Tall know that Palazzo Madama, a step away from Piazza Navona, is the seat of the Senate. And that Villa Madama, designed by Raffaello in the middle of the green of Monte Mario and decorated by Giulio Romano, is the representative office of the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Someone remembers the Duchessa lake, in the Rieti mountains, as the place where at the end of the seventies they looked for the body of Aldo Moro, a statesman kidnapped by the Red Brigades.
“Hardly anyone remembers that anymore these toponyms, and also that of Cittaducale and Castel Madama, date back to Margaret of Habsburg, the natural daughter of Charles V, stolen from her mother immediately after birth, in 1522 to be carefully educated in the courts of half of Europe with the idea of making her an instrument of the marriage strategy that inspired the emperor’s policy “, says Giulia Alberico, writer of essays and novels, for thirty years he taught Italian and history in the Roman high schools. Now retrace the life of Margherita in the beautiful book The Lady of Flanders (Piemme), as if it were the protagonist who narrated it in the first person, thus adding thoughts and feelings, tenderness and fury to the historical events.
Margherita had only seven years when she was married by contract with Alessandro de ‘Medici, nephew of Clement VII and next Duke of Florence, to mend relations between the pope and Charles V after the sack of Rome by the lansquenets, the bands of mercenaries who had joined the imperial troops. The wedding was celebrated, on a beautiful morning in June, as soon as Margherita was fourteen years old. Alexander was twenty-six. Winter arrived and he was slain, at night, in a conspiracy hatched by his own relatives.
The very young widow was ready for another marriage. Charles V was very quick to sign the next agreement. A new pope reigned in Rome, Paul III Farnese, and Margherita would become the wife of his nephew Ottavio. “This time – continues the author – the betrothed resisted with all her might. Forced to sign, she swore to herself that she would never consent to the carnal union with Ottavio, two years younger, a narrow-shouldered, downward-looking child, a waxy complexion, only a hint of hair on his lip; not beautiful, not clean, not gallant ».
He retired, with a court of three hundred people who had brought from Florence, to the Roman residences of the Medici, the palace a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona and the villa in Monte Mario, inherited, along with other notable fortunes, by Alessandro. Here he received nobles and papal legates, ladies and ambassadors, of Spain, Venice, Florence. The music of the lutes, the violas, the voices of the singers filled the halls and delighted the Roman nobility. Only Ottavio was forbidden to enter. It was then that the two buildings took the name of Madama.
As it happened, Margherita herself tells it, with the words that Alberico puts in her mouth: «Rome was a hive of comments and gossip, I was the object of envy and criticism. I know that in the city they called me “Madama” in a contemptuous and derisive tone. I decided to react, I made that nickname my own and I amazed the Roman patricians ».
June 3, 2021 | 07:57
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