The Early Life of Catherine De Medici

England keep my bones

The history of Catherine de Medici is one that is often written with a view to the persecutions of her son’s reign, and a consideration of her role in the massacre of the Huguenots, which took place in 1572. These issues, however, are a subject for another time, as today I wish to concentrate on the seemingly overlooked years of Catherine’s life – the years before her ascendancy, the years that arguably formed her, and made the woman who has been termed “the most powerful in sixteenth-century Europe”.

Catherine de Medici was born in Florence in 1519, at a time when her family, initially merchants, had risen to become its de facto rulers. Catherine’s great-uncle became Pope Leo X, who in turn made his nephew, Lorenzo de Medici (Catherine’s father), the Duke of Urbino. From the very beginning, Catherine’s life was one of complexities and confusion, as despite her father’s…

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