Cosimo II de 'Medici was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1609 to 1621. During most of his eleven years of reign, he mostly delegated the administration of Tuscany to his ministers. He is known in particular for having been the patron of Galileo Galilei, his tutor in his youth.
Cosimo II was the eldest son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de 'Medici, and his wife Cristina di Lorena, daughter of Duke Carlo III. From an early age he received a modern and scientific education, geared to provide him with extensive knowledge in all fields, experimenting in particular classical culture, cosmography, drawing, mathematics, mechanics, dance, as well as the study of several languages such as German and Castilian who spoke fluently. Between 1605 and 1608 he also had Galileo Galilei as preceptor and this was the beginning of a great friendship that lasted until the premature death of Cosimo II. In 1606 Galilei dedicated his "Operations of geometric and military compasses", a treatise on the use and usefulness of the compass. Cosimo also received an adequate military and chivalrous preparation under the guidance of Silvio Piccolomini, a great constable of the Order of Santo Stefano and former general of the grand-ducal artillery, who initiated him to horseback riding and hunting. His other teachers in his youth were the Sienese scholar Celso Cittadini and the Florentine Piero di Giovanni Francesco Rucellai.
Father Ferdinando, always looking for a balance between France and Spain, who had married a French princess, chose as the bride for the young Cosimo the sister of the Queen of Spain, the Archduchess Mary Magdalene of Austria: marriage, celebrated with great pomp in Florence in 1608, was happy and cheered by the birth of eight children. The ceremony was followed by the representation of the Argonautics directly on the waters of the Arno.
In 1609 Ferdinando I died and his son saliva to the throne just nineteen; but his health was already undermined by tuberculosis and the new Grand Duke, aware of his physical weakness and the onset of a stomach disease since 1614, supported himself to govern Prime Minister Belisario Vinta, in addition to the presence of many influential family members. court including the mother, the brother Francesco, the uncle Giovanni (natural son of Cosimo I) and above all his wife.
The merit of the Grand Duke, conscious of his poor health conditions, was to encourage the birth of a collaboration among the numerous children, so that the firstborn Ferdinando II de 'Medici was not faced with the heavy legacy of governing alone. Moreover, Cosimo II gave precise instructions for the subsequent regency (no assignments to foreigners, not to keep confessors at court that were not Franciscans, not to touch the grand-ducal treasure), entrusted to the mother and wife until the age of Crown Prince Ferdinand, who but they were not respected by the two women.
Cosimo II always maintained a great interest in science and was a friend and protector of Galileo Galilei: in 1610 the Pisan scientist was recalled in his homeland, where he obtained a professorship at the University of Pisa, without lessons and was appointed Philosopher and Mathematician court. On this occasion, Galileo thought well to thank the Grand Duke by dedicating him the "Sidereus Nuncius" and calling "medicea sidera" (Medici asters) the four satellites of Jupiter he discovered. In 1616, on the occasion of a first attempt by the Inquisition to condemn the scientist, Cosimo II was determined to remove the famous subject from Roman justice.
Foreign policy under the reign of Cosimo II was a constant juggling between Spain and France in an attempt not to enter into any conflict, but this with poor results. In fact, Cosimo II was forced to conspicuous donations both in troops and in cash in favor of the Spaniards and his nephew Ferdinando Gonzaga (son of one of his cousins) during the Mantua War of Succession: in 1613, during the first invasion of Carlo Emanuele of Savoy in Monferrato, Cosimo II undertook to send military aid to the Gonzagas but the Tuscan contingents were blocked by the intervention of the Este and the pontiff to pass on their lands, arriving late on the battlefield when the clashes were over. Subsequently (1614-18), he lent money and men to the Spaniards during the wars fought by the Duchy of Milan once again against Charles Emmanuel of Savoy, in fulfillment of a feudal subjection that he had for Spain. In 1617 he made the choice to intervene a second time alongside Ferdinando Gonzaga on the occasion of the second invasion of the Savoy Monferrato.
Also in 1617, Cosimo II was called to intervene in the crisis of relations that broke out between Louis XIII of France and his mother, Maria de 'Medici, in connection with the murder of the French councilor of Tuscan origin Concino Concini. The French sovereign demanded the confiscation of the property that the Concini family owned in Florence, a request to which Cosimo II could not oppose his refusal, but when the king of France deliberately decided to capture the Tuscan vessels moored in Provence as a sign of reprisal, Cosimo proceeded with the confiscation of Provençal ones in Livorno. Relations with time faded and the question was positively resolved for Tuscany.
In 1619 the Grand Duke obtained the request for help from the emperor and for him he succeeded in recruiting a regiment to be sent to Germany at the expense of the Tuscan state which, although not conclusive in the Thirty Years' War, constituted the pretext for Cosimo to aspire to the assignment of the feud of Piombino. As early as 1621, however, the regiment was fired by the imperial court and with this act also terminated Cosimo II's expectations.
In an attempt to pursue anti-Ottoman sentiment in the Christian ideal of a new crusade against the Turks and to open new trade routes, he took part with the Tuscan navy to some expeditions in North Africa that led to the conquest of the Disto fortress in Negroponte and of that of Elimano in Caramania. From 1609 he tried to support the Shah of Persia, Abbas the Great, in his attempt to undermine the Ottoman Empire, but once again this operation was unsuccessful due to the hesitation of Cosimo II himself who did not feel ready. to wage a war against the Ottomans without first having heard the opinion of the pope and of Spain in this regard, not to mention the fact that the liberation of Jerusalem still seemed far from being carried out with a handful of men.
Despite these complications in the international field, the government of Cosimo II was wise and intelligent and assured Tuscany a period of economic prosperity and population growth, despite some years of bad harvests.
Cosimo II devoted himself diligently to the development of the Tuscan fleet, led by Admiral Jacopo Inghirami, who in those years distinguished himself in some actions against the Ottoman fleet and the development of the port of Livorno, for which if on one side he reconfirmed and expanded the the laws of his father in favor of the development of the new city, on the other hand he downgraded the projects too grandiose for the catchment area, essentially limited to the grand-ducal territory. He bought the fiefs of Scansano and Castellottieri in Maremma as well as that of Terrarossa in Lunigiana, but had to abandon the winning designs of the Principality of Piombino, Elba Island, Pianosa and Montecristo after the death of Jacopo VII Appiani in 1603 ( recovery operations of the territories already started by his father Ferdinando I). Despite the intent, the investiture of the feuds passed to Isabella Appiani in 1611 and to the husband of these Giorgio Mendoza, count of Binasco, who wanted to guarantee the succession to his family once his wife was dead. Cosimo II, disappointed and even frightened by the behavior of the Emperor who seemed to favor investiture to others rather than him, renounced the possession of Elba even when the sovereign of the Holy Roman Empire offered it to him as a pledge for a loan of 500,000 ducats.
Cosimo II died, just over thirty years old, on February 28, 1621. He was succeeded by his son Ferdinando.
For his aspirations and his family, Cosimo II was always attentive to a sensible matrimonial policy aimed at enlarging the fortunes of his family, even if these operations more often than not were successful. Cosimo could boast four sisters of marriageable age who represented the ideal terrain for his projects. In 1611 he personally took care of the negotiations with Carlo Emanuele di Savoia with the intention of marrying his son with one of the Tuscan princesses, but not grasping that the Duke of Savoy had much higher political aims and unnecessarily burdened this union with a series of burdensome requests, such as the purchase of numerous lands and fiefdoms in the Mantuan to grant a worthy dowry to the sister, interceding with Maria de 'Medici to grant the country of Vaud to the Savoy.
The project of marriage between Prince Henry of Wales and the sister of Cosimo II, Caterina, was also inconclusive. This marriage was strongly supported by the English prime minister, the Count of Salisbury, in 1611 and had also proved to be pleasing to King James I, who glimpsed the possibility of binding to a family with deep links rooted in Europe, rich and Catholic ( in fact, in the idea of the British sovereign the ideal of restoring Catholicism in England). Cosimo II himself was in agreement that his sister was allowed to freely profess the Catholic religion once integrated into the English court, but Cardinal Bellarmino and Pope Paul V opposed this process. To solve the diplomatic problem created, death intervened. sudden by the Prince of Wales in 1612.
In 1616 Cosimo II tried to marry his sister Eleonora to King Philip III of Spain, who had recently remained a widower and was however reluctant to undertake new emotional ties and everything became quiet with the death of the princess in 1617.
Cosimo II succeeded in organizing other marriages that, although less illustrious, were long-lasting and happy: his sister Caterina married Ferdinando Gonzaga, duke of Mantua in 1617, and the other sister Claudia married Prince Federico Della Rovere in 1621, son of Francesco Maria, Duke of Urbino.