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Richard III and Lorenzo de’ Medici

I have just completed my new novel, Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country, an alternative history story in which Richard, having won at Bosworth, continues as King of England and pays a visit to Florence at the invitation of Lorenzo de’ Medici.

On researching Lorenzo, I became intrigued by the number of parallels and similarities between the two leaders.

Lorenzo was about four years older than Richard and, in common with him, was given great responsibility at a young age. He was sent on diplomatic missions, which included meeting the Pope. Like Richard, he had a brother who was considered very beautiful, where he was seen as plainer, shorter and less attractive and both of them lost their brothers too soon (three of them in Richard’s case).

The Medicis’ main rivals for power in Florence were the Pazzis, who murdered Lorenzo’s brother, Giuliano, in the famous Pazzi conspiracy.  Of course, Richard’s York family’s rivals were the Lancastrians and the rivalry took the form of battles rather than covert assassinations.

They both enjoyed hunting and hawking and both were patrons of the arts: in Richard’s case this was mainly through music and architecture, whereas Lorenzo patronised the Renaissance artists such as Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo, and encouraged art and culture, even writing poetry himself, written in his native Tuscan. As we know Richard was the first English monarch to swear allegiance in English, had his laws written in English and even had a bible translated into English.

They were both seen as intelligent – Lorenzo was thought to be the most intelligent of his siblings – and they both encouraged education and enjoyed books and learning.

They diverge in their family life in that Lorenzo and his wife, Clarice, had ten children (though not all survived) whereas Richard and Anne had only one, who died young. However, they both knew the grief of losing children and both their wives pre-deceased them.

Both were courageous – Richard in battle, and in particular during Bosworth’s final moments, and Lorenzo when he went himself to Naples, which was enemy territory after the Pazzi conspiracy, to settle the resulting war with the Holy See through diplomacy.

Both took their deceased brother’s child(ren) into their household after their death (in Richard’s case, I am now referring to George’s death).

Both of them were praised by their respective favoured cities after their death. As we know, York’ said: ‘King Richard, late mercifully reigning over us, was through great treason . . . piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.’ They also referred to him as the ‘most famous prince of blessed memory.’

As regards Lorenzo, on his death (also at a young age of 43) the Signoria and councils of Florence issued this decree:

‘Whereas the foremost man of all this city, the lately deceased Lorenzo de’ Medici, did, during his whole life, neglect no opportunity of protecting, increasing, adorning and raising this city, but was always ready with counsel, authority and painstaking, in thought and deed; shrank from neither trouble nor danger for the good of the state and its freedom….. it has seemed good to the Senate and people of Florence…. to establish a public testimonial of gratitude to the memory of such a man, in order that virtue might not be unhonoured among Florentines, and that, in days to come, other citizens may be incited to serve the commonwealth with might and wisdom.’

Finally, I think there were some similarities in their appearance also.

What do you think?

Pic of Lorenzo de' Medici

Pic of reconstruction of Richard III's head

Photo of Lorenzo: Public Domain / Photo of RIII reconstruction © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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10 thoughts on “Richard III and Lorenzo de’ Medici

  1. viscountessw on said:

    A very interesting post. I love comparisons like this, and you have done it so well, jrlarner. There are so many similarities between these two princes. But ultimately, not even Lorenzo can be a match for the matchless Richard!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Josephine Tey apparently thought so too. Early in her book *The Daughter of Time*, she has a character note, on looking at a picture showing a decidedly benign-looking Richard, that “with very little alteration it could be a portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not really, at least not if that portrait of Lorenzo is anything to go by. I don’t see any resemblance between them.

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      • They are nowehere near identical,but there are a few similarirties: They both have a strong face, firm chin and the little frown lines between their eyebrows (not seen on the reconstruction). Their hair is possibly similar, though Lorenzo’s is darker. Their noses are not at all alike.

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      • Lorenzo has rough, rugged features. Richard does not, neither in his portraits (except in those made over 200 years after his death), nor in the facial reconstruction.

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  3. It depends what features you look at. Personally I don’t think Lorenzo has ‘rugged’ features. What do you think of this one

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    • Yes, I think his features look similar in both these portraits, and that they look much rougher – and plainer – than Richard’s. Richard’s features may look strong, but are definitely not rough, and are much more conventionally attractive. The only similarity is that they both have strong chins. If anything, Lorenzo looks even less like Richard in the second portrait than in the first one.

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  4. Well, there is obviously an element of personal opinion here – I still think there is a slight resemblance and I am not the only person to think so. I agree Lorenzo’s features are rougher, and his nose is quite different, but nevertheless there are some similarities. I disagree that the second picture is less like Richard – the mouth is more similar – they both seem to have a forward positioned lower jaw. I think we will just have to agree to differ (although I entirely agree that Richard is much more attractive!)

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  5. antonia monson on said:

    I think there is some similarity if you bear in mind that Richard was Norman (Plantagenet)/Anglo Saxon and Lorenzo Italian with possibly Etruscan origins. He was known to be very dark skinned, with irregular, strong,rugged features. Richard is finer, but he was also a strong man , especially given his birth defect of scogliosis which he fought valiantly to become a brave warrior. Lorenzo was energetic and vigorous apart from the gout which hastened his death. I think both men are attractive,and Lorenzo was certainly known to be, if not conventionally so (he had many lovers). Both the portraits of him in this post are posthumous, one by Bronzino, the other by Vasari. A more accurate likeness is the terracotta bust of him by Verrocchio. Bear in mind too that they were both 15thc men and their hairstyle and clothes (given national differences) also casts them as similar looking , in the fashion of their time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. halfwit36 on said:

    The ski-slope nose makes Lorenzo look a bit like Richard Nixon. But ‘rough’ – I dunno.

    Liked by 1 person

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