Catherine de’ Medici
Catherine de’ Medici was queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II. She was also mother of kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III from 1559 to 1589. According to Mark Strage, one of her biographers, Catherine was the most powerful woman in 16th-century Europe.
About Catherine de’ Medici in brief
Catherine de’ Medici was queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II. She was also mother of kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III from 1559 to 1589. Catherine’s three sons reigned in an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France. Catherine was blamed for the excessive persecutions carried out under her sons’ rule, and in particular, for the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572, during which time thousands of Huguenots were killed both in Paris and throughout France. According to Mark Strage, one of her biographers, Catherine was the most powerful woman in 16th-century Europe. In practice, her authority was always limited by the effects of the civil wars. Her policies may be seen as desperate measures to keep the Valois monarchy on the throne at all costs and her patronage of the arts as an attempt to glorify a monarchy. Without Catherine, it is unlikely that her sons would have remained in power. Catherine died on 5 January 1589 and was buried in the Cimeti di San Leo in Florence, Italy. She is buried alongside her husband, the Duke of Urbino, and her mother, Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, the countess of Boulogne. The couple had been married the year before at Amboise as part of the alliance between King Francis I of France and Lorenzo’s uncle Pope Leo X against the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.
In 1533 at the age of 14, Catherine married Henry, second son of Francis I and Queen Claude of France. The marriage was arranged by her uncle Pope Clement VII. After Henry’s death, Catherine became regent on behalf of her 10-year-old son King Charles IX. She ruled France as regent for her son Charles IX from 1560 to 1563. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III, who outlived her by seven months. The death of Pope Leo in 1521 briefly interrupted Catherine’s power until Cardinal Giulio de Medici replaced him in 1523. It was only after Leo’s successor, Adrian Maria I, restored the duchy to its rightful owner, Franceslla deco Rovere, that his successor, Pope Clement VI, restored it to the Medici family. Catherine lived in the Palazzo Orcardi in Florence until 1523, where she lived in state with her cousins and aunt Clarice de Riccardi. She died in Florence in 1589, and was succeeded by her daughter-in-law, the Countess of Florence, who was later married to the Prince of Tuscany. Her last will and testament states that she was to be buried in Parma, Italy, in 1591. Catherine is buried in Florence with her mother and three brothers. She had no children.