Bianca Maria Sforza

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Bianca Maria Sforza
Ambrogio de Predis 002.jpg
Bianca Maria Sforza, portrait by Ambrogio de Predis
Queen consort of Germany
Duchess consort of Austria
Tenure 16 March 1494 – 31 December 1510
16 March 1494 – 31 December 1510
Empress of the Holy Roman Empire
Tenure 1508 – 31 December 1510
House House of Sforza
Father Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan
Mother Bona of Savoy
Born 5 April 1472
Milan, Italy
Died 31 December 1510 (aged 38)
Burial Stams

Bianca Maria Sforza (5 April 1472 – 31 December 1510) was Holy Roman Empress as the second wife of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the eldest legitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, by his second wife, Bona of Savoy.

Family and lineage[edit]

Bianca was born in Pavia on 5 April 1472, the eldest daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, by his second wife, Bona of Savoy, whom he had married in 1468, a year after the death of his first wife, Dorotea Gonzaga, who did not bear him children. Bianca's paternal grandparents were Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, for whom she was named. Her maternal grandparents were Louis, Duke of Savoy and Anne de Lusignan of Cyprus. She had an older brother Gian Galeazzo Sforza, who married their first cousin, Isabella of Naples, by whom he had issue, and a younger sister Anna Sforza, first wife of Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, who, after Anna's death in childbirth, would marry secondly, Lucrezia Borgia. Bianca's older illegitimate half-sister was Caterina Sforza from her father's relationship with Lucrezia Landriani. Her uncle was Ludovico Sforza Il Moro, Duke of Milan, who married Beatrice d'Este, and her aunt was Ippolita Maria Sforza, first wife of King Alfonso II of Naples.

When Bianca was not yet five years old, her father was assassinated inside the Church of Santo Stefano in Milan on 26 December 1476, which was the Feast Day of St. Stephen. He was stabbed to death by three high-ranking officials of the Milanese court.


In January 1474, when Bianca was not quite two years old, she married her first cousin Philibert I, Duke of Savoy, the son of her uncle Amadeus IX of Savoy, and Yolande of France.[1] Duke Philibert died in the spring of 1482, leaving Bianca a widow at the age of ten. She returned to Milan. She was not given much of an education, but was allowed to indulge her own interests, which was mainly needle work.

On 16 March 1494,[2] in Hall, Tyrol, she married secondly, the King of the Romans, Maximilian I, who had been a widower since the tragic death of his much-loved first wife Mary of Burgundy on 27 March 1482, when she was fatally injured after falling from her horse. Her second marriage was arranged by her uncle, who wanted recognition and the title of Duke confirmed by the Emperor; in exchange, the Emperor received a large dowry along with Bianca. Her magnificent retinue on her way to her wedding aroused much attention.

At her wedding, Bianca wore a bodice "with eighty pieces of the jeweler's art pinned thereon, with each piece consisting of one ruby and four pearls".[3] She also brought her husband a rich dowry of 400,000 ducats,[3] and through his marriage, Maximilian was able to assert his right to the Imperial overlordship of Milan. This angered Anne of France, regent of France for her brother King Charles VIII, and brought about French intervention in Italy, thus inaugurating the lengthy Italian Wars.

Maximilian and Bianca's marriage was unhappy; Maximilian said that she may be as beautiful as his first spouse but not as wise.[citation needed] He considered Bianca to be uneducated, overly talkative, naive, wasteful with money, and careless.[citation needed] It happened several times that he left her behind as security when he could not pay for his rooms on trips. He did wish to have children with her, but all their attempts failed: despite Bianca's several pregnancies, none produced a living child. She very much liked his children, but was criticized for forgetting her dignity when she sat on the floor with them to play. After 1500, Maximilian lost all interest in her. She lived with her own court of Milanese people in various castles in the Tirol.[citation needed]

Bianca, 1505/1510

Maximilian took the title of Holy Roman Emperor Elect in 1508. Bianca was, by marriage, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire.

Bianca had no children of her own. She had two stepchildren from Maximilian's marriage to Mary of Burgundy, Philip the Handsome, who married Joanna of Castile, and Archduchess Margaret of Austria, who married firstly, John, Prince of Asturias and secondly Philibert II, Duke of Savoy.

Bianca Maria Sforza died at Innsbruck on 31 December 1510. She was buried at Stams.

A noteworthy portrait of Bianca Maria Sforza by Ambrogio de Predis hangs in the National Gallery of Art of the United States in Washington, D.C.


  1. ^ Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Dukes of Milan
  2. ^ Hunt, Lynn; Martin, Thomas R.; Rosenwein, Barbara H.; Hsia, R. Po-chia; Smith, Bonnie G. (2007), The Making of the West II (Second ed.), Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, p. 458, ISBN 978-0-312-43946-0 
  3. ^ a b George R. Marek, The Bed and the Throne: The Life of Isabella D'Este, p. 42, Harper & Row, 1976, ISBN 978-0-06-012810-4

References and literature[edit]

  • Hellmut Andics: Die Frauen der Habsburger.. J&V, Wien, 1985
  • Hermann Wiesflecker: Maximilian I., Wien/München 1991, ISBN 3-7028-0308-4 and ISBN 3-486-55875-7
  • Thea Leitner: Habsburgs Goldene Bräute. Piper, 2005
  • Sigrid-Maria Größing: Maximilian I. – Kaiser–Künstler–Kämpfer. Amalthea, Wien 2002 ISBN 3-85002-485-7

External links[edit]

Bianca Maria Sforza
Born: 5 April 1472 Died: 31 December 1510
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Eleanor of Portugal
Empress consort of
the Holy Roman Empire

Succeeded by
Isabella of Portugal
Queen consort of Germany
Archduchess consort of Austria
Duchess consort of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola