It is a sign that things are moving in the right direction when childlessness is depicted in a positive light in popular TV shows

By Nina Steele 

Medici Masters of FlorenceI am thoroughly enjoying watching the TV series, Medici: Masters of Florence, on Netflix, starring Dustin Hoffman as Giovanni di Bicci de’ Medici, the patriarch and founder of the Medici dynasty. The show, which is set in the 15th century, charts the rise of the Medici family to prominence in Florence.

As you would expect from a dynasty, continuity was key to the grand plan of the family patriarch. That continuity was to be realised with the help of his two sons, Cosimo de’ Medici and Lorenzo de’ Medici, both brilliantly played by Richard Madden and Stuart Martin respectively.

As heir apparent, finding a suitable Bride for Cosimo de’ Medici was a matter of urgency. His own wishes of marrying a peasant, whom he had fallen madly in love with, were swiftly set aside. Instead, duty demanded that he married into a noble family, for in spite of their wealth, the patriarch’s humble beginnings meant that he was aware that money alone wasn’t enough to secure the place of the family as one of the greatest in the land.

Although Cosimo’s marriage produced a son, issues of succession came to the fore, when his daughter in law had a miscarriage. Knowing what I know about matters of succession, particularly at that time, I expected immense pressure to be put on the daughter in law. Instead, what we get is a very understanding mother in law, brilliantly played by Annabel Scholey.

Indeed, as the wife of the heir apparent and witness to all the intrigues, with a reputation for always speaking her mind, I expected the mother in law to show no sympathy to her daughter in law. Yet to my surprise she proves herself to be quite ahead of her time. Of course, this being a TV show, chances are that what happened in reality, bears no resemblance to what is being depicted in the show. Even so, the fact that the makers chose to show childlessness in this way, is commendable.

The scene in question happens in Episode 3, of the first season (there has only been one season so far), when the daughter in Law has a miscarriage and asks her mother in law tearfully, what will happen to her if she is unable to bear children. After comforting her, the mother in law’s parting words were: “There are more ways for women to be indispensable than in just bearing children”.

In real life, the daughter in law did produce children, and this will most certainly be reflected in later episodes. Even so, the fact that a show which was first aired on Italian TV, chose to tackle childlessness in this way, says a lot about how far we have come on this issue.

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