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Clara Gonzaga
Countess of Montpensier
Dauphine of Auvergne
Duchess of Sessa
Engraved portrait of Clara Gonzaga by an unknown artist
Engraved portrait of Clara Gonzaga by an unknown artist
Spouse Gilbert, Count of Montpensier
Louis II, Count of Montpensier
Charles III, Duke of Bourbon
François, Duke of Châtellerault
Louise de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier
Renee, Lady of Mercoeur
Noble family House of Gonzaga
Father Federico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua
Mother Margaret of Bavaria
Born 1 July 1464
Died 2 June 1503 (aged 38)

Clara Gonzaga, Countess of Montpensier, Dauphine of Auvergne, Duchess of Sessa (1 July 1464- 2 June 1503)[1], was an Italian noblewoman of the House of Gonzaga. She was the daughter of Federico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua and the wife of Gilbert, Count of Montpensier. One of her six children was Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, who led the Imperial Army sent by Emperor Charles V against Pope Clement VII in what became the Sack of Rome, and where he was subsequently killed.



Clara was born in Mantua on 1 July 1464, the eldest daughter of Federico I Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua and Margaret of Bavaria (1 January 1442- 14 October 1479). She had five siblings including Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua whose wife was the celebrated Isabella d'Este.

Clara's paternal grandparents were Ludovico II Gonzaga and Barbara of Brandenburg; and her maternal grandparents were Albert III, Duke of Bavaria and Anna of Brunswick-Grubenhagen-Einbeck, daughter of Duke Erich I of Brunswick-Salzderhelden and Elisabeth of Brunswick-Göttingen.

Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, son of Clara Gonzaga and Gilbert, Count of Montpensier

Marriage and children

On 24 February 1482, in Mantua, at the age of seventeen, Clara married Gilbert of Bourbon-Montpensier, who in 1486 succeeded his father as Count of Montpensier and Dauphin of Auvergne. He was also Viceroy of Naples (1495), and the Duke of Sessa. He was the son of Louis I, Count of Montpensier and Joan, Dauphine of Auvergne. The marriage had been arranged by Clara's uncle Francesco Secco of Aragon who accompanied the newly-wed couple from Mantua to Milan on their lengthy journey to their home in France.

Gilbert and Clara had six children:

Widowhood and death

On 15 October 1496, in Pozzuoli, Italy, Clara's husband Gilbert (who had been the Viceroy of Naples since 1495), died of a fever, leaving her a widow at the age of thirty-two.

In 1499, Clara acted as mediator on behalf of her brother Francesco, who sought to form an alliance with King Louis XII of France in order to protect Mantua, which was then being threatened by both Cesare Borgia and the Doge of Venice.[4]

She maintained a correspondence with her sister-in-law, Isabella d'Este.[5]

Clara died on 2 June 1503. She was not quite thirty-nine years old. She was buried at the Chapelle Saint-Louis in the church of Aigueperse in Auvergne.[6]

Her many descendants included Louise Juliana of Nassau, King Louis XV of France, Marie Antoinette, Franz Josef I of Austria, and the House of Hanover which reigned in Great Britain from 1714 to 1901, and from which descends the current British Royal Family.

Clara Gonzaga appears as a character in Marguerite of Angoulême's book, the Heptameron.[7]


  1. ^ Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Dukes of Bourbon
  2. ^ Francis The First by Francis Hackett, p. 236
  3. ^ Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Dukes of Bourbon
  4. ^ The Bed and The Throne by George R. Marek, page 77
  5. ^ Marek, The Bed and The Throne, The Life of Isabella d'Este,p.82
  6. ^ Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Dukes of Bourbon
  7. ^ Francis Hackett Francis The First, p.63


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