Alessandro de’Medici, also known as “IL Moro,” which mean “The Moor,” was the first African Duke of Florence, Italy. As the last member of the Medici family to rule, he was also considered to be the first one to take the title of Duke through ancestry. He is also known to be the first black head of state in the modern western world.
Alessandro was born on May 1, 1532. His mother was an African slave named Simonetta, who had been freed. Alessandro’s paternity is uncertain; although many sources name Lorenzo de’Medici, ruler of Urbino, he might also have been the son of Pope Clement VII, the brother of Lorenzo II who became the head of the Medici family after Lorenzo’s death.
It is believed by historians that the young duke’s reign had bad beginnings. He was known to be an arrogant person, and the bad behavior of his entourage, and his reputation with women and feasting gave Alessandro a bad name. He also made unpopular political decisions, including limiting the number of remunerative positions in his government. This decision alone forced many patrician families to go into exile and become enemies of his rule.
Alessandro’s situation grew worse when his protector and benefactor Clement VII died in 1534. After Clement VII’s death, he took more repressive measures against his enemies, probably due to his growing fear of them and uncertainty of his support. Meanwhile, resistance against Alessandro’s reign grew among the exiles and even his cousin Ippolito plotted against the Duke.
When Ippolito died unexpectedly in 1535, speculations arose that Alessandro had poisoned him. However, in June 1536, Charles V visited Florence and married his daughter to Alessandro De’ Medici, consolidating the Duke’s position. Nonetheless, one year later, Alessandro was murdered by a distant cousin, Lorenzino, who later fled to Venice and was hailed among the exiles as the “New Brutus.”