The Pavia Campaign 1524-1525

  • Orange Arrow - the Duke of Bourbon's treacherous attack on Marseille
  • Blue Arrow - The French King's advance to Marseille and Pavia
  • Blue & Yellow Arrows - Bourbon's retreat and the French pursuit

Capturing Pavia, the ancient capital of Lombardy, was the key to success for the French invasion of Northern Italy in the autumn 1524 for two very different reasons.

Though Milan had surrendered without a fight the city was ravaged by plague so the French King Francis needed to find new winter quarters for his 60,000 men. Even more importantly, Pavia controlled the only crossing over the River Ticino and if this bridge was in French hands the Spanish Hapsburgs could not reinforce their armies in Northern Italy by landing troops and supplies at Genoa.

Any reinforcements for the last imperial army in Northern Italy would therefore have to come through The Alpine passes to the north, and as winter would soon cut these lifelines, Francis moved quickly to crush the force of 9,000 landsknecht mercenaries guarding Pavia's medieval walls. Unfortunately for Francis, the garrison's commander was the experienced Spanish captain Antonio de Leyva.

De Leyva had strengthened the city's ancient ramparts with modern blockhouses and redoubts that could resist canon fire. As a result, two bloody assaults, led by the English rebel Richard de la Pole and the exiled Scottish Duke of Albany, were easily repulsed with much blood shed on the French side. Despite his overwhelming numbers, Francis now had no choice but to try and reduce the city by siege.


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