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Medici family death case finally solved

By Mamatha

Washington, July 15 (ANI): Solving a more than 400-year-old cold case, forensic scientists have revealed that malaria, not murder, was responsible for the deaths of two members of the clan that dominated the Florentine Renaissance.

Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his second wife, Bianca Cappello, died after succumbing to malaria.

The couple died a few hours apart in October 1587 after 11 days of agony and their almost simultaneous deaths led to speculation that they had been murdered.

And now scientists who exhumed the remains of several members of the Medicis, have conclusively dismissed the theory of family murders,.

Malaria, not poison as long rumored, killed Francesco I de' edici, and his second wife, Bianca Cappello,

"It appears it wasn't poison. We carried an immunologic investigation and found evidence of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum. ... We are talking of the most deadly of the Plasmodium species that cause malaria," Discovery News quoted Gino Fornaciari, professor of forensic anthropology and director of the Pathology Museum at the University of Pisa, as saying.

When Francesco's wife, Joan of Austria- the ugly daughter of Ferdinand of Habsburg-died, her married his beautiful, long-time mistress Bianca Cappello.

She lived only one day longer than he.

Although the original death certificates attributed the couple's demise to tertian malarial fever, rumours soon spread that Francesco's brother, Cardinal Ferdinando (1549-1609), had a hand in the their deaths.

It was said that Ferdinando, who was at risk of being excluded from the succession, never tolerated the presence of the new Grand Duchess at the Medici court.

The rumours were further fuelled by the fact that Francesco and Bianca fell ill a couple of weeks after Ferdinando came to the villa at Poggio a Caiano, near Florence, where the couple lived.

However, Fornaciari said that Ferdinando should be fully exonerated.

In 2006, Fornaciari questioned the results of a toxicological study that pointed to arsenic poisoning as the cause of Francesco's death.

"I believe that the high arsenic concentrations found by the researchers were due to the frequent use of arsenic mixtures in embalming. Francesco died of pernicious malaria," said Fornaciari.

The study has been published in Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. (ANI)

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