Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

Bernabo Visconti is deposed by his nephew Gian Galeazzo (1385)

While the French are becoming involved in the quarrels of Provence and Naples, a coup d'etat takes place in Milan.

Book II, ch. 158 (Johnes, v. II, pp. 31-32).  At this period, another marvellous event happened in Lombardy, which
was the subject of general conversation. The count de Vertus, whose name was John Galeas Visconti, and his uncle were the greatest personages in all Lombardy. Sir Galeas and sir Bernabo were brothers, and had peaceably reigned and governed that country. One of these lords possessed nine cities, and the other ten; the city of Milan was under their government alternately, one year each.

When sir Galeas, the father of the count de Vertus, died, the affections of the uncle for his nephew were much weakened; and sir Galeas suspected, that now his father was dead, his uncle Bernabo would seize his lordships, in like manner as sir Galeas,
his father, and uncle Bernabo had done to their brother sir Matthew, whom they had put to death. The count de Vertus was very suspicious, and plainly showed that he had his fears of this event taking place. However, by his actions and the capture he made, he proved himself the more subtle of the two. I will relate the circumstance

Sir Bernabo heavily oppressed that part of Lombardy of which he was lord, and taxed his vassals, two or three times a-year, a half or a third of their wealth; but none dared to murmur against him. Sir Galeas, count de Vertus, to acquire popularity and praise, did not levy any taxes on his possessions, but simply lived on his rents. This mode he had followed for five years, ever since the death of his father, which gained him so much the love of the Lombards, that they all praised him, and lived happily under him; whilst, on the contrary, they abused underhand sir Bernabo, who would not leave them anything. The count de Vertus (who had formed his plan, and was acting accordingly, from the suspicions he had of his uncle, and, as some said, from appearances having been manifested, that confirmed them) issued a secret summons to those in whom he confided the most:
to some of whom be revealed his plan, but not to all, lest it should be made public. A day had been appointed by sir Bernabo to make an excursion of pleasure from one of his castles to another. Upon this, his nephew placed three ambuscades on the road sir Bernabo was to take; so that it was not possible but he must fall into one of them. He had ordered that he should be made prisoner, and on no account killed, unless he made too obstinate a defence

Thus as sir Bernabo was riding from one town to another, mistrusting no evil, nor any way thinking of his nephew, but considering himself as perfectly safe, he entered one of the ambuscades, when the men planted in ambush instantly advanced to him full speed and with lances in their rests. Sir Bernabo had a German knight with him, who cried out, "My lord, save yourself! for I see people of a bad mien coming towards you, and I know them to be persons belonging to your nephew sir Galeas."

Sir Bernabo replied, that "he was not acquainted with any place where he could save himself, if they had any evil intentions against him, and that he was unconscious of having done anything against his nephew that should make him fly."

Those who had been placed in ambuscade continued advancing towards sir Bernabo. When the German, who was a man of honour and knight of the body to sir Bernabo, saw them thus approaching his lord, having the sword of his master before him,
he instantly drew it out of its scabbard and placed it in the hands of sir Bernabo (which was seen by those who were pressing forward); and then the knight drew his own sword, like a valiant man, and put himself on his defence. This, however, did not avail, for he as well as sir Bernabo were instantly surrounded, and the knight was slain under pretence that at the commencement he meant to defend himself; for whose death sir Galeas was afterwards sorely vexed.

Sir Bernabo was made prisoner without any defence made by him or his attendants, and carried to a castle where his nephew was, who much rejoiced on his arrival. That same day his wife and children that were marriageable were also arrested, and confined by the lord of Milan, who took possession of all the lordships, castles, towns, and cities which sir Bernabo held
in Lombardy. His uncle died shortly after; but I know not by what means, though I believe it was from being bled in the neck, for in Lombardy they are accustomed to make such bleedings when they wish to hasten the death of any one. News of this was soon spread abroad: some were pleased at it, others vexed; for sir Bernabo had in his time done so many acts of cruelty, and without reason, that few pitied him, saying, he had well deserved it. This was the end of sir Bernabo Visconti,
who had reigned most powerfully in Lombardy.

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