Queen Catherine de Medici, a formidable Italian woman whose name conjures suspicions of murder and poisoning. She first appeared in France for her wedding to Henry II, second son of King Henry I. When King Henry I died, followed by the dauphin Francis, his eldest son, Henry II and Catherine ascended the throne. This outraged the citizens who did not want an Italian woman as their queen.
The people’s dislike for Catherine continued throughout her entire reign. In the 16th century, Italians had a reputation for being exports in the art of poison, and Catherine, known for her razor sharp cunning, dabbled in necromancy, poisons, and murder.
Catherine de Medici's Bedroom
Even though nothing was ever proven against her, she did leave behind several clues of her deviousness. First there is the secret room in her castle. It is believed she stored her poisons in this specially constructed room filled with numerous cabinets. Peep-holes and listening tubes helped Catherine spy on her sons, advisors, servants, and visitors.
Then there is the death of Jeanne Navarre, Catherine’s long-time nemesis.
Catherine lured the wary Jeanne Navarre to France and then tricked her into acquiring a set of gloves laced with poison. You see, perfumed gloves were in high fashion in France at that time and Catherine offered a most exquisite pair to Jeanne. Poor Jeanne, she suffered a horrible death, which, likely was the kindling that sparked the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of the Huguenots a few weeks later. It is estimated up to 30,000 Huguenots lost their lives.
St Bartholomew Day Massacre Painting
Painting of Catherine de Medici inspecting the aftermath of the massacre
Catherine de Medici's life continues to fascinate. Many fictional books have been written about her life, tempting authors because of all the intrigue and suspicions. The most detailed novel portraying her life, is a trilogy written by Jean Plaidy.
The final novel in the classic Catherine de’ Medici trilogy from Jean Plaidy, the grande dame of historical fiction. The aging Catherine de’ Medici and her sickly son King Charles are hoping to end the violence between the feuding Catholics and Huguenots. When Catherine arranges the marriage of her beautiful Catholic daughter Margot to Huguenot king Henry of Navarre, France’s subjects hope there will finally be peace. But shortly after the wedding, when many of the most prominent Huguenots are still celebrating in Paris, King Charles gives an order that could only have come from his mother: rid France of its “pestilential Huguenots forever.” In this bloody conclusion to the Catherine de’ Medici trilogy, Jean Plaidy shows the demise of kings and skillfully exposes Catherine’s lifetime of depraved scheming.
The novel Queen Jezebel by Jean Plaidy recounts the details of Catherine de Medici's later life. This is the third and final book of her life. Of the three novels, this is the most turbulent. It depicts her incredibly shrewdness, calculating mind, and mistrust of everyone around her, including her sons. Determined to end the hostility between the Catholics and Huguenots, Catherine arranges a political marriage between her Catholic daughter Margot and the Huguenot King Henry of Navarre. But this marriage failed to bring about the peace between the rival groups. As her control over her son, the king, wanes, she convinces him that there is a plot to assassinate him. This prompts Charles to launch the St Bartholomew day massacre to rid France of Huguenots.
The dreadful murders of Henry Guise and Jeanne Navarre play a pivotal role in this book, giving readers insight and a deeper understanding of her sordid motivations and craftiness of this formidable and cunning queen.
Like the previous two books in this series, Catherine's life is brought to life with vivid details and includes all the main characters of the period. Powerful liaisons, treachery, debauchery, hate, love, and cunning machinations to gain power unfold with clarity and excitement in this final installment. If you are intrigued with Catherine de Medici, then this is a novel not to be overlooked. It is the most comprehensively detailed book about her life. Highly recommended.
|From History and Women|