I stumbled across this interesting anecdote in the book Mann and manners at the court of Florence, 1740-1786: founded on the letters of Horace Mann to Horace Walpole (Dr. Doran). It recounts an incident that took place in Florence between a British officer named Nomis and a Franchini from the Bolognese branch of the family. Franchini was attempting to salvage his sister’s honour but the British officer didn’t make things easy!
Ch.5 A QUARREL
1742 December llth.—’A most important affair has happened to one I interested myself for, by order of Lord Harrington, and for whom I had the Great Duke’s promise a long while ago, that he would show all regard to that recommendation. The person I am speaking of is Marquis Nomis, whom, I believe, you knew; whose mother is Madame Bothmar of Hanover. This is a sufficient key to the recommendation. He, sometime ago, very foolishly engaged himself by writing and all the outward functions of a Sposo in this country, to marry the eldest Franchini; and, after having exhibited himself with her in this light, at all the publiek places, for several months, he repented of his folly, and in order to get off, has drawn himself into a much worse scrape, if possible, (though they must have starved together).
He retired to his regiment at Leghorn, hoping to drop his Sposa; and, though called upon very frequently by her brother, a young fellow about Nomis’ age, did not chuse to answer any of his letters. The brother, knowing that when he was thus surrounded by his officers, nothing was to be done, waited till the troops came here, and then began his stronger application in person and by letter, but these being rendered ineffectual, Franchini resolved to wait in the street, to meet him and demand satisfaction. This likewise was difficult to execute, as Nomis was apprized of it, and always took care to be in company with his officers and in a coach.
However, about a fortnight ago, Franchini stopped his coach when in company with Monsr. Vincent (whom the Primate ruined, you will remember him.) The latter got out only, and told Franchini that if he had any quarrel with his friend, he would answer it. T’other replied, he had an affair of consequence to settle with Nomis, protesting he had no quarrel with Vincent, but that, however, if he obliged him to it, he was ready to give him what satisfaction he pleased, and so drew his sword. On which Vincent put up his, and returned to the coach, saying that was not a proper place (Ponte di Santa Trinita). Franchini had time to abuse Nomis extremely, to challenge him and bid him appoint a place to fight, but they drove off. The affair soon made much noise, and all the officers were in an uproar against Franchini, who was forced to retire to Bologna.
In the mean time, Nomis caused a writing to be published, wherein he asserted that, as an officer and Christian he could not fight ; with all the foolish arguments the latter character could dictate. If they kick thy right side turn thy left also I However, this supported him among his officers, as his adversary was fled, and afterwards banished by the Government for not obeying their summons to return ; but a pompous writing, drawn up by Abbd Buonacorsi, turned the tables quite.
Franchini exposes in this, the reciprocal promise of marriage between Nomis and his sister, underwritten by both ; then he lays open the whole proceedings, the necessity he was under, as a Cavaliere, to call Nomis to account in this manner; appeals to all the officers as men of honour, and he concludes by telling them that their honour cannot permit them to serve with one so vile, etc.
This writing being penned with a great deal of eloquence, and, they say, truth, as witnesses were quoted for every article, no objection was made to it, and the officers began to consult how to behave. They all agreed Franchini was in the right, and Nomis had an intimation he must resign his commission, which he has done, and has resolved to cover all the infamy he has contracted, under the habit of a Priest! The good fight of Faith will not expose him to such dangers as the point of Franchini’s sword … He is quite ruined by this accident.’
Walpole’s remark on this, written in his letter of January 8th, 1743, is, ‘ What an infamous story that affair of Nomis is ; and how different the ideas of honour among officers in your world and ours.’
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