Independence and the end of expansion
Two wars brought about the end of this policy of expansion: The victorious Swabian War in the north and the Italian campaigns in the south, in which the Confederates were defeated.
The Swabian WarAfter defeating Burgundy, the Confederation became the dominant power in southern Germany. The Swabian nobility, headed by Habsburg, unsuccessfully countered the growing influence of the Confederates in Central Europe in the Waldshut War in 1468 and the Swabian War in 1499. On the surface, the Swabian War was about the enforcement of the imperial reforms of 1495, but in fact it was the last attempt by the House of Habsburg to prevail against the Confederates. In the Peace of Basel, the German king Maximilian I had to recognize the de facto independence of the Confederation within the Holy Roman Empire. The Confederates remained in the Empire until 1648. The Swabian War marked the end of the expansion of the Confederation towards the north.
Italian campaignsAfter the Swabian War, the Confederates were also involved in the battles for the prosperous cities of northern Italy (it was mainly the major European powers, the Habsburgs, the Valois kings of France and the Papacy, who were fighting over these cities).
During the 15-year battle for Milan, the Confederates first supported France before switching and supporting the Papacy in 1510 and regaining Milan from the French in 1512. After the decisive battle against the French at Novara (1513) it seemed obvious that the Confederates would continue their expansion towards Lombardy. These dreams, however, were shattered two years later when the French together with their allies, the Venetians, routed the Swiss at Marignano.
Nevertheless, in the peace treaty that followed, the Confederates kept all of what is now the canton of Ticino plus other areas of what is now Italy.
The Battle of Marignano is regarded as a turning point in Swiss history – not only did it end the Confederates' military expansion for ever but it was also the beginning of Swiss neutrality.
How far this neutrality went is controversial in view of the mercenary alliances with France. Exports of Swiss mercenaries from various parts of the Confederation persisted after 1515 until this was finally banned in 1859. Since then the only exception has been that of the Papal Swiss Guard.
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