War of the Mantuan Succession

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Vincenzo II Gonzaga
Ambrosio Spinola

The Mantuan War of Succession ( 1628 - 1631 ) was a war for the succession in the Duchy of Mantua , which was triggered by the extinction of the main line of the Gonzaga dynasty in 1627. The fierce dispute between France and Habsburg for supremacy in northern Italy was an important sideline to the Thirty Years' War .

War cause

The Italian princely family Gonzaga ruled over the Duchy of Mantua since the 14th century and since 1536 over the Margraviate of Montferrat, which was upgraded to the Duchy . Important traffic and trade routes ran through the two territorially non-adjacent areas, which lay east and west of the Duchy of Milan , which was ruled by Spain . The claims to the Duchy of Mantua - in contrast to the Duchy of Montferrat - could only be inherited through the male line.

On December 22nd, 1612, Duke Francesco IV Gonzaga of Mantua and Montferrat died at the age of 26 after only ten months of reign. He left no male heirs, only the daughter Maria, born in 1609. His younger brothers Ferdinando Gonzaga (1587–1626) and Vincenzo Gonzaga (1594–1627), who belonged to the clergy (Ferdinando was cardinal from 1605, Vincenzo became cardinal in 1615), followed him as dukes in 1612 and 1626 respectively; the attempts of the two to save the male line of succession through resignation and marriage failed.

Vincenzo II Gonzaga died on December 25, 1627 at the age of 33 - the day he married his niece Maria, now 18 years old, to his distant relative Carlo II Gonzaga . This was done in the hope of securing an incontestable line of succession, since Carlo I Gonzaga , Duke of Nevers and Rethel in France , was the head of the oldest branch line of the Gonzagas. His claims were supported by France because it was a family line established in France since 1549.

Emperor Ferdinand II. , Who had been married for five years to Eleonora Gonzaga , a sister of the last three dukes, tried, however, to withdraw Mantua as a settled imperial fief in order to then give it to Ferrante II. Gonzaga from the younger Gonzaga-Guastalla line, who was on the Spanish side. The emperor's line was joined by Savoy , whose Duke Charles Emanuel I hoped for the Duchy of Montferrat, because the Guastalla subsidiary lines had split off from the main line before the Montferrat inheritance, so that their successor there was at least disputable.

Course of war

On January 17, 1628, the Duke of Nevers, Carlo I of Gonzaga, arrived in Mantua and asked the emperor to invest in the imperial fiefs of Mantua and Montferrat. In return, the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emanuel I, occupied the northern part of Montferrat in the spring of 1628. The Spanish governor of the Duchy of Milan Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba supported him from neighboring Milan. Spanish troops advanced to the capital Casale , which, located on the upper Po , made it possible to control the trade routes between the Alps and northern Italy. They besieged the well-fortified city, but could not conquer it.

Only a year later, in February 1629, did France surprisingly intervene in the war for Spain. Available again after the surrender of La Rochelle , French troops crossed the Col de Montgenèvre under the command of Jean de Saint-Bonnet de Toiras and besieged in the presence of King Louis XIII. and Richelieus the Susa belonging to Savoy . Due to the state of siege, the Duke of Savoy agreed the treaties of Susa with France on March 11, 1629 . They authorized France to pass through Savoyard territory. Thereupon the Spanish governor recognized the treaties of Susa, broke off his siege in Casale and withdrew to Milan. A French garrison was established in Casale. The remaining French troops marched back to France.

Under Spanish pressure, the emperor already imposed the sequester on the Duke of Nevers in 1628 on the basis of alleged violations of feudal rights. The Duke refused to consent to sequestration , hoping for French help and voluntarily paid France an annual interest for Montferrat. Therefore, the imperial army intervened in the autumn of 1629 under the leadership of Collalto and with the support of Venetian troops. Mantua was besieged by 20,000 men without success until the end of 1629, after which the troops withdrew.

French troops under the leadership of Richelieu went to Northern Italy again in December 1629, captured the fortress of Pinerolo and occupied large parts of the Duchy of Savoy. Richelieu renounced military support for Mantua, which was besieged for the second time by an imperial army, because he wanted to avoid a direct confrontation. The defenders of Mantua were also weakened by the introduction of the plague , so that the Duke of Nevers had to surrender on July 18, 1630. Thereupon the city was heavily plundered ( Sacco di Mantova ), whereby the three imperial generals Gallas , Aldringen and Piccolomini enriched themselves immeasurably on the treasures of the palace by carrying jewels, paintings, statues, ostentatious furniture, tapestries, golden service and silverware on several wagons had them transported away.

In the spring of 1630, Casale, under the military command of the French garrison commander Jean de Saint-Bonnet de Toiras, was again besieged by Spanish troops under the command of Ambrosio Spinola . Both the Spanish troops and the besieged suffered increasingly from the effects of the plague and the difficult supply situation. A provisional armistice was agreed on September 4th thanks to the negotiating skills of the papal envoy Mazarin . The Spanish troops had to be granted access to the city and the fort, while the French garrison could withdraw to the citadel . On September 25th, the Spanish army commander Spinola died, but this did not lead to the siege being broken off. In October the French relief army under Henri de Schomberg advanced via Asti against Casale. Finally, on October 26th, the two armies faced each other. It was only at the last moment that Mazarin was able to convince the two war opponents that a peace treaty had already been concluded on October 13th on Regensburg's Electoral Day. A battle could thus be prevented. The army commanders agreed to evacuate Casale and the Montferrat of military troops. The acts of war were over.

Peace negotiations

The end of this dispute brought Sweden's intervention in the Thirty Years' War . That is why Ferdinand II had a great interest in a quick withdrawal of his troops from northern Italy. On October 13, 1630, at the Regensburg Electoral Congress, he succeeded in negotiating a peace treaty to end the War of the Mantuan Succession with the French embassy. But Richelieu could King Louis XIII. persuade not to ratify the treaty. Despite this affront, Ferdinand II continued to signal his readiness to negotiate with France.

The Treaty of Cherasco of April 6, 1631 was the final step towards ending the War of the Mantuan Succession. He was founded by Emperor Ferdinand II, King Ludwig XIII. ratified by France and Duke Viktor Amadeus I of Savoy , heir to the throne of Charles Emmanuel I, who died on July 26, 1630, but not by Spain. In a further agreement of June 19, 1631, the first contract was confirmed and new provisions on the procedure for the withdrawal of troops were also decided.

This enabled France to gain a foothold in northern Italy for the first time after long Habsburg-Spanish domination. In addition, the French influence was reinforced by the fact that the Duke of Savoy undertook two secret treaties dated March 31, 1631 to cede Pinerolo to France in return for compensation. Apart from this loss, Savoy received additional territories in Montferrat, but the population of the duchy had suffered severely from the consequences of the war and the plague. The Duke of Nevers had been weakened the most: in addition to the depopulation and destruction of his Duchy of Mantua, he lost almost half of Montferrat and was subsequently too weak to pursue an independent policy.


In connection with the War of the Spanish Succession 75 years later, the emperor finally prevailed in Mantua. Duke Carlo IV. Gonzaga of Mantua and Montferrat had switched to the French side in this conflict (although he had already sold the French possessions to Cardinal Mazarin in 1659 ), whereupon Emperor Leopold I moved in Mantua as a settled imperial fief. In 1703 Savoy received the remainder of Montferrat, Mantua was added to the already Austrian Duchy of Milan .


  • Friedemann Needy : Pocket Lexicon Thirty Years War (= Piper series. 2668). Piper, Munich et al. 1998, ISBN 3-492-22668-X .
  • Sven Externbrink : Le Coeur du Monde - France and the northern Italian states (Mantua, Parma, Savoy) in the age of Richelieu 1624–1635 (= history. 23). Lit, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4390-4 (Also: Marburg, Universität, Dissertation, 1997).
  • Angelica Gernert, Michael Groblewski : From the Italian States to the first Regno d'Italia. Italian history between the Renaissance and the Risorgimento (1559–1814). In: Wolfgang Altgeld, Rudolf Lill : Little Italian History. Updated edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010558-7 , pp. 185-256, here pp. 203 f.

Web links


  1. Golo Mann: Wallenstein . S. Fischer Verlag GmbH Licensed edition of the German Book Association, Frankfurt Main 1971, p. 655 .
  2. See Stefan Schnupp, Der Regensburger Kurfürstentag 1630. The emperor at the height of his power ?, Aventinus, edition 01, 2005/2006