The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro De’ Medici

Written by Catherine Fletcher

Few today remember Alessandro, the first Duke of Florence. During the 1520s and 30s the rivalry between the two illegitimate young Medici heirs, Ippolito and Alessandro, was played out against the background of the Italian Wars, when the papacy, France and the Habsburg Empire engaged in a ruthless struggle for dominion of the wealthy Italian states. Fletcher has brought this period to life and provides details of the political intrigues and the trappings of princely life.

More politically astute than has sometimes been acknowledged, Alessandro kept his own hands clean by leaving the murder of certainly one and possibly two close relatives to others. His reputation as a womaniser is also somewhat re-dimensioned. Yet it was the promise black-prince-USof a society beauty that ultimately brought about his downfall. The motivation for Alessandro’s assassination in January 1537 by his cousin, Lorenzino, puzzled contemporaries let alone modern historians.

Fletcher paints a perceptive picture of mixed loyalties, jealousy and duplicity but the lack of political purpose for the assassination remains a conundrum. The most revealing arguments of the book regard Alessandro’s ethnicity and what it did, or more importantly did not, signify to contemporaries. Fletcher’s book is extensively researched and, like the best stories, a compelling read.