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The Medici — Alfonsina Orsini (1472-1520)

Alfonsina Orsini
Alfonsina Orsini (1472-1520), wife of Piero II. de' Medici

"Bernardo [Rucellai] reported having seen the young girl [the bride of Piero II., Alfonsina Orsini] and he seemed satisfied with her if not particularly enthusiastic about her appearance, which he described as 'neither good nor bad'. Bernardo then added: 'I am only offended a little by her throat which seems to me a little bit thick from the front.'... Her [Alfonsina's] contemporaries almost universally disliked Alfonsina Orsini. ... she was accused of avarice, of theft, of possessing a limitless ambition, of having a complete disregard for Florentine republican institutions, and of possessing a desire to ensure that her son Lorenzo acquired some sort of lordship and a princely title to go with it. The sixteenth-century papal historian, Paolo Giovio, summed up the generally negative contemporary view of Alfonsina, stating that she was 'a woman truly [possessing] manly prudence but [was] avaricious and always quarrelling. She with blind ambition greatly desired to make her son great, to accumulate riches for him, and above all, to acquire somebody else's regime for him'... It is important to note here that financial success and the will to acquire wealth and spend it liberally and magnificently without waste was perceived as desirable and God-given in male rulers, but the same qualities in female rulers ... were condemned.... The reaction to Alfonsina's death in February 1520 is perhaps the best indicator of how she was viewed by contemporary observers. Filippo Strozzi, Alfonsina's son in law, suggested in jest, the following epitaph: 'Alfonsina Orsina, whose death no one [mourned], whose life everyone mourned, and whose burial is most pleasant and salubrious to mankind'. Even in jest, this comment was a most unpleasant one, particularly as we have seen that Alfonsina had worked long and hard to secure the lucrative position of papal Depositor-General, or papal banker, for Filippo [Strozzi] from her brother in law, Pope Leo X. ... Even Alfonsina's many opponents could not deny her considerable authority and skills as a ruler." (in: Natalie R. Tomas: The Medici Women – Gender and Power in Renaissance Florence. Ashgate Publishing Company 2003, pp. 20; 178-181; 185)

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