You’ve heard the saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” but if you want to apply a face to the saying you could easily use the face of Caterina Sforza. Here on The Hall we have 2 main historical sections in Badass of The Month and Hotties of History, Caterina is the first woman to occupy both.
How To Raise A Tigress
In 1462 Galeazzo Maria Sforza made love to the wife of a friend and got her pregnant, which lead to the birth of our darling Caterina. The scandal of her birth was no big deal at the time, as her Caterina’s father was a lord amongst man-whores and ran up inside any woman that he felt was hot (seriously). Ironically her birth coming from such a rebellious act as adultery was just a pre-cursor to her wickedly dynamic life.
Unlike other girls that learnt lady-like things as they grew up, Caterina’s father taught her how to hunt, ride and military strategy. She bypassed her reading to shadow him and other adults, taking an interest in the politics of the day. Italy back then had no clear rule, the Pope was te highest source of power and states warred, conquered and did what they could to maintain their own rule.
Little Caterina was bright-eyed, blonde, curious and full of life but her youth was short as she was betrothed to Girolamo Riario at age 10. Based on the law of the day Girolamo had to wait 4 years to marry Caterina, so at age 15 she was Riario’s bride and her family was happy as he was cousin to the new Pope elect Sixtus the Fourth. This meant that Caterina was about to be filthy rich.
After her marriage Caterina fulfilled her wifely duties and bore Riario 4 children within 7 years (Dammmmn!) Her children were Bianca, Ottaviano, Cesare, and Giovanni Livio. Life was good and the Pope uncle gave her and her husband the cities of Forlì and Imola to rule.
Editor’s Note: Think of it as a crime family and the Pope is the boss of all bosses. Caterina’s husband was his family captain who he gave land and gifts to as reward for favors. These favors included killing enemies, sacking cities and exacting revenge. Caterina, who loved violence and blood as much as her man was known for being cruel and vicious. The taking of Sant Angelo was done while she was pregnant.
The Rise of Caterina The Tyrant
Since the Pope was the money line for Caterina and her husband, his sudden death thrust them into a position where their cities were due to be taken. Trying at first to control the new Pope’s election and failing, the Riario’s were forced into war and Caterina herself led an army to conquer Castel Sant Angelo, a major fort. Girolamo, lacking his wife’s fire and intent, bowed out peacefully when offered an “official lordship” over Imola and Forli, which worried Caterina into gaining more soldiers to hold Sant Angelo.
“Among the footsoldiers and the horsemen she was much feared, because when she had a weapon in her hand she was fierce and cruel.”
The Cardinals – who Caterina was prepped to fight, had managed to buy her husband but she would not hear it even when he himself stood against her (she was such a gangster bitch). This didn’t work out and eventually Caterina gave in. The new Pope was an old rival and though he confirmed the lordship promised to Girolamo, they were forced to retreat to Forli in order to defend it.
Girolamo was always idealistic and never taxed his people. When the money dried up and his hand was forced, he implemented a tax and was hated for it. Scheming enemies and his own dirty politics eventually led to his death at the hands of the Orsis family in 1488. Caterina and her children were made hostages and she made a deal to get them the ransom they sought (the fortress of Ravaldino) and they foolishly cut her loose to do so.
“I have the instrument to bear more!”
Once inside the fortress, Caterina gained it’s high walls, lifted her dress to expose her “baby maker” and shouted to them: “Ho con me lo stampo per farne degli altri!” translated: I have the instrument to bear more! (She was so gangster!) Bringing the pain with military assistance by her uncle, then uttering threats to destroy the city with cannon fire, Caterina’s enemies fled and she once again regained control. Think about what she just did readers, she, little Caterina, bluffed, parried and defeated the men that killed her husband.
Hell Hath No Fury Like Caterina The Widow
Caterina felt no real sadness for Girolamo’s death as he was a man she never loved. She fell for the 19 yr old brother of one of her military champions and it was passionate sex of the beastly kind that she poured upon him for years. Times had settled down and Caterina was all about her Giacomo Feo.
Giacomo, who must have been beating that wild thing something vicious (Caterina was lovesick) eventualy turned into an arrogant douchebag. He did roguish dealings, backstabbed important people and pretty much everything you could do to piss off important people while blackening yours and your woman’s name. Caterina, blinded by love, seemed oblivious to the incoming doom and eventually her beloved was drug down in the streets and stabbed to death. As you can imagine, she was pissed!
Caterina called for heads, and not a few heads, it was a bloody massacre. She painted her halls red with torture, murders and the coldest revenge. To get over Feo she turned hard and reinforced her city, passing time with new projects and the like, up until a nobleman by the name of Giovanni de’ Medici melted her cold heart.
The 2 married secretly and Caterina gave him a son at 36, his name was Ottaviano Riario and she loved him fiercely. But the gods had it out for our lady and in 1498 during a military skirmish involving Caterina’s armies and the defence of Florence, Giovanni got sick and died. His death was ill-timed as Caterina was left to face off against one of the most powerful families in Italy at the time… The Borgias.
Caterina’s Final Stand
Lets make a long story short; The pope died and a Borgia took over and became Pope “Alexander The Sixth“. Alexander’s son Cesare Borgia was a real sunovabitch, a cold-blooded, ruthless sunovabitch and he wanted Forli and Imola. Hearing from her spies that Cesare had over 10,000 troops ready to take her land, and a contingent of 17 cannons, Caterina strapped on her armor, summoned her men and rode forth into battle. Though her army was cut to shreds, Caterina fought like a tigress trapped… but no worries, the beauty lived.
“If I have to die, I want to die like a man!”
Caterina resorted to surrendering herself to a French admirer by the name of Antoine Bissey. The move was strategic since Caterina knew that the French had laws preventing women from being held captive. However the Pope would not have it and used his diplomacy led to get her turned over to the Borgias and the worst thing that you can imagine was coming to her.
Editor’s Note: Allegedly when Pope Alexander had taken power one of his first moves was to try and force the marriage of his daughter Lucrezia Borgia to one of Caterina’s sons. Caterina did as much as tell him to go screw himself and sent him an inflammatory letter written in poisonous ink (deadly to the touch).
Anouncing to the Italian people that Caterina had plotted to take his life (this is argued by historians), the Pope handed Caterina over to his son Cesare who raped her savagely before throwing her into a disgusting dungeon within Forli. It was terrible but she was eventually set free in 1501, broken but not defeated, she left to be with her children in Florence.
In the years following, Caterina tried hard to regain her cities but ultimately failed, choosing to retire to take care of her youngest and favorite son Giovanni. Raising him to be much like her in fire and intent, she eventually died of a severe case of pneumonia and her grandson (the son of Giovanni) regained his mother’s honor by becoming Cosimo the First, Grand Duke of Tuscany.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.