Biographies from Medieval History


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Excellent, Excellent. I used to be really interested in this time period. But lately, I've been studying ancient history. I really can't afford to be distracted now but I do appreciate the essay and the bibliography.

Thanks. :)


Ad Honorem
Sep 2010
Excellent, Excellent. I used to be really interested in this time period. But lately, I've been studying ancient history. I really can't afford to be distracted now but I do appreciate the essay and the bibliography.

Thanks. :)
Thanks, that's nice of you. It's not really an essay but just a detailed mini bio that gives an idea of the context of his times and what he was remembered for.

Ludovico Sforza is not an ideal example of a lofty 'Renaissance Man' but he was one to be sure. Even fine blokes like Lorenzo de Medici had their intrigues...Popular historians tend to color his character in bad light due to the 'sentence' passed on him by Guicciardini - he has been villified somewhat, though he wasn't too much worse than other 'llustrious' rulers of the era.


Ad Honorem
Sep 2010
The Bride of Christ

Giulia Farnese (1474 - 1524)

Giulia Farnese was the daughter of Pier Luigi Farnese, Lord of Montalto (Roman baron) and his wife Giovanna Caetani (Pisan nobility). In 1489, at age fifteen Giulia married sixteen year-old Orsino Orsini, son of Alexander VI's third cousin Adriana de Mila, who was the widow of the influential Ludovico Orsini. Seventeen year old Giulia Farnese may have met Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia sometime in 1491 during his frequent visits to the household of his daughter Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia was about twelve years old at the time living in the house of Rodrigo's cousin Adriana de Mila. Rodrigo was consumed by a strong passion and promptly made Giulia his mistress. He was about 60 years of age.

When their relationship began, Giulia "La Bella" was newly married to the Cardinal's relative by marriage, Orsino Orsini, who was about a year older than her. Her young husband received hefty financial benefits for his compliance over the long affair between Rodrigo and Giulia (1491 - 1500). Giulia's brother Alessandro Farnese was elevated to the position of Cardinal due to her enormous personal influence over the pope. Alessandro was nicknamed "the petticoat cardinal" because of this. He later became Pope Paul III.

Although evidence suggests her firstborn baby was indeed fathered by Orsino Orsini, it was publicly claimed that she bore Rodrigo a daughter, Laura, in 1492 - the same year he became Pope Alexander VI. By 1493 Giulia, Lucrezia and Adriana were installed in a palace connected by a private walkway to the Vatican Palace. She was the openly acknowledged mistress of the pope, who may have had her painted as Our Lady by Pinturicchio to adorn the walls of the Apartmento Borgia.

After her lucrative stint as pope's mistress, she retired to her principality of Carbognano - given to Orsino Orsini by Alexander VI - which she inherited and administered after her husband's death in 1500. Not much is known of her life after Alexander's death, however, Ferdinand Gregorovius noted that she was a regular correspondent with her friend Duchess Lucrezia Borgia. her reputation was rehabilitated during her later years as a result of her brother's intercession. Alessandro Farnese quickly became a a powerful cardinal. Her greatest wish, according to Gregorovius, was fulfilled when her only daughter married Niccolo della Rovere, a nephew of Pope Julius II.

For Further Reading:
Gregorovius, Ferdinand. Lucrezia Borgia according to Original Documents and Correspondence of her Day
Bellonci, Maria. The Life and Times of Lucrezia Borgia
Bradford, Sarah. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy

Aug 2011
Gaillimh (Ireland)
I just noticed this marvellous thread!!!!
If you don't mind, I'll start with a personal favourite: Bartolomeo d'Alviano(1455-1515)

Bartolomeo was the son of Francesco d’Alviano(a member of a secondary branch of the Orsini family) and Isabella degli Atti; his mother died right after his birth, so he was assigned to his aunt Emilia Monaldeschi.
The young Bartolomeo received an humanistic education and was destined to an ecclesiastic career, but he instead chose to join his uncle Napoleone Orsini in the constant conflicts of cental Italy and became a condottiere(he immediately displayed an offensive and bold attitude).
At fourteen, he took part in his first battle against Federico da Montefeltro and Roberto Malatesta; later he joined the armies of Pope Sixtus IV and his nephew Girolamo Riario, together with Giuliano della Rovere(the future Julius II),he defeated the forces of the Chiaravalle family at Todi.
In 1480 he joined Naples against the Ottoman Empire and took part in the siege of Otranto(he was the main contributor behind the strengthening of Otranto castle).and was praised by King Alfonso.
In 1482 Bartolomeo married Bartolomea Orsini, sister of Clarice(wife of Lorenzo de Medici) and in the same year defeated the Republic of Venice at the battle of La Stellata.
The years 1486 -1487 were pretty negative for Bartolomeo: while at the service of Naples, he was besieged by Papal troops and was forced to surrender and subsequently jailed in Castel Sant’ Angelo in Rome(freed after an exchange of prisoners).
On February 1487 the forces of the Chiaravalle family finally entered in Lodi and murdered some members of Bartolomeo’s family; however he acted swiftly and bombarded the fortress, forcing the Chiaravalle to flee. Pope Innocent VIII appointed him governor of Lodi.
The following year he started the strengthening of the fortress of Alviano.
During the Italian War of 1494-98 fought again for Naples against Charles VIII of France.
In 1496 Bartolomeo joined the forces of the Orsini family against the troops of Alexander VI and the Colonna family. At the beginning of the campaign he was defeated and wounded by Guidobaldo da Montefeltro’s soldiers, after having reorganized his forces, Bartolomeo succefully defended the properties of the Orsini against Juan Borgia (duke of Gandia and son of pope Alexander VI), he also defeated the condottiere Troilo Savelli and almost managed to capture Cesare Borgia, Juan’s elder brother.
During the siege of Bracciano he humiliated Juan Borgia, sending a donkey as an ambassador to the camp of the Papal forces(the animal carried a letter written by Bartolomeo himself, containing several insults towards the Duke of Gandia).
He later arrived in Rome to take part in the peace negotiations between the two factions.
He moved in Tuscany, where he received condotte from both Pisa and Piero de Medici, but was forced to move back after the Savelli broke the truce.
Meanwhile Bartolomeo became one of the suspects behind Juan Bogia’s murder(since the Duke of Gandia had Virginio Orsini murdered in Naples)
In 1498 he married Pantasilea Baglioni(sister of condottiere and lord of Perugia Gian Paolo Baglioni) and continued to fight against the Orsini family
The same year he returned to Piero de Medici’s service and obtained his first condotta from Venice(15000 ducats per year, commanding light cavalry, infanty and crossbowmen). And moved his military operations in Romagna and Tuscany against the Republic of Florence
Together with Guidobaldo da Montefeltro(who defeated him in 1496), he conquered several towns and villages for Venice(he entered Bibbiena with just 200 troops by having them disguised as Florentine soldiers);Bartolomeo was later wounded in the abdomen during the siege of Rassina, lost two teeth at Lierna, where he also receive a wound in the tongue that foreved impaired his speech.
After suffering from supplies shortage, he was defeated near the Appennine, but Venice and Florence made peace on April 1499.
During his condotta for Venice he met with the current doge several times to ask for back payment,more soldiers and better condition for his troops; he conquered Cremona from the Sforza and defended the Republic from the Ottoman attacks.
In 1503, his wife Pantasilea Baglioni and her brother were kidnapped by Spanish soldiers but tlated freed after heavy pressures from Venice and the King of France; following this event,Bartolomeo asked to move his troops against Cesare Borgia(accused to be the man behind the kidnapping) but his request was denied.
After hearing about Alexander VI’s death, he helped several lords of Central Italy to reconquer their territories and forced Cesare Borgia to move back to Rome.
At the same time he was hired by Ferdinand of Spain to fight the French in Southern Italy(he obtained 8000 ducats for himself and around 2000 ducats in ecclesiastical benefits for his brother)
Under Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba he obtained a great success at the Battle of Garigliano, where Bartolomeo’s light cavalry successfully charged the rear of the French formation.
After his great exploits he subdued French resistance in Central and Southern Italy and was greatly rewarded(duchy of Alvito,taxes on silk and a palace in Naples)
Despite Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba’s opposition ,Bartolomeo decided to join Pisa and Piero de Medici, again against the Republic of Florence.
Despite several desertions, he decided to battle the force of the Florentines, but was soundly defeated by Marcantonio Colonna in August 1505; Bartolomeo was personally wounded in the face by Marcantonio and barely managed to escpape(his personal letters were captured by the enemy).
Later, he made peace with Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba and received the fief of Bucchianico.
The following year he returned under Venice(15000 ducats per year); Bartolomeo was moved in Friuli and Veneto, where he strengthened several forts and constructed fortified positions in order to oppose the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I.
After defeating Imperial troops near Pieve di Cadore and conquered the entire Cadore region:Venice granted him 400 more mounted troops,artillery pieces, he was appointed General Governor and his annual wage raised to 30000 ducats.
On April 1508 he continued his offensive and conquered Commons, Pordenone, Gorizia and Trieste,; during the summer he captured Pisino,Fiume and Postumia.
Bartolomeo was triumphantly welcomed in Venice, where he was appoint ed General Governor of Venice,lord of Pordenone and member of the Maggior Consiglio.
He later moved his troops near the Adda river against the troops of Louis XII of France, he shared a joint command with his cousin Niccolò Orsini.
During this time,his wife Pantasilea Baglioni gave birth to Bartolomeo’s first son, Marco.
On 14th May 1509, the rearguard of the Venetian army, under his command, clashed with the French vanguard,led by Charles d’Amboise and Gian Giacomo Trivulzio(Battle of Agnadello), despite his personal courage and leadership, the superior French infantry(with a good amount of Swiss pikemen) and the failed support by Niccolò Orsini took an heavy tool on the Venetian army, that lost around 6000 men; Bartolomeo himself was wounded in the face and captured by the French.
Accused of the defeat by the Venetian government, he remained in French captivity until November 1512, after Louis XII of France decided to stipulate an alliance with the Republic of Venice.
The Orsini family bailed him out for 40000 ducats.
His son Marco died while Bartolomeo was imprisoned in France.
In 1513 he moved back to Venice to give his account on the defeat suffered at Agnadello, he received the baton of command and a new condotta.
The same year he captured the city of Cremona, but the French defeat at Novara forced him to move back his troops.
Despite an heavy bombardment, he was forced to withdraw from the siege of Verona.
He continued to strengthen several defensive positions in Veneto and managed to retake Padova, the city was immediately assaulted by a Spanish army(around 8000 soldiers) but they gave up after less than one month.
On October 1513,after Venice was bombarded, the senate granted him to pursue a pitched battle against the Spanish troops: he attacked the army commanded by Prospero Colonna and Ramon de Cardona near La Motta; after a successful cavalry attack, Bartolomeo forced the Spanish forces on the defensive, however the Venetian infantry proved again its inferiority and was routed.
The Venetian suffered around 4000 casualties and Bartolomeo took full responsibility for the defeat.
He moved back to Padova to defend the city from another Spanish attack.
The following year Bartolomeo left Padova for Pordenone, in the meantime captured by Imperial partisans who took advantage of the Venetian defeats.
He ambushed the enemy troops near the town and forced the fortress to surrender after an artillery bombardment:; Bartolomeo ordered the execution of all the defenders and the city was sacked for an entire day.
After recapturing other centers in Friuli from the Imperials, he moved back to Veneto to face the Spanish troops of Ramon de Cardona.
On August 1514, Pantasilea gave birth to Bartolomeo’s second son: he was named Livio, Lorenzo(in honour of Bartolomeo’s brother in law, Lorenzo de Medici),Eusebio and Settimo(the second son after five daughters). His baptism was a great ceremony attended by numerous condottieri and powerful personalities.
On the following months, the Spanish troops retreated from Vicenza and Bartolomeo led the reconquest of the Polesine region.
On November 1514 he managed to avoid an attack from Prospero Colonna and Alfonso d’Avalos, who failed to encircle the condottiere.
In the city of Padova, he organized a great joust to celebrate the new French king (Francis I)
After the French troops entered the Duchy of Milan, Bartolomeo moved his forces near their positions, on September 14 1515, Bartolomeo’s cavalry charge against the Swiss rearguard granted Francis I’s victory at Marignano; right after the battle, he led the reconquering of Bergamo and moved to retake Brescia.
However, Bartolomeo died in Ghedi around the first days of October 1515 from an intestinal blockage; his own soldiers carried his body to Venice, where he was buried with full honours in the Church of Santo Stefano. The Republic of Venice granted several privileges to his widow Pantasilea, his son Livio and his five daughters.
May 2012
The Old Dominion
Just noticed this thread, exellent biographies everyone! I noticed they are renaisance heavy though. My favorite time period being the late twelth-early thirteenth. Henry II, Phillip II Augustus, Fredrick I Barborosa. Perhaps I'll do a biography myself.
Mar 2014
United States
Elizabeth of YorK: The Forgotten Tudor Queen. Anne: Neville: Richard III's Tragic Queen & her newest Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings (which is one of her best yet. She dispels all rumors about Cecily and all her biography go deep into the women's lives and the customs of the period to better understand them) by Amy Licence.

Margaret Beaufort by Elizabeth Norton

Elfrida also by Elizabeth Norton

The King's Mother by Underwood and Jones about Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VII).

Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood.

Women of the Wars of the Roses by Alicia Carter.

The Woodvilles by Susan Higginbotham.

Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World. Katherine Swynford & Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir.

Tudor: A Family Story by Leanda de Lisle (Focuses on ALL Tudor family members and goes DEEP into their family history all the way back to the Welsh background of Owen Tudor all the way back to the time of the Welsh Princes and also goes deep into the Wars of the Roses and the York and Lancaster family. Very detailed but not hard to read and her Appendixes are great).

Women of the Middle Ages by Melissa and Michael Rank.

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England by Dan Jones (It starts from the incident of the White Ship and goes to the deposition of Richard II to the accession of Henry IV. He spares no punches and puts the good and bad aspects of every King and Queen and courtiers involved. For example he dispels the rumors regardnig Richard, John I as the 'evil' king, Edward II, his father "Longshanks" or the "Leopard" Edward I, the Black Prince, Richard II and others). His next book will be the continuation of the Plantagenets "The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagents and the Rise of the Tudors" which will be out this October.

Richard III & Elizabeth Woodville: England's Slandered Queen by David Baldwin.

Henry VII by SB Chrimes. (Best bio on Henry Tudor to date in my opinion).

The Winter King by Thomas Penn (the last years of Henry VII's reign).

The Vikings by Neil Oliver.

Foundations by Peter Ackroyd. It goes deep into British history from pre-history to the accession of the first Tudor King, Henry VII.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly.

There are many others you can find online or in bookstores. These are just some of the best I've read. Enjoy.
Jul 2007

Didn't seem to be able to find a definitive biography on Alexios - that is a stand alone biography. Bits and pieces in other tomes. I too would be interested if anyone else knows of one.

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