The Montefeltro family ruled the duchy* of Urbino in eastern Italy from the mid-1100s to the early 1500s. In 1369 the pope's representative forced the family into exile. However, church authorities misgoverned the state, and in 1375 the people asked Count Antonio da Montefeltro (1348–1404) to return as their signore (lord). Antonio added new towns to the territory and formed alliances with the rival Malatesta family through marriage. He maintained contacts with humanists* in Florence and educated his children in the humanist tradition.
Antonio's son Guidantonio (1378–1443), a successful general, took over the duchy after his father's death. As a reward for services to Pope Martin V, he received the duchy of Spoleto (south of Urbino) in 1419. Guidantonio married the pope's niece, and his son, Oddantonio, succeeded him as Urbino's ruler at the age of 16.
Oddantonio (1427–1444) proved to be an irresponsible and cruel leader. He took part in atrocities against some of Urbino's citizens and drained the city's treasury. Meanwhile, Sigismondo Malatesta—ruler of the neighboring towns of Rimini and Fano—encouraged the young man's bad conduct, hoping it would lead the people of Urbino to revolt. Indeed, after only a year in power, Oddantonio was murdered by a group of angry citizens.
After Oddantonio's death, his illegitimate* half-brother, Federico da Montefeltro (1422–1482), took over. Federico ruled in the style of his father, Guidantonio, and gained a reputation as an outstanding leader. However, when he died, his ten-year-old son Guidobaldo was too young to rule. Even after he came of age, he suffered from ill health. Guidobaldo failed to produce an heir and the Montefeltro line ended with his death in 1508.
- * duchy
territory ruled by a duke or duchess
- * humanist
Renaissance expert in the humanities (the languages, literature, history, and speech and writing techniques of ancient Greece and Rome)
- * illegitimate
refers to a child born outside of marriage
see color plate 6, vol. 3