House of Gonzaga
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua, and in 1530 Federico II (1500–1540) received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Duchy of Monferrato through marriage. Through maternal ancestors, the Gonzagas inherited also the Byzantine ancestry of the Paleologus, that earlier ruling family of Montferrat.
A cadet branch of the Mantua Gonzagas became Dukes of Nevers and Rethel in France when Luigi (Louis) di Gonzaga, a younger son of Duke Federico II and Margerita Paleologa, married the heiress. The Gonzaga-Nevers later came to rule Mantua again, when Louis' son Charles (Carlo) inherited Mantua and Montferrat, triggering the War of the Mantuan Succession.
Another cadet branch were first sovereign Counts, later Dukes of Guastalla. They descended from Ferrante, a younger son of Duke Francesco II of Mantua (1484–1519). Ferrante's grandson, Ferrante II, also played a role in the War of the Mantuan Succession.
Two daughters of the house, both confusingly named Eleanor Gonzaga, became Holy Roman Empresses, by marrying Emperors Ferdinand II of Germany and Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, respectively. From the latter Empress Eleanor, the today heirs of the Gonzaga descend, as explained in family tree leading to Leopold, Duke of Lorraine.
The House of Gonzaga is the inspiration for the play-within-the-play in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Act 3, scene 2, they act out a play called The Murder of Gonzago (or The Mousetrap); "This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is the duke's name".