Giulio d'Este (July 13, 1478 – March 24, 1561) was the illegitimate son of Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, the result of an affair with Isabella Arduin, a lady in the service of Ercole's wife. He is known for the conflicts he had with his half brother Ippolito d'Este, which culminated in a failed conspiracy that Giulio conducted against both Ippolito and another half brother Alfonso I d'Este, then Duke of Ferrara.
In the court of Ferrara
The half siblings of Giulio, whom Ercole fathered with his wife Eleonora d'Aragon, were Alfonso I d'Este (successor to his father), Ippolito d'Este (Cardinal Ippolito), Ferrante d'Este, Isabella d'Este (wife of Francesco II Gonzaga), Beatrice d'Este (wife of Ludovico Sforza), and Sigismondo d'Este. Giulio d'Este and Ippolito d'Este, held grudges and differences with each other over the course of their lives.
The first quarrel
Between Giulio and Ippolito a dispute arose concerning a musician, Don Rainaldo of Sassuolo, who was in the service of Giulio. Ippolito wanted him for his chapel and, near the end of 1504, coming to Ferrara during the illness of his father Ercole I, abducted Rainaldo and held him in the Fortress of Gesso (which belonged to Giovanni Boiardo, count of Scadiano). In May 1505 Giulio discovered where the man was to be found and together with Ferrante and other armed men recovered his musician, and, in a sign of defiance towards the cardinal, replaced him with the warden of the fortress. Ippolito, a political advisor of Alfonso, complained so much about what had happened that the duke decided to exile Ferrante to Modena and Giulio to Brescello.
The second quarrel
Subsequently, Giulio and Ippolito had a new reason to clash: they discovered that they were both admirers of a lady of the court and cousin of Lucrezia, Angela Borgia, who, of the two, seemed to favor the Giulio. The Cardinal Ippolito, a libertine and ladies' man, depended on his refinement to conquer beautiful women, and was a sore loser. When Angela told him that, "Monsignore, your brother's [Giulio's] eyes are worth more than the whole of your person...", he flew into an uncontrollable rage. On the 3rd November 1505, while Giulio was returning from a trip to Belriguardo, he was surrounded by servants of Ippolito, who had ordered his men to kill his half brother and tear out his eyes. Giulio was alone and could not protect himself, although he was not killed, he was brutally beaten so that he scarred and his eyes were stabbed. He eventually lost eyesight in one eye and was left with only blurs in the other. Ippolito had hastened to send to the Italian courts a revised version of the event, which succeeded in preventing Ippolito from being punished.
In December of that same year, Alfonso brought about a formal truce between the brothers.
Conspiracy against Ippolito and the Alfonso and its aftermath
Despite the truce Giulio held a grudge against both Ippolito, for the beating which had damaged his eyesight and his famous good looks, and with Alfonso, for not punishing Ippolito. In 1506, along with Ferrante, who aspired to replace his brother, and other men hostile toward the duke, he organized a plot aimed at eliminating Alfonso and Ippolito. However the conspirators, because of their disorganization did not succeed in carrying out their plan: waiting at night in the street with poisoned daggers until the duke passed, they missed him twice.
During one of the frequent absences of the Duke, the spies of Ippolito gathered evidence about the plot, but before they reached Alfonso, both Lucrezia and Isabella advised Giulio to flee to Mantua where he would be protected by Francesco Gonzaga. There Francesco, despite the demands of his brother-in-law, refused many times to hand over Giulio.
Meanwhile, the trial of the conspirators began in Giulio's absence at the home of Sigismondo d'Este. Giulio and Ferrante, together with three others, were found guilty and condemned to death.
Eventually Francesco succumbed to the pressure of Alfonso, who threatened to recover Giulio with his army, and turned Giulio over.
While the capital punishment was carried out for the other conspirators, the sentences of Giulio and Ferrante were reduced: they were imprisoned in the Leoni Tower with Castello Estense, and their property was confiscated.
Ferrante died in prison in 1540 at the age of 63 after 34 years of incarceration. Giulio however, after 53 years in prison was freed by his grandnephew Alfonso II d'Este at the age of 81. He supposedly caused a commotion among bystanders when he returned to the street because despite prison he retained his charm and an erect posture, and dressed as he used to in the fashion of 50 years before.
- Tuohy, Thomas (2002). Herculean Ferrara : Ercole d'Este, 1471-1505, and the invention of a Ducal capital (1st pbk. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, published with the assistance of the Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali, Ferrara. p. 16. ISBN 0521522633.
- Tuohy, Thomas (2002). Herculean Ferrara : Ercole d'Este, 1471-1505, and the invention of a Ducal capital (1st pbk. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, published with the assistance of the Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali, Ferrara. pp. xxx–xxxi, 133, 141, 188. ISBN 0521522633.
- Maria Bellonci. Lucrezia Borgia, 1939, Mondadori Editore
- Sarah Bradford. Lucrezia Borgia, Mondadori Editore
- Bradford pp. 245–247
- L. Chiappini, Gli Estensi, Milano, Dall'Oglio, 1967, pp. 218-220
- L. Chiappini, cit., pp. 220-222
- Bradford, Sarah (2004): Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy. Viking.
- Maria Bellonci, Lucrezia Borgia, Mondadori Editore, Milan, 1998, ISBN 88-04-51658-5 (in Italian)
- Sarah Bradford, Lucrezia Borgia, Mondadori Editore,Milan, 2005, ISBN 88-04-55627-7 (in Italian)
- Treccani dictionary of Biography (in Italian)