By Ela Vasilescu – Writer –
Maria de’ Medici was born on April 26, 1575 in Florence, Italy. The sixth daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco I de’ Medici, as a child Maria struggled to overcome the early death of her mother and her father’s neglect. Despite her loss and lack of parental guidance, she received an excellent education, which drew out her passion for fine arts.
Married with Henry IV of France at 25 years old, she took up residence in the Louvre and became the mother of their five children. After the assassination of her husband in May, 1610, Maria was made regent by the Parliament of Paris. Although politically inexperienced, her great ambition brought to light her Medici heritage, taking control of her royal duties with complete confidence. Seeking to ensure peace, she reversed Henry’s anti-Habsburg policy, withdrew the armies of France from Europe, and formed an alliance with Spain, sealed by the marriage of the fifteen-year-old Louis XIII to the Spanish Infanta, Anne of Austria. However, her regency was marked by instability and lack of royal authority, which finally led to power sharing expectancies by the noble families and ultimately to the calling of the Estates-General in 1614.
Influenced by her maid and childhood friend, Leonora Dori Galigai, Maria de’ Medici favored her husband Concino Concini and allowed him to play a role in which he could dominate both the court and the royal council. Her regency came to an end with the intervention of her son, Louis XIII, who at only fifteen years old, planned a coup d’état against the favorites, resulting with the death of the Concinis and the arrest of his mother. Maria escaped her imprisonment in 1619 and two years later she reassumed her place in the royal council. Aside from the political controversies, Maria de’ Medici should also be remembered for her role as patron of the arts and the magnificent building projects that still beautifies Paris to this day. Soon after her husband’s death, she contracted Salomon de Brosse to build the Luxembourg Palace, a palace suitable for the residence of the queen, a place that she referred to as her own “Palais Médicis”. A combination of French taste with Italian extravagancy, the palace hosted the “Medici Gallery”, complete with a series of paintings portraying “The Life of Marie de’ Medici” by Peter Paul Rubens. The haughty queen dies on July 3rd, 1642 in Cologne and is buried in the Basilica of St Denis in northern Paris.