House of Sforza

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House of Sforza
Arms of the House of Sforza.svg
Country Italy
Parent house House of Visconti (through Bianca Maria Visconti)
Founded 1447
Founder Muzio Attendolo
Final ruler
Francesco II (1535)
Galeazzo (1519)
1500: Italian Wars
1519: Death of Galeazzo
Two Sicilies:
Cadet branches Illegitimate
  • House of Sforza-Pesaro (extinct in 1519)
  • House of Sforza-Cotignola (extinct in 1624)
  • House of Sforza-Cesarini

Sforza was a ruling family of Renaissance Italy, based in Milan. They acquired the Duchy of Milan from the previously ruling Visconti family in the mid-15th century, and lost it to the Spanish Habsburgs about a century later.


A miniature of Muzio Attendolo, fifteenth century

Rising from rural nobility, the Sforzas became condottieri and used this military position to become rulers in Milan. The family governed by force, ruse, and power politics, similar to the Medici in Florence. Under their rule the city-state flourished and expanded.

Muzio Attendolo (1369–1424), called Sforza (from sforzare, to exert or force), founded the dynasty. A condottiero from Romagna, he served the Angevin kings of Naples and became the most successful dynast of the condottieri.

His son Francesco I Sforza ruled Milan, having acquired the title of Duke of Milan (1450-1466) after the extinction of the Visconti family in 1447.

The family also held the seigniory of Pesaro, starting from Muzio Attendolo's second son, Alessandro (1409–1473). The Sforza held Pesaro until 1519, with the death of Galeazzo.

Muzio's third son, Bosio (1411–1476), founded the branch of Santa Fiora, who held the title of count of Cotignola; the Sforza ruled the small county of Santa Fiora in southern Tuscany until 1624. Members of this family also held important ecclesiastical and political position in the Papal States, and moved to Rome in 1674, taking the name Sforza Cesarini.

The Sforza became allied with the Borgia family through the arranged marriage (1493-1497) between Lucrezia Borgia and Giovanni (the illegitimate son of Costanzo I of Pesaro).[1] This alliance failed as the Borgia annulled the marriage once the Sforza's were no longer needed.

In 1499, in the course of the Italian Wars, the army of Louis XII of France took Milan from Ludovico Sforza (known as Ludovico il Moro, famous for taking Leonardo da Vinci into his service).

After Imperial German troops drove out the French, Maximilian Sforza, son of Ludovico, became Duke of Milan (1512-1515) until the French returned under Francis I of France and imprisoned him.

Sforza rulers of Duchy of Milan

Map of Italy in 1494. Insert shows the Duchy of Milan ruled by the Visconti family and inherited by the Sforzas.

Sforza rulers of Pesaro and Gradara

Sforza family tree

A family tree of the House of Sforza

Notable members

Name Portrait Relationship to the House of Sforza
Muzio Attendolo Muzio Attendolo Sforza.jpg Founder of the House of Sforza
Francesco Sforza 100px Son of Muzio Attendolo, first Sforza ruler of Milan
Bianca Maria Visconti 100px Wife of Francesco I Sforza
Galeazzo Maria Sforza 100px Son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan
Gian Galeazzo Sforza 100px Son of Galeazzo Maria Sforza
Bona Sforza, Queen of Poland Caraglio Cameo of Bona Sforza.jpg Daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Bianca Maria Sforza Bernhard Strigel 009.jpg Daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and
Holy Roman Empress, as the wife of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Anna Sforza Anna Maria Sforza.jpg Daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza and wife of Alfonso I d'Este
Her successor would be the infamous Lucrezia Borgia
Caterina Sforza 100px Illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan
Ludovico Sforza 100px Son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan
Beatrice d'Este 100px Wife of Ludovico Sforza
Maximilian Sforza Massimiliano Sforza by G.A. de Predis (Donatus Grammatica).jpg Son of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan
Francesco II Sforza FrancescoIISforza.jpg Son of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan
Giovanni Paolo I Sforza Giovanni Paolo Sforza with the Sforza symbol.jpg Illegitimate son of Ludovico Sforza, first Marquess of Caravaggio

In popular culture

See also


  1. "La Signoria degli Sforza". Retrieved 2013-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>