Ercole II d’Este

Ercole II d’Este


Ferrara, 4 April 1508


Ferrara, 3 October 1559

Ercole II d'Este

The son of Duke Alfonso d’Este and of Lucrezia Borgia, Ercole was given an outstanding education in the humanities; it was his father's wish that he should engage in the art of war. On the other hand his marriage to Renée of France (1528), sister in law of King Francis I, consolidated the Este alliance with the Valois dynasty, opposed to Charles V, during this specific phase of the Italian Wars. In January 1529, with the possibility of war becoming ever closer,Florence enlisted him (also following indications by the King of France) as Captain genera of its army. However, young Ercole, who was receiving a substantial salary from the City, never travelled to Tuscany to comply with the rules of his position (or “engagement”), merely sending a cavalry contingent. Despite the insistence of Florentine ambassadors sent to Ferrara, Ercole d’Este remained in his dominions until the end of the year, that is to day after the fighting had started. The truth is that the new international situation - with the rapprochement between Clement VII and Charles V througgh the Treaty of Barcelona and the Peace of Cambrai or of the Ladies between the Emperor and the King of France, made it advisable for Ercole d’Este to withwdraw his support for the Florentine cause. The Signoria had to discharge him and find a replacement, namely Malatesta Baglioni. In 1534 Ercole II succeeded his father and led his States in the final phases of the Italian Wars, juggling between the Valois and Habsburg side. His wife organised a religious-cultural circle propounding “heterdox” ideas (considered heresies by the Church of Rome), managing to avoid any consequence, and Ferrara was also one of the most tolerant cities in respect of Jews of Iberian origin, who had had to flee the increasingly inhospitable territries of the Spanish Monarchy.

Bibliography and sources:

Gino Benzoni, Ercole II d’Este, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 43, 1993, s.v.
Alessandro Monti, L’assedio di Firenze (1529-1530). Politica, diplomazia e conflitto durante le guerre d’Italia, Pisa, Pisa University Press, 2015

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