The House of Este is a European princely dynasty. It is split into two branches; the elder is known as the House of Welf-Este or House of Welf, the younger, as the House of Fulc-Este or later simply as the House of Este.
The elder branch of the House of Este, the House of Welf, produced dukes of Bavaria (1070–1139, 1156–1180), dukes of Saxony (1138–1139, 1142–1180), a German King (1198–1218), and most impactful upon history, the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg (1208–1918)—who were later styled the "Electors of Hanover", a more prestigious Holy Roman Empire title than Arch-duke or duke, when two branches of the family recombined in 1705.
After the peace ending the Napoleonic wars reshaped Europe ushering in the Modern era, the Electorate of Hanover (duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg — held in a personal union by the king of Great Britain, George III) was dissolved by treaty acknowledged by all signatories and its lands were enlarged with the state promoted to the Kingdom of Hanover, Hanover. The new kingdom existed from 1815–1866, but passed from being a personal union of the male British rulers in 1837 to an uncle under salic laws of inheritance (Queen Victoria, being female, was unable to inherit). The House of Este hence gave Great Britain and the United Kingdom the "Hanoverian monarchs" (1714–1901).
The younger branch of the House of Este included rulers of Ferrara (1240–1597), and Modena and Reggio (1288–1796).
The origins of the family, probably of Frankish nobility, date back to the time of Charlemagne in the early 9th century when they settled in Lombardy. The first known member of the house was Margrave Adalbert of Mainz, known only as father of Oberto I, Count palatine of Italy, who died around 975. Oberto's grandson Albert Azzo II, Margrave of Milan, (996–1097) built a castle at Este, near Padua, and named himself after it. He had 3 sons from two marriages, two of whom became the ancestors of the two branches of the family:
- Welf IV, the eldest (d. 1101), was the son of Kunigunde (d. 1056), the last of the Elder Welfs. He inherited the property of his maternal uncle, Welf, Duke of Carinthia, became duke of Bavaria in 1070, and is the ancestor of the elder branch, the House of Welf.
- Hugh, issue of Azzo's second marriage to Garsend of Maine, inherited the County of Maine, his mother's dowry, but sold it one year later and died without heirs.
- Fulco I (d. about 1128/35), the third son, is the ancestor of the younger Italian line of Este.
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