Showing posts with label Alessandro de' Medici. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alessandro de' Medici. Show all posts

23 March 2018

Lorenzino de’ Medici - assassin

Mystery over motive for killing cousin

Alphonse Mucha's  1896 lithograph of Lorenzino
Alphonse Mucha's
1896 lithograph
of Lorenzino
Lorenzino de’ Medici, who became famous for the assassination of his cousin, the Florentine ruler Alessandro de’ Medici, was born on this day in 1514 in Florence.

The killing took place on the evening of January 6, 1537.  The two young men - Alessandro was just four years older - were ostensibly friends and Lorenzino was easily able to lure Alessandro to his apartments in Florence on the promise of a night of passion with a woman who had agreed to meet him there.

Lorenzino, sometimes known as Lorenzaccio, left him alone, promising to return with the woman in question, at which point Alessandro dismissed his entourage and waited in the apartments.  When Lorenzino did return, however, it was not with a female companion but with his servant, Piero, and the two attacked Alessandro with swords and daggers. Although a struggle ensued, they killed him.

The motive has been debated for centuries. One theory was that it was an act of revenge following a legal controversy the previous year, when Alessandro sided against Lorenzino in a dispute over the inheritance of his great, great grandfather, Pierfrancesco the Elder. Civilities were maintained at the time, yet Lorenzino was disadvantaged financially.

Another is that Lorenzino, as a junior member of the family compared with his cousin, wanted to make his mark in history by any means possible. Murdering Alessandro, who had been installed as Duke of Florence by the Medici pope Clement VII, and thus extinguishing the main branch of the Medici family (descended from Cosimo the Elder, the founder of the dynasty), would give him immortality, albeit of a dark kind, in the family history.

His own explanation, which he set out in a remarkable defence of his crime, entitled Apology, which he wrote within days of Alessandro’s death, was that he committed the crime out of a love of liberty, ridding Florence of a leader generally acknowledged as a tyrant.

The murder of Alessandro by Lorenzino,
as imagined in an 1863 engraving
There were suggestions that Lorenzino wanted to see a revival of the Republic of Florence, which had been disestablished with Alessandro’s appointment, following an 11-month siege.  This theory seemed to be supported by Lorenzino fleeing Florence first to Bologna, where he met Silvestro Aldobrandini, a republican exile, and then on to Venice, where he was welcomed by another exile, the wealthy banker Filippo Strozzi.

His supporters hailed him as a latterday Brutus, who had slain Julius Caesar in the name of liberating Rome, but whatever the truth of the story, Lorenzino was to spend the rest of his life effectively on the run, constantly looking over his shoulder at who might be plotting to avenge his cousin’s death.

In the event, there was no re-establishment of the Florentine Republic. Alessandro’s father-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, appointed 17-year-old Cosimo I de’ Medici, from the so-called cadet line of the family, as Duke of Florence, which effectively meant Lorenzino could never return.

For the next few years he moved between Venice, Mirandola in the Duchy of Modena, Constantinople and France.  While he was in Constantinople, Strozzi was taken prisoner after his forces were beaten by the army of Cosimo I and he died in 1538.

While in France, where he enjoyed the hospitality of many Florentine exiles, Lorenzino acted as a go-between for the French king, Francis I, in trying to organise Florentine exiles to mount a new military attack on Cosimo I.

Titian's portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
Titian's portrait of Holy Roman
Emperor Charles V
He returned to Venice in 1544, by which time the city was crawling with spies working on behalf of the Emperor and of the Medici family. Lorenzino was sheltered by the papal legate Giovanni Della Casa, but as more and more exiled Florentines left for France, fearful for their lives if they stayed in Venice, he became increasingly isolated.

The inevitable happened on February 26, 1548, when Lorenzino was murdered. Two mercenary assassins were responsible, but the identity of who hired them has been disputed by historians over the centuries.  A early theory that the disgraced former Medici secretary Giovanni Francesco Lottini was responsible was eventually discounted, to be replaced by an acceptance that Cosimo I ordered the murder directly to avenge the death of his predecessor.

More recent research has established that the trail actually went back to Charles V himself, who was grief-stricken by the death of Alessandro, his daughter Margaret’s husband, and without the knowledge of Cosimo I instructed Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, his ambassador in Venice, to see that Lorenzino paid the ultimate price.

The Villa del Trebbio, the Medici villa in the Mugello area
The Villa del Trebbio, the Medici villa in the Mugello area
Travel tip:

In the early part of his life, Lorenzino lived in the Villa del Trebbio, near San Piero a Sieve in the Mugello area, about 30km (19 miles) north of Florence, the area from which the Medici family originated. The villa had belonged to Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the founder of the Medici bank, and was remodelled by his son, Cosimo de' Medici (Cosimo the Elder), whose architect, Michelozzo, restyled it as a fortified castle.

Palazzo Strozzi in Via de' Tornabuoni, the  high fashion centre of Florence
Palazzo Strozzi in Via de' Tornabuoni, the
high fashion centre of Florence
Travel tip:

The Strozzi family, who were great rivals of the Medici family in Florence in the late 15th century, left their mark on the city in the shape of the Palazzo Strozzi, which can be found right in the heart of the city in Via de’ Tornabuoni, where all the high fashion stores are now clustered (the Gucci shop is directly opposite). Many buildings were demolished to create a big enough space for the palace, a towering three-storey structure with a facade of rusticated stone, which was started in 1489 on the instructions of Filippo Strozzi the Elder, who died two years later long before it was finished. On completion, it was confiscated by the Medicis, who did not return it to the Strozzi family for 30 years.

More reading:

Cosimo de' Medici - the banker who founded the Medici dynasty

The despotic reign of Alessandro's successor, Cosimo I

How the forces of Charles V sacked Rome

Also on this day:

1919: Benito Mussolini and the founding of the Italian Fascists

1922: The birth of Commedia all'Italiana star Ugo Tognazzi


10 August 2017

Ippolito de' Medici – Lord of Florence

Brief life of a Cardinal, soldier and patron of the arts

Ippolito de' Medici, as portrayed by Titian  between 1532 and 1534, in Hungarian dress
Ippolito de' Medici, as portrayed by Titian
between 1532 and 1534, in Hungarian dress
Ippolito de' Medici, who ruled Florence on behalf of his cousin, Giulio, after he became Pope Clement VII, died on this day in 1535 in Itri in Lazio.

At the age of 24, Ippolito was said to have contracted a fever that turned into malaria, but at the time there were also rumours that he had been poisoned.

There were two possible suspects. The fatal dose could have been administered on behalf of Alessandro de' Medici, whose abuses he was just about to denounce, or on behalf of the new pope, Paul III, who was believed to want Ippolito’s lucrative benefices for his nephews.

Ippolito was born in 1509 in Urbino, the illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici. His father died when Ippolito was seven and he came under the protection of his uncle, Pope Leo X. When he died five years later, Ippolito’s cousin, Giulio, who had become Pope Clement VII, sent him to Florence to become a member of the government, destined to rule the city when he was old enough.

Ippolito ruled Florence on his behalf between 1524 and 1527 but then Clement VII chose his illegitimate nephew, Alessandro, to take charge of Florence instead.

He created Ippolito a Cardinal in 1529 and named him archbishop of Avignon, which gave him a considerable income. Although there is no evidence that he was ever ordained as a priest or consecrated as a bishop, Ippolito was named Cardinal Priest of Santa Prassede and then Papal Legate in Perugia.

The ancient castle at Itri in Lazio, where Ippolito died
The ancient castle at Itri in Lazio, where Ippolito died
But Ippolito wanted to be the ruler of Florence rather than a cleric and was to spend the rest of his short life trying to depose his cousin, Alessandro.

In August 1529 Ippolito was one of the three Cardinals who met Emperor Charles V in Genoa to conduct him in state to Bologna for his coronation as Emperor.

In 1530 Clement VII granted Ippolito a half share of the annual papal income from the town and territory of Clusium for his lifetime.

Ippolito was sent to Hungary as Papal Legate in 1532 where he led 8,000 soldiers against the Ottoman Turks.

That same year he was named vice chancellor of the Holy Roman Church, the most lucrative office in the church, and he was transferred to the church of San Lorenzo in Damaso.

Jacopo Pontormo's portrait of Alessandro
Jacopo Pontormo's portrait of Alessandro
After Ippolito’s cousin, Clement VII, died, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese was elected Pope and took the name of Paul III.

Ippolito acted as Florentine ambassador to Emperor Charles V, passing on to him complaints about the administration of Alessandro de' Medici.

When he became ill with a fever and subsequently died on 10 August 1535 he was on his way to north Africa to present his case against Alessandro to the Emperor, who was on a military campaign there. It was rumoured he had either been poisoned by Alessandro de' Medici to prevent him from denouncing him, or by the new pope, Paul III, who wanted his posts in the church for his own nephews.

Ippolito had been a generous patron of the arts, which was acknowledged by Giorgio Vasari in his writing, and he was painted by Titian wearing Hungarian costume in 1533.

He was unsuitable for the church because of his friendship with a Venetian courtesan and his love for Guilia Gonzaga, who was painted by artist Sebastiano del Piombo, who also enjoyed Ippolito’s patronage.

But Ippolito enjoyed the lavish lifestyle his position in the church gave him. Clement VII had reputedly once tried to sack members of his household, which Ippolito had resisted on the grounds that although he probably did not need them, they needed him.

The Church of San Michele Arcangelo in Itri
The Church of San Michele
Arcangelo in Itri
Travel tip:

Itri in Lazio, where Ippolito died en route to Africa, is a small town in the province of Latina. It lies in a valley between the mountains and the sea near the Gulf of Gaeta. It has an ancient castle in the upper part of the town and the local people speak Itrano, a variation of the Naples dialect. The film Two Women, starring Sofia Loren, was filmed in Itri.

Travel tip:

Urbino, where Ippolito was born, is a beautiful city on a steep hill inland from Pesaro in the Marche region. The Ducal Palace, made famous by Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, is one of the most important monuments in Italy and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.