Visconti, Bianca Maria (1423–1470)

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Visconti, Bianca Maria (1423–1470)

Duchess of Milan. Name variations: Bianca Maria Sforza; Blanca Maria. Born in 1423 in Milan, Italy; died in 1470 (some sources cite 1468) in Milan; daughter of Duke Filippo Maria Visconti (r. 1402–1447) and his mistress Agnes del Maino; married Francesco Sforza (1401–1466), 4th duke of Milan (r. 1450–1466), in 1441; grandmother of Caterina Sforza (c. 1462–1509); children: Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444–1476), 5th duke of Milan (r. 1466–1476); Ascanio (1445–1505, a cardinal); Ippolita (1446–1484, who married Alphonso II, king of Naples); Sforza Maria (1449–1479), duke of Bari; Lodovico il Moro Sforza (1451–1508, who married Beatrice d'Este [1427–1497]); Ottaviano. Francesco had two illegitimate children: Sforza "Secondo" (1433–1501), count of Borgonovo, and Tristano (d. 1477, who married Beatrice d'Este da Correggio [1427–1497]).

Bianca Maria Visconti was the only child of the duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, and his mistress Agnes del Maino . When she was about nine years old, Filippo betrothed her to his ally, the Italian noble Francesco Sforza, whom she married in 1441. Bianca had six children with Francesco. On Duke Filippo's death in 1447, he named Alphonso II of Aragon, king of Naples, as his heir to Milan; Bianca and Francesco, who believed that Bianca should succeed as Filippo's only child, went to war with Alphonso for the right of succession. The battle eventually involved many other Italian city-states which had a vested interest in who controlled the powerful and prosperous Milanese duchy. Three years later, Francesco and Bianca emerged victorious, and co-ruled Milan until Francesco's death in 1466. Bianca then continued to rule with her eldest son, Galeazzo Maria, before retiring; she was also responsible for the upbringing of Caterina Sforza , Galeazzo's illegitimate daughter, who would become a powerful force in Italian politics. Bianca Maria Visconti was known for her generous patronage of artists and charitable contributions to religious establishments. She was adored by the people as a champion of the oppressed, and was also known as a peacemaker. She died in 1470 at age 46.


Echols, Anne, and Marty Williams. An Annotated Index of Medieval Women. NY: Markus Wiener, 1992.

Jackson, Guida. Women Who Ruled. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1985.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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Visconti, Bianca Maria (1423–1470)

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