- Ercole II d'Este
Ercole II d'Este (
April 5, 1508- October 3, 1559) was Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio from 1534 to 1559. He was a member of the house of Esteand the eldest son of Alfonso I d'Esteand Lucrezia Borgia.
Through his mother, Ercole was a grandson of
Pope Alexander VI, nephew of Cesare Borgia, and cousin of Saint Francis Borgia. Through his father, he was nephew of both Isabella d'Este, "the First Lady of the Renaissance", and Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.
His siblings included Ippolito II, Archbishop of
Milanand later Cardinal, nunLeonora, and Francesco, Marchese di Massalombarda. His half-siblings included Rodrigo Borgia of Aragon, Lucrezia’s son by Alfonso of Aragon, Duke of Bisceglie, and perhaps Giovanni Borgia, the “infans Romanus”.
In April 1528, he married
Renée of France, the second daughter of Louis XII, King of France, and Anne of Brittany. Renée received from Francis I of Francean ample dowryand annuity. Thus the court she assembled about her in Ferraracorresponded to the tradition which the cultivation of science and art implicitly required, including scholars like Bernardo Tassoand Fulvio Pellegrini Morato.
Their first child, Anna, born in 1531, was followed by Alfonso in 1533; Lucrezia in 1535, who was marriaed to the duke of Urbino; and later Eleonora and Luigi, whose education she carefully directed.
Once he became Duke in October of 1534, Ercole turned against the French at his court, finding them both too expensive and too influential, and by 1543 they had all been dismissed. He was also under pressure from the Curia to dismiss those suspected of
heresy; John Calvinhimself was in Ferrara sometime in 1536. Meanwhile, Duchess Renée was corresponding with a number of Protestants and was suspected to have converted, despite the presence of a special court of the Inquisitionin Ferrara. Ercole brought accusations of heresy against his wife to King Henry II of Franceand Inquisitor Oriz in 1554, and she subsequently confessed.
Ercole sided with
Pope Paul IVand France against Spain in 1556, but made a separate peace agreement in 1558.
He was also a patron of the arts along with his brother, Cardinal Ippolito, who built the
Villa d'Estenear Tivoli.
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