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Francesco Maria I
Portrait by Titian
Duke of Urbino
Personal details
Born (1490-03-22)22 March 1490
Senigallia
Died 20 October 1538(1538-10-20) (aged 48)
Urbino
Spouse(s) Eleonora Gonzaga

Francesco Maria I della Rovere (22 March 1490 – 20 October 1538) was an Italian condottiero, who was Duke of Urbino from 1508 until 1538.

Biography[edit | edit source]

He was born in Senigallia, the son of the Papal captain and lord of that city, Giovanni della Rovere, and of Giovanna da Montefeltro, daughter of Federico III da Montefeltro. He was also the nephew of Giuliano della Rovere, Pope Julius II.

Eleonora Gonzaga by Titian, 1538

His uncle Guidobaldo I of Urbino, who was heirless, called him at his court, and named him as heir of that dukedom in 1504 through the intercession of Julius II. In 1502 the della Rovere had lost the seigniory of Senigallia, occupied by Cesare Borgia, then the most powerful figure in the Marche: Francesco Maria and his mother were saved from the slaughter perpetrated by Borgia's troops by the then-land soldier Andrea Doria. When in 1508 Guidobaldo died, Francesco Maria became duke of Urbino; thanks to the support of his uncle the pope he could also recover Senigallia after Borgia's death.

In 1508 he married Eleonora Gonzaga (1493–1570), daughter of Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua and Isabella d'Este.

In 1509 he was appointed as capitano generale (commander-in-chief) of the Papal States, and subsequently fought in the Italian Wars against Ferrara and Venice. In 1511, after he had failed to conquer Bologna, he had the cardinal Francesco Alidosi killed by his troops, a cruel action for which he was compared to Borgia himself. In 1513 he was created also lord of Pesaro.

However, the death of Julius II deprived him of his main political patron, and under the new pope, Leo X, Pesaro was given to the latter's nephew, Lorenzo II de' Medici. In 1516 he was excommunicated and ousted from Urbino, which he tried unsuccessfully to recover the following year. He could return in his duchy only after Leo's death in 1521.

Della Rovere fought as capitano generale of the Republic of Venice in Lombardy during the Italian Wars of 1521 (1523–1525), but with the new Medici Pope, Clement VII, the della Rovere were increasingly marginalized. As supreme commander of the Holy League, his inaction against the Imperial invasion troops is generally listed as one of the causes of the Sack of Rome (1527).

Portrait by Raphael, 1504.

He was a protagonist of the capture of Pavia in the late 1520s, and later fought for the Republic of Venice. Later he arranged the marriage of son Guidobaldo to Giulia da Varano (belonging to another former seigniory family of the region) to counter the Papal power in the Marche.

He died in Pesaro, poisoned. Some scholars suggest that The Murder of Gonzago, an unknown play referenced in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which is itself later reworked by Hamlet into The Mousetrap (the play within the play), may have been a popular theatrical reenactment of Della Rovere's death and may have been portrayed in England's early theaters during the Elizabethan Era.[1]

Issue[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. McGee, Arthur (2007-09-01). "The Elizabethan Hamlet". http://arts.ucsc.edu/faculty/bierman/elsinore/poison/PoisonGonzago.html. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  2. Later legitimised and named Marchese di San Lorenzo. Ippolito's daughter Lucrezia married Marcantonio Lante and their son assumed the new extended surname as Ippolito Lante Montefeltro della Rovere

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Rendina, Claudio (1994). I capitani di ventura. Rome: Newton Compton. 

External links[edit | edit source]

Preceded by
Giovanni della Rovere
Duke of Sora
1501–1516
Succeeded by
William de Croÿ
Preceded by
Guidobaldo I
Duke of Urbino
1508–1516 (1517)
Succeeded by
Lorenzo II de' Medici
Preceded by
Lorenzo II de' Medici
Duke of Urbino
1521–1538
Succeeded by
Guidobaldo II
Preceded by
William de Croÿ
Duke of Sora
1533–1538
Succeeded by
Giulio della Rovere

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