The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici

Christopher Hibbert

Foreword by Sir Harold Acton

The story of Italy’s first family is one of political cunning, artistic genius, infidelity, execution and revenge. With sumptuous colour illustrations.


‘No historian gives me greater pleasure to read’

  1. Guardian

Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the Medicis rose from relative obscurity to become more powerful than any other banking or political dynasty in history, numbering artists, scientists, princes and even popes in their circle. For generations they held the destiny of Europe in their hands, until corruption and decadence led to a scandal-filled downfall. In this colourful history, Christopher Hibbert tells their story: one of political acumen and artistic patronage, but also of murder, infidelity, execution and revenge. We meet the dynasty’ founder, Giovanni, the prudent but ruthless banker who developed the family’s alliance with the Vatican; Cosimo the Elder, who survived betrayal and exile to become one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance; and Lorenzo the Magnificent, patron of Michelangelo and Botticelli, of whom it was said that ’If Florence was to have a tyrant she could never have found a better or more delightful one.’ The closing chapters depict figures such as Duke Cosimo I, who emulated Machiavelli’ Prince, and his sons: Francesco, whose mistress-turned-wife, Bianca Capello, was deemed a witch, and the murderous, profligate Pietro.

This edition features a foreword by Sir Harold Acton, in which he praises the book as ‘the achievement of a polished historian who is blessed with an unusual gift for pleasing narrative’. Appendices include family trees and a list of the principal works of art commissioned by the Medicis and their present-day locations. The binding is of Jacquard cloth, woven with a design of fleur-de-lys and rampant lions, commissioned specially for this volume. It is presented in a gold slipcase, with gilded page tops. The endpapers are printed with two different details of The Adoration of the Magi, a fresco in the chapel of the Palazzo Medici by Benozzo Gozzoli, showing Piero, Cosimo and Lorenzo Medici among the procession.

Production Details

Bound in cloth with a blocked spine label

Set in Monotype Centaur with Arabesque Ornaments

384 pages

Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour plates

Printed endpapers

Gold gilded page tops

Plain slipcase

9½˝ × 6¾˝

About Christopher Hibbert

Christopher Hibbert (1924–2008) was a writer, biographer and historian. His time reading History at Oriel College, Oxford, was interrupted by the Second World War. He served with the London Irish Rifles as part of the Eighth Army during the Italian Campaign – where he was wounded twice and awarded the Military Cross – before finally graduating in 1948. Working initially as a land surveyor and writing in his spare time, Hibbert was awarded the Heinemann Award for Literature in 1962 for his fourth book, The Destruction of Lord Raglan, and went on to write over 50 titles. His significant works include Benito Mussolini (1962), Waterloo (1967), George IV (2 vols, 1972–3), The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici (1974; Folio Society edition 1998), The English: A Social History (1987) and Redcoats and Rebels: The War for America, 1770–1781 (1990; Folio Society edition 2006). Hibbert was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Geographical Society.


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