End of Europe's Middle Ages

The Visconti and Sforza in Milan

Giangaleazzo Visconti's royal ambitions led him to expand Milanese control throughout most of Lombardy, east toward Venice and southward into the Papal States and Tuscany. His bureaucracy was extremely efficient and included perhaps the best espionage network of the period - his ambassadors in Rome were known to have sent two or three dispatches each day in times of crisis. Giangaleazzo Visconti died unexpectedly in 1402 just as he was beginning to mount his campaign against Florence. His son, Gian Maria (1402-1412) was a psychopath who quickly alienated his supporters and was assassinated by his brother, Filippo Maria (1412-1447).

Galeazzo Maria Sforza

Filippo Maria tried to re-establish his father's policies but by then surrounding states were better prepared to resist Milanese expansion. He died without heirs and his daughter, Bianca, married Francesco Sforza, one of the most powerful mercenary captains in Milan. After three years of trying to establish republican government, the Milanese asked Sforza to step in and restore order in 1450. Having settled the situation, Sforza declared himself to be the successor to the Visconti dynasty through his wife and ruled as Duke of Milan until his death in 1466.

Francesco's son, Galeazzo Maria (1466-1476), proved to be so malignant that his assassination was plotted by leading Milanese families who argued that a tyrant should be killed for the good of the community. The infant Giangaleazzo Sforza (1467-1494) was left to rule with first his mother and then his uncle, Lodovico Sforza (1494-1499), as regents.

Lodovico expropriated the ducal power as regent and finally took the title for himself when Giangaleazzo died in 1494. Incompetent both militarily and diplomatically, Lodovico was considered a boorish usurper by many people in Milan as well as outside the state. When the French king, Louis XII (1498-1515), claimed the duchy, Lodovico was quickly deserted and forced to flee in 1499, leaving Milan to French domination.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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