Caterina Sforza: biography
The famous aristocratic Caterina Sforza was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Milan Galeazzo. She was born in 1463. Her father, a famous tyrant and patron of the arts, died 13 years later. He was killed by a knife in the church of Santo Stefano Maggiore.
The first spouse of Katerina was the nephew of Pope Sixt IV Girolamo Riario. The couple became engaged when the bride was only ten years old. Katerina left for her husband in Rome at the age of 14. Riario served his uncle, who bestowed a relative of the city, Imola and Forli.
During the stay of Caterina in Rome, this city experienced serious changes. He increasingly departed from his former medieval state and gradually became the most important center of the European Renaissance. Here intrigue and conspiracy reigned. The father of the girl Galeazzo Maria Sforza was also not averse to gossip, and because of this, kept in power in Milan. And his daughter was not a timid.
She quickly became popular with ordinary Romans and learned to find a common language with influential Italian nobles. In addition, the aristocrat was distinguished by outstanding determination.All these qualities markedly distinguished her from her own spouse. Girolamo Riario was not a lanky man. He was not loved by everyone - from his own subjects to political opponents.
Capture of the Castle of the Holy Angel
The lives of Girolamo and Katerina changed abruptly when, in 1484, their defender and ally Sixtus IV withdrew to a different world. After his death, riots began in Rome. Riots of commoners swept the whole city. The residence of Girolamo, among other villas of the nobility, was destroyed.
By the onset of anarchy were not ready all the aristocrats, all but his wife Riario. Caterina Sforza, whose biography was rich in such episodes, crossed the Tiber in the seventh month of pregnancy on horseback and, on behalf of her husband, occupied the castle of Saint Angel. From this citadel, she took control of the Vatican and was able to begin preparations for a new papal conclave.
Anarchy in the Eternal City
Meanwhile, the riots in Rome itself only intensified. A return to stability was possible only if a new pope was elected. The college, which was supposed to determine the name of the next head of the church, did not want to make a decision under pressure from Katerina.
Then the Cardinals offered Girolamo to leave the Eternal City. In exchange, he received confirmation of his rights to Forli and Imola, as well as a significant compensation of 8,000 ducats. Riario agreed. Katerina, on the contrary, did not want to succumb to this form of blackmail and continued to keep under control the castle of the Holy Angel. In fact, she opposed the decision of her husband. On October 25, 1484, Catherine's fortress surrounded a significant army. Only then did the girl leave Rome with her family.
Before the couple arrived in Forli, the Duke of Milan Ludovico (Catherine's uncle) maintained order there. Arriving in the city, the couple learned that Innocent VIII had been elected as a pope. He was an old opponent of Girolamo. That is why, although the pope confirmed the rights of the count to his possessions, he did not pay him the money due for his departure from Rome.
One way or another, but in Forli a completely different life began, to which Caterina Sforza gradually began to get used. Children were her new care and joy. Married to Girolamo, she gave birth to six, then two more.
The main problem in Forli was the lack of money. Due to lack of funds, Katerina’s husband greatly increased taxes, which made him extremely unpopular with his own subjects.This took advantage of numerous opponents of the graph, who began to weave conspiracies and intrigues against his government.
There are at least several attempts to assassinate Katerina’s first husband. After several failures of the conspirators, Girolamo died in 1488 after all. Orsini, one of the noble families of the city, stood behind him. The palace of the count was robbed. Katerina with the children was imprisoned.
The conspirators established control over the entire city, except the central fortress of Ravaldino. Katerina went there in the role of negotiator. The Countess left her children hostage to the enemies. However, once in Ravaldino, Katerina refused to obey the conspirators. She did not flinch even after threatening to kill her own children. Orsini was surrounded, defeated, deprived of property and put on trial.
Ruler of forli
At 25, Caterina Sforza became the Countess of Forlie. Formally, it was considered the regent for his young son Ottaviano. The countess secretly married her new lover Giacomo Feo. The second husband of the girl was not of noble origin, so she had to follow the peculiar rules of the then decency.It is noteworthy that Katerina herself was the illegitimate daughter of her father. Giacomo died about the same as the countess's first husband. He was slaughtered by conspirators, whom the countess then mercilessly punished.
Owning Forli wanted many feudal lords of fragmented Italy. Among them was Cesare Borgia. For her enemies, Katerina proved to be a serious opponent. She personally supervised the training and recruitment of the army, was in charge of the procurement of weapons and other supplies necessary in case of a sudden war.
It was Katerina Sforza who strengthened the Ravaldino citadel - the main defensive bastion of Forli. When the war finally began, the girl also struck her contemporaries with her brave and outstanding behavior. She rejected any proposals by the Borgia to cede power in the county, even after the first news of the surrender to the enemy of neighboring cities appeared.
Deprivation of power
The forces of confrontation between Katerina and Borgia proved unequal. On the side of Cesare was the papal army and the army of the French. Even after being surrounded by the city, Katerina refused to surrender and locked herself in Ravaldino. The rich and powerful Borgia promised for its issuance a gigantic sum of 10 thousand ducats for those times. But neither bribes nor threats helped him.The remedies that were so useful in Rome in the case of the Countess were ineffective.
Ravaldino was stormed in January 1500. Caterina Sforza herself, in arms, participated in a bloody battle. It was only after the fall of the fortress that she was captured. The resistance of the Countess struck all Italy. The famous writer of that era, Machiavelli, repeatedly mentioned it in his works, noting that numerous folk epigrams and songs were composed in honor of the brave woman.
Captive Catherine was taken to Rome. She tried to escape from the papal guard. Then the Countess was placed in the castle of Holy Angel. Pope Alexander VI (father of Cesare Borjia) fabricated the case, which became the basis for the accusation of Catherine in the attempt on the life of the pontiff. According to Rome, Sforza sent a poisoned letter to the Vatican.
Katerina was released in the summer of 1501. The liberation contributed to the French. The Countess was deprived of titles and power in Forli, but was able to move to Florence. There she began to live in a villa that belonged to her late third spouse Giovanni Medici.
After the death of her opponent, Alexander VI, Katerina tried to regain power over Forli.She enlisted the help of the new panthemy Julius II. He supported the countess's claims. However, for Catherine spoke Forli himself. Having failed in this enterprise, the aristocrat finally left politics. She devoted herself to family, art and alchemy. Remaining in the memory of descendants as Countess Forli, Katerina died on May 28, 1509, at the age of 46.