THE LITTLE SISTER: BEATRICE D’ESTE (1475-1497)
FYS: Are They Amazons? Women in Renaissance Italy
September 27, 2013 The Renaissance time period that lasted from the 14th century through the 16th century in Italy was known as an age of cultural rebirth and gave way to the introduction to humanist thinking during the transition from Medieval Europe to Early Modern Europe. Humanism was the formation of values that emphasized the agency of a human and stressed the significance of rationalism over faith. Humanists of the Renaissance tended to have great power in society and were highly scrutinized for being too ambiguous in their beliefs by later historians. One of whom, Joan Kelly, hypothesized that women were not given fair opportunities to grow intellectually while men experienced revival, so therefore women did not have a renaissance. Kelly’s controversial theory can be disproved by the famed life of Renaissance Woman, Beatrice d’Este. D’Este was born in 1475 into the House of Este, who had control of Ferrara, Italy from the 13th to the 16th century. Beatrice’s marriage to Ludovico Sforza expanded the House of Este’s rule to Milan while her older sister, Isabella, took control over Mantua through her marriage to Francesco II Gonzaga. Beatrice was under the constant scrutiny of her parents and other renaissance connoisseurs for failing to meet the expectation that she be as innovative as her older sister. Having been born into such a powerful family, no expense was spared when it came to schooling or finding a suitable mate to expand the family tree. Because of her education, sustainable means, and her prosperous family life, as well as her short but successful career as a politician, Beatrice d’Este ultimately became recognized by historians as a “renaissance woman”, who excelled in life and took every opportunity that arose, such as eagerly embracing her unanticipated reign over Milan. An examination of d’Este’s life demonstrates that her education, wealth, and marriage to a powerful man resulted in a period of growth and renaissance similar to her male counterparts, such as her husband. While her life of achievements in the political and social worlds of the Italian Renaissance allude to a rebuttal against Joan Kelly’s arguments, there are limitations to her success that are constrained by the accomplishments and powers reached by her family and husband.
The second daughter of a duke and duchess, Beatrice d’Este’s birth was not celebrated as her older sister’s was because the noble family had wanted a boy to carry the family name. A year later, a boy was born and Beatrice was left to endure “middle child syndrome” without the affection or attention of her parents. Second daughters in that time period were frankly unneeded so her parents shipped her off to live with her grandfather, Fernando I, the King of Naples. Upon her return to Ferrara, Beatrice’s father hired tutors to privately school her and...