Military Wiki
Ludovico Sforza
Personal details
Born (1452-07-27)27 July 1452
Vigevano (Modern day Lombardy)
Died 27 May 1508(1508-05-27) (aged 55)
castle of Loches (died as a prisoner of the French)
Spouse(s) Beatrice d'Este

Ludovico Maria Sforza (also known as Ludovico il Moro;[1] 27 July 1452 – 27 May 1508), was Duke of Milan from 1489 until 1500. A member of the Sforza family, he was the second son of Francesco Sforza. He was famed as a patron of Leonardo da Vinci and other artists, and presided over the final and most productive stage of the Milanese Renaissance. He is probably best known as the man who commissioned The Last Supper.

Early life

Ludovico Sforza in a portrait by Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis.

Ludovico Sforza was born on July 27, 1452, at Vigevano, in what is now Lombardy. He was the second son of Francesco I Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti and, as such, was not expected to become ruler of Milan. Nevertheless, his mother, Bianca, prudently saw to it that his education was not restricted to the classical languages. Under the tutelage of the humanist Francesco Filelfo, Ludovico received instruction in the beauties of painting, sculpture, and letters, but he was also taught the methods of government and warfare. He later helped Leonardo paint with pastels.

Regent of Milan

When their father Francesco died in 1466 (the Last Supper was painted next to his burial place in Santa Maria delle Grazie), he was succeeded by the dissolute Galeazzo Maria, Ludovico's older brother. Galeazzo Maria ruled until his assassination in 1476, leaving his throne 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, followed; Ludovico emerged as victor in 1481 and seized control of the government of Milan, despite attempts to keep him out of power. For the next 13 years he controlled Milan as regent.

Marriage and private life

Beatrice d'Este in a portrait by Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis and Leonardo da Vinci

In January 1491, he married Ercole I d'Este's youngest daughter Beatrice d'Este (1475–1497) in a double Sforza-Este marriage, while Beatrice's brother, Alfonso d'Este, married Anna Sforza, Ludovico's niece. Leonardo da Vinci orchestrated the wedding celebration. Beatrice and Alfonso’s sister, Isabella d'Este (1474–1539) was married to Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua.

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 the 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. She would become the mother of Maximilian Sforza and Francesco II Sforza, future Dukes of Milan.

Prior to and throughout the duration of his 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. The child was legitimized and later married to Galeazzo 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 he 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.[2]

Rule as Regent

Ludovico contented himself with the realities rather than the appearance of power. He invested in agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, and the metal industry. Some 20,000 workers were employed in the silk industry. Artists and craftsmen labored to make the court of Milan the most splendid in Italy. Lodovico continued work on the Cathedral of Milan and had the streets of his capital widened and adorned with gardens. The universities of Pavia and Milan flourished under him. There was some grumbling at the heavy taxation necessary to support these ventures, and a few riots resulted.

Ascension as Duke of Milan and the Italian Wars

In 1494, the new king of Naples, Alfonso, allied himself with Pope Alexander VI, posing a threat to Milan. Ludovico decided to fend him off using France, then ruled by the powerful Charles VIII, as his ally. He permitted the French troops to pass through Milan so they might attack Naples. However, Charles's ambition was not satisfied with Naples, and he subsequently laid claim to Milan itself. Bitterly regretting his decision, Ludovico then entered an alliance with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, by offering him in marriage his niece Bianca Sforza and receiving, in return, imperial investiture of the duchy and joining the league against France.

Gian Galeazzo, his nephew, died under suspicious conditions in 1495, and the throne of Milan fell to Ludovico, who hastened to assume the ducal title and received the ducal crown from the Milanese nobles on 22 October. But by then, his luck seemed to have run out. On 3 January 1497, as the result of a difficult childbirth, Beatrice, his wife, died. Ludovico was inconsolable, and the entire court was shrouded in gloom. Ludovico had also hoped by involving the French, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, in Italian politics, he could manipulate the two and reap the rewards himself, and was thus responsible for starting the Italian Wars. At first, Ludovico defeated the French at the Battle of Fornovo in 1495 (making weapons from 80 tons of bronze originally intended for Leonardo da Vinci's equestrian statue of the duke). However, with the death of Charles, the French throne was inherited by his cousin, Louis of Orléans, who became Louis XII of France. The new king had a hereditary claim to Milan, as his paternal grandmother was Valentina Visconti, daughter of Giangaleazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan. 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. Deprived of all the amenities of life, he spent his last years in the underground dungeon at Loches, where he died on 17 May 1508. The Swiss later executed a soldier from Uri, called Hans Turmann, who had, they claimed, betrayed his employer for money.

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

Representations in Popular Culture

In the 2011 Showtime series The Borgias, Ludovico Sforza is portrayed by English actor Ivan Kaye.


  1. "Il Moro" literally means "The Moor", an epithet said to have been given to Ludovico because of his dark complexion. Some scholars have posited that the name Moro came from Ludovico's coat of arms, which contained the mulberry tree, "mora" in Italian. In modern Italian "moro" is also a synonym for "bruno", the masculine equivalent of "brunette" ("mora" in Italian).
  2. Miller-Wald, P. (1897). "Beiträge zur Kenntnis des Leonardo da Vinci". pp. 78. 

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. Encyclopædia Britannica Cambridge University Press 

  • Lodovico Sforza, in: Thomas Gale, Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2005-2006.

External links

Italian nobility
Preceded by
Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Duke of Milan
Succeeded by
Louis II

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).