Catherine DE'MEDICI

Female 1519 - 1589  (69 years)


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  • Name Catherine DE'MEDICI  [1
    Born 13 Apr 1519  Florence, Italy Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Female 
    Died 05 Jan 1589  Royal Chateau de Bloia Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Notes 
    • Catherine de' Medici (April 13, 1519 ? January 5, 1589) was born in Florence, Italy, as Caterina Maria Romola di Lorenzo de' Medici, the daughter of Lorenzo II de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, countess of Boulogne. She was queen consort of France from 1547 to 1559 as the wife of King Henry II of France.

      In 1533, Catherine was married at the age of fourteen to Henry, the second son of King Francis I of France and Queen Claude, to further the interests of her uncle, Pope Clement VII. When Prince Fran┴ois, the dauphin, died after a game of tennis in 1536, Henry replaced him as heir to the throne and Catherine became the dauphine. Henry ascended the throne as Henry II in 1547, but throughout his reign he excluded Catherine from influence and instead showered favours on his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. On Henry?s death from a jousting injury in 1559, Catherine found herself thrust into the political arena as queen mother of the frail fifteen-year-old King Francis II, after whose own death in 1560, she was appointed regent for her ten-year-old son King Charles IX and granted sweeping powers. After Charles too died, in 1574, Catherine remained a significant force in the government of the third of her sons to become king, Henry III, though he dispensed with her advice in the last months of her life with disastrous consequences.

      Catherine proved a tireless and resilient defender of the crown, but her three weak sons had the misfortune to reign during an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France, the origins of which were beyond the control of the monarchy and would have daunted even a mature king. At first, Catherine sought compromise through limited concessions to the Huguenots; she failed, however, to grasp the theological issues underpinning their movement, for which no concession short of freedom of worship would ever have been enough. Later, as anarchy set in, Catherine abandoned conciliation and resorted to hard-line policies towards religious rebels. As a result, she was personally blamed for the worst atrocities of the government, in particular for the notorious Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day of 1572, in which thousands of Huguenots were butchered in Paris and throughout France. Catherine's subsequent vilification in contemporary pamphlets gave birth to "the black legend", which branded her for posterity as the epitome of the Machiavellian Renaissance prince, servicing an overweening lust for power with dark political crimes, serial poisonings, and even witchcraft. By the nineteenth century, this tradition had hardened to the point where the great historian Jules Michelet could refer to Catherine as that "maggot which came out of Italy's tomb".

      Some recent historians have attempted to rehabilitate Catherine, excusing her from the worst excesses and reappraising her as a diligent ruler facing extraordinary and insoluble difficulties. R.J.Knecht, however, cautions against taking revisionism too far, since explicit documentary proof of Catherine?s lack of scruple remains, not least in her own letters. He also warns against overstating the degree of Catherine?s power: far from bestriding France, she fought a losing battle for control as the kingdom descended into anarchy around her. Her policies, therefore, may be seen not as a calculated tyranny but as an opportunistic series of rearguard actions designed to keep the Valois monarchy afloat at all costs. It is arguable that without Catherine's custodianship, the regime of her sons would never have survived as long as it did.

      ccording to a contemporary chronicler, when Catherine de? Medici was born, in Florence on Wednesday 15 April 1519, her parents, were "as pleased as if it had been a boy". Their pleasure, however, was short-lived: the seventeen-year-old Madeleine de la Tour d?Auverne, countess of Bologne, died on 28 April, and her husband, Lorenzo II de? Medici, duke of Urbino, on 4 May, probably from syphilis, leaving their first-born an orphan. The young couple had been married the year before at Amboise as part of the alliance between King Francis I of France and Pope Leo X, Lorenzo?s uncle, against the Habsburg emperor Maximilian I. The lavish wedding celebrations had climaxed with a mock battle of such realism that several participants were killed. After her parents' death, the orphaned Catherine, a potentially valuable marriage pawn, was taken under the wing of Pope Leo, who refused a request from King Francis that she be raised at the French court.

      Unlike her parents and her own children, Catherine enjoyed robust health most of her long life,[10] but in August she fell so ill that her life hung in the balance for three weeks. After her recovery, Pope Leo had her brought to Rome, where he noted how "fine and fat" she was. He already had ambitious plans for her; he declared her the duchess of Urbino, intending to marry her to Ippolito de' Medici, bastard son of his brother Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici, and set the pair up as rulers of Florence.

      Catherine was first cared for by her grandmother, Alfonsina Orsini, after whose death in 1520, she passed to the household of her aunt, Clarissa Strozzi, who became her surrogate mother for the next few years, bringing her up with her own children. Catherine loved her Strozzi cousins faithfully for the rest of their lives, as if they were her brothers and sisters. The death of Pope Leo in 1521 briefly threatened the Medici ascendancy?his pro-Habsburg successor, Pope Hadrian VI, even stripped Catherine of her duchy?but the election of Cardinal Giulio de? Medici as Pope Clement VII in 1523 restored Medici fortunes. Taking over the role of Catherine's protector, Clement installed Catherine in the Palazzo Medici in Florence, insisting that the "little duchess", as the Florentine people affectionately called her, live in state, attended by a princely retinue.

      Queen of France

      During the reign of her husband (1547?1559), Catherine lived a quiet and passive life but observed what was going on. Catherine was extremely jealous of the relationship between her husband and de Poitiers, but had little authority to change it. Henry was loyal to de Poitiers, and trusted his mistress completely, and he was under her influence for the next 25 years. During this period, de Poitiers would be in control of any decisions made behind the scenes, with Henry's consent, including the signing of certain royal documents, and taking part in political decisions. Evidently she was quite competent in her role, and did not abuse her authority.

      In 1552, when the king left the kingdom for the campaign of Metz, Catherine was nominated regent, but with very limited powers, as de Poitiers was still making most of the king's decisions with his blessing. When Henry II was badly wounded in a jousting event in 1559, however, Catherine took control. She limited access to her husband, and did not allow Diane de Poitiers to see him at all, even though he requested her presence repeatedly. When he died, Catherine had Diane exiled, and for the first time was able to wield power.
    Person ID I15598  Main Tree

    Father Lorenzo DE'MEDICI, II,   b. 12 Sep 1492, Florence, Italy Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 04 May 1519  (Age 26 years) 
    Relationship Natural 
    Mother Madeleine De La Tour D'AUVERGNE,   b. Abt 1500,   d. 28 Apr 1519  (Age ~ 19 years) 
    Relationship Natural 
    Married 05 May 1518  [1
    Family ID F18475  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Henry II King Of FRANCE,   b. 31 Mar 1519, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Jul 1559  (Age 40 years) 
    Married 28 Oct 1533  [1
    Children 
     1. Henry III King Of FRANCE,   b. 19 Sep 1551,   d. 02 Aug 1589  (Age 37 years)  [Natural]
     2. Joan Princess Of FRANCE,   b. 24 Jun 1556,   d. 24 Jun 1556  (Age 0 years)  [Natural]
     3. Francis II King Of FRANCE,   b. 19 Jan 1544,   d. 05 Dec 1560  (Age 16 years)  [Natural]
     4. Marguerite DE VALOIS,   b. 14 May 1553,   d. 27 Mar 1615  (Age 61 years)  [Natural]
     5. Claude Of VALOIS,   b. 12 Nov 1547,   d. 21 Feb 1575  (Age 27 years)  [Natural]
     6. Victoria Princess Of FRANCE,   b. 24 Jun 1556,   d. Aug 1556  (Age 0 years)  [Natural]
     7. Elizabeth Princess Of FRANCE,   b. 02 Apr 1545,   d. 03 Oct 1568  (Age 23 years)  [Natural]
     8. Charles IX King Of FRANCE,   b. 27 Jun 1550,   d. 30 May 1574  (Age 23 years)  [Natural]
     9. Hercules Prince Of FRANCE,   b. 18 Mar 1555,   d. 19 Jun 1584  (Age 29 years)  [Natural]
     10. Louis Of FRANCE,   b. 03 Feb 1549,   d. Oct 1549  (Age 0 years)  [Natural]
    Family ID F18472  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

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    Link to Google MapsBorn - 13 Apr 1519 - Florence, Italy Link to Google Earth
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  • Sources 
    1. [S03581] Wikipedia Encyclopedia.