Lorenzo - Il Magnifico
His next move was the withdrawal of the Duke of Urbino, his relative, from the military service of the Republic, and his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Papal forces. This manoeuvre was regarded with alarm by all the Italian States, and a league was formed by Florence, Venice, and Milan, to check Papal encroachments.
Sixtus made overtures to the Duke of Milan to detach him from the alliance, but, apparently, they failed of their object. The Duke was friendly with Lorenzo and had no wish to become embroiled with Florence.
All these plots and counterplots were exactly to the liking of Francesco de' Pazzi, and he laid himself out to make capital out of them. Not only did he encourage the Pope in his inimical policy, but he placed at his command the sum of money which had been refused by the Medici bank. Sixtus was delighted with his new and wealthy adherent, and forthwith gave the presidents of the Medici bank in Rome notice that they no longer retained his confidence as Papal bankers, and that, accordingly, he had transferred the accounts of the Curia to the care of the rival Pazzi house. Upon Francesco de' Pazzi he conferred the accolade of knighthood. This hostile action of course further estranged Lorenzo and the Government of Florence, and, quite naturally, a system of quarrelsome incidents was set up, with a very complete equipment of spies.
Sixtus never concealed his desire for the overthrow of Lorenzo and the subversion of the Florentine Government, and his hostility found a whole-hearted response in the persons of Count Girolamo de' Riari, Archbishop Francesco de' Salviati, and Cavaliere Francesco de' Pazzi. The Pope exulted openly in what capital he could make out of tales and gossip about Lorenzo and his entourage. Two prominent Florentines fomented this factious spirit. Giovanni Neroni - the Archbishop of Florence in succession to Archbishop d'Orsini, brother of the notorious Diotisalvi, who was banished in 1466 - and Agnolo Acciaiuolo - also banished the same year, who resided in Rome and was an especial favourite at the Vatican.
Charges of opposition to the policy of the Pope were freely thrown in the teeth of Lorenzo, and some of them were true, for the actions of the Pope led all observant men to the conclusion that he proposed to assume the role of arbiter in the affairs of all the Italian States. On the other hand, Lorenzo's policy was peaceful, his aim being the consolidation of Medicean domination in the affairs of the Republic.
Causes such as these brought about the initiation of the dastardly plot known in history as "The Pazzi Conspiracy." The name is somewhat open to criticism, for, although the Pazzi were the chief instruments employed, and exceeded all others in detestation of the Medici, the "forefront and head of the offending" was no less a personage than Pope Sixtus IV.
"His Holiness hates Lorenzo," said Count Girolamo de' Riari; this was the cue to all that followed. Doubtless the Pope was much in the power of sycophants and adventurers - all immoral rulers are. Each knew his man and held him in the palm of his left hand; and none were backward in impressing this knowledge upon him.
"We can always make our lord the Pope do as we please," was Archbishop Salviati's very apposite declaration! It was re-echoed by Francesco de' Pazzi, who added significantly, "and we mean to rid Florence of the Medici."
* * * * *
All through the year 1477 the three arch-conspirators were elaborating their plan of action. Possibly Sixtus - and we may give the miscreant the favour of the doubt - at first merely wished to upset the Government of Florence and banish Lorenzo and Giuliano by direct means. When, however, it was borne in upon him that the immense popularity of the Medici would, in the event of their supersession, only lead to their triumphant recall, he agreed that there was nothing for it but the removal of the two brothers in a more summary manner.
This association of Giuliano with Lorenzo was a miserable exhibition of personal spite. He had refused him the Cardinalate simply because he foresaw the succession of a Medici to the Papal throne, whilst he purposed handing over the triple tiara to his son, Cardinal Piero de' Riari. Nevertheless, there was some idea in the mind of Sixtus, which he conveyed to his fellow-conspirators, of making an agreement with Giuliano, that if he would condone the exile of his brother, then his should be the reversion of the Popedom after Cardinal de' Riari!
Some authorities say Giuliano lent a not unwilling ear to those overtures, but a saner view is that expressed by Agnolo Poliziano in an epigram: -
"Lorenzo - Giuliano - one spirit, love, and aim Animate you both - this, truly, I, your friend, proclaim."
Giuliano's love for Lorenzo was, like that of David and Jonathan, "a love surpassing that of women." He consistently submitted his own ambitions to the exaltation of his brother's magnificence.
The cogitations of the leaders of the conspiracy were disturbed by the fact that, however excellent their schemes might be, there was absolute necessity for the co-operation of other influences. Rome unaided could not cope with Florence, backed as she was by France, Venice, Milan, Ferrara, and Mantua. Sixtus consequently broached the subject of the suppression of the Medici to the King of Naples and to the Duke of Urbino - the support of Siena was always assured in any attack on her great rival.