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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

13 - The Crux, 1494

from Part III - Piero in Power


Piero’s behaviour in the months before the denouement of the cousins’ conspiracy in late April showed the two contrasting sides of his nature: lazy and hyperactively scheming. Both were pinpointed by Becchi’s idiosyncratic turn of phrase when he criticised him – on one hand – for letting ser Piero Dovizi govern Italy as his boss while he rested on his oars, ‘allowing some wind to blow the boat where the oars can’t arrive, it wears you out to use your arms’, and on the other for restlessly moving in a rocking gondola: ‘keep still, for God’s sake, for you can’t see everything and you shouldn’t help the side opposite to yours’.1 Outwardly, at least, Piero seemed unworried either by his cousins or by the French expedition. He stood high in the pope’s esteem as the broker of a possible marriage for little Laura (the pope’s daughter) and, indeed, as Florence’s St. Peter, ‘the rock on which our city is now rising up’.2 He was also as ‘ambiguous’ as the pope, ‘temporising in order to see whom to please’. After receiving despatches from France, Milan, Rome and Naples in November 1493, with news of ‘Ferrante’s trepidation, the pope’s instability and the general state of affairs in Milan’, Piero told Dovizi he had little to reply except that he was waiting to hear more before writing to Becchi in France, so that, ‘well informed, [Becchi] can … temporise or do as he thinks fit’.3 In the meantime, he was busy organising the joust that he and his friends had long been practising for – probably on the large tract of public land along the walls he had enclosed in November as a jousting yard. In Piazza S. Croce the stockades had been built and the seating was being constructed.4 Then, at the end of January, everything came to an abrupt halt, not because of the cousins or news from France, but because of the death of Ferrante of Naples on 25 January 1494.