Culture | History | Renaissance: 500 year old Medici murder mystery solved at last

  • By S.Q.Hafiz

After five centuries a mysterious death of a prominent renaissance figure and member of the infamous Medici family from Florence has finally been solved. The man who ordered the murder was none other than the Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg


The Medici family were more than just powerful, their dynasty, the House of Medici ruled Florence in present day Northern Italy for some 300 years as Dukes and Grand Dukes, even producing four popes, only dying out in 1737. So when one is accused of causing the demise of a Medici, few dared to question it.

Lorenzino de’ Medici (1514-1548), aka Lorenzaccio, (-accio/a being a negative suffix in Italian) is one of the most famous figures of the Italian Renaissance. In 1537 he stabbed his own cousin to death, Florence’s first duke, Alessandro de’ Medici, thus forever changing the history of the town. Lorenzino was surrounded by an aura of legend and his story has inspired two movies and many literary works.

Dr Stefano Dall’Aglio, a research historian currently a fellow at the University of Leeds in the UK,  uncovered this remarkable revelation about the international intrigue leading to the death of the famous ‘Lorenzaccio’, the assassin of the first duke of Florence. The murder was not arranged by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, as the world has always believed.

It was 11 years later  in 1548 that revenge for the assassination of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici was finally set into motion, Lorenzino himself ambushed and killed in Venice. Blame for the murder immediately fell on another Medici, the new Duke of Florence Cosimo I, who upon taking power had vowed to avenge his predecessor and had even received the two killers following the assassination. None has ever questioned this alleged historical truth until now.

A new investigation provides a completely different version of events. The author of this discovery, Stefano Dall’Aglio, undertook extensive research into Lorenzino de’ Medici and his death, sifting through many hundreds of unpublished documents in the State Archive of Florence as well as uncountable records world wide.

After realising that Duke Cosimo’s men had not actually committed the murder, in the manner of a time travelling Sherlock Holmes, Dall’Aglio set out to unmask the identity of the true culprit. The wider picture that Dall’Aglio was able to piece together showed the thirst for revenge of the Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg, father-in-law to Duke Alessandro de’ Medici,  killed by Lorenzino. Therefore, Dall’Aglio continued his research in Spain where he found the smoking gun in the Archivo General de Simancas: two letters by the emperor himself in which he clearly ordered the assassination of Lorenzino. Other letters sent to Charles V by his henchman in Venice completed the picture. The history of Lorenzino’s murder it would seem therefore needs to be completely rewritten: the man who ordered the homicide was not the Duke of Florence Cosimo I, as stated by all major historians until now, but in fact the Emperor himself, Charles V Habsburg.

You can read the full story of this remarkable discovery in Dr Dall’Aglio’s The Duke’s Assassin. Exile and Death of Lorenzino de’ Medici, published by Yale University Press.

Dall’Aglio tells The International how he was researching the sixteenth-century political opposition to the Medici Duchy in the State Archive of Florence, when he happened upon a number of unpublished documents regarding the infamous ‘Lorenzaccio’. The ironic twist of a murderer becoming a high profil murder victim led Dall’Aglio to become intrigued as to how Lorenzino came to live life down this path.

During  his time delving into the surreal world of unpublished raw history, Dall’Aglio slowly began to come to terms with the fact that history as we know it regarding the demise of a prominent figure in Italian history was increasingly non-credible. Dall’Aglio discovered that the ‘misunderstanding’ as he calls it,  came to be because Cosimo (the original suspect) and his hired gun Giovan Francesco Lottini wrote in coded form. Dall’Aglio however figured out that the planned target of their scheming was infact not Lorenzino, at all, rather another political enemy of Cosimo’s. Plotting and murder a seemingly normal part of political high society.

Dall’Aglio’s research took a divergence at this point to start hunting for the man whom had really ordered the assassination of Lorenzino. Evidence pointing at the Emperor himself, Dall’Aglio travelled to Spain where Emperor Charles V’s letters are preserved. Letters that inevitably would hang the burden of guilt over his name. The known world’s most powerful man had personally ordered the assassination of a prominent Medici, in revenge for the murder of another Medici, glaring unforgiving light onto the Emperor’s and the society’s in general more ruthless sides.


Read more about the researcher (Dr Dall’Aglio…)

Dr. Stefano Dall'Aglio

Dr. Stefano Dall’Aglio