A natural daughter of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Clelia (1557-1613) married Giovan Giorgio Cesarini - a gonfaloniere (high official) of the Roman People - in 1571. Against the backdrop of a pleasure-seeking, violent, cynical, and corrupt city, the beautiful Clelia was obliged to put up with a husband who betrayed her and a father who exploited her in his quest for the Papal throne. Cardinal Farnese managed to bend his obstinate, unruly daughter to his will only after having her abducted and confined in the Castle of Ronciglione. Later forced to wed the Marquis of Sassuolo, in 1587 Clelia was "exiled" to her new husband's Po Valley fief and returned to Rome only after the Marquis had been assassinated (1599). This book tells the tale of a rebellious, fascinating woman and provides an eloquent portrait of the Papal court and Roman aristocracy in the age of the Counter-Reformation.
Gigliola Fragnito formerly taught Modern History in the University of Parma.