The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by Christopher Hibbert
Various members of the De Medici dynasty served in the Florentine Government as far back as 1296. But it wasn’t until Cosimo De Medici – wool merchant and banker became a politician in the 1400s that the name became known and respected throughout Europe. By 1458 Cosimo De Medici was considered to be the richest man in the world, the master of Florence, and the most powerful man in all of Italy. Pope Pius II is quoted as saying, “Political questions are settled at his house. The man he chooses holds office…. He it is who decides peace and war and controls the laws. He has a reputation such as probably no private citizen has ever enjoyed from the fall of Rome to our own day”.
The De Medici’s influence carried over into all aspects of life in Italy – wars, religion, festive holidays, the arts and architecture, and finances. Much like the Rothschild family of Germany in the 1700s – the De Medici’s spread there wealth and power throughout Italy – granting loans and making huge donations which resulted in strong alliances with other government leaders in Italy and surrounding countries. Throughout the generations many of the De Medicis were Cardinals, and at least one De Medici became a pope.
The House of Medici recounts stories of all the greatest artists: Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo and speaks of Machiavelli and Galileo. And though Hibbert poses dry un-stimulating data at times, spewing an enormous amount of information about political ambitions and hostilities, personal rivalries, and strategic decisions that led to war and peace – matrimony and children, overall the book brings to life the Italian Renaissance. Florence was invaded by foreign countries several times, looted and plundered, suffering the plague and starvation but managed to survive in all it’s splendor.
After ruling Florence for over 300 years, the final existing generation of De Medici’s was two homosexual brothers and one sister who never married or had children. Ann Marie De Medici was the last to survive and died in 1743. “In her will she bequests to the new Grand Duke and his successors all the property of the Medici, their palaces and villas, their pictures and statues, their jewelry and furniture, their books and manuscripts, – all the vast works of art assembled by her ancestors, generation after generation. She made one condition: nothing should ever be removed from Florence where the treasures of the Medici should always be available for the pleasure and benefit of the people of the whole world.”
The House of Medici is a fine addition to anyone’s collection of Italian Renaissance history, and if you are traveling to Florence it makes a wonderful reference book.
Rated 4 Stars, May 4, 2017
All contents © 2017 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.