Christopher Hare.

The romance of a Medici warrior; being the true story of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, to which is added the life of his son, Cosimo I., grand duke of Tuscany; a study in heredity online

. (page 18 of 21)
Online LibraryChristopher HareThe romance of a Medici warrior; being the true story of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, to which is added the life of his son, Cosimo I., grand duke of Tuscany; a study in heredity → online text (page 18 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

— a Milanese not connected with the great Florentine
family — was elected successor to Paul IV., and he
took the name of Pius IV. He was a good man and
a scholar, of kindly disposition, who only desired to
live in peace with all men. He sent a friendly letter
to Elizabeth, but Philip II., fearing a French intrigue,
stopped the Nuncio on his way to England. Duke
Cosimo had done his utmost to promote the election
of Pius IV., and was not long in reaping the reward
of his labours. His second son Giovanni, a lad of
sixteen, was created a cardinal ; and in the first year
of his pontificate Pius IV. sent a Nuncio to reside
permanently in Florence, thus showing this city an
honour which it had never received before ; the first
Nuncio being Monsignor Giovanni Campeggio, Bishop
of Bologna.

Tlie shores of the Mediterranean being never free
from the danger of attack by Turkish corsairs, Cosimo
desired to found an Order of Knights for the defence
of all that coast, and also as an example " of honour-
able distinction in arms and courteous customs of
chivalry," and for this purpose, and " also concerning
other matters," he desired to consult with the new
Pope. Having received a cordial invitation to Rome,
the Duke of Florence left his eldest son Francesco
in charge of the government, and set forth in great
state with the Duchess Eleonora, his wife, and his
son, the cardinal. Passing by way of Siena he was
received there with great pomp, and remained in the
city several days, to break the journey. When Duke
Cosimo reached Rome in the morning, he made a


magnificent, almost regal, entrance, for many Roman
nobles and great personages came out to meet liim,
and the flower of his own Court, in splendid array,
had followed him from Florence. In the evening
the Duchess made her state entry with no less
pomp, and they were both received with the highest
honour by the Pope, and lodged in the " stanze,''
built by Innocent VIII. above the first courtyard
of the Palace of St. Peter's.

Here the Duke and his party remained for two
months, having long conferences with the Pope about
the rules and religious observances of his new Order,
and also discussing the important concerns of the
Catholic Church. That " abominable plague of
heresy " appeared to be spreading from its home in
Germany, all over England and even into France,
and Cosimo did his best to exhort the gentle Pope
to show no mercy, and follow the example of his
predecessor. He pointed out that while other states
were troubled with these matters, he had succeeded
in putting down heresy in Florence, and was rewarded
by peace and tranquillity. On leaving Rome, Cosimo
passed once more through Siena, where he remained
some days, visiting the neighbourhood and seeing
that good order was maintained. He then went on
to Pisa, where he finally inaugurated his new Order,
giving to it the name of San Stefano, Pope and Martyr,
whose festival, on August 2, was the day of his
memorable victory of Marciano, where Strozzi was
defeated and the fall of Siena was assured.

All things seemed indeed to have prospered with
Cosimo, for not the least of his personal triumphs
had been the death of his deadly foe, Piero Strozzi,
Marshall of France, at the siege of Thionville, by an


accidental shot from an arquebuse, in June 1558.
The Duke had now outlived most of the irrecon-
cilables, who would never forgive the treachery and
cruelty of his destruction of Florentine freedom.

Not long afterwards the King of France ofiered
his daughter in marriage to Francesco, the eldest
son of the Duke of Florence. But Cosimo sent
courteous thanks to the King, and declined the honour
of this alliance, as in his devotion to the House of
Austria he hoped to find greater means of promotion.
He therefore sent his son, with a splendid escort, to
the Court of the King of Spain, in order that " he
might see the ways and customs of other princes,
and by studying their methods of government become
more wise." The Duke himself had suffered from ill-
health for some time, and he felt that it was important
for his heir to gain all possible experience before he
should succeed to the duchy. It is quite possible
that the example of the Emperor Charles V. had
some influence on the mind of Cosimo, and that he
was already considering the plan of retiring in favour
of his son, or rather taking the young prince into a
kind of partnership, a scheme which he carried out
some years later.

Anderson, photo.

Bronzino : Florence.




Duke Cosimo builds bridges, fortresses, etc. — The Palazzo Vecchio had
been embellished for him ; then he rebuilds the Pitti Palace for
his abode — Patronage of art — Benvenuto Cellini and others —
Domestic troubles — Tragic death of his two sons. Cardinal
Giovanni and Garzia — The Duchess Eleonora dies of grief —
Strange rumours — His daughter Isabella marries a Roman noble,
the Duke of Bracciano.

At this period of triumph and success, when all things
seemed to prosper with Cosimo, Duke of Florence,
and when the great dominions acquired by crime and
bloodshed were assured to him by his astute diplo-
macy, we may pause to consider the public works
which he has left behind. This cruel, grasping, clever
prince had all the instincts of a Medici for show and
magnificence, and fortunately these often took the
form of most useful undertakings. He made canals,
such as that one from Livorno to Pisa ; he drained
the marshes round that city, and also in the Maremma
of Siena and the Val di Chiana, purifying the air
and providing fresh land for agriculture. He made
lakes, such as that of Frassineto, near Camaldoli, and
that of the Val di Lamia ; and also aqueducts to
bring the waters of the Mugnone into Florence, and
another at Pisa.

But above all he was a great builder of bridges,
the greatest boon in a country so full of rivers as
Tuscany, as we see from the names of those which

305 18


still remain, beginning with the Arno, over which the
Ponte Santa Trinita, which had been swept away in
the great flood of 1557, was rebuilt from designs of
Ammanati. Cosimo also restored the Ponte alia
Carraja, and gave the jewellers the shops still occu-
pied by that trade on the Ponte Vecchio. Then
follow the rivers Arbia, Mugnone, Chiana, Ombrone,
Elsa, Ema, and many others, all crossed by the
Duke's bridges. It would be too long to enumerate
the fortresses, towers of defence, and fortifications
which he built in Florence, Pisa, Siena, Livorno, and
all the cities of his dominions. Cosimo also made
new roads and repaired the old ones throughout
Tuscany, but these, like the castles, may be looked
upon as needful works for military defence.

As we pass through Florence, we are reminded at
every step of Duke Cosimo. Beginning with the
Palazzo Vecchio — which in 1540, at the time of his
marriage with Eleonora de Toledo, he had enlarged
by del Tasso, including in it the two palaces at the
rear — the Council Chamber was greatly improved
and the wide staircase built, besides many other
changes to make it suitable for the luxurious dwelling
of a Court, and no longer the simple massive palace
of the people. But after ten years of rule, this was
not splendid enough for the Duke, and he moved to
the immense palace belonging to the noble family
of the Pitti, who had never been able to finish the
building, and in 1549 sold it to the Duchess Eleonora,
with all the farms and orchards round it. These were
turned into magnificent gardens, partly on the lower
ground, then rising up the slope to the hill above.
" Here all kinds of trees were planted, and shrubs
and green lawns, and beautiful bowers, and every


kind of fountain and water-works, with grottoes and
vases and statues and other delights, which cannot
be imagined unless they are seen." The Duchess
took great interest in collecting plants, flowers, and
fruit trees from all Tuscany. Mannucci goes on to
describe the wonderful passage which was made from
the Palazzo Vecchio, over the " Uffizi " (or offices),
to the Pitti, as a " way in the air " by which, in any
danger, the Duke might pass quickly and secretly
from one palace to the other. This was built later,
on the marriage of his eldest son Francesco, who
was to live in the Palazzo Vecchio. We can under-
stand the satisfaction of the Duchess Eleonora in
her new home, with her young children, away from
the haunting memory of past tragedies in the Palazzo
Vecchio. This great lady was not popular in
Florence, where the people found her insupportable
for her cold pride and dull solemnity. She never
forgot that she was a Spaniard, and obtained many
privileges for her fellow-countrymen in Florence ;
the Spanish Chapel in Santa Maria Novella was
specially granted to them, and she was always a
great friend to the newly risen company of the Jesuits.
Cellini gives an amusing account of her dislike to
his light and frivolous character, and her constant
opposition to him.

In the Piazza della Signoria, the Loggia dei Lanzi
reminds us that the name was given to this ancient
and beautiful series of arcades by Cosimo, who used
it as a meeting-place for his Swiss body-guard, which
was constantly on duty for his personal protection,
so little trust had he in his subjects. The admirers
of Duke Cosimo 's despotic rule make much of his
encouragement of trade and commerce in Florence,


and it will be interesting to trace briefly his connection
with the ancient Guilds of the City. He made various
alterations in the statutes, and established four
Universities to include the Fourteen Lesser Guilds,
giving them certain privileges ; but it was scarcely
in a kindly spirit that he ordered " any servant
found idling in the streets or hanging about for
want of work at the evening tolling of the bell
called the ' Campana delle Armi,' shall have his
right hand amputated." He evidently took a special
interest in bells, for he ordered that the big bell of
the Duomo should be rung at half-past three daily,
to announce to the workmen that their day was
over. Many of them lived outside the city gates,
which were always closed at dusk.

Duke Cosimo certainly made an effort to revive
the prosperity of the " Guild of Wool." In 1543 he
wished to embellish the Palazzo Vecchio with woven
tapestries, and for this purpose he induced a number
of tapestry workers from Lyons to settle in Flor-
ence, and established a weaving manufactory. This
industry quickly developed, and the Florentine
painters, Bronzino and Salviati, designed cartoons
for the weavers. However, by a curious irony of
fate, the Guild of Cloth and Wool Merchants, closely
connected with this useful work, was almost ruined
by another enterprise of Duke Cosimo, when in 1561
he instituted the " Military Order of the Knights of
San Stefano." Many wealthy merchants, wishing to
secure for their families the honour of the military
cross, with all its privileges, disdained to continue
the exercise of their trade.

In the same year the Duke of Florence unwittingly
gave the final death-blow to the old Guild of the


'* Calimala/' or wool-merchants, by his protectionist
instinct, which induced him to forbid the importation
of serges and light woollen cloths from England and
Flanders. We have no space to dwell fully upon
the extremely interesting account of the various
Guilds of Florence at this time, but we may still see
one useful addition which Cosimo made to the Mercato
Vecchio, in rebuilding the Loggia del Pesce as a
special place for the selling of fish, which had proved
a nuisance in the general market. A small market
for the sale of fruit and vegetables was also added
close by.

With regard to Duke Cosimo 's encouragement of
art, we notice that in 1562 he renamed the Accademia
di San Luca, first held in the cloisters of La 'Nunziata,
as the " Accademia delle Belle Arte," uniting the three
fine arts — Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture —
under the motto " Levare di terra al cielo nostro
intelleto." Cosimo felt that as a Medici he had a
traditional position as patron of art ; but there was
no generosity about his nature. " Cautious, little-
minded, meddling, with a true Florentine's love of
bargaining and playing cunning tricks, he pretended
to protect the arts, but did not understand the part
he had assumed. He was always short of money,
and surrounded by old avaricious servants, through
whose hands his meagre presents passed. As a
connoisseur, he did not trust his own judgment, thus
laying himself open to the intrigues of inferior
artists. ...''*

Benvenuto Cellini gives us a very vivid account
of the difficulties he met with during the period he
worked in Florence for the Duke, and of that great

* J. A. Symonds.


day of his life when finally his bronze statue of Perseus
with the head of Medusa was uncovered in the Loggia
dei Lanzi, and welcomed with an outburst of enthu-
siasm. But besides this, he had made other works
to adorn the Duke's palaces, and it was remembered
with awe that he was the sculptor of that waxen bust
of Duke Alessandro which was hung in the Church
of S. Annunziata, and which fell to the ground three
days before that Duke was murdered by Lorenzino.

To Cellini we are indebted for the fine Ganymede
in the Uffizi, and for various precious objects in the
Collection of Gems which he carved for the Duchess
Eleonora. The famous crucifix in the Church of
San Lorenzo is his work, and he also made a colossal
bust of Duke Cosimo to be placed in Porte Stello,
at the splendid harbour of Porto Ferrajo in the Island
of Elba.

All these and many other masterpieces were for-
gotten when Cellini came to compete with Bandinelli
and Ammanati for the great fountain of Neptune in
the Piazza della Signoria, and the task was given to
a rival. Of other artists patronised by Cosimo were
Bronzino, who painted portraits of all his family ;
Vasari, who covered the walls of his palaces with his
great exploits ; Tribolo, who adorned his gardens with
fountains and statues. Not only the grounds of the
Duke's great palace in Florence were thus decorated,
but he bestowed great care and expense upon the
gardens of his various villa residences, especially
Castello, where his mother died and where he was
to spend the closing years of his life.

While he was surrounded by artists of second rank,
Cosimo, notwithstanding all his earnest entreaties,
was unable to persuade Michelangelo to return to


Florence and complete the statues of the Medici in
the Church of San Lorenzo. The great master, born
in 1474, was now of advanced age, and having com-
pleted the " Last Judgment,'' he was next engaged
by Paul III. to superintend the building of St. Peter's,
" and to this task, undertaken for the repose of his
soul without emolument, he devoted the last years of
his life." Thus the tombs of the Medici were destined
to remain unfinished. " Lorenzo's features are but
rough-hewn ; so is the face of Night. Day seems
struggling into shape beneath his mass of rock, and
Twilight shows everywhere the tooth-dint of the
chisel." *

Up to the point where we have followed the story
of Duke Cosimo, all has prospered with him, except
for the loss of his infant son and of his daughter Maria.
But in the year 1561 there came to him news of the
death of his young daughter Lucrezia, who had been
married two years before, at the age of fifteen, to
Alfonso II. d'Este, recently Duke of Ferrara. In
after-years the report spread that she had been
poisoned by her husband, but for this tragic story
there is probably no foundation. Lucrezia was the
third daughter, and her elder sister Isabella had
been married the same year to a great Roman noble,
Paolo Giordano Orsini, of whom we shall hear more
later on.

In the year 1562 a tragic disaster came upon the
family of Cosimo. A change to the sea-coast had
been recommended for the Duchess Eleonora, who
was out of health, and the Duke set forth on a journey
beyond Leghorn, with his wife and his three sons,
Giovanni the cardinal aged nineteen, Garzia who

* J, A, Symonds,


was just fifteen, and young Ferdinando who was
barely thirteen. As we have seen in the last chapter,
the eldest son Francesco had been sent to pay his
homage to Philip II. at the Court of Spain.

The Duke was anxious to visit the fortified places
on the coast below Livorno, built for protection
against the Turkish pirates, and he was also looking
forward to some hunting with his sons. The following
is the account of what happened, as given by the
Court chroniclers, and especially by Beldini, the
Duke's head physician, " which things I have seen
and written."

There was at this time an epidemic of malarial
fever in the south of Tuscany, and it was especially
virulent in the unhealthy Maremma. Giovanni was
the first to sicken with this terrible fever at Rosignano ;
he was taken to Leghorn, and received every care.
The doctor Baldini gives a very circumstantial account
of his sickness and death on November 20, adding that
his father the Duke was fetched to see him in the middle
of the night. " No earthly remedies were of any avail
for this youth of the most handsome presence and most
excellent behaviour, tenderly beloved by his father,
who had the greatest hopes for him ; . . . and he
being dead, his body was borne to Pisa, of which city
he had been made Archbishop. ..." Here the Duke
took his wife and his two other sons, who were also
ill with fever, in the hope that they would recover.
But Don Garzia, after an illness of twenty-one days,
" passed to a better life [on December 12], a youth
of the highest expectations and destined for great
things ; who died at the age of fifteen. Of whose
death when the Duchess heard she, having been ill
for many days, became much worse so that, to the


infinite grief of the Duke, she also was overcome by
the stroke of death. . . /'

On December 18, the day of his wife Eleonora's
death, Cosimo wrote a very full and most circum-
stantial account of all this tragedy to his eldest son
Francesco, at the Court of Spain, with careful and
minute details of the last hours of his two sons and
their mother.

Having given the official and Court version of these
sad events, it is necessary to allude to the story
which for several centuries has been one of the stock-
tragedies of Medici crime, has been made the subject
of a tragic drama by Alfieri and other writers, and
has been generally believed by the enemies of
Cosimo I. We are all familiar with the story of the two
brothers going out hunting together, of their dispute
as to which of them had killed a certain deer, and
the subsequent struggle in which Garzia, by an un-
lucky thrust, kills his brother Giovanni. Then we
are told that the Duke, in a fit of frenzy at the death
of his favourite Giovanni, puts his younger son to
death with his own hands, and that the unfortunate
mother dies of a broken heart.

Alfieri's version is a very wild romance, which does
not even give the name of Giovanni, but puts in his
place that of " Piero," then a boy of eight, evidently
confusing him — as so many writers have done — with
the Piero who died as an infant in 1546.

In these more humane and law-abiding days, our
latest historians are not disposed to believe in past
deeds of savage violence without such positive proof
as, at this distance of time, cannot often be obtained.
But " qui s'excuse, s'accuse," and the extraordinarily
minute details regarding that malarial fever, written


by a Court historian under the watchful eye of a
later Grand Duke ; or even the long circumstantial
letter written by Cosimo himself to his son at the
Spanish Court — at the very moment when he was
supposed to be overwhelmed with grief — are neither
of them perfectly reliable evidence, when we remem-
ber the character of Duke Cosimo and his small
respect for human life. In any case the verdict may
be " Not proven ! "

There was terrible tragedy for the Duke in the
loss of his two promising sons and their mother, who
had been his devoted companion for twenty-three
years. Two solemn funerals followed each other in
San Lorenzo at Florence — one of Cardinal Giovanni,
and then of the Duchess Eleonora and her best
beloved son Garzia, " the light of her eyes."' They
were laid to rest together in the crypt of the Medici
Mausoleum, where Cosimo himself was later to take
his place by their side.

It was most important to the Duke that he should
have one son a Cardinal to keep his interests in
remembrance in Rome, and his first step after the
death of Giovanni was to induce Pius IV. to raise
Ferdinando, a boy of thirteen, to the vacant dignity.
He sent for his son Francesco to help him in the
defence of the Mediterranean coast, which was again
attacked by the Turkish fleets and corsairs, and he
was now able to make great use of his Military Order
of St. Stephen. But Florence being an inland power,
the Duke was very deficient in vessels, and the
chronicler mentions with great pride that on this
occasion he was able to send ten galleys to sea. Still
the new line of forts along the shore of Tuscany was
a great protection to the people, who were encouraged


to store their grain, and live as much as possible
within walled towns. Those of Talamone Port' Er-
cole, Orbetello, and San Stefano formed the Spanish
"Praesidia/' which was ruled by the Viceroy of Naples.
But the garrisons had no means of obtaining any
supplies save fish, except by the pleasure of Duke
Cosimo. The coveted port of Piombino had been
his for a time, but the jealousy of Genoa had induced
Philip II. to retain it in his own possession after 1557.

However, at this period — 1563 — Duke Cosimo was
most anxious to be on good terms with both the King of
Spain and his uncle the Emperor Ferdinand, as after
his great good fortune in the past his ambition had
risen to the point of desiring a royal marriage for
his son. He, who had once been denied Marguerite
the illegitimate daughter of Charles V., now raised
his eyes towards a real Archduchess, the youngest
daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand, as a bride for
his heir Francesco. Everything was in his favour,
for the division of power after the death of Charles
had made the Duke's position more independent,
and if he could arrange this great alliance it would
be another means towards his own advancement
above all the other ruling princes in Italy. Nothing
short of absolute precedence would satisfy the grasp-
ing desire of this scion of the Medici, that family of
whom it was said that " All things came to them in
the end."

After the tragic loss of his two sons, Giovanni and
Garzia, there remained to Cosimo only four of his
nine children ; these were three sons, Francesco,
aged twenty-two, Ferdinando, the newly made car-
dinal of fourteen, and Pietro, a wild, unmanageable
child of eight. His one daughter, Isabella, was


distinguished for her beauty and talent, and said to
be a musician and a poetess. She had been married
in 1558, at the age of sixteen, to a great Roman noble,
Paolo Giordino Orsini, Prince of Bracciano, a name
too closely associated with the frail Vittoria Acco-
ramboni — with coming tragedy and disaster — for us
to believe that the marriage can ever have been a
happy one. In any case, Isabella seems to have been
quite willing to leave her husband and return to
cheer her father's life soon after the death of the
Duchess Eleonora, and she at once became the centre
of all there was of gaiety and amusement in the
Florentine life of those days.


Marriage of Francesco, the Duke's eldest son, to the Archduchess
Joanna, daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand — Story of Bianca
Capello — Cosimo takes his son into a share of the government — •
Election of Pope Pius V., fierce inquisitor — Pietro Carnesecchi,
a Florentine, impeached for heresy, betrayed by his friend
Duke Cosimo, who is rewarded by the Pope with the title of
Grand Duke of Tuscany — Death of Cosimo I. (1574) — His

When the Emperor Ferdinand died in July 1564
and was succeeded by his son Maximilian II., nego-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21

Online LibraryChristopher HareThe romance of a Medici warrior; being the true story of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, to which is added the life of his son, Cosimo I., grand duke of Tuscany; a study in heredity → online text (page 18 of 21)