The Medici are one of the most famous families in Europe, protagonists of Italian history from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. In addition to having held the fortunes of the city of Florence first and then Tuscany, from 1434 until 1737, and besides having given birth to three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, Leo XI and two queens of France (Catherine and Mary de 'Medici) they still enjoy an extraordinary reputation for having promoted the artistic, cultural, spiritual and scientific life of their time to an extent beyond the commune and for several generations, their extraordinary collections of art, precious objects, books and manuscripts, rarities and curiosities have been preserved practically intact until today and are the basis of the heritage of many of the most important cultural institutions of Florence.
The family came from the Mugello countryside and originates from a certain Potrone Doctor, born around 1046. Some members of the family, all descendants of Doctor of Potrone, between the thirteenth and fourteenth century earned a reasonable wealth with the wool factories that at that time they saw a boom in requests, in Italy and abroad, especially in France and Spain. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Medici had already had two Gonfaloniers of Justice (the highest office of the Florentine Republic) and throughout the first half of the century were part of the oligarchy that dominated the city. Usually the sources and literary tradition recall that the Medici were originally from Mugello, the area north-east of Florence today including the municipal territories of Barberino di Mugello, San Piero a Sieve, Scarperia, Borgo San Lorenzo and Vicchio. But this information has no certain documentary foundations and is based on the fact that since the fourteenth century the Medici have been the landowners of the area. It was in fact natural for the merchants of the thirteenth century, who fed their economic fortunes in the city, buy land in the area where they came from. On the other hand there are numerous legends, especially during the grand-ducal period (16th-17th centuries), when the imagination and the pen of the court scholars practiced to give prestige to the origins of the lineage then reigning in Tuscany. According to a seventeenth-century manuscript today in the Biblioteca Moreniana, in the early Middle Ages the Medici were linked to the Ubaldini, then very powerful feudal lords in Mugello, and at least from 1030 owned the castles of Castagnolo and Potrone, located at today's Scarperia. The manuscript of the Biblioteca Moreniana n. 24 entitled "Origin and descent of the Medici family of Florence", was attributed to Cosimo Baroncelli (1569-1626), a waiter of Don Giovanni de 'Medici. The same source also reports a story with fairy-tale tones that aims to ennoble the origins of the Medici family and its coat of arms. This sort of courtly novel presents as a progenitor a certain Averardo de 'Medici - a name later recurring in the family between two and four hundreds, who was a commander of the army of Charlemagne, emperor and' refounder 'of Florence. Once the brave Averardo, while he was busy freeing the Tuscan territory from the invasion of the Lombards, defeated a giant called Mugello, which terrorized the homonymous area of the Alta Val di Sieve. During the clash, the giant Mugello stuck his own toothed hammer (or perhaps the flagellum balls) in the golden shield of Averardo: the marks left on the knight's weapon suggested the heraldic emblem of the balls or "bisanti" in the Medici coat of arms. Thus, after the mythical enterprise of Averardo, the distant ancestors of Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent would have moved to the Mugello region. The news that the Medici were settling in Mugello in ancient times seems, however, reduced by another, more reliable testimony. In fact, the Book of Memories of Filigno de 'Medici written in 1374 recalls that the Medici made the first substantial land purchases in Mugello between 1260 and 1318, while they owned buildings of a certain importance in Florence at least as early as 1169. Using the scarce data are available, it is in any case difficult to establish whether the Medici, at the dawn of their history, have been very wealthy landowners who have looked for new opportunities for ascent and development in the city or if they have been wealthy citizens who extend their influence and their power has made favorable alliances with noble families and investments in the countryside.
The earliest records of the Medici, even though sparse and fragmentary, are in any case starting from the twelfth century.
From the Book of Memories written in the fourteenth century by Filigno de 'Medici, one derives that even then his ancestors were resident in Florence: in 1169, with the Sizi and others, they built the tower in the people of San Tommaso at the Mercato Vecchio (in area today between Piazza della Repubblica and Via de 'Medici); moreover, in 1180 the Medici and the Sizii went before the bishop Giulio to contend for the patronage on the same church of San Tommaso (also called San Famaso). Between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries lived Giambuono considered the progenitor of the lineage. From the thirteenth century we have the first documentary news on family members, beginning with an act of 1201, in which Chiarissimo di Giambuono is mentioned among the delegates of the Florentine Republic signatories of a pact with the Sienese. In the first half of the thirteenth century, the Medici divided into three main lineages, respectively referring to Bonagiunta, Chiarissimo and Averardo.
It is documented in 1216 as a councilor of the Municipality and in 1221 as a witness to an act. The sons of Bonagiunta were Ugo and Galgano, creditors of the count palatine Guido Guerra. In the middle of the century Ugo married Dialta di Scolaio Della Tosa, a noble and prestigious family, with whom the branch of Bonagiunta thus entered into a consortium.
Scolaio and Gano (or Galgano) were born from the marriage. Between 1267 and 1268 Scolaio was among the "elders" of the Guelph party. In 1269 the two brothers, still owners of the tower of San Tommaso, were compensated for the damages inflicted by the Ghibellines on their real estate at the Mercato Vecchio. Son of Gano was Bonagiunta, mentioned in 1278 with Averardo among the city councilors of the new Guelph government. Guelphs, Scolaio and Bonagiunta are among the signatures of Guelphs and Guelphs signed by Cardinal Latino Malabranca Orsini.
Ardingo, son of the Guacean Bonagiunta, seems to be the first to assume prestigious public positions: in fact, he was elected prior of the Arts in 1291, in 1313 and in 1316; he was also treasurer of the Municipality and Gonfaloniere di Giustizia in 1296 and in 1307 (the first of the family); finally he married the noble Gemma de 'Bardi. His brother Guccio was also gonfalonier in 1299. Between 1296 and 1343 Ardingo and other eleven members of the Medici family assumed the title of prior for a good 27 times. In addition, the son of Ardingo, Francesco, followed in his father's footsteps and was also an important politician: it was among the XIV probiviri responsible for restoring the Republican government after the expulsion of the Duke of Athens in 1343 (by which another Medici , Giovanni di Bernardo, had been beheaded the same year), while in 1348, the year of the Black Plague, he was Gonfaloniere of Justice. In general, the branch of Bonagiunta between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries is quite busy in politics and honored by prestigious public offices, thanks also to the link of the coterie with the Della Tosa. Some of the family took on a banking business, albeit probably a modest one, fueled from the beginning by the loan at interest, but soon they had to face a major economic crisis. So in 1348 the descendants of Bonagiunta sold the houses and the land bought a few decades earlier on the route today on Via Martelli - Via Cavour, where the fifteenth-century Palazzo Medici would rise.
The last representative of the men's line descending from Bonagiunta was Fantino, a member of Giovanni di Bicci between 1422 and 1426 and the great-grandson of one of the Ardingo brothers. This lineage became extinct in the middle of the fifteenth century.
Very clear of Lippo di Chiarissimo he was creditor in 1240 towards the monastery of Camaldoli and in 1253 he was knighted. His son Giambuono was an army officer assembled to confront the Sienese in the ruinous Battle of Montaperti. Among those elected to the Priory of Arts in 1322 was Bernardo di Giambuono, who at the beginning of the fourteenth century among the ranks of the Guelphs Neri was responsible for violent violence against the Whites. Even his son Giovanni di Bernardo, despite a death sentence for murder and then revoked, was repeatedly called to the Priory of Arts and other important public offices: he was in fact gonfalonier of the Republic in 1333 and in 1340, ambassador to Lucca in 1341 and was beheaded in 1343 by order of the Duke of Athens, because of his popular sympathies. One of his cousin, Bonino di Lippo (Filippo) of Chiarissimo was also a gonfalonier in 1312. His nephew Salvestro di Alemanno, great grandson of Chiarissimo, is perhaps the most famous Medici of the fourteenth century for having participated in the tumult of the Ciompi in 1378.
Before that he had distinguished himself for having taken on prestigious public positions and important diplomatic duties. In 1351 he successfully engaged in the war against the Viscontis in defense of the castle of Scarperia. In 1378 he was Gonfaloniere, when he let the uprising led by Michele di Lando emerge, to oppose his conservative political adversaries. For this he was condemned to exile in 1382 for five years. He died in 1388 and was buried in the Duomo. Miserable fate between recklessness and prevarication also touched the family of Salvestro: his son Nicholas was assassinated in 1364; Uncle Bartholomew of Alemanno was accused of the crime, who managed to have his death sentence annulled. In 1360 he attempted a coup. In 1377 Africhello di Alemanno, another brother of Salvestro, was declared a magnate because of the abuses inflicted on a poor widow who wanted to steal the lands. Towards the end of the century Antonio di Bartolomeo participated in an uprising led by Donato Acciaioli, which cost him and his cousin Alessandro the exile.
In general in the fourteenth century, while the descendants of Bonagiunta, as we have seen, lived an unstoppable economic crisis, many other members of the Medici family suffered exile, interdiction from public offices or even the death sentence, for acts of violence, abuses, assaults and even murders.
Finally the last branch, that of Averardo. He was the first Medici to buy land in Mugello, an area situated to the north-east of Florence: in fact in 1260 he started an extensive purchase of goods in this area of the Florentine countryside, completed in 1318 by his son of the same name. Averardo di Averardo, former prior (1309) and then gonfaloniere (1314), divided these properties among the six sons in 1320.
The sons of Averardo, Jacopo, Giovenco, Salvestro, Francesco, Talento and Conte, gave life to a flourishing banking business by founding the filii Averardi company, of which, however, we only know until 1330. After that date there are no other concerted financial activities in a group of members of the Medici family, perhaps also because of the frequent disagreements and contrasts arose between the various components, usually raised on matters of property or inheritance. The loan at interest continued, however, to be widely practiced, even if only individually.
A son of Talento, Mario, became a Gonfaloniere in 1343. In the difficult situation in which the Medici were found since the mid-fourteenth century, some personalities were distinguished who raised the fate of the family. In particular Giovanni, son of Conte and nephew of Averardo, was very active in public life: he was gonfalonier in 1349, in 1353, in 1356; he was vicar in Pescia (1346) and podestà in Prato (1365); he was in charge of various diplomatic and military missions outside the Florentine borders (Lucca, Piedmont, Pistoia, Siena, Milan). In 1351 Giovanni became captain of the Mugello province and, with his uncle Salvestro, engaged in the military defense of the castle of Scarperia from the siege of the Visconti troops. The following year he was in Naples among the ambassadors sent by the Florentine Republic to pay tribute to the new Queen Giovanna I. In 1355 with Antonio Adimari, in command of 200 Florentine knights, escorted Charles IV to Rome for the coronation.
Between 1335 and 1375 Giovanni and his brothers, including Filigno di Conte, bought for 170,000 florins of gold 170 plots of land mostly in the Mugello area. The same John and Filigno took care of increasing the properties in the city of their property, even if they invested a lot less money compared to land assets in the countryside. Between 1348 and 1373 they bought several houses and shops in the area between the Old Market and the Old Bridge. They lived right in the Market area, like their ancestors, and there they possessed, among other things, the tower of St. Thomas and a loggia. However, they decided to go and live elsewhere and to reserve the old buildings for business and commercial activities. In 1349 they bought the first nine parts of a "palagio" on Via Larga. In that same road the descendants of Bonagiunta had owned houses and land, sold just the year before. In 1361 Giovanni di Conte and his brothers bought the remaining eleven parts of the building, which in the 15th century would be transformed into the "old house" of the family. In 1375 the sons of Conte de 'Medici are also owners of six other adjacent houses.
In 1374 Filigno di Conte wrote the Book of Memories which is an important source of news about his family and his properties from the twelfth century onwards.
Giovanni di Bicci
Giovanni di Bicci (1360-1429) was a very rich man and, thanks to his benevolence, well loved by the citizens. Little is known about the initial part of his life, because a very modest and prudent man avoided to stand out on the political scene but dedicated himself only to increasing his patrimony that soon became very huge. Despite this confidentiality he was Prior in 1402, in 1408, in 1411 and finally in 1421 he was Gonfalonier of Justice (this would prove that he was never persecuted by the aristocratic government, which indeed tried to assimilate it).
His solid wealth was born from his activity as a banker, through the creation of a network of business companies, which had a very important branch in Rome, where he contracted the income of the papal tenths, a very rich and prestigious market that gradually he managed to get rid of other competitors. Erroneously believed in the nineteenth century that Giovanni di Bicci supported the establishment of the land registry, a system of taxation that for the first time affected proportionately based on the income and possessions of individual families. A measure that struck the entire class of the wealthiest in Florence, but which raised the lower classes and small-medium entrepreneurs from an increasingly heavy taxation, following the numerous wars against the Visconti of Milan. This error was based on what was said by Giovanni Cavalcanti in his Florentine stories but in reality contradicted by the documents that demonstrate in an incontrovertible manner that the law of the land registry was proposed and defended and approved by Rinaldo degli Albizzi and Niccolò da Uzzano, the two highest exponents of the aristocratic party . In reality it was not a matter of real hostility to the law itself, but to its implementing modalities, above all because the proceeds of the new taxation would be used to finance a useless war against Milan promoted by the oligarchs and to which Giovanni was firmly against it.
From his two sons, Cosimo and Lorenzo, the two main branches of the family were born, the one called "di Cafaggiolo" and that "Popolano". His fortune was inherited only by his eldest son, Cosimo, in order not to fragment the family patrimony, as was the custom of the time.
Cosimo the Elder
Cosimo (1389-1464) had an energetic character, in the sign of his father, although in substance very different. He had in fact a ruler's temperament that led him to be even more powerful and rich than the parent. In addition to his remarkable skills as a businessman, in addition to being a passionate man of culture and a great patron, he was above all one of the most important politicians of the Italian Quattrocento.
It soon became apparent that family wealth was now too large to be protected without political coverage, due to financial transactions of increasingly large and therefore risky entities. So he began his ascent to the levers of power of the Florentine Republic. His proverbial prudence was immediately evident: he was not aiming at becoming lord of the city, perhaps with a coup or trying to be elected in the most prestigious roles of government, but his figure remained in the shadow, true puppeteer of a series of characters trust that for him they held key positions in the institutions. At that time the power was held in particular by the Albizi, by Niccolò da Uzzano, by some Strozzi, Peruzzi, Castellani, etc. Growing up the popularity of Cosimo and the number of his friends, the men who held power began to see a threat in him. On 1 September 1433 he was extracted as Gonfalonier of Justice Bernardo Guadagni and a Lordship deeply linked to the Albizi and his followers. Thus was the will of Rinaldo degli Albizi. The new Lordship imprisoned Cosimo in September 1433 with the accusation of having fomented conspiracies and plots within the city and of having operated wisely and intentionally for Florence to enter the war with Lucca. They were confused and false accusations that Cosimo had to bring to death.
Rinaldo degli Albizi missed the cold determination to take things to the extreme. A series of "bribes" cleverly distributed by Cosimo prevented him from being sentenced to death by converting the sentence into exile, the so-called first expulsion of the Medici. After Cosimo's departure for Padua and Venice, the republican institutions had continuous instability.
Rinaldo degli Albizi was not a man of the same temperament as his father and in the plunging situation he did not have the courage or the strength to exert control over the extractions, an error that Cosimo did not repeat, that once in power completely conditioned the names of the inmates and in fact avoided the adventurous extractions by lot. Thus in September 1434 a Lordship was extracted which was completely favorable to the Medici. Cosimo was then recalled to Florence just a year after his departure and his opponents were sent into exile.
The triumphal entry of Cosimo, acclaimed by the people, who preferred the tolerant Medici to the oligarchic and aristocratic Albizi and Strozzi, marked the first great triumph of the Medici family.
Cosimo, a very skilled politician, continued to keep the free institutions intact, favored industries and businesses, increasingly attracting the people's sympathy and keeping the peace in Florence. In 1458 he created the Council of the Hundred.
Cosimo, named pater patriae for the remarkable embellishment and development that he gave to the city, died leaving the state in the hands of his son Piero (1416-1469). He was a wise ruler, but the illness that earned him the nickname of the Gouty, allowed him to lead the city government for only five years.
Lorenzo Il Magnifico
Lorenzo de 'Medici
The figure of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-1492), son of Piero, has alternatively been the object of glorification or downsizing over time. Educated like a prince, he was born with the destiny already marked by his blazon; He came to power at his father's death, without major upheavals. Married to the Roman noble Clarice Orsini was the first of the Medici to bind his name with a character of blue blood. At the age of 29, after nine years of government, he suffered the most serious attack in the medical history, the so-called "Congiura dei Pazzi" in which his brother Giuliano died and himself was wounded, but he was exceptionally alive. Following the conspiracy, in which some of his Florentine opponents had participated with the support of the pope and other Italian states, the people of Florence sided even more clearly on his side. His supporters (called Palleschi in reference to the 'balls' in the Medici coat of arms) punished those responsible severely, giving Lorenzo the opportunity to further centralize the power in his hands, through a reform of the republican institutions, which became subordinate to him.
From the point of view of foreign policy, Lorenzo re-established relations with other Italian states, often going in person, creating the great diplomatic enterprise of a general peace in Italy, through the concept of peaceful coexistence.
A great man of finance and politics, even Lorenzo loved to enjoy himself with poetry and literature. Indeed, his literary personality was of considerable height, so as to obscure his political role. He was also involved in philosophy, collecting and always had a passionate love for the arts in general, of which he had after all learned from his predecessors the fundamental role as an instrument of prestige and fame. It is in fact thanks to his interest that the Sistine Chapel, already entrusted to Umbrian artists such as the Perugino, is then frescoed by the best Florentine painters, exporting to Rome those important innovations of the Florentine Renaissance. In the same vein, the departure of Leonardo da Vinci for Milan can be considered.
The declared enemy of Lorenzo was Girolamo Savonarola, who in his ultra-religious conviction could only clash with the cultural climate of recovery of the ancient (seen by the friar as a neo-paganism), the centrality of man, the free thought promoted by Lorenzo . The Magnificent tolerated him as if he were a lesser evil, keeping with him a mutual respect, so much so that there was never an open confrontation between the two.
The second expulsion of the Medici (1494-1512)
With the death of Lorenzo, his son Piero (1472-1503) rose to the command of Florence, educated since childhood to play this role. All the eyes of the city were focused on him, and it is clear how everyone tried to understand if he had the fabric or not to live up to the task he covered. The peace maintained by Lorenzo left with his death and two years later Charles VIII of France descended to Italy with his army. The crisis overwhelmed Piero: frightened by the sovereign and the French army consented to any request, giving four squares on the borders of Tuscany and opening the doors of the kingdom (the most adverse reporters to him spread the news that he had kissed the king's slippers kneeling ). Accused of cowardice and weakness, he was expelled from the city by a sentence dated 9 November 1494. The city then became a "theocratic" state ruled by Savonarola. The triumph of the Dominican friar, however, was of short duration: overwhelmed by the fights between the factions and above all overwhelmed by the opposition with Pope Alexander VI, he was excommunicated and condemned to the stake. Meanwhile, the Republic sailed in bad waters due to the difficult international situation.
After the death of Piero, drowned in the Garigliano in 1503, the authority of head of the family passed to the cardinal Giovanni de 'Medici, who returned to Florence in 1512 after having defeated the French of Louis XII, allies of Florence. With Giovanni, his brother Giuliano and the son of the unfortunate Piero, Lorenzo, now twenty years old, did not see his city since he was little more than in swaddling clothes.
The Medici popes: Leo X
Giovanni, thanks also to the support of the orsinesco party to which his mother Clarice belonged, was elected pope with the name of Leo X in 1513. The government of Florence now took place in the Vatican Palace instead of in Palazzo Vecchio. Leone, remembered among the most magnificent popes of the Roman curia (or more expensive, according to the detractors), was a great patron of artists (especially of Raffaello Sanzio and Michelangelo Buonarroti) and a nepotista without hesitation. While with great satisfaction Giuliano was sent by the King of France, where, thanks to his services, he obtained the first noble title, the "Duchy of Nemours", Lorenzo was sent by his uncle Pope in a costly and useless war against Francesco della Rovere, lord of Urbino, at the end of which he was crowned "Duke of Urbino". Both had brides of high lineage and brought in the Palazzo Medici of Florence a princely label and those highly sophisticated ways of high nobility that had little to do with the solemn simplicity of Cosimo the Elder. But the triumph of Leo did not last long, because both Giuliano and Lorenzo died little more than thirty years of diseases, exacerbated by the hereditary predisposition to gout typical of the main branch of the family. For the two cradles he loved so much, Leo X had the New Sacristy built in San Lorenzo by Michelangelo. Even Leone died suddenly at just 46 years old.
The Medici popes: Clement VII
After the initial anti-Fascist moment, Rome chose a reforming pope, the Flemish Hadrian VI, who could fight and recompose the fracture born at the time of Leo X with the schism of the Protestant Reformation. But his conduct, perhaps too extreme, did not please the environment of the curia, which after his sudden death, after just one year of pontificate, chose to elect again a Medici, Cardinal Giulio de 'Medici, already among the most trusted advisers to cousin Leo X.
Clement VII, the chosen name, delegated the administration of Florence to Cardinal Silvio Passerini, while questioning who was to become the new lord of the city: Ippolito, illegitimate son of Giuliano di Nemours, or Alessandro, son of Lorenzo, born a passion with a mulatto slave? The predilection of the Pope for Alexander, pointed out by many as a son of the same pope, born when he was still cardinal, was such as to suggest the choice on the latter, despite its bad reputation and the low esteem that the Florentines had for him.
Clement had one of the most difficult papacies in history: choosing the alliance with the French rather than with the new emperor Charles V, with the usual option of overturning the alliances according to the greatest profit, he did not like the Emperor, who organized a German-Spanish army, the tremendous Lanzichenecchi and marched towards Rome, in a sort of Protestant crusade against the corruption of the papacy. He tried to block the Lanzichenecchi Giovanni from the Bande Nere, the only leader of family value, who however died of great suffering after being hit by an arquebus in a battle near the Po. With the news of the Sack of Rome (1527) i Florentines themselves rebelled against Alexander, driving him and all the Medici from the city (Third expulsion).
Clement suffered the tremendous looting of the city and the imprisonment of imprisonment in Orvieto, after which the emperor, repented by the turn that had taken the events, offered his hand to the pope organizing a reconciliation on the occasion of his official coronation in Bologna .
In return Clement VII had the help in the reconquest of Florence, with the famous siege of 1529-1530 and the investiture of Alexander as Duke, which definitively sanctioned the rule of the Medici on the city.
But as a storm subsided, the refusal to grant the annulment of marriage to King Henry VIII of England turned into a further contrast with the Pope, and the beginning of the Anglican schism.
Catherine de Medici
Caterina de 'Medici (1519-1589), orphaned by her father Lorenzo d'Urbino, was the favorite nephew of Clement VII. When it came to choosing a husband for her, negotiations were opened with many Italian and European noble families. Although many criticized the recent nobility of Catherine, her princely dowry and kinship with the pope in office were tempting to many. With great satisfaction of Clemente Caterina she married nothing less than the dolphin of France, destined therefore to become queen when her husband became Henry II of France.
She was the mother of King Francis II, Charles IX, Henry III and Queen Elizabeth (Queen of Spain) and Margaret (Queen of Navarre and France). First Queen then Regent of France, Caterina de 'Medici is an emblematic figure of the sixteenth century. His name is linked to the wars of religion against which he has fought all his life. A supporter of civil tolerance, she tried numerous times to follow a policy of conciliation with the help of her own advisers, including the famous Michel de l'Hospital.
A black legend that has been pursuing her since time immemorial has made her an austere person, attached to power and even evil. Caterina de 'Medici was little by little revaluated by historians who today recognize in her one of the greatest queens of France. His role in the massacre of the night of San Bartolomeo, however, still contributes to make it a controversial figure.
The Duke Alexander
Alessandro de 'Medici, called il Moro for the dark color of his skin, because of its "impure" origins, had been named Duke of Charles V, definitively closing the centuries-old season of the Florentine Republic and its libertas. The government was centralized in its sole hands and its ascent was also ratified by the promise of marriage with Margherita, the natural daughter of Emperor Charles V.
The new Duke, however, was sadly known for his vicious and cruel character, marked by excesses: he was always accompanied by a picket of imperial guards who were used to terrorize the citizens with sudden and disconcerting actions.
His cousin Lorenzino de 'Medici, used to living on par with Alessandro, was surprised by having to submit to his new rank, but this was only the "tip of the iceberg": the relations of complicity / hatred and mutual envy between the two, from the similar "cursed" character, they have been from time to time mystified or diminished by historians and probably will never be known for the lack of documentation.
The fact is that in January 1537 Lorenzino, then called Lorenzaccio, tends a trap to the super-protected cousin, who introduces himself to him without the guards, ending up stabbed by a hit man paid by Lorenzino. Thus he died at the age of 26, leaving only one illegitimate son and daughter of a very few years: even if they had been accepted for succession (which is unlikely because they were natural children of an illegitimate), a difficult litigation for the regency would have opened.
But Lorenzino also suffered a similar fate: refugee in northern Italy and then in France by Catherine de Medici, he returned and then settled in Venice, where he reached the killers of Cosimo I who stabbed him just outside the house of his lover ( 1548).
With the death of Alexander the main branch of the Medici, that of Cosimo the Elder, was exhausted in legitimate and illegitimate ramifications. In the general uncertainty, among the proposals to restore the Republic or to have an emissary emissary come to Florence, he jumped the name of a boy of eighteen, Cosimo (1519-1574), son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere and Maria Salviati, the which in turn was the nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent, then recently and directly related to the old family branch. It is said that the Florentines themselves were fascinated by the mild and obsequious character of the young man who had grown up in the shadows, so they renounced what was in fact the last chance to regain republican freedom. With the imperial investiture (only clause, to leave the power to the Council), the succession was confirmed. It was not long before the young man showed his strong sovereign face (with the battle of Montemurlo, against the Republicans led by Filippo Strozzi), sometimes tyrannical and ruthless, who held the state for 37 years often resorting to the dictatorial use of terror : the suppression of the Republic of Siena is remembered among the black pages of his government. According to various sources, however, the judgment also fluctuates a lot: for Franco Cardini for example he was a wise and far-sighted sovereign, who undeniably made a wise management of the State, financially skilled and promoter of economic activities, and the arts (with the birth of a real school of "court artists" like Bronzino, Vasari, etc.).
He moved to the Palazzo della Signoria (as if to underline that government power and his person are the same), he was the first noble family to enjoy this status permanently: he had a high-ranking wife, the beautiful and sophisticated Eleonora of Toledo, daughter of the Viceroy of Naples, and a real palace, that of Palazzo Pitti, specially expanded for him and his court. From 1569 he had the title of Grand Duke from the Pope, for his acquired dominion over Tuscany.
The second Grand Duke of Tuscany was the eldest son of Cosimo I, Francesco I de 'Medici (1541-1587). At times similar to his father, sometimes dissolute and despotic, and had a vein but more crepuscular, which led him to spend periods of solitude, with a wild passion for all that mysterious and occult there was in the knowledge of the time. It was not by chance that he built the emblematic Studiolo of Palazzo Vecchio, permeated with the initiatic and alchemical culture of the time, or the magnificent Villa di Pratolino, where everything was surprising and surprising for the five senses.
His family was now equal to the other European ruling families, in fact he received nothing less than a sister of Emperor Maximilian II, Joan of Austria. The marriage between the two did not turn out to be happy: while they were born only daughters females (six and a male died at an early age), Francesco fatally fell in love with another woman, the Venetian Bianca Cappello, with whom he lived a shameless story of love, even though she was already married. In addition to the inevitable scandal, held back only by his position as head of state, the Hat was frowned upon by the Florentines, even accused of witchcraft, not to mention the grand-ducal family who hated her deeply. After years of clandestinity, the two were both widowers (this also a story with many obscure points) and were able to get married in 1579, even if their idyll lasted until the night of October 1587 when both died a few hours apart between excruciating spasms of the Terzana fever ... or of venom of Cardinal Ferdinando? This secular enigma seemed to have been resolved in December 2006, when toxicological researchers from the University of Florence found remains of the liver tissues of Bianca and Francesco that contained traces of arsenic, administered in lethal but not massive dose, so that they suffered eleven days of agony. However, in 2010, a group of researchers from the University of Pisa identified in the bone tissue of Francis I the Plasmodium falciparum, an agent of pernicious malaria, thus confirming death by malaria.
Cardinal Ferdinando de 'Medici (1549-1609), second son of Cosimo I, renounced the cardinal's purple with papal dispensation when the sudden death of his brother made it necessary for his ascent to the government of the grand duchy, under the name of Ferdinando I.
Excluding the shadows cast only recently on the death of his brother (about which a research of 2009 has excluded the hypothesis of poisoning), Ferdinand was the only Grand Duke to be able to earn a lasting reputation: he returned order to the country and restored the integrity of the government; promoted tax reform and supported trade; he encouraged technical and scientific progress and carried out great public works such as the reclamation of the Val di Chiana and the strengthening of the port and the fortifications of Livorno. In what was then a modest fishing village, he built important superstructures, but it was above all the law that declared it a free port to attract refugees and persecuted by all the Mediterranean countries, rapidly increasing the population and thus obtaining the necessary manpower development of what would soon become one of the most active commercial ports of the mare nostrum.
It was also with him that the system of the Medici villas reached the maximum extent and splendor, thanks also to the collaboration of the architect Bernardo Buontalenti.
Maria de Medici
Daughter of Francesco I, Maria de 'Medici (1575-1642), thanks to the intercession of his uncle Grand Duke Ferdinando, at the age of twenty-five he married Henry IV of Bourbon, becoming the second Queen of France of the Medici family, after Catherine.
Although little esteemed by the august consort, Mary was able to influence the internal and foreign politics of seventeenth-century France. After the murder of her husband (1610), she was appointed regent on behalf of her son, the future Louis XIII still a child. Surrounded by councilors and Tuscan courtiers (in truth, little loved by the French), he restored relations with Spain and distanced himself from the Protestants. Following revolt movements, he was deported by his son in 1617, so he found an ally in Richelieu, who became a cardinal thanks to his support and entered the royal council in 1624. After seeing the covenants he had built up, despite his firm opposition to 1630 lost all authority and retired into exile.
Cosimo II de 'Medici
On the death of Ferdinand, his son Cosimo II (1590-1621) succeeded him. A character of brilliant intelligence and of vast culture, he was ill with tuberculosis, which led him to an untimely death just after thirty years.
His figure is remembered for two main events:
The liquidation and closure of the Banco Medici, which had allowed the family ascent, but which by now was seen by the Grand Duke as an activity "unworthy of a ruling sovereign";
The warm welcome and protection offered to Galileo Galilei, to whom he donated the Villa il Gioiello to Arcetri, where the great scientist was able to continue his studies and experiments in peace.
This lively scientific interest was a leitmotiv of all the descendants of the grand-ducal branch of the Medici, founders of academies and protectors of scientists, and served as a counterpart to the patronage of the arts typical of the branch of Cafaggiolo.
Forfeiture and extinction
From the seventeenth century the Grand Duchy experienced that period of slow decadence that marked the rest of the Italian peninsula, with the stagnation of trade, pestilence and provincialism. The ruling house not only did not remedy these problems, but rather accelerated its impact with a mediocre government. It was an era of continuous female interference by regents, mothers and wives with never-to-be-married marriages, with male grand-dukes who seem to be opening up to a less and less hidden bisexuality. The mother of Cosimo II, Cristina di Lorena, his wife Maria Maddalena of Austria and the wife of Ferdinand II, Vittoria della Rovere, gave life to species of matriarchy: influenced by ecclesiastical councilors gave life to an increasingly markedly religious state, with a misunderstood severity, which gradually resulted in conformism and bigoted hypocrisy.
There were some isolated flashes of light in the general inertia of the rulers, above all thanks to the Medici cardinals: the foundation of the Accademia del Cimento of Cardinal Leopoldo de 'Medici, an institution that continued scientific research according to the experimental method of Galileo, or the Academy of Real Estate through the cardinal Giovan Carlo de 'Medici, who was at the origin of the first "Italian style" theater, La Pergola, cradle of melodrama.
Antonio Franchi, Anna Maria Luisa de 'Medici, 1690-1691
The rest was characterized by an increasingly apathetic administration, now far from the glories of the past, such as the long government of Cosimo III, deaf to the demands of an increasingly hungry people and in poverty for the unfair burden of taxes, to which ironically with the almost Spanish court pump. Already in his time the problem of succession was presented dramatically: of his three sons the eldest (the Grand Prince Ferdinando) died of syphilis at fifty without heirs, his sister Anna Maria Luisa was sterile and his brother Gian Gastone was manifestly homosexual. While the destiny of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was decided at the table by the other European sovereigns, the curtain was about to fall on the Medici family.
The last act of the family, however, was worthy of their fame: in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa stipulated with the new successors, the Lorena (branch of the house of Habsburg), the so-called "Family Pact" that established that they could not carry «o to get out of the Capital and of the State of the Grand Duchy ... Galleries, Paintings, Statues, Libraries, Gioje and other precious things ... so that they may remain for the State's ornament, for the benefit of the public and to attract the curiosity of the Forestieri ».
This pact, scrupulously respected by the new grand dukes, allowed Florence to lose no work of art and not to suffer the fate of, for example, Mantua or Urbino, which had literally been extinguished by the Gonzaga or Della Rovere families. emptied of artistic and cultural treasures. If today the masterpieces of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana - just to mention some more illustrious examples - can still be admired in Florence and not in Vienna or in some other city, it is certainly due to wisdom, firmness and to the foresight of Anna Maria Luisa de 'Medici.
Other family branches
Genealogy of the Medici family of Gragnano from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. In addition to the most famous main branch of Giovanni di Bicci, divided into the branch of Cafaggiolo (by Cosimo il Vecchio) and Popolano (by Lorenzo il Vecchio) and united in a single branch called Granducale with Cosimo I, there are also other derivative branches, the whose division dates back to before the fourteenth century, with the cousins of Giovanni di Bicci, his father Averardo de 'Medici, and so on. Among these branches, three others have gained nobility or other recognition over time.
Medici Tornaquinci - From Giovenco de 'Medici, uncle of Bicci, and his eldest son Giuliano derived the branch of Medici Tornaquinci, with Raffaele de' Medici who in 1628 became the first Marquess of Castellina; with the sixth Marchese, Francesco Giuseppe de 'Medici, who had married Margherita Tornaquinci, from 1730 their descendants took the name of Medici Tornaquinci. The branch is still existing: Giuliano is the 15th marquess, since 1977.
Extinct branch - From the last son of Giovenco, Francesco, derives a second branch of patricians, extinct in 1820.
Medici di Ottajano - Neapolitan Branch - Principi di Ottajano: from the last son of Giovenco, Antonio, he derived after three generations the branch of Ottaviano de 'Medici which was part of the 8 of Balìa from 1527. Ottaviano de' Medici married Bartolomea in the first wedding Giugni, daughter of Alamanno Giugni and had two sons, Costanza, countess of Donoratico and Bernardetto de 'Medici. In second marriage Ottaviano de 'Medici married Francesca Salviati, (daughter of Jacopo and Lucrezia de' Medici and aunt of Cosimo I), from whom he had a son, Alessandro de 'Medici, who in 1605 was elected pope with the name of Leone XI. This pontificate, which could have brought great prestige to this branch, lasted only 26 days. Bernardetto de 'Medici bought in 1567 from Cesare Gonzaga di Molfetta the Lordship of the important and large feud of Ottaiano (now Ottaviano) near Naples, giving rise to the branch of the Principi di Ottaiano. This branch, as mentioned above, had some marriages with the main branch of the de 'Medici. In fact, Francesca Salviati was also a nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Bernardetto de 'Medici married Giulia de' Medici, natural daughter of Duke Alessandro and Margherita of Austria, widow of Francesco Cantelmi and nephew of Caterina de 'Medici, Queen of France. In 1609 the nephew of Bernardetto and Giulia de 'Medici, Don Bernardo, had the title of Prince of Ottaiano and his successor, Giuseppe I de Medici of Ottajano in 1693, obtained the title of Duke of Sarno and thanks to the King of Spain at weddings with the Neapolitan nobility they obtained other titles. To the extinction of the reigning branch of the Medici of Tuscany, the 4th Prince of Ottaiano, Giuseppe II, in 1737 asked to be able to access the succession based on his descendants, derived from Duke Alessandro through his daughter Giulia, but his requests were not accepted . This branch of the Principia dei de 'Medici of Ottajano had great political influence in the Kingdom of Naples (then from the 1815 Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.) In fact belonged to this family Luigi de' Medici, the most important statesman of the Kingdom of Naples (then Kingdom of the Two Sicilie.) The last Medici Prince of Ottajano in a straight line descending from Bernardetto de 'Medici was Don Giuseppe V de' Medici of Ottajano who died in 1894 who was the 10th Prince of Ottajano, 8th Duke of Sarno and 8th Duke of Miranda.Estinto the male branch with don Giuseppe V, the titles of 11th princess of Ottajano, 9th duchess of Sarno and 9th duchess of Miranda, passed (following the DM of 2-10-1909 which confirmed the right to the female branch) to his sister woman Angelica de 'Medici of Ottajano died in 1912. The branch is still existing by dynastic right of collateral branch, then after Don Giuseppe V de' Medici of Ottajano (+1894) and woman Angelica de 'Medici of Ottajano (+1912) the title of 12th prince of O ttajano and 10th duke of Sarno, following the D.M. of 20-09-1912, was recognized to Don Alberto Marino (+1925) (as descendant of Don Marino de 'Medici of Ottajano (1774 - 1835) brother of the cadet of Michael II (1771 - 1832) who was the 7th prince of Ottajano and 5th Duke of Sarno). Don Alberto Marino then succeeded Don Armando who was the 13th Prince of Ottajano and 11th Duke of Sarno (died in 1983) and later Don Giovanni Battista (1939 - 2015) who was the 14th Prince of Ottajano and 12th Duke of Sarno. After his death (which took place on 3-2-2015) Don Giuliano succeeded him and then took the titles of 15th Prince of Ottajano and 13th Duke of Sarno. From 1959 other descendants were able to use the complete surname of Medici di Toscana di Ottaiano.
Extinct branch - Another Neapolitan branch is probably that of Gragnano, where as early as 1269 is documented such a Guglielmo, "judge et recipient of collections" in Gragnano, a city in which the family would have established to escape the "wars" that teared by now many years the city of Florence . Alongside the care of feudal interests, the stock had succeeded in securing high hierarchical positions in the political, administrative, legal, and religious fields. Remember: Damiano di Napoli, family of Queen Giovanna I in 1343, Marino (or Marinello), appointed in 1447 by Alfonso of Aragon "miles secretis and magister portulanus terrae Hidruntiae provintiae Basilicatae", Stefano, governor of Massa (ante 1522) and Sorrento, Cola (or Nicola), archbishop of Reggio in 1284, Ascanio, archpriest of Gragnano from 1579 to 1594, Camillo, famous jurist (1543-1598) and knight commendatore of the Sacred Military Order of Santo Stefano, who managed to to be eternal in the sepulcher of one of the most prestigious churches of the Neapolitan mountain seat, that of Saints Severino and Sossio. Even today, ancient architectural finds scattered among various churches of Gragnano suggest the space that the Medici managed to carve out in the city, where their sphere of influence included, from the first half of the fifteenth century, the churches of San Marco, of the Assunta, of the Corpus Domini, of St. Thomas of Canterbury, the convent of the Carmelites and that of the Scalzi Agostiniani . In 1863 the historian Liguori declared it by now "completely extinct" .
Extinct branch - From Chiarissimo de 'Medici, brother of the great-great-grandfather of Averardo, came a fifth branch, that of Salvestro de' Medici, which became extinct in the respective sub-ramifications several times: in 1620, in the first half of the eighteenth century and finally towards 1770.
Extinct branch - The branch of Vieri de 'Medici was the first to succeed in financial activity and for his irreproachable behavior was the only one with that of Giovanni di Bicci not to be subjected to a twenty-year ban from public office after some incidents that the other rebellious doctors were protagonists. Lost the economic primacy, his descendants lived in the shadow of the most important relatives. The branch became extinct in 1732.
Another branch "Milanese" from which the cardinal Giovan Angelo de 'Medici derived, then Pope Pius IV from 1559, could have a connection dating back to before the fourteenth century with the Florentine branch. These lines of kinship have never been proven and their "supposed" genealogy was only described after the election to the papacy of Pius IV. Because of the lack of real documents today those sixteenth-century reconstructions are not considered reliable.
The interest in the Medici family took place only after the extinction of the grand-ducal family, through the attention of some foreign scholars, especially British . Before the middle of the eighteenth century it is rare to find studies on family members of the fifteenth century, while the grand-ducal race attracted interest like other European sovereigns, but above all as regards scandalistic events, scandalous events and gossip. After all, even Florence itself and its art were still kept in low esteem by visitors to the Grand Tour, who went mainly to Rome and Venice. It was absurd to know much more about the bloody facts of Lorenzino de 'Medici, about the lovers of Cosimo I and Bianca Cappello than about their patronage, the political moves and the nature of the ducal and grand-ducal government.
This contrast between tyranny and culture continued to exert attraction even when historians began to cancel, thanks to the study of the sources, the various gossip of depravity that were now circulating widely among the family.
Among the figures that most studied were Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent, as responsible for the revival of classical knowledge and the renewal of artistic forms in Florence, according to a scheme that was too emphasized and now resized.
On the other hand there were publications that severely criticized the Medici, especially in the political field, as tyrants who took away, as well as freedom, the vitality of the Florentine Republic. In the volume on the history of Florence, within the Universal History published at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the tendencies of the Enlightenment put in a bad light the taking of power by the Medici, branded unequivocally as tyrants.
In the historical studies of the Anglo-Saxon period of the time one can also read the reflections of the events of the time: when Napoleon conquered the small European nations, there was a lively admiration for the regional autonomies and, on the other hand, blame for all tyrannies , including the medical one. In 1812, when Napoleon attempted to insert Russia into the continental bloc against England, a writer on the Quarterly Review pointed to Florence as the best example of resistance to tyranny, specifying "not Florence under the Medici rule, but during the age of its true greatness ". Very negative reviews also expressed, among others, Adolphus Trollope and Mark Twain.
This was also evident in the following centuries: on the one hand the "good" story of the Medici who performed the unexpected miracle of the "Renaissance" thanks to the money of their banks; on the other, the "bad" story of the lords who took liberty from a happy people in their own democracy. This controversial nature is still today part of the stimulus to imagination and of interest in the Medici dynasty.