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About the book
  • Published: 21 April 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448182084
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

The Black Prince of Florence

The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici




A dramatic tale of assassination, spying and betrayal in the opulent, cut-throat world of Renaissance Italy.

‘A spectacular, elegant, brilliant portrait of skulduggery, murder and sex in Renaissance Florence’ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Books of the Year

1531 – after years of brutal war and political intrigue, the bastard son of a Medici Duke and a ‘half-negro’ maidservant rides into Florence. Within a year, he rules the city as its Prince. Backed by the Pope and his future father-in-law the Holy Roman Emperor, the nineteen-year-old Alessandro faces down bloody family rivalry and the scheming hostility of Italy’s oligarchs to reassert the Medicis’ faltering grip on the turbulent city-state. Six years later, as he awaits an adulterous liaison, he will be murdered by his cousin in another man’s bed.

‘Nothing in sixteenth-century history is more astonishing’ Hilary Mantel

  • Pub date: 21 April 2016
  • ISBN: 9781448182084
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the Author

Catherine Fletcher

Catherine Fletcher is a historian of Renaissance and early modern Europe. Her first book, The Divorce of Henry VIII, brought to life the world of the Papal court at the time of the Tudors. Subsequently, Catherine worked with the set team on the BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall, advising the production on the historical detail of religious ceremony, dress and furnishings. She broadcasts frequently for BBC Radio 4 on Italian Renaissance history and is currently a BBC New Generation Thinker. Catherine now holds the position of Associate Professor in History and Heritage at Swansea University, has previously held fellowships at the British School at Rome and the European University Institute, and has taught at Royal Holloway, Durham and Sheffield universities.

Also by Catherine Fletcher

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Praise for The Black Prince of Florence

“A spectacular, elegant, brilliant portrait of skulduggery, murder and sex in Renaissance Florence”

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard, Books of the Year

“Nothing in sixteenth century history is more astonishing to our era than the career of Alessandro de’ Medici. His story, told by an exact and fluent historian, challenges our preconceptions. Catherine Fletcher’s eye for the skewering detail makes the citizens of renaissance Florence live again: courtesans and cardinals, artists and assassins”

Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

“Astonishing … gripping and original … a compelling portrait”

Matthew Lyons, Financial Times

“Packed with intrigue … Fletcher describes with cool menace the plotting and politicking that dominated Alessandro’s rule … brought splendidly to life in this excellent book”

Dan Jones, Sunday Times

“A scintillating book that glisters and gleams with stabbings, poisonings, adultery and intrigue – and a startling reminder of how visceral and dangerous Renaissance Florence was. The drama of events is perfectly complemented by careful scholarship and lucid writing. This is everything a historical biography should be”

Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

“In this brilliantly written and impeccably researched biography, Catherine Fletcher brings Renaissance Florence vividly to life. The story of Alessandro de' Medici's brief and bloody ascendancy reveals the darker side of this most dazzling and cultured of cities, beset by intrigue, violence and betrayal. A stunning book.”

Tracy Borman, author of Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant

“Bold, breathless and full of suspense”

Daisy Dunn, The Times

“A seductive, shimmering and significant retelling of a man whose rise to power was ... as unlikely as it was extraordinary”

Thomas Penn, Guardian

“Engrossing … bursts with stabbings, poisonings, duels, eye-gougings, arquebus shootouts and people being run through with swords. Fletcher’s approach is scholarly yet dramatic, immersed in Renaissance glamour … a tremendous step forward in our knowledge of this intriguing man”

Alex von Tunzelmann, Spectator

“More than just a forensic reconstruction of the period … Like a detective, Fletcher interrogates her witnesses … But it is among the detailed records of Alessandro’s wardrobe-keepers that she finds her treasure … These lend her narrative a sensuous vividity”

Frances Wilson, Sunday Telegraph

“Fletcher is entirely at ease amid the Renaissance world and its archival resources, and her details, particularly those involving dress, feasting and ceremonial, are generously deployed in the work of recovering a neglected episode of Florentine history”

Jonathan Keates, Literary Review

“An original, revelatory and gripping biography. Not only a vivid evocation of the violence and glamour of sixteenth-century Florence, but also a fresh perspective on the history of race and the concept of the Renaissance man”

Jessie Childs, author of God's Traitors

“Gripping … Fletcher describes in detail without losing momentum”

Economist

“A fascinating and profound examination of one of the darkest periods of Medici family history, filled with a wealth of period detail”

Paul Strathern, author of The Medici

“An accomplished and original account of an extraordinary and much misrepresented episode in Italian history. Catherine Fletcher provides a newly sympathetic portrait of a monarch whose rule in Florence was even more unlikely than Henry VII’s presence on the English throne”

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of A History of Christianity

“An unexpected box of delights”

Caroline Muprhy, author of Murder of a Medici Princess

“Fletcher charts Alessandro’s meteoric rise and bloody fall while bringing Renaissance Italy into sharp focus by deftly contrasting its simultaneously sublime and visceral natures, drawing us into an intriguing, believable Florence along the way”

Catholic Herald

“Terrific … maintains a standard that all history books should aim for”

BBC History Magazine

“There are few periods in history as spectacular as the Italian Renaissance, and this fascinating biography of the comparatively obscure Florentine Duke Alessandro de’ Medici is a positive riot of vivid incident and intrigue.’”

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

“A creditable and enjoyable history of one of the lesser known Medici… It is a story of nepotism, intrigue, murder, lust, spying, double crossing and political and religious power grabbing… Well researched; Fletcher has a good eye for detail and discerning credible witness testimony from contemporary accounts…. lively and entertaining and accessible to the casual reader, as much as the student of the period.”

Paul Burke, Nudge


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