Galeazzo Maria Sforza
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|Galeazzo Maria Sforza|
Galeazzo Maria Sforza, by Piero Benci, Uffizi Gallery
Bona of Savoy
|Noble family||House of Sforza|
|Mother||Bianca Maria Visconti|
24 January 1444|
|Died||26 December 1476
Galeazzo Maria Sforza (24 January 1444 – assassinated, 26 December 1476) was Duke of Milan from 1466 until his death. He was famous for being lustful, cruel and tyrannical.
He was born to Francesco Sforza, a popular condottiero and ally of Cosimo de' Medici who had gained the Duchy of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti. He married into the Gonzaga family; on the death of his first wife Dorotea Gonzaga, he married Bona of Savoy.
Galeazzo Maria Sforza was born in Fermo, near the family's castle of Girifalco, the first son of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti. At the death of his father (8 March 1466), Galeazzo was in France at the head of a military expedition to help King Louis XI of France against Charles I of Burgundy. Called back home by his mother, Galeazzo returned to Italy by an adventurous trip under a false name. The false identity was necessary as he had to pass by the territories of the family enemy, the Duke of Savoy, who made an unsuccessful attempt on Galeazzo's life. He entered Milan on 20 March, acclaimed by the populace.
In his first years Galeazzo and his mother ruled jointly, but later his ruthless character pushed him to oust Bianca Maria from Milan.
Sforza was famous as a patron of music. Under his direction, financial backing and encouragement, his chapel grew into one of the most famous and historically significant musical ensembles in Europe. Composers from the north, especially the Franco-Flemish composers from the present-day Low Countries, came to sing in his chapel and write masses, motets and secular music for him. Some of the figures associated with the Sforza chapel include Alexander Agricola, Johannes Martini, Loyset Compère, and Gaspar van Weerbeke. However, most of the singers at the Sforza chapel fled after Galeazzo's murder and took positions elsewhere; as a result, there was soon a rise in musical standards in other cities such as Ferrara.
Galeazzo Sforza is also known to have had a cruel streak. He was a notorious womanizer who often passed his women on to his courtiers once he was tired of them. Sforza once had a poacher executed by forcing him to swallow an entire hare (with fur intact), and had another man nailed alive to his coffin. He also had a priest who predicted a short reign for Sforza punished by being starved to death. This made him many enemies in Milan. It was also said of Galeazzo Sforza that he had raped the wives and daughters of numerous Milanese nobles, that he took sadistic pleasure in devising tortures for men who had offended him, and that he enjoyed pulling apart the limbs of his enemies with his own hands.
Lampugnani, descended from Milanese nobility, is recognized as the leader of the conspiracy. His motives were based primarily on a land dispute, in which Galeazzo had failed to intervene in a matter which saw the Lampugnani family lose considerable properties. Visconti and Olgiati also bore the duke enmity - Olgiati was a Republican idealist, whereas Visconti believed Sforza to have taken his sister's virginity.
After carefully studying Sforza's movements, the conspirators made their move on the day after Christmas, 1476, the official day of Santo Stefano, the namesake of the church where the deed was to be committed. Supported by about thirty friends, the three men waited in the church for the duke to arrive for mass. When Galeazzo Sforza arrived, Lampugnani knelt before him; after some words were exchanged, Lampugnani rose suddenly and stabbed Sforza in the groin and breast. Olgiati and Visconti soon joined in, as did a servant of Lampugnani's.
Sforza was dead within a matter of seconds. All the assassins quickly escaped in the ensuing mayhem save for Lampugnani, who became entangled in some of the church's cloth and was killed by a guard. His body soon fell into the hands of a mob, which dragged the corpse through the streets, slashing and beating at it; finally, they hung the body upside-down outside Lampugnani's house. The beheaded corpse was cut down the next day and, in an act of symbolism, the "sinning" right hand was removed, burnt and put on display.
Aftermath of the assassination
Despite the initial public reaction, the government brought swift justice, soon encouraged by the public as well.
The conspirators had given little thought to the repercussions of their crime, and were apprehended within days. Visconti and Olgiati were soon found and executed, as was the servant of Lampugnani who had participated in the slaying. The executions took place in a public ceremony that culminated in the display of their corpses as a warning to others.
Evidence from the conspirators' confessions indicated that the assassins had been encouraged by the humanist Cola Montano, who had left Milan some months before, and who bore malice against the duke for a public whipping some years before. While being tortured, Olgiati also uttered the famous words, "Mors acerba, fama perpetua, stabit vetus memoria facti" (Death is bitter, but glory is eternal, the memory of my deed will endure).
Similar elements indicate that this assassination was likely influential in the Pazzi Conspiracy, a subsequent attempt to dethrone the Medici family in Florence and to replace them with Girolamo Riario.
With his second wife, Bona of Savoy, Sforza had four children:
- Gian Galeazzo Sforza (1469–1494), who became duke upon his father's death; he married his cousin Isabella of Aragon, Duchess of Milan and had issue
- Hermes Maria Sforza (1470–1503), Marquis of Tortona
- Bianca Maria Sforza (1472–1510), who married Philibert I, Duke of Savoy and Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
- Anna Sforza (1476–1497), who married Alfonso I d'Este
With his mistress Lucrezia Landriani, he had at least one illegitimate daughter:
- Caterina Sforza, who married 3 times: Girolamo Riario; Giacomo Feo; and Giovanni de' Medici il Popolano
- Sforza reportedly had at least 4 other illegitimate children by Lucrezia, and 1 other child by another woman. http://www.kleio.org/en/history/famtree/sforza/631.html
- Martines, Lauro (2003). April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici. New York: Oxford UP.
- Belotti Bortolo. Il Dramma di Gerolamo Olgiati; Milano; 1929
In the short film series, Assassin's Creed: Lineage (a live-action short film set in the Assassin's Creed videogame franchise), the Duke's assassination is depicted with some liberties, with the protagonist Giovanni Auditore arriving only in time to see Lampugnani stab Sforza in the abdomen. Lampugnani would be cornered and killed by one of Sforza's guards, but Auditore found a Venetian coin on the body prompting him to continue an investigation. Neither Sforza nor his assassins were identified by name in Lineage, Sforza only referred to as the Duca di Milano.
In the Assassin's Creed II video game, a letter from Giovanni Auditore to Lorenzo de' Medici mentions the assassination, and both Lineage and Assassin's Creed II attribute it to Rodrigo Borgia, who would also mastermind the Pazzi Conspiracy.
"The Scarlet Contessa" (Jeanne Kalogridis, 2010) is a historical fiction novel that follows a girl in the household of Galeazzo, serving as a lady-in-waiting to his second wife Bona.
The Duke's assassination is the catalyst for the action in the Da Vinci's Demons television series, where he is depicted to be in his late 40s (while Sforza was actually 32 when he was killed), played by Hugh Bonneville. He is depicted as having had spent the night with a boy. His assassination erroneously takes place on Palm Sunday of 1477, which, on that year, fell on 30 March, about three months after his real-life death on 26 December 1476.
Galeazzo Maria SforzaBorn: 24 January 1444 Died: 26 December 1476
Francesco I Sforza
|Duke of Milan
Gian Galeazzo Sforza