EU4: How To Resolve the Shadow Kingdom HRE Incident

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The “Shadow Kingdom” Imperial incident starts around 1460. The Holy Roman Emperor gets two options in this event:

  • Abandon Italy
  • Rein in the Italians

The first option will cause all Italian HRE princes to leave the Empire. The Emperor will also lose -10 Prestige and -20 Imperial Authority.

The second gives the Emperor time to get the Italians to stay within the Empire.

The Emperor’s Choices in the HRE UI / EU4
The Emperor’s Choices in the HRE UI

To rein in each of the Italian princes, the Emperor has to either:

  • Win any war against them
  • Ally and have at least +150 Opinion with them
  • Granting them the Free City status

You can do these even before the incident starts. If you’re using the diplomatic method, you’ll need to maintain the +150 Opinion until the deadline, which is 1490.

At the end of the incident, every Italian prince that has been reined will remain with the HRE. The rest will secede.

Note: This guide will focus on playing as Austria as they’re the Emperor during this incident.


Option 1: Declaring War

Being victorious in a war against an Italian prince will permanently rein them in.

As the Emperor, you’ll have bonuses to your manpower and force limit. You’ll be able to field a larger army than most of the Italians.

Your main concern is in getting into a war against them in the first place.

As long as you’re suing them for peace directly, the terms don’t matter — even a white peace will do. If they’re not the war leader, you’ll need to get a separate peace with them.

Tip: Ally Aragon, Burgundy, and/or the Papal State. If you gain 10 favors with them, they can back you up in your wars.

There are 9 independent Italian HRE princes (10 if Bologna decides to join the HRE):

  • Savoy
  • Milan
  • Genoa
  • Mantua
  • Lucca
  • Ferrara
  • Florence
  • Saluzzo
  • Siena
  • Bologna (if they’ve joined)

Tip: When fighting an Italian nation, you’ll get the “Italian Wars” modifier, which gives you +5% Mercenary Discipline and -10% Mercenary Cost. You’ll also have access to the Lombard and Tuscan mercenary companies. They’re cheaper and more disciplined than regular mercenaries.



Austria can rival Savoy right at the start. This gives you the “Humiliate Rival” CB against them.

Savoy is also one of the two nations who’re most likely to get excommunicated at the start. If you’ve somehow managed to gain territory beside their borders, then you can use the “Excommunicated Ruler” CB on them.



If you wait for Milan to trigger their “Golden Ambrosian Republic” disaster, you’ll get the “Restoration of Union” CB on them.

This Event Pops Up When Milan’s Disaster Begins / EU4
This Event Pops Up When Milan’s Disaster Begins

Defeating Milan with this CB allows you to enforce a personal union (PU) on them.

Having them as a junior partner opens up more options in dealing with the rest of the Italian dissidents.


Genoa, Mantua, and Lucca

They are right next to Milan.

If you’ve gotten a PU on Milan, they’ll fabricate claims on these three if you mark their territories as strategically important.

You do this by:

  • Right-clicking on any of your provinces to open the Diplomacy view of your own country (or just press the hotkeys: “F1”, then “3”, then “z”)
  • Switching to the Diplomatic Feedback subtab
  • Click on the provinces that you want marked.
Marking Provinces of Interest / EU4
Marking Provinces of Interest


Austria’s coastal province of Triest gives them a sea tile “border” with Ferrara.

This means you can fabricate a claim on them right from the start.

Austrian Claim on Ferrara / EU4
Austrian Claim on Ferrara

Indirect Wars

For the rest of the Italians, most of them will be allied with one another. You can pull them into a war when declaring on one of their allies.

For example, Ferrara may be allied with one or two of the Italian princes. Declaring on Ferrara will let you fight their Italian allies as well.

Check who they’re allied with and see if you can get CBs on any of them.

Some of them may ally with the Papal State or Venice, who you can rival and also fabricate claims on.

Note: Rivaling the Pope may get you excommunicated.


Option 2: Diplomacy

If you can’t tame an Italian prince through war, you can use diplomacy instead.

This is best for those small Italian princes who’re hard to reach, like Saluzzo and Siena.


Improve Relations

Your goal is to ally them and maintain at least +150 Opinion with them until 1460.

Austria is adept at improving relations with other nations.

They can get a total of +65% Improve Relations modifier:

Discounted Advisor Available at the Start / EU4
Discounted Advisor Available at the Start
  • +30% from their starting national tradition
  • +20% from a discounted advisor who’s available to them at the start
  • +15% in a trade node with the “Establish Communities” trading policy

For the third bonus, you’ll need a merchant assigned in Genoa or Venice (whichever node where your target princes are present).

You can also get a passive +25 Opinion by granting the “Religious Diplomats” privilege to your Clergy estate.

Lastly, you may want to pick up the Diplomatic idea group. Its first four ideas will give you:

  • +2 Diplomats
  • +1 Diplomatic Slot
  • +25% Improve Relations

Tip: This idea group synergizes well with Austria’s playstyle.


Granting Free City Status

One-province HRE minors with at least 20 development are eligible to become a Free City.

They must also be willing to be one.

Lucca and Siena are the only Italian republics who meet these criteria.

You can grant them the Free City status in the Diplomacy tab, under the Emperor actions.

Granting the Free City Status to Lucca / EU4
Granting the Free City Status to Lucca

However, the HRE already has the maximum 12 Free Cities allowed. You’ll have to revoke two of them to give space for the Italians.

Aachen and Rothenburg are good options, since they’re grain-producing nations. Konstanz is also an option if you plan on connecting your West German exclave to your capital.

The revoke button is the same one used for granting the status. It’ll be available for countries that are already Free Cities.

Note: You’ll lose -5 Imperial Authority from revoking a Free City’s status.


The Final Decision

Once you’ve reined in the Italians, go to your Decisions and Policies tab.

You’ll be able to click the “Rein in Italy” decision, which finishes the “Shadow Kingdom” incident.

Final Step in Resolving the Incident / EU4
Final Step in Resolving the Incident
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Louie Nelson Zafico

As a frustrated otter who dreams of getting published, Louie instead wastes his life cuddling his cats. He spent his childhood playing Suikoden, grew up with Total War, and matured (somewhat) with EU4. He hopes to someday find a geopolitical JRPG with the 4X systems of a Paradox game.