Book Review: The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy's Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de' Medici


by Elizabeth Lev

Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2011. Pp. xx, 316. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $14.95 paper. ISBN: 0547844166

The life and times of a great Renaissance warrior-princess.

In an era when even the most high born women played the game of power through their male kinsmen, if at all, Caterina Sforza (1463-1509) vied openly with the most powerful men of her times in diplomacy, conspiracy, brutality, courts, and even in arms, personally leading armies and directing sieges.  Her opponents were the great princes of Renaissance Italy, pope, dukes, and counts, and most notably her personal nemesis the utterly ruthless Cesare Borgia. 

The illegitimate daughter of Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan, wife to no fewer than three notable princes and condottiere, and mother of the great Giovanni delle Bande Nere, the adventures of this petit woman in defense of her rights to her lands, wealth, and power, and for the rights of her flock of eight children would be thought improbable if presented in a miniseries.  Lev, a Rome-based historian and art critic, recounts the career of this remarkable woman with verve, while giving the reader insights into the world of wealth and power in Renaissance Italy. 

An important read for anyone with an interest in the politics of the Renaissance in Italy or women of power, The Tigress of Forli will prove worthwhile reading for anyone who likes a good adventure story as well. 

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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