Synopses & Reviews
The illegitimate daughter of Pope Julius II, Felice della Rovere became one of the most powerful and accomplished women of the Italian Renaissance. Now, Caroline Murphy vividly captures the untold story of a rare woman who moved with confidence through a world of popes and princes.
Using a wide variety of sources, including Felice's personal correspondence, as well as diaries, account books, and chronicles of Renaissance Rome, Murphy skillfully weaves a compelling portrait of this remarkable woman. Felice della Rovere was to witness Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, watch her father Pope Julius II lay the foundation stone for the new Saint Peter's, and see herself immortalized by Raphael in his Vatican frescos. With her marriage to Gian Giordano Orsini--arranged, though not attended, by her father the Pope--she came to possess great wealth and power, assets which she turned to her advantage. While her father lived, Felice exercised much influence in the affairs of Rome--even negotiating for peace with the Queen of France--and after his death, Felice persevered, making allies of the cardinals and clerics of St. Peter's and maintaining her control of the Orsini land through tenacity, ingenuity, and carefully cultivated political savvy. She survived the Sack of Rome in 1527, but her greatest enemy proved to be her own stepson Napoleone. The rivalry between him and her son Girolamo had a sudden and violent end, and brought her perilously close to losing everything she had spent her life acquiring.
With a marvelous cast of characters, this is a spellbinding biography set against the brilliant backdrop of Renaissance Rome.
"Murphy has recreated Felice della Rovere's life with agility and tact. She successfully fleshes out the customs and historical background of her Machiavellian princess."--Bruce Boucher, New York Times Book Review
"One feels in reading this vivid biography that one has gotten to know a woman of energy and talent who became 'the most powerful woman in Rome of her day.'"--Publishers Weekly
"The Pope's Daughter firmly establishes the once-forgotten Felice della Rovere as one of the most powerful women of the Italian Renaissance, at the same time demonstrating that Murphy is perhaps headed for a fruitful career breathing life into history's overlooked heroines.... though Rovere's life has been long overlooked as a subject worthy of the ever-growing genre of historical biography, in Murphy's deft hands, her fascinating life in the shadowy recesses of the Vatican offers extraordinary insights into what was possible for a strong-minded woman during the rinascimento."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Murphy has achieved the near-miraculous; she has brought someone back from the dead. She has reconstructed the character of Felice della Rovere with such masterly empathy that she seems to breathe again. Along the way, she gives a magnificent portrayal of what life in Renaissance Rome was really like, showing how religion, family, and money could all combine to bring advancement to the skillful, or disaster to the unlucky. Felice was one of the skillful: Caroline Murphy has painted her vividly and unforgettably as a character to equal her mercurial father, Julius II."--Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost
"Impossible to put down, Caroline Murphy brings to life the streets of sixteenth century Rome, the intrigues of the papal court, and the extraordinary character of Felice della Rovere. The Pope's Daughter overturns many of our assumptions about what was possible for women in Renaissance Italy." --Lyndal Roper, Professor of Early Modern History, Oxford University
"A superb study.... The Pope's Daughter is a masterpiece." --Damian Thompson, The Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Caroline P. Murphy
is Associate Professor of Renaissance Art at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth-Century Bologna