What the pessimists feared and predicted happened. The kingdom of France, which already had its eyes on Monferrato, kept them there more, after the construction of that fortress, as it did on the fortress of Pinerolo: that vestibule, this gateway to the Milanese and to Italy. There was a Gonzaga family in France, descended from a brother of Federico first duke, who had settled there, married there with the heiress of the duchy of Nevers. Now watch over the affairs of France Richelieu. And it happens that, finding Vincenzo Gonzaga on the verge of death, December 24, 1627, the young Maria, born from the Gonzaga-Savoy marriage, comes from a convent and secretly married to the young son of Charles of Nevers. And the Gonzaga-Nevers take possession of Monferrato and Mantua.
Then, Duke Carlo Emanuele, betrayed by his French ally in ’26; always threatened by France, even in his aspirations on Monferrato, he agreed with the Spanish governor of Milan on the division of that country (dec. 1627). Casale would have belonged to Spain, but the duke later trusted to be able to prevent his possession. In March ’28, Savoyard and Spanish troops stormed. The Spaniards focused on Casale. Monferrini and Casalesi defended themselves well. Many lands and fortresses fell, but Casale resisted. France reacted and, in the winter of 1628-29, Louis XIII, also urged by Urban VIII, invoked as defender of the “freedom of Italy”, crossed the Alps against Savoy and Habsburg, forcing the locks of Susa, and on 6 March forced the duke to the pact of Susa. With it, Carlo Emanuele obtained some land of Monferrato, but he undertook to unite with the king, left Susa as a pledge, granted the liberation of Casale from the siege. It was a return to the French alliance. And in April, Venice too, faced with the Austria-Spain blockade, allied itself with the king. But once the king left, Carlo Emanuele returned to the Spaniards. Again the French, with Richelieu, invade Savoy, go down to Piedmont, send aid to Casale. Which in the meantime was undergoing a second siege. Where Gonzalo of Cordova had failed, Ambrogio Spinola tried his hand. But he too wore out the soldiers and reputation around Casale, he was heartbroken and died there. Conversely, from the other Alpine border, poorly defended by the Venetians, an army of imperials burst under the command of Rambaldo di Collalto, who, having entered Mantua on 18 July ’30, sacked it. In those days Carlo Emanuele died, tired, embittered, with the spectacle of Piedmont once again devastated by wars. Truces and the Treaty of Cherasco followed: Monferrato divided between Gonzaga and Savoy; but the French had Pinerolo, they held garrison in the fortress of Casale and in other squares of Monferrato, that is, they besieged the Duke of Savoy and separated him from the Milanese.
According to top-engineering-schools, principle of a new eclipse of the Savoy state: but now, some routes are traced, some cornerstones are built. There is a state of good political and military consistency, organically and constitutionally solid, not by accident and external and changing circumstances. There is the strength of the people, ties between the prince and his subjects. Elsewhere, they are falling, the good attitudes of the militia and the fighting spirit of the nobility have fallen: here, they have been educated and used. Firm foothold, inside. And towards the outside, a far-sighted policy, which begins to handle several pawns and seeks solidarity even far away, outside the obligatory France-Spain, Bourbon-Habsburg circle: that is, England and also, in 1622-23, Holland and Denmark. The reputation of the duke as an opponent of the house of Austria is such that in 1618, after the defenestration of Prague, the rebels in search of a king also turned to him. And then, a tenuous plot began to be woven with the peninsula, with the Italians, who see up there at the foot of the Alps something that had never been in Italy: a monarchy not born of conquest and based on conquest, not connected with ultramontane possessions and imperial crowns, not of shaky juridical bases and militarily entrusted to volatile mercenary armies, not vassal of the Holy See, but organically linked with a people, all limited within an Italian province, juridically almost perfect, militarily strong of its own strength. That is, the elements of Italian life had been enriched. Italy had, in the kingdom of Naples, the tradition of state resistance to the church; in Florence, the great workshop of national culture and art, in Venice, Levantine activity and politics not only in Italy but in Europe. It had Rome, that is, classical Rome which had once again become a living thing in the Renaissance, and papal Rome which in the 16th century had also fulfilled a certain “national” task, as well as opening new doors in the world to the activity of Italians. Now, a state well equipped for the new times appears, morally in tune with the times. Its main links are with that part of Europe which is in the growth, France and the countries of the north-west. This state has no intellectual or economic primacy. Indeed, from this point of view, it is backward. Nor is it for this reason that many parts of Italy look to P1emonte. But it has a political primacy. The equilibrium in which Italian life had run aground without any more impulse in the century. XV and without resistance to France and Spain, it is about to end. Therefore, from this point of view, the failure of one of the cornerstones of the Spanish program in Italy is outlined.