Early in October 1354 Giannino di Guccio, a merchant of Siena, was told that he was the lost heir to the kingdom of France. He had been switched soon after birth by his wet nurse and then taken away. The man who told him this was Cola di Rienzo, the governor of Rome, who then knelt and kissed his foot. This was more than enough to turn the head of an ordinary middle-aged dealer in wine and wool, with a wife and children at home. He accepted the fantasy. From that point Giannino, equipped with a borrowed seal and false attestations, surrounded by conniving Jewish merchants and false friars, took his campaign on the road.
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While you're waiting for the March issue of Literary Review to pop through your letterbox, have another read of February's cover piece: Richard Davenport-Hines on the stormy letters Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick wrote to one another.
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