Where the Bodies Are Buried, Modern-Day Medici Feud

The New York Times: Scientists in Florence are planning to exhume the remains of 49 Medici bodies in May for a wide-ranging forensic study. One branch of the family was invited to take part; a second branch was not, but its ancestors are among those being exhumed. ''They are doing this without asking permission,'' said Marchese Giuliano Medici Tornaquinci, an elder of the portion of the family that now lives in Rome. ''If they went into your chapel, in your tomb, and opened your family's graves, how would you feel?''

Unfortunately for Marchese Tornaquinci, a distant relative, Prince Ottaviano de' Medici, of a less distant Florentine branch of the family, is already deeply involved with the project and has given his consent. The prince is aware of his relation's great displeasure, though he seems not to pay it much mind; ''It is not very important what they think,'' the prince said of the marchese and his branch of the family.

The forensic team, including a medical historian from the University of Pisa and a mummy expert from New York, will take tissue samples from the noble bodies, hoping to deepen the understanding of ancient cancers and other illnesses and to get a sense of Renaissance funeral rites, leisure activities and even tastes in clothes.

The team may also try to solve a 417-year-old murder mystery: Francesco de' Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, and his wife, Bianca, died suddenly, a day apart, in 1587. Although official records indicate that they perished of malaria, there have been whispers ever since that they were poisoned by Francesco's brother, Ferdinand, who eventually succeeded to the throne.

Prince Ottaviano himself does not seem worried that his ancestors' bones will suffer any damage. He seems more concerned that another murder might turn up in his family's past. ''To take the power by killing your brother, this is not nice,'' he explained. ''My family has always been known for its love of art. But killing, it disturbs me.''