Medici: Masters of Florence – Masters of Their Own Fate

Detail Gozzoli Medici Procession
Cosimo and Contessina

Annabel Scholey as Contenssina and Richard Madden as Cosimo in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Reputation, fame and secular glory was everyman’s goal with the advent of humanism in the fifteenth century in Italy. Those who gained success by increasing the prestige of their ancestry and lineage as it did in the Medici family of Florence.

The Medici family were masters of their own fate, emerging from nowhere to become part of the establishment while leading change on the sociocultural and economic scene, forever bringing about a gradual change in attitude towards establishing a more educated and enlightened society.

At this time in Italy many of the beliefs and values western civilisation now treasures the most today were reaffirmed

  • The effectiveness of personal freedom and liberty
  • The generous toleration of all other religions
  • Pride in self and family with
  • Art, in all its forms providing us all with a vehicle for self discovery

The final two Episodes 7 and 8 of Medici: Masters of Florence open with Pope Eugenius IV (David Bamber) saying Mass for the souls of Rinaldo (Lex Shrapnel) and his son Orlando Albizzi (Eugenio Franceschini), whose bodies have been carried back to Florence after being murdered by mercenaries.

David Bamber as Pope

David Bamber as Pope Eugenius IV, in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Don’t read any more if you don’t want spoilers.

The Signoria of Florence without wasting time is already seeking a replacement for their former member and whoever betrayed him with Andrea Pazzi (Daniel Caltagrirone), head of the Pazzi family put forward.

Mastro Bredani (Fortunato Cerlino) a local merchant in the market however is the chosen candidate of Cosimo de ‘Medici (Richard Madden) and he sends his son Piero (Alessandro Sperduti) to inform the members of the Signoria, with Lucrezia (Valentina Belle) urging her husband to succeed.

Cosimo Medici

Richard Madden as Cosimo and Guido Caprino as Marco Bello in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Marco Bello (Guido Carpino) and his master Cosimo are alone at last, with an opportunity to talk in private. Cosimo sensing something is troubling his loyal friend enquires why and is surprised when Marco asks ‘what if the truth brings you pain’.

He then tells his master the dagger found in the back of the man who sold the poison that killed his father, had been traced to his brother Lorenzo. Cosimo angrily challenges Lorenzo who denies involvement and says you know I could not do this. Cosimo on a crusade confines his brother to his room so that he can think it through.

The Pope is still staying in their house and joins them for dinner. Election of a new candidate in the Signoria is taking place, and the Medici candidate is victorious. Lucrezia also sneaks into Lorenzo’s room to talk to him despite Piero forbidding her to do so, but she’s riled up about him being falsely accused by his brother.

Brian Cox

Brian Cox as Guadagni, head of the Signoria of Florence in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

The Signoria under the auspices of Guadagni (Brian Cox) is voting to strip Albizzi’s property from his widow and Cosimo speaks up on her behalf and urges members to vote to change the law so the widow can keep her home. When it is over Madonna Albizzi comes to thank him and bless him.

Pazzi is suspicious of his kindness for the wife of his fiercest enemy as Cosimo goes to pray in the cathedral with the Pope, where he tells him of his family’s piety. God sees all our deeds and failings he retorts, but invites Cosimo to pray with him anyway.

The Medici candidate Bredani the olive oil merchant elected to the Signoria is now murdered? Cosimo comes to talk with Lorenzo, as he has nightmares that Albizzi has come back.

Cosimo Wife

Annabel Scholey as Contenssina in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Cosimo’s wife Contessina (Annabel Scholey) goes to see Madonna Albizzi… to offer her compassion but it is rejected. You are married to a monster she tells her before showing her out. When she challenges her husband he asks if she thinks he could live with that man’s death on my conscience.

The Pope has left their house his trust in his host shattered. Contessina tells Cosimo so that he is not scandalized by rumours. He goes to see the Pope at a nearby convent where he observes him speaking to Pazzi. Tell me Cosimo he asks when he appears, did you order the deaths of the Albizzi?

Lorenzo and Bianca

Stuart Martin as Lorenzo and Miriam Leone as Bianca in Netflix TV series Medici: Masters of Florence

Ugo the Medici family chief accountant tells Lorenzo and Cosimo both… all this is about Rosa, the girl Lorenzo loved. I knew how much you loved her and your father knew too… he ordered me to get rid of her all those years ago. I offered her money as your father instructed… but she refused.

She was carrying your baby… and your father insisted she leave and I took her for a home for unmarried mothers and told her it was for the best. Your father ordered me to keep her a secret… and then she and the baby died.

Lucrezia has found a bill of sale for hemlock left conveniently in Marco Bello’s saddlebags forcing him to defend his honour… and as he leaves the family he loves so well having been falsely accused, he asks Cosimo ‘do you understand the price you have paid’.

Pazzi 1

Daniel Caltagirone as Pazzi in Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Two hooded riders arrive at the Palazzo Medici and Pazzi bursts into Cosimo’s study with a letter from the Pope saying that His Holiness won’t be banking with the Medici any more. Pazzi tells him he’s going to take over the city. He asks for three days grace.

Cosimo rides out to see the Pope. Ever since I gave you sanctuary in my home you have begun to doubt me. Seeing me in my home has made me seem a small man. My architect Filippo Brunelleschi has a theory where he orders things through the use of what he calls perspective, where something small may also seem enormous from where you view it.

In the wider world you need my help and my power… and the Lord has provided me as your solution he tells his holiness. The Duke Visconti has raised an army to put a new Pope on the throne at Rome and he has to be defeated. I have the means and method to help you and make sure you are victorious.

Cosimo and Pope

David Bamber as the Pope and Richard Madden as Cosimo in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

The soldier Bishop Viteleschi will fight for you and they are camped outside Rome ready to fight for you…. and I can fund that. It will keep the church united behind you.

Your sins may be monstrous the Pope tells Cosimo… are you sure there isn’t anything you wish to confess. Cosimo challenges him – Pazzi convinced you I was behind the murders of Albizzi and his son. Do you not see it as in his interest to do so – I let Albizzi and his son go, and they were killed by bandits.

Contessina is on the warpath she has discovered her husband’s mistress Maddelana is with child and there is no way of proving if it is Cosimo’s or the now departed Marco Bello’s.

Lorenzo comes to say goodbye, he’s leaving and Cosimo tells him he needs him by his side. He apologises to his brother and Lorenzo promises to pursue the truth and find out whether it is Pazzi all along who has been the real villain in the piece, playing the long game.

Ugo and Cosimo are going to Rome…he wants to back the ‘right’ man to be Pope… it is about backing the right man the one who is going to win. He tells Cosimo they could survive without the Papal accounts, they could survive to live another day. Cosimo declares we are not only fighting for the family, we are fighting to secure the future of the Christian faith.

Lucrezia and Piero

Valentine Belle as Lucrezia and Alessandro Sperduti as Piero, in Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Piero’s ambitious wife Lucrezia is urging him into action to secure his rights as heir by speaking to the Signoria again. She tells him about the illegitmate child on the way, which could usurp their position in the family, as they are both as yet childless.

Lorenzo is off to the haunts of ordinary men to gain information. He discovers Marco Bello lurking in the shadows on a crusade of his own.

The landlord of the tavern he’s staying in is a dangerous cutthroat from Milan, a big ugly man … Fezetti left for Rome yesterday…. He wasn’t very pretty but had a beautiful horse…a white stallion. I didn’t think he would pay his debts … but he had a bag of money and it was the Pazzi who gave it to him.

Piero is in the Signoria council proposing a one off tax to aid the Pope and get him back to Rome. The Pazzi and members of the Signoria howl him down and says the merchants and the families cannot pay the tax. Then Piero floors them all after allowing them to humiliate him once too often, by saying the new tax will be paid for by the banks.

Piero challenges the members of the Signoria to become god fearing men of faith by saying that if this assembly shirks their duty, the Medici will pay on their behalf. What he is offering is that all of them have an opportunity to help the Medici by securing the future of Christianity.

While all this is going on Cosimo is meeting with the warrior Bishop Vitaleschi outside Rome and they strike a deal.

Lorenzo de Medici

Stuart Martin as Lorenzo in the Netflix TV Series Medici: Masters of Florence

Lorenzo is on the trail of finding the assassin Fezetti and finds his horse and the man who stole it in bed with a whore. However the villain gains the upper hand over Lorenzo until suddenly Marco Bello appears and gives him a hand.

Asking why he followed him… Marco Bello tells him to find out if you were loyal to your brother. We were wrong to accuse you, Lorenzo tells him, and they part on good terms as Marco won’t return until the truth about their father’s murder is revealed.

Contessina asks Maddalena to tell the truth… do you know who the father of your child is… for certain. She says yes, and it is not Marco Bello as he would have taken me with him when he left because he always treated me with respect.

Lucrezia comes to tell Contessina of Piero’s great victory, until he comes home and they celebrate. Lorenzo brings the thief back to Florence and stops on the way to give Contessina the proof of the Pazzi’s guilt, a letter written in his own hand.

When he takes him to the gaol he is attacked, knifed and killed by the guards – sadly he has underestimated the reach of the Pazzi.

Meanwhile Contessina comes to see Cosimo …you are not wearing my necklace he observes. I took it off this morning I was going to leave you Cosimo, with all that’s happened on top of that your mistress is going to bear your child.

And yet, you did not leave he says… then suddenly the news Lorenzo has been killed arrives…and Cosimo and the family are all totally distraught.

Papal Tiara

The Papal Tiara

Cosimo goes to the Pope relating the plans he is put in place and the Pope tells him war is justified when waived for the right reason. Anything I have ever done is for the glory of God. If you think I will change your mind

He gives the Pope the letter Lorenzo had given to Contessina that proves Pazzi has plotted with Visconti against the Pope, has killed the Medici delegate in the Signoria, and his brother.

As you said, it is inconceivable that a murderer could be papal banker, then I offer my services. Vintelleschi has triumphed in Rome and the papal throne is now yours.

He comes to Contessina – my father said sometimes you have to do bad in order to do good and sometimes I fear I have become him. He and Contessina kiss and make up and she tells him they will raise ‘his’ child between them. She offers her help for all his endeavours and they are reconciled.

Maddalena is able to throw light on Marco Bello’s innocence but instead of telling Cosimo in his absence she goes to Ugo who tells her to supress the information. We discover through flashbacks it is he who killed Giovanni all those years ago.

Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici’s vision had extended beyond his own lifetime but Ugo had not agreed with many of his actions, especially the part he played in tearing Lorenzo away from the love of his life Bianca and her child who died at his hands. It’s all come back to haunt him and it’s why he poisoned the grapes and watched Giovanni die.

Detail Gozzoli Medici Procession

Detail: Procession of the Magi,” fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli, 1459; in the Medici-Riccardi Palace, Florence.

Ugo goes to see Cosimo who is totally unaware of his involvement before the annual procession of the Magi is about to take place. He comforts him by telling him you have not become your father. You are a far better man than your father ever was.

We are left with the image of the Medici family all taking part in the procession, including Ugo. Lucrezia who tells Contessina she’s finally with child and if it’s a boy Piero and I will call it Lorenzo.

The acting, the production and the costuming of this series has been outstanding, although it’s sad the producers chose to invent fictional events when the Medici family’s real story is in itself so well documented and exciting.

View of Duomo from Medici Palazzo

View of the Duomo (Cathedral) at Florence, surmounted by a dome designed and built by Filippo Brunelleschi

As the Medici: Masters of Florence parade through Florence we can see the dome on the Duomo is once again, under architect Filippo Brunelleschi’s guidance, soaring ever upward. They certainly left their mark not only on the history of Florence but on the freedoms and lifestyle we enjoy today.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

Postscript

After Cosimo’s death the Signoria awarded Cosimo de’ Medici the title of Pater Patriae, “Father of the Country” and had it carved upon his tomb in the Church of San Lorenzo, whose design reflects the focus on perspective in art and architecture during the period in which he lived, the one that Cosimo de ‘Medici so admired.

Lorenzo II de ‘Medici became Lorenzo the Magnificent and he will be the subject of Series Two: Medici: Masters of Florence coming in 2018.

 

 

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