Eleanor of Toledo

Eleanor of Toledo

Eleanor of Toledo (Italian: "Eleonora di Toledo" (1522– december 17, 1562), born Leonor Álvarez de Toledo, was a Spanish noblewoman who was Duchess of Florence from 1539. [Her husband was not elevated to the status of Grand Duke of Tuscany until after her death. Giusti, p 11.] She is credited with being the first modern style first lady, or consort.

Eleanor was born in Toledo, the only daughter of the Viceroy of Naples, the Marquess of Villafranca, Don Pedro Álvarez de Toledo - Charles V's lieutenant-governor. [Cesati, p 75] Eleonora di Toledo became the wife of Cosimo I de' Medici, the ruler of Tuscany, whom she married in 1539.

The marriage with Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici was arranged undoubtedly not only for her large dowry but also for political and dynastic reasons. [Cesati, p 75] Thus, Florentine politics were not Eleonora's only attraction to the Medici, new to their ruling status; her royal Castilian ancestors and relations to Hapsburgs provided the Medici with the blue blood they had hitherto lacked in order to place them on an equal footing with European sovereigns. Eleanor , through her father, provided the Medici with a powerful link to Spain, at that time ultimately controlling Florence, providing Cosimo I with the opportunity to show sufficient loyalty and trust in Spain for the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the province.


Eleanor and Cosimo had eleven children, including five sons that reached maturity (Francesco, Giovanni, Garzia, Ferdinando, and Pietro), while before this time the Medici line had been in danger of becoming extinct. Thus by providing an heir, and ample spares, as well as through her daughters' marriages into other ruling and noble families of Italy, she was able to inaugurate an era of strength and stability in Tuscany. Two of her sons, Francesco and Ferdinando, reigned as grand Dukes of Tuscany.

Eleonora's children were:


Eleanor 's high profile in Florence as consort was initially a public relations exercise promoted by her husband whose predecessor as first sovereign Duke Alessandro de' Medici had died without legitimate heirs after years of politically damaging speculation about his sexual irregularities and excesses; Alessandro himself was reputed to have been the son of a black serving woman, his father was the seventeen-year-old Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, later Pope Clement VII, and Clement VII was in turn the illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici, who was assassinated in the Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici. Alessandro became the first sovereign ruler of Tuscany belonging to the house of Medici, but was assassinated in 1543 by another member of the Medici family, Lorenzino de' Medici, before consolidating his dynasty's strength in Tuscany. The last of the old Medici line, Alessandro bequeathed to the Medici name a legacy and reputation of sex, scandal, and murder.

Alessandro's distantly related successor, Cosimo I, needed to reassure the public of the stability and respectability of not only his family, but the new reign. Thus Eleanor, his attractive, charitable and fertile wife, was brought to the forefront, and the artist Agnolo Bronzino was commissioned to paint one of the first ever state portraits depicting a consort with her child and heir. While the portrait in no way depicts the cosy middle class stability that the British royal family liked to portray in the 19th century, the message is the same: "We are a nice stable normal family — trust us."

During her marriage, despite her initial unpopularity as a Spaniard, she gained great influence in Florence, she encouraged the arts and was patron to many of the most notable artists of the age. A pious woman, she encouraged the Jesuit order to settle in Florence; she also founded many new churches in the city. She was interested in agriculture and business, helping to expand and increase not only the profitability of the vast Medici estates, but also through her charitable interests the lot of the peasantry. She also supported unhesitatingly her husband and his policies, So great was his trust in her that in his frequent absences he made her regent, a station almost unheard of for a mere woman at the time, and one which also established her position as more than just a pretty bearer of Medici children.

As a consequence, it became known that Eleanor was the key to her husband, and those unable to gain an audience with Cosimo realised that through his wife their causes could at least be pleaded. No evidence exists, however, which proves she influenced him greatly; but the importance of her usefulness to him cannot be ignored.


Contemporary accounts of Eleanor belie the stern formal appearance of her many portraits. In her private capacity she loved to gamble [Women who ruled] , and she was a devoted traveller, moving endlessly from one of her palazzi to another. Her sense of humour may have been well developed, as there are reports of her while 8 months pregnant laughing at a Turk actor in an entertainment, who was seemingly involuntarily stripped, then exposed an artificially huge penis. [Goldberg]

She employed continually 10 gold and silver weavers to work on her apparel. [Women who ruled] She may have needed the fine clothes to disguise her failing appearance, as 21st-century forensic examinations of her body have revealed a huge calcium deficiency which must have caused her enormous amounts of ill health, and dental pain. [Tales From The Crypt]


Eleanor of Toledo died at Pisa in 1562.

Since her death, historians have tended to overlook her importance to Florentine history, and today she is often thought of as just another Medici consort and lover of luxury. This is probably due to the numerous portraits painted of her, which always show extravagance of dress. Many of her clothes still survive and are exhibited in museums around the world, including in one of her own homes, the Palazzo Pitti, which she purchased as a summer retreat in 1549, and which later after her death became the principal home of the Tuscan rulers. In the early part of her marriage the Medici lived on Florence's Via Larga at what is now the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and later at the Palazzo Vecchio. [Giusti, p 11] The rebuilding of the Pitti Palace was only partially completed at the time of her death.

For centuries after her death the myth pervaded that her 16-year-old son Garcia had murdered his 19-year-old brother, Giovanni, following a dispute in 1562. Their father Cosimo I, it was said, then murdered Garcia with his own sword, and Eleanor, distraught, died a week later from grief. The truth, proven by modern day exhumations and forensic science, was that Eleanor and her sons, as the Medici family had always claimed, died together from malaria in 1562. [Giusti, p 11]




* [http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/MT/02/Spr02/mt14s02.html Women who ruled]
* [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/01/60minutes/main646857.shtml Tales From The Crypt]
* [http://www.medici.org/news/dom/dom032000.html Eleonora laughs at a large penis] by Edward Goldberg.
* [http://documents.medici.org/people_details.cfm?personid=199 Letters to from and about Eleonora di Toledo]
*Wilhelm Karl, Prinz zu Isenburg, "Europaische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europaischen Staaten, Neue Folge," Marburg, Germany: Verlag von J. A. Stargardt , vol. 3. pt. 3, 1985, tables 532b-533.
*Liss, Peggy K. "Isabel the Queen," New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 165.
*Roth, Norman. "Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain", Madison, WI: The University of Wisconcin Press, 1995, pp. 150-151, 333.
*cite book
last = Cesati
first = Franco
year = 1999
title = Medici
publisher = La Mandragora
location = Firenze
id = ISBN 88-85957 - 36

*cite book
last = Giusti
first = Laura Baldini
year = 2001
title = Pitti Palace
publisher = Sillabe s.r.l
location = Livorno
id = ISBN 88-8347-047-8

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, Marquis of Villafranca — For other uses, see Pedro Álvarez de Toledo (disambiguation). Don Pedro Álvarez de Toledo Marquis of Villafranca del Bierzo, jure uxoris Caballero de Santiago …   Wikipedia

  • Eleonora von Toledo und ihr Sohn Giovanni (Bild) — Eleonora von Toledo und ihr Sohn Giovanni Agnolo Bronzino, 1545 Öl auf Holz, 115 cm × 96 cm Uffizien Das Gemälde Eleonora von Toledo und ihr Sohn Giovanni ist eines der berühmten Medici Porträts des italienischen Malers Agnolo Bronzino und zählt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Eleonora von Toledo und ihr Sohn Giovanni — Agnolo Bronzino, 1545 Öl auf Holz, 115 cm × 96 cm Uffizien Das Gemälde Eleonora von Toledo und ihr Sohn Giovanni ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Maria Leopoldine of Austria — redirects here. For the Empress of Brazil, see Maria Leopoldina of Austria. Maria Leopoldine of Austria Maria Leopoldine (6 April 1632, Innsbruck – 7 August 1649) was Holy Roman Empress as the spouse of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor.… …   Wikipedia

  • Marie de' Medici — Marie de Médicis Portrait of Marie de Medicis by Peter Paul Rubens Queen consort of France and Navarre Tenure 17 December 1600 – 14 May 1610 Corona …   Wikipedia

  • Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany — Cosimo III Cosimo in granducal robes, with Tuscan regalia Grand Duke of Tuscany Reign 23 May 1670 – 31 October 1723 Predecessor Fer …   Wikipedia

  • Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Lorraine — Margherita Margherita Gonzaga (2 October 1591, Mantua 7 February 1632) was the eldest daughter of Vincenzo I Gonzaga and Eleonora de Medici; she was also a sister of Francesco IV Gonzaga, Ferdinando I Gonzaga, Vincenzo II Gonzaga and Eleonora… …   Wikipedia

  • Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany — This article is about the Grand Duke of Tuscany. For the founder of the Medici dynasty, see Cosimo de Medici. Cosimo I de Medici Duke of Florence Grand Duke of Tuscany …   Wikipedia

  • Margaret of Parma — Duchess consort of Florence Duchess consort of Parma Governor of Habsburg Netherlands Spouse Alessandro de Medici, Duke of Florence Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma Issue …   Wikipedia

  • Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua — The Duke of Mantua and Montferrat. Ferdinand I Gonzaga (April 26, 1587 – October 29, 1626) was Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat from 1612 until his death. Biography Born in Mantua, he was the son of Vincent I Gonzaga and Eleonora de Medici.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”