Maria, Giovanni, and Gatzia

A Father's Vengeance

"I will have no Cain in my family!" roared out Cosimo de' Medici - " Il Giovane," Duke of Florence, in the forest of Rosignano.

"A Medico of the Medici," prompt in action and suave in repose, his hand flew to his sword hilt, and the cruel, cold steel of a father's wrath flashed in the face of Heaven! Duchess Eleanora made one swift step forward, intent upon shielding her child, but she stood there transfixed with horror - her arms and hands outstretched to the wide horizon in silent supplication, her tongue paralysed!

The kneeling boy grasped his father's knees, weeping piteously, and crying aloud in vain for mercy. Thrusting him from him, and spurning him with his heavy hunting-boot, he plunged furiously his gleaming blade into his son's breast, until the point came out between his shoulderblades!

With one expiring yell of agony and terror, Garzia de' Medici yielded up his fair young life, the victim of inexorable fate. It was high moon, and the watchful stars, of course, could not behold the gruesome deed, but over the autumn sun was drawn a grey purple mist, and gloom settled upon the Maremma. And as the elements paled and were silent, a hush overspread wild nature, not a beast in the thicket, not a bird on the bough, stirred. Sighs siffled through the bracken and the heather, and the roar of the distant sea died away in moaning at the bar.

With a suffocating sob, as though stabbed to death herself, the Duchess swooned upon the ground, and, whilst the courtiers in the company hastened to her assistance, the huntsmen reverently covered the still quivering body of the young prince with their embroidered livery cloaks.

Not much more than a mile away another corpse was being gently borne by tender loving hands - it was Giovanni's, Garzia's elder brother, the young Cardinal.

Giovanni de' Medici was dead - Garzia was dead; and two virgin souls were winging their flight to join their murdered sister Maria in the Paradise of Peace.

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Cosimo, Duke of Florence, was the son of Giovanni de' Medici - called "delle Bande Nere" and Maria de' Salviati. Born in 1498, at Forli, Giovanni - also known as "Giovannino" to distinguish him from his father Giovanni, "Il Popolano" - was destined from his cradle to a military career. With such a mother as Caterina, the natural daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, he was bound to acquire with her milk the instincts of a pushful personality.

Pope Leo X., who was a Florentine of the Florentines, extended his zealous patronage to the rearing and the training of his youthful relative. If not a caster of horoscopes, he was a reader of character, and, son as he was of Lorenzo "Il Magnifico," he foresaw a future for " Giovannino" fraught with immense importance to his family and his native city.

After receiving his early training as a soldier in Rome, attached to the staff of one or other of the Condottieri, young Giovanni was appointed to a military command with the Papal army in Lombardy, when he was little more than out of his teens. His splendid physique and his prowess in friendly encounter, revealed the lion that was in him. The leader in all boyish pranks and rivalries, he displayed intrepid courage and unfailing resourcefulness when called upon to prove his metal. To strike quickly and to strike hard, he knew very well meant the battle half won - hence there was added to his sobriquet two significant appellations - "L'Invincible" and "Il Gran Diabolo!"

The troops under his command were, as was the rule in the Papal armies, composed of motley companies of alien mercenaries and forced levies, but, in addition, very many soldiers of fortune, attracted by his fame, rallied to his banner. Very soon the "Bande Nere," as Giovanni's force was called, gave evidence that they had no equals in equipment and efficiency. Their leader took as his models the infantry of Spain and the cavalry of Germany. Each man wore a black silk ribbon badge, and each lance bore its black pennon - hence the "Bande Nere."

It has been said of Mars, the God of War, that he was susceptible to the wiles of Venus, even when intent on deeds of daring, so, too, was it true of Condottiere Giovanni de' Medici. Although born outside the "City of the Lily," and the child of a non-Florentine mother, he and his were always on terms of good relationship with the gentle Duke Lorenzo. His associations with Florence were of the closest nature, and "Giovannino" was quite content to look for his bride among the marriageable maidens there.

With an ever open eye to a goodly marriage portion, Messer Giovanni "Il Popolano" viewed the daughters of the Salviati with approval. That house was famous for its financial prominence - rivalling that of his own, and Messer Giacopo's three girls were noted for good looks and clever brains. Whether love, or money, was the magnet, or whether the two ran together in double harness, young "Giovannino " took tight hold upon the reins, and he and Maria Salviati were betrothed in the autumn of 1517.