What historical events and social issues of the time are connected to Robert Browning’s "My Last Duchess"?

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This poem is believed to be based on Alfonso II of Ferrara, whose young wife Lucrezia died under suspicious circumstances at age 17. She was from the powerful Medici family, and after her death it was widely believed that she was poisoned by Alfonso II on assumptions of infidelity. These accusations are echoed in the poem:

Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek
And heard again a bit later:
she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere
The speaker alludes to the fact that he's responsible for her death in these lines:
I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.
The "commands" of the speaker seem to be directly associated with the end of his former wife's life—the time when her smiles stopped forever. Since she was too free with her admiration, he ended her ability to ever smile again.
The idea of a dowry, which was common in this historical and societal context, is referenced near the end of the poem:
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object.
The duke is trying to win the favor of the count's daughter, and the count's servant is actually the person to whom the duke has addressed this entire poem. The duke knows how wealthy the count is, so he expects a large dowry for this marriage. A dowry, still common in some societies, is basically a payment that a bride's family pays to a groom and/or his family to secure a marriage. The payment could include money, jewelry, property, or other gifts. This further highlights the sense of powerlessness of women in this historical context. The duke's first wife has been (presumably) murdered due to her inability to make her husband feel uniquely special, and a second woman waits downstairs while he and her father make arrangements regarding her future. Thus, there is an underlying message that the women in this historical context have no voice and are at the mercies of the men in their lives.
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