Historical Notes Covering Plate Six

These notes are taken from the Genealogy and History of the Guadagni family by Luigi Passerini, and translated from Italian by Francesco Carloni. Revised and updated by Antonio, Isabella, and Vieri Guadagni.

The number before the name refers to the number on the family tree

Please click here to view plate six.

1. Filippo

Filippo, son of Ulivieri, was born on November 16, 1504. He fought bravely for the freedom of Florence against the troops of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. In 1529, he was elected Captain of the City Militias for the Banner of the Dragon of the Ward of S. Giovanni.

When the Medici returned and became Grand Dukes of Florence, Filippo ended up resigning himself to the new order of things and accepted public offices. In 1550, he was appointed in the “Magistrature of the Eight”.

Along with his brother Iacopo, he decorated the chapel of the saints Iacopo and Filippo in the church of SS. Annunziata. He claimed patronage rights on the chapel for his descendants. He died on May 15, 1556.


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2. Giovambatista

Giovambatista, son of Filippo, was born on May 14, 1542. He had the vocation to the priesthood, so he attended the seminary. In 1563, he obtained a Canonry in Florence. On the other hand, by 1558, he had been invested with the Abbey of Turpenay, in Touraine, France. He owed this last favor to the Queen of France, Caterina de’ Medici. Caterina considered herself somewhat related to the Guadagni family, through her grandmother, Ginevra Salviati. So, unlike other members of the Medici family, she was always nice to the Guadagni family.

Encouraged by this favor of the Queen, Giovambatista decided to go to France, to Caterina’s court. Caterina greeted him very warmly and immediately appointed him among her secretaries. Soon Giovambatista became Caterina’s trusted friend. She made him her almsgiver and gave him the very rich abbey of S. Gualdo, in Brittany.

Let us remember that the Florentine Queen of France had lost her husband, Henry II of Valois, in a joust. Her three sons became king, in succession. All died, or were murdered, at a young age. One of them, Charles IX, depended completely on his mother, in all his decisions. He too, held Giovambatista in great esteem.

Charles IX knew that Giovambatista was clever in dealing with other people over important matters. He often sent him as his ambassador. The first time, in April 1569, the young King sent the Florentine priest to Rome. He was charged with thanking Pope Pius V for having had the Latin hymn “Te Deum” (We thank you, o Lord) sung in all the churches of Rome after the King’s army defeated the French Protestants at Jarnac. Giovambatista was also to ask the Pope for help in money and soldiers. The civil war between Catholics and Protestants in France was expanding. The Protestants were getting stronger.

Queen Caterina, however, stopped the hostilities. She signed a peace treaty with the Protestants. While the happy Protestants were relaxing and enjoying the peace, the Queen ordered the infamous massacre of the night of St. Bartholomew, in 1572. Most of the main French Protestant leaders were treacherously murdered by the Queen’s guards that night and the following days. The killing of Protestants also spread to other important French cities.

After the massacre, very harsh laws were proclaimed against the French Protestants (also called Huguenots). The Huguenots who had survived the tragic night and the following persecution gathered in La Rochelle, and prepared themselves for a desperate defense. La Rochelle was a fortress built on the seashore, with a well protected harbor, easy to defend both by land and by sea.

The Queen knew that the Protestants were ready to defend themselves to the end. They were willing to die rather than surrender. She wanted to avoid a bloody attack, in which many of her troops would be killed. So she had her son, King Charles XI, write the Protestants a letter. In it, he stated that the Queen was well disposed towards them and wanted to improve their condition. Then she sent Abbot Guadagni to talk them into obeying their sovereign. Giovambatista was assigned to promise the Huguenots that the reformed Protestant worship would be tolerated in La Rochelle. They only had to expel all the foreigners who had taken refuge in the city, and accept a governor chosen by the King. The Huguenots had requested Filippo Strozzi (another Florentine prospering in France) or La Garde as possible governors. The King, instead, demanded they accept Biron, head of the French artillery.

The Protestants were hesitant. They would have preferred first to see all the besieging Royal troops and ships leave. The king so promised, but he did not keep his word. In the meantime, Biron arrived in front of the gate of the city. The Huguenots refused to open the gate to let him in. The King once more sent Giovambatista inside the besieged city to try to convince the rebels. Abbot Guadagni had almost succeeded in persuading the majority of the Protestant council to open the gate, when a messenger arrived.

The messenger reported what happened in Castres, another French town, held by the Huguenots. As soon as the Protestants agreed to let the Captain, sent by the King, into the city, they had all been treacherously murdered in their homes. When they heard this tragic news, the Council of La Rochelle decided to expel the King’s envoy, Abbot Guadagni, and to put up a desperate defense.

Again Caterina and her son did not want to storm the fortified walls of the Protestant stronghold. It might turn into a defeat for their army, or, at best, a very costly victory. So they sent La Noue, a Protestant hero and brave general, to parley with the rebels. La Noue was esteemed by the King, in spite of being a Huguenot. He had led the French troops in a brave, though useless, defense of the city of Mons, when it was attacked by the Spanish Army of the Duke of Alba. The Queen also sent Giovambatista with La Noue. She charged the Florentine with the secret mission of keeping an eye on the Protestant hero.

La Noue and Guadagni were not well received by the rebels. The Huguenots reproached La Noue, for having become an accomplice of their “executioner”. They wanted to make sure that his intentions were honest. They gave him a choice: either live in La Rochelle as a private citizen, or take command of all the Protestant troops.

Guadagni pushed La Noue to accept the second offer. He thought La Noue would take advantage of his new important position and try and convince the Huguenots to accept reasonable conditions. Giovambatista thought La Noue would be faithful to the word he had given to the King. The Protestant general proved Guadagni wrong. He decided to accept his new charge honestly and do his best to defend the city. When the Florentine abbot discovered the truth about La Noue’s intentions, he escaped from La Rochelle and joined the King’s Army. And so the siege of La Rochelle began.

La Noue was wise. He realized a long resistance would be impossible. He decided to parley. The main leaders of the Royal Army, Filippo Strozzi, Biron , and Villequier, were admitted in La Rochelle. Abbot Guadagni was with them. Giovambatista had the honor of being the champion of peace. He pleaded for an interruption of the hostilities. However, the Protestants demanded conditions the King would not accept. The Huguenots pretended that the conditions and privileges offered to the Reformed of La Rochelle be extended to all the cities and Protestant churches of France.

Peace was signed anyway, shortly afterwards. But it did not last long. That same year the civil war raged again. La Noue was the commander of the Protestants. He was faithful to his promise to the Huguenots of La Rochelle. He raised the flag of revolt in Poitou and Saintonge. He captured a few cities.

The Queen was worried. She tried to stop La Noue through negotiations. In 1574, she sent her almsgiver (Giovambatista) to ask the Protestant general for a suspension of the fighting. La Noue complied. However, Caterina was preparing herself for a fight to the finish against the Huguenots.

The French treasury was empty. The civil war had been going on too long. The French government did not have any more money to pay its troops. So, that same year, Caterina sent Guadagni to Florence. He was instructed to ask Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, cousin of the Queen of France, for money to raise troops. Giovambatista obtained a loan of 200,000 crowns from Cosimo,

On May 30, 1574, King Charles IX died. He was the second son of Caterina to die. The last of her sons, Henry, happened to be in Poland at the time. The Queen sent Guadagni to Poland, to tell Henry about his brother’s death and his succession to the throne. Giovambatista was asked to give advice to the young King on how to leave Poland, of which he had recently been elected King, without hurting the sensitivity of the Polish, and on how to behave during his journey back home.

It seems that Giovambatista was not liked by the new King as much as he had been by his predecessor. In any case Henry III did not use him as much as Charles IX did. For many years, Giovambatista’s name is not mentioned in history books. In a way, this is logical. Caterina herself could not influence her last son. Henry dedicated himself to his “male friends”.

However, every time the Queen was allowed to take public action, Guadagni was part of it. In 1586, the war was raging, more ferocious than ever, between Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre, who had become the leader of the French Protestants, and the King of France. Ironically, the two Henrys were cousins. Caterina sent Giovambatista to the Duke of Mompensier, to ask him to become a mediator of peace. Mompensier accepted.

The negotiations started. Caterina asked Guadagni to go to the headquarters of the King of Navarre.

He was charged with asking the King to come and talk with Queen Caterina. Henry of Bourbon accepted. The interview between the King of Navarre and the Queen of France took place at the castle of Saint-Bris, near Cognac. Representatives of the great families of France attended the interview. Guadagni was among them.

The interview was inconclusive. Caterina and Henry could not refrain from bickering and reproaching one another.

Giovambatista was then charged to try and arrange the marriage between Cristina of Lorraine, niece of the Queen, and Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. His efforts were successful, and the Medici ruler married the French princess. In the meantime, Caterina de’ Medici died. Giovambatista did not think France would be very safe for him any more. So he had Princess Cristina appoint him as her Gentleman-in-waiting, and he returned with her to Florence.

Princess Cristina sent Giovambatista back to France, in 1591, for some private business of hers. However, Abbot Guadagni got sick and died in Langres, on August 5. The family memoirs say that Giovambatista returned to France, called by Henry IV. The memoirs state that the French King had a great love and esteem for Guadagni, because Giovambatista had often proven himself a moderator in the frequent disputes between Henry IV and Queen Caterina and her sons.

The date of Giovambatista’s death and the assertion that he came to France because the King asked him to, contrast with a letter the King sent him on September 4th, of that same year. This handwritten letter is kept in the library of the Institute in Paris. It has been published in Tome VIII of the collection of the letters of Henry IV. However, it may be that the King did not know that Giovambatista had already died when he wrote him the letter.

This is the letter, in old French, with an English translation:

A’ Monsieur l’abbe’ de Gadagne.

Monsieur de Gadagne, ayant entendu que ma cousine la grande duchesse de Toscane vous a depesche’ pour aller en Lorraine et aultres endroicts pour ses affaires particuliers, et que neantmoings vous desirez, avant que passer oultre, avoir un passeport de moy, je le vous ay bien voulu envoyer, le faisant adresser au sieur de Sillery, mon ambassadeur en Suisse pour le vous bailler, si vous estes encore au dict pays, comme l’on m’a dict que vous y pourriez attendre le dict passeport; et vous veulx bien aussy asseurer que ce qui est de la part de ma dicte cousine, m’est si recommande’, que non seulement elle peut attendre toute siurete’ de mon coste’ a ceux qu’elle y employera, mais aussi qu’ils y recrevont toute la faveur et assistance don’t ila auront besoin; de sort que pour mon regard et de ce qui depend de moy vous ne devez faire difficulte’ de passer oultre, et aller ou bon vous semblera, soit au dedans ce Royaulme ou dehors, selon l’ordre et commandement que vous avez de ma dicte cousine; m’asseurant que comme elle n’y vouldroit rien faire traicter contre mon service, que aussy vous ne le vouldrez entraprendre de vous mesme. Sur ce, je prie Dieu, Monsieur de Gadaigne, vous avoir en sa saincte garde. Escrit a Noyon ce IIII jour de septembre 1591.


To Abbot de Gadagne.

Sir de Gadagne, I have heard that my cousin, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, asked you to go to Lorraine and other places to manage some private business of hers. I also heard that you would like a passport from me before entering France.

I am happy to satisfy your request. I was told you are now in Switzerland, waiting for the passport. I sent the passport to Sir de Sillery, my ambassador in Switzerland.

I have the greatest respect and esteem for my cousin. So she may be assured that her emissaries will always be protected and helped in my Kingdom. Thus, for my part, I assure you that you can go anywhere you want, inside or out of France, according to the orders my cousin gave you. I trust she will not do anything against me, and the same I believe about you.

On this, I pray God, Mr de Gadaigne, to keep you under His holy protection. Written in Noyon, this IIII day of September, 1591.


Near Paris, Giovambatista built a grandiose villa, with a beautiful park, decorated with marble statues. Four of the statues represent the four seasons. He had them sculpted in Florence by Battista del Cavaliere. These were the first works of the well-known sculptor.


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3. Pietro

Pietro, son of Filippo, and brother of Giovambatista, was born on January 25, 1544. He wanted to be a military man, so, as soon as he was eighteen, he went to France to enroll in the French Army. He proved himself a brave warrior in the continuous war against Spain.

One day, however, he learned that the Island of Malta was threatened by the Turks. The Sultan had prepared a huge army to conquer the island. Pietro immediately asked to be accepted in the Knights of Malta. In June 1564, he became a knight, and rushed to the island to defend it.

In 1565, the Sultan Suleiman arrived with his army to besiege the island. A few brave knights however, repelled his attack and forced him to leave. Among these courageous defenders, the historians recall Pietro Guadagni. He was assigned the defense of Fort Sant’Elmo. The fort was taken by the Turks. Pietro fought strenuously. He saw his fellow knights fall, dead or wounded, all around him. With a few remaining knights, he retreated into the church. There, he continued fighting desperately. At the end, losing much blood from his wounds, he was forced to surrender and was taken prisoner.

After a while, Pietro paid a large sum of money and was able to regain his freedom. He immediately returned to Malta and rejoined his fellow knights. A few years later, in a naval battle, between the galleys of Malta and the Turkish fleet, Pietro was taken prisoner, for the second time. He was sold as a slave and spent many years in captivity. Finally his brothers had pity on him. They gathered a huge amount of money and were able to buy his freedom.

Pietro returned to Malta. He was promoted to Captain of a Galley. Then, he was made General Collector of the Order of the Knights of Malta in Tuscany. Finally, he was made Governor of Fort Sant’Elmo. His service was compensated with remunerative assignments. One of them was the Lieutenancy of the great priory of Pisa.

Pietro died on May 14, 1592. He did not have the time to finish the construction of a palace he had started in Malta. It was for the Knights of Malta of the Guadagni family to live in. His brother, Alessandro, finished it.


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4. Alessandro

Alessandro, son of Filippo, was born on July 9, 1545. In April 1566, when he was almost twenty-one, he murdered Andrea Davanzati. For his crime, on July 5 he was sentenced to death and his properties were confiscated. However, he had already fled the city, so he was condemned to death by default. For many years he lived in exile in France. There he fought in the Catholic Army in the Civil War between Protestants and Catholics.

The Queen of France, Caterina de’ Medici, interceded for Alessandro with her cousin Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany. She was able to get Francesco to pardon the young Guadagni. Alessandro returned to Florence and was even able to hold public office. In 1596, he was elected Senator. In 1599 and in 1611, he sat in the bench of the Eight Magistrates. He died on May 20, 1625.

He built a grandiose palace in Piazza del Duomo, designed by Gherardo Silvani. Piazza del Duomo (Square of the Cathedral) had been created in the fourteenth century. A committee, called Opera del Duomo, was formed to buy all the houses that were in the area. Then, the houses were to be destroyed to create the huge square, where a grandiose cathedral would be erected. One of the families who owned houses in that part of town, was the noble Bischeri family. When the Opera del Duomo offered them a good price to buy their houses, they refused to sell. Later on, the Florentine government expropriated their houses for a much lower price, to be able to build the square. Immediately, the Florentine people realized how “dumb” the Bischeri had been, and “bischero” (plural=”bischeri”) became a synonym of “fool, idiot, stupid”. From the Bischeri surname also came “bischerata”, which means “stupid thing”. Bischero and bischerata are now common words in the Florentine language, still used and listed in every dictionary, although not everyone remembers how these words came about.

When the Cathedral was finished, and the site of the surrounding square was defined, the Opera del Duomo realized that it had bought and destroyed too many houses. So the part of the area that was not needed, was sold back to private citizens. The Guadagni bought the zone where the Bischeri houses used to be and erected some houses there. On those houses, including an ancient house of the Bischeri, later sold to Buondelmonti, was built the Guadagni palace. That is why it is called Palazzo Guadagni dell’Opera (del Duomo). The street next to it is still called Canto dei Bischeri (“Bischeri Corner”).

Alessandro used the same architect to build a mnagnificent villa, called Villa delle Falle, about five miles from Florence. It looks more like the palace of a king than the house of a private citizen. Alessandro embellished it with gardens and fountains. Around it, he built a huge park.

Alessandro restored a family chapel in the church of S. Domenico in Fiesole. In the chapel, there was a beautiful painting by the famous Piero Perugino. However, in 1785, the painting was transferred to the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence. In the chapel Alessandro placed an inscription in remembrance of Bernardo del Nero, Bishop of Bisignano. Bernardo was his mother’s brother. For many years, Bernardo had been a Dominican monk in the monastery of Fiesole.

Alessandro protected and patronized artists. He had Andrea Boscoli paint many paintings for him. From Gregorio Pagani, he commissioned a painting which represented Moses striking the rock with a stick, and water coming out of a rock to quench the thirst of the Jewish people. The work was later recognized as Pagani’s masterpiece.

Alessandro married Maria di Simone Del Nero. His grandson, Alessandro, married Monaldesca di Filippo Del Nero. The Del Nero Family owned a beautiful palace on the bank of the Arno River. Thanks to these two marriages, the Guadagni inherited the Del Nero Palace in the eighteenth century.


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5. Vinzenco

Vincenzo, son of Filippo, was born on September 28, 1546. He took pleasure in composing poetry. However, Passerini thinks he was not very good at it, at least in Italian poetry. In the National Library, we can find a love poem (code 1273, class VIII, folio 5) written by Vincenzo, full of hyperboles, which were a typical literary trait of the seventeenth century. His Latin poems are better, Passerini continues, but we do not have many of them. We can find them in the National Library, at the same code, at folios 19, 20, and 35.

Vincenzo started building a villa at the Forbici, on the hillside of Fiesole. However, he died suddenly on May 4, 1601, without having finished the villa. He left the completion of the project to his brother’s care.


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6. Filippo

Filippo, son of Alessandro, was born on March 23, 1582. He entered the Religious Order of the Theatines on November 21, 1603, with the name of Don Filippo Maria. After two years of novitiate, he took his solemn vows on March 25, 1605. He went through all the ranks of the Order. He was elected General of the Order in 1627, and again in 1636.

Filippo died on February 2, 1653. Everyone considered him a saint, and Brocchi registered his name among the reverend dead of Florence. One of his merits was to accelerate the building of the church of S. Gaetano. The laziness of the architect Matteo Nigetti had brought the construction almost to a standstill. Filippo was able to replace Nigetti with Gherardo Silvani.


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7. Francesco

Francesco, son of Alessandro, was born in 1589. He died on April 13, 1621. He studied architecture at the school of Gherardo Silvani. When the Grand Duke decided to transform the Baroncelli villa, on Baroncelli hill, into a princely mansion, Francesco presented a plan.

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8. Alessandro

Alessandro, son of Giovambattista, was born on July 13, 1626. He was admitted to Court in 1652 as Gentleman-in-waiting of Grand Prince Cosimo, son of Grand Duke Ferdinando II. Cosimo confirmed Alessandro’s appointment when he became Grand Duke, in 1670.

Alessandro died on July 28, 1710. In the life of the artist Francesco Boschi, the author recalls certain heads of old people that the painter was commissioned to do by Alessandro.


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9. Carlo Francesco

Carlo Francesco, son of Giovambattista, was born on April 22, 1635. He died on September 25, 1669. He always lived among artists. He was a great friend of Filippo Baldinucci, an art historian.

Baldassarre Franceschini, called il Volterrano, painted the two philosophers, Diogenes and Biante, for Carlo Francesco. Livio Mehus was generously patronized by Guadagni. As a sign of gratitude, the artist gave Carlo Francesco a painting of the Wise Men adoring little Jesus in the hut of Bethlehem.

Carlo Francesco and his brother Alessandro accumulated a large collection of artistic masterpieces. They had works of famous artists such as Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Correggio, Michelangelo, Tintoretto, Tiziano, Palma il Vecchio, and Caravaggio. They also had paintings of well-known artists of their time, even though they are not so famous today, such as Gabbiani, Gherardini, Dandini, Marinari and others.


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10. Migliore

Migliore, son of Alessandro, was born on July 24, 1654. He became a priest and remained such for many years. He always refused canonries or other dignities offered to him.

In 1696, he entered the Order of the Poor Friars of the Mother of God, called Scolopi. He took the name of Migliore della Concezione. He dedicated himself completely to the education of poor children. The children of the rich and noble families, instead, by order of the Grand Duke, attended the schools of the Jesuits.

He spent all his free time in prayer, mortifying his body severely by wearing a sackcloth and scourging himself. When he died, on October 8, 1708, according to popular opinion he was considered a saint. He was buried in a separate place, so that his body could be easily found if the Catholic Church ever decided to open a case for his beatification.


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11. Giovambatista

Giovambatista, son of Alessandro, was born on November 17, 1668. He went through the ranks of public office with dignity. In 1712, he was elected senator and superintendant of the Taxes of the Grand Duchy.

When Cosimo III died, Giovambatista was asked to supervise the solemn organization of his funeral. He died himself soon after, on March 25, 1726.

He was scrupulous in performing his duty. He was not influenced by the ranks of the persons he had to deal with. He forced his own cousin, Marquis Enea Silvio Guadagni, to pay back the 6,000 coins he owed the Company of Bernardino. Enea Silvio avenged himself by assaulting Giovambatista near the Canto dei Carnesecchi, on the evening of September 16, 1721. Giovambatista was seriously wounded and slashed in the face.


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12. Pietro Maria

Pietro Maria, son of Giovambatista, was born on September 16, 1702. In 1709, he was accepted into the Order of S. Giovambatista, also known as the Oder of Malta, as a minor knight. He became a knight, after having done his apprenticeship as a page of the Grand Master of the Order.

Pietro Maria was one of the bravest and most experienced knights, and in many battles he showed outstanding courage. Therefore, after having been Galley Captain for many years, he was promoted to Admiral of the fleet. His services were rewarded by his being assigned numerous commands. One of them was the Lieutenancy of the Priory of Pisa. However, the Lieutenancy was only an honorific title. Pope Clement XII awarded the rich income from it to Lorenzo Corsini, who was only a small child. The Grand Master and all the Order of the Knights of Malta protested. But it was of no use. Young Lorenzo kept the income.

Pietro Maria was compensated with another command. Finally, in 1771, he was made Knight Commander of Naples. At the Court of the Medici, he was Gentleman-in-waiting of the Grand Princess Violante Beatrice. In 1766, he was witness of the solemn ceremony in which Pietro Leopoldo became Grand Duke of Tuscany. Pietro Maria died on October 28, 1779.


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