Montferrat (mŏntfərăt´, –rät´), Ital. Monferrato, historic region of Piedmont, NW Italy, south of the Po River, now mostly in Alessandria prov. It is largely hilly, and wine, fruit, and cereals are produced. In the late 10th cent. Montferrat was created a marquisate held by the Aleramo family, and its rulers played an important role in the Crusades. In 1310 it passed to the Paleologo family. Casale became the capital of the marquisate in 1435. With the extinction of the Paleologo line, Emperor Charles V gave (1536) Montferrat to the Gonzaga family of Mantua, despite the claims of the house of Savoy. After Francesco Gonzaga's death in 1612, Savoy renewed its claims on Montferrat and invaded (1613) the region. Spain and France intervened. The Treaty of Cherasco (1631) assigned parts of Montferrat to the house of Savoy, and the rest (including Casale) followed the fortunes of the duchy of Mantua and passed to the Nevers (French) branch of the Gonzaga family. All of Montferrat was recognized by the Peace of Utrecht (1713) as belonging to the house of Savoy.
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