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“Bankrolling the Renaissance”:
A history of the Medici family
Douglas Skeggs Friday 25 October 2019

Booking opens 12 September 2019. The first lecture will start at 10.30am at the refurbished Goldwater Lodge (next to the Dianthus Building), Goldsworth Park, Woking GU21 3RT. Entrance on the lake side.

The Medici were in many ways an unattractive family. Ruthless in pursuit of profit for their Florentine bank, which had branches in every city of the known world, they were greedy for success, merciless to those who opposed their ambition and vicious in their own internal squabbles. And yet without them we wouldn’t have Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, the Fra Angelico frescoes in San Marco, Donatello's “David” or the majestic Michelangelo sculptures in the Medici chapel. The Platonic Academy wouldn’t have been founded and the doors for the Baptistry would never have been cast.

 This Study Day, composed of three talks, looks into the turbulent history of this extraordinary family. 

1 Bankrolling the Renaissance

Under the guidance of Cosimo de' Medici, the family became the unofficial rulers of Florence and leading patrons of the arts. This inevitably aroused fierce jealousies, which boiled over in the attempted assassination of Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo. 

2 Popes and Patrons

With Florence gripped by the apocalyptic preaching of Savonarola, the Medici were exiled from Florence. But they re-emerged triumphantly as Popes in Rome. Here their decadent and eccentric rule led to the Sack of Rome and ultimately opened the door to Luther’s Reformation of the Church.

3 From Riches to Royalty

Although the Medici were a spent force in Italy, an ingenious marriage had put Catherine de' Medici on the throne of France, to be followed, shortly afterwards, by Marie de' Medici. This last talk looks at the impact these two formidable queens had on the shape of French history.


Douglas Skeggs read Fine Art at Magdalene College Cambridge and has been a lecturer on paintings since 1980.  He has taken many tours around Europe, helped set up the Abercrombie & Kent 'Private Label tours' and is presently cultural adviser to Ultimate travel. He has written and presented TV documentaries and is also a painter and novelist.