This article was written by Ezgi Özcan.
Maria Salviati was born in Florence as a member of two powerful families: Medici and Salviati. She was the first child of Lucrezia de’ Medici, who was the first child of Lorenzo de’ Medici (The Magnificent) and Clarice Orsini. Maria married her cousin Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, the great-grandson of Lorenzo the Elder. With this marriage, the branches of the de’ Medici family reunited after generations.
Her husband was famous for being a good warrior, unlike the rest of the family. On the other hand, Maria was known as an intelligent and sensitive woman. Even though Giovanni was not at home often, they had one son together. As one of the few legitimate male heirs of the de’ Medici family, Cosimo was a very precious boy.
Maria was a devoted wife and successful businesswoman during her marriage. While her husband wasn’t at home, she was governing their properties. Maria’s life changed after the death of Giovanni; she was now a young widow with a 7-year-old child and without great financial security.
At that point, she took a remarkable decision; instead of getting remarried to a man from a powerful family, she moved to Trebbio Castle and let the people of Florence forget about her son. Cosimo was a clever boy who had a princely humanitarian education under the care of his mother. Furthermore, another Maria was living nearby. Maria Soderini and her son Lorenzino de’ Medici. The two boys became close friends but the destiny had something in store for them.
Cosimo grew up as a robust and silent man far away from intrigues of the palace, unlike Lorenzino. Maria wanted to be sure that great-grandson of the Magnificent Lorenzo had the proper education for a Renaissance Prince. When the time came, Maria Salviati asked for help from Filippo Strozzi, a Florentine noble, to send Cosimo to the coronation of Charles V in Bologna. Cosimo was already aware that in his veins the two branches of the Medici family met and he wanted to show the Emperor, that he might reign one day. Maria Salviati had launched her great plan; a smart, patient and elegant work.
Maria was building a prince. She arranged a temporary position for Cosimo at the palace of the new de’ Medici Duke – Alessandro. Cosimo learned the mechanism and the possibilities of politics but Maria took him back to Trebbio after he had finished learning. For the sake of her plans, Cosimo had to stay unknown. When Alessandro de’ Medici was assassinated, except the few old noblemen, no one remembered Cosimo. He was young, untried and unknown to the Florence nobility. Maria used all this to her advantage to promote her son as a perfect candidate to govern Florence.
And finally, the search for a new leader brought the Florentines to Trebbio. Maria could finally reap the rewards of her plan. It had been Lorenzino who had killed the incapable Duke Alessandro and now Florence was ready to offer the city to 17-year-old Cosimo and forget all about the main branch of the de’ Medici Family. They probably thought that as a rural teenager, Cosimo could be manipulated easily. They could not have been more wrong…
After becoming Duke in 1537, Cosimo took all the power in his hands in a year and he exiled all his opponents. By 1539, he was the Duke of Tuscany with a royal Spanish bride by his side. Maria’s greatest task had been completed. In 1536, Maria Salviati became a grandmother for the first time, she was overjoyed with the little Bia de’ Medici, even though she was illegitimate. Cosimo also had 11 children with his wife Eleanor. Maria moved to the Villa Castello where she created a nursery for the new generation of the de’ Medici children. Now, there were new children to educate properly for the new royal family of Tuscany.
In 1542, tragedy struck on the family, little Bia became seriously ill in February and died on 1 March. Maria Salviati was devastated by her loss. She died on 29 December, less than a year after Bia’s death