Women’s might and influence today can be traced back in history to powerful ladies who blazed the trail for others to follow by dominating world affairs with their influence in ancient kingdoms, top religious’ institutions, and political positions. One of such women is Catherine De Medici, a popular name in France and the Christian religion. She was the wife chosen for King Henry II of France and was regent to his three sons after he died. This made her a major player in the Catholic-Huguenot war which lasted within her time as a regent to her sons.
Catherine De Medici – Biography
Catherine De Medici was born into nobility on April 13, 1519, in Florence, Italy to parents Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici and Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne. Her father’s official title was the Duke of Urbino whereas her mother was the Countess of Boulogne. However, Catherine took it’s first tragic turn on her when both her parents died shortly after her birth, leaving her in the care of her relatives among which was Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici. To be properly cared for, she was moved to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence where she spent her childhood.
Blossoming into a young lady of repute, Catherine De Medici had the best of education and was artistic, intelligent, and extroverted. Seeing the kind of lady she has grown into, her uncle, Clement began looking for the right husband for his dear niece and joyfully, he accepted the marriage proposal from Francis I of France for his second son Henry who at the time had the official title of Duke of Orleans.
Marriage and Children
On 28 October 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine De Medici was married off to Henry, the second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France who did not care so much for her. The wedding, a grand affair marked by extravagant display and gift-giving, took place in Eglise Saint-Ferreol Les Augustins in Marseille, France.
All seemed to be going well at first until trouble began a few years into the marriage when Catherine was unable to conceive or bear children. Prince Henry’s interest in her waned as he went ahead to openly take mistresses. Catherine tried every means possible and even went fetish but all to no avail until the arrival of a physician, Jean Fernel, who had noticed slight abnormalities in the couple’s sexual organs and proffered a remedy which they adhered to. Catherine quickly conceived and gave birth to a son on the 19th of January 1544. He was named after King Francis. She conceived a second time and had a daughter on the 2nd of April, 1545 who was named Elisabeth. Catherine De Medici went ahead to bear 8 other children 6 of who survived infancy including Charles IX born on the 27th of June 1550, Henry III, born on the 19th of September 1551 and Francis, Duke of Anjou born on the 18th of March 1555.
Catherine De Medici’s Life as a Queen
King Henry allowed Catherine almost no political influence as queen. Although she sometimes acted as regent during his absence from France, her powers were strictly nominal. King Henry went ahead and gave out the Chateau of Chenonceau, which Catherine had wanted for herself, to Diane de Poitiers, who took her place at the center of power, dispensing patronage and accepting favors.
This went on until after the death of King Henry when Catherine de Medici became influential in France. Even though she was unable to rule France as a monarch because of the Salic Law which did not allow women to succeed the throne, she ruled the nation as its regent for nearly 30 years. Two of her sons- Francis II and Charles IX were still very young when they became kings and she, as the queen mother, ruled the kingdom on their behalf. Her role as a regent also got visible in the reign of King Henry III who was already an adult before taking up the crown.
Death and Cause of Death
Catherine remained politically active until the end of her life, touring France on Henry’s behalf and trying to maintain the loyalty of its many war-torn territories. She built a collection of books and paintings as her artistic feature was still alive in her. In 1589, she became ill while dancing at the marriage of one of her granddaughters’. It was believed she had pleurisy. She fought but was unable to continue as she gave up and died on the 5th of January, 1589.