Sforza, an Italian family, several members of which were sovereign dukes of Milan during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Giacomuzzo Attendolo, the son of a peasant and the founder of the house, born at Cotignola, in the Ro-magna, in 1369, died in 1424. He became one of the most redoubtable condottieri of Italy, and was surnamed Sforza on account of his muscular strength. He fought in the service of various princes, and Queen Joanna II. of Naples made him grand constable. In 1420, yielding to the influence of Pope Martin V., who had made him a count, he aided Louis III. of Anjou against the queen; but soon returning to Joanna, he protected her against Alfonso of Aragon, and while marching against Braccio di Montone was drowned in the Pescara.
Duke Of Milan Francesco, natural son of the preceding, born in 1401, died in 1466. He succeeded his father in the command of the mercenary bands upon whom his power rested. Enlisting in 1425 in the service of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, then at war with a formidable league headed by the republic of Venice, he was defeated at Macalo by Carma-gnola in 1427, but vanquished him in 1431 at Soncino. Under pretence of giving force to the decrees of the council of Basel against Eu-genius IV., he wrested the province of Anco-na from the pope. Entering the service of the Florentine republic against Visconti, he beat the Milanese under Piccinino and conquered Lunegiana in 1437; returning to his former ally, was sent by him to Naples to support Renť of Anjou against Alfonso of Aragon; then going over again to the Venetians, defeated Visconti in 1440, and invaded his territory; and finally, receiving the hand of the duke's illegitimate daughter Bianca, forced Florence and Venice to grant that prince the peace of Capriana (1441). Visconti treacherously attempted to crush his son-in-law by forming a league of nearly all the Italian princes against him; but, concentrating his whole force in the province of Ancona, Sforza routed his enemies at Monte Lauro and Mont' Olmo in 1444; and when, notwithstanding these successes, he was on the eve of succumbing to superior forces, he received timely aid from the republic of Venice and from Florence, now under the control of his friend Cosmo de' Medici. On the death of Visconti without a male heir in 1447, the Milanese adopted a republican government; but Sforza, after serving the republic for a time, seized its principal towns, blockaded Milan, and in 1450 was proclaimed duke.
Venice and Naples refused to acknowledge his title; but he defeated the former in a short war, made peace and contracted an alliance with Alfonso of Aragon, king of Naples, made himself master of Genoa in 1464, and secured a controlling influence in all Italy. His protection of science and literature, his liberality toward the learned exiles from Constantinople, and the public improvements accomplished under his reign, entitle him to a high rank among the princes of his age.
Galeazzo Maria, son and successor of the preceding, born in 1444, assassinated in 1476. He was serving Louis XI. of France at the. time of his father's death, and returned hastily in disguise to Milan, where, owing to his mother's energy, he was proclaimed duke; but he gave himself up to luxury and debauchery, and was charged with poisoning his first wife and his mother. His second wife was Bona of Savoy, sister-in-law of Louis XI. He was assassinated by three conspirators, and Giovanni Galeazzo, about eight years old, was proclaimed duke under the regency of his mother.
Ludovico, called Il Moro, brother of the preceding, born in August, 1451, died in 1508 or 1510. In 1479 he assumed the title of regent in Milan. His nephew, a son-in-law of Ferdinand, king of Naples, being treated as a prisoner, Ferdinand was arming against Ludovico, when the latter in 1494 invited Charles VIII. of France to undertake the conquest of Naples; and Galeazzo dying soon after, Ludovico proclaimed himself duke. He now formed a league of all the northern powers of Italy to prevent Charles's return from Naples; but the French baffled his efforts, and in 1499 he was attacked by Louis XII., who claimed the duchy in the right of his grandmother Valentina Visconti, and being forced to fly from Milan took refuge at Innspruck, with the emperor Maximilian. The French gave such dissatisfaction to the Milanese that, with the aid of mercenary Swiss troops, Ludovico was enabled to reconquer his duchy; but on a new invasion of the French in 1500, he was taken while trying to escape, and confined for life in the castle of Loches.
Mas-Similiano, son of the preceding, born in 1491, died in June, 1530. He was made duke by the "holy league" in 1512, after the expulsion of the French, but was overthrown on their return in 1513. On the defeat of the French army at Novara he reŽntered Milan, but finally lost his crown in 1515, when Francis I. of France won the victory of Marignano (Melegnano), and gave up all his rights to it on condition of receiving a pension, and went to France.
Francesco II, younger brother of the preceding, born in 1492, died Oct. 24, 1535. In 1522 he received the duchy in fief from the emperor Charles V., but made himself odious by imposing onerous taxes. He left no issue, and the duchy reverted to Charles V.