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Charles I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua

Charles I Gonzaga
Duke of Mantua and Montferrat
Reign25 December 1627 - 22 September 1637
PredecessorVincenzo II Gonzaga
SuccessorCharles II Gonzaga
Born6 May 1580
Paris, Kingdom of France
Died22 September 1637(1637-09-22) (aged 57)
Mantua, Duchy of Mantua
SpouseCatherine de Lorraine-Guise-Mayenne
Francis, Duke of Rethel
Charles, Duke of Nevers
Ferdinand, Duke of Mayenne
Marie Louise, Queen of Poland
Anna, Countess Palatine of Simmern
Carlo Gonzaga
HouseHouse of Gonzaga
FatherLouis Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers
MotherHenriette of Cleves

Charles Gonzaga (Italian: Carlo I Gonzaga) (6 May 1580 – 22 September 1637) was Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat from 1627 until his death. He was also Charles III Duke of Nevers and Rethel, as well as Prince of Arche and Charleville.


Plans of Charleville in 1625

Born in Paris on 6 May 1580, Charles was the son of Louis Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers, and Princess Henriette of Cleves.[1] In 1600, as duke of Rethel, he founded, in Nevers, the Order of the Yellow Ribbon, soon forbidden by the King, due to its peculiar character. In 1606, Charles decided the foundation of Charleville[2] and the Principality of Arches ( fr ) He became 1st Prince of Arche and Charleville

In 1612, Charles, a descendant of the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus through his grandmother Margaret Paleologa, who was of the line of Theodore I, Marquess of Montferrat, Andronicus's son, claimed the throne of Constantinople, at the time the capital of the Ottoman Empire.[3] He began plotting with Greek rebels, including the Maniots of Greece, who addressed him as "King Constantine Palaeologus".[3] When the Ottoman authorities heard about this, they sent an army of 20,000 men and 70 ships to invade Mani. They succeeded in ravaging the Mani Peninsula and imposing taxes on the Maniots. This caused Charles to move more actively for his crusade. He sent envoys to the courts of Europe looking for support. In 1619, he recruited six ships and some five thousand men, but a fire started by a possible incendiary prevented their journey.[4]

Following the death of the last legitimate male heir of the Gonzaga line in the Duchy of Mantua, Vincenzo II (1627), Charles inherited the title through an agreement.[5] His succession, however, spurred the enmity of Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy, who aimed at the Gonzaga lands of Montferrat, and, above all, of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, which did not like a pro-French ruler in Mantua. This led to the War of the Mantuan Succession. In 1629 emperor Ferdinand II sent a Landsknecht army to besiege Mantua, Charles left without the promised support from Louis XIII of France. The siege lasted until 18 July 1630,[6] when the city, already struck by a plague, was brutally sacked for three days.[7] Mantua never recovered from this disaster.

The subsequent diplomatic maneuvers allowed Charles, who had fled to the Papal States, to return to the duchy in 1631, although not without concessions to the House of Savoy and to the Gonzaga of Guastalla. The fiscal situation of the Mantuan territory was poor, but he was able to facilitate some economic recovery in the following years.

Charles died in 1637.[8] His successor was his grandson Charles II, initially under the regency of Maria Gonzaga, Charles I's daughter-in-law.


Charles married Catherine of Lorraine-Mayenne,[9] daughter of Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne[10] and Princess Henriette of Savoy. They had:


  1. ^ a b c d e f Boltanski 2006, p. 501.
  2. ^ Pollak 2010, p. 172.
  3. ^ a b Miller 1904, p. 650.
  4. ^ Miller 1904, p. 651.
  5. ^ Parrott 2001, p. 91.
  6. ^ Polisensky 2021, p. 172.
  7. ^ Grendler 2009, p. 238.
  8. ^ Wilson 2010, p. 648.
  9. ^ Parrott 1997, p. 157.
  10. ^ a b Williams 1998, p. 66.
  11. ^ Spangler 2015, p. 144.


  • Boltanski, Ariane (2006). Les ducs de Nevers et l'État royal: genèse d'un compromis (ca 1550 - ca 1600) (in French). Librairie Droz.
  • Coniglio, Giuseppe (1967). I Gonzaga. Varese: Dall'Oglio.
  • Grendler, Paul F. (2009). The University of Mantua, the Gonzaga, and the Jesuits, 1584–1630. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Miller, William (1904). "Greece under the Turks, 1571-1684". The English Historical Review. 19, No. 76 (Oct.): 646–668.
  • Parrott, David (1997). "A "prince souvereign" and the French crown: Charles de Nevers, 1580-1637". In Oresko, Robert; Gibbs, G. C.; Scott, H M (eds.). Royal and Republican Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Memory of Ragnhild Marie Hatton. Cambridge University Press. p. 149-187.
  • Parrott, David (2001). Richelieu's Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642. Cambridge University Press.
  • Polisensky, J. V. (2021). The Thirty Years War. University of California Press.
  • Pollak, Martha (2010). Cities at War in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press.
  • Spangler, Jonathan (2015). "Points of Transferral: Mademoiselle de Guise's Will and the Transferability of Dynastic Identity". In Geevers, Liesbeth; Marini, Mirella (eds.). Dynastic Identity in Early Modern Europe: Rulers, Aristocrats and the Formation of Identities. Ashgate Publishing. p. 131-152.
  • Williams, George L. (1998). Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland & Company, Inc.
  • Wilson, Peter H. (2010). Europe's Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War. Penguin Books.

Regnal titles Preceded byVincenzo II Duke of Mantua and Montferrat 1627–1637 Succeeded byCharles II & III Preceded byHenriette Duke of Nevers and Rethel 1595–1637
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Charles I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua
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