The Duchy of Milan was a state of the Holy Roman Empire in northern Italy. It was created in 1395, when it included twenty-six towns and the wide rural area of the middle Padan Plain east of the hills of Montferrat. During much of its existence, it was wedged between Savoy to the west, Venice to the east, the Swiss Confederacy to the north, and separated from the Mediterranean by Genoa to the south. The Duchy eventually fell to Habsburg Austria with the Treaty of Baden (1714), concluding the War of the Spanish Succession. The Duchy remained an Austrian possession until 1796, when a French army under Napoleon Bonaparte conquered it, and it ceased to exist a year later as a result of the Treaty of Campo Formio, when Austria ceded it to the new Cisalpine Republic.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna of 1815 restored many other states which he had destroyed, but not the Duchy of Milan. Instead, its former territory became part of the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, with the Emperor of Austria as its king. In 1859, Lombardy was ceded to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, which would become the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Duchy of Milan
Ducato di Milano (in Italian)
Ducatus Mediolani (in Latin)
Coat of arms of
Visconti and Sforza
Duchy of Milan in 1494
|Status||Fiefdom of the Holy Roman Empire|
(1395–1499; 1512–1515; 1521–1540)
Crown land of France
Holy Roman Empire territory of Habsburg Spain
Crown land of the Austrian Branch of the Habsburg Monarchy
|Common languages||Lombard, Italian|
|Government||Princely hereditary monarchy|
|Gian Galeazzo Visconti (first)|
|Francis II (last)|
|Historical era||Early Modern|
|May 1 1395|
• French Occupation
|1499–1512, 1515–1522 and 1524–1525|
• Habsburg Spain Occupation
• Habsburg Spain rule
• Austrian rule
• Annexation to the Transpadane Republic
|November 15 1796|
|Currency||Milanese scudo, lira and soldo|
|Today part of|| Italy |
The Duchy of Milan (Ducatus Mediolani) as a state of the Holy Roman Empire was created on 1 May 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan, purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus. It was this diploma that installed Visconti as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia.
At its foundation the duke's dominions included 26 towns and spanned from the hills of Montferrat to the Lagoons of Venice, and included all the former towns of the Lombard League. Milan thus became one of the five major states of the Italian peninsula in the 15th century.
When the last Visconti Duke, Filippo Maria, died in 1447 without a male heir, the Milanese declared the so-called Ambrosian Republic, which soon faced revolts and attacks from its neighbors. In 1450 mercenary captain Francesco Sforza, having previously married Filippo Maria Visconti's illegitimate daughter Bianca Maria, conquered the city and restored the Duchy, founding the House of Sforza.
During the rule of the Visconti and Sforza, the duchy had to defend its territory against the Swiss, the French and the Venetians, until the Betrayal of Novara in 1500 when the duchy passed to the French-claim of Louis XII.
In 1498, the Duke of Orleans became King of France as Louis XII, and immediately sought to make good his father's claim to Milan. He invaded in 1499 and soon ousted Lodovico Sforza. The French ruled the duchy until 1512, when they were ousted by the Swiss, who put Lodovico's son Massimiliano on the throne. Massimiliano's reign did not last very long. The French, now under Francis I, invaded the area in 1515 and reasserted their control at the Battle of Marignano. The French took Massimiliano as their prisoner. The French were again driven out in 1521, this time by the Austrians, who installed Massimiliano's younger brother, Francesco II Sforza.
Following the French defeat at Pavia in 1525, which left the Spanish imperial forces of Charles V dominant in Italy, Francesco joined the League of Cognac against the emperor along with Venice, Florence the Pope, and the French. This resulted quickly in his own expulsion from Milan by imperial forces, but he managed to remain in control of various other cities in the duchy, and was again restored to Milan itself by the peace concluded at Cambrai in 1529.
In 1535, Francesco died without heirs, the question of succession again arose, with both the emperor and the King of France claiming the duchy, leading to more wars. The Duchy of Parma was created in 1545 from a part of the Duchy of Milan south of the Po River, as a fief for Pope Paul III's illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, centered on the city of Parma.
The emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor held the duchy from 1526, eventually investing it on his son Philip II of Spain. The possession of the duchy by Habsburg Spain was finally recognized by the French in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559.
The Duchy of Milan remained in Habsburg Spain hands until the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), when the Austrians invaded it (1701). The Treaty of Baden, which ended the war in 1714, ceded Milan to Austria.
The duchy remained in Austrian hands until it was overrun by the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796. The duchy was ceded by Austria in the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, and formed the central part of the new Cisalpine Republic. After the defeat of Napoleon, based on the decisions of the Congress of Vienna on 9 June 1815, the Duchy of Milan was not restored. The Duchy instead became part of the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, a constituent of the Austrian Empire and with the Emperor of Austria as its king. This kingdom ceased to exist when the remaining portion of it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
The Italian Plague of 1629–1631 was a series of outbreaks of bubonic plague which ravaged northern and central Italy. This epidemic, often referred to as the Great Plague of Milan, claimed possibly one million lives, or about 25% of the population. This episode is considered one of the later outbreaks of the centuries-long pandemic of bubonic plague which began with the Black Death.Ambrogio Spinola, 1st Marquess of Balbases
Ambrogio Spinola Doria, 1st Marquess of The Balbases, GE, KOGF, KOS (Genoa, 1569 – Castelnuovo Scrivia, 25 September 1630) was an Italian condottiero and nobleman of the Republic of Genoa, who served for the Spanish crown and won a number of important battles. He is often called "Ambrosio" by Spanish speaking people and is considered one of the greatest military commanders of his time and in the history of the Spanish army. His military achievements earned him the title of Marquess of Balbases in the Spanish peerage, as well as the Order of the Golden Fleece and Order of Santiago.Armorial of Spanish monarchs in Italy
The Spanish monarchs of the House of Habsburg and Philip V used separate versions of their royal arms as sovereigns of the Kingdom of Naples-Sicily, Sardinia and the Duchy of Milan with the arms of these territories.Battle of Arbedo
The Battle of Arbedo was fought on June 30, 1422, between the Duchy of Milan and the Swiss Confederation.
In 1419, Uri and Unterwalden bought the Bellinzona stronghold from the Sacco barons, but were unable to defend it adequately. When, in 1422, they rejected the Milanese proposal to buy back the fortified town, their troops stationed in Bellinzona were put to rout by the Visconti army under the command of Francesco Bussone, called Il Carmagnola. An attempt to reconquer the fortified area with the support of other confederates led to the battle at Arbedo, a village 3 km (1.9 mi) north of Bellinzona. The Count of Carmagnola led the forces of the Duchy of Milan against the Swiss and was victorious.
The Swiss were mainly equipped with halberds and had an initial success against the Lombard cavalry charge. Then Carmagnola brought his crossbowmen forward, while dismounting his cavalry. The dismounted men-at-arms used pikes which outreached the halberds. The Swiss were further under pressure by the crossbow fire on the flanks.
The Milanese force began to push back the Swiss, who were only saved from total disaster by the appearance of a band of foragers, whom the Milanese were convinced represented a major new force. When the Milanese force pulled back to reform, the Swiss fled the battlefield, having taken heavy casualties.
The victory secured Bellinzona and the Leventina to the Duchy. In addition the Duchy gained the Val d'Ossola, thus the Swiss lost all the territorial gains they had made. The defeat discouraged the Swiss expansionist intentions towards Lake Maggiore for a long time. It was the defeat at Arbedo that made the Swiss increase the number of pikemen.Battle of Bicocca
The Battle of Bicocca or La Bicocca (Italian: Battaglia della Bicocca) was fought on 27 April 1522, during the Italian War of 1521–26. A combined French and Venetian force under Odet of Foix, Viscount of Lautrec, was decisively defeated by an Imperial–Spanish and Papal army under the overall command of Prospero Colonna. Lautrec then withdrew from Lombardy, leaving the Duchy of Milan in Imperial hands.
Having been driven from Milan by an Imperial advance in late 1521, Lautrec had regrouped, attempting to strike at Colonna's lines of communication. When the Swiss mercenaries in French service did not receive their pay, however, they demanded an immediate battle, and Lautrec was forced to attack Colonna's fortified position in the park of the Arcimboldi Villa Bicocca, north of Milan. The Swiss pikemen advanced over open fields under heavy artillery fire to assault the Imperial positions, but were halted at a sunken road backed by earthworks. Having suffered massive casualties from the fire of Spanish arquebusiers, the Swiss retreated. Meanwhile, an attempt by French cavalry to flank Colonna's position proved equally ineffective. The Swiss, unwilling to fight further, marched off to their cantons a few days later, and Lautrec retreated into Venetian territory with the remnants of his army.
The battle is noted chiefly for marking the end of the Swiss dominance among the infantry of the Italian Wars, and of the Swiss method of assaults by massed columns of pikemen without support from other troops. It was also one of the first engagements in which firearms played a decisive role on the battlefield.Battle of Novara (1513)
The Battle of Novara was a battle of the War of the League of Cambrai fought on 6 June 1513, near Novara, in Northern Italy.Biscione
The biscione (Italian pronunciation: [biʃˈʃoːne]; Milanese: bissa [ˈbisa], plural: "biscioni"), also known as "the vipera" ([ˈviːpera]; "viper"), is a heraldic charge showing on argent an azure serpent in the act of consuming a human; usually a child and sometimes described as a Moor or an Ottoman Turk. It was the emblem of the Visconti of Milan from the 11th century, becoming associated with Milan as the Visconti gained control over the city in 1277. When the Visconti family died out in the 15th century, the emblem retained its association with the Duchy of Milan and became part of the coats of arms of the House of Sforza; the presence of biscione in Poland (Sanok) and Belarus (Pruzhany) is due to queen Bona Sforza.
The word "biscione" is a masculine augmentative of Italian feminine "biscia", "non-venomous snake"; "grass snake" (corrupted from "bistia", ultimately from Latin "bestia").
As the symbol of Milan, the biscione is also used by the football club Inter Milan, by car manufacturer Alfa Romeo (also known as the "Casa del biscione", Italian for "House of the biscione" or "Biscione['s] marque") and, in a version where a flower replaces the child (maybe due to possible interpretations as a racist symbol), by Silvio Berlusconi's companies Mediaset and Fininvest and his residential zones Milano Due and Milano Tre (a stylized biscione made from the number "5" is also the symbol of Berlusconi's Canale 5). A similar design is found in the seals of the Hungarian nobleman Nicholas I Garay, palatine to the King of Hungary (1375–1385). Here the crowned snake devours a Sovereign's Orb, rather than a human.Comparable to the biscione are some depictions of the Hindu deity Matsya. While his form is referred to as anthropomorphically having a humanoid upper half, and his lower half as that of a fish', some depictions show him with his upper body emerging from the mouth of a fish. In Early Christian Art of the catacombs, the Old Testament prophet Jonah is depicted as a man being swallowed (or regurgitated) by a serpent-like Leviathan, a sea creature of Hebrew myth.Cispadane Republic
The Cispadane Republic (Italian: Repubblica Cispadana) was a short-lived republic located in northern Italy, founded in 1796 with the protection of the French army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte. In the following year, it was merged with the Transpadane Republic (until recently the Duchy of Milan) to form the Cisalpine Republic. These were French client states organized by Napoleon after the Battle of Lodi in May 1796. The republic's name refers to the "near side" of the River Po.House of Sforza
The House of Sforza (pronounced [ˈsfɔrtsa]) was a ruling family of Renaissance Italy, based in Milan. They acquired the Duchy of Milan from the previously-ruling Visconti family in the mid-15th century, and lost it to the Spanish Habsburgs about a century later.Italian War of 1494–1498
The First Italian War, sometimes referred to as the Italian War of 1494 or Charles VIII's Italian War, was the opening phase of the Italian Wars. The war pitted Charles VIII of France, who had initial Milanese aid, against the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, and an alliance of Italian powers led by Pope Alexander VI.Italian War of 1499–1504
The Second Italian War (1499–1504), sometimes known as Louis XII's Italian War or the War over Naples, was the second of the Italian Wars; it was fought primarily by Louis XII of France and Ferdinand II of Aragon, with the participation of several Italian powers. In the aftermath of the First Italian War, Louis was determined to press his claim on the thrones of Milan and Naples. And in 1499, Louis XII invaded Lombardy and seized Milan, to which he had a claim in right of his paternal grandmother Valentina Visconti, Duchess of Orléans.Juan Fernández de Velasco, 5th Duke of Frías
Juan Fernández de Velasco, 5th Duke of Frías (c. 1550 – 15 March 1613) was a Spanish nobleman and diplomat.List of governors of the Duchy of Milan
The Governor of Milan ruled the Duchy of Milan as a representative of the Holy Roman Emperor (1535-1556), the King of Spain (1556–1706) and the Archduke of Austria (1706–1796) and (1799–1800). The first governor was appointed after the death of the last duke of the House of Sforza, Francesco II.Louis XII of France
Louis XII (27 June 1462 – 1 January 1515) was King of France from 1498 to 1515 and King of Naples from 1501 to 1504. The son of Charles, Duke of Orléans, and Maria of Cleves, he succeeded his cousin Charles VIII, who died without a closer heir in 1498. Louis was the eighth French king from the House of Valois, and the first from the Orléans branch of that dynasty.
Before his accession to the throne of France, he was known as Louis of Orléans and was compelled to be married to his disabled and supposedly sterile cousin Joan by his second cousin, King Louis XI. By doing so, Louis XI hoped to extinguish the Orléans cadet branch of the House of Valois.Louis of Orléans was one of the great feudal lords who opposed the French monarchy in the conflict known as the Mad War. At the royal victory in the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier in 1488, Louis was captured, but Charles VIII pardoned him and released him. He subsequently took part in the Italian War of 1494–1498 as one of the French commanders.
When Louis XII became king in 1498, he had his marriage with Joan annulled by Pope Alexander VI and instead married Anne of Brittany, the widow of his cousin Charles VIII. This marriage allowed Louis to reinforce the personal Union of Brittany and France.
Louis persevered in the Italian Wars, initiating a second Italian campaign for the control of the Kingdom of Naples. Louis conquered the Duchy of Milan in 1500 and pushed forward to the Kingdom of Naples, which fell to him in 1501. Proclaimed King of Naples, Louis faced a new coalition gathered by Ferdinand II of Aragon and was forced to cede Naples to Spain in 1504.
Louis XII did not encroach on the power of local governments or the privileges of the nobility, in opposition with the long tradition of the French kings to attempt to impose absolute monarchy in France. A popular king, Louis was proclaimed "Father of the People" (French: Le Père du Peuple) in 1506 by the Estates-General of Tours for his reduction of the tax known as taille, legal reforms, and civil peace within France.
Louis, who remained Duke of Milan after the second Italian War, was interested in further expansion in the Italian Peninsula and launched a third Italian War (1508–1516), which was marked by the military prowess of the Chevalier de Bayard.
Louis XII died in 1515 without a male heir. He was succeeded by his cousin and son-in-law Francis from the Angoulême cadet branch of the House of Valois.Milanese scudo
The scudo was the currency of the Duchy of Milan until 1796. It was subdivided into 6 lire, each of 20 soldi or 240 denari. It was equal to the Conventionsthaler. It was replaced by the lira of the Cispadane Republic, with Cispadanian lira equal to the Milanese. This in turn was replaced in 1797 by the lira of the Cisalpine Republic, followed by the French franc in 1802. In 1816, the Lombardy-Venetia scudo was introduced, also equal to the Conventionsthaler.Republic of Crema
The so-called Republic of Crema (Italian: Repubblica Cremasca) was a revolutionary municipality in Lombardy, which was created when the French army entered Crema on 28 March 1797. It ruled the local affairs of the city and its neighbourhood, which previously were a Venetian exclave in the Duchy of Milan. The municipality entered then into the Cisalpine Republic in July 1797.Treaty of Lodi
The Treaty of Lodi, also known as the Peace of Lodi was a peace agreement between Milan, Naples, and Florence signed on 9 April 1454 at Lodi in Lombardy, on the banks of the Adda. It put an end to the long struggles between expansive Milan, under Filippo Maria Visconti, and Venice in the terraferma, which had produced a single decisive Venetian victory, at the battle of Maclodio in 1427, in which the Venetian ally was Florence, but had resulted in no lasting peace: see Wars in Lombardy. After a further generation of intermittent seasonal campaigning, the Treaty of Lodi established permanent boundaries between Milanese and Venetian territories in Northern Italy, along the river Adda. Francesco Sforza was confirmed as the rightful duke of Milan. A principle of a balance of power in Northern Italy was established, one that excluded ambitions of smaller states: the republic of Genoa, the house of Savoy, the Gonzaga and the Este.
A related agreement was signed at Venice on 30 August, among Milan, Venice and Florence, which had switched sides, in which the parties bound themselves to principles of non-aggression. The Kingdom of Naples and the smaller cities, even the Papal States, soon joined the Italic League. Thus, the Peace of Lodi brought Milan and Naples into a definitive peace alliance with Florence. Francesco Sforza would base his lifelong external policy on this principle of balance of power. The status quo established at Lodi lasted until 1494, when French troops intruded into Italian affairs under Charles VIII, initiating the Italian Wars.
The Treaty was abrogated in 1483 when Venice and the Pope fought a war against Milan.War of the League of Cambrai
The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars. The main participants of the war, fought from 1508 to 1516, were France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice; they were joined, at various times, by nearly every significant power in Western Europe, including Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England, the Duchy of Milan, Florence, the Duchy of Ferrara and Swiss mercenaries.
Pope Julius II, intending to curb Venetian influence in northern Italy, had created the League of Cambrai, an anti-Venetian alliance consisting of himself, Louis XII of France, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. Although the League was initially successful, friction between Julius and Louis caused it to collapse by 1510; Julius then allied himself with Venice against France.
The Veneto–Papal alliance eventually expanded into the Holy League, which drove the French from Italy in 1512; disagreements about the division of the spoils, however, led Venice to abandon the alliance in favor of one with France. Under the leadership of Francis I, who had succeeded Louis to the throne, the French and Venetians would, through victory at Marignano in 1515, regain the territory they had lost; the treaties of Noyon and Brussels, which ended the war the next year, would essentially return the map of Italy to the status quo of 1508.War of the League of Cognac
The War of the League of Cognac (1526–30) was fought between the Habsburg dominions of Charles V—primarily the Holy Roman Empire and Habsburg Spain—and the League of Cognac, an alliance including the Kingdom of France, Pope Clement VII, the Republic of Venice, the Kingdom of England, the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Florence.
|French Revolutionary |
and Napoleonic eras