Notes on the Ferrarese Court in the Later Middle Ages
Two assumptions affect court studies: first, that the court can be studied as a single phenomenon, and second, that the court had a leading role in the many activities that it is claimed to have engaged in. In reality, the court never had a fixed corporate identity, and even to identify the court is not to show its importance. Some indications of the place of the court in the northern signorie of the Visconti, della Scala, da Carrara and, especially, the Este of Ferrara, are provided. At the latter, foreign elements were present at all levels and especially in top advisory roles and in financial office, but the court was not closed to Ferrarese society. The Este themselves were responsible for establishing a formal council which assumed the responsibility of the former commune; one of its prominent members, the archbishop of Ravenna Tommaso Perondoli, was scarcely a courtier. It is helpful to look at the court in terms of its paternalism: fatherhood and liberality together made the courtly ruler, but the court was only one arena within which princely rule was exercised.