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Enrichetta d'Este

Enrichetta d'Este
Enrichetta by an unknown artist
Duchess of Parma
Reign 5 February 1728 – 20 January 1731
Spouse Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma
Leopold of Hesse-Darmstadt
Full name
Enrichetta Maria d'Este
House House of Hesse-Darmstadt
House of Farnese
House of Este
Father Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena
Mother Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Born (1702-02-27)27 February 1702
Ducal Palace of Modena
Died 30 January 1777(1777-01-30) (aged 74)
Fidenza, Parma, Parma
Burial Convent of the Capuciner, Fidenza, Parma
Religion Roman Catholicism

Enrichetta d'Este (Enrichetta Maria; 27 May 1702 – 30 January 1777[1]) was an Italian noblewoman. She was the Duchess of Parma by marriage to Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma, who was her first cousin as well as an uncle of Elisabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain.

Background and family

Enrichetta was the third daughter of Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena and his wife Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Her older brother Prince Francesco was the heir to the duchy of Modena.

Her father Rinaldo d'Este had been Duke of Modena and Reggio since the death in 1695 of his nephew Francesco II d'Este, Duke of Modena. Her mother was Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg, daughter of John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his French-born wife Benedicta Henrietta of the Palatinate. Her mother was a first cousin of George I of Great Britain, Ernest, Duke of York and Albany, and Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Frederick I of Prussia.

Enrichetta's own first cousins included Maria Josepha of Austria, Electress of Saxony; Maria Amalia of Austria, Holy Roman Empress;[1] Mary of Modena, queen consort of James II of England. Odoardo Farnese, Hereditary Prince of Parma, father of Elisabeth Farnese, was another Farnese cousin.


Born in Modena, she was the youngest of five surviving children; two younger siblings died shortly after birth, and their mother died in childbirth. Only two of the five would marry: Enrichetta and her brother Francesco.

In 1720 Francesco married Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans, the daughter of Philippe d'Orléans, the Régent of France during the childhood of King Louis XV. While at the Modenese court, Charlotte Aglaé got on well with Enrichetta and her older sisters Benedetta Maria Ernesta (1697–1777) and Amalia Giuseppina (1699–1778).

Enrichetta was engaged to Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma, whose mother Maria d'Este was Enrichetta's aunt. They were married with magnificent ceremonies in Modena on 5 February 1728, with her brother Francesco acting as proxy for Antonio.[1]

She travelled to Parma where she made a magnificent entry to the city on 6 July 1728, greeted at the Porta San Michele by crowds of cheerers and onlookers. Celebrations in the local area lasted as late as 1730. Antonio frequently visited the Modenese court and was close to Erichetta's brother.

The marriage had been arranged by Antonio's secretary of state, Count Anvidi, and Bori coerced an unwilling Antonio to marry Enrichetta, his friend Francesco's sister. The marriage, despite all Antonio's attempts at conception, was childless.

Antonio died on 20 January 1731. The previous day, he had announced that Enrichetta was pregnant; after his death, a Regency council for the potential heir was formed, consisting of Enrichetta, a bishop, the first Secretary of State and two gentlemen of the Court.

It was decided that, should the child be female, the duchy of Parma would revert to the Infante Don Carlos (then aged 12), eldest of the three sons of Elisabeth Farnese, wife of Philip V of Spain, niece of Antonio by his older half-brother Odoardo, who had been heir-apparent to the duchy but predeceased their father.

The duchess was examined by many doctors without any confirmation of pregnancy. As a result, the Second Treaty of Vienna on 22 July 1731 officially recognised the young Infante Don Charles as the Duke of Parma and Piacenza, pursuant to the Treaty of London (1718).

Since he was still a minor, his maternal grandmother Dorothea Sophie of the Palatinate, Odoardo's widow, was named regent.

As Enrichetta continued to maintain that she was pregnant, Dorothea ordered that she be examined by four midwives, who then reported that Enrichetta was in fact seven months pregnant. The news was reported around Parma then around the European courts. However, Queen Elisabeth in Spain convinced her mother to have Enrichetta examined again in September 1731; it was then reported that there was in fact no child, and the House of Farnese was extinct.

Shunned by her father's court in Modena, the dowager duchess moved into the Ducal Palace of Colorno, where she was under virtual house arrest with an escort of Swiss Guards. In December 1731, she was forced to return to the Ducal Palace in Parma in order to return the crown jewels of Parma to Dorothea, who was made head of the regency council on 29 December 1731.[1]

She stayed in Parma, splitting her time between Piacenza, Borgo San Donnino and Cortemaggiore.

On 23 March 1740 in Piacenza, Enrichetta married Leopold of Hesse-Darmstadt, son of Landgrave Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt and Marie Therese of Croÿ. Enrichetta and Leopold had no children.

Leopold died in 1764 leaving Enrichetta a widow for the second time. Enrichetta herself died on 30 January 1777 aged seventy four. She was buried at the Convent of the Capuciner, in Fidenza.[1]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 27 May 1702 – 5 February 1728 Her Highness Princess Enrichetta of Modena
  • 5 February 1728 – 20 January 1731 Her Highness the Duchess of Parma
  • 20 January 1731 – 23 March 1740 Her Highness the Dowager Duchess of Parma
  • 23 March 1740 – 27 Octocter 1764 Her Serene Highness Landgravine Leopold of Hesse-Darmstadt
  • 27 Octocter 1764 – 30 January 1777 Her Serene Highness the Dowager Landgravine Leopold of Hesse-Darmstadt



See also

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