The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere

The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere

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by Caroline P. Murphy
     
 

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The illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II, Felice della Rovere became one of the most powerful and accomplished women of the Italian Renaissance. Now, Caroline Murphy vividly captures the untold story of a rare woman who moved with confidence through a world of popes and princes.

Using a wide variety of sources, including Felice's personal correspondence, as

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Overview

The illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II, Felice della Rovere became one of the most powerful and accomplished women of the Italian Renaissance. Now, Caroline Murphy vividly captures the untold story of a rare woman who moved with confidence through a world of popes and princes.

Using a wide variety of sources, including Felice's personal correspondence, as well as diaries, account books, and chronicles of Renaissance Rome, Murphy skillfully weaves a compelling portrait of this remarkable woman. Felice della Rovere was to witness Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, watch her father Pope Julius II lay the foundation stone for the new Saint Peter's, and saw herself immortalized by Raphael in his Vatican frescos. With her marriage to Gian Giordano Orsini—arranged, though not attended, by her father the Pope—she came to possess great wealth and power, assets which she used to her advantage. While her father lived, Felice exercised much influence in the affairs of Rome, even egotiating for peace with the Queen of France. After his death, Felice persevered, making allies of the cardinals and clerics of St. Peter's and maintaining her control of the Orsini land through tenacity, ingenuity, and carefully cultivated political savvy. She survived the Sack of Rome in 1527, but her greatest enemy proved to be her own stepson Napoleone, whose rivalry with his stepbrother Girolamo ended suddenly and violently, and brought her perilously close to losing everything she had spent her life acquiring.

With a marvelous cast of characters, The Pope's Daughter is a spellbinding biography set against the brilliant backdrop of Renaissance Rome.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Murphy has recreated Felice della Rovere's life with agility and tact. She successfully fleshes out the customs and historical background of her Machiavellian princess."—Bruce Boucher, New York Times Book Review

"One feels in reading this vivid biography that one has gotten to know a woman of energy and talent who became 'the most powerful woman in Rome of her day.'"—Publishers Weekly

"The Pope's Daughter firmly establishes the once-forgotten Felice della Rovere as one of the most powerful women of the Italian Renaissance, at the same time demonstrating that Murphy is perhaps headed for a fruitful career breathing life into history's overlooked heroines.... Though Rovere's life has been long overlooked as a subject worthy of the ever-growing genre of historical biography, in Murphy's deft hands, her fascinating life in the shadowy recesses of the Vatican offers extraordinary insights into what was possible for a strong-minded woman during the rinascimento."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Murphy has achieved the near-miraculous; she has brought someone back from the dead. She has reconstructed the character of Felice della Rovere with such masterly empathy that she seems to breathe again. Along the way, she gives a magnificent portrayal of what life in Renaissance Rome was really like, showing how religion, family, and money could all combine to bring advancement to the skillful, or disaster to the unlucky. Felice was one of the skillful: Caroline Murphy has painted her vividly and unforgettably as a character to equal her mercurial father, Julius II."—Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost

"Impossible to put down, Caroline Murphy brings to life the streets of sixteenth century Rome, the intrigues of the papal court, and the extraordinary character of Felice della Rovere. The Pope's Daughter overturns many of our assumptions about what was possible for women in Renaissance Italy." —Lyndal Roper, Professor of Early Modern History, Oxford University

"A superb study.... The Pope's Daughter is a masterpiece." —Damian Thompson, The Daily Telegraph

Bruce Boucher
Caroline Murphy has recreated Felice della Rovere's life with agility and tact. She successfully fleshes out the customs and historical background of her Machiavellian princess, even though there is not enough foreground to evoke a strong sense of the woman herself. Felice's words rarely convey the drama of her life: she wrote no poetry; all her letters dealt with business; and she did not commission any major work of art. Still, Felice's achievements were remarkable, given her birth and sex. But to understand her personality one must read between the lines.
*#151; Thee New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Felice della Rovere (1483?-1536) emerges from obscurity to rival other great Renaissance women in this rendering of her life and legacy by Renaissance art scholar Murphy (Lavinia Fontana). Offspring of what was probably a brief liaison between Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere-later Pope Julius II-and Lucrezia Normanni, daughter of an old Roman family, Felice grew up in her mother's house. Pope Julius, the great rebuilder of Rome and patron of Michelangelo, proved to be a generous father, marrying Felice into the Orsini family, which gave her social legitimacy, and providing her with the means to develop her own estates. Negotiating a complicated set of family and social relationships, Felice became a woman of stature and wealth, able to serve as a negotiator for her father in both international and Italian affairs. Felice's experience is woven into the lives of such notable figures as Catherine de Medici, Baldessar Castiglione and Michelangelo. Some of Murphy's speculations about Felice's emotions, especially in the early stages of her life, are less than convincing given the lack of evidence. Nonetheless, one feels in reading this vivid biography that one has gotten to know a woman of energy and talent who became "the most powerful woman in Rome of her day." 30 b&w illus. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Felice della Rovere was the illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II, the pope for whom Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Although Julius II was much more discreet about his daughter than his predecessor, Pope Alexander VI, had been about his daughter Lucretia Borgia, Murphy (Renaissance art, Univ. of California, Riverside; Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth Century Bologna) has used such primary sources as Felice's diaries, account books, and other Orsini archival materials to bring into the foreground a woman who lived in the midst of the political and cultural intrigues of Renaissance Rome. Felice was ultimately married to the head of the powerful Roman Orsini family and bore him two sons and a daughter. When Orsini died, Felice became the regent for her two young sons, which made her one of the most powerful women of the era. Murphy's chapters are short, making for a readable narrative style, and each is headed by a black-and-white illustration from the period. (There will also be an eight-page color insert.) Enhanced by an extensive bibliography, this absorbing book belongs in any collection of women's studies, Renaissance history, or the history of the popes.-Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's Univ. Lib., OK Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195312010
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/04/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
464,227
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(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 Murder of a Medici Princess.

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The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was Rome, 1483. If ever a baby was doomed by birth, it was Felice Della Rovere. The odds were stacked against her. She was female and illegitimate. Nonetheless she rose above the liabilities of birth to become the most powerful woman in Rome. The story of her life, as related by Harvard art historian Caroline P. Murphy is fascinating, as her achievements rival those of any contemporary woman. It was one thing to be born illegitimate during the Renaissance, quite another to be the illegitimate daughter of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere who would become Pope Julius II. Not a gentle leader, Julius was known as 'The Warrior Pope,' one who despised and reviled the rather hedonistic lifestyles of the Borgias. Nonetheless, he was in some ways a helpful father, seeing to the advantageous marriage of his daughter to a member of the wealthy Orsini family, which gave Felice access to the means necessary to amass a personal estate. Felice had been married once before but left a young widow. (The name of her first husband could not be traced). She was raised in her mother's home and learned much of intrigue and manipulation during her formative years. When her father was elected to the papacy she became quite useful to him as a runner of errands. She was witness to the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, and the laying of a foundation for a new St. Peter's. Felice may well have inherited her ambition from her father who sought greater Roman power. Upon the death of Julius II, Felice used the Orsini family influence to become a friend of cardinals. She understood politics well, and used this knowledge to great advantage. Even the sack of Rome in 1527 did not see her downfall, as she successfully arranged safe passage for herself and her offspring to Urbino. Murphy enriches Felice's story with myriad details regarding her daily life, whether it is the overseeing of servants, seeing to her gardens and wine cellars, cosseting the influential, bribing officials, or even arranging a murder, which we are told was commonplace in that day and time. Felice's story may have been lost to us for half a century, but after reading 'The Pope's Daughter' this incredible woman will not be forgotten again. - Gail Cooke
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago