Catherine de Medici Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1519 - 1589 *** Full Name: Catherina Maria Romula di Lorenzo de’ Medici *** Occupation: Italian Noblewoman who became Queen of France *** Date of Birth: Catherine de’ Medici was born on April 13th 1519 *** Place of Birth: Catherine de’ Medici was born in Florence, Republic of Florence *** Family background: Her father was Lorenzo II de’ Medici and her mother was Madeleine da La Tour d’Auvergne both of her parents were of noble birth. Her father and his family were all in the banking industry. Although her father had been made the Duke of Urbino, Catherine was still of somewhat of low birth but thankfully her mother was from an ancient French family which raised her status considerably *** Early life and childhood: She grew up in a very strict Catholic family *** Education: Catherine de’ Medici would have been very well educated ***
Catherine de Medici Fact 1: Catherine de’ Medici was born on April 13th 1519 and during the 16th century period in history when Portugal and Spain were exploring the oceans of the world and colonizing new lands. Between France and Florence there was a perpetual power struggle between the ruling families.
Catherine de Medici Fact 2: Fifteen days after her birth, Catherine's mother died and six days after her mother died her father died also. By the time she was month old she was an orphan.
Catherine de Medici Fact 3: Initially cared for her paternal grandmother, Alfonsina Orsini, she however died in 1520 and Catherine was sent to life with her aunt Clarice Strozzi.
Catherine de Medici Fact 4: In 1527 Catherine would be taken hostage as the an opposing faction over throw the Medici family and Catherine would be placed in various convents.
Catherine de Medici Fact 5: In order for Pope Clement VII to regain control over Florence Clement had to crown Charles as Holy Roman Emperor. Once Florence was securely back under his control Catherine was summons by Clement.
Catherine de Medici Fact 6: Delighted to see her his first task was to get her securely married. Finding a suitor would not be a problem, hoping the right suitor presented himself was key.
Catherine de Medici Fact 7: When King Francis I of France suggested Henry, Duke of Orleans, his second son, Pope Clement could not have been happier. This was a definite coup for Catherine because although she was wealthy she was still ultimately of low birth on her father’s side.
Catherine de Medici Fact 8: The young couple, both fourteen years of age, were married in October 1533. However, during the first year of their marriage they saw little of each other and when Pope Clement VII died the following year his successor refused to pay Catherine’s vast dowry for which King Francis was markedly frustrated.
Catherine de Medici Fact 9: Over the course of the next ten years of their marriage Prince Henry had no interest in his wife and no children were produced. Henry however, had a succession of mistresses and one produced a daughter. Having lost her fortune, she lost her standing at the Royal Court and with Henry able to produce a child the pressure on Catherine was palpable to produce a Royal baby and secure her future.
Catherine de Medici Fact 10: When Henry’s older brother and heir to the throne died unexpectedly leaving Henry as Dauphine, the pressure for Catherine to have a child became critical. The King was receiving all sorts of advice to put Catherine aside for the sake of the country. Catherine began trying any number of old wives tales to become pregnant and finally, in January of 1544 produced their first son, Francis.
Catherine de Medici Fact 11: Having finally produced one child the Catherine had no trouble conceiving again and would provide her husband with a total of ten children of which six survived. Their marriage however did not improve with the production of children, Henry had fallen in love with a woman twice his age but still showed Catherine the respect her position demanded.
Catherine de Medici Fact 12: When King Francis I died and Henry became king, she became queen consort although he allowed her no power whatsoever. Instead he gave those powers to his mistress which did not sit well with Catherine.
Catherine de Medici Fact 13: In 1559 the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis was signed between Henry and the Holy Roman Empire which saw the end of the conflict between the two powers. A condition of the treaty was that Catherine’s eldest daughter, Elisabeth was married to Philip II of Spain.
Catherine de Medici Fact 14: The proxy wedding took place on June 22nd 1559 and was followed by much celebration. During the celebrations, Henry competed in the jousting tournament and wore his mistress’s colors. During one bout he was half unseated by Gabriel, comte de Montgomery. Henry insisted on going against the comte again and this time he was caught in the face with the wooden lance, which shattered driving large splinters into his face.
Catherine de Medici Fact 15: Catherine, Prince Francis and the mistress, Diana all fainted. The damage caused to Henry was catastrophic. Massive splinters were removed from his face having pierced his eye and brain. Catherine remained by his side while his mistress avoided him declaring she feared the Queen would have her removed.
Catherine de Medici Fact 16: Henry died on July 10th 1559 and from that point forward, Catherine would use a broken lance as her emblem.
Catherine de Medici Fact 17: At the death of her husband, their eldest son Francis II became King at fifteen and although he was considered old enough to rule by himself he nevertheless included his mother in virtually all of his decisions.
Catherine de Medici Fact 18: Her fist task with what little power she was given by her son was to oust Diana from the Chataeu de Chenonceau and forced her to return all of the crown jewels back to the crown.
Catherine de Medici Fact 19: Unfortunately, Francis developed an abscess or infection in his ear of which he died on December 5th 1560 and her second son Charles became King but at nine years of age he was too young to rule on his own and his mother was appointed governor of France by the Privy Council.
Catherine de Medici Fact 20: In August of 1563 Charles was declared old enough to rule my himself and in 1570 his marriage to Elisabeth of Austria was arranged and took place. By 1574 Charles died leaving his brother Henry to take the throne, but at that moment Henry was in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth have been elected as King there the year before. As soon as he was able he returned to France and his responsibilities.
Catherine de Medici Fact 21: Unlike his brothers before him, Henry came to the throne a grown man and within two days of his coronation he married Louise de Lorraine-Vaudemont. Henry’s popularity amongst his people was not great and so Catherine set herself the task of trying to improve this. Over the ensuring years she did all in her humble power to pacify her country. However, religious battles that had been raging for decades between the Catholics and the Huguenots would continue to tear France apart.
Catherine de Medici Fact 22: Catherine died on January 5th 1589 aged sixty nine years.
Influence & Legacy: Henry IV later to have said of Catherine: “I ask you, what could a woman do, left by the death of her husband with five little children on her arms, and two families of France who were thinking of grasping the crown—our own [the Bourbons] and the Guises? Was she not compelled to play strange parts to deceive first one and then the other, in order to guard, as she did, her sons, who successively reigned through the wise conduct of that shrewd woman? I am surprised that she never did worse.”
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