Medici, Vittoria de (d. 1694)

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Medici, Vittoria de (d. 1694)

Grand duchess of Tuscany . Name variations: Vittoria della Rovere. Born Vittoria della Rovere; died in 1694; daughter of Claudia de Medici (1604–1648) and Federigo Ubaldo also known as Federigo della Rovere, hereditary prince of Urbino; married Ferdinand II de Medici (1610–1670), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1620–1670), on April 6, 1637; children: Cosimino and Innominata (died young); Cosimo III de Medici (1642–1723), grand duke of Tuscany (r. 1670–1723); Francesco Maria de Medici (1660–1711, a cardinal until 1709, who married Eleonora de Medici [fl. 1690]).

Vittoria della Rovere, born around 1622, was the last descendant of the noble Rovere family, hereditary rulers of Urbino. She was the only daughter of Duke Federigo della Rovere of Urbino, who died when she was an infant. Her widowed mother Claudia de Medici brought Vittoria to Florence to stay with their Medici relatives. There, Vittoria, although only a baby, was chosen as the future wife of her young cousin, Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Tuscany. The choice was made by his grandmother Christine of Lorraine and his mother Maria Magdalena of Austria (1589–1631), who were serving as joint regents during Ferdinand's minority. Thus Vittoria, who had inherited the duchy of Urbino on her father's death, was raised to be the grand duchess of Tuscany as well. Her character is revealed in the correspondence of the Medici courtiers and in her own letters. All three of her primary influences—her own mother, Christine of Lorraine, and Maria Magdalena—were especially devout Catholics, who instilled in Vittoria a strong sense of religious obligation which at times veered into bigotry. She was proud of her heritage, her family, and her wealth, but showed little interest in practicing or patronizing the arts, sciences, or literature.

Ferdinand and Vittoria were married on April 6, 1637. The couple had three children early in their marriage: Cosimino and Innominata, who both died shortly after birth, and Cosimo, later Cosimo III of Tuscany. Following the birth of Cosimo in 1642, Ferdinand and Vittoria separated. They were too different in personality and interests: Ferdinand seems to have been rather quiet, lacking in the political ambition which characterized his wife. He preferred to spend his time with his scientific and artistic projects, which Vittoria had little use for. His willingness to let the pope claim the duchy of Urbino—which was Vittoria's by right—angered Vittoria and contributed to their separation. Another factor was the irreconcilable differences in their opinions about how to educate their son and heir, Cosimo; Vittoria insisted that he receive a traditional Latin education by priests, while Ferdinand favored a more modern education, including humanist learning and the recent scientific discoveries.

The couple reunited briefly in 1659, and a fourth child, the future cardinal Francesco Maria, was born in 1660. Grand Duchess Vittoria played an important role in her son Cosimo's administration after Ferdinand died in 1670; Cosimo seems to have been content to let Vittoria and her advisors hold the reins of government. Vittoria and Cosimo's wife, Princess Marguerite Louise of Orleans , developed a mutual antagonism, and Cosimo shared his mother's dislike of the French princess, who eventually left her husband and returned to France. Vittoria continued to play a central role in Cosimo's government until her death about age 72, in 1694.


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

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

Laura York , M.A. in history, University of California, Riverside, California

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