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The legend of Francesco's and Bianca's mysterious death is well known. The Duchess had engaged in fresh intrigues for palming off a spurious child upon her husband. These roused the suspicions of his brother, Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, heir presumptive to the crown. An angry correspondence followed, ending in a reconciliation between the three princes. They met in the autumn of 1587 at the villa of Poggio a Cajano. Then the world was startled by the announcement that the Grand Duke had died of fever after a few days' illness, and that Bianca had almost immediately afterwards followed him to the grave. Ferdinand, on suceeding to the throne, refused her the interment suited to her rank, defaced her arms on public edifices, and for her name and titles in official documents substituted the words “la pessima Bianca.” What passed at Poggio a Cajano is not known. It was commonly believed in Italy that Bianca, meaning to poison the Cardinal at supper, had been frustrated in her designs by a blunder which made her husband the victim of this plot, and that she ended her own life in despair or fell a victim to the Cardinal's vengeance. This story is rejected both by Botta and Galluzzi; but Litta has given it a partial credence. Two of Cosimo's sons died previously, in the year 1562, under circumstances which gave rise to similar malignant rumors. Don Garzia and the Cardinal Giovanni were hunting together in the Pisan marshes, when the latter expired after a short illness, and the former in a few days met with a like fate. Report ran that Don Garzia had stabbed his brother, and that Cosimo, in a fit of rage, ran him through the body with his own sword. In this case, although Litta attaches weight to the legend, the balance of evidence is strongly in favor of both brothers' having been carried off by a pernicious fever contracted simultaneously during their hunting expedition. Each instance serves, however, to show in what an atmosphere of guilt the Medicean princes were enveloped. No one believed that they could die except by fraternal or paternal hands. And the authentic crimes of the family certainly justified this popular belief. I have already alluded to the murders of Ippolito, Alessandro, and Lorenzino. I have told how the Court of Florence sanc.. tioned the assassination of Bianca's daughter by her husband at Bologna. I must now proceed to relate the tragic tales of the princesses of the house.

Pietro de' Medici, a fifth of Cosimo's sons, had rendered himself notorious in Spain and Italy by forming a secret society for the most revolting debaucheries. Yet he married the noble lady Eleonora di Toledo, related by blood to Cosimo's first wife. Neglected and outraged by her husband, she proved unfaithful, and Pietro hewed her in pieces with his own hands at Caffaggiolo. Isabella de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo, was married to the Duke of Bracciano. Educated in the empoisoned atmosphere of Florence, she, like Eleonora di Toledo, yielded herself to fashionable profligacy, and was strangled by her husband at Ceretto. Both of these murders took place in 1576. Isabella's death, as I have elsewhere related, opened the way for the Duke of Bracciano's marriage with Vittoria Accoramboni, which had been prepared by the assassination of her first husband, and which led to her own murder at Padua. Another of Cosimo's daughters, Lucrezia de' Medici, became Duchess of Ferrara, fell under a suspicion of infidelity, and was possibly removed by poison in 1561. The last of his sons whom I have to mention, Don Giovanni, married a dissolute woman of low birth called Livia, and disgraced the name of Medici by the unprincely follies of his life. Eleonora de' Medici, third of his daughters, introduces a comic element into these funereal records. She was affianced to Vincenzo Gonzaga, heir of the duchy of Mantua. But suspicions arising out of the circumstances of his divorce from a former wife obliged him to prove his marital capacity before the completion of the contract. This he did at Venice, before a witness, upon the person of a virgin selected for the experiment. Maria de' Medici, the only child of Duke Francesco, became Queen of France.

If now we eliminate the deaths of Don Garcia, Cardinal Giovanni, Duke Francesco, Bianca Capello, and Lucrezia de' Medici, as doubtful, there will still remain the murders of Cardinal Ippolito, Duke Alessandro, Lorenzino de' Medici, Pietro Bonaventuri (Bianca's husband), Pellegrina Bentivoglio (Bianca's daughter), Eleonora di Toledo, Francesco Casi (Eleonora's lover), the Duchess of Bracciani, Troilo Orsini (lover of this Duchess), Felice Peretti (husband of Vittoria Accoramboni), and Vittoria Accoramboni — eleven murders, all occurring between 1535 and 1585, an exact half century, in a single princely family and its immediate connections. The majority of these crimes, that is to say seven, had their origin in lawless passion.




(From “ The Schoolmaster.")

[ROGER ASCHAM, an English scholar and writer, was born in Kirby Wiske, near Northallerton, in Yorkshire, 1515. He graduated at St. John's College, Cambridge, with a brilliant record as a Greek scholar, and was appointed tutor to the Princess Elizabeth. In 1544 he published a treatise in defense of archery, entitled “Toxophilus." After three years of diplomatic service at the court of Charles V., he was appointed Latin secretary to Queen Mary, and after her death was retained as secretary and tutor to Queen Elizabeth. His chief work, “ The Schoolmaster," appeared in 1570. Ascham died in London, December 30, 1568.)

WHERE the child doth well, let the master praise him, and say, Here ye do well. For I assure you, there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit and encourage a will to learning, as is praise. But if the child miss, I would not have the master either frown or chide with him if the child have done his diligence, and used no truantship therein. For I know by good experience that a child shall take more profit by two faults, gently warned of, than of four things rightly hit.

If the scholar do miss sometimes, chide not hastily: for that shall both dull his wit, and discourage his diligence; but monish him gently: which shall make him both willing to amend, and glad to go forward in love and hope of learning.

I have now wished, twice or thrice, this gentle nature to be in a schoolmaster : and that I have done so neither by chance nor without some reason, I will now declare at large, why, in mine opinion, love is fitter than fear, gentleness better than beating, to bring up a child rightly in learning.

With the common use of teaching and beating in common schools of England, I will not greatly contend: which if I did, it were but a small grammatical controversy, neither belonging to heresy nor treason, nor greatly touching God nor the Prince : although in very deed, in the end, the good or ill bringing up of children doth as much serve to the good or ill service of God, our Prince, and our whole country, as any one thing doth beside.

I do gladly agree with all good schoolmasters in these points : to have children brought to good perfectness in learn.


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