|THE FAMILY - THE COUNTY OF S. FIORA AND ITS ORIGIN IN THE ALDOBRANDESCHI FAMILY|
The ancient Aldobrandeschi family, sovereign counts of S. Fiora and Sovana within the Sienese domain, was powerful and most noble.
It would be difficult to trace its origins, however it is certain that it was symbol of greatness centuries before the year 1000, and it is common opinion among historians that the family settled in Italy in the countryside around Siena at the time of Charlemagne.
Among the Aldobrandeschi, Pope Gregorio VII (1073 - 1085) should be mentioned.
Dante himself refers to the Aldobrandeschi in his Divine Comedy, in the character of Omberto Aldobrandeschi, count of S. Fiora (Purgatory, chant XI, vs. 57-72).
The lineage of the Sforza of S. Fiora originates with Bosio I (1411-1476), firstborn of Muzio Attendolo and Antonia Salimbeni.
He himself was not a legitimate count, as his wife Cecilia Aldobrandeschi was the direct heir to the title. In 1430 Pope Martino V Colonna, who was very close to Sforza, made him governor of Orvieto in addition to 200 troops under his command. Bosio's received many military assignments from his brother Francesco, Duke of Milan.
He took part in the siege of the city that, in 1450, led Francesco I Sforza to rule the duchy.
The long years spent earlier in Francesco's service, and later in the service of Duke Galeazzo, earned Bosio and his descendants Milanese citizenship and nobility (ducal diploma of 1471). Bosio also acquired many city-states in Lombardia, including Castell'Arquato in the country around Piacenza, Varchi, Menconico, Vicoli and Chiavenna near Milan.
In 1439 he married Cecilia, daughter of Guido Aldobrandeschi, the last Count of S. Fiora. Hereafter the Sforza became lords of the lands of S. Fiora and all its castles.
In his will, Bosio bequeathed to his firstborn Guido the lawful possession of the county of S. Fiora and to Francesco all the land and castles in Lombardia.
The Sforza of S. Fiora family continued with Guido Sforza (d. 1508) son of Bosio, the first of the family to legitimately wear the title of Count of S. Fiora, although, as previously mentioned, it was also generally used to refer to his father Bosio I.
Guido’s policy was based upon the search of stability, which he reached within his state through improvement of relationships with the neighboring states.
Good diplomatic alliances were fostered with the Curia, continuing a tradition begun under Bosio I.
A notable episode from Pio II’s Commentarii states that, in 1464, Pope Piccolomini himself went to S. Fiora to visit young Guido, who had just become lord of S. Fiora after his mother’s death.
Relations between the Sforza and the Papal States had always been good, except under Pope Alessandro VI Borgia, open enemy of the Sforza family.
Guido married Francesca Farnese, who bore him only one male child called Federico (d. before 1528) in honor of his godfather the Duke of Montefeltro.
Among Federico’s children were Ascanio (d. 1533) the Prior of Hungary, and Bosio II (d. 1535) who came into possession of the whole county of S. Fiora after his brothers Ascanio and Alfonso handed over their properties to him in 1517.
Around that same year, Bosio II married Costanza Farnese, daughter of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, future Pope Paolo III, who in 1538 renewed Bosio’s investiture with the lands of Castell’Arquato, Vigolo and Chiavenna.
Bosio also received the citizenship from Parma after he defended the city against the Duke of Borbone. The fact that Bosio made his will at Palazzo Colonna testifies that the Sforza were not living in Rome long, as they didn’t own a family house in town.
The present Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini, which used to be the seat of the Cancelleria Apostolica as well as home to Cardinal Ascanio, was definitively acquired by the Sforza of S. Fiora only in 1535, through a donation by Pope Paolo III Farnese to Cardinal Guido Ascanio.
In 1537 Costanza Farnese purchased a palace on Via Giulia that, having been given to Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza, was eventually let out for rent.
The Sforza remained the owners of the palace until 1577, when Giulio Ricci purchased it.
From Costanza, Bosio had ten children, six sons and four girls. Among them Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza Count of S. Fiora, Paolo I, Marquis of Proceno, Cardinal Alessandro, and Mario Count of S. Fiora, whose lineage continues down to our time.
Thanks to his close kinship with Pope Paolo III Farnese, Guido Ascanio Sforza (1518-1564) made an extraordinary career within the Church, and he became cardinal at the early age of sixteen.
He was appointed Deacon of S. Vito and S. Modesto in Macello Martyrum, together with his cousin Alessandro Farnese.
He was afterwards given the titles of S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Eustachio and S. Maria in Via Lata.
He also became administrator of Parma Episcopate, and, in 1541, became Patriarch of Alessandria.
From 1537 he was Camerlingo of the Church, and printer Antonio Baldo published his celebrated works during his time in office.
Then, Pope Paolo III made him Governor for life of the city of Proceno.
His kinship with the Farnese family allowed the cardinal to add a fleur-de-lis (the Farnese symbol) to Sforza’s coat of arms.
The Sforza still enjoyed the pope’s favor under Giulio III, but not under Paolo IV.
His hostility towards Cardinal Giulio Ascanio and his family was due to the cardinal’s open aversion shown during the conclave, and also to the Sforza’s sympathies for the Spanish party, which disagreed with the pope’s support of the French king.
In August 1555, when, abusing his power, the cardinal tried to recover his brother Carlo’s galleys by taking them off the French king’s service, the pope had him arrested and imprisoned in Castel Sant’Angelo, where he remained 22 days.
He was released when the galleys returned from Naples to the harbor of Civitavecchia, under the pope’s control, and thanks to the Count of S. Fiora’s mediation with the Duke of Alba.
In that same year Guido Ascanio was shrewd enough (first in his family) to have a document drawn which ratified the possibility of reciprocal substitution among all of the brothers’ lineages, in order to preserve the family properties as a whole.
Guido Ascanio, Cardinal Archpriest of the Roman Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, was therein buried, in the family chapel which he had built by Michelangelo, and in which his brother Alessandro Sforza also lies. The figure Sforza Sforza (1520-1575) Count of S. Fiora, wore his ancestor’s name and won back his ancestor’s prestige.
When he was only ten Francesco II, Duke of Milan wanted him at his court, and at sixteen he began to learn basic military arts under Charles V, fighting in the for succession to the Duchy of Milan.
Paolo III also employed him, and in 1540 appointed him Governor of Arms in the cities of Parma and Piacenza.
Again, under Charles V and Paolo III, he fought in the war against German religious heretics.
He was awarded of the title of General Captain of Chivalry for the Roman Church by the pope himself in 1548.
He was also awarded of the Order of the Golden Fleece by the King of Naples. His most glorious deed, though, was his campaign to France in support of Charles IX.
The king, during the war against the Huguenots, asked the pope for help. The pope, in response, not only gave him financial support, but also sent troops under Count Sforza’s command.
The Catholic army successfully defended the city of Poitiers, and eventually defeated the enemy I in the battle of Moncontour.
It is to Count Sforza that this campaign owed much of its success, as many acknowledgements demonstrate in addition to the 27 flags he was rewarded by the French king, shown in the Basilica Lateranense in memory of his victory until 1808, when they were taken down.
There is also evidence of his enterprise in the Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, where one of the bas-relieves of Pio V’s marble tomb illustrates episodes of his pontificate, showing the pope in the act of giving him the Commander’s Baton for his French campaign, during the consistory.
He also took part, though not directly, in the famous battle of Lepanto, as counselor to Giovanni d’Austria, general commander of the entire Christian fleet.
In 1553 he began his second marriage with Caterina de Nobili, niece of Giulio III. She gave birth to Francesco, who would become cardinal, and to Costanza, the future wife of Giacomo Boncompagni, Duke of Sora and son of Pope Gregorio XIII.
Mario I Sforza (1530 – 1591) also chose a military career, and he often found himself at his brother Carlo’s side, serving, as he did, in the French party.
In 1547 he married Fulvia Conti, the only child and heiress to Giovanni Battista Conti, a prominent baron of Roman nobility, Lord of Segni, Valmontone and other feuds, later inherited by the Sforza.
In 1555, Mario was given the County of S. Fiora, although he already had been collecting its revenues since 1549.
He left the court of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany only in 1583 to move to Rome, where he was invested with the office of Lieutenant General of the Holy Church by Pope Gregorio XIII.
In 1587 he rented Palazzo Riario, now Palazzo Corsini, at the Lungara, and purchased Villa Ruffianella in Frascati.
Alessandro Sforza (1534 1581) entered his ecclesiastic career very young, but he was not immediately raised to the dignity of cardinal.
In 1559, as chairman of the Food Administration Board (the Annona), he succeeded, by adopting clever measures, in avoiding the deadly outcomes of a terrible famine that affected the whole country.
Pio IV made him Bishop of Parma, and sent him to the Council of Trento as a delegate, where he contributed actively to positively conclude negotiations and to settle the controversy aroused during debate.
In 1565, a few months after the death of his brother Guido Ascanio, he was invested with the title of Cardinal of S. Maria in Via.
Afterwards, Pope Gregorio XIII asked him to eradicate the scourge of highway robbery within the Papal States. Paolo I Sforza (1535 l597), just as his brother Sforza, chose a military career and fought by his side in the most important occasions.
Paolo was the first member of his family to be given the title Marquis of Proceno, after the investiture in 1555. He bought many houses and palaces, but he should be remembered for purchasing some gardens in the area now occupied by Palazzo Barberini. Originally, the area was called Piazza Sforza, because of the gardens nearby and the new Palazzo, built by the marquis.
Francesco Sforza (1562-1624), son of Sforza Sforza and Caterina de Nobili, seemed more inclined to military than spiritual affairs and, when he was only eighteen, he joined Alessandro Farnese, whom he served for almost two years.
His brilliant military career was then interrupted by Gregorio XIII, who invested him with the title of Deacon Cardinal of S. Giorgio al Velabro in 1583. Under Gregorio XIII, Francesco (as papal ambassador) was appointed to destroy the bands of robbers that infested the Romagna.
In 1617, the cardinal considered the idea of having the history of the Sforza written, but the project was never carried out, and it was to be resumed only at the end of the 1700s by Nicola Ratti, upon request of a second Duke Francesco, and it still represents a valuable source of information about the family’s vicissitudes.
Cardinal Francesco Sforza is buried in the church of S. Bernardo alle Terme.
In 1548, Pope Paolo III gave the title of Vicar of the city of Segni to Giovanni Battista Conti, father of Fulvia Conti, wife of Duke Mario since 1547, and extended it to his heiress Fulvia and to her descendants in case Giovanni Battista didn’t have other children.
That same year, Federico Sforza was born (1548-1581). After Mario I, he continued the family line of the Counts of S. Fiora. Federico was adopted by Giovanni Battista Conti, thus becoming part of his family, and took their name and their coat of arms.
After the death of his adoptive father in 1575, Federico Sforza-Conti became Lord of the city of Segni and of the other feuds he inherited. He married Beatrice Orsini, who gave him Alessandro (1572-1631) and other children. Alessandro, as the sole legitimate heir of his family, was the richest member of the house as he held in his hands both the Conti and the Sforza’s possessions.
He was the first Count of S. Fiora to be conferred the title of duke, after Pope Sisto V raised the city of Segni to the status of dukedom.
In 1592, Alessandro married Eleonora Orsini of the Dukes of Bracciano, from whom he divorced in 1621.
On that occasion, Cardinal Francesco Sforza and Paolo, Marquis of Proceno, donated him their properties and feuds, renouncing any rights on them in his favor. Alessandro was also a relative of the Royal House of France through the marriage between King Arrigo IV and Maria de’ Medici, cousin of Alessandro’s wife.
The king himself made him Knight of his Orders. Alessandro led a life convenient to a man of his social standing and wealth so much that, people said, none of the other Roman aristocrats could compare.
With Eleonora Orsini, who died in 1634 and was buried in the Chiesa del Gesù, he had seven children among them Mario II, Duke of Segni, Paolo II, Marquis of Proceno and Cardinal Federico.
Mario II Sforza (1594-1658), Duke of Segni was a learned knight, so devoted to poetry in vernacular that he was counted among the Italian poets by Giovan Mario Crescimbeni in his “History of vernacular poetry”.
He first bore the title of Count of S. Fiora for some years, but after his marriage with Renata di Lorena, he became Duke of Onano, Onano being raised to the status of dukedom by Pope Paolo V just for him.
The title passed to the descendants until the Sforza became related to the Cesarini family.
Sadly, under Mario II, the Sforza’s sovereignty over the County of S. Fiora ceased, because in 1633 the land was sold to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando II.
The purchase act, however, included a clause by which the buyer was bound to preserve Mario II and his descendants as feudatories, for a sum that amounted to about a half of the money paid by the Grand Duke for the whole county.
Thus the Sforza were allowed to administer justice and collect taxes and duties.
The principality of Valmontone was sold to Don Taddeo Barberini, and in 1639 the Duchy of Segni was put up for auction and bought by Cardinal Antonio Barberini, as it is reported in a bull signed by Pope Urbano VIII.
Duke Ludovico and Marquis Paolo III, Mario Sforza’s son and brother, contested the acquisition.
Actually, they claimed the rights of purchase because their offer was higher and because of an agreement signed by Mario and Paolo that didn’t consent the alienation of family feuds. The controversy between the two families lasted many years and ended in favor of the Sforza in 1635.
The duchy was bought back by Duchess Livia Cesarini and her husband Duke Federico Sforza. Duke Mario’s family line came to an end with his only son Ludovico Sforza (1615-1685), Duke of Onano, who died childless.
Cardinal Federico Sforza (1603-1676) began his life in the Church in 1619, but he had to wait for the successor of Pope Urbano VIII to become cardinal.
An honor granted to him by Innocenzo X, who graced him with the title of Cardinal of SS. Vito and Modesto during the consistory of 1645.
The Marquis of Proceno, Paolo II Sforza continued the lineage of the Sforza.
From his second wife, Olimpia Cesi, he had (among other children) Francesco Count of S. Fiora and Duke of Onano, and Federico who would marry Livia Cesarini.
Francesco Sforza (1643-1707) was born in the palace known today as Corsini alla Lungara, at the time rented by Paolo II, Marquis of Proceno to be inhabited by the clergymen of his family, at the disposition of Cardinal Guido Ascanio.
Because of this, many members of the family had to rent noble palaces in town.
This was the case, for example, for Duke Ludovico, who chose Palazzo Sora as his residence.
After his death, Francesco became Count of S. Fiora and Duke of Onano.
He took Dorotea Tocco as his wife, and with her he had one daughter.
With Federico Sforza (1651 – 1712), third born son of Paolo II Sforza, the house of Sforza Cesarini began.
In 1673, Federico married Dame Livia Cesarini, heiress to the Cesarini, Savelli and Peretti possessions.
With this marriage, the Sforza became related to these families as well as the families of Cabrera and Bovadilla.
From then on the Sforza would wear these family names and possess their coat of arms as well.
This marriage was fiercely opposed by all relatives of Livia’s sister, Clelia, wife to the Prince of Sonnino.
The controversy aroused a fuss all over Rome, and split the people into two parties, which caused much disorder.
Federico was devoted to literature and poetry, being a member of the Accademia degli Umoristi and of the Arcadi.
In 1867 he was appointed extraordinary ambassador of the kingdom of Naples, and given the mission of offering the pope with the Chinea (a white mare which, traditionally, the kings of Naples sent to the pope every year as vassalage tax).
One of his sons, Giovan Giorgio, is mentioned by chronicles because of a mischievous episode that occurred in 1703, when he attempted to kidnap Faustina Moratti, with whom he was in love.
He didn’t succeed, and moreover Faustina was wounded. Giovan Giorgio had to flee to France, with a 6000 scudi reward on his head if captured alive.
Upon his request, in 1718 he was allowed by the pope to come back to Rome, with the condition that he should stay at the convent of S. Maria del Popolo.
There he obtained Faustina’s forgiveness, as well as the revocation of any sentence or punishment against him.
The lineage continued with Duke Gaetano Sforza-Cesarini (1674-1727), who wore the title of Duke of Segni as long as his father was alive.
In 1703 he married dame Vittoria Conti, daughter to the Duke of Poli and niece to Pope Innocenzo XIII.
She gave him a son, Giuseppe Sforza (1705-1744), who was honored with the Fleece by the Spanish king and with the Golden Key by the King of Naples.
In 1741 King Filippo V gave Giuseppe the right to transfer the title of Grandee of Spain (which belonged to the Savelli) to the Sforza family.
To Duke Giuseppe Sforza we owe the Teatro Argentina, a public theater built on an area of his possession, thanks to a sum of 20,000 scudi lent to him in 1731 by Pope Clemente XII.
The theater was built from a project by the architect Marquis Girolamo Theodoli.
It was completed in a short time and opened on January 12th 1732.
In 1730 Duke Giuseppe had a tomb placed in the Church of S. Biagio della Pagnotta, the parish church of Palazzo Sforza, intended to one day hold Duke Gaetano’s body and his own. From his wife D. Maria Giustiniani, whom he married in 1727, he had many children including Filippo and Gaetano, who both continued the Sforza lineage, and Sisto (b. 1730), who originated the Sforza-Cabrera-Bovadilla family.
Filippo Sforza Cesarini’s untimely death (1727-1764) forced his brother Gaetano (1728-1776) to abandon his clerical life.
In 1768, after regaining his lay status, he married Mariana Gaetani of the Dukes of Sermoneta and, of all their children, only Francesco (1773-1816) and Anna reached maturity.
The Sforza-Cesarini dynasty came to an end on May 19th, 1832 when Don Salvatore Sforza Cesarini, who had no children from his wife the Marquess Elisabetta Cusani, died.
Then, Lorenzo Filippo Montani, a painter, son of Duchess Geltrude Conti-Sforza-Cesarini claimed to be the legitimate heir of the dead’s title and properties.
Although the duchess had divorced her husband Duke Francesco two years before Filippo’s birth, and although she declared that she had Filippo Montani from the Russian officer Caro Marshall, the Sacred Rota judged that a child born within the marital home is to be considered the legitimate child of husband and wife, therefore Lorenzo was granted the right to succeed the Duke Don Francesco and to inherit his name and titles.
Thanks to this decision, Lorenzo became Duke Don Lorenzo Sforza Cesarini (1807- 1863) and married Carolina Shirley.
She gave birth to Francesco Sforza-Cesarini (1840-1899) who became senator of the kingdom of Italy, was decorated with a silver medal for military valor, honorary esquire to His Royal Highness Vittorio Emanuele II, and infantry Lieutenant-Colonel.
In 1867 Francesco married Vittoria Colonna-Doria, who gave birth to Lorenzo (1868-1939). From Lorenzo’s marriage with Maria Torlonia in 1897, he had Mario Bosio (1899-1986).
Mario married Virginia Lotteringhi della Stufa in 1938, who gave birth to Duke Bosio Sforza-Cesarini (b. 1939) and Ascanio (b. 1944), the present heirs.
In 1963, Don Bosio Sforza married Lydia Lo Savio, who gave birth to Lorenzo (b. 1964) and Francesco (b. 1965). Don Ascanio Sforza married Monica Bosca in 1968, and had Polissena (b. 1969), Drusiana (b. 1971), Vittoria (b. 1972) and Muzio (b. 1973).
The family is recorded in the Golden Book of Italian Nobility as well as in the Official List of Italian Aristocrats with the following titles: Duke of Segni (mpr.) (t.u. Duke Sforza Cesarini), Roman noble Prince of Gensano (mpr.), Duke of Civitalavinia (mpr.), Duke of Ginestra (mpr.), Duke of Torricella (mpr.), Marquis of Ardea (mpr.), Marquis of Civitanova (mpr.), Marquis of Frasso (mpr.), Marquis of Varzi and Menconico Cella (mpr.), Lord of Montecosaro (mpr.), Lord of Stirpe (mpr.), Lord of S. Martino del Pizzolano (mpr.), Don in the case of Lorenzo, Francesco, Lorenzo…
Count of S. Fiora.
The name Cesarini belongs to the firstborn only.