Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope

Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope

3.2 12
by Eleanor Herman
     
 

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Eleanor Herman, the talented author of the New York Times bestselling Sex with Kings and Sex with the Queen goes behind the sacred doors of the Catholic Church in Mistress of the Vatican, a scintillating biography of a powerful yet little-known woman whose remarkable story is ripe with secrets, sex, passion, and ambition. For almost

Overview

Eleanor Herman, the talented author of the New York Times bestselling Sex with Kings and Sex with the Queen goes behind the sacred doors of the Catholic Church in Mistress of the Vatican, a scintillating biography of a powerful yet little-known woman whose remarkable story is ripe with secrets, sex, passion, and ambition. For almost four centuries this astonishing story of a woman’s absolute power over the Vatican has been successfully buried—until now.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

In this engrossing "forgotten story" of the Vatican, Herman (Sex with the Queen) relays not only the life of 17th Cenutry Papal puppet-master Olimpia Maidalchini, but the political and social history of her age, including glimpses of art and architecture, family relations, medical care, religious traditions and daily life. Born into a family of average means, Maidalchini rebelled successfully against her father's plans to place her in a convent. This early triumph gave her a will that she'd eventually use to grab the ultimate seat of power in 17th century Italy, the Papacy, through the likely accomplice of her indecisive brother-in-law, a lawyer with holy orders who was dazzled by Maidalchini's intelligence, planning and accounting capabilities. He submitted to the her plans, and she eventually ushered him into power as Pope Innocent X. As her wealth and strength grow, so does the resentment around her, but her fate would be sealed by the bubonic plague. Exhaustively researched, with historical vignettes interwoven seamlessly, Herman's latest provides a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading.
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Kirkus Reviews
Herman (Sex with the Queen, 2006, etc.) does her royal best with the fantastic story of a tax collector's daughter from Viterbo who finagled her way into a position of power at the Vatican. The author constantly hammers home her central point: that the driving force of Olimpia Maidalchini's life (1591-1657) was her stingy father's attempt to put her in a convent rather than provide a dowry for a suitable marriage. Her two younger sisters submitted to this fate, but 15-year-old Olimpia refused and wrote a damning letter to the Bishop of Viterbo (fathers were not supposed to coerce daughters into taking the veil). Despite the ensuing scandal, she managed to marry into a poor but well-connected noble family, the Pamphilis of Rome. Her keen memory and knowledge of financial matters soon ingratiated her with sober, learned brother-in-law Gianbattista, a monsignor who increasingly came to rely on Olimpia's decisiveness and guidance in his work at the Vatican courts. Her behind-the-scenes machinations bore fruit when Urban VIII made Gianbattista a cardinal in 1627. Twelve years later, the death of her husband left 48-year-old Olimpia a widow who didn't have to answer to anyone. Upon Urban's demise in 1644, her skillful manipulation of power achieved her life's goal: the election of Gianbattista as Pope Innocent X. His devotion to his sister-in-law allowed her carte blanche in his apartments and free rein in filling her coffers, until her overweening ambition and some powerful enemies caught up with her. Herman nimbly navigates centuries of foggy papal history, providing plenty of gossip and slander about flagrant nepotism and other pontifical sins. She casts Olimpia's story appropriatelyenough in soap-opera terms, making her feisty protagonist resemble (a bit improbably) a 17th-century Scarlett O'Hara. The incredible life of a formidable woman, fetchingly told.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061827419
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
145
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

The author of Sex with Kings and Sex with the Queen, New York Times bestselling historian Eleanor Herman has hosted episodes for the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel's Lost Worlds. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, she is married and lives in McLean, Virginia.

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Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
mcfly2392 More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a historical prespective of the early vatica corruption and the rise of one woman who spent her life being controlled by men. A strong woman who helped the poor prostitutes and young girls have a future. She ruled in a era of men. I enjoyed this book.
Paris182 More than 1 year ago
I was surprised how fascinating I found Eleanor Hermann's "Mistress of the Vatican". It is the story of Olimpia Maldaichini; who in the mid 1600's controlled the Vatican through her brother-in-law Pope Innocent X. Olimpia was a woman who knew how to get her own way, was smart enough to do so and used it to enrich herself both personally and financially. Unfortunately she overreached and found herself on the outs eventually and then surprisingly enough back in. Eleanor Herman's story is sympathetic without being prejudiced in favor of her subject, and she details both the good and the bad with equal enthusiasm. With liberal use of modern phrases the prose is lively and interesting. A highly recommended read about a little known part of history.
CelticClout More than 1 year ago
I found this to be a highly engrossing book. There is so much unknown about the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and Herman's account provides a great many details on this. My only complaint might lie more with Herman's editor than with her. She constantly used the word "sumptuous" to describe virtually every rich person's home. I can see once, or even twice. But she uses the word at least 8 times. Ugghhhh. But for a thesarus or an editor who paid attention to word overuse....
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