Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara

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Alfonso II d'Este
Alfonso II d'Este by Girolamo da Carpi
Duke of Ferrara
Reign3 October 1559 – 27 October 1597
PredecessorErcole II
SuccessorLost to the Papal States (1597)
Duke of Modena and Reggio
Reign3 October 1559 – 27 October 1597
PredecessorErcole II
Duke of Chartres
Tenure12 June 1574 – 27 October 1597
Born22 November 1533
Died27 October 1597(1597-10-27) (aged 63)
(m. 1558; died 1561)
(m. 1565; died 1572)
(m. 1579)
FatherErcole II d'Este
MotherRenée of France
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Alfonso II d'Este (22 November 1533 – 27 October 1597) was Duke of Ferrara from 1559 to 1597. He was a member of the House of Este.


He was the elder son of Ercole II d'Este and Renée de France, the daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany and was the fifth and last Duke of Ferrara.[1]

As a young man, he fought in the service of Henry II of France against the Habsburgs. Soon after his accession, he was forced by Pope Pius IV to send back his mother to France due to her Calvinist creed. The 1570 Ferrara earthquake fell into his reign. In 1583 he allied with Emperor Rudolf II in the war against the Turks in Hungary.

Throughout the 1550s, Alfonso had an interest in Castrato singing voices. Given his childlessness amongst multiple marriages, this additional fact has prompted some historians to speculate that the Duke was homosexual.[citation needed]


He married three times:

He had no known children, legitimate or otherwise.


The legitimate line of the House of Este ended in 1597 with him. Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor recognized as heir his cousin Cesare d'Este, member of a cadet branch, who continued to rule in the imperial duchies and carried on the family name. The succession as Duke of Este, however, was recognized only by the Emperor but not by the Popes. In 1598 Ferrara was therefore incorporated into the Papal States by Pope Clement VIII, on grounds of doubtful legitimacy. As a result of Alfonso's death Cesare d'Este and his family were "obliged to leave the city" and the power of the government was there after turned over to the cardinal legate.([3])

Patron of the arts and sciences[edit]

Alfonso II raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, and was the patron of Torquato Tasso, Giovanni Battista Guarini, and Cesare Cremonini—favouring the arts and sciences, as the princes of his house had always done. Besides being fluent in Italian he was also proficient in Latin and French.[4] Luzzasco Luzzaschi served as his court organist.

In addition, he was the sponsor of the Concerto delle donne, a type of group which was to be copied all over Italy. He also restored the Castello Estense, damaged by an earthquake in 1570.

His expenses, however, went at damage of the public treasure.


In literature[edit]

Alfonso II is the duke upon whom Robert Browning based his poem My Last Duchess, and is a major character in the Maggie O'Farrell novel The Marriage Portrait.[5]


  1. ^ Este, Alfonso, II, D' (1533 - 1597). (2006). In J. Hale (Ed.), Thames & Hudson Dictionary of the Italian renaissance , the. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson. Retrieved from Archived 2020-08-01 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Murphy, Caroline P. Murder of a Medici Princess. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-19-531439-7
  3. ^ Hale, J.R; Thames; Hudson. "". Credo Reference. SFCC. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  4. ^ Thames & Hudson Dictionary of the Italian renaissance , the (J. Hale ed.). London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.
  5. ^ published by Tinder, see The Times Saturday Review September 3 2022, page 19, review by Claire Allfree

External links[edit]

Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara
Born: 22 November 1533 Died: 27 October 1597
Regnal titles
Preceded by Duke of Modena and Reggio
Succeeded by
Preceded by Duke of Ferrara
Succeeded by
Preceded by Duke of Chartres
Succeeded by