Lucrezia - Eleanora - Isabella
Eleanora was dead! Her life's blood crimsoned, in a gory stream, the marble lintel, and Piero gazed at the victim of his desertion, lust, and hate - he was mad!
Kneeling upon his knees in the hellish darkness, he tried to stanch that ruddy stream. Then he laved his hands in her hot blood and conveyed some to his raging lips! Reason presently asserted herself; and, throwing himself prostrate along the floor, he banged his head, thereupon calling out in a frenzy of remorse for mercy for his deed!
"God of Heaven," he pleaded, "judge between my wife and me - I vow that I will do penance for my deed, and never wed again."
The short summer's night early gave place to the dawn - not rosy that sad morning, but overcast - gloom was in everything. Piero was still praying by his dead wife's side when the tramp of footsteps upon the gravel outside the house fell upon his ears. Swiftly he ran and closed the entrance-doors, and then calling in a creature of his - a base-born medico - he ordered him to make, there and then, an autopsy of the corpse, and report according to his express instructions.
"Death from heart failure and the rupture of an artery," such ran the medical certificate of death! Miserable Eleanora di Piero de' Medici was buried ceremoniously in the family vault at San Lorenzo, and Piero made a full confession to his brother, the Grand Duke.
Francesco counselled him to leave Florence at once, and seek a temporary home at the Court of Madrid, where he might inform his kinsman by marriage - the King of Spain - of the truth about Eleanora's death. It was reported at the time that Piero gained possession of Eleanora's child, Cosimo, and took him away with him from Florence; but what became of the unfortunate little fellow no one ever knew - probably he went home to his mother in Paradise just to be out of the way!
Don Piero was appointed by King Philip to a command in the war with Portugal, but, whilst he distinguished himself by bravery and ability during the campaign, on his return to Madrid he began the evil life he had left behind in Florence. The religiously disposed courtiers were shocked and outraged by his enormities, and, at last, the King requested his unwelcome visitor to go back to Tuscany.
The Grand Duke very unwillingly allowed Piero to settle once more in Florence. His house in the Via Larga - it had been occupied by the scapegrace assassin, Lorenzino - again was a nursery of immorality, as well as the headquarters of the enemies of his brother. Piero became the ally of the scheming Cardinal Ferdinando, but his depraved and evil life was to the end given over to the basest uses of human nature, and he died miserably, as he well deserved, in 1604, having outlived his second wife - Beatrice, daughter of the Spanish Duke of Meneses - two years. Of legitimate offspring he left none, but there survived him eight natural children by two Spanish nuns in the grand ducal convent of the Santa Assunta delle Murate.
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After the death of Maria, his eldest daughter, Duke Cosimo centred his paternal affection in his second daughter, Isabella Romola. She was born in 1542, just a year younger than his eldest son, Francesco Maria. Her Spanish name endeared her especially to the Duchess Eleanora, who built many "Castelli en Espana" for her child.
The young Princess was a bonnie, precocious little girl. At her christening it was said, greatly to his embarrassment, she kissed the ascetic bishop who held her at the font; this was taken as an omen of her success in the service of Prince Cupid! Brought up with her two sisters and her brothers, Francesco and Giovanni, she very early gave evidence of charming and peculiar talent.
Merry as a bird and playful as a kitten, the young girl was singing, singing the livelong day, and dancing with the utmost grace and freedom. She greatly astonished her parents by her musical gifts and by her talent as an improvvisatrice. She composed, when only ten years of age, some really excellent canzone and, more than this, she set them to her own tunes for the lute and pipe, and arranged a very graceful ballet.
At Court, Isabella was now known as "Bianca la Seconda," her attainments and her person recalling those of Bianca, "the tall daughter" of Piero and Lucrezia de' Medici. She had, as well, a remarkable taste for languages: she rivalled her sister Maria in Latin, which she wrote and spoke with ease. Spanish seemed to come to her naturally, greatly to the delight of her mother the Duchess, and French she acquired with similar success.
With her facile pen she could design and draw what she willed, with as great freedom as she applied to musical notation. Indeed, there seemed to be no art in which she could not distinguish herself, and she received encouragement from all the most famous artists of her father's Court. One of her panegyrists has written thus of Princess Isabella: "Suffice it to say, that she was esteemed by all - strangers as well as those about her - a perfect casket of virtue and knowledge. She was greatly beloved, not only by her parents, but by the whole of the people of Florence."