On This Day
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Hospitalis Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani; Italian: Cavalieri dell’Ordine dell’Ospedale di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme), also known as the Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta and St Petersburg.
The Hospitallers arose in the early 11th century, at the time of the great monastic reformation, as a group of individuals associated with an Amalfitan hospital in the Muristan district of Jerusalem, dedicated to John the Baptist and founded around 1023 by Gerard Thom to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. Some scholars, however, consider that the Amalfitan order and hospital were different from Gerard Thom’s order and its hospital.
After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the organisation became a military religious order under its own Papal charter, charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the knights operated from Rhodes, over which they were sovereign, and later from Malta, where they administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily. The Hospitallers were the smallest group to briefly colonise parts of the Americas: they acquired four Caribbean islands in the mid-17th century, which they turned over to France in the 1660s.
The knights were weakened in the Protestant Reformation, when rich commanderies of the order in northern Germany and the Netherlands became Protestant and largely separated from the Roman Catholic main stem, remaining separate to this day, although ecumenical relations between the descendant chivalric orders are amicable. The order was disestablished in England, Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere in northern Europe, and it was further damaged by Napoleon’s capture of Malta in 1798, following which it became dispersed throughout Europe and Russia.
Born On This Day
1471 – Piero the Unfortunate, Italian ruler (d. 1503)
Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici (15 February 1472 – 28 December 1503), called Piero the Unfortunate, was the gran maestro of Florence from 1492 until his exile in 1494.
Life and death
Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici was the eldest son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent) and Clarice Orsini. He was raised alongside his younger brother Giovanni, who would go on to become Pope Leo X, and his cousin Giulio, who would later become Pope Clement VII. 
He was educated to succeed his father as head of the Medici family and de facto ruler of the Florentine state, under figures such as Angelo Poliziano or Ficino. However, his feeble, arrogant, and undisciplined character was to prove unsuited to such a role. Poliziano later died poisoned by Piero on 24 September 1494.
Piero took over as leader of Florence in 1492, upon Lorenzo’s death. After a brief period of relative calm, the fragile Pacific equilibrium between the Italian states, laboriously constructed by Piero’s father, collapsed in 1494 with the decision of King Charles VIII of France to cross the Alps with an army in order to assert hereditary claims to the Kingdom of Naples. Charles had been lured to Italy by Ludovico Sforza (Ludovico il Moro), ex-regent of Milan, as a way to eject Ludovico’s nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza and replace him as duke.
After settling matters in Milan, Charles moved towards Naples. He needed to pass through Tuscany, as well as leave troops there to secure his lines of communication with Milan. Piero attempted to stay neutral, but this was unacceptable to Charles, who intended to invade Tuscany. Piero attempted to mount a resistance, but received little support from members of Florentine elites who had fallen under the influence of the fanatical Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola; even his cousins defected to Charles’s side.
Piero quickly gave up as Charles’s army neared Florence and surrendered the chief fortresses of Tuscany to the invading army, giving Charles everything he demanded. His poor handling of the situation and failure to negotiate better terms led to an uproar in Florence, and the Medici family fled. The family palazzo was looted, and the substance as well as the form of the Republic of Florence was re-established with the Medici formally exiled. A member of the Medici family was not to rule Florence again until 1512, after Giovanni de’ Medici was elected Pope Leo X.
Piero and his family fled at first to Venice with the aid of the French diplomat Philippe de Commines, a retainer of Charles VIII. In 1503, as the French and Spanish continued their struggle in Italy over the Kingdom of Naples, Piero was drowned in the Garigliano River while attempting to flee the aftermath of the Battle of Garigliano, which the French (with whom he was allied) had lost.
Marriage and children
In 1486, Piero’s uncle Bernardo Rucellai negotiated for Piero to marry the Tuscan noblewoman Alfonsina Orsini and stood in for him in a marriage by proxy. Piero and Alfonsina met in 1488. She was a daughter of Roberto Orsini, Count of Tagliacozzo, and Caterina Sanseverino. They had two children:
Lorenzo II, Duke of Urbino (1492-1519).
Clarice de’ Medici (1493-1528). She married Filippo Strozzi the Younger..
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