Christopher Hibbert – The House Of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
Hibbert gives attention not just to the Medicis themselves, but also to what life was like in the Florence of their time. He begins with a discussion of clothes, food, child-rearing, and working conditions, and politics of the time. This sets up a multi-generation story in three main parts. The family began amassing wealth and influence as far back as the late 13th century, but the family’s first grand patriarch was Cosimo I, who essentially ruled Florence. He was the first of three generations at the family’s peak, also including Piero and Lorenzo. They had political power, and famously patronized the Renaissance’s greatest artists. Their bank influenced international trade patterns and played a role Europe’s economic revival, not just its cultural rebirth.
The family also produced four popes, jostling with the Borgia family for dominance of the church’s upper hierarchy.
After the Medicean peak, the family still had considerable influence, wealth, power, and good taste. Cosimo II was a patron and supporter of Galileo. In fact, when Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, he named them after four leading Medicis, and collectively called them the Medicean Stars, and dedicated his Siderius Nuncius (“Starry Messenger”) to Cosimo II. Machiavelli, one of the first distinctively modern political theorists, was also a beneficiary of Medici patronage.
The family continued a gentle decline as times passed them by, continuing until the family’s last direct descendant, Ana Maria Luisa, died in 1743. One of the belongings she left behind was the Uffizi art museum, which she bequeathed to the Tuscan state.