The Duchess and her Cook

Throughout history, women tend to get a pretty bad treatment, but they are not always passive victims. The Medici family, once fabulously rich and successful, actually died out in the mid 18th century, with a surprising number of them living short lives, or, in several cases, just not interested in women, which can be a problem in attracting a suitable wife.

Margaret-Louise, daughter of Louis XIV’s uncle, was not happy at being forced to marry Cosimo de Medici, ‘a gloomy, plump Italian with thick lips and droopy eyes, the heir to an impoverished duchy.’ So she fought and argued, eventually after providing two heirs, in 1671 managing to return to France, having claimed ill health. This is from The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert:

“there were further quarrels over the quality of various jewels he gave her, over her extravagance, over her servants and particularly over a male cook with whom she behaved outrageously in order to punish Cosimo for having dismissed two German grooms and a French dancing-master. ‘Now this cook’, so it was recorded,
either dreaded, or pretended to dread, being tickled, and the Duchess, aware of his weakness, delighted in ticking him… He defended himself, shouting and running from one side of the room to the other, which made her laugh excessively.

When tired of this she would beat the cook over the head with a pillow, and the cook would take shelter under her bed where she went on beating him until, tired out with her exertions, she sank into a chair. As she did so her band of musicians started once more to play the tune they had abandoned when the romp had begun. One night the cook, being very drunk, made so much noise while the Grand Duchess was belabouring him with her pillow that he aroused the Grand Duke who, coming down to see what was happening, ‘instantly condemned the cook to the galleys’ – though he later reprieved him.”

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