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Maria Magdalena of Austria (1589–1631)

Maria Magdalena of Austria (1589–1631)

Grand duchess of Tuscany . Name variations: Maria Maddalena; Maria Maddalena of Austria; Maria Maddalena de Medici; Marie-Madelaine. Born on October 7, 1589, in Graz; died on November 1, 1631, in Passau; daughter of Mary of Bavaria (1551–1608), duchess of Styria, and Charles (1540–1590), archduke of Styria; sister of Ferdinand II, king of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1578–1637), Holy Roman emperor (r. 1619–1637), Margaret of Austria (c. 1577–1611), Anna of Styria (1573–1598), and Constance of Styria (1588–1631); married Cosimo II de Medici (1590–1620), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1609–1620), on October 19, 1608; children: Ferdinand II (1610–1670), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1620–1670); Maria Cristina de Medici (1610–1632, twin sister of Ferdinand II); Giovanni Carlo, cardinal (1611–1663); Margaret of Parma (b. 1612, who married Edward Farnese, duke of Parma); Mattia or Mattias (1613–1667); Francesco (d. 1634); Anna de Medici (b. 1616, who married Ferdinand of Austrian Tyrol); Leopoldo (1617–1675), cardinal.

A German princess of imperial descent, Maria Magdalena of Austria was the daughter of Archduke Charles of Austria and Styria and Mary of Bavaria . Maria Magdalena was exceptionally well educated and showed considerable interest in contemporary art and the intellectual movement known as humanism. These cultural interests served Maria well in her marriage to the powerful leader of the Italian province of Tuscany, Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici, since the Medici were renowned for their artistic patronage. Like virtually all marriages between aristocrats in early modern Europe, the union was politically motivated as an attempt to create a diplomatic alliance between the Austrian monarchy and the Medicis. Maria and Cosimo were married in 1608, when Maria was about 19 years old; her new husband was also 19.

Despite being a foreigner, the young grand duchess fit in fairly well in the culturally refined, ostentatious Medici court in Florence, and seems to have gotten along well with her husband; Cosimo had a palace built for Maria, called the Poggio Imperiale in honor of Maria's imperial family. Maria Magdalena of Austria matched the disposition of her husband: tolerant, agreeable, and friendly. The attractive couple became a popular subject of portrait painter Susterman. The results hang in the Corsini Gallery in Florence.

Maria and Cosimo had eight surviving children in their twelve years of marriage, four sons and four daughters. But in 1620 Cosimo died suddenly, at age 31. Maria's eldest son, Ferdinand, succeeded his father as Grand Duke Ferdinand II, but since he was only ten years old he could not rule. Cosimo's will had provided for the rule of the duchy during the young duke's minority. He had named his mother, Christine of Lorraine , and Maria Magdalena to serve as joint regents for Ferdinand. However, it was understood that Christine would carry the burden of administration while Maria spent her energy on raising her eight children. The two women worked amicably together, sharing similar tastes for art and luxurious living and between them spending much of the large treasury Cosimo had built up. Maria did not live to see her son take over the reins of government, however. In November 1631, she went on a combined personal and diplomatic mission to see her brother, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II. En route Maria fell ill and died suddenly at Passau. Her body was carried back to Tuscany and buried at San Lorenzo. Grand Duchess Maria Magdalena of Austria was 42 years old.


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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