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Christine of Lorraine (c. 1571–1637)

Christine of Lorraine (c. 1571–1637)

Grand duchess of Tuscany. Name variations: Christina of Lorraine; Christine de Medici. Born around 1571; died in 1637 (some sources cite 1636); daughter of Claude de France (1547–1575) and Charles II, duke of Lorraine (r. 1545–1608); granddaughter of Catherine de Medici (1519–1589); married Ferdinand I de Medici (1549–1609), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1587–1609); children: Cosimo II (1590–1620), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1609–1620, who married Maria Magdalena of Austria ); Eleonora de Medici (1591–1617); Caterina de Medici (1593–1629, who married Ferdinand also known as Fernando Gonzaga, 6th duke of Mantua); Francesco (d. 1614); Carlo, cardinal (d. 1666); twins Maddalena de Medici (1600–1633) and Lorenzo (1600–1648); Claudia de Medici (1604–1648, who married Federigo della Rovere, hereditary prince of Urbino, and Leopold of Austrian Tyrol).

Although she was born and raised in France, Christine's life is closely linked to the story of the Medici, one of the most wealthy and powerful patrician families of Italy. Her mother Claude de France was a princess of the royal house of France; her father, Duke Charles II, ruled the small province of Lorraine in what is now eastern France. Christine was part of the Medici lineage on her mother's side, since Claude was the daughter of Queen Catherine de Medici . After Christine's mother died, Christine was raised by her grandmother, forging a strong bond of affection between Christine and Catherine. When she was about 16, Christine's Medici links were reinforced in 1587 when Catherine de Medici agreed to a marriage between Christine and the head of the Medici family, 40-year-old Grand Duke Ferdinand I of Tuscany.

Christine's husband had been a cardinal in Rome before the 1587 death of his brother, Francesco, forced him to resign as cardinal and succeed Francesco as grand duke. Despite the sudden turn in fortune, which led him from ecclesiastical to secular office, Ferdinand showed himself to be a talented politician during his two decades as duke. One of his first political moves was to try to strengthen Tuscany's diplomatic relations with France. His negotiations with France's de facto ruler and his own relative, Queen Catherine, led to his marriage with Christine as a guarantee of new friendship between the two states. Although they were married by proxy in 1587, Christine did not leave France until 1589; her journey was delayed first by the death of her father, then by the death of Queen Catherine, whom Christine refused to leave during her final illness.

Christine and Ferdinand had eight children in their 31-year marriage, including five sons and three daughters. The couple were well-suited for one another. They both supported the political aims of the Medici family, of which they were the most prominent members, and they shared the traditional Medici interest in promoting the arts and keeping a magnificent, opulent court. Christine's role at court was very public; as the wife of the grand duke and the mother of his heir, she had a great political responsibility to uphold the honor of the family, provide for a secure succession by bearing several sons, and to preside over a sumptuous court of aristocrats, scholars, scientists, and ladies-in-waiting whose collective purpose, like hers, was to glorify the grand duke.

After Ferdinand's death in February 1609, their eldest son Cosimo succeeded his father as Cosimo II. Although the new grand duke had a wife, Archduchess Maria Magdalena of Austria , Christine did not lose her important place at court. Instead, she and Maria Magdalena shared the role of being the most prominent woman in Florence and a leader of its social and cultural life. Cosimo apparently respected his mother's ability more than he did that of his wife. Before his early death in 1620, he wrote a will in which Christine and Maria Magdalena were named joint regents of Tuscany for the young Ferdinand II. Yet it was understood by his courtiers that Christine was the senior regent and that Maria's nomination was more a formality than a recognition of her governing ability. Christine and Maria served well together, but the results of their reign are mixed. For example, the years of Ferdinand II's long minority were relatively peaceful, but the regents nearly emptied the Medici treasury, and Christine allowed the clerics of Tuscany to interfere in its administration much more than previous rulers had.

After Maria died in 1631, Christine's position at court was strengthened, as now she was again the undisputed first lady of Florence. She did not relinquish the reins of government even after her grandson had reached adulthood. Ferdinand II did not begin to rule for himself until after Christine died about age 66, in 1637.

sources:

Micheletti, Emma. The Medici of Florence. Florence: Scala, 1980.

Young, George F. The Medici. 2nd ed. NY: E.P. Dutton, 1911.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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