||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2010)|
|Duchess consort of Nemours
prev Duchess consort of Guise
|Portrait of Anna d'Este by an unknown artist, 2nd half of the 16th century, oil on wood. Versailles, Musée du Château|
|Spouse||François de Lorraine
Jacques de Savoie
|By François de Lorraine
Henry I, Duke of Guise
Catherine, Duchess of Montpensier
Charles, Duke of Mayenne
Louis II, Cardinal of Guise
By Jacques de Savoie
Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Nemours
Henri, Duke of Nemours
|French: Anne d'Este
Italian: Anna d'Este
|House||House of Este (by birth)
House of Guise (by marriage)
|Father||Ercole II d'Este|
|Mother||Princess Renée of France|
16 November 1531|
|Died||17 May 1607
Anna d'Este, also Anne d’Este (16 November 1531, Ferrara – 17 May 1607, Paris) was an important princess with considerable influence at the court of France and a central figure in the French Wars of Religion. In her first marriage she was Duchess of Aumale, then of Guise, in her second marriage Duchess of Nemours and Genevois.
Anna d'Este was born on 16 November 1531, and was the oldest daughter of the Duke of Ferrara Ercole II d'Este and of Renée of France. She grew up in Ferrara, where she received an excellent education. She also studied music, singing, dance, history and painting. The future writer and scholar Olympia Fulvia Morata was chosen as one of her companions at court.
In 1548, after long and difficult negotiations, her marriage was arranged with the French prince Francis, Duke of Aumale, son of the Duke of Guise. The contract was signed in Ferrara on 28 September and the marriage was held in Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris on 16 December. The princess was never to return to Italy.
Anna d'Este was the granddaughter of the French king Louis XII and therefore related to Henry II and his sons. By her marriage she had become a member of the powerful Guise family, and because of her Italian roots she had especially close ties to the queen and later queen-mother, Catherine de' Medici.
For these reasons, her position at court was outstanding. Duchess of Guise after the death of her father-in-law in 1550, she governed the family estates and the enormous fortunes of the Guise with the help of her mother-in-law, Antoinette de Bourbon. She was also active on behalf of her father and acted as mediator between the courts of France and of Ferrara. She gave birth to seven children, four of which reached adulthood.
In February 1563 Francis, Duke of Guise was assassinated. While the murderer was seized and immediately put to death, Anna d'Este took all possible steps to sue the leader of the French Huguenots, Gaspard de Coligny, whom she held responsible for the assault.
During the next three years, the widow put pressure on the king and his courts of justice with her petitions, but in January 1566 the king's council declared the admiral of Coligny innocent and imposed eternal silence in the matter. Consequently, most of her contemporaries held the widow of the Duke of Guise responsible for the shot which was fired on Coligny on 22 August 1572 and which became the starting signal for the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.
On 29 April 1566, Anna d'Este married Jacques de Savoie, Duke of Nemours and Genevois. Henceforth, the princess spent most of her time in Annecy or on the road between her duchy of Genevois and the court of France. In politically difficult situations she acted as mediator between her husband and the Duke of Savoy, and in the meantime she held her position at the court of France. Anna d'Este also promoted her sons' careers, she helped her clients to make their living, and she claimed a prominent place in official ceremonies at court.
After the death of her second husband in 1585 Anna d'Este lived in Paris, in her Hôtel de Nemours, which was located on the left bank of the Seine in what is today Rue Séguier. With the formation of the Catholic League, in which her sons played a prominent part, the importance of the Duchess for the political occurrences in the kingdom of France increased considerably.
In December 1588 Henry III ordered the murder of her two oldest sons and the imprisonment of Anna d'Este. Although the sources tell us nothing about the deeds of the Duchess after her liberation, some contemporaries held her responsible for the assassination of the king. During the siege of Paris by Henry IV, Anna d'Este was declared "queen-mother" by the League, but after the Bourbon's conversion back to Catholicism she recognized him as king and tried to convince her rebellious sons to take the same step. In 1594 Anna travelled to Paris to pay homage to Henry IV.
Anna d'Este spent her last years in the highly respectable position of "superintendante de la maison" of the queen Marie de' Medici but also in growing indebtedness and in constant worry about the financial situation of her children and grandchildren.
When she died on 17 May 1607, the value of her movable goods came to little more than 4000 livres. The entrails and the heart of the Duchess were interred in Paris and in Joinville while her body was brought to Annecy, where it was buried next to her second husband. None of the tombs remain.
In many ways Anna d'Este represents a typical example of a female member of the aristocracy in the second half of the 16th century. Like many of her compeers she managed enormous estates, she arranged marriages and careers for her children and grandchildren, she looked after her clients at court, and she exchanged numerous letters with other members of the European aristocracy. The networks in which Anna d'Este moved were of great importance for her, above all her relationship with her mother and mother-in-law as well as with the queens, the queen-mother and the princesses of the kingdom.
With regard to the confessional disputes, the life of Anna d'Este does not differ much from those of other princesses of her times, either. Her mother was a Calvinist, her father, husbands and sons were more or less radical Catholics. Although she didn't abjure Catholicism, Anna d'Este never gave away her "true" beliefs, and the sources tell us that she went to confession but also that she listened to sermons.
Therefore, it has to be supposed that for her, as well as for many of her contemporaries, family ties and networks were as important as confessional convictions, and that religious practices were frequently adapted to the requirements of the moment.
In other regards, however, Anna d'Este held a special position at the court of France, which can be seen from the numerous lawsuits she was involved in. Although the entanglement in legal proceedings even for minor causes was quite common for the French aristocracy of the early modern period, it was Anna d'Este and Renée de France who contested the king's right to Brittany, and in doing so they referred to their positions as daughter and granddaughter of a French king.
In this as in other lawsuits Anna d'Este proceeded with such skill that she either won her trials or obliged the king and his judges to comply with compromises quite advantageous to the princess.
Family and Ancestry
|Ancestors of Anna d'Este|
- Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara (1533–1597)
- Lucrezia, Duchess of Urbino (1535–1598)
- Leonora (1537–1581)
- Luigi, Cardinal of Este (1538–1586)
Children from the marriage with Francis, Duke of Guise (1519–1563):
- Henry, prince of Joinville, then Duke of Guise (1549–1588)
- Catherine, Duchess of Montpensier (1551–1596), married Louis, Duke of Montpensier
- Charles, Marquis, then Duke of Mayenne (1554–1611)
- Louis, archbishop of Reims, then Cardinal of Guise (1555–1588)
- Antoine (1557–1560)
- François (1559–1573)
- Maximilien (1562–1567/68)
Children of the marriage with Jacques de Savoie (1531–1585):
- Charles Emmanuel, prince of Genevois, then Duke of Nemours (1567–1595)
- Marguerite (1569–1572)
- Henry, Marquis of Saint-Sorlin, then Duke of Nemours (1572–1632)
- Robin, Larsen and Levin. p. 269.
- Severin Bertrand: Oraison funebre sur le trespas de tres-haulte, tres-illustre et tres-vertueuse Princesse Anne d'Est', Duchesse de Chartres, de Guyse, Nemours, Genevois, &c. Paris 1607.
- Le sieur de La Palud: Discour funebre sur la mort de tres-Illustre Princesse Anne D'est Duchesse de Genevois, Nemours, Chartres, &c. Chambéry (1609).
- Francesco Agostino della Chiesa: Theatro delle donne letterate, con vn breve discorso della preminenza, e perfettione del sesso donnesco, Mondovi 1620.
- Hilarion de Coste: Anne d'Est ou de Ferare, Duchesse de Guise & de Nemours. In: Id.: Les éloges et vies des reynes, princesses, dames et damoiselles illustres. Paris 1630, p. 32–37.
- Robin, Diana Maury, Larsen, Anne R. and Levin, Carole (2007). Encyclopedia of women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. ABC-CLIO, Inc.
- Christiane Coester: Schön wie Venus, mutig wie Mars. Anna d'Este, Herzogin von Guise und von Nemours (1531–1607). Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58028-0.
- Huguette Leloup: Anne d'Este (1531–1607). Fille aînée de Renée de France, Duchesse de Guise puis duchesse de Nemours, Dame de Montargis. Special issue of the Bulletin de la Société d'Émulation de l'Arrondissement de Montargis. 3rd ser., 119, 2002.
- Jessica Munns, Penny Richards: Exploiting and destabilizing Gender Roles: Anne d'Este. In: French History. Vol. 6, 1992, p. 206–215.
- Matteo Sanfilippo: article: Este, Anna d'. In: Dizionario biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 43, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1993, p. 315–320.
Media related to Anna d'Este at Wikimedia Commons
- Article on Anna d'Este on the webpage of the Société Internationale pour l’Étude des Femmes de l’Ancien Régime
- Post-mortem inventory of Anna d'Este on the webpage Cour-de-France.fr
- Account book of Anna d'Este of 1593 on the webpage Cour-de-France.fr