A Jacobite Gazetteer - Florence

Palazzo San Clemente

Facade on Via Micheli, circa 1900
Facade on Via Micheli, circa 1900

Facade on Via Micheli, 2001
Facade on Via Micheli, 2001

Arms of King Charles III
Arms of King Charles III

This palace, formerly called Palazzo Guadagni (but not the palace of that name on the south side of the River Arno in Piazza San Spirito), is located at Via Pier Antonio Micheli 2 at the corner of Via Gino-Capponi (formerly called Via San Sebastiano). It is just to the north of the Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata.

In 1777 King Charles III bought the palace from the Guadagni family; he lived here until he left for Rome in December 1785. Queen Louise lived here with Charles from 1777 until 1780, when she retired to the Convent of the White Nuns in Via Giusti. It was in this palace that Louise first met Count Vittorio Alfieri. Charlotte, Duchess of Albany, lived here with her father from October 1784 to December 1785.

At Charles' death in 1788 the palace was inherited by Charlotte. In 1789 she sold the property to a Neapolitan nobleman, Simone Velluti Zati, Duke of San Clemente, from whom the palace derives its modern name. The Velluti family rented the palace on occasion. In 1830 it became the residence of diplomatic representatives of the United Kingdom; Constantine Phipps, called Marquess of Normanby, who published a famous defence of King Francis I, lived here for a time. 1

The three-storeyed palace has broad Tuscan eaves and heavily-grated windows. The southern facade on Via Micheli shows two wings joined on the ground floor by the main entrance above which, at first-floor level, there is a large terrace with a taller central body behind it. For many years the entrance portal on Via Micheli was bricked up; today it is once again the main entrance.

The portal leads into a covered courtyard. From there one can enter the entrance hall; the main reception rooms in this palace are on the ground floor (instead of the first floor up as in most Italian palaces). In the entrance hall on the wall immediately ahead there is a magnificent painted version of the royal arms, some 3.3 metres wide. 2 In the lunette above the arms is a Latin inscription all on a single line:


Charles III, born 1720, King of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, 1766.

Below the royal arms is the royal motto, "Dieu et mon droit".

According to one source there are door-handles engraved with the initials of the Stuarts (presumably "C.R."). 3 According to another source, the palace "is said to possess a small chamber frescoed in the gaudy colours of the Royal Stuart tartan." 4 According to a third source, at one time the palace contained "furniture bearing medallion portraits" of Charles and Louise. 5

Formerly a bronze weathervane rose from the roof of the palace. It showed Charles' cipher ("C.R.", Carolus Rex, King Charles) and the year he purchased the palace. The weathervane went missing sometime before 1985. 6

Today the palace houses the offices of the Facoltà di Architettura of the Università degli Studi di Firenze (Telephone: 39.055.570050). To the west of the palace is a large open area used as a parking lot. To the north of the palace there are still extensive (but not particularly well-maintained) gardens.

Western facade
Western facade


1 Leonardo Ginori Lisci, The Palazzi of Florence: Their History and Art (Florence: Giunti Barbèra, 1985), 513.

2 Alice Shield, Henry Stuart, Cardinal of York, and His Times (London: Longmans, Green, 1908), 208, incorrectly states that the arms are "on the staircase".

3 Ibid., 517. I have not been able to find any such door handles in the palace.

4 Herbert M. Vaughan, The Last Stuart Queen: Louise, Countess of Albany, Her Life & Letters (London: Duckworth, 1910), 29. The ground floor of the palace has many chambers with frescoed ceilings. It is possible that this statement is based upon a misunderstanding about the royal arms painted in the entrance hall. The claim is repeated by H.V. Morton, A Traveller in Italy (London: Methuen, 1964), 467.

5 James Denistoun, "The Stuarts in Italy", Quarterly Review 79 (December 1846); cf. Shield, 208.

6 Ginori Lisci, 518. The porter at the palace says that the palace has been occupied by student protesters several times, and that they might have been responsible for the loss of the weathervane.

Image 1 (Facade on Via Micheli, circa 1900): James Lees-Milne, The Last Stuarts: British Royalty in Exile (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983), plate 9.

Image 2 (Facade on Via Micheli, 2001): © Noel S. McFerran 2001.

Image 3 (Arms of King Charles III): © Noel S. McFerran 2001.

Image 4 (Western facade): © Noel S. McFerran 2001.

Image 5 (Weathervane): Charles Petrie, The Jacobite Movement: The Last Phase, 1716-1807 (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1950), plate facing page 176.

This page is maintained by Noel S. McFerran (noel.mcferran@rogers.com) and was last updated October 20, 2006.
© Noel S. McFerran 2000-2006.