Murder of a Medici Princess

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Overview

In Murder of a Medici Princess, Caroline Murphy illuminates the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.
Murphy is a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and the violence that were commonplace in the Florentine court. She brings to life an extraordinary woman, ...

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Overview

In Murder of a Medici Princess, Caroline Murphy illuminates the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.
Murphy is a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and the violence that were commonplace in the Florentine court. She brings to life an extraordinary woman, fluent in five languages, a free-spirited patron of the arts, a daredevil, a practical joker, and a passionate lover. Isabella, in fact, conducted numerous affairs, including a ten-year relationship with the cousin of her violent and possessive husband. Her permissive lifestyle, however, came to an end upon the death of her father, who was succeeded by her disapproving older brother Francesco. Considering Isabella's ways to be licentious and a disgrace upon the family, he permitted her increasingly enraged husband to murder her in a remote Medici villa. To tell this dramatic story, Murphy draws on a vast trove of newly discovered and unpublished documents, ranging from Isabella's own letters, to the loose-tongued dispatches of ambassadors to Florence, to contemporary descriptions of the opulent parties and balls, salons and hunts in which Isabella and her associates participated. Murphy resurrects the exciting atmosphere of Renaissance Florence, weaving Isabella's beloved city into her story, evoking the intellectual and artistic community that thrived during her time. Palaces and gardens in the city become places of creativity and intrigue, sites of seduction, and grounds for betrayal.
Here then is a narrative of compelling and epic proportions, magnificent and alluring, decadent and ultimately tragic.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Murphy's book swoops and dazzles like the best fiction." —Entertainment Weekly

"This supple, smart account of a lesser-known daughter will engage modern readers as it vivifies both Renaissance Florence and an extraordinary woman who paid the ultimate price for flouting her era's traditional gender roles."—Publishers Weekly

"a fast-paced and detailed account of Italy's raciest princess."—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576)was the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, Duke of Florence. Murphy vividly chronicles Isabella's provocative, brief life (she was murdered at age 34), liberally drawing on quotes from letters sent by a variety of key figures...This enjoyable page-turner would make a fantastic biopic."—Kirkus Reviews

"In Murder of a Medici Princess, Murphy takes her readers on a compelling ride through the dark allure of Renaissance Italy, taking us deep into the drama of the Medici hierarchy in a story that brims with both beauty and corruption."—The Electric Review

"Caroline Murphy has brought to life an independent-minded Florentine princess and the loves, family conflicts, political plots and violence in which she was enmeshed. A gripping tale told with consumate historical skill."—Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre

Publishers Weekly

The third of eight surviving children, Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576) was unusually close to her father, Cosimo, the powerful grand duke of Tuscany who built the Uffizi, and whose protection allowed her to live an autonomous, glittering Florentine life apart from her debt-ridden, abusive, playboy husband in Rome. After Cosimo's death in 1574, his spiteful eldest son and heir, Francesco, eager to make his mistress, the first lady of Florence, reneged on the inheritance Cosimo left Isabella and her children and effectively banished her lover from Florence by branding him a murderer. When the treasonous behavior and extramarital affairs of Isabella's sister-in-law Leonora became a symbol for the anarchy of Francesco's court, Francesco sanctioned Leonora's murder at her husband's hands and, soon after, Isabella's murder by her husband as well. Like the Kennedys or Windsors, the Medicis are a dynasty brimming with biographical gold, and this supple, smart account of a lesser-known daughter will engage modern readers as it vivifies both Renaissance Florence and an extraordinary woman who paid the ultimate price for flouting her era's traditional gender roles. Murphy (The Pope's Daughter) is an art history professor at UC-Riverside. A Medici family tree, map of Florence and b&w illustrations of Renaissance Florence are welcome embellishments. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Cosimo the Elder (1389-1464) and Lorenzo (1449-92) of the Medici family so dominate the history of Renaissance Florence as to make their successors seem nonentities. But not all of them were. Cosimo the Great (1519-74) consolidated the family's fortune and ended his days as grand duke of Tuscany, elevating himself above his many peers in Italy. Cosimo's favorite daughter, Isabella, was, according to historian and biographer Murphy (The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice Della Rovere), the very model of a Renaissance princess-forceful and passionate. Handed off in marriage to cement a political alliance, Isabella was able to maintain independence from her husband while her father lived. But when Cosimo died, Isabella's house of cards tumbled-her brutish husband, smarting over Isabella's adultery with a condottierefrom his own family, took her to a country villa and strangled her. Her malevolent brother, now head of the family, may have connived in her murder. This scrupulously researched book narrates a little-known episode in Renaissance history. In the process, it says much about the sources of-and limits to-a woman's power in 16th-century Italy. Recommended for academic libraries and larger public collections.
—David Keymer

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
Portrait of an Italian princess who bucked tradition, embraced the arts and constantly defied her husband's wishes. Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576) was the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, Duke of Florence. Murphy (Art History/Univ. of California, Riverside; The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere, 2005, etc.) vividly chronicles Isabella's provocative, brief life (she was murdered at age 34), liberally drawing on quotes from letters sent by a variety of key figures. Cosimo treated his sons and daughters as equals, giving Isabella a freedom distinctly at odds with the period's conventions. It was decided when she was nine that she should marry 12-year-old Paolo Giordano Orsini, whose family had long-standing ties to Florence's illustrious past. By the time the two were old enough to wed, Paolo was a misogynist who frequented prostitutes and enjoyed hurting women. Murphy pulls a horrifying extract from a letter Isabella wrote in 1565 indicating that Paolo had beaten her-a major faux pas, since he was heavily in debt to Cosimo. Speculation in their circle ran riot about Isabella's relationship with her father, which many believed to be sexual, although the author firmly points out that there is no evidence for this claim. Isabella remained childless until late in life, which was unusual in her era. This afforded her the freedom to throw flirtatious parties while her husband was away in the military, and she had an affair-detailed at length by Murphy-with Paolo's cousin, Troilo Orsini. Paolo murdered Isabella and hired an assassin to kill Troilo in 1576, 12 years after Cosimo's death. The author wraps up her account by describing how this caused further woes for theMedici family. This enjoyable page-turner would make a fantastic biopic. $100,000 ad/promo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195385830
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/18/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 692,782
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Caroline P. Murphy is a cultural historian and biographer who lives in Cambridge, Mass. She is the author of Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth-Century Bologna and The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice Della Rovere.

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Table of Contents

Prologue
Part I: A Medici Childhood
1. The New Medici
2. "I have never seen a more beautiful baby girl"
3. Growing Up Medici
4. The Medici as Teenage Girls
Part II: A Medici Princess Grows Up
1. A Bridegroom for Isabella
2. Medici Weddings
3. Zibellini and a Hat Full of Musk
4. The Duke and Duchess of Bracciano
5. My Brother and I
6. Overcome By Sorrow
Part III: The First Lady of Florence
1. After Eleanora
2. At Home With Paolo and Isabella
3. Debt
4. Conflict
5. The Baroncelli
6. The Theatre of Isabella
1. Fidelities
2. Troilo
3. A 'Clandestine' Affair
Part IV: Medici Machinations
1. The Imperial Sister-In-Law
2. Family Lives
3. Grand Duke
4. Cammilla
5. I Turchi
6. Lepanto, and Don Giovanni
7. Putti
8. Bianca
9. The Assassination
10. The Best of Times
Part V: The Troubles of a Medici Princess
1. The Decline of Cosimo
2. The Children's Negotiation
3. My Coming
4. The New Ambassador
5. Leonora
6. The Dueling Season
7. The Pucci Conspiracy
8. Troilo, Bandito
9. A New Year
Part VI: Final Acts
1. A Trip to Cafaggiolo
2. Cerreto Guidi
3. Post Mortem
4. A Culling Continued
5. The Assassin's Tale
Epilogue

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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    Highly recommend - I couldn't put it down!

    If only those that watch endless amounts of garbage on television would actually pick up a book, like this one, read, and use their imaginations, I believe this world would be SUCH a different, and interesting, and a lot more colourful place. Murphy's writing and detailed descriptions enabled me to live a life that I would never have known. If I could, I would shake her hand and thank her, for allowing me to picture a wonderous and tragic journey, with this privileged, yet unfortunate, woman.
    THANK YOU!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

    I could not put this book down!

    I could not put this book down!

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