?1560 - 1634
Leonora Orsini had a tumultuous upbringing because her mother was murdered in 1574 by her father, Paolo Giordano Orsini, the duke of Bracciano. However, Leonora's childhood in the Medici court provided her with many opportunities for education denied to other females of her time, and resulted, most notably, in her musical prowess. As a young woman, she moved to Rome and, with her cousin Maria de' Medici, established an ensemble of musical singers. After her marriage in 1592 to Alessandro Sforza, count of Santa Fiora and duke of Segni, she continued her musical involvement as both patron and performer. Although they had eight children, Orsini and Sforza experienced marital difficulties, undoubtedly exacerbated by allegations of an affair between Orsini and the future Pope Innocent X, and later separated (in either 1609 or 1621). After the failure of their marriage, Orsini founded the monastery of Santa Chiara delle Cappuccine in Santa Fiora, and died in Rome in 1634. For further information, see "Women Composers: Music Through the Ages," volume I. HPC #09855.