Gonzaga Dynasty

   Ruling house of the Italian city of Mantua from 1328, first as signori (lords) of the city and from 1433 with the more elegant title of marquis, conferred on Ludovico II (1412-1478) by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. By that time, the principality had become a small but relatively powerful state in Lombardy. The most famous member of the dynasty was Francesco II (1466-1519), who became a mercenary captain, or condottiere, in the service of the Republic of Venice and the papacy. His talented wife, Isabella d'Este, administered the principality during his many absences. In 1530 the Emperor Charles V promoted Federico II (1500-1540) to the rank of duke, but the dynasty and the state were frequently overshadowed by imperial power. After the death of the last direct descendant of the ruling family, Vincenzo II, in 1627, the principality declined, becoming involved in an internal dispute between two branches of the dynasty. In 1707 the last Gonzaga duke, Ferdinando Carlo, was exiled and the duchy reverted to the Habsburgs as an imperial fief. During the later 16th century, several members of the family were active in the Catholic reform movement. Elisabetta Gonzaga, a daughter of Federico I, married the duke of Urbino, became a notable patron of literature, and appears as the leading figure in the famous book of Renaissance court manners, The Book of the Courtier, by the Mantuan humanist Baldassare Castiglione.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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