Beatrice d'Este

Beatrice d'Este (29 June 1475 – 3 January 1497), was Duchess of Bari and Milan by marriage to Ludovico Sforza (known as "il Moro"). She was one of the most important personalities of the time and, despite her short life, she was a major player in Italian politics. A woman of culture, an important patron, a leader in fashion: alongside her illustrious husband she made Milan one of the greatest capitals of the European Renaissance.[1][2] With her own determination and bellicose nature, she was the soul of the Milanese resistance against the enemy French during the first of the Italian Wars.[3][4]

Beatrice d'Este
Miniatura di Beatrice d'Este contorno ritagliato.jpg
Miniature of Beatrice at the age of 18, by Giovanni Pietro Birago.
Born29 June 1475
Ferrara, Italy
Died3 January 1497(1497-01-03) (aged 21)
Milan, Italy
Noble familyHouse of Este
(m. 1491)
IssueMassimiliano Sforza
Francesco II Sforza
FatherErcole I d'Este
MotherLeonora of Naples
SignatureFirma di Beatrice d'Este.png



Ercole d'Este, Beatrice's father, in a sculpture by Sperandio Savelli.

She was born on 29 June 1475 in the Castello Estense of Ferrara, second child of Ercole I d'Este and Eleonora d'Aragona. She was named in honor of Beatrice d'Este, sister of Ercole, and Beatrice of Aragon, sister of Duchess Eleonora.[5] The Duke of Ferrara longed for a male heir, so her birth was welcomed as a disgrace.[6][7]

Childhood in NaplesEdit

Bust of Ferrante of Aragon king of Naples, grandfather of Beatrice

Two years later Beatrice was taken to the Aragonese court with her mother and sister on the occasion of the second marriage of King Ferrante with Joan of Aragon. The procession, escorted by Niccolò da Correggio, arrived in Pisa and from there embarked on a galley arriving in Naples on 1 June 1477. On 19 September, Eleonora gave birth to Ferrante and when less than a month later she had to return to Ferrara, she decided to take her eldest daughter Isabella with her, while King Ferrante convinced her to leave both the newborn and Beatrice in Naples, with whom he had immediately shown himself to be in love.[8]

Beatrice thus lived in the Neapolitan city for eight years, entrusted to the care of the nurse Serena and the cultured and virtuous aunt Ippolita Maria Sforza,and grew up between the ducal residence of Castel Capuano,where she lived with her younger brother and with her three cousins, Ferrandino, Pietro and Isabella,and the royal residence of Castel Nuovo,where the king and queen of Naples resided. Ferrante considered it a "same thing" with the infanta Giovannella his daughter, so much so that the Este ambassador wrote in 1479 to her mother Eleonora that the father would also return her son, now that he was older, but not Beatrice, because "his majesty wants to give her in marriage and keep her for himself".[9]


The Ferrarese house of Este and the Milanese house of Sforza had always been on friendly terms and in 1490, 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[10] and Il Moro made no objection.[11]

Beatrice at the age of ten by Cosmè Tura, 1485

At the express request of her fiancé, who wished to be educated in a court more suited to her role, Beatrice in 1485 returned to Ferrara, at the age of ten, despite the lively protests of her grandfather Ferrante who reluctantly accepted, after months of negotiations, to part with her.[12]

Given the importance of the groom, the parents tried to bring the wedding forward to 1488, but Louis made his father-in-law understand that he was too busy in the affairs of state and that the bride was still too young. The date was set for May 1490 and a dowry of 40,000 ducats was arranged; From May, however, Ludovico postponed to the summer, then canceled for the umpteenth time, disconcerting the dukes of Ferrara who at this point doubted his real will to marry Beatrice.[13]

The reason for this behavior was attributed to the well-known relationship that Ludovico had with the beautiful Cecilia Gallerani.[13] To apologize for the constant postponements, in August 1490 he offered the bride a splendid necklace as a gift.[14]

The official nuptials were to have taken place in January 1491 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.[15] 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.[16] In Milan Beatrice will have two people dear in particular: the son-in-law Galeazzo Sanseverino, her faithful companion of adventures, and Bianca Giovanna,illegitimate daughter of Ludovico and wife of the aforementioned Galeazzo, at the time of her father's wedding a nine-year-old girl, whom Beatrice immediately loved and wanted with her on every occasion.[16]

Portrait of Ludovico il Moro, 1496.

Duchess of MilanEdit

Birth of Hercules MaximilianEdit

After a carefree year spent among many amusements, Beatrice found herself expecting a child. On 20 January 1493 Eleonora of Aragon returned to Milan to assist her daughter during childbirth and brought with her from Ferrara comare Frasina, the midwife of the family. Two days later at the Sala del Tesoro in the Rocchetta of the Castello Sforzesco the gifts of the Milanese nobility were exhibited on tables covered with crimson gold velvet, offered to the Moro in view of the imminent birth of his son.[17] Among these were "two beautiful diamonds" worth 18,000 ducats and a beautiful golden cradle, donated by his father-in-law Hercules. On 23 January Beatrice gave birth to her eldest son Hercules Maximilian, baptized after her father Hercules (Ercole), to whom she always had an unconditional love, and later named Maximilian in honour of the Emperor-elect Maximilian I.[18]

Beatrice's primary concern was from that moment to ensure her son the succession to the Duchy of Milan, which, however, legitimately belonged to the son of her cousin Isabella, for whose purpose she persuaded her husband to appoint the little Maximilian as Count of Pavia, a title belonging exclusively to the heir to the duchy. Isabella, understanding the intentions of the spouses, wrote to her father Alfonso a heartfelt request for help. King Ferrante, however, had no intention of starting a wa; on the contrary, he declared that he loved both granddaughters in the same way and invited them to prudence, so that the situation remained stable while the king was alive.[19]

Diplomatic mission to VeniceEdit

The Rothschild Lady attributed to Bernardino de' Conti. Identified as a portrait of Beatrice. Late fifteenth century.

In May 1493 Ludovico decided to send his wife as his ambassador to Venice, in order to obtain the support of the Serenissima for his legitimacy as Duke of Milan. He thus aimed to test the intentions of the Republic, while concluding the agreements with Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and granting him in marriage his niece Bianca Maria Sforza, accompanied by a fabulous dowry of 300 000 gold ducats, plus 40 000 in jewels and another 100 000 for the ducal investiture. On the other hand, Beatrice would have exploited her charm, her intelligence and the pomp of her court to impress the Venetians.[20] The couple first passed through Ferrara, where they were greeted festively by the dukes. Isabella d'Este, in order not to disfigure in comparison with her sister, left Ferrara before their arrival to go to Venice in advance.[21] On 25 May Beatrice left for Venice accompanied by her mother Eleonora, her brother Alfonso with his wife Anna Maria and various secretaries and advisers, with a retinue of more than 1 200 people. They sailed first along the Po, then on a dangerously rough sea that aroused many fears among those present, but not in Beatrice, who enjoyed mocking the fearful of the group.[20]

Probable portrait of Galeazzo Sanseverino, statue in the collection of the Great Museum of the Duomo of Milan.

On the morning of May 27, the fleet reached the fort of Malamocco, where it was welcomed by a delegation of patricians. Beatrice then landed at the island of San Clemente, where she found the doge waiting for her in person. He urged her to board the Bucintoro, which headed for the Grand Canal. During the journey she was able to attend the representation on a barge of the dispute between Minerva and Neptune that led to the foundation of Athens. That evening the Duchess and her family stayed at the Fondaco dei Turchi, owned by the Este family. In the following days she was invited to a sumptuous breakfast at the Doge's Palace, visited the Arsenal, the island of Murano, St. Mark's Basilica and the Treasury.[21]

A curious episode that took place on this occasion is contained in one of her letters to her husband, to whom Beatrice tells how, while walking through Piazza San Marco, some with the excuse of admiring her ruby had lingered too much on her neckline and how she had responded in a shrewd way: "I had a necklace of pearls and a ruby on my chest [...] and there were those who put their eyes almost up to my chest to look at him and I saw so much anxiety I told him we had to come home, since I would have gladly shown it ".[21]

She was not expected to give a speech but, invited to the meeting of the Great Council, she boldly asked to speak. Having obtained consent, she presented a memorial and a letter from her husband, announcing the intention of Charles VIII to carry out the feat against the kingdom of Naples, and asked in his name for the support of the Serenissima in the investiture of the duchy. The Venetians replied that what was reported was very serious and limited themselves to vague reassurances.[22] The mission, however, already started with little hope of success, since from the beginning the Republic did not intend to support Ludovico.[23]

First Italian WarEdit

On 25 January 1494, the old king Ferrante died, who already foreshadowed the outbreak of a war that he had tried with all his might to avoid. Once ascended to the throne of Naples, his son Alfonso II did not hesitate to rush to the aid of his daughter Isabella, declaring war on his brother-in-law Ludovico and occupying, as the first sign of hostility, the city of Bari. Ludovico responded to the threats by leaving the green light to King Charles VIII of France to go down to Italy to conquer the kingdom of Naples, which he believed to be right, having been taken from the Aragonese from the Anjou.[24]

Gallant receptionsEdit

Portrait of a young woman, XV century, circle of Leonardo da Vinci. Identified as a portrait of Beatrice d'Este[25]

On 23 July 1494 she welcomed duke Louis of Orléans, cousin of the King of France, to Milan, who arrived in Italy with the avant-gardes of the army French, then, on 11 September of the same year, went to Asti to meet Charles VIII in person. The two were greeted with great riots and parties, and both claimed, according to the custom French, to kiss the duchess and all the beautiful bridesmaids of her retie on the mouth.[26]

This custom of "kiss and touch" the women of others initially aroused some annoyance in the Italians, who never willingly got used to it. Moreover, as Baldassarre Castiglione would also say years later, Louis of Orleans used to look a little too mischievously at women, "who are said to like them very much". Nevertheless, Beatrice, through Ambassador Capilupi, also invited her sister to come and kiss Count Gilbert of Bourbon and others who would soon arrive.[27]

King Charles, in particular, was greatly fascinated: he wanted to see her dance and requested a portrait of her,[28] personally taking care of procuring the painter (Jean Perréal) and about twenty clothes to see which one was better worn by Beatrice, who was "more beautiful than ever".[29] The relations between the Duchess and Louis of Orleans were also extremely gallant at the beginning, and the two frequently exchanged gifts with affectionate cards.[30]

Ludovico was not jealous of her: different was the case of the handsome baron of Beauvau, much loved by women, who showed excessive "enthusiasm" towards Beatrice.[31] According to some historians, it was for this reason that Ludovico, offended by the assiduity of the knight, took advantage of an illness of King Charles to remove his wife from Asti, who in fact retired to Annone, while he continued alone to go to Asti every day.[32]

Portrait of Beatrice d'Este, circle of Leonardo da Vinci, n. 209, Uffizi Gallery, Florence[33]

La Princesse à ses yeux avoit paru fort aimable, il lui donna le bal; Ludovic n'en fut pas si inquiet que des empressemens du Sire de Beauveau au près de la Princesse sa femme: Beauvau étoit le Seigneur de la Cour de Charles VIII, le plus propre à se faire aimer promptement des Dames; il eut la hardiesse de vouloir plaire à la Princesse. Ludovic qui s'en apperçut, voyant que les François étoient assez audacieux pour attaquer la gloire d'un Prince, qui quoiqu'il n'eût pas la qualité de Souverain; en avoit toute l'autorité, prit congé du Roy, & se retira dans un Château à une lieue d'Ast, où le Conseil du Roy alloir le trouver tous les jours.

The princess in his [Carlo's] eyes had seemed very lovable, he gave her the ball; Ludovico was not so worried by this as by the enthusiasm of the sire of Beauveau towards his princess wife: Beauvau was the lord of the court of Charles VIII, the most inclined to be quickly loved by women; he had the audacity to want to please the princess. Ludovico, who realized this, seeing that the French had the audacity to attack the glory of a prince who, although he did not yet have the status of sovereign, had all the authority, took leave of the king, and retired in a castle a stone's throw from Asti, where the King's Council visited him every day.

—Pierre de Lesconvel, Anecdotes secretes des règnes de Charles VIII et de Louis XII.

The ducal investitureEdit

Soon, realizing that his plans had not gone as planned, Ludovico abandoned the alliance with the French and joined the Holy League, expressly formed between the various Italian powers to drive foreigners from the peninsula. Meanwhile, on October 21, 1494, the legitimate Duke Gian Galeazzo died and Ludovico obtained by acclamation of the senate that the ducal title passed to him and his legitimate descendants, thus bypassing in the succession the son that Gian Galeazzo left.[34]

Beatrice, who was pregnant at that time, gave birth on February 4 1495 Sforza Francesco, so named in honor of his late paternal uncle Sforza Maria, to whom Ludovico had been very fond, and of his grandfather Francesco. The newborn was baptized by his aunt Isabella d'Este with fifteen names, but was then called simply Francesco.[35]

The official investiture by the emperor came on May 26, 1495, and was solemnized by a large public ceremony in the Duomo.[36]

Lunette of Beatrice d'Este in Palazzo degli Atellani in Milan, early sixteenth century, perhaps by Bernardino Luini.

The siege of NovaraEdit

Soon, realizing that his plans had not gone as planned, Ludovico abandoned the alliance with the French and joined the Holy League, expressly formed among the various Italian powers to drive foreigners from the peninsula. While Charles, after the conquest of Naples, was still in the kingdom, in a situation of serious tension, on 11 June 1495, contravening the orders of the king, Louis of Orléans occupied the city of Novara with his men and went as far as Vigevano, threatening concretely to attack Milan with the intention of usurping the duchy, which he considered his right being a descendant of Valentina Visconti.

Ludovico hastened to close himself with his wife and children in the Rocca del Castello in Milan but, not feeling equally safe, he contemplated leaving the duchy to take refuge in Spain. Only the iron opposition of his wife and some members of the council, as Bernardino Corio writes, convinced him to desist from this idea.[37]

Lodovico [...] so disheartened that he divided himself to be hospitalized in Arragona, and there he quietly ended his days in a private condition. But Beatrice d'Este, as a woman of strong and valiant soul, chased him up, and made him once think of him as Sovereign.

— Carlo Morbio, storia di Novara dalla dominazione de' Farnesi sino all'età nostra contemporanea.[38]

Loys duc d'Orleans [...] en peu de jours mist en point une assez belle armée, avecques la quelle il entra dedans Noarre et icelle print, et en peu de jours pareillement eut le chasteau, laquelle chose donna grant peur à Ludovic Sforce et peu près que desespoir à son affaire, s'il n'eust esté reconforté par Beatrix sa femme [...] O peu de gloire d'un prince, à qui la vertuz d'une femme convient luy donner couraige et faire guerre, à la salvacion de dominer!

Louis Duke of Orleans [...] in a few days he prepared a fairly fine army, with which he entered Novara and took it, and in a few days he also had the castle, which caused great fear to Ludovico Sforza and he was close to despair over his fate, had he not been comforted by his wife Beatrice [...] O little glory of a prince, to whom the virtue of a woman must give him courage and make war, for the salvation of the domain!

—Cronaca di Genova scritta in francese da Alessandro Salvago [39]

However, due to the heavy expenses incurred for the investiture, the state was on the verge of financial collapse, and there was no money to maintain the army; a popular uprising was feared. The Commines writes that, if the Duke of Orleans had advanced only a hundred steps, the Milanese army would have passed the Ticino, and he would have managed to enter Milan, since some noble citizens had offered to introduce it.

Ludovico did not resist the tension and was struck, it seems, by a stroke that left him paralyzed for a short time. "The Duke of Milan has lost his feelings," Malipiero writes, "he abandons himself." Beatrice therefore found herself alone to face the difficult situation of war. However, he managed to juggle very well and to ensure the support and loyalty of the Milanese nobles. It was then that her husband officially appointed her governor of Milan together with her brother Alfonso, who soon came to their rescue.[40] The latter, however, soon fell ill with syphilis, also it was rumored that Duke Ercole did not want the recovery of Novara, being in league with the French, and together with the Florentines secretly subveded the Orleans, and that Fracasso [it], stronghold of the Sforza army, played a double game with the king of France.

Children of Beatrice. Left: child portrait of the eldest son Hercules Maximilian.
Right: child portrait of the second son Francesco.

Beatrice therefore decided, on June 27, to go alone to the military camp of Vigevano to supervise the order and animate the captains against the French, despite the fact that the Duke of Orleans made raids in that area all day long, while her husband remained in Milan.[4] On this occasion she demonstrated – not unlike her male relatives – a remarkable inclination to war. This is considerable when one considers that the conduct of war operations was at that time the prerogative of men. More than the kinship with her father, whose help she asked for help in vain, the alliance with Venice proved fruitful, which sent Bernardo Contarini, provveditore of the stratioti, to the rescue, with whom Beatrice became friends. On the first of July, some severed heads of the French were brought to her by the stratioti, and she rewarded them with a ducat for each.[41][42]

Guicciardini's opinion is that if Louis d'Orléans had attempted the assault immediately, he would have taken Milan since the defence was inconsistent,[43] but Beatrice's demonstration of strength was perhaps worth confusing him in making him believe the defences superior to what they were so that he did not dare to try his luck and retreated into Novara. The hesitation was fatal to him, as it allowed the army to reorganize and surround him, thus forcing him to a long and exhausting siege that decimated his men due to famine and epidemics, a siege from which he was finally defeated a few months later on the imposition of King Charles who returned to France.[5][44][42]

Beatrice d'Este managed to expel from Novara the Duke of Orleans, who had seized it, directly threatening Milan over which she boasted rights of possession. Peace was signed, and Charles returned to France, without having drawn any serious fruit from his enterprise. Lodovico Sforza rejoiced in this result. But it was a brief jubilae his.

— Francesco Giarelli, Storia di Piacenza dalle origini ai nostri giorni[45]

After these events Ludovico never separated from his wife again, indeed he took her back with him to the military camp near Novara, during the course of the siege. On the occasion of their visit was held, for the pleasure of the duchess who greatly appreciated the facts of arms, a memorable magazine of the army in full. Beatrice's presence did not have to garbare much to the Marquis of Mantua her brother-in-law, then captain general of the League, if at some point he invited not too kindly Ludovico to lock his wife "in coffers".[4]

Since the Germans wanted to make "cruel revenge" against the Italians, Ludovico begged Francesco to save Beatrice, fearing that she would be raped or killed. The marquis with an intrepid spirit rode among the Germans and not without great effort managed to mediate peace. "Understanding success, Ludovico became the happiest man in the world, seeming to him that he had recovered the State and his life, and together with honor his wife, for whose safety he feared more than for everything else".[46]

Beatrice personally participated in the council of war, as well as in the peace negotiations, as well as having participated in all the meetings held previously with the French, who did not fail to be amazed to see her actively collaborating alongside her husband.

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.

The last year and deathEdit

Tomb of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d'Este by Cristoforo Solari.

In the summer of 1496 Beatrice and the Moor met Maximilian I of Habsburg in Malles. The emperor was particularly kind to the Duchess, going so far as to personally cut the dishes on her plate, and wanted her to sit in the middle between himself and the duke.[47] Sanuto then notes that "a contemplation di la duchessa de Milano", that is, by the will of her, or rather by the desire to see her again, Maximilian passed "that mountain so harsh" and in a completely informal way, without any pomp, came to Como,[47] then stayed for some time in Vigevano in strictly friendly relations with the dukes.[48] He probably admired it for its hunting skills and tenacious character, but his visit also had a political purpose.[49]

In recent months, however, relations between the two spouses had become very worn out due to the adulterous relationship that Ludovico had with Lucrezia Crivelli, his wife's lady-in-waiting.[50] Despite the bad moods, Beatrice found herself pregnant for the third time, but the pregnancy was complicated both by the sorrows caused by the discovery that Lucrezia was also expecting a child from Ludovico, something for which she felt deeply humiliated, and by the premature and tragic death of the beloved Bianca Giovanna,Ludovico's illegitimate daughter and her dear friend from the first day of arrival in Milan.[50] The birth finally took place on the night between 2 and 3 January 1497, but neither the mother nor the son survived.[51]

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.[52] Ludovico went mad with pain and for two weeks remained locked up in the dark in his apartments, after which he shaved his head[53] and let his beard grow,[54] wearing from that moment on only black clothes with a torn cloak of a beggar. His only concern became the embellishment of the family mausoleum and the neglected state fell into disrepair.[55]

Detail of the cenotaph with the effigy of Beatrice: the casts of the Victoria and Albert Museum and Pushkin Museum

With these few words on that same night he announced the departure of his wife to the Marquis of Mantua Francesco Gonzaga, husband of his sister-in-law Isabella:[46]

«Our illustrious bride, since labor pains came to her this night at two hours, gave birth to a dead male child at five hours, and at half past six she gave back the spirit to God, whose bitter and immature mourning we find ourselves in so much bitterness and grief. how much it is possible to feel, and so much so that the more grateful we would have been to die first and not see us lack what was the dearest thing we had in this world»

— Mediolani, 3 Januarii 1497 hora undecima. Ludovicus M. Sfortia Anglus Dux Mediolani

He told the Ferrarese ambassador that "he never thought he could ever tolerate such a bitter plague", and that he had had him summoned to report to Duke Ercole that if what had ever offended her, as he knew he had done, he asks forgiveness from your ex. your and her, finding himself discontented to the soul ", since" in every prayer he had always prayed to our Lord God that she left after him, as the one in whom he had assumed all his rest, and since God did not like it, he prayed to him and would always pray to him continually, that if it is ever possible for a living person to see a dead, grant him the grace that he may see her and speak to her one last time, as the one he loved more than himself ".[56]

Even the Sanuto writes that "Whose death the duke could not bear for the great love that brought her, and said that he no longer wanted to take care of either his children, or the state, or worldly things, and just wanted to live [...] and since then this duke began to feel great troubles, while before he had always lived happily".[57]

The Emperor Maximilian, in condoning with the Moro, wrote that "nothing heavier or more annoying could happen to us at this time, than to be so suddenly deprived of a joint among the other princesses dear to us, after the beginning more abundant familiarity of his virtues, and that you in truth, who are primarily loved by us, have been deprived not only of a sweet consort, but of an ally of your principality, of the relief from your troubles and occupations. [...] Your most happy consort did not lack any virtue or luck or body or soul that could be desired by anyone; no dignity, no merit that could be added".[58]

She was buried in the choir of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The duke commissioned a funeral monument for himself and his wife to Cristoforo Solari, but following his death in captivity in France, he was transferred, empty, to the Certosa di Pavia where he still stands today.[16]

In 1499 Louis d'Orléans returned a second time to claim the Duchy of Milan and, since there was no longer the proud Beatrice to face him,[3] he had an easy game on the dejected Moro, who after an escape and a brief return ended his days as a prisoner in France.[59]

Lodovico, who used to draw every vigor of mind from the provident and strong advice of his wife Beatrice d'Este, having been kidnapped by death a few years earlier, found himself isolated and devoid of daring and courage to such an extent, that he saw no other escape against the proud procella that threatened him except in fleeing. And so he did.

— Raffaele Altavilla, Breve compendio di storia Lombarda[60]

The burialEdit

After an impressive funeral, during which Ludovico remarried her as if she were alive,[61] Beatrice was buried in the choir of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.[51] The duke commissioned Cristoforo Solari to create a magnificent funeral monument with their two recumbent figures carved in marble, but, due to the French conquest of the duchy, it remained unfinished. Following the provisions of the Council of Trent on burials (1564), it was broken up and largely dispersed. Only the lid with the funeral statues, for the mercy of the Carthusian monks, was saved, and purchased for the small sum of 38 scudi it was transferred empty to the Certosa di Pavia, where it is still today.[62]

Appearance and personalityEdit

Physical aspectEdit

The portraits that remain of her and the descriptions of those who knew her give us the image of a curvaceous young woman, pleasant, with a small nose and slightly turned upwards, full cheeks typical of the Aragonese, short and round chin, dark eyes and long brown hair down to the waist that she always kept wrapped in a coazzone, with a few strands left to fall on the cheeks,[63] a costume that she had already assumed during her childhood in Naples by the will of her ancestor Ferrante, who made her approach and dress in the Castilian manner.[9]

Francesco Muralto presents she as "at a young age, beautiful and of raven colors".[64][65] We know that she was of short stature and therefore used to wear tiles to reduce the difference in height with her husband, over one meter and eighty meters tall. In the International Footwear Museum of Vigevano there is also a pianella dating back to the late fifteenth century attributed to the Duchess[66] which, considering the size, must have had 34–35 feet.[67]

Left: bronze test for a big head with the effigy of Beatrice, which Ludovico il Moro had minted immediately after the death of his wife (1497).
Right: silver reproduction of the aforementioned big head (1989).


Thanks to her young age, Beatrice was of a happy, cheerful, carefree, playful character, but, not unlike all her male brothers, she was also unreflective, violent, impulsive and easily let herself be carried away by anger. Proof of this are many episodes of the Milanese period, including a famous one that happened in April 1491 when, going with some of her ladies to the market disguised as a commoner, she was surprised by a downpour, and while returning to the castle she squabbled on the street with certain commoners who had insulted her because of the clothes with which she and the ladies had sheltered their heads from the rain, not being customary in Milan to dress in that way. On another occasion, realizing that Ludovico wanted to make her wear a dress that he had sewed the same for Gallerani, she made a scene and forced him to end the extramarital affair.

Proud and obstinate, despite being the least loved daughter, she was the one who most resembled her father by nature.[68] Vincenzo Calmeta [it] , her faithful and affectionate secretary, praised her ingenuity, affability, grace, liberality, exalted her court of gentlemen, musicians and poets. She was certainly a lover of luxury so much so that the only wardrobe in her rooms at the castle of Pavia contained 84 dresses as well as countless other valuables.[69][70]

Haughty and ambitious, of a dignified person, of beautiful features, yes, but male, she was distinguished by a grave and imperious air. She dressed princely; her gaze breathed her command; her smile did not set her lip; but a kind of joviality of condescension appeared in it. Such was this woman, who knew not a little empire of her to exercise over her husband himself; who both knew how to deceive others. Lodovico il Moro lacked daring; and it was Beatrice who always came to her aid in this part.

— Giovanni Campiglio, Lodovico il Moro.

The pranksEdit

In any case, the court of Milan was a court that loved pranks and Beatrice in particular, having evidently inherited cruelty from her Aragonese relatives, liked heavy ones, if Ludovico writes that one morning she had fun with her cousin Isabella to throw her ladies off her horse. The most terrible jokes, however, were all against the serious Este ambassador Giacomo Trotti [it], at the time seventy years old, who found himself several times the house invaded by "large quantities of foxes, wolves and wild cats", that Ludovico bought from certain villani vigevanesi and that Beatrice, having realized how much similar beasts were in "great hatred and annoyance" to the ambassador, made him throw into the house as much as she could by means of waiters and staffers who resorted to the most unthinkable expedients.

Pala Sforzesca, c. 1494, by an unknown author: on the left, Ludovico with his son Cesare; on the right, Beatrice with her son Ercole Massimiliano.

Since the ambassador was also quite stingy, Beatrice even went so far as once to rob him of what he was wearing, however for a good cause: while in fact Ludovico held him still by the arms, she took away two golden ducats from the scarsella, the silk hat and the new oltremontano cloth cloak, then gave the two ducats to Trotti's niece, who evidently had to find it in need. The ambassador continually complained to the duchess's father, saying: "and these are my earnings, since I have the damage and insults, as well as I should waste time writing them!"[26]

Such heavy jokes were perhaps also due to a sort of personal revenge: Ludovico used to openly confide in Trotti of everything, and the latter, especially in the first weeks of marriage, kept Duke Ercole constantly informed of the behavior that his daughter kept in bed with her husband. It is not certain that Beatrice had become aware of it, but she certainly did not have to like trotti's meddling when he reproached her for her frigidity by saying that "men want to be well seen and caressed, as is just and honest, by their wives", if the latter then reported to her father that his daughter was with him "a little wild".[71]

Nevertheless, Beatrice had limits and never reached the cynicism of her grandfather Ferrante. In fact, when Isabella of Aragon was widowed by her husband Gian Galeazzo, who became aware of the fact that her cousin, although pregnant, remained for the whole time locked up in the dark rooms of the castle of Pavia, forcing even her young children to dress the mourning and to suffer with her, Beatrice had great compassion and insisted that she come to Milan and improve the conditions of the children.

The fraternal bondEdit

With her brothers she always maintained excellent relations, especially she showed affection towards Ferrante,with whom she had grown up in Naples, and towards Alfonso,who came several times to visit her in Milan. With her sister Isabella the relationship was already more complicated because, although the two felt a sincere affection for each other, for a certain period they moved away because of the envy of Isabella, who already from the very day of the wedding began to nourish mixed feelings towards Beatrice, to whom she envied both the lucky marriage, both the enormous wealth, and, above all, the two sons in perfect health born a short distance from each other, while she tried for years in vain to procreate an heir to her husband Francesco. However, over time the envy subsided, and then dissolved completely at the premature death of her sister, an event for which Isabella showed a deep and sincere pain.

Alleged portrait, in fact quite similar, of the two sisters: Beatrice (left) and Isabella (right), in the ceiling fresco of the Sala del Tesoro of Palazzo Costabili near Ferrara. Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, 1503–1506.

The two sisters were however very different, although sharing the same ambitions, in fact unlike Isabella, who nuded resentment towards her daughters for being born females and poured the blame on her husband Francesco (who was instead very proud of his daughters),[72] Beatrice was, despite her young age, a wife and an exemplary mother, loved her children very much and dedicated to them many attentions of which are witnesses the tender letters sent to her mother Eleonora in which she described the good health and growth of the little Ercole.


Just like the grandfather Ferrante, Beatrice loved animals very much and her husband often gave them to her: among the many there are numerous horses, dogs, cats, foxes, wolves, a monkey and even sorcetti, also at the park of the castle of Milan there was a menagerie with numerous species of exotic animals.[73] Nevertheless, Beatrice appreciated hunting just as much, especially that with the falcon, and was an excellent horseman: the French marveled to see her riding "all straight, no more and no less than a man would be".[74] This leads us to believe that she used to mount like a man, contrary to the custom of the time which required women to proceed with both legs on one side.

She showed above all on these occasions to possess a swaggering and reckless character, so much so as to put her life in danger more than once, as when in the summer of 1491 during a hunting trip her mount was hit by an runaway deer. Ludovico tells, not without a certain admiration, that her horse impennò high "how much is a good spear ", but that Beatrice held firmly on the saddle and that when they managed to reach her they found her that "laughed and did not have a fear in the world". The deer with the horns had touched her leg but Ludovico specifies that his wife did not get hurt.[5]

In the same way in the following year, while pregnant with her eldest son, Beatrice threw herself to the assault of an angry boar that had already wounded some greyhounds and first hit him. The hunting fatigues had to, however, on that occasion yield her a new attack of malarial fevers that had already affected her the previous year and that this time made the central months of pregnancy difficult, although without damaging the unborn child or complicating the birth.[75]

Although very religious, Beatrice was not austere with regard to carnal matters: she knew well that wars are not won only with weapons and for this reason some of the bridesmaids of her retin had the task of sexually entertaining the sovereigns and foreign dignitaries guests of the court. It is in fact not without a certain surprise that historians remember how, when in 1495 she was at the camp of Novara, Beatrice did not hesitate to offer to personally procure to her brother-in-law Francesco Gonzaga, captain general of the League, a woman with which to celebrate the victory, officially to preserve him and her sister Isabella from the terrible Malfrancese who at that time devastated the peninsula, in truth to win his sympathies, as she wished to receive on loan from the Marquis the treasure that he had seized from the tent of Charles VIII following the battle of Fornovo,when the camp French had been looted, treasure of which the most interesting object was an album containing the licentious portraits of all the mistresses of the king of France.[14]

However, she was quite modest as far as her own person was concerned, in fact she entrusted herself to the services of a single midwife, comare Frasina da Ferrara, who had introduced her mother and that Beatrice demanded that she come to assist her in Milan even during her third birth, despite the fact that the woman was sick at that time and despite the fact that her father had suggested another equally talented midwife from Ferrara. There were many insistences of the duchess and the people mobilized, who in the end comare Frasina set off on a mule to reach Milan in time.[76]

Political roleEdit

The "damnatio memoriae"Edit

Italy at the dawn of the descent of Charles VIII (1494)

Celebrated by nineteenth-century historians as a sort of romantic heroine, the figure of Beatrice underwent an eclipse during the twentieth century, crushed under the weight of the praise paid to her longest-lived sister Isabella. Although a superficial analysis of historical events has led modern scholars to say that Beatrice had no voice in the politics of the duchy, or even had no interest in it,[77][78] almost all previous historians agree instead in judging her as the true mastermind behind many of her husband's actions and decisions, over whom she exercised enormous influence, to such an extent that it links her presence to the prosperity and integrity of the entire Sforza state:[3][79][80]

Beatrice helped her husband with wise advice in the offices, not even as a prince, but as an Italian prince; and that state prospered as long as such a woman stayed with Lodovico. With her dead, public ruin had no more restraint.

— Unknown author, Orlando Furioso corredato di note storiche e filologiche.[79]

She owned in all respects the lands of Cassolnovo, Carlotta, Monte Imperiale, Villanova, Sartirana, Leale, Cusago, Valenza, Galliate, Mortara, Bassignana, San Secondo, Felino, Torrechiara, Castel San Giovanni, Pigliola, Valle di Lugano, as well as the Sforzesca and the park of the castle of Pavia, that her husband had given her, with all the relative possessions, fortresses and feudal rights connected to them, that is the mero et mixto imperio, any type of jurisdiction, gifts, immunities, etc., the faculty to administer them according to one's own will, to delegate castellans, praetors, officers, etc., as well as to benefit from the very rich rents.[81][82]

As early as January 1492 Ludovico showed his intention to make her sole governor of the state during her absences, and that every day the council was held and the acts of government read in her room.[83] Moreover, both the diplomatic mission to Venice, her constant presence in the councils of war and in meetings with the French, and, above all, her decisive stance in the excited days when Orleans threatened Milan, in stark contrast this time to her husband's intentions to escape, as well as the actual drift of the Sforza state following his death, they show that his decision-making and political power was much more substantial than is currently thought.[3][84]

Political ThoughtEdit

She initially pursued the policy of her father Ercole,who for years had been plotting to replace Ludovico to Gian Galeazzo in the actual possession of the duchy of Milan and who with this precise purpose had given her to him in marriage. It is to be believed that without the interference of his wife Ludovico would never have taken the step of usurping the duchy to his nephew in all respects and that he would have been content to continue to govern him as regent as he had been doing for more than ten years. It is no coincidence that it was Beatrice herself who said that, with the birth of the little Ercole Massimiliano, she had given birth to a son to her husband and also to her father.[85]

When then, at the time of the first invasion French, Beatrice perceived the first differences of interest between the two – Ercole had remained officially neutral, but leaned towards the French, Lodovico instead had sided with the Holy League – she showed himself very embittered and did not hesitate, even with the usual filial reverence, to reproach her father for not having wanted to send them the aid requested.[76]

After Novara his attitude became more distinctly pro-Venetian, and the collaboration between Milan and Venice became closer. She also carried out an important work of mediation between her husband and the various leaders on the one hand – who resorted to her, as in the case of Fracasso, to obtain favors – and between her husband and the Italian lords on the other: since her death the Faenza people were very upset, judging that Astorre Manfredi would have lost the favor of Milan:[86] Faenza, pro-Venetian, was an enemy of Forlì, pro-Florentine, of which was countess Caterina Sforza, nephew of Ludovico. Beatrice must have persuaded her husband to extend her protection to Faenza and it was feared, with his death, a reversal of alliances, which then in fact happened with the war of Pisa, when Ludovico abandoned the ally Venice for Florence, a move that then marked his ruin. Malipiero rejoiced instead, saying: "and with this death will cease so much intelligentness that son-in-law and father-in-law had together".[87]

In Beatrice, moreover, Ludovico had placed all his hopes for the succession and for the maintenance of the state during the minority of the children, since he had always been convinced that he would die before her.[88]

The ancient authorsEdit

It was the contemporary historians on the other hand, unlike the modern ones, to recognize its importance: in addition to Sanuto, who writes of her that although "five months pregnant" wherever her husband went "for everything she followed him",[89] Guicciardini also notes that Beatrice was "assiduously companion" to her husband "no less in the important things than in the pleasant ones".[90] Paolo Giovio, on the other hand, paints an entirely negative picture of it, blaming Beatrice – traditionally attributed to Ludovico – for having called the French to Italy, although he is the only author to speak of it in these terms:

Beatrice, wife of Lodovico ... woman of superb and great pomp, the many times she used to use much more arrogantly, than it is convenient for a woman, to intrude in the handling of important things, dispense the offices and still command to' judges of criminal and civil things, so that Lodovico, who until then had been seduced by her flattery, was kept very loving of his wife, was sometimes forced to please the desire of the troublesome woman

— Dell'historie del suo tempo di Mons. Paolo Giovio da Como, vescovo di Nocera tradotta per Lodouico Domenichi, 1560.
Medallion by Beatrice d'Este on the façade of Palazzo degli Atellani. Pompeo Marchesi, XVIII century

All the opposite her secretary, Vincenzo Calmeta judges the behavior worthy of praise, not of reproach, when he writes of her:

She was a woman of literature, music, sound and a lover of every other virtuous exercise, and in matters of the state, above sex and age, of manly tolerance. She solved the occurrences with such dexterity and unity, and nevertheless went away satisfied whoever from her Lordship of her did not obtain the benefit, that what she obtained. She added to this a liberality with her, from which it can be said that in her time she had been the only receptacle of every virtuous spirit, by means of which every laudable virtue was beginning to be put into use.

— Vincenzo Calmeta, Triumphi.

Not unlike Baldassarre Castiglione remembered her, many years later, with a few but significant words in his Cortegiano: "it still hurts me that you all have not met the Duchess Beatrice of Milan [...], so that you will never again have to marvel at the ingenuity of a woman".

Ludovico Ariosto went even further, unifying Beatrice's fate with those of her husband and of the whole of Italy:

Beatrice bea, vivendo, il suo consorte,
e lo lascia infelice alla sua morte;
anzi tutta l'Italia, che con lei
fia triunfante, e senza lei, captiva.

Her consort Beatrice, while she has breath,
Blesses, and leaves unhappy at her death;
Yea, Italy; that, with her, triumphs bright,
Without that lady fair shall captive be.

—Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, canto 42, (octaves 91–92) —William Stewart Rose
Portrait of a young woman in profile attributed to Ambrogio de Predis,presumably a portrait of Beatrice. Late fifteenth century.

Bernardino Corio even claims that already at the age of thirteen, even before arriving in Milan, Beatrice together with her father Ercole had urged Ludovico to reduce entirely in his own hands the government of the city, however her real influence in that period is difficult to prove. Nevertheless, already at the time of her stay in Naples, and therefore in a still puerile age, she proved to be such as to induce Count Diomedes Carafa to write to her father: "of her I predict that she will be a woman of great spirit and able to command ".[9]

Modern authorsEdit

Even in the nineteenth century there are sporadic mentions of it in the works of authors almost always little known: Luzio and Renier called her "the soul of all the exploits and delights of her husband";[91] Francesco Antonio Bianchini calls her "a woman of high feeling and of a manly soul",[92] Anton Domenico Rossi "of soul more than manly";[93] Goffredo Casalis "woman of lively spirits and rare sense";[94] Samuele Romanin "princess of great talent and perspicacity, and although young, very knowledgeable of state affairs",[95] and elsewhere: "poured into the things of state, more than not the women [...] she dominated her husband irresistibly, she was his adviser and excitator, and was seen later on the field of Novara raising his downed courage".[96]

Jean de Préchac add that she "had a great influence on the will of Ludovico: she was the only confidant and the ruler of his thoughts. The immature of her death [...] spread the days of Lodovico with bitterness; he had but disasters and ruins";[97] Raffaele Altavilla writes that Ludovico "used to draw every vigor of mind from the provident and strong advice of his bride",[60] and Pier Ambrogio Curti that "our duke lacked the most effective advice, the soul of his enterprises, with the death of the unsead Beatrice d'Este, whom dominated him at her own will, and to whom he publicly flaunted an extraordinary affection, and from that hour he no longer had his propitious luck".[98] Antonio Locatelli disagrees with many praises, saying that she "had only wickedness as a woman".[99]

After a long silence, her figure has been more recently re-evaluated in works by historians such as Maria Serena Mazzi,[100] Alessandra Ferrari,[citation needed] Laura Giovannini,[citation needed] and Luisa Giordano.[101]

Marital bondEdit


Ludovico, on the other hand, was sincerely in love with his wife, although he continued to have lovers even after the wedding, like most of the lords of the time. In a letter he writes of her: "she is more dear to me than the light of the sun".[102] The harmony of the couple is confirmed by the courtiers, who saw him constantly turn caresses and kisses to his wife: "S.r Ludovico hardly ever takes his eyes off the Duchess of Bari" wrote tebaldo Tebaldi in August 1492;[103] and already a short time after the wedding Galeazzo Visconti declared: "there is such a love between them that I don't think two people can love each other more".[104]

Bust of Beatrice in the entrance portal of the Rectory of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan.

On the other hand, Malaguzzi Valeri notes that if it is true that the love shown by Ludovico should not be nourished by any doubt, however, the extent and the real nature of the feeling with which his wife reciprocated him remains uncertain. Undoubtedly, even if at the beginning Beatrice showed herself reluctant, her husband still managed in a short time to conquer her with his generosity, affability and liberality, but above all with the very rich gifts that in the early days he brought her almost every day, so much so that already a few months after the wedding Beatrice wrote a series of letters to her father, all to thank him that he had deigned to "place me with this illustrious Lord my consort" who "who does not leave me in desire for anything that can bring me honor or pleasure", and still adds: "I am completely obliged to your lordship, because she is the cause of all the good I have".[76] What transpires from the correspondence of that period is therefore a very young Beatrice dazzled by the wealth and importance of her husband, who was then one of the most powerful men on the peninsula, endowed with considerable charm and who did not yet show the weaknesses and contradictions of recent years.[105]


Unlike his relatives and his sister Isabella, with whom Ludovico himself claimed years later to have had a secret relationship,[106] Beatrice never fell back even the slightest suspicion of adultery. She always maintained a reputation of absolutely honesty, and this in spite of the freedoms in dressing and relating to men: the courtships of chivalrous mold entertained with the French and with the emperor are striking, where in fact the fulfillment of the sexual act was delegated to special courtesans.[107] Precisely because he trusted her blindly, Ludovico granted her enormous freedom, and the only hint of her jealousies refers to the Baron of Beauvau.[31]

Only Achille Dina, a twentieth-century historian, insinuates - but without any evidence - of an affair between her and Galeazzo Sanseverino, arguing that "some intimate remorse" was due to Beatrice's deep sorrow for the death of her stepdaughter: "perhaps his conduct towards Isabella? or something in her relations with Bianca's husband, the charming Galeazzo Sanseverino, whose intrinsic and continuous commonality of pleasures with her cannot fail to strike?"[108]

Beatrice, on the other hand, was aware of her husband's extramarital affairs, but did not give them weight because she knew they were passing distractions.[109] The balance was drastically upset with the appearance of Lucrezia Crivelli in the ranks of the mistresses, as Beatrice had to realize that this time Ludovico had seriously fallen in love and that he had begun to dedicate to the new lover all the care and attention that he once dedicated to her.[6] Muralto specifies that Beatrice "was honored with the greatest care by Ludovico, even though he took Lucrezia Crivelli as his concubine; because of which, although the thing gnawed at the entrails of his wife, love nevertheless did not depart from her".[110]

Union of the Sforza and Este coat of arms, tombstone in memory of Duke Ludovico il Moro and his wife Beatrice d'Este, Conca di Viarenna in Milan,1497.


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.[1]

Beatrice was mainly interested in poetry and gathered around her an excellent circle of poets in the vernacular, which included, among others, Vincenzo Calmeta, Gaspare Visconti, Niccolò da Correggio, Bernardo Bellincioni, Antonio Cammelli and Serafino Aquilano. According to some, this is a sign of the fact that she did not master Latin, although she had as a tutor the humanist Battista Guarino, in any case she favored the affirmation of vulgar literature in Milan.[1]

Having been raised by her grandfather Ferrante, Spanish by birth, as a child she used to express herself in a mixture of Catalan, Castilian and Italian, a habit that she seems not to have preserved as an adult.[8] Music was a family passion, and therefore in her travels she was always accompanied by musicians and singers. She was a player of viola, lute and clavichord, and learned dance and singing from Ambrogio da Urbino and Lorenzo Lavagnolo.[1]

She left an epistolary of at least four hundred surviving letters, which out of habit she almost always wrote by his own hand and not by means of secretaries, as was customary at the time. Some appear notable for their exquisite descriptions or burlesque and irreverent tone.[111]

She appreciated the Latin and Greek comedies and tragedies, but above all the Provençal chivalric poems and the Carolingian cycle, which in those years Matteo Maria Boiardo kept alive. She especially loved to listen to the commentary on the Divine Comedy held for her by Antonio Grifo, a passion also shared by her husband who often stopped to listen to her readings.[1]

Beautiful, shrewd, wife of a prince of such splendor, wide of protection to those who had recourse to her for employment or grace, she drew around a very flowery court of which she showed the soul, the delight. Her triumph marked Isabella's defeat.

— Ignazio Cantù, Beatrice o La corte di Lodovico il Moro.

She used her position as a lady of one of the most splendid courts in Italy to surround herself with men of culture and exceptional artists. Her court was frequented by painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Ambrogio de Predis, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Andrea Solari, architects such as Bramante and Amadeo, sculptors such as Gian Cristoforo Romano, Cristoforo Solari and the Caradosso, humanists such as Baldassarre Castiglione, musicians and luthiers such as Franchino Gaffurio, Lorenzo Gusnasco, Jacopo di San Secondo, Antonio Testagrossa, as well as many of the most famous singers and dancers of the time.[1]

At her death, as Vincenzo Calmeta wrote, "everything went to ruin and precipice, and from happy heaven to dark hell the court was converted, so that each virtuous was forced to take another path". Thus began the slow diaspora of Milanese poets, artists and writers, forced, especially after the definitive fall of the Moro, to seek their fortune elsewhere.[2]

Beatrice fashion leaderEdit

Beatrice is now known above all for her inventive genius in creating new clothes, which were one of her greatest passions.[112] As long as she lived she had no rivals in any court, she dictated fashion in many cities of the time and it was following her example that numerous Italian noblewomen, even outside the Milanese court, adopted the coazzone hairstyle, which came very much into vogue.[113]

Nielli depicting Beatrice kneeling before the Virgin, c. 1495 The very long coazzone stands out and the waist is still tight, despite the two pregnancies.

Francesco Muralto remembers her as "inventor of new clothes"[114] and, thanks to the correspondence of the ubiquitous Trotti and the letters of Beatrice herself to her sister and husband, many descriptions of her rich clothes and inventions are preserved.[70] An absolute novelty were, for example, striped dresses like the one she wears in the Pala Sforzesca and hers would also seem to be the idea of highlighting the waist by tightening around it a cord of large pearls that she defined in St. Francis style. The pearls of the rest were her greatest habit and since childhood she made constant use of them, both in the form of a necklace, both in hairstyles, and as a decoration of clothes. She preferred deep, square-shaped necklines and fabrics decorated with Sforza and Este exploits, especially with the motif of the Vincian knots designed by Leonardo da Vinci.[115] She sometimes wore hats jeweled with magpie feather[116] and more extravagant uses are also known, such as the solid gold chain that she would seem to wear in the bust carved on the Portal of the room of the sink of the Certosa di Pavia, which was of exclusively male use.

Beatrice with her son Ercole Massimiliano. Detail from the Pala Sforzesca, ca. 1494–1495. Currently in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

His taste in dress particularly struck the French courtiers following Charles VIII, who spent themselves in extensive descriptions; the poet André de la Vigne, in his work in verse Le Vergier d'honneur, remembers his excessive ostentatious luxury:[117]

Avecques luy fist venir sa partie
qui de Ferrare fille du duc estoit:
de fin drap d'or en tout ou en partie
de jour en jour voulentiers se vestoit:
Chaines, colliers, affiquetz, pierrerie,
ainsi qu'on dit en ung commun proverbe,
tant en avoit que c'estoit diablerie.
Brief mieulx valoit le lyen que le gerbe.
Autour du col bagues, joyaulx, carcans,
et pour son chief de richesse estoffer,
bordures d'or, devises et brocans:
ung songe estoit de la voir triumpher.

With him he brought his wife,
the one who was the daughter of the Duke of Ferrara:
at the end of the golden cloth in whole or in part,
from day to day she willingly dressed:
chains, necklaces, brooches, precious stones;
as a common proverb says,
he had so many that it was a devilry.
In short, the chain is worth more than the garland.
Around the neck rings, jewels, collars,
and around the head of riches embellished,
gold borders, mottos and brocades:
a dream was to see it triumph.

—André de la Vigne, Le Vergier d'honneur


Portrait of a lady in red, Bernardino Zaganelli. Here too the necklace seems to correspond to the description of Ambassador Trotti, moreover the motif of the Vincian knots on the bodice refers to a woman of the Sforza house.

There are many portraits of Beatrice that have come down to us, both contemporary and posthumous. Most of these are of certain identification, either because they bear the name next to it or because of the distinctive features of Beatrice, such as the coazzone.

Famous portraitsEdit

The most famous remain the bust made by Gian Cristoforo Romano, the funeral monument of Cristoforo Solari and the Sforza Altarpiece. However, Malaguzzi Valeri notes that like Solari did not bother to reproduce the true traits of Beatrice, having to the funeral statue be placed at the top of a monument and therefore seen from below and from afar, so the unknown and coarse painter of the Sforza Altarpiece altered the physiognomy of Beatrice compared to the refined original drawings of Ambrogio de Predis, hardening the features of the face to make it almost unrecognizable: "he preferred to take care of the accessories of the dress with infinite monotony, so that the duchess, more than a living person, appears a doll too adorned".[118]

Lesser knownEdit

  1. The portrait of her as a child made by Cosmè Tura was lost in the last century.[119]
  2. From Leonardo it had been "divinely" portrayed, as Vasari writes, on the fresco of the Crucifixion by Donato Montorfano in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, however the artist's dry technique deteriorated in such a way as to be barely distinguishable today.
  3. It is carved, together with the other duchesses of Milan, in the Portale del Lavabo of the Certosa di Pavia and in a bas-relief at the Castello Sforzesco.[120]

Uncertain identificationEdit

  1. The drawing preserved in the Uffizi with the number 209, executed in lapis and watercolor but hard retouched a little everywhere by a hand of the sixteenth century, was identified by Father Sebastiano Resta (XVII century) as a portrait of Beatrice d'Este and attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Karl Morgenstern (1813) and other critics noted similarities with the Belle Ferronnière, as did Dalli Regoli (1985), who considered the drawing a copy from a lost original by Leonardo and added a certain resemblance to the bust of the Louvre. Lionello Venturi (1925) refused Leonardo's attribution and instead proposed the name of Boccaccio Boccaccino.[33]
  2. The Rothschild Lady or Portrait of a Young Woman in Profile, from private collection, considered the work of the circle of Leonardo da Vinci, and precisely of Bernardino de' Conti.[121][122][123]
  3. Portrait of a Young Woman in Profile by Ambrogio de Predis[124]
  4. Another Portrait of a Young Woman, from the circle of Leonardo da Vinci.[25]
  5. The portrait cataloged at the Uffizi as Portrait of Barbara Pallavicino by Alessandro Araldi,[125] which, in addition to the best known elements, shows above all a pearl necklace with pendant that fully corresponds to the description made by duchess Eleonora on the gift sent by Ludovico to the future bride in 1490.[115]
  6. She is also one of the possible candidates for identification with the so-called La Belle Ferronnière by Leonardo da Vinci.[126]


Posthumous portraitsEdit

  1. Immediately after his death, Ludovico had a head minted with his own effigy on one side and his wife's on the other. It is one of the first examples of coinage of this type, a testimony of great love and admiration for his wife.[128]
  2. At the beginning of the sixteenth century it was depicted by Bernardino Luini, together with the other members of the Sforza family, in one of the lunettes of the Palazzo degli Atellani in Milan, today in the museums of the Castello Sforzesco. On the façade of the same building, in the eighteenth century, was carved by Pompeo Marchesi a medallion depicting it.
  3. The face of the two sisters, Beatrice and Isabella, has been recognized in the two spectators who, tenderly embraced, are fascinated by the fresco by Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo in the ceiling of the Sala del Tesoro of Palazzo Costabili in Ferrara. Since it dates back to the years 1503-1506, it would constitute a tribute of the Este to the now deceased joint.


  1. The most famous miniature, the work of Giovanni Pietro Birago, is contained in the donation diploma of 28 January 1494, now preserved at the British Library in London, with which her husband enfeoffed her of numerous lands.[129]
  2. There was a certain similarity between the physiognomy of Beatrice and that "a bit impertinent" of the Laura of Antonio Grifo's Canzoniere Marciano.[130] Ludovico and Beatrice are undoubtedly the couple who, in the Canzoniere queriniano illuminated by Grifo,[131] at folio 119 r. acts as a guide to the others.[132] It may have been depicted, again by Grifo, also in a letter cap illuminated at folio 182 v. of the incunabulum of the Divine Comedy preserved at the House of Dante in Rome.
  3. Another of her miniatures can be found in the Arcimboldi Missal of the Chapter Library of the Duomo of Milan, in the scene of the ducal investiture of her husband.

More recently she has been honored along with her court in works by painters such as Giambattista Gigola (1816-1820), Giuseppe Diotti (1823),[133] Francesco Gonin (1845), Francesco Podesti (1846), Cherubino Cornienti (1840 and 1858), Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1920), and individually in Domenico Mingione's Portrait of Beatrice d'Este (2021), which faithfully reproduces Leonardo da Vinci's charcoal drawing.


  • Ercole Massimiliano, (1493–1530), count of Pavia, duke of Milan 1513 – 1515;
  • Sforza Francesco, (1495–1535), Prince of Rossano and Count of Borrello 1497 – 1498, Count of Pavia and Duke of Milan 1521 – 1524 married in 1533 to Christina of Denmark (1522–1590), daughter of King Christian II of Denmark.
  • The third son was born dead and, not having been baptized, could not be placed with his mother in the tomb. Ludovico, heartbroken, therefore had him buried above the door of the cloister of Santa Maria delle Grazie with this Latin epitaph: "O unhappy childbirth! I lost my life before I was born, and more unhappy, by dying I took the life of my mother and the father deprived his wife. In so much adverse fate, this alone can be of comfort to me, that divine parents bore me, Ludovico and Beatrice dukes of Milan. 1497, January 2".[135]

Cultural influenceEdit


Contemporary poetsEdit

To Beatrice are dedicated the Triumphs of Vincenzo Calmeta [it] (1497), a poem in third rhyme of Petrarch and Dante's inspiration in which the poet mourns the untimely death of the duchess, "his dear companion", and invokes Death to allow him to follow her, railing against the cruel Fate and misery of the human condition, until Beatrice herself descends from Heaven to console him and to draw him out of his "past error", showing him how in truth everything happens according to divine justice.

Gaspare Visconti composed a songbook for her; among the poems contained therein, one introduced by the column "for the death of the Duchess and for the peril where this homeland is placed" already shows the awareness of the next ruin of the state caused by the despair of the Moro for the loss of his wife: "and my homeland gives me much fright | that in him is sustained, so that every building | ruin, if the foundation is lacking".

Serafino Aquilano wrote four sonnets in his death, as well as other poets, including Niccolò da Correggio and Cornelio Balbo. Michele Marullo composed an Epitaphium Beatricis Estensis.

Later writersEdit

Beatrice appears as the protagonist or character in various literary works:

  • The death of Ludovico Sforza known as the Moor, tragedy of Pietro Ferrari (1791).
  • Lodovico Sforza known as il Moro, tragedy by Giovanni Battista Niccolini (1833).
  • Lodovico il Moro, by Giovanni Campiglio (1837).
  • Beatrice or La corte di Lodovico il Moro by Ignazio Cantù (1838)
  • Leonardo – the Resurrection of the Gods, by Dmitry Mereskovsky (1901).
  • La città ardente – novel by Lodovico il Moro, by Dino Bonardi (1933).
  • The Second Mrs. Giaconda, a novel by E. L. Konigsburg (1975).
  • Duchess of Milan, by Michael Ennis (1992).
  • Leonardo's Swans, by Karen Essex (2006).
  • La misura dell'uomo, by Marco Malvaldi (2018).
  • Ludovico il Moro – Signore di Milano, comic strip of 2010.


  • In the 1971 RAI miniseries The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, Beatrice is portrayed by Ottavia Piccolo.
  • In the 2004 film Le grandi dame di casa d'Este by Diego Ronsisvalle she is played by Lucia Bendia.
  • In the 2021 series Leonardo she is played by Miriam Dalmazio.



The invention of the Dolceriso del Moro, a typical dessert of Vigevano, is traditionally attributed to Beatrice herself, who would have conceived it in the spring of 1491 to please her illustrious consort. It is a kind of ricotta rice pudding, closed in a shortcrust pastry wrapper and enriched with candied fruit, pine nuts, almonds and rose water. This last ingredient served – as it seems – to induce harmony, harmony and fidelity in the couple.[136]

Posthumous tributesEdit

  • The Pusterla Beatrice, one of the minor gates of the city in Brera,was dedicated by Moro to the memory of his wife;
  • In modern times one of the tree-lined avenues along the ramparts of Milan, Viale Beatrice d'Este, was named after her.


It is said that in the Sforza castle of Vigevano, and precisely in the male's wing, on hot summer nights the spirits of Beatrice and her ladies continue to animate the apartments once belonged to the duchess and the so-called "loggia delle dame", which Ludovico had built specifically for his wife.[137][138]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 35–37.
  2. ^ a b Calmeta 1504, p. 25.
  3. ^ a b c d Giarelli 1889, p. 292; Pirovano 1830, p. 27; Préchac 1817, p. 160; Mòrbio 1834, p. 130; Il mondo illustrato, p. 395.
  4. ^ a b c Sanuto 1883b, p. 438.
  5. ^ a b c Cartwright 1903, pp. 4–5.
  6. ^ a b Anonimo ferrarese 1928, p. [page needed].
  7. ^ Melchiorri 2014, p. 96.
  8. ^ a b Mazzi 2004, pp. 44–51.
  9. ^ a b c Mazzi 2004, p. [page needed].
  10. ^ Cartwright 1903, pp. 8–9.
  11. ^ Cartwright 1903, pp. 60–66.
  12. ^ Giordano 2008, pp. 30–31; "Si capisce che il nonno Ferdinando, di sentimenti affettuosi verso i suoi più di quanto non lasci supporre l'indole sua, quale ci è dipinta dagli storici, non aveva voluto separarsi dalla nipotina; ma, cominciate nel Napoletano quelle sedizioni dei baroni che dettero luogo ad una vera guerra civile, Eleonora d'Aragona volle avere presso di sé anche quella sua figlioletta." (Zambotti, p. 167).
  13. ^ a b Cartwright 1945, pp. 43 & 46-47.
  14. ^ a b Luzio & Renier 1890, p. 87.
  15. ^ Shell, Janice; Sironi, Grazioso (1992). "Cecilia Gallerani: Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine". Artibus et Historiae. 13 (25): 47–66 pp.57. doi:10.2307/1483456. JSTOR 1483456.
  16. ^ a b c Julia Cartwright, Beatrice d'Este duchessa di Milano.[page needed][full citation needed]
  17. ^ Cartwright 1945, pp. 149–150.
  18. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 42–44.
  19. ^ Corio 1565, p. 1029.
  20. ^ a b Cartwright 1945, pp. 166–176.
  21. ^ a b c Cartwright 1945, pp. 177–181.
  22. ^ Samuele Romanin (1834). Strenna Italiana. Vol. 19. pp. 137–139.
  23. ^ Cartwright 1945, pp. 185–192.
  24. ^ Corio 1565, p. 1057.
  25. ^ a b "Portrait of a Young Lady, c. 1500".
  26. ^ a b Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 35–36.
  27. ^ Luzio & Renier 1890, p. 97.
  28. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 48.
  29. ^ Alessandro Luzio. "Isabella d'Este e i Borgia". Archivio storico lombardo. 5. Vol. 41. Società storica lombarda. p. 485.
  30. ^ Maulde-La-Clavière 1891, pp. 67 & 101.
  31. ^ a b Marg. de Lussan, Anecdotes secretes des règnes de Charles VIII et de Louis XII (Paris, 1711), p.50.
  32. ^ Maulde-La-Clavière 1891, pp. 83–84.
  33. ^ a b Francesco Grisolia (2018). Trattenimenti pittorici. I disegni del Codice Resta degli Uffizi. Monografie di Horti Hesperidum. Vol. 5. pp. 69–71.
  34. ^ Corio 1565, pp. 1070–1071.
  35. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 438–439.
  36. ^ Corio 1565, p. 1075.
  37. ^ Corio 1565, p. 1077.
  38. ^ Mòrbio 1834, p. 130.
  39. ^ Cronaca di Genova scritta in francese da Alessandro Salvago e pubblicata da Cornelio Desimoni, Genova, tipografia del R. Istituto de' sordo-muti, 1879, pp. 71-72.
  40. ^ Zambotti, p. 252.
  41. ^ Sanuto 1883b, pp. 425, 438 & 441.
  42. ^ a b Maulde-La-Clavière 1891, pp. 221–224.
  43. ^ Guicciardini 1818, pp. 10, 191.
  44. ^ Sanuto 1883b, pp. 438 & 441.
  45. ^ Giarelli 1889, p. 292.
  46. ^ "Deputazione di storia patria per la Lombardia". Archivio storico lombardo. Società storica lombarda. 1874. pp. 348–349.
  47. ^ a b Sanuto 1879, pp. 241–243.
  48. ^ Cartwright 1945, pp. 260–262.
  49. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 550.
  50. ^ a b Cartwright 1945, pp. 270–271.
  51. ^ a b Corio 1565, pp. 1102–1103.
  52. ^ Cartwright 1903, pp. 307–308.
  53. ^ Cartwright 1945, p. 281.
  54. ^ Sanuto 1879, p. 272.
  55. ^ Calmeta 1504, p. 253.
  56. ^ Cartwright 1945, p. 276.
  57. ^ Sanuto 1879, p. 457; "la qual morte el ducha non poteva tolerar per il grande amor li portava, et diceva non si voller più curar né de figlioli, né di stato, né di cossa mondana, et apena voleva viver [...] Et d'indi esso ducha comenzoe a sentir de gran affanni, che prima sempre era vixo felice".
  58. ^ "Nihil enim nobis hoc tempore gravius aut molestius accidere poterat, quam affine inter caeteras principes nobis gratissima, post initam uberiorem virtutum illius consuetudinem, tam repente privari, te vero qui a nobis apprime diligeris, non modo dulci coniuge, sed principatus tui socia, et curarum et occupationum tuarum levamine destitui. [...] Felicissimae coniugi tuae nullam vel fortunae vel corporis vel animi bonum desiderari a quocumque potuit; nullus decor, nulla dignitas addi" (Sanuto 1879, pp. 489–490; Cartwright 1945, p. 280).
  59. ^ Verri 1835, pp. 100–114.
  60. ^ a b Altavilla 1878, p. 4.
  61. ^ Anonimo ferrarese 1928, p. 196.
  62. ^ Beltrami 1891, p. 9.
  63. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1917, pp. 26–27; Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 35–37; Archivio storico lombardo, vol. 48, pp. 319–320.
  64. ^ Muraltus, Franciscus (1861). Petrus Aloisius Doninius (ed.). Annalia. Milan. p. 54. Anno Christi MCDLXXXXVII Beatrix Herculis Ducis Ferrariae filia ac Ludovici Sfortiae Mediolani Ducis uxor hoc anno tertio ianuarii ex infelici partu suum diem clausit extremum, duobus post se natis masculis relictis; quae erat in iuvenili aetate, formosa ac nigri coloris, novarum vestium inventrix, die noctuque stans in choreis ac deliciis.
  65. ^ Archivio storico lombardo, vol. 7, p. 88
  66. ^ "La collezione". Museo della Calzatura - Vigevano.
  67. ^ "Le scarpette di Beatrice - la Provincia Pavese". Archivio - la Provincia Pavese.
  68. ^ Anonimo ferrarese 1928, pp. 194–195; Zambotti, p. 267.
  69. ^ Giordano 2008, pp. 47 & 150-151.
  70. ^ a b Malaguzzi Valeri 1917, pp. 270–271.
  71. ^ Pizzagalli 1999, p. [page needed].
  72. ^ Pizzagalli 2001, p. [page needed].
  73. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 376.
  74. ^ Luzio & Renier 1890, pp. 99–100: "et estoit sur ce coursier en façon qu' elle estoit toute droite, ny plus ny moins que seroit un homme".
  75. ^ Cartwright 1945, pp. 144–145.
  76. ^ a b c Giordano 2008, p. [page needed].
  77. ^ "BEATRICE d'Este, duchessa di Milano". Enciclopedia Italiana (in Italian). Roma: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. 1930 – via
  78. ^ "BEATRICE d'Este, duchessa di Milano". Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 7 (in Italian). 1970 – via
  79. ^ a b Ariosto 1858, p. 303.
  80. ^ Perkins, Charles C. (1869). Les sculpteurs italiens. pp. 155–156.
  81. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 381.
  82. ^ "Add MS 21413".
  83. ^ Paolo Negri (1923). "Studi sulla crisi italiana alla fine del secolo XV". Archivio storico lombardo. Società storica lombarda. p. 24.
  84. ^ Giordano 2008, pp. 49–63.
  85. ^ Giordano 2008, p. 40.
  86. ^ Sanuto 1879, p. 462.
  87. ^ Malipiero 1843, p. 483.
  88. ^ Testamento di Lodovico il Moro, Tipografia all'insegna di Dante, 1836, p.9.
  89. ^ Sanuto 1883b, p. 100.
  90. ^ Francesco Guicciardini. "XI". Storia d'Italia. Vol. 1, II.[full citation needed]
    Guicciardini, Francesco (1843). Storia d'Italia. Vol. 2. Borroni e Scotti.
  91. ^ Luzio & Renier 1890, p. 126: "Tutti sentono che questa lettera non è una delle solite partecipazioni mortuarie a frasi fatte. Da ogni linea traspira un cordoglio profondo ed intenso. E infatti fu questo il più forte dolore che il Moro avesse a soffrire, perché Beatrice fu forse l'unica persona al mondo che egli amò con passione viva, disinteressata e tenace. Quella donna rapita ai vivi mentre era ancora così giovane, mentre era l'anima di tutte le imprese e i diletti del marito, madre da pochi anni di due fanciullini adorati, colpì il cuore di tutti.
  92. ^ Bianchini 1828, p. 157.
  93. ^ Rossi 1831, p. 71.
  94. ^ Casalis 1843, p. 365.
  95. ^ Romanin 1856, p. 18.
  96. ^ Strenna Italiana. Vol. 19. 1834. p. 137.
  97. ^ Préchac 1817, p. 113.
  98. ^ Pier Ambrogio Curti (1857). Tradizioni e leggende in Lombardia. Vol. 2. p. 14.
  99. ^ Locatelli 1837, p. IV.
  100. ^ Mazzi 2004.
  101. ^ Giordano 2008.
  102. ^ Uzielli 1890, p. [page needed]: "Cecilia Gallerani e Lucrezia Crivelli soddisfacevano a Lodovico le aspirazioni del cuore e dei sensi, Beatrice era sprone alla sua ambizione. Egli lo sentiva. Quindi la morte della Duchessa fu certo causa in lui di profondo e sincero pianto. Tale infausto avvenimento segnò per il Moro il principio di una serie di sventure che sembrarono realizzare i tristi presentimenti di lui e che lo accasciarono, come non avrebbe certamente fatto se esso avesse avuto a fianco la nobile e fiera Consorte."
  103. ^ Dina, p. 330.
  104. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 42–44.
  105. ^ Giordano 2008, pp. 38–39.
  106. ^ Pizzagalli 2001, p. 137.
  107. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, pp. 48 & 564.
  108. ^ Dina, p. 372.
  109. ^ Pizzagalli 1999, p. 126: Da una lettera dell'ambasciatore Trotti: "la duchessa de Milano [Isabella d'Aragona] dixe che a lei molto più doleva de Cecilia che non a la duchessa de Bari [Beatrice d'Este], la quale saveva e intendeva il tutto, come se niente fosse, ma che non era sì ignorante e grossa che non savesse e intendesse ogni cosa".
  110. ^ Muralto, Francesco (1861). Annalia Francisci Muralti I.U.D. patricii Comensis. p. 54. summopere a Ludovico colebatur licet Lucretiam ex Cribellorum familia in concubinam recepisset; qua res quamquam viscera coniugis commovisset, amor tamen ab ea non discedebat.
  111. ^ Giordano 2008, pp. 33–34.
  112. ^ Giordano 2008, p. 70.
  113. ^ Giordano 2008, p. 148.
  114. ^ Archivio storico lombardo, vol. 7, p. 88.
  115. ^ a b "Fogli e Parole d'Arte - Isabella d'Aragona, la Dama dell'Ambrosiana e il cardinale sconfessato".
  116. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 737.
  117. ^ Cartwright 1945, p. 210.
  118. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1917, pp. 22 & 26-27.
  119. ^ "FONDAZIONE ZERI | CATALOGO: Anonimo lombardo sec. XV/ XVI, Ritratto di Beatrice d'Este".
  120. ^ "Ritratti ducali".
  121. ^ "CERCHIO DI LEONARDO DA VINCI | Ritratto di una signora di profilo".
  122. ^ "FONDAZIONE ZERI | CATALOGO: Conti Bernardino de', Ritratto di giovane donna di profilo".
  124. ^ "FONDAZIONE ZERI | CATALOGO: Predis Giovanni Ambrogio de', Ritratto di giovane donna di profilo".
  125. ^ Malaguzzi Valeri 1913, p. 51.
  126. ^ "Portrait de femme, dit à tort La Belle Ferronnière". 5 October 1490 – via Musée du Louvre.
  127. ^ Reimann, Sascha: "Ritratto di dama (Ambrosiana Milan) The Sitter – The Painter – New Evidences", s.l., December 2013; see also Kemp, Martin/Cotte, Pascal, 2010. La Bella Principessa. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 63.
  128. ^ "La Zecca di Milano".
  129. ^ "Add MS 21413".
  130. ^ Giuseppe Frasso (1990). Illustrazione libraria, filologia e esegesi petrarchesca tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento. p. 163.
  131. ^ "1470 PETRARCA, Canzoniere e Trionfi (miniato)".
  132. ^ Enrico Guidoni (1998). Ricerche su Giorgione e sulla pittura del Rinascimento. Vol. 1. p. 220.
  133. ^ "Page 11".
  134. ^ "LA CORTE DI LUDOVICO IL MORO di Giuseppe Diotti (1823) - I personaggi raffigurati".
  135. ^ Infoelix partus; amisi ante vitamque in luce ederer: infoeliciorque matri moriens vitam ademi et parentem consorte suo orbari, in tam adverso fato hoc solum mihi potest jocundum esse, quia divi parentes me Lodovicus et Beatrix Mediolanenses duce genuere 1497, tertio nonas januarii
  136. ^ "Dolceriso: la torta di Beatrice d'Este e Ludovico il Moro | Certosa Tourism".
  137. ^ "Il Fantasma di Beatrice d'Este". 8 December 2012.
  138. ^ "VIGEVANO: I FANTASMI". 26 July 2017.


External linksEdit

  Media related to Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan at Wikimedia Commons