“The Medici” by Paul Strathern

I’ve just finished Paul Strathern’s book on the Medici family, “The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance.”

I greatly enjoyed it. The folks at Goodreads liked it in the way I did while there’s a small, tough crowd at Barnes & Noble that think it’s too simple.

Admittedly it is not a high-scholar book but to do that with the Medici family, from their humble medieval beginnings to their demise in the early 18th century, would require a voluminous book.

The book therefore, I feel, is a success as a decent meal that can whet the appetite to learn more about select Medici.

This especially helpful in learning about the “Medici Popes,” and the difference between the two Medici queens of France — Catherine and Marie.

Strathern also does a good job in tying the Medici into the times they lived in — the Renaissance, Florence’s turbulent history, the Reformation and the rise of science.

He might spend a little too much time discussing the physical looks and infirmities of the various Medici and, I think, his diversion into a lengthy discussion of Galileo, while interesting and informative, is a distraction.

Having said that, if you’ve heard the name and vaguely know something about Lorenzo the Magnificent but the rest of the family is merely a name, this book would be a recommended read. If you know who the Medici are and can name the Medici Popes (Leo X and Clement VII) then you might pass.

Two interesting things I learned was the Medici roots of opera and that Marie de Medici, as queen of France, should be considered the mother of French cuisine.

Corrections: On page 90 there’s a reference to Muslim armies conquering “Turkey and now threatened Constantinople itself.” The reference should probably be to “Byzantium” rather than “Turkey.”

A correction should be made on page 323 where in a blizzard of Clement VII and Charles V references are made, one is made of Charles VII. That should be Charles V.


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