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Florence: the Electress Palatine and the “Family Compact”

by Filippo Giovannelli – Anna Maria Luisa, the daughter of Cosimo III de ‘Medici and Marguerite-Louise d’Orléans, was born in Florence on August 11, 1667, was the second of three brothers: Ferdinand (1663) and Gian Gastone (1671).

The children of Anna Maria Luisa, was marked by frequent quarrels between the father, a grim, silent and deeply religious, and his mother, a woman lively and playful, who hated her husband and lives in Florence, and in 1674 left Tuscany to retire to a convent of Montmartre.

The Grand Duke Cosimo III, whose Catholicism had become increasingly rigid, imposed a number of restrictions and rules aimed at banning the immorality and heresies, and to oppress the city with its heavy taxes and other financial measures.

The eldest son Ferdinand had become an attractive young, bright and intelligent, and the Grand Duke had him marry as soon as possible: the dynasty was in need of an heir.
Unfortunately, the wife chosen for him, Princess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, was a pale young and emotional.
He practically ignored her, and she, in any case, was barren. One day, Ferdinand departed for Venice, where he contracted syphilis from a lady of noble family. Because you could not wait for an heir of Ferdinand, Grand Duke Cosimo focused his attention on the second Gian Gastone.

The latter, with homosexual tendencies even stronger than those of his brother, he spent most of his time alone, dedicating research in botany or the learning of foreign languages. He married the daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Lauenberg and widow of Philip Count Palatine of Neuburg, a woman of a truly exceptional ugliness, quarrelsome and absolutely lacking in attractiveness.
His wife dragged him in the village of Reichstadt, near Prague, but the place and the woman disgusted Gian Gastone. Their relationship became stiff and distant, and the two never had children.
Cosimo III had to abandon the cardinal’s hat to his younger brother Francesco Maria, married to a young princess (Eleonora Gonzaga) in the vain hope of having an heir apparent, but in this case there was not an heir. So, both brothers of Anna Maria Luisa showed poor attitude to the responsibilities of government and little responsibility towards the Medici dynasty.

Anna Maria was a tall, dark, with a masculine voice and a loud laugh; Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, married in Innsbruck, and soon after passed a venereal disease: the disease was thought to be responsible for the abortions that angustiarono its youth. He lived in Innsbruck until the husband’s death in 1716, then returned to Florence.
In 1723 Cosimo III died in 1737 and Gian Gastone. Ferdinand had died several years before his father, and Anna Maria Luisa de ‘Medici had been the last, and I was always well aware of. At his death, Tuscany would pass under the dominion of Lorraine, in the person of Duke Francis, husband of Maria Theresa of Austria.

On the death of his brother Gian Gastone in 1737 the Prince of Lorraine representative Craon offered to Anna Maria Luisa the regency of the Grand Duchy in the name of Francis Stephen of Lorraine, the new sovereign, but the princess declined, but remained to live in the Palazzo Pitti and devoting himself to his passion for art and antiques.

It was this passion in them to make the gesture that has remained popular and that was the real fortune of Florence in 1737 Anna Maria Luisa stipulated by the new ruling dynasty known as the “Family Compact”, which stated that the Lorraine could not carry

“Or raise outside capital and the rule of the Grand Duchy … Galleries, Paintings, Statues, Libraries, jewels and other precious things … the succession of the Most Serene Grand Duke, so that they remain for the ornament of State for Public utilities and attract the curiosity of Foreigners “.

With this pact Anna Maria Luisa allowed that Florence did not lose any work of art and does not suffer the fate of Urbino, that the extinction of the house of Della Rovere was literally emptied of its treasures. Even more far-sighted gesture was to pay particular attention to the phrase “to attract the curiosity of Foreigners”.

From this we see the cultural stature of Anna Maria, the great spirit of conservation but also the far-sighted provide that the beauty of the works could be enjoyed by others, providing a tourist who was then just an idea.

The municipal government has entered this event as an official holiday of the City of Florence along with other traditional festivals and celebrations that take place in the city. The anniversary of the death of Anna Maria Luisa (or Ludovica) de ‘Medici – Florence, February 18, 1743 is commemorated every year. The initiative launched by a group of historians and scholars, the Traditions of the Florentine Commune of Florence several years ago.

Similarly for some years, in Palazzo Vecchio is revived a dramatized representation of the Last of the Medici. In the photo on the sidelines (Joseph Sabella), an actress recalls in an exemplary manner the act of signing the Covenant Family in the role of the sad and forward-looking princess.

photo: Giuseppe Sabella

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