Villefranche was for many centuries part of the Savoyard lands in southern France. In 1543 a Franco-Turkish army sacked and occupied Nice and its surrounding areas. The town was reoccupied by the Savoys and Duke Emmanuel Philibert decided fortification was necessary.
The massive Citadel in Villefranche was begun in 1557 and completed to pretty much the form we see it today within five years. In the late 17th Century the French once more occupied the area but were forced to return it to the Savoyards after the Treaty of Utrecht.
Villefranche slowly became less important and Nice rose in prominence. In 1744 the French returned once more, this time with Spanish troops alongside and overran the City which was by this point part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. After this brief skirmish the Sardinians took control once more and kept it until 1793 when Napoleon arrived and took the area for France yet again.
In 1814 the Congress of Vienna returned Villefranche and Nice to Sardinia, but not many years later the whole area became part of the Maritime-Alpes department of France. In 1981 the local council got ownership of the Citadel and today it houses the town hall, a convention centre, a museum and an open air theatre.
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