Louis XIV et le repos de l'Italie : French policy towards the duchies of Parma, Modena, and Mantua-Monferrato, 1659-1689
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Between 1659 and 1689, northern Italy was generally at peace, having endured almost three decades of continuous war from the 1620s. The Peace of the Pyrenees of November 1659, between the French and Spanish crowns, seemed to offer the young Louis XIV an opportunity to gradually subvert Spanish influence over the small princely families of the Po valley. The Houses of Farnese, Este, and Gonzaga-Nevers, respective rulers of Parma, Modena, and Mantua-Monferrato, had all been allies of France at various points in the Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659), but had gained scant reward for their willingness to jeopardise their own relationships with the king of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor, despite the promises of material and diplomatic support which Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin had extended to them. As a consequence, they were reluctant to agree to again participate in alliances with France. This thesis examines how Louis XIV gradually came to lose the friendship of these three ruling families, through his arrogant disregard of their interests and their ambitions, and also by his contempt for their capabilities and usefulness. This disregard was frequently born out of the French monarch’s unwillingness to jeopardise or to undermine his own interests in Italy – in particular, the permanent retention of the fortress of Pinerolo, in Piedmont, as a porte onto the Po plain. But although the principi padani comprehended the reasons for Louis’s unwillingness to act as a benevolent patron, they resented his all-too-palpable distrust of them; his entrenched belief that they were unreliable; and his obvious love of war. The rulers and élites of the Italian states believed that Louis would undoubtedly seek, at some point in his reign, to attack Spain’s possessions in Italy, and dwelt in perpetual dread of that day. This thesis provides the account of French policy towards the small Italian states after 1659 which is still absent from the historiography of Louis XIV’s foreign policies.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 9th February 2021
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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