Siege of Novara, 3-6 June 1513

The siege of Novara (3-6 June 1513) was the highpoint of the French invasion of Milan of 1513, and was ended by the arrival of strong Swiss reinforcements who defeated the French in battle outside Novara (6 June 1513).

In April Louis XII of France sent 12,000 men under Prince Louis de le Trémoille across the Alps to recapture Milan. The French had captured Milan in 1499 (Second Italian War), had held it against a counterattack in 1500, but had then lost it to the Swiss in 1512. They installed Massimiliano Sforza as Duke of Milan, but the duchy became something of a Swiss protectorate.

In 1513 the Swiss position came under attack from several sides. La Trémoille threatened from the west, the French also secured control of Genoa, and their Venetian allies were pressing from the east. Sforza and the Swiss were unpopular in Milan, and as the French advanced their supporters rose against the Swiss. By the end of May Sforza and the Swiss only held Novara and Como.

On 3 June the French army arrived outside Novara, which was defended by a Swiss garrison. Trémoille attempted an attack on the town, but after this he was repulsed, pulled back a short distance and prepared for a longer siege. The Swiss inside Novara are said to have opened the city gates in an attempt to fight the French inside the walls rather than suffer through a regular siege.

The decision to pull back would prove to be a mistake. The Swiss sent a 5,000 strong relief force on a rapid march to Novara. Once there they combined with the garrison and launched a fierce attack on the French (Battle of Novara, 6 June 1513). The French were caught by surprise and suffered a heavy defeat. Only the Swiss lack of cavalry saved the French from even more serious losses.

The French were forced to retreat back out of Lombardy, and Sforza was restored at Milan, at least for the moment. Later in the year the Swiss invaded Burgundy, and were only repulsed after La Trémouille agreed to pay them 400,000 crowns.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 December 2014), Siege of Novara, 3-6 June 1513 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_novara_1513.html

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