Montefeltro, House of

Montefeltro, House of
   Italian noble family, originally counts of a district in east-central Italy known as the Marches, who came to the city of Urbino as imperial and later as papal vicars. Their first important figure, Antonio (1348-1404), incorporated Gubbio and several other towns into his small state and made Urbino his cap-ital. He showed interest in the humanist culture that was becoming dominant at Florence and took care to have his children educated in Latin literature as well as courtly manners. His son Guidantonio, in-heriting a compact and efficient state, enhanced his power and repu-tation by becoming one of the most highly regarded condottieri (mer-cenary generals) in the service of more powerful rulers. The third in the line of counts of Urbino, Oddantonio, was a debauched scoundrel who abused the wives and daughters of local citizens and was mur-dered in 1444 after only a year in power.
   He was then succeeded by a legitimized half-brother, Federico (1444-1482), who resumed his father's career as a respected and suc-cessful condottiere and in 1474 was raised to the rank of duke by Pope Sixtus IV as a reward for his military service. Under him and his invalid but capable son Guidobaldo (1472-1508), the ducal court of Urbino became a brilliant center of humanistic culture and polite courtly society, a milieu immortalized as the setting for The Book of the Courtier (1528) by Count Baldassare Castiglione. Under Guidobaldo, the duchess, Elisabetta Gonzaga, a daughter of the ruler of Mantua, presided over a highly intellectual and refined court. The ducal couple was childless, and in 1504 Guidobaldo adopted his nephew Francesco Maria della Rovere, who was also the nephew of his overlord Pope Julius II, and who succeeded to the throne in 1508, marking the end of the Montefeltro dynasty.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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