Duchy of Florence

Duchy of Florence
Ducato di Firenze
Flag Coat of arms
The Duchy of Florence (green) in 1557
Capital Florence
43°47′N 11°15′E / 43.783°N 11.250°E / 43.783; 11.250Coordinates: 43°47′N 11°15′E / 43.783°N 11.250°E / 43.783; 11.250
Languages Italian
Government Monarchy
Duke of Florence
   1532–1537 Alessandro
  1537–1569 Cosimo I
   Established 1532
  Battle of Marciano 1554
   Elevated to Grand Duchy 1569
Currency Florin
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of Florence
Republic of Siena
Grand Duchy of Tuscany

The Duchy of Florence (Italian: Ducato di Firenze) was an Italian principality that was centred on the city of Florence, in Tuscany, Italy. The duchy was founded after Emperor Charles V restored Medici rule to Florence in 1530. Pope Clement VII, himself a Medici, appointed his relative Alessandro de' Medici as Duke of the Florentine Republic, thereby transforming the Republic of Florence into a hereditary monarchy.

The second Duke, Cosimo I, established a strong Florentine navy and expanded his territory, purchasing Elba and conquering Siena. In 1569, the Pope declared Cosimo grand duke of Tuscany. The Medici ruled the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1737.[1]

Origins and Constitution

Florence had been under informal Medici control since 1434. During the War of the League of Cognac, the Florentines rebelled against the Medici, then represented by Ippolito de' Medici, and restored the freedom of their republic.[2][3] Following the Republic's surrender in the Siege of Florence, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor issued a proclamation explicitly stating that he and he alone could determine the government of Florence.[4] On 12 August 1530, the Emperor created the Medici hereditary rulers (capo) of the Republic of Florence.[2][5]

Pope Clement VII intended his relative[6] Alessandro de' Medici to be the ruler of Florence, but also wanted to give the impression that the Florentines had democratically chosen Alessandro as their ruler.[5] The title "duke of Florence" was chosen because it would bolster Medici power in the region.[7] In April 1532, the Pope convinced the Balía, Florence's ruling commission, to draw up a new constitution, which formally created a hereditary monarchy. It abolished the age-old signoria (elective government) and the office of gonfaloniere (titular head-of-state elected for a two month-term) and replaced it with three institutions:

Alessandro's Reign

Alessandro de' Medici

Even after Alessandro's accession, Imperial troops remained stationed in Florence.[9] In 1535, several prominent Florentine families, including the Pazzi (who attempted to kill Lorenzo de' Medici in the Pazzi Conspiracy) dispatched a delegation under Ippolito de' Medici, asking Charles V to depose Alessandro. Much to their dismay, the Emperor rejected their appeal. Charles had no intention of deposing Alessandro, who was married to Charles' daughter Margaret of Parma.[10]

Alessandro continued to rule Florence for another two years until he was murdered on January 1, 1537 by his distant relative Lorenzino de' Medici.[11]

Cosimo's accession and rule

Cosimo I de' Medici

As Alessandro left no legitimate issue,[3] the question of succession was open. Florentine authorities selected Cosimo I[12] At the news of this, the exiled Strozzi family invaded and tried to depose Cosimo, but failed.[13] Cosimo completely overhauled the bureaucracy and administration of Florence.[14] In 1542, the Imperial troops stationed in Florence by Charles V were withdrawn.[15]

In 1548, Cosimo purchased Elba from the Republic of Genoa, and based his new developing navy there. Cosimo founded the port city of Livorno and allowed the city’s inhabitants to enjoy freedom of religion.[16] In alliance with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, Cosimo defeated the Republic of Siena, which was allied with France, in the Battle of Marciano on August 2, 1554. On April 17, 1555, Florence and Spain occupied the territory of Siena, which, in July 1557 Philip II of Spain bestowed on Cosimo as a hereditary fiefdom. The ducal family moved into the Palazzo Pitti in 1560.[17] Cosimo commissioned the architect Vasari to build the Uffizi, as offices for the Medici bank, continuing the Medici tradition of patronage of the arts. In 1569, Cosimo was elevated to the rank of Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569 by Pope Pius V.[18] Medici rule continued into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the family became extinct in 1737.[3]


  1. Strathern, Paul : Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (Vintage Publishers), London, ISBN 978-0-099-52297-3
  2. 1 2 Frieda, Leonie, p. 29
  3. 1 2 3 Historyworld.net
  4. Hale, J.R.: Florence and the Medici, Orion books, London, ISBN 1-84212-456-0, p. 118.
  5. 1 2 Hale, 119
  6. Allessandro is usually considered an illegitimate son of Lorenzo II, Duke of Urbino, though some historians suggest that Clement himself was the father.
  7. Frieda, Leonie, Catherine de Medici (Phoenix) ISBN 0-7538-2039-0
  8. Hale, p 121
  9. Strathern, Paul, p. 334
  10. Strathern, Paul p. 322–325
  11. Strathern, Paul, p. 327
  12. Strathern, Paul, p. 329
  13. Strathern, Paul, p. 329-330.
  14. Strathern, Paul p. 332
  15. Strathern, Paul, p. 334.
  16. Strathern, Paul, p. 335
  17. Strathern, Paul, p. 337
  18. Strathern, Paul, pp. 339–342
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