Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France
By Leonie Frieda
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Catherine de Medici was a Florentine Medici sent to live in the French court in order to solidify political alliances. She had a rough life - her childhood was spent as a political hostage living in convents; her early reign was marked by rivalry with her husband’s royal concubines; and her time as dowager queen was marked by religious civil unrest.
Catherine de Medici is not beautiful; she is actually somewhat ugly. She is not particularly intelligent, but neither is she dull. She is not a great ruler, but she is not a horrible one either. Her reign stands out for its sheer mediocrity - which makes reading this book interesting. Don’t read this expecting to find either a great woman of history or a devil. In many ways, this book can be seen as the profile of a very average 16th century head of state.
The writing style of this book is quite good, and enjoyable. It walks the very fine line between being overly descriptive and flat. Frieda avoids academic pedantry. She also does not defend Catherine de Medici’s constant mistakes in judgment and incompetant policies - she simply looks at them for what it is.
The book is quite long and detailed - a little bit too much so for me. I only read about 60% because I’m tired of reading about politics and want to move on to art and science. However, had I read it at a different time, I probably would have finished it.
This book isn’t for everyone, but there definitely is an audience for it. I don’t recommend it to everyone, but if you are into real life Game of Thrones type of stuff this is the book for you.
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