Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catherine de Medici - Part I : David Loses an Arm. Catherine loses a City

The Fall of Florence
In 1527, the city of Florence was one heck of a mess. The Florentines wanted the ruling family, the Medici, OUT and that included the Medici upstart, Pope Clement VII (Giulio de Medici) and all his clan. To punctuate their hatred, citizens tore threw the streets destroying the art that had once made Florence the Renaissance epicenter. Some genius even hurled a bench through a window and broke the David’s arm. 1

Catherine’s Fate
During the melee, the 13 year old Duchess of Florence, Catherine de Medici, rode through the streets of Florence on a donkey with the screams of an angry mob calling for her death. Catherine had few friends or family to protect her from her terrible fate. Her mother, Madelaine de la Tour d’Auvergne, a French Bourbon Princess, had died giving birth to her. Her father, Lorenzo II de Medici, the Duke of Urbino, had died from Syphilis weeks after Catherine's birth.2 Catherine represented everything the people had come to hate in the power-hungry banking family. Her bulging eyes and thick cheeks didn’t help any. Most contemporary sightings reported that Caterina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de' Medici looked every inch a Medici (and that was not a compliment). If the people could destroy the David, what was to stop them from killing this unattractive heiress to the Medici fortune?

There were certainly some creative suggestions as to what to do with her.

A. Strip her naked and exposed her on the city walls as target practice.
B. Place her in a brothel to spoil her marriage value.
C. Lock her up in a convent

What would be Catherine’s fate? Stay tuned for Part II for the answer…

Some Strange Art Coincidences
(1 ) We can thank the great painter and architect, Vasari for saving the arm. He hid David’s arm until things calmed down and then reattached it. Michelangelo was later convicted of taking part in the revolt when the Pope’s forces tore through Florence (more on that in Part II). Michelangelo did look pretty guilty since he was one of the masterminds behind the city’s fortification. But all ends well and we can thank the Prior of S. Lorenzo for saving Michelangelo's life. He hid the Michelangelo out until the Medici cooled their heels and forgave the wayward artist.

(2) Niccolo Machiavelli had honored Lorenzo (Catherine's Father) by dedicating The Prince to him. The Prince became one of Catherine's favorite light reads. Her critics later referred to it as "Catherine's Bible."


Heather Carroll said...

Oooo you got my attention! Catherine is one of those fascinating women I unfortunately never got a chance to explore.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Can't wait for Part II. Catherine is one of those women who one hates yet sympathizes with at the same time.

Lucy said...

This was so interesting! I can't wait for part 2. Catherine is one person I've been dying to read about in historical fiction and just haven't had the time to look for a good book on her. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear.

Bearded Lady said...

Heather and Elizabeth – Catherine is one of my favorite royals. There are many unfair rumors surrounding her that I will cover in future posts.

Lucy, if you want to read an absolutely brilliant book – check out Leona Frieda’s Catherine De Medici: Renaissance Queen of France. It is not fiction but it is just as juicy as any fiction.

For Young adults – There is a new book out called Duchessina by Carolyn Meyer (I am a big fan of Meyer!) I have been meaning to read it but have not got a chance too yet. I am going to review it if I like it.

Susan Carroll’s book is supposed to be good too but I have not read it either.

Lucy said...

I know that Jean Plaidy has also written about her :the Italian Woman. I'm not sure how good it is (even though I love Plaidy), but copies are very difficult to get. So,I will definitely check out Leona Frieda's book. Thanks for the info!

TammiMagee said...

very interesting-looking forward to part II. Check out my history related blog-Histatic!

Patrizia said...

I have read The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll along with its sequels and I have greatly enjoyed it!