Sampiero Corso,1498 – 1569: ‘The Most Corsican of Corsicans’

I once had a French teacher whose family was Corsican.  Among the family possessions was a dagger, on one side of which blade was engraved “Vendetta”, on the other, “Morte”.

Hardboiled, the Corsicans. Perhaps no surprise that a Napoleon could come out of there.  For overall toughness and misfortune in love, however, we can argue that Sampiero has the marshal beat.

He was born a commoner and a reduced lower aristocratic mother.  With a background like that, the military was a natural. He apprenticed as a soldier at age fourteen.

He was good at it, too.  He led Corsican mercenaries for France’s house of Valois during the Italian wars and was more successful than not.  The money was good, too.  By 1547, he was a colonel and rich enough to marry Vanina D’Ornano. He was forty nine.  She was fifteen. Continue reading

John Florio, 1553-1625: A Harmless Drudge

Contrary to our flash image of Italy as a Catholic country, Protestantism did in fact make some inroads into the peninsula in the 16th century.   Giordano Bruno is among the best known to have had what Americans call “issues” with the Catholic church, issues strong enough to convert such him and others to Protestantism.  Among his colleagues was  Michaelangelo Florio, a Franciscan friar of Jewish extraction and father of our subject John.  Michaelangelo made a few  ill advised sermons on the subject, and soon wound up in jail (he was fortunate that he was not, like Bruno, burned alive).  First chance he got, he was off to Protestant friendly countries, ending in England where he shepherded other exiled Italian Protestants.

His day job was to tutor of Lady Jane Grey, that unfortunate queen for nine days, in foreign languages (it is to her that he dedicated his Regole de la Lingua Thoscan).   He mourned her death greatly and presumably also mourned the elevation of the deeply Catholic Queen Mary, who had a hard enough time with English Protestants, never mind Italian tutors of royal usurpers like-  well, like Lady Jane Grey.   So it was off to Switzerland (Italian Protestant connection again)* Continue reading