Thomas Adolphus Trollope.

A history of the commonwealth of Florence, from the earliest independence of the commune to the fall of the republic in 1531 online

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among the Italian writers. But Ammirato asserts that Cosmo, who, on the
death of Alessandro became Duke of Florence, and shortly afterwards
first Grand Duke of Tuscany, told him, the historian, that Alessandro was
the son of Clement, by a maid-servant. — Ammirato, lib. xxz. Gonf. 1347.

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Medioean prospects at the death of Lorenzo— The Cardinal Giolio yisits
Florence — ^The death-bed of Lorenzo— The Cardinal after Lorenzo's
death — Character of Giulio ;— of Leo X, ;^f Lorenzo— Conduct of the
Cardinal after Lorenzo's death — Nardi's opinion of it — Labour imposed
on the Cardinal — Absence of all real liberty in Florence — Silvio Passe-
riniy Cardinal of Cortona, appointed the Cardinal de' Medici's Lieutenant
in Florence — Character of his goyemment — Duchy of Urbino— Troubles
arising from the dispossession of the late Duke — Change in the Papal
policy — Breach with France — Difficult position of the Pontiff— League
between the Pope and Charles V. — War with France in Lombardy —
Jealousies between the Generals of the Imperial and Papal forces-
Success of the Imperial arms against France — Death of Leo X. — Cause
of it — Fresh troubles with the Duke of Urbino— Election of Adrian VI.
to the Papacy— His character; — and failure — Troubles of the inter-
regnum — Florentines saddled with expenses arising hence — Adrian
reaches Rome — Intrigues between Cardinal Soderini, of Volterra, and
the French king — French forces under Eenzo da Ceri effectually
opposed by the Florentine forces under Conte Bangoni— Qiovanni delle
Bande Nere, offended, joins the French — Florence taxed in order to lend
money to the Duke of Milan — Florentines loye equality rather than
liberty ;— hence disposed to submit to the Medicean ascendancy — ^Im-
partial despotism of the Cardinal Giulio— Discovery of the Rucellai
Gkurden conspirators — ^Escape of some of the conspirators — Execution
of others — Success of the conspiracy would have been dangerous to

Yes, it was a heavy blow to the Medicean fortunes, this
succession of untimely deaths. Death was always an im-
patient creditor with these splendid Medici. They were
very notably a short-lived race. Such exceedingly splendid
lives were perhaps in some sort incompatible with

B B 2

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A.B* And now, what was to be done by the two Medicean
priests, the Pope and the Cardinal, with a female infant on
their hands as the sole future representative of their house ?
Give up the game? make a virtue of necessity? cast away
the ambition for which so many generations of their race
had plotted, laboured, suffered, and sinned, and restore
Florence to liberty ? There were some who were of opinion
that Leo X. would do this, and who even ventured on
counselling him to take such a course. But these advisers
could hardly have sufficiently remembered that the mag-
nificent Lorenzo could not bring himself to do this as he
lay a-dying, eVen when Savonarola stood by his bedside to
urge him to it, and when the absolution, which was to
enable his soul to face the eternal judgment-seat with some
spark of hope, was the price of his compliance. He cotdd
not do it. And was it to be expected that Leo, in the
prime of life and in tolerable health, would think of such a
thing ? — Leo, every inch a Medici, and a Pope too, who of
course could know no spiritual terrors.

No, no ! The Holy Father had no notion of giving up
the Medicean game yet, despite the heavy misfortunes
which had fallen on the family. There were always the
"-im, two lads, Ippolito and Alessandro, — Medici, clearly Medici,
and the first of these at least a fair and hopeful specimen
of the race. Illegitimate? What is there in a word?
The quality which the blessing of the poorest priest in
Christendom could have conferred on them before their
birth, could surely be conferred a little tardily by the fiat
of God's vicegerent. No, Leo was not prepared to throw
up the cards yet.*

The Cardinal de' Medici, his able coadjutor, was des-
patched in all haste to Florence, and reached the city

• See the opinion of the historian, Jacopo Pitti ; and the plans for the
government of Florence, especially one hy Macohiayelli, sent to the Holy
Father at his request.

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while Lorenzo was yet alive, though evidently dying, a.d.
The Cardinal does not appear to have seen his dying
cousin upon this occasion. He had been there very re-
cently, having come to the city for the purpose of visiting
Lorenzo on his bed of sickness, but had returned to Rome
much discontented, we are told,* with his reception.
Lorenzo had for some time past, — almost immediately
after his return from France, — shut himself up in his
chamber, admitting nobody save his physicians, his in-
timate friend and companion Filippo Strozzi, who had
accompanied him on the expedition to France, and a cer-
tain Antonio NobiU, a low boon-companion, who amused
him with his buffooneries. It is probable that the Car-
dinal de' Medici wished to speak to the dying head of his
house on other subjects and in a different tone from that
adopted by these young men, and, that Lorenzo resented
the interference of one into whose hands was about to
pass the power that was fast slipping from his own, and
whose talk would necessarily have reference to the coming
event, the prospect of which he was still anxious to exclude
from his mind. Possibly also, as some of the historians
suggest, the loathsome nature of the malady of which
Lorenzo was dying, made the Cardinal not unwilling to
cut short his interview as much as might be with the man
whose management of life, and of the high destinies and
fortunes entrusted to him, had been such as to render him
worthless for the great objects for which his elders lived.
Assuredly the spectacle of that death-bed, and of the city
governed entirely by a worthless sycophant of Lorenzo,
one Goro da Pistoia, whom he called his secretary, and to
whom the whole management of the government had been
entrusted by him when he became too ill to leave his
chamber, could not have been a pleasant one to the active,

* Ammirato, lib. xxix. Gonf. 1309.

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1619' ^^^^' ^^^ shrewd Cardinal, who well knew all the import-
ance of acting so as to reconcile the city, as far as might
be, to the Medicean yoke.

And this state of feeling between him and Lorenzo will
account for the fact that the Cardinal made no attempt to
see him on arriving in Florence a day or two before he
died. He did not even go near the Medicean palace in
the Via Larga ; but, ahghting at St. Mark's, took up his
quarters at the casino which stands at the comer of
the Piazza and the Via St. Apollonia, and which at
this moment is being turned into the seat of one of the
ministries of the new Italian kingdom. And there the
Cardinal remained till all was over, and Lorenzo had been
carried to the family vault in the neighbouring church of
St. Lorenzo. Then he moved into the Medicean palace,
and received there the homage and condolences of the

The Cardinal Giulio, afterwards Pope Clement VIL, the
natural and posthumous son of that Giuliano, the younger
brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was killed by the
Pazzi in 1478, at the time of the conspiracy intended to
take the Uves of both the brothers, was a very diflTerent
man from either the Pope Leo X., or Lorenzo, the Duke of
Urbino. He was probably a worse man, certainly a less
brilliant man than his more celebrated cousin. But though
less fortunate in his management of the political affairs of
his time, he was an abler, more active, and more indus-
trious man of business than Leo. His private vices were
not less, or less revoltingly disgraceful, than those of the
splendid patron of literature, philosophy, and art, his
cousin ; but they were pursued with greater regard for
external decency. There were severe eyes in un-Italian
and un-Pagan heads looking menacingly, from beyond the
Alps, Romewards, and taking dangerous note of the doings
there, which strongly counselled thus much at least of

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caution. To these distant watchers Clement VII. seemed a.d.
in his private life to be, as the times and as Popes went,
a decent Pope. And were it not for the unblushing
babbling of Italian contemporary, or nearly contemporary,
writers, unconscious apparently of the monstrous enormity
of the foul facts they so simply and impassively reveal,
might be still supposed by posterity to have been so.
But the spiritual nature of Clement was deformed by vices
from which Leo was, if not free, yet stained by them in a
less degree. He was less revengeful, less cruel, less im-
placable than Clement. He was far less profound a hypo-
crite, and less inclined by nature to fraud and double-
deaUng. He had less of the dark remorseless nature of
an unscrupulously ambitious politician, and more of the
less hateful character of a jovial, self-indulgent, easy
epicurean. Lorenzo, the Duke of Urbino, was far inferior
in natural gifts to either of them. There was little of the
Medicean nature in him. He was, as his father had been
before him, an Orsini ; — doubly so by inheritance from his
grandmother as well as his mother, both princesses of that
rufl&an baron race. He had all those especially " uncivil "
and " uncivic " faults of character which rendered him and
his fiEither more particularly distasteful to the Florentines
than any other of the Medici. The gentle Florentine
nature was *' bastardized in their veins," as Guicciardini
complains, by this crossing with a less civilized stock.
Lorenzo, like his father, was devoid of the talent which
had been for so many generations hereditary in the
Medicean race ; and his manners as well as his disposition
were marked by a haughty and insolent brutaUty, espe-
cially intolerable to the eminently courteous nature of the
Florentines. For the rest, he may be deemed to be better
or worse than the two priests his elders in the family, as
it shall seem to the estimater, that a stupid and low-
natured profligate is more or less pardonable than an

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A.D. equally demoralized debauchee endowed with very con-
siderable powers of intelligence.

Lorenzo had done much during the short time he had
held power in Florence to disgust the city with the
Medicean name and rule. This mischief it was now the
Cardinal's first and most pressing business to repair ; and
he lost no time in applying himself to the task. The
election of officers^ magistrates, and functionaries of all
sorts, which had been arbitrarily seized into his own hands
by Lorenzo, was restored to the old constitutional practice.*
Those more especially called around the Cardinal's own
person were among the most worthy and respected citizens,
and formed a striking contrast to the worthless set of de-
bauchees and buffoons to whom alone the late Duke had
been accessible. Even Nardi, that sincere, consistent, and
thorough-going republican, admits that Florence was at
this period ruled by the Cardinal de* Medici in a manner
that exceeded the utmost expectation of those who thought
highest of him, and completely changed the opinion of
many who had expected from him a very different line of
conduct. The republican historian, however, winds up his
praise with a phrase, which well shows how things stood in
Florence, and what was the amount of good government,
for which the citizens were so thankful, f " It was the
universal opinion," he says, " that never since the city had
been under the rule of the Medici, had it been governed
with greater appearance of civil liberty and more skilfid
concealment of despotism'' %

The Cardinal, thus become by the force of circumstances
the guardian of his infant relative, Catherine, and of the
unstable fabric of the family greatness, was bom in 1478,

* Ammirato, lib. zxix. Gonf. 1311 ; Cambi, Deliz. degli EracL Toso.,
vol. xzii. p. 152.
f Girlhood of Catb. de' Medici by the preient writer, p. 14.
X Nardi, ed. oit. vol. ii. p. 73.

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and was now therefore forty-one years of age. And in a.d.
truth the multiplicity of active and laborious business he
had on his hands, joined to no small weight of anxious
care, was sufficient to require all the energies of a man in
the prime of life. Among the numerous faults of the
Cardinal de' Medici self-indulgent idleness had no place.
For the success of those aims in life which appeared to his
comprehension the most important and most valuable, he
was willing to labour, and did labour patiently, unscrupu-
lously, indefatigably. The weightier portion of the burthen
of the Papacy in those times becoming more and more
onerous from day to day, and the task of dexterously
steering the bark of the papal policy among the shoals and
quicksands which lay thick and ever thicker around its
devious course, were left by the easy epicureanism of his
cousin Leo to fall in a great measure on his shoulders.
And now the very difficult duty of recovering the ground
lost to Medicean interests in Florence by the late Duke's
imprudent conduct was added to his load of cares and
labours. The task of ruling that very ungovernable com-
munity in such a manner as to quiet, or at least disarm,
the vigilant suspicions of the republican party, without
ever losing sight of the grand object of reducing it ulti-
mately to the condition of a despotic monarchy, demanded
in truth no ordinary share of dexterity and state-craft.

Having provided for this to the best of his power, and
having succeeded while doing so in winning golden
opinions from all sorts of men among the citizens, the
Cardinal left Florence in October, after five months' sojourn
there, for Rome.

It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that
the return to the constitutional practice of election of the
magistrates and other officers of the Republic, thus effected
by the Cardinal, imphed any real abandonment of substan-
tial power on his part, or restoration of it to the citizens.

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A.D. The veil behind which despotic power was hidden, as
* Nardi says, was a very thin and transparent one. The
old forms of electing oflBcials, who when elected could do
nothing save in impUcit obedience to the will of a higher
power, recognised and avowed in all save in name, — these
forms, which so amused the electing citizens, and so grati-
fied the vanity of those who were elected by them, and for
a restoration of which the city was so grateful, were in
reahty so mere a nullity, as far as any political power was
concerned, that the aboUtion of them by Lorenzo was
rather wantonly oflTensive as an insult than grievous in any
other point of view. Had it been otherwise, had there
been any real meaning in the offices to which the people
were permitted to elect one another, it would not have
been necessary for the Cardinal to appoint, before he
quitted the city, some one to be at the head of the govern-
ment during his absence. But the Cardinal de* Medici
never dreamed of leaving Florence to herself; — never
imagined for an instant that the various constitutional
magistrates thus constitutionally appointed were in reality
to rule the city. It was absolutely necessary to name
some one to be his lieutenant, his aUer ego, to do the real
business of governing the governors of the city in his
absence ; — " to be the head of the government ! " Head
of the government? Under what title? Was not the
duly elected Gonfaloniere the head of the government?
So Florence professed to consider him. But there was not
a street-sweeper in Florence who did not know better than
that by this time. Of course there must be a representa-
tive of " the family "; — of the Medicean interests. And to
this responsible situation the Cardinal, before leaving
Florence, appointed his brother of the Sacred College, the
Cardinal Silvio Passerini,* of Cortona, who had been re-
cently raised to the purple by Leo X.

* Ammirato, lib. zxix. Gk>nf. 1313.

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The task entrusted to the Cardinal of Cortona was by ^•'>'


no means an easy one. K it was diflScult for a tyrant of
the race of the Medici to maintain himself in possession of
that unavowed, unauthorized, unnamed authority, it was
yet more difficult for the tyrant's lieutenant to do so. And
Silvio Passeiini was not the man for the place. A timid,
time-serving, trimming man, very jnauch afraid of the task
assigned to him, and of the turbulent restless people he
was set to govern, but more afraid of his ecclesiastical
masters, and of being judged not to serve them with suffi-
cient zeal, his administration was a series of alternations
from irritating tightening of the rein to dangerous relaxa-
tion of it. The results of this were seen ere long. But
for the present, assisted by the occasional presence of the
much-travelling and hard-worked Cardinal, things were
kept quiet, and the citizens lived their lives in peace,
getting what amusement and excitement they could out of
an occasional "Te Deum'* and fireworks; — at one time
on account of " the taking of the island of Gerbe from the
Moors of Tunis;*'* and then again in thanksgiving for
the death of the Sultan Selim.

One of the most immediate consequences of the death of
Lorenzo, the so-called Duke of Urbino, was the annexation
of that Duchy by Leo to the territory of the Church, with
the exception of the fortress of St. Leo and the district of
Montefeltro, which he gave to the Florentines as a re-
imbursement of the sums they had contributed to the war
against Francesco Maria della Rovere. Leo would have
preferred endeavouring to preserve the Duchy for the
infant Catherine, as heiress of Lorenzo. But he judged
that, looking to the long period of Catherine's minority
which must elapse before any permanent settlement of the
matter could be effected, and to the affection of the inha-

* Ammirato, lib. xxix. Gonf. 1317.

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A-j>« bitants of the country towards their old Duke, who was
* ready to seize any favourable opportunity for the recovery
of his Duchy, the project was too difficult and dangerous to
be worth trying.

Matters of wider importance, moreover, were beginning
to engross the entire attention of the Holy Father, and to
demand the exercise of all his energies and all his re-

AU had gone very pleasantly, as it will be remembered,
between Leo X. and Francis I., at that notable interview
between them at Bologna, in 1515. France was not only
to be allowed to have and to hold the Duchy of Milan, to
the prejudice of Francesco Sforza, the son of the dispos-
sessed Duke Ludovico, but was to be allowed to add to it
the territories of Parma and Piacenza. Lorenzo de' Medici
was to be permitted to make himself Duke of Urbino, at
the expense of Francesco Maria della Rovere ; and Francis
was to be the great friend and protector of Florence and
of the Papacy. But things had been very much changed
since that time. The cards had been shuffled anew, and a
quite new game had begun. We are assured, indeed, that
even at the time of that interview it would have been a
great mistake to suppose that the Holy Father had any
real intention of adhering to his part of the stipulations
made between him and the young French monarch.*
There were many points of sympathy between the two
men. The gay and pleasure-loving Leo no doubt admired
the brilhant, gay, and pleasure-loving Francis ; found him
an extremely pleasant table-companion, and was well in-
clined to make their meeting pass as agreeably as might
be. But the Pontiff had duties to think of ; — duties to
Italy, to the Holy Church, and above — far above — all, to
Florence, to the Medicean name, and to himself. It was

* Ammirato, lib. xxix. Gonf. 1324.

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not likely, as the above cited historian warns us, that Pope ai),
Leo had any real intention of allowing Parma and Piacenza
to be finally severed from the dominion of the Church,
or of reversing the old traditionary Medicean policy in
favour of the house of Sforza, by permitting the French
to establish themselves definitively in the Duchy of
Milan. And now the time had come when it became
necessary to consider very seriously, whether the barque
of St. Peter had not sailed far enough on that France- ward

The death of the foolish and weak old Emperor Maxi-
milian on the 12th of January, 1519, and the election of
Charles V. to the Imperial crown on the 28th of June in
the same year, had been events calculated to cause a series
of infinite perplexities to God's vicegerent on earth. Two
natures more antipathetic than those of Charles V. and
Francis I. it is scarcely possible to conceive. But both
were equally ambitious of greatness; and both thought
that it would be achieved by adding the imperial crown,
vacant by the death of Maximilian, to that of their own
dominions. And hence arose an additional source of
rivalry and hatred between decorous, scheming, selfish
Charles, and gay, thoughtless, worthless, and not less
selfish Francis.

And how was a poor vicegerent, beset on either side by
these masterful northern barbarians, to rule the world —
always in the interest of his Master — unless by unstinted
use of dexterous double-dealing, and that crafty capa-
city for tide-watching, with which the Italian sacerdotal
intellect has been so largely gifted ? To manage Europe
altogether according to the interests of religion, and the
Divine will, required just then a very laborious dexterity
of steering, much more troublesome than anything which
the easy going voluptuary Vicar of Christ had anticipated,
when, on being raised to that dignity, he exclaimed,

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A.D. " Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy
1519. .^ J „ ^

Doubtless there must have been very serious debates in
the inmost chambers of the Vatican, before the all-im-
portant change in the policy of the Holy See, which Leo
was now meditating, was decided on; debates in which
His Eminence the Cardinal Giulio must have been the
chief, if not the sole, counsellor. May we not well sup-
pose this critical question to have been the subject of dis-
course between the two Medicean purple priests, at that
sitting immortalised by the brush of Raffaelle on the canvas
now hanging in " the tribune " at the UflSzi in Florence ?
There is importunate care on the heavy sensual features of
the epicurean Pontiff ; and anxious thoughtfulness on the
more comely brow of the shrewd, able, crafty-looking
Cardinal hanging over him. •

There are dangers, great dangers on either side. France
is very powerful ; — more powerful than when Louis XII.
won the battle of Ravenna ; and Francis is not the man
to feel all the compunction at winning a battle against the
papal forces, that Louis was. Yet, on the other hand,
that Charles of Ghent ! Surely there are all the marks of
a rising power to be seen in him. He has notably beaten
Francis once already in the matter of the imperial crown.
Then, again, this northern Charles has shown symptoms of
being well-disposed towards the Apostolic Church, — no
small consideration in these days. He has put that pesti-
lent and dangerous friar, Luther, to the ban of the empire.
That looks well — excellently well ! No danger of hearing
of a council from him, eh ? Evidently a friend and pro-
tector of the Holy Catholic Church! And Francis, or
his lieutenants for him, have not lately been show-

* << Qaando il papa fu fatto diceva a Giuliano ; godiamooi del papato, poiche
Dio oi I'ha dato." Orat. Yen. Second Series, vol. iii. p. 64. See also Girl-
hood of Oath, de' Medici, p. 27.

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ing themselves as docile as could be desired to the a.d.
Apostolic commands in regard to certain matters in ^^^^*

So the important decision was taken^ a secret league
signed with the new " Caesar/' and it was determined to
attack the French power in Lombardy. It was accordingly
announced to Florence, that she was to go to war with her

Online LibraryThomas Adolphus TrollopeA history of the commonwealth of Florence, from the earliest independence of the commune to the fall of the republic in 1531 → online text (page 32 of 51)