Beatrice d'Este (29 June 1475 – 3 January 1497), duchess of Bari and later of Milan, was the wife of the Milanese ruler Ludovico Sforza (known as "il Moro"). She was one of the most beautiful and accomplished princesses of the Italian Renaissance. A member of the Este family, she was the younger daughter of Ercole I d'Este and the sister of Isabella d'Este and Alfonso d'Este. Along with her sister, Beatrice was noted for her excellent taste in fashion and for having invented new clothing styles.
The Ferrarese house of Este and the Milanese house of Sforza had always been on friendly terms and in 1480, in order to cement an alliance, Ludovico Sforza formally asked Ercole d'Este to give him the hand of his daughter in marriage. Ludovico, who was then duke of Bari and regent to the duke of Milan, had originally requested a betrothal to Isabella, Beatrice's older sister, but because she was already promised to Francesco Gonzaga, Ercole offered him Beatrice instead. Il Moro made no objection to the arrangement and Beatrice was married to him in January 1491.The official nuptials were to have taken place in 1490 in a double wedding with Beatrice marrying Ludovico and Isabella marrying Francesco at the same time, but the Duke of Bari postponed it more than once. Finally, around a year later, they were wed in a double Sforza-Este wedding: Ludovico married Beatrice, while Beatrice's brother, Alfonso d'Este, married Anna Sforza, the sister of Gian Galeazzo Sforza. Leonardo da Vinci orchestrated the wedding celebration.
"A daughter was born this day to Duke Ercole, and received the name of Beatrice, being the child of Madonna Leonora his wife. And there were no rejoicings, because every one wished for a boy."
Beatrice had been carefully educated, and availed herself of her position as mistress of one of the most splendid courts of Italy to gather around her learned men, poets and artists, such as Niccolò da Correggio, Bernardo Castiglione, Donato Bramante, Leonardo da Vinci, and many others.In 1492 she visited Venice as ambassador for her husband in his political schemes, which consisted chiefly of a desire to be recognized as duke of Milan. On the death of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, Ludovico's usurpation was legalized, and after the Battle of Fornovo (1495), both he and his wife took part in the peace congress of Vercelli between Charles VIII of France and the Italian princes, at which Beatrice showed great political ability.
However, her brilliant career was cut short by death through childbirth, on 3 January 1497 at the age of 21. In a letter written hours after her death, Ludovico informed his brother-in-law Francesco Gonzaga that his wife, "gave back her spirit to God" half an hour after midnight. Their child had been born at eleven at night and was a stillborn son.
"And when Duchess Beatrice died," wrote the poet, Vincenzo Calmeta, "everything fell into ruin, and that court, which had been a joyous paradise, was changed into a black Inferno."
Beatrice d'Este belonged to the best class of Renaissance women, and was one of the cultural influences of the age; to a great extent, her patronage and good taste are responsible for the splendour of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, the Certosa of Pavia, and many other famous buildings in Lombardy. Her tomb is preserved in the Certosa di Pavia where she is buried beside her husband Ludovico Sforza.
Her children by Ludovico Sforza:
-Massimiliano Sforza (25 January 1493 – 4 June 1530), duke of Milan 1512–1515.
-Francesco II Sforza (4 February 1495 – 24 October 1535), duke of Milan 1521–1535.
-Stillborn son (3 January 1497).
Source: "BEATRICE D'ESTE DUCHESS OF MILAN 1475-1497 A STUDY OF THE RENAISSANCE" BY JULIA CARTWRIGHT
"This duke had for his most dear wife Beatrice d'Este, daughter of Ercole, Duke of Ferrara, who, coming to Milan in the flower of her opening youth, was endowed with so rare an intellect, so much grace and affability, and was so remarkable for her generosity and goodness that she may justly be compared with the noblest women of antiquity. This duchess devoted her time to the highest objects. Her court was composed of men of talent and distinction, most of whom were poets and musicians, who were expected to compose new eclogues, comedies, or tragedies, and arrange new spectacles and representations every month. In her leisure hours she generally employed a certain Antonio Grifo"—a well-known student and commentator of Dante—"or some equally gifted man, to read the Divina Commedia, or the works of other Italian poets, aloud to her. And it was no small relaxation of mind for Lodovico Sforza, when he was able to escape from the cares and business of state, to come and listen to these readings in his wife's rooms. And among the illustrious men whose presence adorned the court of the duchess there were three high-born cavaliers, renowned for many talents, but above all for their poetic gifts—Niccolo da Correggio, Gaspare Visconti, and Antonio di Campo Fregoso, together with many others, one of whom was myself, Vincenzo Calmeta, who for some years held the post of secretary to that glorious and excellent lady. And besides those I have named there was Benedetto da Cingoli, called Piceno, and many other youths of no small promise, who daily offered her the first fruits of their genius. Nor was Duchess Beatrice content with rewarding and honouring the poets of her own court. On the contrary, she sent to all parts of Italy to inquire for the compositions of elegant poets, and placed their books as sacred and divine things on the shelves of her cabinet of study, and praised and rewarded each writer according to his merit. In this manner, poetry and literature in the vulgar tongue, which had degenerated and sunk into forgetfulness after the days of Petrarch and Boccaccio, has been restored to its former dignity, first by the protection of Lorenzo de' Medici, and then by the influence of this rare lady, and others like her, who are still living at the present time. But when Duchess Beatrice died everything fell into ruin. That court, which had been a joyous Paradise, became a dark and gloomy Inferno, and poets and artists were forced to seek another road."
"If in Isabella we have the supreme representative of Renaissance culture in its highest and most intellectual phase, Beatrice is the type of that new-found joy in life, that intoxicating rapture in the actual sense of existence, that was the heritage of her generation, and found expression in the words of a contemporary novelist, Matteo Bandello—himself of Lombard birth—when with his last breath he bade his companions live joyously, "Vivete lieti!" We see this bride of sixteen summers flinging herself with passionate delight into every amusement, singing gay songs with her courtiers, dancing and hunting through the livelong day, outstripping all her companions in the chase, and laughing in the face of danger. We see her holding her court in the famous Castello of Porta Giovia or in the summer palaces of Vigevano and Cussago, in these golden days when Milan was called the new Athens, when Leonardo and Bramante decorated palaces or arranged masquerades at the duke's bidding, when Gaspare Visconti wrote sonnets in illuminated books, and Lorenzo da Pavia constructed organs or viols as perfect and beautiful to see as to hear, for the pleasure of the youthful duchess. Scholars and poets, painters and writers, gallant soldiers and accomplished cavaliers, we see them all at Beatrice's feet, striving how best they may gratify her fancies and win her smiles. Young and old, they were alike devoted to her service, from Galeazzo di Sanseverino, the valiant captain who became her willing slave and chosen companion, to Niccolo da Correggio, that all-accomplished gentleman who laid down his pen and sword to design elaborate devices for his mistress's new gowns. We read her merry letters to her husband and sister, letters sparkling with wit and gaiety and overflowing with simple and natural affection. We see her rejoicing with all a young mother's proud delight over her first-born son, repeating, as mothers will, marvellous tales of his size and growth, and framing tender phrases for his infant lips. And we catch glimpses of her, too, in sadder moods, mourning her mother's loss or wounded by neglect and unkindness. We note how keenly her proud spirit resents wrong and injustice, and how in her turn she is not always careful of the rights and feelings of her rivals. But whatever her faults and mistakes may have been, she is always kindly and generous, human and lovable. A year or two passes, and we see her, royally arrayed in brocade and jewels, standing up in the great council hall of Venice, to plead her husband's cause before the Doge and Senate. Later on we find her sharing her lord's counsels in court and camp, receiving king and emperor at Pavia or Vigevano, fascinating the susceptible heart of Charles VIII. by her charms, and amazing Kaiser Maximilian by her wisdom and judgment in affairs of state. And then suddenly the music and dancing, the feasting and travelling, cease, and the richly coloured and animated pageant is brought to an abrupt close. Beatrice dies, without a moment's warning, in the flower of youth and beauty, and the young duchess is borne to her grave in S. Maria delle Grazie amid the tears and lamentations of all Milan. And with her death, the whole Milanese state, that fabric which Lodovico Sforza had built up at such infinite cost and pains, crumbles into ruin. Fortune, which till that hour had smiled so kindly on the Moro and had raised him to giddy heights of prosperity, now turned her back upon him. In three short years he had lost everything—crown, home, and liberty—and was left to drag out a miserable existence in the dungeons of Berry and Touraine.
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