Who was Catherine d'Medici?

1 Answer
Dec 18, 2016

Catherine d'Medici was effectively ruler of France during large part of the French Catholic/Protestant Religious Wars of the late 1500s. She shepherded her 3 sons through Regency and Reign.


Catherine d'Medici was a political pawn practically from birth. Her parents died within a month of her birth in 1519. She lived mostly in convents thereafter. She was held hostage by the City of Florence for years after a revolt.

King Charles the V of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor as a reward, conquered Florence releasing Catherine and returning Florence to Medici rule. Pope Clement VII (former Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici) arranged her marriage. She was married to the Prince of France (later King Henry II of France) when she was 13 in 1533. Henry died in 1559. Henry's mistress Diane de Poiters fulfilled most of the court duties. Catherine was basically powerless. She did have a large number of children after an 11 year gap (7 children that lived).

Francis II, her son, was 15 when he became King reigned only a short time (1559-60). Mary Queen of Scots had married Francis the previous year. Her uncles the Duke de Guise and Cardinal of Lorraine began to run the French government which was very unpopular.

Catherine realized her son was going to die and prepared to become regent. Her 9 year old son Charles the IX ruled from 1560 to 1574 when he died.

Catherine son Henry abandon the throne of Poland-Lithuania to return to France as Henry III. He ruled with Catherine as a sort Chief Executive . He was without children and was assassinated in 1589 after Catherine herself died earlier that year. This was the end of the Valois family name. Henry of Navarre (of the House of Bourbon) was to become Henry IV of France (Catherine had married her daughter Margaret to him).

France was almost constantly in a state of Civil or Religious War throughout this the time. Numerous peace agreements were negotiated to varying success. The weakness of the Valois kings was a ongoing problem.

Catherine came to power out necessity. She fought hard for her family.