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The Fall of Siena

In the 1550s, writes Judith Hook, one of the last of the independent Italian republics was overwhelmed by the forces of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1842 the editors of the newly founded Archivio Storico Italiano saw the period covering the events that occurred in Siena, ‘from the expulsion of the Spanish guard to the surrender of the city to the armies of Charles V’ as of ‘such great importance not only in Sienese history, but also in the history of the whole of Italy’ that they decided to print accounts of them.

These documents were made available, but seem to have been little noticed. There is no account of the last Sienese republic, comparable to Cecil Roth’s Last Florentine Republic, although the defence of Siena was as courageous as the final struggle for Florentine liberty.

Indeed, were it not for the fact that that defence of Siena was, for a time, conducted by the French military historian, Blaise de Monluc, it is possible that the way in which Siena was incorporated into the Duchy of Tuscany, by force of Spanish arms, would now be forgotten.

The end of Sienese independence should be seen in the context of the history and development of the empire of Charles V as a whole. Charles had a pronounced distaste for the small political unit. The instinct that suggested to his Flemish and Spanish subjects that he was a threat to their traditional liberties was a sound one.

Envoys from small states, talking about customary rights and liberties, reminded the Emperor and his advisers of nothing so much as the revolt of the comuneros, with which he had had to deal on first visiting his Spanish kingdom. Similarly, Charles V showed no sympathy either with republicanism or with the ideals of the Renaissance city-state and was personally responsible for the extinction of two of the last great medieval communal republics - Florence and Siena.

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