House of Gonzaga

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The coat of arms of the Duchy of Mantua.

The Gonzaga were a noble family that ruled Mantua in Northern Italy from 1328 to 1708; they also ruled Monferrato in Piedmont and Nevers in France, and also many other lesser fiefs in Italy and Europe. They gave a saint, twelve cardinals and fourteen bishops to the Catholic Church.[citation needed]


In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II (1500–1540) received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage. Through maternal ancestors, the Gonzagas inherited also the imperial Byzantine ancestry of the Paleologus, that earlier ruling family of Montferrat.

A cadet branch of the Mantua Gonzagas became Dukes of Nevers and Rethel in France when Luigi (Louis) di Gonzaga, a younger son of Duke Federico II and Margherita Paleologa, married the heiress. The Gonzaga-Nevers later came to rule Mantua again when Louis's son Charles (Carlo) inherited Mantua and Montferrat, triggering the War of the Mantuan Succession.

Another cadet branch were first sovereign Counts, later Dukes of Guastalla. They descended from Ferrante, a younger son of Duke Francesco II of Mantua (1484–1519). Ferrante's grandson, Ferrante II, also played a role in the War of the Mantuan Succession. A further cadet branch was that of Sabbioneta, founded by Gianfrancesco, son of Ludovico III.

Marie Louise Gonzaga, daughter of prince Charles Gonzaga-Nevers, was a Polish queen consort from 1645 to her death in 1667.

Two daughters of the house, both named Eleanor Gonzaga, became Holy Roman Empresses, by marrying Emperors Ferdinand II of Germany and Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, respectively. From the latter Empress Eleanor, the today heirs of the Gonzaga descend, as explained in family tree leading to Leopold, Duke of Lorraine.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a member of a junior branch of this family.

The House of Gonzaga is the inspiration for the play-within-the-play in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Act 3 scene 2, they act out a play called The Murder of Gonzago (or The Mousetrap).

Gonzaga rule continued in Mantua until 1708 and in Guastalla and in Sabbioneta until 1746. Both ruling lines became extinct, and the headship of the House of Gonzaga passed to the Vescovato line, descended from Giovanni, a son of Federico I Gonzaga. The line continues today.[1]

Family tree[edit]

The branches of the Gonzaga family, showing Marquesses and (subsequently) Dukes of Mantua in bold, Dukes of Nevers and Rethel in italics and the Guastalla line to the right.

Francesco I
(Marquess 1407-1444)
Ludovico III
(Marquess 1444–1478)
Federico I
(Marquess 1478–1484)
Francesco II
(Marquess 1484–1519)
Margaret Paleologa
Marchioness of Montferrat
Federico II
(Marquess 1519–30, Duke 1530-40)
Ferrante of Guastalla (1539–57)
Francesco III (1540–50)
Guglielmo I
(Guglielmo X in Montferrat) (1550–87)
Louis of Nevers (1581–95)
Cesare I of Guastalla (1557–75)
Vincenzo I (1587–1612)
Charles III of Nevers (1595–37) /
Carlo I of Mantua (1627–37)
Ferrante II of Guastalla (1575–1630)
Francesco IV (1612)
Ferdinando I (1612–26)
Vincenzo II (1626–27)
Charles, Duke of Nevers 1609-31
Cesare II of Guastalla (1630–32)
Andrea Gonzaga (d. 1686)
Maria, Dss. of Montferrat (1609-1660) m. Charles, Duke of Nevers
Carlo II (1637-65)
Ferrante III (1632-78)
Ferdinando Carlo (1665-1708)
Anna Isabella (1678-1692)
Maria Vittoria (1659-1707)
Vincenzo (1692-1702)
Antonio Ferrante (1702-29)
Giuseppe (1729-60)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.[edit]

Roman Catholic Cardinals[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Brinton, Selwyn (1927). The Gonzaga. Lords of Mantua. London: Methuen. 


  1. ^ "GONZAGA: LINEA PRINCIPESCA DI VESCOVATO". Libro d'Oro della Nobiltá Mediterranea (in Italian). Società Genealogica Italiana. 2004-03-15. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 

External links[edit]