The Diplomat of Florence by Anthony Wildman

‘Excellency, I had no expectations whatsoever.’

Niccolò Machiavelli (3 May 1469, Florence, Italy—died 21 June 1527, Florence) was an Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman.  He was a secretary of the Florentine republic, and his most famous work, ‘The Prince’ (Il Principe), brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral cynic.

In this novel, Mr Wildman draws Machiavelli out of the shadows, puts some flesh on his bones and brings him to life within 15th and early 16th century Florence.

The novel opens in 1498.  The Medici have been overthrown and Florence was ruled by Girolamo Savonarola until his execution in May 1498.  And, in these turbulent times, Florence is weak and under threat.  Niccolò Machiavelli is young, inexperienced and lacks financial influence.  But his appointment as second secretary of the Florentine chancellery enables him to overcome these disadvantages. Florence is under threat, and the nature of the Florentine republic makes the decision-making process slow and difficult.  In the absence of a standing army, Florence relies on mercenaries for protection, and tries to negotiate with those seeking to control central Italy.

Because my knowledge of Machiavelli centres around ‘The Prince’, I found this novel’s focus (on Machiavelli’s earlier life) interesting.  I knew part of the history Mr Wildman covers but I had not previously looked at it from a Florentine perspective.  Did Niccolò Machiavelli meet Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Cromwell?  It is possible.

I enjoyed this novel and learned a little more about both Niccolò Machiavelli and Florence as a consequence.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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