By R J Knecht
Catherine de' Medici (1519-89) used to be the spouse of 1 king of France and the mummy of 3 extra - the final, sorry representatives of the Valois, who had governed France because 1328. She herself is of preeminent significance to French heritage, and the most debatable of all old figures. Despised until eventually she used to be robust adequate to be hated, she was once, in her personal lifetime and because, the topic of a "Black Legend" that has made her a favorite topic of historic novelists (most significantly Alexandre Dumas, whose Reine Margot has lately had new forex on film). but there's no fresh biography of her in English. This new research, via a number one pupil of Renaissance France, is an enormous event.
Catherine, a missed and insignificant member of the Florentine Medici, entered French background in 1533 whilst she married the son of Francis I for short-lived political purposes: her uncle used to be pope Clement VII, who died the subsequent 12 months. Now of no diplomatic worth, Catherine was once handled with contempt on the French court docket even after her husband's accession as Henry II in 1547. in spite of this, she gave him ten youngsters prior to he used to be killed in a match in 1559. She was once left with 3 younger boys, who succeeded to the throne as Francis II (1559-60), Charles IX (1560-74) and Henry III (1574-89).
As regent and queen-mother, a lady and without normal power-base of her personal, she confronted very unlikely odds. France used to be accelerating into chaos, with political faction at court docket and spiritual clash through the land. because the kingdom disintegrated, Catherine's overriding obstacle was once for the pursuits of her kids. She was once tireless in her efforts to guard her sons' inheritance, and to settle her daughters in helpful marriages.
But France wanted extra. Catherine herself used to be either peace-loving and, in an age of frenzied non secular hatred, unbigoted. She attempted to exploit the Huguenots to counterbalance the growing to be energy of the ultra-Catholic Guises yet extremism on each side pissed off her. She was once drawn into the violence. Her identify is ineradicably linked to its end result, the bloodbath of St Bartholomew (24 August 1572), whilst hundreds of thousands of Huguenots have been slaughtered in Paris and in other places. To at the present time no-one understands for sure no matter if Catherine instigated the bloodbath or now not, yet the following Robert Knecht explores the possibilities in a particularly level-headed fashion.
His e-book is a gripping narrative in its personal correct. It bargains either a lucid exposition of immensely complicated occasions (with their profound imact at the way forward for France), and in addition a resounding portrait of its enigmatic relevant personality. In going in the back of the accepted Black Legend, Professor Knecht doesn't make the error of whitewashing Catherine; yet he indicates how intractable was once her international, and the way shifty or intransigent the folk with whom she needed to deal. For all her flaws, she emerges as a extra sympathetic - and, in her pragmatism, extra sleek - determine than so much of her prime contemporaries.