Basilica di San Lorenzo Florence, Città Metropolitana di Firenze, Toscana, Italy
Ferdinando II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (July 14, 1610 – May 23, 1670) was the fifth grand-duke of Tuscany.
He was the son of Cosimo II de Medici (1590–1621) and Maria Magdalena of Habsburg (1589–1631). No great events of note marked Ferdinando II's reign, and he has gone down in history as a weak and incompetent ruler. Yet he practised the only possible political strategy at a time when a regional state such as Tuscany had become too small to face up to Medici: a policy of ‘equidistance’ as Tuscany shifted between Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire. A period which historians have prejudically characterised as one without major developments was, in reality, one without war, though an epoch culturally suffocated by the Counter-Reformation.
Sincerely interested in science since childhood, the Grand Duke used to keep barometers, thermometers and other technological instruments at Palazzo Pitti for his own pleasure; he was a generous patron of researchers such as Galileo Galilei, Evangelista Torricelli and Vincenzo Viviani, not disdaining to devote himself personally to studies on the artificial incubation of hens and improvements to the thermometer. In 1633, during his grand duchy, the trial of the Inquisition against Galileo Galilei was initiated, for which Ferdinand worked vigorously so that the Pisan scientist was recognized innocent and left free to continue his studies. After the condemnation of Galileo Ferdinando cautiously pursued the objective of its revocation or attenuation. In 1642 he founded the Accademia Medicea Sperimentale, from which the Accademia del Cimento originated, conceived by his brother Leopoldo in 1657, the first European scientific society of an experimental nature. In 1654 he inaugurated the first meteorological service in the world with the help of the Jesuit Luigi Antinori.
From a sexual point of view, the sovereign did his duty: in 1635 he married his cousin Vittoria Della Ròvere and produced two sons who survived him. Otherwise, his preferences ran towards men, and were well known at the time. Luigi Gualtieri recorded a number of different anecdotes relating to his sexual behaviour. For instance, on one winter's evening, his mother brought to Ferdinando a list of sodomites whom she thought ought to be punished by the state; Ferdinando objected that the list was incomplete, and wrote his own name on it. When his mother insisted that the sodomites should be burned at the stake, he threw the list into the fireplace and said, ‘They are hereby burned just as you condemned them.’
Marital relations with his wife were interrupted when she once entered Ferdinando's bedroom unannounced and found him making love to his page, Bruto Della Molara. When Vittoria tried to punish him by sulking, he reacted by breaking off all sexual relations with her (a state of affairs which lasted for 18 years). When she tried to intimidate him by asking the priest of the church of San Lorenzo (where Ferdinando attended mass) to preach a fiery sermon denouncing sodomy, according to gossip reported by Gualtieri, the grand-duke ordered Bruto to take a gift to the priest in order to seduce him. Bruto acquitted himself of the task and the priest called on Ferdinando to thank him for the gift, whereupon the grand-duke told the priest he knew about Bruto's feat. The terrified Jesuit fled Florence, victim to one of the first cases of ‘outing’ in history.
It is noteworthy that Ferdinando and Bruto had a long-lasting relationship to such an extent that Bruto left his service as page only at the age of 36.
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