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Book Name: Murder of a Medici Princess

Author: Caroline P. Murphy

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Overall Rating: (4.05/5) View all reviews (total 43 reviews)
Description

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

Reviews

Outstanding, historical, and revealing...

by An Educated Consumer
(5/5)

Initially, I was intrigued by the premise of a beautiful Italian princess, who lived her life independently, pursuing pleasure and artistic accomplishments. Isabella was also murdered by her husband with the full empowerment of her brother, Francesco. The fact that this was historical gave impetus to my selection of this book.Caroline P. Murphy truly unveils a well researched, documented history of the times. The machinations, conspiracy, brilliance of planning, foresight of power manuevers, and self preservation are unfolded into a very readable text.Most of us are entranced by all Italian, the culture, the art, the beautiful language, the papacy, and magnificient architecture.There is so very much more. Far from pastoral, far from romantic...it is a revelation of manipulation, heartlessness, and bitter reprisals.This was a literary journey into the heart, soul and times of the Medici Princess.


So So

by Baazumi
(3/5)

Born into a time where women held less value than a man's horse, they were bartered for land, power, and, most of all, the creation of heirs. Isabella's reluctance to bear heirs contributed to the various factors leading to her death at the tender age of 33. Although she enjoyed what many considered in those years masculine pastimes, (think George Sands aka Judy Davis in the very funny film, "Impromptu"), she was little more than a political pawn for both her husband and brother, which led to her ill-fated death. I was not particularly captured by this book as it is basically a historical chronicle, not a "novel" in the true sense.


Not my cup of tea

by betc2
(2/5)

When I ordered this up, I was expecting historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. This is a biography, so I was not so interested. I'm also a bit daunted when I open a book, and there's a family tree with a couple of hundred characters. I read about 20 pages of this, and met about 60 characters. I decided I did not want to work that hard and bailed fast.


Difficult to get into

by Bookphile
(3/5)

Though I read primarily fiction, I also enjoy reading non-fiction, particularly if it's of the narrative sort by writers like Erik Larson.This book, however, was very difficult for me to get into. It wasn't a bad book, but it was the sort of dense history book that doesn't make for a quick read. After trying several times to get into it, I've been unable to really be drawn in by the subject, which is a shame as it seems like fascinating subject matter.


Murder of a Medici Princess.

by B. Rackley "Sierras Creative World"
(5/5)

If you were to encounter a Medici Princess sipping a Pepsi, her entire followers surrounding her, you think to even notice today? I ask this question to a reader that might select this book. I found our princess to be a spoiled and demanding girl, the entire book, But, boy! what adventurers did she have. Breaking rules, defiance of her family,her husband and all but a favorite brother,The book takes you into the homes and streets of a midevial village, it opens a door of thier life and daily stresses, very different from a modern day life...or...is it? You would have to read this book and follow our lovely lady through till she is murdered. I will notmention the end book as I actually believe this is the heart of her life and what lead up to be a victium.I enjoyed this Murder of a Medici Princess and acquired a ton of bits ofhistory that I had not ever heard before, SO, if your a fan of anything Midevial...like myself, capture this historic tale and decide for your self that this is a tale to be followed.I would give this a 9 thumbs up.


At Home With The Medici

by Bruce Loveitt
(5/5)

This is a very impressive book. More than a biography of Isabella Medici (the murdered princess of the title), it is really a family biography of the Medici....with lots of fascinating details concerning Isabella's father Cosimo, and her brothers, assorted in-laws, lovers, etc. The book maintains a nice balance between the personal and the political. The author has obviously done her research, and she very effectively uses excerpts from family correspondence that give the reader the feeling that he or she really understands the various family members and their friendly and not-so-friendly interactions. The excerpts also make these people come alive and seem amazingly modern (and sometimes not-so-modern...one brother is belittled as "unmanly" for preferring a diet low in meat and high in vegetable consumption. Plus, he liked to drink lots of water!) There is a healthy amount of wit, sarcasm and backbiting which helps to flesh out the characterizations the author provides. Highly recommended for the reader interested in Renaissance Italy, the Medici, or well-written and thoughtful cultural biography.


Paging Antonia Fraser

by David Cady
(3/5)

In "Murder of a Medici Princess," Caroline Murphy presents an account of the personal and political intrigues that led to the premature death of the beautiful and infamous (in her day) Isabella de' Medici. It's an insightful, intelligent read that, enjoyable as it is, I found so dense that I had to put it down from time to time. Murphy seems not to have met a piece of research (including letters, household ledgers and legal documents) that she doesn't love and feel needs to be shared with the reader. We get meticulously detailed information on culture, fashion, diet, climate, agriculture, architecture etc. etc. -- and ultimately, as fascinating and beautifully presented as this all is, the book threatens to collapse under its own weight. That it never quite does is a testament to Murphy's skills as a story teller. That said, while I was never bored, I did find myself now and then looking to see how much longer Murphy were going to drag out her heroine's relatively short history. (200 pages left? Yikes...) I'm not sure what kind of alchemical magic makes Antonia Fraser's biographies jump off the page -- perhaps having a Nobel Prize-winning dramatist in the house doesn't hurt -- but whatever that is, it never quite happens here. There's much to enjoy, but also much with which to become frustrated and impatient.


Not What I Thought It Would Be

by Debra Schiff "http://hereandthere123.blogspot...
(3/5)

The synopsis led me to believe that it was a historical novel. Disappointingly, it didn't read like one. It read instead like a history book, an academic history book at that. Which is not to say that it wasn't well researched and well written in that genre because it seems very authoritative. However, it wasn't what I expected. I wanted more "story" and less "history". I'm in school right now, and I would have liked a break from books that take a lot of thought and work to read -- especially one with many characters to follow and remember.That said, I did learn quite a bit about the Medici family and its importance to Italy. It was interesting to learn all about the family's land holdings and political influence, especially when it came to the papal regimes of Italy. The personalities of the family members are ever-so-slightly teased from snippets of their letters cited in the book, but otherwise, it is difficult to get an impression of anyone in depth except the awful husband of Isabella's.If you're looking for action and romance, this is not the book for you. If you are interested in a historical book about the Medici family during Isabella's lifetime, this is a good, if not long, read.


If history was told this way, school would be much more interesting

by Elisa "HipMom"
(5/5)

Caroline Murphy is without a doubt a skilled historian and biographer - but where her talent really lies is composition. She is without a doubt a talented writer, shown by how skillfully she can put together historical narrative and literal quotes from actual artifacts, to weave a tale that is as interesting and addictive as the greatest fiction best-sellers of the past 10 years, if not more so, because the narration refers to things that really happened, to characters that really existed.Murder of a Medici Princess tells us about Isabella De Medici, a woman ahead of her time, and remarkable no matter what era you'd place her in. And while this might sound like an old, boring biography of a smart but hardy interesting woman, you will be able to see already from the very first chapter that it isn't so. Even if the Medici family in itself wasn't so interesting already, Isabella's character would make it so.I have never enjoyed a book's heroine more. And the proof of how amazing this book is is that once you are done, you will want to find out even more. And this is history! The subject many of us found extremely boring at school. maybe if Caroline Murphy had been our teacher, we wouldn't have.


Not quite what I expected

by Ellis Bell
(3/5)

Isabella de Medici, a daughter of the most powerful family in 16th century Italy, was the sixteenth-century version of a socialite. Married to Paolo Giordano Orsini, she chose to live apart from him, holding parties at her home in Florence and taking on her husband's cousin Troilo as her lover while her Paolo stayed in Rome. Isabella was also the favored daughter of Cosimo de Medici, one of the early modern period's great social climbers. Later, in 1576, Paolo and Isabella's older brother would conspire to have her murdered.The book's title is a bit misleading. The vast majority of the book is dedicated to Isabella's life, as well as the fraught political situation in northern Italy at the time. Even so, there's not much focus on what Isabella was like; yes, she loved parties and all of that, but we never see what Isabella was like as a person, really. However, she was known for having a sarcastic sense of humor. However, the author does a great job at describing 16th century life: what people ate, what they wore, and what they did for fun. It's things like that that make history more interesting.The murder, as such, disappointed me, however. Literally only 20 pages are devoted to the death of Isabella, and there's not really much to go on here--how did Isabella really die? Who really killed her? The author doesn't even try to hazard a guess here, so we're left with more questions than answers; disappointing, in my opinion. I guess we'll never know what truly happened at that remote country villa. In addition, the book is written in a very dry tone, and it doesn't move at a smooth pace at times. Still, Isabella de Medici is an intriguing woman, unique in that she was able to make her own decisions in a world where women really didn't have many options.


Renaissance soap opera

by Jeanne Tassotto
(5/5)

Despite the misleading title MURDER OF A MEDICI PRINCESS is a very well researched biography of of Isabella Medici (1542-85), daughter of the better known Cosimo and great-great granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent rather than a historical novel.Like most women of the time, and unlike her distant cousin Catherine, little has been written about Isabella. The author, Caroline Murphy (The Pope's Daughter) has done a great deal of research to ferret out not only the details of Isabella's life but that of well born women of the time in general. From the moment of Isabella's birth, the third child and second daughter of Cosimo and Eleonora, Isabella's life seemed charmed. Instead of being disappointed at the birth of another daughter as many Renaissance era fathers would have been Cosimo was delighted to welcome another daughter. Cosimo always considered himself a law unto himself and that philosophy extended to his daughters. Instead of being ignored by the male members of the family and trained in only those skills needed to be a ornamental baby making machine for whatever husband selected for her the Medici daughters, particularly the clever Isabella were educated much like the sons of the household. Isabella was capable of reading and writing not only her native Tuscan - rare enough accomplishments for young women of the time - but other languages as well. In addition she was allowed an almost unheard of degree of freedom, including a clause in her marriage contract that gave her, not her husband, control of her property and her choice of residence. Her life seemed charmed compared to other wealthy young women of the time, yes her husband had been selected for her and was not particularly to her liking but unlike other wives she was not required to live with him or be particularly under his authority. Yes, her husband was not particularly wealthy and she found herself often rather short of funds but her beloved father would always bail her out. Her charmed life came to an end though at Cosimo's death which preceeded hers by only two years.This is a very well written and highly readable scholarly work. Murphy has not only researched her subject thoroughly but has also documented her statements and managed to accomplish both these tasks in a very enjoyable narrative. Isabella might have lead an unusual life for a wealthy Renaissance woman it was not a particularly exciting one by modern standards. Isabella was not well traveled, the furthest she ever got from her native Florence was Rome, she had not power in her own right in her society at large or even within her own family. What makes this biography so interesting is what Isabella managed to do within those limits and what Murphy has done to uncover this previously hidden life and relate to us.


Competent handling of a less-than-compelling subject

by J. Fuchs "jax76"
(4/5)

I was over halfway through this book before I figured out that the problem wasn't the writing so much as the subject -- Isabella de' Medici just wasn't that interesting. Unusual yes -- in an era in which women, especially royal women, were supposed to be subservient baby makers, Isabella exercised a great deal of political power, largely through the sway she held over her father, Cosimo de' Medici, the Duke of Florence. But Isabella didn't possess the political prowess or seemingly evil cunning of her far more interesting cousin, Catherine de' Medici, nor was she a tragic and misunderstood figure like Lucrezia di Borgia, also far more interesting than Isabella, who just comes off as spoiled and entitled, even for the age.Murphy writes well, but not well enough to overcome a subject that isn't really worthy of all the intense research she has done into both the era and Isabella herself, at least not for a general audience. There is a great deal of detail, which is wonderful for those interested in the minutiae of the era, and it's nice to see a book written about a woman of this time period. But things get slow, especially about halfway through, when nothing much really happens from a dramatic standpoint and you get more of the same. Accurate, sure, but it doesn't make you want to turn the page.Recommended for those who are extremely interested in the Medici or for a specialist view of Renaissance Italy (particularly Florence). Anyone looking for real drama among the women of this time period would do better to find a good book on Catherine de' Medici, the wife of a king, the mother of four kings, and the manipulative power behind the throne of pretty much all of them.


More than a biography

by jhl
(4/5)

I'm not usually a fan of biography, but this book may make a convert of me. Caroline Murphy has a rich subject in a little-known (to the modern world, at least) member of one of the most powerful families in European history. Isabella de' Medici lived a life that was both charmed and unfortunate, and this book gives readers the opportunity not only to follow her personal story, but also to explore the manners and mores of a 16th-century Italian court.The book is interesting for its writing as well as its content. While Murphy took an historian's approach to researching the subject - the amount of archival work she did is impressive - she makes no attempt to maintain historical objectivity in her presentation. Instead, she evaluates characters and events in a thoroughly modern, conversational way, so that readers don't need to be historians themselves to understand or relate to what she describes.If you have a trip to Florence planned for the near future, I strongly recommend you read this book. It will give you a context for making sense of the wealth of Medici buildings, art works, and collectibles that define so much of that city.


Exciting yet scholarly bio of a Medici Princess

by Joanna Daneman
(4/5)

The Medicis, like the Borgias, were known as much for their political intrigues as their murderous habits of killing inconvenient family members. The story of the luminous Isabella resonates down the centuries.I had just finished readingRomolaby George Eliot, which is set in the time of Machiavelli and Lorenzo Medici, and this was a wonderful book to follow up reading about Renaissance Florence.The writing is clear, the book is sort of a combination scholarly biography with exciting, almost murder mystery and romance novel aspects, but balanced so that you feel impelled to read on but that you are NOT reading junk. This is a really excellent biography and a great introduction to the personalities and politics of Florence under the Medicis.


Memorable and powerful

by Jody
(5/5)

Caroline Murphy accomplished a Herculean feat; she recreated the obscure story of Isabella Medici Corsini from scraps of correspondence, public records and geneology and by informed speculation made the age and Isabella and her contemporaries come alive. Providing meticulous detail about everyday life for the great families who ruled Italy's city-states and were related to most of the thrones of Europe, she's shown what vipers' nests they were.A cross between the Ambersons and the Sopranos, the Medicis dispatched their enemies and commissioned the great buildings of Florence with equal aplomb. The machinations of Isabella to attain and maintain her status as the most influential woman in Florence while appeasing and keeping her oafish husband at a distance were awesomely Machiavellian and Murphy's perspective lets the reader see through through the flowery language to show exactly how she accomplished it.Filled with strong and vivid characters--Isabella's parents; Cosimo I, who rose to become the family's first Grand Duke through negotiation, intimidation and bribery, and the beautiful Spanish Eleonora along with Isabella's siblings and their convoluted relationships (many with the same name which makes parts of it hard to follow); Isabella's beloved Giovanni, the sinister Ferdinando, her folorn sisters-in-law Giovanna and Leonora and various mistresses, lovers and assassins--the story is the stuff of a pot-boiler cable TV series, think Rome or The Tudors. Murphy quotes extensively from letters and reports, reading between the lines to determine what probably actually happened. The result is a well-documented tale of politics, power and murder in Renaissance Italy that deserves to be told.One caveat--this is not a book to be read at one sitting, and it's a good idea to make a couple of notes along the way. While Murphy did an excellent job of providing background information and identifying sources and their probable agendas, the relationships are complex. This is a book that required multiple readings of some of the chapters in order to figure out who everybody was and what they had at stake.


must read

by John Beyerlein
(5/5)

This is one of the first books I read on my Kindle. At that time I did not realize that for the Kindle world to work properly and sort the good from the bad we as readers need to write reviews, good or bad, for the works we read. This one is very good. When I finished it, it immediately went back on my to be read list. I like to speculate about history, the history of Europe in the sixteenth century is a rich field for that. Caroline Murphy sheds light on persons who I was previously unaware of, both in this and her other excellent book,The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere, which also immediately went back on my to be read list.John Beyerlein,Liz & Dick.


------Great book for an Italian historian, but not what I expected---

by Judith Miller
(4/5)

I enjoyed many things about this book. For instance, the photographs of the paintings of the various family members were great and as I read about the different characters, I constantly referred to the photos. The city of Florence sounds fascinating and I would love to visit that ancient city. Also, I found myself wanting to know more about several of the characters who were not really spotlighted! I knew very little about the Medici family and learned something of their history and their many achievements. However, I did not get a clear picture of Isabella de Medici Orsini who is referenced in the book's title.MURDER OF A MEDICI PRINCESS is not a light read. The author, Caroline Murphy goes into intricate detail concerning most aspects of how the Medici's lived. She covered what they ate, how they dressed, the entertainment they enjoyed, how the children were brought up, who were the most likeable members of the large family and on and on!I dearly love learning the history of people, their country and their lives and this book is a wonderful historic achievement for the author. However, it was just too much information for the reader who wants to learn something with each book but, does not want or need to know every small historic detail of how they probably lived. I did think I was getting an historic novel, but instead I received a history book.


A fairly standard biography

by Kaleidocherry
(4/5)

When I ordered this book I thought it was historical fiction. I'm not much for biographies unless they're about someone I'm fanatical about (Louis XIV, Peter the Great, and so on). However, I am fanatical about Catherine de Medici, and decided to read this book regardless of my dislike for biographies, on the chance that there would be some tidbits about Catherine in it.Well, tidbits is about it, as far as Catherine's presence in the book. It's a readable book, fairly standard as far as biographies go. I'm about halfway done and have yet to find out what Isabella de Medici was famous for, or why anyone would want to murder her. Most of the book is a rather detailed (if medically disgusting) snapshot of life in that time. I have to skip the medical parts. Somehow I always end up reading the gross stuff while I'm trying to eat!If you like biographies I recommend this, but it won't satisfy historical-fiction lovers.


Fascinating exploration of an ancient family

by K. N. Nelson
(5/5)

It is a real service to the public when a researcher writes about a topic that is out of the main stream of literature and makes it come alive and worthy of reading. That is the case with Murder of a Medici Princess. Isabella is both compelling, repulsive, sad, enviable and altogether human, albeit spoiled beyond belief. Why she chose to stay with her fat, slovenly, greedy, spendthrift and utterly immoral husband is beyond comprehension to a modern mind. She should have pulled one of her "Lady Macbeth" acts and had his lights punched out as she did another character who "inconvenienced" her family. Perhaps she was too distracted by her jovial hangers-on and party girl lifestyle, or her lover Trolio. In any event, she definitely had good times and really bad times.Her brother Francisco is perhaps one of the most sinister and selfish clan leaders imaginable. His self interest and cruelty are beyond the pale, yet it does explain so much of the mindset of people in that time and place. Whatever works. Not unlike today with our political leaders similarly focused. The bottom line for me is that though eras change, the behavior of mankind really remains the same. Excellent book.


A bit dull, kind of a slog

by Lara
(2/5)

I like history and was looking forward to reading this. But it hasn't kept my attention. I've had the book for well over a month and I'm only a little more than halfway through. It should be exciting stuff: Italian Renaissance courts, palace intrigue, murders, tragic deaths. But I just can't stay interested.


Biography of a little known Medici socialite

by Lauren A.
(3/5)

Before I start this review, I am adding a disclaimer. I greatly prefer well researched historical fiction over biography, unless the biography is about a particularly important figure like Catherine de Medici or Eleanor of Aquitaine. This book, then, does not fit with my preferences - it was a biography of a minor historical figure and quite frankly, there isn't a ton to talk about aside from gossip. Murder of a Medici Princess is about as substantive as your average issue of Us Weekly debating the veracity of gossip based on incomplete snippets of information. The setting of mid to late 16th century Florence is an interesting one and Isabella, for her time had a lot of independence. However, Isabella was not a mover and a shaker, outside of her status as a socialite.The author seemed enamoured with Isabella for that independence. However, to me, Isabella seemed like a self-centered brat, focusing on her own wants and needs and relying on her "Daddy" to maintain a comfortable existence as a socialite. This is not to say that her husband, Paolo Giordano, was a prize. Rather, my concern is that Isabella was not special in her own right. Isabella didn't do anything but throw parties, romance Troilo Orsini, and spend money on her villas and herself. She didn't give a lot to charity, she wasn't particularly involved in politics like Catherine de Medici or Eleanor of Aquitaine. Isabella was a Renaissance version of Paris Hilton, except more intelligent because she was interested in the classics, art, and literature. Yes, Isabella was opinionated, but her opinions were not about politics or anything particularly important or outside of her own little world. Everyone knows how Isabella's story ends, just by reading the book jacket (I wish the jacket didn't reveal who killed Isabella). However, the path to that ending is arduous, because the multiple interpretations of correspondence and Isabella's possible moods were tedious. Isabella de Medici probably would have made a better subject for a historical romance novel than a biography. Her story would have made a great novel, once removed of the weighing of facts that characterize works of non-fiction.


Almost as good as fiction

by Lauren Magnussen
(4/5)

Caroline Murphy's historical tome tells the story of Isabella de Medici, whose life as an independent woman will resonant with readers of this generation and time. While Murphy's biography is interesting and well written in parts, it does not escape the downfalls that afflict most books of that genre: the writing can get lengthy and dull, and sometimes, no matter how hard the writer tries, she cannot get past making all of the aspects of the time come alive. Murphy certainly spins a tale with urgency and skill, but never quite gets inside the heads of the people she is writing about. The narrative loses ground sometimes, and becomes wearying. But once the reader gets past certain spots, the writing picks up and the story of the opulent age once again becomes easy to digest. This book is not perfect - this is meant more for the scholarly reader than the beach-going one. But giving it a chance allows one to learn more about Italy during the time of the Medicis, and though it relies more on fact than rhetorical flourishes, 'The Murder of a Medici Princess' has enough spice to make it worth the read.


Captivating and reveling tale of a fascinating historical woman

by Lilly Flora "by Lilo Drandoff"
(4/5)

Though I can't attest to the factual correctness of this book (having heard virtually nothing about Isabella de Medici before I read it) I can say that as a person who doesn't often read biographies, especially off people you aren't likely to hear of in a high school history course, that I enjoyed this book very much. It not only manages to paint an extremely vivid picture of the time period but also exposes a truly fascinating historical character in Isabella de Medici. Though normally I thrive on pure fiction this book managed to capture my attention very well.Four stars, based purely on enjoyment.


A Royal Murder

by lisatheratgirl "lisatheratgirl"
(5/5)

It's not a Mystery! title and it's not historical fiction, although I enjoy both. It's a true story about the murder of Princess Isabella de' Medici, daughter of the Duke of Florence, in the sixteenth century. First before I get to the actual writing, the hardcover edition I have is beautiful, with a portrait of Isabella on the cover, illustrations throughout, both in black and white and in color. Isabella got her beauty from her mother, the Spanish Duchess Eleonora. A flow-blown family tree is at the front of the book so that the readers can keep track of the characters. The descriptions of Florence are wonderful, for those who have been there and also for those who have read Brunelleschi's dome on the building of the cathedral. Isabella grew into an intellectual young woman. When she was forced to marry against her will, her father, Duke Cosimo, protected her. After her father died, her unscrupulous brother, Francesco, permitted Isabella's husband to murder her. A story that began with so much joy and love, surrounded by beauty and riches,came to such a sad end. In between, the reader learns about life in Renaissance Italy. I was interested in the background as well as the story of the family. Highly recommended.


I was skeptical, but ...

by L. Mountford
(5/5)

This was much better than I expected, despite a slightly sensationalistic title. I'm a sucker for history -- especially this period -- 16th century. I've recently been reading more about Italy, and this book is a fine addition to my library.Who hasn't heard of the Medicis? Catherine and Cosimo, sure, but Isabella? Probably not so much. Intelligent, cultured, not the usual retiring Italian aristocratic female.Murphy has done an enormous amount of research for this book, and it shows. It can be slightly slow going at times -- the amount of detail is incredible, and depending on your interest, may or may not enthrall. It is well written, but may be a bit academic for some.


16th Century House of Medici

by Loves the View "Louise"
(5/5)

This book is more than a story of Isabella's murder, in fact, very few pages are devoted to the actual murder. The murder is the culmination of the family relationships that brew from page one.Through this story we learn of the people and their times. We come to appreciate Cosimo Medici, who rebuilt his family dynasty through politics and strategic marriages. We come to appreciate even more his extraordinary daughter.Not being steeped in the history of Italy at this time, I found the first few chapters hard going. The genealogies of Medicis and the other European monarchs are complex and difficult to follow. After this, as the personalities get drawn and the story unfolds it becomes a page turner building to the actual murder.The book built my interest Italian history. I will be reading more Italian history.


Readable Biography of Medici Daughter

by Lynne E. "Lynne E."
(5/5)

An Oxford University Press publication, this fascinating biography of Isabella de Medici is replete with historical detail, but is never boring. The author skillfully weaves the detail into a vivid portrayal of what it was really like to be a member of the privileged ruling family of Renaissance Florence.The book includes a detailed bibliography and index, as well as a beautiful set of color plates showing Old Master portraits of Isabella and her mother, father, brothers, and sisters. Scattered throughout the text are black and white illustrations, mostly period drawings, of important buildings and places referenced in the text. The book jacket reproduces a Bronzino portrait of the lovely Isabella.This is a great read for Renaissance history buffs, for art historians who would like to know more about the people depicted in some of Bronzino's finest portraits, and for anyone else who enjoys a well-written biographical narrative.


Good historical novel

by Melissa Niksic
(3/5)

Despite the melodramatic title, "Murder of a Medici Princess" is a very enjoyable historical novel detailing the life of Isabella de' Medici and her ultimate doom. The narrative is fast-paced and engaging, and the story held my interest throughout. This is a meticulously researched book that gives readers a glimpse into the lives of a dynasty that hasn't been overdone in historical work like the Tudors have, which is refreshing. I enjoyed the book very much.


Of interest to any historical biography collection

by Midwest Book Review
(5/5)

The Medicis were one of the most powerful families in old Florence. "Murder of a Medici Princess" tells the true story of Isabella de Medici, the controversy surrounding her murder, and the story of her life. A riveting biography of high society in one of the most romanticized times in history, "Murder of a Medici Princess" does well in telling Isabella's tale. "Murder of a Medici Princess" is of interest to any historical biography collection.


"Princesses, she could reason, unless they became queens of England, did not, as a rule, get killed"

by Misfit
(4/5)

My, oh my. What a family the de Medici - forget about Catherine and her poisons. At least for now....I have to admit when I ordered this via the Vine Newsletter I was expecting a novel and not a work of non-fiction so I approached this book with some trepidation. That said I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Murphy recounts the life of Isabella de Medici, adored and doted upon by her loving father Cosimo. Even after a marriage to Paolo Orsini, a worthless spendthrift she continues to live in Florence with her father. Highly educated and cultured, she lives a life of leisure, decadence and alleged adultery, much to the ire of her husband and brother Francesco - although Cosimo always sides with his beloved Isabella. However, Cosimo cannot live forever and once he dies Isabella is no longer in charge of her fate and the resentment her husband and brother share bring on unforeseen consequences....And that's as far as I go - read it for yourself. Despite being non-fiction (a genre that I normally do not care to read), this one did keep me entertained whilst I read about the foibles and machinations of the de Medici. The book was very readable and not as dry as some NF I've attempted. A nice family tree and map of Florence in Isabella's time is included, as well as some color photos of family portraits. This is a story that has serious potential for a cracking good historical novel. Hint. Hint. Hint.


Very good non-fiction

by M. Jacobsen "I am not young enough to know ev...
(4/5)

Despite being an absolute history buff and fairly well-read, I'll freely admit up front that this is one time/place that I really knew nothing about when I picked up this book. Renaissance Florence was an enigma to me, although I'm happy to report that this book led me through the facts thoroughly, yet easily enough not to cause a headache.Clearly the book centers around the infamous Medici family of Florence, specifically Isabella, the daughter of Cosimo who was a powerful local politician. Despite her wealth and privilege, Isabella got a fairly raw deal in the marriage department and the abrupt betrayal by her own family makes the story disturbing and book-worthy.Clearly the author spent an exorbitant amount of time researching this book and as a reader, I am grateful for the effort. She translates her research into a highly readable (not a real word, but appropriate here) story that is able to make sense of the convoluted politics and motivations of the times.Even if you're not too familiar with the Medici family or Italian renaissance history, you'll enjoy this as an introduction to the subject. If you're well-versed in this area, Isabella is a lesser known figure and will add to your knowledge base.Highly recommended for the history lover!


Sibling Rivalry Played for Keeps

by MJS "Constant Reader"
(4/5)

At times this book feels like one of the better seasons of Dynasty set in Renaissance Italy. There are fights for family power, adultery, borderline idiot husbands, unloved brides, over-indulgent fathers, trampy cousins; the only thing missing is the occasional catfight. With material like the Medici family of Florence, one expects a bit of entertainment and Caroline Murphy delivers. Murphy also acquits herself well as a serious historian.The story of daddy's-favorite Isabella de Medici Orsini has the drama and intrigue to sustain a book. Isabella is that rarity of Renaissance times - a woman who is not a ruling queen with a well-documented life. Caroline Murphy brings Isabella to live but more importantly, she brings the reader into Isabella's life. We get a feeling for the rhythms, excitements and boredoms of life as a Medici princess. Isabella is not exactly a sympathetic character nor is she remarkable for anything beyond her birth but that in itself makes this book fascinating reading. It's rare to know so much about a woman of those times who was neither a paragon of virtue nor a creature of great infamy.Nasty gossip did attach itself to Isabella - stories accused of incest with her father and her brother - yet her murder went without official comment. In the epilogue Murphy makes the case that Isabella was killed for actions that had she been a man would have been tolerated. I have no difficulty believing there was a double-standard in 16th century Florence but Murphy's stretching things a bit here. Helping your hare-brained cousin plot to murder her husband is going to rile up the family no matter what your gender.Murphy's style is clear and she does a remarkable job of weaving together the various sources into an enjoyable narrative. She does pad the story on occasion and several times she jumps around chronologically but the impact on the overall story is minor. She writes for a contemporary audience complete with mentions of Paris Hilton but doesn't strain for popular references. This is is a well-written biography that I recommend to anyone interested in Renaissance history.


deeply engrossing story

by Nice Lady "a reasonable person"
(5/5)

This is a wonderfully chronicled story that certainly will please all history buffs interested in the Medici family.The pages turn themselves as this is beautifully written. It is enjoyable on many levels as it fully describes the people and events of this important bygone era.The Medici family is known as one of the most powerful-and controversial -families of all time.The writing is colorful, historically accurate with extraordinary development of the characterizations.Do not miss this book!


Well documented, but dull

by OrchidSlayer
(4/5)

Although the book gets 5 stars for accuracy, the juicy and exciting story of Isabella de Medici is written like a textbook - dry and dull. There is an overabundance of details that may be interesting to a scholar, but to me, a casual reader of history and historical fiction, made me start to skim instead of read after the first 100 pages or so. For example, consider this juicy tidbit: she didn't like to loan out her white ponies. This is followed by a quote: 'Tell your coachman he had better be careful with my little white horses', followed by the proper endnote. The story itself is great, this book just gets bogged down by the details.


The sordid peccadilloes of a 16th Century Italian clan (details)

by Patrick W. Crabtree "The Old Grottomaster"
(4/5)

Readers of non-fictional works of history will enjoy the story here but it does require a certain devotion to finish the book. I'll expand on that comment shortly.The Story: A late 16th Century Italian Princess (Isabella Medici Orsini) lived a lifestyle which somewhat preceded the customary female behavior of her period. She was empowered to do so though her even-tempered father (Tuscany Grand Duke Cosimo Medici), who built upon his own authority by arranging Isabella's marriage to a dubious character in the Orsini family, (Paolo Giordano Orsini), a clan which ruled the region just to the south of Cosimo's own domain. Isabella accepted this fate with all grace but soon took on a lover, (her husband's cousin, Troilo Orsini), as Paolo himself was a less-than-ideal mate in nearly all respects.It was smooth sailing for Isabella until her strong-willed father died and her brother, Francesco, assumed his inherited role of Grand Duke. Not only was Isabella not close to Francesco, he quickly became adversarial towards her in the absence of her father's protection. For Isabella, her lover, and many of her associates, her former existence quickly faded into just a memory of the good times... and then, for Isabella and friends, it got really dreadful!First, I wish to address the research process for this book. Author Caroline P. Murphy conveys this story chiefly based upon period letters, diaries, and like documents. While corroborating where she could, it was still an actuality in 16th Century Italy that, out of fear, most folks spoke (wrote) either in a code of a sorts or, more often, through indirect allusions about gossipy topics. The resulting text therefore evolved through "whisper, implication, extrapolation, and innuendo."It would be legally difficult to write a similar story about living individuals based upon the quality of the documentation which Murphy was compelled to use in her research for this project -- a defamation of character lawsuit would almost surely follow such an act. While I agree with most of her conclusions I still wished to bring this caveat to the attention of prospective readers. Footnotes in themselves do not guarantee full accuracy of the actual events and I think Murphy acknowledges this, if not always directly.Regarding "reader devotion" which I mentioned earlier, this is a fairly tough read for multiple reasons. While the material is worthwhile, these paragraphs are often necessarily bulging with lengthy names, and the social connections between these characters were anything but simple. To note and process the bulwark of information found herein requires close reader attention since these sequential activities represented a chain of events. If the reader breaks this chain then s/he might well be lost. And while I truly love and admire the Italian people, I actually did fatigue a bit of encountering one name after another which ended in either a, i, or o... but I can hardly hold the author to account for that dilemma.As for the story, and in assessing the innumerable peccadilloes of the Medici Clan members, more than one Medici has been depicted by the author as "disturbed," (I would have said "depraved"); and while I generally concur with that appraisal, I think that I can further address the behavior of the principals with a bit more specificity. The Medicis (as well as the Orsinis and the associates of both families) pretty much conducted themselves in the degenerate manner which we have come to expect from certain contemporary Hollywood personalities, as well as being akin to the dubious activities of so many of our national politicians. I started to slightly amend this by noting one exception to this was that our folks don't torture people but I guess that's out the window now too. On the positive side, the book is not "gory" in any way, but rather "disquieting" in just a few spots.Perhaps the most positive feature of the book is the section of color illustrations, mostly Medici family portraits. There are multiple pages of these and each chapter additionally begins with a relevant, if diminutive, pencil drawing. An easy to read Medici family tree and a map of "Isabella's Florence" also serve to enhance reader comprehension.In summary, this is a terrific tale of sordid family business and one which also does not speak all that well of this particular era of the Catholic Church. I see Murphy's writings to lean a bit toward the revisionist tact but she does spare the reader any outright personal agendas. I can highly recommend the book specifically for those people who have a keen interest in European history and/or the Catholic Church.If you like Murphy's book, you might also enjoy:Forms of Faith in Sixteenth-century Italy (Catholic Christendom, 1300-1700).


Biography of Isabella de Medici

by Reader "Eugenia"
(3/5)

Last spring I visited Italy for the first time. Since then, I have been interested in all things italian. When I heard that there is the latest biography about one of the Medici women from the renaissance period, Isabella de Medici to be exact, I knew I had to read the book.Isabella de Medici was born and raised in Florence, Italy. She was lucky to be a daughter of a man (Cosimo Medici) who loved equally his daughters as he did his sons. In spite of the fact that Cosimo and his wife Eleonora had eleven children together, circumstances of Isabella's birth and her early life made her Cosimo's favorite child. That allowed her to live a kind of life that was independent, full of pursuit of love for music and art and very much separate from her husband Paulo Orsini. Like most women of her time, she understood that her marriage is the business arrangement carefully planned by her parents. For that reason she never followed her husband to Rome where he lived and worked. Over the years, she managed to find a true love with her lover of many years, Troilo Orsini, her husband's distant relative.Book carefully describes politics of the family relationships inside one of the most powerful families in Florence. Isabella's father came to power and money with careful manipulation of politics and business. She was devoted and loyal friend to people around her but also aware of her own self-interest. This all worked in her favor for as long as her father was alive. But once her father died and her eldest brother assumes power, her luck starts to run out. Isabella's lover is forced to exile, her relationship with her brothers is strained and her husband is eager to rid of her as he has acquired a most beautiful woman of Rome to be his mistress. Before long, Isabella Medici is brutally murdered by her own husband with the support of her eldest brother.Book has most beautiful pictures and portraits of Isabella and her family as well as Medici family tree. It is beautiful analysis not only of Isabella's biography but also of time and place in renaissance Europe when women were property of their husbands and fathers. Without proper protection, their destinies were meant to end in convent or death. Isabella de Medici was a woman of privilege, way ahead of her time. And for that, she paid with her life.


Solid history of a sadly-forgotten figure

by Scott Schiefelbein
(4/5)

Florence and the Medici will never cease to amaze. As a result, good histories will continue to be written about this amazing family and the leading role it played in the Renaissance. From Christopher Hibbert's "The House of Medici" to Lauro Martines' "April Blood," this sub-genre of history is chock full of entertaining, informative works.But it must be said that most of these histories focus on the men who dominated the House of the Medici. Perhaps that is fair - the Medici clan either produced fascinating geniuses or even more fascinating morons. But Caroline Murphy's new work reminds us that there were several fascinating women in the House of Medici as well, and their stories deserve to be told.This is a well-written, focused history. We get a sense of the daily life led by these women and how capriciously life could switch from glorious luxury to horrible murder. By exposing the horrible fate of Isabella, Murphy gives us a clearer picture of the dastardly side of this royal family and the lengths it would go to in order to advance its perceived interests. Informative, yet at all times readable, "Murder of a Medici Princess" is a worthy entry into any library of Renaissance Florence.


Historical But NOT Fiction

by Siddha108
(1/5)

This is history as boring as it ever was presented. Also, it is fairly depressing since it is almost entirely lacking both in liveliness of character description and artistry of wordsmithing!I wish that I had read other reviews about this author BEFORE I bought this book! YOU STILL CAN!


An Engaging Page Turner that Reads Like Fiction

by Stephanie De Pue
(5/5)

"Murder of a Medici Princess," by Caroline P. Murphy, is a nonfiction account of the life and death of Isabella de Medici Orsini, one of the more prominent members of one of the most important Florentine families - the Kennedys of their time -- during the Renaissance, that period when Florence was the world. The Medici, a banking family, had subverted Republican Florence during the early Renaissance, (generally considered to have taken place between the 14th and 17th centuries, and to have been centered in Italy.) They had made themselves dukes of the city, beautified it, and, in addition, become leaders of the art world by commissioning many important art works and buildings from artists still world famous today. The family controlled Florence's life and destiny; threw up several Popes, and intermarried with Italian and European nobility.Isabella was the daughter of Grand Duke Cosimo; a marriage was arranged for her, to Paolo Giordano Orsini, of the ruling family of Rome. He was fat, dissipated, none-too-bright, dissolute, fiscally irresponsible, and not much of a soldier, in a family that traditionally made its living as "Condottiere,"soldiers for hire. Mind you, then, as now, princesses are traditionally raised with the understanding that they will have to leave their homes, to reside with the noble husbands found for them. But Isabella did not much care for Orsini, or for Rome, and, backed by her rich and powerful father, did not live with him, or in Rome, for any extended period of time. She was born beautiful, gifted, and rich: her father Cosimo doted upon her. She was the acting, uncrowned Queen of Florence during a particularly productive time in its history. She lived her life in a way other women, or noblewomen of her time hardly dared dream about, and light-years away from what ordinary women might aspire to.She set style for the city, had her own houses, where she entertained poets, musicians, artists, the elite of the city, her lovers. Like Icarus, she flew too high. Then Cosimo died and her misogynist elder brother Francesco acceded to the throne. He allowed her despised, cuckolded husband to assassinate her, an action approved by the mores of the time and place, and still, in fact,largely approved-of in Italy. She had had three children, whom Orsini claimed were not his, and disinherited; she was just 37 years old at her death.I studied Renaissance History at Cornell University, even took some Italian. At one time, long ago, I tried to write a biography of another of the famous Isabellas of the Renaissance, of an earlier generation: Isabella D'Este Gonzaga, born of the Ferrarese ruling family, married to the Gonzaga duke of Mantua. I trudged around the New York Public Library, 42nd Street, and the British Library; and was stymied, as most of the original material was in Latin, which I've never studied.However, I find the contrast of the two Isabellas to be most instructive. Both were of the nobility, obviously; both were married off young, in arranged marriages. Both were beautiful women, style-setters, deeply involved in the art world: a sketch of Isabella D'Este, by Leonardo Da Vinci, survives. D'Este, however, had children immediately, and always knew they were her responsibility; de Medici had hers late, after many years of, shall we say, fooling around. From the earliest days of her marriage, D'Este was Mantua's ruling duchess, and in the frequent, lengthy absences of her husband, another "Condottiere," or soldier for hire, she ruled in Mantua. She attempted to beautify it; also to improve its sanitary conditions, strengthen its economy, gain popedoms for it, and otherwise increase its influence.Isabella De Medici was interested in nothing beyond her city; Isabella D'Este was interested in everything. The Mantuan moved heaven and earth to get Christopher Columbus to come see and talk to her, after his epochal discovery of the Americas in 1492. He came. She was very concerned about the future of the Catholic Church, attended, and was influential at, its ground-breaking Diet (Conference) of Worms. Her activities for the Church led to her being present in Rome, in 1527, at its Sack, by the mutinous soldiers of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor: she acquitted herself heroically, saving many women and children. She long outlived her womanizing husband, who'd caught syphilis, a disease then just come from the Americas: she enjoyed her grandchildren, and died in her own bed, at a good old age.For me, at least "Murder of a Medici Princess" was an engaging page-turner, reading like fiction. It is extensively researched, is based on solid history, and is excellently written. We are given reproductions of paintings showing the most important characters. Evidently Murphy, previously author of "The Pope's Daughter", understands Latin. In addition, she appears to have had access to some fresh, new materials; and has clearly done a lot of research. She is a cultural historian and biographer who lives in Cambridge, Mass. If you are interested in the Renaissance, women's history, or history in general, highly recommended.


A compelling tale, placed in its historical context

by Steven A. Peterson
(4/5)

Caroline Murphy's "Murder of a Medici Princess" is a detailed examination of the life--and death--of Isabella de Medici, daughter of the scion of the Medici family--Cosimo. The book is written well, and the story moves forward crisply.Part of the value of this book is the detail of life in Medici Florence. One learns a great deal about the Medici family, the Italian country of the era, and the politics--the deadly politics--of the period. The story of Isabella, then, is richly bracketed by this context.Isabella was well educated and, according to accounts of the time, most attractive (some plates in the middle of the book certainly suggest this). To further the political goals of the Medici, she was married young--to an Orsini, an important Roman family, to cement relationships with Florence's neighbors and solidify the Medici's power. Unhappily, Paolo Orsini was hardly a great catch--dissipated and a rake. Isabella carried on her own affairs. But as long as Cosimo was the ruler of Florence, she was protected. Upon his death, though, her brother, who was not enamored of Isabella's life, succeeded his father. Isabella's husband, upset by her extramarital life, ended up--if the facts are to be believed--murdering her.However, it is not so much the story as just described that is the focal point of this book. It is the individual characters, richly drawn by Murphy, and the context of the times in which those characters lived, that is at the heart of this book. This is a fine introduction to the era, telling a tale nicely.


The Medici continue to fascinate

by Suzi Hough "The Fashion Piranha!"
(5/5)

Caroline Murphy's biography of Isabella Medici was fascinating; I didn't want to put it down, so thoroughly did Murphy's descriptions bring the world of Medici Florence to life. While not as famous as her relative Catherine in France, Isabella's life is just as interesting.Murphy's book follows Isabella from her childhood at Palazzo Vecchio to her marriage and triumphant years as the leading lady of Florence. She didn't have children until a relatively advanced age (her twenties at a time when a first child was usually borne in the mother's late teens) which gave her ample free time to spend partying and playing. Unfortunately, Isabella's indepedence came at the cost of her relationship with her husband (married for money, of course, and not for love) and ultimately led to her downfall. Murphy leads us every step of the way, introducing heroes and villains worthy of the epic poetry and ballads Isabella so loved.Color plates at the middle of the book contain portraits of Isabella, her siblings and lovers, and even a scene or two of her beloved Florence. The best biography I've read so far this year (and highly resarched if the footnotes are any indication!) this is one book I'd highly recommend!


Renaissance at its finest and harshest

by TammyJo Eckhart "TammyJo Eckhart"
(4/5)

When a layperson thinks Renaissance, they may well think of the Medici family but they are unlikely to think of Isabella, living in the middle of the 16th century. During her 33 years, she was a loved daughter, concerned mother, political ally or enemy, center of Florence cultural and social life, and unhappy wife. Murphy does a very good job of portraying the world in which Isabella lived, loved, fought, and died. There are many finely crafted narrative details for both the historian and the layperson to enjoy. My one criticism is that there are chapters were Isabella hardly shows up and I think these detracted from the overall focus and understanding of one noblewoman's life and place in Italy as the Renaissance is coming to it's own end. I could see using this book in an advanced undergraduate or graduate course to spur discourse of the Medici family, the Italian world at this point, and even the lives of women and family.


Biography of Isabella de' Medici

by watzizname "watzizname"
(5/5)

The title suggests (to me, at least) a historical novel, but this turns out to be a biography. It is still somewhat of a page-turner, and well worth reading, albeit it is a rather sad tale of two less worthy than Isabella, one authorizing and the other performing her murder and neither suffering any unpleasant consequences. Isabella was her father's favorite, but her older brother Francesco's least favorite. Her father, Cosimo, sought for her a husband of the prestigious Orsini family, and accepted the Orsinis' offer of their black sheep, Paolo, who was clearly unworthy of Isabella. It turned out to be a very bad choice.While her father lived, he protected Isabella, but soon after Cosimo died, Francesco gave Paolo permission to murder Isabella, which he did. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, Francesco found an assassin able to kill her presumed lover, Troilo Orsini.Caroline Murphy takes a story that could easily have been a snoozer and brings almost to life the Tuscany of the late sixteenth century. Bravo!watziznaym@gmail.com


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