Popular culture likes to focus on the Tudor family history, however, there was even more drama of historic proportions were occurring in France and at the center of it all was Catherine Medici.
Born into the prominent Medici family in Italy she was raised by her uncle who just happened to be a Pope. At the age of 14 she married Henry II. Together they had 10 children. When he died unexpectedly Catherine stepped in as regent for her son Frances II.
Many considered her the instigator of the French War on Religion. It is believed that the good Catholic woman that she was, she wanted to expel the Protestants, known as the Huguenots, from France. The Protestants were arrested in an attempt to assassinate Francis. They were subsequently executed.
After the death of Francis, Catherine’s next youngest son took the throne. As each son took the throne she worked as their regent doing her best to keep peace during the wars. In an attempt to make peace she married off her daughter to the protestant King of Navarre.
She is also believed to have been the brains behind the St. Bartholomew’s Day Masacre. In something reminiscent of Game of Thrones, she had Coligny, a Huguenot leader along with hundreds of his supporters who were gathered for the wedding celebrations.
She was a formidable woman who was not to be crossed. The CW has a program called Reign, it centers on Catherine Medici’s court (which includes Mary Queen of Scots). It’s very YA and a good show to get teenagers interested in history.
If you are interested in reading more about Catherine’s world check out these books:
- The Devil’s Queen
- Confessions of Catherine Medici
- Catherine Medici: Renaissance Queen of France