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The Devil's Queen: The Story of Catherine de Medici

Updated on August 14, 2020

Imagine being a pawn in political agendas and having no control over your own life. Imagine losing everything you hold dear and being married off to a complete stranger. For royals and nobles in the 1500s, all of this was common and Catherine de Medici was no exception. Known to be fierce and cunning, Catherine was a force to be reckoned with. In The Devil’s Queen, Jeanne Kalogridis delves into the French queen’s life and shows that there was much more to her than most people know.

Born into the powerful Medici family, Caterina was raised to rule. As a girl, she thought she would be ruling Florence, like her ancestors before her. As a young woman, however, she finds that she is a political pawn. Her uncle, Pope Clement, wants as much power as he can get. Francois, King of France, desperately wants Italian property. Caterina is betrothed to Francois’ second son, Henri, in exchange for money and property.

Now called Catherine, the young girl must navigate her new country, the French court, and her husband’s hostility. But she has always been smart and she is quick to make alliances and find ways to survive her new life, despite the constant difficulties she is faced with.

Her new husband is more interested in his mistress, the much older Diane de Poitier. Catherine must fight in order to be with her husband, and even then she struggles with infertility. Years pass with no sign of children, and a wife who cannot provide an heir is considered virtually worthless. Catherine resorts to desperate measures in order to conceive a child, a choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

While Catherine de Medici was calculating and always did what needed to be done, The Devil’s Queen shows her softer side. It gives us a glimpse of a young girl, scared for her life during political upheaval and of a maturing woman hoping for a loving marriage and a family of her own. We see a lost girl who desperately studies astrology in an attempt to learn about a life she has no control over. Kalogridis portrays her not as a cutthroat queen, but as a woman who wants to protect her family at any cost.

An especially interesting aspect of The Devil's Queen is the supernatural element. Catherine de Medici was known to be adept at astrology and other "dark arts" of the time. She also apparently had several prophetic dreams. Kalogridis delves into this side of Catherine's life and intricately weaves together the supernatural and the historical.

With the recent success of the television show Reign, the life of Catherine de Medici is especially fascinating. History books show only facts, and both Reign and The Devil’s Queen allows us a deeper look at the people who lived through those times. Both educational and entertaining, The Devil’s Queen is sure to draw you in to Catherine’s life and have you on her side, despite everything she does. It is certainly not a light read, but it is an excellent read and well worth your time.

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