Son of Lucretia Borgia and brother of the Duke of Ferrara, Ippolito d'Este became Archbishop of Milan at the age of 9 but had to wait another twenty years before he acquired his coveted cardinal's hat. This honour was the route to power and wealth in sixteenth-century Europe - it had little to do with piety. Ippolito was no devout cleric: he enjoyed gambling, hunting, tennis and women. This is the story of the five years it took to achieve his ambition, a story involving family squabbles and private feuds, and the political agendas of the Pope, the Emperor and the King of France. Ippolito spent much of this period at the French court, sampling the sophistication of Paris, the luxuries of Fontainebleau, the pleasures of hunting in the Loire valley, the excitement of battle in Picardy, the glamour of an international peace conference at Nice, and the extreme discomforts of mountain travel. The Cardinal's Hat is based entirely on the account books and letters preserved in the archives at Modena, through which Ippolito emerges across the centuries with remarkable clarity. The documents also provide glimpses into the lives of ordinary people, not just his cooks and stable boys, but shopkeepers, builders, bargemen, peasants and even beggars. Above all, they provide a unique insight into life in sixteenth-century Europe.