Marie de Médicis 1573–1642 French Queen

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Marie de Médicis
1573–1642
French queen

Marie de Médicis was the second member of the powerful Medici family of Italy to become queen and regent* of France. A skillful politician, Marie shrewdly maneuvered for power at the highest level in France. She also exerted her influence as a patron* of the arts, commissioning works that expressed her belief in strong female rule.

Born in Florence in the Tuscan region of Italy, Marie was the daughter of Francesco de' Medici, grand duke of Tuscany. In 1600 she married the French king Henry IV. By 1608 she had borne five children. One son later became king of France, and two daughters became queens of European countries.

Henry IV was assassinated in 1610. The day after his death, Marie boldly called an assembly of the French parliament to put her young son on the throne as Louis XIII and to recognize Marie as queen regent. Despite efforts to undermine her authority on the grounds that women could not rule, she exercised the office of regent publicly and carried out many of Henry IV's policies. Among her major concerns as regent were pursuing peace in Europe and arranging royal marriages for her children. For a while, Marie managed to hold out against rebellious nobles. However, in 1617 her son, influenced by her enemies, seized power and banished her from court. Marie led a revolt that ended with a peace treaty in 1620, after which she returned to Paris and served on the Royal Council. Her return to court lasted until 1631, when political differences forced her to flee again. She eventually settled in Cologne, Germany, where she died.

Marie de Médicis provided work for many French and European artists. She donated major artworks to numerous Paris churches and completed work on the Luxembourg palace. For the palace, she commissioned the Life of Marie de Médicis, a set of 24 large paintings by Peter Paul Rubens that portrayed her as a heroic ruler, the embodiment of France and of justice.

(See alsoArt in France; Catherine de Médicis; France. )

* regent

person who acts on behalf of a monarch who is too young or unable to rule

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer