Caterina de’ Medici


Florence, 13 April 1519


Blois, 5 January 1589

Caterina de’ Medici

Caterina was the great-granddaughter of Lorenzo“il Magnifico”, being the daughter of Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici (Duke of Urbino since 1516) and of a French noblewoman, Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne: this means she was the product of a diplomatic strategy by Pope Leo X. Her parents died a few days after she was born, therefore she was raised by her grandmother Alfonsina Orsini, spending her childhood between Rome and Florence. The events of the last Florentine Republic affected her life deeply: in 1527, when the Medicis were finally overthrown - unlike her cousin Ippolito di Giuliano and stepbrother Alessandro - she did not leave Tuscany. She was detained, well cared for but still a prisoner, in the Monastery of Santa Caterina delle Murate, an actual hostage of the Republicans. As the Imperial victory approached, to keep her away from the war risk and for fear that she might establish excessively close contacts with Medici supporters, the Signoria decided to transfer Caterina to the monastery of Santa Lucia in Via San Gallo. In all likelihood, the Republican government would never have harmed her, nor would it ever suggest to bring the family name into disrepute through her, despite the rumours that circulated; there is no doubt, however, that during that period Caterina feared for her life: Silvestro Aldobrandini finally managed to placate here and convince her to acept the transfer, instead of becoming a nun, which is what she had said she wanted. After the siege in 1529-1530, the fate of Caterina was decided by her marriage to Henri, second son of the King of France Francis I: a diplomatic success of Poe Clement VII, who celebrated the wedding in Marseille, in the autumn of 1533. From that moment, the “young Duchess” of Urbino undertook a difficult pathway, because of not having children and of the preference accorded by her husband to his lober Diana di Poitiers; in the end, though, he ascended the throne, first as Queen consort (1547), then as Queen regent (1559). it is a well known fact that Caterina played a role in the hard-fought religious Wars in France, apart from the “dark tragedy” that still hovers over her in literature. As for Florence, it is important to bear in mind that her court definitely played an ambiguous role: on the one hand it provided diplomatic support for the Medicis in Florence, on the other it was a relatively safe haven for Republican escpaees being fought by the Medici regime, first and foremost the arch-enemy of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Piero di Filippo Strozzi.

Bibliography and sources:

Marcello Simonetta, Caterina de’ Medici. Storia segreta di una faida famigliare, Milano, Rizzoli, 2019

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