Catherine De Medici biography
Catherine de Medici was born in Florence in Italy, 1519 into the richest non-royal family in the Europe. She was the granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent and related to two Popes, Leo X and Clement VII. She had a very troubled childhood. When she was very small, both of her parents died from a disease. She lived with the nuns in Florence and Rome, and they trained and disciplined her and as she grew older she became very well educated. In 1533 her uncle, the Pope Clement VII, arranged her marriage. She was sent to France to marry a 14-year-old Henry, Duke of Orleans, who became King Henry II of France. Catherine bore him ten children, but only seven survived – three girls and four boys. She was the mother of Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III. While her husband was king, Catherine seemed to be happy in her role of mother.
In July 1559, Catherine's husband died and her son, Francis II, assumed the throne. Together with her son, Catherine stood up against those who opposed the crown. In March 1560, Catherine demonstrated her influence in the Conspiracy of Ambroise. She created the Edict of Amboise and then the Romorantin, which showed the difference between sedition and heresy and separated faith and allegiance.
In 1560, her son Francis II died and she became a regent for another of her sons, Charles IX. Few years later, he ruled during hard times of the France. His mother Catherine wanted a balance between the Protestant group known as the Huguenots, led by the French military leader Gaspard de Coligny, and the Roman Catholics, led by the powerful house of Guise. During the religious civil wars that began in 1562, Catherine, a Roman Catholic, usually supported the Catholics. She arranged a marriage for her daughter Elizabeth of Valois with powerful Roman Catholic King of Spain, Phillip II. But sometimes, she supported also the Huguenots, and therefore she married her second daughter Margaret of Lorraine to the leader of Huguenots, Henry of Navarre, who became later Henry IV, the King of France. At their wedding, important leader of Huguenots, Gaspard the Coligny, was shot. This incident was the cause of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew`s day, where about 50 000 Huguenots were killed.
After death of Charles IX two years later, Catherine became regent until her favourite son Henry III returned from Poland.
Catherine placed high hopes in her son for the regeneration of France, but she was dissapointed.
Apart from her political role, Catherine was strongly influenced by her Medici family. She was a patron of the arts. Her interest in architecture was demonstrated in the building of the Louvre Museum, the construction of the Tuilleries Gardens, and the building of the Chateau Monceau. She also imported Italian artists, poets, musicians and dancing masters to the French court. As Queen and Queen Mother, she was actively involved in the planning of many of the court spectacles. As the Valois court spectacles developed over the years, they included more and more dance, to show the essence of peace and harmony. She is responsible for bringing culture to France including fine cooking and table manners (fork and table etiquette) and also ballet (Le Ballet Comique de la Reine). There are two reasons to credit this as the first ballet. It had a central theme that told a story. Sets, costumes, music and dialogue were all coordinated. She had artists to draw pictures and sent them to all courts of Europe. The world was so impressed that they tried create similar ballets. They also replaced their Italian ballet masters with those from France. This is how the language of ballet became French.
Catherine de Medici died in January 5, 1589 of pneumonia. It is said that she was strong enough to overcome illness, but her disappointment with her favourite son caused her to die of a broken heart.