Caterina Sforza was the Godfather of her day. She led her family in hostile take overs, breaking knee caps and defending her lands against everyone. She was a tough chick that was ruthless, uncompromising and “goal oriented” as they’d say in a job interview.
She grew up as a Lombard noble. Think, Germans that came to Italy and loved the food so much that they stayed. As a young girl her father took the family to go hang out at the Vatican court. There she learned all the ins and outs of backstabbing, lying, seduction, and violence. Then her father eventually took them back to their home town of Milan where her mother gave her a humanist education. Humanism is about logic, the power of the human being and learning a bunch of Greek classics. Noble women receiving excellent educations was actually typical for this time. She learned Latin and all the old classics like Homer, Plato and Aristotle. She was surrounded by artists, writers and poets. Even more important, she learned about her very militaristic ancestors and how the application of force may aid in accomplishments of one’s goals. Basically, if violence isn’t working, you’re not using enough of it. She took these lessons to heart….if she had a heart.
She also learned how to hunt and had this passion all her life.
Eventually she married a guy named Girolamo who happened to be the son of the Pope. (wait, I thought Popes couldn’t…never mind.) So this put her in a pretty good position to remain secure.
Okay, everything went peachy with her husband and family until the Pope died and then everyone in the city that thought he was a douche started to riot and tear the city apart. Caterina saw the real problem, that they’d elect a Pope that wasn’t friendly to her. So, seven months pregnant, she jumped on a horse with a few of her armed bodyguards and rushed to Rome where she locked her men up in the Castel Sant’ Angelo. From there she basically controlled the city and dictated terms to the people and to the people that were about to elect a new Pope. No surprise, they elected a Pope she liked.
Once the Pope was elected they kindly asked her husband to take his insane wife home.
However, back home, her husband must have been a Democrat and the people of the town they were living at must have been Republicans because he raised their taxes and they really hated that. They hated it so much that they skipped the Tea Party stuff and went straight to the armed rebellion. The stormed their palace, killed her husband and took Caterina and her family hostage. Well, there was a little fort in the middle of town full of Caterina’s armored thugs. So, she offered to go over and convince her soldiers to surrender. The rebels thought it must have been safe because they had her family, so they let her go and she went over and promptly began arming everyone for battle. She taunted the rebels from the fortress walls.
“Hey! Mrs. Sforza! We have your family!” They called back.
“So? I have the instrument to make more!” And she promptly flashed them.
Well, to make a short story even shorter, her men slaughtered the rebels that held her family, then slaughtered all the other rebels, then the people who helped the rebels, then the people that thought about helping them and then anyone that might have thought about thinking about it. Oh, and she took all their stuff and gave it to the poor. Maybe she does have a heart in there somewhere.
So now she was the head of a powerful family with lands, cities and soldiers. She was no figure head to sit on a throne and look pretty, she took personal interest in everything about her government. She dealt with problems and took charge.
Then there was a little problem with a French guy wanting to be king of Naples. Well, her lands were right on the highway that led to Naples. She wanted to side with the Italians but let’s be practical here. She had a tiny army, they had a large one. She let them pass and they went to take Naples. Once the Frenchies were in Naples, she joined the other Italian states and began to oppose the snail eating invaders. Well, the Frenchman saw that he was now surrounded by angry Italians and like all good, honest Frenchmen, he ran home as quickly as he could.
She was dating a Venetian man named Antonio. Well, he grew a bit overconfident and began telling EVERYONE that she had promised to marry him. This ticked her off and she promptly had everyone that spread the false news imprisoned. The reason was, if he married her, the lands would belong to him, a foreigner. (Venice was not considered Italian, it was its own thing.) Also, the faceless, dark robbed Venetian government were to pleased with the idea, called him to come in for questioning and promptly threw him in jail for ten years. Another reason Caterina was TO’d was because she was actually in love with another guy. Love Triangle! Her and her real love eloped and she maintained all the control of her lands. Giacomo was his name. She loved him so much that she began giving him lots of high positions, fancy cars and new suits. This made everyone jealous and there were several assassination attempts. “Surely they were overreacting,” right? Well, it turns out that the more power he got, the bigger jerk he became, slapping her children around and even her eldest, the lord of a city…in public.
Eventually one of the plots succeeded and they killed her jerk hubby. To say that she was angry or upset is the understatement of the century. Her vengance was viscious even by Medieval standards. She had the conspirators families killed… all of them, regardless of age. This made the surviving populace really dislike her and she never regained her popularity.
Then war broke out between Venice and Florence. Her lands were right in the path. So Venice invaded her lands and her small army had to fend off the invaders. She went down and personally help train her soldiers and organize the defense of the city. She waged a guerrilla war and eventually the Venetians grew so frustrated at all this that they went the long way and went around her land to attack Florance.
No rest for the Wicked. A French King, through a convoluted and messed means of who owns what in Medieval Europe, claimed that he actually owned all of Northern Italy and Naples. (His grandfather was some big shot Italian guy or something.) So he marched across the Alps with his giant army and declared that everyone’s lands were now his. This upset Caterina.
The French king’s army was so huge that most cities simply surrendered without a fight. She asked the people of her city if they would surrender or fight. They hesitated meaning that they were too scared to fight and she said “Fine! Forget you! I’ll do it my self…worthless ingrates.” So she locked herself in her fortress and let the French army take the city. The Frenchies then surrounded her fortress and a siege began. Her cannon would inflict heavy casualties among the French but their cannons would destroy her walls…which she rebuilt during the night. To taunt the invaders Caterina threw parties and danced and sung. All of Italy admired her determination and considered her an Italian hero for resisting against impossible odds. But the French grew smart and bombarded the fortress day AND night. What a complex plan they had! But, unfortunately, it worked. and they broke in and began killing everyone. Caterina fought with a weapon in each hand until she was totally surrounded. So, she surrendered knowing that the French had a law against taking women prisoners. So the French gave her to this jerk Italian who threw her in prison. She was released a few years later for good behavior and rejoined her family.
She was a tough broad that left horses heads in people’s beds and had no patience for people that didn’t agree with her. She was fond of kicking butt personally and took a few names in her time.