Biographies & Memoirs


APRIL 30 MARKED the Feast of Saint Mercuriale, the patron saint of Forlì. And in 1488, the Forlivesi celebrated the holiday in honor of not only their saint but also a living icon, Caterina Riario Sforza. Moments after the Council of Eight capitulated in the face of the Milanese army and returned the town to Riario rule, citizens who had hidden away in their homes since Girolamo's murder poured into the streets, cheering for their indomitable countess. The long stalemate had come to a close. Anxious council members accompanied the Sforza representatives to free nine-year-old Ottaviano from his prison in the Porta San Pietro. They escorted the bewildered boy to the piazza and led his horse three times around the square, as he took symbolic possession of the city.

Hundreds trailed after Ottaviano as he rode out of the square and along the wide road to the Ravaldino fortress. Two long weeks had passed since Caterina had last seen her son. All the Forlivesi remembered the sight of the boy standing at the edge of the moat, with an Orsi dagger pressed to his throat, while Caterina defied his captors. By the time the procession reached the ramparts, thousands of onlookers eagerly awaited their reunion.

The drawbridge lowered, revealing Caterina standing alone in the cavernous entrance. Abandoning her sword and other trappings of war, she wore a simple dress of brown, the color of mourning. Little Ottaviano bolted into his mother's arms as she stepped onto the banks, and the crowd wept as they witnessed their embrace. Ottaviano sobbed openly, but Caterina hid her face against her son's body. After a few moments she raised her head, searching for her other children; Livio, whom she had last seen in the arms of the assassin Ludovico Orsi; Bianca, her precious only girl; Sforzino, a tiny infant; Cesare and Galeazzo, her other sturdy little sons. Noting her concern, the delegates, ambassadors, and townspeople immediately swept her off to the Porta San Pietro, where she was reunited with the rest of the Riario heirs. As she gathered her children into her arms, the horrors of the past weeks were momentarily forgotten, washed away by joyful tears.

Caterina changed into more glorious raiment to make her triumphant entrance into Forlì. The dark colors of widowhood were shelved for the moment as the victorious countess donned sumptuous silk and brocade robes in celebration. Even after two weeks of imprisonment, she looked radiant as she rode through the Porta Cotogni with Ottaviano by her side. Nobles in a rainbow of heraldic colors framed Caterina and her son. Squadrons of Milanese and Bentivoglio soldiers in glittering polished armor escorted the returning rulers. The people of Forlì were elated, a surprising turnaround from the previous day, when they had scoffed at the Milanese envoys. While all the Forlivesi waved banners and shouted, "Riario! Riario!" and "Sforza! Sforza!" Caterina and Ottaviano made the triple circuit around the piazza, side by side, as cheers of allegiance rang out around them. The Riarios had reclaimed Forlì. But Caterina knew better than to relax. The danger was far from over. The next threat would arise not from her enemies, but her allies.

TWENTY THOUSAND MEN, the soldiers of the duke of Milan, were camped outside the gates of Forlì, each eagerly awaiting the signal to begin the sack. The townspeople, for all their apparent jubilation, were dreading the inevitable reprisal. The Forlivesi had looted Caterina's palace, leaving it in shambles. The countess had nothing to lose; once the festivities were over, she and her children would be safely ensconced in the fortress. Every citizen was certain that she would open the gates to her friends and relatives and use the flood of soldiers to purge the town of its guilt for Girolamo's death, her children's abduction, and the people's defection to papal rule.

But Caterina again took the people of Forlì by surprise. After her victory march, Caterina invited the captains of the armies to dine with her in the house of a loyal Forlivese nobleman, Luffo Numai. Amid the toasts and congratulations, Caterina coolly informed them that their services were no longer needed, and ordered that the armies, except for a small Milanese contingent, remain camped outside the gates while preparing for their long march home. The captains were thunderstruck. The rules of war demanded a sack. Their men had seen neither battle nor glory—only long idle days of waiting. The leaders protested that it would be easier to deny the army their wages than refuse them the satisfaction of pillage. Caterina, unruffled, replied that her subjecs had stolen jewels, silver, and other valuables from her house. If the soldiers sacked Forlì, her possessions would end up in their bags, along with everything else, and she would never see them again. Certainly her brother, the duke of Milan, she astutely noted, would not want to see his nephew's inheritance dissipated in this way. The captains cursed and threatened, but Caterina serenely poured more wine and allotted them campsites outside the three gates: San Pietro, Cotogni, and Schiavonia.

Word soon spread through the town: "Madonna non vuole, Madonna non vuole!" ("Our Lady doesn't want it [the sack]!"). Leone Cobelli narrated the triumphant return of Caterina with pride and joy. The chronicler also knew that the benevolent countess, hailed by the citizens as the "Savior of Forlì" on April 30, was a far cry from the woman he had seen the night before.

After the Council of Eight had fallen on April 29, several leading Riario partisans had taken over the decision making. Luffo Numai and Tommaso degli Orcioli, friends of Ludovico Ercolani, who had obtained the important messages from Caterina moments before she was captured in the Riario palace, came to Ravaldino that very night to discuss conditions of the surrender. Cobelli, who moved easily and unobtrusively among the coteries of the nobility, managed to introduce himself into the delegation. Inside Ravaldino, he witnessed Caterina's tirade over the wrongs done by the Forlivesi to her family. Her indictment of Forlì was terrible: she mounted accusations of murder, treachery, abduction, desecration, and thievery and she found the town guilty on every score. Giving vent to two weeks of pent-up rage, Caterina exclaimed that the sack was no more than what the citizens deserved.

Cobelli, rapt, then watched the normally reserved countess struggle to master herself. She did not want a sack; the weakest inevitably suffered most when anarchy reigned. She knew well that young women were always the first to be harmed when bloodthirsty soldiers raged through a town. Caterina regained her calm. She would not permit girls to be dishonored because, as Cobelli quoted her, "I care about women."1 Caterina gave the Forlivesi a chance to redeem themselves. That same night, she ordered archers to pepper the town with written messages curled around arrows: "My people of Forlì, hurry, put to death my enemies! I promise you that if you deliver them to me, I will take you as my dearest brothers. Quickly then! Fear nothing! The Milanese army is at the gate, soon you will be rewarded, and my enemies will have their just deserts!"

As Caterina's messages penetrated every street, Ludovico, Checco, Ronche, and other conspirators were huddled in the Orsi palace. From the first cries of "Duke! Duke!" and "Ottaviano! Ottaviano!" they knew the game had ended. Leaving their wives and children in the care of their aged father, Andrea Orsi, who was too ill to accompany them, the Orsi brothers set off with seventeen of their accomplices toward Ravenna. They did not leave empty-handed. Amid murder and kidnapping, the Orsis had found a little time for looting. Tens of thousands of ducats' worth of silver and jewels were stuffed into their saddlebags, along with cash and valuables stolen from Jewish moneylenders. So laden, the fugitives took to the road, but the Venetians had no intention of harboring fugitives from the duke of Milan and expelled them. They eventually found asylum in the Papal States.

With her realm saved and her enemies on the run, Caterina turned to dealing with her subjects. Edicts flowed down from the walls of Ravaldino, broadcast through the city by the town criers. The exiles who had returned to Forlì upon the death of Girolamo were ordered to leave before sundown. Bishop Savelli and his assistants were detained, not unkindly, but as an insurance policy, should the pope make one last attempt to claim the territory. Finally, Caterina received three soldiers—Capoferri, Serughi, and Denti—into her quarters. She showered the battle-hardened but slightly embarrassed men with praise, thanks, and rich rewards for having refused to give up her children to the murderous Orsis.

That night, while the Forlivesi were feasting and celebrating their good fortune, Caterina sent a few men out to recover her husband's corpse from its pauper's grave at the Church of Saint Francis. Although the cathedral of Forlì had rejected Girolamo's body, Imola, the city the count had always preferred, claimed his remains for their main church. Count Girolamo made one last trip to Imola and was entombed in the cathedral, with an elaborate marble monument to commemorate the man who had given much to the town. Caterina never forgave the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. She would give generously for the rest of her life to many religious institutions, but the cathedral of Forlì was left off the countess's list and she never set foot in it again.

Her devastated palace was no longer habitable, so Caterina stayed in the Ravaldino fortress. There she had both the security of the strong defenses and the comfort of her children all safely asleep nearby. On May 1, she awoke and prepared for the grim task of punishing the conspirators. Girolamo had always made a point of not being in town when public executions took place, leaving the inevitable unpopularity of the event to fall on the governors. Caterina was different. As she had already demonstrated during the Roffi conspiracy, she believed that several exemplary punishments would make it clear to the Forlivesi that she had assumed full control of the city.

During the Renaissance, capital punishment was a public affair. Witnesses formed an essential part of an execution. In cases like this one, the magistrates were seeking the repentance of the whole public, and the prisoner's fear and humiliation were thought to function as a deterrent to future wrongdoing. The people themselves were expected to shout and jeer, expressing their rejection of those who had disobeyed the law. It was believed that "eye for an eye" justice was required to restore order.

Caterina began by summoning a new bailiff to town. Matteo Babone of Castelbolognese instilled fear simply with his appearance. Standing head and shoulders above most Forlivesi, Babone had a hulking frame, and his heavy, irregular features were partially concealed by hanks of filthy, matted black hair. The people recoiled in terror from "the Turk," as they dubbed him; he seemed to be conjured out of a nightmare of an Ottoman invasion. Unlike the unfortunate Barone, who had been co-opted to execute the Roffi conspirators and went running to the nearest shrine to expiate his sins, Babone relished his work; having no ties to the townspeople, he felt no qualms about the grisly job.

At daybreak, while Caterina was kneeling in the Church of Saint Francis, praying for her husband's soul, Babone broke down doors and yanked conspirators, still in their bedclothes, to the gallows. Marco Scocciacaro, who had thrown the body of Girolamo from the window into the square, was the first to pay for his crimes. To make the punishment fit the crime, Babone dangled Scocciacaro on a noose from the window through which he had dropped the count. The executioner swung his victim back and forth above the crowd like a grotesque piñata as the Forlivesi clawed at his body. Scocciacaro was still alive when Babone dropped him into the waiting crowd, who tore him limb from limb.

Next came handsome twenty-nine-year-old Pagliarino, nephew of the assassin Giacomo del Ronche. The young man had been caught in conspiracies before and also was a known thief, but Caterina had always pardoned him out of fondness for his mother. But the young man had initiated the desecration of the count's body, dragging it across the piazza. Caterina could no longer be indulgent; he too was suspended from the window. The crowd, now in a frenzy of blood lust, slit his throat, castrated him, and carved out his heart and intestines. The last man killed on that bloody day was Pietro Albanese. At Ravaldino he had incited the Orsis to murder Caterina's children and hurled verbal abuse at the countess. He was hanged at the gallows and his body left among the soldiers, who hacked at it with spades and lances. At last the sun set on the piazza of Forlì, drawing the day's horrors to a close. As Cobelli looked sadly on his beloved square, usually bright with colorful ceramic wares and fragrant with fresh fruit, he breathed in the reek of rotting flesh and sighed, "Unbelievable! To call this a lake of blood would not be a lie."2

Caterina intended to use these deaths as a lesson. As soon as night fell, her town criers communicated her demand that all the belongings stolen from her palace be returned. By daybreak, everything except what had been stolen by the fugitive Orsis was piled outside Ravaldino.

May 2 was the day of reckoning for the Orsi family. Ludovico and Checco had fled, leaving their father, wives, daughters, and grandchildren behind. Babone dragged the eighty-year-old Andrea Orsi out of his hiding place in the Convent of Saint Dominic. After tying a rough rope about the man's wizened neck, Babone hauled him through the streets to his own palace. The beating of drums summoned the citizens to the house, where soldiers, builders, and artisans were waiting with various tools. As Orsi and the Forlivesi watched, the elegant palace was destroyed. Babone loomed over the bent elder, taunting him as each frescoed wall fell to the ground and graceful plaster molding was smashed with a pickax. The remains of the Orsi stronghold were then set alight like a funeral pyre for the family who could no longer call Forlì home. Several excited citizens brought home precious objects looted from the Orsis' home as prize spoils for the countess. Caterina refused them, although the Orsis had made good their escape with jewels stolen from her.

His sons gone, Andrea Orsi knew he would have to bear the punishment for the family. They all had devised the plot together around his kitchen table, and although weak in body, he had always insisted that for the rebellion to succeed, all the Riario family must die. Wheezing and coughing in the dust, Andrea cursed his sons for their stupidity: not for their crimes, but for their failures.

As Babone shoved him onto the executioner's podium, however, the anger of the proud noble dissolved as his hands started to tremble. "People of Forlì!" he called out. "Say a prayer for my soul and remember to be wiser than I have been." The words of the Orsi patriarch closed the rebellion. Now all that awaited was his death.

Andrea Orsi's execution was Babone's masterpiece. The old man was tied to a board, with only his head hanging unsupported off the edge. His feet were raised as the plank was tied to the back of a horse, so that his head lay on the ground. Babone then spurred the horse to a canter, dragging Orsi behind it as the old man's head bounced against the hard cobblestones of the square. Three times around the piazza Orsi was dragged, in a bloody parody of the possession ceremony that the Orsis had coveted, until the skull had fractured and Andrea Orsi's head was reduced to a bloody pulp.

As Andrea Orsi's body lay in the square, Caterina announced a reward of a thousand ducats for the return of the fugitive murderers alive, and five hundred for their corpses.3 But despite her efforts, the Orsis would elude her for years.

After the execution of Andrea Orsi, Caterina summoned the Orsi women. Seven terrified wives, sisters, and daughters had been left behind, one clutching her infant son. The countess then freed all of them and allowed them either to remain in Forlì or to return to their paternal homes.

Caterina then turned to her rescuers and guests, inviting the Milanese generals and local nobles to lunch in the fortress. The noble generals enjoyed a cheerful banquet with Caterina, who impressed them with her knowledge of strategy and her interest in new developments in artillery. But the meal was more than a pleasant diversion. As evening fell, the head of every family in Forlì was summoned to the Ravaldino fortress. The generals retired to another room while several hundred anxious husbands and fathers gathered at the foot of the castle, the encroaching darkness fueling their fears as to what night might bring. Soldiers sorted the men into groups of twenty-five and led them into the castle. In the main chamber, they saw Caterina sitting upon a high throne, illuminated by torchlight. A large Bible sat on a table in front of her, its parchment pages gaping open to display the sentence "In the beginning was the Word." Each man was called forward by name and read a contract guaranteed by the duke of Milan. The document outlined the duties and privileges of good citizens and the punishments for betrayal. With one hand on the Bible and with eyes fixed on the countess, they vowed fidelity to Ottaviano, lord of Forlì, and to Caterina, the regent. Afterward, the relieved subjects were ushered into the next room, where the famous generals toasted and congratulated them, with warm assurances that under Caterina's rule they would prosper in peace. In lieu of a papal sanction of her regency, Caterina had obtained the authority to rule from her own subjects.

May 4 fell on a Sunday, and after a Mass of thanksgiving, the countess convoked the Council of Eight for one last session. Mindful of the brutal deaths they had witnessed in the piazza, the men trembled as they entered the countess's chambers. They had cooperated willingly with Savelli and the Orsis and had rudely dismissed the envoys of Milan and Bologna who had arrived to aid Caterina; they knew there was much to answer for. But for the most part Caterina administered only verbal lashings, although her words stung like strokes of a whip. Four members of the treacherous council were simply dismissed, since Caterina realized they had acted out of fear rather than conviction.

But Niccolò Pansechi, Girolamo's notary and tax collector, was another matter. After having reaped the profits of persuading Girolamo to reinstall the dazi, Niccolò had then turned and joined the murderers of the very man who had made him rich.

Pansechi stood before a stone-faced Caterina, the rope of the penitent dangling from his throat. Aware of the gruesome deaths of the conspirators, the traitorous noble tried to find excuses to save his own neck. Caterina pounced. "Traitor!" she exclaimed. "This is the thanks we get for giving you money and position? Do you remember, traitor, how you told us the best thing would be to bring back the dazi?" Caterina continued, raising her voice so everyone from her immediate entourage of nobles and soldiers to the servants listening from the halls could hear. "Did you not, traitor, assure us that the people of Forlì were a vile and cowed mass of fools, and once the taxes were reinstated, they would never mention it again?" She rose to her feet in rage. "You are a disgrace! Get out of my sight."4 A trembling Pansechi was led off by the soldiers, his possessions confiscated and his house given over as barracks for Caterina's troops.

Simone de' Fiorini stumbled forward next. A huge man with bulging eyes set in a wide face, he towered over Caterina. The countess addressed him in deceptively mild tones, asking, "Oh, Simone, what did you do to my husband? You stabbed his body lying dead in the piazza. You called him a traitor." Her words felled the giant man like an ax. Simone sank to his knees, sobbing his excuses. His bent head shook as he begged forgiveness and protested that "mere curiosity" had spurred him to the piazza. Reaching his arms to Caterina he swore that he had attacked only the body of Antonio da Montecchio, the police chief who had come to Girolamo's aid, whom he hated for personal reasons. He fell silent, looking up at Caterina with his hands clasped. Caterina replied coldly, "I will take the same pity on you that you showed to my husband. I will leave you to be torn apart by the dogs."5

Her words were harsh, but Caterina knew the piazza had seen enough blood. She exiled Pansechi, Fiorini, and the remaining two council members who had assisted the Orsis, sending them to Milan, where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. Although the penalty for "breaking confines" was death, Pansechi escaped and went to Cotignola. Caterina was probably counting on his committing such a foolish act. She was immediately notified of his escape and sent out a squad of bounty hunters to bring him to Forlì. The greedy, shortsighted Pansechi disappeared into Ravaldino and was never heard from again. Even the groveling Fiorini made his own daring bid for freedom. Eight years after his exile, he left Milan and returned to Romagna to stir up trouble. Once again alerted, Caterina sent out a team of soldiers to capture him, but Fiorini showed surprising agility for such a large man and nimbly escaped out a back window. Caterina's men would pursue him for years but he would never be caught.

Caterina was ready to close this violent chapter of her life. A few more conspirators were rounded up and executed in the dungeons of Forlì, but it was time to turn the page. Caterina hired a new chief magistrate to prepare the documents retroactively legalizing the executions. After she was able to leave Ravaldino, Caterina ordered four public executions and five additional hangings in the fortress.6 The sons of Giovanni Nanni, a farmer who had been executed for the conspiracy at the Porta Cotogni with the Roffi family, were those who were hanged. The brothers had eagerly joined the Orsi plot, publicly announcing on several occasions that they relished the idea "of eating the heart of the countess and those of her children." Later biographers universally label Caterina's actions here as stemming from a vendetta, although Cobelli considered her merciful. Crimes against the state called for swift justice. As a point of comparison, almost eighty people had been executed on the same day of the attempt on Lorenzo de' Medici's life.7The time would come when Caterina would succumb to blind vengeance, but in this case, she behaved as any ruler of her time would. Her enemies on the run, her adversaries exiled, her people reconciled, Caterina was ready to take the reins of Forlì.

The foreign armies left on May 7, bringing the exiles with them. Ottaviano rode with several Forlì nobles to Imola, where the city waited to affirm its loyalty to him. A contingent of soldiers remained in Forlì under the count of Bergamo, nicknamed "Brambilla," meaning "the war cry." This brave and personable warrior took over as the governor of Forlì in the place of Domenico Ricci, Girolamo's brother-in-law. Caterina also released Bishop Savelli and his assistants against the safe return of her mother and sister in Cesena. With her whole family finally reunited about her, she spent most of her time inside the fortress. To ensure that no outbreaks of violence would perturb the renewed tranquility, Caterina ordered that no citizen could bear arms without authorization and imposed a curfew.

Life slowly returned to normal in Forlì. The market reopened in the piazza and the workers returned to their fields. Caterina did not go back to the palace in the square, however, even though it had been restored after the devastation. She preferred to reside with her family behind the sturdy walls of Ravaldino. Although her rule had the approval of the Forlivesi, Caterina still worried about the pope. She awaited word from Rome that the pontiff had invested Ottaviano with the title of lord of Forlì, naming her as regent, yet none arrived. As May drew to a close, however, Caterina was heartened by an event almost as comforting as a papal confirmation. Cardinal Raffaello Riario arrived in Romagna. Caterina, already grateful for the fifty horsemen he had sent in her hour of need, rode out to meet the twenty-eight-year-old cardinal at Forlimpopoli, with Brambilla and a host of nobles. As he had done six years before, when the Riarios first moved to Forlì after the death of Sixtus, the cardinal brought an impressive entourage. He settled into the fortress of Ravaldino and assisted Caterina in her fledgling steps as sole ruler of two states. Cardinal Riario had grown in importance over the years, and now not only was cardinal camerlengo, in charge of running the conclave after a pope's death, but had gathered further titles and benefices and was even named archbishop of Pisa, although after his capture in the wake of the Pazzi conspiracy, he never set foot in that diocese. Now extremely wealthy, he assisted Caterina in reestablishing her household. Cardinal Riario stayed with the family for several months and Forlì started the summer in the spirit of a joyous family reunion.

Meanwhile, a scandal had developed in nearby Faenza. Delighted chroniclers sped to get the inside story of the most titillating murder of the year. Galeotto Manfredi, ruler of Faenza, who had penned the particularly scabrous account of Caterina's retort at Ravaldino, was murdered on May 31, 1488, by his wife, Francesca Bentivoglio. The daughter of Caterina's close ally Giovanni Bentivoglio, the lord of Bologna, Francesca had married Galeotto Manfredi in 1482. But a few years earlier, during a period of exile in Ferrara, Galeotto had fallen in love with Cassandra, the daughter of a local pharmacist, aptly called "La Pavona" ("the Peacock") by her fellow townspeople. According to rumor, the smitten Galeotto had secretly married the beauty. His official wedding to Francesca Bentivoglio didn't put a damper on Galeotto's affair; he moved Cassandra to Faenza and installed her in a convent where he could visit her regularly. Francesca spent the first few years of marriage ignorant of the affair and even bore Galeotto a son, Astorre, in 1485. But Cassandra's outraged father repeatedly visited Galeotto to complain, and word of this soon reached Francesca. Attempting to confront her husband, she was blocked and beaten by one of his friends, Fra Silvester, a renegade Franciscan brother who lived riotously under the protective wing of Galeotto. Infuriated and also frightened, for wife poisoning was common in Romagna, she returned to her father's fold in Bologna in 1487. Through the intervention of Lorenzo de' Medici, Francesca was persuaded to return to her husband a few months later. They lived separate lives, but Francesca's fury did not abate.

On May 29, 1488, Francesca sent urgent word to her husband that she was deathly ill and begged him to bring her a doctor. But in her semidark room, Francesca was actually quite well, and in the company of three assassins, armed with ropes, swords, and daggers, she awaited Galeotto. Two days and two nights they lay in wait, until he finally arrived with a doctor. Francesca's personal servant, Rigo, detained the doctor outside the door, allowing Galeotto to enter alone. Young, strong, and alert, he sensed danger the instant he crossed the threshold. When the first assassin threw a rope around his neck, Galeotto was quick to react and struggled free, but Francesca did not let her prey escape. Stepping behind her husband, she drove a dagger into his back, and Galeotto fell at her feet, lifeless.8

Now the golden nugget of territory between Forlì and Imola shone like a prize, ready for the fastest conqueror to lay claim to it. Giovanni Bentivoglio immediately sent a force to subdue Faenza. Caterina made a show of solidarity with her sister-in-widowhood, discreetly ignoring the cause of death of Francesca's husband. She sent a sizable contingent under the leadership of Brambilla, the count of Bergamo, who had saved her own lands. At first, the people of Faenza seemed glad to see the Milanese and Bolognese armies and shouted "Duke! Duke!" in the streets, as if to cheer the duke of Milan. But then Lorenzo de' Medici set to work. The last thing the Florentine wanted was a solid block of Romagnol territory under the direct control of the duke of Milan. Lorenzo's agents riled up the citizens against the "murderers of Galeotto" and sent whispers through the countryside about a coup d'état. Even Antonio Maria Ordelaffi appeared in Faenza, perhaps to offer his hand in marriage to Francesca, as he had to Caterina. The temper of the town turned, and suddenly hostility rained down on the joint forces of Milan and Bologna. While dining in the main palace of Faenza, Brambilla and Giovanni Bentivoglio were attacked. Brambilla, the brave soldier and gallant captain who had fought in numerous battles, was killed at the table, while Giovanni Bentivoglio narrowly escaped by climbing out of a window and into the hands of the Florentines. Innocent VIII shot out a papal edict confirming three-year-old Astorre Manfredi as lord of Faenza, putting the boy under the tutelage of a delegation of leading citizens. Caterina received a double disappointment with the dispatch bearing news from Faenza. Her hopes for a unified state were dashed; Faenza would still be controlled by hostile forces. Furthermore, her new friend and protector, Brambilla, was dead. Her first sally as an independent ruler had ended in failure and loss.

JULY BROUGHT THE long-awaited papal confirmation of Caterina's rule. The twelve-page document, dated July 18, 1488, was signed by Pope Innocent VIII and sixteen cardinals, who declared Ottaviano the lord of Forlì and Imola until the end of his family line.9Countess Caterina was officially named his regent until the boy came of age. The news was proclaimed to their subjects on July 30 amid tolling bells and banquets. The prominent presence of Cardinal Riario amid the celebrations strongly suggested that he was responsible for the pontiff's change of heart. Together Cardinal Riario and Caterina announced a benevolent change in policy, the first official one by the new rulers of Forlì. They lowered the hated grain dazi and decreased taxes on salt and military guards by one third.

When October 19 came and the cardinal took his leave, the citizens of both Forlì and Imola were sad to see him go. His generosity had helped revive the spirits of the tragedy-stricken countess and her subjects. Peace had been restored and the future promised prosperity. Little did Caterina know that the next trauma in her life would arrive soon, and would not be inflicted by troops or revolts, but by Cupid's arrow.

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