Countess of Forli
Caterina was the bastard daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, though she became the legitimized daughter of Lucrezia Landiani (she had two mothers throughout her youth). At the age of 9yo, Caterina was engaged to Girolamo Riaria (relative of the reigning Pope). Aged 14, Caterina’s father was murdered shortly after her proxy marriage (1477). Caterina left her home for Rome.
Though young in age, Caterina delighted in husband’s power and rank. Aged 15, Caterina gave birth to her daughter Bianca (b.1478) – this was followed by six more children in nine years. Caterina was said to be tall, slim, and blonde – but she was far from being a bimbo, in fact was courageous, and sometimes even cruel.
With her husband, Caterina seized control of Castel Sant’ Angelo in Rome during the turmoils (1484) – she surrendered 13 days later (Caterina was 7 months pregnant at the time and aged 21). Girolamo and Caterina left Rome and went to Romagna, where they resided in Forli. Caterina was an well educated young woman, and sought knowledge from all things. She was renowned for keeping book of recipes and prescriptions – many noble ladies corresponded with her exchanging recipes and seeking advice from her. Caterina’s husband was a rather weak man, and not exactly an able soldier or ruler. In Forli it was Caterina who issued justice, especially after the revolt (1487) in which her husband failed to do anything.
The following year (1488), Caterina’s husband was murdered by the Orsi family. Caterina was taken captive with children but escaped. Caterina sought and received help from Milan and Bologna. From here on, Caterina became noted as a brutal tyrant. Initially she was regent for her young son Ottaviano, but Caterina loved power and was reluctant to relinquish it and so assumed full control.
Caterina took a lover, Giacomo Peo, and the two were secretly wed – she bore him a son Bernardino (c.1490). Giacomo was murdered (1495), and Caterina took revenge on all involved (it was said her son was the instigator – her revenge on him was to withhold any power and control from him). Caterina took another lover/husband/advisor in Giovanni di Pierfrancesco de Medici – she bore him a son Giovanni della Bande Nera (father of Cosimo, Grand Duke of Tuscany). Caterina’s husband Giovanni died one year later of natural causes aged 29.
Caterina continued to rule her small lands until they were attacked by Cesare Borgia (1499). Caterina sent her children and her jewels to Florence for safety. Caterina was involved in a plot and tried to poison Pope Alexander VI. Meanwhile the Poe’s son Ceasre was still beseiging her lands. Imola surrendered then Forli, and Caterina was besieged in the fortress of Ravaldino (1499) for 24 days.
The fortress was taken, and Caterina was made prisoner by Borgia who delighted in his ill-treatment of her. Caterina was then imprisoned in Belvedere Palace at the Vatican for four months. After a failed escape attempt, Caterina was imprisoned in Castel Sant’ Angelo for one year. Caterina was released only after she renounced her lordship.
Caterina retired to Florence, where she died eight years later (1509) of liver ailment, peritonitis and pleurisy aged 46.