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without bestowing the usual honours. The Medici Palace had been
redecorated, and it witnessed a revival of the lavish hospitality of
Lorenzo il Magnifico.

Margaret of Austria entered the city for her marriage with Alessandro on
19th July 1536. She came from Naples accompanied by the Vice-Queen and
Cardinals Santi Quattro and Cibo. The nuptial Mass was sung at San
Lorenzo, and then the whole city was given over to feasting and
debauchery. "The young Duchess was serenely happy, for the Duke paid
her great court, and she knew not that he paid as much to other women of
all grades!" Banquets, masked balls, street pageants, _Giostre_, and
musical comedies crowded one upon another.

Among the wedding guests was Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, who
held the Lordship of Piombino, the lineal descendant and heir of Cosimo,
"_Il Padre della Patria's_" brother Lorenzo. His father died when he was
an infant, but his mother, Maria de' Soderini - a woman possessed of all
the prudence and culture of her family - devoted herself to his rearing
and education. Just twenty-three years old, he was small of stature and
slightly built, dark complexioned, and of a melancholy aspect. His
health was indifferent, and he was liable to uncontrollable fits of
passion: he was restless and dissatisfied, and the associate of low and
evil companions.

In Rome - where he had lived in the Medici "happy family" of the Pope - he
acquired the reputation of a coward and a provoker of disturbances. He
was fond of defacing and mutilating ancient monuments, and became liable
to pains and penalties from which Cardinal Ippolito rescued him. By his
depraved and foolish habits he greatly incensed Clement, who at length
dismissed him in disgrace. Lorenzo retired to Florence, where he was
welcomed and entertained by Alessandro. In return for favours Lorenzo,
nicknamed in Florence "_Lorenzino_," "Lorenzo the Little," became useful
to the Duke and appointed himself spy-in-chief of the Florentine exiles.
His studious character and his literary talent endowed him with another
and a worthier sobriquet "_Filosofo_," and he carried out the r√іle by
dressing as a Greek and living as a sybarite. Devoted to the study of
the classics and encouraged by his sensuous tutor, Giovanni Francesco
Zeffi, when not engaged in vulgar orgies, he translated Plato and other
writers, and even composed a comedy, which he called _L'Aridosio_.

Lorenzino entered fully into the Duke's life of profligacy and became
his inseparable companion. Both of them admired physical charms and
indulged in all physical passions: they set a base fashion in Florence,
which degraded her men and women. They habitually made lewd jokes of
everything human and divine, and were noted for their cruelty to
animals. If Alessandro became execrated as "The Tyrant and Ravisher of
Florence," Lorenzino was scouted as "A monster and a miracle," and his
depreciative nickname underwent a new spelling - "_Lorenzaccio_," -
"Lorenzo the Terrible!"

* * * * *

Satiety of excesses produced a revulsion of feeling between the two
debauchees. Alessandro began to show irritation at his companion's
freedom. The latter refused to be corrected, and into his mind came
once more the inspiration of classical heroes of liberty and foes of
oppression. Why should he not be a Florentine "Brutus," and have his
name engraved upon the pinnacle of fame as the "Saviour of his Country!"
Lorenzino studied and studied well the part he now set himself to play.

Not a word did he breathe to man or woman of what was paramount in his
mind, and he made not the slightest difference in his intercourse with
Alessandro - indeed, he drew himself to him more intimately than ever.
The Carnival of 1536 saw the maddest of all mad scenes, and everything
and everybody ran wild riot. Disguised as country minstrels and mounted
upon broken-down donkeys, the two comrades rode about the city, paying
visits to their various mistresses and flatterers, and playing practical
jokes upon the respectable citizens they encountered.

Returning one evening, weary with their follies, they supped together at
the Palazzo Medici, and then Lorenzino inquired how they were to spend
the night.

"I shall go to bed," replied Alessandro, "for I am worn out."

"Caterina?" whispered Lorenzino.

Alessandro rose abruptly and said, "Lead on, Lorenzo, I will follow."

Seeing his valet and confidant, Giustiniano da Sesena, he said: "We are
going to Signore Lorenzino's, but what shall I put on?" Giustiniano
handed him a crimson silk dressing-gown, and asked him whether he would
wear his sword and steel gauntlets, or whether his cane and his scented
kid gloves would not be more suitable.

"Yes," the Duke replied, "toss me over my lovers' gloves, for I am about
to see my lady!"

Snatching a cloak, lined with fur, and grasping a light sword in his
hand, Alessandro left the palace by the garden wicket, followed by his
valet and two secret guards, Giomo da Carpi, and an Hungarian wrestler
nicknamed "Bobo."

Meanwhile Lorenzino had sought the street, and at the corner he found
his usual attendant, Michaele del Tovallaccino, a soldier possessed of a
splendid physique, combining the soft contour of Apollo and the brute
force of Hercules. His comrades called him "Scoronconcolo," on account
of his wild, lustful nature. "He could kiss and bite," they said, "at
the same time!"

"Michaele," said Lorenzino, "I want you to kill the man who is my
greatest enemy."

"My lord," replied the ruffian, "I am at your service. Tell me the name
of the fellow who has wronged you and I will kill him right off. I would
kill Jesus Christ himself if he hated you!"

"Stay at your post and I will return for you presently," said Lorenzino,
going on to his own house across the way.

In the Piazza San Marco he overtook Alessandro, who dismissed his
attendants, and went on alone with his cousin. In Lorenzino's chamber
was a good fire, and Alessandro, complaining of the heat, loosened his
attire and removed his sword, handing it to Lorenzino, who deftly
entangled the sash and belt in the hilt and placed it upon the bed.

"Where is Caterina?" inquired the Duke. "Why is she not here?"

"She is quite ready," was the reply, "and only awaits me to conduct her
hither."

"Go at once and delay not!" cried Alessandro.

Locking the door from without, and putting the key in his pocket,
Lorenzino hastened to Michaele.

This "Caterina" was Caterina Ginori, Lorenzino's mother's sister. Forced
by her father, Paolo d'Antonio de' Soderini, to renounce her lover,
Luigi degli Alamanni, and to marry Leonardo de' Ginori - a disreputable
spendthrift and gambler, who fled to Naples to escape his creditors - she
attracted the notice of Duke Alessandro. She was as accomplished as she
was beautiful and very commanding in appearance, the mother of
Bartolommeo, the giant manhood model of Giovanni da Bologna for his
famous "Youth, Manhood, and Age," miscalled "The Rape of the Sabines,"
in the Loggia de' Lanzi.

At the rendezvous Lorenzino slapped Michaele upon the shoulder.
"Brother," he said, "the moment has arrived. I have locked my enemy in
my room. Come on, now is your opportunity." "March!" was the ruffian's
terse reply.

"Don't fear to strike," said Lorenzino, as they strode on side by side.
"Strike hard, and if the man should seek to defend himself, strike still
harder. I trust you."

"Never you fear, my lord, were the man to swear he was the Duke or the
Devil, it matters not. Strike I will, and hard."

Mounting the stairs quietly, Lorenzino opened the door of his apartment
softly, and there lay Alessandro, fast asleep upon the bed, with his
face to the wall. Coward, as he was wont to call himself, he no longer
feared to slay the "Tyrant of his People," but whipping out his sword,
not waiting for Michaele's attack, he thrust it right through the Duke's
back!

With a frantic yell Alessandro stumbled upon the floor. "Traitor!
assassin!" he screamed. Then, turning his eyes full upon Lorenzino, he
faintly added: "This from thee - my lover!"

Alessandro made as though to defend himself, and with the red blood
gushing from his back, he threw himself upon his murderer and they
struggled on the floor.

Michaele was powerless to strike: his weapon might have slashed his
master. Alessandro, with dying energy, seized the hand of Lorenzino and
bit two of his fingers to the bone, so that the miscreant yelled with
agony. Then they parted - Lorenzino to bind up his broken bones and
Alessandro to staunch his wound. "At him," cried the madman, and
Michaele struck at him with his sword, cutting off his right cheek and
his nose, and then he got his dagger at his throat, and turned it round
in the gaping wound, until he nearly decapitated his unhappy victim.
Again Lorenzino heaved at him with his reeking weapon and fell upon him,
covering himself with blood, and bit his face in savage rage! Alessandro
fell away and lay, breathing heavily in a fearsome heap. Then Lorenzino,
chuckling with fiendish glee, roared out, "See, Michaele, my brother,
the wretch is dead!"

Raising the body of the still breathing Duke, his murderers threw it
upon the bed and covered it with the sheets. Then Lorenzino opened a
window and looked out upon the Via Larga, to see if anybody was about.
Not a soul was there. It was early morning, and by the new light of day
he tore off a piece of paper and scribbled upon it, with Alessandro's
blood, "_Vincit amor patriae laudumque immensa cupido_," and pinned it
over Alessandro's heart!

Both he and Michaele washed their hands and their swords - their clothes
they could not cleanse - and Lorenzino, having filled his pouch with the
money and jewels he possessed, they picked up their cloaks and hats,
and, locking the door behind them, departed. In the basement they
encountered Fiaccio, Lorenzino's faithful body-servant, groom and valet
combined, and he was bidden to follow his master.

The three made their way with haste to the residence of Bishop Angelo
Marzi, the chief custodian of the City Gates, of whom Lorenzino demanded
post-horses, showing to the servant Alessandro's signet-ring, which he
had pulled off his victim's finger. The Bishop made no demur, being well
accustomed to the erratic ways of the cousins. They took the road to
Bologna, where Lorenzino had the two broken fingers removed, and his
hand dressed, and then on they posted without further halt.

Lorenzino made at once for the house of Filippo negli Strozzi, the
leader of the exiled Florentines in that city, and rousing him from his
slumbers, embraced him with emotion, and said: "See, this is the key of
the chamber where lies the body of Alessandro. I have slain him. Look at
my clothes, this blood is his, no more shall Florence suffer at his
hands. Revenge is sweet, but freedom is sweeter!"

Filippo could scarcely believe the glad tidings, and surveyed his
visitor from head to foot. Lorenzino, noting his hesitation, called
Michaele into the room crying, "Here is Scoronconcolo the Assassin, and
I am Lorenzaccio the Terrible!"

"Thou art our Brutus, my Lord Lorenzino!" exclaimed Filippo, with tears
running down his cheeks. "Tarry awhile, till I can summon our chief
allies, and rest yourselves. Bravo! Bravissimo!"

Next day alarm spread through the Medici Palace when the Duke failed to
make his appearance, especially as at noon he had summoned a meeting of
his new Grand Council of Two Hundred. No one knew where he had gone.
Lorenzino was gone too, at least he did not make his usual early morning
call. All the houses of their mistresses and other boon-companions were
searched in vain, but apparently no one dreamt of calling at
Lorenzino's, across the way. Probably, it was thought, the two had gone
off to Cafogginolo - their favourite haunt.

Madonna Maria, Messer Jacopo de' Salviati's daughter, the widow of
Giovanni de' Medici, "delle Bande Nere," who resided near Lorenzino,
certainly heard loud cries which terrified her, but it was not an
unusual occurrence. Lorenzino had, in his villainous scheme, devised a
cunning decoy to accustom neighbours and passers-by to noisy behaviour.
He had repeatedly gathered in his house groups of young men with swords,
whom he instructed to cross their weapons as in serious self-defence,
and to cry out "Murder!" "Help!" and such like.

The first intimation of the tragedy was furnished by Lorenzino's porter,
who kept his keys - that of the bedchamber was missing and the door was
locked! The man sought an interview with Cardinal Cibo, then in
Florence, and his former master, and told him his fears. The door was,
by his order, forced and then, of course, the terrible truth was made
clear.

Under the pain of losing their heads, the Cardinal commanded absolute
secrecy on the part of the domestics and guards who had looked upon that
gruesome corpse. At the same time he ordered the game of "Saracino" to
be played in the _Piazza_ close by, to remove the fears of a fast
gathering crowd of citizens. When asked if he knew where the Duke was,
he replied quite casually: "Oh, don't worry about the Duke, he's in bed
of course, sleeping off the effects of last night's conviviality. He'll
appear when he thinks fit. Go away and mind your own affairs."

Somehow or another at last the news leaked out that Alessandro was dead,
and that Lorenzino had killed him. Cardinal Cibo convened the Council of
Forty-eight to discuss the situation. To him full powers were accorded
to administer the government for three days, until a settlement was
reached. This decision was most unpopular with the citizens, who began
to rise in opposition.

Just when another bloody revolution seemed imminent, Cosimo de' Medici,
the young son of Giovanni "delle Bande Nere," rode into the city,
accompanied by a few of his friends. Everywhere he was hailed with
enthusiastic cries - "_Evviva il Giovanni e il Cosimo_."

The young Duchess Margaret fled precipitately from the Via Larga to the
fortress of San Giovanni, which Alessandro had only just built and
fortified. With her went three young children - not her own indeed, for
she had proved to be barren, - but children she found in her husband's
house. By Florentine law they were recognised as belonging to the
family, and no one troubled about their precise origin.

These little ones were probably the issue of the Duke by a handsome
_contadina_ employed in the palace, who went by the name of Anna da
Massa. Francesco Guicciardini, however, says she was the Marchesa da
Massa, a noble lady, one of Alessandro's chief favourites. Giulio, some
five years old, became a soldier, and died Prior of the new military
Order of St Stephen of Pisa; Porczia died an enclosed nun in Rome; and
Giulia married Francesco de' Barthelemmi.

Margaret herself married Ottavio Farnese, Prince of Nepi and Camerino, a
lad of sixteen years of age, and, a second time, being left a widow, she
espoused the Duke of Parma, and died in 1586 - fifty years after her
ill-starred marriage with Alessandro de' Medici.

It was reputed that shortly before his assassination, a Greek soothsayer
one day stopped the Duke's cortege in the street, and cried out, so that
all might hear: "Alessandro, Duke of Florence, thou shall be slain by a
relative, a thin man, small of stature, and dark of countenance. He will
have one accomplice. Beware!"

As for Lorenzino, whilst no action was taken publicly in Florence
against him - for, secretly all men, and openly the majority, praised his
act - there was a party whose members were sworn to avenge Alessandro's
blood. They enlisted a service of irreconcilables to track the murderer
to his death.

For eleven long years Lorenzino traversed land and sea, pursued, not
only by relentless foes, but tormented by an accusing conscience. He was
no Brutus to himself, but relapsed once more into a craven, stalking
coward. At length retribution overtook him, for two soldiers, devoted to
Alessandro's memory, hunted him down in the waterways of Venice, to
which he had returned. One day, in May 1548, Bedo da Volterra and
Cecchino da Bibonna caught him by the Rialto, unattended and unarmed,
and their daggers did the work as effectively for him as did his sword
for Duke Alessandro!

What became of Lorenzino's body nobody knew and nobody cared, probably
it was tossed by his assassins into the Grand Canal, and being washed
out into the sea, will await that day when the deep shall yield up all
that is therein.

Some authorities state that a reward of ten thousand gold florins was
offered for his head, that his effigy was burnt with every mark of
opprobrium in the Piazza della Signoria, and that the rabble pulled his
house down and burnt out the site.



CHAPTER III


MARIA, GIOVANNI, AND GARZIA.


_A Father's Vengeance_


"I will have no Cain in my family!" roared out Cosimo de' Medici - "_Il
Giovane_," Duke of Florence, in the forest of Rosignano.

"A Medico of the Medici," prompt in action and suave in repose, his hand
flew to his sword hilt, and the cruel, cold steel of a father's wrath
flashed in the face of Heaven! Duchess Eleanora made one swift step
forward, intent upon shielding her child, but she stood there transfixed
with horror - her arms and hands outstretched to the wide horizon in
silent supplication, her tongue paralysed!

The kneeling boy grasped his father's knees, weeping piteously, and
crying aloud in vain for mercy. Thrusting him from him, and spurning him
with his heavy hunting-boot, he plunged furiously his gleaming blade
into his son's breast, until the point came out between his
shoulderblades!

With one expiring yell of agony and terror, Garzia de' Medici yielded up
his fair young life, the victim of inexorable fate. It was high moon,
and the watchful stars, of course, could not behold the gruesome deed,
but over the autumn sun was drawn a grey purple mist, and gloom settled
upon the Maremma. And as the elements paled and were silent, a hush
overspread wild nature, not a beast in the thicket, not a bird on the
bough, stirred. Sighs siffled through the bracken and the heather, and
the roar of the distant sea died away in moaning at the bar.

With a suffocating sob, as though stabbed to death herself, the Duchess
swooned upon the ground, and, whilst the courtiers in the company
hastened to her assistance, the huntsmen reverently covered the still
quivering body of the young prince with their embroidered livery cloaks.

Not much more than a mile away another corpse was being gently borne by
tender loving hands - it was Giovanni's, Garzia's elder brother, the
young Cardinal.

Giovanni de' Medici was dead - Garzia was dead; and two virgin souls were
winging their flight to join their murdered sister Maria in the Paradise
of Peace.

* * * * *

Cosimo, Duke of Florence, was the son of Giovanni de' Medici - called
"_delle Bande Nere_" and Maria de' Salviati. Born in 1498, at Forli,
Giovanni - also known as "_Giovannino_" to distinguish him from his
father Giovanni, "_Il Popolano_" - was destined from his cradle to a
military career. With such a mother as Caterina, the natural daughter
of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, he was bound to acquire with
her milk the instincts of a pushful personality.

Pope Leo X., who was a Florentine of the Florentines, extended his
zealous patronage to the rearing and the training of his youthful
relative. If not a caster of horoscopes, he was a reader of character,
and, son as he was of Lorenzo "Il Magnifico," he foresaw a future for
"_Giovannino_" fraught with immense importance to his family and his
native city.

After receiving his early training as a soldier in Rome, attached to the
staff of one or other of the _Condottieri_, young Giovanni was appointed
to a military command with the Papal army in Lombardy, when he was
little more than out of his teens. His splendid physique and his prowess
in friendly encounter, revealed the lion that was in him. The leader in
all boyish pranks and rivalries, he displayed intrepid courage and
unfailing resourcefulness when called upon to prove his metal. To strike
quickly and to strike hard, he knew very well meant the battle half
won - hence there was added to his sobriquet two significant
appellations - "_L'Invincible_" and "_Il Gran Diabolo_!"

The troops under his command were, as was the rule in the Papal armies,
composed of motley companies of alien mercenaries and forced levies,
but, in addition, very many soldiers of fortune, attracted by his fame,
rallied to his banner. Very soon the "_Bande Nere_," as Giovanni's
force was called, gave evidence that they had no equals in equipment and
efficiency. Their leader took as his models the infantry of Spain and
the cavalry of Germany. Each man wore a black silk ribbon badge, and
each lance bore its black pennon - hence the "_Bande Nere_."

It has been said of Mars, the God of War, that he was susceptible to the
wiles of Venus, even when intent on deeds of daring, so, too, was it
true of Condottiere Giovanni de' Medici. Although born outside the "City
of the Lily," and the child of a non-Florentine mother, he and his were
always on terms of good relationship with the gentle Duke Lorenzo. His
associations with Florence were of the closest nature, and
"_Giovannino_" was quite content to look for his bride among the
marriageable maidens there.

With an ever open eye to a goodly marriage portion, Messer Giovanni "_Il
Popolano_" viewed the daughters of the Salviati with approval. That
house was famous for its financial prominence - rivalling that of his
own, and Messer Giacopo's three girls were noted for good looks and
clever brains. Whether love, or money, was the magnet, or whether the
two ran together in double harness, young "_Giovannino_" took tight hold
upon the reins, and he and Maria Salviati were betrothed in the autumn
of 1517.

To be sure there was a difficulty about the new marital habitation, for
a soldier upon active service has no settled home. Love, however, knows
obstacles only to overcome them, and so, somehow or another, the young
Madonna brought into the world, one wintry day in February - it was the
nineteenth - 1519, her first-born, a son. Cosimo they christened him,
perhaps after his great ancestor Cosimo "_Padre della Patria_" -
"_Cosimonino_." When mother and child could be moved Giovanni sent them,
for safety, into Florence, where they were lovingly welcomed by her
parents, Messer Giacopo de' Salviati and his wife Lucrezia, daughter of
Lorenzo il Magnifico.

Pope Leo X., who had in his heart ambitious desires for the predominance
of his House, not alone in Tuscany but throughout Italy, regarded the
young soldier as one of his most trusty lieutenants. Designing, as he
did, to create Giuliano, - later Duke of Nemours, - King of Naples and
Southern Italy, and Lorenzo, - Duke of Urbino, - King of Lombardy and
Northern Italy, he made Giovanni "delle Bande Nere" Commandant of the
Papal armies.

Leo spent much time in Florence, having the Condottiere by his side, and
using him as an envoy, - first to the King of France, and, then to the
Emperor, in matrimonial negotiations which concerned Giuliano and
Lorenzo. The imbroglio about the Duchy of Milan found him at the head of
the Papal contingent of the Imperial army, but his success as commander
was checked by a disastrous peace concluded by the Pope. The early
years of young Cosimo's life were critical in the affairs of Tuscany; a
fierce struggle for the suzerainty of all Italy was being fought out
between Francis I. and Charles V. The Pope, Clement VII. - Cardinal
Giulio de' Medici - who had succeeded Adrian VI. in 1523, sided with
either party as suited his ambitions best. When favourable to the
French, he handed over one division of the Papal army to the king, who
confirmed Condottiere Giovanni de' Medici in his command.

At Borgoforte he was shot in the knee, and again at Pavia, where Francis
was routed and taken prisoner. The campaign continued and Giovanni was
always in the front rank of battle until, outside Mantua, he was
mortally wounded and died within the fortress, on 30th November, 1526,
at the early age of twenty-nine.

An interesting little story concerns the first anniversary of Cosimo's
birth. His father dreamed, on the eve of that day, that he saw his son
asleep in his cradle, and over his head he beheld a royal crown! In the
morning he did not tell Madonna Maria what he had seen in the
night-watches, but something prompted him to test the will of
Providence. Accordingly he told his wife to take the precious little


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