If anything, this is one of the most human accounts of her. She is portrayed as the scared little girl, the woman who was queen in all but name, and of course the mother who did her level best to save her country and family.
She isn’t perfect, then again, who is. She has her role in heinous crimes but she does not take the blame, she is only one of the many factors which eventually caused it.
And even for a girl who grew up suffering the abuse of others, she never did the same to others. Always seeking a more common ground, a way that they were allowed to choose and be able to. And in a time of such strife, where France will never be Spain, she is the one who championed for it.
And this does her justice. Every page can feel her word, even the final is more than death. It’s her legacy that she left behind. Exploring the complex relationships with her own children, Elisabeth, Marguerite, Claude. Her sons, which she favoured her third, Henri III.
It managed to make me dread turning each page, because of how it was tragedy after tragedy. But it was what made her who she was at the end, willing to weather anything that she was given. Accept and move on, doing her best to ensure that her country thrives. Even if I know it will be for naught.
It brings to life all of her children and how she is a mother to them. Distinct in their own way, and at the same time caused her grief in every way. Not to mention her husband, whom she must have liked to have chosen to come to his bed even when he favoured her over another. Her rivalry with Diane de Poiters, and how they contrasted each other.
They come alive in these pages, as they detail her life and how she will never ever give up. Even when she has lost most of her children, first Francois, Elisabeth, Charles, Claude, and finally her youngest Hercule. All of them left their impact, even if she has favourites I have always felt her love even when they were dying.
It isn’t perfect, and doesn’t state certain things such as Henri’s title as the King of Poland, he was a King for a year. But otherwise this was an account that shed light on so many of the depths of the French Court and the many sides of Catherine De Medici.
And definitely why Henri IV of France will have chosen to defend her for the rest of his life. For she did deserve it, given her chances, she could have done a lot worse when it came to France. It may have influenced who he took as a bride, since his next wife was Marie de Medici, a relative of Catherine.
Advocating for tolerance was difficult, in this war where many alienated each other until only the most hardcore were still around. And when as a Catholic she was expected to force them back into the faith, not suggest that they were free to choose as they did.
This was a story and account of a Queen who is human, neither villain nor hero. Simply doing what she can to survive the court and ensure the continuation of her line. It gripped me from page one and never let me go. If anything, this was something that made me realize why I love historical fiction. Especially in the Renaissance.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5