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Clarice Orsini

Florentine noble
The basics
Date of birth Monterotondo, Metropolitan City of Rome, Lazio, Italy
Date of death Aug 08, 1488 Florence, Province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Children: Lucrezia de' Medici (1470–1553) Piero the Unfortunate Maddalena de' Medici (1473–1528) Pope Leo X Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours
Spouse: Lorenzo de' Medici
Authority VIAF id Library of congress id
The details

Clarice Orsini (1450–1488) was the daughter of Jacopo Orsini, and his wife and cousin Maddalena Orsini. She was the wife of Lorenzo de' Medici and mother of Pope Leo X.


Clarice and Lorenzo married 4 June 1469, with a four-day celebration. 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. Their marriage was unusual for Florence at the time in that they were nearly the same age. Clarice's dowry was 6,000 florins.

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

Clarice was not popular in Florence, because her strict religious personality was in deep contrast with the humanist ideals of the age. Even Lorenzo preferred a Florentine woman, Lucrezia Donati, to whom he dedicated his poems. 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. During these visits, she was treated as a representative of her husband, an unusual role for a woman in that time and place.

On 30 July 1488 she died in Florence, and was buried two days later. Her husband was not with her when she died, nor did he attend the funeral.


Clarice and Lorenzo had 10 children:

  • Lucrezia Maria Romola de' Medici (Florence, 4 August 1470 – 15 November 1553); married 10 September 1486 Jacopo Salviati and had 10 children, including Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, Cardinal Bernardo Salviati, Maria Salviati (mother of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany), and Francesca Salviati (mother of Pope Leo XI).
  • Twins who died after birth (March 1471).
  • Piero di Lorenzo de' Medici (Florence, 15 February 1472 – Garigliano River, 28 December 1503), ruler of Florence after his father's death, called "the Unfortunate"
  • Maria Maddalena Romola de' Medici (Florence, 25 July 1473 – Rome, 2 December 1528), married 25 February 1487 Franceschetto Cybo (illegitimate son of Pope Innocent VIII) and had seven children
  • Contessina Beatrice de' Medici (23 September 1474 - September 1474), died young
  • Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (Florence, 11 December 1475 – Rome, 1 December 1521), ascended to the Papacy as Pope Leo X on 9 March 1513.
  • Luisa Contessina Romola de' Medici (Florence, 1477 – May 1488), also called Luigia, was betrothed to Giovanni de' Medici il Popolano but died young.
  • Contessina Antonia Romola de' Medici (Pistoia, 16 January 1478 – Rome, 29 June 1515); married 1494 Piero Ridolfi (1467 - 1525) and had five children, including Cardinal Niccolò Ridolfi.
  • Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Nemours (Florence, 12 March 1479 – Florence, 17 March 1516), created Duke of Nemours in 1515 by King Francis I of France.

Their children were taught by Angelo Poliziano for a time. 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. She had also removed the family and their teacher from Florence after the scare of the Pazzi conspiracy, and he chafed under the exile. In May 1479, she tried to dismiss the tutor over another change in the curriculum, though Lorenzo continued to pay him.


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