Frieda (Catherine de Medici) recreates the glittering, turbulent, and densely entwined lives of eight intrepid, highly intelligent Italian Renaissance “consorts and ducal daughters,” who greatly influenced the fates of the men who ruled their milieu. Among them were Lucrezia Tornabuoni, a “trusted emissary” for her husband—Florentine leader Piero Medici—and later a “principal adviser” to their son, the famous statesman and patron of the arts Lorenzo the Magnificent. With Lucrezia’s death, her overshadowed daughter-in-law, Clarice Orsini, took “a more prominent role as Lorenzo’s proxy,” helping him expand Medici alliances with Naples, Rome, and the papacy, “while securing a consistent power base within Florence.” Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forlì, was a beautiful virago who “led troops into battle,” commandeering Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo and threatening the city’s “great men” to protect her family’s interests. Lucrezia Borgia’s three marriages into the powerful Sforza, Aragona, and Este clans furthered the political ambitions of her father, Pope Alexander VI, and brothers, but she was reviled for rumors of having an incestuous relationship with her father and blamed for a husband’s murder. Although too much information is crammed into one book (though, thankfully, there are detailed family trees), this is still an alluring and worthy study of the powerful matriarchs at the helm of Italy’s great Renaissance-era dynasties. 24 pages of color illus. Agent: George Capel, Capel & Land, U.K. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/28/2013 Release date: 04/01/2013 Genre: Nonfiction
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