On this day in 1526 King Francois I of France formed the ‘Holy’ League of Cognac with Pope Clement VII, and the Italian powers Milan, Florence, Genoa and Venice. While the stated purpose of the League was as a Christian bastion against the might of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the real function was to drive King Francois’ nemesis the Emperor Charles V out of Italy once and for all.
After the battle of Pavia, in 1525, King Francois had been taken prisoner and forced to sign a crippling treaty with the victorious Emperor Charles V. But soon after being freed to enact the specifics of the Treaty of Madrid, King Francois publically repudiated it as illegal and dishonorable as it was signed under duress. Under the terms of the treaty France was to lose the valuable lands of Burgundy, but Francois argued it was not in his power to dismantle his kingdom.
The League of Cognac proved most ineffective and less than a year after it was signed the Emperor’s army brutally sacked Rome and left Pope Clement VII as a virtual prisoner.
Painting of the Battle of Pavia is by the Renaissance artist Joachim Patinir. [Gallery - Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]