League of Cambrai

From Academic Kids

The League of Cambrai was a league against Venice formed in 1508 under the leadership of Pope Julius II. It included, besides the Pope, Louis XII of France, Emperor Maximilian I, and Ferdinand of Aragon. The League fought a war against Venice from 1508 to 1511, with generally inconclusive results.



In August 1503, Pope Alexander VI died, leaving Cesare Borgia without Papal support. The cities of the Romagna, seeing an opportunity to escape Borgia rule, revolted, and were annexed by Venice in exchange for military protection.

The new Pope, Julius II, having removed Borgia, insisted that the cities, formally Papal territories, be returned; when Venice refused, he encouraged Maximilian to launch an attack on the Republic. An Imperial army marched on Vicenza in February 1508, but was defeated by Venetian mercenaries. A second assault a few weeks later was similarly turned back, and the Venetians seized Trieste as reparations. Julius and the Emperor, now determined to have their vengeance on Venice, turned to Louis, who had recently occupied Milan, with an offer of alliance.

Alliance at Cambrai

On December 10, 1508, a treaty against Venice was signed at Cambrai by representatives of France and the Emperor. By March of 1509, Ferdinand had been convinced to participate, and Julius openly announced his approval on April 5.

The treaty proposed the dismemberment of Venice's mainland empire and its divison among the participants. Maximilian would receive Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and Istria. France would annex Bergamo and Cremona to its territories in Milan. Otranto would revert to Aragon, and the remainder of Venice's possessions in Italy would be added to the Papal States.

French invasion

A large French army had been massed in Milan, and invaded Venetian territory on April 15, 1509. They were opposed by a mercenary army under the Orsini cousins. After several weeks of skirmishing, the main forces met at Agnadello on May 14. The Venetians had split their forces before the battle due to a disagreement between the Orsini, and Louis was able to surround and mostly destroy the portion commanded by Alviano. Faced with the disintegration of his army, Pitigliano retreated to Venice, and the French occupied all Venetian territory west of Brescia.

Meanwhile, representatives of Emperor Maximilian had moved through Lombardy and the Veneto, accepting the surrender of Verona, Padua, and a number of smaller cities. Their administration quickly proved unpopular among the local population, and on July 17, Padua revolted and returned to Venetian control.

Imperial invasion

The revolt of Padua had pushed Maximilian into action. By August 1509, a massive Imperial army, accompanied by bodies of French and Spanish troops, set out from Trento into Venetian territory. Due to a lack of horses, as well as general disorganization, Maximilian's forces would not reach Padua until September 15, allowing Pitigliano ample time to garrison and provision the city. Although French artillery successfuly breached Padua's walls, the Imperial assault was unsuccessful, and Maximilian, humiliated, began his retreat to Germany on September 30.

By mid-November, Pitigliano was on the offensive, launching an attack against the Duke of Ferrara and recapturing Vicenza and Este. A Papal army under the Marquis of Mantua arrived to reinforce the Imperial garrison of Verona, but was defeated and forced to surrender.

Negotiations with the Pope

Although the immediate threat to Venice had been removed, both Louis and Maximilian made clear their intention of continuing the war. In light of this, the Senate decided to send an embassy to Julius in order to negotiate a settlement. The terms insisted on by the Pope were harsh. The Republic lost her traditional power to appoint bishops as well as all jurisdiction over Papal subjects in Venetian territory. The Papal holdings that had prompted the war were retained by Julius, and Venice was to pay reparations to cover his expenses in capturing them.

The Senate approved the terms on February 24, 1510. The Council of Ten, however, privately voted that the terms had been accepted under duress and were therefore invalid, and that Venice should ignore them at the earliest opportunity.

Fracturing of the League

The reconciliation between Venice and the Pope did not stop the French, who marched on Vicenza, and captured it on May 24, 1510. Venice garrisoned Padua for an expected attack by a combined Franco-German army. Maximilian, however, failed to appear, and the Louis, more concerned by the death of his advisor, Cardinal d'Amboise, abandoned his plans for a siege.

The Pope, meanwhile, had become increasingly concerned by the French presence, and had formulated plans to turn on the Duke of Ferrara, who had become close to Louis; to this end, he sent envoys to Venice, inviting the Republic to ally with him against France. The Republic accepted in the summer of 1510.

Julius in Bologna

By July, the new Veneto-Papal alliance was on the offensive. Venetian troops under Lucio Malvezzo had successfuly driven the French from Vicenza, and a joint force commanded by the Duke of Urbino had captured Modena on August 17. Julius now ordered an attack on Ferrara, whose duke had allied with Louis. In anticipation of the victory, the Pope travelled to Bologna, so as to be nearby when the city was taken.

Early in October, however, the Seigneur de Chaumont led a French army south from Lombardy; his advance on Bologna split the Papal army and forced Julius to withdraw. The Duke of Ferarra had meanwhile destroyed a Venetian force on the Po River; and on May 23, 1511, another French army under Gian Giacomo Trivulzio captured Bologna itself and expelled the League's troops from the Romagna. In response, Julius proclaimed the Holy League against France.


pl:Liga w Cambrai


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