Eleonora, Giovanna, and their Florentine Sons

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Abstract or Description

Both the second Duchess of Florence and the first Grand Duchess of Tuscany were foreign-born women whose marriages elevated both the positions of their respective husbands and the territory over which those men ruled. Their foreignness, though, meant that they were subjected to certain critiques, including difficulties mastering the vernacular, strange customs and expectations, and divided loyalties. This tension could best be resolved by producing a healthy male heir, which would create an unbreakable tie to the state. I will examine how contemporary and historical treatments of these two women have been overshadowed by the most important distinction between them: Eleonora mothered seven sons (three survived to adulthood), whereas Giovanna only gave birth to one live son (who died at age five). One is remembered as the shrewd and beautiful ancestor to royal and noble families across Europe; the other as an unintelligent and unattractive woman scorned by her husband.

Additional Information

"Georgia Southern University faculty member, Kathleen M. Comerford presented Eleonora, Giovanna, and their Florentine Sons in the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, March 2023.


Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting


San Juan, PR