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Why was Charles V involved in such prolonged conflicts with the Kings of France?

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Why was Charles V involved in such prolonged conflicts with the Kings of France? The conflict between the Habsburg Emperor Charles V and the Valois King of France Francis I commenced in 1521 and came to an end in 1559 in the reigns of their successors, Philip II and Henry II. The wars were extremely damaging to the kingdom of France, to the empire of Charles V and indeed to Christendom as a whole. The conflict was so prolonged due to a number of reasons. The personal rivalry between Francis I and Charles V caused hostility between the two men and ensured that both were unwilling to let the other get the upper hand. When Charles V and Francis I became kings of their respective lands both were very young and ambitious young men, who wanted to make a name for themselves. In 1519 Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor in succession to his grandfather Maximillian, to the dismay of Francis who also wanted the title. The electors were persuaded to choose Charles through a number of expensive bribes. They also believed that Charles was less likely to interfere with the independence of the princes because he had such extensive lands to govern. This event ensured Charles took precedence over his rival and made Francis determined to resist Charles V's claims to supremacy within Europe by waging costly wars. ...read more.


In 1526, Henry saw the danger of a Habsburg dominance within Europe, if it were able to defeat France and therefore supported the League of Cognac, an anti Habsburg alliance. His unreliability and self-interest as an ally was also shown when he allied with Francis in 1528 due to his desire to divorce, something that an allegiance with the Catholic Charles could not give. Each side also provoked bitterness by making alliances with the enemies of the other side to further their political goals. In 1526 Francis made an alliance with the 'infidellic' Ottoman Turks who Charles perceived as being a serious threat to Christendom. Francis also began to support the Lutheran movement because he saw the trouble Charles was having with it and therefore he wanted to continue the growth of Protestantism in Germany. In 1528, Andrea Doria, the Genoese admiral, was persuaded by Charles's agents to abandon the French, with whom he was helping to blockade Naples, and join the Habsburgs. This was very important because it allowed Charles to lift the blockade of Naples, it meant that the large Genoese fleet was left at his disposal and access to loans from Genoese bankers. Alliances made with outside influences by both sides fuelled the resentment that they felt for one another. Dynastic rivalry prolonged the war between both sides and made it hard for settlements to be agreed upon. ...read more.


The changing nature of warfare also prolonged the conflict to some degree. The development of heavy artillery and the invention of gunpowder put an end to easy victories on the battlefield and the use of the aquebus with pike men prolonged battles because it gave advantage to the defending side, making it harder to make a break through, thus encouraging stalemate. Such stalemate was added to by the fact that both sides built fortresses which led to long sieges, such as the expensive siege of Metz in 1553. I therefore conclude that the prolonged conflict between the Habsburg and Valois dynasties can be explained by a combination of factors. Territorial disputes ensured persistent controversy, Dynastic rivalry ensured that neither side was willing to compromise on ancestral areas such as Burgundy and alliances made with outside influences increased suspicion between the two sides to a large degree. In my opinion, however, the most important reason for the prolonged conflict was due to the personal rivalry between Charles V and Francis I. Neither man wanted the other to get the upper hand which meant that compromises were unable to be made between the two and thus ensured that the search for peace was a drawn out affair. It was only when either man was willing to swallow their pride, as was the case with Charles at the Peace of Cambrai, that progress could be made. John Round Page 1 ...read more.

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