House of Este

The House of Este (Italian: Casa d'Este [ˈɛste]; originally House of Welf-Este) is a European princely dynasty.

The elder, German branch of the House of Este, known as the Younger House of Welf, included dukes of Bavaria and Brunswick-Lüneburg and produced Britain's Hanoverian monarchs, as well as one Emperor of Russia (Ivan VI) and one Holy Roman Emperor (Otto IV).

The younger, Italian branch of the House of Este included rulers of Ferrara (1240–1597), and of Modena and Reggio (1288–1796).

House of Este
Casa d'Este  (Italian)
Haus von Este  (German)
Noble family
Coat of arms of the House of Este (1239)
Motto: "The Devil is tireless"
(Latin: Ab insomni non custodita dracone)[1]
Parent houseObertenghi (predecessor)
FounderAdalberto III Obertenghi
Current head
Final rulerFrancis V of Modena
Style(s)"His/Her Imperial and Royal Highness"
Cadet branches


According to Edward Gibbon, the family originated from the Roman Attii family, which migrated from Rome to Este[2] to defend Italy against the Ostrogoths. However, there is little evidence to support this hypothesis. The names of the early members of the family indicate that a Frankish origin is much more likely. The first known member of the house was Margrave Adalbert of Mainz, known only as the father of Oberto I, Count palatine of Italy, who died around 975. Oberto's grandson, Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan (996–1097) built a castle at Este, near Padua, and named himself after the location. He had three sons from two marriages, two of whom became the ancestors of the two branches of the family:

  • Welf IV, the eldest (d. 1101), was the son of Kunigunde (d. 1056), the last of the Elder Welfs. He inherited the property of his maternal uncle, Welf, Duke of Carinthia, became duke of Bavaria in 1070, and is the ancestor of the elder branch, the House of Welf.
  • Hugh, issue of Azzo's second marriage to Garsend of Maine, inherited the French County of Maine, a legacy of his mother's dowry, but sold it one year later and died without heirs.
  • Fulco I, Margrave of Milan (d. about 1128/35), the third son, is the ancestor of the younger Italian line of Este.

The two surviving branches, with Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria on the German (Welf dynasty) side, concluded an agreement in 1154 which allocated the family's Italian possessions to the younger line, the Fulc-Este, who in the course of time acquired Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. Este itself was taken over in 1275 by Padua, and in 1405 (together with Padua) by Venice.

Elder branch, Guelph, Electors of Hanover

George I Oval
George I, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, Prince-Elector of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick. Portrait c. 1714, the year of his accession, by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

The elder branch of the House of Este, the House of Welf, historically rendered as "Guelf" or "Guelph" in English, produced dukes of Bavaria (1070–1139, 1156–1180), dukes of Saxony (1138–1139, 1142–1180), a German King (1198–1218), the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg (1208–1918)(later styled the "Electors of Hanover") when the two branches of the family recombined in 1705. The senior branch of the House of Welf continued to be ruled by the princes of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, as undisputed until the death of the ruling duke of Brunswick Prince William VIII, in 1884. Prior to his death, his brother Karl II from Geneva Switzerland, as exiled de jure ruler of the house, had declared the Prussian annexation of the crown and the earlier Hanoverian usurpation absolutely illegal acts of usurpation inside of the German House. At his death, his grandson continued internationally recognized appeals. Hanover formed the Guelph Party (or German Party) to continue political appeals against the Prussian and German annexations of the crown.

After the peace ending the Napoleonic wars reshaped Europe, ushering in the Modern era, the Electorate of Hanover (duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, held in personal union by the king of Great Britain, George III) was dissolved by treaty. Its lands were enlarged and the state was promoted to a kingdom. The new kingdom existed from 1815 to 1866, but upon the accession of Queen Victoria (who could not inherit Hanover under Salic law) in 1837, it passed to her uncle, Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover, and thus ceased to be in personal union with the British Crown.

The House of Este gave Great Britain and the United Kingdom the "Hanoverian monarchs" (1714–1901).

Royal Arms of Great Britain (1714-1801)

Arms of Great Britain (1714–1801)

Coat of Arms of Great Britain in Scotland (1714-1801)

Version for Scotland

Younger branch, 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. As the dowry of his niece the Marchesella, Ferrara passed to Azzo VI d'Este In 1146, with the last of the Adelardi. In 1242 Azzo VII Novello was nominated podestà for his lifetime.

The lordship of Ferrara was made hereditary by Obizzo II (d. 1293), who was proclaimed Lord of Ferrara in 1264, Lord of Modena in 1288, and Lord of Reggio in 1289. Ferrara was a papal fief and the Este family were given the position of hereditary papal vicars in 1332.

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

His successors were his illegitimate sons Leonello (1407–1450) and Borso (1413–1471), who was elevated to Duke of Modena and Reggio by Emperor Frederick III in 1452, receiving 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.

Borso was succeeded by a half-brother, Ercole (1431–1505), who was 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 Sforza, Duke of Milan; another daughter, Isabella (1474–1539), married Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua.

Tizian 056

Isabella d'Este, portrait by Titian

Ercole I's successor was his son Alfonso I (1476–1534), third husband of Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, sister to Cesare Borgia. Alfonso I was a patron of Ariosto.

The son of Alfonso and Lucrezia Borgia, 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. After she died, he married Barbara, the sister of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor (1527–1576). His third wife, Margherita Gonzaga, was daughter of the duke of Mantua.

Ercole raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, continuing the patron of Torquato Tasso and Giovanni Battista Guarini and in general favoring the arts and sciences, as the princes of his house had always done. The legitimate line ended in 1597 with him; as his heir, Emperor Rudolph II recognized 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.

The last duke, Ercole III, was deposed in 1796 by the French. His two duchies became the Cispadane Republic which one year later was merged into the Cisalpine Republic and then into the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Ercole was compensated in 1801 with the small principality of Breisgau in southwestern Germany, whose previous rulers, the Habsburgs, ceded it to him in anticipation of its eventual return to the Habsburgs, since Ercole's daughter Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este was married to a cadet Habsburg, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este. Ercole died in 1803 and Breisgau passed to his daughter and her husband, who in 1806 lost it during the Napoleonic reorganization of the western territories of the defunct Holy Roman Empire to the enlarged and elevated Grand Duchy of Baden.


Castello Estense in Ferrara

P. Ducale visto dalla Ghirlandina

Ducal Palace in Modena, built in 1634 by Francesco I d’Este

Austria-Este and the House of Habsburg


House of Este

The House of Este held the city Este until 1240, when they moved their capital to Ferrara

Coat of arms of the House of Este (1239)

Original Coat of Arms of Este 1239–1431

Blason Nicolas III d'Este (1383 - 1441)

Coat of Arms of Este 1431–1452

Coat of arms of the House of Este (1452)

Coat of arms of Este 1452–1471

Coat of arms of the House of Este (1471)

Coat of Arms of Este in 1471

Coat of arms of the House of Este (Ercole I)

Coat of Arms of Este 1471–1535

Coat of arms of the House of Este (1535)

Coat of Arms of Este 1535–1741

Armoiries Este 1727

Coat of Arms of Este in 1741

Armoiries Autriche-Este 1914

Coat of Arms of Austria-Este

Arms of the Dukes of Austria-Este as borne by Archduke Franz Ferdinand during his lifetime

Arms of Austria-Este as borne by Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Provvedimento di Giustizia (Ercole III-Duke of Modena, 1798)

Provvedimento di Giustizia (Ercole III-Duke of Modena, 1798)

See also


  1. ^ Tausin, Henri (1878). Dictionnaire des Devises historiques et héraldiques. B. Dumoulin. p. 386.
  2. ^ The miscellaneous Works of Edward Gibbon Vol 3 page 172

Further reading

  • Trevor Dean, Land and Power in Late Medieval Ferrara: The Rule of the Este, 1350–1450.(Cambridge University Press) 1987.

External links

Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan

Alberto Azzo II (997 or July 10, 1009, Modena – August 20, 1097, Modena), Margrave of Milan, and Liguria, Count of Gavello and Padua, Rovigo, Lunigiana, Monselice, and Montagnana, was a powerful nobleman in the Holy Roman Empire. He is considered the founder of Casa d'Este (House of Este), having been head of the first family to be master of Este, a town of Padua.

Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

Alfonso II d'Este (24 November 1533 – 27 October 1597) was Duke of Ferrara from 1559 to 1597. He was a member of the House of Este.

Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

Alfonso d'Este (21 July 1476 – 31 October 1534) was Duke of Ferrara during the time of the War of the League of Cambrai.

Borso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

Borso d'Este (1413 – August 20, 1471) was Duke of Ferrara, and the first Duke of Modena, which he ruled from 1450 until his death. He was a member of the House of Este.


Bradamante (occasionally spelled Bradamant) is a fictional knight heroine in two epic poems of the Renaissance: Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Since the poems exerted a wide influence on later culture, she became a recurring character in Western art.

Cesare d'Este, Duke of Modena

Cesare d'Este (8 October 1562 – 11 December 1628) was Duke of Modena and Reggio from 1597 until his death.

Duchy of Ferrara

The Duchy of Ferrara (Latin: Ducatus Ferrariensis Emilian: Ducàt ad Frara Italian: Ducato di Ferrara) was a sovereign state in what is now northern Italy. It consisted of about 1,100 km2 south of the lower Po River, stretching to the valley of the lower Reno River, including the city of Ferrara. The territory was ruled by the House of Este from 1146 as vassals of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1471, the territory was transferred from the Empire to the Papal States. Borso d'Este, already Duke of Modena and Reggio, was created Duke of Ferrara by Pope Paul II. Borso and his successors ruled Ferrara as a quasi-sovereign state until 1597, when it came under direct papal rule.

Duchy of Modena and Reggio

The Duchy of Modena and Reggio (Italian: Ducato di Modena e Reggio, Latin: Ducatus Mutinae et Regii) was a small northwestern Italian state that existed from 1452 to 1859, with a break during the Napoleonic Wars (1796–1814) when Emperor Napoleon I reorganized the states and republics of renaissance-era Italy, then under the domination of his French Empire. It was ruled from 1814 by the noble House of Este, of Austria-Este.

Duchy of Reggio

The Duchy of Reggio was one of the states that belonged to the Duchy of Modena and Reggio, ruled by the House of Este, in the north of Italy, in a territory now belonging to the Province of Reggio Emilia. The capital was Reggio.

The perimeter of the duchy was from the Apennines to the river Po. The ancient borders were with the County of Novellara and Bagnolo (ruled by a branch of the House of Gonzaga), and the County of Guastalla, the Principality of Correggio, the Duchy of Modena and Garfagnana, all ruled by the dukes of Este. Other neighbour states were those of Lucca, Tuscany, the Duchy of Parma and the Marquisate of Mantua.

Duke of Ferrara and of Modena

Emperor Frederick III elevated the Italian family of Este, Lords of Ferrara, to Dukes of Modena and Reggio in 1452, and Dukes of Ferrara in 1471. In 1597, they lost the succession Duchy of Ferrara itself to the Papal States. They continued to rule the Duchy of Modena and Reggio in the Emilia until 1796, when it became part of Napoleon Bonaparte's Cispadane Republic. In 1814 the duchy was restored under the Habsburg grandson of the last Este Duke, continuing until annexed by Piedmont-Sardinia in 1859.

Ercole III d'Este, Duke of Modena

Ercole III d'Este (Ercole Rinaldo; 22 November 1727 – 14 October 1803) was Duke of Modena and Reggio from 1780 to 1796. He was a member of the House of Este.

Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

Ercole I d'Este, KG (26 October 1431 – 15 June 1505) was Duke of Ferrara from 1471 until 1505. He was a member of the House of Este. He was nicknamed North Wind and The Diamond.

House of Welf

The House of Welf (also Guelf or Guelph) is a European dynasty that has included many German and British monarchs from the 11th to 20th century and Emperor Ivan VI of Russia in the 18th century.

Ippolito II d'Este

Ippolito (II) d'Este (25 August 1509 – 2 December 1572) was an Italian cardinal and statesman. He was a member of the House of Este, and nephew of the other Ippolito d'Este, also a cardinal. He is perhaps best known for his despoliation of the then 1,400-year-old Hadrian's Villa, built by the Roman emperor Hadrian, removing marbles and statues from it to decorate his own villa, the Villa d'Este.

March of Ancona

The March of Ancona (Italian: Marca Anconitana) (also Anconetana) was a frontier march centred on the city of Ancona and, then, Macerata in the Middle Ages. Its name is preserved as an Italian region today, the Marches, and it corresponds to almost the entire modern region and not just the Province of Ancona.

The march was created as a political division of the Papal States during the pontificate of Innocent III in the year 1198. It was initially governed by a papal nominee called a rector. The rector of Ancona, like the rectors of the other papal provinces, was under the authority of a general rector reporting directly to the pope. The province was confirmed by the Constitutiones Sanctæ Matris Ecclesiæ in 1357. The march followed the Adriatic as far north as Urbino and contained the cities of Loreto, Camerino, Fermo, Macerata, Osimo, San Severino, and Tolentino

According to Paul Sabatier's biography of St. Francis of Assisi, "The Road to Assisi", the March of Ancona became the home of the spiritual Franciscans after Francis' death.

Maria Teresa Felicitas d'Este

Maria Teresa Felicitas d'Este (October 6, 1726 – April 30, 1754) was born a princess of Modena and was by marriage the Duchess of Penthièvre. She was the mother-in-law of Philippe Égalité and thus grandmother to the future Louis-Philippe of France.

Portrait of a Princess (Pisanello)

Portrait of Princess is a tempera painting on panel attributed to the Italian Late-Gothic master Pisanello. It was probably executed between 1435 and 1449 and is also known as Portrait of a Princess of the House of Este. It is firmly attributed to Pisanello on stylistic grounds and because he stayed in Ferrara in the period, where he also finished a portrait and a celebrative medal of Marquis Leonello d'Este.

The princess is shown in profile against a background of numerous butterflies and columbine flowers. The butterfly (it seems a Vanessa atalanta) near the princess' brow is a symbol of the soul.

The painting is currently housed and exhibited in the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.

Ruggiero (character)

Ruggiero (often translated Rogero in English) is a leading character in the Italian romantic epics Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. Ruggiero had originally appeared in the twelfth-century French epic, Aspremont, reworked by Andrea da Barberino as the chivalric romance Aspramonte. In Boiardo and Ariosto's works, he is supposed to be the ancestor of Boiardo and Ariosto's patrons, the Este family of Ferrara, and he plays a major role in the two poems.

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Royal houses of Europe

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