Lorenzo di Piero di Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino
Florence, 1492 - Florence, 1519
Captain of the Florentine Republic; Captain General of the Church
Florence; Urbino; Rome; Gaeta
- Biographical information:
Born in 1492 to Piero il Fatuo, or the Unlucky, and Alfonsina Orsini, Lorenzo was only two when he was obliged to flee from Florence with his family, condemned to banishment by the new Republican government. Lorenzo spent his childhood with his mother between Urbino and Rome. When his father Piero died, in 1503, he was in Gaeta. He then returned to Rome, where he was entrusted to the care of Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici who, with the help of Bernardo Dovizi known as Bibbiena and Favorino, took over his cultural education.
In 1512 Lorenzo returned in triumph to Florence, together with his uncles Giovanni and Giuliano and his cousin Giulio, participating in the festivities to celebrate the return of the Medici and the renewed political primacy of the family. For the carnival of 1513, Giuliano with the Compagnia del Diamante and Lorenzo with the Compagnia del Broncone, organised a scenographic parade with allegorical floats and masks devoted to the theme of the return of the golden age. In March, after Giovanni was elected Pope with the name of Leo X, Giuliano followed his brother to Rome having been appointed Captain General of the Church, while Lorenzo became Captain of the Florentine Republic and held the reins of the city government on behalf of the Pope, under the control of Cardinal Giulio. Thus Lorenzo’s mother, Alfonsina Orsini, saw the realisation of the dream for which she had schemed at length.
Niccolò Machiavelli dedicated to Lorenzo his treatise The Prince, written in 1513, but was all too soon deluded by the latter’s ambition and recklessness.
In 1515 Lorenzo took over the command of the papal troops lined up alongside the forces of the League set up between the King of Aragon, the Swiss cantons, Milan and Florence, against Francis I of France, allied with Venice. However, Lorenzo was defeated by the French at Marignano.
In 1516 Lorenzo, who had become Captain General of the Church after the death of Giuliano, entered victoriously into Urbino, the territory of which had been invaded by the papal troops and wrested from its legitimate sovereign Francesco Maria Della Rovere. Despite the fact that the victory was ephemeral, from this time on Lorenzo was able to flaunt the title of Duke of Urbino, granted to him by Pope Leo X.
Lorenzo resided prevalently in Florence, in Palazzo Medici. In 1517 he had the public loggia at the corner of the family residence walled in, inserting the monumental windows defined as "kneeling", designed by Michelangelo.
At the desire of his uncle the Pope, in 1518 Lorenzo married Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, a distant cousin of Francis I of France. The wedding was celebrated in the royal castle of Amboise, with further festivities being held in Florence, in Palazzo Medici, upon the arrival of the newly-wed couple.
From this union, on 13 April 1519 Caterina was born (later Queen of France), and was almost immediately left an orphan. In fact, shortly after the birth her mother Madeleine died of puerperal fever, soon to be followed on 4 May by Lorenzo, who died of tuberculosis. It was officially declared that Alessandro too was Lorenzo’s son, but it is more probable that he was the illegitimate son of Cardinal Giulio, from 1523 Pope Clement VII.
Lorenzo was buried in the New Sacristy designed by Michelangelo.
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