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Virginia de' Medici

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Duchess of Modena and Reggio
Virginia de medici.jpg
Born 29 May 1568
Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Died 15 January 1615(1615-01-15) (aged 46)
Modena, Duchy of Modena
Spouse Cesare d'Este, Duke of Modena
Issue Giulia d'Este
Alfonso III, Duke of Modena
Laura, Duchess of Mirandola
Luigi d'Este, Marquis of Montecchio and Scandiano
Caterina d'Este
Ippolito d'Este
Niccolo d'Este
Borso d'Este
Foresto d'Este
Angela Caterina d'Este
Full name
Virginia de' Medici
House Medici
Father Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Mother Camilla Martelli

Virginia de' Medici (29 May 1568 – 15 January 1615) was an Italian princess, a member of the House of Medici and by marriage Duchess of Modena and Reggio.

Regent of the Duchy of Modena and Reggio during the absence of her husband, she was able to protect the autonomy of the city of Modena from the attacks of the local Podestà and Judge. Her husband's infidelities increased her already erratic behavior and led to a permanent mental illness, which lasted until her death.

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Hi everyone! My name is Sara Hayes and I’m a junior at ISU and i'm just going to talk about my program and my experience studying abroad. So last spring semester as a sophomore, I went to Florence, Italy. My school was called Lorenzo de' Medici. Some reasons I decided to chose this specific program was because I always knew I wanted to study abroad in Italy and also because the advisors kind of recommended this program. Because of the amount of classes that are offered, I was able to take classes for my major and finish up some gen eds and I also took Italian. So as for getting to Italy, right when I got there I was astonished by how beautiful it was. Right away they put you into an apartment and my apartment was really nice as well. I lived with five other girls. We all got along. We actually got really lucky with our apartment because we were just blocks away from all of the different classes, the advisors office, things like that. Even if it was a little farther away, everything in Florence is walking distance, which really made a difference. I never had to use public transportation, I was able to walk everywhere. For my classes at LDM, I really enjoyed all of them. The professors were amazing. They really wanted you to just succeed and also show that you were kind of learning things. I wouldn't say it was a lot harder as long as you show the teachers respect and that you want to be there. The grading was pretty easy. So as long as you just put in effort, you will succeed in classes abroad. Most of the classes were based on a midterm, a final exam and a final paper. So, my biggest advice there is kind of just start your papers and studying for final exams as soon as possible because the last couple weeks abroad or in your host city, you want to be enjoying the city rather than cramming and studying and cramming and writing that paper. So that was kind of a hard thing for me - to finish all of that stuff. But, I also wanted to be enjoying myself in Florence. LDM and Florence were a perfect, really perfect, choice for me. I wouldn't do anything differently. Both the study abroad advisors and the LDM advisors really make it easy for you to get this opportunity, not stress, and they really help you in every way possible. Overall, all of the places I was able to travel, Florence was my favorite city. Probably because I spent the most time there and it really is such a magical city. It kind of has a small, homey feeling, but also there is so much history to see there so you never really get bored even though it is a small city. My experience really kind of changed me for the better. I feel like I learned so much about myself there and I feel like I am a lot more appreciative of the things I have here in the US, but I also really admire how they live in Europe. It's very minimal and you kind of realize that a lot of materialistic things that we have here are completely unnecessary. So, it really kind of puts things into perspective. Especially when you come home from being abroad. So, that's something definitely to look forward to. It really was the best experience of my life, the best four months. I wouldn't have done it any other way. When I got back to ISU, I actually decided to become a Study Abroad Ambassador just because I wanted to help other students get the same opportunity because I feel as if pretty much every student should be able to study abroad. Money, things like that, shouldn't be a conflict and I think it is really important to get the word out and get everyone to be able to get the same opportunity I did. Thanks for listening!



Early years

Born in Florence on 29 May 1568,[1] Virginia was the illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and his mistress Camilla Martelli.[2][3] Her paternal grandparents were the famous condottiere Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and his wife Maria Salviati (in turn the granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent)[4] and her maternal grandparents were Antonio Martelli and Fiammetta Soderini, both members of the most important families among the Florentine patricians.[5]

Virginia was born after the formal resignation of her father of the government on behalf of her half-brother Francesco. Cosimo I contracted a morganatic marriage with Camilla Martelli on 29 March 1570 on the advice of Pope Pius V, and this allowed him to legitimize their daughter on the principle of per subsequens. Since that time, she lived with her parents at the Villa di Castello during the summer and in Pisa in winter. Cosimo I's older children resented their father's second marriage, and after the death of the Grand Duke in 1574, they imprisoned Camilla in the Florentine convent of Murate.[5]

Despite the controversy about her illegitimate birth and ambiguous position in the Grand Ducal house, Virginia's older brothers began negotiations with the House of Sforza of a marriage between her and one of his members. In 1581 she was betrothed to Francesco Sforza, Count of Santa Fiora, but the wedding didn't take place because the groom chose the ecclesiastical career and became a Cardinal. After this, it was decided to arrange her marriage with a member of the House of Este with the purpose to improve the relations between both families and break the isolation of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany from the other Italian states. Virginia's half-brother Cardinal Ferdinando has agreed with Cardinal Luigi d'Este for the marriage of his nephew and Virginia. In addition, the second wife of Grand Duke Francesco I, Bianca Cappello, also played a big role in the conclusion of this alliance.[1][6]

Marriage and issue

In Florence on 6 February 1586 Virginia married Cesare d'Este, son of Alfonso, Marquis of Montecchio, in turn the illegitimate (but later legitimized) son of Alfonso I, Duke of Ferrara. To celebrate this event was represented the comedy "l’Amico Fido", wrote by Giovanni de' Bardi and with the lyrics of Alessandro Striggio and Cristofano Malvezzi,[7] and in Ferrara the poet Torquato Tasso dedicated a Cantata to the newlyweds.[8][9]

The union produced ten children, six sons and four daughters:

  • Giulia d'Este (1588–1645); died unmarried.
  • Alfonso III d'Este, Duke of Modena (1591–1644), Duke of Modena from 1628; married Princess Isabella of Savoy and had issue.
  • Laura d'Este (1594–1630), twin with Luigi; married Alessandro I Pico, Duke of Mirandola and had issue, ancestress of Maria Teresa Cybo-Malaspina, Duchess of Modena.
  • Luigi d'Este, Marquis of Montecchio and Scandiano (1594–1664), twin with Laura, General at the Imperial army; died unmarried but had illegitimate issue.
  • Caterina d'Este (1595–1618); died unmarried.
  • Angela d'Este (1597–1651); a Poor Clare nun under the name of Sister Angela Caterina and later Abbess of the Monastery of Santa Chiara of Carpi.[10]
  • Ippolito d'Este (1599–1647), Knight of the Order of Malta and Commander of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre; died unmarried.
  • Niccolo d'Este (1601–1640), Captain at the Imperial Army; married Sveva d'Avalos, no issue.
  • Borso d'Este (1605–1657), Colonel at the Imperial Army and later General in the French Army; married Ippolita d'Este (illegitimate daughter of his brother Luigi) and had issue.
  • Foresto d'Este (1606–1639), Captain at the Imperial Army; died unmarried.
This portrait is often identified as Marie de' Medici, queen of France, though art critic Maike Vogt-Lüerssen believes it is actually an adult portrait of Virginia de' Medici.
This portrait is often identified as Marie de' Medici, queen of France, though art critic Maike Vogt-Lüerssen believes it is actually an adult portrait of Virginia de' Medici.

At the end of February 1586 Virginia and Cesare arrived in Ferrara. They stayed at the Palazzo Diamanti, a gift of Cardinal Luigi d'Este, Cesare's uncle, who later bequeathed him all his possessions. One year later (1587), Virginia became in Marchioness consort of Montecchio after the death of her father-in-law.

After the extinction of the legitimate line of the House of Este with the death of Duke Alfonso II on 27 October 1597 without issue, Cesare inherited the headship and all the possessions of the family; in consequence, Virginia became in the Duchess consort of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Princess consort of Carpi, Princess of the Holy Roman Empire, Duchess consort of Chartres and Montargis, Countess consort of Gisors, Viscountess consort of Caen, Bayeux and Falaise.[11][10] However, the rule over Ferrara was short-lived: although Emperor Rudolf II recognized the rights of Cesare over Modena and Reggio (both Imperial fiefs), Pope Clement VIII didn't recognized Cesare's succession in Ferrara (nominally a Papal fief) on grounds of doubtful legitimacy. On 15 January 1598 the Duchy of Ferrara was officially abolished and returned to the Papal States, despite Cesare's attempts to obtain the help of the major European powers. Cesare, with his family and court, were forced to move to Modena, who became in the new capital of the dynasty. In 1599 Cesare obtained the Lordship of Sassuolo, but in 1601 the Parlement of Paris stripped him of all the domains and titles in the Kingdom of France.[9][10]

Mental illness and death

This portrait is often identified as Virginia de' Medici, though art critic Maike Vogt-Lüerssen believes it is actually a portrait of Archduchess Maria Magdalena of Austria-Tyrol (1656-1669), which is highly improbable since the young lady on this portrait is wearing a characteristic necklace having belonged to Camilla Martelli, Virginia's mother.
This portrait is often identified as Virginia de' Medici, though art critic Maike Vogt-Lüerssen believes it is actually a portrait of Archduchess Maria Magdalena of Austria-Tyrol (1656-1669), which is highly improbable since the young lady on this portrait is wearing a characteristic necklace having belonged to Camilla Martelli, Virginia's mother.

In 1596, the first signs of madness were manifested in Virginia, who suffered from this condition until her death.[12] Nevertheless, she copes with her motherly duties with her numerous offspring and showed herself as a clever and far-sighted ruler when in January 1601, in the absence of her husband (who was in Reggio) the heavily pregnant Duchess took the position of Regent. During this time she stopped the attempts of the Podesta and Judge of Modena to deprive her of the government. However, Virginia was unable to control her unpredictable anger fits: when in March 1608 her confessor, the Jesuit Jerome Bondinari claimed that she was possessed by the devil, the Duchess violently attacked him with shouts and nearly beat him to death with a stick. After this, exorcism sessions were held in her, during which it became clear that Virginia's mental illness was caused by the fact that she was married against her will, and worsened due to the infidelities of her husband. The attempts of expulsion the demons in her finally originated that Virginia became completely insane. She only recovered her sense on the day of her death; in her deathbed, she blessed all her children and died peacefully.[a][13]

Virginia died on 15 January 1615 in Modena aged 46; there were rumors that she was poisoned by her husband.[14] The memorial service, who was held on 27 February at Modena Cathedral was celebrated by the Jesuit Agostino Mascardi.[13] She was buried in the crypt of the House of Este in the Church of St. Vincent in Modena.[15][16]


  1. ^ Virginia's daughters Laura (later Duchess consort of Mirandola and Marchioness consort of Concordia) and Angela (later Sister Angela Caterina) inherited her mental illness, which appeared in their adulthood.[13]


  1. ^ a b Georgia Arrivo: Scritture delle donne di casa Medici nei fondi dell’Archivio di Stato di Firenze in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  2. ^ Cesati 1999, p. 136.
  3. ^ Chiusole 1743, p. 566.
  4. ^ Elena Fasano Guarini: Cosimo I de' Medici, duca di Firenze, granduca di Toscana - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 30 (1984) in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  5. ^ a b Vanna Arrighi: Martelli, Camilla - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 71 (2008)in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  6. ^ Siebenkees 1797, p. 119.
  7. ^ La naissance de l'opéra baroque - Chronologie in: (in French) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  8. ^ Zuccala 1819, pp. 266–267.
  9. ^ a b Velia Pellegrino: Lettere d’altri tempi: le lettere del duca Cesare d’Este in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  10. ^ a b c ESTE (di MONTECCHIO) Duchi di Modena e Reggio in: Libro d'Oro della Nobiltà Mediterranea ( [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  11. ^ Chiusole 1743, p. 574.
  12. ^ Maurizio Polelli: Gli Este, storia di una famiglia tramite i suoi stemmi in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  13. ^ a b c 1 Grazia Biondi: "Madama mi dispiace a dirvelo, vostra altezza è inspiritata" - Demoni ed esorcisti alla corte di Cesare d'Este in: (in Italian) [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  14. ^ Edgcumbe Staley: Eleanora degli Albizzi in: The Tragedies of the Medici ( [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  15. ^ MODENA CHIESA DI SAN VINCENZO in: [retrieved 21 May 2017].
  16. ^ BURIAL CHURCHES OF SOVEREIGNS OF MODENA FROM A TO Z in: [retrieved 21 May 2017].


  • Cesati, Franco (1999). The Medici: story of a European dynasty. Florence: Mandragora. pp. 81, 82, 136, 141. ISBN 978-8-88-595737-4.
  • Chiusole, Antonio (1743). La genealogia delle cose piu illustri di tutto il mondo, principiando da Adamo nostro primo Padre, e continuando sino al tempo presente (in Italian). Venice: Giambattista Recurti. pp. 566, 574.
  • Siebenkees, Johann Philipp (1797). The life of Bianca Capello, wife of Francesco de Medici. Liverpool: J. M’Creery. pp. 119, 124.
  • Zuccala, Giambatista (1819). Della vita di Torquato Tasso libri due (in Italian). Milan: Tipografia di commercio al bocchetto. p. 266.
Virginia de' Medici
Born: 29 May 1568 Died: 15 January 1615
Royal titles
Preceded by
Margherita Gonzaga
Duchess consort of Ferrara
27 October 1597 – 1598
To the Papal State
Duchess consort of Modena and Reggio
27 October 1597 – 15 January 1615
Title next held by
Maria Caterina Farnese
This page was last edited on 18 October 2018, at 08:47
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