Eleanora degli Albizzi
Messer Antonio de' Martelli was in ecstasies, and his unconcealed delight gained for him the nickname "Il Balencio," "like Whalebone"! It is said that when his wife's kinsman, Alamanno de' Pazzi, ventured to congratulate him at his house in the Via Maggio, he found the place gaily decorated, and musicians playing before the door!
"What is this brave show for, Messer Antonio?" he asked.
"Why, Ser Alamanno, I have married my daughter to the Duke Cosimo. Rejoice with me to-day. We have now no relations but Emperors and Princes, what would you!"
Cosimo created his wife's father a Knight of the Order of San Stefano and endowed him with a good annual income. At the same time he advanced Madonna Maria di Baldassarre Suarez to the rank of a Gentlewoman of the Court, and caused unhappy Gaspare Chinucci to be banished out of Tuscany; some indeed say that he even instigated his assassination! Messer Suarez was promoted to an honourable place at Court, and his name was changed to Martelli. Two sons and a daughter blessed his union with Madonna Maria. Violante, as the girl was christened, grew up, as beautiful as her aunt Cammilla, with a pair of eyes like hers, and nothing could restrain the passion of that young libertine, Don Piero de' Medici, for love of her - he was indeed his father's son!
Nevertheless she was not to be his innamorata alone, for Cardinal Ferdinando also "came and saw and conquered," and young Violante became his chief mistress in Florence - the rival in his affections of his father's fascinating young wife, her aunt Cammilla.
In 1570, Cosimo went in State to Rome to be crowned by the Pope as first Grand Duke of Tuscany. From his Holiness he obtained a reversion of the title in perpetuity for his descendants. The Easter of that year he spent at the Pitti Palace, and then he hurried off to Castello to pass the rest of his days with his dearly-loved and charming young wife.
Once there, he dismissed almost all the members of his suite, retaining only two secretaries, a chaplain (!) and two couriers, wishing to lead the quiet life of a country gentleman. He apportioned to his wife Cammilla four gentlewomen as maids of honour. Henceforward neither Cosimo nor Cammilla were seen but rarely in Florence. They spent their time together either at Castello, at Poggio a Caiano, or in Pisa.
December and May had been mated - the former had his consolations, but the latter pined quite naturally for young society. Love is cold and love is captious where age and temperament disagree. Cammilla sighed for the gaieties, the pleasures, and gallantries of Florence. Love's young dream had not been hers, she had not chosen her ancient lover. But admiration for her sprang from a likely though an unexpected quarter, and her cavalier was not warned off by a jealous husband, as was poor Eleanora degli Albizzi's.
The Grand Duke Cosimo, to the very last, kept up the appearance of religion, if not its realities. The fact that a son of his was a member of the Sacred College, and a possible occupant of the chair of St Peter, covered a multitude of sins; not that Cardinal Ferdinando was a mirror of virtue or an example of sanctity.
Ferdinando's relations with Francesco and Bianca were as bad as could be. His arrogance and extortions rendered his presence at the Florentine court unwelcome and even dangerous. At Castello and Poggio a Caiano, on the other hand, he was an honoured guest, and, for lack of lovers, his young stepmother was not displeased by his attentions. Cosimo kept her strictly in seclusion, and she had not the courage, or, be it said, the impudence of her stepdaughter, the Duchess of Bracciano. The loves of the Cardinal and Cammilla were in secret and unprovocative; indeed, the Grand Duke encouraged the intrigue, as being "for Cammilla's good."
Here was a pretty state of affairs. One son, Piero, the seducer of his mistress, Eleanora degli Albizzi, the other, Ferdinando, the lover of his wife! It would be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to exonerate Cosimo from the blame of Cammilla's unfaithfulness. If she sinned, she did so helplessly.
Alas, that she listened not only to the amorous vows of Ferdinando, but also gave credence to his views concerning the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess in Florence. She knew, of course, that there was no love lost between herself and them; and she was quite ready to entertain the evil insinuations which the late Duchess Giovanna had ventilated with reference to Bianca.
This cabal was perfectly well known to the Grand Duke Cosimo, but he let matters take their course; all he cared for was the embraces of his attractive wife and the flatteries of his hypocritical son. The death of Duchess Giovanna threw Ferdinando and Cammilla more than ever into one another's arms. What, and if Francesco and Bianca died without male heir! Why, on the death of Cosimo, Ferdinando and Cammilla might succeed to the Grand Ducal throne. This was the temptation which the Cardinal placed, like a young bud, in Cammilla's bosom. She was but human - very human; she had been slighted by the non-allowance of rank as Grand Duchess. Perhaps Destiny had still that distinction in reserve. She would wait.
The pathos of Cammilla's life deepened during the last four years of Grand Duke Cosimo's life. He became a constant sufferer with many infirmities. The strenuous life he had lived, with its exercise of lustful love and lurid hate, tried to the breaking point his iron constitution. Gout was his direst torment, a malady productive of ill-humour at its worst, and poor Cammilla, lonely wife, nurse, companion, had none to share his impatience.