The house of Medici has definitely marked with its imprint the history of Florence and of Italy for four hundred years during the XVIth in the XVIIIth century. Medici also managed to export their power and their influence on several European countries. In France, Medici gave two queens, and not the slightest : Catherine and Marie de Medici. Their exceptional fates curiously got involved and followed one another.
In many respects, coincidences and tragic facts which took place during their two reigns exceed all what any historic novelist would have been able to imagine.
Let’s start with Catherine de Médici (1519-1589).
She was the daughter of Laurent duke of Urbino, and the granddaughter of Pietro the last one of the Medici who was Lord of Florence. She married the second son of François 1st. She was not supposed to play a first role at this time. But very fast the misfortune beats down on her close relatives and the bereavements will follow one another throughout her life:
– 1536 : It is at first the death of her brother in law François – the dolphin – who makes Catherine’s husband the heir of the crown. He will acceded to the throne under the name of Henri the second.
– 1559 : Henri II dies in his turn from consequences of a brightness of lance received in his eye during a tournament. His elder son François II succeeds him.
– 1560 : One year after François II dies in Orléans having suffered martyr because of troubles of ear. His brother Charles IX logically succeeds.
– 1572 : Henri de Navarre marries Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici. A few days after this marriage – very unpopular between a Protestant and a Catholic – occurs the massacre of saint Barthélémy.
– 1574 : A pleurisy takes Charles IX. Henri III the younger brother rises in turn on the throne.
– 1589 : Jacques Clement murders Henri III. Catherine de Medici dies the same year.
It is the end of the dynasty of Valois ! Henri IV shows on the throne.
Fate of the history Marie de Medici ( 1575-1642 ) becomes a queen in her turn.
Henri IV has the power and he is released from the influence of his mother-in-law Catherine de Medici. In 1599 he cancelled his marriage with Marguerite de Valois who will remain known in the history by the nickname that will give her later Alexandre Dumas : Queen Margot.
Henri IV converted to the Catholicism and get married with Marie de Medici, daughter of François 1st of Medici, and distant cousin of Catherine de Medici.
The Medici belong to new omnipresent in the court of France.
Marie de Medici will give six children, among whom three sons, to Henri IV and will so base the dynasty of Bourbon.
Marie de Medici is crowned queen of France on May 13th, 1610. Irony of fate – or of the next day her husband Henri IV succumbs under the stabs of Ravaillac !
Chased away by Louis XIII after the murder of her very criticized councillor Concini, Marie de Medici will find asylum in the Netherlands then in Cologne till the end of her life.
In conclusion we observe that these two queens of France of the house of Medici were in the hinge of deep transitions : Catherine who goes out at the same time as the dynasty of Valois and Marie who establishes the following dynasty of Bourbons, all this on the background of fratricide religious war.