Isabella de Medici, By Caroline P Murphy

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Isabella de Medici was the daughter of Cosimo de Medici and a cousin of the infamous Catherine. Catherine de Medici was feared as a mistress of the black arts, a woman who rose to power by nefarious means. Her relation, Isabella, was both rich and beautiful, and much adored by her powerful father, too. But she also had a dark side, becoming implicated in murder and, in turn, being murdered, probably by her own brother.

She'd married a man who consorted with prostitutes and wasn't above giving her a good slap, although this didn't prevent her having two children by him and keeping busy with artistic projects. The deaths of two favourite brothers and her mother in one year must have had a huge impact on her, although, as Caroline P Murphy argues, it was the death of her father, her protector, that really sealed her fate.

It's the kind of tragic, convoluted, passionate story we expect of the de Medicis, and Murphy's clear, detailed narrative doesn't disappoint. However, I think we're still left with a more shadowy woman at the end than might have been the case.

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