‘A spectacular, elegant, brilliant portrait of skulduggery, murder and sex in Renaissance Florence’ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Books of the Year
1531 – after years of brutal war and political intrigue, the bastard son of a Medici Duke and a ‘half-negro’ maidservant rides into Florence. Within a year, he rules the city as its Prince. Backed by the Pope and his future father-in-law the Holy Roman Emperor, the nineteen-year-old Alessandro faces down bloody family rivalry and the scheming hostility of Italy’s oligarchs to reassert the Medicis’ faltering grip on the turbulent city-state. Six years later, as he awaits an adulterous liaison, he will be murdered by his cousin in another man’s bed.
‘Nothing in sixteenth-century history is more astonishing’ Hilary Mantel
Rather than submit to the established account of Alessandro de' Medici's life, Fletcher (The Divorce of Henry VIII), associate professor in history and heritage at Swansea University (U.K.), persuasively argues that he suffered assassination twice: "first with a sword, then with a pen." De' Medici gained notoriety for being the brutal biracial illegitimate Duke of Florence and an unlikely heir to the dwindling Medici family of bankers and rulers. But in this revelatory work, Fletcher rescues him from the well-known caricature his opponents manufactured while revealing his strengths and weaknesses as an often populist Medici prince. De' Medici left limited primary documents, but Fletcher distills an extensive array of both sympathetic and antagonistic contemporary sources into clear explanations that give context and a more balanced look at a city-state on tenterhooks and a man struggling to maintain order. To her considerable credit, Fletcher navigates dense central European politics and competing Medici claims with ease, allowing readers to focus on de' Medici's life within the context of the financially and politically unstable city. Throughout this compelling narrative, de' Medici's unlikely story and extraordinary life finally feel revealed as Fletcher gives him a welcome new complex legacy.