Alberto Canfrancesco della Scala (called Cangrande) was born in Verona on March 9, 1291; he was the third son of Alberto I della Scala, at the time lord of the city. His father and his brother Bartolomeo, designated successor, died when Cangrande was twelve years old, and he was very young alongside his brother Alboino in the leadership of the lordship. He ruled alone starting from 1311, when his elder brother died during a siege to the city of Brescia. For many years he was the greatest exponent of the Ghibelline faction of northern Italy.
A physically handsome boy with a good presence, he immediately proved to be very determined and resolute. He married very young the first woman he fell in love with, Giovanna D'Antiochia (daughter of Corrado d'Antiochia who in turn was the nephew of Emperor Federico II), a splendid maiden who was passing through Verona and already promised to a rich man German feudatory. In a short time, between 16 and 20 years of age Cavaliere, began the first military campaigns and came to command the army of Verona that, under his guidance, in a few years subjected to Verona a series of neighboring territories: Vicenza , Treviso, Padua, Mantua, Brescia. Very highly esteemed by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Henry VII, he was appointed by his Imperial Vicar and his representative in the Veneto region, in the same year (1311) in which Count Amadeus of Savoy was appointed imperial vicar in Lombardy. With him the city of Verona experienced a particularly flourishing period of peace and prosperity. The people of Verona and also that of the other conquered provinces, considered him a gifted, capable, and just ruler. The chroniclers of the time had great words of praise and esteem for him, considering him a sovereign who "did not satisfy his own gain, but sought the gain of the people". With him prospered Verona and all the territories of the lordship, without riots or riots, except for some rare and modest episodes.
Cangrande was also a great patron, patron of arts and learning, who welcomed scientists, poets and artists of great talent into his palace. Dante Alighieri was his guest from 1312 to 1318 nourishing for him a sincere friendship and a great admiration, to the point of dedicating to him the third and most important canticle of the Divine Comedy, Il Paradiso, in a text that goes under the name of Epistle XIII. Boccaccio places him among the protagonists of the Decameron, in the seventh story of the first day, representing him as a wise ruler. Alberto Canfrancesco della Scala died on 22 July 1329, only thirty-eight years old, when he was still in full force, while he was in Treviso.
His tomb, placed above a door of the church of Santa Maria Antica, is one of the most significant monuments of Veronese sculpture of the fourteenth century. On the sarcophagus, located within a trilobed arch and supported by pairs of dogs bearing the heraldic symbol of the ladder, an Annunciation is sculpted surrounded by bas-reliefs depicting the cities conquered during its military campaigns; on the lid is a statue that drew him dying, on a sheet of surprising verisimilitude, and on the canopy cover a grandiose equestrian statue.
Although the marriage of Cangrande with Giovanna di Svevia lasted over twenty years, it did not lead to the birth of any legitimate heir, so at his death the prince could not leave a direct continuity to the family and the power passed into the hands of his nephews Albert II and Mastino II della Scala, sons of his brother Alboino.
Instead, Cangrande had eight illegitimate sons: Gilberto, Bartolomeo, Francesco, Margherita, Franceschina, Lucia Cagnola, Giustina and Alboino.