Marie de Médicis


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King Henri IV Bourbon of France

Marie de Médicis

  • Born: 26 Apr 1575, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Tuscany, Italy
  • Marriage: King Henri IV Bourbon of France
  • Died: 4 Jul 1642, Cologne, Germany at age 67
  • Buried: Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris, Île-de-France, France

  General Notes:

Marie de Médicis (French pronunciation: [ma?i d? medisis]) (26 April 1575 \endash 4 July 1642), Italian Maria de' Medici, (Italian pronunciation: [ma'ria de 'm??dit?i]) was Queen consort of France, as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She herself was a member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici. Following the assassination of her husband in 1610, which occurred the day after her coronation, she acted as regent for her son, King Louis XIII of France, until he came of age. She was noted for her ceaseless political intrigues at the French court and extensive artistic patronage.

Early life

Born in Florence, Italy at the Palazzo Pitti on 26 April 1575, Marie was the sixth daughter of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Johanna, Archduchess of Austria, daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. Marie was one of seven children, but only she and her sister Eleanora survived to adulthood.

A portrait of Marie as a young girl shows her to have been pretty with regular features and a high forehead. Her wavy hair was light brown in colour, and she had grey eyes and fair skin. The painter was from the school of Santi di Tito.
Queen of France

She married Henry IV of France in October 1600 following the annulment of his marriage to Margaret of Valois. The proxy wedding ceremony in Florence was celebrated with lavish entertainments, including examples of the newly-invented musical genre of opera, Jacopo Peri's Euridice. She brought as part of her dowry 600,000 crowns. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.

The marriage was not a successful one. The queen feuded with Henry's mistresses in language that shocked French courtiers. She quarrelled mostly with her husband's leading mistress, Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues, whom he had promised he would marry following the death of his former "official mistress", Gabrielle d'Estrées. When he failed to do so, and instead married Marie, the result was constant bickering and political intrigues behind the scenes. Although the king could have easily banished his mistress, supporting his queen, he never did so. She, in turn, showed great sympathy and support to her husband's banished ex-wife Margaret of Valois, prompting Henry to allow her back into the realm.

Marie was crowned Queen of France on 13 May 1610, a day before her husband's death. Hours after Henry's assassination, she was confirmed as regent by the Parlement of Paris. She immediately banished his mistress Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues from the court.

Artistic patronage

The construction and furnishing of the Palais du Luxembourg, which she referred to as her "Palais Médicis", formed her major artistic project during her regency. The site was purchased in 1612 and construction began in 1615, to designs of Salomon de Brosse. Her court painter was Peter Paul Rubens. Her physician in Italy was Elijah Montalto.

During her husband's lifetime Marie showed little sign of political acumen, and her abilities scarcely improved after she assumed the regency. Extremely stubborn and of limited intelligence, she was soon entirely under the influence of her maid Leonora "Galigai" Dori. Dori conspired with her unscrupulous Italian husband, Concino Concini, who was created Marquis d'Ancre and a Marshal of France, even though he had never fought a battle.

The Concinis had Henry IV's able minister, the Duke of Sully, dismissed, and Italian representatives of the Roman Catholic Church hoped to force the suppression of Protestantism in France by means of their influence. Half Habsburg herself, Marie abandoned the traditional anti-Habsburg French foreign policy. She lent support to Habsburg Spain by arranging the marriage of her daughter Elisabeth to the future Philip IV of Spain.

Under the regent's lax and capricious rule, the princes of the blood and the great nobles of the kingdom revolted. The queen, too weak to assert her authority, consented to buy them off on 15 May 1614. The opposition to the regency was led by Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, who pressured Marie into convoking the Estates General in 1614 and 1615, the last time they would meet in France until the opening events of the French Revolution.

In 1616 Marie's rule was strengthened by the addition to her councils of Armand Jean du Plessis (later Cardinal Richelieu), who had come to prominence at the meetings of the Estates General. However, her son Louis XIII, already several years into his legal majority, asserted his authority the next year. The king overturned the pro-Habsburg, pro-Spanish foreign policy pursued by his mother, ordered the assassination of Concini, exiled the queen to the Château de Blois and appointed Richelieu to his bishopric.

After two years of virtual imprisonment "in the wilderness", as she put it, Marie escaped from Blois in the night of 21/22 February 1619 and became the figurehead of a new aristocratic revolt headed by Louis's brother Gaston d'Orléans, which Louis's forces easily dispersed. Through the mediation of Richelieu the king was reconciled with his mother, who was allowed to hold a small court at Angers. She resumed her place in the royal council in 1621.

After the death of his favourite, the duke of Luynes, Louis turned increasingly for guidance to Richelieu. Marie de Medici's attempts to displace Richelieu ultimately led to her attempted coup; for a single day, the "Day of the Dupes", in November 1630, she seemed to have succeeded; but the triumph of Richelieu was followed by her exile to Compiègne in 1630, from where she escaped to Brussels in 1631 and Amsterdam in 1638.

Her visit to Amsterdam was considered a diplomatic triumph by the Dutch, as her visit lent official recognition to the newly-formed Dutch Republic; accordingly she was accorded an elaborate ceremonial royal entry, of the sort the Republic avoided for its own rulers. Spectacular displays (by Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert) and water pageants took place in the city's harbor in celebration of her visit. There was a procession led by two mounted trumpeters, and a large temporary structure erected on an artificial island in the Amstel River was built especially for the festival. The structure was designed to display a series of dramatic tableaux in tribute to her once she set foot on the floating island and entered its pavilion. Afterwards she was offered an Indonesian rice table by the burgomaster Albert Burgh. He also sold her a famous rosary, captured in Brazil. The visit prompted Caspar Barlaeus to write his Medicea hospes ("The Medicean Guest") (1638). She also visited England in 1638, staying en route to London in Gidea Hall.

Marie subsequently travelled to Cologne, where she died in 1642, scheming against Richelieu to the end. She was buried in the Basilica of St Denis in northern Paris.

Honoré de Balzac encapsulated the Romantic generation's negative view:

"Marie de' Medici, all of whose actions were prejudicial to France, has escaped the shame which ought to cover her name. Marie de' Medici wasted the wealth amassed by Henry IV; she never purged herself of the charge of having known of the king's assassination; her intimate was d'Épernon, who did not ward off Ravaillac's blow, and who was proved to have known the murderer personally for a long time. Marie's conduct was such that she forced her son to banish her from France, where she was encouraging her other son, Gaston, to rebel; and the victory Richelieu at last won over her (on the Day of the Dupes) was due solely to the discovery the cardinal made, and imparted to Louis XIII, of secret documents relating to the death of Henry IV." \endash Essay Catherine de Medicis.

Marie de Medici and her family
Name Birth Death Notes
Louis XIII, King of France 27 September 1601 14 May 1643 Married Anne of Austria (1601\endash 1666) in 1615. Had issue.
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain 22 November 1602 6 October 1644 Married Philip IV, King of Spain (1605\endash 1665) in 1615. Had issue.
Christine, Duchess of Savoy 12 February 1606 27 December 1663 Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy (1587\endash 1637) in 1619. Had issue.
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans 16 April 1607 17 November 1611 Died young.
Gaston, Duke of Orléans 25 April 1608 2 February 1660 Married (1) Marie de Bourbon (1605\endash 1627) in 1626. Had issue.
Married (2) Marguerite of Lorraine (1615\endash 1672) in 1632. Had issue.
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England 25 November 1609 10 September 1669 Married Charles I, King of England (1600\endash 1649) in 1625. Had issue.

The current second in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is descended from Marie through his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales's, descent from four illegitimate children of King Charles II of England and an illegitimate daughter of King James II of England. Both Charles II and James II were grandsons of Marie de Medici by her daughter Henrietta Maria. Through the marriage of her granddaughter Princess Henrietta Anne of England to her other grandson Phillipe Duc d'Orleans, Marie de Medici is the ancestress of most of the crowned and deposed royalty in Europe today. Princess Michael of Kent, born Baroness Marie Christine, is also a descendant by Marie's daughter, Christine. See also Descendants of Marie de' Medici which maps how the Medici became part of the European Royal families.

Marie married King Henri IV Bourbon of France, son of Antoinne de Bourbon and Queen Jeanne d'Albret of Navarre. (King Henri IV Bourbon of France was born on 13 Dec 1553 in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France, died on 14 May 1610 and was buried in Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris, Île-de-France, France.)

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