The House of Este

SEE ALSO: The Borgias Home I Powerful Renaissance Families I Historical Profiles I Discussion Forum I The Duchy of Ferrara

House of Este

During the Period 1384 - 1628

The House of Este is a European princely dynasty. It is split into two branches; the senior branch is known as the House of Welf-Este or House of Welf, and the junior branch as the House of Fulc-Este or later simply as the House of Este. The junior branch was known as the Margraves of Este.

All later generations of the Italian branch are descendants of
Fulco d'Este. From 1171 on, his descendants were titled Margraves of Este.

Obizzo I (d. 1193), the first margrave, battled against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. His nephew Azzo d'Este VI (1170–1212) became podestà of Mantua and Verona. In 1146 with the last of the Adelardi Ferrara passed as the dowry of his niece the Marchesella, to Azzo VI d'Este. Azzo VII Novello was nominated podestà for his lifetime in 1242.


Ferrara became a significant centre of culture under
Niccolò d'Este III (1384–1441), who received several popes with great magnificence, especially Eugene IV, who held a Council here in 1438, later known as the Council of Florence.

His successors were Leonello (1407–1450) and Borso (1413–1471), who was elevated to Duke of Modena and Reggio by Emperor Frederick III in 1452 and in return received these duchies as imperial fiefs. In 1471 he received the duchy of Ferrara as papal fief from Pope Paul II, for which occasion splendid frescoes were executed at Palazzo Schifanoia.

Under Ercole (1431–1505), one of the most significant patrons of the arts in late 15th and early 16th century Italy, Ferrara grew into a cultural center, renowned especially for music; Josquin des Prez worked for Duke Ercole, Jacob Obrecht came to Ferrara twice, and Antoine Brumel served as principal musician from 1505. Ercole's daughter Beatrice (1475–1497) married Ludovico Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, while his daughter Isabella (1474-1539) - she was a patron who collected art and backed artists like Titian, Raphael, and Da Vinci - married Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua.

Ercole I's successor was his son Alfonso I (1476–1534), third husband of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia and the patron of Aristo.

Isabella d'Este
Alfonso and Lucrezia


Alfonso and Lucrezia
Alfonso and Lucrezia Borgia's son Ercole d'Este II (1508–1559) married Renée of France, daughter of Louis XII of France. His son Alfonso II first married Lucrezia, daughter of grand-duke Cosimo I of Tuscany, then after becoming a widower, Barbara, the sister of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor (1527–1576) and finally a third wife, Margherita Gonzaga, daughter of the duke of Mantua.

Though he raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, and was the patron of Torquato Tasso and Giovanni Battista Guarini, favouring the arts and sciences, as the princes of his house had always done, the legitimate line ended in 1597 with him. Emperor Rudolph II recognized as heir his first cousin Cesare d'Este (1533–1628), member of a cadet branch born out of wedlock, who continued to rule in the imperial duchies and carried on the family name. Ferrara, on the other hand, was annexed by force of arms in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII, on grounds of the heir's illegitimacy, and incorporated into the Papal States.

House of Este Decendants

House of Este
House of Este

Leonello d'Este (Marquis of Ferrara)

Leonello d'Este
Marquis of Ferrara
Ercole d'Este (Dosso Dossi, c. 1500)
Ercole d'Este
Duke of Ferrara

House of Este

Beatrice d'Este (Ambrosio de Predis, c. 1490)
Beatrice d'Este

The House of Este


House of Este