Catherine Fletcher’s new book The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici will be out on 21 April 2016. The biography is published by Bodley Head, and a US edition will be out in September from Oxford University Press.
The year is 1531. After years of brutal war and political intrigue, the bastard son of a Medici Duke and a ‘half-negro’ maidservant rides into Florence. Within a year, he rules the city as its Prince. Backed by the Pope and his future father-in-law the Holy Roman Emperor, the nineteen-year-old Alessandro faces down bloody family rivalry and the scheming hostility of Italy’s oligarchs to reassert the Medicis’ faltering grip on the turbulent city-state. Six years later, as he awaits an adulterous liaison, he will be murdered by his cousin in another man’s bed.
From dazzling palaces and Tuscan villas to the treacherous backstreets of Florence and the corridors of papal power, the story of Alessandro’s spectacular rise, magnificent reign and violent demise takes us deep beneath the surface of power in Renaissance Italy – a glamorous but deadly realm of spies, betrayal and vendetta, illicit sex and fabulous displays of wealth, where the colour of one’s skin meant little but the strength of one’s allegiances meant everything.
Rich with character and drama, The Black Prince of Florence is the first retelling of Alessandro’s life in two hundred years, shining a brilliant new light on the opulent, cut-throat world of Renaissance Italy.
“Nothing in sixteenth century history is more astonishing to our era than the career of Alessandro de’ Medici. His story, told by an exact and fluent historian, challenges our preconceptions.Catherine Fletcher’s eye for the skewering detail makes the citizens of renaissance Florence live again: courtesans and cardinals, artists and assassins” (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall)
“A scintillating book that glisters and gleams with stabbings, poisonings, adultery and intrigue – and a startling reminder of how visceral and dangerous Renaissance Florence was. The drama of events is perfectly complemented by careful scholarship and lucid writing. This is everything a historical biography should be” (Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England)
“Packed with intrigue … Fletcher describes with cool menace the plotting and politicking that dominated Alessandro’s rule … brought splendidly to life in this excellent book” (Dan Jones Sunday Times)
“More than just a forensic reconstruction of the period … Like a detective, Fletcher interrogates her witnesses … But it is among the detailed records of Alessandro’s wardrobe-keepers that she finds her treasure … These lend her narrative a sensuous vividity” (Frances Wilson Sunday Telegraph *****)
“An original, revelatory and gripping biography. Not only a vivid evocation of the violence and glamour of sixteenth-century Florence, but also a fresh perspective on the history of race and the concept of the Renaissance man” (Jessie Childs, author of God’s Traitors)
Available to purchase in hardback and e-book editions :
Links to Catherine’s radio interviews about the book:
BBC Radio 3 Essay on ‘The Moor of Florence: A Medici Mystery’, recorded at the Free Thinking Festival, broadcast Monday 9 November 2015.
BBC Radio 4 Catherine discussed Alessandro on Start the Week, with Claudia Rankine, Amir Darwish and Jules Holroyd (also recorded at the Free Thinking Festival on 7 November 2015, broadcast Monday 9th).
Links to Catherine’s video interviews about the book:
BBC Arts video on ‘The Renaissance Prince’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, broadcast 31 May 2016.
Video for Swansea University, talking about The Black Prince of Florence.
Links to reviews of the book:
Matthew Lyons for The Financial Times.
Daisy Dunn for The Times (£).
Alex Von Tunzelmann for The Spectator.
Jonathan Keates for The Literary Review.
Jonathan Wright for The Tablet (£).
Dan Jones for The Sunday Times (£).