The Treaty of Madrid was signed by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I, the king of France, who had been taken captive during the Battle of Pavia in February 1525. The agreement included France renouncing claims in Italy, surrendering Burgundy to Charles and relinquishing sovereignty over Flanders and Artois.
Background: the Italian Wars (1521-1526)
The origins of the treaty can be traced back to the Italian Wars of 1521-1526, a series of conflicts that were part of the Italian Wars (1494-1559). These marked the ongoing struggle between France and Spain for supremacy over the Italian Peninsula. The conflict originated from the election of Charles I of Spain as Holy Roman Emperor following the death of Emperor Maximilian I in 1519. This shift in power posed a direct threat to France, finding itself surrounded on the north, east, and south by Habsburg territories. In 1521, after England had tried unsuccessfully to mediate the conflict, France prepared itself to go to war. Two major offensives were launched against Habsburg territories, with an attempt to reclaim Navarre and an attack on the Muse River to gain control of the Habsburg Netherlands. Both endeavours, however, failed.
During this period, Charles V formed alliances with King Henry VIII of England and Pope Leo X. Consequently, France found itself with the support of only the Republic of Venice, an alliance that dissolved when Venice made a separate peace after the French defeat and expulsion from Lombardy in the Battle of Bicocca in 1522.
In 1523, England invaded France, prompting Francis I to raise funds for warfare through a lawsuit against Duke Charles de Bourbon. Infuriated by this action, the Duke betrayed France, aligning himself with the Imperial army. By 1524, following Francis I's unsuccessful attempt to invade Italy, Bourbon invaded Provence, subsequently adopting the title of Count of Provence. The turning point in the conflict occurred in 1525 with the Battle of Pavia, where the French army was defeated and Francis I was taken prisoner to Madrid.
The Treaty of Madrid
During Francis’ captivity, Charles pressed not only for the surrender of Lombardy but also for Burgundy and Provence, prompting the French king to argue that French law prevented him from relinquishing any crown-held lands without the Parliament’s approval—a concession that was not forthcoming. As 1526 dawned, Charles also faced demands from Venice and the Pope to reinstate Francesco II Sforza to the Duchy of Milan's throne. Feeling the urgency to settle matters with the French before another war erupted, Charles was motivated to reach an agreement.
In this context, Francis, having unsuccessfully argued to retain Burgundy, was now willing to surrender it to secure his release. This willingness set the stage for the Treaty of Madrid, which was signed on January 14, 1526. The terms were favourable to Charles V, who agreed to free Francis after the conclusion of the treaty.
Under the treaty’s provisions, France renounced its rights to Milan, Genoa, Burgundy, Naples, Artois, Tournai, and Flanders in favour of Emperor Charles. Additionally, Francis I committed to marrying Charles's sister, Leonor, and sending two of his children to Spain as guarantees for the treaty's fulfilment. Lastly, he agreed to persuade Henry II of Navarre to relinquish the throne of Navarre in favour of Charles.
On March 6, Francis was released from captivity, and shortly thereafter, on March 17, he crossed the Bidasoa into France. During this period, the King of France also successfully secured peace with England through the Treaty of Hampton Court. Signed in August 1526, this treaty stipulated that France and England would not independently form an alliance with the Empire.
In the meanwhile, Clement VII, the Pope, grew wary of the Emperor's expanding influence in Italy, leading to Venetian and papal envoys proposing an alliance against Charles to Francis. Still, Francis never had any intentions of adhering to the remaining provisions of the Treaty of Madrid. On May 10, 1526, the royal council decided to break the treaty, asserting that the king was not bound by it due to having been a prisoner under coercion during the negotiations.
In June 1526, Francis, along with the Pope and the northern Italian cities of Milan, Venice, Florence, and Genoa, initiated the War of the League of Cognac at Angoulême. The objective was to reclaim the territory lost to the Empire. However, Henry, designated as the 'protector' of the League, was not formally involved in the conflict.
Throughout the subsequent Italian Wars, both Francis and his successor, Henry II, persistently asserted their claims to Milan. These claims endured until the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. However, France failed to regain any former possessions in Lombardy. The terms of the Peace that concluded the Italian Wars granted Spain control over Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Savoy, and Piedmont.
- italian wars
- battle of pavia
- holy roman empire
- francis i
- charles v