Alessandro de Medici: First Duke of Florence
Sixteenth-century African-Italian ruler Alessandro de Medici “Il Moro” was born July 22, 1510; he was the son of an African servant woman named Simonetta da Collavechio and the seventeen-year-old Cardinal Giulio de Medici who later became Pope Clement VII. Cardinal Giulio de Medici, was the nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Alessandro de Medici’s African heritage is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
Alessandro de Medici was the first Black head of state in the modern western world. On being elected Pope in 1523, Cardinal Giulio was forced to relinquish the lordship of Florence, but appointed a regent for his thirteen-year-old son Alessandro, who had just been created Duke of Penna. A title also went to a nephew, Ipollito. Even though both were illegitimate births, they were the last of what has come to be referred to as the elder line of the family.
Republicanism had grown in Florence under the regent, and when Emperor Charles V sacked Rome in 1527, the Florentines took advantage of the situation to install a more democratic form of government; both de Medici and Ipollito fled. When peace was finally made two years later between the Papal and the Imperial factions, Charles V agreed to restore Florence to De Medici. After a siege of eleven months, Alessandro was brought back as the Emperor’s designated head of state. In 1532, the new Florentine constitution declared him hereditary Duke of the republic. With the death of his father, the Pope, in 1534, the exiles attempted to oust the Duke de Medici from Florence. But the Emperor decided to uphold him—and in an obvious show of support, gave de Medici his own daughter, Margaret of Austria, as his wife.
Alessandro seems to have remained faithful to one mistress, Taddea Malaspina, who bore his only children Giulio de’ Medici (c. 1533/37-1600) and Giulia de’ Medici, who married her cousin Bernardetto de’ Medici, Signore di Ottaiano.
Despite heavy security, Lorenzino “Lorenzaccio” de Medici—a distant cousin who had ingratiated himself in order to win his confidence—assassinated Alessandro de Medici a few months after his wedding in 1537. Lorenzino honey-trapped Alessandro through the ruse of a promised arranged sexual encounter with Lorenzino’s sister Laudomia. For fear of starting an uprising if news of his death got out, Medici officials wrapped Alessandro’s corpse in a carpet and secretly carried it to the cemetery of San Lorenzo, where it was hurriedly buried. Lorenzino, in a declaration published later, said that he had killed Alessandro for the sake of the republic.
When the anti-Medici faction failed to rise, Lorenzino fled to Venice, where he was killed in 1548. The Medici supporters (called “Palleschi” from the balls on the Medici arms) ensured that power then passed to Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first of the “junior” branch of the Medici to rule Florence.
During his reign, he wielded great power as the first Duke of Florence. He was the patron of some of the leading artists of the era, and is one of the two Medici princes whose remains are buried in the famous tomb by Michelangelo.
Sources: blackhistory and Wikipedia