Bianca Cappello

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For the Italian wine grape that is also known as Bianca Capello, see Prié blanc.
Bianca Cappello
Alessandro Allori capello.jpg
Cappello by Alessandro Allori
Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Tenure 12 June 1579 - 20 October 1587
Coronation 12 June 1579
Spouse Pietro Bonaventuri
Francesco I de' Medici
Issue Don Antonio
Full name
Bianca Cappello
Father Bartolomeo Cappello
Mother Pellegrina Morosini
Born 1548
Venice, Republic of Venice
Died 20 October 1587
Poggio a Caiano, Tuscany

Bianca Cappello (1548 – 20 October 1587) was an Italian noblewoman who was the mistress, and afterward the second wife, of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Her husband officially made her his consort.


Portrait by Alessandro Allori

She was born in Venice, in 1548, the daughter of Bartolomeo Cappello and Pellegrina Morosini, a member of one of the richest and noblest Venetian families, and was noted for her great beauty.[1]

At the age of fifteen she fell in love with Pietro Bonaventuri, a young Florentine clerk in the firm of Salviati, and on 28 November 1563 escaped with him to Florence, where they were married. In 1564 she had a daughter named Virginia, or, according to other sources, Pellegrina. The Venetian government made every effort to have Bianca arrested and brought back but the Grand Duke Cosimo I intervened in her favour and she was left unmolested.[2][3]

However, she did not get on well with her husband's family, who were very poor and made her do menial work, until at last her beauty attracted Grand Prince Francesco, son and heir apparent of the grand duke.[4]

Although already married to Joanna of Austria, Francesco seduced Bianca and gave her jewels, money and other presents. Bonaventuri, Bianca's husband, was given court employment and consoled himself with other ladies until, in 1572, he was murdered in the streets of Florence in consequence of some amorous intrigue. It is possible that Bianca and Francesco were involved.[2]

On the death of Cosimo in 1574 Francesco succeeded to the grand duchy; he now installed Bianca in a palace (now known as Palazzo di Bianca Cappello) close to his own and outraged his wife by flaunting his mistress before her. As Francesco had no heir, since Joanna had born him only one son, Filippo (20 May 1577 – 29 March 1582) who died as a juvenile, and six daughters, of whom, only two lived to adulthood; Bianca was very anxious to present him with one, since until such time her position would remain very insecure.[2] In 1576 she gave birth to Don Antonio de' Medici (d. 1621), but he was not openly acknowledged as Francesco's heir until after Joanna's death, when the boy was about three years old.[5]


In 1578 Giovanna died; a few months later Francesco secretly married Bianca, and on 10 June 1579, the marriage was publicly announced. Two days later, on the 12 June, Bianca was crowned the Grand Duchess of Tuscany at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The Venetian government now put aside its resentment and was officially represented at the magnificent wedding festivities, for it saw in Bianca Cappello an instrument for cementing good relations with Tuscany. But the long expected heir failed to come, and Bianca realized that if her husband were to die before her she was lost, for his family, especially his brother Cardinal Ferdinand, hated her bitterly, as an adventuress and interloper.[2][6]

In October 1587, at the Villa Medici in Poggio a Caiano, Francesco and Bianca died on 19 and 20 October, possibly poisoned, or as some historians believe, from malarial fever. In 2006, forensic and toxicology experts at the University of Florence reported evidence of arsenic poisoning in a study published in the British Medical Journal,[7] but in 2010 evidence of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which causes malaria, was found in Francesco's remains.[8]


The biography of Bianca Cappello was used by Thomas Middleton for his tragedy Women Beware Women (published 1657).


  1. ^ Lytton, Lytton, Rosina Wheeler Bulwer (2010). Bianca Cappello: An historical romance. Nabu Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-1144883667. 
  2. ^ a b c d Public Domain One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bianca Cappello". Encyclopædia Britannica 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 288–289.  The above cites:
    • S. Romanin, Lezioni di storia Veneta, vol. ii. (Florence, 1875)
    • G. E. Saltini, Tragedie Medicee domestiche (Florence, 1898)
  3. ^ Sizeranne, Robert de La (1969). Celebrities of the Italian Renaissance in Florence and in the Louvre. Bianca capello in the pitti palace. pp. 122–124. ISBN 978-0836913026. 
  4. ^ Sizeranne, Robert de La (1969). Celebrities of the Italian Renaissance in Florence and in the Louvre. Bianca capello in the pitti palace. pp. 125–126. ISBN 978-0836913026. 
  5. ^ Roberto Cantagalli, “Bianca Cappello e una leggenda da sfatare; La questione del figlio supposto,” Nuova rivista storica 44 (1965): 636–652; Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, “Objects and Identity: Antonio de' Medici and the Casino at San Marco in Florence,” in The Renaissance World, ed. John Jeffries Martin (New York: Routledge, 2007), 481–500.
  6. ^ Sizeranne, Robert de La (1969). Celebrities of the Italian Renaissance in Florence and in the Louvre. Bianca capello in the pitti palace. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-0836913026. 
  7. ^ Francesco Mari; Aldo Polettini; Donatella Lippi; Elisabetta Bertol (2006). "The mysterious death of Francesco I de' Medici and Bianca Cappello: an arsenic murder?". BMJ 333 (June 23–30, 2006): 1299–1301. doi:10.1136/bmj.38996.682234.AE. PMC 1761188. PMID 17185715. 
  8. ^ Lorenzi, Rossella (14 July 2010). "Medici family cold case finally solved". Retrieved 16 July 2012. 


  • James Chater, "Bianca Cappello and Music", in Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh Smyth (Florence, 1985), vol. i, 569–79
  • Samuele Romanin, Lezioni di storia Veneta, vol. ii (Florence, 1875)
  • G. E. Saltini, Tragedie Medicee domestiche (Florence, 1898)
  • Saltini, Della morte di Francesco de' Medici e di Bianca Cappello (Florence, 1863)
  • Elizabeth Clementine Stedman, Bianca Capello, A Tragedy (1873)
  • Steegman, Bianca Cappello (Baltimore, 1913)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 
  • Rosina Wheeler Bulwer-Lytton Lytton (2010) Bianca Cappello: An Historical Romance Nabu Press ISBN 978-1144883667

External links[edit]

Bianco Cappello
House of Cappello
Died: 17 October 1587
Italian royalty
Preceded by
Joanna of Austria
Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Title next held by
Christina of Lorraine