The Last Medici


The 18th of February marks the anniversary of the death of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici, the last of Florence’s ultra powerful Medici dynasty. She left the family’s entire art collection to Florence under the condition that none of it be ever taken out of the Tuscan capital and thus unwittingly ensured the city’s future through tourism. Every year, Florentines honor her legacy with a historical parade — complete with period uniforms — through the city center, as well as with free entry to all city-run museums.

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Why was Anna Maria Luisa the last Medici? It’s a long story and the politics of it are incredibly tortuous but if I had to choose one word to encapsulate it, that word would be: syphilis. Her two brothers and her husband had syphilis and died without fathering any children. (Although perhaps prior to the syphilis…perhaps illegitimately? Who knows?) Anna Maria Luisa’s father, Grand Duke Cosimo III, tried in vain to alter the male-only Tuscan line of succession in order to allow her to ascend to power. Rather forward-thinking of him, wasn’t it? Or perhaps he just hated the other families’ guts. Why he didn’t succeed in putting Anna Maria Luisa in power is a whole other story but basically: politics. Which was too bad — I rather think she would have been a capable ruler.

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The wreath laid on Anna Maria Luisa’s tomb that day:

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As part of the celebration, entry was free to the Medici Chapels and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to explore the place. It being Florence, there was a lot of art obviously, by hallowed names such as Michelangelo.

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But it was the atmosphere of the place that struck me the most, the almost palpable wisps of power that have lingered throughout the centuries.

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The Cappella dei Principi, in particular, gave me goosebumps. I wish I had better photos of it. I walked in the doorway and was just awed (and you know I’m not particularly impressionable when it comes to art). I’m not even sure if any of the Medicis walked on those balconies but I could imagine the secret meetings, the whispered plots — the whole place was darkly ideal for all that.

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If you ever visit (or revisit) Florence, do read up on Medici history and give the Medici Chapels a go.

And say hi to one of my favorite sculptures for me:
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(Honestly, what is up with all these expressions? 😀 If you haven’t seen The Smiling Manacled Man and The Boy Who Just No Longer Gave AF, click here.)

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