SFORZA, the name of a famous Italian family. They were descended from a peasant condottiere, Giacomo or Muzio ( sometimes abbreviated into Giacomuzzo) Attendolo, who was born at Cotignola in the Romagna on the loth of June 1369, gained command of a band of adventurers by whom he had been kidnapped, took the name of Sforza in the field, became constable of Naples under Joanna II., fought bravely against the Spaniards, served Pope Martin V., by whom he was created a Roman count, and was drowned on the 4th of January 1424 in the Pescara near Aquila while engaged in a military expedition. His natural son FRANCESCO (1401-1466) succeeded in command of the condottieri, and showed military genius and political acumen. He served the Visconti against the Venetians and then the Venetians against the Visconti; he attacked the pope, deprived him of the Romagna, and later defended him; he married in ( 1441 Bianca, the only daughter of Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, and received Pontremoli and Cremona as dowry and the promise of succession to the duchy of Milan. The short-lived Ambrosian republic, which was established by the Milanese on the death of Visconti (1447), was overthrown by Francesco, who made his triumphal entry as duke of Milan on the 2jth of March 1450. He suppressed a revolt at Piacenza, formed close alliances with Cosmo de' Medici and with Louis XI. of France, and exercised authority over Lombardy, several districts south of the Po and even Genoa. He rebuilt the fortress of Porta Giovio and constructed the Great Hospital and the canal of the Martesana, which connects Milan with the Adda; and his court, filled with Italian scholars and Greek exiles, speedily became one of the most splendid in Italy. His daughter Ippolita was renowned for her Latin discourses.
Francesco left several sons, among whom were Galeazzo Maria, Lodovico, surnamed the Moor, and Ascagnio, who became a cardinal.
GALEAZZO MARIA SFORZA, who succeeded to the duchy, was born in 1444, and was a lover of art, eloquent in speech, but dissolute and cruel. He was assassinated at the porch of the cathedral on the 26th of December 1476 by three young Milanese noblemen desirous of imitating Brutus and Cassius. His daughter Caterina is separately noticed. GIAN GALEAZZO (1469-1494), son of Galeazzo, succeeded to the duchy under the regency of his mother, Bona of Savoy, who was supplanted in her power (1481) by the boy's uncle, Lodovico the Moor. Gian Galeazzo married Isabella of Aragon, granddaughter of the king of Naples, and his sudden death was attributed by some to poison administered by the regent. His daughter, BONA SFORZA (1493-1557), married King Sigismund of Poland in 1518. She displayed remarkable ability in government, built castles, schools and hospitals, but increased corruption and intrigue at the Polish court. She was accused of having killed her daughterin-law, the wife of Sigismund Augustus. On the death of her husband she returned to Italy and was poisoned (1557) by her paramour Pappacoda.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)