History of Tuscany


Valleys of Tuscany

History of Tuscany

The Medici family

Tuscany is located in the western part of peninsular Italy, north of Rome and south of Genoa. It is bounded by the Apennines to the north and east and by the Mediterranean to the west. Its major cities are Florence, Pisa, Sienna, Lucca, Arezzo, and Pistoia. Its major river is the Arno, on which Florence and Pisa are located. The Region of Tuscany includes the provinces of Arezzo, Florence (Firenze), Grosseto, Leghorn (Livorno), Massa and Carrara, Pisa, and Sienna (Siena) and has an area of 9304 sq. miles. The history of Tuscany and Tuscan culture have played a role in Western civilisation of importance far out of proportion to the tiny size of Tuscany and its cities.

Etruscan, Roman and Mediaeval Tuscany

In the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., the Etruscans were the dominant power in northern and central Italy, and brought Latium and Rome under their supremacy. Towards the end of the sixth century B.C., Rome gained its independence and from the second half of the fifth century it began a struggle for supremacy with the Etruscans and other italic tribes. There were many changes of fortune during the long war, but it ended about 280 B.C. with the overthrow of Etruria. During the period of the Roman Empire, Etruria formed the seventh region of Italy.

After the fall of the Western Empire, Tuscany was ruled successively by the Germans under Odoacer, by the Ostrogoths, by the Eastern Empire through Narses, and by the Lombards. Tuscany, or Tuscia as it was called in the Middle Ages, became a part of the Frankish Empire during the reign of Charlemagne and was created a margravate, the margrave of which was also made the ruler of the Duchy of Spoleto and Camerino several times. In 1030, the margravate fell to Boniface, of the Canossa family. Boniface was also Duke of Spoleto, Count of Modena, Mantua and Ferrara, and was the most powerful prince of the empire in Italy. He was followed by his wife Beatrice, first as regent for their minor son who died in 1055, then as regent for their daughter Matilda. In 1076, Beatrice died. Both she and her daughter were enthusiastic adherents of Pope Gregory VII in his contest with the empire. After Matilda's death in 1115, her hereditary possessions were for a long time an object of strife between the papacy and the emperors.

During the years 1139-45, Tuscany was ruled by Margrave Hulderich, who was appointed by the Emperor Conrad III. Hulderich was followed by Guelf, brother of Henry the Lion. In 1195, the Emperor Henry VI gave the margravate in fief to his brother Philip. In 12O9, Otto IV renounced in favour of the papacy all claim to Matilda's lands, as did also the Emperor Frederick II in the Golden Bull of Eger of 1213, but both firmly maintained the rights of the empire in the Tuscan cities.

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The ascendancy of Florence and the Medici

During the struggle between the popes and the emperors, and in the period following the fall of the Hohenstaufens when the throne was vacant, Florence, Sienna, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo and other Tuscan cities attained constantly increasing independence and autonomy. They also acquired control of Matilda's patrimony, so far as it was situated in Tuscany.

In the 14 C and 15 C, all of Tuscany, except Sienna and Lucca, came under the suzerainty of Florence and the Medici. In 1523, the Emperor Charles V made Alessandro Medici hereditary Duke of Florence. The last Tuscan towns that still enjoyed independence were acquired by Alessandro's successor Cosimo I (1537-74) partly by cunning and bribery, partly with Spanish aid by force of arms. In 1557, Philip II, who required Cosimo's aid against the pope, granted him Sienna which in 1555 had surrendered to the emperor. Only a small part of Siennese territory remained Spanish as the Stato degli Presidi. Thus the Medici acquired the whole of Tuscany and in 1569 the pope made Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany. Although at the beginning of Cosimo's reign there were several conspiracies, especially by the exiled families, the Fuorisciti, the Florentines gradually became accustomed to the absolute government of the ruler. Cosimo had created a well-ordered state out of the chaos existing previously and had established this state on the foundation of justice, equality of all citizens, good financial administration and sufficient military strength. Art, literature and learning also enjoyed a new era of prosperity during his reign. After long negotiations, in 1576 his son Francesco I (1574-87) received from the Emperor Maximilian the confirmation of the grand ducal title which had been refused his father. In his foreign policy Francesco was dependent on the Habsburg dynasty. During his weak reign the power was in the hands of women and favourites, and the corruption of the nobility and officials gained ground again, while the discontent of the common people was increased by heavy taxes. After the death of his first wife, the grand duke married his mistress, the Venetian Bianca Capello. As he had only daughters, one of whom was the French queen, Maria de Medici, and the attempt to substitute an illegitimate son failed, he was followed by his brother Cardinal Ferdinand (1587-1605) who has been accused, without any historical proof, of poisoning his brother and sister-in-law.

In foreign policy Ferdinand made himself independent of the emperor and Spain, and, as an opponent of the influence of the Habsburgs, supported the French King Henry IV. Henry's return to the Catholic Church was largely due to Ferdinand's influence. Ferdinand benefited his duchy by an excellent administration and large public works, e.g. the draining of the Mianatales and the Maremma of Siena, and the construction of the port of Leghorn. He re-established public safety by repressing brigandage. In 1589, he resigned the cardinalate with the consent of Sixtus V, and married Christine, daughter of Henry III of France. His relations with the papacy were almost always of the best. He promoted the reform of the Tuscan monasteries and the execution of the decrees of the Council of Trent. His son Cosimo II (1609-21) married Margareta, sister of the Emperor Ferdinand II. Cosimo II ruled in the same spirit as his father and raised the prosperity of the country to a height never before attained. He was succeeded by a minor son of eleven years, Ferdinand II (1621-70), the regent being the boy's mother. Margareta's weakness led to the loss of Tuscany's right to the Duchy of Urbino, which fell vacant, and which Pope Urban VII took as an unoccupied fief of the Church. From 1628 Ferdinand ruled independently. To the disadvantage of his country, he formed a close union with the Habsburg dynasty which involved him in a number of Italian wars. These wars, together with pestilence, were disastrous. Cosimo III (1670-1723) brought Tuscany to the brink of ruin by his unlucky policy and his extravagance. His autocratic methods, inconsistency and preposterous measures in internal affairs place upon him the greater part of the responsibility for the extreme arbitrariness that developed among the state officials, especially among those of the judiciary. Although he sought to increase the importance of the Church, he damaged it by using the clergy for police purposes, proceeded against heretics with undue severity, and sought to aid the conversion of non-Catholics and Jews by any and all means. During the War of the Spanish Succession, the grand duke desired to remain neutral, although he had accepted Sienna in fief once more from Philip V. During this period, Tuscany was ravaged by pestilence and the war taxes and forced contributions levied on it by the imperial generals completely destroyed its prosperity. Neither of Cosimo's two sons had male heirs, and finally he obstinately pursued the plan, although without success, to transfer the succession to his daughter. Before this, however, the powers had settled in the Peace of Utrecht that when the Medici were extinct the succession to Tuscany was to fall to the Spanish Bourbons. Cosimo III was followed by his second son Giovan Gastone (1723-37), who permitted the country to be governed by his unscrupulous chamberlain, Giuliano Dami. When he died, the Medici dynasty ended.

More about the history of the Medici family.

Tuscany :: Austrian rule

In accordance with the Treaty of Vienna of 1735 Francis, Duke of Lorraine, who had married Maria Theresa in 1736, became grand duke (1737-65) instead of the Spanish Bourbons. Franz Joseph garrisoned the country with Austrian troops and transferred its administration to imperial councillors. As Tuscany now became an Austrian territory, belonging as inheritance to the second son, Tuscany was more or less dependent upon Vienna. However, the country once more greatly advanced in economic prosperity, especially during the reign of Leopold I (1765-90), who, like his brother the Emperor Joseph I, was full of zeal for reform, but who went about it more slowly and cautiously. In 1782, Leopold suppressed the Inquisition, reduced the possessions of the Church, suppressed numerous monasteries, and interfered in purely internal ecclesiastical matters for the benefit of the Jansenists. After his election as emperor, he was succeeded in 1790 by his second son, Ferdinand III, who ruled as his father had done. During the French Revolution, Ferdinand lost his duchy in 1789 and 1800. It was given to Duke Louis of Parma on 1 October, under the name of the Kingdom of Etruria. In 1807, Tuscany was united directly with the French Empire, and Napoleon made his sister Eliza Bacciocchi its administrator with the title of grand duchess. After Napoleon's overthrow, the Congress of Vienna gave Tuscany again to Ferdinand and added to it Elba, Piombino, and the Stato degli Presidi. A number of the monasteries suppressed by the French were re-established by the Concordat of 1815 but otherwise the government was influenced by the principles of Josephinism in its relations with the Catholic Church. When the efforts of the Italian secret societies for the formation of a united national state spread to Tuscany, Ferdinand formed a closer union with Austria, and the Tuscan troops were placed under Austrian officers as preparation for the breaking-out of war. The administration of his son Leopold II (1824-60) was long considered the most liberal in Italy, although he reigned as an absolute sovereign. The Concordat of 1850 also gave the Church greater liberty. Notwithstanding the economic and intellectual growth which Tuscany enjoyed, the intrigues of the secret societies found the country fruitful soil, for the rulers were always regarded as foreigners and the connection they formed with Austria made them unpopular.

Tuscany :: Revolution and unification

In 1847, a state council was established. On 15 Feb., 1848, a constitution was issued, and on 26 June was opened. Notwithstanding this, the sedition against the dynasty increased and in August there were street fights at Leghorn in which the troops proved untrustworthy. Although Leopold had called a democratic ministry in October, with Guerrazzi and Montanelli at its head, and had taken part in the Piedmontese war against Austria, yet the Republicans forced him to flee Tuscany and go to Gaeta in Feb., 1849. A provisional republican government was established at Florence. Before long this was forced to give way to an opposing movement of moderated Liberalism. After this, by the aid of Austria, Leopold was able, in July 1849, to return. In 1852 he suppressed the constitution issued in 1848 and governed as an absolute ruler, although with caution and moderation. However, the suppression of the constitution and the fact that up to 1855 an Austrian army of occupation remained in Tuscany made him greatly disliked. When in 1859 war was begun between Sardinia-Piedmont and Austria, and Leopold became the confederate of Austria, a fresh revolution broke out which forced him to leave. For the period of the war Victor Emmanuel occupied the country. After the Peace of Villa Franca had restored Tuscany to Leopold, the latter abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand IV. On 16 Aug., 1859, a national assembly declared the deposition of the dynasty, and a second assembly (12 March, 1860) voted for annexation to Piedmont, officially proclaimed on 22 March. Since then Tuscany has been a part of the Kingdom of Italy, whose capital was Florence from 1865 to 1871.

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