Queen of France
She married Henry IV of France in October 1600 in a grand wedding ceremony in Lyon, France, which was celebrated with 4,000 guests.
The marriage was a successful one in terms of producing children, but it was not a happy one as Marie and Henry fought over his mistresses.
On May 13, 1610, she was coronated as the Queen of France and the very next day Henry IV was assassinated. Following his assassination, she was made the regent for her son Louis XIII by the Parliament of Paris until the time he comes of age.
Her acumen in political issues was little both before and after the lifetime of King Henry IV. She was under high influence of her conspiring maid Leonora "Galigai" Dori and her iniquitous Italian husband Concino Concini. Though Concino never fought a battle the couple’s unscrupulous influence on the Queen made him a ‘Marshal of France’ and also ‘Marquis d'Ancre’.
Duke of Sully, a minister from the time of King Henry IV, was dismissed unscrupulously under the influence of the Concini couple. The Italian members of Catholic Church tried to suppress Protestantism by using their influence.
Due to the capricious rule of the regency, a sense of revolt was brewing up among many princes led by Duke of Enghien and Henri de Bourbon, who left the court and threw open challenges. During 1614 and 1615, she was under pressure from them to convoke the ‘Estates General’. The Protestants became restless observing the royal waver.
Lack of experience and insight of her regency fuelled instability and expectations of nobles and aristocrats. This resulted in draining of the treasury by way of disbursing pensions and other spoils to the nobles on May 15, 1614, in pursuit of buying them off. It still failed to fulfil their discontent.
She was guided by Concino in reversing the anti-Habsburg policy and the ‘Treaty of Bruzolo’, implemented by King Henry IV. She called back French army from Europe and to further the alliance with Spain, she married her daughter to the future king of Spain, Philip IV. She also arranged her son Louis XIII’s marriage with Anne of Austria in 1615.
In 1615, she was instrumental in the construction of ‘Palais du Luxembourg’ in Paris. Her artistic bent of mind reflected in the interiors of the palace including its furnishings. The palace, referred by Marie as ‘Palais Médicis’, was designed by Salomon de Brosse.
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She along with Concino continued to govern on the name of King Louis XIII even after he came of age. Her poor judgement along with Concino Concini’s domination over the royal council as well as at the court compounded the regal weakness and resurgence of revolt and instability in regency.
In 1617, King Louis XIII, who had already achieved legal majority few years back, took control over the regal authority dominated by Marie and the Concinis through a veritable coup d'état. It resulted in reversing of the pro-Habsburg policy, arrest of Marie and her exile to the Château de Blois.
On April 24, 1617, Charles d’Albert de Luynes, one of Louis’s favourites assassinated Concino Concini. Cardinal Richelieu who joined Marie’s regency in 1616 was inducted in Louis XIII’s bishopric.
She managed to escape in February 1619 with the help of her third son, Gaston, Duke of Orléans. She masterminded a revolt along with Gaston but was easily overpowered by the forces of the King.
Later, mediation of Richelieu resulted in reconciliation of Marie with Louis and she was permitted to take over a court at Angers.
In 1621, she joined back the regal council. She re-constructed ‘Palais du Luxembourg’ with extravagant decorations including ‘Marie de' Medici Cycle’, a series of remarkable and enormous paintings by Peter Paul Rubens that reflected her life from birth till her reconciliation with Louis. The construction of the palace was completed in 1623.
The power of Richelieu strengthened and he went on to become a major guide of Louis following the death of Duke of Luynes. Marie conspired against Richelieu along with son Gaston to remove him as chief minister. She planned a coup in November 1630, referred as ‘Day of Dupes’ but was dramatically beaten and forced to flee to Compiègne.
In 1631, she managed to escape to Brussels. She continued to conspire against Richelieu by influencing his opponents. This included writer Mathieu de Morgues, who earlier served Richelieu. They launched campaigns through distribution of pamphlets that attacked anti-Habsburg policies of France, Richelieu’s ministry and favoured Marie. She later went to Amsterdam in 1638.
Her exile and plotting against Richelieu continued till her death in Cologne in 1642.
Personal Life & Legacy
In October 1600, she married King Henry IV of France in Lyon shortly after the King divorced his first wife Marguerite de Valois. Marie de' Medici brought with her a huge dowry.
On September 27, 1601 her son and the future King of France Louis XIII was born. Her first daughter Elisabeth, who went on to become the Queen of Spain upon marriage with King Philip IV of Spain, was born on November 22, 1602.
Her second daughter Christine, the Duchess of Savoy, was born on February 10, 1606, followed by birth of her second son Nicholas Henri, the Duke of Orleans on April 16, 1607. Nicholas died young.
On April 25, 1608, her third son Gaston was born who later became the Duke of Orleans. Her youngest daughter and the future Queen of England Henrietta Mari who married King Charles I of England was born on November 25, 1609.
Her relation with Henry IV was strained as she resented his countless extra-marital relationships and often quarrelled with his mistresses especially with his leading mistress, Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues.
She later sympathized and supported Henry IV’s expelled ex-wife Marguerite de Valois and played an instrumental role in reconciling and bringing Marguerite back to the court.
After the assassination of King Henry IV, she became the regent of her son King Louis XIII. Thereafter, she expelled her husband’s leading mistress Catherine from the court.
On July 3, 1642, she died in Cologne and was engraved in ‘Basilica of St Denis’, Paris.