Grand Duchy of MilanTimeline: The Once and Never Kings
OTL equivalent: Lombardy
Location of Milan in green.
|Government||Unitary Constitutional Monarchy|
|-||Grand Dukes||Francesco V|
The Grand Duchy of Milan, Milan, Lombardy, is a unitary constitutional monarchy in northern Italy, in the Holy Roman Empire. It borders Austria-Bohemia, Venice, Mantua, Parma, Genoa, Savoy, and various Swiss states.
Established during the Roman Empire, the city of Milan has long been a prosperous city of trade. The Visconti family would rise to power as "Lords of Milan" in 1277, beginning one of the longest reigning dynasties in the world.
The Duchy of Milan was established in 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti was granted the title of Duke from the Luxembourg Emperor Wenceslaus. Maintaining a relatively low profile in the Holy Roman Empire, it would aid the Empire in the First Francian-Imperial War, helping the Savoyan army in defending Nice and Monaco.
The populace, thanks in part to Milans (and the rest of Italy's) proximity to the Papal States, remained reliably Catholic, even as the Reformation dragged Germany and Francia into bitter religious conflicts. Criticized for sitting out the Schmalkaldic War in favor of a smaller one with Parma and Genoa, it eagerly joined the Catholic League as the Forty Years War broadened. Milanese armies under the command of Duke Fransesco II scored several victories against those of Auvergne and Aragon. The death of Fransesco II in 1636, however, saw Milans fortunes drop drastically, as the incompetent Duke Galeazzo IV tried to force a combined Italian army into Toulouse and Auvergne, leading to the devastating 1645 defeat at the Battle of Rodez, in which Galeazzo IV died. His successor, Galeazzo V, managed to scrape together a defensive line in Savoy, but didn't find the resources to mount a counter attack into Provence or Naples.
One of the few Catholic states promoted in the aftermath of the Forty Years War, Milan became a Grand Duchy and Electorate in 1675. Several lackluster Grand Dukes seemed to have Milan sliding on the verge of irrelevancy until the succession of Stephano III. Becoming Grand Duke on the eve of the Third Francian-Imperial War, he took personal command of the armies during the conflict. He soundly defeated Francian-Aragonese armies, first at the Battle of Monaco, then at the Battle of Geneva. After coordinating a repulse of Aragons Army of Naples, Stephano III lead an invasion of southern Francia, taking Marseille and Arles within days of each other, before crossing the Rhone into now Aragonese Toulouse. With their armies collapsing in the south and north (following successive Luxemborugish and Hanseatic victories in the Low Countries), Francia sued for peace. Stephano was credited with the majority of the victory, and was subsequently elected Holy Roman Emperor a few years later. However, the throne failed to stay with the Viscontis after his death.
Stephano III's great-grandson, Grand Duke Stephano V, would have less success in his 1842-1856 reign. Stephano V joined an anti-revolutionary coalition in 1848, following the collapse of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and the establishment of a radical revolutionary republic. Two successive coalitions would be beaten back by the Tuscan Republican armies, commanded by General Napoleone di Buonaparte, and many of Milans southern neighbors would be annexed. Milan itself would fall, along with the Papal States, Savoy, and Venice, in 1855, leading Bounaparte to proclaim himself "Emperor of the Italians".
As a party of the Italian Empire, Milan would be sapped of resources, and its people, those not being killed on Francian, Iberian, or German battlefields, suffered under water and food shortages. The Milanese Royal Family commanded several regiments of escaped Milanese during the Napoleonic Wars, and we're the first through the gates of the city of Milan when it was liberated in 1863.
The Grand Duchy of Milan was gladly re-established in the Conference of Antwerp, and Stephano V's son, Galeazzo VII, would be properly coronated in the Cathedral of Milan.
Today the preeminent North Italian state, Milan has one of the largest militaries in the empire.