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52 DEATH OF MADDALENA
for their past services. She even remembered the clown Fritella, and sent a ducat and three yards of tan-coloured satin to this pet dwarf, who remained deeply attached to the young Marchesana, and whose blotted, ill-spelt letters are still preserved in the Gonzaga archives.1 Early in April the Marquis took her back to Ferrara for a short visit, and in July, after the Duchess of Urbino had left Mantua, she returned to spend another fortnight with her parents. The sudden death of Maddalena Gonzaga, the young wife of Giovanni Sforza, on the 8th of August, within a year of her marriage, was a great shock to all her family, and Isabella grieved most of all for the sake of Elisabetta, whose health was severely affected by this unexpected sorrow. Isabella herself was suffering from a slight attack of fever at the time, and Beatrice dei Contrari, the faithful Ferrara lady whom Leonora had solemnly charged to watch over her young mistress's welfare, would not allow the sad news to be told her for some days, " knowing her cordial affection for Madonna Maddalena, and fearing," as she wrote to the Marquis, "lest we should add ill to ill." 2 A month later the Marchesana and her ladies took another excursion to the shores of Garda, and wrote to tell Elisabetta how much she missed her in these fair regions and how ardently she wished for her to enjoy the good fish and the delights of the archpriest's garden at Tuscullano. After her return to Mantua, she received a visit from her brothers Alfonso and Ferrante, and intended to accompany them to Ferrara, as her mother was suffering from ISABELLA AT FERRARA 53
1 A. Luzio, / Precettori d'Isabella d'Este, pp. 13, 17. 2 Luzio e Renier, Mantova e Urbino, p. 55.
fever, but in deference to Francesco's wish put off the visit till November. On arriving at Ferrara, Isabella found the Duchess engaged in active preparations for Beatrice's wedding, which was to take place at Pavia in January, but amid the stir and excitement around her she managed to write the following affectionate little note to her husband :—
"My dearest lord,—If I have not written before, it is not that you have not been continually in my heart, but that 1 had simply not a moment to spare as long as the Milanese ambassador was here. Now I must do my duty and tell you that I can have no pleasure when I am away from Your Highness, whom I love more than my own life.— One who loves Your Highness more than herself, Isabella Da Este Da Gonzaga." Ferrara, November 25, 1490.
On the 28th Francesco replied to this loving little note in similar terms :—
"Since you feel that you cannot be happy away from me any longer, which is only natural, considering the immense love which we both feel for each other, it seems to me that, now you have satisfied your illustrious father and mother's wishes, as well as your own affection for your family, you might return home for our own happiness, and so I shall look forward to your arrival with impatience."
And on the same day Beatrice dei Contrari wrote to the Marquis:—
"My illustrious lady is as beautiful, well and gay as possible, and wants nothing but the presence of Your Excellency to make her perfectly happy."l
1 Luzio e Renier in Archivio Storico Lombardo, vol. xvii. p. 81.
Marriage of Beatrice d'Este to Lodovico Sforza—Isabella's preparations for the wedding—Journey to Pavia and Milan— Marriage of Alfonso d'Este to Anna Sforza— Feles at Ferrara —Correspondence of Isabella with Lodovico and Beatrice Sforza—Isabella administers affairs of State — Galeotto's dyke—Visits to Ferrara, Milan, and Genoa—The Duchess of Urbino comes to Mantua—Isabella's affection for Elisabetta.
The next few weeks after Isabella's return were spent in preparations for her journey to Milan. She had gladly accepted the courteous invitation sent her by Lodovico Sforza to accompany her mother and sister to the wedding, although her husband thought it best to decline for his part, fearing to offend the Signory of Venice, who looked with suspicion on this alliance between the Sforzas and Estes. The young Marchioness was determined to make a brave show on this occasion, and all the merchants in Venice and Ferrara were required to ransack their stores and supply her with furs, brocades, and jewels. Zorzo Brognolo, the Gonzagas' trusted agent in Venice, was desired to search all the shops in Venice for eighty of the very finest sables to make a sbernia or mantle. "Try to find one skin with the head of the animal, Isabella adds, "to make a muff, which I can carry in my hand. Never mind if it costs as much as ten ducats; I will give the money gladly as long as it is really a fine fur. You must also buy eight yards of the best crimson satin which you can MARRIAGE OF BEATRICE 55
find in Venice to line the said sberma, and for God's sake use all your accustomed diligence, for nothing, I assure you, will give me greater pleasure."1 A few days later she entreats Giacomo Trotti, the Duke of Ferrara's ambassador at Milan, to send her two skins of Spanish cat, the best and finest that are to be found in that city, to trim this sumptuous mantle; and in January 1491, when she had already started on her journey, she writes to Genoa and orders another sberma of costly brocade to be sent by express courier to await her arrival at Pavia.
The cruel hardships to which the Marchioness and her ladies were exposed during their journey in barges up the Po, the actual cold and hunger which they suffered, are vividly described in Beatrice dei Contrari's letters to the Marquis, while Isabella herself has left a lively narrative of the brilliant festivities with which the Moro's wedding was celebrated in her letters to her young brother-in-law Giovanni Gonzaga.2 The young princess threw herself with ardent enthusiasm into the pleasures of the hour, and the friendship which she formed on this occasion with her new brother-in-law Lodovico Sforza was destined to prove an important factor in North Italian politics.
The espousals of her brother Alfonso with Anna Sforza, niece of Lodovico and sister of the reigning Duke of Milan, Giangaleazzo, were solemnised in the ducal chapel at Milan on the 23rd of January, but the final nuptial benediction was deferred for the present, and, on the 1st of February, the bridal pair 56 ISABELLA VISITS THE CERTOSA
1 Luzio in Nuova Antologia, 1896, p. 455.
2 For details of the wedding and the later visits of Isabella to Milan, as well as the correspondence between the sisters, &c., see my work on "Beatrice d'Este, Duchess of Milan," chaps, v. and vi (Dent & Co., 1899).
set out on the return journey to Ferrara, accompanied by Duchess Leonora, Isabella, and their respective suites, and escorted by 200 Milanese knights and nobles. On their way to Pavia the distinguished travellers paid a visit to the famous Certosa, which the Dukes of Milan justly counted one of the finest jewels in their crown, and which both Isabella and her mother had expressed their wish to see. At first the Prior raised objections, and told the Regent that no women might be admitted into the convent precincts without a dispensation from the Pope. But Lodovico overruled his scruples, saying that he would take the responsibility upon himself, and gave peremptory orders that church and convent should be thrown open on this occasion, and that the Duchess and her party should be feasted with "an abundance of lampreys" and other delicacies. After this no further objection was raised by the Prior, and the archives of the Certosa record how, on the 6th of February 1491, "there came to this monastery the wife of the Duke of Ferrara, with the Marchioness of Mantua and the brother and sister of the Duke of Milan, together with a suite of 400 horses and 800 persons, and the expense of supplying them with confectionery, fish and Malvasia wine amounted to 400 lire."1
That winter was exceptionally severe; the streets of Milan and the park of Pavia lay deep in snow, and when the wedding party reached Ferrara the Po was still frozen over and hundreds of workmen were employed to break the ice and make a passage for the bucentaur. On the 12th of February, the bride entered the city on horseback, escorted by the Duke
1 Carlo Magenta, / Visconti e Sj'orza nel Castello di Pavia.