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This was the beginning of a long career for Guicciardini in papal administration, first under Leo X and then under his successor, Clement VII. He was appointed to govern Parma , and according to the Encyclopedia , "in the confusion that followed the pope's death, he distinguished himself by his defence of Parma against the French These high offices rendered Guicciardini the virtual master of the Papal States beyond the Apennine Mountains.
As he later described himself during this period: The political turmoil in Italy was continuously intensifying. Guicciardini advised an alliance with France and urged Clement to conclude the League of Cognac in , which led to war with Charles V. Later that year, as the forces of Charles V threatened to attack, Clement made Guicciardini lieutenant-general of the papal army.
Guicciardini was powerless to influence the commander of papal forces, Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino , to take action. However, in April , Guicciardini succeeded in averting an attack on Florence from a rebellious imperial army, which turned toward Rome instead.
Guicciardini served three popes over a period of twenty years, and perhaps because of his experiences, he was highly critical of the papacy: Nevertheless, the position I have enjoyed with several popes has forced me to love their greatness for my own self-interest. If it weren't for this consideration, I would have loved Martin Luther as much as I love myself—not to be released from the laws taught by the Christian religion as it is normally interpreted and understood, but to see this band of ruffians reduced within their correct bounds. Like many Florentine aristocrats of his day, Guicciardini believed in a mixed republican government based on the model of the Venetian constitution;  despite working so often and closely with the Medici, he viewed their rule as tyrannical.
Indeed, without such supports, republics can hardly last. Shortly after the Sack of Rome, Guicciardini returned to Florence, but by , the Medici had been expelled from the city, and a republic had been re-established by the extreme anti-Medici Arrabiati faction. Because of his close ties to the Medici, Guicciardini was held suspect in his native city. In March , as a result of his service to the Medici, Guicciardini was declared a rebel and had his property confiscated.
This final Florentine Republic did not last long, however, and after enduring the Siege of Florence by imperial troops for nine months, in the city capitulated.
Under the command of Clement VII, Guicciardini was assigned the task of punishing the Florentine citizens for their resistance to the Medici, and he dealt out justice mercilessly to those who had opposed the will of the Pope. Then, Guicciardini allied himself with Cosimo de' Medici , who was just 17 and new to the Florentine political system.
Guicciardini supported Cosimo as duke of Florence; nevertheless, Cosimo dismissed him shortly after rising to power. Guicciardini retired to his villa in Arcetri , where he spent his last years working on the Storia d'Italia. He died in without male heirs. His nephew, Lodovico Guicciardini , was also a historian known for his 16th-century works on the Low Countries. Guicciardini is best known as the author of the Storia d'Italia History of Italy , which provides a detailed account of politics in the Italian Peninsula between and Written during the last years of his life, this work contains the historian's observations collected over his entire lifetime and was a work intended for posterity.
In his research, Guicciardini drew upon material that he gathered from government records as well as from his own extensive experience in politics.