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Brief history of the Niccolini family

The Niccolinis originate from the Sirigatti family and adopted their name around 1250. The Sirigattis came from the Pesa valley. The first documents on this family relate to Arrigo son of Lucense. In 1208, Arrigo married Scarlata di Paganello. A document of 1233 shows that Arrigo Sirigatti owned three houses in the castle of Passignano and some land in the surroundings.

According to a family legend, Arrigo fought in the battle of Benevento in 1266, because of the courage he showed in this occasion and of the cat ("gatto" in Italian) on his shield, he was nicknamed "Sire del Gatto" (Lord of the Cat), from which the name Sirigatti derived.

The first of the family to move to Florence was Nicolino, son of Ruza of Arrigo, towards the end of the XIII century. It was after him that the family started being called Niccolini dei Sirigatti, then just Niccolini. Nicolino's descendants prospered as merchants. Lapo of Giovanni (1356-1429) was a wealthy citizen and an influent politician in republican Florence.

Otto son of Lapo of Giovanni (1410-1470) was a prominent political figure in his time. As an ally and strong supporter of Cosimo il Vecchio de'Medici, Ambassador for the Florentine republic and expert jurist, he contributed to establish the Medici's regime. His role and political influence are confirmed by the fact that his is the second name in the famous pact of 1 May 1449, in which 64 important Florentine citizens swore an oath of allegiance to Cosimo il Vecchio.

The Family's political and economical power was definitely consolidated by Agnolo son of Matteo (1502-1567) and by his son Giovanni (1544-1611). Agnolo was Cosimo I's right hand and was entrusted of the most delicate missions. Among these was defending the Grand Duke's hereditary rights against the claims of Margherita of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Charles V, and those of his cousin Caterina de'Medici, future Queen of France. A widower from 1550, Agnolo was rewarded with the Cardinal's hat and the Diocese of Pisa for his many services and long-lasting fidelity to Cosimo.

Fidelity to the Medicis had its final consecration in 1637, when Grand Duke Ferdinando II created Filippo di Giovanni (1586-1666) Marquess of Ponsacco and Camugliano.

This is an important date in the family history, as it represents the apex of a long period, during which the Niccolinis had always been near to the apex of power.

The figure of Antonio Niccolini (1701-1769) last child of Filippo, third Marquess of Ponsacco and Camugliano, also stands out in the family history. A man of many interests, after completing his studies under the supervision of Giuseppe Averani, he combined a great passion for literature with a growing curiosity towards other cultures, especially for the anglo-saxon world. He had an interesting life. Exiled from Tuscany in 1748, he travelled extensively. He kept constant epistolary contact with the most eminent personalities of his time in Italy and in Europe. His vast correspondence is still preserved in the Niccolini's archives.

An other important member of this family was Marchese Eugenio Niccolini di Camugliano, (1853-1939) who held various public offices, he was Lord Mayor of Prato and a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy. He is also remembered as a passionate hunter and wrote a famous book of shooting memoirs. In 1879, Eugenio Niccolini married Cristina Naldini, the last descendant of this other old Florentine patrician family. Her rich dowry included the Palazzo in Piazza del Duomo in Florence, that still belongs to the family.

Historical notes on the Naldini Family

The Naldinis originate from the Rinaldeschis, an old and powerful family coming from Prato, who settled in Florence between the XIII and the XIV centuries.

Rinaldino, or Naldino, son of Cione, separated from the Rinaldeschi family at the beginning of the XIV century. His descendants started calling themselves with their father's name as children of Rinaldino, or Naldino, from which came Naldini. The reason for this change in name are to be found in the political struggle among oligarchs and the lower class that marked Florentine history towards the end of the XIII century and terminated with the anti-oligarchic laws that denied political rights to the oldest and most powerful families, among which were the Rinaldeschis, thus excluding them from the government of the city. It was most likely in order to avoid suffering the consequences of such legislation, that Rinaldino and his descendants decided to separate from their original family, by changing their name into Naldini.

We have no news of Rinaldino, or Naldino, son of Cione Rinaldeschi, except that he was probably dead by 1375 and that he had several children. One of these, Piero was living in Prato in 1364 and was member of the Tanners' corporation in that city. Another son, Domenico, went to live in Florence and established a profitable trading activity there. From then on, the Naldinis were active as merchants and became one of the great Florentine trading families, with interests all over Italy and in many European cities. One of Naldino di Cione's descendants, Francesco di Domenico, spent most of his life in Lyon, where he assembled a huge fortune. Having died without children, he left everything to his cousin, Domenico di Per Giovanni, who also was a merchant in Florence and Toulouse. The two sons of Domenico di Per Giovanni, Francesco and Giovanni, shared duties: the elder continued the traditional family business, whereas the youngest took service at the court of Cosimo I de'Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, thus introducing the Naldinis in the new political scenario created by the ascent of the Medicis to the Principality.

Their descendants could benefit of this shrewd policy, that allowed the family to preserve its economical power, while maintaining good relations with the Grand Ducal court, whose influence and importance were rapidly growing: at the end of the XVI century, the Naldinis were rich, influential and well established members of the Florentine aristocracy.

As many other Tuscan families, the Naldinis progressively abandoned the mercantile activities and adopted the habits and way of life of the European nobility.

The eldest male was in charge of continuing the family and received most of the inheritance, while younger sons were free to follow whatever course could further illustrate the House.

During the XVI century, 4 Naldini brothers embarked in the military career, paying a high toll for it, since, as can be read in a document of the end of 1500, two died in the wars in Flanders, a third one was severely wounded in battle and only the fourth survived and could ask the King of France a pension to repay the family for its services and for all it had sacrificed in so many campaigns.

Wedlock also became a source of important alliances and of increases in the family fortune. Between the XVII and XVIII centuries, the Naldinis married in the families Marzi-Medici, Nerli and Del Riccio. As a consequence of the latter marriage, the Naldinis inherited the fortune and name of the Del Riccio.

In the XIX century, the family was known as Naldini Del Riccio gi? Rinaldeschi, a long sequel of names that went from the medieval origins, reminding the extinct Rinaldeschis, to the eighteenth century's alliance with the illustrios and wealthy Del Riccio.

The last male of the Naldinis is Ottavio, who married Vittoria Giugni Canigiani de' Cerchi and had from her only one daughter, Cristina. In 1879 she married Marchese Eugenio Niccolini di Camugliano, also belonging to an old Florentine patrician family and a well-known public figure, Senator and author of a famous shooting diary, still very popular nowadays. As part of her dowry, Cristina brought the Palazzo Naldini in the Niccolini family, who still owns it nowadays.

credits: sottolinea.com