The life and times of Catherine de' Medici, by renowned scholar of the Italian Renaissance Mary Hollingsworth.
Catherine de' Medici lived her life at the storm centre of European and French politics in an age of religious conflict. Born to Lorenzo II, the Medici ruler of Florence, and married to a French prince by papal connivance at the age of fourteen, Catherine was successively queen consort of France and mother to three French kings (Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III) who reigned in an era of almost continuous civil and religious strife.
A spendthrift promoter of the arts, Catherine patronised poets, painters and sculptors, lavished ruinous sums on the building and embellishment of monuments and palaces, and masterminded spectacular entertainments and tournaments that prefigure the splendour and ritual of the court of Versailles. Posterity has anathematised her as the epitome of the scheming royal matriarch, her reputation tainted forever by her role in instigating the St Bartholomew's Day massacre of Protestants. Legend has it that Catherine maintained eighty ladies-in-waiting at court, whom she used as bait to seduce courtiers for political ends; while her admiration for the reputed seer Nostradamus fuelled claims of an interest in the occult and the dark arts.
The Serpent Queen is Mary Hollingsworth's well-balanced account of the life of Catherine de' Medici – perhaps the most powerful woman in sixteenth-century Europe, and certainly the most extraordinary and influential.
'A head-scrambling epoch that Mary Hollingsworth, the author of books on the Medici and the Borgias, has done wonders to make comprehensible' The Times.
'Mary Hollingsworth is an entertaining guide... Brings to life not only the political dimension, but the fascinating material detail' BBC History Magazine.
'This forensic study of the Renaissance banking dynasty conjures up a world of art, literature, philosophy – and brutality' Telegraph.
'Full of treasures to be uncovered... A glittering, at times rather gory, world that is different and yet dreamily familiar to our own' BBC History Revealed.
'[A] rich, full history of the politicking and personalities of the conclave' New Statesman