The Tigress of Forlì: The Life of Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici

Written by Elizabeth Lev
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Caterina Sforza, born in 1463, lived a full life. The illegitimate daughter of the future Duke of Milan, she was married at age ten to the pope’s nephew, who was later assassinated. Her lover, who became her secret husband, also died at the hands of assassins, an act which Caterina brutally avenged. Widowed from her third husband, Giovanni de Medici, Caterina was left to defend Forlì against Cesare Borgia, who as the victor would rape and imprison her. Free at last, she spent her last years focusing on her children and grandchildren and conducting botanical experiments before dying at age 46. Cosimo de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was her grandson.

In The Tigress of Forlì, Elizabeth Lev tells Caterina’s fascinating story with verve and objectivity, not letting her admiration for her subject overshadow Caterina’s darker deeds. Her research, which is heavily based on archival sources, appears to be meticulous. This is Lev’s first book; I look forward to reading more of her work.