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

by Eleanor Herman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061245565
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/08/2009
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 210,397
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About 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.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     1
The Girl From Viterbo
The Convent     9
The Wealthy Landowner's Wife     29
The Roman Noblewoman     38
The Brother-in-Law     52
The Papal Nuncio     66
Cardinals     78
The Black Widow     98
Conclave     117
The Female Pope
The Vicar of Christ     137
Celebrations     149
Women in the Vatican     161
Vengeance on the Barberinis     179
The Despised Daughter-in-Law     196
The Imbecile Cardinals     209
Birth, Famine, and Bitter Peace     223
The Shoulder of Saint Francesca     237
The Holy Jubilee Year     257
Crisis of Conscience     274
Unforgiveness
Honor and Dishonor     293
Olimpia's Triumphant Return     311
The Sudden Disgrace of Cardinal Astalli     331
Death of the Dove     348
Unforgiveness     365
Pope Alexander VII     372
The Two Queens of Rome     384
The Scourge of God     395
After Olimpia     409
Notes     421
Bibliography     433
Index     439

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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. 17 reviews.
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.
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.
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....
fglass on LibraryThing 5 days ago
For over a decade in the seventeenth century a woman unofficially, but openly, ran the Vatican. Beginning in 1644, and for eleven years after, Olimpia Maidalchini, sister-in-law and reputed mistress of the indecisive Pope Innocent X, directed Vatican business, appointed cardinals, negotiated with foreign ambassadors, and helped herself to a heaping portion of the Papal State's treasury. The society she is part of includes the fact that "everyone from the lowliest servant up to the pope's august relatives unblushingly stole as much as they possibly could. Nepotism was rampant, and popes gave away huge sums and principalities to their nephews instead of helping the poor. Dead pontiffs were left naked on the Vatican floor because their servants had pilfered the bed and stripped the corpse. "
veiland on LibraryThing 5 days ago
Mistress of the Vatican was one of the most compelling books that I've read in a long time. In an age when we are still debating celibacy for priests and the correct role for women within the church, it was amazing to learn that Olimpia Maidalchini effectively ruled the Holy See with an iron fist. Her brother-in-law, Cardinal Giambattista, the future Pope Innocent X, is characterized as a man who loved the church but was so indecisive as to be ineffectual.Olimpia operated on the premise that she would never be poor, powerless, or at the mercy of someone else after she left her father's house. In order to preserve his carefully built fortune in favor of his only son, Olimpia's father attempted to have her placed in a convent, where he would not have to pay a dowry. Instead, Olimpia out-wits her father and soon ends up married to a wealthy young man who has the decency to die early. Her second marriage is to the brother of Cardinal Giambattista, and it is characterized as being a mostly happy marriage (if not happy, at least content). However, Olimpia soon realizes that if she wants to be taken seriously by Roman society she must elevate the family. Using her money and charm, and aided by Giambattista's excellent reputation as a man inclined to think first (and long) and act (much much) later, Olimpia guides her brother through the papal hierarchy until he is elected pope. Better still, Cardinal Giambattista, i.e. Pope Innocent X lives a long time, instead of dying early as Popes were supposed to, giving Olimpia time to establish herself as the FIRST woman of the Holy See.Admired, hated envied, and feared, Olimpia suffered the tragedy of being born an intelligent, ambitious, and cunning woman in a man's world, yet she triumphed, achieving her wildest dreams despite her gender. The day that Cardinal Gianbattista Pamphili was elected pontiff, Cardinal Alessandro Bichi angrily declared, ¿We have just elected a female pope.¿ Most of her contemporaries (including Innocent's successor, Pope Alexander VII) disliked Olimpia¿s interference in Vatican affairs ¿ she was far smarter than almost all the men in her environment, and it hurt. But some fair-minded ambassadors praised her for her intelligence, dignity, and financial acumen. The French ambassador Bali de Valençais admired Olimpia, informing Louis XIV that she was, without doubt, a ¿great lady.¿ Even Cardinal Pallavicino, who despised Olimpia, gave her grudging approval for her ¿intellect of great worth in economic government¿ and her ¿capacity for the highest affairs.¿ Even more amazingly, unlike to rumored Pope Joan, the existence of Olimpia Maidalchini cannot be ignored or forgotten, as there are diplomatic missives and internal church documents which exist to verify her influence.I am giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 because I feel that about 50 pages of the book were unnecessary. I appreciate that the author took a considerable amount of time to explain the court protocol and procedure, but there were places in the book were the descriptions ran on for 4-5 pages. Otherwise, this is an excellent book which I highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, historically accurate and a lively and entertaining read! I highly recommend it. You'll not be disappointed!
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Why is this book in the $2'99 section