Medici, an Italian family of merchants and bankers who ruled the republic of Florence through economic power and personal influence. By their patronage of the arts they made Florence the center of the Italian Renaissance. The Medici were created dukes of Florence by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1531, and grand dukes of Tuscany by Emperor Maximilian II in 1575. The last Medici grand duke was deposed by the Austrians in 1737. Important members of the Medici family included the following.

Giovanni De' Medici

(1360–1429) established the family fortune and made himself ruler of Florence's merchant oligarchy.

Cosimo De' Medici

(1389–1464), his son, used his banking business to gain political power and led Florence in a long period of prosperity and artistic achievement.

Lorenzo the Magnificent

(1449–1492), grandson of Cosimo, gained fame as a statesman and patron of arts and letters. He was recognized as a poet himself and was largely responsible for the Tuscan dialect becoming the national speech of Italy.

Cosimo (I) the Great

(1519–1574) succeeded to the dukedom in 1537 and ruled as a despot. He restored the duchy of Tuscany by conquering the other republics that had been part of it.

Other Prominent Medici

were Pope Leo X (1475–1521); Pope Clement VII (1478–1534); Catherine (1519–1589), wife of Henry II of France; and Marie (1573–1642), wife of Henry IV of France and regent for their son Louis XIII.