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three pairs of lovers with space

LIFE OF GIAN GASTONE I, SEVENTH AND LAST GRAND DUKE OF THE ROYAL HOUSE OF MEDICI

 

Giovanni Battista Gastone de’ Medici (1671-1737), whose forenames were usually abbreviated as “Gian Gastone” was, from 1723, Grand Duke of Tuscany, an autonomous state in the Holy Roman Empire. Dying childless, he was the last of the Medici to rule Tuscany, whose capital, Florence, the family had usually dominated since the fifteenth century.

Late mediaeval and early modern Florence was better known for the popularity of Greek love than any other city in Italy, which itself had a similarly unique reputation within Christian Europe,[1] but Gian Gastone was the only one of its rulers whose passion for boys was apparently exclusive and won him serious notoriety. A careful reading is however required to measure how far this notoriety rested per se on his promiscuity with boys (his grandfather, Ferdinando II, having been very popular with his people despite dalliance with his page boys) as opposed to the close association it involved him in with Giuliano Dami: as will be seen, this boy, who became at 13 his beloved and then his procurer of boys for life, exercised a control and influence over his master of a sort that was bound to cause resentment, especially when the favourite was low-born and living in an aristocratic age.

Presented here is nearly half of by far the most important source for Gian Gastone’s private life, the Vita di Gio. Gastone I Settimo ed ultimo Granduca della R. Casa de' Medici, con la lista dei provvisionati di Camera, dal volgo detti i Ruspanti, the second of four parts of a manuscript in the Moreniana Library in Florence entitled Storia della nobile e reale casa de Medici (History of the noble and royal house of Medici) written after Gian Gastone's death but probably before 1750 by an unknown author (perhaps Luca Ombrosi). It was first published in Florence in 1886, edited by Filippo Orlando and Giuseppe Baccini. The passages selected are all those of Greek love interest together with such of the author’s background information about Gian Gastone as is most important for understanding their context.

The English edition used here, published in Florence as The Last of the Medici in 1930, was a collaboration between three distinguished and like-minded friends, all of whom lived in Florence and were fond of boys. The translator was the English historian Sir Harold Acton (1904-94), who soon aftermade much use of the book for his own authoritative history, The Last Medici. The introduction (addressing the important questions of the book’s authorship and reliability, as well as giving typically witty commentary) was by the Austro-Scottish Norman Douglas (1868-1952), then best known as a first-rate travel writer, and the subject of several articles on this website. The publisher was Giuseppe Orioli (1884-1942), who published several of Douglas’s books as well as the first edition of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Their book was rare, only 365 copies being printed, of which 350 were available for purchase by subscribers.

 

Introduction by Norman Douglas

For there can be no doubt as to the authenticity of what is here recorded. […]

The indiscretions of Princes have been shown up over and over again; seldom in more ruthless fashion than here. This is what makes the volume a sociological document of enduring value for those who can digest strong fare. Strong fare, indeed. I am not anxious to pose as a prude, but, absorbing as the book is, I should hesitate to recommend it to any boy under twelve years of age.

Anna Maria Franziska of Saxe-Lauenburg as a maiden of 18, seven years before she married Gian Gastone as a plump widow

There are indications, apart from the main evidence of the following pages, that His Highness had a screw loose. I refer, for instance, to his almost pathological love of solitude, so un-Latin a trait; his noctambulous habits, too, suggest a streak of insanity ― how he would pass the whole night out of doors, alone, leaving his companions to gaze at the moon … He was handicapped, moreover, both by chronic alcoholism and in the matter of his wife, a German widow, “ugly, ungainly, massive in form” who, as is the way of widows, insisted on his always sharing her couch and being at her side. This is asking a little too much of a young Italian Prince of the eighteenth century. Anybody who knows what an ugly German widow can look like will sympathise with the poor devil, and understand that such a life was calculated to drive him into other channels and even ― flabby as he was ― into the society of rowdies and birds of that leather, especially with so artful a ruffian as Giuliano at his side. The match had been arranged by his sister, the Electress Palatine, a mischief-maker who, after ruining his existence by the selection of this horrible spouse, began to blab about his questionable diversions to the Grand Duke, his father. How he must have loathed her! Who knows? Had Gian Gastone found a congenial mate, the whole course of his life might have been different, and the noble race of Medici not yet extinct. It is pretty clear that he was not constitutionally averse from the society of women.   

Be that as it may, these anecdotes hear the stamp of veracity. A careful perusal leads one to think that the major part of them was noted down previous to the death of the arch-scoundrel Giuliano, since an event of this importance would otherwise not have escaped comment. As it is., we are left in suspense regarding his fate, and merely informed that “though he might escape the temporal punishment he deserved, he would never be able to flee before eternity”. I should also be inclined to argue that they were placed on record by someone who bore Giuliano a grudge. The intimate knowledge they betray of that circle, the peculiar virulence with which this favourite’s acts are described, and the relish with which details of his past life are served up, indicate that the original garnerer of these tales (there may have been more than one hand at work) was an enemy of Giuliano’s, well acquainted with his ways.

What kind of enemy? Why, it is a bare conjecture and nothing more, to suppose that he was himself a member of this class, either a reformed or ― more likely ― a disappointed ruspante; one of those who, through Giuliano’s machinations, lost his berth and no longer drew an allowance from that deplorable Civil List. Treatment of this kind is enough to enrage a saint, and there must have been hundreds of sufferers in like case; we learn, furthermore, that the ruspanti were not invariably drawn from the lowest classes. Knights and citizens figured among them, also ladies, and many foreigners ― persons, that is, who were quite capable of storing up their malice on paper and revenging themselves posthumously on Giuliano and the whole set.

Norman Douglas, author of this introduction, on the Arno, Florence, June 1935

The end of this “vile and noxious vapour from the stables” is unknown to me, though perhaps not to history.[2] It may have resembled that of Canale, another young scamp, who ultimately became a priest and prompted many to repentance by his godly example; one likes to think so. But one feels a little doubtful. Giuliano was not cut out for a clergyman. He was cut out for a pimp. […]         

This “Life of Gian Gastone” was culled from an important manuscript in the Biblioteca Moreniana of Florence, entitled Storia della nobile e reale casa de’ Medici, which certainly bears the palm for candour among the private lives of that family. It was published for the first time in 1886 by two Florentine scholars, Filippo Orlando and Giuseppe Baccini, as a second volume to their valuable Bibliotechina Grassoccia, which they edited. Giuseppe Conti quotes extensively from it in his “Firenze dai Medici ai Lorena;” Repetti seems to have drawn from it for his Dizionario, some of the phrases being almost identical; and it forms the basis of all that is known about the last Grand Duke de’ Medici and his ruspanti.    

It was evidently collected from a medley of sources, from secret diaries and notes, from the accounts of eye-witnesses and of those who probably played no small rôle in the Grand Duke’s nightly diversions. The indefatigable bee that gathered this honey is said to have been Luca Ombrosi, a lawyer, whose name is lightly cancelled from the original manuscript. Ombrosi belonged to a good Florentine family which died out with the mother of Emilio Frullani, the poet. He was the author of a brief discourse on “The Origin and Progress of Philosophy,” which he read to the Florentine Academy in the May of 1751. Suffice it to add that he enjoyed a solid respectability, and that his father, Dottor Bartolomeo, had been a well-known advocate in his day.   

Illustration prefacing the translated biography proper

Whoever the compiler was, he is inferior to the busy bee in skill. He took no great pains to adjust the honey in its cells, to arrange or polish his anecdotes. He must have set them down one after another, just as he heard them, without much care for sequence or critical examination. Long after he has told us about Princess Violante’s death, for instance, he returns to a dinner she gave, as if the good lady were still alive. He constantly repeats himself, moreover. This does not facilitate the business of translation, but it persuades one of the narrator’s integrity.   

In spite of its defects, the picturesque ingenuousness of this chronicle is a proper proof of its sincerity. The writer was not squeamish. His reference to the spintriae and “little fishes” indicates that he had some knowledge of Suetonius’s “History of Twelve Caesars.” Indeed the parallel between certain passages in this “Life of Gian Gastone” and in the life of Tiberius Nero Caesar is manifest.   

The younger Pliny described Suetonius as “a most worthy, honourable and learned man, whose character and erudition I have long kept in view; the more I know of him, the more I become attached to him.” And Volpiscus, one of the authors of the Augustan History, calls him “a most careful and impartial writer.” Doubtless our modest chronicler was the possessor of corresponding qualities.

 

Life of Gian Gastone I.

Seventh and last Grand Duke of the Royal House of Medici, together with the list of those provisioned for his chamber, by the vulgar denominated Ruspanti.

[I. GIAN GASTONE’S YOUTH, 1671-99, pp. 33-44]

Giovanni, or Gian Gastone I., seventh Grand Duke of Tuscany, was the son of Cosimo III de’ Medici, sixth Grand Duke, and of Marguerite-Louise d’Orléans.[3] He was born on the twenty-fifth of May, 1671. 

Gian Gastone as Castor or Pollux in a fresco by Luca Giordano, ca. 1673 in Riccardi's Gallery, Palazzo Medici

His education was pious and refined, and from his tender years his mind was religious and very timorous of God. He was well versed in the sciences and arts, and in letters, philosophy and mathematics he acquitted himself with some distinction, having had for preceptors the first men of Italy, such as an Averani, Noris, Bresciani, Salvini, Magliabechi, etc. He derived a nice pleasure from the study of languages.  Beside the Tuscan and the Latin tongues, he had at his command all the graces of English, German, Bohemian, French, Spanish and Turkish. He was also complaisant to the Arts of Cavalry and Music, but he did not master them. Drawing and design he cultivated with some diversion to himself, even as his sensitive fingers could touch the flute. But chiefly he delighted in the reading of histories, and in the pastime of Diana, often following the chase with his fine greyhound beside him. 

On the third of July, in the years 1697, having betaken himself to Germany, he espoused the Princess Anna Maria Francesca, a direct descendant of the Dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg, and widow to Prince Philip of Neuburg. Once wedded, he went to take up his abode in Bohemia, in the feuds of his wife, at a place called Reichstadt. This match was made by the Electress Anna, his sister, and while it was approved by the Grand Duke his father, was disliked by the Grand Prince Ferdinando, his brother, who, when Gian Gastone’s departure was fixed, had left Florence for the Villa of Poggio a Caiano.

On Prince Gian Gastone’s going to take leave of him, almost as if he had heard nothing of the matter, he enquired: “Pray, whither is Your Highness about to proceed?” “To Germany, to seek offspring,” replied Gian Gastone. Whereupon the Grand Prince Ferdinando said with a sigh: “I could convince you by proof that for our House Germany is little or nothing fecund. Go forth, marry, and a good journey attend you, though I cannot foresee felicity since, alas, I am utterly unable to hope for it.”[4] 

The Princess about whom we have spoken was about twenty-five years of age at the time, having been born on the third of June, 1672. Hers were a coarse ill-favoured aspect and ungainly massive limbs, while Prince Gian Gastone had a slender shape and a delicate complexion, and his features were cast in a somewhat gracious mould. She declared that her Prince might have his individual freedom in all matters excepting two, which must be common to them both, to wit, one couch and carriage. She would cleave to her husband and have him over at her flank.

Schloss Reichstadt in Bohemia, isolated apart from a village of hovels, where Gian Gastone's wife insisted on living ten months a year, and which he could not abide after staying there six months early in their marriage

Prince Gian Gastone soon wearied of his wife, by reason of her ungainliness and the subjection in which she claimed to hold him. The Princess on her side, seeing that she got very little love from him in return for all her tender solicitude grew jealous and resentful. She perceived that his manners had prodigiously altered with his sojourn at Prague, the metropolis of Bohemia where they were obliged to spend most of their time. He had given himself over to a life of libertinism rather than of liberty. Further the Princess noticed that a certain Giuliano Dami, his lackey, had been the promoter and was the intermediary of his caprices. 

I shall now proceed to beg the gentle reader’s patience while I divert my pen from the main theme, in order that he may make the acquaintance of this Giuliano Dami, and come to better knowledge of his illustrious stock and breeding, insomuch as we shall have frequent occasion to refer to him during the progress of our little history. For Giuliano was to obtain the first post of grace with H.R.H. and was verily to become the absolute master of his spirit. Such are the extravagant turns of Destiny, which exalted upwards to the stars this vile and noxious vapour from the stables, attended by no virtue or merit, but by the most detestable of vices.

BRIEF DIGRESSION ON THE ORIGIN AND BIRTH OF THE FAVOURITE, GIULIANO DAMI.

Giuliano Dami made his first appearance in a little place called Mercatale. His father was Angolo Dami, who miserably lived as a cobbler. This one took to wife a certain  Caterina Ambrogi, the daughter of a decayed smithy. Agnolo had several brothers all of whom were peasants: one of these, Piero by name, was a manual labourer in the service of Cavaliere Marmi. When the aforesaid Angolo Dami, father of our hero, compounded matters with heaven and departed to a better life, Giuliano was rapidly growing into a bold big boy.[5] His uncle Piero  had not only adopted Giuliano, but also his three little sisters. Meanwhile Caterina, who had remained a widow but a pregnant one, was brought to bed of yet another male child, who was christened Michelangiolo, and later was relegated to the fortress of Portoferrajo. Piero destined Giuliano for his own profession, that of a husbandman to wit, while his mother Catera went abroad begging for alms and had much ado to eke out a subsistence by cutting grass for animals and gathering faggots.

Boy with Basket by Giacomo Ceruti

After her husband’s decease, she disposed of his posthumous puppy by putting him in charge of the hospital of the Innocenti, whence he was released long afterward by Giuliano his brother and placed as a scullion in the regions of the royal kitchen. No love was lost between him and the cooks his superiors for his obstinate, officious, and disorderly character. He was dubbed Montino for nickname, as he hobbled and hopped along on one foot. He cut an outlandish figure even among the scullions, limping and stuttering without breeding or bearing whatsoever. Subsequently, in what affair we know not, falsely reporting some remark of the Grand Duke’s, his brother had him committed to Portoferrajo as has been already related. 

Gradually, as he grew older, Piero was no longer able to support his nephew, or for that matter, himself. He managed to find employment as a sweep in the Church and Monastery of the Monks of the Badia. In these circumstances Giuliano set forth as a farm-boy, taking service with a peasant on the Bali Lenzoni’s property at Marignolle, while his sisters remained with their mother and continued to gather grass and faggots in the wood. It is here worthy of note that when by H. R. H.’s favour Giuliano became a Florentine citizen, enjoying such splendour and honour in the government, and privilege in the election and extraction of offices, he composed his escutcheon, (which consisted of three logs of firewood), of the selfsame material. 

Giuliano was first employed, then, by the aforesaid peasant as his boy. Several times a day he would wearily repair to the city with his ass to collect dung in the thoroughfares, and he led a barrow to empty manure by night. For many years he had to labour thus, until he found occasion to serve a dingy priest, who kept him for no more than makes a bare subsistence. He did not linger long in his employment, however, for he soon discovered an opportunity for ministering to Monsù Bernordo, a Frenchman staying at the Rovinate. This opportunity he accepted with eagerness and promptitude. But here again he did not prove expert. Heartily drubbed for his labours, battered and sumptuously bruised with the blows of his French master, he relinquished his service with utmost precipitation. Later he was recommended to the Chancellor Fabbrini of the Supreme Magistrature, and engaged to look alter his carriage and bays. Giuliano could not brook the wear and tear and lack of profit of this life. Oppressed by fatigue and a general discontent, Giuliano finally gave notice and returned into the service of that Cavaliere Lenzoni of S. Croce, who had kept him formerly as boy to the peasant on his farm. But the tide of Fortune turned, and shortly after this he contrived to enter the service of Marchese Ferdinando Capponi, in the quarter of S. Spirito, the same gallant gentleman who had been escort to Princess Violante. He shifted his habit and engaged himself in the character of lackey. This was an alteration for the better in his liveries, and a set forward in the world; henceforth was he to cut a figure in the costume of a fine hussar. 

Gian Gastone, attributed to Carlo Berti, 1698

Giuliano was of a pretty and pleasing aspect. He possessed, moreover, a lively air, and a manner, and a smart notion of propriety. On the occasions of his betaking himself to the Royal Palace with his master, Prince Gian Gastone had perceived and closely observed him. Furthermore, it occurred to the Prince that he was in need of a lackey at the moment, and coveting Giuliano, he demanded him forthwith of Marchese Capponi, who willingly complied and conceded him to H. R. H. Suffice it to say that at this juncture Prince Gian Gastone set forth on his expedition to Germany, attended by Giuliano.[6] 

The particulars of his birth and genealogy have been tolerably described up to this point of departure. Enough, then, gentle reader, of such digressions! We shall now proceed to record his exploits, and the courtly deeds of his renown, so worthy the dignity of history; we shall now survey his progress in the service of this Prince, with his roguish rustic ways. 

Giuliano had soon entered upon domestic familiarity with the Prince his new master in Florence. 

There he had indulged in every way this irregular inclination, and studied daily to allure him with the beauties of his person, and first and foremost with those little tricks in which he became a master of his craft, or, as the proverb has it, a whore of experience. By nature he was politic, and most cunning. Thus in Germany he could not fail to apprehend H. H’s aversion for wedlock in general and for his spouse in particular. A man shows his parts in nothing more than a similar circumstance. Giuliano was amply qualified for the discharge of his office and succeeded to such an extent with the Prince, that he insinuated himself and took occupation in the lady’s stead. He had a sagacious nose after preferment and so became a new Sejanus to the modern Tiberius, procuring for him also similar delights.[7] 

18th century Prague

There were innumerable fresh young students in Prague, pretty Bohemians and Germans, who were so impecunious that on regular days they wandered begging from door to door. In this wide preserve Giuliano could always hunt after amorous game and introduce to the Prince some new and comely morsel. There were also innumerable palaces at Prague belonging to great and opulent lords. These had small armies of retainers about them in their households, footmen and lackeys of low birth and humble station. Giuliano induced H. H. to seek his diversions with these, and to mingle freely in their midst, so as to choose any specimen that appealed to his singular sense. He induced the Prince, moreover, to eat and drink and make free with this beau monde, and intoxicate himself with compotations in their company (a usage which is practised also by those of rank and fashion).

 

[II. GIAN GASTONE’S RETURN TO FLORENCE, 1708-09, pp. 50-52]

In 1708, Gian Gastone’s father despaired of either of his sons begetting heirs from their unhappy marriages and recalled him to Florence, given that his elder brother Ferdinando was so ill that Gian Gastone was expected to be his father’s successor. After eleven years reluctant absence, he was now an ill-preserved thirty-seven year-old, bloated and dissipated.

Gian Gastone by Adriaen van der Werff, 1701

By now he was accustomed to drink exceeding deep: not only of heady wine and fiery liquor, but also of rossolis which is a mulled and syrupy cordial confected of raisins and other ingredients of most potent quality, mixed up with sugar and spice. He protracted his cups till late, and after dinner was always brutified. He was seldom seen to mount in cavalcades with Prince Ferdinando, and in those which were wont to take place four times a year in connection with the races of barbs he had been quite unable to hold up his head. Several times in succession he had tumbled off his horse. 

Beside Giuliano, Prince Gian Gastone had brought back with him to Florence three other young and handsome lackeys; one that hailed from Germany, one from Milan, and one from Parma. The latter vied in beauty with the German, and recommended by his better manners, acquired particular favour with the Prince. Giuliano, who was determined nevertheless to remain in the first position of grace, began to hinder and oppose him, and do him every manner of ill office, to such effect that the youth (who must have been of some civility and breeding) willingly retired from the Prince’s service and returned to his own country. Giuliano now saw the German about to supplant him in the Royal regard. So, by dint of constant hectoring, cheating and bickering, he caused him to fly into such a rage, that he, too, returned to his native land. Some time afterwards his rage abated and, repenting of his rashness, he returned to Florence: too late; for by this time he could only obtain a place on the roll of the Ruspanti. 

Giuliano Dami by Anton Domenico Gabbiani, ca. 1708

The members of this band were paid on Tuesdays and Saturday with the stipends of one or two Ruspi each (a Florentine sequin, about the value of 10 francs) up to the number of five a week. Giuliano attended to the payment of the lowest and most vicious persons, and Caldesi settled with the more virtuous and refined. 

The Milanese tarried awhile, for Giuliano had less to fear from him. A circumstance soon arose, however, to settle that account. For this youth happened to let off an arquebuse that blinded Durilla the harlot in one eye, who was living in a house behind him in the alley called Borgo Stella (which is at the hack of the Palace of Cavaliere Castelli). Then Giuliano, to make sure of obtaining the prime post in H. H’s favour,  without the jealousy of any competitor for the Prince’s affections, caused him to be summarily dismissed. And thus Giuliano remained free master of the field.

[III.  GIAN GASTONE’S LAST YEARS AS HEIR, AND ACCESSION TO THE THRONE, 1717-23, pp. 58-63]

Gian Gastone’s elder brother, the Grand Prince Ferdinando, died childless in 1713 after a long illness, leaving him as heir to the throne and causing his Bavarian widow Violante Beatrice, whose love he had never returned, to contemplate leaving Tuscany. However, Gian Gastone sympathized with her and persuaded her otherwise, leading to a friendship that lasted well into the 1720s.[8]

Owing to his father's estrangement, he [Gian Gastone] removed himself to some distance from Florence, to Pescia. There he was joined by Princess Violante, who entertained and kept him company. 

Gian Gastone as Grand Prince (heir to) of Tuscany

Count Canale, his page, and a boy of considerable beauty, fell from the Prince’s grace: he pretended for the sake of convenience that he was suffering some indisposition from a chill, so that the Prince brought Count Montani as page in his stead. A fierce jealousy and emulation raged between these minions. But Giuliano was partial to Canale, so that later, at the time of the Prince’s return to Florence, he had him securely reinstated in the favours of his lord, to the detriment of the rival charmer. Through Giuliano’s commendation, he obtained the office of Purveyor to the Royal Stables, together with a handsome appanage. Montani, on the other hand, obtained neither office nor employment, although, by the very unbridled licentiousness of his existence, he had given good enough occasion for it. He was only retained with a couple of ruspi a week. The profligacy of his rival far and away exceeded his, but all deviations from good conduct were excused in his case by agency of his protector. Nothing whatever was laid to his charge, but all was attributed to innocent juvenile whim. In after years however, Canale was seen destitute and without shoes to his feet; Montani, too, cramped with want and worn with excesses, infirmities, and fatigue, was seen to wander hither and thither, a hopeless vagabond. Later still, in Rome, Canale became a priest. Then he returned to Florence, which he edified, to the complete bewilderment of everyone that had known him formerly, with the life of a saintly and perfect ecclesiastic. There he prompted many to repentance with his teachings and fine examples. 

The Prince continued a long while at Pescia, where, being more exposed to the public view, his several disorders began to be discerned and his defects to come to light. After dessert he was wont to dawdle in his cups till supper time, and after supper until bed time, given over all this period to the fury of Bacchus. The fine ladies and gentlemen of figure, from Lucca and the surrounding neighbourhood, would assemble to pay their respects to the Royalty; every evening the gentlefolk of Pescia would compete in giving them entertainments of dancing and music, which the Prince and Princess constantly attended. On these polite occasions, the Prince would do and say things so uncivil as to cost the Princess many a bitter tear. Although for a while she contrived to screen his vices, each defect had now become so palpable and transparent that it was impossible to conceal any longer. For this reason the Princess, with Giuliano’s assistance, (without it the doting Prince would do nothing whatever), induced him in her discreetest manner to return to Florence. His return was effected as soon as his affairs were set in order there by his friend the Pardoner Mormorai. 

Cosimo de' Medici, 6th Grand Duke of Tuscany, in old age

When the Prince was restored to Florence again, the scandalous happenings at Pescia were revealed to many, together with the close familiarity he practised with his favourite, Giuliano Dami. In consequence of this, one and all, from the most reputable of Senators and Ministers, sought friendship with the latter. From afar they perceived that when Prince Gian Gastone would succeed to the Tuscan throne, Giuliano would be the foremost of his agents. Nor did they deceive themselves. The Grand Duke Cosimo was scarcely cold in the grave when Dami thrust his livery aside for ever, and set himself up as Royal Chamberlain. Having won the heart of his lord, he now became the despot of his Court, and of his desires the absolute untrammelled master. 

Gian Gastone began to govern among general applause. During his mortal illness, the Grand Duke his father had resolved to frame a new five per cent tax. The Prince suspended it while the edicts were already printed for publication, and as soon as the Grand Duke died it was rescinded. He began by refusing to grant any audience for a month: it was at first supposed in order to acquire by this delay some knowledge of the position of his Government’s domestic affairs, and also of foreign Courts. But the first, second and tenth month flitted by and finally the years, and not a single audience was granted. His ministers themselves applied in vain. The Council of  State met so seldom, that month after idle month would pass with notable injury to the people, general consternation to the governing Magistrates both criminal and civil, and particular damage to military, political, and home affairs. 

All those officials who had feared at first that their outrageous extortion, dishonesty, and mismanagement would be discovered and punished accordingly were resurrected again. Formerly they had discerned that if they sheared the wool, the skin would resent it, whereas now they were at liberty to flay the sheep entirely at their pleasure. Neither shepherd nor watch-dog stood for their defence, and only rapacious wolves remained in power. He that would obtain an audience with the Grand Duke must first appear before Giuliano and take considerable pains to gratify him. The Ministers had reached an understanding with the favourite, so that if an enemy of theirs appealed to the Prince for assistance, he was not admitted. Those who, after months of delay, were finally so fortunate as to be accepted, would obtain no audience unless they bribed him heavily. This ruse, by which he kept the ogre in his den, was one of the main sources of Giuliano’s income.

[IV. GIAN GASTONE’S REIGN, 1723-37: PART ONE, pp. 68-77] 

Meanwhile the order of the Tuscan Court was being utterly perverted. Giuliano alone was Major Domo and foreman of his Chamber (and this permanently: he was forever guarding the ogre in his den so that none could penetrate without his sanction). Giuliano alone was head of the Royal Stables, Chief Gentleman of the Household, Keeper of the Wardrobes and Steward. To sum up, Giuliano was factotum in every manner of thing. 

Nude Boy by an unknown Italian painter, 18th century

All these matters, shameful as they were, would have been forgiven notwithstanding, if in order to acquire this absolute mastery over the person of H. R. H. he had not acted with such dishonour and detriment to the Prince. For Gian Gastone, without perceiving the parallel, became another Tiberius Nero, his favourite another Sejanus, and his Royal Headquarters another Island of Capri.[9] 

As we have related, even in Bohemia Giuliano had induced the Prince to practise his voluptuous pleasures with boys. But his lust for them had then been superficial. On his return to Florence Giuliano was resolved by much insidious pampering to keep his master in this frame of mind. So long as the Grand Duke Cosimo his father was alive he proceeded in secret, but not altogether secretly, with these practices. But when the old Grand Duke was deceased, his reins were altogether loosened. Giuliano caused this poor deluded gentleman to become a very fable in the universe, to the discovery and open sight of all men and women. 

It mattered not from what gang of vagrant knaves and mongrels the Grand Duke’s boys were chosen. It counted for nought that they were unruly, unclean, and given to evil ways. Provided that they were graced with an alluring eye and the countenance of an Adonis his temper was easily fitted. One and all were enrolled by Giuliano, aided and abetted by two dragomans of his, the brothers Gaetano and Francesco Nardini, who also served as footmen in the Royal Household. The second of these occupied a higher rank in the Prince’s good will. The first was more practical as a broker, and had easy access to His Highness’ apartment, from the quantity of youths he could procure. After an audience, he would have them set down on the roll of the ruspanti. Half the bribes he would give Cecchino; he reserved for himself a certain fee agreed upon beforehand with whatever youth he happened to introduce, ranging, according to the weekly provision, from one to five ruspi. Their wages were paid by Giuliano, or by Nardini in his stead, on Tuesday and Saturday, by the first door of the hall of the Pitti Palace. Giuliano and Cecchino were cashiers. Here they would settle their accounts, and pay to each his charge, retaining a goodly portion for themselves only from those whose provision exceeded the weekly ruspo, without which they could not subsist. The latter gave them their fees on admission to the nocturnal entertainments. After Giuliano and Cecchino had received their bribes, they left the liquidation of the remainder to other pimps and bawds. 

The number of ruspanti waxed a hundredfold. There were women and, later, knights and citizens among them, some of the city even, and many foreigners. Giuliano Caldesi, a most worthy Chamberlain, was cashier to the latter, and every month discharged their dues. 

It was about the year 1730 that the Grand Duke, alone and besotted in his room, tumbled and sprained an ankle. Since then from very idleness he neither left his bedchamber nor even his bed, except for the one occasion when he betook himself to the Villa of Poggio Imperiale for an interval of amusement. There he spent the day among his curios and the night with his ruspanti, male and female mingled together, and the Bacchanalian orgy lasted until daybreak. What was said and done during the course of those jovial evenings cannot be divulged with any certainty. I shall only relate the things that were bruited abroad throughout the city of Florence and over the benches of crowded coffee-houses. 

Gian Gastone living in his bedchamber, 1735

In the first place it was said that the Grand Duke stayed in a verminous bed with a few soiled sheets that barely covered him, and a foul shirt and fouler nightcap. Only two candles burned, and they gave very little light to the vast room where he lay down, which stank with the fumes of tobacco and excrement of dogs, and verily it seemed a cell of the Stinche,[10] if only for the stink that was there. H. H. had long nails that extended from his fingers and toes like a goshawk’s, for cleanliness was a matter of little concern to him. His pleasure was only in the sight of a new phiz, and there were few that found themselves more than once alone in his company. But those that passed through his chamber in multitudes, would repeatedly be invited to attend him. 

They related that whenever a novice was introduced, if he were of decent birth, he would be treated like a gentleman. The Grand Duke would praise him and examine his teeth to see whether they were white – it pleased him if they were; if he were fair and had a sweet breath, and if he walked with ease. After that he bade him be seated on his bed, and plied him with rossolis. Then he groped and felt his parts to see that he had good store of strength and if he grew excited instantly, for unless he possessed these twin qualities of heat and vigour, a boy was not to his taste. Thereafter he would call him “you”, and finally descend to the familiarity of “thou”, hugging, dandling, kissing and being kissed in return, mixing together mouthfuls of wine and tobacco smoke, and with some, even up to the snot of the nostrils, with other familiarities of increasing filthiness. Sometimes an ill-guided inexperienced victim was forced in extremity to vomit because of these caresses, whereat the Grand Duke would rejoice, for it added a great gusto to his amours, and frantically they abused each other, with the hands or mouth and in devious other ways. After four or five hours of such amusement he would dismiss him with a plentiful reward of ruspi, and tell him to return. But usually he was never allowed to enter a second time, whether he was enrolled as a Ruspante or not, for all on this list were by no means admitted to the Royal presence.

Piazza della Signoria, Florence by Giuseppe Zocchica around the time of Gian Gastone's death

The words that generally passed between them on these occasions were lewd, ribald conceits, or scurrilous bawdy tales. The Grand Duke would insist on being called son of a whore, bastard, cods[11], curmudgeon, buttock, cod-face, rump, and fornicating cuckold. He vehemently desired them all to use him thus; he would induce and oblige them to pronounce the most abominable blasphemies. From these details he derived infinite delectation, prompted by idleness and leisure, and egged on by the malign and infamous incentive of his beloved Giuliano. 

Whenever ten or twelve of his charming creatures were assembled in his apartment, they formed a confused and confusing mound of clean and unclean flesh, committing by couples crime in files. Then the Grand Duke would want to touch their spears and feel how the blades were invested. If they did not seem to penetrate sufficiently, he would shout: “Press in, boys, press in!”. And women being mingled vilely among them, there followed scenes as when a nail is driven into wood, and another clinches so as to tighten its hold. This is said to have been certain, and if it was contrarywise, I leave it to the discretion of my reader, because I myself cannot affirm it positively. Such was the general report, and I forbear to repeat all the other things that were said, taking into account the sensibilities of my courteous reader. I myself believe them, but not entirely, knowing full well that the trick of amplification is ever on the mouths of murmuring mobs. But many of these things were asserted to be incontestable, for they were beheld by all, as that which I shall presently relate. 

The Medici villa of Poggio Imperiale at Arcetri, near Florence

Gian Gastone once left the Villa Imperiale on one of his nocturnal promenades and betook himself to the great dyke of the River Arno, where there are inns and taverns in profusion. There, in the glimmer of a lamp, he saw the fine figure of a tall young man and called for him. After some exchange of discourse he invited him to enter his carriage and sit beside him, and four strapping bargemen likewise, all garbed in loose white jackets and trousers trailing down to the ground, so that they verily appeared to be five Punchinellos.[12] Thence he conducted them to Poggio Imperiale[13], where he stayed guzzling and bibbing in their company throughout the night; and even after dining on the morrow, he desired to keep the bargemen in his chamber. There he remained during all the remainder of the day, and again the following night. 

A certain Bohemian called Michael Henzchemic continued in Florence at that time to earn his living. He derived his gain from the games and gambols of two bears. Beside this couple of ingenious dancers, he had with him two handsome boys, also Bohemian, who assisted him in bringing the bears to perform their various antics. The Grand Duke was curious to behold these animals. This led, in its turn, to his desire to have the bear-leader and the two boys privately for himself. Now he would want one and now the other, maintaining the bear leader with a weekly allowance of five ruspi and the youths at a couple of ruspi each.

  

[V. GIAN GASTONE’S REIGN 1723-37: PART TWO, pp. 83-89] 

At about the same time an officer died at Leghorn. He left two daughters behind him beside a wife and son, a comely lad of fourteen years of age. These went to the Grand Duke and begged a small pension in recognition of the deceased officer’s services, and for the assistance of his children. The Grand Duke presented them with a good handful of ruspi and told them to return. When they took leave of him the lad, from sheer high spirits, danced along the way and played a tune on his little French flageolet. The Grand Duke over heard it, had the boy recalled, and detained him several hours. The pension, he said, had seemed to him somewhat excessive, but if his family were willing to remain in Florence, he would allow them three ruspi a week; more than that he could not do. The boy, who was no simpleton, accepted his proposal instantly, and so it came about that instead of five paltry crowns a month they were enabled to enjoy twenty-four. These circumstances sound improbable, and yet they are true. 

Gian Gastone by Franz Ferdinand Richter, 1737

On the larger list of the Ruspanti was one Antonio Frilli, nephew to Bartolommeo Frilli, a former cashier in the Pilli Bank. He and his brother had been rich in their time, but through rash speculations were now reduced to beggary. This was a fine lad of only twenty years, but impertinent and over-ready with his tongue. Besides his weekly ruspo, it was rumoured that the Grand Duke had expended on him more than four thousand crowns in a round of three years. He was seized and thrust into prison awhile for having been found abroad with small pistols in his possession, which was then illegal. But when the news of this reached the Grand Duke, he was at once set free, and the accusation struck off the rolls. For some time he was confined in his house, but he did not stay there long. One evening he invited his friends and colleagues of the Ruspanti to supper, and some of them happened to pick a quarrel. Frilli joined in the dispute, and taking offence at one of the heated words exchanged, dealt his adversary such a stab in the gullet that all was over with him in a trice. His only penalty for this crime was that of non-admittance to the Grand Duke’s audience — a penalty which seemed sufficiently severe, for Frilli was the sole ruspante who was frequently invited by the Grand Duke to a tête-à-tête. He had taken the trouble to ingratiate himself with Giuliano and Nardini, who shared his amusements. Consequently they supported him with drawn swords, and always interceded on his behalf. His every transgression and impertinence was thus vindicated, and excused on the reasonable ground of juvenile vivacity. 

There was also Niccola Trom of Smyrna, a slender cream-coloured youth whose large black eyes sparkled with adventure, whose lips were of a soft and pouting ruby, and whose teeth glittered with the whiteness of an almond. With all these advantages and twenty years of age, he combined a clear voice and melodious accent. He was granted an audience together with his master, an Armenian jewel-merchant. The Grand Duke had scarce set eyes on the boy when he was dazzled and bewitched, and all in a frenzy of hot lust. He peremptorily demanded him from the merchant, who surrendered him at once. 

This enticing boy took pleasure in yielding himself all up to the Grand Duke’s appetite. And the merchant professed considerable satisfaction so far as he was concerned, for the Prince had promised to make him one of his chamberlains, with a handsome appanage.

Other candidates for the sovereign’s affections waxed jealous of these favours, seeing that they themselves had little to gain from such eminent marks of his friendship. When they discovered that the Grand Duke had promised to elect him chamberlain, they were resolved upon his ruin. For Niccola had only to suggest an increase in his allowance to obtain it, and he demanded one whenever Nardini claimed a ruspo from his earnings. Finally his enemies were able to turn some shady business in which he was involved, a matter of a stolen horse, to their account. By now they all used their utmost endeavours against him: Niccola was reprieved and summarily dismissed. The expenses of his homeward journey were paid, besides four ruspi from Nardini, and an adieu from His Highness. He had been wont to receive two ruspi a week in his time, apart from bribes and the sale of trifles to the Grand Duke (of which Giuliano and Nardini were kept in ignorance) whenever, by special request, he was admitted to his nightly retirements. Niccola and Frilli had been the Grand Duke’s most frequent visitors. The latter was said to have gained over twelve hundred crowns in two years from his transactions, all dissipated in some form of revelry. But once Giuliano and Nardini got wind of it, they set themselves in rigid opposition to his fortunes. 

Violante Beatrice, dowager Grand Princess of Tuscany by Giovanna Fratellini, 1720

During her lifetime Princess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, the Grand Duke’s sister-in-law, had striven constantly to provide him with every possible distraction. She had done her extravagant utmost to dissuade him from his perversity. In vain: the Grand Duke never wavered from his vicious course. Nor did she succeed in winning his affection, and this was proved by subsequent events. When the Princess lay dying she implored him to come and pay her a farewell visit, but no argument could persuade him to do so. He refused to indulge her even in this respect. And after she had passed away, and her corpse was ready to be taken to its tomb, a crowd assembled on the Piazza de’ Pitti to watch the pomp of her funeral. Some obstacle happened to delay the procession and a clamour arose in consequence. Meanwhile the Grand Duke's chamber was filled with youths of venereal, rather than of martial, prowess, who were detained there by the tumult, and the Grand Duke himself was sending repeated messages to speed the corpse upon its way. At last the Grand Duke lost all patience. Yet again he sent forth in high dudgeon to hurry the procession, and exclaimed aloud in the hearing of all: “When on earth will that buggering bitch be gone?” Which clearly demonstrated the delicacy of his affection for Princess Violante. 

For three continuous years the inner Council of State had not held a single meeting. This was a notorious injury to his people. The petitions of his ministers were useless, for though they stated the sufferings of the poor and the general muddle of public affairs, he treated them all as a joke. He would entertain a dozen drunken boys to sumptuous dinners, and one by one he would call them by the names of his most conspicuous men of state. With these he would hold his nightly conference.

  

[VI. GIAN GASTONE’S REIGN, 1723-37: PART THREE, pp. 95-103]

Gian Gastone expressed his abhorrence of the Florentine nobility through private parties in which he mockingly referring to his ruspanti by the nobles’ names, followed by “unspeakably revolting scenes.” 

These public scandals came to bear the stamp of truth. An exquisite boy employed in a tailor shop, for instance, was led to the heaven of the Grand Duke’s embraces. After the usual transactions he left the royal apartments and met Giuliano, who insisted on taking the half of his ruspi away from him by force. The boy went everywhere and told the tale which I shall tell in his own words. “Having played on H. H.’s flute and having received 12 ruspi, Giuliano took half away by force.”

Fiorino or "ruspo" of Gian Gastone, 1729 (magnified)

And yet another boy introduced by Giuliano, a newcomer, had a similar experience. The Grand Duke enquired the reason for his coming. He replied that he had a penniless father and several nubile sisters on his hands, and that he knew H. R. H. was generous to the poor. Then the Grand Duke asked how much was required to endow one of them, and he replied that this could be managed with thirty crowns, added to the little he possessed. So the Grand Duke kept him in bed for three hours or more, and invited him to smoke. The boy was not accustomed to tobacco, and he suddenly vomited. H. R. H. derived much relish from this incident. Laughing obstreperously he called Giuliano, and told him to give eighteen ruspi to the boy, who was ordered to come again at seven o’clock on the morrow. But Giuliano gave him no more than twelve on his departure, and when he retorted that H. H. had promised eighteen, he chased him off with a shower of abuse and threatened to have him by the heels if ever he dared approach the palace again. The boy disregarded his threat and arrived at the hour appointed. Giuliano could not tell the Grand Duke that he was mistaken in the object of his desire, so again he chased the boy and swore he would have him battooned by the lancers. The Grand Duke did not forget this appointment, and presently when the hour was past, enquired after the boy. Giuliano replied that he had not been seen. Then the Grand Duke, impatient of his absence, called Nardini, and bade him go search for the runaway, and have him brought to his presence, pending his disgrace. The result of his quest remains unknown. 

Another favourite was Buranello[14], so called because he was a native of the island of  Burano, which is near Venice. He was a delicious player of the harpsichord, who had come to Florence with the Venetian, singer Pellizzari, for they were both engaged at the theatre of the Pergola. They said he had the lustfulness of a wild beast and was prodigiously developed into the bargain. The Grand Duke retained him long after the opera-season was over. He was infinitely rewarded with ruspi; and Antonio Cecchini, who entertained him at his lodging, was amply repaid for his luxurious habits. Cecchini gave long accounts to a friend of all that happened in the Royal apartments. According to him, Buranello was never allowed a moment’s rest. 

There were two singers also; one a Lombard from Valletta, a tall soprano and goodly to look upon, the other from Naples, a soprano less comely but more gracious. The former was wont to receive twenty-five ruspi a month, the latter somewhat less. Night after night these gossips described the scenes that were enacted in the Grand Duke’s chamber at the Café Panone or Big Loaf, hard by the Ponte Vecchio, where so many of the citizens and nobility used to foregather. It is therefore no wonder that such things were scattered broadcast, not only through Florence and the whole of Italy, but through all the courts of Europe. They got more credit abroad than at home, for the Florentines themselves only took notice of some exceptionally noisy, or peculiarly novel, report. […]

Gian Gastone was so wrapped up in the pursuit of his own pleasures that he was indifferent to the burning question of who would inherit his Grand Duchy of Tuscany in view of the childlessness of himself and both his siblings, including the surviving one, the widowed Electress Palatine, who had resumed living in her homeland since 1717 in the vain hope of inheriting it according to her father’s wishes. 

Anna Maria Luisa, dowager Electress Palatine

The Electress knew of all that occurred and suffered the tortures of the damned because of this knowledge. She detested those responsible for her brother’s debauchery, Giuliano and the two Nardini first and foremost, who were in constant pursuit of boys for their sovereign. The Grand Duke, as we have seen, was a lover of variety. But he insisted that his ruspanti should generally be chosen from among the idle unemployed and profligate vagabonds. So long as they were quite unable to practice any noble art or useful profession, they were acceptable to him. He would do nothing whatever for any boy of better breeding, whom pecuniary assistance of some sort might serve to advance; for such he only showed contempt and refused to grant them admittance. 

When the Grand Duke was ill and his health in jeopardy, Giuliano feared what might betide himself in the future. So he took the slender pretext of a message from the Grand Duke to recommend himself to the Electress. But the Electress flew into a passion. Good stewards, she said, were fully recognized, and stood in no need of further recommendation. Then turning her back on him disdainfully, she left Giuliano in such confusion, that he retired from her apartment in tears. Obnoxious in the sight of God and man for his sins, and the evil he had caused so many to suffer, he clearly saw that the tide of his fortunes would turn with the Grand Duke’s decease. He sent most of his stolen money out of the state. Some of it he had invested in Florence, where he kept a fine house on the proceeds of his transactions and sales of cameos, bronzes, ivories, mosaics, figures of silver and gold, pictures, jewels and so forth, to the Grand Duke. During his last malady the Grand Duke warmly continued to excuse and commend Giuliano to his sister. The opinion prevailed that when H. H. expired Giuliano would take to his heels. But though he might escape the temporal punishment he deserved, he would never be able to flee before eternity. 

Giuliano had boasted, amongst other things, that he could oblige the respectable Caldesi to act as one of the Grand Duke’s pimps. As Caldesi had never thus lowered himself, he could afford to smile at Giuliano’s bragging. But Giuliano discovered a method of compelling him. He drew his sovereign’s attention to a certain lackey of Baron Cunex who was lodged at the Black Eagle Inn. This was enough: Caldesi alone could serve to fetch him, for he was a personal friend of the Baron’s. The Grand Duke, as usual, was smitten with immediate desire and said so to Caldesi, who blushed with embarrassment. Caldesi then attempted to withdraw, excusing himself to the best of his ability. But the Grand Duke would hear none of his apologies; by now he was panting, and his lust was all the more inflamed. He so intimidated the poor man that he agreed to bring the lackey – to Giuliano’s triumph and his own compunction.

Gian Gastone's funeral, Basilica of San Lorenzo, 1737

The remainder of the biography continues the story of Gian Gastone down to his death on 9 July 1737 and his funeral, but has nothing of Greek love interest, perhaps because he almost never left his bed for the last eight years of his life. Indeed, of what has already been recounted, it looks as though only the episode of Princess Violante’s funeral in 1731 and the account of Dami’s fears for his future when his master was dead belong to these years.

Appended to the biography ( on pp. 139-159) is a catalogue of “Stipendaries of the Chamber […] commonly called Ruspanti”, including several women, with their rough places of origin, but very rarely any other information and with no indication of whatever special relationship they might have had with Gian Gastone. The ruspanti included every sort of hanger-on who managed to win his patronage: the story of his German boyfriend recounted above from page 50 makes it clear that even for a handsome boy there was a big difference between simple enrolment as one of the ruspanti and being the Grand Duke ‘s beloved. Thus, as there were more than three hundred ruspanti, of whom certainly not all and probably only a small proportion were the Grand Duke’s catamites, this catalogue has been thought insufficiently relevant for inclusion.

 

[1] By far the most important study of Florentine pederasty is the ground-breaking Forbidden Friendships. Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence by Michael Rocke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), which has much to report about the special reputations for this form of love of Italy and Florence in particular. Though Rocke’s study is concentrated on Florence in the 15th century, where at least two thirds of the male population was implicated in sodomy with boys according to contemporary court records, he stressed two points whose importance can hardly be exaggerated, especially in the light of popular 21st-century misconceptions. First, despite Florence’s peculiar reputation, there are poor grounds for supposing that attitudes there to sex with boys were fundamentally very different from elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean, or from what they had been since antiquity. Even more importantly, men sexually attracted to boys as well as women were regarded as normal, not as a strange minority: “There was only a single male sexual culture with a prominent homoerotic character. ... In Florence, and probably elsewhere as well, sodomy between males assumed a hierarchical form that would now be called 'pederasty'. ... Normally men over the age of eighteen took the so-called active role in sex with a passive teenage adolescent.”
   Though Gian Gastone’s life straddled the period during which in northern European cities there began the shift towards ideas of sexual orientation often taken for granted in Europe today, Italy was well behind in this respect. [Website foonote]

[2] Giuliano Dami died on 5 April 1750 at the age of 66 and was buried in Santa Maria del Carmine, in Florence (survived by his wife whom he had married in 1715). He had bought a villa in Broncigliano, a hamlet of Scandicci near Florence, which his heirs did not sell until 1770, so presumably he had not been destitute. This is all according to a biography of him by Alberto Bruschi, Giuliano Dami. Aiutante di Camera del granduca Gian Gastone de' Medici (Giuliano Dami. Chamber Aide to the Grand Duke Gian Gastone de' Medici), Florence: Opus libri, 1997.
     So, if Douglas’s suppositions are correct, this Life of Gian Gastone I was written between 1737 and 1750.

[3] Gian Gastone’s parents had bickered over his father Cosimo’s fondness for “a handsome Turkish boy whom Cosimo had caused to be baptized – maliciously known as Cosimino di Camera” (Harold Acton, The Last Medici (London : Faber, 1932), p. 126) [Website foonote].

[4] Ferdinando, who was then their father’s heir (as the elder son), had himself married a German (Bavarian) princess, childlessly and unhappily so, though not because he himself was fiercely attached to castrati as well as having mistresses, since his wife adored him despite them. (Harold Acton, The Last Medici, London: Faber, 1932, pp. 180 ff.). Castrati were singers castrated in childhood to preserve their boyish voices, some of them becoming opera stars. Although those loved by Ferdinando were adult, they obviously bore a greater physical resemblance to boys than men and were accordingly regarded as normal subjects for men’s lust. See Roger Freitas Freitas, "The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato" in The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 20, No. 2, University of California Press, Spring 2003), pp. 196-249. [Website foonote]

[5] Guiliano Dami was born on 14 September 1683, and was nine or ten when his father died in 1693. [Website foonote]

[6] Gian Gastone “set forth on his expedition to Germany” in March 1697, when Dami was aged 13 and a half.
     It may be worth noting here one of the most flagrant and shamelessly dishonest examples of the manner in which mainstream recent sources such as Wikipedia, respected in the extremely debased moral and intellectual context of the 21st century, engage in “gaywashing” history. The Wikipedia article on Dami pretends that Dami and Gian Gastone first met in Florence eight to ten years later, “between June 1705 and May 1707”, and then became lovers, giving their relationship an utterly false but happily “correct” gay tone. It does not cite a single primary source for any of its claims, but has the nerve to imply that Harold Acton’s authoritative The Last Medici is its source. In fact, Acton’s detailed account (whose chronology is backed up by dated correspondence, etc.) makes it clear that Dami accompanied Gian Gastone on what was his only expedition ever from Florence to Germany, that of March 1697, and that Gian Gastone did not return to Florence again until 1708, by when Dami’s position in his master’s sex life had clearly long before become that of procurer of boys rather than loved-boy himself. It can at least be said for Wikipedia that its fuller article on Gian Gastone has not yet joined in this falsification of the historical record and does follow Acton, who himself used the book presented on this webpage besides many other primary sources. [Website foonote]

[7] The ancient sources (authoritatively amounting to only Tacitus and Suetonius) agree that Sejanus secured his position by catering to the whims of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. There is not the slightest suggestion in any of them that Sejanus himself was sexually involved with the Emperor, which would have been repugnant to Roman tastes and most certainly mentioned in their vilification of these two characters. The only honest inference from what is described here is that Dami, having won Gian Gastone’s abiding love and trust as his beloved for a period beginning when he was a beautiful thirteen, thereafter successfully transformed himself into his sympathetic procurer of boys. Everything our anonymous author says implies this. The pattern has been common in Greek love. One might, for example, compare Dami to the Sicilian Pancrazio Buciunì (1879-1963) who at the age of 14 joined the household of the German boysexual photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden and stayed with him for life as his closest friend and confidant, but changed after an initial few years as his beloved and model to being the one who found other local boys for him to love and photograph. Or, see Robin Maugham’s account on this website of how Gerald Haxton, the companion and supposed lover of his famous uncle Somerset Maugham, had in fact transformed himself into his procurer of teenage boys. [Website foonote]

[8] Though see pp. 88-9 quoted below on the depressing degeneration of his feelings for her in her last years after she had tried in vain to restrain him from ruining his reputation [Website footnote].

[9] The comparison of Gian Gastone and Dami to the Roman Emperor Tiberius and Sejanus, his Praetorian Prefect, who was left to rule Rome in his place through ensuring that Tiberius’s sexual licentiousness with boys was fully indulged in his retreat on the island of Capri was made earlier on page 43 and commented on in footnote 6. To a classically educated readership, ie. essentially everyone who was likely to read this book, it was by far the best-known story with which to draw a comparison. What makes the comparison most unfair is that the elderly Tiberius had never had the intense man/boy love affair with his future minister that might have given good cause for such trusr, and that, in stark contrast to Sejanus, Dami never betrayed his benefactor. [Website foonote]

[10] The terrible prison, a huge irregular quadrilateral without windows, abolished in 1835 [Translator’s footnote]

[11] Penises, according to definition 2.3d of the Oxford English Dictionary [Website footnote].

[12] A punchinello is “The name of) a hook-nosed, humpbacked character in the commedia dell'arte and in a puppet show of Italian origin, the prototype and equivalent of the English Punch” (Oxford English Dictionary). [Website footnote]

[13] A lavish grand ducal villa in Arcetri just south of Florence [Website footnote].

[14] Baldisserra Galuppi, born at Burano on 1 October 1706, son of a barber, came to Florence in 1726 for a few months and coincidentally much later died there on 3 January 1785 [Website footnote].

 

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