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Francesco I de' Medici
Grand Duke of Tuscany
Francesco I de Medici.jpg
Francesco I of Tuscany;
portrait by Agnolo Bronzino.
Reign 21 April, 1574–17 October, 1587
Born March 25, 1541(1541-03-25)
Birthplace Florence
Died October 17, 1587
Predecessor Cosimo I
Successor Ferdinando I
Consort Johanna of Austria (1565-1578)
Bianca Cappello (1578-1587)
Offspring Eleonora, Duchess of Mantua
Romola de' Medici
Anna de' Medici
Isabella de' Medici
Lucrezia de' Medici
Marie, Queen of France
Filippo de' Medici
Royal House House of Medici
Father Cosimo I
Mother Eleonora di Toledo

Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (25 March 1541 – 17 October 1587) was the second Grand Duke of Tuscany, ruling from 1574 to 1587.



Francesco I of Tuscany as a young boy; painting by Bronzino

Born in Florence, he was the son of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Eleonora di Toledo, and served as regent for his father starting in 1564.


Marriage to Johanna of Austria

On December 18, 1565, he married Johanna of Austria, youngest daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary, after among others Princess Elizabeth of Sweden had been considered. By all reports, it was not a happy marriage. Joanna was homesick for her native Austria, and Francesco was neither charming nor faithful. Joanna died at the age of thirty one in 1578.

Bianca Cappello

Soon after the Grand Duchess Joanna had died, Francesco went on to marry his Venetian mistress, Bianca Cappello, after aptly disposing of her husband, a Florentine bureaucrat. Because of the quick remarriage and similar occurrences among the Medici (Francesco's younger brother Pietro had reportedly killed his wife), rumors spread up that Francesco and Bianca had conspired to poison Johanna. Francesco reportedly built and decorated Villa Medicea di Pratolino for Bianca. She was, however, not always popular among Florentines. They had no children, but Francesco adopted her daughter by first marriage Pellegrina (1564- ?) and her son Antonio (August 29, 1576 - May 2, 1621), who was first adopted as newborn child by Bianca Cappello with the intention to present him to Francesco as "own child" by means of changeling.

Like his father, Francesco was often despotic, but while Cosimo had known how to maintain Florentine independence, Francesco acted more like a vassal of his father-in-law, the emperor, and subsequent Holy Roman Emperors. He continued the heavy taxation of his subjects in order to pay large sums to the empire.

He had an amateur's interest in manufacturing and sciences. He founded porcelain and stoneware manufacture, but these did not thrive until after his death. He continued his father's patronage of the arts, supporting artists and building the Medici Theater as well as founding the Accademia della Crusca. He was also passionately interested in chemistry and alchemy and spent many hours in his private laboratory/curio collection, the Studiolo in the Palazzo Vecchio, which held his collections of natural item and stones and allowed him to dabble in amateur chemistry and alchemical schemes.

Francesco and Bianca died on the same day, possibly poisoned, or as many historians believe, from malarial fever. However, recent forensic evidence uncovered by Italian scientists supports the theory that he and his wife were poisoned [1]. Francesco was succeeded by his younger brother, Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

There is a famous portrait of Francesco as a child by Agnolo Bronzino, which hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Francesco's marriage to Bianca and the couple's death was exploited by Thomas Middleton for his tragedy Women Beware Women (published 1657).


Francesco and Johanna had seven children:

  • Eleonora (March 1, 1566 – September 9, 1611), who married Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (1582-1612).
  • Romola (November 20, 1568 – December 2, 1568)
  • Anna (December 31, 1569 – February 19, 1584)
  • Isabella (September 30, 1571 – August 8, 1572)
  • Lucrezia (November 7, 1572 – August 14, 1574)
  • Marie (1573 – 1642), who became Queen of France by her marriage to Henri IV in 1600.
  • Filippo (May 20, 1577 – March 29, 1582)


Descendents of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand duke of Tuscany, in three generations

Francesco I de' Medici
Grand duke of Tuscany
Marie de' Medici
Queen of France
Henrietta Maria of France
Queen of England
Charles II of England
King of England, Ireland and Scotland



  1. ^ Francesco Mari; Aldo Polettini, Donatella Lippi, Elisabetta Bertol (2006). "The mysterious death of Francesco I de' Medici and Bianca Cappello: an arsenic murder?". BMJ 333 (23-30 June 2006): 1299–1301. doi:10.1136/bmj.38996.682234.AE. PMID 17185715. 
  • Hibbert, Christopher (1979). The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici. Penguin Books. pp. 269–281. 

External links

Preceded by
Cosimo I de' Medici
Grand Duke of Tuscany
Succeeded by
Ferdinando I de' Medici


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