The Medici family was an extremely powerful family in Florence at this time even though they had no royal blood. Their power came from the fact that the economies of Florence and other Italian cities were becoming major trading centers. This was part of the economic and social changes that occurred as the horrors of the 1300s receded and the Renaissance began.
The Medici were a family whose wealth and power was built on banking. They funded the trading ventures that were booming at this time in Florence. They used the money that they got from their banking to become very powerful in Florence. Even though they were not officially in government, members of the family like Lorenzo de Medici were the most influential people in Florence.
A generous patron of arts and also a firm power built on banking, the Medici family helped Florence to prosper in the 15th century.
In 1434, Cosimo de Medici took control of Florence even though he was only a private citizen. He controlled the bags from which names of most officials were chosen and stayed in power for decades. His ill son Piero succeeded Cosimo's place, but Piero's son Lorenzo soon took charge.
Lorenzo was well loved, but the opposition to the Medici family was violent. During the Pazzi conspiracy in 1478, Lorenzo barely survived and his brother was murdered in a cathedral. Led by the rival Pazzi family of Florence, the Pazzi family and Pope Sixtus IV conspired to overthrow the Medici rulers largely because Lorenzo tried to thwart the consolidation of papal rule over north-central Italy. The conspiracy failed, however, and only proved how Lorenzo had the solid support of the people.
Shortly after Lorenzo’s death in 1492, the French invaded Italy. Lorenzo's son Piero did not deal well with the French invasion and was driven out of Florence.