Grand Duke of Tuscany
Florence 1549 - 1609
The second son of Cosimo I, he abandoned his cardinal's hat for the throne in 1587, after the death of his brother Francesco I, who died without a male heir. He governed with great skill, improving commercial and industrial activity and agriculture in particular by reclaiming large areas of land in the Val di Chiana, Maremma and Val di Nievole.
Chapel of Princes
He opposed Florentine municipalism and created the free port of Leghorn,
which was founded as a city by Francesco I in 1577 and built according to
a town-planning scheme by Buontalenti. He created an efficient navy which
defeated the Turkish fleet several times (Famagusta 1608, Bona 1609). His
military exploits were frescoed by Bernardino Poccetti in the Sala di Bona
in the Pitti Palace. In order to check
the power of Spain, he married Cristina of Lorraine (who gave him eight
sons), thus making an alliance with France and supporting Henry IV, whom
he also managed to persuade to marry his niece Maria, the daughter of his
brother Francesco. He only made approaches to Spain after the fall of Saluzzese,
when he arranged the marriage of his first born son with the Archduchess Maria
Maddalena d'Austria, the sister of the Emperor.
He was a patron of the arts like his forefathers: he gave Buontalenti the commission of carrying out the Fortress of Belvedere, which became the family strong-room, while Giambologna was given the task of sculpting the statue of Cosimo I in Piazza Signoria and building the villas of Artimino and Ambrogiana. He started building the Medici Chapels in San Lorenzo in 1604. He protected the historian Scipione Ammirato and promoted the Camerata dei Bardi, a musical association, whose works of melodrama eventually paved the way for the great traditions of Italian lyric opera.