Medici, Clarice de (c. 1453–1487)
Medici, Clarice de (c. 1453–1487)
Florentine noblewoman . Name variations: Clarice Orsini. Born around 1453; died in August 1487 (some sources cite 1488); came from a celebrated Roman noble family, the Orsinis; daughter of Jacopo also known as Giacomo Orsini of Monterotondo; married Lorenzo de Medici, the Magnificent (1449–1492, unofficial ruler of Florence), on June 4, 1469; children: (four daughters) Lucrezia de Medici (b. around 1480, who married Giacomo Salviati); Maddalena de Medici (d. 1519, who married Franceschetto Cybo); Luisa or Luigia (who died before age 12); Contessina de Medici (who married Piero Ridolfi); (three sons) Pietro (1471–1503, who was briefly master of Florence upon his father's death and married Alfonsina Orsini de Medici), Giovanni (1475–1521, who became Pope Leo X, r. 1513–1521); Giuliano (1479–1516, who became duke of Nemours and married Philiberta of Savoy ).
Born into the one of the great families of the Italian Renaissance, Clarice Orsini was the daughter of Jacopo Orsini of Monterotondo, a man whose family had made its fortune as mercenaries. Most of the Orsini men were soldiers, a profession which allowed them to amass huge territories around Rome and Naples. Clarice was not particularly well educated, which is perhaps not surprising given her family's military rather than aristocratic background. Yet she was chosen as a bride for one of the most cultured and intellectual men of Italy, Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence, so called because of his immense political talents and generous patronage of the Florentine Renaissance. He was the eldest son of Piero de Medici, who was the undisputed ruler of Florence, despite its ostensibly republican form of government. Lorenzo would succeed to this unofficial but immensely powerful position on Piero's death in late 1469.
Earlier in that year, 16-year-old Clarice was betrothed to 20-year-old Lorenzo by his mother, Lucrezia de Medici (1425–1482). Lucrezia traveled to Rome to meet and evaluate Clarice as a potential daughter-in-law before the formal negotiations began. As a newer family, the Medicis sought a marriage alliance with the well-established Orsinis as a means of cementing their own status as one of Italy's leading houses. In letters to Lorenzo, Lucrezia described Clarice as tall and fair but not pretty, with red hair and a modest, shy disposition. The marriage negotiations were then completed, with the Orsinis providing a dowry of 6,000 florins in gold, dresses, and jewels. For her part, Clarice showed in her private letters that while she was resigned to the marriage, she considered it a step down socially for herself and her family. She and Lorenzo were married by proxy in February 1469 and a great tournament was held in Florence in celebration. Three more days of public celebration followed Clarice's arrival in Florence on June 4, 1469.
Their years of marriage seem to have followed 15th-century expectations for aristocrats: the couple got along adequately, but were not particularly loving. Lorenzo had overt affairs with various mistresses, and Clarice and Lorenzo did not share any interests that might have brought them closer. Their formally worded letters reveal little emotional attachment. They had ten children, three of whom died in infancy. Clarice was a devoted parent, as was Lorenzo; their letters show the sincere affection and love for their children that is missing in their correspondence with each other. In the mid-1480s, Clarice's health began to fail. She died in 1487, while about 34 years old. Lorenzo the Magnificent did not remarry, and died only five years later, in 1492.
Ady, Cecilia M. Lorenzo dei Medici and Renaissance Italy. London: English Universities Press, 1955.
Micheletti, Emma. The Medici of Florence. Florence: Scala, 1980.
Young, George F. The Medici. 2nd ed. NY: E.P. Dutton, 1911.
Laura York , M.A. in history, University of California, Riverside, California