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The life and times of Catherine de’ Medici—the most powerful woman in sixteenth-century Europe—as seen through her often controversial role in religion and the arts.
During an age of heightened religious conflict, Catherine de' Medici lived her life at the center of sixteenth-century European and French politics. Daughter of Lorenzo II, the Medici ruler of Florence—and then wedded to a French prince by papal decree at the age of fourteen—Catherine first became queen consort of France and then mother to three French kings (Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III) who reigned in an era of almost continuous civil and religious strife.
A lavish promoter of the arts, Catherine patronized poets, painters, and sculptors; lavished ruinous sums on the building and embellishment of monuments and palaces; and masterminded spectacular entertainments and tournaments that prefigure the splendor and ritual of the court of Versailles.
Catherine maintained eighty ladies-in-waiting at court; it was rumored she used these women as bait to seduce courtiers for her political ends. Her admiration for the seer Nostradamus fueled claims of her love for the occult and the dark arts. Posterity has condemned her as the epitome of the scheming royal matriarch, her reputation tainted forever by her role in instigating the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Protestants in 1572.
Catherine de’ Medici: The Life and Times of the Serpent Queen is Mary Hollingsworth's evocative, authoritative biography of the most extraordiary woman of the sixteenth-century.
Mary Hollingsworth is a scholar of the Italian Renaissance. She is the author of The Cardinal's Hat; The Borgias: History's Most Notorious Dynasty; and Patronage in Renaissance Italy: From 1400 to the Early Sixteenth Century. She divides her time between Italy and England.
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Praise for The Family Medici:
“Vivid and well-researched. Hollingsworth's implication is correct and praiseworthy?that we should remember the Medici for what they were, not for what they wanted us to think they were.” Christian Science Monitor
“Hollingsworth’s clear, concise family chronology serves as an excellent introduction or handy reference guide to one of the Renaissance’s most infamous families.” Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A fascinating warts-and-all history of the rise and fall of the Medici. Hollingsworth effectively debunks the myths surrounding this legendary family. A vital acquisition for anyone who studies the Renaissance and seeks the true role of the Medici in the history of Florence.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"This forensic study of the Renaissance banking dynasty conjures up a world of art, literature, philosophy—and brutality.” The Daily Telegraph, A Book of the Year
"Likely to become the standard work of reference on the members of the family that dominated Florence.” The Times Literary Supplement
"A beautifully illustrated and scholarly survey of five centuries of the Medici family.” The Literary Review
"Drawing on impeccable documentary research [this] is a lively and accessible new account of the House of Medici." Country Life
"A well-illustrated history of the rise and fall of the House of Medici.” The Times (London)
"The Medici family dominated political and cultural life in Florence, but the received wisdom—that they were beneficent, enlightened rulers—is challenged by scholar Mary Hollingsworth in this engrossing, fully illustrated account.” Choice Magazine
“Highly readable. A revisionist view of the celebrated Medici family.” Library Journal