|Girolamo Riario (2nd L) Sixtus VI (R)|
Christmas 1472 was an elaborate affair at the Milanese court. Everyone was treated to a new wardrobe and hundreds of yards of red and black velvet were used to create clothing decorated with gold or silver brocade. On Christmas Eve the court assembled with their guests who included Ludovico Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, Pino Ordelaffi[i], Lord of Forli, Giovanni Bentivoglio, ruler of Bologna and Girolamo Riario. Girolamo was the son of Paolo Riario[ii] and Bianca della Rovere, sister of the pope.
Captain General of the Churchand had spent much of his life selling fruit on street corners before his uncle was elected popeGirolamo was habitually over-dressed in gold or silver brocade studded with jewels
|Tomb of Cardinal Pietro Riario|
Death of a Father
|Murder of Galeazzo Maria Sforza|
Duke Galeazzo Maria became increasingly unpopular with his subjects as a result of his extravagance which not unnaturally coincided with increased taxes[xi], and his behaviour which became increasingly cruel and bizarre. In December 1476 he and his family returned to Milan to celebrate Christmas; Bona begged Galeazzo Mari not to attend the service at Sant Stefano’s on Christmas Day, claiming to have dreamt of his murdered body.
Arriving at the church Galeazzo Maria found three courtiers among the congregation waiting for him to arrive; Carlo Visconti[xii], Gerolamo Olgiati[xiii] and Giovanni Andrea Lampugnani[xiv]. The three, along with their henchman surrounded Galeazzo Maria and Lampugnani slammed a dagger into Galeazzo’s torso and then his throat.
‘A scene of indescribable violence then ensued.’[xv]
Members of the duke’s entourage were killed and women had their jewellery ripped from their persons. Lampugnani attempted to hide among the congregation pretending to be a woman; he was ripped to pieces and fed to the pigs. Eleven of the conspirators were rounded up by the ducal guard and their remains strung up on the ramparts of the city. Several days later Visconti and Olgiati were apprehended. Visconti claimed;
|Bona of Savoy|
‘Were I to be reborn ten times, and ten times to perish in these torments, I would give my blood and all my strength for this sacred end.’[xvi]
Galeazzo Maria’s will left his wife Bona as the regent for their seven year old son Gian Galeazzo The real work of governing the dukedom fell to Cicco Simonetta[xvii] who saw the regent and the new duke through the perilous aftermath of the assassination.
Galeazzo Maria’s brother Ludovico[xviii] believed that it should be he, not Bona who should act as regent to his nephew. He was able to make his move after Bona set up a favourite, Antonio Tassino a low born gambler. Having divided Bona from Simonetta by persuading her that he was acting against her best interests, Ludovico claimed that Bona was having an affair with Tassino. Bona went into exile and Ludovico took over the reins of government.
|Campo de' Fiori|
In April 1477, now fourteen, Caterina was formally married in Milan to Girolamo in a proxy private ceremony. She had spent the years apart from her husband in continuing her education and she learnt to play palla which was all the rage amongst the Milanese aristocracy[xix]. The couple did not communicate in the time apart and during that period Girolamo had produced an illegitimate son Scipione,
In May Caterina travelled to Rome. On 26th May Caterina was presented to the pope who decided to preside over a second wedding service which he promptly did. The ceremony was followed by a banquet for two hundred of the couple’s closest friends at the Orsini palace in Campo de’ Fiori. The pope was quite clearly overjoyed by the alliance and gave Caterina;
‘So many caresses that it appears to us that her Ladyship is so well beloved by His Holiness that he makes no difference between her and my Lord the Count [Girolamo].’[xx]
Italian Dynasties – Edward Burman, Equation 1989
The Deadly Sisterhood – Leonie Frieda, Harper Collins 2013
Tigress of Forli – Elizabeth Lev, Head of Zeus Ltd, 2012
The Families Who Made Rome – Anthony Majanlahti, Pimlico 2006
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
Niccolo’s Smile – Maurizio Viroli, IB Tauris & Co Ltd 2001
[i] A condottiere
[ii] A shoemaker
[iv] Normal practise was to wait until the legal age of consummation - fourteen
[v] Tigress of Forli - Lev
[vi] The Holy Roman Emperor had refused to confirm Galeazzo Maria as Duke of Milan
[vii] Tigress of Forli - Lev
[viii] In 2016 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £7,741,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £63,920,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £198,500,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £5,104,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ix] In 2016 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £30,960,000.00, labour earnings of that income or wealth is £255,700,000.00, economic status value of that income or wealth is £794,100,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £20,420,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[x] Galeazzo Maria had been negotiating with Lorenzo de’ Medici who had offered 100,000 ducats for the town
[xi] One year Galeazzo Maria spent 40,000 ducats solely on jewels
[xiii] A supporter of Cola Montano who had been publicly whipped for lampooning Galeazzo Maria; it was Montano who proposed assassinating the duke
[xiv] Whose family had been involved in a dispute over land in which Galeazzo Maria had refused to support them
[xv] The Deadly Sisterhood - Frieda
[xvii] A former secretary to Francesco Sforza
[xix] Galeazzo Maria set up an indoor palla court in the castle
[xx] The Deadly Sisterhood - Frieda
[xxi] Engaged to Astorre Manfreddi of Faenza