Home  »  Autobiography  »  XIX

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


ABOUT this time the illustrious soldier Piero Strozzi arrived in France, and reminded the King that he had promised him letters of naturalisation. These were accordingly made out; and at the same time the King said: “Let them be also given to Benvenuto, mon ami, and take them immediately to his house, and let him have them without the payment of any fees.” Those of the great Strozzi cost him several hundred ducats: mine were brought me by one of the King’s chief secretaries, Messer Antonio Massone, This gentleman presented them with many expressions of kindness from his Majesty, saying: “The King makes you a gift of these, in order that you may be encouraged to serve him,; they are letters of naturalisation.” Then he told me how they had been given to Piero Strozzi at his particular request, and only after a long time of waiting, as a special mark of favour; the King had sent mine of his own accord, and such an act of grace had never been heard of in that realm before. When I heard these words, I thanked his Majesty with heartiness; but I begged the secretary to have the kindness to tell me what letters of naturalisation meant. He was a man accomplished and polite, who spoke Italian excellently. At first my question made him laugh; then he recovered his gravity, and told me in my own language what the papers signified, adding that they conferred one of the highest dignities a foreigner could obtain: “indeed, it is a far greater honour than to be made a nobleman of Venice.”

When he left me, he returned and told his Majesty, who laughed awhile, and then said: “Now I wish him to know my object in sending those letters of naturalisation. Go and install him lord of the castle of the Little Nello, where he lives, and which is a part of my demesne, He will know what that means better than he understood about the letters of naturalisation.” A messenger brought me the patent, upon which I wanted to give him a gratuity. He refused to accept it, saying that his Majesty had so ordered. These letters of naturalisation, together with the patent for the castle, I brought with me when I returned to Italy; wherever I go and wherever I may end my days, I shall endeavour to preserve them.