A Renaissance Marriage: The Political and Personal Alliance of Isabella d'Este and Francesco Gonzaga, 1490-1519

ISBN : 9780199681211

Carolyn James
224 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2020
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The marriage of Isabella d'Este, one of the most famous figures of the Italian Renaissance, and Francesco Gonzaga, ruler of the small northern Italian principality of Mantua (r.1484-1519) offers a fascinating portrait of political marriage in the early modern period.

A Renaissance Marriage shows an aristocratic couple who, within several years of their wedding, had to deal with the political challenges posed by the first decades of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) and, later, the scourge of the Great Pox, humanising a relationship that was organised for entirely strategic reasons, but had to be inhabited emotionally if it was to produce the political and dynastic advantages that had inspired the match.
Carolyn James draws on unpublished correspondence between Isabella and Francesco over twenty-nine years, as well as their correspondence with relatives and courtiers, to show how their personal rapport evolved and how they cooperated in the governance of a princely state. Hitherto examined mainly from literary and religious perspectives, and on the basis of legal evidence and prescriptive literature, early modern marriage emerges here in vivid detail, offering the reader access to aspects of the lived experience of an elite Renaissance marital relationship. The study also contributes to our understanding of the history of emotions, of politics and military conflict, of childbirth, childhood and family life, and of the history of disease and medicine.



1 Betrothal

2 Building a Spousal Relationship

3 The Crafting of Identity and the Division of Political Labour

4 Parallel Aspirations: First Fruits

5 Risk Taking and Risk Management

6 Parenthood and Politics

7 Years of Crisis

8 A Mind of her Own


About the author: 

Carolyn James is Cassamarca Associate Professor in the School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies at Monash University, Australia. She has edited the letters of the fifteenth century Bolognese literary figure, Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti and analysed his literary works. With Antonio Pagliaro, she translated the late-medieval letters of Margherita Datini. She has written on women's political and diplomatic roles in Renaissance Italy, as well as early modern women's relationship with letter-writing. She is presently engaged on a project focused on the Italian Wars 1494-1559, with Professor Susan Broomhall and Dr Lisa Mansfield.

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