Catherine De Medici : A Biography, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The bestselling revisionist biography of one of the great women of the 16th century Orphaned in infancy, Catherine de Medici was the sole legitimate heiress to the Medici family fortune.

Married at fourteen to the future Henri II of France, she was constantly humiliated by his influential mistress Diane de Poitiers.

When her husband died as a result of a duelling accident in Paris, Catherine was made queen regent during the short reign of her eldest son (married to Mary Queen of Scots and like many of her children he died young).

When her second son became king she was the power behind the throne.

She nursed dynastic ambitions, but was continually drawn into political and religious intrigues between Catholics and Protestants that plagued France for much of the later part of her life.

It had always been said that she was implicated in the notorious Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, together with the king and her third son who succeeded to the throne in 1574, but was murdered.

Her political influence waned, but she survived long enough to ensure the succession of her son-in-law who had married her daughter Margaret.




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Review by

A great read that demonstrates that real history can have the kind of characters and bizarre situations that, were a novelist to have created them, would be deemed too far-fetched. This is a well researched and readable biography, though it perhaps goes too far in trying to exculpate Catherine for masterminding the notorious St Bartholomew Eve's massacre for which she is most (in)famous today. The chapters were rather overlong as well.

Review by

A strong French ruler.I have graded this book according to my enjoyment of it, but I do feel that under different circumstances I might have been giving it a higher rating. There were two problems; firstly my complete lack of knowledge of French history, which meant that all the names were new to me and I had nothing to relate the events to, other than English history of the time. Secondly, I was listening to the abridged audiobook which, I would assume, includes all the dry facts, without the background detail that makes history so fascinating. In addition, I notice other reviewers referring to the fabulous colour photographs and, of course, these would have been absent. In spite of the issues with the abridged audiobook, I did come away with a distinct image of Catherine de Medici and that era of French History. It has also made me aware of the problems caused by disease, namely syphilis and tuberculosis, which killed and disabled several important members of the French ruling family. Catherine de Medici was a ruthless queen, who only attained power due to the death of her husband, Henry. She was determined to hand the reigns on to her sons, but they were too young and/or sickly to take full control and so she retained power, by default, for many years.This was a quite sympathetic picture of a lady who has been dubbed ruthless by historians over the years. I'd now be interested to read a slightly harsher version of her life, or possibly an historical fiction version.