Eleonora Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel Osorio, Marquesa de Villafranca (1522 - 1562)

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Nicknames: "Eleonora /Di Toledo/", "Her married name was Leonor de Toledo-de' Medici"
Birthplace: Toledo, CM, España
Death: Died in Pisa, Florence Italy
Occupation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleonora_di_Toledo, Eleonora of Toledo, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Managed by: Flemming Funch
Last Updated:

About Eleonora Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel Osorio, Marquesa de Villafranca

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleonora_di_Toledo

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Eleonora di Toledo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eleonora di Toledo (1522– December 17, 1562) was a Spanish noblewoman who was Duchess of Florence from 1539. [1] She is credited with being the first modern style first lady, or consort.

Eleonora 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. [2] 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. [3] 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.

Eleonora, 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.

Children

Eleonora 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.

Consort

Eleonora'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, Lorenzaccio 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 Eleonora, 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 Eleonora 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.

[edit]Personality

Contemporary accounts of Eleonora belie the stern formal appearance of her many portraits. In her private capacity she loved to gamble [5], 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. [6]

She employed continually 10 gold and silver weavers to work on her apparel. [7] 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. [8]

[edit]Legacy

Eleonora di 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. [9] 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 Eleonora, distraught, died a week later from grief. The truth, proven by modern day exhumations and forensic science, was that Eleonora and her sons, as the Medici family had always claimed, died together from malaria in 1562. [10]

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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.[1] She is credited with being the first modern first lady, or consort. She served as regent of Florence during the absence of her spouse.

Eleanor was born in Toledo, the second daughter of the Viceroy of Naples, Don Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, 2nd Marquis of Villafranca - Charles V's lieutenant-governor, - and Maria Osorio.[2] Her father was the second son of Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, 2nd Duke of Alba and therefore, the third Duke of Alba was his eldest brother. Eleonora di Toledo became the wife of Cosimo I de' Medici, the ruler of Tuscany, whom she married in 1539. Her father demanded that Cosimo settle a large amount of money on her as her dowry, but as the Medici were new to their ducal status, the marriage was attractive for a variety of political and dynastic reasons. Eleonora's royal Castilian ancestors and relations with the Habsburgs provided the Medici with the blue they had hitherto lacked and began the process of placing them on a footing with other European sovereigns.[3]

Through her father, Eleonora also provided the Medici with a powerful link to Spain, at that time ultimately in control of Florence, so that the marriage offered Cosimo I the opportunity to show sufficient loyalty to and trust in Spain that Spanish troops could be withdrawn from the province.

Eleanor and Cosimo had eleven children, including five sons who reached maturity (Francesco, Giovanni, Garzia, Ferdinando, and Pietro); 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.

Eleanor of Toledo with her son Giovanni, painted by Bronzino in 1545. It's considered the first state portrait to depict a ruler's wife with his heir. The picture was intended to demonstrate the wealth, domesticity and continuity of the Medici. A much repeated myth tells this dress served as her shroud. However, newer research has examined her funeral dress and found it to be another [4]

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 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 [5], 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.[6]

She employed continually 10 gold and silver weavers to work on her apparel.[5] 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.[7]

[edit]Legacy

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. Her funeral dress still survive and is today in the care of Galleria del Costume in Palazzo Pitti, a palace 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.[8] 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.[8]

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Eleonora Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel Osorio, Marquesa de Villafranca's Timeline

1522
1522
Toledo, CM, España
1539
March 29, 1539
Age 17
Firenze,Firenze,,Italy
1540
April 3, 1540
Age 18
1541
March 25, 1541
Age 19
Florence, Italy
1542
August 31, 1542
Age 20
Firenze, Firenze, Italy
1543
September 28, 1543
Age 21
1545
June 7, 1545
Age 23
Florence, Italy
1546
August 10, 1546
Age 24
1547
July 5, 1547
Age 25
1548
1548
Age 26