Few members of the Medici family have been discussed as much as Ferdinando I de Medici. He became Grand Duke of Tuscany after the sudden death of Francesco, his brother, and some believe Ferdinando organized a conspiracy to take possession of the throne.
Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici
Ferdinando I de Medici was born on the 30th of July, 1549. Early on in life Ferdinando knew what he would set out to do, he was the fifth son (by the time he was birthed, he was the third surviving son) to Cosimo I de Medici; who was also the Grand Duke of Tuscany. His mother was Eleonora di Toledo, the daughter of Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo; he was the Spanish viceroy of the Naples region at that time. In the year of 1562, he was finally made a Cardinal, but never got the chance to be completely ordained into the priesthood. Within Rome, he showed his worth as an administrator. He actually founded the Villa Medici in the region of Rome, and he was the one who took an abundance of art back to Florence with him (hence the extensive art collection that the Medici’s were known to sport).
Ferdinando I de Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany
His brother Francesco met an untimely death in the year of 1587 (Francesco I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany passed away due to symptoms of “malaria”), he was 38 years old when he took over for his brother. The circumstances rose some suspect on Ferdinando: he was not in good relationships with his brother Francesco, especially after the Grand Duke married in secret his secret lover Bianca Cappello, a Venetian woman. Francesco and Bianca both died few days after a dinner with Ferdinando in the Poggio a Caiano Villa, and Ferdinando wanted to personally perform the autopsy on the bodies. You will agree with me that this is a dubious behavior.
Most would say that Ferdinando was the complete opposite of what his brother would represent, mainly because he was approachable and didn’t rule with an iron fist. He fixed up the justice system that was previously softened, and he was seriously concerned in regards to the well-being of his colleagues. Tuscany was able to thrive and regain the independence that Ferdinando’s brother had initially given up so hopelessly. When you take into account the fact that Ferdinando is polarizing opposite of the person he’s playing successor to, it’s quite amazing.
He also took it upon himself to improve the harbor of Livorno that Cosimo I had initially built, and he was able to divert a portion of the Arno River into their personal little canal, which helped when it came to shipping things from Florence to Pisa (and vice versa). During his first two years as the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando was still a Cardinal. In the year of 1589 he took it upon himself to marry Christina of Lorraine, and they had quite an expensive wedding within the Poggio a Caiano Villa. Christina had a rather large dowry, it was about 600,000 crowns in cash. She also had about 50,000 crowns worth of jewelry on, and that’s the kind of money peasants would have killed to see. The foreign policy that Ferdinando practiced was meant to free Tuscany from the Spanish reign, something that the previous Grand Duke wasn’t able to accomplish. Ferdinando was a very strong supporter of Henry IV (of France) after Henry III was murdered in 1589; he loaned Henry money and asked him to appeal to the Catholic side of religion. Ferdinando, by the way, was related to the King: he organized the wedding of Maria de Medici with Henry IV.
Among the attractions in Florence Italy that can be linked to Ferdinando I de Medici, there is the equestrian statue in Piazza della Signoria, representing his father Cosimo, and of course the equestrian statue representing Ferdinando I de Medici himself, in Piazza SS Annunziata. Ferdinando I de Medici also started the construction of the Medici Chapel behind the church of San Lorenzo, another project initially conceived by his father Cosimo.