representing the interests of the republic. To begin with, Florence established embassies in eight capitals: Paris, Vienna, Madrid, Valencia, Venice, Constantinople, Prague, and Bern. Over the years, as the diplomatic corps increased in size, so would the number of Florentine embassies.



Machiavelli created a permanent diplomatic corps to serve as ambassadors

A major European event occurred on 28 May 1494: the Iberian Wedding. After decades of war and bitterness, the Crowns of Castille and Aragon united through the marriage of King Enrique V of Castile and Isabella I of Aragon, daughter of King Ferran II. Isabella was Ferran’s only child and he reached an agreement with the Castilian House of Trastamara that, upon his death, his crown would pass to Isabella and then onto their first male child, making him King of Castile and Aragon (in addition to numerous other titles). The wedding of Enrique and Isabella on 28 May was the guarantee of that union and of the succession. The timing was excellent as King Ferran died only five months later in October of 1494.

Many in Europe were alarmed by this development. However, Machiavelli thought that, in the long term, it was good for Florence. His foreign policy strategy took the long view. He believed that Italy would only be unified by a continual, successful effort over multiple generations. Eventually, he thought, it would become necessary to move south against the Kingdom of Naples. The foreign minister still thought that despite the new union in Iberia, France remained the stronger power. He hoped that, one day, the Franco-Florentine alliance would be able to wrest control of southern Italy from the Trastamaras.


The Iberian Peninsula in 1494

When he was not busy plotting to take over Italy, Niccolo Machiavelli found time to write about subjects other than politics, war, and diplomacy. He also wrote well received and popular poems and plays. These included the comedies, Clizia and Mandragola, as well as the poems Sonetti, Canzoni, Ottave, Canti carnascialeschi. His poems explored many of the same themes that he explored in his political writings but in a more abstract and subtle way.


Machiavelli would not publish his most famous work for many years, but he began writing both fiction and about politics at a much earlier date

Florence’s alliance with Modena had been part of Luigi Montefeltro’s project of uniting the Italian republics. However, having rejected that ideal, Machiavelli saw the alliance as an impediment to Florentine ambitions. Florence dissolved its pact on 8 March 1494. Machiavelli's hope was that some neighboring state would be tempted to attack Modena and, while Florence had no formal alliance or guarantee of protection, to use that as an excuse to go to war. To lay the groundwork, Machiavelli published a treatise that he distributed throughout Italy declaring that the independence of Modena was critical to the security and tranquility of Florence.

With the Republic of Modena standing alone, Duke Federico I of Mantua saw an opportunity to expand his realms by claiming the province and ignored Machiavelli's declaration. The House of Gonzaga had some tenuous yet longstanding claims to Modena and they did not miss a chance to attack when opportunity presented itself. Federico, who had ambitions to turn Mantua into a more important power in Italy, saw Modena as a stepping stone toward that end. On 19 January 1496, the Duchy of Mantua declared war.

The war would end quickly. On 16 June, less than six months after the declaration of war, Federico’s troops captured Modena and annexed the province to the Duchy of Mantua. The triumphant Duke marched his army through the city and had the defeated republican leadership executed. However, the combination of Duke Federico I’s ambitions with the expansive desires of the Republic of Florence, were about to set off a chain of conflicts that would fundamentally transform Italy.
 

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I'm also loving that cliffhanger. I'm now really looking forward to future updates.
 

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Chapter 14: The First Italian War, 1496-1499

Mantua’s annexation of Modena provided Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi and foreign minister Niccolo’ Machiavelli the pretext they needed for war. Grimaldi dispatched Machiavelli back to France to request the support of King Louis XII against Mantua and her allies. While Florence boasted a significantly more powerful army than their Lombard enemies to the north, Mantua’s ally and historic Florentine nemesis, Milan, was sure to join them. In addition, Mantua was also allied with the Papal State to Florence’s south and Switzerland, Florence’s historical ally, to the north. The Swiss and their leader, Syndic Frederick Helberingen, would be bound to support Mantua against Florence if the war were started by the latter. Despite the potential of losing an ally, Grimaldi and Machiavelli felt that France could more than make up for their soon to be estranged Alpine friend.

Machiavelli arrived in Paris on 20 July 1496, just over a month after Modena was annexed. He met with King Louis XII, with whom he had gotten along wonderfully on his previous visit. Louis was quite interested in an opportunity to extend French influence into Italy and had his eyes set on Milan in particular. The king was descended from the House of Visconti, the old ruling family of Milan, on his mother’s side. The family had lost power in the city following the Ambrosian Revolution, but now Louis saw an opportunity to use his family history in his favor When he learned that Milan would likely enter the war on Mantua’s side, he was ready to go. While Machiavelli was happy to have French support, he knew he was playing with fire. If Louis developed Italian ambitions, it could, over the long term lead to disaster for Florence. Therefore, he had to figure out a way to ensure that Louis’s eyes did not get too big and that, once the war was over, he and his massive army would return to their homeland.

Machiavelli knew that there was no way to get the French to join without giving them something. So he decided to split the difference. He promised that Florence would renounce all claims on the lands of the Republic of Milan and recognize the king’s rightful claims there. However, he argued that stability and the balance of power in Italy required Milan to remain independent and intact for the time being. He pledged Florentine support to the king’s claims at a later date but was able to convince Louis to agree that Milan would suffer no territorial losses in the war. While it meant that Florence’s expansion would be capped for the time being, it was the only way Machiavelli could get France to join the war without giving them territory in Italy.

With French participation secured, Machiavelli reported back to Grimaldi on 11 August. The Gonfaloniere ordered General Bonaventura Vassari to get the army ready and make preparations for war. He also gave one more opportunity for diplomacy to work. He sent Machiavelli to Mantua to negotiate with Duke Federico I. Federico, however, refused to even speak with Machiavelli, regarding him as a low born troublemaker and beneath him. With his foreign minister rebuffed, the old soldier Grimaldi was ready to go to war. On 8 October 1496, the Republic of Florence declared war on the Duchy of Mantua. Milan, Switzerland, and the Papal State entered the war on Mantua’s side while France and Parma entered on Florence’s side.



Federico I of the House of Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua


The belligerents of the First Italian War

Grimaldi and Vassari’s strategy was to ignore the Papal army at first and focus on Mantua and Milan. Milan was the most powerful of their four adversaries and the biggest fear was what would happen if the three northern enemies were able to combine forces and attack the Florentine army in mass before the French could cross the Alps. Vassari attacked Mantua but instead of staying to defend their city against a far larger force, Duke Federico and his top commander Ottaviano Moscatti, marched their army west into Modena to avoid them. What caught them off guard though was the quick movement of the French army. Unbeknownst to them, Louis XII had begun moving troops to the southeast of France almost immediately after his meeting with Machiavelli in July.

Vassari, realizing the French were on their way, decided to postpone his planned quick strike and instead hold position besieging Mantua until the French arrived. With their allies’ troops so close, it now did not matter if the enemy consolidated their forces. If anything, it could be better as now there was a chance that their army could be destroyed in one stroke.An easy victory however, would not be in the cards.

The first major battle of the war took place 10 kilometers southwest of Modena near the town of Formigine. All seven belligerents’ armies fought in the battle. Vassari had overall command and tried to use his huge artillery advantage to his benefit. However, despite numerous volleys of withering fire, the enemy army held its ground and bloodily beat back several cavalry charges. At the end of the first day, both armies were still on the field. Vassari’s artillery finally made the difference the next day, when he had his troops push it up closer to the enemy lines and really batter them. This, followed by less cavalry and more infantry charges, finally brought about victory for the Franco-Florentine forces.




The Battle of Formigine in the province of Modena was the first major battle of the Italian Wars

Following their win at Formigine, Vassari wanted to pursue the beaten enemy armies and destroy them. The French however wanted to wait. They had more troops coming across the Alps and wanted to have overwhelming numerical superiority before going back on the offensive. This did allow the French to launch a double offensive. One of their armies, led by the celebrated general Louis Francois de Saint Esprit, Duke of Normandy, joined with Vassari and the Florentine army while King Louis XII personally led another army south to destroy the Papal forces at Ancona.

Vassari and Saint Esprit caught up to a combined force from Mantua and Milan near Guastalla. That town, on the southern bank of the mighty Po River, is where Ottaviano Moscatti, the Mantuan commander, wanted to make his stand. His only hope, though badly outnumbered, was to keep the Franco-Florentine army south of the river. Vassari wanted to attack the enemy forces where they were and exploit their numerical advantage. However, Saint Esprit proposed leaving a small force in place to fix Moscatti’s army and cross the Po further north by the Cialdini Island where the river was narrow. There was a bridge there at the town of Borgoforte as well as numerous fording sites. Grimaldi, who was accompanying the army, sided with the Frenchman and ordered Vassari to let Saint Esprit have overall command. Vassari, to his credit, knew he was not a master tactician and dutifully complied with the order.

Using Saint Esprit’s plan the army was able to cross the Po on 19 April and place itself between Moscatti’s men and Mantua. However, the enemy army had scouts at Borgoforte who were able to alert the Mantuan general to Saint Esprit’s movements. This prevented them from getting trapped and destroyed. However, it also forced him to make an ill advised attack against a numerically superior foe in vain hope of preventing them from reaching the capital. This, they failed to do. At the Battle of Parenza on 21 April the Franco-Florentine forces managed to beat back the determined enemy assault. For the second consecutive battle, Moscatti and his troops were beaten but had managed to inflict nearly as many casualties as they had taken.


With Mantua under siege however, the war’s fortunes were clearly turning in favor of Florence and France. Vassari and the Florentines, with the largest artillery contingent, stayed to besiege Mantua while Saint Esprit led his men north, along with the troops from Parma, to attack a Swiss-Papal army near Milan. This he succeeded in doing on 13 June.

In the meantime, Louis XII was running his own successful campaign in the south. On 5 August he finally trapped the Papal army outside Ancona and wiped it out. The Battle of Ancona was more of a massacre as Louis did not accept the enemy’s surrender for a number of hours even after the battle had become a rout. The Papal-Swiss forces suffered ten times as many casualties in the battle as did the French. This allowed Louis the opportunity to move on Rome. The news of what happened at Ancona troubled Grimaldi and Machiavelli, who were worried the highly capable but vainglorious King of France might get too big of an idea when he came within sight of the Eternal City. Machiavelli sped down to meet up with the advancing French army and gauge the king’s intentions. Louis, though clearly tempted by the possibility of capturing and keeping Rome, was also a devout Catholic. He told Machiavelli that if Rome did fall to him, he would respect the city and, even though he was technically an enemy, that he planned on asking Pope Clemens VIII to hear his confession and give him a blessing. Upon hearing this, a relieved Machiavelli returned to Florence to inform the Gonfaloniere that they did not have to worry about France claiming Rome.

The winter of 1497-98 was particularly bitter, even in Italy, and both sides went into winter quarters. Then, on 17 February, Bonaventura Vassari received information that a 6,000 strong force of Milanese and Swiss troops was moving just north of his army’s quarters at Parma in order to reinforce another Milanese army at Milan. Vassari led his troops out to intercept them, which they did on 19 February. The fighting was not particularly bloody by the standards of the First Italian War, with less than 5,000 casualties combined. However, towards the end of the battle, General Vassari was struck by an enemy cannon ball and mortally wounded. He was dragged back to his headquarters tent where he died shortly thereafter. The man who had introduced cannons to the Florentine army and pioneered artillery tactics, was felled by the very weapon that helped define his career. He was succeeded by the young, but stern Antonio Lessi. Lessi was a good tactician and strict disciplinarian who Vassari considered one of the best commanders when it came to integrating artillery and infantry.



Florence lost a pioneer of artillery with the death of General Bonaventura Vassari

The spring of 1498 was relatively quiet, with Mantua and her allies trying to rebuild what forces they could and avoid decisive engagements. In the meantime, Florence and France lay siege to Mantua and Rome, with the former falling on 10 July and the latter on 7 August. Pope Clemens VIII agreed to hear the confession of the King of France and gave him a blessing. The Pope was probably extremely thankful that the French invasion and occupation of the city was a surprisingly non-violent affair. Louis and his men had developed a reputation for being quite rapacious when they sacked cities and Rome was filled with horror stories about this throughout the siege. Grimaldi and Machiavelli decided to take advantage of Louis’ Roman vacation. While the King of France may have spared Rome and made friends with the Pope, they did not think that he would be as considerate and reserved if he took Milan. Grimaldi ordered Lessi to move the Florentine army north immediately and lay siege to Milan. Its capture would end the war.

Lessi and his troops pursued Ottavio Moscatti, Duke Federico and the remnants of the army of Mantua north to Milan through the summer and early fall of 1498. On 31 October, Machiavelli scored a diplomatic win when he was able to arrange a peace treaty with the Swiss. Grimaldi and his foreign minister wanted to allow the Swiss to leave the war with only a minor war indemnity in order to keep them friendly and renew the alliance after the war but the French insisted that the Swiss should pay a heavier price. Machiavelli was able to get them to agree to grant independence to the small state of Baden, which Switzerland had conquered a number of years earlier, along with a small war indemnity.

The Milanesi remained defiant. The Lord Protector of the Ambrosian Republic, Luchino di Carde’ was a proud man and had pledged to fight to the very end. However, the Florentine siege was tight and by late spring of 1499, the city’s will to resist was beginning to wane. King Louis was also growing impatient and had begun moving his army north from Rome in March. They were currently encamped outside of Piacenza, about 70 kilometers southeast of Milan. Machiavelli and Grimaldi wanted to limit the amount of Florentine troops they would have to sacrifice should they have to storm the city but they also wanted to ensure that the King of France didn’t march north and demand the right to take it by force. If that happened, the Florentines would be powerless to stop him from ravaging the city, dissolving the Ambrosian Republic, and declaring himself Duke of Milan.

To prevent this from happening Machiavelli came up with an ingenious idea. Florence had agreed that Milan would lose no territory as part of its deal to get France to enter the war. Milan and its Lord Protector did not know this however. Machiavelli proposed to portray those lenient terms as a sign of Florentine magnanimity and threaten that if they were not accepted, then they would be forced to call the French to come assist them and sack the city. While this is precisely what the Florentines sought to prevent by getting Milan to surrender, there is no way that Lord Protector Carde’ could have known that and he was unwilling to risk the destruction of his beloved city. With Duke Federico I also trapped in the city, he too was forced to capitulate, but at a much higher price. Therefore, on 26 June 1499, Carde’ surrendered the city and Milan, Mantua, and the Papal State agreed to the Florentine peace terms.

Milan, as agreed upon, kept all of its territory intact. Milan was forced to pay a war indemnity and cancel its alliance with Mantua. Mantua and the Papal State, however, did not have it so easy. Florence took Modena from Mantua, with a furious Duke Federico I vowing revenge against Machiavelli and Grimaldi. The Papal State was forced to cede the Romagna and Urbino to Florence. These were the harshest terms of the whole war. However, with their armies wiped out and no allies, Rome could not continue to resist and Pope Clemens's representative, Cardinal Farnese, had to accept the terms. In the Peace of Milan, Florence gained three provinces, large amounts of gold, and a great deal of increased status in Italy. The republic now stretched across the peninsula and had broken through to the Adriatic Sea.



The Peace of Milan gave the provinces of Modena, Romagna, and Urbino to Florence

Following the peace treaty, the French and Florentine armies returned to Florence together, where Gonfaloniere Grimaldi organized an enormous parade and celebration for them. Then, after staying in Florence a week, the French, with their king at the head of the army, departed and headed back home. They crossed the Alps on 22 July 1499 and all of Italy breathed a sigh of relief. Grimaldi and Machiavelli had succeeded, for now. They had gotten the French support they needed to defeat a four state alliance but without letting the French gain any real power in Italy. It was a dangerous game but they had succeeded. King Louis XII would hold on to his dreams of acquiring Italian territories but, thankfully for everyone in Italy, other conflicts and issues would prevent him from returning.



King Louis XII and the French army parading through the streets of Florence following the Peace of Milan

Florence now had a commanding presence in central Italy. The strong leadership of “the triumvirate” had catapulted the republic to new heights. Unfortunately for Florence, all three men would soon be dead. An overly ambitious family and a little known Dominican friar with his devoted band of zealous followers would both try to fill the void and take power. A period of chaos was just over the horizon.



Italy after the First Italian War
 

Idhrendur

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Of course you can't just sit tight and consolidate your gains! What fun is this without constant crises! :confused:
 

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Good job using France like that. :)

Also, do you plan on forming Tuscany later on? Don't really think it'd be worth it, but it would be interesting from a roleplaying point I guess.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Idhrendur said:
Of course you can't just sit tight and consolidate your gains! What fun is this without constant crises! :confused:
In my defense, the next one was a computer/event created crisis.

Kagemin said:
Also, do you plan on forming Tuscany later on? Don't really think it'd be worth it, but it would be interesting from a roleplaying point I guess.
So the main issue for me when confronting this decision is that, no matter what, if I plan to form Italy I will inevitably become a monarchy. If there was the chance that whatever government form you are is what you remain once Italy is formed then it would be a much tougher question. But given that, I am definitely leaning toward forming Tuscany. As you said, it has roleplay value and I think it is worth it for the change over.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Historical Vignette 4: Leverage, 26 June 1499
Outside the walls of Milan


Milan

The giant doors of the Porta Ticinese opened and six men rode out. Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi looked over his shoulder at the Florentine army arrayed in line of battle behind him, their banners swaying gently in the summer breeze. “Are you ready for this?” he asked turning to his foreign minister Niccolo’ Machiavelli.

“Yes Gonfaloniere,” he replied, “but I’ll let you start.”

“They won’t be happy to see us,” replied Grimaldi, “especially you. I have heard the Duke of Mantua has a particularly strong dislike for you.”

“The happiness of Duke Federico is not my concern.”

“Indeed,” Grimaldi chuckled, “not mine either.” He turned to General Antonio Lessi, newly promoted to lead the Florentine army after Bonaventura Vassari was mortally wounded at the Battle of Parma, “is it a concern of yours General?”

“No sir,” said Lessi, “I have been making it my business to concern myself only with his misery.” Typical answer, thought Grimaldi. Personally, he did not like the general or his brothers, Massimiliano and Luigi. They were political rivals and, in Grimaldi’s opinion, represented the worst of the Florentine nobility. They were the rising leaders of the Black Guelphs and Grimaldi was fairly sure Antonio would use his new position to help his brother Massimiliano run. Antonio Lessi didn’t have the personality for politics, mostly because he didn’t have a personality. Definitely no sense of humor. Either way, this was war and Grimaldi, a celebrated former soldier himself, prided himself on his ability to put politics aside for the good of the republic. Plus, he had to admit, Antonio had proven himself a very skilled commander and, despite being just 34 years old, had been the clear favorite among the military leadership to succeed Vassari.

The six men approaching finally reached them and stopped.

“Lord Protector, Duke Federico,” said Grimaldi nodding toward the two in the front, “a pleasure as always.”

“You can wipe that smug look off your face,” said Luchino di Carde’, Lord Protector of Milan.

“Luchino, the last time we saw each other was so unpleasant due to that business with the servant boy,” said Grimaldi shaking his head, “I was hoping this time would be different. Plus, why should I not look smug? I won.”

“What the hell is he doing here?” asked Duke Federico.

“He is the commanding officer of the splendid army you see before you,” said Grimaldi feigning ignorance and turning to look at General Lessi.

“You know to whom I am referring,” replied the Duke angrily.

“Oh, my foreign minister? He is my advisor for all diplomatic negotiations. Plus, I am unsure why you have such a bad opinion of the poor man. If anything it should be general Lessi you hold any personal antipathy for. Though, of course, you can’t hold a man accountable for the actions of his brother.”

Grimaldi saw Duke Federico’s hand start to move toward his sword. Then it stopped and he grabbed the reigns of his horse again. He stared at the three Florentines with a look of pure hatred.

“This is a military surrender,” said di Carde’.

“In part, yes,” said Grimaldi, “but it is also a peace negotiation.”

“Those were not the conditions we agreed to,” spat Duke Federico, raising his voice.

“We changed our minds,” said Machiavelli in a steady, matter of fact way.

The two leaders still did not look at him. “This is blackmail, I’m going back to the city,” said the Duke of Mantua.

“You do as you wish Federico,” said Grimaldi, “out of respect I extended an invitation to you and Cardinal Picchi, who, I see, declined my invitation, but I honestly do not care what you have to say. I am here to negotiate with the Lord Protector of Milan.” He turned back toward Carde’ and continued, “I suggest, Luchino, that you agree to our terms and, also, that you get your little friends that you are hosting to agree to them as well.”

“I have no say over what the Duke of Mantua and the Pope’s emissary, Cardinal Picchi, choose to do.”

“No, but I know you can be convincing when you want to be. And please allow me to explain why it is very much in your interest to be convincing now.” Grimaldi paused for effect, he noticed that Duke Federico was still there, listening with a scowl on his face.

Machiavelli then began where Grimaldi had left off. “I can tell you, Lord Protector,” he began, “that Florence will not accept the surrender of this city without an agreement to end the war. If the Duke or the Cardinal think they and their men will be allowed to march out with their banners and weapons, they are sadly mistaken. After all, it is not in every war that the victors have the entire enemy leadership within their grasp. We intend to exploit that fact. Call it blackmail if you like,” he said shooting a look at the Duke of Mantua, “but it is what is going to happen.” He paused to let his words sink in.

“Now,” Machiavelli continued, “we are prepared to offer quite lenient terms to Milan; ones that, considering we have occupied all your lands and are about to take your capital, could be considered quite favorable. The terms we are going to offer Mantua and the Papal States are not so lenient. Then again, those are of secondary importance to you.

What is of very great importance to you is the wellbeing of your city. The one that chose you to be its Lord Protector. Now if you and our friend the Duke here and His Eminence do not accept our offer, we will dispatch riders to invite the French army to join us at the siege.

The King of France, as I’m sure you know, believes that the Ambrosian Republic is a fraud and that the former Duchy of Milan is his birthright, since he is descended on his mother’s side from the Visconti. He also hates you personally and, for some reason, also has an irrational hatred for the very city that he seeks to claim. He was very adamant about wanting to sack it. The Gonfaloniere and I had to work very hard to convince him not to. But, as with anything, we can change our minds.

“So the choice before you, Lord Protector, is simple: convince your friends to agree to our peace terms and surrender Milan to our well disciplined troops who are under strict order not to loot anything or wait for the French to arrive, at which point we will stand aside and let them ravage your beautiful city. If you surrender to us, you have our guarantee that no further harm will come to your citizens or their property. Otherwise, you can deal with King Louis. I’m sure you have heard stories of the rapaciousness of the French troops.”

Lord Protector Carde’ glared at Machiavelli. Then he spurred his horse closer to him and Grimaldi so that he could speak out of earshot of the furious looking Duke of Mantua.

“Very well,” he said, nearly whispering, “I will go back into the city and try to talk them into agreeing to your terms. Do I have your word that you will make no territorial demands on the Ambrosian Republic?”

Both Grimaldi and Machiavelli nodded.

“Do you have the written peace terms for Milan?” asked Carde’.

Machiavelli pulled out a scroll and handed it to him, “that has the terms for Milan, Mantua, and the Papal States. You may keep it.” The Lord Protector read it over several times carefully then put it in his pocket.

“Here is what I will do,” he said maintaining his low tone of voice, “I will bring the terms to the Grand Council and get their approval. Then I will try to convince Duke Federico and the Cardinal to accept the terms you are offering to them. If they accept, then you have what you want and the war is over. If they do not, I will send word that Milan has accepted your terms, thus making the city neutral and its soldiers noncombatants from that point on. That will allow me to expel all foreign military men and their leaders from the city. At which point you will be free to do what you want with them. We will wash our hands of the matter. I promise to provide no aid should they try and escape. I believe that should be acceptable to you.”

“It is,” said Machiavelli.

“Good, then we are done here,” said Carde’, “just keep those Transalpine bastards away from my city. And damn all of you for bringing them over the mountains to begin with.” With that he turned and rode back toward the city, his men following behind. Duke Federico lingered for a moment, glared at them, spat on the ground, and then turned and followed the rest of the group.

“What an idiot,” said Grimaldi watching the Duke ride away.

“My brother Massimiliano slept with his wife,” said General Lessi in his usual monotone. Grimaldi started laughing, though he was unsure if it was because of what Lessi said or the way he had said it. Not a boast, not a joke, just as a matter of fact.


"Yeah," replied Grimaldi, "that was why he was so angry when I brought up your brother earlier."

"Yes sir," said Lessi almost mindlessly. Jesus, thought the Gonfaloniere to himself, this man comes off as a total idiot. How is he even able to grasp tactics, let alone master them? Grimaldi shook his head.

“Do you think they’ll accept?” asked Machiavelli, causing Grimaldi to turn serious again.

“They will,” said Grimaldi, “if I know Luchino as well as I think, he will do whatever it takes to make them accept. He may be an arrogant ass, but he takes his title of Lord Protector seriously and he loves that city. He’d die before he went down in history as the man who let Milan be sacked by the French. And if this does work as I think it will, then Niccolo', you might as well retire."


"I just might," replied Machiavelli, "but I haven't written my book on diplomacy and war yet."

"I am so eager for you to pass your knowledge off to our enemies," replied Grimaldi in a semi-serious voice. He looked over at the darkening horizon then turned to Lessi, "General, have the men come inside from the cold."

"Yes sir," said the commander.

"Niccolo'," he said turning back to his foreign minister, "we have taken the first real steps toward the unification of Italy."
 

Niethar

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So the main issue for me when confronting this decision is that, no matter what, if I plan to form Italy I will inevitably become a monarchy. If there was the chance that whatever government form you are is what you remain once Italy is formed then it would be a much tougher question. But given that, I am definitely leaning toward forming Tuscany. As you said, it has roleplay value and I think it is worth it for the change over.
I'm not 100% sure, but both the decision to form Italy and the wiki say nothing about changing your gov type to monarchy. So, if you want a Republican Italy, do not form Tuscany, as the decision states your gov type changes to feudal monarchy.
EDIT: yeah, if you skip the decision to form Tuscany, you can have an Italian Republic.
 
Last edited:

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 15: A New Century, 1499-1503


Europe at the turn of the Sixteenth Century

The dawn of the Sixteenth Century was bright for the Republic of Florence and she appeared poised for even better things in the century to come. Europe as a whole was going through major changes and these would only accelerate in the years to come. Inventions such as the printing press were changing the way people received knowledge and new political and economic ideas were emerging. The Renaissance was branching out from its starting points in Central Italy and the Low Countries throughout much of the rest of the continent. France had established itself as the major power in Western Europe but several other states would soon start to assert themselves across the continent.

Domestically, Florence continued to grow and reform under the stewardship of Vitale Cybo-Malaspina. While Gonfaloniere Antonio Grimaldi had been focused externally on the war, Cybo-Malaspina continued to push advances within the republic. Starting in 1498, he began overseeing a massive overhaul of the Florentine docks at the major ports of Viareggio, Pisa, and Livorno. The new docks sped up shipbuilding and increased the speed at which merchants could load and unload cargo from ships in the harbor.



The ports overhaul improved trade efficiency and shipbuilding speed

At the conclusion of the war, Cybo-Malaspina approached Gonfaloniere Grimaldi with the proposal of diverting resources away from the military and toward the domestic administration. In one of the rare clashes between Cybo-Malaspina and Niccolo Machiavelli, Cybo-Malaspina emerged the surprising winner. Grimaldi, unlike his more hawkish foreign minister, felt that it was time for Florence to focus more internally. While Machiavelli agreed that it would be a good idea to consolidate the war’s gains, he felt that diverting resources from the army was a potentially dangerous move. Nevertheless, Grimaldi sided with Cybo-Malaspina and the matter was settled.

Much of the Cybo-Malaspina’s domestic project would be lost however when he died on 1 March 1501. The man who had helped oversee some of the most important reforms in the history of Florentine governance was gone. While much of the work that he did stayed in place, the forward progress of Florence would soon grind to a halt due to a number of crises just over the horizon. Antonio Grimaldi had lost his best expert on internal matters as well as a skilled and influential political ally. He would soon struggle to navigate the turbulent political waters of Florentine politics.

The election of 1502 would turn into one of the most contentious ones in the history in Florence. While winning the First Italian War had made Gonfaloniere Grimaldi more popular, the question of what to do with the newly acquired provinces soon became a hot button issue. This was the first time that the Republic of Florence had acquired territory outside of Tuscany and certain issues came up that the republic had not had to deal with in the past. While some at the highest levels, like Grimaldi and Machiavelli, were in favor of a unified Italy and the creation of an Italian identity, most of the people of the peninsula had no conception of themselves as Italians. They usually identified themselves with where they came from. Tuscany was, by and large, a coherent cultural entity, though even within it, there were many differences. However, the new provinces were from what many considered “alien” cultures. They ate different food, spoke differently, and had different social customs. It didn’t help that they were on the other side of the Apennine Mountains and most Florentines had never been there. Grimaldi and Machiavelli wanted to bring the newly acquired lands into the republic on an equal footing with the Tuscan provinces. However, there was a large body of Florentine citizens who opposed this, fearing that if Florence continued to expand and bring in people from other provinces it would dilute the power of the Tuscans themselves. Calling themselves La Lega Toscana (The Tuscan League) they called for military governance of the provinces and to deny citizenship even for those people that would qualify to vote under existing Florentine law.

A second major issue that would come up in the election had to do with sale of indulgences. In Catholic teaching indulgences are a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins. The Church had begun offering indulgences for money, allowing the wealthy to buy their way out of purgatory. Grimaldi, who was no fan of the Church, did not care what the Church did within the walls of its establishments. He did not believe in Indulgences or that they prevented one from having to spend time in purgatory. What he did believe, however, is that the sale of indulgences was a commercial transaction and, therefore, that the government had the right to tax it. This idea had first been proposed to him by Cybo-Malaspina but Grimaldi had never taken it up. Then, a group of men in the Assembly proposed the measure and it led to acrimonious debates in the legislative body. Grimaldi favored the tax and had said so. However, it made him the target of two distinct groups who were strongly against the measure. The first was the clergy and the Church, who, for obvious reasons, did not want to have to give up money to the republican government for an activity that, they felt, the Florentines had no right to stick their nose into.

The other group were the followers of a radical Dominican friar named Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola believed that the Church had become corrupt and needed to be purged of its impure elements. For him, the sale of indulgences was one of the most outrageous of the Church’s many offenses. The populist friar whipped up support for his anti-tax Crusade not because he wanted to help the Church, but because he despised the commercialization of penance and felt that the tax would legitimize the sales even in the eyes of the republic.

La Lega Toscana and the followers of Savonarola found a ready and willing ally in the form of Massimiliano Lessi. Lessi and his two brothers, Antonio and Luigi, came from a wealthy Florentine noble family and had big ambitions to rule. Massimiliano did not just want to become Gonfaloniere. His family were old allies of the Medici and he had read about Cosimo de’ Medici and his purported desire to turn his family into a ruling dynasty in Florence. Lessi wanted to do the same thing. Even though he was the middle child of the family, Antonio being the oldest, he had always been the most intelligent and charismatic. He was not the only successful one however. Antonio was already the commanding general of the Florentine army, having been promoted to that position following the death of Bonaventura Vasari. Massimiliano wanted to become Gonfaloniere and, from there, assert his power.

Lessi had developed a strong group of followers within the Black Guelph party, though he did not have the majority needed to get the party’s backing. What he decided to do instead, was to break the old party mold and run independently while trying to poach supporters from the White Guelph party as well. He also had a powerful ally in Savonarola. Lessi did not take the Dominican seriously, thinking him to be rather mad, but welcomed his support and that of his zealous followers. He promised that he would oppose the taxing of indulgences and, if elected, ban the sale of indulgences entirely throughout the republic. Additionally, he promised to make church attendance mandatory and agreed to a number of other rather extreme policy proposals laid out by Savonarola.

The friar had a strong grassroots following, which had been developing quietly over a number of years. As he began joining Lessi on his electoral campaign in the winter and spring of 1502, his supporters became more assertive and confrontational when challenged by supporters of Antonio Grimaldi. In the first instance of electoral violence in Florence in over a decade, a group of Savonarola’s supporters approached a group of soldiers on leave and began making political overtures to them. When they began denouncing the Gonfaloniere, an old sergeant who had served under Grimaldi during the War of the League of Verona began cursing at them. The campaigners continued the denunciations until the soldiers attacked them and beat them in the streets. This caused Savonarola to urge them to travel the streets armed with clubs and daggers to defend themselves. His supporters also wore black robes, just as he did, to distinguish themselves. However, the image of armed men dressed in black stalking through the streets ogave more than a few Florentines the chills.

A number of violent incidents followed the initial clash with the soldiers and the city started to get nervous. Grimaldi ordered a regiment of troops into Florence to provide security on election day, especially as more people from the countryside began flowing in. However, Lessi and Savonarola depicted this move as an effort by the Gonfaloniere to steal the election or to retain power by force if necessary. They claimed that Grimaldi was doing it because he knew they were going to win.

When election day came about, on 28 June 1502, the voting went off with almost no violence. It was, however, too early to breathe a sigh of relief. When the votes were tallied and the results announced on 3 July, Antonio Grimaldi was declared a winner with 50 percent of the vote compared to Lessi’s 46 percent (the remaining 4 percent were scattered among other minor candidates). When the Gonfaloniere appeared on the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchio to give a speech however, a large group of Savonarola’s black-clad followers were in the piazza and began to heckle him. This led to the outbreak of a massive brawl and the soldiers, still there from the election, rushed in to break it up. In the melee, two of Savonarola’s people were stabbed to death. Though it was unclear who had done it, Savonarola immediately denounced Grimaldi as a murderer and demanded his resignation.

Massimiliano Lessi was growing slightly alarmed by the behavior of his ally, but did nothing to stop him. Instead, he tried to take advantage of the situation by acting partly as a mediator between Grimaldi and Savonarola and partly as a blackmailer, threatening to let the friar continue causing trouble if Grimaldi didn’t reach some understanding with him. The Gonfaloniere had never experienced this sort of political situation before and, for one of the few times in his life, was unsure how to proceed. He was concerned that Savonarola could tear the city apart but he believed that he had won fairly and knew for sure he had not cheated.

Machiavelli was strongly opposed to reaching any understanding with Lessi and told Grimaldi that they should call in the army, declare martial law, and arrest Lessi, Savonarola, and any of their supporters that resisted. When Grimaldi reminded his foreign minister that the man’s older brother was the commander of the army, Machiavelli shrugged and said, “there are many who could take his place.” Grimaldi, despite the conflict with his younger brother, still respected Antonio Lessi and, since the man had refrained from even participating in the political campaign at all, did not really have any reason to move against him. He was also worried that the order to use the army to settle a political fight could demoralize or even break the army.

In the end, and reluctantly, Grimaldi decided to meet with Lessi to reach a compromise. He told the young challenger that he would ask the Assembly to create a new position for him, as a deputy to the Gonfaloniere. In the case that he Gonfaloniere died in office, the deputy would take over as leader until a new election could be organized. The deputy would have little actual power but, Grimaldi told Lessi, he would have a great deal of influence and a chance to position himself for a future electoral campaign. Massimilano Lessi stalled for a while but, eventually, decided to accept. Unbeknownst to Grimaldi, Massimiliano and Antonio Lessi were also considering using the army for their own purposes. They too, however, were unsure how the rank and file would react to the idea. Additionally, the officer corps was extremely loyal to Grimaldi and the chances of a mutiny were too high to risk.

On 9 July 1502, Grimaldi and Lessi appeared together on the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchio to announce their arrangement. Many supporters on both sides, however, were unhappy. Grimaldi’s supporters thought he had sold the republic out to an arrogant fool willing to employ fanatics to gain power. Lessi’s supporters, especially those loyal to Savonarola, had been denouncing Grimaldi as an evil man and a sinner for months and now were shocked that the man they had worked for just agreed to join forces with him. The situation was ripe for disaster.

Lessi himself, it appears, was actually quite content. When he first decided to run, the campaign was meant to test the waters and better prepare him for a future attempt at the office of Gonfaloniere. It had been much more successful than he had initially hoped. He used his new position to get his brother Luigi membership in the Assembly. Surprisingly, he and Grimaldi got along decently while they worked together. Grimaldi discovered, to his relief, that Lessi shared almost nothing in common with Savonarola. He even admitted to the Gonfaloniere that the friar and his zealous followers scared him. On the question of integrating the newly acquired provinces, Lessi was more than happy to go along with bringing them in as provinces with power equal to the ones in Tuscany. As a result of their cooperation, the provinces of Modena, Romagna, and Urbino were brought into the republic on the same levels as the other provinces. The new state of Emilia-Romagna was created, consisting of Modena, Romagna, and Parma, which could represent the interests of the people of the region in the Assembly. Finally, all those in Emilia-Romagna who would qualify for citizenship under already existing Florentine law were made citizens of the republic.



The provinces of Romagna, Modena, and Urbino were incorporated into the republic and citizenship was extended to those living in the newly created state of EMilia-Romagna

When Grimaldi asked Lessi if he was, indeed, opposed to taxing the sale of indulgences, the younger man replied with a question: “why would I be against getting money?” The Tax on Indulgences, the most controversial topic of the election, passed the Assembly by an overwhelming majority on 20 August 1502. Once Grimaldi and Lessi united to support it, that sealed the question for most members of the Assembly. It appeared that domestic tranquility had returned to Florence. That tranquility, however, would be fleeting.



The controversial tax on the sale of indulgences was passed by the Assembly on 20 August 1502

While Grimaldi was fighting the domestic political battles, Machiavelli almost single handedly managed the republic's foreign policy. One of the big surprises of Florence’s victory in the First Italian War was that it had actually improved the republic’s relations with a historical enemy: the Archduchy of Austria. Emperor Ferdinand II saw Florence as the clear rising power in Italy and was troubled by its alliance with France. However, he also knew that the Franco-Florentine partnership was not free of internal tension and he sought to exploit that. While Ferdinand's father, Emperor Leopold VIII Wilhelm, had been furious when Florence led the other Italian states in their secession from the Holy Roman Empire in 1490, it ironically improved relations over the long term. The Habsburgs had for all intents and purposes given up hopes of dominating Italy and hand instead shifted their focus to Germany and the Balkans. All Ferdinand II now wanted to do in Italy was to secure Austria’s southern flank by having an ally to balance against Venice. Accordingly, he sent emissaries to Florence to gauge how they felt about a possible alliance.

Machiavelli was eager to embrace the Emperor’s overtures. While the alliance with France had worked out well in the short term, he wanted to find another major power ally to provide an alternative in case the House of Valois ever decided to press their claims in Milan and elsewhere in Italy. In March of 1501 Machiavelli travelled to Vienna. There he met with Emperor Ferdinand and his foreign minister, Rudolf von Mitterlehner and, in a very frank conversation, discussed their mutual interests. The clear short term target of the alliance was Venice, which was a threat to both parties. However, Machiavelli admitted that he and Grimaldi feared the possibility of a French return to Italy. Mitterlehner was concerned for Austria’s possessions in the Low Countries and was happy to have another potential ally to fight the French, especially one that could protect Austria’s southern flank. After a lengthy stay in Vienna and long hours of negotiations, the two sides finally agreed to an alliance. The Austro-Florentine Pact was signed on 8 April 1501.


The alliance with the Archduchy of Austria was signed by Emperor Ferdinand II and Machiavelli in April of 1501

In addition to the alliance with Austria, Machiavelli was also able to renew the alliance with Switzerland. The Swiss had joined the side of Mantua in the previous war but were eager to resume their historic partnership with Florence. With them on board, Florence now had northern Italy surrounded by a wall of allies.

Closer to home, the reaction to Florence’s win in the war was predictably more hostile than the one coming from Vienna. A number of states formed the League of Vicenza, with the express intent of stopping any further Florentine expansion in Italy. Machiavelli remained confident however that with both France and Austria as allies they would not dare start an offensive war against Florence. Nevertheless, Gonfaloniere Griamaldi got the Assmebly to approve the formal annexation of Parma, which had been under de facto Florentine control since they had restored the republican government there following the Farnese revolt in 1474. With the province annexed, Grimaldi ordered the construction of a new, massive fort to protect against attacks from the north.


Parma was formally annexed to the Republic of Florence in 1502

While the foreign minister was busy with geopolitics, he also took time to compile the lessons learned over the course of his career as well as what he had learned through the study of other states and of history. In February of 1502, he published his magnum opus, The Prince. It built upon the themes he had set forth in the his previous book on political philosophy, The Discourses on Livy, published just before the outbreak of the First Italian War. The overarching theme for The Prince was the characteristics of a strong and effective ruler. However, underlying this, was clearly the message that the book was meant for a ruler in Italy who sought to unify the peninsula. The lessons of The Prince lived on, and it would go on to become a pillar of political philosophy and the study of international relations, but the author’s intent is quite clear, he wanted to see Italy united. In the book Machiavelli also argues in favor of a hereditary ruler to focus on foreign affairs with a republican-style body below him tasked with dealing with domestic affairs. In Machiavelli’s opinion, foreign policy was a long game that required the focus of a man who did not have to succumb to the pressures and chaos of electoral politics. Compared to Machiavelli’s plays and novels, The Prince sold few copies and remained little known for a number of years. However, it would go on to influence a number of important Florentine figures in the decades after it was published.




The Prince was Niccolo Machiavelli's crowning work of political philosophy

Niccolo Machiavelli died suddenly on 2 August 1502 at the age of 41 and only six months after the release of The Prince. He likely died of a heart attack at his home in Florence. The death of his foreign minister came as a shock to Antonio Grimaldi, who was fresh off the chaotic election. In less than eighteen months, he had lost his two closest advisors and the two men who could best guide him through the tumult of Florentine internal politics and foreign affairs.


With the death of Machiavelli, Florence lost a great statesman and strategist

Gonfaloniere Grimaldi departed Florence in October of 1502 so that he could tour the new provinces east of the Apennines. He left Massimiliano Lessi in charge, which gave the young deputy time to exert power and begin acquiring greater influence for himself. However, it is unclear if this mattered to Grimaldi. He took the trip with his wife, Maddalena and, with the exception of visiting with local notables and power brokers from time to time, he appears to have done little work on the trip. In letters to his children, he expressed weariness with politics and a desire to retire. It appears as if the ugly election of 1502 combined with the deaths of his two friends and advisors in close proximity to each other took away his love for politics.

Antonio and Maddalena Grimaldi spent the winter in Bologna hosted by the city’s leader, Giovanni Bentivoglio. They then travelled to Modena before heading to the coast to examine the port at Rimini. They followed that up by a trip south to Urbino and spent the month of May at a villa on the sea. The Grimaldis returned to Florence in mid-June of 1503, where the Gonfaloniere planned on staying for a few weeks to catch up on some work before heading to his beach villa at Forte dei Marmi on the Tyrrhenian Coast. Antonio and Maddalena left Florence for Forte dei Marmi on 7 July. They relaxed and Antonio caught up on all of the fishing he had been unable to do over his time as Gonfaloniere. Then, on 24 July, he did not wake up. Maddalena summoned a doctor but it was all over. Antonio Grimaldi, Gonfaloniere of the Republic of Florence, who had first gained fame as an army officer and daring nighttime raider in the War of the League of Verona, was dead at the age of 62.

His body was brought back to Florence for a state burial. He was interred in a tomb in his favorite church, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. The Assembly declared a week of mourning for him and commissioned a statue to be built. The old army regiment he had once commanded renamed itself Il Reggimento Grimaldi (the Grimaldi Regiment) in his honor or, as the soldiers quickly nicknamed it, “Grimaldi’s Raiders”.

In the midst of the mourning and celebration of Antonio Grimaldi, few people stopped to notice that Massimiliano Lessi was now the acting Gonfaloniere. The young and ambitious Lessi was ready to be Gonfaloniere permanently and had a plan to make it happen. However, an old ally would soon come knocking to get payback for the post-election betrayal. Massiliano Lessi and his brothers would soon be fighting for their political, and actual, lives against a man who claimed to be receiving commands directly from God.


Massimiliano Lessi succeeded Antonio Grimaldi as Gonfaloniere of Florence
 

Nikolai

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A man claiming to get messages from God. I think I know who this monk is.:D
 

JerseyGiants88

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So I know that the pace of updates for this AAR has slowed down. There are two reasons for that. The first is that work has been a bit busy as of late and taken much of my time. The second is that I want to really focus on the next couple of chapters and historical vignettes and really get them polished up. They are going to be pivotal for everything going forward. Therefore, I want to make sure they flow with each other and are also entertaining. I want to get them on here as soon as possible because I want to keep those of you reading this AAR interested and also because, since I don't like to get more than 40ish years ahead in the actual game than I am in my AAR, I want to just play the damn game. I expect to get Chapter 16 up tomorrow and the associated historical vignette the day after that. Thanks for staying patient and, as always, thanks for reading.