Saturday 25 July 2015


In January 1494, Charles IX of France and his council decided to press his claim to the kingdom of Naples by force. Ambassadors were sent out to all the important Italian nations. The lazy Sixtus IX and the ambitious Livornois of Lucca replied favourably, the other equivocated or were hostile. Ferrrant II of Naples was persuaded to await more reliable reports before taking action. His allies, the Spanish, warned Charles that they will protect their interests in Italy. The reply angered but does not particularly concern Charles.

In February, resistance to French plans from small Italian states started to grow, with Modena and Savoy to the fore. Charles threatened to reduce their palaces to rubble and their families to penury, but his position was poor, as, with the exception of Saluzzo, the mountain passes were closed and much of northern Italy hostile. Ferrante, however, still dithered, although he was aware of the French mustering a siege train.

The French army mustered in Provence in March, and the King joined it in the middle of the month. Ridolfi of Modena tried to rally the Italian states to oppose him, but only Savoy, Mantua and Florence joined. Given that Ludovicio of Florence had already joined the French side, his agreement was somewhat surprising. Nevertheless, the Medici started to recruit condotta. The Savoyard garrisons are alerted.

The French moved into Saluzzo in April, but paused there. Sforza joined the anti-French coalition but made no further move at present. Manuta and Modena started to raise a joint army to defend their territories, but troops are slow to come in.

At the beginning of May the French invaded Savoy. The Savoyard garrison at Monte Carlo surrendered at their approach. Both Bernard of Savoy and Luis of Montferrat refused alliance with the French. After a consolidating pause, the French moved on to Genoa. Charles’ initial demand for passage was ignored, but the city surrendered quickly enough when the French siege battery was established against it. Not wishing to be deflected from his grand plan, Charles extracted only an alliance from the city. He now stood on the border of Modena.

The French crossed the border, and the Duke of Modena fled. The city surrendered in June. Sforza, however, attempted to build another anti-French alliance which both Bernard of Savoy and Ferrante joined. Milan and Naples both started to muster armies, but again, troops were slow to come in.

Ambassadors from Ferrante reached the Holy Roman Empire in July. Maximillian looked favourably on the idea of intervening, but for the moment made no move. Charles moved from Modena through the Papal States. Medici declared for the Italians and also moved into the Papal States, via Urbino, to cut Charles’ communications in Romagna. He also let Ridolfi and his half-formed army return to Modena to continue recruiting. At an emergency meeting of the Papal council, the Cardinals agreed to raise an army to defend the territory. They also called upon Charles to defend the integrity of the Papal States. Charles agreed, but actually intended to continue to the destruction of Naples.

At the beginning of August the Pope excommunicated the Medici for invading the Papal States. Ferrante appealed to both Span and the Empire for help, finally being convinced that Charles had designs on his state. The Spanish crown did not respond, and their viceroy in Sicily could not move without royal sanction.  Both the Neapolitan and Modenese-Mantuan armies had mustered, and resistance to Charles was growing. He advanced into Aquila. Maximillian is concerned at the French invasion of Naples, but could offer little practical help.

In early September a confusing set of manoeuvres left Medici back in Florence while Ridolfi overran Lucca, a French ally.  Further north, Bernard of Savoy retook the province hand bullied Genoa into repudiating its French alliance. Medici then moved on Sienna, intent on capitalising on the confusion. Charles’ drive on Naples continued. Moving down Italy’s western coast he encountered Ferrante’s small army entrenched across the road. Some hard fighting saw the French gendarmes outflank the position and the Swiss punch through it. Ferrante, leading a counterattack, was unhorsed, and his army fled (Battle of Mondragone, 28th September 1494). Charles entered Naples in triumph while the Neapolitan army disintegrated and Ferrante fled to Sicily.

As Charles consolidated his hold on Naples, both Cordoba in Sicily and Ferdinand and Isabella realised the threat to Spanish interests. Cordoba had already started to land in Reggio when authorisation arrived, and Spain started to muster a siege train. Ferrante, his nerve restored, started to collect another army. In the north, Bernard of Savoy entered Saluzzo, forcing the duke to flee to France, while Medici entered Piombino.

I ran across the above account of a campaign in what I am pleased to describe as my ‘archive’. In fact, it was scrawled in an exercise book, with the neat account reproduced above on a separate sheet of paper. In fact, there was also a more detailed account of the Battle of Mondragone on another sheet. However, the campaign seems to have ground to a halt in October 1494, and I vaguely recall that I was starting to have difficulty in keeping track pf all the different people, decisions and, in particular, the ambassadors and news that was starting to fly around Europe.

My campaign diary was in weeks, and I had to start with things like ‘news of invasion arrives Spain week 7’ and then remember, in week 7, to check how the news was received in the Spanish court. I seem to remember that responses were governed by a card draw, a heart being required for a response. A die roll determined how long a decision took, and so on. It all became a bit complicated. I also had accounts for each state, army lists for what was being mustered, and, for example, the French army suffered significant casualties among its Swiss pikes at the battle. And so another promising campaign was abandoned.

But I am starting to wonder whether, with the application of a little information technology, something similar could not be attempted. On the other hand, do I want to spend all my wargaming time sitting in front of a computer?


  1. Strikes me you wouldn't have to introduce a lot of IT to make it easier to keep track of. You wrote the details down anyway, so it wouldn't have been a big job to have a diary/spreadsheet to track responses.

    I just wonder though, what proportion of wargames campaigns grind to a halt after the first battle? And, in a way, has the objective of running the campaign been achieved at this point?
    This one sounded like fun, by the way. Could you resurrect?)

    1. I think it was fun (it was a long time ago) and absorbing as well. I'm not sure I could pick it up again, but rereading my summaries (reproduced above) drew me into the world constructed again.

      I think that instead of going down the IT route, I am simply going to have separate pages for each country and an overall diary running several weeks ahead, I might waste more paper this way, of course, but it is better than getting square eyes!

      I suspect that many campaigns do fizzle after one battle. Lots of real life ones did as well, if you think about it, so it is not really a problem. a decisive battle is a campaign ender, unless you have a much bigger context. In 1494 I did, but never got onto the next bit.

      But I do occasionally wonder how Charles was going to get home, and whether the Spanish landing at Reggio would cause international embarrassment for someone. I fear I shall never know.