Sunday, October 4, 2015

Biography - Caterina Sforza 1463–1509 married at 10, outlived 3 husbands, imprisioned, died at 46


Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forlì (1463–1509) was the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan & Lucrezia Landriani, the wife of the courtier Gian Piero Landriani, a close friend of the Duke. It is believed that Caterina spent the early years of her life with the family of her natural mother. Lucrezia was always beside her daughter in the crucial moments of her life, even in her final years in Florence. With the help of her mother, Caterina fought to retain her power & position & the lives of herself and her children throughout her life.


Caterina Sforza, Lady of Imola, Countess of Forli (1463-1509) Lorenzo di Credi

When she was 10 in 1473, Caterina was betrothed to Girolamo Riario, the putative son of Paolo Riario & Bianca della Rovere, sister of Pope Sixtus IV. There were persistent rumors, however, that Girolamo was a natural son of the Pope. Despite the bride's being just 10 years of age, the marriage of Caterina & Girolamo was celebrated in January 1473, but consummated 4 years later, when Caterina reached the tender age of 14.

Pope Sixtus IV, the rumored father of the groom, gave the young groom Girolamo the Lordship of Imola. After a triumphal entrance into Imola in 1477, Caterina went to Rome with her husband, where they lived for many years at the service of the Pope. The following year, in March 1478, Caterina gave birth to her 1st child. Caterina subsequently gave birth to 5 more children in the next 9 years.

The lives of Caterina & Girolamo changed abruptly with the death of Pope Sixtus IV in 1484. Rebellions & disorder immediately spread through Rome. Girolamo's residence, the Orsini palace in Campo de' Fiori, was stripped of its content & almost destroyed. Girolamo was killed in 1488, by a conspiracy led by members of the Orsis, a noble family of Forlì. Their palace was sacked, while Caterina & her children were taken prisoner.


Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510) Detail of the Three Graces from Botticelli's Primavera. The woman on the far right is Caterina.

"Caterina's relationship with Antonio Maria Ordelaffi developed in the summer of 1489, more than a year after her husband's death... Caterina was a 26-year-old widow, Antonio Maria the 29-year-old heir of the Ordelaffi. The prospect of a marriage between the 2 was celebrated by the people of Forli. But, in condemning his niece's 'disorderly' manner of living, Ludovico Sforza seemed to fear a loss of interest in the strategic city... Ultimately, the affair was broken up. In an effort to preserve Riario interests, Cardinal Raffaelo Riario arranged for Ordelaffi's removal from 'danger' to safety in Venice."

"...Caterina appointed Giaccomo Feo as the new castellan of Ravaldina... But Caterina's relationship with Giacomo scandalized her contemporaries. He was despised for his arrogance & hated for his influence over Caterina... Giacomo was brutally assassinated in 1495...Caterina then revealed that Giacomo had been more than her lover; she had been secretly married to him. Her vengeance against those responsible for Giacomo's death was swift & brutal. Through all the conflict & its aftermath, Caterina survived in power."   (Jansen, 2002, p. 44)  She died at 46 in Florence.

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