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The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Everyday Life in the Court of a BorgiaPrince

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2005

    AN INCOMPARABLE VIEW OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN RENAISSANCE ITALY

    Few historical periods are as intriguing as the Renaissance few families fascinate as much as the Borgias. However, we've not been privy to many firsthand accounts of daily life among the powerful in 16th century Italy. Now, thanks to a bit of luck and assiduous research, art historian Mary Hollingsworth presents a detailed picture of Ippolito d'Este, the second son of Lucretia Borgia who later became Archbishop of Milan. In Modena, Italy, Hollingsworth came upon a treasure - over 2,00 letters and 200 account books pertaining to the days of Ippolito. The ledgers contain such minute details as the items in his wardrobe, what he ate. He wasn't timid about keeping a log of his women right along with his horses, dogs, falcons, peacocks, and a plethora of servants. Nor, was he embarrassed to note how much was spent on bribes and to whom he paid them. Thus, readers have the unparalleled experience of seeing courtly life on a daily basis, even to Ippolito's visit to the mistress of the King of France while she was in her bath. Ippolito reached the ripe old age of 29 before he received the cardinal's red hat, which at that time was a guarantee of wealth and power. He was a man who enjoyed women thoroughly and often, gambled frequently, and spent time hunting rather than in prayer. Thus, his elevation to such a lofty position had naught to do with religiosity, much to do with politics. Mary Hollingsworth has created an amazing view of everyday life among the rich and powerful in Renaissance Italy. Highly recommended. - Gail Cooke

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