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House of Este

house of este, house of este coat of arms
The House of Este ˈɛste Italian: Casa d'Este, originally House of Welf-Este is a European princely dynasty

The elder branch of the House of Este included the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg 1208–1218 and produced Britain's Hanoverian monarchs and one Emperor of Russia Ivan VI

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


  • 1 Origins
  • 2 Elder branch, Guelph, Electors of Hanover
  • 3 Younger branch, the Margraves of Este
  • 4 Austria-Este and the House of Habsburg
  • 5 Gallery
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links


According to Edward Gibbon the family originated from the Roman Attii family, which migrated from Rome to Este2 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 Hanoveredit

Main article: House of Welf 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 succession, by Sir Godfrey Kneller

The elder branch of the House of Este, the House of Welf, historically rendered "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, and the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg 1208–1918, who were later styled the "Electors of Hanover" when the two branches of the family recombined in 1705

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 accession of Queen Victoria who could not inherit Hanover under Salic law in 1837, it passed to her uncle, Ernest Augustus I 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

Younger branch, the Margraves of Esteedit

Ercole I d'Este was one of the most important patrons of arts in the Italian Renaissance

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

Leonello d'Este by Pisanello

His successors were his brothers 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 succeded 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

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

Austria-Este and the House of Habsburgedit

Main article: Austria-Este

In 1814, when French rule in Italy ended, Modena was returned to the daughter of deceased Duke Ercole, Mary Beatrice and her son, Archduke Francis of Austria-Este The family thus again ruled the duchy of Modena and Reggio from 1814 to 1859, using the names Asburgo-Este Habsburg-Este and Austria-Este In 1859, the duchy lost its independence to the new united Italy, and Francis V, Duke of Modena, was deposed

Ercole III was the last Este duke of Modena and Reggio

The family of Austria-Este became extinct in the male line with the death of Francis V in 1875 His blood-heiress was his niece, Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria-Este d 1919; she and her husband, Prince Louis of Bavaria, later became Queen and King of Bavaria The present head of this branch of the family is Franz, Duke of Bavaria

However, Francis V had decided to retain the Este name in the Habsburg-Lorraine family and willed his inheritance to the line of Archduke Charles Louis, younger brother of Emperor Francis Joseph, on condition that the heir use the name of Austria-Este The first "adoptee" was Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria b 1863, not descended from Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este, who took the name of Austria-Este and in 1896 became the heir presumptive of the Habsburg Empire, but was murdered on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo

Since his own children were born in a morganatic marriage to Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, the Habsburgs designated his soon-to-be born great-nephew Robert 1915–1996, second son of the future emperor Charles I of Austria, as the next "adopted Austria-Este" Through his mother Zita of Bourbon-Parma a great-granddaughter of Maria Teresa of Savoy, Duchess of Lucca and Parma, who was a daughter of Maria Teresa of Austria-Este, Queen of Sardinia, who in turn was a daughter of Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este and Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, Robert was a descendant of Ercole III d'Este, and the bloodline of the last Este dukes was thus again joined with the name of Austria-Este

Today, the bearer of this tradition is the eldest son of Archduke Robert of Austria-Este 1915–1996, Lorenz Otto Charles of Austria-Este b 1955 He is married to Princess Astrid of Belgium, the only daughter of King Albert II In 1995, Lorenz received the additional title of Prince of Belgium

Since 1991, the couple's children are titled:

  • International format: Princess of Belgium, Archduke Archduchess of Austria-Este, Princess Royal of Hungary and Bohemia;
  • Belgian format: Princess of Belgium, Archduke Archduchess of Austria-Este Habsburg-Lorraine

The eldest of their children is Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este b 1986


See alsoedit

  • Bradamante and Ruggiero, legendary ancestors of the House of Este
  • Castello Estense
  • Duchy of Ferrara
  • Duchy of Reggio
  • Duchy of Modena and Reggio
  • Duchy of Massa and Carrara
  • Ferrara
  • Galleria Estense
  • Ivan VI of Russia
  • List of Dukes of Ferrara and of Modena
  • List of members of the House of Este
  • Este
  • Modena
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Romagna


  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
  • Alessandro Cont, "Sono nato principe libero, tale voglio conservarmi”: Francesco II d’Este 1660-1694, “Memorie Scientifiche, Giuridiche, Letterarie”, Accademia Nazionale di Scienze Lettere e Arti di Modena, ser 8, 12 2009, 2, pp 407–459, https://wwwacademiaedu/6412388/_Sono_nato_principe_libero_tale_voglio_conservarmi_Francesco_II_dEste_1660-1694_

Further readingedit

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

External linksedit

  • Media related to House of Este at Wikimedia Commons
  • Il Castello Estense: genealogical tree

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