Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/142

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

was succeeded in 1466 by his son Galeazzo Maria, who was assassinated in the Church of San Stefano in 1476, leaving a young son, Gian Galeazzo, then about eight years old. The government was carried on by his mother, Bona of Savoy, in the name of the infant and in her own. But dissensions soon arose between the regent and her brothers-in-law. In the first encounter Bona and her chief counsellor, Cicco Simonetta, were victorious, and the brothers of Galeazzo Maria were obliged to leave the city. But before long Ludovico, the ablest of the sons of Francesco Sforza, took advantage of the rivalry between Tassino, the favourite of the duchess, and Simonetta, to procure his own readmission. The fall and execution of Simonetta followed, and from 1479 the real government of Milan lay in the hands of Ludovico, whose power was further secured in 1480, when he seized the person of the young duke and the duchess was obliged to leave Milan. Henceforward the rule of Ludovico was not seriously challenged. The young duke was a prisoner, and Ludovico managed everything in his name. Nor was the condition of the unfortunate young man improved even after his marriage to Isabella, the grand-daughter of the King of Naples.

Thus at the time when our story begins, the whole force and policy of Milan was moved at the will of one man. Ludovico, called the Duke of Bari from the Neapolitan fief he owned, and known from his complexion as the Moor, made a great impression on the men of his time. He was a master of every political art as then understood by Italian statesmen. By his wisdom he had risen, and by it he aspired to dominate Italy. Mistakes he made, no doubt, as for instance in marrying his nephew to the Neapolitan princess. But his versatile and unscrupulous intelligence, well served by his agents with information from every Court, was never at a loss for an expedient to meet a difficulty. His weakness was partly the weakness of his school of statesmanship, in which good faith and consistency were not valued as political qualities. A more serious defect was the lack of courage and nerve which he showed under the stress of danger. His munificence towards artists and men of letters, his luxurious and noble ostentation, while they tended no doubt to diminish his unpopularity, proved a heavy burden on his finances, and increased the weight of his exactions.

The State over which he ruled was one of the richest of Italy. His annual revenue was estimated at 700,000 ducats, about the same sum as Ferrante raised from Naples. The Dukes of Milan, though frequently embarrassed, again and again surprise us by the enormous sums of which they disposed. Thus Ludovico was able to give to Maximilian with his niece, Bianca Maria, no less a sum as dowry than 400,000 ducats. Only Venice had more ample resources; and the fixed charges on the Venetian treasury were heavier than Milan had to bear. The Duke of Milan controlled Genoa and her navy, which, although no longer a match for that of Venice, could be employed with great effect on the