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(gōntsä`gä), Italian princely house that ruled MantuaMantua
, Ital. Mantova, city (1991 pop. 53,065), capital of Mantova prov., Lombardy, N Italy, bordered on three sides by lakes formed by the Mincio River. It is an agricultural, industrial, and tourist center.
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 (1328–1708), MontferratMontferrat
, Ital. Monferrato, historic region of Piedmont, NW Italy, south of the Po River, now mostly in Alessandria prov. It is largely hilly, and wine, fruit, and cereals are produced. In the late 10th cent.
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 (1536–1708), and GuastallaGuastalla
, town (1991 pop. 13,354), Emilia-Romagna, N Italy, on the Po River. It is an agricultural and industrial center. Probably founded in the 7th cent., Guastalla was held by various lords and in 1539 was bought by Ferrante Gonzaga of Mantua. It was made a duchy in 1621.
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 (1539–1746). The family name is derived from the castle of Gonzaga, a village near Mantua. Luigi Gonzaga, 1267–1360, became captain general of Mantua in 1328. The power of his descendants grew in the 14th cent., and in 1433, Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund made Gian Francesco Gonzaga, 1395–1444, marquis of Mantua. His grandson, Francesco Gonzaga, 1466–1519, married Isabella d'EsteEste
, Italian noble family, rulers of Ferrara (1240–1597) and of Modena (1288–1796) and celebrated patrons of the arts during the Renaissance. Probably of Lombard origin, they took their name from the castle of Este, near Padua.
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. At the outset of the Italian WarsItalian Wars,
1494–1559, series of regional wars brought on by the efforts of the great European powers to control the small independent states of Italy. Renaissance Italy was split into numerous rival states, most of which sought foreign alliances to increase their
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, in which Spain and France vied for control of Italy, he led the allied troops that defeated (1495) King Charles VIII of France at Fornovo. In order to preserve the independence of Mantua, Francesco fought in turn for Venice, for the French, and for Pope Julius II. The court of Mantua, long a center of the arts and letters, was particularly brilliant under Francesco and Isabella. Their son and successor, Federico or Federigo Gonzaga, 1500–1540, was made (1530) duke of Mantua by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In 1536 he acquired Montferrat, which continued to be claimed by Savoy. His brother Ercole Gonzaga, 1505–63, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, was long regent of the duchy. He furthered learning and the arts and presided (1562–63) over the Council of Trent. A younger brother, Ferrante Gonzaga, 1507–57, was generalissimo of Charles V in Italy, France, and Flanders. He acquired (1539) the county of Guastalla, which remained with his direct descendants until their extinction in 1746; in 1748 it was annexed to the duchy of Parma. In 1627 the senior male line of the older branch, ruling Mantua and Montferrat, became extinct. A cadet line, established in France, had succeeded, by marriage, to the duchies of Nevers or NivernaisNivernais
, region and former province, central France. It roughly coincides with Nièvre dept. Drained by the Loire and the Yonne, it is a hilly plateau, rising to the Morvan Mts. in the east. It has metallurgical, chemical, and livestock industries.
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 and RethelRethel
, town (1993 est. pop. 8,639), Ardennes dept., N France, on the Aisne River. It is a farm trade center with textile industries and plants making farm machinery. It was (13th cent.
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 and in 1627 began to claim the succession to Mantua and Montferrat, which were strategically located on the Lombard plain near the Alpine passes. Its claim was strengthened by the marriage of Maria Gonzaga, sole heiress of the senior line, to Charles de Rethel, son of the duke of Nevers. France supported the Nevers branch, while Hapsburg Spain and Austria, anxious lest France gain a foothold in N Italy, supported the claims of the Guastalla branch. War between France and Spain broke out over the contested succession. The Nevers branch ultimately won with the signing of the Treaty of Cherasco (1631) and ruled Mantua and Montferrat until it in turn became extinct (1708) during the War of the Spanish Succession. Hapsburg Austria then annexed Mantua, and Savoy annexed Montferrat.


See S. J. C. Brinton, The Gonzaga (1927).



A dynasty of rulers (tyrants) of the Italian city of Mantua (1328–1708).

The dynasty’s founder, Luigi I Gonzaga, was recognized in 1328 as the hereditary captain general of Mantua. In 1433 the Gonzagas acquired the title of marquis and, after 1530, of duke. In 1536 the Gonzagas added the marquisate of Montferrat to their holdings. In the 15th and early 16th century, the Gonzaga court was one of the centers of the Italian Renaissance. After the death of the childless duke Vincenzo II Gonzaga in 1627, the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–31) began among representatives of lateral branches of the Gonzaga family; Charles Gonzague, Duke of Nevers, was recognized as ruler of Mantua and Montferrat. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the Gonzaga dynasty, which supported France, lost Mantua in 1708 (seized by Austria) and Montferrat in 1708–13 (by transfer to Savoy).

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