Gian Gastone was a solitary young man who spent most of his time in a refuge he had in the Boboli Garden absorbed in his studies of plants and flowers and his collection of precious objects and beautiful things. Perhaps he had some particular tendency; certainly he suffered from a deep and inexplicable melancholy. He had been negleeted by his grandmother, mother and father, ignored by his elder brother Ferdinando, by the court and by the people of Florence. But when his brother died Gian Gastone became the only hope for the continuation of the Medici name. He was then forced to the terrible marriage his father Cosimo III and his sister Anna Maria Ludovica arranged for him. He married Anna Maria Franziska, an immensly fat twenty-three years old lady the daughter of the duke of Saxony and Lauenburg and widow of Palatine Count Philip of Neuberg. The marriage was a disaster from the start, based as it was on lack of understanding, repulsion and a kind of dejected resignation on part of Gian Gastone.
No child was born from this marriage and obviously there was no hope for a Medici heir. Gian Gastone became Gran Duke of Florence at the age of fifty-two, and he appeared increasingly tired and old with each day that passed. His indolence had become proverbial, and he totally lacked the will to reign. He was not interested in power, and he would have been perfectly happy to continue his pointless life without it. As soon as he became grand duke, he showed his hostility toward his sister, whose intrigues had been the principal cause of the failure of his marriage. He attempted also to change life at court: his retinue, for example, which was smaller, was to dress in the French manner. He abolished the pensions on the Crede inflicted on the Jews, Turks, Lutherans, and Calvinists converted to Catholicism, and he abolished the political espionage instituted by his father.
The people of Florence grew increasingly fond of the new granduke becouse he abolished the death penality and lowered the price of grain.
Gian Gastone now sought above all to hand the grand duchy over to a family that could be expected to govern in wisely without oppressing the citizens, who were to be considered and treated humanely. Perhaps he was not misguided in accepting the Lorraine family and thereby showing himself to be an enlightened and open-minded prince. When he died on July 8, 1737, he felt a deep sense of loss among the people, who had seen little of him but nonetheless felt that we was closer to them than his father, Cosimo III, had been.
Chapter 10: ANNA MARIA LUISA AND THE 'CONVENTION OF THE FAMILY'
Family Portrait: The Medici of Florence (back to index...)