Catherine De Medici

I was over at a friend's place a few months ago and raided her study. I came out with a handful of non-fiction titles but alas this is the only one I've read (I may try to squeeze in one more over the next two weeks). I read nonfiction much slower than I read fiction which is really fine but occasionally annoying. It was nice to dig into a pretty hardcore history book. It sort of brought me back to my student days but in my student days I never would have read the whole thing but just whatever part of it the prof assigned and/or whatever parts the index told I had to read for a term paper.

I know very little about Catherine de Medici so Leoni Frieda's biography was all new to me. But my friend, who is well read in European history, said that it was good so I went with it. From what I gather other history books frequently vilify Catherine because of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre whereas Frieda's did not. Frieda acknowledged Catherine's role in it but argued that Catherine had little control over the events and how they spiraled out of control.

Catherine had a interesting and rarely easy life. Her childhood was not pleasant and she spent chunks of it as a prisoner. Her marriage negotiations were a power struggle (something her children faced as well). Her husband was in love with another woman although he did respect Catherine. After his death she struggled to hold the country together for her children through numerous religious wars. She outlived almost all over her children.

I was amused to read a few online reviews of the book that said it "wasn't entertaining" and "didn't read like a historical novel". I found that for a history, while a bit slow in the beginning, it actually wasn't too bad. Not as engaging as Antonia Fraser but not so dry that I was falling asleep after five pages. It was a good serious read.