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The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition and Everyday Life in the Court of a Borgia Prince: Money, Ambition and Housekeeping in a Renaissance Court Hardcover – 27 May 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (27 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861977506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861977502
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 461,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A book as rich and quirky as the Renaissance itself (David Starkey)

Beautifully judged and deeply researched (Charles Nicholl Sunday Times)

A fascinating book; not just for the details, but for the skill with which Hollingsworth interprets them (Jane Stevenson Observer)

As Mary Hollingsworth shows in this brilliant piece of historical detective work and narrative reconstruction, no one schmoozed the great and the good of 16th-century Europe with quite such élan as Ippolito d'Este. (Kathryn Hughes Guardian)

Mary Hollingsworth has succeeded in producing a riveting narrative full of characters otherwise forgotten by history. (History Today)

Exceptionally interesting ... Hollingsworth's narrative is seamless and her prose agreeable. (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post)

About the Author

Dr Mary Hollingsworth is the author of Patronage in Renaissance Italy and Patronage in Sixteenth-century Italy. She is an academic and was until recently, lecturer in Art History at UEA. Alongside Professors from Universities of Sussex, Warwick, Venice, Edinburgh and Manchester she is currently working on the Material Renaissance Research Project funded by the Getty Grant Programme.

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 July 2005
Format: Paperback
Few historical periods are as intriguing as the Renaissance; few families fascinate as much as the Borgias. However, we've not been privy to many firsthand accounts of daily life among the powerful in 16th century Italy. Now, thanks to a bit of luck and assiduous research, art historian Mary Hollingsworth presents a detailed picture of Ippolito d'Este, the second son of Lucretia Borgia who later became Archbishop of Milan.
In Modena, Italy, Hollingsworth came upon a treasure - over 2,00 letters and 200 account books pertaining to the days of Ippolito. The ledgers contain such minute details as the items in his wardrobe, what he ate. He wasn't timid about keeping a log of his women right along with his horses, dogs, falcons, peacocks, and a plethora of servants. Nor, was he embarrassed to note how much was spent on bribes and to whom he paid them. Thus, readers have the unparalleled experience of seeing courtly life on a daily basis, even to Ippolito's visit to the mistress of the King of France while she was in her bath.
Ippolito reached the ripe old age of 29 before he received the cardinal's red hat, which at that time was a guarantee of wealth and power. He was a man who enjoyed women thoroughly and often, gambled frequently, and spent time hunting rather than in prayer. Thus, his elevation to such a lofty position had naught to do with religiosity, much to do with politics.
Mary Hollingsworth has created an amazing view of everyday life among the rich and powerful in Renaissance Italy. Highly recommended.
- Gail Cooke
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Liam on 29 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Cardinal's Hat in the title refers to obtaining the post of Cardinal in the Catholic Church. In the 16th century this post offered not just prestige but enormous wealth and power. Ippolito d'Este became Archbishop of Milan at the incredibly young age of 9. The fact that he was an Archbishop did not prevent him from indulging to excess in wine, women and gambling. However, what he really craved was a Cardinal's hat, and with the help of his older brother he courted the people who could help him achieve this goal.

Ippolito's life was a continuos round of feasting, drinking, hunting, buying lavish gifts and flattering inflated egos. But it is the detail of Ippolito's circle and its everyday needs that truly fascinates. The amount of wine everybody would drink each day, the logistics of having enough hard currency of various types to keep his travelling court operational, the numerous jobs that needed to be undertaken every day: buying fresh food and wine, looking after hounds, horses and hawks. This is not just a story of one man of noble birth, it is a story that covers a wide range of social classes and contrasts the lives and hopes of each. Mary Hollingworth has produced a remarkable work that is well worth the attention of anybody seeking a book that is entertaining, educational and fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Baerends on 15 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good read about the life and times of Hippolito d'Este, younger son of the Duke of Ferrara and of the infamous Lucretia Borgia. As his mother died when Hippolito (born in 1509) was still a child, the subtitle 'life in the court of a Borgia prince' is slightly silly - Hippolito was a d'Este, period. Not that this detracts from the book which is very interesting, even though based on endless books of accounts and bills.

Hippolito's professional life has a flying start when he becomes archbishop of Milan at the tender age of 9. Given his high birth this is not nearly enough and much of his early life is spent in pursuit of cardinalship. This being the ealry 1500s, obtaining the proverbial red hat did not involve much bible study nor religious contemplation. Instead, Hippolito had to lobby his way into cardinalship, mostly at the French court of Francis I. The main tools at his disposal were his income and his borrowing power, both sorely needed to support a lifestyle characterised by conspicuous consumption and giving gifts to / bribing of (a fine line in those days) potentially useful courtiers.

With the quantitative data collected by the writer from the countless bills she studied, we now know the cost of this lifestyle. Converted to modern equivalent earning power, Hippolito's smallest tips (to footmen and the like) would be around a 1000 quid. His fashionable suits (including perfumed gloves of course) would be a few 100,000, and the many dinners he threw ran into the millions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. Birznieks on 6 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book provides great feeling of life of Renessainse noble and his preoccupations - almsgiving, organising feasts, showing off, falling ill, traveling, etc.
Although the book is basically based around bookkeeping records of nobles stewards, author has masterfully translated the lists of bookkeeper's entries into a great story.
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By Ludovico Sforza TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
Excellent, a highly detailed view of expenditure in 16th century Italy. Covers both low and high folk salary's and incomes as seen from an Archbishop's (later Cardinal) account books. Sounds dry but it most certainly isn't. Ms Hollingsworth bring all the characters to life as much as possible and to my mind has done a superb job within the constraints of the material.

One slight regret is that there is not more detail regarding some of the minor characters, the cooks for example. These people are mentioned almost in passing and though the author does her best to provide some detail I found I wanted more. However, I'm sure this is down to the possibility that we just don't have the level of detail in the record books.

A great, informative, enjoyable read if you are at all interested in the Renaissance.
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