Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany

Ferdinando I.
Grand Duke of Tuscany
Reign 19 October 1587 – 7 February 1609
Predecessor Francesco I
Successor Cosimo II
Born (1549-07-30)30 July 1549
Died 17 February 1609(1609-02-17) (aged 59)
Spouse Christina of Lorraine
Issue Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Maria Maddalena
Catherine, Duchess of Mantua
Carlo, Bishop of Ostia
Claudia, Archduchess of Austria
Full name
Ferdinando de' Medici
House House of Medici
Father Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Mother Eleanor of Toledo

Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (30 July 1549 17 February 1609) was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587 to 1609, having succeeded his older brother Francesco I.

Early life

Ferdinando I de' Medici as Cardinal (1562 to 1589).
Evangelium Sanctum Domini Nostri Jesu Christi in Arabic, 1590, with Arabic types of Robert Granjon, Typographia Medicea, Rome.

Ferdinando was the fifth son (the third surviving at the time of his birth) of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Eleanor of Toledo, the daughter of Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, the Spanish viceroy of Naples.

He was made a Cardinal in 1562 at the age of 14 but was never ordained into the priesthood. At Rome, he proved an able administrator. He founded the Villa Medici in Rome and acquired many works of art (including the Medici lions), which he then brought back to Florence with him.

Grand Duke

When his brother Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany died in 1587, Ferdinando succeeded as Grand Duke at the age of 38.

In many ways, Ferdinando was the opposite of his brother who preceded him. Approachable and generous, he set out to rule mildly. He re-established the justice system and was genuinely concerned about the welfare of his subjects. During his reign, Tuscany revived and regained the independence his brother had given up.

Ferdinando fostered commerce and gained great wealth through the Medici banks, which were established in all the major cities of Europe. He enacted an edict of tolerance for Jews and heretics,[1] and Livorno became a haven for Spanish Jews as well as other persecuted foreigners. He established the Medici Oriental Press (Typographia Medicea), which published numerous books in the Arabic script.

He improved the harbor Cosimo I had built and diverted part of the flow of the Arno River into a canal called the Naviglio, which aided commerce between Florence and Pisa. He fostered an irrigation project in the Val di Chiana, which allowed the flatlands around Pisa and Fucecchio and in the Val di Nievole to be cultivated.


For the first two years of his reign, he retained his position as Cardinal. In 1589 he married Christina of Lorraine.[2] The couple had a large reception at the Medici Villa in Poggio a Caiano. Christina's dowry was considerably large; it included 600,000 crowns in cash as well as jewellery with a value of 50,000 crowns. Also, the rights of the duchy of Urbino were transferred to Christina after the death of Queen Catherine and thus assumed by future Medici rulers.[3]

Foreign policy

Pietro Tacca's Monumento dei Quattro Mori (Monument of the Four Moors) in Leghorn, showing Ferdinando holding baton of a field marshal standing victorious above chained Moorish captives. (1623)

His foreign policy attempted to free Tuscany from Spanish domination. After the assassination of Henry III of France in 1589, he supported Henry IV of France in his struggles against the Catholic League. Ferdinando lent Henry money and encouraged him to convert to Catholicism, which he eventually did. Ferdinando also used his influence with the Pope to get him to accept Henry's conversion.

Henry showed no appreciation for these favors, and Ferdinando let the relationship cool, maintaining his cherished independence. He supported Philip III of Spain in his campaign in Algeria and Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor in his against the Turks. For these undertakings, he found it necessary to raise taxes on his subjects. He finally obtained the formal investiture of Siena, which his father had conquered.

Ferdinando also strengthened the Tuscan fleet, and it saw victories against pirates on the Barbary coast in 1607, and against a superior Turkish fleet the following year.

He also dreamed of a small African empire, and then considered the possibility of a colony in Brasil.[4] Ferdinando organised an expedition in 1608 under the command of Captain Thornton to northern Brasil and the Amazon river in order to create a colony.




Preceded by
Francesco I de' Medici
Grand Duke of Tuscany
Succeeded by
Cosimo II de' Medici
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