Biography of Camilla Martelli
Born into one of the most important families of the Florentine patricians, Camilla was the daughter of Antonio Martelli and Fiammetta Soderini. After the death of Cosimo's first wife Eleonora of Toledo and after the end of his relationship with Eleonora of Albizi, Camilla became Cosimo's lover despite being 26 years his junior. Camilla stood by him during his old age, when, because of his poor health, he retired to private life in the villa di Castello, abdicating in favor of his son Francesco I de' Medici.
Camilla had a daughter with Cosimo in 1568, Virginia, and she was always resented by the children from Cosimo's first marriage. Despite their opposition Cosimo married Camilla in 1570 at the explicit order of Pope Pius V. However, the marriage was morganatic, and Camilla was not given the title "Grand Duchess." In response to Francesco's complaints, Cosimo wrote, "I am a private person and I have taken as wife a Florentine gentlewoman, and of good family," meaning that because he was no longer grand duke, he was free to choose his wife from any rank of society. Virginia was legitimized and integrated into the Tuscan line of succession.
Camilla was the main focus of bitter arguments between Cosimo and his children in his old age. They did not agree with her appetite for ostentatious luxury, which appeared vulgar in comparison to the tasteful elegance of his late wife Eleonora of Toledo. The Grand Duke, not to arouse scandal, went into seclusion and prohibited parties and official celebrations.
In 1574 Cosimo I, who had suffered at least one stroke, had limited mobility and was unable to speak due to circulatory problems; he died on April 30. After his death Camilla was forced to retire to the Florentine convent of Murate. She was later moved to the convent of Santa Monica. She was allowed to leave the convent only to attend the wedding of her daughter Virginia, on 6 February 1586, with Cesare d'Este, himself the natural son of Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. Eager to enjoy greater freedom after the death of Francesco I, she asked Grand Duke Ferdinando I to let her leave the convent. He granted her wish, but after a series of political crises, he forced her to return to Santa Monica where she died in 1590.