D'Este - Family before 15th Century

The Este became rulers of Ferrara (1240-1597) and of Modena (1288-1796) and long times also of Reggio. Probably of Lombard origin, they took their name from the castle of Este near Padua (which later - a little confusing - didn't belong to their dominions).

Azzo d'Este II, 996-1097, lord of Este, was invested with Milan by the emperor. Azzo's son, Guelph d'Este IV or Welf IV, d. 1101, was adopted by his maternal uncle, Guelph III, whom he succeeded as duke of Carinthia.
In 1070 he was made duke of Bavaria. The grandfather of Henry the Proud of Bavaria and Saxony, Guelph IV was the founder of the German line of the Guelphs, from whom the British royal family is descended. He died on a crusade in Cyprus.
Another son of Azzo d'Este II continued the Italian line of the house; among his successors was Obizzo d'Este I, d. 1193.
Obizzo and his grandson played an important part in the struggle of the Guelphs against Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. He married the heiress of one of the two families contending for supremacy in Ferrara.
One of the successors, Azzo d'Este VII, 1205-64, succeeded in becoming (1240) podesta of the city as the head of the triumphant Guelph party.
Obizzo d'Este II, d. 1293, was made perpetual lord of Ferrara in 1264, lord of Modena in 1288, and lord of Reggio (now Reggio nell' Emilia ) in 1289.

In the following years the d'Este had to endure some pressure, but the reignment in Ferrara was solidified under Niccolo II., Alberto and Niccolo III. in the end of 14th and begin of 15th century.

Ferrara underwent an amazing urban growth and its walls extended up to four times in length and vast areas of the Po delta were reclaimed; a golden age for art and culture was started, Ferrara might be called the Hollywood of 15th century, many cultural novelties were tried here first.
Before this glamorous time in 15th century Nicolò II d'Este, called the lame (reigned 1361 - 1388), showed greater intellectual interests and definitively consolidated the power of the House of  Este. However, when the people of Ferrara was struck by famine, they rebelled in 1385 against their ruler so violently that Niccolò ordered the construction of the great Castello di San Michele. The solid building secured a relatively peaceful life in Ferrara in the next century, when other parts of northern Italy had to suffer longer wars. Ferrara became the peacemaker between Venetia and Milano, the main contrahents. Niccolò's successor was his brother and earlier co-ruler Alberto, who reigned in the city only for a few years, but is described as an remarkable man. He was interested in art and culture and started the University of Ferrrara in 1391, which established itself with some difficulties.

For more generally information on the early time of the d'Este until Obizzo III., see:

Este Genealogy in 14th Century

Obizzo III d'Este, Signore di Ferrara (1317-52) and Modena (1335-52),
*1294, +Ferrara 1352;
1m: 1317 Giacomo Pepoli; 2m: Lippa, his mistress (+1347) daughter of Giacomo Ariosto; his issue by this second marriage were legitimated 1346

  • 1.  Rinaldo, + 1447, m. Magdalena Macaruffi
  • 2.  Beatrice, * 1332, + 1387, m. 1365 Fst Waldemar of Anhalt-Zerbst
  • 3.  Alda, * 1333, + Mantova 1381, m. Ludovico II Gonzaga, Signore de Mantova (+ 1382)
  • 4.  Aldobrandino III, Signore di Modena, vicar of Ferrara (1352-61),
    * 1335, + Ferrara 1361 died early, his brother Niccolo followed;
    m.1351 Beatrice (+ beheaded 1388) daughter of Ricciardo di Camino Niccolo, died in the revolt of her son
    • Obizzo IV, *1356, + beheaded 1388
      tried to get the reignment
    • Viridis, *1354, +1400; m.1377 Duke Konrad V. von Teck (+1386)
  •  5. Niccolo II, Signore di Ferrara, Modena e Reggio (1361-88), * Ferrara 17.5.1338, + Ferrara 26.3.1388, reigned with the support of his brother Alberto; m.Ferrara II.1363 Viridis della Scala (+1394)
    • Rinaldo, * 1371, + before 1388, (Niccolo left no mail heir)
    • Taddea, *1365, +Padua 1404; m.Padua 1377 Francesco di Carrara, lord of Padua (+ 1405)
  •  6. Ugo, * Ferrara 1344, + 1370; m.1363 Constanza Malatesta, killed 1478
  •  7. Folco, * 1342, + 1358
  •  8. Alberto I, (illegitime son) Signore di Ferrara, Modena e Reggio (1388-93),
    * Ferrara 1347, + there 1393, followed his brother Niccolo against the interests of Obizzo IV.; m. 1388 Giovanna di Roberti
    Albert had an illegitime son Niccolo, who followed him in very young years in 1493. The son reigned 48 years as

    Niccolo III. d'Este

Explanation: Under the 9 noted children of Obizzo III. were 3 sons, Aldobrandino, Niccolo II. and Alberto, who followed him in the reignment. A short reignment of Obizzo IV., son of Aldobrandino, in 1388 ended with him and his mother beheaded. It seems, that not much is known about this bloody case, Alberto and his son Niccolo III were successful in creating in Ferrara a strong and successful dynastie and history is written by the winners.
In these not very well known actions a curious phenomen appears: Niccolo III, who became the long reigning man in the family (1393 - 1441), had like Obizzo III, also many children, and he was also followed by 3 of his sons. The 3rd reigning son, Ercole, had, like Niccolo's father Alberto before, also difficulties with a nephew claiming his rights for the throne, and the case ended as 88 years before in the year 1388: Leonello's son Niccolo (a possible Niccolo IV.) was beheaded 1476., Niccolo was named after his grandfather Niccolo III, the beheaded Obizzo IV. had the same name as Obizzo III, his grandfather. By this way the historical better observed 15th century seems to mirror actions which took place in 14th century, the pair Obizzo III and Obizzo IV mirrors Niccolo III and Niccolo (IV).
The concurrence between uncles and nephews was partly caused by unclear laws (or traditions) in the region in the questions of followship of a ruler.

Reignment in Ferrara in 14th and 15th century:

  • 1317 - 1352  Obizzo III Signore di Ferrara (1317-52) and Modena (1335-52)
  • 1352 - 1361  Aldobrandino III, Signore di Modena, vicar of Ferrara (1352-61), son of Obizzo
  • 1361 - 1388  Niccolo II, son of Obizzo
  • 1388  Olbizzo IV., son of Aldobrandino, beheaded 1388
  • 1388 - 1393  Alberto I, Signore di Ferrara, Modena e Reggio, illegitime son of Obizzo
  • 1393 - 1441  Niccolo III., illegitime son of Alberto
  • 1441 - 1450  Lionello, illegetime son of Niccolo
  • 1450 - 1471  Borso, illegitime son of Niccolo
  • (only throne aspirant) 1471 - 1475  Niccolo, son of Lionello, beheaded
  • 1471 - 1505  Ercole I., son of Niccolo
Este castle, Ferrara
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