Lorenzo - Il Magnifico
GIULIANO - "Il Pensieroso."
Such was the stirring cry which resounded through the lofty Council Chamber of the famous Palazzo Vecchio that dull December day in the year 1469.
Never had such a title been accorded to any one in Florence, where every man was as good as, if not better than, his neighbour. Foreign sovereigns, and their lieutenants, who, from time to time, visited the city and claimed toll and fealty from the citizens, had never been addressed as "Signori" - "Lords and Masters." The "Spirito del Campanile" as it was called, was nowhere more rampant than in the "City of the Lion and Lily," where everybody at all times seemed only too ready to disparage his fellow.
The cry was as astounding as it was unanimous - "Signori!" " Signori!" "Evviva i due Signori de' Medici!" "Signori! " "Signori!" "Evviva i due figli della Domina Lucrezia." Thus it gathered strength - its importance was emphatic - it was epoch-marking.
"Signori!" "Signori!" was the acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Medici, made quite freely and spontaneously by the dignified Lords of the Signory, in the name of the whole population of Florence and Tuscany.
* * * * *
Piero de' Medici died on 3rd December 1469, and his interment, which was conducted with marked simplicity, in accordance with his will, was completed that same evening. He had, during his short exercise of power as Capo della Repubblica, given a pageant - "The Triumph of Death," he called it, by way of being his own funeral obsequies - a grim anticipation of the future indeed!
At midnight a secret meeting of citizens was convened, by the officials of the Signoria, within the Monastery of Sant' Antonio by the old Porta Faenza, to debate the question of filling the vacant Headship of the State. Why such a remote locality was chosen is not stated, but it was in conformity with Florentine usage, which, for general and personal security, required secrecy in such gatherings.
More than six hundred - "the flower of the city" as Macchiavelli called them - attended, and upon the proposition of Ridolfo de' Pandolfini, Messer Tommaso Soderini, by reason of seniority of years and priority of importance, was called upon to preside. "Being one of the first citizens and much superior to the others, his prudence and authority were recognised not only in Florence, but by all the rulers of Italy."
The Soderini had, for three hundred years, held a leading position in the affairs of Florence; but they were rivals and enemies of the Medici. Indeed Messer Tommaso's uncle - Ser Francesco - was one of the principal opponents in the city counsels of Cosimo - "il Padre della Patria." Messer Niccolo, his brother, carried on the feud, and was, with Diotisalvi Neroni, Agnolo Acciaiuolo, and others, banished in 1455, for their complicity in the abortive attempt to assassinate Piero de' Medici.
Messer Tommaso, more prescient and prudent, threw in his lot with the Medici, and was chosen by Piero, not only as his own chief counsellor and intimate friend, but as the principal adviser of his two young sons - Lorenzo and Giuliano. He had, moreover, allied himself to the Medici by his marriage with Dianora de' Tornabuoni, sister of Domina Lucrezia, Piero's wife.
All the same, he kept his own counsel and took up a perfectly independent line of action, being quite remarkable for his display of that most pronounced characteristic of all good Florentines - the placing of Florence first - "Firenze la prima!"
At the meeting, at Sant' Antonio, his rising to speak was the signal for general applause. In a few generous words he eulogised the gentle virtues of Piero and bemoaned his premature death. In a longer and more serious oration, on the conditions politically and socially of Florence and of the whole State, he put before his hearers two uncontrovertible considerations, to guide them in the exercise of the selection of a new Capo della Repubblica, - first. The maintenance of unity and tranquillity; and second. The preservation of the status quo.
Many and friendly were the interruptions of the oration, and over and over again shouts were raised for "Tommaso Soderini il Capo! " Gracefully he bowed his acknowledgment, but, with much feeling, declined the rare honour offered him. Then he went on to say that as the supreme office had been worthily served by Cosimo and Piero de' Medici, it was but fitting that it should be continued in that illustrious family.
He expatiated upon the advantages which had accrued to Florence under the Headship of the Medici; and he urged upon the assembly to offer their allegiance to Piero's sons, and to give them the authority that their father and grandfather had possessed.