Writing of the invasion of Italy in 1494 by Charles VIII, Francesco Guicciardini, the chronicler of the Franco–Italian wars that ended with the Sack of Rome in 1527, observed that this was “a most unhappy year for Italy . . . because it opened the door to innumerable horrible calamities in which . . . a great part of the world was subsequently involved.” The history of Europe throws up fault lines, geographical nexuses around which conflict seems inevitably to coalesce. In the early twentieth century, one such was the Balkans; from the thirteenth to the fifteenth, the Kingdom of Naples, fought over by the Holy Roman Emperors, the royal Spanish house of Aragon, and two competing lines of the French ducal house of Anjou, was another. The Angevin claim to Naples was Charles’s pretext for a conflict that arguably stunted the progress of the Italian Renaissance; The Queen of Four Kingdoms, the first...


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