Siege of Nice

Siege of Nice
Part of the Italian War of 1542–46
Siége de la flotte turc.jpg
French fleet with Barbarossa at the Siege of Nice 1543.jpg
Top: In the siege of Nice in 1543, a combined Franco-Ottoman force captured the city.
Bottom: Ottoman depiction of the siege of Nice by Matrakçı Nasuh.
Date6–22 August 1543[1]
  • Ottoman-French Victory
Holy Roman Empire
Spain Spain
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Charles V
Charles III
Andrea Doria
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Hayreddin Barbarossa
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg Salah Rais
François de Bourbon
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg 100 galleys
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1844).svg 30,000 soldiers
50 galleys
Casualties and losses
4 galleys
5,000 captives.

The siege of Nice occurred in 1543 and was part of the Italian War of 1542–46 in which Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificent collaborated as part of the Franco-Ottoman alliance against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and Henry VIII of England. At that time, Nice was under the control of Charles III, Duke of Savoy, an ally of Charles V.[2] This is part of the 1543–1544 Mediterranean campaign of Barbarossa.[3]


Letter of Suleiman to Francis I about the plans for the siege of Nice, written in mid-February 1543

In the Mediterranean, active naval collaboration took place between France and the Ottoman Empire to fight against Spanish forces, following a request by Francis I, conveyed by Antoine Escalin des Aimars. The French forces, led by François de Bourbon, and the Ottoman forces, led by Hayreddin Barbarossa, first joined at Marseilles in August 1543.[4] Although the Duchy of Savoy, of which Nice was a part, had been a French protectorate for a century, Francis I chose to attack the city of Nice with the allied force, mainly because Charles III, Duke of Savoy had angered him by marrying Beatrice of Portugal, thus becoming an ally of the Habsburgs.[5]

François de Bourbon had already attempted to make a surprise attack on Nice once, but had been repulsed by Andrea Doria.[6]

Arrival of the Ottoman fleet

Following an agreement between Francis I and Suleyman the Magnificent, through the intervention of the French ambassador in Constantinople, Captain Polin, a fleet of 110 galleys under Hayreddin Barbarossa left from the Sea of Marmara in mid-May 1543.[7] He then raided the coasts of Sicily and Southern Italy through the month of June, anchoring in front of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber on 29 June, while Polin wrote reassurances that attacks against Rome would not take place.[7]

Barbarossa arrived with his fleet, accompanied by the French Ambassador Polin, at Île Saint-Honorat on 5 July. As almost nothing had been prepared on the French side to assist the Ottoman fleet, Polin was dispatched to meet with Francis I at Marolles and ask him for support.[8] Meanwhile, Barbarossa went to the harbour of Toulon on 10 July and then was received with honours at the harbour of Marseille on 21 July, where he joined the French forces under the Governor of Marseille, François, Count of Enghien.[7][9] The combined fleet sailed out of Marseille on the 5th of August.[10]


Barbarossa's galley during his campaign in France, 1543

The Ottoman force first landed at Villefranche, 6 kilometers east of Nice, which it took and destroyed.[11]

The French and Ottoman forces then collaborated to attack the city of Nice on 6 August 1543.[12][13] In this action 110 Ottoman galleys combined with 50 French ones.[14]

The Franco-Ottomans were confronted by a stiff resistance which gave rise to the story of Catherine Ségurane, culminating with a major battle on 15 August, but the city surrendered on 22 August. The French prevented the Ottomans from sacking the city.[15] They could not however take the castle, the "Château de Cimiez", apparently because the French were unable to supply sufficient gunpowder to their Ottoman allies.[15][16][17]

A cannonball fired by the Turkish fleet, now at the corner of "Catherine Ségurane" street, or "Rue Droite", in Nice. A plaque reads: "Cannonball from the Turkish fleet in 1543 during the siege of Nice, where Catherine Ségurane, heroine of Nice, distinguished herself."[5]

Another important battle against the castle took place on 8 September, but the force finally retreated upon learning that an Imperial army was on the move to meet them: Duke Charles III, ruler of the Duchy of Savoy, had raised an army in Piedmont to free the city.[18]

The last night before leaving, Barbarossa plundered the city, burned parts of it, and took 5,000 captives.[10] The relief army, transported on ships by Andrea Doria, landed at Villefranche, and successfully made its way to the Nice citadel.[7]

During the campaign, Barbarossa is known to have complained about the state of the French ships and the inappropriateness of their equipment and stores.[16] He famously said "Are you seamen to fill your casks with wine rather than powder?".[19] He nevertheless displayed great reluctance to attack Andrea Doria when the latter was put in difficulty after landing the relief army, losing 4 galleys in a storm.[7] It has been suggested that there was some tacit agreement between Barbarossa and Doria on this occasion.[7]

Catherine Ségurane

Memorial in bas-relief to Catherine Ségurane.

Catherine Ségurane (Catarina Ségurana in the Niçard dialect of Provençal) is a folk heroine of the city of Nice, France who is said to have played a decisive role in repelling the city's siege by Turkish invaders allied with Francis I, the siege of Nice, in the summer of 1543. At the time, Nice was part of Savoy, independent from France, and had no standing military to defend it. Most versions of the tale have Catherine Ségurane, a common washerwoman, leading the townspeople into battle. Legend has it that she knocked out a standard-bearer with her beater and took his flag.

Catherine's existence has never been definitively proven, and her heroic act of mooning is likely pure fiction or highly exaggerated; Jean Badat, a historian who stood witness to the siege, made no mention of her involvement in the defense. Historically attested defense of Nice include the townspeople's destruction of a key bridge and the arrival of an army mustered by a Savoyard duke, Charles III. Nevertheless, the legend of Catherine Ségurane has excited the local imagination. Louis Andrioli wrote an epic poem about her in 1808, and a play dedicated to her story was written by Jean-Baptiste Toselli in 1878. In 1923, a bas-relief monument to Catherine was erected near the supposed location of her feat. In Nice, Catherine Segurane Day is celebrated annually, concurrent with St. Catherine's Day on 25 November.

Ottoman wintering in Toulon

Barbarossa's fleet wintering in the French harbour of Toulon, 1543

Following the siege, the Ottomans were offered by Francis to winter at Toulon, so that they could continue to harass the Holy Roman Empire, and especially the coast of Spain and Italy, as well the communications between the two countries. Barbarossa was also promised that he would receive help from the French in reconquering Tunis if he stayed through the winter in France.[7]

Throughout the winter, the Ottoman fleet, with its 110 galleys and 30,000 troops, was able to use Toulon as a base to attack the Spanish and Italian coasts under Admiral Salah Rais.[7][20] They raided Barcelona in Spain, and Sanremo, Borghetto Santo Spirito, Ceriale in Italy, and defeated Italo-Spanish naval attacks.[15] Sailing with his whole fleet to Genoa, Barbarossa negotiated with Andrea Doria the release of Turgut Reis.[21] France provided about 10,000,000 kilograms of bread to supply the Ottoman army during the 6 months it stayed in Toulon, and for the provisioning of the following summer's campaign and return to Constantinople.[7]

It seems the involvement of Francis I to this joint effort with the Ottomans were rather half-hearted however, as many European powers were complaining about such an alliance against another Christian power.[22] Relations remained tensed and suspicious between the two allies.[16]


Fort Mont Alban was built by Duke Emmanuel Philibert to reinforce coastal defenses following the siege of Nice.

A French-Habsburg peace treaty was finally signed at Crépy on 18 September 1544, and a truce was signed between the Habsburg and the Ottomans on 10 November 1545.[16] The Habsburg emperor Charles V agreed to recognize the new Ottoman conquests. A formal peace treaty was signed on 13 June 1547, after the death of Francis I.[16]

A local consequence of the siege was the reinforcement of the coast with defensive fortifications, especially the castles of Nice and Mont Alban, and the fort of Saint-Elme de Villefranche.

See also

  • Orientalism in early modern France


  1. ^ John Brian Harley (2000-11-23). Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies. p. 245. ISBN 9780226316352. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  2. ^ Suraiya Faroqhi (2006). The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It. p. 33. ISBN 9781845111229. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Hugh James Rose (October 2008). A New General Biographical Dictionary. p. 138. ISBN 9780559388538. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  5. ^ a b McCabe, p.42
  6. ^ Robert J. Knecht (2002-01-21). The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France: 1483-1610. p. 181. ISBN 9780631227298. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Barbarossa arrived at Toulon on 10 July, and (as the Venetian Senate wrote Suleiman) was received with honor in Marseille on the twenty first. In August he assisted the French in the badly-planned and unsuccessful siege of Nice" in The Papacy and the Levant, 1204–1571 by Kenneth Meyer Setton p.470ff
  8. ^ Pardoe, Julia (2014) [1849]. The Court and Reign of Francis the First, King of France. 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 457. ISBN 978-1108074469. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  9. ^ Bietenholz, Peter G.; Deutscher, Thomas Brian (January 2003). Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and ... p. 260. ISBN 9780802085771. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  10. ^ a b Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. 1835. p. 428. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  11. ^ Houtsma, M. Th (1993). E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. p. 873. ISBN 9004097902. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  12. ^ Suraiya Faroqhi (2005-11-29). Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire. p. 70. ISBN 9781850437604. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  13. ^ Daniel Goffman (2002-04-25). The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 21. Retrieved 2016-12-02 – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ The Cambridge History of Islam, p.328
  15. ^ a b c Robert Elgood (1995-11-15). Firearms of the Islamic World: In the Tared Rajab Museum, Kuwait. p. 38. ISBN 9781850439639. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  16. ^ a b c d e Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy (1854). History of the Ottoman Turks: From the Beginning of Their Empire to the ... p. 286. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  17. ^ McCabe, p.41
  18. ^ McCabe, p.43
  19. ^ Harold Lamb (November 2008). Suleiman the Magnificent - Sultan of the East. p. 229. ISBN 9781443731447. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  20. ^ Harold Lamb (November 2008). Suleiman the Magnificent - Sultan of the East. p. 230. ISBN 9781443731447. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  21. ^ Archived copy. Archived from the original on 2014-09-20. Retrieved 2015-07-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ [2]


  • William Miller The Ottoman Empire and Its Successors, 1801–1927 Routledge, 1966ISBN 0-7146-1974-4
  • Peter Malcolm Holt, Ann K. S. Lambton, Bernard Lewis The Cambridge History of Islam Cambridge University Press, 1977ISBN 0-521-29135-6
  • Roger Crowley, Empire of the sea, 2008 Faber & FaberISBN 978-0-571-23231-4
  • Baghdiantz McAbe, Ina 2008 Orientalism in Early Modern France,ISBN 978-1-84520-374-0, Berg Publishing, Oxford

External links

Coordinates:43°42′00″N 7°16′00″E / 43.7°N 7.26667°E / 43.7; 7.26667

Media files used on this page

Pavillon royal de la France.svg
Author/Creator: Oren neu dag (talk), Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Royal flag of France before the Revolution (heraldic banner of "France modern")
Flag of the Ottoman Empire.svg
The Ottoman flag of 1844–1922. Late Ottoman flag which was made based on the historical documents listed in the Source section. Note that a five-pointed star was rarely used in the star-and-crescent symbol before the 19th century.
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1844–1922).svg
The Ottoman flag of 1844–1922. Late Ottoman flag which was made based on the historical documents listed in the Source section. Note that a five-pointed star was rarely used in the star-and-crescent symbol before the 19th century.
French fleet with Barbarossa at the Siege of Nice 1543.jpg
French fleet with Barbarossa at the Siege of Nice 1543
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Flag of the region Savoie in France
Siége de la flotte turc.jpg
Siège of the fleet othoman and french, in 1543, in front of the remparts of the town of Nice.
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Author/Creator: David Liuzzo, eagle by N3MO, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
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"The painter Hieronymus (aka Jérôme) Bosch lived in the Middle Ages (c. 1450-1516) in Brabant. He painted very strange, surrealistic-like paintings. Some of these paintings show Turkish flags. I guess these representations reflect how the West in Bosch's time perceived 'the Turks'. The flags are generally red with a white crescent." Jean Valentin, 27 May 2003 (
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Flag with the cross of Burgundy (saltire). Also named Cross of Burgundy flag. It was used in the Catholic Monarchy and in its viceroyalties such as New Spain and Peru. It was also used by Spain as a military or king flag. Used by the Carlist movement.
Letter of Soliman to Francis about the Siege of Nice mid February 1543.jpg
Catherine Segurane monument Nice.jpg
(c) Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Monument to Catherine Ségurane in the old town of Nice, French Riviera.
Landing in Villefranche.jpg
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Barbarossa fleet wintering in Toulon 1543.jpg
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French royal artillery besieging Nice.jpg
Boulets de la rue droite.jpg
Author/Creator: Pto, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Boulet tiré par la flotte franco-turc en 1543 et scellé en souvenir à l'angle de la rue droite et rue de la Loge dans le vieux Nice.
Main landing at Nice.jpg