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Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France Paperback – March 14, 2006
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Catherine de Medici had 10 children: three became French kings, one became Queen of Spain (as wife of Philip II). Her youngest son was a serious candidate to wed England's Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen Mother was a lavish spender who insisted on mounting extravagant "magnificences" in total disregard for France's precarious financial state. She would even impose taxes on the ever-suffering populace to finance her exercises of excess. She formed her own company of scantily clad dancing girls ("the flying squadron") which proved quite popular.
Catherine was not a hardcore religious type (like Spain's Philip II) but attended Mass regularly. She was not threatened by the rise of Protestantism and sought to meet their demands by peaceful means. She was superstitious: when a seer predicted the death of her husband King Henry II at a tournament, she begged him not to compete (he did anyway and was killed in an accident).
She presided over eight Wars of Religion: civil wars between Protestants fighting for their right to worship freely, and Catholics trying to keep the country from splitting apart. The author discusses Catherine's many diplomatic efforts to resolve the difficulties peacefully. But treacherous behavior among hardcore Huguenots eventually hardened her attitude, culminating in the disastrous Massacre of St Bartholomew of 1572, which killed as many as 30,000 men, women, and children all over France.
Catherine loved architecture, ate heartily (she was fat), and was an enthusiastic horseback rider. She adored her husband Henry II even though he preferred to spend his time with a mistress.Read more ›
Frieda's biography is intended to provide a sympathetic and diverse view of a woman that history has branded a poisoner and murderer. Far from straying from Catherine flaws, the author openly discusses the events that helped cast the Italian-French Queen as a villain. To better understand Catherine's later disasterous actions, one has to follow Catherine's history from her tragic childhood to her fortunate but unfulfilling (to Henri anyway) marriage to Henri II. The author does a superb job at identifying the key events that helped form this courageous and powerhouse Queen.
The gist of the author's argument is that Catherine's greatest fault was loving her children to the extreme. She writes "No mother has done more to promote her children at whatever cost to herself, themselves, and their times." Even before conceiving a child, Catherine was going to the extreme for her unborn children. Barren for a decade, Catherine subjected herself to dangerous and bizarre treatments to increase fertility.Read more ›
Catherine is widely seen as a talented, scheming and ruthless power-behind-the-throne figure, doing almost anything to promote and protect her children which included two Kings of France. Catherine's era overlaps that of a truly great queen, England's Elizabeth I, so her story includes figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and Philip II of Spain and includes the great waves of violence that crashed across Europe following the Reformation. You just can't come up with better historical material.
Ms. Frieda does a creditable job of telling her story, at times rising to gripping narrative as when she describes events around the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, an orgy of killing in which something on the order of ten to twenty thousand Huguenots were slaughtered, many having their throats cut in their beds.
Ms. Frieda's explanation of Catherine's role in the Massacre is that she only wanted to have a small group of leaders killed while conveniently gathered for the wedding of Henri of Navarre, a Protestant of Valois blood, and Catherine's daughter, Margot. Ms. Frieda's thesis is that what was to be a small "surgical operation" got completely out of hand with Paris mobs taking to killing anyone even suspected of being a Protestant, as though killing a group of guests at a royal wedding, had it gone no further, would have been just fine.
Ms. Frieda is not the first to put the thesis forward, but it fails utterly to soften our view of Catherine.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read! Smart, thorough, and perfect <3Published 10 days ago by D. myers
This is a VERY comprehensive book. If you are really interested in the womanhyPublished 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
Very well written. I was very impressed by how well researched this book was. Leonie Frieda is on point with her description of Catherine and gets to the heart of who this... Read morePublished 17 days ago by Dita von Krieg
I listened to this on Audiable for free, and boy am I glad that I didn't have to pay a nickle for it! Read morePublished 23 days ago by Warp Girl
My constant 'serious' reading companion for some six weeks, this is a book I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alan. J. Reynolds
Not brilliant but serviceable as a history for those who know nothing about the woman, or her reign.Published 4 months ago by Esther M. Brooks