Wednesday, February 25, 2015
He was the eldest son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, called Il Magnifico; he was the grandchild of his namesake, Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, known as Piero the Gouty. And like that namesake, his reign as de facto ruler of Florence was not as esteemed as is father’s or his great-grandfather’s, Cosimo, Pater Patriae (father of the fatherland). This Piero’s life would be haunted be a series of truly unfortunate events.
Born in 1472, Piero received an encompassing and Humanist education, one of the best possible for the time. As a child, he played at the feet of such luminaries as Sandro Botticelli, Marsilio Ficino, Poliziano, Domenic Ghirlandaio, Verrocchio, and Leonardo da Vinci. When his father died in 1492, Piero was old enough to take his place at the head of the society and the ruling of Florence, the leaders of Florence gave him the power without question. He was old enough, but clearly not wise enough.
Piero was born with beauty, an attractive combination of the steely eyes of his father and the bone structure of his mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni. Whether it was the consequence of being the son of one of the most powerful men in all of Italy’s history—with the wealth to match—or just his natural bearing, Piero was arrogant, undisciplined, and, unfortunately, when it came time to rule…feeble.
For two years, Piero ruled under a world swaddled in calm and peace; the efforts of his father to bring equilibrium between the Italian states seemed to be withstanding the test of time. But it was a time quickly running out.
With a powerful army at his side, King Charles VII of France crossed the Alps in 1494, determined to take control, by virtue of heredity rights, of the Kingdom of Naples. In truth, it was a vengeful Ludovico Sforza, the ex-regent of Milan, who persuaded, as the devil would, King Charles to make such a maneuver. Fearful of the new king of Naples, Alfonso, Ludovico ‘allowed’ King Charles passage through Milan. However, in order for Charles to reach his ultimate destination of Naples, he was required to pass through Tuscany.
With King Charles breathing heavily down his neck, Piero, pitifully lacking in political sense, was dealing with another challenger in his own city. Girolamo Savonarola. The enthralling and persuasive Savonarola called for reforms, away from the decadent lifestyle of the wealthy Florentines, denouncing the replete clerical corruption of the age, and degrading the despotic rule that had held sway over Florence for many generations. The only way of life Piero had ever known was being threatened, ever more so as the younger branch of the Medici family began their own intrigues against him.
Piero’s subsequent actions, unfortunately, proved foolhardy and ineffective. At first, he attempted to stay neutral; Charles wouldn’t have it. Piero then gave up the old alliance with France in favor of one with Naples. But as Charles charged downward from the Alps, Piero knew he had acted imprudently, especially when the Florentine elite—more and more under the influence of Savonarola—failed to support his decision. Thinking to imitate his father, who had hastened to Naples to avoid war, Piero rushed to meet the invader and his mighty forces.
His capitulation was humiliatingly quick and meek. Piero surrendered the major Tuscan fortresses to Charles, agreeing to whatever the King of France wanted. His futile and fruitless actions roused an uproar in Florence, leaving the Medici only once choice…to flee.
Leaving the magnificent family palazzo to the looters of his own populace, Piero and his family fled to Venice, aided by Philippe de Commines. But it was a temporary haven. They led the restless lives of exiles, never again to see Florence. One must surely give him some respect, for he did try for reinstatement, upon three occasions, in 1496, ’97, and ’98. Unfortunately, they were all unsuccessful.
In 1503, he made one last attempt. Still with a personal alliance with France, he traveled to southern Italy with the French forces of Louis XII who entered battle with Spain over control of Naples. Unfortunately, the battle turned against the French—against Piero—and in his attempt to escape, he was drowned in the Garigliano River. He was buried in the cloister of Monte Cassino, located between Naples and Rome.
Having ruled Florence for over a half a century, it wasn’t long before the Medici family, with the help of the Holy League, once more regained control. Unfortunately, Piero would never know the success and astounding notoriety so many of his kinsmen enjoyed.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
From the generation of Lorenzo de' Medici (Il Magnifico), eight in all, there will be born thirty-eight children. Of those, there will arise two popes, a feeble despot, dukes, and powerful political and financial players. But what of the others…what must it have been liked to be a regular de Medici? Is there such a thing? Here is a look at them all.
|Maria Salviati with her only|
son, Giulia de' Medici
Pontormo c 1527, oil on panel
The marriage of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and Semiramide Appiano produced five children. Of most of them, very little is known, giving possible evidence of normal, unremarkable lives. Only their youngest child, Pierfrancesco II de’ Medici (aka Pierfrancesco the Younger) distinguished himself, but, in the relativity of the Medici, it was in a meager manner. He took little part in the politics of the city of Florence, save for a one time service as ambassador in the Papal States in 1522.
Though often Fioretta Gorini, as well as her sister Antonia, are called the slain Giuliano’s ‘widow,’ there is no evidence whatsoever that he ever married. There are much stronger indications that Fioretta was his long-time mistress. Together they gave birth to a son, Giulio, a son who will achieve a great and lofty position (and who will receive a post in this series dedicated to him in the near future).
While it is true that Il Magnifico, the famous of all the Lorenzos de’ Medici, had a long time mistress, as well as multiple other dalliances, it did not seem to inhibit his conjugal relations with his wife, Clarice Orsini. Together they conceived ten (yes, 10) children. Their first born, a girl, Lucrezia Maria Romola de’ Medici, made a politically powerful marriage, a union which would produce ten more children, some of whom went on to become the most influential of all the Medicis.
|Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule from the Sassetti Chapel frescoes.|
Among the spectators are Lorenzo's sons, from right Giulian with their tutor
Poliziano, then Piero and Giovani
Domenic Ghirlandaio 1483-1485
Next in line comes, Piero, a man who will became infamous, who will bring the Medici family to one of the lowest points in their long history (look for an upcoming post devoted to Piero).
Following less than a year after Piero, Maria Maddalena Romola de’ Medici was born. Given the same humanist education, as were all of Lorenzo’s children, she would marry the son of a pope. Maddalena lived most of her life in Rome and was buried, by order of her cousin Pope Leo X, in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Contessina Beatrice de’ Medici was born in 1474; she died in the same year.
Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici was the next of Lorenzo and Clarice’s children. He would follow in his cousin Giulio’s footsteps, becoming Pope Leo X (he too, will receive a devoted upcoming post).
Although the next child, a girl named Luisa but often called Luigia, was betrothed to Giovanni de’ Medici Il Popolano, her cousin, her life lasted only eleven years.
As if to honor the first child to bear the name, even for so short a time, Lorenzo and Clarice named their next child, another girl born in 1478, Contessina Antonia Romola who would marry Piero Ridolfi. One of their children would distinguish himself in the years to come.
|Giuliano's State in the|
However, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici, their last child born in 1479, would come to distinguish himself perhaps more than any of the others. The future Duke of Nemours will be featured in a forthcoming post.
The next couple in Il Magnifico’s generation is his older sister, Lucrezia, more widely known as Nannina. Nannina married Bernardo Rucellai, an oligarch, banker, ambassador, and a man of letters. They married in 1466, when Nannina was only 13 years old. The couple had four sons, three of whom—Cosimo, Pietro, and Palla--are unremarkable and little is known of their lives. Their youngest son, Giovanni di Bernard Ruccellai, would become remarkable as a man of letters as well as a purveyor of justice in the city of Florence; his life and works will be featured in an upcoming post.
Lorenzo’s younger sister, Bianca was to be a heartbreak to her brother. Married to Guglielmo de’ Pazzi in 1458, at the age of 14, their union at first was a political move to strengthen the tenuous relations between these two powerful Florentine families. But, with the trauma of the Pazzi Conspiracy, an horrendous plot which will be featured prominently in the first book, Portrait of a Conspiracy, in my upcoming series, Da Vinci’s Disciples, which resulted in the murder of their brother, Giuliano, Lorenzo was forced to banish Guglielmo from Florence, and with him went Bianca. Their exile lasted fifteen years, but it did not seem to affect their love-life. The couple would have a total of sixteen (yes, 16) children, two of whom died at birth: Antonio in 1460 and Piero in 1468. Their first surviving child was a girl named Giovanna known only for her marriage to Tommasso Monaldi. Like her elder sister, their next child, a girl, the records of Contessina show only her marriage to Giuliano Salviati in 1476.
Their fourth child, third to survive birth, was a boy, whom they also named Antonio. This Antonio would go on to have a long and productive life as an ambassador and a politician who would hold the office of Gonfaloniere di Giustizia in 1521.
Bianca and Guglielmo’s fifth child was a girl, and as history would have it, she is noted only for her marriage to Bartolomeo Buondelmonti.
Such historical anonymity can not be said for the sixth child born of this couple. Cosimo de’ Pazzi, born in 1466, would have a note-worthy ecclesiastical career. He began as an abbot in the Archdiocese of Florence in 1475. Cosimo would go on to hold the positions of Bishop of Oloron (1492-1497), Bishop of Arezzo (1497-1508) and Archbishop of Florence (1508-1513).
Like his uncle and his great grand-uncle, Lorenzo Alessandro, the next child in this Medici-Pazzi line, would become a merchant, a lover of the arts, and a Latin scholar.
Another girl follows, Cosa, whose only known fact is her marriage to Francesco di Luca Capponi. Three more sons, Lorenzo, who became a politician and an ambassador; Renato, who made his living as a goldsmith merchant, and Lorenzo Alessandro followed Cosa. Lorenzo Alessandro's political career was fast, furious, and famous. He would serve as Prior of Freedom in 1467, as a Guardia e Balia in 1469, an Officer of Monte in 1471, and serve on the Console di Zecca in 1475.
Two more girl children came next; Luigia who married Folco di Edoardo Portinari in 1494 and Maddalena, who married Ormanozzo Deti in 1497.
Alessandro de’ Pazzi, the fourteenth child born to Bianca and Guglielmo, would distinguish himself as an ambassador, a writer and a Hellenist (a follower of the influence of the early Greek culture). His younger sister, Lucrezia, would marry a de Cattani Diacceto who changed his name to Martelli. They married in 1500.
Their youngest child they named Giuliano, an interesting choice considering that Guglielmo's father’s family was responsible for his wife’s brother’s (of the same name) murder. Giuliano would become a great scholar and ecclesiast, becoming a Doctor of Law as well as an abbot of the cannon of Florence.
It would seem for this couple that in exile, all there was to do was to reproduce.
|Luigi de' Rossi (right) with|
Pope Leo X (center) and
Giulio de Medici left,
the future Pope Clement VII
Little is known of Piero de’ Medici’s illegitimate son, Giovanni, including whether he married or sired any children.
Of this expansive generation, many of the thirty-eight would go on to further the power of the Medici family, become great in their own right, and expand the reach of the Medici through strategic marriages. Their impact will not be contained to Florence, nor even Italy, but far beyond, to the breadth of Europe itself.
|The Medici Chapel-Cappella Medicea-houses many of the tombs of the Medici.|
Many of the latter funereal monuments were commissed in 1520 by
Pope Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici) and were largely executed
(primary sources: BIA.Medici.org: the Medici Archives; History of Florence, Niccolo Machiavelli; The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall, Christopher Hibbert; The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, Paul Strathem; The Medici: Story of a European Dynasty, Franco Cesati)