Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Housekeeping in a Renaissance Court

Overview

The Cardinal's Hat is the fascinating story of how Ippolito d'Este, the second son of Lucretia Borgia, became the Archbishop of Milan. Through his own letters and ledgers, recently uncovered in the basement of an archive in the northern Italian town of Modena, Mary Hollingsworth has pieced together a fascinating and undeniably titillating tale of a real-life Renaissance cardinal and how he achieved his ambition to acquire the coveted cardinal's hat?a road to power and wealth ...
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The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Housekeeping in a Renaissance Court

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Overview

The Cardinal's Hat is the fascinating story of how Ippolito d'Este, the second son of Lucretia Borgia, became the Archbishop of Milan. Through his own letters and ledgers, recently uncovered in the basement of an archive in the northern Italian town of Modena, Mary Hollingsworth has pieced together a fascinating and undeniably titillating tale of a real-life Renaissance cardinal and how he achieved his ambition to acquire the coveted cardinal's hat—a road to power and wealth that had little to do with piety.

The ledgers in the archive document every aspect of Ippolito's life—his meals; clothes; the men he employed as courtiers, cooks, stable boys and valets; his horses, dogs, and falcons; what he wore in bed; and what he gave his mistresses for Christmas. And it's not just Ippolito who comes to life out of the minutiae, bit his staff, as well: the page who had to pawn his doublet to settle a debt, the gardener's son who stabbed a monk, the nun who embroidered his shirts, and the goldsmith who took potshots at Ippolito's peacocks.

Also found in the cardinal's letters is a remarkable record of events: his journey (with his retinue of servants and retainers in tow) across the Alps to meet the King of France; his successes at the gambling table; his visit to the King's mistress while she was in her bath; and his reception in Rome when he at last acquired his cardinal's hat.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
In the remarkable story of the Borgias and their many offshoots, he is not a footnote but a chapter and, as told in The Cardinal's Hat , an intriguing one indeed.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
Using freshly discovered archival records from Modena, Italy, Hollingsworth, a scholar of Italian Renaissance art and architecture, here skillfully conjures another time and place. With deft writing, insight, and humor, she unpacks a treasure trove of Ippolito d'Este's personal ledgers and account books. Ippolito D'Este was the second son of Duke Alfonso of Este and Lucretia Borgia. His brother, Ercole, assumed control of the duchy (encompassing Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio) on the death of his father, and Ippolito began a career in the Church, becoming the archbishop of Milan at the young age of ten. In the course of his career, he made friends with such powerful figures as Francis I of France, who was a major force in his earning a cardinal's hat in 1539. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Pope Paul III, and Benvenuto Cellini are some of the prominent characters who grace the pages of Hollingsworth's book. A rich panorama of 16th-century Italy comes alive in this intricately detailed story of a prince of a very worldly Roman Catholic Church. Highly recommended for general and academic libraries.-Larry Cooperman, Florida Metro. Univ.-North Orlando Campus, Orlando Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ippolito D'Este (1509-72), the second son of Lucretia Borgia, Duchess of Ferrara, learns how to succeed in the business of ecclesiastical advancement by really trying. In 1999, the author, an authority on Renaissance architecture (Patronage in Renaissance Italy: From 1400 to the Early Sixteenth Century, 1994, etc.), discovered in Modena a rich archive comprising more than 2,000 letters and 200 account books relating to the career of Ippolito, who lived a lavish life as a prince while he and his family negotiated with a reluctant, simoniacal Pope Paul III for Ippolito's appointment as a cardinal. With these documents, Hollingsworth reconstructs in minute detail the comings and goings of Ippolito: what he ate, what he wore, how he succeeded (or failed) at cards and tennis, how he tipped, whom he bribed, how he decorated his residences and on and on. Hollingsworth organizes this impressively illustrated volume in traditional chronological fashion (our hero is born on page 15), pausing occasionally to describe such things as Renaissance banquets, the massive renovations at Ippolito's Palazzo San Francesco (his only extant residence), the wardrobe of the prince (including 468 shoe laces!). Of greater interest are the political maneuverings. Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor) and Francis I of France were competing for European dominance-along with the pope-and Ercole II (the Duke of Ferrara, Ippolito's older brother) sided with the French. Ippolito became a favorite of Francis and lived in his court for some years, but when it looked as if Francis couldn't assure Ippolito of his cardinal's hat, Charles V offered his patronage, an offer Ippolito declined to take. It wasn't until 1539 that the popewas sufficiently persuaded to appoint Ippolito (power, patronage and money were the sticking points). Hollingsworth ends her account as Ippolito consolidates his authority-and begins to count his cash. A plethora of detail threatens to overpower this nonetheless fascinating and intimate view of a powerful, appealing man. (4 maps; 35 b&w illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585678037
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 4/25/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 308
  • Sales rank: 1,106,680
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Hollingworth received her Ph.D. in Renaissance Architecture from the University of Anglia.  She ahs lectured in art and architecture at several universities in the United Kingdom and has published several books on the patronage of Italian Renaissance art, as well as articles in Art History, Atlas of World Art, and The Times (London), among others.

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