The most prominent member of an influential Florentine patrician family, Soderini was elected to the new position of gonfalonier for life in 1502. This office, which acknowledged the usefulness of the Venetian dogeship, was created to give stability and continuity to the ever-changing membership of the popular government instituted in 1494-95. As with a Venetian doge, a man with a strong character and fixed views could use the permanent chairmanship of bodies with a rotating mem- bership to wield a measure of power. Over 10 years Soderini made many enemies, among them the overt friends of the banished Medici; those who feared the consequences of his insistence that France should remain Florence's ally; and those who had hoped to find him sympathetic to constitutional changes that would concentrate power again in an oligarchy.
Though his authority was (like a doge's) simply titular; he became increasingly identified with government and its policies. As such, he was recognized as the chief target of the papal-Spanish army that advanced on Florence in 1512 after the withdrawal of the French from Italy. In August the army took Prato and waited for Soderini's response to the demand made by the city's leading supporters of the Medici, that he should resign. Caught between the threat of external force and a lack of internal support, he agreed and was escorted from the city to an exile that lasted until his death.
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