Sarai's Reviews > Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France

Catherine de Medici by Leonie Frieda
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's review
Jul 09, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: general-nonfiction, nonfiction-historical, biographies, historical
Read in May, 2006

From Publishers Weekly
In 1533, 14-year-old Catherine de Medici arrived in France to marry the future king Henri II; over the next 16 years, she endured the dominance of Henri's mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and the disdain of courtiers for her family's merchant background. The sudden death of Henri launched Catherine into three decades as regent and chief adviser to three sons who ruled in succession. Frieda navigates the twists and turns of the French royal court and family with particular attention to the formation of Catherine's political skills. From her lonely childhood as a tool in the diplomacy of her powerful uncles to her carefully cultivated relationship with her father-in-law and maneuvering through shifting family alliances, the queen learned self-possession, deception and strategy. While Catherine has been maligned for her role in France's wars of religion and in particular the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Frieda argues that Catherine attempted to reach compromise in the religious strife of her adopted country. While trying to flesh out Catherine, Frieda occasionally paints others with a too-broad brush. At times, her descriptions of Catherine's actions as emotionally or politically motivated seem arbitrary. But Frieda's portrait of Catherine is multifaceted, and her presentation of the complicated narrative of five tumultuous reigns is compelling.

This is a very interesting story about a fascinating woman. There are occasional little historical tidbits thrown in that make the reader wonder how the human race even survived (some of those medical treatments will make you cringe), but mostly this tale is about Catherine and her life, the ups and downs and machinations that kept her name in the history books. Definitely a good read. A little more dense than others on my list, it is enjoyable reading but not fast reading.
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