1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sforza

SFORZA, the name of a famous Italian family. They were descended from a peasant condottiere, Giacomo or Muzio (sometimes abbreviated into Giacomuzzo) Attendolo, who was born at Cotignola in the Romagna on the 10th of June 1369, gained command of a band of adventurers by whom he had been kidnapped, took the name of Sforza in the field, became constable of Naples under Joanna II., fought bravely against the Spaniards, served Pope Martin V., by whom he was created a Roman count, and was drowned on the 4th of January 1424 in the Pescara near Aquila while engaged in a military expedition. His natural son Francesco (1401-1466) succeeded in command of the condottieri, and showed military genius and political acumen. He served the-Visconti against the Venetians and then the Venetians against the Visconti; he attacked the pope, deprived him of the Romagna, and later defended him; he married in 1441 Bianca, the only daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, and received Pontrenioli and Cremona as dowry and the promise of succession to the duchy of Milan. The short-lived Ambrosian republic, which was established by the Milanese on the death of Visconti (1447), was overthrown by Francesco, who made his triumphal entry as duke of Milan on the 25th of March 1450. He suppressed a revolt at Piacenza, formed close alliances with Cosmo de' Medici and with Louis XI. of France, and exercised authority over Lombardy, several districts south of the Po and even Genoa. He rebuilt the fortress of Porta Giovio and constructed the Great Hospital and the canal of the Martesana, which connects Milan with the Adda; and his court, filled with Italian scholars and Greek exiles, speedily became one of the most splendid in Italy. His daughter Ippolita was renowned for her Latin discourses.

Francesco left several sons, among whom were Galeazzo Maria, Lodovico, surnamed the Moor, and Ascagnio, who became a cardinal.

Galeazzo Maria, who succeeded to the duchy, was born in 1444, and was a lover of art, eloquent in speech, but dissolute and cruel. He was assassinated at the porch of the cathedral on the 26th of December 1476 by three young Milanese noblemen desirous of imitating Brutus and Cassius. His daughter Caterina is separately noticed. Gian Galeazzo (1469-1494), son of Galeazzo, succeeded to the duchy under the regency of his mother, Bona of Savoy, who was supplanted in her power (1481) by the boy's uncle, Lodovico the Moor. Gian Galeazzo married Isabella of Aragon, granddaughter of the king of Naples, and his sudden death was attributed by some to poison administered by the regent. His daughter, Bona Sforza (1493-1557), married King Sigismund of Poland in 1518. She displayed remarkable ability in government, built castles, schools and hospitals, but increased corruption and intrigue at the Polish court. She was accused of having killed her daughter in-law, the wife of Sigismund Augustus. On the death of her husband she returned to Italy and was poisoned (1557) by her paramour Pappacoda.

Lodovico the Moor [Lodovico il Moro] (1451-1508), who is famed as patron of Leonardo da Vinci and other artists, had summoned Charles VIII. of France to his aid (1494) and received the ducal crown from the Milanese nobles on the 22nd of October in the same year, but finding his own position endangered by the French policy, he joined the league against Charles VIII., giving his niece Bianca in marriage to Maximilian I. and receiving in return imperial investiture of the duchy. Lodovico was driven from Milan by Louis XII. in 1499, and although reinstated for a short time by the Swiss he was eventually delivered over by them to the French (April 1500) and died a prisoner in the castle of Loches. Francesco, the son of Gian Galeazzo, was also taken to France by Louis XII., became abbot of Marmoutiers, and died in 1511.

The two sons of Lodovico, Massimiliano and Francesco Maria, took refuge in Germany; the former was restored to the duchy of Milan by the Swiss in 1512, but after the overwhelming defeat of his allies at Marignano (15I5) he abandoned his rights to Francis I. for a pension of 30,000 ducats, and died at Paris in 1530; the latter was put in possession of Milan after the defeat of the French at La Bicocca in 1522, subsequently entered the Italian League against the emperor Charles V., was unpopular on account of oppressive taxation, and his death (24th of October 1535) marked the extinction of the direct male line of the Sforza. The duchy went to Charles V.

The dukes of Sforza-Cesarini and the counts of Santa Fiora are descended from collateral branches of the Sforza family.

See J. Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissame in Italy, trans. by S. G. C. Middlemore (London, 1898); ]. A. Symonds, Age of the Despots (New York, 1888); W. P. Urquhart, Life and Times of Francesco Sforza (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1852); Mrs Julia Ady, Beatrice d'Este, duchess of Milan, 1475-1497 (London, 1905); F. Calvi, Bianca M aria Sforza- Visconti e gli ainbasciatori di Lodovico it Moro (Milan, 1888); A. Segre, “Lodovico Sforza, duca di Milano, ” in R. Accad. d. Sci. Atti, vol. 36 (Turin, 1901). There is a critical bibliography by Otto von Schleinitz in Zeitschrift für Bilchetfreunde, vol. v. (Bielefeld, 1901).