Fleeing a murder

Curious Florence

Rose Mackworth-Young
October 2, 2014

While the English presence in Florence during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is well known, British aristocrats settled here many centuries earlier, fleeing from turbulent times in their homeland. The scandalous murder of archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, supposedly on the request of King Henry II, left the rest of the Becket family scared for their lives. A branch of the family, the ‘minor Beckets,’ fled to Florence, where their name morphed into the more Italian sounding Minerbetti. Over the years, they rose to power in the city, becoming friends of the Medici and building a glorious palace. The line died out at the end of the 1600s, but the family’s coat of arms can still be seen on the corner of via de’ Tornabuoni and via del Parione: three swords on a (originally) red background, a reminder of bloodshed many years ago in a foreign land.

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