Eleanora degli Albizzi
Another sort of employment found in the Lady Cammilla an earnest and skilful directress, namely, the manufacture of sweetmeats, preserves, compotes, pastries, and every sort of delectable confectionery. Perfumes and liqueurs - usually the piquant produce of monasteries - were also cunningly extracted by Cammilla's subtle formulas. These elegant specialities she gave away to old friends and visitors - enclosed in delicate little glass and porcelain bottles and jars of her own design.
The fame of the Lady Cammilla's skill and patronage reached foreign courts, and notable visitors to Florence did not fail to pay their courtesies to the great lady of the convent. Two of these, the Archpriest Monsignore Simone Fortuna, confessor of the Duke of Urbino, and Cavaliere Ercole Cortile, the ambassador of Ferrara, have recorded their visits and their pleasure at seeing "La Serena Signora" in genial company and philanthropically employed. The wily priest added, with sanctimonious admiration for female beauty: "La Martelli is as fascinating as ever!"
Still, liberty is liberty, and captivity - even when made as attractive and as unoppressive as possible - is still captivity. The Lady Cammilla never left the confines of her convent for twelve long years, and not till 4th February 1586 was she allowed a conge. Then a sumptuous cavalcade, with splendid sedan-chairs, halted at the main portal of Santa Monica, and out of one stepped the Grand Duchess Bianca, in gorgeous State robes. She had come to escort in person the Lady Cammilla, with every mark of respect and honour, to the marriage of her daughter, Virginia de' Medici!
The young girl was just eighteen, passably old for a sixteenth-century noble bride! In 1575, she had been assigned as the consort in prospect of Cavaliere Mario Sforza, General of the army of the Grand Duke Francesco. The match, however, was broken off, when Cardinal Alessandro Sforza died, and left an immense fortune, but not to his nephew Mario, as had been expected; and so Mario proved to be too poor a suitor for the girl's hand.
Mario, on his side, had cooled much in his ardour for Virginia. Reports of the Cardinal de' Medici's - Ferdinando's - familiarities, not only with the mother, but with the daughter also, were rife in Florence and in Rome. Sufficient grounds there were for him to accept the cancellation of the proposal with equanimity. The Marchese, for so he had been created, was not a whit more virtuous than the men of his day, but the sensuous are always the harshest judges of their kind!
No, Virginia was, after all, married to Don Cesare d'Este, Duke of Modena. She had by the way, been promised, in 1581, to Francesco Sforza di Santa Fiora, but he changed his mind and renounced the world - conventionally of course - to accept the Cardinal's red hat and privileges from the hands of Pope Gregory XIII. So constantly were natural human instincts dulled by the contrariety of fashion in those degenerate days!
Of Virginia's marriage Torquato Tasso, the Grand Duchess Bianca's enamoured poet-laureate, sang:
"Cio che morte rallenta Amore restringa!"
Virginia died in 1615 - some said she was poisoned by her husband - the last of a degraded race. Sic transit gloria Medici!
The ceremonial of the nuptials was as splendid as a sumptuous Court could make it, and as became the union of a princess of the House of Medici with an ambitious foreign Sovereign. But whilst men and women gossiped delightedly about the charms of the beauteous young bride and the gallant bearing of the groom, every tongue expressed wonderment at the gracious, stately figure of the Lady Cammilla. The chorus of popular applause was hushed, however, when the pathos of her story struck sorrowful chords in every heart.
Upon the obverse of the medals struck for the Duke Cosimo for their wedding, twelve years before, the Signora is represented as a finely-developed woman, with the proud profile of a true daughter of Florence, a high brow, a shapely nose, full cheeks, and a dimpled chin. Her attire is rich, she wears costly jewels, and her hair is tastefully coiffured.
What Cammilla's feelings were, she only knew, and she told them to no one; she bore herself loftily, and made no one her confidante. After the solemnity and festivities she betook herself once more - she had no other choice - to her convent prison, the poorer for the loss of her cherished child, the richer in the estimation of all good people.
Henceforth, her inclusion among the Religious was to be more rigorous, and she never expected to be seen again in Florence: dolorous indeed must have been that parting with the world she loved, but so little knew. She viewed the coming years with apprehension and hopelessness. She had not reached the measure of her destiny, but for that, mercifully, she had not very long to wait, and yet there was to be another slight rift in the clouds of misery.
From time to time Cammilla had suffered from fainting fits and attacks of hysteria, but after her separation from Virginia, these increased greatly in frequency and intensity. Skilful medical treatment was of no avail, and at length her doctors appealed to the Grand Duke for some relaxation of her imprisonment. Freedom from restraint and the benefit of urgently needed change, they knew, would work wonders in the way of recovery.
Don Francesco was immovable to all such representations; he had over and over again declined to reverse or modify his decision. His fully justified fear of the Cardinal's intrigues acted as a negative magnet to all his best propositions. He and she were bound together, he felt sure, in schemes for his own undoing, and Bianca's too.