A regal lineage is one of the hallmarks of royal dynasties throughout history. In no other aspect of society are the details of one’s birth as crucial to their destiny as the royal houses of kings and queens, emperors and empresses. 

Over the centuries, countless battles have been waged over the true and divine right for a royal descendant to assume their rightful place on the throne. 

The idea of blue blood – the undisputed royal lineage that determines a right to the throne or a place in the line of heirs – has been a cornerstone of royal history since the earliest times of civilisation and the evolution of social hierarchies. 

So it would seem impossible for anyone not born into a royal family to ever hope to ascend the social ranks and take their place at the epitome of power, influence and majesty as a member of royalty. 

Yet, from the earliest times, all royal lines had to begin somewhere. The regal dynasties that flourished over the centuries of the Middle Ages stemmed from humbler origins during the earliest times in the history of their royal family line. 

As the great royal lineages that made the history books were often so powerful and established that they endured for centuries, it’s easy to forget that these regal successions evolved over many generations. The founders and earliest members of these blue bloodlines didn’t necessarily enjoy the lives of grandeur and splendour that their descendants would come to expect.

The Medici Family

One example of the rise of royals who started with nothing is the Medici Family.

The Grand Duchess Maria Maddalena, The Grand Duke Cosimo II, and their elder son, the future Ferdinando II
Justus Sustermans or follower, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Medicis became a legendary dynasty that went on to achieve international fame and fortune, even being credited as the founders of one of history’s greatest cultural revolutions known as The Renaissance. 

The reach and influence of this powerful family would emerge from the Tuscan countryside to include kings and queens, grand dukes and princes, and even the supreme role of Pope within the mighty Roman Catholic Church. 

The story of the rise of this beguiling Italian family would become the stuff of legend, captivating the people of their times and catching the imagination of future generations who would be equally fascinated with their lives, deeds and accomplishments, as well as their journey to power and privilege. 

Yet the Medici Family history began with much more ordinary people, most likely unaware of the great destiny and royal rise that their descendants would embark upon. 

Humble Origins

The story of the Medici dynasty traces its roots back to an agricultural region of Italy, in what is modern-day Tuscany, around the 13th century. 

The name Medici suggests some kind of medical background – medico is Italian for medical doctor, and medici is the plural of this. 

So, it’s possible that the original Medici were a family of medical doctors, and while this kind of profession would usually ensure an elevated status within society, it was far from the royal roles and noble stature that lay ahead for the later members of the Medici family. 

It’s also possible that the earliest Medicis lived lives typical of the agricultural workers of the Middle Ages, the simple, hard-working lifestyles familiar to rural medieval peasants and their families. 

The Rise of A Banking Dynasty

The trajectory of the legendary Medici dynasty really took off when the family founded the Medici Bank in the late 14th century. This financial institution would become one of the greatest and most powerful banks of the Renaissance, its reach dominating Europe and beyond. 

Yet it would be a number of generations – and twists in the family fortunes – before the Medicis of rural Tuscany would become the ostensible kings of Florence. 

The Rise To Royalty

As the power and wealth of the Medici Bank became such a force within Renaissance commerce, the political influence of the Medicis also grew until they were the undisputed leaders of Florence – both in terms of social superiority and commercial power. 

Their dominion – the state of Florence, which would become the heart of the Renaissance movement – was a political republic, and as such did not have a crowned sovereign. 

However, the eminent status of the Medici family, along with their vast wealth and undoubted political dominance, ensured that this legendary dynasty were royals in all but name, being cited as the uncrowned princes of the Florentine region. 

In time, the Medicis would attain genuine royal status. A step towards this was in acquiring the hereditary title of the Duke of Florence in the 16th century. This title was later elevated by Pope Prius V to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which more accurately reflected their expanded territories and was an official monarchy that replaced the Republic of Tuscany. 

Ecclesiastical Royalty

The rise of the Medici family is undoubtedly partly the result of its connections with the Roman Catholic Church. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the church was a kind of monarchy in its own right, with tremendous political power, as well as fortune and influence. 

The Medici family would ultimately see four of its members attain the highest role within the Church, the position of Pope. It’s highly likely that these family ties and powerful positions resulted in advantageous results for the entire Medici line. This papal connection was certainly the keystone of their ascension to royalty, as their Grand Duchy of Tuscany was issued by papal decree – one of the few ways to attain royal status. 

The House of Medici

The story of the House of Medici is as compelling today as it must have been during their rise and fall in the centuries of the Renaissance and beyond. 

The journey from rural Italy to royal dominance is the stuff of fairytales, it’s little wonder that both ancient and modern history have been so captivated by this dynamic family line. The fact that the Medici story has sparked an entire TV series that still intrigues people all over the world centuries after their reign is a testament to the enduring and compelling fascination of the rise of royals who started with nothing.