Book review: The Black Prince Of Florence

FLETCHER, a historian specialising in the Renaissance and whose work has been praised by Hilary Mantel, here excavates the intriguing figure of Florence’s first Medici Duke, born a bastard and possibly of mixed race origin.

Catherine Fletcher

Bodley Head, £20; ebook, £9.99

The evidence on this last point is inconclusive, as an afterword admits and, in any case, the era’s understanding of race was not one we’d recognise; Alessandro de’ Medici was mocked as a ‘mule’, but similar jibes were directed at other potentates over being part Italian and part Dutch.

Alessandro’s life was brief, turbulent and (like much Italian politics of the time) largely defined by the twin poles of the Papacy and Holy Roman Empire, to which he had advantageously close ties. 

Pope Clement VII was his uncle and Emperor Charles V, eventually, his father-in-law.

Alas, Alessandro himself never wholly comes alive; unavoidable when most of his papers are lost and history was largely written by his enemies.


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