Ludovico Maria Sforza Historical Profile

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Historical Profile
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Name: Ludovico (Lodovico) Maria Sforza
Born: 27 July 1452
Home town: Vigevano, Lombardy
Died: 27 May 1508 ( Loches, France)
Position: Duke of Bari, later Regent for the young Duke of Milan, finally Duke of Milan (ruled 1489 – 1500, received imperial investiture in 1494)
House of: Sforza - the ruling house of Milan. Ludovico's father, the famous condottiero Francesco Sforza designated his line as the hereditary dukes independent of imperial investiture
Nickname: : "il Moro," The Moor (either due to his childhood nickname Mauro or because of his dark coloring, one of his devices was a Moor's head)
Personality type: Typical renaissance prince, military man, gentlemanly, affable nature, expert dissimulator and political intriguer, ambitiuos, unscrupulous, autocratic
Hobbies: Hunting, art patronage, improving and developing Milanese agriculture to increase production and harvest
Strength(s): Expert administrator, firm ruler, attracted the best minds to his court, treated his wife Beatrice with many honours and was influenced by her civilizing presence at court, foremost part an excellent political and military mind
Weakness(es): Miscalculated the danger of supporting the French invasion of 1494 in their attempt to claim Naples
Quirks: Consulted his astrologers for many importany events and was said to have looked to the good with prayer to God, and to the bad with his soothsayers

[he was] a man
who set loose a lion in his house
to catch a mouse

said by a contemporary after he pledged support for the French invasion of Naples in 1494

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Ludovico Maria Sforza (Zenale)Ludovico Maria Sforza was the fourth son of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti. He ruled as regent (after Bona moved to Savoy) from 1481 to 1494. During the early years of his regency he began to attract the best military and artistic minds to court. The most notable of these, of course, is Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo served as military engineer, musical entertainer, designer of pageants, unofficial court painter to the de facto duke. Ludovico's own brilliance, noted by his contemporaries from an tender age, was what set him apart from other rulers of his day. Ludovico had it all: he was intelligent, gallant, physically strong, brave, diplomatic, and ruthless. He was a true Renaissance man.

Milan possessed the third largest treasury and annual revenue in Europe, after France and Beatrice d'Este (de Predis) c. 1491Venice. As the power of Ludovico grew, the wealth and prosperity of the duchy also reached heights unheard of before; the new Golden Age of Milan had begun. Ludovico improved farming and husbandry, built roads, bridges, and canals to water vast areas, and built magnificent palaces, churches, and other civic improvements. His rule was stable, his borders secure, and his commonwealth prosperous. All things flourished which allowed his treasury to grow exponentially. The illustrious and powerful House of Este desired an alliance with Ludovico and Milan. A friendship between Ferrara and Milan would create an effective buffer from Venice to the northeast. Ludovico married Beatrice d'Este in 1491. With her presence, Milan's court life became more refined and a mecca for intellectual pursuits and lively festivities. She was an avid huntress and probably the most fashionable Italian princess of the age, along with her sister Isabella, the Marchesa of Mantua. The ducal couple had two sons, Maximilian and Francesco, who later ruled Milan briefly as puppets during the Italian Wars between Spain and France.

Last Suuper - smallLudovico Maria Sforza was de facto duke of Milan from c. 1480 when he became regent a few years after the assassination of his father the unsavory Duke Galeazzo Maria in 1476). He was formally invested with the duchy by the Emperor Maximilian I with the support of leading Milanese nobles in 1495. In addition to his fame as the ruler who brought the French to Italy for his own aims, his Machiavellian political intrigue and power brokering, Il Moro is mostly famous for commissioning Leonardo da Vinci's il Cenacolo (Last Supper).

page logoDespite his frequent policy shifts and later defeat by the French in their conquest of northern Italy, Ludovico Sforza was (during his reign) one of the most respected, experienced and powerful Italian rulers of the late 15th century. Milan's place in the balance of power was an important one, as the duchy was centered on a fertile plain in the Po Valley and was a cross-roads for international trade between Venice, lower Italy and the Alps. After the Peace of Lodi, and right up to 1492, the balancing act of power between the pope, Ferdinand I of Naples, Ludovico Sforza of Milan, and Lorenzo de Medici of Florence, Italy experienced a vital and lasting peace that was crushed forever after the invasion of France and demise of Naples and Milan. The political golden age of Italy - that was concentrated in the decades leading up to and during the period of the Borgia ascendancy - was at and end. Ludovico was blamed by many for the disaster that followed, as his ambitions did prove to be a major factor in the first French invasion of Naples.

Ludovico was regent for his nephew, but refused to resign power when his nephew came of age. As the latter was married to a princess of Naples, Isabella of Aragon, her grandfather King Ferrante opposed Ludovico. This led 'il Moro' to seek a change of regime in Naples. Others saw the dangers of Ludovico's conduct - one Italian compared him to "a man who set loose a lion in his house to catch a mouse."

After the unexpected death of Charles VIII in 1498, Louis, duke of Orleans became Louis XII, king of France. He initiated the second phase of the Italian Wars by invading Milan, driving out Ludovico. The Moor and his loyal supporters such as the illustrious Galeazzo Sanseverino took refuge at Innsbruck, the court of Maximilian and Ludovico's niece Bianca. Ludovico returned to Milan with an army of Swiss mercenaries in February of 1500. After the siege of Novara, he was taken prisoner and died in a French prison in 1508, after an attempt to escape. After the French were driven out by Imperial troops, Maximilian Sforza, the eldest son of Ludovico and Beatrice, became Duke of Milan. He ruled for four years (1521-1525) until the French returned under Francis I of France and imprisoned him.

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From Ludovico to Belgiojoso: "It would be very difficult to prevent the coming of the French; and even if that were not so, I must confess that I believe their coming to be necessary, not that I wish for or am compassing the ruin of King Alfonso, to whom I am well disposed, as you will soon see ; but I want to humble that overweening pride of his, lest after his father's fashion he should forget that he ought to treat other Italian potentates, including ourselves, not as inferiors, but as equals. To achieve this, we must keep his hands too busy at home to go grasping other people's possessions ; and so the French must come to Italy. But to ensure that the results of their coming do not go beyond our needs and end in the utter ruin of the King of Naples, I have arranged that which you wot of, namely, that the King of the Romans should also cross the Alps. Such a counterpoise will prevent the French from becoming more powerful than they are already. This Prince is no more anxious than are we to see the French grow stronger ; he is connected with us by marriage ; and he is bent on recovering the supremacy in Italy which belongs of right to the Empire. Thus it will be easy to keep French progress within bounds." (John Bridge, A History of France, Vol II, quoted in Delaborde, Expedition de Charles Fill en Italie, p. 338).


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  • According to Jacob Burckhardt, "in 1496 he boasted that the Pope Alexander was his chaplain, the Emperor Maximilian his condotierre, Venice his chamberlain, and the King of France his courier, who must come and go at his bidding."
    - The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, p. 44. follow link for the googlebooks edition.
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  • Brought mulberry trees and Chinese silkworms to Milan to augment the lucrative silk production industry growing in Italy.
  • Commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint portraits of two of his mistresses, Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine) and Lucrezia Crivelli (La Belle Ferroniere).
  • Probably most famous for commissioning Leonardo's Il Cenacolo - (Last Supper) in 1497 to adorn the rectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
  • Luca Pacioli dedicated the famous work, On Divine Proportion to him in 1497.
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Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki
  • History of Italy (Francesco Guicciardini)
  • A History of Milan Under the Sforza (Cecilia Ady)
  • Beatrice d'Este (Julia Mary Cartwright Ady)
  • The Civilzation of the Renaissance in Italy (Jacob Burckhardt)
  • A Renaissance Court: Milan Under Galeazzo Maria Sforza (Gregory Lubkin)

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