Duchy of Milan

Duchy of Milan

Ducato di Milano (in Italian)
Ducatus Mediolani (in Latin)
Duchy of Milan in 1494
Duchy of Milan in 1494
StatusFiefdom of the Holy Roman Empire
(1395–1499; 1512–1515; 1521–1540)
Crown land of France
(1499–1512; 1515–1521)
Holy Roman Empire territory of Habsburg Spain
Crown land of the Austrian Branch of the Habsburg Monarchy
Common languagesLombard, Italian
Roman Catholicism
GovernmentPrincely hereditary monarchy
• 1395–1402
Gian Galeazzo Visconti (first)
• 1792–1796
Francis II (last)
Historical eraEarly 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
CurrencyMilanese scudo, lira and soldo
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Commune of Milan
Golden Ambrosian Republic
Golden Ambrosian Republic
Transpadane Republic
County of Guastalla
Today part ofItaly Italy
Switzerland Switzerland

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.


The House of Visconti had ruled Milan since 1277, in which year Ottone Visconti defeated Napoleone della Torre.

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,[1] purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus.[2] It was this diploma that installed Visconti as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia.[2]

Duchy of Milan in 14th Century, before Gian Galeazzo Visconti's conquests

At its foundation the duke's dominions included 26 towns and spanned from the hills of Montferrat to the Lagoons of Venice,[dubious ] and included all the former towns of the Lombard League.[2][3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]