July 27th, 2010 Headsman
On this date in 1582, Philippe Strozzi, the Florentine-born commander of a French naval expedition against the Spanish was summarily executed as a pirate.
That made the Strozzi sometime-allies, sometime-rivals* of Florence’s more famous powerbrokers, the Medici. It is in both capacities that we meet Philippe (English Wikipedia entry | Italian | French).
To cut a centuries-long story short, the Strozzi had basically come out on the wrong side of the power struggle in the 16th century.
Philippe’s father, Piero Strozzi, was the child of a Strozzi-Medici union, and Piero too married a Medici. He also fought the Medici for power and ended up in exile whereupon he gravitated to the French court of … Catherine de’ Medici. (Catherine had been educated at the home of Philippe’s grandfather, Filippo Strozzi.) Catherine then turned around and used Piero as a French Marshal, including sending him to back Tuscan city-state Siena in opposition to its (and France’s) rival, Florence.**
Your basic tangled geopolitical-genealogical web.
Bottom line, Piero’s son Philippe was born in Florence but grew up Gallic, and fought in the French army all over the continent from the time he was a teenager.
When France got involved in the War of Portuguese Succession, they put this warlike fellow aboard a boat and sent him to dispute Spanish King Philip II‘s attempt to claim the Portuguese throne and unify the Iberian peninsula.
Strozzi’s armada got its clock cleaned at the naval Battle of Ponta Delgada near the Azores, with devastating loss of life.
The Spanish galleon San Mateo, which did yeoman service at this battle.
Since Spain and France were putatively at peace, Spain treated its captives not as prisoners of war but as pirates, and proceeded to execute several hundred in Vila Franca do Campo. Strozzi didn’t even get that much ceremony, however; the day after the battle, he was mortally stabbed, then tossed into the waves.
Happily, the name and the fame of the Strozzi outlived Spanish justice. In the next century, a distant relative by the handle of Barbara Strozzi became one of the most renowned composers of Baroque vocal music. (As befits wealthy Italians of the Renaissance, the Strozzi were big on the arts; Philippe was supposed to be a fine musician himself.)
* The Strozzi-Medici conflict frames the action in the play Lorenzaccio, in which the titular Brutus-like character mulls assassinating the Medici dictator in order to restore the Republic, only to find no such restoration in the offing once he actually does the deed; the father and grandfather of our day’s protagonists are both principal characters.
Also on this date
- 1676: Matoonas, a Nipmuc shot on Boston Common
- 1973: Mimi Wong Weng Siu, jealous hostess
- 1781: Francois Henri de la Motte, French spy
- 1916: Captain Charles Fryatt, illegal combatant
- 1990: Gideon Orkar, for a Nigerian coup
- 1915: 167 Haitian political prisoners
- 1794: The last cart of the Terror, not including the Marquis de Sade
Entry Filed under: 16th Century,At Sea,Borderline "Executions",Drowned,Execution,France,History,No Formal Charge,Nobility,Piracy,Pirates,Portugal,Power,Put to the Sword,Soldiers,Spain,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions
Tags: 1580s, 1582, alessandro de medici, azores, battle of marciano, battle of ponta delgado, catherine de' medici, filippo di piero strozzi, filippo strozzi, Florence, july 27, lorenzaccio, michelangelo, philip ii, philippe strozzi, piero strozzi, politics, siena, strozzi palace, vila franca do campo, war of portuguese succession