Marguerite Louise of Orleans (c. 1645–1721)

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Marguerite Louise of Orleans (c. 1645–1721)

Grand duchess of Tuscany . Name variations: Marguerite Louise de Medici. Born around 1645; died in Paris, France, in September 1721; daughter of Gaston d'Orleans (1608–1660), duke of Orléans (brother of Louis XIII), and Marguerite of Lorraine (fl. 1632); first cousin of Louis XIV, king of France; stepsister of Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier (1627–1693); married Cosimo III de Medici (1642–1723), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1670–1723), in April 1661; children: Ferdinand (1663–1713); Anna Maria Luisa de Medici (1667–1743, who married John William of the Palatinate); Giovan or Gian Gastone (1671–1737).

Marguerite Louise of Orleans, niece of Louis XIII, was brought up to be the future queen of France as wife of Louis XIV. She was considered beautiful and clever, a brilliant conversationalist with a biting wit. As the young charge of governess Madame du Deffant, she rode, hunted, and had great spirit. Her future husband Cosimo III de Medici would be her exact opposite.

When the plans for her marriage to Louis XIV fell through, Marguerite Louise was unfazed, for she was in love with Prince Charles of Lorraine. Her mother, the widowed Marguerite of Lorraine , was sympathetic with her daughter's wish and equally opposed to a marriage to Cosimo. But Louis XIV, under the urging of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, offered the young Marguerite Louise two options: Cosimo or the convent. Marguerite Louise married Cosimo by proxy in the Louvre chapel in April 1661.

Homesick and with a broken heart, Marguerite Louise began to hate all things Italian. She balked at learning the language and begged the French king to let her enter a convent rather than remain in Tuscany, but to no avail. At one point, she refused to eat; she also went through a period of silence. When she finally began to speak, she showered invective on all within reach. Madame du Deffant was sent to reason with her; it had no effect. Finally, Marguerite Louise withdrew to the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano and sent a message to Cosimo that if he dared to follow she would hurl a missal at his head. Then amazingly she returned to the Tuscan court, admitted that she had been wrong, and calm was restored.

Eventually, the couple's relationship became tempestuous again, and Cosimo sent Marguerite Louise to the family palace at Pisa where she remained a virtual prisoner, kept from communicating with anyone outside the palace. "Finding her circumstances becoming thus ever more intolerable, and that she could get no help from her relatives in France," writes G.F. Young, "she evolved the idea of escape from the contemptible Cosimo by joining a party of gipsies, with whom she was discovered one night settling all the arrangements from a window of the palace at Pisa; whereupon that mode of escape was made impossible." By that time, Marguerite Louise had had a son; she soon added a daughter Anna Maria Luisa de Medici ; another son arrived in 1671.

On the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1670, Cosimo took his position as grand duke of Tuscany, but he was strongly influenced by the church and his mother Vittoria de Medici . Concerned with this turn of events, the bright Marguerite Louise demanded a share in governing, but Cosimo refused. Marguerite returned to Poggio a Caiano once more, saying, "You make the unhappiness of my life, and I make the unhappiness of yours." She demanded a separation, and finally, reluctantly, he agreed. Thus, after 13 years in Tuscany, Marguerite Louise of Orleans returned to France and settled at the convent of Montmartre, near Paris. She became a popular member of the French court, and her ridicule of things Tuscan amused Louis XIV.

At the dawn of the 20th century, two silver coins in the Archaeological Museum were "discovered to be hollow," writes Young, "and to be in reality boxes; and in one of these was a miniature of Prince Charles of Lorraine in his youth, believed to have been concealed in this manner by Marguerite Louise so that she might wear it without detection."


Young, Col. G.F. The Medici. NY: Modern Library, 1930.

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Marguerite Louise of Orleans (c. 1645–1721)

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