Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christina of Lorraine, Regent of Tuscany

Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess and Co-Regent of Tuscany (died 19 December 1637)

If you've studied Galileo Galei, chances are you have encountered his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615), in which he defends himself and his scientific views in a carefully worded explanation of the relationship between science and religion--specifically, the Catholic religion and religious authority. 

Christina of Lorraine, as Grand Duchess,
c. 1588
The woman to whom he addressed this letter is Christina of Lorraine, then regent of Tuscany. As Grand Duchess of Tuscany, she had been married to Ferdinando, Grand Duke of Tuscany, head of the Medici family. After his death in 1609, her son Cosimo assumed his father's title, but when Cosimo died in 1621, Christina and her daughter-in-law, Maria Maddalena, became co-regents for Christina's grandson, then ten years old.

Christina was well-prepared for her role. She was the favorite granddaughter of Catherine de' Medici, who had served as regent of France on many occasions, notably the minority of her son, Charles IX (1560-63), and, after his death, before Henry III succeeded to the throne. Christina's paternal grandmother, Christine of Denmark, had been regent of Lorraine for her son (Christina's father) from 1545 to 1552, during his minority. 

And so the Dowager Duchess of Tuscany was not unfamiliar with the role of the regent. She and her daughter-in-law coordinated their efforts and, despite the insults of contemporary chroniclers, they managed their partnership without conflict or dispute.

With an exceptional education overseen by Catherine de' Medici, Christina of Lorraine was a notable patron of both science and religion. It was she who invited Galileo to the Tuscan court in 1605, where he became the tutor of her son, Cosimo. When he discovered the moons of Jupiter, the "Medicean stars," Galileo named them after Christina's sons.

As a religious patron, Christina was a supporter of a number of institutions, especially female monasteries. 

Born in Nancy on 16 August 1565, Christina of Lorraine, Dowager Duchess of Tuscany, died at the age of 72 on 19 December 1637.

For an excellent essay, see the entry in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, which you can access by clicking here.