Relief of Genoa

Relief of Genoa
Part of the Thirty Years' War
Antonio de Pereda y Salgado 001.jpg
Relief of Genoa by the Marquis of Santa Cruz by Antonio de Pereda. Museo del Prado.
DateMarch 28 – April 24, 1625

Decisive Spanish-Genoese victory[1]

 Kingdom of France
 Duchy of Savoy
 Republic of Genoa
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières
Duchy of Savoy Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy
Spain Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis of Santa Cruz
Spain Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Duke of Feria
Republic of Genoa Carlo Doria, Duke of Tursi
30,000 infantry[6]
3,000 cavalry[7]
2,700–4,000 Spanish infantry
23 galleys[8]
15,000 Spanish-Genoese
(After the relief)[9]
Casualties and losses
5,000 dead or wounded
2,000 captured
1,300 dead
Genoa is located in Liguria
Location within Liguria region
Genoa is located in Italy
Genoa (Italy)

The Relief of Genoa took place between 28 March 1625 and 24 April 1625, during the Thirty Years' War.[10] It was a major naval expedition launched by Spain against the French-occupied Republic of Genoa, of which the capital Genoa was being besieged by a joint Franco-Savoyard army composed of 30,000 men and 3,000 cavalry.[11]

In 1625, when the Republic of Genoa, traditionally an ally of Spain, was occupied by French troops of the Duke of Savoy, the city underwent a hard siege. It was known in Genoese governmental circles that one of the reasons why the Dutch government had offered their help to the Franco-Savoyan army was so that they could "hit the bank of the King of Spain".[12]

However, the Spanish fleet commanded by General Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis of Santa Cruz, came to the aid of Genoa and relieved the city. Returning its sovereignty to the Republic of Genoa and forcing the French to raise the siege, they consequently began a combined campaign against the Franco-Savoyan forces that had overrun the Genoese Republic one year before. The joint Franco-Piedmontese army was forced to leave Liguria and Spanish troops invaded Piedmont, thereby securing the Spanish Road.[2] Richelieu's Invasion of Genoa and the Valtelline had resulted in his humiliation by the Spaniards.[13]


In northern Italy, Philip IV of Spain had followed his father's efforts to defend Catholics in the valleys of Valtellina against the Protestants in Graubünden. In 1622 Richelieu had arranged an anti-Spanish league with Venice and Savoy. With his ascendancy, the French policy changed.[citation needed]

The French claimed that due to the alliance between them and the Duke of Savoy, they had to help Savoy, which was attacking Genoa, by attacking Valtelline and diverting the resources of the Spanish, who were supporters of Genoa. In the autumn of 1624, using the pretext that papal forces had not been withdrawn from the Valtelline as agreed, French and Swiss troops invaded the Catholic valleys of the Grey Leagues and seized the forts, to protect them, Richelieu had established the Governors of the Duchy of Milan. Consequently, Spain formed an alliance with the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Duke of Modena and Parma, and the republics of Genoa and Lucca, deciding to make a several action.[15]

François de Bonne, Duke de Lesdiguieres, commander of the French army.

The irony of a Cardinal attacking the troops of a Pope was not lost on Rome, Spain, and ultra-Catholics in France. In 1625 the French marshals François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières and Charles de Blanchefort, Marquis de Créquy, joined the Duke of Savoy, invaded the territories of the dominion of Genoa.[6] An attack on Genoa would cut the southern end of the Spanish Road and knock out Spain's banker.[6]

The time seemed opportune, with the apparent convergence of Protestant hostility to the Habsburgs, and explains French participation in the London talks with Mansfeld. Richelieu hoped Britain and the Dutch would send a fleet to assist his own squadron in cutting the seaway between Spain and Genoa, while Venice attacked Milan.[6]

François Annibal d'Estrées, Duke of Estrées and 3,500 French troops crossed Protestant Swiss territory to join a similar number of Rhetians levied with French money. More subsidies and troops poured into Savoy, where the French formed a third of the 30,000-strong army that began operations against Genoa in February 1625.[6] The attack caught the Genoese Republic unprepared.[6] Most of the Republic was overrun, while 4,000 reinforcements from Spain were intercepted by French warships in March.[6]

By this time Cardinal Richelieu remarked:

I shall not emphasize, that Spain, pressed to extremity by us, might enter its forces into France, either from the kingdom [of Spain] itself or from Flanders. It is easy to guard against invasion from Spain with small forces because of the lie of the land.[16]

The Duke of Estrées quickly conquered the Valtellina, because the Papal garrisons offered no resistance except at Riva and Chiavenna. Richelieu's elaborate plan then began to unravel. The Valtellina operation placed France in direct opposition to an essentially Francophile papacy, incensing the dévots.[6] Don Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Duke of Feria sent 6,000 men and Tommaso Caracciolo, Count of Roccarainola as Maestro de Campo in order to reinforce the city of Genoa, which continued to resist the Franco-Savoyard siege.[6] Venice abstained from the fighting, while British and Dutch support failed to materialize, enabling Spain to break through the relatively weak French fleet and relieve Genoa in August.[6]

Genoese doge Alessandro Giustiniani, wrote:

At present our republic and its liberty are founded on its fortunes and on the protection of Spain, and we must hope to find strength in the arms of this monarch. These vessels, besides the unbearable cost to us, would show complete imprudence, or even make the Spaniards jealous. It has been proposed, but nothing has been decreed.[17]

France also sent financial help to the Dutch Republic, and subsidised the siege of Mansfeld.[18]

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