Eleanora degli Albizzi



Pathetic Victims of Fateful Passion

"Di fare il piacere di Cosimo" - To serve for Cosimo's pleasure! In such words, an immoral father condemned his lovely daughter to feed the unholy lust of the "Tyrant of Florence" - Moloch was never better served.

Eleanora and Cammilla, cousins after the flesh, were each dedicated as a cosa di Cosimo - the property of Cosimo. If he did not murder their bodies, he slew their souls - that was the manner of the man, the fashion of his time.

Romantic attachments, full of thrilling pathos, ran then like golden threads through the vulgar woof and web of woe and death. Someone has said that "Love and murder are next of kin"; true, indeed, was this what time Eleanora and Cammilla were fresh young girls in Florence. They were each made for love, and love they had; but that love was the embrace of a living death, selfish, cruel, and damning. Better, perhaps, had they died right out by sword or poison than suffer, as they did, the extremity of pathos - the shame of illicit love!

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The tragedy of Eleanora degli Albizzi was, perhaps, the most callous and the most pathetic of all those lurid domestic vicissitudes which traced their source to the "Tyrant of Florence," Cosimo I., Grand Duke of Tuscany.

She was not the only Eleanora whose name as, alas, we know, spelled misfortune. Eleanora de Toledo of the broken heart, and Eleanora de Garzia de Toledo of the bleeding heart, awaited in Paradise Eleanora degli Albizzi of the heart of desertion.

"Albizzi o Medici?" had once and again divided the power of Florence, but in the course of high play in the game of politics the latter held the better hands, drew more trumps, and gained rubber after rubber. But what a splendid record the Albizzi had! When the Medici were only tentatively placing their feet upon the ladder of fame, Orlando, Filippo, Piero, Luca, and Maso - to name a few only of those leaders of men and women - had scored the name Albizzi as Anziani, Priori, Gonfalonieri, and Capitani di Parte Guelfa.

In fact that aristocratic family dominated Florence and the Florentines until Salvestro, Giovanni, and Cosimo, of the democratic Medici, disputed place and power, and built up their fortunes upon the ruins of their rivals' faults and favours.

Eleanora was the daughter of Messer Luigi di Messer Maso degli Albizzi. This Messer Maso, a hundred years before, had not seen eye to eye with his masterful brother - the autocratic Rinaldo, but, noting the trend of political affairs, had, truth to tell, turned traitor to the traditions of his family, and had thrown in his lot with the rising house of Medici.

Messer Luigi was not a rich man, but in fairly comfortable circumstances, and slowly retrieving the shattered fortunes of his ancestors. His mansion was in the fashionable Borgo degli Albizzi, and he owned other town property and some farms in the contado. He held, too, several public offices, and was an aspirant to a Podestaship, as a stepping-stone to that most coveted of all State appointments, the rank of ambassador.

In some way or another he gained the favourable notice of Duke Cosimo, and seems to have rendered him some acceptable service: at all events, he found himself at home in the entourage of the Sovereign. By his second wife, Madonna Nannina, daughter of Messer Niccolo de' Soderini - a lineal descendant of the self-seeking and notorious adviser of Don Piero de' Medici - he had two daughters, Constanza and Eleanora, named after her godmother, the Duchess Eleanora.

Constanza was married to Antonio de' Ridolfi, the same year that the poor broken-hearted Duchess sobbed herself to death at Pisa after the terrible tragedies of 1557 and 1562, and Messer Luigi was left with Eleanora, the pride of her father's heart, the joy of his home. As beautiful as any girl in Florence, she was just sixteen, highly accomplished, full of spirits, and endowed with some of that pride and haughty bearing which had distinguished her forbears. She had, in short, all the makings of a successful woman of the world.

Admitted to intimacy and companionship with the children of the Duke, he had noted the graceful development of the bright young girl's physical and mental charms; and he had given evidence of his interest in her by many pleasant courtesies, both to herself and to her parents.

Messer Luigi soon observed the partiality of his Sovereign for his fascinating young daughter, and being a man anxious, after the manner of a true Florentine, even in those degenerate days, to better himself and his family, he saw that something more than mere romance could be made out of the situation. The commercial assets of his daughter's person loomed large in his estimation, for if the Duke took a serious fancy to Eleanora, it was conceivable that she might one day become his consort!

When the girl told her father of the Duke's kindness to her, and of his embraces and tender words, he counselled her not to repel her admirer, for what he meant was all for her good and for the distinction of her family. The liaison went on unrebuked, encouraged by Cosimo's promises and Luigi's hopes. Nannina's tears of apprehension were brushed aside by Eleanora's kisses.