Born in Ferrara, the son of Alberto d'Este and Isotta Albaresani, he inherited the rule of the city when he was still 10 years old, under the protection of the Republics of Venice, Florence and Bologna. He was attacked by his relative Azzo X d'Este, a general of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, a descendant of Obizzo II d'Este who contested Niccolò the right to rule in Ferrara due to his illegitimate birth. Azzo was however taken prisoner by Astorre I Manfredi in the ensuing war, and any menace over Niccolò's rule disappeared.
In 1403 he joined the league formed against the Duke of Milan, being appointed commander-in-chief of the Papal Army by Pope Boniface IX. In 1405 he ceded the ancestral family lands near Este to Venice. In 1410 the fighting master Fiore dei Liberi dedicated his treatise, the Fior di Battaglia, to him. This manuscript is a large part of the foundation of modern attempts to rebuild the Western martial arts. In 1413 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In 1418 he remarried to Parisina Malatesta, daughter of Andrea Malatesta. Fearing the ambitions of Filippo Maria Visconti, two years later he ceded him the possession of Parma.
In 1425 Niccolò had both his wife Parisina and his illegitimate son Ugo executed on charges of adultery. In that year he was again commander-in-chief of the anti-Visconti league. In 1429 his illegitimate son was named heir of the Marquisate.
The role of Niccolò as a prestigious leader in Italy was confirmed when his city was chosen as the seat of a council in 1438.
He married thirdly Ricciarda of Saluzzo in 1429. She was a daughter of Thomas III of Saluzzo and Marguerite of Roussy. They had two children:
He also had eleven illegitimate children:
|Marquess of Ferrara