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Italian bourgeois family that ruled Florence and later Tuscany from c. 1430 to 1737. The family, noted for its often tyrannical rulers and its beneficent patrons of the arts, also provided the church with four popes (Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV, and Leo XI) and married into the royal families of Europe, notably in France (Catherine de Médicis and Marie de Médicis). The effective founder of the family was Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (1360–1429), a merchant who amassed great wealth in trade and was the virtual ruler of Florence from 1421 to 1429. From his two sons derived the major branches of the family. The so-called elder branch began with Cosimo de' Medici. His grandson, Lorenzo de' Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent, greatly expanded the family's power. His son Giuliano de' Medici became duke de Nemours. Another son, Giovanni, became Pope Leo X. Lorenzo's great-granddaughter was Catherine de Médicis. Another of Cosimo's grandsons, Giulio de' Medici (1478–1534) became pope as Clement VII. His probable illegitimate son, Alessandro de' Medici, a tyrant, was the last of the direct male line of the elder branch. The so-called younger branch of the family began with Giovanni's younger son Lorenzo de' Medici. His son Giovanni married Caterina Sforza of the powerful Sforza family, and their son Giovanni de' Medici became a noted general. His son Cosimo I became duke of Florence, and Cosimo's son Francesco de' Medici (1541–87) was the father of Marie de Médicis. Cosimo I's grandson Cosimo II (1590–1621) gave up the family practice of banking and commerce. Cosimo II's grandson Cosimo III (1642–1723) was a weak ruler, under whom Tuscany's power declined. His son Gian Gastone de' Medici (1671–1737), who died without issue, was the last grand duke of Tuscany.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Medici family, visit Britannica.com.
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