Beatrice CENCI (1577-1599), Italian tragic heroine of history and legend. Born in Rome on Feb. 6, 1577, she was one of 12 children of the powerful and wealthy Roman nobleman Francesco Cenci, notorious for his violence and licentiousness. In the course of one of his frequent quarrels with his family, Francesco imprisoned Beatrice and her stepmother in 1595 in the remote castle of La Petrella between Rome and Naples. Cruelly treated and unsuccessful in attempts to escape, Beatrice found refuge in a love affair with her father’s castellan, Olimpio Calvetti. With her lover, two of her brothers, and her stepmother, she plotted her father’s murder. On Sept. 9, 1598, the act was committed.
The truth soon leaked out, and the Cenci were arrested. Under torture the conspirators confessed and in a dramatic trial were condemned by a papal court, despite desperate efforts to obtain mercy from Pope Clement VIII. The tragedy reached its climax on Sept. 11, 1599, when Beatrice and her stepmother were beheaded and her brother Giacomo put to death by slow torture.
Beatrice has been idealized many times in works of prose, poetry, and painting, which in-clude her portrait by Guido Reni, Shelley’s verse-drama The Cenci, and romances by Stendhal, Dumas, and Francesco Domenico Guerazzi.