Francesco, the successors of Cosimo (who died in 1574 at the age of 54) was an introverted man, gloomy given to silence, definitely not as good as his father had been. What is more, he was distracted by very different interests, particularly scientific and alchemistic studies. He was also distracted by an intense love-affair with a beautiful venetian young lady Bianca Cappello that he married after his official wife Joanna of Austria passed away.
Both of them Francesco and Bianca died in 1582, mysteriously one after the other in their Villa at Poggio a Caiano and since Francesco's only son little Don Filippo had died, too, the only heir of the Medici family was Francesco's brother: cardinal Ferdinando.
He had been destined to the cardinalship in the tradition of the great italian families. The cardinal, who had taken neither his vows nor holy orders though he lived much of the time in Rome in his magnificent villa on the Pincio hill, abandoned his cardinal's hat and became the third grand duke of Tuscany. After his father Cosimo, who had created the Duchy of Tuscany as a political entity, Ferdinando was undoubtedly the best of the Medici princes. Intelligent, prudent and well-balanced, he had a strong sense of family dignity and was well versed in the art of good government.
His personal coat-of-arms, a swarm of bees around the queen bee without a stinger and the two mottoes, Maiestate tantum and Pacis et finium tutela, signify his intollerance of all forms of violence (the only exception being his dislike of Bianca Cappello). With just the right measures of decorum, wisdom, and intelligence, Ferdinando returned the life of the grand duchy to a state of tranquility after the general shock of the scandal of Francesco's love for the beautiful Bianca.
Ferdinando dei Medici died suddenly on February 7, 1609, and his reign can be considered the high point of the age of the grand dukes. He ruled as a wise prince; his reign was peaceful, and he showed concern both for the welfare of his people and for the reputation of the state. With the help of his wife, Christine of Lorraine, he developed the life of the court so that it stood as an example of morality, grace, and good taste.
Chapter 6 - COSIMO II AND GALILEO GALILEI
Family Portrait: The Medici of Florence (back to index...)