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Marie de' Medici
Portrait of Marie de Medicis by Peter Paul Rubens
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Tenure 17 December 1600 – 14 May 1610
Coronation 13 May 1610
Spouse Henry IV of France
Louis XIII of France
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain
Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy
Gaston, Duke of Orléans
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England and Scotland
House House of Bourbon
House of Medici
Father Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Mother Archduchess Joanna of Austria
Born 26 April 1575
Died 3 July 1642[aged 67]
Burial Cologne Cathedral

Marie de Médicis (26 April 1575 – 3 July 1642), was queen consort of France. She was the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the Bourbon branch of the kings of France. Following his assassination in 1610, she was the regent for her son King Louis XIII of France.


Early life

Portrait of Marie de Medici as a young girl

Born in Florence, Italy, she was the daughter of Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and of Johanna, Archduchess of Austria. Her maternal grandparents were Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Anne of Bohemia. Anne was a daughter of Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary and his wife Anne de Foix. She was one of seven children, but only she and her sister Eleonora de' Medici survived to adulthood. She died at the age of sixty-seven.


Uncommonly beautiful in her youth, in October 1600 she married Henry IV of France following the annulment of his marriage to Marguerite de Valois. She brought as part of her dowry 600,000 crowns. Her eldest son, the future King Louis XIII, was born at Fontainebleau the following year.

The marriage was not a successful one. The queen verbally feuded with Henry's mistresses, in language that shocked French courtiers. She quarrelled 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. When he failed to do so, and instead married Marie, the result was constant bickering and political intrigues behind the scenes. 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 Margaret of Valois, prompting Henry to allow her back into the realm.

During her husband's lifetime Marie showed little sign of political acumen or ability. Hours after Henry's assassination in 1610 she was confirmed as Regent by the Parlement of Paris. She banished from the court his mistress, Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues. However, not very bright, extremely stubborn, and growing obese, she was soon entirely under the influence of her maid Leonora "Galigai" and the latter's unscrupulous Italian husband, Concino Concini, who was created Marquis d'Ancre and Marshal of France, despite never having fought a battle.

They dismissed Henry IV's able minister the duc de Sully. Through Concini and the Regent, Italian representatives of the Roman Catholic Church hoped to force the suppression of Protestantism in France. Half Habsburg herself, she abandoned the traditional anti-Habsburg French policy. Lending her support to Habsburg Spain, she arranged the marriage of her daughter, Elisabeth to the future Philip IV of Spain.

The construction and furnishing of the Palais du Luxembourg,which she referred to as her Palais Médicis, formed her major artistic project. The site was purchased in 1612 and construction began in 1615, to designs of Salomon de Brosse. Her court painter was Peter Paul Rubens.

Marie was crowned Queen of France on 13 May 1610, a day before her husband's death.


Under the regent's lax and capricious rule, the princes of the blood and the great nobles of the kingdom revolted, and the queen, too weak to assert her authority, consented (15 May 1614) to buy off the discontented princes. The opposition was led by Henry de Bourbon-Condé, Duc d'Enghien, who pressured Marie into convoking the Estates General (1614-15), the last time they would meet in France until the opening events of the French Revolution.

In 1616 her policy was strengthened by the accession to her councils of Richelieu, who had come to the fore at the meeting of the Estates General. However, in 1617 her son Louis XIII, already several years into his legal majority, asserted his authority. The king overturned the pro-Habsburg, pro-Spanish policy by ordering the assassination of Concini, exiling the Queen to the Château de Blois and appointing Richelieu to his bishopric.

After two years of virtual imprisonment "in the wilderness" as she put it, she 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 d'Orleans, which Louis's forces 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.

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

The portrait by Rubens (above right) was painted at this time. Marie rebuilt the Luxembourg Palace (Palais du Luxembourg) in Paris, with an extravagantly flattering cycle of paintings by Rubens as part of the luxurious decor, called The Marie de' Medici Cycle (detail from one painting on left).

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 exile to Compiègne 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 her visit 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 Cornelisz. Moeyaert) and water pageants took place in the city’s harbor in celebration of her visit. There was a procession led by two mounted trumpeters; a large temporary structure erected on an artificial island in the Amstel River was built 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).

Marie subsequently travelled to Cologne, where she died in 1642, scheming against Richelieu to the end.

Honoré de Balzac encapsulated the Romantic generation's negative view:

"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, to rebel; and the victory Richelieu at last won over her (on the Day of the Dupes) was due solely to the discovery the cardinal made, and imparted to Louis XIII, of secret documents relating to the death of Henry IV." – Essay Catherine de Medicis.


Marie de Medici and her family
Name Birth Death Notes
Louis XIII, King of France 27 September 1601 14 May 1643 Married Anne of Austria (1601 - 1666) in 1615. Had issue.
Elisabeth, Queen of Spain 22 November 1602 6 October 1644 Married Philip IV, King of Spain (1605 - 1665) in 1615. Had issue.
Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy 12 February 1606 27 December 1663 Married Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy (1587 - 1637) in 1619. Had issue.
Nicholas Henri, Duke of Orléans 16 April 1607 17 November 1611 Died young.
Gaston, Duke of Orleans 25 April 1608 2 February 1660 Married (1) Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Montpensier (1605 - 1627) in 1626. Had issue.
Married (2) Margaret of Lorraine (1615 - 1672) in 1632. Had issue.
Henrietta Maria, Queen of England 25 November 1609 10 September 1669 Married Charles I, King of England (1600 - 1649) in 1625. Had issue.

See also Descendants of Marie de' Medici which maps how the Medici became part of the European Royal families, eventually leading to Prince William of Wales.


See also


External links

French royalty
Preceded by
Margaret of Valois
Queen consort of Navarre
1600 – 1610
Succeeded by
Anne of Austria
Queen consort of France
1600 – 1610


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