Beatrice Lascaris di Tenda

This article is about the historical figure. For the opera by Vincenzo Bellini, see Beatrice di Tenda.
Beatrice di Tenda by Benson John Lossing and William Barritt, from Sarah Josepha Hale's Woman's record.[1]

Beatrice Lascaris di Tenda or Beatrice de Tende or Beatrix (c. 1372 – 1418), was an Italian noblewoman who was the wife of Facino Cane, Count of Biandrate and a condottiero, and then wife to Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, who caused her tragic death.


Beatrice was born in 1370[1] or 1372[2] or 1376.[3] She was the daughter of Pietro Balbo II and the sister of Giovanni Antonio I Lascaris Count of Tende, in an ancestral castle erected in a valley that opens to the north of the Col di Tenda. She was part of the Lascaris di Ventimiglia Conti di Tenda, a branch of the House of Ventimiglia, who were sovereigns of a large province Maritime Alps area.[1][3]

First marriage

On September 2, 1403, she married Facino Cane of Montferrat, a military commander and condottiero, who usually was in the service of the Visconti dukes. He reputedly treated her with great consideration and respect and divided his honors and treasures with her. She is said to have accompanied him in battle.[1]

Facino Cane died May 19, 1412 at Pavia, the very day of the assassination of Giovanni Maria Visconti, the second Duke of Milan. Cane's death left Beatrice a very rich widow. She had four hundred thousand ducats, the domain of those towns and lands that were in her dead husband's control, and many men-at-arms.[4]

Second marriage

Beatrice Lascaris di Tenda

Filippo Maria Visconti succeeded his murdered brother in the Duchy of Milan. Some of his council advised him to marry Beatrice, whose worth exceeded his own personal fortune and territorial control, despite that she was twenty years his elder. Once he obtained his new wife's resources, he easily conquered the various rulers of the smaller neighboring domains. Building on the Facino's foundation, he reconstructed a state that began to compare of that of his father, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, before it fell apart under his brother Giovanni's rule.[1][4]

However, despite the wealth, territory, and military strength that she had brought to him, Filippo grew averse to Beatrice, perhaps because of jealousy of her late husband's reputation, or her own political power, or her greater age, or that she bore no children, or his favoring of his mistress, the much younger Agnese del Maino.[4]

Torture and execution

Unable to denounce his wife publicly, he effected a scheme common among the nobility of the time, that of adultery. Among those of the Duchess Beatrice's household was a young troubadour and friend, Michele Orombelli, who often entertained the lady with lute and song. To avoid any possibility of an uprising that might try to free the popular Duchess, on August 23, 1418, he had the doors of Milan closed until lunchtime, and had the troubadour, the Duchess, and two of her handmaidens spirited away to the castle of Binasco. In its confines, the captors tortured the prisoners. The handmaidens confessed to having seen the duchess with Orombelli sitting on the bed playing the lute. The torturers forced Orombelli into confession of adultery. Although Beatrice herself received twenty-four lashes, she denied any guilt to her confessor.[5]

A jurist, Gasparino de' Grassi Castiglione, proclaimed Beatrice, the troubadour, and the handmaidens all guilty of adultery or its complicity, and sentenced them to death. Her captors beheaded Beatrice in the courtyard on September 13, 1418, accompanied in death by her two maids and the young troubadour.[5]

Literary and historical accounts

According to many accounts, Beatrice appears as an intelligent woman who concerned herself in the current affairs of state. Her reputation for honesty and modesty made her a martyr in the eyes of many. Her story inspired many writers. A book written by Carlo Tedaldi-Fores[6] inspired Vincenzo Bellini to write a two-act opera, Beatrice di Tenda, first performed on March 16, 1833 at the La Fenice in Venice. Sarah Josepha Hale included a laudatory article about her in her encyclopedic Woman's record; or, Sketches of all distinguished women from the creation to A.D. 1854.[1] She also appears as a minor character in Bellarion[7] by Raphael Sabatini.

In their revision of Bernardino Corio's history of Milan, Angelo Butti and Luigi Ferrario noted that contemporaries had differing opinions of Beatrice Lascaris di Tenda. They wrote that Rainaldi and Fleury claimed that Beatrice plotted against her Visconti husband in conducting secret correspondence with the Bishop of Passau and the Earl of Oettingen, and that they sent ambassadors to the Emperor Sigismund. They noted that Pietro Candido Decembrio, secretary to Filippo Maria Visconti, openly condemned her petulant and greedy nature. Butti and Ferrario also wrote that Andrea Biglia, an Augustinian friar and Italian humanist, chronicled that Beatrice was already advanced in years, and could no longer attract her husband, nor offer the hope of children.[4]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell (1855). Woman's record; or, Sketches of all distinguished women from the creation to A.D. 1854: Arranged in four eras, with selections from female writers of every age. (PDF). History of women (microfilm), reel 264, no. 1780. (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Bros. pp. 145–146. OCLC 15596702. Archived from the original on July 28, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  2. De Carli, Edoardo. "Chi era Costui - Scheda di Beatrice Lascaris (di Tenda)" [Who was she - details about Beatrice Lascaris (di Tenda)]. Chi era Costui? (in Italian). Milano. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
  3. 1 2 Office de Tourisme de Tende. "Le Chateau". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Corio, Bernardino (1856). Butti, Angelo; Ferrario, Luigi, eds. Storia di Milano [Story of Milan] (PDF) (in Italian). 2. Milano: F. Colombo. pp. 512, 542, 590–591. OCLC 26118002. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  5. 1 2 Corio, Bernardino (1565) [1503]. Historia continente da l'origine di Milano tutti li gesti. (PDF) (in Italian) (3rd ed.). Vinetia: Presso Giorgio De Cavalli. pp. 727–728. OCLC 165998125. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2010.
  6. Tedaldi-Fores, Carlos (1825). Beatrice Tenda: Tragedia istorica. [The Tragic Story of Beatrice Tenda] (in Italian). Milano: Società tipogr. de' classici italiani. OCLC 81728058.
  7. Sabatini, Raphael (1926). Bellarion the fortunate: a romance. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 1170948.

Preceded by
Antonia Malatesta
Duchess of Milan
Succeeded by
Marie of Savoy
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