An exploration of the life of a lesser-known Medici: Alessandro (1510-1537).
Fletcher (History and Heritage/Swansea Univ.; Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome: The Rise of the Resident Ambassador, 2015, etc.) displays an excellent comprehension of the Medici family and Renaissance political maneuvering. The connections between ruling and royal families, intermarriages, feuds, and assassinations can boggle the mind, but she carefully separates friends from enemies (often, one became the other). Alessandro’s appointment as Duke of Florence was thanks in great part to his uncle Pope Clement VII and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Alessandro and his cousin Ippolito were both illegitimate, but Alessandro was always referred to as “Moor,” and Ippolito was favored. Alessandro's mother was a dark-skinned maid, and while he was also dark-skinned, in 16th-century Italy, few knew of his ethnicity, and racism was not as pronounced as now. Pope Leo X, also an uncle, favored his nephews, educating them and slating Ippolito to take over power in Florence. For unknown reasons—although Ippolito’s expulsion from Rome for vandalism might play a part—Leo switched his support to Alessandro, creating an enemy of Ippolito. Alessandro was especially gifted in the stately arts and ensured the power of his family for longer than would have been possible without him. His peacemaking at the Treaty of Barcelona guaranteed the Medici’s power in Florence, and he also secured the marriage of Catherine de’ Medici to the French king. Alessandro may have been tyrannical and savage, but then again, maybe not. The author mostly leaves readers to sort it out, carefully noting his subject’s politics and accomplishments during his short six-year reign.
Medici fans will expand their awareness of the family’s broad reach, and Renaissance students will discover Machiavelli’s models for The Prince.