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The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall by…

The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall (1974)

by Christopher Hibbert

Other authors: Harold Acton (Foreword)

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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
This is a fairly detailed political and personal history of the famous and colourful Medici family, who dominated the history of Florence and central Italy, and indeed more widely, for most of a 300 year period between the early 15th and early 18th centuries. Rising from the merchant class they came to dominate the republic's government and become effectively a hereditary monarchy, though for a long time Florence continued to preserve a republican constitution, in which people from the merchant class were chosen by lot to form the city government, the Signoria. The course of this book is very unbalanced in terms of chronological coverage, with the first of the three centuries of Medici dominance covering five sixths of the narrative; but this is mostly justified in terms of the wider importance and sheer drama of the events involved. There are some fascinating characters in the form of Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent, the fanatical priest Savonarola who held power for a few years after a French invasion, and the two Medici popes, Giovanni (Leo X) and Giulio (Clement VII, the Pope who declined to agree Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon). After this period, the remaining two centuries are dealt with in just 50 pages. I would have liked to read more about Grand Duke Cosimo's terrible siege of Siena (my favourite Italian city), in which so many inhabitants starved, and the dramatic and murderous events surrounding his immediate heirs Francesco and Ferdinando, but these were covered quite briefly (they also formed the backdrop to an excellent novel I read recently, The Shepherdess of Siena). The later Grand Dukes were much less interesting and the line more or less fizzled out in gluttony and indolence in the 1730s (though their life spans were much longer than those of the earlier Medici rulers, who rarely lived beyond their 40s, even when they didn't die violently). Overall this was a mostly fascinating and colourful read, though I thought the referencing could have been better - there were detailed footnotes on art and architecture, but no specific sources for other stuff, including some of the more lurid anecdotes of sybaritic excess and violence. Very useful to have genealogical tables and a map showing the complex divisions of the Italian peninsula at the height of Medici power. ( )
  john257hopper | Aug 19, 2017 |
This is a great introductory text on the de' Medici family, who ruled Florence and parts of present day Tuscany for a few hundred years. It spends more time on on the earlier period, when they had more influence, than the latter dukes - a rather horrible lot.
What I missed was some information on Catherine de' Medici who had an strong influence on Western European affairs. She is barely mentioned. ( )
  robeik | Aug 11, 2017 |
Various members of the De Medici dynasty served in the Florentine Government as far back as 1296. But it wasn’t until Cosimo De Medici - wool merchant and banker became a politician in the 1400s that the name became known and respected throughout Europe. By 1458 Cosimo De Medici was considered to be the richest man in the world, the master of Florence, and the most powerful man in all of Italy. Pope Pius II is quoted as saying, “Political questions are settled at his house. The man he chooses holds office.... He it is who decides peace and war and controls the laws. He has a reputation such as probably no private citizen has ever enjoyed from the fall of Rome to our own day”.

The De Medici’s influence carried over into all aspects of life in Italy - wars, religion, festive holidays, the arts and architecture, and finances. Much like the Rothschild family of Germany in the 1700s - the De Medici’s spread there wealth and power throughout Italy - granting loans and making huge donations which resulted in strong alliances with other government leaders in Italy and surrounding countries. Throughout the generations many of the De Medicis were Cardinals, and at least one De Medici became a pope.

"The House of Medici" recounts stories of all the greatest artists: Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo and speaks of Machiavelli and Galileo. And though Hibbert poses dry un-stimulating data at times, spewing an enormous amount of information about political ambitions and hostilities, personal rivalries, and strategic decisions that led to war and peace - matrimony and children, overall the book brings to life the Italian Renaissance. Florence was invaded by foreign countries several times, looted and plundered, suffering the plague and starvation but managed to survive in all it’s splendor.

After ruling Florence for over 300 years, the final existing generation of De Medici’s was two homosexual brothers and one sister who never married or had children. Ann Marie De Medici was the last to survive and died in 1743. “In her will she bequests to the new Grand Duke and his successors all the property of the Medici, their palaces and villas, their pictures and statues, their jewelry and furniture, their books and manuscripts, - all the vast works of art assembled by her ancestors, generation after generation. She made one condition: nothing should ever be removed from Florence where the treasures of the Medici should always be available for the pleasure and benefit of the people of the whole world.”

"The House of Medici" is a fine addition to anyone’s collection of Italian Renaissance history, and if you are traveling to Florence it makes a wonderful reference book. ( )
  LadyLo | Jul 10, 2017 |
Christopher Hibbert has written a comprehensive history of the Medici dynasty, painstakingly researched. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in this illustrious and often infamous family who influenced princes and kings, religious leaders, artists, scientists and political theorists. They were the patrons of the Illuminati of centuries, and left a legacy which remains to this day.

My only complaint is Hibbert's often ponderous prose, and the lack of a proofreader of his prodigious work.

Otherwise, certainly the gold standard of histories on the Medici. A must-read for any love of Renaissance history. ( )
  fiverivers | Apr 19, 2017 |
I really enjoyed reading this account of the Medici clan. There are so many fascinating characters in the family and among their contemporaries, that each one could have a stand-alone biography.
Intrigue, betrayal, love, hate, murder and an enormous flowering of the arts for several generations, all provide for a wonderful account. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Apr 17, 2017 |
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Christopher Hibbertprimary authorall editionscalculated
Acton, HaroldForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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One September morning in 1433, a thin man with a hooked nose and sallow skin could have been seen walking towards the steps of the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. His name was Cosimo de' Medici; and he was said to be one of the richest men in the world.
'A Florentine who is not a merchant.....enjoys no esteem whatever'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0688053394, Paperback)

At its height Renaissance Florence was a centre of enormous wealth, power and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family’s huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence’s slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An account of the fortunes and influences of the great Florentine banking family, covering over three hundred years of soldiers, art patrons, collectors, builders, popes, statesmen, and scholars. Only a few families have ever possessed the wealth, influence and fascination of the Medici. In this enormously readable biography, Christopher Hibbert tells of the famous Florentine banking family who provided the world with some of its most colorful soldiers, art patrons, collectors, builders, popes, statesmen and scholars ...… (more)

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