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The Rival Queens

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,735 ratings  ·  282 reviews
The riveting true story of mother-and-daughter queens Catherine de' Medici and Marguerite de Valois, whose wildly divergent personalities and turbulent relationship changed the shape of their tempestuous and dangerous century.

Set in magnificent Renaissance France, this is the story of two remarkable women, a mother and daughter driven into opposition by a terrible betrayal
Paperback, 448 pages
Published June 9th 2016 by W&N (first published June 18th 2015)
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Teresa Kander Paperback edition to be released in February 2016.
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,735 ratings  ·  282 reviews

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Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I found this dual biography that sheds light on the fraught relationship between misused, determined power-seeker Catherine de Medici and her equally misused, more idealistic daughter Marguerite fascinating and its tone just right. Rich with historical detail and compelling personalities, it’s as engaging as a novel but more substantial, and it’s backed up by 24 pages of notes and an extensive bibliography.

Taking place in France during the reign of Elizabeth I, the book helped expand my knowledg
Unarguably, Catherine de Medici was one of the most fascinating women to have lived. She couldn’t have stayed out of the history books even if she had tried. Although lesser discussed, her daughter Marquerite de Valois, was also captivating in her own right. Nancy Goldstone presents a dual-biography of this mother/daughter force in, “The Rival Queens: Catherine de Medici, Her Daughter Marquerite de Valois, and the Betrayal that Ignited a Kingdom”.

Goldstone breaks “The Rival Queens” into three p
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing for the general audience requires decisions that academic writers never need to make. The scholar can report the facts but only reported facts would quickly lose a general readership. Academic writers can present issues and controversies and build a logical interpretive case. The general audience needs a condensed background and a wants a good story with the settled facts. Academics don’t often deal in personality, and the general reader wants to know and relate to the characters.

This is
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a difficult read for me. It's nearly a 5 star blow by blow detail for Marguerite de Valois' (Queen Margot) entire life. The French houses/district locations coupled with the alliances and intermarriages between nobility that are already blood related by some degree! So convoluted! Despite being difficult to follow (three Henry's in key positions)- Nancy Goldstone did a great job with pages and pages of references and footnotes that truly helped. You needed them to follow all these cabal ...more
Jo Walton
This is another non-fiction book that follows the bad advice to start in the middle of the action and then explain how things got there. In this case, that means beginning with the St Bartholemew's Day massacre. For either fiction or non-fiction I do not want to read about things happening to people when I don't have any reason to care about the people yet. This is a fascinating book, well written and engaging, and good at explaining what's going on. She does a good job of picking her way throug ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an enjoyable non-fiction read that is written much like a novel in it's chronological portrayal and description of encounters between the "characters". Characters who in this story were actually living, breathing people who did in fact behave just as scandalously as the story suggests. A real-life soap opera: how fascinating!
Catherine de' Medici is perhaps most famously known for her involvement in what is known as the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, where thousands of Huguenots (French p
Jun 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-euro
I was flipping through the pages to start reading when I noticed on the family tree a pencil notation. A person who checked out this book before me had made a correction. Henry IV was listed to have died in 1616 and this person corrected it to 1610. Yep, the date was wrong. But it wasn't the only one. Before the first chapter was over, there were several other things missing or slightly off. I found other notations in the book which led me to look up other facts. I don't want to spend an entire ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
AUDIO # 18
2018 Reading Challenge: set in a country that interests me

Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of sixteenth century France
Bloodlust ruled; there were few level heads.
Not much new territory was covered re: Catherine de Medici, but the book was positively revelatory about Margot, who was also called by her birth name margueritte, but since there were about 100 of those walking about the royal halls it became a bit confusing.
Dual biographies of two French royals of the late 17th century: Marguerite of Valois [Margot] wife and queen of Henry of Navarre and of Catherine de Medici, wife and queen of Henri II, Margot's mother. A manipulating pragmatist all her life, Catherine engineered the unwanted marriage between Margot [a Catholic] and Henry [a Huguenot], ostensibly as a peace-making measure. The book was very comprehensive, and drawn heavily from Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois .. and statements of other envoys and ...more
Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass
This was a fantastic read!!!!!!!!
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, history-france
A bit over the place, but it does give a little light on Marguerite de Valois, though both women seem to be a bit mysterious in this history. It is a good introduction, and Goldstone deserves praise for presenting a countering view of Catherine de' Medici (as opposed to the mastermind plotter that is currently in vogue).
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Nancy Goldstone is extremely adept at the art of presenting historical events without becoming either repititious or plodding. This book is set in 16th Century France during the Renaissance. Court politics, loyalties, traitors, murder,'s all here. At the beginning of the novel you will meet Marguerite de Valois who is marrying Henry de Bourbon. The problem is the Marguerite is an extremely devout Catholic and Henry is Protestant. Sparks are inevitable. Many members of each family who ...more
This was the perfect audiobook title for me - great personalities, intrigue, an extraordinary historical period, religious wars, a parade of kings, queens, duchesses; assassinations, money, sex, dynastic politics. Catherine de Medici has dominated a period that has seen several of her sons living, dying and mismanaging the country. Power-hungry, ruthless, scheming, yet always just reacting, never really manipulating events in a planned way, she had ruled over an overspending, lavish, morally and ...more
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've yet to be disappointed in a Nancy Goldstone book. "The Rival Queens" is Goldstone at her narrative nonfiction best. I love her ongoing trend of analyzing the relationship between two figures (her last book was about Joan of Arc and her queenly patron), and she couldn't have chosen a more dysfunctional pair than Catherine and Margot. As usual, there is a wealth of historical detail and the information is presented in an engaging way.
This book includes--Mother and daughter biographies of two French royals of the late 17th century: Marguerite of Valois [Margot] wife and queen of Henry of Navarre and Catherine de Medici, wife and queen of Henri II, Margot's mother.

Hundreds of years before the advent of the feminist movement, Marguerite de Valois showed us what a strong, spirited, resolute woman unafraid to confront sexual mores--looks like. And it is for this reason, that Margot's reputation has been systemically attacked ove
Ghost of the Library
Few families are as irresistibly fascinating and both the good and the bad this one.
Catherine the unwanted, unloved wife of King Francis I second son, Henri, who through sheer gut survived a loveless marriage and became one of the most powerful women in 16th century Europe. Queen Mother and regent for her offspring, alleged murderess and poisoner, bad mother, good mother, domineering, conniving...oh boy the tittles are so many and, at the distance of centuries its probabl
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Romping royals...

It's little wonder that Nancy Goldstone has chosen to use quotes from Machiavelli to head each chapter in her romping history of her rival Queens, Catherine de' Medici and her daughter Marguerite de Valois. It was a great time for Queens, though maybe not quite so great for their subjects. Over in England, Elizabeth was working up to the beheading of her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. But the shenanigans of Catherine and Marguerite frankly make the British Royals look tame.

Tara Lynn
I learned quite a bit from this book, and mostly enjoyed it. There were a few moments when I lost focus. But for the majority of the book, I was intrigued by these detailed accounts of famous and fascinating historical figures.
This book was my introduction to Margaret; I am now a fan of hers. I'm somewhat more acquainted with Catherine De Medici' history. Although I've understood Catherine to be a darker figure, this new perspective greatly influences my opinion of both fascinating women.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Historical French Soap Opera (French History) …

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

As American media revels in its ability to seek and spread news of any dysfunctional American political families that are laughably labeled “dynasties” (Kennedy, Bush and Clinton come to mind); it might consider reading Nancy Goldstone’s examination of a real dysfunctional family dynasty with significant power … courtesy of 1500s France. As someone
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set during the final generations of the Valois dynasty in France, we see more examples how the Elizabethan period was greatly influenced by powerful woman. It all begins with the arrival of Catherine de Medici as a young bride for King Henri II of France. She is not a beauty, but more importantly she is from a wealthy family in Italy. She comes with financial support, which is much needed in a kingdom that is rife with debt. She quickly becomes one of the most important people in the nation, and ...more
Well told story about political and personal intrigue in the courts of France.
Steven Peterson
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This volume is a detailed look at the Medici family in France. Much has been written of the Italian line; this was really the first detailed glimpse that I had of the French branch.Catherine de' Medici became Queen of France, being married off to Henry II, King of France. Once arriving at Paris, she learned the extraordinary challenge of being in the royal family. There were intrigues that are told for her early years as well as her later years as well as for her daughter, Marguerite. For both o ...more
Jill Hutchinson
The name de' Medici resonated through European history during the Middle Ages. From Popes to Queens, the family, always controversial, held seats of power and were not to be trifled with. This biography concentrates on the later life of the Queen of France, Catherine, who also became Regent at the death of her son; and that of her daughter Marguerite (known as Margot) who became a pawn in a bloody religious war.

Margot was married off to Henry, King of Navarre after her mother brokered her, witho
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murder and Mayhem Reign

“Rival Queens” makes “House of Cards” (both the UK and the US versions) seem tame or at least believable. What a family Marguerite de Valois and Catherine de’ Medici hail from, ambitious, cut throat, scheming, and willing to do anything to achieve their goals. Catherine was a queen to Henri II of France and the mother of several kings. She looked on her daughters as pawns to cement ties with the nobility of other countries so Margot, as Marguerite was often called, was of
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rindis by: GuusI
Shelves: history
Nancy Goldstone’s The Rival Queens is one part biography of Marguerite de Valois, half a part biography of Catherine de Medici, and half a part outline of the French Religious Wars. Catherine getting first billing the in subtitle, the focus is largely on Margarite.

In one extent, this makes a lot of sense, as she wrote, or at least started, her own memoirs which were heavily sourced for this book. The Rival Queens effectively starts with the marriage of Catherine to Henri II, so the early part of
Melissa Taylor
Aug 08, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Horrible. Couldn't get past chapter 7. The author has a hate on for Huguenots. It's full of contradictions. The title should actually be: The War of Religions. I also found the author rather arrogant and condescending. Especially in her footnotes. " The town in Belgium was called Spa. And you thought history was irrelevant."
If I thought history was irrelevant, why would I be reading it? Twat.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It has been a very long time since I read a work of nonfiction that felt like Game of Thrones on crack. Assassination attempts (between mothers and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives), torrid affairs, bloody battles... Nancy Goldstone created a work both thoughtfully researched and an absolute page-turner. Brava!
Daniel Lorne
Apr 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a book! Goldstone turns the history of the Valois family into an exciting and almost unbelievable story of political intrigue. At times I forget I was reading French history. So interesting. And more than a little horrifying in places.
Elizabeth S
Throughout my study of French history, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about François I, and a lot of time on the later Bourbons, but I usually glided over the period in between for the most part.

I’m always happy to learn about interesting historical figures, especially cool ladies, and the juxtaposition in this case seemed especially appealing. Having heard positive things about the author’s books, I picked up this one when I spotted it at the library.

Catherine de Medici is a rather famous ch
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovers of History (and I do mean true History) and fans of Game of Thrones alike should all read this terrific, brilliant book that brings back to life some of the most notorious royal characters of France’s past and the savage War of Religions that did, as the subtitle says, “ignite a kingdom” - for decades, actually. Goldstone is a wonderful narrator but also a skillful scholar: it is a winning combination. She writes with great energy, style, humor, wisdom, and intelligence. Her knowledge is ...more
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