Extract to Parisina in "Dukes and Poets of Ferarra" of Edmund Gardner, p. 34-39

Dukes and Poets of Ferarra has citings in its genealogy and dates from Edmund Gardner's research in Modena and Rome available by July 2, 1903, including thanks to research done by Rudolfo Renier on the 400th anniversary of Maria Matteo Boiardo's death. Some of the genealogy and dates from Edmund Gardner are also repeated in Charles Ross and other Boiardo scholars who celebrated the 500th anniversary of Boiardo's death in 1994.

Text of Gardener:

In April 1418, Niccolo took another wife—that hapless heroine of romantic poetry, Madonna Parisina de Malatesta, the daughter of Andrea d’ Malatesta and Lucezia delgli Ordelaffi — and brought her in triumph from Ravenna to Ferarra.

The Marchesana Parisina bore her husband one son, who lived only for a few weeks and two twin daughters, Ginevra and Lucia. The documents still preserved in the Carchivio di Stato at Modena show her to have been an ideal great lady of the Middle Ages(1) We find her a diligent housewife, keeping strict account of the linen, taking care that the attendants are properly attired. She was exceedingly generous to the poor, bountiful to the churches and convents. To her donzelle, her maids-in-waiting, she was particularly kind and generous, finding them suitable husbands, providing each on her marriage with a dowry, with her corredo or trousseau, and with these richly decorated cofani or wedding chests that formed such a feature in the bride’s equipment in Italy and of which the panels are among the treasures of our museums and picture-galleries to-day. A certain Pellegrina, daughter of a trusted servant of the Marquis, one Giacomo Rubino known as Zoese, appears to have been specially favoured by her and treated with the utmost generiousity on the occasion of her marriage at the beginning of 1423.

Parisina was a lover of horses and had a notable stable; she sent them to race for palio at Verona, Modena, Bologna, Milan and Mantua; and especially in 1422 and 1423 her favourite jockey, Giovanni da Rimini, wearing her colours of red and white, carried off victory after victory. (2) Also she took pleasure in hunting and hawking. We find her sending to foreign cities for choice perfumes, for rich embroideries and personal ornaments, for rare birds in cages. But of her moral qualities and mental endowments we know next to nothing. She loved music, especially the harp, upon which she had her little daughters taught to play. We read of Fra Maginardo, her chaplain, buying a psaltery for her, and of a cartalaro Bartommeo selling her an office book of the Madonna covered with black velvet. (3) If she read at all in books of a lighter character, the literary fashion of her husband’s court would have led her to dwell upon the passion of Guenevere and Lancelot, the guilty loves of Tristam and Iseult (4). And for her, like the other Romagnole spirit whom Dante met in the Hell of the Lovers, there came a day when she ‘read no more’.

(Mari’s note: Canto V, Francesco and Paolo, Inferno of Dante Algheri)

The Marquis (Mari’s note: Niccolo III) brought up his younger sons with considerable rigidness and parsimony. Borso and Meliaduse, when studying at Bologna and Padua, were even kept short of clothes to wear. When the plague threatened Ferarra in the summer of 1424, their father sent Meiaduse to Modena and Borso to Argenta, with the strictest provisions about the number of servants and attendants that they might have about them, with a rigid charge to the camarlingo of each town, in whose charge they were put, not to let them have friends to dine. (5)

But for Ugo there seems to have been no restrictions of any kind, and the registers of the Court expenses in these very years show Niccolo and Parisina rivaling each other in caring for his wants and pleasures, in providing him with clothes and money, horses and hawks, -even a harp—the latter, of course, being Parisina’s gift. (6)

In these years, Leonello was away from Ferarra, having been sent in 1422, under the care of Nanni Strozzi, to study the art of war at Perugia under the famous condottiere, Braccio da Montone.

All contemporary evidence concerning the tragedy that deprived the Marchese Niccolo of his wife and heir apparant appears to have been destroyed, and it is not easy to distinguish between fact and fiction in the story that has been handed down to us. All that is certain is that in the course of some journey that they took together--possibly to Ravenna, the city of Francesca and Samaritana - Ugo became the lover of his stepmother. One of Parisina's maids, who had been beaten by her mistriss, betrayed the secret to Giacomo Rubino (= Zoese) --that very same whose daughter had been treated with such generousity and affection by the Marchesana - and Giacomo brought the Marquis to a place, where, himself unseen, he was the witness to his own dishonour. His vengence was prompt and terrible. On the night between May 20 and May 21, 1425, the guilty pair was arrested in the Corte Vecchia, and conveyed thence to the Castello. There are two horrible dungeons shown in the Castello, beneath the Tower of the Lions. One, a little highter than the other, has a direct communication to the outer air of the court, and at times admits a faint gleam of day. The other is on the level of the moat; its floor is usually covered with muddy water; it receives air and faint light through a long aperture with treble barriers of iron bars. The tradition has it that into these ghastly cells the delicately nurtured young lady and her princely young paramour were thrown; but it has been recently pointed out that the only two records that can in any sense be regarded as contemporary both agree that the place of their imprisonment was the so-called Torre Marchesana, the tower in which at the present time the great clock is placed (8). Either way, their imprisonment was brief. The Marquis refused to admit either wife or son to his presence again and the intercession of his most trusted advisors, Ugguccione de Contrari and Alberto della Sala, proved unavailing. On the night of May 21, Ugo and Parisina died by the headsman axes in the Torre Marchesana.

Ugo perished first. Then Parisina was led to her death by that same Giacomo Rubino by whom she had been betrayed. Thinking that she was going to be thrown into an oubliette or trabocchetto, she kept asking if she had yet reached the place. She asked after her lover, and hearing that he was already dead, exclaimed, “Then I no more wish to live.” When she came to the block, she laid aside her ornaments, and with her own hands, prepared her neck for the stroke. The same night their bodies were brought to San Francesco and quietly buried there. Aldobrandino Rangoni, who had been Ugo’s friend and accomplice, suffered the same doom at Modena. (9)

All that night the unhappy father and husband paced up and down the halls and passages of his place in desperate grief, now gnawing his scepter with his teeth, now calling passionately upon the name of his dead son or crying out for his own death. It is stated by Ferrese historians and chroniclers that on the following day, he sent a written report of the tragedy to all the Courts of Italy, and that on the receipt of the news, the Doge of Venice put off State tournament that was to have been held in the Piazza di San Marco. No trace of such document has ever been found, either in the archives of Modena or in those of Venice, or any other of the States with which Niccolo was in close relations. (10) The Marquis is said, by one of those half-mad perversions of justice habitual to Italian despots of that age, to have ordered the execution of several noble Ferrarese ladies who were notoriously serving their husbands as Parisina had served him—“In order that his wife should not be the only on to suffer,” as Fra Paolo has it. One, Laodamia de Romei, the wife of one of the judges, “who was known to him” appears to have been publicly beheaded, (11), but after her, the edict went no further.

Text notes

(1) See Gandini , Saggio delgi usi e delle costumaze della Courte di Ferarra al tempo di Niccolo (atti e memorie della R. Deputazione di Storia Patria per Romagna. Series III, vol. 9. (Bologna, 1898), pp. 152-157 and Angelo Solerti, Ugo e Parisina; Storia e leggenda second nuovi documenti (Nova Antolologia, Series iii. vols. 45 and 46), Rome, 1893.
(2) Cf. documents in Solerti, op. cit. i. Pp. 614, 615
(3) Gandini, op. cit. p.152
(4) Cf Bertoni, op. cit. p. 19
Bertini, Giulio, La Biblioteca Estense e la Cultura Ferrarese ai tempi and Duca Ercole I. Turin, 1903.
(5) See documents quoted by Gandini, op. cit. pp 158, 159.
(6) Solerti, op. cit.ii. p.65
(7) Solerti, op. cit. ii. Pp 75,76. Cf. the Diario Ferrarese, col. 184. In Bandello’s novella, Bianca d’Este represents Ugo as imprisoned in the Torre dei Leoni and Parasini in the other tower.
(8) Fra Paolo da Lignango, Cronica Estense di Fra Paolo da Lignango de Frati Carmelitani di S. Polo di Ferarra. R. Archivio di Stato in Modena ff. 114, 115; and Frizzi,A. Memorie per la storia di Ferarra raccolte da Antonio Frizzi con giunte e noti di C. Laederchi, 2nd edition. Vols. 1-4, Ferarra, 1847, 1848. iii. pp. 450-453. and Matteo dei Grioni, his Chronicle of Bologna, states that two of Parisina’s maidens were likewise beheaded (rerum Italicarium Scriptores, xviii, col. 230).
(9) Solerti. Op. cit. ii. P. 79; but I think that the passage from the De Politia Litteraria (ii. 13) to be quoted presently, proves that some such step was taken by the Marquis to justify his action.
(10) Fra Paolo, Cronaca, ff. 115, 115v

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