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Isabella d' Este
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    (May 18, 1474-February 13, 1539)
    Born in Ferrara, Italy
    Married Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
    Served as regent of Mantua during her husband's absences and the minority of her son, Federico II, Duke of Mantua
    Sister of Alfonso d'Este
    Sister-in-law of Lucretia Borgia and Elisabetta Gonzaga
    During her first pregnancy, she was given a gold cradle; after giving birth to a girl, she put it aside until she had a son.
    She bribed Pope Clement VII with 20,000 ducats to get her son Ercole appointed cardinal.
    Her brother's wife, Lucretia Borgia, had an affair with her husband, which must have resulted in some awkward family get-togethers.
    In her mid-60s, she demanded that Titian paint her portrait to make her look like she was still in her mid-20s.
    She owned African slaves, who she showed off as exotic novelties.
    When she was a teen, she was able to debate politics with diplomats to the court.
    She was a talented singer and musician (particularly on the lute).
    She successfully negotiated with French King Louis XII to prevent an invasion of Mantua (1500).
    After her husband was captured in battle (1509) and held hostage in Venice, she took control of Mantua's military forces and held the Venetian forces at bay for three years until she negotiated her husband's release.
    Her marriage to Francesco started going south when other Italian royals suggested to him that she was the more competent ruler.
    She was a patron of Titian, Raphael and Giovanni Bellini.
    During the Sack of Rome by the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (May 6, 1527), she provided refuge to 2,000 people in her home, which was not attacked since her son was a soldier in the Imperial army.
    She was called 'First Lady of the World' by diplomat Niccolo da Correggio.

Credit: C. Fishel

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