The New International Encyclopædia/Catharine de' Medici

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CATHARINE DE' MEDICI, dắ mā'dḗ-chē (1519-89). Queen of Henry II. of France. She was the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, and was born in Florence in 1519. In 1533 she married Henry, second son of Francis I. of France. The death of her uncle, Pope Clement VII., who had arranged the marriage, left her without a powerful friend, but her submissive conduct won the favor of Francis, and in some measure that of her husband, who became King in 1517. She was the mother of four sons, of whom three became kings of France; and with the accession of the eldest, Francis II., in 1559, the Queen-mother asserted herself in the Government. On the death of Francis II., in 1560, and the accession of Charles IX., the Government fell entirely into her hands. Her political principles were the selfish ones which obtained at the petty courts of Italy in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries. She made a league with the Huguenots to overthrow the Guises (q.v.), and when this attempt failed, and the civil war which ensued ended in the Peace of Amboise, highly favorable to the Protestants, she became alarmed at the increase of their power, and entered into a secret treaty with Spain for the extirpation of heretics. Subsequently she entered into a plot with the Guises, in which at first only the murder of the Protestant leaders was contemplated, but which resulted in the fearful massacre of Saint Bartholomew. (See Bartholomew's, Massacre of Saint.) The Queen-mother boasted of this deed to the Roman Catholic governments, and palliated it to Protestants, for she now managed all the correspondence of the Court. About this time she succeeded, by gold and intrigues, in having her third son, afterwards Henry III., elected to the Polish throne (1573). Her arbitrary administration roused the opposition of a party among the Catholics, headed by her fourth son, the Duke of Alençon, who allied themselves with the Protestants. It was very generally believed that she contributed to Alençon's death. After the accession of Henry III., Catharine continued to be the power behind the throne, the mainspring of all intrigues. The treachery of Catharine and her sons toward all who trusted them alienated all parties, and she died, January 5, 1589, friendless and unmourned, at the Castle of Blois. Her control had done much toward the demoralization of France. Consult: Lettres de Cathérine de Medicis (Paris, 1880-91); Balzac, Sur Cathérine de Medicis (Paris, 1864); Chéruel, Marie Stuart et Cathérine de Medicis (Paris, 1858); Zeller (editor), Cathérine de Medicis et les Protestants: extraits de Castelnau (Paris, 1889); Alberi, Vita de Caterina de' Medici (Florence, 1838).