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History ReFreshed
Exploring what's "new" on the historical shelves

The Dark Queen

After Lucretia Borgia, the character who has captured the most attention in fiction about the Renaissance is Catherine de Medici.  Daughter of one of Italy’s most important families, to secure a political alliance, she was bartered in marriage to Henri, second son of King François of France.  When the Dauphin of France died, her husband Henri became king.

Like Lucretia, the Catholic Queen Catherine was vilified by contemporary enemies, accused as a poisoner, a political manipulator and a murderess for her role in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of French Huguenots (Protestants.)  Perhaps because religious hatreds persist longer than personal scandals, her image remains clouded today, with most of the fiction still portraying her as a sinister figure.

She was also a neglected wife.  Before she ever arrived in France, her future husband had fallen in love with Diane de Poitiers, a widow many years his senior.  The beautiful Diane captured not just the affection of Henri, but the respect and admiration of the whole court.  For her entire marriage, Catherine lived in the shadow of her captivating rival, not gaining her revenge until her husband’s premature death.  Suddenly becoming Queen Regent and absolute ruler of France, she swiftly banished her husband’s mistress from court and confiscated Diane’s beloved chateau, Chenenceau.

THE
CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI

COURTESAN
COURTESAN

THE DEVIL'S QUEEN
THE DEVIL'S QUEEN

Perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of this complex woman is THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI by C.W. Gortner.  Betrothed at age 13, the orphaned Catherine comes to France with no friends or allies at court and a powerful rival.  After making an uneasy truce with her husband’s beautiful mistress, she sacrifices her own happiness and reputation in pursuit of her goals, using both natural and supernatural gifts to protect the French throne and advance the interests of her family.

The other side of the famous love triangle is presented by Diane Haeger’s COURTESAN, which features Diane de Poitier.  In this work, Haeger paints a picture of court politics and intrigue strongly sympathetic to Diane and critical of Catherine.

Though basically sympathetic to Catherine, Jeanne Kalogridis’s THE DEVIL’S QUEEN:  A Novel Of Catherine De Medici emphasizes the queen’s superstitious nature, asserting that to protect her family and advance their interests, Catherine made a bargain with the Devil.

Fans of the paranormal should enjoy Susan Carroll’s four-book series that features Catherine in a supporting role as a purveyor of magic, poison and witchcraft.

THE DARK QUEEN
THE DARK QUEEN

THE SILVER ROSE
THE SILVER ROSE

THE HUNTRESS
THE HUNTRESS

TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN
TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN

In THE DARK QUEEN, a Navarre army captain comes to Faire Isle to consult Daughter of the Earth Ariane Cheney on behalf of his queen, who isn’t sure she wishes to marry her son to Catherine’s daughter.  The doubting queen ends up dead, victim, Ariane believes, of a pair of magic gloves.  While trying to elude witch hunters, Queen Catherine’s soldiers and the romantic attentions of her neighbor the Comte de Renard, Ariane must protect her two younger sisters and solve the mystery.

In THE SILVER ROSE, the youngest of the Sisters of Faire Isle, Miri Cheney, returns to her ancestral home after her family is exiled.  A skilled healer who is able to forecast the future, Miri is forced to turn to her enemy, charismatic witch-finder Simon Aristide, to help her escape the Dark Queen and foil the diabolical woman known as The Silver Rose, who schemes to take over France.  Miri and Simon defy the throne and face the forces of evil to save her family and all she loves.

In THE HUNTRESS, Irishwoman Catriona O’Hanlon, wrongfully accused and exiled from her native land as a witch, comes to serve Lady Ariane of Faire Isle.  The two learn that the coven of the Silver Rose has been resurrected and seeks to use their dark arts to replace Queen Catherine with one of their own, threatening the thrones of both France and England.  Determined to recover the cult’s dread Book of Shadows, Queen Catherine has a witch hunter infiltrate the cult.  With treachery surrounding them, Catriona must call on all her mystical powers to protect her family and Faire Isle.

In the conclusion to the series, TWILIGHT OF A QUEEN, Catherine de Medici still seeks the Book of Shadows.  She enlists the ruthless Louis Xavier to kidnap Meg Wolfe, a sorceress under the protection of Ariane of Faire Isle, whom she believes has knowledge of the book.  Once on the island, Xavier falls in love with Lady Jane Davers, Ariane’s successor.  But the power of the Dark Queen cannot be evaded, and she must be destroyed if Faire Isle and its Daughters are to survive.

Another series that features Catherine as the diabolical moving force behind events is an inspirational one, Linda Lee Chaikin’s The Silk HouseDAUGHTER OF SILK introduces Huguenot heroine Rachelle Macquinet, daughter of a famous family of silk producers, who becomes a celebrated couturier. In this volume and the following two, THREADS OF SILK and WRITTEN ON SILK, she and the Marquis Fabien de Vendome, the man she falls in love with and later marries, try to preserve their honor, escape entanglement in the intrigues of Queen Catherine as she schemes to destroy the rival de Guise family, and fight to save the lives of fellow Huguenots in the tumultuous days leading up to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

DAUGHTER OF SILK
DAUGHTER OF SILK
House of Silk #1

WRITTEN ON SILK
WRITTEN ON SILK
House of Silk #2

THREADS OF SILK
THREADS OF SILK
House of Silk #3

Whether straightforwardly factual, inspirational or touched with the paranormal, these tales of Catherine de Medici are certain to provide you with History Refreshed!

Julia Justiss is the author of several historical romances including her latest, SOCIETY'S MOST DISREPUTABLE GENTLEMAN

 

 

Comments

1 comment posted.

Re: The Dark Queen

Jean Plaidy also wrote a trilogy about the Catherine de Medici: Madame Serpent, The Italian Woman, and Queen Jezebel in the early 1950s. I was able to visit two of the French castles/palaces to which she and her children are connected, Blois and Chenonceau. The latter is especially notable for seeming to be built on a bridge over the Cher River. It is one of the most iconic and most-visited palaces in France.
(Sigrun Schulz 1:06am December 24, 2011)

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