Week 19: Thursday, March 9, 2023
Catherine dei Medici

Catherine dei Medici dominated France for almost half a century. While Elizabeth Tudor was ruling England, and Mary was ruling Scot;and, Catherine, the royal wife and mother dominated her adopted country, France, through her three sons. Catherine’s French royal husband Henry was born in the Royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude de France (daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne, Duchess of Brittany). His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and held prisoner in Spain. To obtain his release it was eventually agreed that Henry and his older brother be sent to Spain in his place. They remained in captivity for three years. Henry married Catherine de’ Medici (13 April 1519 – 5 January 1589) on 28 October 1533, when they were both fourteen years old. The following year, he became romantically involved with a 35 year-old widow, Diane de Poitiers. They had always been very close: she had publicly embraced him on the day he set off to Spain, and during a jousting tournament, he insisted his lance carry her ribbon instead of his wife’s. Diane became Henry’s most trusted confidante and, for the next twenty-five years, wielded considerable influence behind the scenes, even signing royal documents. Extremely confident, mature and intelligent, she left Catherine powerless to intervene. She did, however, insist that Henry sleep with Catherine in order to produce heirs to the throne. When his elder brother, Francis, died in 1536 after a game of tennis, Henry became heir to the throne. He succeeded his father on his 28th birthday and was crowned King of France on July 25, 1547 at Reims.


Leonie Frieda,

Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France,

Harper Perennial; 2.12.2006 edition edition (March 14, 2006),

ISBN 0060744936



Required reading within this collection of essays will be announced later.

Michel de Montaigne,

The Essays: A Selection,

M.A. Screech (translator),

Penguin Classics,

ISBN 0140446028

Part Two of “Queen Margot” (“La Reine Margot”) starring Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteil


Based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, Queen Margot concerns the events behind infamous Massacre of St. Bartholomew in 16th-century France. Isabelle Adjani plays Margot, betrothed for political reasons to one man (Daniel Auteuil) by her mother (Virna Lisi), while she is, in fact, in love with another (Vincent Pérez). Despite the bond that grows between the reluctant couple, plots are hatching all over the castle against the royals. Adventurous, exciting, erotic, and given strong artistic credibility through its outstanding cast, the film is enthralling and visually sumptuous. Directed by Patrice Chereau, less known outside of France than is the film’s producer, Claude Berri (director of Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring). –Tom Keogh