The Medici Dynasty Show celebrates the birthday of Marie de’ Medici, better known as Marie, Regent Queen of France. Exiled by her own son, and painted 24 times by the great painter, Peter Paul Rubens, who was Queen Marie de’ Medici?
The daughter of Francis de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife Joanna of Austria, she was born in 1575 and married during an elaborate celebration in Florence to King Henry IV in 1600. Her groom was not actually present for the wedding, instead marrying her by proxy. She was his second wife, and though she gave him five children their marriage was difficult and unhappy, with Marie fighting constantly with Henry’s many mistresses. When her husband was assassinated in 1610, Marie became Regent Queen of France, set to rule until her son Louis XIII came of age.
Her time as Regent Queen was famously unstable, and she struggled to maintain her power and influence. She aligned herself with a favoured italian, Concino Concini, whose wife Leonora, a dear friend of Marie’s, had a scandalous reputation that did not help public perception of Marie. In the end, her own son rose up against her at only age 15 and their fight is legendary in the books of history. In 1617, Louis XIII confronted his mother, ending with both Concini dead and Marie arrested. In 1619, she escaped and it was only through the grace of Bishop Richelieu that she was reconciled with her son.
She had a vision for a great palace in Luxembourg, one that would rival the Medici owned Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Built on the banks of the Siene, Salomon de Brosse created the new palace for her, creating a vast quadrangular Palace reminiscent of the castle of Vernueil, with decorative elements that invoke Tuscan splendour throughout. It was during its completion (finished in 1623) that Marie commissioned the painter Peter Paul Rubens to depict her life in a great cycle of 24 paintings that would begin with her birth and end with her reconciliation with her son. They were completed in 1625, and are famed throughout the world.
It was a family reconciliation that proved to be temporary, as Bishop Richelieu’s loyalties soon changed from Marie to Luis XIII. Marie sensed she was losing power and plotted to depose the minister, truly believing she was going to succeed. Instead, on the 11 November 1630, known as The Day of Dupes, Luis XIII went to the Palace of Luxembourg for a stormy meeting with his mother. Marie was convinced that he would dismiss Richelieu but instead he betrayed her, making his second historic break with his mother. Marie suffered a great psychological breakdown, and was once again placed under arrest.
This time, her exile lasted until her death in Cologne in 1642, but she wasn’t greatly outlived. Her death was quickly followed by Richelieu just a few months later, and then in May of 1643, her son Luis XIII died as well, bringing an end to a tumultuous Medici rule marked by family scandal.
Written by Marisa Garreffa