Medici Masters of Florence is the 8-episode series that’s been thrilling audiences on Netflix. The series tells the story of the family that helped the Renaissance to flourish and changed the face of Italy. It’s the early 15th century, and the place is Florence, in Tuscany, where the Medici are rising to power in the Florentine Republic.
The ingredients are all here: political scheming, power-hungry families, passionate individuals, betrayals and murder. All set against the background of one of the most iconic cities in the world: Florence. With an international cast including Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden, and some great scenography, the goal of the director wasn’t to be historically faithful. The aim here is to entertain, and it does.
Read on as we separate the Medici truths from the fiction and give some insight into who the Medici really were.
Find out about the second series of Medici Masters of Florence which will be released in 2018!
Were the Medici really the Masters of Florence?
Yes. At the beginning of the 15th century when the series begins, the Florentine Republic was dominated by the city’s most influential families. One of these families was indeed the Albizzi as seen in the series. They feared the rise of the Medici, and rightly so. They were so powerful and wealthy that they craftily attracted increasing influence. A century later, this led them to become absolute rulers of Florence.
Did Cosimo go into exile?
Yes. The aristocratic family of the Albizzi were worried about the Medici’s growing power and influence. So they intensified the allegations against them, and accused them of trying to elevate themselves beyond their station. This resulted in the imprisonment and eventual exile of Cosimo, first to Padova and then to Venice in 1433 where his brother Lorenzo also took refuge. While in prison, Cosimo was afraid of being poisoned and refused the food he was given. There’s more to know about Cosimo’s life and all of it makes for a good story.
Find out about Cosimo’s fierce rival Rinaldo degli Albizzi, who wanted to behead him.
Was Giovanni really poisoned with a grape?
No. One of the most dramatic scenes in the series is the death of Giovanni as he chokes on a grape. As this happens at the beginning of the film it sets it up the series as a Whodunnit murder story. However in reality there’s no historical evidence of him being murdered. In fact Giovanni died of natural causes in 1429 at the age of 69.
Was Cosimo a latin lover?
Yes and No. In the series Cosimo falls madly in love with the commoner Bianca. Disappointingly, this character didn’t exist in reality. Fascinating but completely fictional. Later in life however he really did meet a slave called Maddalena, and their son was accepted by his wife and brought up in the family home – a common practice of the time. This son went on to become a bishop. As for his wife, it’s true that Giovanni arranged a very important marriage for his son to a woman of good standing. As you see in the series, this woman was indeed the beautiful Contessina de’ Bardi. Even though the Bardi family was bankrupt, their name was still important in Florence and lent prestige to the Medici family.
Find out more about the intriguing wife of Cosimo, Contessina de’ Bardi.
Did they really finance all that art?
Yes. Both Giovanni and Cosimo were art enthusiasts. Giovanni asked the already famous architect Brunelleschi, (Alessandro Preziosi in the series) to work at San Lorenzo Church. Even if they didn’t finance the building of the famous self-supporting dome that features heavily in the show, they and their descendants will literally pay for the Renaissance to flourish.
Was Lorenzo the Elder murdered?
No, he wasn’t. The younger brother of Cosimo was faithful to the family, married young and had two sons. He run the Medici bank but also held several charges in the Florentine Republic. He died peacefully in the Medicean Villa of Careggi, in the outskirts of Florence, in 1440. One of his descendant, Cosimo I, will become the first Gran Duke of Tuscany.