Battle of Novara, 8 April 1500

The battle of Novara (8 April 1500) was an easy French victory that ended an attempt by Ludovico Sforza to expel them from the Duchy of Milan (Second Italian War/ Italian War of Louis XII).

In 1494 Ludovico, then the regent to the young Duke of Milan, had sided with Charles VIII of France at the start of his invasion of Naples (First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII), but in 1495 he switched sides, joining an anti-French alliance that forced Charles to leave Naples and fight his way home. The future Louis XII was heavily involved in the fighting against Milanese forces in the north of Italy.

In 1498 Charles died and Louis came to the throne. From the start of his reign he claimed to be King of Naples and Duke of Milan, and he spent the first year preparing for an invasion. The invasion came in August 1499, and at the start of September Ludovico was forced to flee from Milan into exile in the Tyrol. In October-November Louis visited Milan. When Louis left Gian Giacomo Trivulzio was placed in charge in Milan.

Ludovico was able to raise an army of around 20,000 men in the Tyrol, with a powerful Swiss contingent and 1,500 men-at-arms from Burgundy. In January this army launched an attack on Milan. The French were outnumbered, and on 3 February 1500 Trivulzio abandoned Milan and retreated west to Novara and Mortara.

Ludovico returned to Milan on 5 February, and received an enthusiastic welcome. The French still held the Castle of Milan, so he was forced to split his army. Part of it was left to besiege the castle, while the rest moved south to Pavia, then west to Vigecano, which they took from the French. The next target was Novara, which fell after a two week long siege (siege of Novara, 5-21 March 1500).

The French hadn’t been inactive during this period. On 23 March Louis de la Tremouille reached Mortara with 500 men at arms and some artillery. He replaced the unpopular Trivulzio, improving the morale of the French army.

At the same time conditions in Ludovico's army were getting worse. Pay was running short, and the loyalty of his Swiss troops was in some doubt - Louis had signed an official treaty with the Swiss Cantons before the war and it was possible that his Swiss troops would refuse to fight their countrymen.

On 8 April the French attacked Ludovico at Novara and his army dissolved. Ludovico attempted to escape amongst the retreating Swiss, but was captured on 10 April, spending the remaining ten years of his life in French captivity. The French re-entered Milan, beginning a period of intermittent French control of the duchy which lasted into the 1530s. Louis then prepared for the second part of his Italian adventure, a joint Franco-Spanish invasion of Naples.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 September 2014), Battle of Novara, 8 April 1500 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_novara_1500.html

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