Home / News and links / Publications / A Renaissance Marriage : The Political and (...)

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

Carolyn James

JAMES Carolyn, A Renaissance Marriage : The Political and Personal Alliance of Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga, 1490-1519, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020.

ISBN: 9780199681211

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Carolyn James draws on unpublished correspondence between Isabella and Francesco over twenty-nine years, as well as their correspondence with relatives and courtiers, to show how their personal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.

- Analyses the marriage of Isabella d’Este, one of the most famous figures of the Italian Renaissance, and her less-well-known husband, Francesco Gonzaga, ruler of the small northern Italian principality of Mantua (r.1484-1519).

- Provides a new study of how a well-known Renaissance couple inhabited their marriage emotionally.

- Uncovers how politics and the personal aspects of marriage were inextricably linked in this kind of dynastic relationship.

- Offers new insights into the history of the Italian Wars (1494-1559) and the Great Pox.

- Draws extensively on unpublished archival sources, including letters between Isabella and Francesco over twenty-nine years, as well as their correspondence with relatives and courtiers.

Table of Contents :

Introduction
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
Conclusion