Ercole I d'Este (1471-1505)

Ercole I marked one of the most important periods for the history of the house of Este. He succeeded in obtaining considerable political support with his marriage to Leonora, the daughter of the king of Naples. His nephew, Nicolò, tried to usurp the throne, but Ercole defeated him.. At the same time, in 1482-84, Ercole had to face the hostile coalition of Venice and Pope Sixtus IV, which brought war under the walls of of Ferrara. In the subsequent peace he had to give up part of his territory, but by si doing Ferrara was free from immediate dangers.

Ercole's political plans for the future was the consolidation of his power by means of marriages that would connect him to the principal powers of Italy. He had three daughters: Lucrezia was married to Annibale Bentivoglio of Bologna, Isabella to Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua, and Beatrice to Ludovico Sforza, "the Moor", of Milan. Ercole's eldest son, Alfonso, was married first to Anna Sforza of Milan and then to Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI.

Ercole was a munificient patron of the arts. At his court in Ferrara was first Matteo Boiardo and then Ludovico Ariosto. He also patronized the theatre, the musical arts.and beautified the city.