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Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for his work “The Prince,” written in 1513. Today he is associated with political deceit and deviousness. To be Machiavellian is to behave unscrupulously. The actual man was quite different than his modern reputation. He was a staunch believer in republican government, and was viewed as an honest diplomatic broker.
“The Diplomat of Florence: A Novel of Machiavelli and the Borgias,” by Anthony Robert Wildman is a fictional biography of Machiavelli’s life. It covers the period from the 1498 end of the Medici rule in Florence until its restoration fifteen years later. This was the era of the Florentine Republic, Savonarola, and the Italian Renaissance.
The novel shows Machiavelli’s development from a minor bureaucrat in home-town Florence’s diplomatic establishment to one of the Republic of Florence’s most senior and respected diplomats. You watch his battles with his bureaucratic rivals, his progression to the head of his household, and his marriage.
Along the way Wildman has Machiavelli encountering a slew of famous individuals from the period. This includes he meets in his diplomatic missions such as Louis XII of France and Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentino. It also includes others such as Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Cromwell (later an advisor to Henry VIII of England) with whom (at least in this novel) Machiavelli becomes friends. Readers also get feeling he would like to have become friends with Cesare Borgia.
These friendships are plausible. It is one of the things which make this novel fun. The historical Machiavelli admired Borgia, as is made clear in “The Prince.” “The Diplomat of Florence” has the touch of a bildungsroman, focusing on the lessons Machiavelli learns over the course of his career. You see how the events in his life contribute to his later writings
The result is a first rate depiction of the events of the period in France and Italy. It also provides an amusing look at life inside a government bureaucracy. The machinations within the government of Renaissance Florence and that of today’s Washington DC seem almost interchangeable. Equally fascinating is the depiction of Florence trying to balance Pope against France, as it tries to maintain its independence as a small, mercantile state among competing sovereignties.
“The Diplomat of Florence” offers an entertaining introduction to Renaissance Italy. Wildman makes Machiavelli a sympathetic protagonist, one with whom readers would enjoy sitting down with and having a glass.
“The Diplomat of Florence: A Novel of Machiavelli and the Borgias,” by Anthony Robert Wildman, Plutus Publishing Australia, 2020, 406 pages, $14.99 (paperback), $5.99 (ebook)
This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.Published in