Clarice Orsini

Clarice Orsini (1453–1488)[1] was the daughter of Iacopo Orsini, and his wife and cousin Maddalena Orsini both from the Orsini family, a great Roman noble house [2] and was the wife of Lorenzo de' Medici.

Clarice Orsini
Lady of Florence
Clarice Orsini de Medici.JPG
Monterotondo, Papal States
Died30 July 1488(1488-07-30) (aged 34–35)
Florence, Republic of Florence
Buried1 Aug 1488
Noble familyOrsini (by birth)
Medici (by marriage)
Spouse(s)Lorenzo de' Medici
IssueLucrezia de' Medici
Two male twins
Piero de' Medici
Maddalena de' Medici
Contessina Beatrice de' Medici
Giovanni de' Medici, Pope Leo X
Luisa de' Medici
Contessina de' Medici
Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours
FatherJacopo Orsini, Lord of Monterotondo and Bracciano
MotherMaddalena Orsini


Clarice and Lorenzo married 4 June 1469,[3] with a four-day celebration.[4] The marriage was arranged by Lorenzo's mother Lucrezia Tornabuoni, who wanted her eldest son to marry a woman from a noble family to enhance the social status of the Medicis.[2] Their marriage was unusual for Florence at the time in that they were nearly the same age.[4] Clarice's dowry was 6,000 florins.[3]

The political nature of her marriage meant that she was often called upon by each side of her family to influence the other.[5] This included Lorenzo helping her brother Rinaldo get selected as Archbishop of Florence.[6] She was also called on by others throughout the area to support their requests to her husband.[7] People sought her support in the easing of taxes and releasing family members from exile or prison.[8] She would also use her network to gather information about political and military events away from where she was, including troop movements and battles.[9]

Clarice's religious upbringing was a bit in contrast with the humanist ideals of the age popular in Florence. [10] Nevertheless, sources and letters suggest that there was a great deal of affection and respect between her and Lorenzo. [11] [12] Of the ten children born to them, three died in infancy.

During the Pazzi conspiracy, which was aimed at murdering Lorenzo and his younger brother Giuliano, Clarice and her children were sent to Pistoia. (The Pazzis succeeded in murdering Giuliano, but Lorenzo survived the attack, thus the conspirators' plan to replace the Medicis as de facto rulers of Florence failed).

Clarice returned to Rome several times to visit her relatives; she also visited Volterra, Colle Val d'Elsa, Passignano sul Trasimeno, and other places in the 1480s.[13] During these visits, she was treated as a representative of her husband, an unusual role for a woman in that time and place.[14]

On 30 July 1488 she died in Florence, and was buried two days later.[15] Her husband was not with her when she died, nor did he attend the funeral,[15] because he himself was very ill and was in Bad Filetta near Siena to get cured.

The fact that Lorenzo was away from home when she died, affected even more his mood. Piero da Bibbiena, private chancellor of the Magnificent, wrote the following letter to the Florentine Ambassador in Rome :

Yesterday morning at 2 pm Clarice died. If you hear Lorenzo blaming himself for not being present at the death of his wife, excuse him. It seemed necessary...that he brought water from the Villa; and no one thought that she would die so soon.

In a letter to Pope Innocent VIII he wrote that he dearly missed his late wife.[16] The content of Lorenzo's letter to the Pope is the following:

The death of my dearest and sweetest wife Clarice, that recently happened to me, it is of so much damage, prejudice, and pain for infinite reasons, that it has overcome my patience and resistance to the troubles and persecutions of fate, for which I did not think that I would be so affected. And this, to be deprived of such sweet habits and companionship...made me feel, and currently makes me feel, as if I'm lost.


Clarice and Lorenzo had ten children:

Their children were taught by Angelo Poliziano for a time.[15] In 1478, he wanted to teach the children humanism, Latin, and Greek, but Clarice insisted on their lessons being more religious, and being delivered in Italian.[18] She had also removed the family and their teacher from Florence after the scare of the Pazzi conspiracy, and he chafed under the exile.[15] In May 1479, she tried to dismiss the tutor over another change in the curriculum, though Lorenzo continued to pay him.[15]


In popular cultureEdit

She appears in the second and third seasons of Medici, played by Synnøve Karlsen. She also appears in the Starz series Da Vinci's Demons played by Lara Pulver.[19]


  1. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 7.
  2. ^ a b Tomas 2003, p. 18-19.
  3. ^ a b Pernis & Adams 2006, p. 73.
  4. ^ a b Tomas 2003, p. 19.
  5. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 44.
  6. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 59.
  7. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 51.
  8. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 51,62.
  9. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 61-62.
  10. ^ Walter, Ingeborg (2005). Lorenzo il Magnifico e il suo tempo (in Italian). Donzelli Editore. p. 66. ISBN 978-88-7989-921-5.
  11. ^ Hare, Christopher (December 2008). The Most Illustrious Ladies of the Italian Renaissance. p. 61. ISBN 9781605204758.
  12. ^ Hook, Judith. Lorenzo de' Medici : an historical biography. H. Hamilton. p. 36. ISBN 0241112184. More solid evidence of a warm and close relationship would seem to exist in the regular annual production, interrupted only by miscarriages, of new inmates for the Medici nursery, and in the concern shown for each other in the correspondence of husband and wife. When Lorenzo was away, Clarice worried ceaselessly about his health and his state of mind, and regularly dispatched presents, food and comforts to him. He, for his part, wrote to her regularly and, no matter how tired he was, normally with his own hand, always addressing these letters to 'my very dear wife'. This warm and close relationship could only be strengthened by the common delight which both parents took in their seven offspring.
  13. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 31.
  14. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 31-32.
  15. ^ a b c d e Tomas 2003, p. 24.
  16. ^ Ingeborg Walter: Der Prächtige – Lorenzo de’ Medici und seine Zeit. München 2005, S. 250.
  17. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 7,21.
  18. ^ Tomas 2003, p. 24,86.
  19. ^ "Da Vinci's Demons". IMDB. Retrieved 20 March 2019.


  • Pernis, Maria Grazia; Adams, Laurie (2006). Lucrezia Tornabuoni De' Medici and the Medici Family in the Fifteenth Century. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0820476452.
  • Tomas, Natalie R. (2003). The Medici Women: Gender and Power in Renaissance Florence. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0754607771.

External linksEdit