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Piero the Unfortunate
Portrait of Piero de' Medici by Agnolo Bronzino.
Portrait of Piero de' Medici by Agnolo Bronzino.
Spouse Alfonsina Orsini
Lorenzo II, Duke of Urbino
Clarice de' Medici
Noble family Medici
Father Lorenzo de' Medici
Mother Clarice Orsini
Born February 15, 1472(1472-02-15)
Died December 28, 1503 (aged 31)

Piero de' Medici (February 15, 1472 – December 28, 1503), called Piero the Unfortunate, was the Gran maestro of Florence from 1492 until his exile in 1494.


Life and death

Born in Florence, Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici was the oldest son of Lorenzo de' Medici (the Magnificent) and Clarice Orsini, and older brother of Pope Leo X.

He was educated to succeed his father as head of the Medici family and as lord of the Florentine State, under notable figures such as Angelo Poliziano. However, his feeble, arrogant and undisciplined character was to prove unsuited to such a role.

Piero took over as leader of Florence in 1492. After a short relatively calm period, the fragile pacific equilibrium between the Italian states, laboriously constructed from Piero's father, collapsed two years later (1494) with the decision of the King Charles VIII of France to cross the Alps with an army in order to take the Reign of Naples on which he boasted hereditary rights (1494). Charles had been lured to Italy by Ludovico Sforza, il Moro, ex-Regent of Milan, as a way to eject his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza and replace him as Duke.

After settling matters in Milan, Charles moved towards Naples. He needed to pass through Tuscany, as well as leave troops there, securing his lines of communication with Milan. Piero attempted to stay neutral, but this was unacceptable to Charles, who intended the invasion Tuscany. Piero attempted a resistance, but received little support from Florence. Florence was suffering from the influence of Girolamo Savonarola, even his cousins defected to Charles.

Piero quickly gave up as Charles's army neared Florence and surrendered the chief fortresses of Tuscany to the invading army, giving Charles everything he demanded. Without making any attempt to negotiate better terms, the resultant fury in Florence led to the Medici family fleeing. The family palazzo was looted, the substance as well as the form of the Republic of Florence was re-established, and the family were formally exiled, to wander through the states of Italy and Europe. A member of the Medici family was not to rule Florence again, until 1512.

Piero and his family was exiled from the city for an undetermined period of time, at first fleeing to Venice, thanks to the participation of Philippe de Commines. During their exile the fanatical Dominican priest, Girolamo Savonarola, attempted the governance of Florence.

In 1503 however, as the French and Spanish continued their struggle in Italy over the Kingdom of Naples, Piero was drowned in the Garigliano River while attempting to flee the aftermath of the battle, which the French (with whom he was allied) had lost.

Mysterious crimes

It was most likely Piero to have ordered his childhood tutor, Angelo Poliziano, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola's (an Italian Renaissance philosopher) deaths November 17, 1494. It was likely Pico's close friendship with Girolamo Savonarola, the fanatical Dominican friar, that earned him the enmity of Piero. Savonarola, who was invited to Florence by Pico, repeatedly preached against the Medicis, urging Florentines to reject the excesses of the Renaissance. However it was probably Cristoforo da Calamaggiore, Pico's secretary, who administered the arsenic poisoning. In fact, da Calamaggiore admitted that he had given him medicine because he was sick[1].

Marriage and children

Piero married Alfonsina Orsini in 1488. She was a daughter of Roberto Orsini, Count of Tagliacozzo and Caterina Sanseverino. They had two children:


  1. ^ Medici philosopher's mystery death is solved


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