Marie de' Medici

Last updated

Marie de Medici
Maria de' Medici Frans Pourbus the Younger (detail).jpg
Portrait by Frans Pourbus the Younger, 1610
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Tenure17 December 1600 – 14 May 1610
Coronation 13 May 1610
Born26 April 1575
Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Tuscany
Died3 July 1642(1642-07-03) (aged 67)
Cologne, Holy Roman Empire
Henry IV of France
(m. 1600;died 1610)
House Medici
Father Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Mother Joanna of Austria
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature 1622 signature of Queen Marie de Medicis of France.png

Marie de' Medici (French: Marie de Médicis, Italian: Maria de' Medici; 26 April 1575 – 3 July 1642) was Queen of France as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She 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 1617, when he came of age. [1] She was noted for her ceaseless political intrigues at the French court and extensive artistic patronage. [2]


Early life

She was born as Maria at the Palazzo Pitti of Florence, Italy, the sixth daughter of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Archduchess Joanna of Austria. [3] Marie was a descendant of Lorenzo the Elder, a branch of the Medici family sometimes referred to as the 'cadet' branch. She did descend from Lorenzo in the female line however, through his daughter Lucrezia de' Medici. She was also a Habsburg through her mother, who was a direct descendant of Joanna of Castile and Philip I of Castile.

Marie was one of seven children, but only she and her eldest sister Eleonora survived to adulthood.

Portrait of Marie de' Medici as a young girl. MariadeMedici07.jpg
Portrait of Marie de' Medici as a young girl.

A portrait of Marie as a young girl shows her with regular features and a high forehead. Her wavy hair was light brown in colour, and she had honey-brown 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. [3] The wedding ceremony was held in Florence, and was celebrated by four thousand guests with lavish entertainment, including examples of the newly invented musical genre of opera, such as Jacopo Peri's Euridice. Henry did not attend the ceremony, and the two were therefore married by proxy. Marie brought as part of her dowry 600,000 crowns. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.

Her husband was almost 47 at the marriage and had a long succession of mistresses. Dynastic considerations required him to take a second wife, his first spouse Margaret of Valois never having produced children by Henry or by her lovers. Henry chose Marie de' Medici because Henry "owed the bride's father, Francesco de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had helped support his war effort, a whopping 1,174,000 écus and this was the only means Henry could find to pay back the debt...." [4]

The marriage was successful in producing children, but it was not a happy one. The queen feuded with Henry's mistresses in language that shocked French courtiers. She quarreled 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. [5] When he failed to do so, and instead married Marie, the result was constant bickering and political intrigues behind the scenes. Catherine referred to Maria as "the fat banker's daughter"; Henry used Maria for breeding purposes exactly as Henry II had treated Catherine de' Medici. [6] 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 Marguerite de 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 Parliament of Paris. She immediately banished his mistress, Catherine Henriette de Balzac, from the court. [7]


Maria de Medici, by Frans Pourbus, c. 1606, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Frans Pourbus the Younger - Portrait of Maria de' Medici - Google Art Project.jpg
María de Médici, by Frans Pourbus, c. 1606, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao.


Marie was under suspicion at court because she was perceived as a foreigner and never truly mastered French. [8] She was heavily influenced by Italian friends and confidants, including her foster sister Leonora "Galigai" Dori. (They shared the Italian-Portuguese physician of Jewish extraction Elijah Montalto.) Dori's Italian husband, Concino Concini, was created Marquis d'Ancre and a Marshal of France, even though he had never fought a battle. [9]

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. However, Marie maintained her late husband's policy of religious tolerance. As one of her first acts, Marie reconfirmed Henri IV's Edict of Nantes, which ordered religious tolerance for Protestants in France while asserting the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Daughter of a Habsburg princess, 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. Marie overturned the Treaty of Bruzolo, an alliance signed between Henry's representatives and Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy.

Under the regent's rule, the princes of the blood and the great nobles of the kingdom revolted. The queen 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.

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.

Coronation of Marie de' Medici in St. Denis (detail), by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622-1625. Peter Paul Rubens 050.jpg
Coronation of Marie de' Medici in St. Denis (detail), by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622–1625.

Revolt of 1619

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, Duke of Orléans, whose forces Louis 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. The portrait by Rubens was painted at this time. When Marie rebuilt the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, she added this extravagantly flattering cycle of her paintings by Rubens as part of the luxurious decoration. This collection was called the Marie de' Medici Cycle.

Engraving of Marie de' Medici Dankaerts-Historis-9347.tif
Engraving of Marie de' Medici

Conflict with Richelieu

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 self-exile to Compiègne [10] 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 it lent official recognition to the newly formed Dutch Republic; accordingly she was given 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 harbour in celebration of her visit. There was a procession led by two mounted trumpeters, and a large temporary structure was erected on an artificial island in the Amstel River 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 (her youngest daughter was Queen Henrietta Maria), 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.

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. In 1621, when she regained status in the royal court, Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens was commissioned to create a 21-piece series glorifying her life and reign. This series, along with three individual portraits made for Marie and her family, is now known as the Marie de' Medici cycle. The cycle uses iconography throughout to depict Henry IV and Marie as Jupiter and Juno and the French state as a female warrior.

It was well known that Henry of Navarre (her husband) was not wealthy. She brought her own fortune from Florence to finance various construction projects in France. But more importantly, she contributed to the financing of several expeditions including Samuel de Champlain's to North America, which saw France lay claim to Canada.[26][ citation needed ]

Posthumous appraisal

Honoré de Balzac, in his essay Catherine de Medicis, encapsulated the Romantic generation's negative view. She was born and raised in Italy and the French never really accepted her; hence, the negative reviews. However, Henry IV of Navarre was not a rich man and needed Marie's money. The French were still not pleased with his choosing an Italian wife.

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.

Marie de' Medici and her family (1607; by Frans Pourbus the younger). Fouquet et henri IV.jpg
Marie de' Medici and her family (1607; by Frans Pourbus the younger).


Louis XIII, King of France 27 September 160114 May 1643Married Anne of Austria (1601–1666) in 1615. Two sons survived to adulthood.
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain 22 November 16026 October 1644Married Philip IV, King of Spain (1605–1665) in 1615. A son and a daughter survived to adulthood.
Christine, Duchess of Savoy 10 February 160627 December 1663Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy (1587–1637) in 1619. One son and three daughters survived to adulthood.
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans 16 April 160717 November 1611Died young.
Gaston, Duke of Orléans 25 April 16082 February 1660Married (1) Marie de Bourbon (1605–1627) in 1626. 1 daughter survived to adulthood.
Married (2) Marguerite of Lorraine (1615–1672) in 1632. Three daughters survived to adulthood.
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England 25 November 160910 September 1669Married Charles I, King of England (1600–1649) in 1625. Three sons and two daughters survived to adulthood.


See also

Related Research Articles

House of Bourbon European royal house of French origin

The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty, the royal House of France. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.

Henry II of France 16th-century King of France

Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536.

Louis XIII King of France

Louis XIII was King of France from 1610 to 1643 and King of Navarre from 1610 to 1620, when the crown of Navarre was merged with the French crown.

Anne of Austria Queen consort of King Louis XIII of France, and regent for her son Louis XIV

Anne of Austria, a Spanish princess and an Austrian archduchess of the House of Habsburg, was queen of France as the wife of Louis XIII, and regent of France during the minority of her son, Louis XIV, from 1643 to 1651. During her regency, Cardinal Mazarin served as France's chief minister. Accounts of French court life of her era emphasize her difficult marital relations with her husband, her closeness to her son Louis XIV, and her disapproval of her son's marital infidelity to her niece and daughter-in-law Maria Theresa.

Cardinal Richelieu French clergyman, noble and statesman and King Louis XIIIs chief minister

Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, commonly referred to as Cardinal Richelieu, was a French clergyman and statesman. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607 and was appointed Foreign Secretary in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Catholic Church and the French government, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Cardinal Mazarin, whose career he had fostered.

Gaston, Duke of Orléans French prince

MonsieurGaston, Duke of Orléans, was the third son of King Henry IV of France and his wife Marie de' Medici. As a son of the king, he was born a Fils de France. He later acquired the title Duke of Orléans, by which he was generally known during his adulthood. As the eldest surviving brother of King Louis XIII, he was known at court by the traditional honorific Monsieur.

Concino Concini Marshal of France

Concino Concini, 1st Marquis d'Ancre, was an Italian politician, best known for being a minister of Louis XIII of France, as the favourite of Louis's mother, Marie de Medici, Queen of France.

Catherine Henriette de Balzac dEntragues Mistress of Henry IV of France

Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues, Marquise de Verneuil[katʁin ɑ̃ʁjɛt də balzak dɑ̃tʁaɡ maʁkiz də vɛʁnœj] (1579–1633) was the favourite mistress of Henry IV of France after Gabrielle d'Estrées died: her sister Marie-Charlotte de Balzac d’Entragues was also a mistress of the king. She was the daughter of Charles Balzac d'Entragues and his wife Marie Touchet, who was formerly the sole mistress of Charles IX of France.

Elisabeth of France (1602–1644) Queen consort of Spain

Elisabeth of France or Isabel of Bourbon was Queen Consort of Spain and Portugal as the first spouse of King Philip IV of Spain. She served as regent of Spain during the Catalan Revolt in 1640-42 and 1643-44. She was the eldest daughter of King Henry IV of France and his second spouse Marie de' Medici.

Marie Touchet Mistress to Charles IX of France

Marie Touchet, Dame de Belleville, was the only mistress of Charles IX of France.

Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency Princess de Condé

Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency was an heiress of one of France's leading ducal families, and Princess de Condé by her marriage to Henri de Bourbon. She almost became a mistress of Henry IV of France, but her husband escaped with her after the wedding and did not return to France until after King Henry's death.

Joanna of Austria, Grand Duchess of Tuscany Grand Duchess consort of Tuscany

Joanna of Austria was an Archduchess of Austria. By marriage, she was the Grand Princess of Tuscany and later the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. One of her daughters was Marie de' Medici, second wife of King Henry IV of France.

Christine of France Duchess consort of Savoy

Christine of France was the sister of Louis XIII and the Duchess of Savoy by marriage. At the death of her husband Victor Amadeus I in 1637, she acted as regent of Savoy between 1637 and 1648.

Charles II, Duke of Elbeuf Duke of Elbeuf

Charles II, Duke of Elbeuf, was a French nobleman, the son of Charles I, Duke of Elbeuf, by his wife, Marguerite de Chabot. He succeeded his father in the Elbeuf dukedom in 1605.

Catherine of Cleves Duchess consort of Guise

Catherine de Clèves, Countess of Eu was the wife of Henry, Duke of Guise, and matriarch of the numerous and influential House of Guise. By marriage she was Duchess of Guise from 1570 to 1588, and Dowager Duchess of Guise thereafter. She was Countess of Eu in her own right from 1564.

Marie de Medici cycle series of twenty-four paintings by Peter Paul Rubens commissioned by Marie de Medici

The Marie de' Medici Cycle is a series of twenty-four paintings by Peter Paul Rubens commissioned by Marie de' Medici, widow of Henry IV of France, for the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. Rubens received the commission in the autumn of 1621. After negotiating the terms of the contract in early 1622, the project was to be completed within two years, coinciding with the marriage of Marie's daughter, Henrietta Maria. Twenty-one of the paintings depict Marie's own struggles and triumphs in life. The remaining three are portraits of herself and her parents. The paintings now hang in the Louvre in Paris.

Henry IV of Frances wives and mistresses Overview Article of the Wikipedia on the wives and mistresses of Henry IV

Henry IV of France's wives and mistresses played a significant role in the politics of his reign. Both Henry (1553–1610) and his first wife Margaret of Valois, whom he married in 1572, were repeatedly unfaithful to each other, and the collapse of their marriage led to their estrangement and living apart. Although Henry fathered children with a series of mistresses, his lack of a legitimate heir became a cause of concern, and his marriage was not annulled until 1599. In 1600, at the age of forty-six, he married his second wife, Marie de' Medici, who bore him six children, including the future Louis XIII. Henry was unfaithful to his second wife as well and insisted that she raise his illegitimate children along with her own.

Charlotte de Sauve French courtesan

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, Viscountess of Tours, Baroness de Sauve, Marquise de Noirmoutier was a French noblewoman and a mistress of King Henry of Navarre, who later ruled as King Henry IV of France. She was a member of Queen Mother Catherine de' Medici's notorious "Flying Squadron", a group of beautiful female spies and informants recruited to seduce important men at Court, and thereby extract information to pass on to the Queen Mother.

Françoise Madeleine dOrléans Duchess of Savoy

Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans was born a Princess of France and was the Duchess of Savoy as the first wife of Charles Emmanuel II. She was a first cousin of Louis XIV as well of her husband. She was the shortest-serving Savoyard consort, dying at the age of fifteen, childless.

Leonora Dori Italian noble

Leonora Dori Galigaï was a French courtier of Italian origin, an influential favourite of the French regent Marie de' Medici, mother of King Louis XIII of France. Galigaï was married to Concino Concini, the later marquis and then marshal d'Ancre, during Marie's reign as Queen Mother and Regent of France.


  1. Lawrence, Cynthia Miller (1997). Women and Art in Early Modern Europe: Patrons, Collectors, and Connoisseurs. Pennsylvania State Univ Pr. p. 136. ISBN   978-0-271-01568-2.
  2. Lawrence, Cynthia Miller (1997). Women and Art in Early Modern Europe: Patrons, Collectors, and Connoisseurs. Marie de Médici's Patronage of Art and Architecture: Pennsylvania State Univ Pr. ISBN   978-0-271-01568-2.
  3. 1 2 Chiarini 2002, p. 77.
  4. Goldstone, Nancy, The Rival Queens, (Little Brown and Company, 2015), p. 377
  5. THE AMERICAN CYCLOPEADIA. 1874. pp. 671–. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  6. Goldstone, Nancy, The Rival Queens, (Little Brown and Company, 2015), footnote: p. 377
  7. Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. p. 80. ISBN   9780061751554.
  8. Fischer, David Hackett, 1935- (2008). Champlain's dream (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN   978-1-4165-9332-4. OCLC   213839989.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. "Concino Concini, marquis d'Ancre | Italian diplomat". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  10. Bergin, Joseph (1 March 1990). Cardinal Richelieu: Power and the Pursuit of Wealth. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 86. ISBN   978-0-300-04860-5 . Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "The Medici Granducal Archive and the Medici Archive Project" (PDF). p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 January 2006.
  12. 1 2 Cesati, Franco (1999). Medici. Firenze: La Mandragora. p.  75. ISBN   88-85957-36-6.
  13. 1 2 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Joanna"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  14. 1 2 Wurzbach, Constantin, von, ed. (1860). "Habsburg, Johanna von Oesterreich (Tochter des Kaisers Ferdinand I.)"  . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). 6. p. 290 via Wikisource.
  15. 1 2 Cazacu, Matei (2017). Reinert, Stephen W. (ed.). Dracula. Brill. p. 204.


Marie de' Medici
Born: 26 April 1575 Died: 3 July 1642
French royalty
Title last held by
Margaret of Valois
Queen consort of France and Navarre
17 December 1600 – 14 May 1610
Title next held by
Anne of Austria