He was born into a prominent family of Pavia towards the beginning of the 10th century. In 931 he entered service as page to Hugh of Arles, who kept court at Pavia as King of Italy and who married the notorious and powerful Marozia of Rome. He was educated at the court and became a cleric at the Cathedral of Pavia. After Hugh died in 947, leaving his son and co-king Lothair on the throne as King of Italy, Liutprand became confidential secretary to the actual ruler of Italy, Berengar II, marchese d'Ivrea, for whom he became chancellor and by whom he was sent on an embassy (949) to the Byzantine court of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. Since both Liutprand's father and his stepfather had been sent as ambassadors to Constantinople, and as Liutprand prepared himself by learning Greek (not widely known in the 10th-century West) he seemed well suited for a mission of that kind. However his uncouthness, ignorance of etiquete and lack of personal hygiene resulted in a fruitless and humiliating four months' experience. This he describes in his antihellenic account, Antapodosis ("retribution") where he repeats all the western calumnies about Greeks and Romans. whom he describes variously as lying, wily, effeminate, unwarlike and other epithets indicative of a barbarian's perception of civilisation.
On his return, however, he fell from favor at Pavia and attached himself to Berengar's rival, the emperor Otto I who became King of Italy upon the death of Lothair in 950. With Otto I he returned to Italy in 961 and was invested as bishop of Cremona the following year. At Otto's court, he met Recemund, a Córdoban ambassador, who convinced him to write a history of his days (the later Antapodosis, which was dedicated to Recemund). Liutprand was often entrusted with important diplomacy and in 963 he was sent to Pope John XII at the beginning of the quarrel between the Pope and the emperor, involving papal allegiance with Berenger's son Adelbert. Liutprand attended the Roman conclave of bishops that deposed John XII, November 6, 963 and wrote the only connected narrative of the events.
He was frequently employed in missions to the pope, and in 968 he was sent again to Constantinople, this time to demand for the younger Otto (afterwards Otto II) the hand of Theophano, daughter of the emperor Romanus II. Peace with the Eastern Emperor, who still claimed Benevento and Capua, which were actually in Lombard hands and whose forces had come to strife with Otto in Bari recently, was Liutprand's recommended course of action. His humiliating and disastrous reception at Constantinople was doubly rankling. (For excerpts of his bitter Relatio see link below.)
His account of this embassy in the Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana is perhaps the most graphic and lively piece of writing which has come down to us from the 10th century. The detailed description of Constantinople and the Byzantine court is a document of rare value, though highly coloured by his hatred of Hellenism and the Roman empire. The Catholic Encyclopedia asserted "Liutprand's writings are a very important historical source for the tenth century; he is ever a strong partisan and is frequently unfair towards his adversaries."
Whether he returned in 971 with the embassy to bring Theophanu or not is uncertain. Liutprand must have died in 972, for his successor as bishop of Cremona was installed in 973.