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Murder of a Medici Princess Hardcover – April 18, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195314395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195314397
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
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Review


"Murphy's book swoops and dazzles like the best fiction." --Entertainment Weekly


"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."--Publishers Weekly


"a fast-paced and detailed account of Italy's raciest princess." --Richmond Times-Dispatch


"Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576)was the daughter of Cosimo de' Medici, Duke of Florence. Murphy vividly chronicles Isabella's provocative, brief life (she was murdered at age 34), liberally drawing on quotes from letters sent by a variety of key figures...This enjoyable page-turner would make a fantastic biopic."--Kirkus Reviews


"In Murder of a Medici Princess, Murphy takes her readers on a compelling ride through the dark allure of Renaissance Italy, taking us deep into the drama of the Medici hierarchy in a story that brims with both beauty and corruption." --The Electric Review


"Caroline Murphy has brought to life an independent-minded Florentine princess and the loves, family conflicts, political plots and violence in which she was enmeshed. A gripping tale told with consumate historical skill."--Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre



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Customer Reviews

The research is excellent and the way it is written makes the book very readable.
J. A. Tebbs
I have tried many times to read this book, have put it down for months and have come back to it thinking that I might give it another try.
brazos49
All in all, a great read and highly recommended for those who enjoy reading history.
Chris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on May 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first, I scoffed at the title, thinking that this might be a work of fiction, and a real potboiler at that. And to be honest, despite my fondness for historical novels, nearly every other novel set in the sixteenth century seemed lately to be centered on either Tudor England or Renaissance Italy -- and both of them done to death.

But in spite of my misgivings, this turned out to be a stunning read. Caroline Murphy, author of a previous book on women and politics, has continued her stories of women who played an influental role in the backgrounds of Italian history. This time, the focus is on the city of Florence and the powerful Medici family.

Begining with the fall of the Medici, the book focuses on a member of the junior branch of the family who brought the glory back to Florence. Cosimo de' Medici was a consummate politican and manipulator, but also a fervid patron of the arts and architecture. With his wife, the beautiful Eleonora di Toledo (who was known as La Fecundissima) they had eleven children, many of them sons, but Cosimo's favourite was his daughter Isabella.

A middle child in a huge brood of offspring, she was closest to her brother, Giovanni, and they could be found together constantly, playing games and partnering each other in dancing lessons. Several paintings survive of the princess, a lovely dark haired child with expressive eyes and nearly a smirk on her lips as she surveys the world before her. Clearly she is her father's darling, and knows it. When it came time for her to marry, her father brokered a deal with the Orsini family, based in Rome, and a wedding to Paolo Giordano d'Orsini, a young man with an itch for power and money, and seemingly in love and adoration with Isabella to judge from his letters.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Isabella de' Medici (1542-1576) sparkled among the glittering ruling family of Florence, but she was tragically snuffed out in the prime of her life. In a further injustice, her brother Francesco, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, tried to erase her from memory, an injustice that Caroline Murphy has done an admirable job of rectifying in this fascinating biography of Isabella.

Isabella was the third child of Cosimo I de' Medici, Duke of Florence (second cousin of Catherine de' Medici, the Queen of France) and Eleonora di Toledo (of Spanish nobility). The Duke and Duchess enjoyed a very happy marriage, and Isabella had a happy childhood and particularly an excellent education. In 1558 it was arranged for her to marry Paolo Giordano Orsini, a degenerate profligate from a prominent Roman family. He was created Duke of Bracciano on account of his Medici connections, but Isabella visited his castle only briefly. She opted instead to stay in her beloved Florence, where she lived a luxurious, celebrated life independent of her husband in Rome. (She had an affair, and he had many.) Her independence was possible because of her husband's indebtedness to her father and her father's influence--he was soon elevated to Grand Duke of Tuscany.

After Cosimo's death, his eldest son Francesco became the new Grand Duke and was much less sympathetic to Isabella. He reneged on Cosimo's promise to provide for Isabella's two children (Paolo was busy spending his children's inheritance in Rome), so Isabella stayed in Florence to negotiate the children's affairs. Paolo started asking her to join him in Rome, but she used the negotiations as well as her health as an excuse to refuse.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Newman VINE VOICE on June 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I picked this book up, I was expecting a historical blockbuster, the kind that is better than historical fiction because it is all true. I was hoping for A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, instead I got a painfully researched, academic book that was a bit painful to read. The fact that it is meticulously researched was fabulous, the subject matter - extremely interesting. The book , eh. I kept thinking I will fall in love with Isabella and be crying when she is murdered. But it didn't happen. When she is bumped off - I felt relief, thank goodness the book is over, yet it continued for three more chapters. Seriously.

I love History, I love historical fiction, I don't know what was missing from this - perhaps it is the Midwife's Tale of Florence, but I kept finding myself wondering who cared about this person and why was this book written? The point? The time period is a fascinating one, the contrivances of court and how things got done in royal society was so intriguing but Isabella never came into her own. I never heard her voice through Caroline P. Murphy. However, I do not regret reading it. It was a good book. But it was also a book I could put down easily and fell asleep reading it more than once. I loved the details but got lost once in awhile with the names, everyone seemed to be named the same thing. Isabella, the Medici Princess seemed so vibrant and full of life but the book never captures that as well as I kept hoping it would. Does anyone know is there a good historical fiction book out there about Isabella?
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