Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua

Francesco II (or IV) 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 II Gonzaga
Portrait of Francesco II Gonzaga in the Uffizi, Florence
Born10 August 1466
Died29 March 1519(1519-03-29) (aged 52)
Noble familyHouse of Gonzaga
Spouse(s)Isabella d'Este
FatherFederico I Gonzaga
MotherMargaret of Bavaria (1442–1479)


Gonzaga was born in Mantua, the son of Marquess Federico I Gonzaga. He 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, although under the tutorage of his more experienced uncle Ridolfo Gonzaga: although inconclusive, the battle had at least the effect of pushing Charles VIII of France's army back to the Alps. He was described as "short, pop-eyed, snub-nosed and exceptionally brave, and was regarded as the finest knight in Italy".[1]

Later he was rival of the Venetians, as leader of the Holy League formed by Pope Julius II against them. On that occasion he was captured by the Venetians, who held him as hostage for several months and humiliated him. He only became free by giving his son Federico II as hostage to Rome.[2] This caused his perpetual hostility towards that city, and he refused any subsequent request to return to command its army.

During his absences, Mantua was governed by his wife Isabella d'Este,[3] 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 San Sebastiano di Mantova, Francesco asked his wife for her views. Isabella commented favourably, though did they say the decorations were almost as good as those within her studiolo.

Beginning in 1503, he started a long relationship with Lucrezia Borgia.[4][5]

On his death from syphilis contracted from prostitutes, he was succeeded by his son Federico, with Isabella acting as regent. Another son, Ferrante Gonzaga originated the branch of the Counts of Guastalla. His disease prevented him from recognizing that his wife had eclipsed him.


Isabella d'Este and Francesco Gonzaga had 8 children:[6]

  1. Eleonora Gonzaga, born 1493, died 1570. Married Francesco Maria I della Rovere Duke of Urbino.
  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.[3] First betrothed to Maria Palaeologina but later married her sister Margaret Palaeologina.
  6. Ercole Gonzaga, born 1506, died 1565. Became a Cardinal.
  7. Ferrante Gonzaga, born 1507, died 1557. Married Isabella di Capua.
  8. Livia, later known as Sister Paola, born 1508, died 1569


In the 2011 Showtime series The Borgias, Francesco Gonzaga is portrayed by Irish actor Patrick O'Kane. This portrayal of the Duke of Mantua is not married to Isabella d'Este, but is instead married to a deranged woman named Bianca.

See also


  1. Nicolle, Fornovo 1495, p. 13.
  2. Sylvia Ferino: Isabella d'ESte, KHM Vienna 1994, pp. 35-37
  3. Cashman III 2002, p. 333.
  4. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy, Sarah Bradford, Viking, 2004
  5. Observer review of Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy
  6. Julia Mary Cartwright Ady, Isabella d'Este, marchioness of Mantua, 1474–1539: a study of the renaissance, Volume 1, 1907


  • Nicolle, David (1996). Fornovo 1495. Osprey Publishing.
  • Roeder, Ralph (1933). The Man of the Renaissance. Viking Press.
  • 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 (No. 2).
Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
Born: 10 August 1466 Died: 29 March 1519
Preceded by
Federico I
Marquess of Mantua
Succeeded by
Federico II
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