When Ferdinando II died, his son Cosimo III (1642-1723) became grand duke. His long reign, which lasted for fifty-three years, was a positive disaster for the state of Tuscany and for the Medici dynasty. Already overly devout in his own right, he had been dominated by the bigotry and vanity of his mother, since his father, whose weakness was indolence, had not asserted his authority in the child's upbringing.
Cosimo spent long hours in prayer and visited monasteries and sanctuaries where he proved a generous and devout guest. Priests, friars and monks proliferated in Florence, absorbed in their psalms, prayers, and hymns while the Tuscan state was losing its former brilliance to a steady and reactionary decline for which its ruler was entirely to blame. It is small wonder that Tuscany became the victim of terrible economic recession, as no attention was paid to any of the innovations being put into practice in other Italian states.
Even the arts and sciences were neglected in Florence, as artists and scientists left a Tuscany caught in the stranglehold of the clergy. Pisa, Siena, and Livorno were reduced to insignificant, depressed cities; whereas Florence's reputation was based exclusively on its illustrious past, which made the present seem even more dreary by comparison.
Cosimo III also made a serious mistak eover his choise of a wife: he married Marguerite Louise of Orléans, cousin of Louis XIV, the sun King. She was of a rare beauty, while Cosimo was corpulent from childhood and he was diametrically opposed to his young bride in character and attitude to life. The marriage immediatly turned stormy. Nevertheless the young couple had three children: Ferdinando, Anna Maria Luisa and Gian Gastone.
Of the three children Grand Prince Ferdinando was a pleasant-looking boy, intelligent and with a natural feeling for beauty and culture. Nevertheless he grew into a dissolute and intemperate man and died before his father . He married the sixteen years old Violante of Baviera but they had no children.
Chapter 9: GIAN GASTONE AND THE END OF THE DYNASTY OF THE MEDICI
Family Portrait: The Medici of Florence (back to index...)