A Day to remember: October 17, 1600 Maria Luisa de’ Medici “sails as” Queen of France

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Daughter of Francesco I de’ Medìci andGiovanna d’Austria, Maria Luisa de’ Medici marked the beginning of a new band between the houses of the Medici and Bourbon. Followìng her marriage with French King Henry IV, the exclusive connection with Spain, that was the core of Cosimo de’ Medici’s foreign policy, gave way to a new one with France. Maria lost her mother when she was three years old and her father when she was 12. Married at 25, her wedding was a strong political strategy: the 600,000 francs dowry gave Henry IV the possibility to lighten the French debt, and the Medici were able to establish a precious alliance. The marriage was celebrated in Florence on October 5, and was followed by several long days of events. The religious ones took place in the Cathedral, while the official ceremonies were held in Palazzo Vecchio. These celebrations were captured in paintings by Jacopo da Empoli. Followed by a massive procession, Maria left Florence for Paris from the port of Livorno on October 17. The ship which bringing her – the Grand Duchess Cristina, her sister Eleonora, Duchess of Mantova and several other guests – was magnificently staged, as the French chronicles of the time report. It sailed followed by a fleet of six Tuscan vessels, with five others bringing the Knights of Malta and five additional belonging to the Pope. All were under the command of her uncle, Giovanni de’ Medici. They docked at the Marseille harbor November 3, but Maria had to wait a few more days to meet her husband, who she saw only in December in Lione. After they met, the royal procession made its way to Paris. Maria did not have a quiet life. Her husband maintained a significant distance from her, having relations with several other women. She still was able to affirm her personality; however, this was considered controversial because of the great role that she attributed to her counselors, particularly her intimate friend, like a sister, Leonora Galigai and her husband Concino Concini, who had followed her from Florence. Maria had six sons from Henry, of which the first-born was King Louis XIII. When Henry was assassinated ìn 1610, she became Queen consort of France until her son turned 18. Although she was never loved by the French, historians tend to closely examine her reign, as she ruled with balance and ability in a historic phase of consolidation far the Bourbon dynasty, marked by several religious conflicts.

After her son became king, their relationship wasn’t easy and she was forced into long periods of exile. She died in 1642 in Cologne, far from Paris and Florence, and is buried with her libertine husband, King Henry IV.

 

Eugenio Giani
President of the Florence City Council

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