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An Italian family that rose to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries. Muzio Attendolo (1369–1424) was one of the most powerful condottieri of the period (his assumed name Sforza means “force”). His illegitimate son Francesco (1401–66) was also a successful condottiere, whose armies were involved in a three-way war with the Milanese republic and Venice, after which he entered Milan in triumph as duke (1450), and thereafter governed ably.

Ludovico (1451–1508), known as “Il Moro” (the Moor), usurped the Milanese government in 1480. He helped Charles VIII of France to invade Naples (1494), but he was subsequently driven out of his duchy by Louis XII (1499). In 1512 his son Massimiliano (1493–1530) was restored to Milan with Swiss aid; Francis I of France defeated him at Marignano (1515), and forced him to cede his dominions, granting him a pension of 30,000 ducats. Massimiliano's brother Francesco II (1495–1535) was restored by Emperor Charles V in 1522, but his death marked the end of the male ducal line.

Subjects: History by Period.

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