Today we make a jaunt to Italy, a country beloved of several very good friends of mine. Today we travel to that beautiful country to meet Francesco III d'Este, Duke of Modena and Reggio.
The son of Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena, and Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Francesco succeeded to the title of Duke of Modena and Reggio in 1738. His was not an easy reign and as he attempted to negotiate the duchy through a series of conflicts and territorial disputes, he found the coffers swiftly depleted despite his best efforts to stem the flow of cash. Eventually he was forced to begin selling off the family treasures and finally, with the sale of a series of valuable paintings, the books were balanced once more.
Although his financial crises may suggest otherwise, Francesco was a careful administrator and oversaw renovations throughout his duchy; however, his efforts were often hampered by the machinations of powerful ministers who held the purse strings in Modena. Once Francesco realised that he could do little to wrest back control of the duchy’s finances, he set about enacting social and urban reforms instead, manoeuvring as much as he was able and providing new schemes such as medical care for the poor and vastly improved educational facilities.
In 1720 Francesco married Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans and the couple had ten children, six of whom survived childhood. Although Charlotte was less than impressed by the engagement, Francesco adored his wife on first sight. With the proxy ceremony performed on 11th February, Charlotte arrived in region four months later and on 21st June an enormous ceremony took place to celebrate the wedding. Charlotte was never really happy at the court and there was gossip that she was not behaving as a faithful wife should, even doing her best to remain in her native land of France after an official visit.
Francesco was far from blameless in such matters and he too had his romances, though Charlotte was away from home so often that she was little concerned by her husband’s liaisons. Following her death in 1761 Francesco remarried on two further occasions, both times morganatically, to Teresa Castelberco and Renata Teresa d'Harrach.
He died without a male heir in Varese, his remains interred at the Capuchin Convent.