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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Bullfilter

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Another monumental and detailed chapter, full of rich and imaginative description. We anticipate some grand adventures during the new reign. Does Francesco have firm plans for expansion?
 

JerseyGiants88

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A lucky break for the new king there, and good on Allessandro! :)
Another monumental and detailed chapter, full of rich and imaginative description. We anticipate some grand adventures during the new reign. Does Francesco have firm plans for expansion?
Thank you. And yes, not to give too much away but his reign will feature some colonial expansion as well as another major European war.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 39: A Place in the Sun, 1590-1594

Francesco I dé Medici was crowned Grand Duke of Tuscany and King of Naples upon the death of his brother on 24 July 1590. He took over a realm in a strong geopolitical position within Europe, but also one that was in need of internal attention. Tuscany was blessed with strong alliances, continuing the long balancing act begun by Niccoló Machiavelli, who created alliances with both the Valois of France and the Habsburgs of Austria. Furthermore, the new alliance with the Kingdom of Poland, secured by foreign minister Sergio Chiastavelli, added yet one more powerful state to the Grand Duchy’s blanket of protection.
http://i.imgur.com/teT0rlR.jpg


Europe at the beginning of the reign of Francesco I

Internally however, the Catholic-Protestant struggle threatened to boil over. The Catholic party held the decisive upper hand, particularly after the failed conspiracy by the House of Este to take the throne for Princess Margherita. However, it was in the interests of all but the most extreme to see the impasse resolved with as little bloodshed as possible. On the economic front, Tuscany was a trading powerhouse, bolstered by the quality of the goods she produced and the excellent reputation of her merchants, who were considered among the most trustworthy and reliable in Europe.
http://i.imgur.com/c91uXDr.jpg


Tuscan trade policy benefitted from the sterling reputation of its merchants

Francesco now headed a state that had drifted under the rule of his ailing brother Filippo. Even during the time Francesco was regent, he had been unable to move the realm forward. Now, he was faced with a number of difficult choices. How he handled them would set the tone for the future of Tuscany and Italy as a whole.
http://i.imgur.com/FMEsIkf.jpg


Francesco I dé Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and King of Naples

To begin with, the matter of succession was not completely resolved. Martino d'Este was still holding out at Ferrara in a tense standoff with 5,000 loyalist soldiers under the command of Giorgio Gonzaga encamped outside his walls. D'Este's father, the former Duke Camillo I, had abdicated in favor of his third son, Riccardo who, unlike his two older brothers, had not been involved in the Bologna Conspiracy.

Even more alarming, there was talk in Florence of a French army marching south toward Italy. The fount of this rumor was Isabella di Morra, the Grand Duchess Dowager, widow of Filippo I. Following her husband’s death, Isabella returned immediately to her native Montferrat, ruled by her brother Duke Otto I. Otto was a vassal of the King of France, Louis XVII. During the succession crisis, the King of France was widely believed to have favored the claim of Margherita, largely because she was considered to prefer the French alliance over the Austrian. However, there is no evidence to indicate that Louis had plans to go to war over the matter. Both the Poles and the Austrians made no secret of their own preference for the staunchly Catholic Francesco over his more tolerant niece. Both powers were likely to enter a war on Francesco’s side in the case of foreign intervention in support of Margherita. That fact, coupled with the ever-present Spanish menace on the French western frontier, served to check any of Louis’s potential Italian ambitions. No French army during this time was ever mobilized for an invasion of Italy.

More immediately pressing, was the matter of Ferrara. Francesco and Riccardo d’Este met three weeks after the former’s coronation to discuss a resolution to the standoff. Francesco, who was an uncle to both Martino and Riccardo, stressed to his nephew that he wanted no further bloodshed over the question of succession. Riccardo agreed and recommended bringing Princess Margherita into the discussion.

The princess had remained in Florence after her father's death even though her mother had returned to Montferrat. Although Margherita was only thirteen, she was already a mature and intelligent young woman. She understood that her claim to the throne could never be won by force of arms and showed little interest in that path anyway. Margherita also knew she lacked the political capital to press her claim against her very popular uncle. Finally, she was close with and respected her cousin Alberto, Francesco's eldest son and ostensible heir. Instead of attempting the impossible, she used her claim as leverage to maximize what advantage she could get from the situation.

Accordingly, Margherita was prepared to give up her claim for a price. She offered to travel with Riccardo d'Este to Ferrara and attempt to convince Martino to stand down and surrender the fortress. Finally, she would publicly acknowledge Francesco as the rightful Grand Duke and support her cousin Alberto's claim to be heir and hold the title of Grand Prince. She asked for three things in return.

The first was that she and her younger sister Benedetta have full control and final say over their marriages. This concession, combined with the substantial wealth that came to them through their family, meant that the two princesses were among the few women of their era to have full autonomy and control over their love lives. Francesco, who despite the political differences had great love and respect for his two nieces, readily granted this concession. The second involved land. Margherita wanted to hold power and title in her own right but she also understood the power of symbolism. Accordingly, she asked for the Castle of Canossa. Canossa is strategically located, 35 kilometers southwest of Reggio Emilia and 36 kilometers southeast of Parma in the foothills of the eastern side of the Apennines astride the road that travels through the Cerreto Pass from the Val Padana into Tuscany. The ancient castle, built around 940, was the seat of the legendary Mathilda of Tuscany, known as La Gran Contessa (the Great Countess), who defeated Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV and ruled over northern Italy almost unchallenged. In addition to Canossa, she asked for the city of Reggio Emilia, located between Parma and Modena. Reggio was technically within the Duchy of Modena but Margherita wanted autonomy from the Piccolomini who ruled in that city. Francesco granted this as well. Finally, Margherita also sought and received permission to create and display her own personal arms. These she made in homage to Mathilda, quartering the Medici arms with those of the House of Canossa.
http://i.imgur.com/oCXHmfD.jpg?1


Princess Margherita dé Medici, Great Countess of Reggio Emilia and Lady of Canossa
http://i.imgur.com/xUfXoRR.jpg?1

The Castle of Canossa, Margherita dé Medici’s new seat


Margherita dé Medici’s personal coat of arms, featuring the Medici arms quartered with those of the ancient House of Canossa

Satisfied with the deal, Margherita departed Florence on 12 September 1590 and arrived at Ferrara three weeks later alongside Riccardo d'Este, now Duke Riccardo I of Ferrara. The pair were armed with a royal pardon in exchange for the surrender of the fortress and the recognition of Riccardo as Duke. Martino held out another week, while Margherita patiently waited outside the walls of the great Lutheran bastion, mingling with Gonzaga's soldiers and generally enjoying her greatly enhanced freedom. On 14 October, Martino d'Este agreed to the terms so long as he did not have to surrender to Giorgio Gonzaga, whose family was an ancient rival of the Estes. Gonzaga graciously agreed, symbolically relinquishing command to his second in charge, Simone Barberini, who went with Princess Margherita to accept the surrender of the great fortress. Martino's men were immediately pardoned while he had to return to Florence and swear fealty in person to the new Grand Duke.

The high drama resolved the succession crisis and put an end to the Medici-Este tension that stretched back to the Bologna tournament. After returning to the capital with Martino, Margherita travelled to her new holding at Canossa and established her household.

With firm control over the reins of power, Francesco was faced with a new challenge. On 5 April 1591, a Calvinist revolt broke out in Genoa. The garrison in the city remained loyal and barricaded themselves in the fortified portion of the city. On 8 May an army commanded by General Marco Orsini arrived and crushed the revolt. Orsini, an ardent Catholic, took the opportunity to execute the Calvinist leadership, hanging them from the walls of the city.

The revolt presented Francesco with a difficult decision. Cardinal Alfonso di Farnese, the interior minister, favored a tougher line against the Protestants and Francesco eventually agreed. Ever since the “Peace of Florence”, engineered by the Grand Duchess Regent Caterina da Montefeltro in 1539, the official government policy coming from the capital was religious toleration in the Val Padana. Francesco was going to change this. Accordingly, on 26 December 1591, Francesco announced the passage of the Conventicle Act, which banned the assembly of more than five people for any religious ceremony not endorsed by the Catholic Church. This essentially meant that Lutheran and Calvinist religious services were banned throughout the realm.
http://i.imgur.com/qPnSjRR.png


The passage of the Conventicle Act, banning the assembly of non-Catholics, was Grand Duke Francesco’s first major policy decision

The immediate result of this act was a brutal religious crackdown in the province of Modena, where the Catholic House of Piccolomini ruled over a Lutheran population. Duke Galeazzo’s men raided Protestant villages in the countryside and rounded up Lutheran theologians in Modena itself, going so far as to shut down the city’s prestigious university until it was “cleansed of heresy.” The only exceptions were the lands ruled by Margherita dé Medici who enforced the new law but protected her subjects from the excesses of Piccolomini’s men. In the province of Ferrara, the other Lutheran bastion of the Val Padana, the response was more muted. The Este still ruled there and though the new duke, Riccardo I, was loyal to the Medici, he did not expend much energy enforcing this new law. The third Lutheran province in the valley of the River Po was Cremona, which remained largely outside the control of the central state and the powerful duchies on the river lands. Duke Alessandro Farnese, who ruled the bordering province of Parma occasionally sent troops north to harass Protestant assemblies, but they often regrouped once the men returned south.

The Conventicle Act had little real effect outside of Modena, but it sent a clear message that the era of religious tolerance was over. While the Protestants might still be able to have their services clandestinely in some areas, their time of wielding real political power was over. Francesco’s new policy signaled a stronger embrace of Catholicism than at any other time in the Medici era.

The temporary settlement of the internal religious matter allowed Francesco to focus on righting the economy. The economy had languished during the late years of Grand Duke Filippo I’s reign. Despite the strength of Tuscany’s trade relations, profits were lost due to the devaluation of the Florin and lack of control over currency. Spearheaded by Cardinal Farnese, the Grand Duchy moved to issue a new set of Florin coins with a higher level of gold purity and to more tightly control the types of currency that came in or out of the country. They moved to rely less on silver coins, as they were prone to higher and faster rates of inflation than gold ones. This was in large part due to the massive amounts of silver coming from the colonies of the New World, particularly from Spanish Peru and French Mexico. By relying more on gold, the central government was able to curb inflation and better control its money supply than in the past.

Cardinal Farnese appointed a new Master of Mints, Abraham Senigallia, to oversee the project. Senigallia was from a prominent Jewish family, originally of Ancona, who had acquired a major stake in the Volta Montovana, the largest bank in the Val Padana. He had most recently been a professor of economics at the University of Siena. As Master of Mints, he struck an agreement with the major banks of the Grand Duchy, led by the Monte Dei Paschi di Siena, the Acciaiuoli Bank and the Medici Bank of Florence, the St. George Bank of Genoa, and the Volta Montovana. The more formalized control of the money supply allowed Florence to have a say in what kinds of currency was used within the borders of the state and how much of each type was able to flow freely.
http://i.imgur.com/hLVUsnk.jpg


Francesco I and his interior minister, Cardinal Alfonso di Farnese, pushed through important monetary reforms

When it came to foreign policy, Francesco was eager to complete the process of allying with the Kingdom of Poland. As part of the deal struck by Sergio Chiastavelli to form the Tuscan-Polish alliance, Francesco’s eldest son and heir, Grand Prince Alberto was to wed the younger sister of King Stanislaw II of Poland, the Princess Michalina. The partnership with Poland was the greatest Tuscan diplomatic achievement since the dual alliances with France and Austria made by Machiavelli in 1491 and 1501 respectively. Therefore, Francesco ordered that no expense should be spared and that the wedding should be a grand event. The Polish princess, accompanied by a large retinue including her brother Karol Ferdynand, Prince of Lwów, left Warsaw for Florence on 18 March 1592.

On the night before arriving in Florence, Michalina and her party stayed at the Medici villa at Cafaggiolo. Up in the Muggelo hills, some sixteen miles outside Florence, this was one of the oldest Medici properties, having been in the family since the Fourteenth Century. There, Michalina was greeted by Alberto’s fifteen-year-old sister, Princess Theodora, his cousin, Princess Margherita, and “many other gentlewomen, all very well dressed, and richly, and accompanied by many gentlemen and servants.”
http://i.imgur.com/dKT2ktc.jpg


Princess Michalina Poniatowski of Poland, bride of Grand Prince Alberto dé Medici

Michalina’s descent into Florence was no less spectacular. As she was carried in a litter down the winding hill roads, the streets were dressed with tapestries, there was music and dancing and tables covered with food and wine, both red and white. Some two miles outside the city, Michalina exchanged her litter to ride the rest of the way on horseback. Her mount was brought out to her from the city, one of the finest in the Medici stables: a pure white mare. With great “pomp and solemnity” her party entered from the west at the Porta al Prato. They were greeted by four hundred of Florence’s leading citizens, “the greater part dressed in the richest of silks.” To the shouts of “Palle, Palle,” which literally translates to “Balls, Balls,” a humorous nod to the Medici coat of arms, and to the sound of music and gun salutes, she made her way through the city streets.

The procession passed along the Borgo Ognissanti and the north bank of the River Arno, turning up past the church of Santa Trinitá and to the Pelagio dei Capitani di Parte Guelfa, headquarters of the city’s powerful and storied ruling party. There she and her party were met by the Grand Duke and other important figures of the court and escorted past the Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, and then up Via Martelli to the Palazzo Medici. “Never had the city seemed richer or happier,” wrote one observer of the celebrations; for another, “neither words nor pen would suffice to explain the city’s great hopes in the Grand Prince’s betrothed.”

The extravagance of the entrance itself was a political statement, designed to impress observers both within and outside the Medici realms. This was the union not just of a young man and woman, but of two of the greatest Catholic powers.

The plans for Michalina’s stay were quite as lavish as her entrance. During the period of the festivities, nearly one thousand people were “guests” of the wedding. Most of these were locals, men and women of the already sizable Medici court as well as other Florentine notables. However, more than a third were visitors from elsewhere. From the Medici realms they came from the other cities of Tuscany, the Val Padana, the Veneto, Naples, Genoa, Urbino, and as far afield as Calabria at the very southern tip of Italy. Foreign guests were in attendance as well. Princess Michalina came with a large retinue of her own. Johann Leopold von Habsburg, Duke of Styria, one of the men who had helped pave the way for the Polish-Tuscan alliance, was there as representative of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria. Others who made the trip to Florence included Lodovico Ptochos, Prince of Crete; Michele de la Tour d’Auvergne, newly appointed ambassador of King Louis XVII; and even Emil Karposh, special envoy of Sultan Mehmet III of the Ottoman Empire. The most prominent guest of all however, was the Holy Father himself, Pope Pius II, who was to marry the new couple.

The quantity of food consumed was quite as impressive as the size of the wedding guest list. The daily food order for the seven days of celebration was estimated as follows: 1,100 Florentine pounds (375 kilograms or 825 pounds) of veal, seven capons, one hundred twenty chickens, one hundred forty pigeons, and “the usual antipasti”. These antipasti included figs and nuts, stuffed prunes, cold trout patties and capers, lampreys, calamari, and veal tongue. The main courses were, of course, accompanied by side dishes like salamis and soups, sauces like salsa verde for the meat, and numerous cheeses from throughout Italy. On the more important nights, dinner was accompanied by courses of fritti, fried fishes, vegetables, and cheeses. Most nights would conclude with fruits and cheese: marzolino, pears, peaches, pistachio nuts, fennel or artichokes, sugared pine nuts, and almonds. As a whole, the partiers consumed 165 kilos of bread, seventy five barrels of wine, fifteen barrels of olive oil, and nearly thirty kilos of cheese each day.

In addition to the myriad feasts, there would be fireworks, palios, hunts, bullfights, football, dances, and jousting. They would make the celebrations at the previous year’s tournament at Bologna, celebrating the union of the Farnese and Bentivoglio families, seem a tame affair by comparison. The city that Michalina entered did not just look magnificent, it sounded wonderful too. Grand Duke Francesco’s musicians included a stable of the finest singers, trumpeters, and drummers in the realm. The jousts were particularly well attended. The success and popularity of the jousts at the Bologna tournament the preceding year appeared to have revived interest in the martial sport in Italy.

To the disappointment of many, Grand Duke Francesco did not take part in the jousting, despite his reputation for battlefield prowess. Still, he did partake in some sporting. He went hunting with the Prince of Lwów, his son Giulio, nephew Alessandro, and numerous others. Francesco also participated in the wrestling matches held in the Piazza della Signoria. Above all however, the Grand Duke enjoyed ball games. He took part in a great game of calcio in livrea or Florentine soccer, which resembled bare-knuckle fighting as much as it did the modern game. According to the Duke of Styria, “he mixed with his young citizens, not wishing to be treated as other than their equal.” Pasquale degli Albizzi, who was also watching the game related a more detailed story. “During the game, the Grand Duke was following a ball that had already been kicked when he encountered a youth and knocked him to the ground, and to show that he hadn’t done him any harm, His Highness, gave the boy his hand and helped him up.” Degli Albizzi added that Francesco took hits as well as he gave them: “As the game went on, it so happened that another young man found the Grand Duke on his feet and threw him to the ground, and in the fall His Highness struck his nose somehow, and blood spurted out. The youth wanted to excuse himself thinking he’d done ill, but the Grand Duke said with a pleasant countenance that he wanted to play not as a superior but as an equal; and he shouldn’t doubt it because he’d get the boy back another time. And without more ado he got back onto his feet and went onto score.”
http://i.imgur.com/QCKM6dU.jpg


A depiction of the field of play for Florentine soccer, showing the opening set up for the teams

On the soccer field, it was easy for Francesco to play at being equal. He could cultivate the image of an athletic, populist ruler, ready for the physical challenge of warfare. While the Grand Duke certainly enjoyed the sport for its own sake, his participation in various athletic events had a political angle too. They served to reassure the nobles and the commons that, after a long period of a sick and absent ruler, they were once again being led by a strong and able bodied man. His participation “as an equal” also served to advance the longstanding Medici storyline that they were, after all, of the people. While the idea may seem preposterous from the modern point of view, at the time it worked in many quarters. Even in the late Sixteenth Century, many noble families in Italy and across Europe still viewed the Medici as up-jumped merchants and money lenders. The family often used this attack to their advantage, to say to the commons that, after all, the Medici were not that much different than they were. The political tactic had worked for them many times over the years, particularly in disputes and fights with uppity noble families. The populist image was one the Medici had cultivated since their early days of power under Cosimo the Elder.

Among the many grand entertainments arranged for Michalina and, more likely, for Pope Pius II, was a stunning religious spectacle. The sacra rappresentazione (holy representation) of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary was held in the Church of San Felice. This spectacle required the erection of a stage across the width of the church and involved singing actors dressed as angels and prophets. The buildup to the annunciation itself by the Archangel Gabriel, and the complex movements of the machinery, which included the lowering of the angels “from the heavens”, actually a trap door built above the stage downward, must have left its viewers in awe.

As was customary in Italy at the time, masquerade balls were held as well. In addition of being a matter of fun, dressing up could also be deeply political. The loosened social norms at these events, where not only nobles and wealthy merchants but commoners were welcome, gave the Grand Duke, the Grand Prince and the rest of their high-born court the chance to mingle and interact with the masses. For a prince, putting on a mask and mixing as an equal with what were considered his social inferiors added an air of populism. Of course, masquerading had less wholesome associations—with sexual misconduct. Indeed, following the wedding, stories of the dalliances of certain prominent guests became widespread throughout Italy and beyond. Of particular interest to contemporaries was the story of romance between the siblings of the betrothed: the Princess Teodora dé Medici and the Prince Karol Ferdynand Poniatowski.

The wedding itself took place on 18 May 1592. The celebration was held in Florence’s iconic Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, with Pope Pius II celebrating the mass. Pius viewed the wedding between Grand Prince Alberto and Princess Michalina as a keystone of his temporal mission of creating a league of strong, united Catholic states to stand against the Protestant powers. “It was as if the entire province was in attendance,” wrote the artist Alessandro Allori, a Medici favorite who was commissioned to paint a portrait of the princess. The crowds filled the Piazza del Duomo. The wedding’s appeal stretched beyond those wealthy or noble enough to attend it as official guests. For the Catholic population of Florence and Tuscany, the marriage was seen by the commons in a similar manner as it was viewed by the Pope: two devoutly Catholic peoples standing against the tide of the Reformation.
http://i.imgur.com/05pgD67.jpg


Royal marriage between Prince Alberto and Princess Michalina of Poland

The Princess’s stay did not end with the wedding mass however. There were two more days of parties and feasts to attend. “Most memorable of all events,” the Duchess of Styria, who had accompanied her husband to Florence, wrote back to Archduchess Maria Theresa, “was a banquet that His Highness Grand Duke Francesco held on the day before the Princess departed and there were about seventy young gentlewomen in company with all the ladies and gentlewomen who had come with Her Highness Princess Michalina with no men present. On the table was every type of food it was possible to have, as well prepared and composed as possible, as Your Excellency can imagine. And if Your Excellency had seen with what pomp and circumstance all these gentle ladies comported themselves, both in dress and in jewels, I believe without doubt you would be marveled. Your Royal and Imperial Highness was greatly missed, and both the new bride and the Princess Margherita proposed toasts to the health and successful rule of the Archduchess of Austria and the Netherlands.” Reports such as these show that even in a time and place such as patriarchal as late Sixteenth Century Florence, women were very much aware of their role in politics and their agency.

At the end of the week-long celebration, the two newlyweds departed Florence for a “grand tour” of the realm. They first travelled to the idyllic island of Elba, where they stayed for a week. After Elba, they made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi followed by a sojourn in Rome. From Rome, they took the ancient Roman road, the Appian Way, down to Naples. They remained in Naples where Alberto took up residence for a time to join the Viceroy, Cosimo Grimaldi, in ruling the south in his father’s name. The new couple got along wonderfully by all accounts. Both were bookish and devoutly Catholic, and their compatibility set the stage for a long and largely happy marriage.

With the wedding wrapped up, it was time for the Medici to return to the business of governing. Sadly, foreign minister Sergio Chiastavelli died unexpectedly of pneumonia in January of 1593. Only forty-six years of age, the diplomat's short stint as chief foreign policy advisor did seal an extremely important alliance for Tuscany. Into his place stepped the forty-year-old Federigo Soderini.

Soderini immediately set out to achieve his dream of colonizing the New World. He leveraged his connections in the Compagnia Adriatica to acquire the ships and sailors needed for the voyage. By the end of the 1500s, the Americas had been host to European settlement and economic activity for a century and therefore it was not difficult to find men who had made the trip in the past and returned. Even in a state like Tuscany which did not yet have colonies of its own, the general transnationalism of sailors meant that foreigners, like Spaniard or Frenchmen, now living in Italy or Italians who had gone abroad seeking fortune and returned were numerous.
http://i.imgur.com/cFyj2SS.jpg?1



Federigo Soderini, the Godfather of Italian colonialism

The more difficult task was finding the settlers themselves. Unlike the sailors, who though they were undertaking a risky voyage would still be returning to Europe as long as they survived, the settlers would become permanent residents of the new colony. To fund the expedition, Soderini organized a group of his old business contacts, led by Gian Carlo Butteri, and established the Grand Duchy's newest charter company: the Compagnia Americana. The Americana would have exclusive trading rights with the new Tuscan colony and any future settlements in the West Indies. Butteri was rewarded for his efforts and contributions by being granted the title of Royal Governor of the soon-to-be-settled colony.

By July of 1593, the Compagnia Americana had recruited just over three hundred men to make the trip and settle the new colony. On 11 July, they departed the port of Livorno, with a grand sendoff attended by Grand Duke Francesco and that included a ceremony where Cardinal Alfonso di Farnese blessed each of the men and each of the ships. Soderini joined the expedition himself, determined to see the Tuscan flag fly over the New World for the first time.
http://i.imgur.com/rphYPQm.jpg


The island the settlers would eventually reach came to be known as Santa Lucia


The journey itself was divided into two legs. The first would take the three-ship flotilla from Livorno to the French colony of Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa. There the ships could undergo any necessary repairs, take on supplies, and the men would have chance to get on dry land for a few days. From Sierra Leone, the ships would make the final journey to the West Indies. On 13 December 1592, the expedition made landfall on the Caribbean island and Butteri claimed it for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. 13 December in the Catholic calendar is the Feast of Saint Lucy, a Third Century Christian martyr, and so the island was named Santa Lucia in her honor.


The Tuscan colony on Santa Lucia

The native Caribs treated the arrival of the new settlers with suspicion. Though their island had not yet experienced colonization, they knew of others who had. Furthermore, they had prior contact with Europeans, particularly English privateers who already at that early date were raiding Spanish and French ships out of New Granada and French Mexico respectively. The Caribs, who called the island Hewanarau had a long warrior tradition and had themselves captured it from the island's prior inhabitants, the more peaceful Arawaks sometime around 800. However, the Caribs were split on how to deal with the new arrivals. Some, led by one of the more powerful chiefs, Makunaima, wanted to attack and expel the Italians. Their reasoning was sound, as every group they knew that had attempted to reach accommodation with Europeans was eventually pushed out and overwhelmed.

The other chiefs were convinced and, in the face of the threat, agreed to unite. On 6 January 1594, a massive Carib war party of nearly 700 men descended on the settlements of Forte Della Palma on the southern tip of the island and Porto Americano on the west side. Unfortunately for the Caribs, the settlers had already built wooden palisades around both locations which, combined with their fire arms, gave them a decisive advantage despite the lack of numbers. The Carib warriors fought tenaciously and bravely but by the end of a night and day of fighting, nearly all the of them lay dead or dying on the fields around the settlements while only nineteen Tuscans lost their lives. Chief Makunaima was killed in the fighting along with several his most influential colleagues.

The defeat, aside from the obvious loss of manpower, had serious consequences for the internal politics of the Caribs as well as for their relations with the Italians. The resulting political crisis led to the rise of leaders favoring positive relations with the settlers. Thankfully for them, Federigo Soderini was still on the island and his levelheadedness spared both his countrymen and the Caribs a great deal of further bloodshed. Soderini had spent significant time living among the natives of the Americas during his younger years and was even said to have taken a native wife while living in Spanish New Granada. Now, he counseled Butteri and the rest of the colonists to embrace the olive branch being offered by the new Carib leadership and to focus on trade rather than war. He argued convincingly that the drastic disparity in the number of the dead fulfilled any need for vengeance. On 20 January, the Caribs invited the colony's leaders to a tribal council. In what the Tuscans would come to call the Treaty of Santa Lucia, the two sides made peace and agreed to henceforth trade rather than war with each other. The Caribs agreed to give the colonists the southern portion of the island. The pact was sealed with a marriage. Butteri, the unmarried colonial governor agreed to marry the daughter of the slain chief Makunaima. She converted to Catholicism and was baptized by the Jesuit priest Father Paolo Umberti. The Caribs wanted a second marriage, wedding one of their chieftains to one of the colonists' women. However, since no women had come on the first wave of colonization to Santa Lucia, they had to be content with the promise of a future marriage when European women did eventually come to the island. The caveat to that promise was that whichever man the Caribs chose to marry said European woman would have to convert to Catholicism prior to the wedding and that the union would be conducted in the Catholic tradition.


Gian Carlo Butteri, first colonial governor of Santa Lucia

The Treaty of Santa Lucia was an early watershed moment in the history of Italian colonization of the Caribbean. Unlike the Spanish and the French, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany did not seek an grand colonial empire in the New World. Their interests were primarily mercantile and Santa Lucia was a beach head for the commercial interests of the trade companies rather than the start of a large-scale conquest. That is not to say that there would be no future fighting between Tuscan colonists and natives nor that they viewed the inhabitants of the Caribbean as equals. Nevertheless, so long as the natives traded with them, left them alone, and allowed the Jesuits to proselytize among them peacefully, the Tuscans saw fit to leave them be.
http://i.imgur.com/pmSrQGh.jpg


The decision to begin peaceful mercantile relations with the natives set a precedent for future Tuscan colonization efforts in the Caribbean

Back in Italy, the early years of Grand Duke Francesco’s reign saw improvements in the economy and in technological development. The research output of the Grand Duchy’s universities contributed to improved farming techniques, better shipbuilding methods, and deadlier weapons. All aspects of society were positively affected by the rigorous researchers and their academic integrity.
http://i.imgur.com/LFh59Zm.jpg


The great inventors and scientists of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany contributed to its advances

By the end of 1594, the Grand Duchy was wrapping up a decade of peace. Despite the turbulence of the transition from Filippo to Francesco and the continuing religious tension, Tuscany had avoided war since the surrender of Genoa in 1584. Europe, similarly, had enjoyed a long period of relative peace. Since the end of the War of the Religious Leagues in 1575, the continent had experienced minor conflicts and flare ups, but had avoided the mass religious conflicts many experts had predicted following the seizure of the imperial crown by the King of Bohemia. However, a revolt in the Low Countries was about to reopen old wounds, and the ascendancy of Protestantism in Europe was about to run up against the wrath of the Catholic Church and the desire for vengeance of the Habsburg dynasty.
 
Last edited:

Nikolai

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A small woman smart beyond her years, civil strife, a grand marriage and colonial ambitions. Quite the update! :)
 

Casko

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Oh Boi. That's quite a cliffhanger for another war in the update~
Also gotta say that is quite a Scary looking Russia looming over in the horizon of the northern reaches of Europe. let us hope that the Polish-Tuscan alliance won't drag The Italians off to die in Tundras.
 

Bullfilter

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Great update, many thanks. I will be interested to see how the colonisation process pans out and whether it will prove a net benefit.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Historical Vignette 17: The Tourney at Bologna Part 1, 14 May 1590


The sun was just beginning to rise when Pantaleone Gattilusio rode out through the Porta San Felice to the tourney grounds with his friends Alessandro and Federico. Alessandro only had the one name, but was nicknamed “il Moro” or, the Moor, due to his darker skin, curly black hair, and African ancestry. He was the bastard son of Grand Duke Filippo I and an Abyssinian servant woman. All three of the boys, for various reasons, had been raised together in the household of Prince Regent Francesco dé Medici, the Grand Duke’s brother. Alessandro was taken in when his father’s new wife, the Grand Duchess Isabella, refused to have him in her home. Federico joined the group later, when they were boys, as a hostage to guarantee the good behavior of his older brother, the deposed Alfonso I, Duke of Caserta. Pantaleone, or Leo as his friends called him, and his sister Martina had joined Francesco’s household when their father died in the war with Genoa.


Gattilusio

Beyond the walls of Bologna, hundreds of tents and pavilions rose beside the River Reno. By day break, the commoners would be out in the thousands to watch the games. Most were from the city itself and its surrounding villages, but some travelled as far as Modena or Faenza.

The trio found an open spot of ground where they could erect their modest tent. Alessandro had acquired it from one of the stable boys that worked for the Medici in exchange for two pheasants he’d caught while hunting the day before. By the time they had it standing upright the sun was high in the morning sky.

For the opening ceremony of the tournament, all of the knights present assembled into groups according to their order. The four military orders within the Grand Duchy of Tuscany were the Order of Saint James of Altopascio, the Militia of Jesus Christ, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Order of St. Stephen Pope and Martyr. The Order of St. James, also known as the Knights of the Tau, were the oldest and thus first in the order of precedence. They were founded sometime in the 1070s by the legendary ruler Matilda of Tuscany. The Militia of Jesus Christ and the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary were founded respectively in Parma in 1233 and Bologna in 1261. Noblemen from the Val Padana who became knights tended to be inducted into those two orders, while noblemen from Tuscany usually went into either the Knights of the Tau or the Order of St. Stephen, though there was some crossover.


Order of St. James of Altopascio

Once broken down into their orders, the knights paraded past the viewing stand to salute Grand Duchess Isabella; the princesses Margherita, Benedetta, and Teodora dé Medici; and Vittoria Farnese, the bride-to-be in whose honor the tournament was being held. When the knights of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary reached the reviewing stand, the procession stopped so that Gastone Bentivoglio, who was a member of that order, could ride out and receive a favor from his betrothed, Vittoria Farnese. The splendor of it all took Leo’s breath away, the shining armor in the light of the dawn, the great chargers caparisoned in brilliant colors, the shouts of the crowd, the banners snapping in the wind. And he was a part of it. Neither Leo nor either of his companions were knights yet, they had done nothing to earn that lofty title, but they were still in the jousts.


The Militia of Jesus Christ

Leo knew that knighthood was largely symbolic, and that the days of knights thundering down on foes as an armored fist of heavy cavalry were in the past. Still, it was a great honor and those who were knighted tended to get the best commands in the army. Leo hoped he would have a chance to be a knight one day too.


Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Once the ceremony was over, it was finally time for the jousting to begin. Leo had forgotten his nerves during the grand display of chivalry, but they came bursting back into his chest once the knights began dispersing back to their pavilions and tents across the meadow.


Order of St. Stephen Pope and Martyr

The three teenagers, brimming with excitement raced over to the main tent, where the tournament’s master at arms had the roster with the first round of jousts listed. A dozen others were crowded around, staring intently at the writing.

Federico pushed and weaved his way to the front of the crowd. “I’m the second tilt,” he declared excitedly, shouting back over his shoulder.

“Who are you facing?” asked Leo, shouting in return so that his friend could hear.

“Rudolfo Contrari of Vignola,” came the reply.


Contrari

“Who do I have?” yelled Alessandro.

“Galeotto Morandi of Molinella,” replied Federico with a shrug. None of them had heard of this Morandi.

Federico turned and walked back to them. He patted Leo on the shoulder. “I’m sorry friend,” he said feigning a grimace but clearly stifling a chuckle.

“Why?” asked Leo, half angry at his friend’s glee and half nervous about who he would be up against. “Who am I facing?”

Federico shook his head, “Sforza.” Alessandro whistled and shook his head as well.

“Wait, seriously?” asked Leo, trying to suppress the fear in his voice.

“Yes, seriously,” replied Federico, “I’m sorry.”

“Sforza,” was Girolamo Riario-Sforza, though the “Riario” part of the name was usually left out. The Riario-Sforza were a cadet branch of the original dynasty, descended from Caterina Sforza, Lady of Imola and Countess of Forlí, better known to history as the “Tigress of Forlí”. Along with the fierce heritage, Girolamo Sforza had his own reputation to inspire fear. Aside from being a massive and imposing figure, likely the largest man in the tournament, he was known for his ferocity in battle. He had allegedly killed a number of his foes with his bare hands.

Alessandro put his arm around Leo’s shoulders as the three headed back to their tent. “It’s okay,” he said trying to reassure him, “it’s just a joust, it isn’t a real battle.”

“That’s true,” added Federico shrugging, “though knights die in jousts all the time…and you aren’t even a knight.”

Leo gave him a shove. Three other men were walking in their direction, two of them were in armor, carrying their helms and dressed in full tournament regalia. The third was oddly attired, in a beaver skin cap and a motley colored cape with silver and gold rings and chains all over his body.

“That’s Carlo Cercignani in the blue cape,” whispered Alessandro as the two groups closed the distance. Cercignani was one of the most famous soldiers in the realm. It was said the Rhine Campaign in the War of the Religious Leagues, which was still studied by Tuscan officers, had been his idea. He also led General Terreni’s vanguard at the Battle of the Sangro that smashed the army of Caserta and defeated Federico’s older brother Alfonso.


Cercignani

“Well what do we have here?” asked the man with the fur cap.

“Bait for knights,” said the other armored man, the one Leo did not know, laughing. His cape was gold with a red horizontal band across the center adorned with three silver crescent moons. Those were the colors of the Strozzi, one of the wealthiest houses in Florence. His armor had golden crescent moons engraved all over it.


Strozzi

“Well, I see three ambitious lads, hoping to win glory in the tournament,” said Cercignani. He was wearing a cerulean cape with three golden circles on it. His armor shined brightly but was otherwise plain.

“You,” said the man with the beaver skin hat pointing at Alessandro, “you are the Grand Duke’s bastard.”

Alessandro looked at him. “I am Alessandro, sir,” he replied coolly, “and you are…”

“Federigo Soderini,” the man replied jovially, “and I meant no offense. I heard that you returned recently from Africa. A trip down the Nile I was told.”

“Aye,” replied Alessandro.

“Well,” said Soderini, “I am a bit of a traveler myself, though I never did make it any deeper into Africa than Alexandria. Still, I have toured much of the New World, seen the great spires of Constantinople, and made it as far as India on a Portuguese merchantman. We are looking for good men for a great undertaking. If you want wealth and glory, come find me in Rimini.”

“I want to be a soldier,” replied Alessandro, “but I am honored by the offer.”

“You see, at least the bastard is smart enough to know that,” said Strozzi.

Soderini waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t listen to this one boys, he’s always been simple.” Soderini nodded his head toward Cercignani, “I followed this fool up and down the Rhine, got into all kinds of battle and mischief, but even with all the nice loot, courtesy of the Prince of Nassau, it was nothing compared to what I’ve made plying the trades of the Atlantic.”

“What is the great undertaking?” asked Federico with curiosity.

Soderini smiled, “to plant the flag of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany on the shores of the New World. To stake our claim to the riches due to us. We are already a great merchant power, it is only right we expand across the world.”

“You keep wasting your time with your grand adventures Soderini,” said Strozzi, “the real men will be here fighting to make sure you get to pocket all that gold.”

“Aye,” replied Soderini, “and it will be my gold paying for your men’s weapons and armor.”

“So you’re Alessandro,” said Cercignani interrupting their bickering, “and who are you two.”

“I am Federico Boncompagni,” said Federico. Then, pointing to Leo added, “and this is Pantaleono Gattilusio.”

The one with the crescent moon cape laughed. “A bastard, a traitor, and an orphan,” he sneered, “some company of heroes.”

“I’m no traitor!” snarled Federico, his hand moving toward the hilt of his sword.

“Watch your mouth boy,” the knight snapped back, “or I’ll cut out your tongue.”

“Watch yourself Strozzi or you will have to deal with us also,” said Alessandro with an edge in his voice.

Strozzi laughed. “You watch it bastard,” he said poking Alessandro in the chest with his steel-clad finger, “just because that African whore of your mother spread her legs for a Medici doesn’t mean you are worth shit.”

“Shut up Bernardo!” thundered Cercignani, stepping in to diffuse the situation. “Forgive my subordinate, he just found out he will be facing the Duke of Guise in his first tilt and is in a sour mood.” Duke Charles of the House of Guise was the head of the hardline Catholic faction in France and, as such, was also a good friend of the Duke of Parma, his Tuscan counterpart in the religious extremist department. Thus, he had been invited to the wedding. He was also renowned across the continent as an expert jouster.


Guise

“That Frenchmen will see what Italian arms are all about today,” replied Bernardo Strozzi defensively.

Cercignani ignored him. “Gattilusio?” he asked, turning to Leo, “your father was Silvio Gattilusio?” He phrased it as a question but it really was more of a statement.

“Yes sir,” replied Leo.

“Your father was a good man, and a good soldier,” said Cercignani. “My name is Carlo Cercignani,” he continued, “your father and I fought together under General Terreni along the Rhine. This one was there too,” he said gesturing toward Soderini, “he had honor once, before he traded it for a sack of gold. Sadly, I was not there when Silvio fell at the Battle of Parma, but I have been told he died bravely.”

“I thank you for the compliment to my father,” said Leo.

“The honor is mine,” replied Cercignani, “and when the day comes that you are ready to follow in his footsteps, come and find me.”

Leo bowed his head in the soldier’s direction, his chest swelling with pride. “Yes sir.”

“Well gentlemen,” said Cercignani, “we must be on our way, my comrades are in search of wine and I have my Alsatian wife to attend to. I wish you luck in the lists.”

The three teenagers bowed as Cercignani, Soderini, and Strozzi moved along.

“Feeling a little better?” Alessandro asked Leo once the three men were out of earshot, “those were kind words from a great soldier.

In truth, Leo was feeling better, but his friend’s question dragged the reality of his situation back into his mind. He made the rest of the walk in silence. Once back at the tent, Federico began getting into his armor as Alessandro and Leo helped him out.

“Nervous?” asked Leo.

“For Contrari?” asked Federico dismissively, “easy work.” When he was dressed, Federico mounted his old silver stallion, put on his helmet, gave them a fist pump, then rode off toward the lists.


Boncompagni

____________________________________________________________

Despite his old friend’s cocksure attitude, Leo couldn’t bring himself to root against him and cheered loudly when he unhorsed poor Rudolfo Contrari on their first go. Federico returned to the tent laughing and joking with Alessandro, who was now decked out in his trademark shiny all black armor, carrying his new buffalo-head helm under his left arm, with its absurd protruding, curved horns.

“Good tilt Fede,” said Leo.

“Told you it would be easy,” came the reply.

“Hey Ale,” said Leo, turning to Alessandro, “what beast is your helm supposed to be shaped as?”

“This?” asked Alessandro taking his helmet and looking at it, “this is an African buffalo. The horns come from a large male bull, they were given to me by the great Alodian general Mena Fung, though I did have the armorer fill them with iron to harden them.”

“Why a buffalo?” asked Leo curiously.

“Yeah, why not something more fearsome?” added Federico, “like a lion or something?”

“A buffalo is fearsome,” replied Alessandro, “when I was in Africa, I went out to hunt with the princes of Alodia many times. Nothing was more fearsome or more dangerous than a bull buffalo protecting its herd. We once made camp near a watering hole and saw a pride of lions take down a buffalo calf. Before the predators had the chance to kill it, the herd turned around and stopped right near them. Then, out stepped a massive buffalo bull, tail flicking, nostrils flaring, hooves kicking up dust, its eyes filled with rage. The lions arranged themselves to meet him, but when he charged they were no match. He gored one of the male lions through the chest with his horn, and tossed a lioness into the water with the ease you or I may through a pebble. The rest of the lions scattered and the calf walked away and rejoined the herd. At that moment, I decided that the buffalo was my favorite beast.”

Federico and Leo both stood there, taking in the story. Their pensive moment was interrupted by the herald announcing that the Duke of Guise was up, facing off against Bernardo Strozzi. The teenagers cheered loudly when the French nobleman knocked Strozzi off his mount easily their first time through. For the next several hours they watched, enthralled as pair after pair of riders knocked into each other, horses neighing, lances splintering, and bodies thudding.

It was fun to be a tournament participant, even if they weren’t knights. Pretty girls walking through the rows of tents would stop and flirt and occasionally give them flowers. At one point Federico disappeared and returned later with a garland of spring flowers tied up in a blue bow. He proudly explained that his beloved Marietta d’Este, daughter of the Duke of Ferrara, gave them to him in honor of his win against Rudolfo Contrari and for him to tie it to his lance for his next tilt. Federico and Marietta had a long running romance, dating back to their time as children.


Este

They cheered loudly when Carlo Cercignani beat Sigismondo Manfredi of Faenza and again when their childhood friend, sixteen-year-old Prince Giulio dé Medici, vanquished the Duke of Guise’s lieutenant, the Vicomte de Melun et Vaux, Pierre Fouquet. The Prince of Lwów earned the love of the mostly Catholic crowd when he beat the Protestant Andrea Pico of Mirandola. His companion Andrzej Nieczuja also took his first tilt by defeating Gustavo Garisenda. Everything was going wonderfully until Ferrantino della Scala of Verona took shards from a splintered lance through his throat. The man who struck him, Luciano Alberti of Prato was visibly shaken by the horror of what happened. As the doctor tended to him and a priest prayed over his motionless body, the crowd watched in silence.


Medici

Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of trumpets and the booming voice of the herald: “next tilt: Andrea Malatesta of Rimini and Sigismondo Piccolomini of Mantua. Following tilt: Girolamo Sforza of Forlí and Pantaleone Gattilusio of Florence.”


Malatesta


Piccolomini

“Oh shit!” exclaimed Leo, “I’m about to be up.”

“Well let’s get you dressed,” said Alessandro quickly. He and Federico had Leo ready to go and up on his horse quickly. They’d all been dressing each other in armor for years and at this point it was all second nature.

“Wish me luck,” said Leo.

“You’re going to need it,” replied Alessandro, nodding toward the lists. At the other end, sat Girolamo Sforza upon a huge dappled destrier. Despite the animal’s size, the rider was large enough to look proportional. The arms of his house, a cadet branch of the original Sforzas, bore a gold rose on a blue field in the second quarter, solid gold in the fourth quarter, while the first and third bore a green biscione, or great serpent, swallowing a Saracen.


Riario-Sforza

“You see that guy getting eaten by that snake?” asked Alessandro in a teasing tone, “that’s you.”

Leo shook his head, his heart pounding in his chest. He tried to keep his cool in front of his friends, but his arm was shaking as Federico handed him his lance. “We’ll see,” Leo said trying to steady his voice as he turned his chestnut brown courser toward the lists. He and Sforza both trotted before the reviewing stand to salute Prince Francesco and the assembled highborn guests.

The two riders then parted ways, each heading for his own end. Even from the that distance, Sforza looked enormous. Leo gripped his lance tightly and brought his shield close to his body. Then he spurred on his horse. “He’s just a man, he’s just a man,” he repeated to himself as his courser picked up speed. Through the slit in his helmet he could see Sforza’s Saracen-eating snake getting closer, his own heart beating along with the thundering of the horse’s hooves. He tried to listen to hear the crowd noise, but all he could make out was the pounding within his own head. Sforza was getting closer and closer. As the two riders approached each other, Leo shifted his lance, took aim at his opponent’s body, and gritted his teeth.

The world slowed down as Leo’s lance impacted first. He immediately felt the metal tip slide across a surface, likely his foe’s shield. Almost instantly, he knew that blow would not unhorse Sforza. However, before any pang of disappointment could reach his brain, another sensation struck him. His brain rattled, his helmet shifted, and the world went dark. Leo felt a plunge in the pit of his stomach and suddenly could not feel his horse below him. Then something slammed into his back.

The crowd rose and gasped in unison as the defeated rider’s body smashed into the muddy earth, but Pantaleone Gattilusio did not hear them.
 

JerseyGiants88

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So the last update as well as the next one are going back in time a bit to the events that took place toward the end of Chapter 38, surrounding the Bologna conspiracy. Part 1, that I just published, just kind of sets the atmosphere, Part 2 is going to include the actual conspiracy. I was initially going to omit them because they had gotten too long (hence why they are in two parts) but I am behind on writing Chapter 40 so I figured I'd throw them in here in the meantime. It also works on some character building for figures who will become more imprtant as the main story progresses. I need to polish up Part 2 just a bit but it should be up in the next few days hopefully.

I also want to give a shout out to WappenWiki for their incredibly thorough collection of European heraldry. It is the best I have yet found on the internet and I highly suggest checking them out. The coats of armor featured in this update are all from there and (with the exception of the as far as I know fictional Cercignani) accurate for each house.

Hope you guys enjoy, thanks for reading.
 

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So is Leo down or can't he hear the crowd because he won, I wonder?
 

JerseyGiants88

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So I have both Part 2 of The Tourney at Bologna and Chapter 40 almost ready to go. They will both be up this week. I was in a groove then things got chaotic in the real world so I had to put a pause on the AAR. However, I have them both pretty much finished up. Thanks for everyone's patience.
 

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So I have both Part 2 of The Tourney at Bologna and Chapter 40 almost ready to go. They will both be up this week. I was in a groove then things got chaotic in the real world so I had to put a pause on the AAR. However, I have them both pretty much finished up. Thanks for everyone's patience.
Looking forward to them. Damn inconsiderate RL: always getting in the way of the Alternate World! :)
 

JerseyGiants88

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So just to give an update on the lack of progress for the AAR. I got pulled away for some military training on short notice and have been away from internet access. I will be back in the real world in about a week at which point I will make sure to post the next two updates. Just wanted to let everyone know why there has been no progress. Thanks
 

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So just to give an update on the lack of progress for the AAR. I got pulled away for some military training on short notice and have been away from internet access. I will be back in the real world in about a week at which point I will make sure to post the next two updates. Just wanted to let everyone know why there has been no progress. Thanks
Thanks for letting us know. Ya gotta do whatcha gotta do! :cool:
 

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Thanks for letting us know.:)
 

JerseyGiants88

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Historical Vignette 18: The Tourney at Bologna Part 2, 16-17 May 1590

Pantaleone Gattilusio opened his eyes. He found himself looking at a dark, oblong blur against a backdrop of a brighter blur. There was a sharp ringing in his ears and his head felt as if it had been beaten about by a large rock. Pantaleone, or Leo as his friends called him, let out a groan. http://i.imgur.com/vUGXBDY.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/vUGXBDY.jpg?1

Pantaleone Gattilusio as a young man

The dark, oblong blur muttered something. Leo squinted at it. Suddenly, cold water splashed onto his head, sending a shocking yet pleasant feeling running through his body. He shook his head and squinted again. The blur was sharpening into a person, though he still couldn't make out who it was. There was a window behind the person.

"Does that feel better?" the shape asked, its voice echoing in Leo's head. It was a familiar voice, a kind voice, but he could not place it exactly. Leo moved to prop himself up onto his elbows.

"I told my father," it was saying, "but no, we had to press on with these foolish games." What was it talking about? thought Leo to himself.

"At least you're still alive apparently," the voice continued, "Luciano Alberti wasn't so lucky. We thought he was going to make it, but then he succumbed last night. A great shame."

"Where--where am I?" Leo finally managed to ask.

"You are in the Palazzo Re Enzo," the person said. It was a young man's voice, and the face was starting to come into focus.

"Al-Alberto?" Leo asked.

The figure sighed, "yes, and you must be in a bad way if you struggle to recognize me."


Prince Alberto dé Medici

"What--what happened?" stammered Leo.

"What happened is that you were participating in that idiotic joust and Girolamo Sforza almost detached your head from your body. It was a miracle you lived. Everyone assumed you were dead the way your body crumpled when you hit the ground."

Leo closed his eyes. He remembered the snake swallowing the Saracen, the sound of horses, and, and… the jousts! he suddenly remembered.

"How have the jousts gone?" Leo asked brimming with excitement and forgetting his headache for a moment, "who are Federico and Alessandro facing in their next joust?"

Alberto shook his head. "Their next joust?" he replied with a hint of amusement, "Leo, my dear friend, you've been unconscious for nearly two days. It is Saturday morning."

"Sat--Sat--Saturday!?" Leo was shocked. He'd missed so much! The jousts, the soccer, the horse racing, the feasts, the masquerade balls. The wedding is today! he thought in a panic. No, he realized, the wedding is Sunday--tomorrow. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"You, I'm sure, will be happy to know that Alessandro has covered himself in glory, or so I'm told."

Leo sat up. His head pounded but otherwise he was starting to feel a bit better. "You sound unimpressed," he said to Alberto.

"You know I've always found these games to be wastes of time," replied the prince, "not to mention dangerous, you being an excellent example right now."

"But--but they show martial prowess," said Leo defensively.

"Do they?" asked Alberto unconvinced. "Cavalry don't fight with lances anymore. They are no longer an armored fist riding over the enemy infantry. What makes a great cavalry these days is the ability to execute complex movements and fire volleys in echelon, not running their foes through with a lance. You know that as well as me, if not better. You are the one who dreams of becoming a soldier, not I."

Leo thought about it. He could not come up with a good counter argument in that moment, though he knew Alberto had to be wrong.

"Face it my friend, the joust is obsolete," continued Alberto. He paused then smiled, "however, seeing as you are so excited about it anyway, I will tell you about how the tournament has gone. I had a full report of the first two days written out. Though I don't know how the morning jousts went."

Alberto proceeded to give Leo the full rundown of the tournament. Federico did well, unhorsing three opponents, Luciano Bentivoglio, Samuele Rivani, and Claudio Farnese before being undone by Girolamo Sforza just like Leo had.

"He did a bit better than you," Alberto added (unnecessarily, thought Leo), "it took Sforza three goes to unhorse him."

Alberto's brother Giulio did even better, defeating four opponents and reaching the final eight. He beat Ludovico Spadolini, Emmanuele Montefeltro, Marco Grimaldi, and the Prince of Lwów, brother of the Polish King Stanislaw II, in the round of sixteen. He was finally defeated by the Duke of Guise, but it took the legendary French knight five passes to do the job.

None of their acquaintances, however, had done better than Alessandro. He had yet to fall and, Alberto explained, was in the semi-final round, one of the last four riders. His next opponent was to be Massimiliano del Rosso, while Girolamo Sforza faced off against the Duke of Guise.

"I must go see!" Leo blurted out and tried to rise. A pain shot through his chest as he did, causing him to grunt.

"Easy there," said Alberto, "I think it would do you well to rest a bit. I brought some books for you to pass the time." Alberto pointed to a stack next to him. He was also holding a book open in his lap.

"What are you reading?" Leo asked, grudgingly settling back down.

"It is a play from England," explained Alberto, "Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe.”

"What's it about?" asked Leo, curiously. Alberto had always been an avid reader even as a young boy. When Leo, Giulio, Alessandro, Federico, and the other boys were out playing at swords, he'd be up in the library buried in books.

"About Tamerlane," replied Alberto matter-of-factly, "his rise from being a nomadic shepherd to one of the greatest emperors. It shows the power of the human spirit. It takes place in the Orient, with a very interesting cast of characters."

"For you, however, I brought some political works." Alberto looked at Leo. "If you're going to be a great soldier, you also have to know politics." He picked up the top book on the stack and handed it to Leo, "here read this one."

Leo looked at the book as he took it.

"You've read Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy, correct?" asked Alberto. Leo nodded. "Good, this is Gucciardini's take on it. Gucciardini might not have been quite the political genius Machiavelli was, but I believe he had a better grasp and understanding of history. I think you'll like it."

"Well thanks," said Leo.

"Now that you're awake, I will go fetch the doctor," said Alberto, standing. "If you're up for it, old Lord Bentivoglio is hosting a feast in my father's honor tonight at the Palazzo del Podestà. I'm sure he'd be happy to see you there and in relatively good health."

"I will try to make it," said Leo smiling, "thank you Alberto."

"No need for thanks," replied the prince, "you are as good as a brother to me, sitting by your bedside was the least I could do." With that he turned and left the room.

Leo examined the book Alberto gave him, opened it, and started reading.


The view from Pantaleone Gattilusio’s window

___________________________________________________________________

The party inside the Palazzo del Podestà was finally dying down. Leo rubbed his forehead, trying to stave off sleep long enough for him to make the short walk back to the Palazzo Re Enzo. He traced through the steps in his mind. Was it even two hundred paces? In truth the two palaces were connected, though Leo preferred going around the outside, since he tended to get himself lost in the hallways.


The Palazzo Re Enzo, right, and the rear of the Palazzo del Podestá, left

Luciano Bentivoglio, one of Lord Cornelio’s brood of grandchildren, had told Alberto and Leo the story of how his family got their name, which had to do with the king for whom the Palazzo Re Enzo was named. That was King Enzo of Sardinia, illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Since Frederick, and in turn Enzo, were Hohenstaufens, patrons of the Ghibellines in Italy, they were enemies of Guelf Bologna. The Bolognesi captured Enzo during their victory at the Battle of Fossalta on 26 May 1249. Enzo was thenceforth imprisoned in the castle now bearing his name from then until his death in 1272. One freedom that he was permitted by his Bolognese captors was to have ladies visit him. Indeed, in his will he mentioned three natural daughters. However, legend has it that he had a fourth child, a son, from a peasant woman named Lucia di Viadagola. The son was called Bentivoglio, from the words "Amore mio, ben ti voglio" (roughly, “my love, I care deeply for you”) that he said to his beloved. The Bentivoglio claim their descent from this child of King Enzo.

Alberto, who loved history, naturally enjoyed the tale. Leo, on the other hand, wondered why the rulers of a city would want to claim descent from a king (who was a bastard himself by the way) who had been defeated and captured by the very people they ruled over. Then again, the Bentivoglio weren’t the most highly thought of noble family in Italy. Their hereditary rule over Bologna was secured almost by chance. Giovanni II Bentivoglio was Gonfaloniere of Bologna when the Medici and their allies were exiled from Florence by Savonarola. At the time, Giovanni’s grip on power was tenuous, and he was despised by a large segment of the people. Nevertheless, he helped the Medici and their supporters regroup and fight back against the Dominican friar ruling Florence and was rewarded when Girolamo dé Medici was elected Gonfaloniere of the Republic after Savonarola’s overthrow. Giovanni Bentivoglio was first made Podestá for life, and then elevated to Lord when Gonfaloniere Girolamo dé Medici became Grand Duke Girolamo I of Tuscany in 1528. Since then, the family had grown in power and influence consistently. They were even related to the Medici, through the marriage of Girolamo I’s daughter Bianca to Annibale Bentivoglio, the current Lord of Bologna’s father. Which actually made Cornelio Bentivoglio an uncle to Grand Duke Filippo and Prince Francesco. Or was it a cousin? Leo’s head was starting to hurt thinking about it.

He finally decided it was time to go. Leo downed the dregs of his wine, stood up, and headed toward the doors as surefootedly as he could.

“Where do you think you’re going?” shouted a voice in his direction that Leo immediately knew belonged to Federico Boncompagni.

“Home,” said Leo turning to look at him, “my head feels like it’s about to explode.”

“I bet,” he replied, “but you can’t leave us.” Leo looked at Federico. His Neapolitan friend was drinking wine straight out of a large green bottle, another empty one lay on its side on the table in front of him. Next to him, Leo saw Alessandro with one of the Bentivoglio girls--Leo could not remember which one, the Lord of Bologna had too many grandchildren to keep track of—sitting on his lap, his hand buried somewhere up her skirt. The girl was laughing at something Alessandro had just said. “Come over here,” said Federico gesturing to Leo, “help me finish my wine.”

Reluctantly, Leo walked over and sat next to him. He took the bottle of wine from his friend and sipped it.

“How is your head Gattilusio?” asked Alessandro from Federico’s other side.

“We thought you were dead for sure,” added the Bentivoglio girl laughing.

“Well we can’t all be champions like you,” shot back Leo, “or, sorry, almost champions.” His friend frowned. He had gotten to the last four riders, but could not make it to the final. Massimiliano del Rosso knocked him off his horse after what had been a fantastic back and forth. Or so Leo had heard. Leo’s own nemesis, the monstrous Girolamo Sforza went down to the Duke of Guise. In the end however, the young del Rosso preserved the honor of the Grand Duchy and delighted the crowd by unhorsing the Frenchman in the final joust and winning the tournament.

“At least he made it to the final day,” replied the Bentivoglio girl testily, her hand now rubbing Alessandro’s chest over his black satin doublet.

“I’m sorry,” replied Leo looking at her with curiosity, “I do not believe we have been introduced.”

“This is Giulia Bentivoglio, granddaughter of Lord Cornelio,” said Alessandro. Giulia was a round-faced but pretty girl with long, light brown hair held above her head with a hairnet. She wore a golden gown with tied-on sleeves and a chemise with a wide band of gold embroidery at the neckline. A jeweled zibellino was fastened to her waist by a golden chain. Leo thought the outfit a bit gaudy, but the Bentivoglio were known for garishly flaunting their wealth.

Giulia gave him a haughty smile. “She tells me there is a get together of high born ladies at the Palazzo Pepoli later this evening,” continued Alessandro, “supposedly they are all staying there together to be better prepared for the wedding in the morning, but Giulia tells me they may enjoy the company of a few gentlemen.”

“Yeah, we’re going,” declared Federico slapping Leo on the back.

“He just wants to go because his beloved Marietta is going to be there,” replied Alessandro, referring to Marietta d’Este, with whom Federico had been having an on again, off again, romance for years. This caused a fit of giggles to erupt from Giulia Bentivoglio.

“Her?” asked Federico, sounding nonplussed, “I’m over that girl.”

“Sure,” said Alessandro, “we’ll see.”

Federico handed his wine bottle to Leo. “Come on Leo,” he said standing, “let’s go show this snooty bastard we can have as much luck with the ladies as he can.” Leo Gattilusio wanted to go to bed, but his two best friends were going to party with some high ranking ladies, and when one was an orphan from a family on the low end of the aristocratic ladder, one did not turn down such an opportunity.

___________________________________________________________________

It was dark in the narrow streets and alleys of Bologna when the five youths departed the Palazzo del Podestá. In addition to Leo, Alessandro, and Federico, were Giulia Bentivoglio and her black-haired cousin, Anna. They left through the western exit of the palace, placing them in Piazza del Nettuno, or Neptune’s Square, with the towering bronze statue of the Roman god of the sea standing before them atop his fountain.

“You know,” said Giulia as they mounted their horses, “if you look at the statue from a certain angle, it looks like he has an erection.”

“Bullshit,” said Federico, shaking his head, “you northerners aren’t funny enough or clever enough to come up with that.”

“I swear,” Giulia insisted with a wicked smile, “I’ll show you.” The five of them rode around the statue to the northwest side of the fountain, or to the right and rear of the statue of Neptune. “Now look at it,” she said, as the five faced toward the southeast.

“Oh my God I see it!” exclaimed Federico laughing uproariously. Indeed, Giulia was right. From that angle, the extended index finger on Neptune’s right hand was perfectly placed to look as if he had a full on erection.http://i.imgur.com/dwNYYg6.jpg?1

http://i.imgur.com/dwNYYg6.jpg?1

The statue of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza del Nettuno, as viewed from the northwest

“Almost as big as mine,” said Alessandro laughing along with the others. “See,” he added, “it pays to have worldly friends, you get to learn all kinds of stupid stuff.”

From the Piazza del Nettuno they headed southeast across the adjacent Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square, under the archway of the Palazzo dei Banchi, and onto Via Clavatura. They passed several taverns, or osterie, still in full swing despite the late hour. The local tavernkeepers were certainly enjoying a boom in business thanks to all the added guests for the wedding and games. When they got to the intersection of Via Clavatura with Via Castiglione, the girls went right, toward the front entrance of the Palazzo Pepoli. Federico went to follow them.

“Where are you going, idiot?” asked Alessandro, “we’re going in through the back. If we go that way someone is bound to see us.” They kept straight instead, crossed Via Castiglione and entered a tighter alley. At this point Via Clavatura became Via Sampieri. A short while later, riding single file between the brick walls of the buildings, they reached Via Santo Stefano. To the left they could see the Alberici Tower silhouetted against the dark sky. They turned right, toward Piazza Santo Stefano. The road opened up onto a triangular piazza, with the Basilica of Santo Stefano on the other side. The basilica was known locally as the Sette Chiese, or seven churches, because the entire complex had seven separate churches within it. To their left, on the northeast side of the piazza, was a crowded tavern, whose patrons were mostly soldiers and scantily clad women. Further on, where Via Santo Stefano met Via Gerusaleme, another tavern had much the same scene going on. However, before they reached it to have a better look, Alessandro led them to the opening of a narrow alleyway.

“We get off here,” he said and the three dismounted and tied their horses to a post. They went the rest of the way on foot. The boys weaved through a series of narrow alleys until they reached a solid looking wooden door. Alessandro knocked three times. After several moments, the door creaked open. Alessandro produced a small, jingling pouch from within his tunic and handed it to the serving girl who opened the door. “Much obliged, my lady,” he said smiling at her. They were in the building.

___________________________________________________________________


The Pepoli Palace

The room was filled with the sound of girls’ giggles and gossip and it made Leo’s brain hurt. On any other occasion, he would have thought himself lucky to be surrounded by so many good-looking ladies in various stages of undress. Despite the outward modesty of the typical Italian noblewoman, in private gatherings such as this they were anything but. However, his head was still hurting him. Anna Bentivoglio was talking to him incessantly and, despite her good looks and fondling hands, Leo couldn’t get himself into the conversation. On the other side of the room, Alessandro was surrounded by a gaggle of girls. Giulia Bentivoglio sat to his right but had a sullen look on her face. She brought Alessandro along thinking he was surely all hers for the night, but clearly had not counted on the competition and was visibly annoyed. That did not seem to deter any of the other ladies however. Worst of all for Giulia, Alessandro seemed to be devoting most of his attention to Eleonora Pepoli, whose family was a longstanding rival of the Bentivoglios.


Giulia Bentivoglio

Federico, despite his vows to the contrary, had immediately gotten into conversation with Marietta d’Este and the two soon after absconded alone to an adjacent room. The tables lining the walls were covered with platters of cheeses, meats, fruits, baked goods, and wines. Leo had a small dish of food sitting untouched next to him. Even his appetite was nowhere to be found.

All Leo wanted to do was fall asleep. He felt his eyelids getting heavy when someone plopped down next to him. He turned to his left and saw Margherita de Medici sitting there grinning at him. “Leo you look awful,” she said giving him a playful shove.

“I…uh…I fell,” he said sleepily.

Margherita laughed, tossing her hair back as she did. “Well of course you did, we all saw it.”

“It was quite frightening,” chimed in Anna Bentivoglio, whom Leo had forgotten was sitting to his right.

“Anna is right, I thought you were dead for sure,” added Margherita. “It remined me of that time when we were kids and were staying at La Petraia and you boys were all playing at swords and Alessandro wacked you over the head.”

Leo remembered the incident she was referring to. They were all staying at the Medici Villa La Petraia just northwest of Florence. He and Alessandro were probably around eleven years old, making Margherita about seven at the time. She and all the other girls staying at the villa had come out to watch the boys do their sword practice that day, which meant that all of them were going extra hard. Leo was in the middle of a good duel with Alessandro when his friend hit him in the side of the head with a vicious horizontal slash. Leo blacked out momentarily before coming to hearing the screams of the girls and Alessandro screaming for him to wake up in a terrified voice. His head was gushing blood and had hurt him for nearly a week afterward.

“Yeah I guess so,” replied Leo managing a smile at the memory, “although Girolamo Sforza is a lot bigger than Alessandro.”

“Indeed,” replied Margherita. “By the way,” she added, “my brother told me the whole reason you all were coming here was to give me a gift.” She paused, “yet I have no gift.”

“Oh…I…uh…yeah,” replied Leo stupidly.

Margherita sighed. “I should have known better,” she said, “you boys just wanted to use me as an excuse to get to my friends.”

Before Leo could defend himself, there was a loud banging on the door. All the conversations stopped and everyone turned to look.

"É! La Madonna!" exclained Eleonora Pepoli, standing up, "I told the servants to leave us alone." She walked over toward the door, which emitted another loud bang. "Who is it!?" she yelled at the wood.

"This is Martino d'Este of Ferrara," boomed a voice from the other side, "open the door."

Eleonora turned and gave everyone in the room a curious look. Leo looked at Alessandro, who was on his feet now. "What does he want?" Leo asked unsure.

"I don't know," replied Alessandro, "but I'd be wary." He looked at her. " Eleonora," he said calmly but firmly, "tell them to go away."

Eleonora turned to do as Alessandro said when the door suddenly burst open. Martino d'Este strode into the room, followed by eight soldiers, all armed and armored and wearing the light blue of the Estes, complete with white eagles with their wings displayed. Martino looked around the room and fixed on Alessandro and Leo. "What are you two doing here?" he demanded, pointing at them, "there were only supposed to be ladies."

Leo shrugged, "we could ask the same of you." That caused Martino's face to darken. Leo knew Martino’s younger brother, Riccardo d'Este well, as he was of an age with Alessandro, Federico, and him. He only knew Martino, who was the eldest, in passing, but was aware the heir to Ferrara had a fearsome temper.

Alessandro got straight to the point. "What is the meaning of this?" he asked, stepping forward.

"I don't have to answer to you, bastard," came the reply. "However, since it is relevant, I will tell you," he said turning and looking past Leo, "we are here for the Princess Margherita."

Margherita, who was standing behind him, gasped. "Is it my father!?" she asked, her voice full of concern.

"We cannot tell you right now Princess," said Martino, "but you must come with us, we have reason to believe you are in danger."

"Danger?" asked Margherita, now sounding confused, "from who?"

"From nobody," cut in Alessandro, "do not listen to him, these men are up to something."

"How dare you!" Martino blurted out, "I will deal with you in time, bastard."

In response, Alessandro drew both of his swords, causing many of the girls in the room to gasp or scream. In his right hand he held his rapier, with a long sharp blade atop a bejeweled swept hilt; in his left he gripped his Abyssinian shotel, made of dark steel atop a simple ebony hilt, the blade curved menacingly. "You will deal with me now if you have any designs on my sister."

Leo stood there for a moment, dumbfounded. A moment ago he was sitting on a couch trying to ignore a headache whilst surrounded by pretty girls. Now he was watching his friend challenge nine men to a sword fight. Coming to his sense Leo drew his own sword.

"Idiots," spat Martino, "there are nine of us and two of you, do not make me kill you."

"There are three of us," replied Alessandro coldly. "FEDERICO!" he shouted. They all heard a thump in the next room and much shuffling around. Martino and his men looked curiously over at the side door. Suddenly it swung open, Federico Boncompagni stood there, holding his breeches up with his left hand and the rest of hi clothing, along with his sword still in its scabbard, in his right hand. He was naked above the waist and wore a bewildered, embarrassed look on his face. Federico stared at Alessandro, then at Leo, then at the armed men.

"What--what--what's happening?" he finally managed. A few of the Este men laughed.

"Brother?" came another confused voice from behind Federico. It was Marietta, peeking around from behind Federico, her gown clutched tightly to the front of her body in a vain attempt to hide her nakedness. http://i.imgur.com/Bx0sos0.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/Bx0sos0.jpg

Marietta d’Este

Martino looked as if his head were about to explode. Now it was his turn to be bewildered. He pointed at Marietta. "Y--You!" he stammered. Then shifted his finger to Federico. "You!" he said again, this time full of malice. "What is the meaning of this!?" he demanded, trying to regain his composure.

Before anyone could answer one of Martino's men cut in. "My Lord," he said, sounding exasperated, "the princess."

"Oh, yes, right," replied Martino. "I will deal with you two later," he said jabbing his finger toward Federico and Marietta. He turned back to Margherita. "Princess, please forgive me, but I beg of you to come with us, we are here for your protection."

Giulia Bentivoglio suddenly stepped between Margherita and the armed men. "Martino d'Este," she said, trying to sound authoritative, "if you know of a threat to the royal family in this city it is your duty to report it to my grandfather, Cornelio I, Lord of Bologna."

"Shut your mouth Giulia," he responded, "and get out of the way. You must be even stupider than everyone says if you think I care for one second what you, your grandfather, or anyone else in your useless, up-jumped, shit family thinks."

Giulia looked hurt and taken aback. She stood there defiant for a moment before backing away.

"You're doing a lot of talking," said Alessandro, "but we are still here and you still don't have the princess."

"You really are a stupid bastard," Martino spat at Alessandro. "I've always been curious," he said drawing his own sword as his men drew theirs as well, "if African savages like you bleed black blood." With that he stepped forward and all hell broke loose.

Martino and his men advanced in a half moon formation across the large room. There were three of them for each of the three friends. The girls screamed and ran to the corners of the room, watching with a mixture of fear and fascination. To Leo's right, Federico dropped his clothes and fumbled with his sword scabbard. He drew it then threw the scabbard to the ground on top of the clothes pile. His breeches were still loose and he held them up with his left hand as he handled his rapier with his right.

Two of the Este men advanced on Federico while Marietta ordered them to stand down. After a moment of hesitation, they decided they could ignore her and continued approaching. Leo wanted to go over and help him but three of the men were advancing on him. He looked them over. Somewhere else he heard steel clash with steel. "Stupid boy," said one of the men, slashing wildly at Leo. He ducked and the swing missed, then he parried a second slash from another soldier. The three of them came at him, shoulder to shoulder. Leo studied them, bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet. These men looked tough, they might have even seen some battles. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for Leo, they didn't look like they were trained for individual combat. They were likely very well drilled in using a pike on a battlefield, but with a sword indoors in close quarters, they were out of their element. All the time Leo had spent with Alessandro, Federico, and the other boys training and sparring with wooden swords now seemed like hours very well spent. He jumped up onto a nearby table, giving himself a height advantage.

"Get the princess," someone screamed. The three men looked past him, reminding Leo that Margherita was behind him. Leo kicked a plate of food in their direction, cheese and fruit flying at them along with the silver dish. Leo then jumped backwards off the table. Margherita was standing there, open mouthed and watching the fighting. Leo grabbed her hand.

"Let’s go!" he shouted, pulling her out of her stupor. He pulled her toward the back of the room where Alessandro was fighting off two men.

“This way!” shouted Eleonora Pepoli pointing to a back door out of the room. Leo made for it, dragging Margherita behind him. He looked back over his shoulder for his two comrades. Federico, shirtless and now also without his sword, was hot on their heels, his left hand still clutching the top of his breeches.


Eleonora Pepoli

“I lost my sword!” he shouted to Leo, stating the obvious.

“Take the princess and go,” he replied, seeing the three men he had been fighting chasing after them. Federico grabbed Margherita and went through the door. Leo whirled to confront the oncoming soldiers. His head was pounding and his vision was slightly blurred. Am I going to die? he asked himself suddenly. He was surprised the thought did not cross his mind earlier given the situation, but it had all happened so fast. He looked left and saw Alessandro, the picture of coolness. He had both his swords still, his rapier forward protecting him and his shotel off to his right side ready to strike. There were four soldiers about him but none seemed too eager to approach. Leo looked past them and saw Martino d’Este on the ground clutching his bloody arm, a nasty gash visible beneath his silken sleeves. Behind Martino another of the Este soldiers was face down and motionless. Alessandro was doing well, but they had no hope to defeat seven men with only two of them, no matter their skill advantage.

“Run you idiots!” shouted Eleonora Pepoli and Giulia Bentivogilio almost in unison, marking one of the few times a Pepoli and a Bentivoglio agreed on anything.

Leo stepped back, the three men were moving deliberately but slowly toward him. “Alessandro,” he shouted, “we should go!”

“If you run we’ll catch you boy,” said one of the soldiers menacingly.

“Try me,” replied Leo. That angered the soldier and he took off running, leaving his two comrades behind him. Leo parried the man’s thrust, spun and struck him on the back of his helmet with the butt of his rapier. The soldier lost his footing, fell, and ended up taking down a table full of wine bottles the crashed down onto him. The two remaining soldiers looked at each other, unsure. Leo kept stepping backward slowly but deliberately.

Suddenly he heard a piercing scream to his left. Leo and both of his foes looked over. One of the other Este men was holding the stump of his arm, missing everything below the middle of his right forearm. Alessandro stood across from him, the shotel gleaming with red blood. One of the other soldiers in that group kneeled to check on his comrade while the other two stood warily by them. They were separated from Alessandro by about six to eight feet, and they showed no signs of wanting to approach.

“Do not let them escape!” shoutd Martino d’Este, struggling to his feet, still clutching his sword arm. His men, however, just stood their ground.

“Alessandro, let’s go!” shouted Leo again. Finally his friend came to his senses. Alessandro motioned for Leo to go first. Knowing his friend wouldn’t budge due to his stubborn pride, Leo took the invitation and made for the exit. Looking around he had not noticed most of the girls had followed Federico and Margherita out. Only two or three were huddled in a far corner but from where he stood Leo couldn’t tell who they were. He sprinted across the threshold and down a dimly lit stone corridor. Leo could hear Alessandro running behind him as he turned a corner and almost ran straight into Eleonora.

“About time you fool,” she said annoyed, “where is Alessandro?” Before Leo could reply his friend rounded the corner as well. “Oh Alessandro,” said Eleonora throwing herself at him, “that was so brave to save the princess.” This annoyed Leo for two reasons. First, he had done just as much to save Margherita. Second, and more pressing, there were likely Este soldiers coming after them.

“We should probably go,” said Leo trying to hide his annoyance.

“I think he’s right,” said Alessandro quickly.

Eleonora looked at him longingly then nodded. “Follow me,” she said then took off down the corridor. After descending several flights of stairs and winding their way through the halls, they reached a small antechamber. When they entered it was already crowded. Federico was there with Princess Margherita and Marietta d’Este hugging him. A bunch of the other girls were there as well.

“We can’t get out,” whispered a clearly frazzled Giulia Bentivoglio.

A smug smile appeared on Eleonora’s face. “Lucky for you I have the key,” she said. The crowd parted as she approached the door, put in the key, and turned it. The heavy door creaked open.

“Hold on,” said Leo before anyone went out, “let us go first, in case they left anyone out here.”

“Good idea,” added Federico, “I’ll lead the way.” He turned and kissed Marietta before striding through the door. Leo rolled his eyes in the dark. He and Alessandro followed Federico out the doors, Margherita behind Alessandro and the rest of the girls behind her. Almost immediately, Federico halted them. He gestured for Alessandro and Leo to move up. He pointed across a small courtyard, and they could see a group of five soldiers, also wearing Este colors, loitering under an archway. They did not seem to be paying much attention fortunately, but they were in the way. Federico turned right instead of crossing the courtyard and they all passed through a narrow alley. Behind them, Leo could hear hushed whispers and even giggling. How stupid are some of these girls? he wondered, they can get us all caught!

In front of Leo, Federico turned left then quickly right. At the end of the alley, Leo could see a glimmer of light. Federico picked up the pace, almost running. They could hear loud chattering in front of them. Suddenly, they emerged into Piazza Santo Stefano. A large crowd was gathered outside a tavern on the other side of the piazza. A few people noticed the group trickling out of the alleyway. A few of the tavern goers began pointing at them.


Piazza Santo Stefano

“Be wary of anyone,” said Alessandro to Leo and Federico, “stay with the princess.” He strode out into the center of the square, toward the tavern, still holding both of his blades. The crowd was nearly silent now, all staring intently.

“There has been an attempt to kidnap the Royal Princess Margherita dé Medici!” he yelled, “the Duke of Este has sent his son and a group of soldiers to take her. Even now they are searching. Are there any good and loyal men that will help us defend the princess and her honor?”

There was a long, stunned silence. “Who the hell are you?” shouted someone from the assemblage in front of the tavern.

“I am Alessandro, son of his Royal Highness Grand Duke Filippo I.”

That led to widespread murmuring. Suddenly, one man emerged from the group before the tavern. He walked toward Alessandro. From where Leo stood he could not see the man’s face. Whoever he was, the man stopped several paces from Alessandro and stood for a moment. Then, slowly, he turned back toward the crowd. “He is who he says,” the man shouted back to the tavern goers. That caused a number of other men to walk out and toward the group.

“I am Giorgio Gonzaga, commander of the Second Battalion of the Cavalleria Lombarda,” said the man, “my men and I are at your service young prince.”

“Thank you sir,” replied Alessandro, “there are men looking to take the princess. Este men.”

Just as the words left Alessandro’s mouth, the sound of footsteps came from the alleyway. They all turned. Martino d’Este and a number of his soldiers spilled out into the piazza. “Bastard!” he shouted in their direction, “I will have you skinned for this!”

Giorgio Gonzaga and his comrades drew their weapons. “Give it up Este,” he said, “I suggest you run.”

“You will pay for this Gonzaga,” Martino fumed, “and you too bastard.” He glared at them all before turning to his. “Let’s go,” he shouted. They all dispersed into the night.

Gonzaga turned toward Margherita. “My Princess,” he said dropping to one knee.

“Thank you good sir,” Marghertia replied, looking a bit smitten with her dark-haired savior.

“I am honored to be of service,” said Gonzaga. Leo shook his head at the scene and muttered under his breath. Meanwhile, Federico and Marietta were embracing tightly, wrapped in her long burgundy gown. She was telling him how brave he was, which drew another exasperated sigh from Leo. He barely did anything! he thought to himself, he even lost his sword!

Alessandro, on the other hand, was rallying the other men in the piazza. “We must go rouse the Grand Duke, my uncle, and Lord Cornelio!” he was shouting, “there is treason and insurrection afoot!” A roar of approval came from the assembled men, swords were drawn, and the cry of “Palle! Palle!” in honor of the Medici rang through the night. Leo was still clutching his sword in his right hand. He looked down at it, the blade glimmered from the torchlight of the taverns. There was likely still cause for him to use it. If Alessandro was on the war path, Leo would be right there with him.
 

Casko

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Another Great Update.
And I do must say it seems Este are always up to no good like a good old fashioned Cartoon villain family.
 

Nikolai

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Amazing update as always.:)
 

fabiolundiense

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  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
For all the hard work you've been putting into this AAR, you've been nominated WritAAR of the week. Your assiduity and effort are outstanding !
 

JerseyGiants88

Captain
50 Badges
Dec 28, 2013
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  • Crusader Kings II
  • Cities: Skylines - Snowfall
  • Cities: Skylines - After Dark
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Cities: Skylines - Mass Transit
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn
  • Cities: Skylines - Green Cities
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Europa Universalis IV: Dharma
  • Europa Universalis IV: Golden Century
  • Cities: Skylines - Campus
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Victoria 2
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Colonel
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Cities: Skylines - Natural Disasters
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Cities: Skylines Industries
  • Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome
  • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
@fabiolundiense thank you so much. I am really honored. Thank you also to all my readers. I am working on getting the next update, Chapter 40, posted today. So in a way this was great timing!