Sarah Bradford

My Last Duchess

Isabella de’ Medici: The Glorious Life and Tragic End of a Renaissance Princess


Faber & Faber 397pp £20 order from our bookshop

The death of Isabella de’ Medici, favourite daughter of Cosimo, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was as squalid as her life had been glittering. She was strangled in a particularly unpleasant and elaborate way by her husband, the enormously fat and unprincipled Paolo Giordano Orsini, who, it was rumoured, finished her off by literally squashing the life out of her. Her distorted body, swollen by decomposition and blackened by the bruising of her face and torso, was exhibited in an open coffin in a Florentine church. Prurient observers who lifted her skirts noted that the lower half of her body was contrastingly white.

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