Sticks, Carrots and all the Rest: Lombardy and the Spanish strategy in Northern Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean (part. 2)
Cette communication a pour but d’étudier la stratégie espagnole dans la Lombardie du XVI° siècle, en replaçant les développements politiques, sociaux et militaires dans le cadre de l’Italie du Nord, au sein d’une Europe plus large et inscrits dans le tissu méditerranéen.
Entrées d’indexHaut de page
PlanHaut de page
1In analysing the many elements of Spanish strategy in Italy, special attention must be paid to the co-optation of the élites, whether of the indigenous baronial or aristocratic classes of the Habsburg territories or of their peers in the independent Italian states. This was a cornerstone of the Grand Strategy of the Spanish Habsburg composite monarchy, which had to rely heavily on a multi-tiered system of patronage.1 The granting of business opportunities, offices, executive posts, honorific titles and dignities, pensions, gifts, and other mercedes (rewards) to members of these élites fostered political consensus and broadened support for Spanish strategic interests. Those who received this patronage in most cases shared interests, attitudes, and values with their benefactors.2 Spanish power depended upon a sense of inclusiveness, as the political history of Genoa in the 1570s (examined above) demonstrates. Significantly, mercedes were granted even to people of middling social rank.3 In Lombardy appointments for two-year offices, that is, positions that were considered relatively less important and prestigious, were usually granted to minor figures. Far from neglecting these apparently petty issues, in 1592 Philip II wrote to his governor in Milan, ordering him to appoint ‘learned, virtuous, experienced, and upright people’, but at the same time urging him to choose ‘subjects of mine and mostly … Lombards, so that they be rewarded for their staunchness and devotion’.4
2At a higher level, soft power proved to be a valuable tool to form or reinforce the attachment to Madrid in a number of ways: for instance, Giannettino Doria, one of Gian Andrea Doria’s sons, studied at the very prestigious University of Salamanca, the heart of Castilian culture and tradition.5 Big carrots (in the shape of arranged marriages, honours, offices, pensions, commands, and so forth) were offered to high-ranking and influential figures, of whom there were a disproportionately large number in northern Italy – rulers of small states, feudal lords, members of rich and powerful families, local notables, clergymen, officials, or courtly dignitaries.6 In this way, regional and local élites were bound to the Spanish Monarchy. A few outstanding Genoese cases have been mentioned already. By way of example, amongst Lombards it is worth mentioning Paolo Sfondrati,7 Sforza Moroni,8 Camillo Castiglioni,9 Alfonso della Somaglia,10 Marco Antonio Simonetta,11 Gio. Giacomo Belgioioso,12 Renato Borromeo.13 Other subjects of the State of Milan, such as Gabrio Serbelloni, Ambrogio Landriano, Bernabò Barbo, Edoardo Lanzavecchia, will be mentioned in the following pages on account of their outstanding military skills. But we should not overlook military and political figures such as Giovanni Anguissola from Piacenza or Pirro Malvezzi from Bologna, which was also the home town of the Bentivoglios, a couple of whom also served Philip II.14
3In Savoy, for instance, Philip could count on Andrea Provana di Leinì, Filippo d’Este, Carlo Pallavicino, and other counsellors of Charles EmanuelI,15 as well as the president of the senate Lazzaro Baratta and the first secretary of state Agostino Ripa.16 Vespasiano Gonzaga, Duke of Sabbioneta, is another outstanding case: he enjoyed prestigious commands and later on was successively appointed viceroy of Navarre, Valencia, and Naples.17 Not surprisingly, a similar effort to recruit and engage influential figures in Italy was also made by the French Monarchy.18
4At the top level, this approach implied the co-optation of major sovereign princes (like those of Savoy, Florence, Parma, or Ferrara) and their relatives, by appointing them to prestigious executive posts,19 granting military commands,20 conceding honours,21 paying pensions,22 making presents,23 arranging marriages,24 transferring land,25 sometimes interfering in and taking advantage of family dissensions,26 or admitting at court a heir apparent in order to give him a cultural, political, and military education suitable to Spanish interests27 – a peculiar practice of soft power.
5The young Alessandro Farnese presents a perspicuous example of this use of soft power, one which sheds light on the changing relationship between the Spanish Habsburgs and the dukes of Parma and Piacenza. After very troubled times in the 1540s (the disputes between the first duke Pier Luigi Farnese, Charles V, and the governor of Milan, Ferrante Gonzaga cannot be examined in detail here) and some tumultuous years in the early 1550s (with Duke Ottavio leaning towards Henry II of France), relations improved significantly in and after 1556, thanks to Charles’s abdication and the entente between Ottavio and Philip II following the Treaty of Ghent.28 In abandoning the French side and pragmatically accepting Spanish hegemony,29 Ottavio brought about a remarkable shift in his international alliances, winning in exchange Philip’s precious support in his effort to consolidate his still unsteady young state. The treaty included the restitution of Piacenza and its territory to the Duke, although he had to accept a Spanish garrison in the city’s fort as a guarantee of his loyalty to Madrid until 1585, when it was finally withdrawn as a reward for Alessandro Farnese’s oustanding (and for him extremely expensive) service in Flanders.30
6The Treaty of Ghent influenced Alessandro’s life from boyhood, as he had been given as a hostage to the Spanish court. His father’s good conduct and respect for the terms of the treaty were thereby guaranteed. In Madrid the young Italian prince absorbed Spanish moral values and cultural attitudes, experienced its political practices and acquired military skills – in a word, he had been brought up just like a Spanish Habsburg, thus developing a life-style and a Weltanschauung typical of that world. On such firm foundations an outstanding military and political leader was founded, and a crucial geopolitical liaison with the duchy of Parma and Piacenza had been tightened. Not surprisingly, Alessandro was to prove himself to be not merely one of those Italian princes inclined to a pragmatic alliance with the Spanish Habsburgs: in many respects, he had become one of them, one of the happy few.31
7Although their careers were marked by a lesser-degree of identification with the Spanish Habsburg pattern and system of power, two other important Italian crown princes enjoyed an education in Madrid that was in many respects comparable to that afforded to Farnese: Emanuel Philibert of Savoy and Francesco de Medici. Francesco, the son of Cosimo, stayed at the court of Philip II in 1561-2. He shared this distinction with his brother Pietro, who served there a few years later.32 The logical next step in Francesco’s career was to marry Jane of Austria. Later on Philip II, through his personal envoy, stood as godfather to their son: propitiously, the child was named Philip. As an archduke, Francesco would pursue a policy that was usually inclined towards Madrid’s wishes: he was well-known for his spagnolismo.33
8Emanuel Philibert’s elder brother, Ludovico, was sent to Madrid to be brought up in the Spanish way – alla spagnola. Ludovico was the heir to the duchy of Savoy and his loyalty to Madrid was deemed to be of prime importance.34 When Ludovico died, the cadet Emanuel Philibert took his place as the new crown prince.35 He spent a few years in Turin and Nice, during which time his mother, Beatrice of Portugal, deeply influenced his education. As Charles V’s sister-in-law, she introduced a new Iberian style and concept of power in the court of Savoy.36 Then, at the age of nearly seventeen, Emanuel Philibert went to the court of his uncle-in-law Charles V. The young prince quickly fell under the spell of the Emperor, but he also succeeded in gaining his uncle’s favour and respect; in time he succeeded in placing himself on intimate terms with his cousin Philip; honours and offices were showered upon him; he acquainted himself with military life and leadership and experienced the day-to-day intricacies of courtly life.
9In short, he received the education necessary for a prince, one which gave him familiarity with the many facets of statesmanship, from royal finances to diplomacy.37 His career in the Emperor’s service reached its zenith in 1553 when Charles V appointed him commander-in-chief of the Army of Flanders. Charles’s abdication a few years later did not damage Emanuel Philibert’s prospects, and the new king soon appointed him governor of Flanders. Philip’s faith in his Italian cousin was well-placed, as the victory at St Quentin demonstrated. In turn the Catholic King assisted Emanuel Philibert to regain the Duchy of Savoy.38
10It has to be admitted that no strictly-deterministic nexus can be established between Emanuel Philibert’s experience as a boy and a young man and his subsequent conduct as a duke: the ruler of a strategically-crucial state, seeking a certain degree of neutrality and latitude between Madrid and Paris, certainly he was no puppet in Philip’s hands, yet neither did Habsburg rulers in Madrid and Milan always comply with the duke’s requests or support his ambitions.39 Nevertheless, the first stages of his private and public life were spent predominantly in a Habsburg milieu, and this formative period clearly deeply influenced his later actions in both foreign and domestic affairs.40 A revealing indication of the importance attached by the Habsburgs to a suitable upbringing lies in the considerable pressure exerted by Philip II on Emanuel Philibert after 1571 in order that the heir to the throne, Charles Emanuel, should be brought up cattolicamente (in the Catholic way), if possible in Spain. The inference was that this measure alone could prevent any possible pernicious religious and political influence being brought to bear on the duke in his tender years. In fact, the prince – who in 1585 married Philip’s younger daughter Catalina Micaela41 – was raised and educated in the duchy; however, plans for his schooling were changed quite considerably by Philip II’s insistence that he be taught cattolicamente, and all his original tutors were substituted.42 Subsequently Charles Emanuel would turn out to be a more pro-Habsburg ruler than his father.43
11For the Spanish Habsburgs, co-optation was not only an irreplaceable instrument to create consensus. It also had a second, vital function: that of providing human, professional, and economic resources, indispensable to the wider strategic efforts of the monarchy.44 Together with taxation, co-optation was one of the most important means through which non-Iberian components (as well as some non-Habsburg areas) could be induced to make their essential contribution to the running of the Spanish Empire.45 Several Lombard and Italian magnates were able to finance (and sometimes simultaneously to lead) the tremendously expensive imperial campaigns; many others held political, diplomatic, technical, and administrative offices of all ranks.46
12Moreover, the Italian peninsula was particularly rich in ‘skilful, experienced, and authoritative soldiers’, and these men were appointed to all manner of positions within the military-administrative system: they commanded regiments and fortresses, oversaw the levying of soldiers and the construction of defensive works, and performed an array of bureaucratic functions in the army or fleet. In addition, they were frequently put in charge of covert operations.47 Suffice to mention Gabrio Serbelloni,48 Giovanni Anguissola,49 Ambrogio Landriano,50 Bernabò Barbo,51 Pirro Malvezzi,52 Edoardo Lanzavecchia,53 Ottavio Farnese,54 Sigismondo55 and Ottavio Gonzaga56 – all men whose distinguished careers were spent in the service of the Spanish Habsburgs. How important, ubiquitous, and continuous was the service of Italian magnates can be easily deduced from the rolls of the military units fighting for the Monarquía all over Europe during the last decades of the sixteenth century.57
13The study of sixteenth-century Lombardy clearly demonstrates that strategy concerns peace (and ‘non-war’) as much as open war. It also corroborates the argument that Spanish pre-eminence in Europe and the Mediterranean in the Cinquecento was not merely or simply a matter of soldiers, weapons, and ships58 – in other words, a demonstration of hard power. As we have seen, soft power was of profound importance in shaping Spanish actions. Furthermore, even in those instances in which hard power was deployed in an emphatic way, this branch of Madrid’s strategy was as much concerned with (political and economic) carrots as with (military) sticks.59 In northern and central Italy a wide range of strategic methods and tools were employed; the needs and demands of a variety of strategic actors (who were often anything but submissive to Madrid’s demands) had to be taken into consideration.60 Needless to say, none of these actors could compete with the Spanish superpower as an equal, but they all played the Italian strategic game, and indeed some of them were major players. As a former Genoese doge wrote in his journal in 1615, ‘li Spagnuoli … si sono avveduti … che un solo Principe d’Italia basta a tenerli il bacile alla barba’ (the Spaniards have realized that even a single Italian prince can be enough to bring about serious problems to them).61
14Spanish Grand Strategy was therefore extremely sophisticated. Although it most definitely was not a flawless instrument of power,62 it nevertheless skillfully – though not always successfully – balanced the use of violence (or the threat to resort to it, as a deterrent) with the exertion of economic and financial pressures upon key points, as well as with ideological propaganda, extensive patronage networks, innumerable diplomatic initiatives, far-reaching intelligence systems, and one-off incentives offered to individuals, families, and groups.63 This was a cocktail intended to foster consensus in the Spanish dominions, and thus to enhance the mobilization and management of the crown’s multiple resources, to collect information about and (whenever possible) hinder French and Ottoman strategic plans, to expand the Spanish zone of influence by attracting new allies and aderenti (minor potentates, federated with or recommended to major polities),64 to prevent key strategic actors from falling under the influence of Paris.65
15In the international theatre, political and strategic relations usually do not merely reproduce proportionally the existing dimensions of military force. Not surprisingly, therefore, Madrid could not solve all its strategic problems by the employment of its tercios and galleys. In this it was no different to twentieth- and twenty-first-century Great Powers, who similarly found (and continue to find) that in many circumstances they cannot deploy their full military potential. To keep the status quo in such an intricate area as northern Italy was no easy task for the Habsburg rulers in Milan and Madrid. They substantially succeeded in maintaining and even strengthening Spanish pre-eminence,66 but this achievement was the fruit of unending labour. The one constant in this Habsburg system was that new challenges would arise to it. Formidable as it was, Spanish hegemony in Italy was never established once and for all; it needed to be patiently protected, re-established, maintained, and shored-up on a day-by-day basis. The Pax Hispanica in the peninsula could by no means be taken for granted: on the contrary, it was the outcome of a most complex process, the result of numerous competing – and unremitting – agencies, methods, and relations.67
16The strategic influence exerted by the Spanish superpower over the Italian peninsula was doubtless largely based on its overwhelming military force,68 both actual and potential. Moreover, every so often individual statesmen or lobbies proposed, supported, or implemented hawkish approaches to Italian and Mediterranean affairs.69 Was it better to continue the old policy of management, or to attempt to redraw the map through military force and heavy political pressure? This was the question that on some occasions kept Charles V and Philip II on the horns of a crucial strategic dilemma. The fact remains, however, that in most cases Spanish Habsburg rulers tended to stick to the traditional strategy of maintaining paz y quietud in the peninsula. The more cautious voices frequently prevailed.70 In all likelihood, the unsuccessful invasion of Finale in 1571 strengthened this tendency.71
17The chimera of an even tighter domination of the peninsula competed with the reality of constant balances and checks to Spain’s power in sixteenth-century Italy. Thus, the recourse to a diversified strategy, one based predominantly upon carrots and soft power and in which military hard power – the stick - served usually as a means of deterrence rather than as a form of chastisement or outright conquest, turned out to be the best one for Madrid in a great number of Italian affairs. Philip’s II unquestionable military superiority in the peninsula ensured that strategic restraint,72 measured in efforts to build up consensus, often proved more profitable to Spanish Grand Strategy than did the blatant flexing of muscles.73
Pour citer cet article
Mario Rizzo, « Sticks, Carrots and all the Rest: Lombardy and the Spanish strategy in Northern Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean (part. 2) », Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 71 | 2005, 145-184.
Mario Rizzo, « Sticks, Carrots and all the Rest: Lombardy and the Spanish strategy in Northern Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean (part. 2) », Cahiers de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 71 | 2005, mis en ligne le 13 mai 2006, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : http://cdlm.revues.org/991Haut de page
© Tous droits réservésHaut de page