While in Italy during their nine-day European tour, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a reception in Florence where the Prince was awarded Renaissance Man of the Year by the Strozzi Foundation.
The Palazzo Strozzi Renaissance Man of the Year Award is given to those individuals who demonstrate the values of Renaissance humanism and who has made an impact in various fields from entrepreneurship to social causes. As you will see in The Prince’s speech below, His Royal Highness has many interests that are dear to him. You can read The Prince’s speech, in part, below:
“Signore e signori. Non-potete immaginare che piacere sia per me e mia moglie essere nuovamente qui a Firenze. Inutile dire quanto sia onorato e lusingato di ricevere questo premio.”
Translated in English to: “Ladies and gentlemen, you can not imagine what a pleasure it is for me and my wife to be here again in Florence. Needless to say how honoured and flattered I am to receive this award.
“Now Ladies and Gentlemen, when I heard that you wished to present it to me, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary to find that Renaissance Man is defined as ‘a person with many talents or interests, especially in the humanities.’ In my case, I fear I have many more interests than talents – which is why I feel so greatly honoured to be given such an award in the city of the Strozzis and the Medicis, the home of the Renaissance. It is one of those extraordinary coincidences in life that both my wife and I had grandmothers whose grandmother, or mother, had a villa in Florence (in my wife’s case the Villa Ombrellino – which I now hear is in desperate states – and in mine the Villa Capponi) which they used to visit as children.
“My great, great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria, of course, used to stay at the Villa Palmieri, so perhaps it is hardly surprising that like so many before us, we have both been in love with Florence ever since we first came here. So when, very nearly thirty years ago, I was invited to become Patron of The British Institute of Florence, it did not take me very long to say ‘yes!’ Now, throughout the hundred years of its existence, the British Institute has played an essential role in fostering understanding between the people of the United Kingdom and the people of Italy. In so doing, it has helped to strengthen and deepen the relationship between our two countries. Although our relationship is deeply rooted in our shared history, today, I am delighted to say, it is more firmly embedded than ever before.”
He continued, “The United Kingdom and Italy are Europe’s two biggest contributors to global peacekeeping. Together, we are fighting Daesh; tackling the challenges of mass migration and climate change; and striving to defend the values we share – of pluralism, democracy and human rights. All of this is possible because of the rich exchange of ideas that has for centuries been a bridge between us.
“Essentially, we are indeed utterly embedded within Nature’s self-organizing living web. To the extent that we are not simply a part of that web; we ARE the web ourselves. We ARE Nature – HER patterns are OUR patterns. And, thus, we are fundamentally contained within Nature’s system for all our needs. As Ficino said, quoting the Bible, ‘we live and move and have our being’ within Nature’s benevolent complexity.
The Prince then went on to talk about conservation, “It is why I find it so unbelievable when people ask why we should bother with conservation and saving the Earth’s dwindling biodiversity, or why we should strive to make the terrifying environmental issues we face such a priority. The diversity of life on Earth is what actually enables us ‘to have our being.’ Deplete it, reduce it, erode and destroy it, and we will, literally, prevent our ‘being.’
“I must say, I would never presume to call myself a “Renaissance Man.” But when you first offered your award to me, I did consider what that term has come to mean. So, if it refers to someone who is deeply interested in what the arts and sciences, literature and philosophy can tell us about the human condition, particularly how interrelated everything is in the world and how embedded we are within Nature’s living system, then I would perhaps agree with your very generous observation. And I would like to accept it in the hope, in the hope, that it helps to reignite the learning of those remarkable ancient scholars who fired such an explosion in art and thinking here in Florence, but whose work also contains a warning: that if we continue to unravel the necessary balance in Nature and continue to destroy her myriad, interdependent connections, then the disorder we cause will wreck the human world for good.
“We all know it is already doing so – and that we have to look urgently at what will restore the balance before it is finally too late. So I can only presume you have given me this award precisely because I have spent much of my life living extremely dangerously by challenging the prevailing, conventional paradigm – whether in architecture and planning, agriculture and the environment, healthcare or education – all to try and restore the lost, essential balance between the intuitive and the rational; between, if you like, the East and West in our consciousness. The key, as many scientists now see, is to regard Nature as our guide and teacher, seeing if we can do things in a much more sustainable way by better mimicking the way Nature operates.
“Of course, that means looking seriously at better ways of recycling our waste and at renewable forms of energy – and here, ladies and gentlemen, I must pay tribute to the remarkable leadership shown by Italy where 40% of electricity produced is now from renewable sources – but it also means looking at the way we design and build our new urban developments to create more coherent and integrated communities and to add both social and environmental value; the way we run our businesses; the way we design our manufacturing processes – essentially, at every level and in all fields, working to establish circular economies, rather than continuing to rely upon the conventional, linear ones that so often operate in silos and lead to fragmentation and division.”
He closed with a few sentences in Italian, which in English translates to: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely grateful for this award. It is awarded to someone who has attempted, in its small way, to remind others of the universal and immortal principles of balance and harmony that have been rediscovered here in your beautiful city ‘all those centuries ago – in the hope of being able to live, who knows’, a second Renaissance; to realign human perception to the laws of Nature and give us a necessary, integrated appreciation of the importance of the natural world ‘in which we live and move and have our being.’
“Dear friends, Thanks for letting me live, on this trip, the joys and the sorrows of this extraordinary people. Thank you.”