Oberto II Count Palatine of Italy; Count of Milan
(Abt 0950-)
Albert Azzo I Margrave of Milan
(Abt 0975-)
Albert Azzo II d' Este Margrave of Milan & Liguria
(Abt 0997-Abt 1097)


Family Links

1. Cuniza of Bavaria

2. Garsende
3. Mathilda

Albert Azzo II d' Este Margrave of Milan & Liguria

  • Born: Abt 997
  • Marriage (1): Cuniza of Bavaria about 1020
  • Marriage (2): Garsende about 1035
  • Marriage (3): Mathilda about 1055
  • Died: Abt 1097 about age 100

  General Notes:

Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan and Liguria, Count of Gavello and Padua, Rovigo, Lunigiana, Monfelice, and Montagrana, was a powerful nobleman in the Holy Roman Empire. He founded the House of Este, and is the common ancestor of the House of Este and House of Guelph.

Albert Azzo II was the only son of Albert Azzo I, Margrave of Milan. He inherited his father's offices around 1020, and continuously increased his properties in northern Italy. In 1069\endash 1070, he tried to acquire Maine for his son Hugh, because his wife, Garsende, was the heiress of the previous counts of Maine. Hugh was declared count, but could not prevail against the dukes of Normandy. In the Investiture Controversy between Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and Pope Gregory VII, Azzo attempted to mediate, but later he joined the side of the Pope. Around 1073 he made a castle at Este his residence, from which the House of Este, the dynasty to which he belongs, takes its name.


Azzo II married Cuniza, daughter of Guelph II, Count of Altdorf, around 1035. They had one known child:

* Guelph (died 1101)

His second marriage was to Garsende, daughter of Herbert I, Count of Maine, around 1050. They had the following known sons:

* Fulco I, Margrave of Milan (died 1128)
* Hugh V, Count of Maine (died 1131)

Thirdly, he married Matilda, sister of William, Bishop of Padua, with whom he had no known children.

House of Este:
The House of Este is a European princely dynasty. It is split into two branches: the elder branch is known as the House of Welf-Este or House of Welf, and the younger branch as the House of Fulc-Este or later simply as the House of Este.

The elder branch of the House of Este, the House of Welf, produced dukes of Bavaria (1070\endash 1139, 1156\endash 1180), dukes of Saxony (1138\endash 1139, 1142\endash 1180), a German king (1198\endash 1218), dukes and electors of Brunswick and Lüneburg (1208\endash 1918), kings of Hanover (1815\endash 1866), and monarchs of the United Kingdom (1714\endash 1901).

The younger branch of the House of Este included rulers of Ferrara (1240\endash 1597), and Modena and Reggio (1288\endash 1796).


The origins of the family, probably of Frankish nobility, date back to the time of Charlemagne in the early 9th century when they settled in Lombardy. The first known member of the house was Margrave Adalbert of Mainz, known only as father of Oberto I, Count palatine of Italy, who died around 975. Oberto's grandson Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan, (996\endash 1097) built a castle at Este, near Padua, and named himself after it. He had three sons from two marriages, two of whom became the ancestors of the two branches of the family:

* Welf IV, the eldest (d. 1101), was the son of Kunigunde (d. 1056), the last of the Elder Welfs. He inherited the property of his maternal uncle, Welf, Duke of Carinthia, became duke of Bavaria in 1070, and is the ancestor of the elder branch, the House of Welf.
* Hugh, issue of Azzo's second marriage to Garsend of Maine, inherited the County of Maine, his mother's dowry, but sold it one year later and died without heirs.
* Fulco I (d. about 1128/35), the third son, is the ancestor of the younger Italian line of Fulc-Este.

The two surviving branches, with Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria on the German side, concluded an agreement in 1154 which allocated the family's Italian possessions to the younger line, the Fulc-Este, who in the course of time acquired Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. Este itself was taken over in 1275 by Padua and in 1405 (together with Padua) by Venice.

Younger branch

All later generations of the Italian branch descend from Fulco d'Este. From 1171 on, his descendants were titled Margraves of Este. Obizzo I (d. 1193), the first margrave, battled against Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. His nephew Azzo d'Este VI (1170\endash 1212) became podestā of Mantua and Verona. In 1146 with the last of the Adelardi Ferrara passed as the dowry of his niece the Marchesella, to Azzo VI d'Este. Azzo VII Novello was nominated podestā for his lifetime in 1242. The lordship of Ferrara was made hereditary by Obizzo II (d. 1293) who was proclaimed Lord of Ferrara in 1264, Lord of Modena 1288 and Lord of Reggio 1289. Ferrara being a papal fief, the Este family were given the position of hereditary papal vicars in 1332.

Ferrara became a significant center of culture under Niccolō d'Este III (1384\endash 1441), who received several popes with great magnificence, especially Eugene IV, who held a Council here in 1438, later known as the Council of Florence .

His successors were Leonello (1407\endash 1450) and Borso (1413\endash 1471), who was elevated to Duke of Modena and Reggio by Emperor Frederick III in 1452 and in return received these duchies as imperial fiefs. In 1471 he received the duchy of Ferrara as papal fief from Pope Paul II, for which occasion splendid frescoes were executed at Palazzo Schifanoia. Under Ercole(1431\endash 1505), one of the most significant patrons of the arts in late 15th and early 16th century Italy, Ferrara grew into a cultural center, renowned especially for music; Josquin Des Prez worked for Duke Ercole, Jacob Obrecht came to Ferrara twice, and Antoine Brumel served as principal musician from 1505. Ercole's daughter Beatrice (1475\endash 1497) married Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, while his daughter Isabella (1474\endash 1539) married Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua.

Ercole I's successor was his son Alfonso I (1476\endash 1534), third husband of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia and the patron of Ariosto.

Alfonso's son Ercole d'Este II (1508\endash 1559) married Renée, daughter of Louis XII of France. His son Alfonso II married Lucrezia, daughter of grand-duke Cosimo I of Tuscany, then Barbara, sister of the emperor Maximilian II and finally Margherita Gonzaga, daughter of the duke of Mantua. Though he raised the glory of Ferrara to its highest point, and was the patron of Torquato Tasso and Giovanni Battista Guarini, favouring the arts and sciences, as the princes of his house had always done, the legitimate line ended in 1597 with him. Emperor Rudolph II recognized as heir his cousin Cesare d'Este (1533-1628), member of a cadet branch, who continued to rule in the imperial duchies and carried on the family name. Ferrara, on the other hand, was annexed in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII on grounds of doubtful legitimacy and incorporated into the Papal States.

The last duke, Ercole III, was deposed in 1796 by the French and his two duchies became the Cispadane Republic which one year later was merged into the Cisalpine Republic and then into the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy. Ercole was compensated in 1801 with the small principality of Breisgau in southwestern Germany, whose previous rulers, the Habsburgs, ceded it to him in anticipation of its eventual return to the Habsburgs, since Ercole's daughter Mary Beatrice d'Este was married to a cadet Habsburg, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este. Ercole died in 1803 and Breisgau passed to his daughter and her husband, who then (1806) lost it during the Napoleonic reorganization of the western territories of the defunct Holy Roman Empire to the enlarged and elevated Grand Duchy of Baden.

In 1814, when French rule in Italy ended (but after the death of Duke Ercole), Modena was returned to his daughter Mary Beatrice and her son, Archduke Francis of Austria-Este. The family thus ruled the duchy of Modena and Reggio again from 1814 to 1859, using the names Asburgo-Este (Habsburg-Este) and Austria-Este. In 1859 the duchy lost its independence to the new united Italy, and Francesco V, the last duke, was deposed.

The family of Austria-Este became extinct in the male line with the death of Francesco V in 1875. His blood-heiress was his niece, Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria-Este (d. 1919); she and her husband, Prince Louis of Bavaria, later became Queen and King of Bavaria). The present head of this branch of the family is Franz, Duke of Bavaria.

However, Francesco V had decided to retain the Este name in the Habsburg family and willed his inheritance to the line of Archduke Charles Louis, younger brother of Emperor Francis Joseph, on condition that the heir use the name Austria-Este. The first "adoptee" was Archduke Francis Ferdinand (b. 1863, not descended from Mary Beatrice d'Este), who took the name Austria-Este and in 1896 became the heir presumptive of the Habsburg Empire, but was murdered on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo. Since his own children were born in morganatic marriage (Hohenberg), the Habsburgs designated his soon-to-be born great-nephew Robert (b. 8 Feb 1915), second son of the future emperor Charles, as the next "adopted Austria-Este". Through his mother Zita of Bourbon-Parma (a great-granddaughter of Teresa of Savoy, Duchess of Lucca and Parma, who was a daughter of Maria Teresa of Austria-Este, Queen of Sardinia, who in turn was a daughter of Mary Beatrice d'Este and Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, Duchess and Duke of Breisgau and Modena), Robert was a descendant of Ercole d'Este III, and the blood of last Este dukes thus joined again with the name Austria-Este.

Today, the bearer of this tradition is the eldest son of Archduke Robert of Austria-Este (d. 1996), Lorenz Otto Charles of Austria-Este (b. 1955), who is married to Princess Astrid of Belgium, the only daughter of King Albert II. In 1995, Lorenz received the additional title of Prince of Belgium. Since 1991 the couple's children are titled Archduke (Archduchess) of Austria-Este, Princes(ss) of Belgium, Prince(ss) Imperial of Austria, Prince(ss) Royal of Hungary and Bohemia. Eldest of these is Prince Amedeo, Archduke of Austria-Este (b. 1986).

Albert married Cuniza of Bavaria, daughter of Guelph II of Bavaria, Count of Altdorf and Irmtrud Countess Of Luxemburg, about 1020. (Cuniza of Bavaria was born about 1005.)

Albert next married Garsende about 1035. (Garsende was born about 1005.)

Albert next married Mathilda about 1055. (Mathilda was born about 1030.)

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