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Clara Gonzaga

Clara Gonzaga
Countess of Montpensier
Dauphine of Auvergne
Duchess of Sessa
A 19th century portrait of Clara Gonzaga.
Born1 July 1464
Mantua, Italy
Died2 June 1503(1503-06-02) (aged 38)
Noble familyGonzaga
(m. 1482; died 1496)
IssueLouis II, Count of Montpensier
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
François, Duke of Châtellerault
Louise de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier
Renée, Duchess of Lorraine
FatherFederico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
MotherMargaret of Bavaria

Clara Gonzaga, Countess of Montpensier, Dauphine of Auvergne, Duchess of Sessa (Italian: Chiara Gonzaga; French: Claire (de) Gonzague;[1] 1 July 1464 – 2 June 1503) was an Italian noblewoman of the House of Gonzaga. She was the daughter of Federico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua and the wife of Gilbert, Count of Montpensier.

One of her six children was Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, who led the Imperial Army sent by Emperor Charles V against Pope Clement VII in what became the Sack of Rome, and where he was subsequently killed.

Clara is one of the characters in the Heptaméron, printed in 1558, which was written by Marguerite de Navarre, Queen of Navarre and sister of King Francis I of France.


A medal portrait of Clara Gonzaga by Bartolomeo Melioli.

Clara was born in Mantua on 1 July 1464, the eldest daughter of Federico I Gonzaga,[2] Marquess of Mantua and Margaret of Bavaria (1 January 1442 – 14 October 1479). She had five siblings including Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua whose wife was the celebrated Isabella d'Este.

Clara's paternal grandparents were Ludovico III Gonzaga and Barbara of Brandenburg; and her maternal grandparents were Albert III, Duke of Bavaria and Anna of Brunswick-Grubenhagen-Einbeck, daughter of Duke Erich I of Brunswick-Salzderhelden and Elisabeth of Brunswick-Göttingen.

Marriage and issue

On 24 February 1482, in Mantua, at the age of seventeen, Clara married Gilbert of Bourbon-Montpensier,[2] who in 1486 succeeded his father as Count of Montpensier and Dauphin of Auvergne. He was also Viceroy of Naples (1495), and the Duke of Sessa. He was the son of Louis I, Count of Montpensier and Joan, Dauphine of Auvergne. The marriage had been arranged by Clara's uncle Francesco Secco of Aragon who accompanied the newly-wed couple from Mantua to Milan on their lengthy journey to their home in France.

Gilbert and Clara had six children:

Widowhood and death

On 15 October 1496, in Pozzuoli, Italy, Clara's husband Gilbert (who had been the Viceroy of Naples since 1495), died of a fever, leaving her a widow at the age of thirty-two.

In 1499, Clara acted as mediator on behalf of her brother Francesco, who sought to form an alliance with King Louis XII of France in order to protect Mantua, which was then being threatened by both Cesare Borgia and the Doge of Venice.

She maintained a correspondence with her sister-in-law, Isabella d'Este.

Clara died on 2 June 1503. She was not quite thirty-nine years old. She was buried at the Chapelle Saint-Louis in the church of Aigueperse in Auvergne.


Clara Gonzaga appears as a character in the Heptaméron (first printed 1558), written by Marguerite de Navarre, Queen of Navarre and sister of King Francis I of France.



  • Antenhofer, Christina (2011). "From Local "Signori" to European High Nobility: The Gonzaga Family Networks in the Fifteenth Century". In Johnson, Christopher H.; Teuscher, Simon; Sabean, David Warren; Trivellato, Francesca (eds.). Transregional and Transnational Families in Europe and Beyond: Experiences Since the Middle Ages. Berghahn Books. pp. 55–74.
  • Dupont-Pierrart, Nicole (2017). Claire de Gonzague Comtesse de Bourbon-Montpensier (1464-1503) (in French). Presses Universitie Septentrion. ISBN 9782757416129.
  • Ward, A.W.; Prothero, G.W.; Leathes, Stanley, eds. (1911). The Cambridge Modern History. Vol. XIII. Cambridge at the University Press.
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Clara Gonzaga
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