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  #1  
Old 01-04-2011, 09:33 PM
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Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), Queen Consort of Henri II

I will confess I hadn't heard of her until last year. While browsing the biography section in the bookstore, I picked one up on her and thought it looked interesting, so I bought it. I'm only halfway through it.

Is she the most hated Queen in French history or has her reputation been restored? Did it deserve to be restored? What do you think of her contributions to French culture?

(BTW: the biography I picked up on her is by Leonie Frieda.)
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Old 01-05-2011, 06:36 PM
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Catherine de Médicis made significant contributions to French arts & culture during her lifetime .

See - Catherine de' Medici's patronage of the arts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 01-05-2011, 06:48 PM
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Well, in her defence, it must have been quite difficult for her to become a regent for her (weak) sons, while France digressed towards a sort of civil war between the protestants and the ultra catholics under the leadership of the ever ambitious house of Lorraine.

I think St. Bartholemews night is the biggest stain on her reputation, but you can wonder what her precise role in it was of course. And I am sure that IF she was a man she would have been judged more lightly, as forceful women (in history) are quickly painted as some sort of evil impersonated.
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:59 AM
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One thing to keep in mind: Catherine was never expected to hold so much power, especially not for that long. Remember, her husband was a second son (Francis I would never marry his heir to a nouveau-riche commoner) at the time of her marriage, so she was not expected to be queen. But the Dauphin died and Henri and Catherine were the new heirs. When she was queen consort, she was not allowed much political influence and no one expected Henry II to die so early. Suddenly, she became (twice) the mother of two boy kings who were sickly and weak, and was a considerable influence on the third.
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Old 01-06-2011, 01:18 PM
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Well, in her defence, it must have been quite difficult for her to become a regent for her (weak) sons, while France digressed towards a sort of civil war between the protestants and the ultra catholics under the leadership of the ever ambitious house of Lorraine.

I think St. Bartholemews night is the biggest stain on her reputation, but you can wonder what her precise role in it was of course. And I am sure that IF she was a man she would have been judged more lightly, as forceful women (in history) are quickly painted as some sort of evil impersonated.
Catherine will be for ever tainted with the blood of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572 .

Charles IX,the future Henri III,the Dukes of Guise and Aumale,the Chancellor Birague & the Duc de Nevers all had a role in the Massacre but their involvement seem to have been overlooked by most historians .

Catherine,the half Italian,half French Queen was blamed as the principal culprit!
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:15 PM
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Even though the royals at court called the shots, one must not discount the role the people and atmosphere of Paris had in the massacre. Catherine had tried to impose a more moderate policy and the marriage of her daughter Marguerite to Henri of Bourbon was a peace offering. However, Paris was a very Catholic city and its population probably supported the reactionary policies of the Guises' Catholic League. At the same time, Paris was a cosmopolitan city, frequently visited by a diverse population including Huguenots. The Huguenots had a tendency to flaunt their religion in Paris, offending their Catholic hosts. The wedding and subsequent massacre occurred in August, when Paris is at its hottest. Combine that with thousands of visitors pouring to an already crowded city, hot and smelly, all enclosed by a city wall, tensions boiled over. The most important Huguenot at court, Admiral Coligny (who had become Charles IX's closest advisor) had an assassination attack made on him. The royal family and Catholics knew they would be blamed and attacked in revenge, so they slaughtered the Huguenots as a preemptive measure. The St. Batholomew's Day Massacre was certainly one of the bloodiest slaughterings of innocent people in history, but it was the result number of figures and factors, tensions which had been building up for years, rather than the order of one woman.
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Old 02-09-2011, 08:21 PM
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Catherine (Caterina) de Medici had one of the saddest lives as a child that I can remember for someone who was destined to such high status. She didn't really have a home, her mother died not long after her birth, her father died not long after that. She was raised first by her paternal grandmother (an Orsini) who then died as well, when she was less than 2 years old. Then she was raised (among cousins) by her aunt. After the de Medici were thrown out of Florence in 1527, when Catherine was 8, she was moved from convent to convent as a hostage (losing contact with her aunt and cousins). Back in Florence, people were demanding that Catherine be killed and her body displayed on the city walls. She was 8-10 years old while this was going on.

The only thing that saved her was that the pope was a relative. His biggest concern, after bringing her to Rome, was to marry her off to the highest position.

On her wedding night, her husband's father stayed in the bedroom to make sure the nuptial duties were performed (and was back again in the room at breakfast time).

Her husband of course had an open affairs with Diane de Poitiers and others, even wearing Diane's colors at jousting competitions instead of his wife's!

There wasn't much pressure on Catherine and Henri to have conjugal relations until his brother died, and then advisors urged Henri to divorce the childless Catherine. They apparently tried every kind of fertility enhancement available to them, although to me, some of it sounds like humiliations thought up by "doctors" of the day (I'm very interested in medicine of the period and have had the chance to review several medical texts of the time - they are of course nearly medieval in character, but none of the ones I've seen say that placing cow dung and stag antlers on her "source of life" area was a good practice). She did have to subject herself to several gynecological exams, all of it must have been humiliating and upsetting.

She strikes me as a strong, embittered woman with good intentions as a monarch. Her husband pretty much ignored her, I don't know how much a motherless woman would know about mothering, but she certainly protected her sons and thought about their future.

Then, to top it all off, once she is finally Queen of France, her husband is killed in a terrible jousting accident, with medical consequences that make my heart hurt. She nursed him and stayed by him, and was terribly upset when he died.

Compared to other powers in France at the time, Catherine was a voice of reason, although she certainly didn't have the intensive education that some of the Italian Renaissance princesses had had, but she did work hard at understanding affairs of state, especially after the death of her husband.

Then, her oldest son, the new King of France (François II) dies of a bad ear infection (had always been prone to them). How much Catherine endured! It's unbelievable.

By then, she was a better negotiator, and I'd say, fairly savvy about how to protect her next eldest son, who was 9 years old when he took the throne. He doesn't outlive her, though, she has to live through his death as well. Once she started having children, she had quite a few, although her last two died in infancy or in utero (she had ten children altogether). But Henri III was the third of her four sons, and she must have felt she was losing all of them so quickly. She writes such tender words to Henri and worries that he will predecease her. But, he outlived her - she lived to a fairly old age for those days (69), although the violence involving the Guises is said to have hastened her death.

Catherine was a great patron of the arts, and it's thanks to her, in part, that we have such good portraits of Charles IX and others in the court at that time.

I need to read more about her, but merely knowing the number of deaths she suffered through among close family members softens my view of her. No one ever really loved her for herself, except perhaps her children, and she had to be always worried about them being murdered, poisoned or simply ill. It is a good thing she died when she did, else she would have had to live through that third son's murder, as well (eight months after she died). Her fourth and last son had already died, of illness.

That's how the Crown of France passed to the husband of one of her daughters, all four of her sons were dead.
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Old 03-13-2011, 03:37 PM
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The 1994 French Movie 'La Reine Margot' did Catherine's reputation as one of history's greatest monsters no favours

The movie is based on the highly fictional novel by Dumas.
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Old 03-13-2011, 04:03 PM
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I just finished reading the chapter on the Saint Bart's massacre in the biography by Frieda. I do think Catherine was unfairly blamed for it getting out of hand, yet I also feel she could have done more to try to regain control. It seems like for most of it--and the offshoots of it--she described as hiding and waiting for the violence to stop.
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Old 03-13-2011, 04:10 PM
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I just finished reading the chapter on the Saint Bart's massacre in the biography by Frieda. I do think Catherine was unfairly blamed for it getting out of hand, yet I also feel she could have done more to try to regain control. It seems like for most of it--and the offshoots of it--she described as hiding and waiting for the violence to stop.
Isn't it strange that the King,Charles IX reputation hasn't really suffered over his involvement in this dreadful dark episode of French History.

Charles IX is not a monster,yet his mother is
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Old 03-13-2011, 04:22 PM
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That's a spot on observation. Catherine might have been a snake--but she was always open about her motives, and took responsibility for things that went wrong. Charles...is slimey and spineless. The way Frieda describes him he's always trying to please everybody, but not really either. And fop everything bad off on his mother.
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Old 03-13-2011, 04:30 PM
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That's a spot on observation. Catherine might have been a snake--but she was always open about her motives, and took responsibility for things that went wrong. Charles...is slimey and spineless. The way Frieda describes him he's always trying to please everybody, but not really either. And fop everything bad off on his mother.
Catherine also had a 'fun' relationship with Jeanne III d'Albret,Queen of Navarre.

Jeanne is an interesting royal lady not a likeable one but none the less highly fascinating.
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Old 03-17-2011, 09:38 PM
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I can imagine that hiding would be one of the first things to occur to a royal with that kind of violence going on outside.
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Old 04-01-2011, 05:27 PM
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I think Catherine was a complex woman who cannot be judged realistically by the standards of today. She had a difficult job as consort to a king and mother of future rulers. Her son made a disastrous attempt to remove some political opponents and she took the blame in part for a botched job. Being devoted to her church, I don't think she realized that others were equally devoted to their beliefs, which contributed to the massacre on St. Bartholomew's.
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Old 08-06-2011, 06:29 AM
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Catherine de Médicis

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Old 08-06-2011, 10:25 AM
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Did nt one of her daughters marry into the
English Monarchy ?
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:44 AM
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Did nt one of her daughters marry into the
English Monarchy ?
Actually,none of her daughters married into the English monarchy.But her son,Francis II of France,who was heir to the French throne,was married for a short time with Mary Stewart,the Queen of Scots.Their marriage lasted for a very short period and had no issue,as they had been very young when they got married and he died prematurely.
But her daughter Elisabeth became Queen of Spain ,when she married the king Felipe II,by whom she had two daughters.

Catherine de' Medici - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Francis II of France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elisabeth of Valois - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 08-06-2011, 10:58 AM
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MY FAULT, as usual Im confusing Catherine de Medici with Marie de Medicis

It was a daughter of Marie ( Henrietta ) who married Charles 1st

( wonder if Marie and Cath were related ? )
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:06 AM
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MY FAULT, as usual Im confusing Catherine de Medici with Marie de Medicis

It was a daughter of Marie ( Henrietta ) who married Charles 1st

( wonder if Marie and Cath were related ? )
They were distant cousins.

Catherine was infact half French (mothers side).
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Old 08-06-2011, 11:51 AM
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I first heard of Catherine de Medici from reading Jean Plaidy's historic three novels about her. Although they are fictional, they are well researched and I can remember thoroughly enjoying them. She has always seemed to me to be a fascinating woman who was let down by the few people she loved & trusted. I would be interested to know if anyone can recommend a biography that presents an objective view of her.
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