Darius von Güttner on Bona Sforza and Polish Foreign Policy (1518–1548)

The 1517 marriage of Sigismund I of Poland to Italian-born Bona Sforza (1494–1557), niece of the notorious Lucrezia Borgia, brought the Polish court into the orbit of the politics of the Empire during the period of Valois Habsburg conflict in Italy. Dr Darius von Güttner presented on the topic ‘Women & International Networks of Power: Bona Sforza & the Realignment of Polish Foreign Policy, 1518–48’  for the SHAPS Fellows & Associates Seminar in January 2021. A video recording of the seminar can be accessed below.

Bona’s correspondence reveals a wide network of correspondents including Catherine Sforza, Isabella d’Este, Bianca Maria Sforza, Victoria Colonna, Isabella Sforza, Ippolita Sforza and Bona’s mother, Isabella d’Aragona. All these elite women not only belonged to the most powerful interrelated Italian families but formed a powerful force of influence, often from ‘behind the throne’. Bona was an economic innovator and reformer, art and architectural patron as Queen of Poland and the ruler in her own right of the Italian duchy of Bari. She positioned three of her daughters to be queens and her son a king. This paper will explore the remarkable influence of Bona Sforza on the foreign policy of Sigismund I and its consequences.

Dr Darius von Güttner is a Principal Research Fellow in History, University of Melbourne; a Fellow of the UK Royal Historical Society; and Visiting Professor in History at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań. His research and teaching concentrate on cultural aspects of religious warfare and transmission of ideas and identity. His publications include Poland, Holy War, and the Piast Monarchy, 1100–1230 (Brepols, 2014) and (editor) Writing History in Medieval Poland (Brepols, 2017).
You can read more from Darius on Bona Sforza in a previous article and talk on Forum.
Feature image: Cameo with bust of Bona Sforza, c1540 by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio. Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons