At Its Height, Renaissance Florence Was A Center Of Enormous Wealth, Power, And Influence A Republican City State Funded By Trade And Banking, Its Often Bloody Political Scene Was Dominated By Rich Mercantile Families, The Most Famous Of Which Were The Medici This Enthralling Book Charts The Family S Huge Influence On The Political, Economic And Cultural History Of Florence Beginning In The Early S With The Rise Of The Dynasty Under The Near Legendary Cosimo De Medici, It Moves Through Their Golden Era As Patrons Of Some Of The Most Remarkable Artists And Architects Of The Renaissance, To The Era Of The Medici Popes And Grand Dukes, Florence S Slide Into Decay And Bankruptcy, And The End, In , Of The Medici Line Ahoy there mateys So ever since I had to do a project on Catherine de Medici back in me school days, I have had a fascination with the Medici family This book is an in depth look at this Florentine family beginning with Cosimo de Medici in the 1430s and ending with the death of Medici family line in 1737 The Medici family was influential in art, politics, and especially economics This book takes a look at all the main players in Florence It does not get into the Medici members, like Catherine, who lived their lives outside of the Florentine sphere of influence I absolutely loved reading about the escapades of this wily clan Of particular interest to me were the discussions of the Medici s patronage of the arts I studied many of those great works in me art history classes and I loved getting a different perspective on things I would certainly listen to this audiobook again.Check out me other reviews at Gossipy, broad overview of Italian history Not much political analysis but a lot of description and colorful anecdotes It s a good introduction I ll look atnarrowly focused histories to learn about areas that interested me. This was an ideal companion to Tim Parks Medici Money Parks is good at explaining the workings of fifteenth century banking, but Hibbert is better at bringing the people to life His approach is traditional the biographies of the powerful, the concerns of those who have the say and little concern for lesser mortals It s lively and readable, takes the story right through to the Grand Dukes of the seventeenth century and is excellent on the shifting of loyalties and European coalitions There are footnotes that indicate where the numerous works of art commissioned by the Medicis can be found, but the relationship between Medici wealth and art is not the main focus of this work But extremely useful as preparation for any time spent in Florence. The house of Medici rose from a rich merchant family to becoming Grand Duke of Tuscany, producing four Popes and two queens of France along the way But the real draw for me at least is their patronage of art and artists, leaving us a wonderful legacy Read Michelangelo s fictionalized biography The agony and ecstasy , you can t escape the impression that Lorenzo the magnificent il magnifico helped make Michelangelo one of the greatest artists that he was Back in the 15th century, Florence prized itself for its republican government At that time Naples was a kingdom, Milan a dukedom The city has 7 major and 14 minor guilds Government is formed by randomly choosing names from leather bags known as borse with some additional rules The chosen citizens would serve a 2 month term as the Signoria, one of whom would be the standard bearer Gonfalniere They were paid a modest salary but enjoys the service of a large staff, including a Buffone lucky them And rich merchants did not proposer without taking a share in the government So Giovanni de Medici served in the Signoria in 1402 His interest was banking though he also belongs to the Guild of wool, silk, and cloth The Florentine gold coin florin somehow gained universal confidence and was in use throughout Europe This helped the Medici banking business prosper Giovanni is very discreet and urged his two sons to follow his example as he lay dying be inoffensive to the rich and strong One of the sons, Cosimo, would later repeat the same advice to his own sons Born in 1389, Cosimo the elder, grandfather of il magnifico developed deep respect for classical learning and classical ideals He is a highly cultured and knowledgeable man He married the daughter of his father s partners in Rome branch The dowry included a family palace By hinting the Florentine army could not win the unnecessary war with Milan, Cosimo made himself an enemy of the ruling oligarchy the Albizzi family Rumors were spread about his attempt to overthrow the government He was even arrested in 1433 and on the verge of being executed Bribes were made and Cosimo was banished to Padua for the next 10 years A year later, after defeat from Milan, Albizzi became unpopular and ousted from power Cosimo was welcome back like a hero He was clever enough to know that to rule successfully, he needs to appear scarcely to rule at all So he drives to work in his beat up volkswagen aka mule , allowing a talkative flamboyant man to appear to be the most powerful But a few years later, he was firmly rooted and became the undisputed patriarch of Florence He persuaded the pope to move the general council to Florence started a Platonic Academy make marvelous additions to his library which is open to friends who wish to study there lavished money on adorning Florence He grew deeply attached to Donatello and assumed a kind of paternal responsibility Meanwhile, he knows the humor of the city Before 50 years we shall be expelled, but my buildings will remain He also terminated what he saw as unwarranted hostility towards Milan and eventually made it an ally When he die, Cosimo was sincerely revered and honored for his generosity The Signoria passed a decree conferring him the title Pater Patriae , a title once accorded to Cicero Cosimo had two sons One of them refused to diet and died of a heart attack before Cosimo The other, Piero the Gouty, didn t have good health either and lasted just a few yearsBut he continued his father s tradition of munificence Lorenzo il magnifico had a naturally joyful nature and brought a marvelously infectious zest to everything he does He s also renowned for his kindness and consideration He has a rare gift for friendship and a deep love of animals He generally feeds his own horse Every time the power passes down to a new generation, the family s old enemy tried a coup Every time they failed They label him as a tyrant and to quote a Florentine historian If Florence was to have a tyrant, she could never have found a better ordelightful one Lorenzo is good to be sure Case in point, mercenaries under Florentine pay were sent to Volterra to put down a revolt They also ransacked the streets Upon hearing this, Lorenzo rode over immediately to Volterra to reassure the people that his fellow citizens in Florence profoundly regretted the outrage and he distributed money to those affected His regret was sincere and in Volterra these things are not forgotten even to this day He asked Ghirlandaio for recommendation of promising pupils Michelangelo was among the list of names Following his family tradition, he treated Michelangelo like one of his own sons Far less rich than his father or grandfather, Lorenzo didn t commission many works But he went out of his way to ensure Botticelli was well supplied with orders from other Florentine patrons He helped Pisa reviving its university and contributed handsomely to University of Florence But things weren t always good for Lorenzo A new Pope was not friendly with the family and supported a change of ruler A rival family s conspiracy to overthrow Medici tried to assassinate him and his brother Giuliano and managed to kill Giuliano When the plotters were killed by Florentines, the Pope was furious He sequestrated Medici bank and other properties, excommunicated Lorenzo, and declared war on Florence The King of Naples followed suite Florence had no allies to speak of after the friendly Milan Duke Sfroza was murdered, and the French king only wrote a letter of sympathy Well aware that Florence can not survive the campaign, he left the city to the Signoria and presented himself to the Naples court Before he left, he wrote a letter to the city saying that it is he that the enemy wanted By going there he may contribute to the welfare of the city Not a single member of the Signoria was able to restrain his tears He was 29 Lorenzo is quite clever and not as foolhardy as it might appear He actually had secret communication with Naples for a while, trying to convince them that having an ally in him is in Naples s interest So after 10 weeks in Naples, a peace treaty was signed But sadly, Lorenzo died in his 40s And the good part of the Medici s influence ended too What followed was a series of mostly self centered or unremarkable Mediceans But there is still quite some drama.Lorenzo s first son, Piero, is a far less admirable than his father This permitted Savonarola to increasing his attack of the regime All the while, the French king Charles was claiming the crown of Naples when its king died He organized a 30 thousand strong army to attack Italy and wanted to pass through Tuscany Piero resisted to no avail and agreed to flee the city Savonarola begged for mercy from Charles who agreed to leniency A new government was formed and Savonarola was now the one with real power In the subsequent war between Charles and papal mercenaries, Savonarola didn t do a thing to help the Pope Long story short, this contributed to his eventual downfall and he was burned at the stake for heresy Meanwhile Piero drowned and the head of Medici family passes on to Cardinal Giovanni 2nd son of Lorenzo the magnificent, who had decided Giovanni should pursue an ecclesiastic career and got his son a cardinal at a young age For the next few years after the death of Savonarola, Florence s importance was gone It also failed to regain the vitality of the golden age under Lorenzo To strengthen the government, they elected a Gonfaloniere for life Although hardworking and honest, Soderini, the new head of government is less famous than a minor official who he consulted frequently Niccolo Machiavelli Later, Medici supporter won the day Soderini resigned in 1512 and Machiavelli returned home to write The Prince Not long after, Giovanni was elected Pope and became known as Leo X He said God gave us the papacy, let s enjoy it He envisioned central Italy to be united into a powerful state under Medici control He made his nephew Lorenzo first the Captain General of the Florentine Republic, then Duke of Urbino He spent lavishly, dining on rare delicacies such as peacock s tongue Leo did lavish money on improving Rome, though he didn t get along well with the abrasive Michelangelo, preferring the polite Raffaello Sanzio instead Pope Leo died in 1521 His younger brother Cardinal Giulio became the next Pope Clement VII Pope Clement did patronize art well including setting up an apartment for Da Vinci and commissioning Michelangelo to build a family library back in Florence But ultimately, he s considered to have developed from a great and respected cardinal into a small and little respected Pope Later on, Florence becomes a duchy and then a grand duchy of Tuscany, in 1569 Under Grand Duke Cosimo I, all government offices as well as major guilds were gathered under one roof near Palazzo Vecchio This new office uffizi later became the wonderful museum, but that is all thanks to the last Medici Anna Maria By the time of her death, Florence is only an appendage of the Austrian empire She donated all Medici possessions on the condition that they should not leave Florence and always be available for the pleasure and benefit of the people of the whole world. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I probably wouldn t have read this book at all if it weren t for a video game I m a big fan of the Assassin s Creed series, and the second game introduced me to the Medici and features both the Pazzi conspiracy and Savonarola s bonfires of vanities as major plot points In some ways, this was actually helpful, at least for part of the book Running over the rooftops of Florence helped me visualize the world of Cosimo and Lorenzo Medici better than I would have otherwise But once Cosimo and Lorenzo have been left behind, I m probably on the same footing as most other readers interested in the history, but with little to no background.I think that this would be a slightlysatisfying experience if it hadn t been a complete overview of the Medici family Trying to cram nearly 300 years of a powerful family s history into roughly 280 pages is a tall order The result is a series of very brief biographies of very powerful people This could have gotten very dry, very easily Luckily, Hibbert s writing is engaging, and his subjects are evenso It would take a very dry writer indeed to make the Medici, or Renaissance Italy in general, boring, and Hibbert is anything but.I m sure there are plenty of other books on the Medici family that are farin depth than this one But this was a great introduction to the time period, and will give me a slightly different perspective when I play Assassin s Creed II again. I ve always been intrigued by the Medici family primarily due to their large role as patrons of the arts in the Renaissance Era Also, being such a wealthy and powerful family they played many roles throughout that whole range of history I finally picked up this book, which had been on my shelf for a while, in preparation for my upcoming trip to Italy It was a great book to get a grasp on the chronological history of the entire Medici family I was pleased to see this non fiction book was not a difficult, dry, or heavy read.It never fails to amaze me how many amazing artists lived in the same period of time A particular highlight for me was the role of Popes in society With religion being the politics of that time, it is not surprising to discover that Popes werelike politicians than religious leaders They blatant adventures outside the religious spectrum failed to either surprise people or cause any rebellion it seems. This is extremely dated Other than very basic info on the dynasty I can not reccomend this.Needs to be updated. I m somewhat torn about this book The writing is well done and the subject matter, the Medici, SHOULD be interesting But the author seems to focus on thetrivial details of this family s life and times So much detail goes in to describing what the Medici liked to eat, what they liked to wear, what they did for fun, it sometimes seems like this is the special Medici issue of USWeekly The title of the book would seem indicate the focus of the book is HOW the Medici came to power and HOW they eventually lost it, but these subjects are treated almost as secondary A typical passage in the book is a sentence like Cosimo de Medici became wealthy through his business acumen and hard working nature , followed by a paragraph on the pageant he threw to celebrate St Laughably Obscure Day Some people, I m sure, would find the art history, culinary details, and wardrobe descriptions interesting, but I didn t buy this book for that I bought the book to find out why the Medici, rather than any other Florentine family, rose to dominate the city for so long, and why they eventually lost their grip on power Aaccurate title for this book might be The Medici Their Lives and Times or The Medici A Cultural History Maybe there s just not a lot of information available on how the Medici rose to economic prominence, but in that case don t subtitle your book Its Rise and Fall. A really good introduction to understanding Florence and its long relationship Love hate love hate love with the Medici Dynasty A real fascinating look into their life and how they gave Florence a name for art and culture and philosophy I do feel that I need to read a bitinto this family Cannot get enough of them.
Christopher Hibbert, MC, FRSL, FRGS 5 March 1924 21 December 2008 was an English writer, historian and biographer He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of many books, including Disraeli, Edward VII, George IV, The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici, and Cavaliers and Roundheads.Described by Professor Sir John Plumb as a writer of the highest ability and in the N
- 384 pages
- The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
- Christopher Hibbert
- 19 September 2019 Christopher Hibbert