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The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Set against the stunning backdrop of Renaissance France, The Serpent and the Moon is a true story of love, war, intrigue, betrayal, and persecution. At its heart is one of the world's greatest love stories: the lifelong devotion of King Henri II of France to Diane de Poitiers, a beautiful aristocrat who was nineteen years older than her lover.
At age fourteen, Henri was m
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Atria Books
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  450 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Cheeky Cher
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
4 stars - It was great. I loved it.

When I was twenty-one, I traveled from Vienna to London to study history, history of art, and interior design. I decorated my small apartment entirely in black and white, drove a black and white Mini, and acquired a black and white kitten. I had no real reason for adopting my monochrome lifestyle except that I imagined it chic and different. Then my mother told me about Diane de Poitiers, our ancestor, who famously styled her whole life - and her country - in
Aug 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE
this was one of the worst, most biased biographies i ever had the misfortune of reading. written by a descendant of diane du poitiers,the mistress of king henri II of france, this biography describes her rival and wife of henri, catherine de medici, as having a "fat little heart". yep. SHE CALLS HER FAT. princess michael of kent is a moron. i wish i could be more constructive than that but seriously, i think of this book with nothing but animosity!
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was very excited when I found this book because I adore anything to do with Catherine de Medici who I find woefully under-appreciated in the history books. With that being said I acknowledge that there was a bias towards Diane de Poitiers who was always potrayed in glowing terms while Catherine was usually written off as "fat" and ugly. However she did bring up Catherine's intelligence a great deal which I appreciated and described the history of France which I haven't read much about and clea ...more
Michael Tharp
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The greatest romance in history. The most beautiful woman since Helen of Troy, and the King who loved her yet was forced to marry another.

This is the love triangle that was Diane De Poitiers, Katherine DeMedici, and Henri the 2nd of France.

HEnri was not supposed to be King. He was the second son of Francis I and yet, after the death of his brother Phillipe, he had no choice and thus had to marry strategically, and politically instead of for love.

The serpent and the Moon tells the tail of these
₵oincidental   Ðandy
I have to say, I'm very impressed with this book. Meticulously researched & rich in historical detail, especially as it pertains to European alliances & conflicts (political as well as personal) of the time & the roles played by the central characters, this work offers a very good overall view of 16th century French history; as exceptionally well-informed as it is informative. I doff my hat to HRH, for whom I have a newly-found respect as an author.
Mary George
I ADORED this book, mainly because it was about a slice of history I knew nothing about: the life long affair of France's Henri II and his mistress, Diane. It starts off with the teen crush of Henri on the beautiful, recently widowed Diane, who is nearly twenty years his senior, but she befriends the shy prince. He never forgets her kindnesses to toward him and as he grows to manhood, their verbal intimacies, grow for Henri into a deep and abiding love. He becomes determined to make her his own. ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in French or Renaissance history
Recommended to Margaret by: HRH Princess Michael of Kent (really!)
Shelves: non-fiction
Several years ago, before this book was published, I heard the author, Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent ("HRH"), speak about the book and its subject, the history of Catherine de Medici (the "Serpent") and Diane de Poitiers (the "Moon"), and their complex relationship both with Henri II, Catherine de Medici's husband and Diane de Poitiers lover (~19 years her junior), and with each other. While certainly regal and not someone to cozy up to for a nice chat (before the talk HRH reduced ...more
Carol Mclamb
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful view into the private lives of three of the most famous and perhaps infamous personages in French history, Henry II, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers. Fantastic read!
I can't finish it. I don't take well to a blatant propaganda.
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Princess Michael of Kent has written a highly readable, meticulously researched work about Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henri II of France, and his queen, Catherine de Medici, both of whom she is descendant. The time period spans 1499 to 1566, when Europe is entering the height of the Renaissance. The duchess and the queen are both unusual women for their time, both brought to power by extraordinary circumstances. Incorporated into the history of events are juicy little morsels describing ever ...more
Dec 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Nonfiction. Henri II had one wife, the notorious Catherine de' Medici, and one main mistress, Diane de Poitiers. He would have married Diane if he could have. Catherine was the one who bore him children, and eventually ruled France through the disastrous lives of Henri's three crowned sons. "Hate and Wait" was Catherine's motto, as she passed the years learning the rituals of witchcraft and pretending to the members of Henri's court to be a nice little woman. During Catherine's waiting years, Di ...more
Elisa Santos
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If there ever was a real, tender, warm-hearted love story on royal families, this is one of them, for sure.

Diane de Poitiers and Henri II of France were clearly soulmates, only separated by time and chance: time because Diane was 14 years senior to Henri and chance because of the dynastic marriages that led to Henri beying married to Catherine de Medici, for money and land sake.

The author succeded in bringing up to life early Renaissance France, François Is court and then, afterwards Henri IIs o
Joy Weese Moll
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Henri II, King of France, was in love with one woman, Diane de Portiers, and married to another, Catherine de’ Medici. These three people lived in the midst of the Renaissance, a time known for its resurgence of the arts but also for incredibly complex machinations, and no small number of wars, among European monarchies. The history of Europe at this time is told in The Serpent and the Moon by focusing on this triad of people and the circles around them.

More thoughts on my blog: The Serpent and
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, read-2009
I'm giving this one up. It's billed as a story about two women vying for the heart of a French king (Henri II). It's a 430 page book but 100 pages in, I'm still getting a French royal court history lesson and Francois I is still king. And it's written in such a fashion that I'm almost constantly having to go back and figure out what generation she's talking about and who she's talking about. I'm sure at some point she'll get to what the book is actually billed as being about, but she's lost me a ...more
Megan Winston
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I am a lover of Tudor history, and so knew just a little of the time period from France's point of view and this book gave me the knowledge I craved. As other reviewers have noted, there is a definite slant towards Diane de Poitiers and away from the queen, Catherine de'Medici. I think the book is more of a biography of Diane then of love triangle between the two women and the king. I do believe I will have to search out a book about Catherine now, as I woul ...more
Sandra Strange
The cover makes this narrative seem more risque than it is, actually, though it is about the rivalry between Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of French King Francis I, and his wife, Catherine de Medici, so it does treat sexuality (but tastefully and only briefly in regards to producing heirs to the throne, etc). The rivalry was important in European history, and very unusual, since Diane was the older woman (by 17 years), and Catherine eventually ended with the power and influence, acting as rege ...more
Lorna Collins
Apr 13, 2015 rated it liked it
As a writer, I found this book tiresome. I had hope d to become engaged in the story, but the writing left me bored. And it is a powerful tale! I read the book after visiting France in 2014. The story of Chenonceau fascinated me, and I wanted to know more about the two ladies who fought for it. The book contains lots of history--accurate history. However, it lost the tale of the rivalry in the more of other facts.
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I originally delved into this book because of my love for the TV series, Reign. The book delivered with so much content on history and I was surprised to learn of the actual relationships between King Henri II, his queen Catherine and his queen of heart, Diane De Poitiers. This is quite the love story. I walked away from this story actually learning much about what a dignified and beautiful soul Diane is portrayed as here. 400 years later and she still exudes radiance and influence.
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
The author has an agenda--white wash her ancestor.

I seem to be having an unlucky run of bad or at least so-so books recently. I went into this one optimistically. Whilst I’ve been an aficionado of the Renaissance for many years, my main focus has been Renaissance England under the Tudor dynasty, I’m not so knowledgeable about the Renaissance in the other great European powers of the time, having only a working knowledge as these figures interacted with Tudor England. The Serpent and the Moon is more specifically marketed as a dual biography of
Shirley Baird
Feb 27, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book should not be classed as a history book. It is a fantasy or maybe a character slander. The author clearly is a huge fan of Diane de Poitiers and definitely no admirer of Catherine de Medici. Catherine's failures are a lack of beauty and a non-royal heritage and failing to capture the love of her husband. Why are those even considered when valuing a person' worth? In the histories I have read, including Leonie Frieda's well researched and annotated "Catherine de Medici", Catherine is po ...more
After reading a LOT about 16th century England, I’ve finally started reading about what was going on over on the Continent while the Tudors were being their bad boy and bad girl selves.

Oodles of scandal, apparently! And – this made me laugh – everyone so engrossed in their own national affairs, that the Tudors pop up only rarely on the radar. Quelle horror! What would Henry VIII think to be so overlooked?!

Anyway, this is a great read about, not just Diana de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, but
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Mixed feelings about this one. While the Renaissance world of 16th Century France is well described, I'm not entirely sure that the author succeeded in making her subjects quite as lifelike. Diane comes across as simply angelic, lacking any flaws, while Catherine de Medici is a cardboard cut out who feels almost peripheral to the story. The other annoying thing was the jumpy order of things. While there is a general timeline to the events followed, within various decades we go back and forward s ...more
Janet Russell
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love conquers all!

A great read of one of the greatest love stories of the 16th century, the love between Henry II King of France & Diane his mistress & the only one he ever loved, even to the exclusion of his poor wife!
Marie de Medici! A great read with plenty of humour!
Lori Watson koenig
Good balance

This book did a great job of being historical and reading like a novel. I really enjoyed it. Great love story
Suz Davidson
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Somewhat dry. Reads too much like a history textbook.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Princess Maria’s book is chock-full of historical facts and gossip from that era. But there is such an enormous array of characters that I got a bit lost after a while. If, like me, you are not very good at 15th Century European history, I suggest you keep a list of names and a marker on the Family Trees page at the beginning, because you will be constantly checking it. Most of the book is not exactly about Dianne de Poitiers, but of the historical circumstances and the characters that surrounde ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
The first half of The Serpent and the Moon mainly deals with Francois I's reign as king and has little to do with the love triangle. Frankly, the whole book itself hasn't much to do with the love triangle or "one of the great love stories of all time," but more to do with the political intrigue of Henri I and his father's reigns. Oh, and lest I forget, Henri, Diane, and both of their symbols, monograms, etc. I honestly don't know what the whole fascination of that was all about, but it showed up ...more
Tarah Luke
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting look at the lives of French royalty and assorted personages during the Renaissance. While I liked the descriptions, I was irked at the fact that she spent so much time on other stuff before she even introduced Diane de Poitiers or Catherine de’ Medici. That could have been condensed way down, I felt.
Jean Marie
Oh dear. I was looking foreward to this so much because 1.) Catherine de' Medici was an amazing intelligent de facto ruler of France for some 30 years and Diane de Poitiers was an epic mistress to King Henri II so I thought this would be about the relationship between Catherine, Diane and Henri and how they all dealt with one another. But I'm sorry to say I learned nothing more about Catherine than I already knew other than how she bounced around convents for her protection as a child. Even the ...more
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Baroness Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida née von Reibnitz,is a member of the British Royal Family.

She is married to Prince Michael of Kent, who is a grandson of King George V.

Princess Michael is an interior designer and author, having published several books on the royal families of Europe.