Sticks, Carrots and all the Rest: Lombardy and the Spanish strategy in Northern Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean (part. 1)
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
1First of all, why Lombardy? Lombardy (the so-called State of Milan) was an inland region, while all the other Spanish dominions in Italy were islands (Sicily and Sardinia) or coastal areas (the Kingdom of Naples and the so-called Stato dei Presidi in Tuscany):1at first glance, these regions constituted the real ‘Mediterranean component’ in Spanish Italy. Nevertheless, Lombardy was profoundly important to the strategy developed within the Mediterranean theatre of arms.
2By analysing Lombardy, we can learn a lot about the strategy of the Spanish Habsburg Empire, a most typical example of those early modern ‘composite states separated from each other by other states, or by the sea’.2 Given Milan’s crucial role in the military history of early modern Europe, the case study of sixteenth-century Lombardy provides some interesting perspectives on the development of general strategic issues.
3I will briefly refer to modern strategic thinking, in order to explain an approach that could be defined as a more strategic one, in comparison with others mainly focusing on war in itself. In particular, I wish to highlight a trend to emphasize phases during which strategic actors are not directly involved in conventional open war – that is to say in battlefield conflicts, in campaigns on land and sea, sieges and the like – but nevertheless are deeply engaged in the prosecution of their strategic aims.3 This approach requires the examination of a wide variety of factors and instruments of policy, many of which cannot be defined as merely or even predominantly military in nature, but which nonetheless strongly affect strategy and conflict.4
4The preparation for war should be briefly examined, as it clearly plays a vital role in any military strategy. Mobilization employs increasingly large resources and therefore requires correspondingly large administrative preparations and financial outlays; it also forces the state or government to adapt itself to the different conditions of wartime. Yet the preparation for war often aims at political and diplomatic objectives, rather than at merely military goals. In other words, its real objective is frequently to avert war itself.5
5Many aspects of long-term strategic activity – the consolidation of alliances among states, the deployment of naval forces, the maximization of resources, the promotion of technological innovations, the support and encouragement given to industries producing weapons – often seem aimed at preventing war by demonstrating a state’s capacity to win. In other words, they deter the enemy. This is to say that the practical consequence of mobilization for war is often to extend a state’s diplomatic and geopolitical influence by demonstrating its military strength. Not surprisingly, the term ‘strategy’, which originally had the naked meaning of ‘the management of military operations’, has gradually evolved to indicate ‘the comprehensive utilization of a state’s military power for political or diplomatic purposes’, thus becoming an essential element of international politics and diplomacy.6
6In order to appraise strategic choices made by international powers, we cannot simply estimate their actual military strength as demonstrated in the fighting to which they commit themselves. We must also take into consideration diplomatic, economic, and financial initiatives, those allurements and incentives dangled before other actors, as well as deception, dissimulation, and propaganda.7
7The complexity of strategy and the interaction between what has been called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power are basic issues in Joseph S. Nye, Jr’s The Paradox of American Power. Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone (Oxford, 2002). ‘Military and economic power,’ he argues, ‘are both examples of hard power, which can be used to persuade others to change their positions. Hard power can be based on menace (the stick) or inducement (the carrot). Yet there is also an indirect way to exert power’, since a country can achieve its goals in foreign policy because other countries follow its political or economic blueprint and share its values. This is soft power, which has to do with ‘intangible sources of power, such as culture, ideology, and institutions able to appeal to others’.8
8In this respect, we should recall the revealing words of Tommaso Campanella, who – like other theorists such as Giovanni Botero and Baltasar Álamos de Barrientos – was ‘much exercised by the problem of how to conserve a composite monarchy’.9 Pondering over the problem of how to conserve amity between Spain and Italy, Campanella wrote that ‘it is necessary to deal with Naples and Milan in such a way, that the neighbouring peoples admire them as happy states and wish to be like them’.10 In Nye’s view, soft and hard power are deeply connected; they may reciprocally strengthen one another. The same forms of power may influence all levels of strategic thinking and conduct, ranging from coercion to appeal.11
9Complexity is a major characteristic of modern strategic thought; indeed the concept of Grand Strategy has emerged and is nowadays prevalent in modern approaches to international relations. Grand Strategy examines and encompasses times of both war and peace, or at least of ‘non-war’,12 and implies a broad variety of interacting issues.13 Notice, for instance, the meaningful title of an important book edited by Paul Kennedy in 1991: Grand Strategies in War and Peace.
10Here Grand Strategy is defined as an effort made by powers in order ‘to integrate their overall political, economic, and military aims and thus to preserve their long-term interests’.14 Williamson Murray and Mark Grimsley emphasize the protean nature of strategy – defined as a process of ‘constant adaptation to shifting conditions and circumstances in a world where chance, uncertainty, and ambiguity dominate’15 – and examine the multifarious factors which come into play: material and non-material, objective and subjective, quantitative and qualitative.16
11Significantly, ‘reality weds strategic planning tightly to its larger context. Political objectives play their role … as do diplomatic, economic, and military resources. These elements are quite obvious, but other factors also influence strategic thinking in subtler but equally vital ways. Geography ... Historical experience ... ideology and culture ... the nature of a government’s organization’.17 In particular, by pointing out the significance of institutional factors, Murray and Grimsley bring to our attention a crucial issue – the interaction of internal and external spheres. Certainly, the extreme complexity of the dialogue between ‘domestic’ and ‘exterior’ issues had an enormous relevance to the rulers of sixteenth-century Lombardy.18
12As Max Weber has explained, all political formations ‘are organisms using force. But the mode and the degree in which force is used or threatened towards the external world, towards other similar formations, have a specific importance for the structure and destiny of political entities’.19 If, on the one hand, international relations are strongly shaped by the nature of the units forming the international system, so on the other hand international relations in turn influence the internal affairs and development of the units in a variety of ways.20 This is utterly evident if we consider billeting and fiscal reforms in the State of Milan, interesting examples of how the demands of war and strategy could influence institutions and economy in a most profound way.21
13In composite monarchies ‘securing an equitable apportionment of the costs of war and defence’ was a most critical issue,22 as the Lombard case clearly demonstrates. Managing billeting in Lombard territories was anything but an easy task for the Habsburg government in Milan. To a certain extent, it might be seen as the epitome of the complexity of Spanish Grand Strategy, which peculiarly intermingled hard and soft power, sticks and carrots. The thousands of soldiers passing through and trained in Lombardy were one of the principal manifestations of Spain’s military power on land.
14Indeed, these legions were a powerful stick, whose mere existence (together with the regular garrison troops serving in Lombardy) acted as a political and strategic deterrent both for the subjects of the State of Milan and for neighbouring polities. On the other hand, their management entailed an astonishingly wide range of crucial questions going far beyond the merely military sphere, such as the nature and perception of the relations between the king and his subjects, the ideology of royal justice, the distribution of the fiscal burden among the various territorial and social bodies of the State of Milan, the conflicts between cities and contadi (rural bodies), and the relationship between agricultural productivity and the billeting system.
15Consequently and not surprisingly, billeting required the government to adopt a highly sophisticated approach, one which – within a global strategic framework characterized by uncertainty, interdependence, ambiguity, and mutability – was to strive to balance harsh and binding military needs with a more prudent consideration of the onerous economic, social, political, and fiscal consequences upon Lombardy of sustained involvement in Spanish strategy.23 In order to exploit fully its matchless military hard power (which supplied Spanish strategy with priceless sticks), Madrid was frequently obliged to resort to carrots and soft power: this was the real essence of Grand Strategy itself.
16Raymond Aron has put forward a comprehensive assessment of modern international relations, one which proves to be stimulating and relevant even for those historians who focus their attention on the early modern period. He stresses the interaction of internal and external considerations in shaping strategy. In Aron’s view, the peculiar anarchy characterizing international relations compels the actors on the international stage to estimate the forces they could reasonably rely on in case of war, which implies references to the space occupied by the actors, the population, the economic resources they can count on, the military system, the mobilization factor typical of each actor, the nature of weapons. Military systems and weapons, in their turn, are expressions of political and social systems. … The estimate of the available forces refers to number, space, resources, regimes (military, economic, political, and social). These elements, in their turn, form the stake of the conflicts among states.24
17As a consequence, to isolate a system of international relations from the wider panorama of historical development would be utterly fallacious, since ‘the behaviour of actors driven by estimates of forces is determined by economic, political, social variables’25 – once again, a clear statement of how inadequate a strictly military approach to strategy would be.
18To a certain extent the need for such estimates was one of the reasons that led the Madrid government to set up the very complex machinery of the visitas generales (general inspections) of the Italian dominions. These uncommonly broad and accurate inspections assessed the whole government of the province in question and were usually conducted over a number of years. Certainly they were the offspring of a deep-rooted Iberian tradition of governmental control26 and were deeply connected with the ideology and the practice of the rey justiciero (the king providing justice to his subjects).27
19 Moreover, they played an important role in the relationship between the centre and the periphery of the Empire, and between clients and patrons.28 But the visitas generales also had a remarkable strategic importance, since they were an excellent means of acquiring information about provincial societies and their resources and institutions. They were conducted with a view to improve the government of these ‘peripheral’ regions.29 Not surprisingly, in the State of Milan a large (usually, the largest) part of each visita general was devoted to the military apparatus of the dominion and its administration.30
20Concepts like ‘Grand Strategy’, ‘soft and hard power’, or ‘sticks and carrots’ may prove to be useful tools to investigate the history of Lombardy. The use of these concepts should demonstrate that the State of Milan played a peculiarly important role within the general framework of the Spanish Habsburg Empire and its enormous strategic efforts in the course of the Cinquecento. For certain, the campaigns of Charles V and Philip II profoundly affected and shaped Lombardy. Sixteenth-century Milan can thus be placed within the broader picture of strategy as a highly-complex phenomena, one in which there was a constant dialogue between internal and external factors. This is not to deny that modern conceptions of strategy are very different to the understanding of the term in the sixteenth century. This difference is the consequence of the enormous advances in technology, transportation, communications, logistics, and weaponry, as well as the great changes in economic and social organization, not to mention ideology and political culture.31
21Furthermore, the international system has undergone a deep transformation.32 In the sixteenth century, we observe a wide variety of actors such as major and medium-sized states, some of which were increasing in size and strength,33 though this evolution did not follow a deterministic path,34 but also smaller polities, feudal lords, leagues, notables, and so forth.35 Rather than being a competition between monolithic states engaged on an endless circle of rise and fall, the exercise of strategy in the early modern period was constantly shaped by its coming into contact with an array of (supposedly) minor agencies or sources of power.
22In contrast, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (or at least until the 1980s), Grand Strategy was worked out in relation to the interests of sovereign, territorial, nation states.36 Significantly enough, it appears that the last two decades have seen the emergence of those phenomena that in certain respects invite comparison with the situation in the early modern period.37 Globalization and the growing importance of unorthodox and unconventional forms of conflict (guerrilla, terrorism, ethnic cleansing) seem set to challenge to a certain extent the traditional strategic schemes of the ‘age of the nation state’.38
23Despite all the differences, a sensible use of texts and concepts belonging to different times and places is neither intrinsically anachronistic, nor does it necessarily imply an over-confident search for eternal strategic principles universally efficacious in any time and place. The presence of relevant analogies in different eras simply confirms the existence of a few basic strategic issues of peculiar historical resonance, that is to say of recurring factors common to different ages and regions. By interacting with many other local and specific variables, these factors shape each unrepeatable strategic situation.39
Sixteenth-century geopolitics : Spanish Lombardy and northern Italy between Europe and the Mediterranean
24Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Lombardy played a pivotal role in Spanish Habsburg geopolitics. Remarkably, its importance persisted even as the strategic priorities of Madrid changed.40 Managing a truly global strategy, one that frequently teetered on the brink of military, political, and financial crisis, Habsburg Spain was involved in sustained rivalries with the greatest European and Mediterranean powers (France, England, the Ottoman Empire, the Dutch Republic).41
25The strategic significance of Lombardy was clear to the Habsburg rulers,42 and must be understood within the framework of their peculiar ‘global’ approach to international relations.43 Theirs was a basically systematic strategic view,44 in which the State of Milan was seen as a ‘key and gateway to Italy’.45 Its transalpine position was, of course, a factor in its international significance: the enemies of the Spanish Habsburgs – specifically the French – believed that it was easily assailable and, indeed, throughout the late fifteenth- and first-half of the sixteenth-centuries repeatedly tried to assimilate it. This aggression brought a response from Madrid, which constructed state-of-the-art fortifications and maintained considerable garrisons. In addition, the network was augmented by a handful of outposts in friendly neighbouring states.46
26Lombardy was crucial to control and protect against any possible French intervention47 not only in the other Spanish dominions in the peninsula – the ‘danger of foreign intervention’ being a weak point for composite monarchies, especially when grievances accumulated48 – but also to police the critical geopolitical region that included the medium-sized neighbouring states such as Genoa, Savoy, Parma, the Swiss, and the Grisons and the various smaller polities in northern Italy.49
27Not surprisingly, in his Discorso sopra il Governo dello Stato di Milano (composed in 1592 for the new governor of Lombardy) Giacomo Riccardi, the president of the senate of Milan, defined the governor as ‘arbiter of all Italian affairs’.50 As a matter of fact, the governor and the Habsburg ruling class in Milan – including Spaniards, but also Lombards and Italians – were often appealed to by petitioners who sought their arbitration to resolve conflicts, quarrels, and plots; every so often, the governor himself, on behalf of the king, volunteered his arbitration. This arbitration came in a number of guises – political support, military protection, diplomatic mediation, or legal advice.
28 These petitioners constituted a wide variety of power, ranging from sovereign princes and republics through to feudal lords, local magnates, communities and individual taxpayers.51 Milan was also the hub of a complex intelligence network.52 Although the issue lies somewhat outside the core subject of this paper, it must be remembered that Lombardy formed a part of a military-administrative network which incorporated the other Spanish dominions in the peninsula.53 Milan therefore played a crucial role in allocating and moving resources (money, arms, horses, soldiers, officers, information).54 It consequently became involved in a great number of Mediterranean campaigns and mobilizations, many of which were undertaken simply to avoid major conflict. As a strategic plaza de armas, Lombardy served as a formidable deterrence to the enemies of the Catholic King in southern and central Europe.
29The fundamental strategic aims of Spain in Italy were threefold: first, to achieve and maintain paz y quietud (peace and calm), in order to safeguard its dominions and hegemonic position in the peninsula; second, to be able to employ these regions as strategic bases for its European and Mediterranean manoeuvres and campaigns; third, to prevent any further escalation of military and financial commitments, as the burdens were already exceedingly heavy upon Milan, Naples, and Sicily.55
30Moreover, ‘In so far as the perpetuation of multiple monarchies also depended on the deterrent of coercion’,56 as well as on consensus and mutual interest,57 every now and then the garrison troops of the State of Milan could be sent to other provinces of the Monarquía to put down troubles.58 This is a clear example of the advantage that ‘the rulers of multiple kingdoms possessed … over those of single kingdoms in the additional resources on which they could draw in emergencies’.59
31Habsburg authorities in Milan shaped a complex policy towards the Swiss (and the Grisons),60 through treaties of alliance61 and other incentives: pensions were paid to Swiss magnates62 ; export licenses were conceded (especially valuable were those which guaranteed food supplies);63 opportunities for employment in the large Spanish military system were proffered.64 In addition, soft power was used : for instance, Catholic Swiss students were attracted towards Lombard universities, where they came into contact with and (hopefully) assimilated Habsburg values and attitudes.65
32The very nature of Italian politics forced the rulers in Milan to establish and manage a widespread network of multifarious relations with a variety of magnates throughout northern Italy and Tuscany – these relationships entailed engagement with not only the most powerful and outstanding potentates, like the Savoys, the Farneses, the Estes of Ferrara and Modena, and the Gonzagas of Mantua, but also with a wide number of groups and individuals.66 Consider for instance the complexity of the political management of the Emilian region, which contained feudal lords and families67 such as the Gonzagas of Novellara,68 the Gonzagas of Guastalla,69 the Gonzagas of Castiglione,70 the Rossis of San Secondo Parmense,71 the Sanseverinos of Colorno,72 the Picos of Mirandola,73 the da Correggios74 (whose fief was for the Habsburgs a valued bridge-head in the Po valley between Modena and Ferrara),75 and finally, above all, the Landis76 and the Pallavicinos77 with their small but significant stati. The relationships existing between these families and the government of Milan had typically begun in the Middle Ages,78 and continued to evolve throughout the early modern period.
33By the sixteenth century the heyday had already passed for some of these dynasties, in that they all had to face powerful and aggressive competitors such as the duke of Parma and Piacenza.79 Yet they could still exert substantial leverage on local resources and communities who, in their turn, seldom played a merely supine role.80 By no means could the Spanish ‘superpower’ afford to alienate them. The practical consequence of this patchwork of jurisdiction was a complicated and shifting political relationship between the Lombard government, these local actors, and a wide range of regional and continental powers such as Paris, Parma, Mantua, Modena, Ferrara, Genoa, Florence, and the Holy Roman Empire.81
34In this respect the conditions in the Ligurian hinterland were of supreme importance. The region maintained deep connections with Lombardy, Piedmont, and Emilia for economic, social, jurisdictional, and strategic reasons.82 Moreover, the Ligurian hinterland contained numerous fiefs and independent jurisdictions belonging to prominent families such as the Dorias,83 the Centuriones,84 the Fieschis,85 the Malaspinas,86 the Del Carrettos,87 the Spinolas,88 and the Savoys.89 Medieval Lombard rulers had repeatedly controlled several places in Lunigiana,90 an extremely composite and strategically crucial area situated between Tuscany and Liguria.91 There Spain held the valuable enclave of Pontremoli - with its small but important garrison92 - which had been a long-standing (if occasionally interrupted) Milanese dominion since the Middle Ages.93 The government in Milan carried out a complex policy of patronage, deterrence, and diplomacy in Lunigiana aimed at keeping as far as possible a status quo favourable to Habsburg strategic goals. Above all else, this policy was designed to confront Florentine efforts to expand in the region.94
35The game of chess in Lunigiana was just one aspect of the complicated relationship existing between Florence and Spain. On the one hand (and as we shall see) since the conferment of the duchy of Florence upon the Medicis in 1537 they had usually considered the Spanish Habsburgs as their most vital ally and frequently co-operated with them to secure their financial, diplomatic, and strategic interests, complying with Madrid’s wishes in order to accomplish common goals and strengthen mutual amity. In this manner, Florence secured military protection, diplomatic support, and even territorial gains.95 On the other hand, although sixteenth-century Florentine rulers (like all Italian ‘potentates’ of the time)96 could never ignore Habsburg supremacy, nevertheless rivalries, disagreements, suspicions, and misgivings occurred rather often, and successive dukes of Florence (even those who felt themselves to be intimately pro-Spanish) sought to maintain a certain freedom of action from Habsburg influence and demands.97 In short, relations between Florence and Madrid (and, by extension, with Milan) had their ups and downs.
36One of the ongoing geopolitical questions in Lombardy concerned the access to the Mediterranean – a concern that had been a strategically-vital consideration for all rulers of Milan since the Middle Ages (it is extremely revealing that first the Viscontis, then the Sforzas frequently interfered in Genoese political affairs and repeatedly took hold of Genoa and its dominion, dominating over the Republic for a few decades between the mid-fourteenth and the end of the fifteenth centuries).98 The link between Lombardy and the sea was a vital piece of the military system of the Spanish Monarchy in the second half of the sixteenth century, as it sought to wage war against Protestant rebels in the Low Countries. In the 1570s the Atlantic route to Brussels became too hazardous and Madrid’s strategy had to rely on the Lombard ‘military receptacle’99 and the so-called Spanish Road in order to send men, money, provisions, and armaments to the Netherlands. The State of Milan thus developed into the hub of the Spanish logistical network and communications in Europe. Becoming the European ‘drill ground’ and marshalling yard of the Spanish Habsburg Empire, it received troops who had sailed the western Mediterranean and disembarked on the Ligurian coast, bound for Flanders. Of course this system could also run from North to South: men were channelled down the Spanish Road and into the Mediterranean theatre when Philip II found himself in major campaigns against the Ottoman Turk.100
37Given the strategic importance of the link between Lombardy and the sea, it is easy to understand why the authorities in Milan and Madrid paid constant attention to the imperial fief of Finale Ligure, situated on the Ligurian Riviera di Ponente. Indeed, rival powers – France, Mantua, Savoy, Genoa – also found the control of the fief to be an extremely tempting proposition.101 In 1558 a popular uprising temporarily expelled the feudal lord, Alfonso Del Carretto, and the rebels looked to Genoa for support. Acting with Andrea Doria, the governor of Milan prevented the Republic from taking possession of the fief. In 1571, without even consulting Emperor Maximilian, Philip ordered the governor to occupy and annex Finale, allegedly to thwart French ambitions. On this occasion the Prudent King had acted impetuously, and Maximilian’s emphatic diplomatic reaction forced him to withdraw. Finally, in 1602 Spain took formal possession of it once and for all, the Del Carrettos having just died out after their last member had assigned the fief to Philip II.102
38For a variety of reasons, the relations between Milan and Genoa assumed extraordinary importance for Spanish Grand Strategy.103 Needless to say, geopolitics and logistics were highly significant. All statesmen realized that a prospective attack upon Lombardy could only really be relieved by sending help through Genoa.104 As we have just seen, in the final decades of the sixteenth century Habsburg troops (and specie) were sailed across the western Mediterranean and, having passed through the Ligurian harbours and hinterland, reached the State of Milan on their way to the Netherlands.105 Furthermore, close commercial relations bound Genoa to Spanish Habsburg territories.106 The Spanish were very much aware of the tools that they could employ in negotiating with the Genoese. When economic and political conditions allowed, the surplus in Lombard agricultural production could be used as a valued diplomatic weapon, either by permitting or by threatening to stop the exportation of cereals to the Republic. Liguria was poor in grain: Genoese hunger, actual or threatened, was a tool of Spanish diplomacy.107
39Genoese hombres de negocios (businessmen) were the kingpin of Philip II’s treasury, sometimes running serious risks in their efforts to support crown finances, but nevertheless making substantial profits on their dealings with the Catholic King.108 In particular, by purchasing annuities, by contracting public services, and by advancing big loans to the governors of Milan or the ambassadors to Genoa,109 they played a leading role in supporting Habsburg military efforts in the State of Milan and, by extension, the war efforts of the Monarchy as a whole.110 Their influence stretched, therefore, far beyond the borders of Lombardy. Several Genoese magnates were also feudal lords and landowners possessing titles, fiefs, and real estate in the State of Milan or in the Southern kingdoms.111 Moreover, the Genoese élite supplied galleys,112 soldiers,113 seamen,114 and a few military leaders to the Spanish Habsburgs.115 Some of these leaders occupied the first rank of command, such as Antonio Doria,116 Gian Andrea Doria, prince of Melfi,117 and Ambrosio Spinola, the seventeenth-century commander-in-chief of the Army of Flanders whom Richelieu reckoned among the greatest captains of his time and whom Velázquez immortalized in ‘The Surrender of Breda’.118
40In all these respects, the co-operation between the governor of Milan and the Spanish ambassador to Genoa often turned out to be essential to the smooth management of Madrid’s Mediterranean and European strategy.119 Sometimes, however, even the tasty carrots of business and co-optation120 were not enough to convince the Genoese, and tougher measures to be used or threatened.121 No better demonstration of the sophisticated employment of the stick – of hard power – can be found than in the events of the mid-1570s. In the summer of 1573 tension between the so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’ nobles was growing in Genoa. The ‘new’ faction perceived Habsburg troops passing through the nearby harbour of Savona to be an act of intimidation orchestrated by the ‘old’ group, traditionally considered to be deeply connected with Spain.122 So tense was the situation that Philip II actually instructed the governor of Milan, the Marquis of Ayamonte, to make military preparations in order to be able to intervene in Liguria if necessary. It was therefore no coincidence that German infantrymen in Madrid’s service were billeted on the border with the Republic immediately after their disembarkation from Gian Andrea Doria’s galleys.123 Thus, significant strategic pressure was exerted on Genoa, one that was not too different from that exercised by nineteenth-century British gunboats. Paradoxically, land-locked Lombardy played a highly-significant role in Spanish naval policy.
41Two years later the political disorder and competition between the factions in Genoa had, if anything, intensified, threatening to jeopardize Habsburg strategic interests not only in northern Italy, but across Europe and the Mediterranean. The ‘old nobles’ repeatedly threatened their opponents with Spanish intervention: after the events of 1573, it did not sound as a totally empty threat.124 Philip II and his government opted for a conciliatory solution to the crisis,125 but, again, a prospective deployment of Habsburg troops on the Ligurian border was discussed in Genoa, Madrid, and Milan, and served to demonstrate that beneath the velvet glove there was an iron fist. In March, for instance, Gian Andrea Doria suggested to Ayamonte to move some Italian troops to Alessandria (closer to the Ligurian border) ready for action, should Doria himself or the Spanish ambassador call for their intercession.126 The ambassador, Don Juan de Idiáquez, who had arrived in Genoa two years before as Philip’s special envoy and with specific instructions to achieve the reconciliation of the political factions,127 agreed with Doria’s suggestion and argued for the immediate dispatch of a corps of Spanish infantrymen to the frontier.128
42Throughout the 1570s, therefore, the threat of military intervention from Lombardy was exploited by the ‘old nobles’ to their own advantage. But these episodes also provide a demonstration of the sophisticated Habsburg strategy of sticks and carrots aimed at putting pressure on the interested parties in Genoa in order to facilitate the political settlement of the crisis. It is worth highlighting that ultimately the carrot was brandished: to cement both the reconciliation within Genoa and the hegemonic position of the Spanish faction in the Republic, pensions and favours were bestowed by Philip II on a few distinguished ‘new nobles’.129
43The crucial events of the 1570s are just one example of how deeply the relationship with the Spanish Habsburg Empire influenced Genoa’s (and Italy’s) political evolution.130 Another signal example can be found in the events of 1537, when Charles V intervened to ‘curb and disrupt’ any attempt to restore the republican regime in Florence. The arrival of Sarmiento’s Spanish foot soldiers in Lerici (a sea village on the Ligurian Riviera di Levante, situated not far from the Tuscan border), the dispatch of German troops under command of Pirro Colonna by the governor of Milan, the Marquis del Vasto, and Andrea Doria’s limited naval campaign ensured that the newly-elected duke of Florence, Cosimo I de Medici, could fend off the nascent republican revolt.131 A few months later, some of these Habsburg troops and military leaders contributed to the rout of the poorly equipped forces of the republican exiles in Montemurlo.132
44The Stato dei Presidi functioned as a deterrent against neighbouring states and a lookout over the vital Tyrrhenian sea. It was established formally as a Habsburg dominion in 1557. Situated on the coast of southern Tuscany and governed through the Kingdom of Naples, it included Orbetello, Talamone, Porto Ercole, Porto Santo Stefano, Monte Argentario and – later on – Porto Longone in the Isle of Elba.133 A few miles north, the Spanish Habsburgs very carefully watched over (and sometimes directly intervened with troops or assassins in) the Tuscan harbour of Piombino, which belonged to the d’Appiano family and was much desired by the dukes of Florence.134
45Interestingly, the Habsburg government in Milan supported the garrisons in three important coastal positions: the coveted135 Grimaldi fief of Monaco,136 and the duke of Savoy’s fortresses at Nice and Villefranche.137 As with Genoa, the control of the food-supply to Monaco was one method of exerting influence upon the fief, although many other instruments or inducements were used.138 Nice and Villefranche were two precious ‘windows’ over the Mediterranean139 and bulwarks against French expansionism through Provence, and in their investiture ceremony their governors had to pledge their loyalty to the Spanish crown as well as to the Duke of Savoy.140 To be sure, Madrid, Milan, and Turin were engaged in a relationship that was dynastic as well as economic, political as well as military, and whose repercussions were consequently felt far beyond the Mediterranean theatre of arms. The origins and characteristics of this relationship stretched back to the later Middle Ages,141 and made their presence felt throughout the first half of the sixteenth century142 and after Cateau-Cambrésis.143
46When war broke out in the Low Countries the territories of the duchy of Savoy became essential to Habsburg logistics and so made the connection between Turin and Milan even deeper.144 In Piedmont the strategic competition between Spain and France was particularly harsh and encompassed open war,145 the possession of fortified strongholds,146 competition in securing intelligence networks,147 diplomatic links,148 patronage systems,149 dynastic bonds,150 the subsidization of the dukes’ military endeavours (not all of them, it has to be said, particularly impressively planned or executed),151 and the race for economic influence.152
47Although the western front was understandably their foremost concern, the Habsburg authorities in Lombardy certainly could not focus their attentions exclusively on the western Po valley and the Tyrrhenian. On the contrary, they had also to attend very carefully to the eastern border, where an unwieldy neighbour, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, was to be managed.153 To this end, cooperation with the Spanish ambassador to Venice was indispensable.154 Moreover, Lombard subjects were repeatedly sent on intelligence missions to gather information on Venetian strongholds155 or Ottoman preparations.156 But the government in Milan also strove hard to induce patricians, citizens, and adventurers in Venice, the Venetian Terraferma (the Italian territories in the Veneto region), and throughout the Republic’s Mediterranean empire to embrace the cause of Spain. This was done in order to secure the co-operation of politically active figures and to recruit spies, informers, and others who could be employed in covert operations.157 Time and again, the documents refer to the gastos secretos (secret expenses) dispensed in Venice and her maritime empire.158 These clandestine operations were an essential instrument for Spanish strategy in general.159
48The Venetian Republic was a major territorial neighbouring state. Relations between subjects of Milan and a range of organizations – the central and local Venetian authorities, communities, families – were strong and operated on all levels. Links with the subjects of the western Terraferma were particularly far-reaching: this region had been under Milanese rule until the late Middle Ages. Many features of political, economic, and social organization in both states were characterized by cross-border connection, although the extent of these links varied: security,160 intelligence,161 boundary disputes,162 banditry,163 fiscal exemptions,164 the production and trade of agricultural and industrial goods,165 smuggling,166 rights of exploitation of crucial economic resources such as water and woods167 – all of these issues are referred to copiously in the documentation.
49The Republic was also the greatest Italian military power,168 as well as the most influential independent state in the peninsula (together with the Papal States)169 and an important player on the international scene, especially in respect to the Ottoman issue. On the one hand, therefore, as far as possible Charles V and Philip II tried to be on good terms with Venice, or at least to seek a modus vivendi, despite occasional, sometimes profound, misgivings and disagreements.170 On the other hand, these tensions increased in the mid-sixteenth century – mainly because these were the years of Ferrante Gonzaga – and then again in the 1580s.171 They again mounted during the first decade of the seventeenth century, when the new governor of Milan, the hawkish Count of Fuentes, adopted a more aggressive approach to Italian affairs. His actions affected not only Venice, but also Florence, Genoa, Parma, and Savoy172 – again, a demonstration of the profound interaction between the states of northern Italy in this period. Moreover, owing to its peculiar geopolitics and business dealings, Venice (a most remarkable ‘centre of information, reports, and spies’,173 together with its dominions in Levant) also functioned as a crucial window on the eastern Mediterranean, and was therefore seen as essential for the collection of information about Ottoman strategic plans and manoeuvres.174 Significantly enough, among the Habsburg ruling class France and the Ottoman Empire were often perceived as a combined threat – a perception which was proved correct in several instances.175
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. 1) », 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. 1) », Cahiers de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 71 | 2005, mis en ligne le 13 mai 2006, consulté le 28 avril 2017. URL : http://cdlm.revues.org/995Haut de page
© Tous droits réservésHaut de page