Sforza, Ludovico

Sforza, Ludovico or Lodovico , lō– [key], b. 1451 or 1452, d. 1508, duke of Milan (1494–99); younger son of Francesco I Sforza. He was called Ludovico il Moro [the Moor] because of his swarthy complexion. In 1480 he deprived his sister-in-law, Bona of Savoy, of the regency for her infant son, Gian Galeazzo Sforza (see Sforza, family), and from that date his actual rule may be reckoned. In 1494, Gian Galeazzo died, a virtual prisoner, and Ludovico was formally invested with Milan by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Partly in order to divert French ambitions from Milan, partly in order to protect himself from the hostility of the king of Naples, Ludovico concluded an offensive alliance with Charles VIII of France, whose invasion (1494) of Italy was the beginning of the Italian Wars. In 1495, however, Ludovico reached an understanding with Charles's enemies and turned against the French, who were expelled from Italy. In 1499, Louis XII of France, who had a hereditary claim to the duchy of Milan (he was a great-grandson of Gian Galeazzo Visconti), invaded Italy and expelled Ludovico from his duchy. Ludovico's attempt, with the aid of Swiss mercenaries, to recover his lands was defeated at Novara (1500); he was captured and died a prisoner in France. Before his fall, Ludovico Sforza was one of the wealthiest and most powerful princes of Renaissance Italy. He was a subtle diplomat and an unscrupulous intriguer. With his wife, Beatrice d'Este, he held a brilliant court and spent immense sums of money to further the arts and sciences. He is remembered especially for his patronage of Leonardo da Vinci and of the architect Bramante.

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