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Catherine de Medici: A Biography

Leonie Frieda

6 Reviews

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Biography: general, Biography: historical, political & military, Biography: royalty, Prose: non-fiction, Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, History: specific events & topics


The bestselling revisionist biography of one of the great women of the 16th century

Orphaned in infancy, Catherine de Medici was the sole legitimate heiress to the Medici family fortune. Married at fourteen to the future Henri II of France, she was constantly humiliated by his influential mistress Diane de Poitiers. When her husband died as a result of a duelling accident in Paris, Catherine was made queen regent during the short reign of her eldest son (married to Mary Queen of Scots and like many of her children he died young). When her second son became king she was the power behind the throne.

She nursed dynastic ambitions, but was continually drawn into political and religious intrigues between Catholics and Protestants that plagued France for much of the later part of her life. It had always been said that she was implicated in the notorious Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, together with the king and her third son who succeeded to the throne in 1574, but was murdered. Her political influence waned, but she survived long enough to ensure the succession of her son-in-law who had married her daughter Margaret.

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Praise for Catherine de Medici: A Biography

  • Well-written and engaging. - Sally Cousins

  • This dense often funny account...... it is full of choice details. - Robbie Hudson

  • It's a tale of poisonings, duels, black magic and incest that Frieda does full justice to in this detailed by colourful study - Simon Beckett

  • It is skilfully written and on balance sympathetic to Catherine's stewardship. - Owen Dawson

  • Her book paints a most fascinating picture of French court life. The political complexities are kept mercifully clear, the main lines of rivalry sharp, the characters vivid - Daily Telegraph

  • This masterful and compelling is narrative history at its best, both scholarly and as captivating as a thriller. She has brought a largely forgotten heroine-villainess and a whole sumptuously vicious era to life again. She is equally at home in the luxurious debauchery of the royal court as she is in the blood-reeking gutters of Paris: this is The Godfather meets Elizabeth - Mail on Sunday

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Leonie Frieda

Swedish by birth, but educated in Britain, France and Germany, Leonie Frieda speaks five languages and is a member of the Institute of Linguists. She is the author of a bestselling biography of Catherine de Medici, and THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD: A STORY OF WOMEN, POWER AND INTRIGUE IN THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE and FRANCIS I: THE MAKER OF MODERN FRANCE. She lives in London and has two children.

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