Friday, 8 April 2016

Ludovico Sforza

Hello everyone,
I promised today that I would post on Ludovico Sforza, so here it is. He led a very dark life, but also one full of victories.


Richard Mills

Ludovico Sforza was an influential figure in the time of the Renaissance. As well as being the Regent, and later, the Duke of Milan, he commissioned great artworks from greats such as Leonardo da Vinci, and engaged in war, but what is behind the scenes is deeper than that of an art patron.
Upon the death of Ludovico’s nephews father, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Ludovico’s nephew, Gian Galeazzo Sforza, became the Duke of Milan and Ludovico became the Regent of Milan. This was due to the fact that Gian was only seven when he inherited the role of Duke. Upon his title of Regent, Ludovico began commissioning work from famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, who had initially come to Milan to show the Duke his war plans, and his war machinery, such as the tank, that was                                   
propelled by cogs, not horses, and other miraculous inventions that were made by Leonardo. However, the Duke was more interested in showing off his wealth, so he commissioned a portrait of one of his mistresses to be painted by Leonardo. This painting was called the ‘Lady with the Ermine’, an ermine being a stoat, or weasel like rodent that has a white coat of fur. He was also responsible for the commissioning of the ‘Last Supper’ painted by Leonardo da Vinci at the Bascilla de Santa Maria delle Grazie, however, matters of power were becoming increasingly tense for Ludovico for as Gian grew older, Ludovico realised that his power over Milan would soon be snatched away from him by his nephew, so, luckily for Ludovico, Gian suspiciously died. This has been credited to Ludovico, but this area is still very murky, and the mystery may never be solved. Back to the point. Ludovico gained from this ‘sudden’ death, and became the Duke of Milan, and seized his opportunity to use his newfound wealth, to spend money, and show-off his power to all that would look.

Ludovico seemed to have luck in his life up until the point of his appointment as Duke of Milan. After his appointment, his wife died, and Ludovico was inconsolable. To add to this, Louis XII, the King of France, made claim that he was the hereditary ruler of Milan, as his grandmother was Valentina Visconti, the daughter of Giangaleazzo Visconti, who was the first Duke of Milan. Previously, Ludovico had involved the previous French King, Charles VIII, into Italian politics, so with this new claim, the new French King attacked Milan. Without the support of the other Italian city-states, the French forces easily forced Ludovico out of Milan, but Ludovico escaped the French forces, and, after living in exile, sought help from the holy roman emperor  at the time, Maximilian I.
After aid from Maximilian, Ludovico returned to Milan with an army of mercenaries, and lived in his base camp, Novara, for two months before Louis XII laid siege once again. In the battle between the two armies, Ludovico’s army fell to pieces as both armies consisted of Swiss mercenaries who insisted that they would not fight against their own, and left the war.           This left Ludovico defenceless, and he was captured by the French.

As time went by, Louis XII gave Ludovico more freedom, and he was able to roam the grounds of Lys-Saint-Georges, in Berry, where he was being held captive, and fish in the moat as well as receive guests, but soon he fell ill. After falling ill, Louis gave him his own physician, and a dwarf to entertain him.

Soon later, Ludovico was moved to the chateau of Loches, where he was given even more freedom. All this time, Louis did not see Ludovico, and despite desperate pleas from Emperor Maximilian, did not free him, but in 1508, four years after he was moved to the chateau, Ludovico tried to escape, but to no avail. All his amenities were taken away from him, including his books, and freedom was no more an option. He was held in the dungeon of the chateau where he died on the 17th of May that year. If only he didn’t make that move to escape, he could have died in comfort!

Soon later, in 1535, his daughter Francesco II died, and sparked the Italian wars all over again, however, this time, Milan passed over to the Spanish Empire.   

While you may now think of him as a selfish ruler, that is in wrong. While he did make some mistakes in life, like inviting Charles VIII into Italian politics, and killing his nephew, he did allow universities in Pavia and Milan to flourish, although some grumbled at the heavy taxes needed to do this. He invested in many industries such as the agriculture, horse and cattle breeding and the metal industry. He sponsored fortifications and engineering, and commissioned some of the greatest artworks in all of Europe, and as a result, artists and poets were drawn to Milan from all over Europe and Italy. He widened the streets and canals and employed 20, 000 in the silk trade and continued work on the Cathedral of Milan. He adorned the streets with gardens, and the people rejoiced in his splendour and magnificent celebrations.