Catherine de'Medici by R J Knecht

By R J Knecht

Catherine de' Medici (1519-89) used to be the spouse of 1 king of France and the mum of 3 extra - the final, sorry representatives of the Valois, who had governed France when you consider that 1328. She herself is of preeminent significance to French background, and some of the most debatable of all ancient figures. Despised until eventually she used to be strong adequate to be hated, she used to be, in her personal lifetime and because, the topic of a "Black Legend" that has made her a favorite topic of historic novelists (most particularly Alexandre Dumas, whose Reine Margot has lately had new foreign money on film). but there isn't any contemporary biography of her in English. This new research, by means of a number one pupil of Renaissance France, is a big event.

Catherine, a ignored and insignificant member of the Florentine Medici, entered French historical past in 1533 whilst she married the son of Francis I for short-lived political purposes: her uncle was once pope Clement VII, who died the next yr. Now of no diplomatic worth, Catherine was once taken care of with contempt on the French courtroom even after her husband's accession as Henry II in 1547. having said that, she gave him ten young children ahead of he was once killed in a event in 1559. She used to be 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 with out traditional power-base of her personal, she confronted very unlikely odds. France used to be accelerating into chaos, with political faction at courtroom and non secular clash in the course of the land. because the nation disintegrated, Catherine's overriding quandary was once for the pursuits of her teenagers. She used to be tireless in her efforts to guard her sons' inheritance, and to settle her daughters in effective 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 turning out to be strength of the ultra-Catholic Guises yet extremism on both sides pissed off her. She was once drawn into the violence. Her identify is ineradicably linked to its fruits, the bloodbath of St Bartholomew (24 August 1572), while hundreds of thousands of Huguenots have been slaughtered in Paris and somewhere else. To at the present time no-one understands for convinced even if Catherine instigated the bloodbath or no longer, yet right here Robert Knecht explores the chances 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 powerful portrait of its enigmatic important personality. In going in the back of the general Black Legend, Professor Knecht doesn't make the error of whitewashing Catherine; yet he exhibits how intractable was once her international, and the way shifty or intransigent the folks with whom she needed to deal. For all her flaws, she emerges as a extra sympathetic - and, in her pragmatism, extra smooth - determine than so much of her major contemporaries.

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It comprised a huge number of people and horses. In his Autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini tells us that the court sometimes had 18,000 horses and another contemporary witness speaks of stabling being provided for 24,000 horses and mules. Yet only the more important courtiers travelled on horseback; some of the ladies travelled in waggons and many servants had to walk. Waggons carried the court's plate, furniture and tapestries, for only palaces regularly visited by the court were permanently furnished: the rest were left empty and only furnished for the duration of its stay.

Even so, the court was on average as large as a small town of, say, ten thousand people. As Francis became a key figure south of the Alps, Italians flocked to his court looking for his protection or assistance. At the same time many Frenchmen went to Italy as soldiers, administrators or diplomats. They noted that women were regarded as an essential adornment of court society and that close attention was also paid to literature and the arts. In the light of their experience, the court of France acquired refinement and elegance.

V (1877), pp. 84-120. E. Giesey, The Royal Funeral Ceremony in Renaissance France (Geneva, 1960),pp. 1-17. 193-5. 32 DAUPHINE (1533-47) priory of Haute-Bruyere, his body was taken in procession to Paris for a solemn requiem mass at Notre-Dame and lastly to the abbey of Saint-Denis, traditional resting-place of French monarchs and their wives. During much of this ceremonial Henry remained out of sight. His self-effacement was essential to the ritual which involved honouring a life-like effigy of the late king.

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