Born to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo II de' Medici, the illegitimate Alessandro was groomed for power. In 1532, at the age of nineteen, backed by the Holy Roman Emperor–his future father-in-law–and the Pope, he became Duke of Florence, facing down family rivals and oligarchs and inheriting the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance. Catherine Fletcher's The Black Prince of Florence is the first complete account of the real-life counterpart to Machiavelli's Prince.
After ruling for a turbulent six years, Alessandro was murdered in 1537 during a late-night tryst arranged by a scheming cousin. As Fletcher puts it, he was assassinated twice: "first with a sword, then with a pen." Following his death, Alessandro's reign was dismissed by his enemies–of which every Medici prince had many, and Alessandro more than his share–and his death painted as tyrannicide. It was in the years and centuries that followed that his racial origin became a focus, first by those seeking to emphasize his "savagery" and thus