Ludovico Sforza

Ludovico Maria Sforza (Italian: [ludoˈviːko maˈriːa ˈsfɔrtsa]; 27 July 1452 – 27 May 1508), also known as Ludovico il Moro (Italian: [il ˈmɔːro]; "the Moor"),[b] was an Italian Renaissance nobleman who ruled as Duke of Milan from 1494-1499. His ascendancy followed the death of his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza. A member of the Sforza family, he was the fourth son of Francesco I Sforza. A patron of the arts during the Milanese Renaissance, he commissioned the fresco of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. He also played a central role in the Italian Wars.

Ludovico Sforza
Pala Sforzesca - detail 01.jpg
Ludovico's portrait in the Pala Sforzesca, 1494–1495 (Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan)[a]
Duke of Milan
Reign21 October 1494 – 6 September 1499
PredecessorGian Galeazzo Sforza
SuccessorLouis XII of France
Regent of Milan
Regency7 October 1480 – 21 October 1494
MonarchGian Galeazzo Sforza
Born27 July 1452
Vigevano, Duchy of Milan (modern-day Lombardy, Italy)
Died27 May 1508 (aged 55)
Château de Loches
SpouseBeatrice d'Este
FatherFrancesco I Sforza
MotherBianca Maria Visconti

Early lifeEdit

Ludovico Sforza was born on 27 July 1452 at Vigevano, in what is now Lombardy. His position as the fourth son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti[3] meant that he was not expected to become ruler of Milan, but his mother still encouraged a broad education. Under the tutelage of the humanist Francesco Filelfo, Ludovico studied painting, sculpture and letters along with methods of government and warfare.

Regent of MilanEdit

Ludovico Sforza by Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis.

When their father Francesco died in 1466, the family titles devolved upon Galeazzo Maria, the elder brother. Ludovico was conferred the courtesy title of Count of Mortara.[4]

Galeazzo Maria ruled until his assassination in 1476, leaving his titles to his seven-year-old son, Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Ludovico's nephew. A bitter struggle for the regency with the boy's mother, Bona of Savoy, ensued; Ludovico emerged as victor in 1481 and seized control of the government of Milan, despite attempts to keep him out of power. For the following 13 years he ruled Milan as its Regent, having previously been created Duke of Bari in 1479.[5]

Marriage and private lifeEdit

In January 1491, he married Beatrice d'Este (1475-1497) the youngest daughter of Ercole d'Este Duke of Ferrara,[5] in a double Sforza-Este marriage. At the same ceremony, Beatrice's brother, Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, married Anna Sforza, Ludovico's niece. Leonardo da Vinci orchestrated the wedding celebration.

The 15-year-old princess quickly charmed the Milanese court with her joy in life, her laughter, and even her extravagance. She helped to make Sforza Castle a center of sumptuous festivals and balls and she loved entertaining philosophers, poets, diplomats and soldiers. Beatrice had good taste, and it is said that under her prompting her husband's patronage of artists became more selective and the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante were employed at the court.[5] She would become the mother of Maximilian Sforza and Francesco II Sforza, future Dukes of Milan.

Prior to and throughout the duration of his 6-year marriage, Ludovico is known to have had mistresses, although it is thought that he kept only one mistress at a time. Bernardina de Corradis was an early mistress who bore him a daughter, Bianca Giovanna (1483–1496), supposedly the sitter for the disputed work La Bella Principessa. The child was legitimized and later married to Galeazzo da Sanseverino in 1496. Cecilia Gallerani, believed to be a favourite, gave birth to a son named Cesare on 3 May 1491, in the same year in which Ludovico married Beatrice d'Este. Gallerani is identified as the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine – the ermine was the heraldic animal of Ludovico il Moro. Another mistress was Lucrezia Crivelli, who bore him another illegitimate son, Giovanni Paolo, born in the year of Beatrice's death. He was a condottiero. Ludovico also fathered a third illegitimate son, called Sforza, who was born around 1484 and died suddenly in 1487; the boy's mother is unknown.[6]

Rule as regentEdit

Ludovico invested in agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, and the metal industry. Some 20,000 workers were employed in the silk industry. He sponsored extensive work in civil and military engineering, such as canals and fortifications, continued work on the Cathedral of Milan and had the streets of Milan enlarged and adorned with gardens. The university of Pavia flourished under him. There were some protests at the heavy taxation necessary to support these ventures, and a few riots resulted.[citation needed]

Ascension as Duke of Milan and the Italian WarsEdit

Gian Galeazzo and his wife Isabella, after the sumptuous marriage left Milan to create their own court in Pavia. The young Gian Galeazzo did not seem to wish to rule in place of his uncle Ludovico, but his wife Isabella came into conflict with his cousin Beatrice, as the latter turned out to be more ambitious than her husband and, after giving birth on January 25, 1493 the first son, Ercole Massimiliano, wished that these, and not isabella's son, was appointed Count of Pavia (title reserved for the heir to the Duchy of Milan). Isabella then requested the intervention of her grandfather Ferrante, king of Naples, so that her husband, now of age, was entrusted with the effective control of the duchy Ferrante, however, had no intention of starting a war, so the situation remained stable while the king was alive. When Ferrante died, his successor Alfonso did not hesitate, in defense of his daughter Isabella, to occupy the city of Bari as the first act of hostility towards the Moro.

To respond to this maneuver, Ludovico then allied himself with the Emperor Maximilian and with the King of France Charles VIII, to whom he left the green light to go down to Italy to conquer the kingdom of Naples, which Charles considered his legitimate possession as it was stolen by the Aragonese from the Angevins. Maximilian promised Ludovico il Moro to publicly recognize his succession to the duchy and to defend his rights, thus legitimizing the usurpation that many claimed to the Sforza, and to seal this promise he married Bianca Maria Sforza,sister of the young Gian Galeazzo, who brought him the amazing sum of 400,000 ducats as a dowry. plus another 100,000 for the investiture, as well as many gifts carefully prepared by Moro himself to please the emperor and thank him for the precious stance taken in his favor. On 11 September 1494 Charles VIII arrived in Asti,received with great honors by Ludovico and Beatrice.

Miniature of Beatrice at 19, contained in the donation certificate dated 28 January 1494 with which her husband assigned her numerous lands, now preserved in the British Library in London.

On October 22, 1494 Duke Gian Galeazzo died in mysterious circumstances:[7] formally for not having followed the treatment prescribed by his personal doctors for an illness that had been dragging on for some time and for the immoderate life he led, but in the opinion of many prominent contemporaries, such as Machiavelli or Guicciardini,the person responsible for this death was his uncle Ludovico, for poisoning; Malaguzzi Valeri strongly disagrees with this opinion, pointing out how Ludovico was really interested in the approval of his nephew, how he often sent him gifts such as dogs, horses and falcons, and how he was kept constantly informed of the care given to him; he also recalls that Gian Galeazzo had begun to manifest the first stomach disorders already at the age of 13 and that in fact he continuously disobeyed the prescriptions of doctors, continuing to pour wine out of measure and to fatigue in continuous hunting trips and in a disordered sexual life.[8]

The Moro immediately succeeded him by the will of the Milanese nobles, to the detriment of the legitimate heirs, thus touching the apex of political power. Given his new position, Ludovico tried to make himself popular with acts of benevolence, allowing the free cutting of the woods in his hunting reserves and abolishing the duty on the biade for animals.

Charles VIII, now that the throne of Milan was in the hands of moro, aware of his desire to expand the power of milan, decided to give a strong signal to the Sforza, without compromising diplomatic relations between the two states: the king of France easily reached Naples and conquered it in a short time. Ludovico, at this point, began to seriously worry about the excessive interference of the French in the affairs of his state and therefore decided once again to overthrow the alliances, moving on to side with the Holy League.

However, neither Ludovico nor his wife really wanted to favor the French in the conquest of the kingdom of Naples, but rather to frighten King Alfonso II and keep him engaged on another front so as to prevent him from turning to the conquest of Milan. In fact, once Alfonso II abdicated in favor of his son Ferrandino,unanimously loved by all for his virtues, Ludovico pretended to set up two ships for the King of France in Genoa and instead sent them to the rescue of Ferrandino, engaged in a very complicated war situation.[9]

Ludovico on the other hand had counted on the fact that the lords of the various states of Italy, and especially Florence, would not let Charles pass, which instead did not happen, as Piero il Fatuo,who until then had been the strongest ally of the king of Naples, frightened ended up throwing himself at the feet of the king of France, granting him not only free passage to Tuscany but even Pisa and Livorno, plus the sum of 120,000 gold florins. The city of Pisa had also rebelled and, since the Florentines had refused to join the anti-French league that would face Charles VIII at Fornovo,both the Republic of Venice and Ludovico il Moro sent troops in support of Pisa against Florence, both with the aim of seizing control of the city.

Silver reproduction (1989) of the testone that Ludovico had minted in 1497 with his own effigy on the one hand and of his wife Beatrice on the other, immediately after her death.
One of the first examples of coinage of this type, testimony of great love and admiration towards his wife.

The siege of NovaraEdit

Just a couple of weeks after the investiture, on June 11, Louis of Orleans, cousin of the king and bitter enemy of the Moor, thought of taking advantage of the descent into Italy to carry out his project of conquest of the Duchy of Milan, which he considered his right being a descendant of Valentina Visconti,and occupied with his troops the city of Novara, going as far as Vigevano.[10]

Ludovico hastened to close himself with his wife and children in the Rocca del Castello in Milan but, not feeling equally safe, he combined with the Spanish ambassador to leave the duchy to take refuge in Spain. As Bernardino Corio writes, this was not followed only by the iron opposition of his wife Beatrice and some members of the council, who convinced him to desist.[11] The situation, however, remained critical: due to the very high expenses incurred for the investiture and dowry of Bianca Maria, the state was on the verge of financial collapse, there was no money to maintain the army and a popular uprising was feared. Ludovico did not resist the tension and fell seriously ill.

Some historians speculated that it was a stroke,as he had a paralyzed hand, never left the bedroom and was rarely seen. "The Duke of Milan has lost his feelings," Malipiero writes, "he abandons himself". To worsen the situation contributed the ambiguity of the father-in-law Ercole d'Este,who was said together with the Florentines to secretly subvert the Orleans, and of the moro leaders themselves.[12] The disaster was averted by his wife Beatrice who, appointed for the occasion governor of Milan,[13] ensured the loyalty of the nobles, then went in person to the military camp of Vigevano to supervise the order and animate the captains to move against the Duke of Orleans. The latter, locked inside Novara, was thus forced to endure a long and exhausting siege.[14]

On July 6, 1495 the famous battle of Fornovotook place, with which the invading army was driven back. It was on the occasion of this that Ludovico had urgently obtained cannons from a pile of 70 tons of bronze originally prepared for an equestrian statue designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

At the beginning of August also Ludovico, finally healed, returned to deal with the war, and together with his wife went to reside at the Novara camp. On the occasion of their visit, for the pleasure of the Duchess who greatly appreciated the facts of arms, a memorable magazine of the full army was held. On the 28th a violent brawl broke out for unclear reasons, following which Francesco Gonzaga invited the Moro to lock up his wife "in the coffers".[15]

In the meantime, the capitulation of the enemy was awaited, since the Novara garrison was decimated by famine and epidemics; Louis d'Orleans himself was ill with malarial fevers, but in order not to give up every day he urged his men to resist with the false promise that the king would soon come to their rescue. This did not happen and he finally had to declare himself defeated, accepting the safe conduct to reach the camp of King Charles. Of the few surviving soldiers, many died soon after from eating too much fruit after prolonged fasting.[16]

Beatrice d'Este managed to expel from Novara the Duke of Orleans, who had seized it, directly threatening Milan over which she boasted rights of possession. Peace was signed, and Charles returned to France, without having drawn any serious fruit from his enterprise. Lodovico Sforza rejoiced in this result. But it was a brief jubilae his.

— Francesco Giarelli, Storia di Piacenza dalle origini ai nostri giorni[17]

Death of BeatriceEdit

Meanwhile, in 1496 Beatrice was expecting a third child and it was in this period that the Moor met Lucrezia Crivelli, lady-in-waiting to his wife, who became his mistress. Beatrice until that moment had not shown herself too jealous of the frequent betrayals of her husband, considering them fleeting distractions and of little importance, but when she realized that Ludovico had this time seriously fallen in love with Crivelli, she tried to oppose the relationship with all her strength. However, there was no way to distract her husband and throughout 1496 Ludovico continued to attend more or less secretly the Crivelli, in a regime of substantial bigamy, so much so that he ended up impregnating both his wife and lover within a couple of months. Beatrice, who was also sincerely in love with her husband, reacted by refusing him her ownand the relationship between the couple reached a breaking point. Finally, deeply humiliated, disappointed, embittered, especially saddened by the premature and tragic death of the very young Bianca Giovanna, her dearest friend, Beatrice died in childbirth in the night between 2 and 3 January 1497.

Cristoforo Solari, cenotaph of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d'Este, 1497, Certosa di Pavia

Ludovico, who had betrayed her so brazenly, went mad with grief, never recovered from the death of his wife, who had until then been his strength and support in the government of the state. For two weeks he was locked in the dark in his apartments, after which he shaved his head and allowed his beard to grow, wearing from then on only black clothes with a cloak torn up by a beggar. His only concern became the embellishment of the family mausoleum and the neglected state fell into disrepair.

With these few words on that same night he announced the departure of his wife to the Marquis of Mantua Francesco Gonzaga, husband of his sister-in-law Isabella:[46]

«Our illustrious bride, since labor pains came to her this night at two hours, gave birth to a dead male child at five hours, and at half past six she gave back the spirit to God, whose bitter and immature mourning we find ourselves in so much bitterness and grief. how much it is possible to feel, and so much so that the more grateful we would have been to die first and not see us lack what was the dearest thing we had in this world»

— Mediolani, 3 Januarii 1497 hora undecima. Ludovicus M. Sfortia Anglus Dux Mediolani
Detail of the cenotaph with the effigy of Ludovico and Beatrice

Downfall and aftermathEdit

Charles VIII died childless in 1498, so that the Duke of Orleans succeeded him as Louis XII of France. He then decided to take revenge for the humiliation suffered by undertaking a second expedition against the Duchy of Milan. Lacking this time the valuable help of his wife, Ludovico proved unable to face the enemy.

Louis XII entrusted the leadership of the army for the conquest of Milan to the famous leader Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, a personal enemy of the Moro, against whom he meditated on vengeance purposes.

Hence in 1498, he descended upon Milan. As none of the other Italian states would help the ruler who had invited the French into Italy four years earlier, Louis was successful in driving out Ludovico from Milan. Ludovico managed to escape the French armies and, in 1499, sought help from Maximilian.

Ludovico returned with an army of mercenaries and re-entered Milan in February 1500. Two months later, Louis XII laid siege to the city of Novara, where Ludovico was based. The armies of both sides included Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss did not want to fight each other and chose to leave Novara. Ludovico was handed over to the French in April 1500 in the so-called Treason of Novara (Verrat von Novara). This incident took place in 1500 in the context of the involvement of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the Italian Wars, and is mentioned briefly in Chapter 3 of Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince. About 6,000 Swiss under the command of Sforza defended the city, while about 10,000 Swiss under the command of Louis laid siege to it. The Swiss diet called for negotiations between the two sides in an attempt to prevent the worst case of the Swiss on both sides being forced to slaughter one another, "brothers against brothers and fathers against sons". Louis agreed to a conditional surrender which would grant free passage to the Swiss abandoning the city, but only under the condition that Sforza would be surrendered. However, the Swiss on Sforza's side, under an oath of loyalty to their employer, decided to dress Sforza as a Swiss and smuggle him out of town.

Italy at the dawn of the descent of Charles VIII (1494)

On 10 April, the Swiss garrison was leaving Novara, passing a cordon formed by the Swiss on the French side. French officers were posted to oversee their exit. As the disguised Sforza passed the cordon, one mercenary Hans (or Rudi) Turmann of Uri made signs giving away Sforza's identity. The duke was apprehended by the French. Louis XII refused to see him and, despite the pleas of the Emperor Maximilian, would not release him. However, he did allow him to roam the grounds of the castle of Lys-Saint-Georges in Berry where he was held, to fish in the moat and to receive friends. When he fell ill, Louis sent him his own physician as well as one of Ludovico's dwarf entertainers to amuse him. In 1504 he was moved to the castle of Loches where he was given even more freedom. In 1508, Ludovico attempted to escape; he was thereafter deprived of amenities including his books and spent the rest of his life in the castle's dungeon, where he died on 27 May 1508.[18] The French rewarded Turmann for his treason with 200 gold crowns (corresponding to five years' salary of a mercenary); he escaped to France, but after three years (or, according to some sources, after one year) he returned home to Uri. Turmann was immediately arrested for treason, and on the following day he was executed by decapitation.[19]

The Swiss later restored the Duchy of Milan to Ludovico's son, Maximilian Sforza. His other son, Francesco II, also held the duchy for a short period. Francesco II died in 1535, sparking the Italian War of 1536–1538, as a result of which Milan passed to the Spanish Empire.

Sforza is handed over to the French. Illustration from the Lucerne Chronicle (1513)

The memory of Ludovico was clouded for centuries by Machiavelli's accusation that he 'invited' Charles VIII to invade Italy, paving the way for subsequent foreign domination. The charge was perpetuated by later historians who espoused the ideal of national independence. More recent historians, however, placing the figure of Ludovico in its Renaissance setting, have reevaluated his merits as a ruler and given a more equitable assessment of his achievement.[20]

Appearance and personalityEdit

Very excellent duke in times of peace, very bad in times of war, Ludovico was never brought neither for weapons nor for the exercises of the body, he was indeed a man with a mild, conciliatory character, he detested all forms of violence and cruelty, and in fact the more he could keep away from the battlefields, he held himself, and the more he could refrain from inflicting harsh punishments on the guilty, he abstained. He therefore does not deserve the fame of "tyrant" that is sometimes attributed to him, which if anything belonged to his brother Galeazzo Maria Sforza,duke before him, who used to torment his subjects and even his friends with unspeakable torture and cruelty (of which Bernardino Corio has handed down a summary list), and subtract for his own pleasure the women of others, to such an extent that this was the cause of his killing at the hands of noble conspirators in 1476.[21]

Perhaps just taking the fraternal example as a warning, Ludovico always refrained from any excess. It can be said that he was even unable to bring hatred, if in the last years of his life, now imprisoned in the prison of Loches by King Louis XII who had deprived him of the state, the title, the wealth and even his own children, Ludovico found nothing better to do than write a memorial "of the things of Italy" for Louis XII himself, in which he explained to the sovereign what was the best way to govern Lombardy.

Ludovico il Moro. Round from the Renaissance frieze torn from the Visconti castle of Invorio Inferiore. Landscape Museum in Verbania-Pallanza.

Physically he was quite tall for the times, between 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) and 1.9 metres (6 ft 3 in) in height but he was not as well disposed physically,in fact he greatly appreciated good food and above all he was greedy for certain mullets in oil that his father-in-law Ercole sometimes sent him. Over the years, without the necessary physical training, he gained more and more weight, then losing weight only after the death of his wife (due to the continuous fasting) and the capture, and then returned to being "fatter than ever", as described by ambassador Domenico Trevisan, after having become accustomed to imprisonment. He was therefore not used to wearing the tight-attillated farsetti typical of young men and condottieri, but rather clothes that reached him just above the knee. However, he had broad shoulders and highlighted them with solid gold chains, as can be seen in the so-called Sforza Altarpiece. Since birth, as confirmed by his mother, he had eyes, hair and dark complexion, which therefore derived his nickname, and he could boast a thick hair that he always kept cut according to the fashion of the time, although following the death of his wife he began, as it seems, to lose his hair, as well as to suffer from various diseases, such as gout and asthma.

In the best years, however, he was endowed with great charm and charisma, in fact he used to boast of never having had to force any woman to indulge in himself, and indeed of having loved them all. The fame of seducer came to such an extent that there was even talk of his relationship (probably invented) with his niece Isabella of Aragon,whose relationship would have been the reason why Gian Galeazzo had his wife indignant and refused to consummate the marriage. The Este ambassador Giacomo Trotti then attributed to the "too much coith" with Cecilia Gallerani the cause of a certain malaise that struck Ludovico in 1489. Moreover, Ludovico himself, after the death of Beatrice, came to boast of having also had an affair with Isabella d'Este,her sister, during the period in which his wife was still alive, thus insinuating that it was out of jealousy that the Marquis of Mantua Francesco Gonzaga,husband of Isabella, continued to play the double game between him and the Lordship of Venice. Isabella undoubtedly always had a soft spot for Ludovico, and in fact envied her sister from the beginning for the lucky marriage that had touched her, for the riches and for the children, but it is not proven that she had actually been his lover, and in any case her father-in-law Ercole d'Este immediately hastened to deny the rumor.[22]

Ludovico Duke of Bari, early 90s. Marble bas-relief by Benedetto Briosco.

Certainly Ludovico was prodigal with his friends, very liberal, condescending, thoughtful and human, however he turned out to be a very little energetic man, if not spurred on, and with the hereafter (perhaps as a result of the aforementioned stroke) he became increasingly contradictory and unstable. In his wife, a woman of strong character and thus able to make up for her husband's failings, he found his most faithful and valid collaborator, so much so that her death marked her downfall. Beatrice trusted blindly, granted her great freedom and entrusted her with important tasks, making her always a participant in the councils and negotiations of war. As a husband he was therefore, at least at the beginning, almost impeccable, and if it had not been for the continuous betrayals nothing could have been reproached in this regard. Some historians, wandering, claimed that he beat his wife,but the confusion arises from a letter of 1492, in which it is written that the Duke of Milan had "beaten" his wife: Duke of Milan was then called Gian Galeazzo, who in accordance with his character was in fact used to mistreat his wife Isabella,nor therefore Ludovico ever allowed himself to make such a gesture towards that woman who "loved more than himself".[23]

Galeazzo Sanseverino, son-in-law of Ludovico il Moro.

Even as a father he was attentive, loving and present, great was the love he nu nuded above all towards his own daughter, Bianca Giovanna,and unbearable the pain he showed for his untimely unexpected death. He was also particularly attached to Galeazzo Sanseverino, who was also the son of Roberto,and for this reason he married his favorite daughter, covered him with honors and allowed him to keep in the castle almost a court of his own. Galeazzo for his part served him faithfully and, although he was not as skilled in war as his brother Fracassa, it was he who held the role of captain general of the Sforza army. Precisely this abuse yielded to Ludovico the hatred that later proved fatal of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, who had seen himself suddenly deprived of the title.

The great passion of Ludovico, more than women, more than food and more than the government, was indeed agriculture: Ludovico liked to remember that his grandfather, Muzio Attendolo,before becoming a leader was born a farmer, and he himself was an expert grower of vines and mulberries, the famous moròn, with whom they fed the silkworms that made the Milanese industry famous. He gave life to his own farm near Vigevano,the so-called Sforzesca, with adjacent the Pecorara where various species of cattle, sheep and other animals were bred, which Ludovico loved very much and where he often visited with his wife Beatrice, like him a lover of nature. It was no coincidence that he employed Leonardo da Vinci almost more as an engineer than as an artist, using his knowledge to build a series of aqueducts useful for irrigating those lands that are naturally arid. In the end he decided, by official act of January 28, 1494, to donate the Sforzesca, along with many other lands, to his beloved Beatrice, and this seems even more significant if we consider that from that company alone Ludovico received annually very rich incomes.[24]

Perhaps precisely because of his own insecurities, he was obsessed with astrology,so much so that the courtiers of Ferrara noticed that in Milan nothing was done without Ambrose of Rosate, astrologer and personal doctor of Ludovico, had first consulted the stars. Contrary to what some historians claim, Ludovico was a cultured man, he knew Latin and French and whenever he could he stopped to listen to the daily reading and commentary of the Divine Comedy that the humanist Antonio Grifo kept at the behest of Duchess Beatrice, who was very passionate about it. After her death and her capture, Ludovico asked as his last wish to be able to keep with him a book of Dante's work which he read continuously during his captivity, whose triplets he delighted in writing, translated into French, on the walls of his cell, along with some of his other nostalgic thoughts imbued with wisdom.[25]


Legitimate children

By his wife Beatrice d'Este, daughter of Ercole I d'Este, he had the following children:

  • Ercole Massimiliano, (1493 - 1530), count of Pavia, duke of Milan 1513 - 1515;
  • Sforza Francesco, (1495 - 1535), Prince of Rossano and Count of Borrello 1497 - 1498, Count of Pavia and Duke of Milan 1521 - 1524 married in 1533 to Christina of Denmark (1522 - 1590), daughter of King Christian II of Denmark.
  • The third son, also a male, was born dead and, not having been baptized, could not be placed with his mother in the tomb. Ludovico, heartbroken, therefore had him buried above the door of the cloister of Santa Maria delle Grazie with this Latin epitaph: "O unhappy childbirth! I lost my life before I was born, and more unhappy, by dying I took the life of my mother and the father deprived his wife. In so much adverse fate, this alone can be of comfort to me, that divine parents bore me, Ludovico and Beatrice dukes of Milan. 1497, January 2".[26]
Natural children

Il Moro also had a series of natural children, all legitimized, which over the years greatly enlarged the ducal family and allowed Sforza himself to cement some alliances:

From his mistress Bernardina de Corradis he had:

By his lover Cecilia Gallerani he had one son:

  • Cesare, (Milan, 1491 - 1514), abbot of the basilica of San Nazaro in Brolo in Milan from 1498, canon from 1503.

By his lover Lucrezia Crivelli he had two children:

  • Giovanni Paolo I Sforza or Giampaolo I Sforza, (Milan, 14 March 1497 – Naples, 13 December 1535), from whom the Sforza branch of Caravaggiodescends, married Violante Bentivoglio of the Counts of Campagna and lords of Bologna;
  • Isabella (1500-1535), named so probably in gratitude to Isabella d'Este Marquise of Mantua, who had offered refuge and protection to her fugitive mother. Married Francesco Carminati Bergamini, Count of San Giovanni in Croce.[27][28]

From his lover Romana he had:

  • Leone (1476 - Milan 1496), between the end of 1495 and the beginning of 1496 married the young noblewoman Margherita Grassi,[29] already widow of his uncle Giulio Sforza, to whom he had given a son.[30] He died shortly after the wedding without having had offspring.[31] He is often confused with his uncle of the same name, the latter abbot of San Vittore in Vigevano since 1495.

From dark lovers he had:

  • Galeazzo, eldest son, born before 1476 and died a child,[32],probably already before 1483, because in his first will, dating back to that year, Ludovico does not mention other children than Bianca and Leone.[33]
  • Sforza (1484/1485-1487).[34]

Perhaps he also had another illegitimate son unknown to us if, as reported by Bernardino Corio,in 1496 three of his bastard sons died, namely Leo, Bianca, and a third who cannot be identified with any of the aforementioned.

Representations in popular cultureEdit


Ludovico is the protagonist of some literary works:


  • The death of Ludovico Sforza known as the Moor, by Pietro Ferrari (1791).
  • Lodovico Sforza known as il Moro, by Giovanni Battista Niccolini (1833).
  • Lodovico il Moro, by Giuseppe Campagna (1842).


  • Lodovico il Moro, by Giovanni Campiglio (1837).
  • La città ardente - novel by Lodovico il Moro, by Dino Bonardi (1933).
  • Poisons, women and intrigues at the court of Ludovico il Moro, by Ezio Maria Seveso (1967)
  • I cento giorni del duca, by Laura Malinverni (2018)
  • Il Moro - Gli Sforza nella Milano di Leonardo, by Carlo Maria Lomartire (2019).


  • Ludovico il Moro - Signore di Milano, comic strip of 2010.

He also appears as a character in:

  • Cicco Simonetta: drama, with historical preface, by Carlo Belgiojoso (1858).
  • Leonardo - the Resurrection of the Gods, by Dmitry Mereskovsky (1901).
  • The Duchess of Milan, by Michael Ennis (1992).
  • L'invito di Ludovico il Moro, by Federico G. Martini (1998).
  • The Swans of Leonardo, by Karen Essex (2006).
  • The days of love and war, by Carla Maria Russo (2016).
  • La misura dell'uomo, by Marco Malvaldi (2018).
  • Leonardo da Vinci - The Renaissance of the Dead, by G. Albertini, G. Gualdoni and G. Staffa (2019).


  • In the 1971 RAI miniseries The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, Ludovico is played by Giampiero Albertini.
  • In the 1974 film Young Lucrezia, he is played by Piero Lulli.
  • In the 1981 miniseries The Borgias, he is portrayed by Robert Ashby.
  • In the 2004 film Le grandi dame di casa d'Este by Diego Ronsisvalle, he is played by Paolo Catani.
  • In the 2011 Canal+ series Borgia, he appears as a cameo, played by Florian Fitz.
  • In the 2011 Showtime series The Borgias, Ludovico Sforza is portrayed by English actor Ivan Kaye.
  • In the 2016 documentary film Leonardo da Vinci - Il genio a Milano, he is played by Vincenzo Amato.
  • In the 2016-2019 Anglo-Italian television series I Medici, he is played by Daniele Pecci.
  • In the 2019 film Io, Leonardo, he is played by Massimo de Lorenzo.
  • In the 2019 film Essere Leonardo da Vinci, he is played by Paolo Terenzi, although it constitutes a simple appearance.
  • In the 2021 series Leonardo Ludovico Sforza is portrayed by English actor James D'Arcy.


To Ludovico is dedicated the Dolceriso del Moro,a typical dessert of Vigevano,whose invention is traditionally attributed to the Duchess Beatrice herself, who would have conceived it in the spring of 1491 to please her illustrious consort.


  • Ludovico is linked to one of the legends that arose around the invention of Panettone, which would have been baked for the first time in his kitchens.
  • Around the origin of the nickname Moro there is an ancient popular legend according to which Ludovico was as a child initially called "the Bull" because of his strength and impetuousness, while "il Moro" was the nickname of one of his plebeian playmate, Cesarino della Griona, who was incredibly similar to him if not for the fact of always being dirty. One day, which was Christmas 1462, the two decided as a joke to exchange roles: while Cesarino, washed and well dressed, pretended to be Ludovico in the hall of the court, the real Ludovico went down the chimney hood tied to a rope, but got stuck. Cesarino himself rushed to his friend's cries for help, freeing him by tugging him by the feet. At that point the Duke Francesco Sforza, seeing his son all black for the soot, judged it necessary to exchange the nicknames of the two children, and so it was that Ludovico became "the Moor", and Cesarino, for the strength demonstrated, "the Bull". It is also said that this legend is the basis of the famous story The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.[35][36]
  • Among the various ghosts that would inhabit the castle of Vigevano, including that of his wife Beatrice, it is also said of a white horse that was seen running down the staircase leading to the Doge's Square and here travel three laps of it before disappearing.[37] The horse would have been the favorite of Ludovico, who would have wanted to avoid the dangers of war during the fateful defeat of Novara in 1500. In search of its master and finding the doors of the fortress barred, the animal would have beaten its hooves on the pavement of the square with such violence as to open a chasm into which it would finally fall.[38]



  1. ^ This depiction is one of the most famous portraits of Ludovico. The altarpiece with which is originates is by an unknown artist, thought to from be the circle of Leonardo da Vinci.[1]
  2. ^ Il Moro literally means "The Moor", an epithet said by Francesco Guicciardini to have been given to Ludovico because of his dark complexion. In modern Italian, moro is also a synonym for bruno, the masculine equivalent of "brunette". Some scholars have posited that the name Moro came from Ludovico's coat of arms, which contained the mulberry tree (the fruit of which is called mora in Italian). Still others have posited that Maurus was simply Ludovico's second name.[2]


  1. ^ Vezzosi, Alessandro (1997). Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance Man. New Horizons. Translated by Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra (English translation ed.). London, UK: Thames & Hudson. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-500-30081-7.
  2. ^ Cf. John E. Morby (1978). "The Sobriquets of Medieval European Princes". Canadian Journal of History. 13 (1): 13.
  3. ^ Godfrey, F. M., "The Eagle and the Viper", History Today, Vol.3, Issue 10, September 1953
  4. ^ "Ludovico il Moro e Beatrice d'Este", Palio di Mortara
  5. ^ a b c "Ludovico Sforza Moro", Biografia y Vidas
  6. ^ Miller-Wald, P. (1897). "Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Leonardo da Vinci". Jahrbuch der Preußischen Kunstsammlungen. XVII: 78.
  7. ^ Burckhardt, Jacob (1878). The Civilization Of The Renaissance in Italy. University of Toronto - Robarts Library: Vienna Phaidon Press. p. 23. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  8. ^ Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri. La corte di Lodovico il Moro, la vita privata e l'arte a Milano nella seconda metà del quattrocento. pp. 50–60.
  9. ^ Ferraiolo; Riccardo Filangieri. Una cronaca napoletana figurata del Quattrocento.
  10. ^


    — p. 1077
  11. ^


    — p. 1077
  12. ^ Annali veneti dall'anno 1457 al 1500, Domenico Malipiero, Francesco Longo (Senatore.), Agostino Sagredo, 1843, p. 389.
  13. ^


    — p. 252
  14. ^


    — pp. 438 e 441
  15. ^


    — p. 620
  16. ^


    — pp. 1095-1099
  17. ^


    — p. 292
  18. ^ Durant, Will (1953). The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. 5. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 191.
  19. ^ John Wilson (1832). History of Switzerland. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longman. p. 180.
  20. ^ Bosisio, Alfredo (1998). "Ludovico Sforza". Encyclopædia Britannica (online). Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  21. ^ Bernardino Corio, History of Milan.
  22. ^ Daniela Pizzagalli, La signora del Rinascimento. Life and splendor of Isabella d'Este at the court of Mantua..
  23. ^ Julia Cartwright, Beatrice d'Este, p. 276.
  24. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri, Francesco, La corte di Lodovico il Moro, la vita privata e l'arte a Milano nella seconda metà del quattrocento.
  25. ^ Sirio Attilio Nulli, Ludovico il Moro.
  26. ^ Infoelix partus; amisi ante vitamque in luce ederer: infoeliciorque matri moriens vitam ademi et parentem consorte suo orbari, in tam adverso fato hoc solum mihi potest jocundum esse, quia divi parentes me Lodovicus et Beatrix Mediolanenses duce genuere 1497, tertio nonas januarii
  27. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri, Francesco. La corte di Lodovico il Moro, la vita privata e l'arte a Milano nella seconda metà del quattrocento.
  28. ^ Francine Daenens - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 92 (2018), evidenzia che Francesco Carminati fu sposo di Isabella Sforza (1503-1561), figlia naturale di Giovanni Sforza, signore di Pesaro.
  29. ^ Luisa Giordano. Beatrice d'Este (1475-1497).
  30. ^ Caterina Santoro. Gli Sforza.
  31. ^ Bernardino Corio. Storia di Milano.
  32. ^ La corte di Lodovico il Moro, la vita privata e l'arte a Milano nella seconda metà del quattrocento.
  33. ^ Raccòlta vinciana. Numero 8. 1913. p. 157.
  34. ^ Luisa Giordano. Beatrice d'Este (1475-1497).
  35. ^ "Il Natale in cui Ludovico diventò Il Moro".
  36. ^ Di Alessandro Moriccioni (2018). Le grandi dinastie che hanno cambiato l'Italia (Newton Compton Editori ed.).
  38. ^ "Le curiose leggende di Vigevano".

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sforza". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 756.

Further readingEdit

  • Godfrey, F. M. "The Eagle and the Viper: Lodovico Il Moro of Milan: A Renaissance Tyrant." History Today (Oct 1953) 3#10 pp 705–715.
  • Lodovico Sforza, in: Thomas Gale, Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2005–2006.

External linksEdit

Italian nobility
Preceded by Duke of Milan
Succeeded by