The young Francesco Maria della Rovere was a famous condottiere who served at the head of militia for numerous Italian states. In 1505 he married Eleonora Gonzaga and after a brief period of exile, when power passed to Lorenzino de’ Medici, he regained control of the duchy in 1523 (in the meantime, the duchy’s capital had been moved to Pesaro).
In 1538 he was succeeded by his son, Guidubaldo II, born in 1514, who during his long career, filled many military positions for various lords, as his father had before him. In 1548, he took Vittoria Farnese as his second wife and the following year, she gave birth to the long-awaited male heir,Francesco Maria II. Guidubaldo II had more work carried out on the Ducal Palace in Urbino, building the so-called “Della Rovere apartments” [“appartamento roveresco”] and raising the 15th-century terraces to create the building’s second floor.
Francesco Maria II, who attended the Spanish court in Madrid, succeeded his father in 1574. In 1571, he married Lucrezia D’Este (ending the marriage in 1577) and then, worried by the lack of an heir, the very young Livia Feltria Della Rovere (1599), to whom he was related. Finally, in 1605, the duchess gave birth to the long-awaited heir, Federico Ubaldo.
To prevent Urbino from passing to the Church State, which had had designs on the Della Rovere lands for some time, Francesco Maria II drew up a marriage agreement between his young heir and Claudia de’ Medici, daughter of an important political figure, Ferdinando I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The young couple married in 1621 accompanied by great celebrations in the city of Urbino, and the following year, their daughter Vittoria was born.
On 6 June 1623 Federico Ubaldo died unexpectedly, and his widow and daughter moved immediately to Florence, taking with them a vast amount of the furnishings and works of art that would be the young Vittoria’s dowry.
Francesco Maria II retired to the Ducal Palace in Urbania, where he died on 18 April 1631. In the summer of the same year, the Cardinal Legate of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, Antonio Barberini, officially took possession of the Duchy and the Ducal Palace.