Showing posts with label Orsini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orsini. Show all posts

31 August 2019

Isabella de’ Medici – noblewoman

Tuscan beauty killed by her husband


Isabella Romola de' Medici: a portrait painted by Alessandro Allori, at the Uffizi Gallery
Isabella Romola de' Medici: a portrait painted by
Alessandro Allori owned by the Uffizi Gallery
Isabella Romola de’ Medici, the daughter of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, was born on this day in 1542 in Florence.

She was said to have been beautiful, charming, educated and talented and was the favourite child of her father, Cosimo I de’ Medici.

But she died at the age of 33, believed to have been murdered by the husband her family had chosen for her to marry.

While Isabella was growing up she lived first in Palazzo Vecchio and later in Palazzo Pitti in Florence with her brothers and sisters. Her brother, Francesco, who was a year older than her, eventually succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Tuscany.

The Medici children were educated by tutors in classics, languages and the arts and Isabella particularly loved music.

When Isabella was 11 she was betrothed to 12-year-old Paolo Giordano Orsini, heir to the Duchy of Bracciano in Tuscany, because her father wanted to secure the southern border of Tuscany and his relationship with the Orsini family.

Five years later, when Isabella was 16, they were married at the Medici country estate, Villa di Castello.

The only known painting of Paolo Giordano Orsini, Isabella's husband
The only known painting of Paolo
Giordano Orsini, Isabella's husband
Cosimo decided to keep his daughter and her substantial dowry at home with him in Florence, while Paolo continued to live a lavish lifestyle in Rome. This gave Isabella greater freedom and control over her life than most women had at the time.

After the death of her mother, Eleonora di Toledo, Isabella took on her role of first lady of Florence, showing an aptitude for politics.

She suffered several miscarriages and was childless until her late 20s when she bore Paolo a daughter in 1571 and a son in 1572.

After Paolo’s cousin, Troilo Orsini, was charged with looking after Isabella while Paolo was away on military duties, rumours began to circulate about the nature of their relationship. Troilo fled to France after being accused of murder and Isabella was summoned by her husband to join him on a hunting holiday.

She was given no choice and had to leave Florence to be with him in July 1576. Within a few days of her arrival, Isabella was found dead at the Medici villa in Cerreto Guidi. The official version was that her death happened while she was washing her hair, but the story leaked out that she was strangled by her husband in the presence of several servants.

Her death occurred just a few days after her cousin, Leonora, had died in a similar ‘accident.’ She had been married to Cosimo’s son, Pietro, and so was also Isabella’s sister in law as well as a cousin. Leonora had been part of Isabella’s circle and had followed her example in sponsoring the arts and taking a lover.

Isabella's father, Cosimo I de' Medici, who arranged for her to marry Orsini
Isabella's father, Cosimo I de' Medici, who
arranged for her to marry Orsini
While Cosimo I de’ Medici had been alive their behaviour had been tolerated, but once Francesco became Grand Duke he was less willing to condone it, despite having a mistress himself, and felt he could not ignore the complaints of their husbands.

Most historians believe Paolo killed Isabella because she was having an affair with his cousin, Troilo, but another theory is that she died of natural causes but that enemies of the Medici family had spread rumours that she was murdered.

In order to keep in favour with the King of Spain, Francesco eventually had to admit the truth about Leonora’s death and exile his brother, Pietro.

The Palazzo Vecchio was
Isabella's home as a child
Travel tip:

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where Isabella lived as a child, was built in the 14th century as a government building in Piazza della Signoria, an L-shaped square in the centre of the city where important events and public meetings were held. Isabella’s father, Cosimo I, had the interior of Palazzo Vecchio redecorated and also adopted Palazzo Pitti as another residence for his family. He had a gallery over Ponte Vecchio built to enable them to move easily from one palace to another.

An 18th century depiction of the Medici villa at the Tuscan town of Cerreto Guidi, south of Florence
An 18th century depiction of the Medici villa at the
Tuscan town of Cerreto Guidi, south of Florence
Travel tip:

Isabella’s death occurred at a villa commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici in Cerreto Guidi, a small town to the south of Florence. It was built around 1556 as a hunting residence and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other Medici villas. The design is attributed to Bernardo Buontalenti. The villa is in Via Ponti Medicei and now houses the Historical Museum of Hunting, which has a collection of hunting and shooting equipment dating from the 17th to the 19th century.

More reading:

An unsolved murder mystery: the death of Francesco I de' Medici

The shocking fate of Eleonora Garcia di Toledo

The banker who founded the Medici dynasty

Also on this day:

1834: The birth of Amilcare Ponchielli, opera composer

1900: The birth of Gino Lucetti, an anarchist who tried to kill Mussolini

1907: The birth of Altiero Spinelli, the man who invented the EU


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26 August 2018

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio - soldier

Italian aristocrat who survived Battle of the Little Bighorn


Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio spent 32 years
in the United States Army
Carlo Camillo Di Rudio, a military officer who became known as Charles Camillus DeRudio and gave 32 years’ service to the United States Army in the late 19th century, was born in Belluno in northern Italy on this day in 1832.

Having arrived in New York City as an immigrant from England in 1860, he served as a volunteer in the American Civil War (1861-65) before joining the Regular Army in 1867 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry, an appointment which was cancelled when he failed a medical. Undeterred, he was readmitted and joined the 7th Cavalry in 1869, eventually attaining the rank of Major.

He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the US Army suffered a defeat to the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribesmen. The battle was part of the Great Sioux Wars of 1876, fought for possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where gold had been found.

DeRudio was thrown from his horse as the American forces under Major Marcus Reno were driven back across the Little Bighorn River to regroup on the eastern side. He was left stranded on the western side and hid for 36 hours with a private, Thomas O’Neill. They were twice almost captured but eventually managed to cross the river to safety.

DeRudio had led an eventful life even before his experiences in the US military, during which he also took part in the Nez Perce War on 1877, another conflict with Native Americans.

A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted by the artist Charles Marion Russell
A scene from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as depicted
by the artist Charles Marion Russell
Born the son of Count and Countess Aquila di Rudio, he attended an Austrian military academy in Milan before leaving at the age of 15 to join the Italian patriots during 1848 uprising known as the Five Days of Milan. Later, he fought in Rome and Venice against the Austrians.

Soon afterwards, he tried to sail to America but was shipwrecked off Spain. By 1855, he was living in east London and had married Eliza, the 15-year-old daughter of a confectioner from Nottingham, with whom he eventually had six children.

In 1858 he took part in a failed attempt to assassinate the Emperor of France, Napoleon III, at the Paris Opera.  The attempt, led by another Italian revolutionary, the Carbonari leader Felice Orsini, involved three bombs and killed eight people, wounding another 150, but missed its intended target.

Orsini and his co-conspirator, Giuseppe Pieri, were executed but DeRudio’s sentence was commuted to a life sentence to be served on Île Royale, a neighbour of Devil’s Island in the western Atlantic off French Guiana.  But he and 12 others escaped from the island and landed in what was then British Guiana, more than 800km (500 miles) along the northern coast of South America.

From there he returned to England but his taste for action would not be contained and he emigrated to the United States, specifically to fight on the Union side in the Civil War.  Once commissioned to serve in the Regular Army, he was never entirely trusted by his superiors, including the then Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who tended to disbelieve his accounts of his own military service career.

He retired on his 64th birthday and spent his final years in California, where he died in 1910 at the age of 78, while living in Pasadena.

Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Belluno sits in the shadow of the Dolomites
Travel tip:

Belluno, where DeRudio was born, is a beautiful town in the Dolomites, situated just over 100km (62 miles) north of Venice. The town sits in an elevated position above the Piave river surrounded by rocky slopes and dense woods that make for an outstanding scenic background. The architecture of the historic centre has echoes of the town's Roman and medieval past. Around the picturesque Piazza Duomo can be found several fine buildings, such as the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Cathedral of Belluno and Palazzo dei Giuristi, which contains the Civic Museum.

The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
The Scuola Militare "Teulie" is in Corso Italia in Milan
Travel tip:

The military academy in Milan attended by DeRudio is known today as the Scuola Militare "Teulié", a highly selective institution attached to the Italian Army and, having been founded in 1802, one of the oldest military academies in the world. It was closed by the Austrians in 1848 after the cadets, of which DeRudio was one, took part in the Five Days of Milan, the uprising against the Austrians. It became a military hospital. During the early part of the 20th century it was a military barracks, becoming the headquarters of the III Corps of the Italian Army, before reverting to its former status as a military academy in 1996.

More reading:

How the citizens of Milan rose up to throw out the Austrians

The story of fighter pilot Silvio Scaroni

The pope from Belluno who was in office just 33 days

Also on this day:

303: The martyrdom of Sant'Alessandro of Bergamo

1498: Michelangelo accepts the commission to sculpt his masterpiece, La Pietà


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14 May 2018

Battle of Agnadello

The day Venice lost most of its territory


The French painter Pierre-Jules Jollivet's depiction of the Battle of Agnadello
The French painter Pierre-Jules Jollivet's
depiction of the Battle of Agnadello
Venetian forces were defeated by troops fighting on behalf of France, Spain and the Pope on this day in 1509 at Agnadello in Lombardy.

As a result, the Republic of Venice was forced to withdraw from much of its territory on the mainland of Italy. The writer Niccolò Machiavelli later wrote in his book, The Prince, that in one day the Venetians had ‘lost what it had taken them 800 years of exertion to conquer.’

Louis XII of France, the Emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Pope Julius II had formed the League of Cambrai with the aim of dismantling the mainland empire of Venice as they all had their own claims to areas held by the Venetians.

The French army left Milan on April 15 and invaded Venetian territory. Venice had organised a mercenary army near Bergamo commanded by the Orsini cousins, Bartolomeo d’Alviano and Niccolò di Pitigliano, who had been ordered to avoid direct confrontation with the advancing French but just to engage them in light skirmishes.

By May 9 Louis had crossed the Adda river at Cassano d’Adda and the Orsini cousins decided to move south towards the River Po in search of better positions.

On May 14, as the Venetian army was making its move, the section commanded by Alviano was attacked by a French detachment commanded by Charles II d’Amboise, who had massed his troops around the village of Agnadello.

Bartlomeo d'Alviano's troops suffered  a heavy defeat, losing 4,000 men
Bartlomeo d'Alviano's troops suffered
a heavy defeat, losing 4,000 men
Pitigliano was several miles ahead when the French began their attack and, in reply to Alviano’s request for help, sent a note suggesting that a pitched battle should be avoided and continued his move south.

Louis reached Agnadello with the rest of the French army who surrounded Alviano on three sides and proceeded to attack his troops. Alviano was wounded and captured and more than 4,000 of his men were killed.

When news of the battle reached the rest of the Venetian army, many soldiers deserted. Pitigliano retreated to Treviso and Louis then occupied the rest of Lombardy.

Venice rapidly withdrew from Bergamo, Brescia, Crema and Cremona, all of which were taken by the French. Their possessions in the Romagna were taken over by the Pope and Verona, Vicenza and Padua were allowed to surrender to representatives of the Emperor Maximilian.

The Santuario of Santa Maria delle Grazie  is a 17th century church in Crema
The Santuario of Santa Maria delle Grazie
is a 17th century church in Crema
Travel tip:

Agnadello, where the battle took place, is a village in the province of Cremona in Lombardy. It is close to the historic town of Crema, where there are many beautiful old buildings and churches to see. In Via delle Grazie is the 17th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was built to house an ancient painting of the Madonna and a short distance away in Via XX Settembre is the beautiful baroque church of Santa Trinita. The Duomo was completed in 1341 on the site of an earlier church and although changes were made over the years, it has been restored back to its original Gothic design and still contains some 14th century frescoes.

The Borromeo Castle at Cassano d'Adda
The Borromeo Castle at Cassano d'Adda
Travel tip:

Cassano d’Adda, where Louis XII crossed into Venetian territory before the battle, lies between Milan and Bergamo. Due to its strategic position at a crossing of the River Adda it has been the site of many historic battles over the centuries. The most important sight in the town is the Borromeo Castle which was built in about 1000 AD but was expanded and redesigned in the 15th century by Bartolomeo Gadio, who also worked on Milan’s Cathedral and Sforza Castle.

Also on this day:

1916: The birth of architect and designer Marco Zanuso

1934: The birth of '60s football star Aurelio Milani

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