- Giovanni delle Bande Nere, Ludovico di Giovanni known as (1498-1526)
Forlì, 1498 – Mantua, 1526
- mercenary military leader and condottiere
Forlì, Florence, Rome, Lombardy and elsewhere
- Biographical information:
The son of Giovanni il Popolano and Caterina Sforza Riario, his father died while he was still a tiny infant. He was baptised Ludovico after Ludovico il Moro, but after his father's death Caterina called him Giovanni. His mother brought him to Florence, where he was given a literary education. Very soon, however, the youth revealed an unruly and rebellious temperament, and a distinct preference for hunting, horses and weapons rather than books and learning. At the age of twelve he was condemned to banishment for having murdered a youth of his own age.
When Leo X de' Medici was elected Pope in 1513, Giovanni moved to Rome in his retinue, where he enrolled in the militia. With the papal troops he fought alongside Lorenzo, Leo X's nephew, in the war of Urbino in 1516. Despite his feisty character, he demonstrated particular military acumen, especially in the Lombardy war in which the Pope and the Spanish lined up against the French. As a reward for his merits he was assigned a garrison of 600 infantry, which later became known as "delle Bande Nere" on account of the black bands added to the insignia as a sign of mourning after the death of Leo X in 1520.
Meanwhile, in 1516 Giovanni married Maria di Giacomo Salviati, granddaughter of Lorenzo il Magnifico on her mother's side. From this union, which reunited the two branches of the family, Cosimo was born (later Cosimo I, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany), whose godfather was Leo X himself. In this new-born child the Medici pope invested his hopes for the legitimate succession of the Medici family.
Giovanni delle Bande Nere fought in the service of both the French and the Imperial forces. In 1524 the Duke of Milan Francesco II Sforza granted him the feud of Busto Arsizio and other territories in the area of Lodi. In 1526, after the League had been set up between Francis I of France and Clement VII, Giovanni confronted the Imperial Landsknechts invading Lombardy again at the head of the papal infantry. Grievously wounded in the leg by the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I d'Este, at Borgoforte on the Po close to Mantua, he died on 30 December 1526.
His body, buried in the church of the Dominicans in Mantua, was not transferred to Florence until 1685, where it was interred in the Chapel of the Princes in San Lorenzo.
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