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Solving a Renaissance Murder Mystery

The most powerful family of Florence and the most powerful man in the world offer a new solution to one of the most notorious crimes of the age.

The Death of Alessandro de’ Medici, by Giuseppe Bellucci, 1864 © Luisa Ricciarini/Bridgeman Images.

It was a chilly winter morning on 26 February 1548, a day like any other. Florentine nobleman Lorenzino de’ Medici had just left the church of San Polo in Venice with his uncle. He was strolling along unsuspectingly when suddenly two hired killers wielding daggers stepped out to confront him. Lorenzino was felled by a blow to the head and quickly dispatched as he lay on the ground. His body was left there while his uncle managed to flee and the killers vanished.

Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (aka Lorenzino) was no ordinary victim: 11 years before, in 1537, he had pulled off one of the most notorious murders in Renaissance history, assassinating the man who was then Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. The case of Lorenzino’s murder was soon resolved. His killers were easily identified (though never arrested or sentenced) and it was clear to everyone at the time that the crime was payback for the 1537 assassination. It was widely accepted that Lorenzino’s murder had been arranged by the man who succeeded Alessandro de’ Medici, the new Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de’ Medici.

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