Monday, February 4, 2013

Women and Children Last: Peacemaking Marriage IV

In this last of four posts talking about Florentine peacemaking marriages in the 13th century, we will be discussing another couple joined together in the spate of peacemaking marriages between Guelfs and Ghibellines in the year 1267.

For a bit of background on the political environment that made these alliances seem desirable and useful at the time, see my first post on the subject.

For the fate of a couple joined in 1239, see this post.

For more on another couple also joined in 1267, see this post, which details the marriage of the sister of the husband in this post.

The Third Couple

For this post we will concentrate on the union of Ravenna Donati with messer Azzolino di Farinata degli Uberti.

First, the bride.  Ravenna Donati was the daughter of the prominent Guelf, Simone Donati, and she was sister to the soon-to-be-notorious Corso Donati and his brothers Sinibaldo, Maso, and Forese (the latter a poet and a friend of Dante's).  She was also sister (or possibly half-sister) to Piccarda, whose story we'll touch on briefly a bit later.

Messer Simone Donati was a knight, well respected throughout Tuscany.  He was, of course, among the Guelfs exiled after the battle of Montaperti, and in 1267 was only recently returned to his city.  He had lost property to the tune of 2,200 lire in that Ghibelline victory and its aftermath.

Simone served as podestà in Arezzo and other cities on several occasions - a prestigious and lucrative "guest mayor" position always given to an outsider, in the interest of finding someone nonbiased.  (Sometimes it worked.)  He spoke for the city (and for his party and his sesto or zone of the city) at the peace negotiations with Cardinal Latino beginning in 1279.  Much earlier, in 1261, he and Bonaccorso Adimari (see mention of him in the first post of this series) were ambassadors to Conradin, legitimate son and heir of the late Frederick II, trying unsuccessfully to persuade the young man to join them in taking up arms against his uncle Manfred.


Simone had a reputation for being ethically challenged.  He was entangled in legal issues in Florence and was ordered, in 1277, to stop interfering in the affairs of the Pinti hospital.  During one stint as podestà in Parma, it is said that he falsely accused a man of stealing horses and put him to the torture, the better to have his way with the unfortunate man's attractive daughter.

Some say this man was the Simone Donati who took part in the famous Gianni Schicchi swindle (see this post for more on the Gianni Schicchi story).

So that's Ravenna's daddy. What about messer Azzolino's?

The Ghibelline chief Farinata degli Uberti was discussed at some length in the previous post, so I won't describe him again here.  He died in 1264, so this marriage must have been negotiated by whoever was the new head of the Uberti family - possibly Azzolino himself - or by someone like the new leader of the Guelfs, Guido Novello (more about Guido in the first post of this series).

Farinata degli Uberti

In any case, Azzolino and Ravenna were wed.  At the same time, Azzolino's sister Beatrice married Guido Cavalcanti (see last post).  Soon afterwards the peace broke down, and Azzolino - and, presumably, his family - had to flee Florence.  Azzolino was among the Ghibellines plotting to re-take the city, and there was a price on his head.  He and Ravenna managed to produce two children before he was captured:  a son, Lapo, and a second child, Ytte or Itta, who some historians believe was a boy and some think was a girl.

But captured Azzolino was, along with his brothers Neracozzo and Conticino and another man, messer Bindo de' Grifoni da Fegghine.  The prisoners were held in Florence pending the advice of the podestà, messer Bernardo d'Ariano, who advised that they were to be treated as traitors to the crown (the relevant crown being on the august head of Charles of Anjou, by then King of Sicily).

Charles of Anjou (and crown)

This wasn't good news for the Uberti brothers.  (At least three other brothers, Lapo, Federigo, and Maghinardo, remained safe.  One, Maghinardo, was still alive in 1282.)
The youngest, Conticino, was spared because of his youth, but he died in prison a short time later.

Ravenna was said to have pleaded for her husband's life, but to no avail.  It's reported that as Azzolino and his brother Neracozzo were being led to their execution, Neracozzo asked his brother "Where are we going?"  Azzoline replied, "To pay a debt left to us by our fathers."

After her husband was decapitated in May of 1270, Ravenna returned to her father's house.  Her children were considered part of her husband's family and not hers, and they did not accompany her.  It seems doubtful that she ever saw them again.  The older child could not have been more than three at the time.

Simone promptly married her off again, this time to a wealthy banker named Bello Ferrantini (the Donati often married for money, being chronically short of that commodity).  To judge from his will, Bello was a generous and thoughtful man, providing well for his wife, his sister and her daughter, and many friends and relatives.

Unfortunately Bello's will had to be put into use fairly soon.  He died in 1277, leaving Ravenna with a son and two daughters.

Ravenna took the children and retired to a Dominican convent, San Iacopo at Ripoli.  Her brother Corso, his eye still on Bello's money, initiated a long and vitriolic dispute with the convent over the control of Ravenna's inheritance.

It isn't clear that Corso had any right to those funds, though he and his father Simone had been named among the children's guardians in Bello's will.  The legal imbroglio ended five years later with Corso and the convent splitting the money.

Meanwhile, Ravenna had at one point left the convent.  By this time her son, also named Simone, had died, and only the two girls, Mataleona and Margherita, were left.

It appears that the girls stayed in the convent, which probably suited Corso, who would have begrudged the money to dower them.  Their mother eventually joined them.  A historian describes her as "weak-willed," but her choices were limited.  ("Exasperated" comes to mind as a possibility.  It can't be fun to watch your abbess and your brother arm-wrestling over your children's future.)

Oddly, that was not Corso's only interaction with a convent concerning one of his sisters.  Another sister, Piccarda, had apparently made her vows and was living in the convent of Monticelli, when Corso forcibly removed her, so he could marry her to his ally Rossellino della Tosa.  She was wed against her wishes, and died soon afterwards.

Corso removing Piccarda from her convent

It was not a peacemaking marriage.  Rossellino was Corso's friend and ally - a friendship that survived the first eventual split in the Guelf party, though not the second.  By the time Rossellino and Corso were enemies, Piccarda had been dead for years.

Dante places Piccarda in the Paradiso, though at a relatively low level, because her vows (to become a nun) were in some respect unfulfilled, though not by her choice.  Dante causes Piccarda to proclaim her perfect happiness in her placement, because it is God's will, and she utters the famous phrase:  "E 'n la sua voluntade è la nostra pace:  ell' è quel mare al qual tutto si move ciò ch'ella cria o che natura face."  (And in his will is our peace:  he is that sea toward which all move that his will creates or Nature makes.)

Dante meets Piccarda in Paradise

One quick look back at Lapo, Ravenna's son by Azzolino.  Included in his grandfather's conviction for heresy in 1282, and condemned to die at the stake should he be taken in Florence, Lapo made his home elsewhere in Tuscany.  A poet, he later became friends with Dante during the great man's long exile from his troubled city.

And thus we end this series on peacemaking marriages, which seem to have resulted in very little peace.

May our own attachments fare better.

Images in this post are in the public domain by virtue of antiquity.

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