1565: Benedetto Accolti, would-be papal assassin

Add comment January 27th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1565, three men who schemed to assassinate Pope Pius IV were put to public death at the Capitol.

Detail (click for the full painting) of Parnassus by Raphael, the Vatican’s “Raphael Rooms”. According to Jonathan Unglaub,* this figure is the then-acclaimed, today-obscure poet Bernardo Accolti, our failed assassin’s great-uncle.

Pius was a pope of the counter-reformation; it was he who brought the Council of Trent to its conclusion.

And though generally noted for his moderation (and his enthusiasm for building), he was not above striking heads from shoulders. Upon his ascension a few years prior he had dealt harshly with the nephews of his predecessor.

Accolti hailed from a prominent Florentine noble family; his father and namesake was a scheming cardinal.

Young Benedetto, clearly, could scheme a little himself, since he roped several buddies (Italian link) into a plot to murder the pontiff. In December 1564, they presented themselves at a papal audience, but apparently got cold feet. One of their number, a Cavalier Pelliccione, ratted the lot of them out before they could muster their nerve a second time: the good cavalier might have been motivated by having possession of treasonably pre-written letters to be sent to various dignitaries upon the pope’s violent deposition.

Pelliccione accordingly skated with a pardon, but two co-conspirators were sent to the galleys for life.

Benedetto Accolti, Antonio Canossa, and Taddeo Manfredi were dragged to the Capitol on January 27 and put to the gruesome public butchery — “like cows” — of the mazzolatura.

There are several resources that claim the plot was among Catholic ultras who found Pius a little on the heretical side. This Italian encyclopedia entry attributes to the astrologically-inclined Accolti a more nutty-prophetic ambition of a “papa angelico” who would unify Christendom.

Maybe he should have just exercised a little patience. Pius IV died in December 1565.

* Jonathan Unglaub, “Bernardo Accolti, Raphael’s ‘Parnassus’ and a New Portrait by Andrea del Sarto,” The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 149, No. 1246, Art in Italy (Jan., 2007).

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Assassins,Attempted Murder,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Italy,Mazzolatura,Nobility,Notable for their Victims,Papal States,Public Executions,Torture,Treason

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1565: Jean Ribault and the Huguenot colonists of Fort Caroline

1 comment October 12th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1565, the French Huguenot New World settlement plan was nipped in the bud when Spaniards executed en masse the inhabitants of Fort Caroline in present-day Jacksonville, Fla.

Jean Ribault.

During the late 16th century’s fractious French Wars of Religion, far-sighted Protestant admiral Gaspard de Coligny sponsored this like-minded colony in Florida — a sort of side bet on a satellite Protestant presence overseas, while the party in the mother country fought for its life.*

Jean Ribault (or Ribaut) was the loyal naval aide chosen to lead this colony. After an abortive attempt to plant a settlement in Charlestown, S.C., Ribault set up Fort Caroline and claimed greater Jacksonville for France.


Historical marker of Jean Ribaut/Ribault’s landing place, in Jacksonville, Fla. (cc) image from POsrUs.

French colonial projects further north enjoyed better success.

Down in Florida, both geopolitical and religious rivalry set Fort Caroline up for trouble. Ponce de Leon, questing for the Fountain of Youth, had planted the Spanish flag in Florida half a century before, and that country was none too pleased to find its continental rival jumping its claim. That it was Calvinist Frenchmen doing the usurping would prove downright intolerable to more-Catholic-than-the-Pope Spanish ruler Philip II.

The Spaniards attacked [Fort Caroline], hanged the colonists, and fastened above the heads of the corpses a placard on which was written, “Not because they were Frenchmen, but because they were heretics.” A French Catholic, de Gourgues, moved with righteous indignation, fitted out a ship and avenged this act by hanging their murderers, over whose bodies he put a similar placard, bearing the inscription, “Not because they were Spaniards, but because they were assassins.” But Coligny’s efforts failed, and he had to leave to the English race the realization of his dream of a great American Protestant state. (Source)

That great Protestant state, of course, eventually gobbled up Florida, and still owns it today.

There, it maintains Fort Matanzas National Monument, which takes its name for the Spanish term for what went down there on this date: matanzas, or slaughter.**

* It’s another country, another creed, and another century, but it reminds of the traffic between English New World settlements and England proper during the English Revolution.

** A different historical monument commemorates the failed South Carolina colony.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Cycle of Violence,Execution,France,God,Hanged,History,Known But To God,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Soldiers,Spain,Summary Executions

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