Battle of Bicocca was part of the Italian War that took place between 1521 and 1526. It started on April 27, 1522 and was the first in a series of French defeats in Italy during the war. The Imperial-Spanish and Papal army defeated to French army decisively, leaving the city of Milan in Imperial hands.
European alliance against France
The Italian War started late in 1521 when the French army tried to reconquer Navarre and invaded the Low Countries. The Spanish army responded back by forcing the French army to retreat into the Pyrenees and attacking northern France. After the attempt, the Pope Leo X, the Roman Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII signed a formal alliance against France. As a result of the alliance, almost the entire Europe was against France.
In 1521, Lautrec, a French military leader began to suffer significant losses from desertion. On the other side, Prospero Colonna the leader of the Imperial-Spanish and Papal army, took advantage of this opportunity and advanced his army close to Milan. By January 1522, France has lost significant territories, becoming vulnerable to their enemies. Because of this, Lautrec was reinforced by the Swiss army with 16,000 pikemen, some Venetian forces and new French troops. The new French army attacked Novara and Pavia in order to bring Colonna into a decisive battle. Colonna leaved his position from Milan and fortified in the monastery of Certosa. Lautrec had no chance to assault the monastery. Instead he threatened Colonna’s communication by cutting almost all the roads from the city into the Alps. However, Lautrec had an unpleasant surprise from the Swiss pikemen. They complained because they didn’t receive the money promised to them and asked Lautrec to attack the Imperial army, otherwise they would abandon their position.
The advantage of the Imperial army
Meanwhile, Colonna was able to relocate his army into an excellent position. He moved at Bicocca, about 6 km north of Milan. The field was almost like a swamp, full of mud and offered strategic location of Colonna’s troops on the battlefield. His new location allowed him to make significant changes on the field in order to take advantage of his position. The Imperial army was in a perfect position for a new battle. Lautrec sent 400 cavalry on April 26 to explore the battlefield. The patrol reported it was impossible to win the battle, but Lautrec planned the attack anyway. Meantime, Colonna asked for backup and the next morning the Imperial army was reinforced with 6,400 troops.
On April 27, Lautrec began his attack with two columns of Swiss accompanied by artillery. Meanwhile, Lautrec ordered a side attack with heavy cavalry along the Milan road trying to reach into the Imperial camp. Despite the fact that Colonna refused to order a general attack, he suggested that the French will withdraw. Colonna’s judgement was correct. The Swiss army left the battlefield on April 30 as a result the French army withdrew also.
Italy is in Imperial hands
After the battle, the French position in northern Italy was inexistent. Colonna managed to capture even Genoa. Before the end of the war, the French troops had another two attempts to reconquer several territories but with no success. After the Italian War, the king of France, Francis I was required to sign the Treaty of Madrid which left Italy in Imperial hands.
As a result of the battle of Bicocca, the word “bicoca” is used in Spanish language with the meaning of bargain or acquiring something with low cost.