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Vittoria Accoramboni (15 February 1557 - 22 December 1585) was an Italian lady famous for her great beauty and accomplishments and for her untimely end, a story that was later the basis for a play and a novel.
She was born in Rome, the tenth child in a family belonging to the minor noblesse of Gubbio, which migrated to Rome with a view to bettering their fortunes. After refusing several offers of marriage for Vittoria, her father betrothed her to Francesco Peretti , a man of no position, but a nephew of Cardinal Montalto, who was regarded as likely to become pope.
Vittoria was admired and worshipped by all the cleverest and most brilliant men in Rome, and being luxurious and extravagant although poor, she and her husband were soon plunged in debt. Among her most fervent admirers was P. G. Orsini , duke of Bracciano , one of the most powerful men in Rome, and her brother Marcello, wishing to see her the duke's wife, had Peretti murdered (1581). The duke himself was suspected of complicity, inasmuch as he was believed to have murdered his first wife, Isabella de Medici . Now that Vittoria was free he made her an offer of marriage, which she willingly accepted, and they were married shortly after.
But her good fortune aroused much jealousy, and attempts were made to annul the marriage; she was even imprisoned, and only liberated through the interference of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo. On the death of Pope Gregory XIII, Cardinal Montalto, her first husband's uncle, was elected in his place as Sixtus V (1585); he vowed vengeance on the duke of Bracciano and Vittoria, who, warned in time, fled first to Venice and thence to Salo in Venetian territory. Here the duke died in November 1585, bequeathing all his personal property (the duchy of Bracciano he left to his son by his first wife) to his widow.
Vittoria, overwhelmed with grief, went to live in retirement at Padua, where she was followed by Lodovico Orsini , a relation of her late husband and a servant of the Venetian republic, to arrange amicably for the division of the property. But a quarrel having arisen in this connexion Lodovico hired a band of bravos and had Vittoria assassinated at the end of 1585. He himself and nearly all his accomplices were afterwards put to death by order of the republic.
About Vittoria Accoramboni much has been written, and she has been greatly maligned by some biographers. Her story formed the basis of John Webster's drama, The White Devil', or The Tragedy of Paolo Giordano Ursini (1612), and of Ludwig Tieck's novel, Vittoria Accoramboni (1840); it is told more accurately in D. Gnoli 's volume, Vittoria Accoramboni (Florence, 1870), and an excellent sketch of her life is given in Countess E. Martinengo-Cesaresco 's Lombard Studies (London, 1902).
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