Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Historic Boys by  E. S. Brooks

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

GIOVANNI OF FLORENCE: THE BOY CARDINAL

(Afterward Pope Leo the Tenth.)
[A.D. 1490.]

[154] IT was one of the wild carnival days of 1490. From the great Gate of San Gallo to the quaint old Bridge of the Goldsmiths, the fair city of Florence blazed with light and rang with shout and song. A struggling mass of spectators surged about the noble palace of the Medici, as out through its open gate-way and up the broad street known as the Via Larga streamed the great carnival pageant of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the head of the house of Medici.

"Room for the noble Abbot of Passignano! room for my Lord Cardinal!" shouted a fresh young voice from the head of the grand staircase that led from the loggia of the palace to the great entrance-hall below.

"So; say'st thou thus, Giulio?" another boyish voice exclaimed. "Then will I, too, play the herald for thee. Room," he cried, "for the worthy Prior of Capua! room for the noble Knight of St. John!" And down the broad staircase, thronged with gallant costumes, brilliant banners, and gleaming lances, the two merry boys elbowed their way.

[155] Boys? you ask. Yes, boys—both of them, for all their priestly and high-sounding titles. In those far-off days, as we shall see, honors were distributed not so much for merit as from policy; and when royalty married royalty at ten and twelve to serve the ends of state, there was nothing so very wonderful in a noble prior of eleven or a lord cardinal of thirteen.

"Well, well, my modest young Florentines," said Lorenzo de Medici, in his harsh but not unkindly voice, as he met the boys in the grand and splendidly decorated entrance-hall; "if ye do but make your ways in life with such determination as that, all offices needs must yield to you. A truce to tattle, though, my fair Giulio. Modesty best becomes the young; Giovanni's cardinalate, remember, has not yet been proclaimed, and 'tis wisest to hold our tongues till we may wag them truthfully. But, come," he added in a livelier tone, "to horse, to horse! the Triumph waits for none,—noble abbot and worshipful knight though they be—like to your shining selves. To-night be ye boys only. Ho, for fun and frolic; down with care and trouble! Sing it out, sing it out, my boys, well and lustily:

"Dance and carol every one

Of our band so bright and gay;

See your sweethearts how they run

Through the jousts for you to-day."

And with this glee from one of his own gay carnival songs, Lorenzo the Magnificent sprang to the back of his noble [156] Barbary horse, Morello, and spurred forward to mingle in the glories of the pageant.

It was a wondrous display—this carnival pageant, or "Triumph," of the Medici. Great golden cars, richly decorated, and drawn by curious beasts; horses dressed in the skins of lions and tigers and elephants; shaggy buffaloes and timorous giraffes from the Medicean villa at Careggi; fantastic monsters made up of mingled men and boys and horses, with other surprising figures as riders; dragons and dwarfs, giants and genii; beautiful young girls and boys dressed in antique costumes to rep-resent goddesses and divinities of the old mythologies; and a chubby little gilded boy, seated on a great globe and representing the Golden Age—the age of every thing beautiful in art and life;—these and many other attractions made up the glittering display which, accompanied by Lorenzo the Magnificent and his retinue of over five hundred persons, "mounted, masked, and bravely apparelled," and gleaming in the light of four hundred flaring torches, traversed the streets of Florence, "singing in many voices all sorts of canzones, madrigals, and popular songs."


[Illustration]

A CHUBBY LITTLE GILDED BOY, SEATED ON A GREAT GLOBE.

"By the stone nose of the marzoccho, but this is more joyous than the droning tasks we left behind us at Pisa; is it not, my Giovanni?" gayly exclaimed the younger of the two boys as, glittering in a suit of crimson velvet and cloth of gold, he rode in advance of one of the great [157] triumphal cars. "My faith," he continued, "what would grim-eyed old Fra Bartolommeo say could he see thee, his choicest pupil in pontifical law, masking in a violet velvet suit and a gold-brocaded vest?"

"I fear me, Giulio," replied his cousin Giovanni, a pleasant-looking, brown-faced lad of nearly fourteen, "I fear me the good Fra would pull a long and chiding face at both our brave displays. You know how he can look when he takes us to task? And tall? Why, he seems always to grow as high as Giotto's tower there."

"Say, rather, like to the leaning tower in his own Pisa! for he seems as tall, and threatens to come down full as sure and heavily upon us poor unfortunates! Ah, yes, I know how he looks, Giovanni; he tries it upon me full often!" and Giulio's laugh of recollection was tempered with feeling memories.

Here an older boy, a brisk young fellow of sixteen, in a shining suit of silver and crimson brocade, rode toward them.

"Messer Giovanni," he said, "what say'st thou to dropping out of the triumph here by the Vecchio Palace? Then may we go back by the Via Pinti and see the capannucci."

Now, the capannucci  was one of the peculiar carnival institutions of the Florentine boys of old, as dear to their hearts as is the election-night bonfire to our young New Yorker of to-day. A great tree would be dragged into the centre of some broad street or square by a crowd of [158] ready youngsters. There it would be set upright and propped or steadied by great faggots and pieces of wood. This base would then he fired, and as the blaze flamed from the faggots or crept up the tall tree-trunk, all the yelling boys danced in the flaring light. Then, when the capannucci  fell with a great crash, the terrible young Florentine urchins never omitted to wage, over the charred trunk and the glowing embers, a furious rough-and-tumble fight.

Giovanni and Giulio, for all their high-sounding titles, welcomed exciting variety as readily as do any other active and wide-awake boys, and they assented gleefully to the young Buonarotti's suggestion.

"Quick, to the Via Pinti!" they cried, and yielding up their horses to the silver-liveried grooms who attended them, they turned from the pageant, and with their black visors, or half masks, partly drawn, they pushed their way through the crowds that surged under the great bell tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and thronged the gayly decorated street called the Via Pinti.

With a ready handful of danarini  and soldi, small Florentine coins of that day, they easily satisfied the demands of the brown-skinned little street arabs who had laid great pieces of wood, called the stili, across the street, and would let none pass until they had yielded to their shrill demand of "Tribute, tribute! a soldi  for tribute at the stili  of San Marco!

With laugh and shout and carnival jest, the three boys [159] were struggling through the crowd toward the rising flame of a distant capannucci, when suddenly, with a swish and a thud, there came plump against the face of the young Giovanni one of the thin sugar eggs which, filled with red wine, was one of the favorite carnival missiles. Like a flow of blood the red liquid streamed down the broad, brown cheek of the lad, and streaked his violet tunic. He looked around dismayed.

"Ha, bestia!"  he cried, as his quick eye detected the successful marksman in a group of laughing young fellows a few rods away. "'Twas thou, wast it? Revenge, revenge, my comrades!" and the three lads sent a well-directed volley of return shots that made their assailants duck and dodge for safety. Then followed a frequent carnival scene. The shots and counter-shots drew many lookers-on, and soon the watchers changed to actors. The crowd quickly separated into two parties, the air seemed full of the flying missiles, and, in the glare of the great torches that, held by iron rings, flamed from the corner of a noble palace, the carnival fight raged fast and furiously. In the hottest of the strife a cheer arose as the nimble Giulio, snatching a brilliant crimson scarf from the shoulders of a laughing flower-girl, captured, next, a long pikestaff from a masker of the opposite side. Tying the crimson scarf to the long pike-handle, he charged the enemy, crying, "Ho, forward all!" His supporters followed him with a resistless rush; another volley of carnival ammunition filled the air, and a shout of victory [160] went up as their opponents broke before their charge and the excited crowd went surging up the street. Again a stand was made, again the missiles flew, and now, the candy bon-bons failing, the reckless combatants kept up the fight with street refuse,—dust and dirt, and even dangerous stones.

It was in one of those hand-to-hand encounters that a tall and supple young fellow dashed from the opposing ranks and grappled with Giulio for the possession of the crimson standard. To and fro the boys swayed and tugged. In sheer defence the less sturdy Giulio struck out at his opponent's face, and down dropped the guarded disguise of the small black visor.

"Ho, an Albizzi!" Giulio exclaimed, as he recognized his antagonist. Then, as the long pikestaff was wrested from his grasp, he raised the well-known cry of his house, "Palle, Palle!  Medici to the rescue."

"Ha, Medici—is it?" the young Albizzi cried, and, as Giovanni de Medici pressed to the aid of his cousin, Francesco Albizzi clutched at Giovanni's mask in turn and tore it from his face.

"Hollo!" shouted the scornful Albizzi. "We have uncovered the game! Look, boys, 'tis Messer Giovanni himself! Hail to My Lord Cardinal! Hail to the young magnifico!" and, doffing his purple bonnet, as if in reverence to Giovanni, he struck the lad with it full on his broad, brown cheek.

[161] His followers applauded his deed with a shout, but it was a weak and spiritless one, for it was scarcely safe to make fun of the Medici then in Florence, and cowards, you know, always take the stronger side.

The supporters of the Medici hastened to wipe out the insult offered to the boy cardinal. They pressed forward to annihilate Albizzi's fast-lessening band, but the young Giovanni interfered.

"Nay, hold, friends," he said, "'tis but a carnival frolic, and 'tis ended now. Messer Francesco did but speak in jest, and, sure, I bear no malice."

But the hot-headed Albizzi, the son of a house that had ever been rivals and enemies of the Medici, would listen to no compromise.

"Ho, hark to the smooth-tongued Medici!" he cried. "Boys of Florence, will ye bow to this baby priest? Your fathers were but boys when they struck for the liberties of Florence and drove this  fellow's father, the lordly magnifico, like a whipped cur behind the doors of the sacristy, and scattered the blood of that  boy's father on the very steps of the altar of the Reparata!"

The young Giulio, when he heard this brutal allusion to the murder of his father, could restrain himself no longer; but, rushing at Francesco Albizzi, expended all his fierce young strength upon the older boy in wildly aimed and harmless blows.


[Illustration]

"HOLD, FRIENDS," HE SAID, "'TIS BUT A CARNIVAL FROLIC."

[162] Giovanni would have again interceded, but when he saw the vindictive young Albizzi draw a short dagger from his girdle, he felt that the time for words had passed. Springing to the relief of his cousin, he clutched the dagger-arm of the would-be murderer. There was a rallying of adherents on both sides; young faces grew hot with passion, and a bloody street fight seemed certain.

But, hark! Across the strife comes the clash of galloping steel. There is a rush of hurrying feet, a glare of flaming torches, a glimmer of shining lances, and, around from the Via Larga, in a brilliant flash of color, swings the banner of Florence, the great white lily on the blood-red field. Fast behind it presses the well-known escutcheon of the seven golden balls, and the armed servants of the house of Medici sweeps down upon the combatants.

"Palle, Palle!  Medici, ho, a Medici!" rings the shout of rescue. The flashing Milan sword of young Messer Pietro, the elder brother of Giovanni, gleams in the torch-light, and the headstrong Albizzi and his fellow-rioters scatter like chaff before the onward rush of the paid soldiers of the house of Medici. Then, encompassed by a guard of bristling' lances, liveried grooms, and torch-bearers, and followed by a crowd of shouting boys, masked revellers, and exultant retainers, the three lads hurried down the Via Larga; the great gates of the Palace of the Medici swung open to admit them, and the noise and riot of the carnival died away in the distance. Through the hall of arches and up the grand staircase the lads hastened [163] to where, in the spacious loggia, or enclosed piazza, Lorenzo the Magnificent stood waiting to receive them.

"Well, well, my breathless young citizens," he exclaimed, "what news and noise of strife is this I hear? By San Marco, but you seem in such a sorry strait that I could almost say, with our excellent rhymester, good Ser Folgere:

"'How gallant are ye in your brave attires,

How bold ye look, true paladins of war,—

Stout-hearted are ye—as a hare in chase.'"

But his banter changed to solicitude as he noticed the troubled face of his son. "Who, then, is in fault, my Giovanni?" he asked. "'Twas well for thee that Pietro sallied out in such hot haste; else, from all I hear, the Black Brothers of the Miserecordia might even now be bearing to Santa Maria, or the tomb, a prince of Holy Church, a son of the house of Medici, slain in a vile street brawl."

"Nay, hear, my father, I pray, the whole truth of the matter," Giovanni replied; and, as he relates, in presence of that brilliant and listening company, the story of the carnival fight as we already know it, let us, rather, read hastily the story of the great house of the Medici of Florence, whose princely head now stands before us—he whom the people call "il gran magnifico,"  Lorenzo the Magnificent, the father of the boy cardinal.

Four hundred years, and more, ago there lived in the beautiful Italian city of Firenze, or Florence, a wealthy [164] family known as the Medici. They were what we now call capitalists—merchants and bankers, with ventures in many a land and with banking-houses in sixteen of the leading cities of Europe. Success in trade brought them wealth, and wealth brought them power, until, from simple citizens of a small inland republic they advanced to a position of influence and importance beyond that of many a king and prince of their day. At the time of our sketch, the head of the house was Lorenzo de Medici, called the Magnificent, from his wealth, his power, and his splendid and liberal hospitality. All Florence submitted to his will, and though the fair city was still, in form, a republic, the wishes and words of Lorenzo were as law to his fellow-citizens. A man of wonderful tact and of great attainments, he was popular with young and old, rich and poor. From a glorious romp with the children, he would turn to a profound discussion with wise old philosophers or theologians, could devise means for loaning millions to the king of England, sack a city that had braved the power of Florence, or write the solemn hymns or gay street songs for the priests or for the people of his much loved city. Princes and poets, painters and priests, politicians and philosophers, sat at his bountiful table in the splendid palace at the foot of the Via Larga, or walked in his wonderful gardens of San Marco; rode "a-hawking" from his beautiful villa at Careggi, or joined in the wild frolic of his gorgeous street pageants. Power, such as his could procure or [165] master any thing, and we therefore need not wonder that the two boys whose acquaintance we have made had been pushed into prominence to please the house of Medici. Look well at them again. The boy, who, with face upturned toward his father's kindly eyes, is telling the story of the street fight, is the second son of Lorenzo, Giovanni (or John) de Medici, Abbot of Passignano, and now, though scarcely fourteen, an unproclaimed cardinal of the Church of Rome—the future Leo X., the famous pope of Martin Luther's day. His companion is the young Giulia (or Julius) de Medici, nephew of Lorenzo, and already at thirteen Grand Prior of Capua and Knight of the Holy Order of St. John of Jerusalem. He, too, is to be in future years both cardinal and pope—that Clement VII., of whom you may read in history as the unfortunate prisoner of San Angelo, the antagonist of bluff King Henry VIII. of England. And this other lad, this Buonarotti, who is he? A protégé of Lorenzo, the companion of his sons and a favored guest at his table, his name is to last through the ages high above priest or prince or pope, more illustrious than all the Medici, the wonderful Michael-Angelo, the greatest of all the artists.

"So, so," Lorenzo said, as Giovanni concluded his story "the matter is graver than I thought. 'Tis another yelp from the Albizzi kennel. The Signory must look to it. Young Messer Francesco's tongue wags too freely for the city's good. But back to Pisa must ye go, my lads, for it ill beseems such as you, prelates and grave [166] students of theology as ye are, to be ruffling with daggers drawn in any wild street-brawl that these troublous malcontents may raise against us."

And so back to the quiet University of Pisa went the boys Giovanni and Giulio to pursue their studies in "theology and ecclesiastical jurisprudence." Think how you feel, boys and girls, when, after a particularly jolly vacation, or an entrancing evening at the circus or the pantomime, you go back to what seem to you dull school studies, and then consider whether this boy cardinal, after all the glitter and parade and excitement of the carnival days, could be expected to fully relish his tasks of dry and laborious study. I imagine his solemn old biographer tells but half the truth when he writes: "The splendid exhibitions, the freedom and the songs with which the spectacles of Florence were accompanied, could scarcely have failed to banish at intervals that gravity of carriage which the young cardinal was directed to support";—all of which is a very dry and roundabout way of saying that "boys will be boys," and that young Giovanni de Medici, cardinal though he was, loved mischief and excitement and frolic quite as much as have all healthy young fellows since the days of the very first boy.

Spending his time thus, between his stately Florentine home, his noble old castle of an abbey at Passignano, and the University of Pisa, Giovanni's three years of probation were passed. For a cardinal of thirteen was something out of the common even in those old days of intrigue and [167] bribery, and Pope Innocent the Eighth, in making the appointment, had insisted that the ceremony of investment should not take place until Giovanni's sixteenth year.

"Whither so fast, my Maddalena?" asked young Francesco Albizzi, stopping a dark-haired flower-girl, as on a bright March morning he rode into the city. "What 's astir, cara mia, that thou and all the world seem crowding to meet me, here, at San Gallo's gate?"

"Thou, indeed?" and the flower-girl laughed a merry peal. "Why, brother of the mole and lord of all the bats, where hast thou been asleep not to know that to-day our young Messer Giovanni is to be proclaimed a cardinal?"

"So—the little Medici again?" exclaimed the wrathful Albizzi. "May the marzoccho eat his heart! Must he be always setting the city upside down? Where is it to be, Maddalena?"

"Why, where but at the altar of Fiesole? But do not thou keep me longer," she said, breaking away from the indignant young patriot. "All Florence goes forth to meet my lord cardinal at the Bridge of Mugnone, and my flowers will sell well and rarely to-day. But, hark thee, Messer Francesco," she added, with warning finger, "we are all palleschi to-day, and 'twere best for thee to swallow thy black words. See, yonder rides young Messer Pietro, and the Medici lances are ready and sharp for such as thou."

[168] And, as Albizzi turned sullenly away, Maddalena disappeared in the crowd that, hurrying through San Gallo's gate, headed toward the flower-crowned hill of Fiesole. There, overlooking the "Beautiful City," stood the gray old monastery in which, on that eventful Sunday, the ninth of March, 1492, the young Giovanni received the vestments—the long scarlet frock, the mantle, cape, and train—that he was to wear as cardinal. With simple but solemn words, as one who had known from his very cradle this lad, now raised to so high a position and dignity, the worthy Fra Matteo Bosso, the Prior of Fiesole, conducted the rites of investiture, and the loner expected ceremony was accomplished.

"Illustrissimo," said Pietro de Medici, addressing his brother by the, title which was now his right, "will it please your grace to return to our father's palace? All Florence waits to accompany thee from the Bridge of Mugnone."

So, into the city, attended by the Archbishop of Florence and the civil magistrates, with a glittering retinue, and followed by "an immense multitude on horseback and on foot," with waving banners and shouts of joyous welcome, through the great gate of San Gallo, rode Giovanni de Medici, "on a barded mule housed with trappings of scarlet and gold," to where, in the arched hall of the palace of the Medici, his father, sick and reclining on his litter, awaited the coming of the boy cardinal.

"You are not only the youngest of the cardinals, my [169] Giovanni, but the youngest ever raised to that rank," Lorenzo said, after his warm congratulations had been given. "Endeavor, then, to alleviate the burthen of your early dignity by the regularity of your life and by your perseverance in those studies which are suitable to your profession. Be vigilant, be unassuming, be cautious, and deliberate every evening on what you may have to perform the following day, that you may not be unprepared for whatever may happen."

With these and other words of useful and practical advice did the proud father counsel the young cardinal, and then, from all the acclamations and illuminations, the joy, the fireworks, and the feasting that accompanied the ceremonies at Florence, Giovanni, on the twelfth of March, with a brilliant retinue, departed for Rome. Here, on the fifteenth of March, the Pope, with much pomp, received him "in full consistory," as it is called, welcomed him as a new member of the "College of Cardinals," and gave him the "holy kiss." Placing the great scarlet hat on the boy's head as he knelt before him, the Pope next encircled his finger with the sapphire ring—emblem of fidelity and loyalty,—and the boy arose, by the appointment and creation of Pope Innocent VIII., "the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord Cardinal Giovanni de Medici."

Thus far we have seen only the bright side of the picture—the carnival glories, the processions, the ceremonies, the cheers, the frolic, the feasting. Now comes the darker [170] side; for if ever a boy was to be in trouble, worried, badgered, and disappointed, that boy was "the Most Illustrious and Most Reverend Lord Cardinal Giovanni de Medici." For, like a sudden shock, with many an accompanying "portent" and "sign" that caused the superstitious Florentines to shake their heads in dismay, came the news that Lorenzo the Magnificent was dead. Still in the prime of life, with wealth and power and a host of followers, a mysterious disease laid hold upon him, and on the eighth of April, 1492, he died at his beautiful villa among the olive groves of Careggi, where the windows overlooked the fair valley of the Arno and the "Beautiful Florence" that he had ruled so long. From Rome to Florence, and from Florence to Rome again, the young cardinal posted in anxious haste, as following fast upon the death of his much-loved father came the sudden illness and death of his other patron and protector, Pope Innocent VIII. This occurred on July 25, 1492, and soon again was Giovanni posting back to Florence, a fugitive from Rome, proscribed by the new Pope, Alexander VI., the bitter and relentless enemy of the house of Medici.

But, in Florence, Lorenzo the Magnificent was dead and in his place ruled his eldest son, Messer Pietro. Rash headstrong, overbearing, vindictive, wavering, proud, ant imprudent, this wayward young man of twenty-one succeeded to a power he could not wield and to possessions he could not control. Enemies sprung up, old friends and [171] supporters dropped away, the people lost confidence, and when, by a final blunder, he unnecessarily surrendered to the king of France important Florentine fortresses and territory, the anger of his fellow-citizens broke out in fierce denunciation and open revolt.

There is no merry shouting of titles, no gay carnival dress, no glittering pageant now, as, on the morning of Sunday, the ninth of November, 1494, the young cardinal and his cousin Giulio pass anxiously down the grand staircase of the Medici palace to where in the great entrance-hall the pikestaffs and arquebuses of the Swiss guard ring on the marble floor.

"Think you the Signory will admit him?" Giulio asked of his cousin, as they awaited the return of Pietro from his demand for admittance to the palace of the Signory, the city hall of Florence.

"'Tis a question for an older head than mine, Giulio," replied Giovanni. "Pietro's hot-headedness and the Signory's unreasonable demands may cause a conflict, and the people, I fear me, are so excitable that—but hark! what was that?" he asked hastily as there fell upon their ears the long boom—boom—of a tolling bell.

"By San Marco, the people are up!" said Giulio, excitedly. "'Tis the campana;  'tis the mad bellow of the old cow of the Vacca! Quick, stand to your arms, Giovanni, for soon all Florence will be at your doors!"

Too well the boys knew the meaning of that tolling bell—the great bell of the Palazzo Vecchio, "the old cow [172] of the Vacca," as the Florentines called it. Its loud boom—boom—meant "Danger for Florence!" And, as its clang sounded over the city from gate to gate, every citizen, no matter what he might be doing, answered the summons by snatching up the arms that were handiest and hastening to the great square of the Vecchio.

"Pietro is lost!" shouted the cardinal. "Palle, palle!  Medici to the rescue!" But, before the guard could rally to his summons, the door burst open, and in rushed Pietro de Medici, called the Lord of Florence, white-faced and bespattered with mud, while at his heels followed a dozen equally terrified men-at-arms. Without, the yells and hootings of an angry mob filled the air, and the deeper cry of "Liberty, liberty for the people!" sounded above the din.

"Well, my brother?" was all the cardinal said.

Messer Pietro caught him by the arm. "Quick, send for Orsini and his troops!" he cried excitedly. "Send now, or all is lost, Giovanni. The people are up! The Signory refuses me—me, the Lord of Florence—admittance to the palace. Magistrates whom our father honored and appointed reviled and insulted me; men and women who have lived on our bounty, nay, even the very children hooted and pelted me as I turned from the wicket of the Signory, and now, by the claws of the rnarzocclto! I will have in Orsini's troops and drench the streets with blood."

"Hold, hold, Pietro; not so fast, I pray," Giovanni [173] exclaimed. "Is there no loyalty, no respect for the Medici left in Florence? To horse, and follow me! It shall not be said that the sons of Lorenzo the Magnificent lost their lordship without a struggle."

Again the palace gates were swung open; again the lily-banner of Florence and the ball-escutcheon of the Medici flashed through the city streets as, followed by Giulio and the Swiss halberdiers, the boy cardinal rode toward the palace of the Signory.

"Palle, palle!  Medici! ho, Medici!" rang the well known cry of the great house as the armed guard of the cardinal pressed through the crowded streets.

"Hollo, my Lord Cardinal; well met again!" shouted a mocking voice, and around from the great square of the Duomo came Francesco Albizzi and a motley crowd of followers.

"Back, Albizzi, back!" Giovanni commanded. "Our business is with the Signory and not with feud-breeders such as art thou."

"Ho, hark to the little Illustrissimo! Popolo! ho, popolo!"  Albizzi shouted, and the surging and excited mass swarmed around Giovanni's little band with the ringing cry: "Popolo, popolo! Liberia, Liberia!"  (The people, the people! Liberty for the people.)

All the stout bravery of the lad flashed into his olive cheeks, and the power that belonged to his title of cardinal gave him strength and nerve.

"Men of Florence," he cried, as he rose in his stirrups. [174] "have ye no memories of past benefits received from the house of Medici, ever the helpers of the people? Have ye no memories of the good Lorenzo, the brother of the citizens of Florence? Have ye no reverence for the Church whose instrument I am? Francesco Albizzi, traitor to Florence and the Church,—back, back, on thy life, or I,—even I,—the Cardinal de Medici, will cast upon thy head the curse of Holy Church!"

The crowd wavered and fell back before the determined stand of the young prelate, and even Albizzi's head bent under the priestly threat. But, just then, there sounded again on the air the sullen boom—boom—of the campana, and the cry, "Popolo, popolo!"  rose again from the mob.

"Fly, fly, my Lord Cardinal," said a quick voice, and, turning, Giovanni saw a masked figure and felt a touch upon his bridle-arm. "'Tis I, Buonarotti," said the new-comer, slightly raising his visor. "The Signory have declared both thee and Pietro rebels and outlaws! A price is set upon thy head. Pietro has fled already, and when once the news is known, not even thy cardinal's robes nor thy noble name can save thee from the mob."

Giovanni looked at the rapidly increasing crowd, looked at his insufficient guard, already deserting him in fear, and then said, sadly:

"'Twere better to die for our house than to desert it, but how will it avail? Come, Giulio,"—and, slipping from their horses, the two lads, guided by Buonarotti and a few faithful friends, escaped from the yelling mob into a [175] small tavern, where disguises were in readiness. The cardinal's scarlet robes and the knight's crossletted tunic were exchanged for the gray habits of Franciscan monks, and then, in sorrow and dismay, the boy cardinal fled from his native city. As he hurried through San Gallo's massive gate, with the boom—boom, of that terrible bell still tolling the doom of his family, and the "Popolo; Liberia!"  of an aroused and determined people filling the air, he remembered the brilliance and enthusiasm of other passages through that well-known gate, and with the words "Ungrateful,—ah, ungrateful," on his lips, he hastened to the villa at beautiful Careggi, where the defeated Pietro had taken temporary refuge.

But not long could the banished brothers remain at Careggi. "Two thousand crowns of gold to him who will bring to the Signory at Florence the head of either of the outlawed Medici; five thousand crowns to him who will deliver to the Signory the bodies of these pestilent rebels alive." Thus read the cruel ban of their native city and, first, Pietro, and next, Giovanni, turned from the familiar scenes of their loved country-house and fled in great secrecy toward Bologna. But the hunters were after them, and for two anxious weeks this young Giovanni, a cardinal of Rome and a prince of Holy Church, whose boyish days had been filled with pleasure and brightness, whose slightest wish had ever been gratified, remained concealed, in the deepest recesses of the Apennines, a rebel and an outlaw, with a price upon his head.

[176] Eighteen years passed away, and on the morning of the fourteenth of September, 1512, two full-robed priests, surrounded by a great escort of glittering lances and a retinue of heavy-armed foot-soldiers, entered the gate-way of the "Beautiful City." They were the Cardinal de Medici and his faithful cousin returning to their native city, proudly and triumphantly, after eighteen years of exile. Boys no longer, but grave and stalwart men, Giovanni and Giulio rode through the familiar streets and past the old land-marks that they had never forgotten, to where, at the foot of the Via Larga, still stood the palace of the Medici. Since the year 1504, when the unfortunate Messer Pietro—unfortunate to the last—had been drowned on the disastrous retreat from Garigliano, the Cardinal Giovanni had stood as the head of the house of Medici. High in favor with the stern old Pope Julius II., he had, after six years of wandering and anxiety risen to eminence and power at Rome. In all these eighteen years, he never gave up his hope of regaining his native city. Three times did the Medici seek to return to power; three times were they repulsed. At last, his time has come. Florence, torn by feud and discontent, with a Spanish army camped beyond her walls, opens her gates to the conquerors, and the Cardinal Giovanni rules as Lord of Florence.

So the fair city again lost her liberties; so the exiled family returned to position and power; so the fickle Florentines, who, in a fury of patriotism, had sacked the palace of Lorenzo, now shouted themselves hoarse for "Palle  and the Medici!"

[177] And within less than six months comes a still higher triumph. Pope Julius II. is dead, and, by the unanimous voice of the "College of Cardinals," Giovanni, Cardinal de Medici, ascends the papal throne, on the third of March, 1513, as Pope Leo the Tenth.

With his later life, we need not here concern ourselves. The story of the boy may perhaps lead you to read in history the interesting story of the man. Only thirty-seven, the youngest of the popes, as he was the youngest of the cardinals, he wore the triple tiara in the stormy days of the great Reformation, and made his court the centre of learning and refinement, so that his reign has been called "the golden age of Italian art and letters." To young Americans he is worth remembrance as the firm friend of the American Indians amid the cruel persecutions of their Spanish conquerors. "The best of all the Medici, save his father," and "the only pope who has bestowed his own name upon his age,"—so the historians report,—we may, as we read of him, remember the boyishness, notwithstanding his high position, the diligence, notwithstanding his love of pleasure, and the loyalty to the name and fortunes of a once powerful family, that marked the youthful years of Giovanni de Medici, the Boy Cardinal.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Harry of Monmouth  |  Next: Ixtlil of Tezcuco
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.