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The visit of Cosmo of Tuscany

   Over the years Basingstoke has acquired a reputation of being a boring town and has been the butt of many a comedian's joke. Recently it was rather unfairly voted the worst place to live in Britain on a Sky TV program. The first person to publish his dislike of the town, and perhaps where the bad Cosmo's artist reputation stems from, was Cosmo de Medici of Tuscany. He was the 27 year old son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and heir to the title. Cosmo came to Basingstoke on April 13, 1669. He had left Italy in September of the previous year and embarked on a tour of European countries. He took with him a secretary and a artist so that every detail of his tour could be noted down.

   When he arrived in England he had already visited Spain and Portugal before passing through Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire. The group had decided How do I get out of here again? to stay the night in Basingstoke and was met by the Mayor and two officers eager to give him an official welcome to the borough. Cosmo declined the invitation and stayed the night in a local inn. In the morning he headed out of Basingstoke and onto London to continue his tour. The following year his father died and Cosmo became Duke of Tuscany. Cosmo lived to the age of 81 and then in the year 1821 his book was translated into English and published in Britain.

    In his book, Travels of Cosmo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, his secretary wrote:-

   "His Highness, having arrived early at Basingstoke, walked on foot through the town which is wretched, both in regard to the buildings, the greater part of which are wood, and the complete absence of trade, so that the gratification of his curiosity did not compensate for the fatigue of walking a few paces".

   It has to be remembered that at the time Cosmo viewed the town it was still recovering from two great fires, the plague and of course the ravages of the Civil War.

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