Ippolito - Il Cardinale
When the child was less than two years old the nuns of Santa Maria were removed to Rome, and they took with them, along with other unfortunates, little Pasqualino. Upon a visit, which Pope Leo paid to the convent, he noticed the young boy, and as he smiled and tried to get at his Holiness, Leo was struck with his good looks and made enquiries about his origin. In the end, Leo undertook the little fellow's education and maintained his interest in him, and, moreover, ordered his name to be changed to Ippolito.
Alessandro - the younger boy - twelve years old, was the son of Lorenzo de' Medici, created Duke of Urbino in 1536, when the Pope annexed that principality to the pontifical estates, upon the excommunication of the rightful sovereign. His mother was a woman of colour, a Tartar slave-girl, who passed for the wife of a vetterale or courier, in the pay of the Duke. He was a native of Colle Vecchio, near Riete, in Umbria, and went by the name of Bizio da Collo, whilst the girl was simply called Anna. Alessandro, later on, was made to feel the baseness of his origin, for he was greeted contemptuously as "Alessandro da Colle Vecchio!" His supposed father, Bizio, died in 1519, but Cardinal Giulio de' Medici adopted him.
The two boys grew up together at the Vatican, alike in one respect only, their mutual hatred of each other. They were, indeed, as unlike as two boys could be. Ippolito, as the child of gentle parents, had an aristocratic bearing. He was a clever lad and excelled especially in classical learning, in music and poetry. In appearance he became remarkably handsome, with polished manners and a fondness for spending money and for ostentation.
Alessandro, on the other hand, exhibited the attributes of his low-born mother. Physically well-made, he was dark of skin, with dark, curly hair, thick lips, and close-set Eastern eyes. His tastes were unrefined. He had none of Ippolito's gentleness and attractiveness, but in disposition he was morose, passionate, and cruel. His manners were marked by abruptness and vulgarity. He was no genius, and refused to receive the lessons of his masters, and set at defiance all who claimed authority. Alessandro was a shrewd lad all the same, and became Clement's inseparable companion - no doubt he was his son!
Everybody noticed the mutual affection between "uncle" and "nephew," which gave clear indication of a nearer relationship. Clement's word was Alessandro's law, and, when the cousins fell out, as they did many times a day, the interference of their uncle brought peace, but for Ippolito dissatisfaction, as he was usually ruled to be in the wrong. This boyish rivalry led to more considerable emulation and the proprieties of the Papal palace were rudely shaken by the quarrels and the struggles of the cousins.
They were parted and removed each to a remote portion of the palace, with separate suites of attendants, and their only meetings took place in the private apartments of the Pope, and rarely. Thus Ippolito and Alessandro entered upon their teens with no judicious, kindly, or formative influences around them. It was said that each boy threw in the other's face the fact of his illegitimacy, which fawning dependants had revealed to them. Their environment and associates were most undesirable, and nothing was done to instil and encourage sentiments of honour, self-control, truthfulness, and charity. Their initiation into the hypocrisies of spiritual life and ecclesiastical duty produced distaste and contempt for religious exercises.
There was yet another protegee of Clement's left upon the world of mutability and chance - an orphan child, the only issue of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino and his wife Maddalena, daughter of Jean de la Tour d'Auvergne et de Bourbon. Married in 1518, the delicate young mother died in childbirth the following year, leaving her sweet little baby girl, Caterina, to the care of her broken-hearted husband.
The future Queen of France was placed with the foundling nuns of the convent of Santa Lucia in the Via San Gallo. Thence she was removed to the convent of Santa Caterina di Siena, back to the nuns of Santa Lucia once more, and then handed over to the charge of the noble convent of S. Annunziata delle Murate until 1525, when her aunt, Madonna Clarice de' Medici, wife of Messer Filippo negli Strozzi, was constituted her guardian and instructress.
Right well the new governante carried out the instructions of Clement, and she only relinquished her charge when the Pope commanded the young girl, just eleven years old, to Rome. Apartments were provided for her and her suite in the Palazzo Medici, where Madonna Lucrezia, Lorenzo il Magnifico's daughter, and wife of Giacomo de' Salviati, was appointed her protectress.
Without a mother's care, and tossed about here and there, Caterina grew up devoid of high principles, and became the toy of every passing pleasure and indulgence. All the eligible princes of Europe were, in turn, supposed to be her admirers, and rivals for her hand and fortune. And truly the last legitimate descendant, as she was, of the great Cosimo, was a prize in the matrimonial market - if not for her beauty and her virtues, at all events for her wealth and rank. Indeed, there was a project, seriously entertained, seeing that the elder line of the Medici had failed to produce a male heir, of acknowledging Caterina as "Domina di Firenze," with a strong council of Regency to carry on the government in her name.