Although certainly not as famous as his magnificent grandfather, Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino was a clever and ambitious man. His strong personality fascinated the contemporaries so much that he was compared to Cesare Borgia, who had left a mark in Italy just a few years earlier.
An “unfortunate” start
Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino was born in Florence on Sept. 12. 1492 by Piero the Unfortunate and Alfonsina Orsini. He was welcome in the family with a “big party” and baptized in the presence of the main institutions of the Republic of Florence, receiving the name of his grandfather Lorenzo The Magnificent who died recently, just like his sister Clarice (1493-1528; married in 1509 to Filippo Strozzi) would remember the wife of the Magnificent, Clarice Orsini, showing the determination of Piero in continuing the influential policy of his father.
Lorenzo, just two years old, was involved in the political fall of his father Piero when the Medici family was banned from Florence. After a period in Venice, where he started to receive an education, Lorenzo went to Rome, where his mother lived, continuing his studies while his father, engaged in the wars between Spain and France, died.
Even though he became capable of mastering Latin and of understanding Greek, Lorenzo preferred horses, greyhounds, falcons and, above all, women. The Medici officially attributed him the illegitimate son Alessandro, later Duke of Florence, actually son of Giulio de Medici, future Pope Clement VII.
Back to Florence
With the Medici conquering back Florence in 1512 and the following election of Giovanni (his uncle) as Pope Leo X, Lorenzo came back to Florence and was designated as the new Medici ruler, even though the Pope gave him clear instructions to behave with moderation: “don’t force women, don’t block justice and keep your hands clean from the public finances”. This is somewhat funny, basically what the Pope said is: do whatever you wish, just avoid another uprising against the family.
Few days later, in a group of people chatting in Piazza Della Signoria, someone called him “the magnificent Lorenzo”, comparing him to his famous grandfather, but someone else couldn’t resist and answered (literally) “the magnificent asshole”. If you listened to a political discussion between Florentine people today, the words would probably be the same! What would be different is the result: this man was reported and banned from Florence for eight years.
Lorenzo increasingly demanded reverence and he wanted to appear as the “first citizen” in the ceremonies, Carnival parties, parades, celebrations of the patron saint. The Medici Pope, however, tried to slow down his attitude, and when Lorenzo, instigated by his mother, showed an interest in conquering the Republic of Siena, the pontiff answered “we don’t even speak of this”.
Lorenzo challenged the authority of his uncle, manipulating the Florentine institutions to be elected Captain of Florence, with a very high salary. This was against the law, stating the captain could not be a Florentine, and the Pope was very unhappy of this: a good practice was to elect someone that supported the Medici, not a member of the family.
Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino: another Cesare Borgia?
Afraid of a new invasion of Italy by the new King of France Francis I, the Pope appointed Lorenzo as the captain of the entire Florentine army. There was no fight though, and Lorenzo was designated as the ambassador of the Pope. He immediately found an agreement with Francis I and they became good friends since their interests were very similar: hunting and women.
Few months later, in August 1516, the Pope appointed Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino, probably upon request of Lorenzo’s mother Alfonsina, but the new Duke’s health aggravated because of syphilis.
Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino was clever and ambitious. He was a friend of the King of France and nephew of a Pope, he received the lordship of entire Italian states and was affected by syphilis: does this recall you someone else? In all the Italian courts, Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino was compared to Cesare Borgia, who had a similar career few years earlier. It’s not an accident if the famous book by Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, speaks about the way Cesare Borgia conquered his short-lived reign but was dedicated to “the magnificent” Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino.
Father of the Queen
Since 1513, the Pope had tried to find a bride for Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino, but only in 1517 an agreement was made to King Francis I, designating Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne (18 years old). The wedding was celebrated by… mail, with an exchange of letters from Rome to France. Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino couldn’t miss the Carnival celebrations though, so he went to France two months later. Back to Florence, he tried to obtain the official lordship of Florence, but the Pope was inflexible on this.
In 1519, after the birth of Caterina de Medici, his only daughter and future Queen of France, the health of Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino aggravated. His wife, sick as well, died 15 days after the birth, and Lorenzo didn’t survive to her but six days.
Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Leo X to celebrate Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino, together with his other uncle Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, with a magnificent tomb in the New sacristy of San Lorenzo. Michelangelo represented Lorenzo as a young man reflecting (probably on time flowing away). The artist was criticized because the statue didn’t resemble the real face of Lorenzo de Medici Duke of Urbino. The answer was typical of Michelangelo: ” who cares, in two hundred years nobody will remember his face”.