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  • I Became Poland's Italian Queen
    Who Am I?

    by Anthony Parente

    Bona Sforza
    I was born on February 2, 1494, in Vigevano, which is located near the town of Pavia. My father was Gian Galeazzo of Milan, and my mother was Isabella of Naples. My parents named me after my grandmother. Following the death of my father we left Milan. My mother made sure I had a good education growing up. I studied history, classical literature, mathematics, law, theology, Latin, geography, and natural science. I also learned how to play several instruments. She also prepared me for my future and taught me the art of ruling.

    My father died under mysterious circumstances when I was only three years old, and a struggle ensued to succeed him between my six-year-old brother Francesco and my uncle Ludovico il Moro. Ludovico seized control and forced me, my mom, and my sisters out of Milan. My brother Francesco was kept behind by my uncle and became a prisoner where he died.

    In 1518 I married Sigismund I the Old who was the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Thus, making me the Queen of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania. During my time as Queen, I tried to incorporate the Italian style of governing, which did not make me popular with the people of Poland.

    In my time as Queen I did not sit back and watch. I was heavily involved in the politics of the commonwealth, and I implemented various economic and agricultural reforms. I started what was called the Volok reform, which established a strict three-field system of crop rotation, which increased the revenues of the state treasury. This made me the richest landowner in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. I also implemented a new modern style of evaluating property called the cadastre, which is still used today by countries to maintain records on all public lands. I championed the arts and sciences by patronizing artists, scholars, and architects causing Warsaw to flourish as a center for culture and learning. I was even referred to as the mother of the Polish Renaissance.

    I gave birth to five children during my time as Queen: Isabella, Sigismund II Augustus (succeeded his father), Sophia, Anna, and Catherine. To ensure my family would rule for generations I arranged for my son to be coronated before the death of his father. Traditionally, the Polish parliament would elect the new monarch.

    I strongly was against the marriage of my son to Barbara Radziwill, who was from a minor noble family and had a colorful past. My daughter-in-law became ill not long after the wedding and died at the young age of thirty most likely to cancer. Rumors were spread that I poisoned her. Soon my relationship with my son began to deteriorate, and I eventually decided to return to Bari.

    I was poisoned by Gian Lorenco Pappacoda, who was one of my trusted officers. He betrayed me and was acting on behalf of King Philip II of Spain, who wanted to avoid repaying a huge debt that he owed me. I died on November 19, 1557, at the age of 63 and I was buried in St Nicholas Basilica in Bari.

    For those of you who haven't figured out my identity I wish to introduce myself.

    My name is Bona Sforza and below you can find more information about my life and my accomplishments.

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