1537 – 1581 A.D.
Eleonora D’Este, an Italian lady of illustrious descent, was daughter of Hercules II., marquis of Este, and Renie, daughter of Louis XII., king of France, was born in 1537. She was endowed by fortune with an exalted social station, and by nature with extraordinary beauty, taste, and intellect; but her chief claim to historical memorialization [sic] was her relation with Tasso the poet.
Tasso was twenty-one years old when he appeared at the court of Alphonso of Este. An indiscreet remark having been made by a certain cavalier upon his devotion to the princess Eleonora, he challenged the offender, who, with three brothers to aid him, basely attacked the bard. Tasso valiantly combated the whole four until interference put an end to the duel. Alphonso felt offended at the cause of his recontire [sic], and sent Tasso into exile, where he remained subject to the duke’s recall.
Tasso was an admirer of her beauty, and wrote verses to the charms of the lovely Eleonora that could not but touch her heart. It is said that, being at the wedding of one of the Gonzago family, celebrated at the court of Este, he, blinded by his passion, impressed a kiss on the cheek of the princess. The color mounted to Alphonso’s brow; but he turned coldly to his courtiers, and said, “What a great pity that the finest genius of the age has suddenly become mad!”
Upon his charge of madness, the prince caused Tasso to be shut up in the hospital of St. Anna. His long years of imprisonment, his sufferings, his laments, are well known. Obliged to witness the cruel punishment of her lover, and knowing the inflexible character of her brother, Eleonora fell into a slow fever, and died in 1581, about a year after Tasso’s imprisonment. The doors of Tasso’s prison were at length opened; but she was dead! Youth, love, fortune all vanished; fame, it is true, still remained. The laurel-crown was placed on his brow at Rome in the midst of a pompous festival; but this could not recompense him for his wasted youth and his lost Eleonora.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.