(K. Brent Tomer),
The Black Prince of Florence. By Catherine Fletcher. Bodley Head; 308 pages; £20. To be published in America by Oxford University Press in September; $29.95.
THE short life and violent death of Alessandro de’ Medici, duke of Florence, is like the plot of a Verdi opera. Alessandro, who had a keen sexual appetite, lusted after a married woman in Florence. While her husband was away on business, his trusted cousin Lorenzino promised him an assignation with her. Lorenzino, meanwhile, hired a villain, Scoronconcolo, who, on being asked to kill an anonymous victim, said: “That I’ll do, even if he’s the duke himself.” So it was. Alessandro, napping in his rooms while waiting, was woken not by a caress, but by a sword in his stomach. Scoronconcolo then cut his throat.
On his death in 1537, Alessandro was in his mid-20s. It was his misfortune, says Catherine Fletcher in her gripping narrative, to be assassinated “first with a sword, then with a pen” by historians.
Her operatic plot, which builds gradually, is broken off for details of the ducal lifestyle: silk, satin and taffeta for…Continue reading