Francesco Melzi d'Eril

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Francesco Melzi d'Eril
Duke of Lodi


Portrait Melzi by Andrea Appiani.
Vice President of the Italian Republic
In office
26 January 1802 17 March 1805
President Napoleon Bonaparte
Preceded byOffice Created
Succeeded by Eugène de Beauharnais (as Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy)
Grand Chancellor of the Kingdom of Italy
In office
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Personal details
Born 6 March 1753
Milan, Duchy of Milan, Austrian Empire
Died 16 January 1816
Villa Melzi d'Eril, Bellagio, Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, Austrian Empire

Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Duke of Lodi, Count of Magenta, (Milan, 6 March 1753 - Bellagio, 16 January 1816) was an Italian politician and patriot, serving as vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic (1802–1805). He was a consistent supporter of the Italian unification ideals that would lead to the Italian Risorgimento shortly after his death.

The title of Conte di Magenta was created on 30 December 1619 for Don Luigi Melzi, of a Milanese patrician family. His descendant Gaspare, eighth Count, married Maria Teresa d'Eril, daughter and heiress of the Marchese de Fuente Sagrada, and their descendants adopted the name Melzi d'Eril. Francesco Melzi d'Eril, ninth Count, was made Vice-President of the Italian Republic under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, and Grand Chancellor of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1805. On 20 December 1807 he was created Duca di Lodi by Napoleon in his capacity as King of Italy. The Duke was childless, and adopted as his heir his nephew Giovanni Francesco. On his death he was succeeded as tenth Count by his brother Luigi. The Emperor of Austria, as King of Lombardy-Venetia after the Congress of Vienna, recognised the comital title of Magenta in 1816, but did not recognise the Napoleonic dukedom of Lodi. However, Giovanni was given the title of Duca Melzi on 5 September 1818. His son Lodovico, twelfth Count of Magenta, reassumed the title of Duca di Lodi in 1859. The titles of Duca di Lodi and Conte di Magenta were recognised for his successors by ministerial decrees of the new Kingdom of united Italy dated 1890, 1913 and 1939. While there are still heirs to these titles, they were suppressed in 1947 along with all other Italian noble titles.

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,372,810 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,245,308. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

Bellagio, Lombardy Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Bellagio is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Como in the Italian region of Lombardy. It is located on Lake Como, also known by its Latin-derived name Lario, whose arms form an inverted Y. The triangular land mass at the base of the inverted Y is the Larian Triangle: at its northern point sits Bellagio, looking across to the northern arm of the lake and, behind it, the Alps. It has always been famous for its location. It belongs to a mountain community named Comunità montana del Triangolo lariano, with base in Canzo.



Childhood and education

Francesco Melzi d'Eril was born to Gaspare and Marianna Teresa d'Eril in 1753. Despite the House of Melzi d'Eril being one of the prominent families in the Milanese aristocracy, their wealth had been compromised. This was mostly due to Francesco's grandfather Francesco Saverio Melzi, who had fought in the War of the Austrian Succession along with the Spanish, thus falling in disgrace when Empress Maria Theresa had re-established her control over her possessions in Lombardy. As a consequence of this situation, Francesco Melzi d'Eril was raised by his uncle.

War of the Austrian Succession Dynastic war in Austro-Hungary

The War of the Austrian Succession involved most of the powers of Europe over the issue of Archduchess Maria Theresa's succession to the Habsburg Monarchy. The war included peripheral events such as King George's War in British America, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the First Carnatic War in India, the Jacobite rising of 1745 in Scotland, and the First and Second Silesian Wars.

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Lombardy Region of Italy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 square kilometres (9,206 sq mi). About 10 million people, forming one-sixth of Italy's population, live in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest regions in Europe. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is the second-largest city and the largest metropolitan area in Italy.

Francesco's uncle had him educated by the Jesuits, first at the "Collegio dei Nobili" in Brera and then at the "Scuole Palatine", both in Milan. In the latter institute, Francesco met scientist Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich, who would thereafter be one of his best friends. In 1773, as a consequence of Emperor Joseph II's Enlightenment-influenced reforms, religious schools lost the right to confer degrees, so Francesco never graduated.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men which originated in sixteenth-century Spain. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

Brera (district of Milan) Quartiere of Milan in Lombardy, Italy

Brera is a district ("quartiere") of Milan, Italy. It is located within the Zone 1 and it is centered on Brera street. The name stems from Medieval Italian "braida" or "brera", derived from Old Lombardic "brayda", meaning a land expanse either cleared of trees or naturally lacking them. This is because around the year 900, the Brera district was situated just outside Milan's city walls and was kept clear for military reasons. The root of the word is the same as that of the Dutch city of Breda's name and the English word "broad".

Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from August 1765 and sole ruler of the Habsburg lands from November 1780 until his death. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Francis I, and the brother of Marie Antoinette. He was thus the first ruler in the Austrian dominions of the House of Lorraine, styled Habsburg-Lorraine. Joseph was a proponent of enlightened absolutism; however, his commitment to modernizing reforms subsequently engendered significant opposition, which resulted in failure to fully implement his programmes. He has been ranked, with Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia, as one of the three great Enlightenment monarchs. His policies are now known as Josephinism. He died with no sons and was succeeded by his younger brother, Leopold II.

Entry into politics

Despite his family's situation, Melzi d'Eril had the opportunity to frequent exclusive Milanese circles, where he met prominent Lombard Enlightenment thinkers such as Pietro Verri, Cesare Beccaria, Giuseppe Parini, and Ippolito Pindemonte. He also had the opportunity to travel abroad and become knowledgeable about the emerging, Enlightenment-influenced European political systems as well as the English parliamentary system. In this context, he developed a liberalist view and sympathized for the French Revolution, although this was later mitigated by his disapproval of the radical, anti-religious developments the Revolution would bring about. He also thoroughly embraced the cause of the Italian unification.

Pietro Verri Italian philosopher, economist, historian and writer

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Cesare Beccaria jurist, philosopher and politician from Italy

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Giuseppe Parini Italian poet

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Descent of Napoleon in Italy

Melzi d'Eril's attitude towards Napoleon was as mixed as that he had had towards the French Revolution. When Napoleon began his Italian campaign, and entered Milan, Melzi d'Eril first supported the new rule, participating in the government of the Cisalpine Republic. Later on, when he realized that Napoleon had no interest in the unity of Italy, Melzi d'Eril retired and eventually moved abroad.

Cisalpine Republic French client republic in Northern Italy (1797-1802)

The Cisalpine Republic was a sister republic of France in Northern Italy that lasted from 1797 to 1802.

After the Battle of Marengo (1800), Melzi was invited to France to participate in the definition of the new political order for Italy. When the Italian Republic was founded, with Napoleon as the head of state, Melzi d'Eril was named vice-president. In the three years of the Italian Republic, Melzi d'Eril largely contributed to the development of the Republic as well as the renewal of the city of Milan, that was chosen as the capital of the new kingdom. Nevertheless, when the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1805, Napoleon chose Eugène de Beauharnais as his governor, and Melzi d'Eril was somehow set aside from the new government. As a compensation of sorts, he was made Duke of Lodi. He thus retired, but remained a strong supporter of the autonomy of Italy and a frank critic of the Napoleonic rule.

Battle of Marengo battle

The Battle of Marengo was fought on 14 June 1800 between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces near the city of Alessandria, in Piedmont, Italy. Near the end of the day, the French overcame Gen. Michael von Melas's surprise attack, driving the Austrians out of Italy and consolidating Napoleon's political position in Paris as First Consul of France in the wake of his coup d’état the previous November.

Italian Republic (Napoleonic) republic on the Apennine Peninsula between 1802 and 1805

The Italian Republic was a short-lived (1802–1805) republic located in Northern Italy. Napoleon served as President and its capital was Milan.

Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) kingdom on the Apennine Peninsula between 1805 and 1814

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Late years

In 1815, Milan fell under the Austrian rule. Melzi d'Eril was cautious in his relationships with the Austrian Empire, avoiding direct confrontation but also refusing to bow to the new rulers. It is notable, for example, that in 1815 he refused to welcome Austrian emissary Annibale Sommariva who had been sent on a diplomatic mission to meet him in his house in Bellagio.

Melzi d'Erial died on 16 January 1816 at the age of 63, in his house in Milan (Palazzo Melzi d'Eril), while the Austrian Emperor was visiting the city. The newspaper did not report on his death, for fear that the news might cause uprisings in Milan while the Emperor was there. The very day of his death, his house was sealed by the police, and his documents were later sequestrated and brought to Vienna.

The funeral was delayed until 28 March, but it was solemn and largely participated by the population. His body was buried in Villa Melzi d'Eril, his villa in Bellagio, on Lake Como.

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