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Murder of a Medici Princess

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  779 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
In Murder of a Medici Princess, Caroline Murphy illuminates the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.
Murphy is a superb storyteller, and her fast-paced narrative captures the intrigue, the scandal, the romantic affairs, and
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Published April 18th 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2008)
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I do not exaggerate when I say Murder of a Medici Princess is one of the best biographies I've ever read. Caroline P. Murphy brings to life not only a remarkable woman, but also the intrigue, the splendour and the violence of the Medici court during the reigns of Cosimo I and Francesco I.

Isabella de' Medici was the favourite daughter of Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany. Dazzling, cultured, spirited and vivacious, she was a very modern woman. In a world where close relationships between r
Sara Poole
Aug 15, 2009 Sara Poole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part of my fascination with the Renaissance stems from the extraordinary alignment of beauty and corruption that characterizes the period. Just as some of the most magnificent prose in the English language was written in the highly repressive “police state” environment of Elizabethan England, art and culture flowered amid the endemic greed, violence, brutality, and repression of Medici Florence. Murphy’s insightful foray into the life and times of Isabella de Medici goes a long way toward illumi ...more
May 05, 2013 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, italy
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 c
Detail in his biography puts you smack dab in the middle of 16th Century Florence. Isabella's life as a Medici Princess was exceptional for the level of power and the amount of autonomy she experienced as a female in an era in which that was rare. Nobel females leaving their birth families and towns extremely young, and often raised within their future spouse's extended household- was absolutely the norm. Not Isabella. She was cosseted by Cosimo. I especially enjoyed reading about the children's ...more
Izzy Medici
Jan 31, 2014 Izzy Medici rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a fair account. I don't look perfect. But my brother, Francesco I, looks like a monster, so it seems fair. Now that it's 2014 I'm trying to understand how much of any of this is in some fundamental way really about "me" or "Francisco" or the many sad Medici women, and how much of these details are really more about the time and place more than the people in some fundamental way?

If you live in the world you are dealt, is that life about you? Or about your world? In the case of Francesco, I g
Jul 11, 2011 Robotbee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a lot of Caroline Murphy's work on Lavinia Fontana for a term project I did for my art history class, so when I was absently flipping around on and it recommended this book for me (based on my having purchased the True Memoirs of Little K, a fictional but historically accurate retelling of the mistress of the last Romanov czar's Imperial ballerina mistress Mathilde Kschessinska), I took one look at the author's name and dropped it right in my cart.

I generally don't go for the n
Jun 30, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Italian history buffs, women's history buffs
Non fiction. An interesting read, though not my favorite of the many historical books I've read. I found this book more confusing than the Alison Weir books you see in my 'read' shelf. Perhaps that is because I'm less familiar with Italian history than I am with English or French history. I also think it has something to do with the fact that so many of the characters in this story have the same name. However, the author's writing, while in general pretty good, is also a bit less lucid.
The story
May 13, 2009 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 most of what we know of Renaissance Florence, and whose protection allowed her to live a glittering Florentine life apart from her debt-ridden, abusive husband in Rome. After Cosimo's death in 1574, her spiteful older brother, Francesco, reneged on her inheritance and ultimately Isabella pays with her life for flouting her era's traditional ...more
Maryann MJS1228
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 h
Feb 23, 2014 Cora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know, I read this a few years ago, but I chose to review it today because I think back to it often. I am a biochemist and have always had little patience for history, not because I don't have a healthy respect for it (I do!), but I just don't have the mind for it. It's not a science vs. liberal arts thing, I have several scientist friends who will knock your socks off with their history knowledge, but that's just not me.

Back to the book, I think about it every now and then because it was th
Aug 24, 2009 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of this book, but it caught my eye on a book display--and what a fun surprise! I loved it. I really love well done biographies, and this was so well researched and written in short, very readable chapters. It is about Cosimo's favorite daughter (Isabella), but really it is a history of one generation of the whole Medici family. Fascinating family. Huge fan of the author now--she's also written a well known book called "The Pope's Daughter"--can't wait to read it now too.

Alison C
Mar 12, 2015 Alison C rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Murder of a Medici Princess, by Caroline P. Murphy, details the remarkable life of Isabella de Medici, the 16th-Century "princess" daughter of Duke Cosimo I of Florence. Unlike virtually all other women of her place and time, Isabella was able to lead a relatively independent existence, constantly fobbing off the requests of her husband, the Duke Paolo Giordano Orsini, to move from her villas in Florence to his home in Rome. Duke Paolo was a typical man of his time, prone to visiting prostitutes ...more
Victoria Johnston
Jan 31, 2016 Victoria Johnston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history, owned
This book was well written but unfortunately the subject matter is a little obscure. I had never heard of Isabella Medici before- the family are well known but not Isabella.
Sadly Isabella is rather unlikable. She always appeared to expect to get everything she wanted. The typical Daddy's Girl - she always knew Daddy would protect her no matter what. Problem is eventually Daddy died and therein lies Isabella's downfall.
The writer tries to portray her as the modern woman but I disagree that Isab
Teri Peterson
This book looks on the outside (and on the jacket cover) like a novel, but it isn't. It's a history. It's well researched and interestingly presented, but it wasn't what I was hoping for....
Dec 28, 2015 Dayna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this thinking it was set in Rome, but it's primarily set in Florence - Isabella was actually a Florentine princess in the 1500s. Super interesting period details and obervations about the Medicis in general. The book gets a little slow at times, mainly just out of repetitiveness, it draws things out a bit in the middle and then kind of ends abruptly with the murder. There is little actual detail around the murder itself (naturally), so it's understandable, but still might have been nice t ...more
Mary Rose
Jul 29, 2014 Mary Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-major
Murphy's prose is superb and engaging, but this particular generation of the Medici family is pretty insufferable. Isabella is constantly in debt and has this hugely lavish lifestyle which I think "should" be interpreted as fun and in the spirit of the times but which comes across as aggressively immature. She's a spoiled "daddy's girl" to the extreme and when her life pretty much falls apart after the death of her father it's hard to take Murphy's claims about her as a progressive, talented wom ...more
An era of opulence and intrigue? A badass and powerful princess? People with names like Cosimo and Troilo? Um, count me in!

I love books about cool women, and Isabella de’ Medici was definitely a cool woman. Born to the most powerful family in Renaissance Italy, Isabella did what she wanted and didn’t give a rat’s behind about what anybody thought about her. Can I get a hell yeah?

So basically Isabella was raised among her brothers and was well educated and extremely intelligent. She married a (pr
Amy Bruno
Italy, 1542. Isabella de Medici was born very shortly after the death of her father, Cosimo's, first daughter Bia. And subsequently was most cherished, cosseted and spoiled by her father . Her mother, Eleanora bore Cosimo seven sons and four daughters, with eight surviving til adulthood. They were all housed at the Palazzo Vecchio with the children's special apartments taking up several floors above Cosimo and Eleanora's chambers, which had private access to the children's rooms above.

In 1558 Is
Robyn Hawk
Aug 20, 2009 Robyn Hawk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Intelligent, gifted, cultured and independent - all traits that were not encouraged in a young woman of Renaissance Florence. Isabella de Medici was the beautiful daughter of a doting father who supported her artistic independence...he didn't even allow marriage to hinder this freedom!

But all was to come to an end with the death of Grand Duke Cosimo I- who was succeeded by Francesco. Isabella's older brother didn't approve of his sister's behavior and sent her to the home of her abusive husband.
Steven Peterson
May 31, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 conte

The temptation was too great,
so I did what Oscar Wilde suggested as the best way of getting rid of temptation-
I gave into it by immediately purchasing the volume that appeared to me to satisfy all
that seemed to typify the foreboding and sinister feeling that came to me so often
as I strolled hesitantly around this so popular tourist destination.
How unsurprising that a Medici Princess should fall victim to this city's dark
reputation for the unrelenting pursuit of power and wealth.
Colleen Turner
Reviewed for

On August 31st, 1542, Isabella de Medici was born to Cosimo de Medici and Eleonora di Toledo, the Duke and Duchess of Florence, Italy. Born the third of eleven children to this power couple she would be the undisputed apple of her father’s eye. For while he was a brutal and vicious politician he was also a devoted and loving husband and father. He would stop at nothing to ensure the relative happiness and advancement of his children and the Medici name.

As happe
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Your interest in buying this book is really based on whether you are looking for a novelization of a real historical character or a well written biography. This book falls into the latter category - it's an exhaustively and thoroughly researched book that never leaves you asking questions about life in the Medici era. It's not an entertaining biography of a compelling figure.

But this full recommendation has a caveat: if
Aug 31, 2015 Meg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone with an academic interest in Medici Florence
This is a book with an identity crisis. The drama in the title and the chapter headings imply a fast-paced plot-driven narrative of the life of Isabella Medici. A more appropriate title would probably be something more along the lines of "Isabella Medici: Life and Intrigue in Renaissance Florence."

Murphy's book is very well-researched, but while Isabella did leave an interesting and captivating life (especially given Murphy's interpretation of the historical events), the book does not have the s
Jun 11, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
One of the most interesting chapters was the Epilogue in which Murphy makes connections to English Renaissance drama. It was fun to learn that Shakespeare had honored Isabella's son by naming his Orsino after this honored guest at Queen Elizabeth's court. I wish this information had been footnoted because I would have liked to learn more about her children. The Epilogue also includes a survey of how the Medici had been portrayed in English revenge tragedy, separating the facts from the fictions ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Milisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. But then I got a degree in accounting because outside of teaching, I didn't see a financial security in a history major (and didn't see myself in teaching/academia).

Very interesting/intriguing non fiction book. I will state up front that this book does not ooze romantic fluff. I wasn't looking for it either. The book called to me from the shelf of a used book store. I read the cover notes. I walked away. I came back (twice). I am thrilled to have invested my money an
Oct 20, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent non-fiction piece. Speaks well to the societal expectations/patriarchy of the time, not only for the Medici/Florentine sphere but the larger political/cultural happenings of Italy.

Molto buno, tutto. L'autora scritto della situatzione culturale e politico, per tutto della' cita Fiorenze, la famiglia d'Medici, e anche della paese d'Italia.
Marthe Bijman
For history buffs the dramatic story of Isabella de’ Medici is a must-read. The biography is meticulously researched, well illustrated and annotated, and filled with intriguing details of lifestyles, romance, war and politics in 16th century Florence, where Isabella lived. Beautiful, intelligent Isabella had “a particular kind of independence that would give [her] all the protection of a married woman, combined with the kind of freedom from spousal authority experienced by few women of her day.” ...more
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