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The Last Medici

Harold Acton
Date Published
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In his remarkable account of the last Medici, famous aesthete and historian Harold Acton (1904-1994) takes up the causes which led to the disappearance of a house which has left indelible traces on the art, literature and commerce of the world; and his book was one of the first attempts to deal with this despotic dynasty in a scholarly and impartial spirit.

Much has been written about the phenomenal career of the early Medici: and there are many biographies of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo I, and the Medicean Popes. But less has been written of the final phase, and Acton demonstrates the hand of death overshadowing the great family in a series of unfortunate marriages – how one by one they vanished into the void.

The Last Medici centres mainly round the fantastic figures of Princess Marguerite-Louise d’Orléans and her husband Cosimo III, most fatal of all the Medicean sovereigns. The last act closes on Gian Gastone, their cynical younger son, bedridden in the Pitti Palace, a florid figure of despair, with the Powers of Europe ever on the alert for the sound of his death-rattle.

Full of brilliant colour, rich comedy and lurid tragedy, The Last Medici is at the same time a scientific contribution to the records of an extraordinary and unforgettable period.


Harold Acton (1904-1994) was a writer, scholar and aesthete who listed as his principal recreation ‘hunting the philistines’. From the balcony of his Oxford rooms he famously declaimed passages from The Waste Land through a megaphone.He wrote in many different mediums, publishing nearly thirty books, with his poetry and fiction being markedly less successful than his other works.

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