Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat - Biography


Born in Revere, Ferdinand Charles first married Anna Isabella Gonzaga (d. August 11, 1703), daughter of Ferrante III Gonzaga, sovereign Duke of Guastalla. This marriage was arranged by the assistance of his aunt, empress dowager Eleanor Gonzaga, and took place in 1671. Anna Isabella Gonzaga was the heir of the Duchy of Guastalla and Luzzara, and her rights transferred these areas, which had long been a source of conflict between the two Gonzaga lines, to the Mantua line of the Gonzaga dynasty.

Although the Lorraine-Elbeufs were reckoned among the princes etrangers at the court of France, as a cadet branch (Elbeuf) of a non-reigning cadet branch (Guise) of the House of Lorraine, it was not their custom to marry crowned heads. Nevertheless, following the death of his first wife, Ferdinando sought Suzanne Henriette de Lorraine's hand in pursuit of an heir and a dynastic alliance with another reigning ducal house under French influence. She was the daughter of Charles de Lorraine, Duke of Elbeuf by his third spouse, Françoise de Montault de Navailles, daughter of Philippe de Montault, Duke of Navailles. Duke Ferdinando Carlo married Mademoiselle d'Elbeuf in Milan on 8 November 1704. To the French, her husband was known as Charles de Gonzagne. This marriage was childless.

Frustrated by the Austrians in the conquest of Guastalla, he concluded a pact with Louis XIV of France on December 8, 1678, selling Casale. In this context his minister, Count Ercole Antonio Mattioli, might have become the Man in the Iron Mask, being imprisoned in Pinerolo since April 1679 for disclosing this pact to the enemies of France.

The duke denied everything, but concluded a new pact with the French in 1681, obtaining thereby a yearly pension of sixty thousand lire, a career as an army general, and a part in any future French conquests in Italy. The French occupied Casale on September 29, 1681, and the Duke of Mantua lost respect in Italy.

Ferdinando Carlo again chose the French side in the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1701, when the anti-French coalition forces conquered Mantua, he fled to Casale, leaving his consort Anna Isabella Gonzaga behind as regent during his absence. He paid heavily for his choice, when the French were chased back over the Alps in 1706. Already declared a traitor in 1701 by Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, he was blamed with felony by the Diet of Regensburg, 30 June 1708,and all his possessions were confiscated.

The House of Savoy obtained the remaining half of Montferrat, having already conquered the first half in the War of the Mantuan Succession in 1631. The Duchy of Mantua became Austrian and ceased its independent existence. Ferdinando Carlo died the same year in Padua.

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