Clarice Orsini – A Roman in Florence

(public domain)

This article was written by Ezgi Özcan.

Clarice Orsini was born in 1453 in the countryside of Rome. Her early life is unknown like many noble girls. Most likely, Clarice had a traditional Catholic education due. When Lucrezia Tornabuoni noticed her, she was a slim girl with a round face. Lucrezia Tornabuoni was the mother of Lorenzo de’Medici (later the Magnificent) and she was in Rome on a mission to find a noble wife for Lorenzo. Clarice was perfect for the de’Medici Family; a modest girl with a powerful family name and she could support Lorenzo without outshining him. Lucrezia immediately settled an agreement between the two families and Clarice moved to Florence in 1469.

It was not a happy marriage from the beginning. In contrary to her outgoing husband, Clarice was a calm woman who did not like to be the centre of attention. Moreover, to live in Renaissance Florence after pious Rome was a great challenge for her. In the 15th century, Florence was the golden city of the Renaissance, full of festivals and jousts, painters, architectures, and intellectuals. It was the centre of the new world away from a traditional one. But Clarice was coming from tradition itself. She had little interest in literature or art. Rather than trying to fit in Clarice remained bound to her origins.

On the other side, the Florentines were not sympathetic to Clarice. If Lorenzo had to get married to a noble girl, she could be a Florentine. The Florentine nobles felt humiliated by Lucrezia’s choice and Clarice’s shyness and piety did not help her to get in the hearts of the Florentines. During her marriage, Clarice spent little time at de’Medici Palace which was the thought factory of Florence. She preferred to stay with her children in the countryside.

Lorenzo spent very little time in the countryside with his family. He had a city to watch over, a family name to protect and beauty to promote. Eventually, Florence was his personal work of art. Furthermore, he had problems with the Pope, which caused the Pazzi Conspiracy in 1478. After the Conspiracy, Lorenzo threw himself in front of the King of Naples, to negotiate personally. He seduced the king with presents and promises. At last, he returned to the city as the Magnificent. After all, Lorenzo did not need money to govern anymore, he had the charisma.

For the most part, Clarice never tried to enlarge her power. But it was going to change. When Lorenzo appointed two artists from the new school – Poliziano and Pulci- for the education of the children, Clarice put great pressure on him. In the end, she won. Her children had an education according to Christian doctrine. Maybe, it was a little rebellion, but everyone understood that she would not bow to her husband’s will.

While she was living in Florence, Clarice had one great dream; to return to Rome. She went to Rome often, to meet with her family. In 1487 she went to Rome for the last time, to attend her daughter’s wedding. After years of sickness, Clarice died on 30 July 1488.  Far away from her husband and her beloved Rome. Lorenzo was not in Florence and he did not have the intention to return. He had just abolished the prohibition of not being able to perform public ceremonies, a rule which came into force after the Pazzi Conspiracy. Clarice was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo.

About Moniek Bloks 2741 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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