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Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua

Francesco II Gonzaga
Portrait of Francesco II Gonzaga in the Uffizi, Florence
Born10 August 1466
Mantua, Margravate of Mantua
Died29 March 1519(1519-03-29) (aged 52)
Mantua, Margravate of Mantua
Noble familyHouse of Gonzaga
Spouse(s)Isabella d'Este
IssueEleonor Gonzaga
Ippolita Gonzaga
Federico II, Duke of Mantua
Ercole Gonzaga
Ferrante Gonzaga
FatherFederico I Gonzaga
MotherMargaret of Bavaria

Francesco II Gonzaga (10 August 1466 – (1519-03-29)29 March 1519) was the ruler of the Italian city of Mantua from 1484 until his death.


Francesco was born in Mantua, the son of Marquis Federico I Gonzaga.

Francesco had a career as a condottiero acting as Venice's commander from 1489 to 1498. He was the commander-in-chief of the army of the Italian league in the battle of Fornovo, under the tutorage of his more experienced uncle Ridolfo Gonzaga: even though Francesco was unable to stop Charles VIII and his army from returning to France,[1] he claimed Fornovo as a victory.[2] Francesco was described as "short, pop-eyed, snub-nosed and exceptionally brave, and was regarded as the finest knight in Italy".[3]

Francesco briefly commanded the Venetian army,[2] but in 1502 he left to pay his respects to Louis XII who was then at Milan.[4] By 29 April, he was with Louis XII when Genoa fell to the French army.[4] Francesco, taking the initiative after the French victory at Agnadello, was occupying lands that he had lost to Venice.[5] He was marching to Legnago with a company of French lances, when he was captured by the Venetians.[6] Francesco only gained his freedom by giving his son Federico II as hostage.[7] Once free, he was placed in command of papal troops, although he was ineffective since he stayed in Mantua. By 17 February 1510, Francesco, no longer involved in the war,[8] allowed a French army under Gaston of Foix to march through his territory to reach Brescia.[9]

During Francesco's absences, Mantua was governed by his wife Isabella d'Este,[10] whom he had married on 12 February 1490. Under their reign, Mantua knew a great age of cultural splendour, with the presence in the city of artists such as Andrea Mantegna and Jacopo Bonacolsi. Francesco had the Palace of St. Sebastian built, where Mantegna's Triumph of Caesar was eventually placed. The Palace was where Francesco lived when in Mantua. His wife, Isabella d'Este remained at the Castello di San Giorgio where she had her own suite of rooms. On completing the decoration of his rooms at the palace, Francesco asked his wife for her views. Isabella commented favourably, though she did say that the decorations were almost as good as those within her studiolo.

Beginning in 1503, he started a long relationship with Lucrezia Borgia.

On 29 March 1519, Francesco, who had suffered from syphilis, died.[11] He was succeeded by his son Federico, with Isabella acting as regent. Another son, Ferrante Gonzaga originated the branch of the Counts of Guastalla.


Francesco was known for his passion for women, so much so that, on the occasion of the siege of Novara in 1495, his sister-in-law Beatrice d'Este, wanting to ingratiate herself with him, offered to personally procure him a "femmina di partito" with whom to celebrate the victory, under the pretext of protecting both him and his wife and sister Isabella from malfrancese.[12]

Francis also actively practiced sodomy, according to the ancient Greek custom, very widespread almost everywhere at that time, as he himself proudly claims in his poisonous letter of accusations to Galeazzo Sanseverino, dated 1503: "I am reputed and raised by nobility of birth and good morals; you for human and ass favors (and I usually have a party at the door of others, and not at mine!)".[13]

It is well known that he surrounded himself with ruffians and mezzani, who had the task of procuring for him girls and young ephebes. One of these was, among others, Ludovico Camposampiero [it], who therefore ran into the hatred of the Marquise.[14]


Isabella d'Este and Francesco Gonzaga had:

  1. Eleonora Gonzaga, born 1493, died 1570. Married Francesco Maria I della Rovere Duke of Urbino[15]
  2. Margherita, born 1496.
  3. Livia, born 1501, died 1508.
  4. Ippolita Gonzaga, born 1503, died 1570. Ippolita became a nun in the Dominican convent of S. Vincenzo.
  5. Federico II, Duke of Mantua, born 1500, died 1540.[10] First betrothed to Maria Palaeologina but later married her sister Margaret Palaeologina[15]
  6. Ercole Gonzaga, born 1506, died 1565. Became a Cardinal.[16]
  7. Ferrante Gonzaga, born 1507, died 1557.[16] Married Isabella di Capua.
  8. Livia, later known as Sister Paola, born 1508, died 1569

See also


  1. ^ Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 31.
  2. ^ a b Hickson 2016, p. 88.
  3. ^ Nicolle 1996, p. 13.
  4. ^ a b Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 75.
  5. ^ Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 91.
  6. ^ Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 94.
  7. ^ Ferino 1994, p. 35-37.
  8. ^ Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 102.
  9. ^ Mallett & Shaw 2012, p. 105.
  10. ^ a b Cashman III 2002, p. 333.
  11. ^ Hickson 2016, p. 4.
  12. ^ Luzio & Renier 1890, p. 87.
  13. ^ Floriano Dolfo (2002). Lettere ai Gonzaga. pp. 211–214 e 426. ISBN 9788887114522.
  14. ^ "CAMPOSAMPIERO, Ludovico".
  15. ^ a b Boltanski 2006, p. 503.
  16. ^ a b Hickson 2016, p. 87.


  • Boltanski, Ariane (2006). Les Ducs de Nevers et L'etat Royal (in French). Librairie Droz S.A.
  • Cashman III, Anthony B. (Summer 2002). "Performance Anxiety: Federico Gonzaga at the Court of Francis I and the Uncertainty of Ritual Action". The Sixteenth Century Journal. 33 (2).
  • Ferino, Sylvia (1994). Isabella d'ESte. KHM Vienna.
  • Hickson, Sally Anne (2016). Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua: Matrons, Mystics, and Monasteries. Routledge.
  • Luzio, Alessandro; Renier, Rodolfo (1890). Delle relazioni d'Isabella d'Este Gonzaga con Lodovico e Beatrice Sforza. Milano: Tipografia Bortolotti di Giuseppe Prato.
  • Mallett, Michael; Shaw, Christine (2012). The Italian Wars 1494–1559. Pearson.
  • Nicolle, David (1996). Fornovo 1495. Osprey Publishing.
  • Roeder, Ralph (1933). The Man of the Renaissance. Viking Press.
Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua House of GonzagaBorn: 10 August 1466 Died: 29 March 1519 Preceded byFederico I Marquis of Mantua 1484–1519 Succeeded byFederico II
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Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua
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