Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The branch of Medici perpetuated from Charissimo (the second) gave birth to many children. Though he gave birth to two sons, only one of those sons, Filippo, married, giving birth to four sons, two of whom married, producing five sons in total. That generation: Andrea, Bartolommeo, Salvestro, Vieri, and Giovanni were part of the Florentine population during the middle years of the 14th century. The two with confirmable dates, Salvestro (1331-1338) and Vieri (1323-1395) would, given the average life expectancy of men during this era was 50 years, allow for the theory that all the brothers lived and died near to the same years. Could have…were it not for the upheavals Florence—and the Medicis—underwent during those years.

Traveling along the Silk Road, it is believed the Black Death originated in China and Central Asia, carried to other parts of the world by virulent rodents. It reached its peak in the two year period of 1348-1350. Known then as the Great Pestilence, the Great Plague, or the Great Mortality, the Black Death as it now known (a moniker given by Dutch and Swedish chroniclers of history) was
responsible for reducing the European population by thirty to sixty percent, depending upon location. In Florence, the numbers are narrowed to twenty-five to fifty percent. It can easily be theorized, then, that one or more of these Medici sons for which there are no records fell to the horrific disease.

But there were other powerful forces at work in Florence at the time.

These five men, these sons of Medici, were the first to be born during a recently established Renaissance, though they, like all of their contemporaries, could not know what they were witnessing. They would have been among the first to read the works of Dante and Petrarch as established masters in literature…the first to see the works of Giotto, bringing painting into the new realm of realism.

The Renaissance (thus named in the mid 16th century by Giorgio Vasari in his work The Lives of Artists) was an explosion of discovery and exploration, both in the external world and in self-enlightenment, an explosion including a change in sexual mores. In Daily Life in the Renaissance, author Charles L. Mee, Jr. states, “Sex was not a taboo subject, and sexiness, both female and male was widely admired in their lives and in their art.” And though sodomy was an act punishable with death, it too was explored like never before. Donatello’s feminine David is an example of the gender bending art of the age. It is possible then that the lack of progeny from some of these five brothers could be due to their sexual preferences.

Of the brothers Andreo and Bartolommeo, there is nothing of record in the many book, studies, and programs on the Medici, other than listing them as a brother to Salvestro. And while often confused with a later (and greater) Giovanni de’ Medici, this particular offspring shows no discernible contributions of note either.

Vieri de’ Medici, while not receiving the attention his brother Savlestro does in history, might well have made the most important contribution to the clan to date. Though many of his ancestors and contemporaries became embroiled in conflicts and rebellions, Vieri kept himself to irreproachable conduct, beginning the high esteem Florentines would feel about the Medici, for the most part, for the duration of the family’s existence. Additionally, Vieri was a prodigious businessman, amassing a great fortune. There are morsels of fact left on the trail of history that indicate Vieri established a structured banking system (the original and lasting source of the Medici empire). Some sources, however, site that Vieri’s banking trade eventually failed. It does seem conceivable, however, that he retained a fortune that would allow succeeding generations (though not his own children, of which there is a vague mention) to begin the true dynasty of the Medici.

As for Salvestro there exists a great deal of confusion, perplexity stemming from the repetition of name in generation after generation and among first cousins themselves. Charissimo (the first, one of two brothers to immigrate from Mugello to Florence) would eventually have two, three-times great-grandsons named Salvestro, one Salvestro di Alamanno de’ Medici, and one Salvestro di Averado de’ Medici (the middle names indicating the names of their fathers). While many ‘quick’ histories place Salvestro di Alamanno as the political revolutionary involved in the Ciompi revolt (see next post coming early September), it is the overwhelming consensus that such a life belonged to Salvestro di Averado. Di Alamanno, however, did serve as Gonfalonieri of Florence from 1370 to 1378. And, once again, there is mention of a wife and children, though not confirmable by the rule of three.

It seems unlikely that if Vieri and Salvestro did have children, that there would be no impression of them left on history, especially in light of their cousins’ contributions, not only to Florence but to the world, accomplishments so vast that they will have their own unique posts here…when The Medici Series continues.   

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


As talented as she is witty, National Best Selling author, Kate Quinn (Empress of the Seven Hills, Daughters of Rome, and Mistress of Rome) gets delightfully real...Inside the Writer's Study:

What is your favorite word? 
Can I have two? “Check enclosed,” to borrow a bon mot from Dorothy Parker. 

What is your least favorite word? 
Mew.” I read a book where a character mewed with passion, and it scarred me for life. 

What turns you on? 
Men with swords.

What turns you off? 
Men with tapered pants. 

What sound or noise do you love? 
Falling rain

What sound or noise do you hate? 
The crack of the bat as any Yankee hits a home run in Fenway Park. 

What is your favorite curse word? 
Scheisse. German for shit—swearing in German is much more satisfying.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 
Opera singer. I trained as one, and I've still got the high C's. 
What profession would you not like to do? 
Anything involving sewage or bureaucracy. 

If heaven or the after-life exists, what would you like to hear God, The Source (or whatever Deity you may believe in) say when you arrive at the pearly gates? 
“Let me introduce you to all those historical figures you've been writing about.”
In one sentence, describe your newest or most recent release. 
Take a vivacious blonde with floor-length hair, add a cynical dwarf on the hunt for a serial killer, toss in one fiery cook with a dangerous past, then stir to a boil, light on fire, and serve for a hell of a read! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The years of war (see previous post on the Medici, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines) left the people of Florence fearful of both tyranny and despots. For many years, the Florentines shuffled their cards furiously in an effort to retain control of a neighboring city of Lucca whose territory, at this point in history, extended from the Magra to Pistoia to Volterra. On the death of Castruccio, the Duke of Lucca, Louis the Bavarian, conferred Lucca on Francesco, a relative and enemy of Castruccio. The Lucchesi, however, ceded themselves to John of Bohemia who, in 1333, pawned the city to the Rossi of Parma, who gave it to Mastino della Scala (1335), who sold to the Florentines for 100,000 florins (1341). The angered Pisans then occupied the city (1342). Far crueler to Florence was the decision of Milan, Mantua, Parma and, eventually, Padua to side with Pisa to keep Lucca out of Florentine control, an act especially egregious as Milan and Mantua had been decidedly allied to Florence, a city still functioning within a communal hierarchy of authority. Their pleas for help to Robert of Naples and the Avignon Papacy were rebuffed, both urging Florence to make peace, and the years of battle for the locality, and huge unpaid debts by the English to Florentine banking houses had left the great city bankrupt.

In May of 1342, the civic government of Florence appointed as its new captain and as 'conservator' of the commune, one Walter of Brienne, duke of Athens (whose titles also included Count of Brienne, Conversano, and Lecce), who had, in 1326, acted as vicar of Florence for Charles of Calabria. As the grandson of Huge of Brienne, Walter was heir to property in many parts of the Mediterranean as well as France. He spent the majority of his life traveling between them, involving himself in the politics and wars of each location.

Instead of bringing Lucca under Florentine control, one bought and paid for, Walter of Brienne did nothing as Lucca negotiated its own surrender in 1342. Walter then, knowing Florence's weakened condition, used the military forces entrusted to him and took control not only of Florence, but of Pistoia and Arezzo, declaring himself 'lord for life' over these territories.

Florence put up little fight at first, too disabled economically to do little else. It is theorized that support for the duke's 'tyranny' came from the upper and lower classes, the grandi (the landholding noble families of the country side) and the popolo minuto (the craftsmen and laborers who were forbidden to organize into guilds and consequently to hold any political office). The grandi support came for obvious reasons, while that of the minuto blossomed in hopes that Walter would break the power of the group in the middle, the popolo grasso (the wealthy and influential professionals and guild members who controlled trade and civic administration, the nouveau riche, who created their own aristocracy as the old feudal nobility died out).

But Walter tried to curry favor for too much with the popolo minuto, allowing them to form guilds as well as persecuting and executing those of the grassi, including one Giovanni de' Medici. It was not long before his light began to dim. No fewer than three conspiracies were plotted which merged to form a unified uprising against the despot in July of 1343; Walter of Brienne's 'reign' had not even lasted a year. After an eight-day siege, Walter came to terms with the insurgents and renounced all and any authority on the condition that he and the men he had brought with him to Florence were allowed safe passage out. They showed him the door of the city gate and let it slam shut in his retreating face.

A new government formed out of the patricians who led the revolt, one formed of a council of fourteen, seven from the grandi and seven popoloni. Of the seven drawn from the two lower classes--a mixture of the newly rich merchants and the craftsmen, one name stands out, Francesco di Ardingho de' Medici.

Francesco played a major role in the revitalization of his beloved city, the reinstatement of the Ordinances of Justice and the four quarters of Florence. In addition, the  new government instituted rule by Lord Priors and of a Gonfaloniere of Justice, but this time, all of whom must come from the popoloni. It was a major advancement in the republican rule of the great city.

Francesco prospered personally as well, marrying none other than the Contessina Adimari. The Adimari family finds historical mention as far back as the Middle Ages, mention in works by Dante as of 'small descent' (not noble) but becoming part of the nobility when one of them married a daughter to Bellicione Berti, a noble and wealthy Florentine. Considering Francesco's own social standing, it can be fairly well presumed that their's was a love match.

One that would not last very long.

The outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 reduced the population of the city from over 90,000 to less than half that. All indications point to the demise of both Francesco and his contessina in its rampage before they could produce any children to carry on their legacy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Bestselling, Yale graduate, and multi-award winning author, Lauren Willig spent some time Inside the Writer's Study. The author of the extremely popular Pink Carnation Series--a collection of Napoleonic-Era British spy novels inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel--reveals her uniqueness through the distinctive questions of the Proust questionnaire.

What is your favorite word?
Ontomatopeaia: the sound of falling peas and tomatoes.

What is your least favorite word?
Huh. That’s a tough one. I’ve seldom met a word I didn’t like. I guess I’d have to go with “classy”. Because the word “classy” by definition isn’t. 

What turns you on?
What if. Anything that gets me speculating about characters or ideas—it could be seeing a play where the characters don’t behave quite as I expect or overhearing a chance conversation in the street. Anything that gets me thinking “what if you took that concept and transposed it in such and such a way….” And I’m off and running. 

What turns you off?
Anything administrative. I go to incredible lengths to avoid accomplishing routine tasks. 

What sound or noise do you love?
The clip clop of horses’ hooves. I live right across the street from Central Park and on quiet nights, when there aren’t too many trucks backfiring, I can close my eyes, listen to their steady tread, and imagine myself back in the nineteenth century. 

What sound or noise do you hate?
Whatever vehicle it might be that makes those really loud noises outside my window at three in the morning. Garbage truck, perhaps? 

What is your favorite curse word?
Drat. (Although, after a memorable Deanna Raybourn interview—Deanna knows what I’m talking about!—there was a time when it was briefly supplanted by a vehement “bugger damn!”) 

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Is reigning monarch an option? I’m all about the tiaras, and I love court intrigue. 

What profession would you not like to do?
I’d really rather not go back to being a lawyer…. Wait. Was that my outside voice? 

If heaven or the after-life exists, what would you like to hear God, The Source (or whatever Deity you may believe in) say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Welcome.” (Infinitely preferable to, “Would you mind lining up by that down escalator over there? And you won’t be needing that pashmina down there. It’s rather… warm… where you’re going.”) 

In one sentence, describe your newest or most recent release.
Hailed as “a reader’s treat”, THE ASHFORD AFFAIR is a sweeping family saga stretching from the inner circles of Edwardian society to the red-dirt hills of 1920s Kenya and the skyscrapers of modern Manhattan. To read an excerpt (or listen to an audio sample), just pop by my website at

Thank you, Lauren, and a big congratulations of the birth of your daughter, Madeleine Elizabeth Radcliffe, July 24th!