di Chimici

A Note on the di Chimici and the Medici

The history of the Medici is as tightly bound up with the city of Florence as that of the di Chimici is with Giglia. The Medici, or de? Medici to give them their proper Italian name, were a family which might have had an ancestor who was a doctor (?medico?). The six red balls on their family crest might represent pharmaceutical pills — or that might all be part of the family legend. What is certain is that, like the di Chimici, the Medici owed their fortune to banking.

The first Medici banker was Giovanni (1360-1429), roughly equivalent to the di Chimici ancector Ferdinando. The Medici family benefited when King Edward the Third of England failed to pay back a gigantic loan to two other Florentine banking families, the Bardi and the Peruzzi. They never recovered. Cosimo the Elder (1389-1464), who married a Bardi, commissioned Brunelleschi (who built the church of San Lorenzo in Florence and the dome for the city?s huge cathedral) to design a palace for him on the Via Larga, or broad street.

The plans were considered too grand and Cosimo switched to Michelozzo Michelozzi, whose palazzo (Medici-Riccardi) can still be visited on the Via Cavour (the modern name of the Via Larga). I stayed one block up the road from it when starting to write City of Flowers. It houses the fabulous Benozzo Gozzozi fresco of the journey of the Magi in its chapel, which is supposed to include portraits of prominent Medici family members.

Piero de? Medici (1416-1469), roughly equivalent to Fabrizio de Chimici, first Duke of Giglia, was best known for being the father of Lorenzo the Magnificent. He ruled for only five years, but his son Lorenzo (1449-1492), equivalent to Alfonso di Chimici, Niccolos father, was in power for twenty-three years.

Lorenzo de? Medici, ?il magnifico?, is the one that most people think of when they hear the name Medici. He was a great patron of the arts, a scholar, poet, philosopher and soldier, as well as a great womaniser, though a fond husband, a good friend and an implacable enemy.

I have bestowed the title of Duke much earlier in the di Chimici family, on Fabrizio (1425-1485). In fact it was Alessandro, the illegitimate son of Pope Clement VII, who first called himself Duke of Florence, in 1532. But the Medici then catch up, because Cosimo 1, the great-grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent, had himself made Grand Duke in 1569, ten years before Niccolo di Chimici had the same idea.

Several Medici were popes, like Ferdinando di Chimici, Lenient VI, the first being Leon X (Giovanni de? Medici 1575-1521), Lorenzo?s oldest son. Leo was as fond of eating and drinking as Ferdinando di Chimici, once serving a twenty-five course mean for six hundred guests.

As for enemies, the Medici had far more than the di Chimici! The Albizzi family, the Pitti, the Pazzi, the Strozzi?Florentine history is littered with them. The Pazzi conspiracy of 1478 was supposed to kill both Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano. The younger brother was indeed stabbed to death, during Easter Mass in the cathedral, but Lorenzo was only wounded. All the Pazzi were killed, imprisoned or exiled as Lorenzo avenged his brother.

It wasn?t the first assassination attempt on a de? Medici. The Pitti had engineered one on Piero in 1466, as a result of which they lost the grand palace being built for them on the far side of Arno, which bears their name to this day. Brunelleschi was their first architect but building stopped for a hundred years. The restless Grand Duke Cosimo moved from the Medici palace on the Via Larga to the Palazzo Vecchio in 1539 and into the Pitti palace nine years later, though that technically belonged to his wife Eleonora of Toledo. Grand Duke Niccolo made the equivalent moves in a few weeks.

Although his grandfather Alfonso is closest in dates to Lorenzo the Magnificent, Gaetano resembles the flower of the Medici family closely in being charming but ugly, courteous, learned and a lover of the arts, as well as a fine horseman and swordsman. (He will make a much more faithful husband, however.)

But there is no historical equivalent to Falco. He was invented by me, inspired by Giuseppe Tomasi si Lampedusa?s account of his solitary childhood wandering through the vast emptiness of his family?s palaces, and by my two distant cousins, William and Henry, devoted brothers, one of whom badly damaged his leg, (though, being a twenty-first century young man, not with such disastrous consequences as Falco). All the rest of the di Chimici are complete inventions.

The dukes and princes of the di Chimici gave all their sons and daughters the honorary titles of Principle (prince) and Principessa (princess). They soon became princes and dukes in their own right anyway, as the di Chimci acquired power in more city-states of Talia (see Dramatis Personae).