Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Fletcher’

Book on Alessandro de’ Medici, Florence’s Black Renaissance Prince

June 7, 2020

I found this interesting little piece of Black history in the recent Postscript catalogue for June 2020. Postscript are a mail order company specialising in books. And one of those listed was a biography of Alessandro de’ Medici, The Black Prince of Florence – The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici, by Catherine Fletcher (Oxford OUP 2016).

The blurb for this reads

The illegitimate son of Lorenzo II and a maidservant, Alessandro de’ Medici ruled Florence for six turbulent years until he was assassinated in 1537. This first complete account of his life charts the rise through the intrigue-ridden courts of Renaissance Italy of the model for Machiavelli’s Prince, assesses the qualities of a ruler branded a tyrant by his enemies after his death, and considers the possible ehtnic origins of this ‘first European ruler of colour’.

The book was £29.99, but Postscript are offering it at £9.99.

Scholars have known and written about Alessandro de’ Medici for a long time. A few years ago BBC 4 screened a programme on Italian Renaissance art hosted by one of the Black American rappers, if I recall correctly. This went into the Black presence in the Renaissance, including de’ Medici. It’s a long time ago, but apart from European scholars, his life and career was obviously of interest to the great pioneers of the Black liberation movement, including W.E.B. Dubois. It was believed that de’ Medici was assassinated because he was Black, but the programme suggested that this wasn’t the case. At the time, lineage and one’s place in the aristocratic social order was more powerful than colour. He was murdered not because he was Black, but simply through the bitter personal rivalries and intrigues of 16th century European and Italian politics, when dynasties and princes fought and murdered each other in order to gain ascendancy.